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Archive for February, 2010

Posted by Newshoggers.com on February 27th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Despite a lot of slightly breathless retelling of the administration's preferred tale that Pakistan detaining so many Taliban high-ups is a "game-changer" for Pakistani co-operation against terrorist extremists, it doesn't seem to be going that way after all.

For one thing, Afghanistan apparently suspects Pakistan to be the directing force behind todays Kabul attack which obviously targeted Indian medical workers just a day after Pakistan told India to go f**k itself on the first day of new peace talks. At the talks, India handed over a fresh dossier of evidence about the 26/11/08 attacks in Mumbai in which it named two serving Pakistani officers, both majors, as complicit in the attacks and asked for them to be extradited. Pakistan flat refused, dismissing India's dossier as "literature, not evidence". 

But that's India, not America. So – ignoring the teensy fact that detente with India is one of the key bits of co-operation the U.S. has been pressing Pakistan for – what's the state of play with the Pakistani arrests that have been causing such a stir?

Well, a provincial court has blocked the extradition of Baradur and all the other high-ranking Taliban officials arrested, whether to the U.S., Afghanistan or anywhere else. It seems obvious that this move was carefully orchestrated and the Pakistani government was swift to say it wouldn't be appealing the court's decision. And it's quite difficult to know who exactly has been detained, other than baradur. As Colin Cookman points out, recent reports from Anand Gopal and the A.P. have had rather different lists of who has been arrested, rasing the possibility of at least some of Pakistan's old "security kabuki" being in play here. However, Anand's sources tell him something that sounds right to me:

The crackdown may to be related to efforts by some Taliban leaders to explore talks with Western and Afghan authorities independently of Pakistan, the UN official said. Pakistan is widely suspected of backing the Afghan Taliban in a bid to maintain influence in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad has long denied. But Pakistan may also be wary of Taliban attempts to initiate talks without its involvement or sanction.

“Pakistan wants a seat at the table,” says the UN official, who is familiar with Taliban efforts to initiate talks. “They don’t want the Taliban to act independently.”

“It’s possible that Mullah Baradar and those around him wanted to start thinking about an eventual settlement,” says Mr. Muzjda. Former and current Taliban figures emphasize, however, that such a settlement necessarily involves a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces in the country.

I wrote something similiar last week.

The Obama administration admits it's mystified, while still trying to keep the happy-talk going.

“We are not sure what these recent detentions [by Pakistani security services of Afghan Taliban leaders] have meant,” the official said. “There’s been over multiple years, Pakistani detentions of Afghanistan Taliban, but it’s been inconsistent.”

“We’ve had an ongoing discussion with Pakisan about nature of enemy itself,” the official said. “It’s not something we’ve always agreed on. …The Pakistanis have by way of their actions demonstrated that they are wiling to take the fight to elements of that network, but not to all elements at the same time, and not to all elements on our time. That’s understandable for reasons. They have their perspective, we have our perspective.”

If by "own persepctive" the White House means Pakistan has it's own agenda rather than any meaningful "co-operation", well they've got that bit right. But I suspect that General Kayani is finding continued success with his Jedi mind tricks every time an administration offical or a U.S. general pays a visit.

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Posted by robertgreenwald on February 26th, 2010

President Obama should rethink the Afghanistan war for lots of reasons. The war isn’t making us more secure. It’s costing us billions (soon to be trillions) of dollars. It’s costing us jobs. The war causes massive human suffering for both Afghans and Americans. We can now add another reason for the president to rethink the Afghanistan war: it’s hurting his party’s re-election efforts among a key constituency.

On February 18, 2010, Pew Research published a study titled “Democrats’ Edge Among Millenials Slipping.” The report warns that among voters born after 1980, Democrats lost more than half of their lead in party identification over Republicans during 2009. In 2008, Millennials favored Democrats over Republicans by a huge 32-percent margin (62 percent to 30 percent). That margin has now shrunk to 14 percent.

This sharp change in such a short period could be a major problem for Democrats heading into the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Pew previously reported how important these voters were to Democratic victories in 2008:

[In 2008], 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.

…[Y]oung people provided not only their votes but also many enthusiastic campaign volunteers. Some may have helped persuade parents and older relatives to consider Obama’s candidacy. And far more young people than older voters reported attending a campaign event while nearly one-in-ten donated money to a presidential candidate.

One of the major reasons cited by Pew for Millennials’ sharp loss of enthusiasm for Democrats was young voter opposition to President Obama’s policies in Afghanistan.

According to the report:

“Only about a third of Millennials (34%) approved of his handling of the situation in Afghanistan while 50% disapproved. …That represented a sharp reversal from July, when a majority of those younger than 30 (51%) approved of Obama’s performance on Afghanistan.”

Why the sharp reversal? Millennials strongly disapproved of the President’s December 2009 decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. And, Millenials are rapidly souring on militant foreign policy in general, with only 38 percent agreeing with the statement that “peace is best achieved through military strength.”

Democrats can’t afford to hang on to the dead weight of a brutal foreign policy in Afghanistan. When a war has killed thousands of children, almost a thousand American troops and cost us almost a trillion dollars, electoral peril isn’t the only reason the President should rethink his policy. But it is a good reason.

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on February 26th, 2010

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

Last night I met a wonderful new candidate for Congress. She can’t wait to join the Progressive Caucus. And she’s going to win. And she loves that Obama. She’s against the war too and she’s going to support Obama’s escalation of it and not even understand that the two concepts don’t fit smoothly together. Everyone I know loves her. I hope someone shows her this:

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on February 25th, 2010

According to the United Nations, almost 350 children were killed in the Afghanistan war last year, more than half by U.S. and allied forces. Several have been killed just since the launch of Operation Moshtarak. Since the launch of the massive operation in Marjah, Afghanistan, U.S. and allied forces have killed at least 50 civilians.

The toll published by the UN is much lower than the figures released earlier this year by the Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM), which reported that the war killed three children every day last year, or “1,050 people under 18 years old killed last year alone.”

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on February 24th, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Today's "must read" is from The National Interest. Former spook Paul R. Pillar absoluetely pwns CNAS head and Petraeus-buddy John Nagl. The COINdinista is reduced to sputtering "but…we're at war!" and making vague allusions to the threat of Al Qaeda getting its hands on Pakistan's nukes – even though any scenario where that might occur is firmly in Tom Clancy country.

A Pillar snippet:

BASED ON accepted counterinsurgency doctrine, there are ample reasons to be skeptical that the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will succeed. One is the corruption and illegitimacy of the central government. Another is the possible insufficiency of counterinsurgent forces, given the size of the task at hand. Yet another is the lack of time, given the Obama administration’s schedule (politically necessary to reassure Americans the war will not continue indefinitely), by which the U.S. presence will begin to ramp down barely a year after it ramps up.

Whether the counterinsurgency succeeds or fails, however, is not even the main issue in judging whether the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting. The focus on counterinsurgency is a classic case of goal substitution—of dwelling on an intermediate objective while losing sight of why we are pursuing it in the first place. Even if General Stanley McChrystal and the brave and resourceful troops under his command work enough magic to stabilize most of the country and the Karzai government that is supposed to be running it, the large expenditure of blood and treasure will have bought Americans little or nothing in increased safety from terrorist attacks. A successful counterinsurgency would not eliminate the terrorist haven in Pakistan (or even preclude one in unsecured portions of Afghanistan). And it would not address the radicalizing influences and operational preparations in Yemen, Europe, the United States and elsewhere that have far more to do with how many Americans will fall victim to terrorism.

…NAGL IS to be commended for acknowledging that the cost of the war will be “high,” and his reference to five years for building a viable Afghan government and army is more realistic than the Obama administration’s timetable. The next appropriate step would be to acknowledge that the high cost in lives, limbs and money would do little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism.

Good stuff.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on February 23rd, 2010

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Steve Hynd

Today's "must read" is from The National Interest. Former spook Paul R. Pillar absoluetely pwns CNAS head and Petraeus-buddy John Nagl. The COINdinista is reduced to sputtering "but…we're at war!" and making vague allusions to the threat of Al Qaeda getting its hands on Pakistan's nukes – even though any scenario where that might occur is firmly in Tom Clancy country.

A Pillar snippet:

BASED ON accepted counterinsurgency doctrine, there are ample reasons to be skeptical that the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will succeed. One is the corruption and illegitimacy of the central government. Another is the possible insufficiency of counterinsurgent forces, given the size of the task at hand. Yet another is the lack of time, given the Obama administration’s schedule (politically necessary to reassure Americans the war will not continue indefinitely), by which the U.S. presence will begin to ramp down barely a year after it ramps up.

Whether the counterinsurgency succeeds or fails, however, is not even the main issue in judging whether the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting. The focus on counterinsurgency is a classic case of goal substitution—of dwelling on an intermediate objective while losing sight of why we are pursuing it in the first place. Even if General Stanley McChrystal and the brave and resourceful troops under his command work enough magic to stabilize most of the country and the Karzai government that is supposed to be running it, the large expenditure of blood and treasure will have bought Americans little or nothing in increased safety from terrorist attacks. A successful counterinsurgency would not eliminate the terrorist haven in Pakistan (or even preclude one in unsecured portions of Afghanistan). And it would not address the radicalizing influences and operational preparations in Yemen, Europe, the United States and elsewhere that have far more to do with how many Americans will fall victim to terrorism.

…NAGL IS to be commended for acknowledging that the cost of the war will be “high,” and his reference to five years for building a viable Afghan government and army is more realistic than the Obama administration’s timetable. The next appropriate step would be to acknowledge that the high cost in lives, limbs and money would do little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism.

Good stuff.

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Posted by The Agonist on February 23rd, 2010

From our partners at The Agonist

Syed Saleem Shahzad | Islamabad | Feb 24

Asia Times
As a lone suicide bomber approached a convoy of security personnel after walking through a crowded market he detonated the bomb strapped to his body. Eleven people were killed and more than 35 injured in the massive blast on Monday in the Nishat Chowk district of Mingora, the capital of Swat in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Gruesome scenes of bodies being recovered amid billowing black smoke, burning vehicles and shattered buildings are not new to Pakistan; similar – and much bigger – attacks occur regularly. What was significant about Monday’s attack was that it was the first in six months in the Swat area.

The return of violence to Swat is a direct result of the Taliban gaining control of the provinces of Kunar and Nuristan across the border in Afghanistan, sources in an al-Qaeda-led militant group tell Asia Times Online.

In a series of operations in the tribal areas that started last year, beginning in Swat and culminating in the offensive in North Waziristan, the Pakistani military rolled back the extensive advances make by the Pakistan Taliban and al-Qaeda. The militants were dispersed, with most disappearing into the wilds on both sides of the border.

Then, towards the end of last year, United States troops evacuated their main bases in Nuristan and border posts in Kunar and handed over responsibility for security to the Afghan National Army (ANA). In November, the Taliban struck a ceasefire deal with the ANA under which the Taliban agreed not to attack provincial capitals in return for the ANA not attacking Taliban bases in the two provinces. (See Taliban take over Afghan province Asia Times Online, October 29, 2009.)

This, say the militant sources, allowed militants from across the border to regroup, and Monday’s attack is the first of what the sources say will be many more in Swat, as well as other tribal areas. This includes the restive belt of Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency and Dir and Swat in NWFP. There has already been a revival of activity in Bajaur and Mohmand over the past few weeks.

The militant sources say that the fighters who have gathered in Kunar and Nuristan have split into several groups to fight in Afghanistan and in Pakistan on a rotational basis to make the optimum use of their human resources.

A senior militant linked with al-Qaeda told Asia Times Online by telephone that the new assault in Pakistan would start in earnest once the weather improved in the next few weeks, while the battle in Afghanistan would continue.

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Posted by Newshoggers.com on February 23rd, 2010

Click here for more information about the Afghanistan war. From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By Derrick Crowe

On Sunday, NATO forces in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan killed more than thirty civilians, including women and children, when an airstrike was ordered on three minivans.

According to the AP story on the incident:

“‘This creates an opportunity for the Taliban to use this against the Afghan government and the Americans,’ said Mohammed Hashim Watanwal, a lawmaker from southern Uruzgan province, where the strike took place. ‘NATO has said that it will take care to avoid civilian casualties, but they don’t follow through.’”

Among the dead were a 3-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.

But at least we said we’re sorry. I know an “aw, shucks” statement would calm my rage if those had been my kids. Yup. Like a charm.

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Posted by The Agonist on February 23rd, 2010

Click here for more information about the Afghanistan war. From our partners at The Agonist

Toll of US dead in Afghan war hits 1,000

The number of US soldiers who have died in the Afghan war has reached 1,000, according to website icasualties.org, a grim milestone in the conflict launched more than eight years ago.

The independent website, which tracks military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, said 54 US soldiers have died in the war so far this year, compared with a toll of 316 last year — the worst since the US-led invasion of 2001.

The top-ranking US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, warned of more casualties as US-led forces press an offensive in Marjah, a key Taliban stronghold, where foreign troops have faced strong militant resistance.

“We must steel ourselves, no matter how successful we are on any given day, for harder days yet to come,” he told reporters.


** 33 Civilians Killed by NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan ~ Newshoggers
** U.S. Special Operations Ordered Deadly Afghan Strike
** Marja Battle Just a Confidence Booster – But Not for Afghan Civilians ~ FDL
** A Kinder, Gentler, Taliban? ~ Newshoggers
** Taliban fighters hinder offensive ~ duh! and Mullen is an ass
** Another Taliban leader captured in Pakistan
** Rethink Afghanistan

Top U.S. commander braces for delay in leaving Iraq

The top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday that the planned withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces by the end of August could be delayed if conditions worsen in the coming months as Iraqis choose a new government.

Army Gen. Ray Odierno said his staff had drawn up contingency plans for a delayed withdrawal that he has shared with Pentagon leaders and other U.S. officials during a visit to Washington over the past week. He said he was prepared to make the changes “if we run into problems” but added he was optimistic that would not be necessary. A few more items on Odierno here and here


** Spike in Iraq Violence as Vote Nears
** Reports on civilians in Iraq win investigative award
** Sunni party drops out of Iraq’s national elections
** Nerve agents could be to blame for tripling of child leukaemia in Basra
** Two Army pilots killed in Iraq helicopter crash, US says


Please check comments for more related news and updates

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Posted by Derrick Crowe on February 22nd, 2010

On Sunday, NATO forces in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan killed more than thirty civilians, including women and children, when an airstrike was ordered on three minivans.

According to the AP story on the incident:

“‘This creates an opportunity for the Taliban to use this against the Afghan government and the Americans,’ said Mohammed Hashim Watanwal, a lawmaker from southern Uruzgan province, where the strike took place. ‘NATO has said that it will take care to avoid civilian casualties, but they don’t follow through.’”

Among the dead were a 3-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl.

But at least we said we’re sorry.

Had enough? Join us on Facebook.

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