Category Archives: War

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

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

Escalation in Syria – how far can the Russians be pushed? by the Saker

The US is determined to remain in a country, Syria, that does not want it there, and is determined to make mischief. From the Saker at unz.com:

Events in Syria have recently clearly taken a turn for the worse and there is an increasing amount of evidence that the Russian task force in Syria is being targeted by a systematic campaign of “harassing attacks”.

First, there was the (relatively successful) drone and mortar attack on the Russian Aerospace base in Khmeimin. Then there was the shooting down of a Russian SU-25 over the city of Maasran in the Idlib province. Now we hear of Russian casualties in the US raid on a Syrian column (along with widely exaggerated claims of “hundreds” of killed Russians). In the first case, Russian officials did openly voice their strong suspicion that the attack was if not planned and executed by the US, then at least coordinated with the US forces in the vicinity. In the case of the downing of the SU-25, no overt accusations have been made, but many experts have stated that the altitude at which the SU-25 was hit strongly suggests a rather modern MANPAD of a type not typically seen in Syria (the not so subtle hint being here that these were US Stingers sent to the Kurds by the US). As for the latest attack on the Syrian column, what is under discussion is not who did it but rather what kind of Russian personnel was involved, Russian military or private contractors (the latter is a much more likely explanation since the Syrian column had no air-cover whatsoever). Taken separately, none of these incidents mean very much but taken together they might be indicative of a new US strategy in Syria: to punish the Russians as much as possible short of an overt US attack on Russian forces. To me this hypothesis seems plausible for the following reasons:

First, the US and Israel are still reeling in humiliation and impotent rage over their defeat in Syria: Assad is still in power, Daesh is more or less defeated, the Russians were successful not only their military operations against Daesh but also in their campaign to bring as many “good terrorists” to the negotiating table as possible. With the completion of a successful conference on Syria in Russia and the general agreement of all parties to begin working on a new constitution, there was a real danger of peace breaking out, something the AngloZionist are absolutely determined to oppose (check out this apparently hacked document which, if genuine, clearly states the US policy not to allow the Russian to get anything done).

To continue reading: Escalation in Syria – how far can the Russians be pushed?

Oops. Sorry We Destroyed Your Country in Error, by Eric Margolis

The US has wreaked far more havoc and destruction on Iraq than ISIS ever has. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

A gathering of rich oil Arabs pledged $30 billion this week at a meeting in Kuwait to start rebuilding war-shattered Iraq.  Sounds nice but these kinds of conclaves are notorious for offering big but delivering little.

The event was billed as helping Iraq repair war damage caused by ISIS.  In fact, most of the damage from that short-lived conflict was caused by US bombing and a few Russian air strikes.   ISIS, as this column has long been crying in the wilderness, was largely a paper tiger confected by the US, Britain and France to justify their military re-entry into Syria.

Iraq’s government says it needs at least $88 billion to rebuild war damage.  What the US-imposed client regime in Baghdad won’t or can’t say is that the damage to Iraq is far greater than $88 billion and was largely inflicted by US air power in 1990-1991 and 2003.

Iraq was ravaged, as I saw myself while covering the wars.  This small nation of 23-25 million souls, a third of whom were in permanent revolt against the Baghdad government, was pounded into rubble by US air power and cruise missiles.  First in 1990-1991, then in 2003, everything of value was blown to bits:  hospitals, schools, food factories, chemical plants making insecticide, bridges, and communications.  In short, all the attributes of a modern state.

Most shocking to me, was the destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants by US air strikes.

Their destruction resulted in epidemics of cholera and other water-born diseases.  Children were the primary victims.  The UN asserted that over 550,000 Iraqi children died as a result of contaminated water.  US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright later notoriously asserted that these deaths were ‘a price worth paying.’  I call them a war crime.

In 2003, 900,000 US-directed troops massed in Kuwait, invaded Iraq to finish off, it was claimed, the ‘work that the first president Bush failed to achieve,’ the overthrow and lynching of Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.  If Saddam had any nuclear or broad-area biological weapons, the invader’s buildup in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia would have been a dream target.

The Wars No One Notices Talking to a Demobilized Country, by Stephanie Savell

You come up with some huge numbers when you tally all the costs of America’s wars since 9/11. There’s no way the results have been worth those costs. From Stephanie Savell at tomdispatch.com:

I’m in my mid-thirties, which means that, after the 9/11 attacks, when this country went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq in what President George W. Bush called the “Global War on Terror,” I was still in college. I remember taking part in a couple of campus antiwar demonstrations and, while working as a waitress in 2003, being upset by customers who ordered “freedom fries,” not “French fries,” to protest France’s opposition to our war in Iraq. (As it happens, my mother is French, so it felt like a double insult.) For years, like many Americans, that was about all the thought I put into the war on terror. But one career choice led to another and today I’m co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Now, when I go to dinner parties or take my toddler to play dates and tell my peers what I do for a living, I’ve grown used to the blank stares and vaguely approving comments (“that’s cool”) as we quickly move on to other topics. People do tend to humor me if I begin to speak passionately about the startlingly global reach of this country’s military counterterrorism activities or the massive war debt we’re so thoughtlessly piling up for our children to pay off. In terms of engagement, though, my listeners tend to be far more interested and ask far more penetrating questions about my other area of research: the policing of Brazil’s vast favelas, or slums. I don’t mean to suggest that no one cares about America’s never-ending wars, just that, 17 years after the war on terror began, it’s a topic that seems to fire relatively few of us up, much less send us into the streets, Vietnam-style, to protest. The fact is that those wars are approaching the end of their second decade and yet most of us don’t even think of ourselves as “at war.

To continue reading: The Wars No One Notices Talking to a Demobilized Country