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Afghanistan War Weekly: December 19, 2010

With his presentation of the long-awaited December Report on the status of the war in Afghanistan, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to “win” the war. His Thursday night speech did not comment on the war’s many failures, but these were helpfully outlined in a National Intelligence Estimate leaked just days earlier. Many good essays linked below comment on all this. Obama’s speech and the unclassified Executive Summary focused especially on the critical role of Pakistan. Whether this can be done without “destroying the country in order to save it” is also the subject of some good articles linked below.

As was the case last week, this week’s media coverage of the WikiLeaks drama included little about what the State Department cables actually say, focusing instead on Assange in and out of prison. As the Obama administration hinted at their prosecution strategies for Assange if and when they can get their hands on him, the likelihood of using the 1917 Espionage Act receded in favor of linking Assange to alleged leaker Bradley Manning. Thus the potential case would be about “conspiracy” etc., sidestepping issues about freedom of the press. Linked below, the excellent essay by Kristin Saloomey takes us through some of Manning’s background, and the informative Democracy Now! interview with Glenn Greenwald emphasizes the essentially torturous conditions under which Manning is confined. Also NB the very good documentary on WikiLeaks from Swedish public TV.

In addition to our “featured essays” just below, there are very good/useful essays and videos linked below about the “real” Richard Holbrooke, the outing of the CIA station chief in Pakistan; some new areas of corruption exposed in Afghanistan; the astronomical cost of training the Afghan army; statements from the Red Cross and Oxfam that the militarization of aid is endangering the lives of NGO aid workers; the increasing brutality of the war and the consequent spike in civilian casualties; and the emergence of an anti-US-bases government in Kyrgyzstan.

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)

History is repeating itself in Afghanistan
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent [UK] [December 18, 2010]
---- During the mid-1960s, America's goal during a crucial stage in the Vietnam war was to defeat the enemy militarily. But it had no realistic political strategy to underpin the goal, and it was this which ultimately led to failure. America's strategy in Afghanistan is now suffering from a similar weakness. Again and again in Kabul one hears Afghans say that the Taliban may not be liked, but that the Afghan government and its US allies are increasingly distrusted, even hated, by the mass of the population. Instead of giving priority to seeking a feasible political approach, the current US strategy is to eliminate the Taliban as an effective military organisation.

Matthew Hoh’s Afghanistan: An Insider Talks

Interviewed by Barbara Koeppel, The Nation [December 17, 2010]

---- Matthew Hoh has impeccable establishment credentials. From 2004 to 2007 he served first as a Defense Department civilian on a reconstruction team and then as a Marine company commander in Iraq. In 2009 he was the State Department’s senior representative in Afghanistan’s Zabul province and political officer in Nangarhar province, areas of fierce fighting against the Taliban insurgency. But in September 2009 he resigned his post to protest the war.

How the Afghan Counterinsurgency Threatens Pakistan

Anatol Lieven, The Nation [December 16, 2010]

---- If Pakistan is vital to a settlement, Pakistan is also vital in itself. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the survival of Pakistan, not Afghanistan, is the most important issue for Western and global security in that region. It was therefore with horror that I recently heard that the diminished threat from Al Qaeda means that some Western security officials are suggesting that the West can afford to put much more pressure on Islamabad to attack Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's border region, even though this may lead to greater destabilization within Pakistan. This is lunatic reasoning.

The Brutal Price of Progress Hammering Kandahar

By Gareth Porter, Counterpunch [December 17, 2010]

---- The military offensive in Kandahar, which had been opposed clearly and vocally by the local leadership in the province, was accompanied by an array of military tactics marked by increased brutality. The most prominent of those tactics was a large-scale demolition of homes that has left widespread bitterness among the civilians who had remained in their villages when the U.S.-NATO offensive was launched, as well as those who had fled before the offensive. The new level of brutality used in the Kandahar operation indicates that Petraeus has consciously jettisoned the central assumption of his counterinsurgency theory, which is that harsh military measures undermine the main objective of winning over the population.

America's New Mercenaries

By Tim Shorrock, The Daily Beast [December 15, 2010] Info

---- Top U.S. commanders are meeting this week to plan for the next phase of the Afghanistan war. In Iraq, meanwhile, gains are tentative and in danger of unraveling. Both wars have been fought with the help of private military and intelligence contractors. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander of conventional and Special Forces in the war zones, is using contractors because "he wants an organization that reports directly to him," said a former top aide to the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, the umbrella organization for all Special Forces. "Everyone knows Petraeus can't execute his strategy without the private sector."

The Report’s Unclassified Executive Summary

Failure, Not Progress, in Afghanistan

By Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe, Huffington Post [December 15, 2010]

---- On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing "progress" in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that's not making us safer and that's not worth the cost. …We are told we can expect a report touting security gains and "progress," and that there's virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?

Obama: Never Mind Afghanistan, It’s All About The Drones

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [December 16, 2010]

---- One year and 30,000 new troops later, Afghanistan is peripheral to the Afghanistan war. According to the Obama administration’s review of its strategy, it’s official: this a U.S. drone war in Pakistan with a big, big U.S. troop component next door. The aim of the wider campaign, reiterated in the summary, is to crush al-Qaeda across the border in Pakistan’s tribal areas, defined as taking away their bases and the “elimination of the group’s remaining leadership cadre.”

See also: Alissa J. Rubin, Afghan Report Exposes a Split Over Pullout Timelines,” New York Times [December 16, 2010]; David E. Sanger, “Report Shows How Pakistan Still Bedevils Obama,” [December 16, 2010]; Rajiv Chandrawekaran, “ Havens in Pakistan loom as biggest hurdle in Afghanistan,” [December 14, 2010] Karen DeYoung, “War review cites strides, is less confident of Afghan governance,” Washington Post [December 14, 2010] and “Taliban respond extensively to Obama administration's war strategy review,” Los Angeles Times [December 18, 2010]

Intelligence Reports Are Pessimistic/Realistic
CIA report undermines Obama's upbeat assessment of Afghan war

By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent [December 16, 2010]

---- US intelligence agencies have given a pessimistic account of military progress in Afghanistan,

undercutting the more upbeat assessments from the US military expected to be reflected today in President Obama's report on the war. Some 16 intelligence agencies say in the classified National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) that large parts of Afghanistan are in danger of falling to the Taliban. They confirm that Pakistan is unwilling to end its secret support for the Taliban which uses Pakistani territory as a safe haven. The downbeat estimates by America's intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, directly contradicts the claim last week by the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the army offensive against the Taliban in south Afghanistan is making significant gains.

See also: Elisabeth Bumiller, “Intelligence Reports Offer Dim Views of Afghan War,” New York Times [December 14, 2010] and Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud, “U.S. intelligence reports cast doubt on war progress in Afghanistan,” Los Angeles Times [December 15, 2010]

The Pentagon’s Earlier Bi-Annual Reports to Congress
By Derrick Crowe, “The Pentagon Gives Itself an E for Effort on the Failing Afghanistan War,” Huffington Post [November 24, 2010] “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” [April 2010]; and “ISAF: State of the Insurgency” [January 2010]

Chart: Benchmarks for the war in Afghanistan


(Video) Richard Holbrooke Dies at 69: Remembering Veteran Diplomat’s Overlooked Record in East Timor, Iraq and the Balkans

From Democracy Now! [December 15, 2010]

---- Since his death this week at the age of 69, veteran U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke has been remembered for a storied career that includes brokering the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia. But little attention has been paid to his role in implementing and backing U.S. policies that killed thousands of civilians. Independent journalists Jeremy Scahill and John Pilger join us to discuss Holbrooke’s record in carrying out U.S. policy in Vietnam, East Timor, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Scahill says Holbrooke "represented the utter militarization of what is called 'U.S. diplomacy.'"

See also: Diana Johnstone, “Holbrooke or Milosevic: Who is the Greater Murderer?” Counterpunch [December 15, 2010]; and Patrick Cockburn, “Holbrooke's death leaves a hole in Afghan policy,” The Independent [December 2010]

A letter from Afghan experts to Barack Obama

---- The United States must take the initiative to start negotiations with the insurgents and frame the discussion in such a way that American security interests are taken into account. …We ask you to sanction and support a direct dialogue and negotiation with the Afghan Taliban leadership residing in Pakistan. A ceasefire and the return of the insurgency leadership in Afghanistan could be part of a de-escalation process leading to a coalition government. Without any chance for a military victory, the current policy will put the United States in a very difficult position.

As U.S. assesses Afghan war, Karzai a question mark

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [December 13, 2010]

---- As President Obama and his national security team assess the war this week, a central element of the discussion will be their difficulties in building a partnership with Karzai. There is near-universal agreement among top U.S. officials involved in Afghanistan that Karzai's behavior and leadership have a direct bearing on the outcome of the multinational counterinsurgency mission. But they remain divided about how to improve their ties with him, and whether it is even possible.

Gates: Public Opinion Can’t Stop Afghan War

By Jason Ditz, [December 16, 2010]

--- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played the usual appeal to fear card in trying to bolster public support for the Afghan War, even as polls show the American public overwhelmingly opposed to continuing the occupation, already in its tenth year. Her comments urged Americans to see the war as “protecting their families.” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had a somewhat more frank piece of advice for Americans – the government really doesn’t care what you think and isn’t going to end the war no matter how unpopular it gets.

Sources for Cables and Media Coverage

---- WikiLeaks has a new home at, courtesy of the Swiss Pirate Party. As of today, the number of cables released is 1,806. They can be searched (e.g., for “Afghanistan” or “corruption”) at

Several media outlets have archives devoted to WikiLeaks. The best ones are at The Guardian [UK] and Aljazeera The New York Times’ site is at At the daily publication, Jason Ditz provides short commentaries on many of the documents as they become available. Of the several blogs about the cables and the controversy surrounding them, the best one imo is by Greg Mitchell at The Nation -

Some Comments and Analysis

(Video) “WikiLeaks: The Documentary” – from Swedish public television – 57 minutes,a1364145,1,f...

Vijay Prashad, “Empire Unmasked The Wikileaks Deluge,” Counterpunch [December 15, 2010]

(Video) Ray McGovern defends Assange on CNN - 5 minutes

Tom Engelhardt, “Skimming the (S)cream Off the WikiLeaks Terror Accusations, TomDispatch [December 16, 2010]

Robert Fisk, “Stay Out Of Trouble By Not Speaking To Western Spies,” The Independent [December 18, 2010]

US Strategies to Prosecute WikiLeaks
Kristen Saloomey, “Alleged Wikileaker suffering in solitary confinement,” Aljazeera [December 19th, 2010]

From Democracy Now! (Video) “As WikiLeaks’ Assange Freed on Bail, Alleged Military Leaker Bradley Manning Imprisoned under Inhumane Conditions,” Manning

Stephen M Kohn, “A sad day for the US if the Espionage Act is used against WikiLeaks,” The Guardian [UK] [December 15, 2010]

Naomi Wolf, “Espionage Act: How the Government Can Engage in Serious Aggression Against the People of the United States,” Huffington Post [December 10, 2010]

Peter Kirwan, “The US Government's Pursuit of WikiLeaks Could Be Its Undoing,” Wired [December 13, 2010]

US Casualties

---- 700 US and other Coalition soldiers have now been killed in 2010. 53 US soldiers were killed in November, and 25 have been killed so far in December. This brings the number of US soldiers killed in 2010 to 491. Additionally, 5 soldiers from other Coalition countries were killed in November, and 4 have been killed so far in December. This brings the total number of US deaths in Afghanistan to 1,438, and the total number of Coalition deaths is 2,269. The number of US soldiers wounded in November 2010 was 501; 143 have been wounded through December 13. This brings the total US wounded during 2010 to 4.996, and the number wounded since the war began to 9,771. To learn more go to and 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.

Pakistan Casualties

---- According to an on-going study by the New America Foundation, the United States has launched 113 drone strikes in northwest Pakistan this year, compared to 53 during all of 2009. This brings the total number of such strikes since 2004 to 209. The study states that between 1,320 and 2,049 people have been killed by the strikes, of whom 1,009 to 1,512 were described as militants in “reliable press accounts.” “Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 25 percent. In 2010, it is more like six percent.” 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 $376 billion and the total for both wars is $1.124 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at

Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan
---- “ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Record Six in 10 Say it's 'Not Worth Fighting' “ - A record 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a grim assessment -- and a politically hazardous one -- in advance of the Obama administration's one-year review of its revised strategy. Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation's longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll [December 16, 2010] say the war's been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin.

---- Americans continue to be divided over the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, with 45% supporting and 45% opposing it. The plurality 49% of Americans say the U.S. government has been providing them too little information about the war in Afghanistan, and more than half, 54%, say they do not know what their country's war in Afghanistan is all about. The plurality 38% of Americans expect the war to eventually come to a negotiated settlement that gives the Taliban a role in the Afghan government, while only 16% still expect a clear military victory by the U.S.-led foreign military forces. The Angus Reid poll was conducted December 3-5, 2010.

You Call This Progress? Record Levels of Violence in Afghanistan

By Eric Stoner, Counterpunch [December 17, 2010]

---- Greetings from Afghanistan. I arrived here now almost a week ago and there is so much to share about this experience that it's hard to know where to start. I'd like to offer a few random observations about Kabul that I'm sure will make more sense upon reflection.

Afghan MPs Demand President Form New Parliament

By Reuters, New York Times [December 13, 2010]

---- About 100 Afghan members of parliament demanded on Monday that President Hamid Karzai inaugurate the assembly by December 19, almost three weeks after final results of a fraud-marred election were declared. Afghanistan's political crisis has been simmering since even before the much-criticised September 18 ballot, with tension rising on reports the attorney general's office had asked for the vote to be annulled. The parliament… there will likely be larger groups of ethnic Tajiks and Hazaras who may challenge Karzai's traditional power base among Pashtuns, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group.

Red Cross says Afghan conditions worst in 30 years

By Jonathon Burch, Reuters [December 15, 2010]

---- Spreading violence in Afghanistan is preventing aid organisations from providing help, with access to those in need at its worst level in three decades, the Red Cross said on Wednesday. "The proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organisations to access those in need. Access for the ICRC has over the last 30 years never been as poor," said Reto Stocker, Afghanistan head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which rarely makes public comments.

See also: Rod Nordland, “Killings of Afghan Relief Workers Stir Strategy Debate” New York Times [December 13, 2010] the Oxfam Report is at

Billions Down the Drain in Useless US Afghan Aid

By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [December 13, 2010]

---- As President Obama prepares his review of how his Afghan strategy is working to be issued next week he is likely to focus on military progress. But the most extraordinary failure of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is that the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars has had so little impact on the misery in which 30 million Afghans live. Since 2001 the US alone has provided $52 billion in aid, two-thirds for security and one third for economic, social and political development. Despite this some nine million Afghans live in absolute poverty while a further five million, considered ‘not poor’, try to survive on $43 a month.

Afghans Probe Supply Diversions

By Matthew Rosenberg, Wall Street Journal [December 18, 2010]

---- Afghan authorities are investigating some of the biggest international companies that provide food and fuel to U.S.-led forces for allegedly bringing supplies into the country duty-free and then diverting them to the local market. These investigations, into what Afghanistan's finance minister described as "smuggling" by coalition contractors, are highly sensitive, say Afghan officials and officers from the U.S.-led coalition.

Afghan government awards oil contract in first phase of revenue-generation plan

By Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post [December 13, 2010]

---- The Afghan government on Monday awarded a small but potentially path-breaking crude oil contract, marking the first phase of an effort that U.S. and Afghan officials say could bring the cash-strapped government significant revenue. The six-month deal for crude from the Angot field in Sar-i-Pol province in Afghanistan's north was designed as a confidence-building venture.


Yearly Price Tab for Afghan Forces: $6 Billion, Indefinitely

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [December 16, 2010]

---- The Afghan soldiers and cops NATO trains to secure the country are going to need $6 billion from international donors every year to keep operating. To put that number in context, the CIA estimates Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is around $27 billion. Keeping soldiers and police fed, clothed, billeted, armed and equipped, realistically, will be a job for international donors for the foreseeable future.

Army Set to Award Mega-Contract to Train Afghan Cops

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [December 16, 2010]

---- Before the New Year, the Army will finally award a much-delayed $1.6 billion contract for a private security firm to supplement that NATO training command’s efforts to professionalize Afghan cops. More than 80 firms have registered as “interested vendors” on the federal website announcing the contract. NATO is trying to build a 134,000-strong Afghan police force by October, and it’s short 900 trainers promised by U.S. allies.


Taliban Extend Reach to North, Where Armed Groups Reign

By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times [December 16, 2010]

---- This city [Kunduz], once a crossroads in the country’s northeast, is increasingly besieged. The airport closed months ago to commercial flights. The roads heading south to Kabul and east to Tajikistan as well as north and west are no longer safe for Afghans, let alone Westerners. Although the numbers of American and German troops in the north have more than doubled since last year, insecurity has spread, the Taliban are expanding their reach, and armed groups that purportedly support the government are terrorizing local people and hampering aid organizations. The growing fragility of the north highlights the limitations of the American effort here, hampered by waning political support at home and a fixed number of troops.

Afghan Bombs Kill, Wound 3,800 Troops in 2010

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [December 13, 2010]

---- Nearly as many Afghan civilians have died this year from the bombs as last year — a big, flashing warning sign for the war. Danger Room acquired these and other figures from the Pentagon’s bomb squad, known as JIEDDO, which provided us with stats on improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan from 2005 to this November. The figures don’t distinguish between U.S. and allied troops. But they provide perhaps the most comprehensive public look to date into how deadly Afghanistan’s fertilizer-based bombs are. They killed two-thirds of the approximately 2050 U.S. and allied troops who’ve died in action in Afghanistan in the past five years.

Afghan Ultraviolence: Petraeus Triples Air War

By Noah Shachtman, Wired [December 14, 2010]

---- November is ordinarily the month when the air war in Afghanistan — and really, the whole American-led campaign — ratchets down for the winter. This November, with Gen. David Petraeus in charge of the war effort, things have been different. NATO fighter jets and attack planes launched their bombs and missiles on 850 separate missions this November. That’s three-and-a-half times the number of attack sorties they flew in November 2009.

(Video) Spike in Bagram prisoners

From Aljazeera [December 6 2010] – 2 minutes

---- The number of prisoners, many of whom are believed to be Taliban members, in the US dentention centre in the Afghan city of Bagram has risen by 40 per cent since the beginning of the year. The increase of detainees came as US troops recently poured into the country in an effort to boost military operations.

See also: Jason Motlagh and Loyi Rud, “Why Night Raids May Doom U.S. Goals in Afghanistan,” Time [December 18, 2010],8599,2037444,00.html#ixzz18aDdB... from BBC “(Video) Afghanistan attacks target army bases, killing 13” (2 minutes); and C. J. Chivers, “6 Americans Killed by Bomb at a New U.S.-Afghan Outpost,” New York Times [December 12, 2010]

Lawsuit over Drones in Pakistan forces CIA Station Chief to Flee

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [December 18, 2010]

---- The episode demonstrates the miseries of postmodern warfare, wherein President Obama is treating Pakistan the way Henry Kissinger treated Cambodia. If the US is going to conduct military operations in a country, it should be in the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement, and should be carried out by the Department of Defense. To have the CIA just lob missiles onto civilian villages in another country is wrong for all kinds of reasons. CIA operations are covert and US officials cannot even talk about them in public. There therefore can be no public debate or scrutiny of the policy. And, the whole operation breaks US law, since it is essentially a mass assassination campaign, not a war.

See also: Alex Rodriguez, “CIA identity breach feeds mistrust with Pakistani agency,” Los Angeles Times [December 19, 2010] Umbreen Turk, “Kareem takes on US in court battle over drones,” Daily Mail [Pakistan] [December 17, 2010]; and Mark Mazzetti and Salman Masood, “Pakistani Role Is Suspected in Revealing U.S. Spy’s Name,” New York Times [December 17, 2010]

Party defection threatens Pakistan government

By Zarar Khan, Associated Press [December 14, 2010]

---- Pakistan's U.S.-allied ruling coalition was severely undermined Tuesday after a key member said it was joining the opposition because one of its ministers was fired over a corruption scandal. The announcement by the Islamist party Jamiat Ulema Islam leaves the coalition with just a small majority in the National Assembly and threatens the stability of the weak civilian government whose cooperation is critical to America's efforts in neighboring Afghanistan.

See also: Salman Masood, “Pakistan: Party Leaves Governing Bloc,” New York Times [December 15, 2010]

Mullen Expresses Impatience With Pakistan on Visit

By Thom Shanker, New York Times [December 14, 2010]

---- America’s top military officer visited Pakistan’s capital on Tuesday, carrying what he called a strong sense of “strategic impatience” with the government here over its failure to clear insurgents from border havens where they prepare lethal attacks against American and allied forces in Afghanistan. … It is also Admiral Mullen’s first visit to his Pakistani counterpart after embarrassing leaks of classified diplomatic cables revealed strong American criticisms of the Pakistani government and its top intelligence service, the ISI.

‘Unprecedented’ Drone Assault: 58 Strikes in 102 Days

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [December 17, 2010]

---- Over the past two days, four Predators or Reapers fired their missiles at suspected militants in North Waziristan, with three of the strikes coming early today. They represent a geographic expansion of the drone war. Today’s strikes come in Khyber, an area abutting Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, that’s been notably drone-free. It has become an area for militants fleeing military action in South Waziristan to take succor. They also bring the drone-strike tally for this year up to 113, more than twice last year’s 53 strikes. But those figures don’t begin to tell the whole story.

Germany Will Begin Afghan Exit Next Year

By Judy Dempsey and Matthew Saltmarsh, New York Times [December 16, 2010]

---- Germany, which has the third largest military force in Afghanistan, will start withdrawing its 4,800 troops as early as next year, ending its mission there by 2014, the foreign minister told Parliament on Thursday. The move comes just days after Britain, which has the second largest number of troops in the country after the United States, said it was “possible” that its troops could start leaving next year. The German public is increasingly opposed to the Afghan deployment, according to opinion polls. Next month, the government must seek a new mandate from the Bundestag if it is to prolong its mission in Afghanistan. The current mandate limits troop numbers to 5,000 and expires early next year. France has close to 4,000 military personnel in Afghanistan. The official government position is that French troops will stay as long as is required. Poland announced last month that [it] was ending its patrol and combat operations in Afghanistan in 2012, when troops will take on a purely training mission until 2014. Poland has 2,600 troops there.

Crucial US base at risk as anti-American party joins Kyrgyz government

From The Telegraph [December 19, 2010]

---- A party that has promised to close an airbase crucial for the US effort in Afghanistan is poised to join the power-sharing coalition in Kyrgyzstan on Friday. The staunchly nationalist Ata-Zhurt party is set to take its place in the first plenary session of parliament on Friday morning, more than two months after a historic election left the Central Asian country struggling to form a government. It will be part of a coalition with its former rivals the Social Democratic Party, and a third party, Respublika. Ata-Zhurt made closing the US's Manas Transit Centre a central pledge of its campaign in the run up to the election on October 10.


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