America Has Gone Full Circle in Afghanistan

By Adam Garrie
Source

America’s Special Representative for Afghan affairs,  Zalmay Khalilzad has announced that a preliminary draft agreement between the Afghan Taliban and Washington has been reached. Although it is clear that nothing has been finalised as of yet, this week’s announcement is the most throughout to-date when it comes to understanding America’s position vis-a-vis the Taliban.  Khalilzad said the following:

Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides. Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire. In January talks, we “agreed in principle” on these four elements. We’re now “agreed in draft” on the first two.

When the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counter-terrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire.

My next step is discussions in Washington and consultations with other partners. We will meet again soon, and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed”. 

Whilst Khalizad’s statement ping-pongs between clarity and State Department jargon, several things become clear upon reading the text.

First of all, the United States appears more serious about leaving Afghanistan than Syria. This is to say that the US appears to be on the verge of solidifying a timeline for withdrawal that is being agreed upon through cooperation with Afghanistan’s strongest indigenous military force, the Taliban.

Secondly, based on what Khalilzad said has been accomplished when contrasted with what he said has yet to be accomplished, he has (perhaps unintentionally) alluded to the fact that it is now easier for the US and Taliban to agree on a framework for the future than it is for the US and the Kabul regime to do so. This is the case because Khalilzad indicated that of the four goals that must be achieved to finalise a peace deal, the two that have been agreed upon at the highest level thus far, are those which only require cooperation between American officials and Taliban officials. Counter-terrorism assurances and troop withdrawal in this context means that the Taliban will commit themselves to fighting various terror groups (they are already fighting Daesh for example), whilst the Taliban will work with the US to assure an orderly withdrawal of American troops.

The second too principles, “intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire”, require not only the consent and cooperation of the Taliban, but also that of the current Kabul regime, in order to be fulfilled. Therefore, without saying so directly, Khalizad has tacitly admitted that the US is further along in its agreements that only require discussions between American and Taliban officials than it is with discussions that involve American officials, the regime, the Taliban and other smaller factions.

This about face from the US should not surprise Afghanistan’s putative leader Ashraf Ghani. The US is infamous for being a friend one day and an enemy the next, when it comes to international relations. As Ghani remains a figurehead who even with US assistance cannot control a majority of Afghan territory, the US looks as though it is on the verge of dumping its bad investment in favour of working with a reformed Taliban that might actually be able to get things done in the country.

By working with a reformed Taliban rather than a de facto illegitimate, albeit UN recognised Ganhi regime, the US would be able to save both money and save the lives of US troops, whilst still ostensibly retaining the right to exploit some Afghan resources, whilst maintaining the presence of some American mercenaries to guard US economic interests in the country. The fact that this would happen under a government that leans heavily towards the Taliban, does in fact make it clear that both sides are willing to compromise and that for Taliban officials, removing an illegitimate government and removing uniformed US troops is now more important than a blanket extrication of American economic interests from the country. The comparative rapidity with which the US became a key economic partner of Vietnam after the Cold War is a clear model for the kind of US-Afghan relationship that could well be on the horizon. If indeed the US retains economic ties with a Taliban led Afghanistan, it would perhaps be the greatest geo-economic surprise since American Presidents have embraced a Vietnamese government whose founding father is the anti-American fighter Ho Chi Minh. That being said, whilst Afghanistan remains a more difficult place in which to do business than Vietnam was in the late 1970s, the prospect for sustained economic ties looks more and more likely in respect of the US and an Afghanistan led by a new generation of Taliban.

Furthermore, as the kind of peace process that Khalilzad has said is progressing in a positive manner, is that which Pakistan has advocated for over a decade, a proper peace in Afghanistan could help to ease Pakistan-US tensions at a time when the US is leaning heavily towards India, but still seeks to retain what is left of its partnership with Pakistan. In this sense, whilst the US is more comfortable playing zero-sum games in foreign affairs, when it comes to Pakistan, the US won’t be willing to see Islamabad fully exit from the US sphere of influence and as such, by settling Afghanistan’s crisis in a manner consistent with Pakistan’s long held views, this will eliminate at least one point of contention between Washington and Islamabad. As such, the US may well be trying to engage in some sort of balancing act in the region that leans towards India, but one which is not yet willing to see Pakistan fully alienated.

In this sense, the agreement of which Khalilzad has spoken could potentially be a major win-win. China, Russia and Pakistan are now on the same page when it comes to an all parties peace settlement and ceasefire that mandates an orderly withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Even Iran is largely in this camp now that the Taliban have assured Tehran that a new Taliban government will neither be anti-Iranian nor anti-Afghan Shi’a. For Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, it goes without saying that a stable Afghanistan is in their interests.

Finally, while India does not border Afghanistan, New Delhi has for decades sought strong relations with Kabul as part of a wider Indian desire to encircle Pakistan. This has been especially true since the war of 1971 between India and Pakistan. Just as it is increasingly likely that a new Taliban government will work with some US business firms after a formal US troop withdrawal, the same is true of Indian firms. The difference is that without US troops or those from the current regime there to protect Indian assets, India might find that investing in Afghanistan is more effort than it is wroth. In many ways, some in India are already reaching this conclusion.

In this sense, while India’s plans to encircle Pakistan may be on the verge of being thwarted, for all other parties involved, including the US and Taliban, this new reality is increasingly looking like a win-win conclusion to a war that should have never been fought in the first place. Now that American and Taliban officials are shaking hands and making agreements, many will begin to question the wisdom of a war which began in 2001 for the stated purpose of removing the Taliban from power…only to see the US help to re-legitimise the Taliban eight years later.

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Afghan Civilians Fear CIA-Backed Death Squads that Can Call In Airstrikes

By Alexander Rubinstein
Source

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan and attempts broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of the Americans.

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN — Elite CIA-backed special forces in Afghanistan are leaving a trail of carnage in the country. As such units do not operate under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, they have been given near-impunity despite standing accused of war crimes.

Last month, the New York Times cited “senior Afghan and international officials” who said that while most strike forces in Afghanistan have been put under the purview of Afghan intelligence since 2012, two of the most “ruthless” units are “still sponsored mainly by the CIA.”

On Friday, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that at least one of these units has the capability of calling in air strikes.

Of the two special forces units that remain primarily influenced by the CIA, the name of only one was revealed: a group called “02” in the Nangarhar Province. The name of the unit in the Khost Province was not revealed. The units are trained and equipped by CIA agents and CIA contractors, and their fighters make three times the salary of a regular Afghan soldier. The unit in Khost is believed to have between 3,000 and 10,000 fighters while 02 is believed to be about 1,000 fighters strong.

A former senior Afghan security official told the Times that the strike forces were guilty of war crimes, while the United Nations has “expressed concern” about “consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention, and other abuses.” The unnamed unit in Khost was even singled out by the UN, which said it operates “with an absence of transparency and ongoing impunity.”

Brutality worthy of ISIS

In September, elders from the three Nangarhar districts gathered for a press conference in which they claimed that 100 civilians were killed by 02 in August. Elders are putting the number of civilians slain by 02 in the following two months, September and October, at 260.

One man who spoke at the conference said he and his two brothers were detained for three months as 02 tried to force video confessions of Taliban affiliation from him with threats of driving over him with a tank. He said he was placed in handcuffs and that they used needles to puncture holes in his veins.

In one case investigated by the Times, two brothers were killed as they watered their fields. In another case, a unit pursuing an alleged Taliban member entered the wrong home and killed a dozen civilians. In yet another case, 02 placed two brothers in handcuffs and spit hoods and interrogated them in front of their wives and children. After they were done being questioned, 02 dragged the brothers away and executed them in the corner of a bedroom, and then detonated the building.

According to “several current and former Afghan officials,” Americans help the unit find targets and guide operations. Those detained by such units frequently claim they have been tortured and Afghan officials say that Americans have been present at bases during such abuses. In the Nangarhar province alone, human-rights workers registered 15 complaints of torture by 02, according to the Times.

One medical worker who lives in the Bati Kot district in Nangarhar said he initially mistook 02 for ISIS when they showed up at his village surrounded by orange orchards.

“I ran and got my weapon — I thought it was the caliphate people. I didn’t know it was the government,” Khoshal Khan said. “Then they started firing, and I heard the gate blown up. They were speaking English, also.”

Afghanistan | Nangarhar

First, one man in the village, Mohamed Taher, was shot. According to his 16-year-old grandson, Sekander, one of Taher’s sons was also shot while following orders to come out of the building with his hands up. Then, 02 shot one of the grandsons in the head. And then another one of Taher’s sons.

“The women started crying. They called to be quiet, then they blew up the gates and came in,” Sekandar told the Times.

As his father bled to death in the yard after being shot while following orders, Adel, Taher’s 10-year-old grandson, was forced to take shelter inside. “They said, ‘Don’t come out — if the airstrikes hit you, then don’t complain.’” Adel still has shrapnel wounds on his face from the raid.

A relative of some of the people killed in the raid, Mohibullah, said that he sees little difference between the Islamic State and 02, since they both attack civilians without warning.

More killing power than the Caliphate

But, as it turns out, the 02 group is far better equipped than the Caliphate ever was. That’s because they have something Daesh lacked: air support. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found instances in which 02 raids were quickly followed by airstrikes. One man they spoke to said 16 civilians were killed in an 02 raid on his village, five of whom were family members.

“When my family members heard shots being fired outside, they went out to see what was going on and were hit by an airstrike that killed the five of them. The airstrike also destroyed part of our house,” he said. The outlet claims that 02 called in the strike.

“Numerous residents and relatives” said that one month later 02 killed 13 civilians, including four children, in a raid that included airstrikes. The Interior Ministry claimed that Islamic State fighters were killed, not civilians.

“First, they attacked us with bombs. Then they entered the living room and started to shoot around,” said one witness. “They didn’t care about who they were killing. They killed my uncle and his 9-year-old son. His wife and his other child were injured.” Another man told the outlet he lost seven family members in the raid.

Bombing and death squads a strange approach to nation-building

The CIA’s training, equipping, and support of 02 is reportedly stoking resentment of America’s 18-year occupation of the country, which has little to show in regard to net gains against the Taliban. Near the end of 2018 the Afghan government controlled the smallest amountof territory since a U.S. military watchdog — the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) — started keeping track in 2015. Meanwhile, the U.S. dropped more bombs in 2018 on Afghanistan than during any other year on SIGAR record, which goes back to 2009.

United States Air Forces Central Command Combined Air Operations Center

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan and attempts broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of the Americans.

“When the U.S. also takes on the mission of state-building, then the contradictions between the two approaches — stealth, black ops, and non-transparency vs. institution building, rule of law, and accountability — become extraordinarily difficult to resolve, and our standing as a nation suffers,” bemoaned Karl Eikenberry, a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan who later became a diplomat to the country.

Already, Afghans are beginning to suspect that the U.S. sought to prolong its occupation of their country as means of securing a position to spy on Russia, China and Iran.

Reading Between The Lines: India Has Sour Grapes Over America’s Afghan Peace Talks

By Andrew Korybko
Source

The clearest indication of how the Indian military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) truly feel about America’s Afghan peace talks with the Taliban can be seen in retired Major-General Harsha Kakar’s recent article on the topic for “The Statesman”, where the otherwise presumably serious former military official shows the sour grapes that his country has over this process by resorting to a chain of emotional arguments to make the implied point that the war must go on at all costs in order to advance India’s strategic interests vis-à-vis Pakistan at the US’ expense.

Intuiting India’s Interpretation

India, which hasn’t shied away from sounding off about all manner of international issues ever since Prime Minister Modi’s election in 2014, has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped about its attitude towards America’s Afghan peace talks with the Taliban, leading many observers to intuit that it’s extremely unhappy with this process but is applying the age-old wisdom about how “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt” in order to avoid the ignoble distinction of being the only country in the world to condemn the latest steps taken to end this nearly two-decade-long conflict. These suspicions appear to be confirmed after reading retired Major-General Harsha Kakar’s recent article on this topic for “The Statesman”, where the otherwise presumably serious former military official shows the sour grapes that his country has over this process by resorting to a chain of emotional arguments to make the implied point that the war must go on at all costs in order to advance India’s strategic interests vis-à-vis Pakistan at the US’ expense.

Double Standards On Democracy

In his piece about “Who will be responsible for Afghanistan mess?”, Kakar hits the gate running by comparing the US’ possible withdrawal from Afghanistan to its prior one from Vietnam, remarking that “Donald Trump appears desperate to fulfil his campaign promise, ignoring sound advice.” Seeing as how Trump was democratically elected as President of the United States partly on his campaign promise to draw down America’s involvement in costly overseas conflicts, Kakar is implying that the will of the people should be ignored in order to promote the interests of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracy (“deep state”), which is superficially hypocritical for someone from the self-professed “world’s largest democracy” to say but makes sense when one realizes that the Indian “deep state” (of which Kakar is a part) hijacked control of the country after Modi took office. For reasons of “narrative convenience”, Kakar ignores the fact that the withdrawal from Vietnam was extremely popular with average Americans, just like a similar one from Afghanistan would be as well.

Frustration Over “America First”

Another important factor that Kakar ignores is Trump’s signature “America First” foreign policy, as he writes that “It appears the US is presently only concerned about itself, rather than the people of Afghanistan and other states which have a stake in the country.” This should have been self-evident because Trump’s foreign policy is all about prioritizing US interests instead of ‘taking one for the team’ and ‘doing favors’ for its international ‘partners’ who he feels have been exploiting America for far too long by freeloading off of it. India, it can be said, is one such ‘partner’, at least when it comes to Afghanistan, though this will be returned to in the next section of the present article. Continuing along, Kakar’s next series of points touch upon his views on how wounded US and NATO veterans, as well as those who lost their brothers-in-arms in the conflict, might dislike that Trump’s withdrawing without a victory, but the Major-General seems to be out of touch with the rank and file because otherwise he’d know that this war is very unpopular with them.

For the second time in two paragraphs, he then whines about “America First” again by writing that “Trump has made up his mind and would follow his intuitions, the world be damned”, adding that “He did it in Syria and is repeating it here.” Once more, Kakar’s angle of approach to this issue is the same as Trump’s “deep state” foes’ in that he deliberately overlooks just how popular the President’s intention to withdraw from Syria is among average Americans in order to further his own ‘class’’ institutional interests at their expense. The next chain of interconnected points that he tries to make is that the Taliban will go back on its previously stated commitment to peace and inclusive governance as part of a preplanned conspiracy with Pakistan, though not before Islamabad “obtains US largesse, has doors for IMF loans opened and pressure…applied on India to pull out of Afghanistan.” It’s actually these three outcomes of Pakistan’s diplomatic facilitation of the peacemaking process that Kakar – and by extrapolation, the Indian “deep state” that he represents – is most fearful of.

Cutting Off India’s Free Ride In Afghanistan

The Major-General doesn’t really care about the US’ international reputation potentially taking a hit after its ‘second Vietnam’ or what its wounded veterans think about the withdrawal, but his emotional embellishment of these two topics appears to be nothing more than a poorly thought-out attempt to misportray Trump’s peace talks with the Taliban in the worst possible light because of how worried India is about the strategic consequences of their success. New Delhi knows that its interests in Afghanistan are only secured so long as the Pentagon is there to protect them and that the US’ possible withdrawal from the country would remove India’s strategic depth vis-à-vis Pakistan, therefore largely stabilizing the situation in South Asia to what New Delhi’s “deep state” believes would be their ultimate detriment per the “zero-sum” paradigm that guides their decisions. Put another way, despite the War on Afghanistan being a total military failure for the US, India wants Americans to continue dying for them in order to advance their country’s regional interests.

It was written earlier that Trump’s “America First” policy is aimed first and foremost at cutting off the US’ freeloaders, so bearing in mind the aforementioned insight about how India used the US all these years as its “cat’s paw” against Pakistan by strategically profiting off of its people’s sacrifices in blood and treasure, it can be said that the application of “America First” to the War on Afghanistan is a nightmare scenario for New Delhi. Fearing that the withdrawal of American troops will leave Indian investments without protection, Kakar suggests the deployment of historically ineffective UN peacekeeping forces as a desperate last-ditch measure to defeat the same National Liberation Movement that not even the US could crush with over 100,000 troops at the height of the Obama-era surge. Of note, for as much as he hypes up the US’ possible loss of face following any prospective withdrawal from Afghanistan, Kakar doesn’t talk about what a loss of face and money it would be for India if the Taliban seizes its many investments there in the aftermath.

The End Of An Empire, But Which One?

Right near the end, Kakar predicts that “Trump would have demitted office but would remain in history books for being responsible for the death of a nation”, concluding that “It would only prove the adage of ‘Afghanistan being the graveyard of empires’”, but the US might actually save itself from collapse by withdrawing from the war-torn state, reinvesting its money in domestic infrastructure and socio-economic projects instead, and getting out of the quagmire while it still can. On the other hand, the same can’t be said for Modi and his envisaged empire of “Akhand Bharat”, which might both be dealt political death blows ahead of India’s general elections in May if serious concern over the geopolitical consequences of a possibly impending American withdrawal from Afghanistan combines with other issues to convince voters to kick the hyper-jingoist Hindutva ideologues out of office before they lead their country to ruin. It’s little wonder then that India’s “deep state” has sour grapes over the US’ Pakistani-facilitated peacemaking progress in Afghanistan because it could end their dreams of a regional empire once and for all.

 

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

By  Finian Cunningham
Source

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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.

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America’s Shameful War in Afghanistan: The US Involvement in the Drug Trade

BY Eric Margolis
Source 

Afghanistan Helmand province f3aef

An ancient Hindu prayer says, ‘Lord Shiva, save us from the claw of the tiger, the fang of the cobra, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’

The United States, champion of freedom and self-determination, is now in its 18th year of colonial war in Afghanistan. This miserable, stalemated conflict is America’s longest and most shameful war. So far it has cost over $1 trillion and killed no one knows how many Afghans.

This conflict began in 2001 on a lie: namely that Afghanistan was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US. These attacks were planned in Europe and the US, not Afghanistan, and apparently conducted (official version) by anti-American Saudi extremists. This writer remains unconvinced by the official versions.

We still don’t know if Osama bin Laden instigated the attacks. He was murdered rather than brought to trial. Dead men tell no tales. However, Mullah Omar, leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, told my late friend journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave that bin Laden was not involved in 9/11. Who benefited? Certainly not the Afghans. They have been at war for the past 40 years.

As I wrote in my first book, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribal majority were fierce fighters and were incredibly brave. Their Taliban movement was a tribal-nationalist-Islamist force devoted to fighting communism, drug dealing, and foreign influence. Taliban stamped out the Afghan opium trade and had just about crushed the drug-dealing Russian-backed Tajik northern alliance – until the US invaded in 2001. The Afghan drug lords quickly became US allies and remain so today.

Taliban was not a ‘terrorist movement,’ as western war propaganda falsely claimed. Twenty years earlier their fathers were hailed ‘freedom fighters’ by President Ronald Reagan when they were fighting Soviet occupation. Taliban’s Pashtun warriors wanted all foreigners out of their nation and the right to run their own affairs according to Islamic principles.

The US has savaged Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries. US B-52 and B-1 heavy bombers are razing tribal villages, predator killer drones attack most road movement, US-paid Afghan puppet forces, many former Communists, routinely torture and murder. All this while the US-installed yes-man regime in Kabul does nothing to halt massive drug dealing and human rights abuses.

In fact, dealing in opium and morphine is the primary business of Afghanistan. This cash crop could not be exported to Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia without the connivance of the Kabul regime and its US military protectors. When the full truth about the war is finally written, the US will be in the deepest shame over involvement in the drug trade.

Washington, which has done as much as the former Soviet invaders to ravage Afghanistan, has no clear idea what to do next. President Trump announced withdrawal of some of the 14,000 US troops (and large numbers of mercenaries) from Afghanistan. But then the pro-war neocons at State and the Pentagon sought to veto the president’s statement. Meanwhile, desultory talks are droning on in Doha, Qatar, between the US and Taliban, led by the US ‘special envoy’ (read proconsul) Zalmay Khalilzad, a neocon who played an important role in promoting the invasion of Iraq.

Why is the US still at war in Afghanistan after 18 years? First, because the politicians and generals involved won’t accept responsibility for a defeat and its huge cost. There is nothing more wasteful than a lost war. Second, because imperial-minded circles want to keep bases in Afghanistan to menace China, Iran and Pakistan. There are huge profits to be made from this endless war with its $400 per gallon gasoline trucked in from Karachi and 24-hour on-call air support. Plus the bases and fleet that support the war and promotion for the senior officers involved.

To keep this useless war against lightly armed Pashtun tribesmen going, the US must massively bribe Pakistan to maintain the military’s supply routes into that isolated nation. The absurd waste of US money in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been fully documented by the US government’s audit agencies.

President Trump is right to talk about ending this ignoble conflict. But the neocon fifth column he has foolishly helped install keeps thwarting his aspirations.

Trump should order the fighting ended and all US troops out of Afghanistan within 90 days. End US involvement in the drug trade. Tell India to butt out of Afghanistan. That would be statesmanship. Afghanistan must be allowed to return to its former obscurity.

ISIS: The United States’ Next Ally in Afghanistan

By CJ Werleman
Source

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Afghanistan is known for being the “graveyard of empires,” but when the time comes for the last US soldier or military contractor to step foot onto a waiting C-130 Hercules, bound permanently for home, the country might also become known as the graveyard for every counter-insurgency theory, strategy, method, and instrument known to military planners.

Only months after successfully overthrowing the Taliban regime in 2001, US and coalition forces have been locked in a violent insurgency against an array of anti-government insurgent groups, including the Taliban, Haqqani network, Hezb-i-Islami, foreign fighters, disparate local tribes, transnational criminal organizations, and more recently ISIS.

US forces have tried and failed to establish and train competent and incorruptible Afghan police forces away from the urban centers; it has tried and failed to improve the quality of local governance; it has tried and failed to eliminate the insurgent’s support base in Pakistan; it has failed to understand and appreciate the importance of locals in counterinsurgency operations.

It’s thus little wonder Afghanistan has become the longest combat deployment for US forces by a long shot, having now been in-country for 17 counter-productive years.

In the nearly two decades since the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, and having faced the wrath of the world’s greatest superpower every day since the months after the September 11 attacks, the extremist group has seized numerous districts throughout northern Afghanistan, and today controls the largest piece of turf it has held since 2001.

As such, US President Donald Trump has had enough, telling aids he “doesn’t care” about Afghanistan, while continually chastising the generals for being “dumb.” In December of last year, Trump announced his decision to withdraw roughly half of the remaining 15,000 US troops there.

Trump’s foreign policy strategy for 2019, as incoherent and impossible to actually decipher it may seem, is “let others fight our battles.”

But who is the other in Afghanistan? I mean, other than the Afghan National Army?

Could ISIS be the United States’ next ally in its war against the Taliban and other insurgent groups?

Well, consider that the Taliban claimed that US warplanes and drones killed 16 of its fighters in western Afghanistan while it was carrying out military operations against fighters loyal to ISIS in August of last year.

Consider also that Russia has accused US of using “unidentified helicopters” to ferry arms and ammunition to ISIS fighters the northern Afghan province of Sar-e-Pul.

“We still expecting from our American colleagues an answer to the repeatedly raised questions, questions that arose on the basis of public statements made by the leaders of some Afghan provinces, that unidentified helicopters, most likely helicopters to which NATO in one way or another is related, fly to the areas where the insurgents are based, and no one has been able to explain the reasons for these flights yet,” stated Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. “In general they [the United States] try to avoid answers to these legitimate questions.”

The United States, however, has rejected these claims as “completely untrue,” but still – where’s there’s smoke, there’s often fire, so to speak.

Now consider also, however, that the Iranian English language news service Tasnim News Agencypublished a report alleging US forces operating in Afghanistan carried out a secret military operation in the northwestern province of Badghis two weeks ago, which helped ISIS inmates escape the prison the Taliban held them in.

The report added, “That 40 “Daesh ring leaders, all of them foreigners, were transferred by helicopters after American troops raided the prison and killed all its security guards.”

The report also claims a prominent ISIS commander known as Aminullah from Uzbekistan was one of those freed and taken away by US helicopters after US special forces killed the prison guards.

“Informed sources suggest that the Uzbekistani national had established close contact with the American military forces since the early days of moving to Afghanistan,” according to Tasnim News Agency. “Americans used to employ Aminullah as an undercover among the Taliban to acquire information for carrying out operations against the Taliban in northern Afghanistan.”

Again, none of these claims are independently verified, and read only as a conspiracy in the making, but the question must be asked – what would the US gain in using ISIS as a proxy partner in Afghanistan?

Well, there are a number of plausible explanations here, including the fact that fighting between the Taliban and ISIS has been escalating in recent months; that ISIS seeks to disrupt any peace talks between the US and Taliban, which the US might see in being helpful to weaken the Taliban’s position at the bargaining table; and that Russia, the United States’ long-time geopolitical rival, is increasing its support for the Taliban.

While there’s no smoking Kalashnikov yet to be found here proving a US-ISIS alliance in Afghanistan, the United States has a long and distinguished history of arming past enemies to fight current foes, and arming ISIS might turn out to be merely its next desperate measure in its increasingly desperate military presence in the “graveyard of empires.”

Seven Gates of Damascus and Concrete Walls of Kabul

By Andre Vltchek
Source

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Two terrible wars, two mighty destructions, but two absolutely opposite outcomes.

In Syria, it may be autumn now, but almost the entire country is blossoming again, literally rising from ashes. Two thousand miles east from there, Afghanistan is smashed against its ancient rocks, bleeding and broken. There, it does not really matter what season it is; life is simply dreadful and hope appears to be in permanent exile.

Damascus, the ancient and splendid capital of Syria, now the Syrian Arab Republic, is back to life again. People go out until late at night, there are events; there is music and vibrant social life. Not all, but many are smiling again. Checkpoints are diminishing, and now one does not even have to go through metal detectors in order to enter museums, cafes and some of the international hotels.

The people of Damascus are optimistic, some of them are ecstatic. They fought hard, they lost hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, but they won! They finally won, against all odds, supported by their true friends and comrades. They are proud of what they have achieved, and rightly so!

young people of Damascus confident optimistic and kind 43c6d

Humiliated on so many occasions, for so long, the Arab people suddenly rose and demonstrated to the world and to themselves that they can defeat invaders, no matter how powerful they are; no matter how canny and revolting their tactics are. As I wrote on several previous occasions, Aleppo is the ‘Stalingrad of the Middle East’. It is a mighty symbol. There, fascism and imperialism were stopped. Unsurprisingly, because of its stamina, courage and aptitude, the center of Pan-Arabism – Syria – has become, once again, the most important country for the freedom-loving people of the region.

Syria has many friends, among them China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. But the most determined of them, the most reliable, remains Russia.

The Russians stood by its historical ally, even when things looked bad, almost hopeless; even when the terrorists trained and implanted into Syria by the West, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, were flattening entire ancient cities, and millions of refugees flowing out of the country, through the all seven gates of Damascus, and from all major cities, as well as towns and villages.

The Russians worked hard, often ‘behind the scenes’; on the diplomatic front, but also on the frontlines, providing essential air support, de-mining entire neighborhoods, helping with food supplies, logistics, strategy. Russians died in Syria, we do not know the precise numbers, but there definitely were casualties; some even say, ‘substantial’. However, Russia never waved its flag, never beat its chest in self-congratulatory gestures. What had to be done, was done, as an internationalist duty; quietly, proudly and with great courage and determination.

The Syrian people know all this; they understand, and they are grateful. For both nations, words are not necessary; at least not now. Their deep fraternal alliance is sealed. They fought together against darkness, terror and neo-colonialism, and they won.

When Russian military convoys pass through Syrian roads, there is no security. They stop at local eateries to refresh themselves, they talk to locals. When Russian people walk through Syrian cities, they feel no fear. They are not seen or treated as a ‘foreign military force’. They are now part of Syria. They are part of the family. Syrians make them feel at home.

In Kabul, I always face walls. Walls are all around me; concrete walls, as well as barbed wire.

Some walls are as tall as 4-5 storey buildings, with watchtowers on every corner, outfitted with bulletproof glass.

Local people, pedestrians, look like sleep-walkers. They are resigned. They are used to those hollow barrels of guns pointed at their heads, chests, feet, even at their children.

Almost everyone here is outraged by the occupation, but no one knows what to do; how to resist. The NATO invasion force is both brutal and overwhelming; its commanders and soldiers are cold, calculating, and merciless, obsessed with protecting themselves and only themselves.

Afghanistan Bagram Air Force Base of NATO Poppies fields ef3b9

Heavily armored British and US military convoys are ready to shoot at ‘anything that moves’ even in a vaguely hostile fashion.

Afghan people get killed, almost all of them‘surgically’ or ‘remotely’. Western lives are ‘too precious’ for engaging in honest man-to-man combat. Slaughtering is done by drones, by ‘smart bombs’, or by shooting from those monstrous vehicles that crisscross Afghan cities and the countryside.

During this outrageous occupation, it matters nil how many Afghan civilians get killed, as long as the US or European lives get spared. Most of the Western soldiers deployed in Afghanistan are professionals. They are not defending their country. They are paid to do ‘their job’, efficiently, at any price. And of course, “Safety First”. Safety for themselves.

After the West occupied Afghanistan in 2001, between 100,000 and 170,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. Millions were forced to leave their country as refugees. Afghanistan now ranks second from the bottom (after Yemen) in Asia, on the HDI list (Human Development Index, compiled by UNDP). Its life expectancy is the lowest in Asia (WHO).

I work in both Syria and Afghanistan, and consider it my duty to point at the differences between two countries, and these two wars.

Both Syria and Afghanistan were attacked by the West. One resisted and won, the other one was occupied by mainly North American and European forces, and consequently destroyed.

After working in some 160 countries on this planet, and after covering and witnessing countless wars and conflicts (most of them ignited or provoked by the West and its allies), I can clearly see the pattern: almost all the countries that fell into the ‘Western sphere of influence’are now ruined, plundered and destroyed; they are experiencing great disparities between the tiny number of ‘elites’ (individuals who collaborate with the West) and the great majority of those who live in poverty. Most of the countries with close ties to Russia or China (or both), are prospering and developing, enjoying self-governance and respect for their cultures, political systems, and economic structures.

It is only because of the corporate mass media and biased education system, as well as the almost fully pro-Western orientation of the ‘social media’, that these shocking contrasts between two blocs (yes, we have two major blocs of countries, again) are not constantly highlighted and discussed.

During my recent visit to Syria, I spoke to many people living in Damascus, Homs, and Ein Tarma.

What I witnessed could be often described as“joy through tears”. The price of victory has been steep. But joy it is, nevertheless. The unity of the Syrian people and their government is obvious and remarkable.

Anger towards the ‘rebels’ and towards the West is ubiquitous. I will soon describe the situation in my upcoming reports. But this time, I only wanted to compare the situation in two cities, two countries and two wars.

In Damascus, I feel like writing poetry, again. In Kabul, I am only inspired to write a long and depressing obituary.

I love both of these ancient cities, but of course, I love them differently.

Frankly speaking, in the 18 years of Western occupation, Kabul has been converted into a militarized, fragmented and colonized hell on earth. Everybody knows it: the poor know it, and even the government is aware of it.

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In Kabul, entire neighborhoods already ‘gave up’. They are inhabited by individuals who are forced to live in gutters, or under bridges. Many of those people are stoned, hooked on locally made narcotics, the production of which is supported by the Western occupation armies. I saw and photographed a US military base openly surrounded by poppy plantations. I heard testimonies of local people, about the British military engaging in negotiations, and cooperating with the local narco-mafias.

Now the Western embassies, NGO’s and ‘international organizations’ operating in Afghanistan, have managed to intellectually and morally corrupt and indoctrinate a substantial group of local people, who are receiving scholarship, getting ‘trained’ in Europe, and are tugging the official line of the occupiers.

They are working day and night to legitimize the nightmare into which their country has been tossed.

But older people who still remember both the Soviet era and socialist Afghanistan, are predominantly ‘pro-Russian’, mourning in frustration those days of Afghan liberation, progress, and determined building of the nation. ‘Soviet’ bread factories, water channels, pipelines, electric high-voltage towers, and schools are still used to this day, all over the country. While, gender equality, secularism, and the anti-feudalist struggle of those days are now, during the Western occupation, de facto illegal.

Afghans are known to be proud and determined people. But now their pride has been broken, while determination has been drowned in the sea of pessimism and depression. The Western occupation did not bring peace, it did not bring prosperity, independence of democracy (if democracy is understood as the ‘rule of the people’).

These days, the biggest dream of a young man or woman in Kabul is to serve the occupiers – to get ‘educated’ in a Western-style school, and to get a job at a US embassy or at one of the UN agencies.

In Damascus, everyone is now talking about the rebuilding of the nation.

‘How and when will the damaged neighborhoods be rebuilt? Is the pre-war construction of the metro going to resume anytime soon? Is life going to be better than before?’

People cannot wait. I witnessed families, communities, restoring their own buildings, houses and streets.

Yes, in Damascus I saw true revolutionary optimism in action, optimism which I described in my recent book Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism”. Because the Syrian state itself is now, once again, increasingly revolutionary. The so-called ‘opposition’ has been mostly nothing else other than a Western-sponsored subversion; an attempt to take Syria back to the dark days of colonialism.

Damascus and the Syrian government do not need tremendous walls, enormous spy blimps levitating in the sky; they do not need armored vehicles at every corner and the omnipresent SUV’s with deadly machine guns.

On the other hand, the occupiers of Kabul need all those deadly symbols of power in order to maintain control. Still they cannot scare people into supporting or loving them.

In Damascus, I simply walked into the office of my fellow novelist, who happened to be the Syrian Minister of Education. In Kabul, I often have to pass through metal detectors even when I just want to visit a toilet.

In Damascus, there is hope, and life, at every corner. Cafes are packed, people talk, argue, laugh together, and smoke waterpipes. Museums and libraries are full of people too. The Opera House is performing; the zoo is flourishing, all despite the war, despite all the difficulties.

In Kabul, life stopped. Except for the traffic, and for traditional markets. Even the National Museum is now a fortress, and as a result, almost no one can be found inside.

just eating out at night in Damascus c0034

People in Damascus are not too familiar with what goes on in Kabul. But they know plenty about Baghdad, Tripoli and Gaza. And they would rather die than allow themselves to be occupied by the West or its implants.

Two wars, two fates, two totally distinct cities.

The seven gates of Damascus are wide open. Refugees are returning from all directions, from all corners of the world. It is time for reconciliation, for rebuilding the nation, for making Syria even greater than it was before the conflict.

Kabul, often rocked by explosions, is fragmented by horrid walls. Engines of helicopters are roaring above. Blimps with their deadly eyes monitoring everything on the ground. Drones, tanks, huge armored vehicles. Beggars, homeless people, slums. Huge Afghan flag flying above Kabul. A ‘modified flag’, not the same as in the socialist past.

In Syria, finally the united nation has managed to defeat imperialism, fanaticism and sectarianism.

In Afghanistan, the nation got divided, then humiliated, then stripped of its former glory.

Damascus belongs to its people. In Kabul, people are dwarfed by concrete walls and military bases erected by foreign invaders.

In Damascus, people were fighting, even dying for their country and their city.

In Kabul, people are scared to even speak about fighting for freedom.

Damascus won. It is free again.

Kabul will win, too. Perhaps not today, not this year, but it will. I believe it will.

I love both cities. But one is now celebrating, while the other one is still suffering, in unimaginable pain.

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