Tag Archive | "Afghanistan"

The Wall, the Shutdown, Mattis, Syria, Afghanistan


NOVANEWS

The Wall, the Shutdown, Mattis, Syria, Afghanistan — Trump ends 2018 with a tidal wave of incompetence
The US was just hit with a tsunami Of Trumpism.

 

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By Terry Schwadron

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

According to the latest reports, Trump was still saying he would move ahead with a partial government shutdown today, rather than accept a budget without the Wall.

This story first appeared at DC Report.

Under pressure from the most conservative of his supporters, Trump is betting that this is the moment to take a stand, rather than sign the usual, last-minute, kick-the-can-down-the-road temporary delay otherwise backed by his Republican congressional majority to a new Congress with a Democratic House majority.

Let’s be clear here. We’re all losing. But rather than appearing to suffer a personal defeat, the president is making the rest of us feel it, too.

As the rest of the day’s news has made clear, this president cares only about his own opinion about matters financial, security, immigration or national defense, and will ignore advice–or suffer the loss of important advisers like James T. Mattis as defense secretary over the abrupt withdrawal of troops in Syria and Afghanistan. The wall has been central, but not alone in causing heads to shake.

As Trump becomes more and more isolated, it makes the full range of White House action based on gut and campaign promises and virtually no actual information much more important–and potentially dangerous.

In this one week, we’ve seen major disagreements about monetary policy, troop deployment and now, whether we actually have a working government.

Regardless of the outcome, however, the wall debate shows its sheer ugliness in revealing to what lengths the parties must go now to determine whether to pony up $5 billion just to meet campaign promises of Trump.

Indeed, the ineptitude of waiting until the last minute makes clear several things that will prove of lasting interest:

For the White House, the physical wall, not the ability to keep out illegal immigrants or police drugs or anything else, is paramount since the president sees it as key to his image with supporters more than to the cause it might serve. His immigration henchman, Stephen Miller, stone-facedly has kept repeating that there is no Plan B should proposals for the Wall fail, though yesterday, the president suggested he can find the money from different existing accounts within the budget, something that generally requires congressional approval in four separate committees, or have the military do the job. (Don’t they already have day jobs?)
For top Democrats, opposition to the Wall is an equally appealing (and maybe appalling) siren. Not only do they seem to have adopted a morally superior position, but they also appear to have the votes to stop the Trump insistence machine and now want to flaunt it rather than create the immigration price tag that Trump might have to pay to get what he wants. If it is a deal Trump wants, why not show him just how expensive it needs to be: Certainly facts, worries of allies, adverse stock markets and other real-time effect have nothing to do with this decision.
Meanwhile, some of those Republicans who were leaving Congress are going home to their districts and apparently don’t intend to return to vote on government business, walls or anything else. Talk about bravery. Or duty. Or even courtesy to the process to which they pledged allegiance.
Perhaps we can remind all of these people that these are the ones elected to run the government, not to shut it down. These are people who are supposed to do their jobs in large part without partisanship.

Instead, we have a president under fire on all parts of his administration, the subject of multiple investigations, sending out anemic spokesmen to offer babble in the face of prosecutorial facts, trying to bluster his way to a personal goal that has either missed its moment or never really had it. It looks now as if he will have to eat his own proposal.

We have a Congress that wants no part of a wall and another $5 billion in deficit spending, and we have a few thousand Central Americans at the border waiting restlessly for a chance to make their pitch for asylum. To Speaker-in-Waiting Nancy Pelosi’s point last week, the Republicans don’t seem to have even the requisite number of their own votes in the House, never mind that of the Democrats.

What I see is that Trump has the time and attention to tweet hateful messages, get involved in the military prosecution of a single Army officer facing murder charges, has the temerity to attack the French government in its handling of street protests, and shows no understanding of the complexities of healthcare in America. But the wall, and by extension, Mexican underwriting of its construction, can’t even keep enough of his focus to win the day.

We see a flailing, bloviating egomaniac, more concerned with covering his rear end than in protecting my interests as a citizen—interests that have nothing to do with building a wall. Some of us rely on government services, whether they are agricultural inspections of food or protection against communicable disease. Am I missing something here?

That Congress and Trump are finding the easiest path of extending government spending by two or three weeks just to get by the holidays will not solve the problem that comes together under the mantle of comprehensive immigration issues. Instead, only some very focused and hard work is required to get to practical, enforceable, understandable rules.

We can be sure that a wise, intelligent, thoughtful approach is not on the agenda. The politicians just don’t think we will insist on such a discussion. It is much easier to rely on slogans that are fully resistant to the real problems of real families whether in the United States or in Honduras or Guatemala.

Set aside the idea that $5 billion is too much to pay for a bad solution, and not nearly enough to pay for a wall, even if you think it is a good thing. The Rand Institution is among those who argue that walls generally have proved bad ideas for containment. The first thing they do, Rand argues, is to promote the digging of tunnels, though mostly for drug traffic rather than for illegal human routes into the United States.

The discussion about the wll too easily slips into xenophobic talk about how migrants are criminals or disease carriers or trying too hard to reach the gravy train that they believe the United States to be.

If Trump and Miller are so confident in their belief that a wall is an American demand, let’s look to a new GoFundMe campaign that supporters have started to raise the money outside of government; already 40,000 have contributed about $7 million, which is a bit short and raises the question: Where does the money go? The Trump Foundation? Or commit to the government version of this: a bond initiative in which the government goes to the markets to sell the bonds. Instead, they play with my tax money against my services. Don’t they understand that this angers me a great deal?

What’s been lost here in the avoidance of actual deal-making is that the White House needs to put some immigration chips on the table to get Democrats to do something other than smirk. Instead, Trump and company are relying on the same bullying behavior that seemingly was rejected “bigly” in the November elections.

In the meantime, this stalemate over the wall portends really bad things for needed bipartisanship in Washington. The future of healthcare is teetering on unsteady legal claims, the Chinese and the Russians are chewing away at our long-term alliances and our sense of security, the North Koreans and Iran are openly calling us bad names and continuing with weapons development that we abhor. The Syria decision does show that there are bigger stakes at hand than Trump’s campaign promises.

The wall and the war over the wall ought to be telling us something important about how we are resolving problems.

Indeed, the emergent bipartisanship on a bill to reconsider criminal justice sentencing over drug crimes seems to exemplify exactly what we can achieve, if we build consensus rather than attack one another.

Posted in USAComments Off on The Wall, the Shutdown, Mattis, Syria, Afghanistan

Confrontation of Superpowers in Afghanistan: China Envisages Military Presence in Strategic Wakhan Corridor


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Masud Wadan reporting from Kabul.

To mark the legitimacy of US military in Afghanistan, Washington recently declined participating in a Russia-led peace talks on Afghanistan which had been scheduled for September 4 in Moscow. In a statement, the Russian embassy in Kabul expressed disappointment and described Washington’s refusal as based  on “unfounded reasons”.

The Afghan ministry of external affairs also toed the US line and refused to participate in the meeting citing that the talks are not led by Afghanistan. 

Not the first time, the US did turn down Russia’s invitation for Afghan peace talks on April 14 last year. The US doesn’t want Russia on board. However, there are no reasonable grounds to reject Russia’s engagement in Afghanistan’s dilemma. At that time, Pakistan was right to concern that the US’ involvement is a must because Washington is the “biggest stakeholder” there. 

Kabul questions Moscow-led talks for “not including it as a weighty party”, but it forgot to point criticism to the recent official talks between the US envoy and Taliban representative in Qatar’s Doha that went by without a scrap of Afghan role. 

When Moscow saw the distaste of the US and the US-led Afghan government, it announced on August 27 that it will postpone the event to a later date. Russia’s summit was then called off and the US thought it had won. 

Amidst fragile relations between regional powers, Moscow talks were to include Pakistan, China, Iran and India. The US has called the September 4 gathering as “broad” because it includes the arch-enemy Iran. 

Before the announcement of postponement, a Tajikistan’s Air Force fighter jet flew into Afghanistan’s airspace in northern Takhar province and bombed militants in an eyebrow-raising attack. The targets were reportedly the drug dealers. But for us, the point of concern is not the kind of targets; it is about why it happened at this moment. 

Although Russian officials were quick to apparently deny involvement in the attack, it might be our mistake to not see Moscow’s fury in the attack. It is clear that Tajikistan had been far from firing a single shot at us in the past 17 years of the US invasion. It could send a direct message to the US and Afghan allies for their concurrent ignoring of Russia’s power.  

It has to be admitted that Russia has grown inclined to Afghanistan. It has offered to arm the Afghan army with air power outmatching the status quo, but the government in Afghanistan has been nudged to show apathy. 

Russia steps forward as critic of the US-led unipolarization in the world and is moving into action to replace the unipolarity with a multipolar international system to undercut the US’s existential threat in the region.  

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday in Moscow:

“The US has tried to bring Afghanistan to peace on its own, and it didn’t work. The International Community now has to take care of this matter collectively”.

The Taliban leadership is a nonentity. It is a brainwashed force picking up arms for a loaf of bread under the fake motto of fighting the “infidel” West. All the spokesmen or representatives acting on behalf of Taliban are media fabrications. The term “Taliban” is now used as a pretext by involving various sides to secure their own place in Afghanistan and the region’s multidimensional interests.  

The armed conflict and military power is not always used for attack on foreign territories, just as is the case of Afghanistan. The war strategists believe that compellence, deterrence and coercion are important factors that bring the enemy to its knees (by grace of military strength and influence).

Afghanistan’s battleground is the one where intensity of violence affects decision making in the surrounding region. With this privilege in hand, the primary force – the US – draw on further advantages from the rival states. 

We can’t hold Russia’s existence as solely responsible for the unrest in the South Asian region, nor are China or Iran individual causes behind the fiasco in Afghanistan. With the world engaged in debates over the US’s rivalry with Russia or China, an immeasurable amount of Uranium and Rare Earth Elements and narcotics are being flown from southern Helmand province to outside. This is a multifaceted war. If the underground minerals ever come to an end, then policies would undergo major changes. 

US soldiers in Afghanistan’s poppy fields

It has to be asserted that Afghanistan’s prolonged war is largely built around the deterrence and compellence policies that materialize the objective of a hegemonic role over the world.

According to causal theory, nothing has caused the Afghan war to happen but rather the war, in essence, is a necessity that generates a shower of foreseen interests and consequential benefits. This hypothesis can be reinforced with a look to chaos in almost every corner of the world. When the options for instigation of war run out, they resort to doubling of tariffs on imports from China and Europe. 

The global disorder is a smooth pathway to global hegemony which is the ultimate goal of the US. In the face of an immense and complex imperial agenda, it would be a grave mistake to expect an end to Afghanistan’s conflict.

The Afghan war is a coercive process of armed battle between two fronts: Afghan army and Taliban insurgents. Both forces are designed carefully and driven into a quagmire where they can’t escape or at least find a room to question the legitimacy and rightfulness of the deadly conflict. 

To grease the wheels of war, the war theorists employ violent doctrines. The terrorist forces trained to fight the Afghan government and destroy infrastructures are made up of children kidnapped from the same territory – Afghanistan – and raised in sanctuaries under violent treatment. To inflict fatalities and damage upon the Afghan nation in full swing, the warmongers recruit heartless alien nationals mostly Arab, Chechens, Pakistanis and others. 

The US has no excuse to justify the Afghan war. Typically, the Kabul-based US embassy posted a condolence message on its facebook page about a recent suicide attack on teenagers taking college entry test that killed more than 50 students.  The post had just been inundated with offensive comments against the US’s war policies in Afghanistan. 

It is amazing to know that after Russia, now China is digging for a one-way solution to the threats from Afghanistan as they found the US uncooperative. In a recent strange move, Beijing has said to be fully funding a base in isolated Wakhan Corridor and may send hundreds of troops there. 

Wakhan Corridor

A side valley to the Wakhan Corridor.  over the Panshir valley

Once the camp is completed, the People’s Liberation Army is likely to send hundreds of military personnel to Afghanistan’s secluded Wakhan Corridor. Kabul has not commented on this so far and it is certain that the government would oppose the move because it conflicts with US interests.  The Afghan embassy in Beijing refutes the claim that China is building a training camp in  the Wakhan corridor (SCMP, Hong Kong,  August 28, screenshot above)

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In Afghanistan, Our Need to Rethink the Institution of War


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We’ve been thinking that we need armies to stop ‘terrorists’, but armies don’t stop ‘terrorists’. Instead, they give ‘terrorists’ reason to keep fighting

The People’s Peace Movement ( PPM ) walking barefoot to the Northern provinces of Afghanistan, led by a blind member of their group, Zindani. (Photo: PPM’s Facebook Page)

The People’s Peace Movement ( PPM ) walking barefoot to the Northern provinces of Afghanistan, led by a blind member of their group, Zindani. (Photo: PPM’s Facebook Page) 

It’s frustrating that whereas all human beings wish to live meaningful lives, we seem helpless in the face of a few individuals waging wars and exploiting our world.

But we can each do something about this insensible status quo, as ordinary folk of the People’s Peace Movement ( PPM ) show us by taking one barefoot-step at a time, traveling to the Northern areas of Afghanistan to persuade fellow Afghans, whether they’re with ‘insurgent groups’ or with the U.S./NATO/Afghan forces, to stop fighting.

Their action of walking without shoes suggest to us that, for us to survive today’s militarized and profit-driven norms, we have to live each day differently, and with clarity and compassion.

We’ve been thinking that we need armies to stop ‘terrorists’, but armies don’t stop ‘terrorists’. Instead, they give ‘terrorists’ reason to keep fighting.

We need to think anew.

Moreover, the roots of ‘terrorism’ lie within ourselves. We are our own source of wars.

Iqbal Khyber, a representative of PPM, told the Afghan Peace Volunteers ( APVs ) about how violence has taken root in all of us. “A blind member of our group, Zindani ( a name he gave himself after he was blinded by a Taliban-planted roadside bomb, meaning ‘imprisoned’ ) had so much pain in him that, one evening, when we were camped outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, he pleaded with me, ‘Can I throw a pebble at the fence?’ ”

“I advised Zindani, ‘No, we need to end the anger inside us.’” Iqbal continued.

Zindani is rightfully angry because he has been hurt by all sides of the Afghan conflict, like all civilians in all wars. His father literally disappeared from his life when he was just seven, as a bomb from a U.S. airstrike in Helmand left ‘a crater so large that no trace of his father and uncle could be found’. Years later, another bomb, this time a Taliban device, killed his sister and blinded him. He not only lost his sight, he also lost the chance to marry the teenage love of his life.

At a large gathering in Kabul, Zindani sat in front of a crowd of Afghans who were shouting, “We want peace! Enough war! ” He had a brown turban wrapped over his head and eyes, and a Borderfree blue scarf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers draped around his neck.

The crowd at the PPM’s meeting in Kabul on the 9th of August 2018. Photo by Dr HakimThe crowd at the PPM’s meeting in Kabul on the 9th of August 2018. Photo by Dr Hakim

Zindani is determined to end war. Photo by Dr HakimZindani is determined to end war. Photo by Dr Hakim

He was quiet.

But his stand was clear. He had already walked more than 700 km from Helmand to Kabul, and he was ready to persist.

He couldn’t see the crowd before him, but he could hear them, and understand their intense desire to end the war.

What makes us think that ordinary people like Zindani, or we ourselves, cannot end ‘terrorism’ and wars through nonviolent methods? Misinformation has infected us with doubts.

One way to work through those doubts is to emulate Zindani, members of the PPM and the APVs: relate person-to-person, ask, “How can we live better?”, listen, love.

And to take courage in not doubting love when we encounter it.

“I was suspicious of their intentions. Politicians and leaders have misused the people so much we can no longer trust one another. But, when I met and conversed with these people from Helmand, I knew we could work together,” Masuma testified to the other Volunteers who had gathered on another occasion to hear from four members of the Movement.

How about fear? How do we deal with legitimate fears?

The Volunteers were grappling with multiple concerns before they went to the big meeting organized by the PPM, held just next to Ghazi Stadium, where the Taliban used to execute people publicly.

Surely, Zindani, with his past trauma of losing eight family members to war, has been afraid all through his dark journey. Fear is an emotion we can work with, like our experience of fear even in love, like Zindani did in creating two poetic lines for his teenage girl-friend:

I am too scared to even drink water

It may fade my beloved’s name on my heart.

Love triumphs over fear.

“We’ll go together, come what may,” Khalid, an Afghan Peace Volunteer who is a university undergraduate, had said. At the large gathering, Khalid was so ‘fired up’ that he overcame his usual shyness for 30 seconds on stage, delivering two lines of a Pashto poem which meant:

“Whatever you destroy,

don’t destroy my thoughts and my mind.”

The young want an end to war. Photo by Dr HakimThe young want an end to war. Photo by Dr Hakim

The old want an end to war. Photo by Dr HakimThe old want an end to war. Photo by Dr Hakim

The APVs, the PPM and the people want an end to war. Photo by Dr HakimThe APVs, the PPM and the people want an end to war. Photo by Dr Hakim

That’s how we can overcome fear, and end the obsolete human institution of war.

We can love.

We can think anew.

We can turn up together.

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on In Afghanistan, Our Need to Rethink the Institution of War

ISIS Likely Behind Suicide Bombing That Killed 25 Students in Afghanistan


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A man who was injured in a deadly suicide bombing that targeted a training class in a private building in the Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-i Barcha is placed in an ambulance in western Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. Both the resurgent Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan have targeted Shiites in the past, considering them to be heretics. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

A man who was injured in a deadly suicide bombing that targeted a training class in a private building in the Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-i Barcha is placed in an ambulance in western Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2018. Both the resurgent Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan have targeted Shiites in the past, considering them to be heretics. Rahmat Gul | AP

A year after the Trump administration introduced its strategy for Afghanistan, the Taliban and ISIS are asserting themselves on the battlefield even as U.S. officials talk up hopes for peace, raising questions about the viability of the American game plan for ending a war that began when some of the current U.S. troops were in diapers.

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Afghanistan: The Taliban Have Fought the U.S. to the Negotiating Table


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“Attempting to control rural areas in Afghanistan always eventually ends up boiling down to personal survival.” – Evan McAllister, former Marine staff sergeant, New York Times, July 28, 2018

It genuinely doesn’t matter how the security boffins within the Pentagon frame it: the Taliban have fought the United States, through sheer will of force and mania, to the negotiating table – at least in a fashion.  Ever since a vengeful US took to the field in Afghanistan in an effort to redraw the political landscape in its favour, the country has been true to its historical record: drawing, draining and dispersing the manpower and material of an empire.

Washington’s longest war has taken the lives of 2,400 Americans and 30,000 Afghan civilians, a bloody sore that never dries. The US has 14,000 troops stationed in an effort to bolster a flabby, unconvincing Afghan military which is suffering weekly losses at a horrendous rate. The bloodletting has had its necessary demoralising effect, with the number of Afghan soldiers, police, pilots and security personnel dropping by five percent (18,000 fewer individuals) since last year.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has become a regular font for bad news, at least for those punters backing the regime in Kabul.  The Taliban and various other insurgent groups have been industriously committed, making gains exceeding those of January 2016.

Within Afghanistan lie 407 districts, with the government holding or influencing 229. The Taliban have a seemingly modest 59.  What is significant is where the rest fall: the so-called “contested” category.

The strategy adopted against a thriving Taliban force is a tried and failed one.  Even since the Soviet Union discovered that it could never genuinely control the rural areas with any conviction, let alone purpose, peppering areas of low population density with beleaguered military outposts, retreat to the urban areas has become the norm.

The current push from US planners is strikingly unvaried in imitation, insisting that Afghan troops do the same.  First came the redux Soviet strategy adopted by the Bush administration: guarding outposts intent on re-establishing control and taking the battle to the Taliban in rural areas.  By 2009, the focus had shifted: remote areas would no longer feature; the focus was, as a Pentagon document went, “protecting and developing the major population centres” in eastern Afghanistan.

Retired two-star Army General Paul Eaton, whose previous brief was to train Iraqi forces following the calamitous 2003 invasion of that country, has more than let the cat out of the bag: the US has run out of military solutions amidst the “significant loss of life, and blood and treasure.”  It is “time to say that we need a political outcome.”

The basis of such a political outcome will involve encouraging the Afghan military to leave unpopulated areas with a focus on more heavily populated ones, seen by Eaton as “a rational approach to secure the cities, and provide the Afghanistan government the political opportunity to work with the Taliban.” Again, this is reminiscent of the prodding by the Obama administration in 2015 to convince Afghan commanders that various remote checkpoints were simply not worth defending, let alone reclaiming and holding.

The denials that this is the case have been forthcoming.  Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, is well versed enough in spin to suggest that the approach has nothing to do with conceding ground to the enterprising Taliban and surrendering rural areas to their control; the focus, rather, is to secure urban areas with a future aim on re-engaging rural communities.

This treacly deception ignores the point that a retreat from remote Afghanistan is a de facto defeat for the Afghan and US forces. The police forces left in place will become fodder for Taliban attacks; in some instances, negotiations are taking place between the local police and the Taliban.  Survival is the aim.

True to erratic form, the Trump administration is attempting to adjust old and stubborn positions.  The President had preferred a swift withdrawal and termination of the conflict but Defence Secretary Jim Mattis got to his ear, preferring a more conventional topping up of forces – an additional 4,000 troops in a last hurrah for a victory that never came.

Instead, new talks with the Taliban are being proposed.  A few preliminary ones have already taken place in Qatar.  In their aftermath, State Department spokeswoman Stephanie R. Newman preferred a modest assessment.

“Any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and the Afghan government.”

The giant is being humbled.

The Taliban remain an indigenous force, nigh impossible to dislodge.  Its unsavoury brand of Islam will not fly in cosmopolitan circles, but that hardly matters. In the game of crude politics, they have survived and become a reality impossible to ignore, let alone defeat.  Swords may, in time, be sheathed, and guns holstered – if only temporarily.

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Is US Afghanistan policy failing on purpose?


NOVANEWS

Why is the US continuing the stalemate in Afghanistan as a matter of policy?

Afghans question US worth in Taliban fight, as Pentagon watchdog admits ‘lack of progress’

With few Americans coming home in body bags, the Afghanistan war is off the public’s radar

[ Editor’s Note: My question in the title is a serious one, because it does not take a genius to understand that an incremental increase in US ground troops would be easily countered by additional Taliban-recruiting to drive out the infidels.

Using the big bombers has a history of failure in insurgent warfare, where high causalities boomerang because the Taliban then wants to wipe out more government positions while inflicting retaliatory attacks on Kabul.

The smart money has long advised a negotiated settlement, which the US has chosen to ignore, preferring the ongoing stalemate, as it keeps the Afghan government under its total control. The Afghan government would otherwise likely be overthrown in the first year, should the US leave.

The Inspector General’s office is historically and widely respected. Somehow the Israelis have not managed to take it over when it has so many other branches, to assure Israeli interests win out over everyone else’s.

The Afghans can sustain the current level of casualties forever, if the US keeps the money flowing

I would love to say that this report might trigger some backlash against the current US policy, but I doubt it. The US public has a record of growing tone deaf and losing interest in all foreign wars whenever significant US casualties are not being incurred.

Most US “troops” in Afghanistan stay “inside the wire”. They train the Afghan military and provide technical and air support.

No one in Congress seems curious how, after decades of war, the Afghan government has not learned how to train its own forces, when rural Afghanis practically come out of the womb already knowing how to shoot with a rifle.

That said, Kabul has lots of company, in that US and Israeli trainers cover the world with their “trainers”, which allows them the ability to recruit long term Intel assets by staying in constant contact under the cover of training.

I was surprised that even after the successful but expensive defeat of ISIS by the Iraqis, where the Popular Militias played such a key role, Baghdad is continues to use US “trainers”, despite knowing the US has been a proxy terror group sponsor in the Mideast for many years now. Please riddle me that in the comments … Jim W. Dean ]

A Taliban suicide bomber awaits his fate – a symbol of “who has who tied up in Afghanistan”

… from Russia Today, Moscow

Despite committing additional resources to Afghanistan, US troops and local security forces have made little inroads against the Taliban. Some Afghan lawmakers are questioning whether the country needs US assistance at all.

A report to Congress prepared by the Pentagon’s inspector general challenges an earlier assessment of the US military that the latest increase of support to the Afghan national security forces helped turn the corner and gain momentum against the militant movement. Over the first quarter of 2018 the Taliban’s threat has not greatly diminished.

“The Taliban continued to hold territory and launched devastating terrorist attacks in Kabul and across the country,” Glenn Fine, the deputy Pentagon inspector general, wrote in an introductory note to the report, which was released on Monday.

The Trump administration changed the US Afghanistan policy in August last year, deploying 3,000 additional troops to the country. Yet Kabul is far from achieving the benchmark of controlling areas where at least 80 percent of the Afghan population lives, as set out by Washington.

As of the end of January, the figure stood at 65 percent, compared to 64 percent last quarter, the report said. There were few changes in control over territory too, with the Taliban controlling or contesting almost half of Afghanistan.

The listed strength of the Afghan security troops, the , has dropped in January to 313,728, down from 331,708 a year earlier, the report said. The estimated number of actual troops is 11 percent below the target of 352,000 set by the Afghan government, reflecting the recruitment difficulties it faces.

Amid the stalemate in the 17-year-long war, some politicians in Kabul are saying the support it gets from the US is not enough. Mohammad Alam Ezedyar, first deputy speaker of the upper chamber of the Afghan parliament, said on Monday that Kabul should change the security agreement with the US, TOLO news reported.

“What have we achieved from this security agreement? Nothing, except notoriety,” agreed senator Zalmai Zabuli. “The foreign forces in Afghanistan have not fulfilled their commitments,” argued senator Mohammad Hanif Hanifi.

In a fresh example of failing security in Afghanistan, 16 people were reported killed and dozens injured on Tuesday after a suspected car bomb explosion in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. And on Monday night clashes between Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces in the Ghazni province left seven officers killed.

The US mission in Afghanistan may soon receive a new commander, Reuters said on Tuesday. Army Lieutenant General Scott Miller would replace Army General John ‘Mick’ Nicholson in the position in a matter of months, sources in the Pentagon told the agency.

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Afghanistan: Deconstructing America’s Murder Machine


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State Department’s Letter to the Afghan freedom fighters Villagers Is Not Diplomacy. It Is a Joke.

Editor’s Note:  This is a letter to Congress, written by Kadir A. Mohmand, Former Representative for North America of the Afghan Freedom Fighters in the 1980s. He refers to the State Department’s letter to the Afghan freedom fighter villagers. He also addresses the Honorable Alice Wells, U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs U.S. Department of State, regarding the Kabul Peace Conference (which he declares a sham)  held on February 28, 2018.

Read, learn, and understand what the Afghan population faces daily.  Listen to someone who has lived there, fought for Afghanistan and its principles, and seeks to open the eyes of the citizens of the U.S. who see Afghanistan mentioned in daily news reports, but as is so often the case, are not being given accurate or relevant information about this besieged country. Obama was working at deescalating presence in Afghanistan and now Trump would amp up U.S. participation in Afghanistan’s affairs….After reading this article you will know the real reason why Trump has not followed his predecessor’s policies regarding Afghanistan. Shame on Trump……g 


U.S. Congress, Washington D.C.  The State Department’s Letter to the Afghan freedom fighters Villagers Is Not Diplomacy. It Is a Joke.

Dear Honorable Congresspersons:

As history has shown, Afghan people cherish their freedom more than their lives. During the recent peace conference on February 28, 2018, the U.S. Department of State released a letter to the parties involved including the Afghan Freedom Fighters Villagers regarding the with preconditions for talks. I believe the current State Department does not know what they are doing – what diplomacy is. The State Department only listens to the war profiteers such as Zalmay Khalilzdad, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Mohammad Humayun Qayoumi, Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, Yousef Pashtun to set their policy. These war profiteers are only concerned with their financial interests and not those interests of the American or Afghan people. The war profiteers, China and Russia are happy that we continue to make the same mistakes in Afghanistan.

For many years, I have seen the same strategy used by the U.S. government, which is a list of preconditions that the Afghan Freedom Fighters must accept before any peace talks are held. This strategy has been used by Israel for years with Palestinians and has not brought peace. The U.S. administration guided by war profiteers has set preconditions, which it knows the Afghan freedom fighters and the Afghan majority will not accept and/or not be able to meet.

The parties know that the Afghan Freedom Fighters will not come to the peace table with those same preconditions. The Afghan freedom fighters do not want a repeat of the mistakes made during the 1980s. There needs to be initial talks without preconditions. That is the road to true peace. As I have offered many times, I can be the bridge. I only want peace, not profit.

Thus, once again, when peace talks are held and the Afghan freedom fighters do not come to the table, then the parties will blame the failure of the so-called peace talks on the Afghan freedom fighters, while making themselves look like they were sincerely extending an olive branch. This endless circle has been happening these past 17 years. I strongly believe the intention of the U.S. administration is to establish a framework of preconditions or “hurdles” they know the Afghan freedom fighters will not or cannot jump over. The parties will then say we tried to establish peace through talks but the Afghan freedom fighters refused to participate and did not meet the preconditions for talks.

Why is the U.S. reviving farcical peace talks? I strongly believe the U.S. government and the U.S. installed Kabul Administration do not really want peace and stability because the U.S. government wants to have military presence in Afghanistan long term. The U.S. wants an outer defense perimeter in Central Asia and to secure a new supply chain and control of Afghanistan’s minerals especially its Rare Earth Elements (REEs) which are vital to U.S. defense technology.

The U.S. government cannot justify its long-term presence to the U.S. people unless there is a continued Afghan resistance and instability. To keep the Afghan resistance going, the U.S. needs to continue its divide and conquer tactics with Afghans fighting Afghans. Likewise, the U.S. installed Kabul Administration and all of the other war profiteers will not profit if there is peace and stability in Afghanistan.

In the 1980s, I fought the Soviets and the Afghan communists to stop their occupation and the spread of communism. Now, I see that communist China and Russia, with its KGB Putin, are gaining influence in Afghanistan, which greatly concerns me. They are our enemies.

I hate war. I know the suffering that war causes. It is time to end the cycle of war and suffering. It is time for sincere peace talks with the Afghan majority, the Afghan villagers, without preconditions. The U.S. needs to change its war strategy to a peace strategy. The U.S. needs to stop bombarding, terrorizing and massacring the Afghan villagers especially in the Pashtun areas rich with REEs.

Please allow the Afghan Americans, like myself, who are not war profiteers, to be the bridge. I believe the majority of Afghans do not want the U.S. government to occupy and continue to interfere in and control Afghanistan only the war profiteers want it to continue. Also, I believe the majority of Americans do not want this longest and most expensive war and occupation to continue.

I strongly believe that the only route to peace is if the U.S. government holds direct, one- on -one talks with the Afghan Freedom Fighters. As I have informed the Department of State many times, I along with many other educated American Afghans, who are not war profiteers, are willing and able to be at the table to bring peace and reconciliation to honorably end this ugly and dirty war for both sides.


To the Honorable Alice Wells, U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs U.S. Department of State

RE: Upcoming Kabul Peace Conference on February 28, 2018 is a Sham,

Peace Can Only be Achieved with the End of the War and U.S. Occupation.

Afghan Villagers’ Voice Must Be Heard.

Dear Deputy Wells:

The February 28th Peace Conference is just a farce, a continuation of the war and occupation policy. The Afghan villagers (Afghan Freedom Fighters) control more than seventy percent of Afghanistan, have been terrorized by the United States’ war and occupation these past seventeen years. The Afghan villagers want an end to the U.S. war and occupation, that is the only way to peace and justice. The Afghan villagers do not have a voice at any negotiation or conference table. The only voices at the negotiation and conference table have been and will be once again those of the superpowers, regional neighbors of Afghanistan, the selected Afghan administration consisting of war profiteers, war lords, ethnic minority Northern Alliance and communist war criminals.

The U.S. selected Afghan puppet administration does not represent the Afghan villagers. Their voices only represent their own interests. The Afghan villagers (Afghan Freedom Fighters) are defending their land, their families and their vast untapped Rare Earth Elements (REEs) from destruction and exploitation. The Afghan villagers want peace, but there cannot be peace without justice, which requires that first there be an end to the U.S. war and occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. must accept its loss in Afghanistan.

During these past seventeen (17) years, the U.S. with its war strategy, has terrorized Afghan women and children in the villages. Everyday Afghan women and children, especially the Pashtun, are raped, kidnapped, tortured, bombed, their houses demolished, their Rare Earth Elements and other natural resources exploited, imprisoned for political views, forced into prostitution, and killed. In many spots in Afghanistan, the U.S. especially its CIA, holds Afghan women in secret detention centers. The United States has and is committing war crimes against the Afghan villagers. The majority ethnic group, the Pashtun, who are the natives, who live in areas rich with Rare Earth Elements, are being ethnically cleansed and genocide is occurring. A peace conference is not going to stop this terror. There has to be an end to the U.S. war and occupation, which has been escalated by the Trump Administration.

I hate war. I want true peace and stability in Afghanistan. The Afghan villagers, are the victims of this war. This war continues because of the war profiteers’ greed, the U.S.’s goal to control the vast untapped Rare Earth Elements (REEs) in the Helmand Region, which are needed to secure a supply chain independent of China, and because of its strategic location as the new outer defense perimeter for the United States.

The U.S State Department’s policy under Trump is the main obstacle to true peace in Afghanistan. I believe the U.S. State Department’s policy toward Afghanistan is controlled by the war profiteers and drug traffickers the majority of the selected Afghan administration puppet, who are war profiteers, Afghan communist war criminals and/or war lords. They do not want peace. They want more division and turmoil to justify a continuation of the covert war. The war provides them with enormous personal wealth.

Therefore, the U.S. State Department’s policy of having Afghan government led negotiations, will be a dead end. As I have stated many times, the U.S. government needs to directly talk with the Afghan Freedom Fighters. I believe this route has the greatest chance of bringing true peace in Afghanistan. The middle men need to be initially cut out of the process. The Afghan Freedom Fighters wants to negotiate directly with the U.S. without any foreign countries or war profiteers interfering. They do not want to repeat the mistakes made during the 1980s during the Soviets’ war/ occupation when the negotiations went through Pakistan, who profited enormously from that war. Unfortunately, the public only hears the war profiteers’ perspective.

Presently, the United States is bombarding the Afghan villages, innocent civilians, using uranium -tipped weaponry, illegal bombs with radioactive materials and other new types of bombs and weaponry. With Russia and Iran still in Syria supporting the criminal dictator, Asad, the United States has lost and cannot defeat him. It cannot win there. The war mongering U.S. generals are moving the troops into Afghanistan and focusing their anger and revenge onto the Afghan villagers, because they along with Trump so desperately want to win. Every day the United States, NATO, its mercenaries, and its selected Afghan administration puppet have shown that they cannot fight the Afghan villagers on the ground.

When the U.S. forces lose the battle on the ground they bombard the Afghan villages. On one day in Kunduz Province, in Chardara District, the U.S. and its cohorts dropped 216 bombs on villagers destroying 46 villages. Please see the attached videos, which have been posted on Facebook by Afghan villagers documenting these crimes. To justify the bombardment of the Afghan villages, the U.S. is spreading propaganda that there are new terrorist groups in Afghanistan without any proof. The only terrorists roaming the Afghan villages are mercenaries/thugs and warlords contracted by the U.S. and its selected Afghan administration.

I am concerned about the United States and Afghanistan. The United States is my homeland and Afghanistan is my motherland. History does repeat itself. In the 19th century, the British superpower lost its wars in Afghanistan. Soon after it lost its status as a global superpower. In the 20th century, the Afghans defeated the Soviets, who were forced to withdraw in 1989. It lost the war and was drained economically by the decade long war. Soon after the Soviet Union fell apart, the Warsaw Pact was demolished and it did not exist. In the 21st century, the United States invaded Afghanistan and has occupied it and waged war for 17 years. It has spent trillions on this war/occupation, but it has not won anything. In fact, the U.S has more debt and is less secure. Only the war profiteers have won and lined their pockets. The United States has borrowed trillions from China and others. China is winning.

Right now, the U.S. must be very careful not to slip down the slope like the former superpowers because China and Russia want to see the United States fail and topple economically. China wants to be the only superpower. Russia wants to be with China and be a superpower again. Afghanistan is a money pit and a war that cannot be won. I believe the solution is that the U.S. must change its policy from a war policy to a peace policy. The war profiteers are pushing for a continuation of the war. To achieve true peace, the U.S. must carefully hold direct negotiations with the Afghan resistance and hold sincere talks to bring true peace. Otherwise, I fear that the U.S. will crumble just like the other superpowers have and there will not be peace in Afghanistan. Both countries will lose. If the United States continues the same course in Afghanistan, China will be the only superpower.

As history has shown, Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. I believe that may happen to the United States if Americans do not wake up. With President Trump, who appears to be the Russia’s selected puppet, the war will escalate. There is no winning for the U.S., which is exactly what Putin wants. The Trump Administration is not letting the American people know what really is happening in the war which is evidenced in the Pentagon’s refusal to release the Afghanistan’s war data, which has always been done in the past. As a democracy, the people have a right to know. In his State of the Union address, Trump did not talk too much about Afghanistan and Russia because he has everything to hide about these two issues. Our democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people. Trump thinks it is all about him.

After talking with UN officials, on January 29th Trump announced that his administration would not talk with the Taliban. Trump thinks he can win this ugly, illegal war in Afghanistan, which has not been won despite almost 17 years of fighting. Furthermore, he said that the United States would have to finish what it started. What Trump has started since he took office is an escalation of the war and violence. Under his administration more than 4,200 bombs (including the unlawful mother of all bombs) have been dropped on Afghan villagers mainly in Pashtun areas where the vast deposits of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) and other natural resources are located.

Trump perpetuates and escalates war because he does not know what war is. He does not understand the ugliness war causes. He only knows greed and the art of bragging. How could Trump know war? He is a coward, who did everything he could to run away from war and dodge the draft and not fight in the Vietnam War. He does not send his children to war. Trump sends them to Africa to shoot endangered species.

Trump rants about others killing people left and right including women and children. During the past 17 years, Afghan villagers, many women and children, have been killed left and right in their villages, while sleeping, playing, eating, praying, attending weddings, studying etc. by the U.S. forces, its Afghan administration forces, its paid war criminals and warlords like Rashid Dostum and other paid thugs, and its mercenaries/private contractors. Since Trump took office he has escalated this cowardly killing. Trump’s lust for the REE’s is the reason the violence is perpetuated and escalated.

Only after Trump learned from the Pentagon about Afghanistan’s rare earth elements (REEs), deposits worth trillions, did he decide to stay in Afghanistan- a war the U.S. has lost. Now, while the U.S. under the Trump Administration and NATO escalate the war against and the massacring of Afghan/Pashtun villagers in Helmand and other mainly Pashtun areas where the super majority of the Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are located, the UN holds a meeting on January 19, 2018 to talk about the future of Afghanistan and peace. The UN, the superpowers, Afghanistan’s greedy Central Asian neighbors and the Afghan puppets and other war profiteers talk about peace and security, because they want a piece of the REE pie.

They all want to exploit the Afghan/Pashtun villagers’ REEs and other mineral wealth. The only roadblock to this successful exploitation is the Afghan Pashtun villagers in the Helmand Province, where almost all of the vast untapped REEs worth trillions are located. They are fighting to defend their homeland, their families and their mineral wealth from being exploited by superpowers, greedy neighbors, other war profiteers and northern alliance warlords.

The Afghan Pashtun villagers are the native, indigenous people of Afghanistan. It is there is their land especially the REE rich Helmand Province. It’s all about control over and exploitation of these REEs. To do so, it’s all about the U.S., NATO and its puppets eliminating the road block by massacring and relocating the Afghan. Pashtun villagers. The UN needs to stop blaming the Afghan Pashtun villagers. They are the victims. That is not “fake” news…….

At one of his recent media events in 2017, Trump himself boldly stated that he wanted the United States to “exploit” the REEs. Before the Pentagon kept the existence of the vast deposits of REES in Afghanistan under the radar. As the past year has shown, Trump cannot help himself. When he was briefed about the REEs worth trillions, his inability to keep quiet and his greed took over. He had to state that he wanted to exploit them in the media. His friends, Michael N. Silver of American Elements, a company that specializes in mining REEs and his adviser, billionaire friend, Stephen A. Feinberg of Dyncorp will benefit from this exploitation. Probably Trump and his family will too.

The vast untapped deposits of REEs are located on the Afghan/Pashtun villagers’ land mostly in Helmand Province and other Pashtun areas throughout Afghanistan. The Afghan/Pashtun villagers are fighting to defend their land that is being taken from them for control over the REEs. It is really not about terrorism. It is really about exploiting the Afghan’s REEs! I believe the Afghan Villagers are not terrorizing the United States, but the United States is terrorizing the Afghan villagers. The United States has lost the war but it continues to massacre the Afghan villagers, mainly Pashtun, in their villages in Helmand Province where the vast untapped deposits are located. The Afghan Pashtun villagers are the only resistance and road block to the United States and other war profiteers’ exploitation and theft of the Afghan Pashtun villagers’ Rare Earth Elements.

Trump sees the escalation of the war, which targets the villagers in Helmand, as the only way for the United States to control and exploit the Earth Elements (REEs) such as lithium, worth trillions, which are vital to defense systems and technology. It allows the United States to build its strategic stockpile of REEs. In a Pentagon internal memorandum, the Pentagon called Afghanistan “the Saudi Arabia of Lithium”. REEs such as Scandium, Yttrium and fifteen lanthanides are key ingredients in a number of military applications such as guided missiles, lasers, radar systems, night field equipment, battlefield communications, guidance and control systems for Tomahawk Cruise missiles, smart bombs, predator unmanned aircraft etc.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is establishing a strategic stockpile of these REEs as it has an insufficient supply to meet its demand. China has mined REEs in its country and has dominance as the main supplier of REEs that are of strategic importance to the U.S. military. China controls 90% of the world’s supply. According to petroleumnews.com (03/31/2013), U.S. Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, and Representative Mike Coffman, stated that “’clearly rare earth supply limitations present a serious vulnerability to our national security…”

The U.S. DOD provided Congress with a written report on its REE demand and stockpile requirements. The United States was looking for a new supply chain for REEs. Based on information I have received, I strongly believe the United States knew about the REEs deposits in the Helmand Province even before the tragic events of 9/11 and before it chose to invade and occupy Afghanistan long term. Soon after its invasion in October 2001, the United States dropped down geologists into the REE deposits in Helmand with special operation forces.

The U.S. has used special aircraft with special technology to look at the subsurface geological strata to map out the location of REE deposits in Afghanistan. The DOD has a special division to address REEs. Afghan villages located near the vast REE deposits are bombed and destroyed. The Pashtun villagers are forced to relocate or are killed. They are wrongly labeled “terrorists” because they resist the destruction of their homes and villages and the stealing of their minerals.

I believe the U.S. and its Afghan puppet government are committing war crimes. They are terrorizing the Afghans in these areas. In September 2012, when I met with Amb. Hugo Llorens, second in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, he talked about the REE deposits. He thought because of my engineering background I would be interested in obtaining a contract to be involved in the REE mining. I am not a war profiteer. I would not profit from war and the blood of my Afghan brothers.

It is all about Afghanistan being the United States’ new supply chain for REEs! It is not about nation building. It is not about terrorism! It is not about helping the Afghan people! A former State Department employee, who worked on the ground in Afghanistan, told me in an e-mail that the U.S. government does not care about Afghans. Of course, REEs are never discussed at the hearings of the armed services committees or the recent UN meeting or at the peace conferences. Why has the U.S. been so secretive about the REEs in Afghanistan? It is much easier for the U.S. strategically to steal and stockpile the REEs. I strongly believe when it kills the Afghan Pashtun villagers to achieve this goal the U.S. has to make it look like the killing of the villagers was to stop terrorism.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan to exploit REEs is illegal. The United States’ invasion and occupation of Afghanistan violates the UN Charter and international law. First, the United Nations’ Charter is a treaty which was ratified by the United States. As a ratified treaty it became part of US law. Therefore, the US must comply with the UN Charter. Article 2 (4) of the Charter, bans the use of armed force against another country except under two circumstances. It reads, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” This article has also become part of the international customary law.

The U.S. war is illegal from its inception. Under the UN Charter, there are two exceptions to the ban on the use of armed force. First, a country can use armed force against another country in self-defense as provided for in Article 51. Second, a country can use armed force when the UN Security Council approves such force to maintain or restore international peace and security. Neither of those exceptions were met before the United States invaded Afghanistan and began waging war.

The United States’ war in Afghanistan is beyond the scope of self-defense allowed by Article 51. Self-defense can only legally take place when an armed attack takes place against a state. The Afghan government in 2001, the Taliban, did not attack the United States on 9/11. Nineteen individuals, 15 from Saudi Arabia, attacked the United States. The State of Afghanistan did not attack the United States. A non-state actor, Al Qaeda allegedly did. That is a fact. No evidence has ever been produced by the United States to the contrary. Propaganda, speculation and expert opinions in the media do not constitute credible and relevant evidence.

The use of armed force against Afghanistan (and not simply against alleged al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan) could not and cannot be justified by the right of self-defense against an armed attack, because the armed attack could not and cannot be attributed to Afghanistan. In 2001, the State of Afghanistan, governed by the Taliban, had no overall control over Osama Bin Laden or his followers, “Al Qaeda”. The U.S. could not and cannot attribute the armed attack of September 11, 2001 to the State of Afghanistan by simply alleging that the Taliban harbored Al Qaeda or was a mere safe haven.

The creation of Al Qaeda can be attributed to the U.S. In the 1980s, when the brave Afghans were fighting against the Soviet Union and the puppet Afghan communist government, the United States trained Osama Bin Laden and other Arabs in Texas. Then the United States brought these Arabs to Afghanistan and trained them along with others in CIA training camps in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. I have firsthand knowledge because I was fighting in Afghanistan at that time against the Soviet invaders. I saw these CIA camps and Arabs, which the Afghans did not want or need in Afghanistan.

The United States had overall control over these CIA training camps for these Arabs, who eventually attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. The armed attack can be attributed to and imputed to the United States’ action of training Osama Bin Laden and his followers in CIA training camps. Instead, the United States decided to scapegoat the State of Afghanistan, and invade, occupy and wage a war against it for these past 17 years.

Furthermore, there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the US or another UN member country. Self- defense can only be used to repel an attack. Immediately after the tragic events of 9/11, the attacks stopped. There was no imminent threat to attack the US by the Afghan government before or after 9/11.

In addition, the UN Charter and well established international customary law, provide that self-defense would warrant only measures, which are proportionate to the armed attack and necessary to respond to it. It must not entail retaliatory or punitive actions. The US war tactics in Afghanistan are retaliatory, punitive and illegal. In and of itself, the use of cluster bombs, drones, uranium tipped weapons is a disproportionate use of force and unnecessary force. The US’s illegal use of self-defense is collectively punishing an entire nation. It is in violation of the UN Charter and international law. The right to Self-Defense set forth under Article 51 cannot be legally used against Afghanistan because the Afghan government allegedly refused to extradite Bin Laden.

Extradition matters are resolved through peaceful measures in courts and not through the use of armed force with massive cluster bombs, drones, uranium tipped weapons etc., which have killed thousands of innocent Afghans during the past seventeen years. This illegal war and continual killing of innocent Afghan villagers violates the UN Charter and international law. It is not legal self-defense under the UN Charter, international law or any law. The recent use of the “Mother of all bombs” in the Achin District of Afghanistan was a war crime committed by the United States under the Trump Administration. It was a disproportionate use of force. Civilians were targeted and killed even though the United States and its puppet Afghan administration and the UN covered up the war crime. NO media was allowed in that area to report on civilian deaths.

With Trump’s escalation of the war and targeting of the Afghan villagers in Helmand to gain control over the REEs, I strongly believe that the spring will bring more violence with new and more sophisticated weapons on all sides. I have been in war. I hate war. Trump has not been in war. Trump wants to obliterate the roadblock to the U. S’s exploitation of the Afghans’ REEs. Trump is killing the Afghan Pashtun villagers-the “roadblock”.

The situation is not getting better in Afghanistan. It is more violent and less secure. The U.S. has lost the war in Afghanistan. U.S. soldiers and diplomats must fly in helicopters for very short distances from the U.S. compounds to places like the airport. These soldiers and diplomats and the U.S. -selected Afghan Administration hide behind 20- foot concrete walls that surround their compounds, palaces, and government buildings. There is no winning. The U.S. war policy only perpetuates more violence. I believe a true peace strategy is the key, but that cannot occur until the U.S. stops waging war in Afghanistan and the U.S. sits down with the Afghan Pashtun villagers, the freedom fighters, to negotiate true peace, which must include the issue of the exploitation of REEs and how the Afghan villagers will receive a piece of the REE “pie”.

As an American Afghan, a U.S. citizen, I want to see peace between my homeland and motherland. I believe to bring peace, there must be justice first for the Afghan villagers. To do so, requires an end to the U.S. war and occupation of Afghanistan. I am willing to serve as the bridge in any true peace negotiations, which must include the Afghan villagers.

Sincerely,  Kadir A. Mohmand

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Afghanistan: Deconstructing America’s Murder Machine

Geopolitical Rivalries and Afghanistan’s Open-Ended War


NOVANEWS

Geopolitical Rivalries and Afghanistan’s Open-Ended War. China Extends its Influence to the Detriment of America

Shifting Geopolitical Reality in Afghanistan: Threat to US Hegemony? Part II

Violent geopolitical rivalries between imperialist and hegemonist powers over Afghanistan’s natural resources, trade and transit routes, and geostrategic location have dramatically intensified. Despite sixteen years of heavy-handed US presence to establish its hegemony in Afghanistan and beyond, influence of regional powers like Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and India is growing.      

The Perpetual War

Sixteen years into the longest war in its history, the US is aggressively flexing its muscles to assert and maintain its hegemony in Afghanistan and the region. This new development, however, does not stem from Donald Trump’s so-called Afghan strategy. The aggressive posture on the part of the US is partially a reaction to its humiliating defeat in Syria – and one should add Iraq – at the hands of Russia and Iran (with China in the background). Trump’s strategy generated some hysteria among the chattering class as being qualitatively distinct from its predecessors in that it commits the US to an open-ended war.

The fact of the matter is that ever since its official launch on October 7, 2001, the US war in Afghanistan has been an open-ended war. Its endgame depends on US’s hegemonist goals in the region. In other words, the US is pursuing a strategy of perpetual war in Afghanistan irrespective of which president holds office.

Under the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), the US maintains nine military bases at strategic locations across Afghanistan including those bordering Iran, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics. The Afghan airspace is controlled by the US for all practical and strategic purposes. The latter, thus, enjoys a unique geopolitical lead to project power beyond Afghanistan. The infrastructure allows the US to deploy up to 100,000 troops in two to four weeks.

In the grand geopolitical chessboard of Afghanistan, the US is left with the military option only which it pursues, at this stage, through a combination of terrorist proxies, drone attacks and Special Forces operations. It has locked itself in at a geopolitical space surrounded by hostile regional powers like Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

More recently, by elevating IS presence in Afghanistan and its level of threat to US enemies such as Russia, China, and Iran, the US is elevating the justification for its own military options intended to go beyond Afghan strategic geography. The US is essentially playing a destabilizing role in the region as it aims at establishing world-tyranny. Its strategy revolves around the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine which aims at preventing the emergence of a regional or global power that could challenge US’s sole hegemonic status.

However, US’s attempt at establishing its hegemony in Afghanistan and beyond is being challenged by a de facto strategic alliance involving Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan. In other words, the US-NATO coalition is facing a formidable enemy – three of which are nuclear powers – determined to contain US’s hegemonist ambitions in the region. China and Russia are at the forefront of shaping this new geopolitical reality.

The Harmonious Hegemony

China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative that aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe surpasses trade and economic interests and shifts the geopolitical dynamics on a global scale. Its immediate implications are already felt in South and Central Asia – where its ultimate success depends – with Afghanistan as the geopolitical heartland.

As part of OBOR, the over $50-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) subproject became operational on November 13, 2016 when the first batch of Chinese cargo was transported to Gwadar port in insurgency-ridden southern Baluchistan province for onward maritime shipment to markets in Africa and West Asia. China has built a naval base in Gwadar overseeing the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean with a second one reportedly in the making exclusively for military purposes. Gwadar runs deep in China’s strategic nerves both in peacetime but especially in wartime which could see blockade of Chinese naval access to the Pacific. Given Pakistan’s overdependence on China, CPEC is believed to cement China’s clout to influence political and military decisions in that country.

China has further consolidated its strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean by taking over the strategic Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on a 99-year lease contract with 70% stake in exchange for reducing $1.1 billion of the country’s overall 8$ billion debt to China. China’s $38 billion worth of investments in Bangladesh may likely result in breaking up the geopolitical stalemate over the construction of a deep seaport in Sonadia island following pressures exerted by the US, India and Japan on Bangladesh forcing it to abandon the project. China was outmaneuvered over Sonadia by Japan’s counterproposal to construct the Matarbari deep seaport 25km from Sonadia. That may now be changing as Sino-Bangladeshi relationship has been elevated to the strategic level.

All this is happening to the dismay of the US and India – and Japan – who see China’s growing influence as a direct threat to their hegemony over shipping corridors in the Indian Ocean. In anti-Chinese jargon, increasing Chinese presence in and around the Indian Ocean is called The String of Pearls which the trio sees as a Chinese containment strategy. China maintains that its naval presence is to protect its sea lines of communication (SLOCs) – critical among them the South China Sea – that connect Chinese mainland to foreign sources of energy in the Middle East and Africa and build a “harmonious ocean”. China, in other words, is all about harmonious hegemony.

It is in Afghanistan that the tectonic geopolitical shift is played out in all its ugly forms and manifestations. China seems to be the main winner in post-US occupation Afghanistan having secured lucrative deals to exploit natural resources.

Mes Aynak overview (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

After allegedly paying a $30 million bribe to the Afghan Minister of Mines, the state-run China Metallurgical Group Corporation (CMGC) secured the contract for Mes Aynak copper mine in Logar province, one of the largest copper reserves in the world and a 5000-year-old archaeological site, in November 2007. The company managed to acquire the 30-year lease contract against competitors from Russia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. China will invest $3 billion in Mes Aynak which is valued at more than $90 billion.

The contract contains two important clauses: (1) construction of a coal-fired power plant for mining purposes (with environmental consequences) and (2) construction of a freight carrying train line connecting West China to Mes Aynak through Tajikistan to be further extended to Quetta in Pakistan.

Image result for Lapis Lazuli Corridor

Source: agenda.ge

At the first trilateral dialogue between China, Afghanistan and Pakistan in Beijing on December 26, 2017, Afghanistan agreed to join CPEC despite prior hesitation at the behest of India which opposes CPEC, among other reasons, as it passes through the strategically located Pakistan-occupied Kashmir region of Gilgit-Baltistan which borders the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the Xinjiang region of China to the east and northeast, and the Indian-occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast. As part of China’s New Silk Road project, Afghanistan also favors construction of a network of roads and railway lines linking it to the Caspian Sea, Mediterranean Sea and eventually to Europe through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The Lapis Lazuli Corridor involving Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey was signed in November 2017 to this effect.

In December 2011, Afghanistan signed its first international oil exploration contract with China National Petroleum Corporation. China, with an investment of $3 billion, won the 25-year contract for the exploration and exploitation of oil in Amu Darya region of northern Afghanistan (Sar-i-Pul and Faryab provinces). It is estimated that the Amu Darya Basin between Tajikistan and Afghanistan contains more than 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil. China’s local partner in the project is “Watan Group” of companies related to Hamid Karzai whose decision to refrain from signing the “Bilateral Security Agreement” with the United States may well be connected to these Chinese investments. It is also estimated that other reserves in Balkh and Jawzjan Northern provinces contain 3.5 billion barrels of crude oil. The contract for the latter reserve was awarded in 2013 to an international consortium including Dragon Oil from the UAE, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and their local Ghazanfar Group from Afghanistan.

The Sino-Afghan Special Railway Transportation that connects China, through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with northern Afghanistan (Hairatan port), a vital segment of the One Belt, One Road initiative, was inaugurated as the first-ever freight train line between the two countries in September 2016. The railway link was a joint project of China’s Qin Geng Industrial Co. Ltd and the local Watan Group. However, the link is yet to become fully operational due to India-leaning Uzbekistan’s refusal to allow direct export of Afghan goods through its territory to China.

In January 2017, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) signed a $205 million contract to build the 178-kilometer Dare-e-Sof–Yakawlang road project connecting the northern Samangan with central Bamyan province. This is the second phase of the National North-South Corridor. The now completed first phase was Mazar-i-Sharif – Yakawlang road and the third, yet to commence, being the 550km central Bamyan– southern Kandahar road project.

At first glance, it seems that China has made these lucrative deals at the expense of the security cover provided by NATO-US troops. Nothing could be further from the truth. The start of extraction work of the Chinese workers at Mes Aynak copper mine under the security coverage by 2,000 government troops coincided with the popping up of armed groups which specifically targeted Chinese workers forcing a halt to extraction and their return home.

In the meantime, two governors of Logar province namely Abdullah Wardak and Arsala Jamal, both tasked with facilitating extraction at Mes Aynak, were assassinated in September 2008 and October 2013 respectively. Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination of Wardak but no group claimed responsibility for assassinating Jamal. Ten years on and the project remains in a limbo.

Similarly, the start of extraction of crude oil by the Chinese in Sar-i-Pul and Faryab provinces was met with attacks by armed groups targeting the Chinese and efforts to destabilize these provinces. Six ICRC staff members were killed in Jawzjan province in February 2017 with no claims of responsibility by any group.

In recent months, IS fighters many of them foreigners were moved to the north of Afghanistan where they have established a foothold in Sar-i-Pul, Faryab and Jawzjan provinces.

There are also intensified efforts to destabilize Xinjiang and encourage separatism there through the Afghan northeastern province of Badakhshan, a main route in the ancient Silk Road, which shares borders with Tajikistan to the north and east and China’s Xinjiang and Pakistan to the east through the historical Wakhan Corridor. The separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is believed to be mainly operating in Badakhshan.

Xinjiang is an important region of China as it borders eight countries: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

In response, China is taking precautionary measures as it expands its economic, security and political role in Afghanistan through bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral arrangements.

Image on the right: Former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai and former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Hu Jintao.

Image result for jintao and karzai

On June 16, 2006, China signed the Treaty of Good-Neighborly Friendship and Cooperation with the Karzai government. Article Four of the Treaty is an indicator of China’s strategic forethought when it comes to the US presence in Afghanistan:

“The parties have undertaken not to join coalitions or blocs that violate the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of the other party, or to resort to such measures, including the conclusion of treaties of this kind with a third country. The parties shall not allow a third country to use their territory to threaten the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other party.

The two sides shall prevent the establishment of organizations and institutions that violate the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other party in their territory.”

In August 2016, the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counter Terrorism, comprising the militaries of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, was launched, symbolically, in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. In one of the most dramatic turn of events, Chinese military was spotted in early 2017 conducting “anti-terrorism” patrols deep inside eastern Afghan territory marking the presence of Chinese military involvement in Afghanistan and signaling China’s readiness for potential military engagement should developments necessitate. As China expands its security stakes in Afghanistan, it has also started supplying military aid to the Afghan army.

At the December 2017 trilateral dialogue in Beijing, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan agreed to joint cooperation against terrorism tied to Xinjiang specifically against ETIM.

China is also proactively increasing its political influence in Afghanistan in concert with its economic and trade interests. Recently, China stepped up its efforts as a mediator and broker of peace in Afghanistan. In fact, the first round of the trilateral dialogue at the level of foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan in December 2017 is an indication of the shifting geopolitical landscape in the region. These Chinese efforts are in line with that country’s economic projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond.

China is also a party to the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) involving the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan which mediates talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Russia-China-Pakistan triumvirate

Russia, like Iran, was one of the first countries that supported the occupation of Afghanistan following 9/11. NATO-led forces in Afghanistan used Russian territory for their supplies until the Ukrainian war put an end to this cozy relationship.

Russia is, however, opposed to the long-term presence of the US in Afghanistan. Gone are the days when Russia wanted the US to stay in Afghanistan. Russia has expressed its position on several occasions against long-term military presence of the US in Afghanistan including through the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolaiy Patrushev:

“Despite Washington’s claims that there is no program for the creation of permanent bases in Afghanistan, we know that US forces will remain in this country after 2014 … Continued long-term foreign military presence in Afghanistan as a boardwagon against other countries in the region, it is unacceptable for Russia.”

On 7 December 2016, the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Alexander Mantytskiy announced that Russia is in contact with the Taliban to protect the safety of its citizens. Some interpreted this move by Moscow as conferring political legitimacy on the group. On December 18, 2017 Mantytskiy testifiedbefore the Afghan Senate saying both Russia and Taliban have a common interest in fighting IS and highlighted failure of the US-NATO coalition in fighting terrorism in their sixteen years of presence in Afghanistan. IS, he said, aims to expand to Central Asia, Russia, and China.

The fact is that Moscow sees Taliban as a counter-weight to IS as the latter’s presence in Afghanistan is dramatically growing. In the span of two years, IS increased its ranks from a mere hundreds in 2015 to over 10,000 fighters in 2017. US-NATO military bases and “unmarked foreign helicopters” support IS in Afghanistan including bringing foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria. Given that Afghan airspace is controlled by US-NATO for all strategic purposes, the Russian government has repeatedly askedNATO for explanation but to no avail so far.

In April 2017, Russia organized a conference on Afghanistan attended by China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan including Afghanistan. The US refused to participate calling it a “unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region”. In a bold move, Russia offered to mediate peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

As India has been consolidating its growing reach and influence in post-9/11 Afghanistan, Pakistan, a dominant player in Afghanistan, has been increasingly politically isolated. China was its only political and economic lifeline. It needed to reach out to Russia.

The pace of Russian-Pakistani rapprochement is particularly interesting given the cold war enmity between the two and Pakistan’s strategic engagement with the US.

In June 2014, Russia made a strategic foreign policy decision by lifting a longstanding ban on arms sales to Pakistan also opening a new market for its weapons after India’s gradual but firm resort to western weaponry. In October 2015, the two countries signed a 25-year contract to construct the 1,100 kilometer North-South gas pipeline with an annual capacity of 12.4 billion cubic meters connecting Lahore in the northeast with Karachi in the south. This came in the wake of successful US and Saudi pressures on Pakistan to abandon the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Given Pakistan’s acute energy needs, the pipeline is a strategic investment by Russia giving it access to energy markets in the wider region.

It was a year later when they elevated their relationship to the level of military-to-military engagement. In September 2016, Russia and Pakistan held their first ever joint military exercise dubbed “Friendship 2016” in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab. This was followed in September 2017 in the southern Russian region of Nizhny Arkhiz. These paved the way for a major concession on the part of Pakistan acceding to Russia’s request to use Gwadar port for its exports in line with Russian interest to join CPEC. It could possibly open the way for a future Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean.

Ever since these new developments, Russia, China and Pakistan are holding trilateral consultations on Afghanistan. The first official round of the trilateral consultations was held in Moscow on 27 December 2016. A day earlier, the Afghan government (echoing US sentiments) protested for having not been invited to the consultations and questioned its “objectives”; some members of the Afghan Senate questioned its “legitimacy”.

By pressuring Pakistan and asking India to play a colossal role in Afghanistan and Central Asia, the US is effectively pushing the former into an alliance with Russia that includes China and Iran giving momentum and dynamism to this multifaceted alliance. But the US moves against Pakistan are part of a grand strategy to contain China.

As Russia and China’s influence expand in the region aligned with their security and economic interests that of the US is dwindling making it increasingly dependent on India.       

The Indian Factor  

As China and Russia gradually increased their influence in Afghanistan and the region, the US sought to envelop India in its regional strategy – mainly to counter China. In the new US regional strategy, India is meant to become part of the US war machinery to sustain America’s hegemony in the region.

India’s new role, as envisaged by the US, was outlined in a speech entitled “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century” by Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, in October 2017. Envisioning a strategic partnership for the 21st century, Tillerson, quoting US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, said: “the world’s two greatest democracies should have the two greatest militaries”.

And to signal the importance of India’s new place in the US geopolitical psyche, he employed the phrase “Indo-Pacific”, the new official US jargon for Asia-Pacific, which converges with India’s own Look East Policy. In other words, India has become the new and perhaps the only pillar of US’s South Asia strategy. The “Arabian Gulf” construction by Donald Trump was loaded with geopolitical connotations and was not just an ignorant utterance; a containment strategy that began with the hegemonist power of constructions. The new US approach to India is in line with US’s attempts at building an “Indo-pacific” coalition against China. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) involving US, Japan, Australia, and India and the Malabar naval exercises are such platforms aimed at Beijing.

India in turn needs to stand on US shoulders if it is to act as a meaningful counterbalance to China’s weight in the region and in the world at large. The Look East Policy is India’s own version of String of Pearls which courts China-wary East Asian countries into an alliance with India backed by the US. Following US-led occupation in 2001, India considerably increased its influence in Afghanistan commensurate with its strategic political, security, economic and trade interests and regional ambitions. India is Afghanistan’s largest regional donor with over $2 billion investment in various projects. As an indication of India’s long-term presence, India built the new building of the Afghan parliament at the cost of $90 million.

India has been engaged in a proxy war with Pakistan in Afghanistan for over three decades. India is also one of China’s main rivals competing for control and exploitation of Afghan natural resources, trade and transit routes. It is important to realize that much of India’s engagement in Afghanistan goes beyond its rivalry with Pakistan, driven as it is by its growing resource-hungry economy, and mostly directed at China as the main target.

To expand its influence, India established its consulates in four of Afghanistan’s strategic provinces (Kandahar, Herat, Nangarhar, and Balkh), to the dismay of Pakistan which sees them as a threat to its security and interests. Repeated attacks on India’s diplomatic representations and on Indian citizens engaged in Indian-funded projects are parts of Pakistan’s proxy war against India.

India’s mega-projects in Afghanistan are part of its “Connect Central Asia Policy” (CCAP) which aims to connect India with Central Asia, bypass Pakistan, and balance China’s growing influence in the region.

In November 2011, a consortium of Indian companies led by the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) was awarded a $10.8 billion contract to extract three out of the five blocks at Hajigak iron ore deposits, one of the biggest untapped resources in Asia, located in central Bamyan province. Another block was awarded to Canada’s Kilo Goldmines Ltd which also mines Gold and Iron ore in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is estimated that the region has 1.8 billion tons of iron ore. India was awarded the deal only one month after signing the “Strategic Partnership Agreement” (SPA) with the Karzai government on October 4, 2011 which is seen as one of the most significant achievements of India’s Afghan and regional policy over the past decades.

The development of Chahbahar port in Iran is a giant geopolitical leap for India in its efforts to balance China’s growing influence in the region. Chahbahar is located only 76km from Gwadar port and is seen as part of India’s strategic moves to counter China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean. The project fits well into the 7,200km long International North–South Transport Corridor – India’s gateway to Eurasia – which is a network of ship, rail, and road routes connecting the Indian Ocean with the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran all the way to Russia and Europe. A joint Iranian-Indian railway line is planned to connect Hajigak with Chahbahar after a trilateral MoU was signed in May 2016 between India, Iran and Afghanistan to build an international trade-and-transit corridor through Afghanistan. The investment at Chahbahar has deepened Indo-Iranian strategic ties as their interests converge on building connectivity between Central and South Asia.

The 215km strategic Zaranj-Delaram highway in the southern Afghan province of Nimroz constructed by India in 2009 connects southern Afghanistan to Chahbahar port in Iran. This is a strategic investment by India as the highway connects trade-routes between Central Asia and South Asia with the Middle East – bypassing Pakistan. The project was built at a great human cost as “…one human sacrifice was made for every kilometer and a half constructed”. In October 2017, India’s first wheat shipment reached Afghanistan via Chahbahar. As part of its efforts to bypass Pakistan, India also opened two air corridors in 2017 to transport cargoes between Afghanistan and India.

Linked to Zaranj-Delaram project is the $290 million India-funded Salma Dam in Herat province with the capacity to irrigate 75,000 hectares of land and generate 42MW of electricity. Construction of Salma Dam particularly irritated Iran which expressed its opposition to such projects supporting Afghan claims of Iranian plots to destroy the Dam.

While India may have to team up with the US and Japan to counter growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean, it has to maintain cordial relations with Russia to sustain its footprint in Central Asia. On the other hand, US plans to destabilize Iran or to directly militarily confront it in future threaten India’s interests in Iran.   

Reflection of the shifting geopolitical reality on Afghan politics

The changing geopolitical reality in Afghanistan has directly reflected on the domestic political landscape, unsettling the status quo and affecting the political power relations (believed to have been dominated by pro-Russia and pro-Iran groups since 2001). The domestic power shift favors US interests and is aimed at increasing US leverage in Afghan affairs. A significant chain of events – seemingly unrelated – unfolds:

  • January 2014: veteran warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum visits Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to solicit support in anticipation of a post-US Afghanistan;
  • September 2014: National Unity Government (NUG) is formed after presidential election results are disputed (the resulting NUG composition reflects how US shares power with regional powers);
  • January 2015: IS announces formation of its “Khorasan Province” officially marking its presence in Afghanistan;
  • October 2015: Dostum, now Vice-President in the NUG, visits Moscow and travels to the North Caucuses Chechen Republic to meet Ramzan Kadyrov in Grozny. Dostum seeks Russia’s help in the fight against IS “as in Syria”;
  • May 2016: Dostum is forced into exile to Turkey after allegations of sexual assault and torture by a former rival. The move is backed by the US, EU and Turkey. He has since been refused to return.
  • September 2016: a so-called peace agreement is signed with veteran jihadist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar backed by the US and Saudi Arabia;
  • May 2017: Hekmatyar returns to Kabul and has since made Iranian influence in Afghanistan the focus of his political rhetoric, thus, promoting US’s anti-Iranian agenda.
  • December 2017: Ghani fires the Governor of strategic Balkh province in the north deemed to be a Russian and Iranian protégé, thus, disturbing the domestic balance of power. The Governor has since refused to vacate his post stating he intends to remain “to defeat the Taliban and IS projects” prompting the US to intervene on the side of the Afghan president.
  • In an unprecedented move, Afghan council of religious scholars asks the government to allow Taliban to open a political office in Kabul for intra-Afghan peace talks.

Conclusion

Afghanistan has been the focus of big power geopolitical rivalries ever since the beginning of the nineteenth century. The so-called Great Game, the geopolitical competition between Britain and Tsarist Russia, culminated in three Anglo-Afghan wars (1839-42, 1878-1880, and 1919). Following the October Revolution, the Great Game continued between revolutionary Russia and Britain. It was, however, after the end of WWII that Afghanistan became a hotspot of geopolitical contest between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The Saur Revolution of 1978 – and the Soviet intervention in December 1979 – was a defining historical moment that disturbed the status quo – not only in Afghanistan but potentially in the wider region. Its immediate effect was that it expedited the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. The United States and their allies supported the counter-revolutionary Mujahedeen against revolutionary Afghanistan to prevent a domino effect in the region. Carter Administration’s secret deal with Khomeini was part of this containment strategy.

Afghanistan’s geostrategic location – including its potential as a major trade and transit hub linking South and Central Asia with the Middle East – as well as its vast natural resources has become a “geopolitical curse” and “resource curse” to its people who remain hostage to this predicament.  An indication of Afghanistan’s geopolitical and geoeconomic weight for regional and international players is the number of so-called strategic agreements signed in anticipation of post-2014 Afghanistan. This is not necessarily good news as it is a sign of the entanglement of competing and at times diametrically opposed interests in the rapidly changing Afghan geopolitical scene.  Russian presidential special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, even spoke of the “disappearance” of Afghanistan in two decades should the current nature and pace of geopolitical games continue. This is a subtle indication of the looming prospect for Afghanistan.

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on Geopolitical Rivalries and Afghanistan’s Open-Ended War

The Unlikely Industry Empowering Women in Afghanistan


NOVANEWS

By Ruchi KumarYES! Magazine

The Unlikely Industry Empowering Women in Afghanistan

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The typical depiction of an Afghan woman looks like this: Timid and fearful, she is a victim of her extremely conservative and regressive society, unable to move around or do much without a man. But some Afghan women are busting these stereotypes, creating a niche for women to empower themselves and change the status quo.

A 36-year-old restaurant owner named Laila Haidary walks around the cafe gardens, carefully tending to the colorful foliage that grows generously around Kabul. She narrates her story of building a business in Afghanistan, a country governed by the rules of men. Overlooking the gardens is a midsize structure: a traditional Afghan house, with thick walls, large windows, and ample courtyard space, converted to a cozy restaurant with old tables and chairs and plenty of handmade rugs. The vibe is welcoming.

Haidary explains she wanted to provide a social space for artists and other young Afghans who want to interact with their culture and rich heritage. “This idea in itself had its own challenges because our extremely conservative society does not always approve of artistic expressions. Added to that, the fact it is run by a businesswoman makes many people uncomfortable,” she says.

Haidary’s cafe is among the many newer restaurants in Kabul, and around Afghanistan, that are either owned or managed by women in an otherwise male-dominated industry. Although data measuring this trend wasn’t available at the time of publishing, anecdotally, more women are entering the service industry: Within a two-block radius of my home in Kabul, I can count seven restaurants that have come up in the past year; that wasn’t the case in 2014, when I first came here.

Of course, not every woman in the industry is a business owner. A small but significant number of Afghan women are working jobs in the service sector — a profile that was unimaginable for Afghan women a decade ago and is still considered inappropriate.

“I feel like I’m breaking stereotypes every day by just being here. That makes me feel very proud of myself,” says 20-year-old Mujda Nasiri, who started working at 50/50, a local fast-food restaurant in Kabul, about a year ago. “Initially, my parents were reluctant, but now that they see how independent I have become, financially and personally, they’re happy for me,” she says, adding that she had always been fascinated by the restaurant industry.

In a deeply conservative society such as Afghanistan, women have few avenues to pursue careers. Many of the jobs available — such as manual labor, technical positions, and banking and finance — are not considered suitable for women because traditionally a woman’s priority has been with her family and, especially, their honor. Added to that are the decades of war that have left the Afghan economy enormously dependent on foreign aid, thereby increasing unemployment and competition in the markets. As the rate of unemployment peaked at 40 percent in 2015, it has been even more challenging for women to be considered for jobs in a market that tends to favor men.

However, restaurants such as 50/50, which strives to be an equal opportunity employer, hires several women in various positions. “We are trying to create an all-inclusive space for our customers, especially for women and families, who can come here without any fear of harassment. Such a place is also good for women to work at,” explains Zahir, 37, the restaurant manager at 50/50 (most Afghans traditionally go by just one name). “We also find that women employees are more professional, timely, and able to work with grace despite pressures — a right fit for this industry.”

Nasiri is one of three waitresses the restaurant hired last year, and the move was welcomed by many of their customers. “I’ve had a very good experience working here; my colleagues are like my family and are very protective of my safety,” she says, recalling an incident where a displeased customer lectured her about how inappropriate such a job was for a woman.

“But I see that there has been a change in attitudes,” Nasiri says. “I find that a lot of our customers are not only happy to see me serve them, but [are] also very encouraging of my work. This one elderly gentleman was so happy to meet a working woman, that he left me a Afs1000 [$15] tip to keep me motivated,” she says, adding that the joy of meeting new people every day is a bigger motivation than money to stay with this job.

Twenty-five-year-old Nikbhakt, a barista at a local coffee shop frequented by the many foreigners and expats in Kabul, would agree with Nasiri. “I’ve been making and serving coffee for the last four years, and the best part of my job is interacting with people from around the world,” she says. There was a time when an Afghan woman couldn’t leave the house without a mahram — a male escort who is a blood relative — let alone talk to other people. Women had few places to engage socially in the extremely conservative and patriarchal society under the Taliban regime in the late 1990s.

Parents have reason to be concerned about their working daughters. Harassment at work and in public is a common sight in Kabul and other Afghan cities. Afghan women have to fight many gender stereotypes and inequalities along with abuse if they choose to pursue a career, any career. As a result, many women prefer jobs that require less mobility because even the act of traveling to work daily can often subject women to street harassment. Added to this the rising insecurity further discourages families from allowing their daughters to go to work.

Last year, the cafe where Nikbhakt works was attacked, and she barely missed the explosion that claimed the lives of two people, including the cafe’s guard. “I was extremely depressed for a long time after that attack. My family didn’t want me to work anymore, and I didn’t want to step out of home, either,” she says. “But now I know that cutting myself from the world isn’t a solution, and decided to come back to work two months ago.”

Since no institutes offer training to work in the service sector, Afghans have to learn on the job, which can be tedious for the employers. “We’ve had to let two of our female staff go because they were unable to cope with the pressure of working in a restaurant, but that isn’t to say that women can’t work in this industry,” Zahir says. “The environment, of course, matters, and it is perhaps up to us as employers to help create working environments that allow women to work comfortably and to their full potential.”

Women customers are drawn to restaurants where women work. “Having women around the restaurant creates a comforting and calm environment that eventually attracts a wide diversity of customers,” says Haidary, who also employs several women as servers, managers, and cooks.

She started her cafe as a way to fund her other initiative: the Mother Camp, a nonprofit drug rehabilitation shelter she opened seven years ago for homeless addicts in Kabul. When the funding to the shelter started to dry up (few in Afghanistan consider donating to rehabilitating drug addicts), Haidary and her volunteers came up with the idea of establishing this cafe. Even today, most of her employees are former or recovering addicts from the Camp, which also continues to help hundreds of Afghans recover every year.

Haidary has been successful as a restaurateur, but the ride hasn’t been smooth. On the contrary, she faced several threats and intimidations, sometimes even from her own customers who would show up drunk or high on hashish to her cafe, breaking her one cardinal rule — no drugs, no alcohol.

Terrorized but not afraid, Haidary would often take these men head-on. “There was a time when she literally pounced on a large Afghan man who was a guard to a local parliamentarian,” recalls a regular customer at Taj Begum who witnessed the attack. “He had come drunk to the cafe, gotten into a brawl, and threatened to have [Haidary] shut down. When [she] protested, and had him kicked out of the cafe, he smashed her car windows.”

Despite that chaos, Haidary persisted because she wanted to be an inspiration to other women in Afghanistan. “Even when the going got tough, I didn’t quit. Not only did I need this to support Mother Camp, but I also wanted to show to our society that a woman can run a successful business,” she says.

The social change, however, will have to be gradual, and Afghan society will need more time to accept working women, especially in the service sector, as a norm. That said, women have come by leaps and bounds, having survived many wars and the brutal and patriarchal Taliban regime, during which they couldn’t even step out of their homes without male escorts. They know they’re more than just victims — they’re survivors who are overcoming odds, every day.

Posted in AfghanistanComments Off on The Unlikely Industry Empowering Women in Afghanistan

Is TIME’s Afghan “cover girl” really a victim of mutilation by the Taleban?


NOVANEWS
Zero Anthropology 

TIME : What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan (story)

 

BOING BOING : What Still Happened Despite 10 Years of Occupying Afghanistan (story)

ZERO ANTHRO : What Happens When We Don’t Fix Problems at Home (story)

The August 9th TIME magazine cover story is about a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears have been allegedly “mutilated” by the Taleban. The story has generated widespread self-serving moral indignation and self-righteous clamor in the U.S. propaganda machine supporting the occupation of Afghanistan run by the Israeli-American weapon-making industry. The American culture cleansing project in Afghanistan must be in need of a booster shot from the radical feminist forces that so fervently collaborated with the American war machine in initiating this racist imperial enterprise in 2001. Perhaps the flaunting of this fictitious story is a desperate attempt by the Obama war regime to offset the steep decline of support for this murderous program against unarmed and helpless pre-industrial Afghanistan. Let us recall the production of the picture of the frightened green-eyed Afghan girl on the cover of the National Geographic magazine to justify the United States sponsorship of local anti-government terrorist gangs who currently host the American occupation of Afghanistan.

TIME’s story does not provide its readers with any specific or credible factual text and context about what has really caused the deformity in this young woman’s face. Like much fiction that has been produced in the shadow of the American war machine in Afghanistan, this “story” appears to be a string of hearings and imaginings about women’s life in Afghanistan put together by Aryn Baker and Jodi Bieber, two young American journalists who probably first encountered Afghanistan in the pages of “the kite runner”. Having the readers see the reporters’ pictures (p. 4) in a “Kabul kite shop” speaks to the compelling impact of the untruths about life in Kabul in that “bestseller” book. What is the relationship of kites to a story about a mutilated nose? TIME’s story by Baker and Bieber has no truth value. Let us have a closer look at some of the cultural content and ethnographic claims in this fabricated telltale.

The narrative in which the Taleban single out this young woman for ears and nose mutilation at the instigation of her husband cannot be credible when exposed to the spatial, temporal, and cultural framework provided by the reporters.  First, Urozgan province is located in central Afghanistan not “southern” Afghanistan. And if the alleged mutilation took place in central or northern Urozgan,TIME’s tale becomes even less credible for these parts of Urozgan are home to non-Paxtuns, especially Hazaras. What is the victim’s ethnic background? Even if the agency of this “mutilation” were the Taleban, why would they devote this amount of precious human resources in a hostile area to the personal disenchantment of a single Taleb foot soldier with his runaway wife, Aisha? This does not make tactical or strategic sense.

The Taleban dragged Aisha “to a mountain clearing near her village” where “[s]hivering in the cold  air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband’s family, she faced her spouse and accuser… and men moved to deliver her punishment. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. Aisha passed out from her pain but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountaintop to die” (pp. 20-22).  If the men wanted Aisha to die, why did they not kill her on the spot, on the mountain? Why give her a chance to live? Why risk her potential recovery and/or rescue?

To receive her punishment, why would Aisha have to be dragged to the mountain clearing (or is it a “mountainside”)? Where is this mountain clearing or side located in Urozgan? However, it must be at a distance from the village. And if TIME’s narrative is valid, the mutilation is a public affair with the husband, his family, and Taleban officials present. Thus, there are witnesses to the mutilation of Aisha’s nose and ears.  These witnesses, especially members of her husband’s family, can be located. Did Aisha “pass out” from “pain” or loss of blood? How does a victim whose ears and nose have been mutilated and is choking on her own blood, and left alone “on the mountainside to die” survive such virtually fatal injuries? The human face is heavily irrigated with blood. I am not a medical doctor, but based on common sense, it would not take more than a few minutes of suffering heavy blood loss from open veins around the nose and ears to become fatal? How does a rural 19 year girl in such perilous medical condition, bleeding from open veins around her nose and ears, manage to move from a mountainside in remote Urozgan to a “shelter” in downtown Kabul hundreds of miles away? “A few months after Aisha arrived at the shelter, her father tried to bring her home with promises that he would find her a new husband. Aisha refused to leave. In rural areas, a family that finds itself shamed by a daughter sometimes sells her into slavery, or worse, subjects her to a so-called honor killing—murder under the guise of saving the family’s name” (p. 26). Now, what are the prospects (or practical feasibility) for marriage of a woman who has her ears and nose mutilated for having dishonored her own family, husband, and in-laws in patriarchal Afghanistan or for that matter in patricentric United States? What would be the market value of Aisha’s labor? What kind of labor could a severely mutilated woman like this produce as a slave? Only total ignorance of the Afghan cultural plane and complete disregard for the intelligence of the audience by the American popular media would allow such fabricated prattle to see the light of public print.

Aisha’s disposition could be congenital. It could be caused by a bacterial or viral infection such as cancer, a malady not rare in Afghanistan among both men and women. Or it could be related to an injury caused by firearms or explosives. Harelips and other deformities in the mandible, although rare, occur in the population of Afghanistan. Incidents of human body deformities in Afghanistan have steadily increased with the expanding military interference of the United States going back to the 1980s. These incidents have soared since 2001 with the American occupation and experimentation with weapon systems designed for “population centered wars” in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The non-Paxtun Northern Alliance warlords and their inner circles are the only Afghans that pray and beg for the American military presence in Afghanistan. It was these anti-Paxtun American trained and subsidized terrorist gangs who scouted and pimped for the American occupation of Afghanistan. And it is the Northern Alliance that opposes a political solution in Afghanistan because any such solution would remove them from power and expose and punish their criminal deeds. Amrullah Saleh, a known psychopath and a leading member of this criminal gang who headed Afghanistan’s intelligence services, recently expatiated: “I have killed many of them (Taleban) with pride”, killing “them is part of my blood” (Lara Logan interview on “60 Mintes”, August 1, 2010). The informants for TIME’s reporters of this story are the female dependents of the Northern Alliance criminal clique one of whom is credited with this rabid hateful lie “I go running in the stadium where the Taliban used to play football with women’s heads” (p. 24). This woman is pictured standing in Kabul stadium with three Kabuli teenagers in the background clearly running-in-place! There is not a shred of evidence for a football game played with human heads anywhere at any time in Afghanistan. TIME magazine has truly stooped to the lowest standards in journalism. During the 1990s the Kabul stadium was used once for the public execution of a woman found guilty of violating a Taleban decree.

The American intimate love affair during the past three decades with the various gangs of terrorists including Al-Qaeda, Hezb-e Islami, Northern Alliance, and sporadically the early manifestation of the Taleban movement during the 1990s has inflicted irreparable damage on the political, economic, and security prospects of Afghanistan. The ethnic and sectarian divisions caused by the American military operations and criminal deeds in South Asia has brought the frail state structure of Afghanistan to the verge of total collapse. It has destabilized the whole region. Tens of thousands of innocent and helpless Afghans have been slaughtered by the American Zionist-controlled killing machine. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity for which history will condemn its perpetrators.

On an ethnographic level, the manipulation of the body of the subject human population by the state has historical roots in several culture areas including Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. To this day in the popular lore of non-Paxtun areas of Afghanistan (especially among the Farsi-speaking population) a person, male or female, who compromises the interests and standards of the larger community, is symbolically labeled “beeni borida” (Farsi, one whose nose has been cut, one who has lost his nose, i. e. one who has lost her/his honor, a person without honor). The equivalent of this linguistic construct and its cultural content does not exist among Paxtuns.

However, no matter the untruths and distortions from which TIME’s August 9th cover story is concocted, we need a proper comparative cultural framework for the understanding of abuse of the human body including the practice of mutilation of body parts. An informed glance at global ethnographic realities connects such practices with a relation of power called patriarchy—male domination of society. As a system of ideas and practices patriarchy “is a threat to public health everywhere” (Laura Nader, Anthropology News, September 2006, p. 7) including Afghanistan and the United States. In principle the socio-cultural ingredients involved in the mutilation of the human body in Afghanistan are not different than the socio-cultural forces that impose industrial “vaginal rejuvenation”, “pussy tightening” (JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation, 9/28/2009, p. 8), and breast enhancement in Euro-America. In no other culturally constructed space are women, womanhood, and femininity so universally abused, exploited, demeaned, and vulgarized than in the Euro-American industry of internet pornography—the biggest money making enterprise in cyberspace. Comparative studies reveal that American domestic violence is approximately 25%–about the same as in Syria and Bolivia (Nader 2006:7). The extensive system of shelters for abused women throughout the United States is symptomatic of a widely practiced tradition of physical and verbal abuse of women by men that is qualitatively not different than the abuse of women by men elsewhere in the world.

TIME, you are a beeni borida!

_________

Addendum by Max Forte:

[“In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner” (source). 17.6 % of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape. Of these, 21.6% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4% were between the ages of 12 and 17. 64% of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date. Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years. One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5% – one out of twenty – of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free. The costs of intimate partner violence against women exceed an estimated $5.8 billion. These costs include nearly $4.1 billion in the direct costs of medical care and mental health care and nearly $1.8 billion in the indirect costs of lost productivity and present value of lifetime earnings. A University of Pennsylvania research study found that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to low-income, inner-city Philadelphia women between the ages of 15 to 44 – more common than automobile accidents, mugging and rapes combined. In this study domestic violence included injuries caused by street crime (see sources).]

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