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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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Monday, 26 March 2007
Marines leave Afghanistan

Here is an update on the previous post about the Marines shooting wildly at Afghan civilans at the beginning of the month. As we know, the Marines were not simply shooting at anything that moved as they fled from an IED attack, they were responding to an "complex ambush" that was set up by the Talibs.

Now it turns out that the Pentagon is pulling this particular unit out of Afghanistan. The Boston Globed reported recently:

 " Marines accused of shooting and killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan are under US investigation and their entire unit has been ordered to leave the country, officials said yesterday. It is highly unusual for any combat unit, either special operations or conventional, to have its mission cut short."  

I should thing the way thingas are going these days, it would be almost unheard of. Accoding to the Globe, the unit's spokesman, Major Cliff Gilmore, says 'of the four Marine Special Operations Command companies that have been established since the command was created in February 2006, the one ordered out of Afghanistan was the first to deploy abroad. By September 2008 there are to be nine companies operating as part of two special operations battalions, he said.' 

Better go back to the black board before that happens!  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:34 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007 2:35 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 March 2007
Afghan massacre # 1000

 Things are just going from bad to even worse in Afghanistan these days. I'd say the forgotten war there is really going to give Iraq a run for its money as far as fiascos go. Two incidents within 24 hours of each other on Sunday involving apparent over-reactions by the US military to attacks by Taliban militants is antagonizing the Afghan man on the street just as the annual summer battles are heating up.  In the first instance, US Marines fired on Afghan civilians, killing 10 and wounding 25, along a six mile stretch of eastern Afghanistan's busiest highway after a suicide bomber attacked their convoy. The official US military explanation was that the Marines were caught in the cross-fire of a "complex" ambush. Witnesses on the scene, though, said there was no one firing on the Marines, they just lashed out. AP quotes one bystander, Tur Gul, saying: "They were firing everywhere. They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot." [NYT] 

The "cross-fire" theory was further undermined by the fact that soldiers destroyed video evidence of the attack. AP reports: "A freelance photographer working for the Associated Press and a cameraman working for AP Televisions News said a US soldier deleted their photos and video showing a vehicle in which three people were shot to death about 100 yards from the suicide bombing. . . A reporter from the Afghan channel Ariana Television said the soldiers also deleted his footage."     

 That sort of thing doesn't look good, particularly when you're claiming the moral high ground as coalition spokesman Lt. Col. David Acetta tried to do. "We regret the death of innocent Afghan civilians as a result of the Taliban extremists' cowardly act," Acetta said. The problem with that formulation is that nobody was killed by the bomb. All the deaths and injuries were caused by bullet wounds.  

If you're going to imply that every time the Taliban attacks we're going to react with overwhelming force no matter who's standing around, you'd better just tear up Gen. Patreaus' new counterinsurgency manual. To paraphrase Patreaus; the more force you use, the less effective it is, and for every civilian you kill ten more insurgents are born.

It might be added, too, that lying through your teeth about what happened and trying wipe out all the evidence isn't as effective as admitting mistakes were made and vowing to make sure such mistakes aren't repeated. If you won't even admit you made a mistake, the Taliban has already won. 


What's really worrying about how the Marines reacted is how much it resembles the so called "death plume" phenomenon that usually follows suicide bombings in Baghdad. In those cases it's usually undisciplined Iraqi soldiers shooting at anything that moves, which always winds up increasing the body count. One would hope our guys are better trained and more judicious with their use of deadly force, but as recruiting standards are lowered and extended tours take their toll one has to wonder if our guys over there are starting to lose it. Unfortunately, this isn't he first time US soldiers fired indiscriminately at civilians in Afghanistan. Last May after traffic accident in Kabul, US troops firing into a crowd of angry demonstrators turned into a day long riot, which almost got out of hand when police abandoned their posts.  

[It might be remembered also that on April 30, 2003, Fallujah was turned, overnight, into an insurgent hotbed after US soldiers fired into a crowd of protesters killing 13. . . and we all know how that ended up.] 

Screw up # 2: 

12 hours after the events in Jalalabad --  before you could even say 'absolutely we're winning' -- another US over-reaction occurred in Kapisa province northeast of Kabul when US fighters dropped a couple of 2-ton bombs on a house, killing nine members of one family including five women and three children. [AP   

In this case, the indefatigable Lt. Col. Acetta's said: "Coalition forces observed two men with AK-47s leaving the scene of a rocket attack and entering the compound. . . The men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces."  One presumes the coalition forces knew these areas were populated, too, which begs the question: Why did they drop two 2-ton bombs on the house? Two guys with Ak-47s are such a danger to the most advanced military the world has ever known that 2-tons of high explosives had to be dropped on them? You'll forgive me if I think this might have been a slight over-reaction to the provocation. This is just type of disorientate use of force that the Israelis have made their trade mark and we all see how effective that's been for them.   

Over a few weeks last summer they managed to level a third of Lebanon yet they still lost the war. If we're going to start taking pages from their playbook, it's going to be a long summer. If one is keeping score, by the way, it’s the Taliban 4 and the coalition 0, so far. Besides the two incidents described above, which are decidedly not our best moment, there's also the Taliban overrunning of Musa Qala in Helmand province a month ago and the purported takeover of "Nawzad district headquarters in Helmand and all srrounding villages."[Atimes Online The start of the summer offensive, the Afghan national past-time, hasn't even got going yet and we're already two towns and two black eyes down. Something tells me those poor bastards in the 10th Mountain Division who are stuck in Afghanistan for another four months shouldn't bother sending their gear back any time soon because its going to wind up coming right back. (Just like before.)   

Another drawback to these indiscriminate bombings by US forces on civilian targets -- as if we needed any more examples of why this sort of thing is counter productive -- is that our puppet president Hamid Karzai comes off looking even more impotent in the eyes of his own people than he already does. He's been decrying the coalition's use of aerial bombing on civilians targets for years but to no avail. No matter what he says, no matter how hard he tries (or cries); he just can't seem to convince NATO or US forces to stop killing women and children from 45,000 feet.  

At a time when we're trying to reestablish government control over more of the country than just Kabul, these kinds of knuckle-headed over-reactions just undermine the entire program. The Afghanis are justifiably pissed off at the warlords in parliament, who are more concerned with avoiding war crimes prosecutions than the well-being of their constituents, and the Taliban who are making their lives a living hell. It would seem to be a no-brainer that we'd have an easier time convincing them that we're the lesser of those two evils, but as long as we show such low regard for civilian casualties, in their view, we're no better.  

As Genera Patreaus says, "Lose moral legitimacy, lose the war."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:35 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007 3:01 PM EST
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Wednesday, 17 January 2007
Musharrif and al-Maliki have us by our short hairs.
Topic: War on Terror

PakTribune reports:

 "Pakistani security forces attacked and destroyed three militant camps in a dawn operation in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan killing eight militants where around 25-30 fighters were hiding, a military spokesman said here Tuesday."

Strange timing for this attack. Oddly enough, it occurred at almost the same moment new SecDef Robert Gates was making his first visit to Afghanistan. There couldn't be any connection there, could there? Nah! Pervez Musharrif would never stage an attack just to impress his American benefactors, would he?

Amazingly, Gates says "Pakistan is one of America's strongest allies in the war on terror." This despite the seperate deal Musharrif made with al-Qaeda and the Talibs last September and the 200% increase in attacks in Afghanistan this past December. AP reports that "A U.S. military intelligence officer said that since the peace deal went into effect Sept. 5 the number of attacks in the border area has grown by 300 percent." 

Don't confuse Bob Gates with the facts, though: "There is no question there has been a significant increase -- I don't know the exact amount -- but a significant increase in attacks across the border, particularly from north and south Waziristan, and it is a problem." But not enough of a problem to read the riot act to the Pakistanis.

Gates said he would be working with Musharrif "to see if there is a way to reduce the violence from that side of the border." [Ha!] Maybe the Pakistani plan to mine the border and build a fence might work? Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry, Daud Moradiyan, says: "The Pakistani authorities are trying to reduce the international community's pressure by taking such initiatives. It is only a publicity campaign rather than being a practicable plan." [Sabawoon Daily News]

Such cynicism! It's not like the Talibs can pass through Pakistani army check points with impunity, right? Like Taliban commander Moulvi Abdul Jalil who moves freely from Karachi to Afghanistan without any trouble at all, according to Atimes Online. He usually goes through the Chaman crossing where he is never bothered.

And many other less well connected militants and terrorists can cross at unoffical crossings without too much trouble, too. If there were to be mines planted on the border, though, you can be sure the ISI would provide a map for their Talib clients. 

Does anyone else wonder how on eath we got stuck relying on people like Pervez Musharrif and Nuri al-Maliki to help us out of our problems? There are about to be some 160,000 troops in Iraq and there are presently about 24,000 in Afghanistan. Gates says if the generals ask him for more troops for the much anticipated Taliban Afghan spring offensive, he'll send them. Where will he get them is the question.

Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he might have to hold an infantry battalion of the 10th Mountain Division in Afgahnistan for the rest of the year. They were scheduled to go to Iraq. But our forces aren't stretched! Far from it.

Essentially, aren't these 184,000 troops being held hostage by our good buddies Pervez and Nouri al-Maliki? Al-Maliki isn't going to go after al-Sadr and Musharrif isn't about to risk his neck trying to take on the Talibs or root OBL out of his cozy cave, probably in or near Boluchistan. (Or go after Mullah Omar in Quetta for that matter.)

We're screwed!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:51 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007 2:53 PM EST
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Friday, 12 January 2007
A New Way Forward needed in Afghanistan!
Topic: War on Terror

In his annual review of global threats, John "I want another job" Negroponte, the outgoing National Intelligence Director, told the Senate intelligence committee in written testimony that al-Qaeda is still a grave threat to the U.S. [AP] Imagine that! Five years into the Global War on Terror, al-Qaeda is going like gang busters. Negroponte says that al-Qaeda maintains the ability to act through connections that "radiate outward from their leaders' secure hideout in Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and Europe."  

Pakistan, eh? Looks like we might be barking up the wrong tree by sending 21,000 more troops to Iraq. Could this "secure hideout" Pakistan is providing to al-Qaeda have anything to do with Pervez Musharrif's deal last year with the Taliban and al-Qaeda not to interfere with their affairs in the tribal areas running along the Afghan border? Shortly after entering into that infamous agreement U.S. military commanders noted a threefold increase in attacks coming from the Pakistan side of the border. [Guardian] But that was just before the winter set in, when the Afghans traditionally take a few months off to retool while the mountain passes are blocked by snow. The true effects of Musharrif's deal with the devil should become apparent this spring.     

And spring is coming soon enough. This year it might be even coming a little early. (Global warming, perhaps?) AP reports that on Wednesday Afghan and NATO forces battled Taliban insurgents for 9-hours in Patika province. According to NATO and Afghan officials, Taliban fighters in several trucks full of ammunition were tracked coming from Pakistan. When they crossed the Afghan frontier they were engaged by ground fire and air strikes. Supposedly Pakistani forces shelled Taliban forces on their side of the border while this was going on. If this is true this would be the first time they've operated in that area in months.  

Typically, the death toll in this fighting was inflated by NATO and the Afghan military. Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a U.S. military spokesman, said initially that 150 Talibs had been killed. Then later he said the real number was 130. The Afghan Defense Ministry said the number was 80. There was no explanation for the wildly different estimates. One explanation could be that it's all propaganda. Last year during fighting in Pawji province, south of Kandahar, the British claimed they had killed 500 Talibs and rid the entire area of them. A few days later, though, they were back with a suicide bombing in Kandahar. 

If you're going to make up phony body counts, at least, attempt to make them sound plausible. If there were 500 Talibs really killed in just a few days last September, you'd think there would have been some evidence of it; like mounds of bodies all over the place and mass funerals etc. But luckily for NATO, they're doing such a piss poor job of dealing with the Talibs that whole swaths of the country are too dangerous for the press to go out and confirm these outrageous claims.  

Do I doubt that Talib generals send waves of fighters to their deaths without any conscience? No. Many of these Talib commanders are psychotic murderers. But if they were suffering the kinds of loses NATO is claiming they are, they wouldn't have succeeded in taking over most of southern Afghanistan, which they clearly have. This is another little problem for W. & Co. to mull after they complete their task of mopping up Baghdad. 

Anyone who thinks we've got the luxury to waste our time and resources propping up the weak and incompetent government in Iraq is dangerously deluded. We really need to come up with a New Way Forward in Afghanistan, right now. The fighting season is almost upon us and we’re about to send what few troops we've got left into Baghdad's meat grinder. The Talibs and al-Qaeda are about to catch us with our pants down and there's nothing we're going to be able do about it. Let's hope the Brits, the Canadians and the Dutch can hack it, because we've got nothing more to send. 

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:46 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007 2:49 PM EST
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Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Now Playing: Another fine mess.

Who the hell knows what's going on in southern Somalia? I've heard reports the the U.S. attacked two towns on the tip of the country on Sunday and Monday and the BBC reported they had attacked another area today:

"An elder in Banka-Jiira, a grazing area about 40km east of Doble town, who wished to remain anonymous citing security reasons, gave an account of the raids and their aftermath to the BBC's Somali Service. 'There have been air strikes carried out by American planes in these areas since Sunday. Here in the Banka-Jiira area, which is the largest grazing area in the Juba Valley region, we have been hard hit. There have been several air strikes over nearby Booji grazing area too."

Another BBC account says that U.S. officials have denied there have been any new attacks since Monday. But. . .

"The BBC's Bashkas Jugsodaay who is between the Kenyan border and Doble town says dozens of people, mainly pastoralists, and their cattle were killed in air strikes on Tuesday evening near watering holes. Eyewitnesses in two settlements between Doble and Afmadow say the attacks lasted for between 30 to 45 minutes.

The WaPo reports today that U.S. officials aren't saying anything about anything (Not a good sign):

"In Mogadishu, the Somali capital, reports circulated that as many as 50 people, many of them civilians, were killed in the attack by a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship. U.S. officials said they are fairly certain that at least one targeted individual was hit; they said they had no information about civilian deaths in the strike along the Kenyan border."

Naturally, they know nothing about civilan casualties, but oddly they know about the possible death of the person they were going after. Hitting 50 civilans for 1 al-Qaeda suspect is a pretty good ratio, I guess. (Israel's record is usually about 10 Palestinians for 1 Israeli.)

The NYT reports that: 

"Today, Abdirizak Hassan, the Somali president’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press: 'I have received a report from the American side chronicling the targets and list of damage.' 'One of the items they were claiming was that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is dead,' he was quoted as saying."

The WaPo article reports also that "Word of the U.S. attack provoked rage and anti-Americanism." Imagine that! We pumped hundreds of thousdands of dollars to prop up the hated warlords, who are responsible for the past 15 years of choas, and who still couldn't manage to resisit a bunch of bearded weirdos bend on installing Sharia law on a reluctant population.

For an encore, we encouraged the hated Ethiopians to invade the country and install into power a weak alliance of former warlords and tribal scheisters who very few Somalis support.

Now all that stands in the way of more chaos and anarchy is the Ethiopian army who are suddenly taking a bloody nose, after a apparently successful blitz krieg attack on the "Islamists." (I say "Islamists" because most Somalis are Muslim. I'm not sure "Islamists" is an accurate description of who we're fighting against or whether its another one of those PR buzz words the administration likes so much.)

There has specualtion that the Ethiopians would like to get the hell out of Dodge (Mogadishu) as quickly as possible, before they get could in an Iraqi style quagmire. The NYT reports:

"There [are] reports that Ethiopian troops, who are in Somalia supporting the transitional government, were taking heavy casualties in fighting against insurgents, including an incident in central Mogadishu where an army truck was blown up by a bazooka."

Shabelle Media Network reported that Somali troops supporting the TFG were also attacked last night:

 "At least one government soldier was killed and six were wounded after gunmen ambushed government military posts at KM4 Street in the center of the Somali capital Mogadishu last night. Heavily-armed militias riding in two cars known as MarkII have thrown propelled grenades at the Somali government and Ethiopian military posts at Kilometer 4 Street. The gunmen also opened automatic gunfire that lasted at least an hour.

Government and Ethiopian military barracks in the area were attacked on the second consecutive night. The government has not commented on the attacks yet. The attacks and explosions against government and Ethiopian troops in the capital have escalated as president Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed has spent for the second night in the capital Mogadishu for the first time since taking office in 2004."

I'm not saying we shouldn't be goign after people who were repsonsible for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, but all I see coming down the pike is a bigger US role in Somalia. Escalation is inevitable if we keep building up forces in on the coast in the Indian Ocean.  If the Ethiopians can't hack it and the TFG forces fall apart there's only one force there able to do something. Guess which one.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:19 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007 3:08 PM EST
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Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Well, it's been a while, but I'm back. Nowadays I'm doing most of my blogging over at Non Sum Dignus. I do intend to keep blogging here as well, though. It's just a matter of having enough time in the day.

But enough of that and on to today's post!

The WaPo reports today:

 "A U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked suspected al-Qaeda members in southern Somalia on Sunday, and U.S. sources said the operation may have hit a senior terrorist figure."

Where have we heard this before? Didn't a U.S. drone go after a "senior al-Qaeda figure," last January in Pakistan? Supossedly they were going after Ayman al-Zawarhiri but they wound up missing him and killing 17 civilans, including 6 women and 6 children.

AP reports:

"The airstrike Monday evening was in the town of Afmadow, about 220 miles southwest of the capital of Mogadishu, Somali officials said. It was not immediately clear how many people were killed in the attacks, but Somali officials said there were reports that many were killed."

Yeah, I'd say you'd have to expect as much. If you're going to use a blunt intrument like an AC-130, you've got to expect a lot of "collateral damage." But the families of those killed can rest easy that the U.S. was going after some pretty bad actors.   

The BBC reports the strike was intended to get these three al-Qaeda types: 

> Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Abu Talha al-Sudani and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.

> Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, from the Comoro Islands, was indicted by a US court in New York for conspiracy to bomb the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

> Abu Talha al-Sudani, a Sudanese, was accused by the office of the US Director of National Intelligence recently of leading an al-Qaeda cell in East Africa.

[And] Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan, is on an FBI wanted poster in connection with the bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel and an attempted missile attack on an Israeli airliner in Kenya in 2002.

[End of quote]

The U.S. apparently took care to cut down on the number of bystanders killed. An official quoted in the WaPo article says, "You had some figures on the move in a relatively unpopulated part of the country." Relatively unpopulated? Well hell, that's good enough for me.

The problem I can see with this whole thing, besides the casualties, is the preception a lot of folks are going to be left with. The U.S. has had a hard-on for these al-Qaeda types for a while now and without presenting any evidence they've been pushing the story-line that the Islamic Courts Union was harboring them in Mogadushu.

And, lo and behold, the Ethiopians all on their own decide they have to invade Somalia -- in a defensive operation naturally.  (Kind of like the invasion of Iraq) The U.S. naturally helps them out with intel and in about a week the ICU is routed. Now, some might come to the conclusion that the only reason the ICU was overthrown was because the U.S. wanted three al-Qaeda suspects. The Somalians got about five months of law and order after 10 years of anarachy and then -- here's comes the U.S.

The Ethiopains and the army of the "transitional government [TFG]," which has been barely able to hold on to Bidoa this whole time, is now poised to take over whole country. More than likely what will happen is that the warlords will take over again and we'll be back to square one.

The U.S. has been working on getting a peace keeping force in there, but that's not looking too hopeful. The U.S is probably hoping Ethiopians are going to hang around until the UN can work something out. I wouldn't count on it.

AP reports today:

"Gunmen attacked Ethiopian troops supporting the Somali government Sunday, witnesses said, in the second straight day of violence in a city struggling to emerge from more than a decade of chaos." 

The Ethiopians are probably not interested in getting bogged down in their own version Iraq.

Things would have been so much easier if the CIA had just gone in and yanked these guys of the street like they did to Abu Omar back in 2003

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:44 PM EST
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