The War in Afghanistan began on 7 October 2001, when the armed forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and the Afghan United Front (Northern Alliance) launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The U.S. organized the operation in response to the terroristattacks of September 11 in the United States. The objective of the invasion was to dismantle the Al Qaeda organization and end its use of Afghanistan as a base. The U.S. also intended to remove the fundamentalist Taliban regimefrom power in Afghanistan. The Taliban protected Al Qaeda and had refused to arrest Osama bin Laden for his ordering of the September 11 terrorist attacks. However, the Taliban did offer to hand Osama Bin Laden over to a third country if they were given evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the US bombing campaign was stopped.
The U.S. and its allies were initially successful in removing the Taliban from power in Kabul and the other major towns and cities of Afghanistan; however, many members of the Al Qaeda and Taliban organizations safely escaped the country. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the U.N. Security Council at the end of December 2001, and NATOassumed control of ISAF in 2003. ISAF included troops from 42 countries, with NATO members providing the core of the force. An attempt was made to establish a new Afghan government with the help of the U.S. and its allies; and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was established under the interim government of Hamid Karzai, who was elected President in 2004.
In 2003, Taliban forces started an insurgency campaign against the Afghan government and ISAF-troops. Starting in 2006, there was a dramatic increase in Taliban-led insurgent activity in Afghanistan; NATO increased the number of its soldiers assigned to the country.
In 2011, while NATO forces continued to battle the Taliban insurgency, the war expanded into the tribal areas of neighboring North-WestPakistan. On 2 May 2011, U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan. On 21 May 2012 the leaders of the NATO-member countries endorsed an exit strategy for removing NATO soldiers from Afghanistan.
Since the coalition intervention in 2001, more than 5.7 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan but 2.2 million Afghans remained refugees in 2013 and in January, 2013 the UN estimated that there were 547,550 internally displaced persons within Afghanistan, a 25% increase over the 447,547 IDPs in January, 2012 a figure reflected by Amnesty International when it reported that hundreds of Afghans were forced to flee their homes everyday during 2012.
As of 2013, there are 8.2 million Afghan students in school, including 3.2 million girls. This is up from the 1.2 million students that were attending school in 2001, with less than 50,000 of them girls.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have lost their lives in the war. MORE :HERE
May 05, 2013 12:22
Heroin, cash & plastic bags: America’s mess in Afghanistan
If the lawlessness, poverty, and endemic corruption of Afghanistan are indicative of anything, it is that the multi-billion dollar efforts to restore stability in the region have been an abject failure.
As the scheduled 2014 reduction of American-led NATO troops moves closer, the occupying forces leave behind a state where none of their initial goals have been realized.
The Afghan central government is weak and hopelessly corrupt, the national armed forces are disorganized and resentful of foreign presence, the Taliban still wield notable influence, women remain extremely marginalized, Afghans are trapped in abject poverty, and the occupiers themselves continue to shoulder the responsibility for heavy civilian causalities.
Tens of billions have been poured into Afghanistan over the past decade, but the fact is that official figures of aid and financial resources spent in the country on paper do not come close to what was actually doled out to US proxies.
Reports confirm that tens of millions of US dollars in cash were delivered by the CIA in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags to the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai since his installation in 2004.
The report states that the ‘ghost money’ paid to Karzai's office was not subject to oversight and restrictions placed on official American aid or the CIA's formal assistance programs, and much of it went to “warlords and politicians, many with ties to the drug trade and in some cases the Taliban.”
The report also cites an anonymous US official who claimed, "The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States." These revelations should not only raise the eyebrows of US taxpayers – the disingenuous reality of American funds finding their way into the pockets of the Taliban should raise blood pressures.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai (AFP Photo)
Karzai issued statements confirming the allegations, but insisted that the funds given were “small” and “used for good causes,” such as helping wounded civilians and paying house rents. If these assertions were true, there is no reason why such money would need to travel through covert channels, thus preventing any form of accountability toward appropriation of those funds.
Karzai’s retort seems more like nervous obfuscation rather than a genuine explanation; he also fails to address allegations that the money was used to fuel rampant corruption.
Even with all the financial resources at Karzai’s disposal, the situation on the ground suggests that the enormous application of funds to social development projects have been poorly implemented.Americans were told that the occupation of Afghanistan was supposed to bring stability and democracy to the country, and despite the presence of international aid groups, the dolling out tens of millions of covert CIA funds (for ‘good purposes’ of course), over $3.5 billion in humanitarian funds and over $58 billion in development assistance, Afghanistan has the world’s third highest infant mortality rate and the country faces vast humanitarian challenges.
The misuse and embezzlement of development funds have left the rural majority with little option but to cultivate poppy, creating the world's first economy dependent on the production of a single illicit drug.
What good causes don’t see
Afghanistan’s status as a narco-state isn’t simply attributable to the poor application of development aid – US-NATO forces have themselves created conditions by propping up local proxies and warlords with drug money.
From the opium-fueled CIA covert warfare of the 1980s and ’90s and since the US intervention in 2001, Washington has tolerated, enabled, and profited from drug trafficking by its Afghan allies, empowering an increasing resurgence of the Taliban in large swathes of the Afghan countryside.
Washington spent some $22 billion on Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007, mostly on military operations and preparing for their withdrawal, with only a paltry $237 million designated for agriculture. Afghanistan provides the prime ingredient for over 90 per cent of the world's heroin supply and in recent years has emerged as one of the biggest producers of refined products as hundreds of heroin labs sprout up under the watch of NATO and the US.
The continued neglect of rural and agricultural development has made the task of dismantling the narco-state nothing sort of insurmountable.
Although the Taliban is often credited as the main benefactor of the opium trade, there is reason to believe that the Karzai government and its affiliates have been the more substantially advantaged by illicit funds. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2009 report, titled “Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The Transnational Threat of Afghan Opium,”estimates that only 10-15 per cent of Taliban funding is drawn from drugs and 85 per cent comes from non-opium sources.
The report claims that of the $3.4 billion annually garnered from the drug trade, the Taliban only gets its hands on a mere 4 per cent of that total, while farmers reap 21 per cent. The majority of the drug profits end up in the hands of militias, warlords, and political kingpins supported by the US and NATO to offset the influence of the Taliban – not to mention the fact that most of the funds end up in the formal international banking system.
Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in their poppy field in Khogyani District of Nangarhar province on April 29, 2013. (AFP Photo)The empowerment of local proxies has enabled them to tax and protect opium traffickers and expand refineries, which led to the speedy resumption of opium production after the ban imposed by the Taliban in 2000 – and today, heroin production in Afghanistan increased 40 times since the US invasion in 2001.
Although totally outrageous, the institutional corruption and explosion in the drug trade that has occurred under the watch of US-NATO forces is hardly surprising from an occupation force that is criminal from the top down.
Where the CIA is appeasing the Afghan leadership with sacks of US dollars, testosterone-filled American soldiers make a of mockery their country by urinating on Afghan corpses, burning Korans, and massacring unarmed civilians, as seen in the famous case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. Don’t expect any high-ranking US or NATO official to be made answerable for these continued acts of wrongdoing. Washington is preparing to walk away, and Afghanistan looks much the same as it did after the Soviet-Mujahideen episode in the early ’90s – a ravaged country with mass instability, no infrastructure to speak of, an economy in disarray, and colorful cast of armed-characters who may seek to control Kabul after the withdrawal.
Even after the formal conclusion of international stabilization efforts, a sizable amount of US troops will remain in the country after 2014, something Russia has opposed out of concern that Afghanistan could be used as a military springboard targeting other countries in the region.
The emphasis has now shifted to equipping and training the Afghan National Army and the notoriously corrupt Afghan National Police forces, so as to enable them independently to counter terrorism and drug-related crime.
Considering the track record of the occupying forces and the distrust of Americans held by Afghan forces, there is a low probability that these efforts will succeed. The assaults on US troops by US-trained Afghan security forces reflect the discord on the ground, and the difficulty of the task at hand. Karzai has vowed to step down as Afghanistan's sole post-Taliban head of state, with no clear successor in place, who will occupy the Presidential Palace after the April 2014 presidential ballot?
Whoever takes the helm has a tremendous task ahead of them; failure to exert control over lawless provinces could see the country fall into civil war and balkanize into warlord-led territories. Afghanistan's rural economy once flourished with orchards and food crops, and had the occupation not been an exercise in plunder and embezzlement, international aid could have developed rural infrastructure and given rise to alternative non-illicit crops. Even the cost of Obama’s 30,000-soldier surge at $30 billion per year could have developed rural areas and stifled the influence of the Taliban if meaningfully implemented, but of course, that was never the plan.
The post-2014 administration faces grave instability if it fails to boldly clean up the system, and continued US drone warfare will ensure sustained militancy as family members of victims killed in drone attacks join the Taliban and extremist groups seeking retribution.
Mirroring the situation in Iraq, US-led forces will leave behind a regime that will likely be privy to Iranian influence. China will also play a more significant role in Afghan stabilization efforts after 2014. Beijing and Kabul cut a deal in September 2012 that would see China replace NATO in the training, funding and arming the 149,000-strong Afghan police as part of increased Sino-Afghan cooperation in combating regional terrorism.
China would be greatly disadvantaged if Afghanistan fragmented into a hub for international terrorism, which would increase security concerns in its western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, an area already vulnerable to destabilization. The dragon is set to replace the eagle as Beijing is increasing its involvement in the Afghan economy through multi-billion dollar Chinese projects. Stabilization efforts are a lot to shoulder – the Chinese approach would be incremental and bare little similarity to the model employed by the Americans.
There may be grounds for restrained optimism in thinking about Afghanistan’s future if Beijing succeeds where Washington has failed by proving to be a less-parasitic partner in development and stabilization.
4 May 2013 Last updated at 15:56 GMT
Afghan roadside bomb kills five US Nato soldiers
A roadside bomb has killed five US soldiers serving as part of the Nato force in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
The deaths came after three British troops were killed by a roadside bomb this week in southern Helmand province.
The Taliban launched its annual spring offensive on Sunday, saying it would target foreign military bases and diplomatic areas.
Nato is in the process of handing security operations to Afghan forces.
Some areas have already been transferred. Just over 100,000 soldiers are still serving with Isaf; they are due to be withdrawn by the end of next year.
The US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) released a statement saying simply Saturday's bomb was an "improvised explosive device".
Isaf spokesman Brig Gen Gunter Katz said it had been a "difficult week" for the coalition, but added that the deaths would not change its commitment to the task in Afghanistan.
"Every soldier who dies here in Afghanistan is one too many," he said. "But again, this will not have an effect on our overall campaign. We stay committed and will stay committed in this country to support the Afghans also in the future."
Faisal Javi, a spokesman for Kandahar's governor, said the roadside bomb exploded in Mewand district, which has a strong Taliban presence, but he said the group had not yet claimed responsibility for planting the device.
The deaths bring the toll for coalition troops in 2013 to 47, including 37 Americans.
Most Nato troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 - when all combat operations are due to finish - although a small number will remain in support roles.
- Three UK soldiers die in Afghanistan | 01 MAY 2013, UK
- Deadly roadside bombs | 01 MAY 2013, UK
- Q&A: Foreign forces in Afghanistan | 04 APRIL 2013, ASIA
- Dangers of finding roadside bombs | 13 SEPTEMBER 2011, UK
Bomb 'kills five US troops in southern Afghanistan'
By Mamoon Durrani (AFP) – 1 hour ago
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A huge roadside bomb killed five US troops in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, officials said, in the deadliest attack on NATO-led forces this year.
"Five American soldiers were killed at about noon when their armoured vehicle hit a powerful roadside mine in Maiwand district," General Abdul Razeq, Kandahar province's police chief, told AFP.
The troops died in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed in a statement without specifying the nationalities of the victims, in line with coalition policy.
The attack came four days after three British soldiers were killed in a similar blast in the neighbouring province of Helmand.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's deaths but Taliban militants frequently use roadside bombs against US-led foreign troops and their Afghan allies.
The militants launched their "spring offensive" a week ago, opening a crucial period for Afghanistan as its security forces take the lead in the offensive against insurgents fighting to topple the US-backed government.
All NATO combat missions will finish by the end of next year. The 100,000 foreign troops deployed across Afghanistan have already begun to withdraw from the battlefield.
More than 11 years after the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, efforts to seek a political settlement ending the violence have so far made little progress, but pressure is growing ahead of the NATO withdrawal.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday named James Dobbins as the new US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying Dobbins would "continue building on diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion".
Including Pakistan in any peace negotiations is seen as essential as militants use the border region between the two countries as a safe haven to launch attacks in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, which backed the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Kabul, is also widely accused of providing covert support for the militants.
The Taliban have rejected holding any peace talks with the Afghan government, saying that President Hamid Karzai is a puppet of the US.
Karzai has clashed repeatedly with the US this year over Afghan sovereignty and the security transition, but he has also been caught up in a scandal alleging that CIA cash delivered to his office was used to buy off warlords.
The president said on Saturday the money -- reportedly packed in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags -- was used for health care and scholarships, and that full receipts are issued to the Americans.
Anger in Washington over the CIA payments has focused on the cash fuelling endemic corruption that the US and other donor nations say is a prime threat to Afghanistan establishing a functioning state system.
As NATO troops pull back, casualties are rising among the poorly-trained and inexperienced Afghan soldiers and police tasked with bringing security to some of the country's most volatile areas.
On Thursday eight Afghan police were killed in a Taliban bomb attack in Logar province outside the capital Kabul.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »
Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death (earlier title: Massacre at Mazar ) is a 2002 documentary by Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran and Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi about alleged war crimes committed by the Junbish-i Milli faction of the Afghan Northern Alliance under General Abdul Rashid Dostum against Taliban fighters. The Taliban fighters, who had surrendered to Dostum's troops after the November 2001 siege of Kunduz, were transported to Sheberghan prison in sealed containers. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds or thousands of them died during and after transit. Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death presents testimony from interviewees stating that American military personnel were present at and complicit in some of the mass killings, known as the Dasht-i-Leili massacre.
A short early version of the documentary was shown to the European and German Parliaments in June 2002, causing widespread concern in Europe. Against protests from the United States government, the completed documentary was shown later that year on many countries' national television channels, including German, British, Italian and Australian television. The programme was not screened in the U.S. and received no U.S. media coverage. A Newsweek report in August 2002, based on a leaked UN memo, did confirm some of the details in Doran's documentary, as well as the presence of mass graves in the Dasht-i-Leili desert, but made no mention of the documentary.
In July 2009, Barack Obama, the president of the United States, ordered a probe into allegations that the Bush administration had resisted efforts to have the massacreinvestigated.
The documentary is largely based on the work of award-winning Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi. In late 2001, around 8,000 Talibanfighters, including Chechens, Pakistanis and Uzbeks as well as suspected members of al-Qaeda, surrendered to the forces of Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a U.S. ally in the war in Afghanistan, after the siege of Kunduz. The program recounts that several hundred of the prisoners, among them American John Walker Lindh, were taken to Qala-i-Jangi, a fort near Mazar-i-Sharif, where they staged a bloody uprising which took several days to quell. It shows footage of Walker Lindh being interrogated by CIA manJohnny Micheal Spann, taken just hours before the latter was killed. The programme describes how the remaining 7,500 prisoners were loaded onto sealed containers for transport to Sheberghan prison. The journey was to last several days in some cases; many of the prisoners did not survive it.
The film shows an interview with a commander who was one of the chief negotiators of the surrender, saying that several thousand of the soldiers who surrendered are now unaccounted for. He says the prisoners had given themselves up on the understanding that they would be allowed to go home if they gave up their weapons or – in the case of al-Qaeda and foreign fighters – that they would be treated in accordance with UN conventions. Afghan witnesses presented in Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death, their faces and voices digitally disguised, recount in sometimes harrowing and graphic detail how most of the prisoners died.
The witnesses state the sealed containers held 200 to 300 men each. They say that when the men in the containers began crying out for air and water, air holes were shot into the sides of the containers, killing several of those inside. A soldier is asked in the documentary: "You specifically shot holes into containers? Who gave you those orders?" He replies: "The commanders ordered me to hit the containers to make holes for ventilation and because of that some of the prisoners were killed."
A truck driver says that half of the people he transported in a container were dead upon arrival. An Afghan taxi driver tells Doran of a visit to a petrol station: "At the time they were taking prisoners from Qaala Zeini to Scheberghan. I went to fill my car with petrol. I smelled something strange and asked the petrol attendant where the smell was coming from. He said 'look behind you', and there were trucks with containers fixed on them. I was surprised. I saw something very strange. Blood was leaking from the containers – they were full of dead bodies."
Reports from survivors of the transports speak of bound men, locked up in the containers for several days without food or drink, having resorted to licking the sweat of each other's bodies, even biting into other prisoners' bodies in their desperation to obtain fluids from any source. The documentary quotes the account a former Afghan soldier gave to a Pakistani newspaper, describing what he experienced when the containers were opened: "I shall never forget the sensation as long as I live. It was the most revolting and powerful stench you can imagine: a mixture of faeces, urine, blood, vomit, and rotting flesh. It was a smell to make you forget all other smells you have experienced in your life."
Another driver states that he was asked to drive his truck, carrying a container with about 300 men, into the desert; he says those who had not died of asphyxiation were shot, in the presence of 30 or 40 U.S. soldiers watching. The driver put the number of containers he saw in the desert at 25 to 30. Several of the interviewed people claim that U.S. personnel were aware of what was happening to the prisoners after their arrival at Sheberghan, and that some played an active role in the torture and murder of prisoners.
Najibullah Quraishi states in the film that he saw a video showing American Special Forces personnel observing the dumping of bodies into mass graves in the desert; he says that as he was copying the tape, he was attacked and nearly beaten to death. The film shows Quraishi after his recovery from the beating receiving the Rory Peck Award in London for his camera work in Mazar-i-Sharif. The documentary concludes by saying that several witnesses to the events, including some of those who participated in the programme, had since been killed.
In June 2002, having learnt that the grave site was being disturbed, Doran showed a 20-minute version of the film, under the titleMassacre at Mazar, to the European Parliament, the German Parliament and various media representatives. The screenings resulted in widespread calls for investigations in German, French and British newspapers, including The Guardian, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt and The Scotsman, which in June 2002 ran a story entitled "U.S. Had Role in Taliban Prisoner Deaths". Human rights lawyer Andrew McEntee, a former Amnesty International chairman, called for forensic pathologists to be dispatched as a matter of urgency.
In response, the Pentagon released a statement, saying that U.S. Central Command had made an "informal inquiry" and that "U.S. Central Command looked into it a few months ago, when allegations first surfaced when there were graves discovered in the area of Sherberghan prison. They looked into it and did not substantiate any knowledge, presence or participation of US service members." No U.S. papers or networks reported on the documentary and the allegations made in it. According to spokespersons forPhysicians for Human Rights, their enquiries were met with "blanket denials" from the Pentagon, who said "Nothing happened".
In August 2002, a Newsweek report based on a leaked UN memo stated that a 1 acre (4,000 m2) mass grave had been discovered. A six-yard trial trench, dug at the edge of the site, unearthed 15 bodies. The Newsweek report made no mention of Doran's film, even though Doran was interviewed for the story, but confirmed details present in Doran's account, such as truck drivers being forbidden to help those perishing in the containers, and the accounts of bound prisoners dying of thirst trying to survive by licking the sweat off each other's bodies.
Unlike Doran, however, Newsweek stated that "nothing Newsweek learned suggests that American forces had advance knowledge of the killings, witnessed the prisoners being stuffed into unventilated trucks, or were in a position to prevent that." Commenting on the close involvement of U.S. soldiers with General Dostum, and the sensitivity of any related investigation,Newsweek quoted Jennifer Leaning, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who had gone to Afghanistan as an investigator for Physicians for Human Rights: "The issue nobody wants to discuss is the involvement of U.S. forces. U.S. forces were in the area at the time. What did the U.S. know, and when and where – and what did they do about it?"
General Dostum commented that there were only 200 deaths, and that the prisoners had died prior to the transfer. Director Jamie Doran said, "They're hiding behind a wall of secrecy." In a Reuters interview, Doran said that the Pentagon did not respond to his repeated requests for a comment on his film. Doran added that he "would like to see the American authorities agree to a proper investigation. They have nothing to fear from the truth. I have the feeling they hope the story will go away."
"It is a mystery to us why a respected television channel is showing a documentary in which the facts are completely wrong and which unfairly depicts the U.S. mission in Afghanistan."
Larry Schwartz, U.S. Department of State
The completed film Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death was shown on national German television in December 2002. U.S. Department of Statespokesmen protested the screening of the film in Germany, stating, "The claims are completely false that American soldiers were involved in the torture, execution and disappearance of Taliban prisoners. In no way did U.S. troops participate or witness any human rights violations." The day before the programme's scheduled broadcast date, the German NDR network issued a press release, stating they had decided to ignore protests from the U.S. Department of State and were going ahead with the broadcast. The NDR press release said, "All eyewitnesses shown in the documentary on events in the Sheberghan prison and at the Dasht-i-Leili mass grave site agree in reporting that American soldiers were present at both of these sites. U.S. Department of State spokesman Larry Schwartz was reported by dpa to have explained that the statements in the NDR documentary were 'completely wrong and already disproved'. This is in direct contradiction with the Pentagon's statement that so far there has been no investigation of events by the U.S. military. Full resolution of the matter would require an internal investigation by the American Ministry of Defense and an exhumation of the mass graves, autopsies of the corpses and the identification of the dead by the UNHCR." Commenting on the German broadcast of the documentary, Schwartz stated, "It is a mystery to us why a respected television channel is showing a documentary in which the facts are completely wrong and which unfairly depicts the U.S. mission in Afghanistan."
The documentary was broadcast in 50 countries, among others by the Italian network RAI, the British Channel 5 and on Australian national television. At a time when the documentary had been broadcast throughout Europe, had outraged human rights groups and led to widespread calls for war crime investigations, it had yet to be seen in the United States, because corporate media outlets in the U.S. would not touch it. The film's audio portion was eventually broadcast in the U.S. by the Democracy Now! radio programme, on 23/26 May 2003. The documentary was not broadcast by any television channel in the United States and came to be included in Project Censored's list of top 25 censored news stories. Speaking on the Democracy Now! radio program, Doran quoted U.S. Department of State official Larry Schwartz as saying, "You have to understand, we're involved, we're in touch with the national [newspapers] on a daily basis – this story won't run, even if it's true.'" Doran says the response from television people in the U.S. was, "Not now, Jamie."
July 2009: Obama orders investigation
Six years later, on July 10, 2009, an article on the massacre by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen appeared in the New York Times. Risen stated that human rights groups' estimates of the total number of victims "ranged from several hundred to several thousand" and that U.S. officials had "repeatedly discouraged efforts to investigate the episode". Questioned about the article byAnderson Cooper of CNN during a trip to Africa, United States President Barack Obama said he had asked national security officials to investigate allegations that the Bush administration had resisted efforts to have the matter investigated.
Excerpts from Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death were broadcast again and discussed on the Democracy Now! radio programme on 13 July 2009, with images from the documentary shown on the programme's website. The programme, which featured James Risen and Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights, claimed that "at least 2,000" prisoners of war had perished in the massacre. Sirkin confirmed the claims made in Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death that eyewitnesses who had given information on the incident had been tortured and killed, and stated that a FOIA document showed that the "U.S. government and, apparently, intelligence agency – it's a three-letter word that’s redacted of an intelligence branch of the U.S. government in the FOIA – they knew and reported that eyewitnesses to this massacre had been killed and tortured."
Risen commented in the programme that in writing his article he "tried not to get caught up in something that I think in the past has slowed down some of the efforts by journalists to look into this. I think in the past one of the mistakes some journalists made was to try and prove a direct involvement by the U.S. personnel in the massacre itself. I frankly don't believe that any U.S. military personnel were involved in the massacre. And, you know, U.S. Special Forces troops who were traveling with Dostum have long maintained that they knew nothing about this. And, you know, so I tried not to go down that road." He added that "the investigation should focus rather on what happened afterwards in the Bush administration."
On July 17, 2009, in an article published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Dostum again described Doran's film as a "fake story", saying that the whole number of prisoners of war captured by his troops was less than the number Doran's film claimed had been killed, and denying there could have been any abuse of prisoners. Dostum's column was sharply criticised by human rights groups. In a rebuttal published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in parallel to Dostum's piece, Sam Zarifi, the Asia-Pacific director for Amnesty International and a human rights investigator in Afghanistan in 2002, stated that "investigations carried out shortly after the alleged killings by highly experienced and respected forensic analysts from Physicians for Human Rights established the presence of recently deceased human remains at Dasht-e Leili and suggested that they were the victims of homicide."
Afghan Massacre: the Convoy of Death won a Gold Special Jury Award at the Worldfest Houston Film Festival 2004. The footage of Mazar-i-Sharif featured in the documentary is by Najibullah Quraishi, who won two prizes at the 2002 Rory Peck Awards for this work, the Sony International Impact Award and the Rory Peck Award for Hard News.
President Barack Obama’s newly confirmed defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, confronted suicide bombings, an “insider” attack and vitriolic criticism from the US-backed puppet, President Hamid Karzai, during his weekend visit to Afghanistan.The planned centerpiece of the trip, a joint press conference with Karzai at the presidential palace, was called off on Sunday with US officials claiming it was because of a security threat. Their Afghan counterparts denied that there was any such danger.
Whether the US defense secretary was considered unsafe in the most heavily guarded building in Kabul, or Washington felt it was impossible to share a platform with a man it has kept in power for nearly a dozen years, the cancellation of the event clearly points to a deep-going crisis in the Obama administration’s transition toward a smaller, permanent military presence in Afghanistan.
Within hours of Hagel’s landing in Afghanistan two suicide bombings killed nearly 20 Afghans. One was just outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, where 10 people died.
In a response that blindsided Washington, Karzai used a televised speech ostensibly called to mark Women’s Day to lash out at the US and suggest that the bombings were part of a broader conspiracy to cast his own government as powerless in the face of a Taliban offensive without the continued presence of US-led occupation troops.
“In reality, the bombs that went off yesterday under the name of the Taliban were a service to the foreigners,” Karzai said.
“Those bombs that went off in Kabul and Khost were not a show of force to America,” he continued. “They were in service of America. It was in the service of the 2014 slogan to warn us if they [US troops] are not here, then Taliban will come. In fact those bombs, set off yesterday in the name of the Taliban, were in the service of Americans to keep foreigners longer in Afghanistan.”
The Afghan president, who was installed by the US occupation in 2001, went on to charge that US officials are meeting with Taliban representatives “every day” in Qatar.
The remarks drew a sharp response from the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford. “We have fought too hard over the past 12 years, we have shed too much blood over the last 12 years, to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage,” he said.Hagel was somewhat more diplomatic. “I told the president that it was not true,” the new Pentagon chief told the media. “The fact is any prospect for peace or political settlements—that has to be led by the Afghans.” Suggesting that Karzai’s remarks were aimed at constituencies within Afghanistan, Hagel added, “I was a politician once, so I can understand the kind of pressures” he faces. The “pressures” Karzai is facing are indeed intense. Both he and the corrupt clique around him are growing increasingly anxious about their ability to survive, both politically and physically, the drawdown of US troops, whose number has fallen from over 100,000 to 66,000.
This force is supposed to be cut in half by next year and reduced further by the end of 2014 to a residual force that the US wants to keep permanently deployed in Afghanistan. Last week, Gen. James Mattis, the chief of the Pentagon’s Central Command, told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that this force should include 20,000 troops, 13,600 of them Americans and the rest from other NATO countries.
While the US media generally treated Karzai’s comments as “bizarre” and another example of his “erratic” nature, the views he expressed are far from unique in Afghanistan. Indeed, in an editorial published Sunday, the same day as Karzai’s speech, the Afghan daily Sarnawesht charged that the actions of US-led occupation troops “not only do not weaken but they in fact strengthen insurgents.” It added that the US “repeatedly violates the Afghan government’s decisions and is treating Afghanistan as an occupied country.” The result, the editorial said, was to weaken the Afghan regime and cause Afghans to regard it “as a puppet and slave government,” and the insurgency as legitimate.
The paper referred to two prominent cases in which Washington has ridden roughshod over the Karzai regime’s demand for respect of Afghan sovereignty. The first is the long-delayed transfer of full control of the infamous US-run Bagram prison.
On Saturday, coinciding with Hagel’s visit, the US commander, General Dunford, announced that there would be no transfer because of the Karzai regime’s refusal to grant the US military the right to veto the release of any detainee as well as continued unrestricted access to the detainees.
Karzai had vowed to release any prisoners who were not charged with crimes. The US military has held hundreds of such individuals for years on suspicion of supporting the insurgency, without ever charging much less trying them.
The other issue was Karzai’s demand that US Special Operations troops be withdrawn from Wardak province, where his government charged that they had engaged in “torturing and even murdering innocent people” and had been involved in the forced disappearance of civilians.
Two weeks later, the special forces troops were still there, as was made evident in a so-called “green on blue” or “insider” attack Monday that claimed the lives of at least two American troops and three Afghan soldiers at a special operations base in Jalrez in Wardak, where an Afghan soldier turned a mounted machine-gun on his ostensible allies.
The Karzai regime functions as a US pawn, whom Washington would be willing to dispose of in its bid to maintain a permanent presence in Afghanistan, assert its hegemony over the oil-rich region of Central Asia, and maintain a forward operating base against neighboring China. Karzai knows that the US is maneuvering with both the Pakistani military and the Taliban to that end.
Moreover, while the wars of the past decade and the continuing “global war on terrorism” have been waged in the name of defeating Al Qaeda as well as its alleged allies like the Taliban, it is abundantly clear that US imperialism is prepared to make use of these forces, as it has in both Libya and Syria, where Islamist fighters have functioned as proxy forces in US-led interventions for regime change.
Meanwhile, in a separate incident that is emblematic of the methods that have generated growing popular hatred of the more than 12-year-old occupation, US troops shot and killed two civilians in a truck after it came near their convoy. A third man was wounded. The victims were apparently employees of a company that provides repairs and service to police vehicles.
A spokesman for the US occupation forces said that after the vehicle came too close to the American convoy and its driver failed to heed instructions, the soldiers took “appropriate measures to protect themselves.” US defense secretary’s Afghanistan trip a debacle - 3/12/2013
With British and Nato troops due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, clamour is growing to make an across-the-board offer to interpreters, who have not only risked their lives but are regarded as traitors by the Taliban.
Gen Lord Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, said: "British forces would not have been able to do their work effectively without the invaluable help of translators.
"While each case should be looked into on its own merits, there should, nevertheless, be a presumption to grant such residence in the UK or a third party country, if one can be found."
Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader and diplomat, said that an offer of refuge in Britain was "the least we can do for men who've given so much to help save British lives".Most Nato countries have granted asylum to their Afghan translators.
- HamidKarzai to travel to Qatar to discuss peace with Taliban 25 Mar 2013
- Natotroops in Afghanistan 'in a similar situation to failed Soviet invasion' 15 Mar 2013
- MP'srelatives killed as suicide bomb explodes at Afghan goat polo match 14 Mar 2013
- USsoldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians to have mental health assessed 14 Mar 2013
- 'RomanGladiator' Australian soldiers in Afghanistan caught playing golf andsunbathing 14 Mar 2013
The interpreters are supported by Alex Ford, who served in the RAF for 25 years, including time in Afghanistan.He said: "Our job would have been impossible without them – they stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the line of fire. But while I've returned to a safe home here in Britain, they still face appalling risks for the help they gave us."It makes me ashamed that the Government hasn't the integrity to stand up for people who risked their all for us."Asylum claims by interpreters are treated on a case-by-case basis, but supporters of the Afghans' cause want them to be offered a similar deal as Iraqis.They were given the chance to apply for asylum in Britain or to take a financial settlement. The offer to move to the UK was taken up by 900 Iraqis.A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We are looking very carefully at how to make the appropriate provision."No decision has been taken, but our commitment to local staff remains strong."
Campaigners from Avaaz, a global action network which started a petition on the translators' behalf, highlighted the case of Abdul, a 27-year-old father of three who was forced into hiding with his family after he received a phone call from the Taliban calling him an "infidel spy".He said: "Many of us have already been killed or injured just for doing our jobs. Many more of us have received death threats from the Taliban – and we all desperately fear what will happen when British troops leave."Abdul said that when he tried to report the threats to the British, they told him to report the matter to his local police."But this was the same police force that has a fearsome reputation for corruption, kidnapping and worse," he said.
Translators, who work mostly in Helmand province, are paid more than £1,000 a month, but the risks are high. About 20 were killed in action, and dozens have been injured. Another five were said to have been killed while off duty.
Three Afghans sued the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, asking for the "targeted assisted scheme" in Iraq to be extended to Afghanistan.
In a statement to Parliament, the Ministry of Defence said that the Iraq scheme was "expensive, complex to administer and took little account of any individual need for protection".
26 March 2013
German military deploys lethal drones in Afghanistan
By Sven Heymann
The Bundeswehr (German armed forces) have killed several “insurgents” in Afghanistan with the use of a US drone. The drone was deployed on November 11, 2010 in the Chahar Dara district. At that time, “four suspected anti-government troops were killed” as part of air support for ground troops, the news weekly Der Spiegel has reported in its latest edition.
The case has been kept secret by the German defence ministry for almost two and a half years. The ministry only felt compelled to admit the incident because of a parliamentary question asked by Social Democratic Party (SPD) deputy Hans-Peter Bartels, and then only in a confidential statement.
For the first time, it has been acknowledged by the government that drones have been deployed to kill Afghans at Germany’s behest. Until now, the public has only been aware that the Bundeswehr procured an armed drone for the first time in 2009, used at the time to destroy a weapons cache, but not deployed against people.
The report regarding the drone killings casts a harsh light on the increasingly aggressive character of German militarism. It comes only weeks after an editorial in the finance daily Handelsblatt indicated that Germany was intensively preparing for “resource wars”.
Given the explosion of imperialism after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the growing competition between the imperialist powers for spheres of influence and resources, the German ruling elite is increasingly losing all its inhibitions. After Berlin kept out of the NATO war in Libya in 2011, an action that was sharply criticised by wide sections of the German bourgeoisie, the government has used every opportunity to go on the military offensive.
The Merkel government is participating in the warmongering against Syria and Iran, and has stationed Patriot rockets and some 300 soldiers on the Syria-Turkey border. In Mali, the German authorities are supporting French imperialism’s aggression, with the transportation of troops, weapons and ammunition, as well as a training mission. Last year, military operations were extended in Kosovo and Afghanistan, where thousands of German soldiers have been stationed for more than a decade to secure the interests of German imperialism.
Nevertheless, in comparison to the US armed forces, the German military is capable of mounting only relatively small-scale operations. According to theBundeswehr, there are about 6,800 of its soldiers deployed around the world at present. By contrast, in December last year the US military had nearly 173,000 soldiers stationed abroad.
The American military budget is also incomparably greater. In 2011, $739.3 billion flowed into the biggest military machine in the world. The total German federal budget that year was €305.8 billion euros, only about half as much; of which, only €31.5 billion went directly into defence.
The German bourgeoisie now sees a chance to gradually catch up with the US in drone technology and associated modern warfare, and enforce its interests more effectively.
Drones are suitable for a particular type of warfare. Political opponents can be neutralised over long distances and without the mobilization of thousands of soldiers or the invasion of an entire country. Drones play an increasingly important role for the great powers in their efforts to topple governments considered to be obstacles or keep allied puppet regimes afloat.
For years, the US Army has been conducting a semi-shadow war in many countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Drones are openly used to seek out alleged terror suspects and conduct targeted killings. President Barack Obama personally selects some of the victims. Without any legal charges being laid, without a trial or conviction, opponents and civilians are killed on mere suspicion. In Pakistan alone, more than 2,200 people have been killed by drones, at least 474 of whom were civilians.
The German ruling class now also wants to tread this path. For years, at least officially, Berlin has only deployed drones for reconnaissance. To conduct kill missions, as the drone murders of Chahar Dara show, requires the procurement of US combat drones. Now Germany wants its own drone programme, like the one already created by the US. In recent weeks, the German media and political establishment have conducted a propaganda campaign in favour of armed drones.
At the beginning of the year, several German newspapers reported government plans to acquire attack drones. In January, Bild.de quoted from a confidential document of the European aerospace and defence company EADS, which was addressed to Germany’s defence ministry. According to this, “substantial research funding has been expended by the defence ministry for unmanned aerial vehicle systems”. The company itself has “already spent more than €200 million” on this development.
According to Bild.de, the document states that the drone model described, “Talarion”, is armed with rockets. As well as being equipped with up to four rockets, the drone also has radar and high-resolution cameras “which can follow and film a target from a great height, transmitting the high-resolution images to a control centre”. The model should be ready by 2016; test flights over Canada have already been completed.
In parliament on January 31, Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière defended the plans of the German government to procure armed drones. TheBundeswehr needed armed drones to protect German soldiers in combat and because Germany cannot close itself off from this technological progress, he said. “We cannot say that we will stay with the stagecoach while everyone else is developing the railway”, he said.
A few days later, Lieutenant Colonel Detlef Buch (General Staff), a military sociologist for the pro-government think tank, the Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), preached the advantages of drones in a broadcast on Deutschlandradio Kultur: “They can provide intelligence and engage a previously defined target from the air. And they can fire more accurately than manned war planes today with their precision weapons. The main advantages of drones are less collateral damage, a lower risk for one’s own soldiers and lower costs than for manned aircraft”.
Buch added: “They are the logical consequence of the many conceptual guidelines and documents that have been written in and around the Bundeswehr over the last 20 years. The Bundeswehr should be a modern army of intervention that can fight in the Hindu Kush and around the world. That is the reality in 2013!”
De Maizière cynically described drones as “ethically neutral”. The use of lethal drones by the Bundeswehr underscores the fact that the German elite now matches its ally in the US in criminality and violence. This must serve as a serious warning. For Washington, even American citizens are now legitimate targets in the drone war. In the course of his recent nomination process, prospective CIA director John Brennan did not exclude drone killings taking place in the US.German military deploys lethal drones in Afghanistan - 3/26/2013
27 March 2013 - By Alex Lantier
US Secretary of State John Kerry left Kabul for Paris yesterday, after a Middle Eastern tour to Jordan and Afghanistan to plan broader wars across the region. In Paris today, he is expected to discuss arming opposition forces fighting Washington’s proxy war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with French officials.
During his unannounced two-day visit in Kabul, Kerry held a joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai, the leader of the American puppet regime in Afghanistan. He announced that US forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond the Obama administration’s 2014 withdrawal deadline.
Kerry and Karzai both called upon the Taliban to open an office in Doha, the capital of the US-allied Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, from which location they could negotiate with Karzai. To encourage the Taliban to accept the offer, Kerry stressed that the Taliban should not count on a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Currently there are some 100,000 occupation troops in the country, including 66,000 US forces. American officials have reportedly discussed a lasting presence of roughly 12,000 US and European troops in Afghanistan.
Kerry also offered to hand over formal control of Bagram prison to the Karzai regime. This was apparently designed to allow Karzai to posture cynically before the Afghan people, claiming he is restoring Afghan sovereignty over the country. The US-controlled prison, notorious for the killings and torture of Afghan resistance fighters imprisoned there, has become a hated symbol of the NATO occupation.
This action was apparently aimed at smoothing US relations with Karzai, strained after the latter criticized Washington for “colluding” with the Taliban.
The handover of Bagram has nothing to do with ending US rule in Afghanistan, however. Karzai made clear that Washington would continue to effectively control detainees at the prison, promising that an Afghan review board would consider intelligence provided by US authorities before deciding to release prisoners. Afghan officials also reportedly gave “private assurances” that no “enduring security threats” would be released from Bagram.
By threatening to continue the bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, Kerry is pushing the Taliban leadership to negotiate a political settlement with Karzai that would include a lasting US protectorate in Afghanistan. Washington’s control would rest upon US air superiority and a permanent occupation force stationed in the country. It would be based on collaboration between Washington, the warlords backing Karzai and the Islamic fundamentalist leadership of the Taliban to suppress resistance to foreign occupation by the Afghan people.
The American ruling class sees Afghanistan as a launching pad for US operations in Central Asia, such as the hundreds of drone strikes Washington has launched in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. The New York Times commented, “The Obama administration has made a priority of reaching an agreement on an American military presence here after 2014 that will allow the United States to keep tabs on Iran and Pakistan.”
Significantly, Kerry had hoped to visit Pakistan during his tour, but decided against it. There is deep anger in that country over US drone strikes and the collaboration of the Pakistani army and intelligence with Washington.
Instead, Kerry reportedly met privately with Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Sunday, before traveling to Afghanistan.
Washington’s neo-colonial war in Afghanistan—like its proxy war in Syria, Iran’s main Arab ally—aims at establishing US imperialist hegemony over the Middle East and Central Asia. This involves not only controlling and manipulating the conflicts in Pakistan and broadly across Asia unleashed by the Afghan war, but also organizing regime change in Iran, an oil-rich state that Washington sees as the main obstacle to its interests in the Middle East.
Kerry’s visits both to Amman and to Kabul were clearly bound up with Washington’s war drive against Iran and its regional allies. As the Secretary of State left Jordan for Afghanistan, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the US is working in Jordan with Britain and France to train Syrian opposition fighters. These fighters then cross the border into southern Syria to carry out attacks.
The AP wrote that these forces were “secular” forces, apparently in an attempt to distinguish them from Al Qaeda-linked forces that provide the bulk of the Syrian opposition’s fighting forces. The wire service’s description of these forces made clear, however, that they are largely army deserters recruited on a religious or tribal basis.
It wrote, “The training has been conducted for several months now in an unspecified location, concentrating largely on Sunnis and tribal Bedouins who formerly served as members of the Syrian army, officials told the Associated Press. The forces aren’t members of the leading rebel group, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which Washington and others fear may be increasingly coming under the saw of extremist militia groups, including some linked to Al Qaeda.”
The AP report came a day after the New York Times published an extensive report detailing how Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia helped finance and arm the Syrian opposition for over a year. This took place under CIA supervision and after General David Petraeus, the CIA director until last November, “prodded various countries” to arm the Syrian opposition. The White House was regularly briefed on these arms shipments.
(See also: “The CIA war against Syria”)
On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed that the US “has provided some logistical nonlethal support that has also come in handy for the Syrian rebels.”
With Kerry now headed to Paris to discuss stepping up the war in Syria, the Arab League also joined in the campaign against Assad yesterday, formally seating Syrian opposition officials as Syria’s representatives to the Arab League.
Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani officially welcomed Moaz al-Khatib, the former imam of Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque who recently stepped down as the Syrian opposition’s official leader, to represent Syria. Al-Khatib was replaced by Ghassan Hitto, a US-based information technology executive. This move apparently aimed to present the opposition as less Islamist and reliant on Al Qaeda-linked forces from Libya, Iraq and Chechnya.
Al-Khatib’s speech at the Arab League made no secret of the Syrian opposition’s continuing ties to far-right Islamist elements. Denouncing Assad and supporting Hitto, he defended the presence of foreign jihadist fighters among the anti-Assad militias—though he awkwardly tried to downplay this by suggesting that if Islamist fighters’ families needed them at home, they should return to their families.
2 April 2013
Costs of Iraq, Afghanistan wars could rise to $6 trillion
By Bill Van Auken
Over a decade of US wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq will in the end cost as much as $6 trillion, the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household.
These wars have left the United States heavily indebted and will have a profound impact on the federal government’s fiscal and budgetary crises over a protracted period. These are the conclusions of a new report issued by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Drafted by Linda Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard and a leading expert on financial, budget and veterans issues, the report attributes the largest share of the trillions of dollars in continuing costs to care and compensation for hundreds of thousands of troops left physically and psychologically damaged by the two wars.
“The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history—totaling somewhere between $4 trillion and $6 trillion,” Bilmes writes. “This includes long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs. The largest portion of that bill is yet to be paid.”
Another major share of the long-term costs of the wars comes from paying off trillions of dollars in debt incurred as the US government failed to include their cost in annual budgets and simultaneously implemented sweeping tax cuts for the rich.
In addition, huge expenditures are being made to replace military equipment used in the two wars. The report also cites improvements in military pay and benefits made in 2004 to counter declining recruitment rates as casualties rose in the Iraq war.
Biles warns, “The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.”
Among the most staggering findings of the report is that some 1.56 million US troops—56 percent of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans—are receiving medical treatment at Veterans Administration facilities and will be granted benefits for the rest of their lives. According to figures cited in the report, fully “one out of every two veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan has already applied for permanent disability benefits.”
The report stresses that the official figure of 50,000 American troops “wounded in action” vastly underestimates the real human costs of the two US wars.
It notes that, “One-third of returning veterans are being diagnosed with mental health issues—suffering from anxiety, depression, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” In addition, over a quarter of a million troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which, in many cases, are combined with PTSD, posing greater problems in treatment and recovery.
Constituting a particularly grim facet of this mental health crisis is the doubling of the suicide rate for US Army personnel, “with many who attempted suicide suffering serious injuries.”
Overall, the Veterans Administration’s budget has more than doubled over the past decade, from $61.4 billion in 2001 to $140.3 billion in 2013. As a share of the total US budget it has grown from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent over the same period.
Soaring medical costs for veterans is attributable to several factors. Among them is that, thanks to advancements in medical technology and rapid treatment, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have survived wounds that would have cost their lives in earlier conflicts.
While the US government has already spent $134 billion on medical care and disability benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the report estimates that this figure will climb by an additional $836 billion over the coming decades. It notes that the largest expenditures on health care for World War II veterans took place in the 1980s, roughly four decades after the war, and that spending on medical care and disability payments for Vietnam War veterans is still rising.
The most common medical problems suffered by troops returning from the two wars, according to the report, “include: diseases of the musculoskeletal system (principally joint and back disorders); mental health disorders; central nervous system and endocrine system disorders; as well as respiratory, digestive, skin, and hearing disorders.” Fully 29 percent of these troops have been diagnosed with PTSD.
Among the most severely wounded are 6,476 soldiers and Marines who have suffered “severe penetrating brain injury,” and another 1,715 who have had one or more limbs amputated. Over 30,000 veterans are listed as suffering 100 percent service-related disabilities, while another 145,000 are listed as 70 to 90 percent disabled.
The worst of these casualties have taken place under the Obama administration as a result of the so-called surge that the Democratic president ordered in Afghanistan. “Walter Reed is treating hundreds of recent amputees and severe casualties—the hospital received 100 amputees for treatment during 2010; 170 amputees in 2011; and 107 amputees in 2012,” the report states. “The Marines have suffered an especially high toll.”
As the report points out, massive direct spending on the two imperialist interventions continues. Over 60,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan. It is estimated that the cost of deploying one American soldier for one year in this war amounts to $1 million. These troops continue suffering casualties—including in so-called “green on blue” attacks by Afghan security forces on their ostensible allies. As they are brought home, they will further drive up the costs of medical care and disability compensation.
Moreover, Obama’s claims that the “tide of war is receding” notwithstanding, an “Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement” signed by the US president and America’s puppet in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, envisions US military operations continuing in Afghanistan for at least another decade after the formal withdrawal deadline at the end of 2014.
And, as the report points out, “The US is maintaining a vast diplomatic presence in Iraq, including at least 10,000 private contractors providing support in security, IT, logistics, engineering and other occupations; as well as logistics support and payments for leased facilities in Kuwait.”
Finally, there was the way in which the US government financed the wars, which was based on just as much of a lie as the phony pretexts of terrorism and “weapons of mass destruction” used to launch them.
The Bush administration claimed at its outset that the Iraq war would finance itself out of Iraqi oil revenues. When Bush’s National Economic Council director Lawrence Lindsey told the Wall Street Journal that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion, he came under intense fire from others in the administration who claimed that this was a gross overestimation, and he was forced to resign.
Washington ended up borrowing some $2 trillion to finance the two wars, the bulk of it from foreign lenders. This accounts for roughly 20 percent of the total amount added to the US national debt between 2001 and 2012. According to the report, the US “has already paid $260 billion in interest on the war debt,” and future interest payments will amount to trillions of dollars.
“It is important to note that this borrowing has not been used to invest in the capital stock of the country,” the report notes. “For example, investing in education, infrastructure and knowledge (R&D) benefits the nation, so this is debt for a helpful purpose. By contrast, the war debt has been especially unhelpful.”
Vast resources literally went up in smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan, while tens of billions of dollars were squandered on supposed aid and reconstruction programs that were riddled with corruption, incompetence and inefficiency, doing little or nothing to improve conditions for the populations of those countries.
In its conclusion, the report seeks to dispel illusions that ending full-scale wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will produce any kind of “peace dividend” that could help ameliorate conditions of poverty, unemployment and declining living standards for working people in the US itself.
“Instead, the legacy of decisions made during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts will impose significant long-term costs on the federal government,” it warns. “In short, there will be no peace dividend, and the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be costs that persist for decades.” Costs of Iraq, Afghanistan wars could rise to $6 trillion - 4/2/2013
April 3, 2013
Afghan Civilian Kills U.S. Soldier, Pentagon Publishes Inaccurate Story
by Ezra Van Auken
Military officials said on Monday that an Afghan teenager stabbed U.S. Sgt. Michael Cable to death last week. Details are still emerging but it’s understood the stabbing took place in the Nangarhar Province during a meeting that U.S. and Afghan officials attended. When U.S. soldiers secured the area and eventually started playing with the kids nearby, the assailant moved in and attacked Sgt. Cable.
The Associated Press reported, “But one of two senior U.S. officials who confirmed that Cable had been stabbed by a young man said the assailant was not believed to have been in uniform so it was not being classified as an insider attack.” Insider attacks have plagued trust and willingness among Afghan and U.S. forces. Officials who couldn’t give full detail said it’s believed the attacker was young, roughly 16-years-old, but escaped from the scene. Cables’ brother Raymond Johnston confirmed the stabbing and said Cables was struck in the neck area. Johnston said his brother “prepared before he left for anything that happened,” in Afghanistan.
An Afghan official, Zalmai Khan said the meeting U.S. officials were attending was for the swearing-in of Afghan Local Police. Kim Gamel of the AP wrote, “Afghan Local Police, or ALP, recruits are drawn from villages and backed by the U.S. military.” Part of the tactic against ALC and other U.S.-backed forces is to commit insider attacks on both U.S. and Afghan soldiers, making it hard to completely excel the program.
Zabiullah Mujahid a Taliban spokesperson said in a statement that “Khalid” was the name of Cables’ attacker and was 16-years-old. Mujahid did explain that Khalid was not affiliated with the Taliban before attacking Cables, however when Khalid fled the scene, that changed. “He said Khalid was acting independently when he killed the soldier but had joined the Islamic militant movement,” Gamel noted.
The Pentagon’s version of events that was published Monday is much different from what reporters detailed Tuesday. Pentagon officials said Cables was killed when his unit was targeted and hit by militant forces. AntiWar’s Jason Ditz pointed out, “Today’s revelations are a stark change from the Pentagon’s initial statement on the matter, which claimed he was killed in combat with enemy forces.” Cloudy stories among U.S. officials when it comes to American forces dying in Afghanistan are not uncommon. Besides the fact this was not an insider attack, the style utilized mirrors other insider attacks. AP’s Gamel wrote, “By contrast, at least 67 members of the Afghan security forces were killed last month, compared with 42 in February and 55 in January.”
AGENDA REVEALED :
Gen. David Petraeus:
3 April 2013
The terrible cost of Washington’s wars
Harvard University’s new report estimating that the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end up costing as much as $6 trillion is another indication of the terrible price paid by working people the world over for the crimes of imperialism.
This is the latest in a series of studies done by Harvard’s senior lecturer on public policy, Linda Bilmes, together with economist Joseph Stiglitz. Each successive study has raised the estimate of the wars’ long-term costs, due in large measure to the rising and sustained costs of caring for and compensating hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have returned home suffering grievous physical and psychological trauma.
Concealed behind the raw numbers are lives forever altered, not only for the 50,000 American troops “wounded in action,” but also for hundreds of thousands more suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems—fully one third of those deployed—and traumatic brain injuries (inflicted on over a quarter of a million troops).
The Pentagon has attributed the unprecedented number of soldiers and Marines diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues to a changed culture within the armed forces dispelling some of the stigma associated with reporting such problems in previous wars.
While no doubt this is a factor, the nature of the wars themselves plays a decisive role. Launched on the basis of lies about terrorism and “weapons of mass destruction,” the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq initiated protracted dirty colonial-style occupations aimed at subjugating whole peoples and laying hold of strategic resources, most critically oil.
Soldiers told they were being sent to avenge 9/11 and fight Al Qaeda found themselves engaged in an entirely different enterprise, which involved terrible crimes against civilians and the turning of entire populations into the “enemy.”
Of course, the $6 trillion figure included in the Harvard report does not begin to make a full accounting for these wars. It assesses only the impact on the US economy.
- What of the cost of rebuilding countries shattered by wars in which more than 1 million Iraqis and Afghans lost their lives?
- What about the cost of helping millions more who have been maimed or turned into refugees in their own countries?
As for the measurable costs of the wholesale destruction of social infrastructure—water, electricity, education, health care, employment—the study only includes the amount spent by the US government in reconstruction schemes riddled with corruption and incompetence, in which tens of billions of dollars were wasted or disappeared into the pockets of shady contractors and crooked politicians.
Then there was the financing of the wars. Bush administration officials such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed at the outset that the cost of the Iraq war would be “something under $50 billion”—less than one one-hundredth of the current estimate.
The wars were funded through “supplemental appropriations,” a practice begun under Bush and continued under Obama, including to finance his Afghanistan surge. Paid for “off the books” of the normal budgetary process, the true costs to the American people—now estimated at $75,000 per household—were kept hidden. Instead of raising revenues to pay for military operations, the government cut taxes for the rich and borrowed some $2 trillion, largely from abroad.
These methods of financing the wars, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, were of a piece with the fraud, parasitism and socially destructive forms of speculation that pervade the workings of the US financial system and American capitalism as a whole.
While officials of both parties join the refrain that there is no money for jobs, decent wages, education, quality health care and other vital social necessities, they were prepared to raise immense resources for Washington’s war machine—leaving them to be paid for through intensified austerity measures against working people.
Bilmes, who correctly dismisses any prospect of the ending of full-scale wars in Iraq and Afghanistan producing a “peace dividend,” predicts that another long-term impact of war costs will be “a much smaller amount of an already-shrinking defense budget available for core military functions.” She suggests that the spiraling medical and compensation costs will likely produce a reduction in troop levels and a “greater investment in unmanned weaponry,” such as armed drones.
The Obama administration has dramatically expanded drone warfare, conducting murderous remote-controlled bombing campaigns against defenseless populations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere and proclaiming the presidential right to order drone assassinations of American citizens. However, this tactical shift by no means precludes the launching of wars that are far more costly in lives and resources than those waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Indeed, the impunity enjoyed by those who launched the wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, the failure to hold anyone accountable for patent war crimes—in the first instance George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and George Tenet—makes more such wars all the more likely.
The Obama administration has already carried out war for regime change in Libya and is backing a similar war in Syria, while threatening Iran with military aggression, deploying troops to Africa and carrying out a “pivot” toward Asia accompanied by continuous ratcheting up of military tensions with China.
While the working class had no say in the decision to launch wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be offered none in the new wars already being prepared, it will bear their full cost in the form of redoubled attacks on jobs, wages and essential social services, as well as in the killing and maiming of young workers sent to fight them.
The vast resources wasted and the incalculable human suffering inflicted by the bloated US military and intelligence apparatus pose the urgency of building a genuine mass movement against militarism and war. This can develop only as an independent social and political movement of the working class directed against the capitalist system.Bill Van Auken - The terrible cost of Washington’s wars - 4/3/2013