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Afghanistan War Weekly | June 13, 2010

Afghanistan War Weekly | June 13, 2010
By Frank Brodhead

There were two important developments in Afghanistan this week. The first concerned the fallout from the firing/resignations of two of President Karzai’s most important cabinet ministers, the Minister of the Interior and the Director of Intelligence. As explained in detail below, the firing/resignations deepened the fissures between Karzai and forces within his government opposed to working more closely with Pakistan, moving towards negotiations with the Taliban, freeing prisoners from Bagram, etc. Because the two former officials have close ties to the CIA and MI5, and allegedly to India, this breach may be difficult to heal, even if that is the US/NATO goal. Also, a report charging that Pakistan’s ISI (military security/intelligence) is directing the Taliban raises the temperature still more.

The second important development was what seems to be a concession by the US/NATO that the “summer” offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar is not likely to happen before the fall. Based (falsely) on the belief that the civilian components of the “surge” in Iraq were critical to the (not true) successes there, General McChrystal has been pushing civilian development and similar activities as a prelude to the actual military campaign against Kandahar. This is now acknowledged to be going nowhere, as indicated most clearly by the poor showing of the “pacification” of Marja, but also by the US/NATO’s inability to remove President Karzai’s brother and similar miscreants from their godfather roles in Kandahar.

Also important this week is the imo unexpected uncertainty about what the new British government plans to do in Afghanistan. Casting against type, the new Conservative-led coalition has so far refused pleas for more troops and has urged moving the British withdrawal date sooner if possible. The insane austerity program being proposed by the new government will also affect military operations; and the investigations/pursuit of Labour’s errors in the Iraq war may have the further effect of bolstering antiwar/pacifist sentiment in Britain.

---- Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)

Contents of this newsletter: The War in Washington; the War in Kabul; Negotiations with the Taliban; Military operations in Marja and elsewhere; false starts for the offensive against Kandahar; new controversies about the role of Pakistan in the war; Vulnerable supply convoys; uncertainty about the future of Britain in Afghanistan; rioting in Kyrgyzstan.

The War in Washington

McChrystal Faces ‘Iraq 2006 Moment’ in Afghanistan

By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [June 12, 2010]

---- Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal confronts the specter of a collapse of U.S. political support for the war in Afghanistan in coming months comparable to the one that occurred in the Iraq War in late 2006.

On Thursday, McChrystal’s message that his strategy will weaken the Taliban in its heartland took its worst beating thus far, when he admitted that the planned offensive in Kandahar City and surrounding districts is being delayed until September at the earliest, because it does not have the support of the Kandahar population and leadership.

For the US in Afghanistan, the News Is Bad

By Jim Lobe, [June 11, 2010]

---- According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Thursday, 53 percent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan, which last month, according to most measures, exceeded the Vietnam conflict as the longest-running war in U.S. history, was "not worth fighting." That was the highest percentage in more than three years. The same poll found that 39 percent of the public believes that Washington is losing the war, compared to 42 percent who believe it is winning. While public skepticism about the war appears to be growing, the foreign policy elite, including within the military, also seems increasingly doubtful for a number of reasons. As a result of local disillusionment with the police and the very few Afghan civilian officials that followed the U.S. military into the area, insurgents have regrouped and in some areas regained the offensive, according to the latest reports. One recent study found that the majority of the population had become more antagonistic to NATO forces than was the case before the operation began.

For the poll, see Washington Post, “Public remains unfriendly on Afghanistan,” [June 10, 2010]

False Advertising About the Iraq Surge

By John Agnew and Claudio Guler, t r u t h o u t [June 13, 2010]

---- The US surge in Iraq did not by itself bring about an end to the country's civil war in 2006-2007 as Washington and the received wisdom have maintained. A temporary troop increase and the adoption of civilian-friendly counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics were largely too little too late. The primary factor responsible for the decline in violence in Iraq was the culmination of the sectarian cleansing of Sunnis - principally in Baghdad, formerly a thoroughly mixed ethnic city since the advent of the republic in 1958 and through Saddam Hussein's rule - by the newly empowered Shia majority in their drive to national pre-eminence. The details of our argument are outlined in two reports available online: "Baghdad Night " (UCLA) and "Baghdad Divided" (ISN). The former uses light emissions at night by neighborhood, before, during and after the surge to track the effects of the violence in the capital and to make its case. It was the predominantly Sunni areas that were overwhelmingly most likely to darken; the Sunnis were either killed or ejected and shut off the lights in the process. The latter report contains maps chronicling the sectarian cleansing of Baghdad and its consequent division.

Concerns Grow over Bagram’s Prison within a Prison

By William Fisher, [June 11, 2010]

---- The administration of President Barack Obama is considering using Afghanistan’s U.S.-run Bagram Air Base prison to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects captured far from a battlefield and who have not been charged with a crime — without any judicial oversight. A senior U.S. official reportedly told the Los Angeles Times that the Obama administration wants to detain and interrogate non-Afghan terrorism suspects captured in countries outside Afghanistan in a section of the Bagram prison, even after it turns the prison over to Afghan, The secret facility is reportedly run by either the Joint Special Operations Command or the Defense Intelligence Agency, and detainees maintain they have been abused there. It is unclear whether guards and interrogators at the secret facility are subject to the same rules that apply at the main Bagram detention facility.

The War in Kabul
At the conclusion of last week’s “Peace Jirga” in Kabul, President Karzai fired his Minister of the Interior and his head of Intelligence. The immediate cause was the Taliban attack on the opening day of the Jirga. But as the articles linked below indicate, this reflects a deeper split in Afghan politics. The Director of Intelligence, Amrullah Saleh, has been associated with US and British intelligence services for a long time, and was close to the leadership of the Northern Alliance, the main political and military opponent of the Taliban prior to 9/11. Saleh is a Tajik, traditional antagonists of the Pashtuns, while Karzai is a Pashtun, the main ethnic base for the Taliban. Saleh’s accusation that Karzai is moving away from the US/NATO and towards Pakistan is supported articles pasted in below in the Pakistan section. Saleh, meanwhile, is accused of supporting a growing role for India in Afghanistan. Seen in the context of the boycott of the Peace Jirga by leading Northern Alliance political figures, the fissures in Afghan politics seem to be getting deeper. Will this encourage deeper thinking about regime change w/in the Obama administration?

An interview with Karzai’s former head of intelligence
Afghan president 'has lost faith in US ability to defeat Taliban'

Jon Boone, The Guardian [UK] [June 9, 2010]

---- President Hamid Karzai has lost faith in the US strategy in Afghanistan and is increasingly looking to Pakistan to end the insurgency, according to those close to Afghanistan's former head of intelligence services. Amrullah Saleh, who resigned last weekend, believes the president lost confidence some time ago in the ability of Nato forces to defeat the Taliban. As head of the National Directorate of Security, Saleh was highly regarded in western circles. He has said little about why he quit, other than that the Taliban attack on last week's peace jirga or assembly in Kabul was for him the "tipping point"; the interior minister, Hanif Atmar, also quit, and their resignations were accepted by Karzai. Privately Saleh has told aides he believes Karzai's approach is dangerously out of step with the strategy of his western backers. … The former intelligence head is outraged by the tone of the jirga, which stressed the role of the weak and corrupt Afghan state in fomenting insurgency. And he was appalled by Karzai's post-jirga announcement that a commission would be set up to release Taliban prisoners not held on solid evidence – such evidence in many cases came from Saleh's directorate..

See also: Dexter Filkins, “Karzai Is Said to Doubt West Can Defeat Taliban,” New York Times [June 12, 2010].; and “The Government’s Fraying Unity, The Economist [UK} [June 10, 2010]

Rice: NYT article 'fallacious'

Politico [June 13, 2010]

---- U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice took a hard line on Sunday against a New York Times piece that states Afghan President Hamid Karzai doubts the U.S. and NATO’s ability to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Rice said that there is much in the article that seems to be inaccurate, “if not fallacious.” “We don’t have any basis for seeing it as the New York Times portrays it,” Rice said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We have every confidence that the U.S. and NATO, working with our Afghan partners, will defeat the Taliban. Hamid Karzai remains an important partner in the Afghan government.”

Kabul the Most Polluted Province

Outlook Afghanistan [June 7, 2010]

---- About 3,000 people lose their lives every year in Kabul due to pollution-related diseases, a top health official said. Respiratory, heart and lung diseases were the most common illnesses associated with pollution… In Nangarhar province, 250,000 people suffer from diarrhea, typhoid, malaria and respiratory problems, said the health director, Dr Ajmal Pardes. He blamed the large number of brick kilns of “deliberately polluting” the environment.,%202010/news_Pages/L...

Negotiations with the Armed Opposition

US Asks for Details of Reintegration Plan

Agence France Presse, June 8, 2010

---- The Afghan government must outline how international funding for a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters who renounce violence will be overseen before it can begin operating, US special envoy Richard Holbrooke said Tuesday. "The details of how it will be administered and overseen are quite important to the donor governments so there is no question of the diversion of funds," he told a Madrid news conference. The US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan said he expected the details of how the so-called Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Program will be run to be announced before an international conference in Kabul on July 20. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to attend the international conference in Kabul along with the foreign ministers from several Western nations. Holbrooke was in Madrid for an informal meeting of special representatives for Afghanistan from more than 30 countries and organizations.

[June 8, 2010]

The War on the Ground
Scholar Soldiers in Afghanistan Are on Dangerous Terrain

By James Denselow, The Guardian [UK] [June 11, 2010]

The competency and capability of our civilian war effort has been put into a sharp focus by Barack Obama's decision to have a "smart surge" into Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal is clear that the military component is only part of the solution and that a key ingredient to the success of the new counterinsurgency strategy is the use of civilian, not military, power. One of the US military's experiments with harnessing civilian power has been the creation of human terrain teams (HTT). This embedding of social scientists into military brigades to provide cultural understanding and intelligence has received little coverage in the UK while in the US it is seen as one of the most controversial aspects of the war.

See also: David Price and John Stanton have each written several very informative articles about Human Terrain Team operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are on the Counterpunch website.

(Video) State of Disrepair – Afghanistan

Journeyman Pictures [June 7, 2010] [8 minutes]

---- This exclusive report provides seemingly undeniable evidence that NATO's battle for the hearts and minds of Afghans has failed. With the fight still raging almost a decade later, has patience finally run out?
Afghans are still fleeing hundreds of miles north, leaving behind their lush farms in Helmand province. … The new NATO-trained police are cracking down on poppy crops. But a blow for global heroin means the loss of precious livelihoods here. …The Taliban fighters responsible for planting those bombs are unrepentant: "our message to the international community is to get out of our country. We won't stop fighting them unless they go." It's a sentiment now echoed by local Afghans: "We don't need these infidels, we don't need their help."

[There is a list of other Journeyman documentaries, many about Afghanistan, on the same web page as this film. Worth a look.]

Afghan officials: insurgency growing in southwest

By Heidi Vogt, Associated Press [June 11, 2010]

---- The governing council of a once peaceful province in southwestern Afghanistan has fled to Kabul after the Taliban killed one of their members and threatened the others with death. They fear U.S.-led offensives to the east may simply be pushing insurgents into new areas. The council members from Nimroz province talk of a rising tide of violence and intimidation as Taliban fighters who have been forced out of neighboring Helmand province, which includes Marjah, shift operations to Nimroz. They say other militants have been crossing into Nimroz from Iran, where they trained at desert camps. A spokesman for U.S. Marines based in Nimroz insists security has improved in the remote province along the border with Iran and Pakistan. But Afghan provincial officials say the approximately 2,000 U.S. Marines and 1,000 Afghan soldiers operate primarily in the northeast — 130 miles from the provincial capital, Zaranj — and are unaware of conditions elsewhere in the province.

The “Pacification” of Marja

'Still a long way to go' for U.S. operation in Marja, Afghanistan

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [June 10, 2010]

---- Residents of this onetime Taliban sanctuary see signs that the insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines. The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marja is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them. … The slow and uneven progress has worried senior military officials in Kabul and Washington who intended to use Marja as a model to prove that more troops and a new war strategy can yield profound gains against the Taliban. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, told officers here in late May that there is a growing perception that Marja has become "a bleeding ulcer." The central question among military leaders is whether Marja will improve quickly enough to be proclaimed an incipient success by the fall, when the Pentagon will begin to prepare for a year-end White House review of the war that will help to determine how many troops Obama withdraws in July 2011.

The (Summer) Fall Offensive in Kandahar
General: Kandahar taking longer than planned

By Anne Gearan, Associated Press

---- Afghans have not yet rallied behind a U.S. military-led effort to push the Taliban out of the city where the insurgency began, and the top commander conceded Thursday that he needs more time to win them over. The struggle for control of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city, is considered the crucial test of President Barack Obama's revamped strategy for a war that is increasingly unpopular in the United States and Europe. McChrystal said that he had underestimated the amount of time needed to get local support in Kandahar. But he said the overall plan for securing the city remains the same, and that he still sees the war turning around by the year's end.

Kandahar strategy draws criticism

By Serena Tarling and Matthew Green, Financial Times [June 13, 2010]

---- US plans to turn the course of the Afghan war with a large-scale operation to secure Kandahar risk driving more people into the arms of the insurgents, a senior United Nations official has warned.

Richard Barrett, who heads a UN team tracking the Taliban and al-Qaeda, also said it was nonsense to suggest the war in Afghanistan was protecting Britain from terrorism. The critique of western strategy delivered by Mr Barrett, a former UK counter-terrorism chief, will sharpen the dilemma faced by David Cameron, the prime minister. The British government wants to reconcile its commitment to Afghanistan with its pledges to deal with a large budget deficit. Mr Barrett’s comments underline the concerns shared by many western and UN officials about the counter-insurgency strategy of General Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander in Afghanistan. The scale and complexity of the approach was underlined last week when Gen McChrystal announced a delay in the planned operation to secure Kandahar city, the Taliban’s spiritual home.

Afghanistan's Karzai seeks support for Kandahar op

By Deb Riechmann, Associaed Press [June 13, 2010

---- During a meeting in a steamy conference hall in Kandahar city, several hundred people, including tribal chiefs and religious leaders, cheered as Karzai denounced corruption among police and local power brokers. He pounded the podium saying corruption was undermining security as his government and its international partners struggle to turn back a resurgent Taliban. "This is my promise to you — that I will bring security to you," Karzai said, pointing a finger at the audience. "The condition of the Kandahar people, the fears among the people, assassinations among the people cannot be tolerated by us. You will join with us and together we can eliminate and put and end to all of this." The majority of the audience stood and raised their hands as Karzai asked for their support — a move local officials considered an endorsement of the NATO campaign.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, an ally and obstacle to the U.S. military in Afghanistan

By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post [June 13, 2010]

--- On March 8, at NATO headquarters in Kabul, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal presided over a classified briefing that some military officials hoped would lead to the ouster of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Afghanistan's president and the most powerful figure in southern Afghanistan. But what has emerged instead appears to have left Karzai stronger than ever. …Some American officials say it is naive to think that Ahmed Wali Karzai will loosen his grip on Kandahar, where Afghan police commanders live in fear of crossing him. Of the 900 new policemen headed to the city this summer, Karzai recently claimed 250 of them for the provincial council, and 110 of these as personal bodyguards, a senior U.S. official said.

Afghanistan Strategy Shifts to Focus on Civilian Effort

By Rod Nordland, New York Times [June 9, 2010]

---- The prospect of a robust military push in Kandahar Province, which had been widely expected to begin this month, has evolved into a strategy that puts civilian reconstruction efforts first and relegates military action to a supportive role. The strategy, Afghan, American and NATO civilian and military officials said in interviews, was adopted because of opposition to military action from an unsympathetic local population and Afghan officials here and in Kabul. There are also concerns that a frontal military approach has not worked as well as hoped in a much smaller area in Marja, in neighboring Helmand Province.

US Military Trains Afghan Villagers against Taliban

Agence France Press, Outlook Afghanistan, June 10, 2010

---- American Special Forces are helping Afghan villages organize their own protection against Taliban militants, a US army chief in southern Afghanistan has told AFP. Brigadier General Ben Hodges, head of operations for US forces in southern Afghanistan, said some Afghan villagers have been provided basic training and cash in areas beset by the Islamist insurgency. "… The initiative appeared to be similar to US military efforts in Iraq from 2006, when former Sunni insurgents were used to help fight Al Qaeda and contribute to a decline in violence.

Taliban Aim at Officials in a Wave of Killings

By Rod Nordland, New York Times [June 9, 2010]

---- The Taliban have been stepping up a campaign of assassinations in recent months against officials and anyone else associated with local government in an attempt to undermine counterinsurgency operations in the south. Government assassinations are nothing new as a Taliban tactic, but now the Taliban are taking aim at officials who are much more low-level, who often do not have the sort of bodyguards or other protection that top leaders do.

Pakistan and the Afghanistan War

The firing/resignation of President Kazai’s two top intelligence/interior people last week has focused attention once again on the Afghanistan-Pakistan relation, and on Pakistan’s support for the Taliban. Further, a report claiming that Taliban leaders told the report’s author that Pakistan’s intelligence services (ISI) are deeply involved in running the Taliban – not just assisting it – leads to further controversy. Also, another attack on the vital supply line connecting the Pakistan port of Karachi to NATO forces in Afghanistan renewed concerns about the viability of this route, partly because the attack took place so close to Islamabad, rather than in the mountainous areas dividing the two countries. Read in conjunction with the debate in Kabul (see above) about Karzai’s giving up on the possibility of a US/NATO victory, the temptations for the US to think about regime change in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan may be increasing.

Peace Activist Kathy Kelly on the Secret US War in Pakistan

Democracy Now! [June 10, 2010] [8 minutes]

---- In Pakistan, where the undeclared US war continues to expand, armed fighters attacked a convoy carrying military vehicles for NATO forces in Afghanistan, torching fifty trucks, killing seven, and injuring another seven. Last week, a senior United Nations official formally asked the Obama administration to halt or scale back CIA drone strikes on alleged militant suspects in Pakistan. For a perspective on what US policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan looks like on the ground, we’re joined here in New York by longtime activist Kathy Kelly. She just returned from a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where she met with those she describes as "the impoverished and war-weary."

US $Aid$ to Pakistan

Red flags raised by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee

By Shaheen Sehbai, The News [Pakistan] [June 12, 2010]

---- On the eve of billions of dollars of Kerry-Lugar money beginning to flow to the PPP government, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has raised several red flags, asking critical questions about accountability and almost warning that significant portions may end up in accounts of the corrupt elite. In a strong indictment of the present system in Pakistan, Senator Kerry has written a long seven-page letter to special US envoy Richard Holbrooke dated May 25, 2010 (a brief part of which was reported a few days later by the Boston Globe). Kerry says: “The danger is much greater than merely the possibility of a portion of the funds being poorly spent.” Kerry’s letter reveals that more than 50 per cent of the KLB funds would go in 2010 directly to the Government of Pakistan or local partners.

Is Pakistan Directing the Taliban?

The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan insurgents

Matt Waldman, Crisis States Research Centre [27 pages]

---- [From the Abstract] Many accounts of the Afghan conflict misapprehend the nature of the relationship between Pakistan’s security services and the insurgency. The relationship, in fact, goes far beyond contact and coexistence, with some assistance provided by elements within, or linked to, Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) or military. Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders, the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies. …According to both Taliban and Haqqani commanders, it controls the most violent insurgent units, some of which appear to be based in Pakistan.

(Video) Matt Waldman on Taliban-ISI links

AlJazeeraEnglish [June 13, 2010] [6 minutes]

---- Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard University, is the author of a new report accusing Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of funding and training the Afghan insurgency. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Waldman discusses his methodology and the reasons why Pakistan might view the Taliban as an ally.

Pakistani president never met Taliban, officials say

Declan Walsh, The Guardian [UK] [June 13, 2010]

---- Pakistani officials have denounced claims by a British researcher that President Asif Ali Zardari secretly met with Taliban insurgents two months ago to assure them of his support and "friendship". The claim is part of a report by Matt Waldman, a former Oxfam official, which claims that Pakistani intelligence is arming, training and funding Taliban insurgents to a far greater degree than previously alleged.

Vulnerable Supply Routes to Afghanistan Through Pakistan

Renewed threat to Afghan supply line
By Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times [June 11, 2010]
---- The United States Defense Department has dismissed Wednesday's militant attack on a US convoy in Pakistan that destroyed about 60 trucks as "not going to have an effect" on overall operations in Afghanistan. However, with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops poised for a major offensive in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, the fiery and unprecedented developments on Wednesday morning on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad ought to be ringing alarm bells that NATO's main supply line is once again under threat after nearly a year of stability. More than 60% of non-fuel supplies and up to half of the fuel used by Western forces in Afghanistan passes through Pakistan. This amounts to about 5,000 containers a month being ferried from the southern port city of Karachi through the mountainous tribal areas into Afghanistan, most via the Khyber Pass. The remainder goes via the so-called northern distribution route from Central Asia.

(Video) Nato's vulnerable convoys

From AlJazeeraEnglish [June 09, 2010] [6 minutes]

---- Zafar Jaspal, a security analyst in Pakistan, spoke to Al Jazeera in the wake of a deadly attack on a Nato convoy near Islamabad that was transporting supplies across the border into Afghanistan. At least six drivers were killed in the raid of June 8, with a group of men armed with guns and grenades striking in the middle of night and torching more than 50 lorries, in the process destroying millions of dollars worth of fuel, food and other supplies. Attacks on Nato convoys are not unusual in Pakistan, but what has got security forces worried this time is that the attack took place on the outskirts of the federal capital.

NATO Countries and the Afghanistan War
United Kingdom

The recent election that brought a coalition of the Conservatives and the (much smaller) Liberal Democrats to power has led to a review of Britain’s policies in Afghanistan and the replacement of some senior personnel. The Conservative’s military policy is being affected by its deflationary economic policies, making some miliatary expenditures problematic. Strong public opposition to the war has also led to promises of no further troop increases. The Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, and the Foreign Secretary have all visited Afghanistan in the last two weeks, with the Prime Minister’s plane being diverted because of fears of assassination. The quick visits of Petraeus and Gates to Britain to solicit continued and possibly increased British support in Afghanistan indicates the importance of this issue. The several reviews of Britain’s Iraq policymaking may have the effect of further legitimatiing antiwar criticism there.

Cameron offers cash – but not troops – to help fight the Taliban

By Kim Sengupta, The Independent [UK]

---- David Cameron offered extra funds to combat roadside bombs taking a relentless toll on British lives during his first visit to Afghanistan as Prime Minister yesterday, but ruled out sending any extra troops to help turn the tide of the war against the Taliban. Mr Cameron's declaration that sending reinforcements was "not remotely" on the agenda and that the question should be "Can we go further, can we go faster?" on the date of withdrawing troops showed a desire to disengage from the conflict as soon as possible. In the meantime, however, he stated that a further £67m will be spent on countering IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on top of £150m pledged by Gordon Brown during his own visit to Afghanistan last year when he was still prime minister.

Afghan Mission will Fail without UK Help: Petraeus

AP News, Outlook Afghanistan [June 10, 2010]

---- Gen. David Petraeus warned Wednesday that the effort to quash the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan would fail without British support, making his case to U.K. leaders facing painful choices over what kind of military commitments the country can afford. "As was the case in Iraq, the scale of the British contribution in Afghanistan is such that the coalition cannot succeed without you," he said. …Petraeus's visit to London — which also took him to No. 10 Downing Street to meet with Cameron — follows that of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who received assurances that the U.K. remained committed to its central role in the Afghan war. …Britain is preparing for a major review of its military that will lay out the armed forces' new priorities as they recover from an unpopular war in Iraq and continue a deadly slog in southern Afghanistan. Some 294 British military personnel have lost their lives there since 2001.

Officers’ mess: military chiefs blamed for blundering into Helmand with ‘eyes shut and fingers crossed’

Deborah Haynes, Times on Line [UK]

---- Military chiefs and civil servants ignored warnings that Britain was ill prepared to send troops to Helmand and signed off a deeply flawed plan, a succession of senior figures have told The Times.

Even those in charge of the deployment admit that the decision to go to southern Afghanistan in 2006, which has cost the lives of nearly 300 servicemen and women, was a gamble and that mistakes were made because of poor intelligence. They insist, however, that the operation was justified to revitalise the Nato mission, combat the Taleban and reassert Britain’s military prowess after setbacks in Iraq.

But a two-month investigation by The Times, which includes interviews with 32 senior military, political and Civil Service figures, reveals that there was deep disquiet over the handling of the mission from the start. Top ranks within the Ministry of Defence and other Whitehall departments are accused of [many things]. The allegations come as a critical defence review gets under way and David Cameron decides how to plot the way ahead in Afghanistan’s most dangerous province.

Poland's prime minister wants NATO to plan its withdrawal from Afghanistan

AP News, [Jun 12, 2010]

---- Poland's prime minister says he wants NATO to develop a timetable to end its mission in Afghanistan. Donald Tusk said Saturday that he plans to raise the issue at the alliance's next summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in November. His comments came after a Polish soldier was killed earlier in the day by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Poland has some 2,600 troops there, making it the seventh largest troop contributor to NATO's mission.

Central Asia and the Afghanistan War


As of Sunday, it does not appear that the deadly rioting going on in Krygyzstan is related to the nation’s role in the Afghanistan war (US air base), or even to the recent violent change in government. Today Russia refused Kyrgyzstan’s request for troops to help stop the rioting. There may be no more to this than ordinary ugly ethnic conflict.

Uzbeks flee Kyrgyzstan violence

From: AlJazeeraEnglish | June 12, 2010 | 301 views [2 minutes]

----Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks are trying to escape southern Kyrgyzstan after clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks killed dozens of people in the city of Osh. The Uzbeks are trying to cross the border into Uzbekistan.The Kyrgyz interim government has admitted that it has lost control of Osh, the country's second largest city, and has asked for Russian help to quell the violence.

Shoot-to-kill in Kyrgyz south amid deadly ethnic unrest

----Kyrgyzstan's interim government has given security forces shoot-to-kill powers in a bid to stop ethnic fighting which has taken nearly 80 lives. It also declared a partial mobilisation of the army to combat "destructive forces and criminal elements". Thousands of ethnic Uzbeks have been fleeing what they say are ethnic Kyrgyz gangs in the southern city of Osh. Almost 1,000 people were also hurt in the worst unrest since President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's overthrow in April. Russia says it does not plan to intervene despite a Kyrgyz request. And without international assistance there are fears the interim authorities in Kyrgyzstan may struggle to contain the conflict, the BBC's Rayhan Demytrie reports. The south of Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet Central Asian state of 5.5 million people, is home to an ethnic Uzbek minority of almost one million. The latest violence has become the biggest challenge for the new government so far.


Safi Airways to Fly Nonstop from Beijing to Kabul

Outlook Afghanistan [June 8, 2010]

---- Safi Airways, the international airline of Afghanistan, announced today it will introduce new, twice weekly scheduled nonstop flights between Beijing and Kabul by the end of June. Beijing will be Safi Airways' sixth international destination and the first Far East city on the young carrier's route map. The new flights mark the first nonstop link by any airline between the Chinese and the Afghan capital cities.,%202010/news_Pages/L...

New Video Resources

Why Are We in Afghanistan?, written by Mike Zweig of U.S. Labor Against the War, is getting some strong endorsements (e.g., from the union representing faculty and staff in the New York State public university system) as well as winning the Studs Terkel Prize for Media and Journalism from the Working Class Studies Association. Both the full 28-minute version and a condensed 11-minute version can be seen on the web site,, which also has a link to a teacher guide and information on ordering the DVD. [Text from Historians Against War]

Worse Than Vietnam?

Rethink Afghanistan [4 minutes]

The Afghanistan War is now the longest war in U.S. history. If an end-date isn't set, we could be there forever. We want a responsible withdrawal that's complete no later than December 2011. As Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg says in our new video, "It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam." We need to make sure the same doesn't happen with Afghanistan.


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