The Unwinnable War in Afghanistan

Saving face in unwinnable war

Sinking in debt and no closer to victory, heads may roll as the U.S. and NATO wrap up their pointless Afghan adventure

American soldiers search for caves concealing weapons in eastern Afghanistan. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

By ERIC MARGOLIS, QMI AGENCY

Fire-breathing U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his Special Forces “mafia” were supposed to crush Afghan resistance to western occupation. But McChrystal was fired after rude remarks from his staff about the White House.

A more cerebral and political general, David Petraeus, replaced McChrystal. Petraeus managed to temporarily suppress resistance in Iraq.

Last week, the usually cautious Petraeus vowed from Kabul to “win” the Afghan War, which has cost the U.S. nearly $300 billion to date and 1,000 dead. The problem: No one can define what winning really means. Each time the U.S. reinforces, Afghan resistance grows stronger.

Afghanistan is America’s longest-running conflict.

The escalating war now costs U.S. taxpayers $17 billion monthly. President Barack Obama’s Afghan “surge” of 30,000 more troops will cost another $30 billion.

The Afghan and Iraq wars — at a cost of $1 trillion — are being waged on borrowed money when the U.S. is drowning in $13.1 trillion in debt.

America has become addicted to debt and war.

By 2011, Canadians will have spent an estimated $18.1 billion on Afghanistan, $1,500 per household.

The U.S. Congress, which alone can declare and fund war, shamefully allowed U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Obama to usurp this power. A majority of Americans now oppose this imperial misadventure. Though politicians fear opposing the war lest they be accused of “betraying our soldiers,” dissent is breaking into the open.

Last week, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele let the cat out of the bag, admitting the Afghan war was not winnable. War-loving Republicans erupted in rage, all but accusing Steele of high treason. Many of Steele’s most hawkish Republican critics had, like Bush and Dick Cheney, dodged real military service during the Vietnam War.

Republicans (I used to be one) blasted McChrystal’s sensible policy of trying to lessen Afghan civilian casualties from U.S. bombing and shelling. There is growing anti-western fury in Afghanistan and Pakistan over mounting civilian deaths.

By clamouring for more aggressive attacks that endanger Afghan civilians and strengthen Taliban, Republicans again sadly demonstrate they have become the party and voice of America’s dim and ignorant.

Obama claimed he was expanding the Afghan War to fight al-Qaida. Yet the Pentagon estimates there are no more than a handful of al-Qaida small-fry left in Afghanistan.

Obama owes Americans the truth about Afghanistan.

After nine years of war, the immense military might of the U.S., its dragooned NATO allies, and armies of mercenaries have been unable to defeat resistance to western occupation or create a popular, legitimate government in Kabul. Drug production has reached new heights.

As the United States feted freedom from a foreign oppressor on July 4, its professional soldiers were using every sort of weapon in Afghanistan, from heavy bombers to tanks, armoured vehicles, helicopter gunships, fleets of drones, heavy artillery, cluster bombs and an arsenal of hi-tech gear.

In spite of this might, bands of outnumbered Pashtun tribesmen and farmers, armed only with small arms, determination and limitless courage, have fought the West’s war machine to a standstill and now have it on the strategic defensive. Read more of this post

Towards America’s Electronic, Troop-less Wars

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Future U.S Wars will involve Massive Use of Drones



Abstract.

Future U.S wars in the Third World will involve massive use of drones to police the  territory, employ local satrap[1] forces (like those of Karzai’s Afghan Army) and once the territory has been pacified sufficiently, the deployment of “Government Ready-to-Rule (GRR)” kits. The drones provide the critical and the weak link: critical insofar as they represent the ultimate American-style war where only the “Others” (opponents and civilians) die but weak insofar as this type of warfare only works against an opponent without any anti-drone/aircraft capability. In other words, this type of technological warfare can only be carried out upon weak opponents lacking independent industrial capacities (not against China, Russia, and India). This approach represents the culmination of disconnecting the delivery of deadly force – the rain of Hellfire missiles – upon the Others and incurring no human (physical or psychological – PTSD) costs. Or put in other terms, it represents the quintessential American way of “solving” problems with technological short-cuts, a military effort begun in 1942 with the Allied fire-bombing of German cities.[2] The current American war in Afghanistan is a harbinger of what is to come, America’s electronic, troop-less war.

Prophetically the first victims in 2010 of Obama in his Afghan war were a teacher in a government school, Sadiq Noor, and his nine-year old son, Wajid as well as three other persons.  Both were killed on Sunday night, January 3, 2010 in a U.S. drone strike involving two missiles fired into the home of Sadiq Noor in the village of Musaki, North Waziristan in Pakistan.[3] During January 2010, a record number of twelve deadly missile strikes were carried out on Pakistan’s tribal areas. Three Al-Qaeda leaders were killed and 123 innocent civilians.[4] During 2009, 44 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed 708 people but only five Al Qaeda or Taliban; that is for each enemy fighter 140 civilian Pakistanis had to die.[5]

Those who pull the gray trigger to fire are located in Nevada, Kandahar, or Pakistan.[6] As Philip Alston points out, “Young military personnel raised on a diet of video games now kill real people remotely using joysticks. Far removed from the human consequences of their actions, how will this generation of fighters value the right to life?”[7] In early 2010, the U.S. Air Force had more drone operators in training than fighter and bomber pilots.[8]


Occupied Afghanistan. A U.S. Marine walks past Afghan youths near Khan Nashin,
Helmand, on December 4, 2009 (photo by Kevin Frayer, AP at
http://www.navytimes.com/xml/news/2009/12/ap_afghan_offensive_120509/120509_marines_afghanistan3_800.JPG, last accessed on February 25, 2010)

The Long Bloody History of America’s Resort to Technology in War: Six Episodes

The electronic battlefield represents the end stop in more than a half century (1942-2010) of the United States resorting to technology in order to save its troops yet indiscriminately inflicting horrendous casualties upon an opponent’s military and civilians.

The first obvious use of technology which inflicted massive and indiscriminate civilian deaths was the firebombing of German cities during World War II.[9] The use of incendiary bombs against German cities initiated in March 1942 was adopted as a strategy because Allied bombing of German military targets was generally unsuccessful and very costly in terms of airmen lost.[10] The horrific tale is recounted in the classic account by Jorg Friedrich, Der Brand.[11] For example, the massive firebombing by U.S. and British air forces of Dresden on the night of February 13/14, 1945 illustrates the effects. At least 55,000 -250,000 persons perished within hours.


Dresden on the Morning After
Source: http://www.cityofsound.com/.m/photos/uncategorized/2007/10/29/dresden_aftermath.jpg (accessed February 21, 2010)

The British bomber Command attacked at night and U.S 8th Air Force Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses followed up with three massive strikes the next day. A city known as “Florence on the Elbe” was reduced to rubble in hours. Eighty-five per cent of its buildings were destroyed.[12]

The second episode involves the use of atomic bombs on Japan in early 1945 as a means of pre-empting a U.S. invasion of the Japanese heartland which no doubt would have involved numerous U.S. casualties. Between February and August 1945, Jorg Friedrich reports in the cities of Dresden, Pforzheim, Wurzburg, Halberstadt, Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Tokyo, etc. a total of 330,000 people died in conventional aerial incendiary bomb attacks, an additional 300,000 perished in the two U.S. nuclear attacks upon Japanese cities carried out by Boeing B-29 Stratofortresses.[13] The total estimated death toll: in Hiroshima 100,000 were killed instantly, and between 100,000 and 200,000 died eventually; in Nagasaki about 40,000 were killed instantly, and between 70,000 and 150,000 died eventually.

The third episode involves the high-altitude carpet bombing of Cambodia during four years (March 18, 1969-August 15, 1973) by U.S. Boeing B-52 bombers. The intention was to disrupt supply routes of the North Vietnamese Peoples’ Liberation Army. The Americans unleashed a holocaust of 2,756,941 tons of bombs on more than 113,000 Cambodian sites during October 1965-August 1973 which killed over 150,000 rural Cambodians.[14] Owen summarized, “civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the [U.S.] bombing began.”[15]

The fourth episode occurred some twenty years later when U.S. forces bombed Iraqis fleeing from Kuwait on the Highway of Death on February 26/27, 1991. The defenseless Iraqi forces were retreating and the column included Kuwaiti captives as well as civilians. Iraqi soldiers as well as Iraqi, Palestinian, Jordanian and other civilians piled into whatever vehicles they could commandeer, including a fire truck, and fled north towards Iraq. U.S. planes disabled vehicles at both ends of the convoy, creating a 7-mile long traffic jam. U.S. planes then began to bomb and strafe the entire line of some 2,000 vehicles for hours, killing tens of thousands of helpless soldiers and civilians while encountering no resistance and receiving no losses to themselves. The bombing was inspired by destroying as much Iraqi military equipment as possible before an eventual U.S ground assault upon Baghdad. The scenes of carnage on the road were seen by the international community as a “turkey shoot” and led to the war’s quick end subsequently. The attacks violated the Geneva Convention of 1949, common article 3, which outlaws the killing of soldiers who “are out of combat,” not to mention the incinerated civilians.


Source: Iconic photos at http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/the-highway-of-death/ (accessed on February 21, 2010)
The fifth episode was the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan during October 7 – December 10, 2001, upon which I originally reported and have continued to do.[16] U.S. air power and purchased satrap soldiers of the Northern Alliance were substituted for the use of numerous U.S. ground forces. The result was predictable: during three months about 2,600-2,900 Afghan civilians perished at the hands of U.S. forces whereas only 12 Americans died during October-December.[17] Again, technology in the guise of aerial bombing replaced U.S ground forces. The ratio of Afghan civilians killed per U.S. military casualty was an astonishing 230.

The sixth episode involves a chapter in America’s invasion/bombing o Afghanistan in 2001, the use of the “Daisy Cutter” bombs, another technological spectacle originally designed to create jungle clearings. On November 4, 2001, the U.S. upped the ante and dropped two BLU-82 sub-atomic bombs (equivalent to a tactical nuclear weapon) upon humans, on Taliban positions in northern Afghanistan.[18] The bombs destroy everything in a 600-yard radius, giving off a mushroom-like cloud and have an un-nerving effect upon the targeted troops. On November 23rd — a week into Ramadan — a third BLU-82 was dropped just south of Kandahar. A fourth was dropped in the Tora Bora campaign. A nightmarish progression had taken place:

It’s nightmarish to see that the U.S. is slowly desensitizing the public to the level of destruction taking place in Afghanistan. They have progressed from medium-sized missiles to Tomahawk and cruise missiles, to bunker-busting 2,000 lb bombs, then to [B-52] carpet-bombing using cluster bombs, and now the devastating daisy cutter bombs that annihilate everything in a 600-meter radius.[19]

Towards America’s Electronic, Troop-less Wars

For a year before 9/11, CIA-operated Predator surveillance drones flying over Afghanistan had occasionally picked up Bin Laden.[20] Even before the U.S. bombing campaign against Afghanistan started in October 2001, a CIA-operated RQ-1 Predator had crashed in Afghanistan on September 23, 2001. Such an inauspicious beginning was soon followed by another Predator crash on November 2, 2001 in Afghanistan, two more crashes during the week of January 21, 2002, and another crash on May 17, 2002 in the hills near the U.S. air base in Jacobabad, Pakistan. The big brother of the Predator, called the Global Hawk, fared even worse. Both of the $15 million U.S. Air Force-operated unmanned craft have crashed — the first on December 30, 2001, and the second on July 10, 2002, near another U.S. air base at Shamsi, Pakistan. The U.S. Air Force flew Predator drones out of its bases in Uzbekistan [near the Afghan border] and Pakistan (Jacobabad and Shamsi). Clear weather and the lack of Taliban anti-aircraft defenses allowed the drones to collect real-time imagery which was relayed to hovering strike aircraft.
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Lethal Nato bombing details leaked

A deadly airstrike in Afghanistan’ s Kunduz province last September did not comply with Nato’s rules of engagement, according to the military organisation’ s own investigators.

In a leaked document published by the German newspaper Der Spiegel this week, it was revealed that crucial information was withheld from US pilots by the German military, who ordered the attack that killed scores of Afghan civilians.

The newspaper says Nato investigators looking into the September 4 bombing, which claimed 142 lives, found that US fighter pilots were inappropriately ordered to attack two fuel tankers that had been hijacked by the Taliban in northern Kunduz.

Civilians from the nearby village of Omarkhail were collecting fuel from the tankers when Nato jets were ordered to drop two 500 pound bombs on the lorries.

‘Going kinetic’

One of the US F-15 pilots, whose name has not been released but has been referred to as Dude 15, told Nato investigators later that he “had an uneasy feeling about everything”.

“Both of us could tell the ground commander was really pushing to go kinetic,” he said, using a military slang term for the release of bombs on a target.

Reports now say that the German commander on the ground withheld vital information from the pilots of the US jets before they dropped their bombs.

Der Spiegel obtained a secret Nato report on the incident, saying that Germany’s army knewat the time of the bombing at least one of the drivers of the hijacked tankers was still alive and at the scene.

When questioned, pilots were told all individuals on the ground were “insurgents” .

The classified report also stated that new Nato rules of engagement to limit civilian casualties were ignored by the German commanders.

‘Defeat ourselves’

Just four days before the deadly bombing, General Stanley McChrystal, the senior US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, sent an assessment to Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, saying that “we run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage”.

“The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily but we can defeat ourselves.”

“I lost six men from my family … we have nothing left but our memories. We cry for them and the children cry for food”

Bibi Sharifa, villager from Omarkhail in Kunduz, Afghanistan Read more of this post

US far from winning in Afghanistan: McChrystal

The commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, says the coalition forces are “not winning” the war in Afghanistan.

McChrystal made remarks at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Turkey.

He told reporters in Istanbul on Thursday that he does not believe the allied efforts in Afghanistan has “turned a corner.”

“I’m not prepared to say that we’ve turned the corner.”

“I still will tell you that I believe the situation in Afghanistan is serious,” McChrystal said on the sidelines of the Istanbul summit.

While US President Barack Obama was considering a troop surge last October, McChrystal had warned that the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating and the coalition risked failure if it did not send more troops.

General McChrystal, however, claimed that US-led forces had made “significant progress” last year and set the stage for even more progress this year.

He noted that success in the war-weary country is something that is difficult to measure.

“This is all a war of perceptions. This is not a physical war in terms of how many people you kill, how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up,” said McChrystal. Read more of this post

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