Category Archives: Afghanistan

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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Once Off Limits, Hospitals Become Deadly Targets in Middle East Wars

The Associated Press reports:

Mideast Hospitals AttackedAs one of the few pediatricians remaining in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Dr. Mohammed Wassim Maaz offered hope to tens of thousands of children and their parents trapped in the horror and misery of the five-year civil war. But last month, an airstrike widely believed to have been carried out by the Syrian government destroyed the al Quds hospital where he worked, killing Maaz and dozens of colleagues, patients and other civilians.

The April 27 strike was the latest of thousands of attacks in recent years on medical facilities in conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere that have killed hundreds in brazen violation of humanitarian norms. Facilities have been struck in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and South Sudan.

The attacks have turned the universally recognized symbol of the red cross, which is supposed to offer protection and safety, into a deadly target and have exposed the failure of the international community to prevent and punish such crimes.

The U.N. Security Council has denounced the attacks and demanded that all parties in conflicts protect medical facilities, staff and patients. But some of the council’s most powerful members, who backed the resolution, aren’t blameless.

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Will Killing Mullah Mansur Work? What Academic Research Says

Micah Zenko writes for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):

Mullah Mansour, Taliban militants' new leader, is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban. (Handout via Reuters).[…] What is most consequential about Saturday’s drone strike was its target: the leader of the Taliban, who had succeeded Mullah Omar after his death purportedly in a Karachi hospital in 2013. This is notable because it had been U.S. policy that Taliban leaders should explicitly not be killed, because their participation is essential in the Afghan peace process. American (and of course Pakistani) intelligence and military officials have known the, often, day-to-day location of Taliban leaders for almost a decade, but had largely refrained from attempting to kill them.

Mansur’s potential death provides a real-world, real-time ability to test two hypotheses about the policy of killing terrorist leaders. These are based upon the objectives of the strike, according to the Pentagon press release, as well as subsequent statements by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Hypothesis one: Mansur’s death will reduce Taliban attacks and fatalities against Afghanistan national security forces, U.S. and coalition troops, and Afghan civilians.

Hypothesis two: Mansur’s replacement will be more likely to participate in the long-stalled peace and reconciliation negotiations with the Afghan government.

There has been a tremendous amount of social science research on these challenging policy puzzles. These policy-evaluative publications have reached somewhat conflicting conclusions, and are often contested by U.S. military and intelligence staffers who I speak with. However, those staffers never publish their research findings for public scrutiny, and are unable—given they would be referring to classified information—to clearly articulate their problems with the existing research.

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Whistleblower: U.S. General Responsible for Kuduz Hospital Attack

Wilson Dizard reports for Mondoweiss:

Andrew Quilty, an Australian photographer based in Afghanistan, shot pictures of the damage inside the Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan after the US attack.Unfair blame has come down on the heads of American soldiers and allied Afghan forces over an attack on a civilian hospital in Kunduz last year, while the general in charge of the mission, Major General Sean P. Swindell, faced no consequences, according to an Army officer who spoke exclusively to Mondoweiss.

“This thing was his fucking fault. That general right there avoided all blame,” said “Frank,” — not his real name — of Swindell.

“It sets a really, really bad precedent,” but falls into a broad pattern in the Army: Generals can get away with almost anything.

“I wish the general in charge was prosecuted for this, but that’s my personal opinion. He should be taking ultimate responsibility for it, since he set up the conditions that something like this would happen.”

More disturbing, Frank said he sees the same pattern of self-serving lies and statistics rigging (even inventing targets) to please the chain of command. It’s what happened in Vietnam, with privates, sergeants, captains, majors all reporting body counts as a sign of success, instead of making any meaningful evaluation of whether the United States was winning or losing (because we weren’t). Now, in Afghanistan, it’s number of “targets actioned,” drone hits or false arrests made in raids, that officers try to inflate. It’s the reason we’re losing, Frank feels. He was fed up.

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NATO Extends Afghanistan Mission Beyond 2016

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

2016 is almost half way over, and the war in Afghanistan is going as bad as ever. Though it’s not as high-profile a topic of discussion at NATO meetings 15 years into the failing occupation, the alliance once again agreed to extend the military operation, which was scheduled to end at the end of 2016.

This wasn’t the first “end of the war” date, and indeed to hear NATO talk, the war officially “ended” years ago, even if their military involvement didn’t significantly change on that date. Rather, the increasingly unpopular war was rebranded as a “training mission.”

No one had any realistic expectation that the 2016 date would be the actual end to the mission, but rather it was just the latest in a series of dates set down the road as the alliance continued to not achieve its goals and continued to try to present those goals as coming soon.

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David Cameron Accused of Gaffe After Telling Queen That Nigeria and Afghanistan Are ‘Fantastically Corrupt’

Tom Marshall reports for the London Evening Standard:

cameronqueen1005a.jpgDavid Cameron has been accused of a making a diplomatic gaffe after being overheard telling the Queen that Nigeria and Afghanistan are “possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world”.

The Prime Minister was caught on camera making the comments two days before the leaders of both countries are due in London to attend an anti-corruption summit, which he is hosting.

He was filmed telling the Queen: “We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain.

“We’ve got Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.”

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‘Afghanistan is a Failed State’: Interview with Nasir Shansab

Afshin Rattansi speaks to Nasir Shansab, once one of Afghanistan’s leading industrialists and the author of Silent Trees. Shansab talks about how Afghanistan is a failed state and that ordinary Afghan’s believe NATO has only ever been interested in destroying their country. (Going Underground)

Afghanistan’s Endless War: Interview with Dr Lucy Morgan Edwards

Afshin Rattansi talks to Dr Lucy Morgan Edwards, author of The Afghan Solution, who was based in Kandahar at the height of the Taliban regime. Following last week’s deadly attack on the Afghan capital, Dr, Edwards says that British soldiers fighting there have died in vain and that the war was completely unecessary. (Going Underground)

Patrick Cockburn’s New Book ‘Chaos & Caliphate’ Serialised in the i

Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. He was awarded Foreign Commentator of the Year at the 2013 Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards. This past week his latest book Chaos & Caliphate was exclusively serialised in the i.

America’s War for the Greater Middle East Cannot Be Won: Interview with Andrew Bacevich

Amy Goodman talks to retired Army colonel and military historian Andrew Bacevich who discusses his latest book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. He writes, “As an American who cares deeply about the fate of his country, I should state plainly my own assessment of this ongoing war, now well into its fourth decade. We have not won it. We are not winning it. Simply trying harder is unlikely to produce a different outcome.” (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Military Burn Pits Built on Chemical Weapons Facilities Tied to Soldiers’ Illness

Lauren Walker reports for The Guardian:

In 2007, shortly after vice-president Joe Biden learned that his eldest son would be deployed to Iraq, the then-presidential hopeful turned to a modest crowd at the Iowa state fair and admitted that he didn’t want Beau to go. “But I tell you what,” he said, his family lined up behind him. “I don’t want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years and so how we leave makes a big difference.”

Beau arrived in Iraq the following year, and spent the next several months serving as a Jag officer at Camp Victory, just outside of the Baghdad airport, and Joint Base Balad, nearly 40 miles north of Baghdad. Though he returned home safely in September 2009, he woke up one day a few months later with an inexplicable headache, numbness in his limbs and paralysis on one side of his body. Beau had suffered a mild stroke. His health deteriorated, and he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Less than two years later, he died at the age of 46.

Though the underlying cause of Beau’s cancer cannot be confirmed, evidence gathered in a new book out Tuesday suggests a possible link between his illness and service. Based on clusters of similar cases, scientific studies and expert opinions, author Joseph Hickman proposes in The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers that US service members in Iraq and Afghanistan confronted more than one unexpected enemy that followed them home. Many soldiers complain of respiratory issues relating to their burn pit exposure. But others likely developed more life-threatening conditions such as cancers, Hickman contends, because of what the burn pits were built on top of: the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program.

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Pentagon Scrambles to Account for Afghan ‘Ghost Troops’

Leo Shane III reports for the Military Times:

Afghan patrolDefense Department officials are hopeful that by the end of this year they’ll be paying for salaries of only Afghan soldiers who actually exist.

In testimony before House Armed Services Committee members late last week, Pentagon officials said they hope to have in place in coming months “an integrated pay and personnel system” for Afghanistan security forces that will help U.S. forces better identify and account for thousands of individuals in the ranks.

“That will mitigate opportunities for corruption in the system,” said Christine Abizaid, deputy assistant defense secretary for Central Asia. “It has taken a while to develop, given the unique terrain that is Afghanistan. But it is something that we are absolutely focused on, and think is an important aspect of the mission.”

That news offered only slight comfort to lawmakers at the hearing, who expressed continued concerns about the issue of “ghost” troops — individuals being paid salaries by U.S. taxpayers but who aren’t helping secure that country.

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Pentagon Releases Photos of Detainee Abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

detainee-photos-3The Pentagon today released 198 photos related to its investigations into abuse of detainees by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The photos are mainly close-up shots of arms, feet, heads, hands, or joints, sometimes showing bruises or scabs. Faces are redacted with black bars. It’s not always clear where each of the photos was taken, but they come from internal military investigations and have dates ranging from 2003 to 2006. Sometimes the marks on the prisoners’ skin are labeled with tape measuring the size of the wound, or a coin or pen for comparison.

These photos appear to be the most innocuous of the more than 2,000 images that the government has fought for years to keep secret. Lawyers for the government have long maintained that the photos, if released, could cause grievous harm to national security because they could be used for propaganda by groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The legal case has stretched on for more than a decade, since 2004, when the American Civil Liberties Union firstsued to obtain photos beyond the notorious images that had been leaked from the prison at Abu Ghraib.

It has been reported that some of the 2,000 imagesshow soldiers posing with dead bodies, kicking and punching detainees or posing them stripped naked next to female guards. The 198 photos that were released today do not show any of this.

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The West’s return to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya proves the warmongers wrong

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Despite an almost total lack of public debate, Western military escalation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is on the rise.

Renewed military interventionism has been largely justified as a response to the meteoric rise of Islamic State networks, spreading across parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Missing from government pronouncements, though, is any acknowledgement that the proliferation of Islamist terrorism is a direct consequence of the knee-jerk response of military escalation.

Discarded to the memory hole is the fact that before each of the major interventions in these three countries, our political leaders promised they would bring security, freedom and prosperity.

Instead, they have done precisely the opposite.

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