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Posts Tagged ‘Taliban’

The Trump Effect on Foreign Policy – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on October 17, 2019

Just in the 2016 election, Graham referred to Trump as a “jackass”. Now, he has realized that to remain relevant within the Party, he must adapt. This is true for many others as well, including Chuck Grassley and Donald Rumsfeld, neither of which one could hardly characterize as populists.

Graham – Selling out his mother (warparty neoconservatives) to remain in power.


Since the conception of his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had received backlash from a number of different political factions. Among these, were the “Never Trump Republicans”. This included the likes of multiple Bush administration officials, including Paul Wolfowitz and Hank Paulson, the latter voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Often many pundits declare that the GOP has become the party of Trump. This statement bears a lot of truth, given that most of the hardliner Never Trumpers have become irrelevant. Among these are major figures in neoconservative circles, including Bill Kristol, and John Kasich. Watching as their hardliner friends started to fade away, many Republicans who would certainly not be characterized as populists by any stretch, had to adapt to the Trump phenomenon. For if they had dissented along with their friends, they too would be pushed to the periphery.

Trump’s conducting of foreign policy well underscores this phenomenon of “necessary adaptation”, for the sake of remaining relevant. Many formerly aggressive Republicans had to adapt to Trump’s volatile “peace through strength” approach regarding diplomacy in say, North Korea. Among one of these Republicans, is Lindsey Graham…

Graham was recently on Fox News, discussing the firing of John Bolton, and potential replacements. Graham started off saying, “The one thing you got to learn about President Trump, that I’ve come to learn, is that he’s unconventional in a conventional way”. This clearly alludes to Graham’s “adaptation” to Trump’s conducting of policy. Graham even went as far to say that “It’s okay, I think, to talk with the Taliban… if there’s a reason to believe they’re going to accept peace and change their behavior”. Such a statement would be seen as a sin in neoconservative circles, for it violates the Bush doctrine- “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists”.

What was even more peculiar for Graham, was to openly tell President Trump “I told the President, you’re right to want to reduce our commitment. You’re right to want to lower our cost”. Graham even went as far as to critique foreign interventionism, proclaiming “18 years later, what have we found? Al Qaeda’s still there. ISIS is there… We can’t do in Afghanistan what we did in Iraq… I’d like to end the war. And the only way you ever end a war is to get the two sides talking”. For a split second, Graham’s sentiment was reminiscent of Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

This phenomenon has big implications for Trump’s guiding of the GOP. Just in the 2016 election, Graham referred to Trump as a “jackass”. Now, he has realized that to remain relevant within the Party, he must adapt. This is true for many others as well, including Chuck Grassley and Donald Rumsfeld, neither of which one could hardly characterize as populists.

Trump’s “taking over” of the GOP has made its way into foreign policy. It has radically changed the direction of the Republican Party in ways one could have never conceived. Trump has embodied a volatile, “pufferfish” approach in foreign policy, one that could potentially swing the wrong way and lead to great cataclysm. So far however, it has had some implications of restraint, and has forced the neocon establishment to make changes in their conduct.

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Lindsey Graham Proves Ayatollah Right - America Is ...







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The Real Reason the US is Staying in Afghanistan – The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on September 21, 2019

The Taliban are not militant jihadists. Their only concern is their
ancient homelands. The only antagonism the Taliban have for Americans is
the fact that the U.S. military has occupied their country to various
degrees over the last 17 year as USAID and other international
organizations attempted to impose western cultural values that conflict
with their Saudi-indoctrinated fundamentalist form of Islam.


Ronald Enzweiler

As someone who lived and worked at the field level in Afghanistan for six years (2008-14) implementing projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development, I am bemused by the fact that the mainstream media (who should have known better or worse yet, actually did) misled the public into believing that it was — or ever will be — possible for the U.S. to reach a meaningful peace accord with the Taliban for amicably ending the Afghan war. Moreover, anyone who thinks a piece of paper a purported Taliban leadership council accepts and signs at a given point in time has any lasting value is woefully naïve and ignorant of who the Taliban are and what governs their belief system and way of life. Spoiler alert: It’s not a diplomatic legal document.

For starters, probably 70% or more of the ethnic Pashtuns who have inhabited the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region (this border is a figment of 19th century British imperialism) for centuries and have adopted over the last 35 years a variation of the Saudi Arabia-spread fundamentalist form of Islam (taught at the Saudi-funded religious schools they attended in Pakistan) as their way of life are illiterate — beyond being able to read Koran verses in Arabic. Moreover, the Taliban have no written theological doctrine or scholarship. These facts should be a clue that written documents are unimportant in their lives. The society that calls itself the Taliban (Arabic for “the students”) live a mostly subsistent life without access to electricity, media, mass communications, or material goods. Most have never travel outside their homelands. They are extremely hostile to outsiders and adhere to a strict Medieval moral code (Pashtunwali) and their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law (Shari’a).

The Taliban are not militant jihadists. Their only concern is their ancient homelands. The only antagonism the Taliban have for Americans is the fact that the U.S. military has occupied their country to various degrees over the last 17 year as USAID and other international organizations attempted to impose western cultural values that conflict with their Saudi-indoctrinated fundamentalist form of Islam. (Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s official government before 9/11.) Moreover, Taliban leaders have been wary since the U.S. troop surge in 2009 that the U.S. intended to maintain permanent bases in their country. This is why the Taliban and other Afghan nationalists intensified their fight to expel latest round of foreign invaders in a civil war to oust the U.S.-backed government. (Media pundits who lament that civil war and chaos will break out if the U.S. troops withdraw have somehow missed the last 40 years of Afghan history.)

It’s always been an inaccurate pejorative for the U.S. government and media to refer to the Taliban as “terrorists.” Consider this scenario: A foreign power invades and occupies your country; it installs and pays the costs (over $5 billion in FY 2020) for keeping a friendly pro-western government in power; the Afghan officials who profit from these payments (corruption is a way of life in Afghanistan as the SIGAR has repeatedly documented) are willing to let the foreign power retain permanent military bases in your country (which are needed to keep them in power). As an Afghan nationalist, you don’t want your way of life changed at gunpoint and don’t want a foreign power to use bases in your country to project power in the region and possibly attack the neighboring (predominately Muslim) countries. Given this situation, you join a home-grown insurgency that opposes the foreign troops staying and having your traditional way of life coercively changed.

However, because you fight against the neocolonial foreign power that has taken de facto control of your country for its self-interests, you are deemed a “terrorist.” Yes, the Taliban and other anti-government elements in Afghanistan have killed over 2,400 U.S. soldiers over the 17-year, $2-trilllion-dollar war and occupation of their country. But this happened only because more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers at one point (140,000 including other NATO countries) and squadrons of F-16s were sent to their country to kill them — while subjecting the Afghan civilian population to the hardships, collateral damage, and casualties inherent in warfare.

The question our elected officials need to be asked: Why are U.S. soldiers still in Afghanistan and being killed fighting local insurgents engaged in a civil war who are not a threat to America 17 years after the al-Qaeda jihadists responsible for the 9/11 attacks were vanquished?…

The real reason for the pushback by the Washington national security establishment against getting all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan is the guiding maxim of our post-World War II “War State” (the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about) that has grown into a $1-trillion/year enterprise with a worldwide empire of over 800 foreign military installations: never give up a military base in a strategic location. The U.S. military eventually will be pushed out of Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan (it’s also a civilian airport near a large restive city in Taliban territory). But Bagram Airfield (a prior Soviet base north of Kabul) is a military-only installation in an easily defended remote area. Bagram is the missing piece in our War State’s chessboard of worldwide bases. Retaining it will enable our military to “project power” throughout Central Asia. It’s a steal at $30 to $40 billion/year (assuming troops levels and graft payments are drawn down at some point) for our overfunded War State. Representative Max Thornberry, then chairman and now ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, visited Bagram in October 2018. He publicly acknowledged afterwards that the U.S. seeks “a sustainable presence” in Afghanistan. (The U.S. military’s new high-tech F-35 fighters — a $1.5 trillion program — are manufactured at a Lockheed plant near Rep. Thornberry’s district in north Texas.)

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The Media’s Betrayal of American Soldiers – Original

Posted by M. C. on September 11, 2019

Behind their self-conscious, over-adulation of military members lay a unspeakable dirty secret: these people are pawns of the military-industrial-complex, for whom the troops are naught but pawns in their partisan political games. When mixed with widespread public apathy regarding foreign affairs, the result is an utter abandonment of the soldiers that all purport to love.

Bipartisan critique of Trump’s plan to roll out an Afghan peace plan during the 9/11 anniversary from Camp David misses the point: negotiation was the only hope to avoid more needless American deaths.

It is a rare thing, indeed, when both establishment and media “liberals” and “conservatives” agree on anything. Nevertheless, lightning has proverbially struck this week as both sides attack President Trump with equal vehemence. Thus, here we are, and here I am – in the disturbing position of defending Trump’s (until Sunday) peace policy for Afghanistan. Nonetheless, though I don’t particularly like the way this position befits me, I’ll take it as a sign that I just might be on to something when the clowns at Fox News and MSNBC, alike, vociferously disagree with my position on an American forever war.

Few in the political or press mainstream ever much liked Trump’s regularly touted plans to extract U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Even “liberal” Rachel Maddow – who once wrote a book critical of US military interventions – turned on a dime and became a born-again cheerleader for continuing the war. After all, in tribal America, if Trump proposes it, the reflexive “left” assumes it must be wrong, anathema even. That’s come to be expected.

Only this time, even his own party has attacked the president after he let it slip that he’d planned a secret peace conference with the Taliban at Camp David and might even have announced a deal to gradually end the US role in the war during the anniversary week of the 9/11 attacks. Gasp! How dare he? End a failing war, save the lives of perhaps hundreds or thousands of US troops, and do so near the 9/11 anniversary? This amounts to heresy in imperial Washington D.C. But it shouldn’t be unexpected: Trump’s own policy advisers have opposed any meaningful steps to end the Afghan War from the get go.

Ever since he took office, Trump’s anti-interventionist “instincts” – though publicly popular – have been stifled by his advisers in what his base calls the “deep state,” and I prefer to simply label the national security warfare state. Whether it was, first, the ostensible, media-canonized “adults in the room” – really a troika of generals with tired, discredited ideas – or, recently, the neoconservative retreads, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, nearly every Trump national security adviser has worked tirelessly to keep America at war…everywhere.

Lost in all the bipartisan hysteria regarding the 9/11 anniversary and Camp David location choice, is one salient, if uncomfortable, truth: the only way these sorts of wars end, historically, is through negotiations with implacable enemies and nefarious actors. That’s real life, and ending stalemated wars is no time for dreamy delusions. Besides, what better option exists than peace talks and a phased US withdrawal? With the Taliban contesting more of the country than ever before, the Kabul regime broke and corrupt, and a record opium crop fueling Taliban finances, the war’s reached – for years now – a tenuous stasis between quagmire and stalemate…

What’s so bad about having Taliban representatives at Camp David? The PLO’s avowed “terrorist,” leader, Yasser Arafat has been there. What’s more, presidents and their representatives have negotiated with adversaries responsible for far more American deaths than the Taliban: Eisenhower with the North Koreans and Chinese; Nixon with the North Vietnamese and Vietcong; Reagan with the leader of the Soviet “evil empire.” In fact, I’d argue that diplomacy is actually more presidential than waging endless, reflexive warfare…

Nevertheless, the pundits at the helm of corporate media programs, and party-line Democrats and Republicans, only pretend to care about the lives and well-being of America’s servicemen and women. Behind their self-conscious, over-adulation of military members lay a unspeakable dirty secret: these people are pawns of the military-industrial-complex, for whom the troops are naught but pawns in their partisan political games. When mixed with widespread public apathy regarding foreign affairs, the result is an utter abandonment of the soldiers that all purport to love. Which is exactly what the mainstream media’s (even Republican!) vacuous critique of Trump’s planned but canceled 9/11 week peace announcement is: a betrayal of the troops and a death sentence for who knows how many more American soldiers.

Now, let me be clear: as New Yorker from a blue collar Staten Island neighborhood chock full of cops and firemen, I don’t take the 9/11 attacks lightly. In fact, I took the whole tragedy personally and long seethed with anger against bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the likely complicit Saudi kingdom, for that matter. September 11, 2001 left two of my FDNY uncles forever emotionally scarred, took the life of a dear family friend, sent my father fleeing for his life from an office across the street from the Twin Towers, and renamed countless streets in my borough to honor dead firemen.

That said, call me provocative or unpatriotic, but I thought that Trump’s original reported plan to announce a peace deal with the Taliban – and impending end to the US war in Afghanistan – to be quite fitting. Consider it a sad, yet appropriate, final bookend to the still prevalent and absurd notion that America’s longest war still carries any connection to 9/11. The ill-advised, unwinnable, foolish attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan and ongoing stalemate combating Taliban farm boys, has long since lost any 9/11-based justification. To pretend otherwise is an exercise in self-delusion…

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Trump's Air Strikes against Syria. The More They Explain ...




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Taliban Peace Talks Must Not Ignore CIA-Funded Militias

Posted by M. C. on August 22, 2019

Another CIA success story.

There are so many they are embarrassed to tell US about them.

After 18 years of war, and months of direct talks, the United States appears to be on the brink of reaching an unprecedented peace agreement with the Taliban that would bring about U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A draft agreement was reached in March, and negotiators in Qatar have reportedly been ironing out the details ahead of a September 1 deadline — including exactly when U.S. troops will withdraw and when a permanent ceasefire between the parties will take effect. The U.S. is reportedly also seeking assurances from the Taliban that it won’t harbor foreign terror groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda and will engage in dialogue with the Afghan government after the U.S. military leaves.

It’s the closest the U.S. has come to a diplomatic breakthrough with the Taliban, and foreign policy scholars are cautiously optimistic that it could facilitate a U.S. exit. But a new report from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute argues that the agreement won’t lead to real peace unless it addresses the elephant in the room: the fate of regional Afghan militias paid and directed by the CIA.

“Militias that operate outside the control of the central state and the chain of command of its armed forces will undermine the process of state formation and the prospects for a sustainable peace,” the report reads.

It is unclear to what extent the fate of the militias has been discussed at all by the U.S. or Taliban negotiators. In July, Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief U.S. negotiator, mentioned the fate of militias while listing topics that needed to be encompassed by a general agreement. But the authors of the report note that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, once director of the CIA, has not.

If the issue goes unaddressed, the report argues, it could lead to the breakdown of a ceasefire or agreement, which would in turn jeopardize Afghanistan’s future. “If violence continues at some level after the agreement is signed,” the report says, “militias will be in much demand in the political market place.”

The use of CIA-backed militias goes back to 2001, when, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA rapidly organized Afghan militias under its payroll to overthrow the Taliban. This allowed the CIA to send Al Qaeda’s fighters fleeing the country with a minimal U.S. footprint.

Initially, these local militias were viewed as a temporary solution, but they eventually became a permanent fixture of secret CIA operations in the country — sometimes acting without the knowledge of U.S. diplomats and Afghan military leaders.

Not much is publicly known about specific groups the CIA directs, the best known of which is the Khost Protection Force. The force has no basis in the Afghan Constitution or law and operates out of the CIA’s Camp Chapman in the province of Khost.

In 2010, journalist Bob Woodward wrote that the CIA’s “army” consisted of about 3,000 Afghan fighters, but since then the number has likely ballooned. According to the New York Times, as of December, the Khost Force alone may number as many as 10,000. (The U.S. currently has approximately 14,000 troops in the country.)

President Donald Trump has further expanded the CIA’s paramilitary role in Afghanistan, using local militias in hunt-and-kill operations…

According to the report, the size and power of the CIA’s forces could pose a problem for the Afghan government after the peace talks. For the militias, integration into the regular armed forces could mean a significant pay cut and a loss of the privileged status that has allowed them to operate largely without transparency or legal accountability. “If cut loose by the CIA,” the report notes, “they may be reborn as private armies or ‘security guards’ in the service of powerful individuals, or operate autonomously to prey on civilians and commercial sources.”

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GUYANA: CIA meddling, race riots and a phantom death squad ...



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When, If Ever, Can We Lay This Burden Down? – Original

Posted by M. C. on August 20, 2019

Iran presents no clear or present danger to U.S. vital interests, but the Saudis and Israelis see Iran as a mortal enemy, and want the U.S. military rid them of the menace.

In how many of these are U.S. vital interests imperiled? And in how many are we facing potential wars on behalf of other nations, while they hold our coat and egg us on?

Friday, President Donald Trump met in New Jersey with his national security advisers and envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is negotiating with the Taliban to bring about peace, and a U.S. withdrawal from America’s longest war.

U.S. troops have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, in a war that has cost 2,400 American lives.

Following the meeting, Trump tweeted, “Many on the opposite sides of this 19 year war, and us, are looking to make a deal – if possible!”

Some, however, want no deal; they are fighting for absolute power.

Saturday, a wedding in Kabul with a thousand guests was hit by a suicide bomber who, igniting his vest, massacred 63 people and wounded 200 in one of the greatest atrocities of the war. ISIS claimed responsibility.

Monday, 10 bombs exploded in restaurants and public squares in the eastern city of Jalalabad, wounding 66.

Trump is pressing Khalilzad to negotiate drawdowns of U.S. troop levels from the present 14,000, and to bring about a near-term end to U.S. involvement in a war that began after we overthrew the old Taliban regime for giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.

Is it too soon to ask: What have we gained from our longest war? Was all the blood and treasure invested worth it? And what does the future hold?

If the Taliban could not be defeated by an Afghan army, built up by the U.S. for a decade and backed by 100,000 U.S. troops in 2010-2011, then are the Taliban likely to give up the struggle when the U.S. is drawing down the last 14,000 troops and heading home?

The Taliban control more of the country than they have at any time since being overthrown in 2001. And time now seems to be on their side.

Why have they persevered, and prevailed in parts of the country?

Motivated by a fanatic faith, tribalism and nationalism, they have shown a willingness to die for a cause that seems more compelling to them than what the U.S.-backed Afghan government has on offer…

And Afghanistan is but one of the clashes and conflicts in which America is engaged.

Severe U.S. sanctions on Venezuela have failed to bring down the Nicholas Maduro regime in Caracas but have contributed to the immiseration of that people, 10% of whom have left the country. Trump now says he is considering a quarantine or blockade to force Maduro out.

Eight years after we helped to overthrow Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya is still mired in civil war, with its capital, Tripoli, under siege.

Yemen, among the world’s humanitarian disasters, has seen the UAE break with its Saudi interventionist allies, and secessionists split off southern Yemen from the Houthi-dominated north. Yet, still, Congress has been unable to force the Trump administration to end all support of the Saudi war.

Two thousand U.S. troops remain in Syria. The northern unit is deployed between our Syrian Kurd allies and the Turkish army. In the south, they are positioned to prevent Iran and Iranian-backed militias from creating a secure land bridge from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut.

In our confrontation with Iran, we have few allies…

Iran presents no clear or present danger to U.S. vital interests, but the Saudis and Israelis see Iran as a mortal enemy, and want the U.S. military rid them of the menace…

Around the world, America is involved in quarrels, clashes and confrontations with almost too many nations to count.

In how many of these are U.S. vital interests imperiled? And in how many are we facing potential wars on behalf of other nations, while they hold our coat and egg us on?

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How did I get here?



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The U.S. Government Doesn’t Care About Afghan Women

Posted by M. C. on August 15, 2019

Make no mistake: The well-being of Afghan women hardly motivated the architects of the American invasion and occupation. Need proof? Here’s an ever-so-brief history lesson. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-89), the CIA not-so-secretly backed some of the worst Islamist theocrat “freedom fighters” against the Soviet-backed secular communist government then in power.

You gotta break a few eggs to build an empire.

Maj. Danny Sjursen
The U.S. Government Doesn’t Care About Afghan Women
Afghan women stand outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2006, awaiting an appearance by then-U.S. President George W. Bush. (Eric Draper / White House)

In once, and to some extent still, relatively cosmopolitan Baghdad, Iraq, I once saw three young female college students from Mustansiriyah University walking home from class. They couldn’t have been more differently clothed. One wore a full burqa that exposed only her eyes; another a hijab, a more modest head scarf without a facial veil, and a pair of jeans; the third sported a pink miniskirt and a revealing tank top with her long hair fully exposed. Still, they chatted like old friends.

By early 2007, this range of women’s clothing was already highly rare in all but the safest Baghdad neighborhoods, yet it did still happen. I remember woefully realizing that I, a 23-year-old American lieutenant, had been treated to a rare glimpse of Saddam’s largely secular (if brutal) regime that had preceded the U.S. military’s ill-fated invasion. Before Uncle Sam fractured Iraq and empowered Islamist zealots, I was often told by locals that men and women could go on dates and drink alcohol publicly in cafes along the Tigris River. But those days were gone.

Four years later, and even further east in the proverbial Greater Mideast, while patrolling rural Kandahar, Afghanistan—birthplace of the Taliban movement—I hardly even saw a solitary grown woman. There, in the backwater of a country full of backwaters, adult women were rarely seen outdoors and never without a male family member as an escort.

It was all rather archaic and made Baghdad seem as liberal as Boston. I remember one young girl with shocking blue eyes, maybe twelve, playing close to my patrol base in the nearby village of Pashmul. Watching her skip a strange, improvised jump rope gave me rare moments of innocent joy in an altogether dangerous place I shouldn’t have been in in the first place.

Then one day, she disappeared, this (to me) nameless, joyful girl, never to be seen again. Eventually I asked a village elder, who probably played both sides—Taliban and America—against the other, what had happened to the blue-eyed Afghan girl. His answer was simple: puberty. She had had her first period, was immediately deemed a “woman,” and cloistered away behind the mud walls of her family home until her father decided to marry her off—likely to a much, much older man. Such was life in rural southern Afghanistan. It seemed most of the ethnic Pashtun villagers wanted it that way.

I think about that striking young girl occasionally as I repeatedly argue for the full and rapid withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan—which is, after all, the gold standard of hopeless wars. As I’ve predicted, it seems likely the Taliban will either conquer much of the country outright in the near future or at least maintain de facto control of Afghanistan’s Pashtun-dominated south and east indefinitely. That means Afghan women in those regions, and potentially many others, will suffer.

Yet, here’s the nasty truth: When I (and some 100,000 other U.S. troops) occupied much of Afghanistan, rural women still suffered. We could scarcely alter the longstanding cultural traditions of these regions. If, at the height of Obama’s Afghan surge, the status of most (largely pastoral) women didn’t change, what hope do the remaining 14,500 or so American soldiers still there have to protect these women? And after 18 years of stalemate, if—as now seems obvious—the U.S. can’t meaningfully win this war, what point is there in pining over the fate of human rights in this landlocked Central Asian time warp?

Sure, it’s disturbing, but it’s also a solid fact of life. What’s more, militarist, interventionist mainstream foreign policy wonks’ sudden feigned concern for the fate of Afghan women is cynical bunk meant only to prolong America’s longest ever war. It was never about women’s rights or humanitarianism in general. The U.S. military and CIA invaded Afghanistan out of vengeance for the 9/11 attacks, out of a degree of uncertainty about what else to do. Someone had to pay, someone had to be bombed, and bin Laden was, well, in Afghanistan.

Treating the terror attacks as an act of war rather than an international crime was then the original sin of these forever wars. The rapid decision to shift strategy in Afghanistan from limited counter-terror operations to nation-building, counterinsurgency and prolonged military occupation ought to be considered the second sin…

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U.N.: Despite law, Afghan women still suffer abuse



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Tomgram: William Astore, Military Strength Is Our National Religion | TomDispatch

Posted by M. C. on August 14, 2019

Posted by William Astore

After almost 18 years of the war (or rather wars) on (or perhaps of) terror, there’s some good news! The Washington Post reports that American troops are finally coming home from Afghanistan! Actually, let me amend that slightly. They will only come home if Taliban and U.S. negotiators complete a deal by September that leads to a countrywide ceasefire (and if the Taliban agrees to certain other conditions as well). In fact, let me amend that one more time: “they” turns out to refer to the withdrawal of just about 5,000 U.S. military personnel, leaving 8,000-9,000 U.S. troops still in place after “peace” breaks out.

For Donald Trump who, years ago, repeatedly demanded that the Afghan War be ended and all American troops brought home, only to agree in mid-2017 to dispatch another 4,000 of them to that land, such a peace pact would just return U.S. troop levels to more or less what they were at that moment two years ago. In the age of Trump, that, I suppose, is the definition of “progress” in America’s never-ending wars. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to also learn that, according to the Post, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, is “open” to such a peace proposal precisely “because he believes it would protect U.S. interests by maintaining a counterterrorism force that can strike the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.” If one were to turn this into a riddle, it might go something like: When is a Trumpian withdrawal hardly a withdrawal at all?

On the other hand, don’t let any of this worry you. The troops may not be coming home, but the wars have been on their way here for a long time. That should have been obvious at least since, in 2014, local police, using equipment off America’s distant battlefields, made such a public splash in responding to protests in Ferguson, Missouri. From thousands of troops sent to the U.S.-Mexican border to the Pentagon spy drones that have long flown over parts of the U.S., further examples of the growing militarization of this country abound. Perhaps the most recent, as reported by the Guardian, is the news that the military is now “conducting wide-area surveillance tests across six Midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons… Travelling in the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 65,000 feet, the balloons are intended to ‘provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats,’ according to a filing made on behalf of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, an aerospace and defense company. The balloons are carrying hi-tech radars designed to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather.”

As it happens, almost unnoticed, America’s twenty-first-century wars have been coming home in another way as well: in the increasingly worshipful attitudes of so many Americans (especially those in the seats of power in Washington, D.C.) toward the Pentagon and the U.S. military, as vividly described today by retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore. Tom

In Wars and Weapons We Trust
America’s Militarized Profession of Faith
By William J. Astore

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I looked to the heavens: to God and Christianity (as arbitrated by the Catholic Church) and to the soaring warbirds of the U.S. military, which I believed kept us safe. To my mind then, they were classic manifestations of American technological superiority over the godless Communists.

With all its scandals, especially when it came to priestly sexual abuse, I lost my faith in the Catholic Church. Indeed, I would later learn that there had been a predatory priest in my own parish when I was young, a grim man who made me uneasy at the time, though back then I couldn’t have told you why. As for those warbirds, like so many Americans, I thrilled to their roar at air shows, but never gave any real thought to the bombs they were dropping in Vietnam and elsewhere, to the lives they were ending, to the destruction they were causing. Nor, at that age, did I ever consider their enormous cost in dollars or just how much Americans collectively sacrificed to have “top cover,” whether of the warplane or godly kind.

There were good and devoted priests in my Catholic diocese. There were good and devoted public servants in the U.S. military. Admittedly, I never seriously considered the priesthood, but I did sign up for the Air Force, surprising myself by serving in it for 20 years. Still, both institutions were then, and remain, deeply flawed. Both seek, in a phrase the Air Force has long used, “global reach, global power.” Both remain hierarchies that regularly promote true believers to positions of authority. Both demand ultimate obedience. Both sweep their sins under the rug. Neither can pass an audit. Both are characterized by secrecy. Both seem remarkably immune to serious efforts at reform. And both, above all, know how to preserve their own power, even as they posture and proselytize about serving a higher one…

“Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value” is a telling phrase linked to Joe Biden. And in those same terms, there’s no question what the American government values most: its military, to the tune of almost $1.5 trillion over the next two years (although the real number may well exceed $2 trillion). Republicans and Democrats agree on little these days, except support for spending on that military, its weaponry, its wars to come, and related national security state outlays…

In that context, I’ve been wondering what kind of “profession of faith” we might have to recite, if there were the equivalent of Mass for what has increasingly become our military church…

* We believe in wars…

* We believe in weaponry, the more expensive the better…

* We believe in weapons of mass destruction. We believe in them so strongly that we’re jealous of anyone nibbling at our near monopoly…

* We believe with missionary zeal in our military and seek to establish our “faith” everywhere. Hence, our global network of perhaps 800 overseas military bases…

* We believe in our college of cardinals, otherwise known as America’s generals and admirals…

* We believe that freedom comes through obedience…

* We believe military spending brings wealth and jobs galore, even when it measurably doesn’t…

* We believe, and our most senior leaders profess to believe, that our military represents the very best of us, that we have the “finest” one in human history.

* We believe in planning for a future marked by endless wars, whether against terrorism or “godless” states like China and Russia, which means our military church must be forever strengthened in the cause of winning ultimate victory.

* Finally, we believe our religion is the one true faith…

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UN Report: Afghan, NATO Forces Killing More Civilians Than Taliban – News From

Posted by M. C. on July 31, 2019

I Am From The Government And Am Here To Help.

The United Nations has issued its latest report on the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, showing a major increase in civilians being killed in 2019. At least 3,812 civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019.

Civilian casualties have been on the rise substantially over the course of the war, and this is just another troubling metric. The general increase may not even be as disturbing, however, as the fact that the Afghan government and US-led NATO forces are killing more civilians than the Taliban now.

The UN report showed the US and its allies killed 717 people, more than half of them in airstrikes. The Taliban killed 531. This showed a continued trend from the April report that covered the first quarter of the year.

Interestingly enough, the Pentagon issued a statement denying the report, saying that they work hard not to kill civilians, and their own data is more accurate than the UN report. The Pentagon, however, does not offer public reports on civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

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Tomgram: Michael Klare, It’s Always the Oil | TomDispatch

Posted by M. C. on July 12, 2019

Michael Klare

What more did you need to know once Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, claimed by the Taliban, was Iranian-inspired or plotted, one “in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests”? In other words, behind the Sunni extremist insurgents the U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan since October 2001 lurks the regime of the Shiite fundamentalists in Tehran that many in Washington have been eager to fight since at least the spring of 2003 (when, coincidentally enough, the Bush administration was insisting that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime had significant ties to al-Qaeda).

It couldn’t have made more sense once you thought about it. I don’t mean Pompeo’s claim itself, which was little short of idiotic, but what lurked behind it.  I mean the knowledge that, only a week after the 9/11 attacks, Congress had passed an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, that allowed the president (and any future president, as it turned out) “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

In other words, almost 18 years later, as Pompeo knows, if you can link any country or group you’re eager to go to war with to al-Qaeda, no matter how confected the connection, you can promptly claim authorization to do your damnedest to them. How convenient, then, should you be in the mood to make war on Iran, if that country just happens to be responsible for terror attacks linked to the Taliban (which once did harbor al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden). Why, you wouldn’t even need to ask Congress for permission to pursue your war of choice. And keep in mind that, recently, Congress — or a crew of corrupted, degraded Republican senators — simply couldn’t muster the votes or the will to deny President Trump the power to make war on Iran without its approval.

Let me hasten to add that the supposed link to al-Qaeda isn’t the only thing the Trump administration has conjured up to ensure that it will be free to do whatever it pleases when it comes to Iran. It’s found various other inventive ways to justify future military actions there without congressional approval. Pompeo and crew have, in that sense, been clever indeed. As TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of the upcoming book All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, points out today, there’s only one word largely missing from their discussions of the increasingly edgy situation in the Persian Gulf, the most obvious word of all. But read him yourself if you want to understand just how, when it comes to Iran and that missing word — to steal a phrase from the late, great Jonathan Schell — the fate of the Earth is at stake. Tom

The Missing Three-Letter Word in the Iran Crisis
Oil’s Enduring Sway in U.S. Policy in the Middle East
By Michael T. Klare

It’s always the oil. While President Trump was hobnobbing with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Japan, brushing off a recent U.N. report about the prince’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Asia and the Middle East, pleading with foreign leaders to support “Sentinel.” The aim of that administration plan: to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Both Trump and Pompeo insisted that their efforts were driven by concern over Iranian misbehavior in the region and the need to ensure the safety of maritime commerce. Neither, however, mentioned one inconvenient three-letter word — O-I-L — that lay behind their Iranian maneuvering (as it has impelled every other American incursion in the Middle East since World War II)….

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US military stops releasing Afghanistan war information

Posted by M. C. on May 1, 2019

Overall, the U.S. has spent $737 billion on the war and lost more than 2,400 military lives, according to the Pentagon.

Code for the real numbers are higher.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan , the U.S. military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America’s longest war, calling it of little value in fighting the Taliban insurgency.

The move fits a trend of less information being released about the war in recent years, often at the insistence of the Afghan government, which had previously stopped the U.S. military from disclosing the number of Afghans killed in battle as well as overall attrition within the Afghan army.

The latest clampdown also aligns with President Donald Trump’s complaint that the U.S. gives away too much war information, although there is no evidence that this had any influence on the latest decision.

A government watchdog agency that monitors the U.S. war effort, now in its 18th year, said in a report to Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. military command in Kabul is no longer producing “district control data,” which shows the number of Afghan districts — and the percentage of their population — controlled by the government compared to the Taliban.

The last time the command released this information, in January, it showed that Afghan government control was stagnant or slipping. It said the share of the population under Afghan government control or influence — a figure that was largely unchanged from May 2017 to July 2018 at about 65 percent — had dropped in October 2018 to 63.5 percent. The government’s control or influence of districts fell nearly 2 percentage points, to 53.8 percent…

The war in Afghanistan is largely forgotten in much of America, as is the enormous, continuing financial cost. This year the Pentagon budget includes $4.9 billion to provide the Afghan army and police with everything from equipment and supplies to salaries and food. That is one piece of a wider array of “reconstruction” assistance the U.S. government has provided since the war began in 2001, totaling $132 billion.

Overall, the U.S. has spent $737 billion on the war and lost more than 2,400 military lives, according to the Pentagon.

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