Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Taliban Talks - Smoke, Mirrors And More Smoke

Karzai might be able to play on tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two oil-rich neighbours. While Saudi Arabia has become more conservative and anti-Western under King Abdullah (since 2005), Qatar has established itself as a relatively liberal Arab regime and a trusted ally of and provider of military bases for the West in the Gulf region, just across from Iran. Riyadh might not be happy watching its much smaller neighbour claiming a prominent role in the progress of Taliban talks while its own initiative, in the fall of 2008, had faltered.
These were the famous Iftar meetings when the former Taliban, as part of a governmental delegation also including former Northern Alliance leaders, had their first high-profile international appearance. Pakistani politicians like Nawaz Sharif, Aftab Sherpao and Fazl-ur-Rahman (of the JUI-F party) also had been invited and rumours – never convincingly confirmed or denied – had it that representatives of the still active Taliban (the ubiquitous Tayyeb Agha and possibly Mawlawi Kabir, a former Taliban ‘acting prime minister’) also attended.  More.

Egyptian Travel Ban On Americans

Monday, 30 January 2012

Monbiot On Drone Warfare

The ancient Greeks, unlike the Jews or the Christians, invested their gods with human failings. Divine judgement, they believed, was neither flawless nor dispassionate; it was warped by lust, vengeance and self-interest. In the hands of Zeus, the thunderbolt was both an instrument of justice and a weapon of jealousy and revenge(1).
Those now dispensing judgement from on high are not gods, though they must feel like it. The people striking mortals down with drones are doubtless as capable as anyone else of self-deception, denial and cognitive illusions. More so perhaps, as the eminent fictions of the Bush years and the growing delusions of Obama suggest. 
Barack Obama began last week’s State of the Union address by claiming that the troops who had fought the Iraq war had “made the United States safer and more respected around the world.”(2) Like Bush, like the gods, he has begun to create the world he wants to inhabit.
These power-damaged people have been granted the chance to fulfil one of humankind’s abiding fantasies: to vapourise their enemies, as if with a curse or a prayer, effortlessly and from a safe distance. That these powers are already being abused is suggested by the mendacity of those who are deploying them. The CIA, running the undeclared and unacknowledged drone war in Pakistan, insists that there have been no recent civilian casualties(3). So does Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan(4). It is a blatant whitewash.
As a report last year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed, of some 2,300 people killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 until August 2011, between 392 and 781 appear to have been civilians; 175 were children(5). In the period about which the CIA and Brennan made their claims, at least 45 civilians have been killed. As soon as an agency claims “we never make mistakes”, you know that it has lost its moorings, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn suggested in his story of that title. Feeling no obligation to apologise or explain, count bodies or answer for its crimes, it becomes a danger to humanity.
It may be true, as the US air force says, that because a drone can circle and study a target for hours before it strikes, its missiles are less likely to kill civilians than those launched from a piloted plane(6). (The USAF has yet to explain how it reconciles this with its boast that drones “greatly shorten decision time”(7)). But it must also be true that the easier and less risky a deployment is, the more likely it is to happen.
This danger is acknowledged in a remarkably candid assessment published by the UK’s ministry of defence, which also deploys drones, and has also used them to kill civilians(8). It maintains that the undeclared air war in Pakistan and Yemen “is totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability – it is unlikely a similar scale of force would be used if this capability were not available.”(9) Citing Carl von Clausewitz, it warns that the brutality of war seldom escalates to its absolute form partly because of the risk faced by one’s own forces. Without risk, there’s less restraint. The unmanned craft allow governments can fight a coward’s war, a god’s war, harming only the unnamed.
The danger is likely to escalate as drone warfare becomes more automated and the lines of accountability less clear. Last week the US navy unveiled a drone that can land on an aircraft carrier without even a remote pilot. The Los Angeles Times warned that “it could usher in an era when death and destruction can be dealt by machines operating semi-independently.”(10) The British assessment suggests that within a few years drones assisted by artificial intelligence could make their own decisions about whom to kill and whom to spare(11). Sorry sir, computer says yes.
“Some would say one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist,” George HW Bush opined when he was vice-president. “I reject this notion. The philosophical differences are stark and fundamental.”(12) Perhaps they are; but no US administration has convincingly defined them or consistently recognised them. In Latin America, south east Asia, Africa and the Middle East successive presidents have thwarted freedom and assisted state terrorism. Drones grant governments new opportunities to snuff out opposition of any kind, terrorist or democrat. The US might already be making use of them.

In October last year, a 16 year-old called Tariq Aziz was travelling through North Waziristan in Pakistan with his 12 year-old cousin, Waheed Khan. Their car was hit by a missile from a US drone(13). As always, their deaths made them guilty: if we killed them, they must be terrorists. But they weren’t. Tariq was about to start work with the human rights group Reprieve, taking pictures of the aftermath of drone strikes. A mistake? Possibly. But it is also possible that he was murdered out of self-interest. If you have such powers, if you are not held to account by Congress, the media or the American people, why not use them?
The danger to democracy, not just in Pakistan but one day perhaps everywhere, should be evident. Yet, as fatalistic as the ancient Greeks, we drift into this with scarcely a murmur of debate, leaving the gods to decide.
1. http://www.theoi.com/Heros/Salmoneus.html
2. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/24/remarks-president-state-union-address
3. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/world/asia/12drones.html
4. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/world/asia/12drones.html
5. http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/08/10/most-complete-picture-yet-of-cia-drone-strikes/
6. Colonel David M. Sullivan, cited in http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/world/asia/12drones.html
7. United States Air Force, 2009. Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan
2009-2047. http://www.globalsecurity.org/jhtml/jframe.html#http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/usaf/usaf-uas-flight-plan_2009-2047.pdf
8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/05/afghanistan-raf-drone-civilian-deaths
9. Ministry of Defence, 30th March 2011. Joint Doctrine Note 2/11. The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Joint Doctrine Note 2/11 (JDN 2/11).
10. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/26/business/la-fi-auto-drone-20120126
11. Ministry of Defence, as above.
12. http://bit.ly/z3WHRT
13. http://reprieve.org.uk/press/2011_11_06_Tariq_CIA_drone_Waziristan/

Taliban Negotiations - The Fog Of Peace

First, the best way to understand the "Taliban" is not as a political entity that can carry out negotiations, but as an event in time analogous to the First Crusade. It is a loose network of military-religious orders which share a common goal, quite similar to the Crusader orders, which included the Knights Templar, Knights of Malta, and the Knights Hospitaller. The "Taliban" is comprised of similar military-religious orders, including, to name a few, the Haqqani network, the Quetta Shura, the Tora Bora Front, the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the Lashkar-i-Taiba, Hisb-i-Islami Khalis, and Hisb-i-Islami Gulbuddin. Like the crusaders, who shared a common purpose and owed allegiance to the Pope in Rome, the "Taliban" groups share a common purpose and acknowledge the religious supremacy of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Amir-ul-Mumaneen, or "Leader of the Faithful," in Quetta. And like the crusader groups, the "Taliban" groups have no real "political wing," because in the jihadist mindset now ascendant in the Pashtun region, Islam and governance are not separate entities. The church and the state cannot be disaggregated in this way. More.

Hazing Deaths - Call For Proper Investigations

EU Report On Afghanistan

It's a good day for PDF's. Summary of EU Report HERE. 49% of Afghans are under 15 years old.

Initial Taliban Talks Faltering

The Taliban sources said U.S. officials had earlier promised them they would exchange prisoners and later start peace talks.However, according to the sources, the U.S. demanded that the Taliban announce a ceasefire in Afghanistan before any prisoner swap, which they said their central leadership had turned down. From Here.
The opening up of a second negotiating front in Saudi Arabia is, in my opinion, nothing more than an attempt by the Afghan government to avoid being sidelined by their inept US/NATO mentors. 

Translocal Lives - Migration In Afghanistan

PDF link here.

Are Shrinking Budgets Behind Overtures To Taliban?

Instead of coming forward, however, European members of NATO are in retreat. Britain announced troop cuts this month that will eventually shrink the size of its army by nearly one-fifth; it already has mothballed its only aircraft carrier.
Germany is trimming the size of its armed forces by a similar amount and canceling orders for fighter jets, helicopters and other weapons systems. Italy, which imposed deep defense cuts two years ago, is confronting another round that could include steep reductions in the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — a U.S.-made plane — that it had planned to buy. More.

Religious Group In Anti-Drone Protest

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Hamas Divided Over Leaving Syria

One movement official who did not wish to be identified stated that “Hamas does not want to leave Syria, but in the event that we are forced to leave Damascus, it must be at the lowest possible cost to us.”
As far as what this means, Hamas is quite simply “waiting for Syria to expel us,” according to the official.
The debate surrounding moving the political bureau arose with infighting among different wings of Hamas. Meshal’s moderate wing, which wants to move the political bureau, has been weakened by the “security solution” currently being pursued by the Syrian regime.
Meshal announced Hamas’s opposition to the Syrian regime’s security measures during a visit to Tehran in October of last year. More here.

Sandy Gall On Afghanistan

If you were to boil down your sense of where the war against the Taliban went wrong, it would seem to resolve itself to a single word: Iraq.
Yes, I think that's true. I don't think anyone expected the Taliban to offer such resistance. So in 2003 America apparently moved all of their intelligence and spy satellite resources out of Afghanistan and into Iraq. They obviously believed Afghanistan had been dealt with. From Here.

US And The Dictators

With his volatile mix of dependence and independence, Hamid Karzai seems the archetype of all the autocrats Washington has backed in Asia, Africa, and Latin America since European empires began disintegrating after World War II. When the CIA mobilized Afghan warlords to topple the Taliban in October 2001, the country's capital, Kabul, was ours for the taking -- and the giving. In the midst of this chaos, Hamid Karzai, an obscure exile living in Pakistan, gathered a handful of followers and plunged into Afghanistan on a doomed CIA-supported mission to rally the tribes for revolt. It proved a quixotic effort that required rescue by Navy SEALs who snatched him back to safety in Pakistan. Read More. (H/t Analog Kid).

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Afghan Campaign 'Woeful' - Gen. Sir David Richards

Sir David also criticises the military establishment for being ill-prepared and with a “rather amateurish approach to high-level military operations verging on the complacent.” He also tempers his remarks by arguing that the war in Afghanistan can still be won and expresses his “clear faith” that “the British Armed Forces are now handsomely proving that they have the ability to reform and adapt”.
In 2006, Sir David had a major row with Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the then head of the Armed Forces, over the failure of British officers to co-operate fully with Nato’s command structure.

Sir David, 11 years of failure is pack-up time. Long past it. It's not reform and adapt time. That was maybe in 2003. As for developing a strategy, aren't you supposed to have a strategy before you invade a country? You're the general.  More here.

Prisoners' Hunger Strike In Kyrgyzstan

The Trench - White House Propaganda Machine Set To Turbo

Yesterday a senior Israeli official confirmed that Ross met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after requesting a “private” meeting to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The State Department's Victoria Nuland would tell reporters on Friday, "Dennis has been a good partner to administrations of all kinds, whether he was in government or out of government, and always remains in close touch." Via Reality Zone HERE.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Joint Enterprise On Torture

Of course, I realise that the Crown Prosecution Service and the Met will,three years hence, claim there were no grounds to prosecute anybody. I am not that naive. But the fact of a formal police investigation will force some attention on whether or not my account is true. Ignoring the facts and just being rude about me is less easy in a criminal investigation. From Craig Murray.

Another Ex-US Ally

Many of the US allies from the time of jihad have subsequently turned against the US - bin Laden being the most prominent.
Another of the visiting leaders to Washington that year, the late Mawlawi Yunus Khalis, is considered a spiritual father to the Taliban. His claim to fame was inviting Reagan to convert to Islam from the podium of the White House.
But one of the most feared US enemies today, Jalaluddin Haqanni of the so-called Haqqani Network, was actually a very cooperative ally in the 1980s.
When a girl's school for Afghan refugees was closed down in Peshawar and the guard was shot dead, most likely by elements close to Hekmatyar, Malinowski says, it was Haqqani who helped them reopen it.
"We needed one of the leaders to give a speech, and ensure the families that nothing [would] happen to the girls. The school did not even belong to his party, but Haqqani agreed to come and give the speech. He was in no way the guy that he is now."
Opinion is divided as to why Hekmatyar, despite giving clear red signals, remained a major US ally. More.

Buzkashi Boys

Trailer for the film :-

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Paula Broadwell - Petraeus Whitewashed

If you think the US-led debacles and bloodbaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are a 'great success' (copyright NATO, ISAF and Obamya's speechwriters), Paula Broadwell's book  about General Petraeus is for you. She is not so much an embed-journalist as an embed-author. With a US special ops background she was given an undiluted propaganda 'unlimited access' pass by Petraeus' assistants and PR team. Guess what the written results were. Yes, it's thumbs up for Diamond Dave, surges, COIN, nation-building and regime change across the board. No time for those pesky 'terrorists'. The 'bad guys' get the written equivalent of a botched 'precision guided' drone attack. I hope nobody in Iran is reading Paulyanna's stuff. I doubt it to be honest and would be embarrassed to even put up a link to it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Jack Idema Dies In Mexico

Idema was, among other things, a plaintiff in numerous unsuccessful lawsuits, including one against filmmaker Stephen Spielberg, who Idema claimed stole his life story for a movie. He also spent three years in jail in the 1980s after being convicted of a fraud charge.
"He had charisma," Penny Alesi, a former girlfriend, told The Fayetteville Observer. "He was funny. He was smart — oh, my God, smart and well-read, but toxic. Truthfully, he was a sociopath."
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Idema traveled to Afghanistan, claiming he was close to catching Osama bin Laden. His claims led to his being featured in several books and television programs.
In 2004, he returned to the country along with another former Fayetteville soldier and a freelance videographer. They ran a private jail in which terrorism suspects were tortured for information. More here.

Winter In Afghanistan

Photo montage here.

Anniversaire De La Revolution Egyptienne

Nato Successful In Afghanistan According To Nato

Jacobson said Afghan forces were clearly in control of the city, as part of a phased transition ahead of a pullout of NATO combat troops in 2014. His remarks came in stark contrast to perceptions that security has worsened in the Afghan capital over the last 12 months with a series of spectacular attacks on Western targets, such as the US embassy siege.
The United Nations has also disagreed with NATO assessments, saying in September that the number of security incidents was up 39 percent on the first eight months of 2010, while ISAF said they were down two percent. Link.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Is Afghan Constitution Worth The Paper It's Printed On?

The Afghan parliament is at loggerheads with President Karzai, and the anniversary offered his political opponents another chance to accuse him of imposing unconstitutional decisions. One of their central complaints concerns his move to review some results of the September 2010 parliamentary election following allegations of fraud. (SeeAfghanistan's Troublesome Parliament for background on this.)
Sardar Mohammad Oghli, a vocal critic of Karzai and a former member of parliament from the northern province of Faryab, alleged that the president had violated the constitution at least 20 times, for example by changing the scheduled dates of elections, and keeping ministers in their posts despite votes of no confidence by legislators.
Abdullah Abdullah, leader of the opposition Coalition for Change and Hope, said the president encouraged others to ignore the constitution by breaching it himself. LINK.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Drones And Democracy

Yet this operation has never been debated in Congress; more than seven years after it began, there has not even been a single vote for or against it. This campaign is not carried out by the Air Force; it is being conducted by the C.I.A. This shift affects everything from the strategy that guides it to the individuals who oversee it (civilian political appointees) and the lawyers who advise them (civilians rather than military officers).
It also affects how we and our politicians view such operations. President Obama’s decision to send a small, brave Navy Seal team into Pakistan for 40 minutes was described by one of his advisers as “the gutsiest call of any president in recent history.” Yet few even talk about the decision to carry out more than 300 drone strikes in the very same country. Read More.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Afghan Killed French Soldiers Over US Corpse Abuse Video

Danger - Morons At Work
"In his initial confessions, he said that he was strongly motivated to kill the soldiers when he saw the video of a foreign soldiers urinating on Afghan corpses," the intelligence source said.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said during a visit to Kabul at the weekend that he had been told the soldier who killed the four soldiers and wounded 15 others was a Taliban infiltrator.
But President Hamid Karzai did not make the same accusation in a statement Sunday, describing the attack as "an isolated and individual action".
The video, posted online earlier this month, showed four US soldiers urinating on three bloodied corpses, and one of the men, apparently aware he was being filmed, saying: "Have a great day, buddy," referring to one of the dead. More.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Botched Wars - More Invisible Victims

A jury convicted Lynch, 22, last year for first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of his 19-year-old wife, Racquell, and 8-month-old daughter, Kyirsta. Lynch's lawyer, public defender Dan Lowery, said Lynch has accepted the verdict, even though he doesn't remember what happened. From here.

Etta James - Immortal

Not enough will be written about Etta this weekend in the light of the sad news. One thing is for sure to me - Etta James will never die.

Unfriendly Fire Incidents Increasing

A Crisis Of Trust And Cultural Incompatibility

This is a damning report on the chaos within NATO and ISAF in Afghanistan. It could carry a sub-title along the lines: 'We Kill Each Other Too, Not Just Poor Afghan Villagers'

France Threatens Early Afghan Withdrawal

Of course they won't withdraw early. Posturing in the face of French military groupies and public opinion whose interest in the latest deaths will last all of 24 hours. Sarkozy will do what the Americans tell him as always. You would never guess he was in the middle of an election would you?

Sarko Has Just Seen The Latest Poll Figures
Four unarmed French soldiers have been shot dead by an Afghan soldier who attacked them during training. The attack, at a base in Kopisa province, came less than a month after an Afghan soldier gunned down two French Foreigh Legion members serving in the Nato force.It is not known if the attacker, who is in the custody of the army's third brigade, is a Taliban member.The French foreign minister described the incident as an "assassination". President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that France would suspend training operations in Afghanistan.Sarkozy was unclear as to which part of the French army's role in training Afghan troops and police would be affected and hinted that the French might withdraw sooner than the 2014 target."If the conditions of security are not clearly restored, then the question of an early withdrawal of the French army would arise," he added."The French army is in Afghanistan at the service of the Afghans against terrorism and against the Taliban. The French army is not in Afghanistan so that Afghan soldiers can shoot at them."French defence minister Longuet and the chief of staff of the French army will investigate the killings.They came a day after six US marines were killed when their helicopter crashed in Afghanistan's Southern province.An official told Associated Press that there was no indication that the helicopter had been shot down.Nato secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it was "a very sad day for our troops in Afghanistan and for the French people". He insisted, however, that they were isolated incidents.

It is thought that Sarkozy will discuss the French role in Afghanistan when he meets the country's president, Hamid Karzai, in Paris.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Price Tag Journalism And The Israel Firsters

 by Chris Toensing | published January 19, 2012 - 12:58pm

The Washington Post today features a
hit piece on the Center for American Progress, the largely Clintonite think tank whose Middle East division employs some good reporters and which also published an excellent report on Islam-bashing Astroturf campaigns funded by right-wing moguls in the US.
Under the headline “Liberal Think Tank Tied to Obama Accused of Anti-Semitic Language,” the Post airs the huffing and puffing of pro-Israel activists about tweets and other statements by junior CAP staffers, in which they used the term “Israel-firster” and compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of blacks under Jim Crow.
Complaints about the CAP tweets first surfaced in a Politico
story on December 7. Senior CAP staffers promptly pushed back, touting the think tank’s support for a two-state solution and rather gratuitously taking “nothing off the table” when it comes to Iran (though, of course, sounding all the acceptable-in-Washington notes about why bombing Iran would be a bad idea). The statement offered no backing for the above criticisms of Israel and its defenders, however; in fact, those staffers had to retract their statements and one soon left CAP’s employ.

A few points about the Post story:
1) The substance of the “Israel-firster” allegation -- some people who opine on the Middle East are driven primarily by their views of what is good for Israel -- goes completely unexamined. Readers are left to assume that “Israel-firster” must indeed be an ad hominem attack.
2) The article admits to controversy only over the issue of whether or not “Israel-firster” is an anti-Semitic canard, which in the piece boils down to whether or not CAP’s critics and Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street are offended by the term.
3) The desultory discussion of even this meta-question is buried at the end of the piece, after many readers will have stopped reading.
4) Finally, aside from the offending tweets’ retraction and the departure of the tweeter from CAP, there has been no new development since the original Politico story that warrants a fresh look from the Post. Presumably, what pushed the Post to run the story is that the pro-Israel advocates’ anti-CAP agitation “could complicate the president’s reelection outreach to some Jewish voters, just as he is seeking to assure them of his commitment to Israel’s security amid fears of an Iran nuclear threat.” In other words, the agitation is now the story.
To clarify:
The Israel Lobby is a flawed book that was nonetheless quite important for its timing and who wrote it. The pro-Israel lobby wields considerable clout, particularly regarding the question of Palestine, but it did not drag the US into war in Iraq for Israel’s sake. The US government controls US Middle East policy, not Israel.
But the CAP story is a particularly egregious example of the pro-Israel lobby at work to produce badly slanted coverage of Middle East policy debates that, in effect, equates the lobbyists’ view of Israeli interests with American interests. All while demonstrating that, while space has opened for a wider range of views about the Middle East, hard-hitting criticism of Israel still comes with a price tag.

The US Fatal Attraction For The GCC

'The GCC, essentially, is the core of the empire in the Arab world. Yes, it's essentially about oil; the GCC will be responsible for over 25% of global oil production within the next few decades. Their tiny ruling classes - from monarchies to business associates - function as a crucial annex to the mighty projection of US power all across the Middle East and beyond.
That explains, among other things, why in October last year Washington closed a juicy US$67 billion deal - the largest bilateral deal in US history - to supply the House of Saud with a prime collection of brand new F-15s, Black Hawks, Apaches, bunker-buster bombs, Patriot-2 missiles and warships.
It explains why Washington will shower the UAE with thousands of bunker-buster bombs, and Oman with Stinger missiles. Not to mention another juicy mega-deal - worth $53 billion - with Bahrain, which has not gone through yet because human-rights associations - to their credit - have fiercely denounced it.' More.

Taliban View Of The Talks

A commander from Ghazni province, also in eastern Afghanistan, agreed. "Everybody in Afghanistan wants peace," he said. "There are very intelligent scholars in the Taliban leadership, and we believe they won't make any decision against Islam and Afghanistan. They are our leaders and we are their followers."
The Taliban say their goals in any negotiations are the withdrawal of all the foreign troops and the establishment of a more rigorously Islamic regime.
"Whatever the Taliban leadership and the Leader of the Believers decides will be in accordance with Islam and Afghanistan's national interests," said Mullah Ayubi, a Taliban commander in Khost province, in eastern Afghanistan. "He is our guide and we are obligated to obey his orders. But if he makes a decision against Islam we won't follow him and he wouldn't be our guide anymore." More here.

Taliban Talks Falter

Aside from friction with the United States, Pakistan faces a slowing economy heavily dependent on foreign aid and is struggling with militant violence.
Exploratory peace talks between the homegrown Taliban, which is close to al Qaeda, and Islamabad, raised hopes that Pakistan's leaders could eventually have one less major problem to deal with.
But the talks have made little headway, a senior security official told Reuters on Thursday, after the Taliban flatly rejected a demand that it work through tribal elders to reach a deal whereby fighters approach authorities and lay down their arms.
"They felt it would be humiliating. The talks are not making progress," the official said. "If they want to be included in the political system, that is what they will have to do." Link.

Iran May Negotiate With Obama

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Afghanistan To Get 'Decades Of Additional Assistance'!

Sir Simon insisted that NATO would have to learn the mistake from the failed Soviet occupation — apparently not the “don’t occupy Afghanistan” mistake. Instead, he sees the mistake coming three years after the Soviet troops left, when they withdrew funding from the Najibullah regime. From Here.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Political Murder In Iran - Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan

"On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead," bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. "I think that's a wonderful thing, candidly." On the day of Roshan's death, Israel's military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: "I don't know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear" – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: "I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes." Not much mention in our newspapers about nuclear scientists in Israel or the boffins manufacturing the white phosphorous for Israel to use in Gaza. Read More.

Scottish Army Officer Cleared Of Mutilations In Afghanistan

A SCOTTISH 'war hero' has been cleared of cutting off dead Taliban fighters' fingers as trophies. The 25-year-old Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders lieutenant, the youngest officer to receive the Military Cross, was investigated along with a captain and a private.
But the Service Prosecuting Authority have now dropped the inquiry, accepting the three men's explanation they removed the fingers for 'identification purposes.' This is against the army's own guidelines and procedures.
The MoD said the men made a "serious error in judgment" under heavy fire in Afghanistan but were not collecting trophies.
New training guidelines have been scrambled introduced to ensure there is no repeat of the 'error.'
The men said they did not have time to set up a biometrics camera, used to collect ID data, after the Taliban fighters were killed in Helmand province.
Fingerprints and identifiying marks are important to identify key Taliban targets.
The MoD said Army basic training had been adapted to reinforce the guidelines on the acceptable treatment of fallen foes.
He said: "This incident is one we would not like to see repeated. The dropping of the charges in this instance is good news for the regiment but it is being regarded as a lesson learned." Hero, eh?

War Prayers

Mark Twain (1835-1910) recognized the true nature of war prayers a hundred years ago. In his brief story called "The War Prayer," Twain tells of a church service held on the Sunday before "the battalions would leave for the front." A "war chapter" was read from the Old Testament, followed by a long prayer from the pastor that God would protect the "noble young soldiers," encourage them "in their patriotic work," and "bear them in His mighty hand." At the end of the prayer a mysterious stranger appears and addresses the congregation. He claims to be from the throne of God. After explaining that he was "commissioned of God" to put into words the other part of the pastor’s prayer that he and the congregation prayed in their hearts. What happened next?

Monday, 16 January 2012

AQ In The Islamic Maghreb

One year ago last weekend, two young French men were seized from a restaurant in the middle of Niamey, Niger, and hustled quickly north towards Mali by members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Yet unlike the normal AQIM kidnapping, which ends in ransom demands and months of waiting, this kidnapping ended quickly and tragically, with an ambush just inside Mali by French Special Forces, and two dead hostages — longtime friends Antoine de Léocour and Vincent Delory. De Léocour was supposed to get married that week to a Nigerien woman, and Delory had just arrived in Niger for the wedding.
While the investigation into their deaths, initially attributed solely to their kidnappers by French authorities, quickly faded from the news, events this week have brought the incident back into the public eye in France. The paper Libération first broke the story Friday that a French anti-terrorism judge, Yves Jannier, interviewed in November 2011 a young AQIM member arrested in Nuakchott the previous February (his name is Mohamed al-Amine ould Mouhamedou ould M’Balle, known as “Mouawiya”).
And what a story Mouawiya told.

Nation Building Budget Runs Out - Strategy Ran Out Years Ago

Pentagon spokesman George Little suggested it was premature to predict what changes might be made. "Absolutely no decisions have been reached by anyone on the final size of Afghanistan's security forces," he said.
Last year Obama administration quietly put forward the idea of a "transition dividend," which would reinvest some of the military savings created by Western troop reductions, to its NATO allies. But the concept has not gained much traction been toiletted.
Last week, Poland's defense minister said that Afghanistan shouldn't expect NATO nations to 'subsidize its security forces indefinitely.'

This is all codespeak for 'we're looking for the cheapest option available that doesn't make this clusterfuck look like a total failure.' Full article (ISAFspeak Warning)

Short Taliban Propaganda Film - January 2012

AFGHANISTAN : La force réside dans le tir . by MOUHAJIROON

De Gaulle On Indochina, America And National Self-Determination

On 1 September 1966, in the Cambodian capital, General De Gaulle delivers to over 200,000 people, the "Speech of Phnom Penh." This speech is one of the most forward-thiniking of the postwar years. Recalling the independence of France, he asserts the existence of a third track represented by the non-aligned nations, one of independent sovereignty .De Gaulle also indicated a turning point in the approach to international relations for the former colonial powers. These words were felt at the time as a slap and a betrayal by the Americans at war in Vietnam. In 1968, it was in Paris of course where the conference which was to end the Vietnam War took place, the most futile in the history of the United States until the Afghanistan and Iraq wars). What is impressive is that after over 45 years, De Gaulle's words about the sovereignty of nations still echo in an original way and are more relevant than ever. Unfortunately the political pygmies who pass for 'world leaders' today could not match De Gaulle's levels of statesmanship if they were all added together.

Some Scenes From Ordinary Afghan Life

Afghanistan – touch down in flight from Augustin Pictures on Vimeo.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Is Karzai's Hat A Grey Wolf's Vagina?

Not my choice of words. It's what the US Military brass ask about the 'man in the funny hat'. Nation building, diplomacy, urinating on bodies. Is there nothing the US Army can't do?

Chomsky - Why Is US Military In Afghanistan?

Israeli False Flaggers

Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.

The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services -- the Mossad -- were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.

US General James Mattis

Wonder where the urinating US Marines get their core values? "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." Yes, General Mattis is a bonehead's bonehead.

Afghanistan Stalemate Deepening

Vote of Confidence In Pakistan Government

Friday, 13 January 2012

Desecration Of Afghan Dead - Atrocities Didn't Start Here

Many of these war crimes were reported by the corporate media, though they were not described as such. For example, the New York Times reported on 8 November 2004 that American forces "seized" the Fallujah general hospital. An incident that I witnessed, as did Paul Wood and Robbie Wright from the BBC, was when my unit fired grenades into a house until it collapsed – with full knowledge that there were two resistance fighters and a young boy (roughly 10 years old) inside. Paul Wood interviewed the lieutenant at the scene, and he acknowledged that they had killed the young boy. In both of these reports, war crimes and Geneva Conventions were never mentioned, and the façade of honorable conduct was preserved. More.

Intel Report - Afghan Dead End

Two current and one former US official speaking on condition of anonymity told AP the intelligence community’s take on the war is that the Taliban may only be paying lip service to peace talks with NATO and Afghan government.
The classified Afghan National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) declares the war at a stalemate, with NATO security gains far outweighed by corruption at all levels of Afghan government.
The report also finds special operations raids and programs to bolster local Afghan security are somewhat effective in degrading the Taliban, but it returns as soon as NATO forces withdraw from an area. The assessment also questions the overall success of the longest war in US history. Full story.

Robert Fisk On Desecration By US Soldiers

Obama At Ceremony Where He Hands Back The Nobel
The US Marines' response to the pissing pictures was oh so typical. These men were not abiding by the "core values" of the Marines, we were informed. Same old story. A "rogue" unit, a few "bad apples", rotten eggs. Maybe. But if there is one game of pissing on the dead, how many others happened without pictures? How many other shepherds got fragged in Iraq? How many other Hadithas have there been? There were plenty of other My Lais. Read More.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

US Military And Their Core Values

By Tariq Ali. 
It’s now official. Urinating on dead insurgents, the US Marine Corps informs the world, is ‘not consistent with its core values’. I think we need a list of non-core values as soon as possible. Pissing on the dead is considered loathsome in most cultures, but clearly can be a morale-booster for demoralised troops in an occupied country where the war is going badly for western civilisation. What better way to assert civilisational values against the barbarians and win local hearts and minds? And why stop here? The next stage surely is to excrete on them and use their beards as toilet paper. That would enhance the value of the videos and might even win the innovators the Santorum Prize for Moral Superiority.
Urinating on the dead is bad enough, but what of those who do it on the living? One of the earlier complaints in this regard came from Gitmo (happy 10th birthday dear) prisoners who alleged that their guards pissed on them from above and that some of the drops fell not just on them, but the Korans they were reading. At the time nobody thought fit to say that such acts ‘were not consistent with core values’. Limited progress has been made. Why the employees of imperial powers feel obliged to act in such a way requires psychiatric investigation. During the British occupation of India it was common practice for British police officers to order their men (who included Muslims, Sikhs and ‘low-caste’ Hindus) to unbutton themselves and let fly at non-violent Gandhian protesters occupying railway tracks to enforce a strike and non-co-operation call by the Congress Party. Nobody talked about core values at that time. Most Indians knew what they were.

US Marines Desecrate Corpses - Outrage Spreads

Desecration Outrage Spreads

The footage shows four men in military fatigues appearing to urinate on three apparently lifeless men. They have brown skin, bare feet and are dressed in loose-fitting outfits. One appears to be covered in blood.
A man's voice is heard saying: "Have a great day, buddy."
The origin of the video is not known, nor is it clear who posted it online.
The men in military fatigues seem to be aware they are being filmed. From BBC News here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Investigation Into Desecration Of Taliban Corpses

Marine Corps officials said they are investigating a YouTube video that allegedly shows four servicemembers urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.
The video, posted Tuesday on YouTube , shows four men in U.S. military uniforms standing above the corpses, joking and making references to relieving themselves on the dead men.
Capt. Kendra Hardesty, a spokeswoman for the Corps, said officials have not verified any details of the incident but added, “The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps. This matter will be fully investigated and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions."
It was unclear who shot the video, when it was filmed,or who posted it online.
"Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the video, this is egregious, disgusting behaviour," Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said in a statement to CNN. "It's hideous. It turned my stomach."
The incident harkens back to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal, where Iraqi detainees were photographed while being abused and tormented by U.S. military guards at the facility. When photographs of the abuse were made public, they caused an uproar throughout the Middle East, inciting violence among Muslims both supporting and fighting against the U.S. presence there. 

$73b Afghan Aid Wasted?

The national debate about whether to engage in Afghanistan and for how long is likely to continue in Washington. But everyone can agree that, with a staggering $15 trillion national debt and facing budget austerity, U.S. taxpayers have a right to know where the money is going in Afghanistan. And to turn off the spigot if necessary.
Alarmingly, it appears that those charged with policing the cookie jar and those who spent $73 billion of our money have failed us.

Read more 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Freedom In '14


Scots Guards In Helmland

Embed/Army point of view video but once again interesting:

Afghan War Slideshow

From an embed point of view but sad and interesting nonetheless:

German NATO Soldiers 'Operating' In Kunduz

In this clip, they are firing smokescreen shells into the desert. A symbol of their futile and failed presence there, if ever there was one.

Who Is Really Running Yemen?

Death Of A Chinese-American Soldier

He entered the tower at about 8 a.m. The soldier he was relieving asked him if he was okay. “No sweat,” Chen answered. The ­other soldier left. At 11:13, from inside the tower, the sound of a gunshot echoed through the Palace.Read the entire story here.

Monday, 9 January 2012

US Negotiation Approach 'Flawed'

'Reciprocal measures from the Taliban side are, perhaps significantly, much less developed, and reportedly include requests for the Taliban to formally cut ties with al-Qaeda, to accept the elected Afghan government, and to agree to bargain in good faith. A proposal for eventual consideration would be a declaration of "ceasefire zones", perhaps to be established in conjunction with the turnover of local security responsibility to Afghan government forces in the areas concerned.US officials, speaking strictly without attribution, are careful, nonetheless, to stress the difficulties going forward. One such official rates the chances of ultimate success in reaching a negotiated solution to the conflict at no more than 30 per cent.I wish I could share his optimism.' Link.

Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

45% Of World Refugees From Afghanistan Or Iraq - Thanks For The Freedom

Remember Operation Enduring Freedom? Thanks for that one, America.
Of the world's 10.5Million refugees, 45% are from Afghanistan(3.05M) or Iraq(1.68M). There are 200 thousand more Afghan refugees each year.  New report from UNHCR HERE.

US Use Of Paramilitaries Causing Concern

The issue is becoming central as the withdrawal and the transition to Afghan-run security in 2014 approaches. One senior western diplomat said: "Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about Afghanistan really depends on what you think of the ALP." ALP units are set up in communities where the local council, or shura, has requested them. They are screened by shura members and given a criminal check, and 40 hours' training. They wear brown uniforms to distinguish them from the grey of the regular police, earn 60% of regular police pay, and do not have the power of arrest. They are organised in 150-strong units, each mentored by about a dozen US Green Berets or sometimes British Royal Marines. From here.

Endgame In Afghanistan - Pepe Escobar

Having posted palpable nonsense from Donald Trump and Thomas Friedman recently, it's time for someone who knows what he is talking about - Pepe Escobar on the Afghan endgame:
As in all things AfPak, wishful thinking remains the law of the land. Washington has been abuzz with "secret discussions between US and Taliban officials".
Not so secret after all. Washington wanted the Taliban to renounce all weaponry. The Taliban said "no". Washington wanted the Taliban to renounce any links to al-Qaeda - and in this case Taliban prisoners would be released from Guantanamo. The Taliban said "let's talk".
Wishful thinking also pervades the notion that the political office in Doha will somewhat isolate Pakistan from the Taliban leadership. Mullah Omar, as every grain of sand in the Balochi deserts know, lives in Quetta, undisturbed by ubiquitous US surveillance.
Even though Islamabad was not consulted about the Doha office, Washington assumes the Pakistani ISI is not monitoring each one of these steps - as it keeps monitoring its ironclad Taliban connections. Read more.