Archive | Asia

Salt and Terror in Afghanistan

Rising Above Vengeance




In late January in a room in Kabul, Afghanistan, I joined several dozen people, working seamstresses, some college students, socially engaged teenagers and a few visiting internationals like myself, to discuss world hunger. Our emphasis was not exclusively on their own country’s worsening hunger problems.  The Afghan Peace Volunteers, in whose home we were meeting, draw strength from looking beyond their own very real struggles.

With us was Hakim, a medical doctor who spent six years working as a public health specialist in the central highlands of Afghanistan and, prior to that, among refugees in Quetta, Pakistan.  He helped us understand conditions that lead to food shortages and taught us about diseases, such as kwashiorkor and marasmus, which are caused by insufficient protein or general malnutrition.

We looked at UN figures about hunger in Afghanistan, which show malnutrition rates rising by 50 percent or more compared with 2012. The malnutrition ward at Helmand Province’s Bost Hospital has been admitting 200 children a month for severe, acute malnutrition — four times more than in January 2012.

A recent New York Times article about the worsening hunger crisis described an encounter with a mother and child in an Afghan hospital: “In another bed is Fatima, less than a year old, who is so severely malnourished that her heart is failing, and the doctors expect that she will soon die unless her father is able to find money to take her to Kabul for surgery. The girl’s face bears a perpetual look of utter terror, and she rarely stops crying.”

Photos of Fatima and other children in the ward accompanied the article. In our room in Kabul, Hakim projected the photos on the wall. They were painful to see and so were the nods of comprehension from Afghans all too familiar with the agonies of poverty in a time of war.

As children grow, they need iodine to enable proper brain development.  According to a UNICEF/GAIN report, “iodine deficiency is the most prevalent cause of brain damage worldwide.  It is easily preventable, and through ongoing targeted interventions, can be eliminated.” As recently as 2009 we learned that 70 percent of Afghan children faced an iodine deficiency.

Universal Salt Iodization (USI) is recognized as a simple, safe and cost-effective measure in addressing iodine deficiency. The World Bank reports that it costs $.05 per child, per year.

In 2012, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) announced a four-year projectwhich aimed to reach nearly half of Afghanistan’s population – 15 million Afghans – with fortified foods. Their strategy was to add vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, folic acid, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin A to wheat flour, vegetable oil and ghee, and also to fortify salt with iodine.  The project costs $6.4 million.

The sums of money required to fund delivery of iodine and fortified foods to malnourished Afghan children should be compared, I believe, to the sums of money that the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for war-making has required of U.S. people.

The price tag for supplying iodized salt to one child for one year is 5 cents.

The cost of maintaining one U.S. soldier has recently risen to $2.1 million per year.  The amount of money spent to keep three U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2014 could almost cover the cost of a four-year program to deliver fortified foods to 15 million Afghan people.

Maj. Gen. Kurt J. Stein, who is overseeing the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, has referred to the operation as “the largest retrograde mission in history.”  The mission will cost as much as $6 billion.

Over the past decade, spin doctors for U.S. military spending have suggested that Afghanistan needs the U.S. troop presence and U.S. non-military spending to protect the interests of women and children.

It’s true that non-military aid to Afghanistan, sent by the U.S. since 2002, now approaches $100 billion.

Several articles on Afghanistan’s worsening hunger crisis, appearing in the Western press, prompt readers to ask how Afghanistan could be receiving vast sums of non-military aid and yet still struggle with severe acute malnourishment among children under age five.

However, a 2013 quarterly report to Congress submitted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan shows that, of the nearly $100 billion spent on wartime reconstruction, $97 billion has been spent on counter-narcotics, security, “governance/development” and “oversight and operations.”  No more than $3 billion, a hundred dollars per Afghan person, were used for “humanitarian” projects – to help keep 30 million Afghans alive through 12 years of U.S. war and occupation.

Funds have been available for tanks, guns, bullets, helicopters, missiles, weaponized drones, drone surveillance, Joint Special Operations task forces, bases, airstrips, prisons, and truck-delivered supplies for tens of thousands of troops. But funds are in short supply for children too weak to cry who are battling for their lives while wasting away.

A whole generation of Afghans and other people around the developing world see the true results of Westerners’ self-righteous claim for the need to keep civilians “safe” through war.  They see the terror, entirely justified, filling Fatima’s eyes in her hospital bed.

In that room in Kabul, as my friends learned about the stark realities of hunger, and among them, I know, were some who worry about hunger in their own families, I could see a rejection both of panic and of revenge in the eyes of the people around me. Their steady thoughtfulness was an inspiration.

Panic and revenge among far more prosperous people in the U.S. helped to drive the U.S. into a war waged against one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet, my Afghan friends, who’ve borne the brunt of war, long to rise above vengeance and narrow self-interest.

They wish to pursue a peace that includes ending hunger.

Posted in Afghanistan0 Comments

Will World War III be Fought on Twitter?

The China Threat Gravy Train

I would recommend that readers who have not yet done so create a Twitter account and subscribe to my feed (@chinahand).  To my embarrassment and surprise, I’ve churned out over 800 tweets since I started up my feed last November.

Some of it is meaningless ephemera, of course.  But sometimes the twitter stream carries in it telling or insightful tweets that illustrate the dynamics of debate over US foreign policy as it evolves over a month, a week, or maybe even a day and are worth retweeting.

And, of course, I put in my own two cents worth, hopefully in a telling and insightful fashion, on subjects that are perhaps too fleeting or developing too quickly for a post, but are significant nonetheless.

For instance, I’ve become more attuned to the back-and-forth between US pro-Japan China hawks and the (relative) moderates in the Obama administration and the role of the Abe administration’s role as observer, participant, and victim or beneficiary depending on how the debate evolves.

One set of my tweets addressed the PRC inserting itself into a spat between the United States and Japan concerning Japan’s footdragging in returning a few hundred kilos of weapon-grade plutonium.

On the simplest level, of course, the PRC wishes to sow doubts about the genuinely pacifist character of Japan as it carefully moves to full sovereign status as a military power, but at the same time tries to reap the PR benefits of its seventy-year experience under the so-called “pacifist” constitution by marketing its regional security initiatives as “active pacifism”.

On another level, the PRC appears to be discretely tweaking the United States to live up to the non-proliferation ambitions which justified the rather premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama.  So, when the PRC pointedly raised the issue, maybe the US decided to cater to the PRC by making a public issue of the plutonium.

This understandably infuriated the Abe government, which felt that this was a matter to be dealt with discretely between allies and not used as a shaming opportunity by the US in order to pander to the PRC.  Perhaps coincidentally, pro-Japan individuals and outlets in the US pooh-poohed the plutonium issue, and steered attention to the more looming PRC threat.

I think there was another issue at play as well.

Japan, and indeed any technically capable power, does not need weapons-grade plutonium to make a bomb.  Fuel grade will do just as well, thank you, if you’re willing to accept some less desirable yield/size/radiation outcomes.  So the few hundred pounds of weapons-grade plutonium is not really the issue.

The issue is the five tons or so of plutonium metal Japan has in country and the twenty-odd tons it has stored for it at reprocessing facilities in the UK and France (some Pentagon policy types made the rather ad hoc decision to console Japan for US normalization of relations with the PRC by letting Japan be the only US atomic partner, aside from the UK and France, to “close the fuel cycle” i.e. recover plutonium from spent fuel in order to avoid a uranium drought that, one might notice, has not materialized) and the rocket program that Japan, despite its unfavorable location far in the northern hemisphere (which renders commercial launches relatively uneconomical) has spent billions to develop.

Long story short, despite Japan’s vociferous and, in some circles, sincere professions of disinterest in nuclear weapons, it is by design a nuclear power en ovo, and will continue to be one until the Chinese nuclear and conventional military threat somehow evaporates.

As a reminder, I will quote the Prime Minister of Japan:

‘It is certainly the case that Japan has the capability to possess nuclear weapons, but has not made them.’

Prime Minister Hata made that statement before the Diet in 1994.  Please keep that in the back of your mind when the issue of Japan’s strategic helplessness comes up.  And that’s something that the PRC would like to see injected into discussions of Japan’s security posture.

One of the most interesting speculations about Iran’s nuclear program is that it modeled its tiptoe to the nuclear threshold on Japan’s example.

And, with this background, I always wondered if the US motive for elevating Yukio Amano to head of the IAEA (after finally seeing the back of the irritatingly independent ElBaradei) was that Amano, a veteran of Japan’s nuclear establishment, knew exactly how the stealth weaponization game was played, and would be disinclined to cut Iran any slack.  And I wonder if sub rosa the quid pro quo was that Amano’s steadfastness on the Iran dossier would be rewarded by turning a blind eye, nonproliferation Nobel be damned, on Japan’s carefully managed nuclear weaponization capabilities–and the thirty tons of plutonium to which it holds title.

And, to enter into 12-dimensional chess territory, I suspect that the Abe administration is quietly freaked out about Secretary of State John Kerry’s focus on the Middle East, where China, by virtue of its backing of Iran and Syria has a much more significant and meaningful role to play than Japan.

The fear would be that the PRC would promise—or deliver—meaningful assistance in the Middle East and expect in return a more conciliatory attitude toward the PRC by Kerry.

So maybe the plutonium incident did indeed represent a bone tossed by Kerry to his Beijing buddies–and a breaking of the original understanding that the US wouldn’t make an issue of Japanese nuclear weaponization capabilities.

In any case, on twitter there was a spate of commentary that Kerry was over-focused on the Middle East and was not devoting adequate time and attention to confronting the PRC threat.  Indeed, I was quite struck by the amount of hype devoted to the Chinese salami-slicing menace (the rather cringe-inducing term used to describe the PRC’s incremental steps to improve its de facto position in its maritime realm) and the insistence that the PRC’s thus far successful attempt to dodge militarization of these issues (a key PRC strategy given the overwhelming military superiority of the US) should be short-circuited by an overtly confrontational policy.

I feel pretty confident that a) this approach is nuts b) Kerry & Biden feel the same way and, while engaging in ostentatious chest-thumping against the PRC, are actually interested in reducing tensions rather than increasing them.

However, there’s no Washington constituency for reduced tensions.  The pro-Japanese alliance/China hawk  forces, on the other hand, have the enormous political, security, and financial attractions of a containment regime adding force and determination to their policy recommendations.  The growing enthusiasm for something called “dynamic deterrence”—pushback just short of confrontation—creates an environment of escalation (the PRC, of course, will upgrade its deterrence in response) that looks a lot like a self-fulfilling prophecy masquerading as a security doctrine. And it pushes US-PRC frictions closer to the military zone where US strategists feel the most comfortable.

For extra credit, questioning the policy undercuts deterrent and is can be considered, in a term bandied about with increasing frequency, “appeasement”. The self-identifying “appeasement” faction is, as one can expect, quite small.

The game in Asia is still economic, and I feel/hope the Obama administration thinks it can let the military/industrial/security/surveillance complex ride the “China threat” gravy train while the business of business goes on.

But if you want to see how the war with China might get fought, check out twitter.

Posted in China0 Comments

Korea: front line between socialism and imperialism

Proletarian issue 58 (February 2014)
The DPRK’s struggle for peace and reunification is an anti-imperialist fight that needs and deserves international solidarity.


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has entered 2014 determined to continue defending and building socialism, and to continue the anti-imperialist struggle for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula.

These and other themes were highlighted in the New Year address of the country’s leader, Comrade Kim Jong Un, who declared that: “we are seeing in the New Year 2014 filled with confidence in the future and revolutionary self-respect …

“Last year was a proud year, in which the entire party, the whole army and all the people waged an all-out offensive in support of the party’s new line of developing the two fronts simultaneously [of nuclear defence and developing the economy – Ed] and thus achieved brilliant successes in building a thriving socialist country and defending socialism.”

Comrade Kim Jong Un referred to the tense situation that prevailed earlier in 2013, when US and south Korean war exercises simulated an invasion and nuclear attack on the north, and made a bold appeal to the authorities in south Korea and all sections of the Korean nation to once again take the road of national reconciliation, saying:

“To resolve the reunification issue in keeping with the aspirations and desires of our fellow countrymen, we should reject foreign forces and hold fast to the standpoint of ‘By our nation itself’.

“The driving force for national reunification is all the members of the Korean nation in the north, in the south and abroad; only when we remain steadfast in this standpoint can we reunify the country independently in line with our nation’s interests and demands. To go on a tour around foreign countries touting for ‘international cooperation’ in resolving the inter-Korean relations issue, the one related with our nation, is a humiliating treachery of leaving its destiny in the hands of outside forces.” [Here Comrade Kim Jong Un refers to the public statements made by the south Korean president last year in the course of her state visits to a number of countries, including Britain – Ed.]

Comrade Kim Jong Un made clear that his proposals for peace and reconciliation were made against a background of the danger of imperialist war – a threat to which the DPRK will not bow, but rather will militantly resist:

“The US and south Korean war maniacs have deployed legions of equipment for a nuclear war in and around the Korean peninsula and are going frantic in their military exercises for a nuclear war against the north; this precipitates a critical situation where any accidental military skirmish may lead to an all-out war.

“Should another war break out on this land, it will result in a deadly nuclear catastrophe and the United States will never be safe. All the Korean people must not tolerate the manoeuvres for war and confrontation by the bellicose forces at home and abroad but stoutly resist and frustrate them …

“It is heartrending to see our nation partitioned by foreign forces, and it is more intolerable to see one side slinging mud at and showing hostility to the other. This will serve merely as an occasion for the forces that are undesirous of seeing one Korea to fish in troubled waters.

“It is high time to put an end to such slander and calumny that bring no good to both sides, and they should desist from doing anything detrimental to national unity and reconciliation. The south Korean authorities should discontinue the reckless confrontation with their compatriots and the racket against the ‘followers of the north’, and choose to promote inter-Korean relations in response to the call of the nation for independence, democracy and national reunification.

“We will join hands with anyone who opts to give priority to the nation and wishes for its reunification, regardless of his or her past, and continue to strive for better inter-Korean relations …

“Last year, in the international arena, the imperialists persisted in interference and war moves threatening the independence of other sovereign states and the right of mankind to existence.

“Especially the Korean peninsula, the hottest spot in the world, was in a hair-trigger situation due to the hostile forces’ manoeuvres for a nuclear war against the DPRK, which posed a serious threat to peace and security in the region and the rest of the world.

“Nothing is more precious for our people than peace, but it is not something that can be achieved if we simply crave and beg for it. We can never just sit back with folded arms and see the dark clouds of a nuclear war against us hovering over the Korean peninsula. We will defend our country’s sovereignty, peace and dignity by relying on our powerful self-defensive strength.”

Following the New Year address of Comrade Kim Jong Un, the DPRK has advanced a number of further proposals to ease the situation, including for reunion meetings of members of families separated by the partition of the country.

But as a statement issued by the DPRK’s National Defence Commission (NDC) on 17 January noted, the United States and south Korea are once again planning to stage massive military exercises simulating and rehearsing a war on the north from the end of February. It is reported that this year the exercises will be among the biggest for several decades and will specifically rehearse an attack on the DPRK’s capital, Pyongyang.

Proposing that exercises explicitly targeting the DPRK be called off, the NDC statement suggests to the south Korean side:

If the ‘coordination’ and ‘cooperation’ with the US are so precious and valuable, they should rather hold the exercises in a secluded area or in the US, far away from the territorial land, sea and air of the Korean peninsula.

The statement continues:

The denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is a goal common to the nation … 

The possession of nuclear weapons and the pursuance of the line on simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the build-up of a nuclear force are a treasured sword common to the nation and the most just option for self-defence which aims at ending the nuclear threat and blackmail against all Koreans by the US and envisages the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world alike.

Our nuclear force serves as a means for deterring the US from posing a nuclear threat. It will never be a means for blackmailing the fellow countrymen and doing harm to them.

We courteously propose to the south side not to resort to reckless acts of bringing dangerous nuclear strike means of the US to south Korea and to areas around it …

It is the stand of the DPRK to resolutely break with the double-dealing stand of tolerating the nuclear weapons of outsiders which are harmful to the fellow countrymen while denying the nuclear weapons of fellow countrymen which protect the nation.

The DPRK’s proposals for peace, reconciliation and reunification need and deserve the support and solidarity of the working-class movement and all anti-imperialists.

They will certainly meet with opposition and resistance from imperialist and reactionary forces. Besides the planned aggressive military exercises, in a coordinated pincer movement, a report of a so-called ‘commission of enquiry’ into human rights in the DPRK, set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council, and fronted by an Australian judge, Justice Kirby, is due to present its supposed findings on the internet in mid-February, with a formal launch in Geneva on 17 March.

Consisting solely of uncorroborated and unsubstantiated assertions made by politically hostile defectors and renegades, and ignoring the consistent and stalwart efforts of the DPRK since its foundation to defend and promote the most vital human rights – such as those to food, clothing and shelter – for all of its people and in the teeth of more than six decades of sanctions and blockades, and the threat of nuclear war, it is widely reported that the imperialist powers will seek referral of the report to both the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.

The lurid fairy tales about a brainwashed and terrorised people who were forced to cry when their leader Kim Jong Il died two years ago is just an example of the kind of black propaganda and lies that Kirby’s report will unleash.

Faced with such a barrage of lies and war propaganda, progressive people must keep in mind that it is but a variation of a theme habitually used against any force in history that stands for progress and the promotion of human liberation, from the bourgeois French revolution of 1789 to the great proletarian revolution of October 1917 and right through to the specious justifications for contemporary predatory wars of aggression against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and other countries.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must be resolutely supported and defended come what may.

Hands off Korea!

Posted in North Korea0 Comments

Delhi voters install anti-corruption chief minister

Proletarian issue 58 (February 2014)
But it remains to be seen how much impact a reforming capitalist politician can have, when the system itself thrives off and breeds the corruption he is trying to fight.


The struggle against India’s notorious corruption received a kick-start in Delhi at the end of December with the electoral victory of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party in local state elections. Completely unexpectedly, the AAP received 30 percent of the votes and, although this was a bit less than the main opposition BJP received, the Congress Party allied with AAP to enable the latter to form the Delhi administration and appoint its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, as Delhi’s new Chief Minister.

The AAP’s basic programme is to rid India of corruption. Within a week of taking the helm, three Delhi officials who had been filmed by television reporters taking bribes were summarily suspended.

Kejriwal has over the last 15 years been campaigning against corruption and the extravagant lifestyles of elected politicians. His victory has reignited hope that it will be possible to dismantle the bureaucratic red tape that only bribery can disentangle in order to bring conditions for doing business in India into line with what is expected in the modern world.

The AAP is intending to stand candidates in most constituencies in the next parliamentary elections, most likely in May this year.

Corruption, however, is deeply embedded in every corner of the Indian state system. This was shown by the facts surrounding another high-profile rape case that occurred in Kolkata (Calcutta) a couple of months ago.

A 16-year-old girl, the daughter of a taxi driver, was twice gang-raped by the same six men – the second time as a ‘punishment’ for her having reported the first rape to the police. Following this, the six men were left at large and continuously threatened the family, including making death threats against the girl’s father, yet no move was made to arrest or charge them.

Finally, towards the end of December, two of the the gang broke into her home while she was there alone and set fire to her, as a result of which she died.

The rapists were from relatively well-off families linked to West Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamool (Grassroots) Congress, and as a result both the local government and the police acted to protect them. One can only hope that as a result of all the publicity the case has now received this immunity will now come to an end – for this particular group of criminals, at least.

Embedded corruption ensures that the majority of rapists in India can get away with it since they can always buy their way out of trouble – provided, of course, that their victim is poor. Despite all the horror of the Delhi rape case a year ago and the death sentences meted out to the perpetrators of the victim’s dastardly murder, reported rape cases in Delhi have not decreased but have, on the contrary, actually doubled!

On 1 November 2013, Dean Nelson of the Daily Telegraph reported that “According to new government figures there have been 1,330 rapes in Delhi in the 10 months since January compared with 706 for the whole of 2012.

It is no wonder that the ‘common man’ of India yearns for freedom from corruption, but it remains to be seen how much can actually be achieved without proletarian revolution, since capitalism always and everywhere breeds corruption and no country with a capitalist economy is free of it.

Posted in India0 Comments

US a No-Show for UN Talks on Covert Drone Wars


As Pakistan pushes resolution for greater transparency, US boycotts

- Sarah Lazare

Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi of Yakla holds a photo of his son Ali Abdullah Mohammed al-Tisi, who was killed in a US drone strike outside Rad`a, Yemen on December 12, 2013. (Photo: Human Rights Watch)The United States is refusing to participate in UN Human Rights Council talks about greater accountability for human rights violations in covert drone wars.

Foreign Policy reporter Colum Lynch, who broke the story Wednesday, says the U.S. is opting out of discussions about a draft Pakistani resolution aimed at the U.S. drone strikes. Lynch explains:

The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to “ensure transparency” in record-keeping on drone strikes and to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.” It also calls for the convening of “an interactive panel discussion” on the use of drones.

During the third round of talks on Wednesday about the resolution, the United States was notably absent. The boycott marks a shift from President Obama’s decision in 2009 to join the Human Rights Council after years of U.S. boycott at the behest of former President George W. Bush.

Yet, the move is in keeping with the Obama administration’s diligent refusal to share public information about those U.S. drone wars and those killed in the attacks. A modest initiative in the U.S. Senate that would have forced the U.S. government to publicly report and identify those killed by U.S. drone strikes overseas failed last November.

While the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that civilian deaths in drone strikes are minimal, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documents alarming rates of civilian deaths by covert U.S. attacks in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Furthermore, in a 21-page report released earlier this month, UN special rapporteur on human rights Ben Emmerson identifies drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Gaza in which civilians were killed, injured, or threatened in drone attacks by the U.S. and close ally Israel.

The U.S. still has not answered for numerous high-profile attacks, including a December 2013 U.S. drone strike on a recent wedding procession in Yemen near the city of Rad’a that left 12 people dead and at least 15 wounded.

The boycott of the talks comes as the U.S. escalates its covert drone war in Yemen, with at least seven suspected strikes in the first two weeks of March.

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir, USA0 Comments

British snipers killed Afghans in pointless ‘turkey shoot’ and boosted support for the Taliban, says major who revealed how troops died due to lack of equipment

  • Major Streatfeild commanded a company of riflemen fighting the Taliban
  • Says many shot and killed as a result posed no risk to British forces
  • Streatfeild condemns ‘turkey shoot’ tactics that led to ‘repetitive slaughter’
  • Says British soldiers pointlessly killed hundreds of armed villagers  



British soldiers pointlessly killed hundreds of armed villagers in Afghanistan who posed no imminent threat, a former officer has claimed.

In a sensational new book, Major Richard Streatfeild condemns the ‘turkey shoot’ tactics that led to the ‘repetitive slaughter’ of people that UK troops were supposed to protect.

Soldiers based in Helmand from 2006 to 2009 were permitted to open fire on anyone approaching their bases while carrying a weapon.

But Major Streatfeild, who commanded a company of riflemen fighting the Taliban, said many of those shot and killed as a result posed no risk to British forces, in what amounted to ‘a turkey shoot masquerading as professional soldiering’.

While the actions of these British Forces were legal, and met the Rules of Engagement enforced by top brass, the former officer has revealed how the incidents turned locals against British troops and persuaded more Afghans to support the Taliban.

Major Streatfeild, 41, caused outrage last week when the MoS reported his claims that many British troops died in Afghanistan due to a woeful lack of equipment.

The officer, who presented a series of emotional Radio 4 dispatches from the frontline, The Sangin Diaries, admitted misleading the public in his broadcasts by playing down the full scale of the kit crisis affecting troops. 

An exclusive extract from his memoir, Honourable Warriors, appears below.

Last night he said: ‘The repetitive slaughter of local people forced by the Taliban to take up arms against us was pointless and counter- productive. 

British soldiers patrolling Sangin, Afghanistan

British soldiers patrolling Sangin, Afghanistan

Under fire: The soldiers were working in Sangin province, pictured, one of the most dangerous places on Earth

Under fire: The soldiers were working in Sangin province, pictured, one of the most dangerous places on Earth

Claims: Major Streatfeild said there were not enough armoured vehicles, which the MoD denied

Claims: Major Streatfeild said there were not enough armoured vehicles, which the MoD denied

These men, who lived in the villages surrounding our bases, did not want to fight us. Instead, they were forced by the enemy to join the battle, over issues such as their failure to pay a tax demanded by the Taliban.

Sadly, there were many occasions when these men approached our bases and, as they were carrying a weapon, they were shot dead.

‘But the truth was they posed very little threat to us, in particular if no British patrols were out on the ground at the time. 

Major Richard Streatfeild before he gave evidence in the inquest into the death of Lance corporal Michael Pritchard, which he claims was caused by a lack of proper equipment and training

Major Richard Streatfeild before he gave evidence in the inquest into the death of Lance corporal Michael Pritchard, which he claims was caused by a lack of proper equipment and training

‘These men were not hard-core or “Tier One” Taliban and they should have been spared.

‘By killing them, we made enemies of the local communities because they were honour-bound by their cultural codes of behaviour, to avenge the deaths.

‘We also handed the Taliban a propaganda victory; the insurgents were able to say to the locals “look, this is how the British treat you, come with us”.’

Horrified by the damage done by the ‘turkey shoot’ tactics, Streatfeild, of A Company, 4th Battalion, the Rifles (4 Rifles), ordered his riflemen only to take aim at Afghans carrying weapons in situations when those gunman posed a definite threat to British troops or local civilians.

Streatfeild, who served in Sangin district, Helmand Province, in 2009-2010, urged his riflemen to fire warning shots when they saw Afghans carrying weapons or preparing Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).

But while community leaders thanked Streatfeild for the restraint displayed by his troops, his approach fell foul of top brass from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) based in Kabul.

He said: ‘In March 2010, after I had seen the benefits of warning shots in order to de-esculate a potentially fatal situation, an order was passed down from ISAF banning their use.

‘Apparently the inaccurate firing of warning shots by international troops had caused civilian casualties in other parts of Afghanistan.

‘While the ISAF dictat was well intentioned, removing the option of warning shots forced soldiers to either shoot to kill or not intervene at all.’

Streatfeild told last night how, after the ISAF dictat, one of his riflemen spotted a child laying an IED on the 611 highway, a main road through Helmand Province used by British troops.

The soldier could not bring himself to shoot dead the child. 

Major Streatfeild, left, replaces Major Ian Moodie in Sangin in 2009

Major Streatfeild, left, replaces Major Ian Moodie in Sangin in 2009

Michael Pritchard in Afghanistan, the young soldier who was accidentally shot dead by a comrade while on active service by a sniper who thought he was a Taliban fighter. Streatfeild claims 'battlefield beacons' could have been used to save Pritchard's life

Michael Pritchard in Afghanistan, the young soldier who was accidentally shot dead by a comrade while on active service by a sniper who thought he was a Taliban fighter. Streatfeild claims ‘battlefield beacons’ could have been used to save Pritchard’s life

‘He said to me afterwards that he had fired a single shot to kill the child but had simply missed the target. I didn’t believe the soldier.

‘It was clear to me that he’d fired a warning shot, just as I would have wanted him to in that situation. The child was no older than ten years old.

‘Because of the ISAF dictat, the soldier felt he had to lie  to me. Afterwards, I told all my troops to ignore the ban and to fire warning shots in situations when this would save lives.’

In his book, Streatfeild also launches a sensational attack on former service chief General Sir Mike Jackson, who he accuses of waiting until his ‘splendidly rewarded retirement’ before calling on the MoD to improve soldiers’ welfare.

Lance Corporal Michael David Pritchard 22, of the 4th Regiment, Royal Military Police, who was killed as a result of small arms fire in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Michael David Pritchard 22, of the 4th Regiment, Royal Military Police, who was killed as a result of small arms fire in Afghanistan

Sir Mike, 69, Head of the Army from 2003 to 2006, was popular among troops and a formidable leader. But Streatfeild said last night: ‘Let’s look at the record of Sir Mike.

‘He waited for his pension then burst into print. He had the rank and position to do more before then.’

Following his retirement in 2006, Sir Mike wrote a memoir in which he accused the MoD of failing to value the contributions of soldiers and their families.

He described the wages paid to soldiers at the time – just over £1,000 a month while they were serving on operations – as ‘hardly an impressive figure’ while he added that the standard of some accommodation for troops was ‘frankly shaming’.

In Honourable Warriors, Streatfeild describes the moment in 2007 when Sir Mike’s book arrived at the MoD’s public relations department, where Streatfeild was then working.
Streatfeild writes: ‘The newshound [press officer] in the MoD put it well on getting a copy of Mike Jackson’s book: “One hundred thousand reasons why I didn’t resign.”

‘Many a true word said in jest. The reality is that they [Sir Mike and other senior officers] needed to stand up for the right thing when they had the chance, not bleat in splendidly rewarded retirement.’

Streatfeild, who left the Army in 2012, added: ‘I spoke my mind while commanding troops in Afghanistan and never kept my powder dry.

‘After the death of Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard, who was shot by a British sniper following a communication breakdown, I wrote a memo accusing the Army of criminal negligence over the lack of radios.’

Last night, an MoD spokesman said: ‘Our troops have shown extraordinary courage protecting the lives of civilians.’


A grieving mum has expressed her fury after reading in Richard Streatfeild’s book that her teenage son lost his legs in a Taliban bomb blast – despite his assurances that the book would not contain any shocks for her.

Insead, says Caroline Aldridge, 46, she was devastated to read about her son Rifleman Peter Aldridge’s injuries.


Mrs Aldridge had been told her 19-year-old son had remained ‘intact’ when he died in January 2010 – an assurance by Army counsellors  which gave her comfort.

Now she feels betrayed by Major Streatfeild, who has also been attacked over ‘misleading’ comments about the Government’s failure to provide life-saving equipment to troops.

She said: ‘I never read my son’s  post-mortem report and his injuries were not described at his inquest.

‘Every document we’ve received from the Army has been edited for sensitivity reasons. Major Streatfeild assured me I’d only read what I’d been told before.

‘To see that Peter’s legs were blown off was horrific.

‘I haven’t stopped crying since. “Intact” meant so much to me. Now I must start the grieving process again.’

The book also shocked Lisa Inns, whose son Rifleman Martin Kinggett, 19, was shot dead after heroically saving a colleague’s life in a brutal Taliban battle in February 2010.

She said: ‘Streatfeild made misleading comments about kit on the radio.

‘Reading his book has brought back painful memories. I’m looking into the detail and wondering what’s true. It is very distressing.’

Last night Major Streatfeild said:  ‘I inferred that Peter Aldridge lost  his legs in the blast. I have spoken to Mr Aldridge, his father, and he has accepted my explanation and apology.’

‘Furgie’ lost his legs and an eye, but radio nearly cost his life

In this exclusive extract from Major Streatfeild’s memoir, Honourable Warriors, he describes how morale in the Upper Sangin Valley was high, despite a crippling lack of equipment, until a horrific turning point . . .   

In the early hours of January 13, 2010, Corporal Ricky Furgusson stepped on an improvised explosive device. 

Corporal Ricky Furgusson, 24, from Telford, who serves with the 4th Battalion The Rifles (4 Rifles), is seen at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire

Corporal Ricky Furgusson, 24, from Telford, who serves with the 4th Battalion The Rifles (4 Rifles), is seen at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire

Both his legs were missing; five of ten digits from his hands were gone or partly gone, as was a good deal of the flesh from his wrists.

Where the force of the IED had picked him up and smashed his head against a wall, his left eye was a gaping hole; his lips and most of the left side of his face were badly mangled.

Sergeant ‘H’ Henry charged down the road on his quad to pick him up. He was still alive, by a thread.

The prospects for his continued survival were appalling. I began to wonder if death might not be more merciful.

In the aftermath, I finally shouted as loudly as I could about the acute deficiency of radios.

The lack of radios had almost caused a critical delay in getting Furgie treatment.

By luck, a rifleman on a personal radio had been able to relay to a guard post that was able to relay to the ops room what was going on. 

It was mid-February by the time I was home on leave and could see Furgie again.

He had taken days to become medically stable, then flew back to Birmingham in a medically induced coma from which he had been woken some time in late January.

We got to Birmingham after 1pm; no time for lunch just straight in. Bad idea. I glanced over at Ricky lying on the bed.

‘Holy s***,’ I thought, as I turned away to take off my jacket and compose myself.

‘Alright, Corporal F?’ I said.

‘Al’iit iir’. Ricky was speaking through a tracheotomy halfway up his neck. The hole where his mouth might have been was on his right cheek. 

Among Streatfeild's revelations into the problems facing the army was that they lacked proper equipment for the field of battle, a claim that the MoD rejects

Among Streatfeild’s revelations into the problems facing the army was that they lacked proper equipment for the field of battle, a claim that the MoD rejects

Damage: Cricket ball sized hailstones also punched holes in Hercules transporter planes like the one pictured

Damage: Cricket ball sized hailstones also punched holes in Hercules transporter planes like the one pictured

‘And the doctors had planted a large graft on his left cheek for use in later cosmetic surgery. His right eye, glazed, and looking frankly pretty manic, stared out following the conversation.

‘The other empty socket was covered in gauze. The bed lay flat where his legs should have been. He proffered his available semi-digitised hand to shake, which I carefully held.

Hypersensitivity kicked in. I was in trouble. I made it downstairs into the fresh air.

‘Bugger me.’ I thought it might be different. I lit a fag. Another bad idea. I began to walk back inside. Light-headed from the cigarette, I went down in a dead faint.

I was soon back in the land of the living, feeling rather embarrassed. Still, better to have come than not. 

Eleven months later, Ricky climbed aboard his full prosthetic legs for the first time to have his Military Cross pinned to his chest by the Queen.

It was, and still is, a remarkable story of survival and recovery. 

Posted in Afghanistan, UK0 Comments

Rassoul Promises to Combat Militancy

by Ghafoor Saboory


Presidential candidate Zalmai Rassoul pledged to combat militancy and corruption effectively if elected president on Tuesday in front of his supporters in Kunduz.

Rassoul’s first vice president Ahmad Zia Masoud, who was also at the campaign rally, called on the people of the province to vote in the elections scheduled to take place on April 5.

As the elections near, security challenges and intimidating armed groups in some regions have residents in Kunduz distressed.

“From an economic perspective, Kunduz is an important province because Sher Khan Port, Amu River and agriculture play a major role in Afghanistan’s economic growth,” Rassoul said. “There are also issues in Kunduz in regards to the presence of Illegal Armed Groups (IAGs) and mistreatment of people by these groups; I will address these issues if we win the elections.”

At the gathering, female participation was visible and the role of women in the elections was expressed with importance by Rassoul and his team members.

“As I analyze Rassoul’s construction and moderation of his team, my study shows that his team would be a good team for Afghanistan,” former Member of Parliament Fazel Kareem Emaq said. “This team hasn’t been formed on the basis of language and ethnicity, but in the form of a good political structure.”

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Karzai: Afghanistan Endorses Crimean Right to Decide Their Future

Sunday, 23 March 2014 18:17Last Updated on Sunday, 23 March 2014 18:32Written by Aazem Arash

On Sunday President Karzai announced in a meeting with the US congressional delegation that Afghanistan respects the decision made by the Crimean people to become a part of the Russian Federation. However, some analysts interpreted Karzai’s statement not in compliance with national interest.

Political commentators believe that Karzai’s statement could further escalate tensions between Afghanistan and the west.

“Looking at the current situation, we must pursue a proper policy and deal with the issue in a diplomatic manner,” political analyst Mia Gul Waseeq said.

Waseeq said that president Karzai should focus closely to the needs and improvements of Afghanistan instead of involving the country in other political tensions with the US.

During the meeting the US delegation urged Karzai to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which will allow US forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. However, Karzai declined signing the agreement until the preconditions are honored by the US for him to sign the pact.

Karzai clarified his stance on the Crimea adhesion to Russia days after tensions between Moscow and the western nations increased over disintegration of Crimea from Ukraine.
“The Crimean people decided on their future in the referendum,” president Karzai said. “Crimea is part of Russia and Afghanistan respects it.”

Last week the Russian embassy in Kabul announced that Moscow looks to play a great role in the future of Afghanistan.

The Crimean issue has led to a political confrontation between Russia and the west. Despite the US and other western countries being the large donors to Afghanistan, president Karzai has backed Russia in the Crimea affair.

Posted in Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine0 Comments

EU funding to benefit Pakistan


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will benefit from funds worth 6.5 billion euros recently announced by the EU for countries and organisations in Asia and the Pacific for the period 2014-2020.

Funding for EU-Asia cooperation comes from the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) which is part of the overall EU budget, according to the EU delegation in Islamabad.

The new funds will address key priorities such as social protection, better health and education, job creation and better integration of partner countries into regional and world markets.

In addition to Pakistan, the other countries who are eligible for bilateral development programmes include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

As most countries in the Asian region are facing challenges due to uneven regional development and increasing income inequality, EU funding for national and regional programmes in Asia for the time period from 2014 to 2020 increased by 20 per cent compared to the financing period of 2007-2013 to the tune of 5.1bn euros.

While Asian economies have shown remarkable recent growth, poverty is still widespread on the continent, with 800 million people in the Asia and Pacific region still living in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day, according to the Asian Development Bank.

In 2013 an EU-financed sector budget support programme was launched to support community led initiatives in Swat.

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

Anti-Pakistan Posture of Hasina Wajid


By Sajjad Shaukat

For her second tenure, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and leader of the ruling party, Awami

League, Sheikh Hasina Wajid won the general elections 2014 in wake of bloodshed due to

her dictatorial steps. In this regard, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Begum

Khaleda Zia who was leading the alliance of the opposition parties protested against the rigging,

deliberately practised by the Awami League, was placed under virtual house arrest during the

Earlier, to keep her in power, Prime Minister Hasina Wajid amended the constitution for holding

of elections under a non-party set up and the opposition has accused her of manipulating the

electoral process to establish one party state. The opposition alliance led by Khaleda Zia did

not file nominations for the polls, sticking to their stance of boycotting the elections over the

failure of Hasina Wajid to form a neutral interim government. The country’s largest religious

party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) was also banned from taking part in the elections, while to address

old grievances of her party, Prime Minister Hasina who was in connivance with the judiciary,

hurriedly executed her political opponent, Abdul Qadir Mullah-leader of Jl.

In fact, since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came into power, India has been employing various

tactics to entrap Bangladesh by exploiting her pro-Indian tilt to fulfill its strategic interests. In

this context, Prime Minister Hasina Wajid has continuously been pursuing Indian directions by

conducting anti-Pakistan campaign. Therefore, after passing of 42 years to the events of 1971,

which resulted into the separation of East Pakistan, Abdul Qadir was hanged because of his

However, Bangladesh’s ruling party, under Sheikh Hasina Wajid maintains an anti-Pakistan

posture with sinister designs of expressing animosity, antagonism and unrestrained emotional

flare-up. The aim is to exploit feelings of masses by keeping the “hate Pakistan” agenda alive.

This enables Awami League and Hasina Wajid to remain significant in Bangladesh’s power

politics despite their failure to deliver the goods. It also helps them to appease their mentors

in India. Using abusive language against Pakistan and its armed forces makes Hasina Wajid

relevant in Indian politics, while she herself prefers those entities which derive sadistic pleasure

by depicting Pakistan in bad light.

For the purpose, Awami League and its leader, Prime Minister Hasina are propagating against

Islamabad through a well thought-out media plan in order to spread venom against Pakistan,

its armed forces and all those Bangladeshi nationals who were loyal to the state during 1971

crisis. As already stated, hasty execution of death penalty to Abdul Qadir Mullah, political ban

on religious parties and exclusion of BNP (opposition party) from power sharing, on jingoistic

claims, clearly point at Indo-Bangladesh-Awami League blueprint which itself speaks of their

deep seated animosity against Pakistan and its armed forces. Old carriage of woeful accusations

and planned insinuations are re-animated to maintain emotional incrimination and revamp

In this respect, on February 4, 2014, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during her parliamentary

address stated that fresh investigation will be held to find out whether Hawa Bhaban (BNP

political office) or Khaleda Zia was involved in smuggling 10 truckloads of arms—and to punish

those found involved. On January 30, 2014, Chittagong Court awarded capital punishment to14

persons for the offence and observed that Khalieda Zia was silent even after knowing the crime.

Sheikh Hasina alleged that Bangladesh soil was being used by Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-
Services Intelligence (ISI), after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and

her government would not allow anyone to use it for terrorism.

In this connection, in connivance with India, Bangladesh government and Awami League have

launched a massive media campaign against ISI regarding 10-Truck Arms Haul. On February

11, 2014, “The Daily Star” published news on court verdict that intelligence officials convicted

in 10-Truck Arms Haul case maintained close contacts with the US-Pakistan missions—Dubai

based Pakistan Company ARY Groups and leaders of the Indian separatist group ULFA.

Besides, reviving old animosity, media of Bangladesh has also started highlighting issue of 195

Pakistan Army officers allegedly involved in killing of Bengalis in 1971War. Although they

were repatriated to Pakistan after tripartite agreement between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh

in 1974, yet Prime Minister Hasina Wajid intends to file cases against them at International

Crime Tribunal (ICT). They contended that tripartite agreement was no bar to hold a trial. In

this context, chief prosecutor, Dr Tureen Afroz said that in 1971, Pakistanis committed crime on

Bangladeshi soil; hence, Bangladesh has every right to hold trial of those crimes. And ICT will

also consider Hamudur Rahman Commission report.

By neglecting Islamabad’s positive approach, Bangladesh government has continued its anti-
Pakistan approach to please India. It could be judged from the statement of Prime Minister

Hasina Wajid who has vocally said, “Bangladesh has no room for the people loving Pakistan.”

Nevertheless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been following pro-Indian policies. In this

context, on the secret insistence of India, unlike the past years, a ceremony was held in Dhaka

on March 24, 2013, with full pump and show to honour ‘Foreign Friends of Bangladesh Award,’

in relation to the separation of East Pakistan. For this aim, several foreign friends who included

various institutions and media anchors from various countries, particularly India were invited.

The main purpose behind was to distort the image of Pakistan and its armed forces regarding

alleged atrocities, committed against the Bengalis. Notably, in December, 2012, Prime Minister

Hasina had refused to attend D-8 conference in Islamabad unless Pakistan tendered apology for

the alleged genocide of Bengalis.

While, a famous Bengali journalist Sarmila Bose authored a book, “Dead Reckoning: Memories

of the 1971 Bangladesh War” after thorough investigation. Her book was published in 2011.

While countering exaggerations of the Indian and Bengali Journalists, Bose argues that the

number of Bengalis killed in 1971 was not three million, but around 50,000, while Bengalis were

equally involved in the bloodshed of Punjabis, Biharis, Pashtoons and Balochis.

Majib was already in connivance with India for separation of East Pakistan. Therefore, when

East Pakistan was occupied by Indian Army in 1971, he stated with pleasure that his 24 years old

dream of an independent Bangladesh had been fulfilled. He had earlier developed his contacts

with Indian rulers and training camps of Mukti Bahini, established by Indian army and RAW

which also funded Mujibur Rehman’s general elections in 1970.

Nonetheless, the government of Awami League led by Hasina Wajid has been following an anti-

Pakistan agenda prepared by Indian masters. Therefore, it is India which actually desires to see

Bangladesh locking horns with Islamabad. In this regard, the patriot people of Bangladesh must

introspectively think that who is behind the intriguing yoke.

Undoubtedly, Prime Minister Hasina Wajid acts, as if she is an Indian national. Her sole aim

is to remain in power and New Delhi has assured her that she will never lose political power,

if she follows a strong anti-Pakistan posture. In fact, Prime Minister Hasina has badly failed in

providing good governance and relief to the poor and maintains her relevance in Bangladesh

only by propagating against Pakistan and making the latter a scapegoat of her dirty politics.

In these terms, Hasina Wajid’s allegations on 10-Truck Arms Haul scandal against ISI are

baseless and must be countered assertively through our own media.

Open criticism against Pakistan and ISI by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and intention of

her government to launch cases against Pakistan Army officers through ICT indicate the deep

rooted hatred of Awami League’s high command against Islamabad. The ruling party banks upon

active support from India to implement anti-Pakistan agenda. Both Prime Minister Hasina and

Awami League are pursuing a well-planned agenda, orchestrated by Indian spin masters against

Islamabad. The purpose is to tarnish Pakistan’s image and damage the prestige of its armed

Notably, Hasina Wajid is anti-Islam and hates her own country’s Muslim majority as much as

she hates Pakistan. So, the people of Bandladesh will soon recognize her real face and she will

again be rejected by her own people, as she has won the elections through rigging.

But, Pakistan’s silence over Sheikh Hasina’s anti-Pakistan policies, and to deal with the well

thought-out combined plot of Dhaka, India and Awami League is regrettable. As enough

is enough, there should be a limit to anti-Pakistan rhetoric of the Bangladesh’s rulers. Our

continued silence on the issue of war crimes has further emboldened Hasina regime. Hence,

every time, these conspirators come up with new strategy to implicate Pakistan.

So, Pakistan’s political entities and media need to counter anti-Pakistan posture of Hasina Wajid

who has launched a deliberate propaganda campaign against Pakistan, its armed forces and

ISI. No doubt, the real perpetrator is New Delhi which desires to see a permanent rift between

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,

Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments


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