Archive | Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s Opium Trade: A Free Market of Racketeers

NOVANEWS

A visit to Afghan opium fields challenges the notion that the Taliban controls the lucrative trade.

Featured image: A man in an opium-yielding poppy field, Dara-i Mazor, Nurgal district, Kunar province, Afghanistan (May 2017) (Source: Franz J. Marty)

DARA-I MAZOR, NURGAL, KUNAR, AFGHANISTAN — It is only a short drive into a side valley just off the busy main road between Jalalabad and Asadabad, the capitals of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. The narrow dusty road passes fields of golden blades of wheat that slightly sway in the light breeze. Beyond the fields and the scattered verdant trees, barren craggy hills frame the valley called Dara-i Mazor in Kunar’s district of Nurgal. Across the small river, some of the traditional mud houses resemble tiny bulky castles, hinting at the fact that Afghanistan’s violent past dates much further back than the U.S. or Soviet-led invasions.

Behind a low farm house that lies quietly in the shadows of surrounding trees, there is yet another wheat field. But next to it several patches of land are covered in other plants whose single green stems topped by golf-ball sized pods rise above the bushy leaves at their roots. It is opium-yielding poppy.

Opium has an analgesic effect and is the base for morphine, heroin, and other opioids that are used for medical purposes, but also for illegal drug consumption. Afghanistan accounts for some 70 percent of the global opium production, according to the World Drug Report 2016 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Although poppy cultivation is concentrated in southern Afghanistan, it can be found throughout the country. And while opium production is more prevalent in ungoverned areas like Dara-i Mazor, it also exists in government-controlled zones, as security forces, often struggling to keep insurgents at bay, are hardly able to prevent poppy cultivation.

In Kunar, early May was the end of the short harvest season, which takes places right after the white or dark pink poppy flowers have withered and only the green capsules remain. This can be earlier or later in other regions of the country, depending on the local conditions.

The harvest itself is a labor-intensive task. Every single poppy pod has to be lanced with a tool with several tiny blades at its end. Once lanced, the opium latex immediately leaks out of the razor-thin scratches (in Dara-i Mazor the sap is a light pink, but experts say that it is usually white at first before it oxidates in the air, quickly turning to a pink and later dark brown color). The valuable latex is just liquid enough to drip out, but still gooey enough to stick to the pod and to not drop to the ground. Normally, the capsules are then left until the next day. However, given my short visit, the locals showed me right away how they skim the leaked-out opium from the pod with another tool that looks like a broad sickle.

Skimmed opium latex in a field in Dara-i Mazor (May 2017)

One farmer, a young man with a neatly trimmed beard and pitch black, greasy hair, stated that about 60 percent of his fields are poppy. And this is not an exception. Asked for his reason to plant poppy, he said that he is forced to do it because other crops would yield little profit. This was also asserted by other farmers in Nurgal and Shigal, another district of Kunar. However, they don’t claim that other crops would yield no profit, raising the question of whether they are only engaging in poppy cultivation for the higher profits that no licit crop can possibly generate.

But according to Dr. David Mansfield, a senior researcher for the London School of Economics and the Afghan Research & Evaluation Unit who has worked on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for almost two decades, profit-maximization is not the driving force behind the decision. Afghan farmers would rather try to balance their livelihoods, secure a certain degree of food self-sufficiency, use their soil sustainably (which also means changing or rotating different crops), and mitigate risks of crop failures. Thus, the monetary profit is only one of many factors in the farmers’ decisions.

In any event, Mansfield asserted that – in his years of experience across Afghanistan and despite allegations to the contrary – he has never met a single farmer that was physically coerced into cultivating opium. Reports also often suggest that farmers are de facto forced to sow poppy as they are dependent on advance payments that they can obtain for the future opium harvest or have no other choice than to produce opium to repay loans. However, sources explained that the system of advance payments on future harvests has dramatically decreased in past years and also exists for other crops. And although economic pressure plays a role, according to UNODC, “having outstanding loans did not emerge as a differentiating factor for cultivating opium since the percentage of farmers under debt or with outstanding loans were similar [whether they grew poppy or not].”

Hence, the often-portrayed image that insurgents or mafia-like groups exploit the farmers’ weaknesses, forcing them to cultivate opium, does not match the reality. The decision to sow poppy is rather  – sometimes more, sometimes less – freely taken by the farmers themselves.

Man skimming opium latex from a poppy capsule, Dara-i Mazor (May 2017)

In the subsequent sale of raw opium the farmers are far from being at the mercy of a cartel. Farmers in Nurgal and Shigal stated that numerous merchants come separately to the farms to buy opium and that they would usually only buy a very few kilograms – which is, even for a small farmer, only a fraction of his whole yield (according to the UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey, in 2016 “the average opium yield amounted to 23.8 kilograms per hectare”). This makes opium even more attractive for farmers, as – contrary to other crops – they don’t have to transport their harvest over often underdeveloped and sometimes dangerous roads to a market.

Asked about the merchants, farmers described them as independent actors that try to make a profit by reselling the narcotic for a higher price, but assert that they do not belong to any specific group or cartel. This was confirmed by an opium trafficker who asked to not be identified. It was also confirmed by two experts, who added that – while there are certain regional differences – the sale of small portions of the opium yield to several independent merchants is the norm across Afghanistan.

This does not exclude the involvement of some larger, more powerful dealers or even criminal networks. But they don’t control the market and are just some among many actors. In this regard, the opium trafficker even asserted that bigger networks would usually only play a larger role once the raw opium is processed to heroin. This is, however, further down the chain and does not affect the farmers directly.

Given the above, the fluctuating price of opium at the farm-gate is not unfairly dictated by the buyers, but set according to various conditions of a rather free market. And even though it is a fraction of heroin prices on the end markets, it is still a small fortune by Afghan standards. UNODC put the average price of one kilogram of dry opium at the farm-gate in eastern Afghanistan in 2016 at $239. Farmers in Nurgal and Shigal as well as the opium trafficker claimed to sell dry opium even for 25,000 to 35,000 Pakistani rupees (about $240 to $335) per kilogram (the indication of Pakistani rupee is not out of the ordinary, as in parts of eastern Afghanistan, Pakistani rather than Afghan currency is the norm).

Raw opium from Dara-i Mazor (May 2017)

Such prices are hard to verify though and might be flawed. Moreover, setting this into perspective is difficult. Compared to the monthly salary of an average Afghan worker in the capital Kabul, which amounts to around $200, opium sales prices appear very high. However, it has to be taken into account that those prices are qualified by significant production costs and that the farmers live in a different socioeconomic setting.

Be that as it may, farmers sometimes even hold back raw opium, which does not spoil, in order to wait for better sales prices — yet another sign of a free market.

In view of all this and contrary to common perception, the opium sale at the Afghan farm-gate is not in the iron grip of the Taliban or powerful cartels, but rather a loose open market in which numerous independent farmers and racketeers try to get their share of this profitable illicit trade.

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Taliban Attacks NATO Convoy ”Video” 

NOVANEWS

On Friday, a Taliban suicide bomber driving a car bomb slammed into a convoy of NATO forces near Kandahar Airbase in Trank Pul area of Kandahar province.

Kandahar provincial governor spokesperson, Fazal Bari Baryalai, said the attack “totally destroyed” one of the vehicles carrying Romanian soldiers.

NATO’s spokesperson confirmed a “small number” of soldiers were wounded. However, the Taliban news agency Voice of Jihad claimed that at least seven NATO soldiers were killed in the attack.

According to Afghan sources, Afghan Army bases in Abgarmak and Chinaee areas in Ghormach district of Faryab province in northern Afghanistan are under the Taliban siege for two months now.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said that the Afghan army is now working to reopen the way to the bases. Meanwhile, the Afghan military airdrops supplies to the besieged soldiers.

The Taliban is expanding rapidly in northern Afghanistan, especially in Faryab province. On Thursday, Voice of Jihad announced that the Taliban captured 5 villages – Qarai, Chakna, Balai Bam and Jawdana – in the province.

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Afghan protesters – US killing women and children

NOVANEWS

Will Afghanistan remain locked into this time warp of warlord feudalism?

[ Note: You just can’t make this stuff up. The US, after all these years and countless billions, has air-dropped leaflets asking Afghans to report Taliban positions, but used one of the most degrading images for Afghans possible, putting an Afghan face on a dog as it is being lead around by the Taliban.

This is the classic “shoot yourself in both feet” deal. We will never learn, as it seems we don’t want to. So this is another example of why America is not exceptional in the tradition sense. A case could be made for its being exceptionally brazen, rude, aggressive and insensitive.

Sure we give out a lot of money, but much of it with ulterior motives, and all of it now is borrowed money that will be on the backs of our current grandchildren. Nobody lets me give away money that someone else has to pay back. I fear that could be rather corrupting.

The main case I make in this interview is that if the US really wanted to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, then it would be going after a political settlement with the Taliban, which it is not. So one must assume that it wants the ongoing war to continue.

The biggest reason for the war seems to be that the Deep Staters do not want Afghanistan’s natural resources brought onto the market any time soon. But I think they are fine with the heroin traffic, as they are getting a cut of that unholy pie, year after year.

This all goes back to 9-11, and makes the case as to why it was done, that and our $20-trillion debt now, and whose pockets do you thinks that money went into? They are the number one suspects… Jim W. Dean ]

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What a huge mistake these stupid leaflets were!

–  First published  …  September  12, 2017  –

In Afghanistan, people have rallied against the presence of U-S troops in their country. The rally near the Bagram airbase came after U-S troops spread leaflets that the protesters deemed offensive toward Muslims. The demonstrators set tires on fire and waved placards slamming U-S president Donald Trump.

They said Washington had been bombing Afghans and killing women and children throughout the country. Earlier this month, Trump ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan. The country has been witnessing insecurity years after the U-S attacked it in 20-01.

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The People of Afghanistan Have Had Truly Enough of Western Imperialist Barbarism

NOVANEWS

Interview with Andre Vltchek by Alessandro Biancchi, Chief Editor of Anti-Diplomatico

 

Alessandro Bianchi: The geographic location of Afghanistan has always occupied a central role. The April peace talks between Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Russia and China seemed to have put an end to the persistent and dominant American presence in the country. What’s your opinion?

Andre Vltchek: What you have mentioned is extremely important, but I’m not ready to celebrate, yet. This could be, at least in theory, the first step towards the end of one of the most destructive and brutal occupations in NATO’s history, or in what the US mainstream press likes to describe as “the longest American war.”

Let us also not call it only the “American presence”. I know some Europeans lately love to portray themselves as some kind of victims, but they are definitely not. Europe is at the core of this entire global nightmare. And the US is nothing else other than its creation: it is Europe’s offspring. In many ways, the United States is Europe.

The UK is now well behind this horror through which Afghanistan is being forced to go through, at least theoretically; a sadistic revenge for all former British defeats in the country. The UK is responsible for more massacres worldwide than any other country on Earth. And now it is shaping the US and in fact the entire Western imperialism, ideologically. Its Machiavellianism, its propaganda machine is second to none.

What I can confirm from my first-hand experience is that by now the people of Afghanistan have had truly enough of this Western imperialist barbarism. They are exhausted after 16 years of the horror invasion. They dislike the West; mistrust the West… But most of them are silent, because they are constantly being frightened into submission. And also remember: collaboration with the Western occupation forces is now the greatest ‘business’ in the country. Afghan diplomats, many politicians, countless military commanders, Western-funded NGOs, even thousands of educators, are all serving the occupiers. Billions of dollars are being made from such shameful collaboration.It is all one huge business, and the mafia of servile Afghan ‘journalists’, diplomats, governors and ‘educators’ will never leave their lucrative positions voluntarily.

Western colonialism corrupts! It corrupts one generation after another in all conquered, occupied countries.

Afghans who are pure, Afghans who are proud, true patriots with beautiful hearts (and there are still many of such people in this country that became one of my favorite places on Earth) have presently no power, no say.

Fortunately, even the elites are now realizing that there is no way forward under the present regime, and under the present foreign rule.

In Kabul and in the provinces, people are beginning to look towards Russia, China, but also Iran, even India. Despite its terrible past track record in this part of the world, even Pakistan cannot be ignored, anymore. Anything is better than NATO.

AB: Like in other parts of the world, the presence of American troops does not fully explain the long-term goals of military planners. Afghanistan in some respects resembles a similar situation to Southeast Asia. In South Korea, the American presence has persisted since 1950, and with it the destabilization of the Korean peninsula. The American surge will not change the delicate balance negotiated between the parties back in April and it will not affect the efforts of Moscow and Beijing to stabilize the country. How do you define the US presence today in Afghanistan?

AV: I define it as inhuman, barbaric and thoroughly racist. And I’m not talking about the US presence only, but also about the European presence, particularly the British one.

There could be absolutely no doubts regarding how deep once-socialist Afghanistan has sank under the NATO cruelty. It is enough to go even to the sites of the UNDP or the WHO and it all there, in details: Afghanistan is now the least ‘developed’ (using HDI criteria) country in Asia. Afghan people have the lowest life expectancy on their continent.

The US alone claims that it has managed to spend, since the invasion in 2001, between 750 billion and 1.2 trillion dollars. That’s huge, an astronomical amount, even bigger than the entire Marshall Plan after WWII (adjusted to today’s dollar)! But has it been spent to help the Afghan people? Of course not! It has gone mainly into corrupting of ‘elites’ and their offspring, into the military, into the salaries of foreign contractors. Huge military bases were built; some were at some point decommissioned, others were moved somewhere else. Airports were constructed – all of them military ones. Private Western security firms are having a ball. I once calculated that if all that money were to be equally divided between all Afghans, the country would have had a much higher income per capita than relatively affluent Malaysia, for 16 consecutive years!

What the West has done to Afghanistan is insane! It is Orwell meeting Huxley, and all mixed with the worst nightmares of painters like George Grosz and Otto Dix.

Old trolley bus lines built by the former Czechoslovakia are gone; only stumps are left. But so much is still surviving. Soviet apartment buildings, so-called Makroyans, are still standing and flats there are in great demand to date. Water ducts in the countryside were built by Soviet Union, and so were irrigation canals around Jalalabad and elsewhere. India built dams. China constructed public medical facilities. What did the West create? Nothing else other than total misery, armed conflicts and above all–countless military barracks, tall concrete walls and fences, the drug trade, intellectual prostitution and as always, dark and complete nihilism!

In 2007, around 700 Afghan civilians were killed by Western airstrikes alone, a great increase even when compared with 2006.

Georgian military contractors who are working for the US occupation army recently told me: US have total spite for Afghan people. They even destroy unused food at its military bases, instead of giving it to starving children.

People of Afghanistan know perfectly well who are their friends, and who are enemies.

AB: The world is changing, and more and more fruitful efforts to replace the chaos wrought by US policies can be seen. The road to economic prosperity and a re-established unity among the Afghan people is still a work in progress, but once the country manages to establish its independence, Washington will have a hard time dictating conditions. Will countries like Russia, China and India be able to prevent a dangerous escalation in Afghanistan?

AV: Many people in Afghanistan are actually dreaming about true independence, and most of them remember with great love, all the kindness and internationalism given to them by the Soviet people. Unlike the Westerners, the Soviets came here first as teachers, doctors, nurses and engineers. They shared with the locals all that they had. They lived among them. They never hid behind fences. To date, in Afghanistan, you say you are Russian, and dozens of people will embrace you, invite you to their homes. It is all in stark contrast to the Western propaganda, which says that Afghans dislike Russians!

When it comes to Russia and China, yes, both countries acting in concert would be able to bring economic prosperity and social justice to Afghanistan. I’m not so sure about India, which is, until now, clearly sitting on two chairs, but definitely China and Russia are ready and able to help.

The problem is that Afghanistan is still very far from any sort of independence. The West has occupied it for 16 years, that’s terrible enough. But the country has also been sacrificed for the even more sinister designs of the US and NATO, for much longer than that: Afghanistan has been, for decades, a training ground for the pro-western jihadi cadres, starting with Al-Qaeda/Mujahedeen (during the ‘Soviet War’ and the war against Afghan socialism). Now the Taliban is ruining the country, but also, increasingly, ISIS are murdering all in sight here. Recently, ISIS have been arriving from Syria and Lebanon, where they are in the process of being defeated by the Syrian army, by the Russians, but also by the Lebanese forces and Hezbollah. The ISIS was, as is well known, created by the West and its allies in the Gulf.

This is essential to understand: two countries that the West wants to fully destabilize are Russia and China. In both of them, Islamist fundamentalists have been fighting and bringing horrible damage. The West is behind all this. And it is using and sacrificing Afghanistan which is absolutely perfect for the Western imperialist designs due to its geographical location, but also because it is now fully destabilized and in a state of chaos. In Afghanistan, NATO is maintaining ‘perpetual conflict’. Jihadi cadres can be easily hardened there, and then they can be ‘exported’; to go and fight somewhere in Northwest China or in the Central Asian parts of Russia.

The destruction of Afghanistan is actually a well-planned genocidal war of the West against the Afghan people. But the country is also a training ground for jihadists who will eventually be sent to fight against Russia and China.

AB: While the United States exhales the last breaths as a declining global power, no longer able to impose its will, it lashes out in pointless acts like lobbing 60 cruise missiles at Syria or sending 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. Such acts do not change anything on the ground or modify the balance of forces in Washington’s favor. They do, however, have a strong impact on further reducing whatever confidence remains in the US, closing the door to opportunities for dialogue and cooperation that might have otherwise got on the table.

AV: Here I have to strongly disagree. I’m almost certain that the West in general, and the United States in particular, are clearly aware of what they are doing. The US has some of the most sinister colonial powers as its advisers, particularly the United Kingdom.

The US will not simply go down the drain without a great fight, and don’t ever think that Europe would either. These two parts of the world were built on the great plunder of the planet. They still are. They cannot sustain themselves just from the fruits of their brains and labor. They are perpetual thieves. The US can never be separated from Europe. The US is just one huge branch growing from an appalling trunk, from the tree of European colonialism, imperialism and racism.

Whatever the US, Europe and NATO are presently doing is brilliantly planned. Never under-estimate them! It is all brutal, sinister and murderous planning, but from a strictly strategic point of view, it is truly brilliant!

And they will never go away on their own! They will have to be fought and defeated. Otherwise they are here to stay: in Afghanistan, in Syria, or anywhere else.

AB: What is the role of Italian troops that you have seen in your last visit to Afghanistan?

Italian troops took over ancient Citadel in Herat City (Source: Andre Vltchek)

AV: It is a usual cocktail consisting of what Italian fascism has been made of throughout its colonialist, fascist and NATO eras: a medley of cruelty, hypocrisy, as well as some great hope in Rome that Italy could finally become a competent and ‘respected’ occupier… I saw the Italian troops in Herat… They occupied an ancient citadel of the city, jumping like members of some second-rate ballet troupe all around, just because some high-ranking Italian officer was bringing his family to visit the site. It was all tremendously embarrassing… I still have some photos from that ‘event’. But the best thing about Italians as occupiers is that they can hardly be taken seriously; they are disorganized, chaotic, and hedonistic even during war.

I actually love to see them in such places like Afghanistan, because they do very little damage. They are true showoffs. The French, Brits, and the US – they are efficient and brutal, true killing machines. Italians are still better at making movies, writing poetry and cooking, than murdering locals in occupied foreign countries.

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Endless Regional Chaos: American Presence in Afghanistan

The geographic location of Afghanistan has always occupied a central role in many geopolitical studies. Donald Trump’s reasons for reinforcing US troops in the region are driven by the continuing US need to prevent a complete Eurasian integration among regional powers.

The April peace talks between Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Russia and China seemed to have put an end to the persistent and dominant American presence in the country. In Washington, following fifteen years of war and a series of failures, many had come to the conclusion that the time had come for the United States to return home.

Trump had throughout his electoral campaign criticized the foreign policy of his predecessors, giving the indication that he would be looking to leave Afghanistan once he assumed the presidency.

The road plan for Afghanistan laid out by the April peace talks seemed to offer the prospect of national reconciliation between the Taliban and the central authority in Kabul, assisted by parties with great interest in the country like India and Pakistan, given their geographic proximity, as well as Russia, China and Turkey.

The first talks in April 2017 capitalized on America’s absence at the conference as well as on the will of the protagonists to reach an agreement after fifteen years of war and terror. Afghanistan is a key crossroad in the eastward expansion strategy that illustrates the special partnership between Russia and China, as seen with the steady progress of the Silk Road 2.0 initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union. Given Afghanistan’s geographic position, sharing boundaries with Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, it is useful to emphasize the role the country could play as a commercial and energy hub in the not too distant future.

Due to incompetence or perhaps due to facing insurmountable pressures, Donald Trump is undergoing a gradual and inexorable diminution with the elimination of all the most representative members of his administration. At the same time, the appointment of military personnel to civilian roles has pushed the administration into unexplored directions not foreshadowed in the electoral campaign. Trump spoke of less US military presence in the internal affairs of other nations. But as we shall see, nothing could be further from the truth.

The appointment of Generals McMaster, Kelly and Mattis (Mattis perhaps being the most powerful US defense secretary since the end of World War II) is Trump’s attempt to withstand and bargain with the most significant elements of America’s deep state. A strong military component in the White House helps ensure continuity in US foreign policy. Contrary to what was professed during the elections, Donald Trump immediately traded American foreign policy in exchange for explicit GOP backing for key legislation that will help secure a 2020 re-election. Without bills on health, tax and immigration reform being passed, there will be no arguments in favor of the GOP and Trump during the midterm and presidential elections in 2018 and 2020 respectively.

The deep state in Washington has slowly but inexorably taken over Trump’s presidency, a task made all the simpler by Trump’s character, which dismisses his lack of experience with an overweening self-confidence. The military component of the deep state, in concert with GOP leaders, took less than six months to quash Trump’s electoral promises and turn the president’s foreign policy into a dangerous reprise of the Obama and Bush years.

More and more frequently, American intervention in foreign lands lead to situations of uncontrollable chaos, with no real central authority able to govern and obey Washington’s orders. The current state of the Middle East is reflective of this. In Afghanistan, Washington, especially Mattis, is cognizant of the country’s rebirth under Sino-Russian leadership after fifteen years of America’s presence. This is a scenario that the US deep state is not willing to tolerate.

Leaving aside Afghanistan’s huge amounts of natural resources (about one trillion in precious metals), as well as its strategic location linking east and west, a peaceful Afghanistan led by a single central authority would hardly cohere with US objectives in the country. The US loves to consider itself the indispensable nation for peace in Afghanistan, when actually it is the main obstacle to peace.

For American foreign policy continuity, Afghanistan needs to remain in a chaotic situation. Above all, the US military industrial complex is not willing to surrender its political and military power in the country, only to be substituted by Moscow or Beijing. With these unofficial motives, General Mattis announced a surge of several thousand American troops to the country. It is immediately clear that numerically and tactically, four or five thousand soldiers will make no difference. The intent is purely demonstrative, as seen in Syria with a few missiles lobbed at an empty airbase. The purpose is to send a clear and unambiguous message to Russia, China, Pakistan and even India, to the effect that without American consensus, no strategic reorganization is permissible in Afghanistan.

General Mattis and all those who for decades have been constantly thinking of MacKinder’s geopolitical theory (Heartland Theory) are aware of the strategic importance of keeping Afghanistan hostile towards regional powers like China and Russia. The USSR’s war in defense of the country, and the socialist superpower’s subsequent collapse, offers a historical warning.

In April, Moscow and Beijing, with the tacit approval of New Delhi and Islamabad, launched a peace process in Kabul that should have facilitated talks between the central authority and the Taliban to bring about a truce that would bring to an end the violence and destruction that had over fifteen years left the country bleeding in endless poverty and suffering.

The American surge will not advance American interests in the country. It will not change the delicate balance negotiated between the parties back in April. It will not affect the efforts of Moscow and Beijing to stabilize the country. It will only buy Washington more time by bombing and killing civilians, always viewed by American generals as an acceptable and privileged option available to them.

Like in other parts of the world, the presence of American troops does not fully explain the long-term goals of military planners. Afghanistan in some respects resembles a similar situation to Southeast Asia. In South Korea, the American presence has persisted since 1950, and with it the destabilization of the Korean peninsula. As in Asia, the central purpose of the American presence in Afghanistan is to occupy geo-strategic zones in order to prevent Eurasian integration between powers like India, China and Russia. Secondly, it is the constant presence of troops and military bases in locations close to or around the two major powers of China and Russia that aims to overburden and thereby diminish the defensive capabilities of these two strategic threats. In 1962, when the USSR did something similar in response to the US deployment of patriot missiles in Turkey, it started building up its offensive capability in the Western Hemisphere using Cuba as a military base. The US was willing to go to war to halt this domestic threat and for weeks the world was on the verge of a nuclear conflict. Only dialogue between American and Soviet leaders averted this threat to human existence.

Conclusions

Washington cares for nothing other than its own interests. But twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, the world is changing, and more and more fruitful efforts to replace the chaos wrought by US policies can be seen with peaceful, mutually beneficial cooperation increasingly being the order of the day. The road to economic prosperity and a re-established unity among the Afghan people is still a work in progress, but once the country manages to establish its independence, Washington will have a hard time dictating conditions. Countries like Russia, China and India have every intention of using diplomacy and peacekeeping to prevent a dangerous escalation in Afghanistan.

India and China have some divergence over the future of the region, but by the start of the 2017 BRICS conference, they had already resolved a border dispute that lasted over two months. The ability to create diverse organizations like BRICS, AIIB and SCO provides the opportunity to begin any kind of negotiation with a legal and economic foundation. This represents a commendable example of overcoming differences through diplomacy and economic benefits.

While the United States exhales the last breaths as a declining global power, no longer able to impose its will, it lashes out in pointless acts like lobbing 60 cruise missiles at Syria or sending 4000 troops to Afghanistan. Such acts do not change anything on the ground or modify the balance of forces in Washington’s favor. They do, however, have a strong impact on further reducing whatever confidence remains in the US, closing the door to opportunities for dialogue and cooperation that may otherwise have offered themselves.

Trump promised isolationism. His generals, behind the scenes, have managed to make this electoral promise come true, leaving Washington alone in the international arena in the near term.

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Fighting drugs, the most forgotten in new US Afghan strategy

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16 years after the US invasion on the pretext of ousting Taliban, not only the group has not been destroyed in Afghanistan, but the poppy cultivation in the war-torn country has reached record high, creating an alarming situation for the whole world.

__________
IRNA
Fighting drugs, the most forgotten in new US Afghan strategy

Despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan to secure the country and bring peace and development for Afghans, it has changed into the world’s main producer of opium.

By November 2001, the collapse of the economy and the scarcity of other sources of revenue forced many of the country’s farmers to resort to growing opium for export.

According to a data released by US departments in media almost 60,000 US citizens died from drugs in the year 2016 most of which comes from Afghanistan.

The US government in last 16 years has spent more than seven billion dollars on stopping heroin from Afghanistan whereas more than 5 billion US dollars every year are earned by mostly the Taliban in Afghanistan from this illicit and deadly drug.

According to the EU agencies, Afghanistan has been Europe’s main heroin supplier for more than 10 years.

Experts believe that the fight against Taliban can never be won unless the heroin producing crop, poppy is not eliminated in Afghanistan. It is financial capability which empowers Taliban to buy sophisticated weapons each year.

Some countries want to have more trade with Afghanistan to help their economy, but they are afraid of drugs which means during tracking is a hurdle for boosting Afghan trade.

Assisted by some other countries, Afghanistan has been trying to fight opium cultivation, including eradicating the crop before harvesting, but the efforts have so far achieved success.

Till this date not a single big drug dealer has been arrested in Afghanistan on charges of Heroin smuggling.

Fierce fighting in poppy-growing regions shows the Taliban’s determination to protect their trafficking routes and from government forces under orders to eradicate the crop.

While announcing his new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, US President Donald Trump had said that more troops would be sent to Afghanistan for bringing peace in Afghanistan, but he failed to reveal any mechanism to deal with the poppy cultivation and drug trafficking in the country which is a threat not only for the US, but the whole world.

The increase in poppy cultivation under US presence in Afghanistan has become a serious concern. It may be correct to say that presence of the US in Afghanistan is adding fuel to the afghan problem and the example of increasing poppy production is clear example of that.

If the US is sincere in its claims to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, the most useful thing it can do, is leaving the poor country immediately and let Afghan people and other regional countries to find a peaceful solution to issue of Afghanistan.

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Taliban Leader Claims that Group Controls Over Half of Afghanistan.

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Taliban Leader Claims that Group Controls Over Half of Afghanistan. “Taliban Not Connected to Terrorist Attacks”

Featured image: Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada (Source: South Front)

Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada in a message on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha announced that the departure of all American and NATO forces from Afghanistan is the only solution to end the war and violence in Afghanistan.

He also denied any Taliban links with terrorist attacks and declared that the Taliban controls more than half of the country. However, this claim contradicts to the info provided by the US military.

Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that government forces control 62% of the country and the Taliban controls only 10%. The rest of the area is contested, according to the general.

The Pentagon has also confirmed that there are about 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan, including regular troops and special forces. The US is going to send about 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan under the newly declared strategy in the country.

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Watch: Brave Congressman Explains How US Keeps Afghan Heroin Trade Alive at Your Expense

NOVANEWS

Congressman Thomas Massie blows the lid off the US subsidized opium trade and taxpayer funds flowing into the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

 

Featured image: MARJAH, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Corporal Mark Hickok, a 23-year-old combat engineer from North Olmstead, Ohio, patrols through a field during a clearing mission April 9. Marines with Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, learned basic route clearance techniques from engineers like Hickok, who are deployed with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John M. McCall)

This week, President Donald Trump, just like his predecessor Obama, promised to continue the utterly corrupt failure of a brutal occupation that is Afghanistan—despite running on a campaign to end it. For decades, the United States has been subsidizing—to the tune of billions of US tax dollars—failed projects, infrastructure, military, police, and yes, even terrorism. Yet Afghanistan is worse off today than they were before the government lied to Americans, claiming they were responsible for 9/11 instead of Saudi Arabia.

In a recent speech on the state of the Afghanistan quagmire, Congressman Thomas Massie (R) KY, exposed some hard truths that very few people in Washington are courageous enough to address. While most politicians cheered Trump’s insane decision to increase US presence in Afghanistan this week, Massie Blew the lid off of it.

For years, Massie has pointed out that the US has blown billions of dollars on failed projects alone. As of last year, the number of failed projects totaled over 100 billion.

To put this number in perspective, the entire amount of money the United States allocates to spend on rebuilding America’s crumbling highways every year is less than half of what it’s blown on failed projects alone in Afghanistan.

In addition to $ trillion+ war, we’ve spent $113 billion rebuilding Afghan… that’s 2x our own $50 billion annual federal highway spending!

Massie noted that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on a hydroelectric damn that the US thought the Taliban would destroy. However, they did not destroy it. Want to know why, Massie asked,

“The get the electricity! We’re paying the light bill for the Taliban now. They get 30 percent of the electricity in exchange for not blowing it up, or shooting the operators who are running the damn.”

US taxpayer dollars go to a hydroelectric dam in Afghanistan that provides 30% of its power to the Taliban. What’s the goal in Afghanistan?

But it’s not just the wasted money giving terrorists electricity, the US is also protecting and funding the drug trade.

Of that wasted $100 billion, $8 billion was spent failing to eradicate the Afghan opium trade. Not only did the this massive amount of money not stop the opium trade and production but it doubled it!

USA spent $8billion to eradicate poppy in Afghanistan and they doubled annual production of poppy (opium). What’s wrong with this picture?

Western profiteers are making a figurative killing off of heroin for the literal killing of people in Afghanistan.

former British Territorial Army mechanic, Anthony C Heaford released a report three years ago, and a series of photos, which he says proves that British and American troops are harvesting opium in Afghanistan.

It is also no secret that Afghanistan opium production has increased by 3,500 percent, from 185 tons in 2001 to 6,400 in 2015, since the US-led invasion.

In the video below, Massie explains how he asked the inspector general why they don’t just spray herbicide on all the poppy fields to eradicate the plants. Massie was told they cannot eradicate the plants as the Taliban needs the money from opium production.

“By the way,” Massie explained, “The Taliban used to prevent people from growing poppy.”

If you think that Trump doesn’t know that a continued US occupation of Afghanistan will lead to a larger heroin epidemic, more innocent civilians killed, more troops needless dying, and more terrorism, think again. For years, Trump decried the war on Terror, pointing out the horrific nature of occupation.

Ron Paul is right when he says we are wasting lives and money in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024-with all costs by U.S.A. MAKE AMERICA GREAT!

Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.

But things change, according to Trump, and once he got in the White House, he magically saw the serious need to continue the waste and destruction in Afghanistan.

The lunacy of continuing the occupation in Afghanistan, knowing the only ones who benefit from it are warlords, drug cartels, the CIA, terrorists, and the military industrial complex, is staggering.

Innocent people will die, your children’s children will be forever indebted to the Federal Reserve, and the global war machine—which knows no home country—will be empowered and expanded. For what?

“I had hoped the Afghanistan war would end soon, but now it’s inevitable that babies born during the war will be deploying to the war in 2019,” Massie said shortly after Trump’s speech Monday night.

Sadly, Massie is only accompanied by a handful of people in the house and senate in his stance. The overwhelming majority want more war because their lobbyists tell them that’s what will keep them in their seat.

As you listen to the speech below, remember, every single representative, senator, and adviser, all the way up to Trump, knows these facts, yet they choose to perpetuate them.

This is not only shameful—it’s criminal. Troops aren’t protecting your freedom in Afghanistan, they are being used to enrich a corrupt group of sadistic elites. Please share this article with your friends and family to show them the destructive, deadly, and criminal act of continuing a war in Afghanistan.

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Reporting on Trump’s Afghan Escalation Omits Dead Afghan Civilians

NOVANEWS
 

As President Donald Trump tries to make the case for staying indefinitely in Afghanistan, the stakes for those actually living there are rarely broached by US corporate media.

In dozens of write-ups, recaps and reports on Trump’s “major” Afghan War speech, almost no outlets took time out to note the plight or condition of the people the US is nominally there to save. The New York Times (8/21/178/22/17), Washington Post (8/21/17), Chicago Tribune (8/22/17), CNN (8/21/178/21/17), NBC News (8/21/17), ABC News (8/21/17) and CBS News (8/21/17), among others, didn’t mention the Afghan death toll at all in their summary of events in the region.

Almost all, however, reserved airtime and column inches to mention the number of US soldiers and cost to the US treasury—presumably the only moral metric that matters. One notable exception was Ali Velshi at MSNBC (8/21/17), who did mention live on air how many Afghans were killed in the first half of 2017—a scope curiously limited to the term of the current Republican president, but an improvement on silence nonetheless.

US media also continued their rich tradition of not blaming the US or Trump for the war—instead laying responsibility at the feet of some unknown geopolitical dark matter that has forced the US to occupy Afghanistan permanently. The US isn’t waging ongoing war in the Central Asian country; it is simply “stuck,” according to the AP (8/21/17) and the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty. Trump isn’t continuing the occupation; according to the Sacramento Bee (8/21/17); he “Keeps US Stuck in Afghanistan Quagmire.” The US doesn’t seek further war and occupation, but to “break free from the quagmire,” the Chicago Tribune(8/22/17) spells out.* Bush, Obama and Trump didn’t make a deliberate choice to bomb Afghanistan, according to PBS’s Judy Woodruff (8/21/17);  attacking the country just became “the burden of three presidents.” War was consistently depicted as being thrust upon the US government by forces outside of its control.

The number of Afghan civilians killed during the 16-year US military occupation is well over 31,000, according to researchers at Brown University. The average American couldn’t possibly know this fact, since it’s almost never mentioned when weighing the cost/benefit ratio of further military occupation and bombing.

Just as the thousands killed in Yemen by US-backed Saudi bombing don’t inform coverage of the famine there, the causal effect of US military action on poor, faceless brown people is never clearly laid out. The US bombs and, on a totally separate note, people are dying. That the United States may be causing the suffering, and could choose to stop doing so, is never really considered, much less argued in any meaningful way.

*The Chicago Tribune editorial does mention civilian deaths, referring to a 2016 UN report, but the paper attributes them solely to “ambushes and suicide bomb attacks” by insurgent forces, whereas the UN holds the US and the US-backed government responsible for nearly a quarter of the carnage there. The Tribunealso misstates the UN civilian death toll more than threefold, confusing deaths with casualties (which include injuries).

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Trump’s Afghan Strategy: Forever War and Occupation

NOVANEWS

Trump’s Monday address on Afghanistan didn’t surprise. What a difference an election makes!

In 2013, he tweeted:

“We should have a speedy withdrawal” from Afghanistan. “Why should we keep wasting our money – rebuild the US!”

In 2014, he denounced Obama for “keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year. He is losing two wars simultaneously.”

In 2015, he called US Middle East wars a “mess…a terrible mistake. We made a terrible mistake getting involved there in the first place.”

“We had real brilliant thinkers that didn’t know what the hell they were doing. And it’s a mess. It’s a mess. And at this point, you probably have to (stay) because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave. Just as I said that Iraq was going to collapse after we leave.”

He called for keeping 5,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan, asking:

“Do I love anything about it? No. I think it’s important…that we keep a presence there…”

Days after his inauguration, he addressed Afghanistan, saying “(i)t is carnage. It’s horrible carnage,” suggesting it’s time to get out – before delegating warmaking authority to hawkish generals.

In 2016, he called war in Iraq “a terrible and a stupid thing. It’s going to destabilize the Middle East. And that’s exactly what it’s done. It’s been a disaster.”

He escalated the rape and destruction of Mosul on his watch, massacring thousands of civilians – Tal Afar his latest target, 50 miles west of Mosul, a city of 200,000 in 2014.

How many thousands of civilians will die before US terror-bombing ends? When will the rape of Raqqa end? How many more regional targets does he intend to ravage and destroy, defenseless civilians paying the greatest price?

Trump is hostage to America’s military/industrial complex like his predecessors. The Clinton co-presidency raped Yugoslavia, intermittently terror-bombed Iraq, among other high crimes.

GW Bush blustered about being a “wartime president.” Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama bragged about waging war throughout his tenure – naked aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Trump continued what his predecessors began, escalating war in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, along with invading Somalia for the first time since withdrawal of US forces in 1994.

On Monday, he announced forever war and occupation of Afghanistan, escalating a long ago lost cause instead of responsibly ending what never should have been launched.

His remarks didn’t surprise, saying America “must seek an honorable and enduring outcome…a plan for victory.”

There’s nothing “honorable” about naked aggression, no possible “victory,” no “enduring outcome” as long as US and allied forces occupy the country.

Trump lied saying pullout “would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, would instantly fill…” America created and supports ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The way to end their threat is by no longer arming, funding, training and directing their fighters. War in Afghanistan and other US theaters has nothing to do with combating terrorists used as imperial foot soldiers.

Trump’s address was warmed-over Bush/Cheney and Obama, along with war goddess Hillary as secretary of state.

Thousands more US troops will be deployed to Afghanistan, Trump not disclosing numbers or other details, wanting information about escalated war kept secret.

US forces coming home in body bags make disturbing headlines. Others wounded and disabled go unreported – for many their lives shattered, devastated by disabling injuries and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For some, suicide ends their ordeal on active duty or after leaving the military.

A Monday article explained why America came to Afghanistan to stay. The country is strategically important, a Central Asia geopolitical prize close to Russia.

Controlling it is part of a plan to encircle Russia and China with US military bases – part of a longterm regime change strategy, wanting pro-Western puppet rule replacing their sovereign independence, eliminating the only nations standing in the way of unchallenged US global dominance.

Permanent occupation is planned to exploit regional oil, gas and other resources, including significant Afghan riches.

It’s to maintain country as the world’s largest opium producer, used to produce heroin, flooding world markets with it, the CIA and Wall Street profiting from it.

War in the country was lost years ago. America’s objective is permanent occupation, maintaining the illusion of governance in Kabul, illegitimate US-installed puppet rule over increasingly shrinking territory, lost to Taliban fighters wanting their country back, occupying forces out.

Trump intends continuing America’s longest war in modern times forever. War-profiteers demand it, benefitting hugely from endless slaughter, destruction and human misery.

Along with power-grabbing, that’s what imperial wars are all about – not to achieve peace and stability as falsely claimed.

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