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

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Afghan War: Petraeus Expands U.S. Military Presence Throughout Eurasia


by Rick Rozoff

On July 4 General David Petraeus assumed command of 142,000 U.S. and NATO troops in a ceremony in the Afghan capital of Kabul. He succeeded the disgraced and soon to be retired General Stanley McChrystal as chief of all foreign troops in Afghanistan, those serving under U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A)/Operation Enduring Freedom and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

He now commands military units from 46 official troop contributing nations and others from several additional countries not officially designated as such but with forces in or that will soon be deployed to Afghanistan, such as Egypt, Jordan and Colombia. Neither the Carthaginian commander Hannibal during the Second Punic War nor Napoleon Bonaparte in the wars that bore his name commanded troops speaking as many diverse tongues.

That Petraeus took charge of soldiers from fifty nations occupying a conquered country on his own country’s Independence Day has gone without commentary, either ironic or indignant. In 1775 American colonists began an eight-year war against foreign troops – those of Britain and some 30,000 German auxiliaries, the latter a quarter of all forces serving under English command in North America. Currently the three nations providing the most troops for the nearly nine-year-old and increasingly deadly war in Afghanistan are the U.S. (almost 100,000), Britain (9,500) and Germany (4,500).

Petraeus’s remarks on the occasion of accepting his new dual command contained the standard U.S. and NATO characterization of their war in Afghanistan as aimed exclusively against armed extremists, in particular those portrayed as fighters from other countries. A representative quote states “al-Qaeda and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan.” Two hundred and thirty-five years ago the government of King George III may well have spoken in a similar vein concerning the likes of Johann de Kalb, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Casimir Pulaski, Friedrich Von Steuben and the Marquis de Lafayette illegally entering British territories along the Atlantic Seaboard and waging warfare against the Crown’s troops.

Petraeus arrived in Kabul on July 2, direct from Belgium where he had addressed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the 28 member states’ permanent representatives in the North Atlantic Council and representatives of 46 ISAF contributors at NATO Headquarters in Brussels and Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Egon Ramms, Commander Joint Force Command Brunssum, and other senior military staff at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe near Mons. (Two days later at NATO headquarters in Kabul he had two flags bestowed on him, “one for the U.S. and the other for NATO.”) [1]

NATO chief Rasmussen was in Lisbon, Portugal the day Petraeus left Belgium for Afghanistan, in part to prepare for the November summit of the world’s only military bloc there in November, where NATO will adopt its new, 21st century, Strategic Concept and endorse plans for an integrated interceptor missile grid to cover almost the entire European continent in conjunction with, and under the control of, the U.S.

In reference to General Petraeus taking up his new duties, Rasmussen stated at a press conference with Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado that “It has been a change of command but it will not be a change of strategy.”

A week after Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan [2], an ephemeral scandal that disappeared as quickly, which is to say instantaneously, as it developed, the U.S. Senate voted as it customarily does in matters of foreign policy – unanimously – and in a 99-0 vote confirmed Petraeus as the new commander of the world’s longest and largest-scale war.

He told Senate members on June 30 that “My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months.”

A few days earlier he said of President Barack Obama’s proposed date for beginning the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan that the meaning of that pledge by the president, Petraeus’ commander-in-chief, was “one of urgency – not that July 2011 is when we race for the exits, reach for the light switch and flip it off.” Last December Petraeus asserted that there was no plan for a “rush to the exits” and that there “could be tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan for several years.” [3]

In May he spoke at an Armed Forces Day dinner in Louisville, Kentucky – on a day that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was visiting the same state – and insisted that “the US must continue to send troops to Afghanistan….” [4]

To indicate how thoroughly the Pentagon and NATO are inextricably enmeshed in not only the Afghan campaign but in a far broader and deeper partnership, a few days before Petraeus, speaking of his then-role as chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said that he has striven to “operationalize” U.S.-NATO military integration at CENTCOM “where up to 60 representatives of coalition partner countries serve. In addition, officers from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia act as representatives of CentCom, increasing further the need to share sensitive information.” [5]

Afghanistan falls within CENTCOM’s area of responsibility and the war in that country is a mechanism for extending the Pentagon’s military contacts, deployments, acquisition of bases and general warfighting interoperability with scores of nations both within and outside CENTCOM’s formal ambit.

In April, three months before taking up his Afghan war post, Petraeus was in Poland – covered by U.S. European Command (EUCOM) – to meet with the nation’s Chief of the General Staff, General Franciszek Gagor, discuss the war that has now cost the lives of nineteen Polish soldiers, and disclose that “in a few months a 800-1,000 strong U.S. battalion would reinforce Poland’s ISAF forces in the Afghan province of Ghazni.

“Petraeus said that the U.S. troops would be placed under the Polish commander who is responsible for the province.” [6]

He also met with Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich and President Lech Kaczynski as well as delivering a lecture at the National Defence Academy. Kaczynski, who would perish in an airplane crash three days later, presented Petraeus with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and the Iraq Star. [7]

Other new NATO members in Eastern Europe are equally involved, with the Pentagon employing seven new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania to train Stryker brigades and airborne troops for the war in Afghanistan. [8]

As commander of CENTCOM and superior to General McChrystal in Afghanistan, Petraeus methodically laid the groundwork for expanding the scope of the greater Afghan war throughout his command’s broad geographical reach, the heart of what has been deemed the broader Middle East – from Egypt in the West to Kazakhstan in the East, taking in Iraq and the rest of the Persian Gulf region, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, and all of Central and much of South Asia. Read more of this post

War in Afghanistan: Illegal, Untenable, and Unwinnable

Rusting T-62 Soviet battle tanks sit in a battle tank graveyard.

by Stephen Lendman

May 30 Delaware County Times editorial headlined, “Is US fighting unwinnable war in Afghanistan” asking:

“Why should America (believe) it can (accomplish what the) Soviet Union (and) Britain couldn’t….? Public sentiment against it is growing, and “Many pundits say the war… can never be won militarily….” How many more “US service member” deaths are tolerable?

On January 21, 2010, Britain’s New Stateman sounded the same theme calling the Afghan war “unwinnable,” recent events showing intensified fighting, rising casualties, and a popular resistance determined to prevail. “Britain should be making plans to withdraw,” the publication concluded. So should America with no right to be there ethically, morally or legally, the war clearly in violation of US and international law like all others US forces waged since WW II.

On June 26, the UK Spectator, published since July 1828, was just as unequivocal, calling US and Kabul leadership “fractious, confused and contradictory, a sure sign that the war is being lost…. Yes, the war in unwinnable. History and time are on the Afghans side.”

Other publications voice the same sentiment, but not American ones, misreporting and backing lawless, losing bet despite souring public sentiment. A new Rasmussen poll shows nearly 60% of US voters believe American forces can’t win or they’re not sure, and 53% said the war isn’t worth the cost. In Britain, nearly two-thirds of the public call the war unwinnable, saying UK forces shouldn’t be there.

A recent Canadian poll showed about two-thirds of the population feel the war can’t be won, 59% of them opposing their country’s involvement. Nearly two-thirds of Australians want their nation’s forces out, and a June 2009 Pew Global Attitudes survey showed public sentiment in three-fourths of the 25 countries surveyed against the war, wanting US and NATO troops withdrawn.

Only in America do major media pundits and editorial writers still back an illegal, unwinnable war, (and the Iraq one), The New York Times, in the lead, calling it “central to American security,” hoping a Petraeus strategy will “genuinely blood(y)” the Taliban, after nearly nine futile years of trying under a dozen Iraq and Afghanistan commanders.

On June 27, Washington Post writer, Greg Jaffe, headlined the frustration saying, “Military disturbed by rapid turnover at top in Afghan, Iraq wars,” commanders falling like tenpins, including Tommy Franks, William Fallon, Ricardo Sanchez, George Casey, David McKiernan, and Stanley McChrystal, sacked not for deriding his superiors, but for losing an unwinnable war, and, in fact, suggesting it like other generals and lower-ranking officers. So do professionals outside the military not reported in the mainstream. More on them below.

UK’s Liberation Party – LP (Hizb ut-Tahir) Report

Founded in 1953, the Liberation Party “works to project a positive image of Islam to Western societies and engages in dialogue with Western thinkers, policymakers and academics.”

Its January 2010 report titled, “Afghanistan & Pakistan: The Unwinnable War” reviewed the war’s futility, recommending “an alternative path for the region,” what’s very much needed but not considered.

Instead, Afghans have suffered brutally under war and occupation — empty promises delivering death, destruction, impoverishment and depravation to a country John Pilger called more of a moonscape than a functioning nation, the result of sustained conflicts, violence and instability.

Today “the West has lost any form of moral authority,” the puppet Karzai regime a farcical caricature of a government — corrupted, inept, and disdainful of its people in collusion with Washington, NATO, war profiteers, drug barons, and brutal warlords, a combination destroying the fabric of life in the country.

Clearly, “The neo-colonial mission has failed,” yet Washington, Britain, and NATO “decided to double down” their bet and devote more resources under a new commander to “finish the job,” an impossible mission short of mass extermination and laying waste to the entire country, turning it all and surrounding areas into moonscapes, perhaps the strategy under the next commander after this one fails and the war drags on, spreads, and inflames the entire Muslim world to a greater degree than already.

No wonder a popular resistance flourishes, supported by growing numbers seeing it as their best chance for liberation no matter what’s next. Priority one is route the occupier and restore national sovereignty, perhaps inspiring Iraqis, Pakistanis, and other Muslim nations to achieve theirs by expunging America’s presence and influence in the region, a malignancy destroying it.

The LP concludes the following:

  • like in Vietnam, the war is unwinnable, occupation producing a never-ending cycle of violence, resentment, hatred and retaliation having a devastating effect on the people;
  • under Washington and NATO, puppet governance is atrocious, corrupt, inept and unacceptable;
  • troop strength at any level can’t prevail; waging war on the Taliban means fighting 50 million Pashtuns supporting them and growing numbers of others;
  • an exit strategy based on Afghan security forces doing NATO’s bidding won’t work; evidence shows no trust and increasing instances of belligerence against occupying troops;
  • calling Al-Qaeda and the Taliban America’s threat is bogus to distract from its real aim — permanent occupation, exploiting Afghanistan’s resources, and using the country as a land-based aircraft carrier against its major rivals, Russia militarily and China economically;
  • “growing and influential voices are now questioning the cost to Pakistan of supporting America’s war;” it’s counter-productive, destabilizing, and destructive to an already troubled nation, weakened further by allying with Washington’s regional wars;
  • America and NATO have no legitimacy in Afghanistan or Iraq; both wars are illegal; the occupations breed resentment, hatred, and a never-ending cycle of violence; both countries deserve their sovereignty, stable economies, “a system consistent with peoples’ values,” freedom from foreign dominance, and new priorities must place popular “needs over the gains of a few or of private enterprise,” exploiters for their own interests.

The LP concludes saying millions share its discontent, suggesting a “politics of hope” over Western war, occupation, corruption and despair. It recommends “a genuine end to the occupation” so Afghans can restore what worked well for 1,300 years before Western invaders showed up. “Unless the scourge of foreign occupation ends, the region will continue” to suffer and be dysfunctional. Once expunged, it can “independently tackle (its) innumerable….challenges (including) unbridled poverty….education (and) rampant corruption, most of all in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israeli-controlled Palestine.”

Healthcare NOT Warfare Campaign Report

Titled “War in Afghanistan: Untenable and Unwinnable,” journalist, Norman Solomon, prepared it in autumn 2009 after visiting the country with others on a fact-finding trip, his itinerary including:

“discussions with top officials to encounters with malnourished refugees, and from briefings at multi-billion dollar agencies to small grassroots NGO offices.”

Eight key findings followed: Read more of this post

Afghans are freedom fighters fighting for their country and fighting for their faith


Afghanistan Sitrep

By William R. Polk

On June 24, the International Herald Tribune published an editorial from its parent, The New York Times, entitled “Obama’s Decision.” Both the attribution – printing in the two newspapers which ensures that the editorial will reach both directly and through subsidiary reprinting almost every “decision maker” in the world – and the date – just before the appointment of David Petraeus to succeed Stanley McChrystal – are significant. They could have suggested a momentary lull in which basic questions on the Afghan war might have been reconsidered.

That did not happen. The President made clear his belief that the strategy of the war was sound and his commitment to continue it even if the general responsible for it had to be changed.

The editorial sounded a different note arising from the events surrounding the fall of General McChrystal: Mr. Obama, said The Times, “must order all of his top advisers to stop their sniping and maneuvering” and come up with a coherent political and military plan for driving back the Taliban and building a minimally effective Afghan government.”

In short, Mr. Obama must get his team together and evolve a plan.

Unfortunately, the task he faces is not that simple.

First, consider the “team.” It has two major components, the military officers whom McChrystal gathered in Kabul. As they made clear in the Rolling Stone interview, they think of themselves as “Team America” and hold in contempt everyone else. Those who don’t fully subscribe to their approach to the war are unpatriotic, stupid or cowardly. Those officers are not alone. Agreeing with them is apparently now a large part of the professional military establishment. They are the junior officers whom David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal have selected, promoted and with whom they take their stand..

The other “component” is not a group but many groups with different agendas and constituencies. The most crucial for my purposes here are the advisers to the President; they were dismissed out of hand as “the wimps in the White House.” Most, but not all, were civilians. Other senior military officers, now retired, who are not part of “Team America” and its adherents were also disparaged. Famously, General Jim Jones, the director of the National Security Council staff, was called a “clown.”

These were the comments that forced Mr. Obama’s hand and were what the press latched upon to explain the events. But many missed the point that McChrystal had just a few days before his dismissal written a devastating report on his mission. Confidential copies of it were obtained by the London newspaper, The Independent on Sunday, which published it today, but of course the President had seen it earlier. Essentially, its message boiled down to failure.

McChrystal pointed out that he faced a “resilient and growing insurgency,” with too few troops and expected no progress in the coming six months. Despite expenditures of at least $7 billion a month, his politico-military strategy wasn’t working. Within weeks of the “victory” over the Taliban in the agricultural district of Marja, the Taliban were back and the box full of government he had announced proved to be nearly empty. As the expression went in the days of the Vietnam war, whatever happened during the day, the guerrillas “owned the night.” As he described it, Marja was the “bleeding ulcer” of the American campaign.

Behind McChrystal’s words, the figures were even more devastating: Marja, despite the descriptions in the press is not a town, much less a city; it is a hundred or so square miles of farm land with dispersed hamlets in which about 35,000 people live and work. Into that small and lightly populated area, McChrystal poured some 15,000 troops, and they failed to secure it.

To appreciate what those figures mean, consider them in context of Petraeus’s counterinsurgency theory, on which McChrystal was basing his strategy. As he had explained it, Marja should be taken, secured and held. Then an administration – McChrystal’s “government in a box” — should be imposed upon it. Despite all the hoopla about the brilliant new strategy, it was hardly new. In fact it was a replay of the strategy the French General Lyautey called the tache d’huile (the oil spot) and applied in Indochina over a century ago. We also tried it in Vietnam, renaming it the “ink spot.” The hope was that the “spot,” once fixed on the Marja, would smudge into adjoining areas and so eventually spread across the country. Clear and simple, but unfortunately, like so much in counterinsurgency theory, it never seemed to work.

Petraeus’s counterinsurgency theory also illuminated how to create the “spot.” What was required was a commitment of forces in proportion to native population size. Various numbers have been put forth but a common number is about one soldier for each 50 inhabitants. Marja was the area chosen for the “spot.” The people living there, after all, were farmers, wedded to the land, and so should be more tractable than the wild warriors along the tribal frontier. Moreover, it was the place where the first significant American aid program, the Helmand Valley Authority, had been undertaken in the late 1950s. So, if an area were to be favorable to Americans, it ought to be Marja. But, to take no chances, General McChrystal decided to employ overwhelming force. So, what is particularly stunning about the failure in Marja is that the force applied was not the counterinsurgency model of 1 soldier for each 50 inhabitants but nearly 1 soldier for each 2 inhabitants.

If these numbers were projected to the planned offensive in the much larger city of Kandahar, which has a population of nearly 500,000, they become impossibly large. Such an attack would require at least four times as many US and NATO as in Marja. That is virtually the entire fighting force and what little control over Marja and most other areas, perhaps even the capital, Kabul, that now exists would have to be given up or else large numbers of additional American troops would have to be engaged. Moreover, in response to such an attack, it would be possible for the insurgents also to redeploy so the numbers would again increase.

The more fundamental question, which needs to be addressed, is why didn’t this relatively massive introduction of troops with awesome and overwhelming fire power succeed. Just a few days before he was fired, as I have mentioned, General McChrystal posed, but could not answer, that question. I hope President Obama is also pondering it.

For those who read history, the answer is evident. But, as I have quoted in my book Understanding Iraq, the great German philosopher, Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel, despaired that “Peoples and governments never have learned anything from history or acted on principles deduced from it” and, therefore, as the American philosopher George Santayana warned us, not having learned from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Indeed, it seems that each generation of Americans has to start all over again to find the answers. Who among our leaders and certainly among college students now really remembers Vietnam? So, consider these simple facts:

The first fact, whether we like it or not, is that nearly everyone in the world has a deep aversion to foreigners on his land. As far as we know, this feeling goes back to the very beginning of our species because we are territorial animals. Dedication to the protection of homeland permeates history. And the sentiment has never died out. Today we call it nationalism. Nationalism in various guises is the most powerful political idea of our times. Protecting land, culture, religion and people from foreigners is the central issue in insurgency. The former head of the Pakistani intelligence service, who has had unparallelled experience with the Taliban over many years, advised us that we should open our eyes to seeing the Afghan insurgents as they see themselves: “They are freedom fighters fighting for their country and fighting for their faith.” We agreed when they were fighting the Russians; now, when many of the same people are fighting us, we see them only as terrorists. That label does not help us understand why they are fighting. Read more of this post

Testing moments for the NSG!

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie shakes hand with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani prior to their meeting in Islamabad.

By Air Cdre Khalid Iqbal (R)

In keeping with its discriminatory policy of selective application of Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States has decided to object to a Sino-Pak civilian nuclear arrangement for setting up two atomic power plants in Pakistan. America is expected to make certain obstructive observations during the meeting of ‘Nuclear Suppliers Group’ (NSG). NSG is an international cartel of nuclear technology suppliers and was not created by an international treaty. Regulations of NSG are nonbinding. China joined the cartel voluntarily. It is interesting to recall that the NSG was created in 1975 to standardize nuclear trade rules as a reaction to India’s testing of a nuclear explosive device. The objective of creating the NSG was to prevent access of nuclear material and know-how to the countries which are non-signatories to the NPT.

Ironically the same NSG was pressurized by America, Russia and France to make country specific exemption to kick start US-India nuclear deal (Agreement 123) in 2008. IAEA also buckled under pressure to make country specific exception to enable India’s access to nuclear material and know how. India continues to be a non-signatory of NPT. Now the NSG is under the international focus because global nuclear trade regime is at its defining moments. Under duress the group exempted India from a long standing NSG requirement that non nuclear weapon states benefiting from nuclear trade must put all their nuclear activities under the safeguards and supervision of the IAEA, ensuring that they are for peaceful uses. In the aftermath of the US–India deal the NSG will have to perform a delicate balancing act to find the least unsatisfactory solution to China’s challenge. In the view of some NSG states, an agreement permitting China to regularise the exports under the 2004 nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan would be the least damaging outcome.

Nevertheless, in a typical twist of hypocrisy, an erratic perception is being generated that the Pak-China arrangement appears to be violating international guidelines forbidding nuclear exports to the countries that have not signed the NPT or do not have international safeguards on reactors. Contrasting it with Agreement 123 reveals that whereas Pak-China arrangement is purely for power generation under comprehensive IAEA safeguards, Agreement 123 exempts 8 nuclear reactors from IAEA safeguards allowing sufficient fissile material to make around 280 warheads per year. This is in addition to India’s ongoing programme of 13 fast breeder reactors. As such it is a misnomer to calls Agreement 123 as ‘US-India Civil Nuclear Deal’. It is indeed US-Indian collusion toward nuclear weapons proliferation programme.

As a follow on to Agreement 123, America and India have recently signed a nuclear fuel reprocessing agreement to further augment their dubious bilateral nuclear deal that would open the venues for India to recycle American spent nuclear fuel. This would facilitate participation by US firms in India’s rapidly expanding civil nuclear energy sector. As a part of ‘United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act of 2008’, India is required to establish a ‘Civil Nuclear Liability Regime’ to limit compensation by American nuclear companies operating in India, in case of nuclear accidents. ‘The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010’ has attracted resistance from labour rights and human rights activist individuals and organizations. Scars of Bhopal accident are too fresh in the memory of Indian public to support this controversial legislation.

‘China National Nuclear Corporation’ is contemplating to set up two new power plants at Chashma, the sale is a leftover of an agreement that China had entered into, before its joining of the NSG in 2004. At that time China was completing work on two reactors for Pakistan. That agreement carried a provision of commissioning of two additional reactors. As Pak-China nuclear agreement is expected to come up before the NSG, the US has communicated to China that it expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations. Western and Indian media has gone into top gear to create a perception that this bilateral cooperation would breach international protocol about the trade of nuclear equipment and material. Read more of this post

“Might is Right” – is it?

By Dr Haider Mehdi

In the Urdu language, the saying is “Jis ki lathi us ki bhains” (Might is Right). Some apologists even call it the use of “Smart Power”.

A school of thought in the West, mostly subscribed to by neocons, diehard reactionaries and racists, claim “Might is Right” and take a historical and moral stand on the issue. The fact of the matter is that in philosophical and operational terms, the US-Western foreign policy doctrine and political-diplomatic conduct towards Third World nations have always been based on the conceptual notion and consistent application of “Might is Right”. The question that needs to be asked in the context of international politics and a “rules-based” global system of interstate relations is: Is “Might is Right” right? History tells us that this is how the US-West have been behaving historically.

The overall Western perspective on Muslim culture is that if you don’t think and behave like us (meaning adopt Western values) then you are doomed, and we (the West) will use force (translated as “Might is Right”) to transform your cultures. That is precisely Huntington’s conceptual view on The Clash of the Civilisations thesis. This outlook, incidentally, has formed the basic fundamentals of the American-Western foreign policy doctrine and the ongoing attempts to transform indigenous cultures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and nearly in every Muslim country – purely subjecting them through “Might is Right” and unleashing military force under the pretext of the “war on terrorism”.
The question that needs to be asked is: If the West is not willing to accommodate or understand minor cultural differences, then how are they going to comprehend cultural imperatives that are rooted in history, cognitive development and implicit value systems? In the context of the Pak-Afghan “war on terror,” how is the West going to come to grips with the Pashtun heritage that the killing of anyone is a religiously forbidden act – but when the next of kin or an innocent human being is killed by an enemy, then revenge becomes a sacrosanct duty.

What I am doing here is seeking answers to fundamental human questions when a nation is under a brutal, merciless and destructive foreign occupation – both against human life and its cultural values.

No one in the print media and on television programmes except an odd one, here or there, in Pakistan seems to be asking the fundamental question: Why is the US-NATO in Afghanistan? Why is the Pakistan army being forced into a war against its own people and its neighbours, the Afghan people? In general, the Pakistani media is so busy in “owning” the “terrorism war” as its own that it has completely lost its bearings on the essential issue.

The new British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in his recent visit to Afghanistan, said the following to Britain’s armed forces at Camp Bastion: “This is not a war of choice, it is a war of necessity. This is not a war of occupation, it is a war of obligation.” The PM insinuated that most of the 9/11 hijackers had been trained in Afghanistan, and the British military mission was vital for Britain’s internal security (meaning the streets of London and elsewhere.) The fact of the matter is that there is not a shred of truth in Cameron’s statement. Simon Jenkins, in a recent piece in Guardian News & Media, wrote: “Yet Fox’s belief – like Gordon Brown’s – that British soldiers are fighting ‘to keep the streets of Britain safe’ is equally absurd. There has never been a shred of evidence that the Taliban wants to conquer Britain, any more than did Saddam Hussain.”

Also, there is no question of “nation building” in present day Afghanistan. Moreover, 77 percent of Britons now reject the Afghan war. Yet the irony is that George W. Bush’s era of lies continues to resonate in the New Britain of David Cameron and in the “we can change” America of Barack Obama. Read more of this post

US “Surge” in Afghanistan in Disarray

by Barry Grey

In the midst of one of the bloodiest weeks for US and NATO forces in the nearly nine-year war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander, announced Thursday that major military operations around Kandahar would be delayed until September.

The offensive had been slated to begin this month, but, as McChrystal admitted, the US has been unable to win the support either of tribal leaders and power brokers or of the populace in and around Afghanistan’s second largest city. The town of 450,000 in the heart of the Pashtun-dominated south is the birthplace of the Taliban and remains a key stronghold of the anti-occupation insurgency.

The top US general in Afghanistan also acknowledged that the much-touted US offensive earlier this year against Marjah, an insurgent stronghold in rural Helmand province, had failed to uproot the Taliban, who retain control of much of the region.

One recent study found that the majority of the population in Marjah had become more antagonistic to NATO forces than before the operation. Late last, month McChrystal referred to the region as “a bleeding ulcer.”

The worsening security situation for the US and NATO in Helmand was highlighted on Thursday when British Prime Minister David Cameron, on his first trip to Afghanistan, was prevented from making a scheduled appearance at a military base in the province after British officers intercepted calls indicating that insurgents were planning to shoot down his helicopter.

So far this month, at least 35 NATO soldiers have been killed, including at least 23 Americans. The week’s bloody toll began on Sunday, June 6, when 6 NATO troops were killed. The next day, 10 NATO troops were killed, 7 of them Americans. That was the deadliest day for occupation forces since the killing of 11 US troops in a helicopter crash last October.

On Tuesday, two US soldiers and a British soldier were killed in separate incidents in the south. On Wednesday, four more US soldiers died when their helicopter was shot down in Helmand province. A fifth NATO soldier was killed the same day.

Four additional NATO troops were killed Friday, including two Americans. On Saturday, a Polish soldier was killed in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, and a second NATO soldier was killed in the north.

The death toll so far this year for US and NATO forces is more than double that of a year ago. Since the start of the war, more than 1,100 US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. This month, the war in Afghanistan surpassed Vietnam as the longest war in US history.

To date, the US and its allies have little to show for the increased carnage, which is far worse for the Afghan people. Speaking Thursday, on the first day of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, McChrystal hinted at the massive popular opposition, especially in the Pashtun south, to the US-led occupation.

Explaining the decision to delay the start of the military offensive in Kandahar, he said, “When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them.”

He suggested that the operation in and around Kandahar would continue at least until the end of the year, telling the Financial Times, “Operationally, it will be tough to the end of the year, casualties will stay high and may go higher than they are now.”
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Target Pakistan

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The Nation

AS the US gets more desperate, it begins to increase the pressure on Pakistan, and with over 1000 Americans now dead in Afghanistan and no clear exit in sight, desperation is writ large over the US administration. So they are pushing Pakistan towards the edge through more destabilisation by insisting the Pakistan military commence a full-scale operation in North Waziristan Agency. According to officially placed reports in the US media, the Obama administration has now threatened Pakistan that unless it obeys their command relating to NWA, the Americans may themselves unilaterally conduct raids on the ground into Pakistan. Presumably, the US is counting on the fact that if the Pakistan’s civil and military leadership accepted the drone attacks despite domestic opposition, they will also concede to the invasion of Pakistan’s territory on the ground by US forces. But this would lead to a direct people-government confrontation and more terrorism if the Pakistan military did not respond to such a US move.

However, the anti-Pakistan agenda of the US is far more expansive than just the operation in NWA. The US-Indo connivance against Pakistan has now become overt with US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, clearing stating that in the context of the Pakistan-India relationship, the Kashmir issue should be pushed aside until “vital” issues like terrorism and trade have been addressed. Too bad Mr Blake does not understand Pakistan well enough to know that Kashmir is the most vital issue for Pakistan, not trade with India. But it does reflect the US administration’s mindset vis-a-vis Pakistan. It is unfortunate that our leadership and even our Foreign Ministry have remained silent on this very contentious US statement.

Nor is this all. The US has, to build a case against Pakistan on the terrorism issue, been deliberately planting evidence on young Pakistanis in the US and creating fake cases against them of helping the Taliban. The most recent is the case of Adnan Mirza who was lured by an FBI agent faking to be a Muslim with an interest in jehad and then planting hunting weapons on him so that he could be arrested on charges of “conspiring to help the Taliban fight US troops!” Given the way the whole case of Dr Aafia has been unfolding and the strange instance of Faisal Shahzad, Adnan Mirza’s conviction on 28 May is hardly convincing. Luckily for Adnan, his community work in Houston may help expose the US government’s targeting of Pakistanis. Let us not forget what the UK’s Labour government tried to do with the Pakistani students in Britain before the courts exposed the whole episode for the lie that it was.

As Pakistanis what we should be asking is why our state is deliberately allowing its citizens to become collateral damage, in one way or another, to a US war which is now being directed at Pakistan itself.

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Afghanistan: never again

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Afghan Mujahideen pose on top of a downed Soviet helicopter from the USSR's failed invasion/occupation.

by I. M. Mohsin

The subject of the article is part of a quote from the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov. Attending a seminar in Singapore on regional security, he confided that his government was rendering useful help to the ISAF and the US in Afghanistan, including intelligence input. During the question-answer session with the delegates in the Shangri-La Dialogue, it was insinuated if such help could include committing Russian forces to join other allies against the Taliban. The Russian Deputy PM promptly retorted: “Never again a Russian soldier would enter Afghanistan.”

I think you understand why. It’s like asking the US whether they would send troops in Vietnam. Emphasising his point he followed it up by stating: “It is something like that. It is totally impossible.” In between he also conceded that he could not disclose the scope and pace of cooperation between his country and the US on Afghanistan to the media. However, he had had serious discussions with his counterparts at this forum like the others.

Considering the quagmire effect which the US is experiencing in Afghanistan, such conferences or dialogues are regular exercises all over the world wherein politicians and intellectuals from the ISAF generally project their mental prowess with analysis relying on media coverage and a reference to history. More often than not, most of them have not even a nodding acquaintance with Afghanistan and FATA, and their culture. Thus, while such exercises are scholastically and for projection purposes in the media, they yield precious little information about the ground realities and the sufferings of the people either due to atrocious use of force, ‘collateral damage’ or ‘friendly fire’. Like all foreign forces, the US often takes a long time to concede that it has committed an atrocity.

Perhaps, accepting responsibility for a miscalculation or overreaction to an assumed threat induces such self-defence mechanism. No wonder arguments are always found to confound any crisis which may have been crime in some other situation wherein no US personnel is involved. In nine years, no US trooper has been held accountable. Hence, war communications are utilised to whittle down what would be a war crime for killing innocent civilians, per se. The only ones who paid for their sin were the Germans whose costly mistake in Kunduz made the then Defence Minister to resign.

Despite all the media hype and help from the former enemy, Russia, which finds a way to avenge the loss of the Soviet Empire from the principal enemy – the Pashtuns, a US policy-shift appears to be on in Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton had recently claimed that the US was fully braced for interacting with a multipolar world. The way Hamid Karzai went ahead with his peace jirga, despite the US silence, indicates that he had acquiesced to his mentors in Washington DC. It touted the old charm offensive propagated by the Afghan President for quite some time by way of befriending the “alienated brothers.”
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Understanding NATO’s agenda

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by Dr. Shireen M Mazari

By now one should not be surprised by any statement coming from the present leadership in the context of foreign policy. After all, if President Zardari could declare, contrary to all historical facts, that India was never a threat to Pakistan; and FM Qureshi could become virtually hysterical in praising the controversial Kerry-Lugar Act; then why should the PM be found wanting in these absurdities? So, when PM Gilani sought guarantees from NATO not to leave Afghanistan till peace had been established there, one was disappointed but not surprised. After all he had just come back from a visit to Brussels and one knows how Pakistanis, from the media to the bureaucrats (both civil and military) to the political leaders, are easily seduced by NATO in Brussels and their military headquarters not too far away. This scribe has herself seen the extensive PR operationalised by NATO for this purpose and only the diehard dissenters can survive the charm onslaught!

However, one hopes the PM will rethink his belief that NATO can establish peace and security in Afghanistan, given how it, along with the US, has been responsible for the worsening situation in that country because of its military-centric approach. In fact, if NATO were to leave and hand back charge to ISAF as originally decreed by the UN Security Council, peace and stability will probably come quicker to Afghanistan. Certainly, in the context of Pakistan, the stability factor would become more evident with a US-NATO withdrawal from this region.

Unfortunately, NATO is not likely to do so, because since the end of the Soviet Union, NATO has been desperately seeking new rationalisations for its continuation as an organisation. After all, NATO was established as a collective defence organisation and, in legal terms, remains so in terms of its legitimacy through the UN system – under Chapter VIII, Articles 52 and 53, as well as Chapter VII’s notion of collective self-defence as embodied in Article 51.

However, regional collective defence organisations need to operate in the specific region of their membership since decision making is restricted to this membership. Despite NATO expanding its functions and strategic concepts, its essential purpose as stated in its 1999 Strategic Concept remains “to safeguard the freedom and security of its members by political and military means” (Chapter 2: The transformation of the Alliance).

Given the continuing European-Atlantic membership of NATO, it is somewhat disturbing to see NATO transforming itself from a collective defence organisation (Article 5 of the NATO Charter is surely in the context of collective defence?) to a collective security organisation to serve the interests of its membership. There is no legitimacy for any collective security organisation other than the UN with its universal membership. Article 51 of the UN Charter provides a very clear and limited framework for collective defence organisations. Article 52 of the Charter relates to regional arrangements in connection with maintenance of peace and security and talks in terms of these organisations coming into being “as are appropriate for regional action.” Also, under Article 53, there can be no action without authorisation of the Security Council except against an enemy state as defined in Article 53:2. Read more of this post

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