Why Afghanistan?

There are other reasons for the US to be involved in Afghanistan,al Qaeda not being the most important.Control of Afghanistan give the United States access to Iran to the north are many of the ” Stans” Afghanistan is a very Strategic area.

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By Timothy V. Gatto

Lately, I’ve been listening to folks like Rachel Maddow and Richard Holbrooke talk about the situation in Afghanistan. I’ve been hearing that the rate of illiteracy in that country runs in the area of 70 to 80%. The government is having a hard time enforcing the law because in cities like Kandahar, there are only 9 magistrates to hear court cases. I’ve also heard about the government, along with the military forces from NATO, have seemingly stopped cutting down Afghan poppy and marijuana fields so that farmers can stay afloat selling these crops.

I’ve heard that the primary mission of the NATO forces is to prevent “collateral damage” to civilians as they relentlessly hunt down the Taliban. It’s been reported that the Taliban gave al Qaeda a free hand to operate in this poor, backwards country which led to the September 11th attacks on the United States in 2001, and that this is the primary reason that the United States and NATO operate on the premise that if we don’t develop a strong central government in Kabul, that more attacks will surely hit the United states “Homeland” after being planned in Afghanistan.

During an interview with Rachel Maddow, Special Envoy to the nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard C. Holbrooke remarked that NATO must create a strong central government in order to get the majority of the populace to align themselves with the government in Kabul. This supposedly, would break the grip that the Taliban holds over the people that live in the rural areas. Since a hefty majority or the Afghan population live in the rural areas, this becomes a very tall order.

While listening to Holbrooke pontificate on the problems that the central government faces in winning “the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, I couldn’t help but remember the rhetoric that came out of Vietnam over 40 years ago. There too, we were involved in winning “the hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people and there too, Richard C. Holbrooke was involved in that strategy.

Listening to Holbrooke discuss the reasons we are in Afghanistan made me think about what a wonderful nation the United States truly is. Even though we are experiencing a recession that is akin to the Great Depression of the 1930’s, with official unemployment figures running about 9 percent on average (while the true figures are obscured because so many have come off the unemployment rolls due to these people no longer being eligible for unemployment benefits due to the length of time they have been unemployed and many have ceased looking for work, while some economists claim the real figures are between 20 and 25%), we valiantly spend our nation’s treasure to “help” these unfortunate Afghan people to build a nation free from corruption and rule by tribal warlords.

Holbrooke claims that we are making substantial progress in opening schools while training the Afghan Army and police forces to bring about a nation run by law. Even though the main cash crop in that country is opium that accounts for something like 95% of Europe’s heroin supply and most of its hashish, we are asked to believe that soon Afghanistan will be a major supplier of corn and other foodstuffs after the central government “rehabilitates” the farmers that make their livings off of narco-agriculture. After all, why would farmers willingly grow poppies and marijuana when they could grow eggplants, melons and corn?

Listening to government officials like General Ben Hodges describe the Taliban’s way of settling disputes in Kandahar made me wonder if the military leadership over there are sampling the hashish being grown by the farmers. (). The truth as I see it, there is so much corruption and so little support from the government in Kabul, the idea of bringing Afghanistan into the twenty-first century could take decades.

The true nature of our involvement in Afghanistan is something that has yet to be defined. The obvious question is why are we there? What makes this nation (and I use the term loosely), so important that we need 150,000 troops from the U.S. (and almost as many mercenaries), and tens of thousands of troops from NATO as well as Mongolia, South Korea and other non-NATO countries, to perform the task of “nation-building”? Is it because of the TAPI petroleum pipeline that will run from the Caucuses to ports in India, thus bringing oil from the Caucuses without having to go through Russia, and insuring petroleum to Western Europe without the inconvenience of having it controlled by Russia and thus holding Western Europe hostage? Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on the pipeline;

“The new deal on the pipeline was signed on 27 December 2002 by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2005, the Asian Development Bank submitted the final version of a feasibility study designed by British company Penspen. ‘Since the US-led offensive that ousted the Taliban from power,’ reported Forbes in 2005, “the project has been revived and drawn strong US support” as it would allow the Central Asian republics to export energy to Western markets “without relying on Russian routes”. Then-US Ambassador to Turkmenistan Ann Jacobsen noted that: “We are seriously looking at the project, and it is quite possible that American companies will join it.”[5] Due to increasing instability, the project has essentially stalled; construction of the Turkmen part was supposed to start in 2006, but the overall feasibility is questionable since the southern part of the Afghan section runs through territory which continues to be under de facto Taliban control.”

There are other reasons for the U.S. to be involved in Afghanistan, al Qaeda not being the most important. Control of Afghanistan gives the United States access to Iran to the west and China to the east whiles to the north are many of the “Stans”. Afghanistan is a very strategic area. Read more of this post

Pak-Iran Pipeline vs TAPI

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Defying Washington, Islamabad has inked the final agreement on the construction of multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline in Istanbul (Turkey) on Tuesday. In January 2010, Barack Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke (a Crypto Jew), told Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister Syed Naveed Qamar that Islamabad “would have to abandon its pipeline accord with Tehran” in order to isolate Islamic Iran. Washington had offered Islamabad with an extensive energy assistance in return.

In 1994, Iran and India signed a deal to build a 2,700-kilometre-long gas pipeline (IPI) at the cost of US$7.5 billion to transport Iranian gas through Pakistan to India. Dubbed as the “Peace Pipeline”, hoping that financial collaboration may bring peace between the nuclear rivals Hindutva India and Muslim Pakistan. However, the construction of the proposed pipeline could not go ahead due to Washington’s pressure on New Delhi and Islamabad. Last year, India dropped out of the deal under Washington’s blackmail with a nuclear deal in 2008.

The agreement signed in Istanbul involved the construction of a 900-kilometre-long gas pipeline, from Asalooyeh in Southern Iran and Iranshahr near the border with Pakistan and will transport 750 million cubic feet a day of gas from Iran to Pakistan for the next 25 years to generate 4,000 MW of electricity. And when and if India want to return to its original deal with Islamic Iran – Pakistan will charge India the transit fee according to international practices. Some analysts are saying that China may decide to join the project in the near future.

Naturally, the Israel Lobby is not happy about it and one has to see Washington’s reaction. Washington has long been pushing an alternate pipeline route from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) in its effort to sideline Islamic Iran.

Christopher Bollyn in his August 2009 article Dick Holbrooke – The Zionist Agent in Obama\’s Vietnam: “U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan since October 2001 when they were supposedly sent in response to 9-11, although no Afghans were involved in the terror attacks. The U.S. reportedly gave up its pursuit of Osama Bin Laden years ago. So why did the U.S. invade Afghanistan and why are we still there? Why has President Obama increased troop levels in Afghanistan? The short answer is the TAPI gas pipeline, which will carry gas from Israeli-owned and managed gas fields in Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and China. Turkmenistan and Afghanistan are both very rich in gas reserves. The Turkmen mineral assets are managed by the former Mossad agent Yosef Maiman. Building the TAPI pipeline is a Zionist pipe dream that will use the mineral wealth of Turkmenistan to benefit Maiman and his partners. This is the main development project that U.S. policy is trying to accomplish. Transit fees from the gas pipeline are intended to support the government in Kabul.”

Christopher Bollyn on Holbrooke’s family background wrote: ”To understand why Holbrooke is put into these positions, it is necessary to understand who he really is. Although it is not reported in biographical sketches, Holbrooke belongs to a very highly-connected family that is related to the Rothschild and Guggenheim families, among others. It is his German Jewish family connections that have placed him in positions of power in the U.S. government. Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was born April 24, 1941, to Dan Holbrooke and Gertrudis “Trudi” Moos Holbrooke. Dan, his father, was a Polish Jewish immigrant who changed his name to Holbrooke. Biographical sketches claim that Dan’s original surname has been lost, which is very unlikely. Dan Holbrooke’s real name has been hidden in the same way that the family has sought to hide its Jewish roots.” —rehmat’s world

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Destabilizing Pakistan – Operation Breakfast Redux

By Tom Engelhardt and Pratap Chatterjee

Almost every day, reports come back from the CIA’s “secret” battlefield in the Pakistani tribal borderlands. Unmanned aerial vehicles – that is, pilotless drones – shoot missiles (18 of them in a single attack on a tiny village last week) or drop bombs and then the news comes in: a certain number of al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders or suspected Arab or Uzbek or Afghan “militants” have died. The numbers are oftenremarkably precise. Sometimes they are attributed to U.S. sources, sometimes to the Pakistanis; sometimes, it’s hard to tell where the information comes from. In the Pakistani press, on the other hand, the numbers that come back are usually of civilian dead. They, too, tend to be precise.

Don’t let that precision fool you. Here’s the reality: There are no reporters on the ground and none of these figures can be taken as accurate. Let’s just consider the CIA side of things. Any information that comes from American sources (i.e., the CIA) has to be looked at with great wariness. As a start, the CIA’s history is one of deception. There’s no reason to take anything its sources say at face value. They will report just what they think it’s in their interest to report – and the ongoing “success” of their drone strikes is distinctly in their interest.

Then, there’s history. In the present drone wars, as in the CIA’s bloody Phoenix Program in the Vietnam era, the Agency’s operatives, working in distinctly alien terrain, must rely on local sources (or possibly official Pakistani ones) for targeting intelligence. In Vietnam in the 1960s, the Agency’s Phoenix Program – reportedly responsible for the assassination of 20,000 Vietnamese – became, according to historian Marilyn Young, “an extortionist’s paradise, with payoffs as available for denunciation as for protection.” Once again, the CIA is reportedly passing out bags of money and anyone on the ground with a grudge, or the desire to eliminate an enemy, or simply the desire to make some of that money can undoubtedly feed information into the system, watch the drones do their damnedest, and then report back that more “terrorists” are dead. Just assume that at least some of those “militants” dying in Pakistan, and possibly many of them, aren’t who the CIA hopes they are.

Think of it as a foolproof situation, with an emphasis on the “fool.” And then keep in mind that, in December, the CIA’s local brain trust, undoubtedly the same people who were leaking precise news of “successes” in Pakistan, mistook a jihadist double agentfrom Jordan for an agent of theirs, gathered at an Agency base in Khost, Afghanistan, and let him wipe them out with a suicide bomb. Seven CIA operatives died, including the base chief. This should give us a grim clue as to the accuracy of the CIA’s insights into what’s happening on the ground in Pakistan, or into the real effects of their 24/7 robotic assassination program.

But there’s a deeper, more dangerous level of deception in Washington’s widening warin the region: self-deception. The CIA drone program, which the Agency’s Director Leon Panetta has called “the only game in town” when it comes to dismantling al-Qaeda, is just symptomatic of such self-deception. While the CIA and the U.S. military have been expending enormous effort studying the Afghan and Pakistani situations and consulting experts, and while the White House has conducted an extensive series of seminars-cum-policy-debates on both countries, you can count on one thing: none of them have spent significant time studying or thinking about us.

As a result, the seeming cleanliness and effectiveness of the drone-war solution undoubtedly only reinforces a sense in Washington that the world’s last great military power can still control this war – that it can organize, order, prod, wheedle, and bribe both the Afghans and Pakistanis into doing what’s best, and if that doesn’t work, simply continue raining down the missiles and bombs. Beware Washington’s deep-seated belief that it controls events; that it is, however precariously, in the saddle; that, as Afghan War commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal recently put it, there is a “corner” to “turn” out there, even if we haven’t quite turned it yet.

In fact, Washington is not in the saddle and that corner, if there, if turned, will have its own unpleasant surprises. Washington is, in this sense, as oblivious as those CIA operatives were as they waited for “their” Jordanian agent to give them supposedly vital information on the al-Qaeda leadership in the Pakistani tribal areas. Like their drones, the Americans in charge of this war are desperately far from the ground, and they don’t even seem to know it. It’s this that makes the analogy drawn by TomDispatch regular and author of Halliburton’s Army Pratap Chatterjee so unnerving. It’s time for Washington to examine not what we know about them, but what we don’t know about ourselves. Tom


Operation Breakfast Redux

Could Pakistan 2010 go the way of Cambodia 1969?
by Pratap Chatterjee

Sitting in air-conditioned comfort, cans of Coke and 7-Up within reach as they watched their screens, the ground controllers gave the order to strike under the cover of darkness. There had been no declaration of war. No advance warning, nothing, in fact, that would have alerted the “enemy” to the sudden, unprecedented bombing raids. The secret computer-guided strikes were authorized by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just weeks after a new American president entered the Oval Office. They represented an effort to wipe out the enemy’s central headquarters whose location intelligence experts claimed to have pinpointed just across the border from the war-torn land where tens of thousands of American troops were fighting daily.

In remote villages where no reporters dared to go, far from the battlefields where Americans were dying, who knew whether the bombs that rained from the night sky had killed high-level insurgents or innocent civilians? For 14 months the raids continued and, after each one was completed, the commander of the bombing crews was instructed to relay a one-sentence message: “The ball game is over.”

The campaign was called “Operation Breakfast,” and, while it may sound like the CIA’s present air campaign over Pakistan, it wasn’t. You need to turn the clock back to another American war, four decades earlier, to March 18, 1969, to be exact. The target was an area of Cambodia known as the Fish Hook that jutted into South Vietnam, and Operation Breakfast would be but the first of dozens of top secret bombing raids. Later ones were named “Lunch,” “Snack,” and “Supper,” and they went under the collective label “Menu.” They were authorized by President Richard Nixon and were meant to destroy a (nonexistent) “Bamboo Pentagon,” a central headquarters in the Cambodian borderlands where North Vietnamese communists were supposedly orchestrating raids deep into South Vietnam.

Like President Obama today, Nixon had come to power promising stability in an age of unrest and with a vague plan to bringing peace to a nation at war. On the day he was sworn in, he read from the Biblical book of Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” He also spoke of transforming Washington’s bitter partisan politics into a new age of unity: “We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another, until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

Return to the Killing Fields

In recent years, many commentators and pundits have resorted to “the Vietnam analogy,” comparing first the American war in Iraq and now in Afghanistan to the Vietnam War. Despite a number of similarities, the analogy disintegrates quickly enough if you consider that U.S. military campaigns in post-invasion Afghanistan and Iraq against small forces of lightly-armed insurgents bear little resemblance to the large-scale war that Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon waged against both southern revolutionary guerrillas and the military of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, who commanded a real army, with the backing of, and supplies from, the Soviet Union and China.

A more provocative – and perhaps more ominous – analogy today might be between the CIA’s escalating drone war in the contemporary Pakistani tribal borderlands and Richard Nixon’s secret bombing campaign against the Cambodian equivalent. To briefly recapitulate that ancient history: In the late 1960s, Cambodia was ruled by a “neutralist” king, Norodom Sihanouk, leading a weak government that had little relevance to its poor and barely educated citizens. In its borderlands, largely beyond its control, the North Vietnamese and Vietcong found “sanctuaries.”

Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent. And countless civilian deaths in the 1st two months of 2010........

Sihanouk, helpless to do anything, looked the other way. In the meantime, sheltered by local villagers in distant areas of rural Cambodia was a small insurgent group, little-known communist fundamentalists who called themselves the Khmer Rouge. (Think of them as the 1970s equivalent of the Pakistani Taliban who have settled into the wild borderlands of that country largely beyond the control of the Pakistani government.) They were then weak and incapable of challenging Sihanouk – until, that is, those secret bombing raids by American B-52s began. As these intensified in the summer of 1969, areas of the country began to destabilize (helped on in 1970 by a U.S.-encouraged military coup in the capital Phnom Penh), and the Khmer Rouge began to gain strength.

You know the grim end of that old story.

Forty years, almost to the day, after Operation Breakfast began, I traveled to the town of Snuol, close to where the American bombs once fell. It is a quiet town, no longer remote, as modern roads and Chinese-led timber companies have systematically cut down the jungle that once sheltered anti-government rebels. I went in search of anyone who remembered the bombing raids, only to discover that few there were old enough to have been alive at the time, largely because the Khmer Rouge executed as much as a quarter of the total Cambodian population after they took power in 1975.

Eventually, a 15-minute ride out of town, I found an old soldier living by himself in a simple one-room house adorned with pictures of the old king, Sihanouk. His name was Kong Kan and he had first moved to the nearby town of Memot in 1960. A little further away, I ran into three more old men, Choenung Klou, Keo Long, and Hoe Huy, who had gathered at a newly built temple to chat.

All of them remembered the massive 1969 B-52 raids vividly and the arrival of U.S. troops the following year. “We thought the Americans had come to help us,” said Choenung Klou. “But then they left and the [South] Vietnamese soldiers who came with them destroyed the villages and raped the women.”

He had no love for the North Vietnamese communists either. “They would stay at people’s houses, take our hammocks and food. We didn’t like them and we were afraid of them.”

Caught between two Vietnamese armies and with American planes carpet-bombing the countryside, increasing numbers of Cambodians soon came to believe that the Khmer Rouge, who were their countrymen, might help them. Like the Taliban of today, many of the Khmer Rouge were, in fact, teenage villagers who had responded, under the pressure of war and disruption, to the distant call of an inspirational ideology and joined the resistance in the jungles.

“If you ask me why I joined the Khmer Rouge, the main reason is because of the American invasion,” Hun Sen, the current prime minister of Cambodia, has said. “If there was no invasion, by now, I would be a pilot or a professor.”

Six years after the bombings of Cambodia began, shortly after the last helicopter lifted off the U.S. embassy in Saigon and the flow of military aid to the crumbling government of Cambodia stopped, a reign of terror took hold in the capital, Phnom Penh.

The Khmer Rouge left the jungles and entered the capital where they began a systemicgenocide against city dwellers and anyone who was educated. They vowed to restart history at Year Zero, a new era in which much of the past became irrelevant. Some two million people are believed to have died from executions, starvation, and forced labor in the camps established by the Angkar leadership of the Khmer Rouge commanded by Pol Pot.

Unraveling Pakistan

Could the same thing happen in Pakistan today? A new American president was ordering escalating drone attacks, in a country where no war has been declared, at the moment when I flew from Cambodia across South Asia to Afghanistan, so this question loomed large in my mind. Both there and just across the border, Operation Breakfast seems to be repeating itself.

In the Afghan capital, Kabul, I met earnest aid workers who drank late into the night in places like L’Atmosphere, a foreigner-only bar that could easily have doubled as a movie set for Saigon in the 1960s. Like modern-day equivalents of Graham Greene’s “quiet American,” these “consultants” describe a Third Way that is neither Western nor fundamentalist Islam.

At the very same time, CIA analysts in distant Virginia are using pilot-less drones and satellite technology to order strikes against supposed terrorist headquarters across the border in Pakistan. They are not so unlike the military men who watched radar screens in South Vietnam in the 1960s as the Cambodian air raids went on. Read more of this post

Afghanistan: the Helmand huff

“It is better to be torn by a loin than to be loved by a jackal.” : Pashto proverb

Helmand has been a graveyard of foreign forces. Kipling advised in 1898, “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle an’ blow out your brains An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier..” The British Defense Secretary Ainsworh has warned of the expected casualties! Helmand hardcore heeds its horrid history!

by I. M. Mohsin

The foreign forces appear to be pursuing confusing tactics to tame the enemy. Till about two months back, Karzai was a “cheat” and US and its allies had to find an aggressive way-out of the Afghan quagmire. Though the US manpower losses are nominal, the history of the area proves that far more pernicious prospects lie in store than in the case of Vietnam, with all its awful baggage. As the new strategy recommended by the General staff was adopted by the Administration, there was huffing and puffing in the government circles in US etc. The Afghans heard, with mixed feelings, of new reinforcements to the US troops. Other countries have their problems in adding to their military stre-ngth. Predictably the Taliban threatened more attacks on the occupation forces, while the status quo milieu welcomed it. Pakistan questioned this development for two reasons. First, that it would lead to more bloo-dshed on both sides; the Afghan civilians, who have been subjected to indiscriminate bo-mbings would be affected more, like their brothers on the Pakistani border. Second, that as the Taliban experience disproportionate bombing etc, they will tend to seek refuge in the mountainous hideouts on our side.

The AfPak border is a much worse delineation as compared with the Mexican border, which also has a poor history. At many points there is no formal boundary; a wall, pillar or check post. Till now Pakistan has no surveillance equipment worthy of mention despite having been a partner of the US’ “war on ter-ror” launched by George W. The NATO forces deployed on the other side of border should be much better equipped in principle but they also appear to have no clear policy. As tradition rules the roost, the people on either side have enjo-yed the right of passage for routine purposes, and even the British Empire put up with this anomaly handled by their ‘political administration’. Besides, the border did not matter at all when the US and Pakistan were helping these brave people to force out the Soviet forces.

Millions of our Afghan brothers were accommodated in and around Peshawar, Kohat, etc to facilitate their regular contribution to the then, profusely praised/projected by the CIA, ‘jihad’. Read more of this post

Afghanistan and NATO: Figleaf Summit

Eric Walberg | The plan voiced at the London Afghanistan conference to pay off the Taliban is belied by the plan at the Brussels NATO conference two days earlier to bomb them into submission.

London has been the venue of a three-ring Middle East circus over the past month. There is the ongoing Chilcot inquiry into the (il)legality of British participation in the invasion of Iraq. Two of the five committee members are Zionists — Sir Martin Gilbert a militant Zionist, and Sir Lawrence Freedman the drafter of Blair’s invasion policy. Despite the deck being stacked, witness after witness has testified the invasion was illegal, and former British prime minister Tony Blair was booed after telling the inquiry he has no regrets.

Then there was an impromptu conference on “saving” Yemen, which the five major Yemeni opposition parties denounced as “intended to save the political regime in Yemen.” Yemen is described by a British official as “Afghanistan with a sea”.

Just as farcical was last week’s summit on Afghanistan, called to “move the international effort forward in key areas of security, governance, development, and regional support.” In reality, it was a cosmetic follow-up to the war council held two days earlier at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where the NATO Military Committee met, bringing together the chiefs of defence of all 28 member states along with 35 “partners”, wannabes and observers — an astounding 63 nations.

The news from Afghanistan is uniformly chilling. US military deaths this January were more than double last year’s record figure. Insurgents are carrying out one daring attack after another across the country, prompting NATO to launch Israeli drones in the attempt to terrify Afghans into submission. A fierce eight-hour attack on UN headquarters in Helmand last week came, ironically, as Karzai and UN Special Representative Kai Eide served up olive branches to the Taliban, removing some from their terror list and offering them a half billion dollars. Eide claims negotiations have begun, though Taliban spokesmen dismiss the offers and talk of talks.

The conferees in London piously asked that the Taliban give up their links with Al-Qaeda and stop threatening the world. But the Taliban have never tried to export their beliefs. And the supposed link with Al-Qaeda is a false flag, since the Taliban and Al-Qaeda (to what extent it even exists) have never been operating together — until recently, when the NATO surge and Pakistani offensive against its own Taliban picked up steam, presumably boosting Al-Qaeda enlistment and encouraging the very cooperation that the West is supposedly against.

US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke understands this, as revealed by his statement to reporters on the sidelines of the London summit that more than “two-thirds of the Taliban are not extremists.” Ergo, if Obama wants to rid the world of the Al-Qaeda threat, the logical thing would be to stop invading Muslim countries and inciting the people to take up arms and work with any forces against the invaders.

The Karzai regime is by now entirely threadbare. Only London summiteers give Karzai a soapbox anymore. And the only sign of democracy in Afghanistan these days are the occasional demos by Afghans hopelessly protesting the torture and murder of their loved ones by ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops. What is clearer each day is that the US invasion has now hardened into a civil war, with some poverty-stricken Afghans reluctantly pretending to be an army paid in dollars to face their Muslim brothers who are fighting for their country and their faith, a horrifying reality that can only mean continuing slaughter until the invaders flee.

The poor UN is flailing about helplessly in the quagmire, supporting the US in its occupation, but at the same time, warning that “widespread and systematic” secret detention of terror suspects could pave the way for charges of crimes against humanity. Western troops, notably the US and Canadian, have been arresting “suspects” and sending them to secret detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families. These night raids have become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition airstrikes. The scandal hit the Canadian government last month and forced the Conservatives there to shut down parliament to stave off an investigation which would most likely lead to their own demise.

At the real Afghanistan conference — the war council in Brussels, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, with tongue bitterly in cheek, offered to rebuild the infrastructure and factories the Soviet Union built during its own ill-fated attempt to bring Afghanistan into the 20th c, undermined by US arms supplied to US-backed mujaheddin in the 1980-90s. He understandably wants this to be funded by the West, since it was responsible for the destruction in the first place.

Rogozin told Der Speigel that Russia is far more concerned about the flow of heroin that became a flood after the US invasion, rather than any possible military threat from the Taliban. “Each year, 30,000 human lives are lost in Russia because of Afghan heroin.” He did not spell this out in detail, but is no doubt aware that US forces are actually abetting the smuggling, as documented by many sources, including former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who himself witnessed the pretend-border controls on the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan border in 2004. Scanners and sniffing dogs were simply bypassed by the chief smuggler — current Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Afghan Army Abdel Rashid Dostum, a native Uzbek who has close working relations with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. Rogozin accused NATO forces of ignoring the problem: “They think it’s not their problem, because Afghan heroin mostly goes to Central Asia and Russia.”

The proposal by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and NATO General Secretary Fogh Rasmussen to double the Afghan Security Forces, soldiers and police to a level of 300,000 and speed up the withdrawal of foreign troops prompted a nervous Karzai to predict that foreign troops would be needed for 10-15 years.

Perhaps a few Taliban really have sat down with UN reps, possibly to draw them in with false promises. Not surprisingly, many starving young Afghans are willing to sell out their brothers to feed themselves and their families. But the many instances of Afghan police, soldiers — even translators — defecting to the Taliban, or suddenly turning on their masters and collaborators and killing them before themselves dying as martyrs or escaping to freedom should be a warning to the occupiers.

This is intuitively understood by most Westerners, whether or not they admire the fighters. Despite uniformly pro-war media in the West, a majority of Canadians and Europeans (even occasionally Americans) realise the war is pointless, and want their troops to come home immediately. Germans are 80 per cent against sending further forces. Only because German Chancellor Angel Merkel’s Christian Democrats faced a divided opposition and apathetic electorate was she able to stay on as leader and offer up her soldiers to the US in some kind of gruesome, misguided sacrificial offering for Germany’s many past sins.

The occupation of Afghanistan was not an unpremeditated blunder, just as with the occupation of Iraq or the possible occupation of Yemen. The wars are part of the extension of US power to all corners of the globe, a process that has quietly been accelerating in the past two decades, confirmed last week by US proconsul Hillary Clinton’s presence at both the Yemen and Afghanistan conferences in London, as well as their outcomes.

The current composition of ISAF reflects this consolidation, with troops from South America, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, all the way to Korea, New Zealand and possibly soon India. Even Jordan, Egypt and the UAE have support personnel helping out. Consider for a moment: troops from all these countries and continents are, under US command, fighting a war in Central Asia, with the UN scurrying in behind them to give the whole operation a patina of respectability.

The fact that the mightiest war machine in history is being tripped up by a handful of ragged-trousered, determined young men is astounding. Obama’s vow to start evacuating (excuse me, withdrawing) troops by next year, despite Gates’ blustering denial and Karzai’s hopes, now hovers over this criminal adventure as a sword of Damocles.

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The Kashmir issue

Kashmir protest

The American President’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, has said that the USA has decided on a roadmap to solving the Kashmir dispute between the two South Asian neighbours, and this will be presented to the two countries soon. Ambassador Holbrooke, in an interview to a US magazine, also disclosed that he would visit both countries soon in order to get the stalled composite dialogue process started once again. Ambassador Holbrooke was also quick to say that the USA recognised that both countries did not want outside interference, but since they were both nuclear-armed, the USA was working behind the scenes to make sure they resolved their disputes peaceably.

While there must be significance attached to Ambassador Holbrooke’s desire to assuage Indian sensibilities, he is merely reflecting President Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric, which did not see peace coming to the subcontinent until the Kashmir issue, which is the core bilateral dispute, was resolved. However, the USA does not have a track record of successful resolutions of disputes, especially if they involve Muslims, Palestine being a case in point. The USA needs a resolution to avoid nuclear war for the country it hopes will be a counterweight to China in future, and the one it needs to carry on its ill-fated War on Terror. For the time, because of its goals in the region, it will try to work for a solution that suits India.

However, the USA and the rest of the international community should recognize that India only holds on to a part of Kashmir through a forced occupation that involves a million troops, and that the only just and lasting solution is the holding of a plebiscite to determine the will of the Kashmiri people, as laid down in the UN resolutions on the subject. Ambassador Holbrooke has merely shown himself as willing to serve the Indian agenda, not just in Afghanistan, but also Kashmir.– The Nation

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