Thursday, December 1, 2011

THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES




U.S. Army troops Kunar province
eastern Afghanistan
From countryxp.com


The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Afghan United Front (Northern Alliance) launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The primary driver of the invasion was the September 11 attacks on the United States, with the stated goal of dismantling the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization and ending its use of Afghanistan as a base. The United States also said that it would remove the Taliban regime from power and create a viable democratic state.
A decade into the war, the U.S. continues to battle a widespread Taliban insurgency, and the war has expanded into the tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan. The preludes to the war were the assassination of anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud on September 9, 2001, and the September 11 attacks on the United States, in which nearly 3000 civilians lost their lives in New York City, Arlington Va. and Pennsylvania. The United States identified members of al-Qaeda, an organization based in, operating out of and allied with the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the perpetrators of the attacks. The Taliban offered to try Bin Laden in an Afghan court, or have him extradited to a third country, so long as the United States provided evidence of his guilt, but the U.S. refused, stating it would not hand over evidence to the Taliban. So on October 7, 2001, the U.S. government launched military operations in Afghanistan. Teams from the CIA's Special Activities Division (SAD) were the first U.S. forces to enter Afghanistan and begin combat operations. They were soon joined by U.S. Army Special Forces from the 5th Special Forces Group and other units from USSOCOM. On October 7, 2001, airstrikes were reported in the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed), at the airport, at Kandahar (home of the Taliban's Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and in the city of Jalalabad. CNN released exclusive footage of Kabul being bombed to all the American broadcasters at approximately 5:08 p.m. October 7, 2001. At 17:00 UTC, President Bush confirmed the strikes on national television and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair also addressed the UK. Bush stated that Taliban military sites and terrorist training grounds would be targeted. In addition, food, medicine, and supplies would be dropped to "the starving and suffering men, women and children of Afghanistan"
(WIKIPEDIA)


US 10th Mountain Division soldiers
Afghanistan Province of Daychopan
US Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Davis
From times92.com

Helmand Province of Afghanistan, July 3, 2009
U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Ryan Pettit (L)
(4th Civil Affairs Group)
Cpl Matthew Miller
(2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment)
Source defenseimagery.mil
Author Sgt. Pete Thibodeau
From WIKIMEDIA


2nd Mentoring & Reconstruction Task Force Engineers
Author Source originally posted to Flickr
Uploaded using F2ComButton Author isafmedia
From WIKIMEDIA


After the Taliban fled Kabul in November 2001 and left their stronghold, the southern city of Kandahar, in December 2001, it was generally understood that by then major Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders had fled across the border into Pakistan. To fill the political void, in December 2001 the United Nations hosted the Bonn Conference in Germany. The meetings of various Afghan leaders here were organized by the United Nations Security Council. The Taliban were not included. Participants included representatives of four Afghan opposition groups. Observers included representatives of neighbouring and other involved major countries, including the United States. The result was the Bonn Agreement which created the Afghan Interim Authority that would serve as the “repository of Afghan sovereignty” and outlined the so-called Petersberg Process, a political process towards a new constitution and choosing a new Afghan government. (WIKIPEDIA)
The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained some strength. Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen threats to its stability from increased Taliban-led insurgent activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production, and a fragile government with limited control outside of Kabul. By the end of 2008, the Taliban had severed any remaining ties with al-Qaeda. According to senior U.S. military intelligence officials, there are perhaps fewer than 100 members of Al-Qaeda remaining in Afghanistan. The Taliban can sustain itself indefinitely, according to a December 2009 briefing by the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan. It’s time to play “State the Obvious” with new polling data that’s out today about the war in Afghanistan. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 64 percent of Americans feel that fighting the Afghan war is not worth it. That’s nearly two-thirds of all respondents. The conflict is going into its 11th year, making it the longest conflict in American history. Somehow they found 31 percent of respondents, polling low, that actually thought the war was worth fighting. Not sure what planet they live on, but they are entitled to their opinions. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Gen. David Petraeus reminded people that 9/11 was the reason they are in Afghanistan in the first place. He says that the attacks were spawned there, hence the need to complete the mission. “Blah, blah, blah, blah….” That’s exactly how these excuses about war sound to the American people. Since it started, there has been a strong contingency of the American people who have been against the preemptive conflicts in the Middle East. They were a minority in the beginning, but now they have grown into the majority. It’s really sad how correct they are. US need to cut losses over there and leave once and for all. The U.S. is far too concerned with fiscal policy at home to justify spending trillions of dollars overseas any longer. Much of the effort in Afghanistan now is too late. They took their eye off of that nation in favor of Iraq during the early years of that conflict. In what is defined as an “ego move,” US have stayed in Afghanistan, doubled their efforts, and tried to correct their mistake. It would be well-served for the people and resources to come home and regroup to focus on other important tasks.
(Social Issues by Stevie in International Affairs at prunejuicemedia.com)



Contact with insurgents, June 26, 2010
An Afghann National Police officer returns fire
Photo Source: yeeyan.org
From news.xinhuanet.com


When Gen. David Petraeus took over the Afghan war effort, the conflict took a violent turn. Especially that part of the war launched from above. Petraeus relaxed the restrictions on air power, and strikes from the sky returned to a level all-but-unseen since the war’s earliest days. In October of 2010, coalition planes unleashed their weapons on more than 1,000 missions. Now, Petraeus is gone, and the air war — like the rest of the conflict — has cooled a bit from its fever pitch. In the three full months since Gen. John Allen assumed command, strike sorties are down more than 25% over the same period in 2010: 1,631 attack runs, compared to 2,198 last year, according to U.S. military statistics. In October, the drop was particularly stark: 616 strike sorties, down from 1,043 during the previous October. It’s a particularly remarkable trend, given that there are more aircraft than ever patrolling Afghanistan’s skies. And it may be a sign for how the rest of the Afghan war is waged.
(Petraeus Gone, Afghan Air War Plummets by Noah Shachtman, November 7, 2011, WIRED at wired.com)
War is never easy and it is never clean. There is little doubt that the United States fully realized that as they contemplated engaging in conflict in Afghanistan. While few will debate that the war in that country was necessary, and that the United States certainly had the firepower advantage, any optimism that the war began with has been destroyed by almost a decade of conflict and bloodshed. Adding to those military woes is the continuing political turmoil in the country which has started to reach a head following debates between the governments of the two countries. At issue is the growing divide between the Obama government and the renewed confidence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who in recent weeks has started to take the destiny of his country onto his shoulders. While such action should be welcomed in a country that continues to endure turmoil and serious threats from an insurgent force, it is Karzai’s slightly irregular behaviour, such as stating his desire to join the Taliban, that has run very much afoul of the Obama administration, particularly as U.S. soldiers continue to die in that country. Now however the government has tabled a possible new plan that could forever end the troubles in Afghanistan, nuking the entire site from orbit. “It’s obviously top, top secret, even though we are talking about it here but it is a serious consideration by more than just the military hawks in the country. I’m not sure exactly who came up with the idea but apparently it came from a late night viewing of ‘Aliens’ on AMC where they realize the best solution is to just take out the entire site,” said a Pentagon insider. “Obviously it didn’t work out in the movie but in the real world we are not bound by the conventions of plot and bringing things to a satisfying conclusion. We have the ability to blow the hell out of that country, to just make it a giant crater, and it is a serious consideration at this point.” While nuclear weapons are the most powerful weapons yet created, it’s believed that the level of weaponry required to actual make the country a crater would render the entire planet uninhabitable and kill every living thing, making that an unlikely scenario. “Afghanistan has been called the Graveyard of Empires and that has proven largely true.
From Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan to the Soviets, Afghanistan has defeated some of the greatest armies ever assembled. Until now however no one has ever had the firepower to truly deal with the country, which we do now with nukes,” said Scrape TV International analyst Gustav Hander. “Like many wars in the modern era all that could have realistically expected was a kind of truce, reducing the Taliban to a regional threat. A true win was never in the cards but now the United States is mired in the country with their pride and reputation on the line, which makes winning all the more important.” In the movie ‘Aliens’ American Marines are placed on an isolated planet infested with malevolent aliens which they then decide to nuke, though their plans ultimately fail. “In the movie you had this lone detachment of Marines isolated in the middle of space, but here you have the top military in the world with all kinds of backup and a bunch of nukes at the ready. It would be very easy to just do away with the whole country and redeem all those militaries and soldiers that bled out on the sands of Afghanistan,” continued Hander. “The real question would be what to do with the region once the Afghans are out. Obviously you would have to wait decades before the radiation abated, but that would give you plenty of time to plan. I would hope for a lot of green space and perhaps a theme park or two. I’m sure the Khyber Pass would be great for a rollercoaster or two.” Should the country be reduced to a massive crater it’s likely that it would eventually fill with water creating a killer wading pool. (U.S. CONSIDERING JUST NUKING AFGHANISTAN FROM ORBIT Emil Uliya, International Correspondent, April 13 2010, SCRAPE TV at scrapetv.com)
According even to an official UN report, opium production in Afghanistan has risen dramatically since the downfall of the Taliban in 2001. UNODC data shows more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past four growing seasons (2004-2007), than in any one year during Taliban rule. More land is now used for opium in Afghanistan, than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This is no accident. The US military remains in Afghanistan long after the world has forgotten even who the mysterious Osama bin Laden and his alleged Al Qaeda terrorist organization is or even if they exist. The aim is not to eradicate any Al Qaeda cells that may have survived in the caves of Tora Bora, or to eradicate a mythical “Taliban” which at that point according to eyewitness reports is made up overwhelmingly of local ordinary Afghanis fighting to rid their land once more of occupier armies as they did in the 11980’s against the Russians.
(Adapted from The Geopolitics Behind the Phoney U.S. War in Afghanistan, Oct 21, 2009 by: F William Engdahl, engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net at marketoracle.co.uk)


"Poppy Palaces" in Kabul
From CNN Money at money.cnn.com


Passing by a poppy field
U.S. Marines, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit
From thelibertyvoice.com


Addicts smoke heroin
Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images
From boston.com


After the Taliban was toppled, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon focused mainly on counterterrorism. Drugs were a police matter, he believed, though there was no functioning police force. Sensing an opportunity, Afghans of all stripes lined up to cash in: farmers hoping to make money; landowners seeking higher returns; local, district, and provincial officials -- police chiefs, governors, and militia leaders (i.e., warlords) -- who'd smuggled before and saw a chance to do so again. "These guys started to look around and say, 'Holy shit, no one is doing anything about this,'" says Alex Thier, a rule-of-law expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace who has worked in Afghanistan since the mid-1990s. They figured, he says, "there's no risk in doing it. It's not only that I'm able to bribe the governor. The governor owns the fields that I'm planting!"
By 2007 more than 3 million Afghans were involved in cultivating a yield of some 8,200 metric tons of poppies, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Farmers were earning roughly six times the nation's per capita income of $340 a year. In 2007 opium's value was nearly 10 times that of wheat, making it extremely difficult to persuade farmers to switch crops. American policy now stresses alternative livelihood programs designed to help farmers grow crops -- grapes, pomegranates, and almonds, for instance -- that can bring in as much as poppies do. However, the seeds literally take time to grow, so farmers living hand-to-mouth need some kind of bridge, which the West is trying to provide in the form of training and fertilizer and seedling subsidies. So poppies remain the best thing going. "Of course we know it's illegal, but we have no other option," Hamid Hakmal, a teacher in Nokher Khil, a village in Nangarhar province, says. "I can't earn enough to live with wheat. If the government or NGOs would help us, we wouldn't have to plant this." Given these harsh realities, poppy cultivation "is a logical economic response to conditions of chaos," says Ronald Neumann, the American ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007. Distressingly, several past and present cabinet ministers, senior law enforcement officials, and even Karzai's own brother are widely suspected of profiting handsomely from the poppy trade, overseeing growing operations or enabling transport of the yield across and out of the country. They deny the charges, but it's impossible not to believe, as does David Kilcullen, an Australian counterinsurgency scholar and former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, that "we shouldn't underestimate the degree to which corrupt Afghan officials are involved in the drug trade." Current and former government officials speak of investigations thwarted, inquiries shut down, suspects summarily released after a hurried phone call. Such was the state of affairs, says a State Department official, that an Afghan radio program that announced a seizure of 100 kilos of opium got a call from the trafficker himself moments later. He insisted he'd had twice that amount, accused the police of stealing the rest, and demanded it back.
(Afghanistan's drug czar - world's toughest job by Phil Zabriskie, contributor, CNN Money at money.cnn.com)


US soldiers fly on a military plane
Afghanistan, October 8, 2011
Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images From boston.com


An Afghan girl works at a brick factory
Outskirts of Jalalabad, October 10, 2011
Rahmat Gul/AP From boston.com


Girls attend a class
A camp for the displaced Kabul, October 11, 2011
Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images
From boston.com


Wazir Akbar Khan hill
Kabul, October 12, 2011
Omar Sobhani/Reuters From boston.com


Street in Kabul, October 23, 2011
Muhammed Muheisen/AP
From boston.com


Shop owner Mohammed Ahmadi, 32
Dress shop in Kabul
Muhammed Muheisen/AP
From boston.com


Afghan children enjoy a swing ride
A cemetery outside Sakhi shrine
Kabul, October 11, 2011
Muhammed Muheisen/AP
From boston.com


A family walks by riot police
Demo against a U.S.-Afghan strategic security agreement
Kabul, October 24, 2011
Muhammed Muheisen/AP
From boston.com


People visit a cemetery
The Sakhi shrine in Kabul, October 24, 2011
Muhammed Muheisen/AP
From boston.com


Women walk in a market Kabul, October 26, 2011
Muhammed Muheisen/AP
From boston.com


Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital
Kabul, October 27, 2011
Muhammed Muheisen/AP
From boston.com


Feints and baby steps in the direction of eventually ending a massive crime are not enough. Hoping to meet a distant deadline for ending a war that cannot be justified for a single day is not enough. A new misunderstanding should not be piled on top of other fictional accomplishments (the closing of Guantanamo, the complete withdrawal from Iraq, universal health coverage, etc.) But if we don't understand that we are beginning to move things in the right direction many among us will lose heart and others will miscalculate. This is what the Associated Press had to say on Thursday morning, Nov 3rd 2011:
"A senior U.S. official says the Obama administration is considering shifting the U.S. military role in Afghanistan from primarily combat to mainly advisory and training duties as early as next year. If this approach is adopted it would mean a reduction in American combat duties in Afghanistan sooner than the administration had planned. But it would not mean an early end to the war. The U.S. and its NATO partners agreed a year ago that coalition forces would complete their combat mission by the end of 2014. Advising and training Afghan forces would gradually become a more dominant part of the mission, particularly after the U.S. completes the withdrawal of 33,000 'surge' troops by September 2012. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made."
The Wall Street Journal ran into some similar criminal but respectable leakers of "national security" information:
"The Obama administration is exploring a shift in the military's mission in Afghanistan to an advisory role as soon as next year, senior officials told The Wall Street Journal, a move that would scale back U.S. combat duties well ahead of their scheduled conclusion at the end of 2014. Such a move would have broad implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. It could begin a phase-out of the current troop-intensive approach, which focuses on protecting the Afghan population, in favor of a greater focus on targeted counterterrorism operations, as well as training the Afghan military. A transition to a training mission could also allow for a faster drawdown of U.S. forces in the country, though officials said discussions about troop levels have yet to move forward. The revised approach has been discussed in recent high-level meetings involving top defense and administration officials, according to people involved in the deliberations. No decisions have been made, officials said, and policy makers could consider other options that would adjust the mission in other ways, officials said. Officials said agreement on a formal shift to an advisory role could come as early as a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in May—in the heat of the U.S. presidential election campaign. Some officials have drawn comparisons to President Barack Obama's 2009 decision to switch to an 'advice and assist' role in Iraq and to declare a formal end to U.S. combat operations there. In Iraq, after mid-2009, troops were largely confined to their bases. Security conditions in Afghanistan are different, however, and will likely require U.S. troops, particularly Special Operations forces, to continue to accompany their Afghan counterparts into battle after the U.S. takes an advisory role. Defense officials said the U.S. still would be directly involved in many combat operations, though increasingly with Afghan forces in the lead." Wars are rarely lost in a single encounter; Defeat is almost always more complex than that. (Public Pressure Is Slowly Ending Afghanistan War, Column by David Swanson, November 3, 2011, warisacrime.org at scoop.co.nz)



An Afghan policeman reacts
Suicide attack in Kabul, October 29, 2011
A U.S. helicopter lands at the site
Omar Sobhani/Reuters From boston.com


The United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have lost the war in Afghanistan, but not just because they failed in the battle for Marjah or decided that discretion was the better part of valor in Kandahar. They lost the war because they should never have invaded in the first place; because they never had a goal that was achievable; because their blood and capital are finite. The face of that defeat was everywhere. According to the Afghanistan Rights Monitor, “In terms of insecurity, 2010 has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001.”
A U.S. government audit found that despite $27 billion spent on training, fewer than 12 percent of Afghan security forces were capable of operating on their own. Some 58 percent of the American public think the war is “a lost cause,” and 60 percent think the United States should begin to withdraw in July 2011. Only Republican votes in Congress saved the Obama administration’s request for $33 billion to fuel the war in the coming fiscal year. The war is currently hemorrhaging money at a rate of $7 billion a month. The British public — the United Kingdom is the second largest armed contingent in Afghanistan — opposes the war by 72 percent, and other coalition forces are quickly abandoning the effort in the war-torn Central Asian nation. Poland announced it would withdraw its 2,600 troops in 2012. The Dutch will be out this August. The Canadians in 2011. The Australians, along with the rest of the NATO allies, declined a plea in July to send more combat troops. In a sign of the dire circumstances of the war effort, Afghan soldiers turned their guns on NATO soldiers. A poll by the International Council on Security and Development reaffirms that the NATO alliance is failing to win over Afghan civilians, a cornerstone of success in the current strategy employed in Afghanistan. The poll found that in the two provinces currently at the center of the war — Helmand and Kandahar — 75 percent of Afghans believe foreigners disrespect their religion and traditions; 74 percent think working for foreign forces is wrong; 68 percent believe NATO will not protect them; and 65 percent think Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar should be part of the government.
So does one calculate the arithmetic of defeat? But “defeat” does not mean the war is over. Indeed, the moment when it becomes obvious that victory is no longer an option can be the most dangerous time in a conflict’s history. The losers may double down, as the French and the United States did in Vietnam. They may lash out in a frenzy of destruction, as the United States did in Laos and Cambodia. Or they may poison the well for generations to come by dividing people on the basis of ethnicity, religion and tribe, as the British did when their empire began to disintegrate.
(Conn Hallinan in Foreign Policy in Focus)

Note: I found these images (above) from all over the web. If you own a photo’s copyright and think this page violates Fair Use, please contact me.


No comments: