Thursday, October 28, 2010

26th october : Afghan Chopper Crashes Kill 14 Americans

KABUL  – Two helicopter crashes killed 14 American troops and civilians in Afghanistan on Monday in one of the blackest days for the United States since its 2001 invasion, officials said.

As anti-US protests erupted in Kabul over the alleged burning of a Koran, Afghan President Hamid Karzai also questioned Washington's commitment to the war-torn nation ahead of a run-off election in less than a fortnight.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Afghanistan 25th october

Although the WikiLeaks files released this week are from the US Army in Iraq, they have implications for the war in Afghanistan and the antiwar movement. And there is more to come, including a release of 15,000 documents on Afghanistan withheld from last summer’s release. I’ve written a few preliminary thoughts below, along with links to good analyses of the documents themselves. Especially important in this regard is Aljazeera, which has been running reports on the documents several times a day, and has two very good half-hour specials on their YouTube page.
The United States in now engaged in a two-prong military and PR offensive in Afghanistan. The first three phases of military action against the Taliban in the Kandahar region have now been completed. The military says it has been successful, but informed analysis is becoming more skeptical, noting that the Taliban has simply faded away from battle. The so-called “peace negotiations” in Kabul are still murkey, but again, some analysts are interpreting events as less-than-meets-the eye, with inconsequential “contacts” being hyped as progress in settling the war. For both the military and the diplomatic offensives, news originating from the US/NATO has to be read against important milestones, including the November NATO meeting in Lisbon and the December review by the Obama team of the progress of the war. An independent effort by the military (i.e., not orchestrated by the White House) to stress light at the end of the tunnel would be consistent with last year’s media campaign by McChrystal and Petraeus to pressure Obama into giving them the additional trooops that they wanted. The next goal of the military will be to get more time to win the war, beyond the July 2011 draw-down milestone.
Finally, from what has been publicly released about the high-level meeting in Washington with the Pakistan millitary and political leaders, it seems that the White House has offered the Pakistan military billions more in military aid, while demanding that Pakistan become more aggressive in fighting the Taliban and its allies. Washington has also been presssuring Pakistan to allow more CIA (and perhaps other troops) inside Pakistan, and has restated its interest in using US military personnel against the armed opposition in Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan, the home of the “Quetta Shura,” the leadership circle of Mullah Omar et al.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


the largest leak of secret information in U.S. history -- suggests that far more Iraqis died than previously acknowledged.
It says analysis by the independent organization Iraq Body Count suggests the logs contain 15,000 civilian deaths that have not been previously disclosed publicly. The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq during the six years, including 66,081 identified as civilians.
the 391,831 secret Defense Department documents released Friday evening “the largest classified military leak in history.”
77,000 U.S. intelligence reports about the war in Afghanistan in July have been leaked, but these additional Afghan files were held back because of their sensitive content.

The Pentagon says these reports are similar to the 70,000 Afghan war documents released this summer, but this time on a much larger scale. Similar to the last time, Morrell said, locals who worked with the U.S. military are at risk of being killed after their names are made public. He said thousands of names could be revealed, and the Pentagon has started to reach out to just over 300 Iraqis it feels are at higher risk.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

5 dead in airstrike as claims of Afghan civilian deaths probed 
NATO forces killed five armed men in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, and the command is investigating allegations of civilian casualties, the International Security Assistance Force said.
The incident occurred in the Nadir Shar Kot district of Khost province, when an air weapons team was on patrol.
Helicopters spotted people with weapons moving from a "previously identified enemy position near Sinzai Kalay village." ISAF is sending an assessment team to the region to look into claims of civilian casualties.

News reports provided by ISAF Joint Command regarding operations conducted in the following provinces: Kandahar, Kunduz, Badghis, Paktika and Oruzgan.
Two Afghan males were treated, Oct. 6, after approaching a Bagram Air Field gate with injuries sustained from a detonated landmine.

The wounded teenagers were visiting Jan Qadam village, which borders Bagram’s west side, to attend a wedding. After the wedding, one of the individuals climbed a tree to pick fruit, while the other watched from the ground. When the young man jumped down from the tree, a landmine detonated, injuring both individuals.

Family members brought the wounded to Camp Montrond’s back gate where medics treated them at the scene. One of the wounded sustained a partial foot amputation and the other sustained minor blast injuries to the left side. Both were then transported to Bagram’s Craig Joint Theater Hospital for follow-on treatment.

“We are very glad that the U.S. Soldiers helped them,” said family members through an interpreter.

Minefields remain scattered around Bagram, cordoned off by barbed wire and signs. It is suspected that thousands of mines remain from the Soviet occupation.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Afghanistan 7th october

Watching the worst terrorist attack in the nation's history on a TV at CIA headquarters was like a punch in the stomach for Gary Schroen.
The 35-year veteran of the CIA had just entered the agency's retirement program when planes struck the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Schroen's career had been spent mostly overseas as a covert officer in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Now in his late 60s, he felt he was going to miss what could be the agency's biggest battle in a land he knew well.
Two days later he was at the forefront, summoned back to duty to lead the first U.S. team into Afghanistan. His mission: Hook up with the opposition Northern Alliance, help beat back the Taliban army and, as he was instructed by his CIA boss, "Find [Osama] bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back to the United States in a box on dry ice."
Schroen said it was clear "the gloves were off, that this was a war, and we were going to get the guys who did this terrible deed."
The original end game seemed pretty straightforward -- destroy al Qaeda and eliminate the Taliban.
But nine years later, current and former intelligence officials tell CNN a battle targeted primarily in one region has spread to a worldwide fight with no end in sight

The elusive bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere along Pakistan's mountainous border with Afghanistan and a resurgent Taliban is causing havoc in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda affiliates and wannabes have sprung up and scattered, making their presence known in places like Yemen, Somalia, Northern Africa and even Europe and the United States.
A plan to wipe out al quida initially prepared by the CIA during the closing days of the Clinton administration was revised and put into action by the Bush White House just days after 9/11. Former CIA official John McLaughlin, who was the deputy director at the time, called it "a very bold plan with a very bold objective" to destroy both al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
From his perch as CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2001, Bob Grenier was concerned the United States would end up mired in an open-ended insurgent war like the Soviets did in the 1980s. But by early 2002, he had changed his mind.
"The war in 2001 went much better than I dared hoped it would. I thought we would be able to consolidate a victory, that this war was a new beginning for Afghanistan, and the Afghans would preclude a return of the Taliban," said Grenier, who is now a partner in a business consultancy.
McLaughlin seconded that assessment.
"In the first year or so, I think we were very successful in the sense that the Taliban was banished, and al Qaeda fled -- chased them into Pakistan -- and in the next couple of years wrapped up most of their 9/11 era leadership, either captured or killed," he said.
But the situation changed on a number of fronts.
In March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. Andy Johnson, the former staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said resources were diverted from the unfinished business in South Asia.
"I don't think anybody can reasonably argue that the level of military and intelligence resources and reconstruction resources that were devoted to Iraq did not diminish our ability to seal the deal in Afghanistan, in Pakistan."
Grenier did not think it was so much an issue of resources but rather a lack of what he called command attention. He said, "As far as Washington was concerned, it [Afghanistan] was very much a side show. All of the real effort and thought was being put into Iraq."
A former senior intelligence official said the intelligence community was careful not to take away counterterrorism resources as it responded to the needs in Iraq. But the former official acknowledged the CIA does not have a lot of reserve capability.
Pakistan was always problematic. The current and former intelligence officials CNN spoke with agreed that the cooperation of Pakistani authorities was instrumental in helping track down many of the senior al Qaeda leadership who were captured or killed after they fled to Pakistan. Ramzi Binalshibh, who assisted some of the 9/11 hijackers, was captured in Karachi in September 2002. Six months later, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was taken into custody in Rawalpindi. Both men are being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But Grenier said despite the success, it was becoming apparent that some of the suspected terrorists fleeing Afghanistan were finding a safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border.
"It was something the Pakistanis were very reluctant to acknowledge simply because they were concerned about the prospect of triggering tribal warfare in those areas, if they tried to track down al Qaeda members in a heavy-handed manner."
"There's a duality to the problem with Pakistan," said former Deputy Director McLaughlin. "Pakistan has often been our best ally against al Qaeda even as its territory has provided safe harbor for this terrorist movement," he said, adding that the situation continues today.
The failure of the Pakistan government to take action led to the CIA use of unmanned aerial vehicles to fire missiles targeted at killing suspected militants operating out of the ungoverned areas of the country. That effort started during the Bush administration and has increased dramatically under President Obama.
The situation appeared to be going fairly well in Afghanistan for the first few years. Al Qaeda was driven out and the Taliban was routed. Elections were held. There was a new president in place. However, it became increasingly evident the Afghan government had little control beyond the capital of Kabul.
Grenier said the CIA could have done more.
"The CIA could have played a more prominent role in consolidating support behind responsible leaders, warlords if you will, in different parts of the country," Grenier said.
McLaughlin said Afghanistan began to be affected by the terrorist safe haven created across the border in Pakistan.
"The things that have turned Afghanistan into what it is today are essentially the safe havens along the border, which allowed the Taliban to eventually regroup, allowed al Qaeda to seek shelter there -- techniques they learned in Iraq migrating into the training camps in that area, migrating into Afghanistan."
The terrorist problem has become even more complex as militants in various parts of the world began to align with al Qaeda. Grenier said the overall war on terror and the U.S. invasion of Iraq may have contributed to the broadening of the problem.
"The measures taken to deal with extremism have had the unintended consequence of creating more -- and more cohesive -- militants."
Grenier says attacks from regional extremist groups like the bungled Times Square bombing would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
McLaughlin said the terrorist movement today is harder to combat and confront because it is so diverse.
"You have to follow individuals in diverse little movements who hardly have names, because two or three of them might arm some lunatic to come here to set a bomb off in Times Square," McLaughlin said, referring to Faisal Shahzad, the man who bungled an attempt to set off a car bomb in New York.
A current U.S. intelligence official said the battle being waged by the intelligence community is causing the enemy to feel the heat.
"Aggressive, precise and effective operations have chewed through al Qaeda's senior leadership ranks," the official said.
But the efforts by the intelligence community and military to take the terrorists off the battlefield will not completely solve the problem.
"Radicalization is an issue to deal with. Strengthening counterterrorism laws in some countries is required," the intelligence official said.
Grenier said he believes that bin Laden's and other militants' safe haven in Pakistan will not be eliminated until those ungoverned areas are fully incorporated into Pakistan -- an effort he says will take a generation.
McLaughlin said terrorism can't be stamped out completely -- just like crime, it dates back to Biblical days.
"It ends when we get to a point where terrorism has shrunk to almost a nuisance level -- still there, but not having the impact in terms of deaths and destruction that it has today."
McLaughlin said it will take three things to get there: destroying the al Qaeda leadership, denying safe haven, and changing conditions that give rise to the movement -- the problems of education, unemployment and the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Former Senate staff member Johnson thinks the terrorism problem will diminish with a robust intelligence operation, which ensures "the flames of terror have been tamped down to the point they are embers and those embers are not allowed to flame again."
The U.S. intelligence official said it is tough to define victory.
"It's not Yorktown or Iwo Jima, where identifying the winners was easy," the official said. "Perhaps, from an American perspective, the best way to assess progress is to note the fact that there hasn't been a 9/11-style attack since that terrible day."
How does Schroen, who led the first team into Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, feel about not getting the perpetrators of 9/11?
"It's the only thing I regret in my long career with the CIA, that we didn't get Osama bin Laden in 2001 when we had a chance. That son of a bitch is out there still plotting to kill Americans."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Afghanistan 4th and 5th october

Obama Says No Big Shift Now In Afghan War Strategy -- Yahoo News/Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has told congressional leaders he has no plans for any major changes in his Afghanistan war strategy for now, a letter released by the White House showed on Monday.

Obama asserted his intention to stick with his already-revamped policy for the war, which is increasingly unpopular among lawmakers and the American public, as part of a regular assessment for Congress required for war funding.

As we begin the 10th year of the war against Afghanistan, the epicenter of the war shifts to Pakistan, where multiple crises raise doubts about US policy and, indeed, the longevity of civilian rule there. Pakistan’s affliction by floods and its deep economic problems would be enough to destabilize most governments. Now a succession of events, most immediately the escalation of US drone attacks inside Pakistan, has brought US-Pakistan relations to their highest level of tension since the start of the war. Last week’s US cross-border attack on Pakistan soldiers, Pakistan’s closing of one of the two main transportation routes for supplies entering Afghanistan, and now the torching of approximately NATO 50 fuel delivery trucks waiting to cross the border are the most recent signs that all is not well.
Among the immediate questions are: Has the United States decided to send substantial numbers of ground troops over the Pakistan border? Will the United States try to gain greater control of the supply operation inside Pakistan? Will the current Pakistan government sustain its resistance to US aggression and demand that the US and its drones stay out? Is the announced return of former President, General, and Dictator Musharraf orchestrated with/by the Pakistan military? And where does the Pakistan military stand in relation to the growing tensions with the United States?
There has been little news about the US offensive in and around Kandahar this week, but there have been further developments exposing the corruption of the Karzai family, and there is more evidence that the recent parliamentary election was very corrupt. Articles on both these topics are linked below, as are articles on the coming winter food crisis in Afghanistan and the difficulties in controlling supply routes inside Afghanistan, a problem that is likely to be made worse with the shutting down of private security companies, which began this past week.

 a new estimate from Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes raising the likely cost of the Afghanistan war to as much as $6 trillion

Monday, October 4, 2010

Afghanistan 2 Romanians killed

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO said Friday it captured several insurgent leaders in recent days and detained at least 438 suspected militants over the last month, as three coalition soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan.
Afghan and coalition forces also killed at least 15 insurgents in a firefight in eastern Kunar province who were trying to set up an attack position, the coalition said. It said initial reports indicated there were no injuries to civilians.
NATO said Afghan and international forces captured a senior Taliban leader based in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province Thursday. A military operation called "Dragon Strike" is under way in Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, to clear the area of militants.
The captured Taliban leader helped militants obtain weapons and bomb components and provided training and bed-down locations for the Taliban leadership, NATO said. It said the security force did not fire its weapons in taking the leader into custody.
NATO also said that Afghan and coalition security forces captured a Haqqani Network operative involved in explosive attacks and providing support to Taliban insurgents. He was captured in Khost, in the east near Pakistan, on Thursday.
The Haqqani Network is based in Pakistan and is believed to have links to al-Qaida.
NATO said in a statement that the suspect was detained along with three of his associates. The security force found an automatic weapon, ammunition and a hand grenade at the scene, it said.
Also in Khost, another Haqqani senior leader and six insurgents were killed in an operation Thursday, NATO said. It said the leader was directly involved in the planning and coordination of attacks against forward operating bases Salerno and Chapman in August in which more than 30 Haqqani Network insurgents were killed.
In a separate statement Friday, NATO said more than 438 suspected insurgents were detained in September and 114 insurgents were killed.
NATO said security forces last month captured or killed more than 105 Haqqani Network and Taliban leaders, including shadow governors, leaders, sub-leaders and weapons facilitators. It said Afghan and coalition forces completed 194 missions, 88 percent of them without shots fired.
Among the killed was Abdallah Umar al-Qurayshi, an al-Qaida senior leader who coordinated the attacks of a group of Arab fighters in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, NATO said. He was killed in an airstrike in Kunar, near Pakistan, on Saturday, along with Abu Atta al Kuwaiti, an al-Qaida explosive expert, and several Arab foreign fighters, it said.
Just north of Kandahar, two Romanian soldiers were killed and one was injured Friday when their Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Qalat in Zabul province, according to Romania's defense ministry. Romania has about 1,660 troops in Afghanistan — mostly in the restive south. It has lost 17 service members in the conflict there, including Friday's casualties.
NATO also reported two deaths Friday in eastern Afghanistan, and the death of another service member from a non-battle injury in southern Afghanistan. No details of the deaths or the nationalities of the service members were disclosed.
This year has already become the deadliest of the nine-year war for the coalition.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Capital Punishment

What are your thoughts about Capital punishment?

Here's mine:

I’m against the death penalty but not out of sympathy for criminals. The death penalty isn’t an effective way to prevent or reduce crime, costs a whole lot more than life in prison, and, worst of all, risks executions of innocent people.

The worst thing about it. Errors:
The system can make tragic and irreversible mistakes. In 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas for starting the fire that killed his children. Multiple forensic experts have since found that the arson "science" his conviction was based on was actually just junk science. As of today, 138 wrongly convicted people who were sentenced to death have been exonerated. DNA, is rarely available in homicides and can’t guarantee we won’t execute innocent people. Obviously, if someone is convicted and later found innocent you can release him from prison, but not from the grave.

Crime reduction (deterrence):
The death penalty doesn't stop others from committing murder. Homicide rates are consistently higher in states and regions with the death penalty than in those without it. The most recent FBI data confirms this.

Keeping killers off the streets for good:
Life without parole, on the books in 49 states (all except Alaska), also prevents reoffending. It means what it says, and spending 23 of 24 hours a day locked in a tiny cell is no picnic. Two advantages:
-an innocent person serving life can be released from prison
-life without parole costs less than the death penalty

Costs, a surprise to many people:
The death penalty is much more expensive than life in prison. The high costs of the death penalty are for the complicated legal process, with the largest costs at the pre-trial and trial stages. The point is to avoid executing innocent people. There are tremendous expenses in a death penalty case whether or not the defendant is convicted, let alone sentenced to death.

Who gets it:
Contrary to popular belief, the death penalty isn't reserved for the worst crimes, but for defendants with the worst lawyers. It doesn't apply to people with money. When is the last time a wealthy person was on death row, let alone executed?

People assume that families of murder victims certainly want the death penalty imposed. It just isn't so. Some are against it on moral grounds. But even families who have supported the death penalty in principle have testified that the drawn-out death penalty process is painful for them and that life without parole is an appropriate alternative.

Race and the death penalty:
The key factor is actually the race of the victim. Abouyt the same number of whites and blacks have been murder victims. But 80% of all executions have been for murders of whites. That means that the murderer of a white person is about 4 times as like to be executed as the murderer of a black person.

It comes down to whether we should keep a system for the sake of retribution or revenge even though it isn’t effective in reducing violent crime, costs much more than alternatives and, worst of all, can lead to the nightmare of executing someone for a crime he didn’t commit.