WHO Voted to Fund the Taliban?

It is abundantly clear that congressmen who vote for more war funding this week, after the issuance of the Tierney report, will be voting to fund the Taliban in no insubstantial amount.  It is estimated that the business previously thought to be the Taliban's biggest source of support, the opium business, brings in around $300 million.  Now the Tierney report from Congress's own Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Warlord, Inc., reveals that the Taliban's take from the U.S. Department of Defense, every penny of it U.S. taxpayer dollars, could be as high as $400 million and certainly no less than $100 million.
 
The Pentagon outdoing the opium business at supporting the Taliban?  Shocking, but true.  

It is beyond doubt now that "protection payments" to insurgents, as the Tierney report calls them, for truck convoys carrying re-supplies for the network of 200 American bases across Afghanistan, are a major if not THE major source of funding for the Taliban.  This week the Congress will vote on whether to continue those payments, whether the vote is cast in those terms or not.  An AP write-up of the Tierney report , as well as a recent CBS newscast, calls the Pentagon funding of the Taliban "unintentional," but that is an incorrect word to use.  Knowledge of the practice goes up the chain of command all the way up to civilian leadership like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who testified to Congress seven months ago, on December 3, 2009:

"You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

The practice cannot be "unintentional."  Reluctant, perhaps.  The bottom line is there is no other way to move the vast quanity of supplies required by a full-blown occupation, around a country the size of Afghanistan, except by 200 - 500 vehicle truck convoys, through the most hostile terrain on Earth.

An American officer in the Tierney report says:

"the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don't really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can't; they need the Taliban's cooperation."

How hostile?  Says the report:

 

"The terrain is unforgiving: deserts that kick up sandstorms in the summer become flooded and muddy in the spring, and treacherous mountain roads leave no room for error. Summer heat regularly reaches 120 degrees. Mountain weather can change in an instant, bringing snow and freezing rain. In the winter, the single tunnel that connects Kabul to northern Afghanistan is frequently cut off by avalanches."

Welcome to the Graveyard of Empires.

This is the signal we have been waiting for on the war in Afghanistan.  Beyond troop casualties, beyond the society-busting cost, is the Tierney report's ill wind blowing in our faces which tells us: Pssst!  It can't be won!

The anti-war momentum has been growing, with the Senate last week finally stripping out the "liptick on the pig" factor of education and other important funding, so each can be voted on separately, forcing Congress into a clean up-or-down vote on the war.  Pay attention.  Now you will know if your congressman is for the war or against it.

No longer can congressmen claim to be "anti-war" while still voting for war funding "because I had to vote for the education funds," the latest tactic.  Last month a record number of the House voted for an amendment to require a binding exit plan by the end of the year.  

The exit plan is simple: empower the Afghan people against the economic hold of the warlords and the Taliban, who often blur into the same people, by flooding civil society non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the honest ones, with cash and reconstruction assistance in major population centers like Kabul, where security is not a major issue.  There are already orange work-vests on men in ditches, for telecom wire and other infrastucture, all over the city.  They should bloom like flowers, workmen earning a decent wage of $8-$10 a day, very decent for Afghanistan, which keeps them away from the Taliban and warlords.  Neither of the latter are particularly popular, although the Taliban has come to symbolize a national resistance to a foreign occupation which has nearly blown its chance to bring improvements to the lives of ordinary Afghans, who are among the poorest of the poor in the world.  

Even the trillions of dollars in minerals and oil and gas doesn't make sense for an imperial occupation, if one calls it that.  The cost of a long term occupation will easily reach the trillions, as Iraq has already reached $3 trillion according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz.  That simply buying resources at market rate might be cheaper is the fly in the ointment of empire theory.  That is, unless one considers that empire has its own logic, not always necessarily aligned with the interests of the nation from which the empire sprang.  War is profitable to some even as it runs at a loss to others, and like a marathoner whose body is at the last consuming its own muscle.

Congress this week should decline to approve Obama’s request for $33 billion more to continue the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and instead require him to begin preparations for an orderly withdrawal of all but civilian assistance.  Afghanistan can stand on its own given the right kind of job-creating reconstruction programs which address the 40% unemployment rate which is the Taliban’s best friend.  

CONTACT CONGRESS, SAY VOTE NO ON WAR FUNDING.

CONGRESS SWITCHBOARD, 24/7 AFTER-HOURS MESSAGE GIVE THEM YOUR ZIP CODE IF YOU DON'T KNOW YOUR CONGRESSMAN: 202-224-3121

 

 

In the End, All We Have Is the Truth

There are those who are arguing that today's publishing of over 91,000 ISAF and US military documents, the largest leak of military documents in history, sheds little new light on the Afghan War. I beg to differ. Not that I expect our government to tell us the whole truth particularly when it comes to sensitive war information but on the other hand I don't expect the government to willfully mislead us either and in at least one instance, the downing of a US military chinook helicopter by the Taliban using surface-to-air missiles, that is the case. And given that we just scratched the surface of a titanic data dump, we are likely to learn more in the upcoming days and weeks of other instances where Western governments have willfully misled the public on the situation in Afghanistan.

The searing and inescapable fact is that today more than half way through 2010, the Taliban is stronger than at any point since they were toppled from power in 2001. We can blame Pakistan for aiding and abetting the Taliban but that relationship is now a two decade long one and not exactly a state secret. That Pakistan's ISI has played a double game should not obscure another searing and inescapable fact: the Taliban's resurgence is primarily a factor of 'blue on white' incidents.

There is a lot of jargon in these reports but color coding military-speak is remarkably straightforward. There are color codes for each of the actors in the Afghan conflict in the leaked reports.

Blue=  friendlies, or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) 
Green =  Afghan National Army or other Afghani forces such as the police
White = Civilians

Thus, in the next few weeks, when you hear of "blue on blue"  that would be friendly on friendly fire, or ISAF coalition forces accidentally shooting at each other. Green on green would be Afghanis accidentally or deliberately shooting at each other while blue on green signifies that ISAF troops accidentally hit the Afghan army or police. Blue on white would be ISAF or US forces shooting at Afghan civilians.

Say what you will about the now cashiered and retired General Stanley McChrystal's disrespect for members of the Obama Administration but one thing he got right was that every civilian death created ten new Taliban insurgents. He called it "Taliban math." His exact quote in the Rolling Stone article was "for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies." Hence, the rules of engagement were tightened on his orders and that did lead to a drop in blue on white fatalities. To loosen the rules of engagement, as some are calling for now, would unnecessarily lead to more civilian deaths and in the end only hasten our inevitable defeat.

The logs released today reveal at least 144 blue on white incidents. From The Guardian:

Some of these casualties come from the controversial air strikes that have led to Afghan government protests, but a large number of previously unknown incidents also appear to be the result of troops shooting unarmed drivers or motorcyclists out of a determination to protect themselves from suicide bombers.

At least 195 civilians are admitted to have been killed and 174 wounded in total, but this is likely to be an underestimate as many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.

Bloody errors at civilians' expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.

Questionable shootings of civilians by UK troops also figure. The US compilers detail an unusual cluster of four British shootings in Kabul in the space of barely a month, in October/November 2007, culminating in the death of the son of an Afghan general. Of one shooting, they wrote: "Investigation controlled by the British. We are not able to get [sic] complete story."

A second cluster of similar shootings, all involving Royal Marine commandos in Helmand province, took place in a six-month period at the end of 2008, according to the log entries. Asked by the Guardian about these allegations, the Ministry of Defence said: "We have been unable to corroborate these claims in the short time available and it would be inappropriate to speculate on specific cases without further verification of the alleged actions."

Rachel Reid, who investigates civilian casualty incidents in Afghanistan for Human Rights Watch, said: "These files bring to light what's been a consistent trend by US and Nato forces: the concealment of civilian casualties. Despite numerous tactical directives ordering transparent investigations when civilians are killed, there have been incidents I've investigated in recent months where this is still not happening.

The war is likely already lost if the aim was to prevent the Taliban from controlling vast swaths of Afghanistan. Most of the Pashtun areas are now effectively under Taliban control but if we continue to show such a wanton disregard for Afghan civilians then our defeat will come that much sooner and be that much greater. 

There's more...

WikiLeaks Document Drop, The Pentagon Papers of the Afghan War

The website WikiLeaks, a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public, has published over 91,000 leaked ISAF and US military documents that paint a very different scenario from the picture portrayed by the Obama Administration in the Afghan War. In addition, WikiLeaks gave advance access to three news publications in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Here's how it's being reported by the three news outlets given advance access. In the New York Times, the US publication given advance access and the nation's paper of record, the focus is on the Pakistani double game in Afghanistan.

Americans fighting the war in Afghanistan have long harbored strong suspicions that Pakistan’s military spy service has guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants, according to a trove of secret military field reports made public Sunday.

The documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators that runs from the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, through southern Afghanistan, and all the way to the capital, Kabul.

Much of the information — raw intelligence and threat assessments gathered from the field in Afghanistan— cannot be verified and likely comes from sources aligned with Afghan intelligence, which considers Pakistan an enemy, and paid informants. Some describe plots for attacks that do not appear to have taken place.

But many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.

While current and former American officials interviewed could not corroborate individual reports, they said that the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.

Some of the reports describe Pakistani intelligence working alongside Al Qaeda to plan attacks. Experts cautioned that although Pakistan’s militant groups and Al Qaeda work together, directly linking the Pakistani spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, with Al Qaeda is difficult.

The records also contain firsthand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety.

The White House response has been fast and furious. General James Jones, the White House National Security Adviser, issued a statement that begins: "The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security."


More on the White House reaction from Politico.

There's more...

Reset: Stephen Kinzer's Vision of a New U.S. Relationship with Turkey and Iran

Until quite recently, it seemed that Turkey had a clearly defined role in the Middle East, from the standpoint of U.S. policy. They were the "good Muslims," who were part of NATO, who contributed troops to U.S. wars, and who had good relations with Israel.

In the past few weeks, therefore, some Americans may have been startled to see the government of Turkey seemingly playing a very different role. First, together with Brazil, Turkey negotiated a nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran to defuse the standoff over Iran's nuclear program and forestall a controversial U.S./Israeli push for new sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Although the deal was very similar to one proposed by the Obama Administration - and Brazil and Turkey had a letter from Obama encouraging them to press forward with the deal - Obama Administration officials dismissed the deal, and far from being grateful to Turkey and Brazil, made a show of being angry. But instead of being chastened, Turkey and Brazil insisted their deal was good - invoking their letter from Obama to demonstrate their case - and insisted that the U.S. should pursue it.

There's more...

Reset: Stephen Kinzer's Vision of a New U.S. Relationship with Turkey and Iran

Until quite recently, it seemed that Turkey had a clearly defined role in the Middle East, from the standpoint of U.S. policy. They were the "good Muslims," who were part of NATO, who contributed troops to U.S. wars, and who had good relations with Israel.

In the past few weeks, therefore, some Americans may have been startled to see the government of Turkey seemingly playing a very different role. First, together with Brazil, Turkey negotiated a nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran to defuse the standoff over Iran's nuclear program and forestall a controversial U.S./Israeli push for new sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Although the deal was very similar to one proposed by the Obama Administration - and Brazil and Turkey had a letter from Obama encouraging them to press forward with the deal - Obama Administration officials dismissed the deal, and far from being grateful to Turkey and Brazil, made a show of being angry. But instead of being chastened, Turkey and Brazil insisted their deal was good - invoking their letter from Obama to demonstrate their case - and insisted that the U.S. should pursue it.

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads