Pakistan in the Crosshairs of New US Aggression

Pakistan in the Crosshairs of New US Aggression

Pakistan in the Crosshairs of New US Aggression

With events escalating quickly in Kashmir it’s incumbent to ask the most pertinent questions in geopolitics.

Why there?

And, Why Now?

Why Kashmir?

India and Pakistan are both making serious moves to slip out from underneath the US’s external control. India has openly defied the US on buying S-400 missile defense systems, keeping up its oil trade with Iran and developing the important Iranian port at Chabahar to help complete an almost private spur of the North South Transport Corridor.

Pakistan, under new Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to square accounts with China over its massive investment for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It has also been at the forefront of multiple rounds of talks spurred by the Russians and Iranians to forge some kind of peace in Afghanistan.

And the Trump administration cut off US aid to Pakistan for not being sufficiently helpful in the fight against terrorism. This opened up a war of words between Trump and Khan who reminded Trump that the little bit of money the US sent Pakistan nothing compared to the losses both economic and personal.

If there was ever the possibility of peace breaking out between India and Pakistan it would be in the context of stitching the two countries together through China’s regional plans as well as solving the thorny problem of continued US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

Anything that can be done to flare up tensions between these two adversaries then serves the US’s goals of sowing chaos and division to keep the things from progressing smoothly. Khan was elected to, in effect, drain the Pakistani Swamp. His, like Trump’s, is a tall order.

And at this point it looks like he’s still willing to give it a go as opposed to Trump who is simply revealing himself to be a thin-skinned version of Barack Obama, albeit with a distinctly orange hue.

But, still why right now?

Because Trump is distracted with his latest love affair with himself – taking credit for a Korean peace process that will proceed with or without him at this point. All he can do is slow it down, which is exactly what his Secretary of State has been doing since last year’s meeting in Singapore.

And that leaves people like John Bolton and the rest of the worst people in D.C. to go to work undermining an entire region of the world.

Last weekend’s terrorist attack was a planned provocation to produce the very outcome we have today. Jaish-e-Mohammed have too many direct and indirect links to Bush the Lesser era programs and Saudi Arabia to be ignored.

This attack happens just days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman comes rushing in to save Pakistan’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves with promises of $10 billion to build a refinery of Saudi oil at the (now Chinese) port of Gwadar.

There are no coincidences in geopolitics. Timing is everything.

It reminds me of the flare up in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2016. Then Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Azeri leader Ilham Aliyev on a Wednesday and by Sunday a nearly twenty-year peace was broken.

National Security Advisor John Bolton is desperate to keep Trump from pulling half of the troops out of Afghanistan. After a disastrous “Let Make War on Iran” conference in Warsaw two weeks ago, Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were reeling from having obtained no support outside of those already committed to such a plan.

Europe roundly said no, other than willing satrap Poland, still hoping Daddy Trump will save them from the mean old Nordstream 2 pipeline.

As Alistair Crooke pointed out recently, Bolton is putting pressure on Pakistan to forge a peace agreement with the Taliban which somehow allows for the US to maintain all of its troop presence there.

Washington is now embracing Pakistan (with Saudi Arabia and UAE writing the cheques). And Washington looks to Pakistan rather, not so much to contain and disrupt the Taliban, but to co-opt it through a ‘peace accord’ into accepting to be another US military ‘hub’ to match America’s revamped military ‘hub’ in Erbil (the Kurdish part of Iraq, which borders the Kurdish provinces of Iran). As a former Indian Ambassador, MK Bhadrakumar explains:

“What the Saudis and Emiratis are expecting as follow-up in the near future is a certain “rebooting” of the traditional Afghan-Islamist ideology of the Taliban and its quintessentially nationalistic “Afghan-centric” outlook with a significant dosage of Wahhabi indoctrination … [so as to] make it possible [to] integrate the Taliban into the global jihadi network and co-habitate it with extremist organisations such as the variants of Islamic State or al-Qaeda … so that geopolitical projects can be undertaken in regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus or Iran from the Afghan soil, under a comprador Taliban leadership”.

Bolton was also able to get Trump to agree to pull most of the troops out of Syria, leave just enough behind to call in airstrikes to protect what’s left of ISIS and relocate the rest to Iraq.

Trump gets to say he fulfilled a campaign promise, and everyone’s plans for War with Iran stays on schedule.

So, if I’m right (and there’s no guarantee that I am) what purpose does poking a fight between India and Pakistan serve?

Many, unfortunately.

1. One it sells the regional chaos angle about the need to continue the War on Terror.

2. ISIS is gone but we still have to fight Iran.

3. It punishes India for daring to get off the reservation.

4. It reminds Khan just how tenuous his hold on power is.

5. It is a warning to China that the US will risk everything to not lose the Heartland.

Add in the proximity to the Trump-Kim meeting as well as the fractious trade talks with China and you have an orgy of related news all at the same time to drive the point home.

Bolton, the Brits, France and Netanyahu were willing to risk World War III in Syria to create a false flag event in which Russia attacked a NATO target – the downing of the IL-20 ELINT aircraft last September.

Do you not think these insane animals wouldn’t risk a nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India to blow up (literally) China’s plans to win the biggest prize in geopolitics?

If you don’t then you haven’t been paying attention.

Both Imran Khan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi need to keep their heads here. Modi has an election coming up later this year. I’m sure the calculus was that he would jump at the opportunity to burnish his cred with voters by lobbing a few bombs inside Pakistan. For Khan, this is the first real test of his leadership and he has to resist the siren’s call of the Saudi’s money to balance all sides of the equation while de-escalating this situation as quickly as possible.

One thing is for certain, we haven’t seen the last of this.

Photo: Flickr

Advertisements

حرب كشمير بواجهة هندية ـ باكستانية وتورّط دولي مكشوف!

مارس 1, 2019

د. وفيق ابراهيم

تَحوّلَ النزاع الهندي الباكستاني على منطقة كشمير الفاصلة بينهما مشروع حرب فعلية قد تشعل أكثر من شبه القارة الهندية.

لا شك أنّ هناك أسباباً هندية – باكستانية للصراع لم يجد أحدٌ له حلاً حتى الآن لكنه التزم بعد اندلاع حرب كبيرة بين طرفيها في 1972 بحدود الأمر الواقع في إطار هدنة مضبوطة، فما الذي استجدّ حتى يتحضّر البلدان لمواجهة واسعة؟

تصل مساحة كشمير الى 86 الف كلم مربع تقريباً تسيطر الهند على 65 في المئة منها تقريباً والباقي لباكستان كما تحتوي على غالبية إسلامية مقابل أقلية بوذية.

للتوضيح فإنّ انفصال الولايات الإسلامية في الهند بمسمّى جديد هو باكستان كان يُراد منه انفصال كامل الأقليات الإسلامية في شبه القارة الهندية، ونتيجة للبعد الجغرافي عن باكستان بقي ملايين المسلمين في أنحاء أخرى من الهند واحترب البلدان للاستحواذ على كشمير المنطقة الحدودية بينهما.

وكان التوتر السياسي يندلع على كشمير بين الفينة والأخرى لكنه لم يصل ومنذ 1972 إلى مرحلة حرب مكتفياً باشتباكات حدودية محدودة جداً تقتصر على مشاركة قليل من الجنود المنتشرين على حدود كشمير بين البلدين.

لجهة الأسباب الداخلية فإنّ جزءاً هاماً من «الإسلام المتطرف» ذي الجذر القاعدي موجود في باكستان وخصوصاً في كشمير ونما في مئات المراكز الاسلامية التي أسّستها السعودية ولا تزال تموّلها حتى تاريخه بمشاركة إماراتية ودعم من منظمة طالبان من مراكز نفوذها من أفغانستان المحاذية.

فرَفدَ هذا الاتجاه المتطرف التيارات الإسلامية في كشمير التي تعمل على تحرير القسم التي تسيطر عليه الهند فيها.

هناك فريق رابع تولى تقديم التسهيلات اللوجستية وحرية الحركة للتنظيمات الإسلامية وهي المخابرات الباكستانية التي لا يزال الغرب يتهمها حتى الآن بدعم القاعدة وطالبان في أفغانستان وتتهمها الهند حالياً بتوفير ظروف مناسبة لشنّ ضربات على القوات الهندية في كشمير وحتى داخل الهند.

لقد شكلت هذه التحالفات الغطاء الداخلي للعملية التي نفذها تشكيل إرهابي يُدعى «جيش محمد» مستهدفاً فيها كتيبة للجيش الهندي في مركز انتشاره في كشمير وأدّت الى مذبحة موصوفة.

ما أغضب نيودلهي ليست المذبحة فقط، إنما السلوك الباكستاني المتراخي الذي لم يمنح الهجوم الإرهابي الاهمية التي يستحقها.

واكتفت بشجب الهجوم والتعهّد بالتحقيق لكشف الفاعلين وهم معروفون سلفاً من أجهزتها، مشكلين جزءاً من بنية إرهابية تنتشر في معظم الجزء الباكستاني من كشمير.

لذلك حاولت الهند تنظيم ردّ عسكري يستبقُ فكرة مواصلة الهجمات على قواتها، فكانت الغارة الجوية الهندية على مواقع «جيش محمد» وتبيّن انّ باكستان كانت تتوقع مثل هذا الردّ فجابهته بشكل صارم الأمر الذي دفع بالبلدين لحشد قواتهما على حدوديهما في كشمير في حركات تصعيدية قد تتدحرج نحو حرب بين بلدين نوويين، وتعهّدت باكستان بإعادة طيار هندي أسقطت طائرته مقابل توقف الاستنفار الهندي.

تكشف هذه التفاصيل انّ أقساماً من المخابرات الباكستانية تعمل بإيحاء خارجي قابل للمضاعفة إذا كانت الهند العدو التقليدي هي المستهدف.

والسؤال هنا، لماذا يستهدفُ هذا الإيحاء الخارجي لمخابرات اسلام أباد الهند؟ وماذا فعلت؟

لم تفعل الهند ما يعادي علاقاتها الإقليمية والدولية، لكنها استمرّت بشراء النفط من إيران في حركة كسر للمقاطعة الأميركية التي تمنع العالم من علاقات اقتصادية طبيعية مع طهران، وهذا استفز الأميركيين ولم يتمكّن ولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان في زيارته الأخيرة للهند من إقناع حكامها بشراء نفط سعودي بسعر تشجيعي مقابل وقف شراء النفط الإيراني.

أما السلوك الهندي الأهمّ الذي يستفزّ دوائر القرار في واشنطن فيتعلق بانفتاح الهند على روسيا والصين في مؤتمر يُهيّئ لتحالف جديد ترى فيه واشنطن «المكوّن العالمي الوحيد» الجدير بمجابهة الامبراطورية الأميركية المتراجعة.

هذا ما دفع بالبيت الأبيض إلى بناء خطة من مستويين: زعزعة الاستقرار الداخلي الهندي بواسطة الإسلام المتطرف الذي لا يصيبه في كشمير فقط، بل داخل الهند أيضاً حيث تنتشر أقليات إسلامية كبيرة.

فكانت بداية الخطة في هجوم جيش محمد في كشمير وبذلك يكسب الأميركيون على مستويين: إضعاف الهند داخلياً والاستمرار في تشويه علاقة الإسلام بالأديان الاخرى، والعالم عموماً.

من جانب آخر، يواصل الأميركيون عبثاً محاولة الحدّ من الصعود الصيني بمفاوضات تتحسّن وتسوء إلا انها لا تستطيع كبح الاندفاع الصيني نحو حلف مع الهند وروسيا يبدو ضرورياً لكسر أحادية التسلط الأميركي على العالم.

فهل يجد الأميركيون ضرورة لخلق ظروف مؤاتية لتفجير حرب كبيرة بين الهند وباكستان؟

الموضوع جدير بالانتباه لانه يندرج في إطار إشعال الأميركيين لكامل الحروب في العالم.

أليست واشنطن من احتلّ افغانستان والعراق وسورية وقسماً من أميركا اللاتينية، وتستعدّ لمغامرة عسكرية في فنزويلا، وهناك ليبيا المدمّرة وتونس المتأرجحة ومصر المتدهورة والسودان الذي يتحضّر لحروب أهلية، أليس الأميركيون من ينشر الصواريخ في شرق أوروبا؟

يتبيّن أنّ على روسيا والصين مهمة وقف مشروع الحرب الباكسانية الهندية بمفاوضات معمّقة لأنها حرب أميركية تستهدفهم أيضاً وتقع في مواجهة حدودهم السياسية وأمنهم الداخلي.

Related Videos

Related Aricles

Mr Bolton’s Long Game Against Iran – Pakistan Becomes Saudi Arabia’s New Client State

Mr Bolton’s Long Game Against Iran – Pakistan Becomes Saudi Arabia’s New Client State

Mr Bolton’s Long Game Against Iran – Pakistan Becomes Saudi Arabia’s New Client State

The Wall Street Journal has an article whose very title – Ambitions for an ‘Arab NATO’ Fade, Amid Discord – more or less, says it all. No surprise there at all. Even Antony Zinni, the retired Marine General who was to spearhead the project (but who has now resigned), said it was clear from early on that the idea of creating an “Arab NATO” was too ambitious. “There was no way that anybody was ready to jump into a NATO-type alliance,” he said. “One of the things I tried to do was kill that idea of a Gulf NATO or a Middle East NATO.” Instead, the planning has focused on ‘more realistic expectations’, the WSJ article concludes.

Apparently, “not all Middle Eastern nations working on the proposal, want to make Iran a central focus – a concern that has forced the US to frame the alliance as a broader coalition”, the WSJ recounts. No surprise there either: Gulf preoccupations have turned to a more direct anxiety – which is that Turkey intends to unloose (in association with Qatar) the Muslim Brotherhood – whose leadership is already gathering in Istanbul – against Turkey’s nemesis: Mohammad bin Zaid and the UAE (whom Turkish leadership believes, together with MbS, inspired the recent moves to surround the southern borders of Turkey with a cordon of hostile Kurdish statelets).

Even the Gulf leaders understand that if they want to ‘roll-back’ Turkish influence in the Levant, they cannot be explicitly anti-Iranian. It just not viable in the Levant.

So, Iran then is off the hook? Well, no. Absolutely not. MESA (Middle East Security Alliance) maybe the new bland vehicle for a seemingly gentler Arab NATO, but its covert sub-layer is, under Mr Bolton’s guidance, as fixated on Iran, as was ‘Arab NATO’ at the outset. How would it be otherwise (given Team Trump’s obsession with Iran)?

So, what do we see? Until just recently, Pakistan was ‘on the ropes’ economically. It seemed that it would have to resort to the IMF (yet again), and that it was clear that the proximate IMF experience – if approved – would be extremely painful (Secretary Pompeo, in mid-last year, was saying that the US probably would not support an IMF programme, as some of the IMF grant might be used to repay earlier Chinese loans to Pakistan). The US too had punished Pakistan by severely cutting US financial assistance to the Pakistani military for combatting terrorism. Pakistan, in short, was sliding inevitably towards debt default – with only the Chinese as a possible saviour.

And then, unexpectedly, up pops ‘goldilocks’ in the shape of a visiting MbS, promising a $20 billion investment plan as “first phase” of a profound programme to resuscitate the Pakistani economy. And that is on top of a $3 billion cash bailout, and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for supply of Saudi oil. Fairy godmothers don’t come much better than that. And this benevolence comes in the wake of the $6.2 billion, promised last month, by UAE, to address Pakistan’s balance of payments difficulties.

The US wants something badly – It wants Pakistan urgently to deliver a Taliban ‘peace agreement’ in Afghanistan with the US which allows for US troops to be permanently based there (something that the Taliban not only has consistently refused, but rather, has always put the withdrawal of foreign forces as its top priority).

But two telling events have occurred: The first was on 13 February when a suicide attacker drove an explosives-laden vehicle into a bus that was transporting IRGC troops in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran. Iran’s parliamentary Speaker has said that the attack that killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was “planned and carried out, from inside Pakistan”. Of course, such a provocative disruption into Iran’s most ethnically sensitive province may mean ‘nothing’, but perhaps the renewed inflow of Gulf money, fertilizing a new crop of Wahhabi madrasa in Pakistan’s Baluch province, may be connected – as IRCG Commander, General Sulemani’s stark warning to Pakistan suggests.

In any event, reports suggest that Pakistan, indeed, is placing now intense pressure on the Afghan Taliban leaders to accede to Washington’s demand for permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

The US, it seems, after earlier chastising Pakistan (for not doing enough to curb the Taliban) has done a major U-turn: Washington is now embracing Pakistan (with Saudi Arabia and UAE writing the cheques). And Washington looks to Pakistan rather, not so much to contain and disrupt the Taliban, but to co-opt it through a ‘peace accord’ into accepting to be another US military ‘hub’ to match America’s revamped military ‘hub’ in Erbil (the Kurdish part of Iraq, which borders the Kurdish provinces of Iran). As a former Indian Ambassador, MK Bhadrakumar explains:

“What the Saudis and Emiratis are expecting as follow-up in the near future is a certain “rebooting” of the traditional Afghan-Islamist ideology of the Taliban and its quintessentially nationalistic “Afghan-centric” outlook with a significant dosage of Wahhabi indoctrination … [so as to] make it possible [to] integrate the Taliban into the global jihadi network and co-habitate it with extremist organisations such as the variants of Islamic State or al-Qaeda … so that geopolitical projects can be undertaken in regions such as Central Asia and the Caucasus or Iran from the Afghan soil, under a comprador Taliban leadership”.

General Votel, the head of Centcom told the US Senate Armed forces Committee on 11 February, “If Pakistan plays a positive role in achieving a settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the US will have opportunity and motive to help Pakistan fulfill that role, as peace in the region is the most important mutual priority for the US and Pakistan.” MESA is quietly proceeding, but under the table.

And what of that second, telling occurrence? It is that there are credible reports that ISIS fighters in the Deir a-Zoor area of Syria are being ‘facilitated’ to leave East Syria (reports suggest with significant qualities of gold and gemstones) in a move to Afghanistan.

Iran has long been vulnerable in its Sistan-Baluchistan province to ostensibly, secessionist factions (supported over the years by external states), but Iran is vulnerable, too, from neighbouring Afghanistan. Iran has relations with the Taliban, but it was Islamabad that firstly ‘invented’ (i.e. created) the Deobandi (an orientation of Wahhabism) Taliban, and which traditionally has exercised the primordial influence over this mainly Pashtoon grouping (whilst Iran’s influence rested more with the Tajiks of northern Afghanistan). Saudi Arabia of course, has had a decades long connection with the Pashtoon mujahidin of Afghanistan.

During the Afghan war of the 1980s and later, Afghanistan always was the path for Islamic fundamentalism to reach up into Central Asia. In other words, America’s anxiety to achieve a permanent presence in Afghanistan – plus the arrival of militants from Syria – may somehow link to suggest a second motive to US thinking: the potential to curb Russia and China’s evolution of a Central Asian trading sphere and supply corridor.

Putting this all together, what does this mean? Well, firstly, Mr Bolton was arguing for a US military ‘hub’ in Iraq – to put pressure on Iran – as early as 2003. Now, he has it. US Special Forces, (mostly) withdrawn from Syria, are deploying into this new Iraq military ‘hub’ in order, Trump said, to “watch Iran”. (Trump rather inadvertently ‘let the cat out of the bag’ with that comment).

The detail of the US ‘hub encirclement’ of Iran, however, rather gives the rest of Mr Bolton’s plan away: The ‘hubs’ are positioned precisely adjacent to Sunni, Kurdish, Baluch or other Iranian ethnic minorities (some with a history of insurgency). And why is it that US special forces are being assembled in the Iraqi hub? Well, these are the specialists of ‘train and assist’ programmes. These forces are attached to insurgent groups to ‘train and assist’ them to confront a sitting government. Eventually, such programmes end with safe-zone enclaves that protect American ‘companion forces’ (Bengahazi in Libya was one such example, al-Tanaf in Syria another).

The covert element to the MESA programme, targeting Iran, is ambitious, but it will be supplemented in the next months with new rounds of economic squeeze intended to sever Iran’s oil sales (as waivers expire), and with diplomatic action, aimed at disrupting Iran’s links in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Will it succeed? It may not. The Taliban pointedly cancelled their last scheduled meeting with Pakistani officials at which renewed pressure was expected to be exerted on them to come to an agreement with Washington; the Taliban have a proud history of repulsing foreign occupiers; Iraq has no wish to become ‘pig-in-the middle’ of a new US-Iran struggle; the Iraqi government may withdraw ‘the invitation’ for American forces to remain in Iraq; and Russia (which has its own peace process with the Taliban), would not want to be forced into choosing sides in any escalating conflict between the US, Israel and Iran. Russia and China do not want to see this region disrupted.

More particularly, India will be disconcerted by the sight of the MESA ‘tipping’ toward Pakistan as its preferred ally – the more so as India, likely will view (rightly or wrongly), the 14 February, vehicle-borne, suicide attack in Jammu-Kashmir that resulted in the deaths of 40 Indian police, as signaling the Pakistan military recovering sufficiently confidence to pursue their historic territorial dispute with India over Jammu-Kashmir (perhaps the world’s most militarised zone, and the locus of three earlier wars between India and Pakistan). It would make sense now, for India to join with Iran, to avoid its isolation.

But these real political constraints notwithstanding, this patterning of events does suggest a US ‘mood for confrontation’ with Iran is crystalizing in Washington.

Photo: Flickr

We’ve seen the west’s approach to Venezuela before – in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, need I go on?

Instead of pleading with those who will not support him, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela might want to take a closer look at who his foreign friends are

By Robert Fisk

February 13, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –    The closest I ever came to Venezuela, many years ago, was a transit connection at Caracas airport. I noticed a lot of soldiers in red berets and a clutch of goons, and it reminded me, vaguely, of the Middle East.

Now, sitting in the rain squalls of the wintry Levant, I flick through my newspaper clippings of our recent local autocrats – Saddam, Assad, al-Sisi, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman (you can fill in the rest for yourself) – and I think of Nicolas Maduro.

The comparisons are by no means precise. Indeed, it’s not the nature of the “strongmen” I’m thinking about. It’s our reaction to all these chaps. And there are two obvious parallels: the way in which we sanction and isolate the hated dictator – or love him, as the case may be – and the manner in which we not only name the opposition as the rightful heir to the nation, but demand that democracy be delivered to the people whose torture and struggle for freedom we have suddenly discovered.

And before I forget it, there’s one other common thread in this story. If you suggest that those who want presidential change in Venezuela may be a little too hasty, and our support for – let us say – Juan Guaido might be a bit premature if we don’t want to start a civil war, this means you are “pro-Maduro”

Just as those who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq were “pro-Saddam”, or those who thought the west might pause before it supported the increasingly violent opposition in Syria were labelled “pro-Assad”.

And those who defended Yasser Arafat – over a long period a super-terrorist, a super-diplomat and then a super-terrorist again – against those who would oust him as leader of the Palestinians, were abused as “pro-Arafat”, “pro-Palestinian”, “pro-terrorist” and, inevitably, “anti-Semitic”. I recall how George W Bush warned us after 9/11, that “you are either with us or against us”. The same threat was made to us about Assad.

Erdogan has used it in Turkey (less than three years ago) and it was a common line in the forgotten 1930s used by none other than Mussolini. And now I quote Trump’s US secretary of state Michael Pompeo on Maduro: “Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side … either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

You get the point. Now is the time for all good people to stand alongside the United States, the EU, the nations of Latin America – or do you support the Russkies, Chinese, Iranian headbangers, the perfidious Corbyn and (of all people) the Greeks? Talking of the Greeks, European pressure on Alexis Tsipras to conform to the EU’s support for Guaido – proving that the EU can indeed bully its smaller members – is a good argument for Brexiteers (though far too complex for them to understand).

But first, let’s take a look at our favourite tyrant, in the words of all who oppose him. He’s a powerful dictator, surrounded by generals, suppressing his people, using torture, mass arrests, secret police murders, rigged elections, political prisoners – so no wonder we gave our support to those who wish to overthrow this brutal man and stage democratic elections.

Not a bad precis of our current policy towards the Maduro regime. But I am referring, of course, word-for-word, to the west’s policy towards the Assad regime in Syria. And our support for opposition democracy there wasn’t terribly successful.

We were not solely responsible for the Syrian civil war – but we were not guiltless since we sent an awful lot of weapons to those trying to overthrow Assad. And last month the notepad of US national security advisor John Bolton appeared to boast a plan to send 5,000 US troops to Colombia

And now let’s tick the box on another Maduro-lookalike – at least from the west’s simplistic point of view: the military-backed elected field marshal-president al-Sisi of Egypt, whom we love, admire and protect. Powerful dictator? Yup. Surrounded and supported by generals? You bet, not least because he locked up a rival general before the last election. Suppression? Absolutely – all in the interest of crushing “terrorism”, of course.

Mass arrests? Happily yes, for all the inmates of Egypt’s savage prison system are “terrorists”, at least according to the field marshal-president himself. Secret police murders? Well, even forgetting the young Italian student suspected by his government to have been allegedly tortured and bumped off by one of Sisi’s top Egyptian cops, there’s a roll call of disappeared activists.

Rigged elections? No doubt about it, although al-Sisi still maintains that his last triumph at the polls – a cracking 97 per cent – was a free and fair election.

President Trump sent his “sincere congratulations”. Political prisoners? Well, the total is 60,000 and rising. Oh yes, and Maduro’s last victory – a rigged election if ever there was one, of course – was a mere 67.84 per cent.

As the late sage of the Sunday Express, John Gordon, might have said: it makes you sit up a bit. So, too, I suppose, when we glance a bit further eastwards to Afghanistan, whose Taliban rulers were routed in 2001 by the US, whose post-9/11 troops and statesmen ushered in a new life of democracy, then corruption, warlordism and civil war.

The “democracy” bit quickly came unstuck when “loya jurgas”, grand councils, turned into tribal playpens and the Americans announced that it would be an exaggeration to think that we could achieve “Jeffersonian democracy” in Afghanistan. Too true.

Now the Americans are negotiating with the “terrorist” Taliban in Qatar so they can get the hell out of the Graveyard of Empires after 17 years of military setbacks, scandals and defeats – not to mention running a few torture camps which even Maduro would cough to look at.

Now all this may not encourage you to walk down memory lane. And I haven’t even listed the sins of Saddam, let alone our continuing and cosy relationship – amazing as it still seems – with that Gulf state whose lads strangled, chopped up and secretly buried a US-resident journalist in Turkey.

Now just imagine if Maduro, tired of a journalist critic slandering him in Miami, decided to lure him to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington and top the poor guy, slice him up and bury him secretly in Foggy Bottom. Well now, I have a feeling that sanctions might have been applied to Maduro a long time ago. But not to Saudi Arabia, of course, where we are very definitely not advocating democracy.

“Now is the time for democracy and prosperity in Venezuela,” quoth John Bolton this week. Oh, yes indeed. Maduro runs an oil-soaked nation yet its people starve. He is an unworthy, foolish and vain man, even if he’s not Saddamite in his crimes. He was rightly described by a colleague as a dreary tyrant. He even looks like the kind of guy who tied ladies to railway lines in silent movies.

So good luck to Guaido. Palpably a nice guy, speaks eloquently, wise to stick to aid for the poor and fresh elections rather than dwell on just how exactly Maduro and his military chums are going to be booted out.

In other words, good luck – but watch out. Instead of pleading with those who will not support him – the Greeks, for example – he might take a closer look at who his foreign friends are. And do a quick track record on their more recent crusades for freedom, democracy and the right to life. And by the way, I haven’t even mentioned Libya.

This article was originally published by The Independent“-

Do you agree or disagree? Post your comment here

 The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

US revisits Vietnam Syndrome in Afghanistan after 17 years of war and destruction

By  Finian Cunningham
Source

5c51c69bdda4c8fb098b45ef.jpg

It is America’s longest war, costing huge amounts of “blood and treasure” as US leaders claim. Yet, the signs are that Washington is finally accepting a historic defeat in Afghanistan comparable to the ignominious Vietnam War.

Intensive negotiations between American officials and Taliban insurgents have produced the “biggest tangible step” towards ending the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan, according to the New York Times.

More talks are scheduled in the coming weeks to firm up details, but already it is reported that the US is to withdraw its remaining 14,000 troops from the Central Asian country over the next year without any guarantees of reciprocation by the enemy.

That unilateral pullout is not yet officially admitted by Washington, but analysts believe the US has tacitly accepted the long-held demand by the Taliban for foreign troops to get out.

At the height of the war, US forces numbered up to 100,000 personnel. The remnant American military therefore have no way of countering the growing insurgency. Even with an additional 8,000 NATO troops and thousands of private contractors also present in Afghanistan supporting the US-backed government in Kabul, the sordid game is up.

Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, during the latest round of talks held in Doha, Qatar, sought to portray an “agreed framework for a peace deal” being contingent on the Taliban delivering on three items: a ceasefire; entering into negotiations with the government in Kabul; and a vow to never allow Afghanistan to become a haven for terror groups.

But media reports cite Taliban officials as giving no firm commitment to those US demands, while it appears Washington has accepted its troops are to be repatriated regardless. In other words, the American side is looking for a face-saving, apparent bilateral “deal” when the reality is Washington knows its war is over.

Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, puts it acerbically. Washington is only polishing the optics, while finessing “the terms of surrender.”

He compares the American withdrawal from Afghanistan to the disorderly retreat and defeat that US forces incurred at the end of the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s. “Then, as now, it was clear that by going to the table we were surrendering; we are just negotiating the terms of our surrender,” opined Crocker in the Washington Post.

The defeat of US military might in Indochina gave rise to the Vietnam Syndrome which entailed a grave loss in national confidence and international standing. The war in Afghanistan has already exceeded the duration of the Vietnam debacle by nearly eight years. While the death toll among American forces is a lot less, the financial cost of Afghanistan is potentially ruinous. Up to $2 trillion of taxpayer money is estimated to have been poured into waging war in that country, yet the strategic achievements are arguably zero.

Not only that, but the launching of “Operation Enduring Freedom” in October 2001 by the GW Bush administration was the catalyst for a global so-called “war on terror” which engulfed several countries. The total financial cost for those wars is reckoned to be around $5 trillion – or nearly a quarter of America’s spiraling national debt.

In cost of human lives, the Afghan war and its derivative “anti-terror” operations elsewhere have resulted in millions of deaths and casualties, millions of refugees and the decimation of whole nations, which have further spawned conflict and the spread of terrorism. Suicide rates and pathological self-destruction among US veterans who served in Afghanistan (and Iraq) are off the charts and will have long-term detriment on American society for generations to come.

The Afghan Syndrome is going to haunt the US for decades in the same way the Vietnam forerunner did.

What’s more despicable is the utter waste and futility. When Bush ordered the troops into Afghanistan at the end of 2001, it was supposed to be in revenge for the terror attacks on the US on September 11. Never mind that the evidence linking those attacks to Afghanistan was tenuous at best.

The Taliban regime, which had been in power from 1996, was toppled by the US. But three presidents later, the Taliban now are reckoned to control over half the territory in Afghanistan, and can carry out deadly attacks on US-backed local forces seemingly at will on a daily basis, including in the capital Kabul.

Now it seems only a matter of time until the Taliban will be back in power with the US and allied NATO forces gone.

Richard Haass, a former senior US State Department planner, commented: “The Taliban have concluded that it is only a matter of time before the United States grows weary of stationing troops in a far-off country and spending $45 billion a year on a war that cannot be won… they have little need to compromise.

The irony is that the Taliban grew out of the tribal militants that the US cultivated and armed to the teeth at the end of the 1970s when Afghanistan was governed by a Soviet-backed administration.

The American policy was gleefully calculated in Washington to give the “Soviets their Vietnam.” The proxy war was indeed a heavy loss for the Soviet Union, but in the longer-term it looks like Uncle Sam ended up getting another Vietnam in terms of creating the longest war ever for Washington, the unfolding ignominious defeat and the global blowback from Islamist terrorism it engendered.

Washington may be pretending it has reached a “framework deal for peace” in Afghanistan. But the brutal truth is Washington has lost another epic war.

The Taliban have always maintained they are not going to negotiate with the US-backed administration in Kabul, headed by President Ashraf Ghani. Like his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, the Taliban view Ghani and his government as a corrupt, venal puppet of the Americans.

The fact that the US sidelined the Kabul regime by talking directly with the Taliban is a crucial concession by Washington. By doing so, the US is effectively admitting that the insurgents are in the driving seat. All the talk out of Washington about supporting “intra-Afghani dialogue” and finding a “comprehensive peace settlement” is window-dressing rhetoric.

US President Donald Trump last month ordered about half of the American troops in Afghanistan – some 7,000 – to withdraw. Trump is said to be growing impatient with the huge financial drain of the never-ending war. His order to pull out forces before the latest round of negotiations in Qatar will have been taken by the Taliban as further proof the Americans know they are beaten.

Astoundingly, prominent voices in Washington are arguing that, in spite of the human calamity and cost of Afghanistan, US troops should remain there indefinitely. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell wants to pass legislation forbidding a withdrawal. The Washington Post’s editorial board – which reflects the foreign policy establishment view – admonished: “The Trump administration’s tentative deal with the Taliban could return Afghanistan to chaos.

Return to chaos”?

Afghanistan – known as the Graveyard of Empires – from centuries of defeating great powers is showing that the Americans are up their necks in chaos.

5c51c69bdda4c8fb098b45ef.jpg

More Flip Flopping, Trump Backtracks on Syria, Afghan Withdrawals, Facing Growing Senate Pressure

Trump Backtracks on Syria, Afghan Withdrawals

Trump now wants to keep ‘smaller number’ of troops in Afghanistan

Jason Ditz

Having drifted back and forth a few times on the US withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan, President Trump seemed solid on leaving last week, but facing growing opposition from the Senate now shows signs of backtracking once again.

Previously talking up how the wars in Afghanistan and Syria can’t last forever, Trump is now saying he wants a “smaller number” of troops to stay in Afghanistan, despite the Taliban already making it clear that was a non-starter for the peace deal.

In Syria, Trump is now focused on the idea that the pullout can only happen after assuring that “Israel is protected,” which is as close to a recipe for permanent warfare as one can get. Israeli officials have made clear they want the war to be about Iran, not ISIS.

And that seems to be he case in Iraq, as well, where President Trump is now saying US troops will remain, seemingly forever, to “watch Iran,” and make sure they don’t “do nuclear weapons or other things.”

Even with the slow, indefinitely half-departures, Trump was very hesitant, emphasizing that the US troops can “come back if we have to.” It’s going to be very hard for the US to “come back,” however, if they never get around to leaving.

All of this never leaving is neatly in line with the stated positions of the Pentagon for years, but breaks wildly from President Trump’s recent talk of actually leaving some countries. The split seems to have coincided neatly with the Senate’s non-binding resolution expressing opposition to leaving either Syria or Afghanistan.

Though originally it seemed President Trump was going to stick to his guns on the matter, having already shrugged off opposition from within his administration, the pressure seems to be getting to him, and policy is slowly defaulting back to permanent wars with nebulous goals.

Why that is suddenly happening isn’t entirely clear, as the Pentagon’s outspoken opposition to ending wars seemed to do little but alienate Trump from former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and the other hawks in the administration failing in their own efforts to “walk back” the policy.

In the end, the weakness in Trump’s commitment to the pullout may reflect both Trump’s generally back of commitment to support the policy, and more importantly, his reluctance to clarify what the pullout policy actually is, or was, beyond the most broad strokes, allowing it to be revised on the fly.

US Caught Helping ISIS Commanders Escape from Prison in Afghanistan

Source

Kabul – A large number of prisoners, all of them senior members of Daesh (also ISIS or ISIL) terrorist group, broke out of a Taliban prison in northwest Afghanistan after US troops helped them escape through a covert operation.

According to Tasnim dispatches, American forces operating in Afghanistan carried out a secret military operation in the northwestern province of Badghis two weeks ago and helped the Daesh inmates escape the prison.

The report added that 40 Daesh ringleaders, all of them foreigners, were transferred by helicopters after American troops raided the prison and killed all its security guards.

Abdullah Afzali, deputy head of Badghis provincial council, confirmed the news.

Informed sources have given a detailed account of the US operation to rescue the Daesh forces and the developments that helped Americans pinpoint the location of the prison in the mountainous areas.

Aminullah, a man from Uzbekistan, was one of the Daesh commanders held captive in the Taliban prison. His success to escape from the prison led to the dismissal of the Taliban prison guard and his punishment.

 

%d bloggers like this: