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Afghanistan War Weekly: March 7, 2011


The war on the ground is on pause for a few more weeks, pending melting snows and the cover provided by new greenery. This relative lull in the fighting has produced good/useful articles assessing the lack of progress in the war, and/or looking with some anxiety to the beginning of the new fighting season. NYT writer Dexter Filkins has a long review of the state of counterinsurgency, theory and practice; several other articles write about how things are going in the Sangin Valley, Marjah (Potemkin village), etc.; and two very good articles describe the systemic failures of civilian and other “aid” programs, an integral part of counterinsurgency.

The saddest story this week was the murder-by-helicopter of 9 young boys collecting firewood near their homes. Local protests and a protest in Kabul took place, Karzai denounced the US, Obama apologized, and Karzai rejected the apology. With the third massacre of civilians in two weeks (the previous one killed 65 people), Petraeus’ reckless loosening of “terms of engagement” is blowing back an angry political backlash.

We also have a cluster of informative articles on Afghanistan’s staggering corruption. Covered below are: corruption in civilian contracting, corruption in civilian aid programs, payoffs to the Taliban, corruption yet again in voting, corruption in news “management” on behalf of the US government, and the story of the arguably illegal practice in Afghanistan of using a psyops team to brief visiting congressmen.

Pakistan’s Raymond Davis trial will soon resume. Pakistan has decided that Davis doesn’t have diplomatic immunity until a court decides otherwise, and the United States continues to object. Below several analysts assess what the case is doing to US-Pakistan relations, and a very interesting article by The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson examines the New York Times’ actions to suppress, at the request of the White House, Davis’s CIA status.

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 fbrodhead@aol.com. 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)

FEATURED ESSAYS

Failing in Afghanistan successfully

By Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera [March 7, 2011]

---- In spite of its international coalition, multiple strategies, hundreds of billions of dollars, and a surge of tens of thousands of troops, the US is unable to conclude its longest war yet or at least reverse its trend.
Recent "reports" from the war front have been of two kinds. Some official or analytical in nature and heavily circulated in Washington portray a war going terribly well. On the other hand, hard news from the ground tell a story of US fatigue, backtracking and tactical withdrawals or redeployments which do not bode well for defeating the Taliban or forcing them to the negotiations' table. …But news from the war front show the Taliban unrelenting, mounting counterattacks and escalating the war especially in areas where the US has "surged" its troops. And while the majority of the 400 Afghan districts are "calmer", they remain mostly out of Kabul's control. http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/20113718714585594.html

The Next Impasse

By Dexter Filkins, New York Times [February 24, 2011]

[A review of The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan, by Bing West; and thus a review of the success or failure of the Obama/Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.]

---- In the nine years since the first American troops landed in Afghanistan, a new kind of religion has sprung up, one that promises success for the Americans even as the war they have been fighting has veered dangerously close to defeat. Follow the religion’s tenets, give yourself over to it and the new faith will reward you with riches and fruits. The new religion, of course, is counterinsurgency, or in the military’s jargon, COIN. The doctrine of counterinsurgency upends the military’s most basic notion of itself, as a group of warriors whose main task is to destroy its enemies. Under COIN, victory will be achieved first and foremost by protecting the local population and thereby rendering the insurgents irrelevant. Killing is a secondary pursuit. The main business of American soldiers is now building economies and political systems. Kill if you must, but only if you must. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/books/review/Filkins-t.html

Humanitarian War vs. Humanity

By David Swanson, Counterpunch [February 23, 2011]

---- What if the United States had provided economic aid to Iraq, Iran, and other nations in the region, and led an effort to provide them with (or at least lifted sanctions that are preventing the construction of) windmills, solar panels, and a sustainable energy infrastructure, thus bringing electricity to more rather than fewer people? Such a project could not possibly have cost anything like the trillions of dollars wasted on war between 2003 and 2010. For an additional relatively tiny expense, we could have created a major program of student exchange between Iraqi, Iranian, and U.S. schools. Nothing discourages war like bonds of friendship and family. Why wouldn't such an approach have been at least as responsible and serious and moral as announcing our ownership of somebody else's country just because we'd bombed it? http://counterpunch.org/swanson02232011.html

THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
Gates: US May Extend Afghan Mission

From Al Jazeera [March 7, 2011]

---- US military Gates said on Monday that both the US and Afghan governments agree on the US military involvement in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 end of combat operations to help train and advise Afghan forces. "Obviously it would be a small fraction of the presence that we have today, but I think we're willing to do that," Gates told a group of US troops at Bagram. Responding to a question about the possibility of a long-term military presence, Gates said that Washington and Kabul have recently begun negotiating a security partnership, however he did not give any details. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/07-1

Report: Wartime Contractors Waste, Steal Tens Of Billions -- Then Come Back For More

By Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post [February 28, 2011]

---- The chairmen of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting decried on Monday a federal system that has allowed contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan to commit fraud -- then get hired again and again. The commission last week issued a blistering interim report to Congress: "At What Risk? Correcting over-reliance on contractors in contingency operations," which concluded that "misspent dollars run into the tens of billions" out of the nearly $200 billion spent on contracts and grants since 2002 to support military, reconstruction and other U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/28/wartime-contractors-waste-billi...

The military/media attacks on the Hastings article

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon [February 27, 2011]

---- Hastings has now written another Rolling Stone article that reflects poorly on a U.S. General in Afghanistan. The new article details how Lt. Gen. William Caldwell "illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in 'psychological operations' to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war" and then railroaded the whistle-blowing officer who objected to the program. Now, the same type of smear campaign is being launched at Hastings as well as at his primary source, Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, from military officials and their dutiful media-servants.

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/27/hastings/in...

Debating the Effectiveness of Non-military Aid
Ailing aid

By Art Keller, Foreign Policy [February 24, 2011]

--- "Phantom aid" is one of the dirtiest little secrets of the aid world: most aid dollars never leave the donor country, but are instead paid straight into the bank accounts of aid agencies, lobbyists, and interest groups in the donor country, where the funds are absorbed by administrative expenses or spent purchasing goods and services for shipment to the crisis zone at exorbitant first-world rates. The average rate of "phantom aid" is 60%, but for the U.S. government-funded donations, it is closer to 80%. http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/24/ailing_aid

Ex-Pentagon adviser: U.S. should cut Afghan aid

By Bradley Klapper, Associated Press [March 2, 2011]

---- By pumping more than $100 million into a hydropower plant, the United States sought to improve the lives of Afghans and win the hearts and minds of tribesmen and farmers who might otherwise turn to the Taliban insurgency. Instead, a prominent outside Pentagon adviser argues, the bungled boondoggle ended up funding the insurgents while doing little to help the United States end the war and bring troops home. The story of the Kajaki dam, the largest U.S. aid project in Afghanistan, is emblematic of the U.S. government’s failing approach to development aid in Afghanistan. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/mar/2/ex-pentagon-adviser-us-sh...

USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
US Casualties

---- 711 Coalition soldiers were killed in 2010, including 499 US soldiers. 20 US soldiers were killed in February, and 4 have been killed in March. In total, 2,356 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,495 soldiers from the United States. 274 US soldiers were wounded in January, and 187 were wounded so far in February. The total US wounded during 2010 was 5,226, and the number wounded since the war began is 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

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.” http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-53709120101221?rpc=401&feedType=... 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 $384 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.162 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

---- 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 overwhelming 72% majority of Americans want the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to be accelerated, while only a minority 25% disagree. The clear plurality of Americans, 41%, "strongly" favor speeding up the withdrawal from Afghanistan, while only a very small 6% minority "strongly" oppose doing so. Clear majorities across the political spectrum want their government to speed up the withdrawal including 86% of Democrats, 72% of independents, and 61% of Republicans. The USA Today / Gallup poll was conducted January 14-16, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/afghanistan-withdrawal-poll-72-...

---- 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_...

THE WAR IN KABUL
How to make a killing in Kabul: Western security and a crisis in Afghanistan

By Nadene Ghouri, Daily Mail [UK] [February 28, 2011]

---- President Karzai ordered all foreign private contractors out of Afghanistan by last December, but that hasn’t happened. There are still around 60 foreign-owned private security companies operating today. In Afghanistan alone the industry employs an estimated 20,000-30,000 people, around 3,000 of them British. Ten of the firms operating there are wholly British owned, and one of them, Blue Hackle, was recently valued at an estimated £40 million. In 2008/2009 Britain paid £18.5 million to private security contractors in Afghanistan. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1360216/How-make-killing...

See also: Jon Boone, “Afghanistan Lets Blackwater Stay Despite Shakeup of Security Contractors,” The Guardian [March 7, 2011] http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/07-4

US, Nato forces are making deals with Taliban

From The News [Pakistan] [March 1, 2011]

---- American, Nato and Afghan forces in Afghanistan are seriously worried of the heightened activities of the Taliban. To save themselves, they are engaged in unsoldierly businesses. Now the US and Nato forces are in deals with warlords and Taliban to keep them dormant, thus indirectly funding the Taliban fighting potential. A well-placed Afghan official, based in Kabul, has startling disclosures about the underhand deals and concessions offered to Taliban in various provinces of Afghanistan. The US and Nato are fighting Taliban freedom fighters on one hand but at the same time paying huge amount of cash and weapons to Taliban to buy local safety and safe passages. http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=33676&Cat=2&dt=3/1/2011

Vote recounts underway in 10 Afghan provinces

By Heidi Vogt, Associated Press [February 28, 2011]

---- Vote recounts that could throw doubt on the legitimacy of Afghanistan's parliament are under way in 10 provinces even as the legislature starts work with its newly elected speaker, election officials said Monday. Afghanistan's parliament — one of few checks on the administration of President Hamid Karzai — was finally inaugurated in late January after months of investigations and debate over allegations of widespread fraud during the polling. … The recounts are considered illegal by election officials and international advisers, but the tribunal insists that it has the power to overturn results and even order entire provinces to revote. Karzai — who is widely seen as unhappy with the new parliament — has said that he expects the special court to act legally, but has not held it back from conducting recounts.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/02/28/internationa...

NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
International meeting agrees to step up Afghan political push

From Reuters [March 3, 2011]

---- An international conference on Afghanistan agreed on Thursday to step up efforts to reach a settlement to the Afghan war by shifting toward a political rather than military approach to Afghanistan.

"We want to rebalance the focus we had so far on the military approach," Michael Steiner, Germany's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who chaired the meeting, said. "... It does not suffice because there will be no military solution ... we need to put more emphasis on the political approach. We need to rebalance the focus from military to political." The meeting of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan was hosted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and attended by more than 40 countries in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110303/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_oic/print

See also: “Afghans, Western Backers in Contact with Taliban – Karzai,” Reuters [March 2, 2011]

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2011/03/02/world/asia/international-us-af...

THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Marines await Taliban move in deadly Afghan valley

By Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press [March 4, 2011]

----The battle for control of Sangin looms large in the minds of U.S. commanders because the district is a narcotics hub that helps fund the Taliban and a crossroads for funneling weapons and fighters into Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual heartland. Sangin was the deadliest district for the coalition in Afghanistan last year, according to NATO. The British lost over 100 troops here in four years of fighting — nearly one-third of their deaths in the war — and when they handed Sangin over to the Marines in September, the Taliban effectively controlled almost all the district. The Marine battalion currently in Sangin arrived in October and together with smaller units attached to it has waged over 500 firefights and sustained over 30 deaths, with another 175 wounded, many from homemade bombs hidden in fields and mud-walled compounds. In November, when this reporter was last in the district, insurgents were repeatedly attacking the main base next to the district center, and even in the bazaar, considered the safest place in Sangin, Marines had to throw smoke grenades to thwart snipers. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110304/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan_violent_v...

See also: Joshua Partlow, “U.S. expects Afghan Taliban will launch spring campaign to regain lost ground,” Washington Post [March 3, 2011] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/03/AR201103... and Sebastian Abbot, Tribal peace deal in Afghanistan on shaky ground,” Associated Press [March 1, 2011] http://ap.stripes.com/dynamic/stories/A/AS_AFGHANISTAN_TRIBAL_PEACE?SITE...

(Video) Living in fear of the Taliban

From Al Jazeera [March 7, 2011] – 3 minutes

---- The international forces have made some progress in securing areas of Afghanistan and training Afghan forces to take over security in their country. However, the violence continues, and as Al Jazeera's Sue Turton discovered in Zharay district, west of Kandahar city, many civilians in Kandahar province are still living in fear of the Taliban. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2011/03/20113716253186765.html

‘Surge’ Hasn’t Slowed Onslaught of Afghan Bombs

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [March 2, 2011]

---- The leader of the Pentagon’s $19 billion bomb squad has many ways to measure how the war in Afghanistan is going. One is to count the number of things that go boom. And by that measure, the war isn’t going well at all – despite a “surge” of thousands of fresh American troops and a fresh strategy that puts a premium on wiping out militant networks. In January 2011, there were 1,344 bombs discovered or detonated in Afghanistan. That’s essentially the same number of explosives as there were seven months earlier, in June of 2010. Yet wintertime is ordinarily when there’s a lull in Afghanistan’s fighting. (For perspective, in all of 2005, there were only 465 homemade insurgent bombs discovered countrywide.) http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/03/afghan-war-still-fubar-pentagons...

New militia brings security, and worries, to Marjah, Afghanistan

By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers [March 1, 2011]

[FB – As a “showcase,” Marjah is more of a Potemkin village than an actual success story. In the case of the local militia described below, the annual cost of this activity is 800 militia x $150/month x 12 months, or $1,440,000. And this is only for 60 percent of the 53 districts in Marjah. While this is affordable for Daddy Warbucks, it is far too expensive to be sustained if/when the Americans leave.]

---- The Marines have to get Marjah right. This previously obscure town is the showcase for the revamped U.S. counter-insurgency strategy, after a massive Marine-led offensive that took Marjah from the Taliban in February 2010. However, critics suggest that the U.S. is creating unsustainable security bubbles in places like Marjah. The idea of the ISCI [Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure], which is unique to Marjah, is simple enough: develop a local force that can instantly recognize Taliban trying to infiltrate back. The Marines excitedly compare it to the “sons of Iraq,” the movement that started in 2005 and played a key role in separating the people from the insurgents in Iraq. The Marines raised and finance the ISCI and oversee their training. But already, the concept is controversial.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/03/01/v-print/109644/new-militia-brings-...

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood Killed by NATO Helicopters

By Alissa J. Rubin and Sangar Rahimi, New York Times [March 2, 2011]

---- Nine boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the eastern Afghanistan mountains were killed by NATO helicopter gunners. The boys, who were 9 to 15 years old, were attacked on Tuesday in what amounted to one of the war’s worst cases of mistaken killings by foreign-led forces. The victims included two sets of brothers. A 10th boy survived. It was the third instance in two weeks in which the Afghan government has accused NATO of killing civilians. NATO strongly disputes one of those reports, but another — the killing of an Afghan Army soldier and his family in Nangarhar Province on Feb. 20 — was also described as an accident. More than 200 people gathered in Nanglam on Wednesday to protest the boys’ deaths, witnesses said. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/world/asia/03afghan.html?adxnnl=1&ref=...

(Video) Apology for Afghan child deaths; Locals angered by deadly air raid

From Al Jazeera [March 3, 2011] – 3 minutes

---- Nine children have been killed in a NATO air raid in Afghanistan's Kunar province. They were out collecting firewood on Tuesday when they were struck down in the Pech valley area. Afghan officials say as many as 65 civilians were killed in another air raid in February, claims that Petraeus have denied. Al Jazeera's Sue Turton visited the village in Pech valley where the latest deaths occurred.. http://english.aljazeera.net/video/asia/2011/03/2011339502683263.html

(Video) NATO Gunships Kill 9 Afghan Children

From Democracy Now! [March 3, 2011] – 10 minutes

---- NATO helicopter gunships killed nine young boys in Afghanistan on Tuesday while they collected firewood in the northeastern province of Kunar. It was at least the third instance in two weeks in which the U.S.-led NATO force was accused of killing a large number of civilians. We speak with independent journalist Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films, who has extensively reported in Afghanistan. "The strategy on which the surge was built, and billed, is over and has failed," Rowley says. "By every measurable means, the U.S. is losing the war."

See also: (Video) “NATO Gunships Kill 9 Afghan Children,” Democracy Now! [March 3, 2011] – 3 minutes – http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/3/us_apologizes_to_afghan_people_for\; “Obama Says He Deeply Regrets Afghan Civilian Deaths,” Reuters [March 3, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2011/03/03/us/politics/politics-us-afghan... Alissa J. Rubin, “Afghan Leader Calls Apology in Boys’ Deaths Insufficient,” New York Times [March 6, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/world/asia/07afghanistan.html?ref=world; and “Afghans protest over child deaths in NATO raid,” Agence France Press [March 6, 2011] http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110306/wl_asia_afp/afghanistanunrestnatoci...

NATO Air Strike Kills Four Guards in Southern Afghanistan

By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [March 2, 2011]

---- Fresh off of admissions that NATO had launched an air strike in the eastern province of Kunar that killed nine children gathering firewood, police in the southwestern province of Helmand say that NATO air stirkes killed four security guards there as well. The strike took place in Helmand’s Gerishk District, and NATO says that they were targeting “suspected militants” they thought were involved in a previous strike on a ground patrol. Instead, they hit the security guards for a road construction crew, killing four and wounding another. http://news.antiwar.com/2011/03/02/nato-air-strike-kills-four-guards-in-...

PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Gunmen Kill Pakistani Cabinet Minister

By Salman Masood and Jane Perlez, New York Times [March 2, 2011]

---- The only Christian minister in the Pakistan government was shot dead by assailants as he left his home in the capital Wednesday morning to attend a cabinet meeting, an attack strikingly similar to the killing two months ago of another senior politician holding liberal views. Mr. Bhatti, like Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was gunned down Jan. 4, had campaigned for the reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The law, introduced in the 1970s, calls for the death penalty for those accused of speaking against the Prophet Muhammad. In a sign of the retreat of the ruling party on the question of enacting more tolerant laws, Prime Minister Gilani pledged in Parliament earlier this year that the government had no intention of pursuing the reform agenda on the blasphemy laws. An alliance of conservative religious parties showed their strength in the major cities in early February, staging rallies of tens of thousands that called the government lackeys of the United States, and too reliant on a reform agenda. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/world/asia/03pakistan.html?ref=world

Pakistan spends 7 times more on arms than on schools

By Amin Ahmed, Dawn [Pakistan]

---- The discrepancy between primary education and military expenditure is so large that just one-fifth of Pakistan’s military spending would be sufficient to finance the universal primary education, asserts the `Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report 2011` published on Tuesday. It said that diversion of national resources to the military and loss of government revenue meant that armed conflict shifted the responsibility for education financing from government to households. The report called on national governments and donors to urgently review the potential for converting unproductive spending on weapons into productive investment in schools. http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/02/pakistan-spends-7-times-more-on-arms-than...

A Return to Hell in Swat

By Tara McKelvey, Foreign Policy [March 2, 2011]

---- The reality of the last year in Swat is quite different. Instead of curing the disease, Pakistan's supposed counterinsurgency attack has in some ways only fed it. And America is continuing to funnel money to a government with no intention of using it to fight the terrorists in its midst. Talk to people like the Swat commando, and it's clear that plenty of Pakistanis in the Swat Valley and elsewhere truly want the area to remain peaceful and for the terrorist attacks that have been roiling the rest of the country to stop. No one wants to go back to hell. So why is the Swat Valley -- and Pakistan -- having so much trouble avoiding doing that? http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/02/a_return_to_hell_in_swat

U.S. And NATO Escalate World's Deadliest War On Both Sides Of Afghan-Pakistani Border

By Rick Rozoff, OpEd News [March 1, 2011]

http://www.opednews.com/articles/U-S-And-NATO-Escalate-Wor-by-Rick-Rozof...

Anger as Pakistan announces oil and petrol price rise

From The BBC [March 1, 2011]

---- Pakistan has increased fuel prices by almost 10%, sparking an outcry from political groups. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) announced a 9.9% rise in the price of petrol products. A government ally, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), has threatened "suitable action" if the rise is not withdrawn within three days. In January a fuel price hike was reversed after the MQM quit the ruling alliance to protest against it. The government lost its majority in parliament and had to concede to demands to reverse the rise or the prime minister would be subject to a vote of no confidence. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12599731

The Raymond Davis Case
Pakistani Court Delays Murder Charges Against American

By Jane Perlez, New York Times [March 3, 2011]

---- A criminal court agreed on Thursday to delay pressing murder charges against the C.I.A. operative, Raymond L. Davis, ruling that lawyers for Mr. Davis should have more time to prepare for the case.

Judge Ojla agreed to postpone the hearing until March 8. In a separate proceeding, the Lahore High Court is scheduled to hear a decision by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry on March 14 on the question of diplomatic immunity. The Obama administration has insisted that Mr. Davis, a former Special Forces soldier who worked as a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan is a diplomat, and as such is protected by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 that grants blanket immunity from prosecution to diplomats. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/world/asia/04davis.html?ref=world

See also: Conn Hallinan, “Raymond Davis Incident Shows How Tangled U.S.-Pakistan Web Is,” Foreign Policy in Focus [February 28, 2011], http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/02/28-6; “Forty-five arrested for having links with Davis,” Dawn [Pakistan] [February 28, 2011] http://www.dawn.com/2011/02/28/investigation-scope-broadened-in-davis%E2... Michael Kugelman, “The U.S.-Pakistan relationship in disarray,” Foreign Policy [March 1, 2011] http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/03/01/the_us_pakistan_relation... and Dave Lindorff, “Blowback From the Arrest of the CIA's Raymond Davis,” Counterpunch [March 2, 2011] http://counterpunch.org/lindorff03022011.html

Keeping Quiet About Davis

By Amy Davidson, The New Yorker [February 28, 2011]

---- The column by the Times’s Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, on the case of Raymond Davis—the man who reportedly had some connection to the C.I.A. and is now in Pakistani custody after killing two men who, he has said, he thought were thieves—is genuinely puzzling. The Times reported last week that it had kept silent about Davis’s C.I.A. connection. … The Times acceded to the Obama Administration’s wishes, as did the Washington Post and the A.P. Brisbane concludes that “the Times did the only thing it could do,” even though “in practice, this meant its stories contained material that, in the cold light of retrospect, seems very misleading.” So the “only thing” the Times could do was be “misleading”? .. Who was the intended audience, or, rather, non-audience, for the silence? Put differently, who was this supposed to be kidding? http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/closeread/2011/02/keeping-quiet-ab...

Same Cover, Same Lies: I Had Ray Davis's Job, in Laos 30 Years Ago
By Robert Anderson, Counterpunch [February 28, 2011]

---- The story of Raymond Allen Davis is one familiar to me and I wish our government would quit doing these things - they cost us credibility. … I was a demolitions technician with the Air Force who was reassigned to work with the CIA’s Air America operation in Laos. We turned in our military IDs cards and uniforms and were issued a State Department ID card and dressed in blue jeans. We were told if captured we were to ask for diplomatic immunity, if alive. We carried out military missions on a daily basis all across the countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. http://counterpunch.org/anderson02282011.html

NATO AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR

MPs critical of Britain's policy in Afghanistan

By Julian Borger, The Guardian [March 2, 2011]

---- Counter-insurgency measures in Afghanistan are not working and could be counter-productive unless the US and its allies start peace talks with the Taliban, a parliamentary committee report will say today.

The cross-party report, by the Tory-led foreign affairs committee, follows a seven-month enquiry and argues that Britain's policy in Afghanistan is flawed. It suggests that the justification for fighting the war – to eliminate Afghanistan as a base for al-Qaida – "may have been achieved some time ago" and it questions whether the sacrifices of the armed services in Afghanistan "have a direct connection to the UK's core objective". http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/mar/02/mps-britain-policy-afghan...

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Hopefully Davis' arrest will also blow the lid off the CIA "freedom fighters" in the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), who are responsible for much of the violence on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Owing to their heavy dependence on the US for political and economic aid, the Pakistani government has always tiptoed around the CIA training camps in Balochistan where young Baloch separatists are being trained. This seems to be changing, with an order by the Pakistani government demanding all Xe (Blackwater) agents be expelled and a new investigation of 414 Americans with diplomatic passports who serve no diplomatic function. (see http://realisticbird.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/blowback-from-the-arrest-o... )

The Pentagon/CIA make no secret of their desire to see energy and mineral rich Balochistan secede from Pakistan to become a US client state - just like energy and mineral rich Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the other former Soviet republics.

Moreover there’s no way to ascertain whether random acts of terror in the border regions are caused by the Taliban, Al Qaeda or the CIA-funded BLA. However there's no question that CIA-sponsored BLA terrorism is responsible for much of the violence - especially around the Chinese-built port in Gwadar, Pakistan (employed to offload Iranian oil destined for China).

I blog about this at www.stuartbramhall.com

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