Tag Archives: Afghanistan

US Preparing To Attack Pakistan? by Eric Margolis

Is Pakistan being made the scapegoat for the US’s hapless foray into next-door neighbor Afghanistan? From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

Henry Kissinger rightly noted that it’s often more dangerous being an ally of the United States than its enemy.  The latest victim of this sad truism is Pakistan, a loyal ally of the US since the dawn of our era.

President Donald Trump’s visceral hatred of Muslims (never mind what kind, or why, or where) erupted this week as he ordered some $900 million in US aid to Pakistan to be abruptly cut off.  Trump accused Pakistan of lying and deceiving the US and providing a safe haven to Afghan resistance forces of Taliban (`terrorists’ in US speak) battling American occupation forces.

Frustrated and outwitted in Afghanistan, US imperial generals, Pentagon bureaucrats and politicians have been trying to cast blame on anyone they can find, with Pakistan the primary whipping boy.  Next in line is the notorious Haqqani network which is blamed for most US military failures in Afghanistan, though its active combat role is modest.  I knew its founder, old man Haqqani.  In the 1980’s, he was the golden boy of the CIA/Pakistani-led effort to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan.

Why has Washington given billions in aid to Pakistan?  In 2001, Washington decided to invade Afghanistan to uproot or destroy the Pashtun resistance movement, Taliban, which was wrongly blamed for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.  The ethnic Pashtun warriors President Reagan had hailed as ‘Freedom Fighters’ became ‘terrorists’ once the west wanted to occupy Afghanistan.

But invading land-locked Afghanistan was an awesome undertaking.  US troops there had to be supplied through Pakistan’s principal port, Karachi, then up twisting mountain roads and across the torturous Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.  The huge amount of logistical supplies required by US troops could not be met by air supply.  It cost $400 per barrel for one gallon of gasoline delivered to US troops in Afghanistan, and as much as $600,000 per sortie to keep a single US warplane over Afghanistan.   Without 24/7 air cover, the US occupation force would have been quickly defeated.

To continue reading: US Preparing To Attack Pakistan?

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Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Major Danny Sjursen

American war making since 9/11 has been based on lies. From Major Danny Sjursen at truthdig.com:

Pixabay

Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.

— A. E. Housman, 1859-1936

Seven of my soldiers are dead. Two committed suicide. Bombs got the others in Iraq and Afghanistan. One young man lost three limbs. Another is paralyzed. I entered West Point a couple of months before 9/11. Eight of my classmates died “over there.”

Military service, war, sacrifice—when I was 17, I felt sure this would bring me meaning, adulation, even glory. It went another way. Sixteen years later, my generation of soldiers is still ensnared in an indecisive, unfulfilling series of losing wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Niger—who even keeps count anymore? Sometimes, I allow myself to wonder what it’s all been for.

I find it hard to believe I’m the only one who sees it. Nonetheless, you hear few dissenting voices among the veterans of the “global war on terror.” See, soldiers are all “professionals” now, at least since Richard Nixon ditched the draft in 1973. Mostly the troops—especially the officers—uphold an unwritten code, speak in esoteric vernacular and hide behind a veil of reticence. It’s a camouflage wall as thick as the “blue line” of police silence. Maybe it’s necessary to keep the machine running. I used to believe that. Sometimes, though, we tell you lies. Don’t take it personally: We tell them to each other and ourselves as well.

Consider just three:

1. Soldiers don’t fight (or die) for king, country or apple pie. They do it for each other, for teammates and friends. Think Henry V’s “band of brothers.” In that sense, the troops can never be said to die for nothing.

No disrespect to the fallen, but this framework is problematic and a slippery-slope formula for forever war. Imagine the dangerous inverse of this logic: If no soldiers’ lives can be wasted, no matter how unmerited or ill-advised the war, then the mere presence of U.S. “warriors” and deaths of American troopers justifies any war, all war. That’s intellectually lazy. Two things can, in fact, be true at once: American servicemen can die for no good reason andmay well have fought hard and honorably with/for their mates. The one does not preclude the other.

To continue reading: Lies We Tell Ourselves

Seeing Our Wars for the First Time, by Tom Engelhardt

In just 17 short years the war on terror has gone from one country to 76! From Tom Englehardt at tomdispatch.com:

[Note to TomDispatch Readers: Welcome to 2018!  Given TomDispatch’s history, all 15 years of it, how appropriate that this year begins with a look at America’s never-ending wars.  My latest piece focuses on a unique map produced by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs that’s being published for the first time at this site.  It’s an honor to feature it. Tom]

Mapping a World From Hell
76 Countries Are Now Involved in Washington’s War on Terror

He left Air Force Two behind and, unannounced, “shrouded in secrecy,” flew on an unmarked C-17 transport plane into Bagram Air Base, the largest American garrison in Afghanistan. All news of his visit was embargoed until an hour before he was to depart the country.

More than 16 years after an American invasion “liberated” Afghanistan, he was there to offer some good news to a U.S. troop contingent once again on the rise. Before a 40-foot American flag, addressing 500 American troops, Vice President Mike Pence praised them as “the world’s greatest force for good,” boasted that American air strikes had recently been “dramatically increased,” swore that their country was “here to stay,” and insisted that “victory is closer than ever before.” As an observer noted, however, the response of his audience was “subdued.”  (“Several troops stood with their arms crossed or their hands folded behind their backs and listened, but did not applaud.”)

Think of this as but the latest episode in an upside down geopolitical fairy tale, a grim, rather than Grimm, story for our age that might begin: Once upon a time — in October 2001, to be exact — Washington launched its war on terror.  There was then just one country targeted, the very one where, a little more than a decade earlier, the U.S. had ended a long proxy war against the Soviet Union during which it had financed, armed, or backed an extreme set of Islamic fundamentalist groups, including a rich young Saudi by the name of Osama bin Laden.

By 2001, in the wake of that war, which helped send the Soviet Union down the path to implosion, Afghanistan was largely (but not completely) ruled by the Taliban.  Osama bin Laden was there, too, with a relatively modest crew of cohorts.  By early 2002, he had fled to Pakistan, leaving many of his companions dead and his organization, al-Qaeda, in a state of disarray.  The Taliban, defeated, were pleading to be allowed to put down their arms and go back to their villages, an abortive process that Anand Gopal vividly described in his book, No Good Men Among the Living.

To continue reading: Seeing Our Wars for the First Time

New Year’s Resolution: End America’s Quagmire Wars, by William J. Astore

As New Year’s Resolutions go, this one ranks right up there with obese people resolving to eat less and exercise more, and alcoholics to go on the wagon. Unfortunately, resolutions of the obese and the alcoholics (not mutually exclusive groups) have a better chance of coming to fruition than the resolution in the title. From William J. Astore at antiwar.com:

Here’s a New Year’s resolution: How about ending America’s quagmire wars?

There are many reasons why Afghanistan, Iraq, and similar countries will always be quagmires for the U.S. military. US troops have difficulty identifying friend from foe, and indeed “friendly” troops and police sometimes turn on their US counterparts. US troops will always be a foreign presence, heavily armed and invasive, often (mis)guided by incomplete or misleading intelligence. Almost inevitably, they are seen as backing corrupt and kleptocratic governments, whether in Kabul or Baghdad. At the same time, US bombing and search and destroy missions kill innocents even as they generate refugees – and new enemies. Under such violent and tumultuous conditions, you can forget about winning hearts and minds or creating lasting political stability.

Facing this no-win scenario, savvy US leaders would pull troops out immediately, but of course pulling out is never an option. Whether it’s Bush or Obama or Trump, the preferred “solution” to unwinnable quagmires is to “surge” (more troops, more airpower, more “advisers,” more weaponry) or to dither with tactics. Old theories are trotted out, such as pacification and counterinsurgency and nation-building, dressed up with new terms and acronyms such as asymmetrical warfare, the gray zone, MOOTW (military operations other than war), and VEOs, or violent extremist organizations, known to most people as terrorists.

The mentality among America’s generals is that the war must go on. There must be a can-do way to defeat VEOs in the gray zone using asymmetrical warfare while engaged in MOOTW. Thus B-52s, those venerable strategic bombers from the early Cold War era, are now being used in Afghanistan to “asymmetrically” destroy drug laboratories associated with Taliban funding, yet another instance of the US military swinging a sledgehammer to kill a gnat.

After 16 years, if you’re calling in B-52s to flatten small drug labs, this is not a sign of impending victory. It’s a sign of desperation – a sign of a totally bankrupt strategy.

To continue reading: New Year’s Resolution: End America’s Quagmire Wars

 

Losing the War in the Colony of Afghanistan, by Brian Cloughley

The US’s military involvement in Afghanistan since 2001 doesn’t even rise to the level of the absurd. From Brian Cloughley at antiwar.com:

The latest news about Afghanistan varies from the profoundly dismal to the fatuously absurd.

One depressing story is the UN Office of Drugs and Crime report of November 15 that opium production for manufacture of heroin jumped to 9,000 metric tons so far in 2017, up 87 percent from 4,800 metric tons last year.  It noted that “insecurity and political instability” are key drivers of illicit poppy cultivation. In other words, the country is a lawless shambles.

But two days before this gloomy evidence of national insecurity the usual verbally-challenged US general assured us that things were looking good.  The US Defense Secretary, the widely-revered intellectual General Mattis, expressed pleasure that there is going to be an increase in the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan and said that “Right now, I’d say there’s somewhere approximately two-dozen NATO allies and partner countries that are leaning towards raising the number of troops, now that’s out of 39 total countries on the battlefield, so it’s a little over two dozen.”

How illuminating.  39 countries “on the battlefield” indeed.  That would be “somewhere approximately” rather bad news for those governments who imagine that their troops in Afghanistan as part of the “Resolute Support” mission are not on any account to be involved in combat, save in the last resort of defending themselves.  As stated by the US-NATO military alliance, “Resolute Support is a NATO-led, non-combat mission . . . to help the Afghan security forces and institutions develop the capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner.”  Nothing about battlefields, there.  But then, Mattis is understandably somewhat battlefield oriented. It was he, after all, who declared that “it’s fun to shoot some people.”

The US and NATO hierarchy keep trying to convince the world that Afghanistan is not a corruption-ridden quagmire of drug-production and savagery, and General Mattis told reporters in Kabul on September 28 that “uncertainty has been replaced by certainty” because of new US policy, and that “the sooner the Taliban recognizes they cannot win with bombs, the sooner the killing will end.”

To continue reading: Losing the War in the Colony of Afghanistan

Into the Afghan Abyss (Again) How a Failed Drug War Will Defeat Trump’s Afghan Adventure, by Alfred W. McCoy

Afghanistan produced an estimated 185 tons of opium in 2001, when the US invaded. Production reached a record 8,200 tons (over 44 times as much) in 2008. In 2013 production was 5,500 tons. From Alfred W. McCoy at tomdispatch.com:

 

After nine months of confusion, chaos, and cascading tweets, Donald Trump’s White House has finally made one thing crystal clear: the U.S. is staying in Afghanistan to fight and — so they insist — win. “The killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might,” said the president in August, trumpeting his virtual declaration of war on the Taliban. Overturning Barack Obama’s planned (and stalled) drawdown in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that the Pentagon would send 4,000 more soldiers to fight there, bringing American troop strength to nearly 15,000.

In October, as that new mini-escalation was ramping up, the CIA leaked to the New York Times news of a complementary covert surge with lethal drone strikes and “highly experienced” Agency paramilitary teams being dispatched to “hunt and kill” Taliban guerrillas, both ordinary fighters and top officials. “This is unforgiving, relentless,” intoned CIA Director Mike Pompeo, promising a wave of extrajudicial killings reminiscent of the Agency’s notorious Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. CIA paramilitary officers, reported the Times, will lead Special Forces operatives, both Afghan and American, in expanded counterterrorism operations that, in the past, “have been accused of indiscriminately killing Afghan civilians.” In short, it’s game on in Afghanistan.

After 16 years of continuous war in that country, the obvious question is: Does this new campaign have any realistic chance of success, no less victory? To answer that, another question must be asked: How has the Taliban managed to expand in recent years despite intensive U.S. operations and a massive air campaign, as well as the endless and endlessly expensive training of Afghan security forces? After all, the Afghan War is not only the longest in U.S. history, but also one of the largest, peaking at 101,000 American troops in country during President Obama’s surge of 2010-2011.

To continue reading: Into the Afghan Abyss (Again) How a Failed Drug War Will Defeat Trump’s Afghan Adventure

Sadism in Afghanistan, by Tommy Raskin

The US’s 16-year war in Afghanistan has inflicted massive pain on the host population, wrecked the country, and brought the US no closer to its stated objectives than it was in 2001. From Tommy Raskin at antiwar.com:

For the past 16 years, the American war machine has been acting like a two-tiered sadist in Afghanistan. While facilitating the Kabul government’s destruction of the communities it oversees there, our military apparatus has also harmed the U.S. itself by spilling American blood for an unnecessary and futile mission.

Granted, most Americans have not literally bled for the war in Afghanistan. Our sacrifice has been merely (merely?) financial. US taxpayers have paid – and will continue paying – for our government’s $1 trillion excursion there, an escapade already more expensive than the Marshall Plan to rebuild post-WWII Europe. Not all Americans have been as fortunate as civilian taxpayers, though. 2,400 US soldiers have died and upwards of 17,000 have suffered physical injuries in Afghanistan. Still other troops have returned home physically intact but psychologically scarred, motivating their retreat into a lonely depression.

Suicide has been a tragically fitting end to the lives of our most traumatized Afghanistan war veterans, whose premature deaths provide a chilling reminder that the US military apparatus has pursued a program of ruinous overexertion since its war against the Taliban began in 2001. Despite the popular impression that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were comrades in arms in the lead-up to 9/11, the reality is that Taliban leaders resented Osama bin Laden for issuing fatwas against the West and had even tried alerting the US of bin Laden’s diabolical plans beforehand. When the attacks happened anyway, the Taliban remained fairly pliant, offering to surrender bin Laden to the Organization of the Islamic Conference if the US could prove that bin Laden was behind the attacks. After President George W. Bush rejected that overture and bombed Afghanistan, in October 2001, the Afghan government quickly gave up its “proof of guilt” condition and sought a settlement that would involve surrendering bin Laden to a U.S.-selected third party. But in his apparently implacable desire to fight, Bush again rejected negotiations in favor of a mutually destructive war.

To continue reading: Sadism in Afghanistan