Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

US “surge” in Afghanistan in disarray

June 15, 2010

By Barry Grey, wsws.org, June 14, 2010

In the midst of one of the bloodiest weeks for US and NATO forces in the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander, announced Thursday that major military operations around Kandahar would be delayed until September.

The offensive had been slated to begin this month, but, as McChrystal admitted, the US has been unable to win the support either of tribal leaders and power brokers or of the populace in and around Afghanistan’s second largest city. The town of 450,000 in the heart of the Pashtun-dominated south is the birthplace of the Taliban and remains a key stronghold of the anti-occupation insurgency.

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Seymour Hersh Says US Troops Executing Prisoners in Afghanistan

May 13, 2010

David Edwards, LewRockwell.com, May 13, 2010

The journalist who helped break the story that detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were being tortured by their US jailers told an audience at a journalism conference last month that American soldiers are now executing prisoners in Afghanistan.

New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh also revealed that the Bush Administration had developed advanced plans for a military strike on Iran.

At the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva, Hersh criticized President Barack Obama, and alleged that US forces are engaged in “battlefield executions.”

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Revenger’s tragedy: The forgotten conflict in Pakistan

May 13, 2010

The arrest of Faisal Shahzad for planting the Times Square car bomb has forced America to confront the bloody conflict in Pakistan that inspired his actions. The West has ignored this war for too long, writes Patrick Cockburn

The Independent/UK, May 10, 2010

Blowback: US marines test an unmanned drone, their preferred  weapon in Pakistan's tribal areas
MATTHEW LEMIEUX / AFP / GETTY

Blowback: US marines test an unmanned drone, their preferred weapon in Pakistan’s tribal areas

It has been a hidden war ignored by the outside world. Up to last week nobody paid much attention to the fighting in north-west Pakistan, though more soldiers and civilians have probably been dying there over the last year than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In reality, this corner of Pakistan along the Afghan border is the latest in a series of wars originally generated by the US response to 9/11. The first was the war in Afghanistan when the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, the second in Iraq after the invasion of 2003, and the third the renewed war in Afghanistan from about 2006. The fourth conflict is the present one in Pakistan and is as vicious as any of its predecessors, though so far the intensity of the violence has not been appreciated by the outside world.

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Taliban call for peace talks

April 19, 2010

Morning Star Online, April 18, 2010

by Tom Mellen
DESTRUCTION: An Afghan police man stands  guard outside the damaged wall of the police headquarters in Kandahar  south of Kabul. The Taliban has said it wants to hold peace talks.

DESTRUCTION: An Afghan police man stands guard outside the damaged wall of the police headquarters in Kandahar south of Kabul. The Taliban has said it wants to hold peace talks.

Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar has said that he and his followers are willing to hold “sincere and honest” peace talks with Western political leaders.

In an interview with the Sunday Times conducted deep inside territory held by Afghan resistance forces, two men whom the newspaper identified as members of the Taliban’s ruling council said that Mr Omar was not vying to rule Afghanistan.

The Quetta shura scholars said that the Islamist umbrella group was fighting for three objectives – the expulsion of foreign military forces, the restoration of Islamic law and security for the Afghan people.

The men said that Mr Omar was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks to realise this.

One man who introduced himself as Mullah Abdul Rashid declared that the Taliban’s supreme leader was “no longer interested in being involved in politics or government.

“All the holy warriors seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution,” he said.

“We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”

Reviewing the five years in which the Taliban governed Afghanistan before it was ousted by a US-led invasion force in 2001 the men declared that it had been a mistake for the Islamist movement to immerse itself in politics.

Mr Rashid said: “We didn’t have the capability to govern the country and we were surprised by how things went – we lacked people with either experience or technical expertise in government.

“Now all we’re doing is driving the invader out,” he said.

Mr Rashid vowed to “leave politics to civil society and return to our religious schools” when this had been achieved.

Last week a resistance faction led by former Afghan prime minister Gulbadin Hekmatyar sent a three-member team to Kabul for talks with the Karzai regime, Afghan MPs and Nato officials.

The Hizb-e-Islami delegation declared that it was fighting to expel foreign troops and was not seeking government positions after the war.

US President Barack Obama’s administration is currently considering whether to drop its opposition to direct talks with the Taliban.

Two Dutch soldiers were killed on Saturday by a roadside bomb in Uruzgan province, where the Netherlands has deployed some 1,800 soldiers and support staff.

The troops are due to pull out in August.

Behind the Afghan Fraud

April 11, 2010

By Conn Hallinan Foreign Policy In Focus, April 8, 2010

Conn Hallinan

All frauds have a purpose, mostly to relieve the unwary of their wealth, though occasionally to launch some foreign adventure. The 1965 Tonkin Gulf hoax that escalated the Vietnam War comes to mind.

So, what was the design behind “Operation Moshtarak,” or the “Battle of Marjah,” in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, the largest U.S. and NATO military operation in Afghanistan since the 2003 invasion?

Marjah was billed as a “fortress,” a “city of 80,000” and the Taliban’s “stronghold,” packed with as many as 1,000 “hard-core fighters.” But as Gareth Porter of the Inter Press Service revealed, Marjah isn’t even a city, but a district of scattered villages. As the days went by — and civilian deaths passed military casualties — the number of “hard-core fighters” declined. In the end, the “battle” turned into a skirmish. “Hardly a single gun was captured by NATO forces,” tribal elder and former police chief Abdul Rahman Jan told Time.

Dealing with Drugs

Marjah was also billed as the linchpin of the militants’ logistical and opium-smuggling network, and the area indeed has significant poppy cultivation. But according to Julian Mercille of University College Dublin, an expert on U.S. foreign policy, the Taliban get only 4 percent of the trade. Local farmers reap about 21 percent of the $3.4 billion yearly commerce, according to Mercille, while 75 percent of the trade is captured by government officials, the police, local and regional brokers, and traffickers. In short, our allies get the lion’s share of profits from the drug trade.

In any case, the word “linchpin” soon dropped off the radar screen. It soon became obvious that Operation Moshtarak would not touch the drug trade because it would alienate local farmers, thus sabotaging the goal of winning the “hearts and minds” of residents.

In some ways, the most interesting part of the Marjah operation was a gathering that took place shortly after the “fighting” was over. President Barack Obama called a meeting March 12 in the White House to ask his senior staff and advisors if the “success” of Moshtarak would allow the United States to open negotiations with the Taliban. According to Porter, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed talks until after a similar operation, aimed at Kandahar, is completed this summer.

The Kandahar offensive is being pumped up as a “blow at the Taliban’s heartland” and the “fulcrum” of the Afghan war. Kandahar is where the Taliban got its start and, at 600,000, is Afghanistan’s second-largest city. Whether a military operation will have any more impact than the attack on Marjah is highly unlikely. As in Marjah, the Taliban will simply decamp to another area of the country or blend in with the local population.

However, the White House gathering suggests that the administration may be searching for a way out before the 2012 elections. With the economic crisis at home continuing, and the bill for the war passing $200 billion, Afghanistan is looking more and more like a long tunnel with no light at the end.

Certainly our allies seem to have concluded that the Americans are on an exit path.

Talking with the Taliban

The Hamid Karzai government and the United Nations have opened talks with some of the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Islamic Party. Pakistan —correctly concluding it was being cut out of the peace talks — swept up 14 senior Taliban officials,  including the organization’s number-two man, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

The Pakistanis claim they’re simply aiding the U.S. war effort. But the former head of the UN mission to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, bitterly denounced the arrests as nothing more than effort to derail the ongoing negotiations.

If Islamabad has a say, the Taliban will have a presence in whatever peace agreement emerges, a fact that has distressed India. Not only is it likely that India will lose much of its influence with the Karzai government — and see more than a billion dollars in aid spent for naught — but its traditional enemy, Pakistan, will almost certainly regain much of its former influence with Kabul.

The push by the United States to find a political solution is partly driven by the rapidly eroding NATO presence. The Canadians are sticking by their pledge to be out by 2011, and when the Netherlands tried to raise the possibility of Dutch troops remaining, the Dutch elected a new government. The British Labor Party, behind in the polls but catching up to the Tories, wants to rid itself of the Afghan albatross before upcoming elections.

The United States is also discovering that the Afghanis play a mean game of chess.

Geopolitical Chessboard

The Obama administration recently demanded that the Karzai government reinstate an independent electoral commission and end corruption — in particular, by dumping the president’s larcenous half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, who runs Kandahar like a feudal fiefdom. Karzai responded by flying off to Tehran to embrace the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and meet with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Given that the United States is trying to isolate Iran in the region, Karzai’s Iran visit wasn’t a happy moment for those on the Potomac.

Yet Iran has influence over the Northern Alliance, which will need persuading to accept the Taliban into a coalition. Rather than isolating Iran, Karzai has made it central to the peace agreement that the United States and NATO want.

For the past five years, the United States has been wooing India as a bulwark against China. But because Washington needs Islamabad to broker a peace, the Americans agreed to send it F-16 fighter-bombers, helicopter gun ships, and reconnaissance drones.  A better-armed Pakistan, however, hardly goes down well in New Delhi, particularly because the Indians see their former influence in Kabul on the wane.

As a result, India promptly went off and met with the Russians. Ever sympathetic, Moscow offered New Delhi a bargain-basement price on an aircraft carrier and threw in a passel of MIG-29s. That dealt a blow to another aim of U.S. diplomacy: keeping Russia out of South Asia.

The same week as Pakistan’s foreign minister was in Washington asking for a laundry list of goodies in exchange for “helping out” in Afghanistan, Karzai jetted off to Beijing to talk about aid and investments. So much for the plan to keep China out of Central Asia.

This is beginning to look like checker-players in Washington versus the chess masters in Kabul.

Finessing Withdrawal

There seems to be a developing consensus, both inside and outside Afghanistan, that the war must wind down. If this consensus becomes firmer, then the Karzai government’s upcoming peace jirga, set for late April or early May, takes on greater importance.

While Washington appears to be divided over how, when, and with whom to negotiate, “withdrawing” doesn’t mean that the United States won’t leave bases behind or end its efforts to penetrate Central Asia. The White House recently announced an agreement with Kyrgyzstan to set up a U.S. “counter-terrorism center” near the Chinese border.

The danger at this juncture is seeing the outcome as a zero-sum game: If Pakistan gains, India loses; if the United States withdraws, the Taliban win; if Iran is helpful it will encourage nuclear proliferation.

Ultimately, Afghans must decide the future of Afghanistan. What they want and how they get it isn’t the business of Washington, Brussels, New Delhi, Tehran, or Islamabad. The current war, the latest endeavor in the “graveyard of empires,” has claimed far more Afghan lives than those of the invaders. As U.S. Afghan commander Stanley McChrystal told The New York Times, “We have shot an astounding number of people.”

Indeed, we have.

Conn Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus.

Lendman: America’s Secret Prisons

March 18, 2010

by Stephen Lendman, Dissident Voice,  March 17, 2010

On January 28 in TomDispatch.com, Anand Gopal headlined, “Night Raids, Hidden Detention Centers, the ‘Black Jail,’ and the Dogs of War in Afghanistan,” recounting unreported US media stories about killings, abductions, detentions, interrogations, and torture in “a series of prisons on US military bases around the country.” Bagram prison, for example, is “a facility with a notorious reputation for abusive behavior,” including brutalizing torture and cold-blooded murder.

Even worse is the “Black Jail,” a facility consisting of individual windowless concrete cells with bright 24-hour lighting, described by one former detainee as “the most dangerous and fearful place” in which prisoners endure appalling treatment.

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Five Questions For The Afghan Surge

February 25, 2010

By Juan Cole, ZNet, Feb 24, 2010

Source: Juancole.com

Juan Cole’s ZSpace Page

Gen. David Petraeus, a straight shooter, admitted on Meet the Press Sunday that the Afghanistan War will take years and incur high casualties. His implicit defense of President Obama from Dick Cheney on the issues of torture and closing Guantanamo will make bigger headlines, but sooner or later the American public will notice the admission. The country is now evenly divided between those who think the US can and should restore a modicum of stability before getting out, and those who want a quick withdrawal. The Marjah Campaign, the centerpiece of the new counter-insurgency strategy, is over a week old, and some assessment of this new, visible push by the US military in violent Helmand Province is in order.

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80,000 Afghans forcibly displaced

February 9, 2010
Morning Star Online,  February 8, 2010
US occupation forces in Afghanistan

US occupation forces in Afghanistan

Thousands of Afghan civilians have began fleeing their homes before a threatened US military offensive against Taliban fighters.

International Red Crescent aid workers in the southern Afghanistan city of Marjah, Helmand province, reported that US warplanes had dropped leaflets on the area warning people to leave or be killed.

The Taliban has inflicted a huge number of casualties on the US-led occupation forces in Marjah.

Commander of more than 55,000 foreign fighters in Afghanistan US General Stanley McChrystal claimed that the leaflets were directed at Taliban militants.

Hee added that the offensive against the city, which has a population of 80,000, was intended to “re-establish security.”

Red Crescent spokesman Bijan Farnoudi warned that the Afghanistan government did not seem prepared to deal with an exodus of refugees and revealed that medical posts in the province were already recording an increase in the number of patients with bullet or shrapnel wounds.

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NATO’s Role in the Afghanistan Escalation

January 29, 2010

Tom Haydon, The Nation, January27, 2010

NATO countries are poised to add 7,000 soldiers to the 30,000-troop US escalation in Afghanistan, providing a cover of multilateralism for the Obama administration and the NATO commander, US General Stanley McChrystal. The NATO decision is expected to be ratified January 28 at a conference called by the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Karzai administration and the United Nations Afghan Mission (UNAM).

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The Arrogance of Empire, Detailed

January 22, 2010

By Ron Jacobs, ZNet, January 21, 2010
Ron Jacobs’s ZSpace Page

In the first week of 2010, five US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. The last week of 2009 saw the deaths of eight CIA agents there. Several more Afghan civilians were killed during this period, including the apparent executions of several young boys by persons either in the US military or working with them. In addition, insurgent forces targeted a Karzai government in official in eastern Khost and launched rockets at the site of a future US consulate in Herat. It was reported on January 6, 2010 that the Obama administration was sending 1,000 more US civilian experts to the country to help in so-called reconstruction projects. This news was greeted with skepticism from Afghans both in and out of the government. The Afghan ambassador to the United Nations noted that few Afghans trusted these so-called reconstruction endeavors and that the US might do better if they hired Afghans to do the rebuilding instead of shipping in US citizens to “create parallel structures that would ruin (the Afghan government’s) efforts.” The ambassador must be quite aware that the history of US reconstruction in either Afghanistan or Iraqis is a legacy of corruption, poor construction, and failed endeavors that benefited no one but the foreign companies that garnered the contracts.

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