Afghanistan War News Digest - Archive

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Brown Bag Lunch Vigil: Stop the Afghanistan War!

Join us at a Brown Bag Vigil to Stop the Afghanistan War!   The vigil will be held Wednesday, October 20, downstairs from Sen. John Kerry's office at Bowdoin Square.    We will move at 1:00 to the JFK Federal Building where Sen. Scott Brown's office is located.

Locations:

Boston • Office of Sen. John Kerry • One Bowdoin Square (12:00 noon)
Lowell • Office of Rep. Niki Tsongas • 11 Kearney Square (12:00 noon)
Worcester • Public Library, Banx Room • 3 Salem Square (12:30pm)
Hyannis • Office of Rep. Bill Delahunt • 146 Main Street (Friday at 3-4pm)

Register to attend!

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Afghanistan War Weekly - October 17, 2010

All official war information now needs to be evaluated in light of the US political timetable and the crises of legitimacy beginning to threaten NATO governments. The most important milestones for the United States are, of course, the congressional elections, the December “review” of the progress of the war, and the July 2011 marker for the beginning of a limited “draw down” of US forces. Additionally, in November NATO’s military leaders will give a progress report for the NATO assembly in Lisbon.
 
The heightened politicization of war news is particularly important in the United States. The current military “surge” in the Kandahar region and the attention being paid by military commanders to “negotiations” with the armed opposition are enmeshed in these milestones. Below, for example, I suggest that the publicity given to NATO’s assistance to the Taliban in furthering negotiations is simply a PR ploy. In Europe, conservative governments pursuing pre-Keynesian economic policies are beginning to reap the whirlwind, and have to defend their budget cuts against US demands for more military spending, and as well as against their own citizens who oppose the war and military spending.
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Afghanistan War Weekly - October 10, 2010

The crisis in US – Pakistan relations highlights major problems for the US war strategy.  As Juan Cole and others note below, as the number of US troops in Afghanistan has “surged,” the vulnerability of the fragile US supply lines through Pakistan has become an Achilles Heel of the whole operation. We are left to wonder whether the United States will respond aggressively toward Pakistan or will reduce its expectations and modify its strategy. Some of the evidence for both positions is set out below.

A number of articles linked below discuss an apparent increase in US-Karzai-Taliban contacts, as well as contacts with the Haqqani forces. Negotiations with the Taliban and with the Haqqanis are of great concern to Pakistan’s military leaders.  If the United States wants to explore negotiations seriously, this will put further restraints on its ability to boss Pakistan around.

The recent report by the Senate Armed Services Committee on payments to, and employment opportunities for, local Taliban guarding US facilities casts more doubt on the existence of a road to “success” for the US military.  The report itself, linked below, focuses on a region in western Afghanistan and imo is a fascinating study of the inability of US/NATO forces to negotiate or even understand the Afghanistan they are trying to control and conquer.

This week marked the beginning of the 10th year of the war against Afghanistan, and I have linked below a sampling of the many “progress” assessments of the war so far.  Also below, there are links to Harry Bellefonte’s speech at last week’s DC rally; an assessment of a recent US Army report on soldier suicides; our weekly round up of useful facts about the war; some preliminary thoughts on the killing of a British aid worker in Afghanistan; an excellent article on the failures of “pacification” in Marjah, the scene of the opening round of the “surge”; and articles that update us on the varieties of corruption in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan War Weekly - October 4, 2010

As we begin the 10th year of the war against Afghanistan, the epicenter of the war shifts to Pakistan, where multiple crises raise doubts about US policy and, indeed, the longevity of civilian rule there.  Pakistan’s affliction by floods and its deep economic problems would be enough to destabilize most governments. Now a succession of events, most immediately the escalation of US drone attacks inside Pakistan, has brought US-Pakistan relations to their highest level of tension since the start of the war.  Last week’s US cross-border attack on Pakistan soldiers, Pakistan’s closing of one of the two main transportation routes for supplies entering Afghanistan, and now the torching of approximately NATO 50 fuel delivery trucks waiting to cross the border are the most recent signs that all is not well.

Among the immediate questions are: Has the United States decided to send substantial numbers of ground troops over the Pakistan border? Will the United States try to gain greater control of the supply operation inside Pakistan?  Will the current Pakistan government sustain its resistance to US aggression and demand that the US and its drones stay out?  Is the announced return of former President, General, and Dictator Musharraf orchestrated with/by the Pakistan military? And where does the Pakistan military stand in relation to the growing tensions with the United States?

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Afghanistan War Weekly - September 27, 2010

Several of the most important indicators of the success of the US “counterinsurgency” campaign in Afghanistan crumbled still further last week.  The parliamentary election, intended to display to US and European audiences the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s government, has been revealed to be as corrupt as the recent presidential election, with an even higher level of violence.  President Karzai’s older brother has been indicted for corruption in a New York federal court. And newly released figures show the very high death rate of US-trained Afghanistan police, thus discouraging recruitment and raising questions about the likelihood that Afghanistan will be able to provide its own security in the near future.

The publication of Bob Woodward’s bookObama’s Wars, has few revelations beyond catty junior high school gossip, but news about a previously unknown assassination squad and more details about how the Generals pressured Obama to authorize the “surge” have brought renewed criticism of the war managers. Andrew Bacevich is among the analysts linked below.

Ongoing stories from Pakistan about the escalation of drone attacks and the disasters to come from the recent floods are complemented this week with stories stemming from the conviction of US-trained scientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.  This case is truly weird, now compounded by a sentence of 86 years for (allegedly) pointing a rifle at CIA interrogators. The case has led to large anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan.  Several good articles linked below explore these events.

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Afghanistan War Weekly, Sept 19, 2010

Now that the election in Afghanistan is over, the election-interpretation battle begins.  More than three million people voted.  Fraud was detected and reported on a very large scale.  The Taliban’s military actions disrupted polling in many places.  Intimidation by the Taliban and rival candidates lowered turnout significantly.  The Beltway question is, “Was Saturday’s election half full or half empty?" Ordinarily the US media would support the home team by stressing long lines of voters braving threats of death to vote for democracy, and would claim that the rebels had been unsuccessful in thwarting the vote, thereby showing that Afghanistan was on the path to democracy and the sacrifices of the United States would ultimately be “worth it.” 

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Afghanistan War Weekly - September 13, 2010

Next Saturday citizens of Afghanistan will vote for representatives to the lower house of parliament.  The politicians and mass media in the United States and Europe will be the most important judges of theelection.  In a typical US-sponsored election, the US media will ordinarily focus on voter enthusiasm, the bravery of voters defying threats by the rebels to disrupt the election, and the orderly process of counting the ballots.  Off the agenda in a US-supported election are the more fundamental or long-term questions about democracy such as, “Can there be a “free election” under occupation by a foreign power in the middle of a civil war?”  If candidates cannot campaign because it is too dangerous, or if a large number of polling stations are closed because of lack of security, or if only candidates supporting the government can get TV time or security guards, or if the administrative bodies running the election and counting the votes are staffed by government cronies, in what sense are we talking about a “free election.”

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Brown Bag Lunch Vigil: Stop the Afghanistan War, Fund Jobs!

September 15 Jobs Emergency Day of ActionWhen: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm
Where: State House steps • 24 Beacon St. • Park St T • Boston

(New Time and Place!) September 15's Brown Bag Vigil will start at 11:00 at the State House.   We will join Jobs with Justice for a press conference announcing the One Nation Working Together mobilization in Washington on 10-2-10 and explain why peace activists are going to Washington.    If time permits we will then move down to our usual location, Sen. Kerry's office, at about noon.

Dont Hope for Change - Demand ItAdditional Locations:

Lowell • Office of Rep. Niki Tsongas • 11 Kearney Square (12:00 noon)
Worcester • Public Library, Banx Room • 3 Salem Square (12:30pm)
Hyannis • Office of Rep. Bill Delahunt • 146 Main Street (Friday at 3-4pm)

Register to attend!

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Afghanistan War Weekly - September 6, 2010

Chaos in Afghanistan and Pakistan threatens to destabilize the US war strategy. Afghanistan’s high-profile corruption scandals exited Earth-orbit this week with the meltdown of the Kabul Bank.  Itself a case study of world-class kleptocracy, the scandal’s victims will be mostly the middle-class and state employees who form the core of whatever support President Karzai has among ordinary citizens.  The corruption and banking scandals also threaten the Karzai’s support from the US political and military elite.  Presumably we have seen only the tip of this iceberg, with more revelations to come.
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Afghanistan War Weekly - August 29, 2010

The controversy over President Obama’s July 2011 date for the beginning of a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan masks a more important fight about whether the Pentagon or the White House is going to run the war.  While Obama’s main goal in Afghanistan may be political success at home, the US military is digging in its heels against a “withdrawal without victory” endgame.  This is illustrated by some news articles linked below, where the military planners are shown to be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in air bases that will not be ready to use before 2012, and where the training of Afghanistan troops is not scheduled to deliver a minimally competent army anytime soon.  Afghanistan President Karzai has now joined the chorus claiming that the July 2011 date – only a weak political ploy to begin with – is giving the Taliban reasons to keep fighting, while discouraging cooperation with government institutions.  Will US public opinion tolerate a war declared to be open-ended?
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Afghanistan War Weekly - August 22, 2010

As a US military victory is not possible in Afghanistan, will/can the United States ever leave?  Could the US withdraw its troops from Afghanistan before the 2012 presidential election without fatally damaging the Democrats?  Would/will the Democrats risk the consequences of withdrawal without victory?  The current US pseudo-exit from Iraq might suggest a possible scenario.  Yet the differences between today’s Iraq and tomorrow’s Afghanistan are very large.  Unlike conditions in Iraq, it is unimaginable that the US-supported Karzai government will control most of the country’s territory, establish a more-or-less “legitimate” government, or have institutions such as an army, police force, and civilian bureaucracy that can actually run the country.  A “conditions-based&rdquo

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Afghanistan War Weekly - August 15, 2010

As The Nation editorial pasted in below states very well, the war is lost.  Measured against any of the war aims of the Bush or Obama administrations, nothing has been achieved or will be achieved by continuing the war.  True, al-Qaeda has close to zero presence in Afghanistan, but that is more a change of address than a military victory. Otherwise, what do we have?  The Taliban (and armed adjuncts) have not and will not be “defeated.”  No army capable of defending itself is being “trained.”  “Stability” has not and will not be achieved.  “Democracy” will not issue from this war, nor will the women’s rights (or any other rights) be guaranteed.  The choice facing the war planners now is not whether the war can somehow be salvaged, but how long a losing war will/can be sustained.
 
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Afghanistan War Weekly - August 8, 2010

With Congress on vacation and the floods in Pakistan dominating the news from South Asia, this has been a slow week for Afghanistan War reporting.  Luckily we have some excellent essays to fill our space: Tom Engelhardt on civilian casualties; interviews with ace reporters Nir Rosen and Anand Gopal; a good essay about what’s happening in Kandahar by Rajiv Chandrasekaren, author of a book about Baghdad under US occupation; and an important short video about civilian casualties from Rethink Afghanistan.
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Afghanistan War Weekly - August 2, 2010

Despite a small avalanche of bad news from and about Afghanistan last week, Congress gave the Obama war managers $33 billion to fund the “surge,” though more than 100 Democrats voted NO.  The collective finger in the wind has added dozens of Democrat opportunists to the 30 congressional stalwarts who opposed war funding last time around.  Record-breaking casualties, the WikiLeaks leak, and the huge sums consumed by the war have moved the boundaries of acceptable talk about the war significantly to the left.  “The war is not working” position now has a seat at the pundits’ table and will only grow stronger as more things don’t work.

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Afghanistan War Weekly - July 25, 2010

Having completed the transition from McChrystal to Petraeus, and having witnessed the “historic” conference of representatives of more than 60 nations in Kabul, what do we know?  The only war aim that seems to unite the US/NATO Coalition is “get this thing over with as soon as possible.” But the generals are trapped and Obama is trapped, and therefore the NATO allies are trapped.  As with Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, the war can’t be won, but withdrawal without “victory” threatens political disaster. Like Charles Dickens’ Mr.
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Afghanistan War Weekly - July 18, 2010

This week’s main event will be the conference of leaders from some 60 countries to be held in Kabul beginning Tuesday, July 20.  Described as the most important such gathering since the war began, the stated purpose of the conference is to assess the progress that the Karzai government has made toward meeting the goals set out at a conference of international donors (mostly the US, EU, and Japan) that took place in London last January.

 

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Afghanistan War Weekly - July 11, 2010

The war is now entering what is traditionally the season of most intense fighting.  US casualty figures (chart below) are running about twice what they were a year ago, with an average of 2-3 US troops and 1-2 other NATO troops being killed each day.
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Afghanistan War Weekly

Afghanistan War Weekly
June 27, 2010
 
The war was dominated this past week by dramas in both Washington and Kabul.  While the official story is that the firing of General McChrystal and the hiring of General Petraeus is only a change of leaders, not a change in war strategy, this is mostly a smokescreen.  As several articles linked below indicate, General McChryst
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Afghanistan War Weekly

The focus of the war moved back to Washington this week, as Congress heard testimony from General Petraeus and other war managers about why things weren’t going very well in Afghanistan.  At the same time, Congress got to put its own oar in by failing to pass Obama’s “supplemental” funding request, money that would pay for the troop “surge,” which is still not completed.  Confronted with the question of whether he really, really believed that his mission could be accomplished by July 2011, General Petraeus fainted. Several essays linked below explore the strategic impasse confronting the United States in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan War Weekly

Afghanistan War Weekly

Compiled by Frank Brodhead - June 13, 2010

 

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