“Asian Tigers,” Like All “Islamist” Outfits, Wants the Same Thing America Wants, War In N. Waziristan

Peshawar, May.1 (ANI): The audacious step taken by extremists to kill former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) official Squadron Leader Khalid Khwaja, who was kidnapped from North Waziristan in March, shows that they are prepared to counter any offensive which Pakistani security forces might initiate to crush them.
According to observers, Khwaja’s murder was primarily aimed at forcing the government to accept their demands of releasing some of the top Afghan Taliban commanders, including second-in command Mullah Ghani Baradar and Mansoor Dadullah.

“That they have taken this extreme step shows that they are ready for the consequences, which could eventually include a major military operation in North Waziristan,” The Daily Times quoted a vocal supporter of the extremists, as saying.

He said that the Asian Tigers, the group which had claimed to have kidnapped Khwaja along with his former colleague Colonel Sultan Amir Tarar, commonly known as Colonel Imam, and British journalist Assad Qureshi, actually wants the Pakistani forces to launch an offensive in North Waziristan also.

“They would like North Waziristan to become embroiled in this battle and the Pakistan Army to be engaged in a wider battlefield. They are mostly outsiders and include the Punjabi Taliban and Mehsud fighters of the TTP evicted from South Waziristan as a result of the Pakistan Army operations there,” he said.

It is also believed that the day the Asian Tigers released a video tape showing Khwaja admitting to have been spying for the Central Investigation Agency (CIA), it was evident that he would e eliminated by the terror group. (ANI)

‘Asian Tigers’ kill Khalid Khwaja on expiry of deadline

‘Asian Tigers’ kill Khalid Khwaja on expiry of deadline


By Mushtaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: The mysterious and until now unknown militant organisation, the Asian Tigers, executed former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official Khalid Khwaja near Mir Ali town in North Waziristan on Friday after holding him hostage for more than a month.

“We decided to kill Khalid Khwaja as the deadline we had given for our demands expired on Friday. The ISI and the government did not take our demands seriously,” said a spokesman for the Asian Tigers in an e-mail sent to this scribe soon after the killing of the elderly Khwaja.

Squadron Leader (retd) Khalid Khwaja, Colonel (retd) Sultan Amir Tarar, commonly known as Col Imam, and documentary maker Asad Qureshi, had gone to North Waziristan on March 26 to make a documentary about the Taliban. They suddenly disappeared and nothing was heard of them until the Asian Tigers claimed responsibility of their kidnapping.

The Asian Tigers, which is believed to be run by a group of Punjabi Taliban and Mehsud militants, had accused Khwaja of working for the ISI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US.

Tribal sources in Mir Ali, the second largest town of North Waziristan after its regional headquarters Miramshah, said villagers were offering the Friday prayers when firing was heard in Karamkot village, five kilometres west of the main Mir Ali-Miramshah Road.

Villagers said they came out of the mosque and saw the bullet-riddled body of an elderly person lying on a small road of Karamkot village. “We did not know about this old man but he was looking graceful. Someone had just shot him dead. He was shot in the head and chest and was still bleeding when we reached there,” said Muhammad Israr, a shopkeeper in Mir Ali Bazaar. He said he was among the few people who had reached there first and saw the body.

Some villagers said they saw armed people reaching there in a car and firing at the bearded man with AK-47assault rifles.

His assailants had placed a computer-generated letter on his body, alleging he was killed for his association with the ISI and CIA and his negative role in the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa military operation in Islamabad.

Terrified tribesmen did not want to take any risk by shifting the body to a proper place. By evening, the once powerful and now toothless political administration sent a Jirga of elders and some low-level government officials to collect the body of the former ISI officer.

The Jirga, which was holding white flags, later took possession of the body and shifted it to the military camp in Mir Ali.

Muhammad Omar, a spokesman for Taliban Media Centre that is believed to be operated by the Punjabi Taliban, called this scribe saying the other two men, Colonel Imam and Asad Qureshi, might meet the same fate if the government did not consider the demands of the Asian Tigers seriously.

He claimed all major militant organisations operating in the region had a unanimous opinion about punishing Khwaja. “Everybody wanted him to be executed as he had confessed of all charges against him,” explained Omar who spoke in Urdu.

He claimed that Khwaja and Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz, the former MMA MNA from Karak, during their previous visit to North Waziristan had brought a list of 14 senior Taliban commanders, majority of them Punjabis associated with the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and told the TTP leaders, Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rahman that they were getting financial assistance from the Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

Omar even mentioned names of militant commanders identified as Indian agents by Khwaja and said among them were Qari Zafar, Rana Afzal, Ustad Abdul Samad, Qari Ehsan, Qari Basit, Ustad Aslam, Yasin, Qari Assadullah, Qari Imran, Qari Hamza, Ustad Khalid, Abu Huzaifa, Matiur Rahman and Qari Hussain Ahmad Mehsud. The last-named is considered to be the master trainer of suicide bombers.

Omar narrated a long list of allegations against Khwaja. He said one of the main causes of his death was his support to the Afghan Taliban and strong opposition to the Pakistani Taliban. “He would call us terrorists and refer to the Afghan Taliban as Mujahideen,” Omar recalled.

In the recent videos released by the Asian Tigers, Colonel Imam had claimed that he had come to North Waziristan on the advice of former Army chief General (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg while Khwaja said he had gone there on the advice of former ISI chief Lieutenant General (retd) Hameed Gul, General (retd) Aslam Beg and Colonel Sajjad of the ISI.

Meanwhile, senior Afghan Taliban commanders, who were negotiating with the Asian Tigers through two senior Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders from Orakzai Agency, said the group comprised 30-40 people, Punjabi and Mehsud, all expelled from their respective groups — the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the TTP.

They said the two TTP leaders had held a meeting with members of Asian Tigers about their demands. The group, they said, told the TTP leaders that they would inform them about the demands within two days. The Taliban commanders said the group was supposed to convey them the demands on Saturday but they killed Khalid Khwaja without any reason.

The Taliban felt someone very powerful was behind the group as despite having limited number of fighters, it was freely moving in the region. “The group is run by Usman Punjabi and Sabir Mehsud — both were expelled from their respective organisations,” the Taliban commander said, wishing not to be named.

Obama takes direct aim at anti-government rhetoric

[You can call him "Barry," but don't you call him "fascist."]

Obama takes direct aim at anti-government rhetoric

By PETE YOST and MARK S. SMITH (AP) – 1 hour ago

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — President Barack Obama took aim Saturday at the angry rhetoric of those who denigrate government as “inherently bad” and said their off-base line of attack ignores the fact that in a democracy, “government is us.”

Obama used his commencement speech at the University of Michigan to respond to foes who portray government as oppressive and tyrannical. He also appealed for a more civil political debate and advised graduates to seek out and consider alternative views on the issues of the day, even if it makes their “blood boil.”

Just 45 miles from the immense Michigan Stadium, capacity of 106,201, 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin held court in Clarkston, tearing into Obama’s policies at a forum hosted by the anti-tax Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

The president told students and others in the audience — the school stopping giving out tickets once 80,000 were distributed — that debates about the size and role of government are as old as the republic itself.

“But it troubles me when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad,” said Obama, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree. “For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us.”

Obama didn’t mention Palin in the speech, according to remarks the White House released in advance, nor was there any reference to the tea party movement. Palin, a potential Obama opponent in 2012, told activists that “big government” led by Obama’s White House has become “intrusive” in Americans’ lives.

In Obama’s view, there are some things that only government can do.

Government, he said, is the roads we drive on and the speed limits that keep us safe. It’s the men and women in the military, the inspectors in our mines, the pioneering researchers in public universities.

The financial meltdown dramatically showed the dangers of too little government, he said, “when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy.”

Obama told both sides in the political debate to tone it down. “Phrases like ‘socialist’ and ‘Soviet-style takeover,’ ‘fascist’ and ‘right-wing nut’ may grab headlines,” he said. But such language “closes the door to the possibility of compromise.”

That kind of passion isn’t new, he acknowledged. Politics in America, he said, “has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. … If you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up.”

Obama hoped the graduates hearing his words can avoid cynicism and brush off the overheated noise of politics. In fact, he said, they should seek out opposing views.

His advice: If you’re a regular Glenn Beck listener, then check out the Huffington Post sometimes. If you read The New York Times editorial page the morning, then glance every now and then at The Wall Street Journal.

“It may make your blood boil. Your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship,” he said.

The speech was part of a busy weekend for the president. He planned to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday evening near the White House and visit the Gulf Coast on Sunday morning for a firsthand update on the massive oil spill.

Obama’s helicopter landed on a grass practice football field next to the stadium on a damp, overcast day. It was biggest crowd that the president had addressed since his inauguration.

The president’s appearance in Michigan — a battleground in the 2008 White House race that’s likely to play a big role in the fall congressional campaign — comes as the state struggles with the nation’s highest unemployment rate, 14.1 percent. It’s also has an unhappy electorate to match.

In the Republican’s weekly radio and Internet address, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich, said Obama’s visit was a chance “to show the president, firsthand, the painful plight of the people of Michigan.” Many of the graduates Obama addresses will soon learn how tough it is to find a job in this economy, Hoekstra said, adding that the share of young Americans out of work is the highest it’s been in more than 50 years.

Speaking before Obama was Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who’s known to be on his short list of possible Supreme Court nominees. She said Michigan residents owe him thanks for “delivering on health care reform” and “for supporting our auto industry. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, they all have bright futures now, where a year ago, much darker clouds than these loomed overhead.”

Obama’s speech was the first of four he is giving this commencement season.

On May 9, he’ll speak at Hampton University, a historically black college in Hampton, Va., founded in 1868 on the grounds of a former plantation.

He’s also addressing Army cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on May 22, continuing a tradition of presidents addressing graduates at the service academies. He announced his Afghanistan troop surge at West Post last December.

Also this year, for the first time, Obama plans a high school commencement. It’s part of his “Race to the Top” education initiative, with its goal of boosting the United States’ lagging graduation rate to the world’s best by 2020.

High schools across the country have competed for the honor, submitting essays and videos. A vote on the White House website yielded three finalists, and Obama will choose among them next week.

Smith reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing and Corey Williams in Clarkston contributed to this report.

A Russian-Uzbek challenge to the US

[We must very near to "zero hour" in the great game.  (That is the point in the geo-strategic competition where the cost of continuing is higher than anything to be gained from any possible outcome, comparable to the so-called "point of no return" in an international airplane flight over water.)  Events have been changing so rapidly, beginning with the Taliban arrests, then events in Kyrgyzstan, Poland and Abkhazia, that we can say fairly confidently that some very big changes are in the works, or at least planned.  These changes are on the scale of the Russia/Georgian conflict of 2008.  If Putin hadn't then outmoved Brzezinski's raiders, we would be playing in a different game, even now.  Whatever happens next will take place very quickly, to deflect new SCO initiatives next month which could seriously complicate matters for Washington.]

A Russian-Uzbek challenge to the US

by M. K. Bhadrakumar *

An earlier article published by Voltaire Network, which analyzed the situation in Kyrgyzstan when it was still in turmoil, entertained the possibility that Washington might have had a hand in the events leading to the overthrow of its former lackey. As can be seen below, the Manas military base is clearly not the sole U.S. interest in Kyrgyzstan and developments show that while Washington is beaming at Roza Otunbayeva’s interim Government, Russia and other neighbouring countries are increasingly taking a much dimmer view.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and Uzbek President Islam Karimov (C) meet to discuss the situation in Kyrgyzstan in Moscow’s Kremlin on April 20, 2010.

Reports have appeared in the Russian media doubting the pedigree of the revolution in Kyrgyzstan. Moscow seems to be edging away from the interim administration head, Roza Otunbayeva, a former Kyrgyz ambassador to London and Washington.

The reports hint at covert United States backing for the uprising in Bishkek. They claim a drug mafia incited the latest regime change in Bishkek with covert US support – “the geostrategic interests of the US and the international narco-mafia happily merged … It was only logical to use the services of narco-barons to overthrow [former president Kurmanbek] Bakiyev, who demanded from the US more and more payments for his loyalty”.

A Russian commentator told Ekho Moscow radio, “The revolution in Kyrgyzstan was organized by the drug business.” Kyrgyzstan is a hub of drug trafficking. The acreage of poppy cultivation in Kyrgyzstan has exponentially increased and is comparable today to Afghanistan.

There have been reports in the Russian (and Chinese) press linking the US base in Manas with drug barons. Iranian intelligence captured the Jundallah terrorist leader, Abdulmalik Rigi, when he was traveling in a Kyrgyz aircraft en route to an alleged rendez-vous in Manas.

The Russian media leaks enjoy some degree of official blessing. They highlight circumstantial evidence questioning the nature of the revolt in Bishkek. Meanwhile, the influential think-tank Stratfor has rushed the interpretation alleging a Russian hand. Between these claims and counter-claims, Moscow seems to be veering to the assessment that Washington has benefited from Otunbayeva’s political consolidation in Bishkek.

As a Russian commentator put it, “There are further indications that Moscow is cautious about the new Kyrgyz administration … The truth is that there are no 100% pro-Russian politicians in Kyrgyzstan’s interim government … and quite a few of them are definitely associated with the West.”

Indeed, Otunbayeva told the Washington Post and Newsweekthat the US lease on the Manas air base would be extended “automatically” and that “we will continue with such long-term relations” with the US.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia Robert Blake said in Bishkek after two days of consultations with Otunbayeva that her leadership offered “a unique and historic opportunity to create a democracy that could be a model for Central Asia and the wide region”.

http://www.voltairenet.org/IMG/jpg/roza2.jpg

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake and Kyrgyz interim government leader Roza Otunbayeva attend a news conference in Bishkek April 14, 2010. The United States said it was prepared to help Kyrgyzstan’s new rulers, putting pressure on ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who hinted he may go into exile.

Blake hailed the regime change in Bishkek as a “democratic transition” and promised US aid to “find quick ways to improve the economic and social situation”.

The sporadic attacks on ethnic Russians in Kyrgyzstan (estimated to number 700,000) have also set alarm bells ringing in Moscow. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the military to take necessary measures. A Kremlin spokesman said these would include increased security for “Russian interests” in Kyrgyzstan.

Moscow seems unsure whether the attacks on the Russians are isolated incidents. An overall slide toward anarchy is palpable with armed gangs taking the law into their hands and the clans in southern Kyrgyzstan rooting for Bakiyev’s reinstatement. At any rate, Medvedev manifestly changed tack on Tuesday after talks with visiting Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov. He clearly distanced Russia from identifying with Otunbayeva’s interim government. Medvedev said:

Essentially, we need to revive the state, the state does not exist at this time, it has been deposed. We are hoping that the interim administration will make all the necessary measures to achieve that, as anarchy will have a negative effect on the interests of the Kyrgyz people and also their neighbors. Legitimization of the authorities is extremely important, which means there need to be elections, not a de facto fulfillment of powers. Only in this case can [Russia’s] economic cooperation be developed.

Russia has extended humanitarian assistance to Kyrgyzstan, but full-fledged economic cooperation will be possible only after the proper institutions of power have been created. Uzbekistan’s president shares this view.”

The joint Russian-Uzbek stance challenged the interim government not to regard itself as a legally constituted administration, no matter Washington’s robust backing for it.

Clearly, Moscow and Tashkent are pushing Otunbayeva to not make any major policy decisions (such as over the US Manas base). She should instead focus on ordering fresh elections that form a newly elected government.

Otunbayeva had indicated her preference for far-reaching constitutional reforms to be worked out first that would transform Kyrgyzstan into a parliamentary democracy from the current presidential system of government. Moscow sees this as a ploy by the interim government to postpone elections and cling onto power with US backing.

Meanwhile, Bakiyev, who fled to Kazakhstan last weekend, has since shifted to Belarus. It is unclear whether Minsk acted on its own to give asylum to Bakiyev. Soon after reaching Minsk, Bakiyev announced that he hadn’t yet resigned from office. “There is no power which will make me resign from the presidential post. Kyrgyzstan will not be anyone’s colony,” he said. Bakiyev called on world leaders not to recognize Otunbayeva’s government.

Bakiyev’s stance puts Washington in a bind. The US got along splendidly with Bakiyev and it is getting into stride equally splendidly with Otunbayeva. But it has no means of persuading Bakiyev to agree to a lawful, orderly transition of power to Otunbayeva.

Nor can Washington politically underwrite Otunbayeva’s government if its legitimacy is doubted in the region (and within Kyrgyzstan itself). Besides, Otunbayeva is not acquitting herself well in stemming the country’s slide toward clan struggle, fragmentation and anarchy.

During his two-day visit to Moscow, Karimov made it clear that Tashkent took a dim view of the regime change in Bishkek.

Using strong language, Karimov said, “There is a serious danger that what’s happening in Kyrgyzstan will take on a permanent character. The illusion is created that it’s easy to overthrow any lawfully elected government.” He warned that instability in Kyrgyzstan may “infect” other Central Asian states.

Russia and Uzbekistan have found it expedient to join hands. Medvedev stressed that his talks with Karimov in Moscow were “trusting and engaging with regard to all aspects of our bilateral relations, international and regional affairs”. Karimov reciprocated, “Uzbekistan sees Russia as a reliable, trusted partner, which shows that Russia plays a critical role in ensuring peace and stability throughout the world, but in Central Asia in particular.”

“Our viewpoints coincided completely,” Karimov asserted. He added, “What is going on today in Kyrgyzstan is in nobody’s interests – and above all, it is not in the interests of countries bordering Kyrgyzstan.”

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also underscored the regional alignment. “Uzbekistan is the key country in Central Asia. We have special relations with Uzbekistan,” he said.

Conceivably, Russia and Uzbekistan will now expect the Kyrgyz developments to be brought onto the agenda of the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is scheduled to take place in Tashkent in June.

A semi-official Russian commentary said, “The summit may help to work out mechanisms to ensure security in the country and in the whole region.” The SCO secretary general (who is based in Beijing) visited Bishkek last week and met Otunbayeva.

Washington faces a potential diplomatic headache here. It needs to ensure the forthcoming SCO summit doesn’t becomes a replay of the 2005 summit, which questioned the raison d’etre of the American military presence in Central Asia.

If Washington forces the pace of the great game, a backlash may ensue, which could snowball into calls for the eviction of the US from the Manas base, as some influential sections of Kyrgyz opinion are already demanding.

If that were to happen, the big question would be whether Otunbayeva would be able to get the American chestnuts out of the fire. Hailing from the southern city of Osh but having lived her adult life in the capital, which is dominated by northern clans, she lacks a social or political base and is at a disadvantage.

The geopolitical reality is that Kyrgyzstan has to harmonize with the interests of the regional powers – Russia and Uzbekistan in particular – as should the US, in the larger interests of regional stability. The fact remains that Russian and Uzbek (and Kazakh) influence within Kyrgyz society and politics remains preponderant. And China too has legitimate interests.

The Kremlin will not fall into the same bear trap twice. In Georgia under somewhat similar circumstances the US took generous help from Russia in the stormy winter of 2003 to clear the debris of the “Rose” revolution and “stabilize” the ground situation before promptly installing Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been a thorn in the flesh for Moscow ever since.

 M. K. Bhadrakumar
Ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey

France implicated in Hariri murder case

France implicated in Hariri murder case

Mohammed Zuheir Siddiq, key witness in Hariri’s murder case
A witness who gave false testimony in the case of the murder of the former Lebanese premier says France had provided him with a forged passport to help him get away with perjury.

A report by the Volatairenet website said that France had provided Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq — the key witness in the case of Rafiq Hariri’s murder — with a forged passport to grant him immunity from prosecution.

The report came amid accusations by the US and Israel against Syria and Hezbollah, claiming that traces of their involvement were found in Hariri’s assassination in 2005.

According to the report, a UN probe committee headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis had relied on the testimony given by Siddiq, who claimed to be a former senior Syrian intelligence official.

In his testimony, Siddiq had accused the Syrian and Lebanese presidents of masterminding the murder. He also accused seven Syrian and four Lebanese generals of organizing the assassination.

After presenting his testimony, Siddiq took refuge in the Spanish property of Rifaat al-Assad, who is the pro-US uncle of incumbent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Siddiq was then offered support by the French General Directorate for External Security (DGSE).

While being under the protection of DGSE, the French police department eavesdropped on his telephone calls and found out that Siddiq had lied to the tribunal tasked with probing Hariri’s murder case that he was a senior Syrian official.

It was later reported in Lebanese media that Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt had paid him to commit perjury.

In their defense, Hariri and Jumblatt denied paying for perjury, but admitted to having encouraged Siddiq to testify, believing he was sincere.

Siddiq was then arrested in France under an international arrest warrant issued by the Lebanese judiciary but was later released with Paris refusing to extradite him to Lebanon.

He was living in Paris for a while but later vanished into thin air in March 2008. The French government did not provide any explanation on the issue.

Siddiq was then traced in the UAE, where he was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison for carrying a forged Czech passport.

After being released from prison in the UAE, Siddiq told reporters that he received his passport from the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to escape Lebanese justice.

Hariri was Lebanon’s most prominent politician since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. He was killed in a massive truck bombing that set off a spiral of political turmoil in Lebanon.

US Military Escalates Its Dirty War In Afghanistan

US Military Escalates Its Dirty War In Afghanistan

…a secret area of a prison facility at Bagram Air Base is being used to subject detainees to beatings, sleep deprivation and psychological stress, as part of an interrogation regime

By James Cogan

Afghans protest killings by US troops
Afghan protesters shout anti-American slogans during a protest in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, April 12, 2010. International troops opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan civilians early Monday, killing four people and setting off anti-American protests in a southern city that is a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency. (Photo: AP)

The New York Times reported Sunday that American special forces units are operating in and around the Afghan city of Kandahar, assassinating or capturing alleged leaders and militants of the Taliban resistance ahead of the major US-NATO offensive scheduled for June.

Suggestive of the sinister and murderous character of such operations, the Times noted that the “opening salvos of the offensive are being carried out in the shadows”. It reported that “elite” units had been “picking up or picking off insurgent leaders” for the past several weeks.

A “senior American military officer” boasted that “large numbers of [the] insurgent leadership based in and around Kandahar have been captured or killed”, but that it was “still a contested battle space.”

The Times reported that “more than a dozen military and civilian officials directly involved in the Kandahar offensive” had agreed to speak about the special forces’ activities because it would help “scare off insurgents” before the bulk of American troops move into Taliban-held areas of the city. This claim is either patent nonsense or deliberate deception. The Taliban do not require an article in the American media to inform them that “large numbers” of their fighters are being killed or captured.

The real motive for the article is to introduce the audience of the New York Times and broader public opinion to the reality of the dirty war that the Obama administration is presiding over in Afghanistan. Assassination, or alternatively, detention without trial under the harshest conditions, is the preferred method of the US military to suppress resistance to the neo-colonial agenda of US imperialism.

The commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is applying the same tactics that he used during the Bush administration’s “surge” in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when he was serving under General David Petraeus as the head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

A teacher from the area, Mohammed Sharif, told the New York Times, “People are fed up with these night raids and wilful operations. They are raiding houses during the night, killing innocent people. Sometimes they kill opposition people as well, but usually they are harming ordinary and innocent people.”

WSWS.org, Apr. 29, 2010

JSOC units are drawn from the Army’s Delta Force and Ranger battalions, the Navy Seals and specialized units of the Air Force. Regular Marine and Army battalions were used during the battles for Karbala, Najaf and Fallujah in 2004. The Iraq “surge” was marked by the use of JSOC, aided by local collaborators, to kill or capture suspected insurgents ahead of the deployment of larger formations into resistance-held areas.

The secretive mass killings and stories of brutal imprisonment generated terror in urban centers like Ramadi, Baqubah, Mosul, Basra, Amarah and the suburbs of Baghdad. It is credited by sections of the US military as playing an equally decisive role in subduing resistance as the parallel policy of bribing insurgents to cease fighting in exchange for amnesty and cash.

The coming assault on Kandahar is the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan to shatter the Afghan insurgency and finally impose American control over the country. Kandahar and the neighboring province of Helmand have been the main support bases of the Taliban movement since the mid-1990s. Large swathes of both provinces have remained under its influence since the US invasion in 2001. The majority of the predominantly ethnic Pashtun population is virulently opposed to the presence of foreign forces. They do not accept the authority of the thoroughly corrupt Afghan puppet government headed by President Hamid Karzai.

The bulk of the 30,000 additional troops ordered to Afghanistan this year by Obama are being deployed to either Kandahar or Helmand. Reflecting the views of the White House and the Pentagon, the New York Times referred to the coming operation as a “make-or-break offensive”.

Thousands of troops have been positioned to cut off the possibility of reinforcements to or escape from Kandahar. According to the Times’ sources, American units have established “several dozen” positions guarding the roads in and out of the city. A 12,000-strong US, British and Canadian force and 10,000 Afghan government soldiers will eventually be involved in the assault.

Before they are moved in, however, JSOC’s death squads have been unleashed.

An unnamed US official told the Los Angeles Times last month that a number of JSOC’s units had been transferred to Afghanistan under the Obama administration because “hunting season is over in Iraq”. According to the LA Times’ sources, JSOC currently has 5,800 personnel at its disposal in Afghanistan—double the number used during the Iraq surge. They are conducting assassination or snatch missions across the country, assisted by Special Forces units from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and some NATO states.

There is no concrete figure as to how many alleged insurgents have been assassinated in Kandahar or elsewhere in Afghanistan. JSOC operations take place under the cloak of total censorship. Nor does the US military provide any details as to the criteria used by JSOC to determine its choice of victims. It is not known, for example, if the killings are limited to armed combatants, or extends to anyone who provides political or material support to the insurgency. There is also no accountability as to how the identity of targets is verified, given that most operations take place in the dead of night, or over how many civilians are being killed or injured in the process.

There is a litany of recorded cases in which non-combatants were massacred during operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the most recent example, raids last Friday and Saturday night on alleged Taliban in the eastern Afghan province of Logar resulted in the death of the local school principal and religious leader. The killing provoked an eruption of anger. A crowd of Afghans surrounded and set ablaze a column of 12 trucks carrying fuel to a nearby NATO base.

A teacher from the area, Mohammed Sharif, told the New York Times, “People are fed up with these night raids and wilful operations. They are raiding houses during the night, killing innocent people. Sometimes they kill opposition people as well, but usually they are harming ordinary and innocent people.”

Alleged insurgents who are detained disappear into various US and Afghan government-run prisons. The British Broadcasting Corporation reported on April 15 that a secret area of a prison facility at Bagram Air Base is being used to subject detainees to beatings, sleep deprivation and psychological stress, as part of an interrogation regime. The allegations were based on interviews or signed statements by nine former inmates. The charges were predictably denied by the US military.

JSOC also works closely with the CIA’s “Special Activities Division”, which is particularly involved in the assassination of alleged Afghan and Pakistani Taliban militants in the remote tribal agencies of North West Pakistan. The main method currently used for the killings is Hellfire missiles launched from remotely flown Predator drones. According to the Pakistani military, such strikes have slaughtered well over 700 innocent civilians since Obama took office, fueling support in the border region for the anti-occupation insurgency. On the weekend, two more Predator attacks were carried out in the agency of North Waziristan, killing at least 12 people.

An article in Monday’s New York Times detailed the latest innovations of the CIA to carry out its remote-controlled assassinations. They include the coffee-cup-sized, 35-pound “Small Smart Weapon” that can be “fitted with four different guidance systems that allow it to home in on targets as small as a single person in complete darkness” and a “small thermobaric warhead, which detonates a cocktail of explosive powders on impact to create a pressure wave that kills humans but leaves structures relatively intact”.

Justified in 2001 as a “war on terrorism”, the Afghan occupation has always been an attempt to impose US dominance over a strategic area of Central Asia. The only change in the conduct of the war from the Bush to the Obama White Houses has been the escalation of the number of troops involved and the greater use of a secretive apparatus of assassins to carry out the murderous repression of the Afghan people.

Revenge Rapes In Northern Afghanistan

“In My Father’s House They Gathered All the Women into One Room”

Visiting the victims of Afghanistan’s revenge rapes.

BY ANNA BADKHEN

Balkh

Kampirak, Amir Jan, and Qulyambo

O, daughters of Balkh! Your unrivaled beauty is the stuff of legends. One of your own has enchanted Alexander the Great with her pulchritude. And the violence you have suffered under the breast-shaped clay roofs of your Baktrian homes is unspeakable, unspoken, and unpunished.

In late 2001, after helping kick the Taliban out of northern Afghanistan, two militias allied with the United States raped and plundered their way through your villages. One was the ethnic Uzbek militia of General Abdul Rashid Dostum; the other was made up of ethnic Hazara followers of the warlord Muhammad Mohaqiq. They killed your men, slaughtered and stole your livestock, pillaged your homes, and violated your sisters, mothers, and daughters. Some of them took the time to explain why they had picked you as their victims: Because you are Pashtun, the ethnic group that made up most of the Taliban.

They were victorious; they were in the mood to avenge the rapes and massacres Taliban fighters had committed against their own wives, sisters and daughters. In the evolution of warfare, swords replaced javelins and guns replaced swords — but rape has remained just as efficient a weapon as it was when the Achaemenid armies lay waste to this land, 2,600 years ago. You, daughters of Balkh, were the latest targets of the latest revenge cycle that swept through your country. Wheat in your fields has shuddered at the anguished screams of generations of your foremothers.

Eight years ago, four Pashtun women told me of their assailants, three fighters from Dostum’s militia, Junbish-e-Milli-e-Islami who took turn raping them all night. Technically, only one of them, Nazu, was a woman; her daughters were 10, 12, and 14. The youngest, Bibi Amina, was playing with the fringe of the giant red scarf that covered her head and smiling. It seemed to me that she had not understood what had been done to her. The local police chief, an ethnic Tajik, said at the time that his men were too few, and too poorly armed, to hunt down the assailants. He was waiting for reinforcements.

Years passed; the militiamen who ravaged the Pashtun villages in Balkh remained free. Their warlords became government ministers; their lower-ranking commanders received posts in parliament; many of the rank-and-file fighters joined the police and thearmy. Their victims stopped talking about the crimes they had endured: Rape in Afghanistan carries a mark of unutterable disgrace.

Under their breast-shaped roofs – perfect hemispheres that face the limpid clay sky and virescent fields of wheat — the women grieve quietly, and alone. They knead their tragedies into the golden sundials of nan they bake in smoky tandoor ovens in their impoverished courtyards; they weave them into the oil-black braids of their young, beautiful daughters; they immure them into the crumbling house walls they mend with fistfuls of straw and mud. When they do speak of those terrible days after the Taliban fell, they equivocate.

“They touched all the women and the teenage girls,” one widow, whose cheeks and forehead are dotted with deep-blue marks of tribal tattoos, whispers to me in the corner of her dust-choked house.

“They dragged us out of our homes. Women and girls are ashamed to talk about what happened then,” says another, modestly covering her face with a tatteredscarf the color of ripe wheat.

In my father’s house they gathered all the women in one room,” says the third. Her amber eyes bore through me. “We will never forgive these crimes. Until we die.”

Last month, the Afghan government confirmed that it had signed into force the National Stability and Reconciliation Law — and what a tragic misnomer that is. The law effectively amnesties all warlords and fighters responsible for large-scale human rights abuses in the preceding decades. “Their view,” says Farid Mutaqi, a human rights worker in Mazar-e-Sharif, “is that justice should be the victim of peace.”

You know what this means, daughters of Balkh: This means your rapes will never be punished. Perhaps, in some future iteration of war that has been rolling back and forth through these green wheat fields almost incessantly for millennia, they will be avenged — through some other rapes, of some other women.