Category Archives: Geopolitics

Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’, by Jonathan Marshall

After 17 years in Afghanistan, with Taliban control of territory and opium poppy production at record highs, it’s time for the US government to rethink that military commitment. From Jonathan Marshall at consortiumnews.com:

Exclusive: Officially, the U.S. military objective in Afghanistan is to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, but just last month President Trump said that talks with the Taliban are off the table, indicating an incoherent policy, as Jonathan Marshall notes.

Whatever happened to the Donald Trump who tweeted in 2013, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan … we waste billions there. Nonsense!”

Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots fly near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 5, 2017. The pilots are assigned to the 7th Infantry Division’s Task Force, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.The unit is preparing to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support. (Army photo by Capt. Brian Harris)

And whatever happened to the reality TV star who used to tell under-performers, “you’re fired”?

Today, as commander in chief, President Trump is indefinitely extending the Afghan war’s record as the longest in U.S. history. He’s wasting $45 billion to wage it this year alone. And he’s not even thinking of firing his huckster generals who claim that sending a few thousand more troops and stepping up the bombing will be a “game changer.”

Much like the Vietnam War, every day’s news of war from Afghanistan puts the lie to optimistic claims of a military solution. A recent BBC study concluded that Taliban forces are now active in 70 percent of the country, more than at any time since the end of 2001. Unofficial U.S. estimates of their strength have soared from about 20,000 in 2014 to at least 60,000 today.

Afghan government forces number several times as many, but—like their counterparts in the Vietnam War—they “lack the one thing the U.S. cannot provide: the will to fight a protracted campaign against a committed enemy,” in the words of Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The Taliban have proven that no place in Afghanistan is safe from their long arm. At the beginning of February, they infiltrated a bomb-laden ambulance into Kabul, just blocks from a meeting at the Afghan Ministry of Defense with the head of the U.S. Central Command. Its blast killed more than 100 people and injured 235. It followed only days after Taliban gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including four Americans.

 

To continue reading: Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

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Israel Suffers Major Setback in Syria, by Middle East Monitor

For the first time in 36 years, an Israeli jet has been shot down. The title overstates the importance of that loss, but Israel now has to factor in Russian-supplied Syria air defenses when it conducts operations in Syria. Sooner or later, Israel’s fight against Iran in Syria will bring it into conflict with Russia. From Middle East Monitor at theantimedia.org:

The military confrontation between Israeli and Syrian/Iranian forces on 10 February set off widespread analysis and speculation on the probability of a major regional war. The severity of the latest clash – with reports that Israel may have destroyed up to 50 per cent of Syrian air defense systems – underscores the depth of tension in the area.

But the most important aspect of the clash was the shooting down of an Israeli F-16 fighter jet by Syrian air defenses. This marked the first time in 36 years that an Israeli fighter jet has been brought down in combat. In view of Israel’s regional air superiority, this is a significant loss, especially in terms of morale, as it highlights Israeli vulnerabilities.

In view of the loss of the F-16 fighter jet – which left one Israeli airman gravely wounded – and the spirited fight back by Syrian air defence forces, it is clear that Israel has lost this latest round of sparring with its regional foes Iran and Syria.

The credible resistance of Syrian air defence forces speaks to their growing confidence, a reality that is reinforced by wider developments, notably Syria’s winning momentum in the final stage of the country’s complex proxy war. But this is unlikely to deter Israel, which views Iran’s presence in Syria as a major national security threat.

The next major clash may be just around the corner.

Enemies in Close Proximity

Israel has tried hard to blame Iran for starting the clash by sending an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(drone) over the border into Israel. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s complaint that Iran violated Israeli sovereignty is hard to square with Israel’s near-weekly violation of Syrian air space during the entire course of the Syrian conflict.

Indeed, since 2012 Israel has conducted at least 100 air strikes on targets inside Syrian territory. Whilst the majority of these have been described as “Hezbollah-related” targets, some have hit Syrian facilities. In view of these repeated violations of Syrian sovereignty it is difficult to see how Israel can claim the moral ground in the conflict.

 

Don’t Be a Moron: Russia Didn’t Attack US Troops in Syria, by Darius Shahtahmasebi

Is a country “under attack” when it invades another country and the invaded country or its ally responds? From Darius Shahtahmasebi at theantimedia.org:

On February 16, 2018, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake published an article entitled “Don’t Be Fooled: Russia Attacked U.S. Troops in Syria.”

For context, the U.S.-led coalition conducted air and artillery strikes against what was believed to be pro-government forces in Syria on February 7, 2018, in response to an “unprovoked attack” launched by these pro-regime forces. Not long after, reports began emerging that significant numbers of Russian personnel were included in the over 100 dead and wounded, though Russia denied this at first. As the evidence began to mount, the accepted version of events on both sides was that those involved were Russian mercenaries and contractors, not official troops.

When asked about the incident initially, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he had “no idea why they [pro-government forces] would attack there, the forces were known to be there, obviously the Russians knew.”

“We have always known that there are elements in this very complex battle space that the Russians did not have, I would call it, control of,” he added.

“Now, it should be said that Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, is a very smart man. His perplexity in this case is probably what Plato called a ‘noble lie,’ a falsehood spoken by a leader to achieve a greater social good. If Mattis acknowledges the obvious — that the Kremlin authorized a direct assault on a U.S.-sponsored base by non-uniformed personnel — he risks an escalation spiral in Syria. Better to express bewilderment and give Russian President Vladimir Putin a chance to back down and deny culpability, which he ended up doing despite the heavy casualties suffered by his mercenaries.”

Lake added:

“But make no mistake: There is overwhelming evidence that those Russian contractors were working at the behest of the Kremlin. What’s more, the Russians knew U.S. military personnel were in Deir Ezzor, which has been part of successive agreements to separate, or ‘deconflict,’ forces fighting in Syria.

To continue reading: Don’t Be a Moron: Russia Didn’t Attack US Troops in Syria

Dancing to US Tune: NATO Creates Military Schengen and Launches Iraq Mission, by Alex Gorka

There were two big, but little-noticed, policy changes at the recent meeting of NATO defense chiefs. From Alex Gorka at strategic-culture.org:

The NATO defense chiefs’ meeting on February 14-15 was mainly devoted to sharing the defense burden and other issues routinely discussed at any event. As usual, there were turgid speeches with opaque meaning to leave one guessing what’s really behind those nice words. In fact, the alliance took two far-going decisions proving a clue to its plans for near future.

The ministers said yes to the creation of military Schengen to ease forces movements across the Old Continent. NATO is to do away with the cumbersome and lingering bureaucratic procedures hindering transportation of troops and hardware through territories of member states. One of the solutions is a standardized form used by European allies and partner states for granting permission for movements. Germany has offered to host the command center to implement the concept of free transit zone in view of its vast experience in providing logistical support.

It’s not red tape only. One thing leads to another. The military Schengen will inevitably result in additional expenditure to adapt the civilian infrastructure to military needs, upgrading roads, tunnels and bridges to enable hardware movements and heavy aircraft landings.

The decision is taken amid burgeoning preparations to boost military infrastructure near Russia’s borders. The fact that by signing the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act the bloc pledged not to deploy “substantial” ground forces on permanent basis close to Russia appears to be ignored and forgotten. With the document no longer valid, the bilateral military relationship will be deprived of any legal basis.

To augment the forces in East Europe, the Black Sea, the Baltics and the Scandinavian Peninsula the bloc needs new logistic hubs. Unobstructed large-scale transport movements become top priority for implementation of the war plans, such as concentrating combat-ready stocks for a full US brigade in Poland. So, the alliance is clearing the obstacles that hinder its ability to rapidly boost forward presence and concentrate forces for an attack.

To continue reading: Dancing to US Tune: NATO Creates Military Schengen and Launches Iraq Mission

Russian Meddling: Gagging on the Irony, by Charles Hugh Smith

When it comes to meddling in elections and the domestic affairs of other nations, the US may be the world champion, and it’s also the world champion hypocrite about it. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The irony that is most gagging is that America’s power elite is destroying the nation’s social order by its concentration of wealth and abuse of power.

The irony of the Deep State’s obsessive focus on “Russian meddling” in the precious bodily fluids of our hallowed democracy is so overwhelming that it’s gagging. The irony is a noxious confluence of putrid hypocrisy and a comically abject terror at the prospect that the citizenry may be awakening to the terrible reality that America has lost its soul as well as its democracy.

The foul stench of hypocrisy arises from the long and sordid history of America’s meddling in the internal politics of virtually every nation on the planet— a deeply entrenched policy of meddling on such a vast scale that the Deep State minions tasked with projecting a wounded astonishment that some foreign power has the unmitigated gall to attempt to influence our domestic politics must have difficulty restraining their amusement.

America’s foreign policy is one of absolute entitlement to influence the domestic affairs and politics of every nation of interest, which to a truly global empire includes every nation on the planet to the degree every nation is a market and/or a potential threat to U.S. interests.

Assassination of elected leaders–no problem. Funding the emergence of new U.S.-directed political parties–just another day at the office. Inciting dissent and discord to destabilize regimes–it’s what we do, folks. Funding outright propaganda–one of our enduring specialties. Privatizing public assets to reward our cronies and domestic corporations–nothing’s more profitable than a public monopoly transformed into a privately owned monopoly.

(If your nation hasn’t been targeted for intervention and campaigns of hard and soft power influence, we apologize for the oversight. We’ll get to destabilizing your political order and economy just as soon as the queue of pressing interventions clears a bit.)

One of our most effective means of meddling is economic.First we press the targeted foreign government and civilian power centers–universities, corporations, banks and other institutions–to liberalize the economy and banking system to allow foreign credit and investment in, under the guise of encouraging beneficial development.

To continue reading: Russian Meddling: Gagging on the Irony

Kurdish Fighters Strike Deal With Syrian Army To Drive Turks Out, by Tyler Durden

In Syria, you can’t tell the players and which team they’re on (sometimes they switch teams) without a scorecard. Even with a scorecard it’s confusing. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Confirming that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”, YPG Kurdish fighters in north-western Syria – who as a reminder are backed by the US, the country which for 7 years has waged a proxy war to overthrow president Bashar al Assad – have struck a deal with the Russia-backed Assad regime for Syrian forces to enter the Afrin region and repel a Turkish offensive which began last month.

Badran Jia Kurd, an advisor to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria told Reuters that Syrian troops will deploy along several border positions and could enter the region within the next two days: “we can cooperate with any side that lends us a helping hand in light of the barbaric crimes and the international silence,” Jia Kurd said.

Meanwhile, a conflicting report from a senior Kurdish official comes from YPG representative Brusk Hasake in Afrin, who told Sputnik News “We have repeatedly said that Syrian Army has not entered [and] will not enter Afrin. If there is an agreement we will make a statement [on it].”

As we reported at the time, Turkish ground forces crossed the Syrian border and pushed into northern Syria’s Afrin province on January 20, after Ankara launched artillery and air strikes on a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia it aims to sweep from its border as part of “Operation Olive Branch.”

Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters from the YPG – which receives funding from the United States to fight the Islamic State, to be terrorists.

Senior Kurdish official Badran Jia Kurd told Reuters that Syrian government forces could enter the Afrin region within days to repel the Turks, while Syrian state TV reports that Regime forces will enter “within hours.”

To continue reading: Kurdish Fighters Strike Deal With Syrian Army To Drive Turks Out

China Steps Into The Middle East Maelstrom, by James Dorsey

Will China get stuck on the Middle Eastern tar baby like everyone else has? From James Dorsey via zerohedge.com:

The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts. China’s ventures into the region have shown how difficult it is to maintain its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

China’s abandonment of non-interference is manifested by its (largely ineffective) efforts to mediate conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan as well as between Israel and Palestine and even between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is even more evident in China’s trashing of its vow not to establish foreign military bases, which became apparent when it established a naval base in Djibouti and when reports surfaced that it intends to use Pakistan’s deep sea port of Gwadar as a military facility.

This contradiction between China’s policy on the ground and its long-standing non-interventionist foreign policy principles means that Beijing often struggles to meet the expectations of Middle Eastern states. It also means that China risks tying itself up in political knots in countries such as Pakistan, which is home to the crown jewel of its Belt and Road Initiative — the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Middle Eastern autocrats have tried to embrace the Chinese model of economic liberalism coupled with tight political control. They see China’s declared principle of non-interference in the affairs of others for what it is: support for authoritarian rule. The principle of this policy is in effect the same as the decades-old US policy of opting for stability over democracy in the Middle East.

It is now a risky policy for the United States and China to engage in given the region’s post-Arab Spring history with brutal and often violent transitions. If anything, instead of having been ‘stabilised’ by US and Chinese policies, the region is still at the beginning of a transition process that could take up to a quarter of a century to resolve.

There is no guarantee that autocrats will emerge as the winners.

China currently appears to have the upper hand against the United States for influence across the greater Middle East, but Chinese policies threaten to make that advantage short-term at best.

To continue reading: China Steps Into The Middle East Maelstrom