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Afghanistan War Weekly | July 5, 2010

Afghanistan War Weekly
By Frank Brodhead | July 5, 2010 | Click for prior issues

The US mass media focused this week on the aftermath of the Petraeus for McChrystal trade and the congressional vote to continue funding the war. As the mainstream media missed a lot, I’ve pasted in some good/useful articles on both topics. But we also need to pay attention to military action, still largely initiated by Taliban and allied forces. Last week there was a deadly attack on aid workers in Kunduz, in the north of Afghanistan and generally the responsibility of the Germans, though now reinforced by US troops. There was also fierce fighting in the remote province of Kunar, the subject of an interesting analysis by Juan Cole, linked below. Two stories from the Marjah region – the site of the recently failed US/NATO showcase offensive – demonstrate a universal law of war on the ground: now that troops are camping in Marjah, the surrounding areas must also be “cleared,” to protect the camping soldiers. So we can expect more clearing and holding, as the US/NATO tries to stay focused on Kandahar.

If you have time to look at only a few things linked here, please check out the Ann Jones article, just below, the WikiLeaks memo showing NATO’s plans to combat domestic opposition to having their troops in Afghanistan, Jean McKenzie’s article on “aid as a weapon,” and the Journeyman TV video about US-supported death squads in Kandahar.

Finally, a reminder that this and earlier “issues” of the Afghanistan War Weekly can be found on the UFPJ website, and at

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

Contents of this issue: Featured essays; Obama, McChrystal, and Petraeus; Congress votes the money; two good studies of “who are the Taliban?”; the Haqqani network and Pakistan; a negative report on training Afghanistan’s armed forces; June was a record month for US/NATO casualties; reports on several military engagements; “aid as a weapon”; more about drones; the future of UK troops in Afghanistan; and China’s interests in Afghanistan and the war.


… But the War Machine Grinds On and On and On
By Ann Jones, TomDispatch [July 1, 2010]

---- And so it goes round and round, this ill-oiled war machine, generating ever more incentives for almost everyone involved — except ordinary Afghans, of course — to keep on keeping on. There’s a little something for quite a few: government officials in the U.S., Afghanistan, and Pakistan, for-profit contractors, defense intellectuals, generals, spies, soldiers behind the lines, international aid workers and their Afghan employees, diplomats, members of the Afghan National Army, and the police, and the Taliban, and their various pals, and the whole array of camp followers that service warfare everywhere.

Why the Taliban is winning in Afghanistan

William Dalrymple, The New Statesman [UK] 22 June 2010

---- As Washington and London struggle to prop up a puppet government over which Hamid Karzai has no control, they risk repeating the blood-soaked 19th-century history of Britain’s imperial defeat. It is difficult to imagine the current military adventure in Afghanistan ending quite as badly as the First Afghan War, an abortive ­experiment in Great Game colonialism that slowly descended into what is arguably the greatest military humiliation ever suffered by the west in the Middle East: an entire army of what was then the most powerful military nation in the world utterly routed and destroyed by poorly equipped tribesmen, at the cost of £15m (well over £1bn in modern currency) and more than 40,000 lives. But nearly ten years on from Nato's invasion of Afghanistan, there are increasing signs that Britain's fourth war in the country could end with as few political gains as the first three….


Obama Calls for ‘Civilian Force’ as Large as the Military

By Jason Ditz, [June 30, 2010]

---- Speaking today at a town hall meeting, President Obama declared that the military was “overburdened’ by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, say that is among the reasons for his record military budgets as he contends with growing deficits. Of course, the president’s solution to this is not to scale down those wars. Rather, he is proposing to build a “civilian expeditionary force” that is as large as the military and can be deployed abroad for nation-building duties.

The Military Command Shake-Up

(Video) Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone

Democracy Now! – 27 minutes

---- Michael Hastings speaks about the Story that Brought Down Gen. McChrystal and Exposed Widening Disputes Behind the U.S. Debacle in Afghanistan.

"Why McChrystal Did It"

By Immanuel Wallerstein, ZNet [July 04, 2010]
---- Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which he and his staff insulted the civilian leaders of his country. He was fired for insubordination by Pres. Obama. Even his defenders said that McChrystal's remarks were impolitic and a mistake. Given the fact that McChrystal is an exceptionally intelligent and very ambitious person, why did he do it? McChrystal gave the interview in order that he be fired. And why did he want to be fired? He wanted to be fired because he knew that the policies he was pursuing and championing in the war in Afghanistan were not working, could not work. And he didn't want to be the one tarnished with the public blame.

Petraeus Pledges Look at Strikes in Afghanistan

By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times [June 29, 2010]

---- Calling the protection of his troops a “moral imperative,” Gen. David H. Petraeus said Tuesday that he would closely review restrictions on United States airstrikes and artillery in Afghanistan, which have cut down on civilian casualties but have been bitterly criticized by American troops who say they have made the fight more dangerous. General Petraeus’ statement, made in his Senate confirmation hearing to be the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, signaled what could be his first departure from the policies of the former top American commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal… In his plans to review General McChrystal’s rules of engagement — which General Petraeus oversaw as the head of United States Central Command and the overall manager of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — General Petraeus acknowledged the inherent tension between fighting a war and protecting and winning over the civilian population in a classic counterinsurgency campaign.

See also: Mark Landler, “After Afghan Shift, Top U.S. Civilians Face Tricky Future,” New York Times [July 1, 2010] It’s also worthwhile to take another look at the cables from Ambassador Eikenberry last fall, when Obama was considering McChrystal’s request for lots more troops, a request that Eikenberry opposed. The November 6, 2009 secret cables from Ambassador Karl Eikenberry are at: The context can be found in Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans,” New York Times [January 25, 2010]

162 House Votes for an Exit Strategy From Afghanistan

By John Nichols, The Nation [July 2, 2010]

---- An additional $33 billion in spending for President Obama's occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq -- and they are now his occupations as much as they once were George Bush's -- was approved by the House Thursday night as part of a broad "emergency" supplmental spending bill. But the money for the Afghanistan quagmire did not come without a fight.Two-thirds of House Democrats and nine Republicans voted for an amendment …that would have required the president to rapidly begin developing a plan for the safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The amendment received 162 votes, while 260 members opposed it. What was significant was the partisan breakdown. President Obama is now relying on Republicans to provide unquestioning support for his war, while most Democrats want to see an exit strategy developed.

Lawmakers ask for Afghanistan exit strategy

Andrew Aylward, San Francisco Chronicle [June 30, 2010]

---- Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, joined other House members in calling for President Obama to provide Congress with "a clear commitment and plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan" before a vote expected later this week that would provide $58 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The call for a firm stance on a drawdown date in a letter to the president was echoed by the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday during Gen. David Petraeus' confirmation hearing to become the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

House Panel Halts Afghan Aid

By Jason Ditz, [June 30, 2010]

---- Following up on threats made by Rep. Nita Lowey (D – NY), the House Appropriations Subcommittee has announced that it is going to cut off some $4 billion of aid to the Afghan government. Concerns have been rising that much of the foreign aid being provided by the United States and other NATO members is being skimmed off by the Afghan government and funneled out of the nation, with billions of dollars publicly leaving the country through the Kabul airport alone. Congress has noted that the Karzai government is blocking corruption probes into the vanishing aid, and insists that they will approve not one more penny until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducts an audit of the past aid.

See also: David Swanson, “Democrats Forced to Cheat to Fund War,” After Downing Street [June 2, 2010]; and “Peace Action Responds to House Votes on Afghanistan War Funding,” [July 1, 2010]

Why Afghanistan's Poppies Aren't the Problem

By Julien Mercille, Counterpunch

---- For years, there has been much discussion about the best strategy to rid Afghanistan of its poppies. Eradication, says Bush. Interdiction and alternative livelihoods, retorts Obama. Licensing and production for medicinal purposes, suggested the Senlis Council. The issues have been fiercely debated: Would there be enough demand for Afghanistan’s legal morphine? Is the government too corrupt to implement this or that scheme? To what extent will eradication alienate farmers? Which crops should we substitute for poppies? These questions are not unimportant, but fundamentally, they do not address the primary source of Afghan drug production: the West’s (and Russia’s) insatiable demand for drugs.

How Tribal Are the Taleban? Afghanistan’s Largest Insurgent Movement between its Tribal Roots and Islamist Ideology

Thomas Ruttig, Afghanistan Analysts Network

---- Today’s Taleban movement has a double nature, writes the author: with a vertical organisation, in the form of a centralised ‘shadow state’ that reflects its Islamist ideology; at the same time, there are horizontal, network-like, military structures which reflect the Taleban’s strong roots in Pashtun tribal society. The Taleban’s Islamist ideology has allowed it to systematically expand into non-Pashtun areas of Northern and Western Afghanistan and also provides an umbrella that creates cohesion in an otherwise heterogeneous movement.

The Northern Front: The Afghan Insurgency Spreading beyond the Pashtuns

Antonio Giustozzi and Christoph Reuter, Afghanistan Analysts Network

---- One of the key developments in Afghanistan during the last year is the expansion of insurgent activity in the northern region. [This] 7-page briefing paper analyses Taleban strategies of infiltration and expansion into new areas but also the type of response locally based ISAF forces have shown. It points to the fact that pattern known from elsewhere in Afghanistan are repeated in the nine provinces stretching from Faryab in the West to Badakhshan in the East. The key provinces of Kunduz and Faryab are taken as short case studies.

Reconciliation efforts with Afghan militants face major obstacle

By Alex Rodriguez and Laura King, Los Angeles Times, [June 29, 2010]

---- Prospects for an effort by Pakistan to broker a reconciliation between the government of neighboring Afghanistan and a violent wing of the Afghan Taliban depend on overcoming a major obstacle: severing long-standing relations between the militant group and Al Qaeda. Driving Pakistan's effort is a desire to increase its influence over the government in Kabul and diminish any future role its archrival to the east, India, may have there once the U.S. begins pulling troops out, a withdrawal scheduled to start next summer. The U.S. is likely to resist any deal Pakistan brokers in which the Haqqani network does not break ties with Al Qaeda, which date to the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan two decades ago.


Afghan troops 'overrated' by US

Aljazeera/English [June 30, 2010]

---- An independent report has found that the US has often over-estimated the capability of local Afghan military and police units to provide security in the country. Tuesday's findings seem to contradict recent upbeat assessments provided by foreign military commanders in Afghanistan. Transferring power to local government is one of the crucial components of the US strategy in Afghanistan. However, the report is now likely to cast doubt on that. There is no way to tell how ready Afghan forces are to take over security from US-led troops because the system used until recently to assess the Afghans is unreliable, US auditors said on Monday.

Afghanistan’s Record June Toll: 103 NATO Troops Slain

By Jason Ditz, [June 30, 2010]

---- 100 NATO troops killed would have been a bad year early in the Afghan War, but nearly nine years in, the death toll is soaring and 100 is now the toll for a single month, as the record June toll continued to rise at a disturbing rate. In fact June came to an end with at least 103 NATO soldiers slain, 61 of them Americans. The toll was more than double the toll for May, which was itself the worst May since the war began. The previous record toll for a single month was 77, in August of 2009.The fact that the new record was set in June is particularly troubling, as the death tolls in Afghanistan usually don’t hit their peak at a given point in a year until later in the summer. With several more months of warm weather to come, NATO may well be facing comparably large tolls for quite some time.

War by other means, part 1: Aid as a weapon

By Jean MacKenzie, Global Post [June 28, 2010]

Special report: Economic aid in Afghanistan is a weapon but it can backfire.

---- To recast the 19th-century military strategist Carl von Clausewitz’s enduring axiom of war, economic aid has become “the continuation of war by other means.” Nowhere is this more obvious than in “The Commander’s Guide to Money as a Weapons System,” released by the U.S. Army in early 2009. It is a handbook for using assistance as a tool of war. “Warfighters at brigade, battalion, and company level in a counterinsurgency (COIN) environment employ money as a weapons system to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous population to facilitate defeating the insurgents,” says the handbook. With the U.S. military escalating troops in Kandahar this summer, a development offensive is part of the strategy.

The Marawara District of Kunar Province: A Case Study

Juan Cole, Informed Comment [June 28, 2010]

----Radio Azadi reports that from early Sunday morning in the Marawara District of Kunar Province, a vigorous firefight has been pursued by the Taliban on the one hand and on the other, joint NATO and Afghanistan National Army troops. At least three NATO troops were killed, including 2 Americans, in the fighting. Those tribesmen who take up arms against NATO and the central government are termed ‘Taliban’ in the Western press. But the major Muslim fundamentalist guerrilla group in Kunar Province is the Hizb-i Islami of old-time Reagan-era ‘freedom fighter’ Gulbuddin Hikmatyar. …In the US, Afghanistan is mostly discussed abstractly, leading to categorical judgments like that of Panetta. But let us look at the concrete situation. Marawara in southeast Afghanistan, abutting Pakistan’s Bajaur Tribal Agency, is just about at the end of the world.

See also: Greg Jaffe, “U.S. and Afghan forces launch major assault in eastern province of Konar,”

Washington Post [June 29, 2010].

Afghan Militants Fail in Attack on NATO Air Base

By Alissa J. Rubin and Dexter Filkins, New York Times [July 1, 2010]

---- Eight Taliban insurgents were killed Wednesday after they attacked the NATO air base in the eastern Afghanistan border city of Jalalabad using a suicide car bomb and rocket-propelled grenades in a failed attempt to breach the gate, NATO said. The attack, similar to one carried out at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in May, began at 7:30 a.m. when a suicide bomber driving a car detonated his explosives at the eastern gate of the base. The attack appeared to be intended to generate publicity and remind people of the Taliban presence.

Nato's grand experiment leaves Marjah scrabbling for a future

By Julius Cavendish, The Independent [UK]

---- It is the slow rate of progress here and across Afghanistan that has helped undermine the relationship between military and political leaders in the West, culminating in General McChrystal's astonishing resignation last week. There is little sign so far that his mentor David Petraeus, who has taken over direct responsibility for the Nato campaign in Afghanistan, will abandon his protégé's strategy – and he has notably failed to endorse timelines set by President Barack Obama to start bringing US troops home. It is what happens in the shadows, though, that will, perhaps, have the largest impact. Night and day, bearded men wearing Afghan robes walk into the Helmand countryside and try to persuade people here to stand up against the insurgents and criminals. They are US Special Operations Forces. And worryingly for politicians still hoping for an imminent exit, they say there is nothing to suggest change will come quickly.

1st Recon launches new operation near Marjah

By Dan Lamothe, Marine Corps Times [Jul 2, 2010]

---- Reconnaissance Marines in Afghanistan have launched a new operation near the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah aimed at pushing insurgents out of nearby areas they have used to launch repeated attacks on Marine patrols. Operation New Dawn is an extension of Operation Moshtarak. The Corps launched that mission in February with a massive assault to push the Taliban, drug traffickers and other insurgents from Marjah, a sprawling rural area in central Helmand province with more than 80,000 people. The actions are likely just the beginning. Marine leaders in Afghanistan plan to use 1st Recon to root out insurgents in several other areas surrounding Marjah this summer, [including] the Sistani Desert to the west of Marjah and Trek Nawa, a sprawling area to Marjah’s east filled with farm compounds controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban has coordinating repeated attacks on Marine patrols from both areas.

See also: Matthew Green, “New Push to Secure Marjah Area,” Financial Times [June 30, 2010]; Miguel Marquez, “On the Ground With Bravo Co. in Marja: No Direct Route to Success,” ABC News [July 1, 2010]

The challenge of Kandahar

By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times [July 2, 2010]

---- In the struggle to win over Kandahar civilians and weaken the Taliban, U.S. commanders have ordered NATO troops to join with civilian development experts to create a competent government where none exists. But the effort has so far seen few concrete results. Development projects have been modest and plagued by insurgent attacks or threats against Afghan workers. Residents complain of shakedowns by Afghan police. Many U.S. soldiers say they don't fully trust their nominal allies in the Afghan police or army, who are scheduled to take responsibility for security by next summer. What little government exists in Kandahar is overshadowed by a cabal of Afghan hustlers who have milked connections to high government officials to earn illicit fortunes. Last month, a congressional subcommittee said Afghan warlords have siphoned off millions of dollars through protection rackets involving security escorts for North Atlantic Treaty Organization convoys.

(Video) Kandahar Death Squads - Afghanistan

Journeyman TV [May 2010] - 12 minutes
----- In a bold new offensive, US and NATO forces are turning to Afghan militias for help. More feared than the Taliban, and wearing the weapons and impunity of the US army - have they created a monster?!

The Unknown Afghan Body Count

By James Denselow, The Guardian [UK] [July 4, 2010]

---- June was a terrible month for the war in Afghanistan. The milestone of the 300th British death was compounded by the most deadly month for the Nato-led mission since the start of the conflict. The precise compilation of western casualties contrasts with almost criminal neglect in tracking the numbers of Afghan civilians killed since 2001. If Afghanistan is the "good war" then why are we not demanding to be accurately told how many skeletons there are in the Afghan closet? …How can any western official claim to have the best interests of the Afghans at heart when they don't even know how many they've killed? To understand the western presence in Afghanistan it is of critical importance to effectively and publicly track the lives lost as a result of both military and "insurgent" action.


Some Afghan military officers to get training in Pakistan

By Karin Brulliard and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post [July 1, 2010]

---- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to send a group of military officers to Pakistan for training, a significant policy shift that Afghan and Pakistani officials said signals deepening relations between the long-wary neighbors. The move is a victory for Pakistan, which seeks a major role in Afghanistan as officials in both countries become increasingly convinced that the U.S. war effort there is faltering. Afghan officials said Karzai has begun to see Pakistan as a necessary ally in ending the war through negotiation with the Taliban or on the battlefield.

More About Drones
Pakistan's dueling drones debate

By Imtiaz Gul, Foreign Policy [July 2, 2010]

---- Believed to be operating out of Forward Operating Base Chapman, located across the border in Khost, Afghanistan, drones have struck targets inside Pakistan at least 141 times since 2004, including 45 attacks already this year so far. Regardless of how effective drones may be against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, their use is the subject of widespread debate, due in large part to questions about the legality of the drones. … But Pakistan's government must first end its dueling public and private positions on drones and state clearly where it stands on this simmering issue.

Death By Drone: CIA's Hitlist is Murder

By William Fisher, Inter Press Service [July 4, 2010]

---- As the Barack Obama administration continues to roll out justifications for its policy of targeting U.S. citizens and others thought to be attacking U.S. troops, legal and national security experts are pondering a central question: What if there's a mistake and the wrong person gets killed? There are no do-overs. It is a death sentence. That, in fact, has already happened. A Reuters cameraman was killed by a U.S. drone strike when the operator mistook his camera's long-range lens for a rocket-propelled grenade. Nevertheless, a top Obama counter-terrorism official is defending the government's right to target U.S. citizens perceived as terror threats for capture or killing, citing the example of the renegade al Qaeda-linked cleric Anwar al- Awlaki. What does the law say about targeting and killing people? Much of the discussion thus far has been about the constitutionality of such killings. But, counter- intuitively, the constitution is not the primary engine. It is largely the laws of war that are in play here. Except for those who do not believe the U.S. is at war. Among these is Marjorie Cohn, immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild, who tells IPS: "Targeted or political assassinations - sometimes called extrajudicial executions - are carried out by order of, or with the acquiescence of, a government, outside any judicial framework."

CIA report into shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe

From WikiLeaks, March 11, 2010

---- This classified CIA analysis from March outlines possible PR strategies to shore up public support in Germany and France for a continued war in Afghanistan. After the Dutch government fell on the issue of Dutch troops in Afghanistan last month, the CIA became worried that similar events could happen in the countries that post the third and fourth largest troop contingents to the ISAF mission. The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women. For Germany it is the fear of the consequences of defeat (drugs, more refugees, terrorism) as well as for Germany's standing in NATO. The memo is a recipe for the targeted manipulation of public opinion in two NATO ally countries, written by the CIA. It is classified as Confidential/No Foreign Nationals.

(Video) The Future of UK troops in Afghanistan

Inside Story Aljazeera, [July 2010]

---- It has been almost a decade since British troops got involved in Afghanistan. …Aware of public opinion, David Cameron, the British prime minister, has made clear he hopes British troops can be pulled out of Afghanistan by 2015 - with the caveat that Afghan forces must be in a position to stabilise the country. Just what is the actual cost of the UK military presence in Afghanistan? And for how long will the UK keep paying the price for its role in Afghanistan?


As US fights, China spends billions to build a footprint in Afghanistan

Tini Tranap, AP News [July 3, 2010]

----- As the U.S. and its NATO allies fight to stabilize Afghanistan, China has expanded its economic footprint with several high-profile investments and reconstruction projects. In 2007, it became the country's largest foreign investor when it won a $3.5 billion contract to develop copper mines at Aynak, southeast of Kabul. For China, the reward is not only expanded trade and access to natural resources, it's also security for its western flank, the vast Xinjiang region that is home to a separatist movement of minority Uighurs.


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