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
The Independent UK, October 24, 2010
The Shame of America
As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.
Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who’d been tortured and you’d be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or “collateral damage”, or a simple phrase: “We have nothing on that.”
Of course, we all knew they always did have something. And yesterday’s ocean of military memos proves it yet again. Al-Jazeera has gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the actual Iraqi families whose men and women are recorded as being wasted at US checkpoints – I’ve identified one because I reported it in 2004, the bullet-smashed car, the two dead journalists, even the name of the local US captain – and it was The Independent on Sunday that first alerted the world to the hordes of undisciplined gunmen being flown to Baghdad to protect diplomats and generals. These mercenaries, who murdered their way around the cities of Iraq, abused me when I told them I was writing about them way back in 2003. Continue reading