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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End the war in Afghanistan: Just get out!

Ron  Jacobs

Perhaps, there was once a time when most westerners could pretend that the US-led onslaught against the Afghan people was a good thing.  Perhaps they convinced themselves that because the government of that country had allowed Osama Bin Laden to live in the mountains there that there was reason enough to attack his neighbors and destroy what remained of their nation.  Perhaps, too, westerners (especially US citizens) believed that the true purpose of the US-led military mission in Afghanistan was to capture Bin Laden and destroy his terror network.

Yes, perhaps there was a time when the facade of justice and righteous revenge provided enough of a moral veneer to the US war in Afghanistan that even intelligent westerners could live with the death and destruction occurring in their name.  However, that time is long past.  The war has gone on for more than eight years without any sign of cessation.  Indeed, since Barack Obama took up residence in the White House, the casualties in that war have spiked.  There are at least 40,000 more US troops in the country since that date last January and another thirty or forty thousand more getting ready to go there.  In addition, the number of mercenaries has similarly increased. The reasons provided for this escalation range from going after terrorists to creating a civil society.  As I write, another offensive against Afghans is being prepared.  It primary purpose is to install a governor appointed by the US-created government in Kabul.  No matter what the reason, it is painfully clear that those of us expecting a truthful explanation for Washington’s presence in Afghanistan will not receive it from those who continue to send troops and weaponry over there.  Nor will they receive it from those in Congress that continue to fund this lethal endeavor.

Yet, the antiwar movement–which should know better–remains virtually silent.  A day of bi coastal demonstrations is planned for March 20, 2010, but otherwise there is not even a whisper of protest.  Students go to classes while their generational cohorts in uniform face the prospect of death and killing.  Antiwar organizations send out the occasional email or call for action, but there is no action.  Congressmen and women ignore the letters and faxes constituents send them asking that they refuse to vote for the next war-funding legislation.  Furthermore, these legislators refuse to make the connection between the destruction of the US economy and the trillion dollars spent to kill Afghans and Iraqis the past eight years.  The media rarely covers the war except to promote the glory of the men and women sent to do America’s dirty work.  There is no critical debate in the mainstream media.  Opponents of Washington’s imperial program–rarely acknowledged in the mainstream media at any time–are now completely ignored. Read more of this post

Americans are fighting the war of yesteryears

Khalid Iqbal

Much fanfare preceded the launch of a military operation in Helmand province. It is being proclaimed as the biggest offensive since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led coalition forces. Hence, the expectations regarding its outcome have skyrocketed, though unrealistically. Overall, the ongoing operation Mushtarak (combined) is a tactical level operation, and thus battle for Helmand is not synonym for the battle for Afghanistan. Even a brilliant success in this venture would not have any significant or lasting impact on the overall layout of the chess board of Afghanistan. The opportune time for a military solution is over, since long.

Operational ingredients and strategy constituents of Helmand manoeuvre are carrying forth most of the usual errors or say the operational psyche, which has been the hallmark of American failures in previous such endeavours over the last about nine years. At the end of the day, some peaks and valleys could have been ‘conquered’; praises would be showered on brave soldiers for not engaging the resistance elements and letting the extremist fighters flee the area, to create trouble elsewhere. The final solution to Afghan fiasco would however remain as elusive.

Unfortunately, the Americans are fighting for some tactical glories at the cost of losing at operational and strategic levels. They appear destined to lose the war, even if they succeed in Operation Mushtarak.

Imperial hubris did not let the Americans learn from the recent success stories of the Pakistani military operations in Malakand and South Waziristan areas. Despite public acclaim about these operations, pertinent operational and tactical level cues and lessons thrown up by these manoeuvres have been thrown out of the window.

It seems that General Kayani’s relevant urging at Brussels and subsequently during the operational level interactions with American field commanders, in a run up to Operation Mushtarak, appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Pakistan’s advise to establish an adequate number of check posts on the Afghan borders in order to block the exodus of extremists into Pakistan have been totally ignored. On the contrary, disturbing news indicate that even a major chunk of previously manned check posts by ISAF/NATO were abandoned prior to commencing the operation. One wonders if this surge supported operation ever had one of its military objectives to eliminate or capture the extremists.

Hence the abandonment of check posts bordering Pakistan by ISAF/NATO has opened the flood gates for extremists’ influx into our country. This could set into motion another cycle of instability in the tribal belt of Pakistan arising out of knock-on effects. As a damage reduction measure, the Pakistan army has speedily set up some check posts on the Pakistani side to restrict the immigration. Read more of this post

US and Pakistan, strange allies

Dr Huma Mir | President Obama’s inaugural pledge to defeat Al Qaeda and Taliban appears in stark contrast to the ground realities in Afghanistan. Obama’s much hyped AF PAK policy is believed to have been practically castigated to history after multiple reviews. The US military’s assessment of the war in Afghanistan too paints a bleak picture. The Taliban today control more than half of Afghan Provinces where they have installed their own shadow Governors.

Despite having suffered the most due to the US adventure in Afghanistan, Pakistan today remains the most vibrant and loyal US ally. US, NATO and Pakistan are mutually dependant. The US and Western Forces operating in Afghanistan are dependent on Pakistan for 80% or more of their logistic support and of course they need vital intelligence. Pakistan needs US financial support, weapons and technology and some specialized training to fight the menace of terrorism. Unfortunately, Pakistan is taken for granted by the US; our blind support has drawn little sympathy for our own national concerns. There have been continued nasty outbursts by US leadership and officials against Pakistan, the “Do More” mantra has become a sickening buzzword.

As the US mounts pressure on Pakistan to open a new front in North Waziristan and around Quetta and to thin out troops from the Eastern Borders to commit on Afghan border, in last few weeks, there appears to be a diabolical worsening in US attitudes. First comes, Mr. McCain who says that the US would continue to use Drone Attacks, saying words to the effect that they care little for Pakistan’s sovereignty and cries from Pakistani leadership that Drone Strikes were counterproductive. Now comes Mr. Gates, the US Secretary Defence who states that in case of another terrorist strike in India, India would be justified in its military response against Pakistan. While Mr. Gates was conveying this not so veiled Indian threat, India committed two border violations. In this scenario, Mr. Gates plays the exact opposite of ground reality and says that he does not see any Indian threat to Pakistan. Mr. Gates made no reference to Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan and its support to the terror outfits in Baluchistan and FATA.

That much for Pakistan being a frontline US ally, remember US trumpets that Pakistan is their closest and most Valued Ally in the War on Terror. Meanwhile, against Pakistani protests the US drone strikes continue. More sinister is the fact that armed US diplomats and security contractors like Blackwater (XE), DynCorp etc travelling in vehicles with fake number plates and documents roam around our violating Pakistani laws with impunity.

The pressure being brought on Pakistan is because of the state of paralysis that US and allies are suffering in Afghanistan. In seeking a scapegoat for their pathetic military performance, the US continues to accuse Pakistani Military and the Intelligence Services of linkages with their Taliban and Al Qaeda adversaries in Afghanistan. Most absurd and illogical feature of these accusations is that while accusing the ISI and our military of playing ball with their enemies, they seek our military and intelligence cooperation and support. The latest figment of imagination is the “Quetta Shura”. Soon we will hear about the Chichawatni and Bhai Pheru Shuras too.

In routine, every few weeks, the US leadership, officials, think tank, newspaper, TV Channel or a court jester expresses DEEP CONCERN at the security of Pakistani Nuclear Arsenal and indicates fears of it falling into the hands of extremists. Often such CONCERNS are followed by controlled information leakage that the US has plans to TAKE OUT Pakistani Nukes if threatened by extremists. As our leadership starts responding to these absurd revelations, a kind hearted US official or political leader provides a verbal certification that Pakistani Nukes were safe as if he or she knew the way our nukes are deployed and secured. Pakistan has given more than its share to support the US operations. It opened its airspace and airbases, ports and allowed use of land route for logistic support of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. It has committed more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan Border in a very expensive low intensity conflict which has had devastating effect on our bankrupt economy and internal stability. What has the US given to our nation in return? The US has even held back our due share of Coalition Support Funds worth almost 2 Billion Dollars. US has not contributed a dollar to maintenance of our road network under their use. What happened to the promised ROZs in tribal belt, what has the US done to check flow of weapons and money to the Pakistani extremists from Afghanistan, what have the US done to stop the Indian managed training camps for Baluch nationalists on Afghan soil, what about preferential access to Pakistani goods in US and EU markets, etc etc. US has balked from providing the drone technology to Pakistan, they hav’nt given the additional helicopter gunships and ground mobility vehicles and vital spares that Pakistan has been asking for. Even the carrot in the form of Kerry – Luger Bill of a few billion dollars has been strangled and tied to notions which can only appeal to those who framed the policy.

US has been persistently demanding from Pakistan to shun its traditional threat perception and shift additional troops from Indo Pak border to the Afghan border to battle the Taliban extremists in North Waziristan. The US wants to use Pakistani forces as bait, US planners visualize that Pakistani action in North Waziristan could draw Taliban fighters from Afghanistan thus relieving the pressure there on US and NATO forces while Pakistan executes its dirty work. Pakistani security establishment has its own threat perception and have refused the US pressure. We have many options and Pakistan doesn’t have the time pressure which the US has. Pakistan Army’s categorical statement that it shall not open a new front till it has consolidated its gains in Malakand and South Waziristan is absolutely apt response. The timings of Pakistani assault in North Waziristan would be dictated by the speed of our consolidation and preparations and probable speed of US administration to meet Pakistani military demands rather than be synchronized to US desires.

It would be extremely interesting to follow the operations in North Waziristan as and when they come and its impact on the Afghan security scene. Will the Pakistani assault provide any relief to the Western Forces in Afghanistan or will it confirm the Pakistani viewpoint that the Afghan problem needs an Afghan solution. Demonizing Pakistan won’t win the war for the Western Forces in Afghanistan.

A Two-Front Threat Emerging For Pakistan

Dr. Shireeen M Mazari:

The moment of truth for those in Islamabad who continue to trust the Americans is nearing and might have already arrived. Pakistan needs to respond to the provocations by India and by those who are supporting India. Pakistan also needs to consider withdrawing from the coming London conference on Afghanistan if its legitimate security interests are further ignored by the United States and the United Kingdom. Additionally, Pakistani forces need to be positioned along the border with southern Afghanistan, where some elements within the US establishment seem to be planning limited incursions.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A nightmare security scenario for Pakistan seems to be emerging – that of a two-front military conflict. Pakistan is already facing an internal militancy aided and abetted from Afghanistan and is threatened with all manner of likely US boots actually coming into Pakistan.

Already, the drone attacks on Pakistani soil have increased. For all these reasons, Pakistan has moved a large chunk of its forces away from its Eastern border with India and along the LoC, and moved them to the Western front along the international border with Afghanistan as well as into FATA.

Now India has upped the military ante against Pakistan after meetings between Indian officials and America’s Holbrooke and Gates. Hence we are seeing the unprovoked Indian military firing at Pakistani forces across the international border, the working boundary and across the LoC, which has resulted in death and injury for Pakistani soldiers. What can possibly be the Indian intent at this time to undertake such military adventurism? Had it been given some go-ahead by the Americans?

This new military provocation comes when there seems to have been a decision made by the British and Americans to give India a major military role in Afghanistan. The two allies are all set to spring this nasty decision onto Pakistan at the international conference on Afghanistan in London at the end of this month when it will be proposed that India train the Afghan National Army – something it is already doing at a small level covertly and on that pretext already has its operatives in Afghanistan. It is these operatives who are conducting the aid and assistance to militants within Pakistan.

In view of these developments, what are the immediate options for Pakistan which will protect its interests as well as signal an effective message to both the US and India?

First and most immediate, Pakistan needs to move its troops back to its Eastern front and cease operations in FATA. We need to distinguish between our militancy problem, which is certainly threatening and very real, but has multiple dimensions, and the misguided US ‘War on Terror’. On the Western front, it needs to realign its forces along the Chaman border area with Afghanistan where it is expected US boots may enter Pakistan on the ground.

Second, it needs to tell the US in no uncertain terms that it will not tolerate these Indian military incitements and may well up the ante also choosing its own time, place and type of response.

Third, Pakistan needs to categorically refuse to participate in the London Conference if the plan to train the Afghan National Army by India is even discussed informally. In fact, under the circumstances, if India participates in the Conference, Pakistan should consider the option of boycotting it. Let us see how far the US and UK get in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s active cooperation!

Fourth, it is time to demand that Indian operatives move out of Afghanistan and Indian consulates in Afghanistan along the border area with Pakistan be closed.

The fact that the Indian aggression has come immediately in the aftermath of the discussions between the Indians and visiting Americans including Defense Secretary Gates, and following on the heels of the visit to Kabul by India’s DG MI, shows only too clearly the Indo-US nexus in terms of presenting Pakistan with a possible two-front threat.

No new operation for now, says ISPR

Pakistan Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas

ISLAMABAD: The military said on Thursday during a visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that it could not launch any new offensive against militants for six months to a year.

The announcement probably comes as a disappointment to the US, which has pushed Pakistan to expand its military operations to North Waziristan to target militants staging attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The comments by military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas clearly indicate Pakistan will not be pressurised in the near term to expand its fight beyond militants waging war against Pakistan.

The Pakistan army was overstretched and it was not in a position to open any new fronts. “Obviously, we will continue our present operations in Waziristan and Swat,” Maj-Gen Abbas told DawnNews TV channel.

It was not about years, he said. “It will take us between six months and a year to consolidate the gains in the areas taken back from the militants to make them completely secure and ensure safety of the returnees and stabilise the situation,” he said.

The country’s resources did not allow the army to open a new front. However, if at all it opened a new front it would do so in line with the country’s interests.

He rejected criticism that Pakistan had been slow to move against the Haqqani network that is quite active in Afghanistan and told journalists traveling with Mr Gates that the CIA had failed to provide “actionable intelligence” about the group.

The army launched a major ground offensive against the Pakistani Taliban’s main stronghold in South Waziristan in mid-October.

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