Sunday, 31 October 2010

Without Peace Life Is Impossible

What A Small Boy Knows But Nato Does Not
In a small storage shed at the edge of town, we watched as fourteen-year-old Sayed Qarim signed a simple contract agreeing to borrow and repay a no-interest, 25,000 afghani loan (roughly $555). Daniel from the Zenda Company, the loan originator, counted out the crisp bills and handed them to Qarim, who smiled broadly and shook hands. Qarim, whose family farms potatoes and wheat, plans to use the funds to purchase a cow and her calf. “There are great benefits of owning a cow,” Qarim explains. “Our family gets to use the milk, and we can sell the calf for a good profit.”
No one walking by outside on the narrow dirt road would have known an important business transaction had just occurred, one that could in fact help a young man and his family gain economic traction and greater security. The transaction didn’t take place in a bank. No village leaders were present. Only a fourteen-year-old boy, the representative of a private business company, and a witness. And while the signed agreement constitutes a business relationship, the Zenda Company sees it as primarily personal.
Qarim was recommended for a loan by Faiz and Mohammad Jan, two other young men who live in his village and who have themselves recently received and repaid loans. Following this recommendation, Zenda spent much time getting to know Qarim, meeting with him, assessing his knowledge, his resources (such as access to grazing land), and his character, answering his questions, and describing to him his responsibilities as a borrower.
Now that the transaction is complete, Qarim is required to send a picture of the cow and her calf as “proof” that the money was used as agreed. In addition, Hakim, another Zenda Company representative living in Bamiyan, who is fluent in Dari, the local language, will visit Qarim periodically. Along with Faiz and Mohammad Jan, he will try to provide whatever support Qarim needs to succeed.
Eighteen months ago, Mohammad Jan borrowed funds to purchase a cow and her calf. Three times in the intervening months, he has fattened the cow, raised the calf, sold them and used the money from their sale to purchase another cow and calf. He has repaid the loan in full and netted a profit thus far of nearly 7,000 afghanis. Faiz has been equally successful, using borrowed funds to purchase lambs; he repaid his loan, took out another, and now owns ten sheep and two goats, prized locally both for their meat and for their fleeces.
Zenda Company’s small business loan program has evolved gradually through trial and error in Bamiyan, and Hakim, a Singaporean medical doctor and ex-pat living now in an outlying village, is central to its success. Hakim (a name given to him by local people which means “learned one”) originally came from Singapore to Quetta, Pakistan, on the Afghanistan border, where he worked for two years with Afghan refugees. “I essentially lived within a refugee settlement, and I was treated as a local.”
While there, however, Hakim wanted to do more than treat the symptoms of war. Six years ago, he came to Bamiyan as a development worker with an international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Today in Afghanistan, NGOs involved in development work are as thick as wheat stalks in a field, and their presence and operation has a significant impact in the country. But Hakim found that “the NGOs, too, have problems. They hold all the aid power, because they have all the money.” Because of this, says Hakim, despite their intentions, despite their mission, despite even their best efforts, international NGOs in Afghanistan often have a colonial relationship with Afghan communities, encouraging dependence rather than local initiative and sovereignty.
And then there is the intractable question of results. As one Afghan person totold us, “The world says it is helping us. Where is this help? None of it reaches the people who need it. Here in Afghanistan it has been going on so long that we have to joke and laugh in order to manage our anger and disappointment.”
Seven months ago, Hakim left his position with the NGO. When he first arrived in Bamiyan, he was invited to visit and later to move into a small village. “The villages are very conservative. The only way to enter the community, even for a visit, is to be invited.”
Hakim has been in the community now for six years, living as people in the village do, eating only what people in the village have to eat. Like a member of the family, he participates in work. “I help in the fields, too,” he says with a self-effacing laugh, “but I’m not very good at it. I cannot work nearly as long or as fast as others.
“With time,” he says, “I’m realizing what it takes to practice what a young Afghan boy once told me, that without peace, life is impossible.” As he sees it, “morality, democracy, and intellectual honesty are dying. Here we have forty-three countries (in the ISAF) trying to solve the problem of violence in Afghanistan. How can we allow these countries to say that more violence will solve the problems of violence, without asking them for evidence, for results? Where is intellectual inquiry? Moral skepticism? Why is war always the next solution? Why not reconciliatory talks; who dictates that talks are impossible for human beings? Why are we so willing to accept that violence and terror are the norm? If ordinary people don’t question this, academics at least should, but they don’t. A local shepherd boy knows this is not normal.”
In a country where villagers typically do not farm enough land to actually subsist, where malnutrition and stunted growth are in fact the norm, and where the situation is worsening as land is divided and passed on to children, Hakim began to realize that peace cannot be pursued separately from economic security and food security. With this in mind, Hakim took his current position with Zenda Company.
Through Zenda’s revolving loan fund, dozens of Afghan individuals have borrowed money for business start-up. These businesses include not only loans to villagers for livestock purchase, but also loans to shop owners, and a number of loans to existing street vendors, who might, for example, benefit from having the funds to purchase a cart as well as additional inventory. The repayment terms on these loans are simple: one half due at the end of one year, and the full amount due at two years. People interested in applying for a loan do so by supplying a simple handwritten proposal. At present, Zenda has received requests for loans totaling far more than it has funds to lend.
According to the United Nations, during the period 2005-2010 in Afghanistan, life expectancy at birth was less than forty-four years. Child mortality (before the age of five) is the highest in the world, and mortality for women in childbirth is among the highest. 850 children die daily in Afghanistan. According to UNICEF, in the 2003-2008 period, an astounding 59% of Afghan children under the age of five are considered “stunted,” and for 9% of Afghan children under five, malnutrition is so severe it is considered wasting. “Is this normal?” Hakim asks.
Kathy Kelly, Jerica Arents, and David Smith-Ferri are Co-Coordinators of Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( They are currently traveling in Afghanistan.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Karzai Not Informed of Russian Encroachment

But in a strongly worded statement on Saturday, President Karzai's office alleged that Russian military personnel had taken part in the "illegal" raid."While Afghanistan remains committed to its joint efforts with the international community against narcotics, it also makes it clear that no organisation or institution shall have the right to carry out such a military operation without prior authorisation and consent of the government of Afghanistan," it said."Such unilateral operations are a clear violation of Afghan sovereignty as well as international law, and any repetition will be met by the required reaction from our side," the statement added.
Mr Karzai said Afghanistan wanted friendly ties with Moscow, but that the relationship had to be based on mutual consent.

Friday, 29 October 2010

William Hague Statement To House of Commons on Afghanistan

Hague spinning for all he is worth here . The situation is 'extremely challenging' apparently. He is particularly mealy mouthed and US-deferential in relation to the killing of Linda Norgrove by US forces. The little neocon Liam Fox is to his left. I predict Fox's resignation with a year due to continued failure, incompetence and brutalities by the UK contingent of NATO.

Peace Process? Road Map? Do Me A Favour!

Thanks To Reality Zone (A true home of Reality) for this.

The President of the United States has, expectedly, failed to persuade Israeli leaders to uphold such a basic prerequisite to ensuring a smooth sailing peace process. Its resumption signaled the return of American diplomacy to the Middle East. Its current problems and expected failure, unlike previous rounds of talks, could very much usher the end of American political adventurism in the region. If a president like Obama – who once enjoyed such a massive national and international mandate - could weaken before a rightwing Israeli prime minister, then why should others even try?

To save face - and postpone failure - Obama has reportedly promised Israel broad security and diplomatic guarantees. All he has asked for in return is the mere extension of the settlement moratorium of 60 days - enough to push his party through the November elections.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

US in $60 Billion Arms Deal With Saudis

The sale, which had been expected, includes 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and 70 upgrades of existing Saudi F-15s.
It also includes 70 of Boeing's Apache attack helicopters and 36 AH-6M Little Birds, lightweight helicopters often used in special operations.
Under the deal, Saudi Arabia also has the option to buy 72 Black Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp.
Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Washington said "the Saudi's are not getting what Israel already has, and that is the F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, the newest aircraft out there."
"The US congress now has 30 days to block the deal, and if they don't, then formal negotiations about the delivery date will open up." Shapiro said the total value of the package would not exceed $60bn, although he emphasised that Saudi Arabia may not choose to exercise all of its purchase options during the programme, which will last from 15 to 20 years. Alexander Vershbow, the assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, said the US had discussed the matter with Israel, and concluded that it would not undercut Israel's qualitative military edge in the region.
"We have consulted with Israel as this sale has taken shape [...] based on what we've heard at high levels, Israel does not object to this sale," he said.
Vershbow and Shapiro both stressed that bolstering Saudi Arabia's own defence capabilities would improve US security in a vital part of the world where fears are growing over Iran's nuclear programme.
"This is not solely about Iran," Shapiro said. "It's about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs [...] they live in a dangerous neighbourhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security."
"The State Department is spinning things very carefully, putting the emphasis on jobs, because this is going to preserve hundreds of thousands of US defence jobs at companies like Boeing and UTC," our correspondent reported from Washington.
Vershbow said the sale would improve Saudi Arabia's ability to co-ordinate with the US on shared security challenges "so it means we may have to station fewer forces on a continuing basis in the region".
US and international concern about Iran's growing military capability includes advances in a nuclear programem the West believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons - accusations Tehran denies.
Washington has also flagged concern about Iran's growing missile capabilities and has been helping Arab states boost their missile defences.That includes the expected sale of the THAAD missile defence system manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp to the United Arab Emirates. Similar talks are underway with Saudi Arabia.
US officials are also discussing a possible deal to upgrade Saudi Arabia's navy, which one official estimated could be worth an additional $30bn.

Afghanistan and Russia

This from Craig Murray:
'The truth is that the NATO occupation of Afghanistan has turned into a near exact reply of the Soviet occupation. I was thinking of my good Uzbek friend in Tashkent, who had been the number two in the KGB in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.
The misnamed "Afghan National Army is over 70% Tajik and Uzbek in composition. These were the allies of the Soviets and continued under Nazbullah to fight the Taliban. The Soviet army itself used soldiers from the Uzbek and Tajik Soviet Socialist Republics extensively in Afghanistan. NATO is now using the same regime elites for its logistics, and the same tribes/ families who supported the Soviets in Afghanistan as allies.
In the wider diplomacy, all of this relates also the NATO's exit strategy. In effect, they are accepting that undemocratic Soviet styled regimes as in Uzbekistan - and I would argue Russia - are the best way to deal with the fact that the populations of the Caucasus and Central Asia are Muslim. They are hoping for a hardline secular regime backed by its "Northern neighbours".'

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

British Atrocities in Afghanistan - Non-Reply By Prime Minister's Spokesman

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with Paul Flynn MP’s comments that British troops had committed atrocities in Afghanistan by causing civilian casualties, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that we deeply regretted all civilian casualties. Protecting the Afghan civilian population was a cornerstone of the Afghan mission, and all British troops underwent comprehensive training on the strict rules of engagement. The PMS also pointed out that this contrasted with the attitude of insurgents whose indiscriminate use of suicide bombs, roadside bombs and human shields caused the majority of deaths in Afghanistan. - From Downing Street Says.
That's the full reply. Not much of a response is it? Not exactly a resounding or confident denial. What could they be hiding?

NATO Mission Doomed - Gorbachev

The Russian Dimension – by Tony

From Russia With Common Sense - Mikhael Gorbachev confirmed this morning what everyone knows. There is no prospect for any kind of victory for NATO in Afghanistan. Other, that is, than another victory and breakout of peace in line with that which Obama’s speechwriters invented for Iraq. No need to add anything to this (see posts passim for evidence of how not to occupy a country).
From Russia With Helicopters – The announcement today that Russia is now to contribute to NATO/ISAF’s continued failure in Afghanistan stems from logistical requirements. NATO have long complained to the participating occupiers in Afghanistan that there is a chronic lack of available helicopter lift resources. The key to the Russian intervention (re-intervention?) is, at least ostensibly, that the Russians will supply the shortfall of helicopters for trips between NATO bases. Russia can also provide supply routes into Afghanistan in the light of the recent disasters in this respect in Pakistan. NATO are saying that Russian military personnel will not come into contact with Afghan citizens on the ground. You can believe that if you like, but you only have to imagine the bitter resentment their intervention will cause to ordinary Afghans who have long memories. NATO is trading short-term logistical advantage against a huge psychological penalty which will not go away. In other words, their actions are once again crass and stupid. This will prove to be another huge tactical error.

Monday, 25 October 2010

NATO Hits Mosque - At Least 25 Dead In Maigan Village

KABUL: About 25 people may have been killed in a Nato airstrike in southern Afghanistan on Monday, an Afghan official said.
The head of Helmand’s provincial council, Fazal Bari, said local officials had told him that 25 people had been killed but that the casualty figures could rise because many bodies were still buried in the rubble.
He said the dead were inside a mosque in Baghran district, but Nato said it has 'no reports' of a mosque being struck. Nato officials however confirmed there had been an airstrike in Helmand province. Nato said at least 15 Taliban militants were killed in southern Afghanistan in the air strike and in clashes.
“People are very angry,” said eyewitness Salah Ayap, a 26-year-old driver in Maigan village where the strike took place. He said that foreign troops arrived in the village around 2am and there was a fierce gunfight before the airstrike.
Only two walls and one small room of the large mosque were now standing, he said, and villagers were digging the dead out from the rubble with farming tools and washing them for burial.
He said nearby houses has also been damaged, and some civilians were wounded and a 10-year-old child killed.
Baghran is the northernmost district in Helmand, about 160 kilometres north of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.
Separately, the number of foreign troops to die this year in Afghanistan reached 600.

Update 28.10 :- (Afghan/Syrian newsfeeds). 
More than 25 people may have been killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan on Monday, an Afghan official said today. NATO officials confirmed there had been an airstrike in Helmand province.The coalition was continuing to 'look into the operation', the officials said.
The head of Helmand's provincial council, Fazal Bari, said local officials had told him that 25 people had been killed but that the casualty figures could rise because many bodies were still buried in the rubble. He said the dead were inside a mosque in Baghran district but NATO says it has 'no reports' of a mosque being struck. Baghran is the northernmost district in Helmand, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Atrocities Now!

The recent Wikileaks exposures of widespread and uninvestigated abuse, torture and murder in Iraq bring to mind another exposure. The exposure of film writers and directors who have continued to perpetrate the myth of the ‘Noble American Soldier’ in the catalogue of execrable Iraq War movies in the last 7 years or so. You could pick any of them really but the most infamous is probably The Hurt Locker (poor, conscientious, long-suffering US GI’s is the message from that film) and, more recently, Restrepo. Restrepo is not as guilty of the lie and the myth as The Hurt Locker but it does suggest that the narrative in Iraq is about soldiers rather than the people who live there. I wonder how the directors who have made the string of Iraq War turkeys feel today in the light of the Wikileaks exposures - the real picture of the military squalor which has been rampant in that poor country since US soldiers' arrival. 'It was worse under Saddam' comes back the mantra. But was it? Between pre-2003 sanctions and the results of the occupation(death, displacement, disease and illnesses), the West has almost certainly blighted the lives of more Iraqis, and maybe killed more, than Saddam ever did.
What's the bet that an on-the-make director (Kathryn Bigelow did you say?) is making 'Atrocities Now' even now.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Wikileaks Press Conference - London 23 October

The Shaming of America - Robert Fisk

As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims. Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who'd been tortured and you'd be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or "collateral damage", or a simple phrase: "We have nothing on that."

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Wikileaks II - One US Atrocity in Iraq Among So Many

The context is Iraq rather than Afhanistan but the US and their mercenary cohorts have been perpetrating the same shit in Afghanistan for even longer. Here is a report on one incident where US soldiers shot one of their own interepreters. Looks like wearing a tracksuit may have made him a target:


Friday, 22 October 2010

Lisbon NATO Conference - Some Thoughts

Next month’s haggling over the “transition process” at the NATO conference in Lisbon has been preceded by a preparatory gathering in Rome this week on Afghanistan. US special envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke insisted that the Lisbon conference would not lay out a timetable for specific provinces to be handed over to Kabul’s military control. He also emphasised that “transition” did not equal troop withdrawals, confirming that the US would be pressing for long-term military commitments.

Leading up to the Lisbon conference, the US has been at pains to stress the advances being made through the troop surge. In the Washington Post for instance, US officials claimed that the aggressive military campaign in recent months has killed or captured hundreds of Taliban leaders and more than 3,000 fighters, forcing some insurgent groups to consider negotiations with the Karzai government. They spoke of “pockets of security” in former Taliban strongholds where schools have been reopened and bazaars are bustling.

Meanwhile the Australian parliament debated the Afghanistan War for the first time this week. A bit of a disgrace in itself. The debate was a debacle. Prime Minister Julia Gillard, after noting that Afghan President Hamid Karzai expected to assume full responsibility for his country’s security by the end of 2014, spelt out that the “transition process” would not mean the end to the Australian military presence in Afghanistan.

“Let me be clear,” Gillard said, “this [transition procBut in the lead-up to next month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, the Obama administration and its allies, confronting widespread anti-war sentiment at home, are attempting to dupe the public by claiming that the US/NATO combat role in Afghanistan will end by 2014, with troop withdrawals to begin next year. Behind closed doors, however, the talk is not of an end to the war, but rather of an open-ended, neo-colonial occupation.

On this blog we have been saying the international community will remain engaged in Afghanistan beyond 2014. And Australia will remain engaged. There will still be a role for training and other defence cooperation. The civilian-led aid and development effort will continue... We expect this support, training and development task to continue in some form through this decade at least.”

While ministers and officials in the US and other countries have spoken vaguely about a continuing military role in Afghanistan after 2014, Gillard is the first leader to declare that the US-led military occupation will continue for another decade—at least. Her repeated references to the “new international strategy” highlight the fact that this is the Obama administration’s plan. And if Australia, with its current, modest troop numbers of 1,550, intends to remain for another 10 years, then the US and its closest allies are preparing for a large military presence in Afghanistan into the indefinite future.

Taking her cue from Washington, Gillard justified the ongoing occupation by declaring Afghanistan must “never again become a safe haven for terrorists”. However, the intensifying US-led war is not directed against Al Qaeda—according to the CIA, it numbers no more than 150 in Afghanistan—but against the “Taliban”. The “enemy” are Afghans, predominantly Pashtun tribesmen, who are bitterly hostile to the continued foreign military presence that has wreaked death and destruction on the civilian population for more than nine years. Suppressing “terrorism” means a never-ending neo-colonial war against the Afghan people.
The slaughter of Taliban leaders and fighters, particularly in the current offensive around the southern city of Kandahar, is largely the result of intensified special forces operations. Like the reign of terror from aerial bombing, these assassination squads are notorious for killing civilians (see many previous posts on here) thus adding to the bitterness and hatred among Afghans toward the occupation of their country and the corrupt puppet regime in Kabul. The so-called pockets of security in the south—the product of the expansion in foreign troop numbers to 150,000—are paralleled by reports of escalating insurgent attacks in the country’s north.

The optimistic note being sounded by Obama administration (Phoney Victory post below refers) and its camp followers like Gillard cannot hide the fact that nine years of war have proven to be an unmitigated disaster for the Afghan people. According to very conservative UN estimates, at least 14,000 civilian deaths are directly attributable to the military conflict. The military occupation is propping up a venal regime in Kabul that is notorious for corruption and ballot rigging. The majority of population is still mired in poverty and lack access to elementary services such as electricity, education and health care.

The only way to end this criminal war and allow the Afghan people to decide their future is to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops and the payment of tens of billions in war reparations.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Bagram's Secret Prison - Pentagon Weasel Words

In a new report (PDF) by the Open Society Institute, human-rights researcher Jonathan Horowitz contrasts the official prison system that the Pentagon has constructed in Afghanistan—where they often arrange press briefings and invite journalists on tours—with the super-secret facility run on the periphery of Bagram Air Base, the “Tor” or “Black Jail.”
Media outlets in late 2009 and 2010 reported allegations of detainee abuse at a smaller facility on Bagram Air Base which Afghans refer to as the “Tor Jail” or “Black Jail” that is physically distinct from DFIP or the BTIF. (“Tor” is Pashtu for “black”). These reports included accusations of sleep deprivation, holding detainees in cold cells, forced nudity, physical abuse, detaining individuals in isolation cells for longer than 30 days, and restricting the access of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)—all of which raise serious concerns about U.S. compliance with domestic and international rules on detainee treatment. Media reports and commentators have described the facility as associated with Joint Special Operations Command, under the command of Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, and Defense Intelligence Agency agents from the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center.
The Horowitz report summarizes interviews with 18 prisoners held at the Tor Jail, half of whom were prisoners during the Obama Administration. They report a consistent pattern of abuse:
• Exposure to excessive cold
• Exposure to excessive light
• Inappropriate and inadequate food
• Inadequate bedding and blanketing
• Disorientation and lack of natural light
• Sleep deprivation due to an accumulation of circumstances
• Denial of religious duties
• Lack of physical exercise
• Nudity upon arrival
• Detrimental impact from an accumulation of confinement conditions
• Facility rules and relevant Geneva Conventions rules/rights not posted
• Lack of transparency and denial of International Committee of the Red Cross access to detainees
Many of these practices cannot be reconciled with Field Manual 2-22.3 (PDF), which provides the Army’s rules for detention conditions, including those connected with human intelligence gathering. As the Horowitz report notes, some of the practices appear to be forbidden even under the special circumstances of the manual’s Appendix 
How does the Defense Department react to the report? “The Department of Defense does not operate any ’secret prisons,’” said Capt. Pamela Kunze, noting that while the locations of some screening facilities are classified, both the Afghan government and the Red Cross are informed about the sites. “Our field detention sites are all consistent with international and U.S. law and (Defense Department) policy, including Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act, the (Defense Department) Detainee Directive and the Army Field Manual,” she added.
Obviously the Tor Jail is no longer secret—the Horowitz report and earlier media accounts have blown its cover. Moreover, Defense Department spokesmen have consistently played semantic games in evading discussion of it. For instance, they send out spokesmen from the Task Force that operates detentions facilities in Afghanistan to insist that there is no such facility under their command. And indeed there isn’t. Similarly, spokesmen for JSOC have been heard to vigorously deny that the entity has any detentions operations, because the Tor Jail and similar arrangements are apparently categorized as filtration or intelligence gathering centers rather than detention centers. The Gates Pentagon insists that no one is held for more than fourteen days in such facilities, a claim which doesn’t always tally with the first-hand reports of released prisoners.
The Horowitz report collects and corroborates earlier media accounts concerning the Tor Jail, and it helps establish that the Obama Administration brought change to the formal, public detentions policy while continuing the abusive secret operations of JSOC and the DIA. The showcase detentions system does generally seem to operate in compliance with the Pentagon’s written guidelines, U.S. law, and international standards, but the secret system operated by JSOC and DIA is at best within hailing distance of legality, applying strained interpretations or even having license to disregard the written rules. In the end, the mere existence of a secret prison system is further proof that the Obama White House made some disturbing exceptions to its commitment to curb abuses in the detentions regime.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Summary Execution in Fallujah

Topical commentary from Pro Libertate Blog.

Pro Libertate: Fallujah, U.S.A.

Afghan Prison Death - US Soldier Held

KABUL | Tue Oct 19, 2010 4:04pm EDT

A U.S. soldier has been taken into custody after an Afghan detainee was found dead in his cell in southern Afghanistan at the weekend, apparently from a gunshot wound, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office issued a statement saying Karzai had ordered an investigation into the death.

The U.S. military said it had opened a criminal investigation. "The detainee, who died of an apparent gunshot wound, was being held temporarily at an Afghan government facility under U.S. guard," it said in a statement.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initially said a man captured during an operation in Kandahar on Saturday had been found dead in his cell the next day.

Karzai's palace said coalition forces had entered the prison in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, on Sunday night and killed the detainee, who it named as Mullah Mohebullah. It used a word that can be translated as "killed" or "murdered."

How Long Till The Phoney 'Victory' In Afghanistan?

The countdown has started. The Dutch have gone already. Peace and freedom are finding their way into Obama's routines. The Peace of Obama's speechwriters, already being enjoyed by the Iraqis, is timetabled to be announced, depending on electoral requirements and opinion poll ratings in the US. Here are the latest doubters in the Coalition of The Failing. Note the instant poll figures on the page.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Israeli Drones Over Afghanistan

Polish troops in Afghanistan have received four of the eight UAVs bought from Israeli firm Aerostar earlier this year. The TUAV (Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is a 230 kg (506 pound) aircraft that has a 50 kg (110 pound) payload, and endurance of up to twelve hours. It can operate up to 250 kilometers from the operator, and at altitudes of up to 5,800 meters (18,000 feet). Four of the TUAV will stay in Poland for training. Each TUAV costs over $3 million. The TUAV is used by fifteen nations, and is one of several Israeli UAV models (from different manufacturers) used by NATO troops in Afghanistan. While American UAVs are the most in demand, the American manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand, and must give priority to orders for U.S. forces. So Israel, which taught the U.S. how to do UAVs right, is the logical backup supplier.The TUAV is not the first new UAV Poland has bought. Four years ago, Poland bought $73 million worth of Shadow 200 UAVs from the United States. In the U.S. Army, each RQ-7B Shadow 200 UAV platoon has 22 troops who operate and maintain 3-4 UAVs and the ground control equipment. Typically, each combat brigade has one Shadow UAV platoon. The Shadow 200 UAVs cost $500,000 each, and can stay in the air six hours per sortie. A day camera and night vision camera is carried on each aircraft. Able to fly as high as 6,000 meters (over 15,000 feet), the Shadow can thus go into hostile territory and stay high enough (3,000 meters, or over 10,000 feet) to be safe from hostile rifle and machine-gun fire.
In Iraq, most Shadow missions were at a lower altitude, and over a city or town. Brigade and battalion commanders could then get a constant top down view of what's happening down below. Although this sort of thing is technically possible with a commander in a helicopter overhead, the helicopter attracts too much enemy fire to make this practical for any length of time, and helicopters are much more expensive to operate. The Shadow UAV, however, can fly high enough in day time to be safe from enemy fire, and use zoom equipped vidcams to clearly what is going on down there . A night, the Shadow can come down lower because they are difficult to spot in the dark.
The Poles were impressed with the Shadow's combat record in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since being introduced seven ago, American Shadows have been used heavily. Polish troops were able to see for themselves the Shadow in action in Iraq. Apparently, Poland is buying enough Shadows to equip all of their combat brigades with a platoon of them.
The destructive tentacles of Israel are as long as their continuing influence is corrosive.
Aviation Weekly

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Poison From Afghanistan - By Craig Murray

Foreign policy is a nexus of issues and relationships.. Once you get an important issue seriously wrong, it has ramifications across the whole. A seriously misguided enterprise like the occupation of Afghanistan spreads its poison across whole areas of foreign policy.
Only one such consequence, but a very bad one, is British support for the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian dictatorships. This is based on our "need" for Uzbekistan as a transit route for supplies to Afghanistan.
I had already noted the extraordinary enthusiasm of the current British Ambassador for promoting the Uzbek regime and apologising for past "misunderstandings" over Uzbekistan's political system.
Now Joy is actively promoting Gulnara Karimova's activities in the world of Fashion TV. That Chopard and Prado are shallow enough to be gulled by Gulnara's billions is par for the course. For the British Ambassador to flank her at a press conference for her fashion show is unforgivable.
Note that the headline "British Diplomats Toadying to Uzbek Dictator's Daughter" was written by Uzbeks, not by me.
The policy of backing dictators is in my view wrong in principle. But even in terms of realpolitik, it depends on a judgement of whether you believe extreme repression in Uzbekistan stops or increases the prospect of Islamic extremist violence. I think extreme regimes spawn violence and instability. The British government now has its money firmly on the dictator.
The real motivation is short term support for military occupation of Afghanistan. The Northern supply route, or "Northern Distribution Network" as the Pentagon calls it, is all important. I highly commend to you this extremely revealing report for the Center for Security and International Studies in the US.
Now the CSIS are bought and paid for cheerleaders for the Karimov regime and unquestioning supporters of the war in Afghanistan. They are extremely well connected in Washington and have excellent sources. This paper is a fairly definitive guide to the State Department view of Central Asia - and nowadays the FCO view of Central Asia is what the State Department tells them it is.
The CSIS position is reflected, for example, in the characterisation of the Andijan massacre as an "uprising". Human rights and democracy are never mentioned as factors in the discussion of US relations with Uzbekistan. But nonetheless the paper does make some highly revealing statements:
The NDN was designed to provide redundancy to this critical Pakistan supply line and to help handle the surge of supplies associated with an increase of 21,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2009 and, with the recent announcement by the Obama administration, an additional 30,000 troops in 2010. This obvious need and vulnerability has placed the United States’ Afghanistan war resupply squarely in the hands of other nations....
The first misunderstanding concerned priorities and expectations. In the authoritarian regimes of Central Asia, the elite’s top national priority—its overriding policy consideration—is to maintain its hold on power. Additional considerations can and do exist, but they are necessarily secondary in the absence of democratic mechanisms for the orderly transfer of power. An attendant expectation is that international cooperation should strengthen the regime’s hold on power. At the very least, it cannot under any circumstances weaken it....
Crony capitalism and the enmeshment of ruling dynasties in moneymaking schemes mean that commercial shippers servicing the NDN are almost certain to be woven into the dense nexus of personal and state interests that characterize post-Soviet business.
This last is a very interesting admission. I have reported previously that Gulnara Karimova is making hundreds of millions of dollars from Pentagon supply contracts. Here you see it admitted, with a slight cover of academic coyness.
The core funding for the CSIS project is from Carnegie, and one of the authors, Andrew Kuchins, is a former director of the Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The CEIP this summer published a paper on much the same subject "written" by a certain "Professor" Gulnara Islamovna Karimova. Strangely Carnegie did not mention that she was the dictator's daughter. The article in Gulnara's name discusses supply to Afghanistan without mentioning her personal commercial interest in it. Yet again an example of the respectability the Washington establishment is trying to confer upon the Karimovs.
I gather that a visit by Hillary to visit Karimov is planned before the end of the year.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Air Attacks Quadruple Under Petraeus

In June, after Petraeus took command of the Afghan war effort from McChrystal, there was speculation that the new boss might undo some of the restrictions. It wasn’t just that McChrystal’s rules had made it harder for panicking platoons to call in airstrikes — even when they were under enemy attack. Petraeus’ history in Iraq also suggested a greater willingness to bomb adversaries, despite the concerns about civilian casualties. Lethal, munitions-dropping sorties more-than-quadrupled under Petraeus’ leadership.
Publicly, however, Petraeus and his generals said that there would be no major changes to the so-called “rules of engagement,” which govern the use of force. Ground commanders were no longer allowed to add extra restrictions. Strikes from the sky were still considered a “choice of last resort.”
By then, those attacks were already starting to creep up from their McChrystal-era lows: Five hundred lethal sorties in August, compared to 405 the year before.
It’s part of a larger increase in the larger Afghan air campaign. Surveillance flights are soaring — nearly triple last year’s amount. According to statistics (.pdf) supplied by the U.S. Force, 40 million pounds of supplies were airdropped in the first nine months of 2010, compared to 32 million pounds in all of 2009.
There have been one-time spikes in air strikes before — even under McChrystal, who famously curbed the attacks. And, of course, some of the added strikes can be explained by the fact that there are now more US soldiers on the spot to get killed. Some portion of those ground forces will invariably call for air support. But since Petraeus took over the Afghan campaign, every month has seen an increase in airstrikes. And every every increase has been bigger than the previous month’s. From Reuters, Wired,various newsfeeds and here.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Linda Norgrove - NATO To Investigate NATO In NATO Fiasco

ISAF/NATO are to conduct an investigation into their own killing of Linda Norgrove. Their promptly issued lies immediately after her death have been exposed so I wonder if their investigation will cover the misinformation which they have already (incompetently, needless to say) perpetrated on the watching world. If you were worried about any impartiality issues, the investigation is being led by US Central Command. No problems there, then.

Monday, 11 October 2010

NATO Bunglers Killed Linda Norgrove

A Complex NATO Manoeuvre in the Desert
Petraeus is now telling David Cameron that the US Special Forces killed Linda Norwood. They lied about it in the first instance as they always do. A Taliban explosives vest was the first story. Now that the family is demanding the truth, Petraeus has confessed to Cameron. Why do NATO/ISAF never get anything right? They didn't even ask for permission from, or liase at all with the local Afghan officials who were trying to negotiate with the hostage-takers.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Drone Statistics

The Year of the Drone

An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010
2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2004-2007

View U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan in a larger map
Click each pin to see the details of a reported strike. The red border represents the extent of Pakistan's tribal regions in the northwest of the country. Red pin=2004-2007; Pink pin=2008; Dark blue pin=2009; (Purple pin=Bush in 2009); Light blue pin=2010
This research was last updated on October 7, 2010For a full analysis of the repercussions and results of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, please click here for "The Year of the Drone," by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, February 24, 2010.

2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2004-2007

The research on these pages, which we have created in a good faith effort to be as transparent as possible with our sources and analysis and will be updated regularly, draws only on accounts from reliable media organizations with deep reporting capabilities in Pakistan, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks—the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC—and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan—the Daily Times, Dawn, and the News—as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network.

Our study shows that the 178 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, including 82 in 2010, from 2004 to the present have killed approximately between 1,179 and 1,814 individuals, of whom around 868 to 1,279 were described as militants in reliable press accounts. Thus, the true non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 30 percent.

We have also constructed a map, based on the same reliable press accounts and publicly available maps, of the estimated location of each drone strike. Click each pin in the online version to see the details of a reported strike; the red border represents the extent of Pakistan's tribal regions in the northwest of the country. And while we are not professional cartographers, and Google Maps is at times incomplete or imperfect, this map gives our best approximations of the locations and details of each reported drone strike since 2004.

This study carries a Creative Commons license, which permits re-use of New America content when proper attribution is provided. Please click here for conditions of use, and when citing please attribute to Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann's drones database at the New America Foundation. Fuller details HERE.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Bomb Sniffing Dogs Infiltrated By Taliban?

There are many silly stories about NATO's occupation of Afghanistan. This is one of them. If the Taliban have infiltrated the police and the contractors, then why not this:
WASHINGTON—The State Department’s inspector general said Friday that bomb-sniffing dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq are not being tested properly and may not be able to detect explosives effectively.
The inspector general’s review found that the companies hired to supply and train the animals were not testing them for all scents of the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance that a dog would miss a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts U.S. government personnel in embassies and other diplomatic outposts at risk, the inspector general said.
The companies — U.S. Training Center in North Carolina, a business unit of the company formerly known as Blackwater; and RONCO Consulting Corp. in Washington, D.C. also used expired or potentially contaminated materials for the scent tests, the inspector general’s report said.
Representatives from RONCO and U.S. Training Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the inspector general’s report.
The review was limited to three canine programs handled by U.S. Training Center and RONCO, which is owned by Wackenhut Services. The report does not say how many dogs each contractor provides.
Overall, the State Department uses nearly 200 bomb-sniffing dogs. And the report only offers a glimpse of the costs of these services, saying the State department pays $24 million a year alone for canine services at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The report faults the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, responsible for managing the canine program, for weak oversight. Investigators found that the contractors, not the bureau, were running the program and policing themselves.
During visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the investigators did not meet any bureau personnel with expertise in bomb-sniffing dogs. “They depended upon the knowledge and expertise of the contractors to ensure all contractual requirements and other standards were met,” according to the report.
And the contractors told the investigators “that no outside organization with expertise in explosive detection canines had ever reviewed their operations in Iraq or Afghanistan,” the report said.
In comments printed in the report, the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security says it is acting to improve the canine program and plans to hire an independent expert to ensure all the contract requirements are met properly.
Richard Lardner Associated Press

NATO Clowns Kill More Afghans

The latest incident, a helicopter attack on pro-government militiamen in Khost province, killing six, sparked angry protests. Hundreds of villagers shouting "Death to America" and "Long live the Taliban" carried the bodies to the provincial governor's home to protest, said Youqib Khan, the deputy provincial police chief.

"What I confirm now is six local security forces were killed by Nato's helicopters. Nato told us the militiamen fired first. We don't know who to blame," Khan said.
A Nato spokesman said he was 'checking' on the shooting account.
The incident comes after Nato helicopter strikes on Pakistani territory killed two Pakistan border guards Sept. 30. Pakistan shut down a key border crossing in the northwest used by U.S. and NATO supply trucks in apparent retaliation.