Author Topic: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!  (Read 54565 times)

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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #40 on: November 13, 2009, 08:26:45 am »
Gunmen torch Nato tankers at Bolan pass, kill driver

Friday, 13 Nov, 2009

Nato and US-led forces in landlocked Afghanistan are hugely dependent on Pakistan for supplies, with about 80 per cent passing through Pakistan. — Reuters photo

QUETTA: Suspected Taliban militants on Friday torched five trucks carrying fuel from Pakistan to Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, killing a driver, police said.

The attack took place at Bolan pass, some 70 kilometres south of Quetta, the capital of oil and gas-rich Balochistan province bordering Iran and Afghanistan, where both separatists and Taliban militants are active.

‘A truck driver was killed and two others were wounded in the pre-dawn attack by around two dozen gunmen,’ Bolan district police chief Junaid Arshad told AFP.

‘There were about 13 tankers parked at a trucking station. Gunmen set five tankers on fire before fleeing,’ he added.

Asked about the attackers the police official said they could be ‘religious elements’ in an indirect reference to Taliban militants.

Hundreds of people have died since Baloch insurgents rose up in 2004 demanding autonomy and a greater share of the profits from natural resources.

A security official confirmed the incident but said nobody claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan is battling an insurgency by religiously-inspired militants, with Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters holed up in the tribal region neighbouring Afghanistan, often slipping across the border to attack Western forces.

Nato and US-led forces in landlocked Afghanistan are hugely dependent on Pakistan for supplies, with about 80 per cent passing through Pakistan.

The bulk of supplies and equipment required by foreign troops is shipped through northwest Pakistan's tribal region of Khyber, where Taliban militants have carried out a series of attacks on trucks.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #41 on: November 13, 2009, 01:23:30 pm »
Beloved Enemy: Paying for the Privilege of Perpetual War

by Chris Floyd

November 13, 2009

Our American militarists love war so much that they even bankroll the enemy, just to keep the blood money flowing. This odd but absolutely crucial characteristic of the Never-Ending Terror War was borne out again in a remarkable story in the Guardian (with an expanded version in The Nation).

As Aram Roston reports -- and U.S. military officials openly admit -- American taxpayers are giving Afghan insurgents at least 10-20 percent of the war machine's multibillion-dollar transportation contracts. Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into Taliban coffers every year from bribes offered to stop insurgents from attacking supply convoys -- convoys which are increasingly controlled by local warlords and druglords, including convicted drug dealers in the Corleone-like Karzai family.

Of course, in Iraq, the Pentagon finally started paying insurgents as well. But in that instance, they were at least paying the enemy to stop fighting. Here, they only ask that the Taliban allow some trucks to roll through the countryside -- which seems to be entirely in the hands of the insurgents, despite eight years of war and months of Obama's "surge". The Americans pay handsomely for the privilege -- sometimes up to $1,500 per truck, depending on the cargo -- even though they know the insurgents will use the money to keep fighting.

It's a nice racket all around, everybody makes out -- the American militarists and war profiteers, their criminal Afghan allies, and the insurgents (who use the American money to top up the cash flow they get from American allies in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc.). So where's the harm?

OK, OK, there are all those civilians being slaughtered -- women and children ripped to pieces, to shreds of flesh and fragments of bone – by the bombs of the defenders of Western civilization. And yeah, there are all the American and British soldiers being killed, wounded, and brutalized, year after year, in a senseless, criminal conflict. And then there's the looting of the American treasury by the warmongers, and the relentless and inevitable destruction of American liberties by the all-corrosive acid of perpetual war.

But as Stalin liked to say: when wood is chopped, chips fly. And what are these few paltry chips – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – when there's so much juicy loot out there?


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #42 on: November 16, 2009, 06:00:09 am »
Updated November 16, 2009

Obama: Terror Networks Are Biggest Threat to U.S.

In his first presidential trip to Asia, Obama met with students in Shanghai and said Al Qaeda has crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan and is in contact with other organizations.

Nov. 16: Audience members listen as President Obama speaks at a town hall style event with Chinese youth at the Museum of Science and Technology in Shanghai. (AP)

President Barack Obama told Chinese students on Monday that the greatest threat to the United States' security is terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda.

On his first presidential trip to Asia, Obama is nearing a decision on whether to send up to 40,000 more troops at the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal to fight the war in Afghanistan.

Obama, taking questions from students in Shanghai, said Al Qaeda has crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan and is in contact with other organizations. He said the U.S. must stabilize that part of the world and reduce the power of extremist networks.

"I continue to believe that the greatest threat to the United States' security are the terrorist networks like Al Qaeda," Obama told students. "They have now moved over the border of Afghanistan and are in Pakistan, but they continue to have networks with other extremist organizations in that region and I do believe it is important for us to stabilize Afghanistan."

Obama said the groups are small in number but are dangerous because they have no conscience. Terrorist organizations armed with nuclear or biological weapons could kill hundreds of thousands of people with just a few individuals, he warned.

The president, who has faced criticism for "dithering" on the war strategy, said the U.S. is trying to give Afghan civilians greater hope and limit the influence of leaders like Usama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, one of Obama's top aides delivered a letter to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari urging him to work with the U.S. against extremists, the New York Times reported on Monday.

In the letter, Obama offered Zardari a range of new incentives to the Pakistanis for their cooperation, including enhanced intelligence sharing and military cooperation, according to the Times, which said the proposal was delivered in person by National Security Adviser General James Jones.

Jones's press secretary, Mike Hammer, confirmed that Jones had travelled to Pakistan just before joining Obama over the weekend in Singapore for a summit of Asia Pacific leaders.

In addition to Zardari, Jones met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and other officials.

But Hammer would not discuss what was said in the meetings nor whether a letter was delivered.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to do a better job of stopping corruption within his government.

"We're going to be doing what we can to create an atmosphere in which the blood and treasure that the United States has committed to Afghanistan can be justified and can produce the kind of results that we're looking for," Clinton told ABC News.

"Now, we believe that President Karzai and his government can do better. We've delivered that message," she added.

She said the U.S. government will not provide civilian aid without assurances that there are ministries they can hold accountable, and that the Obama administration wants a tribunal to prosecute major corruption crimes and a new anti-corruption commission.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama will have "overwhelming support" from GOP senators if he grants the troop requests, but said the caucus is "frustrated" with the inaction.

"We are a little bit perplexed about the length of time it's taking to make this decision," he told "Fox News Sunday." "Part of being president is you don't have easy choices. You have a lot of choices you have to make among difficult options. None of them are perfect. ... I think the president, as difficult as this decision is, needs to make it, needs to follow the advice of his generals."

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani went further, telling "Fox News Sunday" that the delay "is political strategy, not war strategy."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #43 on: November 16, 2009, 06:17:51 am »
From The Sunday Times November 15, 2009

Terrorists smuggle fatwas out of secure prisons

by David Leppard

Abu Qatada published fatwas, or religious rulings, on the internet from Long Lartin

SOME of Britain’s most dangerous Al-Qaeda leaders are promoting jihad from inside high-security prisons by smuggling out propaganda for the internet and finding recruits.

In an authoritative report, Quilliam, a think tank funded by the Home Office, claims “mismanagement” by the Prison Service is helping AlQaeda gain recruits and risks “strengthening jihadist movements”.

Abu Qatada, described by MI5 as “Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, has published fatwas — religious rulings — on the internet from Long Lartin prison, in Worcestershire, calling for holy war and the murder of moderate Muslims, it reveals.

Abu Doha — said to be Al-Qaeda’s main recruiter in Europe — has taken courses in Belmarsh prison, south London, enabling him to mentor other inmates.

Abu Hamza, jailed in 2006 for inciting murder, has preached radical sermons to followers using water pipes in his Belmarsh cell, and Rachid Ramda, the Algerian leader of the Paris Métro bomb plot, led Friday prayers in the same jail.

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, shadow security minister, said prisons risked becoming “incubators of extremism”.

Qatada, a radical Islamist cleric who is wanted on terrorism charges in Jordan, is held in the the “supermax” segregation wing of Long Lartin. Built at the height of the IRA’s bombing campaign and designed to house dangerous inmates, it should be one of the most secure buildings in the country.

Like other jailed terrorist leaders, Qatada is meant to be cut off from his supporters outside. Yet it is said that last year, under the noses of warders, Qatada and Adel Abdel Bary, leader of the UK branch of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, were able to smuggle out a series of fatwas legitimising attacks by AlQaeda and endorsing the murder of moderate Muslims.

Qatada and Bary are two of about 100 Islamist terrorists in UK prisons. Many are held in supposedly top-security jails such as Belmarsh, Frankland in Co Durham and Woodhill in Milton Keynes, for inciting or plotting attacks in which hundreds of people could have died.

According to the report published this weekend by Quilliam, they seem at liberty to preach to and even recruit from their fellow inmates.

MI5 said earlier this year that the threat from groups such as Al-Qaeda had declined. Quilliam, however, says most extremists who were initially radicalised in prison take five to seven years to become fully violent.

The path from prison radicalisation to full-scale terror plotting is well trodden. One petty criminal who turned to Islam while a teenage inmate was Muktar Said Ibrahim. He served time for indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl and mugging a 77-year-old woman at a Tube station. He graduated to terrorism via various radical London mosques and camps in Afghanistan and went on to lead the failed London bombings of July 21, 2005.

Today those already convicted or suspected of terrorist offences have a different — and equally dangerous — role in prison. They are the recruiters, seeking out a new generation of converts who will become the terrorist leaders of tomorrow.

Using eye-witness accounts from inside jail and official prison inspection reports, Quilliam says some leading Islamist figures are given mentoring courses to teach them how to counsel fellow inmates and are allowed to lead Friday prayers.

Others are “empowered” by the prison staff, who treat them as leaders or representatives of Muslim inmates. Some manage to give television interviews or are able to inflame their followers through internet discussions. Others lead Muslim gangs who bully fellow inmates into conversion.

This weekend opposition MPs and security experts are challenging ministers to explain how this has been allowed to take place.

At Belmarsh, Ramda was allowed to lead Friday prayers after the Muslim chaplain left the prison.

Doha, who is wanted in America for his alleged role in the plot to blow up Los Angeles airport in 2000, was given courses while in Belmarsh that enabled him to become a “listener”, a prisoner who mentors and gives advice to other inmates.

The notorious “preacher of hate” Hamza, who was convicted in 2006 of inciting murder and racial hatred during his time as imam of Finsbury Park mosque, north London, has been able to give sermons to other Muslims through the water pipes that link the prison cells at Belmarsh. A charismatic figure who has led hunger strikes at the jail, he is thought to use the plughole in the sink in his cell to shout passages from the Koran.

The ease with which those suspected or convicted of terrorist crimes can communicate their propaganda to the outside world is also alarming.

In October 2006, a Libyan detainee wanted in Italy on terrorism charges used telephone boxes in Long Lartin to speak live on an Islamic television channel. He compared British prisons with Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, where the American military abused Iraqi inmates.

In a rant designed to inflame followers into a hatred of Britain, he described the special immigration court that in effect sent him to jail without a jury trial as a “fascist court martial”. Qatada, a fellow inmate, went further. In a series of fatwas released in June 2008, he reflected on theological arguments legitimising the murder of Muslims who were opposed to Al-Qaeda.

The Quilliam report states: “He additionally described the police and army of Muslimmajority countries opposed to Al-Qaeda as ‘kafirs and apostates’ — thereby also justifying jihadist attacks against them.”

Last March, in An Address to the Muslims, apparently smuggled out of his cell, Qatada equated the British government to pagans whom the prophet Muhammad fought and defeated.

Qatada said he hoped his writings would “fuel” the global holy war of Al-Qaeda and added he was confident that stories about Muslims in prison had succeeded in radicalising British Muslims and had made more Muslims start to “hate” British values.

Contrary to the tabloid perception that terrorist leaders are “fanatics”, the unpalatable truth is that many are intelligent, charismatic and capable of drawing not only their fellow inmates but also their captors into their circle of influence.

A prison inspectorate report at Long Lartin in 2007 warned that “support for staff was necessary to prevent their conditioning by a strong and united detainee group” — an apparent reference to Qatada and his cohorts.

Inspectors have separately warned of the rise of Muslim gangs whose leaders engage in violence and intimidation, sometimes forcing others to convert.

In Frankland prison in 2007 and 2008, Dhiren Barot, leader of the so-called “dirty bomb” plot against London, and Omar Khyam, who planned to attack London nightclubs and shopping centres with a fertiliser bomb, have been involved in a series of tit-for-tat attacks on other prisoners.

Violence partly fomented by the two extremists led to boiling water being thrown over prisoners, stabbings, arson attacks and attempts to wreck prison facilities.

Many potential recruits are young men, typically petty criminals serving two-year or three-year sentences for crimes such as burglary, theft, drug dealing or fraud.

Although the Prison Service disputes the evidence that Qatada has been able to communicate with supporters outside the prison, senior law enforcement officials privately admit that Al-Qaeda is exploiting the prison system to further its campaign.

The Ministry of Justice, which runs the Prison Service, has set up a programme to persuade convicted terrorists to give up their cause. It is also trying to protect vulnerable Muslim inmates from violent extremists.

Phil Wheatley, directorgeneral of the Prison Service, set up an extremism unit two years ago. But it is small and led by a junior official. It is also overwhelmed. The justice ministry says there are about 10,000 Muslim inmates in prisons in England and Wales — 12% of the jail population.

The Quilliam report was written by James Brandon, who was kidnapped and held hostage in Iraq in 2004. “The Prison Service has taken some steps towards tackling extremism but these are not enough,” he said.

“Islamist extremists are running rings around a Prison Service which often seems clueless about the nature of the extremist threat. If this situation is not tackled, British prisons risk becoming universities of terror.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "It is unfortunate that the Quilliam Foundation has not seen fit to share their report with us, and that they did not apply to visit any prisons or speak to those who run them, in doing their research. However, we remain willing to consider practical ideas for dealing with the issues faced by the prison service.

"We are extremely skilled in managing all challenging and dangerous criminals, and adapting to evolving risks and dangers. We run a dedicated, expert unit which leads work to tackle the risk of extremism and radicalisation in prison. All our High Security prisons operate enhanced monitoring and intelligence-gathering on those convicted or suspected of involvement in terrorism or extremism. We work with closely with the Home Office, police and partner agencies.”

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #44 on: November 16, 2009, 07:10:41 am »
US using drones after host states’ consent: Petraeus

By Anwar Iqbal

Sunday, 15 Nov, 2009

US Central Commander Gen. David Petraeus gestures during a television interview in the briefing room at the White House in Washington.—AP/File Pakistan

Losing the moral war Losing the moral war WASHINGTON: The US job in Pakistan is to support the Pakistani military against extremists but it intends to stay engaged with Islamabad even after this conflict is over, says the general responsible for US operations in the Pak-Afghan region.

In a speech at the American Veterans Centre on Friday evening, Gen David Petraeus also said that the United States did not conduct drone attacks without the acquiescence of the host nations.

Gen Petraeus, who heads of the US Central Command, noted that the entire Pakistani nation — from generals to politicians and religious scholars —now supported the campaign against extremists.

The general said that unmanned aerial systems played a very important role in US operations against the extremists, enabling intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, while some were also used to carry out attacks.

Responding to a question about drone strikes in Fata, the general said: ‘We never talk about Predator attacks in Pakistan and I’m not going to — there have, however, been a number of explosions in Fata over the course of the last year or so that have reportedly … killed a substantial number of top 20 extremist leaders.’

The United States, he said, would continue to use the drones to target extremists but ‘if there are options to avoid the loss of innocent civilian life, then we are going to exercise those options’.

Drone attacks, he said, were not carried out indiscriminately and ‘actions are not taken without host nations’ acquiescence.’

Going back to the US strategy for Pakistan, Gen Petraeus said: ‘Our job there, our task there is very much to support our Pakistani military counterparts. They are the ones that are doing the fighting. They are doing the dying.’

Gen Petraeus noted that Pakistani commissioned and non-commissioned officers were leading from the front and many had sacrificed their lives.

He pointed out that the United States was already providing $1.5 to $2 billion per year to Pakistan, while the Kerry-Lugar bill would add another $1.5 billion per year for the next five years.

This was the kind of ‘sustained, substantial commitment’ required to convince Pakistan that ‘we are not going to do to them what we did at least a couple of times in recent decades, which is to leave after a particular problem appears to have been solved’.

The general also referred to a major development in Pakistan that took place about 10 months ago —a true shift in popular opinion towards the insurgency.

‘All of the citizenry virtually, all of the political leaders, including the major opposition figures, Nawaz Sharif and others, and the vast majority of the clerics, all coming together to oppose and to confront the extremists.’

The Pakistani people and their leaders now saw extremism as the major threat or at least the most pressing threat to the existence of their state, he added. But Gen Petraeus noted that while tensions with India were still there, the focus had shifted to internal extremists.

‘We saw that first then when the Pakistani military went into Swat … and did a very commendable, very impressive job of clearing that large, dramatic valley of the insurgents.’

The general pointed out that more recently the Pakistanis had gone after the extremists once led by the late Baitullah Mehsud.

It was this organisation ‘that killed Benazir Bhutto, blew up markets in Peshawar, carried out attacks on visiting cricket teams, killed countless innocent Pakistani civilians, and military and governmental officials.’

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #45 on: November 16, 2009, 07:50:10 am »
Reading the Af-Pak Tea Leaves

by Jeff Huber, November 16, 2009

It’s tough to tell what’s going to happen with Af-Pak. We get so many conflicting reports.

For a time, we heard that President Obama was leaning toward sending 30,000 additional troops there, and that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were encouraging him to do so.

Then we heard from National Security Adviser James Jones, who said not to expect Obama to make a decision on Afghanistan troops levels until the first week in December.

Somewhere in between came a story from Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad that said Hillary had cut a multi-dimensional dope deal with Pakistan’s military and intelligence service and the Indians and the Taliban and Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah that would give us a plausible route out of Afghanistan.

President Obama has told the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the rest of his security team to come up with an exit plan before he decides on a course of action. It’s remarkable that Obama, who has no direct military experience, should have to tell his military to include an exit plan in any strategy they bring him.

Or maybe it’s not. The Pentagon’s Long War philosophy is based on a lack of exit plans.

Is it possible that Obama is willing to take a walk on the political wild side, admit that Afghanistan is anything but a "war of necessity," and walk away from it?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s insistence that we need to commit up to 80,000 more American troops to the Afghanistan fandango, train up 400,000 Afghan troops, and get more NATO Shemps involved in the effort is a pile of used oats.

Even our phony-baloney counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine admits, "The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government." We’re never going to get legitimate, effective governance in Afghanistan. We just let one of the biggest political crooks in history – Hamid Karzai – steal two elections. He’ll never be seen as a legitimate leader, no matter how many times President Obama exhorts him to begin a "new chapter." (Dear diary, my brother Ahmed made another million dollars U.S. in the heroin trade today, and the CIA sent him another fat check besides. Boy, does Ahmed owe me!)

The COIN doctrine has become the false military promise of the 21st century, having eclipsed naval power and air power and nuclear weapons as the ultimate answer to America’s security requirements and the leading excuse for our country’s distended military budget.

The difference between COIN and its militaristic philosophy predecessors is that its predecessors offered the promise of the end of war. Our foolhardy intercession in World War I, the war to end all wars, the war that would make the world "safe for democracy," did neither. The lamentable end state of that horrible war set conditions that brought about Fascism and World War II, and the end state of World War II brought about global communism and the Cold War and the nasty little Third World wars (Korea, Vietnam, etc.) that accompanied it.

After World War I, air power was going to make all other forms of military power obsolete. After World War II, nuclear weapons were going to make all other forms of military power obsolete. Now we have COIN, which promises to make all forms of military power relevant for as long as our COIN wars last, which, if the American warmongery has its way, will be forever.

Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker says Obama’s refusal to rush to judgment on Afghanistan "could be huge," that maybe Obama is "putting his foot down." If so, it’s about time. Obama’s general and flag officers, specifically David Petraeus, Ray Odierno, Mike Mullen, and Stan McChrystal, have been used to getting their way for too long. I wish Obama had transferred them to civilian command when he first came into office.

Hersh also makes note of the objection that the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, former Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, has made to "deploying additional troops to the country.” That apparently has McChrystal "fuming," the poor guy. McChrystal should try getting some sleep.

If Obama is putting his foot down, that’s a good thing. If Obama goes along with McChrystal’s desire to escalate the war in Afghanistan, it will be a very bad thing. We’ll be stuck there forever. It will make Vietnam seem like a footnote.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #46 on: November 18, 2009, 06:35:55 am »
CORRUPTION: Afghanistan, Iraq Near Bottom of Transparency Index

By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (IPS) - Despite billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and other countries to improve governance in Afghanistan and Iraq, the two countries remain among the world's most corrupt nations, according to the latest edition of Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

Of the 180 countries covered by the 2009 CPI, Iraq ranks 176 and Afghanistan 179, according to the CPI, which was released by the Berlin-based group Tuesday.

Only Somalia, which has not had a functioning government capable of controlling a major portion of its territory since 1991, ranked lower than Afghanistan, where the administration of President Barack Obama is currently considering adding as many as 44,000 more U.S. troops to the nearly 68,000 currently deployed there.

The CPI, which represents a composite of 13 international corruption polls and surveys, also included Uzbekistan, Chad, Sudan, and Myanmar at the bottom of its list.

At the other end of the spectrum, the CPI ranked New Zealand at the top of the survey. It was followed by Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and Iceland in that order.

The CPI, which has been issued annually by TI since 1995, has become increasingly important for both companies that are seeking investment opportunities beyond their borders and countries that are competing for that investment.

It relies mainly on the opinions of country experts, risk analysts, and business leaders, both residents and non-residents, whose views are compiled by a total of 10 institutions, among them the World Bank, the African and Asian Development Banks, Economist Intelligence Unit, and the Bertelsmann Foundation.

The surveys used in the CPI ask questions that relate to the misuse of public power for private benefit, including the prevalence of such practices as bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, and embezzlement of public funds.

Each country is ranked on a scale of zero to 10, with 10 as the least corrupt. Somalia, the index's most corrupt country, received a score of 1.1, while New Zealand at the other end of the scale scored 9.4.

Only 49 of the 180 countries scored a 5.0 or higher. The survey's mean score was 3.3.

In releasing this year's index, TI stressed the worst-performing countries appeared to share a history of longstanding conflict, with disastrous results on their governance. "The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions," said TI's chair, Huguette Labelle.

Of the Group of Seven (G7) major western industrialised countries, Canada gained the highest score at 8.7, followed by Germany (8.0, 14th ranking), Japan and Britain (7.7 tied for 17th), the United States (7.5, 19th), France 6.9, 24th), and Italy (4.3, 63rd) – just below Cuba and Turkey.

Of the other 12 country members of the Group of 20 (G-20), Australia scored highest (8.7, 8th along with Canada), followed by South Korea (5.5, 39th), South Africa (4.7, 55th), Turkey (4.4, 61st), Saudi Arabia (4.3, 63rd), Brazil (3.7, 75th), China (3.6, 79th), India (3.4, 84th), Mexico (3.3, 89th), Argentina (2.9, 106th), Indonesia (2.8, 111th), and Russia (2.2, 146th).

In Latin America, Chile and Uruguay tied for the highest score (6.7), which put them in 25th place overall. They were followed by Costa Rica in 43rd place, Cuba (61st), while Brazil, Colombia, and Peru tied in 75th place with a score of 3.7.

Haiti was perceived as the most corrupt country in the hemisphere, ranking 168th and gaining a score of 1.8. Venezuela was perceived as the next most corrupt with a rank of 162 and a score of 1.9. Other Latin American countries that received rankings of 120 or higher included Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Paraguay in ascending order.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana topped the list for the least corrupt country with an overall ranking of 37 and a score of 5.6. Only two other countries in the region – Mauritius and Cape Verde - earned scores greater than 5.0. Three more countries – the Seychelles, South Africa, and Namibia – scored over 4.0, while Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Swaziland received scores of 3.6 or higher.

In addition to Sudan and Somalia, the worst-ranked African countries included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea and Chad, in descending order. All in this group scored less than 2.0 on the CPI scale.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Qatar (22) and the United Arab Emirates (30) improved their scores over previous years, rising to 7.0 and 6.5, respectively. They were followed by Israel (32, 6.1), Oman (39, 5.5), Bahrain (46, 5.1), and Jordan (49, 5.0).

Worst-perceived countries in the region aside from Iraq included Iran (168, 1.8), Yemen (154, 2.1), and Lebanon and Libya (130, 2.5).

Aside from Afghanistan and Myanmar, the Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines (139) scored 2.4, followed by Nepal, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, and Laos.

In the region running from the Balkans to the former Soviet states of Central Asia, Turkey earned the highest score at 4.4, followed by Croatia and Georgia (4.1). At 174, Uzbekistan earned the lowest score of 1.7, behind Russia and Ukraine (2.2), Tajikistan (2.0), Kyrgyzstan (1.9), and Turkmenistan (1.8).

Kazakhstan, which had been rated close to the bottom in previous years, improved its score to 2.7 due mainly to efforts at improving conditions for foreign investment in the run-up to its chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation, according to TI.



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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #47 on: November 22, 2009, 05:19:08 am »
Obama Returns to Greater Middle East Mess

Analysis by Jim Lobe*

WASHINGTON, Nov 20, 2009 (IPS) - As Barack Obama arrives home from his weeklong tour of East Asia, he confronts a growing list of ever more urgent problems in the Greater Middle East that he inherited from George W. Bush's "global war on terror".

From Palestine to Pakistan, Obama, who also faces a major fight in getting his top legislative priority – health care reform – through Congress, must make a series of critical decisions within a relatively short time.

Some of those decisions could well determine Obama's foreign policy legacy, specifically whether he can pull the U.S. out of the hole Bush dug for it in the region or whether, inspiring rhetoric notwithstanding, he keeps digging.

While deciding on his strategy in Afghanistan – and how many U.S. troops will be needed to implement it – is at the top of the list, the apparent impasse on Iran's nuclear programme has strengthened forces here that favour imposing "crippling sanctions", if not military action, against the Islamic Republic, sooner rather than later.

At the same time, the sharp deterioration over the past several weeks in prospects for renewed peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has suddenly put into serious question the continued viability not only of the Palestine Authority (PA), but also of the two-state solution on which Washington and other members of the Quartet have long based their policies.

It was just three weeks ago that Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James Jones, identified the Israel-Palestinian conflict as the "epicentre" of U.S. challenges in the Greater Middle East and the one crisis the administration would prioritise if it could "solve any one problem" in the region.

Yet, with Israel's latest defiance of U.S. demands that it halt settlement expansion in the West Bank and, specifically, in East Jerusalem, a solution now appears more remote than at any time since Bush ended Bill Clinton's peacemaking efforts in 2001.

Obama's Asia tour, which took him to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea, garnered mixed reviews here. Right-wing critics accused him of excessive deference, especially toward his Chinese hosts and the Japanese emperor (to whom he was accused of bowing too deeply). His defenders insisted that his modesty marked a welcome contrast to Bush's "cowboy" swagger, especially in countries that have become Washington's biggest creditors by far.

Many of Obama's top foreign policy advisers firmly believe that U.S. relations with Asia – where China is fast emerging as a true global power, and recent elections in Japan, Washington's closest regional ally, have launched a major political transition with serious foreign policy implications - require far more attention than they received under Bush, a point underlined by Obama's reference to himself as Washington's "first Pacific president".

That the administration has been forced to focus most of its attention on the Greater Middle East is a source of both regret and resentment to many of these same aides who blame the Bush administration's incompetence, Manichean worldview, and contempt for diplomacy for the crises they face in the region.

Of those, Afghanistan, the subject of a major review that is well into its third month, has drawn the most attention and may turn out to be the most momentous.

Obama's top military commander, apparently backed by the Armed Forces chief of staff, and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, has asked for as many as 40,000 new U.S. troops to add to the 68,000 already deployed there in order to repel Taliban advances and gain time for Washington and its NATO allies to build up the Afghan Army and police so they can hold their own.

They are reportedly opposed by Vice President Joseph Biden and several of Obama's top political advisers. Worried about growing opposition to the war among Democrats and polls showing that only about one-third of the public favour adding troops, they have argued for a much more modest escalation, if any at all.

They have been strengthened in recent weeks by published accounts of gross corruption on the part of the government of President Hamid Karzai, his brother and their cronies, and by the leak of a cable from Washington's ambassador in Kabul. Ret. Gen. Karl Eikenberry expressed great scepticism in that communication over whether adding troops would make any difference in the absence of wholesale – and, in his view, highly unlikely - changes in the government's performance.

Reports about the estimated costs of additional deployments – estimated at one million dollars per soldier per year – have also bolstered Biden's position.

Obama, who ruled out withdrawing U.S. troops last month, is now reportedly weighing several options - ranging from adding 10,000 troops to granting the Pentagon's full request.

He is also reportedly insisting that additional U.S. assistance be tied to "measurable" improvements in the government's performance, a message conveyed personally by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who attended Karzai's inauguration in Kabul Thursday.

In an interview Wednesday with CNN, Obama, who has been accused by right-wing critics, notably former Vice President Dick Cheney, of "dithering" over his decision, said he was "very close" to making one and expected to announce it "in the next several weeks".

On Iran, Obama pledged last spring that he would pursue his "engagement" policy with Tehran through the end of the year before assessing whether it should be continued.

With less than 45 days before the new year, however, Iran has failed to confirm an agreement in principle reached last month in Geneva between it and the so-called P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany) that would lower tensions over its nuclear programme.

The plan called for Tehran to export most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and France for reprocessing into fuel rods to be used for a research reactor in Tehran. Recent statements by senior Iranian officials that appeared to reject the plan have contributed to growing pessimism here that the deal will be accepted.

As a result, the so-called "Israel Lobby" and its allies in Congress have rallied behind a series of bills that would impose unilateral sanctions against Iran and third-country companies that do business with it.

With time running out, Obama himself appears to be putting greater emphasis on sticks rather than carrots, warning Thursday in Seoul that, "over the next several weeks, the (the P5+1) will be developing a package of potential steps that we could take that would indicate our seriousness to Iran".

The group is scheduled to meet Friday in Brussels. While Obama said he was "pleased" with what he called "the extraordinary international unity that we have seen" over the issue, Russia and China have repeatedly indicated their reluctance to impose sanctions. If maintained, their stance will impose very difficult choices on Washington very soon.

On top of all this, events in Israel and the Occupied Territories – most recently, Israel's approval this week of the construction of 900 housing units in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Gilo in East Jerusalem – has dealt a perhaps fatal blow to the Oslo framework that has guided the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" since 1993.

Coming after threats by senior Palestinian officials to resign in protest over Washington's refusal to back up its earlier demands for a halt to all Jewish settlement expansion, Obama himself warned Wednesday that the latest action by the Netanyahu government "embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous".

Even before the Gilo announcement, experts here were warning that a third intifada could break out at any time, with potentially disastrous consequences not only for Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, but also for Obama's efforts to restore Washington's image throughout the region.

*Jim Lobe's blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #48 on: November 23, 2009, 03:48:08 am »

They seek him here, they seek him there

By Imran Khan in  Asia  on November 22nd, 2009

Photo from AFP

The leader of Taliban forces in Pakistan, Mullah Omar, is on the move ... and possibly with the help of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

Mullah Omar, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has a free reign to travel around Pakistan, it would seem.

An American newspaper, quoting unnamed US intelligence sources, say the mysterious leader is in Karachi, and travelled there under the wing of Pakistani Intelligence.
The news has ruffled feathers here, drawn a strong response from Pakistan's Government denying the claim, and local newspaper editorials condemn the report as baseless.
But in America the story is getting some play. One senior adviser to the white house, Bruce Riedel spoke to me via email and suggested that it would make sense for a man who knows he is being hunted to hide. "Omar practices extraordinary operational security. He and the Taliban Shura (and ISI) know the NATO command has focused on Quetta so it would make sense to find another hideout, at least temporarily."
So, he could well be in hiding in Pakistan's commercial capital.  Many in the US administration simply do not trust the Pakistani's when it comes to the Taliban. They feel that Pakistan has an agenda that is out of step with US interests. The news could simply be a way of putting pressure on Pakistan to dance to the US's beat.
But the news does throw up some interesting questions,  Does Pakistani Intelligence support the leader of the Afghan Taliban?
Mullah Omar is intensely private man, very little information exists about him. He communicates with his commanders in Afghanistan via hand written notes, and keeps his inner circle small.  In Quetta, The capital of Baluchistan Province, the general wisdom was that he was able to operate freely because of the loyal nature of the people. Strangers stand out in Quetta.
By moving to Karachi Mullah Omar is taking a risk. One would assume that The US has intelligence assets within Pashtun community, and size and nature of the city mean information leaks.
But if Pakistan's Intelligence sources are supporting Omar to the extent that they are willing to move him,  then that is a game changer for the Taliban leader. The I.S.I's role in the Taliban's past is well documented, but what is less well understood is the role it plays in supporting the Afghan Taliban now.  But why, when the countries army is involved a fierce battle with the Pakistani Taliban would the countries intelligence services support the Afghan Taliban? The answer is may well be simple.
India and America
Pakistan is growing increasingly worried that India has begin to support Afghanistan and eroded Pakistan's influence there.  The is also a very real fear that the US will abandon Afghanistan soon.  The Taliban then provide a natural buffer to that influence and by supporting Mullah Omar you gain leverage. Omar comes from the countries Pashtun majority who are interwoven ethnically with Pakistan so on the surface at least there seems to be a reason to support the cleric.
This double game is shrouded in mystery and telling fact from fiction is incredibly difficult. Much of the ideas in this blog I have gleaned from Intelligence sources, military contacts and analysts. It's incredibly difficult getting anybody to go on the record explaining whether the ISI support the Taliban or not.
But what is clear is this. Pakistan has a role to play in Afghanistan. Officially at least Pakistan supports the government of Afghanistan, but given the complicated nature of Afghan politics there are some in Pakistani officialdom  who believe having an ace up your sleeve is not a bad idea, even if that ace is the Taliban.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #49 on: November 23, 2009, 07:03:16 am »
The Children’s Crusade

Posted By Jeff Huber On November 22, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

"It really boils down to one of two decisions, getting out or getting in."
– President Lyndon Johnson, speaking about Vietnam

"Soldiers came to school today," announced the kindergarten kid. “They only kill bad people. They don’t kill good people.” This story comes to us by way of Jon Letman of The kindergarten kid is his 5-year-old son.

Letman relates that:

"In his book The Limits of Power, Boston University history professor and retired Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich describes a near future in which the U.S. is in an almost constant state of war. He writes, ‘Rather than brief interventions ending in decisive victory, sustained presence will be the norm. … The future will be one of small wars, expected to be frequent, protracted, perhaps perpetual.’ If Bacevich’s bleak assessment proves true, it’s no wonder the National Guard sees value in chatting up kindergarteners."

The 50-year Long War embraced by the Pentagon and its allies in the military-industrial-congressional complex is by far the most insidious policy ever dealt to the American public from the bottom of the deck. Sun Tzu noted more than 2,000 years ago that no nation ever profited from a long war.

Reuters reports, "U.S. defense spending in coming years must rise roughly six percent on average from the record sum sought by President Barack Obama this year just to meet current plans." So much for the peace dividend Big Daddy Bush promised us.

War has become America’s top export. Military recruiting is through the roof because of the poor economy. How pathetic it is that the most powerful nation on earth has nothing to offer its youth but war. Even more pathetic is the kind of war the nation has to offer them.

COIN, the acronym for counterinsurgency, has replaced air power and nuclear weapons as the latest "truth" in American warfare. COIN’s basic premise calls for "effective governance by a legitimate government." We don’t have effective or legitimate governance in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we’re not going to have it. Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite government will never "unify" with the Sunni and Kurd factions in Iraq, and Hamid Karzai’s Afghan government is a mob of drug dealers and warlords. We’re fighting wars that by our own definition are doomed to fail.

We’re fighting junk wars to prop up junk governments with junk strategies and we’re giving our kids junk body armor to fight them with.

And we’re recruiting children to keep these wars alive for as long as we can.

God help America.

House Minority Leader John Boehner and 14 other jackdaw Republicans have written a letter to President Obama about his "long overdue" decision about Afghanistan. "For over two months you have been engaged in a strategy review that has left the country, our military, and allies uncertain about your commitment to the war in Afghanistan and unsure about your will to do what is necessary to win this conflict," the letter reads.

There is no winning our conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq. We can pour national treasure and the blood of our young into those two sinkholes, two of the most corrupt countries on the planet, from now until kingdom come, and we won’t accomplish a gnat’s whisker’s bit of good.

The New York Times says that the U.S. has spent $53 billion on "relief and reconstruction" in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. The projects in include "tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools, and bridges."

But, but, but, "there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people."

So we have to stay there forever. Jolly old fun.

"Exacerbating the problem," says the Times, "Iraqi and American officials say that hundreds of thousands of Iraq’s professional class have fled or been killed during the war, leaving behind a population with too few doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, and others."

Who chased them out? Not Saddam Hussein. He’s deader than a door latch.

We may or may not manage to skulk our way out of Iraq. If the Pentagon has its way, we won’t. Desert Ox Ray Odierno, the American commander in Iraq, thinks the insurgency in that country may go on for another 15 years.

Underfed and sleep-deprived Stan McChrystal, our loopy commander in Afghanistan, wants to build a combined force of U.S., NATO, and Afghan troops of over a half million to pull off a nation-birthing project that will never end.

None of the wars we’re fighting have anything to do with our national security. Like it or not, the folks who have kept another 9/11 from happening are the folks in our Homeland Security apparatus – the FBI, NORAD, FAA, and the rest of the alphabet soup agencies that should have kept 9/11 from happening in the first place.

That military recruiters are aggressively targeting the kindergarten generation should alarm all of us. We "don’t kill good people"? Pluck me in the heart. We kill more civilians than bad guys. We create more bad guys than we kill.

We need to shut down the Pentagon’s Long War, and we need to keep military recruiters from molesting children.

If you haven’t seen it already, you must watch the Bill Moyers PBS show on how president Lyndon Johnson got sucked into the Vietnam War. Moyers gives us some extraordinary telephone conversation transcripts. LBJ knew escalating the war was a bad idea, but he feared that his Republican opponents, most notably Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, would rain bull poop on him if he didn’t do whatever Gen. William Westmoreland wanted him to do.

Like Mark Twain, I don’t believe that history repeats itself, but it often rhymes. President Obama has an opportunity to avoid LBJ’s tragic mistake. Let’s hope he takes it. I don’t want today’s preschoolers fighting in Afghanistan when they’re teenagers.

Read more by Jeff Huber
Overdue Process – November 19th, 2009
A Crock of COIN – November 18th, 2009
Our National Cognitive Dissonance – November 17th, 2009
Bad Apples – November 16th, 2009
Reading the Af-Pak Tea Leaves – November 15th, 2009


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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #50 on: November 24, 2009, 05:45:00 am »
USA Sets Up Death Squads In Afghanistan


November 23, 2009

IN POLITE COMPANY THEY DON'T CALL THEM DEATH SQUADS, instead they are euphemistically labelled "anti-Taliban militias". And the USA is pouring millions into the secretive program - the details of which they aren't even revealing to their allies. But we've seen this counter-insurgency strategy many times before.

The Americans used it in Nicaragua where they trained and armed Contras to fight against the leftist Sandinista government. Even earlier they used this strategy in Angola, funding the vicious UNITA army of Joseph Savimbi.

And, of course, they used it in Iraq as part of their divide on conquer strategy by stoking up a near civil war between Sunni and Shia militias, then co-opting the Sunnis into the Awakening movement to crush Al Qaeda, then turning on them - or allowing the Shiite-led government to turn on them. In every case it has meant the most horrendous escalation of violence as village is turned against village, neighbour against neighbour. The poor compete in brutality to get access to development funds by increasing their body count.

Alas, this is nothing new.

But, in this instance, it is the act of a desperate imperial force, which is fast losing ground, with defeat a widely mooted possibility. Over the weekend at the Halifax International Security Forum, a gathering of warmongers from Europe and the Americas, Canada's former army chief General Rick Hillier said that the West has "one last shot" in the next 18 months to get it right in Afghanistan. Former Republican presidential candidate, John McCain made clear what that means:

It's not going to be easy. Casualties will go up ... and it will require a degree of steadfastness that will try the governments not only of our allies, but in the United States as well, as public opinion may be not totally in favour of what we're doing.

Even America's staunchest ally in the region, Pakistan, is getting worried. According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, Pakistan officials are pressing Obama to negotiate with the Taliban leadership - including Mullah Omar, a key founder and leader - rather than sending thousands more troops, as the US military leadership want. Some Pakistani are already negotiating with the Taliban and think that a reconciliation plan is possible with Karzai as a powerless figurehead and power divided between the Pashtun majority and representatives of the other ethnic groups.

The US disagrees thinking, not unreasonably, that the Taliban have no reason to negotiate at the moment since they are on the ascendent. The trouble is, as the Pakistanis point out, if the Americans surge, Taliban will pour into Pakistan, destabilizing the country further, especially if the US continued to not guard the border. Clearly the Americans are hoping to get around some of this through their death squad strategy of peeling away the "moderate" or "non-ideological" Taliban using cash incentives. However, as the CSM article makes clear, many think this is a non-starter:

"The Americans have wasted a lot of time over this 'moderate Taliban' idea. It is never going to pan out. It misunderstands the Taliban phenomenon," said Simbal Khan, an analyst at Institute of Strategic Studies, a policy institute funded by the Pakistani government. "If you try to break off elements with cash, they'll take your money and still fight you."

What this demonstrates is the growth of tensions between two powers that have broadly the same goals but lack the ability to implement them on either sides of the borders they control. In the wilds of the Hindu Kush and Waziristan, neither the Americans nor the Pakistani military know how to defeat the insurgency. And the strain is starting to show.


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #51 on: November 24, 2009, 06:14:00 am »
South Asia
Nov 25, 2009 

A route for South Asian peace via Afghanistan

By Raja Karthikeya

As the war in Afghanistan takes a turn for the worse, the burden of blame has increasingly come to rest on the state of relations between India and Pakistan and their rivalry in Afghanistan. The conclusions of the report of General Stanley McChrystal, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, the recent bombing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, and the continuing reports in Pakistani media about Indians in Afghanistan being involved in fomenting the insurgency in Pakistan's Balochistan province, have ratcheted up tension between the neighbors.

It is therefore relevant to ask if Pakistan and India's interests in Afghanistan are indeed incompatible. It is indisputable that Pakistan and India have deeper cultural and historic relations with Afghanistan than perhaps any of the country's neighbors except Iran, and have a major stake in the stability and future of Afghanistan. But such is the two countries' post-partition history that one can sometimes read too much into it. Diplomacy requires fresh thinking and the courage to act on bold ideas. It needs leaving behind the baggage of history without necessarily forgetting it. If we peel through the layers of perceptions, we can find several converging interests.

Achieving convergence
First, there is a need to recognize that fears based on history are often exaggerated. For instance the fear of "strategic encirclement", a key argument with reference to Afghanistan. A commonly cited fear in Pakistan is that if there is a hostile regime in Kabul, in the event of a war with India, the Afghans would invade to claim Pashtun lands in their pursuit of creating Pashtunistan. And yet, in none of the Pakistan-India wars (1965 and 1971 being the most significant ones) did a government in Kabul commit aggression against Pakistan while the latter was distracted by the war with India.

In the case of India, a longstanding fear involves aggression by China to take advantage of an India-Pakistan conflict or in support of Pakistan. Yet, declassified archives show that during the 1971 war, despite the Richard Nixon administration's appeals in support of the Yahya Khan regime, the Chinese did not open a front against India.

Secondly, the Cold War is now over, and the neighbors must move away the vocabulary, sentiments and perceptions that were imposed on the subcontinent. The concept of "strategic depth", which dominates literature on Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan, is hardly relevant in an age of nuclear deterrence between the two neighbors.

There is also an equal need to dispel mutual misperceptions about the ethos that guides either country's foreign policy. For instance, hardly anybody in India today reads, much less admires, the Arthashastra, an archaic 4th century BC text whose Machiavellian tenets are often cited in Pakistan as the fountainhead of modern India's foreign policy towards Afghanistan. It would equally be a mistake for Indian strategists to believe that Pakistan's foreign policy, which has been highly pragmatic, is exclusively guided by religious identity.

In terms of perceptions, it would be delusional for either side to believe that territorial disputes, including Kashmir, in which both sides have enormous stakes, can be resolved through force (direct or covert), or that a policy of payback can ever act as an enduring deterrent.

Thirdly, as two nations that threw off the yoke of imperialism and achieved self-rule after decades of struggle, India and Pakistan are obligated to respect each other's sovereignty and, at the very least, recognize each other's stake in regional stability. No doubt both nations are aware that a break-up of the other country creates unparalleled dangers and instability. Therefore, repeating pledges to respect each other's territorial integrity and believing each other's pledge would help.

It also involves recognizing that both nations have a stake in South Asia and neither has an exclusive "sphere of influence", and neither can India dictate Pakistan's relationship with Bangladesh, nor Pakistan the relationship between India and Afghanistan. Diplomatic ties go a lot longer than the miles of border shared.

Fourth, either side should acknowledge that national interests are never static and evolve with time and changing ground realities. The respective interests of Pakistan and India vis-a-vis Afghanistan have changed considerably over the past three decades. Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan go well beyond containing Indian influence. The dominant reasons for Pakistan's involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s were to ensure a buffer against Soviet expansion that could be an existential threat to Pakistan, and to create conditions for the return of the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

But by the early 1990s, as ambassador S Iftikhar Ahmed has essayed, they had metamorphosed into a need to end the Afghan civil war, restore stability in Pakistan's neighborhood, and to create conditions for uninterrupted trade with Central Asia. This included courting several mujahideen members including, at times, leaders of the Northern Alliance.

India's objectives in Afghanistan have been equally diverse. India, which had been a peripheral player in Afghanistan in the 1980s, began to see its interest piqued in Afghanistan after what Zahid Hussain calls "the privatization of jihad" happened in the late 1980s - a situation in which non-state actors and individuals from across the world had begun declaring "jihad" (in a gross distortion of the word) in Afghanistan with no sanction of their respective states.

After the collapse of the mujahideen government, India's support to the Northern Alliance was predicated on regional stability and a fear of such non-state actors. The hijack of an Indian airliner to Kandahar in December 1999 and the subsequent drama in which the Taliban allowed the escape of the terrorists released by India in exchange for the passengers, and the fact that non-state actors like al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba freely used Afghanistan as a sanctuary in the late 1990s precipitated India's role today in Afghanistan. Understanding these interests would help reject the web of suspicion into which the neighbors have woven themselves.

Breaking the deadlock
After crossing the barrier of history, there is a need now to look ahead. This means that besides identifying the neighbor's national interests, one needs to appreciate his legitimate interests. As Rajmohan Gandhi recently wrote, "Indians should recognize that ties of geography, ethnicity and family bring to the Pak-Afghan relationship a depth that can never enter the India-Afghan relationship." To translate this into action, India should quietly encourage Afghanistan to resolve the Durand line dispute with Pakistan, a major source of concern for Pakistan's strategists.

India should never refrain from stating that it sees preserving Pakistan's territorial integrity as a priority. On its part, Pakistan should encourage rather than oppose India's efforts at infrastructure reconstruction in Afghanistan, the fifth-poorest country on the planet. Pakistan should also effectively act against the presence in Waziristan of groups like the Haqqani network, whose attack on the Indian Embassy last year and ties to other terrorist groups have threatened peace efforts between the two neighbors and between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The moot political question remains the Taliban. Here again, there is more convergence of interest between Pakistan and India than acknowledged. Pakistan and India have been in and out of favor of Afghanistan's Pashtuns in turn over the past two decades. But both India and Pakistan want the same - that Pashtuns have adequate representation in power in Kabul.

So should the Taliban be that Pashtun voice? The Afghan Taliban's agenda lacked (and continues to lack) any plan of governance. It also damaged Pakistan's relations with Iran and sowed the seeds of widespread Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian violence in the region - indeed, as a senior Pakistani diplomat of that era confessed, "after 1999, Pakistan's government could no longer affect the trajectory of the Taliban and they increasingly fell under the influence of the Arabs [that is, al-Qaeda]".

Given the fact that the Taliban today is more of an ideology and a worldview than a political movement, they are a threat to the subcontinent's stability. However, as long as an insurgent gives up the tag, violence and radical worldview of a Talib, he can be recognized as a legitimate voice of the Afghans and be reconciled with. Despite differences in articulation, this political vision is common to both Pakistan and India. In fact, Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna's recent statement supporting a political solution in Afghanistan can be seen as an allusion to this.

The benefits
There are at least four benefits accruable from believing in a convergence of interests. Having a strong, stable, pluralistic government in power in Afghanistan helps regional stability, secures Pakistan and almost by corollary, India.

Secondly, terrorism is a threat to both countries today, and sooner than later, the same elements threaten both countries - as in the case of Jaish-e-Mohammed, founded by Masood Azhar, one of the men released by India to the Taliban in Kandahar after the 1999 hijack. The group is since believed to have been involved in both the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and the recent attack on the Pakistan army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Thirdly, the two neighbors are the most energy-deficient nations in the region. Tapping into the energy resources of Central Asia (for example, through the trans-Afghanistan or TAPI pipeline) would help cater to their energy demand and also reduce their disproportionate dependence on the Middle East, especially as piracy and periodic saber-rattling between the West and Iran imperils oil supplies from the Gulf.

Fourth, allowing transit of Indian goods to Afghanistan would not harm the interests of Pakistan. On the contrary, the transit tolls from Indian goods can actually help the Pakistani government make up for the loss of coalition's goods traffic to former Soviet republics. Indeed, allowing Afghanistan-India two-way transit trade through Pakistan could lay the foundation for much-needed direct commerce between Pakistan and India.

Although the idea of recognizing converging interests is not new to diplomats on either side, it has often been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. However, arrival at this understanding should not be done in a back-channel process away from the glare of the media. There is a need to take the people along.

In the interim, the neighbors should desist from blaming each other for terrorist attacks. Conspiracy theories should be quickly de-legitimized. Diplomatic relations cannot fall prey to irrational rabble-rousers, talk-show hosts or conspiracy theorists. Instead of being a new theater for conflict, Afghanistan can be a new beginning for Pakistan-India relations. Exploring and building upon this convergence is our responsibility not just to the Afghan people, but to the people of India and Pakistan.

Raja Karthikeya is a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

(Copyright 2009, Raja Karthikeya)

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #52 on: November 26, 2009, 05:34:26 am »
War and Profits

by Stephen Fleischman |

November 25, 2009

We know why there are wars, and we've known it for a long time. Good wars, that is, necessary wars, not wars by powerful foreign invaders, wars that might threaten our country.

Everybody knows we're in the process of old-hat empire building, the kind designed by the British in the salad days of colonialism and for which they eventually took hits around the world by the likes of George Washington and Mahatma Gandhi.

No lessons learned there. President Obama is about to make a momentous decision on Afghanistan. He has been mulling over, for the last few weeks, how many more troops he will be sending to McChrystal, to further his counter-insurgency in that country. Ten thousand? Eighty thousand? Whichever, it's a process of foregone futility. And everybody knows it. But the mainstream media, heavy with punditry, spends endless hours hashing over every detail. And you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. The propaganda circle from government handout to media coverage is complete.

These graphs are provided by The Center for Public Integrity whose mission is to produce original investigative journalism to make institutional power more transparent and accountable. Just an example at random:

The Top 15 Private Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2004-2006

Name                                                                        Amount                                          Rank
Unidentified Foreign Entities                                        $20,435,870,190                                  1
KBR Inc (formerly known as Kellogg Brown and Root)       $16,059,282,020                                   2
DynCorp International (Veritas Capital)                           $1,838,156,100                                  3
Washington Group International Inc                                $1,044,686,850                                  4
IAP Worldwide Services Inc (Cerberus Capital Mngt LP)         $901,973,910                                  5
Environmental Chemical Corp                                            $899,701,070                                  6
L-3 Communications Holdings Inc                                      $853,535,680                                  7
Fluor Corp                                                                    $736,853,200                                  8
Perini Corp                                                                    $720,859,110                                 9
Orascom Construction Industries (OCI)                               $617,089,510                               10
Parsons Corp                                                                 $579,265,450                               11
First Kuwaiti General Trading And Contracting Company Wll     $495,404,500                              12
Blackwater USA                                                              $485,149,590                              13
Tetra Tech Inc                                                               $362,107,010                              14
AMEC PLC                                                                      $317,171,280                              15

Here's how the circle of influence works.

We elected Barack Obama to change all that, didn't we?

But Obama took over from Bush without missing a stroke. The faceless corporate oligarchy that runs this country has been around awhile. It ran Clinton and Bush, now runs Obama. (How far back do you want to take it?) Who are these oligarchs? Yes, there are factions within the oligarchy. They have their differences. They don't all agree. They represent different entities of industrial and corporate power. They have their collateral network. They are the pillars of capitalism. They are mostly unheard and unseen, but occasionally you may get a glimpse of a face... says this:

Zbigniew Brzezinski - Puppet Master of Obama?

"Zbigniew Brzezinski is the puppet master of Obama. This is a fact. Brzezinski is an 80-year old man from Poland who despises Russia. He was behind the catastrophic Carter administration. Brzezinski has the ultimate plan of preventing China from gaining access to African oil. China must have access to African oil or else the Chinese economy will recess rapidly. Brzezinski figures this will force China to invade the oil rich fields of southeast Russia just above North Korea. If China were to militarily take these oil fields from Russia, the two would obviously be at war which is what Brzezinski seeks. That plan is perfect in his eyes as it will weaken those two super-powers thus enabling American imperialism to regain strength. The real problem with this plan is that the Russians and Chinese are well aware of it. They know what Brzezinski intends to do. Unfortunately, the end result will most likely back fire on the west and produce world war III--China and Russia against the US and Europe."

The strategy of George W. Bush to keep the nation in a state of perpetual war was to keep the American public in a perpetual state of fear. Obama is continuing that strategy. We must keep an enemy in the cross-hairs.

Al Qaeda, of course, is the one that does the trick--an Islamic group calling for global jihad. They claimed responsibility for 9/11--blowing up the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City--for blowing a hole in the USS Cole, for bombing US embassies in Africa. Al-Qaeda has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries. They have instilled fear in many places. When you hear the words "Al Qaeda", think bogeyman.

The demonizing of the word "terror" didn't originate with George W. Bush. Ariel Sharon, army general and a former Israeli Prime Minister, and others before him, used the technique quite effectively. They turned just about every Palestinian into a "terrorist" which put the mission of Zionism on the road to a Greater Israel.

Sharon's own government found that he bore personal responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacre of Palestinians in September of 1982.

Acts like these notwithstanding, the United States has been a staunch ally of Israel and supporter, in this special relationship, through the years, despite its war-like moves against the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip and the adjoining country of Lebanon.

According to Kathleen and Bill Christison, writing in Counterpunch, the United States committed to giving Israel $30 billion over the next decade. The only stipulation to Israel's use of this cash gift is that it spends 74% of it to purchase U.S. military goods and services. Israel is, by far, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.

Not bad for our war industry. We can keep our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan going, and then some.

Do you like the idea of your son or daughter giving his or her life for the profits of KRB or DynCorp International?

I don't think anyone could call that "service to my country."


About author
Stephen Fleischman, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See, e-mail [email protected].


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #53 on: November 27, 2009, 07:29:16 am »
Wherein We Gaze into Our Inerrant Crystal Ball and Espy a Deadly Rat

by Arthur Silber

November 26, 2009

The mountains will be in labour; an absurd mouse will be born. -- Horace
So many meetings of the war council! So much intense deliberation over so many months! So many knowledgeable experts training their finely honed minds on the problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan! So many challenges to conventional wisdom and the policies inherited from the reviled Bush administration! So much independence of thought, sober reflection, and careful calibration of the array of competing objectives and concerns!

Truly, the operations of our government -- and if not of government generally, certainly of the Obama administration -- are a wonder to behold. We are comforted by their deliberate, subtle approach, we are bathed in the soothing liquid of their studious avoidance of easy slogans and empty rhetoric. These are profoundly thoughtful people, putting forth their best effort to arrive at the best solution for all concerned.

And so, so many people fall for this stinking load of unmitigated shit.

By way of stark and unforgiving contrast, I am a genuinely thoughtful and compassionate person. Follow along with me, and you can ignore the debate that will take place next week, when Obama gives his address on the "new" strategy for Afghanistan. There is a strategy, but it is assuredly not "new." Nor will there be anything the least surprising about the reactions to Obama's speech dribbling from the slack mouths operated by unfocused minds, and the debate, as on every other occasion, will miss every issue of significance.

Obama will offer something for everyone, although no one will be truly happy with the result. But this, we will be assured by the allegedly adult monitors of our behavior, is what real "compromise" means! In turn, this is a further demonstration of Obama's seriousness, of his willingness to make difficult decisions. No one is satisfied; therefore, he must be right! Aren't people even just slightly tired of this overused script? Not so that anyone in the ruling class need be concerned for more than a fleeting instant, if that.

Conservatives will take comfort from the fact that Obama appreciates that there are important objectives to be won. Obama fights on! They will go on to note, and to regret (or to deplore, or to condemn), that Obama isn't doing enough. Not enough troops, not on a fast enough timetable, no commitment to the clearcut, truly big victory that is required. Still, he's not retreating.

At least the conservatives exhibit a degree of consistency. They think the battle is crucial, so they are thankful Obama continues it, even if they regret (deplore, condemn) that his devotion to the cause doesn't match the intensity of theirs. The Democrats (and liberals and progressives) can't even stake a claim to minimal consistency. Some liberal groups threw their support behind the long fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan near the beginning of Obama's term. As for the others: if Bush had done what Obama will do, they would scream their protest many times a day. "Why, oh why are we in Afghanistan?," they would moan, loudly and repeatedly. "There's no reason for us to be there! Get out!"

Some progressives will say that, but their criticisms lack, shall we say, edge. After all, all this is actually Bush's problem. Bush is the one who started this business. Obama is trying to finish it, but remember, Obama is an adult. He understands that this is complicated. We need to be careful. And don't forget that Pakistan has nukes! Never mind that Israel does too, as does India, as do we (and we're the only ones who have used them, and lied about why we did).

Need I remind you that Obama is the commander in chief? It's not complicated in the least. In fact, the United States could leave, within three or six months. Announce the phased withdrawal of all U.S. personnel -- and then do it. We could do the same in Iraq. We won't do it in either case.

As I've said before about Iraq, and this is also true of Afghanistan: We. Are. Not. Leaving. As for why we aren't leaving, I'll explain that (again) in a moment. Let's first make a few notes about this New York Times story.

Obama is "determined to 'finish the job' in Afghanistan." Excellent! Perhaps we might ask an obvious question. We realize the answer must also be obvious, because almost no one feels the need to ask what it is. Exactly who gave us that "job"? Why, we did! Funny how that works. Let's briefly set that aside. What does Obama think the "job" is? This:
At a news conference in the East Room with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, Mr. Obama suggested that his approach would break from the policies he had inherited from the Bush administration and said that the goals would be to keep Al Qaeda from using the region to launch more attacks against the United States and to bring more stability to Afghanistan.
Did Al Qaeda ever "us[e] the region to launch...attacks against the United States"? Were other regions used to launch attacks? As I recall, certain of the people involved in the 9/11 attack trained in Europe, and others trained in...wait, hmm...oh, yes, the United States. Well, it's complicated, and Obama surely has information that can't be entrusted to feeble laypersons like you and me.

And did the Afghanis ask the U.S. "to bring more stability" to their backward, woebegone country? When did they do that? Have they asked recently? I may have missed it. It's hard to keep up with everything. But I understand that the United States represents "the culmination of human development" and similar kinds of good stuff. So of course we need to share the precious knowledge that is uniquely ours with others. Sometimes we have to do that even when those others don't want us to! That's how good we are. We've been doing that for a long, long time ("To conquer Mexico, in other words, would be to do it a favor.").

I appreciate that Obama is one heck of a nice guy. He cares very deeply what we think about all this:
"I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we’re doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive."
He's "very confident" that we'll all be "supportive." That's sweet. Are you "American people"? Am I? Who are these "American people"? And -- now I'm just saying this hypothetically, in an exercise of wildly fanciful imagination -- what if some of us aren't all that rah-rah and "supportive" of his plans? (Let's just assume we're "American people" for this fiction assignment.) What happens then? Back to the drawing board? Do we get invited to the White House for one of those "war councils"? That would be cool! Those meetings are in the Situation Room. That is way cool. I'm ready, Mr. President!

But hold on. What's this in the NYT story?
Though he and his advisers have drawn up benchmarks to measure progress and put pressure on the Afghan government to do its part, Mr. Obama offered no details in his public remarks on Tuesday. He was also silent on precisely what would constitute finishing the job in Afghanistan or how soon he envisioned being able to begin extricating the United States from the war there.
That sounds sort Maybe open-ended. But that can't be true! He's thoughtful, deliberate, careful Obama! And it's complicated! Besides, they've "drawn up benchmarks"! Didn't Bush have those in Iraq? I don't recall that Democrats found "benchmarks" all that consoling then. I'm probably not remembering that right. I'm sure they're completely consistent on this point, as on all the others. Surely they wouldn't say one thing when a Republican adopts a certain policy and another thing entirely when a Democrat adopts the same exact policy. That would never happen.

And I don't want to be an annoying pest -- I don't! Why would you think such a terrible thing? -- but the story points out another similarity to loathed administrations past:
One administration official involved in Afghanistan policy said the president and his top advisers were thinking in terms of "exit strategies" and not necessarily "exit timetables." He compared the current thinking to the "conditional engagement" that President George W. Bush used in Iraq.
Exit strategies! Conditional engagement! Sheesh, this is way above my pay grade, and yours too. Only thoughtful, serious adults can handle stuff like this. That's not you, not me. We should just shut up. Well, not just yet. We're badly behaved children.

Obama is going to "put pressure on the Afghan government to do its part." I'm sorry, but there's that same nagging question again. Did the Afghanis ask us to do that? They pleaded, "Hey, we're so stupid and backward that we can't figure out how to solve any of these problems ourselves. You're so fantastically smart, you have to help us! Help us, please, please, please?" I can see that if they'd said something like that, we'd have to help out. Especially since we're so good and noble and everything. Only a rotten person could say no when someone begged for help like that. We're definitely not rotten. As if!

Oh, I see that the Obama administration has "benchmarks" for Pakistan, too! I guess they begged for our help, as well. I miss a lot of news. What have I been doing? Why didn't you tell me all this? No wonder the U.S. and our economy are headed straight down the crapper. Look how many countries there are all around the world that are so much worse off than we are, and that are begging for our help! We can't be selfish and think only of ourselves! We have to do what we can. It's tragic that all those innocent civilians get killed and maimed, and it's a crying shame that things only seem to get worse. But all that only shows how miserable those countries are. It can't have anything to do with what we're doing.

Finally, after so many meetings and so much thoughtful deliberation and so many experts thinking outside the box and all that other inspiring work devoted to figuring out the very best course to take, we arrive here:
Although his aides told some allies that the troop increase would most likely be slightly below 30,000 — there are currently 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan — several officials said Mr. Obama did not appear completely settled on a final number.
Compromise! And no one is completely happy! That means this must be the right policy! And totally unexpected and unpredictable, too!

I mentioned that progressives (and also Obama himself very notably) seek to portray the Afghanistan dilemma as one created solely by Bush. That this is their view is indisputably true, as evidenced by this post. The full truth of this common progressive delusion is considerably worse than I've indicated:
Which brings us to Garry Wills' dismaying essay in the New York Review of Books about the political cost Obama will pay if he chooses, as he should, to resist the crushing domestic political imperatives to continue Bush's war in Afghanistan.

Can even someone as brilliant as Barack Obama [!!!] resolve this ghastly dilemma? Can he find a way both to avoid the bloody quagmire Bush - deliberately - left for the incoming president, and also serve for two terms? Wills seems to think it's all but impossible. Sadly, I agree.

Escalating the Afghanistan conflict will lead to disaster. Refusing to escalate it will lead to political ruin not only for Obama or the Democratic party, but for this country, which will be torn apart by the extreme right, even if there isn't a spectacular 9/11 attack after an American withdrawal.

Indeed, Digby is probably right: Obama will escalate, somehow. And countless American and Afghani lives will be sacrificed, for... what, exactly? Certainly not Hamid Karzai's corrupt government.

No. Escalation will likely have little to do with Afghanistan, or even foreign policy, but everything to do both with a sitting president's ambition as well as the prevention of an extreme right takeover in the next presidential election. Just like Vietnam. I hate the American far right as much as any liberal, but it is not worth getting people killed in Kandahar to prevent them from seizing power. If the US really is that far down the road to fascism, then escalating a pointless war will not prevent an imminent rightwing takeover.
According to this view, should Democrats be ousted from power, it is impossible that such a development could be the result of widespread dissatisfaction with the Democrats' performance -- arising out of, for example, the Democrats' refusal to do anything to alleviate in any substantial way the vast economic suffering of "ordinary" Americans even as the ruling elites increase their immense wealth and power still more, or the Democrats' (and progressives') insistence on enacting a "health care reform" bill that won't help you or me but will bring massive wealth and a forcibly guaranteed market to insurance companies already bloated by monumental wealth.

No, it couldn't be any of that -- although a person whose perspective is not deeply corrupted and distorted by the basest form of partisanship might reasonably conclude that Democratic failure on this scale is more than adequate reason to want to "throw the bums out." And even though this writer opposes "escalating a pointless war," he is entirely sympathetic to Obama's doing just that -- because, according to this blogger, Obama can't help it. Forget that he's president and commander in chief. Just like Johnson and Vietnam (nice little two-fer there), it's never the Democrats' fault. It's always the fault of someone else, and it's usually the fault of those crazy, evil rightwing fascists. They are evil, and they are responsible for all of it. This is political tribalism on an exceedingly primitive level: see, " Learning to Hate 'The Other'" for much more on that subject.

I just recently discussed this determined refusal to grant moral agency and responsibility to those in "our" tribe in, "The Plea of Helplessness, the Refusal of Responsibility, and Today's Progressives." As I wrote:
In terms of these issues, what today's progressives do is exactly what many conservatives did during the Bush years. Today, we must stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, for our enemies will not permit us to do otherwise. We must bail out Wall Street, for if we don't, our entire economy will collapse. We must provide the insurance companies a gigantic guaranteed market, a market delivered to the insurers by the threat of government force, for this is the only way we can take this necessary "first step." The Democrats and progressives repeatedly claim that they have no choice about any of it.

Precisely as was the case for many conservatives, it is now the case for the Democrats and progressives: nothing is their fault, and nothing is their responsibility. But as Tuchman and many others have proven at blistering length, not a single element of this argument is true: "[N]o matter how equal two alternatives may appear, there is always freedom of choice to change or desist from a counter-productive course if the policy-maker has the moral courage to exercise it."
To come back to Afghanistan, consider the other significant aspect of that blog entry: "Obama will escalate, somehow. And countless American and Afghani lives will be sacrificed, for... what, exactly? Certainly not Hamid Karzai's corrupt government." This raises an issue that I consider to be of special importance, one I will be discussing in further detail in some upcoming essays. This is only one example, albeit a very significant one, of a fundamental problem in thinking and analysis.

My brief label for the problem is this: compulsive avoidance and denial. I don't mean that in a "clinical" sense, as if I were improperly presuming to offer some sort of technical, "scientific," psychological diagnosis in an individual case. I mean it only in the lay sense of identifying the mechanism revealed by the analysis itself, or rather the failure of analysis.

The critical point of this extended consideration of the absurdity of Obama's concocted drama and PR campaign prior to the (hopefully) widely anticipated announcement of his "new" strategy is that the outcome was never in even the slightest degree of doubt. The mountains have appeared to labour mightily -- with strong emphasis on "appear," for image and PR is not the main thing at this stage of the disintegration of the American Empire, it's the only thing -- and they have finally produced what anyone who understands U.S. foreign policy could easily have predicted before this entirely phony marketing campaign even began. We might wish that the result was the birth of an "absurd mouse"; in fact, this process has produced a deadly rat -- the deadly rat that is U.S. global hegemony, the goal of the American ruling class for many decades.

I've written before about the common lament, one voiced by many writers in addition to this one example: "Why, oh why are we in Afghanistan?" To ask this question is to confess an astonishing ignorance of U.S. history and foreign policy. The ignorance is far more remarkable because the goal of U.S. global hegemony has been announced repeatedly by countless individuals, over a very long period of time.

I discussed this issue at length just a month ago: "The Denial Continues, and the Horror Remains Unrecognized." Both because people often don't follow links and because it appears I will have to repeat this countless times before it begins to sink in, I provide you this excerpt:
The endless appeals to "spreading democracy," fostering "stable governments," and all the rest are nothing but marketing and public relations. They are the camouflage for the actual purposes of our government's actions. You can dissect and demolish those purported justifications for U.S. policy all you wish; our leaders don't care about any of that, no matter how successful your demolition efforts are, because all of that is completely irrelevant. But our leaders and most commentators do love the marketing, so with only very rare exceptions, their analysis and even their criticisms remain on this superficial level.

The actual reasons that drive U.S. policy aren't hidden. Again, the evidence is spread before you in plain sight: all you have to do is look at and understand it. I discussed the general contours of U.S. foreign policy for over the last hundred years in a piece just the other day: "The Empty Establishment: No One's Home in an Intellectual Wasteland." With regard to our presence in Afghanistan, a presence which will continue in one form or another for decades to come barring unforeseen developments (or possibly a regional conflagration, which would most likely be set off by a U.S. attack on Iran), I direct you to an invaluable article by the indispensable Robert Higgs. The article first appeared over a year ago, and I've been meaning to discuss it ever since.

I strongly recommend you read every word of it, several times at a minimum: "CENTCOM's Master Plan and U.S. Global Hegemony."
This is perhaps the key paragraph from Higgs:
It comes as no surprise, then, that of all the unified commands, CENTCOM is the one in which, in today’s world, the U.S. empire’s rubber meets the road most abrasively. The command’s area of responsibility includes a great part of the world’s known petroleum and natural gas deposits, a preponderance of Israel’s enemies, and the places in which the George W. Bush administration has chosen to focus its so-called Global War on Terror. Of course, the region also includes Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces have been fighting for years, and, sandwiched between these two battlefields, Iran, where Dick Cheney and the rest of the neocons ardently desire to extend the fighting at the earliest opportunity.
Following the Higgs excerpt, I said:
This is the general policy that Obama continues, and that he will continue into the foreseeable future. He made his intentions clear from the beginning of his campaign, and nothing has changed. Nor will it, certainly not insofar as Obama is concerned. ...

So all of the feigned bafflement and incessant caterwauling about the supposedly indecipherable actions of the United States -- Why, oh why, did we invade Iraq?, and Why, dear God, are we in Afghanistan? -- represent only the capitulation of the purported critics to precisely those arguments U.S. leaders hope you will engage. They want you to spend all your time on those arguments, because they're only marketing ploys having nothing at all to do with their actual goals. As I said the other day, if you want to stop this murderous madness -- and I dearly hope you do -- forget about what they say their goals are (fostering "democratic" governments, "regional stability," "security," and all the associated claptrap), and focus on the real problem: the carefully chosen policy of U.S. geopolitical dominance over the entire globe. On the day Obama announces the scheduled closure of at least one-third of the U.S.'s worldwide empire of bases, I'll believe he's serious about altering any of this, and not a moment before. He never will, and you know he won't. (I myself would prefer the closure within three to six months of three-quarters of them at a minimum. But contrary to some of my critics, I actually do reside in this world, and not the one I would prefer.)

Higgs' argument and those I consistently make explain the U.S. presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in countless other places around the world.
That last link goes to one of the essays in my "Dominion Over the World" series. Two other essays in that series speak to this point, and the nature and purposes of U.S. foreign policy for more than the last half century: "The Open Door to Worldwide Hegemony," and "Global Interventionism -- A Disastrous Policy Supported by Indefensible Ideas." (All of the essays in that series are listed at the conclusion of this post.)

I will be blunt: if you don't understand this, you understand nothing about U.S. foreign policy and the considerations that gave rise to it and that drive it today. As a result, you will never grasp why we're in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Africa, or anywhere else. If you persist in asking questions that have been answered clearly and unmistakably time and again, and if your bafflement is not "feigned" but genuine, you have, as I said, understood nothing.

It may be that you think the goal of U.S. geopolitical dominance is profoundly irrational and evil, and necessarily brutal and murderous on a vast scale. If so, I fully agree with you. That is why I oppose it so deeply. But surely you should be able to see that that is a separate issue entirely. They have a plan and a goal, and they have told you what it is over and over. Believe them. You have countless reasons to credit their repeated proclamations as true, and not a single reason to doubt the veracity of what they say. Why people refuse to believe what is demonstrably true and why they continue to resist the truth with every breath are crucial questions. That is why I will discuss some of the answers in more detail.

In the meantime, Obama's Afghanistan policy will continue, in broad outline (and it would appear even in many specifics), what has been U.S. foreign policy for many awful, blood-drenched years. That isn't news; it's what we've done and what we continue to do all the time. And there will be no news made next week. Obama may offer a new marketing phrase or a nifty slogan, but to judge from the NYT story and many similar ones, even superficial unexpected developments appear unlikely in the extreme. If there is even a single significant element of genuine surprise in what Obama says and in what transpires in the subsequent public debate, I will be amazed.

So feel free to ignore next week's news, certainly as far as this story is concerned. You will miss absolutely nothing of consequence.


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #54 on: December 02, 2009, 10:09:34 am »
Oppose Obama’s escalation of the Afghan-Pakistan war!

Withdraw all troops now

World Socialist Web Site editorial board

2 December 2009

Obama’s speech last night, which packaged the deployment of an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan as the prelude to withdrawal, was a cynical exercise in evasion, double-talk and falsification.

The new deployment is a major escalation of an unpopular war that will lead to the deaths of countless thousands of Afghanis and Pakistanis and a significant rise in US casualties. Indeed, many of the West Point cadets who were assembled to listen to the president’s speech will be sent to Afghanistan to fight in a war that the majority of Americans oppose.

Obama’s invocation of the attacks of September 11, 2001 to portray the war as a defense against terrorism is a fraud. The real reason for the occupation of Afghanistan—widely discussed within the foreign policy establishment—is to maintain a dominant position in oil-rich Central Asia in the interests of the global strategy of American imperialism.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which then-president Jimmy Carter denounced as an illegal act of international aggression. What was not widely known at the time is that the US deliberately provoked Moscow to undertake its military adventure by financing and arming Mujahedeen guerrillas opposed to the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. Among those on the CIA payroll were Osama bin Laden and current leaders of the Taliban.

The result of this imperialist policy, authored by then-national security adviser and current foreign policy adviser to Obama, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has been three decades of war, civil war and social devastation. The Obama administration is intensifying this colonialist enterprise.

No credibility can be given to Obama’s talk of beginning the withdrawal of troops in July of 2011. This supposed timeline was hedged by references to "conditions on the ground." Moreover, it was followed by statements to the effect that the war in Afghanistan is only one of many military interventions to come.

"The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly," Obama said, "and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan." Calling this struggle an "enduring test," Obama went on to speak of "disorderly regions and diffuse enemies," mentioning by name Somalia and Yemen.

In reality, the US colonial enterprise in Central Asia is open-ended. The Washington Post on Monday cited a US official as saying, "Our game is to convince them [the Pakistani military] that our commitment to Afghanistan and the region is long-term. We’re not going to pack up our bags and leave them as soon as we’re done."

Far from Obama’s escalation hastening an end to the war, it creates the conditions for new and even greater military conflagrations. The injection of additional troops will further inflame tensions in the region and beyond—between Pakistan and India, India and China, Iran and the US, Russia and China and the US.

Perhaps the biggest lie is the claim that the war is being waged to protect the Afghan people. They overwhelmingly oppose the US-led foreign occupation.

Obama’s decision means that 2010 will be a year of increased death and destruction in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. A central focus of the new US deployment is to "lock down" Kandahar, a center of insurgent opposition to the US-NATO occupation. This can only mean a drive to terrorize the local population and kill as many insurgents and ordinary Afghans suspected of sympathizing with the resistance as possible.

At the same time, the US is threatening to launch ground operations on Pakistani soil, in addition to the drone missile attacks that are killing hundreds of Pakistani civilians. The Washington Post, reporting Monday on the recent visit to Islamabad by Obama’s national security adviser, retired Marine General James L. Jones, cited an American official as saying, "If Pakistan cannot deliver, he [Jones] warned, the United States may be impelled to use any means at its disposal to rout insurgents based along Pakistan’s western and southern borders with Afghanistan."

The cost to the peoples of Central Asia is incalculable. The American people are to pay for the war policy of the US ruling elite with the loss of thousands more lives, the squandering of trillions in resources, unprecedented attacks on social services, and the further erosion of democratic rights.

The most glaring contradiction in a speech shot through with contradictions was Obama’s attempt to disentangle the war in Afghanistan from the war in Iraq. "I opposed the war in Iraq," he said, "precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force …" But he was unable to establish any essential difference between that criminal enterprise and his war in Afghanistan.

Obama’s escalation is yet another flagrant violation of the will of the American people. In one election after another, they have gone to the polls to express their hostility to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In every case, their will has been ignored and the wars have been expanded.

Obama won the presidency by running as an opponent of the Iraq war and appealing to popular opposition to militarism. Once in office, he quickly increased the US deployment in Afghanistan by 21,000, while reneging on his promise to carry out a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. Now he is increasing the total US troop level in Afghanistan to 100,000, more than double the level under Bush.

As with his pro-Wall Street economic policy and his assault on democratic rights, Obama, in his military and foreign policy, is continuing and deepening the reactionary program of Bush. The decision to expand the war in Central Asia is a devastating exposure of the entire US political system. Both parties and Congress are instruments of a ruling financial aristocracy, whose interests they defend in opposition to the needs and views of the working class, the vast majority of the population.

Of immense significance is the international line-up of imperialist powers behind the US-led war. The participation of Britain, Germany, France and other powers in the war constitutes an international onslaught aimed at subordinating the entire region to imperialist interests. Every one of these governments is acting in defiance of the antiwar sentiments of its population.

This underscores that the fight against war requires an international struggle of the working class against world imperialism and the capitalist system, which is the root cause of war.

In the United States, the fight against war can be waged only as a struggle against the Obama administration, the two-party system and the American financial oligarchy. It must be based on a socialist and internationalist program, and the building of a new leadership in the working class to fuse the fight against war, unemployment, poverty and attacks on democratic rights into an independent political struggle for a workers’ government.

This is the program of the Socialist Equality Party and the International Committee of the Fourth International. All those who are opposed to imperialist war should make the decision to join and build the SEP as the new revolutionary leadership of the working class.

World Socialist Web Site editorial board


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #55 on: December 03, 2009, 05:37:47 am »
Obama's Af-Pak is as Whack as Bush's Iraq

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford


December 2, 2009

"More occupation means less occupation."

Barack Obama’s oratorical skills have turned on him, revealing, as George Bush’s low-grade delivery never could, the perfect incoherence of the current American imperial project in South Asia. Bush’s verbal eccentricities served to muddy his entire message, leaving the observer wondering what was more ridiculous, the speechmaker or the speech. There is no such confusion when Obama is on the mic. His flawless delivery of superbly structured sentences provides no distractions, requiring the brain to examine the content – the policy in question – on its actual merits. The conclusion comes quickly: the U.S. imperial enterprise in Afghanistan and Pakistan is doomed, as well as evil.

The president’s speech to West Point cadets was a stream of non sequitors so devoid of logic as to cast doubt on the sanity of the authors. "[T]hese additional American and international troops," said the president, "will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."

Obama claims that, the faster an additional 30,000 Americans pour into Afghanistan, the quicker will come the time when they will leave. More occupation means less occupation, you see? This breakneck intensification of the U.S. occupation is necessary, Obama explains, because "We have no interest in occupying your country."

"The U.S. imperial enterprise in Afghanistan and Pakistan is doomed, as well as evil."
If the Americans were truly interested in occupying Afghanistan, the logic goes, they would slow down and stretch out the process over many years, rather than mount an 18-month surge of Taliban-hunting. The Afghans are advised to hold still – the pulsating surge will be over before they know it.
At present, of course, the Americans have assumed all "responsibility" for Afghanistan – so much so that President Hamid Karzai only learned about Obama’s plans earlier on Tuesday during a one-hour tele-briefing. This is consistent with Obama’s detailed plans for Afghan liberation, under U.S. tutelage. The president is as wedded to high stakes testing of occupied peoples as he is for American public school children. "This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over," said the Occupier-in-Chief. He continued:
"And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We will support Afghan Ministries, Governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable."

Such rigorous oversight of their country’s affairs should keep Afghan minds off the fact that they have been fighting to remain independent of foreign rule for centuries, if not millennia. If Obama is right, Afghans might also be distracted from dwelling on the question of who their "Ministries, Governors, and local leaders" are answerable to – the Afghan people or the Americans?
"Obama advises Afghans to be patient and trusting regarding their sovereignty."

Although President Obama is anxious to bring U.S. troop levels above 100,000 as quickly as possible, he advises Afghans to be patient and trusting regarding their sovereignty. "It will be clear to the Afghan government, and, more importantly, to the Afghan people, that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country." That is, it will become clear in the fullness of time, but hopefully no later than 18 months after the planned surge begins. If all goes well, the Taliban will be dead or nearly so, and the non-Taliban Afghans will be prepared to begin assuming "responsibility for their own country." If not, then the Americans will be forced to continue as occupiers – reluctantly, of course, since, as the whole world and the more intelligent class of Afghans know, the Americans "have no interest in occupying your country" – unless they have to.

Should the Afghans become confused about American intentions, they might consult with their Pakistani neighbors, for whom President Obama also has plans.
"[We] have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear," the president declared. "America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting."

Obama did not mention that it was the Americans that coerced and bribed the Pakistani military into launching the attacks that displaced over a million people in the Swat region and hundreds of thousands more in border areas. How nice of them to join in humanitarian assistance to the homeless.
The Pakistanis, like the Afghans, were assured the Americans will not abandon them to their own, independent devices. Said Obama: "And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed."

Some Pakistanis might consider that a threat. According to polling by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, only 16 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States in 2009. Actually, that’s a point or two higher than U.S. popularity in Occupied Palestine (15 percent) and Turkey (14 percent), the only other Muslim countries on the Pew list.

Not to worry. Obama knows things that escape the rest of us. For example, the fact that "we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World - one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity."

Which means, we can expect those polling numbers to start going up, soon.
"Only 16 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States in 2009."
When Obama isn’t launching bold initiatives and "new beginnings," he’s busy taking care of U.S. imperial business as usual. Obama is most proud that the U.S. spends more on its military than all the rest nations of the planet, combined.

"[T]he United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades," he told the cadets, "a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty." Others might not view the rise of U.S. hegemony in such a positive light. But they are wrong, said the president. "For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation's resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours."

In Obama’s worldview, it’s the thought that counts. Americans don’t seek world domination; it just comes to them. "We do not seek to occupy other nations," they leave us no choice. If it were not for American concern for the welfare of all the world’s people, the U.S. would not maintain 780 military bases in other people's countries.

Obama has certainly matured as an American-style statesman in his nine and a half months in office. As a TV Native American might say, "Black man in white house speak like forked tongued white man." Only better.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].



Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #56 on: December 04, 2009, 08:12:45 am »
Turbulent Pakistan presents a conundrum for Barack Obama

Anti-US feeling running high as CIA drones take a civilian toll

A Reaper drone, as used by the CIA and American military in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

December 3, 2009

It is one of the ironies of America's war: while close to 100,000 troops will soon be deployed inside Afghanistan, Obama's core enemy – the men who plotted the 9/11 attacks – are located across the border in Pakistan.

In his West Point speech, Obama identified the tribal belt that straddles the two countries as the "epicentre of the violent extremism practised by al-Qaida". There, he said, "new attacks are being plotted as I speak".

If it is a chilling thought, few Pakistanis appreciate it. Anti-American feeling is running at fever pitch in a country with deep-rooted hostility towards Washington and an increasingly hawkish media.

Many Pakistanis see the US military presence in their region as the cause of militant extremism, not its cure. Reaction to Obama's speech was ambivalent, with rightwing commentators insisting his true aim is to invade Pakistan and capture its nuclear weapons.

"If you ask me, the surge is really meant for Pakistan," said Hamid Gul, a former chief of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

The hostility means that, in Pakistan, Obama relies more heavily on spies than soldiers. Obama's favoured tactic has been the use of CIA-operated pilotless drones, which have made over 80 strikes in the tribal belt since 2006, half of them this year. Targets included the Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, killed last August, and al-Qaida leaders. Today the New York Times said the CIA is pushing to extend drone strikes into Balochistan province, further west along the Afghan border.

A former US official said a committee of US agencies regularly updates a list of drone targets, which it shares with Pakistani authorities. "They tell the Pakistanis that if they don't take these people out, we will," he said.

While the drones put few American lives in danger, they still carry substantial risks. Strikes that have killed at least 750 people in the past two years have provoked public hostility. Any move into Balochistan is likely to spark a fierce backlash.

The US strategy in Pakistan is to "drive a wedge between transnational jihadists of al-Qaida and their local Taliban allies," said Kamran Bokhari of the thinktank Stratfor. The difficulty is that some Taliban – for instance, Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan – enjoy tacit alliances with the Pakistan military, which considers the "good" Taliban as a ticket to influence in Afghanistan once the US withdraws. "There is a divergence of interests," said Bokhari.

Obama's conundrum is complicated by turbulent politics. President Asif Ali Zardari looks more beleaguered than ever. To appease his critics, Zardari has relinquished control over Pakistan's nuclear weapons. But the gesture – the weapons are really controlled by the military – has done little to silence his media critics, who daily cry for his removal. The strife makes Washington deeply uneasy.


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #57 on: December 05, 2009, 06:01:58 am »
Afghanistan and Pakistan: Not Just About Al Qaeda Any More

A senior administration official explains to AlterNet why the Pakistan mission has broadened.

By Adele Stan, AlterNet
Posted on December 2, 2009, Printed on December 5, 2009

Listening to the president's speech last night, you may have come away thinking that the U.S. mission in South Asia was largely about depriving al Qaeda its bases of operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Our overarching goal remains the same:  to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future," said President Barack Obama.

This is the mission Congress authorized President George W. Bush to pursue in 2001.

Yet if you listened to the subtext of the speech, you might find that the mission has changed. In fact, you might say that the mission in Afghanistan is as much about creating stability in Pakistan -- a nuclear power that NBC's Andrea Mitchell yesterday referred to as a nearly failed state -- as it is about Afghanistan. Last night, a senior administration official confirmed to AlterNet that the U.S. mission to Pakistan has broadened.

From the president's speech:

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly.  Those days are over.  Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.  America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development.  We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting.  And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

In truth, the largest threat to the U.S. from Pakistan is not al Qaeda, or even, as the president suggested, the "cancer" of extremism spilling over the Pakistan border from Afghanistan. The real threat is Pakistan's homegrown extremists, who have always been there, and with the shakiness of Pakistan's democracy, have been emboldened. Bomb attacks on civilians by Pakistani Taliban and its allies in cities across Pakistan reached a fever pitch in October and early November.  Yet the attacks appear to have been fueled, in part, by U.S. military policy in the region.

Drone attacks on villages in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Provinces -- attacks that appear to be part of a covert U.S. program -- have enraged local Pashtun leaders. After a bomb attack in a Peshawar bazaar killed more than 100 on October 28, a Pashtun-language banner was unfurled that condemned the purchase of a local luxury hotel by the U.S. for use as a consulate by equating the U.S. government with the mercenary force that provides security for U.S. aid projects in the region. "Handing the Pearl Continental to Blackwater is a grave injustice," the banner read, according to Assam Ahmed of the Christian Science Monitor.


Which leads to the trickiness of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan. For many years, the U.S. has been held in low esteem by the Pakistani people. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the U.S. armed Pakistan to the teeth, and helped solidify the position of the despotic dictator, Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. Then, once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the U.S. abandoned Pakistan, its democracy in tatters.

As the U.S. has pressed the Pakistani military to pursue extremists within its borders, the blowback has fallen on the Pakistani people, as the Taliban and its allies unleashed terror on civilian populations. The Obama administration appears to be hoping to balance the cost to the Pakistani people for the war on extremists with a broader mission that includes greater economic and development assistance to Pakistan, by the U.S. and the international community.

"What we realized," a senior administration official told AlterNet, "is that while narrow efforts to address some of the immediate security threats are critical, if we really want to achieve our overall goal, we need ... to help Pakistan overcome a whole series of economic and security challenges that undermine its stability. You know, it's overall Pakistani stability that's in our interest."

Another senior official cited the recent visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistan as part of that broadened mission. During her visit, Clinton conducted town-hall meetings in Lahore and Islamabad, where she got an earful about the apparent U.S. role in Pakistani counter-insurgency operations. Clinton also forcefully and publicly condemned the attack on the Peshawar bazaar, which occurred during her stay in Pakistan.

Despite the skepticism Clinton faced, the official said, her visit led to a "significant uptick" in positive "perceptions of America." In addition to such public diplomacy, said the official, "we're working on a new assistance strategy to address Pakistan's very significant needs in terms of energy, water and economic reform to help the Pakistani people." The combined approach of "people-to-people" outreach, development aid should lead to "decreasing the appeal of extremists if we are able to help the Pakistani government and people with some of their major needs," the official said.

While it may be tempting to deride the new policy as "mission creep," it's hard to see how the U.S. mission in Pakistan and Afghanistan could have remained static, as conditions on the ground have not, and have deteriorated largely due to the neglect of the region by the Bush administration.

The development and public diplomacy aspect of the U.S. approach to Pakistan seems wise. I remain deeply concerned, however, about unforeseen outcomes in the war against Pakistani extremists.


Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #58 on: December 07, 2009, 09:18:23 am »
Obama pleases the neocons  

(Reuters) Obama’s order to dispatch 30,000 more US troops is being welcomed by neoconservatives.

07/12/2009 01:30:00 PM GMT
Because of the Iraq calamity, other elements of the neocon vision of remaking the ME were put on hold. But the neocons haven’t yet given up on the idea of a military strike against Iran.

By Robert Parry

President Barack Obama’s escalation of the Afghan War has upset many rank-and-file Democrats who had hoped for a more peaceful strategy, but Obama’s order to dispatch 30,000 more U.S. troops is being welcomed by neoconservatives, a group that has long favored U.S. military interventions in Muslim lands.

After Obama’s West Point speech on Tuesday, the neocons gloated over their success in turning the Obama administration’s deliberations on Afghanistan toward an Iraq-like “surge” and away from negotiations aimed at winding down the eight-year-old war.

The Washington Post’s editorial pages, which have become the flagship for neocon opinion, sounded almost giddy.

On Thursday, the lead editorial cheered Obama for falling in line behind the hawkish recommendations of Gen. Stanley McChrystal; mocked Vice President Joe Biden for claiming he had reined in McChrystal’s ambitious schemes; and praised the President for accelerating McChrystal’s timetable for deployment.

“This will make the escalation a true ‘surge’ and raise its chances for success,” the Post editors declared.

On the adjoining op-ed page, leading neocon Robert Kagan dismissed anyone who opposed this military escalation as an effete defeatist.

“People talk about American decline, but these days it is not in the basic measurements of national power that American decline is to be found; it is in the willingness of the intellectual and foreign policy establishments to accept both decline and defeat,” wrote Kagan, who curiously is attached to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

On Wednesday, the Post gave space to another prominent neocon, William Kristol, to sniff at the sop that Obama had extended to the Left, his promise to begin withdrawal of US forces by July 2011. Kristol noted “thankfully” that Obama’s target date represented only a “pseudo-deadline” that could be readily pushed aside.

Kristol also expressed pleasure that Obama had bowed to pressure from the Pentagon and from neoconservative opinion leaders to expand the Afghan War and to accept George W. Bush’s mantle as “war president.” Kristol wrote:

“By mid-2010, Obama will have more than doubled the number of American troops in Afghanistan since taking office; he will have empowered his general, Stanley McChrystal, to fight the war pretty much as he thinks necessary to in order to win; and he will have retroactively, as it were, acknowledged that he [Obama] and his party were wrong about the Iraq surge in 2007.

“He also will have embraced the use of military force as a key instrument of national power.”

Framing the debate
To read the neocons celebrating how they had turned Obama into a more articulate version of Bush in less than a year in office makes one marvel at both their remarkable arrogance and their genuine influence in framing the debates of Washington’s opinion circles.

After all, these are the same people who have been bungling US foreign policy for the past three decades. Neocons played key roles in the worst screw-ups of the 1980s, including the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal and the intelligence failure of first exaggerating the Soviet Union’s strength and then missing its collapse.

But those blunders were only a warm-up for what the neocons would do in the post-Cold War period as they trumpeted American triumphalism and demanded that US policymakers not hesitate to throw American military weight around.

With the arrival of George W. Bush’s administration, the neocons found themselves in possession of the keys to the war machine – and they locked their sights on unfriendly regimes in the Middle East, especially Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

After the 9/11 attacks, the neocons' moment had arrived. So, on Sept. 20, 2001, with the remains of New York City’s Twin Towers still smoldering, the neocon Project for a New American Century (PNAC) urged Bush to wipe the Middle East’s slate clean of any regime or movement hostile to Israel or the United States.

The invasion of Iraq was to be simply the first chess move in this strategy. The next would be the elimination of regimes in Iran and Syria if they continued to support Israel’s enemies in Lebanon’s Hezbollah and inside Palestine.

Beyond removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, Bush should “demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial and political support for Hezbollah and its operations,” said the letter signed by The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and 40 other neocons and allies.

The signers then added: “Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism.”

And, the Bush administration was told to spare no expense in this endeavor.

“A serious and victorious war on terrorism will require a large increase in defense spending,” said the letter. “We urge that there be no hesitation in requesting whatever funds for defense are needed to allow us to win this war.”

Attacking Afghanistan
However, first, the Bush administration had to at least make a show of going after Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders judged responsible for killing nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11 – and those targets were in Afghanistan living under the protection of the Taliban.

So, in October 2003, Bush ordered an attack against Afghanistan, though committing few regular US troops and relying mostly on air power along with CIA officers and US Special Forces on the ground who coordinated with Afghan warlords opposed to the Taliban.

The initial phase of the Afghan War went smoothly. Taliban forces crumbled under the massive US aerial bombardments and abandoned the capital of Kabul. Soon, bin Laden and his top lieutenants were fleeing to their old base camps in the mountains of Tora Bora, near the Pakistani border.

The small team of American pursuers believed they had bin Laden trapped and called for reinforcements to seal off possible escape routes to Pakistan and to mount assaults on al-Qaeda’s mountain strongholds, according to a newly released analysis of the Tora Bora battle by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But the Senate report found that by then Bush had turned his attention to Iraq, as the neocons wanted. Instead of staying focused on capturing bin Laden and destroying al-Qaeda, Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks was instructed to begin planning for an invasion of Iraq. The Senate report said:

“On November 21, 2001, President Bush put his arm on Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld as they were leaving a National Security Council meeting at the White House. ‘I need to see you,’ the president said. It was 72 days after the 9/11 attacks and just a week after the fall of Kabul. But Bush already had new plans.”

Citing Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack, the Senate report quoted Bush as asking Rumsfeld, “What kind of war plan do you have for Iraq?”

In an interview with Woodward, Bush recalled instructing Rumsfeld to “get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to.” Rumsfeld then had the Joint Chiefs of Staff draft a message asking Franks for a new assessment on fighting a war with Iraq, the Senate report said.

In his memoir, American General, Franks said he got a phone call from Rumsfeld on Nov. 21, after the Defense Secretary had met with the President, and was told about Bush’s interest in an updated Iraq war plan.

At the time, Franks said he was in his office at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida working with one of his aides on arranging air support for the Afghan militia who were under the guidance of the US Special Forces in charge of the assault on bin Laden’s Tora Bora stronghold.

Franks told Rumsfeld that the Iraq war plan was out of date, prompting the Defense Secretary to instruct Franks to “dust it off and get back to me in a week.”

“For critics of the Bush administration’s commitment to Afghanistan,” the Senate report noted, “the shift in focus just as Franks and his senior aides were literally working on plans for the attacks on Tora Bora represents a dramatic turning point that allowed a sustained victory in Afghanistan to slip through our fingers. Almost immediately, intelligence and military planning resources were transferred to begin planning the next war in Iraq.”

Losing Bin Laden
The CIA and Special Forces teams, calling for reinforcements to finish off bin Laden and al-Qaeda, “did not know what was happening back at CentCom, the drain in resources and shift in attention would affect them and the future course of the US campaign in Afghanistan,” the Senate report said.

Henry Crumpton, who was in charge of the CIA’s Afghan strategy, made direct appeals to Franks to move more than 1,000 Marines to Tora Bora to block escape routes to Pakistan. But the CentCom commander rebuffed the request, citing logistical and time problems, the report said.

“At the end of November, Crumpton went to the White House to brief President Bush and Vice President [Dick] Cheney and repeated the message that he had delivered to Franks,” the report said. “Crumpton warned the president that the Afghan campaign’s primary goal of capturing bin Laden was in jeopardy because of the military’s reliance on Afghan militias at Tora Bora. …

“Crumpton questioned whether the Pakistani forces would be able to seal off the escape routes and pointed out that the promised Pakistani troops had not arrived yet.”

Crumpton also told Bush that the Afghan militia were not up to the job of assaulting al-Qaeda’s bases at Tora Bora and warned the President, “we’re going to lose our prey if we’re not careful,” the report said, citing journalist Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine.

But the Iraq-obsessed Bush still didn’t act. Finally, in mid-December, the small US Special Forces team convinced the Afghan militia fighters to undertake a sweep of the mountainous terrain, but they found it largely deserted.

The Senate report said bin Laden and his bodyguards apparently departed Tora Bora on Dec. 16, 2001, adding: “With help from Afghans and Pakistanis who had been paid in advance, the group made its way on foot and horseback across the mountain passes and into Pakistan without encountering any resistance.

“The Special Operations Command history (of the Afghan invasion) noted that there were not enough US troops to prevent the escape, acknowledging that the failure to capture or kill … bin Laden made Tora Bora a controversial battle.”

Bush, however, was following the advice of Washington’s influential neocons who considered Afghanistan essentially a sideshow with the main event awaiting in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

So, US forces in Afghanistan had to make do with the limited attention of Washington while the Bush administration whipped up public support for attacking Iraq. Even as bin Laden apparently found safety in Pakistan and al-Qaeda and the Taliban began to regroup along the Afghan border, the neocons focused on the PR campaign to sell an invasion of Iraq.

Turning on Iraq
The neocons, especially at the Pentagon and inside Vice President Cheney’s office, fabricated the case against Iraq based on bogus claims about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

Then, with many Americans believing that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of WMD and was sharing them with al-Qaeda, Bush and the neocons found it easy to stampede the Congress into passing a use-of-force resolution. The few people who did speak up against the rush to war were either ignored or ridiculed in venues like the Washington Post.

Bush launched the Iraq invasion on March 19, 2003, and the neocons were thrilled when the US military was able to defeat the Iraqi army in only three weeks. Cable pundit Chris Matthews spoke for many Washington insiders when he declared in awestruck tones, “we’re all neocons now.”

With their confidence unbridled, the neocons chose to make the ancient land of Iraq a test tube for free-market nation-building. The neocons rejected plans for a quick election, favoring instead a US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and a long US military stay.

Through their chosen viceroy, Paul Bremer, the neocons also cashiered the Iraqi army and fired government bureaucrats who had belonged to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Young American neocons arrived to lecture Iraqis on how to form a new government.

But the occupation didn’t go as smoothly as the neocons had expected. Before long, Iraq was torn by a bloody insurgency and was split along bitter sectarian lines.

The ultimate cost of the neocon folly has been more than 4,300 US soldiers dead, along with estimates of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, and $1 trillion or so of taxpayer money squandered.

Because of the Iraq calamity, other elements of the neocon vision of remaking the Middle East were put on hold, though the neocons enthusiastically supported Israel’s military assaults on Hezbollah inside Lebanon in 2006 and on Hamas-ruled Gaza in late 2008. The neocons also haven’t yet given up on the idea of a military strike against Iran.

Yet, looking back at the failures of the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, two troubling characteristics about the neocons stand out – a lack of empathy for people not like them (i.e. the Iraqis, Afghanis, etc.) and a stunning lack of realism.

Like classic armchair warriors, they act as if their theoretical constructs don’t have to be measured against empirical evidence, nor tempered by practicality, nor moderated by concerns about the loss of human life.

This also was a characteristic of the neocons who first emerged as important players during the Reagan administration’s brush-fire wars in Central America. In those conflicts, tens of thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans and others perished at the hands of US-backed military forces.

Some of those same neocons, like Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, reemerged two decades later to guide or advise Bush’s Middle East policies.

The neocon detachment from reality continues to pervade their wishful thinking about a successful counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, the nation they persuaded Bush to put on the back burner so they could advance their grandiose vision of Middle East victories.

The comeback
But what is perhaps most remarkable about this story is how the neocons have used their prominence in the Washington news media and the think-tank community to rehabilitate themselves as “experts” on the Middle East.

Most importantly, the neocons exploited the superficial impression in 2007-2008 that Bush’s “surge” of about 20,000 additional US troops in Iraq was what brought about a decline in violence there.

Though the neocons sold the “surge” myth to Washington insiders, many military analysts considered the troop increase as only one element – and possibly only a minor one – compared to the buying off of Sunni insurgents in 2006, the de facto ethnic cleansing of many Iraqi neighborhoods, and the unilateral decision by anti-American Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr to demobilize his militia. [See’s “The Rising Cost of the Iraq Surge.”]

Nevertheless, the “surge” myth allowed the neocons to insist that they had been right after all, even if there may have been some bumps along the way.

By fall 2009, key neocons felt confident enough to bash President Obama for taking time to re-think the eight-year-old US-led military occupation of Afghanistan.

Washington Post neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote an Oct. 9, 2009, column entitled “Young Hamlet’s Agony” accusing Obama of cynical dithering.

“So what does [the Democrats’] commander in chief do now with the war he once declared had to be won but had been almost criminally under-resourced by Bush? Perhaps provide the resources to win it?

“You would think so. And that's exactly what Obama's handpicked commander requested on Aug. 30 – a surge of 30,000 to 40,000 troops to stabilize a downward spiral and save Afghanistan the way a similar surge saved Iraq.

“That was more than five weeks ago. Still no response. Obama agonizes publicly as the world watches.”

Krauthammer also made clear that the neocons hadn’t given up on their grandiose vision of a permanent American military dominance astride the globe, whatever the cost.

In an Oct. 19 article for The Weekly Standard, entitled “Decline Is a Choice: The New Liberalism and the End of American Ascendancy,” Krauthammer demanded that the United States resist the temptation to withdraw from its status of global hegemon.

“Heavy are the burdens of the hegemon,” Krauthammer wrote. “After the blood and treasure expended in the post-9/11 wars, America is quite ready to ease its burden with a gentle descent into abdication and decline.

“Decline is a choice. More than a choice, a temptation. How to resist it? First, accept our role as hegemon. And reject those who deny its essential benignity.”

Neocon impracticality
But there remains a glaring impracticality in the neocons and their hegemonic rhetoric. Krauthammer combines his call for the American people to accept their inner “hegemon” with a tirade against those who say it’s time for the United States to reduce its military budget and begin addressing its economic and social problems.

To the neocons, all that is important is the American ability to project military power around the world – and especially in the Middle East. The reality of the disappearing US industrial base and America’s decaying infrastructure do not fit into the soaring rhetoric about US global power.

Yet, wielding the “successful surge” myth as a club, the neocons shaped the Washington debate about the Afghan escalation and now believe they have managed to influence another President to do as they wished, even while operating from more distant positions, like the Washington Post’s editorial pages, TV talk shows and think tanks.

With their ideological certitude and intellectual firepower, the neocons seem to believe they can will the results in the field much the way they dominate dinner-party conversations in Washington, with tough-talk, bluster and a readiness to question the patriotism and courage of anyone who doesn’t agree.

However, the real world isn’t defined by clever arguments over a chilled Chardonnay. It is a hard place where soldiers and civilians bleed and die – and where imperial overreach can corrode the foundations of a Republic.

It also is one of the bitter ironies that the same geopolitical thinkers who persuaded Bush to prematurely turn his attention away from Afghanistan – and thus enable Osama bin Laden to escape and al-Qaeda and the Taliban to rebuild – now are celebrating their victory in getting Obama to send 30,000 more US troops to that same country.

-- Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush , can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to

-- Middle East Online


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #59 on: December 07, 2009, 09:32:19 am »
Osama bin where?

By Imran Khan in  Asia  on December 7th, 2009

Photo by Getty Images

Ok, so it's a silly headline, but Osama bin Laden's name has been appearing more frequently in the media of late.

Ok, so it's a silly headline, but Osama bin Laden's name has been appearing more frequently in the media of late. There seems to be renewed focus on capturing or killing the man many in the west say is responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.

But where is he?

A Pakistani Taliban commander claimed that he had met with Bin Laden in Pakistan, but that he had fled the country once the Pakistani army began their anti-Taliban operation in South Waziristan in October.

Senior US officials seem to have no idea where he is.

One newspaper quoted Robert Gates, the US secretary of defence, about when the last time the US had good intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama. He was blunt: "I think it's been years."

On Sunday, the US announced it would seal the Pakistan-Afghan border to try and prevent attacks on the Pakistani side. It’s seen as a plan to try and get the world’s most wanted man.

The news was greeted with scepticism here in Pakistan. It’s almost impossible to seal the border. It's 1610 miles long.

I have criss-crossed the border on a number of occasions. Sometimes I have had to ask exactly which country I am in - it's just not clear where Pakistan begins and Afghanistan ends.

That's not to say the whole border is like that. The main crossing points into Pakistan are fairly well policed. On the Pakistani side, all that has really happened in the last 24 hours is that documents are being more thoroughly checked.

Durand line dispute

But there is another issue: The border is disputed by the Afghans. When the Durand line was created in 1893 by the then Foreign Secretary of British Colonial India Henry Mortimer Durand, it cut through a Pashtun ethnic area, dividing it in half. When Pakistan was created in 1947, the division was highlighted once more.

Today the Afghans do not accept the Durand line. They would like further clarity, saying the Pashtun areas of Pakistan belong to them. For Pakistan that means an entire Province, The North West frontier.

Pakistan accepts the Durand line as the de facto border between the two countries. The border itself is a mountainous terrain, and the passes can only be navigated by foot or by donkey.

It's here where the US - in its best estimation - thinks Bin Laden is hiding. He is said to go back and forth between the two countries. Bin Laden is said to have exploited the tensions between the two countries in a very smart way. By aligning himself with ethnic Pashtuns, he has been able to move freely and hide from prying eyes.

No one really knows how he manages his security. Some say he never stays anywhere more than one night, others claim that he is welcomed as a hero in any village he chooses to visit.

How he manages his security however almost does not matter however. What does matter is that he is still at large, and as long as he is, he represents a totem for international jihadis everywhere.

The Taliban issue

But will killing or capturing him make a difference to the crisis that Pakistan and Afghanistan face?

Not really. It's not al-Qaeda that is creating the biggest problem for both countries, it's the Taliban. In Afghanistan the Taliban are, according to some, moving away from supporting Al Qaeda, instead setting themselves up as a Pashtun fighting force.

A recent communiqué from the Taliban in Afghanistan suggested the group would not interfere with other countries if international troops left Afghanistan. The statement was seen as bold move by the Taliban that they are distancing themselves from Osama Bin Laden, who of course wants an international jihad.

In Pakistan, the Taliban are mounting ever more brazen attacks. Friday's attack on a mosque popular with some of Pakistan's most senior soldiers was seen as coup for the Taliban. It showed Pakistan that not even the army is safe in major cities.

What happens next is key.

If Osama is captured or killed, the Taliban will still be a force to be reckoned with. Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan will become secure. But if you are the US government right now and you need something to that suggests your new AfPak strategy is working, then Bin Laden's head on a platter is looking like a good idea right about now.

Sadly, say many in Pakistan, Bin Laden's head will not make a difference for long term peace in the region.

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #60 on: December 08, 2009, 08:17:38 am »
December 7, 2009

Conflict Makes Nonsense of U.S. Rationale for Surge

The Taliban - Al Qaeda Schism


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen argued in Senate Testimony Wednesday that the 30,000-troop increase is necessary to prevent the Taliban from giving new safe havens to al Qaeda terrorists.

But that argument is flatly contradicted by the evidence of fundamental conflicts between the interests of the Taliban and those of al Qaeda that has emerged in recent years, according to counterterrorism and intelligence analysts specialiZing in Afghanistan.

Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, "Taliban-ruled areas could in short order become once again sanctuary for al Qaeda, as well as a staging area for resurgent militant groups on the offensive in Pakistan."

Mullen made the same assertion in even more pointed terms. "[T]o argue that should they have...power the Taliban would not at least tolerate the presence of al Qaeda on Afghan soil is to ignore both the recent past and the evidence we see every day of collusion between these factions on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," he said. "Put simply, the Taliban and al Qaeda have become symbiotic," said Gates, "each benefitting from the success and mythology of the other."

It is well known among government officials working on Afghanistan and al Qaeda, however, that serious tensions between the two organiZations emerged after the attack on the "Red Mosque" in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in July 2007. Western intelligence quickly discovered the attack was an al Qaeda operation, and that it marked the beginning of an al Qaeda campaign calling for the overthrow of the Pakistani government and military.

That created a serious conflict between al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to specialists who followed the issue closely. The Taliban leadership, which is based in Quetta, Pakistan, had been depending on assistance from the Pakistani military to increase its military capabilities and did not look kindly on that al Qaeda policy.

Despite widespread confusion over the two, the Tahreek-e-Taliban, the Pakistani jihadist group that has been an umbrella organiZation for the military campaign against the Pakistani military, is not related to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pakistani group, which has now changed its name, is a close ally of al Qaeda, but does not see eye to eye with the Afghan Taliban.

Ignoring these turning points in the Taliban's relationships with both al Qaeda and other Pakistani jihadi groups, Gates suggested that the three groups are closer than ever before. "What we have seen in the last year develop is an unholy alliance, if you will, of al Qaeda, the Taliban in Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan," he said.

Two former counterterrorism intelligence specialists who followed the Taliban closely until earlier this year told  me this week that the facts do not support the portrayal by Gates and Mullen of the Taliban and al Qaeda as ideologically united.

"We make a serious mistake in equating the two organizations," said Arturo Munoz, who was a supervisory operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counterterrorism Center from 2001 to 2009 and is now a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation.

Munoz called the Taliban "a homespun Pashtun, locally-based revolutionary movement with a set of goals that are not necessarily those of al Qaeda".

"It is well known that deals have been made between the Taliban and Pakistani commanders," said Munoz. "Obviously the Quetta Shura [the top Taliban leadership organ] is located there because of a deal with the Pakistani government."

But al Qaeda's view has been different. "The more fanatical al Qaeda types say 'let's tear apart Pakistani society'," he observed.

Veteran specialist on counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan Rick "Ozzie" Nelson agreed that the relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban that has evolved in recent years is very different from the one they had up to 2001.

"The Taliban is a nationalist organization, which wants to govern Afghanistan under Sharia law, not attack the United States," said Nelson, who was on the inaugural staff of the National Counter-Terrorism Center's Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2005 to 2007.

Nelson directed a Joint Task Force in Afghanistan until early 2009 and is now in the International Security Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The Red Mosque was a big deal," Nelson recalled. The al Qaeda-directed assault on the mosque and subsequent Taliban reaction to its jihadist campaign in Pakistan were what convinced officials that "their goals have become more divergent", he said.

More recently, counterterrorism analysts have noted that the gap has widened even further, as the Taliban leadership has gone public with a "nationalist" line that openly departs from al Qaeda's global jihadist stance.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar's Sep. 19 message for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, called the Taliban a "robust Islamic and nationalist movement" which "wants to maintain good and positive relations with all neighbors based on mutual respect".

The message went on to assure "all countries" that a Taliban state "will not extend its hand to jeopardize others, as it itself does not allow others to jeopardise us".

In October, the Taliban sent a letter to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization repeating its offer of good relations, despite the fact that at least three of its member states (China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) are the targets of armed resistance by jihadi allies of al Qaeda.

That line of thinking has created a firestorm among commentators associated with the al Qaeda global jihad worldview, according to Vahid Brown, research associate at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. In an article published on the Foreign Policy magazine website Oct. 21, Brown cited a series of angry responses to the Taliban leader's message from jihadi publicists across the Middle East.

One rejoinder from one of the most influential jihadi ideologues referred to the Omar message as "dangerous utterances", likening the nationalist line taken in it to the refusal of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal to support the Chechen jihad against the Russian government, which is anathema to the global jihadi community.

Later discussions on several jihadi internet forums clearly recognized that a major rift had developed between al Qaeda and the Taliban. One commenter even referred to "the beginning of the end of relations" between the two.

Gates tried to minimize such evidence by suggesting that Taliban officials are engaging in deception. He said Taliban leaders "recognize that the reason they are not in power right now is because they allowed al Qaeda to launch attacks against the United States", and referred to reports that "the Taliban is saying, 'Well let’s downplay the relationship with al Qaeda so we don’t get hit again'."

What Gates failed to mention is that Taliban officials are furious at Osama bin Laden’s attacks against the United States, because he had given a written pledge, referred to by Mullah Omar in a June 2001 interview with conservative journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave, not to attack any other country from his Afghan base.

President Barack Obama appears to have been informed about the evidence of divergent Taliban and al Qaeda interests. Senior administration officials told the New York Times in early October, evidently with the encouragement of the White House, that the Taliban was now viewed by the national security team as a group that did not have "ambitions to attack the United States".

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #61 on: December 09, 2009, 03:45:42 am »
Published on Tuesday, December 8, 2009 by Foreign Policy in Focus

The AfPak Train Wreck

by Conn Hallinan

When President Barack Obama laid out his plan for winning the war in Afghanistan, behind him stood an army of ghosts: Greeks, Mongols, Buddhists, British, and Russians, all whom had almost the same illusions as the current resident of the Oval Office about Central Asia. The first four armies are dust. But there are Russian survivors of the 1979-89 war that ended up killing 15,000 Soviets and hundreds of thousands of Afghans as well as virtually wrecking Moscow's economy.

One is retired General Igor Rodionov, commander of the Soviet's 120,000-man 40th Army that fought for 10 years to defeat the Afghan insurgents. In a recent interview [1] with Charles Clover of the Financial Times, he made an observation that exactly sums up the president's deeply flawed strategy: "Everything has already been tried."

Three Flawed Goals

The president laid out three "goals" for his escalation: One, to militarily defeat al-Qaeda and neutralize the Taliban; two, to train the Afghan Army to take over the task of the war; and three, to partner with Pakistan against a "common enemy." The purpose of surging 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, the president said, is to protect the "vital national interests" of the United States.

But each goal bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. Rather than protecting U.S. interests, the escalation will almost certainly undermine them.

The military aspect of the surge simply makes no sense. According to U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones [2], al-Qaeda has fewer than 100 operatives in Afghanistan, so "defeating" it means trying to find a few needles in a 250,000 square-mile haystack.

As for the Taliban, General Rodionov has a good deal of experience with how fighting them is likely to turn out: "The war, all 10 years of it, went in circles. We would come and they [the insurgents] would leave. Then we would leave, and they would return."

The McClatchy newspapers reported this past July [3] that the Taliban had successfully evaded last summer's surge of U.S. Marines into Helmand Province by moving to attack German and Italian troops in the northern part of the country. Does the White House think that the insurgents will forget the lessons they learned over the last 30 years?

Growing the Afghan Army?

Another major goal of the escalation is to increase the size of the Afghan army from around 90,000 to 240,000. The illusions behind this task are myriad, but one of the major obstacles is that the Afghan army is currently controlled by the Tajik minority, who make up about 25% of the population but constitute 41% of the trained troops. More than that, according to the Italian scholar Antonio Giustozzi, Tajiks command [4] 70% of the Army's battalions.

Pashtuns, who make up 42% of Afghanistan, have been frozen out of the Army's top leadership and, in provinces like Zabul where they make up the majority, there are virtually no Pashtuns in the army.

The Tajiks speak Dari, the Pashtuns, Pashto. Yet Tajik troops have been widely deployed in Pashtun areas. According to Chris Mason, a member of the Afghanistan inter-agency Operations Group from 2003 to 2005, Tajik control of the army makes ethnic strife almost inevitable. "I believe the elements of a civil war are in play," says Mason.

Matthew Hoh, who recently resigned as the chief U.S. civil officer in Zabul Province, warns that tension between Pashtuns and the Tajik-led alliance that dominates the Karzai government, is "already bad now," and unless the Obama administration figures out how to solve it, "we could see a return to the civil war of the 1990s."

It was the bitter civil war between the Tajik-based Northern Alliance and the Pashtun-based Taliban that savaged Kabul and led to the eventual triumph of the Taliban.

Obama's escalation will target the Pashtun provinces of Helmand and Khandahar. The Soviets followed a similar strategy and ended up stirring up a hornet's nest that led to the creation of the Taliban. U.S. troops will soon discover the meaning of the old Pashtun axiom: "Me against my brothers; me and my brothers against our cousins; me, my brothers and my cousins against everyone."

Pashtun Pushback

Afghanistan has never had a centralized government or a large standing army, two of the Obama Administration's major goals. Instead it has been ruled by localized extended families, clans, and tribes, what Hoh calls [5] a government of "valleyism." Attempts to impose the rule of Kabul on the rest of the country have always failed.

"History has demonstrated that Afghans will resist outside interference, and political authority is most often driven bottom-up by collective local consent rather than top-down through oppressive central control," says [6] Lawrence Sellin, a U.S. Army Reserve colonel and veteran of the Afghan and Iraq wars. "It is absolutely clear that the path to peace in Afghanistan is through balance of power, not hegemony."

Yet a powerful Tajik-controlled army at the beck and call of one of the most corrupt—and isolated — governments in the world has been doing exactly the opposite in the Pashtun areas. A Pashtun pushback is inevitable. According to Hoh and Mason, it has already begun.

Partnering with Pakistan
The goal of a U.S. "partnership" with Pakistan is predicated on the assumption that both countries have a common "terrorist" enemy, but that is based on either willful ignorance or stunningly bad intelligence.

It is true that the Pakistan army is currently fighting the Taliban. But there are four Talibans in Pakistan, and their policies toward the Islamabad government range from hostile, to neutral, to friendly.

Pakistan's army has locked horns in South Waziristan with the Mehsud Taliban, the Taliban group that was recently driven out of the Swat Valley and that has launched a bombing campaign throughout the Punjab.

But the wing of the North Waziristan Taliban led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur has no quarrel with Islamabad and has kept clear of the fighting. Another South Waziristan Taliban, based in Wana and led by Mullah Nazir, is not involved in the fighting and considers itself an ally [7] of the Pakistani government.

Washington wants Pakistan to go after the Afghan Taliban, led by Mullah Omar and based in Pakistan. But Omar has refused to lend any support to the Mehsud Taliban. "We are fighting the occupation forces in Afghanistan. We do not have any policy whatsoever to interfere in the matters of any other country," says Taliban spokesperson Qari Yousaf Ahmedi. "U.S. and other forces have attacked our land and our war is only against them. What is happening in Pakistan is none of our business."

The charge that the Taliban would allow al-Qaeda to operate from Afghanistan once again is unsupported by anything the followers of Mullah Omar have said. Gulbuddin Hekmatyer, a former U.S. ally against the Soviets and the current leader of the Taliban-allied Hizb-I-Islam insurgent group, told Al-Jazeera, "The Taliban government came to an end in Afghanistan due to the wrong strategy of al-Qaeda," reflecting the distance Mullah Omar has tried to put between the Afghan Taliban and Osama bin Laden's organization.

The "other" forces Ahmed refers to include members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Patrol, an Indian paramilitary group defending New Delhi's road-building efforts in southern Afghanistan. The Pakistanis, who have fought three wars with India — including the 1999 Kargil incident that came very close to a nuclear exchange — are deeply uneasy about growing Indian involvement in Afghanistan, and consider the Karzai government too close to New Delhi.

In short, Obama's "partnership" would have the Pakistanis pick a fight with all four wings of the Taliban, including one that pledges to remove India's troops. President Obama did not explain why the Pakistanis should destabilize their own country, drain their financial reserves, and act contrary to their strategic interests vis-à-vis India.

Escalation's Negative Consequences

Will the escalation have an impact on "vital American interests?" Certainly, but most of the consequences will be negative.

Instead of demonstrating to the international community that the United States is stepping away from the Bush administration's use of force, the escalation will do the opposite.

Instead of bringing our allies closer together, the escalation will sharpen tensions between Pakistan and India — the latter strongly supports the surge of U.S. troops — and pressure the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to scrape together yet more troops for a war that is deeply unpopular [8] in Europe.

Instead of controlling "terrorism," the escalation will be the recruiting sergeant for such organizations, particularly in the Middle East, where the administration's show of "resolve" on Afghanistan is contrasted with its abandonment of any "resolve" to resist Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.

And finally, the deployment will cost at least $30 billion a year on top of the $70 billion the United States is shelling out to support its current force of 81,000 troops. In the meantime, the administration is too starved for cash to launch a badly needed jobs program at home.

And keep in mind that the president said such a July 2011 withdrawal would be based on "conditions on the ground," a caveat big enough to drive a tank through.

"More soldiers is simply going to mean more deaths," says Gennady Zaitsev, a former commander of an elite Soviet commando unit in Afghanistan. "U.S. and British citizens are going to ask, quite rightly, 'Why are our sons dying?' And the answer will be 'To keep Hamid Karzai in power.' I don't think that will satisfy them."

Looking back at years of blood and defeat, General Rodionov put his finger on the fundamental flaw in Obama's escalation: "They [the U.S. and its allies] have to understand that there is no way for them to succeed militarily…It is a political problem which we utterly failed to grasp with our military mindset."

That misunderstanding could become the epitaph for a presidency.

Copyright © 2009, Institute for Policy Studies
Conn Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus.


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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #62 on: December 10, 2009, 04:08:46 am »
Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 by New American Media

Afghanistan’s 'Bravest Woman' Pins Hopes on USA, Not Obama

by Aaron Glantz

Malalai Joya has been called "Afghanistan's bravest woman." When the Taliban ruled her country, she braved death, running an underground girls school. When the US military overthrew the Taliban she ran for parliament.

But that doesn't mean she's a supporter of the U.S. military, or President Obama's decision to double the number of American troops in her country.


A Woman Among Warlords [1]

from New America Media [2]

on Vimeo [3].

"Unfortunately, President Obama's foreign policy is a lot like [the] criminal Bush," she said in a sit-down in interview during a recent visit to San Francisco. "He follows war in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Pakistan." Joya's opposition to the U.S.-NATO occupation of Afghanistan began shortly after foreign troops arrived in 2001.

Immediately "after the 9/11 tragedy, my people thought maybe this time the US government will be helpful for our people," she said. "They were hopeful that Taliban domination has been destroyed maybe this time they will give a chance to justice-loving, democrat-minded people of my country. At least to people who don't have bloody hands!"

But Joya found that hope dashed quickly - as early as December 2003 - in the first meeting of Afghanistan's newly-elected constitutional assembly. She looked around the room and saw the United States and NATO had invited a who's who of the warlords who had destroyed her country to form a new government.

She was 24. And she couldn't stay silent.

"I wish to criticize my compatriots in this room," she said amid boos, catcalls and scattered cheers. "Why would you allow criminals to be present at this Loya Jirga, warlords responsible for our country's situation? Afghanistan is the center for national and international conflicts. They oppress women and have ruined our country. They should be prosecuted. They might be forgiven by the Afghan people, but not by history."

The chairman responded by throwing her out.

"The sister has crossed the line of what is considered common courtesy," he said, banging his gavel. "She is banished from this assembly and cannot return. Send her out! Guards, throw her out! She doesn't deserve to be here."

But Joya did not give up. She ran for Parliament again in 2005 and was elected a second time. In 2006, she was physically attacked on the floor of the Parliament, when she said: "There are two types of Mujahidin" - freedom fighters - "one who were really Mujahidin, the second who killed tens of thousands of innocent people and who are criminals."

Joya was again expelled from Parliament. One law-maker Jebel Chelgari said that wasn't enough. She should be punished with a gun, he said. Like many members of post-Taliban Parliament, Joya says Chelgari has a reputation for brutality.

"This cruel man, this non-educated, ignorant man," she says, "is famous in his province as a head eater. Because he has killed so many people they do not even mention his name. They call him ‘head eater.'"  [4] All together, Joya has survived five assassination attempts. But at least she's still alive. Other women's rights advocates have not been so lucky.

She breathlessly rattles off a half dozen prominent women who have been killed by the U.S. and NATO, U.S.-backed warlords, the Taliban and general lawlessness since September 2001.

There is Malalai Kakar, Afghanistan's most prominent policewoman, who headed up Kandahar Province's department for crimes against women, who was shot and killed while driving her car on September 28, 2008.

Also among the dead is Sitara Achakzai, who spent the years of Taliban rule in Germany and returned to Afghanistan in 2004 to join women working to promote their human rights and struggling to secure peace. For International Women's Day on March 8, 2009, she played a major role in organizing a national sit-in of more than 11,000 women in seven Afghan provinces. On April 12, 2009, she was gunned down in broad daylight in front of her home.

"This list can be prolonged," she says. "When these brave activist women get killed mainstream only reports like a bird has been killed. That is it."

That these war-lords remain in power is not an accident, she said. They thrive on the drug trade and are actively supported by the United States and other regional powers.

And that arrangement has gotten worse under Obama than Bush, she said, because certain warlords deemed too brutal to take part in the Afghan government under Bush have been invited to the bargaining table under Obama.

One example she cites, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is a 61-year-old veteran of Afghanistan's three decades of war who gained infamy for rocketing his own capital during a brief stint as prime minister in the 1990s.

Bush had put a $25 million "price on his head" for participating in terrorist actions with Al-Qaeda, she notes, and in 2003 the State Department designated Hekmatyar a "Specially Designated Global International Terrorist".

This April, however, U.S. officials began meeting with Hekmatyar's representatives in hope that he would join the government.

So Joya has taken her fight directly to the occupiers. She's written a book - A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out [4] - and is touring the very countries that occupy Afghanistan - England, Germany, Canada, and the United States.

Joya says she has hope for the future. If the NATO and the US military leave Afghanistan, she says life will gradually improve.

If "these occupation forces leave Afghanistan and their governments leave us alone then we'll know what to do with our destiny - if they leave us a little bread and peace, because these war lords and the Taliban have no fruit among the heart of my people. My people hate them."

In this way, she sees the weakness of Hamid Karzai's government as a strength, not a cause for concern.

"Resistance of my people is a big hope for my people of Afghanistan. That's why my message to the great people of the U.S. and the around the world is that your government must leave our country, but you are the ones that must join your hands with us: human rights organizations, justice-loving people and intellectuals, feminist organizations-they are the ones that must not leave us alone. As much as we can, we need your support."

New America Media editor Aaron Glantz is author of The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans [5]

© 2009 New American Media


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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #63 on: December 10, 2009, 07:03:05 am »
No-sama bin Laden

by Philip Giraldi, December 10, 2009

Monday’s revelation from Defense Secretary Robert Gates that "I think it has been years" since the US government has had any solid information about Osama bin Laden should come as no surprise to readers of, which has been questioning the rationale for the global war on terrorism ever since it was a twinkle in Dick Cheney’s eye.  Gates also commented that US intelligence believes that the fugitive terrorists might well be moving about in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The "where’s Waldo" narrative provided by Gates is somewhat shocking in light of the billions of dollars that have been spent in the search for the slippery Saudi, but it is even more significant in that it completely undercuts the Barack Obama Administration’s case for increasing the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

Many analysts both inside and outside of the government have become convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead and has been so for quite some time.  They base this perception on the same non-evidence that Gates cites, i.e. that there has been no solid information on bin Laden or his whereabouts since late 2001.  The absence of any intelligence could be due to the likelihood that a top terrorist on the run would be extremely careful about how he moves about and how he communicates, which is what many have believed up until recently, but at a certain point it becomes too much of a stretch to believe that a man heading a major terror organization has successfully become invisible.  It is widely believed that videos and recordings featuring his image and voice could well be clever composites. 

The dead bin Laden school of thought also points to the impotence of al-Qaeda in events unfolding in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Even the redoubtable General Stanley McChrystal, relying on the paucity of al-Qaeda sightings and the intelligence void, has estimated that there are likely fewer than 100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.  His estimate is undoubtedly fairly rough as the CIA has no idea what is going on, but the comment itself implies that the formerly scary terrorist group is not up to much.  Pakistani intelligence sources, who are almost certainly better informed than their American counterparts, believe that there is only a tiny al-Qaeda presence inside their own country.  Prime Minister Sayed Yusuf Raza Gilani recently declared flatly that bin Laden is not inside Pakistan.

If bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is shadow of what it once was then the whole justification for maintaining 100,000 soldiers and a nearly equal number of contractors in Afghanistan at ruinous expense becomes a fiction.  President Obama based his call for an escalation on the terrorist threat in the region, but it can be plausibly argued based on available evidence that al-Qaeda has essentially faded away.  If that is so, and Obama almost certainly knows that to be a distinct possibility, the American soldiers are essentially being sent to prop up two extremely corrupt American allies, President Asif  Zardari in Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.  A prolonged bout of nation building is not exactly the snake oil that was sold to the American people in Obama’s speech on December 1st and it calls into question the integrity of a president whose majority over John McCain certainly consisted of voters who believed that would end ongoing wars and bring about change in the way America conducts its foreign policy.

Most intelligence analysts who follow terrorism issues seriously would admit that the terrorism issue has been consistently overhyped and that it is also receding due to concerted action by a number of governments since 2001 combined with diminishing appeal among young Muslims.  They would also likely agree that the international brand of al-Qaeda-like Salafist-style terrorism, albeit diminished, continues to be a serious problem for much of the world.  But its epicenter is almost certainly not where President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appear to think it is located, somewhere north of the Khyber Pass. 

There is only one part of the world where the Salafists continue to be strong. It is North Africa, in the arc of countries running from Mauretania in the West to Libya in the east, a region plagued by a loosely collected group of terrorists who call themselves al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.  Because several of the countries – Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia – have large diaspora populations in Western Europe, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb has genuine international reach.  It has been able to exploit its European presence to carry out terrorist acts in France, Spain, and the Netherlands. 

When considering the capabilities of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, most intelligence analysts would also note that all of the countries in North Africa with the sole exception of Mauretania have strong governments that control effective intelligence and police services.  If Barack Obama were truly serious about attacking the remaining terrorist problem, he would focus the limited available resources on helping the North African countries improve their own capabilities rather than sending 100,000 soldiers to Afghanistan.  That he is not doing so demonstrates that the possible disintegration of nuclear armed Pakistan, not terrorism, is really his driving concern.

That Pakistan is politically wobbling is clear to everyone and the possibility that it could become an Islamist dominated state, once remote, is increasing due to widespread corruption and the Islamabad’s government’s inability to curtail US drone strikes along its borders.  There has been some serious consideration in Washington of what might happen if the current government were to fall, including suggestions that the US and Pakistani military would intervene to remove the country’s nuclear arsenal and take it to some place for safe keeping.  That such an idea might even be seriously floated calls into question the sanity level of Obama Administration policy makers.  Pakistan would never agree to such a scheme and the US does not have either the resources or the information needed to enable it to go around to the numerous dispersal sites where Pakistan keeps its weapons to scoop them up.  So that leaves the Pakistan conundrum unresolved and 100,000 American soldiers sitting next door as some sort of guarantor of stability waiting to close the barn door after the horse escapes into the night.

So Secretary Gates has inadvertently let the cat out of the bag even though the mainstream media apparently has not yet figured it out.  He has revealed that the war on terror is dead, or at least it should be.  But rather than breathe a sigh of relief, rest assured that the word "terrorism" will be trotted out periodically to scare the public and keep the long war going.  Nobody is coming home.  America is in for a prolonged, bloody, and expensive experience in AfPak in spite of Obama Administration insistence that there is some kind of end game.  America under President Barack Obama will be nation-building big time and for years to come, until the supply of money and soldiers run out.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #64 on: December 13, 2009, 05:58:05 am »
Obama's Af-Pak is as Whack as Bush's Iraq

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford


December 10, 2009

President Obama has reached a watershed in his presidency: he has devolved to the intellectual level of George Bush, while retaining his world class powers of speech. History may remember Obama as just another vapid but predatory imperialist president who happens to be…superficially eloquent. Unfortunately, the clarity of Obama’s diction is not matched by coherence of policy. Af-Pak is at least as whack as Bush’s Iraq.

Obama's Af-Pak is as Whack as Bush's Iraq

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

"More occupation means less occupation."

Barack Obama’s oratorical skills have turned on him, revealing, as George Bush’s low-grade delivery never could, the perfect incoherence of the current American imperial project in South Asia. Bush’s verbal eccentricities served to muddy his entire message, leaving the observer wondering what was more ridiculous, the speechmaker or the speech. There is no such confusion when Obama is on the mic. His flawless delivery of superbly structured sentences provides no distractions, requiring the brain to examine the content – the policy in question – on its actual merits. The conclusion comes quickly: the U.S. imperial enterprise in Afghanistan and Pakistan is doomed, as well as evil.

The president’s speech to West Point cadets was a stream of non sequiturs so devoid of logic as to cast doubt on the sanity of the authors. "[T]hese additional American and international troops," said the president, "will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011."

Obama claims that, the faster an additional 30,000 Americans pour into Afghanistan, the quicker will come the time when they will leave. More occupation means less occupation, you see? This breakneck intensification of the U.S. occupation is necessary, Obama explains, because "We have no interest in occupying your country."

"The U.S. imperial enterprise in Afghanistan and Pakistan is doomed, as well as evil."

If the Americans were truly interested in occupying Afghanistan, the logic goes, they would slow down and stretch out the process over many years, rather than mount an 18-month surge of Taliban-hunting. The Afghans are advised to hold still – the pulsating surge will be over before they know it.
At present, of course, the Americans have assumed all "responsibility" for Afghanistan – so much so that President Hamid Karzai only learned about Obama’s plans earlier on Tuesday during a one-hour tele-briefing. This is consistent with Obama’s detailed plans for Afghan liberation, under U.S. tutelage. The president is as wedded to high stakes testing of occupied peoples as he is for American public school children. "This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over," said the Occupier-in-Chief. He continued:
"And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We will support Afghan Ministries, Governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable."
Such rigorous oversight of their country’s affairs should keep Afghan minds off the fact that they have been fighting to remain independent of foreign rule for centuries, if not millennia. If Obama is right, Afghans might also be distracted from dwelling on the question of who their "Ministries, Governors, and local leaders" are answerable to – the Afghan people or the Americans?

"Obama advises Afghans to be patient and trusting regarding their sovereignty."

Although President Obama is anxious to bring U.S. troop levels above 100,000 as quickly as possible, he advises Afghans to be patient and trusting regarding their sovereignty. "It will be clear to the Afghan government, and, more importantly, to the Afghan people, that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country." That is, it will become clear in the fullness of time, but hopefully no later than 18 months after the planned surge begins. If all goes well, the Taliban will be dead or nearly so, and the non-Taliban Afghans will be prepared to begin assuming "responsibility for their own country." If not, then the Americans will be forced to continue as occupiers – reluctantly, of course, since, as the whole world and the more intelligent class of Afghans know, the Americans "have no interest in occupying your country" – unless they have to.

Should the Afghans become confused about American intentions, they might consult with their Pakistani neighbors, for whom President Obama also has plans.

"[We] have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear," the president declared. "America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting."

Obama did not mention that it was the Americans that coerced and bribed the Pakistani military into launching the attacks that displaced over a million people in the Swat region and hundreds of thousands more in border areas. How nice of them to join in humanitarian assistance to the homeless.

The Pakistanis, like the Afghans, were assured the Americans will not abandon them to their own, independent devices. Said Obama: "And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed."

Some Pakistanis might consider that a threat. According to polling by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, only 16 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States in 2009. Actually, that’s a point or two higher than U.S. popularity in Occupied Palestine (15 percent) and Turkey (14 percent), the only other Muslim countries on the Pew list.

Not to worry. Obama knows things that escape the rest of us. For example, the fact that "we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim World - one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity."
Which means, we can expect those polling numbers to start going up, soon.

"Only 16 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States in 2009."

When Obama isn’t launching bold initiatives and "new beginnings," he’s busy taking care of U.S. imperial business as usual. Obama is most proud that the U.S. spends more on its military than all the rest of the nations of the planet, combined.
"[T]he United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades," he told the cadets, "a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty." Others might not view the rise of U.S. hegemony in such a positive light. But they are wrong, said the president. "For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation's resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours."

In Obama’s worldview, it’s the thought that counts. Americans don’t seek world domination; it just comes to them. "We do not seek to occupy other nations," they leave us no choice. If it were not for American concern for the welfare of all the world’s people, the U.S. would not maintain 780 military bases in other people's countries.

Obama has certainly matured as an American-style statesman in his nine and a half months in office. As a TV Native American might say, "Black man in white house speak like forked tongued white man." Only better.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #65 on: December 15, 2009, 03:53:33 am »
Published on Monday, December 14, 2009 by

Gravel’s Lament: Fighting Another Dumb War

by Chris Hedges

I have spent enough time inside the American military to have tasted its dark brutality, frequent incompetence and profligate ability to waste human lives and taxpayer dollars. The deviousness and stupidity of generals, the absurdity of most war plans and the pathological addiction to violence—which is the only language most who command our armed forces are able to understand—make the American military the gravest threat to our anemic democracy, especially as we head toward economic collapse.

Barack Obama, who is as mesmerized by the red, white and blue bunting draped around our vast killing machine as the press, the two main political parties and our entertainment industry, will not halt our doomed imperial projects or renege on the $1 trillion in defense-related spending that is hollowing out the country from the inside. A plague of unchecked militarism has seeped outward from the Pentagon since the end of World War II and is now sucking our marrow dry. It is a familiar disease in imperial empires. We are in the terminal stage. We spend more on our military—half of all discretionary spending—than all of the other countries on Earth combined, although we face no explicit threat.

Mike Gravel, the former two-term senator from Alaska and 2008 presidential candidate, sat Saturday on a park bench in Lafayette Park facing the White House. Gravel and I were in the park, along with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and other anti-war activists, to denounce the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a sparsely attended rally. [Click here [1] for video clips of speeches by Kucinich, Hedges and Nader.] Few voices in American politics have been as consistent, as reasoned and as moral as his, which is why Gravel, on a chilly December morning, is in front of the White House, not inside it.

“I suspect that from the get-go he had an inferiority complex with respect to the military,” Gravel, who was a first lieutenant in the Army, said of the president. “It is the same problem [Bill] Clinton had by not serving in the military, by not having an actual experience. You don’t have to go into combat, you just have to get into the military and recognize at the lower reaches how incompetent the military can be. So not having that experience, and only dealing with generals, who of course learn to be charming—it’s the sergeants who inflict the pain—he has this aura about the military. We have acculturated the nation to a military culture. This is the sadness of it all because that sustains the military-industrial complex.”

“Obama comes on the scene,” he added. “He is endorsed in the course of the campaign by some 19 generals and admirals. These people had no confidence in [George W.] Bush. They recognized that Bush’s unilateralism and cavalier approach to torture was injurious to the American military. They gravitated towards Obama. It turned his head. He thought he could be commander in chief and he could, he has the intelligence, but he does not have fortitude. He lacks courage.”

Time is rapidly running out. The massive bailouts, stimulus packages, giveaways and short-term debt, along with imperial wars we can no longer afford, will leave the country struggling to finance nearly $5 trillion in debt by 2010. This will require the United States to auction off about $96 billion in debt a week. Once China and the oil-rich states walk away from our debt, which is inevitable, the Federal Reserve will become the buyer of last resort. The Fed has printed perhaps as much as 2 trillion new dollars in the last two years, and buying this much new debt will see it print trillions more. This is when inflation, and most likely hyperinflation, will turn the dollar into junk. A backlash by a betrayed and angry populace, one unprepared intellectually and psychologically for collapse, will tear apart the social fabric, unleash chaos and violence, and strengthen the calls for more draconian measures by our security apparatus and military.

Obama uses the veneer of intellectualism to promote the dirty politics of Bush. The president spoke in Oslo, when he accepted the Nobel Prize, of “just war” theory, although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not meet the criteria laid down by Thomas Aquinas or traditional Catholic just-war doctrine. He spoke of battling evil, dividing human reality into binary poles of black and white as Bush did, without examining the evil of pre-emptive war, sustained military occupation and imperialism. He compared al-Qaida to Hitler, ignoring the difference between a protean group of terrorists and a nation-state with the capacity to overwhelm its neighbors with conventional military force. “The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace,” Obama insisted in Oslo. The U.S., he said, has the right to “act unilaterally if necessary” and to launch wars whose purpose “extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor.” Obama’s policies, despite the high-blown rhetoric, are as morally bankrupt as those of his predecessor.

“The first time I met him I felt there was arrogance with a touch of cynicism,” Gravel said of the president. “Now the cynicism and the arrogance have overwhelmed his intelligence. Like Clinton, he is into power.”

Gravel’s shining moment as a politician occurred in 1971 when Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst, handed the secret Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. The newspaper published portions of the document, which painted a picture of a failing war at odds with official pronouncements. The Justice Department swiftly blocked further publication and moved to punish newspaper publishers who revealed its contents. Gravel responded by reading large portions of the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. His courageous public release of the papers made it possible for the publication to resume. Gravel also launched in 1971 a one-man five-month filibuster to end the peacetime military draft, forcing the Nixon administration to cut a deal that allowed the draft to expire in 1973. He was a feisty and blunt candidate in 2008 who lambasted the Democratic Party and its major candidates for being in the service of corporations, especially the arms industry. His outspokenness saw him banned by the Democratic leadership from later primary debates.

“Obama has wasted an opportunity to be a great president,” Gravel lamented. “More than 50 percent of the American people do not buy into this war. He could have stood up and said ‘we are getting out.’ Forget the Congress. Forget the Republicans. Forget the hawks. Forget mainstream media, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, which are hawks. He would have weathered that storm because he would have had the American people on his side. And what did he do? He caved in to the leadership of [David] Petraeus and [Stanley A.] McChrystal and adopted a scenario that is a total loser.”

“When he hugs his children at night, when he puts them to bed, he has got to begin to think there are little girls like this in Afghanistan who are being killed and maimed,” Gravel told me. “If he can’t have that kind of a thought then his arrogance knows no boundaries. I saw this in the Senate during the Vietnam War. People detach themselves from the immediacy of the crime. They vote for the money. They vote for the policy. The picture of people dying is distant. My God, if you are sitting next to me and a bomb explodes and your arm is ripped off that is not distant. It is immediate. I saw the film by Robert Greenwald, “Rethink Afghanistan.” [2] It rips your heart out. And America under the leadership of Obama is a party to this crime. Close your eyes. Listen to the media. Listen to the pundits. Listen to the rhetoric. It is Vietnam all over again. What is the difference between our vital interests and the domino theory? We could leave Afghanistan and it would be as significant as when we left Vietnam.”

“Don’t be hoodwinked by Obama going to Dover [Air Force Base] to watch the caskets or going to Arlington to salute the graves, with his snappy salute,” Gravel says. “Adolf Hitler lionized soldiers dying. This is the old idea that it is honorable to die. It is not honorable to die in vain. People died in vain in Vietnam. They are dying in vain in Iraq and Afghanistan. And more people will die in vain because of the leadership of Barack Obama.”

“They don’t hate us because we are free,” Gravel said of the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. “They hate us because we are killing them.”

Copyright © 2009 Truthdig, L.L.C.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for [3]. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning [4], What Every Person Should Know About War [5], and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. [6]  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle [7]. 

Mike Gravel at the Emergency Anti-Escalation Rally DEC 12 at White House


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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #66 on: December 22, 2009, 06:12:30 am »
Pentagon: US wasted billions on Iraq
22/12/2009 10:56:00 AM GMT

A Pentagon study has warned the Obama administration over spending on the Afghan war by revealing that the US Army wasted billions of dollars on the Iraq war.

The US administration spent billions of dollars by employing a large number of private sectors in Iraq, the report released by German website Welt Online said.

More than 60 percent of Americans working for US Defense Department in Afghanistan are from private sectors, according to the report.

Last week, the Congressional Research Service reported that the surge of 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan could vastly expand the presence of personnel from the US private sector.

The report noted that it expects an additional 26,000 to 56,000 contractors to be sent to Afghanistan. That would bring the number of contractors in the country to anywhere from 130,000 to 160,000.

There are currently 104,000 Defense Department contractors working in Afghanistan under Pentagon supervision, the study said.

The Pentagon report also indicated that the number of American private sectors employees in Afghanistan increased 40 percent from June to September 2009. The figure is expected to rise after President Barack Obama announced his plan to send more troops to the war-torn country.

The proportion of employees by armed services that are in fact mercenary companies like Blackwater have risen within the past few months from an estimated 5,000 to more than 10,000 workers.

Meanwhile, the report said that the war in Afghanistan had cost $ 230 billion thus far, adding that the administration has requested another $ 70 billion for 2010, bringing the total cost of the Afghanistan war to $ 300 billion.

The US Defense Department needs 3.6 billion dollars monthly for staying in Afghanistan, the Pentagon report concluded.
Source: Press TV

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #67 on: January 01, 2010, 09:22:19 am »
UN says Afghans killed in a coalition raid last weekend were students

by DUSAN STOJANOVIC Associated Press Writer


People of Narang district mourning for the civilians killed. (Photo: RAWA)

December 31, 2009

KABUL (AP) — The United Nations said Thursday that a weekend raid by foreign troops in a tense eastern Afghan province killed eight local students and warned against nighttime actions by coalition forces because they often cause civilian deaths.

The Afghan government said its investigation has established that all 10 people killed Sunday in a remote village in Kunar province were civilians. Its officials said that eight of those killed were schoolchildren aged 12-14.

NATO officials initially said all the dead were insurgents, but later backed off by saying there was no evidence to substantiate the claims that they were civilians. They requested a joint Afghan-NATO investigation to reach an "impartial and accurate determination" of what happened.

UN special representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide said in a statement that the preliminary UN investigation showed "strong indication" that there were insurgents in the area at the time of the attack.

But, he added, "based on our initial investigation, eight of those killed were students enrolled in local schools."

Civilian deaths are one of the most sensitive issues for international troops fighting the more than eight-year-old war. Although insurgents are responsible for the deaths of far more civilians, those blamed on coalition forces spark the most resentment and undermine the fight against the militants.

The coalition attack in Kunar has sparked protests by Afghans who have demanded that foreign troops leave the country.

Eide said the UN remained concerned about nighttime raids by coalition troops "given that they often result in lethal outcomes for civilians, the dangerous confusion that frequently arises when a family compound is invaded."

"I appeal for calm while these investigations continue," he said in the statement.

He said the UN "continues to investigate this incident to help bring clarity to the situation." He welcomed efforts by the Afghan government and the international military to do the same.

A statement issued Thursday by the Afghan National Security Directorate said the government investigation showed no Afghan forces were involved and "international forces from an unknown address came to the area and without facing any armed resistance, put 10 youth in two rooms and killed them.

"They conducted this operation on their own without informing any security or local authorities of Afghanistan," the statement said.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul contributed to this report.


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #68 on: January 10, 2010, 05:39:04 am »
Roger Cohen and the Sistani-Montazeri-AfPak Fantasy

by Reidar Visser

January 9, 2010

Taking into account the remarkable mushrooming of outlandish theories about Shiism at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003 it is unsurprising that something similar should occur today, when Iran – home to the biggest Shiite population in the world – is showing signs of an ongoing political revolution.

Back in 2003, neoconservative optimists were in the lead. Among them was Amir Taheri, who in The Wall Street Journal on 7 April – on the basis of an alleged satellite phone conversation with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani – declared the imminence of a "schismatic" Shiite movement whereby a Najaf model of Iraqi Shiism that "steered clear of politics and focused on the ethics of the theological discourse", assisted by the liberating force of "American marines", would finally bring an end to the influence of Khomeini in the region. Even more optimistic were the adherents of the theory of an "Akhbari revolution", according to which a few hundred thousand Iraqis of this tiny sub-sect concentrated in the far south of Iraq would single-handedly convert Iraq’s Shiites to a pro-American position.

Today, after the Obama administration inherited the Iraq conflict with its regional entanglements, it is a more heterogeneous set of commentators that cheer on the American attempts at dialogue with the Shiite world. One exponent is Roger Cohen, who in a recent op-ed in The New York Times conjured up yet another vision of a benign Shiite revolution that will supposedly blow through the region with wonderful consequences for American interests. Briefly put, in Cohen’s view, there is a close link between the political thinking of the late Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri (in Qom) and that of the Iraq-based Sistani. In Cohen’s interpretation, the Iraqi experience gives reason to hope for a diffusion of ideas from Iraq to Iran and a concomitant "reformist" transformation of the Islamic republic whereby the Iran clergy would once more adopt an innocuous position on the sidelines as mere "moral authorities", without undue interference in politics.

Cohen’s piece is flawed, both for what it says about Montazeri as well as for its assumptions about Sistani. First, Cohen greatly exaggerates the extent to which Montazeri really abandoned the idea of clerical supervision of Iranian politics. According to Cohen, "[Montazeri] later apologised for his role in the establishment of the position [of wilayat al-faqih or the rule of the supreme jurisprudent] and argued that he had conceived of it as exercising moral rather than executive authority". It is true that Montazeri in 1997 and again in 2000 voiced criticism of the particular way in which wilayat al-faqih had been implemented in Iran under Khamenei after Khomeini’s death. But Montazeri never abandoned the concept as such. Quite the contrary, Montazeri confirmed the idea of clerical supervision to guarantee the Islamic nature of Iranian society (nezarat-e faqih), and as an antidote to Khamenei – whom he considered a scholarly nonentity – he advocated that the traditional clergy should recoup authority through winning back the faqih position (albeit in an office that would be limited by time and confirmed by a popular vote). In a recent interview, Montazeri’s son confirmed that his late father’s position on wilayat al-faqih had remained essentially the same throughout the last decade.

Cohen also suggests that Iran should build on the Montazeri legacy and "look west to the holy Shiite cities in Iraq… from which Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani exercises precisely the kind of moral authority and suasion – without direct executive authority – that Montazeri favoured for Iran." He even calls for "a Persian Sistani"! The latter, apparently deliberate, use of "Persian" instead of "Iranian" comes across as possibly somewhat more amusing than intended: Surely Cohen must know that Sistani is Persian, and that, by way of contrast, many leading Iranian clerics are in fact Azeri Turks? At any rate, two more basic clarifications are in order here. Firstly, there is a big difference between Montazeri and Sistani with respect to how they view the exact role of the clergy in "supervising" society. Whilst they share the concept of "supervision" (for example, on 27 April 2006, Sistani issued a statement to the effect that he would monitor (raqaba) the performance of the government), Montazeri was always more willing than Sistani has ever been to institutionalise this kind of clerical control. Secondly, Sistani’s reluctance to institutionalise power should not be interpreted as a cession of authority (or, even more implausibly, as a decision to remain aloof from politics altogether). Cohen seems to be unaware about the extent to which Sistani considers himself to be above the law of the land in Iraq and the 2005 constitution, as seen for example in the idea of clerical supervision formulated in April 2006, and again on 18 November 2008, when Sistani suddenly invented a requirement for a special majority in the Iraqi parliament for the SOFA to pass ("approval by all the components of the Iraqi people and their principal political forces").

Moreover, even if the modalities of Sistani’s interference in Iraqi politics are less specific and not as readily defined as those of Montazeri, the potential of his authority has been clearly shown on numerous occasions – including most recently through the implementation of Islamic regulations against alcohol in some Iraqi cities in 2009.  At the same time though, while Sistani’s preference for giving orders from the sidelines may shield him from the disadvantages of "routinised charisma" in the Weberian sense, it also makes him more vulnerable to exploitation by political forces (who can more easily construe his actions and statements in ways that suit their own agendas). Much like in 2004, there is today evidence that both the Iranian regime as well as some Iraqi parties are still hoping that Sistani may be a useful tool for reunifying the dispersed Shiite parties under a nominally "nationalist" and "anti-sectarian" umbrella – whether before or after the 2010 elections – as exemplified through the latest rush of public statements indicating renewed possibilities for rapprochement between the Daawa and Hakim and Sadr after a visit by Maliki to Sistani in Najaf.

These facts also have wider implications for the overall rosy scenario painted by Cohen in his piece. Westerners often tend to forget exactly what sort of conservative values these venerated clerics would like to see implemented in the countries where they live – and the preparedness of their followers to follow through on their edicts. We have already had a taste of this in Afghanistan, where last April the Western prosecutors of the "good war" rather abruptly discovered that the "progressive" regime of Hamid Karzai (which had defeated the "medieval" rule of the Taliban) in fact counted among its key allies Shiite clerics who wanted to push through laws that gave Shiite Afghan men the unconditional right to sexual intercourse with their wives every four days. The point here is that these Afghan Shiite clerics are not in any sense marginal loners in Shiite jurisprudence. In fact, Sistani’s own website makes it perfectly clear how he sees marital "obligations", including how the wife should make herself available to the husband for "sexual enjoyment" and also follow his orders when it comes to leaving the house (on the other hand, housekeeping chores are specifically exempted).

In Roger Cohen’s conclusion, "Shiite Iran is not America’s enemy; Sunni Al Qaeda is, whether in Yemen, Nigeria or Pakistan". Black and white; Sunni is bad and Shiite is good. True, there are many reasons to hope for some kind of change in Tehran. But realistic contemplation of what is likely to replace the current regime and the potential complexities of any future transition – and their possible regional repercussions – should also form part of that kind of exercise.

[Some of the arguments in this piece have been elaborated with full quotations etc. in a previous paper on Sistani available here, and in a recent article in SAIS Review.]


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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #69 on: January 17, 2010, 06:13:25 am »
Q+A: Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan tops $1 trillion

Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:04am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The cost to U.S. taxpayers of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has topped $1 trillion, and President Barack Obama is expected to request another $33 billion to fund more troops this year.

Over two-thirds of the money has been spent on the conflict in Iraq since 2003. This year is the first in which more funds are being spent in Afghanistan than Iraq, as the pace of U.S. military operations slows in Iraq and quickens in Afghanistan.


Congress has approved $1.05 trillion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan budget research group that has a continuously running war cost counter on its website.

The tally topped $1 trillion last month, when U.S. lawmakers approved the fiscal 2010 defense spending bill that included $128 billion to be spent on the two conflicts through September 30. The trillion-dollar total includes war-related costs incurred by the State Department, like embassy security.


The lion's share of the spending -- $747.3 billion -- has been allocated to the war in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion there in 2003.

The other $299 billion has been for Afghanistan, where the United States invaded to fight al Qaeda and topple the Taliban after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

War funding for fiscal 2010, which ends September 30, included $72.3 billion for Afghanistan and $64.5 billion for Iraq, making this the first year that Afghanistan was more expensive, the National Priorities Project said.


Obama announced in December he was adding 30,000 more U.S. troops to the Afghan war effort to join 68,000 already there fighting a resurgent Taliban. Defense officials say he will shortly ask Congress for $33 billion to pay for the surge, when he sends lawmakers his budget request.

That would take care of 2010. Future expenses are a question mark, partly because troop levels are uncertain. Obama says he wants to start withdrawing forces from Afghanistan in mid-2011, but this will depend in part on conditions on the ground. No deadline for leaving has been set.

Estimates of the cost per troop per year in Afghanistan vary from $500,000 to $1 million depending on whether expenditures on troop housing and equipment are included along with pay, food and fuel. Medical costs for the injured and veterans' compensation balloon as time goes on.

In Iraq, the U.S. force is supposed to fall to 50,000 by the end of August, from some 115,000 last month. The 50,000 can remain until the end of 2011, under an agreement with Baghdad.

A year ago the Congressional Budget Office projected that additional costs for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts could be $867 billion over the next decade, if combined troop levels fall to 75,000 by about 2013.


Obama's Democratic Party has the majority in Congress but is divided over the wisdom of continuing the Afghan war. This means he needs Republicans to get congressional approval of the next tranche of funds sometime this spring.

He is expected to get that approval, in part because many lawmakers who don't approve of sending more combat troops are loath to cut off funds to soldiers in the field.

"I think that in general the American people, while obviously this is very difficult financially for us, will continue to support the troops that are there and the Congress will reflect that," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said this week.

But with Americans tiring of war and getting more concerned about U.S. indebtedness, political pressures are expected to grow for winding down U.S. military operations and their costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #70 on: January 19, 2010, 05:00:48 am »
General Gambit

by Peter Chamberlin

January 18, 2010

The war for the future of the human race is more about truth –vs- lies, than it is about a physical contest between hostile adversaries.  The strangest part of it all is that no one is seeking absolute vindication in this war of perceptions as either a liar or a "truth" teller.  No one wants to pin down the other side for telling obvious lies.  Why is that?  Everybody has something to hide in the war on terror.

Dig too deeply, or expose the most dangerous lies strung together to tie-up the world in a state of permanent limited war, and the flimsy alliances and "coalitions of the willing" begin to fall apart.  The utter hypocrisy of the entire "war on terror" brings to the front all the worst traits of mankind, in an endeavor that is the most stupendous fraud ever perpetuated upon the human race.

The weavers of the lies at the root of the war have created a paradoxical production that is manifested in our mission, fighting terror while simultaneously creating terrorists.  We wage war on an open-ended battlefield, where the "enemy" is always allowed an escape route, pursuing an ultra-violent strategy that is guaranteed to convert the survivor relatives of murdered militants into terrorists themselves.  The world is being engulfed with a wave of not-undeserved anti-Americanism and America has no plans to change the behavior of our leaders who have created the situation in the first place.

Anger at America within the Pakistani military is the direct cause of the war on terror.  Military defectors and veterans form the hardcore center in all of the outfits involved in starting the war.  This is because American leaders have chosen the Pakistani people to be their primary source of cannon fodder in America’s many aggressions, over the past thirty years, and payback time has arrived for some of them.

The wave of hatred came at us on September 11, 2001 because of past criminal American interactions with the Islamic world.  We built an international army of mercenaries in secret, to fight both friend and foe in illegal, undeclared, wars of aggression, without civilian control or oversight.  We used and abused the Muslim Umma in this manner for our own purposes up until the turning point came, since then, everything has been payback.  The war to defeat the radical extremists that we have created has been a series of attempts to preempt further reactions to our abuse of Muslim men as our militant foot soldiers, as well as their families, who have suffered in our retribution.

Obama has accepted responsibility for carrying on this war, which has been completely blamed on Bush.  The liberal press refuses to lay the blame for this war squarely at the feet of the Democratic Party for starting this with their interventionist policies throughout the world.  This war belongs to them as much as it does to Reagan and both Bushes.  (SEE:  BILL CLINTON: FIRST NEOCON PRESIDENT)  It was Jimmie Carter who armed the first Muslim mujahedeen in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.  It was Bill Clinton who hired mostly Pakistani, but also Iranian veterans of Carter and Reagan’s Afghan "holy war," to send them off to fight the Serbians in Yugoslavia.

The future of the human race will be determined by the decisions that this Democratic administration will make.  Will Obama listen to the millions of voices of reason and end this God-forsaken war, or will he continue the modern-day Crusades, intended to remake the Middle East into a safe place for radical Zionists, by eliminating several million angry Muslims?  If Obama chooses to secretly send a new wave of Muslim mercenaries into the Middle East and Central Asia, then he will be choosing the losing side in this struggle for the soul of humankind.  More than anything else, the war on terror is a gigantic flashing sign, telling us that we have to change our ways.

Pakistan is in flames today because everyone refuses to sort-out the truth from the lies in the contest taking place there, even the Pakistanis themselves.   In order for the world to keep on spinning, without upsetting all the "apple carts" in every corner of every kingdom, world opinion must accept the lie—that Pakistan has created the Frankenstein monster of international terrorism on its own, and American forces are only there to clean it all up.  The world accepts the next lie—that the American hand in creating the Afghan mujahedeen (who are at the center of every "Islamist" outfit) was a benevolent one, intended only to "rid the world of the menace of Communism," and that support for Muslim extremists is a thing of the past.  We must accept—that menace that later grew out of this effort was not America’s, or the CIA’s fault, even if the agency has once again been given the benefit of the doubt in its endless string of "mistakes."

The Pakistani situation will be the death of the United States, if we do not face-up to the truth of what we have done there and the forces that have arisen as a result.  The forced conversion of Muslim holy warriors into "Islamist" mercenaries to fight for Clinton and the Democrat-led interventionists has not been without repercussions.  The merger of fanatic Shiite and Sunni Islamists into a mercenary army fighting for the "great Satan" in Yugoslavia produced simmering resentments, especially amongst the Sunnis, who had mostly been drawn from Pakistan’s sectarian Sunni outfits.

The movement of Sunni veterans of the Bosnian and Croatian wars into the struggle in Kashmir, where the United States was blamed for Pakistan’s defeat at Kargil, moved some of the extremists who fought and lost there to plot their revenge against us for this latest slap in the face, following our long history of abuse.  September 11 was their payback for that abuse, but mostly for dishonoring Islam and "betrayal" at Kargil.

It is here where the whole narrative gets sticky, because Kargil was Gen. Musharraf’s gambit, and according to the official version of events, it was lost because most of the Pakistani Air Force was grounded due to American anti-nuclear sanctions, which denied them vital spare parts for their F-16s.

The 911 attacks were the work of a bunch of pissed-off Afghan veterans, though American leaders like to call them "al Qaida."  The most important players were ex-military men, primarily Pakistani Air Force veterans.  Amjad Farooqi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh were allegedly both Pakistani Air Force personnel, both had fought in Bosnia, both had manned the hilltop outposts in Kargil in 1999, both were acquaintances of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both belonged to the anti-Indian Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and both trained at the Khawar Zilli camps in Afghanistan’s Khost, which was also one of the targets of Clinton’s cruise missile strikes.   Bin Laden’s boys were also at Kargil, though, at that time, they called themselves the Al-Badar Brigade and Tehrik-i-Jihad, under the banner of the International Islamic Front.  Bin Laden allegedly dug the hilltop fortifications used by the paramilitary infiltrators at Kargil.  The Stinger missiles that they used to defend these positions from the Indian Air Force came from Afghanistan, courtesy of the USA (the ISI refused to return the leftover missiles, as agreed on).

After Clinton’s cruise missile strikes, group leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil subsequently said that HUM would take revenge on the United States.

"The USA has struck us with Tomahawk cruise missiles at only two places, but we will hit back at them everywhere in the world, wherever we find them. We have started a holy war against the US and they will hardly find a tree to take shelter beneath it."

At that time, the militants were all united under the Taliban, which has always been under the Pak. Army’s thumb, via the ISI and CIA network.  The militants of HUM could not act without ISI permission.  No matter how much Musharraf and the other generals wanted their own retribution for imaginary American crimes at Kargil that would have seemed too much like cutting their own throats.  But there were other ramifications that arose from the defeat at Kargil which had entered the equation and had to be considered.

The failure of the generals’ gambit forced a severe rethink of the military’s situation. Even though Pakistan had established its own nuclear deterrent to Indian aggression, the attack at Kargil was going to force some kind of Indian retaliation.  Pakistan could not afford to resort to nuclear war to defend against an overwhelming Indian attack, given their F-16 problems and now that India had acquired laser-guided munitions.  Gen. Musharraf knew that Pakistan needed American help, to avert the coming Indian attack.  On October 11, 1999, Gen. Musharraf and his co-conspirators overthrew the democratic government of Pakistan.

This newfound sense of total power, and with that total responsibility for Pakistan’s fate, may have moved him to make a fatal decision to lend covert support to the plot to draw America into Afghanistan.  Since the Army commander of the Kargil operation was Lt. Gen. Mehmud Ahmad, and it has been reported since then that telephone intercepts pegged Gen. Ahmad as the man who had Omar Sheikh wire $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, who was also the roommate of Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Hamburg, Germany, then it does seem quite plausible.

But surely, all of this has been apparent to American military and intelligence bureaus for a long time, after all, all of the key militants in the plots are nearly all either dead now or rotting in some hell-hole, while the generals who secretly supported the militants became America’s top allies in the fight to erase our past mistakes.  They were our partners in the militants’ creation, rightly, they should be part of the militants’ end.

But nothing ended, except for the lives of a lot of militants and regular Pakistani civilians.  The plan was successful, in that it bogged American forces down in a state of endless war in the center of the world’s energy basket, but that was exactly what our leaders have wanted, all along.  Which leads us to the next assumption, that Pakistan’s generals were only doing what American generals wanted them to do, just as they had done for the past thirty years or more.

Even though nuclear war between the two eternal antagonists was impossible, conventional war was ruled-out because of America’s presence in the region, which successfully restrained India’s forces.  With Israel’s help, a covert war within Pakistan was then begun, following the pattern set by Pakistani "ultras," otherwise known as paramilitaries, militants, or simply terrorists.

The ball of retribution was set in motion, opening the door for other Pakistani militant groups, organized by other military veterans of Kargil; this time from the Pak. Army.  The Lashkar e-Taiba (LET) outfit was headed by Special Forces commando Ilyas Kashmiri. Possibly with the aid of Dawood Ibrahim’s criminal underworld, LET attacked the Indian Parliament on Dec. 13, 2001.

The same combination of Lashkar and underworld forces was later repeated in the 2008 Mumbai attack, if reports based on forced confessions from lone terrorist Ajmal Kasab can be believed.  The question being pondered today is—Was that operation was actually carried-out by Pakistan, or whether it was a duplication of the earlier attack in a "false flag" operation meant to advance the agenda of the American/Indian partnership?  The ongoing controversy over American/Lashkar e-Taiba spy David Headley may give the answer.  Since the US has partnered with both sides in this conflict and is obviously pitting one side against the other, this question will probably go unanswered until the violent resolution that one side (probably the big dog’s side) has planned plays-out.

The victor in all of this drama will determine the fate of the human race, whether that is to be a martial reshaping of the planet, or the struggling of the survivors is anyone’s guess at this point.  All that I really know is, that all of these lies must come to an end and let the chips fall where they may.  All we can do is to keep investigating and exposing whatever we find, no matter what we find.

The truth must prevail.

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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #71 on: January 21, 2010, 07:00:10 am »
India and Pakistan:

Cold Start for the Hottest War?

BY J. Sri Raman

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Eddi 07, The life of brian)

Truthout , January 20, 2010

We have all been witness to a long and continuing war of words between New Delhi and Islamabad ever since the Mumbai terrorist strike of November 2008 disrupted the India-Pakistan "peace process" and "composite dialogue" which had kept going until then despite smaller problems and provocations. These statements and counter-statements, however, do not constitute the exchange that should cause the most serious concern over peace in South Asia.

A larger and direr threat is what a strangely less-noticed debate between the military establishments of the two countries presents. The chiefs of the two armies and security experts on both sides, besides others in either distinguished uniform or defense-related positions of prominence, have been engaged in the debate where a nuclear war is treated in mind-numbingly matter-of-fact terms.

It all started with a statement on November 23, 2009, by India's Chief of Army Staff Gen. Deepak Kapoor, which deserved a much wider notice than it received. He told a seminar in New Delhi: "The possibility of a limited war under a nuclear overhang is still a reality, at least in the Indian sub-continent."

He followed this up with public observations on December 29, 2009, about a plan to "launch self-contained and highly-mobile 'battle groups,' adequately backed by air cover and artillery fire assaults, for rapid thrusts into enemy territory within 96 hours." The reference was to the "cold start" military doctrine, reportedly first propounded by the Indian army in 2004 and fine-tuned subsequently. The doctrine for a "limited war" - something "short of a nuclear war" - has triggered a debate that actually raises again the prospect of the most dreaded of conflicts between the close neighbors.

Details of the doctrine make it clear that it is designed to promote war by countering Indian democracy and international peace initiatives. India's security analyst Subhash K. Kapila - who describes the doctrine as "a blitzkrieg-type strategy" to be pursued through "integrated battle groups" drawn from all the three wings of the armed forces - puts these objectives in other words.

In a paper titled "India's new 'cold start' doctrine strategically reviewed," Kapila notes that the doctrine, which says goodbye to weeks-long "military mobilization," will not only retain the surprise element in the offensive. It will also serve two other purposes.

In the first place, it will "compel the political leadership to give political approval ab initio and thereby free the armed forces to generate their full combat potential from the outset." The government is required to give the army a blank check, so to speak. Long mobilization "gives the political leadership in India time to waver under pressure, and in the process deny Indian Army its due military victories." Secondly, lengthy preparations also allow time for "Pakistan's external patrons ... to start exerting coercive pressures and mobilizing world opinion ..."

The analysis makes it clear that the doctrine will demand a new degree of militarism of India's political leadership. The strategy can succeed, Kapila points out, only if New Delhi has the "political will to use offensive military power" and "pre-emptive military strategies," the "political sagacity to view strategic military objectives with clarity" and the "political determination to pursue military operations to their ultimate conclusion without succumbing to external pressures."

Last, but certainly not the least, condition for the success of the strategy will be what Kapila calls the "political determination to cross [the] nuclear threshold if Pakistan seems so inclined." The paper notes: "Pakistan has declared that it will go for nuclear strikes against India when a significant portion of its territory has been captured or likely to be captured, ... when a significant destruction of the Pakistani military machine has taken place or when Pakistani strategic assets (read nuclear deterrents) are endangered." Offensives under the doctrine will not allow "Pakistan to reach the above conclusions."

What about the dreadful possibility that Pakistan does reach such a conclusion, even if by mistake, and responds with a nuclear strike? The analyst provides the answer implicit in the doctrine: "Pakistan cannot expect that India would sit idle and suffer a Pakistani nuclear strike without a massive nuclear retaliation." As the paper elaborates, "Pakistan's external strategic patrons can coerce or dissuade both sides to avoid a nuclear conflict, but once Pakistan uses a nuclear first strike no power can restrain India from going in for its nuclear retaliation and the consequences for Pakistan in that case stand well discussed in strategic circles. Pakistan would (be) wiped out."

Pakistani responses have been prompt and even worse than predictable. General Deepak's counterpart, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Ashfaq Pervez Kayani charged India with "charting a course of dangerous adventurism whose consequences can be both unintended and uncontrollable." As Pakistan's peace activist Zia Mian put it: "In other words, Pakistan was threatening to use nuclear weapons if India tried to carry out the kind of conventional attack it has been rehearsing."

The civilian-military National Command Authority (NCA) of Pakistan, meeting under Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on January 13, took "serious note of recent Indian statements about conducting conventional military strikes under a nuclear umbrella" and said "such irresponsible statements reflected a hegemonic mindset, oblivious of dangerous implications of adventurism in a nuclearized context."

The NCA added: "Massive inductions of advanced weapon systems, including installation of ABMs (anti-ballistic missiles), build-up of nuclear arsenal and delivery systems through ongoing and new programs, assisted by some external quarters, offensive doctrines like 'Cold Start' and similar accumulations in the conventional realm, tend to destabilize the regional balance." Earlier, former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri took it upon himself to declare: "Pakistan's defense establishment has taken serious notice of the Indian doctrine of 'Cold Start' and all necessary arrangements have been made for an appropriate and timely response in case of any Indian misadventure."

It was left, again, to security experts to elaborate on the subject. Among these was Maleeha Lodhi, a journalist, an academic and a diplomat. A former high commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom, and a former ambassador to the US, she was recently reported to be under consideration as a possible replacement for Hussain Haqqani as the new Pakistani ambassador in Washington.

In an analysis published on January 5 in Pakistan's News International, Lodhi talks of the notion of "limited war" contained in the doctrine, and says: "It overlooks the fact that in a crisis the nuclear threshold will be indeterminate. The threshold cannot be wished away by "speed in mobilization," she said.

"In fact," she added, "the shorter the duration needed for a mobilization the greater the risk of escalation and the likely lowering of Pakistan's nuclear red lines. The long fuse in a crisis provided by the time required for assembly and deployment of forces has so far helped to avoid a catastrophic war."

Lodhi warns: "If operationalized, the 'cold start' doctrine will force Pakistan to re-evaluate its policy of keeping its nuclear arsenal in 'separated' form and move towards placing its strategic capability in a higher state of readiness, including mating warheads to delivery systems. The action-reaction cycle will move the subcontinent to a perilous state of hair-trigger alert."

The same scary prospect is raised in an article by security columnist Farzana Shah in the Asian Tribune of January 14. She writes: "(The) Indian military establishment is relying much more on President (Asif Ali) Zardari's announcement that Pakistan will not use its nuclear weapon as first strike. In reality, it is Pakistan army who will decide which weapon is to be used when and where."

The deciding authority, Shah suggests, only makes the danger more real. She adds: "Another problem, which India is going to face during any execution of Cold Start, is the gauge of nuclear threshold of Pakistan, a point where Pakistan would decide to go for unconventional warfare. This is where Army Chief Asfaq Pervez Kayani (has) hinted that the consequences of any misadventure in a nuclear overhang can be suicidal for India."

Anyone with any doubt about the alternative to a peace-oriented India-Pakistan dialogue needs only to listen to even a little of the debate over the cold start doctrine and its nuclear dimension.


Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #72 on: January 21, 2010, 07:07:08 am »
Gates: Al-Qaeda Aims to Start India-Pakistan War

Secretary Claims al-Qaeda Secretly Controls Every Militant Faction

by Jason Ditz, January 20, 2010

While praising India for not attacking Pakistan immediately following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned India could not be expected to show such restraint if another attack happened.

Which led Secretary Gates to conclude that al-Qaeda is attempting to spark a war between India and its long-standing rival Pakistan. Tensions have continued to grow between the two nations since 2008, with India’s Army Chief declaring his nation ready to fight both Pakistan and its ally China at the same time: a three-way war which would involve 40 percent of the worlds population.

Moreover, Secretary Gates claimed that al-Qaeda secretly exercises control over every militant group in the region, and that a “victory for one is a victory for all.” The US certainly has shown difficulty distinguishing between militant factions, but Gates provided no evidence that they were actually all part of a single “syndicate,” as he put it.

The Mumbai attack was blamed on the Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT), a militant group of Kashmiri separatists. LeT was quick to deny the charges. Links between LeT and al-Qaeda are unclear at best, and officials have used the fact that both groups operated in Afghanistan before the 2001 US invasion as evidence of ties.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #73 on: January 25, 2010, 04:55:44 am »
Robots Will Soon Do All Our Killing for Us

In the years ahead, unmanned machines will increasingly fight our wars.

By Nick Turse,
Posted on January 25, 2010, Printed on January 25, 2010

One moment there was the hum of a motor in the sky above.  The next, on a recent morning in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a missile blasted a home, killing 13 people.  Days later, the same increasingly familiar mechanical whine preceded a two-missile salvo that slammed into a compound in Degan village in the tribal North Waziristan district of Pakistan, killing three.

What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the Bush years have become commonplace under the Obama administration.  And since a devastating December 30th suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a CIA forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the Af-Pak war zone at a record pace.  In Pakistan, an “unprecedented number” of strikes -- which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike -- have led to more fear, anger, and outrage in the tribal areas, as the CIA, with help from the U.S. Air Force, wages the most public “secret” war of modern times.

In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized “surge” of ground forces now underway.  And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Today’s Surge

Drones are the hot weapons of the moment and the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review -- a soon-to-be-released four-year outline of Department of Defense strategies, capabilities, and priorities to fight current wars and counter future threats -- is already known to reflect this focus.  As the Washington Post recently reported, “The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.”

The MQ-1 Predator -- first used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s -- and its newer, larger, and more deadly cousin, the MQ-9 Reaper, are now firing missiles and dropping bombs at an unprecedented pace.  In 2008, there were reportedly between 27 and 36 U.S. drone attacks as part of the CIA’s covert war in Pakistan.  In 2009, there were 45 to 53 such strikes.  In the first 18 days of January 2010, there had already been 11 of them.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has instituted a much publicized decrease in piloted air strikes to cut down on civilian casualties as part of Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy.  At the same time, however, UAS attacks have increased to record levels. 

The Air Force has created an interconnected global command-and-control system to carry out its robot war in Afghanistan (and as Noah Shachtman of Wired’s Danger Room blog has reported, to assist the CIA in its drone strikes in Pakistan as well).  Evidence of this can be found at high-tech U.S. bases around the world where drone pilots and other personnel control the planes themselves and the data streaming back from them.  These sites include a converted medical warehouse at Al-Udeid Air Base, a billion-dollar facility in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar where the Air Force secretly oversees its on-going drone wars; Kandahar and Jalalabad Air Fields in Afghanistan, where the drones are physically based; the global operations center at Nevada’s Creech Air Base, where the Air Force’s “pilots” fly drones by remote control from thousands of miles away; and -- perhaps most importantly -- at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a 12-square-mile facility in Dayton, Ohio, named after the two local brothers who invented powered flight in 1903.  This is where the bills for the current drone surge -- as well as limited numbers of strikes in Yemen and Somalia -- come due and are, quite literally, paid. 

In the waning days of December 2009, in fact, the Pentagon cut two sizeable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper will continue full-speed ahead in 2010.  The 703rd Aeronautical Systems Squadron based at Wright-Patterson signed a $38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones.  At the same time, the squadron inked a deal worth $266 million with mega-defense contractor General Atomics, which makes the Predator and Reaper drones, to provide management services, logistics support, repairs, software maintenance, and other functions for both drone programs.  Both deals essentially ensure that, in the years ahead, the stunning increase in drone operations will continue.

These contracts, however, only initial down payments on an enduring drone surge designed to carry U.S. unmanned aerial operations forward, ultimately for decades.

Drone Surge:  The Longer View

Back in 2004, the Air Force could put a total of only five drone combat air patrols (CAPs) -- each consisting of four air vehicles -- in the skies over American war zones at any one time.  By 2009, that number was 38, a 660% increase according to the Air Force.  Similarly, between 2001 and 2008, hours of surveillance coverage for U.S. Central Command, encompassing both the Iraqi and Afghan war zones, as well as Pakistan and Yemen, showed a massive spike of 1,431%.

In the meantime, flight hours have gone through the roof.  In 2004, for example, Reapers, just beginning to soar, flew 71 hours in total, according to Air Force documents; in 2006, that number had risen to 3,123 hours; and last year, 25,391 hours.  This year, the Air Force projects that the combined flight hours of all its drones -- Predators, Reapers, and unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks -- will exceed 250,000 hours, about the total number of hours flown by all Air Force drones from 1995-2007.  In 2011, the 300,000 hour-a-year barrier is expected to be crossed for the first time, and after that the sky’s the limit.

More flight time will, undoubtedly, mean more killing.  According to Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the Washington-based think tank the New America Foundation, in the Bush years, from 2006 into 2009, there were 41 drone strikes in Pakistan which killed 454 militants and civilians.  Last year, under the Obama administration, there were 42 strikes that left 453 people dead.  A recent report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based independent research organization that tracks security issues, claimed an even larger number, 667 people -- most of them civilians -- killed by U.S. drone strikes last year.

While assisting the CIA’s drone operations in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, the Air Force has been increasing its own unmanned aerial hunter-killer missions.  In 2007 and 2008, for example, Air Force Predators and Reapers fired missiles during 244 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In fact, while all the U.S. armed services have pursued unmanned aerial warfare, the Air Force has outpaced each of them.

From 2001, when armed drone operations began, until the spring of 2009, the Air Force fired 703 Hellfire missiles and dropped 132 GBU-12s (500-pound laser-guided bombs) in combat operations.  The Army, by comparison, launched just two Hellfire missiles and two smaller GBU-44 Viper Strike munitions in the same time period.  The disparity should only grow, since the Army’s drones remain predominantly small surveillance aircraft, while in 2009 the Air Force shifted all outstanding orders for the medium-sized Predator to the even more formidable Reaper, which is not only twice as fast but has 600% more payload capacity, meaning more space for bombs and missiles.

In addition, the more heavily-armed Reapers, which can now loiter over an area for 10 to 14 hours without refueling, will be able to spot and track ever more targets via an increasingly sophisticated video monitoring system.  According to Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, the first three “Gorgon Stare pods” -- new wide-area sensors that provide surveillance capabilities over large swathes of territory -- will be installed on Reapers operating in Afghanistan this spring.

A technology not available for the older Predator, Gorgon Stare will allow 10 operators to view 10 video feeds from a single drone at the same time.  Back at a distant base, a “pilot” will stare at a tiled screen with a composite picture of the streaming battlefield video, even as field commanders analyze a portion of the digital picture, panning, zooming, and tilting the image to meet their needs.

A more advanced set of “pods,” scheduled to be deployed for the first time this fall, will allow 30 operators to view 30 video images simultaneously.  In other words, via video feeds from a single Reaper drone, operators could theoretically track 30 different people heading in 30 directions from a single Afghan compound.  The generation of sensors expected to come online in late 2011 promises 65 such feeds, according to Air Force documents, a more than 6,000% increase in effectiveness over the Predator’s video system.  The Air Force is, however, already overwhelmed just by drone video currently being sent back from the war zones and, in the years ahead, risks “drowning in data,” according to Deptula.

The 40-Year Plan

When it comes to the drone surge, the years 2011-2013 are just the near horizon.  While, like the Army, the Navy is working on its own future drone warfare capacity -- in the air as well as on and even under the water -- the Air Force is involved in striking levels of futuristic planning for robotic war.  It envisions a future previously imagined only in sci-fi movies like the Terminator series.

As a start, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA, the Pentagon’s blue skies research outfit, is already looking into radically improving on Gorgon Stare with an “Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Infrared (ARGUS-IR) System.”  In the obtuse language of military research and development, it will, according to DARPA, provide a “real-time, high-resolution, wide area video persistent surveillance capability that allows joint forces to keep critical areas of interest under constant surveillance with a high degree of target location accuracy” via as many as “130 ‘Predator-like’ steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking and monitoring and enhanced situational awareness during evening hours.”

In translation, that means the Air Force will quite literally be flooded with video information from future battlefields; and every “advance” of this sort means bulking up the global network of facilities, systems, and personnel capable of receiving, monitoring, and interpreting the data streaming in from distant digital eyes.  All of it, of course, is specifically geared toward “target location,” that is, pin-pointing people on one side of the world so that Americans on the other side can watch, track, and in many cases, kill them.

In addition to enhanced sensors and systems like ARGUS-IR, the Air Force has a long-term vision for drone warfare that is barely beginning to be realized.  Predators and Reapers have already been joined in Afghanistan by a newer, formerly secret drone, a “low observable unmanned aircraft system” first spotted in 2007 and dubbed the “Beast of Kandahar” before observers were sure what it actually was.  It is now known to be a Lockheed Martin-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicle, the RQ-170 -- a drone which the Air Force blandly notes was designed to “directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets.”  According to military sources, the sleek, stealthy surveillance crafthas been designated to replace the antique Lockheed U-2 spy plane, which has been in use since the 1950s.

In the coming years, the RQ-170 is slated to be joined in the skies of America’s “next wars” by a fleet of drones with ever newer, more sophisticated capabilities and destructive powers.  Looking into the post-2011 future, Deptula sees the most essential need, according to an Aviation Week report, as “long-range [reconnaissance and] precision strike” -- that is, more eyes in far off skies and more lethality.  He added, “We cannot move into a future without a platform that allows [us] to project power long distances and to meet advanced threats in a fashion that gives us an advantage that no other nation has.”

This means bigger, badder, faster drones -- armed to the teeth -- with sensor systems to monitor wide swathes of territory and the ability to loiter overhead for days on end waiting for human targets to appear and, in due course, be vaporized by high-powered munitions.  It’s a future built upon advanced technologies designed to make targeted killings -- remote-controlled assassinations -- ever more effortless.

Over the horizon and deep into what was, until recently, only a silver-screen fantasy, the Air Force envisions a wide array of unmanned aircraft, from tiny insect-like robots to enormous “tanker size” pilotless planes.  Each will be slated to take over specific war-making functions (or so Air Force dreamers imagine).  Those nano-sized drones, for instance, are set to specialize in indoor reconnaissance -- they’re small enough to fly through windows or down ventilation shafts -- and carry out lethal attacks, undertake computer-disabling cyber-attacks, and swarm, as would a group of angry bees, of their own volition.  Slightly larger micro-sized Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (STUAS) are supposed to act as “transformers” -- altering their form to allow for flying, crawling and non-visual sensing capabilities.  They might fill sentry, counter-drone, surveillance, and lethal attack roles.

Additionally, the Air Force envisions small and medium “fighter sized” drones with lethal combat capabilities that would put the current UAS air fleet to shame.  Today’s medium-sized Reapers are set to be replaced by next generation MQ-Ma drones that will be “networked, capable of partial autonomy, all-weather and modular with capabilities supporting electronic warfare (EW), CAS [close air support], strike and multi-INT [multiple intelligence] ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] missions’ platform.”

The language may not be elegant, much less comprehensible, but if these future fighter aircraft actually come online they will not only send today’s remaining Top Gun pilots to the showers, but may even sideline tomorrow’s drone human operators, who, if all goes as planned, will have ever fewer duties.  Unlike today’s drones which must take off and land with human guidance, the MQ-Ma’s will be automated and drone operators will simply be there to monitor the aircraft. 

Next up will be the MQ-Mb, theoretically capable of taking over even more roles once assigned to traditional fighter-bombers and spy planes, including the suppression of enemy air defenses, bombing and strafing of ground targets, and surveillance missions.  These will also be designed to fly more autonomously and be better linked-in to other drone “platforms” for cooperative missions involving many aircraft under the command of a single “pilot.”  Imagine, for instance, one operator overseeing a single command drone that holds sway over a small squadron of autonomous drones carrying out a coordinated air attack on clusters of people in some far off land, incinerating them in small groups across a village, town or city.

Finally, perhaps 30 to 40 years from now, the MQ-Mc drone would incorporate all of the advances of the MQ-M line, while being capable of everything from dog-fighting to missile defense.  With such new technology will, of course, come new policies and new doctrines.  In the years ahead, the Air Force intends to make drone-related policy decisions on everything from treaty obligations to automatic target engagement -- robotic killing without a human in the loop.  The latter extremely controversial development is already envisioned as a possible post-2025 reality.

2047: What’s Old is New Again

The year 2047 is the target date for the Air Force’s Holy Grail, the capstone for its long-term plan to turn the skies over to war-fighting drones.  In 2047, the Air Force intends to rule the skies with MQ-Mc drones and “special” super-fast, hypersonic drones for which neither viable technology nor any enemies with any comparable programs or capabilities yet exist.  Despite this, the Air Force is intent on making these super-fast hunter-killer systems a reality by 2047.  “Propulsion technology and materials that can withstand the extreme heat will likely take 20 years to develop. This technology will be the next generation air game-changer. Therefore the prioritization of the funding for the specific technology development should not wait until the emergence of a critical COCOM [combatant command] need,” says the Air Force’s 2009-2047 UAS “Flight Plan.”

If anything close to the Air Force’s dreams comes to fruition, the “game” will indeed be radically changed.  By 2047, there’s no telling how many drones will be circling over how many heads in how many places across the planet.  There’s no telling how many millions or billions of flight hours will have been flown, or how many people, in how many countries will have been killed by remote-controlled, bomb-dropping, missile-firing, judge-jury-and-executioner drone systems.

There’s only one given.  If the U.S. still exists in its present form, is still solvent, and still has a functioning Pentagon of the present sort, a new plan will already be well underway to create the war-making technologies of 2087.  By then, in ever more places, people will be living with the sort of drone war that now worries only those in places like Degan village.  Ever more people will know that unmanned aerial systems packed with missiles and bombs are loitering in their skies.  By then, there undoubtedly won’t even be that lawnmower-engine sound indicating that a missile may soon plow into your neighbor’s home.

For the Air Force, such a prospect is the stuff of dreams, a bright future for unmanned, hypersonic lethality; for the rest of the planet, it's a potential nightmare from which there may be no waking.

Copyright 2010 Nick Turse


Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of His first book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, an exploration of the new military-corporate complex in America, was recently published by Metropolitan Books. His website is Nick

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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #74 on: January 27, 2010, 03:41:52 am »
Published on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 by

The Sanctity of Military Spending

by Glenn Greenwald

Administration officials announced last night [1] that the President, in tomorrow's State of the Union address, will propose a multi-year freeze on certain domestic discretionary spending programs.  This is an "initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit," officials told The New York Times. 

But the freeze is more notable for what it excludes than what it includes.  For now, it does not include the largest domestic spending programs:  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  And all "security-releated programs" are also exempted from the freeze, which means it does not apply to military spending, the intelligence budget, the Surveillance State, or foreign military aid.  As always, the notion of decreasing the deficit and national debt through reductions in military spending is one of the most absolute Washington taboos.  What possible rationale is there for that?

The facts [2] about America's bloated, excessive, always-increasing military spending are now well-known.  The U.S. spends almost as much on military spending as the entire rest of the world combined, and spends roughly six times more than the second-largest spender, China.  Even as the U.S. sunk under increasingly crippling levels of debt over the last decade, defense spending rose steadily, sometimes precipitously.  That explosion occurred even as overall military spending in the rest of the world decreased, thus expanding the already-vast gap between our expenditures and the world's.  As one "defense" spending watchdog group put it [3]:  "The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six 'rogue' states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion."  To get a sense for how thoroughly military spending dominates our national budget, consider this chart showing where Americans' tax revenue goes:

•Continue Reading [4]


Since much of that overall spending is mandatory, military spending -- all of which is discretionary -- accounts for over 50% of discretionary government spending. Yet it's absolutely forbidden to even contemplate reducing it as a means of reducing our debt or deficit.  To the contrary, Obama ran on a platform of increasing military spending, and that is one of the few pledges he is faithfully and enthusiastically filling [6] (while violating his pledge not to use deceitful budgetary tricks [7] to fund our wars):

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year, The Associated Press has learned.

In sum, as we cite our debtor status to freeze funding for things such as "air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks" -- all programs included in Obama's spending freeze -- our military and other "security-related" spending habits become more bloated every year, completely shielded from any constraints or reality.  This, despite the fact that it is virtually impossible for the U.S. to make meaningful progress in debt reduction without serious reductions in our military programs.

Public opinion is not a legitimate excuse for this utterly irrational conduct, as large percentages of Americans are receptive to reducing -- or at least freezing -- defense spending.  A June, 2009 Pew Research poll [8] asked Americans what they would do about defense spending, and 55% said they would either decrease it (18%) or keep it the same (37%); only 40% wanted it to increase.  Even more notably, a 2007 Gallup poll [9] found that "the public's view that the federal government is spending too much on the military has increased substantially this year, to its highest level in more than 15 years."  In that poll, 58% of Democrats and 47% of Independents said that military spending "is too high" -- and the percentages who believe that increased steadily over the last decade for every group.

The clear fact is that, no matter how severe are our budgetary constraints, military spending and all so-called "security-related programs" are off-limits for any freezes, let alone decreases.  Moreover, the modest spending freeze to be announced by Obama tomorrow is just the start; the Washington consensus has solidified [10] and is clearly gearing up for major cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with the dirty work to be done by an independent "deficit commission."  It's time for "everyone" to sacrifice and suffer some more -- as long as "everyone" excludes our vast military industry, the permanent power factions inside the Pentagon and intelligence community, our Surveillance and National Security State, and the imperial policies of perpetual war which feed them while further draining the lifeblood out of the country.

UPDATE:  I just saw this scary headline on MSNBC, became very frightened, and have changed my mind, as I now realize we need to massively increase our military spending to Stay Safe!!!

[11]The Washington Post is hyping the same report [12].  Apparently, it's breaking news -- meriting screaming red-alert headlines -- that Al Qaeda would like to ("aims to") acquire WMDs and use them against the U.S.  But we should all try to remain a little calm, at least.  I'm sure if we just buy some more fighter jets, create some better underground bombs, invade a few more Muslim countries, keep more Muslims imprisoned forever with no charges, give the Pentagon, the CIA and their private contractors a lot more unaccounted-for cash and stay out of their way, expand our domestic spying networks even further through private sector telecom contracts, pour tens of billions of dollars more into the coffers of our Middle East client states, and kill a few more civilians with drones, this problem will be handled.  It's just a matter of making sure we bulk up our military budget -- and Look Forward, not Backward to what was done in the past -- and we'll be able to Stay Safe from this Terrorist-WMD menace.

As for the deficit, no need to worry about that.  We can just freeze programs for national parks and cut Social Security and Medicare.

© 2010
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act? [13]," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy [14]", examines the Bush legacy.


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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #75 on: January 27, 2010, 03:50:12 am »
Tomgram: Our Wars Are Killing Us

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted on January 26, 2010, Printed on January 27, 2010

[Note for TomDispatch readers:  In my younger days, I used to dream of running a book review section in some magazine or newspaper.  I was always struck that such sections only responded to the one question that deeply interested publishers: What’s new?  They never reviewed on the basis of questions a reader might ask.  I imagined a review section that, in its choices, might respond to some of those questions and so deal in older as well as newly published books.  With that in mind, let me recommend a book published four years ago.  The other night in the wee hours, in a fit of insomnia, I finished the 2006 novel of the young Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun. It's a remarkable re-imagining of the grim Nigerian civil war of the 1960s -- a tragic tale, but no less engrossing for that.  The characters are a wonder. The next morning, I woke up to find an essay of hers on the great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart) at, in which she conjures up a 1950s world in which a reasonable publishing question in England (or the U.S.) was “Would anyone possibly buy a novel by an African?” and her own first encounter with Achebe in the 1980s. (“I did not know in a concrete way until then that people like me could exist in literature.”)

If, in the wee hours, you, too, want to be swept into another world filled with surprises, which is the magic of the best of novels, think about picking up a copy of Yellow Sun.  And while you’re at it, consider this a small reminder that, if you are purchasing anything, book or otherwise, at Amazon and go to it via any book link at TomDispatch (or one of the linked covers in any TD piece), we get a small percentage of your purchase.  It’s the simplest way to contribute to TD without expending an extra cent.  Tom]

Pentagon Time

By Tom Engelhardt

Back in 2007, when General David Petraeus was the surge commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, he had a penchant for clock imagery.  In an interview in April of that year, he typically said:  “I'm conscious of a couple of things. One is that the Washington clock is moving more rapidly than the Baghdad clock, so we're obviously trying to speed up the Baghdad clock a bit and to produce some progress on the ground that can perhaps give hope to those in the coalition countries, in Washington, and perhaps put a little more time on the Washington clock.”  And he wasn’t alone.  Military spokespeople and others in the Bush administration right up to the president regularly seemed to hear one, two, or sometimes as many as three clocks ticking away ominously and out of sync.

Hearing some discordant ticking myself of late, I decided to retrieve Petraeus’s image from the dustbin of history.  So imagine three ticking clocks, all right here in the U.S., one set to Washington time, a second to American time, and the third to Pentagon time.

In Washington -- with even the New York Times now agreeing that a “majority” of 100 is 60 (not 51) and that the Senate’s 41st vote settles everything -- the clock seems to be ticking erratically, if at all.  On the other hand, that American clock, if we’re to believe the good citizens of Massachusetts, is ticking away like a bomb.  Americans are impatient, angry, and “in revolt” against Washington time. That’s what the media continue to tell us in the wake of last week’s Senate upset.

Depending on which account you read, they were outraged by a nearly trillion dollar health-care reform that was also a giveaway to insurance companies, and annoyed by Democratic candidate Martha Coakley calling Curt Schilling a “Yankees fan” as well as besmirching handshaking in the cold outside Fenway Park; they were anxious about an official Massachusetts unemployment rate of 9.4% (and a higher real one), an economy that has rebounded for bankers but not for regular people, soaring deficits, staggering foreclosure rates, mega-banking bonuses, the Obama administration’s bailout of those same bankers, and its coziness with Wall Street.  They were angry and impatient about a lot of things, blind angry you might say, since they were ready to vote back into office the party not in office, even if behind that party’s “new face” were ideas that would take us back to the origins of the present disaster.

A Blank Check for the Pentagon 

It’s worth noting, however, that they’re not angry about everything -- and that the Washington clock, barely moving on a wide range of issues, is still ticking away when it comes to one institution.  The good citizens of Massachusetts may be against free rides and bailouts for many types, but not for everybody.  I’m speaking, of course, about the Pentagon, for which Congress has just passed a record new budget of $708 billion (with an Afghan war-fighting supplemental request of $33 billion, essentially a bail-out payment, still pending but sure to pass).  This happened without real debate, much public notice, or even a touch of anger in Washington or Massachusetts.  And keep in mind that the Pentagon’s real budget is undoubtedly close to a trillion dollars, without even including the full panoply of our national security state.

The tea-party crews don’t rail against Pentagon giveaways, nor do Massachusetts voters grumble about them.  Unfettered Pentagon budgets pass in the tick-tock of a Washington clock and no one seems fazed when the Wall Street Journal reveals that military aides accompanying globe-hopping parties of congressional representatives regularly spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on snacks, drinks, and other “amenities” for them, even while, like some K Street lobbying outfit, promoting their newest weaponry.  Think of it, in financial terms, as Pentagon peanuts shelled out for actual peanuts, and no one gives a damn.

It’s hardly considered news -- and certainly nothing to get angry about -- when the Secretary of Defense meets privately with the nation’s top military-industrial contractors, calls for an even “closer partnership,” and pledges to further their mutual interests by working “with the White House to secure steady growth in the Pentagon's budgets over time.” Nor does it cause a stir among the denizens of inside-the-Beltway Washington or the citizens of Massachusetts when the top ten defense contractors spend more than $27 million lobbying the federal government, as in the last quarter of 2009 (a significant increase over the previous quarter), just as plans for the president’s Afghan War surge were being prepared.

Nor is it just the angry citizens of Massachusetts, or those tea-party organizers, or Republicans stalwarts who hear no clock ticking when it comes to “national security” expenditures, who see no link between our military-industrial outlays, our perpetual wars, and our economic woes.  When, for instance, was the last time you saw a bona fide liberal economist/columnist like Paul Krugman include the Pentagon and our wars in the litany of things potentially bringing this country down?

Yes, striking percentages of Americans attend the church (temple, mosque) of their choice, but when it comes to American politics and the economy, the U.S. military is our church, “national security” our Bible, and nothing done in the name of either can be wrong.

Talk about a blank check.  It’s as if the military, already the most revered institution in the country, existed on the other side of a Star-Trekkian financial wormhole.

Pentagon Time Horizons

Which brings us to Pentagon time.  Yes, that third clock is ticking, but at a very different tempo from those in Washington or Massachusetts.   

Americans are evidently increasingly impatient for “change” of whatever sort, whether you can believe in it or not.  The Pentagon, on the other hand, is patient.  It’s opted for making counterinsurgency the central strategy of its war in Central and South Asia, the sort of strategy that, even if successful, experts claim could easily take a decade or two to pull off.  But no problem -- not when the Pentagon’s clock is ticking on something like eternal time.

And here’s the thing: because the media are no less likely to give the Pentagon a blank check than the citizens of Massachusetts, it’s hard indeed to grasp the extent to which that institution, and the military services it represents, are planning and living by their own clock.  Though major papers have Pentagon “beats,” they generally tell us remarkably little, except inadvertently and in passing, about Pentagon time.

So, for the next few minutes, just keep that Pentagon clock ticking away in your head.  In the meantime, we’ll go looking for some hints about the Pentagon’s war-fighting time horizons buried in news reports on, and Pentagon contracts for, the Afghan War.   

Take, as a start, a January 6th story from the inside pages of my hometown paper.  New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt began it this way: “The military’s effort to build a seasoned corps of expert officers for the Afghan war, one of the highest priorities of top commanders, is off to a slow start, with too few volunteers and a high-level warning to the armed services to steer better candidates into the program, according to some senior officers and participants.”  At stake was an initiative “championed” by Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal to create a “912-member corps of mostly officers and enlisted service members who will work on Afghanistan and Pakistan issues for up to five years.”

The news was that the program, in its infancy, was already faltering because it didn’t conform to one of the normal career paths followed in the U.S. military.  But what caught my eye was that phrase “up to five years.”  Imagine what it means for the war commander, backed by key figures in the Pentagon, to plan to put more than 900 soldiers, including top officers, on a career path that would leave them totally wedded, for five years, to war in the Af-Pak theater of operations.  (After all, if that war were to end, the State Department might well take charge.)  In other words, McChrystal was creating a potentially powerful interest group within the military whose careers would be wedded to an ongoing war with a time-line that extended into 2015 -- and who would have something to lose if it ended too quickly.  What does it matter then that President Obama was proclaiming his desire to begin drawing down the war in July 2011?

Or consider the plan being proposed, according to Ann Scott Tyson, in a January 17th Washington Post piece, by Special Forces Major Jim Gant, and now getting a most respectful hearing inside the military.  Gant wants to establish small Special Forces teams that would “go native,” move into Afghan villages and partner up with local tribal leaders -- “one tribe at a time,” as an influential paper he wrote on the subject was entitled.  “The U.S. military,” reported Tyson, “would have to grant the teams the leeway to grow beards and wear local garb, and enough autonomy in the chain of command to make rapid decisions. Most important, to build relationships, the military would have to commit one or two teams to working with the same tribe for three to five years, Gant said.”  She added that Gant has “won praise at the highest levels [of the U.S. military] for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military's involvement with Afghan tribes --- and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that.”  Again, another “up to five year” commitment in Afghanistan and a career path to go with it on a clock that, in Gant’s case, has yet to start ticking. 

Or just to run through a few more examples:

* In August 2009, the superb Walter Pincus of the Washington Post quoted Air Force Brigadier General Walter Givhan, in charge of training the Afghan National Army Air Corps, this way:  "Our goal is by 2016 to have an [Afghan] air corps that will be capable of doing those operations and the things that it needs to do to meet the security requirements of this country."  Of course, that six-year timeline includes the American advisors training that air force.  (And note that Givhan’s 2016 date may actually represent slippage.  In January 2008, when Air Force Brig. Gen. Jay H. Lindell, who was then commander of the Combined Air Power Transition Force, discussed the subject, he spoke of an “eight-year campaign plan” through 2015 to build up the Afghan Air Corps.)

* In a January 13th piece on Pentagon budgeting plans, Anne Gearan and Anne Flaherty of the Associated Press reported:  “The Pentagon projects that war funding would drop sharply in 2012, to $50 billion” from the present at least $159 billion (mainly thanks to a projected massive draw-down of forces in Iraq), “and remain there through 2015.”  Whether the financial numbers are accurate or not, the date is striking: again a five-year window.

* Or take the “train and equip” program aimed at bulking up the Afghan military and police, which will be massively staffed with U.S. military advisors (and private security contractors) and is expected to cost at least $65 billion.  It’s officially slated to run from 2010-2014 by which time the combined Afghan security forces are projected to reach 400,000.

* Or consider a couple of the long-term contracts already being handed out for Afghan war work like the $158 million the Air Force has awarded to Evergreen Helicopters, Inc., for “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services.  Work will be performed in Afghanistan and is expected to start Apr. 3, 2009, to be completed by Nov. 30, 2013.”  Or the Pentagon contract awarded to the private contractor SOS International primarily for translators, which has an estimated completion date of September 2014.

Ending the Pentagon’s Free Ride

Of course, this just scratches the surface of long-term Afghan War planning in the Pentagon and the military, which rolls right along, seemingly barely related to whatever war debates may be taking place in Washington.  Few in or out of that city find these timelines strange, and indeed they are just symptomatic of an organization already planning for “the next war” and the ones after that, not to speak of the next generation bomber of 2018, the integrated U.S. Army battlefield surveillance system of 2025, and the drones of 2047.       

This, in short, is Pentagon time and it’s we who fund that clock which ticks toward eternity.  If the Pentagon gets in trouble, war-fighting or otherwise, we bail it out without serious debate or any of the anger we saw in the Massachusetts election.  No one marches in the streets, or demands that Pentagon bailouts end, or votes ‘em (or at least their supporters) out of office.

In this way, no institution is more deeply embedded in American life or less accountable for its acts; Pentagon time exists enswathed in an almost religious glow of praise and veneration -- what might once have been known as “idolatry.” Until the Pentagon is forced into our financial universe, the angry, impatient one where most Americans now live, we’re in trouble. Until candidates begin losing because angry Americans reject our perpetual wars, and the perpetual war-planning that goes with them, this sort of thinking will simply continue, no matter who the “commander-in-chief” is or what he thinks he’s commanding.

It’s time for Americans to stop saluting and end the Pentagon’s free ride before America’s wars kill us.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years.

Copyright 2010 Tom Engelhardt

© 2010 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.
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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #76 on: January 27, 2010, 05:37:32 am »
Bush Pentagon Hired Conspiracy Theorist As Al Qaeda Specialist

By Justin Elliott

January 25, 2010 "TMC" - - When the Pentagon's internal think tank decided in 2004 it needed a better understanding of Al Qaeda, it turned to an unlikely source: the terrorism analyst Laurie Mylroie, who was known as the chief purveyor of the discredited idea that Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11 and many other attacks carried out by Al Qaeda.
Mylroie was paid roughly $75,000 to produce a 300-page study, "The History of Al Qaida," for the Defense Department think tank, known as the Office of Net Assessment, a DOD spokesman tells us. The study, which is dated September 2005, was posted on an intelligence blog last month.

It documents the development of Al Qaeda and spends many pages dancing around the theory that has defined Mylroie's career -- that key Qaeda leaders acted at the behest of the Iraqi regime. She also argues that group-think among U.S. analysts has obscured the true nature of the terrorist group.

Those who know Mylroie's work are shocked that the Pentagon would hire her.

"I think that she has zero credibility on these issues," says terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who dubbed Mylroie "a crackpot" in a 2003 Washington Monthly profile.

Once an assistant professor at Harvard, Mylroie made her name as a Middle East expert in the 1980s. But after the 1993 WTC attack, she became convinced that evidence ignored by virtually everyone else proved Saddam was sponsoring Al Qaeda. She expanded on that theory after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (which she linked to Iraq) and September 11 (ditto), culminating in the book Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein's War against America, published by the American Enterprise Institute in October 2001.

Mylroie's allies in the Bush Administration included Iraq hawks Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and others. "The elaborate conspiracy theories she had propounded--dismissed as bizarre and implausible by the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities--would have enormous influence within the administration," reported David Corn and Michael Isikoff in their book Hubris.

In the 2005 Pentagon study, Mylroie floats the idea that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohamad and Ramzi Yousef, who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, "are the trained agents of a terrorist state, the expertise and other resources of which enabled the militants to conduct attacks they were incapable of carrying out on their own." She also suggests that that state is Iraq.

The study was not a one-shot deal for Mylroie. TPMmuckraker previously reported that Mylroie produced reports on Saddam Hussein for the same DOD office as late as 2007.

Exactly who within the Pentagon decided Mylroie was the woman for the job is unclear. But the Pentagon work came at a time when her reputation had waned considerably, and her public writings were becoming less and less frequent.

Said DOD spokesman Eric Butterbaugh:

"The study was commissioned in part because of Ms. Mylroie's access to and library of documents she had that were relevant to the history of Al Qaeda. More broadly, the study was commissioned because we believed it would be useful to have a better understanding of Al Qaeda as an organization, the circumstances under which it had formed, how it had evolved over time, and the activities and attacks it had perpetrated."

Mylroie did not respond to a request for comment.

For a taste of the study, which we've posted in full, here's a passage in which Mylroie outlines what she calls Khalid Sheik Mohamed's ethnic links to Iraq. She describes these links his primary motivation for terrorism (emphasis ours):

The ethnicity of KSM's clan is significant. These men are Baluch, a Sunni Muslim people, with their own language and their own compact territory, which lies in eastern Iran and western Pakistan. Like the much better-known Kurds, the Baluch aspired to a state of their own in the twentieth century, but failed to achieve one. The United States has very little to do with the Baluch; most Americans are unfamiliar with so much as the name. The Baluch have no evident motive for these murderous terrorist attacks, save one: the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein had deep and extensive ties with the Baluch on both sides of the Iranian-Pakistani border. Going back to the 1970s, Iraq used the Baluch against the Shi'a government in Tehran, with which Baghdad was long at odds, and Baghdad employed the Baluch extensively during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).
Notably, these Baluch--KSM and his extended family--do not appear to be particularly religious.

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Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #77 on: January 27, 2010, 06:17:11 am »
Price of US Wars: $1 Trillion and Rising

Direct Spending Reaches New Milestone

by Jason Ditz, January 26, 2010

The Congressional Budget Office’s newly released budget outlook notes that Congress has approved over $1 trillion in direct spending on wars and war-related activities since 2001, and that price tag is only getting higher as the wars drag on.

The spending was divided between $708 billion for the Iraq War, $345 billion for the Afghan War, and $22 billion for assorted other war activities in other countries. The Obama Administration’s repeated projections of a lower budget output for wars in coming years aside, they show no sign of slowing.

The estimated price tag only includes direct costs incurred as a result of the US occupations of those nations, and does not include the trillions of other dollars spent on the military since 2001.

Nor does it include the overall cost of the war to the American economy, a figure economists put at several trillion dollars years ago, and which has only risen as the US presence overseas continues to grow.

The US currently has over 100,000 troops in Iraq, and the escalation in Afghanistan will soon have America’s commitment there near 100,000 as well. The Obama Administration has projected cuts to the Iraq force since taking office, but recent bombings have raised serious doubts about America’s ability to withdraw from the nation, years after both parties agreed that the war was successfully “won.” Troop numbers in Afghanistan will likely continue to rise for the forseeable future.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #78 on: January 30, 2010, 08:37:39 am »
Weekend Edition
January 29 - 31, 2010

Spending Even More, Buying Even Less

The New Pentagon Budget


The new budget now being trotted out for the Pentagon is a tired old document, bereft of the many significant changes needed to revive our decaying defenses. Worse, the Pentagon's masters and its peanut galleries in Congress, the press, and think tanks opine delusions that anything significant is changing.

Much will be made of a few reluctant acknowledgements of reality and old news painted as noteworthy. The Navy won't plan on, for now, a new cruiser it can't afford even under the wildest budget growth assumptions. The Army will continue redesigning the vehicles for its "system of system" target hunting technologies that we now know can't find even primitive enemies. The Air Force will press on for a new bomber to try, yet again, to attack what it called decades ago "critical nodes." The Marine Corps will declare a return to its amphibious warfare heritage: to fight its way onto hostile shores - something it has not done since 1945.

The new spending level for the Pentagon reinforces the non-change. At $708 billion, we will witness yet another year of "real growth:" a trajectory we have been on since 1999. As usual, we will be told that the increases are because we live in a dangerous world, as evidenced by the continuing, if not expanding, wars President Obama wants to fight directly or indirectly in at least five countries. We will also be told of the "austere" nature of the Pentagon budget for its spending back home; although it is the largest DOD money plan since 1946.

A dangerous world it may be, but significantly less so than the one we saw in the Cold War when we faced hundreds of Soviet divisions in Europe and tried to address unending brushfire - or worse -- wars all over the world, least some new communist regime tip the scales of perceived balance against us. The relative calm we witness today, nonetheless results in an American defense budget that is today about $200 billion higher than the average Pentagon Cold War budget.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service now tells us that the Bush/Obama wars have cost just over $1 Trillion, but that is just 19 percent of the $5.3 Trillion spent by the Pentagon in the same period. The conflicts that impel the growth in the budget actually comprise only a fifth of its size.

Excluding the cost of the wars, the "base" Pentagon budget has also gone up dramatically: 25 percent, or over another Trillion dollars. What we have gotten for that huge increase illuminates the disturbing nature of our decay. The Navy and Air Force are both smaller and equipped with major hardware that is, on average, older than at any point since the end of World War II. The Army and Marine Corps have seen increases to a few combat formations but are only marginally above their post-World War II lows. A gargantuan increase in spending has brought forth major decay in two military services and insignificant up-ticks in two others.

Where did the added money go? According to the Government Accountability Office almost $300 billion went into mismanagement in the form of cost overruns for hardware. (Expect a new GAO report this spring finding the cost overruns have grown.) Much of the rest of the money for acquisition went into "successful" hardware programs that were so much more expensive to buy and maintain than what they were replacing that we literally shrunk the force with more money, while simultaneously spending more to support this new equipment at lower operating and training levels.

With better justification, but exacerbated by a herd of politicians anxious to pander, another huge cost increase has been in military manpower. Largely indiscriminant pay increases and gigantically expensive programs for healthcare, retirement, disability, and family survivors have now set the rate of increase in military manpower spending well above the rate of increase in the rest of the Pentagon budget. The uncontrolled costs for manpower and hardware have made the two competitors for each other's wallets: advocates for hardware try to raid the personnel budget, and the advocates of high manpower costs spend the money as a political necessity - without the slightest reflection on how to pay for it all, or the implications.

You will search in vain for rescue from these trends in the new budget. Anyone paying the slightest attention knows both of these wolves have passed the door, but no one in the Pentagon or Congress (repeat; no one) has the political spine to confront the trends and reverse them.

Instead of exploring real reform, the nation's national security leadership spawns justifications for business as usual. Paralleling the 2011 Pentagon budget is a new national security master plan, the Quadrennial Defense Review, written by the Pentagon's top leadership. They proudly announce that they have discarded simplistic formulas to justify America's defense bloat and have come up with a new construct. The document reveals that the only thing they changed is the terminology.

Neither the new budget nor the new QDR bring anything significantly innovative, or even original. The decay -- at ever increasing cost - continues. There will be a reckoning; the longer we dither, the worse it will be.

Winslow T. Wheeler spent 31 years working on Capitol Hill with senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office, specializing in national security affairs. Currently, he directs the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information in Washington. He is author of The Wastrels of Defense and the editor of a new anthology: ‘America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress’.

Offline bigron

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Re: The Ir-Af-Pak War !!
« Reply #79 on: January 31, 2010, 05:23:53 am »
Drones and Death: The Israeli Connection

BY Ed Kinane

January 30, 2010

Drones are remote-controlled airborne robots. They come in all shapes and sizes. These unmanned high-tech weapons are remarkably versatile. From thousands of feet in the air some reportedly have heat-detecting and surveillance instrumentation that can distinguish between an automatic weapon that has been recently fired and one that hasn’t.

Unlike the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine, most US Americans are oblivious to drones. But we’d better wake up. Drones are poised to become tools of domestic surveillance.

The Houston police are now secretly experimenting with drones. Col. Kevin Bradley, local Hancock Airbase drone commander, looks forward to having drones used for domestic police work.1 ACLU please take note.

In Upstate New York we’re beginning to learn about the Reaper drone in our midst – "piloted" via satellite out of Hancock on the outskirts of Syracuse. Syracuse’s Reaper now flies surveillance and assassination missions over Afghanistan. The Pentagon proudly describes the Reaper as a "hunter/ killer."

But the US isn’t alone in developing and deploying drone technology. I became aware of Israel’s use of drones during its December 2008/January 2009 invasion of Gaza. Israel deploys two types of hunter/killer: the "Hermes," produced by Elbit Systems Ltd, and the "Heron," produced by the government-owned Israeli Aerospace Industries.

Recently – by Googling "Israeli drones" – I learned that Israel pioneered the drone and that Israel purveys that cutting edge weaponry throughout the world. As far back as 1982 Israel used drones against Syria. In the early nineties Israeli drones were used in the Kosovo campaign. Israeli drones invade the skies over Lebanon and patrol occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza. Israeli drones reportedly can reach Iran.

Even Israel acknowledges that, during the Gaza invasion, it killed well over 1000 Palestinians. Such was the butchery that over 100 Palestinians were killed for every Israeli killed. Among the wide range of weapon systems deployed in and over Gaza, drones accounted for the deaths of at least 87 civilians, many of them children.

The cold-bloodedness of it all struck me as I read the 39-page, June 2009 Human Rights Watch report: "Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles." Frequently those killings had no combat or defensive role whatsoever. Like aerial warfare generally, those killings were out-and-out state terrorism.

Israel’s drone technology is so "good," and now so well demonstrated in Gaza, that other nations are lining up to put in orders. These exports generate enormous revenue for Israel’s weapons industry, an enterprise boosted by $3 billion a year in US military aid to Israel.

Israel’s known drone customers include: Turkey ($185 million for 10 Heron drones); Brazil ($350 million drone deal for border and police work); India (occupying Kashmir and long hostile to Pakistan); Georgia (used Hermes drones against Russia in 2008). Russia, very impressed with Georgia’s drone performance, has acquired three different types of Israeli drones ($53 million) for reverse engineering to kick-start its own drone industry.

To better service Pentagon contracts, Israel even has drone factories in the US – in Starkville, Mississippi and Columbus, Ohio. The US uses Israeli "Skylark" drones in Iraq. Brits, Germans, and Canadians use Herons over Afghanistan. They assassinate those perceived, correctly or not, as enemies. Given the flimsiness of the legal cases against most Guantanamo prisoners, we know that an informant or bounty hunter’s word that someone is a "terrorist" or "enemy combatant" is dubious.

In an ominous indicator of how easily lethal misjudgments can be made by those whose god-like job it is to select drone targets, the aforementioned Col. Bradley sees domestic anti-drone protesters as a "threat" to his pilots.1 Such attitudes help explain how the drone’s "precision" strikes can kill so many civilians. These deaths, whether in occupied Gaza or elsewhere, defy international humanitarian law.

One might suggest that much of US mainstream media is itself "occupied" by the nation’s highly militarized power structure. Otherwise, why aren’t the nation’s newspapers editorializing against the killer drones that rile up hatred against the US? And that subject US military and intelligence facilities to deadly reprisal?

Why doesn’t our media admit that much of the "terrorism" it constantly invokes is blowback from the kind of US policies that deploy hunter/killer drones? Why doesn’t our media point out that those in the chain of command responsible for these extra-judicial executions are war criminals?

Why doesn’t it call those nations deploying armed drones against civilians what they are: rogue states? And why doesn’t it describe their cowardly airborne killings as what they are: terrorism?

Corporations and militarists in the US and Israel promoting killer drones claim that as an unmanned weapon the drone saves lives — i.e., no pilots are shot down in action. This is specious: for every pilot saved, many other humans are killed or maimed.

Drone boosters further argue that, with its extraordinary surveillance capability, the drone’s laser-guided missiles are more precise killers than those of (say) a manned F-16 fighter jet. However, "[D]rones, much like sniper rifles, are only as good at sparing civilians as the care taken by the people who operate them. The accuracy and concentrated blast radius of the missile can reduce civilian casualties, but in Gaza, Israel’s targeting choices led to the loss of many civilian lives."2

The Heron hunter/killer even has camera-bearing missiles that relay images in real time. This allows a pilot on the ground far away, suddenly realizing that noncombatants are about to be slain, to divert the missile at the last moment. But such capability makes the killing of children and other non-combatants – whether in Gaza, Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan — all the more detestable. No more blaming such "collateral damage" on the "fog of war." Because the surveillance capability of these killer drones is so remarkable, when obvious noncombatants are targeted, the pilots know exactly what they are doing. This means the chain of command also knows exactly what is being done.

Because the drone cameras provide live footage of the strike, and since such footage is archived, the circumstances under which the killings occur are well documented. Such evidence needs to be presented to domestic or international war crimes tribunals. Problem is, just as Israel refused to cooperate with the UN’s Goldstone investigation, it refuses to release the footage. If the Human Rights Watch Gaza investigation were somehow flawed, such footage would refute its damning conclusions.

The US should insist that Israel release the footage. More: US military aid to nations like Israel that flaunt international law should cease.

The Pentagon trains foreign military in "anti-insurgency" tactics at schools such as the US Army’s School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia. In a further "anti-insurgency" initiative, at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona the US Army trains soldiers to operate drones. Of particular concern to us in Syracuse, Hancock Airbase is becoming the national headquarters for training Reaper drone maintenance crews from all service branches.

Likewise, since at least 2005 Israel has been training many of the world’s drone operators and maintainers. Some of these operators have gone on to deploy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A similar version was first published in the February 2010 Peace Newsletter.
18 Dec. 09 Syracuse Post-Standard. [↩]
HRW, p.3. [↩]

Ed Kinane worked in Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness before, during and after "Shock and Awe."