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Tuesday, 26 June 2007
Afgahn lives are cheap:
Topic: U.S. Military issues.

AP reports:

"Taliban fighters attack U.S. or NATO forces in populated areas, then retreat to civilian homes. Western forces respond with massive firepower or an airstrike. That increasingly common pattern of clashes has led to a climbing number of civilian deaths and rising anger among Afghan officials and citizens.

While militants killed 178 civilians this year in attacks through Saturday, Western forces killed 203, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and international officials."

And ANN reports:

 "Just two days after 25 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in Gerishk district of southern Helmand province and during which 20 insurgents were also killed . . .

Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out strongly Saturday at the NATO forces over mounting civilian casualties caused in 'careless operations' by international forces in his country, saying 'Afghan lives are not cheap.'"

He went on:

"We want coordination, cooperation but unfortunately the coordination and cooperation that we wanted could not be gained and the consequence of that are civilian casualties. The civilian casualty is intolerable, it is absolutely intolerable, either this cooperation and coordination is created and applied or Afghanistan will take its decision in this regard.'"

And:

"'Innocent people are becoming victims of reckless operations' because the troops had ignored Afghan advice for years." [BBC]

And not only is NATO killing Afghans . . . the BBC also reports:

"Rockets fired by coalition forces in Afghanistan killed at least nine Pakistani civilians, the Pakistan military said on Saturday. Coalition forces were fighting militants in Afghanistan close to the Pakistan border when a few rockets came across the frontier, hitting a house. Pakistan is demanding an explanation, a spokesman said."

Wow, that's a major screw up. Lucky for us the Pakisatnis are so worked up about Salon Rushdie. Maybe they won't notice.

NATO spokesman Major John Thomas is a busy, busy man of late:

From Earthtimes.org

"Major John Thomas, an International Security Assistance Force spokesman, confirmed that during the fight in Bermal district of south-eastern Afghan province Paktika 'up to 10 civilians were killed' due to artillery fire and rockets fired from helicopters inside Pakistan.

'It appears that one of our weapons hit a building which may have had a number of civilians in it and that building may have been a home or some hotel facility,' Thomas admitted.

'We regret two things: one that we mistakenly operated inside the Pakistani border, and secondly we regret the loss of civilians in our operation,' Thomas said in Kabul."

And then there is the drug problem:

Meanwhile, AFP reports: (as if this were a big surprise anyway)

"[The] UN released overnight its 2007 World Drug Report, which revealed a 49 percent leap last year in Afghanistan's production of opium, the raw ingredient of heroin. It also reiterated that the country supplied 92 percent of the world's opium."

The World Bank says:

"The opium economy is a massive source of corruption and gravely undermines the credibility of the government and its local representatives.

The opium economy is equivalent to more than one-third of Afghanistan’s licit economy. Iit is the country's largest source of export earnings, and it comprises a major source of income and employment in rural areas.

The harmful macroeconomic effects of successful measures against drugs may be somewhat limited and manageable, although monitoring is needed. The critical adverse development impact of counter-narcotics actions is on poor farmers and rural wage laborers."

So when we're not bombing them into the stone age, the lowly Afghans are being crushed between corrupt Afghan officials making bank on opium and the Taliban.  

Afghan drug minister Habibullah Qaderi claims:

"As development takes place, as police reform grows (and) the judicial system improves, I can guarantee that there will be certainly in the future a reduction in the drugs problem."

At the same UN meeting on drug was US ambassador William Wood who said that "about 10 percent of the heroin in his country was from Afghanistan and if this increased, Washington would consider a more 'forceful response.'"

Whatever that means, what are going to do bomb the poppy fields? our anti-natcotics methods in South America have been such a rousing success, I say we get right to it in Afghanistan. 


Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:25 PM EDT
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Thursday, 21 June 2007
More accidental discharges in Afghanistan:
Topic: U.S. Military issues.

This item I meant to add to previous post. 

June 17:

"In violence yesterday, a suicide bomber driving a taxi set off his explosives near of convoy of American civilian contractors and accompanying soldiers, killing himself and four bystanders. Within hours, U.S. soldiers fired into a crowd of Afghans near the scene of the blast, accidentally killing one man and wounding another, according to U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. David A Accetta. 'It was an unfortunate incident, and we are investigating the cause of the accidental discharge of the weapon,' he said."  [Inquirer]  

Good old Lt. Col. David A Accetta. Is he the military spokesperson in charge of 'unfortunate incidents?' It seems that whenever there's one of these "accidents" he's always the point man.  

In another possible "unfortunate incident:"

ANI reports:

"At least 30 people were killed and many more injured when a blast occurred at a madrassa in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan near the Afghanistan border, intelligence officials said. Military spokesman Major-General Waheed Arshad said that casualties occurred when bombs being made by militants accidentally exploded at the place used as a training facility. The remote village was attacked with missiles and 50 students and their teachers were present in the religious school when it was hit, killing or injuring all of them, a local said." 

Appearently, the standard cover story when US drones target militants on Pakistani soil is to say militants blew themselves up:

"The News quoted an intelligence official speaking on conditions of anonymity that three missiles were fired from Afghanistan, which hit the training facility and killed 17 people."

With the way things are going for our good friend Pervez these days, he doesn't need this now. Better to say they blew themselves up or the Pakistanis did it themselves.

Like when the US killed Mohammed Nek with a Hellfire missile in 2004. Or when they went after Ayman al Zawahiri but missed him but hit another religious school in October of last year. In that case, according to Pakistani intelligence sources "Between two and five senior al Qaeda militants were killed in the attack, including the mastermind of the airliners plot in the U.K." [ABC]

You can take that to the bank, because the Pakistanis never screw up. And get this:

"Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News they believe they have 'boxed' Zawahiri in a 40-square-mile area between the Khalozai Valley in Bajaur and the village of Pashat in Kunar, Afghanistan. They hope to capture or kill him in the next few months."

Well, it's almost been a year, how's that boxing business going? 


Posted by bushmeister0 at 10:11 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007 10:43 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Afghanistan and Iraq, the more things change. . . well they really don't
Topic: War on Terror

Sec Def Robert Gates two weeks ago on a visit to Afghanistan said things in the forgotten war were "slowly, cautiously headed in the right direction." Now, I don't take Gates to be the self delusional type of the Rummy mold, he appears to have his feet planted firmly on the ground and to be a fairly competent civil servant of a bygone era, so I'm thinking perhaps he was slightly overcome by a certain nostalgia while in Afghanistan for the years he spent in the 80's dealing with the Mujahideen during their fight against the Soviets. (In fact, I hear he actually was reunited with a former Mujahideen leader he worked with back in the day while inspecting Afghan army recruits.)  

So I guess I can forgive this rare lapse into la la land and figure that after soaking in the news from Afghanistan over the past few days he'll get back to reality; because, man, what's been going lately is pretty bleak. Just a few weeks ago Hamid Karzai once again escaped an attempt on his life, dodging Taliban rockets while addressing the security fears of residents of Andar district in Ghanzi province. Two days or so later there was the shoot out between US Special Forces and Afghan police, which left 8 of the police dead.  

Apparently, the US forces didn't trust their Afghan allies enough to let them know they would be staging a raid on a suspected Talib hideout. The police saw trucks with their lights turned out approaching their check point and opened fire. The Special Forces, not knowing who they were fighting, called in helicopter gun ships and what wound up transpiring was "a tragic incident" according to president Karzai. He's presided over a lot of them lately.  

The most recent events have been particularly tragic, including the worst suicide attack in Kabul probably ever, involving a bus full of police recruits that killed 35 and wounded another 30, and an air strike on a Madrassa that killed 7 young boys. That incident occurred at the same time fighting over the weekend and into this week rages between Talibs and NATO forces near the village of Chora in Uruzgan province. According to the head of the provincial council, Mullah Ahmidullah Khan, over 100 people been killed in the fighting, including 60 civilians, 70 Taliban and 16 Afghan police. [AP 

The NYT quotes Mullah Ahmidullah saying, "I have seen with my own eyes that woman and children were badly hit by bombing. The fighting is inside the villages, so that's why civilians are suffering casualties. I have met families who have lost almost everyone."  

Of course, you can't really trust anyone who calls himself "Mullah" can you? A NATO spokesman, Maj. John Thomas, according to AP "Said he doubted that Afghan officials could tell the difference between militants and civilians, suggesting some of the wounded who claimed to be civilians were insurgents."   

Yes, because NATO has such sparkling record when it comes to avoiding "collateral damage," right? Who would know better the difference between militants and civilians, a NATO spokesperson who's rotating in for a few months or someone who actually lives in the area? Hey, that's really the way to win hearts and minds!  

In the today's NYT article on the killing of the 7 boys in the Madrassa, all between the ages of 10 and 16, Barry Bearak and Taimoor Shah report that the usual American and NATO assurances of going to "extraordinary lengths" to avoid civilian casualties aren't flying anymore.  "Whatever the facts, Khalid Farouqi, a member of parliament from Patika, was angry at the coalition.' Nobody can accept the killing of women and children,' he said. 'It is not acceptable in either Islam or international law.' He added that apologies are no longer adequate."  

Through the looking glass? 

Obviously, the situation with collateral damage in Iraq is already way beyond apologies at this point. No one buys the "whoops we did it again" defense there any more. So this is probably why we're starting to adapt the same tactics in Iraq that have failed so spectacularly in Afghanistan. That old 'hearts and minds' chestnut is has become somewhat quaint in sovereign Iraq.     

On June 6 the AP reported: 

"In the first 4 1/2 months of 2007, U.S. aircraft dropped 237 bombs and missiles in support of ground forces in Iraq, already surpassing the 298 expended in all of 2006. At the same time, the number of civilian casualties from US air strikes appears to have risen sharply, according to Iraq Body Count."  In this new big offensive launched yesterday in Diyala province,

AP reports: 

"The military said in a statement yesterday that 'four precision-guided bombs' were dropped in support of 1,200 U.S. soldiers of the Third Infantry Division as they started moving on al-Qaeda targets." 

We're back to that "precision-guided bombs" jazz again. We've seen how precise they are in Afghanistan, in largely deserted and remote areas. Clearly, dropping bombs from F-16s at high altitude into largely urban areas in Iraq is going to be much more likely to hit their intended targets. 

[I wrote a while back about the ascension of Admiral Fallon as the head on CentCom being a sure sign that his expertise in commanding aircraft carriers would come in handy against Iran. Who would have thought anyone in their right mind would use the extra fire power of fixed-wing aircraft on the two carriers in the Gulf against targets in door to door urban warfare?]      

It looks like there's this weird inversion going on between the tactics we use in Iraq and Afghanistan and the tactics the various insurgents and militants were fighting are employing to ever greater success in both countries. Whereas, they have transferred into Afghanistan what they've learned about the use of IEDs, suicide bombers and car bombings in Iraq, we've decided to adapt the all the mistakes we've made in Iraq and transfer it all to Afghanistan and visa versa. 

A case in point is the error we keep making in Afghanistan of not getting a handle on US troops firing wildly into crowds after an IED attack. You'll recall, the incident a few months back in Jalalabad where US Marines fired indiscriminately into oncoming traffic and bystanders on the road as they sped down getting away from an IED attack on their convoy, killing 16 and wounding 30 Afghans in the process. That didn't go over too well in the area, leading to some rioting and condemnation from a weary Hamid Karzi.  

That sort of thing was already a hallmark of our good friends in the Iraqi army who have for years fired into crowds of civilians when they're attacked. There's even a name for it, they call it the "death plume," or something like that.  

Well, it must be a sign of the strain our soldiers are suffering after multiple tours and unrelenting violence, because now it's become a big problem for the usually much better trained and disciplined Americans in Iraq. 

The LA Times reported this Monday that: "Since mid-February, Los Angles Times freelance journalists across Iraq have reported at least 18 incidents in which witnesses said troops had fired wildly or in areas crowded with civilians. The reports indicated at least 22 noncombatants died in those incidents. If antidotal evidence is an indication, such deaths often occur after troops are shaken by roadside bombs, as occurred when [a] Times employee's son was killed April 17 . . . 

U.S. military officials say troops are trained to avoid civilian casualties and do not fire wildly. Iraqis, however, say the shootings happen frequently and that even if troops are firing at suspects, they often do so on streets where bystanders are likely to be hit." Of course, the worst incident so far as we know of this type of thing happening, was in Nov. of 2005 when Marines slaughtered 24 men, women and children in Haditha after one of their own was killed by an IED.

The resulting cover-up of the killings by Marine higher ups doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the pentagon's protestations that things like this don't happen. And since a recent survey of US grunts found that 40% of then wouldn't report such things, you have to figure it’s a much more common occurrence than the LA Times was able to prove.  

This is not to say that such behavior isn't totally understandable. Our people over there are only human, and there's only so much a person can take. Far be it for me to sit here and try to tell anybody who is sweating their asses off over there dodging IEDs and sniper's bullets that they shouldn't be doing everything they can to get home in one piece. My beef is with the commanders over there making the crappy decisions and the brain's trust at the White House insisting that these poor bastards are going to have to keep going back to Iraq ad infinitum until their number is finally up or they die of old age.  

Until our political system finally responds to the overwhelming will of the governed to get our folks the hell out of that disaster in Iraq, those who serve us all are stuck in an impossible situation. It would be nice, though, if there was some recognition by those charged with assuring all our people come back alive and whole that killing the people you're supposedly trying to liberate is counterproductive in the extreme and will lead to nothing more than more of the same.  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:42 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007 1:59 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Our Jihad is your Jihad.
Topic: War on Terror

The past few days I've wanted to yank my hair out everytime I've heard the media repeat the White House mantra that Fatah al-Islam is being supported by Syria. That assertion, though politically expedient, is absurd: Why would a secular, Alawite Baathist regime -- allied at the moment with Iran - be happy about the appearance of an ultra-violent Sunni/Takfiri militant group in Lebanon? It's total nonsense. (In fact, the supossed leader of Fatah al-Islam, Shakaer al-Absi, was until recently in Syrian custody.)  

Ultimatly, the anti-Hamas policies of the US and EU directed against the Palestinian people  -- for having the audacity to vote for Hamas -- is to blame for the terrible situation the Palestinian refugees in Nahr el-Bared are going through right now. These policies have been slowly strangling the PA's finances in the occupied territories, and as a result, control of the patronage Fatah once used to weild to keep the disperate Palestinian factions in line has evapporated. This has created a vacuum ultra-religious militant groups are more than happy to exploit.

Sy Hersh wrote about this a few months ago in his article The Redirection. At some point, he says, after the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel, the Saudis -- with Prince Bandar (Bush) leading the charge -- decided that they weren't going to cede Lebanon to Iran and began to pump large sums of money into the Sinoria government.  

 

Besides proping up the Sunni backed government in Beirut, Bandar and his buddies in the vice-president's office, began coming up with ingenius ways to get al-Qaeda imspired terrorist groups to re-locate to Lebanon.

 

Hersh writes:

 

"American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south."

Hersh writes that Bandar convinced Cheney & Co. that these groups, the same people we're fighting in Iraq, hate Hezbollah even more than they hate us, so they're ok. Bandar is supossed to have told Cheney that the Saudis "will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. We’ve created this movement, and we can control it."  [Hersh has implied also that the US is making funds available outside the perveiw of the US Congress for this purpose. (Ever wonder where all those billions of missing Iraqi construction funds are winding up?)] 

It's not just Sy Hersh saying this stuff, in case you think he's some sort of whacko. In an AP story today, Bernard Rougier, author of "Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon" says: "By changing their own identities, to one of a Sunni warrior, they . . . get money from Saudi Arabia, and other private sources."

Ali Jarbawi, a political science professer at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, says of Fatah al-Islam: "Look at this group. It is 200 people, but it can make anormous waves because it is operating in an institutional vacuum."  

The problem now is that, as a New York Times reporter said this morning on the BBC Newshour, refugees being shelled by the Lebanese army are starting to feel that they're the ones being attacked. This is creating some sympathy for a bunch of bearded wierdos that just a few months ago everyone in Nahr el-Bared distrusted and feared. Firing tank rounds into a square mile area populated by 30,000 poor, disgruntled refugess is probably not the best way to to convince them that you're on their side.  

And secretly funding al-Qaeda a la the Contras in Lebanon is probably not such a hot idea either.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:03 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007 3:42 PM EDT
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Monday, 21 May 2007

AP reports:

"Lebanese troops pounded a Palestinian refugee camp with artillery and tank fire for a second day Monday, raising huge columns of smoke as they battled a militant group suspected of ties to al-Qaida in the worst violence since the end of the 1975-90 civil war."

I keep hearing this business in the media that whoever these Fatah Islam buggers are, they're an al-Qaeda arm of Syria. Of course, that's absurd, that's like saying there's an al-Qaeda arm of Hezbollah.

Lebanon's police Lebanon's national police commander, Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, seems to agree with me on this. He tells AP:

"Perhaps there are some deluded people among them but they are not al-Qaida. This is imitation al-Qaida, a 'Made in Syria' one." 

Are we sure these guys aren't Prince Bandar's paid terrorists?


Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:54 PM EDT
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Monday, 14 May 2007

Some good news from Afghanistan and some very bad news: Mullah Dadullah, the well-known sociopath, was killed in Helmand province by US forces this weekend. Dadullah was known for his wild mood swings and thirst for blood. He was so feared that even his own subordinates were terrified of him. [as posted here] So that's good news, not that another insane Talib isn't going move right into his spot. Still, this set back might slow them down for a while. You never know, though, as in Iraq, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don't. When al-Qaeda leader al-Zarqawi was killed, it was hailed as a great success, but the next guy to follow him has turned out to be even worse. Now, they're claiming he's dead, too, but the death and violence is only getting worse.  

The bad news from Afghanistan is that Afghan and Pakistani forces traded gun fire on the border in Patika province killing, according to the Pakistanis, six Afghan troops. AP reports that a Pakistan army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, is accussing "the Afghan army of firing at Pakistani posts. 'This was unprovoked and without any reason, ' he said. On the Afghan side, a Defense spoksman, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, accused Pakistani forces of crossing more than a mile into Afghanistan's Patika province." 

 

newkarala.com reports:

 

"Fighting between the two forces erupted early Sunday when the Pakistani army attempted to position their forces in mountains in Goyee area of Jaji district of the southeastern Paktia province, General Zahir Azimi, Afghan defence ministry spokesman told a press conference.

Azimi said the advancing troops were forced to retreat and began using heavy artillery against the Afghan troops. Two children were killed while another three were injured along with two policemen, when a rocket hit a school."

 

And if that wasn't bad enough, just today one US soldier was killed and two others wounded on the border during a meeting of U.S. and Pakistani military officials. According to the BBC Gen. Zahir Azimi claims that:

 

"'At the meeting, a Pakistani officer rose up and fired at US soldiers, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers and the wounding of two others,' he said"

 

Maj Gen Arshad of the Pakistani military denies this, as usual, and says:  

 

"We don't know who fired. We have ordered an inquiry. We have cordoned off the area."

 

That's kind of funny, because he's quoted in an AP story as saying there was an attack on a convoy by unidentified "miscreants." But, then again. maybe the US soldiers were attacked while trying to return to their helicopter.

 

Who knows? 


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:49 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007 12:50 PM EDT
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Friday, 11 May 2007
Afghans to us: 'Here's your hat, what's your hurry?'
Topic: War on Terror

May 9, 2007   

NYT reports: 

"An Army commander apologized and paid compensation on Tuesday to families of Afghan civilians killed by marines after a suicide attack in March, in the first formal acknowledgement by American authorities that the killings were unjustified."  "I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded Afghan people, "

Col. John Nicholson, an Army brigade commander in Eastern Afghanistan, told the families of the 19 killed and 50 wounded.  

 Bryan Whitman, a pentagon spokesman, said, "Anytime we're responsible for the loss of human life, we understand it hurts our ability to accomplish the mission."  

May 10, 2007 

CP reports: 

"Air strikes called in by U.S. Special Forces soldiers fighting against insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed at least 21 civilians, an Afghan official said yesterday. . . Helmand province Gov. Assadullah Wafa said that Taliban fighters sought shelter in villagers' homes during the fighting in the Sangin district Tuesday evening and that subsequent air strikes killed 21 civilians, including several women and children. 

Maj. William Mitchell, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said troops killed a 'significant' number of militants. 'We don't have any reports of civilian casualties,' Mitchell said."  [BBC: "'There are confirmed reports of civilian casualties; however, it is unknown... how many,' a statement from US-led coalition troops said."]

 So do the military people over there really understand that killing large numbers of civilians every time they call in F-18s or AC-130 gun ships undermines the mission, or is that just spin? Because this sort of thing just seems to keep happening, again and again. And aren't U.S. Special Forces supposed to be trained in languages and local customs?

I'm just wondering because . . .  

 of NPR reported yesterday on an incident [that was posted about here on May 3] which happened in the Zerkoh Valley of Herat province, on April 30th where U.S. Special Forces entered the village and started kicking down doors and searching homes. As Nelson points out, uninvited intruders kicking down an Afghan man's door and seeing his wife and daughter is an affront that can only be answered by an AK-47. In this case, local men confronted the US troops "with stones, shovels and Kalashnikovs."

 

The Ameircans answered these Afghan minutemen with AC-130 guns ships, killing up to 50 civilians, women and children among them. One of the locals said he had fought the Soviets and the Warlords but had never seen anything like what the Americans threw at them. US forces have to be able to better distinguish between local farmers and Talibs, or this is going to be a long, long war. Nelson reports , "Local Afghans say American indifference to Afghan culture is to blame."  

Another recent incident occurred just last week in which -- the numbers vary -- 38 to 40 civilians were killed and 20 to 50 were wounded in a 16-hour battle with US and ANA troops fighting a large contingent of Taliban near Shindand in Herat province. [see previous post]  

The U.S. military claimed they'd killed 10 Taliban commanders, but denied civilians were also killed. Somehow they were able to determine that they'd killed Taliban commanders, yet they managed to miss all the civilian bodies lying all around. Naturally, it's a lot easier to claim no "collateral" damage and Taliban casualties in the hundreds when you're conducting your operations in the middle of nowhere.  

The incidents in the Zerkoh Valley, which likked over 130, was so egregious that Hamid Karzai came out and said he "could no longer accept civilian casualties the way they occur." As usual, his protestations fell on deaf ears. He's condemned the U.S. before for high civilian death tolls, even breaking down in tears at one point, but no one ever listens to him. I mean, he's only the democratically elected president of a sovereign Afghanistan, after all.  

And that's part of the reason Afghans have lost faith in the entire democratic enterprise. They're caught between U.S. bombers leveling dozens of houses at a time and the Taliban who come out at night and burn down their schools and threaten their Tribal leaders. And the same old warlords who spent a decade blasting the country to smithereens are back in power -- in the parliament no less! Even the Taliban governor, who ordered the destruction of the Buddhist statues is in the parliament!  

We can pump all the money and troops we want into Afghanistan, but if we don't stop killing more civilians than the Taliban do, the Afghanis are going to decide to go with the devil they know -- the devil that, at least, has a track record of providing peace and security.  Bungling the mission in Iraq is bad enough, but screwing up Afghanistan would be an even worse blunder. 

Today, AP reports that because of all these killings by US forces Afghan parliamentarians are calling for a cease-fire and a withdrawal of coalition troops.

 "The proposal from the upper house of parliament . . .suggests that Afghan support for the 5 1/2-year international military mission is crumbling amid a series of civilian deaths. The motion reflects lawmakers' belief that negotiations with militants would be more effective than fighting, said Aminuddin Muzafari, the secretary of the upper house."

The Afghans are pretty much homogeneous, they're reasonable, intelligent, peaceful  -- except for the annual national past time of fighting in the mountains -- and they actually have fairly recently experienced a modern semi-democratic government, back in the 1960s. The Afghan people were more than happy to have us come in and throw out the Talibs and have us help them move into the 21st century. Instead, what's happened is that the second OBL and the Taliban were gone, we dropped the ball so W. could get his war on with Daddy's old nemesis in Iraq. 

Now, it looks like they're going to be shipping us out if we don't shape up.


Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:55 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007 2:30 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 9 May 2007
Doint the right thing in Afghanistan. But is it it too late?

Army Times reports:

"An Army colonel in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday apologized and made condolence payments to families of civilians allegedly killed by special operations Marines after a suicide bomber struck the Marines’ vehicle convoy.

The March 4 incident in Nangarhar province left 19 civilians dead and 53 wounded, said Army Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which is winding down its deployment following 16 months away from home. The number of dead is well beyond previous reports, which ranged from 10 to 12.

'We came here to help the Afghan people and the Afghan government, not to hurt you,' Nicholson said, re-reading for Pentagon reporters via satellite the statement he gave to the families of the victims. 'So I stand before you today deeply, deeply ashamed, and terribly sorry, that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people.'"

As General Patraeus said, "Lose legitimacy, lose the war."

Of course, The Army Times isn't quite so sure about this whole apology thing, calling the killings "alleged," because the investigation isn't completed yet. The 19 dead are pretty dead, not allegedly dead, but you have to give these things a thorough look-see, I guess.  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:35 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007 1:37 PM EDT
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Monday, 7 May 2007
Pul-eCharkhi prison and the ANA lerans how to aim
Topic: War on Terror

AP reports:

"KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan soldier shot and killed two U.S. troops yesterday outside a top-security prison being revamped to house Afghans transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The gunman was shot dead by other Afghan troops at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, about 20 miles east of Kabul, said Maj. Sheldon Smith, a spokesman for Combined Security Transition Command, which trains Afghan security forces. The shooter also wounded two U.S. soldiers."

posted about an article I saw about ANA soldiers back in September in which Sgt. Clay Groves is quoted as saying: "The ANA has no concept that it's their country and their job to defend it. Some units are good. But most are crap. Just stand behind them when they shoot. Or stand where they're aiming - it's probably the safest spot."

Not anymore apparently.  

Beyond the fact that we can no long trust the Afghan soldiers not to shoot our guys, Pul-e-Charki prison the article points out is "infamous among Afghans for tales of torture and appalling conditions dating back to communist rule in the 1970s," kind of like Abu Ghraib. Hey, way to win hearts and minds!

The BBC reported in Feb. about Pul-e-Charkhi:

"Haji Nawroaz Khan, a former Mujahideen fighter from eastern Nangarhar province, was jailed in Pul-e-Charkhi by the Communists. 'I want this prison to be closed and kept as a museum to remember the atrocities of the Communists. The things which eats me alive is that those people are back. Some are in the parliament, some are in the government.'"

Mohammad Syed Gul, a prisoner from Nangarhar province, was arrested on drugs charges. Nothing here is good - even Guantanamo Bay is better than Pul-e-Charkhi."

Not for long . . .

So that's what we're planng to do with all those guys at Gitmo, send them into the black hole at Pul-e-Charkhi. That'll sure make it harder for all pesky human rights lawyers to visit their clients. For sure the Supreme Court will be out of the picture, once and for all.  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:58 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007 1:03 PM EDT
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Thursday, 3 May 2007
More massacrs in Afghanistan:
Topic: War on Terror

So the Marine massacre story goes on. Since I last got around to posting, the Marine unit involved in the massacre of civilians in Jalalabad on March 4th has been removed from Afghanistan and the case has been refered to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.  

AP reported on April 11: 

"[An] official said NCIS got the case within the past week but has not yet begun interviewing the Marines. This official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the number of Marines involved in the case is 'in the 20s.' They were in six military vehicles that were traveling in a convoy at the time of the incident.

The second official said the initial military investigation concluded that there was a 'reasonable suspicion' that the Marines violated rules for the use of deadly force, and that crimes, possibly including homicide, may have been committed in the aftermath of the convoy being struck by a car bomb."

Meanwhile, another apparent massacre just took place in Shindand district, in Herat province where the US military said they killed 136 Talibs in intense fighting over the past few days.  

Defense Link reports:

"After gaining intelligence describing Taliban activity in the Zerkoh Valley, coalition and Afghan National Police forces maneuvered into positions to pinpoint and attack [BM0] the Taliban fighters. Once in position, coalition and Afghan National Police forces initiated the attack on the enemy positions with mortars, small arms and rocket propelled grenades.

A few hours later, additional coalition and Afghan National Army reinforcements arrived. A coalition aircraft was requested and dropped multiple munitions on several identified enemy locations. As Taliban fighters attempted to flee, an AC-130 gunship engaged and killed 26 enemy fighters on both sides of the river valley. A total of seven enemy positions were destroyed, and 87 Taliban fighters were killed during the 14-hour engagement."

A-Times Online:

 "Another 49 guerrillas, including two local Taliban commanders, were killed two days earlier by a combination of small-arms fire and close air support near the Parmakan village in the same valley."

Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman, says "Taliban fighters are no match for ANP and coalition forces." Neither apparently are innocent civilians, 51 of whom the Afghan government says the US killed in their arial assaults.

The WaPo reports:

 "Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared Wednesday that his government can "no longer accept" civilian casualties caused by U.S.-led operations, shortly before news spread that as many as 51 civilians may have died during clashes this week in far western Afghanistan. Civilian deaths are 'becoming a heavy burden and we are not happy about it,' Karzai told reporters here. . . The intention may be very good to fight terrorism, sometimes mistakes are made, but five years on, it is very difficult for us to continue to accept civilian casualties,' Karzai said. 'It's not understandable anymore.'"

The BBC:

"Investigators said women and children were among those killed in Herat province. More civilians deaths were reported in Kandahar province. President Karzai summoned foreign military commanders to tell them his people's patience was wearing thin. . . Afghan police who visited the area found that 51 civilians had been killed in the fighting, Herat provincial spokesman Akramudin Yawar said. 'The figures I have so far of the civilians killed in the three-day operation in Shindand is that 51 civilians were killed, including 18 women and a number of children.'"  

And add to that . . . 

"More than 1,000 students protested in the eastern province of Nangarhar for a fourth day over the alleged killing of civilians by US-led forces in a raid at the weekend. In the southern province of Kandahar, Governor Asadullah Khalid said civilians had been among 13 people killed by foreign and Afghan forces in an attack on a convoy. He said the dead included two women."

 . . . And (A-Times again):

"Reports from Helmand province on Sunday confirmed that six children and women were killed as North Atlantic Treaty Organization warplanes bombarded houses in the Kharko area of Garmser district. But police denied the pounding of civilian targets in the air strike.

Ghulam Shah, a resident of Kharko, told Pajhwok Afghan News all the dead were ordinary villagers with no links to any militant group. The area was pounded after Taliban gunmen attacked a coalition convoy, he said."

. . . And you've got one big mess. This spring offensive seems to be going the Talibs way so far. All they have to do is send a bunch of ill-educated,  poorly trained fighters to die in large numbers and the US will do the rest.

Using AC-130 Gunships in densely populated areas usuallly equals one big bloody mess of dead civilians that the Talibs are more than happy to exploit.  

But not to fear, Defense Link also reports that Royal Netherlands Army Maj. Gen. Ton van Loon says 'Ongoing NATO military and reconstruction operations are helping erode Taliban militants’ power in southern Afghanistan. . . . Taliban extremists were 'severely diminished' in the Panjwai and Zari districts of Kandahar province after operations Medusa and Bazooka, which were conducted last summer and into the fall and winter, van Loon said.

After repeated poundings during stand-up fights with NATO and Afghan security forces, he said, the Taliban have taken to fading into the shadows and employing hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. The enemy is increasingly using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers, he said."

Employing hit and run guerrila tactics like using IEDs and suicide bombers, where have I heard that before? Oh right Iraq, the place where for the past four years we've not been able to even make a dent in the insurgency.

Yeah, that's great Gen. van Looney, I'm very sure your rosey assessment of the situation in the south of Afghanistan won't come back to bite you on th ass.  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:37 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007 1:02 PM EDT
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