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Afghanistan War Weekly

The crisis in US – Pakistan relations highlights major problems for the US war strategy. As Juan Cole and others note below, as the number of US troops in Afghanistan has “surged,” the vulnerability of the fragile US supply lines through Pakistan has become an Achilles Heel of the whole operation. We are left to wonder whether the United States will respond aggressively toward Pakistan or will reduce its expectations and modify its strategy. Some of the evidence for both positions is set out below.

A number of articles linked below discuss an apparent increase in US-Karzai-Taliban contacts, as well as contacts with the Haqqani forces. Negotiations with the Taliban and with the Haqqanis are of great concern to Pakistan’s military leaders. If the United States wants to explore negotiations seriously, this will put further restraints on its ability to boss Pakistan around.

The recent report by the Senate Armed Services Committee on payments to, and employment opportunities for, local Taliban guarding US facilities casts more doubt on the existence of a road to “success” for the US military. The report itself, linked below, focuses on a region in western Afghanistan and imo is a fascinating study of the inability of US/NATO forces to negotiate or even understand the Afghanistan they are trying to control and conquer.

This week marked the beginning of the 10th year of the war against Afghanistan, and I have linked below a sampling of the many “progress” assessments of the war so far. Also below, there are links to Harry Bellefonte’s speech at last week’s DC rally; an assessment of a recent US Army report on soldier suicides; our weekly round up of useful facts about the war; some preliminary thoughts on the killing of a British aid worker in Afghanistan; an excellent article on the failures of “pacification” in Marjah, the scene of the opening round of the “surge”; and articles that update us on the varieties of corruption in Afghanistan.

Once again, if you find this newsletter useful, I would appreciate your help in expanding circulation. I would also appreciate suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice ( and War is a Crime (

----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)


(Video) "Operation Recovery": On 9th Anniversary of Afghan War, Veteran-Led Campaign Seeks to End Deployment of Traumatized Soldiers

From Democracy Now! [October 7, 2010] – 5 minutes

---- To mark the ninth anniversary of the Afghanistan war, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War are marching in Washington, DC today to launch the first veteran-led campaign to stop the deployment of soldiers traumatized by multiple tours of duty

(Video) Harry Belafonte: Iraq & Afghanistan Wars Are "Immoral, Unconscionable and Unwinnable"

From Democracy Now [October 4, 2010] - 10 minutes

---- "The President’s decision to escalate the war in that region alone costs the nation $33 billion," the legendary musician, actor and activist Harry Belafonte said at Saturday’s "One Nation Working Together" in Washington. "That sum of money could not only create 600,000 jobs here in America, but would even leave us a few billion to start rebuilding our schools, our roads, our hospitals and affordable housing. It could also help to rebuild the lives of the thousands of our returning wounded veterans."


The Afghan War, Past and Present
From FAIR [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting] [October 8, 2010]

---- This week, as the Afghan War entered its 10th year, there were the usual retrospectives in the media, as well as calls to rethink the war. What's striking, though, is how little thinking media did about the war in the first place. --Some pundits were calling for indiscriminate attacks before the Afghanistan War even started… Early anti-war protests were barely covered-- and when they were the results were often abysmal… [and] some outlets were ready to accept government "guidance" on how to practice journalism….

The Long War: Year Ten

By Andrew J. Bacevich, TomDispatch [October 7, 2010]

---- In January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s charge to a newly-appointed commanding general was simplicity itself: “give us victories.” President Barack Obama’s tacit charge to his generals amounts to this: give us conditions permitting a dignified withdrawal. A pithy quote in Bob Woodward’s new book captures the essence of an emerging Obama Doctrine: “hand it off and get out.” …So are we almost there yet? Not even. The truth is we’re lost in the desert, careening down an unmarked road, odometer busted, GPS on the fritz, and fuel gauge hovering just above E.

A Senseless War Begins Its 10th Year address to the nation from President Barack Obama (as reported by Michael Moore)

By Michael Moore, CommonDreams [October 8, 2010]

---- My Fellow Americans: The war in Afghanistan is a mess. The insurgency grows -- and why wouldn't it: foreign troops have invaded and occupied their country! The people responsible for 9/11 are no longer there. So why are we? Why are we offering up the lives of our sons and daughters every single day -- for no reason anyone can define. I am not going to stay in Afghanistan just because we're already there and we haven't "won" yet. So the troops are coming home. I refuse to participate in scaring the American people with a phony "War on Terror." Are there terrorists? Yes. Will they strike again? Sadly, yes. But these terrorist acts are few and far between and should not dictate how we live our daily lives or make us ignore our constitutional rights.

See also: “Afghanistan: War without end,” Editorial, The Guardian [UK] [October 7, 2010] and Juan Cole, “On 10th Anniversary of Afghan War, US Stymied in Pakistan, Forced to Negotiate with Taliban,” Informed Comment [October 7, 2010]

Obama Dumps National Security Adviser Jones

By Jason Ditz, [October 8, 2010]

[FB - A roundup of assessments and opinion, with links to many articles.]

US making slow Afghan progress

By Daniel Dombey, Financial Times [October 7 2010]

---- A report by the White House suggests the US has made little progress in the war in Afghanistan and says Pakistan risks ceding ground to militant extremists. The report highlights the difficulties faced by Barack Obama over two of the most important challenges facing his presidency – the Afghan war and the battle against Islamist extremism in Pakistan. The report, sent to Congress this week, notes only “modest gains in security, governance and development” in important areas of Afghanistan as of the end of June. It describes the Afghan government’s support for human rights as “unsatisfactory”, anti-corruption efforts as “weak”, and international backing as “inadequate”. It says as of June there had been no statistically significant change in perceptions of security since September 2008 and that public confidence in the government’s ability to reduce corruption was a mere 16.5 per cent.

Barack Obama accused of exaggerating terror threat for political gain

By Simon Tisdall and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian [UK] [October 7, 2010]

---- A US terror alert issued this week about al-Qaida plots to attack targets in western Europe was politically motivated and not based on credible new information, senior Pakistani diplomats and European intelligence officials have told the Guardian. The non-specific US warning, which despite its vagueness led Britain, France and other countries to raise their overseas terror alert levels, was an attempt to justify a recent escalation in US drone and helicopter attacks inside Pakistan that have "set the country on fire", said Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the high commissioner to Britain. Dismissing claims of a developed, co-ordinated plot aimed at Britain, France and Germany, European intelligence officials also pointed the finger at the US, and specifically at the White House.

Rethinking Pakistan
Washington Post calls for escalation of the war in Pakistan

By Paul Woodward, War in Context [October 5, 2010]

---- After three Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in a NATO helicopter attack on a Pakistani border post last week, the Pakistani government cut off supplies to Afghanistan by closing the Torkham border crossing. It was the easiest way of sending a message to Washington that killing Pakistani soldiers is unacceptable. The Washington Post’s editorial page now shoots back: “[Pakistan's] resistance to a more muscular U.S. campaign in North Waziristan, where the Haqqani faction is based, is unacceptable.” For those with an imperial mindset (like the editors of the Washington Post) the issue here is about who has the right and the power to exercise their will. America, land of the righteous, savior of the world, must prevail.

Pakistan's Convoy Halt Forces US to Reduce Tensions

By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [October 9, 2010]

---- By continuing its halt in NATO convoys headed for Afghanistan through the Torkham border crossing into a second week, Pakistan's military leadership has brought an end to the unilateral attacks in Pakistan pushed by Gen. David Petraeus and forced Washington to make a new accommodation. And it may make it impossible for Petraeus to make the argument in the future that the United States can succeed in Afghanistan, given the refusal of Pakistan to budge on the issue. The crisis in U.S.-Pakistani relations was the result of a decision by the Obama administration – which press reports suggest was on the basis of a strong recommendation from Petraeus – to act much more aggressively and unilaterally if the Pakistani military did not do more to attack militant groups in North Waziristan, especially the Haqqani group, which dominates the successful insurgency in eastern Afghanistan. Unnamed U.S. officials were reported in the Wall Street Journal Oct. 2-3 as saying that there was less concern about upsetting the Pakistanis than there had been only a few months earlier.

U.S. Slams Pakistani Effort On Militants

By Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman, Wall Street Journal [October 5, 2010]

---- A new White House assessment steps up criticism of Pakistan's campaign against militants, stating bluntly that its government and military have been unwilling to take action against al Qaeda and like-minded terrorists. The aggressive language of the report—which also criticizes the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari—could further strain difficult relations with a key ally and undercut support in Congress for providing billions of dollars in aid to Islamabad. The report, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, also raises questions about the U.S.-led coalition's progress battling the Taliban and improving governance in Afghanistan two months before the White House will review its war strategy.

Pakistan Urges On Taliban

By Julian E. Barnes, et al., Wall Street Journal [October 6, 2010]

---- Members of Pakistan's spy agency are pressing Taliban field commanders to fight the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, some U.S. officials and Afghan militants say, a development that undercuts a key element of the Pentagon's strategy for ending the war. The explosive accusation is the strongest yet in a series of U.S. criticisms of Pakistan, and shows a deteriorating relationship with an essential ally in the Afghan campaign. The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in military and development aid to Pakistan for its support.

See also: By Helene Cooper, “Allies in War, but the Goals Clash,” New York Times [October 10, 2010] and two 20-minute videos from Aljazeera: “Inside Story - Avoiding conflict with the Taliban?: [October 9, 2010], and Riz Khan, “The future of US-Pakistan relations, [October 5, 2010]

US Casualties

---- 12 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this month, bringing the number of US soldiers killed in 2010 to 375. Additionally, 14 soldiers from other Coalition countries have been killed so far in October. This brings the total number of US deaths in Afghanistan to 1,322, and the total number of Coalition deaths is 2,144. The number of US soldiers wounded in July 2010 (the latest figures available) was 576, the highest monthly total so far. This brings the total US wounded since the war began to 7,266. To learn more go to

Afghanistan Casualties

---- Between January 1 and June 30, 2010, 1,271 civilians were killed and 1,997 injured. This brings the total number of civilians killed since January 1, 2007 to 7,324. Between January 1 and June 30, 2010, 214 members of the Afghan National Army were killed, bringing the total killed since January 1, 2007 to 1,043. Between January 1 and June 30, 2010, 289 members of the Afghan National Police were killed, bringing the total killed since January 1, 2007 to 2,340. From Susan G. Chesser, “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians,” Congressional Research Service [August 11, 2010], where the sources for the figures can be found.

According to the Afghanistan Ministry of the Interior, during the past six months 1,119 civilians were killed and 2,473 were wounded, while 959 police were killed and 2,473 were wounded. The Ministry claimed 4,012 insurgent attacks during the six-month period. Also, 3,098 insurgents were killed, 2,800 were arrested, and 632 were wounded. [FB - The “killed” to “wounded” insurgent ratio raises some questions.]

Pakistan Casualties

---- According to an on-going study by the New America Foundation, the United States has launched 78 drone strikes in northwest Pakistan this year, bringing the total number of such strikes since 2004 to 174. The study states that between 1,166 and 1,790 people have been killed, according to “reliable press accounts.” Of these, the study estimates that two-thirds of the deaths have been “militants” and about one-third were “civilians.” NB the “estimating” and labeling is usually done by local government and/or military personnel; local civilians often give much higher numbers for civilian deaths. The study can be read at For a different view on the extent of civilian casualties by drone attacks, see Daniel L. Byman, “Do Targeted Killings Work?” Foreign Policy [July 4, 2009]

The Cost of the War

---- According to the website, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $353.8 billion, and the total for both wars is $1.091 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at

Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan

---- Nearly six in 10 Americans continue to oppose the war in Afghanistan amid a growing pessimism about the situation the United States faces in that country, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that 44 percent of the public believes things are going well for the United States in Afghanistan, down from 55 percent in March.

According to the poll, 58 percent of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan. [September 29, 2010]

Broken Promises: Thousands of Veterans Denied Crucial Care

By Mike Ludwig, Truthout [October 8, 2010]

---- As of March 2010, the government reported that 565,000 new veteran patients had been treated in VA hospitals since 2001. Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), a national advocacy group that tracks the VA, estimates that by now that number has increased to 619,000, and will eventually reach one million by 2014. The Army recently reported that 1,713 soldiers attempted suicide during fiscal year 2009. A total of 239 succeeded in suicide, 146 died as a result of high-risk behavior and 74 died of drug overdose.

See also: For the 350 page report, Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention, go to

Kidnapped aid worker killed as special forces mounted rescue

By Patrick Sawer in London and Ben Farmer, The Telegraph [UK] [October 9, 2010]

[FB – We will hear much more about this tragedy soon. The British paper The Telegraph [below] writes that Linda Norgrove was killed in a “rescue” attempt as local elders were negotiating her release. Aljazeera reports that her captors wanted to exchange her for the Pakistan-born, US-trained scientist who was recently given an 86-year sentence in a US court. And Eva Gollinger [Google her] and others have written extensively about the CIA connections of her employer, Development Alternatives, Inc., which was also highlighted in the recent Senate Armed Services Committee’s report on protection payments to the Taliban by US contractors in Afghanistan.]

---- The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that local Afghan leaders wanted to negotiate with Miss Norgrove's kidnappers to win her freedom but were overruled by Nato commanders who feared she was about to be smuggled to Pakistan and handed over to al-Qaeda militants.

Outsourcing the Dirty War in Afghanistan

By Erica Gaston, Huffington Post [October 6, 2010]

---- A big revelation from Bob Woodward's new book Obama's Wars is that the CIA maintains a 3,000-strong Afghan paramilitary force that conducts cross-border operations into Pakistan. Though news to the U.S. public, these abusive paramilitary forces are unfortunately far too well known to many Afghan civilians. As a human rights researcher in Afghanistan for the last two years, I have found that some of the worst behavior toward civilians comes from these CIA paramilitary forces. Civilians described how these groups, often called "campaign forces," used disproportionate and indiscriminate force, throwing grenades or firing into homes without provocation during nighttime house raids. Those who were detained by these paramilitary forces described being beaten, gun-butted, or otherwise abused.

See also: “Afghans Blame U.S.—Not Insurgents—For Instability,” The Open Society Foundations [October 7, 2010 and Alissa J. Rubin, “Expanding Control, Taliban Refresh Stamp on Afghan Justice,” New York Times [October 7, 2010]

Varieties of Corruption in Afghanistan
Karzai’s Kin Use Ties to Gain Power in Afghanistan

By James Risen, New York Times [October 5, 2010]

---- In recent years, dozens of Karzai family members and close allies have taken government jobs, pursued business interests or worked as contractors to the United States government, allowing them to shape policy or financially benefit from it. While the roles played by two of President Karzai’s brothers — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the power broker of Kandahar, and Mahmoud Karzai, a prominent businessman and investor in the troubled Kabul Bank — have been well documented, the extensive web of other family members has not previously been reported. … At least six Karzai relatives, including one who just ran for Parliament, operate or are linked to contracting businesses that collect millions of dollars annually from the American government.

The Independent Election Commission … the Electoral Complaints Commission

From Tolo News [Afghanistan] [October 10, 2010]

---- The head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said these candidates are still considered as suspects and decisions about them will be taken after investigations are completed. IEC also announced that the final results of Afghanistan's parliamentary elections that were previously planned to be declared on 30th October will be delayed. Head of the IEC, Fazal Ahmad Manawi, said the results of more than 440 polling centres have been declared invalid so far." The votes of polling centres that have been declared invalid in the past few days reach 142 and a total of 442 voting centres have been declared invalid so far," Manawi said. "The recounting of votes in 334 polling centres have been ordered recently and the votes of a total of 828 vote counting centres are ordered to be recounted," he added.

Inquiry Finds Guards at U.S. Bases Are Tied to Taliban

By James Risen, New York Times [October 7, 2010]

---- Afghan private security forces with ties to the Taliban, criminal networks and Iranian intelligence have been hired to guard American military bases in Afghanistan, exposing United States soldiers to surprise attack and confounding the fight against insurgents, according to a Senate investigation. The Pentagon’s oversight of the Afghan guards is virtually nonexistent, allowing local security deals among American military commanders, Western contracting companies and Afghan warlords who are closely connected to the violent insurgency. There are more than 26,000 private security employees in Afghanistan, and 90 percent of them are working under United States government contracts or subcontracts. Almost all are tied to the militias of local warlords and other powerful Afghan figures outside the control of the American military or the Afghan government, the report found.

See also: Nathan Hodge, “U.S. Contractors Employed Taliban,” Wall Street Journal [October 8, 2010] Spencer Ackerman, “Taliban Allies, Warlord Flunkies Guard U.S. Bases,” Wired [October 7, 2010] and Matthew Rodieck, “Corruption in Afghanistan: An Aid Worker’s Experience,” New York Times [October 7, 2010] The Armed Services Committee Report is imo very interesting, something of an anthropological study of local contractors and the culture of corruption in western Afghanistan. It is at

Taliban in high-level talks with Karzai government, sources say

By Karen DeYoung, Peter Finn and Craig Whitlock, Washington Post [October 6, 2010]

---- Taliban representatives and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai have begun secret, high-level talks over a negotiated end to the war, according to Afghan and Arab sources. The talks follow inconclusive meetings, hosted by Saudi Arabia, which ended more than a year ago. While emphasizing the preliminary nature of the current discussions, the sources said that for the first time they believe that Taliban representatives are fully authorized to speak for the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban organization based in Pakistan, and its leader, Mohammad Omar.

US and Afghan governments make contact with Haqqani insurgents

By Julian Borger and Declan Walsh, The Guardian[UK] [October 7 2010]

---- Both the Afghan and US governments have recently made contact with the most fearsome insurgent group in Afghanistan, the Haqqani network, the Guardian has learned. Hamid Karzai's government held direct talks with senior members of the Haqqani clan over the summer, according to well-placed Pakistani and Arab sources. The US contacts have been indirect, through a western intermediary, but have continued for more than a year. The Afghan and US talks were described as extremely tentative. The Haqqani network has a reputation for ruthlessness, even by the standards of the Afghan insurgency, and has the closest ties with al-Qaida. But Kabul and Washington have come to the conclusion that they cannot be excluded if an enduring peace settlement is to be reached.

See also: “Prospects for peace: Can a deal with the insurgents be done?” The Independent and Kim Sengupta and Julius Cavendish, “Taliban's high command in secret talks to end war in Afghanistan,” The Independent [UK] [October 7, 2010]

US forces lament Afghan Army 'liabilities'

Anthony Lloyd, Times Online [October 05, 2019]

---- The surge in ANA recruitment is central to the US and Nato strategy in Afghanistan, which is intended to give local forces an increasing lead in the conflict as the clock ticks toward President Obama's deadline next summer to start scaling down US forces in the country. By October 2011 Afghan security forces, including police and soldiers, should have reached 305,000, of which 171,600 will be ANA. In the past year alone ANA recruitment has doubled, giving the army a current force, at least on paper, of 134,000. For the US troops of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne, fighting in Zhari as part of Operation Dragon Strike, the ANA's lack of professionalism is of special concern. But some of the 101st troops compared them instead to another force well known for its ferocity and stoicism. "Imagine if we had come here allied with the Taliban to fight against the ANA," one US sergeant mused. "It'd be all over by now."

Marines in Marjah face full-blown insurgency

By Todd Pitman, Associated Press [October 8, 2010]

---- Eight months on, the Taliban are still here in force, waging a full-blown guerrilla insurgency that rages daily across a bomb-riddled landscape of agricultural fields and irrigation trenches. As U.S. involvement in the war enters its 10th year, the failure to pacify this town raises questions about the effectiveness of America's overall strategy. Similarly crucial operations are now under way in neighboring Kandahar province, the Taliban's birthplace. Marjah has become a microcosm of the war itself — and a metaphor for an insurgency that has spread nationwide.

Afghan offensive fails to reassure residents

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times [October 5, 2010]

---- Villagers listened courteously as a U.S. military officer, speaking through an interpreter whose grasp of the local language seemed shaky, exhorted them to let Afghan police or American soldiers know if the Taliban came to town. Nodding in agreement amid the group were three men in beards, turbans and sandals who looked, dressed and talked like the other villagers. They were Taliban. … But for Kandaharis, both urban dwellers and villagers from the surrounding farmlands, the narrative is somewhat different.


The Pakistan Veto: Islamabad now has final say on U.S. military policy.

By Robert Haddick Foreign Policy, [October 1, 2010]

---- In apparent retaliation for a NATO helicopter attack on a Pakistani border outpost this week, Pakistan has closed the Torkham border crossing into Afghanistan to convoys supplying NATO forces. Although this dispute will likely be resolved quickly, it shows that Pakistan has a veto over President Barack Obama's military strategy in Afghanistan. Specifically, Pakistan has now vetoed the possibility of a U.S. military campaign into the Afghan Taliban's sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Such a veto is understandable from Pakistan's perspective, but not so much from those of the NATO and Afghan soldiers who would like to get at the stubborn enemy finding sanctuary inside Pakistan. In a strange irony, the more the United States has built up its forces in Afghanistan, the stronger Pakistan's veto power over U.S. military decisions has become.

Pakistan Opens Khyber Crossing to NATO Supply Trucks but issues Threats over Hot Pursuit

By Joan Cole, Informed Comment [October 10, 2010]

---- My guess is that the US has given representations to Kayani that no uncoordinated hot pursuits will be launched into Pakistan from Afghanistan by the US military. … In the past week and a half, as the border closure idled the some 3000 trucks that typically are on the roads supplying NATO, the Pakistani Taliban sent 150 fuel trucks into flames and killed 15 persons. The whole affair reveals how weak Bush’s wars have made the US. In 2001 Bush officials could just threaten to reduce Pakistan to rubble if it did not turn on the Taliban and join the Bush “war on terror.” Now, with the US bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the wake of 9 years during which the US military was shown supremely vulnerable to unconventional military tactics, no such threat directed at Islamabad would be taken seriously. The US genuinely needs Pakistani help. The threats are being issued in the opposite direction, and the US military is the party that is being forced to swallow its pride and make an about-face on policy.

See also: Karin Bruilliard, “U.S.-Pakistan relations further strained after airstrike,” Washington Post [October 5, 2010] and Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Afghan war moves deeper into Pakistan,” Asia Times [October 7, 2010]


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