Archive | Afghanistan

Guns sold, guns lost: What Pentagon sent to Iraq & Afghanistan after 9/11

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RT 

Since September 2001, the Pentagon has listed $40 billion worth of contracts for small arms intended for Afghanistan and Iraq, supplying 1.45 million guns to both countries while only accounting for 3 percent of them, says a new report by a British NGO.

The London-based nonprofit Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) pored over 14 years’ worth of contracts issued by the US Department of Defense, documenting the purchases of small arms – defined as anything under 30mm in caliber – ammunition and attachments, such as sniper scopes or tripods. They found a massive amount of weapons supplied by the US to the primary theaters of the “War on Terror,” and remarkably little accounting of whose hands they ended up in.

“Our findings raise concerns about the DOD’s own transparency and accountability when it comes to issuing contracts,” Iain Overton, AOAV’s director of investigations, said when announcing the report’s publication Wednesday.

Not only has the Pentagon’s contract database listed only 3 percent of the approximately 1.45 million small arms sent to Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, “we also know the US government has acknowledged they don’t know where many of these weapons now are,” Overton added.

A team of AOAV researchers spent almost a year looking into every contract published by the Pentagon between September 11, 2001 and September 10, 2015, said the organization, whose mission is “research and advocacy in order to reduce the incidence and impact of global armed violence.”

What they found was just over $40 billion of solicitations for small arms, ammunition and attachments, with just under $20 billion actually paid out to contractors. Of the 412 published contracts, 137 – or 33 percent – contained errors and discrepancies.

Ten companies accounted for 65 percent of the total published contract values, the researchers found. The top five contractors were Alliant Techsystems – now split into OrbitalATK and Vista Outdoor – DRS Technologies, BAE Systems Inc., Knight’s Armament Co, and General Dynamics. The largest single contract was for the modernization of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri, worth up to $8.48 billion.

Some 949,582 small arms were sent to Iraq, and another 503,328 to Afghanistan, amounting to 1,452,910 assault and sniper rifles, pistols, machine guns and other unspecified firearms. Yet the Department of Defense contract publications listed only 19,602 of these weapons, just over 1 percent of the total. When AOAV pressed for verification, the DOD provided itemized lists for 719,474 weapons provided through June 2016.

The numbers “tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched,” veteran military correspondent CJ Chivers wrote in the New York Times Magazine, commenting on AOAV’s findings.

The retired Marine and author of The Gun also filled in a piece of the puzzle the researchers missed by not counting the grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons provided by the Pentagon.

“The data offer no insight into a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s,” Chivers wrote.

After the first few weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was either American or allied, “which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling,” Chivers wrote. “Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.”

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Taliban at the gates of ‘Little America’

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By M K Bhadrakumar 

With the battle for Aleppo raging in Syria, another crucial battle in the east of the Greater Middle East, in Afghanistan, is being joined, the outcome of which is going to be no less fateful. The Associated Press flashed the news today that the key southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, has been “completely surrounded” by the Taliban and the government forces are regrouping for a last-ditch defence.

The head of the Helmand provincial council estimates that the Taliban may capture Lashkar Gah within days. (UPI )

The development comes as a huge embarrassment for the Barack Obama administration. The entire mythology built around the famous “surge” ordered by President Obama in 2010 and the massive campaign in the Hindu Kush led by the general with the Roman nose, David Petraeus, with over 100,000 American troops under his command, is unravelling.

The “surge” was mostly concentrated on Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Rajiv Chandrasekharan of the Washington Post who covered the war in Helmand and Kandahar wrote a beautiful book on it, Little America, which is a brilliant recount of the political foibles and ambitious goals set by feckless Americans and about the Hobbesian world in which the “surge” slithered its way like a serpent through the great poppy fields, across irrigation canals and culverts and beyond the mud walls into the orchards of pomegranates, grapes and sweet melons into the seamless desert plateau with rocky outcrops — creating Potemkin progress but in reality letting loose a tidal wave of corruption and venality and mindless horrific violence and destruction. (Guardian )

The big question today for Obama, therefore, is: Just what was the point? Yet, he’s decided to abandon his 2008 election pledge and bow to the military commanders’ wish once again to keep troop levels at a threshold that would give the option for his successor in the White House to order a second “surge”, which is, in fact, what Gen. Petraeus has demanded in a recent opinion piece. (Wall Street Journal )

Without doubt, the capture of Helmand province will be a turning point in the Afghan war. Several factors come into play. First and foremost, the Taliban will have made a big point underscoring their capability – how quick they have been able to take advantage of the withdrawal of the thousands of British and American soldiers as recently as in 2014. The message will resonate all across the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan.

In “operational” terms, Taliban have made a slow, steady pincer movement lasting months, closing in from the north and south toward Lashkar Gah, exposing the poor leadership of the Afghan army and police. On their part, Taliban demonstrated tenacity, organizational skill and access to resources.

Helmand is the biggest single centre of opium production in Afghanistan. Taliban are set to get a sizeable share of the drug business, which has always been a major source of funding for the insurgency. Beyond its opium economy, Helmand is strategically located – bordering Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and close to the Iranian border, which provide good exit routes to escape in an emergency – or, alternatively, to bring in reinforcements – as well as supply lines to other regions of Afghanistan.

Suffice it to say, Helmand has the potential to become Taliban’s core territory where the ‘Quetta Shura’ could be ‘headquartered’, which could become a ‘provisional government’ on Afghan soil at some point.

The Afghan army faces an uphill task to retrieve control of Helmand, which is dominated by the Ishaqzai tribe. The Ishqzais have been virulently ‘anti-American’ all along. Besides, the Taliban can also cash in now on their sympathy, since Mullah Akhtar Mansour whom the Americans killed in a drone strike in April also happened to be an Ishaqzai. There is a blood feud the Ishaqzais have to settle with Obama.

Helmand is Afghanistan’s largest province; it is twice the size of Belgium and 16 times bigger than Panjshir. It is a fertile region with a developed irrigation system. The famous marble mines of Khanashin become another source of financing for the Taliban. Helmand is on the highway connecting the western regions (Herat, Farah, Nimroz, etc.) with the southern provinces (Kandahar, Ghazni, Khost, etc.) and with Kabul. If the Taliban gain control of Helmand province, they can dominate vital communication links.

However, the full gravity of the emergent politico-military situation in Afghanistan will not sink in unless the crisis of legitimacy facing the so-called National Unity Government in Kabul is also understood. The point is, the NUG has no mandate to rule beyond September unless a Loya Jirga is convened. No one other than former president Hamid Karzai has pointed this out.

Now, about half the members of a legally-constituted Loya Jirga would be the chairs of district council. But elections to the district councils cannot be held in the prevailing security situation with the government steadily conceding territory to the Taliban. The alternative will be to convene a ‘traditional’ Loya Jirga comprising tribal elders chosen at random. But then, who holds the authority to convene a ‘traditional’ Loya Jirga that could in turn constitute an interim government?

Meanwhile, tension is also growing within the NUG between the factions led by the president and the chief executive officer. Over and above hangs the dangerous question, which no one wants to think about, as to how long will the army remain intact regardless of political crises.

All in all, the fall of Helmand to the Taliban can only deepen the crisis of legitimacy haunting the Afghan government. Read a recent report by the veteran Afghan hand Barnett Rubin – THE U.S. PRESENCE AND AFGHANISTAN’S NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT: PRESERVING AND BROADENING THE POLITICAL SETTLEMENT

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Afghanistan: The Campaign’s Forgotten War

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Afghan forces in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan on July 29. (Photo: EPA)

Although hardly news, it bears repeating that the Afghanistan War stands as the longest in all of United States history. By election day, it will have entered its 16th year. Our next president will surely inherit the war there, just as Barack Obama inherited it from George W. Bush. Here is a situation where the phrase “endless war” is not hyperbole; it accurately describes reality.

Given this depressing fact, one might think that those aspiring to the office of commander in chief would have something to say about how they intend to win or at least curtail that conflict, or perhaps why the U.S. should persist in such a costly endeavor. But in their lengthy convention speeches, neither Donald Trump (who spoke for 75 minutes) nor Hillary Clinton (who spoke for 66) found the time to even mention Afghanistan.

Their silence hints at what we can expect in the weeks between now and November: a campaign in which the opposing candidates will vigorously impugn one another’s qualifications for high office while dodging any serious examination of core national security issues. Of bellicose posturing and the insipid recitation of platitudes, there will be plenty. Of critical analysis probing the recent failures and disappointments resulting from U.S. military interventions, expect very little.

For a long time now, Americans have displayed a tendency to sanitize, marginalize, or altogether forget wars that resist incorporation into the preferred triumphal narrative of U.S. history. Afghanistan falls into the category of the best forgotten.

Yet however inconvenient, Afghanistan demands attention. For here the United States first set out to test the proposition that has formed the cornerstone of our national security policy since 9/11: That the deft application of U.S. military power can not only eliminate those threatening to do us harm, but also install in their place a stable political order conducive to liberal values.

In Afghanistan, the United States and its allies have succeeded on neither count, despite considerable sacrifice and expenditures exceeding one trillion dollars. Notwithstanding many years of Western tutoring, the Afghan government, currently dependent upon international donors for 70% of its operating revenue, has shown little capacity to stand on its own. Efforts to root out pervasive corruption have gone nowhere. Opium production flourishes, with Afghanistan persistently supplying 90% of the world’s heroin. Although no longer at the helm in Kabul, the Taliban persists and by some estimates is growing stronger. Hardly less troubling, Islamic State has established a local Afghan franchise.

The operation once grandly known as Enduring Freedom now goes by the bland name Resolute Support, the restyling itself a de facto admission of expectations ratcheted downward. The mission objective is now, in essence, simply to hang on.

Taken in toto, the present-day situation in Afghanistan represents a policy failure of staggering dimensions, matched in recent years only by the equally abysmal results achieved by U.S. efforts in Iraq, site of another long war that shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

Political calculation may provide Trump and Clinton with a continuing rationale to avoid subjecting the Afghanistan War to close scrutiny.

Because Trump’s candidacy is fundamentally idiosyncratic, divining the reasoning behind his silence is necessarily a speculative exercise. But one real possibility is that he is oblivious to the events that have occurred in Afghanistan since U.S. forces began arriving in the fall of 2001 and so has nothing to say. Another is that there are other issues — Libya offering a prime example — that he can more readily hang around Clinton’s neck.

As for Clinton, she may be reticent to remind voters that it was during her husband’s presidency that Islamist militants in Afghanistan first laid the basis for the 9/11 conspiracy. In that sense, the less said about that country the better. Then there is this additional factor: Clinton has gone out of her way to emphasize her cordial relations with senior military leaders, no doubt hoping thereby to bury a residual impression of the Democrats as an anti-military party. For her to focus critical attention on Afghanistan will necessarily call into question the performance of senior officers who commanded U.S. and NATO troops there and came home without getting the job done. As the prominent role allotted to one of those commanders at the Democratic convention suggests, Clinton appears less interested in holding generals accountable than in securing their endorsement.

If the candidates don’t turn to Afghanistan on the stump, we may hope — indeed, should insist — that the upcoming presidential debates oblige Trump and Clinton to address questions like these: What specific lessons do you take away from this longest of American wars? Please explain how you will apply those lessons once in office. As for Afghanistan itself, where do we go from here?

To evade such questions would be an abdication of responsibility.

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Why Controversy over Durand Line?

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By Sajjad Shaukat

From time to time, controversy arises between Afghanistan and Pakistan when Afghan officials refused to recognize the Durand Line which is the 2640 kilometer long and porous border, situated between both the countries.

The issue again came to the limelight on June 12, 2016 when Afghan security forces started unprovoked firing at Torkham border crossing, resulting in injuries to more than 16 Pakistani citizens, including the martyrdom of some Pakistani security personnel. Pakistan’s security forces were compelled to give response and skirmishes continued for two days.

Afterwards, Islamabad and Kabul agreed for a ceasefire and the latter recognized Pakistan’s stand regarding the construction of gate at Torkham border.

In fact, Durand Line is an internationally established border, but every now and then, Afghanistan government tries to create ambiguity and fuss regarding the issue, as all the governments in Afghanistan remained desirous to get access to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan’s province of Balochistan.

Some of the objections which emanate from the Afghan side about the validity of the Durand Line are, firstly the agreement was forced upon the Afghan King, Abdul Rahman Khan, after negotiations with the British government in 1893—secondly, it was signed only for a period of 100 years and then expired in 1994 and thirdly, the agreement was made with the British Government and not with Pakistan, and so in essence, it can be regarded as invalid.

In response, Islamabad’s stand on the Durand Line has been that it is a valid international boundary, recognized and confirmed by Afghanistan on several occasions. Pakistan has always upheld the norms of international law and has maintained the position of a successor state to the rights and duties inherited from the British government in India. Pakistan, as a successor state to British India derived full sovereignty over areas and its people east of Durand line and had all the rights and obligations of a successor state. As the Treaty was inked in Afghanistan and was further ratified in subsequent pacts of 1905, 1919, and 1921, this negates the assertion that it was a forced treaty. At the same time, no-where in the treaty, a mention of 100 years has been made.

However, creation of controversy by Kabul over Durand Line cannot be seen in isolation, as it is part of the double game of the US and India, including Israel which secretly back the Afghan Pakistan considers that peace in Afghanistan is a guarantee of peace in Pakistan, therefore, has been striving for the same in utter sincerity. But, the US and India do not want to see the peace and prosperity in the region.

Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) has, deliberately, been sabotaged by killing of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur in CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan, which badly derailed Afghan dialogue process, as Afghan Taliban leaders refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. While, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.

It seems that a dual game is on to pressurize Pakistan to bring Afghan Taliban either for the dialogue or to take action against them. US, India and Israel have built a hostile nexus for the Great Game and are pressurizing Pakistan by limiting its choices.

In this context, trust deficit has deepened between Pakistan and the America. Therefore, on June 10, this year, a high-level delegation of the US visited Islamabad and met Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Adviser to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Adviser separately.

During the meeting, expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Gen. Raheel Sharif highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-e- Azb against terrorists. He elaborated, “All stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges-inter-tribal linkages and decades-old presence of over three million refugees—blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is unfortunate—target TTP [Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan] and its chief Mullah Fazlullah in their bases in Afghanistan—Indian RAW and NDS [Afghan National Directorate of Security] are of fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.”

US ambivalent policy about Islamabad could also be judged from some other development. In this regard, another delegation of US Senators including Senator Lindsey Graham led by Senator John McCain, Chairman of US Senate Arms Services committee, visited Islamabad and North Waziristan Agency (NWA) on July 3, 2016. The US Senators visited areas cleared of terrorists during Operation Zarb-e- Azb. American delegation appreciated the Pakistan Army’s accomplishment of cleansing the entire area of NWA right upto the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, after witnessing the terrorists’ hideouts and communication infrastructure dismantled by the As a matter of fact, RAW-Mossad- CIA assisted, the Afghan NDS is inflicting harm to Pakistan.

With latest capture of six NDS supported terrorists in Balochistan, the number of NDS backed terrorists arrested and killed by Pakistani Intelligence agencies has crossed over 126. These foreign agencies are also supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly Mullah Fazlullah led TTP is being prepared to carry out a fresh wave of terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has become center of the Great Game owing to the ideal location of its province of Balochistan—Balochistan’s Gwadar seaport among South Asia, the oil-rich Middle East, and oil and gas-resourced Central Asia has further increased its strategic Therefore, operatives of CIA, Mossad and RAW which are well-penetrated in the ISIS (Daesh or ISIL) and TTP are using their terrorists to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities. In this connection, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target.

Notably, ISIS claimed responsibility for a joint suicide bombing of July 23, 2016, which targeted the peaceful rally of the Shiite minority of Hazaras who were protesting against the government’s decision of denying their region essential infrastructure through their plans of rerouting a power line. The twin suicide blasts killed more than 80 persons.

It is notable that the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. Their easy access through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. For effective counter terrorism measures strong border, control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers are using delaying tactics in this respect.

Taking note of the anti-Pakistan intruders, Pakistan’s army had decided that to build a fence along the border, and to control the border crossings. In this connection, the strategic project of 1,100-kilometre- long trench with the cost of Rs14 billion which was initiated along Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan by Frontier Corps in 2013 has been completed this year. In the next phase, the project will be extended to the entire long border with Afghanistan which had opposed this It is mentionable that the establishment of CPEC between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China will connect Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass. Beijing would also build an international airport at Gwadar, while the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication network of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods. Gwadar seaport would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. The port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans, giving China’s short access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

It is of particular attention that on September 8, 2015, the ISIS and former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had refused to recognize Durand Line as the permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While, the spokesman for the US Department of State John Kirby said, the United States has made it clear that it recognizes the Durand Line as an international border.”

Nevertheless, today’s world is quite different. Those voicing against the Durand line or in favour of Pakhtun ethnicity needs to realize the new realities. The reality is that there are more Pashtuns living on this side of the Durand Line than in Afghanistan. The referendum of 1947 and the decision of tribal Jirga of FATA are the strongest and undeniable facts to judge the affinity of Pashtuns. Today’s Pakhtuns from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and FATA have a strong participation in all national and federal institutions including Armed Forces, sports, education, politics and all other walks of life and stand with Pakistan. They have rendered huge sacrifices in war against terror and entire nation respects their sacrifices.

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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U.S. Awards $1.7 Billion Contract to Buy Radios for Afghan Army

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By Peter Van Buren 

I always found myself giggling during the Democratic debates when Hillary would ask Bernie how he was going to pay for things like healthcare or college tuition, and then Bernie stammering to find an answer.

They both knew the secret but neither would say it — there’s plenty of money, we just don’t want to spend it on Americans.

We think of that as freeloading, unearned stuff. Go get a job, moocher. But then move the same question overseas and everything changes. There is always plenty of money, and the people getting free stuff from that money aren’t moochers. They’re allies.

So how much healthcare would $1.7 billion buy? Because that’s how much money the United States just laid out to buy radios for the near-useless Afghan Army. And while I don’t know how much healthcare the money would buy, I do know it will purchase a helluva lot of radios. Is everyone in Afghanistan getting one? Maybe we’re buying them for the Taliban, too.

Anyway, the $1,700,000,000 radios for Afghanistan contract was just recently awarded to the Harris Corporation. And here’s a funny thing: only one company — Harris — actually put in a bid for the contract.

But the Afghans must need more stuff than just radios, and so the U.S. has money ready for that.

The United States will provide $3 billion to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces from 2018 to 2020 for, well, we don’t really know. Meanwhile, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan said the White House planned to ask Congress for about $1 billion a year in development and economic assistance for Afghanistan through 2020. And if that isn’t enough, the United States and its allies are expected to raise $15 billion for the Afghan National Defense and Security forces at a NATO summit scheduled for next month in Warsaw.

There’s money. You just can’t have any of it, moochers.

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Fool’s Errand: NATO Pledges Four More Years of War in Afghanistan

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By Ron Paul 

The longest war in US history just got even longer. As NATO wrapped up its 2016 Warsaw Summit, the organization agreed to continue funding Afghan security forces through the year 2020. Of course with all that funding comes US and NATO troops, and thousands of contractors, trainers, and more.

President Obama said last week that the US must keep 3,000 more troops than planned in Afghanistan. The real reason is obvious: the mission has failed and Washington cannot bear to admit it. But Obama didn’t put it that way. He said:

“It is in our national security interest, especially after all the blood and treasure we’ve invested over the years, that we give our partners in Afghanistan the best chance to succeed.”

This is how irrational Washington’s logic is. Where else but in government would you see it argued that you cannot stop spending on a project because you have already spent so much to no avail? In the real world, people who invest their own hard-earned money in a failed scheme do something called “cut your losses.” Government never does that.

Isn’t 15 years of US “blood and treasure” enough of a “best chance” to succeed?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced at the summit that thanks to an additional billion dollars in NATO member-country donations, the organization had come up with close to the $5 billion per year that it has pledged to the Afghan government. Of that $5 billion you can guess who is paying the lion’s share. That’s right, we are. We send $3.45 billion every year to, according to Transparency International, the third most corrupt country on earth — while Americans struggle with unemployment, stagnant wages, and inflation. That is why I always say that foreign aid is money stolen from poor people in the United States and sent to rich people overseas.

NATO head Stoltenberg said, “Our message is clear: Afghanistan doesn’t stand alone. We’re committed for the long haul.” How nice of the Norwegian politician to commit Americans to financing the war in Afghanistan for “the long haul.”

When I suggested in a recent interview that the only sensible US policy in Afghanistan would be to bring all the troops home, the host asked whether I was worried the Taliban would rush in to fill the vacuum. That’s what has already happened, I said. The Taliban are stronger than ever in Afghanistan. They control more territory than at any time since the original US invasion in 2001. Despite 15 years of US interventionism, nearly 2,500 dead US soldiers, and well over a trillion dollars, Afghanistan is no closer to being a model democracy than it was before 9/11. It’s a failed policy. It’s a purposeless war. It is a failed program.

The neocons argue that Iraq, Libya, and other US interventions fell apart because the US did not stay long enough. As usual they are wrong. They failed and they will continue to fail because they cannot succeed. You cannot invade a country, overthrow its government, and build a new country from the ground up. It is a fool’s errand and Washington has turned most Americans into fools. It’s time to end this game and get back to the wise foreign policy of the founders: non-intervention in the affairs of others.

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The War We Forgot to End: Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?

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President Obama just announced he’s keeping 8,400 troops in Afghanistan—but it’s time for the U.S. to withdraw fully.

Last Wednesday, President Obama once again delayed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Approximately 8,400 troops will remain in the country through the end of his presidency, he announced, rather than the 5,500 he committed to back in October 2015. Meanwhile, casualties continue to mount: Thousands of Afghan civilians were killed in 2015 alone.

It’s time to end the longest war in U.S. history. Begun less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, the war aimed to destroy the al-Qaeda network led by Osama bin Laden and take out the Taliban government that had provided them with safe haven. President Bush’s focus, however, was anything but narrow: “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there,” he said shortly before the invasion.

“It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

American troops walk to inspect a reconstruction project in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in 2012.
(The U.S. Army / Flickr)

Nearly 15 years and over $740 billion dollars later, there are few genuine successes the United States can claim as validation for its efforts. While an American withdrawal won’t remedy the problems of Afghanistan entirely, there’s good evidence to suggest our continued presence is making things worse.

Failed Military Strategies

This unending, costly war came in response to blowback from American policies in the region. According to the conventional history, we began aiding the mujahideen, a loose-knit assortment of Afghan Islamist guerrilla militants, in 1980, in response to the December 1979 Soviet invasion. (While Osama bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan in 1979 and was affiliated with a predominantly non-native mujahideen group at that time, the CIA maintains it only funded and armed indigenous Afghan rebels.)

The conventional history is wrong, at least according to a 1998 interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter. Brzezinski told a French weekly that we decided to aid the mujahideen six months before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in July 1979, knowing this could help push the Soviets into a Vietnam-style conflict. When pressed about whether he felt any regret having provided aid and arms to Islamic fundamentalists, Brzezinski, three years before the 9/11 attacks, responded brusquely:

“What is more important in world history? … Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

This strategy helped lead to the formation of the Taliban government, and ironically, now we are the ones ensnared in a perpetual, bloody and expensive Afghanistan conflict—all because of some “agitated Moslems.” There are 9,800 reported U.S. troops in Afghanistan (potentially more unreported, as there have been in Iraq), and with Wednesday’s announcement, we know that number is unlikely to go down much through the end of Obama’s presidency. While the President has formally declared that America is not engaged in a combat role, clashes between American forces and the Taliban continue.

Obama has also embraced drone warfare in Afghanistan, with the hope of more precise combat. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Afghanistan holds the ignominious distinction of being the “most drone-bombed country in the world.” But to what effect?

Michael Flynn, former Director of Intelligence in Afghanistan, had this to say: When a strike hits its target, “it makes us all feel good for 24 hours. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. It just makes them a martyr. They get replaced. It just created a new reason for them to fight us even harder.”

A study by a U.S. military adviser found that in one year, drone strikes in Afghanistan caused 10 times more civilian casualties than manned aircrafts. Leaked government documents show that between January 2012 and February 2013, over 200 people were killed by drone in a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan—only 35 of whom were intended targets.

And despite all this, the Taliban control more of the country than they have since we invaded in 2001. It’s possible that U.S. withdrawal would allow the Taliban to take control in additional provinces, but there’s little evidence to suggest our constant military presence is effectively holding them off. And the violence is only getting worse: More Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the conflict this past year than any other since the U.N. began record keeping in 2009.

Failed Humanitarian Projects

Our reconstruction efforts have fared little better than our military efforts. We have spent over $113 billion aiding the recovery of this country we helped destroy—more than was spent on the Marshall Project following World War II, even adjusting for inflation—and $17 billion of that was described by ProPublica as “questionable spending” in a December 2015 report.

Some of this was frivolous on its face: For example, we spent $150 million renting luxury housing for U.S. Defense Department staff and their visitors. But even the more substantive programs that should have been successful were tangled in bureaucracy, corruption and incompetence. The Department of Defense invested $200 million on a literacy program, but no efforts were made to “verify students’ language proficiency, evaluate the effectiveness of instructions, monitor class size and length of instruction, or track graduates after they completed training,”according to a report from John F. Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Sopko also reported several problems with a nearly $70 million agricultural effort—some of which was spent on programs that Afghan officials say “had been found to be ineffective in precursor programs.” Another $488 million spent on mineral extraction programs was similarly ineffective: Some of it was marred by corruption, and much of it Afghans are unable to continue on their own because they lack the capacity to regulate the program and “research, award, and manage new contracts.”

While there have been some areas of improvement in quality of life for Afghan children since 2000, such as a decline in the child mortality rate (although it’s still among the highest in the world), the effects of the war have largely undercut these positive developments. Child trafficking, abduction and the use of child soldiers have skyrocketed, and child labor is rampant. It’s not fair to blame the U.S. entirely, but the impacts of American military intervention have been far-reaching—for example, the U.S.-funded Afghan Local Police militia has used child soldiers.

The 2001 invasion and subsequent occupation also undermined the Taliban’s 2000 ban on poppy cultivation. In the thirteen years after the U.S. ousted the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government stepped in, opium production doubled.

As of late 2014, 90 percent of the world’s opium supply came from Afghanistan. According to Matthieu Aikins, a journalist who has followed the country’s opium production closely,

“Everyone is growing it. Everyone is profiting. It touches all levels of Afghan society, both sides of the conflict, the Taliban and the government. … But the government is even more involved.”

Despite the U.S. having sunk over $8 billion in fighting the drug trade, Afghanistan is now the world leader in heroin production.

This is not to say that we should stop aiding reconstruction projects, though clearly we should address widespread mismanagement. Rather, we must recognize that an American military presence and constant war undermine humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. In Afghanistan as elsewhere, foreign military occupation and regime change—even if undergirded by the best of intentions—have led to unintended, often terrible, consequences.

After 15 years of death and destruction, not to mention billions of dollars down the drain, we have to admit the military option is not working. Our meddling in Afghanistan has not made that country better off or the world safer.It’s time for an orderly but immediate withdrawal.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan0 Comments

US-led Countries’ Conflicting Interests Deteriorate Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations?

NOVANEWS

Image result for Pakistan-Afghanistan FLAG

By Sajjad Shaukat

Paying full attention to the Syrian crisis, Western media and their viewers have, perhaps, forgotten the South Asia where the conflicting interests of the US-led countries and entities like the secret agencies are deteriorating Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations which are equally essential for the regional and global interests of their countries like Syria.

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. Hence, 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.

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 regional and international organizations from over 30 countries, especially the US, China, India and Afghanistan participated. They pledged to support 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 as well as the West—it was collective responsibility to help Afghanistan in combating the challenges it is facing, as the participants said. In the joint declaration, they reaffirmed the respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and reiterated their commitment to refrain from the threat or use of force against one another.

Meanwhile, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.

For the purpose, a number of the trilateral meetings were also held among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the America.

On January 13, 2015, at least seven personnel of the Afghan security forces died during the suicide attack which targeted the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. The Islamic State group (ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for the terror assault which coincided with efforts to restart the suspended peace process with Taliban insurgents. Pakistani sources suggested that Indian secret agency RAW was behind this terror attack to thwart these peace talks.

Indian desperation in Afghanistan is increased in the backdrop of growing engagements of Islamabad, Kabul, Beijing and Washington. Therefore, by arranging terror-assaults in Pakistan and Afghanistan, New Delhi is also sabotaging 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. But, Washington is playing double game with Pakistan, because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, which irritates America, India, Israel and some Western partners of the US. Hence, secret agents of American CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW which are well-penetrated in the ISIS, the Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are using the militants of these terrorist outfits to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan, Pakistan’s province of Balochistan and Central Asia (Russian interests) by arranging the subversive activities to promote acrimonious sense of dissent, sectarian violence and to arouse sentiments of separatism.

In this regard, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target. Collectively or individually, these intelligence agencies are also assisting Jundullah (God’s soldiers)—the Sunni militant group which is active in Balochistan against Shias. Besides martyring several personnel of Pakistan’s security agencies in the province, these foreign-backed entities kidnapped and massacred many innocent people, including Chinese and Iranian nationals.

It is of particular attention that Indian role in Pakistan became naked after the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav on March 24, 2016. Yadav openly admitted that he was the serving agent of Indian RAW in Balochistan province, and during his stay, he contacted various Baloch separatist leaders and insurgents to execute the task to damage the CPEC. Yadav confessed that he spied for India and was “assigned with the task to create unrest in Karachi and Balolchitan…to destabilize Pakistan…he was captured, while heading Iran.”

In case of Afghanistan, there are several groups of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban. Some of them are being used by CIA, Mossad and RAW to obtain the collective and individual designs of their countries against Pakistan and the Middle East. India and Israel which want to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan which have become the center of covert activities, are exploiting their dual policy, especially of America against Pakistan, China and Iran.

Particularly, terrorists of ISIS and TTP which are strategic assets of the CIA, RAW and Mossad have claimed responsibility for several terror attacks inside Pakistan, including the recent ones in Lahore (Children Park on Easter Sunday), Balochistan, Karachi and in Afghanistan. In some cases, Indian RAW which has well-established its network in Afghanistan, is also alone conducting subversive attacks in Pakistan. While in some cases, with the help of TTP and ISIS, Mossad and RAW are collectively arranging terror attacks in Afghanistan to create further lawlessness in that country because it suits their clandestine interests.

In the first week of May, credible online sources disclosed that Engineer Mohammad Khan, the 1 st Advisor and a close friend of Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has been arrested by Afghan forces/agencies for alleged links with the ISIS. Information strongly suggests that the ISIS has penetrated even in high ranking Afghan government officials as well.

It is noteworthy that those Taliban groups which are fighting against the occupying foreign for the liberation of their country know that ISIS is backed by the US-led countries. Hence, a number of times, they have attacked on the ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan.

In the recent years, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they were failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the high officials and media of their countries started accusing Pakistan’s army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting the Afghan Taliban in order to pacify their public for the protracted war in that country, which still continues. India avail the opportunity and also accused Islamabad of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan.

But these anti-Pakistan entities forgot that from 2011 to 2013, some 200 to 400 heavily-armed insurgents from Afghanistan’s side entered Pakistan’s regions from time to time and targetted the security check posts and other infrastructure. In this respect, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership had lodged a strong protest with their counterparts in Afghanistan and NATO, saying that their forces were doing nothing to check the activities of the militants, based in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. Afghan government also refused to hand over Maulvi Fazlullah, leader of the TTP and other militants who had been conducting acts of terrorism in Pakistan. However, it was part of the US double game with Islamabad.

It is notable that when Pakistan’s Armed Forces broke the backbone of the militants through military operation Zarb-i- Azb which started on June 15, 2014 in North Waziristan Agency, and afterwards, extended to some other tribal agencies—killing thousands of insurgents including foreign terrorists, while, ISI and other law-enforcing agencies captured several terrorists in various regions of Pakistan, including suicide-jackets and weapons. What the US-led NATO countries could not do in Afghanistan in the last 14 years, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have done in one year. Taking note of the ground realities, the US and other Western countries have started appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan Army and other security agencies, and are, now, recognizing the sacrifices of the country against terrorism.

By utilizing the vicious circle of terrorism and the dual policy of America, some Western countries, Israel and India, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and TTP also employ double game. Besides working for CIA, Mossad and RAW, these terrorist outfits also motivate the common Muslims for suicide attacks and terror-related activities as part of Jihad. Otherwise, Jihad does not permit suicide assaults. Like other religions, Islam is a religion of peace and prohibits any sort of terrorism.

Nevertheless, still America and some of its NATO allies which prefer India over Pakistan are following conflicting policies. Sometimes, they recognize the fact that there is a co-relationship of stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan and sometimes, they back the propaganda of New Delhi and Kabul against Islamabad in relation to cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. India which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011 also includes to help train Afghan security forces, while assisting Kabul in diversified projects, is manipulating the ambivalent approach of the US-led Western countries so as to further strengthen its grip in Afghanistan.

Regarding Indian activities in Afghanistan the then NATO commander, Gen. McChrystal had pointed out: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan…is likely to exacerbate regional tensions.” And the US Senator John McCain had reminded the Obama administration that encouraging India to take a more active role in Afghanistan, while simultaneously criticizing Pakistan could be a recipe for disaster.

If NATO withdraws its forces from Afghanistan in future, despite the presence of American or NATO troops on small scale, New Delhi which has been assisting the Northern Alliance (Minority groups) like the America and other Western powers against the Afghan freedom fighters will not be in a position to maintain its network due to successful guerrilla warfare of the Taliban. Afghanistan will be thrown in an era of uncertainty and civil war. In that drastic situation, the US-led foreign donors will not be able to sustain their economic aid in that lawless country.

In this respect, in the recent past, cordial relations were established between Pakistan and Afghanistan when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had realized that Afghanistan and Pakistan were facing similar challenges of terrorism and would combat this threat collectively. But, it is misfortune that on direction of New Delhi and like the former regime of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s present rulers have also started accusing Pakistan of cross-border terrorism. In this connection, after hours of the Taliban captured Kunduz city, on September 28, 2015, during his address to the UNO General Assembly, Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah blamed Islamabad for carrying out cross-border attacks and destabilizing Afghanistan.

Differences exist between Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani, as the former wants cordial relations with New Delhi at the cost of Afghanistan and the latter prefers Islamabad.

Notably, the US and Indian trained Afghan troops could no retake Kunduz, and American military recaptured the city. Taking note of the unending resistance of the Taliban, President Barack Obama halted the withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan on October 15, 2016 by announcing that “the United States will keep thousands of troops in the country through the end of his term in 2017”, and it means that American and its allied forces will remain there for an indefinite period. Talking about the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour who was killed by the CIA-operated drone attack in Pakistan’s Balochistan, President Obama recognized on May 23, 2016 by saying that the Taliban were “specifically targeting the US personnel and troops inside Afghanistan.” After the incident, Taliban leaders also refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. Besides, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership also protested for the violation of international laws and Pakistan’s airspace by the American drone attack.

It is mentionable that on December 10, 2016, President Ghani accepted the resignation of Rahmatullah Nabil as director of the Afghan intelligence agency, National Dirctorrate of Security (NDS), after developing differences of the spymaster with him over Ghani’s move to attend the regional conference (Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference) in Islamabad.

And, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Ghani also showed their determination that their countries would cooperate in fighting the threat of ISIS.

In fact, in collusion with Afghanistan’s NDS, Daesh and TTP, RAW still continues cross-border incursions in various regions of Pakistan. Indian nexus with the militant leaders like Hakimullah Masood and Maulvi Fazalullah has been proved by the recent revelation of the TTP militant Latifullah Mahsood who was captured in Pakistan, and he also admitted the role of external secret agencies regarding the incident of Army Public School Peshawar where several innocent children were massacred by the TTP—and exploitation of Baloch sub-nationalists, while, Indian high officials and media have always shifted the blame game of Afghanistan’s unrest towards Pakistan. It is a true reflection of Indian establishment which is intolerant to any improvement in the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, the trust between Islamabad and Kubal has remained a sore point in the eyes of foreign enemies, especially India, which have been doing everything possible to create mistrust between the two neighbours. A lot of resources are being pumped in particularly by New Delhi to undermine the relationship between two brotherly countries to fulfill Indian nefarious agenda at the cost of the interests of Afghanistan’s public. For the last fifteen years, foreign-funded NGOs and media have been spearheading the sinister campaign to malign Pakistan for any ill inside Afghanistan, thereby estrange common Afghans against Pakistan.

It is worth-mentioning that Pakistan is the largest Muslim donor country to Afghanistan. Pakistan, itself is suffering from the economic fallout of ongoing war on terror in Afghanistan. Islamabad has, so far, spent over 385 Million $ for the development, education and infrastructure-building in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s present government has added over 500 Million $ more to this list for development in Afghanistan. Pakistan has funded different educational institutions inside Afghanistan such as Allama Iqbal Faculty of Arts-Kabul University, Sir Syed Post Graduate Faculty of Sciences- Nangarhar University, Liaqat Ali Khan Engineering University- Bulkh, Rahman Baba School-Kabul and Rahman Baba Hostel-Kabul.

Afghan citizens are allowed to avail medical and education facilities in Pakistan at par with the Pakistani Citizens. Islamabad has helped Afghan government in developmental projects and roads infrastructure, including building of 75 kilometers Torkham-Jalalabad Road, additional carriage way on Torkham-Jalalabad Road, three internal roads in Jalalabad, digital radio link between Kabul and Peshawar. In addition, Pakistan has also given around 100 public transport buses and 200 trucks to the government of Afghanistan for the welfare of Afghan public.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan has rendered huge sacrifices for the people of Afghanistan, and had stood with the Afghans in Afghan Jihad against the former USSR and hosted record number of over 3 Million refugees for longest duration, despite its own weak economic condition.

However, Pakistan shares common geographical, historical, religious and cultural bonds with Afghanistan. America and its Western partners have repeatedly recognized that Pak-Afghan stability is inter-related, which is essential for their global and regional interests. 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. But, by following the conflicting interests, the US-led countries are deteriorating Pakistan-Afghanistan relations to obtain their covert aims, and are, thus, destabilizing South Asian security which is equally essential for them.

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

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

The Global Trade in Guantánamo Captives

NOVANEWS

By Aisha Maniar

An armed bodyguard stands just behind Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum during a political rally in Shibarghan, Afghanistan, in September 2004. (Scott Eells / The New York Times) An armed bodyguard stands just behind Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum during a political rally in Shibarghan, Afghanistan, in September 2004. (Scott Eells / The New York Times)

The belief that the men imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay are the worst of the worst dangerous terrorists is still commonly held, due in large part to the mainstream corporate media and politicians. But as early as 2006, Seton Hall University School of Law identified, using US Department of Defense data, that only 5 percent of prisoners were captured by the US military. Of the current 80 remaining detainees,only three were captured by US forces, including Pakistani prisoner Saifullah Paracha, who was kidnapped in Thailand.

The vast majority of prisoners (86 percent) “were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody” in return for a bounty. Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000 per person. Initially denied by Pakistan, in his 2006 memoir, former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf admitted, “We have captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totaling millions of dollars.” Musharraf called it “prize money.”

Another beneficiary of this nefarious trade was Afghan warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the current vice president of Afghanistan, who was denied entry to the US in April 2016, as he stands accused of war crimes. US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), who maintains the “bad men” myth, has long been a friend of Dostum.

The US largely did not capture the prisoners it continues to hold at Guantánamo — it boughtthem.

The fact remains that the US largely did not capture the prisoners it continues to hold at Guantánamo — it bought them. The same media and politicians that feign concern for ISIS’ slaves conveniently forget that the US, too, trades in captives. Many Guantánamo prisoners have also been sexually abused, and practices such as body cavity searches are tantamount to rape.

The Trade in Prisoners Continues

The last prisoners were brought to Guantánamo in 2008, but the trade in prisoners goes on. Of the 22 Chinese Uighur prisoners purchased for a bounty in Afghanistan, six were transferred to the Pacific island of Palau in 2009, for which the island state was paid $93,333 to accept each man, reportedly to cover living costs, and also received $200 million in development aid.

In early May 2016, former Uruguayan President José Mujica stated, “In order to sell several kilos of oranges to the United States, I had to put up with five crazy guys from Guantánamo.” In December 2014, during his presidency, Uruguay accepted six prisoners as refugees. When the men arrived in the country, Mujica insisted “we are not exchanging human beings for oranges” and that the transfer was on humanitarian grounds.

His latest statements have provoked controversy in Uruguay; the US has denied them. Essentially, Mujica has said that the men were sold twice: once in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is how they ended up in Guantánamo; and a second time, in exchange for oranges, to get them out.

Mujica explained the situation as being one where the transfer eased trading relations. It is not the first time he has made such statements. In March 2015, he told French state radio that after 18 years of trying, Uruguay succeeded in selling its oranges to the US because “I had agreed to take in several Guantánamo prisoners.”

The real question is why this issue is being raised now. After having initially defended his decision to accept the men, in April 2016, Mujica described their conduct since arriving in Uruguay as “abysmal,” and as having hurt efforts to resettle others in Latin American countries, ultimately labeling their conduct as selfish. He stated that he wished he had not brought them to the country.

Such statements are hurtful and not helpful to the men who still are struggling to settle in a country where they have not yet mastered the language, and have to overcome the ordeal they suffered for 13 years at Guantánamo. None has managed to find sustainable full-time work, and a deal that was reached with the Uruguayan government, following a lengthy protest outside the US Embassy in April and May 2015, only covers the first two years of their stay, thus they remain in a precarious situation.

These statements and frequent media intrusion into the former prisoners’ private lives only serve to exacerbate the prejudice they already face, and effectively mean that they are still not free; the chains of Guantánamo weigh down their efforts to get on with their lives. They are not alone in this predicament, and it is not surprising that in January 2016, Yemeni prisoner Muhammad Bawazir refused to leave Guantánamo for a third state that had offered to accept him.

Controversial Resettlement Arrangements

Transfers in 2016 have also been subject to allegations of cash payments made to governments to accept prisoners who cannot be returned to their own countries. In January, Ghana resettled two Yemeni prisoners. Debate has since arisen over the safety of accepting former Guantánamo prisoners and possible payments to the country to host them. The US ambassador denied this, “except that we are paying for the lodging and maintenance cost of the two detainees for two years.”

Similar concerns have been raised in Senegal, which, like Uruguay, has claimed to have accepted two men as refugees on humanitarian grounds. It is not just poorer states and cash incentives, however. When the Dutch government decided not to take any prisoners from Guantánamo Bay in 2015 following negotiations, the decision strained relations between the two states.

As part of the plan announced in February to close/transfer Guantánamo by the end of his presidency, the Obama administration is keen to transfer all of the current 28 men cleared for release by the end of the summer. The vast majority will have to be transferred to safe third countries. For the US, however, the interest is really in washing its hands off these men. There is not often sufficient concern as to what will happen to them later, particularly as survivors of torture who have been held almost as slaves or hostages for a decade and a half. Conditions on release can sometimes just present new forms of servitude.

Echoes of the Slave Trade

The contemporary trade in human bodies at Guantánamo Bay has been compared to the slave trade. The links are many. Prior to its closure in 2008, British anti-Guantánamo activists protested outside the Birmingham factory of a company called Hiatt, which produced not only the shackles to transport prisoners to Guantánamo, but the shackles to transport slaves to the Caribbean in the 19th century.

In his best-selling book written from inside Guantánamo, Mauritanian prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi states,

I often compared myself with a slave. Slaves were taken forcibly from Africa, and so was I. Slaves were sold a couple of times on their way to their final destination, and so was I. Slaves suddenly were assigned to somebody they didn’t choose, and so was I.

David Bromwich suggests:

Torture and slavery have something in common. They are expressions of a power that admits no restraint on itself. They issue from the instinct for domination …

It has been suggested that while detention at Guantánamo lacks the productivity of the transatlantic slave trade, the prisoners “are the producers of intel,” even though this intelligence may not have much value. Guantánamo’s greatest product, no doubt, through the abuse of the prisoners held there, has been its ability to generate and sustain the lies that have kept it and the so-called “war on terror” going for far too long.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan, Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

India Tightens Visa Rules for Afghans

NOVANEWS

Image result for Afghan PASSPORT PHOTO

By Sajjad Shaukat

India which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that country on October 5, 2011 also includes to help train Afghan security forces, while assisting Kabul in diversified projects has been playing double game with the war-torn country. Overtly, New Delhi has been claiming friendship with Afghanistan, covertly, it is strengthening Indian grip by creating unending lawlessness in that country which has become a most suitable place for Indian secret agency RAW to implement a conspiracy to fulfill its country’s strategic designs against Iran, China and particularly Pakistan.

As part of India’s dual strategy, RAW has well-established its network in Afghanistan and is in connivance with the Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Daesh and is using the militants of these terrorist outfits to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and especially Pakistan’s province of Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities, promoting acrimonious sense of dissent, political volatility, sectarian violence and arousing sentiments of separatism.

In this context, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target. Now, as part of Indian double game, in the early May, this year, India has tightens visa rules for the Afghan nationals. Regarding India’s imposition of new visa restrictions on Afghan citizens, India media reported, “Visa applicants are now required to submit their personal bank account statements demonstrating financial ability to pay all costs of the trip. Minor applicants (aged 15 or below) and dependents who do not have individual bank accounts can submit bank statements of their parents/spouse/children. For those who travel to India for medical reasons, it is now mandatory to get a letter from a local Afghan doctor clearly stating that treatment for the particular illness or disease is not available in Afghanistan.”

The media elaborated, “Such restrictions are seen as more of a hurdle for people whose country is at war with Taliban and where local people face daily threat to survival. Unlike India, large parts of Afghanistan have little or no rule of government and more often than not, local people have to run away from their homes to protect themselves from Taliban.”

It further said, “Given the grim ground reality, Afghans look to India for medical treatment or to pursue university education. Hundreds of them travel to hospitals in Delhi and surrounding areas for treatment with little or no medical intervention back home.”

While quoting the statement of Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Indian media pointed out, “India has tightened visa controls for Afghan nationals because of concerns over Afghan passports being found in the possession of citizens of countries neighbouring Afghanistan…he made the remarks after the Meshrano Jirga, or upper house of parliament, summoned to explain visa restrictions imposed by India for Afghan nationals…Rabbani did not name the countries whose citizens had obtained Afghan passports.

However, Afghan media reports quoted senators as saying that the move was linked to Indian concerns about Pakistan…the minister of foreign affairs was directly hinting at Pakistan…Asef Sediqi, a senator, was quoted as saying by Tolo News…the senators said they believed India had taken the step to prevent the entry of militants…regional countries are concerned that suspected militants of Daesh, Taliban and other terrorist groups might enter into their countries from Afghanistan…Rabbani said India is concerned over the easy access to Afghan passports by nationals of neighbouring countries and has urged (the Afghan) government to resolve the issue”.

Nevertheless, Indian double game with Afghanistan has also been exposed by the Indian media which also said, “On 4 June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Afghanistan’s Herat province to dedicate the India-built Salma Dam to water-starved and electricity-deprived people of the region. This trip will come days after Modi signed the agreement in Tehran that commits India to develop the Chabahar port, a project that is viewed by the people of Afghanistan as one that will help reduce their dependence on Pakistan…the enormous goodwill for India among the people of Afghanistan, however, is threatened by bureaucratic hurdles created in the recent weeks with new visa restrictions imposed by New Delhi.”

It is notable that on June 30, 2014, India had announced liberal visa policy for Afghan nationals—exemption of senior Afghan citizens and children from police reporting, allowing the Afghan nationals to stay in India on stay visa/resident permit up to two years at a time, and upgradation of the amenities at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) for the Afghan nationals. While doubting the integrity of the Afghan citizens, a system of biometric enrolment and photography was introduced to ensure that such facilities were not misused by unscrupulous elements, as stated by the home ministry of India. But these facilities have been taken back from the Afghan citizens in the new visa policy which has imposed restrictions.

It is mentionable that unlike India, Pakistan has provided the Afghans with several visa facilities, as per Pakistan policy, no Afghan citizen is denied visa and the same are served to them within 24-48 hours. Visa application fees are waived for all Afghani Nationals upon submission of their Afghani Passport. In case, anyone is not able to provide Afghani passport, invitation letter on the letter head from the sponsor organization, stating details of purpose, duration and cities of visit is enough for obtaining visa. Family visa is issued to Afghan nationals having family relations in Pakistan. Adult (18 years and above) Afghan national can apply for family visa if his/her spouse has Pakistan nationality. Under 18 years old Afghan national can apply for family visa, if either of their parents have Pakistan nationality.

Undoubtedly, Indian new visa policy shows Indian maltreatment vis-à- vis Pakistan’s good behaviour with Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s friendly gestures with India vis-à- vis undue animosity with Pakistan.

Reports of Afghan media suggest that the issue of Indian new visa rules for the Afghan citizens has been has been raised in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (House of People).

Nonetheless, India has tightens visa rules for the Afghans as part of double game with Afghanistan.

Posted in Afghanistan, India0 Comments

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