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Afghanistan War Weekly: March 21, 2011
While Washington was preoccupied last week with events in Japan and Libya, the war in Afghanistan rolled on. Among events of importance to the antiwar movement are:
* A resolution sponsored by Denis Kucinich and two colleagues in the House of Representatives stating that US troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2011 – if not sooner – gained 93 votes, up significantly from last year and including 40 percent of the House Democrats.
* Afghanistan’s Malalai Joya has been refused a visa by the State Department, preventing her from coming to the United States for a book-and-speaking tour. The State Department’s action may of course boomerang – giving additional publicity to Joya and her antiwar message and pointing up the hypocrisy of Obama’s “democratization” talk.
* The release of Raymond Davis, the CIA officer who killed two men in Pakistan and then was let go after paying “blood money,” may result in a severe setback for CIA operations there.
* The assassination-by-drone of 26 men in Pakistan’s border area has prompted Pakistan to pull out of scheduled talks with the United States and Afghanistan. In conjunction with the Raymond Davis case, the response to this massacre may significantly heightened opposition from Pakistan’s military to the US programs in Pakistan.
Each of these topics is discussed further in some good/useful reading linked below.
Last week, on one of the UFPJ discussion lists, Steve Burns (Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice) contributed some ideas that are worth repeating.
Economists are now estimating the direct and indirect economic costs of the Japan earthquake and tsunami as "up to $200 billion." Just to put that number into perspective, the website costofwar.com calculates the direct costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date as nearly $1.2 trillion, or six times the estimated cost of the disaster in Japan. …The money spent by Japan will be spent for constructive purposes, and will leave that country with a more modern (and hopefully more earthquake-proof) infrastructure. The more that $3 trillion we will spend on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has only produced death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, and left our own country with crumbling roads, bridges, water systems and rail systems. A 2009 report on the state of U.S. infrastructure estimated it would take $2.2 trillion to bring these systems back into a state of repair, a task that would create millions of good, family-supporting jobs. But our government is going to spend that much, and more, on war instead.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice (http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=4111) and War is a Crime (www.afterdowningstreet.org/aww).
----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Afghan Women’s Rights Hero is Latest Victim of Ideological Exclusion
By Carol Rose, The Boston Globe [March 20, 2011]
---- Malalai Joya is a 32-year-old Afghan woman named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Foreign Policy Magazine listed her on its annual list of Top 100 Global Thinkers, and last week The Guardian listed her among the "Top 100 women: activists and campaigners" in the world. So why is the U.S. State Department refusing to let Ms. Joya visit our country? Ms. Joya was scheduled to come to Boston and other U.S. cities this week – including scheduled stops at Harvard, U. Mass. Amherst, and Smith College -- as part of speaking tour to promote her book, A Woman Among Warlords, when the State Department refused to grant her an entry visa.
See also: Angela Keaton, “Anti-Taliban Women’s Activist Denied Entry to US,” Antiwar.com [March 19, 2011] http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/03/19/anti-taliban-womens-activist/
‘One Blue Sky Above Us’
By Kathy Kelly, Antiwar.com [March 19, 2011]
---- Twenty-seven international peace activists, most of them from the United States, have come to Kabul to hear youngsters whom they’ve begun to regard as brothers and sisters speak about their experiences living in a country ravaged by warfare for the past three decades. Last evening, they showed us photos of an unusual walk they’d held in the streets of downtown Kabul that morning. Dressed in white, with the young women wearing sky blue veils and the young men in the same color neck scarves, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers carried sky blue and white banners proclaiming that Peace is a Pre-Requisite for Progress. They are seeking an end to wars in their country. "Why did you choose sky blue?" I asked. "Because it shows that there is just one sky over all of us," Chahara replied. http://original.antiwar.com/kathy-kelly/2011/03/18/one-blue-sky-above-us/
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
Petraeus Tells Panel July Drawdown in Afghanistan May Include Some Combat Troops
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times [March 16, 2011]
---- Gen. David H. Petraeus told Congress on Wednesday that some American combat troops might be included in an initial withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan in July, but he said that he was still preparing options for President Obama and that no final decision had been made.
General Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, did not say how many combat troops might be withdrawn, or from which parts of the country they would come. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/world/asia/17petraeus.html?ref=world&p...
House Rejects End to Afghan War in 93-321 Vote
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [March 17, 2011]
---- A 93-321 House vote today ended the Kucinich-Jones-Paul resolution calling for an end to the nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan. The vote saw a massive majority of Republicans and a narrowing majority of Democrats approving the continuation of the conflict. The vote was surely a contentious one, and that was made all the more clear when Gen. David Petraeus took it upon himself to directly insert himself in the political debate, insisting the resolution would give “victory” to Osama bin Laden. But in the end, the House of Representatives voted, as was expected, hugely in favor of war. It was slightly closer than the 2010 version, yet it can’t be ignored that over 75% of the “representatives” still support the war when a solid 64% of American voters were shown in the most recent poll to be firmly against its continuation. http://news.antiwar.com/2011/03/17/house-rejects-end-to-afghan-war-in-93...
See also: Robert Naiman, “Petraeus: Kucinich-Jones-Paul Resolution Today Would Give Osama the Victory,” Huffington Post [March 17, 2011] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/petraeus-kucinichjonespau_b_...
The Defense Budget: Ignorance Is Not Bliss
By Winslow T. Wheeler, The Hill [March 9, 2011]
---- Polling from Pew and Gallup reveals major public misconceptions about the defense budget. Fifty-eight percent of Americans know that Pentagon spending is larger than any other nation, but almost none know it is up to seven times that of China. Most had no idea the defense budget is larger than federal spending for education, Medicare or interest on the debt. What is different, however, is that the aggressive ignorance about the defense budget is beginning to shrivel, revealing a new paradigm: the defense budget is outrageously bloated. http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=3004
By questioning Afghan war, Barbour could change the GOP debate
By Shane D'Aprile, The Hill [March 20, 2011]
---- Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) may have set the tone for the foreign policy debate in the Republican presidential nominating contest when he questioned the war in Afghanistan and its costs.
… Even as public opinion increasingly turns against the war in Afghanistan and concern over the deficit intensifies, embracing talk of defense cuts and troop pullouts may still be a bridge too far. http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-presidential-primary/150865-by-q...
U.S. Agency Ends Accounting Firm’s Afghan Contract
By Alissa J. Rubin and James Risen, New York Times [March 17, 2011]
---- The American government has terminated its contract with an international accounting firm that was providing technical advice to the Afghan banking system here because of the firm’s failure to report signs of trouble at Kabul Bank, the nation’s largest financial institution. … The 23-page report paints a portrait of an often overwhelmed Central Bank trying to determine what was really going on at Kabul Bank and receiving little support from Deloitte and its predecessor, Bearing Point. Although a huge fraud was under way that diverted $850 million to insiders, numerous red flags were overlooked by the Deloitte team. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18afghan.html?ref=world&pag...
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- 711 Coalition soldiers were killed in 2010, including 499 US soldiers. 20 US soldiers were killed in February, and 16 have been killed in March. In total, 2,373 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,507 soldiers from the United States. 274 US soldiers were wounded in January, and 187 were wounded in February. The total US wounded through February 2011 was 5,226, and the number wounded since the war began was 10,468. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org and to http://tomhayden.com/downloads/Wounded.pdf 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] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/asia/08wounded.html?_r=1&hp
---- “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.” http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-53709120101221?rpc=401&feedType=... For an investigation of how the UN undercounts Afghanistan civilian casualties, see Gareth Porter and Shah Noori, “UN Reported Fraction of Afghan Civilian Deaths in US Raids,” Antiwar.com [March 18, 2011] http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2011/03/17/un-reported-fraction-of-af.... For an extensive listing of casualty estimates since the war began, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_of_the_War_in_Afghanist...
The Cost of the War
---- According to the website www.costofwar.com, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $388 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.169 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at www.bringourwardollarshome.org/index.html
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] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/poll-nearly-two-thirds-of-americans-...
---- 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] http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/a...
---- 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 http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/02/09/rel2f.pdf
---- 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. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110211/pl_afp/uspoliticsafghanistanpakista...
For earlier polls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...
DAMAGED SOLDIERS, BROKEN ARMY
Still in the Fight: A New Reality
By Michael D. Fay, New York Times [March 15, 2011]
---- We introduce ourselves simply. We’re war artists and have been out in the fight multiple times with you guys; living under the same conditions and capturing your combat experiences in art. We then give them our basic vision of why we’re here: You guys are still in the fight and what you do every day to recover and make the absolute best of your new reality is important to your fellow Americans. The wounded Marines get it. The three Marines we’ll draw over these two days will allow us to observe and record them in what most would consider the worst possible conditions. One is paralyzed from the waist down; one has had 30 surgeries in the last nine weeks to put his face back together; and one has lost both legs mid-thigh and his right hand is virtually unusable.
THE WAR IN KABUL
Revealed: Afghan Chief Accused of Campaign of Terror Is on US Payroll
By Julius Cavendish, The Independent [UK] [March 18, 2011]
---- An Afghan warlord backed by US Special Forces faces persistent allegations that he launched a two-year spate of violence involving burglary, rape and murder of civilians, desecration of mosques and mutilation of corpses. Yet, despite repeated warnings about the atrocities Commander Azizullah is alleged to have committed, he has remained on the payroll of the US military as an "Afghan security guard", a select band of mercenaries described by some as "the most effective fighting formation in Afghanistan".http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/18-1
Afghanistan's Security Forces: Fears Grow over Transition
By John Wendle, Time [March 18, 2011]
---- Afghan members of parliament voiced concerns on Sunday, during a session of the upper house, that national security forces are not well enough trained or equipped to take over from NATO units. The statements came just one day before General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, met with U.S. President Barack Obama to speak about the coming transition. On March 21, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce the regions that will see the first handovers. http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110318/wl_time/08599205894200/print
See also: (Video) “Bamyan fears return of Taliban,” Aljazeera [March 20, 2011]
Afghanistan Plans Departure of Security Firms
By Ray Rivera, New York Times [March 16, 2011]
---- The Afghan government is planning to phase out most private security companies and replace them with its own forces over the next 12 months, according to Afghan and international officials. The timeline appears to end months of turmoil over how quickly the companies would be pushed out, and it should clear the way for projects that had been delayed by security concerns to resume development. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/world/asia/17afghanistan.html?ref=worl...
Der Spiegel publishes photos of U.S. soldiers posing with dead Afghan civilian
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post [March 20, 2011]
---- The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has published two photographs depicting U.S. Army soldiers posing next to the corpse of an Afghan civilian moments after he was killed in an incident the Army has classified as a murder. The photos are among several hundred the Army has sought to keep under wraps as it prosecutes five members of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, for the alleged murders of three unarmed Afghan civilians last year. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/der-spiegel-publishes-photos-of-us-s...
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Pressure Mounts on All Parties in Afghan War to Begin Talks
By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times [March 16, 2011]
---- As American troops press the Taliban in their desert and mountain redoubts, Western diplomats, Taliban leaders and the Afghan government have begun to take a hard look at what it would take to start a negotiation to end the fighting. Efforts to start peace talks have yielded little in the past. Nonetheless, interest in a political track is growing as pressure mounts to find a palatable way to reduce the military commitment here and as public support for the war ebbs in the United States and Europe. The “Taliban won’t go for peace talks either in Pakistan or Afghanistan,” said Hajji Qar Mohammed, a senior tribal leader in Quetta who is close to the Taliban. “In Pakistan the ISI won’t let them talk freely and say what the leadership wants, and in Afghanistan the Taliban leadership doesn’t trust Karzai’s administration,” he said. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/world/asia/17taliban.html?ref=world&pa...
See also: Mujib Mashal, “Rebranding the Taliban,” Aljazeera [March 19, 2011] http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/03/201131416292830715...
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Marines use destruction to succeed in Afghanistan
By Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press [March 18, 2011]
---- In a war where winning the hearts and minds of Afghans is the ultimate goal, damaging homes with powerful explosives and bulldozing a mosque and scores of other buildings may not sound like a wise idea. But U.S. Marines in this key Taliban sanctuary say that's sometimes the only way to make progress, even if it risks angering the same people whose loyalties are required for success — a difficult trade-off that troops have grappled with throughout Afghanistan. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110318/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan_battle_tr...
Taking the ‘War’ Out of Air War
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch [March 17, 2011]
---- Take a recent event on a distant hillside in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province where 10 boys, including two sets of brothers, were collecting wood for their families on a winter’s day when the predators — this time American helicopters evidently looking for insurgents who had rocketed a nearby American base — arrived. According to the Wall Street Journal, death by helicopter is, in fact, on the rise. It’s in the nature of this kind of warfare. In fact, Afghan civilians have repeatedly, even repetitiously, been blown away from the air, with or without apologies, since 2001. Over these years, Afghan participants at wedding parties, funerals, and other rites have, for example, been wiped out with relative regularity, only sometimes with apologies to follow.
UN Reported Fraction of Afghan Civilian Deaths in US Raids
Gareth Porter and Shah Noori, Antiwar.com [March 18, 2011]
---- The number of civilians killed in U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) raids last year was probably several times higher than the figure of 80 people cited in the U.N. report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan published last week, an IPS investigation has revealed. …The remarkably sharp rise in the number of night raids carried out by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, ISAF commander until June 2010 – and the even more spectacular increase in the raids under Petraeus – in 2010 raises serious questions about how the U.S. military could avoid a massive increase in the killing of individuals with non-military functions in the Taliban as well as people with only tangential or no connection to the insurgency. According to a document from the Afghanistan war logs released by Wikileaks last July, in October 2009, the target list for SOF night raids, called the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL), included 2,058 names. That list provided the intelligence basis for a pace of some 90 raids per month in late 2009 – a huge increase from the 20 per month just six months earlier. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2011/03/17/un-reported-fraction-of-af...
PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
The Raymond Davis Drama and its Consequences
Hushed Deal Frees C.I.A. Contractor in Pakistan
By Carlotta Gall land Mark Mazzetti, New York Times [March 16, 2011]
---- A C.I.A. security officer jailed for killing two Pakistanis on a crowded Lahore street was released Wednesday after weeks of secret negotiations between American and Pakistani officials, a pledge of millions of dollars in “blood money” to the victims’ families, and quiet political pressure by Pakistani officials on the courts. The fatal shootings by Raymond A. Davis, who was immediately flown out of the country to Kabul, Afghanistan, had ignited a furor here and brought relations between the C.I.A. and Pakistan’s spy service to perhaps their lowest ebb since the Sept. 11 attacks. American officials insisted on Wednesday that the C.I.A. made no pledges to scale back covert operations in Pakistan or to give the Pakistani government or its intelligence agency a roster of American spies operating in the country — assertions that Pakistani officials disputed. American officials impressed upon both Pakistani civilian officials and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s military chief, that Congress could decide to hold up more than $3 billion in annual aid to Pakistan if Mr. Davis were not freed. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/world/asia/17pakistan.html?hp=&pagewan...
See also: Chris Arsenault, “Spy game: The CIA, Pakistan and 'blood money',” Aljazeera [March 17, 2011] http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/03/201131713134857155... Huma Imtiaz, “Behind the scenes of Raymond Davis's release,” Foreign Policy [March 16, 2011]
http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/03/16/behind_the_scenes_of_ray... Asad Karal, “Davis acquittal: A release three weeks in the making,” Express Tribune [Pakistan] [March 17, 2011] http://tribune.com.pk/story/133738/behind-the-scenes-a-release-three-wee... and Jason Ditz, “Report: Saudi Arabia Paid Raymond Davis’ ‘Blood Money’,” Antiwar.com [March 17, 2011] http://news.antiwar.com/2011/03/17/report-saudi-arabia-paid-raymond-davi...
CIA faces reduced role in Pakistan after murder row
By Chris Allbritton, Reuters [March 17, 2011]
---- Pakistan's powerful spy agency appears to have gained the most from a CIA contractor's release, by forcing the U.S. agency to recognize its importance to the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, and curtailing American activities in Pakistan. The ISI wants the United States to rein in contractors like Davis and clear any monitoring of militant groups with it first. Pakistan is considered vital to the American-led effort to stabilize Afghanistan and prevent it from again becoming an al Qaeda sanctuary. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/17/us-pakistan-usa-idUSTRE72G2WM2...
See also: Michael Martinez, “Political impact uncertain after CIA contractor freed,” CNN [March 17, 2011] http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/16/analysis.pakistan.cia.release/
In India, Leaked Cable About Bribes Sets Off a Furor
By Jim Yardley and Lydia Polgreen, New York Times [March 17, 2011]
---- India’s Parliament erupted in outrage on Thursday over a report of an American diplomatic cable that described insiders in the governing Congress Party showing off chests of money and boasting of paying bribes to wavering lawmakers to secure passage of a critical 2008 vote on a landmark civilian nuclear deal between India and the United States. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18india.html?_r=1&ref=world...
ASSASSINATION BY DRONES
C.I.A. Drones Kill Civilians in Pakistan
By Salman Masood and Pir Zubair Shah, New York Times [March 17, 3011]
---- Several missiles fired from American drone aircraft on Thursday struck a meeting of local people in northwest Pakistan who had gathered with Taliban mediators to settle a dispute over a chromite mine. The attack, a Pakistani intelligence official said, killed 26 of 32 people present, some of them Taliban fighters, but the majority elders and local people not attached to the militants. After a pause in drone attacks from Jan. 23 to Feb. 20, the pace of attacks has picked up again this month. Some analysts attributed the lull to the C.I.A.’s not wanting to upset negotiations to free Raymond A. Davis, the C.I.A. security officer who was released on Wednesday. But American intelligence officials denied that and attributed the pause in part to poor weather. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18pakistan.html?ref=asia
See also: Sebastian Abbot, “Pakistan army chief condemns US drone attack,” Associated Press [March 17, 2011]http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/03/17/international/i100008D39.DTL; and from Reuters, “Drone strike kills 38 in Datta Khel,” Express [Pakistan] [March 17, 2011] http://tribune.com.pk/story/133842/drone-strike-kills-8-in-datta-khel/
Pakistan pulls out of talks with U.S. on Afghan war
By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times [March 19, 2011]
---- Pakistan on Friday pulled out of upcoming talks with the U.S. on the war in Afghanistan, a move meant to convey Islamabad's anger over an American drone missile strike that it says killed a gathering of civilians along the Afghan border. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/19/world/la-fg-pakistan-us-talks-20...