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Afghanistan War Weekly: November 22, 2010


The NATO conference in Lisbon marked a turning point in the war and portends further escalation of the fighting. From what we know so far, the 28 NATO countries signed on to the Obama/Petraeus plan to extend combat missions until at least 2014, with training and an indeterminate NATO military presence to last indefinitely. Even the 2014 date is accompanied by qualifiers, such as “depending on conditions on the ground.” For practical purposes, NATO has vowed to stay in Afghanistan until victory, come what may.

“NATO,” of course, means the United States and its military auxiliaries. We do not yet know the contents of General Petraeus’ closed-door speech outlining his strategic plan, but as far as we know it has a Made in USA label on it. The most important qualifier might be whatever Russia has negotiated with the United States in exchange for allowing a greater volume of military supplies to Afghanistan to flow through their country. From statements by General Petraeus, and from President Obama’s strong speech at the meeting defending night raids and Special-Ops (over President Karzai’s now-muted objections), we can assume that the US military strategy going forward will be more of the same.

It is useful to note that the Lisbon Conference sidestepped important items that it had been scheduled to address based on last June’s meeting in Kabul. Then the Europeans were anxious to see improvements in Karzai’s government and be assured of some prospects of success. Scheduled for review, therefore, were questions relating to establishing government legitimacy, ending or curtailing corruption, and showing improvements in training the Afghan army and policy. To my knowledge, these issues were not even discussed in Lisbon; certainly the complete failure of the US and the Afghanistan government to make substantial improvements in any of these three areas did cause any open dissent.

Having committed itself to the 2014 program in Lisbon, the Obama administration’s “December review,” which seemed like a potential challenge for Petraeus, has now become irrelevant. It appears that Petraeus will simply make a report; there will be no congressional hearings or White House evaluations of progress and milestones, etc. It’s hard to see any daylight between Obama and Petraeus now on Afghanistan strategy, nor any conditions that Petraeus has to meet to keep his job. The war will continue full speed ahead, with a few head fakes about “draw downs” or “redeployments” to keep the antiwar movement off balance.

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

The New War Congress: An Obama-Republican War Alliance?
By David Swanson, TomDispatch [November 22, 2010]

---- The House and Senate have had Democratic majorities for the past four years. In January, the House will be run by Republicans, while the Democratic majority in the Senate will shrink. We still tend to call the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "Bush's wars." Republicans are often the most outspoken supporters of these wars, while many Democrats label themselves "critics" and "opponents." Such wars, however, can't happen without funding, and the past four years of funding alone amount to a longer period of war-making than U.S. participation in either of the world wars. We tend to think of those past four years as a winding down of "Bush's wars," even though in that period Congress actually appropriated funding to escalate the war in Iraq and then the war in Afghanistan, before the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was reduced. But here’s the curious thing: while the Democrats suffered a net loss of more than 60 seats in the House in the midterm elections just past, only three of the defeated Democrats had voted against funding an escalation in Afghanistan this past July 27th. …Among the 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans who voted "no" to funding the Afghan War escalation in July, at least 104 will be back in the 112th Congress. http://www.zcommunications.org/the-new-war-congress-by-david-swanson

Making Afghanistan Real

By Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation [November 22, 2010]

---- Coming out of the just-concluded NATO Summit in Lisbon, it's clear that the 2014 date for withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan is more aspirational than substantive, and that President Obama’s promised drawdown of troops in July 2011 will likely be more symbolic than a genuine shift in strategy. What is striking is that the decision to essentially stay the course in this failing war comes at a moment when a majority of Americans believe the war isn’t worth fighting. The reason for this disconnect may be that Members of Congress say they’ve heard few concerns about the war from their constituents. …One idea which might make the war resonate more with voters is to take responsibility for healthcare for veterans through a Veterans Trust Fund. …It would require Congress to appropriate funds upfront whenever they vote to go to war so that when soldiers are injured or wounded they are able to receive the care they need when they return home. Currently, that funding isn’t necessary when we send our troops off to war, so proper care is far from guaranteed. http://www.thenation.com/print/blog/156599/making-afghanistan-real

Coalition violence in southern Afghanistan

By Anand Gopal, Foreign Policy [November 17, 2010]

---- Many Kandaharis insist that the foreign coalition forces have been a source of insecurity. Sections of the military, such as the U.S. special forces, actively supported strongmen and militias, undermining state-building efforts. … U.S. forces also worked closely with strongmen like Karam, one of Sherzai's commanders, to hunt down former Taliban, and helped create a perverse incentive system in which such commanders would hand over suspects on dubious grounds or simply arrest people to extract money. The foreigners were caught in a complex system that they didn't fully understand and often fell prey to local rivalries. They frequently failed to distinguish between friend and foe, in the process creating many enemies. http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/11/17/coalition_violence_in_so...

The Battle for Afghanistan: Militancy and Conflict in Kandahar

By Anand Gopal, New America [November 9, 2010] – 44 pages

http://newamerica.net/sites/newamerica.net/files/policydocs/kandahar_0.pdf

Close Watch on Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq

By Noam Cohen, New York Times [November 21, 2010]

---- “Every morning I wake up and go looking for dead people,” says Michael White, a computer programmer from Stone Mountain, Ga., who publishes the Web site iCasualties.org, which tracks deaths and injuries among coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is grim work of trolling through news sites and official releases about each episode, assessing the reliability of those accounts and then entering the details about the wounded and killed into a database. Mr. White, 54, has done so since the 2003 invasion of Iraq — “when everything was flowers and chocolate,” he said. Yet he had a hunch that events might not continue so smoothly. His work may be more about trying to keep the events there in the public eye, a form of bearing witness. Shortly after a telephone interview with a reporter, he forwarded an e-mail he said he received last week, “My kid’s in Kandahar Province and I rely upon your Web site to keep up with current data,” the e-mail reads. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/22/business/media/22link.html?ref=world&p...

THE NATO CONFERENCE IN LISBON

Encircling Russia, Targeting China: NATO'S True Role in US Grand Strategy

By Diana Johnstone, Counterpunch [November 18, 2010]

---- On November 19 and 20, NATO leaders meet in Lisbon for what is billed as a summit on “NATO’s Strategic Concept”. The NATO leaders will be unable to avoid talking about the war in Afghanistan. Most of what they will discuss is fiction with a price tag. The one thing missing from the Strategic Concept summit agenda is a serious discussion of strategy. This is partly because NATO as such has no strategy, and cannot have its own strategy. NATO is in reality an instrument of United States strategy. Its only operative Strategic Concept is the one put into practice by the United States. But even that is an elusive phantom. American leaders seem to prefer striking postures, “showing resolve”, to defining strategies. http://counterpunch.org/johnstone11182010.html

NATO Sees Long-Term Role After Afghan Combat

By Steven Erlanger and Jackie Calmes, New York Times [November 20, 2010]

---- NATO and Afghanistan agreed Saturday to the goal of a phased transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014, but NATO officials acknowledged that allied forces would remain in Afghanistan, at least in a support role, well beyond that date. NATO and American officials also warned that if Afghanistan had not made sufficient progress in managing its own security, 2014 was not a hard and fast deadline for the end of combat operations…. NATO officials had previously said it was likely that tens of thousands of support troops would remain in Afghanistan past 2014 to provide training and other security guarantees to Kabul. But the statements by Mr. Rasmussen and other officials on Saturday were the most definitive to date. …At a closed-door meeting here, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, set out his strategy for the transition, confirming that the kind of operations Mr. Karzai has criticized, including drone missile strikes and nighttime raids, would continue aggressively. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/world/europe/21nato.html?_r=1&hpw=&pag...

See also: Laura King and Henry Chu, “Unpopular Afghan war presents challenge to NATO,” Los Angeles Times [November 18, 2010] http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan-nato-20101119... Heidi Vogt, “NATO: Combat role in Afghanistan could pass 2014,” Associated Press [November 17, 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101117/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan/print; and Editorial, “Our Afghan exit is now overdue,” The Independenet [UK] [November 21, 2010]

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-ou...

THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
U.S. appears ready to acknowledge a long haul in Afghanistan

By David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times [November 17, 2010]

---- President Obama built his Afghanistan strategy around the bet that he could quickly turn around a "must win" war by narrowing his goals and sending more troops. This weekend he will make his clearest acknowledgement yet that doing so will actually take years. At a summit in Lisbon this weekend, Obama and other NATO leaders will endorse a plan to gradually turn combat responsibility over to the Afghan army and police by 2014, a timetable that will keep tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan well beyond the end of Obama's first term. By the end of 2014, combat forces could be withdrawn if conditions permit, although tens of thousands very likely will remain for training and advising Afghan units. The transition "won't happen overnight," said Doug Lute, a senior White House adviser on Afghanistan told reporters Tuesday. "It will be a steady, progressive process." http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-us-afghan-20101118,0...

War to the Horizon: The Stimulus Package in Kabul

By Tom Engelhardt, Counterpunch [November 15, 2010]

---- The Associated Press covered U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry's announcement that a $511 million contract had been awarded to Caddell Construction, one of America’s “largest construction and engineering groups,” for a massive expansion of the U.S. embassy in Kabul. According to the ambassador, that embassy is already “the largest... in the world with more than 1,100 brave and dedicated civilians... from 16 agencies and working next to their military counterparts in 30 provinces,” and yet it seems it’s still not large enough. A few other things in his announcement caught my eye. Construction of the new “permanent offices and housing” for embassy personnel is not to be completed until sometime in 2014, approximately three years after President Obama’s July 2011 Afghan drawdown is set to begin, and that $511 million is part of a $790 million bill to U.S. taxpayers that will include expansion work on consular facilities in the Afghan cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat. http://counterpunch.org/englehardt11152010.html

New Afghan war plans could cost US taxpayers an extra $125 billion

By Ben Arnoldy, Christian Science Monitor [November 19, 2010]

[FB – The headline is somewhat misleading, as the $125 billion refers to cost differences in different versions of staying until 2014; as noted below, the expected cost of the war out to 2014 is an additional $476 billion. This is on top of the $368 billion the war has cost so far.]

---- As leaders at the NATO summit in Lisbon meet this weekend to discuss strategy in Afghanistan, US war planners have been signaling that troop withdrawals set to begin in 2011 will be mostly symbolic and that the handover to Afghan forces in 2014 is “aspirational.” So how much extra would it cost if the bulk of the withdrawal starts rather than finishes around 2014? About $125 billion, says Mr. Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, at that's just through 2014. Another defense analyst, Anthony Cordesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has a slightly higher estimate at $441 billion. That jumps to $476.5 billion by including State Department expenses and immediate medical costs for veterans. http://www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/print/content/view/print/344657

USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
US Casualties

---- Forty US soldiers have been killed so far in November; 50 U.S. soldiers were killed during October. This brings the number of US soldiers killed in 2010 to 453. Additionally, 6 soldiers from other Coalition countries have been killed in November. This brings the total number of US deaths in Afghanistan to 1,400, and the total number of Coalition deaths is 2,272. The number of US soldiers wounded in October 2010 was 578; 258 have been wounded so far in November. This brings the total US wounded during 2010 to 4593, and the number wounded since the war began to 9,368. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org and to http://tomhayden.com/downloads/Wounded.pdf

Afghanistan Casualties

---- Between January 1 and June 30, 2010, 1,271 civilians were killed and 1,997 injured. This brings the total number of civilians killed since January 1, 2007 to 7,324. Between January 1 and June 30, 2010, 214 members of the Afghan National Army were killed, bringing the total killed since January 1, 2007 to 1,043. Between January 1 and June 30, 2010, 289 members of the Afghan National Police were killed, bringing the total killed since January 1, 2007 to 2,340. From Susan G. Chesser, “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians,” Congressional Research Service [August 11, 2010] 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-...

Pakistan Casualties

---- According to an on-going study by the New America Foundation, the United States has launched 104 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 200. The study states that between 1,280 and 1,963 people have been killed, “of whom around 969 to 1,428 were described as militants in reliable press accounts. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 28 percent. In 2010, it is more like eight percent.” NB the “estimating” and labeling is usually done by local government and/or military personnel; local civilians often give much higher numbers for civilian deaths. The study can be read at 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 $368 billion, and the total for both wars is $1.111 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

---- Americans are divided over the war in Afghanistan with 47% supporting and 45% opposing, a statistical tie within the poll's 3.1% margin of error. Likewise, 37% of Americans think the war was a mistake, and 37% thought it was not. Half of Americans, 51%, say they do not know what the nine-year war is about, while 49% claim they do. Less than one-in-five, 19%, of Americans expect a clear military victory for the U.S.-led forces. The Angus Reid poll was conducted October 15-17, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...

---- Only 12 percent of Americans are confident that U.S. policies in Afghanistan will be successful and 60 percent are not confident, according to the latest Harris Poll released on Tuesday. The poll, which surveyed 3,084 adults online between October 11 and October 18, also showed that the number of people who are not confident about U.S. policies in Afghanistan has continued to rise over the past few months. With 60 percent now saying they are not confident, this compares to 55 percent in June and 53 percent in January. http://wireupdate.com/wires/11864/poll-shows-only-12-percent-of-american...

---- 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_...

---- Also, polls taken in October show that a plurality of 47% of Swedes want their troops out, as do 60% of Britons and 55% of Canadians. Opposition to the war in the UK is the highest on record, while support the war in Canada is the lowest in the last two years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...

DAMAGED SOLDIERS, BROKEN ARMY
Veterans With PTSD May Be at Higher Risk for Heart Disease

By Amanda Gardner, Health Day [November 17, 2010]
---- Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, appear to be at higher risk for heart disease. For the first time, researchers have linked PTSD with severe atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), as measured by levels of calcium deposits in the arteries. The condition "is emerging as a significant risk factor," said Dr. Ramin Ebrahimi, co-principal investigator of a study on the issue presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago. The authors reviewed electronic medical records of 286,194 veterans [and] coronary artery calcium CT scan images for 637 of the patients, which showed that those with PTSD had more calcium built up in their arteries -- a risk factor for heart disease -- and more cases of atherosclerosis. http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20101118/hl_hsn/veteranswithptsdmaybeathighe...

THE WAR IN KABUL
Excerpts from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's interview

From The Washington Post [November 14, 2010]

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/14/AR201011...

Southern Afghans Have Never Heard of 9/11

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [November 20, 2010]

---- An opinion survey carried out in Helmand and Kandahar provinces showed that 92% of the Afghan respondents (1000 men) had never heard of 9/11. Most Americans are ambivalent about the Afghanistan War precisely because it is hard to dismiss the argument that the September 11 attacks were planned out there in some of 40 terrorist training camps that were aimed at waging war on the US. If Afghans, 72% of whom are illiterate, have never even heard of September 11, then they have no idea why the United States and NATO are even in their country! And the entire lack of such knowledge would likely make them more hostile to that presence, since it would seem wholly unjustified and from out of left field to them. http://www.juancole.com/2010/11/southern-afghans-have-never-heard-of-911...

Despite Gains, Night Raids Split U.S. and Karzai

---- For the United States, a recent tripling in the number of night raids by Special Operations forces to capture or kill Afghan insurgents has begun to put heavy pressure on the Taliban and change the momentum in the war in Afghanistan. For President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, the raids cause civilian casualties and are a rising political liability, so much so that he is now loudly insisting that the Americans stop the practice. … More than a dozen times each night, teams of American and allied Special Operations forces and Afghan troops surround houses or compounds across the country. In some cases helicopters hover overhead. Using bullhorns, the Afghans demand occupants come out or be met with violence. In the majority of cases — about 80 percent, according to NATO statistics — the occupants are captured rather than killed. As recently as early July, Special Operations forces were carrying out an average of five raids a night, mostly in southern Afghanistan. But in a 90-day period that ended Nov. 11, Special Operations forces were averaging 17 missions a night, conducting 1,572 operations over three months that resulted in 368 insurgent leaders killed or captured, and 968 lower-level insurgents killed and 2,477 captured, according to NATO statistics. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/16/world/asia/16night.html?_r=1&pagewante...

See also: Robert Naiman, “Could Nonviolent Resistance Defeat Petraeus’ Night Raids in Afghanistan?” Commond Dreams [November 17, 2010] http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/11/17-10; and Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “Kabul Is Offered Wider Role in U.S. Missions,” Wall Street Journal [November 16, 2010] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870362820457561908091549712...

Flawed projects prove costly for Afghanistan, U.S.

By Dion Nissenbaum, et al., McClatchy Newspapers [November 14, 2010]

---- A McClatchy investigation has found that since January 2008, nearly $200 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects in Afghanistan have failed, face serious delays or resulted in subpar work. Poor record keeping made it impossible for McClatchy to determine the value of faulty projects before then. The military tries to recover part of a project's cost, but in many cases, the funds were already spent. … Despite these challenges, the Corps' work in Afghanistan is set to more than double in the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, to nearly $2 billion from $900 million in the northern half of Afghanistan alone, according to a recent presentation by Army Col. Thomas Magness, the commander of the Afghanistan Engineer District-North. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/11/14/103382/flawed-projects-prove-costl...

See also: Marisa Taylor, “U.S. hires firms with questionable pasts for Afghan jobs,” McClatchy Newspapers [November 14, 2010] http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/11/14/103380/us-hires-firms-with-questio... and Dion Nissenbaum and Hashim Shukoor, “Contractor leaves Afghan police stations half-complete,” McClatchy Newspapers [November 14, 2010] http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/11/14/103381/contractor-leaves-afghan-po...

Caught on Tape, a Snippet of Afghan Voting Fraud

By Rod Nordland, New York Times [November 21, 2010]

---- On Sunday, the complaints commission gave its final ruling on more than 2,000 charges, disqualifying 21 more candidates on the grounds of election fraud; 4 others were disqualified earlier. Sunday’s action will allow the election commission to certify the vote’s results, which is expected later this week. Thirteen of the final 21 disqualified candidates are supporters of President Karzai. Despite his supporters’ fervent efforts, President Karzai seems likely to end up with a Parliament that has an even smaller minority of members loyal to him than he and other political observers had expected. The widespread fraud that helped him win his presidential election last year backfired this year. Even his fellow Pashtuns will be underrepresented because so many Pashtun candidates have been thrown out. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/22/world/asia/22afghan.html?_r=1&hpw=&pag...

TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMY AND POLICE
Afghan police corruption 'hits Nato pullout'

By Kim Sengupta, et al., The Independent [November 21, 2010]

---- Afghanistan's security forces are crippled by corruption, poor training and high attrition rates, senior British and US officials have revealed, casting doubt on the West's plan to leave the country within five years. As Nato leaders rubber-stamped a strategy to transfer leadership for the fight against the Taliban to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, Western experts have complained that the vast majority of Afghanistan's police are untrained and do not even know the law. A review of the past year by the head of the Nato Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A), seen by The IoS, warned that the "transition" would not happen with the current shortfall of hundreds of experts needed to train the local police and army. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/afghan-police-corruptio...

NATO Seeks Afghan Police in the South

By Carlotta Gall and Ruhullah Khapalwak, New York Times [November 13, 2010]

---- Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, is moving to sharply increase Afghan police forces drawn from villages in southern provinces, and is employing the help of former mujahedeen commanders to recruit them, NATO officials said. The mujahedeen were Afghan guerrilla fighters trained and backed by the United States to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. They later fought against the Taliban and helped topple them from power in 2001. Under President Hamid Karzai, they were gradually disarmed and demobilized. But many maintain fearsome reputations and have deep links in communities that can be revived to gather intelligence and raise forces quickly. NATO commanders hope that they can be used to help raise as many as 30,000 local police officers within six months…. The plan is financed by the United States and coordinated through the Afghan Ministry of Interior, now headed by Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who led the nascent Afghan National Army for the last eight years. General Petraeus aims to have local police officers recruited and trained in 68 sites in forces of 250 to 350 over the next six months, a NATO official said. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/world/asia/14kandahar.html?_r=1&pagewa...

US Marines want tribesmen to fight Taliban in deadly Afghan river valley

By Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press [November 17, 2010]

---- When members of the Alikozai tribe rose up against the Taliban in this critical insurgent stronghold, neither coalition forces nor the government in Kabul lifted a finger to help them. That was three years ago, when Afghanistan was not a priority for the Bush administration, coalition forces lacked resources and the Afghan government was worried about stirring up tribal rivalries. Now, U.S. Marines hope they can persuade the Alikozai that this time will be different. They want the tribesmen to take up arms again and help drive the Taliban out of this river valley in southern Helmand province's Sangin district — the deadliest piece of real estate for coalition forces this year. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-as-afghanistan...

THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Be Under No Illusion, NATO is in No Shape to Make Progress in this Graveyard of Empires

By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent [UK] [November 20, 2010]

---- If Iraq was bad, Afghanistan is going to be worse. Nothing said or done at the Lisbon conference, which is largely an exercise in self-deception, is going to make this better and it may well make it worse.

It is not just that the war is going badly, but that NATO's need to show progress has produced a number of counter-productive quick fixes likely to deepen the violence. These dangerous initiatives include setting up local militias to fight the Taliban where government forces are weak. These are often guns-for-hire provided by local warlords who prey on ordinary Afghans. The US military has been making much of its strategy of assassinating mid-level Taliban commanders, but one study on the ground showed that many of these are men highly regarded in their communities. It concluded that killing them infuriated local people and led to many of them being recruited by the Taliban. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/11/20-3

Kandahar: The Latest Casualty of an Invisible War

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [November 16, 2010]

---- Not only is it unclear that the U.S. and NATO are winning their war in Afghanistan, the lack of support for their effort by the Afghanistan president himself has driven the American commander to the brink of resignation. That there has been heavy fighting in Afghanistan this fall would come as a surprise to most Americans, who have seen little news on their televisions about the war. Various websites noted that 10 NATO troops were killed this past Saturday and Sunday alone, five of them in a single battle, but it was hardly front page news, and got little or no television coverage. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/kandahar_the_latest_casualty_of_an_i...

New U.S. Plan in Afghanistan: ‘Awe and Shock’

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [November 19, 2010]

---- Increasingly distant are the days when Defense Secretary Robert Gates worried aloud about replicating the Soviet Union’s failed heavy footprint in Afghanistan. Under the command of General David Petraeus, the military’s leading advocate of counterinsurgency, an unconventional war is looking surprisingly conventional. NATO planes are dropping more bombs than at any time since the 2001 invasion. Special Forces have been operating on a tear since the summer, to the point where Afghanistan’s president is saying enough is enough. The coalition is using massive surface-to-surface missiles to clear the Taliban out of Kandahar. And now the tanks are rolling in. What do the tanks add to the fight? There’s some attempt at spinning their 120-millimeter guns as precision weapons, but one military official bluntly tells Chandrasekaran, “the tanks bring awe, shock and firepower.” Because “shock and awe” always works. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/11/new-u-s-plan-in-afghanistan-awe-...

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
Civilian Safety Top Afghan Priority, Warn Agencies

From OneWorld.net [November 19, 2010]

---- International military forces must take urgent steps to protect civilians caught up in the escalating conflict as they plan for the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan government, warned leading aid agencies today. Twenty nine international and national aid agencies including Oxfam, Afghanaid and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, have released a new report - Nowhere to Turn - which urges NATO to do more to improve the training and monitoring of Afghan national security forces during the transition period…. The report notes that Afghan soldiers and police are poorly trained and command systems are weak. It says that there are no effective mechanisms for registering community complaints and that civilian deaths caused by Afghan forces are not adequately investigated or tracked. The report calls on NATO to rectify this as a key part of its transition strategy. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/11/19

Nowhere to Turn: The Failure to Protect Civilians in Afghanistan

http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/nowhere-turn

“We had to destroy [the villages] to make them safe”

From War in Context [November 17, 2010]

---- Hundreds and maybe thousands of Afghan homes are being bulldozed, blown up or hit by missile strikes in the effort to drive the Taliban out of the Kandahar region. As well as individual houses, whole villages have been destroyed. “We had to destroy them to make them safe,” the district governor, Shah Muhammed Ahmadi, is quoted telling the New York Times. In the newly won districts around this southern city, American forces are encountering empty homes and farm buildings left so heavily booby-trapped by Taliban insurgents that the Americans have been systematically destroying hundreds of them, according to local Afghan authorities. The campaign, a major departure from NATO practice in past military operations, is intended to reduce civilian and military casualties by removing the threat of booby traps and denying Taliban insurgents hiding places and fighting positions, American military officials said. While it has widespread support among Afghan officials and even some residents, and has been accompanied by an equally determined effort to hand out cash compensation to homeowners, other local people have complained that the demolitions have gone far beyond what is necessary. http://warincontext.org/2010/11/17/we-had-to-destroy-the-villages-to-mak...

See also: Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland, “NATO is Razing Booby-Trapped Homes,” New York Times [November 16, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/world/asia/17afghan.html?_r=1&pagewant...

Refugees from Afghanistan's Helmand province disheartened at U.S. presence

By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post [November 22, 2010]

---- Helmand is the place with the highest concentration of American troops, and the site of the first major operation under the new military strategy, when U.S. Marines in February retook the Taliban-held town of Marja. Coalition commander Gen. David H. Petraeus now points to parts of Helmand, such as Nawa, as examples of counterinsurgency success. But the Helmand refugees living in this squalid camp, known as Charahi Qambar, offer a bleaker assessment. They blame insecurity on the presence of U.S. and British troops, and despite official claims of emerging stability, these Afghans believe their villages are still too dangerous to risk returning. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/21/AR201011...

(Video) Afghan injuries overwhelm hospitals

From Aljazeera [November 17, 2010] – 3 minutes

---- As the Afghan conflict intensifies, the number of civilian casualties is rising. Among the most vulnerable are children. Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from the Mirwais hospital in Kandahar, which is struggling to cope with the rising number of patients. http://english.aljazeera.net/video/asia/2010/11/201011171452699477.html

PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR

Why the key to winning in Afghanistan is peace between Islamabad and New Delhi

By Ahmed Rashid, Foreign Policy [November 10, 2010]

---- As the endgame in Afghanistan approaches, relations between the United States and Pakistan have plunged to their worst depths since 2001. At the heart of this crisis are years of American neglect and drift -- and the Pakistani military's determination to outlast U.S. pressure aimed at ending its ties to the Afghan Taliban.For nearly a decade, there has been no progress in U.S. aims to improve relations between India and Pakistan or U.S. attempts to persuade the Pakistani military to treat all terrorist groups as equally culpable. … Yet Pakistani strategists still think they can crush the homegrown militants while maintaining the Afghan Taliban as a proxy force for a final settlement in Afghanistan. If that sounds delusional, so does the U.S. failure to address this crisis honestly. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/10/The_Road_to_Kabul_Runs_...

After major South Waziristan offensive, Pakistan still faces serious obstacles

By Karin Brulliard and Haq Nawaz Khan, Washington Post [November 19, 2010]

---- The Pakistan army launched a major offensive in South Waziristan one year ago, a centerpiece of a campaign against Taliban fighters in the rugged northwest. …A rare visit here with the Pakistan army revealed that its effort is also challenged by some of the same obstacles U.S. soldiers face in Afghanistan. Pakistani troops are up against an indigenous enemy that blends in easily, a vacuum in local governance, a skeptical population and, military officials contend, a desolate border that insurgents easily cross. South Waziristan is one of six areas, including the Swat Valley, where about 140,000 Pakistani troops are engaged against Taliban militants. More than 2,600 soldiers have been killed in those and other counterterror operations since 2001, according to the army. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/19/AR201011...

Pakistan Rejects US Drone Strikes Beyond Tribal Areas

By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [November 19, 2010]

---- US officials have been pressuring Pakistan to allow the expansion of CIA drone strikes beyond the nation’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and into Pakistan’s largest province of Balochistan.

Pakistani intelligence officials reportedly rejected the US demand for access to Balochistan, but did agree to a compromise allowing a larger number of CIA agents to operate on the ground in the Baloch capital city of Quetta. http://news.antiwar.com/2010/11/19/us-seeks-drone-strikes-against-pakist...

See also: “Pakistan agrees to expand CIA presence in Quetta,” The News [Pakistan] [November 21, 2010] http://thenews.com.pk/21-11-2010/Top-Story/2183.htm

IRAN AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
In western Afghan city, Iran makes itself felt

By Laura King, Los Angeles Times, [November 13, 2010]

---- As talk turns to an eventual winding down of the nearly decade-long U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, Iran is at the forefront of neighbors' jockeying for power, with an eye to a new era. Iranian money builds roads and industrial parks; store-bought goods from soup to nuts are most likely to have Iranian provenance; and waves of Iranian cash buoy sparkling new mosques and opulent homes. Iranian power even takes the most literal form: Tehran helped build and pay for Herat's electrical grid. Many consider this close relationship a natural outgrowth of the deep-seated linguistic, cultural and family ties that span the desert frontier. The province, after all, was at different times in history under Persian rule, and like neighboring Iran, is predominantly Shiite Muslim. …But others see a pattern of Iranian sway that extends far beyond the border regions, permeating the heart of Afghanistan's power structure. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghanistan-iran-201...

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