Monday, April 18, 2011

Note to Obama: Get Out Now!

Here’s More Than You Probably

Wanted to Know About Afghanistan

Beaver County Peace Links via UFPJ’s Afghan War Weekly
Anatomy of an Afghan war tragedy
By David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times [April 10, 2011]
---- "We have 18 pax [passengers] dismounted and spreading out at this time," an Air Force pilot said from a cramped control room at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, 7,000 miles away. He was flying a Predator drone remotely using a joystick, watching its live video transmissions from the Afghan sky and radioing his crew and the unit on the ground. None of those Afghans was an insurgent. They were men, women and children going about their business, unaware that a unit of U.S. soldiers was just a few miles away, and that teams of U.S. military pilots, camera operators and video screeners had taken them for a group of Taliban fighters. The Americans were using some of the most sophisticated tools in the history of war, technological marvels of surveillance and intelligence gathering that allowed them to see into once-inaccessible corners of the battlefield. But the high-tech wizardry would fail in its most elemental purpose: to tell the difference between friend and foe.,0,2818134,full.story
Brandon Barrett's War
The Army didn't tell anyone about a disturbed AWOL soldier until it was too late.
By Rick Anderson, Seattle Weekly [April 13 2011]
---- Brandon Barrett, who killed at least two enemy fighters during his yearlong tour, didn't seem to fare badly, however. During a post-deployment health screening last summer, he told doctors only that he was a bit nervous, could be startled from time to time, and had seen lots of dead people. Otherwise, he was fine, he added, and certainly not suicidal. But doctors, according to a 200-page Army report on Barrett's case obtained exclusively by Seattle Weekly, worried he was keeping his real feelings to himself.
America's Costliest War
By William Hartung, Huffington Post [April 5, 2011]
---- Congress, the media, and the public are rightly asking whether America should be spending $1 billion or more on the intervention in Libya at a time of fiscal austerity. One member of Congress has even proposed that the mission be offset dollar for dollar by cuts in domestic programs (leaving the Pentagon and related security programs off limits). While this newfound attention to the costs of U.S. global military operations is welcome, focusing on Libya alone misses the mark. The $1 billion in projected spending on Libya is just one tenth of one percent of the over $1 trillion the United States has spent so far on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Looked at another way, the likely costs of the Libyan mission are the equivalent of less than four days of spending on the war in Afghanistan.
CBO: Counting Wars, Budget Deal Actually Adds to Spending
By Jason Ditz, [April 14, 2011]
---- The latest report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reveals that the much vaunted budget compromise, being sold as a massive cut, is actually nothing of the sort, and taking the ongoing wars into consideration will actually see 2011 spending increase somewhat over the previous plan. The data shows “non-emergency appropriations” falling nearly $38 billion on paper, but that this would translate into only $352 million in actually spending cuts compared to the previous estimates. Even this vanishes immediately when one considers that “non-emergency appropriations” doesn’t include the billions of dollars the administration will throw into contingency funds for the Afghan War. This included, the 2011 discretionary spending actually increases by $3.3 billion under the new “cuts.”
Obama Is Set to Redo Team on War Policy
By David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, New York Times [April 6, 2011]
---- When President Obama assembled his first national security team, it was quickly dubbed, not always accurately, the “Team of Rivals.” Now that some of its key members are heading for the exits, the question is whether his next war council could be named the “Corps of Consensus.” From the White House to the Pentagon, names of leading candidates are emerging, but it is unclear if any have deep support in the Oval Office. With a staged troop withdrawal beginning this summer, it will be up to those who succeed Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen to manage that process, while dealing with an officers corps that is trying to slow the pace. One of the critical questions is whether Mrs. Clinton, who won the argument on an intervention with Libya, will see her influence expand when Mr. Gates leaves — or whether her success will depend on teaming up with the new defense secretary.
War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congress
By Catherine Dale, Congressional Research Service [March 9, 2011] – 90 pages
US Casualties
---- 711 Coalition soldiers were killed in 2010, including 499 US soldiers. 38 US soldiers were killed in March, and 23 have died in April. In total, 2,412 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,534 soldiers from the United States. 304 US soldiers were wounded in March. The total US wounded in 2010 was 5,226, and the number wounded since the war began is 10,855. To learn more go to and to On US wounded soldiers, see the important article by C.J.Chivers, “In Wider War in Afghanistan, Survival Rate of Wounded Rises,” New York Times [January 8, 2011]
Afghanistan Casualties
---- “Afghan civilian toll up 20 percent-U.N. report,” by Jonathon Burch, Reuters [December 21, 2010] states that “Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared with 2009, the United Nations said, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded as a result of insurgent attacks. In a quarterly report on Afghanistan this month, the United Nations said there were 6,215 civilian casualties from conflict-related incidents, including 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries, between January and the end of October this year.” For an investigation of how the UN undercounts Afghanistan civilian casualties, see Gareth Porter and Shah Noori, “UN Reported Fraction of Afghan Civilian Deaths in US Raids,” [March 18, 2011] For an extensive listing of casualty estimates since the war began, go to:
The Cost of the War
---- According to the website, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $396 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.182 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at
Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan
---- A Pew Research Center Poll conducted at the end of March found that, for the first time, 50% of respondents said that US forces should leave Afghanistan “ASAP.”
---- While support for/opposition to the war remained about the same (37%/54%), a CBS News poll of March 18-21 showed a sharp increase in the number of respondents who said that the war was going “very well” or “moderately well” – with the combined figure at its highest level in years (44%).
---- Nearly two-thirds of Americans now say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting, the highest proportion yet opposed to the conflict, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The finding signals a growing challenge for President Obama as he decides how quickly to pull U.S. forces from the country beginning this summer. “Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say Afghan war isn’t worth fighting,”
Washington Post [March 15, 2011]
---- A majority of voters, for the first time, support an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan or the creation of a timetable to bring them all home within a year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% of Likely U.S. Voters now say all troops should be brought home from Afghanistan immediately, while another 21% say a firm timetable should be established to bring all troops home within a year’s time. The combined total of 52% who want the troops home within a year is a nine-point jump from 43% last September. Just 37% felt that way in September 2009. [March 7, 2011]
For earlier polls:
Government increases hiring of veterans, but unemployment rate is still high
By Lisa Rein, Washington Post [April 13, 2010]
---- Veterans made up more than a quarter of new hires by the federal government in the last fiscal year, registering a slight increase since the Obama administration pledged to bring more service members returning to civilian life into the civil service. But despite efforts by the private sector and the government, 27 percent of veterans in their early 20s were unemployed in February, while 9 percent of veterans overall are without jobs.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan suffer more catastrophic injuries
By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times [April 6, 2011]
---- A study by doctors at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where most wounded troops are sent before returning to the U.S., confirmed their fears: The battlefield has become increasingly brutal. In 2009, 75 service members brought to Landstuhl had limbs amputated. Of those, 21 had lost more than one limb. But in 2010, 171, 11% of all the casualties brought to Landstuhl, had undergone amputations, a much higher proportion than in past wars. Of the 171, 65 had lost more than one limb. Injuries to the genital area were also on the increase. In 2009, 52 casualties were brought to Landstuhl with battlefield injuries to their genitals or urinary tract. In 2010, that number was 142.,0,3925334.story
Report Reveals Discipline Breakdown in Kill Team Brigade
By Karin Assmann, John Goetz and Marc Hujer, Der Spiegel [April 4, 2011
---- The case of the so-called "kill team," a group of US soldiers who allegedly murdered innocent civilians in Afghanistan, has made headlines around the world. So far, the focus has been on the individual troops and the question of how they could have committed such brutal acts, which have been compared to the abuses perpetrated at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. That could now change, however. SPIEGEL has obtained a secret US Army investigation report that puts at least part of the blame on the commander of the kill team's brigade.,1518,754952,00.html
Taliban Seen Stirring Mob to Violence in Afghanistan
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times [April 9, 2011]
---- While it is still too early to say who were the killers of the seven United Nations employees here last week, senior police officials say they suspect current or former Taliban members or other insurgents of leading the violence, aided by sympathizers and hard-line mullahs who whipped up a crowd of thousands angered by a Koran burning in the United States. Perhaps most unsettling for Western and Afghan officials, former Taliban fighters who were supposed to have switched loyalties as part of an American-financed program were among those who snatched weapons from guards at the United Nations compound that was ransacked, police officials said. …Diplomats say the horror and scale of the attack in Mazar are a turning point in the relationship between the government and its Western backers, with many questioning Mr. Karzai’s ambivalent support for the international effort.
Al-Qaeda coming back to Afghanistan: report
From Agence France Press [April 6, 2011]
---- Al-Qaeda militants are returning to eastern Afghanistan and setting up bases for the first time in years, exploiting a withdrawal of US troops in the area, US media reported Wednesday. The trend has alarmed US officials who had seen Al-Qaeda as a seriously weakened force in Afghanistan with only a couple of dozen fighters on the ground, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed US, Afghan and Taliban sources. The newspaper report said it was unclear how many Al-Qaeda fighters had moved back to Afghanistan, but that the militants were operating in Kunar province, Nuristan province and parts of Nangarhar province, home to the city of Jalabad and a key route from Pakistan.
Taliban Exploit Tensions Seething in Afghan Society
By Rod Nordland, New York Times [April 5, 2011]
---- In an effort to quell the two days of disturbances, on Saturday and Sunday, the Kandahar police shot more than 123 protesters, and by the time the wounded either stabilized or died, the death toll had reached at least 13, according to hospital officials. Thousands of young men, waving Taliban flags and shouting slogans honoring the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, rampaged through the streets, setting tires on fire, looting and in some cases opening fire on the police. Two officers were killed.
The rioting exposed a fundamental quandary for the American war effort in Kandahar, the heartland of the insurgency, which Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top allied commander, has called “one of those very important places where Taliban momentum has been reversed.”
Did a Quran burning really cause Afghan violence?
By Peter Finocchiaro, Salon [April 4, 2011]
Food aid for millions of Afghans endangered, says UN agency
From Monters and Critics [April 15, 2011]
---- Food aid for millions of Afghans is endangered due to a lack of international donations, the World Food Programme (WFP) said Friday. The UN agency stated that it lacks 257 million dollars for its mission of providing food to 7.3 million Afghans. That represents half of its Afghan aid budget, meaning the programme could collapse within just a few weeks. Afghanistan Director Louis Imbleau made a plea for more budgetary assistance, noting that supplies of wheat were particularly short. He added that millions of schoolchildren would be affected if the WFP's school meal programme had to be curtailed.
Police chief killed in Afghan suicide attack
---- Khan Mohammad Mujahid, the police chief of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, has been killed in a suicide attack at the police headquarters in the provincial capital, officials confirm. Mujahid was one of the most prominent government targets in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous provinces.
Top Afghan Official Confirms Talks With Taliban
By Rod Nordland, New York Times [April 6, 2011]
---- A senior Afghan official confirmed on Wednesday that the Afghan government had been in peace talks with the Taliban. Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, secretary of the High Peace Council and a top security adviser to President Hamid Karzai, said reconciliation talks had been under way with insurgents for some time. The remarks came at a news conference to announce a $50 million donation from the American government to the peace council to support reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. The United States is supporting the effort, Mr. Stanekzai said. Karl W. Eikenberry, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, concurred.
See also: Joshua Partlow, “U.S. pledges more money for peace program in Afghanistan,” Washington Post [April 6, 2011]
Afghan and Pakistani Leaders Meet in Peace Bid
By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times [April 17, 2011]
---- Much of Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership flew here Saturday for a meeting with Afghanistan’s president to discuss efforts to forge peace with the Taliban. Although leaders from the two countries have met before to discuss a peace deal, the gathering Saturday was unprecedented because of the number of high-level Pakistani officials in attendance. The main accomplishment of the visit, which lasted about five hours, was an agreement to set up a joint commission for promoting reconciliation that is expected to be led by Mr. Gilani and President Hamid Karzai. Many analysts consider cooperation between the two countries critical to the success of any peace negotiations with the insurgents, some of whom have had long-standing ties with Pakistani intelligence.
Turkey considers Afghan peace role
By Selcan Hacaoglu, Associated Press [April 11, 2011[
---- Turkey said Monday it is willing to host a political office for Taliban militants from Afghanistan in order to promote talks to end the war there, and an Afghan official said Turkish planning is already in progress.
Turkey contributes troops to NATO's Afghan operation, albeit in a noncombat role, and it has sought to mediate as a regional power in a variety of conflicts beyond its borders. However, hardline elements of the Taliban, whose leaders are based in southwest Pakistan, have publicly derided Afghan government efforts to promote peace and say no talks are possible until foreign forces leave Afghan soil.
Raids on ex-Taliban threaten Afghan peace process, diplomats warn
Buzz up
Jon Boone, The Guardian [April 6, 2011]
---- International and Afghan security forces are setting back the embryonic peace process by raiding the homes of former Taliban officials instrumental in promoting talks with insurgents, according to diplomats and leaders of the former hardline regime. At a time when the US has called for a "diplomatic surge" to solve the conflict, the most recent target of the greatly expanded night raids programme, which employs electronic eavesdropping and special forces units on a major scale, was Mullah Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Islamabad and a proponent of peace talks.
Taliban Attack a Police Training Center in Kandahar
By Taimoor Shah and Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times [April 8, 2011]
---- Taliban insurgents carried out a deadly two-stage attack in this southern capital on Thursday, using an ambulance packed with explosives to bomb a police and military training center that had just been assaulted by heavily armed insurgents wearing suicide vests. Qari Youssef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman for southern Afghanistan, said his group had carried out the attack, the third violent episode in a week in Kandahar. It was at least the second time this year that a Kandahar police building had been attacked, and it was another in a series of bombings in the province that have been directed at the police.
Destroying booby-trapped Afghan towns to save them
By Solomon Moore, Associated Press [April 9, 2011]
---- Two aerial photos tell the story of this tiny village in the southern province of Kandahar. One shows a deceptively bucolic collection of mud huts amid pomegranate orchards. The second shows a field of dirt and shorn tree stumps — the same hamlet after being pulverized by 25 tons of explosives. U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Flynn, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th, called in airstrikes to level Tarok Kolache in October after spending 100 days fighting for control of the Arghandab River Valley, a fertile farming area and Taliban bastion. While the bombardment in October ended the battle for Tarok Kolache, the battle of perception had just begun. The village was deserted at the time of the bombing, but criticism of the strikes was intense. Afghan government officials said destroying the village was excessive. Human rights activists compared the strike with Vietnam-era carpet bombings and said it smacked of collective punishment.
Afghanistan Secret Prisons Confirmed By U.S.
By Kimberly Dozier, Agence France Press [April 8, 2011]
---- The CIA's infamous secret network of "black site" interrogation centers is gone. But suspected terrorists in Afghanistan are being held and interrogated for weeks at temporary sites, including one run by the elite special operations forces at Bagram Air Base, according to U.S. officials who revealed details of the detention network to The Associated Press. The most secretive of roughly 20 temporary sites is run by the military's elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command, at Bagram Air Base. The secrecy under which the U.S. runs that jail and about 20 others is noteworthy because of President Barack Obama's criticism of the old network of secret CIA prisons where interrogators sometimes used the harshest available methods, including the simulated drowning known as waterboarding.
U.S. Sends New Elite Forces to Afghanistan As Drawdown Looms
By Yochi J. Dreazen, The National Journal [April 6, 2011]
---- The Pentagon is quietly deploying a new detachment of Army Rangers to Afghanistan, increasing the number of elite U.S. commandos on the ground there as the Obama administration prepares to begin withdrawing conventional forces from the country this summer, military officials told National Journal.
The officials said that more than 100 additional Rangers had arrived in Afghanistan recently to begin targeted operations against militants in eastern and southern Afghanistan. The Rangers, highly trained soldiers from the Pentagon’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, are being used to raid suspected insurgent safe houses and hunt down specific Taliban leaders. The new deployment comes at a critical moment for the increasingly unpopular war.
War pulls apart Afghan families
By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post [April 10, 2011]
---- For most of their lives, Gul and Razziq slept under the same dusty blankets on the same dirt floors. They toiled side by side in the same potato fields and prayed in the same mosque, two poor brothers in a forgotten corner of the Afghanistan war. Gul, the elder brother, was the first to choose. With no gun or money, he walked out of his home one summer day and into the ranks of the Taliban. Razziq soon followed, but down a different road: to the barracks of the U.S.-backed Afghan national police. The brothers’ decisions have transformed them into enemies and forced them to consider a day they had never imagined.
Taliban Occupy Abandoned US Outpost in Kunar
Bill Roggio, Long War Journal [April 12, 2011]
---- The Taliban have occupied a combat outpost abandoned by US troops in the eastern province of Kunar, and claim they will set up a headquarters there. In a video taken by Al Jazeera, a heavily armed group of Taliban fighters is seen marching up a road in the Pech River Valley. The fighters do not appear concerned about being targeted by Afghan or US ground or air forces. The Taliban group is then filmed inside what appears to be a combat outpost; HESCO barriers, sandbags, and other artifacts from ISAF forces are seen in the background.
See also: Khan Wali Salarzai, “132 militants killed in Kunar operations: governor,” Pajhwok [Afghanistan] [April 6, 2011]
Afghan Governor: NATO Kills Six Civilians in Night Raid
By Jason Ditz, [April 5, 2011]
---- Fueling the already enormous anger across Afghanistan over NATO night raids, Governor Rahmati of the Sar-e Pol Province has reported that a raid last night in his province killed six civilians and wounded four others. The US insisted that everyone killed was an “insurgent,” while NATO said they were still looking into the identities of those slain but claimed that the slain men “fired at the forces first.”
Pakistan Objects: Curb the Drones, Kick Out the Spies
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [April 14, 2011]
---- The Pakistani military's recent demands on the United States to curb drone strikes and reduce the number of U.S. spies operating in Pakistan, which have raised tensions between the two countries to a new high, were a response to U.S. military and intelligence programmes that had gone well beyond what the Pakistanis had agreed to in past years. The military leadership had reached private agreements in the past on both the drone strikes and on U.S. intelligence activities in Pakistan, but both had changed dramatically in ways that threatened the interests of Pakistan. The Pakistani military, which holds real power over matters of national security in Pakistan, is now insisting for the first time that Washington must observe strict limits on both the use of drone strikes and on the number of U.S. military and intelligence personnel and contractors in the country. And they have backed up that demand with a suspension of joint intelligence operations with the United States – a programme that had been strongly sought after by the Barack Obama administration.
US and Pakistan struggle with 'unhappy' alliance
By Kathy Gannon, Associated Press [April 16, 2011]
---- When U.S. President Barack Obama inherited Washington's partnership with Pakistan, he kept the money flowing in hopes that stronger ties would help end the Afghan war and give Pakistan more tools to keep its nuclear arsenal from falling into extremists' hands. What Washington has gotten for its billions, however, is limited progress on clearing militant strongholds on the Afghan-Pakistan border and a souring relationship that included threats this month to limit CIA drone strikes and require Pakistani clearance for Washington spy operations.
See also: Simon Tisdall, “US-Pakistan relations facing biggest crisis since 9/11, officials say,” The Guardian [April 12, 2011]; Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, “CIA, Pakistan look to repair widening rift,” Washington Post [April 12, 2011]; David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, “White House Assails Pakistan Effort on Militants,” New York Times [April 5, 2011]; Agence France Press, “US general holds Pakistan talks amid shaky ties,” [April 12, 2011]; and Simon Tisdall, “War in Afghanistan is destabilising Pakistan, says president,”
Buzz up
The Guardian [April 10, 2011]
New C.I.A. Drone Attack Draws Rebuke From Pakistan
By Eric Schmitt, New York Times [April 13, 2011]
---- C.I.A. drones fired two missiles at militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas on Wednesday, two days after Pakistan’s spy chief threatened to curtail the drone strikes and demanded more information about the Central Intelligence Agency’s operations there. … The drone attack was widely interpreted by Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, as a deliberate effort by Washington to embarrass the country. “If the message was that business will continue as usual, it was a crude way of sending it,” a senior Pakistani intelligence official said.
See also: Jason Ditz, “Panetta Spurns Pakistan’s Calls to End CIA Drone Strikes,” [April 15, 2011]
On Pakistan Border, U.S. Troops Launch Their Own Spring Offensive
By David Axe, Wired [April 6, 2011]
See also: Scott Wilson, “Taliban has strengthened along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, report finds,” Washington Post [April 5, 2011]

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