Archive | Afghanistan

No proof to back allegations Russia gave weapons to Taliban – US military intel chief

NOVANEWS
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The thinly-veiled accusations in the US that Russia supplied arms to Taliban militants were not based on any physical evidence of weapons or money transfers, a senior US military official told lawmakers.

“We have seen indication that they offered some level of support but I have not seen real physical evidence of weapons or money being transferred,” Marine Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, who serves as director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said at a Senate hearing.

Last month allegations against Russia were voiced by some US officials, including US Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, military commander of alliance forces in Europe, and US Army General John W. Nicholson Jr., who commands US troops in Afghanistan.

The officials claimed that Russia was exerting influence on the Taliban and may be involved in supplying weapons to the militants.

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations as “fabrications designed to justify the failure of the US military and politicians in the Afghan campaign.”

Stewart was reporting to the Senate Arms Services Committee on the Pentagon’s view on global threats to the US and its allies.

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In Afghanistan, Civilian Casualties Happen by Design, Not by Accident

NOVANEWS

The people of few conflicted countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria hardly seem to get out of bloody wars. Syria, which is battling the regime change, would land into the same bloody fate of Afghanistan if it undergoes this transition. In both cases – before and after the regime change- the natives of these territories should pay the price of the West’s ambitious and hegemonic conspiracies.

Afghanistan’s death toll from the US-led war is placed at 100,000 people. This startling figure sparks the speculation that the US and allies were just watching the people dying over this period. The US-based Brown University’s “Costs of War” study finds that at least 100,000 civilians have lost their lives to the war between 2001 through 2014.

It added to the injury when the year 2015 ended up with record-high human casualities than any single year since 2001. And then at the end of the following year 2016, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) described the causalities “shocking” and “unprecedented”. The rate is set to go up as the US mulls over sending further reinforcements and F-16 fighters jets that suggest fierce war.

The Brown University’s finding seems to be authentic, because it is strongly circulated among Afghan war experts that an average of 20 people die a day in Afghanistan that constitute the estimated number when calculated. On the opposite front, the UNAMA reports the Afghan fatalities about one third of the Brown University’s figure. This UN agency’s compilation of war victims is unfounded and impartial and it amounts to complicity or clemency towards war instigators – by not disclosing the right statistic or just by sufficing to call on warring sides to heed for civilians life.

The Brown University’s study concludes that over 370,000 people have died due to direct war violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan since 2001. It also revealed that the costly war in terms of life and expenditure didn’t result in inclusive, transparent, democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR), Syrian fatalities caused by war, directly and indirectly, amount to 470,000 people. It states the number is twice the UN’s figure of 250,000 victims collected nearly a year ago. The SCPR’s report estimates that 11.5% of the country’s population has been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011.

In Afghanistan, civilians are killed for certain causes, and it is not by accident. Last month, ten Taliban suicide infiltrates killed 170 soldiers in a military headquarter in northern Balkh province [the unofficial figure put dead between 300 and 400 soldiers]. The harrowing and murderous Balkh carnage could serve as a best example behind many civilian and military deaths in Afghanistan. In days after the massacre, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrived in Kabul and informed of a new Washington strategy on the way in a press conference with the top US commander, as a response to the incident.

The carnage apparently became a motive for the likely shift in US’s policy that might be deployment of further US troops, more military hardware and demanding additional NATO forces in Afghanistan. In this context, Australia has already said it is open to sending more soldiers after Berlin signaled reservations.

In a single sentence: it was not the carnage that caused the strategy change, but it was, indeed, the strategy change that caused the carnage.

Afterwards, in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, the US National Intelligence Chief Daniel Coats spoke of a downhill security in Afghanistan through 2018. He said:

“Even if NATO deploys more troops, the political and security situation in Afghanistan will likely get worse”.

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In spite of being the most powerful military in a recent ranking, the US casts the Taliban “unbeatable”. The US officials since long predict each coming year “dangerous” for Afghanistan. But how do they know that?

The other day, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford speaking at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont also followed the track of James Mattis and Daniel Coats and stressed on sending more troops to Afghanistan. While speaking, he hinted at the latest Afghan Army massacre and raised it as basis to lobby the audience. The US never bothers to deliver a statement repeatedly unless the issue is concerned for it.

These high-ranks’ back-to-back rhetoric speech comes as the US is vigilant of measurable Russian support of the Taliban fronts in parts of Afghanistan.

In October 2015, the Taliban militants rushed into the unseen mass-killing of civilians on the streets of northern Kunduz city and converted it into a ghost city. The war analysts believed it was the US’s intrigue to send shockwaves into the Central Asian countries and importantly Russia.

Following the Kunduz attack, Sen. John McCain appeared to say that:

“The Taliban’s strength has been fueled by the Obama Administration’s scheduled troop withdrawal”.

He critically directed the Kunduz attack’s blame to Obama administration’s “untimely” troop drawdown. He wanted the troops to stay behind and only such a tragedy was feasible to push the troop-pullout plan in reverse.

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Even though McCain and others have long sought more troops or continued war on terrorism, Afghanistan loses more inhabitants to the fake war with every year going by.

Even the waves of so-called “terrorists attacks” in Germany, Holland and France last year underscores that these are the conspiracy theories aimed at continuous war in Syria and elsewhere. Many Europeans would still keep faith with the war-mongers’ cooked-up stories and back the US and NATO’s intervention in Syria. The sole purpose of all these planned attacks was and is to demonize the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda and draw a whole support to wage a filthy war against “the nations” where these terrorists operate.

Unrest in Afghanistan is a recipe for more US weapons’ sales to war-exposed countries, viable drug trafficking that generates a profit far beyond measure, unearthing of underground resources worth of several trillion dollars, restraining of the regional military and economic rival powers and so others.

The insurgent groups – be it in Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq depending on the nature of war – have always chanted their slogans against the military forces or the incumbent governments – not civilians. But the wars have instead largely cost the ordinary people’s lives.

In almost every Taliban attack where the NATO and Afghan forces or government officials were targets, quite a few normal people have fallen victim. Typically, in a recent suicide attack on NATO fleet in Kabul, no international servicemen died or injured, but dead were only passersby and passengers of a minivan running behind the convoy.

The terrorist groups have left almost no public establishment un-attacked over this period, from hospitals and TV stations to universities and restaurants have tasted the undue violent killings. In March, Kabul’s Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan hospital was penetrated by several suicide bombers. Every war front including the Taliban leadership understands the immunity and neutrality of hospitals having no issue with war, but the armed men indifferently set off a killing spree and shot dead every one they came across in the hospital including ailing and elderly people and children.

The militants are, of course, aided and abetted by external and internal elements and this is just a show of distorted reality in Afghanistan used by war architects to hold a foot on the ground. While the terrorist groups have nothing in mind to achieve by slaughtering innocents, it rather give birth to grounds for the West’s presence and drag the fake war well into the future.

This war is stoked or afloat thanks, in most part, to the “kill and then blame” policy. This is well captured in Syria’s Khan Sheikhon chemical attack. First the gas attack that was over-amplified in the world media was fabricated and later the ground was prepared for the US to carry out Tomahawk missile strikes on Syrian Shayrat airbase without finding that the Khan Shaikhon chemical attack was launched from this base.

According to Afghan Human Rights organization, the Afghan war has claimed some 40,000 lives only between 2009 and 2016. Laal Gul an Afghan Human Rights expert says:

 “The Afghan and NATO security officials never disclose a true statistic of victims of an attack”.

It is aimed to simmer down public fury.

In Afghanistan, another excuse for civilian causalities is that the Taliban loyalists bury IEDs or landmines on public avenues allegedly for striking Afghan Army or the NATO’s convoy, but in many instances a civilian vehicle often packed with people has run over the explosives and torn apart. In an extremely disturbing episode, a footage released earlier showed that an old man rushes to the scene where his entire family’s car was blown up by a roadside bomb and desperately looks to women and children’s blood-soaked corpses that litter around the explosion point. Later it features that the man burst into tears as he lifts a lifeless child’s body.

People of Afghanistan are put to suffer this way along the one-and-a-half-decade-long US “war on terror”.

This is while Trump is considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. In 2011, there were 100,000 US soldiers on the ground with almost the same causality rate of present day. Fewer more troops are not up to making a twist in civilian life.

Many years ago, an Afghan journalist who was not named over security reasons learned about a mind blowing fact after contacting a Taliban spokesman and asking about those innocents killed in the Taliban suicide bombing, who replied:

“Those Afghans [other than foreign troops] killed in the blast would go straight to the heaven along with the suicide bomber”.

The intensifying conflict tells that another huge bulk of people is about to perish in the future. The people of Afghanistan and other war-wrecked nations can no longer tolerate such a vortex which is putting them on agony.

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Last to Die in Afghanistan: US Marines Back to Helmand

Some 300 US Marines are once again being deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan after upward to 20,000 US Marines had spent between 2009-2014 attempting, but clearly failing to secure the province for the US-installed client regime in the nation’s capital of Kabul. 

The latest deployment of US forces in Afghanistan after allegedly “ending” combat operations and the “Afghanistan War” in 2014, exposes several realities surrounding US foreign policy that directly conflict with the political narratives emanating from Washington.

The War Isn’t Over 

The United States and members of its coalition involved in the invasion and now 16 plus year occupation of Afghanistan have not in fact ended the war, let alone won it. The fact that entire districts, and even provinces remain beyond the control of America’s client regime, and even those that are under Kabul’s control remain contested, reveals an ongoing conflict with little prospect of ending.

Fighters resisting the US occupation and the US-backed client regime have established networks that extend beyond Afghanistan’s borders far from where US forces can reach. Afghanistan’s neighbors have attempted to broker practical peace deals between groups like the Taliban and other factions within Afghanistan’s patchwork of tribes for the sake of long-term stability, undermining entirely the artificially imposed political order the US has attempted to create and maintain. 

Attempts at “nation building” have failed, with foreign contractors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to profit from their activities within Afghanistan with little to no genuine interest in a collaborative and fundamentally constructive effort to develop the nation.

Attempts to build up local Afghan governance and military forces have also failed because of a fundamental disconnect with American objectives and the actual aspirations of the people the US is attempting to impose its version of governance upon.

The New York Times in an article titled, Marines Return to Helmand Province for a Job They Thought Was Done,”  explains the current situation in Helmand province:

The Marines’ new mission is a difficult one: to assist and train Afghan soldiers and police to defend the provincial capital. The Taliban control seven of the province’s 14 districts and are encroaching on five others. The government fully controls just two, local officials say.

The process of US Marines taking and holding towns, cities and districts only to have them fall immediately back into the armed opposition’s hands after withdrawing is a familiar one for US foreign policy. It is the same process that played out repeatedly in Southeast Asia as the United States struggled to impose its political will upon the people of Vietnam.

Ultimately the US conceded defeat in Vietnam with the nation then able to determine its own future for itself. Fear-mongering over the consequences of a communist Vietnam creating a cascading effect across all of Asia and placing entire nations under the control of the Soviet Union and communist China were revealed as unfounded. The people of Vietnam were just as adamantly opposed to being dictated to by their Asian neighbors as they were by French and American invaders.

Afghanistan is no different.

The War Has Nothing to do with “Terrorism” 

The entire premise for the initial invasion of Afghanistan was fighting terrorism. Predicated on the attack on September 11, 2001 in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania which cost nearly 3,000 lives and blamed on Al Qaeda, the invasion of Afghanistan was meant to strike at the senior leadership of the terrorist organization, including Osama Bin Laden.

Instead, from the beginning, the US invasion focused almost exclusively on regime change, targeting the ruling Taliban, not Al Qaeda. The invasion and toppling of the Taliban government transformed into a protracted occupation and counterinsurgency as the United States struggled to assert its political order via a supremely corrupt and incompetent client regime residing in Kabul.

And while time to time news stories would circulate regarding alleged US military operations targeting Al Qaeda, it is clear, specifically with the most recent deployment of US Marines to Helmand, that asserting, reasserting and struggling to maintain control over the Central Asian state remains America’s primary objective. 

In fact, within the body of the New York Times’ nearly 1,000 word article regarding the return of US Marines to Helmand province, Al Qaeda and “terrorism” weren’t mentioned once.

Sadly, actual terrorists, including Al Qaeda itself, have been intentionally bolstered by the US and its allies, specifically in Syria where weapons, training, money and other forms of material support are being funneled into their hands to carry out regime change by proxy against Damascus.

The common denominator defining US foreign policy appears to be  imposing Washington’s political will upon nations and regions, with terrorism serving as the most tenuous of excuses, and at other times, being used explicitly as a tool to carry out US foreign policy.

America, Its Client Regime Unwanted

Toward the end of the article, the New York Times admits (emphasis added):

But the biggest challenge for the Marines will be to help Afghan forces regain territory and hold it. Abdul Jabar Qahraman, President Ashraf Ghani’s former envoy in charge of operations in Helmand, said that for a long time the people of Helmand had sided with the Afghan forces, but that the government had repeatedly failed the civilian population and “left them handcuffed for the brutal enemy.” He said he expected that the Afghan forces would struggle to regain the population’s trust.

“There is no contact between the security forces and the local people,” Mr. Qahraman said. “People do not believe the promises of security forces, and the security forces always remain inside their bases, they don’t get out.”

It is clear that the problem is not just the “Taliban,” but rather the United States’ entire agenda, not only in Helmand province, or even in Afghanistan, but overseas in general. 

It is attempting to impose a self-serving political order that suits its sociopolitical and economic interests at the cost of peace, stability and security for entire regions of the planet. Its presence in Afghanistan and the proxies it has established to administer the nation to serve Washington’s interests are admittedly unwanted by the very people being administered.

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The 300 US Marines who have dutifully deployed to Helmand will once again risk life and limb for a nebulous objective serving a geopolitical agenda divorced from the best interests of both the American and Afghan people.

Far from enhancing the national security of the United States, the costly, protracted occupation of Afghanistan is demonstrating tactical and strategic weakness, geopolitical ineptitude and exposing the dangerous shortsighted greed that drives US foreign policy at the cost of long-term, rational planning and implementation.

What 300 US Marines are supposed to accomplish that 20,000 couldn’t years before with a much larger NATO force supporting them is difficult to discern. Like during the late stages of the Vietnam War, it appears that US foreign policymakers are designating these US Marines as the “last to die” in Afghanistan for the sake of “saving face,” though 16 years onward and with the state of Afghanistan as it is, there is little left to save.  

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Will Trump Agree to the Pentagon’s Permanent War in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria?

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If Trump approves expected proposals for the three countries, the US ground combat role in the region will be extended for years to come
 

The two top national security officials in the Trump administration – Secretary of Defence James Mattis and national security adviser HR McMaster – are trying to secure long-term US ground and air combat roles in the three long-running wars in the greater Middle East – Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

Proposals for each of the three countries are still being developed, and there is no consensus, even between Mattis and McMaster, on the details of the plans. They will be submitted to Trump separately, with the plan for Afghanistan coming sometime before a NATO summit in Brussels on 25 May.

But if this power play succeeds in one or more of the three, it could guarantee the extension of permanent US ground combat in the greater Middle East for many years to come – and would represent a culmination of the “generational war” first announced by the George W Bush administration.

‘Open-ended commitment’

It remains to be seen whether President Donald Trump will approve the proposals that Mattis and McMaster have pushed in recent weeks.

Judging from his position during the campaign and his recent remarks, Trump may well baulk at the plans now being pushed by his advisers.

The plans for the three countries now being developed within the Trump administration encompass long-term stationing of troops, access to bases and the authority to wage war in these three countries.

These are the primordial interest of the Pentagon and the US military leadership, and they have pursued those interests more successfully in the Middle East than anywhere else on the globe.

US military officials aren’t talking about “permanent” stationing of troops and bases in these countries, referring instead to the “open-ended commitment” of troops. But they clearly want precisely that in all three.

Shifting timetables

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The George W Bush administration and the Barack Obama administration both denied officially that they sought “permanent bases” in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. But the subtext in both cases told a different story.

A Defense Department official testifying before Congress at the time admitted that the term had no real meaning, because the Pentagon had never defined it officially.

In fact, at the beginning of the negotiations with Iraq on the US military presence in 2008, the US sought access to bases in Iraq without any time limit. But the al-Maliki government rebuffed that demand and the US was forced to agree to withdraw all combat forces in a strict timetable.

Despite efforts by the Pentagon and the military brass, including Gen David Petraeus, to get the Obama administration to renegotiate the deal with the Iraqi government to allow tens of thousands of combat troops to stay in the country, the Iraqis refused US demands for immunity from prosecution in Iraq, and the US had to withdraw all its troops.

Reversing withdrawals

Now the regional context has shifted dramatically in favour of the US military’s ambitions. On one hand, the war against Islamic State (IS) is coming to a climax in both Iraq and Syria, and the Iraq government recognises the need for more US troops to ensure that it can’t rise again; and in Syria, the division of the country into zones of control that depend on foreign powers is an overriding fact.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, growing Taliban power and control across the country is being cited as the rationale for a proposal to reverse the withdrawals of US and NATO troops in recent years and to allow a limited return by US forces to combat.

Now that Islamic State forces are being pushed out of Mosul, both the Trump administration and the Iraqi government are beginning to focus on how to ensure that the terrorists do not return.

They are now negotiating on an agreement that would station US forces in Iraq indefinitely. And the troops would not be there merely to defeat IS, but to carry out what the war bureaucracies call “stabilisation operations” – getting involved in building local political and military institutions.

Plans for Syria

The question of what to do about Syria is apparently the subject of in-fighting between Mattis and the Pentagon, on one hand, and McMaster, on the other.

The initial plan for the defeat of IS in Syria, submitted to Trump in February, called for an increase in the size of US ground forces beyond the present level of 1,000.

But a group of officers who have worked closely with Gen Petraeus on Iraq and Afghanistan, which includes McMaster, has been pushing a much more ambitious plan, in which thousands – and perhaps many thousands – of US ground troops would lead a coalition of Sunni Arab troops to destroy Islamic State’s forces in Syria rather than relying on Kurdish forces to do the job.

Both the original plan and the one advanced by McMaster for Syria would also involve US troops in “stabilisation operations” for many years across a wide expanse of eastern Syria that would require large numbers of troops for many years.

Both in its reliance on Sunni Arab allies and in its envisioning a large US military zone of control in Syria, the plan bears striking resemblance to the one developed for Hillary Clinton by the Center for New American Security when she was viewed as the president-in-waiting.

Reversing Obama’s Afghanistan policy

The Pentagon proposal on Afghanistan, which had not been formally submitted by Mattis as of this week, calls for increasing the present level of 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan by 1,500 to 5,000, both to train Afghan forces and to fight the Taliban. It also calls for resuming full-scale US air strikes against the Taliban. Both policy shifts would reverse decisions made by the Obama administration.

Five past US commanders in Afghanistan, including Petraeus, have publicly called for the US to commit itself to an “enduring partnership” with the Afghan government. That means, according to their joint statement, ending the practice of periodic reassessments as the basis for determining whether the US should continue to be involved militarily in the war, an idea that is likely part of the package now being formulated by Mattis.

But the problem with such a plan is that the US military and its Afghan client government have now been trying to suppress the Taliban for 16 years. The longer they have tried, the stronger the Taliban have become. The US and NATO were not able to pressure the Taliban to negotiate with the government even when they had more than 100,000 troops in the country.

Committing the US to endless war in Afghanistan would only reinforce the corruption, abuses of power and culture of impunity that Gen Stanley A McChystal acknowledged in 2009 were the primary obstacles to reducing support for the Taliban. Only the knowledge that the US will let the Afghans themselves determine the country’s future could shock the political elite sufficiently to change its ways.

Most political and national security elites as well as the corporate news media support the push to formalise a permanent US presence in Afghanistan, despite the fact that national polls indicate that it is the most unpopular war in US history with 80 percent of those surveyed in a CNN poll in 2013 opposing its continuation.

Beltway brawl?

There are signs that Trump may reject at least the plans for Afghanistan and Syria. Only days after his approval of the missile strike on a Russian-Syrian airbase, Trump told Fox Business in an interview,

“We’re not going into Syria.”

And White House spokesman Sean Spicer seemed to suggest this week that Trump was not enamoured with the plan to spend many more years trying to “transform” Afghanistan.

“There is a difference between Afghanistan proper and our effort to defeat ISIS,” Spicer said

Despite Trump’s love for the military brass, the process of deciding on the series of new initiatives aimed at committing the US more deeply to three wars in the greater Middle East is bound to pose conflicts between the political interests of the White House and the institutional interests of the Pentagon and military leaders.

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US can’t take pressure anymore in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS
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By M K Bhadrakumar | IndianPunchline 

The seething US-Russia rivalry in Afghanistan took a sharp turn with the explosive threat held out by the visiting US Defence Secretary James Mattis in Kabul on Monday that Washington “will confront Russia” for violating international law by sending arms to the Taliban. Mattis said this while answering what appears to have been a planted question by a Washington Post correspondent who asked him about Russian weapons “showing up in Taliban hands in Helmand, Kandahar and Urozgan” (provinces bordering Pakistan.)

General John Nicholson, US commander in Afghanistan, who stood beside Mattis refused to refute the reports on Russian weapons but couldn’t provide details, either. He merely noted, “we continue to get reports of this assistance.” However, Mattis went ahead nonetheless to threaten Moscow:

  • Russians seem to be choosing to be strategic competitors in a number of areas. The level of granularity and the level of success they’re achieving — I think the jury is out on that… I would say that we will engage with Russia diplomatically. We’ll do so where we can. But we’re going to have to confront Russia where what they’re doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries. For example, any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be — would be a violation of international law, unless they’re coming through the government of Afghanistan for the — for the Afghan forces. And so that would have to be dealt with as a violation of international law.

This is a dramatic escalation in rhetoric. What accounts for it? Indeed, I can visualize a backdrop with three likely vectors. (After all, Mattis is reputed to be a “thinking general” himself.) First, of course, the immediate context of his visit was the devastating Taliban attack on the Afghan army corps headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif in which 200 soldiers were killed, leading to the exit of the Afghan defence minister and army chief.

Although there was no American casualty as such, it was a big blow to the Pentagon generals, who constantly claim to be doing a masterly job in the “capacity-building” of Afghan armed forces. Simply put, Mattis and Nicholson probably tried to change the narrative.

Indeed, it wouldn’t have been far from Mattis’ mind that Russian weapons are reportedly “showing up” in Taliban’s hands in Helmand when a deployment of Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to that province “quietly” got under way last week, which is the first such deployment of Marines since 2014 when President Barack Obama announced the termination of the US’ combat mission in Afghanistan. The last thing Trump would want is body bags arriving from Helmand (which borders Pakistan’s Baluchistan.)

Second, Russia’s regional initiative to kickstart a political process in Afghanistan must be driving the Americans crazy.

The Pentagon has reason to worry that continued US occupation (military bases in Afghanistan) may become untenable if the political process made headway and a regional consensus favoring intra-Afghan reconciliation sought the restoration of Afghanistan’s sovereignty. (By the way, Taliban representatives based in Qatar travelled to China recently.)

Washington’s biggest worry would be that the Afghan opinion itself may come to view the Moscow-led regional initiative as the best (and only) available platform today to somehow bring the senseless bloody war to an end.

Third, if Matti’s idiom toward Russia has become distinctly hostile, it is also reflective of the deepening US frustration that Moscow is challenging its geo-strategies across the board – over Iran, North Korea, Ukraine, Turkey, Syria and so on. The chessboard is increasingly posing a “check-and-checkmate” scenario for the US, which in turn exposes the limits to America’s global hegemony.

Specifically, Mattis might have hit out in the wake of reports that Moscow has drawn up plans to deploy Special Forces to the key battle zones in Syria to vanquish the extremist groups (which enjoy US-Israeli backing). Mattis’ allegation of Russia violating “international law” in Afghanistan becomes curious because that is precisely what Moscow accuses the US of doing in Syria.

Interestingly, there are also a few sub-plots to Mattis’s press conference in Kabul: A) He was evasive about President Donald Trump deploying “thousands more” troops in Afghanistan, which was what Pentagon had recommended. Mattis said blithely, “our review in Washington is a dialogue with Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson and the president and his staff in the White House. And I’d say that we’re under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission.”

B) Mattis parried a direct question as to the US’ war objective in Afghanistan. C) He touched on reconciliation with Taliban – “If the Taliban wished to join the political process…, they need only to renounce violence and reject terrorism. It’s a pretty low standard to join the… political process.”

Significantly, Mattis made his visit to Kabul within a week of the fact-finding mission by NSA Lt. Gen. HR McMaster who reports directly to Trump. The transcript of Mattis’ press conference is here.

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Trump Wants Regime Change in Syria, Extended US Led Wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan

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In March 2011, Obama launched war on Syria to destroy its sovereignty and replace Assad with pro-Western puppet rule.

Trump upped the stakes. He escalated war, increased US terror-bombing, and doubled the number of US forces on the ground ahead of likely larger numbers coming.

His hugely dangerous war plan risks direct confrontation with Russia. Instead of governing responsibly, he’s recklessly risking possible nuclear war in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula.

In northern Syria, hundreds of thousands of civilians are threatened by US terror-bombing – targeting infrastructure and government sites on the phony pretext of combating ISIS America created and supports.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Staphane Dujarric issued a briefing on catastrophic humanitarian conditions in Yemen, Mosul, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the safety of over 400,000 Syrians in Raqqa.

Around 10 million Yemenis

“require immediate assistance to save or sustain their lives,” he stressed. The country is “the largest food security emergency in the world…on the brink of (catastrophic) famine.”

Fighting and terror-bombing of Mosul continues, up to 400,000 displaced so far – in desperate need of aid. The lives and welfare of around two million Iraqis are endangered by ongoing conflict. The civilian death toll keeps mounting.

“(D)etainees in Afghanistan continue to face torture and ill-treatment in government detention facilities.”

America’s longest war continues endlessly with no prospect for resolution.

In South Sudan,

“lack of accountability for crimes perpetrated during the conflict remains one of the country’s biggest challenges.”

Syrians in and around Raqqa are exposed to daily ground fighting and US-led terror-bombing – including against infrastructure, hospitals, schools, mosques, markets and residential areas.

Unknown numbers of civilians are being killed daily, perhaps thousands before the campaign ends.

According to Dujarric,

“(i)n past weeks, civilians have been exposed to daily fighting and airstrikes which resulted in an escalating number of civilian deaths and injuries…”

“Some 39,000 (were) newly displaced,” most in open areas without shelter or protection from fighting and bombing. Desperate people are without humanitarian aid.

Russia’s intervention in Syria improved conditions greatly for its people – liberated from hundreds of areas previously controlled by US-supported terrorists, provided with humanitarian aid by Moscow and Syria to sustain them.

Separately on Monday, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on 271 Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center personnel – on the phony pretext of involvement in chemical weapons development.

Washington holds them responsible for developing the toxic agent used in Kahn Sheikhoun on April 4 – an incident  Syria had nothing to do with, a false flag irresponsibly blamed on its military and Bashar al-Assad.

Last Friday, Sergey Lavrov said Russia’s call for an independent, unbiased on-site investigation was “blocked by Western delegations without any explanations.”

“(O)bvious false information” is being used by America and its rogue allies to topple Assad – likely by escalated war, involving larger numbers of US forces.

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From Drone Strikes to MOAB: The Strategically Silenced

NOVANEWS

By Hoda Katebi

A Pakistani Army soldier patrols in South Waziristan on November 17, 2009. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

A Pakistani Army soldier patrols in South Waziristan on November 17, 2009. South Waziristan is one of many areas where US attacks have continually devastated people’s lives and homes, but remain invisible in most US media. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

US foreign policy consists of trading bodies for approval ratings, guilt for innocence, absence for life, and strategic silencing, all for fear of a threat both feigned and self-made.

On April 13, 2017, the Trump regime dropped the GBU-43 massive ordnance air blast (MOAB) also known as the “Mother of all Bombs” in the Achin district of Nangarhar in Afghanistan. While the official statement from the Headquarters of the United States Forces in Kabul, Afghanistan, notes that the military “took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties” in what White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called on Thursday morning a remote, mountainous area, the Achin district is, in fact, home to a population of 150,000 and sits a little over 20 miles from the capital of Nangarhar, a province in Eastern Afghanistan with a population of almost 1.5 million. This population now has to endure, at the very least, the lasting psychological effects of witnessing a massive mushroom cloud rising from their backyards, as well as the ongoing threats to their safety.

Bilal Sarwary, a journalist based in Afghanistan who spoke to locals in the area after the bombing, told BBC Friday morning that “their doors are destroyed or damaged and every single window or glass is broken … [they felt] more like doomsday … like the sky is coming down.” Fresh bombings in Achin continued through this morning, according to local sources. Nangarhar has been noted by many Afghans as one of the more beautiful parts of the country, with perpetual spring-like weather.

Tribal elders in Achin district , ” windows&doors in 4KM radius broken and damaged.”

Just a reminder, Achin is not “populated by Daesh” it is populated by thousands of people, many of whom have been suffering under Daesh

The US government and mainstream media’s failure to mention the presence of unmistakably large civilian populations — and the fact that these populations were placed in immediate physical and psychological dangers — is not at all an uncommon practice. Much like the history of physical, rhetorical, ideological and academic erasure of Indigenous people from North America, there is a continual erasure of mass populations in the Middle East and Africa, who are frequently invisibilized and deemed irrelevant by those who wish to craft a narrative that excuses violence and mass destruction.

Afghanistan carries a deep history of being designated as a testing ground for Western and Russian military weaponry (as India, Ghana and other Asian and African countries are for Western medicine). Although its population is significantly larger than that of Berkeley, California, Achin is portrayed as empty and vacant — a place where the dropping of a never-before-used, 30-foot-long, 21,600-pound bomb filled with 18,000 pounds of explosives is portrayed as carrying no risk of civilian casualties.

Beyond recognizing the continual erasure of civilians and populations at the state’s discretion, it is important to ask: According to the US government, who is classified as a “civilian”? Who is not considered a “civilian,” and is instead marked with the ever-shifting and contagious label of “enemy combatant”?

To answer this question, we must turn toward the foreign policy hallmark and legacy of the Obama administration: drone strikes.

According to The Drone Papers, secret CIA and military documents leaked to The Intercept under Obama’s term, anyone on the ground is largely deemed guilty until proven innocent — and proving as much is a near-impossible task when the suspect in question has been conveniently killed and is therefore unable to speak or go to trial and the only statements provided are given by the US military personnel who conducted the strikes. Drone strikes are supposedly designed to assassinate only those posing a “continuing, imminent threat to US persons,” yet this threat is determined based on minimal or poor “intelligence” gathered from phones (which constantly shift hands) and emails in undeclared war zones, such as Yemen and Somalia, unreliable government watch lists, and information gathered by machines and subject to fallible human interpretation.

Anyone unfortunate enough to be passing through the targeted area (however ambiguous or random it may be) at the time of a drone strike is deemed “guilty by association” and designated by the military as an “enemy killed in action” or EKIA, and therefore no longer a civilian. Therefore, not only are those killed by drone strikes more often than not simply unintended victims targeted based on faulty evidence, but determinations of guilt or innocence are largely arbitrary and contextual.

Ultimately, the distinction between enemy and civilian is irrelevant when there is no trial, little evidence, and virtually no follow-up in response to casualties. Despite the ambiguity or messiness of official labels, at the end of the day, anything seen through a drone scope is deemed utterly worthless.

On March 17, 2017, US-led coalition airstrikes hit Mosul, Iraq, killing the highest number of civilians in one blow since the start of the 2003 invasion.

The same day, a US airstrike targeted a mosque and religious school in Syria (which the US later denied, despite photographic evidence) while 300 people were praying. Forty-two people were killed and many more were injured.

Although it has recently escalated, the murder of civilians in the ongoing “war on terror” is not new. Consider the US’s targeting of Yemen, where, according to a UN News Center report last year, “children are paying the heaviest price.” Salon reported that ongoing US-backed Saudi bombing “intentionally targets food production” and Truthout has analyzed how strikes have continually worsened the ongoing famine in Yemen.

According to comments given to The Intercept by a source within the intelligence community wishing to remain anonymous, official reports of civilian casualties from the US government are “exaggerating at best, if not outright lies.”

This all, of course, fits plainly and clearly into a larger structure of the physical and ideological “war on terror,” in which anti-Muslim racism is funded by weapons manufacturers looking to profit from consequent anti-Muslim violence both domestically and abroad; by Zionist groups working to maintain an ethno-supremacist apartheid regime in Israel; and by other individuals and organizations seeking to maintain and increase their power and privilege, politically, socially and economically.

Certainly, erasing populations, designating them as test subjects and retroactively applying “enemy” labels to hide mistakes have become normalized strategies of US foreign policy. These strategies are tied to systems of profit and privilege, as well as to political popularity. From Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Wars to Donald Trump, airstrikes, bombings, coups, wars and violence against the AMENSA (Africa, Middle East, Muslim, South Asia) region have been seen as quick fixes for low presidential approval ratings.

Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.

In this tweet from 2012, Trump forecasted that then-President Obama would conduct airstrikes against Muslim countries as a way to increase his approval rating, a tactic that Obama used and now-President Trump has adopted as well.

No single drone strike or bombing should be seen in isolation, but rather within this larger context of a social, political, military and economic anti-Muslim system. There are people and organizations that profit off of the erasure and destruction of Muslim bodies and bodies of color. This profit-driven murder becomes infinitely easier to carry out when Afghan, Iraqi, Somali, Yemeni and other voices and narratives are intentionally and consistently excluded from Western spaces and conversations.

Individual narratives and stories are crucial: narratives of what it feels like for your mother to be killed by a drone strikethe preference for cloudy days over blue skies because drones can only fly on clear days; the haunting feeling of being on the US drone kill list and watching family, friends and strangers die in your place due to miscalculation; the perpetual ominous hum of drones flying above your community; or not knowing which Friday prayer will be your last. Buried beneath state-sanctioned narratives of erasure are human lives that are continuously tormented, tortured and haunted. These lives are exactly what the regime wants you to forget.

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Lavrov: No force on earth can compete with NATO and US’ drug trafficking business in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

“In country after country, from Mexico and Honduras to Panama and Peru, the CIA helped set up or consolidate intelligence agencies that became forces of repression, and whose intelligence connections to other countries greased the way for illicit drug shipments.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has done it again. He has recently grabbed the New World Order establishment by the horn and cut them to pieces with a chainsaw when he said that the establishment has done covert and illegal operations in places like Afghanistan. Lavrov did not mince words:

The US operation against the Taliban and al-Qaeda was supported by all countries. It’s another matter that after receiving the international approval, the United States and its NATO allies, which took over in Afghanistan, started acting rather inconsistently, to put it mildly.

“During their operation in Afghanistan, the terrorist threat has not been rooted out, while the drug threat has increased many times over. The drug industry prospered. There is factual evidence that some of the NATO contingents in Afghanistan turned a blind eye to the illegal drug trafficking, even if they were not directly involved in these criminal schemes.

“Afghanistan is a separate case, although the current developments there, which are a result of the NATO operation’s failure, despite the carte blanche the bloc received from the international community, can be considered an unintended cause of managed chaos. In Iraq, Syria and Libya, this chaos was created intentionally.”

Lavrov is right in line with the scholarly world. Peter Dale Scott of the University of California writes:

“In country after country, from Mexico and Honduras to Panama and Peru, the CIA helped set up or consolidate intelligence agencies that became forces of repression, and whose intelligence connections to other countries greased the way for illicit drug shipments.”[1]

Noted historian Alfred W. McCoy of the University of Wisconsin has reported the same thing.[2] McCoy began to work on this issue while he was a Ph.D. candidate in Southeast Asian history at Yale back in 1972. He accused American officials of condoning and even cooperating with corrupt elements in Southeast Asia’s illegal drug trade out of political and military considerations.” McCoy’s

“major charges was that South Vietnam’s President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Vice President Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, and Prime Minister Trần Thiện Khiêm led a narcotics ring with ties to the Corsican mafia, the Trafficante crime family in Florida, and other high level military officials in South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Those implicated by McCoy included Laotian Generals Ouane Rattikone and Vang Pao and South Vietnamese Generals Đăng Văn Quang and Ngô Dzu.”

McCoy produced enough evidence which indicated that the CIA used “tribal mercenaries” in places like Laos in order to maintain their criminal and drug trafficking business.

In short, Lavrov was essentially deconstructing the CIA when he said that they have been spreading corruption throughout the world for decades. Whenever they take a break from spreading opium, they start perpetuating wars and creating false flags in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now in Syria.

The CIA is certainly not happy about what Lavrov has said. This is one reason why they hate Russia and all that it represents.


[1] Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (Berkley: The University of California Press, 1998), vii-viii. See also American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010 and 2014); Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003).

[2] Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003).

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“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

NOVANEWS

The War on Afghanistan is a Profit driven “Resource War”.

 
"The War is Worth Waging": Afghanistan's Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

Author’s Note

US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan more than 16 years ago in October 2001. It’s has been a continuous war marked by US military occupation.

The justification is “counterterrorism”.  Afghanistan is defined as a state sponsor of terrorism, allegedly responsible for attacking America on September 11, 2001. 

The war on Afghanistan continues to be heralded as a war of retribution in response to the 9/11 attacks. US troops are still present and deployed in Afghanistan.

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The legal argument used by Washington and NATO to invade and occupy Afghanistan under “the doctrine of collective security” was that the September 11 2001 attacks constituted an undeclared “armed attack” “from abroad” by an unnamed foreign power, namely Afghanistan. 

Yet there were no Afghan fighter planes in the skies of New York on the morning of September 11, 2001. 

This article, first published in June 2010, points to the “real economic reasons”  why US-NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.  

Under the Afghan-US security pact,  established under Obama’s Asian pivot, Washington and its NATO partners have established a permanent military presence in Afghanistan, with military facilities located within proximity of China’s Western frontier.  The pact was intended to allow the US to maintain their nine permanent military bases, strategically located on the borders of  China, Pakistan and Iran as well as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

In recent developments, President Trump in his February 28, 2017 address to a joint session of  Congress vowed to “demolish and destroy” terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq as well as in Afghanistan under a fake counter-terrorism mandate.

According to Foreign Affairs, “there are more U.S. military forces deployed there [Afghanistan] than to any other active combat zone” and their mandate is to go after the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS (which are supported covertly by US intelligence). 

There is both a geopolitical as well as an economic agenda in Afghanistan requiring the permanent presence of US troops.

In addition to its vast mineral and gas reserves, Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the World’s supply of opium which is used to produce grade 4 heroin.

US military bases in Afghanistan are also intent upon protecting the multibillion narcotics trade.  Narcotics, at present, constitutes the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy.

The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

“The highest concentration of NATO servicemen in Afghanistan is being accompanied with the highest concentration of opium poppy, ….  That situation causes doubts about the anti-terrorist mission and leads to the conclusion about catastrophic consequences of the eight-year stay [of coalition forces] in Afghanistan,” (Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service head Viktor Ivanov, January 2010)

Michel Chossudovsky,  March 25, 2017

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“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

The War on Afghanistan is a Profit driven “Resource War”.

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

October 2010

The 2001 bombing and invasion of Afghanistan has been presented to World public opinion as a “Just War”, a war directed against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, a war to eliminate “Islamic terrorism” and instate Western style democracy.

The economic dimensions of  the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) are rarely mentioned. The post 9/11 “counter-terrorism campaign” has served to obfuscate the real objectives of the US-NATO war.

The war on Afghanistan is part of a profit driven agenda: a war of economic conquest and plunder,  ”a resource war”.

While Afghanistan is acknowledged as a strategic hub in Central Asia, bordering on the former Soviet Union, China and Iran, at the crossroads of pipeline routes and major oil and gas reserves, its huge mineral wealth as well as its untapped natural gas reserves have remained, until June 2010, totally unknown to the American public.

According to a joint report by the Pentagon, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and USAID, Afghanistan is now said to possess “previously unknown” and untapped mineral reserves, estimated authoritatively to be of the order of one trillion dollars (New York Times, U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, See also BBC, 14 June 2010).

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said… “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines. (New York Times, op. cit.)

Afghanistan could become, according to The New York Times “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”. “Lithium is an increasingly vital resource, used in batteries for everything from mobile phones to laptops and key to the future of the electric car.” At present Chile, Australia, China and Argentina are the main suppliers of lithium to the world market. Bolivia and Chile are the countries with the largest known reserves of lithium. “The Pentagon has been conducting ground surveys in western Afghanistan. “Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large as those of Bolivia” (U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, see also Lithium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

“Previously Unknown Deposits” of Minerals in Afghanistan

The Pentagon’s near one trillion dollar “estimate” of previously “unknown deposits” is a useful smokescreen. The Pentagon one trillion dollar figure is more a trumped up number rather than an estimate:  “We took a look at what we knew to be there, and asked what would it be worth now in terms of today’s dollars. The trillion dollar figure seemed to be newsworthy.” (The Sunday Times, London, June 15 2010, emphasis added)

Moreover, the results of a US Geological Survey study (quoted in the Pentagon memo) on Afghanistan’s mineral wealth were revealed three years back, at a 2007 Conference organized by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce. The matter of Afghanistan’s mineral riches, however, was not considered newsworthy at the time.

The US Administration’s acknowledgment that it first took cognizance of Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth  following the release of the USGS 2007 report is an obvious red herring. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth and energy resources (including natural gas) were known to both America’s business elites and the US government prior to the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1988).

Geological surveys conducted by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and early 1980s confirm the existence of  vast reserves of copper (among the largest in Eurasia), iron, high grade chrome ore, uranium, beryl, barite, lead, zinc, fluorspar, bauxite, lithium, tantalum, emeralds, gold and silver.(Afghanistan, Mining Annual Review, The Mining Journal,  June, 1984). These surveys suggest that the actual value of these reserves could indeed be substantially larger than the one trillion dollars “estimate” intimated by the Pentagon-USCG-USAID study.

More recently, in a 2002 report, the Kremlin confirmed what was already known: “It’s no secret that Afghanistan possesses rich reserves, in particular of copper at the Aynak deposit, iron ore in Khojagek, uranium, polymetalic ore, oil and gas,” (RIA Novosti, January 6, 2002):

“Afghanistan has never been anyone’s colony – no foreigner had ever “dug” here before the 1950s. The Hindu Kush mountains, stretching, together with their foothills, over a vast area in Afghanistan, are where the minerals lie. Over the past 40 years, several dozen deposits have been discovered in Afghanistan, and most of these discoveries were sensational. They were kept secret, however, but even so certain facts have recently become known.

It turns out that Afghanistan possesses reserves of nonferrous and ferrous metals and precious stones, and, if exploited, they would possibly be able to cover even the earnings from the drug industry. The copper deposit in Aynak in the southern Afghan Helmand Province is said to be the largest in the Eurasian continent, and its location (40 km from Kabul) makes it cheap to develop. The iron ore deposit at Hajigak in the central Bamian Province yields ore of an extraordinarily high quality, the reserves of which are estimated to be 500m tonnes. A coal deposit has also been discovered not far from there.

Afghanistan is spoken of as a transit country for oil and gas. However, only a very few people know that Soviet specialists discovered huge gas reserves there in the 1960s and built the first gas pipeline in the country to supply gas to Uzbekistan. At that time, the Soviet Union used to receive 2.5 bn cubic metres of Afghan gas annually. During the same period, large deposits of gold, fluorite, barytes and marble onyxes that have a very rare pattern were found.

However, the pegmatite fields discovered to the east of Kabul are a real sensation. Rubies, beryllium, emeralds and kunzites and hiddenites that cannot be found anywhere else – the deposits of these precious stones stretch for hundreds of kilometres. Also, the rocks containing the rare metals beryllium, thorium, lithium and tantalum are of strategic importance (they are used in air and spacecraft construction).

The war is worth waging. … (Olga Borisova, “Afghanistan – the Emerald Country”, Karavan, Almaty, original Russian, translated by BBC News Services, Apr 26, 2002. p. 10, emphasis added.)

While public opinion was fed images of a war torn resourceless developing country, the realities are otherwise: Afghanstan is a rich country as confirmed by Soviet era geological surveys.

The issue of “previously unknown deposits” sustains a falsehood. It excludes Afghanstan’s vast mineral wealth as a justifiable casus belli. It says that the Pentagon only recently became aware that Afghanistan was among the World’s most wealthy mineral economies, comparable to The Democratic Republic of the Congo or former Zaire of the Mobutu era. The Soviet geopolitical reports were known. During the Cold War, all this information was known in minute detail:

… Extensive Soviet exploration produced superb geological maps and reports that listed more than 1,400 mineral outcroppings, along with about 70 commercially viable deposits … The Soviet Union subsequently committed more than $650 million for resource exploration and development in Afghanistan, with proposed projects including an oil refinery capable of producing a half-million tons per annum, as well as a smelting complex for the Ainak deposit that was to have produced 1.5 million tons of copper per year. In the wake of the Soviet withdrawal a subsequent World Bank analysis projected that the Ainak copper production alone could eventually capture as much as 2 percent of the annual world market. The country is also blessed with massive coal deposits, one of which, the Hajigak iron deposit, in the Hindu Kush mountain range west of Kabul, is assessed as one of the largest high-grade deposits in the world. (John C. K. Daly,  Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, UPI Energy, October 24, 2008, emphasis added)

Afghanistan’s Natural Gas

Afghanistan is a land bridge. The 2001 U.S. led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been analysed by critics of US foreign policy as a means to securing control  over the strategic trans-Afghan transport corridor which links the Caspian sea basin to the Arabian sea.

Several trans-Afghan oil and gas pipeline projects have been contemplated including the planned $8.0 billion TAPI pipeline project (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) of 1900 km., which would transport Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan in what is described as a “crucial transit corridor”. (See Gary Olson, Afghanistan has never been the ‘good and necessary’ war; it’s about control of oil, The Morning Call, October 1, 2009). Military escalation under the extended Af-Pak war bears a relationship to TAPI. Turkmenistan possesses third largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran. Strategic control over the transport routes out of Turkmenistan have been part of Washington’s agenda since the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991.

What was rarely contemplated in pipeline geopolitics, however, is that Afghanistan is not only adjacent to countries which are rich in oil and natural gas (e.g Turkmenistan), it also possesses within its territory sizeable untapped reserves of natural gas, coal  and oil. Soviet estimates of the 1970s placed “Afghanistan’s ‘explored’ (proved plus probable) gas reserves at about 5  trillion cubic feet. The Hodja-Gugerdag’s initial reserves were placed at slightly more than 2 tcf.” (See, The Soviet Union to retain influence in Afghanistan, Oil & Gas Journal, May 2, 1988).

The US.Energy Information Administration (EIA) acknowledged in 2008 that Afghanistan’s natural gas reserves are “substantial”:

“As northern Afghanistan is a ‘southward extension of Central Asia’s highly prolific, natural gas-prone Amu Darya Basin,’ Afghanistan ‘has proven, probable and possible natural gas reserves of about 5 trillion cubic feet.’ (UPI, John C.K. Daly, Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, October 24, 2008)

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979, Washington’s objective has been to sustain a geopolitical foothold in Central Asia.

The Golden Crescent Drug Trade

America’s covert war, namely its support to the Mujahideen “Freedom fighters” (aka Al Qaeda) was also geared towards the development of the Golden Crescent trade in opiates, which was used by US intelligence to fund the insurgency directed against the Soviets.1

Instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war and protected by the CIA, the drug trade developed over the years into a highly lucrative multibillion undertaking. It was the cornerstone of America’s covert war in the 1980s. Today, under US-NATO military occupation, the drug trade generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism, Global Research, Montreal, 2005, see also Michel Chossudovsky, Heroin is “Good for Your Health”: Occupation Forces support Afghan Narcotics Trade, Global Research, April 29, 2007)

Towards an Economy of Plunder

The US media, in chorus, has upheld the “recent discovery” of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth as “a solution” to the development of the country’s war torn economy as well as a means to eliminating poverty. The 2001 US-NATO invasion and occupation has set the stage for their appropriation by Western mining and energy conglomerates.

The war on Afghanistan is  a profit driven “resource war”.

Under US and allied occupation, this mineral wealth is slated to be plundered, once the country has been pacified, by a handful of multinational mining conglomerates. According to Olga Borisova, writing in the months following the October 2001 invasion, the US-led “war on terrorism [will be transformed] into a colonial policy of influencing a fabulously wealthy country.” (Borisova, op cit).

Part of the US-NATO agenda is also to eventually take possession of Afghanistan’s reserves of natural gas, as well as prevent the development of competing Russian, Iranian and Chinese energy interests in Afghanistan.

Note

1. The Golden Crescent trade in opiates constitutes, at present, the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy. The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

Since the 2001 invasion, narcotics production in Afghanistan  has increased more than 35 times. In 2009, opium production stood at 6900 tons, compared to less than 200 tons in 2001. In this regard, the multibillion dollar earnings resulting from the Afghan opium production largely occur outside Afghanistan. According to United Nations data, the revenues of the drug trade accruing to the local economy are of the order of 2-3 billion annually.

In contrast with the Worldwide sales of heroin resulting from the trade in Afghan opiates, in excess of $200 billion. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism”, Global Research, Montreal, 2005)

ORDER DIRECTLY FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH

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America’s “War on Terrorism”

Michel Chossudovsky

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“Afghanistan – As Only Love Could Hurt”

NOVANEWS

Notes From A Broken Land

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Afghanistan

WINTER

It is now winter in Kabul, end of February 2017. At night the temperature gets near zero. The mountains surrounding the city are covered by snow.

It feels much chillier than it really is.

Soon it will be 16 years since the US/UK invasion of the country, and 16 years since the Bonn Conference, during which Hamid Karzai was “selected” to head the Afghan Interim Administration.

Almost everyone I spoke to in Afghanistan agrees that things are rapidly moving from bad to rock bottom.

Afghans, at home and abroad, are deeply pessimistic. With hefty allowances and privileges, at least some foreigners based in Kabul are much more upbeat, but ‘positive thinking’ is what they are paid to demonstrate.

Historically one of the greatest cultures on Earth, Afghanistan is now nearing breaking point, with the lowest Human Development Index (2015, HDI, compiled by the UNDP) of all Asian nations, and the 18th lowest in the entire world (all 17 countries below it are located in Sub-Saharan Africa). Afghanistan has also the lowest life expectancy in Asia (WHO, 2015).

While officially, the literacy rate stands at around 60%, I was told by two prominent educationalists in Kabul that in reality it is well below 50%, while it is stubbornly stuck under 20% for women and girls.

Statistics are awful, but what is behind the numbers? What has been done to this ancient and distinct civilization, once standing proudly at the crossroad of major trade routes, influencing culturally a great chunk of Asia, connecting East and West, North and South?

How deep, how permanent is the damage?

During my visit, I was offered but I refused to travel in an armored, bulletproof vehicle. My ageing “horse” became a beat-up Corolla, my driver and translator a brave, decent family man in possession of a wonderful sense of humor. Although we became good friends, I never asked him to what ethnic group he belonged. He never told me. I simply didn’t want to know, and he didn’t find it important to address the topic. Everyone knows that Afghanistan is deeply divided ‘along its ethnic lines’. As an internationalist, I refuse to pay attention to anything related to ‘blood’, finding all such divisions, anywhere in the world, unnatural and thoroughly unfortunate. Call it my little stubbornness; both my driver and me were stubbornly refusing to acknowledge ethnic divisions in Afghanistan, at least inside the car, while driving through this marvelous but scarred, stunning but endlessly sad land.

KABUL

One day you and your driver, who is by then your dear friend, are driving slowly over the bridge. Your car stops. You get out in the middle of the bridge, and begin photographing the clogged river below, with garbage floating and covering its banks. Children are begging, and you soon notice that they are operating in a compact pack, almost resembling some small military unit. In Kabul, as in so many places on earth, there is a rigid structure to begging.

After a while, you continue driving on, towards the Softa Bridge, which is located in District 6.

Where you are appears to be all messed up, endlessly fucked up.

You were told to come to this neighborhood, to witness a warzone inside the city, to see ‘what the West has done to the country’. There are no bullets flying here, and no loud explosions. In fact, you hear almost nothing. You actually don’t see any war near the Softa Bridge; you only see Death, her horrid gangrenous face, her scythe cutting all that is still standing around her, cutting and cutting, working in extremely slow motion.

Again, as so many times before, you are scared. You were scared like this several times before: in Haiti, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Iraq, and Peru, to name just a few countries. In those places, as well as here in Kabul, you are not frightened because you could easily lose your life any moment, or because your safety might be in danger. What dismays you, what you really cannot stomach, are the images of despair, those of ‘no way out’, of absolute hopelessness. Lack of hope is killing you, it horrifies you; everything else can always be dealt with.

People you see all around can hardly stand on their feet. Many cannot stand at all. Most of them are stoned, laying around in rags, sitting in embryonic positions, or moving aimlessly back and forth, staring emptily into the distance. Some are urinating publicly. Syringes are everywhere.

Drug dealers living in holes

There are holes, deep and wide, filled with motionless human bodies.

First you drive around, photographing through the cracked glass, then you roll down the window, and at the end, you get out and begin working, totally exposed. You have no idea what may happen in the next few seconds. Someone begins shouting at you, others are throwing stones, but they are too weak and the stones just hit your shoulder and legs, softly, without causing any harm.

Then a bomb goes off, not far from where you are. There is an explosion in the 6th District, right in front of a police station. You cannot see it, but you can clearly hear the blast. It is a muffled yet powerful bang. You look at your phone.

Explosion in District 6

It is March 1st, 2017, Kabul. Later you learn that several people died just a few hundred meters from where you were working, while several others perished in the 12th District, another few kilometers away.

The smoke begins rising towards the sky. Sirens are howling and several ambulances are rushing towards the site. Then countless military Humvees begin shooting one after another in the same direction, followed by heavier and much clumsier armored vehicles. You are taking all this in, slowly; photographing the scene, and then snapping from some distance a monumental but still semi-destroyed Darul Aman Palace.

And so it goes.

*

Tall concrete walls are scarring, fragmenting the city. In Kabul, almost anything worth protecting is now fenced. Some partitions and barriers are simply enormous, almost unreal. There are walls sheltering all foreign embassies and government buildings, palaces, military bases, police stations and banks, as well as the United Nations compounds, even most of the private schools and hotels. The Hamid Karzai international airport is encompassed by perimeters that could put to shame most of the Cold War lines: from the parking area one has to walk almost one kilometer to the entrance of the international terminal, with luggage and through the countless security checks.

Of course Western institutions and organizations have the most impressive fences, as well as the Afghan military and military bases and government offices.

Enormous surveillance drone-zeppelins are levitating above the city.

It could all be seen as thoroughly grotesque, even laughable, but no one is amused. It is all very serious, damn serious here.

Afghanistan has been gradually overtaken by something absolutely foreign: by the Western-style security apparatus. Tens of thousands of highly paid North American and European ‘experts’ have been getting extremely busy, fulfilling their secret wet dream: fencing everything in sight, monitoring each and every movement in the capital city, building taller and taller barriers, while installing the latest hi-tech cameras at almost every intersection, and above each gate.

*

Not far from the Embassy of the United States of America (or more precisely, not far from the Great Chinese Wall-size fence encompassing it), I noticed a familiar complex of buildings, reminding me of those that used to be constructed in all corners of Eastern Europe and Cuba. I asked my friend to drive into one of the compounds.

This is how I entered “Makroyan”.  We killed the engine, and everything around us was suddenly quiet, almost dormant. Time stopped here. There was a certain mild decay detectable all around the area, but upon a closer look, those old apartment buildings were still looking decent and strong, with very impressive public spaces in between them. Here I felt that I was allowed a rare glimpse of an old, socialist Afghanistan.

I stopped in between two entrances of Block 21: No.2 and No.3. I looked up to the 4th floor. Who is living there now? Who used to live here before, some 25, even 30 years ago?

Makroyan Block 21

A destroyed office chair was standing aimlessly in the middle of a parking lot, and an old, disabled man was crawling desolately on all fours, moving away from the block. There was a Soviet-built school right next to Block 21. It used to be known as Dosti primary school, and I was told that during the war, it was bombed a couple of times and lots of kids died inside it. Now the school is private and it has a new name – it is ‘Alfath’, a high school.

Apart from a few loose, rusty wires and fences, everything looks decent and semi-neat. This is where many members of the diminishing Kabul middle class still prefer to live. Blocks of Makroyan are reassuring; they radiate safety and permanency, while being surrounded by a volatile and frightening universe.

All of a sudden, I imagined a boy and a girl, who perhaps used to live here, so many years ago. As children in all other parts of the world do at that age, they were just slowly beginning to discover life, starting to formulate their dreams and expectations. In those days, the new leafy neighborhood would have been like a promise of a brighter future, of a much better country.

Then suddenly, full stop.

A war. A sudden end to all that the future was promising. Collapse of optimism, or enthusiasm, of confidence. Only death and destruction, and shattered dreams, remained. For those who were at least somehow lucky: a bitterness and then a hasty flight, instead of ultimate misery and death. Full stop. Total reset. Everything collapsed. But life never stops, it goes on, it always does. Things re-composed, somehow, not idyllically, but they did.

For a long time, I kept staring at Block 21. Memories kept coming, as if I used to live there myself, many years ago, when I was a child. I hardly noticed that it was getting very cold. I began to shiver. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to. Fresh pomegranate juice at a local street stall brought me back to reality, it woke me, but it didn’t managed to warm me up.

GREAT HISTORY, CHANGING CULTURE, AN ON-GOING OCCUPATION AND FEAR

A renowned Afghan intellectual, Dr. Omara Khan Masoudi, who used to be, among many other things, the former head of the National Museum, is now bitter about the changes invading the culture of his country:

In the past, we had also many ethnic groups living in this country, but they used to coexist in harmony. Then, our culture got influenced by conflicts and violence.

Before the war, it was the culture that used to represent us in the world. However, during and after the war, our cultures were used to justify the conflict.

Dr. Masoudi told me that he thinks it is wrong when culture falls into the hands of divisive politicians. “If culture is politicized, it loses its essence”, he declared.

I asked him whether he thinks it also applies to Latin America, to the former Soviet Union and China, where (at least to a great extent) ‘politicized culture’ has been playing an extremely important role, determining the course of development. He smiled, replying:

To be precise, politicizing cultures is not always such a bad thing… When it’s done, for instance, in order to achieve social progress or equality, I have nothing against it. But I am outraged when people like some religious leaders; Shia, Sunni or even some extremists, do it… Culture is very broad, and religions are only a part of it. But in Afghanistan, religious leaders have been using the culture for their narrow-minded interests.

In a coffee shop, which is lost somewhere inside the wilderness of an international and United Nations compound called ‘The Green Village’, my Japanese friend and Head of the Culture Unit of UNESCO, Mr. Masanori Nagaoka, explained:

Afghanistan or Ancient Ariana, as many ancient Greek and Roman authors referred to the region in antiquity, can be acknowledged as the multi-cultural cradle of Central Asia, linking East and West via historically significant trade conduits that also conveyed ideas, concepts and languages as a cultural by-product of fledgling international commerce. As a result, contemporary Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society with a complex history stretching back many millennia. The numerous civilizations are attested to in the archaeological record, both indigenous and foreign….

However, he is well aware of the complexities faced by the country and the culture torn apart by lethal conflicts of the last decades and centuries.

Afghanistan is unfortunately also a nation fragmented by a history of protracted conflict, exacerbated by geographic isolation for many communities and limited or unequal access to infrastructure and resources, both regionally and demographically. As a nominal starting point, the ongoing rehabilitation process in Afghanistan needs to address these issues if the nation is to unify under a common objective, fostering a veracious society free from conflict and where ethnic diversity is recognized for its social, cultural and economic benefits rather than, as is often the case, seen as a hindrance to particular developmental objectives. Part of the solution to this problem lies in the campaign of a positive public discussion to promote inter-cultural understanding and to raise awareness of the potential that such discourse has to contribute to the broader goals of rapprochement, peace-building and economic development in Afghanistan.

I flew to the city of Herat, where I witnessed tremendous masterpieces of architecture, from the marvelous and recently restored Citadel (as valuable as the citadels of Aleppo and Erbil), to the Friday Mosque and amazing, unique minarets rising proudly towards the sky.

How familiar all those architectural treasures appeared! On several occasions I approached Nasir, my local friend who was always eager to share the impressive history of his region: “Look, this could be in Delhi… and this in Samarkand!”

Sure enough, the most visited world heritage site in India, Qutub Minar, situated right outside New Delhi, is perhaps the greatest symbol of the Indo-Islamic Afghan architecture, while both Herat and Samarkand were connected by the Silk Road and historically kept influencing each other.

In Afghanistan, the history, the occupation and the on-going conflict: everything seems to be thoroughly intertwined.

Italian troops took over ancient Citadel in Herat City

During my work there, the Citadel of Herat was literally taken over by Italian troops. I was told that some high-ranking NATO officer was visiting the site, and with no shame, a fully armed Italian commando was roaming around, “securing” every corner of the vast courtyard. As if Afghans had lost control of their own country!

De-mining work in Herat

On closer examination, the madrassa of Hussein Baiqara is, in reality, still a minefield. In between four stunning minarets, a de-mining team from local “Halo Trust” was manually searching for unexploded ordinances. I was allowed to enter, but only as a war correspondent and at my own risk, definitely not as a ‘tourist’.

“On this site, we already found two mines and 10 unexploded ordinances”, I was told by one of the Halo Trust experts. “Now this entire area is off-limits to the public. Not long ago, one child was badly injured here; he lost his leg.”

Nothing is peaceful in Afghanistan, not even ancient historic sites.

*

Not much is questioned here.

Positive talk about the ancient history and culture is generally encouraged, but to discuss dramatic changes in modern Afghan culture, those that occurred as a result of the US/UK invasion and the present on-going NATO occupation of the country, is almost entirely off-limits. In fact, even the word itself – ‘occupation’ – could hardly be heard. Instead, such jargons as ‘protection’, ‘defense’ and ‘international help’ have been implanted deeply and systematically into the psyche of most Afghan people.

The culture that was known for long centuries for its passion for freedom and independence seems broken. While Afghans resisted heroically against all past British invasions, while some of them fought the Soviet incursion, there is presently no organized and united (national, not religious) opposition against the Western occupation of the country.

I met academic Jawid Amin, from the Academy of Social Sciences of Afghanistan, in a small guardroom in front of the Museum of Modern Arts in Kabul.

I asked him, whether there is any art, or any group of intellectuals openly critical of the United States, and of the occupation. He replied, sincerely:

We don’t have anyone openly critical of the US or the West here, because it is simply not allowed by the government. I personally don’t like the Americans, but I can’t say more… Even I work for the government. My brother and sister are living in the United States. And about critical arts: nothing could be exhibited here without permission from the government and since Karzai, the government is controlled by the West…

A prominent Afghan intellectual, Omaid Sharifi, explained over the phone: “In the provinces, you can still see paintings depicting killing of civilians by the US drones… but not in Kabul.”

I’m trying to work as fast as possible, meeting people who are helping to shed light on the situation. Eventually, a dire picture begins to form.

I met a Japanese reporter who has been living in Afghanistan for almost a quarter of a century. Her assessment of the situation was to a large extent pessimistic:

Afghans had very little choice… It is 100% true that behind Karzai’s government was the US… Afghans didn’t want to accept foreign intervention, but soon they learned how money plays an important role.  The entire Afghan culture is now changing, even some essential elements of it like hospitality: people don’t want to spend money on it, or they don’t have any that they can spare…

I asked Dr. Masoudi why Afghan culture did not accept Soviets and their egalitarian, socially oriented ideals, while it seems to be tolerating the Western invasion, which is spreading inequality, desperation and subservience. He replied, passionately:

The biggest mistake the Soviet Union made here was to attack religion out rightly. If they’d first stick to equal rights, and slowly work it up towards the contradictions of religion, it could perhaps work… But they began blaming religion for our backwardness, in fact for everything. Or at least this is how it was interpreted by the coalition of their enemies, and of course by the West.

Now, why is the Western invasion ‘successful’? Look at the Karzai regime… During his rule, the US convinced people that Western intervention was ‘positive’, ‘respectful of their religion and cultures’. They kept repeating ‘under this and that UN convention’, and again ‘as decided by the UN’… They used NATO, a huge group of countries, as an umbrella. There was a ‘brilliantly effective’ protocol that they developed… According to them, they never did anything unilaterally, always by ‘international consensus’ and in order to ‘help Afghan people’. On the other hand, the Soviet Union had never slightest chance to explain itself. It was attacked immediately, and on all fronts.

“Opposition to Western occupation? Anti-Western art?” A Russian cultural expert in Kabul was clearly surprised by my question.

First of all, the Taliban destroyed most artistic traditions of this country. But also, the economic and social situation in this country is so desperate, that hardly anyone has time to think about some larger picture. More than 60% of Afghans are jobless. One thing you also should remember: Afghan people are very proud and very freedom loving, as the history illustrated, but they are also extremely patient. Go and see The British Cemetery. It was built in 1879 to hold the dead of the second Anglo-Afghan War, but despite all that the UK did to this country, and despite all recent wars and conflicts, it was never attacked, never damaged.

It is true. I never heard anyone discussing this topic. All horrid British crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan seem to be forgotten, at least for now.

But that’s not all: nobody here seems to have any appetite for recalling those horrors of the last decades, triggered by Western imperialism. Not once I observed any discussion addressing the main topic of modern Afghan history: how the West managed to trick the Soviets into invading Afghanistan in 1979, and how it created and then armed the vilest bunch of religious fanatics – the Mujahedeen. And how, subsequently, both countries – Afghanistan and the Soviet Union – were thoroughly destroyed in the process.

All was done, of course, with “great respect” for the Afghan nation, for its culture and traditions, as well as (how else) religion.

I’d love to be an invisible witness in a modern history class at the American University of Afghanistan, a ‘famed’ institution that is literally regurgitating thousands of collaborators, manufacturing a new breed of obedient pro-Western ‘elites’.

As we drive past Jamhuriat Hospital (Republic Hospital), which had a new 10- story building, with capacity for 350 patients, constructed by China in 2004, my driver, Mr. Tahir, sighs: “This was really a great gift from China to us… the Chinese really work hard, don’t they?”

“They have plenty of zeal and enthusiasm”, I uttered carefully. “Socialist fervor, you know. They sincerely believe in building, improving their country and the world. It is quite contrary to Western nihilism and extreme individualism…”

“They must love their country…”

“They do.”

“Afghanistan is poor”, Mr. Tahir’s face became suddenly sad. “Our people don’t love their country, anymore. They don’t work to improve it. They only work for themselves now, for their families…”

“Was it different before? You know…” I made an abstract gesture with my hand. “Before all this…”

“Of course it used to be very different”, he replied, grinning again.

NOTHING SOCIAL LEFT, NOTHING SOCIALIST WANTED

I stopped several people who were just walking down the street, in various parts of Kabul. I wanted to understand some basics: was there anything social left in Afghanistan? Did Western ‘liberation’ bring at least some progress, social development and improved standards of living?

Most answers were thoroughly gloomy. Only those people who were working or moonlighting for the Western military, for the embassies, the NGOs or other ‘international contractors’, were to some extent optimistic.

I was explained that almost everyone in the countryside and provincial cities were out off work. Unemployment among university graduates stood at over 80%.

In Herat, a city of almost half a million inhabitants, a long and depressing line was winding in front of the Iranian embassy. I was told that tens of thousands have already migrated to the other side of the border. Now Afghans who were attempting to visit their relatives living in Iran were told to leave a 300-euro deposit, in case they decide not to return.

I asked what Herat is producing, and was told, without any irony: “mainly just some washing powder and biscuits”. Tourism from Iran stood at only about 150 people a year! The area between the city and the border has been dangerous, and there are frequent kidnappings.

In most provincial cities, a regular family has to get by on 2.300 – 2.500 Afghanis per month, which is not much more than US$30.

Government supplies run water mainly to the government housing projects. People living elsewhere have to dig their own wells.

Electricity is expensive, and an average family in Kabul is now expected to pay around US$35 per month. Even in the capital, many people have to get by without electricity. Indian ‘investors’ are in partnership with the government. Electricity supplies, and even water, are perceived as ‘business ventures’, not as basic social services.

Counting on a decent public transportation in the past, Kabul is now forced to rely on private vehicles, and on those few ‘city buses’ that are ‘pro-profit’ and mainly privately owned and operated.

There are government schools in Afghanistan, and in theory they are free, but books, pencils, uniforms and other basics are not.

In fact, perhaps the most impressive modern structure in Kabul, is actually the 10-story building to Jamhuriat Hospital, a gift from the People’s Republic of China, not from the West.

One wonders where is that fabled great ‘assistance’ from the United States and Europe really going? Perhaps to the millions of tons of concrete, used for construction of the massive fences? Perhaps money sponsors’ purchases of high-tech cameras and surveillance systems, as well as the high-life of thousands of Western ‘contractors’ and ‘security experts’?

I spoke to more than hundreds of Afghan people. Almost no one was ready to mention socialism. As if this wonderful word disappeared, was erased from the local lexicon.

“They actually remember socialism very fondly”, my Japanese acquaintance based in Kabul once told me. “However, talking about it is not encouraged. It may cause all sorts of problems.”

WESTERN (TEMPORARY) VICTORY

While in Kabul, I was told by one of the local experts working for an international organization:

The National Education Strategic Plan (NESP) for Afghanistan was just drafted… The funding came from the West. Many meetings were held directly at the US embassy and at the offices of the World Bank. The Afghan Ministry of Education had very little say about the curriculum, which was basically dictated by the Western countries…

I cannot quote the source of this information, as she would most probably lose her position for expressing such views.

She later clarified further:

The policy decisions on education are proposed by donor parties, which are mostly Western countries. The Ministry of Education, with limited capacity, has a lesser role in drafting the NESP III policy. Instead of building the capacity of the government, donor countries are taking the leading role in changing the education system and this does not ensure a sustainable education for Afghanistan whatsoever.

As in all client states of the West, education in Afghanistan is manipulated and geared to serve the interests of the West. It is expected to produce obedient and unquestioning masses. Instead of determined and productive patriots, it is regurgitating butlers of the regime, which is in turn serving predominately foreign interests.

Almost all information flows through the channels that are at least to some extent influenced from abroad: social media, television networks as well as the printed media.

The fabled Afghan spirit of resistance and courage has been (hopefully only temporarily) brutally broken, under the supervision of highly professional foreign indoctrinators and propagandists.

Those who are willing to collaborate with the occupation forces are suddenly not even hiding it, carrying their condition proudly as if a coat of arms, not as a shame. Many are now delighted to be associated with the West and its institutions.

In fact, the occupation is not even called occupation, anymore, at least not by the elites who are well rewarded by the system for their linguistic and intellectual somersaults and pirouettes.

And Afghan people keep leaving.

Afghanistan is shedding its most talented sons and daughters, every day, every month, irreversibly.

Ms. Yukiko Matsuyoshi, a former Japanese diplomat, presently a UN education expert, is worried about the current trends in Afghanistan, a country where she spent several years:

Now the social classes have been re-created after the fall of Taliban, but the country seems to have no ideology. People just follow trends that are thrown their way. There is corruption, there is that huge poppy business, and there are palaces. And there is misery in the countryside, hardly any access to information. Afghans are leaving their country. Whoever can, goes: good people, government people…it seems like everyone tries to escape.

All of a sudden, the West is perceived like some Promised Land. Those who make it there are bragging about their new ‘home’, sending colorful images through social media: Disneyland, Hollywood, German castles…

I have seen the other side of the coin, in terrible refugee camps in Greece, in the French Calais camps; people drowning while attempting to cross the sea from Turkey to the European Union.

There is no discussion whether Afghanistan should be capitalist or socialist, anymore. Debate has stopped. The decision has been made, somewhere else, obviously.

The faces of Northern Alliance leaders are ‘decorating’ (or some would say, ‘scarring’) all major roads on which I drove. Ahmad Shah Massoud became a national hero, during the Karzai regime.

I travelled more than 100 kilometers north, to see Massoud’s grave, or a thumb, or whatever that monstrosity they erected above the splendid Panjshir Valley really is. Hordes of people drive there on weekends, some all the way from Kabul, and there are even those who pray to the ‘leader’.

The former “anti-Soviet” and anti-Communist fighter, he is certainly a perfect ‘hero’, whose memory is groomed by the pro-Western regime.

Driving through the Panjshir Valley, I saw several Soviet tanks and armored vehicles, rotting by the side of the road. I also saw a destroyed village, an eerie reminder of the war. It is called Dashtak. Clay houses look like a cemetery, like a horrid monument.

Village in the North destroyed during the war

I took photos and sent them to Kabul, to my friends, for identification. I want to know, I felt that I had to know, who razed this town by the river, surrounded by such stunning mountains.

The answer came in a just few minutes: “I think it was in 1984, by the Soviet Union”. What followed was a link leading to a book published in the West, quoting some former Ukrainian, Soviet adviser to an Afghan battalion commander. The name of the book was “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”.

The quote did not sound too convincing. “Let’s go back”, I asked my driver and translator. “Let’s talk to people on the other side of the river’.

We found three inhabitants, in three different parts of the village; three people old enough to remember what took place here, some 30 years ago. All three testimonies coincided: Massoud’s forces brought refugees from several other parts of the valley. Before the battle began, all of them left. During the combat, clay houses were destroyed, but no civilians died inside.

There are always many different interpretations of the historic events. However, the analyses of modern Afghan history disseminated by the West and the Afghan regime among the Afghan people, are suspiciously unanimous and frighteningly one-sided. I am definitely planning to revisit this point during my next trip to the country. I see it as essential. The future of Afghanistan certainly depends on understanding the past.

*

There are huge zeppelin-drones, vile-looking airborne surveillance stuff, hovering over the US air force base near Bagram. The same drones could be seen levitating over Kabul, but in the Bagram area, with the dramatic backdrop of the mountains, they look particularly dreadful.

The air force base is huge. It appears even bigger than Incerlik near Adana in Turkey. It is an absolute masterpiece of military vulgarity, with watch towers everywhere, with barbed wire, several layers of concrete walls, surveillance cameras and powerful lights. If this is not an occupation, then what really is?

Again, my driver is totally cool. I want to photograph this monstrosity, and he drives me around, so we can identify a truly good spot. I’m ‘calculating light’, looking for the correct angle, so during the sunset, those who would be observing us from inside the ‘castle’, would be blinded, and we could get at least a few decent images.

I’m aware of the fact that in Afghanistan, the Empire often kills anything that moves, at the slightest suspicion or without any suspicion at all, as for them human lives of the local people count for almost nothing.

Once the sun goes down, I begin working fast.

Somehow I feel that my visit to Afghanistan would be incomplete, without getting at least some images of the base – one of the most expressive symbols of the occupation.

So this is what Afghanistan became under the Western ‘liberating’ boots! Barbed wires, foreign jet fighters, concrete walls everywhere, battles with the religious fundamentalist elements (invented and manufactured by the West), grotesque savage capitalism, ignorant or shameless collaboration, and guns, guns and guns, as well as misery in almost every corner, and one of the lowest life expectancies and standards of living on Earth! And of course, people escaping, leaving this beautiful country behind – a country, which is suddenly unloved, humiliated, abandoned by so many!

This is all happening only roughly four decades after the heroic attempts to build some great social housing projects, after the implementation of a well-functioning public transportation network, public education and medical care, as well as an attempt to introduce secularism, while building a decent, egalitarian society.

The glorious victory of Western imperialism over one of the oldest and greatest cultures seems to be complete. The Brits tried, on several occasions; they murdered and tortured, but were defeated. They never forgave. They waited for decades, and then returned with their muscular and aggressive offspring. And here they are, all of them, now!

Afghanistan appears to be exhausted and defeated. It is badly injured, and it has been dragged through unimaginable dirt.

But I don’t think it is crushed, by the West or by the religious fundamentalists, or by these two historical allies.

Deep inside, Afghanistan knows better. It already experienced many years of hope; it knows the taste of it. During long centuries and millennia of its existence, it survived several dreadful moments, but it always stood up again, undefeated and proud. I’m certain that it will rise again.

Flying, driving or walking through its magnificent mountains, I often felt that Afghanistan is like a living organism, it was winking at me, letting me know that it is alive, that it sees everything that goes on, that it is not futile at all to struggle for its future.

*

I watched the stubs of the electric contacts that used to hold, some decades ago, those long wires used by the legendary Kabul trolley bus network.

“Those beautiful vehicles came from former Czechoslovakia”, a man, an office worker, whom I stopped in the center of the city, told me. “They were beautiful, and do you know who used to drive them? Some young girls; optimistic women who were for some reason always in a good mood.”

Apparently Kabul had three trolleybus lines, one of them originating (or ending) at the ‘Cinema Pamir’. What color were Kabul trolleybuses? I saw some photos, but those I could find were black and white. When I was a child, growing up in Czechoslovakia, ours were red. The ones in Leningrad, the city where I was born, were blue and green, some red as well. When they were accelerating, it was as if they’d be singing a simple song, or whining, complaining mockingly about their hard life.

I imagined a strong-minded, professional woman, boarding these trolleybuses. Perhaps eager to catch one of those old great Soviet movies at the Cinema Pamir, perhaps “the Dawns are Quiet Here”, or going to work or to visit different parts of the city.  She would snuggle into a comfortable seat in the electric vehicle. It was getting dark, but the city was safe. A woman behind the wheel was really smiling. There were flags flying all around the city. There was hope. There was a future. There was a country to build and to love.

 

Afghanistan can still fly

I had suspected that the Kabul trolleybuses were actually light blue. I have no idea why. It was just my intuition.

*

Suddenly I heard a loud bang, and then the squeaking of brakes.

“Roll up the window!” my driver was shouting. We were getting into a slum inhabited by IDPs. We left the road. Dust everywhere, absolute misery. Bagrani town, now Bagrani slums, just a few kilometers east from Kabul, on the Jalalabad Highway.

I grasped the heavy metal body of my professional Nikon.

My dream about Afghanistan of the 70’s, a gentle and enthusiastic country, abruptly ended. Now all around me were children suffering from malnutrition. I heard excited, accusatory voices of men and women who were forced to come from all corners of Afghanistan. We drove on a bumpy road, towards numerous half-collapsed clay structures and dirty tents.

“We escaped fighting in Shinwar, Helmand Province, from around Jalalabad and Kandahar”, several internally displaced persons living in Bagrani were shouting at me:

We have 1.000 families from Helmand and more than 1.000 families from Kandahar, living here. We lost our houses back in our villages and towns… People around Jalalabad lost their homes, too. Daesh (ISIS) is operating in several parts of the country… Taliban fighters are frequently changing sides, joining Daesh. There is fighting going on everywhere: Daesh, Taliban and the government forces confronting each other.

How involved is NATO in general and the US in particular, I ask, through my interpreter.

Americans are there, of course. Mostly they are fighting from the air, but sometimes they are on the ground, too.

Do they kill civilians?

“Yes, they do… Our sons, our husbands are regularly murdered by them”, shouts a woman clothed in a blue burqa, holding a small child in her arms.

Misery is everywhere, destroying the country, I’m told. And there is almost no help coming from the corrupt and the near bankrupt state.

Ms. Sidiqah, an elderly lady, is shouting in desperation and anger: “We have nothing left, but no one helps us! We don’t know what to do.”

As I photograph, a small cluster of people begin to rock the car. Things are getting tense, but I don’t feel that we are facing any immediate danger. I continue working. This is all becoming very personal. I don’t understand why, but it is…

Then, silently, a small group of people approaches us. Among them are a man with a very long beard, and a girl, with a beautiful and tragic face. She is wearing a t-shirt depicting several cute white mice, but the right sleeve is empty. She is missing her entire arm.

A girl without arm

Her face is striking. She stares directly into my camera, and when I lower the lens, I feel her eyes begin to pierce mine. Without one single word uttered, I sense clearly what she is trying to convey:

“What have you done to me?”

I try to hold her glance for at least a few seconds, but then I lower my eyes. Now I‘m in panic. I want to embrace her, hold her, take her away from here, somewhere, somehow; to adopt her, airlift her from here, give her a home, but I know that there is no way I would be allowed to do it. My glasses get very foggy. I mumble something incoherent. I am tough, I witnessed dozens of wars, I faced death on various occasions. I try to keep calm whenever I’m in places like this; whenever working. What is happening to me here and now happens very rarely, but it does happen.

It is March 4th 2017, Afghanistan. My flight is schedule to depart the next day, late in the afternoon. I know that I will take it. But I also realize, and I silently make my pledge to this tiny girl with the cute mice and an empty sleeve, that I will never fully leave her country.

*

What will happen later is predicable: yet another sleepless night. Everything will be back, play itself like a film inside my brain. Bagrani provisional camp, another camp that is housing evacuees from Kunduz, some active mine fields in the middle of Herat, those hundreds of living corpses vegetating in the middle of District 6 in Kabul, then several explosions, innumerable rotting carcasses of Soviet tanks, the eerie and enormous US air force base near Bagram, Massoud’s bizarre grave, white zeppelin-drones, concrete walls, watch towers, security checks, and hollow muzzles of various types of guns pointing in all directions.

Air force Bagrani base

I’ll be tired, exhausted, but I’ll be well aware that I have no right to rest, not now, not anytime soon.

I’ll keep thinking about Cinema Pamir, about Kabul trolleybuses, and Block 21 in the socialist-style neighborhood of Makroyan … 4th floor, entrance 2 or perhaps 3… I’ll keep imagining what could have taken place there, if life had not been so abruptly and so brutally interrupted.

Afghanistan, a stunning but terribly scarred and injured land has been suffering from a concussion. It has been dizzy and disoriented. It can hardly walk. Still it being Afghanistan, it has been walking anyway, against all odds!

Later that night, I’ll recall what one great Cuban poet and singer Silvio Rodriquez once wrote about Nicaragua. And at one point, only a few moments before the dawn would begin returning bright colors to the world, I’ll replace Nicaragua with Afghanistan, and suddenly realize that it is exactly what I feel towards this beautiful and shattered nation: “Afghanistan hurts, as only love does.”

It hurts like love…

It hurts… terribly. Therefor, it is love.

All that would happen later, hours later. At the end I’ll stop fighting it, and simply accept.

But now, the old Toyota climbs back on the paved road. I can hardly keep my eyes open. The last several days I slept very little.

Mr. Tahir, my driver and now my comrade, looks surprisingly composed and unworried. After all this time working with me, he is clearly ready for any adventure, or any nightmare.

He hands me a bunch of tissues. My left wrist is bleeding, although not too badly. Most likely I hit or scratched something in the slums, without realizing it. My cameras feel increasingly heavy and my notebook looks filthy; I keep dropping it on the floor. My clothes look dirty, too. But we are going, we are moving forward, and that is good!

“It is all fucked up, Mr. Tahir”, I inform him, politely.

“Yes, Sir”, he replies, with an equal doze of respect. We are a good team.

“But we are going”, I remind him and myself.

“We are going, sir.”

Again my head drops on my chest. I open my eyes just a few minutes later. It is already very dark. Kabul all around me; Afghanistan. It feels good to be here. I’m glad I came.

“Where to now, sir?”

“Jalalabad, Mr. Tahir.”

“Sir? Jalalabad is behind… And at this hour…”

He is not saying no. He never says ‘no’ to any of my requests, during all those days. He is just informing me. If I was really crazy enough and insisted, he’d just take me. He knows we’d get fucked, perhaps even killed, but he would not refuse. He’s my comrade and I feel safe with him.

“Sorry, I fell asleep… What I mean: we’ll go to Jalalabad soon, when I return to Afghanistan.”

I am thinking for a few seconds. This drive, just being here, all of it feels right, exactly as it is supposed to be. I’m not certain where exactly I want to go right now, but one thing I know for sure: I have to keep going.

“Please, just drive, Mr. Tahir.”

“Forward?” He asks, intuitively. I know that he knows. We both know, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

“Yes, please. Drive forward. Always forward!”

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