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Afghanistan War Weekly: November 1, 2010
The propaganda campaign that falsely claimed serious discussions with the Taliban were going on makes me wonder whether the White House and the military/Petraeus were on the same page. Anonymous “sources” denied that negotiations were going on almost as soon as the New York Times announced its scoop. Now “sources” claim that the object of the disinformation was to confuse the Taliban; but the Taliban announced almost at once that the negotiations story was a lie, and there are no signs that lower-level Taliban commanders were fooled either. Perhaps the disinformation was actually aimed at the US and Europe, with the goal of getting a good grade from Obama’s December review of the war, and perhaps some support from the NATO political and military leaders who are to meet later this month in Lisbon to evaluate the war and hear US pleas for more help. I think there’s a lot about this “negotiations” story that we don’t know yet.
I think the likelihood of greater Russian involvement in the war – to be announced formally at the Lisbon conference – is a major change in the geopolitical battlefield. Originally determined to keep Russia at arms length, the US and NATO now need Russian help to overcome their supply-route problems. Several British articles linked below give us more info on this subject than I’ve seen in the US media. In other important developments this week, Afghanistan’s election commission has once again postponed announcing the results of the election, as evidence of fraud and corruption continues to grow; the US auditor has been churning out reports about corruption and money mismanagement in US development projects; and there is growing skepticism that the recent US sweeps through the Kandahar region have been militarily effective.
Among the good/useful articles linked below, I especially encourage taking a look at Arundhati Roy’s speech about the dangerous attacks that are threatening her in India; Ann Jones’ article about being embedded with one of the new units of female soldiers who are supposed to relate to Afghan women; Jerica Arents’ totally different look at relating to women in Afghanistan; Linda Bilmes’ explanation about how the war may end up costing $6 trillion; and two news articles that explain how ordinary US soldiers became assassins for sport in the Stryker battalion.
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 email@example.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)
How the Wars Are Sinking the Economy
By Linda Bilmes, The Daily Beast [October 27, 2010]
---- As Election Day draws near, it's pretty clear: Voters are worried about jobs, the budget deficit and the rising national debt. But behind those issues—behind the ads and candidates' speeches, behind the rhetoric about "out-of-control" government spending—there lurks a hidden, less-talked-about issue: the cost of the ongoing wars. Already, we've spent more than $1 trillion in Iraq, not counting the $700 billion consumed each year by the Pentagon budget. And spending in Iraq and Afghanistan now comes to more than $3 billion weekly, making the wars a major reason for record-level budget deficits. Two years ago, Joseph Stiglitz and I published The Three Trillion Dollar War in which we estimated that the budgetary and economic costs of the war would reach $3 trillion. Taking new numbers into account, however, we now believe that our initial estimate was far too conservative—the cost of the wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-10-27/the-economic-c...
The Women's Harvest
By Jerica Arents, Znet [October 31, 2010]
---- After a week visiting Bamiyan, a rural Afghan Province, one thing has been made abundantly clear to me: the experience of being a woman in this country is much different than being a woman in the United States. Here, the inescapable and indelible fact of gender colors social interactions, far more so than back home. But being a woman has also created safe spaces of inclusion within the village’s maternal system, from which I would have otherwise been kept at a distance. Time and time again, after meeting with the men in the family, I was led into a separate room to visit with the women, who had gathered there and were waiting eagerly for us with their children. Immediately, an exchange began, a series of greetings, smiles, thanksgivings, and comments about the style of my clothes, quality of my hands, or strangeness of my backpack. Daughters and granddaughters would join us, children at their feet, each little face more beautiful than the last. http://www.zcommunications.org/the-womens-harvest-by-jerica-arents
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
Is the Pentagon Deliberately "Degrading" Afghanistan's Capacity for Peace?
By Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy [October 29, 2010]
---- On Wednesday, the Washington Post carried a remarkable article reporting that according to U.S. government assessments, the U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan has failed. So, since the policy of military escalation has failed, according to the U.S. government's own assessments, we should expect that in December, when President Obama promised that the policy will be reviewed, we should see a fundamental change in policy. Right? But, according to the same Washington Post report, "no major change in strategy is expected in December." How could it be, that the policy has failed, according to official U.S. government assessments, and yet no change is expected when the promised review occurs? http://www.zcommunications.org/is-the-pentagon-deliberately-degrading-af...
What Are They Hiding? Obama Administration Defending Black Site Prison at Bagram Airbase
By Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening [October 28, 2010]
---- A victory for the government in a federal court in New York City Monday marks another slide deeper into Dick Cheney’s “dark side” for the Obama Administration. In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been seeking to force the Pentagon to provide information about all captives it is holding at its huge prison facility at Bagram Airbase outside Kabul in Afghanistan, Federal District Judge Barbara Jones of the Southern District of New York has issued a summary judgement saying that the government may keep that information secret. The lingering question is: Why does the US government so adamantly want to hide information about where captives were first taken into military custody, their citizenship, the length of their captivity, and the circumstances under which they were captured? http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/28-2
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- 50 U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan during October, bringing the number of US soldiers killed in 2010 to 413. Additionally, 14 soldiers from other Coalition countries were killed in October. This brings the total number of US deaths in Afghanistan to 1,360, and the total number of Coalition deaths is 2,181. The number of US soldiers wounded in July 2010 (the latest figures available) was 576, the highest monthly total so far. This brings the total US wounded since the war began to 7,266. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org. See also: Salah Hemeid, “Death and body bags,” Al-Ahram [October 20, 2010] http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/1020/re3.htm
---- 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] http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41084.pdf, where the sources for the figures can be found.
According to the Afghanistan Ministry of the Interior, during the past six months 1,119 civilians were killed and 2,473 were wounded, while 959 police were killed and 2,473 were wounded. The Ministry claimed 4,012 insurgent attacks during the six-month period. Also, 3,098 insurgents were killed, 2,800 were arrested, and 632 were wounded. [FB - The “killed” to “wounded” insurgent ratio raises some questions.] http://www.juancole.com/2010/09/afghan-villagers-demonstrate-against-us-...
---- According to an on-going study by the New America Foundation, the United States has launched 93 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 189. The study states that between 1,223 and 1,885 people have been killed, according to “reliable press accounts.” Of these, the study estimates that two-thirds of the deaths have been “militants” and about one-third were “civilians.” NB the “estimating” and labeling is usually done by local government and/or military personnel; local civilians often give much higher numbers for civilian deaths. The study can be read at http://counterterrorism.newamerica.net/drones 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] http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0714_targeted_killings_byman.aspx...
The Cost of the War
---- According to the website www.costofwar.com, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $359 billion, and the total for both wars is $1.098 trillion. [Last week’s numbers.] 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
---- Sixty percent of Americans believe the US war in Afghanistan is a lost cause, up from 55% in July. Only 31 percent still think the US can win the war. From a Bloomberg National Poll conducted October 7-10, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...
---- Nearly six in 10 Americans continue to oppose the war in Afghanistan amid a growing pessimism about the situation the United States faces in that country, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that 44 percent of the public believes things are going well for the United States in Afghanistan, down from 55 percent in March.
According to the poll, 58 percent of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan. [September 29, 2010] http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/09/29/afghanistan.poll/
---- American support for the war in Afghanistan has never been lower, according to the latest CNN polling. Only 37% of all Americans favor the war, 52% say the war in Afghanistan has turned into a Vietnam. In a September poll by CNN and Opinion Research, only 9% of respondents thought the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the most important problem facing the country, 49% thought the economy mattered most. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/15/what-the-numbers-say-abo...
Winning the War in Afghanistan at $50 Million per Kill
By Nicholas C. Arguimbau, Counterpunch [October 28, 2010]
[FB – In the mid-1960s, a good antiwar point was that it was costing the US $1 million for each “Viet Cong” killed. What we have here is a serious case of inflation.]
---- Michael Nasuti of Kabul Press recently published an article in which he calculated that killing each Taliban soldier in Afghanistan costs on average of $50 million to the US. He points out that at this rate, killing the entire Taliban forces (only 35,000) would cost $1.7 trillion. http://counterpunch.org/arguimbau10282010.html
DAMAGED SOLDIERS, BROKEN ARMY
Stryker unit sought to defend killing at heart of Afghan murder probe
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post [October 26, 2010]
---- "We didn't just [expletive] come over here and just shoot him randomly. And we don't do that."
In fact, Army charging documents now allege, that's exactly what soldiers in the platoon did - in perhaps the gravest war crime charges to emerge from the nine-year Afghan conflict. According to the documents, the cleric's death culminated a months-long conspiracy in which members of a unit of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division randomly targeted and killed three unarmed Afghan men, dismembered corpses and posed for grisly photographs with their victims. The attempts to defend the May 2 shooting are detailed in previously undisclosed audio recordings made by a photojournalist embedded with the unit. The recordings, obtained by The Washington Post, demonstrate the extent to which the platoon was concerned about how the killing was perceived among Afghans. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/25/AR201010...
See also: Anna Mulrine, “Pentagon had red flags about command climate in 'kill team' Stryker brigade,” Christian Science Monitor [October 28, 2010] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2010/1028/Pentagon-had-red-flags-a... and Elisabeth Bumiller, “Army Studies Thrill-Seeking Behavior,” New York Times [October 30, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/us/31memo.html?_r=2&emc=eta1
THE WAR IN KABUL
Afghans Blast Pakistan Over Insurgent Fight
By Yaroslav Trofimov and Maria Abi-Habib, Wall Street Journal [October 27, 2010]
---- Senior Afghan officials pressed the U.S. at a closed-door strategy session to force Pakistan to crack down on insurgents on its territory, saying recent military gains will be short-lived as long as these havens remain across the border. Also Wednesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai yielded to Western pressure and postponed by at least two months the implementation of his decree to ban private security companies that protect development and aid organizations. The extension follows tense negotiations between Mr. Karzai and Western officials concerned that the ban on security firms will disrupt development projects that are crucial for the counterinsurgency strategy. The Kabul meeting, known as the Rehearsal of Concept Drill, was aimed at coordinating the war effort for the coming year. The meeting brought together senior officials from the U.S., Afghanistan and Western nations. It was attended by U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke, coalition forces commander Gen. David Petraeus and President Barack Obama's special assistant for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.
The Election for Parliament Saga Continues
The American Midterm Election -- in Afghanistan
By Ann Jones, TomDispatch [October 28, 2010]
---- Afghanistan still awaits final results from the nationwide election held last month to fill the 249 seats of the lower house of parliament. Deciding which of the more than 2,500 candidates won takes time because the Electoral Complaints Commission that investigates voting irregularities, made up of five men handpicked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was swamped by more than 4,200 complaints. Last week the chairman of the Independent Election Commission, an oversight body also selected by President Karzai, announced that it would throw out as invalid almost a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast. Until that moment Afghans, who aspire to democracy, had hoped for a more honest election than the charade that returned Karzai to power in 2009. No such luck. The partial results of this one look just as bad as the presidential vote, with roughly the same percentage of ballots invalidated. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/28-3
See also: Sayed Salahuddin, “Afghan watchdog voices concern over poll turnout,” Reuters [October 28, 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101028/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_election/print
Private Security Companies: The Back Story
U.S.-employed Afghan security firms often benefit Taliban insurgents
Anand Gopal, Christian Science Monitor [October 28, 2010]
---- In a wood-paneled office here in the dusty fringes of Kabul, Hajji Shirin Dil feverishly works the phones. He shouts orders into one receiver as he dials another phone, while aides wait patiently to speak to him. He could be a Wall Street day trader, if not for the sleepy gunmen by his side. Instead, Dil owns a profitable logistics company and is cutting deals with various warlords, whose private security companies protect his trucks carrying vital provisions to the foreign troops. But a recent pledge by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to ban security companies threatens to grind this business to a halt, and in the process calls attention to the foreign forces' reliance on a complex network of private companies and local strongmen to protect their supply lines. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/10/28/v-print/102785/us-employed-afghan-...
See also: Alissa J. Rubin, “Karzai Rails Against America in Diatribe,” New York Times [October 25, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/26/world/asia/26karzai.html; and Rubin, “Karzai Delays Order to Ban Private Security Companies,” New York Times [October 27, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/28/world/asia/28afghan.html?ref=world&pag...
Awash in an Ocean of Money
Karzai and the Iranian Slush Pile
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [October 26, 2010]
---- The revelation that Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai receives millions in influence peddling payments from Iran is full of ironies. It demonstrates that the US and Iran are de facto allies in Afghanistan (in fact both of them are deeply opposed to the Taliban and their backers among hard line cells of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence). US military spokesmen have sometimes attempted to make a case that Iran is helping the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-killing, anti-Karzai Taliban, which is not very likely to be true or at least not on a significant scale (why undermine the Karzai government, which Tehran clearly likes just fine, even if there are Tajik leaders it might slightly prefer?) http://www.juancole.com/2010/10/karzai-and-the-iranian-slush-pile.html
See also: Tom Engtelhardt, “A Democracy of Bags Stuffed with Cash,” TomDispatch [October 29, 2010]
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/29; and Dexter Filkins and Alissa J. Rubin, “Afghan Leader Admits His Office Gets Cash from Iran,” New York Times [October 26, 2010]
Untold Millions in Afghan Aid MIA
By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [October 29, 2010]
---- One indicator of how the U.S. throws money down the black hole known as the Afghanistan government: no one can tell how much money it’s paid to literally thousands of Afghan government workers. According to a new report from the U.S.’ independent Afghanistan-reconstruction auditor, American agencies spent at least three years paying Afghan government officials and “technical advisers” off the books — outside official channels and without “collecting any information” on who they paid and how much they doled out. The Afghan Ministry of Finance estimates that U.S. and international donors pay $45 million annually to support 6,600 government employees and advisers, but that’s an undercount, reliant on “incomplete data.” Just this year, after the Ministry demanded the U.S. start a tally of who it pays, at least 900 government officials received U.S. cash, totaling $1 million each month. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/10/untold-millions-in-afghan-aid-mi...
See also: Nathan Hodge, ”U.S. Bonuses Wildly Boost Pay In Kabul, Audit Finds,” By Nathan Hodge, Wall Street Journal [October 29, 2010] PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Pakistan Still Balking at US Demands for North Waziristan Invasion
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar [October 29, 2010]
---- Though the Obama Administration continues to ratchet up pressure on the Pakistani government to launch a massive invasion of the North Waziristan Agency, the largely uncontrolled region in which US drone strikes have become an almost daily occurrence, the Pakistani government is still said to be rejecting the calls, insisting the US demands won’t “rush” them into launch the long-promised offensive.…. Pakistan’s government is also reported to be keen on seeing Haqqani included in the much-vaunted Afghanistan peace process…. With officials now insisting the lies about the talks were part of a NATO scheme to harm Taliban morale, the claims may have also had the side effect of giving Pakistan yet another reason to balk at the invasion the US wants most of all. http://news.antiwar.com/2010/10/29/pakistan-still-balking-at-us-demands-...
See also: Michael Georgy, “Pakistan says time not right for anti-Taliban assault,” Reuters [October 26, 2010] http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69P2W620101026; ;and Saeed Shah,
Despite U.S. aid pledge, Pakistan plans no new offensives,” McClatchy Newspapers [October 29, 2010] http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/10/29/v-print/102880/despite-us-aid-pled...
Drowning humanitarian aid
By Christopher Stokes, Foreign Policy [October 27, 2010]
---- Barely hidden beneath the surface of Pakistan's worst flooding in living memory were the geopolitical stakes shaping both the justifications for official Western assistance and how aid was delivered to victims of the disaster. The perverse result may be a further restricting of the ability of humanitarian aid workers to assist the Pakistani population in the most volatile areas of the country. I have just returned from Pakistan where I visited flood zones and discussed with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff the relief effort and its implications for humanitarian aid in the country. While the primary responders to this crisis have been the communities themselves, MSF has 1,200 Pakistani and 135 international staff providing assistance in 15 locations throughout the country. Unfortunately, what I learned through my visit is that the politicization of the flood assistance effort from Western donors has only deepened long-held Pakistani suspicions of the intentions of foreign aid. http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/27/drowning_humanitarian_aid
India, Afghanistan, and Kashmir
India in Afghanistan: strategic interests, regional concerns
By Christine Fair, Foreign Policy [October 26 & 27, 2010]
---- India's interests in Afghanistan are not only Pakistan-specific but equally, if not more importantly, tied to India's desire to be and to be seen as an extra-regional power moving toward great power status. Thus while India's presence in Afghanistan has Pakistan-specific utility it is also about India's emergent ability to influence its extended strategic neighborhood. American officials are often unaware of how Indians conceive of their neighborhood. Indian policy analysts claim that India's strategic environment stretches to the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf in the west (some will even claim the eastern coast of Africa as the western-most border of this strategic space); to the east, it includes the Strait of Malacca and extends up to the South China Sea; to the north, it is comprised of Central Asia; and to the south, it reaches out to Antarctica. http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/26/india_in_afghanistan_part_1_strategic_interests_regional_concerns’ and Part II “Indo-US Relations in the Lengthening Afpak Shadow,”
A Response to the Threat of Arrest for Sedition
By Arundhati Roy, CommonDreams [October 26, 2010]
---- I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning's papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/26-10
Why Does Distance Ameliorate a War Crime?
By Hiroaki Sato, Japan Times [October 31, 2010]
[FB – By agreement in 1945, bombing civilians was excluded from the crimes adjudicated at Nuremberg, because both the United States and Britain, as well as Germany and Japan, had engaged in massive civilian bombing, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.]
---- One aspect of the modern sense of war, be it delusional, duplicitous or both, was palpable in two articles paired at the top of the front page of The New York Times toward the end of September. The headline of one said "Drug Use Cited In Killings of 3 Civilians"; the headline of the other, "CIA Intensifies Drone Campaign Within Pakistan.” One had to do with old-fashioned murder by infantrymen on the ground, the other with ultramodern murder by electronically operated vehicles in the sky. Those involved in the former sometimes face charges of war crime. Those involved in the latter face no such bother - though they may be at times "criticized" for their incompetence. When it comes to the slaughtering of human beings, the question is this: Why make a distinction between the killings on the ground and the killings from the air? Why let the users of aerial means, be it a manned bomber, a missile or a drone manipulated thousands of miles away, go scot-free? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304741404575564122614380334.html#printMode\
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Taliban peace talks with Hamid Karzai are 'mostly hype'
Julian Borger and Jon Boone, The Guardian [October 24, 2010]
---- Recent widely-reported contacts between senior Taliban and the Kabul government have little to do with a peace settlement and involve scarcely more than exchanges of cash and prisoners, diplomats and observers have told the Guardian. They say contacts with the Taliban have been under way for several years and reflect how war is waged in Afghanistan, where talking and fighting at the same time are common. But the encounters have been hyped as signs of a move towards peace as part of a misinformation campaign aimed at the Taliban leadership, or to reinforce the impression that Nato and Afghan forces are making strategic gains. One official admitted one reason the contacts had received so much publicity was an attempt to confuse Taliban leaders: "This is about throwing sand in their ears," the official said. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/24/taliban-peace-talks-hamid-ka...
See also: Jason Ditz, “Afghan-Taliban Talks Aim at Sparking Tribal Feud to Weaken Haqqanis,” Antiwar.com [October 31, 2010] http://news.antiwar.com/2010/10/31/detained-taliban-held-secret-talks-wi... Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Taliban peace talks come to a halt,” Asia Times [October 28, 2010] http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LJ30Df03.htm; and Kathy Gannon, “Taliban leaders hold secret talks with Afghan president on al-Qaida linked Haqqani network,” Associated Press [October 31, 2010] http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/10/31/taliban-hold-secret-talks-with-afghan...
Afghans See Peril in Switching Sides
By Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal [October 29, 2010]
---- The Afghan government and the U.S.-led coalition scored an unexpected success here half a year ago, turning around more than 50 insurgents and recruiting them to fight their former Taliban allies. What happened since then, however, offers a cautionary tale of how much can go wrong with the so-called "reintegration" process, a cornerstone of the coalition's war strategy. The reintegrated fighters' leader, Commander Sher, is now dead, possibly killed by a U.S. bomb last month. His militia is in disarray. And, to other potential defectors, the fate of these men serves as a vivid warning about the perils of picking the American side in this war. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405270230474140457556412261438033...
TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMY AND POLICE
One Poor Choice in Arming the Afghans, and Its Repercussions
By C.J. Chivers, New York Times [October 26, 2010]
----The United States military has spent nearly a decade providing weapons to the Afghans it has selected as its allies in the current war. In doing so, it has distributed many tens of thousands of rifles, pistols, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The Afghans who receive the weapons have another complaint, though it has been scarcely heard outside of Afghan security circles. The complaint involves the poor selection not of the proxies or of the middlemen trafficking in arms, but of the quality of some of the weapons themselves. http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/26/one-poor-choice-in-arming-the-...
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
U.S. military campaign to topple resilient Taliban hasn't succeeded
By Greg Miller, Washington Post [October 27, 2010]
---- An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan.
Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells. But officials said that insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and that they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/26/AR201010...
See also: Joshua Partlow and Karin Brulliard, “U.S. operations in Kandahar push out Taliban,” Washington Post [October 25, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/25/AR201010... Todd Pitman, “Afghan district holds lessons as US makes gains,” Associated Press [October 27, 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101027/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_lessons_of_mar... Mirwais Himmat, “Afghan-NATO force retakes Khogyani,” Pajhwok [Afghanistan] [November, 12010]
http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2010/11/01/afghan-nato-force-retakes-khogyani; and Jason Ditz, “NATO Killed 80 Rebels in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province,” Antiwar.com [October 30, 2010]
Woman to Woman in Afghanistan
Ann Jones, The Nation [October 27, 2010]
---- In February 2009 Marine Capt. Matt Pottinger set out to do something about that. He helped organize and train a team of women Marines to meet with Afghan women, just as male soldiers had been meeting with Afghan men for years to drink tea and discuss those ill-conceived "infrastructure" projects. A handful of female Marines and a civilian linguist, led by Second Lt. Johanna Shaffer, formed that first Female Engagement Team (FET). Its mission was a "cordon and search" operation in Farah province that included "engaging with" Pashtun women and giving them some "humanitarian supplies"—known in COIN jargon as PSPs, or Population Support Packages, which might contain anything from a crank radio to a teddy bear—to earn their "goodwill." That's the point of protecting the populace—to win them over to our side so the forsaken insurgents will shrivel up and die. These tactics failed miserably in Vietnam, and they appear to be failing in Afghanistan, but with counterinsurgency as our avowed "strategy," Pottinger's idea of engaging the hidden half of the populace was way, way overdue. http://www.thenation.com/article/155623/woman-woman-afghanistan
More airstrikes won't help in Afghanistan
By Erica Gaston, Foreign Policy [October 26, 2010]
---- In a Washington Post op-ed on Friday, Charles J. Dunlap argued that reversing existing tactical limitations on international forces' airstrikes in Afghanistan would allow international forces to kill more insurgents, and thus help save Afghan and foreign military lives in Afghanistan. Dunlap's arguments are based on mistaken assumptions about Afghan attitudes toward the warring parties and the conflict. If military and policy leaders acted on those flawed assumptions as Dunlap suggests, by lifting airstrike restrictions, it would not only put more Afghan lives at risk, but would erode any progress that has been made in the last year. Instead of reversing tactical limitations, military and policy advisors should be considering whether they go far enough. … http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/26/more_airstrikes_wont_hel...
See also: Katherine Houreld, “Afghan official: 25 people may have been killed in NATO airstrike in country's south,” Associated Press [October 25, 2010]
NATO AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
In a few weeks NATO military and political leaders will gather in Lisbon to review the state of the war in Afghanistan. At their conference last June, NATO leaders stated that at Lisbon they would begin to hand off responsibility for “security” in some parts of Afghanistan to Afghanistan’s army and police. To this agenda is now added plans to seek Russian help for the war. While Russia will not send troops, the recent transport shutdown in Pakistan shows that Russia has a strong hand simply because it would be a reliable access route for military supplies. What is the Quid for this Pro? Presumably Russia wants NATO to stop supporting Georgia’s nationalist government, to make concessions in the Baltics, and to include Russia in the planning for whatever missile defense system is erected against the non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons. Presumably Russia also wants a larger role in whatever post-conflict settlement eventually emerges in Afghanistan. Will the US/NATO be willing to go this far? We will find out soon in Lisbon.
British and US troops to remain in Afghanistan for years under Nato agreement
By Damien McElroy, The Telegraph [UK] [October 26, 2010]
---- The organisation plans to sign the defence pact, which does not specify a time for withdrawal of coalition troops, with Afghanistan next month at a summit of leaders in Lisbon next month. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has demanded that Afghan forces take over responsibility for the fight against the Taliban by 2014. Mr Rasmussen warned the deadline was not the beginning of the end for the Nato mission. Heads of government are expected to endorse a new blueprint for the nine-year war drawn up by Gen David Petraeus, the Afghan commander, and Mark Sedwill, Nato's civilian representative. It provides a framework for the handover of Afghan district that would see foreign troops "thin-out" but not leave disputed territory. The document sets out a far-reaching five stage shift of security responsibility to local troops that includes commitments to support, mentor, oversee and sustain Afghan operations. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8088012/Briti...
See also: Jason Ditz, “ Recent Herat Attacks Imperil Token Afghan ‘Transition,’” Antiwar.com [October 31, 2010] http://news.antiwar.com/2010/10/31/recent-herat-attacks-imperil-token-af...
Afghanistan: Russia steps in to help Nato
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent [UK] [October 27, 2010]
---- Russia has agreed to return to the war in Afghanistan at the request of the Western states which helped the mujahedin to drive its forces out of the country 21 years ago. The Independent has learnt that Moscow is engaged in training the Afghan army and counter-narcotics troops and has agreed in principle to supply Nato with several dozen helicopters for use in Afghanistan. A number of aircraft have already been sold to Poland, a member of the US-led coalition, for use in the conflict. Now Nato is in talks with the Russians over direct supplies of more helicopters, training the pilots, and allowing arms and ammunition to be transported through Russian territory as an alternative to a Pakistani route which has come under repeated Taliban attack. … A groundbreaking agreement with Russia on the issue is likely to be announced at the Nato summit next month in Lisbon, which is due to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/exclusive-afghanistan-r...
See also, “Nato's Afghan endgame begins with a helping hand from Russia,” The Independent [UK] [October 27, 2010] http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-na... and Simon Tisdall, “Russian military could be drawn back into Afghanistan,” The Guardian [UK] [October 26, 2010]