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Archive for October, 2011

Posted by alexthurston on October 17th, 2011

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.

These last weeks, there have been two “occupations” in lower Manhattan, one of which has been getting almost all the coverage — that of the demonstrators camping out in Zuccotti Park. The other, in the shadows, has been hardly less massive, sustained, or in its own way impressive — the police occupation of the Wall Street area.

On a recent visit to the park, I found the streets around the Stock Exchange barricaded and blocked off to traffic, and police everywhere in every form (in and out of uniform) — on foot, on scooters, on motorcycles, in squad cars with lights flashing, on horses, in paddy wagons or minivans, you name it. At the park’s edge, there is a police observation tower capable of being raised and lowered hydraulically and literally hundreds of police are stationed in the vicinity. I counted more than 50 of them on just one of its sides at a moment when next to nothing was going on — and many more can be seen almost anywhere in the Wall Street area, lolling in doorways, idling in the subway, ambling on the plazas of banks, and chatting in the middle of traffic-less streets.

This might be seen as massive overkill. After all, the New York police have already shelled out an extra $1.9 million, largely in overtime pay at a budget-cutting moment in the city. When, as on Thursday, 100 to 150 marchers suddenly headed out from Zuccotti Park to circle Chase Bank several blocks away, close to the same number of police — some with ominous clumps of flexi-cuffs dangling from their belts — calved off with them. It’s as if the Occupy Wall Street movement has an eternal dark shadow that follows it everywhere.

At one level, this is all mystifying. The daily crowds in the park remain remarkably, even startlingly, peaceable. (Any violence has generally been the product of police action.) On an everyday basis, a squad of 10 or 15 friendly police officers could easily handle the situation. There is, of course, another possibility suggested to me by one of the policemen loitering at the Park’s edge doing nothing in particular: “Maybe they’re peaceable because we’re here.” And here’s a second possibility: as my friend Steve Fraser, author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace, said to me, “This is the most important piece of real estate on the planet and they’re scared. Look how amazed we are. Imagine how they feel, especially after so many decades of seeing nothing like it.”

And then there’s a third possibility: that two quite separate universes are simply located in the vicinity of each other and of what, since September 12, 2001, we’ve been calling Ground Zero. Think of it as Ground Zero Doubled, or think of it as the militarized recent American past and the unknown, potentially inspiring American future occupying something like the same space. (You can, of course, come up with your own pairings, some far less optimistic.) In their present state, New York’s finest represent a local version of the way this country has been militarized to its bones in these last years and, since 9/11, transformed into a full-scale surveillance-intelligence-homeland-security state.

Their stakeout in Zuccotti Park is geared to extreme acts, suicide bombers, and terrorism, as well as to a conception of protest and opposition as alien and enemy-like. They are trying to herd, lock in, and possibly strangle a phenomenon that bears no relation to any of this. They are, that is, policing the wrong thing, which is why every act of pepper spraying or swing of the truncheon, every aggressive act (as in the recent eviction threat to “clean” the park) blows back on them and only increases the size and coverage of the movement.

Though much of the time they are just a few feet apart, the armed state backing that famed 1%, or Wall Street, and the unarmed protesters claiming the other 99% might as well be in two different times in two different universes connected by a Star-Trekkian wormhole and meeting only where pepper spray hits eyes.

Which means anyone visiting the Occupy Wall Street site is also watching a strange dance of phantoms. Still, we do know one thing. This massive semi-militarized force we continue to call “the police” will, in the coming years, only grow more so. After all, they know but one way to operate.

Right now, for instance, over crowds of protesters the police hover in helicopters with high-tech cameras and sensors, but in the future there can be little question that in the skies of cities like New York, the police will be operating advanced drone aircraft. Already, as TomDispatch regular Nick Turse indicates in his groundbreaking report, the U.S. military and the CIA are filling the global skies with missile-armed drones and the clamor for domestic drones is growing. The first attack on an American neighborhood, not one in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, or Libya, surely lurks somewhere in our future. Empires, after all, have a way of coming home to roost. Tom

America’s Secret Empire of Drone Bases
Its Full Extent Revealed for the First Time
By Nick Turse

They increasingly dot the planet. There’s a facility outside Las Vegas where “pilots” work in climate-controlled trailers, another at a dusty camp in Africa formerly used by the French Foreign Legion, a third at a big air base in Afghanistan where Air Force personnel sit in front of multiple computer screens, and a fourth at an air base in the United Arab Emirates that almost no one talks about.

And that leaves at least 56 more such facilities to mention in an expanding American empire of unmanned drone bases being set up worldwide. Despite frequent news reports on the drone assassination campaign launched in support of America’s ever-widening undeclared wars and a spate of stories on drone bases in Africa and the Middle East, most of these facilities have remained unnoted, uncounted, and remarkably anonymous — until now.

Run by the military, the Central Intelligence Agency, and their proxies, these bases — some little more than desolate airstrips, others sophisticated command and control centers filled with computer screens and high-tech electronic equipment — are the backbone of a new American robotic way of war. They are also the latest development in a long-evolving saga of American power projection abroad — in this case, remote-controlled strikes anywhere on the planet with a minimal foreign “footprint” and little accountability.

Using military documents, press accounts, and other open source information, an in-depth analysis by TomDispatch has identified at least 60 bases integral to U.S. military and CIA drone operations. There may, however, be more, since a cloak of secrecy about drone warfare leaves the full size and scope of these bases distinctly in the shadows.

A Galaxy of Bases

Over the last decade, the American use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has expanded exponentially, as has media coverage of their use. On September 21st, the Wall Street Journal reported that the military has deployed missile-armed MQ-9 Reaper drones on the “island nation of Seychelles to intensify attacks on al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Somalia.” A day earlier, a Washington Post piece also mentioned the same base on the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago, as well as one in the African nation of Djibouti, another under construction in Ethiopia, and a secret CIA airstrip being built for drones in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. (Some suspect it’s Saudi Arabia.)

Post journalists Greg Miller and Craig Whitlock reported that the “Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen.” Within days, the Post also reported that a drone from the new CIA base in that unidentified Middle Eastern country had carried out the assassination of radical al-Qaeda preacher and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

With the killing of al-Awlaki, the Obama Administration has expanded its armed drone campaign to no fewer than six countries, though the CIA, which killed al-Awlaki, refuses to officially acknowledge its drone assassination program. The Air Force is less coy about its drone operations, yet there are many aspects of those, too, that remain in the shadows. Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes recently told TomDispatch that, “for operational security reasons, we do not discuss worldwide operating locations of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, to include numbers of locations around the world.”

Still, those 60 military and CIA bases worldwide, directly connected to the drone program, tell us much about America’s war-making future. From command and control and piloting to maintenance and arming, these facilities perform key functions that allow drone campaigns to continue expanding, as they have for more than a decade. Other bases are already under construction or in the planning stages. When presented with our list of Air Force sites within America’s galaxy of drone bases, Lieutenant Colonel Haynes responded, “I have nothing further to add to what I’ve already said.”

Even in the face of government secrecy, however, much can be discovered. Here, then, for the record is a TomDispatch accounting of America’s drone bases in the United States and around the world.

The Near Abroad

News reports have frequently focused on Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas as ground zero in America’s military drone campaign. Sitting in darkened, air-conditioned rooms 7,500 miles from Afghanistan, drone pilots dressed in flight suits remotely control MQ-9 Reapers and their progenitors, the less heavily-armed MQ-1 Predators. Beside them, sensor operators manipulate the TV camera, infrared camera, and other high-tech sensors on board the plane. Their faces are lit up by digital displays showing video feeds from the battle zone. By squeezing a trigger on a joystick, one of those Air Force “pilots” can loose a Hellfire missile on a person half a world away.

While Creech gets the lion’s share of media attention — it even has its own drones on site — numerous other bases on U.S. soil have played critical roles in America’s drone wars. The same video-game-style warfare is carried out by U.S and British pilots not far away at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, the home of the Air Force’s 2nd Special Operations Squadron (SOS). According to a factsheet provided to TomDispatch by the Air Force, the 2nd SOS and its drone operators are scheduled to be relocated to the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida in the coming months.

Reapers or Predators are also being flown from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, March Air Reserve Base in California, Springfield Air National Guard Base in Ohio, Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Ellington Airport in Houston, Texas, the Air National Guard base in Fargo, North Dakota, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York. Recently, it was announced that Reapers flown by Hancock’s pilots would begin taking off on training missions from the Army’s Fort Drum, also in New York State.

Meanwhile, at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, according to a report by the New York Times, teams of camouflage-clad Air Force analysts sit in a secret intelligence and surveillance installation monitoring cell-phone intercepts, high-altitude photographs, and most notably, multiple screens of streaming live video from drones in Afghanistan. They call it “Death TV” and are constantly instant-messaging with and talking to commanders on the ground in order to supply them with real-time intelligence on enemy troop movements. Air Force analysts also closely monitor the battlefield from Air Force Special Operations Command in Florida and a facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.

CIA drone operators also reportedly pilot their aircraft from the Agency’s nearby Langley, Virginia headquarters. It was from here that analysts apparently watched footage of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, for example, thanks to video sent back by the RQ-170 Sentinel, an advanced drone nicknamed the “Beast of Kandahar.” According to Air Force documents, the Sentinel is flown from both Creech Air Force Base and Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Predators, Reapers, and Sentinels are just part of the story. At Beale Air Force Base in California, Air Force personnel pilot the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned drone used for long-range, high-altitude surveillance missions, some of them originating from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam (a staging ground for drone flights over Asia). Other Global Hawks are stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, while the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio manages the Global Hawk as well as the Predator and Reaper programs for the Air Force.

Other bases have been intimately involved in training drone operators, including Randolph Air Force Base in Texas and New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base, as is the Army’s Fort Huachuca in Arizona, which is home to “the world’s largest UAV training center,” according to a report by National Defense magazine. There, hundreds of employees of defense giant General Dynamics train military personnel to fly smaller tactical drones like the Hunter and the Shadow. The physical testing of drones goes on at adjoining Libby Army Airfield and “two UAV runways located approximately four miles west of Libby,” according to Global Security, an on-line clearinghouse for military information.

Additionally, small drone training for the Army is carried out at Fort Benning in Georgia while at Fort Rucker, Alabama — “the home of Army aviation” — the Unmanned Aircraft Systems program coordinates doctrine, strategy, and concepts pertaining to UAVs. Recently, Fort Benning also saw the early testing of true robotic drones — which fly without human guidance or a hand on any joystick. This, wrote the Washington Post, is considered the next step toward a future in which drones will “hunt, identify, and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans.”

The Army has also carried out UAV training exercises at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and, earlier this year, the Navy launched its X-47B, a next-generation semi-autonomous stealth drone, on its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California. That flying robot — designed to operate from the decks of aircraft carriers — has since been sent on to Maryland’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River for further testing. At nearby Webster Field, the Navy worked out kinks in its Fire Scout pilotless helicopter, which has also been tested at Fort Rucker and Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, as well as Florida’s Mayport Naval Station and Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The latter base was also where the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aerial system was developed. It is now based there and at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State.

Foreign Jewels in the Crown

The Navy is actively looking for a suitable site in the Western Pacific for a BAMS base, and is currently in talks with several Persian Gulf states about a site in the Middle East. It already has Global Hawks perched at its base in Sigonella, Italy.

The Air Force is now negotiating with Turkey to relocate some of the Predator drones still operating in Iraq to the giant air base at Incirlik next year. Many different UAVs have been based in Iraq since the American invasion of that country, including small tactical models like the Raven-B that troops launched by hand from Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Shadow UAVs that flew from Forward Operating Base Normandy in Baqubah Province, Predators operating out of Balad Airbase, miniature Desert Hawk drones launched from Tallil Air Base, and Scan Eagles based at Al Asad Air Base.

Elsewhere in the Greater Middle East, according to Aviation Week, the military is launching Global Hawks from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, piloted by personnel stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, to track “shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Arabian Sea.” There are unconfirmed reports that the CIA may be operating drones from the Emirates as well. In the past, other UAVs have apparently been flown from Kuwait’s Ali Al Salem Air Base and Al Jaber Air Base, as well as Seeb Air Base in Oman.

At Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the Air Force runs an air operations command and control facility, critical to the drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The new secret CIA base on the Arabian peninsula, used to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, may or may not be the airstrip in Saudi Arabia whose existence a senior U.S. military official recently confirmed to Fox News. In the past, the CIA has also operated UAVs out of Tuzel, Uzbekistan.

In neighboring Afghanistan, drones fly from many bases including Jalalabad Air Base, Kandahar Air Field, the air base at Bagram, Camp Leatherneck, Camp Dwyer, Combat Outpost Payne, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Edinburgh and FOB Delaram II, to name a few. Afghan bases are, however, more than just locations where drones take off and land.

It is a common misconception that U.S.-based operators are the only ones who “fly” America’s armed drones. In fact, in and around America’s war zones, UAVs begin and end their flights under the control of local “pilots.” Take Afghanistan’s massive Bagram Air Base. After performing preflight checks alongside a technician who focuses on the drone’s sensors, a local airman sits in front of a Dell computer tower and multiple monitors, two keyboards, a joystick, a throttle, a rollerball, a mouse, and various switches, overseeing the plane’s takeoff before handing it over to a stateside counterpart with a similar electronics set-up. After the mission is complete, the controls are transferred back to the local operators for the landing. Additionally, crews in Afghanistan perform general maintenance and repairs on the drones.

In the wake of a devastating suicide attack by an al-Qaeda double agent that killed CIA officers and contractors at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost in 2009, it came to light that the facility was heavily involved in target selection for drone strikes across the border in Pakistan. The drones themselves, as the Washington Post noted at the time, were “flown from separate bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Both the Air Force and the CIA have conducted operations in Pakistani air space, with some missions originating in Afghanistan and others from inside Pakistan. In 2006, images of what appear to be Predator drones stationed at Shamsi Air Base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province were found on Google Earth and later published. In 2009, the New York Times reported that operatives from Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater, had taken over the task of arming Predator drones at the CIA’s “hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Following the May Navy SEAL raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, that country’s leaders reportedly ordered the United States to leave Shamsi. The Obama administration evidently refused and word leaked out, according to the Washington Post, that the base was actually owned and sublet to the U.S. by the United Arab Emirates, which had built the airfield “as an arrival point for falconry and other hunting expeditions in Pakistan.”

The U.S. and Pakistani governments have since claimed that Shamsi is no longer being used for drone strikes. True or not, the U.S. evidently also uses other Pakistani bases for its drones, including possibly PAF Base Shahbaz, located near the city of Jacocobad, and another base located near Ghazi.

The New Scramble for Africa

Recently, the headline story, when it comes to the expansion of the empire of drone bases, has been Africa. For the last decade, the U.S. military has been operating out of Camp Lemonier, a former French Foreign Legion base in the tiny African nation of Djibouti. Not long after the attacks of September 11, 2001, it became a base for Predator drones and has since been used to conduct missions over neighboring Somalia.

For some time, rumors have also been circulating about a secret American base in Ethiopia. Recently, a U.S. official revealed to the Washington Post that discussions about a drone base there had been underway for up to four years, “but that plan was delayed because ‘the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.’” Now construction is evidently underway, if not complete.

Then, of course, there is that base on the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. A small fleet of Navy and Air Force drones began operating openly there in 2009 to track pirates in the region’s waters. Classified diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks, however, reveal that those drones have also secretly been used to carry out missions in Somalia. “Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport,” the Post reports, the base consists of three or four “Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.”

The U.S. has also recently sent four smaller tactical drones to the African nations of Uganda and Burundi for use by those countries’ militaries.

New and Old Empires

Even if the Pentagon budget were to begin to shrink, expansion of America’s empire of drone bases is a sure thing in the years to come. Drones are now the bedrock of Washington’s future military planning and — with counterinsurgency out of favor — the preferred way of carrying out wars abroad.

During the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, as the U.S. was building up its drone fleets, the country launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and carried out limited strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, using drones in at least four of those countries. In less than three years under President Obama, the U.S. has launched drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. It maintains that it has carte blanche to kill suspected enemies in any nation (or at least any nation in the global south).

According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office published earlier this year, “the Department of Defense plans to purchase about 730 new medium-sized and large unmanned aircraft systems” over the next decade. In practical terms, this means more drones like the Reaper.

Military officials told the Wall Street Journal that the Reaper “can fly 1,150 miles from base, conduct missions, and return home… [T]he time a drone can stay aloft depends on how heavily armed it is.” According to a drone operator training document obtained by TomDispatch, at maximum payload, meaning with 3,750 pounds worth of Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 or GBU-30 bombs on board, the Reaper can remain aloft for 16 to 20 hours.

Even a glance at a world map tells you that, if the U.S. is to carry out ever more drone strikes across the developing world, it will need more bases for its future UAVs. As an unnamed senior military official pointed out to a Washington Post reporter, speaking of all those new drone bases clustered around the Somali and Yemeni war zones, “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

Earlier this year, an analysis by TomDispatch determined that there are more than 1,000 U.S. military bases scattered across the globe — a shadowy base-world providing plenty of existing sites that can, and no doubt will, host drones. But facilities selected for a pre-drone world may not always prove optimal locations for America’s current and future undeclared wars and assassination campaigns. So further expansion in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia is a likelihood.

What are the Air Force’s plans in this regard? Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes was typically circumspect, saying, “We are constantly evaluating potential operating locations based on evolving mission needs.” If the last decade is any indication, those “needs” will only continue to grow.

Nick Turse is a historian, essayist, and investigative journalist. The associate editor of TomDispatch.com and a senior editor at Alternet.org, his latest book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books). This article marks another of Turse’s joint Alternet/TomDispatch investigative reports on U.S. national security policy and the American empire.

Copyright 2011 Nick Turse

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Posted by The Agonist on October 16th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Johnny Barber | Oct 16

War Is A Crime.org“All wars, whether just or unjust, disastrous or victorious, are waged against the child.” Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children, 1919.

In Kabul, the children are everywhere. You see them scrounging through trash. You see them doing manual labor in the auto body shops, the butchers, and the construction sites. They carry teapots and glasses from shop to shop. You see them moving through the snarled traffic swirling small pots of pungent incense, warding off evil spirits and trying to collect small change. They can be found sleeping in doorways or in the rubble of destroyed buildings. It is estimated that 70,000 children live on the streets of Kabul.

The big news story on CNN this morning is the excitement generated as hundreds of people line up to buy the newest iphone. I can’t stop thinking of the children sitting in the dirt of the refugee camp, or running down the path pushing old bicycle tires, or the young boy sitting next to his overflowing sacks of collected detritus. He has a deep infection on the corner of his mouth that looks terribly infected. These images contrast with an image of an old grandfather, dressed in a spotless all white shalwar kameez squatting on the sidewalk outside a huge iron gate, embracing his beautiful young grand daughter in a huge hug, each smiling broadly, one of the few moments of joy I have witnessed on the streets of Kabul.

In Afghanistan, one in five children die before their 5th birthday, (41% of the deaths occur in the first month of life). For the children who make it past the first month, many perish due to preventable and highly treatable conditions including diarrhea and pneumonia. Malnourishment affects 39% of the children, compared to 25% at the start of the U.S. invasion. 52% don’t have access to clean water. 94% of births are not registered. The children are afforded very little legal protection, especially girls, who are stilled banned from schools in many regions, used as collateral to settle debts, and married through arranged marriages as young as 10 years old. Though not currently an issue, HIV/AIDS looms as a catastrophic possibility as drug addiction increases significantly, even among women and children. Only 16% of women use modern contraception, and children on the streets are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. This is why the “State of the World’s Mothers” report issued in May 2011 by Save the Children ranked Afghanistan last, with only Somalia providing worse outcomes for their children. more at link

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Posted by The Agonist on October 13th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Kabul | Oct 12

USA TODAY – U.S. military investigators have concluded that the Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 30 U.S. troops in August was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade that hit the rear rotor, causing the aircraft to fall vertically to the ground and burst into flames.

The Aug. 6 crash was deadliest single incident for U.S. forces in the decade-long war and the Taliban claimed responsibility. No one survived the crash in Tangi Valley of Wardak province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul.

“A previously undetected group of suspected Taliban fighters fired two or three RPGs in rapid succession from the tower of a two-story mud brick building approximately 220 meters south” of the aircraft, said the official investigation report, issued Wednesday by the U.S. Central Command. “The first RPG missed the helicopter, but the second RPG struck one of the blades on the aft (rear) rotor assembly and exploded.”

The report said that after the rotor was hit, the helicopter spun violently and then crashed in a dry creek bed where it was engulfed in flames. The fire triggered several explosions of fuel and munitions.

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Posted by The Agonist on October 12th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

Julian Borger | Oct 12

The GuardianReport says kill-or-capture raids are not a surgical tactic as claimed and use of the word ‘leader’ is suspect

The success of one of Nato’s principal tactics against the Taliban – targeted night raids aimed at killing or capturing leaders of the insurgency – may have been exaggerated to make the military campaign in Afghanistan look more effective, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The study shows that for every “leader” killed in the raids, eight other people also died, although the raids were designed to be a precise weapon aimed at decapitating the Taliban on the battlefield by removing their commanders.

The report also notes that in briefings to the US media aggregate claims made for the number of Taliban leaders killed or detained over a given period were sometimes much greater than the numbers recorded in the daily press releases.

The report, by Kandahar-based researchers Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, for the Afghanistan Analysts Network, looked at the daily press releases published by the Nato-led International Stability Assistance Force (Isaf) to create a profile of the “kill-or-capture raids” from December 2009 to the end of September this year.

Strick van Linschoten also said Isaf’s definition of the word leader was “so broad as to be meaningless”. He said the words leader and “facilitator” were sometimes used interchangeably in the Isaf press releases, although facilitator could just be someone whose house an insurgent group was thought to have used. A previous study of night raids had found that many people classified as leaders captured in night raids had subsequently been released by Isaf.

“The use of the word ‘leader’ is intended to convey the impression that the masterminds of the Taliban are being taking off the battlefield. That’s a misrepresentation,” Strick van Linschoten said.

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Posted by Peace Action West on October 12th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

We’ve seen growing opposition to the war in Afghanistan in Congress this year, with record numbers of representatives and senators speaking out in favor of withdrawal. Many members of Congress used the 10th anniversary of the war to reiterate their call for a quicker withdrawal, showing that Congress is not going to keep quiet on this issue despite the president’s claims that he is winding down the war.

Here’s a roundup of just some of the strong statements that came out last week:

Rep. John Garamendi, in a Sacramento Bee op-ed:

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and as a representative of thousands of service members, military families and veterans, I am entrusted with weighing in on decisions that have a profound impact on the security of our nation, and on the men and women who risk their lives every day to ensure that security.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the longest war in America’s history, we believe it is time for Congress to ask some serious questions about our military engagement in Afghanistan.

Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum, a member of the Appropriations and Budget committees, said:

 

The people of Afghanistan and their leaders must be prepared to take on the task of providing security, governance, and economic opportunity for their own fellow citizens. I would like to see the 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan come home and new Afghan leadership building their own country’s future. Ten years is enough — it is time to end the war in Afghanistan.

 

Rep. Jackie Speier offered 10 reasons to bring our troops home from Afghanistan for the 10th anniversary:

 

1. Cost: Taxpayers have spent more than $454 billion on the war in Afghanistan. That is enough to pay for the president’s jobs plan.

2. Economy: Our economy is still struggling because of high unemployment. The $130 billion a year that has been spent on wars in the last decade could have created 936,000 education jobs, 780,000 health care jobs, and 364,000 construction jobs. The unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is 11.7 percent.

 

Montana Sen. Max Baucus, a member of the deficit super committee, honored his constituents who died in the war and called for bringing our troops home:

 

It is time to bring our troops home and turn our focus on investing in America, rather than nation building in Afghanistan. For ten years, our troops and their families have bravely shouldered the burden of military action in Afghanistan. Montanans have volunteered for service at greater rates than nearly anywhere else in the country. On this anniversary, may we honor the nine Montanans who have died in Afghanistan and offer our gratitude and ongoing support to the 50 Montana troops who have been wounded in the war.

 

The co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, issued a joint statement:

 

After ten years of war in Afghanistan, we must bring our troops home and reinvest in America. The economic and human costs in Afghanistan are far too high and we are crippling our ability to recover from a deep recession.”

The cost of this war and its share of the federal deficit continue to rise. Americans have invested $460 billion in Afghanistan, and day-to-day life in many regions has yet to improve. At the same time, more Americans live in poverty, desperately searching for a good job and a living wage. It’s time to stop taking the war for granted, think hard about our priorities, and bring our troops home.

Rep. Pete Stark laid out his opposition to the war on the Huffington Post:

 

Perhaps now that Washington is obsessed with deficit reduction, we will finally stop spending lives, money and diplomatic capital on senseless and immoral wars. There is no way to responsibly reduce the deficit without ending the war in Afghanistan.
We don’t want to commemorate an 11th anniversary in Afghanistan. For both moral and fiscal reasons, the U.S. must change course and set a clear exit strategy to ensure we bring our troops home.

 

New member Rep. Janice Hahn held a press conference at Arlington West, a memorial to fallen soldiers, and release a statement:

 

After ten years of struggle and sacrifice, we have successfully crippled Al Qaeda’s ability to attack the United States and finally put an end to Osama bin Laden. Now, it is time to end this war as well. We are simply losing too many lives and spending too many resources abroad. We cannot afford to spend $190 million on this war each day—over $444 billion dollars since the war began. We need to focus the talents of our young men and women on rebuilding America’s infrastructure and putting Americans back to work. I applaud the President for moving to bring our young people home by 2014, but I urge him to bring them home even quicker. Today, we need heroes at home as much as we’ve needed them in Afghanistan

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Posted by Peace Action West on October 11th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

In the next few weeks, the “super committee” will decide on a plan that could shape the federal budget for the next decade. We are mobilizing our supporters to contact the super committee and counteract the major push from the defense industry.

We sent the letter below to super committee members to clearly outline the balanced security budget Peace Action West’s supporters would like to see. You can tell the super committee that you support these priorities by clicking here.

On behalf of Peace Action West’s 50,000 supporters, I am writing to urge you to produce deficit reduction recommendations that make Americans more secure by balancing our security budget and preserving domestic programs that contribute to security and prosperity at home.

Reduce wasteful military spending

The base Pentagon budget has increased by more than 50% in the last decade. Pentagon spending, including Overseas Contingency Operations, accounted for 58% of the FY2011 discretionary budget. Any serious plan to reduce the deficit must address wasteful military spending, especially when that spending competes with funding for priorities such as healthcare, job creation, and education.

Our safety is not best measured in dollars spent, but rather in the strategy served by our budget. There is room for substantial reductions in military spending without detriment to US national security. This could include:

·      Reducing all DOD contracts by 10% and freezing hiring of civilian DOD employees

·      Bringing troops home from Europe and Asia and reducing ground forces to pre-9/11 levels

·      Eliminating unnecessary weapons systems such as the F-35, the MV-22 Osprey and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

·      Curtailing national missile defense

The Sustainable Defense Task Force report offers details on a potential $960 billion in savings over the next ten years.[i]

Military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan

US taxpayers have spent more than $1.2 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in direct costs.[ii]  The Eisenhower Study Group projects the long-term costs of the wars, including such costs as veterans’ care and interest payments, will reach $3.2-4 trillion.[iii] There have also been opportunity costs, such as lost jobs and lack of public investment in infrastructure. The macroeconomic impacts have also been significant; the average homebuyer paid an additional $600 in mortgage payments last year because of the increase in interest rates due to borrowing money for the wars.[iv]

The administration is reportedly considering keeping 3-10,000 troops in Iraq beyond the agreed-upon withdrawal deadline. The current plan for Afghanistan leaves nearly 70,000 troops on the ground in the fall of 2012, with no clear end date for withdrawal. With fewer than 100 Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, there is no longer a compelling national security rationale for maintaining a massive military presence in Afghanistan. The raid that apprehended Osama bin Laden demonstrates that policing and intelligence are much more effective approaches to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism.[v] There are several plans available with recommendations for reduced troop levels.[vi] Accelerating withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan would save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Reducing spending on nuclear weapons

With the Cold War over and a national security strategy that decreases reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States cannot afford to spend $700 billion over the next decade on nuclear weapons programs.[vii] In a 21st century security environment, nuclear weapons are more of a liability than an asset; funding for weapons and delivery systems competes with more effective security priorities such as nonproliferation. Cuts could include:

·      Stopping construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement Facility in New Mexico, saving $3-5 billion

·      Delaying the New Long Range Penetrating Bomber, saving $3.7 billion

·      Rightsizing the ballistic missile submarine fleet to eight boats, saving $27 billion over ten years

·      Canceling the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Plant, saving an estimated $4 billion

Avoiding disproportionate cuts to the international affairs budget

The international affairs budget accounts for only 1% of the federal budget, yet it has faced disproportionate cuts in the current budget battle, bearing nearly 20% of all discretionary funding cuts in FY2011. These cuts are even more devastating after years of neglect that have weakened our civilian engagement tools. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pointed out, the entire Foreign Service does not include enough people to staff one aircraft carrier.

These programs are essential to preventing costly military intervention, promoting stability and saving lives around the globe. Shortsighted cuts in international affairs funding would further the imbalance in our current security budget and could have detrimental impacts on US engagement and security in the future.

Peace Action West’s supporters strongly urge the super committee to develop a deficit reduction plan that reflects a smart security budget as outlined above. Feel free to contact me for more details on any of these proposals.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Griffin

Political Director

Peace Action West

[i] http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1006SDTFreport.pdf

[ii] http://costofwar.com/en/

[iii] http://costsofwar.org/article/economic-cost-summary

[iv] http://costsofwar.org/article/macroeconomic-impact-military-spending

[v] http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9351/index1.html

[vi] http://www.democracyarsenal.org/2011/06/the-afghan-troop-number-game.html

[vii] http://ploughshares.org/sites/default/files/resources/What%20We%20Spend%20on%20Nuclear%20Weapons%20092811.pdf

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Posted by The Agonist on October 7th, 2011

From our partners at The Agonist

WINNING!

** Survey: Vets say Afghanistan, Iraq wars not worth it

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Posted by Peace Action West on October 7th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

Two new documentaries that offer important insight into the experience of soldiers in Afghanistan are making the rounds.

“Where Soldiers Come From” tells the story of childhood friends from a small town in Michigan and how their lives change after they are all deployed to Afghanistan. The New York Times called the film “quietly devastating.” Watch the trailer below, and find out if it’s playing near you here. 

In “Hell and Back Again,” photojournalist Danfung Dennis shows the devastating impact of a machine-gun bullet on Nathan Harris, a 25-year-old sergeant. The film won the grand jury prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Watch the trailer below, and find screenings here.



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Posted by Peace Action West on October 6th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

To mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, we have been collecting photo stories from around the country showing how people’s lives have changed over the decade the US has been at war. This series will feature some of those stories. You can see a slideshow of the stories and share your own here.

 

My name is Sean Alexander. Born in Martinez, CA, raised mostly in Pittsburg, CA. I remember growing up in the small town of Pittsburg with the hopes of taking my baseball talents beyond amateur to the MLB. Only 11 years old ten years ago, I was MVP of my Little League baseball team. Now, ten years since the war began I’m fighting for my moral dignity that is to lay down my arms and stand for peace.

 

 

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Posted by Peace Action West on October 6th, 2011

From our partners at Peace Action West

To mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, we have been collecting photo stories from around the country showing how people’s lives have changed over the decade the US has been at war. This series will feature some of those stories. You can see a slideshow of the stories and share your own here.

If you ask any person in the world what the past ten years have meant to them, they might start reminiscing on the simple life changes that occurred, probably moved out of that small apartment in the city and living now in a suburban house, or upgraded that car or happy that their son moved out of the house and went off to college. But to an Iraqi and an Afghani these past ten years have meant more than that. I speak for myself, the Iraqi, and I would share that looking back at the beginning of these the past ten years it meant living in the fear of war coming next to us from Afghanistan and soon enough my fears became true. Then I grew fearful of the shadows that will cloud Iraq’s skies after the war, and that happened as well. After that I lived the biggest transition of my life where I had to leave my home and move on to another country just so I can survive from the claws of war and since then the world never seemed the same to me. My status has changed from being a teenager looking forward to graduating from high school and going to college into a refugee waiting in limbo wondering where the wind of conflict will sail me this time. Will it be in another refuge? Or am I going to a home that I no longer know?

It may seem abstract how the past ten years affected the world, but there are people out there like myself, whose lives were changed completely because of an unfair war, a war that was waged on the premise of peace but brought nothing but tears, destruction and cruel men staring at the seats of power like hungry beasts.

Farah Muhsin is an Assistant Representative with the Iraqi Student Project.

 

 

 

 

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