Afghanistan: False promise of withdrawal, is now long term US troop plan

AFP Photo / Shah Marai
[Obama’s election promises notwithstanding, the Afghan troops trained by US and NATO forces cannot be trusted by imperialism to be loyal and effective gendarmes of the post-occupation neo-colonial system.  So, it is now announced, the US will carry on its training and counterinsurgency operations, indefinitely.  — Frontlines ed.]
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10k US troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2014 deadline

26 November, 2012

Ten thousand US troops will stay in Afghanistan past 2014, senior officials say, despite earlier demands from President Barack Obama to end the war during the second year of his upcoming term.

Most of the 66,000 or so troops currently positioned in Afghanistan will be removed by Pres. Obama’s predetermined deadline, the sources say, but a substantial amount of Americans will be asked to remain indefinitely to conduct training and counterterrorism operations after allied North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops are expunged in late 2014.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Gen. John Allen, the top US commander overseeing the war in Afghanistan, proposed that anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000 troops remain overseas following the end of the current NATO operation occurring there. A number closer to 10,000 was established after top Obama administration officials reached a compromise with the Pentagon, the paper reports. Continue reading

Between the US bombs and Taliban fighters: The Children Under Attack in Pakistan and Afghanistan

October 18, 2012

Infanticide as Policy?

by DAVE LINDORFF, Counterpunch

Six children were attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Three of them, teenaged girls on a school bus in Peshawar, in the tribal region of western Pakistan, were shot and gravely wounded by two Taliban gunmen who were after Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has been bravely demanding the right of girls to an education. After taking a bullet to the head, and facing further death threats, she has been moved to a specialty hospital in Britain. Her two wounded classmates are being treated in Pakistan.

The other three children were not so lucky. They were killed Sunday in an aerial attack by a US aircraft in the the Nawa district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, not so far from Pakistan. The attack, described by the military as a “precision strike,” was reportedly aimed at several Taliban fighters who were allegedly planting an IED in the road, but the strike also killed three children, Borjan, 12; Sardar Wali, 10; and Khan Bibi, 8, all from one family, who were right nearby collecting dung for fuel.

Initially, as is its standard MO, the US denied that any children had been killed and insisted that the aircraft had targeted three “Taliban” fighters, and had successfully killed them. Only later, as evidence grew indesputable that the three children had also been killed, the US switched to its standard fallback position for atrocities in the Afghanistan War and its other wars: it announced that it was “investigating” the incident and said that it “regretted” any civilian deaths.

There are several questions that arise immediately from this second story. First of  all, if the three kids were close enough to be killed by this “precision” attack, they were surely also close enough to have been visible to whatever surveillance craft was monitoring the activities of the Taliban fighters, and if they were seen, there should have been no air strike called in. Second, the US, allegedly trying to reduce civilian casualties, is supposedly now operating its air attacks under rules of engagement that only allow strikes where there is “imminent danger” to US or allied forces. How is planting an IED an “imminent” danger? If the location is known, troops in the area can be alerted, and the IED removed or detonated. An identified IED is not an imminent threat. Continue reading

What the drones protest march in Waziristan aims to achieve

Sports star turned politician Imran Khan and civil rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith will highlight US drones’ innocent victims

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 4 October 2012

A family from South Waziristan flee the battle zone

[A 2009 Brookings Institution report found that US drone attacks kill 10 civilians for every one militant in heavily targeted regions like Waziristan. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images]

The British civil rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith and international cricketer turned politician Imran Khan will begin a peace march on 7 October into Pakistan‘s Waziristan region. Their aim is to highlight the plight of innocent people killed or injured by US drones.

Smith took the precautionary measure of writing to President Obama and his CIA director, David Petraeus, informing them about the march. In the letter, he requested that the president ensure the names of him and the other marchers would not be on the weekly kill list the president reviews, along with security officials, in the White House situation room. Smith wrote:

“Please remember that you and I are both lawyers from the same tradition, and it would be unseemly (as well as being both illegal and upsetting for my family) if you were to authorize my assassination.”

Like the sealed corridors in which the top secret kill list nomination process occurs – an account of which was reportedly leaked by the Obama administration to the New York Times – Waziristan has, until now, remained in the shadows, a place about which very little is known or reported. It is hoped the march will help open the area to public scrutiny by taking media there to gather independent information. Continue reading

Afghan Army: “Please Tolerate the US Soldier’s ‘Cultural Insensitivities’ — ‘No Offense’ intended”

October 04, 2012
Turning the Tables in Afghanistan — The Humiliation of Can-Do American Boys
by WILLIAM BLUM

In Afghanistan, the US military has tried training sessions, embedded cultural advisers, recommended reading lists, and even a video game designed to school American troops in local custom. But 11 years into the war, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural awareness, officials say, contributing to a string of attacks by Afghan police and soldiers against their military partners. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts. While some insider attacks have been attributed to Taliban infiltrators, military officials say the majority stem from personal disputes and misunderstandings.

So the Afghan army is trying something new, most likely with American input: a guide to the strange ways of the American soldier. The goal is to convince Afghan troops that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge. The pamphlet they’ve produced includes the following advice:

“Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you.”

“When Coalition members get excited, they may show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind. They may even do this to you if they are proud of the job you’ve done. Once again, they don’t mean to offend you.”

“When someone feels comfortable in your presence, they may even put their feet on their own desk while speaking with you. They are by no means trying to offend you. They simply don’t know or have forgotten the Afghan custom.” (Pointing the soles of one’s shoes at someone is considered a grievous insult in Afghanistan.)

The guide also warns Afghan soldiers that Western troops might wink at them or inquire about their female relatives or expose their private parts while showering — all inappropriate actions by Afghan standards.

Early in 2012, a video showed US soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters

Demonstrators show copies of the Koran allegedly set alight by US soldiers serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan, during a protest at the gate of Bagram airbase on Feb. 21, 2012. (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hmmm. I wonder if the manual advises telling Afghan soldiers that urinating on dead Afghan bodies, cutting off fingers, and burning the Koran are all nothing more than good ol’ Yankee customs, meaning no offense of course.

And does it point out that no Afghan should be insulted by being tortured in an American military prison since the same is done at home to American prisoners.

Most importantly, the Afghan people must be made to understand that bombing them, invading them, and occupying them for 11 years are all for their own good. It’s called “freedom and democracy”.

I almost feel sorry for the American military in Afghanistan. They’re “can-do” Americans, accustomed to getting their way, habituated to thinking of themselves as the best, expecting the world to share that sentiment, and they’re frustrated as hell, unable to figure out “why they hate us”, why we can’t win them over, why we can’t at least wipe them out. Don’t they want freedom and democracy? … They’re can-do Americans, using good ol’ American know-how and Madison Avenue savvy, sales campaigns, public relations, advertising, selling the US brand, just like they do it back home; employing media experts, psychologists, even anthropologists … and nothing helps. And how can it if the product you’re selling is toxic, inherently, from birth, if you’re ruining your customers’ lives, with no regard for any kind of law or morality, health or environment. They’re can-do Americans, used to playing by the rules — theirs; and they’re frustrated as hell. Continue reading

Afghans hold anti-U.S. rally on eve of war anniversary

Reuters, October 6, 2011

“No to occupation” said another placard, as a U.S. flag was set on fire

By Ahmad Masood & Akram Walizada

Afghans attend a protest in Kabul October 6, 2011. Hundreds of Afghans from the Hmbastagi party (Solidarity Party of Afghanistan) staged a protest to condemn the U.S.-led invasion, which will mark its 10th anniversary on October 7. (Photo: Reuters)An Afghan woman carries a poster of an injured boy reads: ” What if Karzai’s son had the same destiny” during an anti U.S. rally organized by ” Afghanistan Hambastegi” party in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday Oct. 6, 2011. (Photo: AP)

Afghans attend a protest in Kabul October 6, 2011. Hundreds of Afghans from the Hmbastagi party (Solidarity Party of Afghanistan) staged a protest to condemn the U.S.-led invasion, which will mark its 10th anniversary on October 7. (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of Afghans marched through Kabul on Thursday, the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, to condemn the United States as occupiers and demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops.

About 300 men and women gathered early in the morning with placards and banners accusing the United States of “massacring” civilians while denouncing President Hamid Karzai as a puppet subservient to Washington.

“Occupation – atrocities – brutality,” read one sign, held aloft by two women with scarves covering their head and face.

“No to occupation” said another placard, as a U.S. flag was set on fire. Another banner featured a caricature of Karzai as a glove puppet holding a pen and signing a document entitled “promises to the USA.”

The rally, near a shrine and river in downtown Kabul, lasted around three hours, and ended peacefully.

An Afghan woman carries a poster of an injured boy reads: " What if Karzai's son had the same destiny" during an anti U.S. rally organized by " Afghanistan Hambastegi" party in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday Oct. 6, 2011. (Photo: AP)

Karzai became Afghanistan’s leader in June 2002, seven months after Northern Alliance forces supported by the United States entered Kabul and drove the Taliban regime from power.

Karzai won subsequent elections in 2005 and 2009.

“Ten years since the invasion, all we have seen is suffering, instability and poverty in our country,” said protest organizer Hafizullah Rasikh.

One picture that featured prominently was that of U.S. soldier Andrew Holmes posing with the corpse of an unarmed teenage Afghan villager who he had gunned down. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for the 2010 murder.

This year has seen record levels of civilian casualties and although about 80 percent were caused by insurgents, killings by foreign forces, tend to spark more vocal public anger.

The United States bears the brunt of criticism of the Western presence in Afghanistan.

“The bloodshed I see in this country is the result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. After the invaders leave, our country will be peaceful,” shouted one man on a loudspeaker.

(Reporting by Akram Walizada and Mohammad Aziz; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Sugita Katyal)

Petition to Obama: WE WANT YOU OUT! Time to listen to the people of Afghanistan!

Commander-in-Chief Obama delivering a speech aimed at "keeping hope alive" among demoralized American foot-soldiers

Global Day of Listening – “We want you out” petition

To all the leaders of our world, the leaders of the US-led coalition, the Afghan government, the ‘Taliban/Al-Qaeda’ and  regional countries:

We are intolerably angry.

All our senses are hurting.

Our women, our men and yes shame on you, our children are grieving.

Your Afghan civilian-military strategy is a murderous stench we smell, see, hear and breathe.

President Obama, and all the elite players and people of the world, why?

America’s 250-million-dollar annual communications budget just to scream propaganda on this war of perceptions, with its nauseating rhetoric mimicked by Osama and other warlords, is powerless before the silent wailing of every anaemic mother.

We will no longer be passive prey to your disrespectful systems of oligarchic, plutocratic war against the people.

Your systems feed the rich and powerful. They are glaringly un-equal, they do not listen, do not think and worst, they do not care.

We choose not to gluttonize with you. We choose not to be trained by you. We choose not to be pawned by you.

We henceforth refuse every weapon you kill us with, every dollar you bait us with and every lie you manipulate us with.

We are not beasts.

We are Afghans, Americans, Europeans, Asians and global citizens. Continue reading

Afghanistan: Measuring what the US/NATO occupation and Karzai regime have done to women

This young woman was violently attacked for appearing in public without a male--a violation of the strict Sharia law enforced by the US-supported Karzai regime.

29 November 2010, A World to Win News Service

Recent  reports by both human rights groups and Afghan officials indicate that violence against women in Afghanistan is on the rise and that this has been the trend since the beginning of the occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. and other Nato countries.

A report published in April 2009 by the women’s rights organisation Womankind said that 80 percent of Afghan women suffer from domestic violence. Other reports put this figure as high as 87 percent. Afghan minister of women’s affairs Hassan-Banu Ghazanfar recently said that it effects 90 percent.

November 25 marked the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women. This violence is global and not particular to Afghan women. In the world as a whole the vast majority of women face violence in one or another serious form during their their lifetime. The facts about violence against women even in the most developed countries are shocking. Rape, physical and sexual abuse by the husband or boyfriend, harassment and worse at work places, the trade in women and sex slavery are only some of forms of anti-woman violence. These facts suggest that this is not just a remnant of the past but that world capitalism even in its most developed stage is a source of oppression, discrimination and violence against women.

So there is not single country in the imperialist-dominated  world where women have escaped from oppression and violence. This article focuses on Afghanistan not only because these women have suffered severe oppression by the various fundamentalist rulers over the last three decades, and not only because the level of violence and other sorts of oppression is so extreme, but also because the imperialist powers have occupied the country under the pretext of liberating Afghan women. Continue reading

America’s Failed War of Attrition in Afghanistan

House destroyed by US air strike

The Nation, November 22, 2010

by Jeremy Scahill

At the end of the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal this weekend, the leadership of the Afghan Taliban issued a statement characterizing the alliance’s adoption of a loose timeline for a 2014 end to combat operations as “good news” for Afghans and “a sign of failure for the American government.”

At the summit, President Barack Obama said that 2011 will begin “a transition to full Afghan lead” in security operations, while the Taliban declared: “In the past nine years, the invaders could not establish any system of governance in Kabul and they will never be able to do so in future.”

While Obama claimed that the US and its allies are “breaking the Taliban’s momentum,” the reality on the ground tells a different story. Despite increased Special Operations Forces raids and, under Gen. David Petraeus, a return to regular US-led airstrikes, the insurgency in Afghanistan is spreading and growing stronger. “By killing Taliban leaders the war will not come to an end,” said the Taliban’s former foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, in an interview at his home in Kabul. “On the contrary, things get worse which will give birth to more leaders.”

Former and current Taliban leaders say that they have seen a swelling in the Taliban ranks since 9-11. In part, they say, this can be attributed to a widely held perception that the Karzai government is corrupt and illegitimate and that Afghans–primarily ethnic Pashtuns–want foreign occupation forces out. “We are only fighting to make foreigners leave Afghanistan,” a new Taliban commander in Kunduz told me during my recent trip to the country. “We don’t want to fight after the withdrawal of foreigners, but as long as there are foreigners, we won’t talk to Karzai.” Continue reading

Amidst global crisis, the NATO summit in Lisbon: EU and US make a deal for missile shield aimed at Iran

Frontlines Editorial

Recent imperialist meetings have seen many new developments.  The G20 meetings in Seoul, Korea brought limited success to the US’ plans for the world economy. Public disagreements broke out among the imperialist countries over issues of trade, monetary policy and government deficit spending.

The recently concluded NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal  took place in the shadow of the deepening imperialist economic crisis in the US and the European Union. The same week as the summit, the EU and International Monetary Fund had to give Ireland hundreds of billions of dollars to save its failing banks, and Portugal may be next.  Even while the economic ties among the US and EU imperialists are growing increasingly strained, the US and its European allies in NATO were able to agree on a common political and military strategy for defending and expanding their imperialist interests in the Middle  East and Central Asia.

The articles from The Guardian and Al-Jazeera that are posted below only describe what was decided at the NATO summit. Here is Frontlines’ analysis of the summit’s most important decisions. Our comments are more extensive than usual due to the importance of this subject.

Missile Shield

The NATO leaders announced a missile shield that will be deployed in stages beginning in 2011. This is the result of an intense US campaign to focus imperialist military coordination on isolating the Islamic Republic of Iran and forcing it to give up its nuclear program.. Throughout the upcoming decade of construction of a complex multi-billion dollar system against a handful of Iranian missiles, there  will be an ever-present  and hysterical media campaign claiming that the Islamic Republic is run by “unstable fanatics” who are a military threat to Europe and to Israel.  Building the shield against the alleged “threat” from Iran aims to justify tighter US/EU sanctions, and  to prepare political support for military action against Iran.

Afghanistan

The summit also agreed on a timetable for “withdrawal” of NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014. This is aimed at defusing growing opposition to the war (eg. the growing number of body bags of US and NATO troops). The 2014 withdrawal date is an attempt to buy time to prevent a total Taliban victory.  The war plans of the US and NATO commanders– launching bigger offensives to clear Taliban forces out of southwest Afghanistan, and  making new attempts  to split the Taliban—are not new and have not prevented the Taliban from growing and spreading throughout the country.  Still, the US and NATO countries have no choice but to continue the war.  All of them see the victory of an anti-Western fundamentalist force like the Taliban as a threat to their imperialist interests in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Russia joins the summit

The most significant development of the summit was the agreement of Russia’s President Medvedev to cooperate with the US and NATO in several areas. Medvedev offered to provide increased military assistance to the Karzai government. The Russian government also wants to see the Taliban defeated in order to cut off a source of support for separatist Islamist forces in Chechnya and the former Soviet Central Asian republics.  Most importantly, Medvedev agreed to work with the US and NATO on the missile shield.  In the months before the summit, President Obama withdrew Bush’s plan to base missile interceptors in Poland, which were aimed at Russia.  Based on the US’ assurance that the new missile system would be directed solely at Iran, the Russian imperialists decided that it was in their interests to cooperate in the development of the shield.  Russia also agreed to support tighter sanctions against Iran, and withdrew from several of its previous agreements with Iran. Continue reading

Why the US military is losing the war in Afghanistan

US soldiers giving weapons training to Afghan police recruits. More and more of them are taking these weapons with them when they defect to the Taliban.

The Independent UK, November 20, 2010 

 

Be Under No Illusion, NATO is in No Shape to Make Progress in this Graveyard of Empires

by Patrick Cockburn

If Iraq was bad, Afghanistan is going to be worse. Nothing said or done at the Lisbon conference, which is largely an exercise in self-deception, is going to make this better and it may well make it worse.  It is not just that the war is going badly, but that NATO’s need to show progress has produced a number of counter-productive quick fixes likely to deepen the violence. These dangerous initiatives include setting up local militias to fight the Taliban where government forces are weak. These are often guns-for-hire provided by local warlords who prey on ordinary Afghans.

The US military has been making much of its strategy of assassinating mid-level Taliban commanders, but one study on the ground showed that many of these are men highly regarded in their communities. It concluded that killing them infuriated local people and led to many of them being recruited by the Taliban.

The US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, will tell NATO leaders today of his plan to start handing over responsibility for security in some areas to the Afghan government in 2011. This sounds like wishful thinking on the part of General Petraeus and his selection of target dates is primarily to avoid accusations that NATO has no idea when or how it will get out.

The Taliban currently controls or has influence in half of Afghanistan. While US reinforcements have been pouring into Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the Taliban have been expanding their enclaves in the north. Continue reading

Afghan women demand liberation, reject being used as pretext for war

[This article describes the oppressive conditions faced by Afghan women under the Karzai regime, whose main source of support is fundamentalist warlords who are just as reactionary and anti-woman as the Taliban. This article expresses the common view that Afghan women have made significant strides forward since the US invasion in 1991 in the areas of education, health care and political life. In reality, these advances have been concentrated among more privileged sections of women, and they do not extend beyond Kabul’s city limits. The article also raises the question of what kind of political arrangement could replace US-backed politicians like Karzai and exclude the Taliban after the US/NATO occupation forces withdraw.—Frontlines ed]

Kabul--Afghan women demand the government take action against the murderers of five women.

Afghan Women Demand Liberation, Not Lip Service

 

By Kanya D’Almeida

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – Afghanistan will not know peace until women are equal participants in negotiations, stresses a report released  by the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

“We don’t want the world to see us as victims,” said Afifa Azim, general director of the Afghan Women’s Network, which is working in collaboration with the Kroc Institute. “Afghani women must be at the table if the peace process is to move forward. No women, no peace.”

Co-authored by David Cortright and Sarah Persinger, the report entitled “Afghan Women Speak: Enhancing Security and Human Rights in Afghanistan” was presented as part of the week-long Peace Conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The report includes some 50 interviews with women leaders, parliamentarians, activists, school principals, NGO and health workers, army officials and police officers in the field in Kabul, Afghanistan, from April to May of 2010.

Since United States-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, critics say Washington has dangled the question of women’s emancipation over the head of the international community, using it to justify prolonged military occupation. Pundits and policy-makers in the West have largely swallowed this argument, taking up the fight for Afghan women with great gusto while continuing to support U.S. and NATO troops in the Middle East. Continue reading

Report from Afghanistan: Behind Enemy Lines

The Independent (UK), November 14, 2010

The prospect of a negotiated peace is dismissed almost outright. . . . “There are no al-Qa’ida fighters in Afghanistan any more.”

James Fergusson

The sound of a propeller engine is audible the moment my fixer and I climb out of the car, causing us new arrivals from Kabul to glance sharply upwards. I have never heard a military drone in action before, and it is entirely invisible in the cold night sky, yet there is no doubt what it is. My first visit to the Taliban since 2007 has only just begun and I am already regretting it. What if the drone is the Hellfire-missile-carrying kind?

Three years ago, the Taliban’s control over this district, Chak, and the 112,000 Pashtun farmers who live here, was restricted to the hours of darkness although the local commander, Abdullah, vowed to me that he would soon be in full control. As I am quickly to discover, this was no idle boast. In Chak, the Karzai government has in effect given up and handed over to the Taliban. Abdullah, still in charge, even collects taxes. His men issue receipts using stolen government stationery that is headed “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”; with commendable parsimony they simply cross out the word “Republic” and insert “Emirate”, the emir in question being the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.

The most astonishing thing about this rebel district and for Nato leaders meeting in Lisbon this week, a deeply troubling one is that Chak is not in war-torn Helmand or Kandahar but in Wardak province, a scant 40 miles south-west of Kabul. Nato commanders have repeatedly claimed that the Taliban are on the back foot following this year’s US troop surge. Mid-level insurgency commanders, they say, have been removed from the battlefield in “industrial” quantities since the 2010 campaign began.

And yet Abdullah, operating within Katyusha rocket range of the capital and with a $500,000 bounty on his head has managed to evade coalition forces for almost four years. If Chak is in any way typical of developments in other rural districts and Afghanistan has hundreds of isolated valley communities just like this one then Nato’s military strategy could be in serious difficulty. Continue reading