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Afghanistan War Weekly: November 7, 2010
Will the Republicans try to use their control of the House of Representatives to block Obama’s stated intention to begin to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan next July? Statements to this effect have been made by several Republican soon-to-be House leaders; but what can they actually do? In Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward describes Obama as determined to stick to the July 2011 date. But this pledge has been encumbered with provisos about “conditions on the ground,” cautions that few troops would actually be removed next July, and even speculation that troops would simply be moved from combat to non-combat areas. In other words, are the Republicans threatening to pound on an open door?
The US military leadership in Afghanistan (and Washington) is preparing to push for a greater, sustained commitment in Afghanistan on the ground that the military offensive is beginning to be effective. They made a strong PR effort to paint the recent three-stage offensive in the Kandahar region as a great success. Similarly, the bogus claims that the US/NATO was assisting with high-level negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban appears to have had the goal of showing that US military action was succeeding in forcing the Taliban to abandon dreams of victory and negotiate.
Whether or not these and future PR efforts will be successful in gaining White House support for a prolonged war will be seen soon. In December Obama will conduct a formal review of the progress of the war, supposedly as part of deciding what to do about “withdrawal” in July 2011. If the White House appears determined to reduce the scale of US military operations next July, beginning in January the Republican-controlled House committees would presumably hold hearings intended to hear scads of testimony against ending the war. This will be a challenge and an opportunity for the antiwar movement.
In addition to the “Featured Essays” linked just below, I especially encourage a look at Tom Hayden’s essay on the elections and the antiwar movement; the useful article by Vijay Prashad about Obama’s visit to India; two articles about the collapse of civilian government in Kandahar; a note on the growing number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan; an excellent overview of the situation in Kashmir, and Gareth Porter’s assessment of a recent report on drone warfare against Pakistan.
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)
Any hope I had in the ballot box bringing change in Afghanistan is gone
By Malalai Joya, The Guardian [November 2, 2010]
---- The vast majority of Afghans have lost all hope in Karzai. For us his words and actions have no value, and that includes his latest "peace negotiations" and other measures. Including killers like Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the government is not about negotiating for peace, but completing the decades-old circle of warlordism and fundamentalism. It's important to say that these so-called elections haven't damaged Afghanistan as much as the US and its Nato allies have, with their bombing and occupation. Wikileaks has exposed some of the truth about the civilian toll of this war against the Afghan and Iraqi peoples. Afghans hold the US and Nato, and their puppet Karzai, responsible for these war crimes. They claim to fight terrorism, but in fact they are the biggest terrorists in the eyes of our people because of their crimes and brutalities. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/nov/02/hope-ball...
(Video) Killing Reconciliation: Military Raids, Backing of Corrupt Government Undermining Stated US Goals in Afghanistan
From Democracy Now [October 29, 2010] – 33 minutes
---- The Obama administration says it is backing a strategy of reconciliation with the Taliban. But just back from Afghanistan, unembedded investigative journalists Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley say night raids by US Special Operations are killing the reconciliation the administration claims to support. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/10/29/killing_reconciliation_military_r...
See also: Jeremy Scahill, “Killing Reconciliation,” The Nation [October 27, 2010]
Neighboring countries ponder a post-occupation Afghanistan
By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post [November 4, 2010]
---- Worried that the administration is moving toward an endgame in Afghanistan - through troop withdrawals, negotiations or both - other countries in the region have stepped up efforts to protect security and economic interests that might conflict with those of the United States. President Obama has argued that the long-term solution to Afghanistan's problems lies in the neighborhood. Yet while Pakistan and India - as well as Iran, Russia, China and the Central Asian republics - say they want stability and an end to the terrorist threat, each has its own idea of what a future Afghanistan should look like. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/04/AR201011...
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
Midterm Election Results a Setback for Peace
By Tom Hayden, The Nation [November 4, 2010]
---- The November election was a setback for the peace movement, not only because of the defeat of Sen. Russ Feingold but for deeper reasons. Both parties collaborated in keeping Afghanistan out of the national election debate and media coverage – while during the period June-November alone, 274 American soldiers were killed and 2,934 were wounded on the battlefield. Democratic candidates this year chose not to use fghanistan-Iraq as an issue perhaps because they have become Obama’s wars. With Republican control of the House, antiwar Democrats will have little room to hold hearings or maneuver against the wars. http://www.thenation.com/print/article/155849/midterm-election-results-s...
Who Will Stand Between Obama and the World?
By Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy [October 25, 2010]
---- If current polls hold, Republicans will make significant gains in the Senate and likely take the House of Representatives, elevating a set of lawmakers to new heights of power and complicating Obama's efforts to execute his foreign-policy agenda. Here's a list of 10 GOP figures in Congress who will be crucial actors on the foreign-policy stage when the dust settles after the Nov. 2 election. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/10/25/who_will_stand_between_...
U.S. Won't Know Pace Of Afghan Drawdown For Months
From Reuters [November 6, 2010]
---- The pace of a planned U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan due to start next July may not be entirely decided until shortly before it begins, Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested Sunday. Gains by opposition Republicans in congressional elections last week have raised questions about possible push-back on President Barack Obama's contested policy of starting to withdraw from the nine-year-old war in mid-2011. Obama's Democrats strongly support setting a date to start withdrawing from the unpopular conflict but Republicans, who may now have a stronger say in policy, largely oppose it and may try to minimize any withdrawal. http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/11/06/world/international-us-usa-afg...
Obama’s Trip to India
Obama in India
By Vijay Prashad, Counterpunch [November 5, 2010]
---- On November 6, before the election dust settles in the United States, President Obama will arrive in Mumbai, India. On the political front, movement seems unlikely. The Indian government’s opening gambit is to seek U. S. support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. But even if this comes through there is no guarantee that India will offer any concessions to U. S. war aims in Afghanistan and Pakistan; India has its own interests in the region, driven by the view that its must seek primacy over developments in its immediate neighborhood. In Afghanistan, India’s interests are legion, and not always in line with those of Pakistan – herein lies the rub, as the United States must walk a fine line between the antagonisms that bedevils its two allies, not to point to the lack of its own strategy for a war that is now almost out of control. http://counterpunch.org/prashad11052010.html
Pakistani officials concerned about Obama's decision to bypass nation on trip
By David Nakamura, Washington Post [November 4, 2010]
---- President Obama's decision to spend three days in India beginning Saturday, while bypassing Pakistan, has sparked anxiety among government officials here who warn that Obama risks upsetting the delicate balance of power between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Among the Pakistanis' chief concerns are the Obama administration's apparent unwillingness to get involved in the long-standing dispute over Kashmir; the blossoming U.S.-India civil nuclear partnership; and the symbolism of Obama starting his visit at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, site of the 2008 siege that killed 173 people and has been blamed on Pakistani militants. That decision could prove risky for Obama, whose popularity here is lower than it is in any other Muslim country. A Pew Research Center poll released this summer found that just 8 percent of Pakistanis expressed confidence in Obama, down from 13 percent in 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/04/AR201011...
(Video) US to bid for aircraft deal with India
From Aljazeera [November 4, 2010] – 3 minutes
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- Eleven 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 413. Additionally, 3 soldiers from other Coalition countries have been killed in November. This brings the total number of US deaths in Afghanistan to 1,371, and the total number of Coalition deaths is 2,195. 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 96 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 192. The study states that between 1,234 and 1,899 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 $363 billion, and the total for both wars is $1.104 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
---- 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_...
---- 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/
THE WAR IN KABUL
US to spend $511 million to expand Kabul embassy
By Rahim Faiez, Associated Press [November 3, 2010]
---- The U.S. government will spend $511 million to expand its embassy in Kabul, the U.S. ambassador said Wednesday, describing the work as a demonstration of America's long-term commitment to Afghanistan. "We make this commitment by commemorating the recent award of a $511 million contract to expand the U.S. Embassy here in Kabul," Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said during a ceremony at the construction site that marked the formal announcement of the contract. Over the last two years, the U.S. has signed contracts to expand American diplomatic facilities in Kabul and consulates in Mazar-e Sharif and Herat provinces that total $790 million, he said. The figure includes the embassy expansion, which should be completed by June 2014. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101103/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_us_embassy/print
Afghan government falls short in Kandahar
By Joshua Partlow and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post [November 2, 2010]
---- Despite months of American prodding, the Afghan government has failed to fill dozens of key positions in Kandahar, leaving an ineffectual local administration that U.S. officials fear will cripple the battlefield progress the military says it is making in the Taliban stronghold. …Only about 40 Afghans work for the city government, out of 120 job slots, and the governor's staff faces a similar shortfall. But even these numbers are misleading, as many of those on staff serve in menial jobs such as cooks or gardeners. In the four key rural districts surrounding the city - Zhari, Panjwayi, Argandab and Dand - there are 44 critical jobs, such as district governors, financial officers and agricultural advisers, according to the U.S. military. Just 12 of them now show up to work. The city of Kandahar, with one million people and a flood of construction projects, for months had a single engineer. Doctors and nurses have been recruited for health clinics that have no managers. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/02/AR201011...
See also: Yaroslav Trofimov, “Afghan Offensive Pushes Militants to Kandahar,” Wall Street Journal [November 3, 2010] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870414110457558904128063487...
Afghanistan’s Election Still Not Over
Afghan attorney general probes poll complaints
By Rahim Faiez, Associated Press [November 4, 2010]
---- Afghanistan's top prosecutor has opened an investigation into the country's electoral authorities, saying they have not clearly explained their reasoning for throwing out nearly a quarter of the votes cast in September's parliamentary polls, an official said Thursday. Afghans had hoped the elections would be credible after last year's fraud-marred presidential vote, which soured relations between President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies. But Deputy Attorney General Rahmatullah Nazari said electoral bodies have not clearly explained their decision to exclude 1.3 million ballots out of 5.6 million cast — or about 23 percent — from the Sept. 18 parliamentary election. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101104/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_election/print
See also: Jason Ditz, “Afghan Election Protests in Kabul,” Antiwar.com [November 2, 2010]
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Afghan Taliban threaten death to all talking peace
Kathy Gannon, Associated Press [November 5, 2010]
---- Scribbled notes from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have surfaced in mosques all over Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtun heartland, threatening death to anyone who takes up a government offer to negotiate for peace, according to a longtime Taliban member. Trying to quash rumors of a break in their ranks, the Taliban also have vehemently denied reports — including one by The Associated Press — that representatives of the militant group were involved in negotiations with the Afghan government. The leadership could be worried that commanders might strike separate deals that would threaten to undermine the insurgency and cripple the morale of their rank-and-file fighters. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101105/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_peace_talks/print
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Afghan campaign destroys hundreds of houses: rights group
By Ian Simpson, Reuters [November 4, 2010]
---- KABULFighting between U.S.-led forces and the Taliban has destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses during a crucial campaign in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, a human rights group said on Thursday. The widespread property damage reported by the Afghan Rights Monitor (ARM) in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Afghan Taliban, comes despite a U.S. strategy designed to weaken support for the Taliban by limiting harm to civilians. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A324120101104
(Video) US military: Arghandab a 'success'
From AlJazeeraEnglish [November 04, 2010] – 3 minutes
---- The US military in Afghanistan says one of its success stories can be seen in the Arghandab valley. But local people are furious that the fight with the Taliban has also destroyed their harvest. Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from Arghandab valley. http://www.youtube.com/aljazeeraenglish#p/u/71/1XKIcXw_p5A
U.S. Marines begin to hand over small bases to Afghan army in southwest
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [November 2, 2010]
---- U.S. Marines have begun handing over some of their small bases to the Afghan army in this once-volatile district in the country's southwest, a transition that top military commanders intend to cite as proof that the Obama administration's troop escalation and counterinsurgency strategy are succeeding. The transfer, which calls for most Marines to withdraw from populated parts of Nawa and consolidate in a series of desert bases by the spring, would allow the overall number of U.S. troops in the district - now about 1,000 - to be reduced by next summer. Senior Marine officers said that insurgent attacks in Nawa have declined significantly and that the capacity of the Afghan army to operate independently has increased. But the Marine plan still envisages a significant U.S. military presence in the desert and in the district's main town to provide emergency backup to Afghan soldiers, mentor the fledgling police force and interdict insurgents seeking to enter the area. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/01/AR201011...
Afghan civilian deaths caused by allied forces rise
By David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times [November 1, 2010]
---- U.S. and allied forces have failed to reduce the number of civilian fatalities caused by them in Afghanistan despite a two-year effort by American commanders, internal U.S. military statistics show. Civilian deaths have risen 11% from 144 at this time last year to 160 in 2010. The increase has coincided with the rising number of incidents in which U.S. and NATO attack helicopters mistakenly fired on Afghans who turned out to be civilians, the previously unreleased statistics show. As U.S. units have pushed into insurgent-dominated areas of southern Afghanistan, they have employed attack helicopters in greater numbers to provide support to troops on the ground, creating more situations in which civilians are inadvertently caught in a clash or mistaken for insurgents, said a senior U.S. official familiar with the statistics. Only three civilians were mistakenly killed in helicopter attacks in the first 10 months of 2009, but the total through late October of this year is 37, the figures show. The senior U.S. official attributed the increase to using the helicopters in "some very tough fights recently." http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan-civilians-201...
PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
UN raises winter funds alarm in flood-hit Pakistan
By Masroor Gilani, Agence France Press [November 3, 2010]
---- The United Nations on Wednesday expressed increasing alarm over sluggish funds for Pakistan's 21 million flood victims, appealing to donors to act swiftly to stave off a new winter emergency. "We are getting more concerned that the funding is slowing down," UN spokeswoman Stacey Winston told a press conference in Islamabad. Only 39 percent of a record appeal for nearly two billion dollars -- about 760 million dollars -- has been received and almost another eight million pledged, UN statistics show. Unprecedented monsoon rains triggered catastrophic flooding across Pakistan in July and August, ravaging an area roughly the size of England and affecting 21 million people in the poverty-stricken country's worst natural disaster. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank estimate the damage at 9.7 billion dollars and the Red Cross warned this week that millions of Pakistanis affected by the calamity will need humanitarian assistance for the next two years. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101103/wl_sthasia_afp/pakistanweatherflood...
Kashmir: A Time for Freedom
By Angana Chatterji, Against the Current [Solidarity] [November-December 2010]
---- What do a majority of Kashmiris want? First, to secure a good-faith agreement with New Delhi and Islamabad regarding the right of Kashmiris to determine the course of their future, set a time frame, and define the interim conditions necessary to proceed. Following this, civil society and political leaders would put in motion processes to educate, debate and consult with society, including minority groups, in sketching the terms of reference for a resolution, prior to negotiations with India and Pakistan. Significantly, pro-freedom leader Syeed Ali Geelani’s statement of August 31 sought to shift the terms of engagement, not requiring the precondition of self-determination or the engagement of Pakistan. Unless New Delhi responds, the protests in Kashmir will continue. Geelani’s statement, supported by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, testifies to this. The mood in the streets testifies to this. http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/3095
Report Slams Pakistan Drone Attacks
By Gareth Porter, Aljazeera [November 3rd 2010]
---- New information on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan directly contradicts the image the Barack Obama administration and the CIA have sought to establish in the news media of a programme based on highly accurate targeting that is effective in disrupting al-Qaeda's terrorist plots against the United States. A new report on civilian casualties in the war in Pakistan came shortly after publication of the results of a survey of opinion within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan showing overwhelming popular opposition to the drone strikes and majority support for suicide attacks on US forces under some circumstances. Meanwhile, data on targeting of the drone strikes in Pakistan indicate that they have now become primarily an adjunct of the US war in Afghanistan, targeting almost entirely militant groups involved in the Afghan insurgency rather than al Qaeda officials involved in plotting global terrorism. The new report published by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) last week offers the first glimpse of the drone strikes based on actual interviews with civilian victims of the strikes. http://www.globalpolicy.org/home/153-expansion-a-intervention/49568-repo...
CENTRAL ASIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Russia-led Bloc to NATO: Stop Pushing Afghan Militants North
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar. Com [November 04, 2010]