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Afghanistan War Weekly | June 6, 2010
Afghanistan War Weekly | June 6, 2010
By Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Nearly buried under the news from Gaza, several significant developments took place in Afghanistan this week. The most prominent was the "Peace Jirga" organized by President Karzai and attended largely by his supporters. Though planned for many months, the Jirga followed Karzai's recent visit to Washington, where one subject discussion was the question of negotiating with the Taliban. The official conclusion of the Jirga affirmed Karzai's negotiating strategy and initiated committees to explore or lay the groundwork for negotiations. But as the several articles linked below assert, the Jirga was not completely under Karzai's control, and the demands for immediate peace negotiations were perhaps louder than Karzai had intended.
A second important development of the past week was Karzai's firing of his Interior Minister and his head of Intelligence. The immediate occasion for this was the Talibanâs success in getting close enough to the Peace Jirga to fire rockets at the meeting place. But as the article below notes, relations between Karzai and his main security staff had been strained for a while, perhaps in part because of the high esteem these two men are accorded by the US and the 'international community.' Presumably we will learn more about what this was really about over the next week.
Several articles linked below address in one way or another the vast swamp of money/corruption engulfing Afghanistan. From US AID money, Saudi money, and the mafia-like control of an entire province, down to the nickel and dime police extortion from your average citizen, vast sums of money are being pumped through an economy with a per-capita income of $300 per year. The World Bank says everything is under control; but we could use a study (or please let me know if there is one) about what all this does to the Afghanistan economy. In Vietnam it was deadly, according to G. Kolko's Anatomy of A War.
Finally, please also check out the 'featured essays,' the article by Dexter Filkins about a warlord kingdom, former ambassador Craig Murray's article on the incipient revolt in NATO caused by the US actions in Israel/Gaza and the war in Afghanistan, two reports on the growing use of drones in Pakistan and elsewhere, and the video about the (brief) Taliban occupation of Nuristan.
Unarmed and Courageous: Emergency Workers in Afghanistan
By Kathy Kelly and Josh Brollier, Voices for Creative Nonviolence [June 01, 2010]
---- For six days in late May, 2010, Emergency, an Italian NGO providing surgery and basic health care in Afghanistan since 1999, welcomed us to visit facilities they operate in the capital city of Kabul and in Panjshir, a neighboring province. We lived with their hospital staff at both places and accompanied them in their weekly trips to various FAPs (First Aid Posts) which the hospitals maintain in small outlying villages. Emergency is treating war victims as patients, and wonât allow police or military to enter the hospital, carrying weapons. Circumstances that occasion an injury or a wound never determine whether or not the patient will be admitted. â¦If we want Afghans to reject the Taliban's brand of weapon development and attacks, we in the U.S. need to show our own determination to foster the works of mercy rather than the works of war. The Emergency hospital staff, unarmed and courageous, provide a fine example. http://www.zcommunications.org/contents/169772/print
Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan...
By Mohammad Qayouomi, Foreign Policy [May 27, 2010]
---- I grew up in Kabul in the 1950s and '60s. When I was in middle school, I remember that on one visit to a city market, I bought a photobook about the country published by Afghanistan's planning ministry. Most of the images dated from the 1950s. I had largely forgotten about that book until recently; I left Afghanistan in 1968 on a U.S.-funded scholarship to study at the American University of Beirut, and subsequently worked in the Middle East and now the United States. But recently, I decided to seek out another copy. Stirred by the fact that news portrayals of the country's history didn't mesh with my own memories, I wanted to discover the truth. Through a colleague, I received a copy of the book and recognized it as a time capsule of the Afghanistan I had once known -- perhaps a little airbrushed by government officials, but a far more realistic picture of my homeland than one often sees today. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/27/once_upon_a_time_in_afg...
The War in Washington
NATO commander in Afghanistan warns of slow progress in war against Taliban
Heidi Vogt, AP News [May 30, 2010]
---- The commander of NATO and U.S. forces stressed Sunday that progress toward real stability in Afghanistan will be slow as international troops painstakingly try to win over a population that includes its enemies and has little trust in the government. The NATO push in Afghanistan has long been running on two timelines: one in which officials call for years of patience to establish peace in the war-wracked nation, and one in which President Barack Obama promises to begin drawing down troops in July 2011.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters in the capital that the Afghanistan fight will extend long beyond Obama's deadline, though hopefully with increasing involvement from Afghan forces. http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/05/30/nato-general-in-afghanistan-victory-w...
The War in Kabul
Afghan interior minister and spy chief resign over jirga security breaches
Jon Boone, The Guardian [UK] [June 6, 2010]
---- Two of the most internationally respected members of Hamid Karzai's government resigned today over security breaches at last week's "peace jirga" that allowed the gathering of 1,600 national leaders to come under Taliban rocket attack. The resignation of Hanif Atmar, the British university educated interior minister, and spy chief Amrullah Saleh will be regarded as a huge setback for foreign-backed efforts to improve security and to reform the corrupt, barely literate and largely untrained police force. A western security expert who has worked closely with both men said the double resignation was a "disaster." Saleh was especially valued as a seasoned intelligence officer who, even before being appointed to head the National Directorate of Security (NDS), had forged close links with the CIA and MI6 when he was a key aide to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary anti-Taliban resistance leader. that the international mission in Afghanistan "was now doomed further".
See also: Alisa J. Rubin, âAfghan Leader Forces Out Top 2 Security Ministers,â New York Times [June 6, 2010]. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/world/asia/07afghan.html
Afghan Corruption Czar Is "Dead Meat" if He Pursues Top Graft
By David Corn, Mother Jones [June 2010]
---- When Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in Washington last month, President Obama and his aides repeatedly maintained that the Afghan leader was making progress in fighting corruption, which is rampant throughout Afghanistan and threatens the Obama administration's plans to bolster a central government that can become capable of taking on the Taliban and al Qaeda. â¦ Yet shortly after Karzai departed Washington, the RAND Corporation held a briefing on Capitol Hill that delivered a starkly different message: The High Office of Oversight and its commissioner, Mohammad Yusin Osmani, are virtually powerless to confront the serious corruption that infects the senior levels of Karzai's government. http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/06/afghan-anti-corruption-chief-dea...
The Peace Jirga
Afghan Jirga-Goers Part Ways Peacefully
By Jean MacKenzie, GlobalPost [06 June 2010]
---- For three days more than 1,500 men and women from all over Afghanistan gathered in a huge tent located on the ground of Kabulâs Polytechnic University to discuss the wisdom and ways of negotiating with the Taliban. More than 140 million afghani (about $7 million) went into the planning and execution of the event. The results were more than a little surprising from a group advertised in the media as a hand-picked pro-government lobby. The unwieldy assembly was divided for ease of discussion into 28 committees, each of which was given the same list of bullet points to discussâ¦. In a county bitterly divided by ethnic, religious, and regional enmities, the committees produced a fairly consistent list of recommendations that will most likely give the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his international backers a few sleepless nights. What was clear from the committeesâ reports is that Afghans are desperate for peace. http://www.truthout.org/what-happened-afghan-peace-jirga60182
Taliban Attacks Shake Afghan Peace Gathering
By Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland, New York Times [June 2, 2010]
---- Inside the sprawling jirga tent, a former president who led anti-Taliban warlords was appointed chairman, prompting some prominent delegates to pronounce the deliberations doomed. âThis is a mistake; all the warlords were there in the front row,â said Mir Joyenda, an independent member of Parliament from Kabul. âThere is no change that will come to Afghanistan,â he said, reflecting widespread disgust with the continued prominent role of former warlords in the government. Mr. Karzai at first nominated the president of Afghanistanâs senate, Sibghatullah Mujadedi, to be chairman of the advisory jirga, but claiming he was too old, he nominated in his place Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of a mujahedeen party, Jamiat-i-Islami, who served as president in the 1990s when the Taliban were battling warlords for control of the country. He was chosen by acclamation rather than by a vote. âSome agree with his appointment; some will not,â said Hazrat-Shah Nuristani, a senator from Nuristan Province. âIt would have been great if they chose the chairman based on a transparent election. It wonât help heal the peopleâs wounds to install this old pawn.â http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/world/asia/03afghan.html
See also: Carlotta Gall, 'Afghan Assembly Expected to Back Peace-Talk Plan,' New York Times, [June 2, 2010]. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/02/world/asia/02afghan.html?adxnnl=1&ref=... James Bays, âControversial Jirga Proposals,â Aljazeera News [June 4, 2010] http://blogs.aljazeera.net/2010/06/04/controversial-ideas-among-jirga-pr... and âHekmatyar Shuns Peace Jirga But Offers Own Deal,â Outlook Afghanistan [June 3, 2010]. http://www.outlookafghanistan.net/archive/June%2003,%202010/news_Pages/L...
Training the Afghan Armed Forces
[FB â Earlier today, Sunday, President Karzai fired his Interior Minister and his Intelligence Minister. While the stated cause was the Taliban rocket attack on the opening day of Karzaiâs Peace Jirga, there were apparently other issues as well. The dismay of the US war managers is noted in the article linked above. As the alleged strategy of the US is to train Afghanistan forces so the US can start to withdraw in 2011, the loss of two men deemed key to the success of this training mission is seen as a disaster. But how are the training missions really going? This week there was a cluster of news articles indicating that training was going nowhere, and that any reports to the contrary are based on cooked books.]
Corrupt Afghan police blamed for locals joining the Taliban
By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent
---- Corruption and the abuse of power among Afghan police have alienated local people and driven some to join the Taliban, British commanders returning from Helmand have warned. Senior officers stressed that the police force was being urgently reformed and that new members were winning the trust of residents in areas recently recaptured from the insurgents. But Brigadier James Cowan, the last head of UK troops in Helmand, said some police had caused severe damage in the past. He added: "The police in many ways were the cause of the problem as well as the solution... We have had cases so often when captured Taliban mention the police for them joining the insurgency in the first place." http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/corrupt-afghan-police-blame...
See also: Thomas Harding, âAfghanistan police corruption is fuelling insurgency,â The Telegraph [UK] [June 3, 2010]. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7801459/Afgha...
Afghan Police Earn Poor Grade for Marja Mission
By C. J. Chivers, New York Times [June 6, 2010]
--- Three months after arriving in the most dangerous area of Afghanistanâs Helmand Province, a contingent of specialized Afghan police officers has logged a mediocre performance while being almost wholly dependent on American supervision and support, Westerners who work with the officers said.
The conduct of Marjaâs interim police, from a unit American officials describe as the Interior Ministryâs most promising force, has been undercut by drug use, petty corruption and, at times, a lack of commitment in the face of the ordinary hardships and duties of uniformed life. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/02/world/asia/02marja.html
Afghan troops overrated, US audit to show
By Kevin Sieff, Financial Times [June 6, 2010]
---- A US government audit to be released at the end of this month will cast doubt on the $25bn effort to build Afghan military and police forces, a blow to the cornerstone of President Barack Obamaâs exit strategy. According to the audit, the standards used to appraise the Afghan forces since 2005 were woefully inadequate, inflating their abilities. The Nato-led coalitionâs rating system measured forces based on such factors as training and equipment, rather than a metric that would more accurately assess their fighting abilities, the report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concludes. âThe system deliberately exaggerated the combat capacity of Afghan troops, and it disguised the true level of attrition and desertion,â said Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9cd1fffe-7195-11df-8eec-00144feabdc0.html
US AID Development Programs
In Afghan region, U.S. spreads the cash to fight the Taliban
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [May 31, 2010]
----Pumping reconstruction dollars into war zones has long been part of the U.S. counterinsurgency playbook, but the carpet bombing of Nawa with cash has resulted in far more money getting into local hands, far more quickly, than in any other part of Afghanistan. The U.S. Agency for International Development's agriculture program aims to spend upward of $30 million within nine months in this rural district of mud-walled homes and small farms. Other U.S. initiatives aim to bring millions more dollars to the area over the next year. U.S. officials responsible for Afghanistan policy contend that the initiative in Nawa, which is part of a $250 million effort to increase agricultural production across southern Afghanistan, was designed as a short-term jolt to resuscitate the economy and generate lasting employment. Of particular concern to some development specialists is USAID's decision to spend the entire $250 million over one year in parts of just two provinces, Helmand and Kandahar. In Nawa, which has a population of about 75,000, that works out to about $400 for every man, woman and child. The country's per-capita income, by comparison, is about $300 a year. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/30/AR201005...
US AID âpartnersâ in Afghanistan â about 50 listed w/descriptions of their work
The War on the Ground
With U.S. Aid, Warlord Builds an Afghan Empire
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times [June 6, 2010]
---- The most powerful man in this arid stretch of southern Afghanistan is not the provincial governor, nor the police chief, nor even the commander of the Afghan Army. It is Matiullah Khan, the head of a private army that earns millions of dollars guarding NATO supply convoys and fights Taliban insurgents alongside American Special Forces. In little more than two years, Mr. Matiullah, an illiterate former highway patrol commander, has grown stronger than the government of Oruzgan Province, not only supplanting its role in providing security but usurping its other functions, his rivals say, like appointing public employees and doling out government largess. His fighters run missions with American Special Forces officers, and when Afghan officials have confronted him, he has either rebuffed them or had them removed. For the Americans, who are racing to secure the country against a deadline set by President Obama, the emergence of such strongmen is seen as a lesser evil, despite how compromised many of them are. In Mr. Matiullahâs case, American commanders appear to have set aside reports that he connives with both drug smugglers and Taliban insurgents. Mr. Matiullahâs operation, the officials said, is one of at least 23 private security companies working in the area without any government license or oversight. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/world/asia/06warlords.html?ref=world
Army to expand Special Ops in Afghanistan
Anne Flaherty, AP News, [June 4, 2010]
---- The Army says it plans to spend as much as $100 million to expand its Special Operations headquarters in northern Afghanistan. The project is one of many under way as the Obama administration seeks billions in budget increases for expanded covert operations against terror threats from abroad. It also comes as thousands of U.S. troops arrive as part of President Barack Obama's ordered build-up. According to a contracting notice posted on a government Web site, the compound will include housing for personnel, a training area, medical aid station and tactical operations center. http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/06/04/army-to-expand-special-ops-in-afghani...
See also: Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, âUS 'Secret War' Expands Globally as Special Operations Forces Take larger Role,â Washington Post [June 4, 2010]
The 'Pacification' of Marja
[FB â The US assault on the backwater of Marja was intended to be a warm up for this summerâs battle for Kandahar, and also a PR activity to show people back home and in Afghanistan that the US could win the war, and that the Afghanistan army was now ready to fight. As detailed in earlier newsletters, none of this happened. Last week General McChrystal called Marja âa bleeding ulcer.â Below is an interesting soldierâs eye view of what itâs like to âpacifyâ Marja.]
Firefights frequent for Marines in schoolhouse
By Dan Lamothe, Marine Corps Times [Jun 3, 2010]
---- No Marines were killed in the gunfight, which occurred May 19 shortly after noon. It lasted about five minutes, giving way to a manhunt in which the Marines gave chase, aided by aerial reconnaissance provided by Cobra gunship helicopters, an F/A-18 jet and an unmanned aerial vehicle. Firefights like this are fairly typical for the Marines in Marjah, home to at least 80,000 civilians. That is especially so for Marines at the Yellow Schoolhouse, which was built along with Marjahâs canals by the U.S. in the 1950s. The rundown campus is Ground Zero for the war against the Taliban in northern Marjah â centrally located so troops can respond to numerous threats, but a potential target in its own right.
The Battle for Nuristan
[FB - Last week's newsletter reported on the Taliban takeover of a district of the remote province of Nuristan, on the Pakistan border. This week US and Afghanistan forces took it back. I've pasted in some links in an order that gives an approximate narrative. There is obviously a locally rooted rivalry for control of the area; more I don't know. A case study in the nearly unknowable war.]
Taliban seize border town as Afghan forces retreat
Dion Nissenbaum and Hashim Shukoor, McClatchy Newspapers [May 29, 2010]
NATO warplanes hit rebel positions in Barg-i-Matal
Pajhwok Report - May 31, 2010
---- NATO warplanes pounded on Monday insurgent positions in a remote eastern Afghan town that fell to the Taliban fighters two days back. In support of Afghan-led operations in the Barg-i-Matal district of Nuristan province, the alliance said ISAF delivered precision-guided airstrikes on known rebel locations. Without giving a casualty figure, the multinational force said the airstrikes had been requested by local officials and ANSF commanders. http://www.pajhwok.com/viewstory.asp?lng=eng&id=95210
(Video) Taliban 'rejects' Afghan peace offer
From AlJazeeraEnglish [June 06, 2010] [3 minutes]
[FB] - While this news video is about the Talibanâs rejection of negotiations, the footage includes the Talibanâs brief occupation of Nuristan.
Elders Want More Soldiers Sent to Nuristan
Outlook Afghanistan, June 5, 2010
---- Hundreds of tribal elders on Thursday asked the government to deploy more Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers to eastern Nuristan province, bordering Pakistan. The calls comes after two weeks of heavy fighting in Nuristanâs remote district of Bag-i-Matal, which remained under Talibanâs control for a few days. The elders from three districts said the deployment of more soldiers would help block militantsâ infiltration into border areas. They complained the insurgents intimidated residents of Mandol, Do Aab and Noor Gram and demanded cash and food. http://www.outlookafghanistan.net/news_Pages/Local%20news.html#01
Taliban Driven From Afghan District
By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times
---- In a successful effort to win back a remote district from the Taliban, NATO helicopters dropped more than 200 Afghan commandos and a smaller number of American Special Operations troops into northeastern Afghanistan, NATO officers and Afghan officials close to the operation said Tuesday
Estimates of the number of Taliban fighters who held the district center over the last week varied widely, but NATO officers with knowledge of the operation said it was about 500, many of whom had crossed the border from Pakistan. The officers said there were a few Arab fighters among them. The influx of Taliban fighters coincided with a sharp increase in local political rivalries between factions loyal to the governor, who was appointed by President Hamid Karzai, and other power brokers who are challenging his authority in the province and seeking his resignation over allegations of corruption.
Pakistan and the Afghanistan War
Militancy-hit Pakistan ups defense spending by 17 percent
By Zeeshan Haider, Reuters, [Jun 5, 2010]
---- Pakistan will increase defense spending by 17 percent in the 2010/11 fiscal year as the U.S. ally intensifies its battle against Taliban insurgents operating from their enclaves on the border with Afghanistan. Defense spending is set to rise to 442.2 billion rupees ($5.17 billion) for the 2010/11 fiscal year beginning on July 1, compared with 378.13 billion rupees allocated in 2009/10. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100605/wl_nm/us_pakistan_budget_defence
CIA Drone Operators Oppose Strikes as Helping al-Qaeda
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [June 3, 2010]
----Some CIA officers involved in the agencyâs drone strikes program in Pakistan and elsewhere are privately expressing their opposition to the program within the agency, because it is helping al-Qaeda and its allies recruit, according to a retired military officer in contact with them. â¦The official called the operations "a major catalyst" for the jihadi movement in Pakistan. Within the administration, it appears that the logic behind the program is that it has to be seen to be doing something about al-Qaeda. .Dissent from those who are involved in the program itself has little effect when it is up against what is perceived as political pressure to show progress against al-Qaeda â no matter how illusory. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2010/06/03/cia-drone-operators-oppose...
U.N. report faults prolific use of drone strikes by U.S.
By David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times [June 3, 2010]
---- The campaign of CIA drone strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan has made the United States "the most prolific user of targeted killings" in the world, said a United Nations official, who urged that responsibility for the program be taken from the spy agency. Philip Alston, a New York University law professor who serves as the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, made the comments Wednesday as he released a report on targeted killings. The report criticizes the U.S. for asserting "an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe" in its fight against Al Qaeda and other militant groups. He also expressed concern about the precedent set by the U.S. program. Many other countries are seeking drone technology and when they obtain it, they are likely to copy U.S. tactics, he said. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-cia-drones-20100603,...
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,
Philip Alston, Foreign Policy
---- In recent years, a few States have adopted policies that permit the use of targeted killings, including in the territories of other States. Such policies are often justified as a necessary and legitimate response to âterrorismâ and âasymmetric warfareâ, but have had the very problematic effect of blurring and expanding the boundaries of the applicable legal frameworks. This report describes the new targeted killing policies and addresses the main legal issues that have arisen. http://foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_documents/100603_alston.pdf
U.S. Officials Defend Drone Attacks Against U.N. Criticism
Newsweek, June 2, 2010
---- Privately, some officials argue that one reason that the drone campaign is legitimate is because whatever they might say about missile strikes publicly, in private Pakistani authorities are essentially Americaâs partnersâ¦. âWhat are the options for stopping these killers? The Pakistanis donât want the military fighting on their soil. Theyâve made that clear. That choice is off the table. We have a way to get at dangerous terrorists operating in areas otherwise inaccessible to the central government or to conventional military units. Itâs effective, exact, and essential. Alston doesnât contradict those points; heâs just saying he canât prove them himself.â http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/declassified/2010/06/02/u-s-officials-defe...
[For example] Drone attack kills 11 in South Waziristan
---- At least 11 people have been killed in a U.S. drone missile attack in South Waziristan, intelligence officials said on Friday. The missiles struck a house around Friday noon in a village near Mizai Narai, a bordering area with Afghanistan, the officials said. U.S. drone aircraft fired many missiles at a house owned by a tribesman, killing at least 11 people and injuring three others, news reports say. Identities of deceased were not known immediately. However, residents of the area said those killed were not militants and were from a local family. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online//R...
The Year of the Drone
An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010
---- Our study shows that the 135 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, including 39 in 2010, from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 976 and 1,467 individuals, of whom around 665 to 944 were described as militants in reliable press accounts. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 33 percent. We have also constructed a map, based on the same reliable press accounts and publicly available maps, of the estimated location of each drone strike. Click each pin in the online version to see the details of a reported strike; the red border represents the extent of Pakistan's tribal regions in the northwest of the country. And while we are not professional cartographers, and Google Maps is at times incomplete or imperfect, this map gives our best approximations of the locations and details of each reported drone strike since 2004. http://counterterrorism.newamerica.net/drones
NATO Countries and the Afghanistan War
Israeli Murders, NATO and Afghanistan
Craig Murray, June 2, 2010
[FB â Craig Murray was a British career diplomat who resigned some years ago in protest against the refusal of his government to take action against torture. More details from website, linked below.]
---- NATO HQ in Brussels is today a very unhappy place. There is a strong understanding among the various national militaries that an attack by Israel on a NATO member flagged ship in international waters is an event to which NATO is obliged - legally obliged, as a matter of treaty - to react. But the unhappiness in NATO HQ runs much deeper than that, I spoke separately to two friends there, from two different nations. One of them said NATO HQ was "a very unhappy place". The other described the situation as "Tense - much more strained than at the invasion of Iraq". Why? There are already deep misgivings, especially amongst the military, over the Afghan mission. There is no sign of a diminution in Afghan resistance attacks and no evidence of a clear game plan. The military are not stupid and they can see that the Karzai government is deeply corrupt and the Afghan "national" army comprised almost exclusively of tribal enemies of the Pashtuns. You might be surprised by just how high in Nato skepticism runs at the line that in some way occupying Afghanistan helps protect the west, as opposed to stoking dangerous Islamic anger worldwide. So this is what is causing frost and stress inside NATO.
[FB] The United Kingdom has approximately 9,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly in the south. The recent election has led to a coalition government, with the Conservatives joined by the much smaller Liberal Democrats. While the new government is expected to support the US in the war, public opinion is strongly against the war; a poll in April showed 77 percent were for troops out. Recently, some British troops have been put under US command and moved to a new location. This is unpopular at home, as the troops are being sent away from the area that so many UK troops died defending. After some conflicting statements about the war by newly appointed Cabinet officials, the new Prime Minister organized a âsecretâ weekend retreat on June 1 to get everyone on the same page.
Afghans told to run their own security
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian I[UK] [June 1, 2010]
---- The Chequers meeting reflects growing impatience among ministers with the process of cleaning up the Karzai administration, getting aid channelled to the right projects and, perhaps above all, training recruits to the Afghan army and national police force â a key element in the allies' exit strategy.vernment's top foreign policy priority," Downing Street said in a statement. British commanders have repeatedly described Sangin as one of the most dangerous places in Helmand and have suggested that British troops there are too thin on the ground.They could now be reinforced by US marines. As part of the decision to hand over operational command of British troops in Helmand to a US marine general, the 1,100-strong British battlegroup in Sangin and Kajaki became part of a joint US-UK combat unit. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/01/afghans-told-run-own-security
The wars over the war: British policy in Afghanistan
The Economist [Jun 3rd 2010]
---- There are now 20,000 Americans in Helmand, compared with about 8,000 Britons. As was inevitable, this week the British were more or less subsumed into the larger American force. British qualms about the warâa poll by Com Res in April found that 77% of the British public wanted troops withdrawn from Afghanistanâtake second place to Mr Cameronâs desire to forge close ties with the Obama administration. That message will delight Robert Gates, the American defence secretary, who will be visiting London to meet members of the new government before a NATO meeting in Brussels on June 10th and 11th. http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16277927
[FB] Germany has about 4,400 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the north. Public opinion in Germany is strongly against the war. The government is pre-occupied by the European economic crisis, and recently it lost an important election â and thus its majority in the Bundesrat (upper house). More bad news came 10 days ago, when German president Kohler stirred up a storm by linking Germanyâs military missions with the need to protect economic interests. This week the ruling Christian Democratsâ political heavies chose as president a more conservative politician than the choice supported by Prime Minister Angela Merkel. This was seen as another sign that the Prime Minister was losing control of her own party.
Merkel's Favorite for German Presidency Loses Out
By Judy Dempsey, New York Times [June 4, 2010]
---- Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a setback Thursday when her preferred candidate to be Germanyâs next president, Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen, lost the race after a leading conservative premier, Christian Wulff, was chosen by regional party leaders. The choice of Mr. Wulff, 50, the ambitious premier of Lower Saxony, deals yet another blow to Mrs. Merkel and even undermines further her authority as leader of the Christian Democrats, said some party advisers.
[FB] Canada has about 2,800 troops in southern Afghanistan, and has suffered heavy casualties in Kandahar: 146 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed The war is also very unpopular in Canada, and parliament extended Canadian involvement in the war two years ago in exchange for an absolute deadline for withdrawal of December 2011. The main mover of Canadian war effort, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been in a lot of political trouble on non-war issues recently. And the highest-ranking Canadian officer in Afghanistan was fired recently because of an âinappropriate relationshipâ with a female soldier. While Harper continues to support the 2011 withdrawal deadline, a faction of the opposition Liberal Party wants to re-open the discussion.
Stephen Harper rebuffs talk of Afghan role after 2011
Richard J. Brennan, Toronto Star [June 04, 2010]
---- Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday closed the door on suggestions from opposition MPs that Canada should continue to have a military presence in Afghanistan past the pullout date of July 2011.
"We are working according to the Parliamentary resolution that was adopted in 2008 by which Canadaâs military mission will end and will transition to a civilian and development mission at the end of 2011". Liberal foreign affairs critic MP Bob Rae has suggested a special, all-party Commons committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan is willing to explore some kind of military presence after the combat mission ends in 2011. http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/819009
Saudi Arabia and the Afghanistan War
Terror link alleged as Saudi millions flow into Afghanistan war zone
Anthony Loyd, The Times [London] [May 31, 2010]
---- Millions of dollars of Saudi Arabian money have flowed into Afghanistan over the past four years, the countryâs intelligence officials say, with the sponsorship of terrorism its most likely use. According to members of the Afghan financial intelligence unit, FinTraca, the funds, totalling more than Â£920 million, enter from Pakistan, where they are converted into rupees or dollars, the favoured currency for terrorist operations. â¦The revelations illuminate the difficulties in dividing the Taleban from al-Qaeda influence and the continuing involvement of Saudi donors in sponsoring the insurgency. Authorities have demanded that Afghan insurgents renounce their relations with al-Qaeda as a precondition for any integration into the political process. Direct al-Qaeda involvement in southern Afghanistan is seen as minimal. Coalition intelligence officers recently told The Times that only half a dozen foreign voices had been detected among 13,000 intercepted conversations in the area in April. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7140745.e...
Central Asia and the Afghanistan War
[FB] On April 7, 2010 demonstrations in Kyrgyzstanâs capital city escalated into a revolution. Relieved of his duties was Kyrgyzstanâs unpopular president, who had accommodated the US need for a transportation hub in Central Asia to send troops and equipment into Afghanistan. One reason the ruling family was strongly disliked was the corruption that allowed it to amass millions of dollars, especially from kickbacks on oil refueling contracts with the US military.
U.S. will no longer use Kyrgyz base to refuel tankers
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent [June 1, 2010]
---- The U.S. military will no longer refuel its tankers at Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan, after the central Asian nation demanded to renegotiate its contract. The military uses Manas to refuel its KC-135 airplanes, used for mid-air refueling of jets in Afghanistan. It has described the base as "hugely important." Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman would not discuss the specifics of the negotiation but did offer one explanation. "They are not proposing reducing the cost of fuel," he said.Whitman said the military has other options for the KC-135 and that not using Manas would not affect U.S. air operations in Afghanistan. The United States will still use the Kyrgyz base to fly troops in and out of Afghanistan. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/06/01/us.kyrgyztan.military.base/
Iran and the Afghanistan War
General McChrystal says Afghan insurgents trained in Iran
By Sanjeev Miglani, Reuters [May 30 2010]
--- Afghan insurgents are being trained inside Iran and given weapons to fight security forces, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces said on Sunday, joining a rising drumbeat of criticism of Iran's role in the country. General Stanley McChrystal said coalition forces were working to stop Iran from giving material help to the Taliban who have stepped up the campaign to force foreign forces out of Afghanistan in a nine-year conflict. In March, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said there had been a significant shipment of Iranian arms to fighters in the southern province of Kandahar. Iran denies supporting militant groups opposed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, and says it has a stake in the security of the neighboring state. Tehran's economic influence in Afghanistan has grown rapidly in recent years, especially in the West, where cross-border trade is brisk. A dialect of Iran's Farsi language is one of two state languages in Afghanistan, and Iran hosted millions of Afghan refugees during decades of conflict. http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USTRE64T0U920100530