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

US/NATO death squads killing indiscriminately in Afghanistan

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Burnt children after a NATO bomb attack. Their disfigured faces are the real face of war (by Maso Notarianni)

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By James Cogan

The New York Times reported this week that the overall commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan is seeking to impose tighter control over the activities of special forces units, after recent operations led to more civilian deaths. General Stanley McChrystal’s concern is not the deaths, however, but the manner in which they are fuelling Afghan hatred for the US-led occupation and their occasional exposure in the international media.

On March 5, McChrystal publicly released a portion of a directive he had issued—reportedly in late January or early February—which had placed conditions on the night raids that occupation troops regularly conduct on Afghan civilian homes.

McChrystal noted in his release: “Despite their effectiveness and operational value, night raids come at a steep cost in terms of the perceptions of the Afghan people. The myths, distortions and propaganda arising out of night raids often have little to do with the reality—few Afghans have been directly affected by night raids, but nearly every Afghan I talk to mentions them as the single greatest irritant. Night raids must be conducted with even greater care, additional constraints, and standardisation throughout Afghanistan.”

McChrystal’s directive stipulated new conditions, including the involvement of Afghan government forces in the raids; treating people with dignity; and informing victims as to how to get compensation for seized or damaged property. The cosmetic character of the order, along with that of an earlier directive calling for caution before launching air strikes, can be judged by the following incidents since early February:

* The London Times reported on March 13 that American special forces, accompanied by Afghan police, entered a housing compound near Gardez, in Paktia province on February 12. They killed a local police commander named Daoud, his brother and three women, two of whom were pregnant. His 15-year-old son was also shot.

According to an unpublished UN report obtained by the Times, the occupation forces broke in at 3.30 a.m. while Daoud’s extended family was celebrating the naming of a baby. The man who noticed them cried “Taliban”. Daoud and his son were gunned down as they ran into the courtyard to investigate. His brother, who recognised the assailants as Americans, was shot dead as he yelled in English “don’t fire, we work for the government”. The three women were killed by either a blast of gunfire that entered the house or, according to witnesses cited in a New York Times article, were gunned down as they attempted to help the men.

The UN report stated that the remaining people in the compound were “assaulted by the US and Afghan forces, restrained and forced to stand barefoot for several hours outside in the cold”. Daoud and his 18-year-old niece allegedly died of their wounds due to lack of medical treatment. Eight men were taken away and interrogated for four days before being released.

An initial press release by the US/NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) claimed that the three women had been “tied up, gagged and killed” before the special forces’ attack. ISAF later admitted the allegation was false and also that Daoud was not Taliban.

* On February 21, special forces in Uruzgan province called in a helicopter gunship strike on three trucks they were monitoring, killing 27 people. The occupants were all unarmed and all civilians. An anonymous NATO official told the New York Times: “What I saw on that video would not have led me to pull the trigger. It was one of the worst things I’ve seen in a while.” The nationality of the troops has not identified but the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) is the most active special forces unit in Uruzgan province. It has been blamed for a number of atrocities against civilians.

* According to the London Times, American and Afghan troops in February raided the home of Rahmatullah Sediqi, a 61-year-old shopkeeper in Ghazni province who had provided shelter to Taliban fighters the night before, reportedly under threat. The Taliban were gone. The occupation forces shot dead his wife and son.

* This month, a helicopter gunship fired a missile into the guest room of a housing compound in Karakhil village in Wardak province, killing three alleged Taliban insurgents. Locals claim that a landing party of occupation troops then entered the home and shot dead its owner, 32-year-old engineer Hamidullah, his wife and his son. Another child was seriously wounded.

The publicity given to McChrystal’s directive by the New York Times has all the hallmarks of a public relations exercise, intended to give the appearance that he is “reining in” special forces’ operations to protect civilian lives.
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