Posts Tagged ‘airstrikes’

US, British media transform tragedies into war propaganda

November 13, 2009

Bill Van Auken,, Nov. 13, 2009

With the Obama administration on the verge of announcing an escalation that will almost certainly send tens of thousands more troops into the war in Afghanistan, popular opposition to the war continues to grow.

According to a CNN poll released this week, 58 percent of the American people oppose the war. Across the Atlantic, antiwar sentiments in Britain, which has the second largest troop contingent in Afghanistan, is even higher. The latest poll shows just 21 percent supporting the war and 63 percent in favor of withdrawing British troops.

Casualties have risen sharply, with 288 US and 95 British troops having died so far this year. Many more have suffered wounds, resulting in an increasing number of amputations and cases of brain damage.

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Sinking deeper in Afghanistan

September 9, 2009

The U.S. is making an ever-greater commitment to a war that is less and less popular, either here or in Afghanistan.


Socialist Worker, September 9, 2009

Tank crews in Afghanistan wait for the order to move out (Edward Stewart)

Tank crews in Afghanistan wait for the order to move out (Edward Stewart)

FACING THE possibility of military defeat, the generals call for a massive troop escalation to turn the tide on the battlefield–and a Democratic president heeds their demands, presiding over a dramatic increase in U.S. money and manpower devoted to the conflict.

That’s a summary of how the U.S. sank itself deeper into the Vietnam War in the 1960s–and now, how the Obama administration is committing itself to the U.S. war on Afghanistan.

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U.S. military, Pakistan carrying out Predator drone missions together

May 13, 2009
Washington has given Pakistan the freedom to launch airstrikes against militants, but so far the Pakistanis have been reluctant, officials say. The program is a marked shift for both sides.
By Julian E. Barnes and Greg Miller | Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2009

Reporting from Washington — The U.S. military has begun flying armed Predator drones inside Pakistan and has given Pakistani officers significant control over targets, flight routes and decisions to launch attacks under a new joint operation, according to U.S. officials familiar with the program.

The project was begun in recent weeks to bolster Pakistan’s ability and willingness to disrupt the militant groups that are posing a growing threat to the government in Islamabad and fueling violence in Afghanistan.

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For the U.S. military, the missions represent a broad new role in searching for Islamic militants in Pakistan. For years, that task has been the domain of the CIA, which has flown its own fleet of Predators over the South Asian nation.

Under the new partnership, U.S. military drones will be allowed for the first time to venture beyond the borders of Afghanistan under the direction of Pakistani military officials, who are working with American counterparts at a command center in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said the program was aimed at getting Pakistan — which has frequently protested airstrikes in its territory as a violation of sovereignty — more directly and deeply engaged in the Predator program.

“This is about building trust,” said a senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the program has not been publicly acknowledged. “This is about giving them capabilities they do not currently have to help them defeat this radical extreme element that is in their country.”

The Pakistanis, however, have yet to use the drones to shoot at suspected militants and are grappling with a cumbersome military chain of command as well as ambivalence over using U.S. equipment to fire on their own people.

The program marks a significant departure from how the war against Taliban insurgents has been fought for most of the last seven years. The heavy U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has been largely powerless to pursue militants who routinely escape across the border into Pakistan.

But the initiative carries serious risks for Pakistan, which is struggling to balance a desire for more control over the drones with a deep reluctance to become complicit in U.S.-operated Predator strikes on its own people.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, on a visit to Washington last week, reiterated his nation’s request for its own fleet of Predators. U.S. officials have all but ruled that out, and they described the new, jointly operated flights as an effective compromise.

Pakistani officials did not deny the existence of the new program, saying Tuesday that they were working with U.S. officials to better utilize the American technology. In a statement, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, said the nation remained concerned that the “unilateral” CIA drone strikes violated its sovereignty.

“Pakistan has not been averse to using every available means in tracking down Al Qaeda and other terrorists,” Haqqani said. “We have been working with the U.S. side to find ways in which the U.S. technological advantage matches up with our desire to uphold our sovereignty within our borders.”

CIA Predators flown covertly in Pakistan continue to focus on the United States’ principal target, Al Qaeda. The military drones, meanwhile, are intended to undermine the militant networks that have moved closer to Islamabad, the capital, in recent weeks.

Over the last month, officials said, the United States has offered Pakistan control over multiple flights involving both Predator and more heavily armed Reaper drones.

Pakistan declined an offer to use the drones for its recent military offensives in the Swat Valley and Buner areas, and poor weather has caused other sorties to be scrapped. But the senior U.S. military official said at least two missions had been flown in recent weeks under Pakistani direction.

So far the missions have not involved the firing of any missiles, and some U.S. officials have expressed frustration that the Pakistanis have not used the Predator capabilities more aggressively. Officials said Pakistan was given the authority to order strikes during the jointly operated flights as long as there was U.S. agreement on the targets.

“It is their decision,” a senior military officer said. “We are trying to put them in the chain, so they control the whole thing, save the hardware.”

The program may be one result of U.S. military efforts to cultivate closer ties with Pakistan. Over the last year, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made repeated trips to Islamabad to push for greater Pakistani cooperation.

The program also is part of a broader overhaul of the U.S. military approach in the region. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, named this week to become the new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, expanded the use of Predators while in Iraq and is expected to do the same in his new post.

The missions are being controlled from the jointly operated command center in Jalalabad. The center contains a “fusion cell” that merges information gathered from American surveillance with human intelligence collected by Pakistani and Afghanistan forces.

Debates between Pakistanis and Americans have taken place within the center over whether potential targets are Taliban leaders or Pakistani tribesmen with only loose ties to extremist groups. Nonetheless, U.S. officials said most Pakistani officers in the command center understood the militant threat and were anxious to move aggressively.

However, the Pakistanis’ superiors have had more reservations and have equivocated when asked for permission to fire on suspected militants. U.S. officers said those Pakistani officials may not have understood that any delay could allow targeted individuals to slip away.

In response, Pakistanis have repeatedly emphasized to U.S. military officers that they are reluctant to fire missiles at their own citizens.

“They have asked us to try and understand what it is like to be a military that is now required to go against its own people,” said the senior military officer. “I do not think we always have the right perspective of how difficult it is.”

The Pakistani reluctance may also reflect ambivalence in Islamabad over the CIA’s Predator program. The intelligence agency is in the midst of a campaign of strikes on Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan’s tribal frontier.

The most recent CIA strike came Tuesday, reportedly killing eight people in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas Since August, the agency has carried out at least 55 strikes, compared with 10 reported attacks in 2006 and 2007 combined.

Despite Pakistan’s frequent complaints about the strikes, U.S. officials have said the missions are authorized by the Pakistani government. CIA officials credit Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, with providing on-the-ground information that often leads to Predator strikes. In turn, the CIA has shared sensitive imagery and intercepts with Pakistani counterparts.

Despite that arrangement, U.S. officials avoided offering Pakistan greater control over the CIA drones, in part because of concerns about giving Pakistan direct access to a sensitive and secret intelligence operation. At times, U.S. intelligence officials have voiced suspicions that elements of the ISI, which has long-standing relationships with Taliban leaders, have warned targets in advance of U.S. strikes.

U.S. officials also cited a reluctance to take CIA drones away from their efforts to track and kill senior Al Qaeda figures, and stressed that the military drones would pursue a different set of targets, mainly Taliban-linked fighters.

The use of Defense Department drones presents disadvantages to Pakistan. The military’s unmanned aircraft program, for example, is not shrouded in the same level of secrecy as the CIA’s, eroding Pakistan’s already attenuated ability to continue to deny involvement.

“If it’s true that Pakistan is actually controlling some of these drones, that undermines the concerns [they express] about the attacks,” said Seth Jones, a counter-terrorism expert at Rand Corp. who frequently travels to the region.

Pakistan’s permission is crucial to Predator operations, representing an added incentive for U.S. officials to share control of the aircraft.

“The key is you’ve got to have the approval of the host government,” said Scott Silliman, a former Air Force lawyer who is now a law professor at Duke University. “If you do not, you cross over the line of invading the territorial sovereignty of another country.”

Karzai Demands End to US Air Strikes

May 9, 2009

Record Toll of Farah Attack Renews Outrage Over Bombing Villages

by Jason Ditz |, May 08, 2009

Ending his visit to the United States, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that the United States end its air strikes in his country, saying that the rising death toll was infuriating the public. “We believe strongly that airstrikes are not an effective way of fighting terrorism, that airstrikes rather cause civilian casualties,” Karzai declared.

Karzai has long been at odds, first with the Bush Administration and now with the Obama Administraiton, about the policy of air strikes launched in Afghanistan. The issue really came to a head this week, however, after an air strike against two villages in Farah Provinces killed 147 civilians, nearly doubling the previous record for most civilians killed in a single attack.

President Obama has promised, as the previous administration so often did, to “be more careful” about not slaughtering hundreds of civilians with US air power. Yet less than nine months after officials were promising much the same policy changes when the Herat strike had killed 90 civilians, the most striking thing is how little has actually changed.

Record bombs dropped in Afghanistan in April

May 7, 2009
By Bruce Rolfsen – Staff writer | Navy Times, May 4, 2009

Air Force, Navy and other coalition warplanes dropped a record number of bombs in Afghanistan during April, Air Forces Central figures show.

In the past month, warplanes released 438 bombs, the most ever.

April also marked the fourth consecutive month that the number of bombs dropped rose, after a decline starting last July.

The munitions were released during 2,110 close-air support sorties.

The actual number of airstrikes was higher because the AFCent numbers don’t include attacks by helicopters and special operations gunships. The numbers also don’t include strafing runs or launches of small missiles.

Over Iraq, 26 bombs were released during 767 strike sorties.

Transport crews airdropped 1.8 million pounds of supplies, mostly in Afghanistan, and tankers off loaded 85 million pounds of fuel.

Reconnaissance aircraft flew 1,402 missions over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Report: Israel carried out 3 attacks on Sudan arms smugglers

March 29, 2009

By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press | Haaretz, Israel, March 28, 2009

Israel has carried out three air strikes since January against what was believed to be Iranian arms shipments passing through Sudan on their way to Gaza, the American news network ABC reported on Friday.

Earlier this week Sudanese officials confirmed that in January, in the wake Israel’s assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, unidentified aircraft attacked a convoy of 17 trucks heading north through eastern Sudan. CBSNews reported on Thursday that the Israel Air Force was apparently behind the attack.

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC that there were actually three attacks in total. This information matches reports from Sudanese officials of two strikes on truck convoys on January 27 and February 11, and the sinking of a suspected arms ship in the Red Sea.

According to the report, 39 people riding in the 17-truck convoy were killed, while a number of civilians in the area were injured.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah denounced on Saturday the alleged airstrikes.

In a statement, Hezbollah called the airstrikes a new ‘Israeli crime’ and urged Arab leaders meeting in Qatar next week to craft a response denouncing them.

Israeli officials declined to confirm or deny whether Israel had been involved in an air strike in Sudan.

However, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted on Thursday at Israel’s suspected role in the reported air-strike.

“We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure – in close places, in places further away, everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure, we hit them and we hit them in a way that increases deterrence,” said Olmert, speaking at a conference in Herzliya.

“It was true in the north in a series of incidents and it was true in the south, in a series of incidents,” he added. “There is no point in going into detail, and everybody can use their imagination. Those who need to know, know. And those who need to know, know that there is no place where Israel cannot operate. There is no such place.”

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