By David Walsh
Actor-director Rob Reiner and actor Morgan Freeman have teamed up with a sordid crowd of extreme right-wingers to push the McCarthyite anti-Russia campaign.
Reiner, a longtime Democratic Party fundraiser and fervent Hillary Clinton supporter, is a member of the Advisory Board of a new organization, the “Committee to Investigate Russia,” which describes itself as a “non-partisan, non-profit” organization “helping Americans understand the gravity of Russia’s continuing attacks on democracy.”
As part of this foul outfit’s launching, Freeman narrates a two-minute video, which begins: “We have been attacked. We are… at war.” Freeman asks his viewers to imagine a movie script in which a former KGB spy, “angry at the collapse of his motherland, plots a course for revenge.” After becoming president, “he sets his sights on his sworn enemy: the United States.”
Freeman goes on: “And like the true KGB spy he is, he secretly uses cyber warfare to attack democracies around the world. Using social media to spread propaganda and false information, he convinces people in democratic societies to distrust their media, their political processes, even their neighbors… Vladimir Putin is that spy, and this is no movie script.”
The actor then calls on President Donald Trump to “tell us the truth”—that during the 2016 election “we came under attack by the Russian government.”
Invoking the language of Cold War hawks, Freeman informs his viewers that the “free world is counting on us for leadership.” He concludes: “For 241 years, our democracy has been a shining example to the world of what we can all aspire to. And we owe it to the brave people who have fought and died to protect this great nation and save democracy.”
A number of out-and-out reactionaries sit alongside Reiner on the Advisory Board of the Committee to Investigate Russia. Prominent among these is James Clapper, who, as Director of National Intelligence (2010-17), presided over agencies carrying out espionage and intrigue against governments and corporations internationally. Clapper lied to Congress about the massive and illegal NSA spying on US citizens.
Another illustrious member of the Board is Max Boot, the Russian-born anti-communist fanatic and proponent of US imperialist intervention everywhere. A strident supporter of George W. Bush and the “war on terror,” Boot supported the neo-colonial invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Board is rounded out by Norman Ornstein of the ultra-right American Enterprise Institute and right-wing author and former talk show host Charles Sykes, notorious for his vicious attacks on the working class and poor in the guise of opposition to the “culture of entitlement.” Another individual publicly associated with the committee is David Frum, right-wing columnist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, allegedly responsible for the “Axis of Evil” claim in the latter’s 2002 State of the Union address.
Who is this sinister crowd to demand an “investigation” into Russia, or anyone else? Clapper, Boot and Frum, to begin with, should be investigated and prosecuted for carrying out or propagandizing in support of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The claims in the committee’s video about the leadership of the “free world” provided by America, whose “democracy has been a shining example to the world of what we can all aspire to,” belong under the heading of the Hitlerian big lie. Leaving aside the fact that some of Freeman’s ancestors were slaves and taking into account only the past half-century or so, US imperialism has invaded country after country on the basis of lies (as Ken Burns’ documentary “The Vietnam War” is currently detailing), resulting in the deaths of millions of human beings.
No other elite on the face of the planet has the bloody record of the American ruling class. The Pentagon, the CIA and the entire gigantic military-intelligence apparatus do nothing on a 24-hour basis except conspire against the democratic rights of people around the world.
Nevertheless, the Committee to Investigate Russia’s mission statement reads, “On January 6, 2017, America’s intelligence agencies shared a declassified report concluding Russia had attacked our nation with the express goal of disrupting the presidential election and ultimately weakening our democracy. To this day, that destabilizing effort continues.”
That’s it! On the basis of this bald assertion, the committee declares that “We have been attacked. We are at war.”
As the WSWS noted in January, the cited report consists of unsupported conclusions by the CIA, FBI and NSA, “using the phrase ‘we assess’ 19 times without a single fact to demonstrate Russian involvement… One is left with the bare assertion: we, the intelligence community, have made a judgment, and you, the American people, must take it on faith.”
As for the “shining example” of American democracy at home, Freeman and Reiner are doing the bidding of Clapper, who is directly responsible for shredding the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and establishing a surveillance police state structure that would be the envy of Orwell’s Big Brother.
Moreover, the hacked Democratic Party emails leaked by WikiLeaks during the 2016 election—attributed without any evidence to the machinations of Putin—contained true, not fake, information, which has not been contested by the Democrats or Clinton, about the anti-democratic efforts of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to sabotage the challenge by Bernie Sanders, as well as the transcripts of Clinton’s fawning speeches to Wall Street, for which she received millions in speaking fees (i.e., bribes).
Such is the manipulated and anti-democratic character of a political system that enforces the monopoly of two right-wing capitalist parties that are controlled top to bottom by a financial oligarchy.
Have Reiner and Freeman thought about what an actual war with nuclear-armed Russia would mean? Tens of millions of dead, entire cities, regions or perhaps continents made uninhabitable, civilization thrown back decades or centuries. What incredible and contemptible irresponsibility!
It took right-winger Tucker Carlson of Fox News, of all people, to point out to Reiner some of the implications of his pro-war propaganda. On Carlson’s program Thursday, the host asked the actor-director, “How would you respond if President Trump took you seriously and sent the B-52s to St. Petersburg or blockaded the Gulf of Finland? Would you support that?”
Reiner responded disingenuously that “We’re not advocating going to war… or a traditional war with Russia… When we say we are at war, we are talking about a cyber war.” Carlson noted that the video “doesn’t make that clear… Morgan Freeman who everyone trusts… [says] we’re at war.”
Foreign policy divisions are a major factor driving the current anti-Russia campaign. Clapper and company view Russia as an obstacle to Washington’s drive for world hegemony and consider the Trump administration too soft or too distracted in this regard.
But for figures like Reiner and Freeman, looming larger is the social situation in the US and their dread of a popular radicalization. Their repugnant efforts coincide with the publication of Hillary Clinton’s book, Google’s efforts at censorship of left-wing websites and the ever more frequent cries heard in the American media and political establishment that “fake news,” which increasingly means anti-establishment opinion, is the source of discontent and social instability in the US.
Thus, the preposterous assertion in Freeman’s video that Putin, “using social media to spread propaganda and false information,” has convinced “people in democratic societies to distrust their media, their political processes, even their neighbors.”
Reiner and Freeman, wealthy celebrities each reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars, are intervening to encourage trust in a media and political establishment that is utterly discredited in the eyes of vast layers of the American and world population.
For decades, Reiner has been a big money-raiser for the Democrats in Hollywood. He strenuously campaigned for Clinton in the last election cycle. In November 2015, for instance, Reiner and his wife held a fundraiser at their home in the affluent Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. “Clinton attended a small reception in the Reiners’ entry parlor and later spoke in the garden, with about 350 in attendance,” according to Variety.
The event, “with tickets starting at $500, was billed as a conversation with Clinton.” The account continued: “Those who donated $2,700 got a photo with Clinton, and those who raised $27,000 got access to the host reception.”
During the campaign, Reiner attributed the persistence of support for Trump to the racism of white working class males. Speaking of such support, he told the Hollywood Reporter in September 2016, “Look at the demographics: It’s mostly white males who don’t have college degrees. And, you know, that’s Archie [Bunker]. Then there’s also a very serious strain of racism that runs through his followers…”
This is the voice of someone a thousand miles from the economic and social suffering of broad layers of the American population.
That Reiner is participating in the McCarthyite anti-Russian campaign has an ironic element. His father, Carl Reiner, veteran comedian, actor and director, had a brush with the anti-communist witch-hunts in the 1950s and even early 1960s.
The elder Reiner, now 95, had sufficient contact with left-wing figures in Hollywood during the time he was writing for and performing on Sid Caesar’s popular television program Your Show of Shows to warrant a visit from two FBI agents in 1954. They inquired about his voting habits and asked, according to Reiner, “Do you know any communists?”
Later, Reiner served as a “front”—someone who took public credit for the writing efforts of figures who were officially unemployable because of their association with the Communist Party—for blacklisted writer Frank Tarloff when Reiner was working on the Dick Van Dyke Show in the early 1960s.
Now his son is taking part in this vile sequel to the McCarthyite anti-Russian hysteria of the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s.
Great Powers in return for postponing the
referendum of Kurdistan
The Secretary-General of the Socialist Party of Kurdistan, Mohammad Haji Mahmoud, Saturday, the proposal of the great powers of the Kurds in exchange for postponement of the referendum, noting that these countries will solve the problems between the center and the region.
“The United States, Britain, France and the United Nations offered to discuss the situation of the region, including the referendum on independence in the United Nations, in return for the Kurdish leadership to postpone the referendum two years,” said Mahmoud, close to the outgoing Kurdistan region president Massoud Barzani.
He added that “the American envoy to the international coalition against the urging of Bret McGuck, and the ambassadors of the United States, Britain and France and the head of the United Nations Mission in Iraq, presented this offer to Barzani the day before yesterday,” pointing out that “they stressed that if rejected, the region must bear the consequences.”
“The representatives of these countries pointed out that the meeting of the United Nations will discuss the file of Iraq, including the Kurdistan region and the referendum of independence, the three countries and the United Nations should try to resolve the existing problems between the region and the federal government.”
The Kurdistan Regional Parliament voted unanimously Friday to hold the referendum on September 25.
Barzani renewed his rejection of “postponement” of the referendum as a means to achieve independence and not a target. While calling on the people to “resist” and go to the referendum, he stressed that he “has not received” the alternative to this day.
The Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed that the attack launched by Jabhat al-Nusra in the area of de-escalation zone north of Hama came at the instigation of the US intelligence to stop the advance of the Syrian Army east of Deir Ezzor.
Peskov’s remarks came during a press conference in Moscow on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Russian General Staff said that the attack of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists on sites of the Syrian army north of Hama violated the de-escalation zone agreement and was “initiated by US secret services to stop the successful advance of government troops to the east of Deir Ezzor.”
Syrian government forces have managed to seize back oil fields in the militant-held northern province of Raqqah and in the eastern province of Day al-Zawr from Daesh Takfiri terrorists as they continue to score more territorial gains against the extremists across the war-ravaged Arab country.
An unnamed military source told Syria’s official news agency, SANA, on Saturday that army troopers had established complete control over Wahhab, al-Fahed, Dubeisan and al-Kabeer oil fields in addition to al-Qaseer, Abu al-Qetat and Abu Kattash oil wells during the military operations.
The source added that a large number of Daesh terrorists, including high-ranking Saudi and Tunisian militant commanders, were also killed and 29 car bombs, five battle tanks, five command centers, a training camp and two arms caches were destroyed.
Elsewhere in the Jam’ayiat al-Zahra district of the northwestern province of Aleppo, Syrian army units thwarted an attack by foreign-sponsored Takfiri extremists on military outposts.
Dozens of terrorists were killed and wounded as government soldiers engaged in fierce clashes with the Takfiris.
The developments came only a day after Syrian Air Force fighter jets bombarded Daesh positions in Raqqah and Hama, inflicting heavy losses on the terrorists’ ranks and military equipment.
A military official, requesting anonymity, said several vehicles, a number of them equipped with heavy machineguns, were destroyed as the jets pounded al-Shujeiri, Khirbat al-Haloul, al-Zamla districts besides the southern and southwestern parts of Raqqah Province.
The official added that Syrian aircraft also targeted Daesh fortifications in Abu Hanaia and Salba districts in the western-central province of Hama.
The military official went on to say that Syrian Air Force aircraft also carried out a series of aerial assaults against Daesh gatherings near al-Kanamat Bridge, Huweija Bridge as well as Dayr al-Zawr Airport.
Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.
[Pakistani officials will never stop lying about its safe-havens for the Afghan Taliban, and they will never admit the truth about the so-called “Quetta shura”, home-base for the Mullah Mansour branch of the Afghan Taliban.]
Kharotabad: A Taliban safe haven–Oct 17, 2011
Pakistan’s new leader, stung by President Trump’s threat to crack down on his country for harboring terrorists, insisted on Wednesday that Pakistani military forces had uprooted all the sanctuaries used by Islamic extremists along its rugged frontier with Afghanistan.
“We have regained control of the area,” the prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said in an interview with The New York Times. “There are no sanctuaries anymore. There are none at all. I can categorically state that.”
“The order permits the Secretary of Treasury to seize the assets or property of any person who [helps N. Korea acquire] “any goods, services or technology.”
“In short, the United States is asserting the intention and right to ban from the US financial system and the dollar any entity from any country that trades with or finances trade with North Korea.”
What’s in the New Executive Order
When reading President Trump’s comments on the new Executive Order (EO) imposing new sanctions on North Korea, the author’s initial reaction was that they are, in part, a logical, intelligent next step after the passage of the recent UN Security Council Resolution (2375), which named additional North Korean economic sectors to the international sanctions campaign. Many of the industries targeted such as seafood and textiles have been flagged in recent UN resolutions. To this extent, the new Executive Order appeared to be adding the threat of US asset seizures and denial of access to the US financial system for any entity that violates the caps and bans on trade in those industries. This is an excellent and sensible way to deter sanctions evasion at least by firms with a significant stake in international commerce.
These new measures might increase marginally the effectiveness of the recent UN sanctions, but by how much would be a guess. The President’s lauding of recent actions by the Bank of China to discipline banks under its jurisdiction seemed to indicate that there was useful US-China sanctions cooperation in place, and would seem to indicate a shift from the threat to initiate a global trade war. In some areas where the EO went beyond the UN sanctions, such as new restrictions on ships or aircraft that make stops in North Korea from accessing US ports or airports for 180 days, it is not likely to have much impact. Nor is it a new idea, having been initiated in the ROK and Japan some time ago. Overall, the President’s announcement made it seem as if this was a minor, incremental sanctions effort.
But upon reading the text of the Executive Order, this view is 180 degrees at variance with the truth. The EO includes within it provisions that will allow the US to impose a full trade and financial embargo on North Korea unilaterally through the use of secondary sanctions. Section 1 (a) (iii) of the order permits the Secretary of Treasury to seize the assets or property of any person who “engages in one successful importation from or exportation to of any goods, services or technology.” Section 4 of the EO brings the full power of the US Treasury to bear against any bank that facilitates any trade with North Korea. Financial dealings with essentially any element of the government of North Korea are sanctionable (Section 4 (a) (i)). Facilitating any trade with North Korea is equally sanctionable (Section 4 (a) (ii)). The penalties prescribed are fatal to any bank using the dollar. They can have their assets seized and can be banned from the US financial system (Section 4 (b) (i) and (ii). In short, the United States is asserting the intention and right to ban from the US financial system and the dollar any entity from any country that trades with or finances trade with North Korea.
In combination with the President’s UN speech, we are witnessing the final phases of an effort to use sanctions against North Korea. Sanctions are no longer to be international instruments to coerce North Korea to the negotiating table. They are now unilateral instruments of a US economic war against North Korea in which states and firms will all have to comply or be US targets. This is consistent with the President’s UN speech in which he slammed the door on any hope of a negotiated settlement of this crisis (the subject of a separate article). They are, of course, not in the least consistent with his hymns to national sovereignty in that speech. Based on this EO, sanctions are no longer to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. Their only purpose can be to force the regime to capitulate under crushing economic pain or to create the conditions for regime collapse if it does not capitulate.
And Why It Is Unlikely To Work
It is not impossible for this approach to work. It is possible that the Trump administration has managed to work things out behind the scenes with China to prevent a US-China trade and financial war from emerging from America’s attempt to enforce this EO against key Chinese entities. It is also possible that North Korea might eventually be willing to pursue some diplomatic option, such as trying to negotiate some limit on long-range missile and nuclear testing in return for suspension of some sanctions in the EO. But this latter possibility seems highly unlikely given the recent statement by Kim Jong Un.
We are in new and dangerous territory. Sanctions are no longer the alternative to war. They may well be its prelude:
- First, the US will have to make its unilateral embargo stick globally. To do so, it will have to enforce its will and it is not certain it can do so only with secondary sanctions. (China is a master of finding small-scale banks and other entities with no stake in the US financial system to trade where it needs to trade in the face of US secondary sanctions.) There will be a temptation if things get frustrating either to expand the reach of secondary sanctions to whole countries or to enforce an embargo with military means such as a naval “quarantine” or blockade.
- Second, the effort may fail at a high humanitarian cost. While this effort may severely reduce the North’s access to foreign exchange and goods through legal means, the North Korean government has funded a great deal of its operations through illegal means such as smuggling, illicit drug dealing, counterfeiting and large scale cyber-crime. It has also shown an annoying capability to adapt to and defeat past sanctions. Black money alone may be enough to keep the regime elites and the nuclear weapons program funded while letting the general population suffer all the shortages, unemployment, hunger and disease that will come from a successful cutoff of global commerce. We could inflict a great deal of suffering on voiceless every day North Koreans before Kim Jong Un and his cronies feel a pinch.
- Third, there isn’t enough time to be sure this strategy will work. Crushing even a poor country like North Korea economically is not the work of a couple of weeks; it takes years. The US does not have years. It has months or maybe a year before North Korea reaches its goal of being able to target US cities in the lower 48 states with a thermonuclear weapon. This is very likely the point at which the inner councils of the Trump administration have already decided informally that war is inevitable. Their words increasingly reflect a view that preventive war is a preferable and feasible end state compared to the North Korean acquisition of a nuclear-armed ICBM capability of any size. And, of course, Kim Jong Un will respond somewhere and somehow—whether through cyber-attacks on the US or terrorism directed at Japan or the ROK or with some military action designed to create economic costs that cannot be predicted, but could spark conflict as well.
Moving Further Down the Slippery Slope Toward War
In sum, the new EO is probably the last word on sanctions as a mechanism to resolve the North Korean crisis. It is unlikely to be successful largely because the US does not have the time, the patience or the diplomatic possibilities to make it work. The author concluded after hearing the President’s UN speech that the probability that the North Korean crisis would end in a large war in East Asia is growing by the day. While intended to be an alternative to military conflict, this set of sanctions takes us another step down the road to that war.
And the Russians are enjoying a rare last laugh. They point out, with some justification, that their numbers were accurate, there was no dissembling, international borders were respected. All the Russian troops introduced into neighbouring Belarus for the exercise are going home, too. After all the Western accusations that Russia has been waging an information war with the help of “fake news”, who is disseminating “fake news” now, they ask. Is this not further evidence that Western opinion formers are stuck in the rut of Cold War stereotypes? They have a point.
One theory doing the rounds is that, with Zapad-2017, Russia contrived to set a trap which Western analysts and media duly fell into. More likely, I think, is that Russia is simply enjoying the novelty of finding itself on the right side of any information war.
But that leaves the real question – for us – unanswered. How did it come about that the scale and intent of Russia’s Zapad-2017 – its latest in the four-yearly Zapad series of manoeuvres – was so unrealistically hyped in the West to the point of presaging a new world war?
Behind the scenes, accusations are flying, with “the media” – the “irresponsible” media – as usual, in the spotlight. There is an element of truth in that, but only an element. The media does not usually invent, completely invent, what it reports. Especially with military and defence matters, their information comes from somewhere; they may also be given a steer as to interpretation.
In this case, the media – or, more accurately, some headline writers – can be accused of missing some nuance in the information they were given. Russia “could” field as many as 100,000 troops, “could” use the exercise as cover to invade Ukraine, and so on, may slip over into “will”. Possibility becomes certainty. This may be done out of ignorance, for effect, or, in some cases, because it fits an existing political agenda.
But the media is not where the information – or rather, let’s use the old word, “disinformation” – about Russia’s Zapad-2017 originated. Even a cursory look back over advance media reports about these Russian war games shows that they relied on sometimes anonymous, but more often named, sources – sources moreover that could claim some expertise in the matter in hand.
One of these was none other than the Secretary General of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, who warned that Russia “has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours”, citing Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.
Then there was the British Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, who said the exercise was “designed to provoke us” and appeared to accept the estimate of 100,000 troops.
Many of the reports also cited political or think tank sources in the Baltic States, Poland or Ukraine, where – for understandable reasons – a view of Russia as a past and potential aggressor prevails. That a particular view is understandable, however, does not make it correct, especially in new or different circumstances.
The same applies to precedent. UK officials defended what some – myself included – would regard as the scaremongering of the UK Defence Secretary and head of Nato, by saying that Russia had a record of understating the numbers involved in military exercises so as to exclude international observers, and it was not unreasonable to suspect them of doing the same again. Something similar applied to the use of manoeuvres as cover for aggression – even though the relationship between Russian exercises and its Georgia and Crimea interventions are at very least contestable.
Vigilance, they insisted, should be the watchword. But vigilance – and being prepared for any eventuality – is rather different, in my book at least, from hyping a supposed threat from a routine Russian military exercise in a way that simply was not warranted by the evidence and served a sharply anti-Russian Western agenda. This was happening, it is also worth noting, even as “non-aligned Sweden” (so described by Nato) was conducting a Nordic area exercise which involved many Nato members, and shortly after Nato itself had held exercises in the Black Sea and before that in and around the western borderlands of Ukraine. Who, it has to be asked here, is threatening whom?
Thanks to an initial analysis by the foreign affairs think tank Chatham House, the facts of Zapad-2017, in summary, would appear to be these. This was an exercise designed to test the new, smaller and more agile configuration of Russian forces and its new electronic and communications capabilities. It was also intended, in part, to show off its modern hardware, for commercial purposes – and, yes, to demonstrate to Nato that Russia remains a force to be reckoned with. In other words, it was an exercise, in concept and purpose, very similar to the sort of exercise that Western forces hold.
Trump in Tehran in 77 (to the right of Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson)
“All his anger was because of the loss of the value of investment in the nightclub in Tehran after the Persian revolution
to you what was working there
NAKHEL NEWS IRAQ
“The Trump in Tehran ” in 1977 and the “Hornet” in all the languages of the world has been able to understand what is written in the newspaper that the crazy American President Donald Trump went to Tehran under the Shah to open a nightclub. He drank that night until he fell out of his seat and was accompanied by actor Jack Nicholson “Min this.”
What is important is the discovery of the “Hornet” that caused Trump’s anger not because Iran took over Iraq after his country presented it to America on a silver platter, which in any case does not care about Iraq but is interested in Iraq’s oil and did not get angry because of the threat posed by Iran to the throne of Gulf rulers allies of America To his girlfriend pampered Israel but all his anger was because of the loss of the value of investment in the nightclub in Tehran after the Persian revolution religious cover and called falsely and the end of the Islamic revolution.
But who is this Jack Nicholson?
KABUL — A huge public works project over the next two years will reshape the center of the Afghan capital to bring nearly all Western embassies, major government ministries, and NATO and US military headquarters within the Green Zone security district
After 16 years of American presence in Kabul, it is a stark acknowledgment that even the city’s central districts have become too difficult to defend from Taliban bombings.
Soon, US Embassy employees in Kabul will no longer need to take a Chinook helicopter to cross the street to a military base less than 100 yards outside the present protection zone.
Instead, the boundaries of the Green Zone will be redrawn to include that base, known as the Kabul City Compound, formerly the headquarters for US Special Operations forces in the capital. The zone is separated from the rest of the city of 5 million by a network of police, military, and private security checkpoints.
The security project is clearly taking place to protect another long-term US investment: Along with an increase in troops to a reported 15,000, from around 11,000 at the moment, the Trump administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan is likely to keep the military in place well into the 2020s.
No one wants to say when any final pullout will take place because the emphasis now is on a conditions-based withdrawal — presumably meaning after the Afghan government can handle the war alone. But President Trump has kept secret the details of those conditions, and how they are defined.
“Until he says what the conditions are, all that means is we’ll be there as long as we want, for whatever reason we want,” said Barnett Rubin, a longtime Afghanistan expert who advised the Obama administration. “And they don’t have to lie to do that because the conditions will never be good enough to say we’re absolutely not needed.”
In practical terms, it means that the US military mission will continue for many more years, despite its unpopularity with the American public. Many military strategists, in the United States and Afghanistan, have already penciled in plans well into the ‘20s, and certainly past any Trump reelection campaign.
At the NATO summit meeting in Warsaw last year, the allies, including the United States, agreed to fund the development of the Afghan security forces until the end of what was termed “the transition decade,” meaning from 2014, when Afghan forces began to take charge of their own security, until 2024.
“I would guess the US has to plan on being inside Afghanistan for a decade or more in order for there to be any type of resolution,” said Bill Roggio, editor of Long War Journal. “It’s definitely past his first term in office, no two ways about it.”
The military recently appointed an American brigadier general to take charge of greatly expanding and fortifying the Green Zone.
In the first stage of the project, expected to take from six months to a year, an expanded Green Zone will be created — covering about 1.86 square miles, up from 0.71 square miles — closing off streets within it to all but official traffic.
Because that will also cut two major arteries through the city, in an area where traffic congestion is already rage-inducing for Afghan drivers, the plans call for building a ring road on the northern side of the Wazir Akbar Khan hill to carry traffic around the new Green Zone. In a final stage, a still bigger Blue Zone will be established, encompassing most of the city center, where severe restrictions on movement will be put in place.
Already, height restriction barriers have been built over roads throughout Kabul to block trucks. Eventually, all trucks seeking to enter Kabul will be routed through a single portal, where they will be X-rayed and searched.
Kunduz: Taliban ban telecom services at
KUNDUZ CITY (Pajhwok): The Taliban have forced telecom companies into suspending their services at nighttime in northern Kunduz province, local officials said on Wednesday.
The Taliban also confirmed the ban on telecom services at night. A security official in the province, wishing anonymity, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the Taliban issued the order telecommunication companies two days back.
He said telecom networks did not work from 6pm in the evening till 6am in the morning, creating serious problems for local residents. “The Taliban did this because of nighttime security operations.”
Kunduz residents confirmed the issue. Shirin Agha, a resident of Kunduz city, the provincial capital: “My mobile SIM card automatically deactivates in night, and then I am unable to contact anyone. This is a big problem.”
However, another resident of the city, Ghulam Sidiq, said except Salaam Network, the rest of telecom networks didn’t work in night. “The government should resolve the issue at the earliest.”
Meanwhile, provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Abdul Hamid Hamidi confirmed the issue but he didn’t know if the Taliban had ordered the blackout. However, he said, the issue was under investigation and soon a solution would be found.
A telecom company in-charge in the province, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We suspend our services in night to avoid facing any security issue.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the fighters had barred telecom services at night because security personnel used SIM cards in night during operations against militants.
Above: U.S. Marines train Afghan local policemen with AK-47s on June 6, 2012. The U.S.-backed, loosely controlled paramilitary group is accused of numerous human rights violations. Photo by Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images.
A village alleges dozens of civilian deaths at the hands of a single U.S.-trained strongman—just one example of the “Afghan special forces” to whom the U.S. has delegated its war.
October Issue | Investigative Report
1. The Khataba Massacre
Even by Afghan standards, the easternmost part of Uruzgan province is remote, mountainous and poor. It sits 200 miles southwest of Kabul along a highway pockmarked with IEDs and plagued by roving bandits. The road is often impassable, choked by snow in winter and fighting in summer. Most of the tens of thousands of residents are farmers, growing almonds, grapes and apricots. The area’s richest soil lies along two rivers that cut through the arid landscape. Where the rivers merge, forming a wishbone-shaped stretch of green, sits a village called Khataba.
After the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001, Khataba, like many remote villages in Afghanistan, was nominally under government control. But by 2009, the capital’s hold on eastern Uruzgan was fraying. Khataba was what the American military would call a “pro-Taliban village,” an area that, for reasons of tribal or political jockeying, was deemed sympathetic to the insurgency. Afghan government forces had long accused the predominately Pashtun village—an ethnic group often conflated with the Taliban—of giving cover to Taliban fighters.
According to Malik Lal Mohammad, a local elder, one day in August 2009, a pro-government armed group and their U.S. advisors arrived in Khataba to seek out Taliban fighters.
Khataba residents had learned to make themselves scarce when government forces were on a sweep. In a previous U.S.-advised raid, locals say, at least three men suspected of affiliation with the Taliban had been disappeared.
A group of farmers, however, decided that they had little to fear. They were all relatives of Hanif Hanifi, a two-term Afghan senator with clout among local officials. After a rushed assembly to discuss their options, the men, all Pashtun, decided to continue working in the fields. Hanifi’s name, they believed, would afford them protection.
Here is what Mohammad, who had hidden nearby from the patrol, says happened next.
The farmers never had time to make their case. The Afghan patrol opened fire, killing all seven men. It was not clear whether the U.S. advisors, who were stationed half a mile away, witnessed the killings, but Mohammad believes they would have been within earshot of the gunfire.
Afraid the patrol might return, the villagers waited for the cover of darkness before retrieving the bodies. Some of the seven had fallen to the ground still clutching their scythes. The survivors worked silently to prepare the dead for burial.
“I know that this happened and this was wrong,” Hanifi told me in May 2016. Sitting in the basement of his three-story rental in west Kabul, the 53-year-old from eastern Uruzgan recounted what villagers had told him of the murder of his brother, cousins and nephews in the field.
Hanifi, who shaves his head but maintains a kempt beard, is tall and hale for his age. He reclaimed his seat in the Afghan senate in April 2014. The rental, which he shares with his wife, five sons, three daughters and three bodyguards, is where he greets his endless stream of supplicants. Everyone I spoke to there knew of the massacre. Everyone, too, knew how it has come to define Hanifi.
In the eight years since the Khataba killings, Hanifi has waged a tireless, but fruitless, campaign to bring the perpetrators to justice. Hanifi’s story is not an outlier. This kind of impunity has come to be the norm in Afghanistan. Numerous reports from human rights agencies have implicated U.S.-backed militias in killings and human rights violations over the course of the war. No one has a comprehensive tally. Due to poor record-keeping, even the U.S. government may not know how many militias it has funded or how many civilian deaths those militias are responsible for. None of these crimes have been prosecuted in Afghan or international courts.
This is arguably by design. When the UN invited stakeholders to a conference in Germany in 2001 to decide the fate of Afghanistan, it included warlords accused of human rights violations during the nation’s civil war. In Afghanistan, this provoked widespread criticism, to which then-UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi responded, “We cannot sacrifice peace for justice.”
His words set the tone for the years that followed. Considered to be a critical bulwark against the insurgency, local armed groups like the one that killed Hanifi’s family members became central to the U.S.-NATO coalition’s security strategy. As a result, international human rights observers argue, the militias are protected even when they commit crimes.
In an attempt to close out the U.S.-backed war cheaply and expediently, while keeping the pressure on the Taliban, much of the war has been fought off the books by private militia groups that answer to no congressional inquiry or inspector general audit. That strategy has not wavered. President Donald Trump, who wants to step up U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, emphasized in an August 21 speech that Afghans need to “build their own nation and define their own future,” Washington code for deputizing much of the fighting to the Afghan military—a military that in turn heavily depends on the less-regulated U.S.-backed militias. What happened in Khataba is a glimpse into how the U.S. war is experienced by Afghan communities caught between a brutal insurgency and a government that answers not to its people, but its international funders.
After Hanifi reclaimed his senate seat, he spent much of his time sitting in his basement office, attending to the particulars of representative politics—assisting with exit visas, settling disputes over livestock. Yet the primary organizing principle for his life, he told me, was revenge. He has his dagger out for one man in particular—the militia leader he believes is responsible for the 2009 deaths.
“Every day I have thought about him,” he told me. “Every day I have asked myself, how can I find him? What will I do when I find him?”
Above: Locals bike along the road to Afghanistan’s eastern Uruzgan province, site of the Khataba massacre. Photo by May Jeong.
Soon after the Khataba killings, the district police chief called Hanifi to inform him that there had been an incident in his hometown. The police chief did not spell out the details, but, even then, Hanifi thought he knew who was responsible for the killings—Abdul Hakim Shujayi.
Hanifi first met Shujayi in 2007 at a U.S. special operations encampment in Eastern Uruzgan called Firebase Anaconda. Shujayi, Hanifi recalled, was receiving support from the U.S. military. U.S. officials contacted for the story say they have no record of Shujayi working with U.S. forces in Uruzgan or elsewhere at this time—such was the off-the-books nature of the U.S. military’s relationship with local militias in the first chapter of the war, begun by the Bush administration.
The spindly man with a wisp of a beard was prototypical of the Afghan strongmen the United States co-opted in its fight against the Taliban. He had consolidated his power among his fellow Hazaras, Afghanistan’s marginalized Shiite ethnic minority, whose persecution by other tribes intensified after the mostly Sunni Taliban took power in the 1990s.
Hazara militias became natural allies for the NATO coalition. “The Americans felt like they could trust them,” says Martine van Bijlert, co-director of the nonprofit research group Afghanistan Analysts Network and a leading expert on Uruzgan province. “[Shiite Hazaras] would definitely not join the Taliban.” These militia leaders, however, soon gained a reputation for exacting revenge on local Sunni populations.
Around the time of the Khataba killings, the Obama administration was doubling down on its reliance on local armed groups. In 2010, at the behest of the United States, Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced the militias to reorganize themselves under a more respectable-sounding name: the Afghan Local Police (ALP).
The name is misleading. The ALP, or arbeki as it is called in Afghanistan, is neither a local nor a traditional police force. It is more like a neighborhood watch for the Afghan countryside, often made up of non-local recruits. Trained and supervised by U.S. Special Operations Forces in conjunction with the Afghan government, and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through the Afghan interior ministry, the ALP operates independently of the national, more structured, police force and army.
In Uruzgan, the ALP program recruited Hazara militia leaders to patrol a Pashtun majority. This is where the U.S. paper trail on Shujayi begins. In 2010, Shujayi first appeared on the ALP payroll.
Even though the U.S. was bankrolling the venture, local leaders were meant to oversee the vetting of recruits. Yet many, including Shujayi, were handpicked by U.S. advisors, according to Sardar Wali, then a district police chief in eastern Uruzgan. Wali was present during the meeting when U.S. captains pushed for Shujayi to join the local ALP, despite villager protest that he was neither law-abiding nor from the area. Rumors about Shujayi abounded: He had ordered 14 men to climb into a well and then stoned them to death; his troops had burned a young girl alive and beaten a child to death in front of his mother.
Hanifi recalled telling the Americans that hiring Shujayi was a terrible plan: “If you hire only Hazaras, this will create problems. They will kill us and they will say, ‘Oh, they were Taliban.’ ”
Shujayi was nonetheless selected. He and the others chosen were fitted with official uniforms, given weeks-long training by U.S. forces, and sent out into the communities bearing America’s stamp of approval.
Despite its more formal structure, in many provinces the ALP proved to be as violent and unaccountable as its predecessors. In 2011, one year after the ALP’s creation, Human Rights Watch documented a series of alleged abuses—extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual assault—that raised “serious concerns about ALP vetting, recruitment and oversight” and “questions about the relationship of U.S. forces with abusive members of the ALP.”
Shujayi was a poster child for the ALP’s excesses—and its invulnerability. Soon after he was made commander, his officers reportedly killed two young Pashtun students traveling on a motorcycle, according to Wali, the former district police chief.
Wali says that when he unofficially inquired about the travellers, Shujayi laughed and said, “The Americans have my back.”
In the years following the Khataba massacre, Shujayi became so notorious that Afghan authorities could no longer ignore the mounting allegations against him. In a complicated web of alliances that cut across ethnic, religious and tribal lines, local leaders, politicians, federal prosecutors and even the head of the ALP tried to bring Shujayi to justice. All were thwarted, sometimes under inexplicable circumstances. Shujayi appeared to enjoy protection from powerful men.
In the summer of 2010, three provincial officials—Uruzgan’s governor, police chief and finance officer—set out to apprehend Shujayi and charge him with murder, kidnapping, torture and other crimes. According to finance officer Abdul Jalil Achekzai, the three found Shujayi at the U.S. military’s Firebase Anaconda, kitted in the same uniform as the Americans. Over lunch, the delegation sat negotiating the terms of the capture with their American hosts. Eventually a captain agreed to let Shujayi go into their custody, but said the Americans had some last-minute business to go over in private, and asked the delegation to wait in the helicopter. After some time, the rotors began to turn, and the American captain came running out with an interpreter to tell the delegation that Shujayi had escaped. The disbelieving delegation was advised to return home before the sky turned dark.
Charles Cleveland, then-spokesperson for the American mission in Afghanistan, told me the U.S. military was not aware of the encounter. “While it is possible that he worked with a U.S. team during 2010, we just don’t have a record of it,” Cleveland wrote in a February 2016 email.
A military prosecutor for Uruzgan recalls being part of a similar delegation in 2012. He says the Americans refused to hand Shujayi over, repeating that he was a brave soldier who fought the Taliban.
Things seemed to change in October 2012, when the Afghan interior ministry issued an order for Shujayi’s immediate capture. Three months later, interior minister Gholam Mujtaba Patang testified before Parliament that Shujayi would be detained “within the week.” But Shujayi was never formally indicted or arrested. According to multiple government sources, he had allies among influential warlords and officials, who obstructed efforts to bring him to justice. The Afghanistan Analysts Network reported that Shujayi spent 2013 traveling frequently to eastern Uruzgan to oversee security posts there, as if they were still under his command.
A third near miss occurred in Kabul in 2014. ALP chief Ali Shah Ahmadzai received a tip that Shujayi was at the interior ministry and met him with an arrest warrant. Shujayi was taken into custody. Satisfied, Ahmadzai went home. The next morning, Ahmadzai told me, he received a phone call from defense minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who angrily demanded that all charges against Shujayi be dropped. “He threatened to fire me,” Ahmadzai recalled. Shujayi was released.
Eight years after the Khataba massacre, he remains a wanted man.
Soon after, Shujayi dropped out of the public eye. According to U.S. military spokesperson Cleveland, the commander took “some weapons and vehicles” and was gone. By that time, eastern Uruzgan locals allege, Shujayi had killed as many as 60 civilians—all Pashtun villagers. In a country where few know their date of birth, and where the central government’s reach does not extend into remote villages, the only official evidence the villagers had was a list of the dead they had kept. Among the more than 50 family members, local elders and others I interviewed for this story, nearly everyone believed Shujayi was to blame for the deaths.
Shujayi was not just a pariah, a commander gone rogue. Many commanders before him had committed equally egregious crimes, according to villagers from eastern Uruzgan, who told me that Shujayi’s predecessors were also Hazara, and like him, were handpicked by the Americans. Unlike Shujayi, however, most managed to leverage their proximity to foreign influence to resettle abroad.
“It needs to be mentioned that he is not uniquely horrible,” says Uruzgan expert van Bijlert. “He became strong because of his links to the Americans. He was artificially propped up because the Americans needed him.” It just so happened that Shujayi’s reign of terror came as the U.S. special forces were leaving Uruzgan. His services were no longer needed, and he was left to fend for himself.
In 2015, a contact connected me with Sayed Ali, a Hazara fighter and close associate of Shujayi’s. Ali reflected bitterly upon Shujayi’s treatment by the United States: “The Americans, they use you like a tissue paper and they throw you away.”
In November 2015, Ali gave me Shujayi’s phone number. After multiple calls, the commander picked up.
“I am innocent,” Shujayi told me. “I have not committed any crime. I am being framed because of my ethnicity. I was only doing my job.”
By then, he had been on the lam for nearly two years. On occasion, sightings of him were rumored in Kabul. He was said to live freely in the Hazara area of his native Ghazni province, but no one knew for certain. When I spoke to Shujayi, he was vague about his whereabouts. Over a crackling phone line, he did tell me about the vigilante force he ran, protecting some 5,000 Hazara families living in the borderlands between Uruzgan and Ghazni province. The group was called niro-e Shujayi, or the Shujayi brigade.
Shujayi did not express resentment at those who had pushed him into the life of a fugitive, but he did want me to note that everyone who had accused him was a Pashtun (whom Ali derisively calls “Taliban necktie-da,” Taliban with neckties). Everything they said was slander, he told me. For one, he was responsible for no more than 30 deaths, all “in battle.” Shujayi said his level of aggression had been necessary to protect his community.
Which version of events you believe depends largely on your tribe. Images hailing Shujayi as a hero of the Hazara people make regular rounds on Facebook. One advisor to a prominent Hazara ethnic leader, who asked not to be named because he lives in a majority-Pashtun area and fears retribution, wanted me to explain why the U.S. military had tacitly endorsed the behaviors of the Pashtun police chief of Kandahar province, Abdul Raziq, who was accused of violent abuses, but the international community gave Shujayi, a Hazara commander, a difficult time over “some minor misconduct.” (Raziq, while remaining on the Afghan government payroll, has been implicated in various human rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial killings.)
“Shujayi is a hero of the Hazaras,” says Hossain Bahman, a Hazara filmmaker who worked on a documentary about the commander that aired on a Hazara-owned network. “He was only defending his family, his own people.”
One thing that both the Pashtuns and the Hazaras agreed on was how the United States created the conditions for Shujayi’s rise to power, his blood-fueled tenure, eventual escape and continued freedom.
Above: Afghan Sen. Hanif Hanifi says that, after eight years of waiting, he sees little hope of official justice. Photo by Andrew Quilty.
In the fall of 2015, before traveling to Uruzgan, I went to see Hanifi in his Kabul rental. His parting blessings were ominous, “See you when you are back, if you come back alive.”
Earlier that autumn, the northerly city of Kunduz became the first to fall to the Taliban. The city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province was on the edge of collapse. Hanifi’s hometown wasn’t faring much better. Since the start of the fighting season in May 2015, the road connecting eastern Uruzgan to Tirin Kot had been closed due to continuous fighting. According to locals, Taliban fighters had set fire to cell phone towers throughout the province, trying to limit communication. By the time I got there, much of Uruzgan remained inaccessible due to blockades. I didn’t know it then, but this would be one of the last trips that a foreign reporter would be able to make to the provinces.
The root causes of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan cannot be summed up neatly. According to experts, however, an enduring factor is the coalition’s ongoing reliance on local armed groups that operate with no oversight. A June 2016 report by the Open Society Foundations found that “the cost to U.S. and Afghan government legitimacy was exacerbated by abusive, U.S.-backed Afghan actors in the security forces and militias that preyed upon and harmed civilians. The harm caused by predatory militias in the early years damaged Afghan support for the government and for the international mission.” In short, the bargain for security, made in the early years of the war, has backfired.
Despite evidence that these armed groups have hurt efforts to defeat the Taliban, Kabul and Washington continue to depend on them. On August 21, Trump announced his new Afghanistan policy, which signaled no meaningful departure from the past.
“Victory will have a clear definition,” Trump said, and then commenced to list non-measurable objectives—to attack, to obliterate, to crush. He used the language of business to describe war, vowing “to eliminate their ability to export terror.” In short, more troops will be sent, for an unspecified period of time—and the war will continue as before. Nowhere in the speech did President Trump mention the need to safeguard human rights, not only as an end unto itself, but as a necessary condition for building state legitimacy, the only exit strategy that will allow the United States to leave behind a sovereign Afghan state.
As President Trump continues to fight an increasingly unpopular war that even his political base does not want, there will be even more pressure to rely on the ALP. At $121 million a year, it is about a quarter of the price of funding the Afghan police and the army, which work with NATO and are more regulated and accountable. Consequently, Shujayi and his ilk will continue to be in demand as the United States tries to devise a cheap, “Afghan-led” exit strategy.
Upon my return from Uruzgan, where I met with witnesses and people who said they’d lost family to Shujayi, I went to Hanifi’s to let him know I had made it back safe. Sitting cross-legged in his basement, he told me that he was taking a break from his hunt for Shujayi. He needed to focus on securing his influence in the complicated hierarchy of the senate. Besides, he said, Shujayi was a long game. He was confident one day he would find him—and finally exact the retribution that had been years in the making.
“I don’t want to hurt the innocent,” Hanifi assured me. “I only want to hurt Shujayi.” I waited for him to continue.
“I only want to hurt Shujayi,” he repeated. “I only want to hurt him, or any male members of his family.” This, Hanifi believes, is all the justice Afghanistan will allow.
Reporting for this piece was facilitated by grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting.
Julia Clark-Riddell contributed research and fact-checking.
is a magazine writer based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is also a Logan Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
On Saturday, the city of Erbil saw thousands of protesters turning up at a pro-independence rally, ahead of the scheduled September 25 vote. Colorful Kurdish flags hovered over the crowd as participants danced and cheered at a concert in Shanidar Park, with firecrackers briskly lighting up the sky.
Alongside the Kurdish colors of red, white, yellow, and green, Israeli flags could be seen flying in the crowd.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu buoyed the vote, saying Israel supports the “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state.”
However, Netanyahu’s remarks didn’t appeal to Baghdad, which opposes the Kurdish resolve to establish an independent state.
“We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” Vice President Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday, as cited by AFP.
The Kurdistan regional government must “call off the referendum that is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds,” al-Maliki said.
Earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also warned of a “dangerous” decision on secession, calling it “playing with fire.”
The PM went as far as to say that Baghdad “will intervene militarily” if the Iraqi population is “threatened by the use of force outside the law.”
Washington, too, urged the Kurdish region’s authorities “to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.”
In the meantime, Moscow pinned its hopes on the will of the Kurdish people being conveyed peacefully, with geopolitical, demographic and economic aspects considered, given that “the Kurdish issue stretches far from Iraqi borders and spans neighboring countries.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said“the legitimate aspirations of the Kurds, as of other people, should be implemented within international law.”
Donald Trump found his reason to continue the catastrophic 16-year war in Afghanistan: up to $ 3 trillion of natural resources in the country. His new Afghanistan strategy means more deaths in a war-torn country. Trump is the embodiment of the hostile US Empire, writes Jakob Reimann.
In 1776, the British historian Edward Gibbon wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
“They endeavored to convince mankind that their motive was not the temptation of conquest but was actuated by the love of order and justice.”
What Gibbon writes about the Imperium Romanum is a general motive of empires. In addition to the hard power – the economic power and, above all, the military power, the conquest, the physical violence – an empire must also be able to successfully compete in the field of soft power: the war over hearts and minds.
Military violence has to be sold to the people just like to the world. It must always be accompanied by a narrative that obfuscates the actual motives and turns them into something positive.
What was true in ancient Rome also applies to the empire of the young 21st century – the US Empire. In his infamous speech at the US Congress after the attacks of September 11, George W. Bush declared the terrorists would “hate our freedoms”, and the newborn “War on Terror” is “civilisation’s fight” for “progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom”.
If it was still a little hard to buy the liberty-and-democracy-narrative out of the mouth of the oil cowboy from Texas – and especially from his Vice President and former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney – with Barack Obama, the subsequent charismatic constitutional lawyer from Illinois, all doubts vanished. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama showered eight countries with his bombs to ‘fight for the human rights’ of the oppressed of this world.
But Donald Trump and fanaticism moved into the White House, this interdependence of hard power and soft power was destined to change. Just as Trump never made a big secret out of his shameful racism or his hatred of women, he was always a passionate advocate of the predator mentality of the US empire: “So, in the old days, you know when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils,” Trump said to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in 2011, about Iraqi oil. “You go in. You win the war and you take it.”
Apart from the fact that Trump was caught in the delusion that the US had – in whatever meaning of the word – won the war in Iraq, what he is describing is a war crime.
It is true that the notion the United States should take control of the oil in the Middle East by force has been an integral ideological building block among the right-wing war hawks of the US political establishment for decades. International humanitarian law, however, unambiguously states that the Trump-style exploitation of resources in occupied territories is illegal, as legal scholar Sarah Saadoun explains in the Harvard International Review.
At the end of July, the New York Times headlined, “Trump Finds Reason for the US to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals”. Businessman Trump considers the world as the US’ very own self-service shop, and has now transferred his philosophy of the militarily secured resource theft to Afghanistan. Trump’s fierce criticism of Obama’s policy on Afghanistan and his general opposition to that war, which he widely expressed as a private individual, are finally buried.
Trump is now in lock step with the war hawks in the US establishment, the people he once set out to fight. Finally, he is ready to continue the Empire policies of his two predecessors – and his much detested opponent Hillary Clinton.
A short glance back.
‘Western Cure Worse Than Taliban Disease’
With its 16 years, the War in Afghanistan is the longest war in US history and has cost the US taxpayer more than $ 2 trillion. George W. Bush dubbed the war his “Crusade” and claimed to have defeated the Taliban an astonishing seven times in four years.
The US invasion in 2001 was already dubious under international law, as Law Professor Ryan T. Williams of the University of Pennsylvania explains, but “its continued military activity more than a decade later does not comport with any existing international law regarding the use of force.”
Thus, another illegal war of the US Empire.
Nearly 100,000 people have been killed directly during the Afghan war, 26,000 dead civilians among them. By the indirect consequences of the war, another 360,000 dead have piled up. The Afghan civilian population is now on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, and their misery is even greater than before the US invasion 2001.
“Western Cure Worse Than Taliban Disease” – says the renowned Middle East analyst Anders Corr. The Karzai puppet regime, bought from Washington and riven by corruption, reactivated the opium trade, which was literally non-existent at the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 – partly with active support from the CIA – with the result that today more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin supply originates from Afghanistan.
The US military killed one Taliban leader after another. And yet the terrorist organization is now stronger than ever, and has more territory under its control than at any other time since the US invasion of 2001. About 50 percent of Afghanistan is held by the Taliban.
The quasi-religious dogma of all US administrations “Kill the head and you weaken the whole group” has been exposed as nothing but ideologically drive wishful thinking, and has nothing to do with reality. The execution of leaders of established terrorist groups, such as the Taliban, is “highly counterproductive”, as a study by the University of Chicago on the topic of terrorist groups since 1945 unequivocally proves. Rather, the terrorist group would be strengthened by various rebound effects at all levels, the researchers found. In addition to the Taliban, Al-Qaeda has also been reinvigorated in Afghanistan, and ISIS has established an Afghanistan branch as well.
The US is pursuing a scorched earth strategy, and its war has contributed significantly to the destruction of Afghanistan. Donald Trump is, of course, not to blame for this utter mess – the disastrous policies of his predecessors Bush and Obama are. The opportunist Trump, however, exploits this mess now and wants to steal highly valuable natural resources on a large scale in Afghanistan in the near future.
Resource theft by Corporate America
Today’s Afghanistan is a plate-tectonic interface between Eurasia and the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which has resulted in massive geological activities which have endowed Afghanistan a unique and rich mineral profile.
Afghanistan’s resources, the German Institute for Rare Earths and Metals explains, “reads like the wish list of an industrial nation”: lithium, copper, uranium, chromium, billions of tons of high-grade iron ore, gemstones, gold, as well as gas, coal, oil, and in particular rare earths.
Already in 2014, LiveScience reported that Afghanistan would sit on resources worth more than $ 1 trillion, while CNBC cited figures from the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, which estimated the resource wealth to be $ 3 trillion.
Particularly important is the significant occurrence of rare earths: a mineral group, which is of fundamental importance for the production of all high-tech electronics products – from smartphones to drones to space shuttles. China has by far the largest deposits of rare earths and is also the dominant producer, with nearly eight times the production volume of second-place Australia – a quasi-monopolist.
With its tremendous importance for the global economy, Beijing already uses price manipulation as an economic policy weapon. The rare earths have increasingly become a critical political factor and could play a similar geostrategic central role for the 21st century that oil played in the 20th.
In Afghanistan, the rare earths lie mainly in the Taliban-controlled Helmand province, which is also one of the central war zones. At 1.4 million tons, the Afghan deposit is about the same size as the US’. Under Trump’s ‘go in and take it’ mentality, the US could effectively double its resources of these strategically important metal ores.
Trumps political advisors, lobbyists from the industry – such as the CEO of American Elements, or the owner of the DynCorp mercenary firm – as well as Afghan officials and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani whispered to the US president, “Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth could be profitably extracted by Western companies,” reported the New York Times.
While China is the current main investor in Afghanistan’s mines business with investments worth billions of dollars, and Germany being keen on the Afghan lithium deposits in the Helmand province in the south, Trump’s Corporate America now wants its slice of the cake. With the prospect of lucrative deals for US corporations, Trump, who had already announced in his campaign he wants to run the US like a corporation, finally discovered his interest in Afghanistan – a country that was hardly on his radar in the first seven months of his presidency.
With the exception, of course, of the 13th of April, when Trump dropped his phallic symbol on Afghanistan: a weapon of mass destruction, the “Mother of All Bombs”, the largest nonnuclear bomb in history ever dropped on human beings.
By the end of August, less than a month after the New York Times broke the story, Trump finally presented his new strategy for Afghanistan.
“Nothing besides the prospect of more killing.”
In a military base in Arlington, Virginia, Trump gave this keynote address, which was spiked with pompous patriotism, self-adulation, US exceptionalism, glorification of war, and militaristic flatulence. Trump’s one-dimensional analysis of the war showed that he – or rather his speechwriters – clearly do not have even the slightest understanding of the wider Middle East, and of Afghanistan in particular.
In addition to Trump’s typical martial utterances – “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda” – his speech contained three main points:
1. “We are not nation-building again.”
2. “As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.”
3. “We are killing terrorists. […] Retribution will be fast and powerful, as we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field.”
The underlying message of these three points to the Afghans on the ground is this:
1. We are not interested in stability and security in Afghanistan.
2. In complicity with local corrupt elites, we will raid Afghan natural resources.
3. We will kill very many Afghans.
Trump refused to state concrete figures on additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan. The Pentagon, however, spoke of 3,900 additional troops.
“There was nothing in that speech,” said Matthew Hoh of the Center for International Policy, “besides the prospect of more killing.”
Trump’s speech on the escalation of the Afghan war was generally well received, especially in the Trump-critical pro-Hillary camp of the US political landscape: “One of Donald Trump’s finest moments as president,” Paul D. Miller in Foreign Policy smarmed over Trump, a man he used to detest.
Notably, the first time that the US Democrats, which usually indulges in foaming tirades of hate against Trump, gathered in unison behind their president, was when he illegally launched 59 Tomahawk missiles on bashar Al-Assad’s forces in Syria in early April.
Acts of war have always been a unifying motif in US politics.
A United Nations report published last summer revealed that the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan is at a record high in the 16-year war, particularly as a result of the rising numbers of women and children killed. The number of civilians killed by Afghan and US airstrikes more broadly rose dramatically by 43 per cent over the previous year. In June alone, the US launched 389 air strikes, a “record month” for more than four years.
In October 2015, the US military bombed a hospital in Kunduz operated by Doctors Without Borders for over 30 minutes, killing 42 people.
In June, the US killed 16 Afghan police officers with airstrikes.
Just a few days after Trump’s inauguration in February this year, US fighter jets were “bombing indiscriminately in a heavy residential area” in the Helmand province, killing at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children.
Scrutinizing these appalling figures and reports, it begs one question: What “restrictions” at all could Trump want to lift now?
The mask of the US Empire is falling
Trump’s election victory was chiefly due to the fact that a large part of the US population was sick and tired of the establishment in Washington, and its decades of gray interchangeability.
Trump was the hero of this alienated mass of DC-indifferents, and won the election as the unfaltering, anti-establishment candidate, and first and foremost as the anti-Hillary guy.
But instead of fighting the establishment so much hated by his supporters, Trump has incorporated them into his cabinet, the richest cabinet in US history.
In particular, he was elected to office for his glorified non-interventionism, for the promised end of the regime change policy, for his out of the Middle East rhetoric and his America First jingoism.
In office, he has escalated the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, he killed already as many civilians in his fight against ISIS as Obama did in his entire term, he bombed Assad forces several times, he ordered drone strikes at five times the rate of “Drone King” Obama, and he will now set Afghanistan ablaze again, out of greed for profit.
As a candidate, Trump shamelessly lied to his followers. As president he spits in their faces.
The times of disguising soft power-skirmishes are over. Trump simply does not conceal his intent to escalate the Afghanistan war in order to steal resources – “defray the cost”, as he calls it.
As Trump drops the mask of the US Empire, the world now looks at its bare face: it is the ugly, rotten grimace of the Empire, to which money and power mean everything, and human life means nothing.
US corporations are getting richer, Afghans will die.
* This article is an edited and translated version of an article that recently appeared on JusticeNow.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.S.-backed militias in Syria said they came under attack on Saturday from Russian jets and Syrian government forces in Deir al-Zor province, a flashpoint in an increasingly complex battlefield.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting with the U.S.-led coalition, said six of its fighters were wounded in the strike.
The Pentagon said Russia bombed a position east of the Euphrates river where it knew SDF fighters and coalition advisers were stationed. The jets did not injure coalition forces, it said.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow or Damascus.
Washington and Moscow support separate offensives in the Syrian conflict, with both advancing against Islamic State militants in the eastern region that borders Iraq.
“Our forces east of the Euphrates were hit with an attack from the Russian aircraft and Syrian regime forces, targeting our units in the industrial zone,” the SDF said in a statement.
The SDF accused Damascus of trying to obstruct its fighters. Such attacks “waste energies that should be used against terrorism … and open the door to side conflicts,” it said.
The assaults by the Russian-backed Syrian army and the U.S.-backed SDF have at times raised fears of clashes that could stoke tensions between the competing world powers.
Both offensives have converged on Islamic State from opposite sides of the Euphrates river that bisects oil-rich Deir al-Zor, Islamic State’s last major foothold in Syria.
Syrian troops with Iran-backed militias have closed in from the west since last week, while the SDF advances from the east.
Russian and U.S. battles against Islamic State in Syria have mostly stayed out of each other’s way, with the Euphrates often acting as a dividing line. Talks have been under way to extend a formal demarcation line, officials have said.
The U.S. coalition has said the SDF does not plan to enter Deir al-Zor city, where Syrian soldiers have broken an Islamic State siege that lasted since 2014.
Still, in June, the SDF accused the Syrian military of bombing its positions in Raqqa province, and the United States shot down a government warplane in Syria’s crowded airspace.
ACROSS THE RIVER
Ahmed Abu Khawla, the commander of the SDF’s Deir al-Zor military council, said Russian or Syrian fighter jets flew in from government territory before dawn on Saturday.
The warplanes struck as the SDF waged “heated and bloody battles” in the industrial zone on the eastern bank, seizing factories from Islamic State militants, he said.
“We have requested explanations from the Russian government,” he told Reuters. “We have asked for explanations from the coalition … and necessary action to stop these jets.”
The air raid came a day after Khawla said his fighters would not let Syrian government forces cross the Euphrates. On Friday, he warned the army and its allies against firing across the river, which he said they had done in recent days.
The Russian foreign ministry said units of the Syrian army had already crossed.
A senior aide to President Bashar al-Assad said the government would fight any force, including the U.S.-backed fighters, to recapture the entire country.
“I‘m not saying this will happen tomorrow … but this is the strategic intent,” Bouthaina Shaaban said in a TV interview.
Syrian troops and allied forces captured villages on the western bank of the Euphrates on Saturday, state media said.
Shi‘ite militias fighting with Damascus also launched attacks against Islamic State in the south of Deir al-Zor province along the border. Just over the frontier inside Iraq, the military said Iraqi armed forces dislodged Islamic State from the natural gas-rich Akashat region.
The “caliphate” that Islamic State said in 2014 it had established, spanning both countries, effectively collapsed in July when an Iraqi offensive captured the city of Mosul. In Syria, the militants have lost much of their headquarters in Raqqa to the SDF with the help of air strikes and special forces from the U.S.-led coalition.
Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Hugh Lawson
[This is the 3rd or 4th attempt to implement this same solution in Afghanistan; the tribal “lashkar” (militia) defense unit was first attempted in Pakistan’s FATA Region. There, CIA drones worked diligently to sabotage Pakistan’s efforts, by assassinating chosen tribal leaders before their pacifying work could bear fruit. It is beyond ironic that the Pentagon is making a big public display of enforcing the Pakistani Lashkar solution today, once again, in Afghanistan, even while the US State Dept. is simultaneously making a big show of a threatened divorce with our Pakistani partners. Thanks to this hypocritical display of American threats against Pakistan and Trump’s inane tweets about seeking to “win” in Afghanistan, promising to reclaim “American greatness” through another pointless bloodbath, the Afghan Taliban openly proclaimed their allegiance to Pakistan in any US/Pakistani Showdown, promising to fight Western forces alongside the Pak. Army.]
Militias – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s Genies (2): A Look Forward—US pours millions into anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan–on Arbakai vs. Lashkar–Afghan and Pakistani local forces–
Pakistan Demands That Tribal Leaders Police Their Areas, US Merely Wants Them Dead–June 26, 2011
For Some Tribal Leaders It’s Either Form Lashkars or Go To Jail—Jul 5, 2011
Pak Army Pushing Tribal Leaders To Assume Responsibilities Most of Them Do Not– Want–August 18, 2011
To Afghan Civilians
Israel asked Russia and the United States to prevent an Iranian presence, or that of any Shi’ite militia operating under Iranian influence, in southern Syria near the Israeli border in any cease-fire agreement. Israel presented its demand during the talks that preceded the cease-fire agreement in July – but the Russians refused.
The buffer zone demanded by Israel in southern Syria is from 60 to 80 kilometers (about 37 to 50 miles) from the border on the Golan Heights, to the west of the road connecting Damascus and the city of Al-Suwayda in southwest Syria.
The Russians agreed only to promise that the Iranians and their allies would not come any closer to Israel than five kilometers from the armistice lines between those of President Bashar Assad’s regime and the rebels. Because the Syrian government still controls the northern part of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, from the city of Quneitra north toward Damascus, this means in practice the Russians only promised to keep the Iranians away from the actual border.
So far, the Russians have succeeded, to a great extent, in enforcing the cease-fire in southern Syria.
Senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have publicly expressed worries about how close the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah forces and other Shi’ite militias supported by Iran are to the border.
No such Iranian presence has been identified over the past few months, but Israeli intelligence expects the Iranians to infiltrate the border area gradually, and that over the long term the Iranians intend on building a military and intelligence presence along the border with Israel. The Iranians intend on using the Syrian Golan Heights as a secondary front against Israel in the case of another war breaking out between Israel and Hezbollah, experts say.
Iran is spending about $800 million a year supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran is also giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the Assad regime, Shi’ite militias fighting in Syria and Iraq, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Iranian Al-Quds force, the arm of the Revolutionary Guards in charge of Iranian military operations outside Iran under the command of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commands the forces of Iran and its allies in Syria.
Iran also provides aid to the military wing of Hamas in Gaza. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza now receive some $70 million a year from Iran.
Israel believes the efforts of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to improve the accuracy of the missiles in Hezbollah’s hands has not led to significant improvements so far. It seems Hezbollah still does not have extremely precise missiles. Nonetheless, Israeli defense officials describe the Iranian missile “accuracy project” as a serious threat to Israel’s security.
As a result, Israel has conducted a large number of attacks against weapons convoys and warehouses intended for Hezbollah. A week ago, a western Syria facility for manufacturing precision missiles was bombed, an operation that foreign media attributed to the Israel Air Force. Former IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said last month in an interview with Haaretz that over the past five years, the air force has attacked almost 100 times in the area of Syria and Lebanon, as well as elsewhere, to prevent the strengthening of terrorist and guerilla organizations.
MEXICO EARTHQUAKE by HAARP? (FOOTAGE CAUGHT ON CAMERA – 2017)
The Russian planes flew more than 50 sorties to support advancing Syrian government troops
HMEYMIM AIRDROME /Syria/, September 12. /TASS/. Russian air strikes in Syria destroyed nearly 180 facilities of terrorists’ infrastructures near Akerbat on Monday to support advancing Syrian government troops, the Russian military group’s chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Lapin, told the media on Tuesday.
“On Monday alone Russian planes flew more than 50 sorties near Akerbat to wipe out nearly 180 terrorist targets – terrorists’ pockets of resistance and strongholds, underground shelters, command centers, terrorists groups, artillery positions and ammunition depots and fuel and lubricants warehouses,” Lapin said.
He recalled that in central Syria government forces had gained control of the city of Akerbat – a strategic transport node the terrorists had turned into a major stronghold.
“The last remaining loopholes for delivering ammunition and materiel to the terrorists have been plugged. The Syrian army is pushing ahead with security sweeps to clear the areas west and north of Akerbat of terrorists. The terrorist groups still offer strong resistance despite the heavy losses they have sustained,” Lapin said.
Over the past week of heavy fighting the Syrian army has retaken another eight localities to split the group of militants near Akerbat and complete its defeat piece by piece.
“Russian planes support the advancing Syrian troops round the clock by conducting reconnaissance and destroying terrorists’ manpower and materiel and also warehouses containing ammunition and other supplies,” Lapin said.
Special Report: U.N. investigative reports, like a new one condemning Syria for alleged sarin use, are received as impartial and credible, but are often just more war propaganda from compromised bureaucrats, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Many people still want to believe that the United Nations engages in impartial investigations and thus is more trustworthy than, say, self-interested governments, whether Russia or the United States. But trust in U.N. agencies is no longer well placed; whatever independence they may have once had has been broken, a reality relevant to recent “investigations” of Syrian chemical weapons use.
There is also the larger issue of the United Nations’ peculiar silence about one of its primary and original responsibilities, shouldered after the horrors of World War II – to stop wars of aggression, which today include “regime change” wars organized, funded and armed by the United States and other Western powers, such as the Iraq invasion in 2003, the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011, and a series of proxy wars including the ongoing Syrian conflict.
After World War II, the Nuremberg Tribunals declared that a “war of aggression … is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
That recognition became a guiding principle of the United Nations Charter, which specifically prohibits aggression or even threats of aggression against sovereign states.
The Charter declares in Article One that it is a chief U.N. purpose “to take effective collective measures … for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.” Article Two, which defines the appropriate behavior of U.N. members, adds that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…”
However, instead of enforcing this fundamental rule, the United Nations has, in effect, caved in to the political and financial pressure brought to bear by the United States and its allies. A similar disregard for international law also pervades the U.S. mainstream media and much of the European and Israeli press as well.
There is an assumption that the United States and its allies have the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world at anytime solely at their own discretion. Though U.S. diplomats and mainstream journalists still voice outrage when adversaries deviate from international law – such as denunciations of Russia over Ukraine’s civil war – there is silence or support when a U.S. president or, say, an Israeli prime minister orders military strikes inside another country. Then, we hear only justifications for these attacks.
For instance, on Friday, The New York Times published an article about Israel conducting a bombing raid inside Syria that reportedly killed two Syrians. The article is notable because it contains not a single reference to international law and Israel’s clear-cut violation of it. Instead, the article amounts to a lengthy rationalization for Israel’s aggression, framing the attacks as Israeli self-defense or, as the Times put it, “an escalation of Israel’s efforts to prevent its enemies from gaining access to sophisticated weapons.”
The article also contains no reference to the fact that Israel maintains a sophisticated nuclear arsenal and is known to possess chemical and biological weapons as well. Implicit in the Times article is that the U.S. and Israel live under one set of rules while countries on the U.S.-Israeli enemies list must abide by another. Not to state the obvious but this is a clear violation of the journalistic principle of objectivity.
But the Times is far from alone in applying endless double standards. Hypocrisy now permeates international agencies, including the United Nations, which instead of pressing for accountability in cases of U.S. or Israeli aggression has become an aider and abettor, issuing one-sided reports that justify further aggression while doing little or nothing to stop U.S.-backed acts of aggression.
For instance, there was no serious demand that U.S. and British leaders who organized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, should face any accountability for committing the “supreme international crime” of an aggressive war. As far as the U.N. is concerned, war-crimes tribunals are for the little guys.
This breakdown in the integrity of the U.N. and related agencies has developed over the past few decades as one U.S. administration after another has exploited U.S. clout as the world’s “unipolar power” to ensure that international bureaucrats conform to U.S. interests. Any U.N. official who deviates from this unwritten rule can expect to have his or her reputation besmirched and career truncated.
So, while harshly critical of alleged abuses by the Syrian military, U.N. officials are notoriously silent when it comes to condemning the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Israel and other countries that have been “covertly” backing anti-government “rebels” who have engaged in grave crimes against humanity in Syria.
The U.S. and its allies have even mounted overt military operations inside Syrian territory, including airstrikes against the Syrian military and its allies, without permission of the internationally recognized government in Damascus. Yet, the U.N. does nothing to curtail or condemn these clear violations of its own Charter.
Breaking the Independence
The reason is that, for much of this century, the U.S. government has worked to bring key agencies, such as the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), under U.S. control and domination.
This drive to neutralize the U.N.’s independence gained powerful momentum after the 9/11 attacks and President George W. Bush’s launching of his “global war on terror.” But this effort continued under President Obama and now under President Trump.
In 2002, after opening the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and effectively waiving the Geneva Convention’s protections for prisoners of war, Bush bristled at criticism from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary C. Robinson.
Soon, Robinson was targeted for removal. Her fierce independence, which also included criticism of Israel, was unacceptable. The Bush administration lobbied hard against her reappointment, leading to her retirement in 2002.
Also, in 2002, the Bush administration engineered the firing of OPCW’s Director General Jose Mauricio Bustani who was viewed as an obstacle to the U.S. plans for invading Iraq.
Bustani, who had been reelected unanimously to the post less than a year earlier, described his removal in a 2013 interview with Marlise Simons of The New York Times, citing how Bush’s emissary, Under-Secretary of State John Bolton, marched into Bustani’s office and announced that he (Bustani) would be fired.
“The story behind [Bustani’s] ouster has been the subject of interpretation and speculation for years, and Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, has kept a low profile since then,” wrote Simons. “But with the agency [OPCW] thrust into the spotlight with news of the Nobel [Peace] Prize [in October 2013], Mr. Bustani agreed to discuss what he said was the real reason: the Bush administration’s fear that chemical weapons inspections in Iraq would conflict with Washington’s rationale for invading it. Several officials involved in the events, some speaking publicly about them for the first time, confirmed his account.”
The official U.S. explanation for getting rid of Bustani was incompetence, but Bustani and the other diplomats close to the case reported that Bustani’s real offense was drawing Iraq into acceptance of the OPCW’s conventions for eliminating chemical weapons, just as the Bush administration was planning to pin its propaganda campaign for invading Iraq on the country’s alleged secret stockpile of WMD.
Bustani’s ouster gave President Bush a clearer path to the invasion by letting him frighten Americans with the prospect of Iraq sharing its chemical weapons and possibly a nuclear bomb with Al Qaeda terrorists.
Dismissing Iraq’s insistence that it had destroyed its chemical weapons and didn’t have a nuclear weapons project, Bush launched the invasion in March 2003, only for the world to discover later that the Iraqi government was telling the truth.
In comparison to the independent-minded Bustani, the biography of the current OPCW director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, a career Turkish diplomat, suggests that the OPCW could be expected to slant its case against the Syrian government in the current Syrian conflict.
Not only has Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, been a key player in supporting the proxy war to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but Uzumcu also served as Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, which has long sought regime change in Syria and has publicly come out in favor of the anti-government rebels.
Another one-time thorn in the side of the U.S. “unipolar power” was the IAEA when it was under the control of Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, an Egyptian. The IAEA challenged the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq having a nuclear program, when one really didn’t exist.
However, being right is no protection when U.S. officials want to bring an agency into line with U.S. policy and propaganda. So, early in the Obama administration – as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was pushing for a hardline on Iran over its nascent nuclear program – the U.S. government engineered the insertion of a pliable Japanese diplomat, Yukiya Amano, into the IAEA’s top job.
Before his appointment, Amano had portrayed himself as an independent-minded fellow who was resisting U.S.-Israeli propaganda about the Iranian nuclear program. Yet behind the scenes, he was meeting with U.S. and Israeli officials to coordinate on how to serve their interests (even though Israel is an actual rogue nuclear state, not a hypothetical or fictional one).
Amano’s professed doubts about an Iranian nuclear-bomb project, which even the U.S. intelligence community agreed no longer existed, was just a theatrical device to intensify the later impact if he were to declare that Iran indeed was building a secret nuke, thus justifying the desire of Israeli leaders and American neoconservatives to “bomb-bomb-bomb” Iran.
But this U.S. ploy was spoiled by Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s leaking of hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. diplomatic cables. Among them were reports on Amano’s hidden collaboration with U.S. and Israeli officials; his agreement with U.S. emissaries on who to fire and who to retain among IAEA officials; and even Amano’s request for additional U.S. financial contributions.
The U.S. embassy cables revealing the truth about Amano were published by the U.K. Guardian in 2011 (although ignored by The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream U.S. news outlets). Despite the silence of the major U.S. news media, Internet outlets, such as Consortiumnews.com, highlighted the Amano cables, meaning that enough Americans knew the facts not to be fooled again. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Did Manning Help Avert War with Iran?”]
A Collective Collapse
So, over the years, there has been a collective collapse of the independence at U.N.-related agencies. An international bureaucrat who gets on the wrong side of the United States or Israel can expect to be fired and humiliated, while those who play ball can be assured of a comfortable life as a “respected” diplomat.
But this reality is little known to most Americans so they are still inclined to be influenced when a “U.N. investigation” reaches some conclusion condemning some country that already is on the receiving end of negative U.S. propaganda.
The New York Times, CNN and other major U.S. news outlets are sure to trumpet these “findings” with great seriousness and respect and to treat any remaining doubters as outside the mainstream. Of course, there’s an entirely different response on the rare occasion when some brave or foolhardy human rights bureaucrat criticizes Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Then, the U.N. finding is just a sign of anti-Israeli bias and should be discounted.
In the far more frequent cases when a U.N. report is in line with U.S. propaganda, American journalists almost never turn a critical eye toward the quality of the evidence or the leaps of logic. We saw that happen this week with a thinly sourced and highly dubious U.N. report blaming the Syrian government for an alleged sarin incident on April 4. A major contradiction in the evidence – testimony given to OPCW investigators undercutting the conclusion that a Syrian warplane could have dropped a sarin bomb – was brushed aside by the U.N. human rights investigators and was ignored by the Times and other major U.S. news outlets.
But what is perhaps most troubling is that these biased U.N. reports are now used to justify continued wars of aggression by stronger countries against weaker ones. So, instead of acting as a bulwark to protect the powerless from the powerful as the U.N. Charter intended, the U.N. bureaucracy has turned the original noble purpose of the institution on its head by becoming an enabler of the “supreme international crime,” wars of aggression.
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “How US Pressure Bends UN Agencies.“]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
AMMAN (Reuters) – Two Western-backed Syrian rebel groups fighting the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias in southeastern Syria have been asked by their Western and Arab backers to pull out of the area and retreat into Jordan, rebels and diplomatic sources said on Sunday.
Both Usoud al-Sharqiya and Martyr Ahmad Abdo, part of the Free Syrian Army group, said they were told to end fighting in the area by their backers from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and neighboring states that support them, which include Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
“There is a official request for us to leave the area,” said Badr al Din al Salamah, a senior official in the Usoud al Sharqiya group, one of the main rebel groups in the area and a recipient of the military aid from the U.S.-backed alliance.
Since early this year, the rebels have pushed Islamic State militants out of a large swathe of sparsely populated territory stretching some 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Damascus, all the way to the Iraqi border along the frontier with Jordan.
But an offensive by the Syrian army, backed by Iranian militias and heavy Russian air cover, has encircled the rebels and eroded their gains. In recent weeks, the army has regained a string of border posts with Jordan that it had abandoned in the early years of the conflict
Western diplomatic sources said the request was tied to a decision by the administration of U.S. President Trump in July to halt the CIA’s program to equip and train rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The CIA program began in 2013 as part of efforts by the administration of then-President Barack Obama to overthrow Assad. The Trump administration says its strategy in Syria is focused only on defeating Islamic State.
In a letter purportedly to rebel commanders and seen by Reuters, they were told they although they had fought bravely to fend off the Syrian army, their presence in a small enclave now posed a threat to them.
The decision has caused disaffection among hundreds of fighters in the two groups, who consider withdrawing into Jordan as effectively disbanding their forces.
The two groups, who have hundreds of fighters, will have to hand over heavy artillery and dozens of U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that played a part in their battlefield successes against Islamic State and the Iranian-backed militias, rebels say.
In a meeting on Saturday, the rebel commanders told the joint operations center in Jordan that requested their withdrawal they would rather “stay and die” in the desert than leave the battlefield.
“We have rejected the request, since if we entered Jordan we would consider it the end … the blood of our martyrs has not dried yet,” said al-Salameh.
The military operations center has not offered them a choice to move to a U.S. garrison further east near the border with Iraq in Tanf, the rebels say. That garrison, run by a separate program of the Pentagon, hosts an Arab rebel tribal group known as the Maqhawir al Thwra.
Another rebel official said they were not necessarily opposed to withdrawing, but they wanted assurances from Jordan they could lobby to expand to the Badia area a U.S.-Russian-brokered ceasefire, which has halted fighting in southwest Syria.
Washington and Jordan are currently negotiating with Moscow to implement a de-escalation zone that would push back Iranian-backed forces 40 kms north of the border strip with Jordan, diplomats say.
“We have accepted in principle and there are matters that have to be resolved. But until this moment there is no final agreement on withdrawing and we are still in the Badia and still fighting and in our posts,” said Said Seif, a spokesman of the Martyr Ahmad Abdo group.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, editing by Larry King
General Command of the Army: A desperate attempt to raise the morale of the collapsed organization and we will continue to crush terrorism
In a desperate attempt to raise the morale of the terrorists of the collapsed “Da’ash” organization, Israeli enemy aircraft attacked a military post near Masiyaf, in the outskirts of Hama.
The General Command of the army and the armed forces said in a statement received by SANA a copy of “the Israeli enemy flight at 2:42 am at dawn today, the launch of several missiles from Lebanese airspace targeting one of our military positions near Masiaf, which led to the death of two elements and the loss of material at the site.”
The General Command of the army added that this aggression comes in a desperate attempt to raise the morale of the groups of “calling” the collapsed terrorist after the overwhelming victories achieved by the Syrian Arab army against terrorism in more than one direction and reaffirms the support of the direct Israeli enemy to organize “Daash” and other terrorist organizations “He said.
The Israeli enemy has recognized more than once its support for terrorist organizations in Syria and intervened directly to support its mercenaries. This aggression came less than 48 hours after the victory of the Syrian Arab Army in Deir al-Zour and the siege of the city.
The General Command of the Army warned of the “serious repercussions of such acts of aggression on the security and stability of the region” renewing “its determination and determination to crush terrorism and uproot it from all the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic no matter how varied and varied forms of support provided to these terrorist groups.
The entity of the Israeli enemy is openly linked to the organization of the “Da’ash” terrorist, which recognized the former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a US administration to divide the Middle East, which was confirmed more than once by targeting the “American Alliance” sites of the Syrian Arab Army to block its progress and victories on terrorism Takfiri Not to mention the fact that the coalition aircraft carried out successive air strikes in the Syrian desert to evacuate dozens of leaders “Daash” and save them from the inevitable loss as the army advanced in its war on terrorism.
Sales Includes Large Purchase of Warplanes From Lockheed Martin
The US State Department has approved $3.8 billion in weapons sales to the tiny island nation of Bahrain. The Pentagon confirmed the approval and the State Department has notified Congress, who held up a similar sale last year over Bahrain’s many, many human rights problems.
The $3.8 billion sale is almost entirely going to Lockheed Martin, who will be providing 19 F-16V fighter jets, along with substantial upgrades to the nation’s existing fleet of F-16s. Raytheon will be selling 221 anti-tank missiles to go with it.
Sales to Bahrain were supposed to be suspended, as Sen. Bob Corker (R – TN) had threatened to hold them all up until they resolved tensions with Qatar. In the end, however, Congress is said to have signed off through normal channels.
State Department officials insist that the US is continuing to discuss human rights issues with Bahrain, and is encouraging reform. That historically has never really been the case, as the US has largely turned a blind eye to Bahrain’s abuse of its Shi’ite population, viewing it as a cost of getting to host a major naval base there.
Bahrain had earlier today condemned Amnesty International for a report detailing their detention and torture of Shi’ite dissidents. Bahrain didn’t provide any details on their problem with the report, just that they “regretted” it being published.
WASHINGTON: The United States needs to condition its aid to Afghanistan on the recognition of the Durand Line as Kabul’s refusal to recognise it unsettles Pakistan, a US lawmaker told a House Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs.
This apparently is the first time a lawmaker, California Democrat Brad Sherman, has suggested conditioning US aid to Afghanistan to the recognition of Durand Line. Mr Sherman, who usually is harsh on Pakistan, put forth this suggestion at a House subcommittee hearing on “Maintaining US influence in South Asia,” on Thursday.
Also read: Durand Line is recognised border: US
At the same hearing, a senior US official — Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells — reminded Pakistan that India’s interests in Afghanistan were as “real and legitimate as Pakistan’s”.
Mr Sherman proposed conditioning US aid to Kabul while outlining his views on Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan and its fears of a growing Indian influence in that country.
“The Durand line — the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan — has not been recognised by the Afghan government,” he said.
“I realise that’s tough. They’ll say, oh, don’t — but the fact is, as long as Afghanistan leaves open the idea that they’re claiming Pakistani territory, it’s going to be very hard to get the Pakistanis involved, as we need them involved, in controlling the Afghan Taliban,” he explained.
The 2,430km Durand Line is the internationally recognised border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, established in 1896. But it remains largely unrecognised in Afghanistan. India often supports the Afghan claim.
Congressman Sherman explained how Kabul’s refusal to recognise Durand Line, and India’s ambiguous stance on this issue, continues to stir Pakistan’s worst fears.
“And certainly Pakistan sees its enemy as India, and the idea that India would have a cosy relationship with an Afghanistan that hasn’t recognised the border” fans Islamabad’s worries, said the US lawmaker.
None of the two witnesses — Ms Wells and Gloria Steele, acting assistant administrator at the US Agency for International Development, — addressed the dispute over Durand Line.
But Ms Wells did respond to comments by Dr Ami Bera, another California Democrat, who observed that “the more India’s involved in Afghanistan, the more Pakistan seems to get concerned”.
He then asked how the United States would navigate through this issue while seeking to stabilise Afghanistan.
“…We would like to see and appreciate constructive economic investments in Afghanistan’s stability and institutional stability,” Ms Wells responded.
She noted that India has pledged to spend $3 billion in Afghanistan by 2020, investing in “very vital programmes” that Afghanistan needed.
Congressman Ted Yoho, who chairs this House Subcommittee on South Asia, praised India’s positive role in Afghanistan and its “willingness to stand up to China” and asked for provisions in the 2018 US budget to “deepen the US-India security partnership.
Congressman Sherman also raised the issue of missing persons — particularly in Sindh where he claimed both Sindhi and Mohajir activists had recently disappeared. “I look forward to working with you to make official inquiries of the Pakistani government of political activists who have just disappeared, including the brother of a friend of mine,” he said.
Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defense) magazine, said that he believes that the information is reliable and that “we do not need any comments from the CIA or the Pentagon” on the matter.
“It is President Trump who must comment on this and declare clearly: either the evacuation of the ISIS field commanders was authorized by him personally and he assumes all political responsibility for this step, or the [US] special services acted without his approval,” Korotchenko said.
He noted that if this information is finally confirmed, Trump should instruct the Attorney General to launch an appropriate investigation and bring all those responsible to justice for being involved in international terrorism.
Korotchenko was echoed by Franz Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the Russian Upper House’s Defense and Security Committee, who suggested that the evacuation of the ISIS leaders by the US forces did take place.
“No matter how the so-called anti-terrorist coalition tried to refute reports on the evacuation of more than 20 field commanders from Deir ez-Zor, all the long-term experience of US actions, including in Afghanistan, convinces us that the evacuation was almost 100-percent true,” Klintsevich said on his page in Facebook.
“As a person who took part in the 1979-1989 war in Afghanistan, I can say that we constantly felt that Americans were directly supporting the Mujahideen at the time,” he added, also citing escape corridors for militants leaving the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is “allegedly besieged by [US] allies.”
“Of course, Deir ez-Zor is not Raqqa, and it will be impossible to evacuate hundreds of militants in this case here but this is not the point. It seems that the US still sees the meaning of its existence in its confrontation with Russia, and this, to put it mildly, does not cause optimism,” Klintsevich said.
Earlier, in an interview with the Russia’s Rossiya 24 TV channel he suggested that the evacuation of the ISIS leaders from Deir ez-Zor may indicate that the US is trying to save its agents and contacts, among other things.
“Unfortunately, I have come to this conclusion. I think that analyzing these events, we will have more complete information in the near future,” Klintsevich added.
Commenting on the ISIS leaders’ evacuation, a military and diplomatic source, meanwhile, said that the first such extraction took place on August 26, when a “US Air Force helicopter” evacuated 2 ISIS field commanders of “European origin” with members of their families from an area located to the north-west of Deir ez-Zor at night.
According to the source’s data, two days later, US choppers transferred 20 ISIS field commanders and militants close to them from south-eastern areas near Deir ez-Zor to northern Syria.
On Tuesday the Syrian army, with Russian air support, managed to finally break the three-year ISIS siege of the city of Deir ez-Zor. Until that point, food and ammunition had only been delivered to the city by air. Helicopters from the city of Qamishli had evacuated the wounded and delivering essential supplies to the city’s population.
[The Pentagon’s toy helicopters, gifted to the needy Afghan military, are armed with two machine guns and 7 – 2 3/4″ unguided rockets.–Pentagon Equips Afghan Air Force With Toys, NO THREAT To US Equipment ; Pentagon blew $28M on wrong uniforms for Afghan troops]
The country’s air force is getting dozens more MD 530Fs, but doesn’t even have enough pilots for its existing fleet.
Redefining Winning in Afghanistan
In his recent speech on the war in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump laid out what he said was a “plan for victory” and assured us that “in the end, we will win.”
For all the very considerable expense, however, the American military does not have a very impressive record of achieving victory. It has won no wars since 1945—especially if victory is defined as achieving an objective at acceptable cost—except against enemy forces that essentially didn’t exist.
It triumphed over tiny forces in Grenada—possessed of two vehicles, one of which was rented—and over scarcely organized thuggish ones in Panama and Kosovo. And, although the Iraqi opponent in the Gulf War of 1991 often looked impressive on paper, it turned out to lack quite a few rather elemental qualities: defenses, strategy, tactics, training, leadership and morale—it was, as one general put it ironically at the time, “the perfect enemy.”
There are also a few wars in which it could probably be said that the United States was ahead at the end of the first, second, or third quarter—Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. But the final results of these were certainly less than stellar: exhausted stalemate, effective defeat, hasty withdrawal and extended misery.
Trump notes that “we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS” in Iraq and Syria, and he seems to suggest that those results can be duplicated in Afghanistan. And, indeed, foreign-policy analyst David Ignatius has suggested that in its current war against the Islamic State, the U.S. military may well have found a winning combination.
It is not at all clear that this approach has much wider potential, however. The strategy against ISIS is working because of a couple of complementary features not likely to be found in many other conflicts—including especially Afghanistan.
First, the enemy is vicious and uncompromising enough to generate an almost wall-to-wall hostility from the locals. And second, there is a sense among Americans that the enemy presents a direct threat to the United States.
In Iraq and Syria, American advisers and special-operations forces in substantial numbers are working closely in the field with the troops they advise. In addition, the Americans supply a great deal of coordinated fire support, particularly from the air. “What makes this campaign so unusual, is that U.S. forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops,” notes Linda Robinson, an analyst at the Rand Corporation. Rather, she suggests, quoting Gen. Joseph Votel, “the campaign is conducted ‘by, with, and through’ others.”
But, as Ignatius stresses, the strategy can succeed militarily in such ventures “if—and probably only if—it works with local forces who are prepared to do the fighting and dying.” And, the “surprise” has been in how motivated and disciplined the forces being supported in Iraq and Syria now are: “They’ve fought bravely, taking significant casualties,” and for the most part “have cooperated across sectarian lines.”
Such motivation and discipline was scarcely anticipated in 2014 when Islamic State attacked Mosul with the apparent intention of holding part of the city for a while in an effort to free some prisoners. The defending Iraqi army, trained by the American military at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of more than $20 billion, simply fell apart in confusion and disarray. Iraqi soldiers abandoned their weaponry, and the city, to the tiny group of invaders although they greatly outnumbered them—even taking into account the fact that many soldiers had purchased the right to avoid showing up for duty by paying half their salary to their commanders.
That changed as people got to know Islamic State better. As it grew and governed territory, its character became clearer, and that helped inspire the dedicated and disciplined opposition that Ignatius talks about. “Either we will win or they will kill us all,” as one of them puts it in the recent film, “City of Ghosts.”
Much of this was evident even in 2014. As Middle East specialist Ramzi Martini pointed out at the time, “the Islamic State’s fundamentals are weak” and its “extreme ideology, spirit of subjugation, and acts of barbarism prevent it from becoming a political venue for the masses.” The terror group’s foolhardy efforts to instill fear in everyone limits “its opportunities for alliances” and makes it “vulnerable to popular backlash.” “Its potential support across the region ranges from limited to nonexistent” and it “is completely isolated, encircled by enemies.” Such defects were soon to send it into decline.
The group might have been successful if it had been able to overcome such weaknesses. This would have required keeping its mindless savagery under control. And it would also have needed to make common cause with other Sunni groups in Iraq who had at the time been systematically alienated by the policies of Nouri al-Maliki, who emerged as prime minister in the wake of the surge, that, at a cost of one thousand American lives, had provided a moment of respite in the country.
However, ISIS continued to exercise what Daniel Byman has called, its “genius for making enemies” and its brutalities. The Islamic State’s staged beheadings of hostages, summary executions of prisoners, and the rape and enslavement of female captives, continued to intensify opposition to the group. In a poll conducted in Iraq in January 2016, 99 percent of Shiites and 95 percent of Sunnis expressed opposition to it.
The Islamic State’s ultimate idiocy, however, was to stage and webcast several beheadings of defenseless American hostages. Only 17 percent of the American public had advocated sending ground troops to fight ISIS after the rout in Mosul—it seemed to be yet another incomprehensible civil conflict among Iraqi factions. But the beheadings boosted support to over 40 percent, and that went even higher later. And some 60 to 70 percent of Americans soon came to view ISIS as a major security threat to the United States. Indeed, in one 2016 poll, fully 77 percent of Americans who said they had been following the news about Islamic State closely (fully 83 percent of the total) held that Islamic State presented “a serious threat to the existence or survival of the U.S.”
Such numbers suggest that there would have been public support even for a greater troop involvement. However, there was an understandable wariness that, after a decade and a half of war in the area, public-support figures might soften considerably if American casualty rates were to rise. The “by, with, and through” approach has avoided that problem—as Ignatius points out, in three years of fighting, just five Americans were killed in action in Syria and Iraq.
Military victory against Islamic State would certainly improve the American track record. And the fourth quarter in this case may well turn out better—although the danger, of course, is that fighting will break out among the victorious factions once ISIS is dispatched militarily and reduced to a terrorist group rather than a territorial menace.
But, even if that doesn’t happen, it seems unlikely that the war-fighting approach applied in Iraq and Syria will prove to be a game changer that will have wide applicability. In particular, the Taliban in Afghanistan is nothing like ISIS.
And perhaps Trump realizes this. In his speech, he repeatedly calls for “victory,” and, like other presidents and war supporters, he duly rechannels the “safe haven” myth. But he then defines “victory” as something more akin to a stalemate: “preventing the Taliban from taking over” and then perhaps negotiating.
John Mueller is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a political scientist at Ohio State University. Among his books are The Remnants of War and (with Mark Stewart) Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism and the forthcoming Are We Safe Enough? Measuring and Assessing Aviation Security.
- North Korea warns of ‘super-powerful’ electro-magnetic pulse attack on US
- The secretive state tested a 100-kiloton thermonuclear weapon on Sunday
- That would be a ‘city killer’ bomb, five times larger than Nagasaki atomic bomb
- But detonation in the high atmosphere could create devastating EMP attack
- Potential to wipe out electrical grid over virtually all of the continental US
North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons test has renewed fears of a devastating electro-magnetic pulse, or EMP, attack that could wipe out electrical grids across the US.
For the first time, North Korea specifically mentioned the possibility of an EMP attack on the US following Sunday’s test of a 100-kiloton weapon, which the regime claims is a thermonuclear bomb.
The weapon could wipe out much of a city, but the pulse from a high-altitude blast could sow chaos and destruction far wider.
North Korea’s state news agency warned that the weapon ‘is a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack.’
A nuclear bomb detonated 19 miles above the earth would affect Kansas and the surrounding states. One detonated at an altitude of 294 miles would affect most of the continental US. The map above shows EMP blast zones (red) of detonations at different altitudes (black numbers)
On Saturday night EST, North Korea released this photo showing Kim Jong-Un and what appeared to be a nuclear warhead. Soon after, it detonated a 100kt bomb underground
An EMP is a burst of high-intensity radio waves emitted from nuclear explosions in the upper atmosphere that scrambles electronics, much like a sudden power surge can overload a power outlet.
But an EMP is far, far worse. A nuclear bomb detonated high in the atmosphere could knock out the power grid across a huge swathe of the continental US.
WHAT IS A NUCLEAR EMP?
North Korea has specifically threatened an EMP attack on the US for the first time.
Nuclear blasts generate high-intensity radio waves that can disrupt electronics.
These EMP blasts travel along line-of-sight, which means the effects extend only to the visual horizon.
A powerful enough blast at an altitude of 249 miles could impact most of the continental US.
That would leave hospitals without power, civilian and government agencies unable to coordinate, and the fabric of society unraveling fast.
‘I think this is the principal, the most important and dangerous, threat to the United States,’ James Woolsey, former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in March.
‘If you look at the electric grid and what it’s susceptible to, we would be moving into a world with no food delivery, no water purification, no banking, no telecommunications, no medicine. All of these things depend on electricity in one way or another.’
The higher the bomb is detonated, the wider the EMP’s range of effect.
A bomb detonated 19 miles above the center of the country would affect all of Kansas and Nebraska, almost all of South Dakota, and substantial chunks of surrounding states.
This picture released by the North Korean government late last week shows the last test launch by the country. The regime’s latest nuclear weapons test raises fears of an EMP attack
Yonhap, South Korea’s official news agency, reports the quake from the test struck near where North Korea’s nuclear test site Punggye-ri is located
In Japan (left), pedestrians were seen horrified at the news on a public display, while (right) North Koreans reacted with joy to the announcement
Theoretically, a sufficiently powerful bomb detonated at an altitude of 249 miles would wipe out all electronics in the US, save the southernmost top of Florida and the easternmost states – as well as affecting Canada and Mexico.
That altitude is roughly the orbit of the International Space Station and other low-Earth orbit satellites.
North Korea has already demonstrated its ability to reach this altitude with two satellite launches, in 2012 and 2016, which some experts believe were tests of an EMP launch trajectory.
‘EMP is one of the small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences,’ William Graham, chairman of the Commission To Assess The Threat To The US From An EMP Attack, told Congress in 2012.
‘Our vulnerability is increasing daily, as our use and dependence on electronics and automated systems continues to grow.’
Destabilize Afghanistan, Central Asia
The emergence of the Taliban was facilitated by the US and its allies, who tried to use the terrorist threat to maintain their control over the Central Asian region while simultaneously posing a challenge to America’s geopolitical competitors, Russia and China, Afghan experts told Sputnik.
The Taliban — a radical Afghan Islamist organization — was created by the US and its allies to maintain control over Central Asia and pose a challenge to Russia and China, experts told Sputnik Afghanistan, assuming that Pentagon war planners are not really interested in destroying the terrorists.
“The Taliban was created by the West and the countries neighboring [Afghanistan],” Gol Ahmad Azami, a military expert and Afghan parliamentarian told Sputnik. “The main role [in creating the Taliban] was played by Pakistan and Arab [Gulf] countries.”
Azami said that if Washington had truly planned to eradicate the terrorist organization it could have done it at the very beginning of the conflict, especially given the fact that Pakistan at that time was America’s close ally.
According to the Afghan parliamentarian, the US also facilitated the emergence of Osama bin Laden, who later became a thorn in the side for Americans and whom they destroyed with the assistance of Islamabad.Azami underscored that if the US and its regional allies were really interested in bringing an end to the war with terrorists it would have never lasted this long.
Afghan general Abdul Vahid Taqat echoes Azami: “The Taliban is the project of the US and Great Britain,” he suggested speaking with Sputnik.
The general called attention to the fact that initially the terrorist organization was located in the south of Afghanistan. If the Americans wanted to destroy it, they would have put an end to it in the south instead of forcing them to go to the north, he suggested.
“The purpose of the US military presence in our country is not a war on terrorism, but penetration into neighboring countries and Russia,” Taqat believes.
Atiqullah Amarkhel, a military analyst and retired general from the Afghan Air Force, surmised that the Taliban was part of the US strategy aimed at destabilizing the region. According to Amarkhel, the Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia, in general, has always fit into the Pentagon’s plans.
He recalled that in 2004 the Taliban popped up in Charchino district and the war resumed. The US-led coalition deployed about 150,000 troops in Afghanistan. By 2014 the war had intensified with the Taliban obtaining more resources and weapons. Although the terrorist organization was far from being destroyed Washington announced that it was going to withdraw its troops from the country.
“The Americans said they had trained the Afghan military, and they would now fight on their own,” Amarkhel noted. “In fact, this was not the case, as the Afghan military did not have enough weapons.”
As a result, the Taliban continued to gain ground in Afghanistan, the military analyst pointed out, adding that in 2015 the situation further deteriorated with the emergence of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) and the Haqqani Afghan guerilla insurgent group in the region.”Then the neighbors of Afghanistan started saying that the US themselves allowed the Taliban and Daesh to spread [within the country], adding that the US wants to destabilize the region and establish its domination here,” the military analyst said.
According to Amarkhel, the US’s main strategic goal was to undermine the security of Central Asian states, such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and other countries of the region. The crux of the matter is that the destabilization of Central Asia poses a substantial threat to Russia and China’s national security.
Likewise, Iran also remains in Washington’s crosshairs, the retired general added.
Earlier, on August 22, The Intercept’s Ryan Grim wrote that “shortly after the US invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban tried to surrender,” however, Washington “turned them down repeatedly.”
Since George Bush, the Afghan strategy envisaged eradicating as many terrorists as possible, “Afghans that the US worked with understood the predicament their military sponsors were in, so they fabricated bad guys,” Grim pointed out.
Afghan general and parliament member Nazife Zaki disagrees with Grim.According to Zaki, the Taliban didn’t try to surrender: being struck by the US-led coalition forces the terrorist organization simply retreated, fleeing Kabul and the country’s provinces.
“They retreated to collect weapons and resume the fight in 2005,” Zaki told Sputnik. “They did not have an opportunity to resist the offensive conducted by several foreign states at once.”
According to Azami, at that time, the US-led coalition had enough leverage to eradicate the Islamist group, but the truth of the matter is that Washington and its allies had “far-reaching plans.”
“The continuation of this war is a continuation of the competition of global powers, as it was during the Cold War between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries,” Azami emphasized. “I hope that in our time Afghanistan’s diplomacy will be able to play actively, so that our country won’t become a confrontational arena for great powers.”
Instead of playing power games, America and its allies have to realize that terrorism is evil and team up with Russia and other countries to create a global coalition that can save humanity from this disaster.
“Now Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has issued another call for Holy War against the United States.”
“Hezb-e-Islami fighters confirmed their links with the Islamic State and insist that they would keep fighting until Sharia Law was established not just in Afghanistan, but throughout the world.”
MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): The governor of northern Balkh province Atta Mohammad Noor on Friday accused Gulbadin Hekmatyar, Amir of Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) for having links with Daesh or Islamic State.
Noor expressed the view at the Eid-ul-Adha prayer in Rawza Mubarak in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province. He alleged Hekmatyar fueled differences among tribes and religious groups.
He said Hekmatyar fueled differences between Shia and other religious groups in the country. He claimed he would not give up his campaign against Hekmatyar until he revokes his allegiance to Daesh.
HIA so far did not speak about the recent remarks of Noor but earlier the group said they would not open an armed front against any party or individuals.
Noor acknowledge incident of violence took place in some district but clearing operation against insurgent was underway.
The Lebanese Army has ousted 600 Isil militants from the border with Syria, but the assault was only possible with multi-million dollar UK and US military aid, like reported by newstatesman.com.
In late August, the Lebanese Army (LAF) began the “Dawn of the Outskirts” operation to oust 600 Isil militants from 120 sq km of mountainous territory in Ras Baalbeck on Lebanon’s north-eastern border with Syria. Troops made signficant progress against the terror group, which had occupied the land since 2014. Less than 10 days later, Lebanon’s President announced the job done.
Embedded with Lebanese army troops, journalists were permitted entry to land retaken just days previously from IS militants.
Convoys of desert buggies, Humvees and pick-up trucks kicked up swirls of dust alongside burnt-out vehicles, which soldiers said had belonged to IS militants.
Troop morale appeared high as we passed groups lounging around their armed personnel carriers, flicking V for victory signs and posing in their battle vests.
“We hope they [IS] try to attack again so we can show them what we have got,” a senior ranking officer boasted.
The battle on this little-known front against IS – which is losing territory across Iraq and Syria – was mounted with multi-million dollar military aid packages from Britain and the USA.
An army source in Beirut told the New Statesman before the assault began that 90 per cent of the weapons in use were supplied by the USA, and UK-provided skills and equipment were essential.
Like most things in Lebanon, though, that is not something everyone agrees on.
The UK generally plays down its military involvement in the Mediterranean country, while the US is much more public. Earlier this month, it published a long list of weapons it had supplied to the Lebanese Army in the past year alone, including 50 automatic grenade launchers, 4,000 M4 rifles, and over half a million rounds of ammunition. Total spending in the past decade tops more than a billion US dollars.
As well as ousting IS, the operation saw the north-east area come under Lebanese state control for the first time. Up until now, it has been an unmarked border zone.
Training on UK soil, such as that described by the Lebanese soldier, has not been confirmed by British authorities. But substantial military aid from Britain is intended to keep Lebanon’s borders secure. The UK has been delivering a “train and equip” programme for Land Border Regiments, who oversee the north-eastern area. By April 2017, the Government had delivered 320 Land Rovers, 3300 sets of body armour, a secure radio communication network, 30 border watchtowers and over 20 Forward Operating Bases along the border, spending £61.5m.
All this has worked relatively well in creating a proper army out of what was once an ineffective and unorganised non-institution.
Lebanese soldiers are, naturally, defensive, when faced with the idea that they wouldn’t be able to cope without UK and US backing. Still, one soldier, who like nearly all troops deployed for the anti-IS offensive asked to remain anonymous, admitted things would be much tougher without it: “The help from the UK and US supports us. We would survive without it, but it would be harder and there would be many more dead and injured.”
Britain and the USA do not simply dole out military aid to Lebanon because they feel like it. It is a key way in which western governments hope to shape alliances in the Middle East. The idea in western policy is that a strong Lebanese Army will serve several purposes.
“The US and UK calculate that reinforcing the Lebanese state and its security apparatus will help Lebanon meet the successive challenges of Sunni Jihadi groups threatening to overrun the region,” says Middle East analyst Tobias Schneider.
The second idea is that a strong army – one of the few institutions that has cross-sectarian support in Lebanon – will lessen the influence and power of Hezbollah. The Lebanese political party’s military wing is considered a terrorist organisation by the UK and the US governments. That would contain Iran’s influence in Lebanon – Hezbollah is a proxy of the Islamic Republic – and reduce the likelihood of a new war with Israel.
But there is a problem in the west’s calculation that a strong army equals a weak Hezbollah.
“Hezbollah today being a pillar of Shia politics in the country, there won’t ever be sufficient political consensus in Lebanon for the army to directly challenge or confront the ‘Party of God,’” continues Schneider, referring to Hezbollah by its name in English.
Hezbollah has wide-ranging support and political alliances in Lebanon, stretching beyond its Shi’ite core to other sects. Lebanese convention dictates that the President must be Christian. The incumbent, Michel Aoun, is in power with Hezbollah support. Strengthening the Army will not eliminate the wide-held belief that the militia has a legitimate role as an anti-Israel force.
A staunch ally of the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah has played down the importance of foreign aid to the Lebanese Army.
Instead, in a speech this week in Baalbeck, a Hezbollah stronghold in the Bekaa Valley, Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah greeted an ecstatic crowd with the idea that defeating IS meant successfully foiling a US-Israeli plot.
“The US-Israeli plot in the region failed and the US-Israeli dreams that were put on ISIL and other terrorist groups fell”, Nasrallah told an audience of tens of thousands of people, who included girls screaming like fans at a One Direction concert. He spoke via video link, blaming security fears for his longstanding absence from public appearances.
Hezbollah draws supporters into the belief that “the resistance” – Hezbollah fighters – and an alliance with the Syrian Army are behind the Lebanese Army’s success, not the US or UK aid. On the same day that the latter launched the Dawn of the Outskirts operation, Hezbollah and the Syrian Army began an assault on IS fighters from the Syrian side. A week later, both parties announced ceasefires almost simultaneously.
That belief goes right down to the Lebanese person in the street, at least in some parts of the country. Outside the Baalbeck rally, 18-year-old Abbas carried an impossibly large yellow and green Hezbollah flag, and told the New Statesman, “The army needs the resistance and the resistance needs the army – they have a shared role”.
Hezbollah is proud of boasting its good relationships with both the Lebanese and Syrian armies.
That puts the Lebanese Army on rather a sticky wicket. They have been at pains to deny any such cosy relationship with Hezbollah, mindful of the threat that proof of co-ordination with a proscribed group would pose to its US-supplied dollars.
“In the current political climate, Congressional hawks could easily try and leverage collusion with the Iranian proxy militia and designated terror organisation into a full assistance stop,” says Schneider.
It has happened before: in 2010, the USA cut $100 million in aid after an incident on the Lebanon-Israel border.
During the Ras Baalbeck embed, Lebanese Army General Fady Daoud welcomed journalists into the operations room for the anti-IS operation. A journalist from Al Manar, the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese news outlet, asked what he knew about “resistance” positions across the border in Syria. Daoud, suddenly looking slightly flustered, gestured wildly at the scale model of Lebanon’s border territory in front of him. He insisted his forces were only dealing with land up to the border, and he had no information about positions in Syria.
The UK’s military aid programme for Lebanon is set to continue until at least 2019, by which time it will have trained some 11,000 troops. The embassy in Beirut declined a a request for an interview, but said in a statement that the UK is a “proud supporter” of the Lebanese Armed Forces. “We welcome the news that the LAF have been able to clear Daesh from Lebanese territory.”
But the USA, after making such enormous investments over the past decade, plans to cut its military spending on Lebanon next year. The Trump administration appears to want to abandon the long-held counter-Hezbollah strategy of strengthening the army, and tackle the group with sanctions instead. The former hasn’t worked because of Hezbollah’s entrenched support bases in Lebanon. The latter also risks isolating Lebanon and creating economic instability in a country where the government already fails to provide basic commodities such as electricity and water.
Nasrallah also has a point: while the Lebanese Army led the anti-IS offensive and denied co-operation with Hezbollah, it was a Party of God deal that eventually caused the Sunni militants to flee Lebanese soil. In exchange for information on the whereabouts of nine kidnapped Lebanese soldiers (found dead), IS was allowed safe passage from Lebanon to Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria. That caused another ruckus, leaving Iraq wondering why Hezbollah was striking a deal to place more IS fighters on its border.
In Baalbeck, the USA is not part of Lebanon’s stability – at least rhetorically. To a crowd repeating after him, Nasrallah hammers home Hezbollah’s ‘golden equation”: that Lebanon is safeguarded by a trilogy of “the army, the people, the resistance [Hezbollah].” There is no explanation that the “army” part of the equation would struggle without the USA. But it would struggle without Hezbollah too.
Despite seemingly stalled peace talks between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban, officials say the intelligence chief speaks by telephone with militant leaders nearly every day about the country’s constitution and political future.
In addition, Afghanistan’s national security adviser has conversations with the Taliban every other month, officials familiar with the efforts said.
The Associated Press has seen documents describing the conversations between the Afghan officials and the Taliban leadership in both Pakistan and the Gulf state of Qatar, where they maintain an office.
While Afghan officials said neither side was ready to agree to public peace talks, the documents revealed details of the issues discussed, including the Taliban’s apparent willingness to accept Afghanistan’s constitution and future elections.
A senior Afghan security official, who had taken notes on the details of talks, rifled through a black leather-bound book until he came to a list he called “Taliban talking points.”
The Afghan security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the Taliban wanted certain amendments to the constitution — although not immediately. They also envisioned an Islamic system of governance in Afghanistan, he said.
Among the Taliban’s demands, according to the official:
— They accepted education for boys and girls at all levels, but wanted segregation by gender.
— Women could be employed in all fields, including defense and the judiciary, and they could serve as judges at all levels except the Supreme Court. However, the Taliban wanted constitutional guarantees that a woman could not be president.
— Special courts should be established to oversee thousands of cases that allege land was taken illegally by the rich and powerful in the post-Taliban era. Many of the land owners are former warlords who are now in the government. The Taliban wants the land returned to those from whom it was taken.
— Elections could be held after an interim government is established, with no one affiliated with past governments allowed to serve in the interim administration. The Taliban said all sides could keep areas currently under their control until voting is held.
Afghanistan’s Intelligence agency had no comment about the contacts with the Taliban. Officials familiar with the conversations said intelligence chief Masoum Stanikzai has near daily telephone conversations with Taliban leader Abbas Stanikzai, who is not related to him. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
National Security adviser Mohammed Haneef Atmar’s office refused requests to comment on reports of his contacts with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
“I am confident that these are sincere terms from the Taliban — with the qualification, of course, that in the areas they control they will determine the outcome of the elections — because I have heard variants of them put forward by a range of people from or close to the Taliban,” said Anatol Lieven, professor at Georgetown University’s campus in Qatar and the author of “Pakistan: A Hard Country.”
But the path to substantive and public peace negotiations is difficult, he said.
“Apart from anything else, it is difficult to imagine the existing elites (in Kabul) surrendering power and patronage to a neutral government, let alone one that in future would inevitably have to include the Taliban,” Lieven said.
The Taliban came to power in 1996 after pushing aside the U.S.-backed mujahedeen fighters who defeated Afghanistan’s Communist government. The mujahedeen then turned their weapons on each other, killing thousands of civilians and destroying entire neighborhoods in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Their rule also was marked by widespread corruption.
Under the Taliban, officials imposed a repressive interpretation of Islam that denied education to girls, drove women from the workforce and established harsh punishments like public executions and flogging similar to those carried out in Saudi Arabia. The only countries to recognize the Taliban government were Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
After harboring militants from al-Qaida who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban from power, but the militants have waged an insurgency against the Afghan government since then. The U.S. and NATO have sent thousands of troops to the country in the past 16 years to help the Afghan military fight the Taliban and other militant groups.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia. He said American troops would “fight to win” by attacking enemies, “crushing” al-Qaida, preventing terrorist attacks against Americans and “obliterating” the Islamic State group, whose affiliate has gained a foothold in Afghanistan as the U.S. squeezes the extremists in Syria and Iraq.
But his definition of a win in Afghanistan notably did not include defeating the Taliban. “Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Trump said.
Although Trump insisted he would not talk about numbers of troops, he hinted he would embraced the Pentagon’s proposal to boost troop numbers by nearly 4,000, augmenting the roughly 8,400 Americans there now
Lieven said he was hopeful that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster could use the increase authorized by Trump as well as the threat of an increased presence by India “as a way to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table,” using their own talking points as a start.
But the Taliban told AP they were not interested in talks.
A member of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, Abdul Hakim Mujahed, who also served as the Taliban’s representative at the United Nations during their rule, said there is deep mistrust on both sides.
Mujahed said it is also unlikely the Taliban will enter talks without a guarantee of an eventual troop withdrawal.
“They have moved away from demanding immediate withdrawal but they want a discussion with the Americans on a timetable,” he said.
Do You Trust Afghanistan’s Anti-ISIS
A short time ago in a part of Afghanistan far, far away, Islamic State wanted to establish a province of its dark empire, but a tribal force awakened to fight back. However, this tale of noble local fighters protecting their tribe from religious fundamentalists is more complicated than it appears on first sight, as the line between the light and the dark side begins to blur.
The bearded man looked as nondescript as the traditional guest room, furnished with simple mattresses and cushions, in a house in a slightly desolated village in Rodat District, close to the main road in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar. But when I met him in early February, he claimed to command a tribal fighting force of around 350 armed men in the nearby remote mountainous districts of Achin and Spin Ghar, bordering Pakistan’s tribal area.
Having already fought the Soviets in the 1980s, he and his men have once again taken up arms against an invader—this time the self-styled caliphate—after its disciples gruesomely executed ten of their tribal elders in Achin in October last year, by forcing them to sit on bombs before detonating them, he said. And this is just one of the unprecedented barbaric acts that ISIS has committed since it emerged in this faraway border region at the beginning of 2015, and that even shocked Afghans who, after a lifetime in a war-torn country, are used to atrocities.
Our host, who hails from Spin Ghar, explained that the execution only inflamed the uprising. According to him, locals from the Shinwari tribe already turned against Islamic State when, sometime in autumn 2015, the presumptive caliphate’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic rules clashed with tribal traditions, echoing al-Sahwa, the 2006 “Awakening” of Iraqi Sunni tribes against Al Qaeda. Interestingly, he mentioned the confinement of women to their houses, banning them from helping with the work on the fields as has been done for centuries in this subsistence-farming society, as one of the main reasons for the initial uprising against ISIS. In the beginning, tribal fighters routed the black-clad warriors, who fled to the mountains, he claimed. But the caliphate struck back and took bloody revenge on the tribal elders by literally blowing them to pieces, and again took over swathes of the Shinwari region in and around Achin.
“We want to attack Daesh, but the government does not let us, as they want to integrate the uprising into the regular forces first. But the situation is out of control and the government should not stand in our way,” the commander complained in early February. Accordingly, the tribal fighters were restricted to defending their approximately thirty outposts and bases, as well as patrolling where they could.
At that time, tribal elders were talking with the government in attempts to resolve the issue. And given the politics, it is a complicated issue. The Shinwari uprising is supported by Haji Abdul Zahir Qadir, the first deputy speaker of the national parliament, who is from Nangarhar but not himself a Shinwari. Known neither for moderation nor quietness, back in November last year Qadir openly accused Afghanistan’s National Security Council and “people within the government” of supporting Islamic State in one of his ranting speeches in parliament and displayed his actions as proof that a local resistance is needed. In return, his critics claimed that the “tribal uprising” is no more than Qadir’s attempt to establish a private militia to advance his personal gain.
But even within the Shinwari tribe, there are fractions. For example, one observer asserted that, while parts of the Shinwari support the government, one sub-tribe is linked to the Taliban, with yet another connected to ISIS. As another example, Haji Obaidullah, a leader of the Shinwari tribe and member of Nangarhar’s provincial council, said in his house in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, that because of the government’s lacking support, and in spite of plans to do so, the tribe has never risen up and that fighters in Achin were rogue militiamen whose activities have been stopped by the government according to the wishes of the people. Confronted with this, the commander sitting in Rodat retorted that Haji Obaidullah had never supported the tribal uprising, and that his allegations are all lies.
Some also argue that the tribal uprising might not be much better than ISIS. Given some remarks from the commander, this appears to be not entirely groundless. Unmoved, he recounted that at the end of December 2015, his men beheaded four captured fighters of the alleged caliphate, after Islamic State had done the same with four men from the uprising. In response, the government has arrested one of his men. But the beheading was not enough, and the men from the local uprising put the severed heads on small stone piles at a road checkpoint in Achin to warn others. In fact, the commander himself stated that as their enemy does not play by the rules, neither should they. “If they kill our elders, we should kill theirs,” he said nonchalantly. But in a place like Afghanistan, and in view of the devastating civil war of the 1990s, such an “eye-for-an-eye” approach is a dangerous prospect.
But there are probably more arcane reasons that concern the Afghan government. A local resident of Achin claimed that while the tribal fighters are not Taliban themselves, they have very close ties to the Taliban, as often a brother or other relative fights for the emirate, as the people in Nangarhar refer to the Taliban. In fact, the same man further alleged that the uprising would tightly cooperate with the Taliban, and that this is the real reason for the government’s reluctance to support the tribal fighters: it fears that once ISIS is defeated, fighters in the uprising would reveal their true colors and turn against the government to reestablish the Taliban emirate. Supporting this, another of the guests in Rodat later confided that, after having overheard nightly conversations between the commander, himself allegedly wanted by the government, and another local, he is convinced that the commander and his men are all Taliban.
Tellingly, back in Jalalabad, Mahmad Hoshim, a malek or tribal leader of the Shinwari tribe from Nazyan district, only answered hesitatingly to these accusations and failed to clearly dispel such worries. In fact, he acknowledged that since the Shinwari are a large tribe, there have been Shinwaris that supported the Taliban, and that they and maybe others, so far neutral or pro-government Shinwaris that have been disillusioned by the government’s lacking support, would rather join the emirate of the Taliban than the official Islamic Republic once the common enemy of ISIS is defeated. Given this, his assurances that the Shinwaris want to stand united with the government against the tyranny of the self-declared caliphate sound hollow—despite the likelihood that he really believes it.
In the meantime, the situation on the ground is changing. Government forces launched clearing operations against Islamic State on February 16, claiming to have retaken Achin two days later. According to officials, fighters of the local uprising cooperated with the government in recapturing the district. However, and although an article published by the Wall Street Journal states that certain local uprising groups in Nangarhar’s districts of Kot, Achin and Nazyan have been taken under the umbrella of the the government’s so-called People’s Uprising Program, when contacted by telephone in early April, locals asserted that friction between the uprising in Achin and the government had not been resolved, and that the government did not coordinate its operations with the tribal fighters. And while even the government qualified that Islamic State is still present in some areas of Achin, local sources were already alleging in early March that the caliphate had once again struck back, having reversed initial government successes and regained control of most of Achin, with government forces confined to the district center and its immediate surroundings. Therefore, although the current situation in Achin could not be independently verified, the story of the opaque tribal uprising against Islamic State seems to continue.
In any event, this episode magnifies a general problem in Afghanistan. In view of the fact that regular government forces are apparently not able to lastingly secure remote areas and—given that in the vast mountainous terrain of Afghanistan such areas are the rule rather than the exception—might well never be able to control large swaths of the country directly, the central government in all likelihood has no other choice than to cooperate with local forces. According to the aforementioned Wall Street Journal article, such cooperation is already being initiated in form of the People’s Uprising Program, corresponding more or less to the so-called Village Stability Operations advocated and conducted by U.S. forces in the past.
But if you can’t tell your friends from your enemies, this is a treacherous path to follow. In this regard, remarks that Abdul Qayum Rahimi, the director of the People’s Uprising Program, gave the Wall Street Journal imply that the government is aware of the danger of abusive pro-government militias, but might be willing to take the risk.
However, and at least as far as it could be determined, there seems to be no public mention of the possibility that local uprisings could simply be Taliban that have opportunistically chosen to disguise themselves as tribal resistance fighters for the time being, in order to try to garner government support for their current fight against ISIS.
If this has not already happened, especially given the story of the dubious commander in Rodat, this possibility should be strongly taken into consideration—not only by the Afghan government, but also by its international backers, in particular the United States, whose Central Intelligence Agency is allegedly financing the People’s Uprising Program.
This said, the Afghan government and its supporters face a likely double bind: on the one hand, they have to resist the temptation to support unknown elements that could well be abusive pro-government militias or, even worse, possibly disguised Taliban or groups linked to them, to secure short-term gains against the current threat from Islamic State (which would, however, fuel the insurgency in the long term). On the other hand, and especially in view of the phantom menace of ISIS, inaction or even only hesitating for too long can also have a devastating effect, as this might drive pro-government or neutral elements to the Taliban insurgency too, as hinted at by malek Hoshim.
So in the end, the Afghan government and its international backers might, in the absence of truly noble local warriors, be left with only bad options. However, having only bad options is not necessarily an excuse for doing nothing, just as urgency should not be an excuse for implementing hasty measures which might well result in backlashes. Or to put it otherwise: unlike in a galaxy far, far away, in Nangarhar it is hard to determine who is on the dark side of the Force, and one might wonder if there is a light side at all. But to paraphrase Yoda, contrary to the quick and easy path of the dark side, no one ever claimed that it is easy to do the right thing – especially not in a far, far away war-torn place like Afghanistan.
Franz J. Marty is a freelance journalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan, writing mainly on military and security issues. His articles are regularly published in Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy.
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with Pakistani Taliban
ASADABAD (Pajhwok): Afghan Taliban commander has been killed during a clash with Pakistani Taliban in the Sarkano district of eastern Kunar province, an official said on Thursday.
Police Chief Maj. Gen. Jumma Gul Hemmat told Pajhwok Afghan News the clash erupted between a group of Afghan Taliban and of Jamat-ul-Ahrar militants, a splinter group of Pakistani Taliban in Nanga area near the Durand Line.
Zabet Jalil, commander of the Afghan Taliban, was killed during the clash.
Faridullah, the resident of Baharabad area, also confirmed the Taliban Commander Jalil was killed during a clash with the Pakistani Taliban i