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Afghanistan War Weekly: November 28, 2010
It seemed that there was more war fighting outside Afghanistan than inside Afghanistan this week. The Wiki Leaks story kicked off last Sunday and will run for many weeks. Assessments of the State Department documents (about 280 out of 251,000) and the media coverage of their contents are linked below. The few documents released so far about Afghanistan and Pakistan are interesting, but not game changers; the Times and other US media are avoiding what seems to me to be the most important war-related documents, those about our NATO allies.
The other front-burner story this week was the Taliban Negotiations Hoax. Over the last two months, several sites (including here) have commented on the weirdness of the Taliban-is-negotiating stories. Now we know why. In addition to the who, what, where, when, and whys that we don’t know yet, I think the most important question now is, “What did Petraeus know, and when did he know it?” In a section on this below, I make the hypothesis that the hoax was useful to Obama and Petraeus, both while it stirred hopes of negotiation and then later when it was revealed to be false.
General Petraeus’ optimistic biannual report to Congress on the progress of the war is a useful statement of the official US perspective on the war. The Report and some commentary are linked below. Reports about the war from two centrist think tanks are also linked below; the report from the prestigious International Crisis Group argues against a quick exit from the war.
Also, several articles linked below explore the ironies of the recent election in Afghanistan. Implausibly, the several dozen “elected” MPs who were disqualified because of fraud appear to have produced a parliament with fewer supporters of Karzai than the previous parliament. In fact, a great part of the Pashtun area in southern Afghanistan will be represented by non-Pashtuns. The Karzai people have threatened to arrest their own election commissioners, so the game is far from over.
Finally, in addition to the several excellent “featured essays” just below, please esp. check out Tom Engelhardt’s article on the 2011… 2014 … vanishing point for US withdrawal from Afghanistan; Ahmed Rashid’s account of his recent interview with President Karzai, several articles on the military implications of a) NATO’s introduction of heavy tanks into Afghanistan; and b) Russia’s agreement at the Lisbon Conference to provide more transit facilities for “non-lethal” supplies from Europe to Afghanistan. Also, Aljazeera has an excellent program on NATO’s decisions to expand its reach far beyond Europe.
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)
War Preparedness 101
By Kevin Young ZNet [November 25, 2010]
---- David Swanson’s War Is A Lie (Charlottesville, VA, 2010) may be the most comprehensive antiwar statement available in the English language. The book is a thorough refutation of all the major arguments typically used to justify wars, with a special focus on the United States… David Swanson argues, “our goal should be war preparedness in a particular sense: we should be prepared to reject lies that might launch or prolong a war” in the future. With that goal in mind, Swanson breaks down “the main categories of war lies” (pp. 11-12). Those lies have stayed remarkably consistent throughout modern history, whether the aggressor has been the United States or other powerful nations. http://www.zcommunications.org/war-preparedness-101-by-kevin-young-1
NATO’s Dangerous Wager with Karzai
By Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books [November 22, 2010]
----- At the close of its summit meeting in Lisbon on Saturday, NATO announced it had reached an agreement with the Afghan government to continue combat operations in Afghanistan for years to come. But it is far from clear that these plans—which postpone a transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces until 2014—will find much support in Kabul. Afghan president Hamid Karzai is a changed man. His worldview now is decidedly anti-Western. When I spoke with him earlier this month at the presidential palace in Kabul, Karzai told me that the US has been unable to bring peace to Afghanistan or to secure cooperation from Pakistan, which continues to give sanctuary to the Taliban. He rejects the barrage of US criticism at his government on issues like corruption and poor administration and says the original sin of all these faults lies with the Americans. http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/nov/22/nato-karzai-afghanistan/
Talking to the Taliban about life after occupation
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian [UK] [November 26, 2010]
Special report: In the last of his series from Afghanistan, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad asks Taliban leaders past and present what kind of regime they would run – and whether there is a chance of negotiated peace,
---- In the south-eastern city of Khost, the everyday business of the Taliban administration carries on across the street from the fortified, government-run city court and police station. The head of the Haqqani network's civilian administration and his assistant hold their council in the grand mosque, which is also known as the Haqqani mosque because it was built with Taliban and Arab money. When I met them, the two men – a frail-looking 60-year-old and his younger sidekick – gave the impression of being haggard peasants seeking work in the city rather than members of one of the organisations most feared by Britain and America. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/26/taliban-afghanistan-occupati...
THINK-TANK REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONS
Realignment: Managing a Stable Transition to Afghan Responsibility
By Caroline Wadhams, et al., Center for American Progress [November 23, 2010]
---- Current U.S. efforts in Afghanistan are fundamentally out of balance, and they are not advancing U.S. interests and stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region. Military operations drive our strategy while the political and diplomatic framework essential for long-term stability in Afghanistan remains undeveloped. The United States can protect its core security interests with a reduced military presence in Afghanistan. And without shifts in the current political structure in Afghanistan it will be simply futile for the United States and its NATO allies to wage continued war on behalf of a government that cannot consolidate domestic political support without indefinite massive international assistance. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/11/afghan_leadership.html
Afghanistan: Exit vs Engagement
From the International Crisis Group [November 28, 2010]
---- U.S. plans to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014 would lead to a collapse of the government in Kabul and serious security risks for the region. Afghanistan: Exit vs Engagement, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, warns of the deep problems that still exist in Afghanistan and of the dire consequences that can ensue unless the foundations of an effective state are put in place. U.S. military operations are now entering their tenth year and policymakers in Washington are looking for a way out. But the key to fighting the insurgency and bringing about the conditions for a political settlement in Afghanistan lies in improving security, justice and governance. http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2010/asia/...
The Report: Afghanistan: Exit vs Engagement
http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-asia/afghanistan/B115-a... - 12 pages – November 28, 2010
THE LATEST WIKILEAKS LEAK
The latest WikiLeaks leak includes about 250,000 State Department cables. While the documents were released in advance to several newspapers, as had the earlier WikiLeaks troves, only 280 or so documents have been published so far on the WikiLeaks website (http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/.) Jason Ditz at www.antiwar.com has published short analytical pieces about many of the documents that might interest antiwar people. As was true last in October, the New York Times’ writing and analysis of the Leak are weak, and those wishing a better overview should look at the sites set up by The Guardian [UK] [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2010/nov/28/us-embassy-cables-wikileaks] and Der Spiegel [Germany] [http://www.spiegel.de/international/topic/wikileaks_diplomatic_cables/]. The Columbia Journalism Review assesses the quality of coverage in the different news media at http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/wikileaks_coverage_roundup_again.php.
Of the handful of documents available so far, those concerning Afghanistan restate the well-known views of the State Department that Karzai is unbalanced and incompetent, and that his half-brother, the czar of Kandahar, is a mega-crook. Regarding Pakistan, the cables so far available show concern about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear fuel and weapons. They also show the US ambassador in Pakistan pleading, unsuccessfully, for a policy toward Pakistan that does not stabilize the country beyond saving. Here are two links to first-draft perspectives on the Leak:
U.S. Facing Diplomatic Crisis Following WikiLeaks Release of Secret Diplomatic Cables
From Democracy Now [November 29, 2010]
---- The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing a giant trove of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables that is sending shockwaves through the global diplomatic establishment. Among the findings: Arab leaders are urging the United States to attack Iran; Washington and Yemen agreed to cover up the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb Yemen; the United States is using its embassies around the world as part of a global spy network and asking diplomats to gather intelligence; and much more. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/29/us_facing_global_diplomatic_crisi...
See also: Index on Censorship “Wikileaks: UK issues DA-Notice as US briefs allies on fresh leak,” [November 26, 2010] http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2010/11/us-uk-wikileaks-d-notice-leak/
THE TALIBAN IMPOSTER
While not excluding the possibility of a US/NATO disinformation operation from beginning to end, a minimum case seems to be that the basics of the Taliban-is-negotiating hoax were known to some people as early as last August. If this is true, what are we to make of the avalanche of “leaks” and media attention devoted to the negotiations theme during the six weeks prior to NATO’s conference in Lisbon, or for that matter prior to the US elections? The fact that the “Taliban negotiations” story was disavowed just days after the conclusion of the Lisbon conference raises the hypothesis that Obama and the US military in Afghanistan allowed the hoax to continue when it was convenient, in order to raise hopes that the end of the war might be near, and that the US military strategy in Afghanistan was working. This helped to deflect criticism of the Afghanistan regime and the war during the Lisbon conference. Once the conference was over, however, and our NATO allies were locked into a 2014 timeframe, hope for a quickly negotiated settlement became counterproductive. Finger-pointing about who was responsible, etc., has begun and will continue. Whether this generates light as well as heat remains to be seen.
Sign of War Gains Proves False
By Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Entouos, Wall Street Journal [November 24, 2010]
---- The revelation that an impostor passed himself off as a Taliban leader in Afghan peace talks called into question coalition reports of progress in the war, and illustrated how little the allies know of the insurgency's top leaders and the difficulty that lack of knowledge presents for U.S. strategy. U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, chief of coalition forces, foremost among them—had sought to portray the nascent peace talks as a sign that the one-two punch of American forces clearing territory and Special Operations forces targeting insurgent field commanders was wearing down the Taliban and pushing them to the negotiating table. Those claims are now in question. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB2000142405274870436930457563199413614885...
Taliban impostor warnings ignored by Afghan leaders, says former spy chief
Desperate for a peace deal with the Taliban, officials dismissed security advice over bogus go-between
By Jon Boone, The Observer [November 28 2010]
---- Hamid Karzai's desperation for a "Good Friday agreement for Afghanistan" led officials to ignore repeated warnings from their own spy chief that they should not trust a man who orchestrated a humiliating face-to-face meeting between the Afghan president and a shopkeeper who pretended to be the Taliban's second most powerful leader.Amrullah Saleh, the former head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's equivalent of MI5, said his agency first vetted the man, who claimed to be a representative of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, one of the highest-ranking figures in the Taliban, in mid-2008, but rejected him after he was unable to prove his credentials. However, the go-between, who said he was a Taliban leader from Kandahar called Muhammad Aminullah, subsequently approached the interior minister, Hanif Atmar, the following year and was enthusiastically embraced by an Afghan government desperate for a breakthrough in peace talks. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/afghanistan-leaders-security...
See also: Juan Cole, “Scammed in Afghanistan,” Informed Comment [November 23, 2010]
http://www.juancole.com/2010/11/scammed-in-afghanistan.html; Julian Borger and Jon Boone, “NewsSportCommentCultureBusinessMoneyLife & styleTravelEnvironmentTVVideoCommunityOffersJobsNewsWorld newsAfghanistanUS general McChrystal approved peace talks with fake Taliban leader,” The Guardian [UK] [November 26, 2010] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/26/us-general-mcchrystal-taliba... Ali K. Shisti, “Taliban impostor – consequences and rebuttals,” The Daily Times [Palistan] [November 26, 2010], http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010%5C11%5C26%5Cstory_26-... Agence France Press, “Afghan spy agency denies talks with Taliban impostor,” From Agence France Press [November 27, 2010] http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jyEh0oQbwNwDUXF-RoBNz... and (Video) Jeremy Scahill and Chris Hayes on Afghanistan's Taliban Hoax, from The Nation [November 2010]
MORE FROM THE NATO MEETING IN LISBON
The final statement from the recent NATO meeting in Lisbon can be read at:
Russia Eases NATO Transit Rules for Vehicles
From Reuters [November 26, 2010]
---- Russia will let NATO take armored vehicles to Afghanistan through its territory under an expanded transit deal that would reduce reliance on volatile Pakistan, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.
"The transit applies to armored vehicles with anti-mine protection," Lavrov told a news briefing attended by his Afghan counterpart, Zalmay Rasul. Existing transit deals, permitting the Western military alliance to ship non-lethal supplies such as food and fuel to Afghanistan, would be expanded to allow for so-called "reverse shipments," he said. The addendum would potentially allow for vehicles in need of repair and refurbishment to be sent back to NATO countries. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russia-eases-nato-transit-rul...
See also: CNN Wire Staff, “Afghan-bound armored vehicles to be allowed through Russia,” [November 25, 2010] http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/11/25/russia.nato.afghanistan/index...
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
The incredible shrinking withdrawal date
By Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch [November 23, 2010]
---- Practically speaking, the answer to when it will be over is: just this side of never. If you take the word of our Afghan War commander, the secretary of defense, and top officials of the Obama administration and NATO, we’re not leaving any time soon. It has, in fact, been widely reported that Obama officials have been working in concert to “play down” the president’s 2011 date, while refocusing attention on 2014. …Barely had 2014 risen into the headlines, however, before that date, too, began to be chipped away. As a start, it turned out that American planners weren’t talking about just any old day in 2014, but its last one. Nor, officials rushed to say, was anyone talking about 2014 as a date for all American troops to head for the exits, just “combat troops” – and maybe not even all of them. http://original.antiwar.com/engelhardt/2010/11/23/petraeuss-two-campaigns/
See also: John T. Bennett, “DoD: 2011 not the end in Afghanistan for U.S.,” Army Times [November 29, 2010] http://www.armytimes.com/news/2010/11/military-2011-not-end-in-afghanist...
Petraeus’ Report to Congress on War Progress
[The Pentagon is required to report to Congress twice a year on the status of the war in Afghanistan. Among the signs of progress noted in the report is that “combat incidents [are] up 300 percent since 2007 and 70 percent since last year.” “The Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” is available at http://www.defense.gov/pubs/November_1230_Report_FINAL.pdf].
Pentagon Report Cites Gains in Afghanistan
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times [November 23, 2010]
---- The United States and its partners are making modest gains in some key areas of Afghanistan, but the insurgency is still strong and expanding across the country, a Pentagon report to Congress this month has concluded. In cautious findings that mirror recent statements from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, the report said that there were signs of progress in security, governance and development in “operational priority areas.” That was a reference to Kandahar and Helmand Provinces in southern Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of United States soldiers and Marines are concentrated. The report, titled “Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” is the sixth in a series that the Pentagon is required to submit twice a year to Congress. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/world/asia/24military.html?_r=1&ref=world
See also: Dan De Luce, “Progress 'uneven' in Afghanistan war: Pentagon,” Agence France Press [November 2010] http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jKcdsCNxPonLBvM7Fadzl... and (audio) Rachel Martin, et al., “Administration Examines Afghan War Strategy,” National Public Radio http://www.npr.org/2010/11/26/131603218/afghan-security-update
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
Milestone: NATO’s Occupation of Afghanistan as Long as Soviet One
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [November 25, 2010]
---- 9 years and 50 days – that is how long the Soviet Union tried, and failed, to successfully occupy Afghanistan and install a pro-Soviet regime. From their late 1979 invasion to their withdrawal in early 1989, Soviet troops struggled against an Islamist insurgency that eventually toppled the pro-Soviet Najibullah government and sent the Soviet Union itself spiraling into the depths of bankruptcy.
9 years and 50 days is also how long the US-led NATO occupation of Afghanistan has been going on now. In much the same way, from the late 2001 invasion to the current day, NATO troops have struggled against an Islamist insurgency. http://news.antiwar.com/2010/11/25/milestone-natos-occupation-of-afghani...
---- 51 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 464. Additionally, 6 soldiers from other Coalition countries have been killed in November. This brings the total number of US deaths in Afghanistan to 1,411, and the total number of Coalition deaths is 2,239. The number of US soldiers wounded in October 2010 was 578; 258 have been wounded through November 15. This brings the total US wounded during 2010 to 4.593, 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
---- 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 106 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 202. The study states that between 1,283 and 1,971 people have been killed by the strikes, of whom around 972 to 1,436 were described as militants in 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 [last week’s number], and the total for both wars is $1.114 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 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_...
---- For an excellent editorial from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal calling for US withdrawal, go to http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/110882229.html.
DAMAGED SOLDIERS, BROKEN ARMY
Number of Army suicides already surpasses 2009 total
By Sara Sorcher, National Journal [November 22, 2010]
---- Despite a rapidly expanding effort to improve the mental well-being of its soldiers, new Army data suggest that the service's suicide epidemic shows little sign of improvement, with more troops taking their own lives so far this year than ever before. The data released by the Pentagon on Friday indicate that there were 25 potential suicides for both active-duty and reserve service members. Two by active-duty troops were confirmed. In a separate document from the Army, five suicides of reservists have been confirmed. The rest are all under investigation.As of Friday's numbers, at least 172 soldiers committed suicide this year - surpassing last year's total of 162 for all of 2009. http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=46570&sid=60
See also: Gregg Zorooya, “Civilian Solders’ Suicide Rate Alarming,” USA TODAY
By David Brown, Washington Post [November 28, 2010]
---- Five nights a week, evacuation flights leave the airfield here for Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, where there's been a U.S. military air base since World War II. They are then taken to a giant hospital in nearby Landstuhl for a few more days of treatment before flying home across the Atlantic. Many soldiers are back in the United States within five or six days of being wounded. For evacuations from Bagram, last summer was the busiest in eight years. The number of critical patients evacuated reached a new peak in July, when 100 were transported. But October proved even more dangerous. By the end of the month, 144 critical patients had been flown out of Afghanistan, up from 60 the previous October and 25 in October 2008. More than 4,000 critical patients have been evacuated to Europe from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Fewer than 10 have died en route. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/27/AR201011...
AFGHANISTAN’S ELECTION – THE SAGE CONTINUES
Pashtuns lose Parliament, Violence up 70% in Afghanistan
From Juan Cole [November 24, 2010]
---- Most of the results of the disputed parliamentary election in Afghanistan were announced on Wednesday. Altogether 24 candidates were disqualified from parliament because the Independent Electoral Commission found them guilty of fraud. Some 1.3 million of the 5.6 million votes were tossed out as invalid. The southern Pashtun ethnic group appears to have lost its majority in parliament, a development that could presage further dissatisfaction with the government in the Pashtun south and east of the country, which is already the site of a lively set of insurgencies. Among the candidates disqualified was a cousin of president Hamid Karzai. And, Karzai is a Pashtun and so won’t be happy with the loss of the majority by that ethnic group. http://www.juancole.com/2010/11/pashtuns-lose-parliament-violence-up-70-...
See also: Hamid Shalizi and Paul Tait, “Protests in Kabul as Afghan poll results released,” Reuters [November 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101124/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_election; and Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland, “Karzai Government Challenges Election Results,” New York Times [November 25, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/25/world/asia/25afghan.html?_r=1&hp=&page...
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Talks are the only route in Afghanistan
By Ahmed Rashid, Los Angeles Times [November 27, 2010]
---- At last week's summit in Lisbon, at which NATO agreed to hand over security to Afghan forces by 2014, there was an elephant in the room that no one mentioned: talks with the Taliban. NATO leaders spoke about ending the war, but nobody offered a suggestion of how that would happen. One way would be through defeat of the Taliban. But another possibility is through negotiations with the Taliban, which could bring peace even before the 2014 deadline. I recently traveled to Afghanistan, where I met with Karzai, Petraeus and four former Taliban leaders now living in Kabul. It was clear that the various parties all view the situation through different prisms, but there were also some causes for optimism. In separate interviews, the four former Taliban leaders all voiced a similar message: Serious talks are possible, but only if Taliban leaders are able to operate from a neutral venue. They see Afghanistan as being under U.S. occupation, and Pakistan's intelligence agency, they say, tries to manipulate the Taliban there. They believe the group needs to operate from a more neutral country, and they raised several options, including a Persian Gulf state such as Qatar or Sharjah, part of the United Arab Emirates, or countries such as Turkey, Germany or Japan. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/27/opinion/la-oe-rashid-taliban-tal...
TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMY AND POLICE
6 American Trainers Killed by an Afghan Police Officer
By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times [November 29, 2010]
---- Six American service members who were training Afghan Border Police officers were killed on Monday when one of the trainees turned his gun on them, the Pentagon said. The shooting occurred in the Pachir-Wa-Agam district of Nangarhar Province, which borders Pakistan and includes the Tora Bora mountains and the cave complex that was one of the last hide-outs of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after the invasion by American and allied forces in 2001. It was at least the fifth time in 13 months that Afghan soldiers or police officers have turned their weapons on their NATO partners. Most of the previous cases appeared to involve Taliban infiltrators, although it is often impossible to verify the group’s claims of responsibility. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/world/asia/30afghan.html?ref=world&pag...
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
U.S. deploying heavily armored battle tanks for first time in Afghan war
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [November 19, 2010]
---- The U.S. military is sending a contingent of heavily armored battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, defense officials said, a shift that signals a further escalation in the aggressive tactics that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban. The deployment of a company of M1 Abrams tanks, which will be fielded by the Marines in the country's southwest, will allow ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance - and with more of a lethal punch - than is possible from any other U.S. military vehicle. The 68-ton tanks are propelled by a jet engine and equipped with a 120mm main gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away. Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.
See also: Wesley Morgan, “Tanks to Afghanistan – Analysis,” New York Times [November 23, 2010]
Army has tough time recruiting translators for Afghanistan war
From The Los Angeles Times [November 26, 2010]
---- Recruiters in Los Angeles walk the streets of Little Persia trying to find candidates who speak Dari, Pashto or Farsi, but many in the communities have reservations about the war. The recruitment trail can be challenging. The pool of candidates who speak Dari, Pashto or Farsi is far thinner than the Arabic speakers the military sought out during the Iraq war. And many in the communities have reservations about the war. The Army has been able to sign up only nine Los Angeles-area recruits for the language program in the last year, far short of the goal of 48 local enlistees and just a fraction of the 250 signed nationwide. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-afghan-linguist-20101126,0,10877...
Hoping to Avoid Bombs and Win Afghan Minds
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times [November 29, 2010]
---- After the Taliban deserted this village, in Arghandab District, about five months ago, it was steadily cleared of mines, and villagers have largely returned, thanks to the concentration of coalition forces in the area. For the next year, the men of the Fourth Infantry Division, who arrived as part of the extra 30,000 American troops deployed this year to southern Afghanistan, will stay here and try to make sure that the Taliban do not return. To do that, they must patrol constantly to work out who is laying the improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, as the military calls them, that keep appearing. Since arriving more than 10 weeks ago, the soldiers have found an “obscene amount” — roughly 1,000 pounds — of explosives, said Lt. Tyson Walsh, the platoon leader of Company C, Task Force 1-66. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/world/asia/30kandahar.html?ref=world&p...
Villagers claim deaths, complicating Afghan push
By Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press [November 26, 2010]
---- Locals in this southern Afghan valley have accused U.S. Marines of regularly killing civilians since they launched an aggressive campaign against the Taliban here over a month ago — claims the Marines say are untrue and fueled by insurgent propaganda. But the Marines acknowledge that unless they can change people's minds, they stand little chance of winning the local support necessary to tame a key area of Afghanistan that has been the deadliest place for coalition troops this year. http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/11/26/villagers-claim-deaths-complicating-a...
PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Pentagon Report: Pakistan Army Agrees to NATO Military Presence in Quetta
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [November 25, 2010]
---- Buried deep in the Pentagon’s 105-page bi-annual report on Afghanistan is a claim that ties between the US and Pakistani militaries are improving strongly and that Pakistan’s military is increasing its “cooperation” with the war in Afghanistan. But the how of this may surprise many. According to the report, the Pakistani Army General Headquarters recently agreed to allow NATO to put a military presence at the XII Corps headquarters in the Pakistani city of Quetta. The details of exactly what the coalition military presence in the city will be were not released, and will likely be couched in terms of “advisers” as with other US troops in Pakistan. The city of Quetta, however, is increasingly of interest to the Obama Administration. In fact the US has been seeking permission to launch drone strikes against Quetta, a western city of nearly a million people, and Pakistan’s government had also recently agreed to allow CIA ground teams in the city. http://news.antiwar.com/2010/11/25/pentagon-report-pakistan-army-agrees-...
NATO AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
For a good map and chart of NATO troop deployments in Afghanistan, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11795066. Casualty data for each of the Coalition partners is available at www.icasualties.org.
(Video) Empire - Nato: Going Global
From AlJazeeraEnglish [November 25, 2010]
---- The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the largest military force ever assembled, with a potential armed force of more than seven million. But as its original enemies, communism and the Soviet Union, were defeated two decades ago, what is the alliance's new identity or new role? - 45 minutes
Canada: Tories, Liberals join forces to defend new Afghanistan mission
By Juliet O'Neill, Postmedia News [Canada] [November 25, 2010]
---- MPs deferred a vote on the motion to next Tuesday and, barring a widespread revolt by Liberal MPs, the government will have the numbers to defeat the motion. http://www.canada.com/news/Tories+Liberals+join+forces+defend+Afghanista...