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Afghanistan War Weekly: September 13, 2010
Next Saturday citizens of Afghanistan will vote for representatives to the lower house of parliament. The politicians and mass media in the United States and Europe will be the most important judges of the election. In a typical US-sponsored election, the US media will ordinarily focus on voter enthusiasm, the bravery of voters defying threats by the rebels to disrupt the election, and the orderly process of counting the ballots. Off the agenda in a US-supported election are the more fundamental or long-term questions about democracy such as, “Can there be a “free election” under occupation by a foreign power in the middle of a civil war?” If candidates cannot campaign because it is too dangerous, or if a large number of polling stations are closed because of lack of security, or if only candidates supporting the government can get TV time or security guards, or if the administrative bodies running the election and counting the votes are staffed by government cronies, in what sense are we talking about a “free election.”
While it is the traditional function of the mass media in a US-supported election to focus on election-day events and ignore more fundamental parameters of electoral democracy, in the case of the forthcoming election even this does not guarantee that the election will be a legitimizing “success.” Prior elections in Afghanistan, most notably last year’s presidential election, were so patently corrupt and fraudulent that they served to delegitimize, rather than enhance, the US-Karzai governing team. Thus even within the narrow parameters of a US-sponsored election, next Saturday’s election may be such a mess that it further de-legitimizes the Karzai regime and the US war and occupation.
Events internal to both Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to destabilize both regimes. In Pakistan, of course, the disastrous floods continue to threaten millions and promise long-term trouble for much of the country’s agriculture. Reports of floods being steered away from the lands of the rich and toward those of the poor, and of refugee camps sponsored by ruling political parties receiving most of the aid, have begun to politicize the floods beyond the levels achieved simply by government incompetence. Afghanistan, described as the second-most corrupt state in the world, continues its standing in this league with further revelations about government/elite corruption and now with the corruption-induced meltdown of its financial system. US military leaders have apparently decided to back off from trying to eliminate government corruption, as it has become apparent that it is the lifeblood of the nation, and the choice is between a corrupt ally or no regime at all.
Though it’s barely noticeable, the long-threatened US/NATO “assault” on Kandahar has begun. The current NATO estimate is that the Coalition will have 15,000 soldiers against some 1,000 “Taliban.” Of course there is more to it than that, as Coalition forces still fail to find any local backing for its military operations, encountering a populace that is either afraid of, or supportive of, the “Taliban’ and whatever local armed resistance is around.
Finally, in addition to the featured essays below, please check out the section that discusses the alternative war strategy being put forward by the Afghanistan Study Group, another section assessing the state of “Islamophobia” in the United States, the usual section on “useful facts about the war,” and a selection of articles about the latest upsurge of Kashmir’s independence movement.
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 (www.unitedforpeace.org) and War is a Crime (www.afterdowningstreet.org/aww).
----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
How Much “Success” Can Afghans Stand? The American War and Afghanistan’s Civilians
By Nick Turse, TomDispatch [September 12, 2010]
---- With the arrival of General David Petraeus as Afghan War commander, there has been ever more talk about the meaning of “success” in Afghanistan. …Unlike victory, success turns out to be a slippery term. As the United States approaches the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, pundits have been chewing over just what “success” in Afghanistan might mean for Washington. What success might mean for ordinary Afghans hasn’t, however, been a major topic of conversation. In the near-decade since Kabul fell in November 2001, a sizeable majority of Afghans have continued to live in poverty and privation. The U.N. found that, comparatively speaking, it doesn’t get worse than life in Afghanistan. The nation ranks dead last in its listing, number 135 out of 135 countries. This is what “success” means today in Afghanistan. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/12-0
The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [September 9, 2010]
---- The Great Deluge in Pakistan passed almost unnoticed in the United States despite President Obama’s repeated assertions that the country is central to American security. Few Americans were shown -- by the media conglomerates of their choice -- the heartbreaking scenes of eight million Pakistanis displaced into tent cities, of the submerging of a string of mid-sized cities (each nearly the size of New Orleans), of vast areas of crops ruined, of infrastructure swept away, damaged, or devastated at an almost unimaginable level, of futures destroyed, and opportunistic Taliban bombings continuing. The boiling disgust of the Pakistani public with the incompetence, insouciance, and cupidity of their corrupt ruling class is little appreciated. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175292/tomgram%3A_juan_cole%2C_the_media...
Will Our Generals Ever Shut Up?
By Tom Engelhardt, Antiwar.com [September 08, 2010]
---- To grasp the changing nature of military influence domestically, consider the military’s relationship to the media. Its media megaphone offers a measure of the reach and influence of that behemoth, what kinds of pressures it can apply in support of its own version of foreign policy, and just how, under its weight, the relationship between the civilian and military high commands is changing. There should be, but no longer is, something startling about all this. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, you can see that Pentagon version of an American foreign policy straining to be born. …In the end, of course, it could be stillborn, but it could also become an all-enveloping system offering. Nothing in the record indicates that anyone should listen to what these men have to say. Nothing in the record indicates that Washington won’t be all ears, the media won’t remain an enthusiastic conduit, and Americans won’t follow their lead. http://original.antiwar.com/engelhardt/2010/09/07/will-our-generals-ever...
(Video) Empire special - Islam and America
From AlJazeeraEnglish [September 13, 2010] – 47 minutes – guests include Chris Hedges
---- On the 9th anniversary of 9/11, the fault lines between the US and the Muslim world seem to have expanded. Which is the real US: The one that fights for Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the one that considers US Muslims as the enemy within? – Guests include Chris Hedges http://www.youtube.com/aljazeeraenglish#p/u/4/UE6LPV3BJQs
Afghans Demonstrate Against US Quran-Burning That Never Happened
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [September 12, 2010]
---- It seems clear to me in any case that the threat of Quran-burning by a few dozen kooks in the US is only a pretext for these demonstrations, which inevitably are actually about the grievances of Afghans under foreign military occupation. That is why the story of the plans for burning the Quran has brought people into the streets in Afghanistan to protest in impressive numbers (in contrast to most other parts of the Muslim world, where there were no similarly-sized rallies). The rallies come on the heels of large demonstrations launched after Friday prayers against the US in some 13 Afghan cities. The clashes left ten or eleven persons wounded, some of them taking police fire after radicals started throwing stones at the police. http://www.juancole.com/2010/09/afghans-demonstrate-against-us-quran-bur...
See also: Alissa J. Rubin, “2 More Afghans Die in Protest Over Koran Burning,” New York Times [September 12, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/world/asia/13afghan.html?hp; and “Afghan anti-U.S. protests grow in Kabul, five provinces,” Reuters, [September 10, 2010] http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SGE68907H.htm
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
As Time Passes, the Goals in Afghanistan Shrink
By Mark Mazzetti, New York Times [September 12, 2010]
New Afghanistan war drawdown strategy? Move troops, don't withdraw them.
By Anna Mulrine, Christian Science Monitor [September 7, 2010]
---- Much has been made of President Obama’s announcement that he will begin a US troop drawdown from Afghanistan in July 2011. But on Tuesday, military officials signaled that they will continue to seek leeway in how, precisely, to define “drawdown.” Rather than sending soldiers back home, for example, commanders may give troops new jobs in the war-torn country. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2010/0907/New-Afghanistan-war-draw...
Petraeus Spins the Afghan War Mess
By Barbara Koeppel, CommonDreams [September 9, 2010]
---- A few weeks ago, Gen. David Petraeus pulled off a flawless remake of Gen. William Westmoreland's 1967 performance in which the Vietnam War commander detected "light at the end of the tunnel" - just months before the Viet Cong launched its Tet offensive, proving the resistance was very much alive and well. This time, the geography is Afghanistan. But Gen. Petraeus's upbeat claims on NBC's "Meet the Press" and elsewhere - that U.S. and NATO troops have ousted some Taliban from conflicted areas, helped reform the corrupt Afghan government, and trained Afghan security forces to fight on their own - are equally phony, according to a former senior U.S. government official. In an interview, Matthew Hoh, an ex-Marine commander in Iraq who took a high-ranking State Department job in Afghanistan before resigning a year ago because he "couldn't stand the BS of it anymore," disputed each Petraeus claim. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/09-10
See also: Gareth Porter, “The IED War: Petraeus Spins as Casualties Soar,” Counterpunch [September 10, 2010] http://counterpunch.org/porter09102010.html
A “NEW WAY FORWARD” IN AFGHANISTAN?
This week the New America Foundation released a report called “A New Way Forward: Rethinking US Strategy in Afghanistan.” The report was authored by the Aghanistan Study Group, which is made up of several dozen liberal policy intellectuals who came together after the announcement of President Obama’s “surge” last December to develop alternative proposals for conducting and ending the war. The report can be found at www.afghanstudygroup.com, and a summary of the report by Steve Clemons is linked just below, along with links to several supportive and critical appraisals.
The report’s main proposals are to gradually reduce troop levels over three years, to make more serious efforts to negotiate with the Taliban, to include Afghanistan’s neighbors in negotiations to end the war and begin reconstruction, and to urge more effort to develop Afghanistan’s economy.
From what I’ve seen in the antiwar blogosphere, the report is viewed as “flawed,” while including some useful ideas. Some people predict that the report’s recommendations will be the major “planks” in whatever war alternatives are developed by antiwar people in Congress and among the broader policymaking elite. For this reason we need to take the Report seriously, evaluate its recommendations, and create counter-proposals as needed.
Having said that, imo the report has little merit. It is because of its very “flaws” that it might have access to the policy “debates” around Afghanistan. Indeed, it goes on and on about the United States’ foreign policy as historically exemplifying our desire to expand human rights and democracy in the world, etc., despite the fact that many of the report’s authors have written persuasively to the contrary. Further to gaining access, the report says nothing about the morality or legitimacy of the war, and civilian casualties are a problem only because they inspire opposition to the US occupiers. The report essentially calls for a blank slate and a new start, implicitly putting behind us the ongoing problems of US assassination squads, the corruption of the Karzai regime, or the overwhelming opposition to the US/NATO forces by the civilian population. The report takes at face value the Obama administration’s claim that its chief aim in Afghanistan is to eliminate Al-Qaeda and/or any chance that Taliban successes would enable Al-Qaeda to return, and then demolishes this argument with Pentagon-supplied facts that Al-Qaeda barely exists in Afghanistan. The report implies that the war managers fail to recognize that they have accomplished their objectives in Afghanistan, not asking if the Al-Qaeda “non-threat” might be masking more serious objectives such as gaining strategic power in the Middle East and Central Asia. All this and more is the price of access.
Rethinking US War in Afghanistan
By Steve Clemons, Politico.com [September 8, 2010]
---- Despite acceding to the Pentagon's surge in troop levels, huge budget requests and civilian nation-builders, as well as the deployment of a superstar general, Obama's current approach in Afghanistan is failing. To this end, a bipartisan group of leading academics, business executives, former government officials, policy practitioners and journalists - the Afghanistan Study Group - has discussed and debated over the last year to develop an alternative set of policy options for the president and his advisers - timed for the coming "review" of Afghan policies. The Afghanistan Study Group proposal reframes the connection between America's core foreign policy and national security objectives with both resources and a desire to enhance U.S. options rather than watch them - and the perception of U.S. power - become increasingly eroded. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/08-8
The Afghanistan Study Group Challenges U.S. Strategy, with Flawed but Useful Report
By Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation [September 10, 2010]
---- The Afghanistan Study Group hardly proposes an end to the war, suggesting a years-long drawdown of U.S. forces from the current level of about 100,000 to 68,000 in October, 2011, and 30,000 by July, 2012, with the possibility that tens of thousands of American forces might remain in Afghanistan for years after that if they “contribute to our broader strategic objectives.” Despite its flaws, however – and it is a consensus document – the report might help push open the door a crack to allow the start of a national debate over a bungled and inept, unwinnable conflict. http://www.thenation.com/blog/154627/afghanistan-study-group-challenges-...
See also: Katrina vanden Heuvel, “Finding A Way Out of Afghanistan,” The Washington Post [September 8, 2010] http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/08-5; Richard Norton-Taylor , “Al-Qaida and Taliban threat is exaggerated, says security thinktank,” The Guardian [UK] [September 7, 2010] [about a similar report from a British think-tank] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/07/al-qaida-taliban-threat-afgh... and a video, “Rethinking the war in Afghanistan,” from AlJazeeraEnglish [September 10, 2010] – 24 minutes, with Steve Clemons among the guests; http://www.youtube.com/aljazeeraenglish#p/u/30/Hfg9Zhlhjdk
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- 56 US soldiers and 24 soldiers from other Coalition countries were killed in August, and 9 US soldiers and 5 soldiers from other Coalition countries have been killed so far in September. The total number of US deaths in Afghanistan is now 1,278, and the total number of Coalition deaths is 2,071. The number of US soldiers wounded in July 2010 was 576, the highest monthly total so far. The total US wounded since the war began to 7,266. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org.
---- 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 a study by the New America Foundation, the United States has launched 62 drone strikes in northwest Pakistan this year, bringing the total number of such strikes since 2004 to 158, of which 109 were launched by the Obama administration. The study states that between 1,087 and 1,679 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 (311 to 530) were “civilians.” The report states that the number of civilians killed in 2010 is between 26 and 55. 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.
The Cost of the War
---- According to the website www.costofwar.com, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $332 billion, and the total for both wars is $1.070 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
These are the most recent polls from the useful Wikipedia site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...
---- A CBS News poll was conducted August 20-24, 2010.The plurality 48% of Americans oppose U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, while only 43% think their country should be involved in that nation. In the continued partisan split, the majority of Republicans think the U.S. should be involved in that country, while the majority of Democrats think their country should not be involved there. 52% of Americans think things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan, while 37% believe things are going well.
---- A CNN/Opinion Research poll was conducted August 6-10, 2010. The unpopularity of the U.S. war in Afghanistan reached an all-time high in CNN polling. The majority 62% of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the highest level since the poll question was asked in 2006, while only 37% favored the U.S. war, an all-time low.
THE WAR IN KABUL
The September 18th Election
Profound problems still plague Afghan electoral process, report says
By Heidi Vogt, The Associated Press [September 12, 2010
---- Afghanistan’s electoral process is plagued by deep-rooted problems that will take years to fix, according to a report issued by a U.S. government watchdog agency as the country prepares for its first vote since last year’s flawed presidential election. The report by the Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction suggests that Saturday’s parliamentary elections will likely be as messy and contested as last year’s fraud-marred balloting that undermined international support for President Hamid Karzai's government. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/africa-mideast/profound-proble.... For the report, go to
Poll violence, fraud could fuel anger against Karzai, U.S.
By Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers [September 12, 2010]
---- Thirteen months after their fraud-scarred presidential elections, Afghans head to the polls Saturday to vote for a new lower house of parliament. It's a high stakes endeavor that could roil the war-ravaged nation's political scene still further - or conceivably help stabilize it. If the voting proceeds with minimal violence and vote-rigging, it could restore some of the legitimacy that President Hamid Karzai lost in his re-election last year and bolster support for his embattled government and U.S.-led security forces.
But if the polls are marred - as many fear - by a repetition of the bloodshed and fraud of August 2009, popular anger could intensify against the corruption-tainted government and against Western-style democracy. This could boost sympathy for the Taliban-led insurgency with its goal of re-establishing Islamic rule, and complicate the Obama administration's search for a way out of the increasingly costly 9-year-old war. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/09/12/1821233/poll-violence-fraud-could-...
See also: Dean Nelson, “Afghan election officials 'offered £380,000',”The Telegraph [September 13, 2010] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7998257/Afgha... video “Taliban hinders Afghan election campaign, from lJazeeraEnglish [September 7, 2010] http://www.youtube.com/aljazeeraenglish#p/u/67/lUPz6iZicI4; Dusan Stojanovic, “Afghanistan to close more polling stations because of security concerns,” Associated Press [September 8, 2010] http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/09/08/afghanistan-more-voting-stations-to-r... Laura King, “Women running for Afghanistan parliament now have tougher time,” Los Angeles Times [September 6, 2010] http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghanistan-campaign... and an analysis of the 2009 provincial council elections, “Who Controls the Vote? Afghanistan's Evolving Elections,” from the Afghan Analysts Network http://aan-afghanistan.com/index.asp?id=1021
U.S. effort to help Afghanistan fight corruption has complicated ties
By Greg Miller, Washington Post [September 10, 2010]
---- In the span of several months, U.S.-backed investigative teams have assembled alarming evidence of rampant corruption in Afghanistan and the extent to which it reaches the highest ranks of that nation's government. But the American effort to increase Afghanistan's capacity to combat corruption has also had unintended consequences, aggravating the U.S. relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and producing embarrassing revelations that have undermined attempts to build popular trust in the government in Kabul - a key component of the Obama administration's counterinsurgency campaign. After nearly nine years of nation building in Afghanistan, experts said, the U.S. government faces mounting evidence that it has helped to assemble one of the most corrupt governments in the world.
Afghanistan Blunts Anticorruption Efforts
By Matthew Rosenberg and Maria Abi-Habib, Wall Street Journal [September 12, 2010]
---- President Hamid Karzai's administration is seeking to limit the role of U.S. and European officials who mentor Afghan anticorruption prosecutors, in moves that Western officials see as the latest attempt to undercut efforts to stamp out the graft that pervades the Afghan government. … Armed with those abilities and help from foreign mentors, the Afghan investigators have uncovered graft on a scale that has surprised even the most cynical Western officials, said people with knowledge of the efforts. That has created a new predicament: To pursue it all would mean "going after almost every senior member of the government," said another U.S. official. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870462120457548772143938449...
See also: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Karzai seeks to limit role of U.S. corruption investigators,” Washington Post [September 9, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/08/AR201009... Anthony H. Cordesman, “Time to Look in the Mirror: How America Corrupted Afghanistan, Center for Strategic and International Studies [September 9, 2010] http://csis.org/files/publication/100907_American_Corruption_Afghanistan... and Robin Wigglesworth, “Afghan elite enjoys high life in Dubai,” Financial Times [September 8 2010] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4843bd14-bb74-11df-a136-00144feab49a.html
The Kabul Bank Meltdown
Political Ties Shielded Bank in Afghanistan
By Adam B. Ellick and Dexter Filkins, New York Times [September 8, 2010]
---- According to Afghan officials and businessmen in Kabul, Mahmoud Karzai and Mr. Fahim recommended Mr. Fahim’s brother, Gen. Muhammad Qasim Fahim, to become the president’s running mate. President Karzai agreed, and in a stroke co-opted his ethnic Tajik opposition and placated an old political foe with a checkered record on human rights and corruption. After the deal, Kabul Bank poured millions into Mr. Karzai’s re-election campaign, Afghan officials said. The panic surrounding Kabul Bank is threatening to pull down the Afghan banking system and has drawn in the United States. And it is driving a wedge between the Fahims and the Karzais, the two Afghan political families that benefited most. Now, the financial-familial arrangement is teetering on the edge of collapse. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/world/asia/08kabul.html?ref=world
(Video) The Kabul bank crisis
From AlJazeeraEnglish [September 6, 2010] - 24 minutes
---- Angry customers of Afghanistan's largest private bank queue in the hope of withdrawing their savings, as Kabul Bank is still the subject of alleged large-scale corruption by its top bosses. But who is really behind this bank's crisis? And is this another sign of rampant corruption inside Hamid Karzai's government? http://www.youtube.com/aljazeeraenglish#p/u/84/CF0gDMxMMRs
See also: Matthew Rosenberg, “Afghans Move to Bail Out Kabul Bank, Wall Street Journal [September 7, 2010] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870409570457547365061541466...
David Nakamura and Javed Hamdard, “Afghan police beat back mob of government workers at Kabul Bank branch,” Washington Post [September 8, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/08/AR201009... James Lamont, “Afghanistan fears a ‘liberation bubble,’” Financial Times [September 7 2010] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6e66bad6-baa8-11df-b73d-00144feab49a.html; David Nakamura and Ernesto Londoño, “Amid Kabul Bank meltdown, Afghans question U.S.-style capitalism,” Washington Post [September 8, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/08/AR201009... and Andrew Higgins, “Banker feeds crony capitalism in Afghanistan,” Financial Times [February 22 2010] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c73eeaf2-1f85-11df-8975-00144feab49a.html
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Karzai Divides Afghanistan in Reaching Out to Taliban
By Yaroslav Trofimov, Reuters [September 10, 2010]
---- Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent attempts to placate the Taliban haven't made him many new friends among the insurgents. But they have definitely alienated some crucial old friends: the country's ethnic minorities, who have been a linchpin of Mr. Karzai's American-backed government. American military commanders say they back Mr. Karzai's effort to court members of the Taliban, comparing it to the successful strategy in Iraq to win over Sunni Arab insurgents. But key leaders of Afghanistan's three largest ethnic minorities told The Wall Street Journal that they oppose Mr. Karzai's outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group's return to power and reignite civil war. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870372000457547691301506157...
Taliban and US get down to talks
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times
[FB – This article includes an interesting discussion of Taliban/Al-Qaeda relations in Afghanistan]
---- United States President Barack Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, and as a part of the initial outlines of this exit strategy the Taliban are for the first time in serious negotiations with the US. The Pakistan military and Saudi Arabia are acting as go-betweens to facilitate the talks, a top Pakistani security official directly involved in the negotiation process has told Asia Times Online. According to the official, the Pakistan army has already been in contact with top Taliban commanders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani. Information is then passed onto the Saudis, who in turn liaise with the Americans. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LI11Df04.htm
Lacking Money and Leadership, Push for Taliban Defectors Stalls
By Rod Nordland, New York Times [September 7, 2010]
---- A $250 million program to lure low-level Taliban fighters away from the insurgency has stalled. Six months after Afghanistan’s foreign backers agreed to generous funding for a reintegration effort, only $200,000 has been spent so far by the United States and little or nothing by other donors. During the same period, the flow of Taliban fighters seeking to reintegrate has slowed to a trickle — by the most optimistic estimates, a few hundred in the last six months. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/world/asia/07taliban.html?pagewanted=p...
Editorial, “In From the Cold,” New York Times Editorial [September 12, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/opinion/13mon2.html?_r=1&ref=opinion
TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMED FORCES
U.S. targets illiteracy among Afghan forces
By Andrew Tilghman, Army Times [September 7, 2010]
---- The U.S. military is mounting a massive effort to help teach Afghan soldiers and police to read after concluding that literacy is “the essential enabler” to the local security forces’ success. The literacy rate for incoming Afghan army and police recruits is about 14 percent to 18 percent, [General] Caldwell said. His training command is hiring up to 1,000 literate Afghans to help that country’s soldiers learn to read. About 27,000 Afghan police and army recruits are now taking literacy courses, a number that could grow to 100,000 by spring, Caldwell said. http://www.armytimes.com/news/2010/09/army-illiteracy-090610w/?sms_ss=email
U.S. trying to track missing weapons issued to Afghan police
By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes [September 11, 2010]
---- A massive hunt is on for tens of thousands of rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers that the U.S. government procured for the Afghan National Police but are unaccounted for, according to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. …The Department of Defense procured more than 72,400 AK-47s, as well as heavy machine guns and RPG launchers for Afghan police. Coalition forces are attempting to track exactly where the weapons are — amid allegations by the military and others that some police weapons may have ended up in the hands of the Taliban. http://www.stripes.com/news/u-s-trying-to-track-missing-weapons-issued-t...
Whistleblower Claims Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages
From ABC News [September 8, 2010]
---- More than one quarter of the translators working alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan failed language proficiency exams but were sent onto the battlefield anyway, according to a former employee of the company that holds contracts worth up to $1.4 billion to supply interpreters to the U.S. Army.
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Surge Is Fully Deployed to Afghanistan
By Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal
---- The final U.S. brigade sent to Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's surge strategy assumed authority for a swath of the country's eastern territory Wednesday. The 4th Brigade was the only large unit assigned to eastern Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration's troop build-up. The majority of the surge forces were sent to southern Afghanistan. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870436240457547975075572644...
Security in Afghanistan Is Deteriorating, Aid Groups Say
By Rod Nordland, New York Times [September 12, 2010]
---- Even as more American troops flow into the country, Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with security deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations and humanitarian groups. Large parts of the country that were once completely safe, like most of the northern provinces, now have a substantial Taliban presence — even in areas where there are few Pashtuns, who previously were the Taliban’s only supporters. Unarmed government employees can no longer travel safely in 30 percent of the country’s 368 districts, according to published United Nations estimates, and there are districts deemed too dangerous to visit in all but one of the country’s 34 provinces. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/world/asia/12afghan.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
See also: Rod Nordland, “Police Station Opens in Disputed Afghan District,” New York Times [September 8, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/world/asia/09afghan.html?ref=world; Jason Motlagh, “Pakistani Insurgent Group Expands in Afghanistan,” Time [September 12, 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20100912/wl_time/08599201752700; and video, “Al-Qaeda fighters swell Taliban ranks,” AljazeeraEnglish [September 11, 2010] http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/09/201091183514798599.html
THE KANDAHAR OFFENSIVE
NATO Drive on Kandahar Begins, With Mixed Results
By Rod Nordland, New York Times [September 9, 2010]
---- The long-delayed push by NATO forces has finally come to town, in fits and starts, and with mixed results. Several times a day lately, mostly in rural districts just outside the city, there has been the distinct metallic vomiting sound of an American A-10 Warthog attack plane blasting a target with its cannon, which fires 70 30-millimeter shells a second. Fighting in those rural areas has been intense, sometimes with heavy casualties for American troops and Taliban fighters. Inside this city of half a million, the traditional home of the Taliban. Most of the recent effort has focused on the Mehlajat area, a semirural zone in the southwest of the city, and the adjacent District 6. It is a part of Kandahar that bedeviled the Soviets during their occupation, and until a recent joint military operation there, it was the Taliban’s most important redoubt within city limits. The five-day operation that concluded Aug. 31, mounted at the insistence of the Afghan authorities but backed up by American troops, succeeded in routing the Taliban from the area without a single civilian casualty. Nor was there a single Taliban casualty, and only 21 Taliban suspects were confirmed as captured, according to American officials. www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/world/asia/09kandahar.html
Near Kandahar, the Prize Is an Empty Town
By Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland, New York Times [September 1, 2010]
NATO: Taliban outnumbered around Kandahar
By Slobodan Lekic, The Associated Press [September 7, 2010]
---- The NATO-led coalition has overwhelming numerical superiority over the Taliban around the key southern Afghan city of Kandahar and expects to clear the area of insurgents by November’s end, a top commander said Tuesday. [Gen.] Carter said there were 10,000-12,000 Afghan national army troops in the region along with 5,000 Afghan police, besides about 15,000 international troops. They face about 1,000 guerrillas, said Carter, who heads Regional Command South, where Kandahar is located. http://www.armytimes.com/news/2010/09/ap-nato-says-taliban-outnumbered-k...
Study Cites Drone Crew in Attack on Afghans
By Christopher Drew, New York Times [September 10, 2010]
---- A Predator drone pilot played down two warnings about the presence of children before military commanders ordered a helicopter attack that killed 23 Afghan civilians traveling down a road in February, an Air Force investigation has found. The attack inflamed tensions over civilian casualties and raised questions about the hazards of relying on remotely piloted aircraft to track people suspected of being insurgents. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/world/asia/11drone.html?adxnnl=1&ref=w...
PAKISTAN AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan
By Ahmed Rashid, The National Interest [August 24, 2010]
---- There is perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing. This is a country that sadly appears on every failing-state list and still wants to increase its arsenal from around 60 atomic weapons to well over 100 by buying two new nuclear reactors from China. This is a country isolated and friendless in its own region, facing unprecedented homegrown terrorism from extremists its army once trained, yet it pursues a “forward policy” in Afghanistan to ensure a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul as soon as the Americans leave. http://nationalinterest.org/print/article/anarchic-republic-pakistan-3917
New attacks stun Pakistan
By Imtiaz Gul, Foreign Policy [September 10, 2010]
Pakistan's flooded farms unable to be sown
By Ravi Nessman, Associated Press [September 5, 2010]
---- The floodwaters that already devastated one crop in the fields are threatening the next season's crop as well, an aftershock aid workers fear could add to Pakistan's misery and prolong the crisis. If they miss this season, farmers in the flood areas won't be able to plant wheat for another year and won't harvest it until May 2012, leaving many dependent on food aid for the foreseeable future. [The flood] also damaged farming infrastructure crucial to beginning the planting season on time at the end of the month. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100905/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan_floods_race_...
(Video) "This Is the Worst Catastrophe to Hit Any State Since Biblical Times"
From Democracy Now! [September 13, 2010] – 10 minutes
---- It’s been over a month since the floods began in Pakistan. Although the water has receded in many areas, there are still towns and villages that remain submerged. Some 21 million people have been displaced from their homes, and the threat of forcing victims to stay outside their villages in camps or alone on roadsides. We speak with Pakistani actress, filmmaker, writer and human rights activist, Feryal Ali Gauhar. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/13/this_is_the_worst_catastrophe_to
Pakistan Floodwaters Subside as a Tide of Allegation Rises
By Issam Ahmed, The Christian Science Monitor [September 10, 2010]
---- One of the most flood-ravaged districts of Pakistan would not be under water today if flood management recommendations had not been overruled at the last moment by powerful political interests, according to senior officials here. In Muzaffargarh, the deaths of 51 people, displacement of 1.5 million, and destruction of 337 schools could have been mostly avoided if water had been diverted onto land set aside as a flood basin. The basin is vacant except for fields of sugar cane and cotton grown there surreptitiously by feudal families of the elite. Allegations of a nexus of interests between the feudal families, who evidently benefited from the decision, and senior bureaucrats charged with carrying out their orders have generated an outcry in the local media and are currently the subject of multiple investigations. Similar stories emerging all over the country suggest that while nature sent the waters, powerful men directed some of the deluge. The allegations threaten already tenuous confidence in the Pakistani government, among both its own citizens and Western reconstruction donors. http://www.truth-out.org/pakistan-floodwaters-subside-a-tide-allegation-...
See also: Simon Roughneen, “Dispatch from Sindh: Children at risk from disease,” Foreign Policy [September 8, 2010] http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/09/08/dispatch_from_sindh_chil... and video “Pakistan Flood Victims Tell of Suffering, Unfolding Disaster in Southern Sindh Province,” Democracy Now! [September 10, 2010] - 8 minutes. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/10/pakistan_flood_victims_tell_of_suf...
The Uprising in Kashmir
Police arrest separatist leader in Indian Kashmir
By Aijaz Hussain, Associated Press [September 8, 2010]
---- Police arrested a top separatist leader Wednesday for rallying massive anti-India protests that have rocked the Indian portion of Kashmir for months, and supporters reacted by staging fresh demonstrations and hurling stones at troops. The arrest of hard-liner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, 82, at his residence in Srinagar, the region's main city, came days after he laid out stiff conditions for peace talks with the Indian government. Protesters reject Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and want independence or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan. Last week, Geelani demanded that India accept Kashmir as a disputed territory, withdraw hundreds of thousands of troops from the region and release all political prisoners as a precondition for peace talks. "Otherwise, the protests would be intensified," warned Geelani, a key leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of separatist groups espousing nonviolent means rather than insurgency. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100908/ap_on_re_as/as_kashmir_violence
Two thirds in Indian Kashmir want independence: poll
From the Express Tribune [Pakistan] [September 13, 2010]
See also: Izhar Wani, “Eid protests hit Indian Kashmir,” Agence France Press [September 11, 2010]
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100911/wl_asia_afp/indiaunrestkashmireid; “Thirteen killed in Kashmir protests,” Agence France Press, [September 13, 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100913/wl_sthasia_afp/indiaunrestkashmirpr.... Steve Coll has an essay, “Kashmir: The Time Has Come,” in the September 30, 2010 issue of the New York Review of Books. This is not available on line – “subscribers only.”
The Drones Continue to Kill
The Indefensible Drones: A Ground Zero Reflection
By Kathy Kelly, Antiwar.com [September 09, 2010]
---- The state of Nevada has charged Libby and me, along with twelve others, with criminal trespass onto the base. On April 9, 2009, after a ten-day vigil outside the air force base, we entered it with a letter we wanted to circulate among the base personnel, describing our opposition to a massive targeted assassination program. Our trial date is set for September 14. Creech is one of several homes of the U.S. military’s aerial drone program. U.S. Air Force personnel there pilot surveillance and combat drones, unmanned aerial vehicles with which they are instructed to carry out extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan and Iraq. The different kinds of drone include the "Predator" and the "Reaper." …Corporate media does little to help ordinary U.S. people understand that the drones, which hover over potential targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, create small "ground zeroes" in multiple locales on an everyday basis. http://original.antiwar.com/kathy-kelly/2010/09/08/the-indefensible-dron...
(Video) Activists Go on Trial in Nevada for Protesting Obama Admin Drone Program http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/13/activists_go_on_trial_in_nevada – 4 minutes
Drone attacks kill 18 suspected militants in Pakistan's tribal region
From Nasir Dawar, CNN [September 8, 2010]
---- Three drone attacks killed 18 suspected militants in Pakistan's tribal region on Wednesday, intelligence officials told CNN. Two Pakistani intelligence officials said four missiles were fired on a suspected militant hideout in the area of Darga Mandi of North Waziristan, one of the seven districts of Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Four militants were killed in that strike, the officials said.
Earlier, two missiles were fired on a suspected militant vehicle in the area of Angoor Ada, also in North Waziristan, leaving four other people dead, the officials said. http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/09/08/pakistan.drone.attack/
NATO COUNTRIES AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Defence cut threat to the special relationship
By James Kirkup, The Telegraph [UK] [September 12, 2010]
---- In private exchanges, the Pentagon told defence ministers and senior officials that the US was worried Britain’s cuts could widen the transatlantic divide in military power and spending. The warning could put new pressure on the Treasury to limit planned cuts in Britain’s defence capabilities. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/defence/7998785/Defe...
Twenty years after Soviet humiliation, Russia seeks a return to Afghanistan
By Mary Dejevsky, The Independent [UK]
---- Russia is positioning itself for active reinvolvement in Afghanistan, the country's Foreign Minister indicated yesterday. Among the proposals Moscow has in mind, he said, is for Russian engineers to renovate some 140 infrastructure projects, including power stations, built during the Soviet occupation, assistance in repairing the key Salang tunnel, and provision of helicopters. But Russia has two other reasons for becoming more actively engaged with Afghanistan now. The first is its own national security. Once the US and Nato troops depart, Russia could face more lawlessness on its already troubled and exposed southern frontier. The second is the general reorientation of Russian foreign policy. Two years after the war in Georgia, Russia is making a determined effort to show a friendlier and more co-operative face to the world. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/twenty-years-after-soviet-h...