Category Archives: Afghanistan

US-Backed Syrian Rebel Group on Verge of Collapse

US Lies and Excuses for Bombing Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan

Afghan Retreat Echoes of Vietnam Defeat

By Finian Cunningham

October 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Press TV” – It didn’t quite garner the same media highlight, but nevertheless there was the unmistakable comparison this week between the evacuation of American troops from southern Afghanistan and the Fall of Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1975.

Both events mark embarrassing retreats by a failing American empire whose hubris always manages to deny reality until the illusion of power finally comes crashing down.

This week thousands of US and British troops were hurriedly airlifted from the giant military base known as Camp Bastion in southern Helmand Province.

It was a huge logistical operation involving a fleet of transport planes and helicopters landing and taking off over a 24-hour period.

The scene of hasty imperial removal from Helmand reminded one of the classic photograph taken in 1975 by UPI photographer Hubert Van Es, which captured American Huey choppers lifting hundreds of desperate personnel from off the rooftop of the CIA headquarters in Saigon ahead of imminent defeat by Vietnamese insurgents.

This week in Helmand the evacuating troops were the last of the US-led NATO force that has occupied Afghanistan for the past 13 years. At its peak, there were 140,000 American troops in the country with the second biggest contingency being the British, along with soldiers from nearly 50 other nations.

Now Camp Bastion has been handed over to Afghan troops and police, who will take over the daunting task of maintaining security across the country against a deadly resurgence of Taliban militants.

Officially, the US-led international force is to wind down its operation in Afghanistan at the end of this year, but some 10,000 American military and CIA will remain in the country in a “support role” to national security forces under a deal signed between Washington and the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Just like the Fall of Saigon in April 1975, in which thousands of American personnel were scrambled out the country ahead of the Vietnamese victory, the retreat from Afghanistan this week signals another humiliating defeat for the warmongers in Washington.

Not only a humiliating defeat, but the end of a long and bloody chronicle of futile war. Thirteen years ago, the Americans invaded Afghanistan allegedly to topple a fundamentalist Taliban regime and eradicate an international source of terrorism led by Saudi al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Tens of thousands of deaths later, plus trillions of dollars billed to the American taxpayers, the US troops are clearing out from a country that is left in worst shape. The American-installed government can barely maintain security in the capital, Kabul, never mind the surrounding regions. What’s more terrorism of the Al-Qaeda brand has spread internationally eliciting the deployment of even more American militarism abroad, and the ramping up of state security powers within the US and its NATO allies.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurgent not only in their southern heartlands, but have taken over large parts of the east, west and north of the country, where they previously had little presence. Schools and other civic administration in these areas are now reportedly run, not by the US-backed government in Kabul, but by the militants.

Cultivation of poppy for heroin production – a main source of finance for the Taliban warlords – has reached an all-time high with over 200,000 hectares under cultivation. Nearly half of all Afghan poppy is harvested in Helmand Province, where US President Obama launched his much-vaunted surge of 30,000 extra marines in 2009-2010. Despite Washington spending $7.6 billion to curb poppy production, Afghanistan has emerged as the world’s biggest source of heroin, while drug addiction in the US is reportedly soaring.

On security matters, between March and August this year, nearly 1,000 Afghan troops and 2,200 police officers were killed in militant attacks. That represents the worst casualty rate for local forces over the past 13 years.

With the last of the US-led foreign forces pulling out this week, there is an ominous sense of the security levee bursting across Afghanistan.

If anything, the prognosis for Afghanistan is a lot worse than it was for Iraq where US troops beat a similar hasty retreat three years ago.

By comparison, Afghanistan has a much more active insurgency raging even as the Americans are pulling out. Iraq has gone on to descend into chaos, so the portent for Afghanistan would seem a lot worse.

Reuters news agency reported the view of US Marine Staff Sergeant Kenneth Oswood, who participated in both the Iraq withdrawal and this week’s evacuation from Afghanistan. He said: “It’s a lot different this time. Closing out Iraq, when we got there, we were told there hadn’t been a shot fired in anger at us in years. And then you come here and they are still shooting at us.”

The US marine added: “It’s almost like it’s not over here, and we’re just kind of handing it over to someone else to fight.”

More like handing it over to someone else to do the dying.

The “exceptional” Americans in Washington like to refer to their foreign interventions as “nation building.” Like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, among dozens of other unfortunate countries to have hosted American “nation builders” over the past century, the people of these wretched lands have experienced Washington’s reverse Midas Touch. Far from turning to gold, everything Washington touches brings death and destruction.

And in the end when the American destroyers finally pack up and run, it is the people that remain who must pick up the pieces and actually begin the real process of national development. How easier it would be if Washington just kept its imperialist, predatory hands off others.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40097.htm

Taliban Video : Handover Of Captured US Soldier to Americans 

A video of the release of U.S. army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl to U.S. forces after five years in captivity was released on Wednesday by the TalibanJune 04, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38696.htm

How the US created, and lost, Afghan war

Obama Regime Kills More Children In Afghanistan

Another Proud Day For The USA

Video

Furious Afghan president says US drones have struck a home in Helmand, killing a small child and wounding two women.

President Hamid Karzai has condemned the drone strike as yet another example of US disregard for civilian life. The strike comes in the midst of a standoff between the Afghan government and the US over a security deal.

Posted November 29, 2013

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37009.htm

Digging in: Why US won’t leave Afghanistan

By Pepe Escobar

November 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House – We came, we saw, we stayed. Forever. That’s the essence of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be struck between the Obama administration and Afghanistan – over 12 years after the start of the never-ending War on Terror.

President Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry define it as a ‘strategic partnership’. If that’s the case, it’s one of the most lopsided in history; Afghan President Hamid Karzai is no more than a sartorially impeccable American puppet.

Kerry announced the so-called BSA in Washington on Wednesday even before a Loya Jirga (‘Grand Council’, in Pashto) of 2,500 Afghan tribal leaders, clerics, members of parliament and merchants started their four-day deliberations in a tent on the grounds of the Polytechnical University in Kabul on Thursday.

But then Karzai, probably in his last major speech as president, pulled off a fabulous stunt. He knows he is, and will be, accused of selling Afghanistan down the (Panjshir) river. He knows he is sacrificing Afghan sovereignty for years to come – and there will be nasty blowback for it.

So once again he channeled Hamid the Actor, and played his best honest broker impersonation, stressing the BSA should be put off until the Afghan presidential elections in April 2014, and be signed by his successor.

It was high drama

“There’s a mistrust between me and the Americans. They don’t trust me and I don’t trust them. I have always criticized them and they have always propagated negative things behind my back,” he claimed.

I have been to Jirgas in Afghanistan; even looking at those inscrutable, rugged tribal faces is a spectacle in itself. So what were they thinking in Kabul? Of course they did not trust the Americans. But did they trust Karzai? Could they see this was all an act?

A consultative Loya Jirga cannot veto the BSA. Even the Jirga chairman, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, stressed Karzai may sign without any consultation. Yet Karzai insists he will not sign without the Loya Jirga’s approval.

Many members of the Afghan parliament and the entire Afghan opposition already voted with their feet, boycotting the Jirga. Not to mention the Taliban – essential to any agreement on the future of Afghanistan – and the still fully weaponized Hezb-e-Islami. Everyone is eagerly waiting to hear Taliban supremo Mullah Omar’s take on the whole kabuki.

Counter-terror free-for-all

The BSA ‘negotiation’ has been like an extended Monty Python sketch. Washington has always insisted US soldiers can break into Afghan homes at will and remain immune to any sort of Afghan prosecution. Otherwise the Americans will leave for good at the end of 2014, leaving just the poorly trained and largely corrupt Afghan National Army (ANA) to fight the Taliban.

Up until Karzai’s latest stunt, the Obama administration considered the deal was in the bag. Just look at the letter Obama sent to Karzai.

And by the way, no apologies. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Washington does not need to apologize for killing and injuring tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan since 2001, not to mention occupying vast swathes of the country. Earlier, a Karzai spokesman said that would be the case.

If in doubt, just listen to super-hawk US Senator Lindsay Graham, who told Reuters, “I’m stunned. Apologize for what? Maybe we should get the Afghan president to apologize to the American soldiers for all the hardship he’s created for them.”

There’s nothing ‘residual’ about a US occupation to be disguised as ‘forces’ necessary to train and ‘advise’ the roughly 350,000 soldiers and police which are part of ANA, built from scratch over the last few years.

And what we’re talking about here is a deal starting in 2015 and in effect up to 2024 ‘and beyond’.

The final agreement is not much different from this previously leaked working draft.  An update has been circulating this week in the Pentagon and the US Congress. The Pentagon, via Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, justifies the whole thing by the proverbial need to ‘maintain Afghanistan’s security’ and make sure foreign aid is not being squandered (as it has always been).

There will be plenty of US military outposts and bases; Afghan bases and other bases of which the US has ‘exclusive use’. Bagram, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif are inevitably on the list. Once again, this is the US Empire of Bases – so well characterized by the late Chalmers Johnson – in pristine form.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the current US/NATO military commander in Afghanistan, wants up to 13,000 troops to stay, not including security guards and the cream of the crop, the counterterrorism gang. In theory, these forces won’t engage in combat “unless otherwise mutually agreed.” The draft text emphasizes, “US military operations to defeat Al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism.”

Translation: a future festival of raids by Special Forces, and a counter-terror free-for-all.

The draft text only mentions, vaguely,” full respect for Afghan sovereignty and full regard for the safety and security of the Afghan people, including in their homes,” as Obama also mentioned in his letter to Karzai.

And there’s absolutely nothing on the critical issue of drones based in Afghan bases that have been used for incinerating the odd commander but also scores of innocent civilians in the Pakistani tribal areas.

All about pivoting to Asia

The Maliki government in Baghdad had the balls to confront the Pentagon and veto the immunity for US forces – effectively kicking out the occupying force in Iraq. Hamid Karzai, for his part, caved in on virtual every US demand. The key question in the next few months is for what; Mob-style protection if he stays in Afghanistan, or the equivalent of the FBI’s witness protection program if he moves to the US?

Even assuming the Loya Jirga endorses the BSA (not yet a done deal) and Karzai’s successor signs it (with Karzai removing himself from the tight spot), to say this opens a new Pandora’s box is an understatement.

The occupation, for all practical purposes, will continue. This has nothing to do with fighting the War on Terror or jihad. There’s no Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The few remnants are in Waziristan, in Pakistani territory. The US is – and will remain – essentially at war with Afghan Pashtuns who are members of the Taliban. And the Taliban will keep staging their spring and summer offensives as long as there are any foreign occupiers on Afghan soil.

The drone war will continue, with the Pentagon and the CIA using these Afghan bases to attack Pashtuns in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Not to mention that these US bases, to be fully operational, need unrestricted access to the Pakistani transit routes from the Khyber Pass and the Quetta-to-Kandahar corridor. This means Islamabad keeps profiting from the scam by collecting hefty fees in US dollars.

No one knows yet how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will respond to this. Not only Russia and China – who are adamantly opposed to US bases in Afghanistan – but also Iran and India, SCO observers and two countries that can sway Afghanistan away from the Taliban in a non-military way.

We just need to picture, for instance, a practically inevitable future development; Washington deciding to deploy the US missile defense system in Afghanistan (it already happened in Turkey). Russia and China already see that the US may have lost the economic race for Central Asia – as China clinches deal after deal in the context of expanding its New Silk Road(s) grand strategy. What’s left for Washington is – guess what – bits and pieces of the same old Pentagon Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, as in military bases to ‘monitor’ both China and Russia very close to their borders.

What’s certain is that both Russia and China – not to mention Iran – all see this Operation Occupy Afghanistan Forever for what it is; yet another (military) chapter of the American ‘pivoting to Asia’.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

This article was originally published at RT

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36945.htm

Endless Occupation? Afghanistan To Have US Troops Indefinitely? Security Agreement Draft Leaked

By The Inquisitr

November 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Afghanistan may not be seeing a full withdrawal of US troops soon, as many had expected. A newly obtained US-Afghanistan security agreement draft suggests that US forces will stay for much longer than originally expected, possibly indefinitely. The draft includes an agreement for US military outposts and bases to remain in Afghanistan through 2024. It also shows plans to fund and train a great number of Afghan security forces.

The security agreement draft was obtained by NBC News, as they reported Tuesday. The unsigned 25-page document is dated to July 25, 2013 and appears to be a working draft. Titled the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between The United States of American and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” its details range from being very specific to rather unclear.

The draft is set for review and discussion between some 2,500 officials, academics, and village representatives in Kabul this week. While the panel, known as Loya Jirga, does not have authority to make an agreement, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai says he will not sign the treaty without their approval.

News of this security agreement draft comes on the heels of statements made recently by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army General Martin Dempsey, Bloomberg reports. On Monday he said that while a “ubiquitous presence of US military force” is not necessary in Afghanistan post-2014, the country “can’t live without any.” Dempsey says a US and NATO presence will be needed to maintain Afghanistan’s security and to guarantee foreign aid money is not being exploited.

The high ranking military official’s remarks back up indications that the Afghan security agreement draft seeks to allow US troops to remain in country indefinitely. NATO has already said that around 8,000 to 12,000 troops could stay in Afghanistan after 2014, not including security guards or counterterrorism forces.

The newly leaked treaty draft, as it is written, would go into effect in 2015, after the end of the current mission in Afghanistan. It also says the deal would be in effect through 2024 “and beyond.” While there have been concerns over several details in the draft, NBC News says an update circulated among Pentagon staff and Congress on Monday addresses these issues.

Signing of the the Afghanistan security agreement will likely not happen for another two months, as it must be approved by the Afghan parliament and president.

This article was originally published at The Inquisitr

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36916.htm

US Atrocities and War Crimes Cover-Ups in Afghanistan

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, November 14, 2013

us-war-crimesUS drones murder Afghan civilian men, women and children. American grounds forces do it up close and personal.

US inflicted death, torture and other atrocities reflect daily life. Ordinary Afghans suffer most. They struggle to survive. American aggression is one of history’s greatest crimes.

War criminals remain unpunished. Accountability is denied. Conflict persists. It’s Washington’s longest war. It’s longer than WW I and II combined. It shows no signs of ending.

Trillions of dollars go mass slaughter and destruction. They’re spent for unchallenged global dominance.

Vital homeland needs go begging. Targeted countries are ravaged and destroyed. Imperial lawlessness operates this way.

Its appetite is insatiable. It ignores rule of law principles. It does whatever it wants. It does it where, when, by what means, and under whatever pretexts it contrives.

It does so unapologetically. It targets one country at a time or in multiples. It wages direct and proxy wars. It does so without justification. It lies claiming otherwise.

Atrocities are virtually de rigueur. All US wars are dirty. In March 2012, 20 US forces murdered 16 Afghan men, women, and nine children aged two to 12.

Children were massacred while they slept. Two women were raped before soldiers killed them. Pentagon officials and mainstream media whitewashed what happened.

One soldier was blamed for crimes 20 US forces committed. Nineteen got off scot-free. Cold blooded murder and other atrocities persist. They do so with disturbing regularity.

On November 12, Reuters headlined ” ‘Lack of US Cooperation halts Afghan probe into civilian killings,” saying:

“Afghanistan’s intelligence service has abandoned its investigation into the murder of a group of civilians after being refused access to US special forces soldiers suspected of involvement, according to a document obtained by Reuters.”

War crimes were committed. US forces raided Wardak province. They did so from October 2012 to February 2013.

Seventeen Afghan men were detained. They disappeared. Residents found 10 buried in shallow graves. They were several hundred meters from where US forces are based.

“In the report authored by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency, investigators said they had asked the United States for access to three US Green Berets and four Afghan translators working with them but were rebuffed,” said Reuters.

On September 23, NDS published its report. “Despite many requests (it made, America hasn’t) cooperated,” it said. “Without (its) cooperation, this process cannot be completed.”

Pentagon officials routinely whitewash serious war crimes. So do US commanders on the ground. Doing so is longstanding US policy. Rare exceptions prove the rule.

Under a decade long military agreement, Afghan officials can’t charge US forces with war crimes. Whatever they do, they’re immune.

Zakeria Kandahari is an Afghan translator. He works with US Green Berets. He’s done so for nine years.

Documents Reuters obtained explained how US interrogations are conducted. Kandahari witnessed Sayid Mohammed’s treatment.

He was murdered. Kandahari named three US Special Forces responsible. He kicked Mohammed,” he said. He beat him. He threatened him.

“I handed him over to Mr. Dave and Mr. Hagen, but later I saw his body in a black body bag,” he said.

Wardak residents accuse US forces of abducting Afghan men and boys. Interrogations involving torture follows.

Karzai is a US installed stooge. He’s done nothing to stop what’s persisted throughout his tenure. Failure to act responsibly reflects complicity.

Russia Today interviewed journalist Matthieu Aikins. He spent five months investigating the Wardak incident.

Local residents bore testimony. They supplied credible evidence. War crimes were committed. According to Aikins:

“The special forces team was deployed to an isolated valley west of Kabul, where the Taliban and other insurgents groups have a very heavy presence.”

“Over last winter, the locals started complaining that the forces team and their translators were murdering people, abducting them, trotting them, and disappearing them.”

“Just extraordinary allegations that at the time were essentially unproven.”

In November 2012, residents first complained about a so-called Special Forces ODA 3124 unit.

When it withdrew in April, human remains were discovered near America’s Nerkh district base.

Local authorities determined that ODA 3124 operations bore full responsibility.

Survivor testimonies confirmed it. Victims described being severely beaten and tortured.

ICRC representatives obtained more evidence. Because of an alleged US investigation, details weren’t disclosed.

According to Aikins:

“In the five months that I spent reporting this story, not a single one of the witnesses that I spoke to had ever been contacted by the US military investigator.”

“So it does really beg the question whether these investigators are actually going to be able to establish any sort of accountability of what happened.”

It bears repeating. Pentagon officials routinely whitewash serious war crimes. So do US commanders on the ground.

Unaccountability is standard practice. US forces guilty of rape, torture and murder go unpunished.

On November 6, Aitkins headlined his Rolling Stone article “The A-Team Killings.”

“Last spring,” he said, “the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were dug up outside a US Special Forces base – was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war?”

Six months after US Special Forces arrived in Wardak province, allegations of torture and murder surfaced.

Locals said 10 civilians were abducted. They disappeared. US Special Forces were responsible.

They killed another eight Afghans during their operations. Perhaps more bodies remain to be discovered.

On February 16, “a student named Nasratullah was found under a bridge with his throat slit,” said Aikins.

Family members said US Green Berets abducted him. Other bodies were found. In July, Col. Jane Crichton lied, saying:

“After thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) or US forces.”

According to Aikins:

“(O)ver the past five months, Rolling Stone has interviewed more than two dozen eyewitnesses and victims’ families who’ve provided consistent and detailed allegations of the involvement of American forces in the disappearance of the 10 men, and has talked to Afghan and Western officials who were familiar with confidential Afghan-government, UN and Red Cross investigations that found the allegations credible.”

“In July, a UN report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan warned: ‘The reported disappearances, arbitrary killings and torture – if proven to have been committed under the auspices of a party to the armed conflict – may amount to war crimes.”

Aikins recounted Gul Rahim’s killing. He spoke to three of his neighbors. They saw US Special Forces arrive.

They heard gun shots. When they left. They saw Rahim’s “bullet-ridden body lying among the apple trees, his skull shattered.”

A man identified only as Omar was targeted. He witnessed Rahim’s killing. He survived.

He was taken to America’s Nerkh base. He was put in a plywood cell. Interrogations began the next morning.

His hands were bound above his head. He was suspended and beaten. Afghan translator Zakeria Kandahari was involved.

Two Americans interrogated him. He said he knew nothing about Rahim and local Taliban commanders.

Beatings intensified. Sessions lasted for two days. “At one point,” said Aikins, “Kandahari held a pistol to Omar’s head and told him that he would kill him as easily as he had killed his friend.”

He was certain he’d die. At night, he was shackled in his plywood cell. Americans handed him over to Afghan forces. He realized he was being freed.

” ‘I promised that I would kill you,’ he says Kandahari told him, ‘and I don’t know how you’re getting away alive.”

Wardak is an intense battleground. It’s “littered with bomb craters and burned-out tanker trucks,” said Aikins.

Many disappeared Afghans “were rounded up by the Americans in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses.”

Aikins obtained credible testimonies. Mohammad Hazrat Janan is deputy head of Wardak’s provincial council.

US forces terrorize people, he said. They do it “because they could not defeat the insurgents.”

People abducted weren’t Taliban, he explained. “(B)ut even if they were, no one is allowed to just kill them in this way.”

Nerkh district feels besieged, said Aikins. It’s a “hotbed of guerrilla resistance.” It’s close to Kabul. It’s a “staging ground for suicide attacks on the capital.”

US forces are stationed at Combat Outpost Nerkh. Green Beret units are called Operational Detachment Alpha, ODA, or A-Team. The Nerkha-based one is called ODA 3124.

It’s involved in counterinsurgency operations. They part of what’s known as “white” Special Forces. So-called “black” ones launch night raids.

CIA elements are involved in local operations. Insurgents control Nerkh rural areas. US forces are vulnerable to ambushes or roadside blasts.

Nerkh incidents didn’t occur in a vacuum, said Aikins. “Over the past 10 years human rights groups, the UN and Congress have repeatedly documented the recurring abuse of detainees in the custody of the US military, the CIA and their Afghan allies.”

According to Human Rights Watch Asia advocacy director John Sifton:

“The US military has a poor track record of holding its forces responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes.”

“There are some cases of detainee deaths 11 years ago that resulted in no punishments.”

Aikins said a former ODA 3124 interpreter named Farooq said he “routinely witnessed abusive interrogations during his time with the A-Team, involving physical beatings with fists, feet, cables and the use of devices similar to Tasers.”

When Obama begins drawing down US forces, Green Berets and CIA will remain. According to Aikins, they’ll be even less oversight than now.

Based on what he’s seen and gotten from witnesses, “the fight in Afghanistan may get even dirtier.”

Covert war may continue interminably. Afghans have enjoyed rare times of peace. They’ve had none for over three decades. Future prospects look grim.

For centuries, Afghans experienced what few can imagine. Marauding armies besieged cities. They slaughtered thousands. They caused vast destruction.

Imperial Britain and Czarist Russia vied for control. Local warlords exerted their own dominance. When Soviet Russia withdrew in 1989, a ravaged country remained.

Living Afghans can’t remember peace, stability and tranquility. Endless conflicts persist.

Post-9/11, America’s attack, invasion and occupation followed. Millions died. Countless others suffer horrifically.

It bears repeating. Nothing ahead looks promising. America came to stay. Permanent occupation is planned.

Afghanistan is strategically important. It straddles the Middle East, South and Central Asia. It’s in the heart of Eurasia.

Occupation projects America’s military might. It targets Russia, China, Iran, and other oil-rich Middle East states.

It furthers Washington’s imperium. It prioritizes unchallenged global dominance. It seeks control over Afghan’s untapped natural gas, oil and other mineral resources.

In June 2010, The New York Times headlined “US Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan,” saying:

They’re worth an estimated $1 trillion. Estimates are notoriously inaccurate.

Whatever they’re worth, they include “huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium – are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.”

An internal Pentagon memo calls Afghanistan the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” It’s a key material needed to produce “batteries, laptops and BlackBerrys.”

Years of development are needed. Huge potential exists. Heavy investment is likely. An economic bonanza awaits profiteers.

Don’t expect ordinary Afghans to benefit. Surviving concerns them most. Violence continues unabated.

Living conditions are deplorable. Vital services are lacking. Millions have little or no access to clean water.

Many don’t get enough food. Life expectancy is one of the world’s lowest. Infant mortality is one of the highest.

Extreme poverty, unemployment, human misery, and constant fear reflect daily life. Washington prioritizes conquest, colonization, plunder and dominance.

War without end rages. Human needs go begging. Wherever America shows up, death and destruction follow. So does unrelieved dystopian harshness. No end in sight looms.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/us-atrocities-afghanistan/

http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-atrocities-and-war-crimes-cover-ups-in-afghanistan/5358140

Disturbing Video Shows U.S. Special Forces Observing Brutal Afghan Interrogation

Disturbing Video Shows U.S. Special Forces Observing Brutal Afghan Interrogation.

German defence minister praises German deployment to Afghanistan

By Peter Schwarz 

10 October 2013

“Kunduz, this is the place where the German army (Bundeswehr) fought for the first time and had to learn how to fight,” Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere declared last Sunday, as the German encampment in Kunduz was handed over to Afghan security forces.

His remark summed up the significance for the German ruling class of the ten-year Bundeswehr mission in the northern Afghan province. The German army and in particular the German public, which harbours a deep aversion to militarism following the horrors of two world wars, must re-accustom themselves to soldiers killing and being killed in the interests of German imperialism.

De Maizière referred to Kunduz as “a turning point—not only for the army, but also for German society… Kunduz has marked the Bundeswehr like no other place. A place which was built up and fought over, where tears were shed and comfort given, where soldiers killed and fell in battle,” he said.

General Jörg Vollmer, who commanded the German troops in northern Afghanistan since the beginning of this year, told Tagesschau that after eleven years, a different army was returning to Germany. “It was the first time that soldiers had to kill, but also experienced fallen comrades and the wounded.”

Another officer, who was twice deployed in Kunduz, boasted that the combat operations in Kunduz had rid the German armed forces of its reputation as an “army of quitters…The image of fat, cake-eating Germans who play football in the afternoon was gone after the first death in combat,” he told the Tagesschau. “In Kunduz, in almost every patrol I was in a situation of asking myself: do you have to shoot the motorcyclist over there just because he is sitting alone on his machine and could possibly be an assassin?”

The Bundeswehr mission in Kunduz began in fall 2003, under the Social Democrat (SPD) – Green coalition government, with the take over of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) from the United States. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) said at that time that the army would “secure construction efforts in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz” with a force of 250 soldiers. He claimed the intervention had a civilian character. German soldiers would protect construction workers, repair roads, schools and hospitals, and train police officers.

In the event, German forces were soon embroiled in fierce battles. At times over 1,400 soldiers were stationed in the camp. Of the 54 German soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan, 20 died in the Kunduz region.

The Bundeswehr proceeded ever more brutally against the civilian population. This reached a bloody climax on September 4, 2009, when Colonel Georg Klein ordered the bombing of a hijacked fuel tanker, killing around 140 civilians. Although Klein had clearly violated rules of engagement, he was later promoted to brigadier general. All disciplinary and criminal proceedings against him were terminated. (See: “A murderous decision”)

The Bundeswehr is now turning over the camp in Kunduz, including equipment worth around 25 million euros, to the Afghan army and police. By the end of the month, all 900 remaining Bundeswehr soldiers are due to leave Kunduz.

This does not mean, however, the end of the German mission in Afghanistan. The German headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif, 200 km away, and an office in the capital, Kabul, will remain. The Bundeswehr in Kunduz retains a sealed-off area as a base, holding up to 300 soldiers, to provide support to Afghan security forces.

NATO is currently negotiating with the Afghan government on a successor mission called “Resolute Support”, involving up to 800 German soldiers.

The handover of the German camp in Kunduz was presented as a great success. Both Defence Minister de Maizière and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle attended a grotesque ceremony, during which the pair handed over two huge wooden keys, painted in the colours of the German flag, to the Defence and the Interior Ministers of Afghanistan.

There are serious doubts, however, whether the Afghan government will be able to control the region after the withdrawal of the German troops. Due to a complete lack of trust in their Afghan “allies”, Afghan soldiers and police officers were required to unload their weapons before attending the handover ceremony.

Shortly before the handover, fighting took place between the Taliban and police and several prominent politicians were killed by Taliban fighters in the region in recent weeks.

The occupation of Afghanistan by the United States-led military alliance was originally justified on the basis of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, and that the Afghan Taliban was providing shelter to Al Qaeda. In fact the conquest of the country had been prepared long before and served US geopolitical objectives. Afghanistan occupies a key location as a bridge between the Gulf region and Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent with Persia.

Germany participated in the war to secure its own interests in Central Asia, as Former Defence Minister Peter Struck (SPD) implied when he said that Germany would “be defended in the Hindu Kush.” The imperialist aims of the intervention also determined the form of the war. Despite propaganda about construction aid, the Bundeswehr intervened as an occupying army, rapidly coming into conflict with the local population, which it suppressed ever more brutally.

While the German population welcomes the partial withdrawal from Afghanistan, ruling circles regard it as an important role model for future military interventions. A commentary in the Süddeutsche Zeitung criticises the German government for failing to develop a sufficiently aggressive military policy.

“Merkel and Westerwelle have made it easy for themselves and drawn the consequence from the difficult case of Afghanistan just to keep out of everywhere,” Nico Fried writes in the paper on October 6. “The Bundeswehr is being converted to an army of intervention but in the meantime, the criteria, objectives and aims of such interventions are a foreign policy black hole.”

The Berlin editor of the Süddeutsche then expressed his hope that a future social democratic or Green foreign minister “will force the Chancellor into a discussion of Germany’s role.” This hope seems likely to be fulfilled. The SPD and the Greens, which paved the way for Germany’s military interventions in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, are amongst the most aggressive advocates of a militaristic German foreign policy.

De Maizière’s appearance in Kunduz and Fried’s comments make clear that the ruling class expects the next federal government to return to the tradition of German Great Power politics. In his own speech commemorating German reunification, President Joachim Gauck had also demanded that Germany once again play a role “in Europe and the world” as befitting its size and influence.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/10/10/kund-o10.html

America’s Afghan Victims

Even among staunchly antiwar politicians and pundits, few bother to mention the cost of the war to civilians.

By Bob Dreyfuss and Nick Turse 

September 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Nation” –  When an American soldier dies in Afghanistan, his death is not anonymous. The tragedy of that loss is mourned, and his life is remembered and celebrated. In many cases, the death is covered prominently in local and state media, often for several days. The Pentagon dutifully records the loss, medals are delivered, a ceremonial flag is presented to survivors, and the Defense Department pays the soldier’s family $100,000 in compensation, plus back pay, insurance, housing allowances and more. 

But when an Afghan dies in the war—especially an Afghan civilian—her death is rarely noticed by the outside world. Often, it’s not even recorded by Afghan hospitals or morgues. Asked whether his country keeps records of civilian casualties, Said Jawad, the former Afghan ambassador to the United States, sighs. “In Afghanistan, you know, we don’t even have birth certificates,” he says. “Do you know we don’t even have a list of Afghan soldiers and police, members of the security forces, who are killed?”

Most Americans strongly supported the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, but they have long since turned sharply against a conflict that, in September, entered its thirteenth year—by some measures the longest war in American history. A big reason for the shift in public opinion is the steadily growing list of dead and maimed soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. For politicians, it’s by now rote to declare that the war has cost the United States more than 2,200 dead, thousands more wounded and at least $640 billion. But even among staunchly antiwar politicians and pundits, few bother to mention the cost to Afghans. “It’s just not part of American discourse,” says John Tirman, author of The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars. “You don’t have politicians standing up for civilians.” 

It is to correct this unconscionable oversight that The Nation has prepared this report. In this special issue, we focus primarily on those who have died at the hands of the United States and its allies. That’s because Americans, collectively, should be accountable for the violence committed in their name. We should demand that our military act humanely and with a determination to avoid civilian casualties. 

A large number of these civilian deaths—perhaps most—have come at the hands of the Taliban and its allies. Since gathering momentum in 2006, the insurgents have shown a reckless disregard for civilians, planting tens of thousands of improvised explosive devices along roadways, setting off suicide bombs in crowded marketplaces, and assassinating countless local officials, tribal leaders and other civilians. As the war evolved, civilian casualties attributable to the insurgents rose from a relatively small number in the years before the insurgency really got under way in the mid-2000s, to 55 percent of civilian deaths, according to the 2008 report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), to what the UN now says is approximately 80 percent of all civilians killed. 

As we shall see, even coming up with rough estimates of civilian casualties is difficult. But it’s an unassailable fact that many of those killed by anti-government forces would almost certainly be alive had the United States never invaded. And the victims of US forces and other foreign troops number in the many thousands. The United States has been singularly uninterested in tracking and accounting for the Afghan dead, whether civilians or combatants. In an echo of the discredited metrics of the Vietnam War era, Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the US invasion in 2001 and served as commander of Central Command (CENTCOM) from 2000 to 2003, was even more blunt. “You know we don’t do body counts,” he said. 

In 2008, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, reluctantly began to track civilian casualties, setting up the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell and other mechanisms to do so. But as we report below, this work was woefully incomplete. At the same time, advocates of the vaunted counterinsurgency doctrine promoted by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and then, less stringently, by Gen. David Petraeus, along with academics such as Sarah Sewall of Harvard, instituted a new policy that emphasized the protection of civilians. But despite the policy changes, Afghan civilians continued to die in large numbers—a situation acknowledged by Tim Rieser, a top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy. “No matter how much the Pentagon says that they’re going to revise their tactics or their procedures or whatever, [the deaths] keep happening!” says Rieser, whose boss has been a leading voice for decades on human rights.

Interactive Database: America's Afghan Victims

I. Counting the Dead

Iraq, which endured an eight-year war with Iran, followed by the Gulf War, a dozen years of lethal US-engineered sanctions, the 2003 US invasion and a civil war, still maintains a functioning system of hospitals, clinics and morgues, and researchers are able to make use of roughly accurate demographic data based on household surveys. One such study, published in The Lancet in 2006, estimated, not without controversy, more than 600,000 “excess deaths” resulting from the US war and occupation. There is no parallel study for Afghanistan, according to Neta Crawford, a political scientist at Boston University who has written extensively on civilian deaths in Afghanistan and who has tried to raise funds to conduct a household survey there. 

The Asia Foundation, which conducts an annual Survey of the Afghan People, has perhaps come closest to gauging the war’s toll. Based on more than 6,300 interviews with adult Afghans in all thirty-four provinces, the survey reports that over one-fifth (22 percent) of the population—more than 6 million people—personally experienced some kind of crime or violence in their household in 2011. Of those, 8 percent (about 500,000 people) report having suffered violence at the hands of “foreign forces”—i.e., ISAF. And those figures are just a one-year snapshot. Multiply that by twelve years of war, and it becomes evident that millions of Afghans have suffered death, injury, and damage to their homes or livelihoods by US and ISAF forces. 

The United Nations, which began to track civilian casualties systematically by 2008, around the same time as the US military and ISAF, arguably did a somewhat better job than the latter—but former UN officials interviewed by The Nation say that even the UN, with trained investigators and many offices spread across the country, managed to track only a portion of those killed. A handful of underfunded local NGOs, including the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Afghan NGO Security Office, have monitored the conflict, but they’ve failed to produce reliable counts. And the Afghan government hasn’t been able to keep track of the war’s human cost. 

NGOs outside Afghanistan, including Human Rights Watch, the Center for Civilians in Conflict and the Open Society Foundations, have made valiant efforts to track and document abuses, human rights violations, war crimes and major mass-casualty incidents, but none have maintained a database of civilian or combatant deaths (the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based in Britain, has compiled extensive data on civilian casualties worldwide resulting from US drone strikes, but not overall civilian casualties in the Afghan War). For some time, Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire doggedly tracked Afghan civilian casualty incidents, but he included in his data what most analysts say are exaggerated or fabricated reports from the often pro-Taliban Pakistani media. So far, perhaps the best account of casualties was part of the “Costs of War” report prepared by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, under the direction of Catherine Lutz and Neta Crawford. Crawford’s paper “Civilian Death and Injury in Afghanistan, 2001–2011,” updated in February 2013, estimates as many as 19,000 civilians killed by all sides, and she provides a valuable compendium of estimates for combatant deaths too. Still, Crawford’s estimate of civilian casualties relies heavily on the reports of UNAMA, which understates the total number of deaths significantly. 

A central part of The Nation’s project on civilian casualties in Afghanistan has been to compile a uniquely comprehensive interactive database of civilian casualty incidents from the beginning of the war in 2001 to the end of 2012. It includes information gleaned from reliable media accounts—in outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian and CNN—of 458 separate incidents, involving between 2,848 and 6,481 people, who died as a result of war-related actions by the United States, its allies and Afghan government forces. It includes high-profile atrocities, including deliberate killings of civilians by coalition forces, such as the wanton murder of at least sixteen people by US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in March 2012; airstrikes that slaughtered dozens of Afghan civilians who were celebrating a wedding, traveling in a convoy or simply sleeping; and those killed in small groups or singly at military checkpoints, in firefights and during night raids. 

When counting Afghanistan’s dead civilians, it’s useful to break the war down into three phases: the initial campaign, involving a small number of US troops, Special Operations Forces and the CIA, backed by a relentless campaign of airstrikes, in 2001 and 2002; the period from 2003 to 2007, when the Taliban-led insurgency slowly began to gain traction; and the period from 2008 to 2013, which has seen the most intense fighting between the US/ISAF coalition and a mature, resilient insurgency. 

2001–2002: During the first months of the war, there was no one to count the dead. The Taliban had fled, and there was essentially no government in Kabul. The United States had almost no forces on the ground, and it wasn’t paying attention to civilian casualties anyway. The UN and NGOs were confined to the capital. Yet many died, mostly as a result of US airstrikes. The Nation’s database, which relies on media reports compiled under extraordinarily challenging conditions, records 136 incidents during the first five months of the conflict, involving between 1,200 and 3,155 war deaths. 

Other researchers, adopting a more cautious methodology, came up with somewhat lower estimates. In June 2002, the Los Angeles Times published the results of an intensive investigation into civilian casualties caused by US airstrikes between October 2001 and February 2002. Its reporters visited twenty-five Afghan villages, though most of its analysis was based on media reports. After reviewing more than 2,000 such reports, the paper estimated that between 1,067 and 1,201 civilians perished during that period. Another study compiled by Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives, a liberal group based in Washington, also depended on media reports. The study concluded that at least 1,000 civilians—and possibly as many as 1,300—were killed between October 2001 and January 2002. 

But perhaps the most hands-on investigation was conducted by William Arkin, a veteran military analyst and bomb-damage specialist, who visited Afghanistan in 2002 with a team from Human Rights Watch. Though Arkin had often worked closely with the US military, in Afghanistan he got little cooperation from CENTCOM or the Air Force, he told The Nation. Worse, he says, “there was no Afghan partner to work with, no humanitarian organizations, no government that gave a shit or had any records. So there were no records. Even at the local level, there were no records! It was really stunning.” 

After identifying hundreds of sites that were targets of US airstrikes and visiting many of them, Arkin says it was impossible to sort out current damage from old wreckage. “It’s not precision warfare on top of a pristine landscape,” he says. “It’s chaos on top of chaos.” He estimates that no more than 1,500 civilians died in the first five months of the war—but, he adds, “absent the military looking at it seriously at the time, which they weren’t; and absent the intelligence community having any responsibility for reporting on this subject, which they didn’t; and absent local government records or tracking, which there wasn’t any of, I defy anyone to say how many people died. We couldn’t.” 

2003–2007: We could find no evidence that anyone tried to count the dead during these years. According to The Nation’s compilation, between 617 and 1,012 civilians died in eighty incidents involving the US military and coalition forces during this five-year period, though the actual toll is probably far greater, given the scant attention by all parties. 

Immediately after the fall of the Taliban government, the United States and the UN focused almost exclusively on “nation building,” even as the insurgency took root under their noses. This was the era of the so-called “light footprint,” when George W. Bush’s administration was obsessed with Iraq. Only 8,000 US combat troops and a contingent of international forces half that size were in the country, and US ground forces were mostly confined to Kabul and a few big military bases. (It wasn’t until October 2003 that the UN Security Council authorized the expansion of the ISAF mission beyond Kabul.) 

“When the insurgency started rearing its head, the way that they fought that was with a lot of airstrikes,” says Sarah Holewinski of the Center for Civilians in Conflict [see Holewinski’s article in this issue for more on the center]. “They were dropping 2,000-pound bombs instead of 500-pound bombs. The civilian on the ground was not the priority, so quite a lot of civilians were being killed.” 

In its 2008 report “‘Troops in Contact’: Airstrikes and Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch noted: “The combination of light ground forces and overwhelming airpower has become the dominant doctrine of war for the US in Afghanistan. The result has been large numbers of civilian casualties, controversy over the continued use of airpower in Afghanistan, and intense criticism of US and NATO forces by Afghan political leaders and the general public.” Human Rights Watch estimated that civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes rose from 116 people in thirteen bombings in 2006, to 321 people in twenty-two bombings in 2007. 

According to Andre-Michel Essoungou, spokesman for the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, “UNAMA began monitoring civilian casualties systematically in late 2007. It began to systematize the collection and analysis of that data in 2008 when it published its first report on ‘Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.’ No organization has good or reliable data on civilian casualties from 2001 to 2006, and we have not seen estimates that would be considered reliable.” The UN’s reports during these years were sporadic and mostly guesswork, and both the UN and the media focused on high-profile, mass-casualty incidents. In 2006, a report by the UN high commissioner for human rights noted that there were “approximately 1,500 civilian deaths in 2005, the highest number of civilian deaths in any year since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.” But the emphasis ought to be on “approximately.” In an early attempt at systematically counting civilian dead for 2007, the UN reported 1,523 killed. In her study, Neta Crawford concludes that, at most, 4,065 civilians died as a result of combat between 2002 and 2007, but she acknowledges that “from 2002 to 2005, there were very few counts or estimates made by independent sources of the number of civilians killed in the conflict.” 

2008–2013: By June 2008, 48,250 US troops were in Afghanistan. A year and a half later, after two escalations of the war ordered by President Obama, the US troop level passed 100,000. The insurgency, including the Taliban, the Haqqani group and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i Islami, was full blown, and the war was at its peak. 

Both the UN and ISAF created formal body-count mechanisms for civilian deaths in 2008, but they were marred by significant flaws, undoubtedly resulting in an undercount. The Nation’s database, which relies primarily on Western media reports and thus also undercounts the dead, reflects 234 incidents, involving between 972 and 2,229 people killed from 2008 to the end of 2012. 

According to the annual UNAMA reports, the number of Afghan civilians who died from war-related violence inflicted by all sides rose steadily: from 2,118 in 2008, to 2,412 in 2009, 2,777 in 2010 and 3,021 in 2011, before falling to 2,754 in 2012, with another 1,319 deaths in the first six months of 2013. Of those, the proportion killed by insurgents rose too, from 55 percent in 2008 to 79 percent in 2012. In all, UNAMA concluded, 2,736 of those killed between January 2008 and June 2013 died at the hands of the US/ISAF coalition and Afghan security forces. 

Does the US military have better numbers? Probably not. Both ISAF and the US command maintain records of violent incidents as part of a system called the Combined Information Data Network Exchange, which contains more than 100 different kinds of reports tracking battlefield data. CIDNE is classified, and The Nation was not given access even to a sanitized version of it. But researchers who have seen the classified data suggest that the numbers aren’t there, especially before 2008. We asked Larry Lewis, who in 2010 co-wrote a definitive—and still classified—Joint Civilian Casualty Study for the military called “Reducing and Mitigating Civilian Casualties,” if there were any reliable numbers for the war’s early years. “Not that I ever found,” he says, “and believe me, I looked.” One source, who was part of the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell set up by the military in 2008, says there was a top-secret room containing highly classified data at ISAF command headquarters, adding: “ISAF does keep a log of civilian casualties. But it was classified, of course. In fact, they had the ‘Five Eyes room’ that very few people could go into. It was called the Five Eyes room for the five countries whose senior people were allowed in: the United States, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.” 

None of the sources interviewed by The Nation confirmed that either ISAF or the US military has accurate numbers on dead civilians, even after 2008. Lewis says much of the data that the military does have are suspect, because they’ve been unevenly collected. “There are some commanders that, any time a civilian casualty is suspected, they’ll do an investigation to try to get to the bottom of it,” he says. “Others, they’d only do it if they thought there could be neglect or actual criminality. So there are a lot of different criteria.” 

Sarah Sewall, who wrote the introduction to the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, prepared in 2006 under the direction of General Petraeus, was an author with Lewis on the Joint Civilian Casualty Study. Despite the lack of complete and accurate data, she says, the report “relied on a number of anecdotes that we studied in detail, so that’s the way we were able to correct” for the absence of underlying data to draw conclusions about trends and make policy recommendations to the US Army. A nearly complete version of the Joint Civilian Casualty Study was obtained by The Nation. 

II. The UN’s Flawed Count 

The UN’s human rights and civilian protection team in Afghanistan has done critically important work. Against near-impossible odds, it established a nationwide network of offices and trained personnel to track civilian casualties, investigate incidents, prepare reports, and put pressure on the US/ISAF coalition, the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban to minimize civilian deaths. Since 2001, it has published voluminous reports on the war’s toll, and since 2008 UNAMA has put out annual and semi-annual data on civilian casualties. 

However, in a series of wide-ranging interviews, current and former UNAMA officials told The Nation that the UN’s human rights work has been hamstrung by political pressure from top officials to minimize or downplay issues that might undermine the US/ISAF mission; by open clashes with military commanders over whether Afghan deaths should be counted as civilians or combatants; and by severe conditions in which investigations were hampered by security concerns. One former UNAMA official, who spoke to The Nationon background, says that despite enormous problems in collecting data and evidence, the UN’s totals are fairly complete. “I would guesstimate that we’re missing 10 percent of what’s happening out there,” he says. But another former official, who spent years working with UNAMA’s human rights group, says flatly, “What we’ve reported is the tip of the iceberg.” 

Especially in the early years of the war, the UN’s effort was very limited. Nazia Hussain of the Open Society Foundations spent much of the 2002–07 period in Afghanistan, including a 2005–07 stint with UNAMA in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Kabul. During that time, she says, security conditions deteriorated sharply, making it harder to go into the field. “There was a lot of confusion and chaos reigning at that time, and civilian casualties were increasing.” She adds, “A lot of the deaths have been attributed to NATO strikes or warlords, but if you double that or triple it, you’ve probably got a realistic number, and it’s probably way more than that.” 

UNAMA’s human rights team expanded along with the war. “We have seventy people located throughout the country in the nine regional offices and then the sub-regional offices, which is something like sixteen other offices in addition to the nine,” said one former UN official in 2012. Still, UNAMA was often overwhelmed. The official estimated that in some provinces, there were more than 200 violent incidents per month. 

And UN officials are the first to acknowledge that they don’t hear about everything. Often it’s difficult or impossible to visit the site of an incident. Frequently, UNAMA had to interview victims and survivors by telephone, or people from a remote village would have to journey to a provincial capital to visit its office. Often victims of violence weren’t willing or able to share what happened. And sometimes they’d exaggerate the numbers for pecuniary reasons—especially if they thought compensation payments might be offered [for more on such payments, see Turse, “Blood Money: Afghanistan’s Reparations Files,” at TheNation.com]. 

A former UN official who spent many years in Afghanistan beginning in the 1990s explains how the organization’s approach changed. “After 9/11 and the Bonn Agreement [of December 2001], the US and the UN started re-establishing itself, and a totally different line was taken on human rights and the impact of war on civilians,” she told The Nation. “Basically, the UN went silent. During the Taliban regime, the UN was all the time talking about things of a human rights nature. And very quickly, in 2001–02, there was a very strong message that the UN was no longer going to do that.” Asked where the pressure was coming from, she says, “I think the UN was seen as being very sensitive to the Washington agenda.” Making matters worse, many traditional allies of the human rights groups and the UN’s civilian protection unit, such as the Canadians, the Norwegians and the Dutch, were part of the US-led military coalition. For members of the coalition, the UN’s job was to build the new Afghan government, not to meddle with human rights issues. “We were told that peace was at hand, and so we had to consolidate the peace,” the former UN official says. 

As the fighting grew more intense and the UN ramped up its system for counting civilian deaths, ISAF’s politicization of the count intensified too. Kai Eide, who served as the UN’s special representative for Afghanistan from March 2008 to March 2010, recalled that US officials accused the UN of assisting the insurgency by drawing attention to the coalition’s mistakes. “The UN had a strong human rights mandate,” he told The Nation, “and civilian casualties had increasingly become an issue.” A former UN official who spent years in Afghanistan echoed this, noting, “They’ve become a lot more politicized, so that increasingly there are more and more pressures on UNAMA to check and double-check incidents in which it was alleged that people were killed by pro-government forces, which includes both international forces and Afghan forces. And again, that would have an impact on the tallies.” 

Eide recounted an early 2008 meeting with Victoria Nuland, then the US ambassador to NATO, in which he was directly warned about disclosures of civilian casualties. In front of Eide’s staff as well as other US military and civilian officials, Nuland laid down the law: “‘No surprises,’ she said sternly,” is how Eide remembers it. “I heard about many of these meetings between our human rights people and those at local offices and lower-level officials at ISAF. I think it was a rather constant effort for quite some time,” he told The Nation. In his 2011 memoir, Power Struggle Over Afghanistan, Eide notes that the “UN could not keep quiet when serious mistakes were committed and caused civilian casualties. Our human rights mandate was clear, and we had no intention of sweeping our concerns under the carpet.” 

Further down the chain of command, however, the pressure was intense, and in interviews with The Nation, UN staffers talked about accommodations they’d made to suit US and allied military interests. Often ISAF would claim that any casualties that occurred in a particular incident were combatants, not civilians. Or it would dispute the numbers. Or it would insist that an event UN workers had documented hadn’t happened at all. “So you reach a situation where you have a plausible allegation that something happened in Province X. You go to NATO, and they’d say something like, ‘Well, actually, that’s not what happened,’” says a former UN official, adding that the UN would then reluctantly decide to leave the incident out of its database. Casualty tracking, in effect, became a political negotiation to be resolved by backroom horse-trading. “You’d make a judgment call: ‘OK, well, maybe we’ll throw this one out.’” The former official, who recalls “endless meetings with the military” to decide whether or not to include data, adds, “And with each new report, there was a rival version coming out from NATO saying, ‘Actually, you know, we dispute this, we dispute that, we have other numbers.’ ”

One of the biggest problems between UNAMA and ISAF in trying to reconcile data was the involvement of the ultra-secret US Special Operations Forces in many civilian deaths. Indeed, according to Lewis and Sewall’s Joint Civilian Casualty Study: “Between 2007 and mid-2009, SOF operations (including SOF-directed airstrikes) caused about half of all US-caused civilian casualties.” Yet for the UN, getting cooperation from SOF commanders was nearly impossible. “With ISAF, it was a bit more open. But with the Special Forces, there was no way we could get any information,” says a former UNAMA official. “They insisted that they had killed insurgents. There was no way in. We’d say they were farmers, because the local population had told us, but there was no entry point.” 

The situation was the same within ISAF. Lt. Col. Ewan Cameron of the British Army, who served twenty months in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009, worked on tracking and reducing civilian casualties. But even with his top-secret clearance, he was totally in the dark about SOF activities in his area of operations. “Where civilian casualties were reported to us that resulted from suspected Special Operations Forces action, we could not corroborate that because we did not know that Special Operations Forces activities happened,” he told The Nation. “Indeed, if we were to ask about it, we would’ve been politely turned off.”

William Arkin agrees: “Once you get the CIA involved, once you get black SOF involved, then it doesn’t matter. They play by different rules.” Arkin says that he’s visited top-secret air operations centers where even the military command itself wasn’t aware of what the Special Operations Forces were doing. “They literally didn’t know,” he says. “I’m telling you, they literally didn’t know.” 

III. The Military’s Body Count

When isaf finally set up its mechanism for tracking civilian casualties in 2008, it got off to an inauspicious start. “I had a rude welcome,” says one former ISAF official involved in the early days of the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell, which was created in 2008 with the purpose of monitoring reports of civilian casualty incidents, logging them into a database, analyzing them and producing reports for the higher command. “Four days after I arrived, the person I was supposed to report to was led out of the office in handcuffs, charged with a breach of the UK Official Secrets Act for leaking information about civilian casualties to Rachel Reid of Human Rights Watch. That incident, unfortunately, set the tone for what would be my year on the job. He was led away in handcuffs for doing essentially what we were supposed to be doing!” 

The arrested official, a British Army colonel named Owen McNally, didn’t actually leak any vital secrets. He was, in fact, trying to cooperate with civilian NGOs, and he apparently told Reid about some of the directives and guidelines that the US military and ISAF had issued aimed at minimizing civilian deaths. McNally would eventually be exonerated in Britain, but not before the episode turned sleazy. According to Reid and another woman who did casualty work for a different NGO, the British Defense Ministry tried to tar them both with unfounded rumors that they’d had a sexual relationship with McNally. 

“The UK Ministry of Defense fabricated the story that he had given me civilian casualties information, and there was a lot of gutter press around it and wink-wink implications,” Reid says. “What he did give me was some information regarding a change in ISAF’s tactical directives concerning the use of one-source intelligence for raids and military actions. The military was very angry, because it was implicit recognition that they’d been conducting airstrikes based on one source.” The scurrilous stories appeared in several British papers, including The Sun, The Times and the Daily Mail. 

That troubled start to the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell was never completely overcome, although in time ISAF and the US command would earn grudging respect from the UN and some NGOs—including Human Rights Watch and the Center for Civilians in Conflict—on issues related to civilian casualties. Still, the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell and its successor units didn’t always play nice with the UN, and they resisted cooperation with the media, including The Nation. 

As noted, in the early years of the war civilian casualty issues were apparently all but ignored by the US military and its coalition partners. A search by ISAF personnel of their records revealed not a single study or survey of civilian casualties between 2001 and 2008. As John Bohannon, who researched the issue for the journal Science, noted in 2011, “The organization in the best position to directly record civilian casualties is the military itself, with nearly 150,000 observers on the ground witnessing the violence every day. But it seemed that the military kept no record of those observations.” 

It wasn’t until 2005 that, according to the Army’s Afghanistan Civilian Casualty Prevention handbook, civilian casualties “became a key operational issue in Afghanistan.” And these efforts, it turned out, were failures. “Despite efforts to reduce civilian harm caused by coalition forces,” the 2012 manual reads, “initial initiatives in Afghanistan were not successful in mitigating the issue.” Only after a series of attacks that led to mass casualties did the US military finally start restricting the use of force. 

In 2007, Gen. Dan McNeill issued the inaugural ISAF tactical directive. Focused on more effectively shielding civilians during “raids, pre-assault or preparatory fires, and air-to-ground or indirect fires,” the document called for using small arms instead of airstrikes whenever feasible, and limited attacks on compounds to situations in which coalition forces “were taking fire from the compound or there was an imminent threat from the compound, and when there were no other options available to the ground force commander to protect the force and accomplish the mission.” 

Still, according to Col. John Agoglia, who headed the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Kabul from 2008 to 2010, the message didn’t resonate. Before 2008, he told The Nation, “there was an awareness, but that awareness wasn’t getting across—in the base, in the field, at the training center.” Similarly, Larry Lewis, who carried out a study of tactical directives for the Pentagon, told The Nationthat while ISAF did recognize problems with its methods, the ad hoc response had a limited effect. “So you can see the command was already acknowledging this is detrimental to the mission back in 2007,” he says. “But they were trying to do it in just kind of a ‘Hey, we know this is bad, so we better put out some guidance  and hopefully that will help.’ And it really didn’t help.” 

In September 2008, in the wake of a US bombing that killed as many as ninety-two Afghan civilians in the village of Azizabad in Herat Province [see Dreyfuss, “Mass-Casualty Attacks in the Afghan War,” for more], Gen. David McKiernan issued a new ISAF tactical directive that superseded McNeill’s 2007 document. The new order put in place more stringent guidelines for airstrikes, emphasizing the need to reduce civilian casualties during “escalation of force” procedures. Additionally, it “called for acknowledgement of civilian casualties or property damage at all levels, from community level to national level,” and created a mechanism to document civilian casualty incidents through bomb-damage assessments. Three months later, McKiernan issued a slightly revised version that included more restrictive language on airstrikes. The Azizabad attack also prompted CENTCOM to issue a tactical directive to speed the investigation and reporting of civilian casualty incidents. 

In May 2009, another devastating US airstrike, this time in Farah Province, killed as many as 140 civilians, according to an Afghan government inquiry. In its wake, CENTCOM commissioned a study to “analyze incidents that led to coalition-caused civilian casualties,” according to a formerly secret briefing obtained by The Nation via the Freedom of Information Act. It found that the 2008 ISAF directive “could have mitigated impact of the Farah incident” but was evidently not followed. The findings also called into question just “how institutionalized this tactical directive” was and found that the rules of engagement were not up-to-date and synchronized. 

The study focused a great deal of attention on “fighting the information war.” Briefing materials note that while the International Committee of the Red Cross and Al Jazeera were on the scene of the Farah attack in twenty-four hours, it took three days for the first coalition representatives to arrive and sixteen days for ISAF to issue a press release. “As a result,” reads the secret briefing, “first impressions in the media were established by the Government of Afghanistan, local community interests, and possibly by the Taliban.” ISAF, the study concluded, had ceded “the narrative to those whose interests did not align” with its own. According to a closing summary, the secret report called on ISAF to “engage in the battle for the narrative” in order to minimize the public relations fallout. 

General McChrystal issued another tactical directive in July 2009, and in 2010 ISAF issued directives to discontinue the practice of firing warning shots, to limit night raids and to drive in a more courteous manner. “Whereas before, the rules were focused on the problem we had, which was dropping bombs on residential compounds, now they’re focused on any area where there might be a civilian,” said then-Col. Rich Gross, McChrystal’s chief legal adviser (now a general himself). At the same time, the United States was about to lose another battle in controlling the narrative: Pfc. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning was about to put the lie to the military’s long-held refrain that “we don’t do body counts.” 

In July 2010, military documents made public by WikiLeaks demonstrated that the US military secretly maintained files relating to 4,024 Afghan civilian war deaths between January 2004 and December 2009 (also known as the Afghan War Logs). For the first time, the public was privy to secret, internal military reports—unprocessed intelligence from troops in the field—detailing the carnage occurring across Afghanistan. 

While suggestive, the documents included only cases from the military’s raw operational reports. Larry Lewis said his investigation of civilian casualty incidents from 2001 to 2008 found very incomplete data. “There’s really nothing good out there,” he told The Nation. “I have tried to pull together some numbers that go back to 2007, but I will say…they’re wrong. They’re definitely incomplete, because all I could do was to go to US Army investigations that were initiated because of civilian casualties and use that as a source. But I’m certain there were other incidents that never had an investigation.” 

Separately, the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell was by now logging data on noncombatants killed and wounded by coalition forces from reports sent in by units in the field to ISAF Joint Command. But these data, too, were “inconsistent in type and quality,” according to Lewis and Sewall’s Joint Civilian Casualty Study. As late as February 2010, in fact, the commander of ISAF “was still asking straightforward questions such as whether US-caused CIVCAS [civilian casualty] incidents could be correlated with particular units and/or with that unit’s length of time in theater, and not receiving answers.” 

In 2009, ISAF created another investigative body, the Joint Incident Assessment Team, which deploys to sites of reported civilian casualty incidents to conduct separate inquiries parallel to ISAF’s standard investigations. “A JIAT is used to quickly determine the facts when we have an allegation of a significant event such as a civilian casualty,” Air Commodore Michael Wigston of the British Royal Air Force, former director of air operations for ISAF Joint Command, explained to The Nation. The Joint Incident Assessment Team, composed primarily of ISAF personnel with two “Afghan partners,” then compiles a “factual narrative of events…based on interviews with people involved in the alleged incident.” It is, however, only a fact-finding group and is specifically directed to avoid “any issues that are the purview of a formal investigation.” Like other ISAF investigation teams, JIAT reports incorporate no independent experts, receive no outside oversight and are not publicly released. 

In 2011, ISAF created the Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team, with a mandate to provide ISAF leaders with “strategic assessments and recommendations to prevent and mitigate CIVCAS.” With a mission statement asserting that the command “takes every effort to prevent and if necessary assess and mitigate each and every CIVCAS event,” ISAF built what it calls a “CIVCAS community,” including the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell, the Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team, the CIVCAS Mitigation Working Group (which holds monthly meetings with Afghan leaders to discuss relevant issues) and the NGO CIVCAS Working Group (which does the same with NGOs). Methods of investigation were also refined and systematized. 

As it developed and expanded, the CIVCAS community largely operated behind closed doors until—in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures—ISAF uncharacteristically opened its civilian casualty tracking operation to Science’s John Bohannon. “They were very forthcoming,” Bohannon told The Nation. “They would always say, ‘Look at this, look at that,’ always with an eye toward reducing casualties.” 

After some negotiation, Bohannon was granted access to the data, publishing an article in Science in 2011 and making portions of ISAF’s figures available online. “Our database is 100 percent transparent,” said US Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, NATO’s director of communications in Kabul at the time. But ISAF released data on civilian casualties only by region and month, not on specific events. “I pushed them absolutely as far as I possibly could,” Bohannon says. “What they offered up front, at the beginning, was even less detailed and extensive.” 

Just before publication, jittery high-ranking military officials asked Bohannon to postpone the story, he told The Nation, but his article was published without delay and, he later heard, was well received in military circles. Within a year, however, ISAF would cut off his access to the CIVCAS community and its data, while providing less than satisfying answers about the change in policy. “Now you’re back in this Kafka castle,” Bohannon says. “You don’t even get reasonable answers. You don’t get coherent answers.” 

When The Nation requested an embed with ISAF forces in order to witness the military’s tracking system in action, we were repeatedly rebuffed. Despite the fact that Bohannon had been given access months earlier, The Nation was told that since the Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team and Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell work inside a “secure facility,” members of the public were barred. The Joint Incident Assessment Team commander gave a similar response to an embed request. An ISAF spokesman told The Nation that he “declined to have anyone embed with him on investigations since some of the information is classified.” 

Official data indicate that ISAF’s much-vaunted efforts to avoid civilian casualties have had, at best, limited results. Internal reports mistakenly released to The Nation by ISAF indicate that for the first three- quarters of 2011, ISAF forces were responsible for 434 civilians killed or wounded, up from 414 during the first three-quarters of 2010, while deaths attributed to coalition forces ticked only slightly lower, from 175 to 166. Whether this is an artifact of better surveillance and tracking procedures or a failure of ISAF policies is unknown, and it remains unknowable because of ISAF’s veil of secrecy. 

Various investigations, including Bohannon’s report in Science and Neta Crawford’s “Costs of War” project, have noted that the US military’s database misses even mass-casualty incidents, such as the September 2009 massacre in the Ali Abad district of Kunduz Province that left nearly 100 people dead, mostly civilians who’d gathered around stalled tanker trucks to collect fuel. In her report, Crawford says: “NATO forces eventually acknowledged that most of those killed were civilians, and Germany made condolence payments to the families of 91 civilians killed and to the families of 11 wounded. Yet, the ISAF CIVCAS database does not record any civilian deaths due to close air support for September 2009 in northern Afghanistan.” 

How could the military miss scores of dead and not include them in its own database, even in a widely publicized case such as Kunduz? Clearly, someone in the military bureaucracy is unwilling to admit that the people slaughtered were civilians. Which raises the question: How useful is the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell database? 

IV. Lessons Learned?

The best way to prevent civilian casualties in war is, of course, to avoid war. Short of that, perhaps the best that can be hoped for is that the Defense Department and the military command learn the right lessons from the war in Afghanistan. However, there’s little evidence that these lessons are being institutionalized. And some may have learned the wrong lessons, such as the illusion that the widespread use of “precision” drone missile attacks can reduce civilian casualties. This ignores the untold number of innocents killed in such strikes (the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates up to 1,000 in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia alone), which has created a new generation of anti-American fighters seeking revenge for loved ones and comrades killed. 

Sarah Holewinski, executive director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, has spent years training US military officers on how to avoid civilian deaths, and she’s worked with US and ISAF commanders in shaping directives for the troops. While she says that many of those with experience in Afghanistan did learn the right lessons, it’s far from clear that the Pentagon is preparing to apply them broadly. “What’s needed is an Office of Civilian Protection,” Holewinski says. “You really should have at least a focal person, if not a team, saying, ‘What have we learned? Where in our policies and protocols, and new procedures, and new counterterrorism strategy, can we put these understandings on preventing civilian harm?’ And we’ve been pushing that for about five years, and it really hasn’t gone anywhere. A lot of people I’ve talked to say it’s a bridge too far; they don’t have the resources. Everyone knows civilian casualties are important, but that’s not enough. It doesn’t mean things will actually change.” 

The Joint Civilian Casualty Study acknowledges that, as of 2010, there was no Pentagon office that directly focused on civilian casualties. Further, “there is no cadre of ‘experts’ on civilian casualties and U.S. military operations, nor is there an existing body of knowledge on the topic.” Partly this is because of sheer neglect, and partly it’s because personnel—including senior officers—retire or change jobs and take what they’ve learned with them. 

When The Nation asked the study’s authors if there was now, finally, an office in the Defense Department concerned with civilian casualties, the response was a suggestion that it existed in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. But nothing turned up. One officer said, ”I called around to all the offices I could think of in OSD, and they all responded, ‘Not me! Not me! Not here.’” Inquiries elsewhere got similar results. 

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, the American people, the media, academia and think tanks all have a role to play in demanding that in any future wars, the United States place the highest priority on avoiding civilian casualties and, if they occur, on being accountable and making amends. If the Pentagon moves slowly, the quickest route is for Congress to hold hearings and then write legislation creating and generously funding such an office, and insisting that its procedures be codified. That, at the very least, would begin to give meaning to the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans who perished in a needless, misguided and horribly run war.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36294.htm

Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex

By Assed Baig

July 16, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  When Malala Yusufzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen simply because she wanted to gain an education it sent shockwaves around the world.

Straight away the Western media took up the issue. Western politicians spoke out and soon she found herself in the UK. The way in which the West reacted did make me question the reasons and motives behind why Malala’s case was taken up and not so many others.

There is no justifying the brutal actions of the Taliban or the denial of the universal right to education, however there is a deeper more historic narrative that is taking place here.

This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.

The actions of the West, the bombings, the occupations the wars all seem justified now, “see, we told you, this is why we intervene to save the natives.”

The truth is that there are hundreds and thousands of other Malalas. They come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places in the world. Many are victims of the West, but we conveniently forget about those as Western journalists and politicians fall over themselves to appease their white-middle class guilt also known as the white man’s burden.

Gordon Brown stood at the UN and spoke words in support for Malala, yet he is the very same Gordon Brown that voted for the war in Iraq that not only robbed people of their education but of their lives. The same journalists that failed to question or report on the Western wars in an intelligible manner now sing the praises of the West as they back Malala and her campaign without putting it in context of the war in Afghanistan and the destabalisation of the region thanks to the Western occupation of Afghanistan.

Malala’s message is true, it is profound, it is something the world needs to take note of; education is a right of every child, but Malala has been used as a tool by the West. It allows countries like Britain to hide their sins in Afghanistan and Iraq. It allows journalists to report a feel good story whilst they neglect so many others, like the American drone strikes that terrorise men, women and children in Pakistan’s border regions.

The current narrative continues the demonization of the non-white Muslim man. Painting him as a savage, someone beyond negotiating with, beyond engaging with, the only way to deal with this kind of savage is to wage war, occupy and use drones against them. NATO is bombing to save girls like Malala is the message here.

Historically the West has always used women to justify the actions of war mongering men. It is in the imagery, it is in art, in education, it is even prevalent in Western human rights organisations, Amnesty International’s poster campaign coinciding with the NATO summit in New York encouraged NATO to ‘keep the progress going!’ in Afghanistan.

Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz were also shot along with Malala, the media and politicians seem to have forgotten about them. Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi – how many of the Western politicians and journalists know about this name? She was the 14-year-old girl gang raped by five US soldiers, then her and her family, including her six-year-old sister were murdered. There are no days named after her, no mentions of her at the UN, and we don’t see Gordon Brown pledging his name to her cause.

I support Malala, I support the right to education for all, I just cannot stand the hypocrisy of Western politicians and media as they pick and choose, congratulating themselves for something that they have caused. Malala is the good native, she does not criticise the West, she does not talk about the drone strikes, she is the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native.

The Western savior complex has hijacked Malala’s message. The West has killed more girls than the Taliban have. The West has denied more girls an education via their missiles than the Taliban has by their bullets. The West has done more against education around the world than extremists could ever dream of. So, please, spare us the self-righteous and self-congratulatory message that is nothing more than propaganda that tells us that the West drops bombs to save girls like Malala.

 Assed Baig – Freelance print and broadcast journalist – Follow Assed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/assedbaig

This article was originally published at Huffington Post

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35562.htm

Groundhog Day in Afghanistan: US Turns Up 12 Years Late For Talks With The Taliban

Why was one of the poorest countries in the world subjected to a decade of invasion and occupation, if the outcome was to talk to the very people the war was against?
By Lindsey German
June 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House – It was always going to be an awkward moment: the day that the US announced it would be opening formal talks with the Taliban, its avowed enemy in Afghanistan for the past 12 years.
There was, on the one hand, the obvious question: what on earth was the war for?
Why had one of the poorest countries in the world been subjected to more than a decade of invasion and occupation, if the eventual outcome was to talk to the very people that the war had been against?
Why had tens if not hundreds of thousands died, and far more been displaced or injured, if the end of this terrible war merely brought everyone back to square one?
There was, on the other hand, the embarrassing fact that the Taliban, holding a press conference in the Gulf state of Qatar, presented itself as the Afghan government-in-waiting, complete with flag and office with plaque proclaiming it ‘The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’, while the US backed and funded existing president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, fumed and protested back in Kabul.
Since then the flag in the Taliban compound in Doha has been up, down and now up again on a shorter flagpole, as arguments rage.
It is worth recalling where this all began. When 9/11 happened back in 2001, Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, then engaged in a civil war with its rival the Northern Alliance. The justification for the war launched in October 2001 by George Bush was that the Taliban was harbouring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network (even though the Taliban appeared willing to give him up after intervention from the Iranian government). The rapid aerial onslaught overthrew the unpopular government easily, and its leaders fled into hiding in the border areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Karzai was the representative chosen by the US, head of its government in waiting which was then installed by the US at the end of 2001. Although subject to election since then, his regime is notoriously corrupt and the elections themselves rigged. Karzai was made in America, but even he has on a number of occasions had to publicly criticise the occupiers over issues ranging from the burning of Korans to repeated aerial bombardment of civilians and atrocities carried out by NATO troops.
Karzai is bitter because, with the US losing in Afghanistan, its withdrawal will probably lead to the demise of any government led by him, and perhaps to a resumption of the civil war, in which it intervened to back one side 12 years ago. He has now suspended talks on a long term security deal with the US for when the troops supposedly quit the country in 2014. This is harmful to the US which is already planning to maintain a considerable military presence with many bases in the country.
On the same day that talks with the Taliban were announced it killed four US soldiers in a rocket attack on Bagram air base. So talks are only one part of the Taliban strategy, which is pressing home its advantage in a war it knows it is winning.
The whole episode underlines the failure of the US and its allies in Afghanistan. At loggerheads with its supposed allies and planning talks with its bitter enemy, the plain truth is that militarily and politically the war is lost. The future for Afghanistan can only now lie with the people of the country and its immediate neighbours.
There is much concern that a return of the Taliban will affect women’s position for the worse. But there is little acknowledgment that under 12 years of occupation, the position of women remains one of the most unequal in the world. There is some sense that the damage done by war, whoever is directly responsible for particular actions, worsens the position of women and strengthens traditional values. Many women are forced into prostitution or unwanted marriage because of their destitute position. Again the only people who can solve this question are Afghan women and the men who support them in demanding equality.
Perhaps most important should be an acknowledgement that the repeated attempts by western powers to ‘rescue’ what they call ‘failed states’ are doomed to failure. Instead, while there is a tacit acknowledgment that everything has gone wrong in Afghanistan, the problems caused as a result are being dealt with using the same methods.
The supposed cure for terrorism, lack of human rights and democracy, and dictatorial regimes is in fact a poison which is helping to recreate the problems on a wider scale. Stopping the poison is the beginning of trying to solve those problems.
This article was originally published at Stop The War

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Taliban Hints At Eventual Power Sharing In Afghanistan

By RFE/RL
June 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House The Taliban have expressed their readiness to share power in Afghanistan a day after the hard-line Islamic group opened a political office in Qatar. 
Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Qatar office, told RFE/RL that the Taliban want to have an inclusive Afghan government.
“In his speeches and statements, our leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has repeatedly said that we want a government that includes all Afghans,” Naeem said. “It should be a government, in which all our people and their representatives can participate and be a part of. It should give Afghans the hope that it a government for all of them and this country belongs to all of them.”
Asked by RFE/RL if the Taliban are ready to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s representatives in Qatar, Naeem said that the Taliban is ready “talk to all Afghans who come to the [Qatar] office.”
Washington has welcomed the the opening of the Taliban office, and President Barack Obama has defended U.S. efforts to negotiate with the radical movement.
Obama’s remarks in Berlin on July 19 came after Karzai suspended talks with Washington on a treaty that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, called the Bilateral Security Agreement.
At a press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said he sees Afghan peace talks and negotiations for a post-2014 international presence in Afghanistan as part of a “parallel track.”
“Even as we go through some, frankly, difficult negotiations around what it would mean for the international community to have an ongoing training and advising presence after 2014, we still believe that you’ve got to have a parallel track to at least look at the prospect of some sort of political reconciliation,” Obama said. “Whether that bears fruit, whether it actually happens, or whether post 2014 there’s going to continue to be fighting, as there was before ISAF forces got into Afghanistan, that’s a question that only the Afghans can answer.”
Karzai hours earlier said the Afghan High Peace Council would not take part in peace talks in Qatar unless the peace process was Afghan-led.
The Peace Council is a body of Afghanistan’s internationally backed Peace and Reintegration Program.
This article was originally published at RFE/RL

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Washington seeks Taliban deal as Afghanistan casualties mount

By Bill Van Auken 
20 June 2013
US negotiators are expected to meet in the Qatari capital of Doha this week with representatives of the Taliban, the Islamist movement that the US toppled from power nearly a dozen years ago, only to fight a war with it and other Afghans opposed to foreign occupation ever since.
The talks triggered a political crisis before they even began, with US-backed Afghan president Hamid Karzai issuing a public protest that he had been lied to about US intentions in meeting with the Taliban. In retaliation, he formally broke off talks with Washington on a Bilateral Security Agreement that would provide for US troops remaining in the country after the December 2014 deadline that Washington and NATO have set for withdrawing all their forces.
Just hours before the Obama White House announced the planned talks with the Taliban, four US soldiers were killed in a mortar attack on the heavily fortified Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack and reported that it had wounded six other troops.
Twenty-three US troops have been killed so far this month, bringing the total number to have lost their lives since the launching of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001 to 2,243. Another 444 British troops as well as 653 from other NATO and US-aligned countries have also died.
Afghan casualties undoubtedly number in the hundreds of thousands. According to the United Nations, the number of civilians killed or wounded from the beginning of this year until June 6 reached 3,092, a 24 percent increase over the same period last year. And the Afghan NGO Security Office reported that there were 47 percent more attacks launched by the Taliban and other groups opposed to the government and the foreign troops that support it in the first quarter of this year than in the same period in the first quarter of 2011.
The announcement of the US-Taliban talks came on the same day that the US-NATO command formally turned over security for the entire country to Afghan security forces. What this will mean in practice remains to be seen. Some 66,000 US troops and more than 30,000 from NATO and other US allies continue to occupy the country, and Pentagon commanders are reportedly pressing for them to remain in large numbers through next year’s spring-to-autumn “fighting season.”
As for the Afghan forces, while the army has 350,000 troops on the books, they are poorly trained and armed and are suffering heavy casualties as well as morale problems that lead to a loss of about a third of their ranks each year through desertions and failure to re-enlist. According to a Pentagon report issued last December, only 1 out of 23 Afghanistan National Army brigades is capable of operating on its own without US-NATO support.
Given the state of the Afghan military and the pledge to withdraw the bulk of the US-NATO troops by the end of next year, the Taliban appears to be going into the talks with the US and its puppet regime with a fair amount of confidence and is showing no inclination to put down its arms any time soon.
Speaking after the close of the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, US president Barack Obama welcomed the Taliban’s formal opening of its office in Doha and the initiation of talks, declaring, “This is an important first step towards reconciliation; although it’s a very early step. We anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road.”
The first major “bump” was provided by Karzai, who essentially charged that the Obama administration had lied to him about the nature of the US-Taliban talks. A statement from his office announced the suspension of the talks on a post-2014 security agreement due to “the contradiction between the acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process.”
According to Afghan officials, the Karzai regime was angered by the Taliban’s presentation of its office in Doha not merely as an outpost for peace talks, but rather a virtual embassy for a rival government. One official who spoke to the Reuters news agency cited in particular the hoisting over the office of a Taliban flag and a banner of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban regime was known before it was overthrown by the US in 2001.
Karzai issued a statement vowing that his negotiators in the High Peace Council, which he set up in 2010 to pursue a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, would not go to Doha “as long as the peace process is not Afghan-led.”
Until now, the Taliban had refused to negotiate with representatives of the Karzai government, which it has branded a puppet brought to power by the US-NATO occupation and therefore illegitimate. A spokesman for the group said that there would be talks with fellow Afghans “in due time.”
Karzai apparently fears that the US could reach a deal with the Taliban at his expense. Given Washington’s increasing reliance on Islamist forces in Egypt and Turkey and in the wars it has instigated in Libya and Syria, such a concern is understandable.
US officials have publicly stated that they are seeking three commitments by the Taliban as the sole basis for a settlement: a formal break of all ties with Al Qaeda, an end to armed actions and acceptance of the Afghan constitution, an undemocratic document rammed through an unrepresentative loya jirga (tribal council) dominated by Karzai’s hand-picked delegates and Afghan warlords in 2004.
Al Qaeda today does not represent any significant force in Afghanistan, and its invocation by Washington is aimed more at maintaining the pretext that the war there is part of a “war on terror.” The reality is that the Bush administration could have negotiated such a break when the Taliban was in power, but instead chose to invade Afghanistan, initiating the 12-year war. Even before the September 2001 attacks, the Taliban leadership had attempted to broker an agreement with Washington to remove Osama bin Laden and bring him to trial, but US officials showed no interest.
The unstated commitment that the US is most interested in securing from the Taliban is the acceptance of a continued US military presence in the country and US imperialism’s use of the Afghanistan as a forward base in projecting its power into Central and South Asia as well as against China.

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Four Years Ago Obama Promised to Investigate Afghan Massacre; Has Anything Happened Since?

By Cora Currier
June 05, 2013 “Information Clearing House – In his first year in office, President Barack Obama pledged to “collect the facts” on the death of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war at the hands of U.S.-allied Afghan forces in late 2001.
Almost four years later, there’s no sign of progress.
When asked by ProPublica about the state of the investigation, the White House says it is still “looking into” the apparent massacre. Yet no facts have been released and it’s far from clear what, if any, facts have been collected.
Human rights researchers who originally uncovered the case say they’ve seen no evidence of an active investigation.
The deaths happened as Taliban forces were collapsing in the wake of the American invasion of Afghanistan. Thousands of Taliban prisoners had surrendered to the forces of a U.S.-supported warlord named Abdul Rashid Dostum. The prisoners, say survivors andother witnesses, were stuffed into shipping containers without food or water. Many died of suffocation. Others were allegedly killed when Dostum’s men shot at the containers.
A few months later, a mass grave was found nearby in Dasht-i-Leili, a desert region of northern Afghanistan.
The New York Times reported in 2009 that the Bush administration, sensitive to criticism of a U.S. ally, had discouraged investigations into the incident. In response, Obama told CNN that “if it appears that our conduct in some way supported violations of the laws of war, I think that we have to know about that.”
A White House spokeswoman told ProPublica that there has indeed been some kind of review – and that it’s still ongoing: “At the direction of the President, his national security team is continuing its work looking into the Dasht-i-Leili massacre.” She declined to provide more details.
“This seems quite half-hearted and cynical,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy at Physicians for Human Rights, the group that discovered the grave site in 2002 and since then has pushed for an investigation.
The group sent a letter to the president in December 2011, the tenth anniversary of the incident. In a follow-up meeting some months later, senior State Department officials told Physicians for Human Rights that there was nothing new to share.
“This has been a hot potato that no one wanted to deal with, and now it’s gone cold,” said Norah Niland, former director of human rights for the United Nations in Afghanistan.
Human rights advocates have long said the responsibility for a comprehensive investigation lies with the U.S., because American forces were allied with Dostum and his men at the time. Surviving prisoners have also claimed that Americans were present when the containers were loaded, though that’s never been corroborated.
A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that the Department of Defense “found no evidence of U.S. service member participation, knowledge, or presence. A broader review of the facts is beyond D.O.D.’s purview.” That initial review has never been made public.
At this point, say advocates, an investigation should address not just the question of U.S. involvement, but also what the U.S. did in the years that followed to foster accountability.
“I’m not saying Dostum ordered these people killed, and I’m not saying U.S. troops participated,” said Stefan Schmitt, a forensic specialist with Physicians for Human Rights. “All I’m saying is there are hundreds if not thousands of people that went missing. In a country that’s looking to have peace, to be under the rule of law, you need to answer these questions.”
Initially excited by Obama’s statement, researchers with Physicians for Human Rights peppered the administration with their findings. But the response was “murky at best,” said Sirkin.
“We were never very clear on who within the administration was delegated the task,” she said. Current and former administration officials interviewed by ProPublica couldn’t say which agency or department had the job.
Sirkin and others eventually resigned themselves to the fact that Obama, in his televised remarks, had not specifically called for a full investigation. With the U.S. now withdrawing from Afghanistan, many observers say it’s no surprise that investigating Dasht-i-Leili is no longer a priority.
Dostum still holds considerable sway in Northern Afghanistan, though he has fallen in and out of favor with the U.S. and with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The Times recently reported Dostum is one of several former warlords to whom Karzai passes on thousands of dollars in cash he receives from the CIA each month. (We were unable to reach Dostum himself for this story.)
The Obama administration has been cool toward him in recent years, saying ahead of Afghanistan’s elections in 2009 that the U.S. “maintains concerns about any leadership role for Mr. Dostum in today’s Afghanistan.”
Back in 2001, Dostum was far more important to the U.S. He was a U.S. proxy, fighting the Taliban as part of the Northern Alliance. American Special Forces famously rode on horseback alongside Dostum’s men, advising and calling in airstrikes. The alliance took the city of Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban in one of the first major victories of the invasion in early November 2001.
The shipping container deaths occurred a few weeks later, when Taliban fighters who had surrendered to the Northern Alliance at the city of Kunduz were en route to a prison about 200 miles away.
That winter, Physicians for Human Rights discovered a mass grave at Dasht-i-Leili. A preliminary investigation exhumed several bodies that appeared to have died from suffocation. Stories began to circulate in the region and Newsweek and others published detailed accounts from surviving prisoners, truck drivers, and other witnesses.
The Times also reported that an FBI agent interviewing new Afghan arrivals to Guantanamo Bay prison in early 2002 heard consistent accounts of prisoners “stacked like cordwood,” and death by suffocation and shooting. When the agent pressed for an investigation, he was reportedly told it was not his responsibility.
Dostum has said that he would welcome an investigation. He said that some 200 prisoners had indeed died in transit, but that the deaths were unintentional, the result of battlefield wounds.
Other estimates put the toll much higher.
A widely cited State Department memo from fall 2002 said that “the actual number may approach 2,000.”
Around the same time, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell tasked his Ambassador for War Crimes, Pierre-Richard Prosper, with looking into Dasht-i-Leili. Prosper told ProPublica that due to the U.S. alliance with Dostum, Washington felt the U.S. should not take the lead in an investigation.
“We were in the middle of fighting, and we thought we should keep the lines clear, let someone else, the U.N. or Afghans, handle this,” said Prosper.
But the newly installed Afghan government had neither the will nor the resources for a thorough investigation, and U.N. officials said they could not guarantee security. Witnesses and others involved in Dasht-i-Leili had already been killed and harassed, according to State Department memos.
A declassified Defense Department memo from February 2003 indicates the U.S. was not providing security for an investigation. The memo’s author, Marshall Billingslea, told the Times in 2009, “I did get the sense that there was little appetite for this matter within parts of D.O.D.” (Billingslea did not respond to our requests for comment.)
As the years went by, no one from the U.S., the U.N., or Afghanistan guarded the grave site. In 2008, reporters and researchers found empty pits where they had once found human remains. Satellite photos obtained later showed what appeared to be earth-moving equipment in the desert in 2006. Locals told McClatchy that Dostum’s men had dug up the graves.
After Obama pledged in 2009 to look into the case, a parallel inquiry was begun the next year in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by current Secretary of State John Kerry.
The fate of that investigation is also unclear. The lead investigator, John Kiriakou, was a former CIA officer who was caught up in a criminal leak prosecution and is now in prison. Other Senate staffers could not provide details on Kiriakou’s efforts. Physicians for Human Rights says contact from the committee fizzled out within a year.
New attention to Dasht-i-Leili had also been sparked within the U.N.’s mission in Afghanistan and the organization’s High Commission on Human Rights, former U.N. officials said.
However, Peter Galbraith, who was the U.N.’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan until the fall of 2009, told ProPublica that “an investigation would’ve required a push from the U.S. It required the cooperation of the coalition forces.” (Neither the U.N. mission in Afghanistan nor the office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights responded to our requests for comment.)
The mass grave at Dasht-i-Leili is one of many left unexamined in Afghanistan. In late 2011, the nation’s Independent Human Rights Commission concluded a massive report on decades of war crimes and human rights abuses, which reportedly documents 180 mass graves across the country. The region near Dasht-i-Leili is also believed to hold the remains of civilians massacred by the Taliban in 1998, in what Human Rights Watch called “one of the single worst examples of killings of civilians in Afghanistan’s twenty-year war.” In all, the report named 500 individuals responsible for mass killings – some of whom hold prominent government positions.
American and Afghan officials reportedly discouraged publication of the report, and the commission has still not made it public. “It’s going to reopen all the old wounds,” an American Embassy official told the New York Times last year. Afghanistan also recently adopted an amnesty law offering blanket immunity for past war crimes.
Nader Nadery, the commissioner responsible for the report, told ProPublica: “I haven’t seen any political or even rhetorical support of investigations into Dasht-i-Leili or any other investigation into past atrocities, from either Bush or Obama.” 
This article was originally published at ProPublica

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Taliban mounts “spring offensive” in Afghanistan

By Deepal Jayasekera 
27 May 2013
A wave of attacks in Afghanistan last Friday and over the weekend followed the Taliban’s announcement last month that it was preparing a “spring offensive.” These bombings have demonstrated the weakness of the Afghan regime, against which Taliban forces can launch attacks at will.
Early Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in Kabul, and yesterday a US soldier was reportedly killed in eastern Afghanistan.
Above all, last Friday’s Taliban attack in a heavily-fortified area of Kabul showed that the US puppet regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai cannot even protect the capital city itself.
At about 4 p.m., a group of attackers with suicide vests, guns and grenade launchers blasted their way into a residential compound of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a UN-affiliated agency. The gun battle between the Taliban team and hundreds of Afghan police officers lasted more than six hours.
All the attackers and four others, including an Afghan policeman and Nepalese Gurkha guard who apparently served at the IOM compound, were killed.
The IOM compound is close to the UN’s main premises in Kabul, and also to guesthouses and offices used by employees and officials of international organisations, a post of the Afghan Public Protection Force, and a hospital for the National Intelligence Service.
Claiming the responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the media over the phone that the building they targeted was a CIA training centre. Afghan police denied this. However, the CIA normally does not publicly acknowledge the location of their training centres.
Other bombings, by Taliban and other insurgent groups, have targeted US forces and international organisations in recent months. Just eight days before the Friday assault, a suicide car bomb attack, claimed by another Islamist group, Hezb-e-Islami, on a US military convoy killed two US soldiers, four American contractors and nine Afghan bystanders. Dozens were injured.
Over the previous week, the Taliban mounted bomb attacks in Kandahar, Ghazni and Baghlan provinces, killing dozens, including the head of the Baghlan Provincial Council.
Later on Friday, another blast in the east killed 12 people at a mosque during evening prayers. According to the Ghazni provincial authorities, explosives transported by suspected Taliban cadres accidentally detonated while they stopped at the mosque.
Despite the official deadline of end of 2014 for the withdrawal of its forces, Washington has repeatedly indicated it will keep large numbers of troops in Afghanistan indefinitely, ostensibly to train the Afghan military at the “request” of the Afghan government. In a speech delivered at Kabul University on May 9, Karzai himself revealed that US wants to maintain nine of its military bases in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline.
The attacks by Taliban and other Islamist insurgents highlight the deep political crisis of the Karzai government, which is despised as a US puppet regime. Tensions between his regime and neighbouring Pakistan have also escalated, with a series of recent border clashes. Under those circumstances, Karzai has turned for support to India, seeking military collaboration to fight Islamist insurgency and to counter pressure from Pakistan.
These developments show how bitter conflicts between the regional powers are now becoming inextricably linked to the bloodshed NATO has unleashed in its attempt to crush Afghan popular opposition to imperialist occupation.
During his three-day Indian visit last week, Karzai mainly sought to strengthen military collaboration with New Delhi to bolster his corrupt regime against the insurgency.
During Taliban rule in Afghanistan, India was completely cut off from that country—while Pakistan, as the Taliban’s main patron, enjoyed influence there. The ousting of Taliban in the US-led war in late 2001 and the installation of the Karzai regime allowed India to re-establish direct ties to Kabul.
Talking to the media before his departure on May 22, Karzai said he submitted a “wish list” to the Indian government, but refused to reveal its contents. Quoting an anonymous senior official, the Business Standardreported that during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Karzai sought an arms deal—including purchases of military weaponry such as aircraft, missiles and field guns—under the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed between two countries in 2011.
Because of the sensitive nature of the issue India’s military collaboration with Afghanistan and the tense geo-political situation in the region, particularly the rivalry between India and Pakistan, both sides decided not to reveal the content of discussions—what Karzai requested or what New Delhi agreed to provide.
However, according to media reports, India’s offers fell short of Karzai’s expectations. Unnamed Indian officials suggested that New Delhi is ready to send transport helicopters as well as trucks and “non-lethal” equipment. India is currently involved in training Afghan security personnel in Indian defence training centres and supplying limited military equipment, including small arms and vehicles.
Pakistan sees the growing ties between Kabul and New Delhi, and particularly any military collaboration, as a threat. Responding to reports that Karzai was seeking more Indian military aid, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani told a media briefing on Friday: “As a sovereign country Afghanistan can pursue its own policies, but we hope that it would mind the overall peace and security situation.”
Exploiting conditions favourable to its interests following the fall of Taliban rule, India has been working to develop its ties with Kabul and counterattack Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.
India has invested more than $US2 billion in Afghanistan in various sectors, including highways, roads, ports, hospitals and rural electricity. Facing Islamabad’s refusal to provide transit facilities for Indian exports to Afghanistan, New Dehli has held talks with Iran and Afghanistan to develop Chahbahar port in Iran and various road and rail linkages to by-pass Pakistan.
While working to expand its ties with Karzai, India did not fully commit itself to supporting his regime, whose future is increasingly uncertain due to massive popular opposition to the US occupation and to Karzai as a US puppet. New Delhi is also attempting to keep the option of working with any other regime following elections to be held in next year, and also with various regional warlords who emerge from a collapse of Karzai regime.

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New revelations of torture and murder of Afghan civilians by US Special Forces

By Thomas Gaist 
15 May 2013
Zakaria Kandahari, a member of a US Special Forces “A Team,” has been accused by Afghan officials of carrying out and directing the torture of 15 civilians detained in recent raids in Warduk province. Afghan officials say Kandahari is an American of Afghan descent and a leader of the Special Forces unit.
Of the 15 prisoners, seven are confirmed dead, with the other eight missing. The body of one of the prisoners, Mohammad Qassim, was found dumped in a trash pit outside a US installation shortly after the detentions.
US forces have long conducted bloody counter-insurgency operations in the province, just west of Kabul, prompting repeated accusations by local villagers that they torture and murder civilians. In February, responding to popular outrage, President Hamid Karzai demanded Special Forces cease operations in province.
The latest accusations are based on a video recording of Kandahari conducting a torture session on Afghan civilian Sayid Mohammad. Afghan officials have said a voice can be heard in the background of the recording speaking American English while Kandahari tortures Mohammad. Kandahari, who speaks fluent English with an American accent, was working closely with US special forces to carry out missions.
Testimony from one of the victims has also implicated Kandahari. Hikmatullah, a 16-year-old Afghan student, says he was tortured by Kandahari, who he identified by the large sword tattoo on his upper right arm.
According to Hikmatullah, Kandahari beat him savagely, dislocating his shoulder after the student denied any connections with the anti-occupation insurgency. Hikmattulah’s two brothers, Sadiqullah and Ismatullah, who were also captured by the A Team, are still missing.
US General John Allen promised to hand Kandahari over to Afghan authorities for questioning within 24 hours, yet the next day the US command announced he had escaped and was nowhere to be found.
Predictably, the occupation authorities have denied involvement in the incident. “After thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by U.S. or ISAF forces relating to the detainees or deaths in Nerkh,” the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO’s military command in Afghanistan, asserted in a statement. ISAF representatives have asserted the roundups were carried out by Afghan forces, without collaboration by occupation forces.
Attempts to shift blame for the incident onto the Afghans are patently absurd given the long and continuing use of such methods by ISAF and especially US Special Forces.
US military forces in Afghanistan have established a network of black sites, where suspected insurgents can be taken at any time, including the notorious Bagram airbase. The US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has authorization to hold suspected insurgents in these detention facilities for up to nine weeks without any pretense of legal charges, at which point a waiver from the Pentagon suffices to detain the prisoners indefinitely.
Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First’s described the conditions inside these JSOC black sites, stating that inmates are “forced to strip naked, then kept in solitary confinement in windowless, often cold cells with lights on 24 hours a day.”
These methods have been employed in an unsuccessful effort to crush the fierce resistance to the occupation and puppet regime in Kabul.
Three US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province on Tuesday. On Monday, three Georgian soldiers were also killed in Helmand. Also on Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a US Special Operations convoy. An earlier blast on May 1 killed three British soldiers.
Local villagers have registered numerous complaints of torture and abuse at the hands of US commandos in recent months, which have been ignored by the NATO leadership. Hundreds of families in Warduk province have fled their homes as a result of the frequent raids.
The use of such methods, far from being an aberration, flows from the logic of the US occupation itself. Facing intractable popular resistance, the US-led forces respond with the same murderous tactics used in countless “dirty wars,” in Algeria, in Vietnam, in Central America, and in Iraq. Death squads are deployed, torture becomes standard operating procedure, and civilians are rounded up indiscriminately.
With the much-heralded “drawdown” of imperialist forces from Afghanistan scheduled to occur during 2014, the US has relied even more heavily on these methods of unbridled terror to subjugate the population and maintain control.
Whatever drawdown is carried out will largely be a redeployment of military assets in preparation for new wars against Syria, Iran, and other countries.
At the same time, the US plans to maintain nine permanent bases in Afghanistan, with a residual force of 10,000-20,000. This will be complimented by stepped up terror by Special Forces death squads and the deployment of drones, which can remotely kill anti-occupation forces from thousands of miles away.
Lt. General Nick Carter of the British military told The Atlantic that occupation forces will need to play a significant role in Afghanistan at least through 2018, aiding the Afghan national forces in numerous capacities. Carter admitted, even after four more years of combat operations, the situation on the ground will continue to be characterized by high levels of disorder and violence.
According the National Journal’s article “NATO’s Plan for Afghanistan Post-2014: A ‘Stable Instability,’” Carter views such an outcome as “not necessarily a disaster for ISAF.” In fact, such a situation is welcomed by imperialist policy makers, who hope to take advantage of the social catastrophe to implement the strategy of divide and rule in Afghanistan, and prevent the consolidation of anti-US forces.
In Carter’s scenario for “stable instability”—something General David Petraeus previously dubbed “Afghan Good Enough”—the occupation will maintain a minimum of security around US military installations, while carrying out counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland when deemed necessary. Territory outside the major cities will remain under the control of local warlords.

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Karzai reveals US plan for permanent Afghanistan bases

By Bill Van Auken 
11 May 2013
Afghan President Hamid Karzai Thursday revealed that Washington wants to maintain nine US military bases scattered across the country after the formal deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO coalition forces at the end of 2014.
In a speech delivered at Kabul University, Karzai stressed that he was amenable to the US demand, indicating that he was willing to trade the bases for promises of a continued flow of economic aid from the West and security for his puppet government. Another likely condition is US support for the election of his handpicked successor in an election set for next year.
“If these conditions are met, we are ready to sign the contract with the United States,” he said. As to the continued presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil after more than a dozen years of war and occupation, Karzai stated, “We see their staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014 in the interests of Afghanistan as well as NATO.”
The statements represented an abrupt rhetorical shift by the US-backed president. In recent months, Karzai has accused Washington of colluding with the Taliban to increase violence and create a pretext for a continued US military presence. He has repeatedly demanded an end to US aerial bombardments and to night raids by US Special Forces, which have claimed civilian lives and increased hatred for both the foreign occupation and Karzai’s corrupt puppet government in Kabul.
In February, Karzai barred US special operations troops from operating in the entire province of Maidan Wardak, southwest of Kabul. These and other statements and gestures have been aimed at deflecting popular hostility and posturing as a nationalist leader, rather than Washington’s stooge.
Karzai’s casting himself now as a pragmatic deal maker, however, was by no means welcomed by the Obama administration, which appeared blindsided by the Afghan president’s remarks.
US officials refused to confirm the request for nine bases, which Afghan aides to Karzai said was contained in the latest American draft proposal submitted last month.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington, “The United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and any US presence after 2014 would only be at the invitation of the Afghanistan government and aimed at training the country’s forces and targeting the remnants of Al Qaeda.”
Carney stressed that Washington was negotiating a bilateral security agreement that “will address access to and use of Afghanistan facilities by US forces.” He reiterated three times in the course of his remarks the denial that the US was seeking any “permanent bases.”
The reality is that Washington is negotiating with its Afghan puppet regime the unrestricted use of bases that it will formally lease from Kabul for at least the next decade.
According to the Karzai regime, the bases sought include Kabul, Bagram, Mazar, Jalalabad, Gardez, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand and Herat, placing US forces in virtually every corner of the country.
The Obama administration has said next to nothing publicly about its post-2014 plans for Afghanistan. It has no interest in placing before the American people its blueprint for continuing military operations in the country where the US has waged the longest war in its history—an intervention that is vastly unpopular with the American people. Recent polls have shown two-thirds of the US population agreeing that the war was not worth fighting.
The White House wants to maintain the myth, which it continuously promotes, that “the tide of war is receding,” and that all US forces are being brought home from Afghanistan.
Recent reports have indicated that the Pentagon brass want to keep at least 13,500 troops deployed in Afghanistan, with a large portion consisting of special operations units.
Still to be resolved is an agreement by the Afghanistan government to cede to US forces absolute immunity from Afghan law, assuring that none of them can be punished for war crimes against the country’s population. The measures are intensely unpopular among the Afghan people. Failure to secure a similar agreement in Iraq derailed plans by the Obama administration to maintain a residual US military force in that country.
And, while the formal mission laid out for the forces to remain in Afghanistan consists of training Afghan forces and continued operations against Al Qaeda—a euphemism for counterinsurgency operations against Afghanis resisting foreign occupation—there is another overriding motivation for the US to maintain its military presence.
Afghanistan provides US imperialism with a strategic foothold in Central and South Asia, placing its military forces on the borders of Iran and China, and in close proximity to the vast energy reserves of the Caspian Basin.
Within the region, this motivation is widely recognized. Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan all oppose a continued US military presence, seeing it as both a guarantee of continued warfare in Afghanistan itself and a direct threat to their own interests.
Karzai’s public exposure of Washington’s bases proposal was seen by Afghan analysts as a sort of trial balloon, testing both the reaction within the country as well as that of neighboring countries. Iran, for example, has a 600-mile-long border with Afghanistan and has provided the Karzai regime with aid while maintaining extensive influence in Afghanistan, particularly in its north and west.
The New York Times quoted unnamed US officials as indicating that Washington is prepared to meet Karzai’s demands in exchange for a bases deal. “Officials said that aid would continue, although amounts given were likely to be reduced over time,” the newspaper reported. “And the Afghan government would have to live up to its commitments to battle corruption and run a more open government for the aid to keep flowing.”
The pretense that Washington is holding Karzai’s feet to the fire over corruption is ludicrous, given recent reports that the Central Intelligence Agency regularly delivers shopping bags, backpacks and suitcases stuffed with cash to the presidential palace.
This CIA money, used to pay off warlords and fill up the foreign bank accounts of the president and his supporters, is only the tip of the iceberg of the massive corrupt enterprise fostered by more than a decade of US occupation. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been poured into this war of aggression, while Afghanistan has remained one of the poorest countries on the planet.
The Obama administration’s attempts to hide this dirty secret from the American people were underscored in a speech delivered Wednesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, John Sopko, who was appointed last summer.
“Over the last 10 months, I have been criticized by some bureaucrats for not pre-clearing my press releases with them, for not letting them edit the titles of my audits, for talking too much to Congress, for talking too much to the press…and, basically, for not being a ‘team player’ and undermining ‘our country’s mission in Afghanistan,’” Sopko said.
Sopko cited pressure from unnamed “senior officials” who he said believed that his “reports should be slipped in a sealed envelope in the dead of night under the door—never to see the light of day—because those reports could embarrass the administration, embarrass President Karzai, embarrass Afghanistan.”

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Crisis deepens for US occupation in Afghanistan

Eight US-NATO troops killed in one day
By Patrick Martin 
6 May 2013
Seven US soldiers and an eighth from a European NATO member state lost their lives Saturday. Five American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb, two were shot to death by an Afghan soldier who turned his gun on his nominal “allies,” and the NATO soldier was killed in an attack by insurgents in northern Afghanistan.
The death toll of seven Americans matched the worst previous days so far this year for the US occupation regime—March 12 and April 6—and demonstrated that despite President Obama’s claims that the “tide of war” is receding, American imperialism and its European allies remain bogged down in a quagmire of their own making in Central Asia.
The roadside bombing took place in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, in southern Afghanistan, the heartland of the Taliban. Two more Americans were killed by a soldier in the Afghan National Army in western Afghanistan, the latest in a long series of attacks by Afghan security forces against US or NATO troops.
Both the US-NATO occupation and the stooge regime of President Hamid Karzai are widely hated by the Afghan population. Resistance to foreign intervention and occupation is at the heart of the guerrilla warfare that more than a decade of relentless military offensives, air strikes and assassinations have been unable to suppress.
Karzai himself confirmed the completely venal character of his own government, acknowledging at a press conference Saturday, the same day as the eight deaths among the occupation forces, that his office received regular cash payments from the US Central Intelligence Agency.
These payments—an open secret in Kabul, but concealed from the American population by the corporate-controlled media—were made public in the US last week in a report in the New York Times. Karzai not only admitted that blocks of cash had been dropped off at his office; he said that he had met earlier in the day with the CIA station chief in Kabul to ensure that the payments would continue.
Karzai said he told the station chief: “Because of all these rumors in the media, please do not cut all this money because we really need it. We want to continue this sort of assistance.” He said the US official promised to continue making the payoffs.
The Times account portrayed the cash payments as a slush fund for bribing Afghan warlords to remain loyal to the Karzai government, citing such notorious mass murderers as Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has long dominated the Uzbek-speaking region around Mazar-e Sharif in western Afghanistan.
But there is another, equally important, purpose for the cash handouts. For more than a decade, top Afghan officials have been salting away money in countries with permissive banking regimes, like the Persian Gulf financial capital Dubai, in anticipation of the day when the US-backed regime would crumble, the insurgents would march into Kabul, and they would go into a well-paid exile.
Karzai suggested that he would be demanding even more cash from Washington as the price for a US-Afghan bilateral security agreement to set the conditions for a continued US-NATO military presence after 2014, when the bulk of US combat forces are to be withdrawn.
Similar talks in Iraq collapsed when the Iraqi government declared that popular opposition blocked it from offering any form of legal immunity for US soldiers deployed in the country. Obama, like Bush before him, had insisted that American troops could not be prosecuted under Iraqi law, no matter what crimes they might commit against Iraqi citizens, making a mockery of the claims that Iraq was a sovereign nation, not a conquered and occupied country. Ultimately, all US troops except for security forces at the huge US embassy in Baghdad were pulled out.
Such a result is not expected for the talks in Afghanistan, since Karzai and his fellow puppets are convinced that without US-NATO forces in Kabul, they could end up hanging from lampposts.
But Karzai & Co. still want to fatten their own bank accounts while they put off any day of reckoning with the Afghan insurgents. Karzai told the news conference that he was ready to sign a deal as long as the American government paid a sufficiently high rent for the bases it will use on Afghan territory after 2014, as well as providing additional funding for the training and equipping of Afghan security forces.
According to one press account, “The Afghan government has not said how much rent it would want for three or four US bases, but it is believed to be in the billions.” Needless to say, these sums would flow rapidly out of Afghanistan into the bank accounts of Afghan officials in Dubai, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands or other offshore financial centers where few questions are asked of large new depositors.
The other condition set by Karzai was that any long-term security agreement with the United States guarantee Afghanistan’s borders against “neighboring countries,” in what appeared to be a reference to Pakistan. Last week, Afghan troops attacked a Pakistani army outpost that Afghan officials claimed was on their territory.
In a particularly provocative statement, Karzai suggested that the Taliban should turn their weapons against Pakistan, adding that neither his government nor any other in Kabul could recognize the Durand Line, the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan that was drawn by the British Empire.
Thousands of Afghan demonstrators took to the streets of Khewa, the home of an Afghan policeman killed in the border clash, chanting “Death to Pakistan.” Similar protests took place in the provinces of Nuristan, Khost and Uruzgan, all populated largely by Pashtuns, the same ethnic group that comprises the majority in the tribal-ruled regions of northwest Pakistan, just across the border.
The Obama administration is clearly concerned that the Karzai government—scheduled to leave office early in 2014, when Karzai’s second term ends—will leave behind a political and security vacuum. On Friday, Obama named a new diplomatic coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan, longtime US State Department official James F. Dobbins, who has previous experience in such crisis postings as Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti and Somalia.
Dobbins coordinated the US intervention at the 2001 Bonn conference on Afghanistan, where the selection of Karzai as the US-NATO nominee to head the government in Kabul was ratified. Now he will be tasked with overseeing the selection of Karzai’s successor as America’s man in Kabul.

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Afghanistan, Slush Funds and Sleaze

By Stephen M. Walt
May 01, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – One of the great successes of the Obama administration has been its ability to divert attention from the wars the United States is still fighting, such as Afghanistan. Given Obama’s decision to escalate and extend that war is looking worse and worse with time, you can understand why they are doing this. It’s possible that sending more troops bought Obama time and is making it easier to get out now; the problem is that we ended up squandering more lives and money without getting a significantly better outcome.
My real fear is that this is merely a preamble to telling ourselves a lot of self-serving myths about that war. Count on it: Our exit from Afghanistan will be accompanied by a lot of feel-good stories about the U.S./NATO effort there designed to convince Americans that the surge “worked” and that we really did give it our all. If things go south later on, that will be the Afghans’ fault, not ours, and so it won’t be necessary to learn any lessons from our mistakes. 
But two recent news stories suggest a very different read. The first, from Saturday’s New York Times, offered an account of the farewell gathering for the deparating French Ambassador in Kabul, Bernard Bajolet. According to the Times, Bajolet told the attendees:
“That the Afghan project is on thin ice and that, collectively, the West was responsible for a chunk of what went wrong, though much of the rest the Afghans were responsible for. That the West had done a good job of fighting terrorism, but that most of that was done on Pakistani soil, not on the Afghan side of the border. And that without fundamental changes in how Afghanistan did business, the Afghan government, and by extension the West’s investment in it, would come to little.”
And then there was this passage:
“At his farewell party, Mr. Bajolet wound up his realpolitik with a brisk analysis of what Afghanistan’s government needed to do: cut corruption, which discourages investment, deal with drugs and become fiscally self-reliant. It must increase its revenues instead of letting politicians divert them, he said.”
Think about that statement as you read the second story (from today’s Times) describing the millions of dollars of slush funds that the CIA has paid to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But instead of purchasing Karzai’s loyalty or enhancing U.S. influence, the money merely contributed to the endemic corruption that has marred the NATO effort from day one. As the Times reported:
“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan,” one American official said, “was the United States.”
There you have it: The French ambassador (and everyone else) says the Afghan government needs to reduce corruption, yet a key element of the U.S. effort there has been contributing to that problem. I wonder if H.R. McMaster, the general who was assigned to head up NATO’s anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan, knew what the CIA baksheesh office was up to. If so, he’ll be in a great position to write a sequel to his earlier book on the U.S. failure in Vietnam.
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

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UK base carrying out Afghan drone strikes

By Robert Stevens 
30 April 2013
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced last Thursday that remote controlled armed drones, used to murder and maim insurgents and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now being operated from the UK for the first time.
The UK’s armed forces have been using drones, officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to monitor and attack insurgents in Afghanistan for at least six years. Previously these missions had been operated from the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, as the British military did not have the capability to operate them from UK soil.
At Creech the drones were operated by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) 39 Squadron. Described as an “elite unit formed in some haste during 2007”, the unit used state of the art surveillance technology to carry out sneak attacks on people several thousand miles away.
On Thursday it was acknowledged that a specially created mission base—operational since October—at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, England is now directing the drones.
In a deliberately vague statement the RAF said it had commenced supporting the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan ground troops with “armed intelligence and surveillance missions” remotely piloted from RAF Waddington.
There is no information on the individual missions flown from the UK, which are operated by RAF 13 Squadron and consist of 100 specially trained personnel. The Telegraph reported that the drones “take off and land under the guidance of pilots on the ground in Afghanistan but the pilots in Lincolnshire take over once they’ve reached a suitable height. They normally fly at between 15,000 to 20,000 feet.”
Last year the MoD stepped up its Afghanistan drone fleet by purchasing five more US-made MQ-9 Reaper drones, costing $16.9 million, to add to the five it already operated. The 10 will be operated from RAF Waddington in collaboration with the team in the US. Each is able to carry up to 14 Hellfire “tank-buster” air-to-surface missiles.
Only a fraction of information on the death and destruction drones inflict ever reaches the public domain. The RAF’s claim that they are used for “armed intelligence and surveillance missions” is aimed at concealing that their main purpose is to terrorise on a mass scale. Kat Craig, legal director of human rights charity Reprieve, recently commented, “The nature of drones means they hover above communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They present an aerial occupation, almost a form of collective punishment, that causes huge concern and distress to people living in those communities.”
RAF controlled drones have been a critical component of the filthy imperialist adventure in Afghanistan, having flown 45,000 hours in the last six years (an average of 20 hours per day) and fired around 350 weapons.
The RAF also leases the Israeli-made Hermes 450. According to the flightglobal.com web site in October 2012, “more than 60,000 flight hours had been logged with Hermes 450s over Afghanistan and also previously Iraq under the urgent operational requirement service by early this year.”
A November 2011 report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that the UK will “spend over half a billion pounds on acquiring and sustaining armed Reaper drones on operations in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2015.”
At that time the RAF were, according to the Bureau’s report, “providing more than 1,200 hours of air support per month for the UK’s Afghan operations.”
The RAF is continually upgrading its drone warfare capability. It is intended that, by 2030, these will comprise 30 percent of the RAF’s capacity. Some £2 billion is being spent on upgrading to a new fleet of 30 drones, known as “The Scavenger programme,” which will be operational by the end of the decade.
The MoD publicly states that it has no record of figures on those killed as a result of drone strikes, whether “insurgent” or civilian. However, in December 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron bragged that 124 insurgents had been killed by British drone strikes up to that point. He has not been so forthcoming in giving details of the civilians slaughtered in cold blood by British drones, including the four killed and two injured when a drone blasted two trucks on the ground in the Now Zad district of north Helmand in July 2011.
These murders are just a fraction of those killed in drone attacks by the United States. The most recent estimates, according to research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, suggest that in Pakistan alone US drones killed up to 3,533 people between 2004 and 2013. About 890 of these are estimated to be civilians, of which an estimated 168 to 197 were children. Another 1,173 to 1,472 people were also injured. The majority of attacks were carried out under the administration of Barack Obama.
In December last year, the High Court in London rejected a request for a judicial inquiry into the alleged role of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters spy centre in aiding US drone strikes in Pakistan’s northwest region. The case was brought by Noor Khan, a Pakistani man whose father was killed, along with 49 other people, by a US drone attack on March 17, 2011. Khan’s father, Malik Daud Khan, was chairing a peaceful tribal assembly meeting to discuss chromite mining rights in North Waziristan when he was killed by several missile strikes.
The Conservative/Liberal Democrat government has refused to comment on any aspect of the allegations. Lawyers for Foreign Secretary William Hague told the court that it was “territory of extreme sensitivity”. It would be “‘prejudicial to the national interest’ for them even to explain their understanding of the legal basis for any such activities”, they added.
Following the announcement that the new drones will be operated from RAF Waddington, the media largely sought to play down their crucial military role in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as their planned usage in further imperialist brigandage. BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt blithely reported that the “overwhelming majority” of missions the British drones are used for involve surveillance. She added, “The UK has used its military drones and pilots only in areas acknowledged as conflict zones such as Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, while RAF drones do not take part in the CIA programme.”
The BBC kept up its propaganda following a demonstration by 400 people on Saturday protesting the use of drones and calling for their banning. The march began in the nearby town of Lincoln and ended at the heavily guarded perimeter fence of RAF Waddington.
BBC reporter Ed Thomas concluded his report from the protest by citing UK government statements defending the increased use of drones. Thomas repeated the bare-faced lie that “it also says that the drones are not only saving military lives but also civilian lives in Afghanistan.”
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The US Perpetrates a Boston Bombing Weekly in Pakistan, Yemen & Afghanistan

By Sean A. McElwee
Sadaullah Khan lost both legs and one eye in a 2009 drone strike on his house (Reuters)
April 25, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Antiwar” – The Boston Bombings left three dead and more than 100 injured and some have suggested circumventing the rule of law to prosecute the perpetrator. Yet, in Pakistan the unconstitutional drone war continues to kill innocents. On April 14, between 4 and 6 Pakistanis died in drone strike and numerous civilians were injured. Another strike three days later killed 5 more and injured several. Yet there are no protests in America to capture the responsible party, nor will there ever be justice. The people of Waziristan live in constant fear, and face bombings like that of Boston almost weekly.
The two April strikes both involved significant amounts of terror, with drones “hovering over the area” for long periods of time, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. These drone strikes, contrary to administration claims, rarely target “high-level” members of terrorist organizations, and often “militants” include young boys aged 10-16.
Only recently have we begun to learn of the shady covert drone war. Mark Mazzeti’s recent The Way of the Knife, details the beginning: the United States became the lapdog of the Pakistani government, performing a drone strike to kill Nek Muhammed in exchange for access to the airspace.
While the government acknowledges that trials would be preferable for the rule of law, this heavily redacted report gives the true reason for the targeted killing program: it’s cleaner, simpler and less embarrassing to just off the suspected terrorists. The government uses mafia logic – why waste time and energy risking the rule of law when you can just swoop in and launch a smart bomb?
Farea al-Muslimini testified this week to United State Senate about the “psychological fear and terror” that his village faces daily after a recent drone strike. He argues that while the strike may be cleaner for the United States government, on the ground it leaves significant psychological scarring. He said,“ The drone strike [in my village] and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine.”
While we mourn the horrific events in Boston, we must remember that our government perpetrates a Boston bombing weekly in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Sean McElwee has previously written for The Day and The Norwich Bulletin and on WashingtonMonthly.com and Reason.com. He is a writer for The Moderate Voice.

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The Message Sent by America’s Invisible Victims

As two more Afghan children are liberated (from their lives) by NATO this weekend, a new film examines the effects of endless US aggression
By Glenn Greenwald 
March 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“The Guardian” – Yesterday I had the privilege to watch Dirty Wars, an upcoming filmdirected by Richard Rowley that chronicles the investigations of journalist Jeremy Scahill into America’s global covert war under President Obama and specifically his ever-growing kill lists. I will write comprehensively about this film closer to the date when it andthe book by the same name will be released. For now, it will suffice to say that the film is one of the most important I’ve seen in years: gripping and emotionally affecting in the extreme, with remarkable, news-breaking revelations even for those of us who have intensely followed these issues. The film won awards at Sundance and rave reviews in unlikely places such as Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. But for now, I want to focus on just one small aspect of what makes the film so crucial.
The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers. They and their surviving family members are virtually never heard from on television. The Bush and Obama DOJs have collaborated with federal judges to ensure that even those who everyone admits are completely innocent have no access to American courts and thus no means of having their stories heard or their rights vindicated. Radical secrecy theories and escalating attacks on whistleblowers push these victims further into the dark.
It is the ultimate tactic of Othering: concealing their humanity, enabling their dehumanization, by simply relegating them to nonexistence. As Ashleigh Banfield put it her 2003 speech denouncing US media coverage of the Iraq war just months before she was demoted and then fired by MSNBC: US media reports systematically exclude both the perspectives of “the other side” and the victims of American violence. Media outlets in predominantly Muslim countries certainly report on their plight, but US media outlets simply do not, which is one major reason for the disparity in worldviews between the two populations. They know what the US does in their part of the world, but Americans are kept deliberately ignorant of it.
What makes Dirty Wars so important is that it viscerally conveys the effects of US militarism on these invisible victims: by letting them speak for themselves. Scahill and his crew travel to the places most US journalists are unwilling or unable to go: to remote and dangerous provinces in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, all to give voice to the victims of US aggression. We hear from the Afghans whose family members (including two pregnant women) were slaughtered by US Special Forces in 2010 in the Paktia Province, despite being part of the Afghan Police, only for NATO to outright lie and claim the women were already dead from “honor killings” by the time they arrived (lies uncritically repeated, of course, by leading US media outlets).
Scahill interviews the still-traumatized survivors of the US cruise missile and cluster bomb attack in Southern Yemen that killed 35 women and children just weeks after Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. We see the widespread anger in Yemen over the fact that the Yemeni journalist who first exposed US responsibility for that attack, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, was not only arrested by the US puppet regime but, as Scahill first reported, has been kept imprisoned to this very day at the direct insistence of President Obama. We hear from the grandfather of 16-year-old American teenager Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (he is also the father of US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki) – both before and after a CIA drone killed his son and then (two weeks later) his teenaged grandson who everyone acknowledges had nothing to do with terrorism. We hear boastful tales of summary executions from US-funded-and-directed Somali warlords.
There is an unmistakable and singular message sent by these disparate groups and events. It’s one particularly worth thinking about with news reports this morning that two more Afghan children have been killed by a NATO air attack.
The message is that the US is viewed as the greatest threat and that it is US aggression and violence far more than any other cause that motivates support for al-Qaida and anti-American sentiment. The son of the slain Afghan police commander (who is the husband of one of the killed pregnant woman and brother of the other) says that villagers refer to US Special Forces as the “American Taliban” and that he refrained from putting on a suicide belt and attacking US soldiers with it only because of the pleas of his grieving siblings. An influential Southern Yemeni cleric explains that he never heard of al-Qaida sympathizers in his country until that 2009 cruise missile attack and subsequent drone killings, including the one that ended the life of Abdulrahman (a claim supported by all sorts of data). The brutal Somali warlord explains that the Americans are the “masters of war” who taught him everything he knows and who fuel ongoing conflict. Anwar Awlaki’s transformation from moderate and peace-preaching American cleric to angry critic of the US is shown to have begun with the US attack on Iraq and then rapidly intensifying with Obama’s drone attacks and kill lists. Meanwhile, US military officials and officers interviewed by Scahill exhibit a sociopathic indifference to their victims, while Awlaki’s increasingly angry sermons in defense of jihad are juxtaposed with the very similar-sounding justifications of endless war from Obama.
The evidence has long been compelling that the primary fuel of what the US calls terrorism are the very policies of aggression justified in the name of stopping terrorism. The vast bulk of those who have been caught in recent years attempting attacks on the US haveemphatically cited US militarism and drone killings in their part of the world as their motive. Evidence is overwhelming that what has radicalized huge numbers of previously peaceful and moderate Muslims is growing rage at seeing a continuous stream of innocent victims, including children, at the hands of the seemingly endless US commitment to violence.
The only way this clear truth is concealed is by preventing Americans from knowing about, let alone hearing from, the victims of US aggression. That concealment is what caused huge numbers of Americans to wander around in a daze after 9/11 innocently and bewilderingly wondering “why do they hate us”? – despite decades of continuous US interference, aggression, and violence-enabling in that part of the world. And it’s this concealment of these victims that causes Americans now to react to endless stories of the killing of innocent Muslims with the excuse that “we have to do something about the Terrorists” or “it’s better than a ground invasion” – without realizing that they’re affirming what Chris Hayes aptly describes as a false choice, and worse, without realizing that the very policies they’re cheering are not stopping the Terrorists at all but doing the opposite: helping the existing Terrorists and creating new ones.
To be fair, it’s not difficult to induce a population to avert its eyes from the victims of the violence they support: we all like to believe that we’re Good and peaceful people, and we particularly like to believe this about the leaders we elect, cheer and admire. Moreover, what the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole recently described as “the empathy gap” – the failure to imagine how others will react to situations that would cause us (and have caused us) to be driven by rage and violence – means that the US government need not work all that hard to silence its victims: there is a pervasive desire to keep them out of sight.
Nonetheless, if Americans are going to support or even tolerate endless militarism, as they have been doing, then they should at least have to be confronted with their victims – if not on moral grounds then on pragmatic ones, to understand the effects of these policies. Based on the out-of-sight-out-of-mind reality, the US government and media have been incredibly successful in rendering those victims silent and invisible. Dirty Wars is a truly crucial tonic to that propaganda. At the very least, nobody who sees it and hears from the victims of US aggression will ever again wonder why there are so many people in the world who believe in the justifiability or even necessity of violence against the US.
Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author of How Would a Patriot Act? (May 2006), a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power; A
Tragic Legacy (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy; and With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies

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Afghanistan President Accuses U.S. Special Forces of Torture

Afghan President Hamid Karzai orders the troops to cease operations in Wardak province, where abuses were reported to have occurred.
By Shashank Bengali and Hashmat Baktash
February 24, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – (Los Angeles Times) – February 24, 2013. – Afghanistan – Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday ordered U.S. special forces troops to cease operations in a strategic eastern province, accusing the Americans and Afghans working for them of torturing and abducting civilians.
Karzai’s office charged that a university student who was detained during a U.S. operation in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, was later found with his head and fingers cut off. In another case, U.S. forces are accused of detaining nine villagers, who are still missing.
Karzai gave no additional details and didn’t specify the identities of the Afghans working alongside the U.S. forces. The Wardak provincial chief of police told The Times that he had recently assigned officers to investigate the claims but had seen nothing that supported them. “I don’t have any evidence in hand in regard to this issue,” said the chief, Sardar Mohammad Zazai.
The lack of specifics added to the confusion surrounding the accusations, which blindsided U.S. officials in Kabul, the Afghan capital. State Department and military officials were not briefed about the decision before Karzai’s chief spokesman announced it at a news conference Sunday evening.
“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them,” the U.S. military in Kabul said in a statement. “This is an important issue that we intend to discuss fully with our Afghan counterparts.”
It was the latest example of strained relations between the United States and Karzai’s government, and the latest dispute to damage U.S. efforts to achieve a smooth withdrawal of most of the remaining 66,000 American troops in Afghanistan by the end of next year. The Obamaadministration has long viewed Karzai as an undesirable partner, and has complained repeatedly about widespread allegations of corruption involving those close to the Afghan leader.
A long, candid meeting between President Obama and Karzai at the White House in January seemed to put the relationship on fresh footing, but it has stumbled again in recent weeks as Karzai has renewed complaints about the way the U.S.-led coalition is prosecuting the war.
Two weeks ago, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike reportedly killed 10 Afghan civilians in addition to four Taliban commanders, prompting Karzai to ban Afghan forces from requesting coalition airstrikes in residential areas.
The counterinsurgency efforts of U.S. special forces have been a frequent target of scorn from Karzai, who says they provoke instability. U.S. special forces, along with Afghan soldiers and allied militias, routinely carry out nighttime raids on suspected insurgent hide-outs, often in towns and villages.
Karzai’s directive could be a blow to U.S. efforts to bring most American soldiers home while leaving a smaller force in Afghanistan after 2014. It would focus on mentoring Afghans in the field and continuing counter-terrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda. Both missions would lean heavily on special forces troops.
In meetings last week, North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers discussed plans for a post-2014 force of 8,000 to 12,000 troops — mostly Americans, a large proportion of whom would probably be special forces.
About 4,500 U.S. special forces personnel are involved in training the Afghan Local Police, a rural paramilitary force that Pentagon officials say will serve as Afghanistan’s main line of defense against the Taliban in areas outside the reach of regular Afghan army and police units.
Members of the Afghan Local Police have been implicated in human rights abuses and criminal activity, but that force isn’t the one being accused of violations in Wardak. Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman, described the Afghans only as “some armed groups that are established and controlled by the foreign troops in Afghanistan.”
Wardak, a turbulent province considered a key gateway to Kabul, has become a hotbed of insurgent activity in recent years and is a key focus of U.S. security efforts. It has been among the most heavily contested provinces in Afghanistan, with both the Taliban and another insurgent group, the Haqqani network, using it as a base from which to stage attacks on coalition forces.
In 2011, the Taliban shot down a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter over the province, killing 38 U.S. and Afghan troops, including 17 Navy SEALs. Weeks later, a suicide blast outside a U.S. outpost killed several Afghans and injured dozens of other people, including 77 American soldiers.
After a meeting of his national security council earlier Sunday at which Wardak’s governor raised the allegations, Karzai ordered an immediate halt to U.S. special forces operations in the province and said the soldiers would be expelled within two weeks. Because of the secrecy surrounding their operations, it wasn’t immediately clear if special forces are based in Wardak or they travel into the province for missions.
“There are some groups of American special forces — and Afghans considered to be part of the American special forces — who are conducting raids, searching houses, harassing and torturing people, and even murdering our innocent people,” Faizi said.
Also Sunday, Afghan security forces foiled an apparent suicide bomber in central Kabul, but attackers struck police and intelligence offices in two other eastern cities, killing three people, officials said.
Officers with the National Directorate of Security shot and killed a man who was driving a sport utility vehicle packed with explosives near the intelligence agency’s headquarters in Kabul. No one else was hurt, officials said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for two earlier attacks on security targets: a car bombing at an NDS compound in Jalalabad that killed two guards and a bombing at a police compound in Lowgar province, which left a police officer dead.
Baktash is a special correspondent.
Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

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Why Did You Murder Me? The Slaughter of the Children Drones On & On & On & On

By Michael Hall


When the drones are slaughtering innocent children in your name
do you bother to get concerned even when on your knees on Sunday?
or do you just stick your head in the sand blindly support the troops & just not think about whose to blame
if you care I have list of their names and ages I could give you from the depths of an odious jingo game

Do your wonder if your joystick violence is really doing any good
or do you get the feeling that something is very wrong & your getting spun & fooled
how can you support exported terrorism when your sworn to defend against it
how can you donate freedom & democracy when its getting stolen from under you by E/O

Every bullet bought is a loaf of bread stolen from the belly of the hungry
and your self-praising charity checkbook fad doesn’t seem to dent the starvation.
If you spent 2.2 million everyday since Jesus was born
you would have spent what your nation purchased on the military just last year

Do you wonder why your schools don’t have books & pencils
why your bridges are crumbling down & the roads are potholed like Swiss cheese
while your politicians live in mansions with 5-star chefs lapping at life-long luxury
then again today they announced another bone-cut to the needy, homeless and disabled

How could anyone with a shred of conscience bow before a flag without bending over with nausea
knowing underneath it the killing of the innocent is a weekly act in nations we are not at war with
that after a hit. the gang fires off another drone when medics & rescuers come to the scene of destruction
we’ve forgotten what we stand for by the very deeds we toe-tag and their is no rationalization

Now we know by special executive decree memo called a ‘white paper’
the Nobel Peace prize holder president has the power to murder Americans beyond the law
it is solely up to the president when it comes to life and death and it is all a hush-hush secret
change we can be deceived has shown the articulate sheep to be but a child-eating wolf

Anyone who murders children by drone and then jokes about it is a sociopath
a leader who becomes a serial killer justifies by secret edicts he wont share with his employers is a despot
expansion and consolidation of extreme power will one day target you and yours
For what goes on abroad in your name will blowback as it comes around to get you tomorrow

Just south of key west at Guantanamo every law, principle and value you hold dear is smashed
across the pond the most nefarious crimes are done in your name with your support
and yet at home you bury your head deep in the sand far from the massive contradiction
your heart bleeds for Newton yet when your troops do the exact same thing you raise a flag & a stiff arm

For what profits an empire when they can envelop the world and dominate it
yet in the process they loose their values, principles and in so doing their very soul
still atonement must be rectified somewhere at some time
and this is the dream that I dream someday will be;

For all the innocent children who’ve been the victims of the American military machine
I would willingly witness each and everyone of them walk by in front of every war supporter and soldier
to deeply gaze into their eyes and say with conviction, question and horror;
Why did you murder me?

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I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong?

By Timothy Kudo,
January 28, 2013 “Washington Post Company” — When I joined the Marine Corps, I knew I would kill people. I was trained to do it in a number of ways, from pulling a trigger to ordering a bomb strike to beating someone to death with a rock. As I got closer to deploying to war in 2009, my lethal abilities were refined, but my ethical understanding of killing was not.
I held two seemingly contradictory beliefs: Killing is always wrong, but in war, it is necessary. How could something be both immoral and necessary?
I didn’t have time to resolve this question before deploying. And in the first few months, I fell right into killing without thinking twice. We were simply too busy to worry about the morality of what we were doing.
But one day in Afghanistan in 2010, my patrol got into a firefight and ended up killing two people on a motorcycle who we thought were about to attack us. They ignored or didn’t understand our warnings to stop, and according to the military’s “escalation of force” guidelines, we were authorized to shoot them in self-defense. Although we thought they were armed, they turned out to be civilians. One looked no older than 16.
It’s been more than two years since we killed those people on the motorcycle, and I think about them every day. Sometimes it’s when I’m reading the news or watching a movie, but most often it’s when I’m taking a shower or walking down my street in Brooklyn.
They are not the only deaths I carry with me. I also remember the first time a Marine several miles away asked me over the radio whether his unit could kill someone burying a bomb. The decision fell on me alone. I said yes. Those decisions became commonplace over my deployment. Even more frightening than the idea of what we were doing was how easy it became for me. I never shot someone, but I ordered bomb strikes and directed other people to shoot.
Many veterans are unable to reconcile such actions in war with the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” When they come home from an environment where killing is not only accepted but is a metric of success, the transition to one where killing is wrong can be incomprehensible.
This incongruity can have devastating effects. After more than 10 years of war, the military lost more active-duty members last year to suicide than to enemy fire. More worrisome, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that one in five Americans who commit suicide is a veteran, despite the fact that veterans make up just 13 percent of the population.
While I don’t know why individual veterans resort to suicide, I can say that the ethical damage of war may be worse than the physical injuries we sustain. To properly wage war, you have to recalibrate your moral compass. Once you return from the battlefield, it is difficult or impossible to repair it.
VA has started calling this problem “moral injury,” but that’s as deceptive a euphemism as “collateral damage.” This isn’t the kind of injury you recover from with rest, physical therapy and pain medication. War makes us killers. We must confront this horror directly if we’re to be honest about the true costs of war.
I didn’t return from Afghanistan as the same person. My personality is the same, or at least close enough, but I’m no longer the “good” person I once thought I was. There’s nothing that can change that; it’s impossible to forget what happened, and the only people who can forgive me are dead.
I will never know whether my actions in Afghanistan were right or wrong. On good days, I believe they were necessary. But instead, I want to believe that killing, even in war, is wrong.
America will participate in other wars in my lifetime. But if the decision to do so is a collective responsibility, then civilians need to have a better understanding of the consequences. The immorality of war is not a wound we can ignore — as is painfully obvious with so many veterans committing suicide.
Civilians can comprehend the casualties of war because most people know someone who has died. But few know someone who has killed. When I tell people I’m a Marine, the next question many ask is: “Did you kill anyone?” To my ears, this sounds like: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” They don’t realize they’re asking about an intensely private matter.
Many veterans I know are incensed by this question. It reinforces the isolation they feel in a society that doesn’t seem to care about Iraq or Afghanistan. But to me, it speaks to the fact that civilians’ curiosity about war overwhelms their understanding of it. Most Americans have little idea what war means. Our battles are fought with volunteers, making an intimate knowledge of war voluntary as well — and therefore avoidable.
Veterans are the only ones who can explain the ethical impact of war. For me, this means being open and honest about the deaths I caused and how they have changed me.
The question “Did you kill anyone?” isn’t easy to answer — and it’s certainly not one every veteran wants to. But when civilians ask, I think I have a duty to respond.
And if explaining what I did 6,000 miles away in a conflict far from the public’s consciousness makes the next war less likely, then maybe my actions weren’t in vain.
Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo, a graduate student at New York University, deployed to Iraq in 2009 and to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @tkudo.
© The Washington Post Company

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Ten girls die in Afghanistan explosion as US pushes for permanent presence

By Bill Van Auken 
18 December 2012
The horror of the protracted US intervention in Afghanistan was driven home again on Monday as at least 10 young Afghan girls, ages nine to eleven, were blown to pieces in what local authorities said was a landmine explosion. Two other girls were badly wounded and reported in critical condition at a local hospital.
The girls were gathering firewood in eastern Nangarhar province when they accidentally set off a buried mine with an ax. A police spokesman said that the mine was not located near a road or any other evident target, and that another old, unexploded mine was found nearby.
Afghanistan has the highest number of landmine and unexploded ordnance casualties in the world, with 102 people killed or injured between July and September of this year alone. The large number of mines planted in the country is for the most part the bitter legacy of the three decades of warfare that began in 1979, when the Carter administration launched a covert CIA operation to arm and finance Islamist mujahedin to fight a Soviet-backed government in Kabul.
Another blast Monday on the outskirts of Kabul ripped through the headquarters of a major US military contractor. The explosion killed at least one Afghan and left as many as 30 people wounded when a suicide bomber set off explosives loaded onto a small truck outside the offices of Contrack International, a Virginia-based company that builds bases and other facilities for the US military. The wounded included American, Afghan and South African employees of the contractor, whose offices were demolished in the blast.
The attack, which took place on Jalalabad road, a major thoroughfare that is flanked by foreign companies and military bases, underscored the ability of the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to strike at what is supposedly the most secure area in the country.
The latest bloodshed came in the wake of a new report issued by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) last Friday that indicated a 28 percent increase in civilian casualties between August and October compared to the same period last year. The number listed as killed rose to 967, with another 1,590 wounded during those three months.
The UN agency blamed the “vast majority” of the casualties on “anti-government elements.” The Taliban sharply disputed the report’s conclusions charging that the UN, which has sanctioned the US-led occupation of Afghanistan, had deliberately failed to record the civilian casualties caused by US-NATO operations and bombardments.
Amid the rising bloodshed, the Obama administration is pressing forward in negotiations with the US-backed regime of President Hamid Karzai to make Washington’s military presence in Afghanistan permanent.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta paid a surprise two-day visit to Kabul last week, holding talks with US commanders on the state of the US-led war, now in its 12th year, and on plans to keep a military force in Afghanistan after the December 2014 formal deadline for ending the US-led occupation.
Panetta also met with Karzai. In a joint press conference following their discussions on December 13, the Pentagon chief stressed Washington’s “long term” commitment to Afghanistan. “Just as the strategic partnership agreement signed by President Obama and President Karzai made clear, America will not turn away from Afghanistan,” said Panetta. “We will continue to have an enduring presence beyond 2014 into the future.”
In answer to a reporter’s question about the fate of Afghanistan after a 2014 US withdrawal, the defense secretary replied, “Well, first and foremost, we’re not departing Afghanistan … we will be there to provide support, to provide training, to provide assistance, to provide help on counterterrorism, and to provide support for the forces that are here.”
The US currently has some 66,000 troops in Afghanistan, following the Obama administration’s withdrawal of the “surge” forces it began sending in in December 2009. The Pentagon has indicated that no recommendations—much less decisions—have been made on further withdrawals over the course of the coming year. Top military commanders had previously voiced the view that the present force should remain intact through the 2013 “fighting season,” ending in November.
As for the numbers of troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that unnamed US officials had cited “preliminary military recommendations to keep 6,000 to 15,000 troops for training and counterterrorism missions.” Earlier reports put the figure at closer to 20,000 to 30,000. The discrepancy may be more apparent than real, given the military’s ability to continuously rotate into the country forces on temporary tours of duty.
Panetta said that Obama would make a decision about post-2014 troop levels within “a few weeks.”
US commanders have said that Afghan puppet forces would remain dependent upon the US military for air and artillery support, intelligence and surveillance as well as training. US military forces would remain embedded in every Afghan battalion, exerting effective control. Meanwhile, a sizable contingent of special operations troops would remain in the country, continuing the night raids and assassinations that have aroused intense popular hatred of the more than decade-old US occupation.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Marine Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the deputy chief of staff for US-NATO operations, as saying that after 2014, the US military will no longer provide medical evacuation by helicopter for the Afghan army, meaning that wounded troops would have to be brought to medical facilities by ground transportation. The effect will be a dramatic increase in fatalities among the Afghan puppet forces, under conditions in which they have already been rising precipitously, even as casualties have fallen for US troops.
The discussions and negotiations over the post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan underscore the fact that the Obama administration is continuing the pursuit of the original aims underlying the invasion of 2001. Washington is determined to cement its military domination over the country to provide US imperialism with a base of operations to assert its hegemony over Central Asia and its vast energy resources and to threaten its regional rivals, particularly the bordering countries of Iran and China.

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Sympathy from the Devil

By William Norman Grigg

December 17, 2012 “Information Clearing House” —  “They had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” intoned the murderer of 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki as he began the liturgy of official mourning for the victims of the Newtown massacre. 

Every time children die in an outbreak of violence, “I react not as a president, but as anybody else would as a parent,” continued the head of a regime that will not explain to Nasser al-Awlaki why his son Anwar and grandson Abdulrahman – both of the U.S. citizens – were murdered by presidential decree. 
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” insisted the official who has presided over dozens of lethal drone attacks in Pakistan and other countries with whom the U.S. is not formally at war. 
Obama wiped away a non-existent tear as he pronounced the familiar, facile phrases of selective sympathy. After ordering that U.S. flags be flown at half-mast for a week, Obama said that he and his wife would hug their children a little closertonight as he empathizes with the parents whose children were murdered in Newtown. 
It’s doubtful that he was moved to similar thoughts of vicarious bereavement as he contemplated the parents in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan who have been left childless because of his actions.
Shortly after the police had arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary School to offer the service they always provide in such circumstances – that is, drawing chalk outlines and stringing up crime-scene tape – Mr. Obama was informed of the massacre. The minion who conveyed that news to the Child Killer-in-Chief was National Security Adviser John Brennan, who is the official Keeper of the “Kill List” – the roster of people, including U.S. citizens, who have been targeted for summary execution by a secretive executive branch committee. 
Last April, in response to modest but growing public outrage over the Obama Regime’s use of killer drones, Brennan gave an opaque and self-congratulatory speech insisting that the program was legal because those who preside over it consider it to be. 
Killing distant, unarmed people by way of robot-delivered missiles is “legal, ethical, and wise,” he declared. The targeted execution of individuals deemed to be terrorists –without the benefit of trial or any simulacrum of due process – is the result of careful “deliberation,” and conducted in a way that discriminates between combatants and bystanders.
This must mean that Barack Obama and the people who are sufficiently foolish and depraved to obey his orders intended to kill 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki while he was enjoying a backyard barbecue at the home of a family friend in Yemen. 
The Regime has never explained why it murdered that child, let alone apologized to the family for doing so. The closest it has come to an explanation was offered last September by former White House spokesliar (and campaign functionary) Robert Gibbs, who actually claimed that the teenager’s death was his own fault because he had somehow made a poor choice of fathers: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they’re truly concerned about the well-being of their children.”
By default, this is the Obama Regime’s official rationale for murdering an innocent 16-year-old U.S. citizen. How does the logic – such as it is – of Gibbs’s answer differ from whatever rationale drove a maniac to open fire on a kindergarten class in Connecticut? Assuming that the shooter was deranged, he at least had the excuse of insanity. 
Obama, Brennan, Gibbs and their allies, by way of contrast, all profess to be entirely sane. The same is true of Timemagazine contributor – and prominent Obama supporter – Joe Klein. Late in the last campaign Klein used an MSNBC panel discussion to offer a stout defense of Obama’s drone strikes, even as he admitted that innocent bystanders – including 4-year-olds – are frequently killed by them. The only concern, Klein insisted, was the possibility that the power to conduct remote killings may find itself in the hands of someone less enlightened than Obama.
For the Obama Regime, child-killing is an instrument of policy. This was made clear in a recent story reported by the Military Times describing how U.S. troops in Afghanistan, fearful over the actions of a group of young men nearby called in an airstrike that killed all of the suspected guerillas – only to find out later that three of them were children, aged 8, 10, and 12. The families of the dead children said that they had been gathering dried animal leavings, which are used as fuel.
The International Security Assistance Force in Kabul issued a statement acknowledging that the airstrike “accidentally killed three innocent Afghan children.” That statement prompted Army Lt. Col. Marion Carrington to tell the Military Times that the children may not have been innocent.
According to Carrington, whose unit is training Afghan police, “In addition to looking for military-age males, [we are] looking for children with potential hostile intent.” Since hostility is the natural, and entirely commendable, reaction to foreign occupiers, Carrington is saying that any Afghan child with sufficient awareness to resent the occupation is a legitimate military target.
What Adam Lanza did once in a fit of murderous irrationality, the Regime over which Obama presides does practically every day – and the killing is carried out by people who act with clear-eyed, clinical indifference to the suffering they inflict. 
Admittedly, that comparison is unfair, since Lanza didn’t have the means to carry out an Obama-style “double-tap” strike: It is the established practice of the CIA to follow up a drone-launched missile attack with a second volley intended to target first responders. In Pakistan, this procedure has resulted in a ratio of fifty innocent victims for every “suspected militant” taken out in a drone strike.
The killer who slaughtered the innocent at Sandy Hook is dead. The Child-Killing Apparatus over which Obama presides continues merrily along. Americans understandably shaken and saddened to the depth of their souls by the horrors in Newtown should consider this: The government that impudently presumes to rule us has made Sandy Hook-style massacres routine for residents of Pakistan. 
William Norman Grigg publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program
This article was originally posted at Lew Rockwell

Copyright © 2012 William Norman Grigg

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Karzai offers immunity for continued US occupation

As American commanders target Afghan children
By Bill Van Auken 
10 December 2012
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that he is willing to offer immunity from prosecution to US troops who remain in the country after 2014, the formal deadline for the withdrawal of American and NATO combat forces.
The US-backed president said he was willing to trade immunity for “Afghanistan’s sovereignty,” which he defined as agreement by the US occupation authorities to turn over Afghans held in US detention, halt raids on Afghan villages, and cede control of the country’s airspace to the Afghan government.
”Within those conditions, and once those conditions are fulfilled…Afghanistan is willing to consider immunity” for the troops,” said Karzai.
Karzai has repeatedly raised similar demands in an attempt to deflect popular outrage over crimes against civilians carried out under the US-led occupation. The granting of immunity, however, by definition precludes sovereignty, as the Afghan government would have no means of holding American forces accountable for such crimes.
The public statement came as US and Afghan negotiators continued their efforts to iron out a status of forces agreement that would cover US military forces after 2014. There are currently 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan, by far the largest contingent in a 100,000-strong NATO deployment.
Despite the formal withdrawal deadline, it is anticipated that a large number of soldiers will remain behind, including special operations forces who will continue carrying out counterinsurgency attacks, as well as trainers and advisers who will exert continued US dominance over Afghan security forces.
While no official number has been put forward as to how many American troops will remain after 2014, most estimates have put the figure at 20,000 or more. Both the number of troops and the number of bases to be left in US hands are part of the negotiations.
The issue of immunity, however, is viewed by Washington as among the most crucial. Failure to win such a guarantee from the regime in Iraq last year resulted in the pullout of virtually all US troops, even though the Obama administration had tried to get a deal that would have allowed it to keep some 10,000 soldiers and Marines in the country. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki refused to provide such protection, fearing the popular hostility among Iraqis to a continued US military presence as well as the likely consequences of their operating with legal impunity.
The immunity agreement will protect American occupation forces from being arrested and tried for war crimes, either in Afghanistan or before the International Criminal Court, and prevent US troops from being held accountable in the occupied country for any criminal offense against its people.
Significantly, the negotiations are unfolding under conditions in which new evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan are emerging on an almost daily basis.
Comments by a US commander about targeting Afghan children as potential Taliban supporters provoked a firestorm of international criticism last week. Lt. Col. Marion Carrington, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 508thParachute Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan, told the Military Times, a chain of newspapers directed to members of the US military, that in regard to his unit: “It kind of opens our aperture. In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potentially hostile intent.”
The article, headlined “Some Afghan Kids Aren’t Bystanders” amounted to a US military justification for the murder of Afghan children.
The article specifically cited a US missile attack in October in Helmand’s Nawa district that took the lives of three Afghan children: Borjan,12, Sardar Wali, 10, and Khan Bibi, 8. An unnamed Marine officer told the Military Timesthat he questioned the children’s’ “innocence.”
The officer claimed that before the missile strike, Marines had seen the children digging holes and speculated they could have been recruited by the Taliban to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Local officials had insisted that the children were collecting dung, which is burned by Afghans as fuel.
The implication of the officer’s account was to justify the killing of the three children and suggest that they were deliberately targeted, even though the US military knew they were taking the lives of young minors.
Similar issues have arisen from a written response provided by the Obama administration to an inquiry from a United Nations committee monitoring the implementation of a treaty protecting the rights of children in armed conflicts. Washington acknowledged that “over the last several years” the US occupation forces have captured some 200 children under the age of 18 and held them in military custody.
While refusing to provide any specific information about any of the detainees, the US allowed that their average age was 16, suggesting that many of them were pre-teens. It also reported that “for juveniles, the average length of stay [in US military custody] has been approximately one year.”
The administration failed to answer questions as to what American occupation forces had done to aid in the rehabilitation of these children or assist their reintegration into society as required under the treaty. The clear implication is that no such steps were taken. It gave no information as to the individual fate of any of the children, while claiming, “Many of them have been released or transferred to the Afghan government.”
The lack of any specific information calls into serious question the claim that only 200 children have been imprisoned at the Bagram detention center—notorious for use of torture—and other US military prisons. Human rights advocates familiar with conditions in these facilities believe the number to be much higher and charge that US officials frequently refuse to acknowledge that those they are holding are minors.
While the US reply insisted that the purpose of detaining juveniles was “not punitive but preventive,” holding young children in military prisons away from their families for a year or more amounts to a form of extreme abuse and mental torture.
Meanwhile, the British government has been asked to investigate an incident in which British troops shot and killed four young Afghan boys. Britain’s Ministry of Defense described the dead children as “Taliban targets,” but witnesses said they were gunned down in cold blood while they were in their home drinking tea.
The massacre took place in a village in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on October 18, leaving dead Fazel Mohammed, 18, Naik Mohammed, 16, Mohammed Tayeb, 14, and Ahmed Shah, 12. All four victims were shot at close range.
According to a letter sent by a lawyer representing a brother of the four boys, which was obtained by the Guardian, the victims’ relatives found the bodies of the “four teenagers lying in a line with their heads towards the doorway… The four boys killed all appear to have been deliberately targeted at close range by British forces. All were killed in a residential area over which UK forces clearly had the requisite degree of control and authority.”
The letter added: “It was clear that the bodies had been dragged into that position and all had been shot in the head and neck region as they sat on the floor of the guesthouse leaning against the wall drinking tea.”
It is clear that these kind of war crimes—and even worse ones such as the massacre of some 16 Afghan men, women and children attributed to Sgt. Robert Bales last March—will continue as long as Afghanistan remains occupied by US, British and other NATO troops. This is what lies behind the demand for a guarantee of immunity.

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Anglo-Saxon Troops Should Leave Afghanistan

Negotiations began last week in Kabul between Afghanistan and the USA on a security agreement regarding the terms for the presence of American troops in the country following the official withdrawl of the foreign contingent in 2014. Evidently, the peacekeeper’s Nobel Laureates already played their role during the second presidential campaign and it is now a case of completely revising President Obama’s declarations in 2009 regarding “a new American strategy in Afghanistan.” According to Alexander Knyazev, regional programmes coordinator for the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies, who recently gave an interview to the Russian news agency IA REX, the continued presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan will become a destabilising factor for the security of Eurasia.
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IА REX: What is so special about Afghanistan that it has already “broken the teeth” of three empires: British, Soviet and American?
Alexander Knyazev: Saying that Afghanistan has never been defeated is in the realm of myth-making. The British won two wars until they were defeated in the Third Anglo-Afghan war in 1919.
The Soviet Union did not lose the war in Afghanistan, there was a political decision to withdraw the troops and so the troops were withdrawn. The decision was a betrayal to the Afghan government who, incidentally, remained in power for another three years without any support from the USSR. In 1988, with the consent of Mikhail Gorbachev, the then Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze (later the president of the newly-independent Georgia – OR) signed an agreement in Geneva, in accordance with which the USSR stopped all help to President Najibullah’s government. At the same time, the help being given to anti-government forces by the USA as well as European and Arabic countries immediately grew tenfold, if not a hundredfold.
I will refrain from saying anything about the Americans for the time being, since their goal is not to win on a purely military level, they have other objectives in mind.
IА REX: Why is America holding on to this region so resolutely, despite their military losses and the damage it has caused to their image? What have been the real achievements of the Afghan campaign?
AK: Most importantly, American forces are in Afghanistan and a puppet government is sitting in Kabul, so whatever the outcome over the next few years, America’s military bases will remain in Afghanistan and a number of neighbouring countries.
That is really why the campaign was begun in the first place; the “struggle with international terrorism” in Afghanistan is yet more fruit of modern-day political myth-making. There is absolutely no link between the events that took place in New York on 11 September 2011, the Taliban and Afghanistan.
It is a grand spectacle far removed from the producers of Broadway musicals… There are a number of examples in modern and contemporary American history where hundreds and thousands of people are sacrificed, including their own people, for the purposes of America’s foreign policy. The reality is that the USA became a military power in the Middle East and Central Asia, in the sphere of Iran’s, China’s and Russia’s vital interests. That is the main thing. Losses are secondary, whether military or to America’s image.
IА REX: In your opinion, what is the best solution for Afghanistan?
AK: Just the negotiation process with one universal condition: the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity, the inviolability of its borders. There is a danger that one of America’s scenario’s for the region is changing its political geography. Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country, but the country is not easily divided along ethnic lines. Any attempts would lead to the ethnic communities who live in neighbouring countries becoming involved in the redistribution conflict.
Considering the differences in regional development, Afghanistan would suit a government model in which a strong centre is combined with regions that are independent in many of their functions. Something like the American model, perhaps. But by no means along ethnic lines
For settlement in Afghanistan, it is extremely important to take the religious factor into account. It is possible to meet people in the larger cities who have a relatively secular outlook, but on the whole, the role of Islam in the country, along with its function bearers – the Ulama, remains just as great today as it was in previous phases of history. The social class of the traditional Muslim medieval intelligentsia played and still plays a much more important role in the life of the country than the secular intelligentsia. For many centuries, the Islamic clergy has occupied an important position in Afghan society and is essentially the major consolidating factor. The tradition of the clergy’s involvement in political life (and the obligatory presence of the religious component in political ideology as dominant) was established during the Anglo-Afghan wars and has gradually laid the foundations for the kind of fundamentalism where the bearers later turn into a powerful and wonderfully-organised political force extremely quickly and easily. The Sunni Islamic elite are the main factor conducive to real power potential.
Religious leaders are the force capable of mobilising successful resistance to any central government. This became apparent, in fact, during attempts to introduce into Afghan society both socialist ideas in the 1980s and the democratic experiments of the last decade. A dialogue is needed with the clergy, and only with the condition mentioned above will the dialogue be a successful and nationwide one.
IА REX: What should the international community do to reduce the risk of terrorist and drug threats coming out of Afghanistan today?
AK: The “international community” is a fiction. There are powers or centres of power that are interested in the presence of these kinds of threats; there are countries whose national security is being threatened. I would include the Anglo-Saxon community in the former, the Establishment of which has already publicly declared an interest in reducing the planet’s population. For the USA, for instance, drugs from Afghanistan are not a systemic problem, their export to the USA is of a one-off nature, they are isolated incidents. For Russia, countries of the region and Europe, however, it is actually one of the most serious threats to their security and existence.
In Europe, the main centres for the distribution of Afghan opiates are American air bases in Germany, Italy, Kosovo and Spain. Of these, the main centre is the Bondsteel base in Kosovo. Kosovo was only created in order to create problems for Europe, but the Europeans have deteriorated so much mentally that they apparently do not want to see this or understand it.
External help for settlement in Afghanistan can only be provided by those with an unbiased interest: Russia, Iran, Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and possibly India, onto which many of the threats from Afghanistan are projected.
It is only possible to guarantee stability in Afghanistan by negotiating and finding the necessary compromises. Painstaking negotiation work with the leaders of every community is needed without exception. It needs to be understood that the Taliban is a conglomeration of many different groups.
A full withdrawal of Anglo-Saxon troops from the country needs to be achieved, ways to block external intervention need to be found and an inter-Afghan negotiation mechanism based on the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, for example, needs to be created.
IА REX: Afghanistan is rich in minerals. It has enormous reserves of copper, for example. Is there any chance of refocusing the economy from the production of opiates, for example, to mining?
AK: The answer to that question follows directly from what I have just said. Yes, there are a great number of minerals, including one of the largest copper deposits in the world at Aynak in Afghanistan’s Logar province, which is what you are referring to. In 2007, the Chinese state company China Metallurgical Corporation won a bid to mine the copper deposit. The economy needs to stabilise, however. In the meantime, the Chinese are able to spend a minuscule amount of time on the development of this project.
At present, Chinese companies are working on oil and gas fields in the north, particularly in the Jowzjan province. But I do not think that any of the most important projects will be carried out without at least some degree of stability having been achieved first. If companies from China, Russia and Iran are going to be working in Afghanistan, they will face direct opposition from the Anglo-Saxons by way of the separate Taliban groups they are in control of…
As for the drugs, one should not start with Afghanistan, but with its transit. The price of heroin, starting from the plantation where the raw opium is cultivated and ending with the consumers in Europe, increases a hundredfold.
The Afghan farmer makes a matter of pennies from this production process, but those further along the chain earn millions and billions and simply do not allow the farmers to give up production. Opium is a guaranteed sale – the buyers go to the fields themselves. For the farmers, there is a credit system.
By way of example, for the harvesting of wheat or sesame from a hectare of land, the farmer would not receive the same as he would earn from that same hectare if it was opium, although neither is very much. So what should be done with the harvest? Who, in a country at war, is going to travel through the fields and gather in that kind of produce? When it comes to opium, however, they travel and they gather it in.
It is an enormous international corporation which involves not only the law-enforcement agencies of whole countries, but also the heads of a number of states. So far, the greatest chances of dealing with at least its transit have been demonstrated by Iran. This has even been recognised by the UN, where the Iranian government has few friends. For any activities associated with drugs there is the death penalty. I am convinced that this is more than humane when you think of the results of these activities for a great number of other people…

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Four Afghan children killed in US raid

By Bill Van Auken 
24 October 2012
The killing of four children in a US raid and the disappearance and murder of civilians at the hands of occupation troops have provoked growing anger and protests among the people of Afghanistan.
With the US-led war now in its twelfth year, violence against the country’s population continues to mount. The latest incidents were confirmed by the office of Afghanistan’s puppet president, Hamid Karzai, on Tuesday. The worst of them took place on Sunday in the eastern province of Logar, just south of Kabul.
Citing a report from the provincial governor, Mohammad Iqbal Azizi, a statement from Karzai’s office recounted: “NATO forces carried out an operation on Sunday afternoon to detain two armed militants, but resulted in killing four innocent children who were just grazing animals.”
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) acknowledged Tuesday that civilians may have been killed in the raid. Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, offered “condolences to the families” and said officers would be sent out to “offer a condolence payment and express our deep regret.”
The slaughter of the children in Logar comes just one week after ISAF issued a formal apology for the killing of three other children in an air strike conducted in southern Helmand province’s Nawa district. A teenage girl and two young boys were killed in the October 14 strike, which the occupation command claimed had been directed against “insurgents” planting improvised explosive devises (IED). Witnesses, however, said that only the bodies of the children, who had been collecting firewood, were found at the scene.
According to estimates by the United Nations, the war in Afghanistan killed or wounded more than 578 children in the first six months of 2012. A UN report issued in August found that during the first half of this year, two-thirds of the victims of US and NATO air strikes in Afghanistan were women and children.
In his debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney Monday night, President Barack Obama spoke of the US intervention as a “nation-building experiment.” In fact, the war has left the country devastated, exacting its greatest toll upon Afghanistan’s children.
While Washington has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the country since the 2001 invasion, Afghanistan still has the world’s highest infant mortality rate, with one out of four children dying before reaching the age of five.
In his statement Tuesday, Karzai declared, “Despite repeated pledges by NATO to avoid civilian casualties, innocent lives, including children, are still being lost.”
The second incident condemned by Karzai was a joint military operation carried out by US troops and Afghan puppet forces in southern Zabul province, near the Pakistan border, on October 13. In the midnight raid, four civilians were taken away, according to the Afghan president’s statement, and three of them have since disappeared.
Nearly 1,000 people demonstrated Monday in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, blocking the Kandahar-Kabul highway to protest against the operation and continuing US-led night raids. These raids, which, after air strikes, are the leading cause of civilian casualties inflicted by occupation forces, are deeply unpopular in Afghanistan.
According to Pajhwok Afghan News, the demonstration in Qalat was sparked by a more recent raid in which two tailors were arrested. It quoted one of the organizers of the protest, Abdul Qadir Qalatwal, a member of the local parliament, as saying that the “beheaded bodies of the tailors were dumped in a desert before being blown up.”
The news agency reported that the Zabul governor’s office had confirmed the deaths of the two men and “had sought clarity from the NATO-led force.”
ISAF confirmed that civilians had been detained in both raids, but claimed that in the October 13 incident they had been released, while in the October 20 operation, they had been “turned over to Afghan police.”
The obvious question raised by the two incidents is whether US forces are detaining individuals suspected of supporting the resistance to foreign occupation and then turning them over to an Afghan death squad for elimination.
In their debate Monday night, both Obama and Romney insisted that the “surge” that tripled the number of US troops deployed in Afghanistan under Obama was a success, and that a “transition” to Afghan responsibility for security in the country would be completed in December 2014, with US troops coming home.
Both men know that this is a lie. Obama administration officials are currently negotiating the terms of a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the Karzai regime that would see an estimated 25,000 US troops, largely Green Berets and other Special Operations units, stay behind for another decade or more.
Both parties are committed to pursing the aims that drove the invasion to begin with, along with the subsequent war in Iraq: the use of military force to assert US hegemony over the strategic energy reserves of the Caspian Basin and the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, the rosy projections about the readiness of the Afghan troops and police to assume responsibility for security continue to be denied by those most involved in training them.
Quoting US military officers and officials, the Washington Post reported Saturday that claims Afghanistan’s 352,000-strong security forces are prepared to take over from the US-led occupation are patently false. According to the Post: “No Afghan army battalion is capable of operating without US advisers. Many policemen spend more time shaking down people for bribes than patrolling. Front-line units often do not receive the fuel, food and spare parts they need to function. Intelligence, aviation and medical services remain embryonic. And perhaps most alarming, an increasing number of Afghan soldiers and policemen are turning their weapons on their US and NATO partners.”
The article, based on interviews with a dozen active-duty officers involved in the training of Afghan forces, makes it clear that in the rush to build the number of Afghan troops and police up to 352,000, Washington has failed to provide adequate training or sufficiently vet the security forces for sympathizers of the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.
“The army is so hollow that some of those units are just going to collapse,” a Special Forces major involved in the training program told the Post.

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Children Under Attack in Pakistan and Afghanistan

By Dave Lindorff
October 20, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Six children were attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Three of them, teenaged girls on a school bus in Peshawar, in the tribal region of western Pakistan, were shot and gravely wounded by two Taliban gunmen who were after Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has been bravely demanding the right of girls to an education. After taking a bullet to the head, and facing further death threats, she has been moved to a specialty hospital in Britain. Her two wounded classmates are being treated in Pakistan.
The other three children were not so lucky. They were killed Sunday in an aerial attack by a US aircraft in the the Nawa district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, not so far from Pakistan. The attack, described by the military as a “precision strike,” was reportedly aimed at several Taliban fighters who were allegedly planting an IED in the road, but the strike also killed three children, Borjan, 12; Sardar Wali, 10; and Khan Bibi, 8, all from one family, who were right nearby collecting dung for fuel.
Initially, as is its standard MO, the US denied that any children had been killed and insisted that the aircraft had targeted three “Taliban” fighters, and had successfully killed them. Only later, as evidence grew indesputable that the three children had also been killed, the US switched to its standard fallback position for atrocities in the Afghanistan War and its other wars: it announced that it was “investigating” the incident and said that it “regretted” any civilian deaths.
There are several questions that arise immediately from this second story. First of all, if the three kids were close enough to be killed by this “precision” attack, they were surely also close enough to have been visible to whatever surveillance craft was monitoring the activities of the Taliban fighters, and if they were seen, there should have been no air strike called in. Second, the US, allegedly trying to reduce civilian casualties, is supposedly now operating its air attacks under rules of engagement that only allow strikes where there is “imminent danger” to US or allied forces. How is planting an IED an “imminent” danger? If the location is known, troops in the area can be alerted, and the IED removed or detonated. An identified IED is not an imminent threat.
The American media have been awash in coverage of the attack on the three Pakistani girls, and on the fate of the courageous girl’s education advocate, young Malala.
Dead children killed by US airstrike and Malala Yusufzai, 14-year-old victim of Taliban fanatics in Pakistan
Dead children killed by US airstrike and Malala Yusufzai, 14-year-old victim of Taliban fanatics in Pakistan

 
Not so the deaths of the three Afghan kids. They didn’t even merit their own article in the nation’s leading newspaper, The New York Times, which simply inserted a couple of paragraphs concerning their deaths near the end of an article about so-called “green-on-blue killings” of US troops by their supposed Afghan Army allies (two Americans were killed in one such attack on Saturday).
The contrast between the two attacks on children is even greater when it comes to the response in the two countries, Pakistan and the US. In Pakistan, after the attack on Malala and her two classmates, tens of thousands of Pakistanis turned out in demonstrations to protest the actions of the Taliban fanatics and to demand that they be caught and punished (there have been arrests of two alleged perpetrators). The Pakistani government vowed to prosecute the would-be killers, and has paid to have Malala transferred to a safer and better hospital in the UK. It is also providing armed guards to protect the other two girls.
Meanwhile, in the US, most people don’t even know that their own military just blew away three young Afghan children. The sad truth is, even if they did know, they wouldn’t really care. There’d be no outpouring onto the streets of people demanding a halt to the air attacks and the drone killings. Only 28% of Americans say they object to America’s drone warfare, though it is clear that drone attacks are leading to the deaths of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of innocent civilians. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, a survey of 20 countries about reactions to drone warfare found that in the US only 28 % of Americans said they disapproved of America’s drone warfare campaign. In countries that are normally America’s allies, like Britain, Germany and Japan, disapproval rates were 47%, 59% and 75% respectively. In the US, the survey found 62 % of Americans actively support drone warfare, giving America the distinction of being the only country surveyed in which a majority of the public supports killing by drone.
The attackers of the three schoolgirls in Pakistan, who have been arrested already, will almost certainly be imprisoned for their heinous crimes. Not so the pilot and the targeting personnel who called in his deadly strike that led to the deaths of three Afghan children. They will come home from the war hailed as “heroes” by any Americans they meet. People will pass them and say, “Thank you for your service” — even though that “service” includes killing little children.
I leave it to readers to imagine how they think this impacts on the parents and relatives of the children who were killed by America’s “brave” military. I know though that if a foreign military blew my kids away with impunity and for nothing, they would in that moment create an enemy for life–and Liam Neeson’s character would have nothing on me in terms of my desire to exact vengeance, either.
Those befuddled Americans who are still asking, “Why do they hate us?” should think about this a bit.
___________________________
UPDATE: The US is going to extraordinary lengths to pretend it did not target innocent children in this strike, which it now says was done not by a plane dropping a bomb, but by a guided missile (presumably fired by a plane or a drone, since it had to be steered real time to its dimunitive targets). In a report in the New York Times, which publication itself went to great lengths to offer its own imagined ideas as to why the military could not be blamed for targeting these children, the Pentagon offered up that the children “appeared” to have been “used” by the Taliban to “emplace” the IED. There is no proof offered for this conjecture.
In any event, the point remains that the children should have been readily identifiable in any surveillance video, given the shorter length of their shadows in an October sun. And more importantly, the US is not supposed to do air strikes unless there is an “imminent danger” to allied or Afghan troops, and the placing of an IED, witnessed and filmed so its location would be known, cannot be considered an imminent threat.
The US and the Times cannot seem to get their story straight either. In the lead to the article, NATO command is said to have reported that the children were killed by an “artillery strike” that was called in. Later, a NATO official is quoted as saying a guided missile was used.
So much lying inevitably leads to confusion and contradiction.
The truth: three little kids were killed by US forces who target them in violation of their own operating rules on use of force as agreed to with the Afghan government. Although the Times headline reads “Questions Raised in Deaths of Afghan Children in Coalition (sic) Strike,” that question is not mentioned. Nor does the Times honestly report that it was a US strike, not a euphemistic “Coalition” strike.
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening

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Afghanistan: Video Shows Drunk, Stoned US Defense Contractors

Video
October 18, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Cellphone footage obtained exclusively by ABC appears to show a group of drunken, stoned U.S. security contractors in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
In the video, a bare-chested man identified as a security manager working for Jorge Scientific hobbles around, barely conscious in front of the camera. A second man, who is said to be the company’s medical officer, stares into the lens, apparently under influence of drugs.
ABC reports that Jorge Scientific had won a $47 million U.S. government contract to train Afghan police. The network says it obtained the video from two former employees of the company, who claim similar incidents occurred frequently.
The contractor, Virginia-based Jorge Scientific, has won almost $1 billion in U.S. government contracts.
 
See also 114k US contractors active in Afghan war: As of July, nearly 114,000 contractors were working for the US Defense Department in Afghanistan, compared to the 90,000 American troops in the country at the time, AFP reported Thursday, quoting “official statistics.”

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On the Killing of Eight Afghan Women

By John Dear S.J.
October 06, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – If you looked carefully at the news last week, you might have heard a report from Afghanistan about how the U.S./NATO forces bombed and killed eight Afghan women who were out walking in the mountains early in the morning before dawn to collect wood. Eight other women were seriously injured.
But you probably didn’t hear that story. Who cares about the death of eight Afghan women from our bombs?
So a few women were killed in our nation’s longest war in a remote mountainous region on the other side of the world. That’s the cost of war. That’s what we call “collateral damage.” There’s nothing that can be done. It was probably their fault anyway. They were probably Taliban rebels. Don’t give it another thought. What about poor Lindsay Lohan, Kate Middleton, or Katie Holmes? Now there’s a real story.
That’s what the culture of war would tell us.
The Gospel of peace suggests otherwise. Jesus always, always, always sides with those most marginalized, threatened and hurt by the culture of war, beginning with women and children. If we Christians take the Gospel seriously, then we know the nonviolent Jesus grieves for these women, welcomes them into paradise, and holds in contempt the forces of death that killed them. In other words, the nonviolent Jesus cares — and so should we who claim to follow him.
I know this sounds harsh and judgmental, but what is our response to our nation’s massacre of these eight women and the hundreds of other women and children we’ve killed in Afghanistan?
This week, I invite us to spend some time meditating on those eight women, who were out walking before dawn in the harsh stony landscape in the Laghman Province, near the village of Dilaram, east of Kabul, trying to gather some wood for the morning fire to cook a little food for their families. Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, they are blown up by our fighter bombers. “Operation Enduring Freedom” strikes again.
Think of their lives. Think of their poverty. Think of them walking in the dark before dawn. Think of the struggle they endured just to survive life in the harshest environment on the planet: Afghanistan. And think of that ever-present threat of death hanging over them — our war planes, fighter bombers and drones, under the benevolent auspices of NATO, ostensibly on the lookout to protect Afghan women from the Taliban. (Of course, we now know that our war is all about natural resources, setting up a new oil pipeline from Iraq through Iran through Afghanistan, a conduit for natural gas and fossil fuels from the basin of the Caspian Sea, and of course, creating a new strategic outpost for the U.S. empire on the border of its future enemy, China.)
The U.S. said afterward its bombing attack was “targeting 45 insurgents,” but tragically, it killed the eight women. The Pentagon offered its “deepest regrets and sympathies” to the families and loved ones of the civilians killed and injured.
Afterward, dozens of tribesmen from Alingar drove to the provincial capital of Mihtarlam, carrying the bodies of some of the women who were killed. They stopped outside the governor’s office and shouted, “Death to America!” Pictures of the dead women were front-page news in Asian newspapers, such as The Times of India. Millions of people around the world grieve for these women and rage against the American empire and its wars. There’s no wonder that riots and attacks against American embassies occur almost daily now.
“Scant attention is paid to the plight of the families whose mothers have been slain by U.S./NATO military forces which claim state of the art drone surveillance capacity,” Kathy Kelly wrote in an email to me after I asked for her comments about the killings. She’s now on her way again to Afghanistan, where she spent much of the summer. “And yet, U.S. officials have repeatedly claimed that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is necessary to protect women and children. In spite of the constant drone surveillance which purportedly supplies the U.S. military with intelligence about patterns of life in Afghanistan, the U.S. military seemed unaware that women typically scour the mountainsides looking for firewood so that they can heat water and prepare meals. A BBC video shows that other women and girls who survived the attack are now hospitalized because of their severe injuries. By now, news coverage of families in the Alingar District is likely over, but the effects of this attack will forever alter the lives of the injured survivors, their families and the families and friends of those who were killed.”
Almost 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in our 11-year war on Afghanistan. How many civilians have we killed in Afghanistan? The Guardian of London says in the last six years, 12,793 civilians have been killed. Wikipedia features dozens of reports and puts the numbers generally at “tens of thousands,” but says that’s an underestimate. In other words, no one knows. And, it seems, few care. Or perhaps the Pentagon will never allow those numbers to be known.
Earlier this year, for example, a U.S. Army sergeant shot and killed 16 innocent Afghan civilians. Nine of them were children; one was a 3-year-old girl. He shot many of them in the head before he piled together 11 of the bodies and set them on fire.
These days, I’m preparing to head to Los Angeles to lead a retreat on the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies,” Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount, “then you will be sons and daughters of your heavenly God who lets the sun shine on the good and the bad and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” St. Augustine responded a few centuries later that sometimes the best way to love our enemies is to kill them. Others likewise rejected the nonviolence of Jesus and created the pagan just war theory that still determines our social outlook today. But Jesus calls us to an entirely new way of relating with everyone on the planet. He has something to say about our nation’s killing of these women.
For the record, the Gospel insists: No cause is worth the death of a single human being. We are called to practice universal nonviolent love. This stupid, senseless, evil war is not worth the death of these eight women, not to mention the tens of thousands of other civilians killed, or the many more combatants.
We need to end this war immediately. It’s a useless exercise in mass murder. For those of us who dare claim to be Christian, it goes against everything the nonviolent Jesus stands for.
“Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus says at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. Blessed are the peacemakers.” We won’t hear these teachings discussed in the presidential debates, but this is what we should all be addressing — the need to fulfill Jesus’ vision and create a new world without war, poverty and bombs.
I invite us to spend some time these days mourning and grieving the deaths of these eight women and all those killed in our senseless war in Afghanistan. I hope their deaths will touch us, break our hearts, lead us back to the God of peace, and push us to stand up and demand an end to this war and all our global war-making.
Together, let us pray for them, the women and children of Afghanistan, for all our own people who are dropping the bombs, and the end of this war. Let us pray that instead, we might make restitution, rebuild Afghanistan and start down the new road of creative nonviolence.
John Dear is an American Catholic priest, Christian pacifist, author and lecturer. He has been arrested over 75 times in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience against war, injustice and nuclear weapons.
This article was originally posted at NCR

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US troop deaths in Afghanistan top 2,000

2 October 2012
The 2,000th American soldier died in Afghanistan last weekend as the result of a so-called “insider” attack, underscoring the crisis of the 11-year-old US occupation. The 2,000 mark was quickly surpassed, with another three US troops losing their lives in a suicide bombing in the eastern city of Khost that killed at least 14 others, including a translator and six Afghan policemen.
The grim milestone actually underestimates the toll of what stands as America’s longest war. It counts only those US troops killed on Afghan soil. At least another 100 have died from their wounds after exiting the country.
This is not to mention the more than 17,000 US troops who have been wounded in the Afghan war, many of them suffering loss of limbs and grievous brain injuries, nor the many more who have returned from the colonial-style war with serious psychological and emotional trauma.
More than two-thirds of the US deaths in Afghanistan have come since Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, after winning the election in large measure due to popular antiwar sentiment and revulsion over the militarist policies of the Bush administration.
That election demonstrated that the US political system offers no means for working people, the vast majority of the population, to express their opposition to war. Whatever their vote and whatever the candidates’ empty promises, the decisions are made by an unelected and unaccountable military-intelligence apparatus, based on the interests of a financial aristocracy determined to use militarism to extend its global grip.
The current election is no different. Both Obama and Romney are committed to continuing US operations in Afghanistan and to a bellicose policy leading to war against Iran.
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan attacked the Obama administration Monday over last month’s withdrawal of 22,000 troops from Afghanistan, the last of the so-called surge force Obama sent into the war. Some 68,000 American soldiers and Marines continue to occupy the country–twice the number that were there when Obama entered the White House–along with nearly 40,000 NATO and other foreign forces.
The Republicans support Obama’s December 2014 deadline for pulling out all US “combat troops,” a term of art used to conceal the fact that tens of thousands will remain after that date. But they have criticized him for publicly announcing the withdrawal date.
As if leaving the 22,000 troops until after the election, or keeping the end-of-2014 deadline a secret would change the debacle confronting US imperialism in Afghanistan!
The depth of this morass was made clear by the cause of the 2,000th US military death in Afghanistan. The soldier was killed at a checkpoint in Wardak Province, west of Kabul, in a confrontation between American troops and soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA). Also killed in the clash were three Afghan troops and an American civilian contractor, who was a trainer for Afghan security forces.
This brings to at least 53 the number of US-NATO troops killed by their ostensible Afghan allies so far this year. These “green on blue” attacks now make up 20 percent of the casualties among the US-led occupation forces.
The US command has taken a series of measures, from ordering US troops to keep loaded weapons at hand at all times on bases shared with Afghan forces to the fielding of so-called guardian angel teams, whose job it is to guard other American soldiers against their supposed Afghan allies. Afghan counter-intelligence agents have been sent into the ranks to try to root out insurgent sympathizers.
The latest killing came as the Pentagon ended a suspension of joint operations with Afghan forces that was imposed after a series of such attacks and in the face of global outrage over the virulent anti-Muslim film produced in the US.
Nothing has seemed to stem the attacks, which reflect the deep-seated popular hatred of US and other foreign forces after more than a decade of occupation. This repeated killing of American troops by puppet forces they are assigned to train is unprecedented in modern warfare. It did not happen in either Korea or Vietnam. The effect is demoralizing and leads to ever escalating suspicions and hostilities between US and Afghan puppet troops.
In an interview on the CBS News program “60 Minutes” Sunday night, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, called these so-called “insider” killings “the signature attack” of the Afghanistan war. Expressing deep frustration, General Allen, who is soon to be replaced as the Afghanistan commander, declared: “Well, I’m mad as hell about them, to be honest with you … It reverberates everywhere across the United States … We’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign, but we’re not willing to be murdered for it.”
Attempting to put a positive spin on the increasingly desperate situation, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen admitted that the insider attacks had “undermined trust and confidence” between foreign occupation troops and their ANA counterparts, but predicted the next year would see a “seamless” transition to the “new mission” after 2014.
However, the German intelligence service, the BND, has provided a more sober assessment. In a classified document entitled “Afghanistan Until 2014–A Forecast,” which was leaked to Der Spiegel magazine, the spy agency warns that the attacks by members of the Afghan security forces on US and other foreign troops will only worsen between now and December 2014.
It warns that such attacks will continue and may even increase after that official “withdrawal” date, when it predicts 35,000 foreign military personnel will remain deployed in Afghanistan, including trainers for the Afghan army, special forces troops deployed to hunt down insurgents, and combat troops assigned to protect the foreign forces.
In other words, behind the backs of the people of the US and the NATO countries, an unending military occupation and continuing dirty war are being prepared in Afghanistan, even as Washington and Israel ratchet up preparations for an even bloodier war against Iran.
The overwhelming majority of the American people oppose both these wars, but have no means of imposing their will within the existing political system dominated by two capitalist parties.
The threat of a wider war can be fought only through the independent political intervention of the working class in the US and internationally, fighting against the capitalist profit system which is the source of militarism.
The demand must be raised for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan, a halt to US aggression against Iran, and the dismantling of Washington’s military machine. This will free up hundreds of billions of dollars for reparations to the victims of US military aggression and for the creation of jobs and the raising of living standards for working people in the US and around the globe.
Bill Van Auken

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At Milestone, US Military Deaths Dwarfed by Afghan Dead

As 2,000th American soldier killed in Afghanistan makes headlines, estimates put Afghan civilian dead at over 20,000
By Common Dreams 
September 30, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – The latest green-on-blue shooting in Afghanistan, a firefightwhich left at least five people dead including two Americans, has put the total number of US soldiers killed in the war at 2,000.
The tragic milestone highlights the ongoing dangerous conditions for US and NATO soldiers in the war-torn country, but also serves as a reminder that though accurate and timely reports follow each death of a western soldier killed in Afghanistan, the death of ordinary civilians caught in the middle of a war that has dragged on for nearly eleven years are hardly mentioned at all.
Part of this story is that for most of the war statistics of Afghan civilians killed were not kept at all. From the end of August, 2012 to when the United Nations began keeping track in 2007 (six years after the US/NATO invasion), the UN estimates that 13,431 Afghan civilians had been killed. 
Looking at the entirety of the war, most (conservative) estimates put the number of civilian Afghan dead at over 20,000.
To put it plainly: for every US soldier killed in a war that fewer and fewer seem willing to defend or explain, ten innocent Afghan civilians—doing their best to go about their under constant violent threat—are killed in war that eleven years later shows no sign of ending.
This article was originally posted at Common Dreams

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Taliban outflanks US war strategy

By Gareth Porter and Shah Noori 
WASHINGTON/KABUL – Sharply increased attacks on US and other international forces personnel by Afghan security forces, reflecting both infiltration of and Taliban influence on those forces, appear to have outflanked the US-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command’s strategy for maintaining control of the insurgency. 
The Taliban-instigated “insider attacks”, which have already killed 51 NATO troops in 2012 – already 45% more than in all of 2011 – have created such distrust of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and national police that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command has suspended joint operations by NATO forces with Afghan security units smaller than the 800-strong battalion of Kandak and vowed to limit them in the future. 
ISAF had intended to carry out intensive partnering and advising of ANA and police units below battalion level through 2012 to get them ready to take responsibility for Afghan security. Now, however, that strategy appears to have been disrupted by the insider attacks, and Afghan military and civilian officials are seriously concerned. 
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta sought to minimize the crisis in US war strategy Tuesday by calling the inside attacks on NATO troops the “last gasp” of a Taliban insurgency that has been “unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost”. The “last gasp” phrase recalls then Vice-President Dick Cheney’s infamous 2005 claim that the Iraqi insurgency was “in its last throes”. 
But General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has no apparent personal stake in touting the existing strategy in Afghanistan, called the attacks “a very serious threat to the campaign” in an interview on Saturday. 
“You can’t whitewash it,” said Dempsey. “We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change.” 
The ISAF command also tried to downplay the significance of the decision, portraying it as “temporary” and not unlike previous adjustments to high threat conditions. The ISAF press release vowed that it would “return to normal operations as soon as conditions warrant”. 
But the Taliban have power over whether conditions return to a level that would allow resumption of the joint operations between NATO and Afghan forces, which have been touted as the key to preparing the ANA and the police to cope with the Taliban on their own. The Taliban have achieved a strategic coup by creating a high degree of US-NATO fear and mistrust of the Afghan forces. 
Even if some joint operations are resumed, moreover, they will be limited to those approved by regional commanders, according to the new policy. And White House spokesman Jay Carney appeared to contradict the ISAF “return to normal operations” language, telling reporters, “Most partnering and advising will now be at the battalion level and above.” 
ISAF Commander General John Allen has tried in the past to minimize the role of the Taliban in the insider killings, suggesting that as little as 10% of the Afghan soldiers and police who killed NATO troops were Taliban infiltrators. Most of the killers acted out of personal anger at their Western advisers, Allen argued. 
But Allen also conceded that, in addition to Taliban infiltrators, some Afghan troops may have acted out of “radicalization or having become susceptible to extremist ideology”. 
New evidence suggests that the Taliban had influenced a number of ANA and police who killed NATO personnel. Last month, the Taliban’s media arm released a video showing a Taliban commander in eastern Kunar province welcoming two ANA soldiers who they said had killed US and Afghan troops earlier in the year. Based on the video, the Long War Journal judged that neither of the soldiers had been a Taliban infiltrator but had made the decision in response to Taliban urging. 
Douglas Ollivant, who was senior counterinsurgency adviser to the US commander of the regional command for eastern Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, told IPS the evidence indicates that most Afghan personnel who killed NATO troops and were not already Taliban when they joined the security forces had later become “de facto infiltrators”. 
In the Afghan rural social context, the local Taliban and the Afghan troops and soldiers “all know each other”, Ollivant said. “It’s not like they are from two different planets.” 
Lieutenant Colonel Danny Davis, who traveled extensively across Afghanistan during his 2010-2011 tour of duty there, found evidence that the Taliban had indeed achieved influence over the Afghan security forces who were supposed to be helping US-NATO forces root out the insurgents. 
In a draft report he wrote earlier this year, which had circulated within the US government and was leaked to Rolling Stone magazine, Davis wrote, “In almost every combat outpost I visited this year, the troopers reported to me they had intercepted radio or other traffic between the ANSF and the local Taliban making essentially mini-nonaggression deals with each other.” 
In Zharay district of Kandahar province, Davis wrote, he found the Afghan security forces were “in league with the Taliban”. 
Taliban spiritual and political leader Mullah Omar issued a statement August 16 saying the Taliban had “cleverly infiltrated the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given them last year.” Omar also called on Afghan security personnel to “defect and joint the Taliban as matter of religious duty”. 
For many months the US has been putting intense pressure on the Afghan government to prevent such killings by “revetting” the personnel files of ANA and police personnel. Just last week, the government announced that it had removed “hundreds” of security forces from its ranks. 
But there is very little the Afghan government can do to ensure against Afghan troops turning against NATO. “Vetting is virtually impossible in a place like Afghanistan,” former British commander Colonel Richard Kemp told the Guardian. 
There are no detailed files on the young recruits into the army and police. The only information on the vast majority of new recruits is a statement from village elders vouching for them. 
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, senior fellow and director of communications at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, told IPS that US officers in Afghanistan don’t believe the Afghan government’s efforts to identify potential Taliban infiltrators or sympathizers will slow the pace of insider killings. “They are all saying it isn’t going to have any effect,” said Shaffer. 
The decision by ISAF to pull back from joint operations with smaller Afghan units is regarded by Afghan officials and observers as a major boost to the Taliban and a potentially serious blow to the already shaky ANA and police. 
Retired ANA General Atiqullah Amarkhail acknowledged in an interview with IPS that insider attacks “have destroyed the NATO trust in the Afghan security forces”. The halt in joint operations with Afghan security forces will “really embolden and raise the morale of the Taliban”, he said. “The Taliban consider that they have achieved the goal they have been working for and are proud that they made coalition forces stop helping Afghan security forces.” 
Amarkhail said he doesn’t believe the ANA will be able to conduct operations without the help of NATO forces, because of poor coordination among Afghan security forces and its lack of modern weapons. 
“If the foreign forces do not support and leave the Afghan Army in the present condition, things will get worse,” said Amarkhail. He expressed the fear that the result could be that different elements within the ANA will “turn their guns on each other”. 
Dawoud Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand Province Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal, also expressed the fear that the ANA in the province will not be able to operate effectively against the Taliban if ISAF halts joint operations with the ANA at lower unit levels. 
The spokesman told IPS, “We have problems in Helmand province, especially in the North. If NATO doesn’t help in conducting operations at lower level, the Afghan security forces will face problems, because they are not yet ready to launch operations on their own in that part of the province.” 
Shah Noori reported from Kabul. Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the US war in Afghanistan. 
(Inter Press Service)

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Attacks force US to halt joint operations with Afghan troops

By Bill Van Auken 
19 September 2012
A steady escalation of so-called insider attacks has forced the Pentagon to indefinitely suspend all joint patrols and combat training with Afghan security forces, effectively upending Washington’s strategy for maintaining US control over Afghanistan.
ISAF, the NATO umbrella for the decade-old US-led occupation, announced on Tuesday that it was suspending joint operations below battalion level. The order was issued by Lt. Gen. James Terry, the second highest ranking US officer in Afghanistan. It reportedly came without any warning to British commanders and other NATO forces.
The move follows a series of attacks on US-NATO troops over the weekend and comes amid mounting popular outrage against the United States triggered by a provocative anti-Muslim film posted on the Internet. Violent demonstrations that have swept the Middle East, North Africa and Asia have erupted in Afghanistan as well.
Tuesday saw a suicide bombing near Kabul airport that killed 14 people, including eight South African employees of an aviation company working under contract for the US occupation. Hezb-i-Islami, an armed opposition group, claimed responsibility for the attack. It said it was in retaliation for the anti-Muslim film and had been carried out by a female suicide bomber.
Of greatest concern to the US occupation command are the so-called “green-on-blue” or “insider” attacks, in which members of the Afghan army and police have turned their guns on American or other foreign troops training or patrolling with them.
Such an attack claimed the lives of four US troops and wounded two others on Sunday in southern Zabul province. Afghan police opened fire on the American soldiers at a checkpoint in the Mazan district. Just the day before, two British soldiers were shot to death by an Afghan policeman at a checkpoint in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province, also in the south of the country.
In a third attack on Sunday evening, an Afghan soldier at a base in Helmand fired on a vehicle, wounding civilian contract workers. He said afterwards that he had believed that foreign occupation troops were in the vehicle when he attacked it.
These latest attacks bring to 51 the number US and other foreign troops killed by their supposed allies in the Afghan security forces since the year began.
The US military has never in its history confronted such attacks from ostensibly allied forces fielded by a local puppet regime. While the Pentagon alternately attempted to dismiss the killings as the product of unrelated individual grievances or the work of Taliban infiltrators, the growing number and widespread character of the attacks are an expression of the intense popular hostility to the US-led occupation, now in its eleventh year.
The US-led command in Afghanistan linked the order curtailing joint operations with Afghan forces to the wave of outrage that has swept the Muslim world and Afghanistan itself. The country has seen demonstrations erupt in violent clashes outside Camp Phoenix, a US base on the outskirts of Kabul, on Monday, and in the northern city of Kunduz on Tuesday, where several hundred university students set fire to pictures of President Barack Obama and battled police.
“Recent events outside of and inside Afghanistan related to the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video, plus the conduct of recent insider attacks, have given cause for ISAF troops to exercise increased vigilance and carefully review all activities and interactions with the local population,” said ISAF spokesman Jamie Graybeal.
Last February saw a surge in such killings, amid angry demonstrations provoked by an incident in which US troops tried to burn copies of the Koran at a military base garbage dump. Among the dead then were two senior US officers shot execution-style inside the Afghan interior ministry in Kabul.
But these attacks have continued unabated without the need of additional religious provocations.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a candid assessment Sunday of the significance of the “green-on-blue” attacks, describing them as “a very serious threat” to US military strategy in Afghanistan. “We’re all seized with the problem,” he said. “You can’t whitewash it.”
Yet in the wake of these comments, US and NATO officials set out precisely to “whitewash” the deep-going crisis the attacks have created within the US-led occupation. Speaking in Tokyo Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta attributed the insider attacks to the Taliban, describing them as “kind of a last gasp effort to be able to not only target our forces, but to try to create chaos, because they’ve been unable—unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost.”
Panetta insisted that the attacks would not disrupt Washington’s “basic plan” and that the US military would continue “transitioning areas to Afghan security and governance.”
Similarly, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described the halt to joint operations as a “prudent and temporary” measure, adding that “our strategy remains the same.”
The reality, however, is that the attacks and the resulting breakdown of trust between US occupation troops and the Afghan puppet forces have called the US strategy into serious question.
This strategy calls for the US and its NATO allies to train some 350,000 Afghan security forces to conduct counter-insurgency operations after US combat forces are withdrawn at the end of 2014. The plan envisions an estimated 20,000 US troops remaining in the country after that date, with small units embedded in the Afghan forces as “trainers” and “advisers”, while US special operations hunter-killer squads continue carrying out attacks.
This week’s order to curtail joint operations follows a Pentagon directive earlier this month that ended training by US Special Forces of the so-called Afghan Local Police, a collection of village militias set up by the Pentagon that have been implicated in human rights abuses and corruption. Last month, members of an ALP unit shot and killed two US Special Forces troops.
NATO spokesmen in Afghanistan claimed that training and advising Afghan units was continuing “on the battalion level.” What this means is that smaller units are not participating directly alongside Afghan forces in the field, which is resulting in paralysis. Few Afghan units are judged by the US military as capable of operating on their own.
An Afghan general in Helmand province made this clear to the Washington Post. “It will be really difficult for us to conduct any operation without the NATO troops’ presence on the ground, because we really need them,” said the general.
The Post reported that in Wardak province, south of Kabul, after US forces were pulled from joint operations, “Afghan army commanders … decided not to patrol without support from US troops and cancelled planned missions.”
The rosy assessments provided by Panetta and Rasmussen notwithstanding, the changes in relations between US-NATO occupation troops and Afghan puppet forces in response to the “green on blue” attacks calls into question the withdrawal timetable, raising the threat that larger numbers of US troops will have to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely.
This crisis is unfolding under conditions in which neither of the two major parties have brought the issue of Afghanistan into the US 2012 presidential election. Whatever strategy is pursued to secure US imperialist interests in the country will be worked out behind the backs of the American people.

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Soap Opera Over Kabul

Not the Roman Legions

By Fred Reed
September 04, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Oh lordy, lordy, how I love the Afghan war: It just goes on and on, without end. By comparison death and taxes seem long shots.
In the latest episode of this long-running sitcom, the Afghan army is killing GIs. Yes. Blowing them away right and left. In Washington, the Five-Sided Wind Tunnel is in shock and maybe awe. It has stopped training Afghan troops because it is scared of them. It has ordered our soldiers to stay armed to protect themselves against our devoted allies, to whom we are bringing democracy, because they want to kill us. 
How can this be, you ask? The brass are puzzled too. The reason can’t be that Afghans don’t like night raids, torture, GIs going house to house and shooting women and kids, drone strikes blowing up weddings, and other routine mechanisms of democratization. Instead, it must be…Taliban infiltrators. Yes. This being decided, all is now well. Just as the military calls routine atrocities “isolated incidents,” it attributes Afghani hostility to Taliban infiltrators. Problem solved. In the modern marketing military, you don’t need a solution, just a saleable explanation.
OK. In the Guardian, I learn that actual Pentagonal military psycho-wonks have done a study on what Afghans and gringos think of each other. (report) Saith the Guardian:
“One group sees the other as a bunch of violent, reckless, intrusive, arrogant, self-serving, profane, infidel bullies hiding behind high technology; and the other group [the US soldiers] generally view the former as a bunch of cowardly, incompetent, obtuse, thieving, complacent, lazy, pot-smoking, treacherous, and murderous radicals. Such is the state of progress in the current partnering programme. Over a decade of fighting shoulder-to-shoulder had created mutual loathing that was impossible to camouflage.”
Who would have thought it?
Anybody with the slighytest acquaintance with reality. Tell you what, brothels and cisterns, I could have written every word of it, and I’ve never been to Afghanistan. It’s Viet Nam all over again. Which means that it’s all over, again. GIs and Afghans hate each other.
What do you expect when you put combative, not too bright, half-educated, unsophisticated lower-middle-class guys into an illiterate thirteenth-century culture with a history of detesting invaders? I know, I know: you figured it would spark a love-in, koom-bah-yah, Oprah as featured speaker.
This comedy occurs because the military inhabits a parallel reality. In its experience, you tell a thing to happen, and it does. If the base commander decides that all dumpsters should be painted Day-Glo chartreuse, he issues orders, paint crews go out, and three days later the dumpsters glow sort of greenly. The military also believes that things work. Put 6000 sailors and a hundred airplanes on an aircraft carrier, obviously an unworkable idea—and it works. It works because everyone wants it to work and does what he is told.
Afghanistan isn’t an aircraft carrier. It has a different shape, it isn’t as flat, and it is full of Afghans. These are important distinctions.
Further, the military thinks that policy determines existence. American policy is that Afghanistan is an allied country like Germany, which it isn’t, that Karzai is chief of state like Angela Merkel, which he isn’t, that the Afghan population are our allies, which they are not, and that if you train Afghans who hate us to say Ooo-rah!, they will want to kill other Afghans that we don’t like—which, obviously they don’t.
Add to the military’s eternal misunderstanding of the enemy’s motivation a matching underestimation of his capacity to fight, plus hypertrophied self-confidence, and you get an over-armed, under-brained, excessively ooo-rahed pack of losers. Don’t think so? How is it that a trillion-dollar military with fighter-bombers, helicopters, armor, electronics, drones, and such can’t beat pissed-off goat-herders with rifles? What do you think would happen if GIs had to fight on equal terms—sandals and a smoke pole, no PX?
Please don’t send me growly mail about Our Boys and their courage, training, sacrifice, honor, and the rest of that string of beads. For one thing, there is no honor in going to someone else’s country and butchering people you don’t know because some political general, which is to say some general, told you to; A hit man for the Mafia is exactly as honorable. For another thing, an army’s job is not to be brave, selfless, yada yada, but to win wars. Look at the record:
Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos: Dead losses. Underestimated the Vietnamese, the AK, the RPG, the IED. By policy the Pentagon said the war was about communism, while the Viets thought it was about getting invaders out of their country, which they did. The GIs hated the Viets as they always hate their allies. The Pentagon left with its tail between legs.
Beirut, 1983: Dead loss, 241 Marines killed versus one Arab. Underestimated the enemy and the truck bomb, had amateurish security, and misunderstood local motivations. Left with tail between legs.
Jarheads coming ashore in the Root. I had never seen worse security. They didn’t understand where they were. Boom. Phredphoto.
Mogadishu, 1993: Dead loss. Underestimated the enemy, the AK, the RPG. Left dead GIs being dragged through the streets. Tail between legs.
Gulf I: Victory. Enemy tried to fight Pentagon’s kind of war with fifth-rate forces. Tail high.
Iraq: Dead loss. Did not get the oil, permanent bases, or docile puppet government. Clueless about politics, urban war. Underestimated the enemy, the IED, the AK, the RPG. Left, tail high, fooling few.
Afghanistan: Dead loss, as yet unadmitted.. Underestimated enemy, IED, AK, RPG. Clueless about politics. Tail in default position.
Several things explain this Gilbert-and-Sullivan performance. Since 1945 the Pentagon has never fought a war it had to win. Nor will it. The possession of nuclear weapons by the First World ensures that no seriously dangerous country will attack any other seriously dangerous country. This leaves the Pentagon and its suppliers free to buy phenomenally expensive weapons of no purpose. The B1, B2, and Airborne Laser come to mind and, now that pilotless airplanes are coming into their own, the US spends hugely on the piloted F35, for which there is no enemy.
But what the military seems particularly not to grasp is that the nature of war has changed. The day of massed armor roaring across deserts under gorgeous sunsets, of fighter aircraft duking it out gloriously at Midway, of huge formations of Marines storming ashore, is over. In Afghanistan there are no targets of high value to destroy, no clear lines of supply to be cut, no cities whose capture means you win, and no concentrations of enemy to be easily killed. World War Two ended a long time ago.
This should be obvious, but militaries don’t do obvious. They run on the hormonal aggression built into men—males, grrr, bow-wow, woof—which is why all of history roils with pointless wars and slaughtered innocents. Herd combat is as biologically determined as a teen-age boy’s newfound interest in girls. Oh good.
Coming soon on these same channels: Days of Yemen, a heartwarming series about a handsome young GI’s illicit love affair with his aging Ma Deuce. Brought to you by the New! New! Tide, with three special antioxidants that work together to remove all trace of rationality.
Fred’s Biography: As He Tells It. – Fred, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of For tune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times.fredoneverything.net

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