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Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Pakistan on the brink?
Topic: War on Terror

Boy W. has really screwed the pooch, hasn't he? He's running the foreign policy of the United States just like he ran his oil companies -- right into the ground. Letting OBL and al-Qaeda escape into Pakistan and then the invading Iraq was bad enough, but his handling -- or lack thereof -- of the Pakistan dossier has really been an all around FUBR. 

The news coming out of Pakistan is pretty bad. It's like watching a car wreck in slow motion. Our good buddy Pervez Musharraf -- Bush is still calling him a "strong fighter against extremists and radicals" -- has suspended the Pakistani constitution, dismantled the supreme court, re-arrested Iftikhar Chaudry and sic'd his police on anyone involved in trying to preserve that country's civil society. Police have been tear gassing and beating lawyers with batons, the images of which he hasn't been able to prevent from getting out to the rest of the world despite his shutting down of the independent media, but all W. has to say is that he hopes Musharraf restores the courts and the constitution at some point in the future. And if Musharraf doesn't? Well, all W.'s got to say about that is, "I hope he takes my advice."

In other words, you brave Pakistani lawyers risking your freedom and lives: you're on your own. The great beacon of democracy is out of service for repairs.  

Recently, Musharraf's heroic battle against extremists and radicals has involved releasing those very same extremists and radicals from jail in order to back some 200 Pakistani soldiers captured by a South Waziristani warlord named Baitullah Mehsud. Musharraf has made a deal with Mehsud to pull back his forces and leave the entire area in Mesud's control. The NYT reports today that Mesud has vowed to expel foreign fighters from the area by Jan. 1, "but he declined to promise not to dispatch fighters to Afghanistan." This sounds very much like the deal Musharraf  made with "tribal leaders" (aka the Taliban) in September of last year which resulted in attacks against US forces in Eastern Afghanistan soaring by over 30%.  

This sort of thing probably explains why a sizable faction of al-Qaeda is perfectly happy to see Musharraf remain alive and well -- and in power. NEWSWEEK reported in July about a rift that had developed within al-Qaeda between the "Egyptians" led by Ayman al-Zuwahiri and the Libyan faction led by Abu Yahya al-Libi, who escaped from the lock-up at Bagram Airbase in 2005. It seems al-Zuwahiri has it in his mind to kill Musharraf, whereas al-Libi, along with OBL, feels that trying to kill Musharraf might risk, as Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau write, "Inviting the Pakistani leader's wrath, prematurely opening up another battlefront before the jihadists have properly consolidated their position."  

The Long War Journal reports, though, that "While there are certainly internal divisions within al Qaeda leadership over their policy on Pakistan and other theaters, the divisions are not as deep as the Newsweek article makes them appear." In a recent tape released by al-Libi he rejects any idea of a split in al-Qaeda over killing Musharraf. The raid of the Red Mosque might have changed his mind, although, I've got to figure the Libyans have probably prevailed in their argument.

Why knock off Musharraf when he's dedicating all his menageries to wiping out all the modernizing and secular elements they hate so much? All they have to do is bide their time and wait until Musharraf has decimated all the forces of sanity and democracy and then they can just roll into Islamabad unhindered.     

Not that any of this has given W. & Co. any second thoughts about keeping the money flowing to prop up our Bastard in Islamabad. $10 billion down the drain since 9/11 and W. has precious little to show for his dogged support for Musharraf. But don't confuse him with the facts: Al-Qaeda is resurgent their safe havens in North and South Waziristan and the Taliban are not only giving an undermanned NATO force in the south of Afghanistan fits, but now they're operating more and more in the North. Today a teenage suicide bomber killed at least 40 people in Baghlan including five members of the parliament. [AP]

And the Talibs are threatening Kandahar. The NYT reported on the 31st that a sizable for of Talibs had moved into the Arghandab area north of Kandahar and were seen dancing on the roof of the house of pro-government district leader Mullah Naqibullah, who died of a heart attack three weeks ago. Sarah Cheyes, an American journalist who left NPR to live and write in Kandahar, says the take over of Naqibullah's house had been "devastating psychologically" for the local residents who had relied on Naqibullah to protect them from the return of the Talibs. 

The rationale for the invading Iraq -- and the continuing cost in blood and treasure -- went from being about WMD, to regime change, to then being all about building a stable Western-style democracy in the heart of the Middle East. For a moment there Condi Rice was even implying the administration would support democracy over stability in countries like Egypt, until that is Hezbollah beat the bajeezes out of Israel in the summer of '06. Condi did say, after all, that: 

"For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East– and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." [usinfo.gov] 

But it looks like sacrificing the freedom and liberty that God Himself has bestowed on humanity for stability is the now the over-riding policy objective of the Bush administration. So much so, in fact, that W. barely batted an eyelash when Egypt's dictator Honsi Mubarak announced on October 29 that he was going to build a few nuclear reactors; only for peaceful purposes, of course.  [NYT]

And that goes for Pakistan as well. It's all very bleak, but I'm sure it'll all work out. When you got the most experienced foreign policy team the world has ever seen running the show, there's no chance Pakistan is going to implode.  Just look at the great success W.'s Surge in having in Iraq!  


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:41 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007 4:04 PM EST
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Monday, 5 November 2007
Musharraf gets away with what the Bermese Junat couldn't.

The WaPo reports:

 "Pakistan's government on Sunday executed a nationwide crackdown on the political opposition, the news media and the courts, one day after President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule and suspended the constitution. Police throughout the country raided the homes of opposition party leaders and activists, arresting at least 500."

AP reports:

" . . . Opposition groups put the number of arrests at 3,500. [Musharraf] ousted independent-minded judges, put a stranglehold on independent media and granted sweeping powers to authorities to crush dissent. "

I remember reading a NYT article from October 21 on the possible nightmare scenarios associated with the collapse of Pakistan, and "a senior administration official" is quoted saying that 'instability and political deadlock in Islamabad “is certainly one scenario, but hardly the only one,"' which I thought was pretty telling.

In other words, always look on the bright side of life. 

'We'll be greeted as liberators in Baghdad, the war will only cost a few hundred thousand bucks, the rest will be paid for by Iraqi oil revenue, etc.'

And here we go again . . . From the 9/11 on this administration hasn't had a clue on how to deal with Pakistan, so they've just trusted in Musharraf and his line about how he's the only thing standing between us and Al-Qaeda get hold of the "Islamic bomb" and hope for the best.

Now that he's sic'd the military on the opposition, shut down the very independent media and fired the chief of the Supreme Court -- who was about to rule Musharraf's electionm win invalid -- the administration doesn't have a whole to say.

A few weeks ago when the Burmese Junta was arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters Bush came down hard issuing sanctions and lots of angry rhetoric. "Monks have been beaten and killed. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested. Burma's rulers continue to defy the world's just demands to stop their vicious persecution."

Even Laura Bush got into the act saying the Burmese military's acts of violence against demostrators "shame the military regime." But now when it comes to our good friend Mushy, Sec Def Robert Gates, according to the AP story "suggested that military aid may not be affected because the Bush administration does not want to disrupt its partnership with Pakistan in fighting al-Qaida and other militants."  

And while the administration is focused on the Hindenberg going down in South Asia, there's another fire brewing.

Time reports:   

"Tensions have been building along the Lebanon-Israel border in recent days. The Israeli Army was engaged last week in large-scale military exercises in northern Israel, close to the border with Lebanon, putting into practice the lessons learned from last year's 34-day war against Hizballah." 

While the cats away . . .


Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:09 PM EST
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Sunday, 9 September 2007
Author's note

I'm blogging at Non Sum Dignus these days.  

More of the same but easier to blog at!


Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:24 PM EDT
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Friday, 17 August 2007
Tora tora Bora!
Topic: War on Terror

It looks like we're back at Tora Bora again. You all remember Tora Bora, that's where Rummy, OBL and the suvinving Talibs get away in 2002. Rummy was so hell-bent on getting all our military equipment and personnell to the Persian Gulf that he sort of forgot about winning the war he was fighting before starting another one.  

Eurasia Insight reports:

"The offensive at Tora Bora began with air strikes launched on August 14 by U.S.-led coalition aircraft. Radio Free Afghanistan’s corresponent Daud Wafa traveled to the Pacheragam district of Nangarhar Province, south of Jalalabad, to speak with some of those displaced by the fighting. A villager forced from his home in the area, Allah Dad, tells Wafa that the coalition ground and air operations have been incessant.

'Planes are flying over during the night,' Allah Dad says. 'We can see the U.S. troops coming and going during the daylight hours.'"

One wonder how the "coalition" allowed the Talibs back into their caves in TB but, there they are. This time around, though, we're not going to let them escape to Pakistan.

 According to EI:

"Thousands of Pakistani troops were deployed on Pakistan’s side of the border this month to block escape routes for militants trying to flee from Afghanistan."

I'm sure that'll work out. We know how efficient the Pakistanis are when it comes to guarding their border. Naturally, the coalition is taking credit for massive Talib casualties, but there might have been a civilian or two that might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Another resident of the Pacheragam district, Mir Dad, says villagers fear attacks by Taliban as well as being mistakenly targeted by coalition air strikes. 'The operation has been going on at Tora Bora since [August 14],' Mir Dad tells Radio Free Afghanistan. 'The [foreign] troops are coming and going, and the bombing has been severe. Civilians have been killed, too. [Residents] are afraid of both the Taliban and the Americans.'"

Way to win hearts and minds!


Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:53 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 9 September 2007 7:22 PM EDT
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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, 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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