THE HANDSTAND

AUGUST-OCTOBER2009

Afghanistan - The Proxy War?

By Andrew J. Bacevich

October 12, 2009 "
Boston Globe" -- No serious person thinks that Afghanistan - remote, impoverished, barely qualifying as a nation-state - seriously matters to the United States. Yet with the war in its ninth year, the passions raised by the debate over how to proceed there are serious indeed. Afghanistan elicits such passions because people understand that in rendering his decision on Afghanistan, President Obama will declare himself on several much larger issues. In this sense, Afghanistan is a classic proxy war, with the main protagonists here in the United States.

The question of the moment, framed by the pro-war camp, goes like this: Will the president approve the Afghanistan strategy proposed by his handpicked commander General Stanley McChrystal? Or will he reject that plan and accept defeat, thereby inviting the recurrence of 9/11 on an even larger scale? Yet within this camp the appeal of the McChrystal plan lies less in its intrinsic merits, which are exceedingly dubious, than in its implications.

If the president approves the McChrystal plan he will implicitly:

Anoint counter-insurgency - protracted campaigns of armed nation-building - as the new American way of war.

Embrace George W. Bush's concept of open-ended war as the essential response to violent jihadism (even if the Obama White House has jettisoned the label "global war on terror'').

Affirm that military might will remain the principal instrument for exercising American global leadership, as has been the case for decades.

Implementing the McChrystal plan will perpetuate the longstanding fundamentals of US national security policy: maintaining a global military presence, configuring US forces for global power projection, and employing those forces to intervene on a global basis. Its purpose - despite 9/11 and despite the failures of Iraq - is to preserve the status quo.

Hawks understand this. That's why they are intent on framing the debate so narrowly - it's either give McChrystal what he wants or accept abject defeat. It's also why they insist that Obama needs to decide immediately.

Yet people in the anti-war camp also understand the stakes. Obama ran for the presidency promising change. The doves sense correctly that Obama's decision on Afghanistan may well determine how much - if any - substantive change is in the offing.

If the president assents to McChrystal's request, he will void his promise of change at least so far as national security policy is concerned. As the fighting drags on from one year to the next, the engagement of US forces in armed nation-building projects in distant lands will become the new normalcy. Americans of all ages will come to accept war as a perpetual condition, as young Americans already do. That "keeping Americans safe'' obliges the United States to seek, maintain, and exploit unambiguous military supremacy will become utterly uncontroversial.

If the Afghan war then becomes the consuming issue of Obama's presidency - as Iraq became for his predecessor, as Vietnam did for Lyndon Johnson, and as Korea did for Harry Truman - the inevitable effect will be to compromise the prospects of reform more broadly. At home and abroad, the president who advertised himself as an agent of change will instead have inadvertently erected barriers to change. As for the American people, they will be left to foot the bill.

This is a pivotal moment in US history. Americans owe it to themselves to be clear about what is at issue. That issue relates only tangentially to Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or the well-being of the Afghan people. The real question is whether "change'' remains possible.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War'' is forthcoming.

Copyright 2009 GlobeNewspaper Company

Afghan president: Unknown helicopters transfer rebels to N Afghanistan

 KABUL, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has said that gunmen had been airdropped by unknown helicopters to the relatively peaceful northern provinces, a local newspaper reported Monday.

    "President Karzai alleged Sunday that some unidentified helicopters dropped armed men in northern Baghlan, Kunduz, and Samangan provinces at night since the past five months," local daily Outlook said.

    The president said "even today we received reports that the furtive process is still ongoing."

    According to the newspaper, Karzai did not share the evidence with journalists but said, "A compressive investigation was underway to determine which country the helicopters belonged to; why armed men were being infiltrated into the region; and whether increasing insecurity in the north was linked to it."

    Earlier, governor of northern Balkh province said that certain circles had been distributing weapons to irresponsible men in the northern region to sabotage peace

Editor: Xiong Tongwww.chinaview.cn2009-10-12

 

AFP, February 21, 2008 WHAT is itALL ABOUT? ofcourse !.......

Afghanistan sitting on a gold mine

The USGS estimates there are about 700 billion cubic metres of gas and 300 million tonnes of oil across several northern provinces.

KABUL — Afghanistan is sitting on a wealth of mineral reserves -- perhaps the richest in the region -- that offer hope for a country mired in poverty after decades of war, the mining minister says.

Significant deposits of copper, iron, gold, oil and gas, and coal -- as well as precious gems such as emeralds and rubies -- are largely untapped and still being mapped, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel told AFP.

And they promise prosperity for one of the world's poorest countries, the minister said, dismissing concerns that a Taliban-led insurgency may thwart efforts to unearth this treasure.

Already in the pipeline is the exploitation of a massive copper deposit -- one of the biggest in the world -- about 30 kilometres (20 miles) east of Kabul.

"There has not been such a big project in the history of Afghanistan," Adel said.

Afghanistan is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt countries by Transparency International, a Berlin-based monitoring agency.
VOA, Feb.20, 2008

A 30-year lease for the Aynak copper mine was in November offered to the China Metallurgical Group Corporation and the contract is being finalised.

"It is estimated that the Aynak deposit has more than 11 million tonnes (of copper)," he said, citing 1960s surveys by the Soviet Union and a new study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

"With today's prices, it contains an 88-billion-dollar deposit," he said.

The mine is expected to bring the government 400 million dollars annually in fees and taxes, Adel said.

That is on top of an 800-million-dollar downpayment from the developer who has also committed to build a railway line, a power plant and a village for workers, complete with schools, clinics and roads.

About 5,000 jobs will be created and mining is expected to start in five years. "Up to 40 percent of the income will pour into our pockets," Adel said.

The colossal Aynak project represents, however, only a fraction of Afghanistan's unexploited resources, he said. The scale of the deposits is still being charted.

The USGS is carrying out a nationwide survey of mineral wealth and oil and gas deposits that is expected to be completed in a year, Adel said.

Studies of only 10 percent of the country have discovered abundant deposits of copper, iron, zinc, lead, gold, silver, gems, salt, marble and coal, the ministry says.

The USGS estimates there are about 700 billion cubic metres of gas and 300 million tonnes of oil across several northern provinces.

A Soviet survey estimated there are more than two billion tonnes of iron reserves, the ministry says.

One of the best known iron deposits is at Haji Gak, 90 kilometres west of Kabul.

"If everything goes as we desire, Haji Gak requires two to three billion dollars' investment," said the minister.

"Another 100 million to 1.5 billion dollars is needed to explore the gas and oil mines."

The government plans to offer more projects for private sector tender next year, Adel said.

There is already some mining underway such as ad hoc emerald extraction in the Panjshir valley region northeast of Kabul, where dynamite is used to blow gems out of the ground.

And the ministry has handed two coal mines to private Afghan companies, although they lack standard equipment.

The site for the mine at Aynak, 60 km southeast of Kabul contains the world's second-biggest unexploited copper deposit with the potential to generate revenue of $1.4 billion a year. Of greatest danger is the threat of toxic waste which has led to environmental damage around copper mines in several countries.
Reuters, Dec.12, 2007

The Aynak contract will be a model for others, with developers expected to put in basic infrastructure as Afghanistan's power grid is weak and its transport network limited.

There is also the challenge of the insurgency, which overshadows development and has made many areas off-limits to foreign companies.

Writer and analyst Waheed Mujda warned there could be no mining in Taliban-held areas, which are mostly in the south, without the permission of the Islamic extremists.

"Any kind of agreement with Taliban will have to involve money and that money obviously would finance the insurgency in part," Mujda told AFP.

But Adel is not concerned. "We can provide security for mining sites simply by hiring a private security company," he said.

Most of the deposits that have been discovered are in the relatively stable north. There are, however, uranium reserves in the southern province of Helmand, one of the worst for Taliban attacks, the minister said.

The minister's sights are firmly set on mining bringing his impoverished country a brighter future.

"In five years' time Afghanistan will not need the world's aid money," he said. "In 10 years Afghanistan will be the richest country in the region."

*******

I Was Ordered to Cover Up President Karzai Election Fraud, Sacked UN Envoy Says

By Tom Coghlan

October 05, 2009 "
The Times" --- The head of the UN mission in Afghanistan has been accused by his former deputy of ordering a systematic cover-up to conceal the extent of electoral fraud by President Karzai.

In an attack on the role of the UN in the elections on August 20, Peter Galbraith, who was sacked as Deputy Special Representative to the UN mission in Kabul last week, says that Kai Eide ordered him not to reveal evidence of fraud or to pass it to the authorities.As a result, he said, the elections had handed the Taleban “its greatest strategic victory in eight years of fighting the United States and its Afghan partners”. He says that the UN collected evidence that a third of Mr Karzai’s votes were fraudulent. If the claim was found to be true it would push Mr Karzai below the 54 per cent that the preliminary election results give him, necessitating a second round of voting.

The attack by Mr Galbraith seems timed to counter indications that the US Government and international community have accepted the official verdict of the Afghan authorities and, with it, a Karzai Administration.


Mr Galbraith said that Mr Eide ordered him not to pursue concerns that he expressed before the elections that the Afghan President would use polling stations in unstable areas to conduct fraud.
“At other critical stages in the election process,” he wrote in The Washington Post, “I was similarly ordered not to pursue the issue of fraud.“My staff collected evidence on hundreds of cases of fraud around the country and, more important, gathered information on turnout in key southern provinces where few voters showed up but large numbers of votes were being reported. Eide ordered us not to share this data with anyone, including the Electoral Complaints Commission, a UN-backed Afghan institution legally mandated to investigate fraud.”Since Mr Galbraith was dismissed at least five of his colleagues at the UN Afghan mission have resigned.

Mr Galbraith challenged claims made by Mr Eide that the UN was not mandated to interfere in the Afghan electoral process.He wrote: “The UN Security Council directed the UN mission to support Afghanistan’s electoral institutions in holding a ‘free, fair and transparent’ vote, not a fraudulent one.
“And with so much at stake — and with more than 100,000 US and coalition troops deployed in the country — the international community had an obvious interest in ensuring that Afghanistan’s election did not make the situation worse.”He also warned of renewed inter-ethnic division because of anger over the failure to deal with the alleged fraud.

A spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) denied the claims. Dan McNorton said: “UNAMA has not, does not and will not turn a blind eye to fraud. Throughout this election the UN has insisted on a rigorous adherence to the election processes. Our neutrality will be paramount at all stages.”

UN: 1,500 Afghan civilians dead in 8 months:

The UN said in a new report that NATO air strikes were to blame for about a quarter of civilian deaths across the war-ravaged country over the past months.
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=107213&sectionid=351020403

AFP
14/09/2009
By

[Printer Friendly Version]

KABUL – Afghanistan has reported outbreaks of potentially lethal cholera in 10 provinces across the impoverished country, the health ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry "has so far recorded 673 cases countrywide" of the highly contagious disease in almost a third of the country's 34 provinces, including in the capital Kabul. No deaths have been reported.
"All outbreaks are under control and no active one is reported as of today, September 13," a ministry statement said.
It said staff had been deployed to outbreak areas and medication was being provided to try to prevent the spread of the disease, which thrives where sanitation is poor and can spread rapidly.
Afghanistan's health system has been battered by decades of civil war, and facilities remain poor across the fifth poorest country in the world.

UK defends bloody rescue of reporter in Afghanistan, Well they would wouldn't they?
Fri, 11 Sep 2009

Miliband had reportedly taken the final decision to approve the use of force to free the British journalist .

As British government comes under fire over bloody raid to free a foreign journalist in Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary David Miliband has defended the mission. Miliband said the raid was the only way to rescue New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell who was abducted by the Taliban linked militants last week. British-led commandos swooped on an insurgents' hideout in northern Kunduz province before dawn on Wednesday and managed to free Farrell.

Farrell, who holds dual British and Irish citizenships, did not suffer any injures during the operation and was successfully freed. However, his Afghan interpreter, Sultan Munadi, was killed during the raid along with an Afghan woman and child, as well as a British soldier.

British officials say it was Miliband and the UK Defense Secretary, Bob Ainsworth who took the final decision to approve the use of force to free Farrell. The London government has been criticized at home and abroad for launching a military operation without exhausting other channels.

The Media Club of Afghanistan has blamed foreign troops for the death of a colleague during the rescue operation. The journalists group has also criticised NATO commandos for leaving Sultan Munadi's body behind while they rescued Farrell. (and the body of the British Soldier.JB) Afghanistan media and journalists have expressed anger over the incident, saying that they launch these operations only to release their own people. Insurgency has reached at its record level high across Afghanistan since the US-led forces invaded the country eight years ago.

JR/DTPressTV



SWEDISH HOSPITAL RAIDED BY USA TROOPS

7TH SEPT.2009
A Swedish aid agency has accused American troops of storming through one of its hospitals in Afghanistan, breaking down doors and tying up staff, searching for wounded 'Taliban fighters.'

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said Monday that soldiers from the US Army's 10th Mountain Division entered a hospital last week without permission in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul.

"Upon entering the hospital they tied up four employees and two family members of patients at the hospital. SCA staffs as well as patients, even those in beds, were forced out of rooms (and) wards throughout the search," the SCA said in a statement on its website, quoting country director Anders Fange.

The Swedish charity said the troops' actions were a violation of the sanctity of medical facilities in combat zones, the New York Times reported.

The SCA -- which helps the Afghans with education, health and disability issues -- has been operational in Afghanistan since the 1980s, working in 16 provinces mostly in the east.

The US military said it was investigating the case.

RZS/MD
PressTV

The Big Lie of Afghanistan

Inquiries into the 954 deaths in police custody since 1990 have all proved fruitless – and then this historic case comes along

By Malalai Joya

July 26, 2009 "The Guardian" -- July 25, 2009 -- In 2005, I was the youngest person elected to the new Afghan parliament. Women like me, running for office, were held up as an example of how the war in Afghanistan had liberated women. But this democracy was a facade, and the so-called liberation a big lie.

On behalf of the long-suffering people of my country, I offer my heartfelt condolences to all in the UK who have lost their loved ones on the soil of Afghanistan. We share the grief of the mothers, fathers, wives, sons and daughters of the fallen. It is my view that these British casualties, like the many thousands of Afghan civilian dead, are victims of the unjust policies that the Nato countries have pursued under the leadership of the US government.

Almost eight years after the Taliban regime was toppled, our hopes for a truly democratic and independent Afghanistan have been betrayed by the continued domination of fundamentalists and by a brutal occupation that ultimately serves only American strategic interests in the region.

You must understand that the government headed by Hamid Karzai is full of warlords and extremists who are brothers in creed of the Taliban. Many of these men committed terrible crimes against the Afghan people during the civil war of the 1990s.

For expressing my views I have been expelled from my seat in parliament, and I have survived numerous assassination attempts. The fact that I was kicked out of office while brutal warlords enjoyed immunity from prosecution for their crimes should tell you all you need to know about the "democracy" backed by Nato troops.

In the constitution it forbids those guilty of war crimes from running for high office. Yet Karzai has named two notorious warlords, Fahim and Khalili, as his running mates for the upcoming presidential election. Under the shadow of warlordism, corruption and occupation, this vote will have no legitimacy, and once again it seems the real choice will be made behind closed doors in the White House. As we say in Afghanistan, "the same donkey with a new saddle".

So far, Obama has pursued the same policy as Bush in Afghanistan. Sending more troops and expanding the war into Pakistan will only add fuel to the fire. Like many other Afghans, I risked my life during the dark years of Taliban rule to teach at underground schools for girls. Today the situation of women is as bad as ever. Victims of abuse and rape find no justice because the judiciary is dominated by fundamentalists. A growing number of women, seeing no way out of the suffering in their lives, have taken to suicide by self-immolation.

This week, US vice-president Joe Biden asserted that "more loss of life [is] inevitable" in Afghanistan, and that the ongoing occupation is in the "national interests" of both the US and the UK.

I have a different message to the people of Britain. I don't believe it is in your interests to see more young people sent off to war, and to have more of your taxpayers' money going to fund an occupation that keeps a gang of corrupt warlords and drug lords in power in Kabul.

What's more, I don't believe it is inevitable that this bloodshed continues forever. Some say that if foreign troops leave Afghanistan will descend into civil war. But what about the civil war and catastrophe of today? The longer this occupation continues, the worse the civil war will be.

The Afghan people want peace, and history teaches that we always reject occupation and foreign domination. We want a helping hand through international solidarity, but we know that values like human rights must be fought for and won by Afghans themselves.

I know there are millions of British people who want to see an end to this conflict as soon as possible. Together we can raise our voice for peace and justice


Mullah Baradar: In His Own Words

NEWSWEEK Published Jul 25, 2009 From the magazine issue dated Aug 3, 2009  

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has been in day-to-day command of the Afghan insurgency ever since the Taliban's founder and leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, disappeared from view roughly three years ago. NEWSWEEK hand-delivered a list of questions for Baradar to a senior Taliban source. Within days, the Taliban's chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, telephoned NEWSWEEK asking for an e-mail copy of the questions. A few weeks later Mujahid e-mailed to NEWSWEEK what he said were Baradar's answers in Pashto. Excerpts:

How would you describe the Taliban's current position on the ground in Afghanistan?
Our losses are very few. It has become transparent to all Afghans that foreigners have come to our country as invaders and not for the welfare of Afghans. In every nook and corner of the country, a spirit for jihad is raging.

What is your reaction to the large increase in U.S. forces this year?
Statements about the increase in troops do not affect the mujahedin at all. In fact, Americans are demoralized in Afghanistan, and they don't know what to do. [The Taliban] want to inflict maximum losses on the Americans, which is possible only when the Americans are present here in large numbers and come out of their fortified places.

How long are you prepared to fight?
The history of Afghanistan shows that Afghans never get tired of struggling until they have freed their country. We shall continue our jihad till the expulsion of our enemy from our land.

Who is leading the Taliban movement?
Respected Amir-ul-Momineen [leader of the faithful] Mullah Mohammed Omar. We are acting on his instructions.

Are you in direct contact with Mullah Omar?
Continuous contacts are not risk-free because of the situation. [But we] get his advice on important topics.

What about his health?
He is hale and healthy and is not only taking part in, but currently leading, the jihad.

The United States and Afghan president Hamid Karzai say you and your commanders are largely operating from Quetta in Pakistan. Is that true?
This is baseless propaganda. The Shura's area of operations is inside Afghanistan.

Are some Taliban involved in secret talks with the Karzai government?
Not a single member of the Taliban is involved in talks.

Would you support talks at some time?
What would be the topic of the talks and what would be the result? Our basic problem with the Americans is that they have attacked our country. They are offering talks, hoping that the mujahedin surrender before them. We see no benefit for the country and Islam in such kind of talks.

What would be your conditions for talks if they were to take place?
The basic condition is the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

If breaking ties with Al Qaeda were a condition of a peace accord, would you do that?
Our decisions are made on the basis of our national interests.

Is Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency giving you support or advice?
This is venomous propaganda that has no facts behind it.

What about reports that Pakistani intelligence is advising you not to enter into peace talks at this time?
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is independent and sovereign in its decisions and agreements. It is not taking any dictation from any group or government.

Do you fear that Pakistan would stop you from using its soil?
They have not given us permission to use their land even now.

2009

Escalation of the Afghan War? US-NATO Target Russia, China and Iran
by Rick Rozoff
Global Research, September 10, 2009

The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are expanding their nearly eight-year war in Afghanistan both in scope, with deadly drone missile attacks inside Pakistan, and in intensity, with daily reports of more NATO states’ troops slated for deployment and calls for as many as 45,000 American troops in addition to the 68,000 already in the nation and scheduled to be there shortly.

The NATO bombing in Kunduz province on September 4 may well prove to be the worst atrocity yet perpetrated by Western forces against Afghan civilians and close to 20 U.S and NATO troops have been killed so far this month, with over 300 dead this year compared to 294 for all of 2008.

The scale and gravity of the conflict can no longer be denied even by Western media and government officials and the war in South Asia occupies the center stage of world attention for the first time in almost eight years.

The various rationales used by Washington and Brussels to launch, to continue and to escalate the war – short-lived and successive, forgotten and reinvented, transparently insincere and frequently mutually exclusive – have been exposed as fraudulent and none of the identified objectives have been achieved or are likely ever to be so. Osama bin Laden and Omar Mullah have not been captured or killed. Taliban is stronger than at any time since their overthrow eight years ago last month, even – though the name Taliban seems to mean fairly much whatever the West intends it to at any given moment – gaining hitherto unimagined control over the country’s northern provinces.

Opium cultivation and exports, virtually non-existent at the time of the 2001 invasion, are now at record levels, with Afghanistan the world’s largest narcotics producer and exporter.

The Afghan-Pakistani border has not been secured and NATO supply convoys are regularly seized and set on fire on the Pakistani side. Pakistani military offensives have killed hundreds if not thousands on the other side of the border and have displaced over two million civilians in the Swat District and adjoining areas of the North-West Frontier Province.

Yet far from acknowledging that the war, America’s longest since the debacle in Vietnam and NATO’s first ground war and first conflict in Asia, has been a signal failure, U.S. and NATO leaders are clamoring for more troops in addition to the 100,000 already on the ground in Afghanistan and are preparing the public in the fifty nations contributing to that number for a war that will last decades. And still without the guarantee of a successful resolution.

But the West’s South Asian war is a fiasco only if judged by what Washington and Brussels have claimed their objectives were and are. Viewed from a broader geopolitical and strategic military perspective matters may be otherwise.

On September 7 a Russian analyst, Sergey Mikheev, was quoted as saying that the major purpose of the Pentagon moving into Afghanistan and of NATO waging its first war outside of Europe was to exert influence on and domination over a vast region of South and Central Asia that has brought Western military forces – troops, warplanes, surveillance capabilities – to the borders of China, Iran and Russia.

Mikheev claims that “Afghanistan is a stage in the division of the world after the bipolar system failed” and the U.S. and NATO “wanted to consolidate their grip on Eurasia…and deployed a lot of troops there,” adding that as a pretext for doing so “The Taliban card was played, although nobody had been interested in the Taliban before.” [1]

A compatriot of the writer, Andrei Konurov, earlier this month agreed with the contention that Taliban was and remains more excuse for than cause of the United States and its NATO allies deploying troops and taking over air and other bases in Afghanistan and the Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In the case of Kyrgyzstan alone, there were estimates at the beginning of this year that as many as 200,000 U.S. and NATO troops have transited through the Manas air base en route to Afghanistan.

Konurov argued that “With Washington’s non-intervention if not downright encouragement, the Talibs are destabilizing Central Asia and the Uyghur regions of China as well as seeking inroads into Iran. This is the explanation behind the recent upheaval of Uyghur separatism and to an extent behind the activity of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.” [2]

It must be kept in mind, however, that for the West the term of opprobrium Talib is elastic and can at will be applied to any ethnic Pushtun opponent of Western military occupation and, as was demonstrated with the NATO air strike massacre last Friday, after the fact to anyone killed by Western forces as in multi-ethnic Kunduz province.

The last-cited author also stated, again contrary to received opinion in the West, that “the best option for the US is Afghanistan having no serious central authority whatsoever and a government in Kabul totally dependent on Washington. The inability of such a government to control most of Afghanistan’s territory would not be regarded as a major problem by the US as in fact Washington would in certain ways be able to additionally take advantage of the situation.” [3]

An Afghanistan that was at peace and stabilized would then be a decided disadvantage for plans to maintain and widen Western military positioning at the crossroads where Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Pakistani and Indian interests meet.

The Russian writer mentions that Washington and its NATO allies have employed the putative campaign against al-Qaeda – and now Taliban as well as the drug trade – to secure, seize and upgrade 19 military bases in Afghanistan and Central Asia, including what can become strategic air bases like former Soviet ones in Bagram, Shindand, Herat, Farah, Kandahar and Jalalabad in Afghanistan. The analyst pointed out that “The system of bases makes it possible for the US to exert military pressure on Russia, China, and Iran.”

It suffices to recall that during the 1980s current U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was the CIA official in charge of the agency’s largest-ever covert campaign, Operation Cyclone, to arm and train Afghan extremists in military camps in Pakistan for attacks inside Afghanistan. A “porous border” was not his concern at the time.

Konurov ended his article with an admonition:

“There is permanent consensus in the ranks of the US establishment that the US presence in Afghanistan must continue.

“Russia should not and evidently will not watch idly the developments at the southern periphery of post-Soviet space.” [4]

Iran’s top military commander, Yahya Rahim-Safavi, was quoted in his nation’s media on September 7 offering a comparable analysis and issuing a similar warning. Saying that “The recent security pact between US and NATO and Afghanistan showed the United States has no plan to leave the region,” he observed that “Russia worries about the US presence in Central Asia and China has concerns about US interference in its two main Muslim provinces bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.” [5]

To indicate that the range of the Western military threat extended beyond Central Asia and its borders with Russia and China, he also said the “presence of more than 200,000 foreign forces in the region particularly in South-West Asia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Middle East, the expansion of their bases, the sale of billions of dollars of military equipments to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and looting their oil resources are the root cause of insecurity in South-West Asia, the Persian Gulf region and Iran,” and noted that “US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf had been a cause for concern for Russia, China and Iran.” [6]

The Iranian concern is hardly unwarranted. The August 31 edition of the Jerusalem Post revealed that “NATO’s interest in Iran has dramatically increased in recent months” and “In December 2006, Israeli Military Intelligence hosted the first of its kind international conference on global terrorism and intelligence, after which Israel and NATO established an intelligence-sharing mechanism.”

The same article quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official as adding, “NATO talks about Iran and the way it affects force structure and building.” [7]

Six days earlier an American news agency released a report titled “Middle East arms buys top $100 billion” which said “Middle Eastern countries are expected to spend more than $100 billion over the next five years” the result of “unprecedented packages…unveiled by President George W. Bush in January 2008 to counter Iran….” [8]

The major recipients of American arms will be three nations in the Persian Gulf – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq – as well as Israel.

Other Gulf states are among those to participate in this unparalleled arms buildup in Iran’s neighborhood. “The core of this arms-buying spree will undoubtedly be the $20 billion U.S. package of weapons systems over 10 years for the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. [United Arab Emirates], Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain.” [9]

A week ago Nicola de Santis, NATO’s head of the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Countries Section in the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, visited the United Arab Emirates and met with the nation’s foreign minister, Anwar Mohammed Gargash.

“Prospects of UAE-NATO cooperation” and “NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative” were the main topics of discussion. [10]

The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative was formed at the NATO summit in Turkey in 2004 to upgrade the status of the Mediterranean Dialogue – the Alliance’s military partnerships with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Algeria – to that of the Partnership for Peace. The latter was used to prepare twelve nations for full NATO accession over the last ten years.

The second component of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative concerns formal and ongoing NATO military ties with the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain (where the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is headquartered), Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

In May of this year France opened its first foreign military base in half a century in the United Arab Emirates.

In addition to U.S. and NATO military forces and bases in nations bordering Iran – Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan and increasingly Azerbaijan – the Persian Gulf is now becoming a Pentagon and NATO lake.

China is also being encroached upon from several directions simultaneously.

After the visit of the Pentagon’s Central Command chief General David Petraeus to the region in late August, Kyrgyzstan, which borders China, relented and agreed to the resumption of U.S. military transit for the Afghan war.

Tajikistan, which also abuts China, hosts French warplanes which are to be redeployed to Afghanistan this month.

Mongolia, resting between China and Russia, hosts regular Khaan Quest military exercises with the U.S. and has now pledged troops for NATO’s Afghan war.

Kazakhstan, with Russia to its north and China to its southeast, has offered the U.S. and NATO increased transit and other assistance for the Afghan war, with rumors of troop commitments also in the air, and is currently hosting NATO’s 20-nation Zhetysu 2009 exercise.

Late last month China appealed to Washington to halt military surveillance operations in its coastal waters, with its Defense Ministry saying “The constant US air and sea surveillance and survey operations in China’s exclusive economic zone is the root cause of problems between the navies and air forces of China and the US.” [11]

A spokeswoman for the American embassy in Beijing responded by saying, “The United States exercises its freedom of navigation of the seas under international law….This policy has not changed.” [12]

The war in Afghanistan was launched four months after Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security and economic alliance with a military component. Now the Pentagon and NATO have bases in the last three nations and military cooperation agreements with Kazakhstan.

In 2005 India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as observer states. Now all but Iran are being pulled into the U.S.-NATO orbit. No small part of the West’s plans in South and Central Asia is to neutralize and destroy the SCO as well as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), founded in 2002 by Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus.

Uzbekistan joined in 2006 but after General Petraeus’s visit to the country last month it appears ready to leave the organization. Belarus, Russia’s only buffer along its entire Western border, may not be far behind.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the U.S. and NATO immediately moved on Central Asia, and the war in Afghanistan has provided them with the opportunity to gain domination over all of South as well as Central Asia and to undermine and threaten the existence of the only regional security bodies – the SCO and CSTO – which could counteract the West’s drive for control of Eurasia.

Notes

1) Russia Today, September 7, 2009
2) Strategic Culture Foundation, September 3, 2009
3) Ibid
4) Ibid
5) Press TV, September 7, 2009
6) Ibid
7) Jerusalem Post, August 31, 2009
8) United Press International, August 25, 2009
9) Ibid
10) Emirates News Agency, September 1, 2009
11) Agence France-Presse, August 27, 2009
12) Ibid
Rick Rozoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Rick Rozoff

posted September 20, 2009 6:07 pm

Tomgram: Ann Jones, Us or Them in Afghanistan?

In Washington, calls are increasing, especially among anxious Democrats, for the president to commit to training ever more Afghan troops and police rather than sending in more American troops. Huge numbers for imagined future Afghan army and police forces are now bandied about in Congress and the media -- though no one stops to wonder what Afghanistan, the fourth poorest country on the planet, might actually be like with a combined security force of 400,000. Not a "democracy," you can put your top dollar on that. And with a gross national product of only $23 billion (a striking percentage of which comes from the drug trade) and an annual government budget of only about $600 million, it's not one that could faintly maintain such a force either. Put bluntly, if U.S. officials were capable of building such a force, a version of Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule for Iraq would kick in and we, the American taxpayers, would own it for all eternity.

On the other hand, not to worry. As Ann Jones makes clear in her revelatory piece below, the odds on such an Afghan force ever being built must be passingly close to nil. Such a program is no more likely to be successful than the massively expensive Afghan aid and reconstruction program has been. In fact, for all the talk about the subject here, it's remarkable how little we actually know about the staggering expensive American and NATO effort to train the Afghan army and police. Stop and think for a moment. When was the last time you read in any U.S. paper a striking account, or any account for that matter, in which a reporter actually bothered to observe the training process in action? Think how useful that might have been for the present debate in Washington.

Fortunately, TomDispatch is ready to remedy this. Site regular Jones, who first went to Afghanistan in 2002 and, in an elegant memoir, Kabul in Winter, has vividly described her years working with Afghan women, spent time this July visiting U.S. training programs for both the Afghan army and police. She offers an eye-opening, on-the-spot look at certain realities which turn the "debate" in Washington inside out and upside down. Tom

Meet the Afghan Army

Is It a Figment of Washington's Imagination?
By Ann Jones

The big Afghanistan debate in Washington is not over whether more troops are needed, but just who they should be: Americans or Afghans -- Us or Them. Having just spent time in Afghanistan seeing how things stand, I wouldn't bet on Them.

Frankly, I wouldn't bet on Us either. In eight years, American troops have worn out their welcome. Their very presence now incites opposition, but that's another story. It's Them -- the Afghans -- I want to talk about.

Afghans are Afghans. They have their own history, their own culture, their own habitual ways of thinking and behaving, all complicated by a modern experience of decades of war, displacement, abject poverty, and incessant meddling by foreign governments near and far -- of which the United States has been the most powerful and persistent. Afghans do not think or act like Americans. Yet Americans in power refuse to grasp that inconvenient point.

In the heat of this summer, I went out to the training fields near Kabul where Afghan army recruits are put through their paces, and it was quickly evident just what's getting lost in translation. Our trainers, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard, were masterful. Professional and highly skilled, they were dedicated to carrying out their mission -- and doing the job well. They were also big, strong, camouflaged, combat-booted, supersized American men, their bodies swollen by flak jackets and lashed with knives, handguns, and god only knows what else. Any American could be proud of their commitment to tough duty.

The Afghans were puny by comparison: Hundreds of little Davids to the overstuffed American Goliaths training them. Keep in mind: Afghan recruits come from a world of desperate poverty. They are almost uniformly malnourished and underweight. Many are no bigger than I am (5'4" and thin) -- and some probably not much stronger. Like me, many sag under the weight of a standard-issue flack jacket.

Their American trainers spoke of "upper body strength deficiency" and prescribed pushups because their trainees buckle under the backpacks filled with 50 pounds of equipment and ammo they are expected to carry. All this material must seem absurd to men whose fathers and brothers, wearing only the old cotton shirts and baggy pants of everyday life and carrying battered Russian Kalashnikov rifles, defeated the Red Army two decades ago. American trainers marvel that, freed from heavy equipment and uniforms, Afghan soldiers can run through the mountains all day -- as the Taliban guerrillas in fact do with great effect -- but the U.S. military is determined to train them for another style of war.

Still, the new recruits turn out for training in the blistering heat in this stony desert landscape wearing, beneath their heavy uniforms, the smart red, green, and black warm-up outfits intended to encourage them to engage in off-duty exercise. American trainers recognize that recruits regularly wear all their gear at once for fear somebody will steal anything left behind in the barracks, but they take this overdressing as a sign of how much Afghans love the military. My own reading, based on my observations of Afghan life during the years I've spent in that country, is this: It's a sign of how little they trust one another, or the Americans who gave them the snazzy suits. I think it also indicates the obvious: that these impoverished men in a country without work have joined the Afghan National Army for what they can get out of it (and keep or sell) -- and that doesn't include democracy or glory.

In the current policy debate about the Afghan War in Washington, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin wants the Afghans to defend their country. Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the committee, agrees but says they need even more help from even more Americans. The common ground -- the sacred territory President Obama gropes for -- is that, whatever else happens, the U.S. must speed up the training of "the Afghan security forces."

American military planners and policymakers already proceed as if, with sufficient training, Afghans can be transformed into scale-model, wind-up American Marines. That is not going to happen. Not now. Not ever. No matter how many of our leaders concur that it must happen -- and ever faster.

"Basic Warrior Training"

So who are these security forces? They include the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). International forces and private contractors have been training Afghan recruits for both of them since 2001. In fact, the determination of Western military planners to create a national army and police force has been so great that some seem to have suppressed for years the reports of Canadian soldiers who witnessed members of the Afghan security forces engaging in a fairly common pastime, sodomizing young boys.

Current training and mentoring is provided by the U.S., Great Britain, France, Canada, Romania, Poland, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as by the private for-profit contractors MPRI, KBR (formerly a division of Halliburton), Pulau, Paravant, and RONCO.

Almost eight years and counting since the "mentoring" process began, officers at the Kabul Military Training Center report that the army now numbers between 88,000 and 92,000 soldiers, depending on who you talk to; and the basic training course financed and led by Americans, called "Basic Warrior Training," is turning out 28,800 new soldiers every year, according to a Kabul Military Training Center "fact sheet." The current projected "end strength" for the ANA, to be reached in December 2011, is 134,000 men; but Afghan officers told me they're planning for a force of 200,000, while the Western press often cites 240,000 as the final figure.

The number 400,000 is often mentioned as the supposed end-strength quota for the combined security forces -- an army of 240,000 soldiers and a police force with 160,000 men. Yet Afghan National Police officials also speak of a far more inflated figure, 250,000, and they claim that 149,000 men have already been trained. Police training has always proven problematic, however, in part because, from the start, the European allies fundamentally disagreed with the Bush administration about what the role of the Afghan police should be. Germany initiated the training of what it saw as an unarmed force that would direct traffic, deter crime, and keep civic order for the benefit of the civilian population. The U.S. took over in 2003, handed the task off to a private for-profit military contractor, DynCorp, and proceeded to produce a heavily armed, undisciplined, and thoroughly venal paramilitary force despised by Kabulis and feared by Afghan civilians in the countryside.

Contradicting that widespread public view, an Afghan commanding officer of the ANP assured me that today the police are trained as police, not as a paramilitary auxiliary of the ANA. "But policing is different in Afghanistan," he said, because the police operate in active war zones.

Washington sends mixed messages on this subject. It farms out responsibility for the ANP to a private contractor that hires as mentors retired American law enforcement officers -- a Kentucky state trooper, a Texas county lawman, a North Carolina cop, and so on. Yet Washington policymakers continue to couple the police with the army as "the Afghan security forces" -- the most basic police rank is "soldier" -- in a merger that must influence what DynCorp puts in its training syllabus. At the Afghan National Police training camp outside Kabul, I watched a squad of trainees learn (reluctantly) how to respond to a full-scale ambush. Though they were armed only with red rubber Kalashnikovs, the exercise looked to me much like the military maneuvers I'd witnessed at the army training camp.

Like army training, police training, too, was accelerated months ago to insure "security" during the run-up to the presidential election. With that goal in mind, DynCorp mentors shrunk the basic police training course from eight weeks to three, after which the police were dispatched to villages all across the country, including areas controlled by the Taliban. After the election, the surviving short-course police "soldiers" were to be brought back to Kabul for the rest of the basic training program. There's no word yet on how many returned.

You have to wonder about the wisdom of rushing out this half-baked product. How would you feel if the police in your community were turned loose, heavily armed, after three weeks of training? And how would you feel if you were given a three-week training course with a rubber gun and then dispatched, with a real one, to defend your country?

Training security forces is not cheap. So far, the estimated cost of training and mentoring the police since 2001 is at least $10 billion. Any reliable figure on the cost of training and mentoring the Afghan army since 2001 is as invisible as the army itself. But the U.S. currently spends some $4 billion a month on military operations in Afghanistan.

The Invisible Men

What is there to show for all this remarkably expensive training? Although in Washington they may talk about the 90,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army, no one has reported actually seeing such an army anywhere in Afghanistan. When 4,000 U.S. Marines were sent into Helmand Province in July to take on the Taliban in what is considered one of its strongholds, accompanying them were only about 600 Afghan security forces, some of whom were police. Why, you might ask, didn't the ANA, 90,000 strong after eight years of training and mentoring, handle Helmand on its own? No explanation has been offered. American and NATO officers often complain that Afghan army units are simply not ready to "operate independently," but no one ever speaks to the simple question: Where are they?

My educated guess is that such an army simply does not exist. It may well be true that Afghan men have gone through some version of "Basic Warrior Training" 90,000 times or more. When I was teaching in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006, I knew men who repeatedly went through ANA training to get the promised Kalashnikov and the pay. Then they went home for a while and often returned some weeks later to enlist again under a different name.

In a country where 40% of men are unemployed, joining the ANA for 10 weeks is the best game in town. It relieves the poverty of many families every time the man of the family goes back to basic training, but it's a needlessly complicated way to unintentionally deliver such minimal humanitarian aid. Some of these circulating soldiers are aging former mujahidin -- the Islamist fundamentalists the U.S. once paid to fight the Soviets -- and many are undoubtedly Taliban.

American trainers have taken careful note of the fact that, when ANA soldiers were given leave after basic training to return home with their pay, they generally didn't come back. To foil paycheck scams and decrease soaring rates of desertion, they recently devised a money-transfer system that allows the soldiers to send pay home without ever leaving their base. That sounds like a good idea, but like many expensive American solutions to Afghan problems, it misses the point. It's not just the money the soldier wants to transfer home, it's himself as well.

Earlier this year, the U.S. training program became slightly more compelling with the introduction of a U.S.-made weapon, the M-16 rifle, which was phased in over four months as a replacement for the venerable Kalashnikov. Even U.S. trainers admit that, in Afghanistan, the Kalashnikov is actually the superior weapon. Light and accurate, it requires no cleaning even in the dust of the high desert, and every man and boy already knows it well. The strange and sensitive M-16, on the other hand, may be more accurate at slightly greater distances, but only if a soldier can keep it clean, while managing to adjust and readjust its notoriously sensitive sights. The struggling soldiers of the ANA may not ace that test, but now that the U.S. military has generously passed on its old M-16s to Afghans, it can buy new ones at taxpayer expense, a prospect certain to gladden the heart of any arms manufacturer. (Incidentally, thanks must go to the Illinois National Guard for risking their lives to make possible such handsome corporate profits.)

As for the police, U.S.-funded training offers a similar revolving door. In Afghanistan, however, it is far more dangerous to be a policeman than a soldier. While soldiers on patrol can slip away, policemen stuck at their posts are killed almost every day. Assigned in small numbers to staff small-town police stations or highway checkpoints, they are sitting ducks for Taliban fighters. As representatives of the now thoroughly discredited government of President Hamid Karzai, the hapless police make handy symbolic targets. British commanders in Helmand province estimated that 60% of Afghan police are on drugs -- and little wonder why.

In the Pashtun provinces of southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban is strong, recruiting men for the Afghan National Police is a "problem," as an ANP commander told me. Consequently, non-Pashtun police trainees of Hazara, Tajik, Uzbek, or other ethnic backgrounds are dispatched to maintain order in Pashtun territory. They might as well paint targets on their foreheads. The police who accompanied the U.S. Marines into Helmand Province reportedly refused to leave their heavily armed mentors to take up suicidal posts in provincial villages. Some police and army soldiers, when asked by reporters, claimed to be "visiting" Helmand province only for "vacation."

Training Day

In many districts, the police recently supplemented their low pay and demonstrated allegiance to local warlords by stuffing ballot boxes for President Karzai in the presidential election. Consider that but one more indication -- like the defection of those great Islamist fundamentalist mujahidin allies the U.S. sponsored in the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s who are now fighting with the Taliban -- that no amount of American training, mentoring, or cash will determine who or what Afghans will fight for, if indeed they fight at all.

Afghans are world famous fighters, in part because they have a knack for gravitating to the winning side, and they're ready to change sides with alacrity until they get it right. Recognizing that Afghans back a winner, U.S. military strategists are now banking on a counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to "clear, hold, and build" -- that is, to stick around long enough to win the Afghans over. But it's way too late for that to work. These days, U.S. troops sticking around look ever more like a foreign occupying army and, to the Taliban, like targets.

Recently Karen DeYoung noted in the Washington Post that the Taliban now regularly use very sophisticated military techniques -- "as if the insurgents had attended something akin to the U.S. Army's Ranger school, which teaches soldiers how to fight in small groups in austere environments." Of course, some of them have attended training sessions which teach them to fight in "austere environments," probably time and time again. If you were a Talib, wouldn't you scout the training being offered to Afghans on the other side? And wouldn't you do it more than once if you could get well paid every time?

Such training is bound to come in handy -- as it may have for the Talib policeman who, just last week, bumped off eight other comrades at his police post in Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan and turned it over to the Taliban. On the other hand, such training can be deadly to American trainers. Take the case of the American trainer who was shot and wounded that same week by one of his trainees. Reportedly, a dispute arose because the trainer was drinking water "in front of locals," while the trainees were fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramazan.

There is, by the way, plenty of evidence that Taliban fighters get along just fine, fighting fiercely and well without the training lavished on the ANA and the ANP. Why is it that Afghan Taliban fighters seem so bold and effective, while the Afghan National Police are so dismally corrupt and the Afghan National Army a washout?

When I visited bases and training grounds in July, I heard some American trainers describe their Afghan trainees in the same racist terms once applied to African slaves in the U.S.: lazy, irresponsible, stupid, childish, and so on. That's how Afghan resistance, avoidance, and sabotage look to American eyes. The Taliban fight for something they believe -- that their country should be freed from foreign occupation. "Our" Afghans try to get by.

Yet one amazing thing happens to ANA trainees who stick it out for the whole 10 weeks of basic training. Their slight bodies begin to fill out a little. They gain more energy and better spirits -- all because for the first time in their lives they have enough nutritious food to eat.

Better nutrition notwithstanding -- Senator Levin, Senator McCain -- "our" Afghans are never going to fight for an American cause, with or without American troops, the way we imagine they should. They're never going to fight with the energy of the Taliban for a national government that we installed against Afghan wishes, then more recently set up to steal another election, and now seem about to ratify in office, despite incontrovertible evidence of flagrant fraud. Why should they? Even if the U.S. could win their minds, their hearts are not in it.

One small warning: Don't take the insecurity of the Afghan security forces as an argument for sending yet more American troops to Afghanistan. Aggressive Americans (now numbering 68,000) are likely to be even less successful than reluctant Afghan forces. Afghans want peace, but the kharaji (foreign) troops (100,000, if you include U.S. allies in NATO) bring death and destruction wherever they go. Think instead about what you might have won -- and could still win -- had you spent all those military billions on food. Or maybe agriculture. Or health care. Or a civilian job corps. Is it too late for that now?

Ann Jones is the author of Kabul in Winter (Metropolitan, 2006) and writes often about Afghanistan for TomDispatch and the Nation. War Is Not Over When It's Over, her new book about the impact of war on women, will be published next year.

Copyright 2009 Ann Jones v