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Afghanistan War Weekly: August 29, 2010
By Frank Brodhead
The controversy over President Obama’s July 2011 date for the beginning of a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan masks a more important fight about whether the Pentagon or the White House is going to run the war. While Obama’s main goal in Afghanistan may be political success at home, the US military is digging in its heels against a “withdrawal without victory” endgame. This is illustrated by some news articles linked below, where the military planners are shown to be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in air bases that will not be ready to use before 2012, and where the training of Afghanistan troops is not scheduled to deliver a minimally competent army anytime soon. Afghanistan President Karzai has now joined the chorus claiming that the July 2011 date – only a weak political ploy to begin with – is giving the Taliban reasons to keep fighting, while discouraging cooperation with government institutions. Will US public opinion tolerate a war declared to be open-ended?
A flurry of news from Afghanistan this week highlights the massive corruption that binds the government and the political elite. As described in some depth by articles linked below, uncovering even the smallest parts of the network of corruption in Afghanistan brings to light the CIA’s many links to the main players in Afghanistan’s political and military hierarchy. Those who remember Vietnam will see little new here, as a US-induced culture of corruption renders illegitimate the government that the US is counting on to legitimate the US/NATO war against much of Afghanistan’s population.
If you are pressed for time this week, in addition to the “featured essays” just below, I especially recommend former CIA analyst Ray McGovern’s essay on the Pentagon v. Obama power struggle noted above; Dexter Filkins’ curious NYT article on last winter’s Pakistan-CIA operation to short circuit negotiations between the Taliban and the Karzai regime; the several articles about what seem to me to be increasingly frequent protests against the killing of civilians; Rick Rowley's short video clip about the unsuccessful campaign in Marjah some months ago; and Carlotta Gall’s NYT article on some of the likely long-term effects of Pakistan’s floods.
I would appreciate receiving suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is email@example.com. This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice (www.unitedforpeace.org) and War is a Crime (www.afterdowningstreet.org/aww).
----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America's Military Strategy in the Muslim World
By Fred Branfman, AlterNet [August 24, 2010]
---- The truth that many Americans find hard to take is that that mass U.S. assassination on a scale unequaled in world history lies at the heart of America's military strategy in the Muslim world, a policy both illegal and never seriously debated by Congress or the American people. Conducting assassination operations throughout the 1.3 billon-strong Muslim world will inevitably increase the murder of civilians and thus create exponentially more "enemies," as Gen. McChrystal suggests -- posing a major long-term threat to U.S. national security. This mass assassination program, sold as defending Americans, is actually endangering us all. Those responsible for it, primarily General Petraeus, are recklessly seeking short-term tactical advantage while making an enormous long-term strategic error that could lead to countless American deaths in the years and decades to come. General Petraeus must be replaced, and the U.S. military's policy of direct and mass assassination of Muslims ended. http://www.alternet.org/story/147944/
See also: Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast,” New York Times [May 24, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/25military.html?_r=1
How to Leave Afghanistan Without Losing
By Selig S. Harrison, Foreign Policy [August 24, 2010]
---- As prospects for an early U.S.-NATO military victory in Afghanistan fade and pressures for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces grow, the debate over U.S. policy in Afghanistan focuses increasingly on one key issue: Is it possible to negotiate terms for disengagement that would not constitute a strategic defeat? Advocates of staying the course equate any conceivable disengagement scenario with surrender to the Taliban. But elementary geopolitical arithmetic suggests an exit strategy that would contain Taliban influence after U.S. combat forces depart. Six of the seven neighboring regional powers with a stake in Afghanistan's future -- Russia, Iran, India, China, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan -- share the U.S. goal of preventing the return of a Taliban dictatorship in Kabul. Only one, Pakistan, which helped install and sustain the Taliban regime that ruled from 1996 to 2001, wants to see it back in power. But these proposals implicitly assume that the United States would remain in the driver's seat in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the regional neighbors have no desire to legitimate an enduring U.S. presence in the country -- particularly with regards to the U.S. air bases now being used for intelligence surveillance missions in areas of Afghanistan bordering Russia, China, and Iran. … The biggest obstacle to the accord is not likely to come from Pakistan, but from a Pentagon mindset in which the projection of U.S. power is viewed as a desirable end in of itself.
(Video) Empire - The US between two wars
From AlJazeeraEnglish [August 26, 2010] – 48 minutes
---- With Marwan Bishara. The US stands at a historic crossroads, redeploying its combat troops out of Iraq and surging them in Afghanistan. But are they really leaving Iraq - or just rebranding the occupation? Why is Iraqi Lieutenant General Zibari requesting a decade-long US military presence? [A 6-minute clip near the beginning is a report by Rick Rowley of Big Noise Film about the failed campaign in Marjah.]
(Video) Bomb squad reality show
From the Rachel Maddow Show [Aug 26, 2010]
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
Obama Boxed In by Generals on Afghanistan
By Ray McGovern, CommonDreams [August 27, 2010]
---- During last year's long review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal's recommendations for a major escalation of troops and an open-ended commitment for 10 years or more were leaked to the press. Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen also made a public case for a long-term commitment, as did Petraeus, who was chief of the Central Command. Then, during a public presentation in London on Oct. 1, 2009, McChrystal himself said he could not support a presidential decision to fight the war primarily with drone aircraft and Special Forces, the more limited approach advocated by Vice President Joe Biden. Obama's dilemma was how to project an image of strength in the fight against the Taliban and still avoid letting Afghanistan become an albatross around his neck in 2011-2012 as the next presidential election drew near. In Obama's calculation, the image of toughness was to come from giving the generals pretty much what they demanded to carry the fight to the Taliban. The albatross would be avoided, the President thought, by giving the generals a deadline -- a date on which U.S. troops would start coming home. Such a deadline would also be helpful in appeasing what used to be called Obama's base-more recently branded "the professional left." http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/08/27
See also: Sardar Ahmad, “Ongoing offensive from US military etc against July 2011 deadline,’” Agence France Press [August 27, 2010]; http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100827/wl_sthasia_afp/afghanistanunrest; AlJazeera/English, “Afghan leader criticizes US pullout,” [August 20, 2010] http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2010/08/201082721938396117.html; and Jason Ditz, “NATO Chief Disavows 2014 Drawdown Date, Insists War to Continue Indefinitely,” Antiwar.com [July 21, 2010] http://news.antiwar.com/2010/07/21/nato-chief-disavows-2014-drawdown-dat...
Air base expansion plans reflect long-term investment in Afghanistan
By Walter Pincus, Washington Post [August 23, 2010]
---- Three $100 million air base expansions in southern and northern Afghanistan illustrate Pentagon plans to continue building multimillion-dollar facilities in that country to support increased U.S. military operations well into the future. Despite growing public unhappiness with the Afghan war -- and President Obama's pledge that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 -- many of the installations being built in Afghanistan have extended time horizons. None of the three projects in southern and northern Afghanistan is expected to be completed until the latter half of 2011. All of them are for use by U.S. forces rather than by their Afghan counterparts. Overall, requests for $1.3 billion in additional fiscal 2011 funds for multiyear construction of military facilities in Afghanistan are pending before Congress. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/22/AR201008...
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- 42 US soldiers and 20 soldiers from other Coalition countries have been killed so far in August. (This is down from July, when 66 US soldiers were killed, the highest monthly total since the war began.) The total US deaths in Afghanistan is now 1,256, and the total Coalition deaths is 2,040. The number of US soldiers wounded in June 2010 (the last month for which complete information is available) was 517, bringing the total US wounded since the war began to 4,742. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org.
The Cost of the War
According to the website www.costofwar.com, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $328 billion, and the total for both wars is $1.072 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at www.bringourwardollarshome.org/index.html
Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan
---- An NBC/Wall Street Journal Survey shows a public growing increasingly pessimistic about the Obama Administration’s handling of a number of issues, including a major rise in opposition to the Afghan War. Confidence is now plummeting, with 68% saying they feel “less confidence” about whether the war will reach a successful conclusion. Perhaps even more importantly, for the first time yet, the poll shows, the American public generally disapproves of the president’s handling of the Afghan War. The 44%-45% opposition was a stark drop in popularity of the war from five months ago, when they generally approved 53%-35%. The poll further showed an extremely pessimistic attitude on Afghanistan, with only 10% of Americans having a positive attitude compared to 58% having a negative attitude. Only Pakistan fared worse in the poll, with a 4%-61% result. Jason Ditz, “Poll Shows Rising Public Opposition to Afghan War, Antiwar.com [August 12, 2010] http://news.antiwar.com/2010/08/12/poll-shows-rising-public-opposition-t...
---- CBS News Poll: The majority 58% of Americans want their troops withdrawn from the nine-year U.S. war in Afghanistan within the next one or two years. Only a minority 35% of Americans are willing to have U.S. troops stay longer than two years from now. One third, 33%, of Americans think large numbers of U.S. troops should be withdrawn in less than a year, another 23% think that should be done within one or two years, and 2% want an immediate withdrawal. The majority 54% of Americans want a timetable to be set for withdrawal from Afghanistan, while 41% do not. Only 26% of Americans think U.S. troops should remain for as long as it takes. The majority 62% of Americans think the war is going badly for the United States, up from 49% in May, while 31% still believe it is going well. The CBS News poll was conducted July 9–12, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...
---- According to survey released on 16th July by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) think-tank, 68 percent of Afghans say NATO forces do not protect them, as 75 percent believe foreigners disrespect their religion and traditions. http://zakiraah.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/afghans-dont-want-foreign-troop...
THE WAR IN KABUL
A common theme of both supporters and critics of the war in Afghanistan is that the Karzai regime is corrupt, and that Karzai must “do more” to fix this. Indeed, the monitoring group Transparency International has declared Afghanistan to be the second-most corrupt government in the world (trailing only Somalia). Yet these critics and supporters alike miss the obvious point, that corruption is the very lifeblood of the regime, the binding material that holds together its political elite and the several “warlords” who fought each other and the Taliban before 9/11. As the articles linked below show, it is simply impossible to take meaningful steps against corruption without destabilizing the regime, and thus threatening the US project itself.
An unintended consequence of the corruption “probes” is the revelation/clarification of the extent to which the entire Afghanistan political establishment is on the CIA payroll. As one US spokesman stated candidly, this is simply SOP for any country with substantial US “interests.” As the CIA money flood joins the rivers of drug money and “diverted” US aid funds, the feeble anti-corruption efforts of one part of the US occupying force are confronted with a protective wall thrown up by the CIA around its clients. The Afghanistan regime can’t govern because of corruption, and it can’t function without corruption.
An illustration of this dilemma is the September 18th election for Afghanistan’s parliament. A high voter turnout is essential if the election is to demonstrate to the US and European publics that the Karzai regime is legitimate and that “progress” is being made. Yet opinion surveys and anecdotal evidence show that the perception of massive corruption is an important factor in alienating the Afghan population from the regime, threatening a low turnout for the election and thus undermining the election’s main purpose.
Graft Dispute in Afghanistan is Test for U.S.
By Rod Nordland and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times [August 23, 2010]
---- As corruption investigations begin to focus on President Hamid Karzai’s inner circle, an Afghan official on Monday pinned blame for endemic corruption in Afghanistan on foreign contractors, which he said had created an “economic mafia” in the war-torn country. What started as the arrest of a little-known Karzai aide has become a significant test of the Obama administration’s efforts to root out corruption in Afghanistan, even as it tries not to alienate the Karzai government. The two goals are coming into conflict at a time when American popular support for the war is eroding and frustration in Congress about the Karzai government is rising. “The administration is engaged in a delicate balancing act in Afghanistan in which the principal objective is stability,” said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and national security specialist. “There are a couple of things they need for stability: one is government institutions that people trust and don’t want to overthrow. And the other is government institutions that are strong enough politically to survive. “And the calculation here is that you need Karzai for the latter and you need anticorruption for the former. The problem is that Karzai is too associated with corruption,” Mr. Rothkopf said, “so if the anticorruption efforts are too vigorous, they will lead to undermining this ally.”
See also: Greg Miller and Joshua Partlow, “U.S., Afghanistan plan to screen cash at Kabul airport to prevent corruption,” Washington Post [August 20, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/20/AR201008... David Nakamura, “Afghan officials challenge U.S. on aid contract abuses,” Washington Post [August 24, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/23/AR201008... and Dexter Filkins and Alissa J. Rubin, “Graft-Fighting Prosecutor Fired in Afghanistan,” New York Times [August 29, 2010] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/world/asia/29afghan.html?pagewanted=1&...
Karzai Aide in Corruption Inquiry Is Tied to C.I.A.
By Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times [August 26, 2010]
---- The aide to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at the center of a politically sensitive corruption investigation is being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Afghan and American officials.
… Mr. Salehi’s relationship with the C.I.A. underscores deep contradictions at the heart of the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, with American officials simultaneously demanding that Mr. Karzai root out the corruption that pervades his government while sometimes subsidizing the very people suspected of perpetrating it. Over the course of the nine-year-old war, the C.I.A. has enmeshed itself in the inner workings of Afghanistan’s national security establishment. From 2002 until just last year, the C.I.A. paid the entire budget of Afghanistan’s spy service, the National Directorate of Security.
The CIA Has Much of the Political Elite on its Payroll
CIA making secret payments to members of Karzai administration
By Greg Miller and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post [August 27, 2010]
---- The CIA is making secret payments to multiple members of President Hamid Karzai's administration, in part to maintain sources of information in a government in which the Afghan leader is often seen as having a limited grasp of developments, according to current and former U.S. officials. The payments are long-standing in many cases and designed to help the agency maintain a deep roster of allies within the presidential palace. Some aides function as CIA informants, but others collect stipends under more informal arrangements meant to ensure their accessibility, a U.S. official said. The CIA has continued the payments despite concerns that it is backing corrupt officials and undermining efforts to wean Afghans' dependence on secret sources of income and graft. …"There are probably not too many officials we haven't met and contacted and paid," a former CIA official said. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/26/AR201008...
See also: Kimberly Dozier, “US officials: CIA pays Afghan government officials, Associated Press [August 28, 2010] http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h9Wbp2FmMmbaIBKl_gbL4C...
CIA Man Is Key to U.S. Relations With Karzai
By Siobhan Gorman, Wall Sreet Journal [August 24, 2010]
----- The Obama administration has turned to the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Afghanistan to troubleshoot Washington's precarious relationship with President Hamid Karzai, propelling the undercover officer into a critical role normally reserved for diplomats and military chiefs. The station chief has become a pivotal behind-the-scenes power broker in Kabul. …The CIA is expanding its presence there by 20% to 25%, in its largest surge since Vietnam. The several hundred officers assigned to Afghanistan outnumber those in Iraq at the height of that war. [Ambassador] Eikenberry had barred CIA station chiefs from direct outreach to the Afghan president. But the chief's relationship with Mr. Karzai rose to the attention of the White House, which overruled the ambassador's directive, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870474190457540987426783204...
The September 18th Elections for Parliament
Afghan vote runs up against fear, disenchantment
By Heidi Vogt, Associated Press [August 24, 2010]
---- After a fraud-ridden presidential election last year that threatened to undermine President Hamid Karzai's legitimacy and international support, the Sept. 18 parliamentary ballot is being watched closely as a test of whether the Afghan government is serious about reform. A second flawed ballot would devastate Karzai's reputation abroad and threaten U.S. congressional support for the government at a decisive phase in the nearly 9-year war. The Afghan constitution required a parliamentary election by May 22, but the balloting was postponed by four months because of security concerns and lack of funds from international donors, which were withheld until Karzai replaced top election officials who ran the presidential vote. Electoral officials plan to open 5,897 voting sites for the parliamentary election, having discarded more than 900 proposed venues because army and police could not guarantee security. Last year, 6,167 voting centers nominally operated. Security officials first promised they could secure 6,835 sites. The election commission persuaded them to reduce the number to a more reasonable figure, Manawi said. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100824/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_election_fear
See also: David Nakamura, “Security concerns make Afghan elections dangerous for politicians, voters alike, Washington Post [August 24, 2010] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/23/AR201008... and Sue Pleming and Phil Stewart,
“U.S. concerned over Afghan voter turnout, violence,” Reuters [August 26, 2010] http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67P4VJ20100827;
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Pakistanis Tell of Motive in Taliban Leader’s Arrest
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times [August 23, 2010]
---- When American and Pakistani agents captured Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s operational commander, in the chaotic port city of Karachi last January, both countries hailed the arrest as a breakthrough in their often-difficult partnership in fighting terrorism. … Now, seven months later, Pakistani officials … say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer. … [T]he account offered in Islamabad highlights Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan: retaining decisive influence over the Taliban, thwarting archenemy India, and putting Pakistan in a position to shape Afghanistan’s postwar political order. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/world/asia/23taliban.html
TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMED FORCES
U.S. General Cites Goals to Train Afghan Forces
By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times [August 24, 2010]
---- The American commander in charge of building up Afghanistan’s security forces said Monday that in the next 15 months he would have to recruit and train 141,000 new soldiers and police officers — more than the current size of the Afghan Army — to meet President Obama’s ambitious goals for getting Afghan forces to fight the war on their own. The commander, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said the large recruiting number was to allow for attrition rates in some units of nearly 50 percent. Over all, General Caldwell said it would not be until October 2011 — three months after the deadline for the start of American withdrawals set by Mr. Obama — that he will have finished building the Afghan security forces to their full capacity. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/world/asia/24military.html?_r=1
Afghan troops learn rules of the road
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times [August 26, 2010]
---- Afghan Sgt. Maj. Barakatullah Kolistani, who trains army recruits, is confident that his fledgling soldiers are learning the discipline, strategic skills and marksmanship needed to defeat the Taliban. But Kolistani, one of the base's senior enlisted soldiers, is worried about their proficiency in another key skill: driving. Particularly when it comes to the 8,000-pound-plus U.S.-supplied Humvee, the vehicle of choice in the nascent Afghan army. More than half of Afghan army injuries result from vehicular accidents. Since 2005, 141 soldiers and recruits have died in rollovers and collisions, many caused by excessive speed, inability to negotiate curves or an unwillingness to yield to other vehicles. About 80% of the recruits are illiterate. Many are from rural villages and have never steered a vehicle more complex than a horse-drawn cart. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghanistan-drivers-...
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Insurgents Attack NATO Base and Camp in Afghanistan
From The Associated Press [August 29, 2010]
---- Insurgents, some wearing United States Army uniforms, attacked a major NATO base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday and a nearby camp where seven C.I.A. employees were killed last year in a suicide bombing. Twenty-one insurgents were killed — including four who were wearing suicide vests, NATO officials said — and five others were captured in the coordinated attacks on the sprawling Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost Province and nearby Camp Chapman. …The raids on Salerno and Chapman appear to be part of an insurgent strategy to step up attacks in widely scattered parts of the country as the United States focuses its resources on the battle around the Taliban’s southern birthplace, Kandahar. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/world/asia/29khost.html?ref=world
(Video) Taliban - Behind the Masks
[FB - This is a 5-minute clip from a 26-minute documentary that, for some reason, is not available on line in the USA.] Though they would eventually kidnap him, the Taliban granted journalist Paul Refsdal unprecedented access. This exclusive documentary shows us a side of the Taliban that we have never seen before. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_ON_LG5EGY
Under Review: ‘Taliban: Behind the Masks’
Facing Afghan mistrust, al-Qaeda fighters take limited role in insurgency
By Craig Whitlock, Washington Post [August 23, 2010]
---- Although U.S. officials have often said that al-Qaeda is a marginal player on the Afghan battlefield, an analysis of 76,000 classified U.S. military reports posted by the Web site WikiLeaks underscores the extent to which Osama bin Laden and his network have become an afterthought in the war. The reports, which cover the escalation of the insurgency between 2004 and the end of 2009, mention al-Qaeda only a few dozen times and even then just in passing…. In June, CIA Director Leon Panetta estimated that, "at most," only 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives were present in Afghanistan. His assessment echoed those given by other senior U.S. officials. In October, national security adviser James L. Jones said the U.S. government's "maximum estimate" was that al-Qaeda had fewer than 100 members in Afghanistan, with no bases and "no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/22/AR201008...
THE KANDAHAR OFFENSIVE
Next US target: The birthplace of the Taliban
By Denis D. Gray, Associated Press [August 22, 2010]
---- Senior commanders call the fight for Zhari the next step — Phase 3 — of a wider campaign to pacify Kandahar, the country's second largest city, and surrounding countryside. They argue success in Kandahar could lead to overall victory, given that the Taliban's power base is rooted in this region. Zhari itself remains insurgent territory despite five major NATO operations in recent years. In September 2006, a Canadian-led force launched a major operation in Zhari and nearby Panjwai district, pushing out the Taliban but at a cost of 28 coalition lives. Months later, the Taliban were back. Militarily, [Commander] Benchoff will have to seize the village of Singesar, site of Mullah Omar's school now defended by fortified trenches, mortars and mines, and stop Taliban movements and ambushes along Highway 1 and a parallel dirt road dubbed Iron City. Getting the area's 10,000 inhabitants to sever their links to the Taliban may prove even harder. With the opening salvo of the push already on the planning boards, perhaps the densest concentration of forces in Afghanistan today has been marshaled: some 1,000 U.S. and 400 Afghan troops, a superb, rarely realized ratio for counterinsurgency operations of one soldier for every 10 civilian residents. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100822/ap_on_re_as/as_afghan_poking_the_bear
Marines in Afghanistan prepared for a long haul
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times [August 27, 2010]
---- A year since the U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan began with battalions of Marines descending on the Helmand River Valley, optimism about a quick defeat of the insurgents after early, small-scale routs has given way to more sober assessments. As the death toll steadily climbs, the top Marine warns that it could take up to five years to defeat the Taliban and help the Afghan government establish a credible presence. The massive assault in February into the Taliban-run town of Marja has not lived up to the U.S. prediction that it would prove a "tipping point" for the province. Two battalions of Marines are still assigned to protect Marja, but Taliban fighters spread messages of terror at night and plant roadside bombs, killing Marines and villagers. http://freedomsyndicate.com/fair0000/latimes00307.htm
From one Afghan setback, U.S. strategy finds success
By Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers [August 25, 2010]
---- The lush Arghandab valley, which curves around Kandahar city and envelops the Taliban's spiritual home, is a proving ground for the counterinsurgency strategy now led by Army Gen. David Petraeus, the head of coalition forces in Afghanistan. The area's dense orchards and winding canals offer insurgents a haven to plan and launch attacks on U.S. troops, Afghan forces and nearby Kandahar city. Ahmadi, the new district governor, remains a lonely figure who travels in a military bubble of tenuous protection. A few aides accompany him on risky trips around the valley, but most of his skeleton staff is too scared to come to work. Most of the workers in Ahmadi's two-story government center are American soldiers and civilians. Ahmadi relies on the U.S. military to fly him into the most volatile parts of his district, and his life is always at risk. He still has to seek approval from local power brokers before turning up in their villages. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/08/25/99663/from-one-afghan-setback-us-s...
The WikiLeaks documents record many instances of protests and demonstrations against the US/NATO occupying forces. They seem to be becoming more common, though perhaps they are only being reported more frequently. The story just below reports on two protests; other accounts of the August 23 protests at Bagram airbase are linked below. Also below is a sad story about a rank-and-file assassination squad within an infantry brigade, illustrating many of the terrible things about this war.
US fires on civilian Bagram protest
By Tom Mellen, Morning Star Online [August 24, 2010]
---- US troops fired on thousands of Afghan civilians as they protested outside the massive US military base at Bagram on Monday. A provincial police official said that at least one civilian was killed in the incident, but Nato asserted that no civilians had been killed or injured. … Gen Ahmad said that the Nato shooting had served to enrage the crowd, which he put at about 2,000 people. Gen Ahmad went on to say that the rally had been triggered by the arrest of a religious teacher suspected of taking part in a rocket attack on occupation forces. Also on Monday, officials and residents of Baghlan province in the north of the country accused Nato troops of killing eight civilians during a pre-dawn raid. Mohammed Ismail, the governor of the Talah wa Barfak District, said that foreign troops broke into a district house at 2am and killed eight civilians, injured 12 and took nine prisoners. …Monday's clash between locals and occupation forces outside the Bagram base is the second such incident in 10 days. On August 15 hundreds of residents participated in a militant demonstration in protest at the construction of military facilities on land owned by villagers. Protesters threw "baseball-size rocks" at troops as they escorted a mercenary to the base, according to Nato. http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/layout/set/print/conte...
Stryker soldiers allegedly plotted to kill Afghan civilians
By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times [August 24, 2010]
---- Last December, Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs began joking with other soldiers about how easy it would be to "toss a grenade" at Afghan civilians and kill them, according to statements made by fellow platoon members to military investigators. One soldier said it was a stupid idea. Another believed that Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon." Others told investigators Gibbs eventually turned the talk into action, forming what one called a "kill team" to carry out random executions of Afghans. In one of the most serious war-crimes cases to emerge from the Afghanistan war, five soldiers from a Stryker infantry brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are now charged with murder for their alleged roles in killing three Afghan civilians. In two of the incidents, grenades were thrown at the victims and they were shot, according to charging documents. The third victim also was shot. The soldiers allegedly killed the three Afghans while out on patrol, and anyone who dared to report the events was threatened with violence, according to statements made to investigators. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012712859_civiliandeath...
See also: Sardar Ahmad, “Two NATO soldiers, eight civilians killed in Afghanistan,” Agence France Press [August 24, 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100824/wl_sthasia_afp/afghanistanunrest; Rahim Faiez, “Troops kill 40 militants east of Afghan capital, Associated Press [August 24, 2010] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100824/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan;
PAKISTAN AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Billions of aid dollars buy U.S. little goodwill in Pakistan
By Griff Witte, Washington Post [August 24, 2010]
---- The U.S. government has provided about $18 billion in civilian and military aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made this country America's most essential, and vexing, ally. Yet according to a Pew Research Center survey released last month, half of Pakistanis believe the United States gives little to no assistance here. U.S. officials say aid money is making a positive impact, if not always a widely noticed one. Since Sept. 11, Pakistan has ranked among the top five recipients of U.S. civilian and military aid, in a group with Israel, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq. But they acknowledge the overall criticism and say they are fundamentally changing the way they spend taxpayer dollars here. The $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar civilian aid package, passed by Congress late last year, is providing the first big test. Unlike in the past, the money will be routed directly through Pakistani agencies and institutions, and officials say the results will be far more visible. But already, there have been delays that could keep the money from making an impact anytime soon. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/23/AR201008...
Pakistan asks for leeway on fiscal reforms
By Alan Beattie, The Financial Times [August 23 2010]
---- Pakistan started talks with the International Monetary Fund on Monday in a bid to ease further strains in a financial rescue plan that had been struggling even before the country was hit by devastating floods.
Pakistani officials have asked for leeway in implementing the tough conditions in the $11.3bn (€8.9bn, £7.3bn) lending programme, first agreed in 2008 and enlarged in 2009. …After China had turned down Pakistani appeals for a bilateral rescue, Islamabad agreed a three-year deal with the IMF. Although inflation fell and the current account deficit narrowed under the terms of the programme, Pakistan has found it hard to raise tax revenue to close the government budget deficit and has repeatedly missed targets agreed with the fund. Islamabad has also failed to prevent loss-making electricity companies and other public enterprises continuing to burden the public finances. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e283f758-aed7-11df-8e45-00144feabdc0.html
The Floods Get Worse
Pakistan Flood Sets Back Years of Gains on Infrastructure
By Carlotta Gall, The New York Times [August 26, 2010]
---- Even as Pakistani and international relief officials scrambled to save people and property, they despaired that the nation’s worst natural calamity had ruined just about every physical strand that knit this country together — roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, electricity and communications. The destruction could set Pakistan back many years, if not decades, further weaken its feeble civilian administration and add to the burdens on its military. It seems certain to distract from American requests for Pakistan to battle Taliban insurgents, who threatened foreign aid workers delivering flood relief on Thursday. It is already disrupting vital supply lines to American forces in Afghanistan. One estimate, in a joint study from Ball State University and the University of Tennessee, put the total cost of the flood damage at $7.1 billion. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/world/asia/27flood.html?_r=1
(Video) Fresh Pakistan flood evacuations ordered
From AlJazeeraEnglish [August 26, 2010]
---- Nearly a month after Pakistan's most catastrophic deluges swept away towns and villages across the country, hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded by fresh floods in some regions. In Sindh province - one of the worst affected areas - authorities have issued new evacuation orders for up to 700,000 people from numerous inundated towns. But authorities are trying to divert the water flow in the region to the Arabian Sea to avoid further destruction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVmIeCj5a14
In Pakistan, Taliban Hint at Attacks on Relief Workers
By Salman Masood, The New York Times [August 27, 2010]
---- The Pakistani Taliban called the presence of foreign relief workers in this flood-ravaged country “unacceptable” on Thursday and suggested that militants could attack members of aid groups. Any violence would add more strain to relief efforts that have been slow to reach the millions of Pakistanis uprooted by the worst flooding in the country’s history. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/world/asia/27pstan.html?pagewanted=print
Despite Floods, Drone Attacks Continue
U.S. drone strike kills 20 people in Pakistan
From Reuters [August 23, 2010]
---- Missiles fired from a U.S. pilotless drone aircraft killed 13 militants and 7 civilians in Pakistan's North Waziristan on Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said. They said the missiles were fired at a militant hideout. Most of the militants killed were members of the Afghan Taliban. Four women and three children were among the dead, said the officials. "The missiles hit a militant compound and a house adjacent to it. We have confirmed reports of 20 dead," said one of the intelligence officials. Another official said members of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network -- one of the most effective militant forces fighting Western troops in Afghanistan -- had been using the compound. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100823/wl_nm/us_pakistan_drone