Posts Tagged ‘US troops’

No US military exit from Afghanistan

June 20, 2010

Central Command chief reassures Senate on July 2011 “withdrawal” date

By Barry Grey, wsws.org, June 19, 2010

In congressional testimony this week, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of American forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, made clear that the July 2011 timeline announced last December by President Obama to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan could be extended.

He further stressed that the date did not imply either a rapid drawdown of troops or an early end to the nearly 9-year war. On the contrary, Petraeus and other top officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used congressional hearings to underscore Washington’s commitment to the indefinite military occupation of Afghanistan.

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US Troops See ‘Expanded Role’ in Pakistan

April 14, 2010

Pentagon Pushes for $10 Million ‘Pool’ for Funding

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com,  April 13, 2010

Despite an official prohibition at taking any part in Pakistan’s assorted military offensives, the US Special Forces in the nation have continued to expand the definition of “training operations” until now they are overseeing the combat in several areas.

The training mission was originally supposed to be so limited that they weren’t supposed to even train troops directly, they were supposed to train Pakistani trainers who would pass the information along to the paramilitary forces in FATA. Even this was controversial at the time.

But now, the US troops are taking part in “hold and build” operations in FATA, coordinating the operations of the various Pakistani military and civilian authorities in the region.

The Pentagon is now said to be seeking the creation of a $10 million pool for the “trainers” in the nation, to be used for discretionary “hearts and minds” spending, likely mostly on humanitarian aid projects.

But US troops are already showing up in some odd places considering their extremely limited mission. In February three US soldiers were killed in a bombing in the Swat Valley, when the troops were attending a school opening in the area. These photo-op visits are likely to become more and more common as the US presence in the nation grows.

Understanding Haiti

January 26, 2010

Red Pepper/UK, Jan 24, 2010

James O’Nions says the tragedy of Haiti doesn’t just lie with the recent earthquake

Like many ‘natural disasters’, the earthquake in Haiti may have had a natural cause but what has made it such a disaster was more political and economic than tectonic. Cheaply constructed buildings, a lack of basic services and infrastructure, and a lack of the resources to deal with the aftermath are all the result of a deep poverty which rich countries bear a huge responsibility for.

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Photos of Military Deaths in Afghanistan Banned

October 16, 2009

By Daryl Lang/Photo District News, Editor & Publisher, Oct 15, 2009

NEW YORK The U.S. military in eastern Afghanistan recently changed its media embed rules to ban pictures of troops killed in the war.

“Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action,” says a ground rules document issued Sept. 15 by Regional Command East at Bagram Air Field.

This language is new. A version of the same document dated July 23 says, “Media will not be prohibited from covering casualties” as long as a series of conditions are met.

Pictures of American military deaths are rare, but until now they have not been officially banned during either of the ongoing wars.

The new language was added in early September, according to a military spokesperson, Master Sgt. Tom Clementson of Regional Command East Public Affairs. Clementson described it as “a clarification rather than a new rule.”

“The clarification was added to ensure that service members’ privacy and propriety are maintained in situations where media have unique and intimate access as embedded reporters,” Clementson wrote by e-mail in response to questions. “While RC East does everything possible to accommodate an embedded reporters’ ability to cover the war in this region, there is also a command responsibility to account for the best interests of its service members.”

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US Adviser: Time to Leave Iraq

July 31, 2009

Keeping Troops in Iraq Not Worth the Effort, Memo Advises

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, July 30, 2009

Colonel Timothy Reese, a senior US military adviser in Iraq, has issued a memo urging the US to dramatically speed up its pullout from Iraq, saying it should be announced that all troops will be out of the nation by August 2010.

Col. Timothy Reese

In the blunt memo, Col. Reese says keeping 132,000 US troops in Iraq “isn’t yielding benefits commensurate with the effort and is now generating its own opposition,” he also noted that “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,” while reminding the reader that US troops have now been in Iraq for over six years. He also mocked the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for “childish chest pounding.”

During the campaign the Obama Administration had originally had a similar pullout strategy, saying they would have all troops out by May 2010. This was quickly revised after taking office, however, to removing all combat troops from the nation. This was further revised to note that the troops remaining would still be conducting combat missions, but wouldn’t be officially called combat troops.

Though his administration has hardly removed any troops at all since taking office, President Obama maintains that the pullout remains “on schedule.” The Reese memo will almost certainly raise further questions of whether that schedule needs dramatic revision, particularly at a time when Maliki is openly talking about keeping the troops in Iraq past 2011.

US Eyes ‘Joint Patrols’ to Keep Presence in Iraq’s Cities

July 29, 2009

US Patrols Regarded With Suspicion by Iraqi Forces, Civilians

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, July 28, 2009

Since its June 30 pullout from Iraq’s cities, US troops have found it increasingly difficult to conduct patrols in the cities. All such patrols will have to be joint, but Iraqi forces have declined to allow them access to many cities, including Baghdad. Patrols that have gone without accompanying Iraqi forces have been publicly condemned.

But now, though violence hasn’t really gotten any worse since the pullback, the US is redoubling its effots to secure the joint patrols, particularly in Mosul. The new excuse is monitoring reconstruction projects, monitoring which they claim is vital for the Iraqi economy.

Iraqi forces, however, remain reluctant to allow the patrols into the cities, and even when they get there the residents are not exactly welcoming them with open arms. Though the US determination to get at least some of its 132,000 troops into Iraq’s cities is unlikely to vanish, it seems that going forward they will be clashing with Iraq’s equally strong determination to see them remain out of sight as much as possible.

Obama: More Polished Than the Last Puppet

July 23, 2009

By Cindy Sheehan | Information Clearing House, July 23, 2009

“When a government lies to you, it no longer has authority over you.” Cindy Sheehan. Dallas, Tx; 2005

Okay, so the United States of America has had a new puppet regime for six months now. I was never so much into giving Obama a “chance” and I think it’s way past time to call Obama and his supporters out, like we called Bush and his supporters out. Our Presidents are merely puppets for the Robber Class and Obama is no exception.

I am observing very little “change” in actual policy, or even rhetoric from an Obama regime. Granted, his style and delivery are more polished than the last puppet, but especially in foreign policy, little has changed. Evidently we elect Presidents based on empty rhetoric and if we can find someone who can say very little using many words, that’s better. I knew a year ago when Obama and his ilk were blathering on about “change” that they didn’t mean positive “change” for us, but it’s a shame Obama’s voters didn’t ask him to be a little more specific or demand some good “change.”

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Troop Movement, Not Troop Withdrawal

July 2, 2009
by Dennis Kucinich, CommonDreams.org, July 2, 2009

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made the following statement on June 30, 2009 regarding the announcement that U.S. troops have left the cities and towns of Iraq and turned over formal security to Iraqi security forces:

The withdrawal of some U.S. combat troops from Iraq’s cities is welcome and long overdue news.  However, it is important to remember that this is not the same as a withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors from Iraq.

U.S. troop combat missions throughout Iraq are not scheduled to end until more than a year from now in August of 2010.  In addition, U.S. troops are not scheduled for a complete withdrawal for another two and a half years on December 31, 2011.  Rather, U.S. troops are leaving Iraqi cities for military bases in Iraq.  They are still in Iraq, and they can be summoned back at any time.

This is not a great victory for peace.  On May 19, the Christian Science Monitor reported that Iraqi and U.S. military officials virtually redrew the city limits of Baghdad in order to consider the Army’s Forward Operating Base Falcon as outside the city, despite every map of Baghdad clearly showing it with in city limits.  In fact, according to Section 24.3 of the “SOFA” U.S. troops can remain at any agreed upon facility.  The reported reason for this decision is to ensure U.S. troops are able to ‘help maintain security in south Baghdad along what were the fault lines in the sectarian war.’

This troop movement should not be confused with a troop withdrawal from Iraq.  In reality, this is a small step toward Iraqi sovereignty as Iraqi security forces begin assuming greater control over security operations, but it is a long way from independence and a withdrawal of the U.S. military presence.

Dennis Kucinich is US Congressman from Ohio.

Iraqis rejoice as US troops leave Baghdad

June 30, 2009

The Raw Story, June 29, 2009

By Agence France-Presse

Iraq’s security forces were Monday on high alert in Baghdad as US troops finalised their withdrawal from the conflict-hit nation’s urban areas, an event to be marked by a massive party in the capital.

The US pullout, under a bilateral security accord signed last year, will be completed on Tuesday, which has been declared a national holiday.

In the wake of several massive bombings that have killed more than 200 people this month, soldiers and police were out in force in Baghdad.

All leave for security forces personnel has been cancelled in a reflection of the threat of attacks, and motorcycles, the favoured transport of several recent bombers, have been banned from the streets.

“Our expectation is that maybe some criminals will try to continue their attacks,” said Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, the interior ministry’s operations director and spokesman.

“That is why orders came from the highest level of the prime minister that our forces should be 100 percent on the ground until further notice.”

On Monday, the former defence ministry building in the capital, taken over in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, was handed back to the Iraqi government.

“This marks the end of the rule of the multinational force,” said General Abboud Qambar, commander of Baghdad Operation Command, the central headquarters for the Iraqi security forces.

Festivities to mark “a day of national sovereignty” were to start at 6 pm (1500 GMT) in Zawra Park, the biggest in the capital, with singers and poets kicking off proceedings before music groups take to the stage.

From July 1, Iraq’s security forces will take sole charge of security in the country’s cities, towns and villages.

In the first reaction from Iraq’s dominant Shiite Muslim community, Sheikh Ali Bashir al-Najafi, one of the country’s four supreme religious leaders, said the US withdrawal was a significant sign of progress.

“It is a step we hope to follow up by other steps to achieve independence and stability of the country, and it is a real test of the efficiency of the security forces to shoulder their responsibilities,” he told AFP.

“Iraq will after this day be just like many other Arab countries where there is the presence of foreign troops organised according to agreements signed between the country and the government of those forces.”

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned earlier this month that insurgent groups and militias were likely to step up attacks in the run-up to the June 30 deadline in a bid to undermine confidence in Iraq’s own security forces.

There have been several large bombings since, the deadliest of which came in the northern city of Kirkuk on June 20, when a truck loaded with explosives was detonated, leaving 72 people dead and more than 200 wounded.

The toll from a bomb in a market five days ago in the Shiite district of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad was also bloody, killing at least 62 and wounding 150.

But Maliki and senior government officials have since insisted that Iraq’s 750,000 soldiers and police can defend the nation against attacks attributed to Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and forces loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Only a small number of US forces in training and advisory roles will remain in urban areas, with the bulk of American troops in Iraq, 131,000 according to Pentagon figures, quartered elsewhere.

The June 30 withdrawal is the prelude to a complete American pullout by the end of 2011.

Although the Iraqi police and army remain fledgling forces, they have in recent months steadily taken control of military bases, checkpoints and patrols that used to be manned by Americans.

Iraq has also set up a joint operations centre — the Joint Military Operations Coordination Committee, based at Baghdad airport — which must give its approval before a US unit can intervene.

The Status of Forces Agreement, which set the pullback deadline, says US commanders must seek permission from Iraqi authorities to conduct operations, but American troops retain a unilateral right to “legitimate self-defence”.

Obama’s Undeclared War Against Pakistan Continues, Despite His Attempt to Downplay It

June 22, 2009

In a new interview, Obama said he has “no intention” of sending US troops into Pakistan. But US troops are already in the country and US drones attack Pakistan regularly.

By Jeremy Scahill, RebelReports, June 22, 2209

Three days after his inauguration, on January 23, 2009, President Barack Obama ordered US predator drones to attack sites inside of Pakistan, reportedly killing 15 people. It was the first documented attack ordered by the new US Commander in Chief inside of Pakistan. Since that first Obama-authorized attack, the US has regularly bombed Pakistan, killing scores of civilians. The New York Times reported that the attacks were clear evidence Obama “is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy.” In the first 99 days of 2009, more than 150 people were reportedly killed in these drone attacks. The most recent documented attack was reportedly last Thursday in Waziristan. Since 2006, the US drone strikes have killed 687 people (as of April). That amounts to about 38 deaths a month just from drone attacks.

The use of these attack drones by Obama should not come as a surprise to anyone who followed his presidential campaign closely. As a candidate, Obama made clear that Pakistan’s sovereignty was subservient to US interests, saying he would attack with or without the approval of the Pakistani government. Obama said if the US had “actionable intelligence” that “high value” targets were in Pakistan, the US would attack. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, echoed those sentiments on the campaign trail and “did not rule out U.S. attacks inside Pakistan, citing the missile attacks her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, ordered against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998. ‘If we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured,’ she said.”

Last weekend, Obama granted his first extended interview with a Pakistani media outlet, the newspaper Dawn:

Responding to a question about drone attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal zone, Mr Obama said he did not comment on specific operations.

‘But I will tell you that we have no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan. Pakistan and its military are dealing with their security issues.’

There are a number of issues raised by this brief response offered by Obama. First, the only difference between using these attack drones and using actual US soldiers on the ground is that the soldiers are living beings. These drones sanitize war and reduce the US death toll while still unleashing military hell disproportionately on civilians. The bottom line is that the use of drones inside the borders of Pakistan amounts to the same violation of sovereignty that would result from sending US soldiers inside the country. Obama defended the attacks in the Dawn interview, saying:

“Our primary goal is to be a partner and a friend to Pakistan and to allow Pakistan to thrive on its own terms, respecting its own traditions, respecting its own culture. We simply want to make sure that our common enemies, which are extremists who would kill innocent civilians, that that kind of activity is stopped, and we believe that it has to be stopped whether it’s in the United States or in Pakistan or anywhere in the world.”

Despite Obama’s comments about respecting Pakistan “on its own terms,” this is how Reuters recently described the arrangement between Pakistan and the US regarding drone attacks:

U.S. ally Pakistan objects to the U.S. missile strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster support for the militants.

Washington says the missile strikes are carried out under an agreement with Islamabad that allows Pakistani leaders to publicly criticise the attacks. Pakistan denies any such agreement.

Pakistan is now the biggest recipient of US aid with the House of Representatives recently approving a tripling of money to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for five years. Moreover, US special forces are already operating inside of Pakistan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Baluchistan. According to the Wall Street Journal, US Special Forces are:

training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for battling the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who cross freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said. The U.S. trainers aren’t meant to fight alongside the Pakistanis or accompany them into battle, in part because there will be so few Special Forces personnel in the two training camps.

A senior American military officer said he hoped Islamabad would gradually allow the U.S. to expand its training footprint inside Pakistan’s borders.

In February, The New York Times reported that US forces are also engaged in other activities inside of Pakistan:

American Special Operations troops based in Afghanistan have also carried out a number of operations into Pakistan’s tribal areas since early September, when a commando raid that killed a number of militants was publicly condemned by Pakistani officials. According to a senior American military official, the commando missions since September have been primarily to gather intelligence.

It is clear—and has been for a long time— that the Obama administration is radically expanding the US war in Afghanistan deeply into Pakistan. Whether it is through US military trainers (that’s what they were called in Vietnam too), drone attacks or commando raids inside the country, the US is militarily entrenched in Pakistan. It makes Obama’s comment that “[W]e have no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan” simply unbelievable.

For a sense of how significant US operations are and will continue to be for years and years to come, just look at the US plan to build an almost $1 billion massive US “embassy” in Islamabad, which is reportedly modeled after the imperial city they call a US embassy in Baghdad. As we know very clearly from Iraq, such a complex will result in an immediate surge in the deployment of US soldiers, mercenaries and other contractors.


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