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Archive for July, 2012

Posted by Just Foreign Policy on July 16th, 2012

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

Congressional offices will be paying special attention to phone calls coming in this week on the Defense Appropriations bill, so call your Representative today! Here’s what you do:

  1. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s office.
  2. Tell the person who picks up or your Rep’s voice mailbox, “Hello, my name is _______, I live at _______. I urge Rep _______ to support amendments to the Defense Appropriations bill that would cut the Pentagon budget, end the war in Afghanistan, and draw down US troop levels in Europe.”

Amendments expected to cut the military budget include:

  • Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Barney Frank (D-MA) amendment to cut $1.1 billion (a freeze at FY12 levels) from the military budget;
  • An amendment to cut $7 billion to align the bill to spending caps under the Budget Control Act;
  • Barbara Lee amendment to cut $19 billion, corresponding to program cuts proposed by Project on Defense Alternatives and the Cato Institute.

Amendments expected to end or curtail the war in Afghanistan include:

  • Barbara Lee amendment to cut all funding for the war except for what is needed for a safe and responsible drawdown;
  • Walter Jones and Rosa DeLauro amendment preventing the use of funds past 2014 in support of any mission that does not have explicit Congressional approval.

And when you’re done, report your call below.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 15th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The shape of things to come.

Chora tribal elder Nik Mohammed, who is the district’s former public works director, said the shooting happened in daytime, very soon after the Australian arrived by helicopter into the remote district. He said it was suspected the local Afghan army unit responsible for providing security in the district had been in contact with the Taliban and had previously negotiated some form of truce.

Mr Mohammed said in the past three months, there had been no attacks on the local Afghan soldiers and their vehicles had not been targeted by roadside bombs, while those of the police and foreign forces were still being targeted.

The Taliban had ”great power in the district”. ”There is some sort of connection between the Taliban and the soldiers,” he said.

”Not a single vehicle of the ANA [Afghan National Army] has been blown up and there are some people in the army that may have some sympathy for the Taliban. They tip off the Taliban before operations,” he said.

It’s not as if this is the first time such local truces have been reported and these kinds of deals will proliferate as ISAF pulls out. Whether the final withdrawal is in 2014 or 2024 makes no difference (indeed, a withdrawal in 2003 or 2007 would have met the same results). The Afghan army and police are going to fracture and Kabul will return to being an island where the government’s fragile remit only mostly holds, surrounded by a sea of chaos – just as it was in the years between the Russian withdrawal and the Taliban’s final victory. Over a decade of blood and treasure just to hit “replay”.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 13th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

July 13

BBC – A prominent female Afghan politician has been killed in a bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

Hanifa Safi died after a bomb attached to her car exploded as she left her home in Laghman province. Her husband and daughter were injured.

As the provincial head of the Afghan ministry of women’s affairs, Mrs Safi had for years been a leading advocate of fair treatment for women.

She had been known locally for going out without her head covered.

That was against the conservative interpretation of Islam practised by many in Afghanistan, and might have brought her to the attention of the Taliban, the BBC’s David Loyn in Kabul reports.

However, no group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Posted by DownWithTyranny on July 13th, 2012

From our partners at DownWithTyranny!

If House Dems take back control, they’ll have to contemplate the difference between Dracula & Frankenstein

Next Speaker Sweepstakes

One of my favorite congressmembers came over for dinner the other night. Very concerned about all the human garbage lining up to follow Pelosi as Speaker if Dems take back House and she shortens her stay in Congress. Fortunately Steve Israel is so thoroughly disliked by so many Members that he’d have no chance & in the epic battle between Mothra and Godzilla, my dining companion would vote for Wasserman-Schultz, not because there’s any unawareness of the character issues but because, “If Hoyer were Speaker, nothing would ever get accomplished. He would feed everything we want to do through the lobbyists and nothing worthwhile would ever come out the other end.” Nice! At a live chat at Crooks and Liars Tuesday, Raúl Grijalva suggested a more palatable option: Xavier Becerra (D-CA).

Stuff Happens In Other Countries Too– Even Beyond the Eurozone

I’m lucky I went to see the 2 gigantic standing Buddhas of Bamian when I was in Afghanistan in 1969. One was built in 507 AD, the other a few decades later. In 2001 the Taliban had them dynamited because they were an affront to their primitive religious prejudices. More recently, I’ve been writing on my travel blog about how the primitive Tuaregs from the Sahara have swept into Timbuktu and found thousand year old monuments to Sufi saints– a different sect of the Muslim religion than their own– to be an affront… so they blew them up. And it gets worse every day.

Islamic extremists destroyed another two mausoleums in the northern Malian city of Timbuktu on Tuesday, attacking a graveyard attached to the city’s most picturesque mosque, according to a historian specializing in the area’s heritage.

Salem Ould Elhadj, a researcher at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu, said the members of the radical sect set out with picks and shovels to raze the tombs of two of Timbuktu’s scholars, Baba Babadje and Mahamane Foulane, both of whom are considered saints.

Their mausoleums are in a cemetery attached to the nearly 700-year-old Djingareyber mosque, built in 1325. It’s made of mud and resembles a ziggurat and is one of the most recognizable symbols of the fabled city, often reproduced on postcards.

Both the mosque and the tombs are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Ansar Dine, the sect which seized control of northern Mali last month, says they do not recognize any international law, only the law of the Quran. Spokesman Oumar Ould Hamaha said that they have “divine orders” to destroy any grave that is more than 20 centimeters (7.87 inches) tall because anything taller encourages people to orient their prayer toward the deceased rather than toward God.

What’s next? The Pyramids? Apparently, yes.

According to several reports in the Arabic media, prominent Muslim clerics have begun to call for the demolition of Egypt’s Great Pyramids– or, in the words of Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi‘i, those “symbols of paganism,” which Egypt’s Salafi party has long planned to cover with wax. Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids and accomplish what the Sahabi Amr bin al-As could not.”

This is a reference to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Amr bin al-As and his Arabian tribesmen, who invaded and conquered Egypt circa 641. Under al-As and subsequent Muslim rule, many Egyptian antiquities were destroyed as relics of infidelity.  While most Western academics argue otherwise, according to early Muslim writers, the great Library of Alexandria itself– deemed a repository of pagan knowledge contradicting the Koran– was destroyed under bin al-As’s reign and in compliance with Caliph Omar’s command.

Maine… Good For The Gays?

A friend in Maine told me to ignore polling that shows most Mainers would vote in favor of gay marriage now. “We just tell that to the pollsters because we don’t want to sound like rednecks and bigots. We have enough to be embarrassed about here with LePage spouting off again”

“Governor Romney, you are so white you make white bread look like pumpernickel.”

Romney got what he wanted– material for an ad to run in the Old Confederacy of him being booed at the NAACP Convention:

Ever wonder what it looks like when the GOP racist brain trust gets together to strategize with Willard about “The Blacks?” (And yes, Romney has always had a screwed up relationship with the NAACP.)

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UPDATE: Looks Like The Pyramids Are Safe After All

The “call” to destroy the Pyramids seems to be a hoax. Something didn’t smell right to me about it and this morning I read it’s a rumor being perpetrated by right-wing bloggers and Muslim-haters.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 12th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

SOF numbers in Afghanistan will go up, not down, after 2014, and they’ll be there until at least 2017 – which was always the plan no matter what the spin from the White House says.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 11th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Put this one under “unconfirmed” till we see the whites of somebody’s eyes:

‘Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, helped scupper the Taliban’s talks with the US because he resented being left out of negotiations.’

One of the Taliban’s most senior commanders has admitted the insurgents cannot win the war in Afghanistan and that capturing Kabul is “a very distant prospect”, obliging them to seek a settlement with other political forces in the country.

In a startlingly frank interview in Thursday’s New Statesman, the commander – described as a Taliban veteran, a confidant of the leadership, and a former Guantánamo inmate – also uses the strongest language yet from a senior figure to distance the Afghan rebels from al-Qaida.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 9th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

For a few years now we’ve been treated to regular reports of mass poisonings at girl’s schools in Afghanistan affecting hundreds of girls, always blamed on the Taliban, which have been bolstered by the confessions of supposed Taliban conspirators aired on Afghan TV. But as Mattheiu Aikens details there have never been any toxins found in any tests, the affected girls don’t show the classic signs of poisoning and those confessions – including those of two teen girls – were gained by physical abuse and psychological torture. Even Afghan medics think the symptoms are those of “mass psychogenic illness.”, psychological in nature, and the standard treatments of the affected girls include saline drips and placebo packets of sugar and vitamins.

Seema Gul’s mother managed to smuggle in a cellphone, hidden in her infant daughter’s diaper, and she surreptitiously used it to record the schoolgirl’s account of her interrogation. The girl wept as she told how her interrogator bullied her into making a false confession. “She took my hair and slapped my face,” the girl says in the recording. She tells of the interrogator slamming her head against a table and stomping on her foot with high heels. The abuse left marks that were visible the next day, the family says. The interrogator promised far worse, Seema Gul told them. “She said: ‘I’ll bring the Americans. You’re a small girl. I’ll put them on you, and they’ll rape you.’”

Seema Gul finally broke down and confessed in the face of her interrogator’s threats and promises. “She told me: ‘Even if you haven’t done this, say a lie, and I’ll release you and take you home. I’ve released many other girls and helped them,’” the girl says on the recording. “My head was spinning. I don’t know what I said.” Human-rights officials who have interviewed Seema Gul and Shukria in jail say both girls have made similar allegations of abuse, and they say the stories sound credible.

… “They [Afghan politicians and bureaucrats] went beyond the pale, using schoolgirls,” said one international official familiar with the case. “My fear is that if they get away with this, they’ll keep using the poisonings issue all over the country. It’s brilliant politics, really.”

There’s no denying that it’s effective politics. Despite Taliban leaders’ vehement denials of any school poisonings, some Taliban fighters in the province are said to believe the videotaped confessions and consider themselves disgraced. “They’re saying, ‘We’ve lost our name because of this,’” a village elder says.

This is only a foretaste of what’s to come, though. Afghanistan after the bulk of ISAF troops withdraw is gfoing to get nasty very quickly and the elite in power will milk their propaganda connections to the West for all they are worth. That’s not to say we should stay, however. The mess was and is going to happen no matter how quickly we leave or how long we stay.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 7th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Emma Graham-Harrison | Kabul | July 6

The GuardianVideo released on internet appears to show US helicopter crew singing before blasting Afghans with a missile.

A video has surfaced online that appears to show a US helicopter crew singing “Bye-bye Miss American Pie” before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile.

The footage comes in the wake of a string of damaging videos and pictures showing US forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead insurgents, and posing with the remains of suicide bombers and civilians killed for sport by a group of rogue soldiers.

If it is proved to be authentic, it could further undermine the image of foreign forces in a country where there is already deep resentment owing to civilian deaths and a perception among many Afghans that US troops lack respect for Afghan culture and people.

The posting says the video was recorded in Wardak province, which lies south-west of the capital, Kabul, in September 2009. The caption refers sarcastically to a group of “innocent farmers planting poppy seeds in the middle of the road”.

Men spotted digging in Afghan roads by the US or other foreign forces are likely to fall under suspicion that they are insurgents burying home-made bombs, one of the Taliban’s main weapons.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 4th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Yet more “green on blue” shootings by Afghan security forces on their Western mentors.

An Afghan soldier shot and wounded five U.S. soldiers late Tuesday at a base in eastern Afghanistan in what is the latest in a series of “green on blue” attacks by local forces on their coalition counterparts.

Tuesday’s attack comes after three British troops were shot dead Sunday in southern Helmand province by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform. Afghan security forces will be responsible for defending their country when coalition troops withdraw by the end of 2014, and the incidents raise questions about their reliability.

…Twenty-six coalition soldiers have been killed in 19 “green on blue” attacks this year. Last year, 35 were killed in 21 incidents, according to coalition figures. ISAF claims most attacks are carried out not by Taliban infiltrators but by Afghans who are frustrated with the behavior of their Western counterparts.

There were exactly three cases of this kind of thing in Iraq in seven years of occupation. That these attacks are happening in ever accelerating numbers shouldn’t just make us question ANSF reliability. The people responsible for Afghanistan’s security are increasingly looking up, deciding our occupying troops are a real threat, and taking matters into their own hands. That should make us question the whole “saving Afghans” narrative we in the West have lived with for the last decade. I have a suspicion that Afghans are the best placed to decide who their country needs saving from.

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Posted by The Agonist on July 3rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

The U.S. finally buckled to the inevitable and issued an apology to Pakistan for killing twenty-four of its troops in a Nato airstrike last year. Pakistan has reciprocated and re-opened the key supply lines into Afghanistan which had been closed for seven months – without charging any additional transit fees.

The seven month logjam was always in both nations’ interests to break – The U.S. and it’s allies need those logistic routes for withdrawal now, far more than for resupply, and Pakistan was facing the cut-off of all U.S. aid if it didn’t re-open them. But still, the first face-saving step had to come from America and one has to wonder why it took seven long months before it was taken. What a way to run a war. Was there an actual reason, one that makes some kind of rational sense, rather than simple bullish intransigence? Perhaps the thought was that if an apology was issued too early then it would only encourage Pakistan, the very definition of a dodgy ally, to increase its demands and be more pushy knowing it had the U.S. over a logistic barrel. We haven’t heard any particular strategy explained by U.S. officials, though, so one is left with the distinct impression it was sheer bloody obstinacy – which would be especially stupid given that it’s obvious to anyone that Pakistan really does have the U.S. and NATO over a logistical barrel. Unless those routes stay open, there is no way on earth a withdrawal of the bulk of NATO forces from Afghanistan happens in 2014 without descending into a chaotic, very publicly embarassing, clusterfuck. Pakistan’s generals can figure that out as easily as anyone else.

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