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Wednesday, 25 July 2007
More Pakistani problems
Topic: War on Terror

AP reports:

"QUETTA, Pakistan - A Taliban once held at Guantanamo Bay who became one of Pakistan's most-wanted rebel leaders killed himself with a hand grenade yesterday after he was cornered by security forces, officials said."

It's really amazing how the Pakistanis always seem to catch one of these Talib big wigs whenever angry rumblings directed at our good friend Pervez Musharraf start emanating from the administration or Congress. Every time an American official makes a visit to Islamabad, the Pakistanis miraculously seem to find yet another al-Qaeda or Taliban #3. (How many #3's does al-Qaeda have, anyway?)

Apparently, what prompted this week's killing of Pakistan's "most-wanted" Talib, Abdullah Mehsud, was the Sunday talk shows here in America. W.'s Heimat Sicherheits chief, Francis Townsend, put out the message that "all options" were "on the table" when it came to US forces going after al-Qaeda on Pakistani soil.  It appears that pesky new NIE coming out last week has caused some outrage in Congress over the fact that after many billions of dollars given to the Pakistanis to be our allies in the WOT, al-Qaeda is stronger now than it has even been. Pervez Musharraf's hands-off approach to the WOT is a growing cause of much grousing in Congress, and this time it's not just coming from the "Bomb Mecca" crowd, either.

Even some Democrats are starting to say us going into Pakistan might be a good idea! Naturally, going into Pakistan would be a monumentally bad idea. Us overtly going into Pakistan would make Iraq look like a tea party. We've already got enough problems there and in Afghanistan, we don't need to buy another disaster in Pakistan and turn 165 million more Muslims against us.  Of course, that's not to say we're not already operating on Pakistani soil, we have been for years.

That fact, though, must be hidden at all costs. One unfortunate Pakistani journalist who had the audacity to show proof of US involvement in the killing of Mohammed Nek was swiftly picked up by Pakistani security forces and never seen again. Let that be a lesson to anyone who dares point out that the United States military is actively operating in Pakistan.  

The Times of India reported this week that the US and Pakistan made a deal.



"American air power, special forces, and intelligence operatives have begun operating inside pakistan’s [sic]western borders in their hunt for fleeing al-qaeda fighters, extending the war on terrorism . . . washington has forced the musharraf regime to open its border territory for u.s scrutiny. . . the secret deal will allow u.s. troops to hunt the fighters on the ground and fire on them from the air, but it will also be on a case-by-case basis, with the united states required to ask permission each time . . . pakistan had begun its 'cooperation' in the war on terrorism by offering intelligence and over-flight facilities to the u.s, but rejecting operations by ground forces or attacks on its territories . . . it now appears all bets are off as washington gradually expands its sphere of action into pakistani territory."   

We're playing a very dangerous game in South Asia, I hope W. & Co. know what they're doing. [Ha!] If one of our special forces were to get captured on Pakistani soil or one of our planes or helicopters were shot down in, say North Waziristan, there would be hell to pay. Musharraf could pretty much give up his grand visions of winning a "free and fair" election next year, to begin with.  

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said after Musharraf's assault on the Red Mosque that this was "pretty much crossing the line and there's no going back."

We go into Pakistan in a big way we'll be crossing another one of those lines.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:49 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 26 July 2007 12:19 PM EDT
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Friday, 20 July 2007
Is Pervez Musahrraf waiting for the mango shipment?
Topic: War on Terror

 Boy, it has been a real bad week for our good buddy Pervez Musharraf. Last week, he finally took action against the radical "Red Mosque," from which Islamic radicals had been enforcing with impunity their own brand of Sharia law in the heart of Islamabad. Apparently, for about six months Musharraf didn't see any danger from a group of bearded whackos rampaging through the streets of the country's capitol city, busting up video stores and kidnapping people off the streets. The fact that they were acting very much like the Taliban doesn't seem to have registered with out good ally in the WOT.

 When he actually got around to doing something about this embarrassment, the resulting assault on the mosque, which killed about a hundred people, including the leader of the mosque, wound up inflaming Islamic fundamentalists all over Pakistan. In past week over 150 people, civilians and soldiers have died in the backlash against the attack on the mosque. All those suicide bombers that Musharraf has been more than happy to see cross the border into Afghanistan have now returned to roost in Pakistan.  

As if that weren't bad enough, a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate says al-Qaeda has found safe haven in Pakistan, thanks to his peace pact he signed with them and the Talibs back in September, which has allowed it to regroup and retool. Some people in the United States are even starting to think that Iraq may not be the main front in the WOT, after all, they think it might actually be Pakistan! Imagine that!

And if even that all weren't bad enough, today the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated Musharraf's troublesome Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudry. [AP] This doesn't bode well for his plans to keep wearing his uniform while he manufactures a new term for himself as the country's president. He had planned to remove Chaudry  in order to smooth his way to being elected by the current parliament, but that isn't going to fly.

Now that Chaudry is there to point out the fact that such a maneuver violates the Pakistani constitution, Musharraf is in a pickle.  Meanwhile, the US government looks on with puzzling disinterest. Perhaps Dick Cheney's Rasputin, David Addington, is counseling his Dark Master that a victory for Chaudry in the case of "The Justice v. The President" might undermine his "Unitary Executive" theory? Chaudry's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, told the Pakistani Supreme Court that, "The executive cannot invest itself with undefined emergency powers." [NYT] That sound like dangerous terrorist talk to me, I don't know. . .  

How else to explain why a month ago, while the Chaudry removal was roiling the Pakistani body politic, the US was going out of its way to vow its unquestioning loyalty to their bastard in Islamabad? When Deputy secretary of of State John "give me a new job" Negroponte visited Pakistan on June 16 he restated the United States' total backing for Musharraf.

The same day Sean McCormick said, "We believe that President Musharraf is an agent for positive change, not only in the region." At the same moment the British government was bestowing a Knighthood on Salmon Rushdie. This caused uproar in radical Islamic circles around the world and inspired Ijaz ul-Haq, the country's religious affairs minister, to say: "If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title."  [newsvine]

The fact that a member of Musharraf's government advocated suicide bombing -- his protestations that his words were "misreported" notwithstanding -- seemingly hasn't given cause for this administration to question its support for the dictator Musharraf. [Clearly, the administration is upholding a crucial principle by backing the prerogatives of the executive.]   Of course, this administration isn't exactly known for it's ability to see beyond its nose, so it's not much of a surprise that they've really painted themselves into a corner in Pakistan. T

This particular corner is unfortunately a very dangerous, nuclear tipped one. As Iftikhar Chaudry's lawyer Ahsan told the NYT back in June, "The Americans have got all their eggs in one basket and know only one phone number in Pakistan and that is now a dud number because it cannot communicate with any Pakistani citizens."  [unusual court case at center of Pakistan’s political fight]  It's one thing to alienate the Islamic radicals, but when you also piss off the moderate and secular majority of Pakistan, you're really screwing the pooch.  

Does anyone know Benazir Bhutto's number? Or Nawaz Sharif's? If you do please give it to Condi Rice before OLB has gets his hands on the Islamic Bomb. 

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:33 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007 12:44 PM EDT
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Friday, 6 July 2007
Pervez, we hardly knew ye.
Topic: War on Terror

The NYT reported recently that speculation is rife in Pakistan that our only friend there, Pervez Musharaff, may not survive his little tussle with Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. But, Carlotta Gall writes, so far there is a "a great silence" eminating from "the one place that may count the most: the barracks and the mess halls of the armed forces, the other great part of Pakistan’s ruling equation."

What will the army do? Have they had it up to here with Pervez yet?

It is not a good sign that one military officer she spoke to said: "He either goes the mango-crate way or he goes gracefully." The Mango crate referring to the supossed special last minute delivery of a box of mangos on Mohammad Zia ul-Haq's final plane ride full of poison gas.  

But, of course, this was all before the Red Mosque issue. Now I bet Musharraf wishes all he had to do was wory about that damn judge. Australian Broadcasting has just reported that, apparently the army has stormed the Mosque:

"In the latest clashes at Pakistan's beseiged Red Mosque, two heavy explosions and gunfire have rocked the compound. Television footage has shown large chunks of debris from the perimeter wall blown above the treetops. Government forces rushed in on three sides and attacked the mosque compound. On two sides the compound was attacked by armoured personnel carriers and on one side by army rangers."

This comes just after Musharaff almost got another type of mango crate, in the form of AA cannon fire. 

AP reportes:

"Gunners fired after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's plane took off from a military base on Friday in what one official described as a failed assassination attempt. Security forces quickly surrounded a house beneath the base's flight path in Rawalpindi . . . Two anti-aircraft guns and a light machine gun were found on the roof and the homeowner was taken in for questioning."

[Yes, questioning. I'm sure he will be very co-oprative.]

Now how the hell did someone get two anti-aircraft guns on a roof near an airport in Rawalpindi? No one noticed this?

I don't know, I'm thinking if there was a battery of AA on the roof of a house across from the White Hosue, someone would notice before W. went coptering off to Andrews.

Sounds like someone was either really asleep at the switch or some was just faining incompetence.

You know, it's too bad that the Bush administration doesn't have a Plan B for Pakistan, because it looks like Condi's luck is about to run out. I wonder who will inherit that brand new plutonium plant they're building at Khushab? The Talib's, perhaps? Ayman al-Zawahiri? No, he's too busy making videos . . . Maybe OBL himself?  

Go North West young man!

The NYT's Gall writes:

"In the North-West Frontier Province there is growing frustration among military and intelligence officials over the rising lawlessness of Taliban militants, and the president’s apparent lack of concern and direction, senior officials say."

What they've really got to be thrilled about is the new deal Musharaff reportedly made with the US military. They too are frustrated with Pervez' lake of concern about the border. 

According to Syed Saleem Shahzad in A-Times Online:

"Since last September, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan have been pressing Islamabad for the right to conduct extensive hot-pursuit operations into Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases. According to Asia Times Online contacts, NATO and its US backers have gotten their wish: coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be. . . Operations inside Pakistan might be carried out independently by the United States, probably with air power, by Pakistani forces acting alone or as joint offensives. In all cases, though, the US will pull the strings, for instance by providing the Pakistanis with information on targets to hit."

Operations might be carried out? I think we're way beyond that at this point, but it looks like Musharaff has thrown up his hands and has decided to turn thr problem over to us. This would seem to be a dangerous escalation by the US military, especially if things go south with Musharraf.

If the next thing we know the Special Forces are moving into Khushad, the forgotten war in Afghanistan would begin to look like the good old days.  Hell, even Iraq might look better!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:46 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007 11:47 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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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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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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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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