Archive | Afghanistan

Why numbers don’t add up for Trump’s failing Afghanistan War

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Afghanistan – Where the dreams of empires get buried

Editor’s Note: Governments now routinely hide anything they can about the failure of our foreign policy, by deeming not doing so to be a potential threat to national security. This of course is quite a stretch, and a convenient one on their part.

Martin Jay has a very concise article below about how both the Afghan government and the US want to hide the real casualties being incurred in the war, feeling that it might cast a shadow on the rosy projections. For the Afghans it hurts recruitment as the draw to pull people into the military their is the paycheck.

Martin Jay – Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley

 

the US, although much is made about serving one’s country, which the draft was a kind of forced servitude, the all professional army is well paid and with generous educational benefits.

Most people are not joining because they want to fight in endless wars overseas to expand corporate America’s market share. The proof of that was the 50% of all the West Pointers who were bailed out during the War on Terror as soon as their five years were up. They did not want to be mercenaries for US multinationals.

The catch-22 in all of this is the citizen’s right to know, which our Founding Fathers felt was so critical to not allowing a corrupt government to get into and stay in power, that both free speech and a free press were made cornerstones of our freedoms.

They have now been significantly eroded, and when military issues are involved, which keep defense contracts flowing through a carefully designed system to be spread across as many Congressional districts as possible, with special attention paid to powerful committee chairman districts, we find our elected representatives are often compromised.

This is a serious challenge to what we have left of our democracy. Can failed and failing government policies be hidden from us? Can taxpayer money actually be used to run what are top tier Intelligence disinformation ops on us, effectively attacking our constitutional rights to be informed? The answer right now is yes, and the question is what can we really do about it with our system compromised to the extent that it is … Jim W. Dean

Welcome to the gray zone: Why the numbers don’t add up for Trump’s failing Afghanistan war


First published … November 03, 2017

by Martin Jay from Beirut with Russia Today, Moscow

A recent US report on troop fatalities in Afghanistan, for the first time, failed to mention the number. Did the Americans tell Kabul to omit it? And can we expect more fudging of the truth about Trump’s Afghanistan campaign? You betcha…

The news from Afghanistan that essential data about the numbers of dead in its country’s own army is to be kept a secret from now on is worrying but not at all surprising – either from Kabul or Washington. The campaign is not working and, according to recent reports from credible media outlets, the territory taken by the Taliban – and ISIS – is slowly but undoubtedly expanding.

The writing is on the wall for both the Kabul government and Washington: prepare for increased numbers of deaths of Afghans – both civilians and security forces – as American airstrikes increase and the Taliban moves closer to inevitably taking power once again.

But that’s not happening. Trump sees PR value in US troops fighting a war against both the Taliban and ISIS and is preparing for a long, bloody battle. The problem he faces though is that his strategy is based almost entirely on the tenet of having the Afghan forces doing the bulk of the fiercest, front-line fighting. He needs the numbers.

And if what we have read is true in the most recent SIGAR report, that it is the Kabul government which wishes to conceal the numbers of deaths of their own soldiers, then this raises some questions over the validity of the entire campaign. Is Trump’s bold move in the graveyard of empires, already about to implode?

Arguably, it’s probably true that the Afghan government asked to keep the number of its own army casualties a secret as this would seriously impede the numbers of new recruits. Compared to 2014, where there were about a thousand deaths, we’re looking at a new type of conflict which, according to SIGAR’s quarterly report in July found what it called “shockingly high” casualties: 2,531 members of the Afghan security forces killed and 4,238 wounded between January and May, 8. No wonder someone wants this incendiary information to be buried.

In today’s new conflict, which is taking at least five times the number of Afghan casualties, it seems the first casualty on the battlefield will be the truth. The numbers shouldn’t have surprised anyone since ISIS came into the theater and it is only natural that the numbers of new recruits is being affected by the militants’ recent victories, like the one in April this year which took 140 Afghan soldiers in one swoop. Clearly, as militants take more ground, and the attacks become bloodier, fewer Afghans are willing to enlist.

But we should also be very skeptical about whether this initiative was entirely theirs or someone suggested that they request the Pentagon from now on keeps this kind of information away from the public eye. When you witness firsthand, as I have, the sheer scale of ‘mentoring’ which has been going on in Kabul, by US senior officers as early as 2008, then it’s hard to imagine that this initiative is Kabul’s alone.

I would estimate that US generals in Kabul who advise President Ashraf Ghani told him to stop releasing the data as the figure in recent months must have jumped considerably. If during the spring period it has jumped five times, we can only imagine that it might be tenfold during the summer months.

I recently argued in an article that Trump’s only way to win in Afghanistan was through the manufactured consent of Western journalists’ ignorance of the war; Trump press kits were given to third rate news agencies who aren’t interested in fact checking too much and are just click bait hungry. But buzz-feeding the wannabee journos might not be enough.

I would argue that this latest move is the thin end of the wedge and we will see more and more ambiguity in such intelligence sharing – and consequently a new ‘gray zone’ in reporting. Yet it’s not just about keeping the media guessing over the number of deaths.

If the Americans can keep up this farce and Pentagon spin doctors can just shrug their shoulders when asked tough questions – and attribute everything to the Afghans – then how far can this new stunt be taken? Are there other critical areas which the Trump would like covered up?

Thin end of the wedge

One visible gray area when things start to slip in a downward spiral might be US soldiers badly wounded. Obviously, it would be impossible to fudge the figures of actual body bags, but those coming back hideously injured without limbs or suffering from PTSD might also be hidden under this latest ruse.

Or, under this blanket cover of need-to-know basis, perhaps US troop numbers will slowly be increased in very small numbers over the months, without the press knowing. All is feasible when you have a premise to withhold data.

Perhaps a more obvious one would be how much money is the US government giving to the Afghans? To date, according to Forbes magazines, the 17-year-old war has cost over a trillion dollars, with training for the Afghan forces reaching a staggering $30 billion in 2016. The figure of only $5.7 billion for 2017 seems trivial – that is when it’s compared to what the US has given to Afghanistan in non-military aid since 2002, a monumental sum of $100 billion.

The number of critics lining up to point out the failure of this development aid is growing, with even some US media outlets exposing the amount “wasted and stolen” and given that it is a tenth of the whole bundle shelled out since the war began, we have to wonder if Afghanistan is not a gray area of disinformation for a reason: to cover up corruption and embezzlement to the tune of billions of dollars.

Presumably, with Trump’s new carpet bombing campaign kicking off – and a dramatically higher number of civilian casualties – this 2017 figure of only $5.7 billion will have to rise. But will it be hidden this time under the guise of the Afghans apparently wanting to keep it quiet, as it would be a PR coup for the enemy?

But $100 billion in aid vanishing into a black hole is pretty impressive. Is that a record?

It might be. And so while Baghdad had its green zone, Kabul now has its gray zone. If the next chapter of Afghanistan’s war against insurgents is at best, going to slow down the demise of the US operation, then expect a lot of shrugged shoulders and idiotic, helpless grimaces from Pentagon spokespersons as all part of an insidious plan to wane away the truth of what’s really happening there.

I’m convinced Trump and his accomplices in the Pentagon want to extinguish all factual, objective reporting from Afghanistan and reduce the entire operation to one which can be only reported on when the US has ‘hand-out’ press kits or doctored reports. We’ve gone from a quarterly study, which once had vital data in it which could be written about by armchair ‘foreign journalists’ in the US, to now the farce of even these news items having no value whatsoever.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, dismount a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during an air assault in the Al Jazeera Desert, Iraq © U.S. Air Force

And it’s working. It’s as though there are no journalists left in the US anymore who don’t whiff the stench of foul play or even graft when Afghanistan abandons its Russian helicopters, which it can get cheap parts for and has leagues of Russian-trained mechanics waiting to service – in preference for America’s overpriced ones.

The deafening sound of silence from America’s best investigative journalists was notable as it is on the subject of how Trump’s cabal seem to be doing more business with one of the most corrupt countries in the world which supplies the entire planet with illegal heroin.

MSM in the US struggles to even acknowledge that Afghanistan’s opium production continues to climb and that, in 2001, before the US went to Afghanistan there were only a few thousand heroin addicts in the US. There are presently almost 5 million and climbing; or indeed that it was the Taliban in 2000, when in power, which agreed to ban the heroin trade altogether. Is the US campaign also about protecting this industry?

Similar cynicism should be leveled at the SIGAR report having critical data airbrushed out. Soon it will get harder for journalists to even go to Kabul on journalist visas, as the Trump campaign sinks further into the quagmire.

Mark my words. Afghanistan will soon be a gray zone for media, wherein the interests of not helping the terrorists, all information will be off limits. But not to worry. Many journalists will merely put on green wigs and wear silly t-shirts and mock their rivals who demand this information, and then write stories about that instead.

Posted in USA, AfghanistanComments Off on Why numbers don’t add up for Trump’s failing Afghanistan War

Remember Osama bin Laden? ‘VIDEO’

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Image result for bin Laden CARTOON

THE REASON WE WENT TO WAR
THE $10 TRILLION BOOGIE MAN

Remember Osama bin Laden?

The reason we went to war

He’s long gone from Afghanistan – and the planet for that matter – and 15+ years later we’re still there.

“But he confessed! He said he did it”

Really?

A German news media outlet hired an Arabic translator to translate the magic confession video.

It turns out he said no such thing.

So that means not only did he not confess on that tape, but the CIA lied about what was on it and the US news media which surely has enough money to hire their own Arabic translator – or 100 of them – let it slide.

Posted in USA, AfghanistanComments Off on Remember Osama bin Laden? ‘VIDEO’

ICC prosecutor seeks investigation into Afghanistan war crimes

NOVANEWS

… from Press TV, Tehran

Was this a failure of the command structure…or just some bad apples?

[ Editor’s Note: This may be a flash in a pan story in that the ICC judges can decide not to heed their prosecutor’s call for for a formal investigation. The US would ignore it as it has never joined the ICC, and for the good reason, like the rest of us would not step in front of a speeding train.

The soft under-belly of this case is the US co-torturing partners who are members of the ICC and under its jurisdiction, Poland, Romania and Lithuania.

Even though no legal glove can be laid on the US, the whole sordid mess can again be publicly reviewed, where new information usually is uncovered about what really happened, including governments lying to their people from whom they are supposed to derive consent for governing over them.

This latter concern has growing recognition as a major national security threat in itself, one our Founding Fathers warned us about. That is why they codified in in the national oath, “…to defend the country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The later was not a typo mistake. These were pragmatic men and they has seen what had happened in European countries via internal subversion, particularly in the banking sector.

This new case would also break a long credibility PR disaster for the ICC in that it has previously only been able to find crimes of humanity committed in Africa, where such is considered a national right in many countries there. The average black woman there can be expected to be raped three times, a statistic that is conveniently airbrushed out of the mass media coverage on the continent.

But the former colonial countries with huge records of crimes against humanity have gotten a 100% free pass, making a joke out of the ICC, especially in the Mideast where both the former colonialists and some of the current brutal governments have tortured at will.

The US, which reserves the right to itself to execute drone strikes on targets that its “internal ICC” has charged, tried and convicted, and goes even further in claiming sovereign immunity when such strikes wipe out a wedding party of innocent civilians. This is hardly the conduct of a great country … Jim W. Dean ]

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Chief ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

– First published … November 03, 2017 –

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has called for a formal investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan following the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

“Following a meticulous preliminary examination of the situation, I have come to the conclusion that all legal criteria required to commence an investigation have been met”, said Fatou Bensouda in a statement on Friday.

“There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed,” Bensouda added.

She said US forces and CIA agents may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan under a system of approved torture techniques, which included simulated drowning.

Human Rights Watch has welcomed the possibility of holding perpetrators to account for what it called horrendous human rights abuses against Afghans.

“Having documented egregious crimes in Afghanistan that have gone unpunished over many years, we hope this step will open a path to justice for countless victims there,” said a spokesman for the group.

The investigation, which follows a related report Bensouda (pictured below) filed in 2016, could potentially involve US troops.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon has described the investigation “wholly unwarranted and unjustified,” telling NPR that “our overall assessment is that commencement of an ICC investigation will not serve the interests of either peace or justice in Afghanistan.”

The United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and overthrew the Taliban regime. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump.

Recently, the US military officially acknowledged that there are some 2,600 more troops in the war-torn country than the 8,400 previously reported. The additional forces would join the 11,000 troops already in the country.

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Afghanistan Inspector General Ready to Criticize War “The First Day I’m Out of This Job”

Inspector General John F. Sopko testifies before Congress on April 10, 2013. (Photo: Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction)

Inspector General John F. Sopko testifies before Congress on April 10, 2013. (Photo: Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction)

As the most prominent official overseeing the War in Afghanistan, John Sopko has made some enemies among hawks on Capitol Hill.

At a House Oversight Committee panel on Wednesday, Sopko had a warning for them.

“The first day I’m out of this job — because it’s not my job to talk policy — I’m happy to publicly tell you what I really think about our mission in Afghanistan,” he said.

The Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) was responding to a question from Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).

A lawmaker since 1995, Jones has been a critic of US military intervention since the middle of last decade, after the War in Iraq. He isn’t even on the Oversight Committee, but was allowed to participate in Wednesday’s proceedings by Ron DeSantis (R-Fla), chair of the Subcommittee on National Security.

“I know there are people who don’t appreciate you and your staff and what you do because many of them are in Congress,” Jones said, referring to media reports last year.

In May 2016, Politico ran a lengthy article calling Sopko’s work into disrepute, entitled “The Donald Trump of inspectors general.” The piece featured claims that Sopko’s analyses are flimsy, and that he’s mostly interested in media attention.

The article centered on unattributed quotes from national security mandarins, and previously public criticism of Sopko, from John McCain (R-Ariz) and Jack Reed (D-RI), leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sopko has served as SIGAR since 2012.

“Y’all are the truth tellers,” Jones added on Wednesday. “The problem is Congress continues to pass, to waste money over there, and we can’t even get a debate.”

In July, House Republican leaders unilaterally stopped legislation that would have put an eight month sunset on the broadvague post-9/11 law authorizing the War on Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror. It had been passed through committee overwhelmingly, without a recorded vote, and was proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) — the only lawmaker in both houses of Congress to vote against the so-called 2001 AUMF.

While there wasn’t much criticism of Sopko at Wednesday’s hearing, the subcommittee wasn’t without harsh words for the watchdog.

“The more that we feed this narrative that our nation does not have the will and the resolve to get things done is part of the problem,” Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) said.

A veteran of Afghanistan, Russell, at one point, seemed to question the very idea of civilian oversight of ongoing military operations.

“What is hard for me as a warrior — for most of my adult life — it’s always people sitting here talking to people sitting there, pointing bony fingers with red faces saying: ‘why is this a failure?’ Why did this go wrong? We should quit. We should pull out,” he said.

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The U.S. Bombed Afghanistan More in September than Any Month Since 2010, but the “Death Toll” Remains Hidden

NOVANEWS

In the war on terror, Trump doubles down on a failed strategy.

On August 21, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Afghanistan strategy. He made clear that the longest war in modern U.S. history had no end in sight, and that the U.S. government would increase its troop contingent by several thousand soldiers.

According to news reports, another 4,000 U.S. soldiers are slated for deployment to Afghanistan. However, Trump himself admitted the true numbers will remain in the dark, saying in his August 21 speech that the number of U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries would not be released by his administration in the future.

Nine days later, it was revealed that, instead of roughly 8,000 troops, as previously believed, at least 11,000 soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan. That’s not the only instance of information being withheld from the public: During the last days of Barack Obama‘s presidency, the Pentagon stopped releasing redacted investigations of major civilian casualty events caused by the U.S. military. This included war crimes in Syria, Afghanistan and several other countries where drones are haunting the skies, while special forces units are conducting shadowy operations on the ground.

Trump’s speech also dropped the pretense of “nation-building” that many across the political spectrum had used to justify the Afghanistan war. For him, it’s all about hunting down and killing “terrorists.”

Although the word “terrorist” has become vacuous, a label for everything and everyone, the question remains: Who are the “terrorists” in Afghanistan? Are they al-Qaeda, which has been practically non-existent in the country for years? Are they the leaders of the Taliban, which has grown since the start of the U.S.-led invasion and now controls many parts of the country? Are they the extremists of ISIS, whose presence was enabled by the violence of the U.S.-led war and invasion, too? Are they the brutal warlords and militia fighters who have become a crucial part of Afghanistan’s landscape and, since allying with the United States in 2001, have led parts of the Kabul government?

From an Afghan view, there are other “terrorists”: the drone operators who are remotely killing innocent people on a daily basis, or the Western soldiers who are hunting civilians and collect their body parts like trophies.

For the U.S. government, the answer is chillingly simple. Since 2012, the White House has maintained that every military-aged male in a strike zone is considered as an “enemy combatant.” This means what nearly all Afghan men—including teenagers—are considered “terrorists.” The same is true for Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenites and every other citizen of a country that has the luck to be terrorized by U.S. bombs and rockets, dropped by conventional aircraft or weaponized drones.

“We are all terrorists. If we get hit now, you are going to be called like that too,” a Taliban fighter in Nangarhar province in the east of the country told me when I visited his village in May. Local civilians who were nearby agreed with him.

What he said was true. I often thought how I would be described after getting killed by a drone strike, especially while researching in remote regions that are barely entered by Western journalists. Like most Afghan men, I have a beard and black hair. In today’s world, that’s enough to be called a “terrorist,” a danger to Western civilization.

Since Trump took over the presidency, about 2,000 airstrikes have been conducted by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. On October 12, a U.S. drone strike killed 14 people; Afghan officials claim the victims were ISIS militants but a local member of parliament alleges those killed were civilians. Last month, the U.S. dropped more bombs and missiles on Afghanistan than in any other month since 2010. Most of these strikes hit Nangarhar province, which was also the target of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), also known as the “Mother of All Bombs”, the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the Pentagon’s arsenal. According to recent UN data, U.S. strikes in Nangarhar are more likely to result in civilian casualties than strikes anywhere else in the country. But contrary to reports that often describe all victims as “suspected militants” or “terrorists,” many dead are civilians.

Provinces like Nangarhar, where the United States has been fighting its “War on Terror” since 2001, are the places where the U.S. lost this war. While the Taliban control many districts of such provinces, after years of constant occupation, many Afghan locals have developed a hatred toward the American soldiers, like their forefathers did towards the Russians and the British.

While Trump is giving one weird speech after the other, the Afghans in these remote areas live in real dystopia. The so-called government in Kabul, which was installed by the United States in 2001, has no influence here.

Instead, the people’s lives are controlled by Taliban insurgents who are often deeply connected with the local communities. More than 100,000 U.S. soldiers, who were deployed in Afghanistan during the Obama era, were not able to change this reality. It will not be much different under Trump.

It’s not just the mere presence of foreign troops that fuels war, but also what those troops have done and continue to do: carry out air strikes, conduct brutal night raids on civilians’ homes and torture detainees at places like Bagram Air Base—a place so notorious in Afghanistan that, to some, Guantanamo is considered a haven by comparison.

All signs indicate these atrocities will continue in the era of Donald Trump.

The identities of the people who have been murdered by the MOAB are still not known. While the Kabul government supported the attack and later announced that more than 90 ISIS militants have been killed, the White House preferred to stay silent. Too often, similar figures in the past have proven to be bogus. But in the United States, the stories of Afghans are only told when they fit with the interests of the U.S. empire. Otherwise, they remain faceless and invisible—and that’s how Donald Trump wants to keep them.

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3,000 US troops headed to Afghanistan—to die for I$raHell

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3,000 US troops headed to Afghanistan—to die for Israel

Donald Trump (2013): “Do not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024—with all costs by U.S.A. MAKE AMERICA GREAT!”

 

Donald Trump hasn’t learned a damn thing about the past. And here we are talking about recent history, specifically the recent wars in the Middle East. He knows what happened when Bush sent thousands upon thousands of American soldiers in places like Iraq to die for Israel.

If you remember correctly, between 300,000 and 360,000 veterans returned home with brain injuries,[1] many of which went untreated.[2] By 2005, more than 6,000 soldiers serving in Iraq committed suicide.[3] In 2012, more soldiers committed suicide than died in combat,[4] making it the year with the highest suicide rate since 2001.[5]

In addition, a debt ceiling was rising every six months or so.[6] The US national debt had reached $16 trillion by the end of 2012.[7] Because of this wrecked economy, suicides in America’s civilian population have increased at an alarming rate as well.[8]

And if you are a student trying to get a decent education in order to get out of this economic sinkhole, the government is going to profit from your student loan. It was reported that the government made a profit of $51 billion in 2013 off student loans.[9]

So, what is the Pentagon’s solution to all of this? Well, they decide to send more troops to Afghanistan. Get this:

“US Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that over 3,000 new US troops will be headed to Afghanistan as part of President Donald Trump’s new strategy to win the war that has dragged on for almost 16 years.”[10]

3,000 new US troops in Afghanistan will help win the war “that has dragged on for almost 16 years”? Isn’t that worse than stupid? And who are those puppets fooling this time? “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the new strategy as a ‘dead end,’ while Pakistan and China were critical of Washington’s approach, noting there was ‘no military solution’ to the situation in Afghanistan.”[11]

No politician has been able to tell the American people why more US troops need to die in Afghanistan—for Israel. Keep also in mind that Trump himself railed against US troop engagement in Afghanistan long before became president. Here is what Trump said back in 2012: Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!

In March of the following year, Trump tweeted that U.S. troops “should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives.” In January of the same year, he declared: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we wasted billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” Trump again couldn’t resist stating:

“I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money—rebuild the U.S.! We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!”

And then this:

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

So, why can’t Trump look at himself in the mirror and simply ask himself basic questions about perpetual wars? Why can’t he give the American people a solid foreign policy? He obviously has the answers to these questions, but he will never flesh them out to the American people because Israel is the only reason America is still finding monsters to kill in the Middle East. As Jim W. Dean has recently put it:

“Trump has obviously made a deal with Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia, with their Syrian plans failing, that he would try to make it up to them by sticking it to Iran with more sanctions.”

Trump is causing trouble in the Middle East because the Israeli regime tells him what to do. If fighting terrorism was his main goal, he would almost certainly go after terrorist states like Saudi Arabia, which destroyed Yemen and imposed a blockade on Qatar.[12]


[1] Gregg Zoroya, “360,000 Veterans May Have Brain Injuries,” USA Today, March 5, 3009; Denise Grady, “Brain Injuries Are Seen in New Scans of Veterans,” NY Times, June 1, 2011; “Mental Health Injuries Scar 300,000 US Troops,” MSNBC, April 17, 2008.

[2] Lizette Alvarez, “War Veterans’ Concussions are Often Overlooked,” NY Times, August 25, 2008.

[3] Armen Keteyian, “VA Hid Suicide Risk, Internal Emails Show,” CBC News, July 30, 2010.

[4] Allison Churchill, “Military Losing More Troops to Suicide than Combat,” Business Insider, October 25, 2012; Helen Pow, “More US Troops Committing Suicide Than Being Killed Fighting in Afghanistan,” Daily Mail, October 24, 2012.

[5] Kelley Vlahos, “Surviving War, Falling to Suicide,” American Conservative, Jan. 1, 2012; James Dao and Andrew W. Lehren, “Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues US Military,” NY Times, May 15, 2013.

[6] Kelley Vlahos, “Surviving War, Falling to Suicide,” American Conservative, January 1, 2012; James Dao and Andrew W. Lehren, “Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues US Military,” NY Times, May 15, 2013.

[7] Simon Rogers, “US Debt: How Big is It and Who Owns It?,” Guardian, October 2, 2012.

[8] Deborah Kotz, “Suicides Surge During Tough Economic Times,” Boston Globe, April 14, 2011.

[9] “Obama Student Loan Policy Reaping $51 Billion Profit,” Huffington Post, May 14, 2013.

[10] “Over 3,000 new US troops headed to Afghanistan – Pentagon,” Russia Today, September 18, 2017.

[11] Ibid.

[12] See Mohamad Bazzi, “How Trump Is Inflaming the Middle East’s Proxy Wars,” The Nation, June 9, 2017.

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Afghanistan’s Opium Trade: A Free Market of Racketeers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raw opium from Dara-i Mazor (May 2017)

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

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

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

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Afghanistan’s Opium Trade: A Free Market of Racketeers

Taliban Attacks NATO Convoy ”Video” 

NOVANEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Taliban Attacks NATO Convoy ”Video” 

Afghan protesters – US killing women and children

NOVANEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What a huge mistake these stupid leaflets were!

–  First published  …  September  12, 2017  –

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

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

Posted in USA, AfghanistanComments Off on Afghan protesters – US killing women and children

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

NOVANEWS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on The People of Afghanistan Have Had Truly Enough of Western Imperialist Barbarism

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