[We are witnesses to an epic failure of imagination. The public diplomats at the Dept. of Mind-Twisting can no imagine new creative ways to trick us into believing the major bullshit that they have always been feeding us. The great sound, like a train wreck crashing all around us, is the sound of reality catching-up with the bull-shitters.]
President Barack Obama today unveiled a self-fulfilling Afghanistan war assessment devoid of any substantial feedback from native Afghans and one wholly disconnected from the objective reality of retrogressing conditions on the ground.
Driven by the ambiguous objective of “dismantling” Al Qaeda, the review fell short of adequately addressing two key reasons U.S. efforts will likely fail – the corruption and illegitimacy of President Hamid Karzai’s government and insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan. In addition, physical security has been deteriorating throughout the country despite the administration’s claims to the contrary.
Obama underlined in the diagnostic, summarized on the White House website, that the overarching goal remains defeating Al Qaeda and preventing the region from threatening U.S. security interests in the future.
However, it is widely-held that Al Qaeda has a limited presence in the area and is much more of a threat in countries like Yemen, thus if that is truly the war’s premise it might be fair to conclude: AfPak mission accomplished!
But to most Afghans it seems like our obvious goal is defeating the Taliban – not Al Qaeda – and according to a recent poll a majority of Afghans in the South perceive the war to be an onslaught against Pashtuns while some even believe it’s an attack on Islam.
Matthew Hoh, former State department civilian officer and Director of the Afghanistan Study Group, recently explained why Obama’s rationale for war defies commonsense. Hoh described Al Qaeda as a virtual network of individuals spread out across the globe – a terrorist franchise lacking any of the characteristics common to a formal military organization that could be vanquished via conventional means.
The previous 10-year history of Al Qaeda’s attacks, such as the recent parcel bombs FedExed from Yemen, illustrate the terrorist group’s small-cell, decentralized and individualistic orientation.
Hence, Al Qaeda will not be “disrupted, dismantled and defeated” or affected in the least by the presence of brigade combat teams occupying Southern Afghanistan. It’s illogical to defend against an enemy scattered across dozens of countries by bogging down most of our military resources in one.
Hoh argued that 9 years ago 19 men hijacked four airplanes, yet here we futilely sit in Afghanistan 109 months later with 100,000 troops spending over $100 billion a year in a misguided effort against a movement that is fighting an occupation – not one with designs on transnational jihad.
Obama alleged troop withdrawal will begin in July with the dubious caveat that the scale of said extraction will be contingent upon “conditions on the ground”; meaning one might see a mass troop exodus or the U.S. could potentially be quagmired in Afghanistan until the end times.
Not to mention, at the recent Lisbon conference at the end of November the U.S. outlined a plan to keep forces in Afghanistan until 2014, clearly exposing the obfuscating pretense of a July, 2011 target as nothing more than a laughable political ruse.
The document also unconvincingly claimed that the regime of President Hamid Karzai was committed to increasing transparency, reducing corruption and improving “national and sub-national governance” while the U.S. “supported and focused investments in infrastructure that would give the Afghan government and people the tools to build and sustain a future of stability.”
Yet there is little evidence the Karzai administration has the will or capacity to change its praetorian ways, as the Afghan President continually abuses power and interferes in the prosecution of reprobate government officials while still being perceived by the population as a U.S. puppet who has seized and retains power through patent electoral chicanery.
Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali, with his stranglehold on Kandahar, a province that is the birthplace and spiritual cradle of the Taliban and one he runs like a mob boss, is single-handedly fueling the insurgency according to countless credible tribal sources.
WikiLeaks cables revealed that U.S. officials in Afghanistan and individuals within Karzai’s own cabinet have characterized the leader as paranoid, erratic and corrupt. Juan Cole, another member of the Afghanistan Study Group, rightly wondered why soldiers in the Afghanistan National Army would be willing to risk their lives for such an untrustworthy figure.
It should ignite the outrage of all Americans that our troops are sacrificing themselves in a self-defeating effort on behalf of a government that is a destabilizing force and is the leading factor for the growth of the Taliban movement especially in the last five years.
As written in a New World Strategies Coalition white paper, if it is true, as French army officer and counterinsurgency theorist Roger Trinquier put it, that “the sine qua non of victory in modern warfare is the unconditional support of a population”, and if the U.S. wholeheartedly believes in the most basic precepts of COIN strategy – then Karzai’s very existence as head of state is irreconcilable with capturing Afghan hearts and minds.
Not only is NATO struggling militarily but it’s losing on the development and humanitarian aid fronts as well, due to billions being misspent on wasteful projects, according to Patrick Cockburn, as dollars invested have simply fed a corrupt patronage system while relief workers are getting killed at a record clip.
The recently deceased U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, once pointed out that “our [U.S.] presence is the corrupting force” in Afghanistan as contractors paid by the US government have been paying off the Taliban.
According to Bob Woodward, Holbrooke said that Obama’s 30,000 troop surge in December 2009 would not work. Per The Washington Post, Holbrooke’s last words to his Pakistani doctor were: “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”
The review also indicated that the U.S. and Pakistan have “strengthened their relationship” but that strengthening has not led Pakistan to do a thing about militant safe havens in places like North Waziristan and Quetta that inflict havoc upon U.S. operations on the Afghan side of the border.
WikiLeaks reports revealed that U.S. officials believe, supported by U.S. intelligence reports, that no amount of aid will incentivize Pakistan to shift its obsessive focus from India.
And intel assessments have also validated that Pakistan’s intelligence services have continued its covert support for the Afghan Taliban in defiance of U.S. demands and despite Pakistan being the recipient of billions in U.S. aid earmarked for rooting out these insurgents.
General David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and war supporters like Peter Mansoor and Max Boot have been adamantly proclaiming military “progress” has been made against the insurgency and have personally witnessed how the population has been made more secure, which makes one wonder what color the sky is in their world.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), an organization which has an up-close-and-personal view of casualties on a daily basis and rarely makes public statements, reported that levels of violence are at the highest they’ve been in 30 years.
2010 alone has been the bloodiest year of the war with nearly 700 foreign troops being killed. Yet civilians have borne the brunt of the casualties. According to the UN, 1,271 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, a 21% increase versus the same period in 2009.
The ICRC has also reported a spike in the number of wounded patients admitted to the main hospital in southern Kandahar which has attended to more than 2,650 patients with weapons-related injuries in 2010 compared to 2,110 in 2009.
Where is the evidence of this so-called progress and what data exists that would lead any rational individual to conclude that Afghanistan is any more secure than it was since the overthrow of the Taliban?
Until something is done about the Karzai government and militant safe havens in Pakistan “conditions on the ground” shall never likely meet U.S. standards to justify a withdrawal of any material proportion.
Furthur, Obama’s report was based on data collated by Petraeus and company with close to zero indigenous input, accounting for its delusional outlook.
Obama advisors are correct in their assertion that the review was not “prescriptive” in nature, but then again how could such an assessment ever produce any meaningful recommendations considering it was derived from skewed perspectives and fantasy?
No analysis on earth akin to the White House’s rubberstamp of Petraeus’s policies will ever lead to coherent solutions, especially one oblivious to certain particulars called facts – regardless the level of inconvenience they might pose to U.S. chimerical aspirations.
(Michael Hughes is a journalist and foreign policy strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), a think tank founded by Afghan natives focused on developing political, economic and cultural solutions for Afghanistan. Mr. Hughes writes regularly for The Huffington Post and his work has appeared in CNN.com and Ruse the magazine. Michael graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in History).
NOTE:This is a cross post.
In issuing its findings of fact and conclusions of law ACMA found that Al Manar did not violate Australian law, and was free to broadcast in the country
Franklin Lamb’s Saturday Mideast Report –- Al Manar
Australia’s Parliament and main stream media may not differ all that much from other western countries when it comes to chronic groveling to its Zionist lobby. But like citizens in many countries, Australians sometimes courageously exhibit admirable independence and respect for their society’s own values.
On December 10, 2010, whether by design or coincidence, International Human Rights Day, Australia’s Communication and Media Authority (ACMA ) released its much anticipated decision on whether to ban Lebanon’s Al Manar TV channel from being broadcast down under via the Indonesian PT Indosat satellite ( Palapa D) that was launched on 12/27/09. As in the US, which does ban Al Manar, the popular stations programming would, even if banned, still be available via internet live streaming.
Al Manar (“ the Beacon”), affiliated with the Lebanese political party, social service organization and resistance movement Hezbollah, has been the target of an intensive Israel ordered international media assault for several years. Silvan Shalom, former Israeli Foreign Minister, at a 2004 Herzliya Convention, outlined his governments policy succinctly: “The Israeli Foreign Ministry intends to work actively to have Al Manar banned in other countries around the globe. It is Israel’s intention to bring the seriousness of Al-Manar’s broadcasts to the attention of the international community and to convince them to prevent Al-Manar from operating in as many countries as possible.”
The Arabic-language station, started in 1991, has twice been banned in Australia, but was cleared by ACMA (Australia’s Communication and Media Authority) in 2009 and now again in 2010.
How ACMA arrived at its decision
To its credit, Australia’s media watchdog agency took its work seriously and more than once resisted being railroaded by ‘Israel first’ groups. ACMA’s mandate was to address community concerns by aiming to prevent the broadcast of programs that directly attempt to recruit people, or solicit funds, for listed terrorist organizations.
Specifically ACMA wanted to know if Al Manar, via its programming, “directly recruited persons to join, or participate in, the activities of a listed terrorist organization; or solicited for or assisted in the collection or provision of funds for a listed terrorist organization.”
To determine this, ACMA translated, watched and carefully analyzed popular Al Manar program including the following:
Date of broadcast Program Description 26 December 2009 8th day of Ashura Speech given by the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. 25 December 2009 7th day of Ashura Speech given by the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. 15 December 2009 Advertisement Donation for al-Emdad charity. 15 December 2009 Interstitial Our Dignity is Attributed to Martyrdom. Message to resistance fighters. 15 December 2009 Interstitial Martyr memorial of Jihad Malek Hammoud. 1 December 2009 Manifesto speech We Want Lebanon Strong and United. Speech given by the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. 17 November 2009 Drama program Syrian-produced drama series. 15 November 2009 Current affairs Youth. Presenter discusses social networking sites with viewers. 15 November 2009 Current affairs Ma’a Al Mushahideen (With the Viewer). Presenter discusses the war in Yemen with viewers. 5 March 2009 Children’s program What is it? Children explaining their illustrations. 28 February 2009 Current affairs With the Event. Presenter discusses Islamic and Christian Holy sites with guest.
In issuing its findings of fact and conclusions of law ACMA found that Al Manar did not violate Australian law, and was free to broadcast in the country, ACMA did however, issue a caveat regarding two of the above listed programs, With the Event and With the Viewer.
A majority of the ACMA board felt With the Viewers, on 15 November 2009, was in breach of clause 1.2 of the ACMA codes, and felt the program was not presented fairly. The ACMA also found the broadcast of the current affairs program, With the Event, on 28 February 2009, was in breach of clause 1.3 of the codes, as the program might gratuitously vilify a group on the basis of ethnicity and religion. However, ACMA still issued a clean bill of health to Al Manar.
A minority on the ACMA board felt that Al Manar should not be held responsible for any code breaches with these two particular episodes because the ACMA survey of Al Manar programming makes clear that Al Manar presenters and program moderators routinely introduce programs objectively and try to moderate objectionable demeanor from their guests or viewers. Moreover, they pointed out that the With the Viewers and With the Event programs feature live audience participation. With the Viewers, one of the most popular shows in the Middle East, features people calling in to express their opinions on certain issues and current events. During With the Viewers, the presenter will cut calls that cross the ethical, religious, lines. Defamation is not allowed no matter who or what views are being discussed. For example, Palestinian refugees might call in to talk about their sufferings from the occupation and sometimes passions rise. All in all, With the Viewers and With the Event are thought by some ACMA analysts to be rather tame compared to certain American and Israeli programs where racist slurs and ethnic incitements are more common.
In fact, Al Manar has sometimes been criticized for being ‘too tame’ in its wish to be a family oriented station while avoiding controversy. This observer was disappointed with Al Manar when on August 13, 2010 it pulled the widely praised and award winning series, “The Christ” (Al-sayid al-masih) by famed Iranian Director Nader Talebzadeh because of some murmurs of criticism from certain Christian politicians. The story line shows the Muslim point of view of Jesus and brilliantly presents his life as a prophet. Al Manar said it took the action “in respect of some sensitivities and to avoid any attempt for negative exploitation.” However, they said, the series “reflects, with full honor and glorification, of Jesus’ life, picture, role, pain and sacrifices.”
What the ACMA decision means beyond Al Manar’s clean bill of health
Sometimes the symbolism of an event exceeds the significance of the specific act itself. Few freedom of speech and objective media and journalism advocates are not praising Australia’s stance in rejecting politically motivated assaults on broadcasting which is essentially all that the ACMA-Al Manar case represented.
In response, those crusading against Al Manar have issued their boiler plate objections including implying Australian anti-Semitism, ACMA incompetence and growing and dangerous Muslim influence.
Mark Leibler, AIJAC ‘s national chairman, said his organization was ” outraged that ACMA ignored evidence that ads of a particular charity, al-Emdad were shown on Al Manar. Claiming this was a breach of Australia’s anti-terrorism standards”.
The council’s executive director, Colin Rubenstein, urged ACMA, despite its findings, to ban the TV station ” because it is associated with Hezbollah, which itself is Terrorist listed by the federal government. Rubenstein added “Al-Manar’s raison d’etre is to radicalize Muslims around the world, including in Australia, to support Hezbollah’s terrorist methods and goals. AIJAC believes any media organization owned and/or operated by any banned terrorist organization should also be banned in Australia.”
Outside College Hall on the campus of the American University of Beirut, some students were discussing the ACMA decision. One young man from Egypt explained, “All Hezbollah has ever asked from those who may be wary of the Party for some reason or another is to keep an open mind. Sit with us, dialogue with us, give us a fair hearing on the facts as you see them. This is all Hezbollah or any party has the right to ask. Australia, to its great credit did just that. I have never met an Australian but I think they must be very fair minded people.”
One political consequence of ACMA ruling may be to kill H.R. 2278, Florida Congressman Gus Bilirakas’ “Terror TV” bill that AIPAC told him would target Al Manar and Hamas’ TV station Al Aqsa, but it turns out would affect more than 64 Arab and Muslim satellite channels in 24 countries. The bill is currently in John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will likely never get out. “ It’s a goofy bill, we don’t need the problems it would cause especially given the near universal condemnation it received from every government in the Middle East”, one of Kerry’s aides explained.
Meanwhile, Australian’s Zionist lobby received a triple painful dose of disappointment from the Grinch who stole Hankakah this year when in addition to the ACMA shock, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced that his government would be tripling its contributions to, one of AIJAC’s long pursued targets for dismantlement, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by providing AUD 18 million over the coming three years.
As if that were not enough holiday season punishment, AIJAC’s Reubenstein ruminated about the fact that Secret cables from the US embassy in Canberra, provided exclusively to the Sydney Morning Herald by fellow Australian Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, reveal that some Australian officials do not share the US-Israel assessment that Iran is a “rogue state”. Australian intelligence agencies, much like the CIA and other western intelligence, actually see Iran’s nuclear program as a strategy to deter foreign attacks, implying a possible positive aspect to Iran’s work in the nuclear field.
AIJAC, while not giving up trying to close Al Manar in Australia, is now planning a geographical shift of its crusade, for the time being. The executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim, on 12/11/10 called on Canberra to demand that the Indonesian government immediately cancel the PT Indosat satellite with Al Manar “and finally grasp the true nature of the station, particularly the danger al-Manar poses vis-a-vis the radicalization of Indonesian Muslims”.
What Israel and its international lobby appear concerned with, and not without some basis, given the potential penumbral effects of ACMA’s ruling and what it means for the rest of the US-Israel politically inspired terrorism lists.
The American justice system is obviously not perfect. But to quote Julian Assange’s on his release from Wandsworth’s Victorian era prison on 12/16/10 with respect to Britain, “If justice is not always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet.” In addition to what ACMA’s administrative agency and quasi judicial findings did for broadcasting rights and free journalism, lawyers in America are hoping to do for many individuals unjustly targeted with various T-listings. There are many egregious cases that have never been judicially reviewed since the Plaintiffs are abroad. Some are extreme cases including one where children are T listed from traveling to the US to visit loved ones, as is the case with one former Minister in Lebanon’s government and a leading political figure who has never been charged with terrorism and is not affiliated with Hezbollah or any other US T listed group.
Given the chance that American justice is not dead yet, it is hoped that, judicial review, on a case by case basis will shed light on the disgrace that is the US Treasury Department’s over broad and likely to be found illegal corralling of citizens who might object to aspects of American foreign policy in the Middle East. If they receive a fair hearing on the facts, and unless a solid case to the contrary is proved and not merely hinted at, many are expected to be immediately de-listed.
If American courts apply the same fair standards exhibited by ACMA in Australia, in addition to the hapless fish netted individuals, Al Manar TV Channel, Nour Radio Station, and Jihad al Binna, and Waad Construction companies, among others, could be in a short line to be T de-listed. And none too soon.
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- Nearly 60 people have been killed in a series of attacks by US drones in the past 24 hours in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal district, officials say.
At least 50 died in three unmanned air strikes in the Tirah Valley, a day after seven others were killed nearby.
Security officials say all the dead in the attacks are militants – a claim that cannot be independently confirmed.
Meanwhile, the CIA has withdrawn its top spy from Pakistan, amid threats to his life, US intelligence confirms.
The Islamabad station chief had been identified in a lawsuit linking him to drone strikes, and media coverage of the legal action led to his name appearing on placards during anti-US protests in the Pakistani capital.
US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region have increased under the presidency of Barack Obama, often occurring several times every week.
But the US now appears to be expanding its campaign to other parts of the tribal belt, as most of these attacks have been in the Waziristan region, says the BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi.
Drone attacks in Khyber are rare.
The first missile attack on Friday in the Tirah Valley is said to have taken place at 0800 local time (0300 GMT).
Seven Taliban militants died and 11 were injured when two vehicles were targeted in the Sandana area, a Pakistani security official told the BBC.
Those killed were militants from outside the Khyber tribal region, said the official.
Minutes later there was another attack in the Speen Drang area at a compound where pro-Taliban militants from the Lashkar-e-Islam group were holding a meeting.
At least 32 people, including senior leaders of the group, died, according to the official.
The Lashkar-e-Islam group is trying to enforce its hardline version of Sharia law in the area. A small number of its militants are involved in fighting Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan.
The third attack took place in the afternoon in the Narai Baba area, the official said.
“A compound was hit killing at least 11 militants,” the official told the BBC. “All were from Swat and were taking refuge due to the military operation there.”
On Thursday, at least seven more militants loyal to Taliban chief Hafiz Gul Bahadur died when several drone missiles demolished a house.
‘UK militants’ mystery
The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says Khyber is an unusual target for drone attacks, as it is not usually seen as a major militant sanctuary.
The Waziristan tribal area is believed to be the main haven for the leadership of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
But with many militants having fled to other parts of the tribal belt due to drone strikes, the US now wants to target these new havens, says our correspondent.
It emerged this week that two white British al-Qaeda members had apparently died in a US drone raid in North Waziristan in recent days.
The Muslim converts, aged 48 and 25, were killed in a missile attack on a vehicle six days ago, said Pakistani officials.
They told the BBC the Britons’ surnames were Stephen and Dearsmith.
There have been more than 100 attacks by pilotless US aircraft in 2010, most of them in North Waziristan.
Drone strikes are credited with killing some top insurgents, but are also blamed for civilian deaths.
The attacks have angered Pakistani public opinion. The country’s government criticises such strikes, saying they merely fuel support for militants.
But analysts say Pakistani officials privately condone and probably provide intelligence for such strikes.
Pakistan’s military has launched offensives in parts of the north-west, including the Swat Valley, but the insurgents continue to mount attacks.
The US military and the CIA do not routinely confirm that they have launched drone operations, but analysts say only American forces have deployed such aircraft in the region.