Afghanistan

Taliban Declares Defeat of NATO in Afghanistan

From Antiwar.com

NATO’s flag-lowering ceremonies in Afghanistan and attempts to spin the 13+ year Afghan War as over belie the reality, which is that the war is simply transitioning to a more US-dominated conflict, with little tangible change between now and January 1.

The PR move is a risky one, however, because if the war was over, it’d be time to start wondering who won. The Taliban has been quick to jump into the conversation, insisting they had defeated NATO.

The Taliban’s new statement noted NATO had not achieved anything substantial in the 13-plus years of occupation, and said that the war end ceremonies proved a demoralized force was turning and running.

Unfortunately, some 13,000 US and allied occupation forces will remain in Afghanistan, with a deal to leave troops through 2024 and beyond. The war seems set to continue, in everything but name, through its second decade and well into its third, with no end in sight, and no winners.

War in Afghanistan Far from Over

Now into its 13th year U.S. and NATO are announcing the end to combat missions in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of troops, but despite the symbolic flag-lowering ceremony, the U.S.-led war is in fact not ending, and the brutal war is set to continue through 2015. NATO is set to “transition” to a non-combat, “Resolute Support” mission to assist the Afghan National Army in its operations, with 4, 000 NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan into 2015.

AP425-Adelphi cover - standard 480x270

President Obama has authorized the 10, 800 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan in 2015, an increase of 1, 000 from his May pledge to reduce U.S. troops in the country, to resume combat operations against Afghan militants, including night raids by Special Operation soldiers, previously banned by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and ariel strikes. A senior American military officer was quoted saying that “the Air Force expects to use F-16 fighters, B-1B bombers and Predator and Reaper drones to go after the Taliban in 2015.”

The continuation of combat operations in Afghanistan by U.S. troops comes after the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the U.S. and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a former U.S. citizen and World Bank employee, a highly controversial agreement that was followed by a wave of attacks. The agreement allows for thousands of U.S. troops to remain in the country for another decade and grants all U.S. servicemen immunity from prosecution under Afghan laws. Several massacres and unlawful acts were committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including the murder of 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar and the footage of U.S. soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Afghans and posing for photographs with dead civilians.

The U.S. and its imperialist allies have a long history of occupations and interference in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies through Pakistan funded radical Islamic counterrevolutionaries, including bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, that fought to topple the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), then implementing widespread social reforms that benefited millions of Afghans. These “freedom fighters,” as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan described them, tortured teachers and activists, burnt down schools, poisoned children, and raped women.

karmal

Babrak Karmal, first President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan

After the PDPA was overthrown, the U.S. largely disengaged from Afghanistan, having accomplished its primary objective, and the various counterrevolutionary factions fought amongst themselves in a devastating civil war. Later the Taliban, an organization of Islamic students led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, defeated these factions and captured Kabul in 1996. The U.S., “keen to see Afghanistan under strong central rule to allow a US-led group to build a multi-billion-dollar oil and gas pipeline” from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea, indirectly supported the Taliban’s rise to power through Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The U.S.-led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 or bin Laden. Notwithstanding the scientific inaccuracies of the official 9/11 story, the FBI has admitted it lacks any hard evidence to formally indict bin Laden for his responsibility in 9/11, only the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The U.S.-led invasion was an imperialist war of resource plundering and transferring public wealth into private hands. The media went into a frenzy when the U.S. “discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan” in 2010. The New York Times even declared that Afghanistan could become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a mineral used in the manufacture of batteries. It is inconceivable that U.S. authorities weren’t aware of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth before the invasion; the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s confirmed the existence of enormous mineral reserves and produced “superb geological maps and reports that listed more than 1,400 mineral outcroppings, along with about 70 commercially viable deposits.”

Since the U.S. and NATO invaded Afghanistan the drug trade has boomed. Prior to the invasion, opium cultivation was banned by the Taliban in collaboration with the United Nations, and by 2001 the crop had declined by 90% to 185 tonnes. After the U.S. invasion the opium crop had skyrocketed to 3400 tonnes in 2002 under former President Hamid Karzai. The drug trade was an important source of covert funding for the Afghan counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s and 1990s and has long been under the control of the CIA. Mujahideen counterrevolutionaries forced Afghan peasants to plant opium, turning the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas into the world’s top heroin producer, with the collaboration of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad.

Afghan farmers in their fields.

Afghan farmers in their fields.

The money from the drug trade is laundered through banks and recycled as covert funds for intelligence agencies. Money laundering, according to the IMF, constitutes 2-5% of the world’s GDP, and a significant share of money laundering is linked to the trade in narcotics. The trade in narcotics represents the third largest commodity after oil and arms, with powerful financial interests behind the trade. “From this standpoint, geopolitical and military control over the drug routes is as strategic as oil and oil pipelines,” writes Professor Michel Chossudovsky.

US Drone Strikes Kill Nine in North Waziristan

From Antiwar.com

A pair of US drone strikes destroyed a house and a vehicle in the Shawal Valley of Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency today, killing at least nine people, including four who officials say may have been ethnic Uzbeks.

The Uzbeks were said killed in the US attack on the vehicle, though officials conceded they haven’t actually confirmed this, and that the ethnicity of the victims was just something they heard.

The other five people killed are totally unidentified even nominally, though officials say they believe the house destroyed belonged to a leader in the Punjabi Taliban.

Still, they have no idea if the Punjabi Taliban leader was in the home at the time, or indeed if it was even his people who were hit. The US has been picking up the rate of drone strikes in Pakistan in recent weeks, a sore spot in US-Pakistani relations, though most recently Pakistan has been mum on the attacks.

13 Years, $1 Trillion Plus Spent, Obama Declares Afghan War a Success

From Antiwar.com

13 years and, by a very conservative reckoning, $1 trillion later, the US is transitioning to a different phase of the Afghan occupation in January. President Obama insists it was all worth it.

Speaking at a Marine Corps base, Obama declared that the occupation had made the world “safer” and that Afghanistan “is not going to be the source of terrorist attacks again.”

The comments must draw immediate comparisons to President Bush’s ill-conceived “mission accomplished” statement, as the US is far from ending the Afghan war, and indeed is planning to escalate activities in 2015 beyond what had previously been announced.

Obama went on to brag that Afghanistan “has a chance to rebuild its own country” because of the occupation, though many billions of dollars thrown at “reconstruction” schemes by the administration have been wasted, with Afghanistan regularly showing up on the list of most dysfunctional and corrupt nations on earth.

Endless Wars Have Cost Americans $1.6 Trillion, Report Finds

From Common Dreams

The United States has spent $1.6 trillion on post-9/11 military operations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons procurement and maintenance, and base support, according to a report (pdf) issued earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

As some analysts point out, that’s more money than the U.S. spent on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 all rolled into one.

According to International Business Times, “the $1.6 trillion estimate, which comes to $14 million per hour since 9/11…is up roughly half a trillion dollars from its 2010 estimate, which found that the post-9/11 military operations are second only to World War II in terms of financial cost.”

Of the $1.6 trillion total, CRS specialist Amy Belasco estimates that the funding breaks down as such:

  • $686 billion (43%) for Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan);
  • $815 billion (51%) for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (Iraq);
  • $27 billion (2%) for Operation Noble Eagle (providing enhanced security at military bases and military operations related to homeland security);
  • $81 billion (5%) for war-designated funding not considered directly related to the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.

The report, dated December 8, states that about 92 percent of the funds went to the Department of Defense, with the remainder split between the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other agencies. The key factor determining the cost of war during a given period over the last 13 years has been the number of U.S. troops deployed, according to the report.

To that end, the document says that predicting “future costs of the new U.S. role in countering the Islamic State is difficult because of the nature of the air campaign and uncertainties about whether the U.S. mission may expand.”

pc_5d9e8bd3fb4405bbd958f531d89ed01b

To curtail costs moving forward, the CRS analysis recommends: “Congress may wish to consider ways to restrict war-funding to exclude activities marginally related to war operations and support, and to limit the use of ground troops in Operation Inherent Resolve,” referring to the U.S. military intervention against the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Writing at the Federation of American Scientists blog—where the report was first posted—“Ideally, the record compiled in the 100-page CRS report would serve as the basis for a comprehensive assessment of U.S. military spending since 9/11: To what extent was the expenditure of $1.6 trillion in this way justified? How much of it actually achieved its intended purpose? How much could have been better spent in other ways?”

Mother Jones notes that “[o]ther reports have estimated the cost of U.S. wars since 9/11 to be far higher than $1.6 trillion. A report by Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, estimated the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as post-2001 assistance to Pakistan—to be roughly $4.4 trillion. The CRS estimate is lower because it does not include additional costs including the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt.”

Speaking to The Fiscal Times, American University professor of international relations and military history Gordon Adams argues that the costs of war are much higher than any report could show.

“All of these figures do not take into account the long-term consequences, in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder or long-term veterans’ bills,” he said. “The costs go on. Iraq and Afghanistan will end up being the gift that keeps on giving because—as we did with Vietnam—we will be living with the consequences for many, many years.”

Leaked Internal CIA Document Admits US Drone Program “Counterproductive”

From Common Dreams

Wikileaks on Thursday has made public a never-before-seen internal review conducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that looked at the agency’s drone and targeted assassination programs in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere.

The agency’s own analysis, conducted in 2009, found that its clandestine drone and assassination program was likely to produce counterproductive outcomes, including strengthening the very “extremist groups” it was allegedly designed to destroy.

Here’s a link to the document, titled Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Toolocument (pdf).

In one of the key findings contained in the CIA report, agency analysts warn of the negative consequences of assassinating so-called High Level Targets (HLT).

“The potential negative effect of HLT operations,” the report states, “include increasing the level of insurgent support […], strengthening an armed group’s bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

Wikileaks points out that this internal prediction “has been proven right” in the years since the internal review was conducted near the outset of President Obama’s first term. And despite those internal warnings—which have been loudly shared by human rights and foreign policy experts critical of the CIA’s drone and assassination programs—Wikileaks also notes that after the internal review was prepared, “US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high.”

Reached by the Washington Post on Thursday for response, CIA spokesperson Kali J. Caldwell said the agency would not comment “on the authenticity or content of purported stolen intelligence documents.”

According to a statement released by Wikileaks:

The report discusses assassination operations (by various states) against the Taliban, al-Qa’ida, the FARC, Hizbullah, the PLO, HAMAS, Peru’s Shining Path, the Tamil’s LTTE, the IRA and Algeria’s FLN. Case studies are drawn from Chechnya, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand.

The assessment was prepared by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues (OTI). Its role is to provide “the most senior US policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support”. The report is dated 7 July 2009, six months into Leon Panetta’s term as CIA chief, and not long after CIA analyst John Kiriakou blew the whistle on the torture of CIA detainees. Kiriakou is still in prison for shedding light on the CIA torture programme.

Following the politically embarrassing exposure of the CIA’s torture practices and the growing cost of keeping people in detention indefinitely, the Obama administration faced a crucial choice in its counter-insurgency strategy: should it kill, capture, or do something else entirely?

Given exclusive access to the CIA document ahead of its public release, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Philip Dorling reported earlier on Thursday:

According to a leaked document by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, “high value targeting” (HVT) involving air strikes and special forces operations against insurgent leaders can be effective, but can also havenegative effects including increasing violence and greater popular support for extremist groups.

The leaked document is classified secret and “NoForn” (meaning not to be distributed to non-US nationals) and reviews attacks by the United States and other countries engaged in counter-insurgency operations over the past 50 years.

The CIA assessment is the first leaked secret intelligence document published by WikiLeaks since 2011. Led by Australian publisher Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy group says the CIA assessment is the first in what will be a new series of leaked documents relating to the US agency.

The 2009 CIA study lends support to critics of US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen by warning that such operations “may increase support for the insurgents, particularly if these strikes enhance insurgent leaders’ lore, if non-combatants are killed in the attacks, if legitimate or semi-legitimate politicians aligned with the insurgents are targeted, or if the government is already seen as overly repressive or violent”.

Drone strikes have been a key element of the Obama administration’s attacks on Islamic extremist terrorist and insurgent groups in the Middle East and south Asia. Australia has directly supported these strikes through the electronic espionage operations of the US-Australian Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.