Archive | South Asia

Red Cross says life has ‘stopped’ in Myanmar’s Rakhine

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The International Committee of the Red Cross says life has “stopped” in Rakhine state due to the fear of violence, nearly four months after a new wave of crackdown by the government erupted against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims.

The ICRC director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, said Wednesday that tensions between the Muslims and the dominant Buddhist community were preventing Muslim traders from reopening shops and markets.

“The situation in the northern Rakhine has definitely stabilized, there are very sporadic incidents, but tensions are huge between the communities,” Stillhart said after a three-day mission to the remote area. “You get a sense, especially of the two main communities being deeply scared of each other.”

He visited the towns of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung in northern Rakhine, where the ICRC, the only aid agency operating in the violence-hit region, is providing food, water and other aid to 150,000 people.

Stillhart said the Red Cross hoped to reach all of the 180,000 Rohingya it estimated remained in the “politically-sensitive” region after more than 600,000 people fled to Bangladesh.

“You travel through the countryside and you really see on both sides of the road villages that are completely destroyed. It just gives you a bit of a sense of the scale of destruction. There is also this pervasive sense of absence.”

“It is as if life has stopped in its tracks, people do not move, markets are closed in Muangdaw town,” Stillhart said.

He said the main problem facing the Muslims was “the very limited possibilities for them to access their own livelihoods like fields, and especially markets and services.”

Late last month, Bangladesh and Myanmar reached a deal to repatriate the Rohingya refugees within several months.

The Red Cross said the returns must be voluntary and safe. “But for now we really don’t see a significant return movement and I’m also not expecting that we will see massive return anytime soon,” Stillhart said. Citing UN figures, he added that nearly 300 Muslims still fled daily.

About 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since late last year, when Myanmar’s soldiers and Buddhist mobs began vicious attacks on the minority Muslims in Rakhine. The crackdown on the Rohingya has intensified since August 25.

All along, government troops and the Buddhist mobs have been killing, raping, and arbitrarily arresting members of the Muslim community. They have also been setting the houses of the Muslims on fire in hundreds of predominantly-Rohingya villages in the northern parts of Rakhine, where nearly all the Rohingya reside.

Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the Rohingya, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Dhaka, in turn, regards the desperate refugees as Myanmarese. The Rohingya, however, track their ancestors many generations back in Myanmar.

The UN has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world, calling the situation in Rakhine similar to “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

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Yemen, Afghanistan in focus as landmine casualties spike

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Landmines killed 8,605 people in several countries in 2016, despite an international ban on the deadly device, a monitoring group says.

According to the annual report released Thursday by Landmine Monitor, about three-quarters of the known casualties were civilians, including more than 1,000 children who were injured and nearly 500 who were killed.

The number of the casualties — which were mostly recorded in Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen — showed a 30% surge compared to 2015.

“A few intense conflicts, where utter disregard for civilian safety persists, have resulted in very high numbers of mine casualties for the second year in a row,” Loren Persi, an editor of the Landmine Monitor said.

Persi described the spike as “alarming”, adding that the true number of the victims would be significantly higher if the data gathering were complete.

The surge comes after a 18-year decline in landmine casualties since the Mine Ban Treaty first came into force in 1999.

The treaty bans the use of landmines and other explosive devices placed on or under the ground, designed to blow up when somebody unintentionally steps on them.

These weapons can be continuously deadly weapons for many years, long after the war has ended. About 80% of landmine victims are civilians.

The Mine Ban Treaty, which has been signed by 163 countries, also bans production, stockpiling and transfer of the deadly landmines.

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Is TIME’s Afghan “cover girl” really a victim of mutilation by the Taleban?

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Zero Anthropology 

TIME : What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan (story)

 

BOING BOING : What Still Happened Despite 10 Years of Occupying Afghanistan (story)

ZERO ANTHRO : What Happens When We Don’t Fix Problems at Home (story)

The August 9th TIME magazine cover story is about a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears have been allegedly “mutilated” by the Taleban. The story has generated widespread self-serving moral indignation and self-righteous clamor in the U.S. propaganda machine supporting the occupation of Afghanistan run by the Israeli-American weapon-making industry. The American culture cleansing project in Afghanistan must be in need of a booster shot from the radical feminist forces that so fervently collaborated with the American war machine in initiating this racist imperial enterprise in 2001. Perhaps the flaunting of this fictitious story is a desperate attempt by the Obama war regime to offset the steep decline of support for this murderous program against unarmed and helpless pre-industrial Afghanistan. Let us recall the production of the picture of the frightened green-eyed Afghan girl on the cover of the National Geographic magazine to justify the United States sponsorship of local anti-government terrorist gangs who currently host the American occupation of Afghanistan.

TIME’s story does not provide its readers with any specific or credible factual text and context about what has really caused the deformity in this young woman’s face. Like much fiction that has been produced in the shadow of the American war machine in Afghanistan, this “story” appears to be a string of hearings and imaginings about women’s life in Afghanistan put together by Aryn Baker and Jodi Bieber, two young American journalists who probably first encountered Afghanistan in the pages of “the kite runner”. Having the readers see the reporters’ pictures (p. 4) in a “Kabul kite shop” speaks to the compelling impact of the untruths about life in Kabul in that “bestseller” book. What is the relationship of kites to a story about a mutilated nose? TIME’s story by Baker and Bieber has no truth value. Let us have a closer look at some of the cultural content and ethnographic claims in this fabricated telltale.

The narrative in which the Taleban single out this young woman for ears and nose mutilation at the instigation of her husband cannot be credible when exposed to the spatial, temporal, and cultural framework provided by the reporters.  First, Urozgan province is located in central Afghanistan not “southern” Afghanistan. And if the alleged mutilation took place in central or northern Urozgan,TIME’s tale becomes even less credible for these parts of Urozgan are home to non-Paxtuns, especially Hazaras. What is the victim’s ethnic background? Even if the agency of this “mutilation” were the Taleban, why would they devote this amount of precious human resources in a hostile area to the personal disenchantment of a single Taleb foot soldier with his runaway wife, Aisha? This does not make tactical or strategic sense.

The Taleban dragged Aisha “to a mountain clearing near her village” where “[s]hivering in the cold  air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband’s family, she faced her spouse and accuser… and men moved to deliver her punishment. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. Aisha passed out from her pain but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountaintop to die” (pp. 20-22).  If the men wanted Aisha to die, why did they not kill her on the spot, on the mountain? Why give her a chance to live? Why risk her potential recovery and/or rescue?

To receive her punishment, why would Aisha have to be dragged to the mountain clearing (or is it a “mountainside”)? Where is this mountain clearing or side located in Urozgan? However, it must be at a distance from the village. And if TIME’s narrative is valid, the mutilation is a public affair with the husband, his family, and Taleban officials present. Thus, there are witnesses to the mutilation of Aisha’s nose and ears.  These witnesses, especially members of her husband’s family, can be located. Did Aisha “pass out” from “pain” or loss of blood? How does a victim whose ears and nose have been mutilated and is choking on her own blood, and left alone “on the mountainside to die” survive such virtually fatal injuries? The human face is heavily irrigated with blood. I am not a medical doctor, but based on common sense, it would not take more than a few minutes of suffering heavy blood loss from open veins around the nose and ears to become fatal? How does a rural 19 year girl in such perilous medical condition, bleeding from open veins around her nose and ears, manage to move from a mountainside in remote Urozgan to a “shelter” in downtown Kabul hundreds of miles away? “A few months after Aisha arrived at the shelter, her father tried to bring her home with promises that he would find her a new husband. Aisha refused to leave. In rural areas, a family that finds itself shamed by a daughter sometimes sells her into slavery, or worse, subjects her to a so-called honor killing—murder under the guise of saving the family’s name” (p. 26). Now, what are the prospects (or practical feasibility) for marriage of a woman who has her ears and nose mutilated for having dishonored her own family, husband, and in-laws in patriarchal Afghanistan or for that matter in patricentric United States? What would be the market value of Aisha’s labor? What kind of labor could a severely mutilated woman like this produce as a slave? Only total ignorance of the Afghan cultural plane and complete disregard for the intelligence of the audience by the American popular media would allow such fabricated prattle to see the light of public print.

Aisha’s disposition could be congenital. It could be caused by a bacterial or viral infection such as cancer, a malady not rare in Afghanistan among both men and women. Or it could be related to an injury caused by firearms or explosives. Harelips and other deformities in the mandible, although rare, occur in the population of Afghanistan. Incidents of human body deformities in Afghanistan have steadily increased with the expanding military interference of the United States going back to the 1980s. These incidents have soared since 2001 with the American occupation and experimentation with weapon systems designed for “population centered wars” in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The non-Paxtun Northern Alliance warlords and their inner circles are the only Afghans that pray and beg for the American military presence in Afghanistan. It was these anti-Paxtun American trained and subsidized terrorist gangs who scouted and pimped for the American occupation of Afghanistan. And it is the Northern Alliance that opposes a political solution in Afghanistan because any such solution would remove them from power and expose and punish their criminal deeds. Amrullah Saleh, a known psychopath and a leading member of this criminal gang who headed Afghanistan’s intelligence services, recently expatiated: “I have killed many of them (Taleban) with pride”, killing “them is part of my blood” (Lara Logan interview on “60 Mintes”, August 1, 2010). The informants for TIME’s reporters of this story are the female dependents of the Northern Alliance criminal clique one of whom is credited with this rabid hateful lie “I go running in the stadium where the Taliban used to play football with women’s heads” (p. 24). This woman is pictured standing in Kabul stadium with three Kabuli teenagers in the background clearly running-in-place! There is not a shred of evidence for a football game played with human heads anywhere at any time in Afghanistan. TIME magazine has truly stooped to the lowest standards in journalism. During the 1990s the Kabul stadium was used once for the public execution of a woman found guilty of violating a Taleban decree.

The American intimate love affair during the past three decades with the various gangs of terrorists including Al-Qaeda, Hezb-e Islami, Northern Alliance, and sporadically the early manifestation of the Taleban movement during the 1990s has inflicted irreparable damage on the political, economic, and security prospects of Afghanistan. The ethnic and sectarian divisions caused by the American military operations and criminal deeds in South Asia has brought the frail state structure of Afghanistan to the verge of total collapse. It has destabilized the whole region. Tens of thousands of innocent and helpless Afghans have been slaughtered by the American Zionist-controlled killing machine. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity for which history will condemn its perpetrators.

On an ethnographic level, the manipulation of the body of the subject human population by the state has historical roots in several culture areas including Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. To this day in the popular lore of non-Paxtun areas of Afghanistan (especially among the Farsi-speaking population) a person, male or female, who compromises the interests and standards of the larger community, is symbolically labeled “beeni borida” (Farsi, one whose nose has been cut, one who has lost his nose, i. e. one who has lost her/his honor, a person without honor). The equivalent of this linguistic construct and its cultural content does not exist among Paxtuns.

However, no matter the untruths and distortions from which TIME’s August 9th cover story is concocted, we need a proper comparative cultural framework for the understanding of abuse of the human body including the practice of mutilation of body parts. An informed glance at global ethnographic realities connects such practices with a relation of power called patriarchy—male domination of society. As a system of ideas and practices patriarchy “is a threat to public health everywhere” (Laura Nader, Anthropology News, September 2006, p. 7) including Afghanistan and the United States. In principle the socio-cultural ingredients involved in the mutilation of the human body in Afghanistan are not different than the socio-cultural forces that impose industrial “vaginal rejuvenation”, “pussy tightening” (JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation, 9/28/2009, p. 8), and breast enhancement in Euro-America. In no other culturally constructed space are women, womanhood, and femininity so universally abused, exploited, demeaned, and vulgarized than in the Euro-American industry of internet pornography—the biggest money making enterprise in cyberspace. Comparative studies reveal that American domestic violence is approximately 25%–about the same as in Syria and Bolivia (Nader 2006:7). The extensive system of shelters for abused women throughout the United States is symptomatic of a widely practiced tradition of physical and verbal abuse of women by men that is qualitatively not different than the abuse of women by men elsewhere in the world.

TIME, you are a beeni borida!

_________

Addendum by Max Forte:

[“In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner” (source). 17.6 % of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape. Of these, 21.6% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4% were between the ages of 12 and 17. 64% of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date. Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years. One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5% – one out of twenty – of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free. The costs of intimate partner violence against women exceed an estimated $5.8 billion. These costs include nearly $4.1 billion in the direct costs of medical care and mental health care and nearly $1.8 billion in the indirect costs of lost productivity and present value of lifetime earnings. A University of Pennsylvania research study found that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to low-income, inner-city Philadelphia women between the ages of 15 to 44 – more common than automobile accidents, mugging and rapes combined. In this study domestic violence included injuries caused by street crime (see sources).]

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India: Remembering Bhopal ‘VIDEO’

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3,000 KILLED AND 150,000 INJURED

TYPICAL COLD CORPORATE RESPONSE

If you’re old enough, you may remember Bhopal.

It was the worst industrial disaster in history. Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical, killed over 3,000, injured 120,000 – and did next-to-nothing NOTHING to help the people injured.

Poor design, poor training, poor maintenance, and not taking the dangers the operation posed to the nearby residents seriously led to this disaster. In other words, 1,500 counts of negligent homicide.

The Yes Men reveal the callousness of Dow Chemical

 

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Turning the Corner in Afghanistan

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The news about the wars the U.S. is waging all over the world is unreliable. The same statements of progress are repeated year after year. The official numbers, be they of civilian casualties or deployed troops, are mere lies. Every news presentation should be engraved with a warning: “Assertions and numbers are not what they appear.” Consider, for example, the various “turned corner” statements officials have made about Afghanistan.

On October 5 2017 the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed to the BBC that Afghanistan has “turned the corner”:

… when I ask whether he is saying Afghan forces have turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban, there is no hesitation: “Yes,” he says.

On October 24 the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson agreed with President Ghani:

“With the mounting military, diplomatic, and social pressure that is building – that we all are collectively committed to sustaining over the coming years – the enemy will have no choice but to reconcile. I believe, as President Ghani says, ‘we have turned the corner,’” he concluded.

But a month later General Nicholson seemed to disagreed with his earlier statement:

“We are still in a stalemate,” Nicholson, a four-star Army general said in an exclusive interview.

Today, five days after his “stalemate” statement, the general’s opinion has changed again. Kevin Baron, the editor of Defense Onereports:

‏JUST IN: Top US general in Afghanistan says war has “turned a corner… “ The momentum is now with the Afghan security forces.” …

The General seems confused. But he is not the first to have such a change of mind.

On February 3 2010 then U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal was cautious about the proverbial corner:

General Stanley McChrystal also expressed confidence that Afghan forces would grow quickly enough to allow a reduction in U.S. troop numbers to begin on schedule in 2011. … “I‘m not prepared to say we have turned the corner,” he added.

Only twelve days later the turn had been made:

Gen Stanley McChrystal had his own words. Helmand had “turned the corner” in its four year war, he told The Daily Telegraph.

In May 2011 a British General also noted the turn:

The civilians are looking to people such as General James Bucknall, a British Coldstream Guards officer who is second in command of the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf).

[H]e sets out why he thinks a corner has now been turned, nodding to the surge in American troop numbers that has made it possible.

Six years earlier another British General had already seen that turn:

Handing over to 3 Commando Brigade, Brig Butler said: “When we prepared, we knew there would be rocky times ahead, and that things would get harder before they got easier. That has certainly been the case, but I judge we have turned the corner. We have achieved a huge amount.”

In May 2011 the U.S. Secretary of Defense was more cautious than the generals but nonetheless optimistic:

I think we could be in a position by the end of this year where we have turned the cornerin Afghanistan,” [U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates] said.

According to is boss, progress came faster than Gates anticipated. On June 23 2011 CBS headlined Obama: U.S. has turned corner in Afghanistan:

President Barack Obama on Thursday told American troops who’ve fought in Afghanistan that the U.S. has turned a corner after nearly 10 years of war, and it’s time for their comrades still in that country to start coming home.

Obama’s victory jump may have been a bit premature, but a month later the local commander agreed that the turning process had at least begun:

I spoke to Gen Petraeus as he stopped off in London on his way home from Afghanistan. In the interview, he spelled out what makes him think the country has begun to turn a corner after nearly 10 years of war.

In September 2012 another U.S. Secretary of Defense asserted that the turn had finally been completed:

[US Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta, however, has rejected suggestions that the strategy is failing, and on Friday he said “we have turned the corner,” in Afghanistan …

Four month later the Afghan President confirmed the turn:

[President] Karzai also said that Afghanistan has turned the corner in terms of battling the Taliban.

Karzai was very modest in acknowledging the turn. He knew that it had already happened much earlier:

On October 9th, 2004, Afghanistan turned the corner. After decades of invasion, civil war, and anarchy, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically-elected President of a united Afghanistan.

In May 2014 another man was elected President of Afghanistan. This finally turned the corner:

Tonight there is a sense that the country has turned a corner – a new president who will sign the BSA, a continuation of developmental aid and training programmes, and Afghanistan has more than a fighting chance.

A year later the Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani was encouraged by the corner turning progress the new government had made:

With the successful conclusion of the security and political transitions, Afghanistan turned the corner in our path to becoming a self-reliant nation.

Today, two and a half years later, General Nicholson is still in the corner turning business.

The corner turning in Afghanistan is similar to an earlier war the U.S. had fought in vain:

Of course, the Afghanistan War (ostensibly part of a Global War on Terrorism) differs from the Vietnam War (ostensibly part of the Cold War) in myriad ways. Yet it resembles Vietnam in three crucial respects. First, it drags on with no end in sight. Second, no evidence exists to suggest that mere persistence will produce a positive outcome. Third, those charged with managing the war have long since run out of ideas about how to turn things around.

Another similarity is the constant lying by the military spokespersons. The famous Five o’clock Follies of Vietnam have been replaced by video conferences and drone videos but the central issue is the same. The military is consistently and consciously lying to the public.

How many U.S. troops are there in Afghanistan? By law the Pentagon has to release the deployment numbers every three month. The latest release for September 2017 lists 15,298 soldiers and 1,202 DoD civilians in Afghanistan. But there are 29,092 soldiers listed in “unknown locations”. The generals must have lost these somewhere. The report also lists nearly 2,000 soldiers in Syrian and nearly 9,000 in Iraq. The publicly admitted numbers are way lower. They are as trustworthy as all the “turned corner” claims. Indeed:

The Defense Department’s publicly disclosed data, which tracks U.S. personnel levels in dozens of countries, are “not meant to represent an accurate accounting of troops deployed to any particular region,” said Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Pentagon clearly states that official data and assertions are “not meant to represent an accurate accounting”. It is a warning. Whatever officials claim about this or that war, about “turned corners”, or casualties, or troop deployments, must be considered to be a lie until it has been confirmed by observation or additional sources.

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Protests in Pakistan Turn Violent, Emerging Role of “Other Forces”

Featured image: Zahid Amid (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In Pakistan Street protests have affected cities like Imamabad, and is spreading in other cities as well. About six persons have died and more than two hundred have been injured. PTI has reported that the police aided by paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Constabulary yesterday launched a massive operation against activists of Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah and Sunni Tehreek Pakistan religious groups who had blocked a key highway to Islamabad for nearly three weeks. The protesters have been laying siege to the capital for about three weeks demanding removal of Law Minister Zahid Hamid for changes in a law related to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat (finality of prophethood) oath in the Elections Act 2017.They alleged the action undermined Islamic beliefs and linked it to blasphemy. The government has already amended the law and restored the original oath but the hard line clerics refused to call of the protests until the minister is sacked.

The real power holder former PM Nawaz Sharif is believed to have given a thought to remove the Minister in order to pacify the protests; present government is under much pressure due to political problems which emerged since the revelations of Panama Papers, and strict actions taken by Judiciary have made the government weak and in all likelihood in next elections it may find itself in troubles in electoral battles. The present protest is a continuation of the politically unstable Pakistan since the revelations of Panama Papers.

The root cause of the political problems started when on right grounds Judiciary removed PM Sharif on misdeeds in Panama Papers. The new PM is not capable to manage the affairs of the state. He is transitory PM knowing well that he has been on the position just due to grace of Nawaz family.

Elections in Pakistan are due to take place in 2018 and the prospects of Nawaz’s party are not very strong at the moment. Moreover the external pressures from world on the containment of terrorism has placed stress on the political leaders of country.

In these backgrounds the protest assumes importance. As the elected political leadership has proved unsuccessful to control the developments in the country. Now they have asked for the help from army which is already eyeing for increased role in the political space in the country particularly after the departure of Nawaz Sharif.

Army has taken a recommendatory view so far by advising government to take steps with cautions. The Army chief Gen. Bajwa are in touch with Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi and has asked to deal the protest peacefully, and violence should be avoided from both sides.

Source: Countercurrents

There is also alternative analysis that army may come in direct conflict with the conservative elements and Pakistan may find itself more into trouble. The release of Hafiz Saeed is also not good for the political system of the country as these are major destabilizing elements of the country. Their activities if supported more by army and establishment of more hardliners in the socio-politico milieu of the country do not suggest good things to come.

The recent developments in Pakistan are result of the non nation building in the country. Several countries are passing through this phase but Pakistan has emerged as a classical case where army, terrorists and conservative elements have come to stay in the political world of the country and have prevented genuine development of democratic elements in the country.

In next few days the developments will take a new path and it is hoped that Pakistan is able to control the situation but major question remains unanswered which forces are in real terms responsible for such developments? And why Pakistan is getting into fragmentation? Role of army will be observed in the days to come. Terrorists and fundamentalist have engulfed the society. Can governance manage these or army is about to enter more aggressively in the governance?

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Will Beijing Really Rename and Reroute the China-Pakistan Economic Corridors (CPEC) to Please India?

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The Chinese Ambassador to India suggested that his country could rename and even reroute the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, popularly known as CPEC, in order to appease New Delhi.

His Excellency Mr. Luo Zhaohui proposed this controversial idea in a speech at the Centre for Chinese and South-East Asian Studies late last week, which is the second time that he spoke about it when considering that the first instance was half a year ago in May. It’s difficult to interpret why this is being brought up yet again, though there are two branches of understanding that can help with figuring out what might be going on. The first one of course is that the Ambassador isn’t serious about the proposal and is simply bringing it up for diplomatic reasons and in order to temporarily alleviate India’s hysterical jingoistic worries about CPEC. That’s indeed very possible, though the second school of thought on this topic is equally plausible as well, and it’s that Beijing might actually be somewhat serious about this suggestion.

To explain, China would ideally like for India to join its One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, as the complementary synergy between these two Asian Great Powers could literally have world-changing consequences for International Relations, but New Delhi’s ultra-nationalist government has thus far refrained from this due to its maximalist approach to the Kashmir Conflict and fears of being inundated with Chinese goods. In an attempt to temper their unease, Ambassador Zhaohui proposed that China could “create an alternative corridor through Jammu and Kashmir, Nathu La pass or Nepal to deal with India’s concerns”, which would in essence connect over two billion people and create a powerhouse of geopolitical gravity if it was successful.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

The problem, however, is that this is more of a liberal fantasy than a functional plan when considering that all indicators point to India’s reluctance to ever agree to this proposal, especially since the South Asian state is in the process of formulating a 100-year-long strategy with the US, as revealed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier last month. Therefore, it’s fair to suppose that any members of China’s permanent military, intelligence, and especially diplomatic bureaucracies – or “deep state” – who believe in this are followers of the liberal school of thought, which might also suggest that some of them might even believe the unfounded fake news reports about Pakistan’s stability and security, ergo why they would publicly entertain renaming and potentially even rerouting CPEC.

The $250 billion worth of deals that Trump agreed to during his visit to the People’s Republic a few weeks ago might have also had an influence on Ambassador Zhaohui’s revival of his curious proposal, whether as a symbolic diplomatic gesture or a serious initiative. At the end of the day, however, it’s very unlikely that China would ever reroute CPEC because of the grand strategic purpose that the project fulfills in providing Beijing with reliable overland access to the Indian Ocean through which almost all of its Eastern Hemispheric trade traverses, and as for renaming this project, it can’t do so unilaterally without Pakistan’s approval and that won’t ever happen because CPEC has become inseparable from the country’s 21st-century international branding.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Nov 24, 2017:

 

 

Posted in China, India, Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

US Bombing of Afghanistan Up by 300 Percent

The US media this week broadcast videos provided by the Pentagon purporting to show American airstrikes against Taliban-run “drug labs” in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Parroting claims by the top US military commander Gen. John Nicholson, television news broadcasters reported that Washington is attempting to stop the Islamist insurgency from “profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities.”

The bombing raids in Helmand announced on Monday are merely part of a sharp escalation in the US air war in Afghanistan that is claiming increasing numbers of civilian casualties. Statistics released Tuesday by the US Air Force Central Command establish that the Pentagon is on track to drop more than triple the number of bombs and missiles on the impoverished country this year, compared to 2016.

According to the US military’s own figures, it has dropped 3,554 weapons on Afghanistan during the first 10 months of this year and, at the current rate, is expected to top 4,000 before year’s end. Last month, it recorded 653 bombs and missiles used against Afghan targets, the highest number since November 2010 at the height of the Obama administration’s “surge”, when over 100,000 US troops were deployed in Afghanistan.

The latest raids included strikes by advanced F-22 stealth fighters, which the Pentagon claimed were employed in order to carry out “precision” bombing designed to avoid civilian casualties. This assertion was undercut by the fact that B-52 strategic bombers dropping 2,000-pound bombs were used in the same operation.

Under the new rules of engagement unveiled by the Trump administration in August, the military brass has been given a free hand to escalate the conflict as it sees fit. A total of 16,000 American troops are slated to be on the ground in Afghanistan by the beginning of next year, while the air war is expected to continue escalating

The claims by the Pentagon and the US media that the latest attacks were designed to combat drug trafficking are a patent fabrication aimed at evoking public sympathy for the more than 16 year-old war–America’s longest–that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Afghans, while turning millions into homeless refugees.

The reality is that poppy cultivation and drug trafficking from Afghanistan–which were banned by the Taliban regime–have grown exponentially since the US invaded the country in 2001. In the 16 years of US war and occupation, there has been a 20-fold increase in the territory under poppy cultivation, and the amount of opium produced in the country is 25 times that of 2001.

According to conservative UN estimates, opium production accounts for some 16 per cent of Afghanistan GDP and more than two-thirds of the entire agricultural sector of the country. Not just the Taliban, but government officials, from the top of the US-backed regime of President Ashraf Ghani to local police, are heavily involved in the trafficking of drugs, as are the collection of warlords cultivated by US imperialism as a counterweight to the Taliban.

Local leaders in Helmand province condemned the US raids, saying that they targeted rudimentary sheds in rural areas and did nothing to stop the production and trafficking of opium.

Moreover, among the victims of the airstrikes, unseen in the video-game style footage broadcast on US television news, were Afghan civilians, men, women and children. The entire family of a Helmand resident identified by local authorities as Habibullah was wiped out when a bomb struck their home on the western outskirts of the Musa Kala district center. A total of 12 were killed, including the man, his wife and their children.

The number of civilian casualties is today higher than at any time since the 2001 invasion, with the sharpest increase in deaths caused by air strikes and artillery barrages carried out by US and Afghan puppet forces.

The buildup of troops and airstrikes in Afghanistan is part of a broader US military escalation that is being carried out from the south Asian country, through the Middle East and into ever growing territory on the African continent.

Figures released by the Pentagon indicate that the number of US troops and contractors deployed in the Middle East has risen by 33 percent in the last four months alone, going from 40,517 to 54,180. This is undoubtedly a significant undercount, as the US military often fails to include forces that are rotated in and out of the region on a supposedly temporary basis.

This troop buildup has been carried out without any public announcement, much less debate, and is being decided by the cabal of current and former US generals who largely control US foreign policy. Sharp increases in the number of American troops deployed in a number of Persian Gulf countries are indications of Washington’s preparations for a war against Iran.

According to the latest quarterly reports from the Pentagon, between June and September, the US military deployment increased in the area’s two active war zones; in Iraq, from 8,173 to 9,122 and in Syria, from 1,251 to 1,723.

Far larger increases have been registered in neighboring countries. In Turkey, the number went from 1,405 to 2,265; in Qatar from 3,164 to 6,671; in Bahrain from 6,541 to 9,335; in the United Arab Emirates from 1,531 to 4,240 and in Kuwait, from 14,790 to 16,592. Further increases have been registered across the region, including in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen and Oman.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan0 Comments

Pakistan in An Emerging Multipolar World: ASGA Strategy for the Afro-Pacific

NOVANEWS

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s “Global South” connectivity potential via the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden (ASGA).

 

Reconceptualizing the Indian Ocean as an African one can help to craft creative strategies for maximizing Pakistan’s strategic significance in the emerging Multipolar World Order through a reinvigorated naval strategy that capitalizes on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s “Global South” connectivity potential via the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden (ASGA).

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the so-called “Indo-Pacific”, which the author himself has admittedly used in a geographic sense to describe both oceans but which has recently taken on subtle political connotations when employed by Western and Mainstream Media commentators. These voices have started to trumpet the “Indo-Pacific” term in order to provocatively suggest that India is a rising global superpower that is in some way or another capable of “containing” China, thereby “justifying” the 100-year-long military-strategic partnership that the US is unprecedentedly building with it for this purpose. The irony, however, is that the Indian Ocean is named after India, which in turn received its name because of the Indus River that’s nowadays located mostly in Pakistan. Moreover, the “Indus” isn’t even an indigenous term, as the locals refer to it as “Sindh”, ergo the Pakistani province of the same name.

From The Indian Ocean To The African One

All etymological issues aside, the case could equally – and in some cases, even more convincingly – be made for calling the “Indian Ocean” (or whatever other name is used to refer to it in the context of the subcontinent’s civilization[s]) the African Ocean. Using the Indian subcontinent as the basis for describing this body of water is only relevant insomuch as one takes into account the spread of its historic civilization across mainland and insular Southeast Asia in this ocean’s eastern half, but this Indo-centric view ignores the similarly large spread of African civilization across this ocean’s western half even though it mostly occurred as a result of slavery and indentured servitude. Conveniently left out of the global narrative because of the liberal zeitgeist of “political correctness”, Arab slave traders were responsible for spreading African civilization into the Mideast and as far away as Persia, thereby giving it a larger geographic scope than its Indian counterpart.

Another argument in favor of conceptualizing the Indian Ocean as the African Ocean is that it would be more representative of the many countries that are expected to form the basis of China’s “South-South” engagement in the emerging Multipolar World Order. Not only does the vast majority of China’s trade traverse through this body of water, but it will inevitably begin to be increasingly concentrated on the African landmass as the People’s Republic pioneers new trade routes and develops new marketplaces as destinations for its excess production. In fact, one of the driving motivations behind China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity is to stave off socio-economic challenges caused by the country’s overproduction crisis long enough for Beijing to transition its structural model from a secondary to a tertiary one.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

ASGA

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) indispensably provides the People’s Republic with reliable non-Malacca overland access to the African Ocean and further afield to this neologism’s namesake continent, which thus ensures the security of China’s trade routes with the “Global South” by avoiding any unnecessary entanglements in the ever-complicated geostrategic environments of the South China Sea, Strait of Malacca, and Bay of Bengal. Instead of transiting the long way through these regional waters and potentially risking disruption by the US and its allied Indo-Japanese navies, China could use CPEC’s terminal port of Gwadar as its base of trading operations for greatly shortening its Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) with Africa by focusing more on strengthening connectivity via the more easily defensible Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden (ASGA).

The logic behind this is that Ethiopia, which is the second-most populous country in Africa and the world’s fastest-growing economy, is China’s premier partner in the continent, and Beijing just built the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway as a de-facto Horn of African Silk Road for efficiently accessing this landlocked but rising African Great Power. Seeing as how Ethiopian-Chinese trade will in all likelihood begin to transit across CPEC en route to the People’s Republic, it makes sense for the Pakistani Navy to begin proactively safeguarding the ASGA SLOC between Gwadar and Djibouti together with the Chinese. Not only could this allow Pakistan to enhance its economic and political presence in Africa via “CPEC diplomacy”, especially in the event that it could also acquire a base in Djibouti or at the very least end up using the Chinese one there, but it could give Islamabad’s strategists the necessary experience for crafting a more comprehensive connectivity policy with the African Ocean’s similar OBOR-linked ports in Kenya’s Mombasa and Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam.

Ethiopia’s Strategic Edge

As an added benefit, Pakistan might even be able to one day “balance” the divergent interests of its traditional Arab partners in the Horn of Africa if it’s successful in establishing excellent working relations with Ethiopia, nearly half the population of which is Muslim and presumably receptive to Islamabad’s soft power sway. Ethiopia’s ambitious plan to build a massive dam on the Blue Nile has roiled Egypt, which considers this to be a threat to its national security, and Cairo has accordingly taken steps to put pressure on Addis Ababa. One of these has been that Egypt’s close UAE ally exploited the disastrous Saudi-led War on Yemen to establish military bases in the neighboring country of Eritrea and the internationally unrecognized polity of “Somaliland” along Ethiopia’s northeastern periphery, which not only allows Abu Dhabi to influence the SLOC on both sides of the Bab el Mandeb, but to crucially exert influence into the Horn of African hinterland against Addis Ababa in the event that Cairo decides to strike the landlocked country.

Complicating matters, however, is that Qatar has taken advantage of the “Gulf Cold War” to enter into a fast-moving rapprochement with Ethiopia in order to spite Egypt and its monarchic allies, even though Doha and Addis Ababa had at one point broken off diplomatic relations a little more a decade ago over Ethiopia’s concern that the thumb-shaped country was supporting instability within its borders. Ethiopia also blocked Al Jazeera in 2013 as well. Nevertheless, both sides saw an opportunity to put the past behind them and accelerate relations out of their shared interest in countering Cairo and its regional “containment” policy against both of them. Bearing in mind that Pakistan is on great terms with all of the Arab players involved in this, it could gain unparalleled strategic leverage with them if it improved its relations with Ethiopia in accordance with the ASGA plan and placed itself in a position to “balance” all the parties involved. Through these means, Pakistan could become a crucial force for stability in China’s most important continental region for OBOR investments at the pivotal maritime crossroads of Afro-Eurasian trade.

Chinese Maritime Silk Road

Chinese Maritime Silk Road

Piercing India’s Missile Defense Shield

Last but certainly not least, Pakistan’s ASGA strategy for the Afro-Pacific could provide the much-needed impetus for directing more funds towards the country’s naval modernization program, relying on the publicly plausible reason of protecting the SLOC in the Arabian Sean-Gulf of Aden region but also clandestinely improving Pakistan’s nuclear triad through advancements in submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) technology. It’s no secret that India is investing in missile defense capabilities in order to neutralize the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear second-strike deterrent and therefore gain a hegemonic advantage over it by perpetually keeping Pakistan in a state of strategic blackmail. This state of affairs would expectedly be exploited in order to force the South Asian state into submission and could therefore potentially pose an existential threat to CPEC – and by extent, to China too – under this scenario.

The most surefire way to offset India’s plans is to develop Pakistan’s SLBM program in order to ensure that Islamabad can always defend itself in the event that New Delhi launches a nuclear first strike against it, which would thus preserve the balance of power between these two rivals and accordingly diminish the prospects of war between them, however much this is to the US’ anti-CPEC chagrin. For this reason, China should support Pakistan’s ASGA strategy in both its public and clandestine forms, encouraging it to play a more proactive role in safeguarding the SLOC between Gwadar and Djibouti (and eventually, Gwadar and the East African ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam) so that there’s a justifiable reason for increasing naval investments in order to secretly fund a more robust SLBM program for piercing India’s missile defense shield.

Concluding Thoughts

One of the fundamentals of Hybrid War is language and the subconscious ideas that are transmitted through select words, which is why it’s so important to use the most accurate terms in conveying a given side’s intentions and correspondingly countering those of their adversaries. The recent trend in talking about the “Indo-Pacific” is a perfect case in point because the terminology no longer refers to the innocent idea of both oceans but has been perverted to carry unipolar geostrategic connotations about “containing” China. The only suitable recourse in this case is to introduce another word to more accurately convey what some analysts mean when talking about this body of water and drawing attention to its importance to China’s global trade routes, particularly as it relates to Africa’s growing role in the Multipolar World Order. Therefore, it’s necessary to reconceptualize the “Indian Ocean” as the African Ocean and then work on popularizing this term in the wider strategic discourse.

Following that, it’s then easier to understand why CPEC’s terminal port of Gwadar should be paired with Djibouti, Mombasa, and Dar es Salaam in facilitating “Global South” trade between China and Africa, the SLOC of which could be protected by the Pakistani Navy out of the self-interest that Islamabad also has in securing its own trade routes with the continent. Furthermore, Pakistan stands to gain immense strategic benefits if it can clinch a comprehensive and fast-moving partnership with Ethiopia that puts it in a position to “balance” relations between the Horn of African country and Egypt, as well as between the two rival states’ feuding Gulf allies. Should it work out as planned, then Pakistan would acquire an unparalleled importance to its partners that it could later leverage on a bilateral basis to advance its pecuniary, military, and other interests with each of them.

Altogether, the success of Pakistan’s ASGA strategy would also allow the country to justify more funding for its naval forces, which could provide a publicly plausible cover for investing in the SLBM technology that’s going to become absolutely necessary for piercing India’s missile defense shield in the next decade. It’s not to say that Pakistan can’t develop this program on its own and without ASGA, but just that appearances are very important and that it might be more acceptable to its domestic and international audiences if it does so under the pretense of investing in its surface convoys and trade ships, both of which would inevitably be empowered by more funding but which additionally serve to disguise the redirection of some financial assets to SLBM-related projects. One way or another, Pakistan is going to have to counter India’s efforts to neutralize its nuclear second-strike capabilities, and if it can do so while also profiting in a commercial and geostrategic sense, then it will have discovered the ultimate win-win policy for carrying out this urgent task.

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

US Military No Longer Cool With Narcotics Labs in Afghanistan, Bombs Them

An Afghan policeman decorates himself with opium plants as they destroy the crop, on a farm on March 14, 2013, in Babaji village-Helmand Province, south east Afghanistan. (Photo: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

An Afghan policeman decorates himself with opium plants as he destroys the crop on a farm on March 14, 2013, in Babaji village, Helmand Province, southeast Afghanistan. (Photo: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

The US Commander in Afghanistan announced several airstrikes on Sunday against opium production facilities, marking a shift in the Pentagon’s approach toward the booming illicit drug industry in the country.

Army Gen. John Nicholson reported that roughly ten opium laboratories in the Northern Helmand province were destroyed in the barrage.

The purported aim of the strikes was to cut off Taliban insurgents’ revenue streams.

The Washington Post noted the assault was the “first significant use” of new authorities President Trump bestowed upon the Pentagon, giving military commanders more latitude in targeting decisions.

Nicholson added that more strikes against Afghanistan’s opium network “will continue.” The Drug Enforcement Administration reports there are as many as 400 to 500 such facilities across the country.

Since the US occupation of Afghanistan began at the end of 2001, the Pentagon has been unable to get a handle on illegal opium production — despite spending vast sums on counternarcotics. In some cases, officials turned a blind eye to illegal drug activity when it was conducted by warlords who had forged alliances with the US during the war.

According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko, the US has spent $8 billion trying to stem the flow of Afghan narcotics.

Last year, Sopko told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he feared Afghanistan was descending into a “narco-terrorist state.”

One of the largest recipients of federal dollars to dismantle opium production in Afghanistan was the defense contracting firm Academi — formely known as Blackwater. According to data from SIGAR, Academi was paid $309 million between 2002 and 2013 to clamp down on drug manufacturing.

During that time, opium production steadily increased, and the total value of the crop grew by roughly $1 billion between 2012-2013.

Sunday’s strikes were carried out in conjunction with the Afghan armed forces.

“We’re determined to tackle criminal economy and narcotics trafficking with full force. It’s the main source of financing violence and terror,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Twitter Monday.

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