Archive | Afghanistan

Who is Supporting Daish in Afghanistan?

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By Sajjad Shaukat

It has been learnt through credible online sources that Engineer Mohammad Khan, the 1st Advisor

and a close friend of Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has been arrested by Afghan

forces/agencies for alleged links with the Islamic State group also known as Daish, ISIS or ISIL.

Information strongly suggests that Daish has penetrated even in high ranking Afghan

government officials as well.

In this regard, it is notable that Ajit Doval, the ex-spymaster who is now National Security

Advisor of Indian Prime Minister Narendra is the real author and controller of India’s offensive-

As part of its offensive-defensive doctrine, India is destabilizing Afghanistan—all regional

states, while its major focus has always been towards Pakistan, a policy of weakening Pakistan.

Waging a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the US and other NATO countries have realized that

after the withdrawal of foreign troops, Afghanistan would be thrown in an era of uncertainly and

civil war. They recognize the fact and terrorism or stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan is

interrelated. Therefore, US-led developed nations which also spent billions of dollars for the

development of Afghanistan have repeatedly agreed that without Islamabad’s help, stability

cannot be achieved there. Unfortunately, India does not intend see peace in that country and is

undermining regional stability by creating unrest in Afghanistan and some other countries, and

by sabotaging their cordial relations.

As regards Afghanistan, India is playing a double game in accordance with the offensive-

defensive doctrine of Ajit Doval. RAW has well-established its network in Afghanistan and is in

connivance with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Daish). On January 13, 2015, at least

seven personal of the Afghan security forces died during the suicide attack which targeted the

Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. ISIS claimed responsibility for the terror assault.

The attack which coincided with efforts to restart the stalled peace process with Taliban

insurgents and ease diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan, added a dangerous new

element to Afghanistan’s volatile security mix. In this context, delegates from Afghanistan,

Pakistan, China and the United States had met to try to resurrect efforts to end nearly 15 years of

bloodshed in Afghanistan.

In this respect, in the recent past, cordial relations were established between Pakistan and

Afghanistan when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had realized that Afghanistan and Pakistan

were facing similar challenges of terrorism and would combat this threat collectively.

While, it is misfortune that on direction of New Delhi and like the former regime of Afghan

President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s present rulers have also started accusing Pakistan of

cross-border terrorism. In this connection, after hours of the Taliban captured Kunduz city, on

September 28, 2015, during his address to the UNO General Assembly, Afghanistan’s Chief

Executive Abdullah Abdullah blamed Islamabad for carrying out cross-border attacks and

destabilizing Afghanistan.

Differences exist between Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani, as

the former wants cordial relations with New Delhi at the cost of Afghanistan and the latter

It is mentionable that on December 10, 2016, President Ghani accepted the resignation of

Rahmatullah Nabil as director of the Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of

Security (NDS), after developing differences of the spymaster with him over Ghani’s move to

attend the regional conference in Islamabad.

And Prime Minister Sharif and President Ghani also showed their determination that their

countries would cooperate in fighting the threat of ISIS.

The US is also playing double game with Pakistan, because it is the only nuclear country in the

Islamic World, which irritates America and Israel. Hence, secret agents of American CIA, Israeli

Mossad and Indian RAW which are well-penetrated in Daish are making efforts to weaken

Tibetan regions of China, Iran and especially Pakistan’s province of Balochistan by arranging the

subversive activities, promoting acrimonious sense of dissent, political volatility, sectarian

violence and arousing sentiments of separatism. In this regard, the China-Pakistan Economic

Corridor (CPEC) is their special target.

Again, in case of Afghanistan, there are several groups of Al-Qaeda, Daesh and Taliban like the

TTP. Some of them are being used by secret agencies like CIA, Mossad and RAW to obtain the

collective and individual designs of their countries against Pakistan and Middle Eastern

countries. India and Israel which want to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO troops in

Afghanistan which have become the center of covert activities, are exploiting their dual policy,

especially of America against Pakistan, China and Iran.

Particularly, terrorists of Daish and TTP which are strategic assets of the CIA, RAW and Mossad have claimed responsibility for several terror attacks inside Pakistan, including the recent ones in Lahore, Balochistan, Karachi and in In fact, in collusion with Afghanistan’s NDS, especially, RAW has set up its secret network in Afghanistan, and is fully assisting cross-border incursions and terror-activities in various regions of Pakistan through Baloch separatist elements and anti-Pakistan groups like Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), Jundullah (God’s soldiers) and TTP.

It is an undeniable fact that Ajit Doval’s cronies are creating law and order problems in

Afghanistan. Particularly, Indian nexus with Daish and TTP leaders like Hakimullah Masood and

Mulla Fazalullah has been proved by the recent revelation of the TTP militant Latifullah

Mahsood regarding the incident of Army Public School Peshawar and exploitation of Baloch

sub-nationalists. It has also exposed Ajeet Doval’s offensive-defensive doctrine—anti-Pakistan

statements of India’s BJP leadership, while pointing out that New Delhi is the main spoiler of

peace in Afghanistan, and is still manipulating the militants of Daish, TTP,, East Turkestan

Islamic Movement (ETIM) etc. against Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.

Notably, with the start of 2016, frequency of terrorist incidents has increased manifold in

Afghanistan, indicating the frustration of the spoiler (India), after her proxies were uprooted

from Pakistani soil. Moreover, Afghan people also feel wary of protracted proxy warfare, strife

and lawlessness in their country and are desirous for peace. But, New Delhi does not want it.

Besides, Indian high officials and media have always shifted the blame game of Afghanistan’s

unrest towards Pakistan. It is a true reflection of Indian establishment which is intolerant to any

improvement in the bilateral relations between both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, if not checked in time by the US-led western powers, India’s offensive-defensive

doctrine will destabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan including the whole region, jeopardizing the

political and economic interests of America and NATO countries which demand stability and

peace in the region, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They must also abandon their

 

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,
Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations
Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

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The Pentagon Shouldn’t Get To Absolve Itself For Bombing A Hospital

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Damaged Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in northern Kunduz. (Photo: scrolleditorial / Flickr)

The Pentagon just made it official: No war crime was committed when a U.S. plane attacked the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last year, killing 42 patients and health workers and injuring many more.

At least, that’s the conclusion of its own investigation — nearly all of which remains classified.

No war crime, despite the U.S. military having full knowledge of the hospital’s location before the bombing. No war crime, despite desperate hospital staffers calling military liaison officers while the rampage was underway. No war crime, despite their calls being routed without response through layers of lethal bureaucracy for an hour or more as the deadly bombing continued.

No war crime, says the Pentagon.

The 16 military personnel involved all will face some kind of administrative consequence, but none of them will be court-martialed. The 16 do not, apparently, include the top strategists of the U.S. war in Afghanistan — nor anyone responsible for creating or approving the system for responding to desperate calls from civilians being slaughtered by U.S. warplanes. Nor anyone whose job it is to be sure that the U.S. military doesn’t violate the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on things like attacking hospitals.

We don’t know for sure, because the vast majority of the official report on the Kunduz hospital assault was redacted — blacked out — so no one without top security clearance could read even the Pentagon’s own assessment of what happened. Apparently Congress, the press, and the public are all supposed to be satisfied with the explanation that the cause was “a combination of human errors, compounded by process and equipment failures.” The official write-up adds that “fatigue and high operational tempo also contributed” to the “fog of war” — that old standby for excusing large-scale attacks on civilians.

No one should be satisfied with this internal investigation. There’s an urgent need for an independent, international investigation, as Doctors Without Borders has been demanding since the attack took place last October.

The press release from U.S. Central Command quotes Army General Joseph Votel, the current Centcom commander. “The fact this was unintentional, an unintentional action, takes it out of the realm of actually being a deliberate war crime against persons or protected locations,” the general insists. “That is the principal reason why we do not consider this to be a war crime.”

General Votel can consider whatever he likes, but he doesn’t get to re-write international humanitarian law on his own. Some war crimes do include specific intent — a charge of genocide, for instance, requires the perpetrator’s intention to destroy, in part or in whole, a racial, ethnic, religious, or other group. Other war crimes, however — including violating the Geneva Conventions — do not require that kind of specific intent. (Criminal law has a similar distinction. Some crimes, like assault or battery, are based on a particular action; a separate crime is committed when there is assault with intent to kill.)

In this case, the 4th Geneva Convention, Article 18, states unambiguously that “civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.” Criminal negligence may be involved rather than criminal intent, but that would still be a crime.

Yet Army General John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, insists, “The label ‘war crimes’ is typically reserved for intentional acts — intentionally targeting civilians or intentionallytargeting protected objects.”

“Typically” is a slippery word. One might conclude from Campbell’s words that U.S. military personnel right up the chain of command are indeed “typically” liable for war crimes when they, just for example, order the bombing of heavily populated cities to force regime change, or a drone attack on someone from the kill-or-capture list despite his nephew being at his side. But in fact U.S. military personnel are virtually never charged with war crimes.

And despite the years of brutal U.S. assaults launched in the name of the global war on terror, there is still nothing “typical” about an attack on a civilian hospital whose location was well known to the military, whose staff was desperately calling to try to stop the bombing, and who lost at least 14 doctors and other staff, 24 patients, and four caretakers in the attack. So regardless of whether it’s true — or acceptable — that “typical” war crimes involve specific intent, that is certainly not a requirement for determining what a war crime is.

On May 3, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution reaffirming member states’ obligations to protect hospitals, the sick, and the wounded in war zones. Given recent years’ escalation of attacks on hospitals and clinics — from Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, to last year’s Kunduz bombing, and last week’s attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, which killed at least 50 people — such a resolution is urgently needed.

Quite likely the devastating attack on the hospital at Kunduz was in fact a war crime. Possibly it wasn’t. But there’s no reason in the world for anyone to accept that an internal Pentagon investigation — in which almost all of the 3,000 page report remains classified — is somehow sufficient to determine the answer. An independent, international investigation is crucially required. Letting the Pentagon investigate itself simply isn’t good enough.

This piece was reprinted from Foreign Policy In Focus by RINF Alternative News with permission.

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Obama drone strikes kill 17 Afghan civilians

NOVANEWS

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US airstrikes in Afghan province of Paktika have killed at least 17 civilians, local officials and elders say, rejecting official American and Afghan claims that only militants had been killed.

They were killed during three drone strikes carried out by the US in the area of Nematabad on Wednesday, former Afghan senator Hajji Muhammad Hasan said, quoted by The New York Times.

The first raid struck a vehicle carrying a local elder, Hajji Rozuddin, who was on his way to mediate a land dispute in a tribe with four bodyguards and seven other people, the report said.

“Hajji Rozuddin was strongly anti-Taliban,” said Hasan. “He carried bodyguards because the Taliban were trying to kill him.”

“The car was completely destroyed, and there was little of the bodies left,” he said.

Soon after the attack, another strike killed two people who had come to help recover the bodies from the truck after the first attack, said Hasan.

A third attack also killed three other civilians on top of a small hill. They were trying “to see what had happened and why the previous two men had not returned already,” he explained.

Governor Shaista Khan Akhtarzada also confirmed that an investigation team had determined that “the people killed were civilians.”

The US military had said on Thursday that two Wednesday airstrikes in Paktika killed 14 militants.

“There was no evidence to indicate that there were any civilian casualties at all,” Charles Cleveland, a spokesman for the United States military in Afghanistan, said.

Cleveland claimed that most of the “just under a hundred” US strikes in Afghanistan from January 1 to March 31 were focused on Daesh militants in eastern Nangarhar Province.

Officials and residents said that such airstrikes have been relatively rare in Paktika in recent months, even as the United States has intensified its air operations elsewhere in the country.

In January, US President Barack Obama authorized American forces to target Daesh terrorists emerging in Nangarhar.

Although Taliban leaders have warned Daesh against “waging a parallel insurgency in Afghanistan,” the Takfiri group has been trying to expand its outreach there and is reported to have between 1,000 to 3,000 terrorists on its payroll.

Afghanistan is gripped by insecurity 14 years after the United States and its allies attacked the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror.

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From Afghanistan to Syria: Women’s Rights, War Propaganda and the CIA

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Global Research
burqa-3

This article was first published on April 13, 2013.

Women’s rights are increasingly heralded as a useful propaganda device to further imperial designs.

Western heads of state, UN officials and military spokespersons will invariably praise the humanitarian dimension of the October 2001 US-NATO led invasion of Afghanistan, which allegedly was to fight religious fundamentalists, help little girls go to school, liberate women subjected to the yoke of the Taliban.

The logic of such a humanitarian dimension of the Afghan war is questionable. Lest we forget, Al Qaeda and the Taliban were supported from the very outset of the Soviet-Afghan war by the US, as part of a CIA led covert operation.

As described by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA):

The US and her allies tried to legitimize their military occupation of Afghanistan under the banner of “bringing freedom and democracy for Afghan people”. But as we have experienced in the past three decades, in regard to the fate of our people, the US government first of all considers her own political and economic interests and has empowered and equipped the most traitorous, anti-democratic, misogynist and corrupt fundamentalist gangs in Afghanistan.

It was the US which installed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1996, a foreign policy strategy which resulted in the demise of Afghan women’s rights:

Under NSDD 166, US assistance to the Islamic brigades channelled through Pakistan was not limited to bona fide military aid. Washington also supported and financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the process of religious indoctrination, largely to secure the demise of secular institutions. (Michel Chossudovsky, 9/11 ANALYSIS: From Ronald Reagan and the Soviet-Afghan War to George W Bush and September 11, 2001, Global Research, September 09, 2010)

Religious schools were  generously funded by the United States of America:

Education in Afghanistan in the years preceding the Soviet-Afghan war was largely secular. The US covert education destroyed secular education. The number of CIA sponsored religious schools (madrassas) increased from 2,500 in 1980 to over 39,000 [in 2001]. (Ibid.)

Afghan women.(AFP Photo / Shah Marai)

Afghan women now. (AFP Photo / Shah Marai)

Afghan women in the 1970s before the CIA-led intervention

Unknown to the American public, the US spread the teachings of the Islamic jihad in textbooks “Made in America” developed at the University of Nebraska:

… the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books…

The White House defends the religious content, saying that Islamic principles permeate Afghan culture and that the books “are fully in compliance with US law and policy.” Legal experts, however, question whether the books violate a constitutional ban on using tax dollars to promote religion.

… AID officials said in interviews that they left the Islamic materials intact because they feared Afghan educators would reject books lacking a strong dose of Muslim thought. The agency removed its logo and any mention of the U.S. government from the religious texts, AID spokeswoman Kathryn Stratos said.

“It’s not AID’s policy to support religious instruction,” Stratos said. “But we went ahead with this project because the primary purpose . . . is to educate children, which is predominantly a secular activity.”

… Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtun, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska -Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $ 51 million on the university’s education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.” (Washington Post, 23 March 2002)

Historical Flashback

Before the Taliban came to power, Afghan women lived a life in many ways similar to that of Western women (see pictures below):

Kabul University 1980s

Kabul University 1980s

Kabul University 1980s

In the 1980s, Kabul was “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs.”  There were female members of parliament, and women drove cars, and travelled and went on dates, without needing to ask a male guardian for permission.

Ironically, the rights of women as described by RAWA prior to the US sponsored jihadist insurgency is confirmed in a 2010 article published by Foreign Policy (2010), a Washington Post mouthpiece founded by Samuel Huntington:

 Original caption: "Kabul University students changing classes. Enrollment has doubled in last four years." The physical campus of Kabul University, pictured here, does not look very different today. But the people do. In the 1950s and '60s, students wore Western-style clothing; young men and women interacted relatively freely. Today, women cover their heads and much of their bodies, even in Kabul. A half-century later, men and women inhabit much more separate worlds.

“Kabul University students changing classes. Enrollment has doubled in last four years.“

The physical campus of Kabul University, pictured here, does not look very different today. But the people do. In the 1950s and ’60s, students wore Western-style clothing; young men and women interacted relatively freely. Today, women cover their heads and much of their bodies, even in Kabul. A half-century later, men and women inhabit much more separate worlds.

 "Biology class, Kabul University." In the 1950s and '60s, women were able to pursue professional careers in fields such as medicine. Today, schools that educate women are a target for violence, even more so than five or six years ago.

“Biology class, Kabul University.”

In the 1950s and ’60s, women were able to pursue professional careers in fields such as medicine. Today, schools that educate women are a target for violence, even more so than five or six years ago.

 "Phonograph record store." So, too, were record stores, bringing the rhythm and energy of the Western world to Kabul teenagers.

“Phonograph record store.”

So, too, were record stores, bringing the rhythm and energy of the Western world to Kabul teenagers.

"Hundreds of Afghan youngsters take active part in Scout programs."

“Hundreds of Afghan youngsters take active part in Scout programs.”

Afghanistan once had Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. In the 1950s and ’60s, such programs were very similar to their counterparts in the United States, with students in elementary and middle schools learning about nature trails, camping, and public safety. But scouting troops disappeared entirely after the Soviet invasions in the late 1970s. (Mohammad Qayoumi Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…, Foreign Policy, May 27, 2010)

The acute reader will have noticed the insidious disinformation in the previous caption. We are led to believe that the liberal lifestyle of Afghan women was destroyed by the Soviet Union, when in fact it was the result of US support to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Acknowledged by US foreign policy Advisor Zbignew Brzezinski, Moscow’s action in support of  the Kabul pro-Soviet government was to counter the Islamist Mujahedin insurgency supported covertly by the CIA:

Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention […]

That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. (The CIA’s Intervention in AfghanistanNouvel Observateur, 1998, Global Research, October 15, 2001)

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan even dedicated the space shuttle Columbia to the US supported Islamist freedom fighters in Afghanistan, namely Al Qaeda and the Taliban:

Just as Columbia we think represents man’s finest aspirations in the field of science and technology, so too does the struggle of the Afghan people represent man’s highest aspirations for freedom.

Ronald Reagan meeting with the Taliban in 1985: ’”These gentlemen (the Taliban) are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”

Yet, both the US and the governments of NATO members claim the US-NATO military presence in Afghanistan was instrumental in promoting women’s rights. The fact of the matter is that those rights were abolished by the US-backed Taliban regime which came to power with the support of Washington.

The US State Department’s Syrian Women’s Network

How does the history of women in Afghanistan relate to women’s rights in Syria in the context of the current crisis?

The undeclared US-NATO war on Syria (2011-2013) in support of Al Qaeda affiliated rebels appears to have a similar logic, namely the destruction of secular education and the demise of women’s rights.

Will Syrian women be facing the same grim future as that of Afghan women under the Taliban regime?

Last January, a diverse group of Syrian women said to be representing the leading opposition movements attended a conference hosted by the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN), in coordination with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues in Doha, Qatar.

WDN is an initiative of the International Republican Institute, well-known for supporting dissidents in various countries defying US imperialism. The US State Department is clearly using women’s rights as a tool, while at the same time it is funding  an Islamist opposition with a view to undermining the secular state and eventually installing an Islamist government in Damascus.

The Syrian Women’s Network was formed at the US-sponsored conference and a Charter was written to ensure women are included in the conflict resolution and transition of their country:

In the charter, participants call for equal rights and representation for all Syrians, demanding equal participation of women at all international meetings, negotiations, constitution drafting and reconciliation committees and in elected governing bodies. The charter also covers topics including prevention of and prosecution for acts of violence against women, access to education and the overall need for women’s participation in ongoing conflict resolution while ensuring women’s future participation in the rebuilding of Syria. U.S. government leaders also participated in the conference, underscoring their support of the Syrian women […] In her remarks, Carla Koppell, senior coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the United States Agency for International Development [USAID], advised, “If the most diverse group of women can find a common agenda, it will have enormous strength.” (Women Demand Role in Syria’s Transition and Reconciliation, January 28, 2013, emphasis added.)

Monica McWilliams, founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (left) and Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Edita Tahiri (right) share their experiences with participants of a conference in Doha, Qatar, where Charter of the Syrian Women’s Network was adopted by a diverse group of Syrian women representing the leading opposition movements in the country.(Photo from wdn.org)

Monica McWilliams, founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (left) and Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Edita Tahiri (right) share their experiences with participants of a conference in Doha, Qatar, where Charter of the Syrian Women’s Network was adopted by a diverse group of Syrian women representing the leading opposition movements in the country.(Photo from wdn.org)

The first striking paradox of this conference is that it is being held in Qatar, a country where women’s rights remain limited, to say the least. In mid-March, the Qatar government even expressed concernsabout references to women’s sexual and reproductive rights“  which are contained in the UN Declaration of the Commission on the Status of Women called Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Second paradox: USAID, which contributed to the demise of women’s rights by promoting religious indoctrination in Afghanistan, is now promoting women’s rights to bring about regime change in Syria. In the meantime, the US along with Qatar and Saudi Arabia is supporting Islamist extremist groups fighting against the secular Syrian government. Some so-called liberated areas in Syria are now run by religious extremists:

Religious Wahhabi school and women’s rights in a  ‘liberated’ area of Aleppo run by the US-Saudi backed ‘opposition’, ‘a definite improvement’ when compared to the prevailing system of secular education in Syria. (Michel Chossudovsky, Syria: Women’s Rights and Islamist Education in a “Liberated” Area of Aleppo, Global Research, March 27, 2013.)

Were a US proxy regime to be installed in Damascus, the rights and liberties of Syrian women might well be following the same “freedom-threatening path” as that of Afghan women under the US-backed Taliban regime and continuing under the US-NATO occupation.

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Taliban sets conditions for peace talks with Afghan government

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Press TV 

The Taliban militant group has refused to participate in peace talks with the Afghan government until its preconditions are fulfilled.

In a statement on Saturday, the militant group said “until the occupation of foreign troops ends, until Taliban names are removed from international blacklists and until our detainees are released,” peace talks for an end to the conflict in Afghanistan will yield no results.

The Taliban also criticized the increase in the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

It also said that Afghan forces have intensified their battle against the militants.

Officials from Afghanistan, the United States, Pakistan and China met in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in February for a new round of talks aimed at reviving the peace process in the country.

The quartet said that the Afghan government and Taliban were expected to meet for face-to-face peace talks by the first week of March in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. But the Taliban denied they would be participating in any upcoming talks in Islamabad.

Over the past months, Taliban militants have captured some key areas in the north and south of Afghanistan. The militants have also carried out attacks in the capital, Kabul.

This has prompted renewed efforts in the country and by neighbors to revive stalled negotiations between the militant group and the Afghan government.

Pakistan brokered direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban last summer following the announcement of the death of the group’s founder Mullah Omar some two years earlier.

Many suspect that Taliban could reappear on the negotiating table as factional infighting and leadership division has deepened in the group since the death of Omar.

Afghanistan is gripped by insecurity more than 14 years after the United States and its allies attacked the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. Although the 2001 attack overthrew the Taliban, many areas across Afghanistan still face violence and insecurity.

Despite a previous pledge to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of his presidency, US President Barack Obama announced last October that Washington will keep thousands of troops in the country when he leaves office in 2017.

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Afghanistan: The Forever-War We Never Question

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Image result for Afghanistan: WAR CARTOON
By Charles Davis 

The U.S. and NATO will never get out of Afghanistan if their leaders never even have to explain why they are there.

War is so normal in the United States of America — being in a constant state of it, somewhere else — that the longest-running foreign conflict in the country’s history is hardly even an afterthought in the race to become the nation’s next commander in chief.

In 17 televised debates and town halls, the Republicans and Democrats running for president have been asked all of two questions about the war in Afghanistan, now in its 15th year. The antiwar movement having died off with the election of President Barack Obama, who dramatically escalated the war before promising to end it, Afghanistan is of little concern outside a small room in Nevada where a U.S. pilot is remotely firing a Predator drone’s Hellfire missiles.

On the Republican side, Ben Carson was asked about Obama’s decision last year to “leave 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan” indefinitely. That was in November 2015, and Carson dodged the question, shifting to a question of his own — on humiliation as counterterrorism — that he posed as an answer. “How do we make them look like losers?” he asked, arguably elevating the discourse on foreign policy in this most humiliating of election campaigns.

No Republican has been asked about Afghanistan since. At nearly half of their debates, the name of the country hasn’t even been mentioned in passing.

As for the Democrats, voters might be forgiven for assuming there’s a stark difference between the progressive Bernie Sanders and the centrist Hillary Clinton.

Bernie volunteered at the first debate in October 2015 that he “supported the war in Afghanistan,” but the remark was ambiguous: Did he still support, or was he merely listing all the bombs he has supported dropping in the past, a prerequisite for someone seeking to occupy the White House. It wasn’t until February 2016 that either he or Clinton were asked a direct question about a U.S. occupation that’s halfway through its second decade.

“If President Obama leaves you 10,000 troops,” the moderator inquired, “how long do you think they’re going to be there?”

“Well, you can’t simply withdraw tomorrow,” said Sanders. “Wish we could, and allow, you know, the Taliban or anybody else to reclaim that country.” He then shifted to “destroying” the Islamic State group in Iraq. And that was that.

If Bernie did not actually answer the question, neither did Hillary, who was named secretary of state by the president who has chosen to break his promise to leave Afghanistan in favor of leaving those 10,000 troops instead. “I would have to make an evaluation based on the circumstances at the time I took office,” said Clinton, not really saying anything.

Afghanistan hasn’t come up again, perhaps because two old white people agreeing with each other does not make for great television. For years the war in Afghanistan was “the good one,” launched as it was just a month after the terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001, with liberal Democrats spending the better part of a decade contrasting its justness with the “distraction” of invading and destroying Iraq.

Do Afghan Lives Matter?

Afghanistan’s absence from U.S. politics can also, perhaps, be attributed to the fact that those who are dying there today are not the U.S. military’s brave men and women, but Afghan civilians, as anonymous as they are innocent.

“For the most part I would blame racism in the media,” said Mohammed Harun Arsalai, a 34-year-old Afghan living in Kabul, in an interview with teleSUR. An independent journalist, Arsalai has seen firsthand that, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, Afghan lives don’t matter.

“I can point back to at least two examples in recent memory where a major, mainstream media outlet contacted me about footage and information on attacks taking place in Kabul against ‘Western targets,’” he said. One was a suicide car bomb attack on a French restaurant and the other was an attack on the Italian Embassy. “In both instances,” he said, “these outlets canceled their requests with me because no Westerners were injured. Afghan lives just aren’t worth as much to these people.”

On Feb. 27, the same day Clinton and Sanders were campaigning for votes in South Carolina, at least 26 people were killed and 50 wounded in suicide bombings across Afghanistan. No Westerners died, however, and so another day went by on the campaign trail where a war being waged 11,000 kilometers away went unmentioned.

If he had a chance to meet with any of the presidential contenders, Arsalai knows what he would say: “That the U.S. has no policy in Afghanistan.” The threat of a Taliban takeover is oft-cited as a reason to stay, but the U.S. “has said on multiple occasions now that they are not at war with the Taliban. What does that mean? What are they doing here then?”

“Afghans are killing Afghans,” said Arsalai, “while the U.S. is mainly confined to its bases using drones and airstrikes, basically acting as a manager of the violence.”

War Without an End

Matthew Hoh was one of the U.S. State Department’s senior officers in Afghanistan. He resigned in September 2009, protesting a war he accused the Obama administration of fighting without a clear idea as to “why and to what end.”

“Cut the crap,” Hoh would tell those — everyone running for president — who believe the U.S. presence is preventing an extremist takeover. “Our presence in Afghanistan, in particular our escalation of the war, has only made the Taliban stronger,” he told teleSUR.

In the months before Hoh resigned from the State Department, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise and ordered a massive surge of troops in Afghanistan, increasing the size of the U.S. occupying force from 32,800 men and women at the time he took office in January 2009 to more than 100,000 by 2011, not counting private contractors. It was another campaign promise, made four years later, that he decided to break: the one about getting out.

The product of escalation has not been peace, but a surge in death for all sides, though in war as in capitalism, burdens are not distributed equally. Of the nearly 2,400 U.S. troops who have died in Afghanistan, more than 1,750 have died since Obama took office. But as in any war, the brunt of the violence has been felt by those on whose behalf it is ostensibly being fought: In 2015 alone, at least 3,545 civilians were violently killed, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, while more than 7,400 were injured, making it the worst year on record for the Afghan people.

Overall, the war has killed around 100,000 people in Afghanistan, more than a quarter of them civilians, according to a study by researchers at Brown University. And the 30 million Afghans still living now face another threat: the Islamic State group, an extremist organization for those who deem the ultra-reactionary Taliban too moderate. “(M)ore than two-thirds (67.4 percent) of Afghans report that they always, often, or sometimes fear for their personal safety,” found a survey of nearly 10,000 people released in November 2015 by The Asia Foundation. “This is the highest rate since 2006.”

No Courage, No Peace

“By every standard of measurement,” Hoh said, “our military, economic and diplomatic campaigns under the Obama administration have worsened conditions for the average Afghan, increased popular support for the Taliban, and created an increasing factionalism and weakness in Afghan society that has allowed for a group like the Islamic State to find a welcoming base of support and enthusiastic adherents.”

After all, thanks to corrupt local warlords sometimes called “governors” and backed by the power and glory of the almighty U.S. military, many Afghans have come to learn that Taliban, ISIS or al-Qaida or not, getting in the way of corruption, or just living on land the corrupt desire, can be a ticket to a torture chamber at Bagram or an extended stay in an early grave. And if they can’t join the corrupted, some decide they might as well join the resistance, or what passes for it, whether they share its views on women and television or not.

But people prefer the comfort of simplicity and, so long as the dead is someone else’s kid, there’s no real price to pay for ignorance, or really anything to gain politically from denouncing an act that no one is angry about.

“The vast majority of Americans are unaffected by the war. It has no immediate costs for them and they bear no sacrifice,” said Hoh. Stirring that sorely lacking concern is, alas, asking for more than most media outlets are willing or capable.

“For the standard three-minute television story or 500-word print story,” Hoh argued, “upsetting the moral narrative of the ‘good war’ is too difficult to achieve, and it is something that would take moral courage to do, anyhow.” In the campaign press as with politicians on the campaign trail, there just isn’t a whole lot of that sort of thing, even in the best of times — and this, the age of austerity and Donald Trump, cannot be confused with that.

So, left unchallenged, even the populists will continue to shrug along with the status quo, not even bothering with the historic tradition of making anti-war promises to break, while Afghans will continue dying in a war that few ever bothered to understand.

 

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Opium in Afghanistan: How a Pink Flower Defeated the World’s Sole Superpower

NOVANEWS

America’s Opium War in Afghanistan

Global Research
US-troops-opium-field-Afghanistan

Note from the editor of Tom Dispatch: In October 2001, the U.S. launched its invasion of Afghanistan largely through proxy Afghan fighters with the help of Special Operations forces, American air power, and CIA dollars.  The results were swift and stunning. The Taliban was whipped, a new government headed by Hamid Karzai soon installed in Kabul, and the country declared “liberated.”

More than 14 years later, how’d it go? What’s “liberated” Afghanistan like and, if you were making a list, what would be the accomplishments of Washington all these years later?  Hmm… at this very moment, according to the latest reports, the Taliban control more territory than at any moment since December 2001.  Meanwhile, the Afghan security forces that the U.S. built up and funded to the tune of more than $65 billion are experiencing “unsustainable” casualties, their ranks evidently filledwith “ghost” soldiers and policemen — up to 40% in some places — whose salaries, often paid by the U.S., are being pocketed by their commanders and other officials.  In 2015, according to the U.N., Afghan civilian casualties were, for the seventh year in a row, at record levels.  Add to all this the fact that American soldiers, their “combat mission” officially concluded in 2014, are now being sent by the hundreds back into the fray (along with the U.S. Air Force) to support hard-pressed Afghan troops in a situation which seems to be fast “deteriorating.”

Oh, and economically speaking, how did the “reconstruction” of the country work out, given that Washington pumped more money (in real dollars) into Afghanistan in these years than it did into the rebuilding of Western Europe after World War II?  Leaving aside the pit of official corruption into which many of those dollars disappeared, the country is today hemorrhaging desperate young people who can’t find jobs or make a living and now constitute what may be the second largest contingent of refugeesheading for Europe.

As for that list of Washington’s accomplishments, it might be accurate to say that only one thing was “liberated” in Afghanistan over the last 14-plus years and that was, as TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy points out today, the opium poppy.  It might also be said that, with the opium trade now fully embedded in both the operations of the Afghan government and of the Taliban, Washington’s single and singular accomplishment in all its years there has been to oversee the country’s transformation into the planet’s number one narco-state.  McCoy, who began his career in the Vietnam War era by writing The Politics of Heroin, a now-classic book on the CIA and the heroin trade (that the Agency tried to suppress) and who has written on the subject of drugs and Afghanistan before for this site, now offers a truly monumental look at opium and the U.S. from the moment this country’s first Afghan War began in 1979 to late last night. Tom

*      *      *

How a Pink Flower Defeated the World’s Sole Superpower

America’s Opium War in Afghanistan

By Alfred W. McCoy

After fighting the longest war in its history, the United States stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How can this be possible? How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for 15 years, deploying 100,000 of its finest troops, sacrificing the lives of 2,200 of those soldiers, spending more than a trillion dollars on its military operations, lavishing a record hundred billion more on “nation-building” and “reconstruction,” helping raise, fund, equip, and train an army of 350,000 Afghan allies, and still not be able to pacify one of the world’s most impoverished nations? So dismal is the prospect for stability in Afghanistan in 2016 that the Obama White House has recently cancelled a planned further withdrawal of its forces and will leave an estimated 10,000 troops in the country indefinitely.

Were you to cut through the Gordian knot of complexity that is the Afghan War, you would find that in the American failure there lies the greatest policy paradox of the century: Washington’s massive military juggernaut has been stopped dead in its steel tracks by a pink flower, the opium poppy.

 

For more than three decades in Afghanistan, Washington’s military operations have succeeded only when they fit reasonably comfortably into Central Asia’s illicit traffic in opium, and suffered when they failed to complement it. The first U.S. intervention there began in 1979. It succeeded in part because the surrogate war the CIA launched to expel the Soviets from that country coincided with the way its Afghan allies used the country’s swelling drug traffic to sustain their decade-long struggle.

On the other hand, in the almost 15 years of continuous combat since the U.S. invasion of 2001, pacification efforts have failed to curtail the Taliban insurgency largely because the U.S. could not control the swelling surplus from the county’s heroin trade. As opium production surged from a minimal 180 tons to a monumental 8,200 in the first five years of U.S. occupation, Afghanistan’s soil seemed to have been sown with the dragon’s teeth of ancient Greek myth. Every poppy harvest yielded a new crop of teenaged fighters for the Taliban’s growing guerrilla army.

At each stage in Afghanistan’s tragic, tumultuous history over the past 40 years — the covert war of the 1980s, the civil war of the 1990s, and the U.S. occupation since 2001 — opium played a surprisingly significant role in shaping the country’s destiny. In one of history’s bitter twists of fate, the way Afghanistan’s unique ecology converged with American military technology transformed this remote, landlocked nation into the world’s first true narco-state — a country where illicit drugs dominate the economy, define political choices, and determine the fate of foreign interventions.

Covert Warfare (1979-1992)

The CIA’s secret war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s helped transform the lawless Afghan-Pakistani borderlands into the seedbed for a sustained expansion of the global heroin trade. “In the tribal area,” the State Department would report in 1986, “there is no police force. There are no courts. There is no taxation. No weapon is illegal… Hashish and opium are often on display.” By then, the process had long been underway.  Instead of forming its own coalition of resistance leaders, the Agency relied on Pakistan’s crucial Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and its Afghan clients who soon became principals in the burgeoning cross-border opium traffic.

Not surprisingly, the Agency looked the other way while Afghanistan’s opium production grew unchecked from about 100 tons annually in the 1970s to 2,000 tons by 1991. In 1979 and 1980, just as the CIA effort was beginning to ramp up, a network of heroin laboratories opened along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.  That region soon became the world’s largest heroin producer. By 1984, it supplied a staggering 60% of the U.S. market and 80% of the European one. Inside Pakistan, the number of heroin addicts went from near zero (yes, zero) in 1979 to 5,000 in 1980 and 1,300,000 by 1985 — a rate of addiction so high the U.N.called it “particularly shocking.”

According to the 1986 State Department report, opium “is an ideal crop in a war-torn country since it requires little capital investment, is fast growing, and is easily transported and traded.” Moreover, Afghanistan’s climate was well suited to this temperate crop, with average yields two to three times higher than in Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle region, the previous capital of the opium trade. As relentless warfare between CIA and Soviet surrogates generated at least three million refugees and disrupted food production, Afghan farmers began to turn to opium “in desperation” since it produced such easy “high profits” which could cover rising food prices. At the same time, resistance elements, according to the State Department, engaged in opium production and trafficking “to provide staples for [the] population under their control and to fund weapons purchases.”

As the mujahedeen resistance gained strength and began to create liberated zones inside Afghanistan in the early 1980s, it helped fund its operations by collecting taxes from peasants producing lucrative opium poppies, particularly in the fertile Helmand Valley, once the breadbasket of southern Afghanistan. Caravans carrying CIA arms into that region for the resistance often returned to Pakistan loaded down with opium — sometimes, the New York Times reported“with the assent of Pakistani or American intelligence officers who supported the resistance.”

Once the mujahedeen fighters brought the opium across the border, they sold it to Pakistani heroin refiners operating in the country’s North-West Frontier Province, a covert-war zone administered by the CIA’s close ally General Fazle Haq. By 1988, there were an estimated 100 to 200 heroin refineries in the province’s Khyber district alone. Further south in the Koh-i-Soltan district of Baluchistan Province,Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the CIA’s favored Afghan asset, controlled six refineries that processed much of the opium harvest from the Helmand Valley into heroin. Trucks of the Pakistani army’s National Logistics Cell, arriving in these borderlands from the port of Karachi with crates of weaponry from the CIA, left with cargos of heroin for ports and airports where it would be exported to world markets.

In May 1990, as this covert operation was ending, the Washington Post reported that the CIA’s chief asset Hekmatyar was also the rebels’ leading heroin trafficker. American officials, the Post claimed, had long refused to investigate charges of heroin dealing by Hekmatyar, as well as Pakistan’s ISI, largely “because U.S. narcotics policy in Afghanistan has been subordinated to the war against Soviet influence there.”

Indeed, Charles Cogan, former director of the CIA’s Afghan operation, later spoke frankly about his Agency’s choices. “Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets,” he told Australian television in 1995. “We didn’t really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade. I don’t think that we need to apologize for this… There was fallout in term of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.”

The Afghan Civil War and the Rise of the Taliban (1989-2001)

Over the longer term, such a “clandestine” intervention (so openly written and bragged about) produced a black hole of geopolitical instability never sealed or healed thereafter.

Lying at the northern reaches of the seasonal monsoon, where rain clouds arrive already squeezed dry, arid Afghanistan never recovered from the unprecedented devastation it suffered in the years of the first American intervention. Other than irrigated areas like the Helmand Valley, the country’s semi-arid highlands were already a fragile ecosystem straining to sustain sizeable populations when war first broke out in 1979. As that war wound down between 1989 and 1992, the Washington-led alliance essentially abandoned the country, failing either to sponsor a peace settlement or finance reconstruction.

Washington simply turned elsewhere as a vicious civil war broke out in a country with 1.5 million dead, three million refugees, a ravaged economy, and a bevy of well-armed warlords primed to fight for power. During the years of vicious civil strife that followed, Afghan farmers raised the only crop that ensured instant profits, the opium poppy.  The opium harvest, having multiplied twentyfold to 2,000 tons during the covert-war era of the 1980s, would double during the civil war of the 1990s.

In this period of turmoil, opium’s ascent should be seen as a response to the severe damage two decades of warfare had inflicted. With the return of those three million refugees to a war-ravaged land, the opium fields were an employment godsend, since they required nine times as many laborers to cultivate as wheat, the country’s traditional staple. In addition, opium merchants alone were capable of accumulating capital rapidly enough to be able to provide much-needed cash advances to poor poppy farmers that equaled more than half their annual income. That credit would prove critical to the survival of many poor villagers.

In the civil war’s first phase from 1992 to 1994, ruthless local warlords combined arms and opium in a countrywide struggle for power. Determined to install its Pashtun allies in Kabul, the Afghan capital, Pakistan worked through the ISI to deliver arms and funds to its chief client Hekmatyar.  By now, he was the nominal prime minister of a fractious coalition whose troops would spend two years shelling and rocketing Kabul in fighting that left the city in ruins and some 50,000 more Afghans dead. When he nonetheless failed to take the capital, Pakistan threw its backing behind a newly arisen Pashtun force, the Taliban, a fundamentalist movement that had emerged from militant Islamic schools.

After seizing Kabul in 1996 and taking control of much of the country, the Taliban regime encouraged local opium cultivation, offering government protection to the export trade and collecting much needed taxes on both the opium produced and the heroin manufactured from it. U.N. opium surveys showed that, during their first three years in power, the Taliban raised the country’s opium crop to 4,600 tons, or 75% percent of world production at that moment.

In July 2000, however, as a devastating drought entered its second year and mass starvation spread across Afghanistan, the Taliban government suddenly ordered a ban on all opium cultivation in an apparent appeal for international recognition and aid. A subsequent U.N. crop survey of 10,030 villages found that this prohibition had reduced the harvest by 94% to a mere 185 tons.

Three months later, the Taliban sent a delegation headed by its deputy foreign minister, Abdur Rahman Zahid, to U.N. headquarters in New York to barter a continuing drug prohibition for diplomatic recognition. That body instead imposed new sanctions on the regime for protecting Osama bin Laden. The U.S., on the other hand, actually rewarded the Taliban with $43 million in humanitarian aid, even as it seconded U.N. criticism over bin Laden. Announcing this aid in May 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell praised “the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome” and urged the regime to “act on a number of fundamental issues that separate us: their support for terrorism; their violation of internationally recognized human rights standards, especially their treatment of women and girls.”

The War on Terror (2001-2016)

After a decade of ignoring Afghanistan, Washington rediscovered the place with a vengeance in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Only weeks later, in October 2001, the U.S. began bombing the country and then launched an “invasion” spearheaded by local warlords. The Taliban regime collapsed, in the words of veteran New York Times reporter R.W. Apple, with a speed “so sudden and so unexpected that government officials and commentators on strategy… are finding it hard to explain.” Although the U.S. air attacks did considerable physical and psychological damage, many other societies have withstood far more massive bombardments without collapsing in this fashion. In retrospect, it seems likely that the opium prohibition had economically eviscerated the Taliban, leaving its theocracy a hollow shell that shattered with the first American bombs.

To an extent not generally appreciated, for the previous two decades Afghanistan had devoted a growing share of its resources — capital, land, water, and labor — to the production of opium and heroin. By the time the Taliban outlawed cultivation, the country had become, agriculturally, little more than an opium monocrop. The drug trade accounted for most of its tax revenues, almost all its export income, and much of its employment. In this context, opium eradication proved to be an act of economic suicide that brought an already weakened society to the brink of collapse. Indeed, a 2001 U.N. survey found that the ban had “resulted in a severe loss of income for an estimated 3.3 million people,” 15% of the population, including 80,000 farmers, 480,000 itinerant laborers, and their millions of dependents.

While the U.S. bombing campaign raged throughout October 2001, the CIA spent $70 million “in direct cash outlays on the ground” to mobilize its old coalition of tribal warlords to take down the Taliban, an expenditure President George W. Bush would later hail as one of history’s biggest “bargains.” To capture Kabul and other key cities, the CIA put its money behind the leaders of the Northern Alliance, which the Taliban had never fully defeated. They, in turn, had long dominated the drug traffic in the area of northeastern Afghanistan they controlled in the Taliban years. In the meantime, the CIA also turned to a group of rising Pashtun warlords who had been active as drug smugglers in the southeastern part of the country.  As a result, when the Taliban went down, the groundwork had already been laid for the resumption of opium cultivation and the drug trade on a major scale.

Once Kabul and the provincial capitals were taken, the CIA quickly ceded operational control to uniformed allied forces and civilian officials whose inept drug suppression programs in the years to come would, in the end, leave the heroin traffic’s growing profits first to those warlords and, in later years, largely to the Taliban guerrillas. In the first year of U.S. occupation, before that movement had even reconstituted itself, the opiumharvest surged to 3,400 tons. In a development without historical precedent, illicit drugs would be responsible for an extraordinary 62% percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003. For the first few years of the U.S. occupation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “dismissed growing signs that drug money was being funneled to the Taliban,” while the CIA and the U.S. military “turned a blind eye to drug-related activities by prominent warlords.”

In late 2004, after nearly two years in which it showed next to no interest in the subject, outsourcing opium control to its British allies and police training to the Germans, the White House was suddenly confronted with troubling CIA intelligence suggesting that the escalating drug trade was fueling a revival of the Taliban. Backed by President Bush, Secretary of State Powell then urged an aggressive counter-narcotics strategy, including a Vietnam-style aerial defoliation of parts of rural Afghanistan. But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad resisted this approach, seconded by his local ally Ashraf Ghani, then the country’s finance minister (and now its president), whowarned that such an eradication program would mean “widespread impoverishment” in the country without $20 billion in foreign aid to create “genuine alternative livelihood[s].”

As a compromise, Washington came to rely on private contractors like DynCorp to train Afghan manual eradication teams. However, by 2005, according to New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall, that approach had already become “something of a joke.” Two years later, as the Taliban insurgency andopium cultivation both spread in what seemed to be a synergistic fashion, the U.S. Embassy again pressed Kabul to accept the kind of aerial defoliation the U.S. had sponsored in Colombia. President Hamid Karzai refused, leaving this critical problem unresolved.

The U.N.’s Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 found that the annual harvest was up 24% to a record 8,200 tons, which translated into 53% of the country’s GDP and 93% of the world’s illicit heroin supply. Significantly, the U.N. stated that Taliban guerrillas had “started to extract from the drug economy resources for arms, logistics, and militia pay.” A study for the U.S. Institute of Peace concluded that, by 2008, the movement had 50 heroin labs in its territory and controlled 98% of the country’s poppy fields.  That year, it reportedly collected $425 million in “taxes” levied on opium traffic, and with every harvest, it gained the necessary funds to recruit a new crop of young fighters from the villages. Each of those prospective guerrillas could count on monthly payments of $300, far above the wages they would have made as agricultural laborers.

In mid-2008, to contain the spreading insurgency, Washington decided to commit 40,000 more American combat troops to the country, raising allied forces to 70,000. Recognizing the crucial role of opium revenues in Taliban recruitment practices, the U.S. Treasury also formed the Afghan Threat Finance Celland embedded 60 of its analysts in combat units charged with launching strategic strikes against the drug trade.

Using quantitative methods of “social network analysis” and “influence network modeling,” those instantcivilian experts would often, according to one veteran analyst, “point to hawala brokers [rural creditors] as critical nodes within an insurgent group’s network,” prompting U.S. combat soldiers to take “kinetic courses of action — quite literally, kicking down the door of the hawala office and shutting down the operation.” Such “highly controversial” acts might “temporarily degrade the financial network of an insurgent group,” but those gains came “at the cost of upsetting an entire village” dependent on the lender for legitimate credit that was the “vast majority of the hawalador’s business.” In this way, once again, support for the Taliban grew.

By 2009, the guerrillas were expanding so rapidly that the new Obama administration opted for a “surge” in U.S. troop strength to 102,000 in a bid to cripple the Taliban. After months of rising troop deployments, President Obama’s new war strategy was officially launched on February 13, 2010, in Marja, a remote market town in Helmand Province. As waves of helicopters descended on its outskirts spitting up clouds of dust, hundreds of Marines sprinted through fields of sprouting opium poppies toward the town’s mud-walled compounds. Though their target was the local Taliban guerrillas, the Marines were in fact occupying the capital of the global heroin trade. Forty percent of the world’s illicit opium supply was grown in the surrounding districts and much of that crop was traded in Marja.

A week later, U.S. Commander General Stanley McChrystal choppered into town with Karim Khalili, Afghanistan’s vice president, for the media rollout of a new-look counterinsurgency strategy that, he told reporters, was rock-solid certain to pacify villages like Marja. Only it would never be so because the opium trade would spoil the party. “If they come with tractors,” one Afghan widow announced to a chorus of supportive shouts from her fellow farmers, “they will have to roll over me and kill me before they can kill my poppy.” Speaking by satellite telephone from the region’s opium fields, a U.S. Embassy official told me: “You can’t win this war without taking on drug production in Helmand Province.”

Watching these events unfold nearly six years ago, I wrote an essay for TomDispatch warning of a defeat foretold. “So the choice is clear enough,” I said at the time. “We can continue to fertilize this deadly soil with yet more blood in a brutal war with an uncertain outcome… or we can help renew this ancient, arid land by re-planting the orchards, replenishing the flocks, and rebuilding the farming destroyed in decades of war… until food crops become a viable alternative to opium. To put it simply, so simply that even Washington might understand, we can only pacify a narco-state when it is no longer a narco-state.”

By attacking the guerrillas but ignoring the opium harvest that funded new insurgents every spring, Obama’s surge soon suffered that defeat foretold. As 2012 ended, the Taliban guerrillas had, according to the New York Times, “weathered the biggest push the American-led coalition is going to make against them.” Amid the rapid drawdown of allied forces to meet President Obama’s December 2014 deadline for “ending” U.S. combat operations, reduced air operations allowed the Taliban to launch mass-formationattacks in the north, northeast, and south, killing record numbers of Afghan army troops and police.

At the time, John Sopko, the U.S. special inspector for Afghanistan, offered a telling explanation for the Taliban’s survival. Despite the expenditure of a staggering $7.6 billion on “drug eradication” programs during the previous decade, he concluded that, “by every conceivable metric, we’ve failed. Production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan.”

Indeed, the 2013 opium crop covered a record 209,000 hectares, raising the harvest by 50% to 5,500 tons. That massive harvest generated some $3 billion in illicit income, of which the Taliban’s tax took an estimated $320 million, well over half its revenues. The U.S. Embassy corroborated this dismal assessment, calling the illicit income “a windfall for the insurgency, which profits from the drug trade at almost every level.”

As the 2014 opium crop was harvested, fresh U.N. figures suggested that the dismal trend only continued, with the areas under cultivation rising to a record 224,000 hectares and production at 6,400 tons remaining near historic highs. In May 2015, having watched this flood of drugs enter the global market as U.S. counter-narcotics spending climbed to $8.4 billion, Sopko tried to translate what was happening into a single all-American image. “Afghanistan,” he said, “has roughly 500,000 acres, or about 780 square miles, devoted to growing opium poppy. That’s equivalent to more than 400,000 U.S. football fields — including the end zones.”

In the fighting season of 2015, the Taliban decisively seized the combat initiative and opium seemed ever more deeply embedded in its operations. The New York Times reported that the movement’s new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was “among the first major Taliban officials to be linked to the drug trade… and later became the Taliban’s main tax collector for the narcotics trade — creating immense profits.” After months of relentless pressure on government forces in three northern provinces, the group’s first major operation under his command was the two-week seizure of the strategic city of Kunduz, which just happened to be located on “the country’s most lucrative drug routes… moving opium from the poppy prolific provinces in the south to Tajikistan… and to Russia and Europe.” Washington felt forced to slam down the brakes on planned further withdrawals of its combat forces.

Amid a rushed evacuation of its regional offices in the threatened northern provinces, the U.N. released a map in October showing that the Taliban had “high” or “extreme” control in more than half the country’s rural districts, including many where they had not previously been a significant presence. Within a month, the Taliban unleashed offensives countrywide that aimed at seizing and holding territory, threatening military bases in northern Faryab Province and encircling entire districts in western Herat.

Not surprisingly, the strongest attacks came in the poppy heartland of Helmand Province, where half the country’s opium crop was then grown and, said the New York Times, “the lucrative opium trade made it crucial to the insurgents’ economic designs.” By mid-December, after overrunning checkpoints, winning back much of the province, and setting government security forces back on their heels, the guerrillas came close to capturing that heart of the heroin trade, Marja, the very site of President Obama’s media-saturated surge rollout in 2010.  Had U.S. Special Operations forces and the U.S. Air Force not intervened to relieve “demoralized” Afghan forces, the town and the province would undoubtedly have fallen. By early 2016, 14-plus years after Afghanistan was “liberated” by a U.S. invasion, and in a significant reversal of Obama administration drawdown policies, the U.S. was reportedly dispatching“hundreds” of new U.S. troops in a mini-surge into Helmand Province to shore up the government’s faltering forces and deny the insurgents the “economic prize” of the world’s most productive poppy fields.

After a disastrous 2015 fighting season that inflicted what U.S. officials have termed “unsustainable”casualties on the Afghan army and what the UN called the “real horror” of record civilian losses, the long, harsh winter that has settled across the country is offering no respite. As cold and snow slowed combat in the countryside, the Taliban shifted operations to the cities, with five massive bombings in Kabul and other key urban areas in the first week of January, followed by a suicide attack on a police complex in the capital that killed 20 officers.

Meanwhile, as the 2015 harvest ended, the country’s opium cultivation, after six years of sustained growth, slipped by 18% to 183,000 hectares and the crop yield dropped steeply to 3,300 tons. While U.N. officials attributed much of the decline to drought and the spread of a poppy fungus, conditions that might not continue into 2016, long-term trends are still an unclear mix of positive and negative news. Buried in the mass of data published in the U.N.’s drug reports is one significant statistic: as Afghanistan’s economy grew from years of international aid, opium’s share of GDP dropped steadily from a daunting 63% in 2003 to a far more manageable 13% in 2014. Even so, the U.N. says, “dependency on the opiate economy at the farmer level in many rural communities is still high.”

At that local level in Helmand Province, “Afghan government officials have also become directly involved in the opium trade,” the New York Times recently reported. In doing so, they expanded “their competition with the Taliban… into a struggle for control of the drug traffic,” while imposing “a tax on farmers practically identical to the one the Taliban uses,” and kicking a portion of their illicit profits “up the chain, all the way to officials in Kabul… ensuring that the local authorities maintain support from higher-ups and keeping the opium growing.”

Simultaneously, a recent U.N. Security Council investigation found that the Taliban has systematically tapped “into the supply chain at each stage of the narcotics trade,” collecting a 10% user tax on opium cultivation in Helmand, fighting for control of heroin laboratories, and acting as “the major guarantors for the trafficking of raw opium and heroin out of Afghanistan.” No longer simply taxing the traffic, the Taliban is now so deeply and directly involved that, adds the Times, it “has become difficult to distinguish the group from a dedicated drug cartel.” Whatever the long-term trends might be, for the foreseeable future opium remains deeply entangled with the rural economy, the Taliban insurgency, and government corruption whose sum is the Afghan conundrum.

With ample revenues from past bumper crops, the Taliban will undoubtedly be ready for the new fighting season that will come with the start of spring. As snow melts from the mountain slopes and poppy shoots spring from the soil, there will be, as in the past 40 years, a new crop of teenaged recruits ready to fight for the rebel forces.

Cutting the Afghan Gordian Knot

For most people globally, economic activity, the production and exchange of goods, is the prime point of contact with government, as is manifest in the coins and currency stamped by the state that everyone carries in their pockets.  But when a country’s most significant commodity is illegal, then political loyalties naturally shift to the clandestine networks that move that product safely from fields to foreign markets, providing finance, loans, and employment every step of the way. “The narcotics trade poisons the Afghan financial sector and fuels a growing illicit economy,” John Sopko explains. “This, in turn, undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, nourishing criminal networks, and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups.”

After 15 years of continuous warfare in Afghanistan, Washington is faced with the same choice it had five years ago when Obama’s generals heli-lifted those Marines into Marja to start its surge. Just as it has been over the past decade and a half, the U.S. can remain trapped in the same endless cycle, fighting each new crop of village warriors who annually seem to spring fully armed from that country’s poppy fields. At this point, history tells us one thing: in this land sown with dragon’s teeth, there will be a new crop of guerrillas this year, next year, and the year after that.

Even in troubled Afghanistan, however, there are alternatives whose sum could potentially slice through this Gordian knot of a policy problem. As a first and fundamental step, maybe it’s time to stop talking about the next sets of boots on the ground and for President Obama to complete his planned troop withdrawal.

Next, investing even a small portion of all that misspent military funding in rural Afghanistan could produce economic alternatives for the millions of farmers who depend upon the opium crop for employment. Such money could help rebuild that land’s ruined orchards, ravaged flocks, wasted seed stocks, and wrecked snowmelt irrigation systems that, before these decades of war, sustained a diverse agriculture. If the international community can continue to nudge the country’s dependence on illicit opium down from the current 13% of GDP through such sustained rural development, then perhaps Afghanistan will cease to be the planet’s leading narco-state and just maybe that annual cycle can at long last be broken.

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Taliban: Remove us from UN blacklist before new peace talks

NOVANEWS

© www.boiseweekly.com
Former Taliban fighters carry their weapons prior to turning them over as they join a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad, 2013.

The Taliban militant group says it wants to be removed from the blacklist of the United Nations as a condition for rejoining peace talks for an end to the conflict in Afghanistan. “We conveyed them to first remove us from the ‎blacklist of the United Nations and allow us to freely travel around the world and then we can think about holding peace talks,” said an unidentified Taliban member during unofficial talks with activists and former Afghan officials in the Qatari capital of Doha on Saturday.

Taliban has reemerged as a strong militant group over the past months as it has managed to capture some key areas in the north and south of Afghanistan. The militants also carry out attacks in the capital, Kabul. That has prompted renewed efforts in the country and by neighbors to revive stalled negotiations between the militant group and the Afghan government.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said Saturday that representatives of the group had attended the unofficial talks in Doha to express the views of the group on how the situation in the country should be handled. “The meeting is providing us an opportunity to express our views about the future of Afghanistan,” said Mujahid, without elaborating on the condition set by other senior members about removal of Taliban from the UN blacklist.

Pakistan mediated the first round of talks in the summer of 2015, but a planned second meeting was cancelled after news broke that Taliban’s founder and long-time leader Mullah Omar had died two years ago. Many suspect that Taliban could reappear on the negotiating table as factional infighting and leadership division has deepened in the group since the death of Omar.

Officials from former Afghan administrations who attended the talks said Taliban has yet to make a concrete demand. “So far they have not proposed any concrete ideas about how to move forward. Hopefully by tomorrow we will know if they want peace and if so what their conditions are,” said Anwar Ahady, a former minister of finance.

Comment: As far back as 2009 the UN called for talks with Taliban leaders. In 2010, the UN lifted sanctions on the Taliban and a request that Taliban leaders and others be removed from terrorism watch lists. It is now 2016.

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Peace Disruptors in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS
Image result for Peace Afghanistan PHOTO
By Sajjad Shaukat

On January 13, this year, at least seven personal of the Afghan security forces died during the suicide attack which targeted the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. Islamic State group (ISIS or Daesh) claimed responsibility for the terror-attack.

The attack, which coincided with efforts to restart the stalled peace process with Taliban insurgents and ease diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan, added a dangerous new element to Afghanistan’s volatile security mix. In this regard, delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States had met this to try to resurrect efforts to end nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan. However, we need to know the real peace disruptors in Afghanistan.

It is notable that on December 9, 2015, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference was held in Islamabad in which high-level representatives of supporting regional and international organizations from over 30 countries including especially the US, China and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj participated.

The participants realized the importance of the conference as an important regional platform aimed at a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan which was not only in its own interest, but also vital to peace, stability and prosperity of the ‘Heart of Asia’ region as a whole—it was collective responsibility to help Afghanistan in combating the challenges it faced.

In the joint declaration, the participants reaffirmed the respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and reiterated their commitment to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other and reaffirmed the objectives, aimed at promoting regional peace and prosperity and enhanced cooperation for countering security threats collectively.

And a series of meetings were held in Islamabad between Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding of the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. A trilateral meeting was also held among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the America. Besides, President Ashraf Ghani, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sushma said that India and Pakistan have decided to restart composite dialogue to address all issues including Kashmir.

President Ghani vowed to work together to eliminate the common threat of terrorism, which Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing, and emphasized on the need to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.

In this respect, in the recent past, cordial relations were established between Pakistan and Afghanistan when Afghan President Ghani had realized that Afghanistan and Pakistan were facing similar challenges of terrorism and would combat this threat collectively.

While, it is misfortune that on direction of New Delhi and like the former regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s present rulers have also started accusing Pakistan of cross-border terrorism. In this context, after hours of the Taliban captured Kunduz city, on September 28, 2015, during his address to the UNO General Assembly, Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah blamed Islamabad for carrying out cross-border attacks and destabilizing Afghanistan.

Differences exist between chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani, as the former wants cordial relations with New Delhi at the cost of Afghanistan and the latter prefers Islamabad, because Pak-Afghan stability is interrelated.

It is mentionable that on December 10, President Ghani accepted the resignation of Rahmatullah Nabil as director of the Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), after developing differences of the spymaster with him over Ghani’s move to attend the regional conference in Islamabad. In his statement, Nabil said President Ghani had asked him to relinquish charge of the NDS.

Besides, Prime Minister Sharif and President Ghani also showed their determination that their countries would cooperate in fighting the threat of ISIS.

As the US is playing double game with Pakistan, because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, which irritates America and Israel. Hence, secret agents of American CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW which are well-penetrated in ISIS and are making efforts to weaken Tibetan regions of China, Iran and Pakistan, especially Pakistan’s province of Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities, promoting acrimonious sense of dissent, political volatility, sectarian violence and arousing sentiments of separatism.

In fact, in collusion with Afghanistan’s spy agency NDS, particularly, RAW has well-established its network in Afghanistan, and is fully assisting cross-border incursions and terror-activities in various regions of Pakistan through Baloch separatist elements and anti-Pakistan groups like Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), Jundullah (God’s soldiers) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Nevertheless, Indian desperation in Afghanistan is increasing in the backdrop of growing engagements of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and US. Therefore, by arranging terror-assaults in Pakistan and Afghanistan, India is also thwarting the peace process between the Afghan officials and representatives of Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan, which started in Murree, Pakistan, on July 8, 2015 through a meeting, hosted by Islamabad, and in it, Chinese and American representatives, also participated. While, the US, China and Pakistan are jointly working to facilitate the process so as to bring peace both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the whole region.

New Delhi is also trying to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is targeting growing Pak-China-Afghanistan relations.

It is of particular attention that waging a prolonged war in Afghanistan, the US and other NATO countries have realized that after the withdrawal of foreign troops, Afghanistan would be thrown in an era of uncertainly and civil war. They realize the fact that there is a co-relationship of terrorism or stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Therefore, US-led developed nations which also spent billions of dollars for the development of Afghanistan have repeatedly agreed that without Islamabad’s help, stability cannot be achieved there. Unfortunately, India does not intend to see peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hence, India is undermining Pak-Afghan stability by creating unrest, and by sabotaging their cordial relations.

As regards the protracted conflict in Afghanistan, the problem cannot be solved through war and weaponry. Initiation of peace dialogue and positive engagements among the contestant groups can be the other practicable option.

Pakistan is desirous of peaceful Afghanistan and sincerely committed to play a positive role in facilitating atmosphere for the dialogue-parties.

Islamabad has categorically denounced any proximity with Taliban as propagated by Indian and western segments. The impression of proximity has been exploited to fan mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan has expressed its firm resolve to eradicate extremism and terrorism and military operation Zarb-e-Azb and National Action Plan is clear manifestation of the same.

The entities which are playing double game are opposed to a peaceful Afghanistan. Therefore, they have always attempted to hinder or disrupt any positive outcome of Pak-Afghan engagement by exploiting holed up proxies to carryout terrorism either on Afghan soil or in Pakistan.

Due to Pakistan’s incontestable role in Afghan imbroglio, the country remains a prime target of vested countries and extra regional powers and have been witnessing terrorism thourgh the ISIS which these hostile have themselves created to obtain the secret designs of America, India, Israel and some western countries.

Optimistically speaking, while appreciating increasing engagements at military level of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, media may urge political leadership to expend the contacts and engagements, so that the bilateral relations foster at all levels.

For the purpose, the US-led developed countries must also realize that unlike India, Pakistan shares common geographical, historical, religious and cultural bonds with Afghanistan, while Pak-Afghan stability has a co-relationship, which is essential for their global and regional interests. Especially, America must abandon its double standard, and must check Indian hidden strategy against Pakistan, Afghanistan and other regional countries. Nonetheless, dual policy of the peace disruptors in Afghanistan must be stopped by the respective governments of these countries.

 

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

 

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US spent millions giving Afghan children violent textbooks

NOVANEWS

US spent millions giving Afghan children violent textbooks to indoctrinate them to jihad, and it worked

The Unites States government has played a crucial role in the development of the complex and volatile political situation that now exists in the Middle East, and they have had a heavy hand in influencing the region since the first world war.From propping up dictators to funding rebel groups for regime change, the U.S. and their allies have been creating monsters in the Middle East for generations. Western involvement in the region became more pronounced and more militarized during the Cold War, where the western allies and the Soviets fought proxy wars all over the world.Afghanistan was one of the primary battlegrounds where these proxy wars took place, and at the time, the U.S. military was supplying militants in Afganistan with training and weapons to be used against the Soviets who also had political and strategic interests in the region.The tactics used by the U.S. government extended far beyond traditional warfare and entered the realm of psychological warfare. From the Cold War period until very recently, the U.S. government spent millions of dollars supplying Afghan schoolchildren with propagandized textbooks that had violent images and militant jihadi teachings. The motive behind this propaganda was to actually radicalize the Afghan children so they would be more willing to fight against the Soviets when they got older.

According to the Washington Post, the textbooks were published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu and developed in the early 1980’s at a cost of $51 million.

The schoolbooks were even approved by the Taliban because the teachings were not far off from their own worldview.

This propaganda effort was only made public after the U.S. government went to war in Afghanistan in 2002 and it was revealed through the media that the western curriculum being taught in Afghan schools was actually promoting jihad.

At the time, President Bush was forced to respond to the scandal, and he promised that the curriculum would be changed to reflect a more peaceful worldview. Bush promised that 10 million textbooks with updated curriculum would be sent to Afghan schools and he claimed that the new books would teach “respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry.”

Chris Brown, head of book revision for AID’s Central Asia Task Force admitted that the textbooks were initially designed as anti-soviet propaganda.

“I think we were perfectly happy to see these books trashing the Soviet Union,” Brown said.

Although, he added the ideas in the textbooks were updated for a new era.

“We turned it from a wartime curriculum to a peacetime curriculum,” he said of the new books.

The textbooks had reportedly portrayed the society in Afghanistan of having a “warrior culture” that was destined to fight a holy war.

Ahmad Fahim Hakim, an Afghan teacher who is very familiar with the books explained that “The pictures [in] the texts are horrendous to school students, but the texts are even much worse.”

Many experts claim that these books are still in use today in Afghan schools, despite efforts from UNICEF to destroy them and replace them with their newer versions.

According to a recent report from the Post, Dana Burde, an assistant professor of international education at New York University, says the Taliban is reprinting and using old U.S.-sponsored jihadist books to influence children in areas where the militants still hold sway. Burde says she found multiple reprinted copies of some of the texts, including a 2011 edition in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

As images of ISIS beheading their victims dressed in orange jumpsuits are plastered on televisions across the nation, and knowing that the US has been teaching this to children, hot air from the establishment decrying these acts rings hollow.

Any government who would use innocent children as pawns and teach them to become vicious killers, for their own personal gain, is far beyond criminal… it’s downright evil.

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