Category Archives: Afghanistan

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War and Install Viceroy to Run Nation

Amy Goodman speaks with longtime investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn about the White House considering an unprecedented plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan at the urging of Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater. Prince told USA Today the plan would include sending 5,500 private mercenaries to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan army. It would also include deploying a private air force—with at least 90 aircraft—to carry out the bombing campaign against Taliban insurgents. The plan’s consideration comes as a federal appeals court has overturned the prison sentences of former Blackwater contractors who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Nisoor Square in central Baghdad, killing 17 civilians when they opened fire with machine guns and threw grenades into the crowded public space. (Democracy Now!)

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The Real Scandal: Americans Don’t Care About Afghanistan

Andrew J. Bacevich writes for The American Conservative:

“Dwelling on the past is just not useful,” not at least in the opinion of Brigadier General Roger B. Turner Jr., U.S. Marine Corps. General Turner’s current duty station is Afghanistan, where he commands a modest conglomeration of Marines and sailors known as Task Force Southwest.

We might empathize with General Turner. After all, what’s the point of getting hung up on the past when you are facing a dauntingly tough job in the here-and-now? That job requires Turner to do what a run of previous U.S. military commanders have been attempting to do without notable success for almost sixteen years: to pacify Helmand Province. Were he to reflect too deeply on the disappointments of those sixteen years— the U.S. troops killed and wounded, the billions of dollars expended, all to no evident purpose—Turner just might reach the conclusion that he and his charges are engaged in a fool’s errand conceived by idiots.

We don’t want brigadier generals entertaining such heretical thoughts about basic U.S. national security policy. Their proper role is to implement, not to formulate; to comply rather than to question; to do or die not to wonder why. So General Turner’s reluctance to dwell on the course that the Afghanistan War has followed since U.S. troops entered that country in 2001 qualifies as prudent and perhaps even necessary.

Unfortunately, the officials who issue Turner his marching orders seemingly share in his reluctance to contemplate the past. The people back at the White House and in the Pentagon who should be thinking long and hard about why America’s longest war has gone so badly even as it drags on and on appear incapable or unwilling to do so. A willful amnesia prevails.

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Why the Media Really Hates ‘War Machine’

Scott Beauchamp writes for The American Conservative:

War Machine, the new Netflix original movie starring Brad Pitt playing a disturbingly over-confident General based on Stanley McChrystal, is controversial for all the wrong reasons.

First there was the kerfuffle at Cannes, where Netflix was booed for breaking tradition by submitting films that would be released on laptops instead of theaters. Then there was the casting of Brad Pitt, which some categorized as a colossal misstep. Variety said that the almost surreal comic role should “have gone to John Goodman, or some comparably gifted character actor.” And then there’s the focus of the film itself. Is it an “irrelevant and brash” alpha-male misfire? Or an “assured and nervy black satire” that tries to have it both ways by mocking the war even as it sympathizes too heavily with the officers who wage it?

What gets ignored in all of these various reactions is the reality of the ongoing war itself and how this film relates to it. Sure, it’s novel and interesting that online streaming companies are producing original films. And of course the wisdom of casting a Peter Pan hunk like Brad Pitt as an American general is up for debate. But isn’t the real scandal that there’s an ongoing occupation to critique at all? If the film comes off as brash, it’s because it conveys an irreverent confidence that almost seems to anticipate the media missing the forest for the trees. A major theme of the film is, after all, how mass media fails us on a moral level, always transforming events that require somber moral reflection into superficial sleaze. And so I can’t help but wonder if reviews of War Machine have been so uniformly unfavorable because of the disconnect between the ongoing war and popular culture, and how the film implicates the media in sustaining that rift.

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Erik Prince’s Dark Plan for Afghanistan: Military Occupation for Profit

Matthew Pulver reports for Salon:

Erik Prince's dark plan for Afghanistan: Military occupation for profit, not securityLost in the cascade of stories of potential White House criminality and collusion with foreign governments is the Erik Prince affair. It is reported that Prince, the brother of controversial  Education Secretary Betsy Devos who established his power in Washington with his mercenary army Blackwater during the Iraq war, met with Russian intermediaries in an obscure Indian Ocean archipelago to establish back-channel communication with Moscow, possibly in coordination with the efforts of Jared Kushner, who last week was reported to have sought a White House back channel to the Kremlin.

Bloomberg reports that during the presidential transition late last year “Prince was very much a presence, providing advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.” While President-elect Trump, in reality show style, paraded administration applicants through the gilded front doors of of Trump Tower for the gauntlet of cameras, Prince “entered Trump Tower through the back,” reports Bloomberg.

Prince met at least several times with the Trump team, according to the multiply sourced reporting, including once on a train from New York to Washington, where Prince met with Peter Thiel associate Kevin Harrington, who would later join the National Security Council and be tasked with “strategic planning.” Prince is said to have advised Harrington, Flynn and others on the Trump transition team on the “restructuring of security agencies” and “a thorough rethink of costly defense programs.”

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Kabul’s Horrific Bomb Attack Reminds the World of the Afghan Conflict

Patrick Cockburn reports for The Independent:

Image result for Kabul's Horrific Bomb Attack Reminds the World of the Afghan Conflict[…] The war in general in Afghanistan is close to a stalemate, though the Taliban has been making ground since international forces withdrew at the end of 2014. They control or contest areas inhabited by more than 40 per cent of the Afghan population, though the government of President Ashraf Ghani holds all the provincial capitals. US air strikes limit the ability of the Taliban to win strategic victories or capture and hold urban centres.

President Trump is considering sending a further 3,000 to 5,000 troops to bolster the 10,000 who are already there as a “counter-terrorism mission”.  It became clear during the past two years that the Afghan government could not survive without foreign assistance, much of it from the US. While President Obama tended to play down its growing military engagement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Mr Trump plays up more air strikes or troop reinforcements as a sign of stronger US resolution under his leadership.

In practice, it has been unlikely over the past decade that the Taliban would lose so long as it had a strong core of indigenous support and the covert backing of Pakistan, where its forces could always seek sanctuary. Though aware of this, the US has always balked at a confrontation with Pakistan as a leading US ally in South Asia and a nuclear armed military power. It has likewise been unlikely that the Taliban would win because of sectarian and ethnic limitations to their support in Afghanistan and the financial and military backing of the US for the government in Kabul

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The Biggest Bills for the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Are Yet to Come

Linda J. Blimes reports for Defense One:

An Afghan National Army Humvee in the Paktika province, Afghanistan in 2011.Each Memorial Day, we pay respects to the fallen from past wars – including the more than one million American soldiers killed in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.

Yet the nation’s longest and most expensive war is the one that is still going on. In addition to nearly 7,000 troops killed, the 16-year conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost an estimated US$6 trillion due to its prolonged length, rapidly increasing veterans health care and disability costs and interest on war borrowing. On this Memorial Day, we should begin to confront the staggering cost and the challenge of paying for this war.

The enormous figure reflects not just the cost of fighting – like guns, trucks and fuel – but also the long-term cost of providing medical care and disability compensation for decades beyond the end of the conflict. Consider the fact that benefits for World War I veterans didn’t peak until 1969. For World War II veterans, the peak came in 1986. Payments for Vietnam-era vets are still climbing.

The high rates of injuries and increased survival rates in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that over half the 2.5 million who served there suffered some degree of disability. Their health care and disability benefits alone will easily cost $1 trillion in coming decades.

But instead of facing up to these huge costs, we have charged them to the national credit card. This means that our children will be forced to pay the bill for the wars started by our generation. Unless we set aside money today, it is likely that young people now fighting in Afghanistan will be shortchanged in the future just when they most need medical care and benefits.

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The Only Real Way to Stop Atrocities Like Manchester is to End the Wars Which Allow Extremism to Grow

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

trump-saudi.jpeg[…] The bombing in Manchester – and atrocities attributed to Isis influence in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin – are similar to even worse slaughter of tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria. These get limited attention in the Western media, but they continually deepen the sectarian war in the Middle East.

The only feasible way to eliminate organisations capable of carrying out these attacks is to end the seven wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north east Nigeria – that cross-infect each other and produce the anarchic conditions in which Isis and al-Qaeda and their clones can grow.

But to end these wars, there needs to be political compromise between main players like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric makes this almost impossible to achieve.

Of course, the degree to which his bombast should be taken seriously is always uncertain and his declared policies change by the day.

On his return to the US, his attention is going to be fully focused on his own political survival, not leaving much time for new departures, good or bad, in the Middle East and elsewhere. His administration is certainly wounded, but that has not stopped doing as much harm as he could in the Middle East in a short space of time.

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Trump Expanding War From Syria to Afghanistan As Media Focuses on Comey

Paul Jay speaks with Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College and the author of around 20 books, who says while the media continues its frenzy over James Comey’s firing and the ‘Russia connection’, Trump is readying his ‘global war against Islamic Fascism’ to be fought ‘without restraint’, (The Real News)

World’s Biggest Building Project Aims to Make China Great Again

Tom Phillips reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Belt and Road initiativeWhen the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, unveiled what some call the most ambitious development plan in history, Zhou Jun decided almost immediately he should head for the hills.

The 45-year-old entrepreneur packed his bags and set off for one of his country’s most staggeringly beautiful corners: a sleepy, high-altitude border outpost called Tashkurgan that – at almost 5,000km (3,100 miles) from Beijing – is the most westerly settlement in China.

“I saw a great opportunity to turn this little town into a mid-sized city,” Zhou explained during a tour of ‘Europa Manor’, a garish roadside spa he recently opened for Chinese tourists along the Karakoram, the legendary 1,300km highway that snakes through China’s rugged western mountains towards the 4,700m-high Khunjerab Pass.

Zhou said he was part of a wave of entrepreneurs now pouring into this isolated frontier near Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, hoping to cash in on President Xi’s “Belt and Road initiative”, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure campaign that looks set to transform large swaths of Asia and the world beyond.

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Afghanistan: The Longest U.S. War Is Deadlier Than Ever

Matthew Hoh, a military veteran and diplomat who resigned his State Department post in protest of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, says the 16-year war in Afghanistan won’t end until the U.S. drops its strategy of sporadic escalation and insistence on Taliban surrender. (The Real News)

Pictures Reveal Inside of Afghan Caves at ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Blast Site

The Telegraph reports:

Afghan soldier patrols the area where US forces dropped GBU-43 bomb for the first time against caves used by Islamic State Pictures have emerged of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) tunnel network in Afghanistan which the US targeted with “the Mother of All Bombs”.

The US dropped the bomb – its largest explosive short of a nuclear weapon – on April 13 targeting what it said was a tunnel complex used by the jihadist group’s Afghan affiliate.

The GBU-43/B weighs 21,600lbs (9,797-kg) and was dropped from a cargo plane. It has the equivalent power of 11 tonnes of TNT explosives.

But Reuters photographs from the scene of the blast in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan gave an ambiguous sense of the bomb’s power.

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“Mother of All Bombs” Never Used Before Due to Civilian Casualty Concerns

Alex Emmons reports for The Intercept:

Fulfilling Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, the Pentagon dropped the “mother of all bombs” — one of its largest non-nuclear munitions — for the first time on Thursday, in Afghanistan. The 21,600 pound weapon was developed over a decade ago, but was never used due to concerns of possible massive civilian casualties.

The Pentagon said it used the weapon on an ISIS-affiliated group hiding in a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province. The group, according to the Pentagon, is made up of former members of the Taliban.

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” has a mile-long blast radius.

When it first introduced the bomb, the Pentagon said it was designed to terrify America’s enemy into submission. “The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003, “that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the [invading] coalition.”

Thursday’s attack drew condemnation from Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan. “This is not the war on terror,” he said, “but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.”

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When Humanitarianism Became Imperialism

Gregory Afinogenov writes for Jacobin:

In the 1980s Afghanistan, two world powers converged on each other, obliterating the national borders that stood in their way. The first was the Soviet state, bent on defending the precarious gains of a 1978 Communist coup d’état that it had actively tried to prevent. The second, caught in an even more painful paradox, was an uneasy alliance of foreign-funded jihadists, Western intelligence, and NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.

The way we remember the Afghan War today is as a kind of prologue. We care that the United States (along with, far more importantly, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) helped fund jihadists because those insurgents would later turn against the United States, serving as the ultimate indictment of Reaganite Cold War politics. We care that the Soviet Union failed in Afghanistan because that failure foreshadowed the Afghan quagmire of today. We care about the Afghan War because it spawned Osama bin Laden.

Timothy Nunan’s new book, Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan, shows how incomplete this retrospective, US-centric view is. Though he does not venture beyond the 1990s, his argument is essential for understanding the world of imperial warfare today.

Afghanistan did not create the Islamic State, but it did serve as the laboratory in which the destruction of Third World sovereignty came to be fitted with justifications rooted both in human rights and in regime security — the recipe for modern “humanitarian interventions.”

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Thousands of Deadly Airstrikes by U.S. Military Have Gone Unreported

Andrew deGrandpre and Shawn Snow report for Military Times:

Image result for Thousands of Deadly Airstrikes by U.S. Military Have Gone UnreportedThe American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters.

Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001. If that is the case, it would fundamentally undermine confidence in much of what the Pentagon has disclosed about its prosecution of these wars, prompt critics to call into question whether the military sought to mislead the American public, and cast doubt on the competency with which other vital data collection is being performed and publicized. Those other key metrics include American combat casualties, taxpayer expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities.

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Exposé Uncovers SEAL Team 6’s Ghastly Trail of Atrocities, Mutilations, Killings

Amy Goodman speaks to The Intercept’s national security reporter Matthew Cole who spent two years investigating accounts of ghastly atrocities committed by members of Seal Team 6, including mutilating corpses, skinnings and attempted beheadings. According to sources, senior command staff were aware of the misconduct but did little to stop it—and often helped to cover it up. Cole’s article is titled: The Crimes of Seal Team 6(Democracy Now!)

U.S. Airstrikes in Afghanistan May Now Be Riskier For Civilians

Abigail Fielding-Smith and Ruhullah Khapalwak report for Newsweek and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Predator Drone[…] By early 2015, the American war against the Taliban was supposed to be over. President Barack Obama had drawn down the troop force—roughly 100,000 at its height—to about 10,000, most of which remained only to train the Afghan security forces. U.S. planes continued to kill militants loyal to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (ISIS), but airstrikes against the Taliban were allowed only in self-defense.

There was one exception, however: American aircraft could pursue the Taliban when Afghan allies were about to be overrun. This scenario became increasingly common as the insurgent group took advantage of the security vacuum created by U.S. troop withdrawals in 2014 and 2015. Losses among Afghan security forces shot up by nearly 30 percent in those two years. Last September, the Taliban took control of most of the northern city of Kunduz. U.S. commandos set out to help Afghan forces retake it, and American gunships scrambled to support them. In the fog of the ensuing battles, the U.S. accidentally bombarded a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing 42 doctors and patients.

Later, as the Taliban continued to rampage through Kunduz and Helmand provinces, America adjusted its rules. In June, the U.S. announced its forces would now be allowed to attack the Taliban proactively.

This has resulted in an anomalous situation: a conventional aerial campaign but with virtually no American forces on the ground to provide reliable intelligence to guide it. The U.S. is now broadly dependent on its Afghan partners and the notoriously limited insights of drones.

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Afghanistan: The War Trump and Clinton Have Ignored

Deb Riechmann and Robert Burns report for the Associated Press:

In this Oct. 3, 2016 file photo, Afghan civilians watch the site of a bicycle bomb explosion targeted an army vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have said next to nothing about how they would handle the war in Afghanistan.

That’s remarkable, given the enormous U.S. investment in blood and treasure over the past 15 years — including two American deaths on Thursday — the resilience of the Taliban insurgency and the risk of an Afghan government collapse that would risk empowering extremists and could force the next president’s hands.

In addition to the two service members killed on Thursday, four others were wounded while assisting Afghan forces in the northern city of Kunduz.

President Barack Obama escalated the war shortly after he took office, but he fell short of his goal of compelling a political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The next president will face a new set of tough choices on Afghanistan early in his or her term, including whether to increase or reduce U.S. troop levels and, more broadly, whether to continue what might be called Obama’s minimalist military strategy.

The difficulty of these choices may explain, at least in part, why Trump and Clinton have been largely silent on Afghanistan. They ignore it while campaigning; it came up only in passing during the first Trump-Clinton debate and was not mentioned at all during second and third debates.

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Afghanistan’s Killing Fields

Everything you need to know about the Afghanistan war in a seven minute excerpt from episode two of Abby Martin’s Empire Files. (The Empire Files)

Between Hope and Fear: Photographer Paula Bronstein Captures 15 Years of the Afghanistan War

Lizzie Dearden reports for The Independent:

paula-bronstein-7.jpgFifteen years after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the country remains at war.

More than 5,000 civilians have been killed and injured this year alone as Isis and al-Qaeda compete with the Taliban in a bloody insurgency against the Afghan government and “invader” forces.

The UK has lost almost 500 troops in the conflict, which it entered alongside 17 other countries in the wake of the September 11 attacks, with the stated aim of bringing down terror groups, driving out the Taliban, quashing the drug trade and furthering democracy and development.

But the extremists remain, opium production has increased to one of the highest levels ever recorded and 2.7 million refugees have fled, becoming the largest nationality – behind Syria – making desperate sea journeys to Europe this year.

Paula Bronstein, an award-winning American photographer, has recorded the evolution of the war through her lens, arriving as the Taliban was driven out of its last city stronghold.

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Afghanistan War at 15th Year Without End in Sight

Greg Wilpert speaks to Afghan Women’s Mission co-director Sonali Kolhatkar who says Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ignore Afghanistan war because they both will continue it. (The Real News)

U.S. Declines to Acknowledge Afghanistan’s Child Soldiers, Experts Complain

Lauren Chadwick reports for Public Integrity:

Investigators for the United Nations found 48 child soldiers in Afghanistan last year, with more than one-fourth working for government-backed forces such as the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Local and National Police. But that news somehow never made an impact in Washington.

In an annual report released on June 30 that names 10 foreign countries known to use and recruit child soldiers, the State Department didn’t include Afghanistan — a country with forces labeled as “persistent perpetrators” by the United Nations in a report issued just two months earlier.

The discrepancy is partly a matter of legal interpretation but mostly one mired in international politics, it turns out.

Countries that employ child soldiers in their armed forces are barred from receiving specific types of U.S. military assistance or weapons, under a U.S.law enacted in 2008. But the Obama administration says Afghanistan is not subject to the law because its Local Police force — which uses child soldiers, and experts say operates like a militia or a paramilitary group — is not part of the armed forces.

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What $150 Million In Taxpayers’ Cash Buys You In Afghanistan

Matthew Gault reports for War Is Boring:

In 2009, the Pentagon shipped American business experts to Afghanistan to help jump-start the war-torn country’s economy. To that end, the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations spent more than $800 million from 2009 until the Pentagon shut it down in March 2015.

During that time, TFBSO staff lived large in an Afghan villa one former employee described as “a five-star hotel paid for by the [Defense Department].” It cost the task force almost $150 million, around 20 percent of its budget, to keep up appearances while it operated in Afghanistan.

Frustrated task force employees blew the whistle on the big spending and party atmosphere in the TFBSO villas back in 2015. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, demanded answers — and the project collapsed under the scrutiny.

Now, War Is Boring has obtained pictures of the lavish lodgings from a former employee.

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US ‘Owns’ Afghanistan, Says Ex-President Hamid Karzai

TeleSUR reports:

Children sit in the back of a truck as they prepare to return to Afghanistan, at a U.N. refugee repatriation center in Peshawar, Pakistan August 2, 2016.Former president Hamid Karzai said foreign forces, led by the U.S., are doing more harm than good in Afghanistan and must leave.

The U.S., NATO and Western forces in Afghanistan have been doing more harm than good for the country in its fight against the Taliban and other extremists as the country struggles with stability some 14 years since the U.S-led invasion, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview Thursday.

“I have asked the Afghan government not to ask the U.S. for aerial bombings of our country,” Karzai told The Guardian in an interview. “This is chemicals thrown on the country every day. This is killing our fields, spreading disease, and not bringing an end to the war.”

Karzai, who was supported by the U.S. and its allies in ruling the country after the end of Taliban rule, is now Washington’s biggest critic. In 2013, he refused to sign a security agreement allowing foreign troops to stay in the country.

“NATO has been here for 14 years,” Karzai, who served 13 years as the president of Afghanistan, said. “Are we better off? Do we have more security? No.”

 

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Needing an Exit from the Afghan Quagmire

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir writes for Consortium News:

President Barack Obama shakes hands with U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Bagram, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)Two weeks ago, President Obama announced that the U.S. will draw down its troops in Afghanistan from 9,800 to 8,400, altering his original plan to reduce the number to 5,500. His decision suggests that conditions on the ground are not as promising as he expected them to be, and maintaining a larger number of troops is important as he believes “it is in our national security interests … that we give our Afghan partners the best opportunities to succeed.”

The President, however, did not spell out what success actually means. If he meant that Afghanistan will eventually become a stable and functioning democracy, he is fundamentally mistaken. Indeed, even if the U.S. stations three times as many troops for another 15 years or more, given the multiple conflicts, ruthlessness and duplicity of the players involved and the country’s long history, the U.S. cannot rescue Afghanistan from the quagmire in which it finds itself.

The President’s concluding remarks strongly suggest that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is essentially open-ended, saying: “given the enormous challenges they face, the Afghan people will need the partnership of the world, led by the United States, for many years to come.”

The facts on the ground remind us of the Vietnam War — a needlessly prolonged conflict with no prospect of victory — except that the war in Afghanistan is even more complicated and becoming increasingly intractable. o understand what the U.S. strategy should be to end a war that has lasted more than any other in U.S. history, consider the following.

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ISIS Attack on Afghan Shi’ite Protest Kills 80, Wounds 231

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A public protest by Afghanistan’s Shi’ite Hazara minority in Kabul turned tragic today, when ISIS launched a suicide bombing against the demonstration, killing at least 80 people and wounding at least 231 others.

The Hazaras were protesting over the planned route of a power transmission line from Turkmenistan to Kabul, calling for it to be rerouted through a pair of provinces with large Shi’ite populations to ensure the electricity supply there. The government has argued this change in route would take years and cost millions of dollars more.

ISIS was quick to claim credit for the attack, saying a pair of suicide bombers with explosive belts got into the crowd and detonated, causing huge casualties. The death toll is the single deadliest attack on the Shi’ite minority during the entire US occupation.

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Obama Announces Plan to Escalate Afghan War

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In addition to a planned increase in airstrikes, reported yesterday, the White House today confirmed plans to loosen restrictions on ground troops, particularly the special forces in occupied Afghanistan, with an eye toward increasingly their direct combat role.

Press secretary Josh Earnest says that the US troops will be “more proactive” in their operation, and while the US is still officially listing the troops engaged in the occupation as non-combat “advise and assist” troops, they will also engage in “occasional” combat operations alongside Afghan forces.

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Amnesty Says 1.2 Million Afghans Internally Displaced by War

AP reports:

Amnesty International said Tuesday that more than 1.2 million Afghans have been forced to flee their homes due to violence in the past three years and urged the Kabul government and the international community to tackle the country’s growing crisis of refugees internally displaced by war.

Those numbers are growing as the war, now in its 15th year, intensifies, the rights group said in a report released in Kabul, adding that many of the internally displaced “live in horrific conditions on the brink of survival.”

The Taliban have been waging war on the Afghan government since their regime was toppled in the 2001 U.S. invasion. With the withdrawal of most international combat troops in 2014, the insurgency has stepped up — the United Nations says that in 2015 alone, 11,002 civilians were killed or wounded, most of them by insurgents.

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U.S. Likely to Maintain Troop Levels in Afghanistan

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Lance Cpl. Cody Kelley, machine gunner, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, patrols with an M240B medium machine gun during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 15, 2014. (Photo by Joseph Scanlan/U.S. Marine Corps)Appointed as the latest in a long, long line of US commanders of the Afghanistan occupation earlier this year, officials say Lt. Gen. John Nicholson is putting the finishing touches on his 90-day assessment of the situation in the country, and expect that he will recommend troops levels to remain flat.

The US currently has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, and while the plan initially was to get that number to 5,500 by year’s end, the drawdown plan had already been on hold even before Nicholson took over.

In that sense, the news could be worse, as Nicholson was previously talking of “right-sizing” the number of ground troops, which most saw as a euphemism for a new round of deployments bringing the troop levels back over 10,000.

That is apparently not going to be the case, though along with expectations of keeping troop levels flat, Pentagon officials also added that they don’t see any chances of new peace talks any time soon with the Taliban, suggesting that the drawdown is unlikely to be revisited any time soon.

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The Afghan War: Questions Unasked, Answers Unsought, Victory Unattainable

Dan White writes for Bracing Views:

[…] The Current Official Word (COW) from the Washington Beltway is that things are going as well as can be expected in Afghanistan.  That’s the official spin, and it hasn’t changed since the war began.  But other things are out there, in the open, and it’s high time we focused on them.

Afghanistan’s former Ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad, gave a speech on “America’s Longest War: The Afghan Perspective” on April 5th at UT-Austin, at a Strauss Center for International Relations/LBJ School event… The Ambassador spoke for about 40 minutes.

[…] One fact got dropped that I should have heard before, and that is that this past year was the bloodiest ever for the Afghan National Army and security forces.  This was the first year ever that the war did not go into hibernation for the winter; it ran the whole year round. Ambassador Jawad said that there were 7000 government forces killed this past year and that current losses ran 16 KIA (killed in action) daily.  I’d never heard this one before.  7000 KIA means a minimum of 21,000 WIA (wounded in action), a total of 28,000 casualties a year.  The Afghan National Army has an official strength of around 150,000 (actual troop strength is a different smaller number due to potted plant soldiers) with roughly 150,000 auxiliary/police.

Losses at this level are militarily unsustainable for very long.  I doubt anyone militarily knowledgeable would give the Afghan national forces more than two years before they collapse from losses at this rate.  This means things are going to fall apart there in Afghanistan like they did in Iraq, and soon.  There was not a sign of anyone in the audience catching this.  If they did, they were too polite to say anything.

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Pentagon: Special Ops Killing of Pregnant Afghan Women Was “Appropriate” Use of Force

Jeremy Scahill reports for The Intercept:

shoes-bleedAn internal Defense Department investigation into one of the most notorious night raids conducted by special operations forces in Afghanistan — in which seven civilians were killed, including two pregnant women — determined that all the U.S. soldiers involved had followed the rules of engagement. As a result, the soldiers faced no disciplinary measures, according to hundreds of pages of Defense Department documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act. In the aftermath of the raid, Adm. William McRaven, at the time the commander of the elite Joint Special Operations Command, took responsibility for the operation. The documents made no unredacted mention of JSOC.

Although two children were shot during the raid and multiple witnesses and Afghan investigators alleged that U.S. soldiers dug bullets out of the body of at least one of the dead pregnant women, Defense Department investigators concluded that “the amount of force utilized was necessary, proportional and applied at appropriate time.” The investigation did acknowledge that “tactical mistakes” were made.

The Defense Department’s conclusions bear a resemblance to U.S. Central Command’s findings in the aftermath of the horrifying attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October in which 42 patients and medical workers were killed in a sustained barrage of strikes by an AC-130. The Pentagon has announced that no criminal charges will be brought against any members of the military for the Kunduz strike. CENTCOM’s Kunduz investigation concluded that “the incident resulted from a combination of unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures.” CENTCOM denied the attack constituted a war crime, a claim challenged by international law experts and MSF.

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