Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan and Pakistan’

Scahill: Pentagon Seeks Private Contractor to Move Weapons Through Pakistan/Afghanistan

May 26, 2010

Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, May 25, 2010

The United States military is in the process of taking bids from private war contractors to secure and ship massive amounts of US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan where it will then be distributed to various US Forward Operating Bases and other facilities. According to the contract solicitation [PDF], “There will be an average of 5000” import shipments “transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments.” The solicitation states that, “This number may increase or decrease due to US military transportation requirements,” adding, “The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan” within a 30-day period. Among the duties the contractor will perform is “intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

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US military’s private spy and murder ring continues to operate in Afghanistan, Pakistan

May 19, 2010

David Walsh, wsws.org,  May 18, 2010

The New York Times reported May 15 that the US military was continuing “to rely on a secret network” of spies and paramilitary assassins in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two months after the newspaper first brought the unit to public attention.

At the time, in March 2010, the network, under the supervision of Michael Furlong, a longtime Pentagon dirty tricks operator, was routinely described by the media and military US officials as “off-the-books” or “unauthorized.” Much ado was made about a Defense Department criminal investigation into Furlong’s activities and the millions of dollars spent on the program he allegedly directed.

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Escalation is futile in a war in which complexity defies might

September 25, 2009

GABRIEL KOLKO, National Times, Sep 23, 2009

The US scarcely knew what a complex disaster it was confronting when it went to war in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. It will eventually – perhaps years from now – suffer the same fate as Alexander the Great, the British and the Soviet Union: defeat.

What is called ”Afghanistan” is really a collection of tribes and ethnic groups – Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and more. There are seven major ethnic groups, each with its own language. There are 30 minor languages. Pashtuns are 42 per cent of the population and the Taliban come from them. Its borders are contested and highly porous, and al-Qaeda is most powerful in the Pashtun regions of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Af-Pak Is Obama’s War

May 18, 2009

Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report, May 18, 2009

President Obama, who campaigned behind a thin veil of peace, dragged two heads of client states into the White House to demand “that both Afghanistan and Pakistan allow their citizens to be murdered and or displaced in the thousands” – or else. Obama read Presidents Zardari and Karzai “the riot act” to let them know who is boss in the military theater called “AfPak.” Obama claims to “want to respect their sovereignty, but” – there’s always the imperial ‘but’ – America has “huge national security interests” in the region. Afghanistan’s Karzai later wondered, “How can you expect a people who keep losing their children to remain friendly?”

Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans are now refugees or living under the constant threat of American military violence.”

Two central Asian nations bordering one another, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have the grave misfortune of being American client states. They get lots of money and political support, if they’re lucky, but always with terrible strings attached. The current President of the United States, Barack Obama, is demanding that both Afghanistan and Pakistan allow their citizens to be murdered and or displaced in the thousands. In order to accept that a huge body count is necessary, we are told that the two countries, nicknamed AfPak, are on the verge of being over run by the Taliban or al-Qaeda or both.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have been rebranded with a name seemingly devised by a Madison Avenue marketer who could just as easily be referring to a health insurance company or an overnight delivery service. Americans don’t know very much about the rest of the world, but they have a vague notion that brown-skinned Muslims are a crazy bunch who must be kept under control by Washington. So AfPak it is, and the bloodshed instigated by the United States continues. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis and Afghans are now refugees or living under the constant threat of American military violence.

President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan were recently summoned to Washington for the purpose of being informed that their opinions do not count. It doesn’t matter if their countrymen and women don’t want to be chased from their homes or maimed by killer drones and bombing missions. Uncle Sam read them the riot act and dared them to complain. Obviously they didn’t, because the slaughter began anew as soon as the photo ops ended.

Uncle Sam read Zardari and Karzai the riot act and dared them to complain.”

Obama always knows how to make the terrible sound benevolent. In this case he says that we “must defeat al-Qaeda.” Most Americans had never heard of the word al-Qaeda until September 11, 2001 and will forever connect it with the death of 3,000 people. It is useful for Obama to phrase his assault in terms that will win him popular approval.

The Obama administration has openly undermined Ali Asif Zardari, the elected Pakistani president. Zardari’s main claim to legitimacy comes via his in-laws, the Bhutto family. If he were not Benazir Bhutto’s widower, this convicted embezzler, known as Mr. 10%, would not be president. Nevertheless, he is the president of a country that is allegedly an ally, and he should be treated with the respect he is due.

Yet the New York Times reports that Zardari has been told that his opposition will be courted and if necessary put into power with him if he balks at slaughtering his people on Washington’s command. In his 100 days press conference, Obama made himself crystal clear. “We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.”

Not only are we supposed to be whipped into a frenzy at the very mention of words like al-Qaeda and Taliban, but we are now supposed to believe that Pakistan is on the verge of a mysterious “collapse” and that its nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists who will carry them around in briefcases, as in the plots of Hollywood thrillers. Zardari gets the thumb screw treatment, and we get outright lies.

How can you expect a people who keep losing their children to remain friendly?”

“Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, is equally hapless and helpless in keeping his people safe from the demands of the United States. He has long complained about civilian deaths caused by attacks on the Taliban and he repeated himself in vain on Meet the Press. “Our villages are not where the terrorists are. And that’s what we kept telling the U.S. administration, that the war on terrorism is not in the Afghan villages, not in the Afghan homes. Respect that. Civilian casualties are undermining support in the Afghan people for the war on terrorism and for the, the, the relations with America.  How can you expect a people who keep losing their children to remain friendly?” Obviously, such a people will not remain friendly but that has never been America’s concern. National Security Adviser James Jones said as much. “We can’t fight with one hand tied behind our back.”

Once again the United States repeats its long history of killing people and claiming it is for their own good. Afghanistan and Pakistan are just the latest on that awful list. While that dynamic doesn’t change, neither will the reaction of people around the world. They do hate us, and they have good reason to do so.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.

Democrats and War Escalation

April 7, 2009

by Norman Solomon | CommonDreams.org, April 6, 2009

Top Democrats and many prominent supporters — with vocal agreement, tactical quibbles or total silence — are assisting the escalation of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The predictable results will include much more killing and destruction. Back home, on the political front, the escalation will drive deep wedges into the Democratic Party.The party has a large anti-war base, and that base will grow wider and stronger among voters as the realities of the Obama war program become more evident. The current backing or acceptance of the escalation from liberal think tanks and some online activist groups will not be able to prevent the growth of opposition among key voting blocs.In their eagerness to help the Obama presidency, many of its prominent liberal supporters — whatever their private views on the escalation — are willing to function as enablers of the expanded warfare. Many assume that opposition would undermine the administration and play into the hands of Republicans. But in the long run, going along with the escalation is not helping Obama; by putting off the days of reckoning, the acceptance of the escalation may actually help Obama destroy his own presidency.

Ideally, in 2009, Democratic lawmakers would see as role models the senators who opposed the Vietnam War — first Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening, and then (years later) others including Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. Earlier and stronger opposition from elected officials could have saved countless lives. The dreams of the Great Society might not have been crushed. And Richard Nixon might never have become president.

Now, everyone has the potential to help challenge the escalation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan war — on a collision course with heightened disaster.

Over the weekend, the Sunday Times of London reported that U.S. drone attacks along the Afghan-Pakistani border on Saturday killed “foreign militants” and “women and children” — while Pakistani officials asserted that “American drone attacks on the border . . . are causing a massive humanitarian emergency.” The newspaper says that “as many as 1 million people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army.”

This is standard catastrophic impact of a counterinsurgency war. In short, as former Kennedy administration official William Polk spells out in his recent book “Violent Politics,” the key elements are in place for the U.S. war in Afghanistan to fail on its own terms while heightening the death and misery on a large scale.

Citing UN poverty data, a recent essay by Tom Hayden points out that in Afghanistan and Pakistan “the levels of suffering are among the most extreme in the world, and from suffering, from having nothing to live for, comes the will to die for a cause.” While the Washington spin machine touts development aid, the humanitarian effort adds up to a few pennies for each dollar going to the U.S. war effort.

A report from the Carnegie Endowment began this year with the stark conclusion that “the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency’s momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban.” Hayden made the same point when he wrote that “military occupation, particularly a surge of U.S. troops into the Pashtun region in southern Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the surest way to inflame nationalist resistance and greater support for the Taliban.”

Over the weekend, in his pitch for more NATO support, President Obama tried to make the U.S. war goals seem circumscribed: “I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat Al Qaeda.” But there’s no evidence that Al Qaeda has a significant foothold in Afghanistan. That group long since decamped to Pakistan.

In any event, the claim that a massive war is necessary to fight terrorism is hardly new. Lest we forget: After George W. Bush could no longer cling to his claims about WMDs in Iraq, he settled on the anti-terrorist rationale for continuing the Iraq occupation.

Even among allies, the anti-terrorism rationale is not flying for a troop buildup in Afghanistan. After Obama’s latest appeal to the leaders of NATO countries, as the New York Times reported Sunday, “his calls for a more lasting European troop increase for Afghanistan were politely brushed aside.”

Europe will provide no more than 5,000 new troops, and most of them just for the Afghan pre-election period till late summer. In the words of the Times: “Mr. Obama is raising the number of American troops this year to about 68,000 from the current 38,000, which will significantly Americanize the war.”

For those already concerned about Obama’s re-election prospects, such war realities may seem faraway and relatively abstract. But escalation will fracture his base inside the Democratic Party. If the president insists on leading a party of war, then activists will educate, agitate and organize to transform it into a party for peace.

The mirage of wise counterinsurgency has been re-conjured by the Obama White House, echoing the “best and brightest” from Democratic administrations of the 1960s. But the party affiliation of the U.S. president will make no difference to people far away who mourn the loss of loved ones. And, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan or the United States, the president will be held to the astute standard that Barack Obama laid out as he addressed unfriendly foreign leaders in his inaugural speech: “People will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is “Made Love, Got War.” He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign.

Holbrooke: Insensitive Choice for a Sensitive Region

January 31, 2009

by Stephen Zunes | Foreign Policy In Focus, January 31, 2009

Obama’s choice for special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguably the most critical area of U.S. foreign policy, is a man with perhaps the most sordid history of any of the largely disappointing set of foreign policy and national security appointments.

Richard Holbrooke got his start in the Foreign Service during the 1960s, in the notorious pacification programs in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. This ambitious joint civilian-military effort not only included horrific human rights abuses but also proved to be a notorious failure in curbing the insurgency against the U.S.-backed regime in Saigon. This was an inauspicious start in the career of someone Obama hopes to help curb the insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan.

In Asia

In the late 1970s, Holbrooke served as assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. In this position, he played a major role in formulating the Carter administration’s support for Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor and the bloody counterinsurgency campaign responsible for up to a quarter-million civilian deaths. Having successfully pushed for a dramatic increase in U.S. military aid to the Suharto dictatorship, he then engaged in a cover-up of the Indonesian atrocities. He testified before Congress in 1979 that the mass starvation wasn’t the fault of the scorched-earth campaign by Indonesian forces in the island nation’s richest agricultural areas, but simply a legacy of Portuguese colonial neglect. Later, in reference to his friend Paul Wolfowitz, then the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Holbrooke described how “Paul and I have been in frequent touch to make sure that we keep [East Timor] out of the presidential campaign, where it would do no good to American or Indonesian interests.”

In a particularly notorious episode while heading the State Department’s East Asia division, Holbrooke convinced Carter to release South Korean troops under U.S. command in order to suppress a pro-democracy uprising in the city of Kwangju. Holbrooke was among the Carter administration officials who reportedly gave the OK to General Chun Doo-hwan, who had recently seized control of the South Korean government in a military coup, to wipe out the pro-democracy rebels. Hundreds were killed.

He also convinced President Jimmy Carter to continue its military and economic support for the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines.

At the UN

Holbrooke, as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the late 1990s, criticized the UN for taking leadership in conflict resolution efforts involving U.S. allies, particularly in the area of human rights. For example, in October 2000 he insisted that a UN Security Council resolution criticizing the excessive use of force by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian demonstrators revealed an unacceptable bias that put the UN “out of the running” in terms of any contributions to the peace process.

As special representative to Cyprus in 1997, Holbrooke unsuccessfully pushed the European Union to admit Turkey, despite its imprisonment of journalists, its ongoing use of the death penalty, its widespread killing of civilians in the course of its bloody counter-insurgency war in its Kurdish region, and other human rights abuses.

In the Former Yugoslavia

Holbrooke is perhaps best known for his leadership in putting together the 1995 Dayton Accords, which formally ended the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Though widely praised in some circles for his efforts, Holbrooke remains quite controversial for his role. For instance, the agreement allows Bosnian Serbs to hold on to virtually all of the land they had seized and ethnically cleansed in the course of that bloody conflict. Indeed, rather than accept the secular concept of national citizenship that has held sway in Europe for generations, Holbrooke helped impose sectarian divisions that have made the country – unlike most of its gradually liberalizing Balkan neighbors – unstable, fractious, and dominated by illiberal ultra-nationalists.

As with previous U.S. officials regarding their relations with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Panama’s Manuel Noriega, Holbrooke epitomizes the failed U.S. policy toward autocratic rulers that swings between the extremes of appeasement and war. For example, during the 1996 pro-democracy uprising in Serbia Holbrooke successfully argued that the Clinton administration should back Milosevic, in recognition of his role in the successful peace deal over Bosnia, and not risk the instability that might result from a victory by Serb democrats. Milosevic initially crushed the movement. In response to increased Serbian oppression in Kosovo just a couple years later, however, Holbrooke became a vociferous advocate of the 1999 U.S.-led bombing campaign, creating a nationalist reaction that set back the reconstituted pro-democracy movement once again. The pro-democracy movement finally succeeded in the nonviolent overthrow of the regime, following Milosevic’s attempt to steal the parliamentary elections in October 2000, but the young leaders of that movement remain bitterly angry at Holbrooke to this day.

Scott Ritter, the former chief UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspector who correctly assessed the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and predicted a disastrous outcome for the U.S. invasion, observes that “not only has he demonstrated a lack of comprehension when it comes to the complex reality of Afghanistan (not to mention Pakistan), Holbrooke has a history of choosing the military solution over the finesse of diplomacy.” Noting how the Dayton Accords were built on the assumption of a major and indefinite NATO military presence, which would obviously be far more problematic in Afghanistan and Pakistan than in Europe, Ritter adds: “This does not bode well for the Obama administration.”

Ironically, back in 2002-2003, when the United States had temporarily succeeded in marginalizing Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, Holbrooke was a strong supporter of redirecting American military and intelligence assets away from the region in order to invade and occupy Iraq. Obama and others presciently criticized this reallocation of resources at that time as likely to lead to the deterioration of the security situation in the country and the resurgence of these extremist groups.

It’s unclear, then, why Obama would choose someone like Holbrooke for such a sensitive post. Indeed, it’s unclear as to why – having been elected on part for his anti-war credentials – Obama’s foreign policy and national security appointments have consisted primarily of such unreconstructed hawks. Advocates of a more enlightened and rational foreign policy still have a long row to hoe.

Stephen Zunes is Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus. He is a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003.)


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