Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency

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Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3920 on: July 06, 2011, 11:35:16 AM »
post 5,800 Attacks Are Just The Beginning After Petraeus’ Year-Long Air War

By Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman  July 5, 2011  |  10:21 am  |  

When Gen. David Petraeus took command of the Afghan war effort a year ago, his officers insisted that there was no way he’d go back to the bad old days of bombing the country from the sky. This was a counterinsurgency campaign, they said; winning over the population was way more important than nailing any target. Airstrikes would be solely a “tactic of last resort,” as one general told Danger Room, used only if ground troops “cannot withdraw.”

A year later: never mind. The air war is back, according to U.S. military statistics, and in a major way. During Petraeus’ year on the job, coalition warplanes fired their weapons and dropped their bombs on 5,831 sorties. It’s a 65 percent increase from the 3,510 attack runs flown in the previous 12 months. And there’s no sign of a let-up. There were 554 lethal flights in June, compared to about 450 each in June of 2009 and 2008.

It’s yet another sign that the “population-centric” counterinsurgency strategy, popularized by Petraeus and executed almost too faithfully by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is being phased out in Afghanistan. Instead, the focus is on taking individual militants off the battlefield; “counterterrorism,” in military parlance. That means night raids by Special Operations Forces, 1,700 in the last year alone. That means death from above. And as the Obama team starts bringing troops home, expect this all to continue — especially in volatile eastern Afghanistan.

Sure, 33,000 ground troops are supposed to come home by next September. But the number of Special Operations Forces will likely grow. And the warplanes – they’re staying, too. During the week of June 26th, they made a staggering 207 attack runs — easily the most of 2011.

U.S. officials claim that the aggressiveness of the past year has helped break the Taliban’s momentum — especially in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. Yet civilian deaths are up 20 percent over this time last year. And while things may be looking up in the south, the strategic center of the Afghanistan conflict — the east, which borders Pakistan — has been falling off the cliff. The solution won’t be more troops there, the White House says. It’ll likely be more air power.

According to Petraeus, the east will soon see a “shift of intelligence assets,” along with “armed and lift helicopters and perhaps the shift of some relatively small coalition forces on the ground.” Afghan forces will have to hold any territory against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, backstopped by coalition commandos, drones, warplanes and attack helicopters. Together, they’ll have to “slowly attrit the [Haqqani] network, and force their commanders back in North Waziristan to fill their spots,” says Jeffrey Dressler of the Institute for the Study of War. It’ll be a “challenge” to “keep that pressure on” from the sky.

Any of this sound familiar? When the insurgency began gathering strength from 2006 to 2008, the U.S. used airstrikes to compensate for its meager troop numbers. That resulted in outrage from Afghans, as the strikes would periodically wipe out dozens of innocents at a time, and a decision by U.S. commanders to scale back the air war in favor of a big counterinsurgency campaign.

Except that the new U.S. air war isn’t a replay of the old one. Thanks to an influx of spy planes, both manned and unmanned, American-led forces can observe (and listen to) suspected militants like never before. In the first half of 2009, the coalition flew 120 surveillance flights per week, on average. This past week, there were 687 spy sorties — almost a five-fold increase.

Advances in processing that data give the troops the ability to pounce quickly and surgically. It’s one of the reasons why the U.S. and its allies are now responsible for only 10 percent of civilian casualties, according to United Nations statistics, compared to 39 percent in 2008.

But for Afghans weighed down by a decade of war, it may not matter much who is doing the killing. The U.S.-led coalition promised to bring some stability to Afghanistan. Every corpse is a sign that goal has gone unmet. Maybe that’s one reason why Afghan president Hamid Karzai has called for all but ending the airstrikes and the night raids. What’s Karzai’s alternative — to tell the Taliban to knock it off?

Besides, it’s not like Petraeus listened to Karzai’s pronouncement. All of the bombing from the last month happened after Karzai made his plea.

Photo: USAF


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3921 on: July 06, 2011, 11:45:45 AM »
July 6, 2011

Journalists and Hotels

The Bombing of the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel


In the middle of last week, nine heavily armed Taliban suicide bombers stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. By the time the last three attackers were shot dead on the roof of the hotel by machine-gun fire from NATO helicopters, parts of the building were blazing and 12 other people, mostly Afghan civilians, were dead.

I stayed for weeks in the Intercontinental at the end of 2001, just after the Taliban had left Kabul, and it was one of the few relatively habitable and safe places for a foreigner to live. First, I slept on the downstairs floor and then in a top-floor room, which involved a laborious climb because the lifts had ceased to work. The reason for being so high up was that it gave easy access to the roof, where we set up our old-fashioned satellite phones amid the dishes of the television companies.

It is a measure of how bad security is in Afghanistan that it turns out to be more dangerous to stay in the Intercontinental today than it was then. I revisited the hotel, which sits on top of a hill in west Kabul, at the end of last year and it seemed relatively safe. Our car and our IDs were checked at the bottom of the hill, followed by a pat-down and a further check immediately in front of the hotel entrance. But when I asked local Afghans what were the limits of government control on the ground in this part of Kabul, they said anywhere south and west of the Intercontinental was dangerous.

In any case, full protection against suicide bombers is almost impossible. It will have occurred to most of the ill-paid guards on checkpoint duty, be they in Kabul or Baghdad, that medals for success in stopping suicide bombers are likely to be posthumous. If they do identify a bomber at a distance they might open fire, but at close range it is more in their interest to wave him on than try to stop or shoot him. When I lived in the much-bombed al-Hamra hotel in Baghdad, three friendly and jocular guards would minutely search my car every time I returned to the hotel. When I asked them if this was really necessary, they explained they did it "because we know you are not a suicide bomber, but by searching your car carefully we can earn our pay without any danger. When there is a really suspicious car, only one of us does the searching while the others take shelter."

"Hotel journalism" became a term of abuse during the Iraq war, suggesting that there were correspondents too craven to leave their hotels. There was never much truth to this since journalists who were that frightened never even made it to Baghdad.

The reason for journalists to put up in one or two hotels in times of war is usually severely practical, such as the need to stay in a place with reliable electric generators when everywhere else is blacked out. Before the fall of Kabul in 2001, I spent three months in a village of extreme dirtiness and poverty called Jabal Saraj, 50 miles north of the capital, where I used a car battery to supply electricity to my laptop and satellite phone.

Another motive for journalists selecting one hotel rather than another is safety, but this isn't as simple as it looks: a well-known hotel may have good defenses, but it is also likely to be targeted because the Taliban in Afghanistan or al-Qa'ida in Iraq know that such an attack will attract international attention and be seen as symptomatic of the feebleness of the Afghan or Iraqi government.

The myths about "pack journalism" are misleading in reference as to why wars are well or badly reported. It is not because of inebriated and idle hacks in a hotel bar collectively deciding what they are all going to report. It has much more to do with the state of opinion of the political and media elite back home in London or New York. It was from only about 2005 that political leaders in the US started saying the war in Iraq was a disaster, enabling reporters on the spot much more leeway in confirming this. In Britain, there was a deep division of opinion in the establishment, as well as the public, from the start of the war, so it was easier to write skeptical pieces or run news items on TV or radio showing how bad things were on the ground.

By 2008, conventional wisdom in Washington and New York had switched again, this time to the belief that "the surge" had turned the tables on the Sunni insurgents and America was somehow coming out a winner. In reality, the insurgents, having picked a losing battle with the Shia-dominated security forces, largely stopped killing American soldiers but have gone on slaughtering Shia civilians to this day. Many US correspondents knew this, but this was not information the news organizations they worked for wanted to hear. I remember the journalists on one network news channel lamenting to me that they had not appeared on air for 50 days before the US presidential election of 2008, because their home offices had decided the war was won.

In one respect, the Libyan war is more difficult to report properly than Iraq or Afghanistan, because Gaddafi has been so thoroughly demonized by both left and right. The BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera give credence to charges of mass rape, use of foreign mercenaries and helicopter machine-gunning of crowds on the flimsiest of evidence. Human rights organizations are ignored when they say there is no evidence of mass rape, or that Central African prisoners, once presented at a rebel press conference as mercenaries, have been quietly released because in reality they are undocumented migrant workers. Claims by pro-Gaddafi officials in Tripoli are usually treated with total skepticism, while those by anti-Gaddafi leaders in Benghazi (many of whom used to work for Gaddafi until a few months ago) are received with credulity.

A misleading feature of war reporting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya is simply that the scale and significance of the fighting is exaggerated. Anybody seeking to understand what was happening in Afghanistan in 2001 from reports on television, radio or newspapers would probably have failed to realize that little heavy fighting was going on. Mostly, the Taliban fighters faded away, back to their villages or across the border into Pakistan. I followed their retreat from Kabul to Kandahar and there was hardly a skirmish along the way. And it was not just the public that was misled: the US and British governments imagined they were facing a defeated foe, overplayed their hands, and were astonished to find – as the assault on the Kabul Intercontinental shows – that they were caught up in a war they were, and are, a long way from winning.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of "Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3922 on: July 06, 2011, 12:03:16 PM »
July 4, 2011

Let’s Not Linger in Afghanistan


LAST month President Obama announced plans for withdrawing by next summer the approximately 30,000 American troops sent to Afghanistan as part of the 2009 surge.

We commend the president for sticking to the July date he had outlined for beginning the withdrawal. However, his plan would not remove all regular combat troops until 2014. We believe the United States is capable of achieving this goal by the end of 2012. America would be more secure and stronger economically if we recognized that we have largely achieved our objectives in Afghanistan and moved aggressively to bring our troops and tax dollars home.

After Al Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, we rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate Al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government. With hard work and sacrifice, our troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden.

But over the past 10 years, our mission expanded to include a fourth goal: nation-building. That is what we are bogged down in now: a prolonged effort to create a strong central government, a national police force and an army, and civic institutions in a nation that never had any to begin with. Let’s not forget that Afghanistan has been a tribal society for millenniums.

Nineteen months ago the president announced the surge strategy in hopes of stabilizing Afghanistan and strengthening its military and police forces. Today, despite vast investment in training and equipping Afghan forces, the country’s deep-seated instability, rampant corruption and, in some cases, compromised loyalties endure. Extending our commitment of combat troops will not remedy that situation.

Sometimes our national security warrants extreme sacrifices, and our troops are prepared to make them when asked. In this case, however, there is little reason to believe that the continuing commitment of tens of thousands of troops on a sprawling nation-building mission in Afghanistan will make America safer.

National security experts, including the former C.I.A. director Leon E. Panetta, have noted that Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished. Today there are probably fewer than 100 low-level Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has a much larger presence in a number of other nations.

Our focus shouldn’t be establishing new institutions in Afghanistan, but concentrating on terrorist organizations with global reach. And our military and intelligence organizations have proved repeatedly that they can take the fight to the terrorists without a huge military footprint.

We have urgent needs at home: high unemployment and a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit and a debt that is over $14 trillion and growing. We are spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan. We need to change course.

A week before the president’s speech, 24 of our Senate colleagues joined us by signing onto a bipartisan letter urging the president to announce a sustained and sizable drawdown from Afghanistan with the goal of removing regular combat troops. This group includes progressives, moderates and conservatives united behind one conclusion: we’ve accomplished what we set out to accomplish in Afghanistan, and we can no longer afford the lives and money it is taking to pursue an ambitious open-ended nation-building mission.

It is not too late to change course in what has become the longest American war in history. In light of our considerable national needs, both security and domestic, we urge the president to bring our troops home at last.

Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, and Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, are United States senators.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3923 on: July 07, 2011, 09:00:14 AM »
Published on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 by Extra! Magazine

Losing the Plot: The Afghan War after bin Laden

by Jim Naureckas


With Osama bin Laden dead, can the United States finally bring an end to the Afghan War, its longest-lasting foreign military conflict? It’s an obvious question, since the invasion of Afghanistan was largely portrayed as an effort to catch the leader of the group that carried out the September 11 attacks.

Corporate media did sometimes address this issue. On ABC (5/4/11), Christiane Amanpour asked in regard to bin Laden’s killing, “And many people are saying, well, does this require the U.S. to leave Afghanistan right now?” She answered her question: “The job is not finished there. You’ll talk to the commanders. We’ll talk to them, it’s the Taliban there who are waging war against the United States, and that job is not finished.” When anchor Robin Roberts noted that many Arabs were calling for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan, Amanpour replied, “It looks like they won’t be able to yet.”

On NBC (5/8/11), the New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller cited Pentagon sources: “Right now what they’re saying is that just getting Osama bin Laden does not change the calculus completely here. The Taliban are still a threat.” Time’s Richard Stengel echoed her: “Well, the big picture is the military folks are telling Obama, ‘Look, our biggest fear is we’ve actually made advances over there,’ right?… ‘And I don’t want you to pull back now.’”

CBS’s Katie Couric (60 Minutes, 4/15/11) asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “What would you say to the majority of Americans who say, now we’ve got bin Laden, now it’s time for the troops to come home?” Gates replied: “I would say that we are getting the upper hand. We have over the last 18 months put in place, for the first time, the resources necessary to ensure that this threat does not rebuild, does not reemerge once we’re gone.” He called the idea of withdrawing troops ahead of the Pentagon’s schedule “premature.”

What was missing from these and most other corporate media discussions of bin Laden and Afghanistan was any recognition of the part that country played in the Al-Qaeda leader’s strategic vision. For bin Laden, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was not a threat to his plan for the triumph of his brand of right-wing Islam—it was the central element of that plan.

Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi, was one of the few journalists based in the West to interview bin Laden, spending three days with him in the mountains of Afghanistan in 1996. Atwan told how bin Laden explained his long-term strategy in a 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview (8/24/07):

He told me personally that he can’t go and fight the Americans and their country. But if he manages to provoke them and bring them to the Middle East and to their Muslim worlds, where he can find them or fight them on his own turf, he will actually teach them a lesson.

According to Atwan, bin Laden expressed disappointment with the pullout of U.S. troops from Somalia:

He told me, again, that he expected the Americans to send troops to Somalia, and he sent his people to that country to wait for them in order to fight them. They managed actually to shoot down an American helicopter where 19 soldiers were killed, and he regretted that the Clinton administration decided to pull out their troops from Somalia and run away. He was so saddened by this. He thought they would stay there so he could fight them there. But for his bad luck, according to his definition, they left, and he was planning another provocation in order to drag them to Muslim soil.

In a video message released in 2004 (WashingtonPost.com, 11/1/04), bin Laden recalled his “experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers as we alongside the Mujahedeen bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.” He suggested that it would be easy to do the same thing to the United States:

All that we have to do is to send two Mujahedeen to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al-Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits to their private companies.

Bin Laden cited estimates that the September 11 attacks, which cost Al-Qaeda $500,000, had cost the United States more than $500 billion in destruction and military expenditures—“meaning that every dollar of Al-Qaeda defeated a million dollars.” He noted that insurgents “recently forced Bush to resort to emergency funds to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan, with Allah’s permission.”

Surely the fact that bin Laden’s explicit strategy was to bog the United States down in expensive wars in Muslim countries has a bearing on whether to continue these wars. But the central role the Afghan War and other Mideast conflicts played in bin Laden’s plan to undermine the U.S. was virtually never mentioned in discussions of whether his death meant that U.S. troops could come home.

One prominent exception was Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein (5/3/11), who wrote a column around Al-Qaeda expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’ contention that bin Laden was “enormously successful”:

Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do—and, more to the point, what he thought he could do—was bankrupt the United States of America. After all, he’d done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before.

What bin Laden learned from his fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Klein wrote, was that “superpowers fall because their economies crumble, not because they’re beaten on the battlefield,” and that they “are so allergic to losing that they’ll bankrupt themselves trying to conquer a mass of rocks and sand.”

But, noted Klein, “it isn’t quite right to say bin Laden cost us all that money.... We didn’t need to respond to 9/11 by trying to reshape the entire Middle East, but we’re a superpower, and we think on that scale.” He concluded: “We can learn from our mistakes.”

Rachel Maddow, citing Klein, made a similar argument on her MSNBC show (5/3/11):

Osama bin Laden’s stated goal for the 9/11 attacks was to cause us to spend ourselves into oblivion. His goal was to do something cheap and radical and traumatizing that would cause us to react in a way that bankrupted us. So that what they couldn’t take down by force or by ideological competition, we would take down ourselves by panic.

CNN talkshow host Eliot Spitzer (In the Arena, 5/3/11) also stressed the huge costs of the reaction to the September 11 attacks: “One economist estimates that 9/11 cost the U.S. economy a total of $2.5 trillion, which is roughly similar to our tally.... These huge expenditures have had profound effects on the way we live our lives.” Turning to Richard Quest, “CNN’s money guru,” Spitzer said of bin Laden: “He has changed our priorities, and that may be one of the biggest impacts he ever had. Do you think he wanted that?”

Quest responded: “Of course he did. That was all part of the plan. The plan was to bring down capitalism as we know it.” But Quest stressed, in regard to the money the U.S. has spent in reaction to September 11, “you have no choice.... You had to spend the money. The war was not chosen, the war was brought to your doorstep.”

Surely, if bin Laden could follow the discussion of his death in U.S. media, he would be much happier with Quest’s take than with Klein’s.

© 2011 FAIR

 Jim Naureckas is editor of EXTRA! Magazine at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He is the co-author of Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3924 on: July 07, 2011, 10:59:35 AM »
'Mini-surge' of U.S. Special Forces to hit Afghanistan

Stars and Stripes


July 5, 2011

U.S. military leaders are working to replace some of the exiting American conventional forces from Afghanistan with a "mini-surge" of U.S. Special Forces, a measure to soothe commanders’ fears that the withdrawal of troops might put at risk military gains, according to the Times out of Australia.

Military sources told The Times that 16 special operations personnel are considered to be worth the equivalent of 100 conventional troops.

In June, President Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. The remainder of the surge troops, about 23,000, would be withdrawn in 2012, leaving about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan until 2014.

Defense analysts have said of late that the reduction of conventional troops likely will place a heavier burden on clandestine units, such as SEALs, and Army Rangers and Green Berets.

The Times reports there are more than 7,000 U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan and about 3,000 in Iraq, with many of the latter expected to be moved to Afghanistan.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3925 on: July 07, 2011, 11:09:18 AM »
The Lies That Sold Obama's Escalation in Afghanistan

Soldiers of 1st Squadron 61st Cavalry 101st Airborne Division listen to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates while he visits Field Operating Base in Connolly, Afghanistan, December 7, 2010. (Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison / DoD)

Gareth Porter, Truthout, July 6, 2011


A few days after Barack Obama's December 2009 announcement of 33,000 more troops being sent to Afghanistan, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates advanced the official justification for escalation: the Afghan Taliban would not abandon its ties with al-Qaeda unless forced to do so by US military force and the realization that "they're likely to lose."

Gates claimed to see an "unholy alliance" of the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban emerging during 2009. Unless the United States succeeded in weakening the Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda would have safe haven in Afghanistan, just as they had before the 9/11 attacks, according to Gates.

Even in comparison with the usual lies that justify wars, this one was a whopper. Gates was deliberately ignoring the serious political split that had become apparent in 2008 between Mullah Omar, the spiritual and political leader of the Taliban, and the leadership of al-Qaeda over fundamental issues of strategy and ideology.

After the July 2007 Pakistani military assault on the militants occupying the Red Mosque in Islamabad, al-Qaeda had openly backed Pakistani militants in their declaration of war against the Pakistani military and the Pervez Musharraf regime. Omar, who needed Pakistani support against the US-NATO forces, began urging Pakistani militants to shun violence against the Pakistani security apparatus, but the newly established militant organization Tehrik-e-Taliban paid no attention to him, as recounted by the recently murdered Pakistani journalist Sayed Saleem Shahzad in a book published just days before his death.

Shahzad's book reveals, In fact, that one of al-Qaeda's aims in setting up the new organization was to try to draw Afghan Taliban away from Omar's influence. Soon after that al-Qaeda move, he sent a trusted adviser, Tayyeb Agha, to a meeting in Saudi Arabia with a delegation of Afghan parliamentarians convened by Saudi King Abdullah in September 2008. That meeting alarmed al-Qaeda leaders, who did not want any move toward peace in Afghanistan, according to Shahzad's account based on many interviews with al-Qaeda strategists over the past several years.

The ideological-strategic conflict between Omar and al-Qaeda was well known within US intelligence and counterterrorism circles. Two days after Gates made his argument about the Taliban and al-Qaeda, in an interview with me, Arturo Munoz, who had been supervising operations officer at the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center from 2001 to 2009 and had extensive experience in Afghanistan, referred to the differences between the Taliban and al-Qaeda over al-Qaeda's war against the Pakistani military. "The Taliban is a homespun Pashtun locally-based revolutionary movement with a set of goals that are not necessarily those of al-Qaeda," said Munoz.

In fact, Omar himself had issued a message on September 19, 2009, which had explicitly characterized the Taliban as a "nationalist movement" - an obvious rebuff to the al-Qaeda position that nationalism is the enemy of the global jihad, as jihadist scholar Vahid Brown pointed out  at the time.

Plumping Up the War Rationale

The Obama administration has relied heavily, of course, on the widespread impression that the Taliban regime was somehow mixed up with Osama bin Laden's plotting the 9/11 attacks. But as opposition to the war has mounted, Bruce Riedel, the former CIA official and National Security Council staffer brought in by Obama to lead the administration's policy review of Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009, has sought to reinforce that message.

In his new book, "Deadly Embrace," Riedel refers to "the remarkable alliance, even friendship," between Omar and Bin Laden, which "seems to have remained intact to this day." In a remarkable passage about the period from Bin Laden's arrival in Afghanistan in 1996 to the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, Riedel writes:

The Taliban promised Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to "control" their "guest," but he continued to issue statements and no real effort was made to rein him in. Bin Laden moved to Kandahar to be close to Mullah Omar, proclaimed his loyalty to the "commander of the faithful" (Omar's self-proclaimed title) and married one of Omar's daughters to further cement their bond.

Riedel goes on to suggest that Omar became an enthusiastic convert to Bin Laden's global jihadist cause. "Omar found in Osama and al-Qaeda," he writes, "an ideology that transcended Afghanistan, played to his ego and validated his role as commander of the faithful."

The problem with this dramatic portrayal of a close relationship between Omar and Bin Laden, however, is that every single assertion in it is demonstrably false. Riedel's version of the relationship could not be any further from the actual record of interactions between the two men during Bin Laden's stay in Afghanistan, available from multiple primary sources.

Brown, a research fellow at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, reported last year that the memoirs of one of Bin Laden's close collaborators in Afghanistan, the Egyptian jihadist known as Abu'l-Walid al-Masri, had provided new insights into the relationship between Bin Laden and Omar. Al-Masri recalled that Omar had informed Bin Laden from the beginning of his stay that he was forbidden from issuing statements to the media without the prior consent of the Taliban regime and from doing anything to directly antagonize the United States.

Bin Laden repeatedly violated the injunction against speaking to news media in 1996 and 1997 and Omar reacted strongly to his defiance. In "The Looming Tower,"  Lawrence Wright recounts the story told by Bin Laden's personal guard Khalid al-Hammadi of what happened after Bin Laden gave an interview to CNN in March 1997. Omar ordered Bin Laden brought by helicopter from Jalalabad to Kandahar airport for a meeting, according to the guard's account. There, Omar told Bin Laden that he was being moved immediately to Kandahar, citing as the reason a plot by tribal mercenaries to kidnap him. The real reason for the move, of course, was to exercise tighter control over his guest. The order to move was accompanied by a sharp warning to Bin Laden: the contacts with the foreign press had to stop.

Nevertheless, Bin Laden defied Omar a second time. In late May 1998, he arranged to meet with Pakistani journalists and with another US television crew - this time from ABC - in Jalalabad. He declared in those interviews that his aim was to expel US forces and even "Jews and Christians" from the Arabian Peninsula.

An enraged Omar personally called Rahimullah Yusufzai, one of the Pakistani journalists who had reported on the meeting with Bin Laden in Jalalabad and said, "There is only one ruler. Is it me or Osama?" according to Yusufzai. Yusufzai, who has met and interviewed Omar on ten occasions over the years and also knew Bin Laden, says the relationship between the two men was "very tense" and "never cordial."

In June 1998, Omar told Prince Turki al Faisal, the head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency, that he was willing to expel Bin Laden, but he wanted a joint committee of Islamic scholars to issue a fatwa that would absolve him of his responsibility to protect his Muslim guest, according to Turki's account to journalist Steve Coll. A month later, a Taliban envoy was sent to Saudi Arabia to reaffirm the deal.

What appears to have turned Omar against the planned expulsion of Bin Laden was the US cruise missile strikes against Bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan in retaliation for the August 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. When Prince Turki returned to see Omar less than a month after the US missile attack, Omar's attitude had "changed 180 degrees."

Omar gave the Saudi intelligence chief no explanation for his change of heart. But he was more forthcoming with the Director General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), Ziauddin Butt, who met him a few weeks after the missile attacks. The Taliban leader complained that Bin Laden was "like a bone stuck in my throat. I can't swallow it, nor can I get it out!" The problem, he explained, was that Bin Laden had become such a hero in the eyes of the Taliban rank and file - apparently because of the US missile strikes against his training camps - that "My people will lynch me if I hand him over."

Although reluctant at first to get rid of the troublesome Bin Laden, Omar agreed to the Pakistani's suggestion that Bin Laden be tried for the embassy bombings by judges from four Islamic countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as the ISI chief later told historian Shuja Nawaz, author of "Crossed Swords."

In 1999, the Taliban regime actually ordered the closure of several training camps being used by al-Qaeda's Arab recruits, according to jihadist sources cited by Brown. And an email from two leading Arab jihadists in Afghanistan to Bin Laden in July 1999, found on a laptop that had once belonged to al-Qaeda and later purchased by a strange quirk of fate by a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, referred to "problems between you and the Leader of the Faithful" as a "crisis." The email even suggested that the Taliban regime might go so far as to "kick them out" of Afghanistan.

Bin Laden's Phony Pledge of Allegiance

The real story of Bin Laden's pledge of loyalty to Omar, which Riedel touts as evidence of their chumminess, shows that it was exactly the opposite of that. According to Egyptian jihadist al-Masri's account, reported in detail by Brown,  relations between Bin Laden and Omar became so tense after the Embassy bombings that some in Bin Laden's entourage urged him to consider an oath of allegiance (bay'a) to Omar simply to avoid a complete rupture between the two.

But Bin Laden resisted the idea, according to al-Masri, initially arguing that such a pledge of allegiance could only be undertaken by Afghans. And after agreeing, on al-Masri's urging, to give Omar such a pledge in person in late November 1998, Bin Laden failed to show up for the meeting. Al-Masri told Bin Laden that his no-show would confirm Omar's impression of him as arrogant and full of himself. Nevertheless, in the end, Bin Laden refused to go to Omar himself to give his pledge, sending al-Masri instead, evidently because he wanted to be able to deny later on that he had personally sworn allegiance to Omar. Al-Masri concluded that the whole exercise was an "outright deception" by Bin Laden of a man with whom he was fundamentally at odds.

Riedel's claim that Bin Laden married one of Omar's daughters would certainly represent evidence of a bond between the two men, if true. Unfortunately for the point man for Obama's policy review, it is another easily provable lie. A recent report on the wives who survived the killing of Bin Laden shows that three of Bin Laden's five wives were Saudis, one was Syrian and one was Yemeni. None were of Afghan descent.

Riedel cites a 2005 book http://www.amazon.com/Revolution-Unending-Afghanistan-Comparative-Intern... by French specialist on Afghanistan Gilles Dorronsoro. But Dorronsoro told this writer he realized after the book was published that the story was not true and that it may have well been circulated deliberately by Omar's enemies in the Northern Alliance to discredit him.

Riedel tops off his grotesquely distorted description of Omar's relationship with Bin Laden by suggesting that the Taliban leader knew that an al-Qaeda attack on the US homeland was coming, citing Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as the source. But Musharraf says nothing of the sort. He affirms in memoirs what al-Qaeda insider Fazul Abdullah Muhmmad has written in his own memoirs - that Bin Laden kept the plan secret even from his closest al-Qaeda collaborators, except for Mohammed and Abu Hafs al-Masri, until the end of August 2001. Musharraf merely passes on speculation by unnamed intelligence sources that Omar may have guessed that something big against the United States was in the works.

What Riedel fails to inform his readers is that the main planner of the 9/11 operation, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, told his interrogators that Bin Laden had complained to his intimates late that summer about Omar's unwillingness to allow any attack on the United States - thus implying very clearly that he could not be brought into their confidence, according to the 9/11 Commission Report.

This writer sent an email to Riedel asking why he had ignored the sources cited in this article, which provide a very different view of the Omar-Bin Laden relationship from the one he describes in his book. "Because the facts were to the contrary," he responded. "The Taliban did nothing to rein in AQ but they were eager to have their apologists paint a happy picture."

When I asked him in a second email if he was saying that al-Masri, Bin Laden's personal guard and all the other sources who have since provided a different picture were "apologists" for Omar, Riedel did not respond.

Riedel probably never bothered to consult these sources. Someone so deeply imbedded in the interests of powerful institutions has no incentive to look beyond the superficial and distorted reading of the evidence that clearly serves those interests. His disinterest in finding facts that would get in the way of the necessary official rationale for war provides a perfect illustration of the way lying to the public is inherent in the nature of national security policymaking.

The story of the lies that took the Obama administration into a bigger war in Afghanistan shows that those lies have structural, systemic roots. The political dynamics surrounding the making of war policies are so completely dominated by the vested interests of the heads of the Pentagon, the military, and other national security bureaucracies that the outcome of the process must be based on a systematic body of lies. Only by depriving those institutions of their power can Americans have a military policy based on the truth.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3926 on: July 07, 2011, 11:12:38 AM »
Up to 13 Afghan civilians killed in NATO airstrike


July 7, 2011


KHOST, Afghanistan — Up to 13 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in a NATO airstrike on Thursday in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, provincial police chief Mohamad Zazai said.

"Unfortunately eight women, four children, and one man were killed in a NATO airstrike on a residential house in Dowamanda district early this morning," Zazai said.

He said four militants from the Taliban-linked Haqqani network were also killed in the strike.

"The body of a Haqqani commander and three fighters have also been recovered from the vicinity of the house. A delegation has been sent to investigate the incident," he said.

A spokesman for the provincial governor confirmed that civilians had been killed in the incident but gave no further details.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said those killed were family members of the Haqqani network, which is a target of the alliance force.

A spokesman for the coalition said Afghan-led forces had gone in search of the insurgents when they came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

"Responding to the insurgent attack, the security forces returned fire and called in an air weapons team. The subsequent air strike killed several insurgents and unintentionally a number of associated family members," the spokesman said.

The deaths triggered protests that blocked the main highway to Kabul nearby.

They come a day after provincial authorities in southern Ghazni claimed two civilians were killed in another military incident. NATO said it was looking into those claims.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3927 on: July 07, 2011, 04:09:29 PM »
July 7, 2011

Can the NDP Say No?

Canada's Afghan Blunder


Is it possible to learn from our enormous Afghan blunder? Is there any hope that Canada's foreign policy could actually be determined on a principled basis and not as some poker chip on the table in dealing with the Americans? Could we actually make foreign policy by determining what is the ethical, principled and informed thing to do?

We are now exiting  the Afghanistan war, allegedly, in order to take another the less violent role of training Afghan police and soldiers. There is no doubt that this is an improvement -- at least we will not be asking Canadian soldiers to kill Afghans in a conflict we had no business being involved in, in the first place. The Afghan war could only be described by any rational person as the "good war" when compared to the grotesque conflict next door in Iraq. Ostensibly, it was to rid the world of Al Qaeda for its attack on the U.S. -- not Canada, the U.S. It did not matter that the attack was planned in Germany, that it wasn't a "war," and it clearly didn't matter that Al Qaeda consisted of a few hundred individuals who were basically routed in the first couple of months of the assault. And due process was treated as a joke – the Taliban offered to hand over bin Laden if the US provided evidence of his complicity.

So while it is good that we are no longer killing people, we have traded one delusion for another which we will be entertaining, at great cost and no benefit, for three more years. The first delusion -- that we were going to win the fight against the Taliban -- was an embarrassing charade. It's as if we had to trade up in the delusion market for something that wasn't quite so preposterous and could be sold for a while before it, too, became embarrassingly obvious. Now we are going to "train" the Afghan police and army to take over the job of providing security for the Afghan people, which in turn is supposed to make providing development assistance easier.

No one actually believes this is going to happen -- not the Americans, who will be there for a generation, not the Afghans, not the Europeans, not Canadians or the Canadian government. No one believes it because all of the evidence -- and there is a lot of extremely good evidence -- suggests otherwise. Only a voluntary state of delusion allows for this "new mission" talk.

Extending our unwanted presence in Afghanistan was a huge mistake, if for no other reason than leaving clean and completely would have been a victory of rationality over fantasy. The only rational approach the West can take is to simply pack up and leave over a relatively short time span, say six months. All the handwringing about how "we can't leave until we fix what we have done" ignores thousands of years of history and the facts on the ground. Leaving any other way, based on the standard list of Western assumptions, means in effect that we can never leave "clean."

The choice represented by leaving or staying is, for the Afghan population, a choice between continued corruption at every level of society, physical, economic and social insecurity, the machinations of a narco-state and another decade of war, or an eventual return to the Taliban's hideous brand of Islamic law after an indeterminate period of conflict with our current Afghan allies: the equally hideous war lords and drug lords.

Some choice. But it is a choice we have forced on them by imperial hubris and a willful ignorance of Afghan history. Before the invasion there was virtually no corruption under the Taliban, and the heroin trade had almost been eradicated.

There has been a raft of recent reports and studies which demonstrate just how futile any and all efforts to create a viable state in Afghanistan will be. The implied claim that you can create a functioning police force and army just by training people without the requisite civilian state structure is profoundly dishonest.

Can a viable state be created in Afghanistan? The answer is a deafening no. First, the constitution now makes it virtually impossible for a functioning secular government to become established. The former secular constitution was dissolved by the U.S. and NATO in favor of an Islamist one, which makes it illegal for political parties to run in elections -- producing legislatures of individual representatives who, even if they had law-making experience (which they don't) have an almost impossible task of passing sensible laws for the country. This legislative zoo was deliberately created by NATO to ensure that there was no possibility of any expression of Afghan nationalism. The single real aim of the West's nation-building has always been to maintain control over the country's future and to ensure gas pipeline routes.

A recent study by the International Crisis Group, one of the more credible sources on Afghanistan, suggests that the culture of corruption is actually getting worse, ranging from Taliban taxes on apples shipped across provincial boundaries, to open collaboration between provincial governments and insurgents regarding sharing the Western loot that floods into the country. UN food aid heads straight for the black market and is virtually never seen by the poor it is designed for. The report refers to the Karzai government as a "mafia state" incapable of serving its citizens.

Ironically, the billions in aid have actually created perverse incentives for continued fighting. International aid has brought the Taliban and other insurgents together with local officials to share the wealth resulting in an economy that "…is increasingly dominated by a criminal oligarchy of politically connected businessmen." There seems to be nothing that NATO, the U.S. or Canada can do about it, so the longer we stay the worse it gets.

Indeed, efforts that are made to instill ethical behavior in the government and security forces have created what yet another report describes as huge obstacles to creating an independent military. Produced for the U.S. Army and titled "A Crisis in Trust and Cultural Incompatibility," the 70-page report documents the attitudes of U.S. soldiers and their Afghan counterparts towards each other. It's not good news for Canadian trainers: Afghan soldiers say U.S. soldiers are "… extremely arrogant, bullying, unwilling to listen to their advice." U.S. troops criticized their Afghan counterparts for "... pervasive illicit drug use, massive thievery, personal instability, dishonesty, no integrity." The result? On average, one Western soldier now dies every week at the hands of an Afghan cop or soldier. While Canadian troops get higher marks from their Afghan counterparts, the task they have been given is next to impossible to achieve.
Now that the NDP is the official Opposition and the Liberals are all but gone from the scene, there is a real opportunity to see a foreign policy put forward for national debate that reflects Canadian values and a principled role for Canada in the world. But just as the NDP was given enhanced status, it dropped the ball and behaved exactly like the Liberals they replaced: voting for an extension of the assault on Libya was one of the NDP's biggest policy blunders in recent years.

It could have stood alone and demanded a stop to this ill-conceived and patently illegal "mission”, and pushed for working out a diplomatic solution brokered through the African Union (which has denounced the ICC war crimes warrant for Gadhafi and refused to recognize it). The NDP's support for extending the effort to topple Gadhafi has used up much of the political capital gained from its positions on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The NDP has always been schizophrenic on foreign policy, especially when it comes to the Middle East. Jack Layton's shameful apology to the Israeli ambassador for NDP Member of Parliament Libby Davies' gutsy refusal to be bullied by the Israeli lobby is another example.

Yet on foreign policy, the NDP has a huge opportunity to distinguish itself from the Harper Conservatives by speaking directly to Canadian values. There has been a dramatic shift in opinion in this country regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in favor of Palestinian rights. But that's just the beginning of what could be a major, broad initiative aimed at restoring Canada's damaged reputation in the world. A range of issues (most of which the NDP already has good positions on) await their focused attention: asbestos exports, GMO foods, terminator seeds, the Canada-EU trade deal, the $30 billion in fighter bombers, re-establishing aid to Africa, and siding with South American countries attempting to escape the pernicious domination of the U.S. and the IMF.

It could be an exciting policy initiative, one on which Harper is extremely vulnerable. Just putting it forward for debate would help undo the damage Harper has done to our international reputation. But to undertake it successfully, the NDP has to avoid the temptation to behave like the Liberals and do foreign policy based on political opportunism. Being the Official Opposition is an opportunity to lead, not an excuse to run and hide.

Murray Dobbin, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years. He has been a columnist for the Financial Post and Winnipeg Free Press, contributes guest editorials to the Globe and Mail and other Canadian dailies and now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and rabble.ca. He can be reached at mdobbin@telus.net



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3928 on: July 11, 2011, 09:40:54 AM »
South Asia
Jul 12, 2011 
US moves toward Afghan guerrilla war

By Brian M Downing

The United States is beginning an interesting new dimension to the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan. Counter-insurgency efforts will be complemented by an expanded unconventional warfare campaign in many insurgent-controlled areas. This change in approach may have a considerable impact on the stalemate and hasten meaningful negotiations.

The US is training scores of special forces teams to infiltrate into and operate in areas that the Taliban and other insurgent forces have gained control of in the past few years. Such operations have been in effect for a few years now, but the program is enjoying greater support. Many recently retired special forces personnel are being asked to return to active duty - a sign that the program is significant and growing.

The teams will be inserted into insurgent-dominated districts, chiefly in the south and east, and charged with conducting reconnaissance, interdicting the movement of men and materiel, directing air strikes, killing political and military leaders, and otherwise wreaking havoc in the insurgents' base areas.

The teams will likely be accompanied by Pashtun scouts from the particular districts who will provide knowledge of the terrain, mountain trails, hiding places, and local notables - friendly or not. Some of these scouts will be defectors whose loyalties will have been thoroughly looked into, though suspicions will remain. This aspect of the effort parallels the Chieu Hoi program of the Vietnam War, which placed Vietcong defectors with US troops conducting operations in tough areas.

It is hoped that the scouts, in conjunction with special forces teams, may in some districts be able to form local guerrilla bands to further weaken Taliban control - an insurgency within an insurgency. Even when the Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan (1996-2001), there were regions that resisted them and even formed insurgent bands to fight them. Today, many local tribes dislike the Taliban but acquiesce to them owing to intimidation or to the perception of their inevitable ascendancy. The identities of such tribes are reasonably known in Kabul and will be likely areas of concentration.

Efforts to build anti-Taliban insurgencies will draw from 1990s programs that lured mujahideen fighters to the government side after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from certain provinces. The Afghan social group (qawm) was useful in attracting defectors as one member on the government side used social ties to attract other members of his qawm.

The program seeks to further reduce the insurgents' momentum, throw their logistics and base areas into disarray, force them to withdraw prime troops from contested districts, and in time, bring the insurgents to a negotiated settlement.

Across the Durand Line?

Special forces teams might be used in cross-border operations into Pakistan, especially into the North Waziristan tribal area where the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda and kindred groups enjoy safe havens. Another prospective area would be in the northern part of Pakistan's Balochistan province, which is another insurgent base area and only 150 kilometers from the reasonably secure towns of Kandahar and Lashkar Gah.

United States special forces personnel have trained Pakistani militias along the frontier and so already have knowledge of the terrain and the troops operating there. Furthermore, the US has built its own intelligence network inside Pakistan, which has been successful in targeting leaders of the Haqqani network and most notably in finding and killing Osama bin Laden.

This intelligence network greatly irritated the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence service (ISI), and cross-border operations by US special forces will only increase the irritation. The US must be prepared for this. Only a few months ago, a cross-border incident led to a crisis in US-Pakistani relations, the constriction of US/International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) supply convoys, and eventually to an apology from General David Petraeus, then the US's top man in Afghanistan.

Since then, however, events have put the Pakistani army and ISI on the back foot. The discovery of Bin Laden living comfortably near an army base, increased revelations of ties with various militant groups, and most recently suspected complicity in the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan bureau chief, have cast a harsh light on a darker part of Pakistan.

Many countries are looking on Pakistan as a rogue state - and a failing one. Nonetheless, stepped-up cross border activity may bring not only increased tension between the US and Pakistan, but also firefights between their troops.


Guerrilla operations and the smaller troop levels they require will allow the US to rely less heavily on supply routes winding through Pakistan - a country whose military is now deemed unreliable. A lighter logistical load can be increasingly borne by northern routes from Russia - a country whose commitment to containing Islamist militancy is now deemed quite reliable.

The US has already reduced its reliance on Pakistan for logistics. A year ago, the preponderance of US/ISAF supplies came through Pakistan, but today only 40% do so, and that number is slated to dwindle to 25% by the end of 2011. Pakistan is becoming less important to the US.

Special forces operations will reduce the need for massive firepower, which has long been a source of irritation in the Afghan people and a recruitment attraction for insurgent groups. Heavy fire power will be confined to extracting a beleaguered team or on identifying a sizable insurgent force.

Guerrilla warfare could well allow the US to increase its effectiveness against the insurgents while at the same time reducing its troops levels and expenditures. Both will be welcome in the increasingly restive US public. Unconventional warfare might even intrigue the public, which retains considerable attraction for imaginative forms of war, resonant as they are with romantic figures such as T E Lawrence and less illustrious green berets of the Vietnam War.

President Barack Obama's reduction of troop levels will almost certainly require consolidation into a number of enclaves in the south and east where counter-insurgency operations have met with success and some Pashtun tribes remain hostile to the Taliban. This will in effect cede more territory to the insurgents, but paradoxically this will have advantages. The more territory ceded to insurgent groups, the more territory they must defend from US guerrilla forces.

Many observers will wonder why such unconventional warfare hasn't already been more widely put into effect. After all, the Taliban have controlled large parts of the south and east for a few years now and the US has long had a number of troops capable of such ops. Indeed, one of the principal missions of the green berets during the cold war was to organize insurgencies behind Soviet lines in the event Western Europe were to fall to the the Red army.

Unfortunately, bureaucratic inertia and doctrinal commitment to conventional warfare won out, until recently. Many might even wonder if such operations would have been a more effective response to the September 11, 2001, attacks than overthrowing the Taliban and occupying a country so fragmented and fractious. But wisdom comes only late in the day.

Brian M Downing served with indigenous forces during the Vietnam War and is the author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com

Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3929 on: July 11, 2011, 10:38:32 AM »

Multi-Billion-Dollar Terrorists And The Disappearing Middle Class

By James Petras


July 10, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- The US government (White House and Congress) spends $10 billion dollars a month, or $120 billion a year, to fight an estimated “50 -75 ‘Al Qaeda types’ in Afghanistan”, according to the CIA and quoted in the Financial Times of London (6/25 -26/11, p. 5). During the past 30 months of the Obama presidency, Washington has spent $300 billion dollars in Afghanistan, which adds up to $4 billion dollars for each alleged ‘Al Queda type’. If we multiply this by the two dozen or so sites and countries where the White House claims ‘Al Qaeda’ terrorists have been spotted, we begin to understand why the US budget deficit has grown astronomically to over $1.6 trillion for the current fiscal year.

During Obama’s Presidency, Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment has been frozen, resulting in a net decrease of over 8 percent, which is exactly the amount spent chasing just 5 dozen ‘Al Qaeda terrorists’ in the mountains bordering Pakistan.

It is absurd to believe that the Pentagon and White House would spend $10 billion a month just to hunt down a handful of terrorists ensconced in the mountains of Afghanistan. So what is the war in Afghanistan about? The answer one most frequently reads and hears is that the war is really against the Taliban, a mass-based Islamic nationalist guerrilla movement with tens of thousands of activists. The Taliban, however, have never engaged in any terrorist act against the territorial United States or its overseas presence. The Taliban have always maintained their fight was for the expulsion of foreign forces occupying Afghanistan. Hence the Taliban is not part of any “international terrorist network”. If the US war in Afghanistan is not about defeating terrorism, then why the massive expenditure of funds and manpower for over a decade?

Several hypotheses come to mind:

The first is the geopolitics of Afghanistan: The US is actively establishing forward military bases, surrounding and bordering on China.

Secondly, US bases in Afghanistan serve as launching pads to foment “dissident separatist” armed ethnic conflicts and apply the tactics of ‘divide and conquer’ against Iran, China, Russia and Central Asian republics.

Thirdly, Washington’s launch of the Afghan war (2001) and the easy initial conquest encouraged the Pentagon to believe that a low cost, easy military victory was at hand, one that could enhance the image of the US as an invincible power, capable of imposing its rule anywhere in the world, unlike the disastrous experience of the USSR.

Fourthly, the early success of the Afghan war was seen as a prelude to the launching of a sequence of successful wars, first against Iraq and to be followed by Iran, Syria and beyond. These would serve the triple purpose of enhancing Israeli regional power, controlling strategic oil resources and enlarging the arc of US military bases from South and Central Asia, through the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.

The strategic policies, formulated by the militarists and Zionists in the Bush and Obama Administrations, assumed that guns, money, force and bribes could build stable satellite states firmly within the orbit of the post-Soviet US empire. Afghanistan was seen as an easy first conquest the initial step to sequential wars. Each victory, it was assumed would undermine domestic and allied (European) opposition. The initial costs of imperial war, the Neo-Cons claimed, would be paid for by wealth extracted from the conquered countries, especially from the oil producing regions.

The rapid US defeat of the Taliban government confirmed the belief of the military strategists that “backward”, lightly armed Islamic peoples were no match up for the US powerhouse and its astute leaders.

Wrong Assumptions, Mistaken Strategies: The Trillion Dollar Disaster

Every assumption, formulated by these civilian strategists and their military counterparts, has been proven wrong. Al Qaeda was and is a marginal adversary; the real force capable of sustaining a prolonged peoples wars against an imperial occupier, inflicting heavy casualties, undermining any local puppet regime and accumulating mass support is the Taliban and related nationalist resistance movements. Israeli-influenced US think-tanks, experts and advisers who portrayed the Islamic adversaries as inept, ineffective and cowardly, totally misread the Afghan resistance. Blinded by ideological antipathy, these high-ranking advisers and White House/Pentagon civilian-office holders failed to recognize the tactical and strategic, political and military acumen of the top and middle-level Islamist nationalist leaders and their tremendous reserve of mass support in neighboring Pakistan and beyond.

The Obama White House, heavily dependent on Islamophobic pro-Israel experts, further isolated the US troops and alienated the Afghan population by tripling the number of troops, further establishing the credentials of the Taliban as the authentic alternative to a foreign occupation.

As for the neo-conservative pipe dreams of successful sequential wars, cooked up by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, Libby et al, to eliminate Israel’s adversaries and turn the Persian Gulf into a Hebrew lake, the prolonged wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan has, in fact, strengthened Iran’s regional influence, turned the entire Pakistani people against the US and strengthened mass movements against US clients throughout the Middle East.

Sequential imperial defeats have resulted in a massive hemorrhage of the US treasury, rather than the promised flood of oil wealth from tributary clients. According to a recent scholarly study, the military cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have exceeded $3.2 trillion dollars (“The Costs of War Since 2001”, Eisenhower Study Group, June 2011) and is growing at over ten billion a month. Meanwhile the Taliban “tightens (its) psychological grip” on Afghanistan (FT 6/30/2011, p. 8). According to the latest reports even the most guarded 5-star hotel in the center of Kabul, the Intercontinental, was vulnerable to a sustained assault and take over by militants, because “high security Afghan forces” are infiltrated and the Taliban operate everywhere, having established “shadow” governments in most cities, towns and villages (FT 6/30/11 p.8).

Imperial Decline, Empty Treasury and the Specter of a Smash-Up

The crumbling empire has depleted the US treasury. As the Congress and White House fight over raising the debt ceiling, the cost of war aggressively erodes any possibility of maintaining stable living standards for the American middle and working classes and heightens growing inequalities between the top 1% and the rest of the American people. Imperial wars are based on the pillage of the US treasury. The imperial state has, via extraordinary tax exemptions, concentrated wealth in the hands of the super-rich while the middle and working classes have been pushed downward, as only low paid jobs are available.

In 1974, the top 1% of US individuals accounted for 8% of total national income but as of 2008 they earned 18% of national income. And most of this 18% is concentrated in the hands of a tiny super-rich 1% of that 1%, or 0.01% of the American population, (FT 6/28/11, p. 4 and 6/30/11, p. 6). While the super-rich plunder the treasury and intensify the exploitation of labor, the number of middle income jobs is plunging: From 1993 to 2006, over 7% of middle income jobs disappeared (FT 6/30/11, p. 4). While inequalities may be rising throughout the world, the US now has the greatest inequalities among all the leading capitalist countries.

The burden of sustaining a declining empire, with its the monstrous growth in military spending, has fallen disproportionately on middle and working class taxpayers and wage earners. The military and financial elites’ pillage of the economy and treasury has set in motion a steep decline in living standards, income and job opportunities. Between 1970 -2009, while gross domestic product more than doubled, US median pay stagnated in real terms (FT 7/28/11, p. 4). If we factor in the added fixed costs of pensions, health and education, real income for wage and salaried workers, especially since the 1990’s, has been declining sharply.

Even greater blows are to come in the second half 2011: As the Obama White House expands its imperial interventions in Pakistan, Libya and Yemen, increasing military and police-state spending, Obama is set to reach budgetary agreements with the far right Republicans, which will savage government health care programs, like MEDICARE and MEDICAID, as well as Social Security, the national retirement program. Prolonged wars have pushed the budget to the breaking point, while the deficit undermines any capacity to revive the economy as it heads toward a ‘repeat recession’.

The entire political establishment is bizarrely oblivious to the fact that their multi-hundred- billion-dollar pursuit of an estimated 50-75 phantom Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan has hastened the disappearance of middle income jobs in the US.

The entire political spectrum has turned decisively to the Right and the Far-Right. The debate between Democrats and Republicans is over whether to slash four trillion or more from the last remnants of our country’s social programs.

The Democrats and the Far-Right are united as they pursue multiple wars while currying favor and funds from upper 0.01% super-rich, financial and real estate moguls whose wealth has grown so dramatically during the crisis!


But there is a deep and quiet discomfort within the leading circles of the Obama regime: The “best and brightest” among his top officials are scampering to jump ship before the coming deluge: the Economic Guru Larry Summers, Rahm Emmanuel, Stuart Levey, Peter Orzag, Bob Gates, Tim Geithner and others, responsible for the disastrous wars, economic catastrophes, the gross concentration of wealth and the savaging of our living standards, have walked out or have announced their ‘retirement’, leaving it to the smiling con-men - President Obama and Vice-President ‘Joe’ Biden - and their ‘last and clueless loyalists’ to take the blame when the economy tanks and our social programs are wiped out. How else can we explain their less-than-courageous departures (to ‘spend more time with the family’) in the face of such a deepening crisis? The hasty retreat of these top officials is motivated by their desire to avoid political responsibility and to escape history’s indictment for their role in the impending economic debacle. They are eager to hide from a future judgment over which policy makers and leaders and what policies led to the destruction of the American middle and working classes with their good jobs, stable pensions, Social Security, decent health care and respected place in the world.

James Petras has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3930 on: July 12, 2011, 11:03:38 AM »
Taliban's view on its talks with US

Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:43AM

Taliban militants, file photo

The US and Taliban have recently engaged in much publicized negotiations with top US officials boasting the development as efforts to bring the Taliban back into the main fold in Afghan politics, according to US media.

The following is a transcribed excerpt from Iran's Pashtu Radio interview with Taliban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed on the content of such negotiations.

Q: According to American media, the US has recently held negotiations with Taliban representative Tayyub Agha, while the talks were on the exchange of prisoners. What's your opinion?

A: The US and some linked with the Afghan government have made certain comments about the negotiations but the individual [from Taliban] who negotiated with them (Americans) has no close links with Taliban's leader. Negotiations were only aimed at the exchange of prisoners and were in favor of Taliban. No negotiations have been held with any other individual but the Taliban representative, because Afghanistan is still occupied.

Q: /So recent US propaganda about the negotiations with Taliban on the group assuming control of a significant part of Afghanistan as well as the Afghan government are baseless?

A: They test the Afghan people by making such a claim. Afghanistan is an inseparable country and major powers had proposed the disintegration of Afghanistan before but they failed because Afghanistan is a single country and its ethnic groups are united. The US must accept that the Afghan nation will not welcome them as long as foreign forces are present in Afghanistan. It would be unacceptable and impractical and fighting will continue if the US negotiates and reaches an agreement with the puppet government.

Q: So, Taliban's main condition for negotiations is the withdrawal of foreign forces [from Afghanistan]. Is that true?

A: Undoubtedly, Afghanistan's independence is vital to us and we have fought for independence for years and we will never allow foreigners to govern this country. If foreigners continue to insist [on remaining in Afghanistan], they will definitely fail.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3931 on: July 12, 2011, 11:33:47 AM »
Afghanistan: Leaving as Tragic as Staying

by Kelley B. Vlahos, July 12, 2011

“What do we care?”

That’s what Bing West, former assistant secretary of defense and Vietnam veteran, exclaimed when it was suggested that Afghanistan might slip “back into warlordism” if the U.S. military stopped focusing on governance and development there.

“The reason we tried nation-building in Afghanistan was because of our hubris, on the one hand, and because we thought we were so rich we could do anything. And so we’ve spent 10 years with 9th-century tribes on a bunch of rocks, trying to sort of say a social contract is the way we’ll do business as a military,” said West.

Now, the author of The Wrong War charged, “we have created a culture of entitlement … we have driven the Afghans, after 10 years, to expect when you look at an American, you see a dollar sign.”

West told an audience at the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference (.pdf) last month that it was time for most U.S. forces to pull up stakes, leaving behind a small force of special operations to pursue targeted counterterrorism. That’s it. Stop the madness, end the welfare.

After a decade of fighting at a staggering cost of some $4 trillion, according to a new report, West’s perspective has been well received by many in Washington, as is his blunt view that Marines are not nation-builders, and that the whole idea of so-called population-centric counterinsurgency (COIN) was a politically-driven and now unredeemed Washington confection used to sell the Long War to the American public. In fact, more than anyone, he’s likely helped along a growing backlash against COIN within the national security establishment at a time when the public is restive about the prolonged nature and cost of war to the American economy.

Proclaiming “what do we care?” is kind of cathartic, after a decade of feeling we’ve cared too much with little in return. It’s not too surprising, then, to hear the chorus — President Obama included — that it’s time for Afghans to “stand up and take control” of their own fate. I guess it’s helpful for people to think of Afghanistan in conservative American social terms, that the people there are like welfare recipients enabled in their dependence on Uncle Sam by billions in aid and security, and that the removal of the “crutch” will only make them stronger —  it certainly takes the edge off the feeling that we didn’t quite come through with our earlier promise to help build a better Afghanistan.

People like Karolina Olofsson, who works with Integrity Watch Afghanistan, and was in Washington last week to talk about cleaning up corruption in Afghanistan, says it’s not that easy. She’s from the school of thought that since we helped to break it, we have to stick around to fix it, even if that means forestalling the withdrawal until it’s done. Now while most of us here wouldn’t agree, it is worth looking at the mess we mean to leave behind — which Olofsson and others point out could be quite substantial.

“It’s about responsibility —  are we going to stay to fix the problems that we by and large caused, or leave it for the Afghans,” who will likely be engulfed in a civil war once U.S. forces withdraw, said Olofsson, who has been living and working in Afghanistan for the last two years.

“People are already saying to anyone who asks, that this feels a lot like when the Soviets were leaving” in 1988-1989, she said, and civil war ensued and a working government in Kabul was non-existent.

Olofsson’s group is focused on the rapid and largely unregulated infusion of foreign aid into the country, which she says has created “money lords out of warlords.” While no one suggests that corruption did not exist in Afghanistan before, Olofsson said the sheer lack of oversight on the part of the Karzai administration and its foreign patrons, particularly the U.S., has institutionalized corruption in Afghan civil society and in the private sector, and has critically stunted any progress the people hoped to gain since 2002.

In its own survey of Afghans in 32 provinces in 2009, IWA found that one in seven adults had directly experienced bribery, and 28 percent paid at least one bribe that year to attain a public service, with the average bribe being $156, a huge amount for a country in which the per capita income is $502 a year. IWA says this amounts to about $1 billion in bribes in 2009, up from $446 million in 2007. Sadly, according to the survey, the greatest number of bribes are paid to get basic social services, like health and education.

Furthermore, some 50 percent said that corruption was furthering the cause of the Taliban (for more about its own extortion rackets, read here) and one-third said corruption was a major source of conflict in their town or village.

Olofsson said IWA has had marginal success in helping to foster local corruption monitors while waiting for the Karzai government to come through on promised reforms to the system. They may be waiting a very long time, she admits, and there is hardly a guarantee that things would get any better if and when Karzai is gone.

American lawmakers are more aware than ever before that U.S. aid to Afghanistan is being scrutinized. No doubt they sense that time is running out to get it right, too. Just recently, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said in a June report (.pdf), “foreign aid, when misspent, can fuel corruption, disrupt labor and goods markets, undermine the host government’s ability to exert control over resources and contribute to insecurity.”

So why not just stop the flow of the money, the source of such upheaval and corruption? The U.S. has given about $19 billion to Afghanistan since 2002. The country has received about $52 billion overall. Choking it off sounds like an easy solution, but it would come at a tremendous cost, others point out, again, to the very people we once pledged to shepherd out of the ruins and into modernity.

For one thing, according to the World Bank, some 97 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP consists of spending related to the international military and the donor community presence. Citing previous testimony from experts, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee acknowledged that a “precipitous withdrawal in the absence of reliable domestic revenue and a functioning market based economy would trigger a major economic recession.”

No doubt. This is why Olofsson likes to say that it isn’t the amount of aid, but how it is spent. Right now the money has been spent in ways that have been identified by outside observers as hurting the population, rather than helping it. And while USAID (the primary civilian U.S. agency in charge of reconstruction) and the U.S. military have touted areas where assistance has been put to positive use, there is a growing body of evidence to concede that no one — American, Afghan or otherwise — has really gotten much bang out of their billions of buck.

Some recent examples include a damning report by Glenn Zorpette for The New York Times, which describes the failure and seeming futility of a $1.2 billion USAID project to establish a modern electrical grid in Afghanistan, which as of today, still remains in the bottom 10 percent of the world in electricity consumption per capita.

In one case, USAID took nearly three years to build a 105-megawatt power plant in Tarakil, outside Kabul. Contracting problems, delays and budget overruns have cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $40 million for the project and as of today the plant “most often has sat idle,” while power in the form of diesel fuel is trucked in to the area to supplement — of course at gougers’ prices.

“The agency has shown an inability to manage large electrical projects. It’s programs change with the policy goals of the American administration it serves, and it seems to lack officials in Afghanistan who arrive with prior experience in electrical projects and contracting,” writes Zorpette, who suggests turning over the projects to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In another recent report, the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran wrote that USAID programs that were designed to support local development, agriculture and job training have been severely delayed because of various bureaucratic logjams, competing priorities and as one unnamed official said, an 85 percent turnover rate on staff.

And while the Army might have done better than USAID at say, individual electrical projects, real success at reconstruction and development has often eluded the military, too.

“Another problem with Zorpette’s model of throwing everything to the military because you need to get it done right now is that the military isn’t all that good at this stuff, either,” wrote Registan.net’s Joshua Foust, in a response last week.

In fact, according to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, as well as many critics across the political spectrum, development at the hands of soldiers and Marines might be more harmful short- and long-term for the Afghans. “Our strategy assumes that short-term aid promotes stability in counterinsurgency operations and ‘wins hearts and minds,’ ” according to the study. “The evidence from Afghanistan supporting these assumptions,” however, “is limited.” Worse, said the committee, if not handled properly, such funding could have the opposite effect, causing infighting among tribes or find its way into the hands of the insurgency.

“We see that much of the (military) development is already falling apart,” Olofsson told Antiwar.com, charging that reconstruction based on the military’s goals of counterinsurgency is expedient as well as expensive, and more often than not, unsustainable by communities still living in poverty. Not to mention they don’t always match the humanitarian and local governance needs of the community.

The committee quoted former Pentagon adviser Mark Moyar, who wrote about the Kajaki Dam near Kandahar, and testified before Congress last March. In keeping with the theory that aid does not necessarily result in stabilization and a successful counterinsurgency, Moyar wrote in his report (.pdf):  http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/development-in-afghanistan-coin-moyar.pdf

In sections of the Afghan countryside where counterinsurgent forces have not established military dominance, insurgents have regularly halted projects through threats or violence against the workers. When projects have been completed in insecure areas, insurgents have often destroyed them, or kept away the staff who are required to operate them.

In other insecure areas, the insurgents allow development to proceed in order to leech off of it. Numerous development contractors in Afghanistan pay protection money to private security companies or local power brokers because the counterinsurgents lack sufficient forces in the area, and oftentimes this money falls into Taliban hands through intimidation or collusion. Military superiority also allows the insurgents to reap the economic benefits of completed projects. For instance, the United States spent more than $100 million repairing and upgrading the Kajaki hydropower plant to provide electricity to Helmand and Kandahar provinces, but last year half of its electricity went into areas where the insurgents control the electric grid, enabling the Taliban to issue electric bills to consumers and send out collection agents with medieval instruments of torture to ensure prompt payment. The consumers in these places use the power for the irrigation of fields that grow poppies, which in turn fuel the opium trade from which the Taliban derive much of their funding.

If the military plans to continue shifting priorities from development to so-called counterterrorism, which would no doubt make people like Bing West happy — then the chances of it ever getting stabilization and development “right” like Moyar suggests (futilely) later in his paper, decrease by the minute. As for USAID, there seems to be a litany of issues — from funding, staffing, and disorganization to waste, fraud, and abuse in contracting — that make it largely unable to turn around anything now.

Meanwhile, so much is left undone even on the most basic level: the refugee crisis (91,000 fleeing their homes in the first five months of 2011 alone), the high maternal mortality rate (still the worst in the world), and crimes against women (the second worst in the world). As for health care, it’s still nearly unattainable in the rural areas, and education, well, there have been recent questions about the actual number of children attending newly built schools compared to the “official” numbers given to the press.

The pressure is on for the West to pull up stakes. There are many smart people inside and outside Washington who say it’s time, and the sooner the better — though not everyone would agree on when, and whether that should include the millions of aid sent over there each year.

Whatever one believes, it’s obvious we’ve passed the high road a long time ago. Leaving will be as tragic as staying, primarily because as it looks now, our legacy will have served no one, save the corruptible, power-hungry elements that had been there all along.

But what do we care?


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3932 on: July 13, 2011, 08:39:01 AM »
South Asia
Jul 14, 2011 
Why Ahmad Wali Karzai was so controversial


In the murky world of Afghan politics, there were few figures murkier - yet more important - than Ahmad Wali Karzai.

The younger, half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the 49-year-old Ahmad was universally considered to be the most powerful politician in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-biggest city and the birthplace of the Taliban.

But the source of his power extended far beyond his official position as the head of Kandahar's elected provincial council.

And it was exactly questions over where his immense power and wealth came from that made him both so controversial and difficult to define.

That he was powerful, there is no doubt. Just last month, a delegation of tribal elders from Kandahar went to Kabul to lobby President Karzai to make Ahmad Wali the governor of Kandahar - a step that would have given him virtually monopoly rule over the province.

One of Ahmad Wali Karzai's supporters, Agha Lalai Dastgiri, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan: "About 20 days ago a delegation representing all the tribes, more than 100 people, went to Kabul. They visited the president and asked him to appoint Ahmad Wali Karzai as Kandahar's governor, because the people think that would decrease and solve their problems."

Dastgiri is a member of the Kandahar provincial council and the head of the Kandahar Peace Commission.

One source of Ahmad Wali Karzai's power was undoubtedly his close family ties to his brother. Like the president, Ahmad Wali Karzai was an elder of the powerful Popalzai Pashtun tribe in southern Afghanistan and, with his brother, rose to power with United States support in the wake of Washington's 2001 invasion to topple the Taliban.

But while those important familial and regional ties may have helped him be elected to the Kandahar provincial council in 2005, he soon proved highly adept at amassing power and money on his own account.

When Ahmad Wali Karzai died on July 12 by an assassin's hand in his own heavily guarded home in the southern city, he was widely considered to be among Afghanistan's 10 richest men.

And the very fact that he had so much money immediately made it difficult to know even what might have motivated his killer - Sardar Mohammad, a senior bodyguard trusted by the family - to fatally shoot him in the head and chest before being immediately shot dead himself by other guards.

Accusations of corruption ...

Among the most persistent charges leveled against Ahmad Wali Karzai - both by critics and some allies - were corruption and links to the drug trade.

In Western media, and Western capitals, he was so often portrayed as a symbol of cronyism that he became a lightening rod for criticism of all that is wrong with President Karzai's administration.

The New York Times reported last year that senior US officials spent months weighing allegations against Ahmad Wali Karzai, including that he paid off Taliban insurgents, that he laundered money, that he seized government land, that he reaped enormous profits by facilitating the shipment of opium through his region.

The top-level US review of Ahmad Wali Karzai included a classified briefing presided over by General Stanley McChrystal on March 8, 2010, at NATO headquarters in Kabul.

But, the paper reported, the US review ultimately concluded that the evidence, some compelling, some circumstantial, was not clear enough to persuade President Karzai to dismiss his brother.
And it was considered advisable to leave things in place in Kandahar as the United States itself prepared to launch a major operation to increase security in Kandahar, which began late last year and continues today.

Ahmad Wali Karzai consistently denied all allegations against him, saying they were politically motivated.

After The New York Times published an article in October 2008 headlined "Reports Link Karzai's Brother to Afghanistan Heroin Trade", he told reporters at a press conference that the accusation was "just a rumor".

He continued: "Up to this minute, nobody is able to prove it. So it is like a ghost. People say there is a ghost but you cannot see it, you cannot touch it, you cannot hear it, and [still] it is [supposedly] there. So all the accusations The New York Times is saying in its report, I am ready to answer one by one."

Ahmad Wali Karzai told Britain's Financial Times last year: "It's very difficult to be the president's brother, believe me."

.. and CIA ties

But the now-deceased Kandahar kingpin's relations with Washington may have been still more complicated than the consistent criticism of him might suggest.

Just how complicated they could be was hinted at two years ago by a spate of media investigations into persistent rumors he had received regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for much of the past eight years.

The New York Times reported in September 2009 that the US intelligence agency paid him for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force - the Kandahar Strike Force - that conducts raids against suspected insurgents at the CIA's direction in and around Kandahar.

Similarly, the paper reported, Washington paid Karzai for allowing CIA and US commandos to rent a large compound outside the city.

Ahmad Wali Karzai subsequently called the newspaper's report "ridiculous" and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs refused to comment on any relationship between Karzai and the CIA, as did CIA spokesman George Little.

Power vacuum In Kandahar

Now, with Ahmad Wali Karzai's assassination in Kandahar, Washington has lost someone who - depending upon which reports one finds credible - was simultaneously both a partner and a liability for the West.

Just how much of each may be become clearer as more details of his death - and the motives of his assassin - become known. But for now the bizarre circumstances of his shooting by a trusted associate only shrouds his life in greater mystery than ever.

More immediately, Ahmad Wali Karzai's death plunges Kandahar into a power vacuum at a critical time for US hopes to increase security in Kandahar as Washington prepares for an initial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan next year.

Despite the steady criticism of Ahmad Wali Karzai as a polarizing figure in Kandahar who could complicate efforts to win over the population and supplant the Taliban, many US and foreign officials have also at times recognized his huge reach within the city. He was seen as someone with the contacts to get things done, even if one had misgivings about his methods.

"The death is a huge loss, as it happened at a time that the power transition and national reconciliation is in progress," Khalid Pashtoon, a member of parliament from Kandahar and the first deputy of the lower house in the Afghan parliament, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal. "In addition, the area is plagued by daily fighting and insecurity. Ahmad Karzai was an influential person in the whole area."

Ahmad Wali Karzai had been targeted before, with at least two attacks against the provincial-council office in Kandahar that Karzai claimed were directed at him. One was in November 2008, another in April 2009. The attack in 2009, by four suicide bombers, killed 13 people.

Ahmad Wali Karzai, who was married and had five children, was born in Kandahar city in 1961 and moved to the United States in 1982, where he lived in Maryland and Virginia before moving to Chicago to run an Afghan restaurant. He returned to Afghanistan in 1992.

Asked about the secret of his power in Kandahar, he told The Washington Post last year that decades of experience in Afghanistan was his only key: "I know how to talk to the people," Ahmad Wali Karzai said. "I know how to deal with these tribes. I know what their needs are. I know how to address their needs. This is the skill I have learned."

Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent Salih Mohammad Salih and Radio Mashaal's correspondent Hassiba Shaheed contributed to this report


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3933 on: July 13, 2011, 08:44:00 AM »
South Asia
Jul 14, 2011 


Taliban deliver hammer blow to NATO

By Pepe Escobar

Spin masters from Washington to Brussels to Kabul are bound for many a sleepless night. World public opinion has been relentlessly shocked and awed by the chimera that the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are "winning" the AfPak combo war.

Now for the facts on the ground. Immediately after the US government decided to "suspend" US$800 million in aid to the Pakistan army, Pakistan Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told local Express TV channel, "If at all things become difficult, we will just get all our forces back" - hinting there would be no more troops from Islamabad fighting Pashtun-majority guerrillas in the tribal areas.

Mukhtar couldn't have been more explicit; "If Americans refuse to give us money, then okay ... We cannot afford to keep the military out in the mountains for such a long period."

This graphically shows, once again, the Pakistani army is - reluctantly - playing Washington's counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency game in the tribal areas. As much as Islamabad may fear Pashtun nationalism, the army knows it must proceed with extreme caution, otherwise it will face a mass tribal Pashtun rebellion that would put on the table the supreme taboo; the consolidation of Pashtunistan, breaking up Pakistan as we know it.

Warlord down

Then there was President Hamid Karzai, the puppet who barely controls his own throne in Kabul, according to local lore, talking in a joint news conference with the visiting liberator of Libya, neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Karzai said, "Inside the houses of Afghan people, we have all suffered from the same kind of pain. And our hope is that, God willing, there will be an end to the pain and suffering of Afghan people, and peace and security will be implemented."

Arguably not many Afghans will feel "the same kind of pain" when confronted by the assassination of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's half-brother, a major drug dealer, an asset on the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) payroll and the top powerbroker in Kandahar as head of the Kandahar provincial council.

Considering the Taliban may actually control as much as 70% of the country, the assassination is a sterling coup, with responsibility duly claimed by the Taliban via spokesman Usuf Ahmadi: "This is one of our biggest achievements since the spring operation began. We assigned Sardar Mohammad to kill him recently and Sardar Mohammad is also martyred."

A counter-spin in Kandahar has Sardar Mohammad, a trusted Karzai commander issued from the same Popolzai tribe, killing Ahmed Wali with two shots on the head, "on drugs", and for personal reasons.

The Taliban anyway are already winning the public relations war. Since the spring of 2010, the Taliban have managed to kill the provincial chief of police of Kandahar, the deputy governor, the district chief for Arghandab, and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City.

Now they got rid of the major pro-Washington actor not only in Kandahar but in the whole south of Afghanistan - where NATO has been involved en masse to crush the Taliban in their spiritual home and favored grounds. The assassination smashes to bits the hegemonic "NATO is winning" narrative.

The King of Kandahar

I spent a long afternoon with Ahmad Wali in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province in Pakistan, when the US was bombing the Taliban in the autumn of 2001 - weeks before he and his half-brother transitioned from "kebab sellers" (the word in the street) to political heavyweights.

He was already a CIA asset - at the time the US was busy parachuting Hamid Karzai inside Afghanistan - and a major opium smuggler, not to mention tribal leader and a much more assertive personality than his half-brother.

During the 2000s, he kept all these roles, as well as owning hotels, real estate and even a Toyota dealership, but most of all struggling to "contain" Kandahar, always heavily Talibanized, as commander of the Kandahar Strike Force, a hardcore, private paramilitary group that helps US Special Forces and the CIA in targeted assassinations of top Taliban commanders.

He was the de facto governor, popularly known as "The King of Kandahar" - much more powerful than the governor and the toothless provincial council.

The lesson Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and secular Pashtuns are learning from his assassination is that the Karzai government is a sham (well, most Afghans already knew it) - incapable of protecting even the most powerful of the Karzais. As for the fiction that NATO is in the process of conquering Afghans' hearts and minds and making them fall in love with the central government in Kabul - you can try to spin that to a rock face in the Hindu Kush.

So much for NATO "winning" in Afghanistan. As for the US "winning" in the Pakistani tribal areas, one just has to turn to what powerful chief of army staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani - a Pentagon darling - and head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, are thinking. Via their minions, they are saying they can get by without the "suspended" $800 million from Washington, or ask "all-weather friend" China for anything they need.

According to Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan, Islamabad can have the $800 million if its issues a lot more visas for, essentially, US spies, and reinstates widespread training of Pakistanis in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. Islamabad - already dealing with a US drone war over the tribal areas - is not interested.

The "winner" in this case is really al-Qaeda, which has used the Pakistani Taliban in a confrontation against the Pakistani army in the tribal areas as a diversion tactic, while plotting to expand its caliphate-driven agenda towards Central Asia.

But wait, wasn't the US "winning" against al-Qaeda? That's what General David Petraeus - now transitioning from top commander in Afghanistan to CIA chief - has been spinning; "There has been enormous damage done to al-Qaeda in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas ... and it does hold the prospect of really a strategic defeat" for al-Qaeda.

Well, not really - unless you drone the tribal areas to death.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3934 on: July 14, 2011, 08:43:08 AM »
Why the US Won't Leave Afghanistan

By Pepe Escobar

Global Research, July 13, 2011

Al Jazeera 

Surge, bribe and run? Or surge, bribe and stay? How US military bases and the energy war play out in Afghanistan.

Among multiple layers of deception and newspeak, the official Washington spin on the strategic quagmire in Afghanistan simply does not hold.

No more than "50-75 'al-Qaeda types' in Afghanistan", according to the CIA, have been responsible for draining the US government by no less than US $10 billion a month, or $120 billion a year. 

At the same time, outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is "premature". The Pentagon wants the White House to "hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012."

That of course shadows the fact that even if there were a full draw down, the final result would be the same number of US troops before the Obama administration-ordered AfPak surge.

And even if there is some sort of draw down, it will mostly impact troops in supporting roles - which can be easily replaced by "private contractors" (euphemism for mercenaries). There are already over 100,000 "private contractors" in Afghanistan. 

It's raining trillions

A recent, detailed study by the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University revealed that the war on terror has cost the US economy, so far, from $3.7 trillion (the most conservative estimate) to $4.4 trillion (the moderate estimate). Then there are interest payments on these costs - another $1 trillion.

That makes the total cost of the war on terror to be, at least, a staggering $5.4 trillion. And that does not include, as the report mentions, "additional macroeconomic consequences of war spending", or a promised (and undelivered) $5.3 billion reconstruction aid for Afghanistan.

Who's profiting from this bonanza? That's easy - US military contractors and a global banking/financial elite.

The notion that the US government would spend $10 billion a month just to chase a few "al-Qaeda types" in the Hindu Kush is nonsense.

The Pentagon itself has dismissed the notion - insisting that just capturing and killing Osama bin Laden does not change the equation; the Taliban are still a threat. 

In numerous occasions Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself has characterised his struggle as a "nationalist movement". Apart from the historical record showing that Washington always fears and fights nationalist movements, Omar's comment also shows that the Taliban strategy has nothing to do with al-Qaeda's aim of establishing a Caliphate via global jihad. 

So al-Qaeda is not the major enemy - not anymore, nor has it been for quite some time now. This is a war between a superpower and a fierce, nationalist, predominantly Pashtun movement - of which the Taliban are a major strand; regardless of their medieval ways, they are fighting a foreign occupation and doing what they can to undermine a puppet regime (Hamid Karzai's).   

Look at my bankruptcy model

In the famous November 1, 2004 video that played a crucial part in assuring the reelection of George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden - or a clone of Osama bin Laden - once again expanded on how the "mujahedeen bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat."

That's the exact same strategy al-Qaeda has deployed against the US; according to Bin Laden at the time , "all that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note, other than some benefits to their private companies."

The record since 9/11 shows that's exactly what's happening. The war on terror has totally depleted the US treasury - to the point that the White House and Congress are now immersed in a titanic battle over a $4 trillion debt ceiling. 

What is never mentioned is that these trillions of dollars were ruthlessly subtracted from the wellbeing of average Americans - smashing the carefully constructed myth of the American dream.

So what's the endgame for these trillions of dollars?

The Pentagon's Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine implies a global network of military bases - with particular importance to those surrounding, bordering and keeping in check key competitors Russia and China.   

This superpower projection - of which Afghanistan was, and remains, a key node, in the intersection of South and Central Asia - led, and may still lead, to other wars in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The network of US military bases in the Pentagon-coined "arc of instability" that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and South/Central Asia is a key reason for remaining in Afghanistan forever.

But it's not the only reason.

Surge, bribe and stay

It all comes back, once again, to Pipelineistan - and one of its outstanding chimeras; the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline, also known once as the Trans-Afghan Pipeline, which might one day become TAPI if India decides to be on board.

The US corporate media simply refuses to cover what is one of the most important stories of the early 21st century.

Washington has badly wanted TAP since the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration was negotiating with the Taliban; the talks broke down because of transit fees, even before 9/11, when the Bush administration decided to change the rhetoric from "a carpet of gold" to "a carpet of bombs".

TAP is a classic Pipelineistan gambit; the US supporting the flow of gas from Central Asia to global markets, bypassing both Iran and Russia. If it ever gets built, it will cost over $10 billion.

It needs a totally pacified Afghanistan - still another chimera - and a Pakistani government totally implicated in Afghanistan's security, still a no-no as long as Islamabad's policy is to have Afghanistan as its "strategic depth", a vassal state, in a long-term confrontation mindset against India.   

It's no surprise the Pentagon and the Pakistani Army enjoy such a close working relationship. Both Washington and Islamabad regard Pashtun nationalism as an existential threat.

The 2,500-kilometer-long, porous, disputed border with Afghanistan is at the core of Pakistan's interference in its neighbour's affairs.

Washington is getting desperate because it knows the Pakistani military will always support the Taliban as much as they support hardcore Islamist groups fighting India. Washington also knows Pakistan's Afghan policy implies containing India's influence in Afghanistan at all costs.

Just ask General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's army chief - and a Pentagon darling to boot; he always says his army is India-centric, and, therefore, entitled to "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. 

It's mind-boggling that 10 years and $5.4 trillion dollars later, the situation is exactly the same. Washington still badly wants "its" pipeline - which will in fact be a winning game mostly for commodity traders, global finance majors and Western energy giants.

From the standpoint of these elites, the ideal endgame scenario is global Robocop NATO - helped by hundreds of thousands of mercenaries - "protecting" TAP (or TAPI) while taking a 24/7 peek on what's going on in neighbours Russia and China.     

Sharp wits in India have described Washington's tortuous moves in Afghanistan as "surge, bribe and run". It's rather "surge, bribe and stay". This whole saga might have been accomplished without a superpower bankrupting itself, and without immense, atrocious, sustained loss of life, but hey - nobody's perfect.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for the Asia Times. His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3935 on: July 14, 2011, 08:52:35 AM »
Death and Afghanistan

by Craig Murray

July 13, 2011

No man is an island, and each man’s death diminishes me.  But some more than others and the loss of Ahmed Wali Karzai, Governor of Kandahar, monster of corruption, second largest heroin dealer in the world, is not particularly saddening.  It is, however, a tremedous reminder of the absolute futility of the war in Afghanistan.

NATO have killed uncounted thousands, many of them civilians, precisely to put Ahmed Wali Karzai and his like into power.  Ahmed Wali and his counterparts have stolen many billions of  Western taxpayers’ money, intended for aid and reconstruction.  They have flooded the world with more and cheaper heroin than ever seen before.  Somehow this has all been a great victory for the West. 

The difference between Karzai and his brother is one of style, not substance.  The idea that Ahmed Wali was up to his ears in drugs and corruption, but elder brother Ahmed is clean, is absolute nonsense.  It is however part of the myth we are supposed to absorb to justify this war, which has been extremely profitable for weapons manufacturers and other military suppliers, and boosted the funding and standing of the military themselves, mercenaries and the whole shady "security industry".  What it has not done is improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan.

 Ahmed Wali Karzai, by getting killed by his bodyguard, has done us a favour.  Otherwise the media could have ignored him and all he stands for about the Afghanistan which NATO has created, and just continued to sell us the lies about improved security, wise governance and girls going to school – none of which are true.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3936 on: July 14, 2011, 09:39:59 AM »
Killing of Karzai’s brother deepens US crisis in Afghanistan

By Bill Van Auken

WSWS, July 13, 2011


Tuesday’s killing of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Afghan president’s half brother, represents a serious blow to US strategy in the key southern province of Kandahar.

The powerful Kandahar warlord and longtime asset of the US Central Intelligence Agency was shot in the chest and the head by one of his henchmen, described by associates as one of the most trusted commanders of the militia gunmen loyal to Karzai.

The Taliban took credit for the assassination, claiming that the gunman, Sardar Mohammad, had been recruited a "long time" ago and had finally gotten "the chance today and achieved the objective." It described the killing as one of its "biggest achievements." Mohammad was killed by other bodyguards immediately after shooting Karzai.

Mohammad had reportedly worked for Karzai for the last seven years, commanding militiamen who man roadblocks around the family’s village of Karz in the Dand district, south of Kandahar City.

Initially there were suggestions that the killing was the result of a personal dispute. But, while Kandahar’s acting chief of police, General Abdul Raziq, described the assassin as a "good friend" of Karzai, he announced at a press conference in Kandahar City that several suspects had been arrested in connection with the assassination and were undergoing interrogation.

Raziq, who assumed his post after his predecessor was assassinated by a Taliban infiltrator on April 15, said that he could not rule out the involvement of a "foreign hand" in the latest killing and described Karzai’s death as a "big loss."

A favorite of the US military occupation authorities, Raziq—like Karzai himself—has been linked in published reports to the region’s lucrative opium trade and is charged by critics with carrying out systematic extra-judicial executions of suspected "insurgents."

Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa went further, calling the assassination "a catastrophe for everyone," asserting that Karzai had "helped bring peace and stability to the region."

In reality, Karzai functioned as the province’s de facto governor and more. Described as the "king of Kandahar," his official title was head of the provincial council. His power, however, flowed from his relationship to his brother’s central government and his control over a string of private security companies that have held a virtual monopoly over security operations for supply convoys and private contractors.

The armed militias under his direction also included the Kandahar Strike Force, a clandestine outfit that worked with the CIA and US Special Forces troops in death squad operations directed against suspected insurgents.

Ahmad Karzai has also been accused of making millions by shaking down contractors, appropriating lucrative land and water resources and monopolizing foreign loans and grants.

The younger Karzai also provided key support to his brother, President Hamid Karzai, helping him to rig the results in favor of his reelection in 2009.

In a June 2009 classified diplomatic cable release by WikiLeaks last December, US officials in Afghanistan provided a candid portrayal of the president’s brother. "As the kingpin of Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK) dominates access to economic resources, patronage, and protection," the cable states. "Much of the real business of running Kandahar takes place out of public sight, where AWK operates, parallel to formal government structures, through a network of political clans that use state institutions to protect and enable licit and illicit enterprises."

The cable describes the younger Karzai as Kandahar’s "unrivaled strongman," while acknowledging that he is "widely unpopular in Kandahar" because of his deep-going corruption. The "overriding purpose that unifies his political roles as chairman of the Kandahar provincial council and as the president’s personal representative to the south is the enrichment, extension and perpetuation of the Karzai clan," according to the cable.

In October 2009, the New York Times cited unnamed US government sources who provided detailed information on Karzai’s intimate links to the heroin trade as well as the fact that he had been on the CIA’s payroll since 2001. US military and government officials expressed a desire to see the younger Karzai sent out of the country and fears that his corrupt activities were fueling hatred for the US-led occupation and the Karzai regime.

A second cable released by WikiLeaks, drafted in February 2010, described a meeting of US diplomatic, military and intelligence officials on what measures to "employ against criminal and corrupt Afghan officials." In particular, it focused on the need to take action against "three prominent Afghan malign actors": Abdul Raziq, the current chief of police in Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai (now assassinated), and Asadullah Sherzad, who at the time was the chief of police in neighboring Helmand province.

A month later an unnamed "senior US military official" told the Reuters news agency that he wanted Ahmed Karzai "out of there," because he was "so divisive." He added that the only way that the military could act was if it could "link him to the insurgency." In that case he said, "… we can put him on the (target list) and capture and kill him."

In June of last year, the Washington Post reported on a March 2010 meeting in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then senior US military commander in Afghanistan, was presented dossiers detailing Ahmed Wali Karzai’s corruption. According to the Post, at the end of the meeting McChrystal "directed his subordinates to 'stop saying bad stuff about AWK’ and instead to work with him."

This remained the policy of Gen. David Petraeus, who took over from McChrystal shortly thereafter and has now relinquished the Afghanistan command to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

As one of his last official acts, Petraeus offered his "personal sympathy and condolences" to the Afghan president over the death of his brother, the Kandahar warlord, and vowed that US occupation forces would work "in every possible way to bring to justice" anyone involved in the killing.

As the Obama administration launched its surge of 30,000 troops, directed overwhelmingly into the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, Petraeus, McChrystal and other US officials determined that Ahmed Karzai was an indispensable asset, despite fears that his ostentatious corruption provided a major source of support for the armed groups opposing the Karzai regime and foreign occupation.

As a US official told the Washington Post last year, "If you take out Karzai, you don’t have good governance, you have no governance. He’s done very good things for the United States. He’s effective."

The fact that nearly 10 years into the US war Washington was dependent on such a figure is incontrovertible evidence of the criminal and semi-colonial character of this war and the lack of any genuine popular support for either foreign occupation or the corrupt regime that it has installed in Kabul.

Now he has been "taken out," and the prospects for his demise producing "good governance" are nil.

Whether the Taliban, which has repeatedly tried to kill Ahmed Karzai in the past, was really responsible for Tuesday’s assassination is unclear. It has in the past claimed responsibility for acts carried out by others, and there are certainly many others with reasons for wanting to murder the warlord, ranging from competing drug traffickers, rival tribal leaders and potentially even those within his own organization seeking to take his place by means of a gangland-style killing.

The New York Times reported worriedly that the demise of the younger Karzai raised the threat of a "vacuum of authority" in southern Afghanistan’s Pashtun region and posed a "struggle for control" and the "possibility of more bloodletting" as rival clans fight for dominance.

Whoever was responsible for Karzai’s killing, the attack, coming in the wake of the assault on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul two weeks ago and the earlier high-profile assassinations of the Kandahar police chief and others, only confirms the popular perception that the government and the foreign occupation troops are incapable of protecting top officials and supporters.

The killing also underscores the crisis confronting the Obama administration and the US military as they prepare to implement a withdrawal of 33,000 US troops by the end of next year. While nearly 70,000 US soldiers and Marines will remain in the occupied country, the withdrawal plan is predicated on Afghan security forces and the Afghan government taking greater responsibility for suppressing resistance. The role played by a figure like Ahmed Karzai and the crisis provoked by his demise only demonstrate the thoroughly rotten and impotent character of this government that Washington installed by invading Afghanistan.

On the same day that Ahmed Karzai was assassinated in Kandahar, officials in eastern Logar province reported that a NATO air strike the day before had killed at least 16 people.

"Twelve civilians, including women and children, were killed last night when NATO planes targeted two houses," a regional police chief told AFP. The official claimed that four suspected members of the Taliban also died in the attack. The strike was reportedly directed at a house where Taliban members were meeting, but also destroyed a neighboring home.

The deadly attack comes just days after another air strike in southeastern Khost province killed another 13 civilians, including eight children and three women.

The number of air strikes conducted by US and NATO warplanes has escalated sharply since the onset of the surge and is expected to increase even further as the partial withdrawal of US ground forces leaves the occupation more dependent upon air power.

The author also recommends:

What are US troops dying for in Afghanistan?
[29 October 2009]



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3937 on: July 15, 2011, 09:49:51 AM »
South Asia
Jul 16, 2011 

Taliban explain Ahmad Wali's killing

By M K Bhadrakumar

The Taliban have issued a statement offering an explanation for the assassination in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the younger half-brother of President Hamid Karzai.

This statement was released on Thursday - the same day a suicide bomber disrupted the memorial service in Kandahar for Ahmad Wali, killing three people, including Maulawi Ekmatullah, the head of the local ulema shura (provincial religious council).

Earlier, the burial of Ahmad Wali on Tuesday, attended by President Karzai, passed off without incident. But the Taliban targeted the memorial service, which was held for those who were had traveled from remote places and couldn't attend the funeral.

Direct references in the Taliban statement to the Afghan president were conspicuous in their absence. The focus was almost entirely on Ahmad Wali, since the Taliban wanted the Afghan elites to draw the necessary conclusions as to why the 49-year-old head of Kandahar's elected provincial council had to be eliminated.

The Taliban squarely and unambiguously blamed the assassination on the fact that Ahmad Wali worked for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Interestingly, the whole world is focusing on Ahmad Wali as an archetypal Afghan "warlord" and fascinating yarns are being churned out by the hour on the amorphous phenomenon of Afghan "warlordism"; but the Taliban zero in on the kernel of the truth. Nothing else about Ahmad Wali matters to them.

Indeed, the Taliban expose that Ahmad Wali was a "kingpin of the regime in south Afghanistan" in his capacity as the leader of the provincial council. He was the "most trusted person" of the US-led coalition forces occupying Afghanistan.

The Taliban point out that Ahmad Wali cooperated with the "Americans, Canadians and Britons" in the latters' campaign to gain control of the southwestern region of Afghanistan - not only Kandahar. (The governor of Helmand province, Gulab Mangal, was targeted in Maiwand district with an improvised explosive device as he was travelling to Kandahar on Tuesday to attend Ahmad Wali's funeral.)

Ahmad Wali obviously crossed the "red line" in helping US commander General David Petraeus' troop surge. The Taliban said he "played a key role in spreading the net of intelligence of the Western invaders and boosting their sway in southwest Afghanistan".

But the clincher was that this wasn't retribution for past sins. "Even now, he [Ahmad Wali] received a high salary from the CIA." This is as close as the Taliban get to suggesting that they apprehended that with Petraeus' elevation as the head of the CIA, Ahmad Wali would have an even greater potential to inflict damage on their interests. What emerges is that Ahmad Wali has paid with his life the political cost of the measure of success that Petraeus can claim for his "surge" policy in southwestern Afghanistan.

Quite obviously, by removing the "kingpin", the Taliban intend to nullify the gains of the "surge" and also pre-empt any further moves by Petraeus, who has gone on record that he would expect the locus of the military operations to now shift to the eastern region, where the US would rely more on intelligence and would count less on boots on the ground.

The Taliban statement squarely identifies Ahmad Wali with the excesses of the military operations in the southwestern region. It details the kind of atrocities that Western forces perpetrated, and then adds, "No doubt, in all these crimes, Ahmad Wali Karzai was complicit as the first person responsible for the [Kandahar] province ... Now, he has received his punishment."

Interestingly, although President Karzai invariably insists that the buck stops with him as regards the US's war crimes, the Taliban say otherwise. Their statement then steps back and begins to reflect on the political message for the Afghan elites - "Those Afghans who cooperate with the invading forces in contravention of their religion, country and native [traditional] values should take a lesson ... They should reconsider their behavior and actions." For, the Afghan nation cannot "tolerate" their cooperation with the foreign occupation forces or their acquiescence to the occupation itself.

The statement gives a chilling warning to those who collaborate, warning them that they cannot hope to take refuge in high-security zones under Western military protection - behind "barbed wires, cemented walls, sand bags" - as the long arm of the Taliban can reach everywhere.

The Taliban, however, say they are prepared to show latitude to those who may have collaborated with the US up until now - provided they "rethink, and abandon their subservience to the non-believing invaders". That is to say, "influential, educated and experienced Afghans" still have a choice even if they don't want to join the ranks of the Taliban or work with the Taliban insofar as they can "at least leave the path of support of the non-believers and start an ordinary life".

On the contrary, if they persist with their "submissive work", then, "you'll meet the same fate like General Daoud and Ahmad Wali Karzai". (The police chief for northern Afghanistan and the commander of the 303 Pamir Corps, Mohammed Daud, was killed by a suicide bomber in Takhar on May 29.)

The underlying thought process in the Taliban statement needs to be noted. This is an outright political statement and not a dogmatic al-Qaeda-like "jihadi" diatribe against the "decadent" West. Its focus is unmistakably on the Taliban's resolve not to compromise under any circumstances on the central question of the Western military presence on Afghan soil.

In sum, Ahmad Wali has been killed for being the CIA's point person in Afghanistan. Equally, the comparison with Daud is striking. Daud was a prominent "Panjshiri" who worked closely with North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in the northern region. He was also a kingpin, so to speak, for the German forces stationed in the Amu Darya region.

Conceivably, the Taliban underline by this comparison that the killing of Daud had nothing to do with him being a key non-Pashtun figure connected with the late Ahmad Shah Massoud or the erstwhile Northern Alliance's anti-Taliban resistance in the late 1990s.

There is also an implicit warning here for President Karzai and his team that it would be a fatal mistake if they succumbed to US pressure to allow the establishment of permanent military bases in Afghanistan on the pattern of what Washington is attempting to do in Iraq.

The Taliban statement makes it clear that the Quetta shura (the Taliban's high council) could have overlooked just about any aberration in Ahmad Wali's political profile - such as his strong-arm methods as a "warlord" or even his alleged involvement in drug trafficking or embezzlement of funds from the central bank - but what they could not afford to tolerate was that he continued to be the CIA's collaborator.

No doubt, Ahmad Wali's killing constitutes a devastating challenge to Petraeus personally. It comes on the eve of his departure from the war zone and it virtually unscrambles the omelette that the plucky US commander made at the fag-end of his military career. The "surge" has now become all but just another inconsequential page in the history of the Afghan war rather than the turning point it was meant to be.

More importantly, as the head of the CIA, Petraeus now has to confront the challenge of working in the southern Afghanistan region in an "intelligence vacuum". Ahmad Wali was a hands-on operative who didn't leave behind a replacement so to speak. He is irreplaceable, in fact. He had a finger in every pie cooking in the Kandahar region, ranging from providing security for the coalition forces to the US's nascent contacts with the Taliban.

All in all, the most striking aspect of the Taliban statement is that it deftly sidesteps President Karzai. He is not bracketed with Ahmad Wali's "crimes".

The fact that the Taliban made no attempt to disrupt the funeral on Tuesday is significant. The Taliban waited for full two days after the funeral was over to come out with the statement. After all, they took the life of a chief of the Popolzai tribe.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3938 on: July 15, 2011, 10:01:24 AM »

Taliban Warns Kabul Administration

Suggestions of the Islamic Emirate to the Rulers of the Kabul Administration on the occasion of Assassination of Ahmad Wali Karzai

By Afghan Resistance Movement

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan


July 14, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- The other day, Ahmad Wali Karzai, half brother of the Head of the Kabul surrogate Regime was killed by martyr Sardar Mohammad who was in contact with the Muahideen. Ahmad Wali Karzai was leader of the Provincial Council and worked as kingpin of the regime in south Afghanistan. He was the most trusted person close to the invading forces in south Afghanistan. Cooperating with the Americans, Canadians and Britons for the control of the south-west zone, he played key role in spreading the net of intelligence of the Western invaders and boosting their sway in south-west Afghanistan. Even now, he received high salary from CIA.

During his reign in the past few years, Kandahar and adjacent areas, like any other part of the country, born the brunt of atrocities of the foreign invading troops, in assistance with the domestic Afghan hireling forces. During this period, a great number of people were martyred, detained or forced to leave their homes and hertz on charges of being opposed to the presence of the invaders. Even many villages and orchards were destroyed and government/private properties usurped in Kandahar. No doubt, in all these crimes, Ahmand Wali Karzai was complicit as a first person responsible in the province. But the miserable and broken situation of the oppressed people readily came to a culmination that the Almighty Allah took an exemplary revenge on the oppressor. Now, Ahmad Wali Karzai has received his punishment.

Those Afghans who cooperate with the invading forces in Afghanistan in contravention of their religion, country and indigenous values, should take a lesson from the incident that happened the other day. They should reconsider their demeanor and actions and should know these people (Afghans) are religious and patriotic. No one of them is ready to tolerate cooperation with and presence of the foreign infidel invaders on this soil. If these subservients maintain to protect themselves from open offensives of Mujahideen by dent of barbed wires, cemented walls, sand sacks and foreign forces, they will never protect themselves from the said revenge of the believing people. Sooner or later, each of them will meet the fate.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan calls on those Afghans who work in the ranks of the invaders of Afghanistan, particularly, this call is directed at those influential, educated and experienced Afghans to rethink and abandon their subservience to the non-believing invaders. Stand with your people and support the Mujahideen. If you are not able to do this, then at least leave the support of the non-believers and start ordinary life. With all these, if you are intent on continuing your submissive work, then every one of you will meet the same like general Doud and Ahmad Wali Karzai, with the help of Allah, the All-powerful. You will face loss in this world and in the world to come.

(Taliban Website)


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3939 on: July 15, 2011, 10:23:42 AM »
Ahmed Wali Karzai and the rape of Afghanistan

Human rights investigations

HRI, July 14, 2011


Ahmed Wali Karzai, the second biggest heroin dealer in the world and NATO’s top man in Kandahar (as reported by Craig Murray ) has been killed by his head of security, Sardar Mohammed, in an operation claimed by the Taliban.

NATO's heroin dealer in Kandahar - Ahmed Wali Karzai - dead

It says a lot about NATO 'policy’ in Afghanistan that the death of this warlord is a major blow to their campaign.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was a kingpin in the Afghan heroin trade, which has been a massively profitable enterprise for those involved – although little of the money is seen in Afghanistan, let alone by the farmers. So the $1 billion a year smuggled out of Afghanistan to Dubai, and reported by the Washington Post, represents just the tip of the iceberg.

Protecting Afghanistan's oil

Whilst we are pondering NATO’s mission to "protect civilians" by preparing the way for ethnic cleansing in Libya, it is worth remembering the lessons of Afghanistan and we highly recommend our readers to watch Carmela Baranowskas’ brilliant "Taliban Country," which points to some of the inherent contradictions in that campaign.

This film shows US officers listening to one of the then provincial governors, Jan Mohammed, a warlord on a smaller scale to Ahmed Wali Karzai. The governor, talking to the US officers, says of one of the local boys who has just been apprehended by the joint US-Afghan force:

"We’ll take him with us for a few nights, he will keep us entertained. "

The film shows local villagers, forced to flee the country or join the resistance as the US forces ally themselves with rival tribal militia commanders. It also shows a "head of civil affairs" who, despite the billions poured into the country, is unable to muster the resources to save a dying Afghan child, brought to him by a local villager and in need of basic vitamins.

Here is the film – its long but well worth watching.

So it would seem that a few questions should be asked of the US enterprise in Afghanistan regarding how the mission is:

"fighting corruption in the Kabul government" by bribing many of its officials

"fighting to extend the rule of the national government" by arming and funding its local militia rivals

"fighting the war on drugs" by arming and supporting the world’s biggest heroin dealers

"expanding democracy" by supporting a President who stole the election

"winning heart and minds" by denying infants the most basic health care

"securing the future for the children of Afghanistan" by giving carte blanche to the world’s most active paedophiles



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3940 on: July 15, 2011, 10:32:44 AM »
A Decade of US War Costs

by Stephen Lendman

July 14, 2011


On June 29, Reuters writer Daniel Trotta headlined, "Cost of war at least $3.7 trillion and counting," explaining:

In June, when Obama claimed America's post-9/11 (Iraq/AfPak) wars cost $1 trillion, he did what he does best - lied about how much, in fact, was spent and projected, five or more times his figure.

According to a June Brown University Watson Institute for International Studies (WIIS) "Cost of War" report, up to $5,444 trillion was spent and projected with all related expenses and obligations included. More on that below.

In March, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) made its own estimate in an Amy Belasco report titled, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," saying:

Post-9/11, America "initiated three military operations:"

(1) Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in:

-- Afghanistan (OEF-A), combined with an undeclared Pakistan one; as well as small Global Wars on Terror (GWOT) in

-- the Philippines (OEF-P);

-- Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA);

-- Pankisi Gorge (near Russia, completed in 2004);

-- Trans Sahara (OEF-TS, in 10 North and Sub-Saharan African countries);

-- Caribbean/Central American (OEF-CCA) ones; and

-- Kyrgyzstan (completed in 2004).

(2) Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) for military operations related to homeland and base security, including mobilizing National Guard troops to protect military installations, airports, power plants, port facilities, and other vital infrastructure.

(3) Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), renamed Operation New Dawn in September 2010.

Through FY 2011, CRS lowballed a $1,283 trillion cost, including:

-- $806 billion for Iraq;

-- $444 billion for Afghanistan;

-- $29 billion for enhanced security; and

-- an unallocated $6 billion.

The full CRS report can be accessed through the following link:


In 2008, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes published "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict," available in book form from Amazon. Calling it a war of choice, they included current and estimated future costs, as well as intangible ones, including:

-- reduced capability to respond to other national security threats;

-- costly global anti-American sentiment;

-- the price paid for falsely claiming America defends human rights, civil liberties, and democratic values; and

-- eroding Washington's soft power to influence political, economic, environmental, judicial and other issues.

Stiglitz and Bilmes suggested that America is in long-term decline, a view shared by Chalmers Johnson, Immanuel Wallerstein, Gabriel Kolko and others.

WIIS' entire study can be accessed through the following link:

Produced by a team of economists, anthropologists, political scientists, legal experts, and a physician, it discusses human, social, political, environmental, and economic costs.

This article covers the latter. It's disturbing enough to question how much longer this nightmare can be tolerated, killing millions, harming many more, laying waste to countries attacked, destroying a generation of young men, and heading America for bankruptcy, tyranny and ruin to satisfy out-of-control corrupted wealth and power interests.

When totaling the known costs of war, including veterans' medical and disability obligations, the amount way exceeds Stiglitz and Bilmes $3 trillion estimate.

Specific categories covered include:

-- congressional war appropriations;

-- supplemental add-ons;

-- military related national debt interest;

-- veterans' medical and disability costs; and

-- war related international aid (State Department/USAID).

Total Direct Outlays: $2,331.1 - $2,657.3 trillion

-- projected future obligations through 2050; and

-- social costs to veterans and military families.

Total Outlays Through FY 2011 and projected medical and disability costs: $3,215.1 - $3,991.3 trillion

-- requested FY2012 Pentagon war spending;

-- requested FY 2012 State Department/USAID Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan spending;

-- projected FY 2013 - 2015 Pentagon war spending with 45,000 troops withdrawn;

-- projected FY 2016 - 2020 Pentagon war spending; and

-- additional interest payments to 2020.

Grand Total: $4,668.2 - $5,444.4 trillion.

Additional costs include:

-- medical care for injured veterans over age 65;

-- expenses for veterans paid for by state and local governments;

-- promised $5.3 billion in Afghanistan reconstruction aid; and

-- other macroeconomic consequences of war, including infrastructure and jobs.

Post-9/11, in addition to Pentagon war spending, "$5,238.7 billion in constant dollars was appropriated for ostensibly non-war DOD expenses" - the "base'' DOD budget through FY 2011.

Military spending affects debt, interest rates, jobs, and investment. While defense related employment increases, more productive sectors lose out, resulting in a net overall macroeconomic loss. Also, while military infrastructure grows, public infrastructure and investment spending suffer, creating what some call an "infrastructure deficit," markedly increasing in the last decade to fuel America's war machine.

Post-9/11, WIIS said direct and indirect war costs "have been consistently minimized, misunderstood, or hidden from public view," including shocking human costs and enormous future obligations. Undiscussed, taxpayers don't know where their money goes, how much, for what, how long, or why.

Overall it's vital information people need to know to let them decide if it's worth it. It never is, despite duplicitous national security claims. Only imperial interests and war profiteers gain at the expense of people needs losing out for them.

A Final Comment

Besides known trillions for wars (not people and other homeland needs), Pentagon officials spent unaccountable trillions more. On September 10, 2001, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted:

"According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions."

Defense Finance and Accounting Service analyst Jim Minnery said:

"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on." He risked his job exposing Pentagon corruption. So much so, his boss asked, "Why do you care about this stuff?"

Shortly afterwards he was reassigned to let grand theft Pentagon press on, free from whistleblower oversight. Years later, Spinney said he believed the problem got worse, saying:

"The books are cooked routinely year after year."

Even retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan said, "With good financial oversight, we could find $48 billion in loose change in that building, without having to hit the taxpayers."

In fact, a June 2001 Senate Governmental Affairs Committee study titled, "Government at the Brink" exposed pervasive unreliable financial oversight throughout Washington. Nonetheless, initial FY 2002 budget appropriations rewarded the very agencies at fault, practically accused of cooking the books.

Moreover, former HUD Assistant Secretary/Wall Street official/current Solari, Inc. head Catherine Austin Fitts once said:

"Total (DOD and HUD) undocumented accounting adjustments (for FYs 1998 - 2000) amount to a whopping $3.3 trillion. (In addition, the) Department of Defense has failed to produce independent audited financial statements since" required to do so in 1995. HUD's Inspector General (also) refused to certify (its) 1999 financial statements."

As a result, America's business isn't just war. It's grand theft Pentagon and throughout Washington to steal unknown trillions, staggering amounts going back years.

Post-9/11, it's greater than ever because bipartisan criminality OKs it, profiting also from campaign contribution kickbacks and hidden favors. Let the good times roll. Only taxpayers lose out.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3941 on: July 15, 2011, 11:05:49 AM »
From Dishwasher to Drug Kingpin

The Killing of Ahmad Wali Karzai


July 13, 2011


Aghan President Hamid Karzai's younger half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, was killed in Kandahar on 12 July during a gathering in his house, according to Kandahar's Canadian Governor Tooryali Wesa. He was shot in the head and chest with a AK-47 fired by Sardar Mohammad, a former bodyguard to another Karzai brother Qayyoum.

The 50-year-old Ahmad, a restaurant worker in Chicago before catapulting to fame on Hamid's shirt-tails, was appointed chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council in 2005. A ruthless autocrat, he was widely despised, and escaped multiple assassination attempts in the past, but his death nonetheless comes as a major blow to President Karzai in the homeland of the Taliban, and will set off a vicious power struggle to fill Ahmad's shoes.

US ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann, the CIA's station chief and their British counterparts pleaded with the president in 2006 to exile his brother, accused of drug dealing. Hamid angrily rejected these accusations and Ahmad stayed in place, rigging the 2009 Afghan presidential elections for him, as he continued to amass wealth, extorting kickbacks on construction contracts, even shaking down bus- and truck-drivers at police posts.

Whatever they thought of him, the American military readily rented properties he specially confiscated for them, including the former residence of Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar. The CIA paid him to organise several mercenary forces to help them kill Taliban, even as he was working with the Taliban behind the scenes. He had the support of US Senator John Kerry and even General David Petraeus: "President Karzai is working to create a stronger, more secure Afghanistan, and for such a tragic event to happen to someone within his own family is unfathomable."

Resentment against the king of Kandahar was long ready to explode, and his murder was welcomed by Kandaharans and Taliban alike. Though he unwittingly recruited even more Taliban than he helped kill, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi was happy to take responsibility for sending him on his way: "Today in Kandahar city, Hamid Karzai's brother was killed during Operation Al-Badr. Ahmad Wali Karzai was punished for all his wrongdoings." Qari's comrade Mullah Adam Haji concurred: "Ahmad Wali was the best US friend and the Taliban's worst enemy. He and his whole family have the blood of thousands of Taliban on their hands. His death is very good news for us."

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3942 on: July 16, 2011, 02:25:05 PM »

Karzai brother assassin 'close US ally'

Sat Jul 16, 2011 3:23PM

Afghans attend the burial ceremony of Ahmad Wali Karzai in Kandahar on July 13, 2011.

The bodyguard who assassinated of the Afghan president's half-brother had worked closely with US Special Forces and the CIA before being recruited by the Taliban



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3943 on: July 21, 2011, 12:22:09 PM »
CIA 'hacked Taliban websites' to post notices claiming leader Mullah Omar was dead

Daily Mail Reporter


July 20, 2011


The Taliban claimed today that their mobile phones, email accounts and website had been hacked to send out false messages suggesting their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died.        

The one-eyed, reclusive spiritual and political head of the insurgent movement is among the most wanted men in the world, with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head.

But the apparent hacking is not the first time he has been reported dead.

Hacked: Taliban rebels said messages claiming their leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died were from U.S. intelligence looking to demoralise them

'This is the work of American intelligence, and we will take revenge on the telephone network providers,' said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when contacted by Reuters to confirm the veracity of one text message.

The Taliban would be investigating the hacking and consider changing the way they put out news, using websites more than short text messages, said a second spokesman, Qari Yousuf.        

The original text messages came from phone numbers used by both Mujahid and Yousuf and said 'spiritual Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid has died' and 'May Allah bless his soul'.        

Yousuf said the hacking was an attempt at psychological warfare by NATO-led forces.

Pakistani author and Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid said there could be tactical incentives for Western forces fighting in Afghanistan to spread rumours of Mullah Omar's death.      

'It could be the Americans or the CIA behind it to sow unrest and division and confusion, which it clearly has done' Rashid said.

The next CIA leader is set to be U.S. General David Petraeus who has lead intelligence activities.      

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) declined to comment.              

Anand Gopal, an analyst and reporter who has written extensively on the Taliban said even if Omar had died it was unlikely their spokesmen would confirm his death so quickly.

Intelligence: US General David Petraeus and the next CIA leader

'Since so few people have access to Omar (maybe four or five, according to some estimates), there seems to be little incentive for the Taliban to publicise the death of their leader unless it was absolutely necessary,' he said.    

'It is also unusual that they would mention someone to succeed Omar in the statement. Normally these things would take time, and there would certainly be splits in the leadership over the succession.'  

The Taliban were slow to offer a response to the killing of former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May, at first questioning whether he was actually dead.        

The message posted on a Taliban website had also appeared immediately suspect because it contained mistakes, including Omar's birth date and the place of his birth, Gopal said.              

'It's the sort of mistake a non-Afghan could make, but an Afghan, especially a southern Afghan, would never make.'              

The once-media shy Taliban, who banned television and music when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, have created a sophisticated media arm in recent years with websites, mobile phone ring tones and social media accounts.            

Taliban cheifs regularly update their websites and send emails to media outlets in several languages publicising their attacks, opinions or exploits. Several messages from Omar have also been posted on these websites in recent years.          

They also regularly change the addresses of their websites, and links to their websites are often corrupt or link to other websites such as dating or online shopping sites.        

Battle: U.S. soldiers of B Company, 4th Infantry Regiment patrol near Sinan village in Zabul province, southeastern Afghanistan

In May, the death of Mullah Omar was reported by media, including Afghanistan's private TV station TOLO. But it was later dismissed by officials in Pakistan, diplomats, U.S. military commanders and government officials in Afghanistan    

Mullah Omar fled with the rest of the Afghan Taliban leadership to Quetta after their government was toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001. They formed the 'Quetta shura', or leadership council.              

The Taliban were overthrown for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Omar has not been seen in public for years and little is known about his condition.                

Mullah Omar is believed to be living in Pakistan, probably in the city of Quetta. Pakistan and the Taliban movement both deny this and say he is in Afghanistan.                


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3944 on: July 22, 2011, 09:15:51 AM »
South Asia
Jul 23, 2011 

Reckoning with Taliban irreconcilables

By Derek Henry Flood

Though the concept of Afghan and Western reconciliation with the Mullah Omar-led Taliban has gained much momentum, the consequences of some kind of ad hoc settlement between the Islamists and the government of President Hamid Karzai have not been clearly defined.

Opposition is growing within some quarters in Afghanistan to a settlement that would give the Taliban access to power. Much of this opposition is being led by heirs to the late anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, particularly former foreign minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah and the former head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, Amrullah Saleh.

As Saleh recently told a rally in Kabul: "We have not forgotten the burning of our homeland and the humiliation of the men and women of Afghanistan ... But you [Karzai] are still calling these people [the Taliban] 'brother'."

A bitter legacy

Since the Taliban were ejected from central Kabul in November 2001 in the face of the United States-led invasion, the movement has transformed itself from a mostly unrecognized government to a Pashtun ethno-nationalist insurgency with its roots in the anti-Soviet jihad that consumed the country throughout the 1980s.

In Abdullah's recent open letter to Karzai, he states emphatically, "In the reconciliation process, one of the clear red lines for any negotiated settlement has been that the reconcilable Taliban must accept the constitution." [1] Abdullah, by drawing such a red line, has been interpreted by many as rejecting the very notion of reconciling with a movement whose raison d'etre is the implementation of a brutal interpretation of Islamic law at any cost.

Abdullah's colleague, Amrullah Saleh, is one of the most ardent anti-Taliban figures in Afghanistan and is outraged by Karzai's overtures to senior Taliban leaders, making no effort to hide his disdain after serving alongside the president for years.

Saleh, now in opposition to Karzai after an abrupt departure from his post in June 2010, has formed a nascent movement based on his Panjshiri Tajik power base calling itself the Basij-e-Melli (BeM). Saleh is keen to insist that his movement is not solely a Tajik one as it also contains a number of Shi'ite Hazaras and anti-Taliban Pashtuns from eastern Afghanistan.

The bedrock belief of BeM, according to Saleh, is that the Taliban are not simply misguided Afghan "brothers" (as Karzai has been known to term them), but a nefarious group directly controlled by the Pakistani state, with which it seeks to control Afghanistan by proxy when foreign forces finally depart.

Together, Adbullah and Saleh represent a sector of the Afghan population that does not want to see a decline in the gains made by women and ethnic and religious minorities since the Taliban's ouster.

While much has been made of the idea of bringing Taliban leaders in from the cold, Afghans directly affected by the former regime's vengeful ethnic cleansing of Tajiks in the Shomali plain and Hazaras in Mazar-e-Sharif have no desire to see these men brought back to power in even the most modest fashion.

In a June 2011 op-ed, Amrullah Saleh countered Karzai's dubious overtures to the Taliban's Quetta shura (consultative council), stating that Karzai risked creating a "Hezbollah-type entity" out of the Taliban if they were not entirely disarmed in southern Afghanistan.

Skeptics of American and British intentions for the future of Afghanistan suggest that the delayed drawdown of a large-scale foreign troop presence coupled with the co-opting of certain amenable Taliban elements is part of a convoluted ruse to establish permanent military installations in Afghanistan.

With the killing of Osama bin Laden and the decoupling of the United Nations' al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions list, some in Afghanistan believe the Western powers want to get out of the business of war-fighting and into the business of energy, using a rump occupation force as a hammer-like guarantor of their interests.

The role of energy in reconciliation

The Taliban have once again become an important player in the seemingly unending regional competition between two large-scale natural gas pipeline proposals.

The competing projects, known as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) and the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline (IPI), have been the topic of much speculation in this fitfully integrating mega-region for years.

Both proposals are fraught with inherent security dilemmas. TAPI has been affected by a resurgent Taliban throughout much of its planned route in Afghanistan while IPI is plagued by the unending Balochi nationalist rebellion in the Pakistan section of its route.

The transit countries that would be involved are experiencing constant energy shortages in their major urban centers and both TAPI and IPI have promised to relieve these fuel gaps.

Recently, a rapprochement of sorts has taken place between Kabul and Islamabad with the signing of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, which one commentary described as holding "great promise for the prosperity of the whole region".

Though enthusiasm for TAPI has appeared to be outpacing that for IPI concurrently with the talk of Taliban reconciliation, Tehran is far from leaving the playing field. Iranian officials told their Indian counterparts that their plan only ran into one insurgency; that of Pakistan's restive Balochis, and that TAPI, beginning in Turkmenistan's Dauletabad gas fields and terminating in the Indian state of Punjab, is much more vulnerable to attacks by non-state actors.

Iranian government officials have tried to sell IPI as the less dangerous of the two projects, stating that Balochistan will, over time, reap the benefits of transit fees that will eventually calm the insurrection there as the local inhabitants see improvements in their quality of life.

The role of Pakistan as the swing state between the two proposals is both critical and complex. The government of President Asif Ali Zardari is viewed domestically as being under immense pressure to implement TAPI and abandon IPI, thereby further isolating their neighbors on the Iranian plateau. Taut bilateral relations already exist between Pakistan and Iran from years of sectarian Sunni-Shi'ite proxy conflict and the anti-Shi'ite pogroms conducted by the Sunni-chauvinist Taliban during their five years in power in Afghanistan.

A retired Pakistani army brigadier suggested that for TAPI to leave the drawing board and become a ground reality, the project's planners would require the "cooperation and support of the Afghan Taliban" to secure a route through the volatile provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Though Islamabad is officially supportive of TAPI, it has not entirely abandoned IPI as an option should the former project collapse. At times, Islamabad's precise position can appear ambiguous; Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani said that both TAPI and "joint gas and electricity projects with Iran were in [the] pipeline".

The elusive notion of Afghanistan becoming an energy corridor began in the mid-1990s, as interest in Turkmenistan's natural gas reserves set off a largely unrealistic competition among Western companies to court the Taliban led by the reclusive Mullah Omar in Kandahar. Today, the natural gas dream has been set alight once again by a host of indigenous political actors across the region.

Deep divisions over the US military presence

In a joint March press conference with former interior minister Mohammed Hanif Atmar, Amrullah Saleh stated that the Taliban were an unrepentant organization that, if given the chance, would renew a scorched earth policy without hesitation.

Saleh said that if the West were to pull out of Afghanistan entirely following some kind of settlement with the Taliban, Afghanistan would once again suffer in the throes of a proxy war. Saleh's rhetoric is seen as increasingly divisive by the pro-talks camp in Kabul that views his opposition to all things Taliban as a stumbling block on the road to a cessation of hostilities.

Those allies of Karzai who are pushing for increased contacts with the Taliban leadership believe that former Afghan government officials now embittered with the president are purposefully sabotaging the very concept of peace talks because they are unfavorable to their personal agendas.

Saleh and Atmar stressed the need for a continued US military mission in Afghanistan beyond the scope of Operation Enduring Freedom, likely as a means of keeping meddling neighbors at bay. Atmar believes that Kabul would do better to keep the US military in the country guiding it towards an Afghans-first policy rather than have them abandon the country altogether, thereby turning it into a regional battleground.

There has been intense debate in recent months in the Afghan media over the future role of the United States inside Afghanistan contrasted against what some see as the overwhelming leverage of the Pakistani state among both the Afghan polity and the Afghan Taliban.

The Saleh-Atmar narrative paints the continued US presence, if carried out with increasing sensitivity to local desires, as a means of emancipating Afghanistan from the influence of neighboring states that seek to dominate it while delicately avoiding being subsumed by an American agenda.

If Afghans can get Washington to commit to certain obligations that will guarantee a balance between sovereignty and security in their country, then many believe that the benefits of an entrenched US presence there would far outweigh its potential negative impact domestically.


As the ill-defined concept of Taliban reconciliation moves forward in fits and starts, those who were once part of a comparatively hopeful, if ineffective, unity government in Kabul are now disaffected with one another in a vastly unproductive fashion. All the elements of the web of interlocking and competing interests at work in Afghanistan today will be impossible to satisfy simultaneously.

Domestic political and economic pressures within the US are making a never-ending military commitment in Afghanistan unsustainable while a host of coalition allies are looking for the exit, such as Canada, which formally declared an end to its combat mission on July 7.

Pakistan seeks to hold a tether on the Afghan Taliban even as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban - TTP) and other domestic insurgent groups are shredding the social fabric of Pakistani society with each suicide attack.

Iran is loath to see the re-emergence of the Deobandi Sunni Taliban in any form that may threaten its Shi'ite and Persian-speaking Afghan clients even though it has been asserted Tehran provides military assistance to some Taliban elements along its border in southwestern Afghanistan to act as an irritant to foreign troops there.

The Taliban continue to vigorously deny claims that they have entered into direct talks with either the US or the United Kingdom as doing so would contravene their oft-stated condition that negotiations may only take place once all foreign troops have departed.

As a Taliban spokesman said, "It is clear as the broad daylight that we consider negotiation in [the] presence of foreign forces as a war stratagem of the Americans and their futile efforts.".

Karzai has created a series of initiatives aimed at courting or co-opting the "reconcilable" Afghan Taliban. Karzai, along with former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, has established a Joint Peace Commission with the Pakistani government. Premier Gilani stated, "I fully endorse that statement [in which Zardari] said that a war in Afghanistan can destabilize Pakistan and it is vice versa so the war on terrorism is directly affecting Pakistan not only in [the] form of casualties but in [the] form of economy as well."

Karzai has also formed the High Council of Peace as a multi-ethnic mechanism to facilitate talks with his adversaries. The council has become a controversial effort for including several notorious Taliban figures, including Maulvi Mohammed Qalamuddin, the former head of the Islamic Emirates religious police.

Other reviled officials in the Taliban regime have been included in the peace-building body by Karzai to lend credibility to those still following Mullah Omar and the original shura leaders.

Over the course of the past several years, talks between the Karzai government and the Afghan Taliban have been reported in various locales, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and somewhat incongruously a stunning holiday resort in the Maldives.

In each instance, Taliban spokesmen consistently deny they have made such contacts, perhaps for fear of losing the confidence of active guerillas engaging in contact with Afghan security forces and foreign troops. When former finance minister Ashraf Ghani confirmed that talks were indeed taking place with certain Taliban factions, Taliban commander Doran Safi shot back, "I confirm that none of us will lay down arms even if he is paid mountains of money; none of us would abandon the right path."

The earlier strategy of a hammer-and-anvil approach of defeating the Taliban - with the US military and the Afghan National Army as the hammer and the Pakistani army on the other side of the Durand Line as the anvil - was a failure.

Pakistani village-flattening military incursions in the tribal regions led to the further Talibanization of large swathes of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, resulting in a series of suicide attacks in many of Pakistan's major urban centers.

The current strategy of assassinating mid-level Taliban field commanders while reaching out to those willing to talk to Kabul and Washington was promulgated by now former defense secretary Robert Gates as the only means of ending the war.

However, defining the "end of the war" as the withdrawal of Western troops ignores the fact several very prominent Karzai opponents do not appear ready to accept the return of the Taliban in any form.

This may take the war in a new direction, one in which ethnic and religious factions are reconstituted along barely dormant fault lines, leaving no end in sight to this decades-long power struggle in the heart of Asia.

1. Dr Abdullah Abdullah, "Upholding Constitutional Principles and Rule of Law in Afghanistan," Open Letter to President Hamid Karzai, July 5, 2011.

(This article first appeared in The Jamestown Foundation. Used with permission.)


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3945 on: August 02, 2011, 09:14:30 AM »
Truth Emerges About IED Carnage

by Kelley B. Vlahos, August 02, 2011

Gen. David Petraeus has been gone but a month from his role as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, yet we’re already seeing the paint on his Potemkin village peel away to reveal an unseemly rot underneath.

That may sound a bit harsh, but there is no better way to describe one of the greatest meme-smashing, not to mention heartrending realities now emerging from embeds and soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan today: coalition soldiers being blown apart by insurgent IEDs more frequently, and with more deadly precision than any other time in the nearly 10-year conflict.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3946 on: August 04, 2011, 10:51:57 AM »
South Asia
 Aug 5, 2011 

US business guru loses Afghan battle

By Mark Perry

When, in June of 2010, the New York Times featured an article reporting that the United States had "discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan" (and that the country could be "transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world"), you could hear the scoffing all the way to Foggy Bottom. "That's just great," a career diplomat with more than 20 years of service in South Asia said, "but just who the hell is supposed to provide security for us to get to it?"

That was only the beginning. The article brought a near avalanche of derisive comments: that the report was a part of a government orchestrated "information operation" to sell the Afghan war to the American people, that there was "less to the scoop than meets the eye", that the findings had appeared earlier in other publications, and that the corruption in the Afghan government would only be "amplified" by the findings. The article's author, James Risen, struck back: "Bloggers," he said, "should do their own reporting instead of sitting around in their pajamas."

The "Risen" broo-ha is now more than two years old, and yet the story of Afghan's mineral wealth, and the prospects that its development could help to stabilize the country, refuses to die. The primary reason for that is because Paul Brinkley, the head of the Pentagon's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan, has refused to let it die.

Brinkley, a bullet-headed Texas A&M engineer and former Silicon Valley businessman, has been arguing since 2004 that America has to find new ways of thinking about political stability operations in conflict societies. Or, as a Pentagon expert on Afghanistan puts it, "we need to find a way to provide 18-year-old Afghans with an alternative to toting a gun".

Brinkley's story is fascinating - and controversial. He was originally brought to the Pentagon in 2004 by then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld to modernize Pentagon business practices. A workaholic, Brinkley established the Pentagon's Office of Business Transformation, working 18-hour days to improve business practices designed to save US taxpayer money. But Brinkley's Pentagon-oriented focus was short-lived. In May of 2006, he was asked to go to Iraq to look at ways the Pentagon might more capably manage its finances.

While visiting Baghdad, Brinkley was contacted by the then-commanding general of the Multi-National Corps, Peter Chiarelli, who'd heard that a group of private sector business leaders were in town. The two met, and Chiarelli asked Brinkley to look at ways to put young Iraqis back to work.

"The 18 to 25 cohort was about 50% unemployed," a former military officer familiar with their discussion says. "Chiarelli was desperate to lower that number. If your choice is either getting a few bucks from the resistance, or starving ... well, you know, you'll take the money."

But Iraqi unemployment wasn't Chiarelli's only problem: J Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority team in Baghdad had a 102-page reconstruction plan that envisioned a kind of free market utopia that was right out of the neo-conservative playbooks - and had little to do with Iraqi realities.

At Chiarelli's request, Brinkley toured Iraq's shuttered factories and decided that the US should work to reopen them, state-owned or not, and transform them to private operations over time. One month later, after he'd returned to Washington, Brinkley established a team of experts to find ways to jump-start the Iraqi economy.

He envisioned his task force as a group of civilian business leaders and military experts that would focus on stimulating economic growth (including reopening Saddam Hussein's state-run industries), and that would interest outside investors in the country.

Its creation exposed a gap in US strategy: traditionally, the military fights wars and leaves nation-building and economic assistance to the US Agency for International Development and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), outfits familiar with dispensing aid money, but with little practical experience in business development.

Now, for the first time, the Pentagon was working to make business development a component of a broader military counter-insurgency. "This is a situation where something didn't exist, so it had to be invented," said a Pentagon backer of Brinkley's. "It was a new and exciting concept."

At first, Brinkley's efforts yielded few results. By September of 2007, after numerous trips to Baghdad with financial managers and potential investors, Brinkley's team had reopened only 16 factories, employing 5,000 Iraqis. Worse yet, Brinkley's initiative sparked resentment among officials at the State Department and White House, who accused Brinkley of being a "Stalinist" a "closet communist" and "un-American". While Brinkley never met Bremer, his visits to Baghdad were greeted coldly by Bremer's team, who shunted him into a closet-sized office in the Green Zone.

Inevitably, Bremer partisans attempted to get Brinkley fired. In mid-2007, an unsigned rambling 12-page memorandum ended up on the desk of the Pentagon's Inspector General with a host of allegations against Brinkley. While an IG investigation determined that the allegations were without foundation, the incident confirmed that those parts of the George W Bush administration tied to Bremer wanted Brinkley out of the way.

"This was pure politics, and dirty politics at that," a Pentagon official says. Eventually, the strategy to remove Brinkley failed because the claims weren't true - and because Chiarelli and head of US forces in Iraq General David Petraeus told then-new secretary of defense Robert Gates that Brinkley was succeeding. They needed him.

In essence, the "Bremer-Brinkley Feud" (or the "Paul-Paul Controversy" as it is known in military circles), pitted the followers of Bremer (who believed Iraq's state-owned enterprises should be shuttered, in a kind of economic "shock and awe") against the followers of Brinkley, who believed that Iraqi's state-owned enterprises should sustain employment until a free market economy could be built.

A Brinkley partisan reflects a more caustic view: "The Bremer-Brinkley feud was between a guy who'd taken a course in economics and one of America's best business minds." By early 2009, and having weathered the criticism leveled by Bremer's partisans, Pentagon reports showed that Brinkley's task force was yielding results, sparking investments from Boeing, General Electric, Daimler and Caterpillar.

Other programs, seeded with American funds, had jump-started private banking development, agricultural projects and fertilizer plants. Most importantly, Iraqis were beginning to go back to work.

A review of Brinkley's Iraq initiative yields a formidable list of successes: by mid-2009, his task force had sponsored more than 200 visits to the country by corporate executives and investors, generating more than $5 billion of investment commitments. Unemployment dropped - from about 50% of the total population, to somewhere near 15%: by then, General Electric had contracted to build power plants and Honeywell opened a Baghdad office to sell its equipment to the oil industry.

Brinkley's program was not without its costs: his task force spent $140 million in 2008. But those costs paled in comparison to military expenditures of over $140 billion, and a development and aid budget of over $3 billion.

The money was well spent and offset by more than $8 billion in new business contracts. A Der Spiegel article on Brinkley's successes notes that, as a result of his efforts, the Iraqis were building a steel mill in Basra and that ABC Carpet and Home - a New York "home finishing business" - was having its hand-knotted rugs made in Iraq.

Brinkley himself prefers not to speak on the record, but his reticence hasn't kept him from promoting his program, or recruiting government officials as his allies. In the wake of Risen's New York Times piece, he defended his efforts in a Pentagon briefing, then wrote articles on his successes for Newsweek and Military Review.

In the wake of Barack Obama's inauguration as president, the former Silicon Valley management expert was asked by senior military officers to do in Kabul what he had done in Baghdad.

Petraeus, now commander of US forces in Afghanistan, was one of Brinkley's strongest advocates, because he viewed his program as an important piece of his counter-insurgency campaign. Gates approved the initiative and, in March of 2009, Brinkley put together an expert team to travel to Afghanistan.

Brinkley and his group faced a number of challenges: unlike Iraq, Afghanistan had no infrastructure, had suffered through nearly three decades of war, and had few management or business experts. Not only were there no state-owned industries - there weren't any industries at all. Brinkley was starting at zero.

In Kabul, Brinkley followed the Baghdad model: a Business Week feature showed him spending hours on the telephone with potential investors, then days escorting them to the offices of Afghan ministers. He conducted his program from the inside of armored cars and in the midst of dusty villages, where he drank endless "cups of green tea".

 As in Iraq, the initiative cost money: $150 million each year to support a 130-person team and a regular shuttle of American and international business executives. By January of 2010, months after Brinkley's initial visit, the Pentagon was buzzing with rumors that the Brinkley team had found "a mother lode" of copper, iron, lithium and other minerals. If exploited, Brinkley said, the discovery would allow the Afghan government to "finance their own security" and economic development - what Brinkley calls "economic sovereignty".

Brinkley's mission still has its detractors, who claim the implementation of the mineral development strategy stands to benefit nearly everyone but Americans. American officials defend the effort. "This is a very traditional society," a long-time South Asia analyst and Brinkley partisan says. "The first son inherits the family business, the second heads to the mosque, the third goes to the Taliban. Carrying a gun puts bread on the table - because there's no third thing. Now there is."

How serious is Brinkley's mineral find? Serious enough to get China's attention. Prior to Brinkley's engagement, in 2008, Metallurgical Corporation of China signed a contract to exploit Afghanistan's copper deposits. Other companies are now following suit.

Fortune Magazine recently reported that last December, JP Morgan, hosted by Brinkley's team, facilitated the first Western investment in a gold mine in northern Afghanistan, a transaction intended to break the ice among international investors.

Several major deposits are slated to be tendered for international investment in the coming months.

And, at Brinkley's urging, the Afghan government recently hired respected law and engineering firms to ensure that assessments of Afghanistan's mineral wealth are done correctly and that the bidding process is transparent. Still, diplomats roll their eyes. "It's naive," one says. "You establish a mine, you build a highway to it, a village springs up and then a town. Wonderful. And who guards the highway - the Americans? The Afghan security forces? It's all fine and good what Brinkley's doing, but it takes generations of work. It doesn't happen overnight."

The disagreement reflects a fundamental difference in approach between the way the government thinks about political stability, and the way Brinkley thinks about it. Experts at the Pentagon and State Departments point out the destabilizing effect Afghanistan's drug trade has on a nation overly dependent on foreign aid, where 97% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product comes from spending related to the foreign military and international donor presence.

Brinkley answers that economic development is the way forward. "Everyone talks about the Afghan drug problem," a Brinkley partisan says, "but the money we're plugging into the country dwarfs the cartels. They account for about $4 billion of income every year - we spent $14 billion in the country. If you're an Afghani, your primary mission in life is to get on the American tit." The judgment is harsh, but accurate: or, as former State Department official Dov Zackheim recently noted, Afghanistan is simply "on the take".

The Brinkley initiative also seems to provide evidence that Americans fight wars not to make the world safe for democracy, but for American companies. Yet, while members of the US Congress (even conservative Republicans) extol the virtues of the free market system, they have consistently voted to disburse American largesse to foreign governments through government agencies.

So how is that working? Congress recently issued the results of US aid efforts in Afghanistan provided through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The report slammed the efforts as ineffective and wasteful, and focused on short-term stabilization programs instead of longer-term development projects, ie they don't work.

That's unlikely to change anytime soon. Two years ago, the State Department claimed that Brinkley's program violated Title 22 federal requirements, which give the State Department responsibility for providing foreign assistance. The claim caused a sudden dust-up between the two bureaucracies, with military officers criticizing Foggy Bottom for failing to provide the kind of economic support that would most effectively reinforce their military operations.

"There are plenty of dedicated people in the State Department and USAID who risk their lives to help in developing countries," a Brinkley supporter inside of the US Central Command says. "And that's fine. But they're busy handing out money to NGOs. And it just doesn't work. There's no third way - there's no program in the government that actually helps countries sustain their own economies."

In January, congress passed legislation at the behest of the State Department requiring that Brinkley turn over his program to USAID by this summer's end. Almost immediately, key business leaders on his team began leaving. After five years of continual engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brinkley submitted his resignation effective June 30.

The tussle over the Brinkley program had all the subtlety of a testosterone-fueled fistfight between liberals and conservatives - and their stand-ins: the State and Defense departments. But for Brinkley partisans it's a pox on both their houses. "Liberals view the world as some kind of Vermont petting zoo," a Brinkley colleague and Afghan expert says, "while conservatives want to hold seminars on the nobility of the free enterprise system. What a crock: both sides want to promote American values, when we ought to be doing is promoting American products."

The good news is that the debate has recently shifted to a quiet rethinking of the John F Kennedy administration's 1961 decision that gave USAID pride of place in the disbursement of overseas development monies. No one is arguing that USAID is doing a bad job, they're just not doing the right job.

In 2010, USAID was funded to the tune of $20 billion for programs on education, hunger, democracy promotion, conflict mitigation, counter-narcotics, environmental programs (and dozens of others). They're all worthy of funding, but they have nothing to do with promoting American business or exports.

At the same time that USAID funding is going to overseas development, an embarrassing pittance is set aside for opening up new markets to American corporations or promoting American exports. Export promotion is in the hands of the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration (ITA), whose budget is scandalously modest (just short of $80 million), while the head of the agency is a political appointee who once taught tolerance to Latin Americans.

Worse yet, the ITA is a forgotten part of America's foreign policy arsenal. It didn't used to be that way. Back in 1953, in the wake of the knee-buckling Korean War, president Dwight Eisenhower reversed Harry Truman's we-will-fight-em-everywhere national security policy by stripping away appreciable amounts of money from the defense budget, while increasing American exports.

It's not kosher to criticize the beknighted Truman, but his pro-defense policies were bankrupting the country. So Eisenhower made it clear to America's admirals and generals: his "New Look" national security strategy was going to be redefined to include economic power. Monies sent to the Defense Department would not simply be cut, they would be spent elsewhere.

That's where we are now, though there seems little stomach among liberals or conservatives for a "New Look" that would ignore both diplomacy and force and emphasize what America does best. We're a nation of merchants, not soldiers.

The "New Look" succeeded not only because it kept the country out of war, but because it abandoned the view that what America could offer the world was its values. "Removing burkhas from Afghan women sounds like a good project," a senior Afghan strategist at the Pentagon says, "but you aren't going to get many 19-year-olds to fight for it, and while we'd all like everyone to stand up and sing yet another rendition of America The Beautiful, it's a pretty hard sell. But what we can sell is what we make - and despite what you've heard, we still make things."

In a recent meeting over coffee, Brinkley discussed his organization's demise. He sounded almost wistful. "There's a lot that can still be done, at a fraction of the cost of traditional development aid programs," he said. "I believe in free enterprise and think it's the most potent thing America has to offer the world."

For just a moment, he sounded like Eisenhower, who talked incessantly of free trade, open markets and economic power.

Is Brinkley out of step? "Yeah maybe, maybe," he responded, but then he set his lips and his eyes flashed beneath his shaved head. "But I'll tell you this: the greatest success story of the 20th century is the lifting of 400 million Chinese out of abject poverty. And the Pentagon and State Department didn't have a damned thing to do with it."

Mark Perry is a military and foreign policy analyst based in Washington, DC. His most recent book is Talking To Terrorists.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3947 on: August 04, 2011, 12:58:01 PM »
High profile assassinations continue in southern Afghanistan

By James Cogan


WSWS, 3 August 2011

High-profile collaborators of the US-led occupation in the ethnic Pashtun provinces of southern Afghanistan are being systematically targeted for assassination. The Islamist Taliban government-in-exile has claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks last month in which assassins were able to circumvent the security surrounding their intended victims.

Taken together, the attacks during July discredit the claim of the Obama administration and its NATO allies that the occupation can pronounce victory and withdraw most of the occupying force by the end of 2014. In the space of just a few weeks, the power structures that have served the US-led forces in two key southern provinces have been plunged into disarray.

The most recent attack took place on July 28. In a heavily-guarded area of the city of Tarin Kowt, men drove explosive-filled vehicles to the residence of Omar Shirzad, the governor of Uruzgan province, and rammed them into its walls. The suicide bombers were followed by heavily-armed assailants who tried to storm the building and the neighbouring police chief headquarters. Shirzad’s deputy governor and key staff were also present, suggesting the attackers had inside information as to the best time to strike.

A simultaneous assault was launched against the nearby compound of Matiullah Khan, a tribal warlord who rules large areas of Uruzgan through a 2,000-strong private army that works closely with the Australian troops operating in the province.

Both attacks were fought off by bodyguards, Afghan security personnel and Australian and US special forces, who were rushed to the scene to protect two of their leading supporters in Uruzgan. The governor, his staff and Matiullah Khan survived unscathed and have been protected since by Australian troops. BBC journalist Omaid Khpalwak, who was in the building at the time, was among some 20 people killed. It is still unclear whether his death was caused by the assailants or the defenders.

The Tarin Kowt attack followed the July 17 assassination in Kabul of Mohammed Jan Khan, Matiullah Khan’s uncle and tribal overlord who was serving as a top advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

A leader of Karzai’s Pashtun Popalzai tribe, Khan used his tribal militia to seize control of much of Uruzgan following the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. He was installed as governor by Karzai. In 2006, he was removed from his position due to complaints by Dutch commanders that his forces were engaged in drug trafficking and other criminal activity, and were alienating the population with their brutal vendettas against tribal opponents. Khan moved to Kabul to work with Karzai and delegated affairs in Uruzgan to Matiullah.

Over the past five years, the Khan clan has continued to profit handsomely from the US-led occupation. It has amassed millions of dollars from "protection" tolls on vehicles travelling between Tarin Kowt and Kandahar, and from payments for providing armed assistance to Australian and US military operations. The Khan militia is strongly suspected of organising the harvesting and trafficking of the province’s substantial opium crop. If the claims are true, then occupation forces have turned a blind eye in return for assistance in combating Taliban insurgents.

Despite the heavy protection provided to Mohammed Jan Khan, three armed men were able to enter his fortified private residence in Kabul undetected and assassinate him. A prominent member of the Afghan parliament from Uruzgan, Mohammed Hashem Watanwal, was also killed. The attack two weeks later on the governor and Matiullah, his tribal heir, suggests that a well-coordinated attempt is being made to eliminate the Khan family’s power in the province.

An equally well-planned campaign appears to be taking place to eliminate the main props of the occupation in the key province of Kandahar.

On July 27, the mayor of Kandahar city since 2006, 63-year-old dual American citizen Ghulam Haider Hameedi, was killed by a suicide bomber in his compound. The man got past security with a bomb concealed in his head gear and detonated it as Hameedi customarily embraced him.

Hameedi’s death was blamed by his family not on the Taliban but on elements in the city and the Karzai government itself who were disgruntled with his alleged anti-corruption operations to take back public land illegally expropriated by private businessmen. Contradicting this claim, however, is the fact that Hameedi had been a collaborator for a number of years with the most corrupt figure in Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half-brother.

Following the ousting of the Taliban, Ahmed Wali transformed Kandahar city and the surrounding area into a virtual Karzai fiefdom, complete with family-run security and transport companies that received multi-million dollar contracts from the occupation forces. He was repeatedly accused of directing large-scale drug trafficking and rigging elections to ensure the victory of favoured candidates—including Hameedi. The CIA allegedly made personal payments to him for his support for the occupation.

Ahmed Wali was shot dead last month by Sardar Mohammad, one of his closest and longest serving bodyguards, who was immediately killed by other security personnel before he could be questioned. The Taliban has claimed Sardar was a "sleeper," biding his time to ensure he inflicted a lethal blow on one of the most prominent representatives of the US-led occupation regime. To counter the Taliban claims, Afghan government representatives have insisted that Sardar’s only motive was an unspecified personal dispute.

More than a dozen lower-ranking officials were also killed last month, along with scores of Afghan government security personnel and civilians who were at the scene of assassination missions.

The ongoing killings have triggered panic in the pro-occupation Afghan elite. They demonstrate that the "surge" of tens of thousands of additional US troops ordered by Barack Obama has failed to shatter the insurgency. Washington had held out the prospect that military pressure would force sections of the Taliban and other anti-occupation organisations to surrender and enter into "peace" talks. Instead, it is Karzai’s limited support base that is coming apart.

On a visit to Afghanistan last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen spoke of the growing concern in Washington over the "criminal patronage networks" linked to Karzai’s regime. His statements reinforced the most recent assessment by the European-based International Crisis Group. The ICG indicted Afghan officials and business figures for forging a "criminal nexus" with the Taliban and other insurgent organisations, in anticipation of their likely return to power.

At the same time, the Afghan elites are looting everything they can from so-called reconstruction and aid money from international donors and sending it offshore—along with their families. The World Bank has estimated that 97 percent of legal economic activity in Afghanistan is dependent on foreign financial injections. Summing up the utter criminality of the US-backed regime, Thomas Ruttig, the co-director of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network, told the Sydney Morning Herald last month: "You now have this stealing-and-putting-it-in-Dubai-accounts spree. A lot of money is now going out of the country because people need insurance for post-2014 and that includes the government."

The venal elements in Afghanistan who supported the invasion of the country no longer believe that debt-stricken US imperialism or its equally crisis-ridden European allies will prevail over the entrenched resistance to foreign occupation among the Afghan people. They expect that the war will end in a total debacle for the major powers and a deal that sees the Taliban return in some form.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3948 on: August 04, 2011, 04:14:55 PM »
The "Afghanistan Factor" and The Debt Ceiling Crisis

By Prof. Alexei Pilko
Global Research, August 4, 2011
Russian Information Agency Novosti 


-f the current political trends persist (harsh political campaigning that ignores international realities), they could lead to unfavorable consequences not just in the United States, but worldwide.

The U.S. political system based on checks and balances forced President Barack Obama to discuss the Afghan issue with Republicans in order to make a deal over the state debt. This is one more piece of evidence how interdependent the domestic and foreign policies in the United States are. And that the officially claimed goals of Operation Enduring Freedom are inconsistent with the reality.

It is no exaggeration to say that the international community’s attention was riveted on the protracted negotiations between Obama and his Republican opponents on the new federal debt ceiling.

According to a U.S. political analyst who is working under contract with the White House, if it was about raising the debt ceiling alone, the issue could have been resolved within a few hours. He said Washington was locked in a heated bargaining process behind closed doors, in which the Republicans were trying to win control over Obama’s domestic and foreign policies, cutting his opportunities for scoring points with his voters.

The cornerstone of this bargaining is cutting military spending and reducing U.S. military presence abroad (as a way to cut federal spending that the president’s representatives proposed to their opponents behind the scenes). According to the source, the real stumbling block was the planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Last week, experts gathered in Moscow to discuss the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. The conference was organized by the Center for Support and Development of Public Initiative “Creative Diplomacy,” an independent public organization, and the Foundation of Historical Outlook, the Russian conservative think tank focused on the studies of international relations. Some speakers noted a few specific features of the current stage of the conflict. First, NATO’s mission can be described as a complete failure now. Second, a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces could precipitate an international catastrophe. And third, Pakistan is now the key factor in resolving the Afghan problem. Prominent Russian Oriental expert Georgy Mirsky said the war in Afghanistan would not be successful unless there was a victory in Pakistan.

The U.S. political analyst I mentioned earlier said Obama’s entourage shares this view. His representatives have tried to convince their Republican opponents at a private meeting (officially devoted to raising the federal debt ceiling but in fact focusing on other issues, including Afghanistan) that they should concentrate on Pakistan and that the solution does not depend on U.S. military presence (full-scale or otherwise) in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the analyst indicated that the Republican opposition is not that worried about Afghanistan. They are mainly interested in Obama’s failure to make good on his pre-election vows such as the pullout from Afghanistan losing him votes. Therefore, they would prefer to leave things as they are in Afghanistan for at least the next 18 months, or better yet, to add some fuel to the conflict. This kind of approach has generated some truly incredible projects, such as the Blackwill plan that could be characterized as a sort of political grave for Obama.

Unfortunately, an analysis of the domestic situation in the United States shows that in confronting Obama, the Republicans have relied on a strategy that maximizes their potential political gain, aiming to squeeze as much as they can from the president in exchange for agreeing to increase the federal debt ceiling. It is hard to predict what deal the sides have actually made at this stage. It is clear that it is temporary and more fighting is still ahead. However, if the current political trends persist (harsh political campaigning that ignores international realities), they could lead to unfavorable consequences not just in the United States, but worldwide.

Alexei Pilko is Assistant Professor at Moscow State University's Faculty of World Politics


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3949 on: August 05, 2011, 08:46:13 AM »
Trafalgar Sq to be occupied by anti-war

Fri Aug 5, 2011 12:33PM GMT

British anti-war activists are to occupy Trafalgar Square on the tenth anniversary of invasion of Afghanistan, opposing the government's war policy.

The anti-war campaigners will stage a mass protest on the tenth anniversary of Afghan war on Saturday 8 October, to urge the British government to stop its brutal and pointless war in Afghanistan.

UK Antiwar Mass Assembly was organized by Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and British Muslim Initiative. The protest organizers have listed 10 reasons to oppose Britain's war policies, particularly in Afghanistan.

· The UK officials claimed that the Afghan war was won at the end of 2001, but the country's troops are yet fighting there, and casualties and air strikes are worse than before.

· NATO troops not only were unsuccessful in bringing security all over Afghanistan, but also increased the number of death and destruction.

· The number of airstrikes over the country has tripled compared to last year.

· Officials began the war claiming to arrest the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He is now dead but the war has not yet finished.

· Afghan nationals are facing with the world's lowest life expectancy, 43.

· The country is now the worst place for the women to live.

· Due to the brutal war in Afghanistan, millions of people became refugees, living in hardships.

· The UK government is spending £5 billion on the war in Afghanistan, while putting harsh spending cuts on the welfare, housing, and pensions.

· Officials have long been talking about taking the troops out of the war-torn country, but there seems they do not have convincing exit strategy.

· Parliament is completely taking a blind eye on the public opinion, opposing the war.

Yvonne Ridley, journalist, expressed her interest to partake in the protest, saying: “The night the war began ten years ago I was in a Kabul prison, so I felt the terror of what it is to be attacked by Britain and the United States from the air. There is nowhere I would rather be on the tenth anniversary of that brutal attack than in Traflagar Square with the anti war movement.”

Joe Glenton, the former soldier detained for refusing to fight in Afghanistan, said: “I'm pledging to attend the assembly because, unlike Cameron, Obama and their lackeys, I actually know some of the people sent out to die in these wars. I shared cigarettes and food with them, I spoke to them about our ambitions in life. For me they are real people, not cannon-fodder or political capital to string out a dodgy war. Likewise, I have more in common with those innocent people in Afghanistan then I'll ever have with the ones who started all of this ten years ago.”

In solidarity with the UK Antiwar Mass Assembly, American activists have also planned to occupy the Freedom Plaza, Washington, DC on October 8 to call on President Barack Obama to stop his war machines and consider peace in Afghanistan.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3950 on: August 05, 2011, 01:45:39 PM »
Weekend Edition
August 5 - 7, 2011

Bumps and Borders

Peddling Foolishness on Afghanistan


Kabul, Afghanistan-American and allied forces in Afghanistan are strengthening a layered defense along the border with Pakistan to seize Haqqani network militants as they try to make their way to Kabul to carry out spectacular attacks, according to senior military officers.

--New York Times, 8/1/11

Okay, New York Times, time for a little geography lesson, with a few bits of history thrown in.

Let's start with that old Rand McNally three-dimensional map of the world that formerly graced the walls of grammar schools across the country (I happen to have one in my closet). It has low spots to demonstrate deep-sea trenches and bumps for mountain ranges. Among the biggest set of bumps are the Hindu Kush (the western extension of the Himalayas) that corresponds to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The highest of those bumps is Mt. Noshaq (24,580 ft).

This is also a very long border, 1,510 miles more or less (more on that later). Think of the distance between Portland, ME and Miami, FL, New York City and Dallas/Fort Worth, or London and Moscow. It is mostly really big bumps, (except some lower ones on the western edge of the border), so it is not only long, it contains some of the most formidable terrain on the planet.

In fact the "official" border is marked from Sikaram Peak to Laman Peak. It is always a bad idea to fight a war where you measure the battlefield by the distance between peaks. If there are general rules of war, certainly one of them is: "Do not fight in places that the Rand McNally three-dimensional map puts lots of bumps."

This is also not a border, in the normal sense of word, with the striped guardhouses and border checks. For one thing, the Afghans and the Pakistanis had nothing to do with establishing it. That was done—with considerable mischief in mind— in 1893 by Sir Mortimer Durand, then England's lead colonial officer in India (Pakistan did not yet exist).

His plan was to split up the Pashtuns—an ethnic group who have populated the region since at least the fifth century BC—so that they would not constitute a majority in either region. Pashtuns make up about 42 percent of Afghanistan and about 15 percent of Pakistan. The Pashtuns have never recognized the Durand Line, and neither has the government in Kabul. This makes Pakistan nervous, because aside from India, one of the things Islamabad fears most is ethnic dismemberment: the establishment of an independent Pashtunistan.

Pashtuns on both sides of the border are bound by a common language, culture and kinship system, so independence is hardly out of the question.

Pashtuns are among the most hospitable people in the world, but they don't like being invaded or occupied, which no one has successfully managed to do, although many have tried. A 19th century British general remarked that when one gets ready to invade the area, the first thing to do is plan a line of retreat, the inevitable course followed by all militaries.

So now, let's look at "layered defense along the border," as well as American pressure on the Pakistani military "to cleanse their border of militants."

First, from the Pashtuns' point of view, Pakistan's military is just as much a foreign intruder as were the Greeks, Buddhists, Mongols, Muslims, and British, and Islamabad's army would have just about the same level of success as all those other invaders. Second, any attempt to "cleanse" the border would stir up major hostilities among the tribes and clans in both countries and feed Pashtun nationalism, which is exactly what Islamabad does not want to do.

But even if Pakistan was to decide to actually try to "cleanse" the border, Islamabad has neither the manpower nor the money to do so (even if it were possible, which history argues it is not). Pakistan has some 1.4 million men under arms, but only a little over 600,000 of those are regular troops. The rest are reserves or border police and local paramilitaries. And most of those troops have to be kept on the border with India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars.

Pakistan's military is currently engaged both in fighting its own domestic Taliban in South Waziristan and maintaining troops in North Waziristan, but the North West Frontier and Federally Administered Tribal Areas—the part of the world we are talking about—are vast tracts of terrain, and "pacifying" them is quite beyond the capabilities of any army in the world, let alone Pakistan's.

The situation is not much different on the Afghan side of the border. The combined NATO forces are about 132,000, of which 100,000 are Americans (although 4,000 are headed home in the next few months). However, with the exception of the British, Canadians and Australians, most of the allied troops are not involved in active combat, so the actual number of troops available is closer 110,000. And not all of those troops fight. Some drive trucks, some handle supplies and logistics, some man bases. The final number of fighters? Maybe 60,000.

The Afghan Army is somewhere between 150,000 and 171,000—the exact number is hard to pin down because so many desert within the first few months—of which only several thousand—two brigades— are capable of fighting on their own. There are also134,000 Afghan police, but they don't fight. In fact, according to most Afghans, they mostly extort.

You can't put all those U.S., allied, and Afghan troops on the Pakistan border, particularly since the Taliban have spread their attacks to formally "pacified" areas of the country, in the north, east and west. And. in any case, the Afghan Army is still training (although it is curious that while the Taliban soldiers receive virtually no training, they are able to hold their own in battle with the most sophisticated and well-trained military force in the world).

For arguments sake, let's say you could put a mix of 40,000 troops on the border, a border of massive mountains and deep valleys, a border filled with passes, trade routes and goat trails, a border that stretches 1,510 miles. With 20,000 troops, the British Army could not seal the 224-mile border between southern and Northern Ireland.

The Taliban are mostly Pashtun, although not all Pashtun are Taliban. Polls indicate that about 12 percent to 15 percent of the Pashtun support the group. But the vast majority of Pashtuns recognize that sooner or later, the Kabul government and the U.S. will have to sit down and make a deal with the Taliban for some kind of coalition government. The lack of support for the insurgents does not mean the Pashtun will betray them. Since the Haqqanis are Pashtun, they can cross this border virtually anyplace, and, as the last few weeks have illustrated, the Taliban and their allies can strike almost anywhere.

The problem with all this nonsense about "thickening the Afghan border" is not the "senior military officials"— generals lie, it's part of their job description—but that the New York Times would print this blather.

It is not only silly, it feeds dangerous illusions at a time when clear thinking is called for. As Gareth Porter of IPS News reports, "The Taliban leadership is ready to negotiate peace with the United States right now if Washington indicates its willingness to provide a timetable for a complete withdrawal." According to Porter, the Taliban are willing to break any ties with al-Qaeda and won't even demand a withdrawal date. The only thing they will insist upon are no U.S. bases.

So why isn't the Times reporting this breakthrough instead of peddling foolishness?

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3951 on: August 06, 2011, 09:02:31 AM »
Afghanistan's Innocent Victims

By Mary Meehan


August 05, 2011 "Baltimore Sun" - - I used to think of Vice President Joseph Biden as a nice guy. Good old Joe. Down-to-earth, nice sense of humor, great family man. But last year I read the Bob Woodward book on "Obama's Wars." His account of Mr. Biden's meeting with Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai in January 2009, was a shocker. Mr. Biden was rude and arrogant, humiliating the Afghan leader before his own cabinet ministers.

He also complained about Mr. Karzai's public protest over civilian casualties from American bombing in his country. According to Mr. Woodward, "Karzai's tone sharpened. Civilian casualties were a public matter. The Americans seemed to believe the death of, say, 30 Afghan villagers was insignificant." Mr. Biden finally suggested the U.S. "can and will do a better job on this." Then he threatened, "But if you don't want us, we're happy to leave. Just tell us."

Mr. Karzai continues to protest bombing of civilians. Mr. Biden and his boss, President Barack Obama, would do the same — and a great deal more — if an allied nation were bombing American homes in "targeted killing" efforts.

Much U.S. surveillance and bombing is done by unmanned planes, also called drones. Close study of news reports suggests that the drones' accuracy has been highly exaggerated. But the Hellfire missiles they send into civilian homes are well-named; they do make each house they strike a hell on earth. Some family members are blown to pieces; others receive severe wounds that may lead to lifetime suffering. Some adult survivors, after recovery, still cannot work. In this way, one of the poorest countries in the world becomes even poorer.

In December 2001, a Washington Post reporter described children who were severely wounded by early and mistaken U.S. bombing of just one area near Tora Bora. Casualties included Noor Mohammed, 10 years old, who "lost both eyes and both arms." An 8-year-old boy with head injuries was in a coma and had a poor prognosis. Twin toddlers, both injured, did not yet know that their father had been killed. The hospital where the children were treated had taken in 71 bombing victims of various ages. About half apparently were brought in dead or dying. (There have been many similar casualties from U.S. bombings in Iraq and Pakistan.)

Nearly 10 years later, little had changed. In February 2010, relying on highly inaccurate reporting from drone operators in the U.S., a helicopter crew fired missiles and rockets at a pickup truck and two SUVs in southern Afghanistan. The strike killed 23 civilians — men, women, and children — and wounded 12 others. According to The New York Times, a U.S. report found that drone operators, working from an Air Force base in Nevada, had "tracked the convoy for 31/2 hours, but failed to notice any of the women who were riding along." U.S. intelligence analysts, watching a video feed from the drone, had sent two warnings "that children were visible." Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then-U.S. commander in Afghanistan, reprimanded four officers over the incident and asked Air Force leaders to investigate the drone operators. They had "reported seeing only military-age men in the truck." This raises another question, one the Times didn't address: Are all Afghan men of military age considered fair game for U.S. attacks?

U.S. attack planes, drones and gunships have killed Afghans in homes and wedding parties. They have killed civilians trying to flee dangerous areas, men collecting scrap metal for sale, and boys gathering firewood for their families. In Nangarhar province in 2008, a U.S. plane bombed a bridal procession three times, killing the bride and 46 other people. Hajj Khan, an elderly man who survived, had been holding his grandson's hand as they walked toward the groom's village. According to a British paper, the Guardian, a bomb strike threw Mr. Khan to the ground. When he opened his eyes, he said, "I was still holding my grandson's hand but the rest of him was gone. I looked around and saw pieces of bodies everywhere."

If drone surveillance were as accurate as claimed, it would pick up the large presence of women and children at weddings. Another problem is that computer operators in the U.S, running drones in Afghanistan, may assume that men collecting scrap metal, or boys gathering firewood, are actually Taliban fighters who are planting roadside bombs. But they have no right to assume that. Nor do they have a right to bomb a home — which is likely to contain women, children, and old people — because they suspect one or more insurgents are there. Such bombing is much like the terrorist tactics we claim to oppose.

The U.S. and its allies also kill innocent civilians in other countries. According to an Associated Press report in the Seattle Times, a toddler named Sirajuddin al-Sweisi was an early casualty of NATO bombing in Libya. "We took him to the hospital where they treated him for the burns and some broken bones," his uncle said last March. "But by nightfall he was dead."

Vice President Biden has been a terrific father and grandfather. President Barack Obama is also devoted to his family; his children's smiles, he once said, "fill my heart and light up my day." So I wonder: Can these powerful men put their enthusiasm for bombing on hold for a while? Long enough to think about what it does to other people's families?

Mary Meehan is a writer who has published widely on issues of life and death. She lives in Cumberland. Her website is MeehanReports.com. Her email is meehan20@verizon.net.:


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3952 on: August 08, 2011, 09:06:52 AM »
Trapping The Night Raids

Moon of Alabama

August 6, 2011


(updated below)

In Afghanistan the U.S. military launches about a dozen kill or capture raids each night.

These are supposed to take out leading Taliban person but, as they are based on dubious intelligence, often go wrong and hit peaceful people or even people associated with the Afghan government. Additional people get killed in the protests against such raids.

There is an obvious strategy to counter such raids or at least to make them more difficult. Traps could be laid that would provoke night raids and allow to hit the raiding force as hard as possible. I have wondered for a while if/when such were happening.

Laying a trap should be easy to do. A tip-off to the Afghan secret service NDS about an imminent Taliban leader meeting, some suspect geo-locatable mobile phone calls from and to Pakistan from a secluded compound and a few cars or motorcycle aggregating at that place at night should be enough to get the military's interest. Then hide, wait for the choppers and take them out.

I suspect that this might well have been such a trap:

Insurgents shot down a NATO Chinook helicopter during an overnight operation in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 37 people on board, a coalition military official said on Saturday.
Afghan military officials put the death toll at 38, including 31 Americans and seven Afghan commandos.
The helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in the Tangi valley of the Wardak Province just west of Kabul, the coalition official said. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said insurgents shot down the helicopter around 11 p.m. Friday as it was launching an operation on a house where the militants were gathering in the Tangi Joyee region of the district of Saidabad in the eastern part of the province. Eight militants were killed in the fight that continued after the helicopter fell, he said.

A few of such incidents, initiated all over the country, might make the U.S. military much more reluctant to launch more raids.

Update (1:00pm) :

As it turns out my hunch was right and this incident was very likely a trap:

The Taliban claimed its fighters had ambushed Western troops after being tipped off to an imminent night raid in the district. The crash site is located in Wardak's Tangi valley, where the insurgents are extremely active.
The Wardak police chief, Gen. Abdul Qayuum Baqizoi, said the American strike was aimed at a meeting of insurgent figures in the district, which is considered a perilous one.
The Taliban statement, from spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, was unusually specific in some of its details, ...

The "meeting of insurgent figures" was likely a trap as described above. The unusual detailed statement from the Taliban, and the fact that they were the first to come out with the news today, shows that the attack was actually planned in advance and the propaganda pre-prepared. The Taliban claim of having been "tipped off" is dubious. It will make U.S. military more suspicious of their Afghan co-fighters and may have been inserted just to create that effect.

But from a propaganda standpoint this will have the biggest effect:

The operators from SEAL Team Six were flown by a crew of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
One source says the team was thought to include 22 SEALs, three Air Force air controllers, seven Afghan Army troops, a dog and his handler, and a civilian interpreter, plus the helicopter crew.
The sources thought this was the largest single loss of life ever for SEAL Team Six, known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.

It were operators from SEAL Team Six, aka DevGru, that killed Osama Bin Laden.

To now have killed a big number of them is a huge victory for the Taliban and their associated groups.




Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3953 on: August 08, 2011, 09:26:24 AM »

Afghan crash highlights critical, dangerous role of special forces


(CNN) -- The shooting down of a Chinook helicopter in central Afghanistan with the loss of 38 lives -- most of them U.S. Navy SEALs -- highlights two crucial aspects of the conflict in Afghanistan, as U.S. forces begin to draw down and Afghan security forces start taking the lead.

The first is the growing reliance on U.S. Special Operations Forces to combat the Taliban and other insurgent groups -- in operations every night across the country.

The second is that many areas far beyond the Taliban's traditional strongholds in the south remain very insecure, areas where the Taliban have exploited an instinctive wariness of a foreign force among locals -- and punished those who dare to work with them.

One such place is the Tangi Valley in Wardak province, where the crash occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning. Soldiers who have served there describe it as perfect territory for insurgents, with steep mountainsides of shale and boulders overlooking orchards and thick vegetation.

Improvised bombs are regularly planted along the one road that runs through the valley, next to the Logar River, and detonated from vantage points above. (NATO officials say that the IEDs' control wires are laid across the river, making pursuit of the insurgents more difficult.)

Tangi is only 60 miles from Kabul, close to the main highway south. But the Taliban (though not al Qaeda or other foreign groups) have long been active in the area.

In 2009, soldiers in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division were deployed to this part of Wardak. They encountered 57 roadside bombs in the valley in just three months, dubbing the road "IED alley" and "Walter Reed Highway," a reference to the Army medical center where many soldiers wounded in Afghanistan have received treatment.

Firefights were an almost daily occurrence.

On his blog this weekend, a former member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade recently deployed to Tangi wrote of the village where the helicopter came down. "Juy Zarin is a village we went to frequently during our deployment and never found anything good while out there. In fact it was a wonderful place to go if we felt like getting into contact."

Back in the 1980s, the Soviet Army was never able to pacify the region, and Soviet convoys were frequently ambushed there.

Earlier this year U.S. forces passed control of the military post in the valley to Afghan troops. Lt. Col. Thomas S. Rickard of the 10th Mountain Division handed over Combat Outpost Tangi to a unit of the Afghan National Army.

"As we lose U.S. personnel, we have to concentrate on the greater populations," Rickard told the U.S. Army website at the time. But the afghan Army did not maintain a permanent presence at the outpost, according to officials of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

As elsewhere, especially in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. forces are now returning to areas previously seen as too remote to focus on or too difficult to defend, where the Taliban and other insurgent groups have filled the vacuum. As they do, the risk of casualties grows -- as does the role of U.S. special forces.

The use of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) in Afghanistan has grown exponentially. In a talk two weeks ago at the Aspen Security Forum, the outgoing commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Adm. Eric T. Olson, disclosed that SOF carried out "somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 operations" in 2010 alone.

"This is now routine, every night....ground forces getting on a helicopter and flying against a target," Olson said.

The template of such operations includes "a quick reaction force on call to render assistance should things go bad," Olson said. In Friday night's attack, it was the quick reaction force, on its way to assist an ongoing mission by Army Rangers, that perished.

Speaking of the Navy SEALs who took part in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, Adm. Olson made their role sound almost mundane. "For the people involved it was another mission and another target....This is not a force that sits on the second deck of the fire station waiting for the bell to ring every 10 or 15 years. We trace our lessons back to what we did last night."

Who are the Navy SEALs?

But he also recognized the huge burden now falling on Special Operations Forces to subdue the Taliban.

"We are beginning to fray around the edges. We are asking an awful lot of our people," he said at the Aspen conference, adding that SOF units were seeing "a lot of separations short of divorce." But 82% of SOF troops who have the choice of leaving or staying in choose the latter, according to Olson. And more will be asked of them. Of the 33,000 U.S. troops due to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, none will be special forces.

Special Operations Command -- drawn from all four branches of the U.S. military -- has grown to a strength of 60,000. With a $10 billion budget it is now larger than the U.S. Coast Guard and about the same size as the entire Canadian Defense Force.

And the caliber of its members reflects its special status. Thirty percent are college graduates. They are more experienced than regular soldiers, with an average age of 30, and they volunteer multiple times. Olson says 60% of SOF have joined since September 11, 2001 -- and the aim is to keep them in the military for an average of 20 years.

SOF operations in Afghanistan have at times been controversial, the subject of criticism from President Hamid Karzai because of civilian casualties.

In 2010, then-ISAF Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal tightened rules of engagement after a series of raids involved civilian deaths, although some units remained exempt from the directive. When he took over, Gen. David Petraeus expanded the use of SOF in an effort to drive the Taliban out of Helmand and Kandahar provinces and blunt the Haqqani network further east.

In testimony to Congress in March, Petraeus said: "We have stepped up the tempo of precise, intelligence-driven operations to capture or kill insurgent leaders....In a typical 90-day period, precision operations by U.S. special-mission units and their Afghan partners alone kill or capture some 360 targeted insurgent leaders."

It appears the Army Rangers were involved in just such a mission in Tangi Valley -- closing in on Taliban commanders meeting in a village -- when they called for reinforcement.

Special Operations Forces remain the sharp end of a multi-pronged approach in Afghanistan. Olson said the strategy marries "the counter-terrorism line of operation and the engagement line of operation -- what's been called village stability operations and the development of Afghan local police trying to return neighborhoods back to the neighbors."

It's become known as "clear, hold, build, transition" to win over what are euphemistically called "under-governed spaces."

Such was the aim of commanders in Tangi two years ago.

Lt. Col. Kimo Gallahue, battalion commander for the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, told the Armed Forces Press Service in March 2009: "We'll take the physical terrain from the enemy ... and we'll take the people away, because the people are the prize in this fight."

But even with the surge last year, many areas of Afghanistan rarely see an ISAF soldier. And officers acknowledge that while a platoon can show a presence, it might take a company or more to persuade villagers they are secure. "Successful counter-insurgency is labor intensive," said one officer.

One soldier deployed to Tangi Valley wrote of his experiences on the website AssgnmentAfghanistan in January.

"Few of the villagers are openly hostile towards us, but they are always mindful of the Taliban, who move through the valley at night," he said. "They are in a delicate situation -- we Americans have much to offer them, but they know that we will not be in their valley forever, and they know that the (Afghan National Army) and (Afghan National Police) cannot fight the insurgency alone."

Last year, the newspaper Stars and Stripes reported on a planned meeting for farmers in the district.

Two officials from the ministry of agriculture in Kabul backed out at the last minute, fearing for their safety, and not a single farmer showed up, "leaving a handful of American soldiers and a lone U.S. Department of Agriculture representative, sitting on otherwise empty benches in a stiff breeze, with folding tables full of unopened water bottles and unmade tea," the paper reported.

The phrase commonly used in Afghanistan is: "The Americans have the watches, but the Taliban have the time."

Find this article at:

Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3954 on: August 09, 2011, 07:24:50 AM »
South Asia
Aug 10, 2011 


US shocked and awed by the Taliban

By Pepe Escobar

Talk about a double whammy. It was not enough for Standard & Poor's to downgrade the United States' credit rating; with impeccable timing, and apparently a single shot, the Taliban in Afghanistan simultaneously downgraded the empire's colossal war machine.

As much as the US power elite refuse to accept that the US financial crisis was caused by years of George W Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and mega-corporations; massive bailouts of banks and insurance companies; and astronomic military spending on the Pentagon's declinations of The Long War, the power elite will also refuse to acknowledge that the "new" war strategy in Afghanistan is also a failure.

Chinook down

The sound of that Chinook CH-47 transport helicopter shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, on Friday, killing 38 people - including 19 US Navy SEALs and seven Afghan commandos - was the full digital sound of the empire being shocked and awed into disbelief, no matter Pentagon efforts to practically order the media "not to read too much" into the crash.

Wardak - along with neighboring Logar - is now prime Talibanistan real estate. They are entrenched, know the terrain in detail and even have time to prepare complex operations. On top of it, the Taliban are "making progress" (Pentagon jargon) not only in their public relations skills and in adapting new weapons to the battlefield, but also in the mechanics of delivering a major psychological blow to the Western occupying forces.

The SEALs are part of a humongous, 10,000-strong Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) task force, based in Afghanistan, which has been involved in as many as 70 raids a day in AfPak, capturing - according to Pentagon spin - 2,900 "insurgents" and killing more than 800 from April to July. JSOC's global reach has been deconstructed in a piece by Nick Turse (see A secret war in 120 countries Asia Times Online, August 5).

The SEALs killed in Wardak were part of the same unit, Team 6, involved in the Abbottabad raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in early May. But instead of flying the army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's state-of-the-art stealth helicopters, the SEALs in Wardak were part of a rescue operation, riding a pedestrian National Guard Chinook.

As they were lifting off, they fell into a Taliban trap and were hit by a modified RPG - what the chirurgical Danger Room blog at the Wired website identified as an improvised rocket-assisted mortar (IRAM), sporting a bigger warhead than a shoulder-fired RPG.

According to Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, that was indeed "a weapon that is similar to an RPG ... and we are trying to get more of this weapon".

So assuming the IRAM - which has emigrated from the Iraqi battlefields - is now a player in Afghanistan as well, one might call it a warped return of the Stinger remix; during the 1980s Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union, a major game-changer was for the US to drop hundreds of lethal Stingers into the hands of the mujahideen, wreaking havoc among the choppers of the mighty Red Army.

A close comparison between the Abbottabad and Wardak operations may raise a forest of eyebrows - apart from puncturing the myth of Navy SEALs as invincible, larger-than-life hunter-killers. In Abbottabad, as version after version of the raid was being fed to the media, it was finally established that a stealth helicopter simply "crashed". No one knows if this was a pilot error or the helicopter was shot at.

The fact is the "crash" left an intact tail section of the stealth helicopter inside the compound - that tail section that left the Pentagon freaking out it would be "sold" to the Chinese by the Pakistanis. It's quite a stretch to believe this crash generated no casualties - according to the Pentagon/White House spin.

And because the Bin Laden raid narrative was redacted over and over again, febrile minds are already linking these casualties to the Wardak death toll - implying the SEALs who actually died in the Abbottabad crash have now died "again" in Wardak. It doesn't help that the initial versions of the Wardak hit (later corrected or redacted) identified the SEALs as the same ones who took part in the "kill Osama" raid.

Pass the joystick

After the Wardak hit, new Pentagon chief Leon Panetta came up with the usual "stay the course" in Afghanistan speech while corporate media regurgitated that "all foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014" - when everyone knows the Pentagon will never roll over, die and accept that kind of exit.

What Wardak will do is to bolster the Pentagon's case that the government in Kabul is mightily unprepared to maintain security across the country - no matter the fact that the majority of Afghans want foreigners out, for good. While the White House/Pentagon are singing their remixed version of The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go, all the Taliban have to do is wait and see, in silence (they hate pop music). They know that Kabul taking over national security will only bolster their strategic position.

It's astonishing (or maybe not) that the Washington power elite simply does not register how the empire was mercilessly downgraded by the Taliban over this past month. The Taliban killed President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, drug lord and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Ahmad Wali. They killed people at his funeral. They killed Karzai's head of tribal relations and a member of parliament. And they killed the mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Hamidi.

Not a long time ago - the autumn of 2010 - the talk was of the US/North Atlantic Treaty Organization going to take over Kandahar in a major counter-insurgency drive and win the war against the Taliban for good.

Today the claim has been laid to rest by facts on the ground. Yet its conceptual artist - in typical Washington fashion - has been kicked upstairs. In Iraq, General David Petraeus pulled an illusionist trick, convincing everyone in Washington that his 2007 surge/counterinsurgency drive was a success.

In Afghanistan, Petraeus was hit by a Hindu Kush rock on his head. Anyway, he's been promoted to CIA chief, so others will take the blame. And while more Chinooks will go down in Afghanistan, he can at least have fun with the joystick, playfully concentrating on droning the Pakistani tribal areas to death.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.


Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3955 on: August 09, 2011, 07:31:19 AM »

There's only one solution to Afghanistan War

By Richard Becker

Afghan and U.S. casualties rise dramatically

Party for Socialism and Liberation, August 8, 2011

Richard Becker is the Western Regional Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). The Party for Socialism and Liberation is a member of ANSWER.

Rebutting the claims of President Obama and other top U.S. officials of "improved security," death and destruction in Afghanistan are spiraling as the tenth anniversary of the U.S./NATO war approaches.

On Aug. 6, 30 U.S. and eight Afghan troops were killed when their helicopter was shot down in Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan. It was the highest single-day death toll for U.S. troops since the war began on Oct. 7, 2001. The U.S. casualties were all special operations forces, 24 of them Navy Seals. Since the beginning of August, at least 41 U.S. troops have died in battle.

Panetta says "Stay the course" — echo from Vietnam

Responding to the helicopter shoot-down, recently appointed Secretary of "Defense" Leon Panetta said, "We will stay the course to complete that mission, for which they and all who have served and lost their lives in Afghanistan have made the ultimate sacrifice." Easy for Panetta to say, living in luxury thousands of miles away from the front lines of an increasingly brutal and seemingly endless war.

The same day, U.S. troops attacked a home in Helmand province, killing eight Afghan civilians, including women and children, adding to a record-high civilian death toll in the country.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed since the war began. On Aug. 5, police opened fire killing at least four people in Qalad protesting another U.S. attack that killed three civilians. According to a U.N. report, 1,462 civilians were killed in the first half of 2011, 15 percent more than in the corresponding period in 2010.

More than 2,600 U.S. and other NATO troops have been killed and more than 12,000 wounded—many suffering catastrophic brain trauma or amputations. An article in the March 4 Washington Post reported that U.S. military doctors now call double-leg amputations with accompanying genital injuries the "signature wound" of the Afghanistan war.

In just the last few weeks, many top Afghan officials have been assassinated, including the mayor and police chief of Kandahar and the brother of U.S.-installed Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

What we can do

At a time when health, education and other vital government programs are being slashed or eliminated altogether, the war in Afghanistan devours $330 million per day. A recent study estimated that the total cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will exceed $4 trillion—$4,000,000,000,000.

The only way to end the bloody and rising carnage in Afghanistan is to immediately withdraw all U.S. and NATO troops and aircraft.

The ANSWER Coalition has called for a protest and die-in on Oct. 7 in San Francisco, starting at the Federal Building, 7th and Mission Sts. To endorse and get involved, go to www.ANSWERSF.org, or call 415-821-6545. In Washington, D.C., ANSWER is part of the "Stop the Machine" coalition, which is organizing a series of actions beginning at Freedom Plaza on Oct. 6 (visit www.AnswerCoalition.org for details). Actions are also planned in Los Angeles and other cities to mark the 10th anniversary of the war.

Only the people can stop the war—join us!

In the coming months, ANSWER organizers and volunteers will be working to build the October demonstrations taking place across the country. Please make an urgently needed donation at www.AnswerCoalition.org to help support the work of the ANSWER Coalition. We can't do it without your help.



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3956 on: August 10, 2011, 09:11:07 AM »
South Asia
Aug 11, 2011 

Kandahar looks to a new strongman

By Abubakar Siddique and Mohammad Sadiq Rishtinai

KANDAHAR - The hectic pace of life in Kandahar always slows considerably during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Many residents participating in the dawn-to-dusk fast stay indoors, seeking respite from the blistering heat outside.

But this month, traditional inaction is magnified by fear following the loss of a number of high-profile political figures, and uncertainty over whether their replacements will bring more security to this center of Pashtun power and politics in southern Afghanistan.

Conversations and whispers in the city of 800,000 people center on the vacuum left behind by the deaths of provincial council head Ahmad Wali Karzai, the powerful and controversial brother of President Hamid Karzai and mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi, one of the region's most trusted public servants.

Adding to the uncertainty was the death of Amir Lalai, a former mujahideen-era commander and key pillar of the coalition ruling the city, of a heart attack last week.

In April, a suspected Taliban suicide bomber killed Kandahar police chief Khan Mohammad Muhajid, who had fought the Red Army and the Taliban.

A modicum of governance

The question is how can these powerful men, who came from different Pashtun tribes in the region and managed a complex web of alliances, be replaced?

While far from perfect, their influence ensured a modicum of governance and helped prevent the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the violent deaths, from retaking its former capital.

In replacing these men, will Kabul try to repeat its previous formula by choosing loyal and powerful leaders, or will it find compromise candidates who are less likely to be targeted by the Taliban?

The name of Gul Agha Sherzai, current governor of eastern Nangarhar province, is being tipped to return to his former stronghold to take Karzai's place. This would fit the government's mold of tapping a local strongman.

But even his success is not guaranteed with foreign forces looking to exit. The situation in Kandahar is further complicated by major North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military operations that helped create new conflicts and possibly dented efforts toward reconciliation with the Taliban.

Unending tribal disagreements

Yama Gul Watandost, a young resident of Kandahar, says that Ahmad Wali Karzai had put a lid on seemingly unending tribal disagreements in the region. Filling Karzai's shoes, Watandost predicts, will be challenging.

"Family members might be able to fill up the vacuum he left behind but it won't match Ahmad Wali [Karzai's] competence," he says. "There will definitely be competition and feuds among the various tribes. Earlier Ahmad Wali [Karzai] balanced them through skillful negotiations and peace."

Competition or cooperation among the various Durrani and Ghilzai Pashtun tribes in Kandahar and the surrounding Pashtun provinces has defined war and peace in the region.

Kandahar-based analyst Mohammad Omar Sathey keeps a close eye on the developments in his home city. He says that strongmen in the region know that skillful manipulation of the tribal dynamics ultimately leads to power.

Sathey says that certain outside forces now want to exploit the uncertainty and disunity among the Pashtuns of southern Afghanistan, sensing an opportunity to shape the region to their liking.

Southern Afghanistan borders Pakistan and Iran. Kabul has blamed both Islamabad and Tehran for sheltering and protecting insurgents from the region.

According to Sathey, Kabul now has two choices in addressing the power vacuum in the region.

"We need a proper administration which can balance competing interests among various clans," he says. "Another way of sorting it will be to appoint people from other regions. Many people here think that officials from other provinces will not be interested in engaging in tribal struggle. This will deter them from fanning the fire here and won't instigate tribal rivalries."

Observers in the region, however, consider tribal rivalries a mere cover for a complicated power struggle among strongmen.

Controlling the Afghan narco-economy in the area is considered the major spoil of power in this region.

Poppy cultivation and trafficking began to take shape in southern Afghanistan toward the end of the Soviet occupation in late 1980s. Many powerful, regional mujahideen commanders then acquired controlling interests in the drug economy by paying farmers for their poppy harvests and raking in profits from processing and smuggling the crops.

Strongman rivalry

This turned the region into the world's largest poppy producer, with the anarchy during the civil war in the 1990s providing an opportunity for warlords to carve out large fiefdoms for themselves.
However, many of these commanders soon fell out over the control of the drug trade. Some of them bankrolled the Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and took over rival networks with their backing.

The demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001 exposed the region to another round of strongman rivalry. Back in power with the support of the United States forces, former governor Gul Agha Sherzai built a strong following and won some popular backing by bringing reconstruction projects.

Sherzai is also accused of pushing opponents to the insurgent ranks by labeling them Taliban. This exposed them to reprisals from international forces and deprived them of jobs, a role in reconstruction, and lucrative contracts. He was first ousted by the Taliban from Kandahar's governorship in 1994.

During his second stint in governorship Sherzai, however, was accused of promoting fellow Barakzai tribesmen, embezzling government revenues, and colluding with the drug lords.

In 2004, he was removed from the region and appointed the governor of far away Nangarhar. Critics accuse Ahmad Wali Karzai of using the same mold during the next seven years.

Sherzai's mention as a new regional strongman and real replacement for Ahmad Wali Karzai is no surprise to Kandaharis - the Pashto name for southern Pashtuns.

Haji Amin, who lives in Kandahar's second district, maintains that Sherzai's return to the region will ensure that he attracts a loyal following, which can make a positive difference.

"We are cautiously optimistic that Gul Agha [Sherzai's] return to Kandahar will improve the security situation in the region," he says. "If we get somebody who has no personal influence here; who is unable to call upon his people and lacks strong local backing, then the security situation will deteriorate every day."

Copyright (c) 2011, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC 20036

(To view the original, please click here<.) 



Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3957 on: August 10, 2011, 02:27:50 PM »
The Whack-a-Mole Endgame Begins in Afghanistan

Americans Have the Clock, But the Taliban Have the Time


August 9, 2011


Cap Ferrat, France

President Obama’s surge and de-surge strategy in Afghanistan has landed the United States in a strategic cul-de-sac.  As America withdraws troops from remote areas of Afghanistan like the Tangi, Korangar, and Pech Valleys, insurgents are flooding back in to wreak havoc, necessitating US retaliatory raids, redeployments, and stiffening operations to kill insurgents and to protect local Afghan units and villagers, even though some of these Afghan units and villagers may on occasion be in league with insurgents.  As the American withdrawal continues, the noose around the cul de sac will tighten, because fewer and fewer forces will be available to cope with the menace posed by spreading hit and run attacks by small decentralized insurgent groups operating in quick time in distant places. 

Inevitably, continued troop withdrawals imply the US military will find itself in an increasingly reactive operational posture, where it is responding to events rather than shaping them.  Faced with this loss of initiative, military leaders will have to substitute even more reactive air strikes and nighttime airborne raids for boots on the ground as it gradually abandons more and more territory to the insurgents.  You can think of this as a clear and hold process, only one that is now going into reverse, with the insurgents doing the clearing and holding. Moreover, the growing dependence on airpower will increase the unintended killings of civilians that are pouring gasoline on the fires of this insurgency.   

Obama’s surge and de-surge has, therefore, created a reinforcing dynamic that is playing into the hands of the insurgents by seducing the United States into increasing its reliance on a pointless, reactive, "whack-a-mole" strategy.  Like a judo specialist, the insurgents will use the expenditure of American energies to exhaust American forces and paralyze American political willpower by inducing our military to over and under react to an unfolding welter widely dispersed insurgent attacks.   Moreover, this dynamic will be unfolding at the very time President Obama is struggling to extricate both our military forces and himself from the quagmire he so quickly plunged into with ill-considered escalation decisions made during his first year in office.  Finally, the interplay of a ubiquitous guerrilla menace with the onerous psychology of retreat is a prescription for paralysis by a thousand cuts and eventual political defeat.

The probable result is that the US will not leave Afghanistan on its own terms but on its adversary’s terms, because as the Taliban propagandists quite correctly claim, "The Americans have a clock, but we have the time."

Obama can truthfully say he inherited this mess from a strategically inept predecessor, but he is not blameless, because his actions of the last eighteen months have made the Afghan predicament much worse. Recent events have placed the dilemma created by . Obama's the surge and de-surge strategy into sharp relief and illustrate how the dangerous reinforcing dynamic introduced above is now locking itself into place.   

There were 32,000 troops in Afghanistan when Barack Obama became President in January 2009.  However, another 11,000 troops had been approved by the Bush Administration in its final months and were in the pipeline to deploy to Afghanistan.  Obama ordered his first escalation of 21,700 more troops in March 2009, and he added another 33,000 with his much ballyhooed surge decisions finalized in December 2009. 

So, by the end of this first year in office, Obama had more than doubled down on the American commitment to what was  clearly a failing war in Afghanistan. While he bought off the hawks with these escalations, he sweetened the deal for the doves by promising he would begin reducing our deployed troop levels within eighteen months, beginning in July 2010, together with a vague albeit quickly forgotten promise to withdraw the rest by 2014. 

But his promise to begin a withdrawal in July 2011 was predicated on a fatally flawed assumption: namely, that the US military could quickly build up and then hand over security responsibilities to the notoriously corrupt and ineffective Afghan military and police forces.  I described the ramifications of these flawed assumptions in the 22 September 2009 issue of CounterPunch [here], and in the 29-31 January 2010 issue, showed how these ramifications were subsequently confirmed in the leaked Eikenberry Cables [here].

Of course, surging by one side in a conflict does not take place in isolation. As Clausewitz implied, war is a duel between animate beings who react unpredictably to changing conditions, according to the dictates of their own free will.   And no one would deny the Afghans are, if nothing else, seasoned duelists.

It is now clear that the Afghan insurgents have made good on their promise to respond to Obama’s escalations with escalations of their own.  To this end, in recent months, they have ratcheted up the size, frequency, and effectiveness of what appears to our orientation as a menacing welter of hit and run attacks. To name but a few of the more spectacular examples: 

In April 2010, the Taliban engineered the escape of 480 Taliban prisoners from the Kandahar Prison.

On 28 May, the Taliban exploded a bomb in a government building in northern Takhar Province, killing the regional police commander in the North, a police chief and two NATO soldiers, as well as wounding the German commander of NATO’s northern command and the Takhar provincial governor
On 30 May, the Taliban launched an unusual attack on targets in the western Afghan city of Herat, including a NATO base.

Less than a week after Obama announced his plan to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, insurgents launched a spectacular attack on the Intercontinental Hotel, supposedly one of the most secure building in Kabul, that resulted in a five-hour firefight requiring the intervention NATO troops and helicopters.

On July 12, President Karzai’s half-brother was assassinated under mysterious circumstances.

On July 17, Jan Mohammed Khan, who was a key ally and adviser to the Afghan president Karzai was assassinated. Etc...
These attacks demonstrate the enormous reach of the insurgency and appear to have been orchestrated by a variety of groups of insurgents.  The US military believes many of them can be blamed on the notorious Haqqani Network, a belief no doubt inspired in part by the military’s predilection to find the critical nodes and hi-value targets governing its adversary’s behavior. (The American military's obsession with identifying critical nodes derives from the strategic bombing theories developed by the Army Air Corps in the 1930s and, together with the promises of precision warfare, have fostered a silver bullet mentality that assumes military strategies can be reduced to mechanical plans for finding and killing such hi-value targets.)   On July 31, the New York Times carried a revealing report saying that NATO forces are responding to the rising number of insurgent attacks by "strengthening a layered defense" long the Afghan border with Pakistan to capture militants from the Haqqani Network as they try to make their way to the Kabul area to carry out their attacks.  What was most revealing in the Times’ report relates to what it did not say.

One curiosity in this report was that it did not explain what "strengthening a layered defense" means.  A conventional interpretation of the term suggests it means building some kind of escheloned defense in depth along the border.

But as Conn Hallinan pointed out in the 5-7 August edition of CounterPunch, the geography of the AFPAK border is too mountainous, too porous, too hostile, and far to long for NATO to maintain even a thin barrier defense of this border, let alone an in depth layered defense, especially given the limited — and decreasing — number of combat troops NATO has at its disposal. Indeed, one of the unchanging strategic features of the Soviet and US wars in Afghanistan has been an inability to seal that border, particularly in the wild region between Afghanistan and Pakistan from the northeast to the southeast of Kabul.  So, at the same time we are reducing forces, we are shifting to a layered defense, implying some sort of reinforcement. What gives?

There is more: A second curiosity of the  July 31 New York Times report is that it did not say that the layering mission included, inter alia, a return of US forces to dangerous Pech Valley in a remote region of Kunar Province.  US forces had been forced to abandon the Pech less than six months earlier.  The omission by the Times is made doubly odd by the fact that the Times carried a very informative contemporaneous report of the Pech evacuation, i.e., "U.S. Pulling Back in Afghan Valley It Called Vital to War," on 24 February 2011.   

The recent loss of a Chinook helicopter and 31 US troops (including 22 members of Seal Team 6) may have occurred  in a "layering mission" — in this case, a night raid — to stiffen Afghan forces in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province. The US abandoned and transferred its combat outpost in the Tangi to the Afghan forces last April.

Moreover, by omitting to say we were returning to areas we had abandoned and turned over to the Afghan security forces, the Times neatly dodged the need to explain what the expected a strategy of  strengthening the so-called layered defense was supposed to accomplish. However, Martin Kuz wrote an excellent 4 August report in the Stars and Stripes describing the return to the Pech Valley.  In it, he quoted US Army leaders as justifying their reentry into the Pech with the same reason they used when they went into Pech the first time, in 2003, namely the goal is to set conditions for a transition that will enable the Afghan army and Afghan Police to provide the local population with security.  In other words,  Army forces are returning to areas they handed over to the Afghan security forces, because the transition did not work. This brings us back to the fatally flawed assumption underpinning the entire escalation decision mentioned above — namely, the 2009 military analysis justifying the surge strategy did not realistically account for how the limitations of the Afghan security forces would upset its plans for transferring security responsibility to those forces.

If you have read this far, it ought to be becoming clear that, other than reversing the troop withdrawal and escalating with yet another troop surge, the only way out of the trap is to negotiate a political settlement with the insurgents. There is no dishonor in this; in fact, a negotiated settlement is the way most guerrilla wars end.   

To be effective, such a settlement must involve and account for the legitimate interests of the regional players, including Iran, Pakistan, and China, as well as the interests of all the Afghan people, but also the United States and Russia, and the probably the Central Asian Republics to boot.

The goal should be one of establishing conditions for the emergence of a neutral and prosperous Afghanistan.  In view of the trauma and destruction suffered by Afghanistan, initially, perhaps, those conditions should be enforced and stabilized with some kind of multinational Islamic peacekeeping/economic development task force, lead by an major Islamic country without a dog in the hunt, like, Indonesia or Turkey.  In most circumstances, Turkey would be my choice: it is now the world's leading Islamic country and a major regional power; it has a secular government and a rapidly developing booming economy and an educated population; and its reformist leadership has exhibited an ability to shape an exceptionally gifted foreign policy.  Some Afghans might object by saying Turkey has a dog in the hunt -- specifically, Turkey is a member of NATO and NATO is fighting in Afghanistan.  Moreover, Pashtuns might take exception to Turkey's connections to the Turkic ethnic groups in the north of Afghanistan and the bordering regions, which used to be known a Turkestan.  The key point is that it is absolutely essential that the Afghan people view the leading peacekeeping country as an honest broker.

According to news reports, the Taliban have indicated a willingness to talk about a peace deal, but they have set one unbendable, typically Afghan precondition to any negotiation: all outsiders must promise to leave; specifically the US and NATO must agree to a complete withdrawal of all of their forces before sitting down to the negotiating table.   

Like the Soviets and the British before them, the American clock in Afghanistan is running out while the insurgent adversary has the time.  It is too late for American leaders to be adhering to the primitive idea that one can only negotiate from a position of military strength abroad and economic strength at home — both those bases of power have been blown, thanks mostly to the madness exhibited by Obama's predecessor.  And like the Soviets and the British, the United States is not going to establish a permanent military presence in Afghanistan; to do so would enrage the Afghan people and fuel the insurrection.   

Wiser heads also would do well to recall that an earlier American president faced a similar mismatch between his clock and his adversary’s time before. President Nixon tried to duck its implications by selling a slow withdrawal from Viet Nam to a war-weary nation by promising of "peace with honor."  If the North Vietnamese had responded to his overtures with an unbendable precondition, like that of the Taliban, namely a complete military withdrawal from Viet Nam, negotiations would have been as unthinkable to State Department and Pentagon planners in 1970 as the Taliban’s demand for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan is today.  But in the end, it did not matter.  In 1975, we ended our involvement in Viet Nam, with an unconditional withdrawal being imposed on the US for all the world to see.

Franklin "Chuck" Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com




Offline bigron

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3958 on: August 10, 2011, 02:34:57 PM »

AFGHANISTAN: Nearly nine million face food shortages


KABUL, 9 August 2011 (IRIN) - Ongoing drought in northern, northeastern and western Afghanistan is likely to push 1.5-2 million more people into food insecurity this autumn, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

This is in addition to the seven million country-wide already facing food shortages.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) is reporting a failure of the rain-fed wheat crop, which accounts for about 55 percent of the total domestic wheat yield.

Irrigated wheat, which tends to yield more per hectare, has also been affected by the drought. The average wheat yield (without fertilizers) on irrigated land is about 2.7 tons per hectare (3.5 tons with fertilizer), versus only 1.1 tons on rain-fed land, according to MAIL.

In a normal year Afghanistan produces 4.5 million tons of wheat and around one million tons are imported. The shortfall of 1.9 million tons of wheat this year means more will either have to be imported or secured from other sources.

"Satellite derived rainfall estimates indicate that most of Afghanistan had an untimely and inadequate rain and snow season this year. As a result, there will be heavy losses in rain-fed wheat crops, underperforming irrigated wheat crops, poor pasture conditions, and low income earning opportunities in northern Afghanistan and the central highlands this year," said the US Agency for International Development’s FEWSNET.

Increased need due to the drought comes as WFP is already facing a severe funding shortage for its existing programmes in Afghanistan.

"WFP had originally planned to feed more than seven million Afghans this year, but currently has the resources to reach less than four million," WFP spokesman Assadullah Azhari told IRIN in Kabul.

He said additional funds would be required to cover the new drought-related needs.

President Hamid Karzai also expressed concern about the drought at a cabinet meeting on 30 July: "The current drought in certain provinces is hugely damaging to the life of people and their livestock."

Sultan (he goes by only one name), 35, a farmer in Paghman District not far from Kabul, has been trying to truck in water for his wheat crop from a water source more than 10km from his village.

"All the water sources including the underground water have dried up in my village and now I need to pay a tanker to bring me water," he told IRIN in Kabul. "I feel so sad… After two months my wheat is still only 20cm tall."

He said that if he had had sufficient water for irrigation, his wheat crop would have been almost ready for harvest now. Even with expensive trucked-in water he would only get 20 percent of his normal crop, he added.

Assessments under way

According to MAIL officials, assessments are under way in drought-affected areas of the north, northeast, the west and the central highlands to determine exactly how many people will require food assistance and for how long.

Much of the looming wheat shortfall will be covered by government reserves and commercial imports. But additional humanitarian assistance may be required to support an estimated 1.5 to 2 million drought victims, according to WFP.

Karzai called on the ministries of commerce, finance and MAIL to take extra measures, and import wheat from India to try to meet needs.

WFP said the USA had cut its funding of WFP activities in Afghanistan by more than two-thirds since 2009. "But we continue to appeal to donors for the support that will allow us to ensure all those in need of help in the coming months are assisted," said Azhari.

"The areas affected by drought are hard or impossible to reach by road during the winter. So it is critical to get food assistance in place early, before those people are cut off by snowfall," he warned.



Offline Al Bundy

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Re: Why the US is losing in Afghanistan - updates on the Pashtun insurgency
« Reply #3959 on: November 25, 2016, 01:06:30 PM »
US cannot win in Afghanistan because Z. Bzezinski ( CFR) made Afghanistan like Vietnam for Russians.