Archive | Afghanistan

Taliban sets conditions for peace talks with Afghan government

NOVANEWS
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

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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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Not Trusting Pentagon Investigation of Afghan Hospital Bombing

NOVANEWS
doctors without borders

Does Doctors Without Borders Deserve an Independent Probe?

The October 3 airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, carried out by the US, left 42 civilians dead and thousands of Afghans without access to emergency medical care.

The United States — often first in line to call for independent investigations of the actions of others — is blocking efforts to mount an international inquiry into the devastating raid.

Debris litters the floor in one of the corridors of MSF's Kunduz Trauma center. Photo credit: Victor J. Blue / MSFDebris litters the floor in one of the corridors of MSF’s Kunduz Trauma center. Photo credit: Victor J. Blue / MSF

Exhibit A of the US double-standard on accountability: the Obama administration’s reaction to the July 2014 downing of a Malaysian airliner over territory controlled by “Russian-backed separatists” in eastern Ukraine.

Referring to that tragedy, President Obama said, “[A]mid our prayers and our outrage, the United States continues to do everything in our power to help bring home their loved ones, support the international investigation, and make sure justice is done.” He also condemned the “separatists” for interfering with the crash investigation and tampering with evidence.

But that was when the Russians and their allies were the suspects. In the wake of the Afghan hospital bombing, the US has insisted it has the ability to investigate itself impartially, a claim Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) strongly rejects.

“Very Precisely Hit”

Supporting the MSF position is the fact that the official US story has changed numerous times. US forces first claimed the airstrike was carried out “against individuals threatening the force,” and that the nearby hospital was only collateral damage.

In response, MSF said “the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched,” suggesting the strikes were not a mistake.

Local Afghan forces attempted to justify the attack on grounds that Taliban fighters shot at US and Afghan forces from the hospital.

The MSF categorically denies this, saying that the Afghan statement “amounts to an admission of a war crime.” Hospitals are protected under laws of war.

The differing accounts of what happened that day only underscore the need for an independent, impartial body to conduct an investigation.

“Violations of the Rules of War?”

The US military completed its internal investigation in November. In contrast to earlier US statements, the latest report does not claim the bombing of the hospital was collateral damage inflicted while protecting US troops under fire from the Taliban. Instead, the report says that US forces intended to strike a nearby building where they believed insurgents were taking shelter, but that “human error, compounded by systems and procedural failures“ resulted in US forces striking the MSF compound instead. The communications systems malfunctioned, and personnel requesting and executing the strike “did not undertake the appropriate measures to verify that the facility was a legitimate military target,” said General John Campbell.

But MSF is not satisfied. Christopher Stokes, the organization’s General Director, said in a written statement dated November 25, “the US version of events presented today leaves MSF with more questions than answers. The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of US forces and violations of the rules of war.”

MSF has called on the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to launch an independent investigation. The IHFFC was established under the Geneva Conventions but has never been used since it was officially constituted in 1991. According to the group’s website, “The IHFFC stands ready to undertake an investigation but can only do so based on the consent of the concerned… States.”

However, the United States and Afghanistan are unlikely to give their consent, as they would prefer their own investigation to be accepted as definitive.

Doctors WIthout Borders condemns this stance in the strongest possible language.“We cannot rely solely on the parties involved in the conflict to carry out an independent and impartial examination of an attack in which they are implicated,” said MSF-USA Executive Director Jason Cone. “Perpetrators cannot also be judges.”

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Afghanistan: peace talks and conflict escalation

NOVANEWS

By GPD

By Masud Wadan, for Veterans Today

The root cause of today’s endless conflict in Afghanistan dates back to the day when soviet forces set foot on Afghan soil, the war that sustained to drag into another century and passed to other war wagers. Following the soviet exit, the power was taken over by the most uncivilized and cruel humans of the earth, Jihadists and then Taliban who voluntarily plunged Afghanistan into ruins.

In years before 2014, a broad speculation over what might happen beyond 2014 – US forces withdrawal – was that Afghanistan would experience a boom, either in terms of security, economy or overall developments. It was predicted that with international forces indoors and Afghan security forces on war front, while peace efforts at great pace, this long-war-devastated country would phase in prosperity.

But those dreams were especially shattered when first signs of continuity of war were felt across the country. The failed war on terror gave birth to a brand new terror group “Islamic State”, compounded an already fatal insurgency that just eyes on ways to “kill and kill”.

Taliban or any rebel group’s ideology of “fighting government” is cleared “pointless”, because there is no targeting of key Afghan security authorities other than hunting down civilians, though it is not that they can’t reach “them”.

What these days has overwhelmingly engaged people is the battle against Islamic State in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The seeds of Islamic State in Afghanistan were first planted for a different purpose. Around 2008 under Karzai, members of Lashkar-e Islam resettled across the border in parts of peripheral districts of Nangarhar province.

The fleeing group was defying Pakistani government and even reportedly plotted deadly attacks. Pakistan was forced to set up a force to counter this group. It yielded somewhat desired outcome and suppressed the challenging group.

This move went on to lay the foundation of Islamic State in Afghanistan. It was when we were hearing about clashes between Taliban and Islamic State. It is more like a by-product force.

The first ever non-government resistance to the Islamic State’s presence and atrocities in a confined area was mobilized by an Afghan warlord Abdul Zahir Qadeer, who is also the first deputy of parliament. His anti-IS position went viral in social network and mass media, particularly when a footage released showed four IS fighter’s heads cut off the body.

They were beheaded by Zahir Qadeer’s armed personnel to avenge the relentless mass killing of locals. Although statesmen and Human Right organization slammed the act and called for investigation, it comforted the pains of not only victims and their dependents, but almost every citizen who heard about it.

A number of powerful jihadists and tycoons running million dollar massive businesses across the Nangarhar city may also stand as barrier to the advancement of Islamic State into the city. They may choose every option to ward off anything on the earth making trouble for the flow of their business. The loss is inevitable for them if Islamic State fighters make it to reach out the outskirts of the city.

On the other hand, as Russia looks around for influence as part of anti-IS battle, Zahir Qadeer and Moscow’s interests meet the same. The two sides would possibly come together to discuss the issue in question.

Russia is trying as hard to overcome the threat as President Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has asked UN Security Council to relax bans on Taliban. There have been media reports about Moscow-Taliban’s negotiation in Tajikistan.

The Taliban leadership it spoke to might not absolutely represent the fighters battling in Afghanistan as the core Taliban address is far beyond the reach of Moscow, but it would help the major power chalk out own road map to form or lure an anti-Islamic State rebel group.

The mentioned Russian attempts would not go quietly and away from US attention. It would be equally followed by western responsive measures. If the pace further develops, it would amount to an “alarming bell” for the west.

Peace negotiation efforts with Taliban resumed after Pakistani General Raheel Sharif’s last week visit to Kabul. Although, it is no surprising news owing to its failed and dishonest past, the U.S and China’s involvement has sparked a bit of optimism to pressure the opposite side of Afghan government.

This comes as the latest fierce fighting in Sangin district of Helmand province was believed to have erupted as a stride towards showing enormity of Taliban’s power to give them more concession in the negotiation. Some analysts had predicted the resumption of peace campaign just after or amid Sangin’s violent battle.

If this argumentative peace talk ever reach consensus, Afghan govt. would have to prepare to give up a great deal of concessions and make a grave history for the next generations. This could include abandoning of territories to the Taliban or some share in power in Kabul.

Any such deal, however, would prompt majority of nation to outrageously stand against statesmen. A massive chaos that would grow as much as to leave Afghan leaders mired in a new tragedy.

Thereby, Afghan side has to meticulously discuss the “mutual” concessions, where ours is primarily focused on long lasting truce with Taliban, yet there is no guarantee the extremism would stop even after agreement.

The fighting in Helmand persistently expands into other districts. Afghan Special Forces in an operation the other day released 59 hostages among military men and civilians. In Marjah district, Taliban has forced residents out of their homes and planted IEDs along the blacktop.

Central security authorities were criticized for lingering action to timely send reinforcements to the war front.

Islamic State operatives now in Pakistan

Pakistani media has spoken the language of Islamic State loyalist’s presence and inroad attempts in this country, a claim declined by Pakistani authorities. According to Urdu language Jang daily, Islamic State is recruiting, brainwashing and sending operatives to the fighting grounds in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Islamic State is in stage of invisibly taking shape and therefore cannot be felt well there. Some best-selling newspapers have cautioned of Islamic State’s gaining of foothold and called on authorities to stop its expansion.

The phenomenon seems to be serious as another Urdu language “Dunya” newspaper reads “Daesh is working to secure a perpetual presence in Pakistan”. This is while “Amir Mansoor” has been named as Ameer of the group in Islamabad.

Although the ground may now only serve as “mobilization” for Islamic State and will not pose a direct threat to Pakistan, someday they may turn a “homegrown demons” for Pakistan and bother own creators.

Daesh recruiters set sights on Afghan refugees as priority. After getting trained, the recruits move to Afghanistan to fight for what they call “farce” Jihad. They get 30 to 50 thousand Pakistani rupee (300 to 500 USD) each month.

It can willingly, unwillingly carry menace of terror attacks in neighboring countries – other than Afghanistan. Saturday’s armed attack on an Indian military base in border region is citable as dire consequence. Indian media and officials put the blame on Pakistan right after the raid.

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CIA Helicopters Ferrying ISIS Fighters into Afghanistan?

NOVANEWS
By GPD
ISIS militants have been transported to the Afghan province of Nangarhar by helicopter, according to reports.
Stock photo, not to represent an actual event

Stock photo, not to represent an actual event
Afghan authorities are investigating reports that two unidentified helicopters have dropped off Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in the Afghan province of Nangarhar, Afghan Senator Haji Lutfullah Baba told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on Wednesday.”A number of people in Tor Ghar, Nangarhar Province have contacted me to say that unidentified helicopters have airlifted Daesh militants there,Iran Front Page reported Baba as having said.
“They asked me to follow up the issue and urge security and military officials to look into the militant movements, which pose a threat to the security of the province and the entire nation.”
A spokesman for the local government in Nangarhar province confirmed reports that the helicopters had dropped off men wearing in black uniforms, and added that similar sightings had also been reported in the provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan and Badakhshan.On December 16 Afghanistan’s Khaama press news agency reported that fierce clashes between Daesh and the Taliban in eastern Nangarhar province had resulted in heavy losses for both sides.
“15 armed opponents have been killed and 36 others wounded in these clashes,” said Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, who added that four of the dead were Daesh terrorists, and 11 were Taliban.
“Out of the 36 wounded, 11 of them belong to Daesh and 25 others were members of Taliban,” he said, adding that two civilians had also been injured in the clashes.

Posted in Afghanistan, USA0 Comments

Pentagon Task Force Spent Nearly

NOVANEWS

Image result for Pentagon LOGO

 

https://theintercept.com/2015/12/03/pentagon-task-force-spent-nearly-150m-on-villas…

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is asking why a small Department of Defense task force charged with developing the Afghan economy spent nearly $150 million on private villas, security guards and luxury meals. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter … SIGAR chief John Sopko wrote that members of the Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) could have used accommodations available on local military bases and other U.S. government facilities.

Former TFBSO employees told SIGAR investigators thatthe $150 million … supported “no more than 5 to 10” employees. Triple Canopy is one of the firms that have financially benefited the most from post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning roughly $2.2 billion in government contracts since 2003.

The company has continued to receive lucrative government contracts despite being at the center of several controversies related to the killing of civilians in Iraq by its employees and providing falsified documents for its private security guards. The decision to hire the contractors is believed to have originated with former deputy undersecretary of defense and TFSBO director Paul Brinkley. In 2007, he was investigated by the military on allegations of financial mismanagement and personal misconduct while based in Iraq, but continued serving in government until 2011.

Note: By mid-2014, the US had spent more money on Afghanistan’s “reconstruction” than it spent on the entire Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe following WWII. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing military corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.

 

Posted in Afghanistan, USA0 Comments

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