A new report from The Washington Post highlights the increasing number of Afghan children who are being killed by unexploded ordinance on abandoned NATO/ISAF firing ranges.
The report says that ‘of the casualties recorded by the United Nations, 88 percent were children’, with ‘most of the victims . . . taking their animals to graze, collecting firewood or searching for scrap metal’.
A bare minimum of 77 people have been killed in this fashion since 2012, but the number is likely higher.
This was the experience of a couple of Afghan families:
‘Last month, Jawad’s father, Sayed Sadeq, heard a boom and ran onto the range. He spotted his son’s bloodied torso.
“The left side of his body was torn up. I could see his heart. His legs were missing,” the father said.
One of the boys, it appeared, had stepped on a 40mm grenade, designed to kill anyone within five yards. Both teens died.
“If the Americans believe in human rights, how can they let this happen?” Sadeq said’.
‘Two months after his family moved to Bagram, Abdul Wakhil, 12, walked around the area looking for firewood and unknowingly entered the range. Thirty feet from the main road, he stepped on an explosive.
One of his legs was blown off. The other was amputated at a Kabul hospital.
He doesn’t have prosthetics or a wheelchair, so he has to be carried everywhere.
“What can he do without legs?” said his brother, Abdul Mateen, 25. “His future is hopeless.”
The Occupiers have promised to clean up the ranges, although some military officials have expressed doubt as to the feasibility of this, given a lack of manpower.
The article also states that ‘because Afghanistan is not a signatory to the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, U.S. officials say they are not legally obligated to clear any of the unexploded ordnance’.
The Occupying powers have also ‘refused to construct fencing’ around the ranges, saying that this ‘would be prohibitively expensive and probably ineffective’.
Let us not forget that the life of an Afghan civilian can be worth as little as $210 to the Occupying forces, so paying the ‘compensation’ for any deaths could well turn out to be more cost effective than constructing thousands of square miles of barriers (that grim calculus aside, Afghans losing access to tens of thousands of square miles of their own land, simply because the Occupiers wanted to use it to test the weapons which had previously been used to kill them with, would be a Kafkaesque injustice indeed).
But at this moment in time, it appears that even if – and that’s a big and very doubtful ‘if’ – the Occupying forces do completely withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, they will continue to kill and maim Afghan children long into the future.
This perspective is generally accepted by the left without question in contexts such as Latin America or Africa, where bitter fights against U.S. and European imperialism have been fought and, in some cases, won.
Yet, when it comes to the Middle East and Afghanistan today there is suddenly much less clarity about what radicals and Marxists should be saying. Nowhere is that more evident than in the case of Afghanistan, which has suffered under the yoke of U.S. imperialism since 2001 (with active U.S. interference in the country since at least the 1970s).
The idea that the Taliban, as a movement fighting against U.S. occupation, is a force we should be supporting is, unfortunately, a somewhat controversial position to hold, even on the far left. This is a serious mistake and speaks both to the extent to which Islamophobia has penetrated the left, as well as to the lack of understanding of the social dynamics of an oppressed and devastated country like Afghanistan.
We are all familiar with the lies and excuses used to justify the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Bush and his coterie of crooks and warmongers told us that only a military invasion could liberate the people, and especially the women, of Afghanistan from the brutal, misogynistic and “medieval” Taliban movement.
There was no mention, of course, of the substantial support offered to the Taliban regime in the late 1990s when Clinton was president and in the early days of the Bush presidency, nor of the long and ugly history of U.S. intervention in Central and South Asia, which was an important precondition for the rise of Islamism.
We should condemn unreservedly the oppression of women and the general social conservatism of the pre-2001 Taliban regime, as well, of course, as their efforts to cut deals with regional and global superpowers against the interests of the vast majority of Afghans. However, we must also unreservedly condemn the racism and Islamophobia used as an ideological fig leaf to justify invasion and imperialism, and it is the left’s weakness on this issue, which has blinded many to the new realities on the ground in Afghanistan.
Before addressing the important question of who the Taliban actually are, it is important to understand the material conditions Afghans face. Afghanistan is a devastated country. It is ranked at or near the bottom of a broad range of social indicators, such as levels of poverty, infant mortality, literacy, per capita income, prevalence of easily preventable diseases and so forth. Most major cities in Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, are in ruins (despite claims of “reconstruction” by NATO imperialists) and decent roads, electricity, clean water, sanitation and basic social services are unheard of for most of the population, especially in the rural areas. The majority of the population ekes out a living on a subsistence basis, and the struggle for survival is the overarching concern for most Afghans.
In a nutshell, there is no Afghan working class or progressive petit bourgeoisie to speak of, and the major social classes (aside from the puppet regime and it’s assortment of bandits and thugs) are the poor peasantry and the Islamic clergy.
THE SIGNIFICANCE of this to a discussion of anti-imperialist resistance in Afghanistan should be obvious to any serious historical materialist. This question cannot be thought about in the abstract, it must be considered in light of the material realities on the ground. Such realities necessarily shape the kinds of social forces and the character of class struggle in that country and make it highly likely that any grassroots resistance will have a strongly religious character, given that the rural clergy are the only force capable of uniting the peasantry against the comprador ruling class.
The following point cannot be stressed enough; whilst the U.S. remains in Afghanistan, economic and social development will not occur much beyond current levels. This in turn means that the Taliban, as a broad-based movement of poor farmers and lower clergy, is the face of anti-imperialist resistance in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.
To put it another way, if we, as avowed anti-imperialists, intend to wait around for a resistance movement that agrees with us on every issue, including the need to fight the oppression of women, gays, racial and religious minorities, etc., we’ll be waiting a long time. The Taliban is the resistance in Afghanistan and we must support it, critically, but unreservedly.
The Taliban that ruled Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion no longer exists. The U.S. and NATO routinely refer to any act of resistance as the work of the “Taliban” (meaning the followers of Mullah Omar), much as every act of resistance in Iraq was the work of “Baath loyalists.”
To be sure, there are attacks being carried out by people who support the former regime, but many, perhaps most, resistance fighters have no particular loyalty to the former leadership and some are actively hostile to it.
Anand Gopal, one of the few independent journalists actively trying to find out what is actually happening in Afghanistan has written some very useful and insightful work on this, and as he points out, the ranks of the Taliban have been swelled in recent years by rural peasants who have been radicalized as a result of US/NATO brutality, including the indiscriminate air attacks which have killed thousands of Afghans.
The Taliban are increasingly espousing a strong nationalist message and, in some cases, have substantially moderated their social conservatism in order to build a more broad-based and effective resistance movement.
It is also the case that the “Taliban” is effectively a blanket term for a coalition of groups, some drawn from the tiny strata of educated middle class Afghans, which aim to eject foreign troops from their country. In short, when the U.S. and its allies use the term “Taliban” they want us to think of public stonings, music bans and ultra-conservative clerics–and if we follow their lead we do a grave disservice to the Afghan resistance and only help to perpetuate Islamophobic caricatures of “crazed, bearded extremists.”
There is no fundamental difference between the liberation theology movements in South America and the popular Islamist resistance movements in the Middle East and Asia, movements such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban. To be sure, the former were less socially conservative, but as religiously colored grassroots resistance movements they are essentially the same kind of manifestation of class resistance.
The left needs to ask itself why it is much more critical of Muslims expressing class anger in a religious form than of South American Christians; to my mind, unexamined Islamophobia explains much of this discrepancy.
Kabul’s China-policy will not alter, irrespective of the political situation, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday.
Karzai was hosting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday.
Wang said he made the visit in the crucial year of Afghanistan’s transition to underscore the importance of bilateral ties.
“We hope to see a broad-based and inclusive political reconciliation in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and China will play a constructive role to facilitate that,” he said.
“China firmly supports Afghanistan to realize a smooth transition and hopes Afghanistan’s general election will go ahead smoothly as scheduled. China is willing to keep close communication with Afghanistan and work hard to facilitate Afghanistan’s political reconciliation,” he added.
The Afghan government is trying to reassure foreign investors its economy will not sink following the NATO withdrawal. In their meeting on the sidelines of the Sochi opening in Russia earlier this year, Karzai asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to aid the restructuring of the war-torn nation.
During his visit Wang announced China will increase aid to help infrastructure projects, including the construction of school buildings in Kabul University, offering farm machinery and training classes to Afghan technicians.
“The Chinese government encourages and supports capable Chinese enterprises to invest in Afghanistan to strengthen cooperation with the Afghanistan side in trade, energy and other fields,” said Wang.
In 2007, Chinese mining companies announced the single biggest foreign investment in Afghanistan, a whopping $4 billion into developing a copper mine.
Mineral reserves in the country, including copper, gold, iron ore and rare earths, are estimated to be worth $1 trillion.
In a separate meeting with Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Karzai’s national security advisor, Wang stressed on security cooperation even as the Chinese government battles insurgency in the restive region of Xinjiang.
China lauded Afghanistan’s efforts to crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and other terrorist forces.
“China hopes both sides would continue strengthening such cooperation,” said Wang.
Spanta said as a good neighbor of China, Afghanistan will keep its policy to cooperate with China to fight the “three evil forces, ” including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s war on terror.
Retired Pakistani General Hamid Gul says the United States and its allies are seeking to destroy Pakistan by fueling insecurity in the country.
The former head of Pakistan’s Intelligence Service (ISI) alleged that Washington used the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City as a pretext to invade the neighboring Afghanistan.
The former Pakistani intelligence chief, who was often accused of collaborating with the Taliban militant group in Pakistan and Afghanistan, also stated that the United States has failed in Afghanistan and is now seeking to destroy Pakistan.
General Gul also pointed out that the US military will have to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and follow the example of the former Soviet Union in accepting defeat after its military occupation of the country in the late 1970s.
The administration of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has initiated a negotiating process with the pro-Taliban militants in an effort to end the violence in the country.
There are speculations that the negotiations may not succeed as the militants have set tough conditions for the talks.
Pakistan has been gripped by deadly violence since 2001, after Islamabad joined the so-called US war on terror. According to official Pakistani sources, nearly 50,000 people have lost their lives in fatal attacks across the country ever since.
The US Central Intelligence Agency is seeking new drone bases in unnamed countries in Central Asia, fearing the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would affect the targeted killings in neighboring Pakistan.
The spy agency asserts that if the US fails to sign a bilateral security deal with Afghanistan and secure an enduring military presence there, it would not be able to fly drones from its Afghan bases because drone operations are covert and need US military protection.
The security deal, which Washington says “ought to be signed” and is not renegotiable, could allow thousands of US troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
However, despite pressures from the White House and Congress, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign the deal and the US intelligence community is hoping that the next Afghan president will agree to sign it.
Worried that its drone killings can become a casualty of strained relations between Kabul and Washington, the CIA is reportedly making contingency plans to use bases in other countries.
“There are contingency plans for alternatives in the north,” an unnamed US official briefed on the matter told the Los Angeles Times without specifying the countries.
According to Brian Glyn Williams, a University of Massachusetts professor, the CIA and the Pentagon used to fly drones from an airbase in Uzbekistan until the US was evicted in 2005.
Michael Nagata, commander of US special operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, also traveled last month to Tajikistan, which is Afghanistan’s northern neighbor, to discuss “issues of bilateral security cooperation” and “continued military cooperation.”
Meanwhile, US officials say a new jet-powered drone, called Avenger, which will be able to “get to ‘hot’ targets in Pakistan much faster,” could soon be flying from bases outside Afghanistan.
The CIA is in charge of drone strikes in Pakistan since the country is not officially a war zone and the CIA’s program is covert.
US President Barack Obama has already stated that the responsibility for Washington’s deadly drone attacks could gradually shift from the CIA to the Pentagon. However, the idea of putting the US military in charge of drone attacks is not favored by US lawmakers.
A US federal agency that sought to pay photographers for “positive images” of its work in Afghanistan has canceled the program. The project, created to combat negative news coverage, collapsed amid charges that the effort amounted to propaganda.
Using US$1 billion on aid programs in Afghanistan, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) solicited proposals on Monday for a project that aimed to “help inform Afghans about the assistance American taxpayers are providing,” an anonymous USAID official told USA Today of Thursday’s decision.
“The wording of the (request) did not appropriately articulate that purpose and is being re-evaluated,” the official said.
In addition to targeting Afghans, the program was intended to gather support in the United States for USAID initiatives in Afghanistan. Over 12 years old, the war in Afghanistan is highly unpopular with the American public, if the war can be called an issue of popular awareness at all. A CNN poll released at the New Year found record low 17 percent support for the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.
The proposal was quickly criticized by a public advocacy group as a blatant hype campaign.
“USAID should instead be focusing on accomplishing mission goals, not glossy propaganda,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a non-partisan government watchdog organization. “Waste, fraud, and poor performance have already resulted in billions being lost, let’s not throw additional money down the drain.”
The agency called the budding program one that would serve to show positive influences of US aid in the war-torn country amid the “negative” images usually shown by news organizations.
“USAID is executing the most massive US international assistance campaign ever, and the gains particularly in health and education have been impressive, yet the overwhelming majority of pictures recording that effort are negative, and at least to some extent misleading,” the solicitation reads. “This is because professional photographers working for news agencies are the prime source of high-quality images of USAID work in Afghanistan. News photographs by their very nature focus on the negative.”
Top objectives of the project included countering negative representations of Afghanistan, distributing those images through USAID social media, and to establish a long-term contract that would continually provide such images “to conventional media and directly to the US public.”
USAID also sought to influence American thought on efforts in Afghanistan.
“The US and Afghan publics require accurate, well-balanced information about USAID work abroad,” the proposal states. “Currently, this requirement is not being met in Afghanistan.”
USAID did not disclose how much contract photographers would earn for the photos.
The announcement of the “positive image” proposal on Monday came alongside the unveiling of three new USAID development programs worth almost $300 million to wean Afghanistan off its ‘war economy,’ which is heavily subsidized today by opium exports – a trade that had been practically squashed while the country was under Taliban rule.
Under the USAID initiative, $125 million will go to reviving Afghanistan’s food and farm sector, and another $77 million to opening up the country to greater international trade and investment. The last program, valued at about $100 million, would seek to assist Afghanistan’s educational system.
A report released late last month by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that Afghanistan cannot be trusted to properly spend the millions of dollars it receives in aid from the United States. The report found that none of Afghanistan’s 16 ministries could be entrusted with USAID funds without high risk of that assistance being stolen or wasted.
In September, the SIGAR chastised USAID for poor oversight of money the agency spent there. A SIGAR report highlighted how USAID gave over $230 million to the Afghan Ministry of Health with little guidance for how the money was to be spent.
“Despite financial management deficiencies at the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, USAID continues to provide millions of US taxpayer dollars in direct assistance with little assurance that the (ministry) is using these funds as intended,” according to the SIGAR report.
Meanwhile, after a long, protracted struggle that sought to convince Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to approve a security deal, the US is considering leaving the issue suspended until the Afghan presidential elections in April in order to address Karzai’s successor.
The Obama administration has long hoped to get the long-lasting bilateral security deal with Kabul signed by the end of 2013, yet Karzai has refused to take responsibility for leaving a several thousand-strong US military contingent in the country beyond 2014.
Frustrated by numerous reports criticizing U.S. spending in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense has launched a public relations campaign aimed at countering the work of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). That watchdog agency is charged with overseeing the military’s $96.5 billion reconstruction program in Afghanistan.
John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, has upset military commanders by frequently reporting on million-dollar programs that haven’t panned out or failed to account for missing American tax dollars.
One recent example involved a hospital in northeastern Afghanistan costing $600,000 that lacked adequate water, sewer, electrical, and heating systems—and was vulnerable to collapsing in an earthquake, according to SIGAR.
The U.S. military countered SIGAR’s report by issuing a news release that praised the hospital and even rejected some of the critical findings.
Somehow, the military came to these conclusions even though the Army hadn’t inspected the hospital in months because the insurgency made the area too dangerous to visit.
In addition to putting out press releases, the military has crafted an in-house strategy for dealing with SIGAR’s negative reports. This plan was revealed in a slide presentation, a copy of which was obtained by USA Today, that stated the goal was to “[build] the right combination of ammunition to achieve desired effects on a specified target.”
That target was Sopko, who was mentioned in the presentation during a hunting analogy: “In the past we may have shot where we saw the duck, but now, with our plan of action—we will bag our limit of birds before Mr. Sopko wakes up to feed his dogs.”
When informed of the anti-SIGAR campaign, Sopko told the newspaper: “It’s disappointing to see that funds appropriated by Congress are being used by elements of the Department of Defense to misrepresent the work of an independent inspector general. American taxpayers would be better served if ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] spent less time writing misleading press releases and more time fixing the problems we’ve identified.”
SIGAR spokesperson Philip LaVelle shares his boss’s concerns. “Let me get this straight,” he recently said to the Los Angeles Times. “They’re complaining we’re telling the American people how their tax dollars are being spent? The public has a right to know and we have a duty to tell them — and we intend to keep doing just that.”
Since 2008, SIGAR’s investigations have resulted in 56 criminal convictions or guilty pleas, involving nearly three dozen civilians and members of the U.S. military, along with 21 Afghans.
The Pentagon’s overall public relations campaign—exercised at home and abroad—grew by 63% during a five-year period since 2004, reaching $4.7 billion in 2009, according to Defense Department budgets and other documents produced that year. The budget included the employment of 27,000 people to handle public relations, advertising and recruitment.
The military’s budget for outreach and media amounts to 1% of the total Pentagon budget, according to Fox News.
To Learn More:
The Pentagon’s PR War Against SIGAR (by Neil Gordon, Project On Government Oversight)
Military Yanks Leash of Critical Government Watchdog (by Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today)
U.S. Embassy in Kabul Defends Itself Against Blistering Fraud Reports (by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times)
Harsh Inspector General Report Says 0 of 16 Afghan Agencies can be Trusted with U.S. Aid (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)
U.S.-Led Military Unit in Afghanistan Lost $230 Million in Spare Parts, Then Spent $138 Million for More (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
U.S. Paid $6.8 Million to “Maintain” Non-Functioning Afghan Police Vehicles (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he has seen “no good” with the presence of American forces in his country, prompting further speculations of a breakdown of trust between Kabul and Washington.
“This whole 12 years was one of constant pleading with America to treat the lives of our civilians as lives of people,” Karzai said in an interview with The Sunday Times.
Karzai also said that he has not spoken to US President Barack Obama since June last year, which may show the increasing gulf between Afghanistan and the US.
“We met in South Africa but didn’t speak. Letters have been exchanged,” he said, referring to the funeral ceremony for South African anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
The differences between the two sides have grown increasingly since Karzai refused to sign a security pact with Washington that would allow thousands of foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014.
“The money they should have paid to the police they paid to private security firms and creating militias who caused lawlessness, corruption and highway robbery,” Karzai said.
The Afghan president also went on to say that the US-led forces “then began systematically waging psychological warfare on our people, encouraging our money to go out of our country.”
“What they did was create pockets of wealth and a vast countryside of deprivation and anger,” he said.
“In general, the US-led NATO mission in terms of bringing security has not been successful, particularly in Helmand,” Karzai said.
He also dismissed concerns about the cutting of Western financial aid to Afghanistan over his refusal to sign the security deal.
“Money is not everything,” he said, adding, “If you ask me as an individual, I would rather live in poverty than uncertainty.”
On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed deep frustration with Karzai over the prolongation of the review process for the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US.
The Pentagon chief, however, stated that Karzai is the elected president of a sovereign country, and Washington’s ability to influence his decisions is limited.
Karzai says he will not sign the BSA until certain conditions are met, including a guarantee from Washington that there will be no more raids on Afghan houses. He says the demands come from the country’s highest decision-making body, the Loya Jirga.
In his speech at the Loya Jirga on November 24, 2013, Karzai said, “If US military forces conduct military operations on Afghan homes even one more time, then there will be no BSA and we won’t sign it.”
The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after more than 12 years, the foreign troops have still not been able to establish security in the country.
The US military plans to establish an intelligence center in Bahrain in a bid to compensate for its dwindling presence in Afghanistan.
A senior US military official told a Senate hearing that the planned espionage center in the Arab state, home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, will be an “integral part” of the Pentagon’s post-2014 strategy in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The official, Erin Logan, who oversees the Pentagon’s “counter-narcotics efforts,” claimed during a US Senate hearing on narcotics on Wednesday that the plan is part of Washington’s efforts to “continue fighting” Afghanistan’s “booming drug industry.”
“The center,” she added, “will help fill the gap where space for personnel on the ground in Afghanistan is no longer available.”
The US move to expand its military and intelligence presence in Bahrain comes, however, despite the grave human rights record of the ruling Al Khalifa regime for its brutal crackdown on a popular uprising that has left scores shot and tortured to death and many more injured and prosecuted for taking part and even sympathizing with the continuing anti-regime protests in the country.
The United States has long been suspected by regional countries, particularly Iran and Russia, of promoting the growth of the narcotics trade in Afghanistan ever since American and NATO military forces invaded the country in 2001 under the pretext of fighting terror and bringing stability to Afghanistan.
There have been numerous press accounts over the past years pointing to the involvement of US troops and CIA operatives in Afghanistan’s expanding drug trade that largely finances the al-Qaeda-linked Taliban militants in the country.
The US military aims to establish an intelligence center in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain in a bid to compensate for its dwindling presence in the war-torn Afghanistan.
With 196 nations in the world and U.S. troops already in at least 177 of them, there aren’t all that many available to make war against. Yet it looks like both Syria and Iran will be spared any major Western assault for the moment. Could this become a trend? Is peace on the horizon? Are celebrations of Nelson Mandela’s nonviolence sincere?
The glitch in this optimistic little photo-shopped storyline starts with an A and rhymes with Shmafghanistan.
The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan “as soon as possible” for years now. We’re spending $10 million per hour, and $81 billion in the new annual budget, on an operation that many top officials and experts have said generates hostility toward our country. The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this operation is suicide.
And now, at long last, we have an important (and usually quite corrupt) politician on our side, responding to public pressure and ready — after 12 years — to shut down Operation Enduring … and Enduring and Enduring.
Oddly, this politician’s name is not President Barack Obama. When Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later. Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s. Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until “2024 and beyond.”
Sadly, the politician who has taken our side is not in Washington at all. There are a few Congress Members asking for a vote, but most of their colleagues are silent. When Congress faced the question of missiles into Syria, and the question was front-and-center on our televisions, the public spoke clearly. Members of both parties, in both houses of Congress, said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before.
But on the question of another decade “and beyond” in Afghanistan, the question has not been presented to Congress or the public, and we haven’t yet found the strength to raise it ourselves. Yet someone has managed to place himself on our side, namely Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Like the Iraqi government before him, Karzai is refusing to agree to an ongoing occupation with U.S. forces immune from prosecution under Afghan laws. Before signing off on an ongoing military presence, Karzai says he would like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people’s doors at night. He’d like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations. He’d like Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo. (Of the 17 still there, 4 have long since been cleared for release but not released; none has been convicted of any crime.) And he’d like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections.
Whatever we think of Karzai’s legacy — my own appraisal is unprintable — these are remarkably reasonable demands. And at least as far as U.S. public opinion goes, here at long last is a post-invasion ruler actually engaged in spreading democracy.
What about the Afghans? Should we “abandon” them? We told pollsters we wanted to send aid to Syria, not missiles. Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan — or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country — would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations (51.4% of the new federal budget), and could quite easily make us the most beloved nation on earth. I bet we’d favor that course of action if we were asked — or if we manage to both raise the question and answer it.
The U.S. military has decided to scrap nearly half a billion dollars worth of aircraft purchased for Afghanistan’s air force because the planes couldn’t handle the climate, among other problems.
A total of 16 cargo planes, the G222 manufactured by Italy’s Finmeccanica, now sit at Kabul International Airport. They were flown only 200 of the 4,500 hours scheduled for flight training by Afghan pilots before the U.S. decided to shut them down.
The Obama administration spent $486 million to purchase the aircraft, which were supposed to comprise 15% of the Afghan Air Force.
“We need answers to this huge waste of U.S. taxpayer money,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction who is investigating the matter, said in an email to Bloomberg. “Who made the decision to purchase these planes, and why? We need to get to the bottom of this, and that’s why we’re opening this inquiry.”
A January 31 Pentagon Inspector General report, marked “For Official Use Only,” criticized NATO and U.S. training commands for “hav[ing] not effectively managed the program.”
Lieutenant General Charles Davis, the U.S. Air Force’s top military acquisition official, told Bloomberg: “Just about everything you can think of was wrong for it other than the airplane was built for the size of cargo and mission they needed.”
“Other than that, it didn’t really meet any of the requirements,” he added.
A key problem was that the planes couldn’t handle the heat and dust of Afghanistan’s environment, which caused numerous maintenance troubles and prevented them from flying.
Davis said the Air Force tried to sell the aircraft to another country, but couldn’t locate any buyers. So now they will be dismantled for parts.
The U.S. decided to replace the G222s with American-made C-130H transports for the Afghan Air Force to use. But the replacements won’t be available until 2016.
To Learn More:
- Planes Parked in Weeds in Kabul After $486 Million Spent (by Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg)
- Notification of Special Project: Lessons Learned Review of the G222 (C-27A) Aircraft Program (Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction)
- Fleet of Planes from $486 Million Program for Afghan Security Forces Scheduled to Be Destroyed (by Hanqing Chen, Daily Beast)
- U.S.-Led Military Unit in Afghanistan Lost $230 Million in Spare Parts, Then Spent $138 Million for More (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
- U.S. Military Builds $34-Million High-Tech Operations Complex in Afghanistan…and Will Never Use It (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)
- U.S. Military to Shred Thousands of Million-Dollar Armored Vehicles in Afghanistan (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
It appears that the heads of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Rogers, are recognizing that their strategy for keeping their co-dependent relationship with the NSA going is failing and that the American public and an increasingly large segment of Congress no longer believes their bogus claims. Perhaps that’s because every time they open their mouths, it takes all of about an hour before many of their claims are completely debunked, if not outright mocked for obviously being bogus. So their latest strategy? To basically yell “Ooga Booga Terrorists!” as loud as they can to try to scare people based on absolutely nothing.
Feinstein and Rogers did a little dance on Sunday political TV shows insisting that “the terrorism threat is increasing” and we’re all going to die if we stop trying to make sure the NSA actually, you know, respects the Constitution. Asked if we were “safer” now than a year or two years ago, Feinstein kicked off the FUD:
“I don’t think so,” Feinstein replied. “I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that. The fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs. Trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there.”
And Rogers quickly followed:
“I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same very reasons,” he said. “So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it’s getting more difficult.”
Of course, Feinstein’s claim that “terror is up worldwide” is — as is so often the case with her (and Rogers’) claims about terrorism — sorta true, but highly misleading. Yes, recent stats show an uptick in terrorist attacks and fatalities in 2012 — but you can also see that it’s highly variable. Earlier in the year, before the 2012 numbers came out, people were commenting on the fact that terror attacks and fatalities around the globe had been on the decline since 2007. Terrorism is highly variable and dependent on a few big successful attacks. Furthermore, if we look at attacks on the US, we find that there have basically been next to none in the US since 2001. You could make the case that 16 people have died in US “terrorist” attacks since 2001 (including the 13 soldiers killed by Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood), but you have to have a very broad definition of terrorism to do so.
Nearly all of the “terrorist” attacks in that original report that Feinstein is obviously relying on, appear to take place in areas that are considered war zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And, um, I hate to bring this part up, but part of the reason why those are war zones is because, you know, the US invaded both places. This isn’t to say that there aren’t terrorists out there who would like to attack the US. There clearly are. But it seems highly misleading to make the claims that both Feinstein and Rogers are making here, as the “data” they’re talking about don’t show any heightened risk in the US at all.
Either way, this whole thing — having both appear together, both making vague “we’re all going to die” statements without any details to back it up combined with an exceptionally misleading use of statistics — suggests that this is the typical FUD. It’s Feinstein and Rogers shouting “terror” in a crowded theater, because they know that they’ve already lost public opinion on this, and are quickly losing Congress as well.