Time for America to introspect

by Asif Haroon Raja

Gen Petraeus has taken over same lot of demoralized coalition troops with little heart left to fight purposeless war. US military and NATO have never remained in sync; misunderstanding among them is likely to increase in coming months. Synchronized coordination among six intelligence agencies is lacking. Afghan Army and paramilitary forces are another headache needing emergent refurbishment. Introduction of Blackwater in security and military affairs has its own set of ramifications. He plays with the same battle plan conceived by his predecessor Gen McChrystal and approved by him. He is bounded by Af-Pak plan to draw a wedge between Taliban and Al-Qaeda, divide Taliban and defeat the hardliners. He too is keen for operation in NW for he feels that move into Kandahar with a heavy force would expose his southern flank and rear to militants in NW.

The Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan exactly one year after Gorbochov announced his intentions on 09 February 1988. None had believed that Soviets would ever withdraw since the big bear had no history of retracing its steps. Taliban rightly feel that they have in principle achieved the second miracle within a span of three decades. The day Americans pull out, it will be like the history of rise of Islam under Holy Prophet (pbuh) in 6th century getting re-enacted when the two super powers of the time, the Persians (Sassanian Empire) and the Byzantine Empire under Romans, having fought with each other for a longtime finally got defeated at the hands of ill-equipped Muslim Arabs on horsebacks.

Notwithstanding that Taliban have an influence over more than 70% of territory in Afghanistan, yet they are far from taking over reigns of country. Until and unless they capture Kabul and dismantle US bases in Baghram and Kandahar, which are the main power centres of coalition forces and Karzai regime, victory will remain illusive. Kabul’s fall is obligatory to achieve total victory. Kabul can capitulate if focus of terror attacks is shifted to the capital city, northern route towards Salang Pass is blocked, supplies coming from Pakistan are disrupted, and like IEDs and suicide attacks which have taken maximum toll of ISAF ground troops, means to combat aerial power acquired. Russia would be too willing to provide latest version of SAMs as a quid pro quo to stingers provided to Mujahideen by Americans in 1987-88, which accelerated the rot of Soviet forces.There is growing skepticism among policy makers in USA. The critics say that US military and civil officials associated with Afghanistan lack clarity, vision and have no set goals and their benchmarks are based on vague assumptions making achievement of goals that much unattainable. Shadow boxing for authority is continuing between Pentagon under Robert Gates cum CIA and State Department under Hillary Clinton cum White House. For Obama, next one year period is crucial to achieve some measure of stability in Afghanistan since it will have a direct bearing on the outcome of elections in USA in 2011-12.

It is time for USA to introspect and to perform postmortem as to why today the US finds itself in such a sorry state. Washington should make a candid assessment as to what the US gained in blindly trusting India and Israel and what it lost in distrusting Pakistan. Isn’t it ironic that after punishing Pakistan for nine years on fabricated charges, the US has now begun to realize that stability of Pakistan is critical to stability of Afghanistan, South-Central Asia and for US national security? Who will account for immeasurable human and economic losses suffered by Pakistan? Had the US played a fair game with Pakistan and co-opted the Army and ISI in its war plans, it could have emerged as a victor. At this critical stage, the US needs a General like Gen Patton or Gen McArthur to steady the ship and snatch the victory from the jaws of sure defeat. Like McChrystal, Petraeus too is a spent cartridge with nothing to gloat about. He is no match to one-eyed Mullah Omar who has proved his mettle and has all the qualities of a great leader. Petraeus will swim with the tide but doesn’t have the aura and drive to lift the sagging morale of 46-nation troops he commands, galvanize them into a well-knit team and kindle in them requisite warrior spirit to push back the surging tide and turn it in favorable direction. I may hazard to add that best of military plans fail under an indecisive and weak leader while an average plan succeeds under a dynamic leader.

Therefore rather than wasting time in hatching conspiracies against Pakistan, focus should be on selecting the right man and giving him full liberty of action to run the show. He should dispassionately take stock of the obtaining situation, resources available, go about refurbishing grey areas, revise battle plans in accordance with ground realities and see if pitched battles are desirable. Any military leader with little grey matter would conclude that it is pointless to reinforce failure and would advise that from henceforth all efforts should be made towards salvaging the precarious situation through dialogue only and not through a mix of dialogue and use of force since it would prove counter productive.

The intellectually bankrupt think tanks in USA instead of publishing anti-Pakistan articles scripted by Indian writers in US newspapers and magazines should critically examine as to why the US failed to usher in democracy, political stability and economic prosperity in war-torn Afghanistan? They should seek answers as to why USA could not win over the Afghans or train ANA and police despite spending trillions of dollars? An answer should be found as to why colossal amount was wasted on futile chase of Osama and other high profile militant leaders without any success? They should search their hearts and come out with honest opinion whether efforts wasted on dividing and killing Taliban will prove productive and whether it will be desirable to waste time and resources on propping up dead horse of ANA.

The US strategists must now ponder over the coming withdrawal phase of coalition troops, starting in July 2011, whether it will be a clean break under a Geneva like accord or it will be a running battle, or total airlift of manpower leaving behind all the heavy baggage, tanks, guns, mines, explosives and ordnance. They must contemplate upon northern outlet through Central Asia and southern outlet through Pakistan as to what steps are required to make them safe for supplies as well as rearward road moves. The civil leaders like James Jones, Holbrooke, Eikenberry and others in the meanwhile should also do their homework and stick to their domain rather than poking their noses in military affairs and trying to become military strategists. As a matter of fact it was because of hardnosed Holbrooke’s aggressive attitude which gave rise to civil-military tensions. He was behind making Af-Pak policy, which was devised to balkanize Pakistan on Yugoslavian model. He tried to assert his authority in Pakistan but his inflated ego was deflated by Lt Gen Shuja Pasha in April 2009 and ever since he has put on the guise of affability. However, beneath the mask of friendliness, he remains firm in his set goals. Read more of this post

Israel Leaves Trail of Lies in Afghanistan

By Gordon Duff

LONDON TIMES RUNS SECOND ISRAELI PROPAGANDA PIECE IN A WEEK

The second time this week, the London Times has run articles submitted by Israeli intelligence, irresponsible, inaccurate and intended to bring chaos.  The first article claimed that US sources had verified Saudi Arabia’s intention to allow Israeli planes to use their territory for an attack on Iran.  The government of Saudi Arabia issued a strong denial in hours.  Today’s Israeli press release, carried as a news article by the London Times is far more sinister but also leaves a trail.  We are putting the London Times in for the Yellow Journalism Award of the Week, something usually reserved for Fox News.

The article itself is what we call a “plant.”  The substance of the times article includes a meeting with an imaginary Taliban commander and a hodge podge of misinformation, outright lies and subterfuge.  What is more important is why the article was written and why such a transparent piece of propaganda is a sign of Israel feeling the upheaval or worldwide scorn after the massacre of human rights activists in the Mediterranean.   The real pressure to cause a rift between NATO and Pakistan, something India and Israel have worked for, has been exacerbated by President Karzai’s attempts to draw close to Pakistan to support his failing regime.  Karzai, educated in India, had, for most of his rule, worked closely with India and, less publicly, Israel, something his people would have hated him even more for, if that were possible.

Continually dogged by accusations of corruption and for surrounding himself with druglords from the minority Northern Alliance, Karzai’s every act has moved Afghanistan into chaos and closer to civil war.  Now that the end is on him and on his friends, India and Israel, he has run to Pakistan for help and Israel has run to the Times to stop him.

The timing of the article, immediately after the Times attempted to divide the Islamic world by claiming Saudi Arabia and Israel were planning an attack on Iran, is, in itself an additional sign of how little the London Times is valued by organizations powerful enough to have it print stories that would humiliate any reputable paper.  It was important for Israel, the close ally of India, to discredit Pakistan and attempt to tie it to the Taliban, an organization that has killed thousands in Pakistan.  No mention is made of these attacks, however.  No mention of Israel and India and their role in arming and training the Taliban as part of a program of surrogate warfare against Pakistan, the world’s only Islamic nuclear state.

The gist of the article is simple:  Pakistan is running the Taliban because Pakistan ran the Taliban during the 1980s, when, frankly, the Taliban didn’t exist.  The article further claims that Pakistan’s ISI, their version of the CIA, is working with President Zardari to organize the Taliban. Read more of this post

Genghis Khan could not hold onto Afghanistan. Neither will the United States

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by Dahr Jamail:

The United States Empire is following a long line of empires and conquerors that have met their end in Afghanistan. The Median and Persian Empires, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, the Indo-Greeks, Turks, Mongols, British and Soviets all met the end of their ambitions in Afghanistan.

On September 7 the Swedish aid agency Swedish Committee for Afghanistan reported that the previous week US soldiers raided one of its hospitals. According to the director of the aid agency, Anders Fange, troops stormed through both the men’s and women’s wards, where they frantically searched for wounded Taliban fighters.

Soldiers demanded that hospital administrators inform the military of any incoming patients who might be insurgents, after which the military would then decide if said patients would be admitted or not. Fange called the incident “not only a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict, but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement” between nongovernmental organizations and international forces.

Fange said that US troops broke down doors and tied up visitors and hospital staff.

Impeding operations at medical facilities in Afghanistan directly violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which strictly forbids attacks on emergency vehicles and the obstruction of medical operations during wartime.

Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a public affairs officer for the US Navy, confirmed the raid, and told The Associated Press, “Complaints like this are rare.”

Despite Sidenstricker’s claim that “complaints like this” are rare in Afghanistan, they are, in fact, common. Just as they are in Iraq, the other occupation. A desperate conventional military, when losing a guerilla war, tends to toss international law out the window. Yet even more so when the entire occupation itself is a violation of international law.

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild and also a Truthout contributor, is very clear about the overall illegality of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan by the United States.

“The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of US law,” Cohn, who is also a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and recently co-authored the book “Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent” said, “Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men – 15 from Saudi Arabia – did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the US or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The US war in Afghanistan is illegal.”

Thus, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, along with the ongoing slaughter of Afghan civilians and raiding hospitals, are in violation of international law as well as the US Constitution.

And of course the same applies for Iraq.
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