Archive | Afghanistan

Drone strike in Afghanistan kills 4 Pakistani Taliban, 7 others

NOVANEWS
A drone can be seen firing a missile in this photo. — AFP/File
A drone can be seen firing a missile in this photo. — AFP/File

KABUL: A US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed four Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants and seven other insurgents, a district official said Wednesday.

The drone’s missiles killed the militants on Tuesday afternoon as members of the TTP were attacking a school in the city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border, said Mahlem Mashuq, the governor of Sherzad district in Nangarhar province.

“Based on our findings, 11 insurgents, four of them Pakistani Taliban, were travelling in a pickup truck that was hit by a drone strike, killing all of them,” Mashuq said.

The Pakistani and Afghan branches of the hard-line Islamist Taliban are loosely allied and operate across the porous border between the countries.

Both are dedicated to overthrowing their countries’ governments and establishing rule by their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The Afghan Taliban, however, issued a statement condemning Tuesday’s Pakistani Taliban attack on the school in Peshawar that killed 141 people.

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NATO Symbolically Lowers Flag in Afghanistan, But US War To March On

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Public declaration that combat is ending belies Obama administration’s quiet expansion of war

The ISAF color guard marches during the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) and XVIII Airborne Corps colors casing ceremony, Dec 8, 2014 at North Kabul Afghanistan International Airport, Afghanistan. (Photo: ISAF/Public Domain)

At a flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul on Monday, U.S. and NATO military commanders publicly declared that combat operations in Afghanistan are coming to a close.

While major media outlets quickly picked up and parroted this message, one problem remains: the U.S.-led war is not, in fact, ending.

Announcing the formal closure of joint U.S. and NATO headquarters for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General John Campbell, U.S. Army General and commander of ISAF, claimed on Monday that the joint command “will be subsumed into a coalition that is soon downsizing to about 3,000 personnel.” Campbell added, “You’ve done your job well so well that you’ve worked yourself out of a job.”

“ISAF is transitioning to the NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission which will focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan Security Institutions and ANSF at the ministerial, institutional, and operational levels,” reads a statement from ISAF about Monday’s ceremony. “The RS mission begins January 1st, 2015.”

The public display, however, comes as the Obama administration quietly moves to continue, and in some aspects expand, the war.

In November, President Obama signed a secret order authorizing a more expansive military mission in Afghanistan through 2015, the New York Times revealed late last month. The measure green-lights U.S. deployment of ground troops for military operations targeting the Taliban and other armed groups, as well as use of jets, bombers, and drones.

Furthermore, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday that, into 2015, the United States will keep up to 1,000 more U.S. soldiers than the numbers previously outline in Obama’s May pledge to cut troop levels. This would bring the total number of U.S. troops to as many as 10,800 into next year, and the total number of foreign troops to 13,000, when the thousands of remaining NATO soldiers are taken into account. Troops that remain will engage in “combat enabler” roles, Hagel stated.

And then there is the Bilateral Security Agreement between the U.S. and Afghan governments, which was signed in September and locks in at least another decade of U.S. troops in the country, as well as training, funding, and arming of the Afghan military. The agreement also secures immunity for U.S. service members under Afghan law—a measure that is highly controversial in a country that has suffered massacres of civilians.

Furthermore, in late November, U.S.-backed Afghan president Ashraf Ghani removed the ban on unpopular night raids by special forces. Special Forces units from the Afghan Army are already preparing to resume the raids, in some cases with the participation of U.S. Special Operations.

People in Afghanistan, who live with the impacts of these policies, may shudder at the claim that ISAF “did its job well.”

report released in July by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan notes that Afghan civilian deaths and wounds as a result of the fighting have steadily risen since 2012 and are overall higher than they were in 2009. Furthermore, a report released in November by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs finds that 7,965 civilians were killed and wounded by conflict between January and September 2014—22 percent of them children. During this time period, approximately 105,800 people were forced to flee their homes.

As recently as Saturday, ISAF troops killed two civilians in Southern Kandahar when they opened fire into their car, according to journalist Bashir Ahmad Naadem.

Critics charge that the real outcome of the U.S.-led war is death, social destabilization, poverty, and political dependency and corruption.

“In the past thirteen years, the U.S. and its allies have wasted tens of billions of dollars and turned this country into the center of global surveillance and mafia gangs and left it poor, corrupt, insecure, hungry, and crippled with tribal, linguistic, and sectarian divisions,” declared the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan in a statement released on the 13th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.

“Our people, tired of war, have been burning in the fire of oppression and plunder set by the occupiers and their stooges.”

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The Impending Failure in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

America’s neocon-driven foreign policy is more about political one-ups-man-ship in Official Washington than the realities on the ground in countries like Afghanistan where the U.S. military is then expected to do more than is possible, leading to failure after failure, as Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland describes.

By Ivan Eland

As U.S. forces withdraw from parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban is making gains in several areas of the country. The Afghan police and army are slowly giving way, despite the United States spending 13 years and tens of billions of dollars training those forces.

When the United States completes its withdrawal from ground combat at the end of this year, this unfavorable trend will undoubtedly accelerate — that is, if the Afghan security forces don’t collapse altogether, as did similarly U.S. trained Iraqi forces in that country. Thus, in the longest war in American history, the U.S. military has failed to pacify Afghanistan — as had the mighty British Empire three times in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the Soviet superpower more recently in the 1980s. In fact, an outside force has not pacified Afghanistan since Cyrus the Great of Persia did it in ancient times.

Seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Marines conduct a combat logistics patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz)

Seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Marines conduct a combat logistics patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz)

Why did the United States have the hubris to think it could succeed in taming Afghanistan, when all of these other strenuous efforts had failed? Because many in the American foreign policy elite, media and citizenry believe in “American exceptionalism.” As propounded by politicians of both parties — for example, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright in the Democratic Party and people such as John McCain and his sidekick Lindsay Graham in the Republican Party — America is the “indispensable nation” to a world that cannot do without its solving most major problems using military power.

Yet despite the current public fawning over military personnel and veterans of American wars, the U.S. military has been fairly incompetent in most major engagements since World War II that required significant ground forces — with only Desert Storm in 1991 being an unvarnished success in recent years. The U.S. armed forces are probably more powerful than any other military in world history, both absolutely and relative to other countries, yet their battlefield performance has not been that great, especially against irregular guerrilla forces in the developing world.

In the post-World War II era, the U.S. military managed to fight the then-poor nation of China to only a draw in the Korean War (1950-1953); lost the Vietnam War (1965-1973) to ragtag Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese; and made the same mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq and Afghanistan — initially using excessive firepower and alienating the population, the allegiance of which is key to fighting guerrillas.

Even in lesser ground operations against small weak foes, the U.S. military has not performed all that well. Although successful, the invasions of Grenada and Panama exhibited embarrassing snafus, such as friendly fire casualties caused by the inability of U.S. services to adequately communicate and coordinate and the wanton destruction of civilian areas and excessive casualties in what was supposed to have been a surgical operation, respectively.

The hostage rescue mission conducted in Iran in 1980 had to be aborted. Finally, U.S. interventions in Lebanon and Somalia under the Reagan and the George H.W. Bush/Clinton administrations, respectively, led to ignominious cutting and running from those countries after successful enemy attacks — inspiring Osama bin Laden to believe he could compel U.S. withdrawal from overseas interventions by launching terrorist attacks against U.S. military forces (the U.S.S. Cole) and facilities overseas and even American territory.

Whenever the U.S. military has a setback, it usually hints around that the civilian leadership of the country was more to blame. And civilian leaders are partly to blame in most of these instances, but the military should not escape public scrutiny for these disasters — which it largely has. The problem is that the American public feels guilty for the alleged abuse of returning Vietnam-era veterans and for the fact with an all-volunteer Army, it doesn’t have to sacrifice much during all these American military adventures overseas.

Of course, if the public really wanted to do something to support American service personnel, it should put a stop to them fighting and dying in faraway developing nations to allegedly combat much exaggerated threats to the United States. However, sufficient public outrage needed to end the conflicts was not evident for either Afghanistan or Iraq.

But what exactly went wrong in Afghanistan? As in Vietnam and Iraq, the U.S. military has not been fighting conventional armies, such as Iraqi forces during Desert Storm, which it is best at. Instead, in all three places, it was conducting what amounts to military social work. U.S. armed forces are fighting guerrillas that melt back into an all-important supportive indigenous civilian population. In Vietnam, initially, U.S. forces used excessive firepower, which alienated civilians; in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military, forgetting the lessons of Vietnam, did the same thing.

But American citizens ask, “Aren’t our forces more benevolent than the brutal Taliban? Why does the Taliban still get so much support in Afghanistan?” The answer: because they are Afghans. As my book, The Failure of Counterinsurgency: Why Hearts and Minds Are Seldom Won, notes, when fighting indigenous insurgents, the foreign invader never gets the benefit of the doubt.

This central point makes it difficult for great powers to win wars against insurgents, no matter how nice they try to be to the civilian populace. And the U.S. military is usually fairly unfamiliar with the language and culture of distant lands in which they intervene, thus making it difficult to get good information about who is a guerrilla and who is not.

Often the only way to win a counterinsurgency is to annihilate the entire country with indiscriminate and potent violence; yet the Soviets used such scorched-earth policies in Afghanistan and didn’t win. Furthermore, the U.S. military would have difficulty selling such a morally bankrupt policy, which amounts to “destroying a country in order to save it,” in a republic.

America is exceptional, however in a way the nation’s Founders realized but has long been forgotten. Being far away from the centers of world conflict, the United States has probably the best intrinsic security of any great power in world history. Thus, the Founders had the luxury of being suspicious of standing armies in a republic.

Furthermore, as in any other public bureaucracy, when people are spending other people’s money, things often go awry. Thus, sending the military to war should only be done in the most dire cases of national security. Military restraint was the Founders’ vision, but we have drifted far from it into a militaristic society in constant war.

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Obama Extends War in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS

By Kathy Kelly

News agencies reported Saturday morning that weeks ago President Obama signed an order, kept secret until now, to authorize continuation of the Afghan war for at least another year. The order authorizes U.S. airstrikes “to support Afghan military operations in the country” and U.S. ground troops to continue normal operations, which is to say, to “occasionally accompany Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.

The administration, in its leak to the New York Times, affirmed that there had been “heated debate” between Pentagon advisers and others in Obama’s cabinet chiefly concerned not to lose soldiers in combat.  Oil strategy isn’t mentioned as having been debated and neither is further encirclement of China, but the most notable absence in the reporting was any mention of cabinet members’ concern for Afghan civilians affected by air strikes and ground troop operations, in a country already afflicted by nightmares of poverty and social breakdown.

Here are just three events, excerpted from an August 2014 Amnesty Internationalreport, which President Obama and his advisors should have considered (and allowed into a public debate) before once more expanding the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan:

1) In September, 2012 a group of women from an impoverished village in mountainous Laghman province were collecting firewood when a U.S. plane dropped at least two bombs on them, killing seven and injuring seven others, four of them seriously. One villager, Mullah Bashir, told Amnesty, “…I started searching for my daughter. Finally I found her. Her face was covered with blood and her body was shattered.”

2) A U.S. Special Operations Forces unit was responsible for extrajudicial killing, torture and enforced disappearances during the period of December, 2012 to February, 2013. Included among those tortured was 51 year old Qandi Agha, “a petty employee of the Ministry of Culture,” who described in detail the various torture techniques he suffered.  He was told that he would be tortured using “14 different types of torture”. These included: Beatings with cables, electric shock, prolonged, painful stress positions, repeated head first dunking in a barrel of water, and burial in a hole full of cold water for entire nights. He said that both US Special Forces and Afghans participated in the torture and often smoked hashish while doing so.

3) On March 26, 2013 the village of Sajawand was attacked by joint Afghan—ISAF (International Special Assistance Forces). Between 20-30 people were killed including children. After the attack, a cousin of one of the villagers visited the scene and stated, ”The first thing I saw as I entered the compound was a little child of maybe three years old whose chest was torn apart; you could see inside her body. The house was turned into a pile of mud and poles and there was nothing left. When we were taking out the bodies we didn’t see any Taliban among the dead, and we didn’t know why they were hit or killed.”

NYT coverage of the leaked debate mentions Obama’s promise, made earlier this year and now broken, to withdraw troops.  The article doesn’t make any other mention of U.S. public opposition to a continuation of the war.

Attempts to remake Afghanistan by military force have resulted in warlordism, ever more widespread and desperate poverty, and bereavement for hundreds of thousands whose loved ones are among the tens of thousands of casualties. Area hospitals report seeing fewer IED injuries and many more bullet wounds from pitched battles between rival armed militias whose allegiances, Taliban, government, or other, are hard to determine.  With 40% of U.S. weapon supplies to Afghan security forces now unaccounted for, many of the weapons employed on all sides may have been supplied by the U.S.

Meanwhile the implications for U.S. democracy aren’t reassuring.  Was this decision really made weeks ago but only announced now that congressional elections are safely over? Was a Friday night cabinet leak, buried between official Administration announcements on immigration and Iran sanctions, really the President’s solution to the unpopularity of  a decision affecting the lives of so many?  With concern for the wishes of U.S. citizens given so little weight, it is doubtful that much thought was given to the terrible costs of these military interventions for ordinary people trying to live, raise families and survive in Afghanistan.

But for those whose “heated debates” focus solely on what is best for U.S. national interests, here are a few suggestions:

1) The U.S. should end its current provocative drive toward military alliances and encirclement of Russia and China with missiles.  It should accept pluralism of economic and political power in the contemporary world. Present U.S. policies are provoking a return to Cold War with Russia and possibly beginning one with China.  This is a lose/lose proposition for all countries involved.

2) By a resetting of policy focused on cooperation with Russia, China and other influential countries within the framework of the United Nations, the United States could foster international mediation.

3) The U.S. should offer generous medical and economic aid and technical expertise wherever it may be helpful in other countries and thus build a reservoir of international goodwill and positive influence.

That’s something that nobody would have to keep secret.

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Obama Authorizes Wider War in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS
Global Research
afghanistan localisation

President Barack Obama has authorized the US military to carry out far more widespread air and ground operations in Afghanistan in 2015, effectively reversing his order to end combat actions this year, White House officials told the New York Times.

In a report published Saturday, the Times gave details of the new authority, citing unnamed sources in both the White House and Pentagon, in what amounts to an official leak of the expanded battle plan for the Afghanistan war.

In an announcement delivered in the White House Rose Garden in May, Obama said the US military would end combat operations in Afghanistan by December 31 and the remaining 9,800 troops would be limited to training Afghan forces and conducting strikes against “the remnants of Al Qaeda,” previously estimated to be fewer than 100 people in Afghanistan.

The new rules of engagement set by the president expand the scope of permitted military operations to include attacks on Taliban forces if they are threatening US or NATO troops and actions to assist Afghan forces in the field. In effect, US military commanders will be able to do anything they want with the forces they have available, which includes air strikes from US carriers in the Arabian Sea.

Obama’s decision came as a result of intense pressure from the military brass, reinforced by the debacle suffered by the US-trained Iraqi Army during the summer, when it collapsed in the face of an offensive spearheaded by the Sunni fundamentalist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an offshoot of Al Qaeda.

According to the Times account, there was a conflict between “the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.”

Civilian advisers pushed for maintaining the longstanding pledge to end US combat operations in Afghanistan. According to the Times, “the military pushed back, and generals both at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan urged Mr. Obama to define the mission more broadly to allow American troops to attack the Taliban.”

“There was a school of thought that wanted the mission to be very limited, focused solely on Al Qaeda,” one official told the Times, adding, “the military pretty much got what it wanted.”

This account, unlike many “official” leaks from the White House and Pentagon, rings true because it underscores who actually calls the shots in official Washington. Democrats and Republicans, presidents and congressmen, come and go, serving as the political front men for Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, the real decision-makers.

According to several press reports, there were additional reasons of a legal and political character for the White House reversal on Afghanistan. On December 31, Operation Enduring Freedom, the name given by the Bush administration to its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, comes to an end.

An official declaration of the end of combat operations in Afghanistan would have several undesirable consequences from the standpoint of Washington—not least of which being the fact that the US would be required under international law to release the remaining Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay (alleged Al Qaeda prisoners would be kept until the end of the “war on terror,” in other words, forever).

Now, Operation Enduring Freedom is to be replaced by Operation Resolute Support, and the remaining Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo, as well as those at CIA and military prisons and torture centers in Afghanistan itself, will remain incarcerated.

From a political standpoint, the US regime-change operation in Kabul, otherwise known as the 2014 Afghan presidential election, achieved its result by replacing the increasingly obstreperous and unstable Hamid Karzai with a condominium of two more dependable American stooges, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

Both men ran pledging, unlike Karzai, to sign a Status of Forces Agreement authorizing continued US military operations in Afghanistan after 2014, including a grant of immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts for US soldiers implicated in war crimes against the Afghan population. Ghani signed the pact immediately after taking office.

In an e-mail to the Times, General John F. Campbell, the US-NATO commander in Afghanistan, said of the transition from Karzai to Ghani, “The difference is night and day.” He added, “President Ghani has reached out and embraced the international community. We have a strategic opportunity we haven’t had previously with President Karzai.”

The new Afghan regime, despised by the country’s population as US stooges and beleaguered by a swelling rural insurgency, desperately needs American military protection to keep its leaders from swinging from the lampposts in the near future. In addition, Afghan officials are hungry for American cash to swell their bank accounts in Dubai and Switzerland, stashed away for the day they are forced to flee Kabul.

The result of Ghani’s capitulation and Obama’s reversal is that thousands more Afghan civilians will be slaughtered in US air strikes. The Times cited a “senior American military officer” reporting that “the Air Force expects to use F-16 fighters, B-1B bombers and Predator and Reaper drones” in Afghanistan next year.

Under the battle plan drawn up by the Pentagon in conjunction with NATO, US forces will operate in southern Afghanistan next year, US and Italian forces in eastern Afghanistan, German forces in northern Afghanistan, and Turkish troops in Kabul. The western part of the country is dominated by the militia of the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious mass murderer who is now vice president, having been Ghani’s running mate in the election.

The Obama administration still publicly maintains that there will be a continued drawdown in US forces in Afghanistan, from 9,800 at the end of this year to about 1,000 by the end of 2016, whose job will be limited to protecting the US Embassy in Kabul. This promise is worth no more than Obama’s order that the US combat role end December 31, now a worthless scrap of paper.

Obama’s reversal on Afghanistan sheds additional light on the completely anti-democratic character of the US electoral system. Sometime in October, well before the November 4 vote, the White House came to two major foreign policy decisions: doubling the number of US troops in Iraq and drastically expanding the combat authorization for US troops in Afghanistan.

Popular hostility to these two wars was the principal reason for the victory of the Democrats in the 2006 congressional elections and the election of Obama in 2008. Obama ran for reelection in 2012 claiming to have ended the war in Iraq and pledging to end the war in Afghanistan by December 31, 2014. Both pledges were scrapped in the period leading up to the November 4 congressional vote, without a word being said to the American people.

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At least 18 killed in US airstrikes in E Afghanistan

NOVANEWS
A US Predator drone

At least 18 people have been killed in two separate US-led airstrikes in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

Twelve people were killed after a vehicle was attacked in the Bati Kot district on Tuesday.

Local police authorities said six people were also killed in another US-led drone strike in the Haska Mina district.

The officials added that the airstrike targeted Taliban members, including a senior commander.

The US-led forces have recently increased their air raids against civilian areas in Afghanistan.

On Monday, a drone attack in Nangarhar Province left at least four people dead. Five people were also killed and three others wounded in a US drone strike in the northeastern province of Kunar on November 16.

On November 11, at least six people lost their lives when US-led foreign forces carried out a drone strike in the Spin Ghar district of Nangarhar.

The US carries out targeted killings through drone strikes in several Muslim countries, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. Washington claims the targets of the drone attacks are militants, but local officials and witnesses maintain that civilians have been the main victims of such raids over the past few years.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues to rise across the country, despite the presence of thousands of US-led troops.

The United Nations and several human rights organizations have identified the US as the world’s number-one user of “targeted killings,” largely due to its drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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$7 Billion US Eradication Effort Delivers Record High Poppy Crop in Afghanistan

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Federal watchdog report “calls into question” US efforts to stamp out opium production

U.S. Marines walk through a poppy field in Helmand province, Afghanistan on April 17, 2012. (Photo: Marines)

Opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan are at a record high, though the U.S. government has spent over $7 billion to stop it, a federal watchdog states in a new report.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder and US AID head Rajiv Shah, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko writes: “Despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013.”

“As of June 30, 2014, the United States has spent approximately $7.6 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan,” the letter states.

“Despite the significant financial expenditure, opium poppy cultivation has far exceeded previous records,” he writes, adding that this “calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts.”

The value of opium and opium-made products in Afghanistan—the world’s largest producer of opium—rose 50 percent from 2012 to 2013, the report states, citing United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) figures.

Though the crop has funded extremist and criminal groups and contributed to a public health crisis, many Afghans see opium poppy cultivation as their only option. A UNODC report issued last year stated that Afghan farmers cited as among the top reasons for their cultivation of opium poppy its high sales price, high income from little land, improving their living conditions, and poverty.

A Defense Department response to the SIGAR findings, which is included in the report, states, in part: “In our opinion, the failure to reduce poppy cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of Afghan government support for the effort.” The Department also states that the rise in poppy cultivation “is a significant threat to U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan.”

But U.S. poppy eradication and interdiction efforts have been described as spectacular failures.  As the Drug Policy Alliance has noted, drug eradication efforts have not brought decreases in violence:

Just as alcohol prohibition allowed organized crime to flourish in the 1920s, drug prohibition empowers a dangerous underground market that breeds violent crime throughout the United States and the world. The illegality of drugs has inflated the price, and thus the profit, of drugs substantially. With it, the competition for drug markets has intensified, often through violence. Whether on street corners in U.S. cities, across the border in Mexico, or in the poppy fields of Afghanistan, drug trade-related violence continues, despite the billions of drug war dollars devoted annually to law enforcement and interdiction efforts.

As for the rising opium production in Afghanistan, author and TomDispatch editor Tom Engelhardt wrote last year that it could be seen as a legacy of the U.S. occupation:

Almost 12 years after it began, no one here, it seems, is considering how to assess American “success” on that distant battlefield.  But were we to do so, what possible gauge might we use?  Here’s a suggestion: how about opium production?  In 1979, the year America’s first Afghan war (against the Soviets) began, that country was producing just 250 tons of opium; by the early years of the post-9/11 American occupation of the country, that figure had hit 3,400 tons.  Between 2006 and the present, it’s ranged from a 2007 high of 8,200 tonsto a low of just under 5,000 tons.  Officials of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service now claim that 40,000 tons of illicit opiates have been stockpiled in Afghanistan, mostly to be marketed abroad.  As of 2012, it was the world’s leading supplier of opium, with 74% of the global market, a figure that was expected to hit 90% as U.S. combat troops leave (and foreign aid flees).  In other words, success in an endless war in that country has meant creating the world’s first true narco-state.  It’s a record to consider.  Not for nothing, it seems, were all those billons of dollars expended, not without accomplishments do we leave (if we are actually leaving).

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My Father Was Killed by a Computer, Says 7-Year-Old Afghan Child

NOVANEWS

Though his father was killed in a U.S. drone attack when Imal was just a baby, the seven-year-old still puts out hope for a more peaceful world. (Photo: Courtesy of Voices for Creative Non-Violence)

Imal, a 7 year old Afghan student in the 2nd grade, came to visit us in Kabul.

As Imal grew up, he kept asking his mother where his father was. His mother finally told Imal that his father had been killed by a drone when he was still a baby.

If you could see Imal in this video, you would want to hug Imal immediately.

If Imal were a white American kid, this tragedy would not have befallen his father. Which American would allow any U.S. citizen to be killed by a foreign drone?

Suppose the UK wanted to hunt ‘terrorists’ in the U.S., with their drones, and every Tuesday, David Cameron signed a ‘secret kill list’ like Obama does. Drones operated from Waddington Base in the UK fly over U.S. skies to drop bombs on their targets, and the bombs leave a 7 year old American kid, say, John, fatherless.

John’s father is killed, shattered to charred pieces by a bomb, dropped by a drone, operated by a human, under orders from the Prime Minister /Commander-in-Chief.

“John, we’re sorry that your father happened to be near our ‘terrorist’ target.’ He was collateral damage. It was ‘worth it’ for the sake of UK national security.”

Unfortunately, no U.S. official or military personnel had met with Imal’s widowed mother to apologize.

Raz, Imal’s uncle who brought him to visit us, asked his young nephew,

“Will you bring me some marbles to play with?”

Imal was friendly, like any other 7 year old kid. “Yes!” His voice was a trusting one, eager to be a good friend and playmate.

“Do you also play with walnuts? Tell us how you play with walnuts,” Raz requests.

“We put them in a line, and flick a walnut to hit other walnuts, like playing with marbles,” Imal explains diligently, like he was telling a story we should all be interested in.

“Besides beans, what other food do you like?”

“I also like… potatoes… and meat… …and… rice!” All of us were smiling with the familiar love of Afghan oiled ‘palao’ or ‘Qabuli’ rice.”

Imal knew what my laptop was. He said, “We can look at photos & watch films…”

But, then, it seemed that he took on the understanding of an older person when his voice became serious.

”My father was killed by a computer.”

I wanted to tell Imal that nowadays, it takes children and young people like Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to tell us adults the plain facts.

When Malala was 16 years old and met with the Obamas at the White House, Malala had told Obama that drones were fueling terrorism.

Do we get it? Drones are employed in the ‘war against terrorism’, but instead, drones fuel terrorism.

How many drone attacks are there in Afghanistan every month, and how many women, children and young men like Imal’s father are killed?

We don’t know. It’s not a transparent strategy.

We would all want to know everything about the possible effects of a drone strategy on our children, especially if our country was the most drone-bombed country in the world, like Afghanistan is.

A Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead’ report says that fewer than 4% of the people killed by drone attacks in Pakistan have been identified by available records as named members of Al Qaeda. If this is true for drone attack victims in Afghanistan too, then 96% of drone victims in Afghanistan have been innocent civilians like Imal’s father.

In another Bureau of Investigative Journalism report, ‘Tracking drone strikes in Afghanistan’, (July, 2014),the Bureau states that “nobody systematically publishes insurgent and civilian deaths from drones on a strike-by-strike basis. Neither the US nor UK authorities publishes data on the casualties of their drone operations.”

So, we are unable to find out for Imal’s mother if it was a U.S./UK drone that killed her husband, and who the drone operator was.

If Imal were John, could he or his mother sue David Cameron? Stop the drone? Stop the human drone operator? Disable the computer?

We gave Imal a Borderfree blue scarf, and thanked him for coming.

His eyes were bright and cheerful, taking in the photos on the wall, including a poster of Gandhi and Badshah Khan. Badshah Khan was a Pashtun like Imal, and has been called the Frontier Gandhi for his lifelong struggle for nonviolence.

I have been thinking hard about Imal, about whether anyone would hear him, when few among the elites who declare wars and order drone strikes seem to have heard the now famous Malala, not even President Obama.

“I wish to tell the world, ‘We don’t want war. Don’t fight!’”

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Britain to re-deploy drones from Afghanistan to Iraq

NOVANEWS

Britain will shortly begin re-deploying its unmanned armed drones from Afghanistan to counter Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament on Thursday.

The remotely-piloted Reaper aircraft will provide surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence support to the Iraqi troops and international coalition forces taking on the IS group in northern Iraq.

The drones can also launch bombs and missiles.

It will be the first time Britain has deployed Reapers outside Afghanistan, where Britain is completing a pull-out of combat troops this year.

“We are in the process of re-deploying some of our Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft from Afghanistan to the Middle East,” Hammond said.

Britain already has eight Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado fighter jets conducting bombing raids on Islamic State targets in Iraq.

“Approximately 20-30 percent of Iraq’s populated territory could be under ISIL control. Liberating this territory from ISIL is a medium term challenge, to be measured in months and years, not days and weeks,” Hammond said.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The surveillance capability of Reaper will see it provide vital situational awareness, making it an invaluable asset to the Iraqi government and the coalition allies.

“If strike operations are required then Reaper has the ability to complement the sorties RAF Tornados have already completed.”

The US-made Reapers are normally armed with two Paveway laser-guided bombs and four Hellfire missiles for precision strikes.

The Ministry of Defence also said a small group of British infantry have completed a week training the Kurdish forces fighting extremists in using the heavy machine guns Britain gave them last month.

Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq, UK0 Comments

America forces who have tortured or killed civilians in Afghanistan

NOVANEWS 

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Huria Musadiq, Afghanistan Researcher for Amnesty International

US forces who have tortured or killed civilians in Afghanistan have not been brought to justice because of failures in the US military justice system, human rights group Amnesty International said yesterday.

At least 1,800 Afghan civilians have been killed by coalition troops between 2009 and 2013, Amnesty said in a report released in the Afghan capital, but only six cases against US military personnel went to trial over the period.

Several families seeking justice from the US government attended a conference in Kabul to give dramatic accounts of their experiences of loss and torture, among them burqa-clad women who had survived a deadly air strike.

by  Zabiullah Rashidi

U.S. Navy Seabee with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 fires the M2 .50 caliber machine gun during crew serve weapons familiarization training with NMCB 26 at the Tarnak Weapons Range in Kandahar (2)

“The US military justice system almost always fails to hold its soldiers accountable for unlawful killings and other abuses,” Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific director for Amnesty, said in a statement urging the need for reform.

“Thousands of Afghans have been killed or injured by US forces since the invasion, but the victims and their families have little chance of redress.”

The US Department of Defence said troops go to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties and it took all credible reports of injuries and deaths seriously.

“The United States has investigated US military personnel and civilian personnel, including contractors, for civilian casualties that are alleged to be not incident to lawful military operations,” said spokeswoman Navy Commander Amy Derrick-Frost.

Victims at the conference told of how they witnessed the killing of family members in night raids and survived torture by US troops.

Mohammad Saber, from the eastern province of Paktia, recalled the moment when US forces arrested him and three others in a raid on his home after a party.

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Saber’s wife, sister and niece were shot dead on the spot, while his brother and nephew were left to die of their wounds and he was taken away for questioning with the three men.

“We should not let this go unanswered, those who killed my family must be punished,” he said, choking on his words. “The Americans call the Taliban terrorists but they are themselves terrorists for raiding homes and committing atrocity.”

Most US forces, along with coalition troops, will leave Afghanistan by the end of the year and the country’s Western backers hope a deadlock between rival presidential candidates will be broken before a key Nato summit in early September.

Another victim described being among a group of 18 people who were tortured, and some killed, in Wardak province, an hour’s drive from Kabul, when they were arrested in a raid by US special forces.

“Their clothes were taken off, their legs were stretched out and they were beaten,” said Qand Agha, an elderly man with a slight frame, grey beard and turban.

“I was sitting in a room when they were all getting killed in front of me and then put in black body bags.”

Qand Agha was taken with other survivors that day to Bagram prison, where he was held for a year without being charged.

The Department of Defence said its troops were banned from torturing prisoners and it was committed to humane treatment of all those detained.

“We take vigilant action to prevent such conduct and to hold any such perpetrators accountable for their wrongful acts,” Frost said.

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Airstrikes caused more than half the casualties documented over the five years ending in 2013, among them many women and children, and families were still hoping for justice.

“Evidence of possible war crimes and unlawful killings has seemingly been ignored,” Bennett said, adding that even when cases had been prosecuted, courts appeared biased in favour of soldiers and Afghans were rarely invited to testify.

Those seeking justice included two women cloaked in head to toe covering burqas, left blind by airstrikes two years ago that killed seven women and a child as they collected firewood.

The women sat silently beside their male chaperones, in line with Afghan custom, and let them speak.

“We pleaded with them to ask the Americans to stop the bombing because they were women, and not Taliban, but they didn’t stop and bombed for two hours,” said Baba.

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