The More We Fight, the Less We Win—Why Is It We Fight?

We’re never winning these wars–

SALON

America has zero to show for its decades of bloodshed in the Middle East

Armed conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond hasn’t brought anything close to lasting peace. Quite the opposite.

We're never winning these wars: America has zero to show for its decades of bloodshed in the Middle EastBradley Cooper in “American Sniper” (Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment)
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

It may be hard to believe now, but in 1970 the protest song “War,” sung by Edwin Starr, hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That was at the height of the Vietnam antiwar movement and the song, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, became something of a sensation.  Even so many years later, who could forget its famed chorus?  “War, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing.”  Not me.  And yet heartfelt as the song was then  — “War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker.  War, it’s got one friend, that’s the undertaker…” — it has little resonance in America today.

But here’s the strange thing: in a way its authors and singer could hardly have imagined, in a way we still can’t quite absorb, that chorus has proven eerily prophetic — in fact, accurate beyond measure in the most literal possible sense.  War, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing.  You could think of American war in the twenty-first century as an ongoing experiment in proving just that point.

Looking back on almost 15 years in which the United States has been engaged in something like permanent war in the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, one thing couldn’t be clearer: the planet’s sole superpower with a military funded and armed like none other and a “defense” budget larger than the next seven countries combined (three times as large as number two spender, China) has managed to accomplish — again, quite literally — absolutely nothing, or perhaps (if a slight rewrite of that classic song were allowed) less than nothing.

Unless, of course, you consider an expanding series of failed states, spreading terror movements, wrecked cities, countries hemorrhaging refugees, and the like as accomplishments.  In these years, no goal of Washington — not a single one — has been accomplished by war.  This has proven true even when, in the first flush of death and destruction, victory or at least success was hailed, as in Afghanistan in 2001 (“You helped Afghanistan liberate itself — for a second time,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to U.S. special operations forces), Iraq in 2003 (“Mission accomplished“), or Libya in 2011 (“We came, we saw, he died,” Hillary Clinton on the death of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi).

Of all forms of American military might in this period, none may have been more destructive or less effective than air power.  U.S. drones, for instance, have killed incessantly in these years, racking up thousands of dead Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, and others, including top terror leaders and their lieutenants as well as significant numbers of civilians and even children, and yet the movements they were sent to destroy from the top down have only proliferated.  In a region in which those on the ground are quite literally helpless against air power, the U.S. Air Force has been repeatedly loosed, from Afghanistan in 2001 to Syria and Iraq today, without challenge and with utter freedom of the skies.  Yet, other than dead civilians and militants and a great deal of rubble, the long-term results have been remarkably pitiful.

From all of this no conclusions ever seem to be drawn.  Only last week, the Obama administration and the Pentagon again widened their air war against Islamic State militants (as they had for weeks been suggesting they would), striking a “suspected Islamic State training camp” in Libya and reportedly killing nearly 50 people, including two kidnapped Serbian embassy staff members and possibly “a militant connected to two deadly attacks last year in neighboring Tunisia.”  Again, after almost 15 years of this, we know just where such “successes” lead: to even grimmer, more brutal, more effective terror movements.  And yet, the military approach remains the American approach du jour on any day of the week, any month of the year, in the twenty-first century.

Put another way, for the country that has, like no other on the planet in these years, unleashed its military again and again thousands of miles from its “homeland” in actions ranging from large-scale invasions and occupations to small-scale raids and drone assassination strikes, absolutely nothing has come up roses.  From China’s Central Asian border to north Africa, the region that Washington officials began referring to as an “arc of instability” soon after 9/11 and that they hoped to garrison and dominate forever has only become more unstable, less amenable to American power, and ever more chaotic.

By its very nature, war produces chaos, but in other eras, particularly for great powers, it has also meant influence or dominance and created the basis for reshaping or controlling whole regions.  None of this seems in the cards today.  It would be reasonable to conclude, however provisionally, from America’s grand military experiment of this century that, no matter the military strength at your command, war no longer translates into power.  For Washington, war has somehow been decoupled from its once expected results, no matter what weaponry has been brought to bear or what kind of generalship was exercised.

An Arms Race of One

Given that, sooner or later, the results of any experiment should be taken into account and actions recalibrated accordingly, here’s what’s curious.  Just listen to the fervent pledges of the presidential candidates in the Republican debates to “rebuild” the U.S. military and you’ll sense the immense pressure in Washington not to recalibrate anything.  If you want the definition of a Trumpian bad deal, consider that all of them are eager to pour further staggering sums into preparing for future military endeavors not so different from the present ones.  And don’t just blame the Republicans.  Such behavior is now hardwired into Washington’s entire political class.

The essential failure of air power in these years has yielded the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane once expected to cost in the $200 billion range whose price tag is now estimated at a trillion dollars or more over the course of its lifetime.  It will, that is, be the most expensiveweapons system in history.  Air power’s powerlessness to achieve Washington’s ends has also yielded the newly unveiled Long-Range Strike Bomber for which the Pentagon has already made a down payment to Northrop Grumman of $55 billion. (Add in the usual future cost overruns and that sum is expected to crest the $100 billion mark long before the plane is actually built.)  Or at the level of planetary destruction, consider the three-decade, trillion-dollar upgrading of the U.S. nuclear arsenal now underway and scheduled to include, among other things, smaller, more accurate “smart” nukes — that is, first-use weaponry that might indeed be brought to future battlefields.

That none of this fits our world of war today should be — but isn’t — obvious, at least in Washington.  In 2016, not only has military action of just about any sort been decoupled from success of just about any sort, but the unbelievably profitable system of weapons production woven into the fabric of the capital, the political process, and the country has also been detached from the results of war; the worse we do militarily, that is, the more frenetically and expensively we build.

For the conspiratorial-minded (and I get letters like this regularly at TomDispatch), it’s easy enough to see the growing chaos and collapse in the Greater Middle East as purposeful, as what the military-industrial complex desires; nothing, in other words, succeeds (for weapons makers) like failure.  The more failed states, the more widespread the terror groups, the greater the need to arm ourselves and, as the planet’s leading arms dealer, others.  This is, however, the thinking of outsiders.  For the weapons makers and the rest of that complex, failure or success may increasingly be beside the point.

Count on this: were the U.S. now triumphant in an orderly Greater Middle East, the same Republican candidates would still be calling for a build-up of the U.S. military to maintain our victorious stance globally.  If you want proof of this, you need only step into your time machine and travel back a quarter-century to the moment the Soviet Union collapsed.  Thought of a certain way, that should have been the finale for a long history of arms races among competing great powers.  What seemed like the last arms race of all between the two superpowers of the Cold War, the one that brought the planet to the brink of annihilation, had just ended.

When the Soviet Union imploded and Washington dissolved in a riot of shock and triumphalism, only one imperial force — “the sole superpower” — remained.  And yet, despite a brief flurry of talk about Americans harvesting a “peace dividend” in a world bereft of major enemies, what continued to be harvested were new weapons systems. An arms race of one rolled right along.

And of course, it goes right on today in an almost unimaginably different world.  A quarter century later, militarily speaking, two other nations might be considered great powers.  One of them, China, is indeed building up its military and acting in more provocative ways innearby seas.  However, not since its disastrous 1979 border war with Vietnam has it used its military outside its own borders in a conflict of any kind.

The Russians are obviously another matter and they alone at this moment seem to be making an imperial success of warfare — translating, that is, war making into power, prestige, and dominance.  In Syria (and possibly also Ukraine), think of that country as experiencing its version of America’s December 2001 Afghanistan or April 2003 Iraq moments, but don’t for a second imagine that it will last.  The Russians in Syria have essentially followed the path Washington pioneered in this century, loosing air power, advisers, and proxy forces on an embattled country.  Their bombing campaign and that of the allied Syrian air force have been doing in spades what air power generally does: blow away stuff on the ground, including hospitals, schools, and the like.

Right now, with the Syrian Army and its Iranian and Lebanese helpers advancing around the city of Aleppo and elsewhere, everything looks relatively sunny for the Russians (as long as your view is an airborne one), but give it a year, or two or three.  Or just ask yourself, what exactly will such “success” translate into, even if a Bashar al-Assad regime regains significant power in a country that, in most senses, has simply ceased to exist?  Its cities, after all, are in varying states of destruction, a startling 11.5% of its people are estimated to have been killed or injured, and a significant portion of the rest transformed into exiles and refugees (with more being produced all the time).

Even if the Islamic State and other rebel and insurgent groups, ranging from those backed by the U.S. to those linked to al-Qaeda, can be “defeated,” what is Russia likely to inherit in the Middle East?  What, in far better circumstances, did the U.S. inherit in Afghanistan or Iraq?  What horrendous new movements will be born from such a “victory”?  It’s a nightmare just to think about.

Keep in mind as well that, unlike the United States, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is no superpower.  Despite its superpower-style nuclear arsenal and its great power-ish military, it’s a rickety energy state shaken by bargain-basement oil prices.  Economically, it doesn’t have the luxury of waste that the U.S. has when it comes to military experimentation.Generally speaking, in these last years, war has meant destruction and nothing but destruction.  It’s true that, from the point of view of movements like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the chaos of great power war is a godsend.  Even if such groups never win a victory in the traditional sense (as the Islamic State has), they can’t lose, no matter how many of their leaders and followers are wiped out.  In the same way, no matter how many immediate successes Washington has in pursuit of its war on terror, it can’t win (and in the end neither, I suspect, can Russia).

Has War Outlived Its Usefulness?

Relatively early in the post-9/11 presidency of George W. Bush, it became apparent that his top officials had confused military power with power itself.  They had come to venerate force and its possible uses in a way that only men who had never been to war possibly could.  (Secretary of State Colin Powell was the sole exception to this rule of thumb.)  On the U.S. military, they were fundamentalists and true believers, convinced that unleashing its uniquely destructive capabilities would open the royal road to control of the Greater Middle East and possibly the planet as well.

About this — and themselves — they were supremely confident.  As an unnamed “senior adviser” to the president (later identified as Bush confidant Karl Rove) told journalist Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Ever since then, no small thanks to the military-industrial complex, military power has remained the option of choice even when it became clear that it could not produce a minimalist version of what the Bush crew hoped for.  Consider it something of an irony, then, that the U.S. may still be the lone superpower on the planet.  In a period when military power of the first order doesn’t seem to translate into a thing of value, American economic (and cultural) power still does.  The realm of the dollar, not the F-35, still rules the planet.

So here’s a thought for the songwriters among you: Could it be that war has in the most literal sense outlived its usefulness, at least for the United States?  Could it be that the nature of war — possibly any war, but certainly the highly mechanized, high-tech, top-dollar form that the United States fights — is now all unintended and no intended consequences?  Do we need another Edwin Starr singing a new song about what war isn’t good for, but with the same punch line?

In fact, give it a try yourself.  Say it with me: Absolutely nothing.

One more time and really hit that “nothing”: Absolutely nothing!

Now, could someone in Washington act accordingly?

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, “Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World” (Haymarket Books), has just been published.
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Latest updates on Syrian Ceasefire–2/29/2016

Latest updates on Syrian Ceasefire

USNEWS

Syria’s Foreign Ministry is harshly criticizing Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, saying his recent statements demonstrate the kingdom’s “destructive role” in Syria

The Associated PressA Syrian national flag waves as vehicles move slowly on a bridge during rush hour, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Associated Press Feb. 29, 2016, at 8:15 a.m. + More

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria as a fragile cease-fire enters its third day (all times local):

3 p.m.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry is harshly criticizing Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, saying his recent statements demonstrate the kingdom’s “destructive role” in Syria.

Monday’s statement came a day after al-Jubeir reiterated Saudi Arabia’s longstanding position that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no place in the future of Syria and that he must leave power, either peacefully or through military means.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said al-Jubeir’s comments are an attempt to damage a truce brokered by Russia and the U.S. that went into effect Friday at midnight.

It added that al-Jubeir’s comments are “lies meant to boost the morale” of Saudi-backed militants who have suffered setbacks in recent weeks in different parts of Syria thanks to intense Russian airstrikes.

___

2:30 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says a cessation of hostilities in Syria is holding “by and large” and wants it extended beyond the initial planned duration of two weeks.

Speaking to reporters Monday in Geneva, Ban confirmed receiving a letter from the High Negotiations Committee, the main umbrella opposition group. It urged the U.N. to help “specify the territory covered by the truce to prevent hostilities in the designated inclusion zones.”

Both Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad which has been conducting air strikes over Syria, and the so-called “moderate opposition — excluding U.N.-designated terror groups like the Islamic State group — have pointed to repeated violations of the cessation of hostilities since it took effect Friday at midnight.

___

2:15 p.m.

The office of the U.N. human rights chief says thousands of people risk starving to death in besieged Syrian towns and villages that are inaccessible to humanitarian aid groups.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein told the opening session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva that some 450,000 people are now trapped in besieged towns and villages in Syria — some for years — and aid deliveries of food, medicine and other aid has been “repeatedly obstructed.”

During his address, al-Hussein said “thousands of people may have starved to death” — but his office issued a statement shortly afterward indicating that he meant to say “thousands risk starving to death.”

Al-Hussein also decried that at least 10 hospitals and other medical sites had been damaged or destroyed by strikes in Syria this year.

___

1:30 p.m.

The United Nations says it plans to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to about 154,000 people living in besieged locations inside Syria over the next five days.

A briefing note sent out by OCHA Monday says the assistance will include food, water and sanitation supplies, as well as non-food items and medicine to people trapped in besieged areas.

It called on all parties to ensure unconditional, unimpeded and sustained access to all 4.6 million people in hard-to-reach or besieged locations across Syria.

The U.N. estimates that close to half a million people in Syria are trapped in areas under blockade across the war-ravaged country.

Aid deliveries are a main opposition demand ahead of the planned resumption of Syrian peace talks in Geneva on March 7.

___

1 p.m.

The French foreign minister is calling for a meeting “without delay” of a task force to monitor a cessation of hostilities in Syria following reports of air strikes targeting the moderate opposition.

Jean-Marc Ayrault made the comments Monday shortly before addressing a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has already been planning a meeting of the task force, led by the United States and Russia, later in the day.

Ayrault told reporters he planned to discuss the “attacks including by air” with de Mistura and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Critics say Russia and Syrian forces have been targeting the moderate opposition.

 


Cessation of Hostilities in Syria UN Res 2268 (2016)—plus Annex

united nations

Resolution 2268 (2016)

The full text of resolution 2268 (2016) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012), 2043 (2012), 2118 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2170 (2014), 2175 (2014), 2178 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2235 (2015), 2249 (2015), 2253 (2015), 2254 (2015) and 2258 (2015), and Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011 (S/PRST/2011/16), 21 March 2012 (S/PRST/2012/6), 5 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/10), 2 October 2013 (S/PRST/2013/15), 24 April 2015 (S/PRST/2015/10) and 17 August 2015 (S/PRST/2015/15),

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recognizing the efforts of the Secretary-General in implementing resolution 2254 (2015) and noting, through his good offices and by his Special Envoy for Syria, the launch of the formal negotiations on a political transition process, consistent with paragraph 2 of resolution 2254 (2015), on 29 January 2016,

Commending the commitment of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to ensure a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition based on the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 in its entirety and to immediately facilitate the full implementation of resolution 2254 (2015), and emphasizing the urgency for all parties in Syria to work diligently and constructively towards this goal,

Welcoming the ISSG statement of 11 February 2016, including the establishment of an ISSG humanitarian task force and an ISSG ceasefire task force,

“1.   Endorses in full the Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria of 22 February 2016 and the Terms for the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria (hereafter referred to as ‘the Annex’) attached to the Statement, and demands the cessation of hostilities to begin at 00:00 (Damascus time) on 27 February 2016;

“2.   Demands the full and immediate implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, in accordance with the Geneva communiqué as set forth in the ISSG Statements, in order to end the conflict in Syria, and stresses again that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria;

“3.   Demands that all parties to whom the cessation of hostilities applies as set forth in the Annex (hereafter referred to as the “parties to the cessation of hostilities”) fulfil their commitments laid out in the Annex, and urges all Member States, especially ISSG members, to use their influence with the parties to the cessation of hostilities to ensure fulfilment of those commitments and to support efforts to create conditions for a durable and lasting ceasefire; “4.  Recognizes the efforts of the Russian Federation and the United States to reach understanding on the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and acknowledges and welcomes that the forces of the Syrian Government and those supporting it, as communicated to the Russian Federation, and the Syrian armed opposition groups, as communicated to the Russian Federation or the United States, have accepted and committed to abide by the Terms of the Cessation of Hostilities, and as such are now parties to it;

“5.   Reiterates its call on the parties to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and immediately comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law as applicable;

“6.   Expresses support for the ISSG initiative, coordinated through the ISSG humanitarian working group, to accelerate the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid, with the view towards the full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country, including to Deir ez Zor, Foah, Kafraya, Az-Zabadani, Madaya/Bqin, Darayya, Madamiyet Elsham, Duma, East Harasta, Arbin, Zamalka, Kafr Batna, Ein Terma, Hammuria, Jisrein, Saqba, Zabadin, Yarmuk, eastern and western rural Aleppo, Azaz, Afrin, At Tall, Rastan, Talbiseh, Al Houle, Tier Malah/Al Gantho/Der Kabira, Al Waer, Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham;

“7.   Reaffirms its support for a Syrian-led political process facilitated by the United Nations, requests the Secretary-General, through his good offices and the efforts of his Special Envoy for Syria, to resume the formal negotiations between the representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition, under the auspices of the United Nations, as soon as possible, and urges the representatives of the Syrian Government and the Syrian opposition to engage in good faith in these negotiations;

“8.   Welcomes the cessation of hostilities as a step towards a lasting ceasefire and reaffirms the close linkage between a ceasefire and a parallel political process, pursuant to the 2012 Geneva communiqué, and that both initiatives should move ahead expeditiously as expressed in resolution 2254 (2015);

“9.   Calls on all states to use their influence with the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition to advance the peace process, confidence-building measures, including the early release of any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children, and implementation of the cessation of hostilities;

“10.  Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation of this resolution, including by drawing on information provided by the ISSG ceasefire taskforce, and on resolution 2254 (2015), within 15 days of the adoption of this resolution and every 30 days thereafter;

“11.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

ANNEX

TERMS FOR CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES IN SYRIA

The nationwide cessation of hostilities is to apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.

The responsibilities of the Syrian armed opposition are set out in paragraph 1 below. The responsibilities of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and all forces supporting or associated with the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic are set out in paragraph 2 below.

1.  To take part in the cessation of hostilities, armed opposition groups will confirm – to the United States of America or the Russian Federation, who will attest such confirmations to one another as co-chairs of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26 2016 – their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:

  • To full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, ‑ including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
  • To cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles, against Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and any associated forces;
  • To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
  • To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
  • To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.

2.  The above-mentioned commitments will be observed by such armed opposition groups, provided that the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and all forces supporting or associated with the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic have confirmed to the Russian Federation as co-chair of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26, 2016 their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:

  • To full implementation of UN Security Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
  • To cease attacks with any weapons, including aerial bombardments by the Air Force of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation, against the armed opposition groups (as confirmed to the United States or the Russian Federation by parties to the cessation of hostilities);
  • To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
  • To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
  • To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.

The Russian Federation and the United States, as co-chairs of the ISSG and ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, are prepared to work together to ensure effective communications and develop procedures necessary for preventing parties participating in the cessation of hostilities from being attacked by Russian Armed Forces, the U.S.-led Counter ISIL Coalition, the Armed Forces of the Syrian government and other forces supporting them, and other parties to the cessation of hostilities.

All parties further commit to work for the early release of detainees, particularly women and children.

Any party can bring a violation or potential violation of the cessation of hostilities to the attention of the Task Force, either through the OSE or the co-chairs. The OSE and Co-Chairs will establish liaison arrangements with each other and the parties, and inform the public generally about how any party may bring a violation to the attention of the Task Force.

The United States and the Russian Federation as co-chairs confirm that the cessation of hostilities will be monitored in an impartial and transparent manner and with broad media coverage.

Latest Terror Wave Moves Pres. Ghani To Reject “Peace Talks” with Mansour’s Taliban

[Spokesman for Mansour’s group took immediate responsibility for the attack upon Defense Ministry.]

Dozens killed, wounded in

Afghanistan suicide attacks

dna

Afghan security personnel stand guard as firefighters clean the site of a suicide bombing near the gate of Ministry of Defence in Kabul on February 27, 2016.(AFP)

The attack in Kabul, occurred as defence ministry workers were leaving their offices.

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near the Afghan defence ministry in Kabul on Saturday, causing heavy casualties just hours after an attack in the eastern province of Kunar killed 13 people and put prospects for new peace talks in doubt.

The attack in Kabul, which occurred as defence ministry workers were leaving their offices, killed as many as 12 people and wounded eight, according to a ministry statement, although Kabul police said nine people had been killed and 13 wounded. Witnesses at the scene, where a large plume of smoke spiralled into the sky, said they had seen a number of bodies on the ground.

The area was sealed off as police and army vehicles surrounded the blast site. “I wanted to cross the bridge when I heard an explosion,” said a witness who gave his name as Zulgai. “I went to the area … there were damaged cars and shattered windows everywhere.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack which the movement’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said killed 23 officers and wounded 29 others. He said there were no civilian casualties. The high-profile attack came as officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China have been pressing for a resumption of the peace process interrupted last year between the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban.

But it remains unclear whether the Taliban, struggling to contain deep internal divisions, will take part in direct peace talks that the four-nation group hope will be held in Islamabad as early as next week.

In a statement issued after the attack in Kunar, President Ashraf Ghani said his government would not conduct peace talks with groups that killed innocent people and said security forces would step up the fight against terrorism.

The Taliban, fighting to restore hardline Islamist rule in Afghanistan, has conducted a series of attacks in Kabul and other areas this year and has pressed its military campaign in the southern province of Helmand, where it has forced government troops to pull out of a number of districts.

Earlier on Saturday, a suicide bomber killed a local militia commander and at least 12 others outside the governor’s compound in Asadabad, the provincial capital of Kunar, near the border with Pakistan.

Provincial Governor Wahidullah Kalimzai said the bomber rode up on a motorcycle to the entrance of the compound and blew himself up, wounding at least 40 people. “Most of victims were civilians and children who were either passing by or playing in the park,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the apparent target of the attack, a tribal elder and militia commander named Haji Khan Jan, was among the dead. He had been closely involved in a number of operations against the Taliban in his district in 2015.

(updated)–Chinese Press Reports 130 Taliban Surrender Arms To Govt

Taliban Afghanistan

130 Taliban militants give up fighting in N. Afghanistan: official

xinhua_logo

Source: Xinhua  

MAIMANA, Afghanistan, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) — About 130 Taliban rebels renounced violence and surrendered to the government in Afghanistan’s northern province of Faryab on Sunday, the provincial governor said.

“We sincerely welcome our 130 brothers who denounced the violence and joined the peace and reconciliation process today,” governor Sayyed Anwar Saadat told audience at a welcoming ceremony held here.

The local government will spare no efforts to help the former insurgents to rejoin their families and provide them with jobs, the official added.

The surrendered had been active in Khwaja Sabz Poosh district in the province, 425 km northwest of Kabul.

They also handed over dozens of rounds of weapons and ammunition to the security authorities at the ceremony.

Taliban militants fighting the government have yet to make comments.

More than 10,000 Taliban militants have laid down arms and joined the government-backed peace and reconciliation process over the past six years, according to Afghan officials.

Former Pres. Musharraf Admits That BOTH INDIA AND PAKISTAN Use Taliban Terrorists

[With three out of four of the primary Afghanistan antagonists working together at the same time, it is at long last, finally possible for them to find a way to break free of the bonds of their thirty year war.  This admission by General Musharraf must be acceptable to most of Pakistan’s serving and retire generals, otherwise he would not have made it, especially in The Guardian.  High-ranking officials from the Indian govt, like Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, have also made admissions of fighting terrorism with terrorism, using outfits like Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, although it has only been admitted through veiled references to such policies (SEE:  Remember the Ikhwan?).  If all sides would just openly admit to such policies in the past, as well as in the present, then it would be possible to separate all Taliban into pro or anti-peace inclinations.  Knowing whether Mullah Mansour is Pakistan’s man, or India/Afghan man, or even a wild card, Russian man, helps us to know which peacemaking efforts are with genuine peace-seekers, or just with more hired killers.]

[SEE:  The Indian Art of Turning Jihadis Into Anti-Jihadis and the War On Pakistan]

 

ISI cultivated Taliban to counter Indian action against Pakistan: Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf
AFP_Former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf has called for an end to militant proxies in neighbouring Afghanistan, said a report published on The Guardian.

In the interview, Musharraf admitted that during his tenure as the head of state, Pakistan had tried to undermine the government of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai because Karzai had helped “India stab Pakistan in the back”.

However, the former army chief was of the view that the time had come to fully cooperate with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai who he believed was the last hope for peace in the region.

“In President Karzai’s times, yes, indeed, he was damaging Pakistan and therefore we were working against his interest. Obviously we had to protect our own interest,” Musharraf said.

“But now President Ashraf Ghani has come and he is trying to restore balance in Afghanistan. We must totally cooperate with him.”

During his first few months in office, the Afghan president has sought to improve ties with Pakistan. Ghani not only called off a weapons deal with India, but also sent troops to fight against anti-Pakistan militant groups in eastern Afghanistan. The arrival of six Afghan army cadets in Pakistan for training in a sign of increased cooperation was the most welcome development for Musharraf.

Pakistan first offered to train Afghan forces back in 2010, but then Afghan president Hamid Karzai had dismissed the offer as a non-starter till Pakistan rebuilt confidence by addressing Kabul’s concerns about its involvement with militants. Instead, Karzai sent cadets to India, where the retired army general believes they were “indoctrinated” against Pakistan.

Musharraf made repeated allusions at what is now widely accepted among diplomats and analysts: that the nominal western ally assisted both Nato forces in Afghanistan and the Taliban they were fighting against in a bid to counter the perceived influence of India.

“Pakistan had its own proxies, India had its proxies, which is unhealthy. I do admit this, it is most unhealthy. It is not in favour of Afghanistan, or Pakistan or India. It must stop,” he said.

ISI spies cultivated Taliban, says Musharraf

 

The former army chief said spies in Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had given birth to the Taliban after 2001 because the government of Ghani’s predecessor had an overwhelming number of non-Pashtuns and officials who were said to favour India.

“Obviously we were looking for some groups to counter this Indian action against Pakistan,” he said. “That is where the intelligence work comes in. Intelligence being in contact with Taliban groups. Definitely they were in contact, and they should be.”

Pakistan’s powerful military remains deeply wary of India. The two countries have fought three wars and came close to a fourth in 2001. The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947.

Insisting that he does not loathe India, Musharraf, however, expressed his bitterness over what he called western bias towards Pakistan’s arch rival.

“India is the greatest democracy, promoter of human rights and democratic culture’? All bullshit,” he said. “There is no human rights. The religion itself is anti-human rights. In the rural areas, if even the shadow of an untouchable goes on a pandit, that man can be killed.”

Undeterred in his stance that India, through its Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), supports terrorists in Balochistan and tribal areas to vanquish Pakistan, the former president said: “The RAW of India, the ISI of Pakistan have always been fighting against each other since our independence. That is how it continued, it continues now also…It must stop, but it can only stop when leaderships on both sides show the will to resolve disputes and stop confrontation in favour of compromise and accommodation.”

I’m very proud of the army: Musharraf

 

The former army strongman came back to Pakistan in March 2013 after four years of self-imposed exile to run in the May general election, vowing to “save” the country from Taliban violence and economic ruin.

But he was barred from running in the election, and was then put under house arrest and hit with numerous criminal cases — including treason, the first former army chief to face the charge.

Despite the setbacks, he said he has no regrets about returning and says that he has the army to thank. “I’m very proud of my institution. Whatever they are doing to help me, to protect the honour and dignity of their ex-chief, I’m proud of that,” he said.

Pentagon Equips Afghan Air Force With Toys, NO THREAT To US Equipment

A-29s and MD-530s deployed to support Afghan forces in Nangarhar

Khaama

By Khaama Press

https://i1.wp.com/www.khaama.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/A-29-Super-Tucanos.jpg

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan will have further capabilities expansion with the deployment of two fixed-wing and two rotary-wing close-air support combat aircraft.

According to the Afghan defense officials, the aircraft have been handed over to the 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces.

The officials further added that the aircraft include two A-29 Super Tucanos and

Two MD 530F Cayuse Warriors

The commander of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) Gen. Syed Sulaiman Shah told reporters in Nangarhar airport that the A-29s can carry heavy weapons to target the anti-government armed militants.

He said the A-29s can carry out precise airstrike using laser technology and can four types of weapons, 250 kgs of bombs, guided and unguided rockets.

Gen. Shah also added that the aircraft will be controlled by two pilots and can fly with low speed and altitude to precisely find and attack the targets.

The commander of 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces Gen. Mohammad Zaman Waziri said the deployment of aircraft will have a vital role to support the ground forces.

This comes as the commander of the Afghan Air Force Major General Abdul Wahab Wardak said Thursday that the A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft will start combat operations with the Afghan Air Force from the month of March.

The A-29 is a multi-role, fixed-wing aircraft that will provide the Afghan air force with an indigenous air-to-ground capability and aerial reconnaissance capabilities to support the country’s counterinsurgency operations.

Eight Afghan Air Force pilots completed their training late last year and graduated from a program hosted by the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in United States and will return to Afghanistan for combat.