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« Reply #40 on: August 17, 2010, 06:34:58 am »

Why Petraeus Can't Make The Sale

By Dan Froomkin

August 16, 2010 "Huffington Post" -- As Gen. David Petraeus kicks off an extended media blitz intended to make Americans feel better about the war in Afghanistan -- or at least give him some more time to fight it -- he faces a foe more implacable than al Qaeda, or even the Taliban: Reality.

That reality, increasingly obvious to national security experts and the general public alike, is that no amount of good intentions or firepower is going to advance our fundamental interests in Afghanistan -- and that as much as Petraeus might be able to achieve in the next six months, or a year, little to none of it is sustainable and most of it is, even worse, counterproductive.

U.S. taxpayers are spending vast amounts of money on the war -- over $200 million a day for military operations alone. Our troops work tirelessly, fight and die to protect and build up the people and institutions of Afghanistan.

But how that turns into success remains wildly unclear. And even more importantly, the relationship between what we're doing on a day to day basis and our ostensible goal -- keeping America safe from al Qaeda -- seems increasingly tenuous.

In the first of many planned interviews, Petraeus will tell NBC's David Gregory on "Meet the Press" on Sunday that his intention is "to show those in Washington that there is progress being made" and to persuade decision-makers "that we've got to build on the progress that has been established so far."

But what Petraeus can't do is say with any confidence that this "progress" can be sustained. Nor can he connect it to an actual threat to our national security.

By contrast, in a reflection of an emerging new consensus in the national security community, a self-styled "Team B" on Afghanistan strategy is advocating much narrower goals and reduced military commitment in the region.

According to an advance copy of the group's forthcoming report, "the war in Afghanistan has reached a critical crossroads. Our current path promises to have limited impact on the civil war while taking more American lives and contributing to skyrocketing taxpayer debt. We conclude that a fundamentally new direction is needed."

The report represents the views of about 40 influential national security figures from academia, think tanks and the business community. Organizer Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation said the group is varied in its makeup, but unified by its doubts about the current course.

Its survey of the landscape concludes: "We are mired in a civil war in Afghanistan and are struggling to establish an effective central government in a country that has long been fragmented and decentralized. No matter how desirable this objective might be in the abstract, it is not essential to U.S. security and it is not a goal for which the U.S. military is well suited. There is no clear definition of what would comprise 'success' in this endeavor, and creating a unified Afghan state would require committing many more American lives and hundreds of billions of additional U.S. dollars for many years to come."

"General Petraeus is a smart man and he attracts smart people and I know that since he's been given this onerous duty, he's been looking at at least tactical and operational shifts," said Patrick Cronin, a South Asian expert at the Center for a New American Security and one of the contributors to the report. "But what he isn't addressing is the need for a new political strategy."

Cronin said Petraeus's target audience "shouldn't buy into this military incrementalism. 'Six months more' is not a strategy."

Brian Katulis, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress, said he is worried that members of the Obama administration have lost sight of what he calls the fundamental question: "Are we actually keeping Americans safe?"

"Are we actually preventing people from flying planes into our buildings?"

"Some of the most striking arguments for continuing the conflict are actually sunk costs and national pride and honor," Katulis said. We keep going because "we've spent so much and it would be such an awful thing not to justify the costs and lives."

The war's goal at this point seems to be establishing overall stability in the country. But among the many other problems, Katulis said, there's no good way to measure that; officers on the ground are reduced to tallying things like the number of stores open at night, or the number of shoppers at a market.

That sort of metric leads Katulis and other national security experts to wonder: What does that have to do with the security of our own country? And to the extent that it does, is it really the best use of our resources? What about the threats to our homeland developing in other parts of the world?

Cronin said Petraeus should be forced to explain not just what he intends to do, but how it can be sustained. If he drives the Taliban out of one region -- "if we do sacrifice those lives to do that" -- it still "doesn't put us on a sustainable glidepath," he said.

"Petraeus wants to buy more time, because he needs time to demonstrate that what he's doing can have a positive effect," Cronin said. "But it doesn't have a large enough positive effect, and it's too costly in terms of blood and treasure."

"Yes, there are different views of this war," he added, "but if you look at enough of the evidence, you can't be sanguine that we are indeed winning hearts and minds" -- which is a critical goal of Petraeus's counter-insurgency strategy. In fact, Cronin said, the evidence suggests that we are making ourselves "even less popular than the Taliban... we are making them stronger, and what we're doing is not effective enough."

With al Qaeda essentially gone from Afghanistan, "the original purpose has largely dissipated," Cronin said. "This strategy is actually being counterproductive for our interests."

Katulis also notes that the administration's plan still lacks a clear, positive goal. "If you go through all of the senior administration officials' talking points, they often define the goal as a negative."

The most senior administration official is fond of saying things like: "I've set a clear and achievable mission -- to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies and prevent their return"

But, said Katulis, "that doesn't actually tell us what it is we actually have to leave behind."

Petraeus is said the be starting to hedge on President Obama's promised deadline of July 2011 for withdrawing American troops.

That's hardly surprising. As I reported two weeks ago, the timeline for an American troop withdrawal has steadily been growing longer for some time, with Obama's deadline looking more and more hollow, and the real timeline for significant troop withdrawal -- barring a change in course -- now extending at least to 2014, if not far beyond.

But from Cronin's perspective, Obama had a year to turn things around, and it's already over. "That's enough empirical evidence to know if there is something that can be salvaged here," he said.

Cronin said the "Team B" solution is "something in between what we've been doing and complete abandonment. It's not that it's a guarantee of success, but we've got to recognize that what we're doing now is not succeeding, either."

Cronin said U.S. national security does not depend on the military defeat of the Taliban, or on a strong central government. The plan instead calls for power-sharing, and for a smaller military presence that focuses on keeping al Qaeda at bay.

So if it's increasingly clear outside the military and the executive branch that a radical reassessment of the war is necessary, why isn't it clear inside?

"If there's one thing that drives the current officer corps in our military it's that they want to avoid the sense of a loss, and perception of another Vietnam," Katulis said.

As for inside the White House, "there's the political and rhetorical box that they themselves have set," Katulis said.

It's also possible that Obama is thinking things he just can't say out loud.

"Our Afghan partners are just not up to the task of what we would like to see," said Cronin. "You can't say that as a government when you're knee deep in a war. But at the end of the day, you have to be realistic about U.S. interests."

And as long as the war is being fought, "the president can't afford to look incoherent on this," Cronin said. "This president in particular, because he'll be attacked from the right, has to look strong on this issue."

Obama "can't afford to have Joe Biden and others leading an ongoing critique of the war" which is why he "put a lid on that last year," Cronin said. Nevertheless, "I think the reality is that inside the administration there continue to be serious people with serious doubts about where this is heading."

But there's yet another force preventing Obama from pivoting, according to Katulis: The possibility that, after he reduces the military footprint in Afghanistan, someone from that country then comes to the U.S. and commits and act of terror.

Staying in Afghanistan for that reason, however, is strikingly reminiscent of former Vice President Cheney's notorious "One Percent Doctrine," as described in the Ron Suskind book by that name. Cheney's basic view was that if there's even a one percent threat of a "high-impact" terrorist event, then the government should respond as if it were a certainty. That led to a lot of overkill.

Cronin said he thinks the president doesn't have much choice. "I think there are fewer and fewer people who are willing to give just a blank check for what's going on," he said.

And Cronin said he thinks Obama "can find a way to make this politically more palatable" by following through with his promised July 2011 drawdown, continuing to make the case for a pivot toward a more diplomatic, less military-intensive strategy. And he can make the case that "there are plenty of other threats out in the world that we're ignoring because of this."

Afghanistan is overkill in the wrong place, Katulis said. "We're really running a risk of having a national security strategy that is not in balance globally."

Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page; subscribe to RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get e-mail alerts when he writes.

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« Reply #41 on: August 17, 2010, 07:23:53 am »

Published on Monday, August 16, 2010 by The Real News Network

Battle for Kandahar is On

Muhammad Junaid: US troops may be able to control Kandahar for a time, but can not control the countryside


© 2010 The Real News Network


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« Reply #42 on: August 19, 2010, 06:28:01 am »

What if Washington…? 

19/08/2010 06:30:00 AM GMT
We no longer know what a policy of cautious peace might look like. War and an aggressive global national security state are all Washington knows and all it cares to know.

( Anyone who thinks the U.S. is really going to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul.

Five absurd things that simply can’t happen in wartime Washington

The other day I visited a website I check regularly for all things military, Noah Shachtman’s Danger Room blog at Wired magazine. One of its correspondents, Spencer Ackerman, was just then at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the sort of place that -- with its multiple bus routes, more than 30,000 inhabitants, PXes, Internet cafés, fast-food restaurants, barracks, and all the sinews of war -- we like to call military bases, but that are unique in the history of this planet.

Here’s how Ackerman began his report: “Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul. There’s construction everywhere. It’s exactly what you wouldn’t expect from a transient presence.” The old Russian base, long a hub for U.S. military (and imprisonment) activities in that country is now, as he describes it, a giant construction site and its main drag, Disney Drive, a massive traffic pile-up. (“If the Navy could figure out a way to bring a littoral-combat ship to a landlocked country, it would idle on Disney.”) Its flight line is packed with planes -- “C-17s, Predators, F-16s, F-15s, MC-12 passenger planes” -- and Bagram, he concludes, “is starting to feel like a dynamic exurb before the housing bubble burst.”

I won’t lie. As I read that post, my heart sank and I found myself imagining Spencer Ackerman writing this passage: “Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to stay in Afghanistan after July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul where buildings are being dismantled, military equipment packed up, and everywhere you look you see evidence of a transient presence.” To pen that, unfortunately, he would have to be a novelist or a fabulist.

For almost nine years, the U.S. military has been building up Bagram. Now, the Obama administration’s response to the Afghan disaster on its hands is -- and who, at this late date, could be surprised? -- a further build-up. In my childhood, I remember ads for... well, I’m not quite sure what... but they showed scenes of multiple error, including, if I remember rightly, five-legged cows floating through clouds. They were always tagged with a question that went something like: What’s wrong with this picture?

As with so much that involves the American way of war, the U.S. national security state, and the vast military and intelligence bureaucracies that go with them, an outsider might well be tempted to ask just that question. As much as Washington insiders may periodically decry or bemoan the results of our war policies and security-state procedures, however, they never ask what's wrong. Not really.

In fact, basic alternatives to our present way of going about things are regularly dismissed out of hand, while ways to use force and massive preparations for the future use of more force are endlessly refined.

As a boy, I loved reading books of what-if history and science fiction, rare moments when what might have happened or what might someday happen outweighed what everyone was convinced must happen. Only there did it seem possible to imagine the unimaginable and the alternatives that might go with it. When it comes to novels, counterfactuality is still a winner. What if the Nazis had won in Europe, as Robert Harris suggested in Fatherland, or a strip of the Alaskan panhandle had become a temporary homeland for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, as Michael Chabon suggested in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, or our machines could indeed think like us, as Philip Dick wondered in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Such novels allow our brain to venture down strange new pathways normally forbidden to us.

Here, then, are five possibilities, five pathways, that -- given our world -- verge on the fictional. Consider them not “what-if history,” but “what if Washington...?”

1. What if Washington declared a ceasefire in Afghanistan, expressed a desire to withdraw all its troops from the country in good order and at a reasonable pace, and then just left? What would happen? The answer is: as with the four questions below, we simply don’t -- and won’t -- know; in part because few of the 854,000 people with “top-secret” security clearances, and so perhaps capable of accessing Washington's war planning, are likely to think seriously about what this might mean. (It would be hell on a career, and there’s no money in it anyway.)

On the other hand, after nine years of grim experimentation, we do know what has happened and is happening in the world’s second most corrupt, fifth poorest country. If you’ve been following the Afghan War story, even in the most cursory manner, you could already write the next news report on Afghanistan’s hapless American-trained police and its no less hapless American-trained army, the next set of civilian casualties, the next poppy harvest, the fate of the next round of counterinsurgency plans, and so on. These are, as our previous Secretary of Defense used to say, the “known knowns” of the situation and, unfortunately, the only subjects Washington is comfortable exploring further. No matter that the known road, the well-worn one, is the assured road to nowhere.

No serious thought, money, or effort goes into imagining how to unbuild the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan or how to voluntarily leave that country. In a terrible moment in the Vietnam War, Vermont Senator George Aiken suggested that the U.S. just declare victory and get out. But that sort of thing was, and remains, beyond Washington’s normal imagination; and what Washington can’t imagine, it assumes no one else should.

The American peace movement, such as it is, shouldn’t wait for President Obama. It should convene its own blue-ribbon commission and put some effort into planning how to get out of Afghanistan voluntarily -- and, having already done much harm, how to leave in the least harmful and quickest way possible. It’s true that we don’t know what would happen afterwards: Would the Taliban (or its various groupings) take over part or all of the country, or would they leap for each others’ throats once a unifying opposition to foreign invaders disappeared (as happened in Afghanistan in the early 1990s)? Or, for that matter, might something quite unexpected and unpredictable happen ?

The future is, by definition, an unknown unknown, and Washington, whatever its pretenses to control that future, has a terrible record when it comes to predicting it. Who knows how long it would take the Afghan people to deal with the Taliban without us, given the woeful inability of such a crew -- second only to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's -- to govern the country effectively (or less than brutally).

2. What if a blue-ribbon commission appointed by the president surveyed the 17 intelligence agencies and organizations that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), the 263 intelligence task forces and other new intelligence groupings that have come into being since September 11, 2001, alone, the labyrinthine “community” that is drowning in 50,000 or more “intelligence” reports a year, and decided that we had 16 too many of them? The last time such a commission met, after the 9/11 attacks, the result was that the seventeenth member of the IC was added to the roster, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which, while proving remarkably ineffective by all accounts, has become a little bureaucracy of its own with about 1,500 employees.

What if such a panel were then to consider the obvious: that 17 competing intelligence agencies are a sign of madness when it comes to producing usable “intelligence”; that, while capable of being intrusive and oppressive, eating up more than $75 billion annually, contributing to a national atmosphere of fear, and throwing a penumbra of secrecy over the nation, they are incapable of doing their job. What if it were to suggest that we need only one, or for competitive purposes, at most two such agencies, and that they should be geared to assessing the world and providing actual “intelligence” to the president and Congress, not to changing it by subverting foreign governments, assassinating foreign leaders or assorted terrorists, kidnapping citizens from the streets of global cities, and the like? What if Congress agreed? Would we be better off? Is there really safety in a bloated intelligence bureaucracy and the dollars it eats, in all those satellites and all that surveillance, in a maturing culture of all-enveloping secrecy that is now a signature aspect of our way of life?

3. What if the president and Congress agreed to get rid of all secret armies, including the CIA, which Chalmers Johnson once dubbed the president’s “private army,” and the military’s secret military, its special operations forces, 13,000 of whom are now on duty in 75 countries? What if, in addition, we were to demobilize the tens of thousands of armed private contractors and assorted rent-a-guns the Pentagon and the State Department have taken on to supplement their strength?

4. What if the president and Congress really went after the Pentagon budget, projected to top $700 billion next year, including war-fighting costs (and that’s without all the long-term costs of our military even added in)? Right now, proposed Pentagon budget “cuts” fill the headlines and yet represent nothing more than a reshuffling of military money in the midst of ongoing increases in defense spending. What if, instead, we actually cut that budget not by 25%, but in half or more, and used that money to promote our long-term safety through the creation of new jobs to work on the country’s aging infrastructure? That would still leave us putting more money into our military than any other nation on Earth.

What if, in addition, we stopped pouring money into planning breakthrough generations of weapons for 2025 and beyond? What if, while we’re at it, we decided to toss out the post-World War II definition of our mission as “national security,” a phrase which helped pave the way for the full-scale garrisoning of the globe and the repeated dispatching of US forces to the far reaches of the planet, and went back to the idea of “national defense.” What if, in the same spirit, the Pentagon once again became an actual department of defense?

5. What if the Department of Homeland Security were abolished (and along with it, that un-American post-9/11 word “homeland” were banished from the language)? What if its pre-2002 constituent parts were reassigned to non-national security duties and the rest of it to the trashbin of history, ensuring that we no longer had two defense departments?

In Washington’s world, each of these what-ifs is, by definition, an absurdity, the sort of thing that only a utopian peacenik with his head in the sand could conjure up. And however badly our world seems to go, however misplaced our priorities and our moneys seem to be, Washington looks like it has all the facts and those who might raise such questions none, because no one ever seriously explores such ideas, no less tests them out (even in more modest ways).

As a result, they exist not in the realm of policy, but in the realm of fiction, and comments on the strangeness of those five-legged cows floating through distant clouds near Hellfire-armed Predator drones are left to marginal characters like me. What, after all, would we do without our national security wars, our ever-burgeoning intelligence bureaucracy, our secret armies, our advanced weaponry, a Pentagon the size of James’s giant peach, and a special department to protect our “homeland” security (accompanied by its own mini-homeland-security-industrial complex and attendant lobbyists)? How would we know what was coming at us next? How could we be safe?

Right now, as a nation, we find it remarkably difficult to imagine ourselves as anything but what we now believe ourselves to be -- and Washington counts on that. We find it almost impossible to imagine ourselves as just another nation (even perhaps, a more modest and better one), making our way on this disturbed planet of ours as best we can. We can’t imagine ourselves “safe” without being dominant, or being dominant without killing others in distant lands in significant numbers to ensure that safety; nor can we imagine ourselves dominant without that full panoply of secret armies, global garrisons, overlapping spy agencies, fear manias, and all the money that goes with them, despite the abundant evidence that this can’t be safety, either for us or for the planet.

We no longer know what a policy of cautious peace might look like, not having put a cent into envisioning such a project. War and an aggressive global national security state (and the language that goes with it) are all Washington knows and all it cares to know. It is completely invested in the world it now so shakily oversees, and cares for no other.

Worlds end, of course, and they regularly end so much uglier when no one plans for the unexpected. Maybe one of these days, what-if fever will spread in this country and, miraculously, we’ll actually get change we can finally believe in.

-- Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books), has just been published. You can catch him discussing it on a TomCast video by clicking here.

-- Middle East Online

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« Reply #43 on: August 19, 2010, 08:22:07 am »

Civilian Control? Surely, You Jest.

by Andrew J. Bacevich

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The principle of civilian control forms the foundation of the American system of civil-military relations, offering assurance that the nation’s very powerful armed forces and its very influential officer corps pose no danger to our democracy. That’s the theory at least, the one that gets printed in civics books and peddled to the plain folk out in Peoria.   

Reality turns out to be considerably more complicated. In practice, civilian control—expectations that the brass, having rendered advice, will then loyally execute whatever decision the commander-in-chief makes—is at best a useful fiction.

In front of the curtain, the generals and admirals defer; behind the curtain, on all but the smallest of issues, the military’s collective leadership pursue their own agenda informed by their own convictions of what is good for the country and, by extension, for the institutions over which they preside. In this regard, the Pentagon’s behavior does not differ from that of automakers, labor unions, the movie business, environmental groups, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Israel lobby, or the NAACP.

In Washington, only one decision is considered really final—and that’s the one that goes your way. Senior military officers understand these rules and play by them. When the president or secretary of defense acts in ways not to their liking—killing some sought-after weapons program, for example—they treat that decision as subject to review and revision.

To overturn or modify a policy they judge objectionable, military leaders forge alliances with like-minded members of Congress, for whom the national interest tends to coincide with whatever benefits their constituents. Senior officers also make their case by working the press, not infrequently by leaking material that will embarrass or handcuff their nominal superiors.

Sometimes, the military strikes preemptively, attempting to influence decisions not yet made. A classic example occurred in 1993: Led by General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior uniformed leadership mounted a fierce and very effective campaign to prevent President Bill Clinton from acting on his announced intention to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Powell and his confreres prevailed. A humiliated Clinton beat a hasty retreat and, thereafter, took care not to court trouble with an officer corps that made little effort to conceal its lack of fondness for him.

A more recent example occurred just a year ago. With President Obama agonizing over what to do about Afghanistan, The Washington Post offered for general consumption the military’s preferred approach, the so-called McChrystal Plan. Devised by General Stanley McChrystal, who had been appointed by Obama to command allied forces in Afghanistan, the plan called for a surge of U.S. troops and the full-fledged application of counterinsurgency doctrine—an approach that necessarily implied a much longer and more costly war.

The effect of this leak, almost surely engineered by some still unidentified military officer, was to hijack the entire policy review process, circumscribing the choices available to the commander-in-chief. Rushing to the nearest available microphone, members of Congress (mostly Republicans) announced that it was Obama’s duty to give the field commander whatever he wanted. McChrystal himself made the point explicitly. During a speech in London, he categorically rejected the notion that any alternative to his strategy even existed: It was do it his way or lose the war. The role left to the president was not to decide, but simply to affirm.

The leaking of the McChrystal Plan constituted a direct assault on civilian control. At the time, however, that fact passed all but unnoticed. Few of those today raising a hue-and-cry about PFC Bradley Manning, the accused WikiLeak-er, bothered to protest. The documents that Manning allegedly made public are said to endanger the lives of American troops and their Afghan comrades. Yet, a year ago, no one complained about the McChrystal leaker providing Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership with a detailed blueprint of exactly how the United States and its allies were going to prosecute their war.

The absence of any serious complaint reflected the fact that, in Washington—especially in the press corps—military leaks aimed at subverting or circumscribing civilian authority are accepted as standard fare. It’s part of the way Washington works.

Which brings us to the present and to what is stacking up to be an episode likely to reveal a great deal about how much or how little actual civilian control currently exists. In adopting the McChrystal Plan, Obama added this caveat: U. S. troops will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan by July 2011. Before the president or anyone in his administration had explained exactly what that July 2011 deadline signifies, General McChrystal departed the scene, having violated the dictum that calls on senior officers to sustain, in public at least, the pretense of respecting civilians.

To replace McChrystal—and to forestall the growing impression that things in Afghanistan are falling apart—Obama appointed General David Petraeus, an officer possessing in abundance the finesse and political savvy that McChrystal lacks. Having now sacked two successive commanders in Afghanistan, Obama can hardly afford to fire a third, least of all someone of Petraeus’s exalted stature. It would be akin to benching Tom Brady or trading Derek Jeter. You might be able to pull it off, but not without paying a very severe price. You might even find yourself out of a job.

Within the past week, complaints dribbling out of Petraeus’s headquarters in Kabul—duly reported by an accommodating press—indicate growing military unhappiness with the July 2011 pullout date. Now, Petraeus himself has begun to weigh in directly. This past weekend, he launched his own media campaign, offering his “narrative” of ongoing events. Unlike the ham-handed McChrystal, who chose a foreign capital as his soapbox, Petraeus sat for a carefully orchestrated series of interviews with The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC’s “Meet the Press,” each of which gratefully passed along the general’s view of things.

In the course of sitting for these interviews, Petraeus placed down a marker, one best captured by the headline in the Times dispatch: “Petraeus Opposes a Rapid Pullout in Afghanistan.” Or, as The Daily Beast put it, adding a twist of hyperbole, Petraeus told “David Gregory that he has the right to delay Obama's 2011 pull-out target for troops in Afghanistan." A bit over the top, but you get the drift.

Dexter Filkins of the Times interpreted Petraeus’s comments as “a preview of what promise to be an intense political battle over the future of the American-led war in Afghanistan.” The operative word in that statement is “political,” with the stakes potentially including not only the ongoing war, but an upcoming presidential election.

At the center of that battle will be a very political general, skilled at using the press and with friends aplenty on Capitol Hill, especially among Republicans. To have a chance of winning reelection in 2012, Obama needs to demonstrate progress in shutting down the war. Yet it is now becoming increasingly apparent the general Obama has placed in charge of that war entertains a different view.

One, but not both, will have his way. Between now and July 2011, when it comes to civilian control, even the folks in Peoria will have a chance to learn what the civics books leave out.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of international relations at Boston University and author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War.
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« Reply #44 on: August 19, 2010, 08:47:23 am »

Taliban unity call:
Afghans should heal rifts with each other to defend their country against occupation forces

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

August 18, 2010

Afghans have, throughout their history, lived in brotherhood and exhibited intense integrity, solidarity and unity as a single nation under the name Afghanistan. The people in Afghanistan, whether Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazarah, Baluch or Nooistani, have always joined common causes in safeguarding their common interests, standing up for their rights and have jointly resisted every invading force to defend their country against the enemy and played a central role in independence, development and rehabilitation of Afghanistan.

In view of the Russians’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, all the ethnic groups collectively lay down their lives for the freedom of our country and played a key role to present a united front in chasing the Russians away from Afghanistan.

The US invasion of Afghanistan threatened the unity and integrity of the Afghans as a single nation, sowing the seeds of disunity among the Afghan masses that ended up turning one Afghan against another. Regrettably, the recent Fitnah (evil) created by the US, among a lot of misfortune, misery and evils, is the chaotic upheaval of (Kochi and Hazarah) between two ethnic groups.

Some of the country’s parts have been affected by this Fitnah ( Kochi and Hazarah) or US-created evil, if not stopped now, may rapidly spread across the country.

However, the differences between two ethnic groups are not so profound that cannot be composed.

It is a commonly recognized fact that Afghanistan is under the clutches the Super Evil’s tyranny, the bottom line is, the Afghans should sow the seeds of integrity, solidarity and brotherhood to heal the rifts with each other in order to get the freedom of our beloved country which is destined to be free from the occupation of invading forces and get our home grown differences and disputes resolved in the light Islamic Sharia and Afghan tradition and values.

One can find the exemplary list of cases settled during the period of the rule of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

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« Reply #45 on: August 22, 2010, 12:38:50 pm »

Military Deaths in Afghanistan under Obama Top Those under Bush

In less than two years, the United States has suffered more combat deaths in Afghanistan under President Barack Obama than it did during the two-term presidency of George W. Bush. The latest casualty figures show 577 American soldiers have died in the war from January 20, 2009, the date of Obama’s inauguration, until now. The U.S. suffered 575 deaths from October 2001 to January 19, 2009, according to figures computed by Robert Naiman, of Just Foreign Policy from figures provided by Three U.S. deaths on August 17 put the Obama total ahead of the Bush total. The names of the three have not yet been released, pending notification of next of kin.
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« Reply #46 on: August 24, 2010, 06:45:18 am »

Published on Monday, August 23, 2010 by

Islamo-Gangsterism: In a Deteriorating Afghanistan, a New Breed of Terror

by Ted Rall

KABUL -- "In squads of roaring dirt bikes and armed to the teeth," Joshua Partlow reports in The Washington Post, "Taliban fighters are spreading like a brush fire into remote and defenseless villages across northern Afghanistan."

Two other cartoonists and I were a day away from heading to Faryab--a remote, rural, Uzbek-dominated province in the northwest known for its brutally entertaining matches of buzkashi--when Partlow's piece appeared. He described a phenomenon that deploys novel tactics out of a bizarre 1970s action flick.

It was years after the 2001 U.S. invasion before the Afghan national police began to take control of the country's major highways. Now there are government-run gun nests every few kilometers.

Insurgents have responded to government control of the highways by basing themselves in rugged villages far away from the freshly-paved asphalt. Riding Pamir motorcycles supplied by Pakistani intelligence--thus paid for by American taxpayers--Taliban bike gangs swoop across the desert, taking one village after another.

"They move constantly on unmarked dirt roads outside the cities to ambush Afghan police and soldiers and to kidnap residents. They execute those affiliated with the government and shut down reconstruction projects," wrote Partlow.

They now control every district in Faryab province, a vast region that borders Turkmenistan. But Afghan sources across the country say their reach is far broader. Talibikers control the center of the country in a north-south axis that begins with Faryab and Baghlis and runs all the way down to Helmand and Nimruz.

Their checkpoints and raids along the three main east-west traffic arteries have effectively bifurcated the country. Whether it's government officials, members of NGOs or the media, you have to fly if you want to get from Kabul to Herat or vice versa.

Partlow's article, and his personal feedback, prompted us to cancel our plan to travel to Herat via Faryab. We left Mazar-i-Sharif for Kabul. Now we're looking for a driver willing to take us via the Central Route to Herat: a scenic, bucolic, previously calm stretch of unpaved road that begins at Bamiyan, site of the ruined Buddha statues, and runs west via Ghor province. So far, no luck.

"I wouldn't take you there for $10,000," is a typical response. "Why do you want to die?" runs second.

The average Afghan earns $40 a month.

South of Mazar we noticed our driver nervously scanning the desert. Several recently charred trucks testified to the presence of the Taliban. "The Taliban," our driver said, "here they come on motorcycles."

I asked: Even during the day?

"Even during the day," he confirmed.

Like "Mad Max."

What's really worrisome is the behavior of these self-described Talibs. Like the Taliban regime that ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they enforce an extreme form of Sharia law. In village after village, they have been stoning people accused of adultery and shooting those accused of working for the Karzai puppet regime. But the similarity stops there.

The first-gen Taliban led by Mullah Omar practiced what they preached. They were scrupulously honest. Living ascetic lives, they didn't tolerate corruption or dishonesty among their own ranks.

The so-called neo-Taliban were the second generation: the madrassa kids, many of them orphans, who grew up in the refugee camps in Pakistan during the war. Less worldly and completely uneducated, this coarse bunch came to dominate the anti-U.S. resistance from 2003 to 2009.

Here comes Taliban Mark 3: the Taliban biker gangs from hell. They're still radical Islamists. But they're also gangsters, brazen thieves who have adopted the thuggish behavior of the warlord class during the so-called "mujahedeen nights" of the early 1990s.

These aren't your father's Taliban. They don't follow the rules: certainly not the Koran.

Like the "moojs," Talibikers set up checkpoints and ambush points to catch motorists. They're yanked out of their cars, robbed at gunpoint, and sent on their way--if the victims are lucky. Many have been shot to death.

"Taliban" and "bandit"--once mutually exclusive, even opposite terms--are now used interchangeably.

Everyone expects the Taliban to control most, if not all, of Afghanistan by next year. Whether it happens then or it takes longer the question is, which Taliban? As the U.S. presence wanes and influence of the Karzai regime fades even further, I foresee a clash, perhaps even a civil war, between the "real Taliban" (sales pitch: we're tough but honest) and these self-branded Talib-cum-robbers (motto: shut up and pay up).

In the meantime, this new breed of fanatically religious desperadoes goes to prove something Afghans have always known. As bad as things seem, they can always get worse.

Copyright 2010 Ted Rall, Distributed by Universal Uclick/Ted Rall
Ted Rall is in Afghanistan to cover the war and research a book. He is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto," which will be published in September by Seven Stories Press. His website is [1].


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« Reply #47 on: August 27, 2010, 06:41:43 am »

We will stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 says Australian Chief of Defence

by Ian McPhedran

August 26, 2010

AUSTRALIAN troops will stay in Afghanistan well beyond the 2014 deadline set by the Government, the nation's top military commander says.

Chief of Defence Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Diggers would remain in Oruzgan Province after the two to four-year mission to train local Afghan security forces had expired.

"We will still be there supporting them beyond the two to four years, for a period of time," Air Chief Marshal Houston said.

He refused to be drawn on whether it was helpful for politicians to announce possible exit dates, after a US Marine Corps General criticised the US Administration for its plan to begin withdrawing forces next July.

"The coalition will continue to fight very, very hard for a long time to come, certainly beyond 2011 and certainly well into the future," said Air Chief Marshal Houston.

The military is waiting for guidance from a new federal government with the Abbott-led coalition already committed to a possible increase in troop numbers.

Greens leader Bob Brown has demanded that the troops be brought home immediately and he has won support from all sides for a fresh debate on the war.

The defence chief's comments yesterday came as a Melbourne mum told how her soldier son - a comrade of four Diggers killed in Afghanistan in recent weeks - tells her from the front line that morale remains strong in his regiment.

The soldiers of 6RAR, who along with special operations troops are the sharp end of Australia's force in Afghanistan, are paying a bloody price in the campaign against terrorism with four killed in the past few weeks and more than 20 wounded since February.

"(He) said last night morale is quite high among the troops, which I thought was good because they've lost quite a few. They are getting on with their job," said the mother, whom the Herald Sun will not identify.

She added: "We are quite stressed about it, but we are very proud.

"He and his colleagues all believe they are doing some good, they are the ones out among the children, the villages and the families who are thanking them," she said.

Five days ago, Privates Grant Kirby, 35, and Tomas Dale, 21 - part of 6RAR's mentoring and reconstruction taskforce - were killed and two mates wounded when a bomb exploded near their patrol vehicle.

On the same day two comrades were seriously wounded in a separate incident. Pte Nathan Bewes, 6RAR, was killed by a bomb on July 9.

On Tuesday, Lance-Cpl Jared MacKinney, 28, became the latest casualty when he was killed in action, leaving a wife, daughter and an unborn son.

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« Reply #48 on: August 27, 2010, 06:45:29 am »

Fears Taliban expanding in Afghan north, west


August 26, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — Eight Afghan police gunned down at a checkpoint. Campaign workers kidnapped. Spanish trainers shot dead on their base.

A spurt of violence this week in provinces far from the Taliban's main southern strongholds suggests the insurgency is spreading, even as the top U.S. commander insists the coalition has reversed the militants' momentum in key areas of the ethnic Pashtun south where the Islamist movement was born.

Attacks in the north and west of the country — though not militarily significant — demonstrate that the Taliban are becoming a threat across wide areas of Afghanistan even as the United States and its partners mount a major effort to turn the tide of the nearly 9-year-old war in the south.

The latest example occurred Thursday when about a dozen gunmen stormed a police checkpoint at the entrance to the city of Kunduz, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Eight policemen were killed, provincial police chief Abdul Raziq Yaqoubi said.

Also Thursday, a candidate in next month's parliamentary elections said 10 of her campaign workers were kidnapped while traveling in the northwestern province of Herat, 450 miles (725 kilometers) west of the capital.

The candidate, Fawzya Galani, said villagers told her armed men had stopped the group Wednesday and drove them off in their two vehicles.

Those incidents followed Wednesday's fatal shooting of three Spaniards — two police trainers and an interpreter — at a training base in Badghis province about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northwest of Kabul.

The shooter, who was also killed, was a police driver who local officials said was a brother-in-law of a local Taliban commander.

Earlier this month, 10 members of the Christian medical team — six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton — were gunned down in Badakhshan, a northern province that had seen little insurgent activity. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

In an interview aired Monday by the British Broadcasting Corp., top U.S. and NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus said NATO forces had reversed the momentum which the Taliban gained in recent years in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar and in the Kabul area. He said coalition forces would regain momentum in other areas later although tough fighting lies ahead.

Taliban influence in the north and west is not as pervasive as in the south, the insurgency has been slowly expanding its presence in areas such as Kunduz, Faryab and Baghlan since 2007, mostly among Pashtuns who are a minority in the north.

A member of parliament from Herat said security in the province could be worse but it's not ideal, especially in remote villages far from the provincial capital.

"There are a lot of reasons — political reasons, factional reasons, tribal reasons — so together the situation is not so good," the lawmaker, Ali Ahmad Jebraili, said. "I hope the government puts professional and proper security measures in place to search vehicles and people for attackers and bombers. When we travel to remote areas, we have to be careful."

In establishing a northern foothold, Afghan authorities believe the Taliban use veterans from southern battlefields to help organize local groups, sometimes with help from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which provides recruits from among the Uzbek minority.

"The situation is very bad and dangerous in Kunduz but unfortunately the security officials keep saying things are alright." said Mabubullah Mabub, chairman of the Kunduz provincial council. "Over the last two years, the situation has been getting worse."

A study published last spring by the Afghan Analyst Network, an independent policy research organization, said that expanding into the north and west strengthens the Taliban claim to be a legitimate national government fighting on behalf of the Afghan people and not simply the Pashtun community.

It also enables the Taliban to threaten NATO supply lines coming south from Central Asia. Those routes were established to reduce reliance on supply lines from Pakistan which come under attack from fighters on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

"Furthermore, there is no doubt that the psychological impact of the north's destabilization upon Western Europe and the U.S. would be considerable, overstretching resources as well as reducing the recruitment pool of Afghan army and police by enabling the Taliban to intimidate the families of volunteers," the study said.

The psychological impact was evident in the reaction in Spain to the killing of the two trainers and the interpreter, a Spanish citizen of Iranian origin.

The leader of the small but important Catalan party — Convergence and Union — complained that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has avoided appearing in parliament as promised to hold a full-blown debate on the Spanish mission and must do so now.

The smaller United Left party called on Zapatero to bring Spain's troops home, saying the NATO effort to defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country had achieved nothing.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a cartoon Thursday showing President Barack Obama and Zapatero standing chest-deep in a pool of quicksand labeled Afghanistan. Obama tells Zapatero: "It's best to sit still, because if you move you sink even more."

Also Thursday, NATO reported that three Afghan civilians were killed the day before by a homemade bomb in Kandahar's Arghandab district, a Taliban stronghold near Kandahar city.

Two Taliban commanders were among a dozen militants killed Wednesday in fighting with a joint Afghan-coalition force in Uruzgan province, the Afghan National Police reported. Four insurgents were captured in the operation, the police said.

Associated Press Writers Daniel Woolls in Madrid, Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Amir Shah and Christopher Bodeen in Kabul contributed to this report.

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« Reply #49 on: August 28, 2010, 07:59:52 am »

Taliban attack US bases in Afghanistan

Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:57AM

An aerial view of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Chapman in Khost Province

Two US-run bases in eastern Afghanistan have been attacked by Taliban militants, Afghan officials say.

Afghan officials said that at least 11 Taliban members were killed after the militants launched overnight attacks on the US-run sites, named the Forward Operating Base Salerno and nearby Camp Chapman, in Khost Province near the southeastern border with Pakistan, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Meanwhile, Taliban militants claim they have killed several US soldiers during the attack.

"Already 18 American troops were killed and a US helicopter as well as an Afghan police vehicle were damaged" during the attack, claimed Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman.

"There is ongoing activity there, but it is fresh and I can't give more details," Lieutenant Commander Katie Kendrick told Reuters on Saturday.

The attack began overnight at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Chapman in Khost Province near the southeastern border with Pakistan.

The report says more than 30 Taliban militants attacked the base.

Local police chief, Adbul Hakim Is'haqzai, also told AFP that the militants had first raided the military base before retreating to occupy a secondary school in Khost city.

In December, seven CIA agents were killed after Taliban militants targeted FOB Chapman.

The attack was the worst attack on US intelligence officials since 1983 when the US embassy in Beirut was bombed.

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« Reply #50 on: August 30, 2010, 06:18:01 am »

The Secret Killers: Covert Assassins Charged With Hunting Down and Killing Afghans

Capture/kill teams leave a trail of dead civilian bodies and recrimination in their wake, undermining any goodwill created by U.S. reconstruction projects.

By Pratap Chatterjee,
Posted on August 29, 2010, Printed on August 30, 2010

A US soldier belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrols Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. Thirteen NATO soldiers have been killed in two days in Afghanistan, one of the deadliest bouts for the alliance this year that underlines a growing Taliban momentum in defiance of calls for peace talks. Photo Credit: AFP - Shah Marai

"Find, fix, finish, and follow-up" is the way the Pentagon describes the mission of secret military teams in Afghanistan which have been given a mandate to pursue alleged members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda wherever they may be found. Some call these “manhunting” operations and the units assigned to them “capture/kill” teams.

Whatever terminology you choose, the details of dozens of their specific operations -- and how they regularly went badly wrong -- have been revealed for the first time in the mass of secret U.S. military and intelligence documents published by the website Wikileaks in July to a storm of news coverage and official protest.  Representing a form of U.S. covert warfare now on the rise, these teams regularly make more enemies than friends and undermine any goodwill created by U.S. reconstruction projects.

When Danny Hall and Gordon Phillips, the civilian and military directors of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, arrived for a meeting with Gul Agha Sherzai, the local governor, in mid-June 2007, they knew that they had a lot of apologizing to do. Philips had to explain why a covert U.S. military “capture/kill” team named Task Force 373, hunting for Qari Ur-Rahman, an alleged Taliban commander given the code-name “Carbon,” had called in an AC-130 Spectre gunship and inadvertently killed seven Afghan police officers in the middle of the night.

The incident vividly demonstrated the inherent clash between two doctrines in the U.S. war in Afghanistan -- counterinsurgency (“protecting the people”) and counterterrorism (killing terrorists). Although the Obama administration has given lip service to the former, the latter has been, and continues to be, the driving force in its war in Afghanistan.

For Hall, a Foreign Service officer who was less than two months away from a plush assignment in London, working with the military had already proven more difficult than he expected. In an article for Foreign Service Journal published a couple of months before the meeting, he wrote, “I felt like I never really knew what was going on, where I was supposed to be, what my role was, or if I even had one. In particular, I didn't speak either language that I needed: Pashtu or military.”

It had been no less awkward for Phillips. Just a month earlier, he had personally handed over “solatia” payments -- condolence payments for civilian deaths wrongfully caused by U.S. forces -- in Governor Sherzai's presence, while condemning the act of a Taliban suicide bomber who had killed 19 civilians, setting off the incident in question. “We come here as your guests,” he told the relatives of those killed, “invited to aid in the reconstruction and improved security and governance of Nangarhar, to bring you a better life and a brighter future for you and your children.  Today, as I look upon the victims and their families, I join you in mourning for your loved ones.”

Hall and Phillips were in charge of a portfolio of 33 active U.S. reconstruction projects worth $11 million in Nangarhar, focused on road-building, school supplies, and an agricultural program aimed at exporting fruits and vegetables from the province.

Yet the mission of their military-led “provincial reconstruction team” (made up of civilian experts, State department officials, and soldiers) appeared to be in direct conflict with those of the “capture/kill” team of special operations forces (Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and Green Berets, together with operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division) whose mandate was to pursue Afghans alleged to be terrorists as well as insurgent leaders.  That team was leaving a trail of dead civilian bodies and recrimination in its wake.

Details of some of the missions of Task Force 373 first became public as a result of more than 76,000 incident reports leaked to the public by Wikileaks, a whistleblower website, together with analyses of those documents in Der Spiegel, the Guardian, and the New York Times. A full accounting of the depredations of the task force may be some time in coming, however, as the Obama administration refuses to comment on its ongoing assassination spree in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A short history of the unit can nonetheless be gleaned from a careful reading of the Wikileaks documents as well as related reports from Afghanistan and unclassified Special Forces reports.

The Wikileaks data suggests that as many as 2,058 people on a secret hit list called the “Joint Prioritized Effects List” (JPEL) were considered “capture/kill” targets in Afghanistan. A total of 757 prisoners -- most likely from this list -- were being held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF), a U.S.-run prison on Bagram Air Base as of the end of December 2009.

Capture/Kill Operations

The idea of “joint” teams from different branches of the military working collaboratively with the CIA was first conceived in 1980 after the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw, when personnel from the Air Force, Army, and Navy engaged in a disastrously botched, seat-of-the-pants attempt to rescue U.S. hostages in Iran with help from the Agency. Eight soldiers were killed when a helicopter crashed into a C-130 aircraft in the Iranian desert.  Afterwards, a high-level, six-member commission led by Admiral James L. Holloway, III recommended the creation of a Joint Special Forces command to ensure that different branches of the military and the CIA should do far more advance coordination planning in the future.

This process accelerated greatly after September 11, 2001.  That month, a CIA team called Jawbreaker headed for Afghanistan to plan a U.S.-led invasion of the country. Shortly thereafter, an Army Green Beret team set up Task Force Dagger to pursue the same mission. Despite an initial rivalry between the commanders of the two groups, they eventually teamed up.

The first covert “joint” team involving the CIA and various military special operations forces to work together in Afghanistan was Task Force 5, charged with the mission of capturing or killing "high value targets" like Osama bin Laden, senior leaders of al-Qaeda, and Mullah Mohammed Omar, the head of the Taliban. A sister organization set up in Iraq was called Task Force 20. The two were eventually combined into Task Force 121 by General John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command.

In a new book to be released this month, Operation Darkheart, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer describes the work of Task Force 121 in 2003, when he was serving as part of a team dubbed the Jedi Knights.  Working under the alias of Major Christopher Stryker, he ran operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency (the military equivalent of the CIA) out of Bagram Air Base.

One October night, Shaffer was dropped into a village near Asadabad in Kunar province by an MH-47 Chinook helicopter to lead a “joint” team, including Army Rangers (a Special Forces division) and 10th Mountain Division troops.  They were on a mission to capture a lieutenant of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord allied with the Taliban, based on information provided by the CIA.

It wasn't easy. “They succeeded in striking at the core of the Taliban and their safe havens across the border in Pakistan. For a moment Shaffer saw us winning the war,” reads the promotional material for the book. “Then the military brass got involved. The policies that top officials relied on were hopelessly flawed. Shaffer and his team were forced to sit and watch as the insurgency grew -- just across the border in Pakistan.”

Almost a quarter century after Operation Eagle Claw, Shaffer, who was part of the Able Danger team that had pursued Al Qaeda in the 1990s, describes the bitter turf wars between the CIA and Special Forces teams over how the shadowy world of secret assassinations in Afghanistan and Pakistan should be run.

Task Force 373

Fast forward to 2007, the first time Task Force 373 is mentioned in the Wikileaks documents. We don’t know whether its number means anything, but coincidentally or not, chapter 373 of the U.S. Code 10, the act of Congress that sets out what the U.S. military is legally allowed to do, permits the Secretary of Defense to empower any “civilian employee” of the military “to execute warrants and make arrests without a warrant” in criminal matters. Whether or not this is indeed the basis for that “373” remains a classified matter -- as indeed, until the Wikileaks document dump occurred, was the very existence of the group.

Analysts say that Task Force 373 complements Task Force 121 by using “white forces” like the Rangers and the Green Berets, as opposed to the more secretive Delta Force. Task Force 373 is supposedly run out of three military bases -- in Kabul, the Afghan capital; Kandahar, the country’s second largest city; and Khost City near the Pakistani tribal lands.  It’s possible that some of its operations also come out of Camp Marmal, a German base in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Sources familiar with the program say that the task force has its own helicopters and aircraft, notably AC-130 Spectre gunships, dedicated only to its use.

Its commander appears to have been Brigadier General Raymond Palumbo, based out of the Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Palumbo, however, left Fort Bragg in mid-July, shortly after General Stanley McChrystal was relieved as Afghan war commander by President Obama. The name of the new commander of the task force is not known.

In more than 100 incident reports in the Wikileaks files, Task Force 373 is described as leading numerous “capture/kill” efforts, notably in Khost, Paktika, and Nangarhar provinces, all bordering the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of northern Pakistan. Some reportedly resulted in successful captures, while others led to the death of local police officers or even small children, causing angry villagers to protest and attack U.S.-led military forces.

In April 2007, David Adams, commander of the Khost provincial reconstruction team, was called to meet with elders from the village of Gurbuz in Khost province, who were angry about Task Force 373's operations in their community. The incident report on Wikileaks does not indicate just what Task Force 373 did to upset Gurbuz’s elders, but the governor of Khost, Arsala Jamal, had been publicly complaining about Special Forces operations and civilian deaths in his province since December 2006, when five civilians were killed in a raid on Darnami village.

"This is our land,” he said then. “I've been asking with greater force: Let us sit together, we know our Afghan brothers, we know our culture better. With these operations we should not create more enemies. We are in a position to reduce mistakes."

As Adams would later recall in an op-ed he co-authored for the Wall Street Journal, “The increasing number of raids on Afghan homes alienated many of Khost's tribal elders.”

On June 12, 2007, Danny Hall and Gordon Philips, working in Nangarhar province just northeast of Khost, were called into that meeting with Governor Sherzai to explain how Task Force 373 had killed those seven local Afghan police officers.  Like Jamal, Sherzai made the point to Hall and Philips that “he strongly encourages better coordination… and he further emphasized that he does not want to see this happen again.”

Less than a week later, a Task Force 373 team fired five rockets at a compound in Nangar Khel in Paktika province to the south of Khost, in an attempt to kill Abu Laith al-Libi, an alleged al-Qaeda member from Libya. When the U.S. forces made it to the village, they found that Task Force 373 had destroyed a madrassa (or Islamic school), killing six children and grievously wounding a seventh who, despite the efforts of a U.S. medical team, would soon die. (In late January 2008, al-Libi was reported killed by a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone strike in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan in Pakistan.)

Paktika Governor Akram Khapalwak met with the U.S. military the day after the raid. Unlike his counterparts in Khost and Nangarhar, Khapalwak agreed to support the “talking points” developed for Task Force 373 to explain the incident to the media. According to the Wikileaks incident report, the governor then “echoed the tragedy of children being killed, but stressed this could've been prevented had the people exposed the presence of insurgents in the area.”

However, no military talking points, no matter in whose mouth, could stop the civilian deaths as long as Task Force 373’s raids continued.

On October 4, 2007, its members called in an air strike -- 500 pound Paveway bombs -- on a house in the village of Laswanday, just six miles from Nangar Khel in Paktika province (where those seven children had already died). This time, four men, one woman, and a girl -- all civilians -- as well as a donkey, a dog, and several chickens would be slaughtered. A dozen U.S. soldiers were injured, but the soldiers reported that not one “enemy” was detained or killed.

The Missing Afghan Story

Not all raids resulted in civilian deaths.  The U.S. military incident reports released by Wikileaks suggest that Task Force 373 had better luck in capturing “targets” alive and avoiding civilian deaths on December 14, 2007. The 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) was asked that day to support Task Force 373 in a search in Paktika province for Bitonai and Nadr, two alleged al-Qaeda leaders listed on the JPEL. The operation took place just outside the town of Orgun, close to U.S. Forward Operating Base (FOB) Harriman. Located 7,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains, it hosts about 300 soldiers as well as a small CIA compound, and is often visited by chattering military helicopters as well as sleepy camel herds belonging to local Pashtuns.

An airborne assault team code-named “Operation Spartan” descended on the compounds where Bitonai and Nadr were supposed to be living, but failed to find them. When a local Afghan informant told the Special Forces soldiers that the suspects were at a location about two miles away, Task Force 373 seized both men as well as 33 others who were detained at FOB Harriman for questioning and possible transfer to the prison at Bagram.

But when Task Force 373 was on the prowl, civilians were, it seems, always at risk, and while the Wikileaks documents reveal what the U.S soldiers were willing to report, the Afghan side of the story was often left in a ditch.  For example, on a Monday night in mid-November 2009, Task Force 373 conducted an operation to capture or kill an alleged militant code-named “Ballentine” in Ghazni province. A terse incident report announced that one Afghan woman and four “insurgents” had been killed. The next morning, Task Force White Eagle, a Polish unit under the command of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, reported that some 80 people gathered to protest the killings. The window of an armored vehicle was damaged by the angry villagers, but the documents don’t offer us their version of the incident.

In an ironic twist, one of the last Task Force 373 incidents recorded in the Wikileaks documents was almost a reprise of the original Operation Eagle Claw disaster that led to the creation of the “joint” capture/kill teams. Just before sunrise on October 26, 2009, two U.S. helicopters, a UH-1 Huey and an AH-1 Cobra, collided near the town of Garmsir in the southern province of Helmand, killing four Marines.

Closely allied with Task Force 373 is a British unit, Task Force 42, composed of Special Air Service, Special Boat Service, and Special Reconnaissance Regiment commandos who operate in Helmand province and are mentioned in several Wikileaks incident reports.


“Capture/kill” is a key part of a new military “doctrine” developed by the Special Forces Command established after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw. Under the leadership of General Bryan D. Brown, who took over the Special Forces Command in September 2003, the doctrine came to be known as F4, which stood for "find, fix, finish, and follow-up" -- a slightly euphemistic but not hard to understand message about how alleged terrorists and insurgents were to be dealt with.

Under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush years, Brown began setting up “joint Special Forces” teams to conduct F4 missions outside war zones.  These were given the anodyne name “Military Liaison Elements.” At least one killing by such a team in Paraguay (of an armed robber not on any targeting list) was written up by New York Times reporters Scott Shane and Thom Shanker. The team, whose presence had not been made known to the U.S. ambassador there, was ordered to leave the country.

“The number-one requirement is to defend the homeland. And so sometimes that requires that you find and capture or kill terrorist targets around the world that are trying to do harm to this nation,” Brown told the House Committee on Armed Services in March 2006. “Our foreign partners… are willing but incapable nations that want help in building their own capability to defend their borders and eliminate terrorism in their countries or in their regions.” In April 2007, President Bush rewarded Brown's planning by creating a special high-level office at the Pentagon for an assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities.

Michael G. Vickers, made famous in the book and film Charlie Wilson's War as the architect of the covert arms-and-money supply chain to the mujaheedin in the CIA’s anti-Soviet Afghan campaign of the 1980s, was nominated to fill the position. Under his leadership, a new directive was issued in December 2008 to "develop capabilities for extending U.S. reach into denied areas and uncertain environments by operating with and through indigenous foreign forces or by conducting low visibility operations."  In this way, the “capture/kill” program was institutionalized in Washington.

"The war on terror is fundamentally an indirect war… It's a war of partners… but it also is a bit of the war in the shadows, either because of political sensitivity or the problem of finding terrorists," Vickers told the Washington Post as 2007 ended. "That's why the Central Intelligence Agency is so important… and our Special Operations forces play a large role."

George W. Bush's departure from the White House did not dampen the enthusiasm for F4.  Quite the contrary: even though the F4 formula has recently been tinkered with, in typical military fashion, and has now become “find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze,” or F3EA, President Obama has, by all accounts, expanded military intelligence gathering and “capture/kill” programs globally in tandem with an escalation of drone-strike operations by the CIA.

There are quite a few outspoken supporters of the “capture/kill” doctrine. Columbia University Professor Austin Long is one academic who has jumped on the F3EA bandwagon. Noting its similarity to the Phoenix assassination program, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the U.S. war in Vietnam (which he defends), he has called for a shrinking of the U.S. military “footprint” in Afghanistan to 13,000 Special Forces troops who would focus exclusively on counter-terrorism, particularly assassination operations. “Phoenix suggests that intelligence coordination and the integration of intelligence with an action arm can have a powerful effect on even extremely large and capable armed groups,” he and his co-author William Rosenau wrote in a July 2009 Rand Institute monograph entitled” “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency.”

Others are even more aggressively inclined. Lieutenant Colonel George Crawford, who retired from the position of “lead strategist” for the Special Forces Command to go work for Archimedes Global, Inc., a Washington consulting firm, has suggested that F3EA be replaced by one term: “Manhunting.” In a monograph published by the Joint Special Operations University in September 2009, “Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare,” Crawford spells out “how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security.”

Killing the Wrong People

The strange evolution of these concepts, the creation of ever more global hunter-killer teams whose purpose in life is assassination 24/7, and the civilians these “joint Special Forces” teams regularly kill in their raids on supposed “targets” have unsettled even military experts.

For example, Christopher Lamb, the acting director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, and Martin Cinnamond, a former U.N. official in Afghanistan, penned an article for the Spring 2010 issue of the Joint Forces Quarterly in which they wrote: “There is broad agreement… that the indirect approach to counterinsurgency should take precedence over kill/capture operations. However, the opposite has occurred.”

Other military types claim that the hunter-killer approach is short-sighted and counterproductive. “My take on Task Force 373 and other task forces, it has a purpose because it keeps the enemy off balance. But it does not understand the fundamental root cause of the conflict, of why people are supporting the Taliban,” says Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who resigned from the government last September. Hoh, who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Forces “capture/kill” programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, adds: “We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the U.S.”

Task Force 373 may be a nightmare for Afghans.  For the rest of us -- now that Wikileaks has flushed it into the open -- it should be seen as a symptom of deeper policy disasters.  After all, it raises a basic question: Is this country really going to become known as a global Manhunters, Inc.?

Pratap Chatterjee is managing editor of CorpWatch and the author of Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War (Nation Books, 2009).

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« Reply #51 on: August 30, 2010, 08:26:10 am »

Taliban spokesman's suggestions concerning recent claims of Gen. Petraeus

by Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

The Islamic Emirate spokesman's suggestions concerning recent claims of Gen. Petraeus
August 29, 2010

Gen. Petraeus, the US and NATO invaders commander’s propaganda machine is going about its deceitful business in Afghanistan. His new organized propaganda, a war zone within the media is to spread disinformation, negative spin and propaganda against the Mujahideen and the current situation of the country, in the hopes of clouding the truth and keeping the public especially Afghan masses disillusioned about the ground realities.

Gen. Petraeus, in his interviews with the mainstream media outlets has reiterated over and over again that the invading forces have made considerable progress in the central and southern parts of the country over the past few months and that they have pushed the Mujahideen back, limiting the areas in which they were operating and reducing the number of Mujahideen operations.
The Islamic Emirate, in an attempt to provide the world with the awareness of the facts and figures and what the reality is, invites reporters to Afghanistan to survey the overall situation, particularly in those areas in which Gen. Petaeus has claimed to have made progress.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan guarantees the safety of the media personals and offers any help in this regard providing that the invaders may do the same. We believe it is a good opportunity to surface the facts, so the propaganda of Gen. Patraeus can be exposed, who is bent on tricking the world.

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« Reply #52 on: August 31, 2010, 06:18:32 am »

Published on Monday, August 30, 2010 by Al Jazeera's Empire

The US Between Two Wars


The US stands at a historic crossroads, redeploying its combat troops out of Iraq and surging them in Afghanistan. But are they really leaving Iraq - or just rebranding the occupation? Why is Iraqi Lieutenant General Zibari requesting a decade-long US military presence?    Meanwhile, in their other war, in Afghanistan, military escalation runs alongside political deterioration. Will Barack Obama's troop surge really offer any hope of winning in Afghanistan? Has the US realised that Western values cannot be forced through the barrel of a gun?

As the fiascos continue, surely Western governments should rethink war as a means of securing interests. And yet, war is being reinvented with the development of new deadly toys like the drone, allowing the privilege to fight freely and globally from the comfort of home base. Where will the US go next?    The US'  invasion and occupation of these two countries aimed to solidify its global leadership, and when it all started to go wrong, the election of Obama was meant to slow the US' decay and restore its credibility around the world. But two years into his presidency there have been no breakthroughs.

As the US licks its wounds, counts its losses, intensifies its secret wars and contemplates its next moves in the Muslim world, has its superpower status been eroded? Empire searches for the answers.


  Colonel Richard Kemp Former British commander in Afghanistan
  Christopher Dickey Middle East editor, Newsweek
  Alain Gresh Editor, Le Monde Diplomatique
  Seumas Milne Associate editor, The Guardian


© 2010


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« Reply #53 on: August 31, 2010, 07:57:38 am »

South Asia
Sep 1, 2010 
Petraeus: Hook, line and sinker

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - In an effort to introduce a story of "progress" into media coverage, General David Petraeus' command claimed last week that the Taliban are suffering from reduced morale in Marjah and elsewhere, despite evidence that the population of Marjah still believes the Taliban control that district.

But the news media ignored the command's handout on the story, which did not quote Petraeus.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) August 25 news release quoted German Brigadier General Josef Blotz, the ISAF spokesman, as citing intelligence reports of "low insurgent morale, which is affecting their capability across the country".

The release claimed that the Taliban commander in Marjah district, Mullah Niamat, "openly acknowledged to his fellow insurgents that the Taliban is losing Marjah and their chances of winning are poor."

The release cited "intelligence reports" as saying the Taliban leader's assessment was "based on battle losses" and "increased resentment of the insurgent methods by average Afghans".

In response to a request from Inter Press Service (IPS) for details that would substantiate the claim, however, ISAF was unwilling to do so.

The allegation about Marjah is contradicted by a report of a survey conducted by the London-based International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) showing that the population of Marjah still regarded the Taliban as being in control of the district five months after US troops began occupying it.

The ICOS report, is based on 522 interviews with men in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in July - 97 of which were in Marjah district. It shows that 88 of the 97 interviewed in Marjah believe the Taliban-controlled the district, whereas only nine perceive the government as being in control.

If the population of Marjah is "resentful" of Taliban tactics, moreover, they are evidently far more resentful of US tactics in the district. Asked whether the military operation by US-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in their area was "good or bad for the Afghan people", only one of the 97 people said it was good; the other 96 said it was bad.

The ICOS is an international policy think-tank focused on issues security, development, counter-narcotics and health.

In response to an IPS query about exactly what Mullah Niamat is alleged to have said, Lieutenant Colonel John Dorrian, an ISAF public affairs officer, declined to provide any further information about just what Niamat had actually said. He cited the need to protect "our counter-intelligence tactics and techniques".

Dorrian claimed there was other evidence, obtained from discussions with detainees, among other means, to support the claim of reduced Taliban morale. He declined, however, to provide any further details.

Even though the news media have thus far refrained from challenging any of Petraeus' claims of progress, not a single news outlet thus far has picked up the ISAF press release's claim of lower insurgent morale.

The alleged admission of incipient defeat by Mullah Niamat and the refusal to provide any direct quotes or other specifics recall another alleged statement by an adversary used by Petraeus' staff in Iraq to make a key political point.

On July 2, 2007, Petraeus' spokesman in Iraq, General Kevin Bergner, told reporters that a Hezbollah detainee, Ali Musa Daqduq, had revealed to interrogators that he been tasked with organizing "special groups" in Iraq for Iran.

The story of Daqduq's alleged admission was part of a larger charge by the US command in Iraq that Iran had organized and was arming and training Shi'ite militia groups that had allegedly broken away from Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

But Bergner provided no direct quotes from Daqduq to reporters. And in May 2008, another public affairs officer, Colonel Donald Bacon, told Associated Press in an e-mail that the Hezbollah operative had actually told interrogators that his role in Iraq was to "assess the quality of training and make recommendations on how the training could be improved".

In fact, as military and intelligence officials privately admitted to pro-war blogger Bill Roggio, the term "special groups" was not an Iranian designation at all; it was created by the US command and applied to any Mahdi Army military commanders and troops who refused to cooperate with the US military.

Both episodes illustrate efforts by the military command to shape the media narrative surrounding the war, as advocated by Petraeus in his 2006 army manual on counter-insurgency.

Noting that the media "directly influence the attitude of key audiences toward counter-insurgents", Petraeus referred to "a war of perceptions between insurgents and counter-insurgents conducted continuously using the news media".

Petraeus urged counter-insurgency war "leaders" to carry out "information operations" to "obtain local, regional and international support for COIN operations".

The decision to promote a story that was likely to encounter skepticism in the press corps in Afghanistan appears to be a response by Petraeus to a looming crisis over his ability to convince the Barack Obama administration that progress is being achieved in the war.

The claim came two days after Petraeus asserted in a BBC interview that the US-NATO war had "already reversed the momentum which the Taliban had built up in the last few years in Helmand and Kandahar provinces and around Kabul".

In fact, however, US operations in Marjah had failed to expel the Taliban fighters or to reduce their political influence in the district. Nor has Petraeus claimed that Kandahar will be secured by the end of this year as previously vowed by his predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal - or even by the mid-2011.

To make matters worse for Petraeus, over the past six months, the Taliban have continued to establish a politically dominant presence in more areas of northern Afghanistan which had previously been judged relatively secure.

The Washington Post's Joshua Partlow reported on August 15 - the same day Petraeus was making his claim of progress - that Taliban fighters were "spreading like a brush fire into remote and defenseless villages across northern Afghanistan".

Two weeks earlier, Alissa J Rubin of the New York Times had quoted the chairman of the provincial council in Baghlan province as saying the situation there was "very serious and day by day it is getting worse and worse".

The bad news about Taliban gains in control of territory in the northern provinces is likely to be reflected in the next Pentagon assessment of the war due to be published in late November - just before Petraeus' pivotal December review of progress in the war.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

(Inter Press Service) 
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« Reply #54 on: August 31, 2010, 07:59:37 am »

South Asia
Sep 1, 2010 
Taliban noose around Wardak tightens

By IWPR-trained reporters

Mohammad Nader, the head of the Dra Construction Company in Wardak, says he has paid a heavy price for working for the authorities in the central Afghan province.

Earlier this year, he signed a contract to asphalt 17 kilometers of road between the Sayed Abad and Jaghato districts. But soon after his firm started work on the project, the Taliban burnt all his equipment, killed one of his workers and injured three more.

"In this attack, I lost a total of US$900,000, but no one has helped me," he said. "In Wardak province, there is no government, and the only real authority is the Taliban, who impose on people whatever they wish."

Just 35 kilometers west of the Afghan capital Kabul, Wardak is quietly falling under the sway of the Taliban, according to many residents.

A senior security official in the local government who spoke to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on condition of anonymity said the insurgents were effectively in control of nearly all villages in Wardak, apart from district centers, where officials exercised ever-diminishing authority from heavily guarded offices behind fortified walls,

He said that despite the presence of international forces, the Afghan army and police, officials had little reach beyond the district centers, while the Taliban had set up a parallel administration across the province, complete with their own governor, district chiefs and judges.

"Government officials cannot go outside the walls of their offices and people don't ask them to deal with their issues, preferring the Taliban," he said. "This shows that the government has no authority and that more than 80% of the region is under Taliban control."

The security official said the Taliban had such a grip on the region that the local authorities struggled to transport goods and equipment to district centers by road.

However, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gilleran, spokesman for Task Force Bayonet, the US Army force in the area, insisted the security situation in Wardak was improving with the help of relatively new initiatives like the Afghan Public Protection Program, in which local men are asked to help protect their villages.

“The ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] set in motion a program that recruited young men to serve as 'guardians' for their villages after a three-week training program," he explained. "The guardians secure key community sites, roads, bridges and buildings. They carry AK-47 rifles for protection, however they do not have arrest authority. The guardians operate out of checkpoints throughout Wardak province."

He added that the US military continued to be optimistic about the progress made by Afghan security forces, adding, "We are confident that the security improvements that our Afghan partners are making in Wardak will result in lasting improvements for the citizens in the province."

Shahedullah Shahed, spokesman for the governor of Wardak, admitted that the security situation in the province was a concern, but insisted it was not as bad as some claimed.

He maintained that local politicians standing for re-election in the parliamentary poll next month spread rumors about the growing strength of the Taliban to deflect from their own failure to deliver improvements for local people.

"It is true that the situation is not so good, but this isn't only a problem in Wardak - it's the same for most provinces. We have our police, army and district governors ... and they are active," he said.

Haji Mohammad Muss Hutak, a member of parliament from Wardak, rejected Shahed's assertions, claiming that legislators had conveyed local concerns about the encroachment of the Taliban to central government, but to no avail.

"There are police and district chiefs but they can only look after their own security, and there is no contact between them and the people," he said.

Gul Rahman, a local government employee, said he and other colleagues had fled to Kabul because of Taliban intimidation in Wardak. He said that some civil servants were now unable to return to their villages because the insurgents had issued letters threatening to kill them unless they resigned from their jobs.

"There's evidence that the Taliban will kill government employees and that the government cannot protect them ... [so] we were compelled to flee," Rahman said.

Wadod, a resident of Shash Kala, said the insurgents had burnt scores of vehicles belonging to locals they suspected of transporting government or American military consignments. "They have warned us that no one can drive vehicles without Taliban permission," he added.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, in a telephone interview with IWPR, warned that "anyone who supports the [foreign forces] and their puppet government, the Kabul government, are enemies of [Islam] and the country, and we will [fight] against them".

Mujahed claimed that local people welcomed the Taliban because they were tired of "corrupt government".

Assadullah Wahidi, a political analyst and chief editor of the Sarnawisht Daily newspaper, said the growing insurgent menace in the province was a result of failed policies. "The government was unable to work for the people of Wardak and it lost their support. The gap between the people and the government is widening every day," he said.

Wahidi believes Wardak is being targeted by the Taliban because of its proximity to Kabul, allowing them to demonstrate their power and reach to the government and international community.

For local people, there is little doubt about who is calling the shots in Wardak. Mirwais, a shopkeeper in the Salar bazaar, said the Taliban recently killed a driver who had been transporting material for American forces, but no one dared bury the body for fear of incurring the insurgents' wrath.

"His body just lay there and neither the police nor the army took it away. Local people wouldn't remove it either. Is that not power?” he asked.

(This article originally appeared in Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Used with permission.) 
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« Reply #55 on: September 01, 2010, 06:26:02 am »

South Asia
Sep 2, 2010 


Throw these infidels in jail

By Pepe Escobar

Dear reader: let's sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane to prehistoric times - the pre-9/11, pre-YouTube, pre-Facebook world.

Ten years ago, Taliban Afghanistan - Talibanistan - was under a social, cultural, political and economic nightmare. Arguably, not much has changed. Or has it?

Ten years ago, New York-based photographer Jason Florio and myself slowly crossed Talibanistan overland from east to west, from the Pakistani border at Landi Kotal to the Iranian border at Islam Qillah. As Afghan aid workers acknowledged, we were the first Westerners to pull this off in quite a while.

Those were the days. Bill Clinton was enjoying his last stretch at the White House. Osama bin Laden was a discreet guest of Mullah Omar - hitting the front pages only occasionally. There was no hint of 9/11, or of the invasion of Iraq, or of the "war on terror", or of the rebranding of the AfPak war, or of a global financial crisis. Globalization ruled, and the United States was the undisputed global top dog. The Clinton administration and the Taliban were deep into Pipelineistan territory - arguing over the tortuous, proposed Trans-Afghan gas pipeline.

We tried everything, but we couldn't even get a glimpse of Mullah Omar. Osama bin Laden was also nowhere to be seen. But we did experience Talibanistan in action, in close detail. So why revisit it now? Blame it on the lure of archeology and history. This is both a glimpse of a long-lost world and a window to a possible future in Afghanistan.

If schizophrenia defined the Taliban in power, US schizophrenia still rules.

Will the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization reach a "Saigon moment" anytime soon - and leave? Not likely. As General David "I'm always positioning myself to 2012" Petraeus, like his predecessor General Stanley McChrystal, advances his special forces-led, maximum-force Murder Inc to subdue the Taliban, the same Petraeus - no irony intended - may tell Fox News, as he did last week, that the war's "ultimate goal" is the "reconciliation" of the ultra-corrupt Hamid Karzai government with the Taliban.

This in fact means that while "favorable" conditions are not created on the ground, government-sanctioned drug trafficking mafias and US defense contractors will continue to make - literally and metaphorically - a killing. As for the PR-savvy Petraeus, he will pull out all stops to sell his brand of Afghan surge to Americans as some sort of "victory" - as he managed to sell the rebranded Iraq war. And as for the (rebranded) umbrella of fighters conveniently labeled "Taliban", who seem to eat surges for breakfast, they will bide their time, Pashtun-style, and trust Allah to eventually hand them victory - the real thing, and not a PR fantasy.

Now let's go back to the future.

KABUL, Ghazni - Fatima, Maliha and Nouria, whom I used to call The Three Graces, by now are 29, 28 and 24 years old. Ten years ago, they lived in an empty, bombed house next to a bullet-ridden mosque in a half-destroyed, apocalyptic theme park called Kabul - by then the world capital of the discarded container (or reconstituted by a missile and reconverted into a shop); a city where 70% of the population were refugees; where legions of homeless kids carried bags of cash on their backs ($1 was worth more than 60,000 Afghanis) and sheep outnumbered rattling 1960s Mercedes buses.

Under the merciless Taliban theocracy, the Three Graces suffered triple discrimination - as women, Hazaras and Shi'ites. They lived in Kardechar, a neighborhood totally destroyed in the 1990s by the war between Commander Ahmad Massoud, The Lion of the Panjshir, and the Hazaras (the descendants of mixed marriages between Genghis Khan's Mongol warriors and Turkish and Tajik peoples) before the Taliban took power in 1996. The Hazaras were always the weakest link in the Tajik-Uzbek-Hazara alliance - supported by Iran, Russia and China - confronting the Taliban.

Every dejected Kabuli intellectual I had met invariably defined the Taliban as "an occupation force of religious fanatics" - their rural medievalism totally absurd for urban Tajiks, used to a tolerant form of Islam. According to a university professor, "their jihad is not against kafirs; it's against other Muslims who follow Islam".

I spent a long time talking to the Dari-speaking Three Graces inside their bombed-out home - with translation provided by their brother Aloyuz, who had spent a few years in Iran supporting the family long-distance. This simple fact in itself would assure that, if caught, we would all be shot dead by the Taliban V&V - the notorious Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban religious police.

The Three Graces' dream was to live "free, not under pressure". They had never been to a restaurant, a bar or a cinema. Fatima liked "rock" music, which in her case meant Afghan singer Natasha. She said she "liked" the Taliban, but most of all she wanted to get back to school. They never mentioned any discrimination between Sunnis and Shi'ites; they actually wanted to leave for Pakistan.

Their definition of "human rights" included priority for education, the right to work, and to get a job in the state sector; Fatima and Maliha wanted to be doctors. Maybe they are, today, in Hazara land; 10 years ago they spent their days weaving beautiful silk shawls. Education was terminally forbidden for girls over 12. The literacy rate among women was only 4%. Outside the Three Graces' house, almost every woman was a "widow of war", enveloped in dusty light-blue burqas, begging to support their children. Not only was this an unbearable humiliation in the context of an ultra-rigid Islamic society, it contradicted the Taliban obsession of preserving the "honor and purity" of their women.

Kabul's population was then 2 million; less than 10%, concentrated in the periphery, supported the Taliban. True Kabulis regarded the Taliban as barbarians. For the Taliban, Kabul was almost as remote as Mars. Every day at sunset, the Intercontinental Hotel received an inevitable Taliban sightseeing group. They'd come to ride the lift (the only one in town) and walk around the empty swimming pool and tennis court. They'd be taking a break from cruising around town in their fleet of imported-from-Dubai Toyota Hi-Lux, complete with Islamic homilies painted in the windows, Kalashnikovs on show and little whips on hand to impose on the infidels the appropriate, Islamically correct, behavior. But at least the Three Graces were safe; they never left their bombed-out shelter.

Doubt is sin, debate is heresy

Few things were more thrilling in Talibanistan 10 years ago than to alight at Pul-e-Khisshti - the fabled Blue Mosque, the largest in Afghanistan - on a Friday afternoon after Jumma prayers and confront the One Thousand and One Nights assembled cast. Any image of this apotheosis of thousands of black or white-turbaned rustic warriors, kohl around their eyes and the requisite macho-sexy stare, would be all the rage on the cover of Uomo Vogue. To even think of taking a photo was anathema; the entrance to the mosque was always swarming with V&V informants.

Finally, on one of those eventful Friday afternoons, I managed to be introduced into the Holy Grail - the secluded quarters of maulvi (priest) Noor Muhamad Qureishi, by then the Taliban Prophet in Kabul. He had never exchanged views with a Westerner. It was certainly one of the most surreal interviews of my life.

Qureishi, like all Taliban religious leaders, was educated in a Pakistani madrassa. At first, he was your typical **** Deobandi; the Deobandis, as the West would later find out, were an initially progressive movement born in India in the mid-19th century to revive Islamic values vis-a-vis the sprawling British Empire. But they soon derailed into megalomania, discrimination against women and Shi'ite-hatred.

Most of all, Qureishi was the quintessential product of a boom - the connection between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party during the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad, when thousands of madrassas were built in Pakistan's Pashtun belt. Afghan refugees had the right to free education, a roof over their heads, three meals a day and military training. Their "educators" were semi-illiterate maulvis who had never known the reformist agenda of the original Deobandi movement.

Reclined on a tattered cushion over one of the mosque's ragged carpets, Qureishi laid down the Deobandi law in Pashto for hours. Among other things, he said the movement was "the most popular" because its ideologues dreamed that Prophet Muhammad ordered them to build a madrassa in Deoband, India. So this was Islam's purest form "because it came directly from Muhammad". Despite the formidable catalogue of Taliban atrocities, he insisted on their "purity".

Qureishi dabbled on the inferiority of Hindus because of their sacred cows ("why not dogs, at least they are faithful to their owners"). As for Buddhism, it was positively depraved ("Buddha is an idol"). He would have had a multiple heart attack with Thailand's Buddhist go-go girls, dancing **** at night and offering incense at the temple the morning after.
Doubt is sin. Debate is heresy. "The only true knowledge is the Koran". He insisted that all "forms of modern scientific knowledge came from the Koran". As an example, he quoted - what else - a Koranic verse (the Koran, by the way, in its neo-Deobandi, Talibanized version, forbade women to write, and allowed education only up to the age of 10). I could not help being reminded of that 18th century French anonymous writer - a typical product of the Enlightenment - who had written the Treaty of the Three Impostors - Moses, Jesus and Muhammad; but if I tried to insert the European Enlightenment into (his) monologue I would probably be shot dead. Basically, Qureishi finally managed to convince me that all this religious shadow play was about proving that "my sect is purer than yours".

Play it again, infidel

Talibanistan lived under a strict Kalashnikov culture. But the supreme anti-Taliban lethal weapon was not a gun, or even a mortar or rocket-propelled grenade. It was a camera. I knew inevitably that day would come, and it came in Kabul stadium, built by the former USSR to extol proletarian internationalism; another Friday, at 5pm, the weekly soccer hour - the only form of entertainment absent from the Taliban's Index Prohibitorum apart from public executions and mango ice cream.

Jason and I were lodged at the VIP tribune - less than 10 US cents for the ticket. The stadium was packed - but silent as a mosque. Two teams, the red and the blue, were playing the Islamically correct way - with extra skirts under their trunks. At half time the whole stadium - to the sound of "Allah Akbar" - ran to pray by the pitch; those who didn't were spanked or thrown in jail.

Jason had his cameras hanging from his neck, but he was not using them. Yet that was more than enough for a hysteric V&V teenage informant. We were escorted out of the stands by a small army of smiling, homoerotic brotherhood, those who were then referred to as "soldiers of Allah". Finally we were presented to a white-turbaned Talib with assassin's eyes; none other than Mullah Salimi, the vice minister of the religious police in Kabul - the reincarnation of The Great Inquisitor. We were finally escorted out of the stadium and thrown into a Hi-Lux, destination unknown. Suddenly we were more popular with the crowd than the soccer match itself.

At a Taliban "office" - a towel on the grass in front of a bombed-out building, decorated with a mute sat-phone - we were charged with espionage, our backpacks thoroughly searched. Salimi inspected two rolls of film from Jason's cameras; no incriminating photo. Then it was the turn of my Sony mini-DV camera. We pressed "play"; Salimi recoiled in horror. We explained that nothing was recorded on the blue screen. What was really recorded - he just needed to press "rewind" - would have been enough to send us to the gallows, including a lot of stuff with the Three Graces. Once again, we proved that the Taliban badly needed not only art directors and PR agents but also info-tech whiz kids.

In Taliban anti-iconography, video, in theory, might be allowed, because the screen is a mirror. Anyway, later we would know from the lion's mouth - the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kandahar - that TV and video would remain perpetually banned.

At that time, a few photo-studios survived near one of the Kabul bazaars - only churning out 3X4 photos for documents. The owners paid their bills by renting their Xerox machines. The Zahir Photo Studio still had on its walls a collection of black and white and sepia photos of Kabul, Herat, minarets, nomads and caravans. Among Leicas, superb Speed Graphic 8 X 10 and dusty Russian panoramic cameras, Mr Zahir would lament, "photography is dead in Afghanistan". At least that wouldn't be for long.

So after an interminable debate in Pashto with some Urdu and English thrown in, we were "liberated". Some Taliban - but certainly not Salimi, still piercing us with his assassin's eyes - tried a formal apology, saying what happened was incompatible with the Pashtun code of hospitality. All tribal Pashtun - like the Taliban - follow the Pashtunwali, the rigid code that emphasizes, among other things, hospitality, vengeance and a pious Islamic life. According to the code, it's a council of elders that arbitrates specific disputes, applying a compendium of laws and punishments. Most cases involve murders, land disputes and trouble with women. For the Pashtun, the line between pashtunwali and sharia was never very clear.

The V&V obviously was not a creation of Mullah Omar, the "Leader of the Faithful"; it was based on a Saudi Arabian original. In its heyday, in the second half of the 1990s, the V&V was a formidable intelligence agency - with informers infiltrated in the army, ministries, hospitals, United Nations agencies, non-governmental agencies - evoking a bizarre memory of KHAD, the enormous intelligence agency of the 1980s communist regime, during the anti-USSR jihad. The difference is that the V&V only answered to the orders - issued on bits and pieces of paper - of Mullah Omar himself.

Rock the base

The verdict echoed like a dagger piercing the oppressive air of the desert near Ghazni. A 360-degree panoramic shot revealed a background of mountains where the mineral had expelled all the vegetal; the silhouette of two 11th century minarets; and a foreground of tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers. The verdict, issued in Pashto and mumbled by our scared official translator imposed by Kabul, was inexorable: "You will be denounced in a military court. The investigation will be long, six months; meanwhile you will await the decision in jail".

Once again, we were being charged with espionage, but now this was the real deal. We could be executed with a shot on the back of the neck - Khmer Rouge style. Or stoned. Or thrown into a shallow grave and buried alive by a brick wall smashed by a tractor. Brilliant Taliban methods for the final solution were myriad. And to think this was all happening because of two minarets.

To walk over a supposedly mined field trying to reach two minarets was not exactly a brilliant idea in the first place. Red Army experts, during the 1980s, buried 12 million mines in Afghanistan. They diversified like crazy; more than 50 models, from Zimbabwe's RAP-2s to Belgium's NR-127s. UN officials had assured us that more than half the country was mined. Afghan officials at the Mine Detention Center in Herat, with their 50 highly trained German shepherd dogs, would later tell us that it would take 22,000 years to demine the whole country.

My objects of desire in Ghazni were two "Towers of Victory"; two circular superstructures, isolated in the middle of the desert and built by the Sassanians as minarets - commemorative, not religious; there was never a mosque in the surroundings. In the mid-19th century scholars attributed the grand minaret to Mahmud, protector of Avicenna and the great Persian poet Ferdowsi. Today, it is known that the small minaret dates from 1030 and the big one from 1099. They are like two brick rockets pointing to the sheltering sky and claiming the attention of those travelling the by then horrific Kabul-Kandahar highway, a Via Dolorosa of multinational flat tires - Russian, Chinese, Iranian.

The problem is that, 10 years ago, right adjacent to the minarets, there was an invisible Taliban military base. At first we could see only an enormous weapons depot. We asked a sentinel to take a few pictures; he agreed. Walking around the depot - between wrecks of Russian tanks and armored cars - we found some functioning artillery pieces, a lone, white Taliban flag, and not a living soul. This did look like an abandoned depot. But then we hit on a destroyed Russian helicopter - a prodigy of conceptual art. Too late: soon we were intercepted by a Taliban out of nowhere.

The commander of the base wanted to know "under which law" we assumed we had the right to take photos. He wanted to know what was the punishment, "in our country", for such an act. When the going was really getting tough, everything turned Monty Python. One of the Taliban had walked back to the road to fetch our driver, Fateh. They came back two hours later. The commander talked to Fateh in Pashto. And then we were "liberated", out of "respect for Fateh's white beard". But we should "confess" to our crime - which we did right away, over and over again.

The fact of the matter is that we were freed because I was carrying a precious letter hand-signed by the all-powerful Samiul Haq, the leader of Haqqania, the factory-cum-academy, Harvard and MIT of the Taliban in Akhora Khatak, on the Grand Trunk Road between Islamabad and Peshawar in Pakistan. Legions of Taliban ministers, province governors, military commanders, judges and bureaucrats had studied in Haqqania.

Haqqania was founded in 1947 by Deobandi religious scholar Abdul Haq, the father of maulvi and former senator Samiul Haq, a wily old hand fond of brothels and as engaging as a carpet vendor in the Peshawar bazaars. He was a key educator of the first detribalized, urbanized and literate Afghan generation; "literate", of course, in Haqqania-branded, Deobandi-style Islam. In Haqqania - where I saw hundreds of students from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan indoctrinated to later export Talibanization to Central Asia - debate was heresy, the master was infallible and Samiul Haq was almost as perfect as Allah.

He had told me - no metaphor intended - that "Allah had chosen Mullah Omar to be the leader of the Taliban". And he was sure that when the Islamic Revolution reached Pakistan, "it will be led by a unknown rising from the masses" - like Mullah Omar. At the time, Haq was Omar's consultant on international relations and sharia-based decisions. He bundled up both Russia and the US as "enemies of our time"; blamed the US for the Afghan tragedy; but otherwise offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US if Bill Clinton guaranteed no interference in Afghan affairs.

Back in Ghazni, the Taliban commander even invited us for some green tea. Thanks but no thanks. We thanked Allah's mercy by visiting the tomb of Sultan Mahmud in Razah, less than one kilometer from the towers. The tomb is a work of art - translucent marble engraved with Kufic lettering. Islamic Kufic lettering, if observed as pure design, reveals itself as a transposition of the verb, from the audible to the visible. So the conclusion was inevitable; the Taliban had managed to totally ignore the history of their own land, building a military base over two architectural relics and incapable of recognizing even the design of their own Islamic lettering as a form of art.

Next: The degree zero of culture

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

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« Reply #56 on: September 02, 2010, 06:20:32 am »

South Asia
Sep 3, 2010 

The degree zero of culture

By Pepe Escobar

This is the second article in a three-part report.

PART 1: 'Throw these infidels in jail'

Ten years ago, Taliban Afghanistan - Talibanistan - was under a social, cultural, political and economic nightmare. Ten years ago, New York-based photographer Jason Florio and myself slowly crossed Talibanistan overland from east to west, from the Pakistani border at Landi Kotal to the Iranian border at Islam qillah.

Those were the days. Bill Clinton was enjoying his last stretch at the White House. Osama bin Laden was a discreet guest of Mullah Omar – hitting the front pages only occasionally. There was no hint of 9/11, or the invasion of Iraq, or the "war on terror", or the rebranding of the AfPak war.

We tried everything, but we couldn't even get a glimpse of Mullah Omar. Osama bin Laden was also nowhere to be seen. But we did experience Talibanistan in action, in close detail. This is both a glimpse of a long-lost world, and a window to a possible future in Afghanistan. Arguably, not much has changed. Or has it?

Now let's go back to the future again.

KANDAHAR - The art direction at the ministries of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seemed to come courtesy of an involuntary Salvador Dali; lopsided paintings, dossier-free desks but with a walkie-talkie on, mute telephones, maps in psychedelic prints. Schizophrenia was the rule; the embassy of the Emirate in Islamabad, for instance, had a map of the "Democratic Republic of Afghanistan".

Abdul Haiy Mutmain's office was true to form. Ten years ago, Mutmain was the Minister of Information and Culture in Kandahar - the Taliban Central. In the absence of the loquacious, peripatetic Ahmad Wakil - Mullah Omar's official spokesman - Mutmain was the real game in town. "Elections? What elections? They are incompatible with sharia. Thus we reject them."

Like the handful of Western correspondents immersed in Talibanistan 10 years ago, a long time before 9/11, I was dying to meet the one-eyed legend Mullah Omar. Fat chance; he was more mysterious than The Shadow, even in Kandahar. He had only been to Kabul twice - and left in a hurry. His three wives still lived in Singesar, his native village, a dusty basket of mud-hut compounds where no girls had ever been to school - after all there was no school; only Omar's own madrassa, little else than a tent with a soiled floor filled with mattresses for the pupils.

He had never been photographed, never had met with foreign diplomats (and that is still true to this day). His famous "orders" still came on pieces of wrapping paper or cigarette matches. Beside his working desk, he kept an aluminum trunk full of Afghanis, and another one with US dollars; these constituted the Afghan Federal Reserve.

It was easy to feel in Kandahar how the Taliban initial agenda was to restore peace in the country, disarm the population, impose sharia law and defend the country's "Islamic integrity". Kandahar felt like a giant madrassa. The French cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard - still alive at the time - would have called it the degree zero of culture (the Islamic remix). The key cultural activity was to drink mango juice. A giant billboard on Martyr's Square - Kandahar's Times Square - exhibited a Mullah Omar dictum: "Don't be divided between tribes and ethnic groups; this is like the division between Jews and Christians".

Every conversation with a Taliban higher-up at the time implied the recurrence of the same theme; we don't have money because we're victims of an international conspiracy; thus, we cannot develop the country. It did not help to point out that for the price of a tank they could easily pave the horrendous Kabul-Kandahar highway.

The Taliban official line in 2000 was to fight for international recognition (only Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates had really recognized them; even Saudi Arabia had backed down). Mutmain used to complain non-stop about the threat of sanctions, and about the "negative" role of both the US and Russia; Mullah Omar had vented that "America and Russia have got together to form an anti-Afghan alliance". Mutmain insisted, "The UN does what the White House wants." And contrary to all evidence, he also insisted, "We don't have any prejudice against Shi'ites."

This was his notion of democracy; "The term 'democracy' has many meanings. In our country it means to protect the lives, property and culture of our people. Our country wants this type of government." And that led to the Taliban definition of culture; "People here are Muslims, this is a religious country. We are against customs that go against the religion of Islam. We protect Islamic and Afghan culture." He always refused to elaborate.

The work ethic on Taliban ministries was monolithic. Bill Clinton might launch a showering of missiles, Iran might threaten to invade, drought might exterminate most of the population; but the ministries only worked from 8 am to 12 am. Then there were prayers and a long siesta. And in late afternoon, a major Turban Get Together in front of Mullah Omar's White House in Kandahar. No sign of Omar himself, of course, or of his famed guest, America's Public Enemy Number One, Osama bin Laden.

Where is Osama?

Over a year before 9/11, Bin Laden was already a mass hero. For a Syrian businessman, a Malaysian student or a Pakistani entrepreneur, he was a fanatic; but for the poor, urban, radicalized youth across AfPak, he was iconic - a corrected version of Muhammad as Warrior-Prophet, a supposed Antichrist capable of defying America. I had seen Osama bin Laden images, T-shirts, videos and cassettes all the way from Peshawar in Pakistan, the Islamic Rome, to Kandahar; they were also being smuggled from Kashmir to Java, from Palestine to the southern Philippines.

I had learned everything to be learned about Bin Laden in Peshawar, the Mecca of Afghan exiles and Pashtun fierceness, through endless kebab and Kabuli rice dinners sitting cross-legged over tribal carpets washed with endless coups of green tea. Those solemn Pashtun elders reclined over cheap made-in-China velvet cushions were real Scheherazade masters at weaving a hypnotic narrative - a lethal, high and low-tech version of the Thousand and One Nights.

They would dabble on how Bin Laden was tall, shy, charming, generous, eating sparsely, sleeping even less, lending his clothes and distributing suitcases full of cash. How Bin Laden first fell in love with Peshawar in late 1979, right after the Red Army had entered Kabul. How he came to live in 1982 and soon set up the first hostel for the Arab jihad warriors, along with his former master Abdullah Azzam. How they had recruited a true Islamic Foreign Legion. How this was the best of possible worlds - where no one thought of fighting the Saudi monarchy or the American Grand Satan.

How in 1988 he set up his data bank including all the jihad warriors and the nebulae of volunteers who flowed through the training camps; that was "al-Qaeda" ("the base"). How Bin Laden fired his first anti-American projectile in Somalia, in 1993. How he moved to Sudan, then to Afghanistan. How he issued his declaration of jihad against America, in 1996. And how delocalized, interconnected cells across the world had adopted the spectacle of terror to seduce sections of those poor masses deserted from the Great Capitalist Banquet.

Over a year before 9/11, America was already imposing to the world's psyche the image of Osama bin Laden as an inexplicable, pathological criminal; the degree zero of terror. But the Peshawar elders were already telling me, in their own way, that Bin Laden, recluse as a hermit, was in fact more like the degree zero of the Reconquista, Islam's shot at reconquering its primacy. I could not help feeling both versions were false.

And then, in Kandahar, he might be just around the corner, sharing a kebab dinner at the White House with Mullah Omar...

Even in Kandahar it was clear that for the Taliban what really mattered was not a pan-Islamic jihad; it was to control their land. It was also more than evident that Talibanistan had no system. Everybody monopolized authority. Nobody accepted alien authority. Deobandi culture hates the public sphere; it is only interested in the meticulous respect of dogma. After all, the state is considered impious ever since the British conquered India in 1857.

So minimalist exceptions were positively delicious. Such as the young, polite and well-educated official at the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Kandahar - little more than a brick shack in the city's suburbs, close to the airport whose claim to fame at the time was as landing site for the hijacked Indian Airlines at the turn of the millennium; the official insisted the best thing I could do in Kandahar was "to get out of here as soon as possible".

Well, I had already seen the degree zero of culture at the University of Kabul as well - once one of the 12 best in the world, as many professors reminded me. There were absolutely no women students; that was "anti-sharia".

In fluent Spanish, the extraordinary man responsible for the library, Muhamad Kabir-Nezami, guided me through an archive whose names - in this wasteland - sounded like jade idols: Marx, Freud, Gibbon, Spinoza, Bernard Shaw. Kabir-Nezami told me that after much Taliban blood and fury, the library had managed to preserve only 20% or maybe 30% of its books; he could not say how many were left.

A group of eminent professors gave me the full extension of the tragedy. The university had been literally demolished. “We started the reconstruction from scratch - books, electrical system, water supply”. Some non-governmental organizations had helped. But there was no international help for the reconstruction. Nothing happened because of the United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed at the end of 1999.

The university was managed at the time by - who else - a maulvi (priest), Muhamad Monin. When he insisted that "the professors teach the meaning of a free press", the professors themselves - present at our meeting - looked at each other with infinite melancholy. But then one of them finally contradicted the maulvi. A real debate, in Pashto, raged on - an unnamable heresy as far as the Taliban are concerned. Pressed by the professors, the maulvi finally had to admit, "the university is affected by the current political situation."

I felt depressed for days. This was what the degree zero of culture was all about; a group of eminent professors at what was once one of the best universities in the world subjected to the sermons of a mediocre madrassa student who never finished the equivalent of primary school.

Next: Married to the mob

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

He may be reached at
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« Reply #57 on: September 02, 2010, 06:32:45 am »

Published on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 by

Two Wars Don’t Make a Right

by Robert Scheer

The carnage is not yet complete, and President Barack Obama's attempt to put the best face on the ignominious U.S. occupation of Iraq will not hide what he and the rest of the world well know. The lies that empowered George W. Bush to invade Iraq represent an enduring stain on the reputation of American democracy. Our much-vaunted system of checks and balances failed to temper the mendacity of the president who acted like a king and got away with it. 

It is utter nonsense for Obama, who in the past has made clear his belief that the Bush administration's case for this war was a tissue of lies, to now state: "The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people." We paid a huge price simply to assuage the arrogance of a president that was unfettered by the restraints of common sense expected in a functioning democracy. Particularly shameful was the betrayal by the Congress and the mass media of the obligations to challenge a president who exploited post-9/11 fears to go to war with a nation that had nothing whatsoever to do with that attack. 

With hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans dead and maimed and at a cost of $3 trillion to American taxpayers, the U.S. imperial adventure in Iraq has left that country in a horrible mess, controlled by a corrupt and deeply divided elite that shows no serious inclination to effectively govern. Nor can there be a claim of enhanced U.S. security when the real victors are the ayatollahs of Iran, whose influence in once bitterly hostile Iraq is now immense. The price in shattered lives and dollars will continue, as Iraq remains haunted by ethnic and religious conflict that we did so much to provoke.

Remember when most of the once respected mass media, and not just the obvious lunatics on cable, bought the Bush propaganda that democracy in Iraq, a harbinger of a new Middle East, was just around the corner? They based that absurd expectation on the fact that an Iraqi ayatollah disciple of the ones ruining Iran could order millions of his followers to hold up purple fingers. What a joke we have made of the ideal of representative democracy when Iraq is operating under an incomprehensible constitution, which our proconsul ordered, and is still without a functioning government six months after an election that our media once again dutifully celebrated.

Mark the obit on this disaster by John Simpson, the highly regarded BBC world affairs editor, writing Tuesday from Baghdad that "nowadays it is hard to find anyone who sees America as a friend or mentor." Dismissing the original American expectation that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would expand democracy in the Middle East, Simpson concludes: "On the contrary, America's position in the Middle East has been visibly eroded. ... America seems to have shrunk as a direct result of its imperial adventure in Iraq."

The one positive outcome is that with the formal end of the U.S. occupation many Americans have finally learned the lesson that imperialism does not pay. While Bush fiddled with a nonexistent terrorist threat from Iraq, the U.S. economy burned and the oil loot that some thought would make it all worthwhile never materialized. Remember when the neoconservatives were riding high and Paul Wolfowitz assured a supine Congress that Iraqi oil would pay for it all?

Nor did the invasion even make more secure our access to Mideast oil while competitors like China were busily securing foreign energy rights to shore up their bustling economies. Obama acknowledged this reality in his speech when he stated, "We must jump-start industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil." 

For all his talk about turning our attention homeward, Obama reveals his obsession with the imperial adventure in Afghanistan, where "because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to go on offense." Once again there is the expectation that the occupied will embrace the occupiers and that the deployment of massive military power "will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida," as if that is any longer relevant to our deep involvement in a treacherous civil war in which we have no reliable partners.

Al-Qaida was never present in Iraq before we invaded, and according to Obama's own national security adviser, there are fewer than a hundred members of the group left in Afghanistan, unable to coordinate any actions. Obama deserves credit for extracting this country from a war in Iraq that he inherited, but it is mind-numbing that in his nation-building efforts in Afghanistan he is now repeating the same errors that were made in Iraq.

© 2010
Robert Scheer is editor of [1] and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.


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« Reply #58 on: September 02, 2010, 06:38:34 am »

Published on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 by The Age (Australia)

Afghan War Unwinnable Quagmire, Ex-CIA Man Says

by Dylan Welch

THE war in Afghanistan is an unwinnable quagmire and poor US intelligence is leading to the deaths of Australian soldiers, a visiting former CIA officer says.

"They're all stuck behind the wire; they don't get out ... it's like the crusades where you're stuck on your castle imagining what the natives are doing," said Robert Baer, a decorated CIA field officer of two decades experience who had spent years in the Middle East. (AFP/File/Yuri Cortez)

Robert Baer, a decorated CIA field officer of two decades experience who had spent years in the Middle East, said any chances the US and its allies had of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan had already been squandered. The Coalition was fighting an unwinnable war, he said, and this was the case because victory required reliable intelligence.

''[US intelligence agencies] have the same problem they had before 9/11. It is a system that doesn't work.''

That system sees CIA operatives and allied intelligence officers unable to gather reliable information because security concerns do not allow them to travel widely. And most do not speak the local language. ''They're all stuck behind the wire; they don't get out ... it's like the crusades where you're stuck on your castle imagining what the natives are doing,'' he said.

Describing Washington DC as a ''blank spot on the map'', he said that despite the massive growth of the intelligence agencies post September 11, 2001, there remained systemic failings.

''American intelligence after 9/11 has been unable to co-ordinate ... the FBI will not share with the CIA. CIA has operational databases which they won't share with even others inside the CIA.''

All of this led to a dysfunctional intelligence community unable to provide reliable, contemporary intelligence that could allow the Coalition to win in Afghanistan.

''Twenty-two American soldiers have been killed since Friday, and Australia has lost 21 men ... Afghanistan is a quagmire and it can only be fought with an effective counter-insurgency. It cannot be fought with Abrams tanks and F16s,'' he said.

The author of four books and a film consultant, he has previously described how the CIA's role as a provider of human intelligence - on-the-ground intelligence gathering by field officers - has been steadily degraded under poor management.

Earlier this week Mr Baer said the Australian government should confront Washington with the poor intelligence on Afghanistan that was recently released by WikiLeaks.

''The Australians should take the WikiLeaks information to the US [administration] and say: please tell us you have better information than this,'' Mr Baer said.

Mr Baer is in Australia to speak at the Australian Security Industry Association Limited conference in Sydney.

Copyright © 2010 Fairfax Media


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« Reply #59 on: September 03, 2010, 05:48:58 am »

Afghanistan: Offensive in Kandahar underway

By Tom Peters

WSWS, September 2, 2010

The coalition’s offensive in Kandahar, touted as the centrepiece of the "surge" in Afghanistan announced by US President Obama last December, is now well underway. With barely any coverage in the media internationally, as many 50,000 foreign and Afghan Army troops have deployed in and around the city.

Kandahar, which has a population of around 500,000, is under a state of military siege. The presence of the armed forces is felt everywhere, with constant patrols and expanding military bases. There are now 30,000 more US soldiers than a year ago and increased military police numbers.

Over the past four months, checkpoints have been established at all the main routes into the city, and thousands of tall concrete blast walls have been installed around police stations and government buildings. At the checkpoints, thousands of residents are daily subjected to population control measures by Afghan and foreign military police, including searches and biometric eye scans, which are checked against a list of around 25,000 suspected insurgents. Tens of thousands of residents have been issued with new identity cards.

Outside Kandahar city, in the western districts of Panjwai and Zhari and the northern district of Arghandab, occupation troops are conducting major "clearing" operations, using overwhelming and indiscriminate force against so-called Taliban "strongholds". Hundreds of alleged insurgents have been killed or arrested.

The Taliban fighters themselves are poorly armed and stand little chance in direct engagements with foreign troops. Canada’s National Post described a recent attack in Panjwai in which "two Canadian Griffon helicopters flew overhead and fired a hailstorm of bullets at insurgents. A US aircraft then dropped a bomb. Canadian soldiers watching and listening from a nearby combat outpost cheered."

Such accounts are reminiscent of attacks in Iraq which resulted in substantial civilian deaths, including the infamous 2007 massacre of civilians from an Apache helicopter in Baghdad which was revealed by WikiLeaks in April.

The increased killing in Kandahar and throughout Afghanistan is being overseen by General David Petraeus, the architect of the former Bush administration’s "surge" in Iraq. Petraeus was appointed by Obama to replace General Stanley McChrystal in June. McChrystal, while ostensibly fired for comments to Rolling Stone criticising the administration, was removed after he delayed the assault on Kandahar due to the failure of thousands of troops to secure the Marjah area in Helmand province.

Since taking command, Petraeus has ordered the start of the offensive despite the significant fighting still taking place against the occupation forces in Helmand and other areas. The same strategies used by Petraeus to crush the Baghdad insurgency in 2007 are now being used in Kandahar. During the Baghdad offensive, entire areas of the city were turned into what the US military termed "gated communities", with blast walls, checkpoints and control measures used to imprison the population and facilitate the targeted killing of insurgents.

Reports from Kandahar indicate widespread hostility to the "surge". Thomas Johnson, an adviser to Canada’s Task Force Kandahar, told reporters last week that he was amazed by the number of children throwing rocks and tomatoes and making obscene gestures at passing foreign troops. "I think that might be a leading indicator of other thoughts and conversations that are occurring in families . . . that we’re being viewed as the occupier".

Tor Ghani, a taxi driver, told the Canadian Press that the new checkpoints reminded him of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s, adding that the corrupt Afghan National Police used them to collect bribes. A majority of respondents to a US Army survey earlier this year identified army and police checkpoints as the biggest threat to their security while travelling in Kandahar.

Foreign troops are widely seen as propping up the corrupt and illegitimate provincial government of Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother of Afghan puppet president Hamid Karzai, as well as the local government of Kandahar mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi. During a visit to the city last month, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was bluntly told by three tribal elders that "the voice of ordinary people doesn’t reach this government".

The elders also criticised the escalating military operations. One asked: "Are you bringing security here or are you bringing violence?" When Mullen responded that in the past month the Taliban had killed 45 civilians, while coalition forces had killed five, one of the men pointed out that none would have died "if you weren’t here".

Many terrorised villagers in the Kandahar area have been forced to flee their homes. A taxi driver from a village in Panjwai told reporters last week that "security is getting worse day by day. …We are not able to see our land because of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and fighting. We are just alive. Our children cannot sleep due to the sounds of aircraft and fighting. It’s terrible being out there." He added: "Every person is thirsty for peace and now everyone lost his hope, because we don’t believe the current administration will ever restore it."

While US and Afghan military officials insist that the population is being terrorised by the Taliban, comments from residents demonstrate that their main fear is being killed by an occupation air strike or night-time raid. One Zhari farmer, Habibullah, told reporters: "If they carry out an air raid at our homes because the Taliban are there, or send soldiers at night, what will happen to us?" A villager from Malajat said he was "scared of an air strike, because we can have casualties there". He added that he had seen many civilians killed this way.

The occupation forces have repeatedly sought to blame civilian casualties inflicted by foreign troops on the insurgents. Last month, the Washington Post reported that Lieutenant Campbell Spencer from the Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell had "said that the Taliban has taken to holding Afghan civilians as hostages to make it more difficult for the forces to attack without killing innocent people."

Support for the insurgency is growing as more and more civilians are killed. Despite the troop buildup, Taliban fighters still move freely in villages surrounding Kandahar. In June, a survey by the International Council on Security and Development of 552 men in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces found that 70 percent opposed recent foreign military actions in their area, while only one percent believed that foreign troops were rebuilding the country. In Helmand, 83 percent of respondents said that the recent military surge there had been bad for the Afghan people.

A survey of 1,994 people in Kandahar in March, commissioned by the US Army, found that 94 percent of people supported a peace conference with the Taliban and 85 percent viewed the Islamist fighters as "our Afghan brothers."

Petraeus and other top US and NATO commanders insist that the nine-year Afghan war is entering its "final stages", and that a victory in Kandahar will bring them closer to defeating the insurgency. Others in the US military establishment, however, have voiced concerns that the surge could be in vain, since the Taliban has now spread to virtually every province in the country.

Marc Sageman, an analyst from the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former CIA agent, told the Washington Post last week: "You can pacify Kandahar and you’ll still lose the war because Afghanistan remains a highly decentralised society, and in the countryside, the Kabul government has little legitimacy".

The February offensive in the largely rural area of Marjah in Helmand province ultimately failed to uproot the Taliban. Now, under Petraeus, the US-led forces are resorting to even more bloodshed and repression as they desperately attempt to crush the resistance to the neo-colonial occupation of the impoverished country.

In response, insurgent attacks on foreign troops have increased. On August 31, another six US soldiers died—four of them in a roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan, and two in gunfights with insurgents in the south—bringing the total killed in the past four days to 23. The total number of foreign troops to die this year is 489, compared to 521 for all of 2009.

Coalition attacks throughout the country are also increasing, resulting in more civilian deaths. On August 22, NATO commandos massacred eight civilians, including two women and a child, and injured 12 more during a raid in the village of Naik in Baghlan Province. An air strike in Kunar Province last week killed six children between the ages of six and 12. Another was seriously injured.

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« Reply #60 on: September 03, 2010, 06:01:10 am »

South Asia
Sep 4, 2010 

Married to the mob

By Pepe Escobar

This is the conclusion of a three-part report.

PART 1: 'Throw these infidels in jail'

PART 2: The degree zero of culture

Ten years ago, Taliban Afghanistan - Talibanistan - was under a social, cultural, political and economic nightmare. Ten years ago, New York-based photographer Jason Florio and myself slowly crossed Talibanistan. Those were the days. Bill Clinton was in the White House. Osama bin Laden was a discreet guest of Mullah Omar, and there was no hint of 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, or the "war on terror", or the rebranding of the AfPak war.

We experienced Talibanistan in action, in close detail. This is both a glimpse of a long-lost world, and a window to a possible future in Afghanistan. Arguably, not much has changed. Or has it?
If schizophrenia defined the Taliban in power, US schizophrenia still rules.

Will the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization reach a "Saigon moment" anytime soon - and leave? Not likely. As General David "I'm always positioning myself to 2012" Petraeus, like his predecessor General Stanley McChrystal, advances his special forces-led, maximum force Murder Inc. to subdue the Taliban, the same Petraeus - no irony intended - may tell Fox News, as he did last week, that the war's "ultimate goal" is the "reconciliation" of the ultra-corrupt Hamid Karzai government with the Taliban.

This in fact means that while "favorable" conditions are not created on the ground, government-sanctioned drug trafficking mafias and US defense contractors will continue to make - literally - a killing. As for the PR-savvy Petraeus, he will pull all stops to sell his brand of Afghan surge to Americans as some sort of "victory" - as he managed to sell the rebranded Iraq war. And as for the (rebranded) umbrella of fighters conveniently labeled "Taliban", who seem to eat surges for breakfast, they will bide their time, Pashtun-style, and trust Allah to eventually hand them victory - the real thing, and not a PR fantasy.

Now let's go back to the future again.

HERAT, SPINBALDAK, BALOCHISTAN - Arriving in Herat after a hellish journey from Kandahar, I thought I had smoked prime Afghan opium and was on a non-stop trip to Persian fantasy. I had met Scandinavian non-governmental organization women intellectuals stranded right in the middle of Taliban theocracy, but in Herat they seemed to be in the right place. Because Herat seemed to be absolutely impervious to tyranny.

The oasis of Herat - established 5,000 years ago - is the cradle of Afghan history and civilization. It boasts the richest soil in Central Asia; Herodotus dubbed it "Central Asia's granary". For centuries it was a crucial crossroads between the Turkish and Persian empires. The whole population was converted to Islam in the 7th century. When I entered the grand mosque - built in the 7th, rebuilt in the 12th century - I felt I was really in Persia.

During the Middle Ages, Herat was a great Sufi center - mystical and profoundly spiritual Islam. Not by accident the city's patron saint is Khawaja Abdullah Ansari, an 11th-century Sufi poet and philosopher. Genghis Khan conquered Herat in 1222 and spared only 40 of its 160,000 inhabitants. Less than two centuries later the city recovered its glory when Tamerlan's son and his wife - queen Gowhar Shad - transferred the capital of the empire from Samarkand to Herat.

Tamerlan's empire was the first to mix the nomadic culture of the Turkish steppe with the extreme sophistication of Persian culture. At the bazaar, septuagenarian traders told me - the first foreigner they had seen in almost two years - how at the beginning of the 15th century the city was as wealthy as Venice, producing the finest carpets, jewelry, weaponry and miniatures as well as mosques, madrassas, public baths, libraries and palaces.

Herodotus might be having a blast with the historical irony of the Taliban - with their pathological horror of the female sex - now ruling a Persian city where once reigned one of the most seductive humanists and feminists of Asia. Gowhar Shad - the female, Persian version of Lorenzo de Medici - used to marry her "ruby-lipped" ladies-in-waiting with the Taliban of their time.

The queen built a fabulous complex including mosque, madrassa and her own tomb in the outskirts of Herat. The tomb - blue Persian tiles with floral decoration, a blue dome decorated with vertiginous Koranic inscriptions - is unanimously recognized by art historians as one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture. The inscription on the tomb is a simple "the Bilkis of her time"; "bilkis" stands for "Queen of Sheba".

What is left of the complex are five elegant minarets, a few marble slabs and something from Gowhar Shad's tomb. The British Empire demolished almost everything by the end of the 19th century and the Soviets mined the area during the 1980s to repel the mujahideen. Heratis would comment that when the Soviets bombed the city in 1979, they wreaked more havoc than Genghis Khan.

The Taliban had no idea of the prodigious cultural, literary and political history of Herat. What mattered for them was Herat as a golden goose - the crossroads through which passed the non-stop smuggling of second-hand vehicles, consumer electronics and computers from Dubai and Bandar Abbas on the way to Pakistan. The taxes paid by the hundreds of lorries crossing Herat every day fed the Taliban central bank and financed the war to conquer the north of Afghanistan still escaping their control.

Unlike the rest of Talibanistan, there was no mass poverty in Herat. Pakistani Pashtun moneychangers insisted business was great. In two sprawling bazaars, eight-year-old kids crammed in small rooms were weaving for 12 hours a day the carpets that would flood all Asian markets (not anymore; now they are synthetic, or made in China). Before curfew, at 10pm, the bazaars were booming, as well as the juice and ice-cream shops.

Intellectually, this miniature of Persia was buried when the Taliban conquered it in 1995; the painters, poets and professors crossed the border to Iran. The Taliban locked all women behind closed doors; forbade visits to Sufi sanctuaries; imposed the degree zero of education closing down all schools; segregated hospitals; closed down public baths; and banished women from the bazaar.

They rebelled. Every day, from 8am to 11am, for the past three years, Latifah - a graduate of Herat's Medical Institute - had been conducting her own, homemade primary school, teaching math, Persian, Pashto, English, biology, physics, chemistry and Koranic studies. This was a two-year course, with a month's holiday. Officially, this school "didn't exist". But "they know", she would tell me. There had been no repression. But she was very anxious about the future.

For her beloved students, Latifah - one of the six daughters of an upper-middle-class Herati family - was none other than a reincarnation of Gowhar Shad. Her father, an engineer trained in the former Soviet Union, used to make thousands of dollars a month before the Taliban. Latifah was part of a sprawling west Afghan network of underground resistance - confiding that there was practically "one school in every street" and a few hundred teachers, although they never tried to communicate with each other.

Apart from teaching, she gave medical attention to anyone who needed it, and had worked for a de-mining organization. She used to say that when she got married, she would want "a person like me, who gives me permission to teach". That's what she may be doing in Herat nowadays.

By that time I had crossed Talibanistan from east to west. It was enough to share two certainties. For all that I saw, the tribalization of urban Afghanistan did not seem inevitable - even though it was accelerated by the rustic Taliban theocracy. And the talibanization of the whole of Central Asia - so much feared by Washington, Moscow and Beijing - also was a non-starter. Because of the strength of spirit of people like Latifah, Gowhar Shad, the indomitable humanist, would certainly give it the seal of approval with her ruby lips.

Free trade, here we come!

A horizontal canyon of containers fries in the Balochistan desert, casually watched over by a turbaned army. Inside, a Babel of conspicuous consumption, from Japanese video cameras to English knickers, from Chinese silk to computer parts from Taiwan.

In this Taliban version of Ali Baba's cave you can buy anything - cash; no major credit cards accepted. A few yards away, monster hauls of heroin, Eastern European Kalashnikov replicas and Iranian oil converge in an apotheosis of free trade. Yes, because 10 years ago "free trade" was not in the World Trade Organization in Geneva; it was here, in Spinbaldak - a ringside seat to the largest smuggling ring on the planet, involving the Taliban, Pakistani smugglers, drug lords, tribal chiefs owning transport mafias, bureaucrats, politicians, the police and selected army officials.

This low-tech version of the Silk Road - where lorries replaced 5,000-camel caravans - was the Taliban's real golden goose. The Silk Road linking China to Europe via Afghanistan and Central Asia was controlled by the same tribal chiefs and nomads who today roll in Mercedes.

This free-trade boom could only be a consequence of the interminable civil war in Afghanistan - linked to the expansion of the drug business and the overwhelming corruption in Pakistan. At the same time, this far west coincided with a consumer boom all across Central Asia.

Drug and transport mafias - all across what today the Pentagon calls AfPak - united in merry convergence. The Taliban, since taking power in 1996, were encouraged by transporters to open roads for mass smuggling. It was the Quetta (Balochistan's capital) transport mafia that forced the Taliban to capture the Persianized Herat, and thus totally control the way to Turkmenistan. What a Pakistani diplomat had told me in Islamabad still rings true to this day; "It's this mafia that ultimately controls the fate of governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan."
The border "control" between Chaman, in Balochistan, and Spinbaldak, in Afghanistan, was a joke (and remains so to this day); a monster frat party drenched in endless cups of green tea. Everybody knows everybody else. Up to 400 trucks and lorries used to cross the border every day. Most of the Bedford and Mercedes trucks were stolen - with fake license plates. There was no invoice for anything inside them. The drivers would have crossed as many as six international borders with a fake driver's license, no road permit and no passport. Nobody paid customs or taxes of any kind.

Obviously, this was not a recommend spot for Westerners. We were met with accusations of being "UN spies". Only after a handful of altercations in Urdu were we "adopted" by some clans - who immediately started to peddle their wares. I could have bought a Toyota Corolla 92 for only $3,000, a Nihonkkai Japanese fire truck for less than $5,000, a Toyota Land Cruiser 96 for $10,000 or a Yamaha bike as good as new for only $700.

Abdul Qadir Achkazi was a key figure in the family of a terribly influential local warlord. He was a cosmopolitan - he'd been to Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai and had a "martyr" bother in the anti-USSR jihad. Reclined on a cushion over the dusty carpet inside his container office, serving the umpteenth cup of green tea, he laid down the free-trade law.

All this stuff came by ship from Yokohama to Bandar Abbas in Iran, via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The transport of a container full of dodgy goods was $4,000, maximum. In Bandar Abbas, the container paid a harbor tax. From Bandar Abbas, it crossed the Iran-Afghan border and arrived in Spinbaldak on top of a lorry. Entering Afghanistan, the importer paid the Taliban up to $7,000 in taxes per container, or $3,000 if these were toys. For each imported Toyota, the Taliban got a cool $1,000. From Bandar Abbas to Spinbaldak, transport expenses would run to $600, paid before entering Herat - the Taliban's golden goose.

Abdul told me that all clients in this free-trade special were Pakistanis. And almost all traders had double nationality. Best-sellers at the time were cassette players, CDs and computers (nowadays it must be iPhones).

The absolute majority of traders confirmed that most deliveries were in Quetta - but they could deliver wherever the client wanted; after all they controlled their own transport networks. In this case, there would be an extra of 30%. If the merchandise was apprehended by police, the client would get all his money back. But anyway in Spinbaldak, as Abdul said, "Everything is legal. There's no Taliban interference because all taxes have been paid." In front of a container selling a pile of good old Sony Trinitrons, a group told me, "We fought the Russians. Today we support the Taliban."

The border with Iran, in Islam qila, a wasteland battered by endless sandstorms worked in the same register. Iranian lorries got rid of their containers, immediately lugged on to Afghan trucks that inevitably would fall prey to the sandstorms. The layout of Afghan "customs" was a row of transportation companies' offices. Faced with a few questions, the Iranian officials were as polite as a mortal Pasdaran enemy of still living Saddam Hussein.

It was only in 2000 that Pakistan actually woke up to the billions of dollars in taxes it was losing in this free-for-all. The informal economy at the time was 51% of gross domestic product (not much has changed). Smuggling was - and remains - an immense network trespassing Central Asia, Iran and the Persian Gulf (that's one of the reasons why sanctions against Iran will never work).

Already in 2000 it was pure wishful thinking to believe that powerful tribal lords could not live without Pakistan - to which they were and remain interlinked by trade and property they bought outside of the tribal areas. Tribal chiefs raved about this huge, illegal duty-free corridor - and they still profit from it.

The porosity of Pakistan's borders - from the Khyber pass to Balochistan - benefited the Afghan mujahideen during the anti-USSR jihad, but at the same time allowed the infiltration all across Pakistan of the Kalashnikov culture. The Hindu Kush as much as the Durand Line, natural or human barriers, nothing has prevented a continuous flux of horrors to flow from Central Asia to South Asia.

So what was the purpose of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan? Well, I did learn that Talibanistan was conditioned by three "values": war, trade and pious morality. The Taliban did manage to recreate in almost the whole country the mindset of a madrassa.

Those taxes over free trade filled their coffers. And an internal jihad - against Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras - justified the regime. The legitimacy of the state and politics was absolutely zero; that is, any notion of citizenship or freedom was also absolutely zero. Only belief and obedience were legitimate. Ten years later, I still think this is a demented, (non)political experiment for the history books.

Well, we finally hit the Balochistan border, between pyramids of multinational tires and a traffic jam of donkey carts piled up with stereos. The Taliban control post was a small, fly-infested room. The official was asleep. When he awoke, he asked for exist visas. We improvised – showing him a letter from the Foreign Ministry in Kabul. It took him an eternity not to read our letter. But he eventually stamped our passports. We hit the main street like Gary Cooper in High Noon. A black-turbaned Taliban passed by. I couldn't resist; "Welcome home." We grabbed a Mad Max cab and burned rubber in the dust of this 7th-century black hole - and the time-machine brought us back to the year 2000.

Where's my refugee Buddha?

"Oh, I have Buddhas from Bamiyan."

The news - as cool, calm and collected as a Taliban rocket launch - took a while to sink in. The Cousin of the Mine King of Balochistan was still smiling. We had been in Quetta, frontier capital of the Pakistani side of Balochistan, only for a few hours.

In Afghanistan, we had been arrested (twice), menaced with a trial by a military court, accused of being UN spies. We were exhausted, and as far as Bamiyan was concerned, frustrated. Taliban officials in Kabul had denied us a visa do visit Bamiyan, allegedly because of "security reasons". At the time I lived in Buddhist Thailand. Apart from trying to understand what makes a warped madrassa worldview tick in the beginning of the Third Millennium, I had always longed to see the Bamiyan Buddhas.

But I never made it to Bamiyan. Instead, Bamiyan came to me.

At the Quetta Serena Hotel - a plush compound straight from Santa Fe, New Mexico - the Cousin of the Mine King showed up in style: chauffeur-driven in a Toyota Hi-Lux. This could only foment our paranoia: Toyotas Hi-Lux constituted the entire Taliban motorized Walhalla, and when we were arrested by the religious police in Kabul stadium in the middle of a soccer match for (not) taking photos, we were taken to interrogation in the back seat of a Toyota Hi-Lux. But the Cousin of the Mine King had other plans.

"Let's go meet some nomads."

A few hours later, we were in a tent sipping tea with a family of Balochistan borderland nomads. Compared to the destitute Ghazni nomads we had seen in Afghanistan, fleeing from the worst drought in the past 30 years, these ones were positively de luxe. The head of the family even tried to sell me a falcon: customers from the United Arab Emirates were snatching them at the time for as much as 1 million rupees.

The head nomad reveals himself to be an Afghan trader in the Punjab. His take on Afghanistan is extremely self-assured: the Taliban are falling apart, and the country has now split into three factions. All of them are responsible for the widespread destruction, as much as the whole population.

Back in Quetta, after the nomad warm-up, we are taken through a mud-brick labyrinth to a house in the middle of a desert wasteland. Kids swarm in the dusty "streets". One of them disappears inside a shack and emerges with a statue. And another. And then another. We are now contemplating the private collection of the Cousin of the Mine King. It features astonishing Greco-Buddhist boddhisatvas, hellenic arhats with their ribs protruding, and even part of a frieze. Some could be 3rd or 4th century, some even older. They are all pre-Bamiyan Buddhas.

The Cousin of the Mine King is naturally evasive. He would love to sell his collection to a Western museum - but can't get it out of the country. The Guimet Museum of Asian Arts in Paris had recently reopened after lavish restoration work worth $50 million; they would kill for this "private collection". He "obtained most of the statues from the Bamiyan valley". Some of them "came from the Kabul museum". The methods were effective: "We just went there and took them".

With the boddhisatvas still in our minds, the Cousin of the Mine King take us to meet the Great Man himself. We are ushered into his living room, decorated with a silk Qom almost the size of a tennis court, and worth the gross domestic product of whole Afghan provinces. The Mine King is a Baloch from the borderlands - a member of the Sanjirani tribe. He controls coal, onyx, marble and granite mines. And he goes straight to the point.

"Afghanistan is a tribal society. We should leave it like that." For him, the only solution for the country would be the return of King Zahir Shah: "But that was already proposed in the early 1990s. Now itดs too late." The Mine King regards the Taliban as "very nice people". But he worries about the future, considering the vast amount of weapons in the country: "If there is a total collapse in Afghanistan, the ashes will be coming straight to Pakistan" (how prophetic was he, 10 years ago?)

The Mine King waves us goodbye, dreaming of enjoying New York City nightlife. Then a few months passed. I always thought that somewhere in the wasteland outskirts of Quetta, a few Afghan Buddhas were still sleeping half-buried in the sand. Then in March 2001 I knew for sure they had escaped the fate of the Bamiyan Buddhas, bombed to ashes by the Taliban. But as the Mine King himself remarked, these ashes, brought by the winds, headed straight into Pakistan.

Ten years ago, and even by March 2001, not many people were fully aware that a geopolitical New Great Game was already unraveling in Central Asia. The Taliban were - and remain - just one of the (minor) players. They could obliterate Buddhist art that predates Islam itself. But Buddhism teaches us that everything is impermanent.

Ten years ago the Cousin of the Mine King could be the target of a few accusations; a few months later, he could be seen as a man who saved a significant part of the world heritage from the Taliban smashing ****. And more impermanence: considering Central Asian volatility, the bombers themselves, sooner rather than later, were reduced to ashes in the New Great Game.

Or were they? Ten years later, they seem to be stronger than ever. Against all the firepower of the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, they seem to believe they may even get their Talibanistan back. General Petraeus, go back to the future and eat your heart out.

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

He may be reached at
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« Reply #61 on: September 05, 2010, 07:34:36 am »

Afghan progress slower than first hoped, general says

04 Sep 2010 14:42:27 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Paul Tait

KABUL, Sept 4 (Reuters) - International forces in Afghanistan have at times overstated the progress being made this year, the deputy commander of the NATO-led force said on Saturday, with advances coming slower than originally expected.

British Lieutenant-General Sir Nick Parker, second-in-command of the International Security Assistance Force behind U.S. General David Petraeus, said progress had been slowed by the complexity of the mission.

Petraeus has said in a range of interviews in recent weeks that progress was being made and that the Taliban's momentum had been checked, though violence across the country is at its worst since the hardline Islamists were ousted in late 2001.

Progress made is coming into sharper focus, with U.S. President Barack Obama to conduct a strategy review in December and public support for the war sagging amid record casualties.

For the past year, principally U.S. and British NATO forces have been pushing through Taliban strongholds in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, making painstaking progress through a network of valleys and mountains and seeking to counter a growing Taliban-led insurgency from all sides.

ISAF troops have faced stiff resistance since Operation Moshtarak began in late February, particularly around the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in the Helmand River valley.

"If you were to go back and listen to the sort of things we said in January and February, before Moshtarak started, I think we were probably a little bit over-enthusiastic," Parker told a small group of reporters in Kabul.

"I was, in some of the things I said, a little bit too positive in some respects," he said.


Military casualties have risen as the number of operations have grown, with more than 490 killed so far this year compared with 521 in all of 2009.

Parker said it had proven more difficult than expected to establish lasting government and development agencies, despite hopes for a new "government in a box" strategy to follow military operations in Marjah.

"That's nobody's fault, that's just the complexity of the environment we're operating in," Parker said.

On Tuesday, Petraeus said in an interview that his forces had taken a heavy toll on the Taliban leadership, but also acknowledged that the Islamists were fighting back and that their "footprint" had spread this year.

Petraeus commands close to 150,000 troops, most of them American, with the last elements of a surge of an extra 30,000 ordered by Obama now in place.

As part of the decision to send the extra troops, Obama also said U.S. forces would begin a gradual withdrawal from July 2011 if conditions on the ground -- primarily the readiness of Afghan forces to take over -- allowed.

U.S. commanders lately have sought to temper expectations of large withdrawals. Petraeus said the process would likely begin with a "thinning out" rather than any large-scale reduction and that the transition would initially be made at the district level rather than by province, as NATO members had discussed.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also set an ambitious target of 2014 for Afghan forces to assume total security responsibility from foreign troops.

"It's entirely reasonable for us to work within that kind of guideline," Parker said.

He said that, despite the difficulties, ISAF troops were slowly beginning to establish secure areas that would allow government and development institutions to move in.

"We've got to be on the balls of our feet, ready to react properly as these trends start to manifest themselves," said Parker, who finishes his assignment at the end of September.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)
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« Reply #62 on: September 05, 2010, 07:37:21 am »

Outgoing NATO deputy rues early optimism on Marjah

Burned once, NATO second-in-command refuses to predict success in troubled Afghan province

AP News

Sep 04, 2010 10:32 EDT

NATO commanders were overly optimistic when they predicted quick success taking the key Taliban-held town of Marjah last winter, the outgoing deputy commander said Saturday.

There are now fledgling signs of a turnaround, but burned once by Marjah's unpredictability, the military will be more restrained in forecasting success, British Lt. Gen. Nick Parker told reporters at the headquarters of the NATO-led force.

U.S. Marines and Afghan troops overran Marjah, a major Taliban logistics center and opium poppy-growing community, last February and announced plans to stand up an effective Afghan administration. The idea was to develop Marjah as a model for counterinsurgency techniques in hopes other communities in Helmand province and elsewhere in the south would turn against the Taliban.

Instead, the Taliban have fought back with hidden bombs, ambushes, assassinations and intimidation, undercutting NATO's efforts to win public support. That has fueled doubts on Capitol Hill and among the American public that the Afghan war can be won.

Parker, who leaves his post at the end of this month, said it was "nobody's fault" that the Marjah campaign has gone slower than expected, but is simply a product of the "complexity of the environment we're operating in."

"I think we were probably a little bit over-enthusiastic," Parker said. He acknowledged that he himself was "a little bit too positive," because he wanted to stiffen the resolve of troops doing the fighting. "You want to convince people that what you're doing is right," he said.

He said only now is security beginning to take hold in a "persistent" way that allows the Afghan government to start functioning there. But he said no one should be drawing conclusions, or raising expectations that the positive security trends will continue.

"We've got to stay on the balls of our feet and react properly," to whatever happens, Parker said.

Nonetheless, Parker said it was reasonable to expect the Afghans will take charge of their own security in the next four to five years. President Hamid Karzai has said he wants Afghanistan's own forces to be in full charge nationwide by 2014.

President Barack Obama has promised to begin withdrawing American troops next July, although the administration says the pace will depend on security conditions then.

Parker said he "absolutely accepts that there would be a national debate" within the United States and other troop-continuing countries about their role in Afghanistan. The Dutch withdrew their combat troops last month and the Canadians plan to pull out next year.

Parker served as acting commander of the NATO-led force between the dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whom Obama fired after comments by his staff critical of the White House appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, and the arrival of the new top commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

Parker said the turnover went remarkably smoothly, because McChrystal's "plan was so good," that it remained in place, with the addition of what he called, "Petraeus nuances."

Source: AP News
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« Reply #63 on: September 08, 2010, 05:59:57 am »

South Asia
Sep 9, 2010 

AfPak and the new great game

By Pepe Escobar

Nine years ago - one day before Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, Lion of the Panjshir, was killed by two al-Qaeda jihadis disguised as journalists; and three days before 9/11 - who would have thought that Afghanistan would still be mired in a war of 150,000 United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops against 50 or 60 al-Qaeda jihadis plus a horde of Pashtun nationalists vaguely bundled up as "Taliban"? Not even the Bearded One upstairs who, by the way, according to Stephen Hawking, had nothing to do with creating this valley of tears we all inhabit.

Another year. Another 9/11 anniversary. The same Afghanistan war. It may not be the "war on terror" anymore - rebranded "overseas contingency operations" by the Barack Obama administration. It may have become Obama's "good war" - rebranded as AfPak and costing US taxpayers US$100 billion a year (and counting). But Obama still wallows in the mire of being a hostage to George W Bush's wars.

As much as Washington may entertain the illusion that it's in command, it's actually Hamid Karzai, the wily Afghan president, who is playing an attacking game in this latest installment of the New Great Game in Eurasia. And, as usual, there's never a mention anywhere of the key Pipelineistan game.

Round up the usual suspects
As it must be clear by now, Pakistan is essentially an army/intelligence establishment disguised as a country. The army/Inter-Services Intelligence tandem has been and will always be pro-Taliban. Anyone who believes the tandem will "reform" - with or without billions of dollars of US aid - believes in the Easter bunny.

For Islamabad it's still - and will always be - about "strategic depth", the doctrine that rules Afghanistan as a privileged Pakistani-controlled backyard (that's exactly what it was between 1992, at the start of the intra-mujahideen wars, till the end of the Taliban "government" in 2001).

Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani - a darling of the Pentagon - has been granted a three-year extension to his mandate. Karzai took no time to duly note the obvious: Kiani will continue to pull all stops to be the top dog in Kabul. So he must be accommodated.

All of this, considering that the utmost objective for the Pakistan army remains to collect more nuclear weapons in view of that particular South Asian version of Armageddon - a do-or-die confrontation with visceral enemy India.

For all his infinite shenanigans, Karzai has - correctly - concluded that US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) firepower and General David Petraeus' COIN-drenched operations will never defeat the resistance-to-foreigners fighting umbrella commonly described as "Taliban".

Karzai has also sensed that Obama's Afghan strategy is in tatters. Inside the US, Republicans - with their eyes on capturing congress in November's elections - will go on overdrive to portray the president as a non-military wimp, while the Pentagon will force him to back off his imposed July 2011 deadline for the beginning of a transition to a measure of Afghan sovereignty. And all this while Petraeus sells the current Afghan surge as a "victory", as he did with the Iraqi version, thus burnishing his CV with a view to a run for the White House in 2012.

As more than anything he is committed to perpetuating himself in power, Karzai saw which way the wind was blowing and has decided to cultivate his own garden, and improve relations with his two key neighbors east and west - Pakistan and Iran. He has seen the future as a power-sharing deal in Kabul with no Americans involved.

Thus Karzai's formal announcement this past weekend of a High Peace Council tasked with engaging in peace talks with the Taliban. The idea had been approved three months ago by a jirga in Kabul including 1,600 tribal, religious and political leaders from a few Afghan provinces. Karzai basically wants to seduce Taliban foot soldiers with cash and job offers in the administration machine, and Taliban leaders with asylum in selected Muslim countries.

One is bound to expect all the usual suspects engage in the travesty of being peace council members. They include former mujahideen leader Burhanuddin Rabbani (to whom Massoud was subordinated); former Saudi-connected mujahid Abdul Rasul Sayyaf (suspected until today of having a role in Massoud's assassination); and certainly a higher-up from the Hizb-i-Islami, led by former mujahid Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the only prime minister in history (in the mid-1990s) to have bombed his own capital.

Hizb-i-Islami and the Taliban - although extremely suspicious of each other - are more or less fighting for the same objective, ie the expulsion of the "foreign invaders". The Taliban are more predominant exactly where US and NATO troops are concentrating - in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, while Hizb is strongest in the north and eastern provinces.

What's left of this Karzai-engineered gambit is the Taliban agenda. Taliban leader Mullah Omar - invisible somewhere near Quetta, capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province - wants the invaders out immediately, and his unlimited power back. There's no chance in heaven - or hell - he'll fraternize with Karzai over a goat's head/Kabuli rice banquet.

Moreover, Karzai certainly won't seduce what remains of al-Qaeda. There are no more than 60 Arab al-Qaeda jihadis in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, along with a few Uzbeks, Chechens and Turks. And there are around 50 Arab al-Qaeda jihadis who have crossed the border to Afghanistan - more or less the same estimate expressed by US Central Intelligence Agency supremo Leon Panetta over two months ago.

So essentially Washington is spending tsunamis of cash to fight a bunch of Arab jihadi instructors. Worse; what the US/NATO are actually fighting is a remixed version of the anti-Soviet 1980s jihad - a liberation war against foreign invasion.

Then there's the complicating factor of the Pakistani Taliban. There's hardly a day when their top spokesman, Qari Hussain Mehsud, does not issue threats. He has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 50 Shi'ites in Quetta last Friday. He has insisted "targets" now comprise not only the "foreign invaders" but Shi'ites as well, and has promised attacks inside Europe and the US.

What is certain is that attacks in Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore (which, for the Pakistani Taliban, is like New York for al-Qaeda) are bound to intensify. For Islamabad, the riddle is how to dismantle the collaborative network involving al-Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the anti-Shi'ite Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the anti-Iran, Balochistan-based Jundallah. But Karzai is not worried about any of this; he believes he now has a masterplan to "secure" Afghanistan.

All about Pipelineistan
What the Islamabad establishment wants for Afghanistan is diametrically opposed to India's interests. So no wonder India is counter-attacking - by improving its relations with both Russia and Iran.

For Russia, the key national security challenge in Afghanistan is not so much the spread of Talibanization to Central Asia; rather it's the massive heroin trafficking that is corrupting and devastating Russian youth. Moreover, instead of just gleefully watching the US flounder in its own quagmire - Afghanistan as a new Vietnam - Russia has also decided to unleash its own version of nation-building in Afghanistan, investing in infrastructure and natural resources while making some money on the side.

As for the India-Iran rapprochement, it is inevitable even with the avalanche of cumulative United Nations/US/European Union sanctions against Tehran - as New Delhi is actively encouraging Indian companies to invest in the Iranian energy sector, and the Foreign Ministry has made it a priority to engage Iran diplomatically. Russian, Indian and Turkish companies - they have all spectacularly ignored Western sanctions and will continue to trade with Iran.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Team B-style outfits such as the Afghanistan study group - which releases its report on Wednesday [1] - multiply their efforts in trying to find a way out of the Afghan quagmire. But for all their intellectual firepower, there is not a word about one of the absolutely key reasons for the US to be in Afghanistan: Pipelineistan (the other key reason is of course the Pentagon's crush on maintaining bases to monitor/survey both "strategic competitors" China and Russia).

We're back once again to the TAPI vs IPI Pipelineistan "war"; TAPI as the natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan crossing Afghanistan to Islamabad and then India, and IPI as the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.

In a few days, as Turkmenistan officials are spinning, there may be a potentially crucial meeting in Ashgabat, when TAPI officials from all four countries may lay down the basics for a pipeline deal (if built only as TAP, the pipeline would be 2,000 kilometers long and cost $7 billion).

But while TAP or TAPI is an eternal pipe dream, the $7.5 billion, 1,100-kilometer-long IP is already rolling. That's what Iran and Pakistan announced over two months ago, with operations starting in 2014. This proves, once again, that Western sanctions against Iran also don't mean a thing to Pakistan - as its energy needs are a vital matter of national security trumping Washington's designs.

And the same applies to India. New Delhi's pragmatic leaders cannot possibly believe that TAPI will ever see the light of day. It's also crucial to remember that IP was originally IPI - the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, widely dubbed in Southwest Asia as "the peace pipeline". India pulled out because of - what else - relentless Washington pressure. But now India is back on the table - discussing not only IPI but a second, although remote, possibility - an underwater II (Iran-India) pipeline.

New Delhi very well knows that China is salivating with the prospect of a northern extension of IP, alongside the Karakoram highway, towards Xinjiang in western China. Already Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has suggested that if India keeps on wobbling, this will be the Iran-Pakistan-China pipeline.

The next contours of the New Great Game in Eurasia widely reside on who will win in these Pipelineistan wars involving Central Asia, South Asia and Southwest Asia. Considering the accumulated Western package of sanctions/blockades/embargoes, the ball would be on Iran's court to fight tremendous odds and upgrade its technology, build IP or IPI, and guarantee natural gas flowing non-stop.

Any moves against Iran will be seen all across Asia as an attack against the Asia Energy Security Grid; a classic, Pipelineistan-configured, war of Washington against Asian integration. As for the competing option, it's pure surrealism; who can possibly believe Karzai will convince the Taliban not to profit from the same pipeline the Americans wanted to build before they decided to bomb the Taliban out of power?

1. Click here.

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

He may be reached at

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« Reply #64 on: September 08, 2010, 07:20:49 am »

The American Occupation of Afghanistan and the Birth of a National Liberation Movement

By Prof. Marc W. Herold
Global Research, September 7, 2010

Edited Transcript of a Public lecture by professor Marc Herold, Massachussetts Institute of Technology M.I.T., Cambridge, Mass. August 2010


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« Reply #65 on: September 08, 2010, 07:35:23 am »

Al-Qaida and Taliban threat is exaggerated, says security thinktank

Strategy institute challenges idea that troops are needed in Afghanistan to stop export of terrorism to west

BY  Richard Norton-Taylor,
Tuesday 7 September 2010 15.49 BST

Taliban fighters in the northen Afghanistan province of Baghlan. Photograph: Ghaith Abdul Ahad for the Guardian

The threat posed by al-Qaida and the Taliban is exaggerated and the western-led counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan risks becoming a "long, drawn-out disaster", one of the world's leading security thinktanks warned today.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the west's counter-insurgency strategy has "ballooned" out of proportion to the original aim of preventing al-Qaida from mounting terrorist attacks there, and must be replaced by a less ambitious but more sensible policy of "containment and deterrence".

The critique of the US- and British-backed military policy is contained in the latest strategic survey from the IISS, a respected but usually uncontroversial body. IISS officers made clear today they have departed from their normal practice because of the serious threat to the west's security interests in pursuing the current Afghan strategy.

In an effort to ignite a fresh debate and bring about a new approach towards Afghanistan, they challenge claims, not least from David Cameron, that the presence of thousands of British troops in Afghanistan is necessary to prevent al-Qaida from returning and thus increasing the threat to the UK.

"It is not clear why it should be axiomatically obvious that an Afghanistan freed of an international combat presence in the south would be an automatic magnet for al-Qaida's concentrated reconstruction," the IISS director-general, John Chipman, said.

Al-Qaida is now "engaged in Pakistan in very small numbers", not remotely comparable to the situation in Afghanistan pre-September 2001, Nigel Inkster, an IISS director and former deputy chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, said. No such threat is likely to come from al-Qaida elsewhere, including Yemen and Somalia, he added.
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« Reply #66 on: September 09, 2010, 06:02:24 am »

Published on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 by The Washington Post

Finding A Way Out of Afghanistan

by Katrina vanden Heuvel

Team B efforts have long played an influential role in determining the outcome of intra-elite debates on critical national security issues. In the 1970s, the CIA's Team B report on Soviet military capabilities, together with the work of the Committee on the Present Danger, encouraged the Carter administration away from détente and toward an arms race with Moscow. And the Project for the New American Century, led by William Kristol and a passel of neo-cons, was influential in swaying the Bush administration toward the invasion of Iraq.

A Team B report to be formally released tomorrow by the Afghanistan Study Group [1] -- an ad hoc group of former government officials, well-known academics and policy experts assembled by the New America Foundation [2] -- has the potential to be similarly influential. At a moment when the administration and too many members of Congress have failed to explore alternatives to Gen. David Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy, the importance of this clear and cogent report can't be overstated.

The report offers a thorough analysis of why and how we must dramatically reduce America's footprint in our nation's longest and most expensive war. Although the war is justified by its proponents as an effort to eradicate al-Qaeda, the report notes that "there are only some 400 hard-core al-Qaeda members remaining in the entire Af-Pak theater, most of them hiding in Pakistan's northwest provinces."

Meanwhile, the war costs U.S. taxpayers approximately $100 billion a year -- about seven times Afghanistan's annual gross domestic product of $14 billion and more than the cost of the Obama administration's health-care plan. Considering that price tag alongside the number of troops killed or seriously wounded, the report concludes that "the U.S. interests at stake in Afghanistan do not warrant this level of sacrifice."

Matthew Hoh, a former U.S. Marine and Afghanistan-based State Department official who resigned his post in protest [3] last year and now serves as director of the study group, elaborated on the flawed strategy in a conversation with me. "Since 2005, as we put more troops and money into this effort, the U.S. and NATO have been expanding their presence throughout Afghanistan and trying to expand the reach of the Afghan central government," Hoh said. "But since then, all we have seen is more casualties, more combat, increased support for the Taliban and decreased support for the Karzai government."

The study group encourages policymakers to reconceptualize the conflict. Rather than a struggle between Hamid Karzai's central government and a Taliban/terrorist insurgency, it is in fact a civil war about power-sharing across ethnic, geographic and sectarian lines. With that in mind, the report recommends a strategy that downsizes and eventually ends U.S. military operations and keeps the focus on al-Qaeda, while at the same time encouraging political power-sharing, economic development and diplomatic engagement by other countries in the region.

Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Afghanistan Taskforce, told me this report is critical, "given Washington's near-silence on alternatives to" the current strategy. Honda and his taskforce colleagues have called for the creation of a congressionally mandated Af-Pak Study Group [4].,92&lnk=b&ItemID=643

Indeed, Hoh said the goal of the report is to lay the groundwork for funding of a bipartisan congressional study group by March, ensuring that an alternative to the Pentagon's strategy is available when the administration's flexible deadline to begin withdrawing troops arrives in July 2011. In these next critical months, the study group will focus on establishing itself as a counterpoint to the status quo approach to the war, reaching out to legislators across party lines in an effort to develop a bipartisan consensus. Members will also make themselves available to news media, which have in their coverage of the war too often failed to include the views of experts who oppose the White House/Petraeus strategy. I hope this report will also be used as an organizing vehicle by peace and justice groups who have been calling for a similar change in course.

It seems certain that Petraeus's December report to Congress and the administration will argue that his counterinsurgency strategy is new and must be given time. The study group's members challenge that notion.

"People have to understand this is not a new strategy from Gen. Petraeus," Hoh said. "We don't 'finally have it right.' We've been saying that for years now. All we're doing is adding more troops, which is just making the problem larger. Just because Gen. Petraeus got there a couple months ago doesn't mean the clock should be reset."

The administration's strategy is flawed and is costing too much in treasure and lives. This report offers a clear alternative that is in our national security interest.

© 2010 The Washington Post
Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation [5].



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« Reply #67 on: September 09, 2010, 06:28:36 am »

South Asia
Sep 10, 2010 
There's another side to Obama's COIN

By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Amid continued high levels of violence and a steady stream of reports of high-level government corruption in Kabul, a growing number of foreign policy specialists are urging United States President Barack Obama to reconsider his counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan.

In a new report released on Wednesday, a bipartisan group of three dozen former senior officials, academics, and policy analysts argued that the administration's ambitious "nation-building" efforts in Afghanistan were costing too much in US blood and treasure and that, in any event, "prospects for success are dim".

Calling for an accelerated timetable for reducing the US military presence, the "Afghanistan Study Group", which also urged intensified efforts to reach a negotiated solution with the Pashtun-based Taliban, echoed many of the points made in the latest strategic survey that was released by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London on Tuesday.

"As the military surge reaches its peak and begins to wind down, it is necessary and advisable for outside powers to move to a containment and deterrence policy to deal with the international terrorist threat from the Afghan/Pakistan border regions," said IISS's director general John Chipman in introducing this year's report.

"At present, the COIN strategy is too ambitious, too removed from the core security goals that need to be met, and too sapping of diplomatic and military energies needed both in the region and elsewhere," he noted. "For Western states to be pinned down militarily and psychologically in Afghanistan will not be in the service of their wider political and security interests."

The two reports come amid growing public skepticism both in the United States and its European and North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners - two of which, Canada and the Netherlands, have just withdrawn all of their troops - about the course of the war, which will soon mark its ninth anniversary. Currently costing US taxpayers US$100 billion a year, the Afghan war became the longest in US history this summer when it exceeded the Vietnam conflict.

Despite the appointment in June of General David Petraeus, the author of the US COIN strategy in Iraq, to head US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, two out of three respondents in a recent CNN poll said they believed Washington was "not winning" the war. Half said the war could not be won.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll taken last month said they were "less confident" that the war would be brought to a "successful conclusion" - a striking increase from the 58% who took that view last December. Only 23% said they were "more confident".

The increasingly sour mood is no doubt due in part to the preoccupation with the economy and growing political support in both parties for cutting the yawning government deficit, of which the $100 billion spent on Afghanistan is not an insignificant part.

But the persistent high casualty rates - this year's total US military death toll, 331, already exceeds 2009's high of 317 - has also contributed to the growing popular conviction that the war is simply not worth the cost.

Meanwhile, the virtually daily reports of high-level corruption in the government of President Hamid Karzai - this past week, major stories have featured the run on the politically well-connected Bank of Kabul - have persuaded a growing number of people, including members of the foreign policy elite and even a number of normally hawkish Republicans, that Washington simply lacks the kind of local partner that any true COIN campaign requires to prevail.

Released as congress returns to Washington after the long August recess, the Afghanistan Study Group's report, entitled "A New Way Forward: Rethinking US Strategy in Afghanistan", appears designed to provoke debate about US policy during the mid-term election campaign and in the run-up to a formal review in December by the Obama administration of how its COIN strategy is faring.

On the advice of Petraeus and the Pentagon, Obama has increased the number of US troops deployed to Afghanistan from some 35,000 when he took office in January 2009 to about 100,000 today. He has vowed to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, although the pace at which they will be withdrawn has not yet been determined and remains a source of considerable contention within the administration.

The administration has been split for some time. The so-called COINistas have argued for a major "nation-building" effort combined with a military campaign directed against the Taliban that they depict as inseparable from al-Qaeda. Others within the administration, reportedly led by Vice President Joseph Biden, have argued for a less ambitious counter-terrorism campaign (CT) aimed more narrowly against al-Qaeda on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

In that respect, the Study Group, whose membership spanned the political spectrum from the Democratic left to the libertarian right but was weighted most heavily towards "realists" who until George W Bush generally dominated the post-World War II foreign policy elite, is aligned more closely with the CT advocates.

Quoting former US statesman and arch-realist Henry Kissinger, the report noted that "Afghanistan has never been pacified by foreign forces" and that "waging a lengthy counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarrelling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the US economy, and prevent the US government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems."

"We've been creating enemies faster than friends," noted Paul Pillar, who served as the US Central Intelligence Agency's national intelligence officer for the Middle East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, at the report's release at the New America Foundation (NAF). Complaining of a "disconnect" between the conduct of the war and the US aim of destroying and disabling al-Qaeda, he described the US intervention in Afghanistan as "a nine-year-long mission creep".

The report called instead for a five-pronged strategy that would "fast-track a peace process designed to decentralize power within Afghanistan and encourage a power-sharing balance among the principal parties"; intensify diplomatic efforts with Afghanistan's neighbors and others "to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability"; and lead an international effort to develop the country's economy.

Obama, it said, should "firmly stick to his pledge to begin withdrawing US forces in the summer of 2011 - and earlier if possible. US force levels should decline to the minimum level needed to help train Afghan security forces, prevent massive human-rights atrocities, resist an expansion of Taliban control beyond the Pashtun south, and engage in robust counter-terrorism operations as needed."

In particular, US forces should maintain their capabilities "to seek out known al-Qaeda cells in the region and be ready to go after them should they attempt to relocate elsewhere or build new training facilities," the report said. "Al-Qaeda is no longer a significant presence in Afghanistan, and there are only some 400 **** al-Qaeda members remaining in the entire Af/Pak theater, most of them hiding in Pakistan's northwest provinces."

Besides Pillar, other signers of the report included Gordon Adams, a top White House budget official for national security under the Bill Clinton administration who is currently with the Stimson Center; Steve Clemons, the head of NAF's American Security program; Patrick Cronin, a senior adviser at the Center for a New American Security; W Patrick Lang, who served as the top Middle East/South Asia officer in the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency during the 1990s; Selig Harrison, an Afghan specialist at the Center for International Policy; and Stephen Walt, a Harvard University scholar considered a leader of the "realist" school of international relations.

Jim Lobe's blog on US foreign policy can be read at

(Inter Press Service) 
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« Reply #68 on: September 09, 2010, 06:31:43 am »

South Asia
Sep 10, 2010 
Taliban winning hearts - and more

By Habiburrahman Ibrahimi

Abdullah, 27, sings under his breath as he waters his pomegranate farm, his face shining with sweat and happiness.

Explaining the reason for his good mood, Abdullah says that after years of struggling financially, he is looking forward to getting married at last.

Three years ago, he leased out his land to get the US$5,000 he needed to pay for the engagement ceremony. That left him with no money for the actual marriage. He went to Iran to look for work, but was arrested as an illegal immigrant and imprisoned for four months before being deported.

Now his money worries have been resolved thanks to a local decree from the Taliban restricting the cost of weddings.

"With God's grace, the Taliban have imposed a new rule that the bride-price rate should not exceed $3,800," he said. "I have already gathered that much money and if God wills it, I will sell my pomegranates and get married.

"Now my father-in-law can't charge me too much because this Taliban order isn't like one from the [Hamid] Karzai government - it's a strict order which no one can disobey.”

Grooms in Afghanistan are customarily required to pay money to the bride's family, the amount typically varying from $2,000 to $20,000. The husband's family also has to pay for the engagement and marriage ceremonies, often costing $4,000 or $5,000 each.

Such sums are difficult to find in this cash-strapped society, and many young men go abroad to work, risking imprisonment, deportation and even death.

The Taliban edict, issued some two months ago in the Tagab district of Kapisa province, north of Kabul, reflects the growing presence of the insurgent movement in areas that until recently were deemed relatively secure.

As in other areas, the Taliban are seeking to boost their credibility by offering their own form of Islamic justice and governance as an alternative to the Western-backed government.

The marriage payment edict has gone down well in an impoverished area where most people survive by growing pomegranates.

Walking on crutches, Gul Ahmad, 25, recounts how he tried to cross illegally to the Gulf in search of work. "When I got engaged, the girl's father demanded a bride price of $7,000 and I decided to go to Dubai [in the United Arab Emirates], like many other young men. We faced lots of problems - hunger, thirst and illness. One of my colleagues died in the desert, and I broke my leg."

Sighing deeply, he said, "Now, thanks to the Taliban, they have decided that no one can demand more money. This is a very big help that the Taliban have given young people."

As well as setting the highest allowable bride-price at $3,800, with offenders facing a $2,000 fine - the Taliban have banned other costly practices surrounding marriage, including one known locally as takbir, where up to 50 people visit the bride's family to receive food and presents, and the gahwara or "cradle" custom by which the bride's family offer expensive gifts when she has her first child.

"In the Sifder area, a family decided to take gifts to the girl's family on Shab-e Barat [Muslim holiday, this year July 26]," said Tagab resident Mohammad Idris. "They took a big healthy sheep with them, but on the way the Taliban stopped them, destroyed the gifts, fined the family $50 and told them to go and eat the sheep in their own home."

Idris added, "A family living near the center of Tagab district practiced the old custom of takbir. The Taliban sent them a warning and the family paid $100 and apologized for violating the new rule."

Local government chief for the Tagab district Abdul Hakim Akhundzada said that even if the Taliban ruling was not strictly in line with sharia or Islamic law, there were benefits in curbing excessive customs.

"I too believe that eliminating certain unnecessary customs that create problems for people is a good thing," he said.

Mohammad Akbar, a religious scholar, said that Islamic law did not prescribe maximum limits for the bride price.

"The lower limit for the payment in Islam is 10 dirham or $150," he said. "But the top limit is not defined. It isn't a sin if both families agree on a higher payment, but the money should be given to the girl, not to her family. If the family gets the money, that's against sharia."

A Taliban representative in Tagab, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision was made after consultations with religious leaders.

"We saw that many young people were unable to get married because of the high bride price, and were therefore getting involved in criminal activities like gambling, adultery, robbery murder and so on," he said. "So we placed a limit on the bride price to ease the burden on people."

Habibullah Rafai, a political and social affairs analyst, argued that whatever the social impact of the Taliban ruling, it was essentially a tactic to build local support.

"This move by the Taliban also has a political aspect to it," he said. "They want to gain the support of unmarried young men and thus win over the hearts of the people," he said.

Rafai said the Taliban ruling could have been pre-empted if the Afghan government had taken the initiative and clamped down on superfluous traditions.

For some Afghan men, the high cost of weddings means they can never marry.

Abdul Ahmad, now 70, is among them - after his father's death, it was left to him to raise his brothers and sisters. By the time they were grown up, he says, it was too late for him to marry.

"I still harbor huge regrets in my heart about marriage," he said. "I wish everyone was able to get married."

Abdul Ahmad has lived in his brother's home ever since, but it is not his own. "If I'd married and had my own home, my own son and daughter, I wouldn't be at such a disadvantage now," he said. "It's over for me, but let other young people's wishes come true. I wish there had been Taliban like this in our day."

Habiburrahman Ibrahimi is an IWPR-trained journalist.

(This article originally appeared in Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Used with permission.) 
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« Reply #69 on: September 09, 2010, 07:55:55 am »

US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies'

by Chris McGreal

Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield are four of the five Stryker soldiers who face murder charges. Photograph: Public Domain

September 8, 2010

Soldiers face trial over secret 'kill team' which allegedly murdered at random and collected fingers as trophies of war

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army's criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill them".

One soldier said he believed Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon".

Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other members of the unit to form a "kill team". While on patrol over the following months they allegedly killed at least three Afghan civilians. According to the charge sheet, the first target was Gul Mudin, who was killed "by means of throwing a fragmentary grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle", when the patrol entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in January.

Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were on guard at the edge of a poppy field when Mudin emerged and stopped on the other side of a wall from the soldiers. Gibbs allegedly handed Morlock a grenade who armed it and dropped it over the wall next to the Afghan and dived for cover. Holmes, 19, then allegedly fired over the wall.

Later in the day, Morlock is alleged to have told Holmes that the killing was for fun and threatened him if he told anyone.

The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and killed the following month. Gibbs is alleged to have shot him and placed a Kalashnikov next to the body to justify the killing. In May Mullah Adadhdad was killed after being shot and attacked with a grenade.

The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies.

Five soldiers – Gibbs, Morlock, Holmes, Michael Wagnon and Adam Winfield – are accused of murder and aggravated assault among other charges. All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

The killings came to light in May after the army began investigating a brutal assault on a soldier who told superiors that members of his unit were smoking hashish. The Army Times reported that members of the unit regularly smoked the drug on duty and sometimes stole it from civilians.

The soldier, who was straight out of basic training and has not been named, said he witnessed the smoking of hashish and drinking of smuggled alcohol but initially did not report it out of loyalty to his comrades. But when he returned from an assignment at an army headquarters and discovered soldiers using the shipping container in which he was billeted to smoke hashish he reported it.

Two days later members of his platoon, including Gibbs and Morlock, accused him of "snitching", gave him a beating and told him to keep his mouth shut. The soldier reported the beating and threats to his officers and then told investigators what he knew of the "kill team".

Following the arrest of the original five accused in June, seven other soldiers were charged last month with attempting to cover up the killings and violent assault on the soldier who reported the smoking of hashish. The charges will be considered by a military grand jury later this month which will decide if there is enough evidence for a court martial. Army investigators say Morlock has admitted his involvement in the killings and given details about the role of others including Gibbs. But his lawyer, Michael Waddington, is seeking to have that confession suppressed because he says his client was interviewed while under the influence of prescription drugs taken for battlefield injuries and that he was also suffering from traumatic brain injury.

"Our position is that his statements were incoherent, and taken while he was under a cocktail of drugs that shouldn't have been mixed," Waddington told the Seattle Times.

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« Reply #70 on: September 09, 2010, 08:07:14 am »

Eid Message from Mullah Omar

by Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid

Message of Felicitation of the Esteemed Amir-ul-Momineen, on the Eve of Eid-ul-Fitr

September 8, 2010

Praise be to Allah in whose hands is the dominion and all affairs, the Creator, the Evolver, the Giver of life and death. We sincerely believe in His Oneness and Him alone, we worship. He has no partners. We ask Allah to shower His blessing and favors on the prophet, the generous one who was sent as a mercy for all creations. We witness that he conveyed the Message and fulfilled the mission and ameliorated the Ummah; dispelled the cloud and left the Ummah on a white screen. No one deviates from it but annihilates himself. May Allah (SwT) reward the prophet, the best rewards ever given to any prophet on behalf of his followers? Blessing of Allah and peace be upon him, his descendants and his companions, the chosen ones.

After this, I would like to say:

Peace , mercy and blessing of Allah be on the Muslim Mujahid nation, the suffering families of martyrs, and prisoners, the gallant Mujahideen of the path of Jihad and sacrifice, all those who have been detained by the invading infidels on charges of their struggling for independence and on all Islamic Ummah,.

I extend my felicitation to you all on the eve of Eid-ul-fitr and pray to Allah (SwT) to accept in His sight your fast, worship and sacrifices in the way of Truth.

Availing myself of this opportunity of the auspicious occasion, I want to share with you some specific points regarding the current Jihad, the political situation and my ensuing actions and policies.

1. a) O Muslim Mujahid Nation of Afghanistan!

The current Jihad and resistance in Afghanistan against the foreign invaders and their puppets, is a legitimate Jihad, being waged for the defense of the sovereignty of the Islamic country and Islam. The expansion, momentum and success of this Jihadic resistance rightly signify that it is a country-wide, independent and holy resistance of the masses and has now approached close to its destination of victory thanks to the help of Allah (SwT) and your innumerous sacrifices. So you should strive to lay aside all your internal differences, agrarian and residential lands disputes and other grievances. Put all your strength and planning behind the task of driving away the invaders and regaining independence of the country. The history has it that whenever invading forces face defeat, they sow seed of differences in the occupied territories before their pull-out and leave behind various conflicts. The Americans now are passing through this stage. Therefore, robustly focus on foiling all conspiracies of the enemy which are aimed at creating mistrust and separation between Mujahideen and the people or igniting the fire of internal fighting through formation of militias or launching fake process of elections with the prior knowledge that every thing has already been decided and finalized in Washington or the convening of the spurious Jirga by gathering some sycophant government employees or other similar conspiracies, Convince all those who are involved in these conspiracies unknowingly or lured by financial incentives. Strictly prevent them from perpetrating such activates.

I assure you, our days of sufferings and hardship will not prolong furthermore. Soon, if God willing, our grieved hearts will find solace as the invading enemy is ousted and the Islamic sovereignty is established. All our noble country men, whether be they an engineer, a doctor, a student of a school or of a religious Madrassa, whether he is a teacher or a cleric, a professor or religious scholar hailing from any tribe and ethnicity, will all work together like brothers in an independent country with strong Islamic government established on the basis of the aspirations of the people.

"Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance (of power) as He granted it to those before, them, that He will establish in authority their religion- the one which He has chosen for them, and that He will change (their state) after the fear in which they (lived), to one of security and peace. They will worship me (alone) and not associate aught with me. If any do reject Faith after this, they are rebellious and wicked. ( S. 24. A 55. )

1. b) Mujahid Brothers!

Through your strong determination and faith, you succeeded to foil all conspiracies and machinations of the global infidel power. The Almighty Allah has favored you with victory over all your invading enemies thanks to your steadfastness and perseverance, effacing the aura of shock and awe of the powerful enemy. This was made possible due to your sincere Jihad and sacrifices. Today, America is regarded as a most hated force and faces humiliations and disgrace. We see now that the more you gain the upper hand over the enemy forces, the more their ranks and files become disarrayed and disorganized. Those military experts who have framed strategies of the invasion of Afghanistan or are now engaged in hammering out new strategies, admit themselves that all their strategies are nothing but a complete failure. All those experienced and sophisticated generals who were sent to the battle field, now are being sent back disgracefully and humiliatingly because of their incompetence and even they are given various nicknames. Other foreign forces which have come here for occupation of our country under the American umbrella are now under pressures from their people due to the growing and heavy military expenditures, casualties and the fruitlessness of the war. Each of them is hastily seeking ways of exit from Afghanistan. Therefore, my Mujahid brothers, if you want to gain more success in the field of the battles, you should try to reform your conduct and deeds; respect your Jihadic goals and pay attention to all-sided welfare and prosperity of your suffering but brave people. By maintaining an ever-growing unity and brotherhood among yourself, you shall not permit any one to set the stage for discord and differences among you on the instruction of the enemy. Do not waste your time on maligning each other but , on the contrary, direct all your efforts for improvement of Jihadic affairs, defense of Islam and the country; the thrashing of the enemy, serving and protecting your people. Take every caution to protect life, property of people and public installations. Do not regard people as an entity separate from you; respect all former pious Mujahideeen; strictly implement the book of the code of conduct which has already been given to you; use successful and complicated tactics during confrontation with the enemy; be aware to pay attention to the protection of Mujahideen; obey your superiors and conduct affairs through mutual consultation. Try to nip in the bud all plans and conspiracies and propaganda of the enemy. Do not allow any one to commit activities under the name of a Mujahid that malign the name of Mujahideen and be cautious not to harass people on mere pretexts and baseless reports. It is a part of the enemy plan to create problems and distrust between Mujahideen and the people. Encourage all soldiers, policemen and employees in the enemy administration to leave their ranks and, instead, stand with their Mujahid people. Give warm welcome to heroic youth like Talib Hussain, Gulbuddin and Ghulam Sakhi who killed many invaders in Gereshk, Nad Ali, Badghis and Mazar Sharif and committed heroic deeds by resorting to tactical attacks. Persuade others to strike the infidel enemy by following their steps. However, be aware of intentions of your inner self as you do this and make the pleasure of the Almighty Allah as your sole goal in all your Jihadic activities.

1. c) To Religious Scholars, Statesmen, Teachers, Writers and Poets.

You are the very caste of the society that have the capacity to portray the wants and aspirations of the people. It is your Islamic and national duty to expose the atrocities of the invaders and put them before human rights organizations and public of the world. Enlighten people on the American invasion by unveiling the realities and facts. Inform them about the overt and covert conspiracies of the enemy; explain to them the fundamentals and benefits of Islamic system; educate the new generation in a constructive way, saving them from the impact of foreign dogmas and culture; teach them unity and harmony; inform the local leaders of Jihad of the grievances of people and convey the intentions of Mujahideen to the people. You are a bridge between the Islamic Emirate and the people. So it must be. Because through such a mechanism, , all errors and mistakes should be corrected whenever they crop up. I call on you to assist the Islamic Emirate to bring about a blemish-free Jihadic and Islamic atmosphere.

1. d) To Former Mujahideen and Employees who Work in the Kabul Administration.

In these auspicious days of Eid-ul- Fitre, I invite you once again to come and stand with your nation like other former gallant Mujahideen have , and with their help, participate in the glory of repelling the American invasion and regaining the independence. Come and ponder over the conduct of the invading Americans in the light of your conscience, sagacity and insight that what they do with your so-called elected president , members of parliament, with you and in short, with the suffering people. They call you as warlords and unscrupulous persons. You may have heard that the officials in the presidential palace directly receive payments from CIA. Then what is the rational behind your working under their command.

If you claim that you have joined the ranks of the invading Americans( under duress) because there were flaws and faults in the manner of the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate, then come and correct those faults yourself after joining the ranks of your Mujahideen brothers. Thus, by forming a strong cemented Jihadic rank, yourselves become a participant in the (great) task of forcing out the invading infidels. Do you think that your responsibility to defend your country and the holy religion’s rituals was only limited to Jihad against the Russians? But today, instead of resistance, you have chosen to stand with the invaders against your Muslim nation in a time that your country has been invaded by the Americans and other 48 infidel countries, harassing, debasing and threatening you and the Afghan people. Could this be the decision of your conscience and the product of your Afghan honor-loving character? Know that the Americans have come here to colonize Afghanistan and plunder its natural resources. They would never become your friends. Had there not been the fear of Mujahideen hovering over them, they would have debased you and humiliated you more than that you are now.

All those who work in the stooge Kabul Administration should hear with open ears that the invading enemy is about to leave Afghanistan due to the Jihad of the Afghan Muslim people, so before you have to face the fate of Najib, Babrak and Shah Shuja on charges of collaboration with the foreigners or in order to save yourselves from the said humiliating destiny, you should abandon the support of the invaders and join the ranks of Muajhideen by repenting of your past deeds.

If you are not able to join them, then by abandoning the support of the infidel, choose a peaceful life along with your children in your houses, taking advantage of the amnesty and security offered ( to you) by the Mujahideen. Thus save yourselves from shame in this world and the world to come.

e) Regarding the Upcoming System of the Country.

The victory of our Islamic nation over the invading infidels is now imminent and the driving force behind this is the belief in the help of Allah (SwT) and unity among ourselves. In the time to come, we will try to establish an Islamic, independent, perfect and strong system on the basis of these principles – a system with economic , security, legal, educational and judicial aspects being based on the injunctions of Islam and conducted through a consultative body joined by persons with experience, knowledge and expertise. All God-fearing, experienced and professional cadres of the Afghan society will be part and parcel of this system without any political, racial and lingual discriminations. Administrative responsibilities will be devolved on them according to their talent and honesty. We will respect the Islamic rights of all people of the country including women; will implement Sharia rules in the light of the injunctions of the sacred religion of Islam in order to efficiently maintain internal security and eradicate immorality , injustice, indecency and other vices ; will strictly observe the law of punhishement and reward and auditing in order to bring about administrative transparency in all government departments. The violators will be dealt with according to the Sharia rules.

1. f) Regarding policy with Foreign Countries

Our upcoming system will be based on mutual interactions with neighboring, Islamic and non-Islamic countries. We want to frame our foreign policy on the principle that we will not harm others nor allow others to harm us.

Our upcoming system of government will participate in all regional and global efforts aimed at establishing peace and stability , human prosperity and economic advancement on the basis of the Islamic laws and will cooperate with regional countries in all common problems of the region like ( finding solution to ) narcotics, environment pollution, commercial and economic problems.

1. g) To the Islamic World and the Muslim Ummah!

O Muslim Ummah!

I avail myself of this auspicious opportunity of Eid, to share with you some bitter facts. Today, some arrogant and biased countries are exerting various pressures on Muslims. Religion and culture of some Muslims is threatened while life, property, independence and sovereignty of some other Muslims are in danger. Today Muslims are victims of different discriminations and hardships. The most notorious prisons of the world are packed with Muslims where they are being tortured and humiliated and their countries are under occupation.

O Muslim Ummah!

Is the problem today facing the suffering people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, only their problem? Does our common Book, the Holy Quran, permit (you) to remain neutral in these circumstances? You should understand that the American plan is never limited to the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq but they want to change the whole map of the world by having invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in the heart of the Islamic World. But the Afghans, as defenders of the Islamic Ummah and destroyers of colonialist plans, have a well-known history behind. They have offered colossal sacrifices in the way of throwing out the invaders. As such, they have repelled all invasions beginning from Alexander of Macedonia to the American invasion in this 21st century. Unequivocally, these sacrifices have given victory to the Afghans and salvation to the Islamic Ummah. Therefore, Muslim brothers, not only we have a common religion, faith, values, culture and interests but also common distress, joy, friends and enemies. So come and share the grief and distress of your suffering Muslims brothers and assist them with your persons and wealth by turning to an honest policy.

1. h) To the Coalition Forces Stationed in Afghanistan and to their People

The invading Americans have invaded Afghanistan for achievement of their interests and realization of their expansionist policy. They have allied with other 48 countries but still have failed to thwart the growing Jihad resistance of the Afghan Mujahid nation despite using their combined military, political and financial cooperation. This means the resistance being put up by this nations is a legitimate one and the invasion by the global coalition under the leadership of America is unlawful and brutal aggression. The pretexts concocted by the Americans to keep you engaged in Afghanistan are only fallacies that want to obtain their illicit interests. There is no veracity in their claims. In the past nine years, you may have come around to know the essence of the American fatuous claims, that only they want to use your power in the way of achievement of their impractical colonialist goals. It is not appropriate for you to sacrifice your sons for American ambiguous interests and defame your name in the history of nations and become criminals of war as a result of your killing and harassing the Afghan people. Each day, hundreds of innocent Afghans are martyred by the Americans; houses are destroyed and unconventional weapons which are banned on international level, are being used by them. These weapons will have negative impact on the next generations of our nation. Their use is an unforgivable crime against humanity. But your forces commit this crime against miserable people every day on the behest of the Americans. Furthermore, the Americans have imposed restrictions on independent media. Only reports palatable to America and NATO are allowed to be published. No one, neither the invaders nor their puppets address the grievances of the victims of war. They clamp down on publications of the Islamic Emirate, whether in the shape of electronic media like internet or printed materials. Hundreds of innocents Afghans have been suffering in Guantanamo and Bagram prisons for the past nine years. Even old men of 70-80 years are kept under detention in these prisons. They are constantly deprived of their legal rights and are not presented before a legal court and denied to have access to their human rights. In short, America, has taken hostage our country and people due to your assistance. Some members of the American coalition and their people have realized this reality and have started withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan and some are intending to follow.

Our message for those countries which still want to continue their military occupation of Afghanistan, merely relying on the irrational pretexts of America, is that you should consider withdrawal of your forces from Afghanistan at your earliest.

I) To Americana Rulers and the Misinformed American People.

You tested all your might i.e. military, political and economic for the past nine years to maintain your occupation over the Afghan Islamic and independent country but you achieved nothing except a dashing defeat at the hands of the sagacious Afghan Muajhideen. Though your general worked out strategies (after strategies) and committed military surge, but still your soldiers are captured alive but your government is not ready to agree to an exchange of prisoners as in the case of the Bobragdal nor they are concerned about him as a US citizen. Even they try to perish them instead of adhering to the recognized way of exchange of prisoners as what they did in Logar with your two prisoners. Our Mujahideen constantly shoot down your advanced military and reconnaissance aircrafts and destroy your military hardware. With the passage of each day, the number of your soldiers’ dead bodies are ascending but your rulers instead of admitting their wrong policies, and seeking a rational exit, want to try the hackneyed and failed process once more as an effort to compensate for their defeats and distract your attention and that of the public of the world from their debacles. These foiled process include the formation of the tribal militias, holding the so-called consultative Jirga, usage of the words radicals and moderates for Mujahideen, holding fruitless conferences, launching black propaganda campaign against Mujahideen with the help of affiliated stooge media, giving the helms of affairs to some most hated, corruption-infested and criminal figures time and again. They guess, in this lies the solution of the problem. But with the help of Allah, (SwT) and the good Jihadic planning of Mujahideen, these ventures failed like their other military endeavors. The Afghans have still further patience to defend their country. They have added new experiences of warfare to theirs after nine-year long confrontation with your soldiers. What we want to convey to you through this message is that withdraw your soldiers from our country unconditionally and as soon as possible. This is in your interest and in the interest of your people and the best option for regional stability.

After nine years of show of muscles by you and your global military coalition, it has become clear for all the world that the policy of might and coercion has no effect on the Afghans. The subjugation of this free people as per your envisaged plans is impossible. Still if you want to make the "impossible" possible by extending your stay in Afghanistan, then, as its price, be ready to lose the sovereignty of your vast empire. You should know that your rulers have continuously told you lies since the beginning of the aggression on Afghanistan until this very day. They have wasted hundreds of billion of dollars of your tax money in the shape of financial expenditures and your man power in Afghanistan and have still been wasting them. You shall be witness to another economic melt-down. You should use your parliamentary pressures and street power to prevent your rulers from pushing you into the pit of perdition and destruction at world level. Therefore, they should abandon their headlong stubborn policy. Otherwise, the Americans will themselves face humiliation and disgrace before any one else does that.

To end, I extend my deep condolence to all those who have been affected by the recent floods and other natural disasters in Afghanistan , Pakistan and other parts of the Islamic world and ask Allah ( SwT) to lessen the sufferings of these people as a result of this gigantic trial and bestow patience on those who have been devastated by the floods.

I call on all beneficent persons to give their all-sided assistance to the affectees of the floods, to the families of martyrs, prisoners and orphans and have a conduct of mercy and grace with them in these auspicious days of joy of Eid as you usually have with your families and children.

Once again I felicitate all Muslim on this occasion of Eid and pray to Allah (SwT) to give them perseverance versus the American invasion and accept their sacrifices in His sight. I pray to Allah, the Almighty to bestow independence on all occupied countries in view of the selfless sacred sacrifices of this suffering Ummah through realization of an Islamic sovereignty. May Allah, the Almighty, accept in His Sight the offering of the Muajhideen being presented in the shape of their pure blood. Amin.


Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid Servant of Islam

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« Reply #71 on: September 10, 2010, 05:21:42 am »

South Asia
Sep 11, 2010 

Taliban and US get down to talks

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD - United States President Barack Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, and as a part of the initial outlines of this exit strategy the Taliban are for the first time in serious negotiations with the US.

The Pakistan military and Saudi Arabia are acting as go-betweens to facilitate the talks, a top Pakistani security official directly involved in the negotiation process has told Asia Times Online.

According to the official, the Pakistan army has already been in contact with top Taliban commanders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani. Information is then passed onto the Saudis, who in turn liaise with the Americans.

At this stage, no direct contact has been made with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, although he characteristically does not involve himself personally in such talks; they are handled by close associates.

The security official indicated, however, that unlike in the past nine years since the ouster of the Taliban and the US-led anti-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar has shown a positive and flexible attitude.

The Taliban have previously insisted that all foreign troops - currently numbered at 150,000 - leave Afghanistan before any peace talks could begin. Separately, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has set up a High Peace Council to facilitate talks with Taliban leaders.

The initial talks have covered two main areas - the issue of about 60 Pakistanis in the US's Guantanamo detention facility, and al-Qaeda.

"A delegation of Pakistani officials will soon visit the Guantanamo Bay prison to personally interview the Pakistani prisoners. [Their release] would be a goodwill gesture from the American side, and also set the stage for negotiations between the Taliban and Washington," the Pakistani official told ATol.

Another element touched on in the talks is the American demand that it maintain a military presence in northern Afghanistan, while agreeing to give control of the south to the Taliban. The Taliban do not agree with this - they want a complete US withdrawal. This remains a point of major disagreement.

The al-Qaeda factor
A key problem remains al-Qaeda - the US has no interest in any deals with the group and wants to specifically separate the Taliban from al-Qaeda.

The US has always insisted that any future Taliban government would have to expel al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. The Taliban agree on this, but want al-Qaeda to be given "honorable treatment". It was the presence of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that led the US to invade the country in late 2001 in retaliation for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

On its part, al-Qaeda, armed with new allies, has its own agenda regardless of whether the Taliban make peace with Washington or continue their war.

Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, is fully cognizant of the sensitivities of the issue. The army does not want to shove anything under the rug, it aims to address every issue so that when more advanced negotiations begin with the Taliban, all irritants will have been resolved.

The Pakistani military has established a system of backchannel communications in which issues are discussed with Taliban leaders. Notes are then shared with Washington and Riyadh simultaneously. In this process, Saudi Arabia plays a central role.
In view of the al-Qaeda problem - which has the potential to derail any peace efforts - Kiani recently went to Riyadh and spent five days in discussions with King Abdullah, intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz and other officials. The central theme was how to rehabilitate bin Laden and other Saudi citizens, beside arranging refugee status for other al-Qaeda members. Bin Laden was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in the 1990s.

The director general of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, was sent to Washington regarding a proposal for al-Qaeda to shift from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qaeda's struggle is entering a decisive phase, one in which it does not necessarily need the protection and support of the Taliban - unlike in 2002, when al-Qaeda was badly beaten as a result of US attacks and reduced to a few thousand members in a rag-tag militia. It had also lost a number of leaders in the "war on terror", either killed or arrested by Pakistan from 2002 onwards.

Since then, the organization has revived its fortunes, from the Caucasus to the Pakistani tribal areas, from India to Iraq and Somalia.

In Afghanistan, the southwest is controlled by Mullah Omar's Kandahari clan, while the southeast is completely under the command of pro-al-Qaeda commanders such as Qari Ziaur Rahman and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Their forces include thousands of non-Pashtun linked with the anti-Iran Jundallah and the powerful 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri. They also draw support from the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi and last but not least the Pashtun Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban).

Recently, al-Qaeda launched Chechen and Uzbek fighters from the Pakistani tribal areas back into the Central Asian republics and Russia. In the latest attack, on Thursday, 18 people were killed and more than a hundred injured in a suicide bombing in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz.

Under the command structure of Laskhar al-Zil, a shadowy army comprising various al-Qaeda-linked groups, al-Qaeda is reasserting itself in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, and at the same time planning to open up a new and constant front in India.

According to ATol contacts in the militant camp, al-Qaeda has no objection if the Taliban strike a deal with Washington that paves the way for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda would simply leave Afghanistan and jack up its operations in Pakistan and India. Al-Qaeda has already escalated attacks in Pakistan to create space for itself.

In the past few weeks, al-Qaeda-linked groups like Tariq Afridi have struck deals with local warlord Mangal Bagh to target major cities in restive Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, including Kohat and the capital Peshawar.

Commander Badr Mansoor has been tasked to increase activities in cities near the tribal areas, including Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Lucky Marwat. Sabir Mehsud of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been asked to escalate attacks in the main urban centers of Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Quetta, while commander Bin Yameen has been ordered to mobilize cadre in the Swat Valley.

While the Taliban-Washington dialogue process is in its early stage, al-Qaeda is well on the way to setting up an infrastructure to prove that it - not any state, army or the Taliban - is the real player of the upcoming game.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at

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« Reply #72 on: September 10, 2010, 05:37:51 am »

South Asia
Sep 11, 2010 
Petraeus spin on roadside bombs belied

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - General David Petraeus claimed limited success this week in the war within a war over the Taliban's planting of roadside bombs, but official Pentagon data show the Taliban clearly winning that war by planting more bombs and killing many more United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops since the troop surge began in early 2010.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday, the United States commander in Afghanistan asserted that the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by the Taliban had "flattened" over the past year and attributed that alleged success to pressures by the US military, and especially the increased tempo of Special Operations Forces raids against Taliban units.

Data provided by the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), however, show that IEDs planted by Afghan insurgents killed nearly 40% more US and NATO troops in the first eight months of 2010 than in the comparable period of 2009.

The data also show that Taliban IEDs wounded 2,025 US and NATO troops in the first eight months of this year - almost double the 1,035 wounded in the same months last year.

In the Journal interview, Petraeus said that the data on violent incidents in Afghanistan indicate a slowly improving security situation.

Without putting his statement in quotation marks, Journal reporters Julian E Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg reported Petraeus as claiming that the use of IEDs "has generally flattened in the past year". While crediting US military operations with this alleged improvement, Petraeus said it is too soon to say that they are the sole reason for this alleged flattening of IED incidents.

But the data for 2009 and 2010 provide no support for Petraeus' "flattened" description.

The 12-month moving average of IED incidents, provided in a report in July by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the basis of JIEDDO data, shows a continuing and sharp increase from 250 in June 2009 to more than 900 in May 2010, for an average increase per month of 54 incidents.

The total number of IED incidents in Afghanistan began to rise steeply in March 2010 to a new high of 1,087 and then continued to climb to 1,128 in May and again to 1,258 in August.

In a related effort to spin the IED issue more favorably to the war effort, Major Michael G Johnson, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commanded by Petraeus, was quoted in a USA Today story published on Tuesday as saying that there had been a "dip" in deaths and injuries from IEDs over the previous 12 weeks compared to the same period in 2009.

But the JIEDDO figures on deaths and injuries to US and NATO forces from IEDs from June through August 2010 total 271 casualties - a 30% increase over the total for those months a year ago.

In response to a query from Inter Press Service (IPS), however, Johnson said he was including deaths and injuries to Afghan security personnel and civilians as well.

Killing and wounding foreign troops is generally understood to be the objective of the Taliban's IED war and the reduction of those casualties is the objective of Petraeus' command.

Petraeus had previously been more cautious about claiming success in the IED war. In an interview with Spencer Ackerman of the website Danger Room on August 18, Petraeus only referred to growing pressures on the Taliban organizing for IEDs from both US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems and from SOF units.

But when Ackerman pointed out that IED attacks were rising, Petraeus asserted that the increase could be because US and coalition forces are "on the offensive taking away areas that matter to the enemy, safe havens and sanctuaries".

Challenged by Ackerman on an interpretation that turned an obvious indicator of a failing war effort into an indicator of progress, however, Petraeus retreated, saying, "That's fair enough."

Both the Ackerman interview and Johnson's statement illustrate the Petraeus tactic of making statements that mislead by omission or tendentious interpretation rather than making statements that could be proven false.

The Petraeus statement to the Journal about "flattened" IED figures, however, appears to go beyond that tactic.

The JIEDDO data on IED incidents by month also provide evidence that the US and NATO forces had failed to win the trust of the population in the Pashtun provinces where the Taliban have been strongest. The JIEDDO figures show that the proportion of IEDs turned in by the population has continued to fall with each passing year since the NATO military buildup in Pashtun areas began in 2006.

In late 2005, the civilian population was informing US and NATO troops of about 15% of all IEDs planted. That proportion fell to just over nine percent in 2006, to less than 7% in 2007 to about three percent in 2008, and again to 2.8% in 2009.

In the first six months of 2010, that ratio dropped to 2.6%, and in May and June it fell to 1.4% and 1%, respectively.

A paper by four authors, including former Petraeus adviser David Kilcullen, published by the pro-war Center for New American Security in June 2009 highlighted the importance of the proportion of IEDs turned in by the population as an indicator of good relations between US and NATO military units and the local population.

A rise in the proportion of IEDs found and cleared, especially because of tips from the population, would be a "sign of progress", the authors concluded.

The head of JIEDDO, Lieutenant General Michael Oates, appears to agree with that analysis. In an interview with USA Today published last March, Oates said winning the trust of the Afghan population is "a key ingredient" in protecting US troops from IEDs.
The steep decline in the proportion of IEDs turned in by the population as more US and NATO troops intruded on the Pashtun countryside is another reliable indicator - supporting opinion surveys in Helmand and Kandahar provinces - of the deterioration of relations between foreign troops and the population.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

(Inter Press Service) 
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« Reply #73 on: September 10, 2010, 06:04:42 am »

"Why America Cannot Win In Afghanistan"

By Guns and Butter

Interview with Pakistani General Hamid Gul.

Posted September 09, 2010


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« Reply #74 on: September 11, 2010, 10:25:00 am »

America's Fake "War for Democracy" in Afghanistan

By Danny Schechter
Global Research, September 10, 2010

Oh, Hamid, Oh Hillary: How your worlds converge and diverge.

The Secretary of State was shuttling between Washington where peace in the Middle East remains elusive to New York to where the poobahs and her protégés at the Council on Foreign Relations welcomed her as the second coming.

She has now has enunciated her own “doctrine” in the footsteps of thosei n our ‘inDOCTRINE-ated’ history of intervention over the centuries. (Remember James’s Monroe’s earlier imperial doctrine claiming Latin America as ours?)

Imagine the trumpets blowing as the Daily Beast sounded a triumphalist note: “The secretary of State delivered the best speech of the Obama administration this morning,” hyped Tunku Varadarajan writing on her “new American moment”—and why she’s better than her boss.”

“Behold the Hillary Doctrine. And heap abundant gratitude—and rose petals if you have them on hand—on the firm, unfussy, deeply reassuring woman who has just offered it up to the world.”

In her charge to the foreign policy elite, she spoke of the need for “a new global architecture, “built to last and withstand stress.” And in a muscular departure from the way in which this administration—for fear of seeming Bush-like—has been shrinking from the unembarrassed propagation of American values, she uttered these plainspoken, unadorned words: “Democracy needs defending.”

Off in Iraq and Afghanistan where trillions have been spent/wasted? to promote US style “democracy”, time is running out for that “New Dawn” that President Obama spoke wistfully of, and Hillary backed with generous appropriations when this “reassuring woman” stalked the halls of the Senate.

Now, her State Department is taking over the occupation of Iraq and no doubt, soon, Afghanistan. Hill gushes that we are on the verge of, “a new American moment—a moment when our global leadership is essential.” The report again: "There was no bowing from her to potentates in robes; there was, instead, a promise that “we will do everything we can to exercise the traditions of American leadership at home and abroad.”

Oh, those “traditions!”

In this period, our man Hamid Karzai, usually seen wearing a Karakul hat, something that has been worn by Afghan kings in the past, is quaking in his boots as a bank run erupted after a $300 billion loss was detected threatening the instability of his already unstable role, more as the Mayor of Kabul that as president of the country.

(Mullah Omar boasted Thursday that the Taliban is on the verge of winning but focused on the economic consequences, saying, "They have wasted hundreds of billion(s) of dollars of your tax money in the shape of financial expenditures and your manpower in Afghanistan and have still been wasting them. You shall be witness to another economic melt-down.")

Karzei’s ties with the United States have been deep. He has six brothers, reports Wikipedia, including Mahmood Karzai and Quayum Karzai, who are both Afghan-American restaurant owners in the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area of the United States, The family owns and operates several successful Afghan restaurants in the East Coast of the United States as well as in Chicago.”

What qualifications for leadership!

He is on the record anyway, as just a man of the people. “According to a declaration of his assets by an anti-graft body, Karzai earns $525 monthly and has less than $20,000 in bank accounts.  Karzai does not own any land or property.”


Hillary seems to be doing much better. She has also had her share of financial scandals. Remember her days in Arkansas when she ordered 10 cattle futures contracts with only $1K [normally a $12K investment], and reaped $100,000 in 10 months of trading.  Her bid for the Senate in 2000 resulted in high FEC election fines.

She and Bill just bought a new mansion in Westchester after shelling out a couple of mill for daughter Chelsea’s glitzy nuptials.

These people don’t stand by traditions. They all know the benefits of conversions. Bill converted to Republican-lite programs to get re-elected. Hillary seems to have converted from liberalism. Chelsea converted to Judaism while Hamid abandoned Islam for Christianity.

Karzai is a cat with many lives. Again from his bio: “In October 2001, Hamid Karzai and his group of fighters survived a US friendly fire missile attack in southern Afghanistan. The group suffered injuries and was treated in the United States; Karzai received injuries to his facial nerves as can sometimes be noticed during his speeches.  On 4 November 2001, American forces flew Karzai out of Afghanistan for protection,” protecting him for his next assignment, of course

Soon he became the front man for American aspirations and was first selected and then elected President., In 2004 he was backed by President Bush who also was reelected.

By that time, the war was pumping in billions alongside a very profitable  dope business. With the Taliban on the run and Al Qaeda in hiding, he became the beneficiary of earlier American architects who were turning Kabul into a mirror image of the USA.

Reported Jason Burke for the Observer wrote at the time that it was a time of “new prosperity” for the “elite” and the gangsters and sometimes the two were indistinguishable.

“This is the new Kabul…There is a downside, of course. The new prosperity has brought crime. Theft, according to senior officers from the ISAF peacekeeping force, is endemic. Without the European military patrolling in their box-like armoured cars, 'anything not nailed down would go', they say. Murders and assaults are more common than under the Taliban”

When there are tons of money oozing around, you always need a bank to manage it all, don't you?  Banks are the cornerstores of our modern financial engineering and architecture. So, in that same year of his elevation, in 2004. the Kabul Bank was born with another Karzai brother playing a key role.

Today it has collapsed, thanks to massive fraud. Sound familiar? It brings back memories of BCCI, the Pakistan bank that was unmasked as a criminal enterprise.

None of the foreign “architects” who looked on approvingly when it started thought about how to contain this swamp of sleaze. Where were its auditors? It's hard to believe that the Wall Street bigs didn't have a finger in the pie.

Reports the NY Times:

“Now, Kabul Bank sits at the center of a financial crisis that has exposed the shadowy workings of the country’s business and political elite, and how such connections shielded the bank from scrutiny. The panic surrounding Kabul Bank is threatening to pull down the Afghan banking system and has drawn in the United States.”

Is this or should this be a surprise to anyon?

The Washington Post reported months earlier,  on February 25, 2010, ”Officials puzzle over millions of dollars leaving Afghanistan by plane for Dubai) that it represented only a portion of the looting of donor nations.

The total volume of departing cash is almost certainly much higher than the declared amount. A Chinese man, for instance, was arrested recently at the Kabul airport carrying 800,000 undeclared euros (about $1.1 million).

Cash also can be moved easily through a VIP section at the airport, from which Afghan officials generally leave without being searched. American officials said that they have repeatedly raised the issue of special treatment for VIPs at the Kabul airport with the Afghan government but that they have made no headway.”

Why no headway? Could it be because “the headmen” were all deeply involved? At the same time, the US cheerleaders who work with the very same Council on Foreign Relations that kow-towned to  Hillary don’t want to know about the sleaze, or do anything about it, as Fraud specialist and former Bank regulator Bill Black points out:

“U.S. officials and defense analysts say that challenging local power brokers and criminal syndicates, many of which depend on U.S. reconstruction contracts and ties to the Afghan government for support, would likely add to the unrest in southern Afghanistan and produce a higher U.S. casualty rate.

“Putting an end to these patronage networks would not come cheaply,” said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has advised U.S. commanders in Afghanistan. (Bidddle was a professor at the Army College.)

“By contrast, allowing some graft among Afghan power brokers on the condition that they agree to limit their take and moderate predatory activities, such as their use of illegal police checkpoints, could promote near-term improvements,

So these “architects” of empire rationalize the massive corruption—which also, incidentally, helps fund the Taliban with whom Karzai has been secretly negotiating with according to Wikileaks.

Says Black: “He is wrong about corruption, fraud, and predation. Biddle finds it necessary to create this euphemism for corruption (“patronage networks”). He believes that he can calibrate graft and dial his desired level of corruption as if he were using a rheostat to change the intensity of a light.

“He thinks he can get them to “limit their take” and “moderate” “their “predatory behavior.” He thinks he can get Karzai to “defund” his political cronies. His appeasement strategy has never worked. It will fail and the failure will “not come cheaply.” It will kill and maim Afghans, NATO troops, and foreign aid and construction workers.”

There was not a whiff of this debate at the Council on Foreign Relations about this scandal where Hillary was greeted in language that harkened back to the praises the Red Army conferred on Chairman Mao.
He was, at least, “a Great Helmsman.”  Hillary is on her way of being anointed the “great architect” in the battle for fraudulent democracy.

How far we have come!

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed Plunder The Crime Of Our Time, a film and companion book about the financial crisis as a crime story. ( Comments to
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« Reply #75 on: September 14, 2010, 06:48:25 am »

For the People of Afghanistan, Things Have Gone from Bad to Worse

For years, American leaders have hailed the way Afghans are supposedly benefiting from the U.S. role in their country. They're not.

By Nick Turse,
Posted on September 12, 2010, Printed on September 14, 2010

With the arrival of General David Petraeus as Afghan War commander, there has been ever more talk about the meaning of “success” in Afghanistan.  At the end of July, USA Today ran an article titled, “In Afghanistan, Success Measured a Step at a Time.” Days later, Stephen Biddle, a Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, held a conference call with the media to speak about “Defining Success in Afghanistan.”  A mid-August editorial in the Washington Post was titled: “Making the Case for Success in Afghanistan.”  And earlier this month, an Associated Press article appeared under the headline, “Petraeus Talks Up Success in Afghan War.”

Unlike victory, success turns out to be a slippery term.  As the United States approaches the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, pundits have been chewing over just what “success” in Afghanistan might mean for Washington.  What success might mean for ordinary Afghans hasn’t, however, been a major topic of conversation, even though U.S. officials have regularly promised them far better lives and trumpeted American efforts to reconstruct that war-torn land.

Between 2001 and 2009, according to the Afghan government, the country has received $36 billion in grants and loans from donor nations, with the United States disbursing some $23 billion of it.  U.S. taxpayers have anted up another $338 billion to fund the war and occupation.  Yet from poverty indexes to risk-of-**** assessments, from childhood mortality figures to drug-use stats, just about every available measure of Afghan wellbeing paints a grim picture of a country in a persistent state of humanitarian crisis, often involving reconstruction and military failures on an epic scale.  Pick a measurement affecting ordinary Afghans and the record since November 2001 when Kabul fell to Allied forces is likely to show stagnation or setbacks and, almost invariably, suffering.

Almost a decade after the U.S. invasion, life for Afghan civilians is not a subject Americans care much about and so, not surprisingly, it plays little role in Washington's discussions of “success.”  Have a significant number of Afghans found the years of occupation and war “successful”?  Has there been a payoff in everyday life for the indignities of the American years -- the cars stopped or sometimes shot up at road checkpoints, the American patrols trooping through fields and searching homes, the terrifying night raids, the imprisonments without trial, or the way so many Afghans continue to be treated like foreigners, if not criminal suspects, in their own country?

For years, American leaders have hailed the way Afghans are supposedly benefiting from the U.S. role in their country.  But are they?

The promises began early. In April 2002, for instance, speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, President George W. Bush proclaimed that in Afghanistan “peace will be achieved through an education system for boys and girls which works.”  He added, “We're working hard in Afghanistan: We're clearing mine fields. We're rebuilding roads. We're improving medical care. And we will work to help Afghanistan to develop an economy that can feed its people without feeding the world's demand for drugs.”

When, on May 1, 2003, President Bush strode across the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to deliver his “mission accomplished” speech, declaring an end to “major combat operations in Iraq,” he also spoke of triumph in the other war and once again offered a rosy picture of Afghan developments.  “We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals, and educate all of their children,” he said.  Five years later, he was still touting American aid to Afghans, noting that the U.S. was “working to ensure that our military progress is accompanied by the political and economic gains that are critical to the success of a free Afghanistan."

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama seemed to suggest that efforts to promote Afghan wellbeing had indeed been a success: “There is no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years -- in education, in health care and economic development, as I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed -- lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier.”

So, almost 10 years on, just what are the lives of ordinary Afghans like?  Has childhood mortality markedly improved?  Are women, if not equal in terms of civil rights, at least secure in the knowledge that men are not able to **** them with impunity?  Have all Afghan children -- or even most -- started on the road to a decent education?

Or how about a more basic question?  After almost a decade of war and tens of billions in international aid, do Afghans have enough to eat?  I recently posed that question to Challiss McDonough of the United Nation’s World Food Program in Afghanistan.

Food Insecurity

In October 2001, the BBC reported that more than seven million people were "at risk of malnutrition or food shortages across Afghanistan.”  In an email, McDonough updated that estimate:  “The most recent data on food insecurity comes from the last National Risk and Vulnerability Assesment (NRVA), which was conducted in 2007/2008 and released in late October 2009.  It found that about 7.4 million people are food-insecure, roughly 31 percent of the estimated population.  Another 37 percent are considered to be on the borderline of food insecurity, and could be pushed over the edge by shocks such as floods, drought, or conflict-related displacement.”

Food insecurity indicators, McDonough pointed out, are heading in the wrong direction.  “The NRVA of 2007/08 showed that the food security had deteriorated in 25 out of the 34 provinces compared to the 2005 NRVA.  This was the result of a combination of factors, including high food prices, rising insecurity and recurring natural disasters.”  As she also pointed out, “About 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and cannot afford basic necessities.  Staple food prices remain higher than they are in neighboring countries, and higher than they were before the global high-food-price crisis began in 2007.”

Recently, the international risk management firm Maplecroft put together a food security index -- using 12 criteria developed with the United Nations’ World Food Program -- to evaluate the threat to supplies of basic food staples in 163 countries.  Afghanistan ranked dead last and was the only non-African nation among the 10 most food-insecure countries on the planet.

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

During the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and the grim years of Taliban rule in the later 1990s, millions of Afghans fled their country.  While many returned after 2001, large numbers have continued to live abroad.  More than one million registered Afghans reportedly live in Iran.  Another 1.5 million or more undocumented, unregistered Afghan refugees may also reside in that country.  Some 1.7 million or more Afghan refugees currently live in Pakistan -- 1.5 million of them in recently flood-ravaged provinces, according to Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N.'s refugee agency.

Many Afghans who still remain in their country cannot return home either.  According to a 2008 report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 235,833 internally displaced persons nationwide.  As of the middle of this year, the numbers had reportedly increased to more than 328,000.

Children’s Well-Being

In 2000, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), mortality for children under five years of age stood at 257 per 1,000.  In 2008, the last year for which data was available, that number had not budged.  It had, in fact, only slightly improved since 1990, when after almost a decade of Soviet occupation and brutal warfare, the numbers stood at 260 per 1,000.  The figures were similar for infant mortality -- 168 per 1,000 in 1990, 165 per 1,000 in 2008.

In 2002, according to the U.N., about 50% of Afghan children were chronically malnourished.  The most recent comprehensive national survey, done two years into the U.S. occupation, found (according to the World Food Program’s McDonough) about 60% of children under five chronically malnourished.

Childhood education is a rare area of genuine improvement.  Afghan government statistics show steady growth -- from 3,083,434 children in primary school in 2002 to 4,788,366 enrolled in 2008.  Still, there are more young children outside than in the classroom, according to 2010 UNICEF numbers, which indicate that approximately five million Afghan children do not attend school -- most of them girls.

Many youngsters find themselves on the streets.  Reuters recently reported that there are no fewer than 600,000 street children in Afghanistan.  Shafiqa Zaher, a social worker with Aschiana, a children’s aid group receiving U.S. funds, told reporter Andrew Hammond that most have a home, even if only a crumbling shell of a building, but their caregivers are often disabled and unemployed.  Many are, therefore, forced into child labor.  “Poverty is getting worse in Afghanistan and children are forced to find work,” said Zaher.

In 2002, the U.N. reported that there were more than one million children in Afghanistan who had lost one or both parents.  Not much appears to have changed in the intervening years.  “I have seen estimates that there are over one million Afghan children whose father or mother is deceased,” Mike Whipple, the Chairman and CEO of International Orphan Care, a U.S.-based humanitarian organization that operates schools and medical clinics in Afghanistan, told me by email recently.

Increasingly, even Afghan youngsters with families are desperate enough to abandon their homeland and attempt a treacherous overland journey to Europe and possible asylum.  This year, UNHCR reported that ever more Afghan children are fleeing their country alone.  Almost 6,000 of them, mostly boys, sought asylum in European countries in 2009, compared to about 3,400 a year earlier.

Women’s Rights

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush told Congress: "The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free and are part of Afghanistan's new government."  Last year, when asked about a new Afghan law sanctioning the oppression of women, President Obama asserted that there were “certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.”   

Recently, the plight of women in Afghanistan again made U.S. headlines thanks to a shocking TIME magazine cover image of Bibi Aisha, an Afghan whose ears and nose were sliced off after she ran away from her husband’s house.  “What Happens When We Leave Afghanistan” was TIME’s headline, but reporter Ann Jones, who has worked closely with women in Afghanistan and talked to Bibi Aisha, took issue with the TIME cover in the Nation magazine, pointing out that it was evidently not the Taliban who mutilated Aisha and that the brutal assault took place eight years into the U.S. occupation.  Life for women in Afghanistan has not been the bed of roses promised by Bush nor typified by the basic rights proffered by Obama, as Jones noted:

“Consider the creeping Talibanization of Afghan life under the Karzai government. Restrictions on women's freedom of movement, access to work and rights within the family have steadily tightened as the result of a confluence of factors, including the neglect of legal and judicial reform and the obligations of international human rights conventions; legislation typified by the infamous Shia Personal Status Law (SPSL), gazetted in 2009 by President Karzai himself despite women's protests and international furor; intimidation; and violence."

Her observations are echoed in a recent report by Medica Mondiale, a German non-governmental organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls in war and crisis zones around the world.  As its blunt briefing began, “Nine years after 11 September and the start of the operation ‘Enduring Freedom,’ which justified its commitment not only with the hunt for terrorists, but also with the fight for women’s rights, the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan still is catastrophic.”  Medica Mondiale reported that 80% of all Afghan marriages are still “concluded under compulsion.”

The basic safety of women in Afghanistan in, and well beyond, Taliban-controlled areas has in recent years proven a dismal subject even though the Americans haven’t left.  According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), for instance, 87% of women are subject to domestic abuse.  A 2009 report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found that **** “is an everyday occurrence in all parts of the country” and called it a “human rights problem of profound proportions.”  That report continued:

"Women and girls are at risk of **** in their homes and in their communities, in detention facilities and as a result of traditional harmful practices to resolve feuds within the family or community... In the northern region for example, 39 percent of the cases analyzed by UNAMA Human Rights, found that perpetrators were directly linked to power brokers who are, effectively, above the law and enjoy immunity from arrest as well as immunity from social condemnation."

Afghan women are reportedly turning to suicide as their only solution.

A June report by Sudabah Afzali of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting noted that, according to officials in Herat Province, “cases of suicide amongst women… have increased by 50 per cent over the last year.”  Sayed Naim Alemi, the director of the regional hospital in Herat, noted that 85 cases of attempted suicide recorded in the previous six months had involved women setting themselves on fire or ingesting poison.  In 57 of the cases, the women had died.

A study conducted by former Afghan Deputy Health Minister Faizullah Kakar and released in August gave a sense of the breadth of the problem.  Using Afghan Health Ministry records and hospital reports, Kakar found that an estimated 2,300 women or girls were attempting suicide each year.  Domestic violence, bitter hardships, and mental illness were the leading factors in their decisions. “This is a several-fold increase on three decades ago,” said Kakar.  In addition, he found that about 1.8 million Afghan women and girls between the ages of 15 and 40 are suffering from “severe depression.”

Drug Use

Rampant depression, among both men and women, has led to self-medication.  While opium-poppy cultivation on an almost unimaginable scale in the planet’s leading narco-state has garnered headlines since 2001, little attention has been paid to drug use by ordinary Afghans, even though it has been on a steep upward trajectory.

In 2003, according to Afghanistan's Public Health Minister Amin Fatimie, there were approximately 7,000 heroin addicts in the capital city, Kabul.  In 2007, that number was estimated to have doubled.  By 2009, UNAMA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) estimated that the city was home to up to 20,000 heroin users and another 20,000 to 25,000 opium users.

Unfortunately, Kabul has no monopoly on the problem.  "Three decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics, and limited access to treatment have created a major, and growing, addiction problem in Afghanistan," says Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of UNDOC.  Since 2005, the number of Afghan opium users nationwide has jumped by 53%, while heroin users have skyrocketed by 140%.  According to UNODC’s survey, Drug Use in Afghanistan, approximately one million Afghans between the ages of 15 and 64 are addicted to drugs.  That adds up to about 8% of the population and twice the global average.

AIDs and Sex Work

Since the U.S. occupation began, AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes the disease, have reportedly also been on the rise.  In 2002, only eight people tested positive for HIV.  In 2007, Public Health Minister Fatimie reported 61 confirmed cases of AIDS and 2,000 more suspected cases.

Fatamie blamed intravenous drug use for half the cases and the NGO Médecins du Monde, which works with intravenous drug users in Kabul, found that HIV prevalence among such users in the cities of Kabul, Herat, and Mazar had risen from 3% to 7% between 2006 and 2009.  A 2010 report by the Public Health Ministry revealed that knowledge about HIV among intravenous drug users was astonishingly low, that few had ever been tested for the virus, and that of those who admitted to purchasing sex within the previous six months, most confessed to not having used a condom.   

This last fact is hardly surprising, given the findings from a recent study by Catherine Todd and colleagues of 520 female sex workers, almost all mothers, in the Afghan cities of Jalalabad, Kabul, and Mazar-i-Sharif.  Only about 30% of the women surveyed reported clients had ever used a condom with them and about 50% had received treatment for a sexually transmitted infection in the three months prior to being interviewed.

The same study also sheds light on the intersection between high-risk behaviors, socio-economic conditions, and the freedom and opportunities promised to Afghan women by Presidents Bush and Obama.  The most common reasons Afghan women engaged in sex work, Todd and colleagues found, were the need to support themselves (50%) or their families (32.4%).  Almost 9% reported being forced into sex work by their families.  Just over 5% turned to prostitution after being widowed, and 1.5% were forced into the profession after they were sexually assaulted and, consequently, found themselves unable to marry.

A Decade of Progress?  

In the near-decade since Kabul fell in November 2001, a sizeable majority of Afghans have continued to live in poverty and privation.  Measuring such misery may be impossible, but the United Nations has tried to find a comprehensive way to do so nonetheless.  Using a Human Poverty Index which “focuses on the proportion of people below certain threshold in regard to a long and healthy life, having access to education, and a decent standard of living,” the U.N. found that, comparatively speaking, it doesn’t get worse than life in Afghanistan.  The nation ranks dead last in its listing, number 135 out of 135 countries.  This is what “success” means today in Afghanistan.

The United Nations also ranks countries via a Human Development Index which includes such indicators of wellbeing as life expectancy, educational attainment, and income.  In 2004, the U.N. and the Afghan government issued the first National Human Development Report.  In its foreword, the publication cautioned:

“As was expected, the report has painted a gloomy picture of the status of human development in the country after two decades of war and destruction. The Human Development Index (HDI) value calculated nationally puts Afghanistan at the dismal ranking of 173 out of 178 countries worldwide. Yet the HDI also presents us with a benchmark against which progress can be measured in the future.“

The only place to go, it seemed, was up.  And yet, in 2009, when the U.N. issued a new Human Development Report, Afghanistan was in even worse shape, ranking number 181 of 182 nations, higher only than Niger.

Almost 10 years of U.S. and allied occupation, development, mentoring, reconstruction aid, and assistance has taken the country from unbearably dismal to something markedly poorer.  And yet even worse is still possible for the long-suffering men, women, and children of Afghanistan.  As the U.S. war and occupation drags on without serious debate about withdrawal on the Washington agenda, questions need to be asked about the fate of Afghan civilians.  Chief among them: How many more years of “progress” can they endure, and if the U.S. stays, how much more “success” can they stand?

Copyright 2010 Nick Turse

Nick Turse is the associate editor of  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation,and regularly at TomDispatch. His latest book, The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso), which brings together leading analysts from across the political spectrum, will be published later this month.  He is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on at, and on

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« Reply #76 on: September 15, 2010, 06:17:00 am »

Published on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 by

Afghan War Myths

by Ted Rall

SOMEWHERE IN AFGHANISTAN - There's an exception. It is a limited set of circumstances. If the armies of another nation invade your country, there is no need to resort to lies to sell war. The battle is already joined. The threat is palpable. Anyone with a smidgen of patriotism and/or the instinct of self-preservation will rush to enlist.

Mostly, this does not happen. It sort of happened in 1941, with Pearl Harbor. But Hawaii, itself recently seized by U.S. marines without the thinnest veneer of legality, was merely a distant possession. It sort of happened in 1848 when Mexican troops crossed the Rio Grande (after being deliberately provoked by the Americans). It definitely happened in 1812. But you see the point: every war the United States has fought, at least since 1945 (really since 1814), has been just for fun.

Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq--the U.S. didn't have to fight any of them. They were optional. At minimum, they were wars of imperialism. Mostly, they were wars of aggression: undeclared, immoral, violations of international law.
Lies and spin are essential tools of "leaders" who want to convince the public to support wars for fun and profit.

The war against Afghanistan is no exception. I have previously discussed the Big Lies about Afghanistan: 9/11 came out of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda's training camps were there, bin Laden was there, oil has nothing to do with it, etc. Now let's talk about the little lies.

Lie #1: The war could have been won.

You know the narrative: the Bush Administration never sent in enough troops, then "took their eye off the ball" by invading Iraq and transferring military resources there from Afghanistan.

The truth: More troops would merely have postponed the inevitable defeat, while costing more Afghan and American lives. Remember General Shinseki, fired for telling Congress that Iraq needed at least 300,000 to 400,000 U.S. troops to establish command and control?

Afghanistan is about the same population and area as Iraq, but with much tougher terrain: some of the biggest, baddest mountains on the planet. U.S. forces would have had to permanently station at least 500,000 to 600,000 soldiers there. We didn't have them. Still don't.
Sure, we could run up the deficit even higher, hire and train more troops, and pack them off to the Hindu Kush. But Afghan resistance forces would wait us out. Even the U.S. military colossus can't bleed forever. We would have to pare down. Then we'd be back where we are now: humiliated, defeated, broke, morally bankrupt.

Lie #2: Karzai isn't perfect, but he's the best of a bunch of bad alternatives.

The mainstream media began questioning America's backing of the corrupt, incompetent and unpopular Karzai regime after he brazenly stole the most recent presidential election. But they refuse to call for the end of U.S. aid, or for fair elections. Mainly this is because they don't know squat about Afghanistan. But there were always better alternatives.

The best option for a nation that pretends to promote democracy would have been to actually promote democracy. Let the Afghan people choose between any candidates they want--yes, including the Taliban--and pledge to work with the winner no matter what. (This is what the U.S. ought to have done after Hamas won the election in Gaza.) The definition of integrity is doing the right thing even when it hurts; that's also what's required of the U.S. when it's playing Captain Democracy.

Moreover, there were always more palatable choices than Karzai. The exiled king, for example, was far more popular in 2001 than the dapper ex-Talib who fled the country after being accused of embezzlement.

Lie #3: We've got the right strategy/general now.

Now it's Petraeus. Every time the White House shuffles the military brass, they claim that this time it's different. The old strategy that didn't work in 2004, or 2006, or whatever, is dead. We'll use more drones. No, fewer drones. Wait, more.

No general, no matter how brilliant, can save a doomed military campaign. Anyway, neither Petraeus nor the other stuffed uniforms who've paraded in and out of Bagram in recent years are geniuses. Where are the Eisenhowers and Pattons of 2010? They're hedge fund managers.

Lie #4: Nation-building wouldn't have helped.

Bush promised a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. Now Vice President Biden admits what Afghans have known all along: we're not there to nation-build. We are there to nation break.

Nine years into America's longest war, it's painful to contemplate how the billions poured into Afghanistan--much of which has been siphoned off by Halliburton and other contractors, not to mention flown out of the country by the Karzai clan, might have been better spent.
In 2001 Afghans didn't need much to lay the foundations for a viable nation-state. I asked them. The answers were always the same: they involved infrastructure. Good roads. Electricity. Running water. Government offices. Connect the country's far-flung provinces to the capital, and Afghans would resume their historical role as traders. Security would necessarily follow commerce.

If we were determined to occupy Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, it ought to have been with construction equipment, not tanks. Even if the Taliban had come to power, it would have been hard for them to talk smack about the U.S. in a nation covered with road signs that read: "Unconditional Gift of the People of the United States to the People of Afghanistan."

Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East? [1]," and "The Anti-American Manifesto," to be published in September by Seven Stories Press. His website is [2].


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« Reply #77 on: September 16, 2010, 06:13:15 am »

Published on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 by Inter Press Service

Doubling of SOF Night Raids Backfired in Kandahar

by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - During a round of media interviews last month, Gen. David Petraeus released totals for the alleged results of nearly 3,000 "night raids" by Special Operations Forces (SOF) units over the 90 days from May through July: 365 "insurgent leaders" killed or captured, 1,355 Taliban "rank and file" fighters captured, and 1,031 killed.

Those figures were widely reported as highlighting the "successes" of SOF raids in at least hurting the Taliban.

But a direct correlation between the stepped up night raids in Kandahar province and a sharp fall-off in the proportion of IEDs being turned in by the local population indicates that the raids backfired badly, bolstering the Taliban's hold on the population in Kandahar province.

Night raids, which are viewed as a violation of the sanctity of the home and generate large numbers of civilian casualties, are the single biggest factor in generating popular anger at U.S. and NATO forces, as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal conceded in his directive on the issue last March.

Nevertheless, McChrystal had increased the level of SOF raids from the 100 to 125 a month during the command of his predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, to 500 a month during 2009. And the figures released by Petraeus revealed that McChrystal had doubled the number of raids on homes again to 1,000 a month before he was relieved of duty in June.

The step up in night raids has been overwhelmingly concentrated on districts in and around Kandahar City. It began in April as a prelude to what was then being billed as the "make or break" campaign of the war.

The response of the civilian population in those districts can be discerned from data on the Taliban roadside bombs and the proportion turned in by the population. Increasing the ratio of total IEDs planted found as a result of tips from the population has been cited as a key indicator of winning the trust of the local population by Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, head of the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

But JIEDDO's monthly statistics on IED's turned in by local residents as a percentage of total IEDs planted tell a very different story.

The percentage of Taliban roadside bombs turned in had been averaging 3.5 percent from November 2009 through March 2010, according to official statistics from JIEDDO. But as soon as the SOF raids began in Kandahar in April, the percentage of turn-ins fell precipitously to 1.5 percent, despite the fact that the number of IEDs remained about the same as the previous month.

The turn-in ratio continued to average 1.5 percent through July.

There is a similar correlation between a sudden increase in popular anger toward foreign troops in spring 2009 and a precipitous drop in the rate of turn-ins.

In the first four months of 2009, turn-ins had averaged 4.5 percent of IED incidents. But in early May 2009 a U.S. airstrike in Farah province killed between 97 and 147 civilians, according to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. As popular outrage over the biggest mass killing of civilians in the war spread across the country, the ratio of turn-ins fell to 2.1 percent of the total for the month, even though IEDs increased by less than 20 percent.

Then McChrystal took command and ordered a quadrupling of the number of night raids. The turn-in ratio continued to average just 2.2 percent for the next five months.

In Kandahar, as elsewhere in Afghanistan, popular anger at foreign troops was undoubtedly stoked by the inevitable killing and detention of the innocent people that accompanies SOF night raids.

According to the figures released by Petraeus, for every targeted individual killed or captured in the raids, three non-targeted individuals were killed and another four were detained.

Based on past cases of false reporting by SOF units, a large proportion of the 1,031 killed in the raids and identified as "insurgents" were simply neighbours who had come out of their homes with guns when they heard the raiders.

Gen. McChrystal referred to that chronic problem in a statement on his directive on night raids last March. "Instinctive responses" by an Afghan man to "defend his home and family are sometimes interpreted as insurgent acts, with tragic results," McChyrstal said.

SOF units have routinely reported those killed under such circumstances as insurgents rather than as innocent civilians.

When an SOF unit raided the home of a low-level commander in Laghman province on Jan. 26, 2009, 13 men came out of nearby homes. They were all killed and later included in the tally of Taliban reported killed in the raid.

The problem of false reporting was brought to light most dramatically after a botched SOF raid in Gardez Feb. 12, when two men who emerged from buildings in the compound targeted by an SOF unit were shot and killed. Within hours of the raid, ISAF issued a statement describing the two men as "insurgents".

That falsehood was later revealed only because the two men happened to be a police official and a government prosecutor. In the same incident, the SOF unit accidentally killed three women, two of whom were pregnant, but reported to headquarters that the women had been found tied up.

McChrystal defended the SOF unit against charges by eyewitnesses that its members had tried to cover up the killing, even after the head of the Afghan interior ministry investigation of the incident publicly declared that the testimony was credible.

The figure of 1,355 insurgents "captured" in the raids given out by the International Security Assistance Force is also highly misleading. In response to an IPS query about the figure, ISAF public affairs officer Maj. Sunset R. Belinsky confirmed that the figure "reflects insurgents or suspected insurgents captured during operations".

In fact, the vast majority were simply swept up because they happened to be present in a house or compound targeted in a raid.

An ISAF press release Sep. 8 illustrates how such a larger number was accumulated. In a raid on the compound of a suspected "insurgent commander" in Paktika province Sep. 7, the SOF unit ordered all occupants to leave the compound and detained "several suspected insurgents" after "initial questioning".

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have never released figures on what proportion of Afghans detained as suspected insurgents were eventually released because of lack of evidence. Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, who reviewed U.S. detainee policies in early 2009, was reported by The Guardian Oct. 14, 2009 to have concluded that two-thirds of the detainees still being held by the U.S. military as Taliban insurgents were innocent.

The claim of 365 "insurgent leaders" killed or captured is also highly misleading.

At his confirmation hearing in June, Petraeus referred to the targets of SOF raids as "middle and upper level Taliban and other extremist element leaders".

That terminology was later abandoned, however. When questioned about the figure last month, an ISAF official, speaking on condition of anonymity, conceded that it was not clear what authority the targeted "leaders" had. There is no organisational diagram for the Taliban, the official told IPS, and Taliban fighters are not organised in military units.

The vast majority of those "leaders", it appears, were low level Taliban personnel who are easily replaced.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam [1]", was published in 2006.

Copyright © 2010 IPS-Inter Press Service


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« Reply #78 on: September 16, 2010, 06:17:07 am »

South Asia
Sep 17, 2010 
Loaves, not bombs, pose significant threat

By Matthew C DuPee and Ahmad Waheed

Afghanistan faces a serious food crisis, especially through the southern, eastern and central regions, which is adding to the burden for a war-ravaged nation blighted by protracted insurgency, political instability and an entrenched illicit narcotics industry.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture confirmed a shortfall of 700,000 tons of wheat due to a nationwide decrease in wheat output - suggesting an estimated 4.5 million tons of wheat will be produced this year, insufficient to meet projected demand for 5.2 million tons, as extraordinary consumption makes Afghanistan vulnerable to price spikes from exporters it relies on to fill the gap.
''The government of Afghanistan needs to act quickly to control the food crisis,'' said Mohammad Eshaq Zeerak, director for the Ghazni Rural Support Program (GRSP) in the eastern province that was hit by flooding in August. ''National strategic food stocks need to be completed before the winter months because remote provinces like Ghor, Daikundi, Bamyan, Badakhshan, Nuristan, and even Ghazni will be desperate following the weather-related closure of the roads two-months from now.''

Flooding has destroyed agricultural plots and food stocks in nine out of 12 provinces in the central region of Afghanistan, and the possibility of the total loss of Afghanistan's wheat industry from fungal infection looms large, with grave implications for security, stability and economy. While Afghan officials are confident in obtaining wheat imports to make up this year's projected national shortfall, traditional suppliers - Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Russia - are hard-pressed.

Severe drought has cut output in Russia, the world’s third-largest wheat producer, by one third of last year's harvest, hit production in Kazakhstan, the largest supplier to Afghanistan, while floods in Pakistan’s breadbasket left more than 3.2 million hectares of farmland underwater or destroyed.

Regional food shortages can have devastating effects because Afghanistan does not have a well-developed transportation network. Parts of the country are already dependent on food aid, so the global and regional crimp on wheat production will ultimately pose an additional socio-economic problem and affect the international community’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Domestic wheat production has suffered this year due to recent flood and locust swarms but officials from the United States Agency of International Aid (USAID) do not expect the food security conditions to be as severe as the 2008 crisis. However, regional agricultural experts have warned that recent flooding, especially in Ghazni, has led to a decrease in local wheat output by 50%.

Consequently, in the south, the price of a loaf of wheat bread increased from 10 to 14 Afghanis last month. The price of wheat has increased from 70-80 Afghanis per seer ($1.40-1.6 per 7 kg) to 120 to 130 Afghanis per seer in there north, an Afghan resident from Kunduz told Asia Times Online. This 40% increase in price came into play after local traders heard about the effects of the Russian wheat crises on world food security.

Residents and agriculture experts want the Afghan government to fix wheat prices and are upset by its inaction. "Residents are very angry about the high prices and blame the government for not doing anything to fix it," Azizullah, a resident in Kandahar province told Asia Times Online.

If price increases continued, he added, people would definitely react strongly against the government. ''This crisis will only exacerbate the current distrust of a government unable to provide basic services to its citizens."

The average Afghan gets 60% of total calorific intake from wheat, according to surveys conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, and with 162 kilograms needed for every person annually it relies heavily on wheat imports. In 2008, the supply network broke down due to deficiencies in domestic and Pakistani wheat production and the tightening ban on Pakistani wheat exports.

Afghan wheat production rose substantially in 2009, thanks to good weather conditions and a stagnant market price for opium. But the conundrum facing Afghan farmers this year is hedging bets on a profitable and reliable crop of illicit "poppy" or growing more difficult wheat.

High opium prices and ongoing instability throughout the poppy belt of southern Afghanistan will leave opium as an enticing cash crop for many farmers. In 2009, Afghanistan had its second consecutive annual decline in nationwide opium output, to 6,700 tons from an estimated 7,700 tonnes in 2008. The downward trend has continued in 2010, with a plant disease destroying large portions of the opium crop.

The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime has estimated that Afghanistan stands to lose a third, or 2,300 tonnes, of its opium output this year. However, despite repeated claims that wealthy traffickers and insurgent syndicates possess a suspected 10,000 tonne oversupply of raw opium, the market price has soared since May and is now hovering around $325 per kilogram, the highest market price in over six years.

Undoubtedly, in light of the agricultural destruction in Pakistan and the crimp in wheat supply from Kazakhstan, the demand for domestic wheat will be substantial. Afghanistan’s underdeveloped transportation infrastructure will also continue to hinder its ability to diversify its sources of imported grain.

Prior to the monsoon disaster that struck Pakistan in July, Pakistan’s government allowed the All Pakistan Flour Mills Association (APFMA) to export wheat to Afghanistan, fixing the export quota at 200,000 tons. This may change however in light of the recent monsoons. Pakistan produced an estimated 23.687 million tons of wheat during the 2009-2010 seasons and has a 3.5 million carry-over stock from 2008. Pakistan’s domestic wheat consumption hovers around 23 million tons. The monsoons have destroyed an estimated 600,000 tons of wheat and that number is likely to increase.

Afghanistan itself is not immune to the various natural catastrophes ravaging this year’s wheat output. In northern Samangan province, located in Afghanistan’s traditional wheat belt, a locust swarm destroyed thousands of hectares of wheat in the first two weeks of August. Torrential floods destroyed farm plots throughout eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border where monsoons laid waste to wheat fields. In the first nine days of August, flash floods and heavy rains destroyed agricultural plots and food stocks in nine out of 12 provinces in the central region of Afghanistan, resulting in the destruction of thousands hectares of agricultural land and inflicted human losses.

Additionally, current projections tracking the devastating plant virus Ug99, a black stem fungus that leeches the nutrients from the crop and kills it, has moved steadily eastward from its origin in Uganda and into the Middle East. Due to its lightweight and ability to travel for miles after becoming airborne, scientists discovered Ug99 in Iranian wheat fields in 2007; a full two years earlier than they projected the strain to hit.

With little access to sophisticated farming equipment such as fungicides and herbicides, Afghanistan’s domestic wheat industry will be severely damaged once Ug99 penetrates the farmland of northern and southern Afghanistan. Scientists familiar with the Ug99 fungus have projected a 90% to 100 % loss in Afghanistan’s wheat production if the fungus arrives before so-called ''rust resistant'' wheat seed varieties are introduced into at least 10% of Afghanistan’s sown wheat fields.

''While an outbreak of Ug99 in Afghanistan has not been reported yet, it’s very likely that the fungus will reach Afghanistan very soon because of the ineffective quarantine system of Afghanistan,” Abdul Saboor Jawad, an agricultural expert working in Kabul, told Asia Times Online.

The threat of Ug99 and this year’s devastating poppy blight, a plant-eating disease that destroyed upward of 2,200 tons of Afghan opium output, further exasperates the challenges associated with improving Afghanistan’s rural economic infrastructure. In this sense, environmental factors and agricultural challenges like virulent fungi may indeed pose a more significant threat to a greater swathe of the Afghan population than bullets or bombs. The growing discontent over government inefficiency and is growing by the day.

"Some agriculture and economic experts had warned the Afghan government to be prepared with the right means to face this huge challenge, but all their warnings fell into the deaf ears of the government authorities," Nasrullah Aman, an Afghan Fulbright scholar from Kunduz province told Asia Times Online.

"Now the problem is here. The most serious impact of the wheat crisis in Afghanistan is the further widening of the gap between the government and the people. People have already lost faith in this government due to the widespread corruption and absence of law and order. So, this crisis will exacerbate the situation and may even take things to the exploding point."

With wheat representing between 2.1 and 2.5 million hectares of farmland in Afghanistan, or nearly 60% of the country’s entire farm plots, securing Afghanistan's wheat industry is critical in stabilizing the country over the long term. The United States and the international community may be under considerable pressure to make headway against a burgeoning Taliban-led insurgency, but a vigorous and serious attempt must also be made to stabilize Afghanistan’s rural and agricultural sectors.

Matthew C DuPee is a senior research associate and Afghan specialist at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Ahmad Waheed is an Afghan Fulbright scholar and research analyst for the Program of Culture and Conflict Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

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« Reply #79 on: September 17, 2010, 06:14:46 am »

South Asia
Sep 18, 2010 
An Afghan bone for Obama to chew on

By M K Bhadrakumar

When Robert Blackwill, who was former United States secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's deputy as national security adviser and George W Bush's presidential envoy to Iraq, took the podium at the International Institute of Strategic Studies think-tank in London on Monday to present his "Plan B" on Afghanistan, readers of the Wall Street Journal would have wondered what was afoot.

Blackwill is wired deep into the bowels of the US establishment, especially the Pentagon headed by Robert Gates. And the IISS prides itself as having been "hugely influential in setting the intellectual structures for managing the Cold War". Thus, the setting on Monday was perfect.

Blackwill has remarkable credentials to undertake exploratory voyages into the trajectory of US foreign policy. In a memorable opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in March 2005 titled "A New Deal for New Delhi", he accurately predicted the blossoming of the US-India strategic partnership. He wrote:

The US should integrate India into the evolving global non-proliferation regime as a friendly nuclear weapons state ... Why should the US want to check India's missile capability in ways that could lead to China's permanent nuclear dominance over democratic India? ... We should sell advanced weaponry to India ... Given the strategic challenges ahead, the US should want the Indian armed forces to be equipped with the best weapons systems ... To make this happen, the US has to become a reliable long-term supplier, including through co-production and licensed manufacture arrangements.
Blackwill's construct almost verbatim did become US policy. Again, in December 2007 he penned a most thoughtful article titled "Forgive Russia, Confront Iran". He wrote:

To engage Russia, we need to substantially change our current policy approach to Moscow ... This is not to underrate the difficulties of interacting with Moscow on its external policies and its often-raw pursuit of power politics and spheres of influence ... But there are strategic priorities, substantive trade-offs and creative compromises that Western governments should consider. The West needs to adopt tactical flexibility and moderate compromise with Moscow.
Again, he hit the bull's eye in anticipating the US's reset with Russia. So, an interesting question arises: Is he sprinting indefatigably toward a hat-trick?

There can be no two opinions that the crisis situation in Afghanistan demands out-of-the-box thinking. Blackwill's radically original mind has come up with an intellectual construct when hardly 10 weeks are left for US President Barack Obama to take the plunge into his Afghanistan strategy review.

Blackwill foresees that the US's Afghan counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy is unlikely to succeed and an accommodation of the Taliban in its strongholds becomes inevitable in the near future. The current indications are that the process is already underway. (See Taliban and US get down to talks Asia Times Online, September 10, 2010.)

The Blackwill plan probes the downstream of this "accommodation". Blackwill flatly rules out a rapid withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan as that would be a "strategic calamity" for regional stability, would hand over a tremendous propaganda victory to the world syndicate of Islamist radicals, would "profoundly undermine" the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and would be seen as a failure of US leadership and strategic resolve.

Therefore, he proposes as a US policy goal a rationalization of the tangled, uneven Afghan battlefield so that it becomes more level and predictable and far less bloody, and enforcement of the game can come under new ground rules.

Prima facie, it appears scandalous as a plan calling for the "partition" of Afghanistan, but in actuality it is something else. In short, US forces should vacate the Taliban's historic strongholds in the Pashtun south and east and should relocate to the northern, central and western regions inhabited by non-Pashtun tribes.

Blackwill suggests the US should "enlist" the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras to do more of the anti-Taliban resistance, instead of COIN. And the US should only take recourse to massive air power and the use of special forces if contingencies arise to meet any residual threats from the Taliban after their political accommodation in their strongholds.

A striking aspect of the Blackwill plan is that it is rooted in Afghan history and politics, the regional milieu and the interplay of global politics. Since 1761, Afghanistan has survived essentially as a loose-knit federation of ethnic groups under Kabul's notional leadership. The plan taps into the interplay of ethnicity in Afghan politics. The political reality today is that the Taliban have come to be the best-organized Afghan group and they are disinterested in a genuinely broad-based power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Unsurprisingly, the non-Pashtun groups feel uneasy. Their fears are not without justification insofar as the erstwhile anti-Taliban Northern Alliance has disintegrated and regional powers that are opposed to the Taliban, such as Russia, Iran and India, have such vastly divergent policy objectives (and priorities) that they cannot join hands, leave alone finance or equip another anti-Taliban resistance.

The Kabul government headed by President Hamid Karzai is far too weak to perform such a role. (Blackwill, curiously, doesn't visualize Karzai surviving.) According to Blackwill's plan, the US offers itself as the bulwark against an outright Taliban takeover. It envisages the US using decisive force against any Taliban attempt to expand beyond its Pashtun strongholds in the south and east, and to this end it promises security to non-Pashtun groups.

If it works, the plan could be a geopolitical coup for the US. It quintessentially means the US would hand over to the Taliban (which is heavily under the influence of the Pakistani military) the south and east bordering Pakistan while US forces would relocate to the regions bordering Central Asia and Iran.

The US would be extricating itself from fighting and bloodshed, while at the same time perpetuating its military presence in the region to provide a security guarantee to the weak Kabul government and as a bulwark against anarchy and extremism - on the pattern in Iraq.

The US's and NATO's profile as real-time providers of regional security and stability can only boost their influence in Central Asian capitals.

Seemingly recent random "happenings" mesh with Blackwill's plan, including:

-A base to be built for US special forces in Mazar-i-Sharif.

-The expansion of the air bases at Bagram and Shindand.

-The overhaul of the massive Soviet-era air base in Termez by the US and NATO.

-An agreement between the German Bundeswehr and the Uzbek government regarding Termez as a stop-off point for NATO military flights.

-Fresh deployments of US special forces in Kunduz.

-The US's parleys with non-Pashtun leaders in Berlin.

-Mounting pressure on Hamid Karzai's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai to vacate Kandahar

(Blackwill said in an interview with the British Telegraph newspaper last week, "How many people really believe that Kandahar is central to Western civilization? We did not go to Afghanistan to control Kandahar.")

As a seasoned diplomat, Blackwill argues that China and Russia will choose to be stakeholders in an enterprise in which Washington underwrites Central Asia's security. True, China and Russia will be hard-pressed to contest the US's open-ended military presence in Afghanistan that is on the face of it projected as the unfinished business of the "war on terrorism". Central Asian states will be delighted at the prospect of the US joining the fight against creeping Islamism from Afghanistan.

The Blackwill plan brilliantly turns around the Taliban's ascendancy since 2005, which had occurred under Pakistani tutelage and, in retrospect, thanks to US passivity.

Blackwill admits that his plan "would allow Washington to focus on four issues more vital to its national interests: the rise of Chinese power, the Iranian nuclear program, nuclear terrorism and the future of Iraq".

Without suffering a strategic defeat, the US would be able to extricate itself from the war while the drop in war casualties would placate US opinion so that a long-term troop presence (as in Iraq) at the level of 50,000 or so would become sustainable. This was exactly what General David Petraeus, now the top US man in Afghanistan, achieved in Iraq.

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

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