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Afghanistan War Weekly: March 16, 2011

The case of Raymond Davis, the CIA agent who killed two Pakistani men, ended today with his release after “blood money” was paid to the families of the victims. But the fallout from the case is far from over, and much remains to be learned about the behind-the-scenes deal – including the payment of a reported $2 million. The anti-American sentiment inflamed by the case, especially among religious and opposition parties in Punjab province, may further destabilize the Pakistan government and its uncertain alliance with the United States.

General Petraeus’s testimony to Congress on Tuesday about the war had nothing new, though it did include some hints about permanent US bases and US troops staying beyond 2014. Several additional articles linked below, including a report of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s speech to a NATO gathering, underscore the fraudulent nature of the projected US troop “drawdown” from Afghanistan scheduled for July 2011. Telegraphing the minimal nature of the supposed withdrawal is important for NATO and Afghanistan audiences, but it conflicts with the positive spin put on the prospects for withdrawal presented by Obama to the US home audience. It also raises a challenge to the antiwar movement. Should our messaging emphasize the need to make Obama stick to his drawdown promise, or should it warn antiwar supporters that the drawdown charade is intended only to fool people into pre-election quiescence?

Several good articles linked below illustrate the strategic chaos of US military thinking in Afghanistan. Are we doing “counterinsurgency” or not? Are we withdrawing from outlying areas, e.g. Pech Valley, and concentrating forces near population centers, or not? The simplest conclusion is that the US/NATO forces are too weak to do more than kill a lot of people wherever they are, but have inadequate forces to control large swathes of territory.

One consequence of the US hit-and-regroup strategy is a growing number of civilian casualties. Night raids, air strikes, poor intelligence, and plain bad judgment are at work here. Last week’s killing of President Karzai’s cousin in a raid, as well as nine children collecting wood earlier, has aggravated strong popular antagonism to the US military presence, including an explosion of rage from Karzai himself.

Other good/useful articles pasted in below include an analysis of the expected-soon assault by Pakistan forces on North Waziristan, and several insightful articles on the way that the ubiquitous “consultants” and contractors in Kabul have created a state with no capability for self-management.

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)

The War is Killing Afghanistan's Children. Enough!

By Afghans for Peace, Common Dreams [March 8, 2011]

---- Careful examination of numerous reports, and images/video footage, along with eye-witness and victim testimonies, clarify that Afghan civilians are the main targets of deadly attacks by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Although the Coalition forces claim that previous civilian massacres were accidental, Afghan-led peace movements believe that the killings are at best negligent to at worst intentional in nature. The people of Afghanistan want justice and accountability. Not surprisingly, they get the usual response from NATO – an initial denial of civilian casualties, a shift of blame on insurgency, occasional investigations with an admittance to a tweaked number of civilian deaths, and rarely a contrived apology. This has become a wanton pattern. Explaining away repeated deadly civilian attacks as “mistakes” is unacceptable. Furthermore, this proves that the military solution to Afghanistan is not a viable option.

General Petraeus Testifies Before Congress
General Sees Joint Bases for Afghans After 2014

By Thom Shanker, New York Times [March 15, 2011]

---- The American commander in Afghanistan and the Pentagon’s top policy officer on Tuesday described the value of sustaining a long-term relationship with Kabul, and raised the possibility of operating joint military bases with local forces long after foreign troops are scheduled to withdraw in 2014. While the focus of the hearing was the war in Afghanistan, a central theme was the threat of ungoverned areas of Pakistan serving as havens for terrorists and insurgents. Senators from both parties pressed to find out what could be done to assist — and even compel — Pakistan to do more to rout insurgents from those areas.

See also: Ken Dilanian, “Petraeus to face Congress as Afghanistan war doubts grow,” Los Angeles Times [March 14, 2011],0... “Gen. Petraeus Reports,” Editorial from The New York Times [March 15, 2011]; and Robert Naiman, “Washington Smackdown: Petraeus vs. "Substantial Drawdown," CommonDreams [March 15, 2011] General Petraeus’s statement can be read at

The Phony July 2011 “Drawdown”

Gates Warns Against July Pullouts From Afghanistan

By Jason Ditz, [March 11, 2011]

----Just how trivial will the July “drawdown” from Afghanistan be? It remains to be seen but Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is on a whirlwind tour of the region today to ensure that it is as trivial as humanly possible. Gates warned NATO‘s European members against “ill-timed, precipitous or uncoordinated” drawdowns of troops, insisting it would reverse the mythical “gains” he and other officials keep harping on about. The Obama Administration has repeatedly promised to start the “transition” in July, but has constantly downplayed the prospect of any more than a handful of troops leaving. The date is clearly for the voters’ benefit, and the concern is that other NATO members might see it as a real, actual thing and assume they can start withdrawing too. But clearly that’s not supposed to happen. Once the July move comes and everyone is mollified (as with the August “end” to the Iraq War) everyone is supposed to forget about the massive, ever worsening war in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, when that “deadline” has to be disavowed or glossed over in some manner.

See also: Thom Shanker and Elisabeth Bumiller, “First to Leave Afghanistan Will Be Noncombat Troops,” New York Times [March 15, 2011]; and Mike Gudgell, “U.S. Commanders Want More Troops as Afghan Withdrawal Date Nears,” ABC News [March 14, 2011]

US Casualties

---- 711 Coalition soldiers were killed in 2010, including 499 US soldiers. 20 US soldiers were killed in February, and 12 have been killed in March. In total, 2,367 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,503 soldiers from the United States. 274 US soldiers were wounded in January, and 187 were wounded so far in February. The total US wounded through February 2010 was 5,226, and the number wounded since the war began was 10,468. To learn more go to and to On US wounded soldiers, see the important article by C.J.Chivers, “In Wider War in Afghanistan, Survival Rate of Wounded Rises,” New York Times [January 8, 2011]

Afghanistan Casualties
---- “Afghan civilian toll up 20 percent-U.N. report,” by Jonathon Burch, Reuters [December 21, 2010] states that “Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared with 2009, the United Nations said, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded as a result of insurgent attacks. In a quarterly report on Afghanistan this month, the United Nations said there were 6,215 civilian casualties from conflict-related incidents, including 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries, between January and the end of October this year.” For an extensive listing of casualty estimates since the war began, go to:

The Cost of the War

---- According to the website, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $387 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.166 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 two-thirds of Americans now say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting, the highest proportion yet opposed to the conflict, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The finding signals a growing challenge for President Obama as he decides how quickly to pull U.S. forces from the country beginning this summer. “Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say Afghan war isn’t worth fighting,”

Washington Post [March 15, 2011]

---- A majority of voters, for the first time, support an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan or the creation of a timetable to bring them all home within a year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% of Likely U.S. Voters now say all troops should be brought home from Afghanistan immediately, while another 21% say a firm timetable should be established to bring all troops home within a year’s time. The combined total of 52% who want the troops home within a year is a nine-point jump from 43% last September. Just 37% felt that way in September 2009. [March 7, 2011]

---- The majority 58% of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan, while only 40% support it. The 71% majority of Democrat voters and 59% majority of independent voters oppose the U.S. war, while the majority 58% of Republican voters favor the war. The CNN / Opinion Research poll was conducted January 21-23, 2011

---- US public perceptions of Pakistan and Afghanistan have sunk to new lows as the war campaign against Islamic extremism approaches its 10th year, a poll said Friday. Some 14 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Afghanistan and 82 percent hold a negative review, the Gallup poll said. For Pakistan, 18 percent saw the country favorably and 76 percent viewed it unfavorably. The views were the most negative since Gallup began asking the question. Opinion about the two nations peaked in 2005, when upwards of 40 percent of Americans saw both Afghanistan and Pakistan in a positive light.

For earlier polls:

Iraq, Afghanistan veterans struggle to find jobs

By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press [March 11, 2011]

---- More than 1 in 5 young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was unemployed last year, the Labor Department said Friday. Concerns that Guard and Reserve troops will be gone for long stretches and that veterans might have mental health issues or lack civilian work skills appear to be factors keeping the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at 20.9 percent, a slight drop from the year before, but still well over the 17.3 percent rate for non-veterans of the same age group, 18-24.

Weight Of War: Soldiers' Heavy Gear Packs On Pain

By Patricia Murphy, NPR [March 12, 2011]

----Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan routinely carry between 60 and 100 pounds of gear including body armor, weapons and batteries. After a decade of war, the number of acute injuries that have progressed to the level of chronic pain has grown significantly. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who retired with musculoskeletal conditions grew tenfold between 2003 and 2009.


Afghan Leader Questions U.S. Military Operations

By Rod Nordland, New York Times [March 12, 2011]

---- President Hamid Karzai on Saturday appeared to call for NATO and the United States to cease military operations in Afghanistan, but then issued a clarification saying that he was referring only to specific operations that had caused civilian casualties. Whether his remarks were premeditated, taken out of context or just an emotional overstatement, his speech was another symptom of a deteriorating relationship between the Afghan president and the United States military command.

Karzai: Afghan people will decide terms for US forces to remain

By Jon Boone, The Guardian [UKK] [March 8, 2011]

---- The vexed question of the terms under which US forces should remain in Afghanistan after the official pullout date of 2014 will be thrown open to the Afghan people, Hamid Karzai has promised. The issue of whether to allow permanent bases for US forces has sparked a heated debate. Anti-Americanism, fuelled by botched military operations and civilian deaths, is at an all-time high. Many religious leaders have condemned the plan.

NATO endorses plan for Afghan forces to take over several areas

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [March 11, 2011]

---- NATO defense ministers endorsed a plan Friday to hand over responsibility for security in three cities, two provinces and much of the capital to Afghan forces over the next several months, commencing the critical first step in a transition to full Afghan control by the end of 2014. The six areas include all but one district in Kabul province, which is the responsibility of Turkish forces. The list also includes the provinces of Bamiyan and Panjshir, both of which have been largely free of violence for years and are home to few foreign troops. The three cities are Herat in the west (currently the responsibility of Italian forces), Mazar-e Sharif in the north (Germany) and Lashkar Gah in the southwest (Britain). Lashkar Gar is the capital of Helmand, the country's most violent province, but the city itself has been relatively peaceful.

The politics of Afghan women's rights

By Naheed Mustafa, Foreign Policy [March 8, 2011]

---- On Jan. 10, Afghanistan's Council of Ministers, at its regular weekly meeting, decided that women's shelters needed to be brought under government control, reflecting a long-simmering discontent with women's shelters in Afghanistan. It's a discontent fanned by a media campaign spearheaded by right-wing broadcaster and ideologue, Nasto Naderi, who has pushed the idea that shelters are simply fronts for prostitution. It wasn't until several weeks later the news of the ministers' decision hit the media. Afghan President Hamid Karzai insisted that women's shelters should be brought under the control of the government. He wanted more oversight and more monitoring, despite the fact that the Afghan central government has neither the resources nor the will to run these shelters effectively. Although the shelter debacle ended in a seeming win as women's rights groups pushed the government to back off, the rights of Afghan women are more precarious than ever.

Afghanistan: A Nation of Consultants and Contractors
Afghans rely heavily on foreign advisers as transition looms

By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers [March 9, 2011]

---- Nearly 300 foreign advisers, most of them Americans, work at Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, and hundreds more work in other government departments, a reliance on foreign expertise that raises doubts about the viability of the West's exit strategy. Afghan President Hamid Karzai will announce later this month his plans for "transition" from heavy international involvement in Afghanistan's governance and security to local control. But the number of civilian advisers in the ministries suggests that either Afghans lack the ability to govern themselves or that the international community is trying to run the administration itself, more than nine years after the U.S.-led invasion of the country. There's no clear plan to reduce that number.

In Afghanistan, U.S. 'civilian surge' falls short in building local government

By Josh Boak, Washington Post [March 8, 2011]

---- Efforts to improve local government in critical Afghan districts have fallen far behind schedule, undermining President Hamid Karzai's hope to reduce the presence of U.S. advisers in the country, according to U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the program. It is now expected to take four more years to assess the needs of more than 80 "key terrain" districts where the bulk of the population lives, based on figures from Afghan officials who said that escalating violence has made it difficult to recruit civil servants to work in the field. Meanwhile, many of the U.S. experts deployed as part of a "civilian surge" to help strengthen local government remain hunkered down in the capital, Kabul, removed from the front lines where they are most needed.

See also: Agence France Press, “Private contractors at record in Afghan war: US report,” [March 7, 2011] Moshe Schwartz, Specialist in Defense Acquisition, “The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background, Analysis, and Options for Congress” [February 21, 2011]; and Ernesto Londono and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “U.S. advisers saw early signs of trouble at Afghan Bank,” Washington Post [March 15, 2011]

Winning Hearts While Flattening Vineyards Is Rather Tricky

By Carlotta Gall and Ruhullah Khapalwak, New York Times [March 12, 2011]

---- No one disputes that the campaign by NATO and Afghan forces that wrested this southern district from Taliban control last fall caused tremendous damage. The evidence is all around. In one place a whole village was destroyed. The question now is whether NATO troops can win over local people as they compensate them for damage and build new roads, which they hope will bring greater security and prosperity but which are tearing up still more property.

Putting Afghan Plan Into Action Proves Difficult

By C. J. Chivers, New York Times [March 8, 2011]

---- If the American-led fight against the Taliban was once a contest for influence in well-known and conventionally defined areas — the capital and large cities, main roads, the border with Pakistan, and a handful of prominent valleys and towns — today it has become something else. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the United States military has settled into a campaign for scattered villages and bits of terrain that few people beyond their immediate environs have heard of. In and near places like this village in Ghazni Province, American units have pushed their counterinsurgency doctrine and rules for waging war into freshly contested areas of rural Afghanistan — even as their senior officers have decided to back out of other remote areas, like the Pech, Korangal and Nuristan valleys, once deemed priorities.

What the U.S. Is Leaving Behind in Pech

By Neil Shea, Foreign Policy [March 3, 2011]

---- U.S. forces are pulling out of Pech Valley, in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province. The U.S. military once considered this harsh, mountainous terrain along the Pakistani border crucial, and it poured years of aid into the valley. Now some Afghan officials say the United States is abandoning the Pech, and they warn that new waves of Taliban fighters will swarm in. U.S. officers have, of course, described the pullout differently. Seen from above, the Pech reveals U.S. strategy in miniature.

See also: Tara Brautigam, “Canada warms to idea of arming locals as it wraps up mission in Kandahar,” The Canadian Press [March 12, 2011] and Richard Norton-Taylor, “Taliban being 'decimated' in Helmand,” The Guardian [UK] [March 15, 2011]

The war over Afghan civilian casualties

By Erica Gaston, Foreign Policy [March 8, 2011]

---- The killing of nine children, the belated apology from Petraeus, ultimately rejected by Karzai, and the cringe-worthy alleged accusations reported in the Washington Post of falsified civilian casualty claims have significantly damaged Afghan relations with international forces. Sadly, this is not an isolated case. I was in eastern Nangarhar and Laghman two weeks ago and in the 60 mile radius from where we were staying, there were attacks both by local militants and by coalition forces: five suicide bombings and two ISAF night operations took place in a span of five days. While statistics show that insurgents are responsible for the majority of civilian deaths, international military forces are still responsible for a number of civilian casualties, many of which go unreported.

NATO Troops Kill Karzai’s Cousin in Botched Night Raid

By Jason Ditz, [March 10, 2011]

---- The embarrassment and the apologies keep coming for NATO troops in Afghanistan today, after an overnight raid in the tiny village of Karz, in the Kandahar Province, attacked the home of a cousin of President Hamid Karzai. The cousin, Yar Mohammed Karzai, was 60 years old and a lifelong resident of the village, the Karzai family’s ancestoral home. He was shot in the head and killed by NATO troops. His son was briefly arrested as a suspect but later released. Troops also captured three bodyguards and two neighbors who came over to see what the ruckus was, terming them “suspected insurgents.”

See also: Alissa J. Rubin, “Taliban Causes Most Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan, U.N. Says,” New York Times [March 10, 2011] and for the UN Report, “Afghanistan Annual Report 2010: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,” [March 9, 2011] Also, Dion Nissenbaum, “Toll From Helicopter Strikes Climbs,” Wall Street Journal [March 8, 2011] and Jason Ditz, “NATO Strike Kills Two Children in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province,” [March 15, 2011]

Pakistani Nukes” The US Connection

By Conn Hallinan, Counterpunch [March 11, 2011]

New American intelligence assessments have concluded that Pakistan has steadily expanded its nuclear arsenal since President Obama came to office…for the Obama administration the assessment poses a direct challenge to a central element of the President's national security strategy, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles around the world." —New York Times

The above words, written this past February, were followed by a Times editorial, titled "Pakistan's Nuclear Folly," decrying that "the weapons buildup has gotten too little attention," and calling on Washington to "look for points of leverage" to stop it. Well, the administration and the Times may be unhappy about Pakistan's nuclear buildup, but it certainly should not have come as a surprise, nor is there much of a secret to the "points of leverage" that would almost certainly put a stopper on it: scupper the so-called 1-2-3 Agreement between the U.S. and India.

Pakistan's broken economy

By Teresita C. Schaffer, Foreign Policy [March 15, 2011]

---- Some of Pakistan's problems were spawned by the epic floods of the summer of 2010, but most have resulted from the long-standing failure of the Pakistani government to invest in its people, or from more mundane mismanagement of vital sectors, such as energy. Pakistan's economic problems will weigh especially on the urban population, adding to the country's political woes. It is the impact on the towns and cities - 36 percent of Pakistan's people, but growing at 3.5 percent a year, three times the rate of the rural areas - that presents the most acute political danger.

Speculations grow about operation in N. Waziristan

From Dawn [Pakistan] [March 13, 2011]

---- The federal government has directed the Fata Disaster Management Authority to prepare a contingency plan for thousands of families likely to be uprooted after a military operation in North Waziristan Agency, an official told Dawn on Saturday. The official said about 50,000 families (roughly 500,000 individuals) could be displaced from the agency, where speculations about the military operation against militants have been doing the rounds for quite some time. The FDMA is already looking after 148,893 registered displaced families (over 1.1 million individuals), which had been displaced due to violence and subsequent military actions in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata). About 23,505 families have been living in camps and 125,388 other displaced families have been staying with their relatives.

See also: Najam U Din, “Internal Displacement in Pakistan: Contemporary Challenges,” Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [October 2010]

The Raymond Davis Case
CIA contractor Ray Davis freed over Pakistan killings

From The BBC [March 16, 2011]

---- A Pakistani court has freed a US CIA contractor after acquitting him of two counts of murder at a hearing held at a prison in Lahore, officials say. Raymond Davis, 36, was alleged to have shot dead two men in the eastern city of Lahore in January following what he said was an attempted armed robbery.

The acquittal came when relatives of the dead men pardoned him in court. They confirmed to the judge overseeing the case that they had received compensation - known as "blood money". Under Pakistani law, relatives of a murder victim can pardon the killer. Reports say about 18 family members of the two dead men were in court on Wednesday and confirmed that they wanted Mr Davis to be freed and pardoned because they had received "blood money".

Spy Games: What's really at stake in the Raymond Davis case

By Scott Horton, Foreign Policy [March 11, 2011]

---- But in truth, what the court decides in public about Davis's fate is far less important than what the Pakistani government decides behind closed doors about one question: Is Davis's claim of diplomatic immunity valid? And that, in turn, depends on a high-stakes, cat-and-mouse game between the Pakistani and U.S. intelligence communities. Dealings between the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), have grown increasingly confrontational since Davis's arrest. Davis's fate now depends on whether the two ostensibly allied but mutually distrustful agencies can establish a new modus vivendi -- and suppress a long-smoldering quarrel that has turned lethal.

See also: Zeeshan Haider and Mubasher, “Pakistan court acquits CIA contractor after ‘blood money’ deal,” Reuters [March 16, 2011]; Mark Mazzetti, “A Shooting in Pakistan Reveals Fraying Alliance,” New York Times [March 12, 2011] and C. Christine Fair, “Spy for a spy: the CIA-ISI showdown over Raymond Davis,” Foreign Policy [March 10, 2011]

Revealed: The India Cables from WikiLeaks

By N. Ram, The Hindu [March 15, 2011]

---- Starting today, March 15, The Hindu offers its readers a series of unprecedented insights into India's foreign policy and domestic affairs, diplomatic, political, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual – encountered, observed, tracked, interpreted, commented upon, appreciated, and pilloried by U.S. diplomats cabling the State Department in Washington D.C. It covers issues and actions relating to defence cooperation, nuclear policy, arms control, terrorism, intelligence sharing, export control, human rights, Indian bureaucracy, environment, AfPak, and much more. There is a special focus on 26/11, Kashmir, India's policy towards and dealings with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, and where the Indian polity is headed.

Most of those killed in drone attacks were terrorists: military

By Zahir Shah Sherazi, Dawnn [March 9, 2011]

---- In a rather rare move, the Pakistan military for the first time gave the official version of US drone attacks in the tribal region and said that most of those killed were hardcore Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists and a fairly large number of them were of foreign origin. The Military’s 7-Dvision’s official paper on the attacks till Monday said that between 2007 and 2011 about 164 predator strikes had been carried out and over 964 terrorists had been killed. In 2009, around 20 predator strikes were carried out, killing 179 militants, including 20 foreigners, and in the following year 423 militants, including 133 foreigners, were killed in 103 strikes. In attacks till March 7 this year, 39 militants, including five foreigners, were killed.

See also: “Suspected US drone strikes kill five alleged militants in Pakistan,” Monsters and Critics [March 11, 2011]

NATO allies vow not to rush for Afghan exit

By Dan de Luce, Agence France Press [March 11, 2011]

---- NATO allies agreed Friday new rules under which they can withdraw their troops from Afghanistan as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates slammed "too much talk about leaving." He acknowledged that the more than 40 countries in the coalition fighting the Taliban had suffered higher casualties in 2010 than in any other year since the war began in 2001.


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