Aletho News


Pentagon Accuses Iran of Meddling in Iraqi Election

Sputnik – 16.03.2018

US Defense Secretary James Mattis accused Iran on Thursday of destabilizing Afghanistan and “mucking around in Iraq’s elections” by using money to sway the vote.

“We have worrisome evidence that Iran is trying to influence, using money, the Iraqi elections. That money is being used to sway candidates, to sway votes,” he told reporters.

The Pentagon chief, who was speaking after an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, said the US military believed the amount of money funneled by Iran to Iraq ahead of the May parliamentary polls was not “insignificant.”

He also suggested that the Iranian government was “doing things” in Afghanistan that were not helpful to US attempts to end the war there, although he did not give any details.

Iraq holds parliamentary election on May 12, with Haider al-Abadi seeking another term as prime minister.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 2 Comments

US plans to remain in Syria ‘for a long time, if not forever’ – Lavrov

RT | March 14, 2018

Some officials in Washington are aiming to maintain a foothold in Syria for a long time, “if not forever,” using chemical weapons provocations to achieve this objective, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

There are no grounds “to doubt the willingness of some US officials to keep a foothold [in Syria] for a long time, if not forever, and contribute to the collapse of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Various methods” are being used, including “information revealed via [Russia’s] Defense and Foreign Ministries, which says that other provocations involving chemical weapons are being prepared,” the foreign minister said, noting that one such “staging” might take place in Eastern Ghouta.

On March 5, Lavrov said Russia had evidence that the US involvement in Syria had nothing to do with combatting terrorism. Speaking during a visit to Namibia, the foreign minister asserted that Washington is willing to keep the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group as a “plan B” to change the leadership in Damascus, according to Interfax.

Some policymakers in the American capital, he said, are “harboring plans to disintegrate the Syrian state.”

In February, Lavrov told Euronews that “the US clearly has a strategy that, I think, consists of stationing its armed forces in Syria forever.”

The US pursues the same goal in Iraq and Afghanistan “despite all of its earlier promises.” The Americans are working “to cut a huge chunk of Syrian territory from the rest of the country” while setting up puppet local authorities in that area and “trying in every way to establish an autonomous entity under Kurdish authority,” Lavrov said.

US support for Kurdish militias operating in Syria contributed to damaging relations between Washington and Ankara. Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch earlier this year and entered Syria’s Kurdish enclave in Afrin with the stated goal to drive Kurdish “terrorists” and other militant groupings out of the area.

Speaking alongside Lavrov on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara backs Syria’s territorial integrity, although the operation is ongoing. “Our goal is not to seize or attempt to seize Syrian territory,” he said.

Read more:

Islamists in E. Ghouta plan to stage false flag chemical attack – Damascus

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

US in Afghanistan to Influence Russia, Iran, China – Russian Foreign Ministry

Sputnik – March 14, 2108

The United States retains its presence in Afghanistan to exert influence on neighboring countries and regional rivals – namely, Russia, Iran and China, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“In our opinion, the United States is in Afghanistan primarily with the aim of controlling and influencing the political processes in its neighboring countries, and also demonstrating its power to its regional competitors, primarily China, Russia and Iran. The United States is clearly trying to achieve destabilization of Central Asia and later transfer it to Russia in order to subsequently present itself as the only defender against potential and emerging threats in the region,” Kabulov said.

According to the diplomat, Russia and other countries neighboring with Afghanistan have questions about the true goals and time frame of the US military presence in the Central Asian country.

“If the United States and its NATO allies intend to continue their destructive policy in Afghanistan, this will mean that the West is heading toward the revival of the Cold War era in this part of the world. We closely monitor the developments and are ready to respond in cooperation with our partners and other like-minded people,” Kabulov noted.

The diplomat pointed out that Washington still failed to understand that the Afghan conflict could not be resolved solely by military means, stressing that it was impossible to defeat the Taliban by force.

Moscow is puzzled by the attempts of the United States and NATO to persuade Afghanistan to replace Russian weapons and military equipment, such move leads to reduction of Afghan’s military potential, Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“The course taken by the United States and NATO to persuade Kabul to replace Russia-made small arms and aircraft is surprising, as it will inevitably lead to a decrease in the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces and further deterioration of the situation,” Kabulov said.

The diplomat reminded that a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on Russia’s defense industry assistance to Afghanistan had entered into force in November 2016, adding that the document created the legal framework for Russian assistance in arming and equipping the Afghan security forces.

“At the moment, negotiations are underway on repairs and supplies of spare parts for the Afghan Air Force’s helicopters for various purposes, produced in Russia (the Soviet Union),” Kabulov added.

Afghanistan Parliamentary Election

The parliamentary election in Afghanistan is unlikely to take place in July in the current circumstances, Kabulov said.

“I do not think that the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan will be held in July this year as scheduled. The Taliban continue to control about half of the country’s territory, engage in hostilities, organize and carry out terrorist attacks in large cities, and, apparently, are not going to make compromises and reconciliation with the Afghan government,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) is also unlikely to accomplish all the necessary procedures before the date set for the vote, given that the commission has announced earlier that the registration of voters will complete only by early August, the diplomat noted.

Furthermore, disagreements between the presidential administration and its political opposition regarding the parameters of the upcoming elections still remain unresolved, the official noted.

“In my opinion, if elections are conducted in the current circumstances, their results will not improve the political situation in the country and confidence in the current government, will not force the armed opposition to cooperate with the government,” Kabulov added.

The diplomat also noted that the Daesh terror group posed a serious threat to holding the election.

“The Daesh jihadists pose a serious threat to the security of the conduct of elections, especially in the north and a number of eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Some polling stations in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab and Ghazni are the most problematic in terms of security, according to the IEC data. I think that, in fact, the list of problematic areas in terms of organization of voting is much longer,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan Reconciliation Talks

Russia considers the so-called Moscow format of talks an optimal platform for the promotion of national reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov noted.

“Unfortunately, the existence of a large number of international formats on the Afghan issue has not significantly contributed to the involvement of the Taliban in peace negotiations. In this regard, we consider the Moscow format of consultations launched by us in early 2017 as the optimal platform for substantive negotiations to promote national reconciliation and establish a constructive dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” Kabulov said.

Kabulov also noted that Moscow considered the format of talks in the Afghan capital as one approach toward achieving a collective solution to the problems surrounding Afghan settlement.

“A signal of international support for the resolution of the intra-Afghan conflict through political dialogue with the government of Afghanistan has been sent to the Taliban. The Taliban ignored the recent meeting of the ‘Kabul process’ in the Afghan capital, insisting on direct talks with the United States,” the diplomat added.

In February 2017, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan came together in Moscow for talks to promote the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan through regional cooperation with Kabul in the leading role. Apart from the aforementioned states, the latest round in April gathered five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The United States refused to take part in the meeting.

Afghanistan has long suffered political, social and security-related instability because of the simmering insurgency, including that of the Taliban, but also because of the actions of the Daesh terror group.

The United States has been in Afghanistan for almost 17 years following the 9/11 attacks. Before his election, Trump slammed sending US troops and resources to the Central Asian country.

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US lights up pathway to Afghan peace

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | March 6, 2018

The Principal Assistant Secretary of State in the US state department’s Bureau of South & Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells gave an extraordinary briefing in Washington on March 5 on the Trump administration’s outlook on the Afghan peace talks and reconciliation. The fact that the briefing was on record is itself of significance, underscoring the cautious optimism that the 4-way contacts and below-the-radar discussions between Washington, Islamabad, Kabul and the Afghan Taliban have gained traction.

Wells has touched on all aspects of the situation and they are almost entirely in consonance with my own assessments contained in the opinion piece, which appeared in The Tribune newspaper on March 5. (Joint gains from Afghan Peace, The Tribune, March 5, 2018 )

The most significant thing will be that Wells has forcefully, unequivocally – even euphorically – backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s peace offer on February 27 to the Taliban, and has pledged that Washington intends to promote the process, no matter what it takes. Equally, Washington estimates that the Taliban has not yet “officially responded”, various media reports attributed to Taliban spokesmen notwithstanding. Wells pointedly urged the Taliban to accept the peace offer.

The Trump administration expects Pakistan too to put its weight behind the Taliban leadership to bring them to the negotiating table. The Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua arrived in Washington on March 5 for talks. Pakistan is confident of taking the process forward. Wells said,

  • We’re certainly not walking away from Pakistan. There will be very intensive dialogue through both our military and our civilian channels to discuss how we can work together. I mean, Pakistan has an important role to play in helping to stabilize Afghanistan.

Second, the Afghan peace process is not taking place in isolation but forms part of the broad framework of Pakistan-US strategic relationship.

From the Indian perspective, the salience of Well’s briefing lies in the US’ acknowledgement of Pakistan’s centrality in the Afghan peace process and, notably, Pakistan’s “legitimate concerns”, which Washington intends to address. This is how Wells framed the US policy:

  • Pakistan has a very important role to play in a peace process. We believe that Pakistan can certainly help to facilitate talks and to take actions that will put pressure on and encourage the Taliban to move forward towards a politically negotiated settlement. And our engagement with Pakistan is on how we can work together, on how we can address Pakistan’s legitimate concerns and Afghanistan’s stability through a negotiated process as well. Obviously, as Pakistani officials have underscored, they see a variety of issues, whether it’s border management or refugees or terrorism that emanates from ungoverned space in Afghanistan, as important issues, and we would agree that all of these need to be resolved during the course of a reconciliation process.

Two vectors that are going to shape the agenda of the forthcoming peace talks are: a) Washington accepts that Taliban has “legitimate grievances… (that) will have to be addressed at the negotiating table”, and, b) the US does not “preordain” any factions or elements within the Afghan Taliban movement to be “irreconcilable.” The latter means, plainly put, that it is entirely up to the Haqqani network to bid farewell to arms and join the peace talks and reconciliation. Wells chose her words carefully:

  • I think there are always going to be elements and factions that do not participate – the irreconcilable, so to speak. I think a political process defines who is reconcilable, who is prepared to come to the negotiating table, who is prepared to adhere to an agreement that is negotiated through a political process. And so rather than preordain who is irreconcilable, let the process determine that. But certainly, we would anticipate that there will continue to be elements, not just Taliban elements, that will pose a terrorism threat and will need to be taken care of by the Government of Afghanistan with the support of its partners.

Of course, it is unthinkable that the Haqqanis will defy the Pakistani diktat and continue to pose a terrorism threat. It is hugely significant that at one point, Wells went out of the way to openly acknowledge without caveats as to what is it that distinguishes the Taliban from the ISIS – simply put, Taliban is a legitimate Afghan entity:

  • I think all of us recognize that while the Taliban may be – represent an insurgency, they stand for and are Afghan nationalists of one type. ISIS is a nihilistic force that is bent on the very destruction of Afghanistan. And so there is a seriousness, an extreme seriousness of effort, in defeating ISIS.

Then, there is the tantalizing question of the fate of the US military bases in Afghanistan. Here, Wells parried, pleading evasively that it is entirely up to the future government in Kabul to decide whether continued US military presence is needed or not. But then, en passé, she added meaningfully, “No one is precluding any formula…” To my mind, there is going to be some sort of trade off.

Indeed, it may suit Pakistan too that there is continued US military presence in Afghanistan. For one thing, there is the searing experience of the Mujahideen takeover in Kabul in 1992 and the ensuing anarchy. Fundamentally, Pakistan has always sought that Taliban enjoyed US recognition, and, in the given situation, it is in Pakistan’s interests too that the US remains a stakeholder in the post-settlement era in Afghanistan. For, that would inevitably translate as US/NATO dependence on Pakistani cooperation, resuscitation of Pakistan’s role as a “non-NATO ally”, US interest in strengthening the strategic partnership with Pakistan, a US mediatory role in India-Pakistan issues, and, most importantly, the US as a guarantor that what has been shored up by way of an Afghan settlement doesn’t get undermined by other regional states that might harbor revisionist tendencies. The bottom line is that the Pakistani elite cannot think of a future for their country without an enduring strategic partnership with the US.

Unsurprisingly, Wells singled out Russia in almost adversarial terms. What emerges is that the US approach is to try to forge a regional consensus at the forthcoming Tashkent conference this month, which would pile pressure on Russia to fall in line. Evidently, Washington proposes to bypass Moscow and deal directly with the Central Asian capitals to create a regional consensus and support system for the peace process leading to a settlement.

Finally, Washington is still keeping its fingers crossed that Pakistan rises to its expectations, which is not surprising, given the backlog of distrust. Wells said,

  • We’ve not seen decisive and sustained changes yet in Pakistan’s behavior, but certainly we are continuing to engage with Pakistan over areas where we think they can play a helpful role in changing the calculus of the Taliban.

Once bitten, twice shy? At any rate, the Trump administration has no alternative but to take Pakistan at its word. Despite the bravado about the US military strategy making headway, Pentagon would know that the Taliban cannot be defeated through air strikes and this is a hopeless stalemate what needs to be addressed on the political and diplomatic track. Wells said,

  • We’re certainly not walking away from Pakistan. There will be very intensive dialogue through both our military and our civilian channels to discuss how we can work together. I mean, Pakistan has an important role to play in helping to stabilize Afghanistan.

All in all, Wells’ briefing augurs the opening of a new page in the chronicle of the Afghan war. It signifies that that the war is most likely drawing to a close and the ending is going to be like how all insurgencies in history rooted in native soil finally ended – via reconciliation with the insurgents. The full transcript of Wells’ briefing is here.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | February 22, 2018

Whatever happened to the Donald Trump who tweeted in 2013, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan … we waste billions there. Nonsense!”

And whatever happened to the reality TV star who used to tell under-performers, “you’re fired”?

Today, as commander in chief, President Trump is indefinitely extending the Afghan war’s record as the longest in U.S. history. He’s wasting $45 billion to wage it this year alone. And he’s not even thinking of firing his huckster generals who claim that sending a few thousand more troops and stepping up the bombing will be a “game changer.”

Much like the Vietnam War, every day’s news of war from Afghanistan puts the lie to optimistic claims of a military solution. A recent BBC study concluded that Taliban forces are now active in 70 percent of the country, more than at any time since the end of 2001. Unofficial U.S. estimates of their strength have soared from about 20,000 in 2014 to at least 60,000 today.

Afghan government forces number several times as many, but—like their counterparts in the Vietnam War—they “lack the one thing the U.S. cannot provide: the will to fight a protracted campaign against a committed enemy,” in the words of Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The Taliban have proven that no place in Afghanistan is safe from their long arm. At the beginning of February, they infiltrated a bomb-laden ambulance into Kabul, just blocks from a meeting at the Afghan Ministry of Defense with the head of the U.S. Central Command. Its blast killed more than 100 people and injured 235. It followed only days after Taliban gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including four Americans.

Inspector General Finds No Progress

The latest Inspector General report on the status of “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” issued Feb. 18, declares that U.S. and Afghan government forces made no progress last year in expanding their control of the country or in forcing the Taliban to the peace table, one of the administration’s stated goals.

“In addition,” the report said, “there were growing concerns about whether Afghanistan will be able to hold parliamentary elections as planned in July 2018, and the country was struggling to provide assistance to nearly two-million internally displaced persons.”

The report also highlighted the lethality of Taliban operations against Afghan military and police forces, but it declined to offer numbers, noting that the U.S. military had classified them at the request of the Afghan government.

To justify its optimism, the Trump administration has touted its ostensibly new tactic of bombing drug labs to deny the Taliban revenue. The Inspector General notes that such operations were undertaken as far back as 2009, to no end:

“The United Nations reported that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan set a new record in 2017. Cultivated land increased 63 percent over 2016 levels and potential opium production set a new record at 9,000 tons. The United Nations stated that the Afghan government’s strategic focus on protecting population centers in 2017 might have made rural populations more vulnerable to the influence of anti-government entities who pay local farmers to grow poppy and protect farmers from government eradication efforts.”

Similarly, U.S. military operations have failed to suppress Afghanistan’s version of ISIS, which recently conducted several spectacular terror attacks in Kabul. The U.S. command made “no discernible progress” on convincing Pakistan to close its borders to insurgents. Last but not least, the Afghan government remains a mess, riven by factional fights between President Ashraf Ghani and provincial warlords.

An Incoherent Policy

Meanwhile, unaddressed by the IG is the basic incoherence of a policy of bombing the Taliban into reconciliation. On paper, Washington aims to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, acknowledging that outright victory is impossible. But only this January, President Trump told members of the UN Security Council, “we don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” and a spokesman for President Ghani said recently, “We never negotiate with groups who resort to crime and the brutal killing of people and then claim responsibility for it.”

That sounds like a policy of stalemate if ever there was one.

“For years, we have been pursuing a strategy that will not win, but at the same time, we are doing just enough to ensure that we do not entirely lose,” concedes Kevin Hulbert, former CIA station chief in Kabul. “The way forward will be determined by clarifying our objectives, which to this point, have remained ambiguous at best.”

Clarifying our objectives would certainly help, but just as important are clarity about U.S. interests and capabilities.

Ever since 9/11, policy makers have largely taken American interests for granted. Yet aside from fantasies about developing Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, it’s hard to make a serious case that American lives and treasure will be more at risk from getting out of Afghanistan than continuing an endless war. The only significant interest at stake is political: no president wants to lose such a war.

And as to capabilities, the Obama-era surge proved that even with 100,000 troops, the United States cannot win a war against committed, indigenous insurgents who enjoy unlimited funding and protected foreign sanctuaries. Unlike the United States, the Taliban have nowhere to go. They will wait us out, even if that means fighting for another 16 years.

A decade ago, a top-level policy analysis requested by President George W. Bush admitted, “The United States is not losing in Afghanistan, but it is not winning either, and that is not good enough.” Those words are as true in 2018 as they were in 2008. The situation is still not good enough, and there’s no chance of it getting any better. It’s time for President Trump to wake up and say “you’re fired!” to anyone on his team who pretends otherwise.

Jonathan Marshall is the author or co-author of five books on U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. His articles on Afghanistan include “The Goal of ‘Not Losing’ in Afghanistan,”  “Blaming the Afghan War Failure on — Russia,” and “Afghanistan: President Obama’s Vietnam.”

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 4 Comments

Russia, Pakistan edge closer in new cold war conditions

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | February 22, 2018

Afghanistan, no doubt, was what brought Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to Moscow on a ‘working visit’ on February 20. This was Asif’s second meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the past 5-month period. They last met in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA session in September.

The Russian Ministry took pains to highlight Asif’s visit. A ‘working visit’ cuts out protocol frills and gets straight to transacting business. Yet, Moscow made an exception and issued a glowing ‘curtain-raiser’ to hail Asif’s arrival. There must have been strong reasons to do so. The regional backdrop is indeed tumultuous. The new Cold War is slouching toward the Hindu Kush and Central Asian steppes and Pakistan’s geography is regaining the criticality in strategic terms reminiscent of the 1980s.

The Russian statements have become highly critical of the US regional strategies in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Moscow has concluded that the US is determined to keep an open-ended military presence in the region. On the other hand, Russia is being kept at arm’s length from the Afghan problem. Instead, Washington is directly engaging the Central Asian states, bypassing Russia, including at the military level. Clearly, Washington is working hard to undermine Moscow’s leadership role in the region in the fight against terrorism and to challenge Russia’s notion of being the provider of security to the former Soviet republics neighboring Afghanistan.

Given the experience in Syria (where the US is covertly encouraging the ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates to make the going tough for the Russians and to create new facts on the ground that weaken Syria’s unity), Moscow is increasingly wary of US intentions vis-à-vis the ISIS in Afghanistan. To be sure, the growing presence of ISIS in the northern and eastern regions of Afghanistan facing the Central Asian region deeply worries Russia. Moscow has repeatedly hinted that the US could be facilitating the transfer of ISIS fighters from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan. But the Americans move on, ignoring the Russian barbs. The pattern in Syria is repeating.

Lavrov brought up the US-ISIS nexus in the discussions with Asif. The Russian side has floated the idea that the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization can be put to use “to develop practical measures to curtail ISIS influence in Afghanistan and prevent it from spreading to Central Asia.”

From Lavrov’s remarks following the talks with Asif, it appears that the SCO summit, which is scheduled to be held in Qingdao (China) in July, may make some moves/initiatives on the Afghan problem. Last year Russia injected a new lease of life into the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. China will be hosting the next meeting of the Contact Group. The fact is that with the admission of Pakistan and India as full members, SCO now represents all key neighbors of Afghanistan.

At the media briefing after the talks with Asif, Lavrov outlined that Russia and Pakistan have common ground in regard of the Afghan situation. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry readout stated that the two ministers “agreed to closely coordinate in all Afghanistan-related processes for a regional solution of the Afghan conflict.”

Indeed, the articulations from both sides regarding the talks in Moscow on Tuesday suggest that Russia and Pakistan intend to work closely together to coordinate their approaches to the Afghan situation. Russia has promised to step up military support for Pakistan’s counter-terrorist operations. Significantly, as per a decision taken earlier, a new commission on military-technical cooperation between the two countries is being set up. Of course, this is happening at a time when the Pakistani military is preparing to face any cuts in US military aid.

To be sure, the talks in Moscow took place in the new cold war conditions. The critical difference today, compared to the eighties, would be that, as the Russian Foreign Ministry curtain-raiser put it,

  • “Today, Pakistan has become an important foreign policy partner of Russia. Both countries cooperate productively at international organisations, in particular at the UN and its agencies. Cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad is based on coinciding or similar positions on most issues facing the international community, including terrorism and religious extremism.”
  • “Opportunities for joint work expanded considerably after Pakistan joined the SCO as a fully-fledged member in June 2017…”
  • “The fight against terrorism is a key area of cooperation… The situation in Afghanistan arouses common concern. We are particularly concerned about the growing influence of the ISIS terrorist group in Afghanistan and its efforts to consolidate its positions in the country’s north and east. We advocate a regional approach towards resolving the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We expect participants in the Moscow format of consultations on the Afghan issue and the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to work productively.”

The pronounced convergence over Afghanistan can be expected to create synergy for an all-round expansion and deepening of the Russia-Pakistan relationship. Lavrov gave an upbeat account of the relationship as it stands today. Russia’s interest lies in boosting Pakistan’s grit and capacity to withstand US pressure. Interestingly, Lavrov and Asif also discussed Syria where the US has lately switched to an offensive mode against Russia. (See my blog US-Russia rivalry surges in Syria.) Again, Asif voiced Pakistan’s opposition to the sanctions against Russia.

February 21, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nation-building in Syria – or nation-wrecking?

By Jim Jatras | RT | February 18, 2018

Over the past few days, a controversy has been in raging over what exactly happened near Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria.

To hear the US tell it, “pro-regime” forces launched an “unprovoked attack” on a “well-established” headquarters of the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), among whom were US personnel. (One denizen of the fever swamps assures us the attack was for the purpose of killing Americans and was approved personally by Russian President Vladimir Putin!) So, naturally, in “self-defense,” American planes and artillery struck the “advancing aggressor force,” killing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Russian “mercenaries.”

To hear Russia and pro-Russian sources tell it, Syrian government and pro-government militia were fighting off an SDF and ISIS joint attack when they were hit by American air power, killing an unknown number of Syrians and perhaps five Russian private military contractors. Reports of higher numbers are “a classic example of disinformation,” according to Moscow, and were first peddled by sources close to anti-government jihadists, then picked up by Western media.

Whatever the real story is, one thing is clear: the US is hunkering down in Syria to stay.

The question is, why?

It isn’t to defeat ISIS, the destruction of which was the sole reason the US needed to be involved in Syria, then-candidate Donald Trump said during the 2016 campaign. Even that mission would not make the presence of American forces there legal, but at least it’s some kind of explanation.

But is President Trump even calling the shots? There’s reason to think not. As related in the Washington Post (that very ‘truthful’ mainstream outlet, so you know it’s not fake news), the following exchange took place between Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis:

Last summer, Trump was weighing plans to send more soldiers to Afghanistan and was contemplating the military’s request for more-aggressive measures to target Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) affiliates in North Africa. In a meeting with his top national security aides, the president grew frustrated.

“You guys want me to send troops everywhere,” Trump said, according to officials in the Situation Room meeting. “What’s the justification?”

“Sir, we’re doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square,” Mattis replied.

The response angered Trump, who insisted that Mattis could make the same argument about almost any country on the planet.

That was about Afghanistan, where Trump stifled what he admits was his own instinct to get out and instead allowed the “professionals” to talk him into doubling down on the same policy that has failed for the past 17 years.

It seems that Syria fits the same pattern. The permanence of the intended US presence in Syria was signaled recently by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Speaking at a meeting in Kuwait at a meeting of the global coalition fighting against ISIS – a coalition that includes neither Russia, nor Iran, nor Syria itself! – Tillerson pledged $200 million for aid in rebuilding Syria as well as aid for Iraq. “If communities in Iraq and Syria cannot return to normal life, we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory,” said Tillerson. (The State Department’s resident News Barbie tweeted recently: “The U.S. is the # 1 contributor to humanitarian aid in #Iraq, the # 1 contributor in stabilization assistance, and the # 1 contributor in military support.”)

Evidently, it’s only nation-building at home that isn’t a priority. Some America First!

There are a couple of catches to promises of all this largesse, though. First, Tillerson is promising only loan guarantees, not direct aid. Second and more importantly, there’s no indication that any aid would be available to areas liberated from ISIS and other, mainly Al-Qaeda linked jihadist groups, by the Syrian Army and its allies. Quite to the contrary, government-held areas are under crushing sanctions, which Tillerson gave no indication of relaxing. We mustn’t forget: Assad must go!

In Syria, as in Afghanistan, Trump has become a hostage to the very policies he denounced during the campaign. We can speculate as to why that is, but there’s no doubt that it is the case. For whatever reason, Trump is now the hostage to the globalists and generals with whom he has surrounded himself.

The looming big question is how bad it will get. The probable answer: a lot worse.

That’s even though Mattis recently admitted that the US has no evidence of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government. Does that mean there will be a US apology for the cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in April 2017? Of course not.

But just a few days earlier, Mattis had warned of stern consequences against Damascus, telling the Syrians “they’d be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention.” Did he only find out the Syrians maybe hadn’t used them after issuing his warning? Did he rescind his threat on making that discovery? Of course not.

Mattis went further, not only warning against use of chemical weapons but specifically against sarin:

Q: Can I ask a quick follow up, just a clarification on what you’d said earlier about Syria and sarin gas?… Just make sure I heard you correctly, you’re saying you think it’s likely they have used it and you’re looking for the evidence? Is that what you said?

SEC. MATTIS: That’s – we think that they did not carry out what they said they would do back when – in the previous administration, when they were caught using it. Obviously they didn’t, cause they used it again during our administration. [ . . . ]

Q: So there’s credible evidence out there that both sarin and chlorine…

SEC. MATTIS: No, I have not got the evidence, not specifically. I don’t have the evidence. What I’m saying is that other – that groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground have said that sarin has been used. So we are looking for evidence. I don’t have evidence, credible or uncredible.

Bottom line: Mattis admits he has no evidence – “credible or uncredible” – that the Syrians have in the past used sarin or any other chemical weapon but still insists “they were caught using it” during the previous administration – and threatens “they’d be ill-advised to go back” and do it again! (One is reminded of Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her stunning non-sequitur following a 1996 marketplace bombing in Sarajevo: “It’s very hard to believe any country would do this to their own people, and therefore, although we do not exactly know what the facts are, it would seem to us that the Serbs are the ones that probably have a great deal of responsibility.” Shortly thereafter, NATO bombed the Serbs.)

The only way Mattis’ contradictory comments can be read is as an open invitation for the jihadists fighting the Syrian government to stage yet another false flag chemical attack – and make sure this time it’s sarin, not mere chlorine. Washington has already decided where the blame will be placed.

How this fits into any rational policy, much less the one Trump ran on, it anyone’s guess. Some suggest the real goal is chaos itself. It’s easier to wreck a nation than to build one. Any fool can figure out how to turn an aquarium into fish soup. No one has yet figured out how to reverse the process.

Jim Jatras is a former US diplomat (with service in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs during the Reagan administration) and was for many years a senior foreign policy adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Is There a ‘Secret US Hand’ Supporting Daesh in Afghanistan?

Sputnik – February 16, 2018

Commenting on the claim made by the Iranian military that the US has provided direct assistance to Daesh in Afghanistan, political analyst Ahmad Wahid Mozhda told Sputnik that many Afghan politicians and ordinary Afghans are saying the same thing. According to the observer, the US’s likely goal is to cause problems for the country’s neighbors.

Speaking to Sputnik Dari, Ahmad Wahid Mozhda, a political scientist and former Mujahedeen commander, explained that many Afghans believe in the presence of a ‘mysterious foreign hand’ in their country helping to consolidate Daesh’s position.

“Many members of Afghanistan’s parliament, as well as ordinary citizens, are saying that Daesh terrorists are being brought here by unidentified helicopters. There is a great deal of evidence to support this,” Mozhda said. “Afghans believe in a kind of ‘mysterious hand’ working to strengthen Daesh’s positions,” he added.

Mozhda challenged the US’s long-standing assertion that fighting terror was its main mission in Afghanistan, and pointed out that in its 17 years of fighting, the US has not only suffered significant material and personnel losses, but has not been unable to win this war. On the contrary, he noted, the number of terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan has grown exponentially.

“It’s worth keeping in mind that when the US sent its forces to Afghanistan in 2001, their main goal was the destruction of al-Qaeda, which at that moment was the only terrorist group in the country. 17 years have passed, and now Afghanistan has over twenty terrorist groups…. Why, with the US having spent a trillion dollars on this war, and the international coalition losing about 4,000 troops, has the war not ended?… Why did [even a] 150,000-strong international coalition troop presence fail to ensure Afghanistan’s security?”

Mozhda also pointed to the steep rise in drug production in Afghanistan since 2001. “The Americans are saying that drugs fuel terrorism, and that [terrorists] receive income from drug production. Over the past 17 years, there has not been any serious struggle against drug production and drug trafficking in Afghanistan, even though this serious problem clearly exists.”

All this, the observer says, “gives rise to a number of questions regarding the fight against terrorism, which has not been successful in Afghanistan.

“Ultimately, Mozhda indicated that concerns from Iran and other countries with the possibility of US intrigue in Afghanistan were fully justified, since unlike the Taliban, which limits its activities to one country, Daesh is bent on destabilizing the entire region.

“Unlike the Taliban, who did not have an international program, Daesh’s goals are to create problems in neighboring countries, including China or the Central Asian countries.”

In this light, “the goal of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan is to create a threat to the countries of the region – to Iran, Russia and China, countries which have difficult relations with the USA,” the analyst concluded.

Last week, Iranian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Mohammad Baqeri accused the US of transferring Daesh militants from their crumbling caliphate into Afghanistan. “When the Americans realized that Daesh and [other] terrorist groups lost the territories they had previously occupied in Iraq and Syria, they transported them, by various means, to Afghanistan, and we are now witnessing the explosions, terror and new crimes being committed in Afghanistan,” the officer said.

The Iranian military’s claims follow on similar charges made earlier Russian officials, as well as remarks late last year by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who called Daesh a “tool” used by Washington to pursue its broader goals in the region.

Speaking to Sputnik Dari, Afghan Defense Ministry press secretary Dawlat Waziri denied Baqeri’s claims. On the contrary, he noted, “the Americans help us destroy the Daesh terrorists, as well as other terrorist groups in Afghanistan.” Waziri stressed that the US military contingent in Afghanistan was crucial to the country’s security, and noted that the US provides valuable training, consultations and planning assistance to the Afghan military, as well as direct air and ground support against the terrorists.

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban Letter to the American People

Full text in English of the Taliban “Letter to the American People” published February 14, 2018

Letter of the Islamic Emirate to the American people!

The American people, officials of independent non-governmental organizations and the peace loving Congressmen!

With the hope that you will read this letter prudently and will evaluate the future of American forces and your profit and loss inside Afghanistan in light of the prevailing realities alluded to in the following lines!

The American people!

You realize that your political leadership launched a military invasion of our country 17 years ago. This invasion was not only contrary to the legal and national norms of our own sovereign country but also a violation of all international rules and regulations, but still the following three main points were put forward by your authorities to justify this illegitimate invasion:

1. Establishing security by eliminating the so called terrorists inside Afghanistan.
2. Restoring law and order by establishing a legal government.
3. Eradicating narcotics.

However let us analyze how successful your war-monger leaders were in achieving the above three slogans in this illegitimate war?

Increased insecurity and fighting:

In 2001 when your ex-president George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, his justification for that felonious act was the elimination the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) and Al-Qaeda.

But despite continuing this bloody war for seventeen years and accepting huge casualties and financial losses, your current president Donald Trump – to continue the illegal 17 year old war in Afghanistan – acknowledged increased insecurity and emergence of multiple groups instead of the single unified Islamic Emirate (Taliban).

This was stated by Trump while declaring his new war strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on 23rd August 2017 and seventeen years later, again ordered the perpetuation of the same illegitimate occupation and war against the Afghan people. Since your authorities admit the presence of multiple warring factions inside Afghanistan, it verifies our claim that by invading Afghanistan and overthrowing a unified responsible government of Taliban, the Americans have merely paved the way for anarchy in the country.

No matter what title or justification is presented by your undiscerning authorities for the war in Afghanistan, the reality is that tens of thousands of helpless Afghans including women and children were martyred by your forces, hundreds of thousands were injured and thousands more were incarcerated in Guantanamo, Bagram and various other secret jails and treated in such a humiliating way that has not only brought shame upon humanity but is also a violation of all claims of American culture and civilization.

In this lopsided war and as confirmed by your own military authorities, 3546 American and foreign soldiers have been killed, more than 20,000 American forces injured and tens of thousands more are suffering mentally but in reality the amount of your casualties is several times higher and is deliberately being concealed by your leaders. Similarly this war has cost you trillions of dollars thus making it one of the bloodiest, longest and costliest war in the contemporary history of your country.

Chaos and the most corrupt regime:

Even though it is not the duty of America to draft laws and suggest systems for other countries but nevertheless, the second excuse of George W. Bush for the invasion of Afghanistan was to establish a supposed legitimate government. But despite seventeen years of war costing thousands of American and coalition lives and billions of dollars, such a system has taken root in Afghanistan which has achieved the following administrative, legal, military and political records:

Number one internationally in administrative and financial corruption.
Number one internationally in violating human rights.
Number one internationally in usurping of land and embezzling international aid.
Number one internationally in violence against women, etc. etc.

The latest example of the corrupt regime formed in the wake of American invasion is the presence of a two-headed system which is unparalleled in the established laws of forming a government throughout the world.

Production and expansion of narcotics:

The third justification of George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan was the prevention and eradication of narcotics. Let us examine the amount and levels of production and expansion of the narcotic trade in Afghanistan after seventeen year war effort?

According to the data provided by UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes) – prior to the American invasion – poppy was cultivated only on 185 hectors land of Afghanistan and only in areas controlled by anti-Taliban forces whereas the level of heroin addiction among Afghans was next to nil. But following the American invasion of Afghanistan, poppy cultivation skyrocketed from 185 hectors to 328,000 hectors while under the shadow of seventeen year occupation, the number of drug addicts has reached 3 million people.

On 21st December 2017, the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes) reported that drug production increased by 87% and poppy cultivation increased by 63% during the year 2017, thus mounting the total production of narcotics to 9000 metric tons.

The American people!

You proclaim to be a developed and civilized nation of the world. Since the imposed government in Afghanistan is established by you therefore we leave it to your judgment to decide – according to your logic and conscience – whether the present system and its pertinent changes, insecurity, chaos and 87% increase in narcotics are reforms or crimes against humanity?

Your authorities proclaim that tens of billions of dollars have been spent on various reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Of course this is the same money which is collected from you as taxes and revenues, but here it has been distributed among thieves and murderers.

Do you agree that the hard earned money of your labor should be wasted on such a corrupt system where in only one criminal case, $900 million were stolen from Kabul Bank by corrupt officials?

Do you consider it the rule of law in American culture and lexicon where the first deputy of a government is a person involved in the felonious act of sexual assault on a 70-year-old man besides hundreds of other crimes against humanity?

Is this the civilization, modernity and rule of law proclaimed by you in the world?

Were your 3546 forces killed in Afghanistan to establish and empower such a system?

Can your scholars, intellectuals and unbiased analysts produce an answer to our questions?

You must understand that our people are living, watching and closely analyzing all these calamities and that is why the regime working under the shadow of your military support and the corrupt elements assembled therein are not looked upon as a legitimate government rather they are considered a band of usurpers, looters, mafia warlords and drug-dealers while at the same time, the resistance against them is considered their legal, moral and national obligation. The people working alongside you to impose this system are committing treason against our nation and national interests. On the other hand, the people who waging armed resistance against your corrupt regime are the defenders of their homeland, national interests, sovereignty as well as their dignity and they are revered by the Afghan masses as their heroes. That the American media is propagating against the Afghan resistance and labelling them as foreign terrorists instead of Afghan freedom fighters, all of this is baseless propaganda aimed at concealing their own humiliating defeat. To repudiate this propaganda, we only want to say that had there been any chance of success in Afghanistan with foreign support, the American invaders and their coalition forces would definitely have succeeded due to enjoying the political and military support of a powerful country like the United States of America as well as the support of a well-equipped military alliance like NATO.

The People of America!

We would like to summarize our message to you in the following words:

The Afghans who are fighting your forces and any other invader today, this is their legal, religious and national obligation. However mighty and well-equipped your forces might be, even if supported by the entire world, this resistance will be sustained by the Afghan people due to their religious, legal and national obligation. This resistance is considered by Afghan masses as a sacred responsibility of defending their creed and country. To relinquish this sacred obligation is considered by them as abandoning Islam and all human values and this disgrace is never acceptable for any valiant Muslim Afghan individual.

Afghans have continued to burn for the last four decades in the fire of imposed wars. They are longing for peace and a just system but they will never tire from their just cause of defending their creed, country and nation against the invading forces of your war-mongering government because they have rendered all the previous and present historic sacrifices to safeguard their religious values and national sovereignty. If they make a deal on their sovereignty now, it would be unforgettable infidelity with their proud history and ancestors.

Afghanistan is a country which has maintained its independence throughout its several thousand year history. Even in the 19th and 20th century when most Muslim countries were occupied by the then European imperial powers, Afghanistan was the only country in the region to preserve its independence and despite an eighty year imperialistic endeavor, the British failed make them accept occupation. It is the same inherent zeal and historic succession in the hearts and minds of Afghan masses which presently inspires this empty-handed nation to continue protracted resistance against your occupying forces. This is not exaggeration rather irrefutable reality that today the valiant Afghan self-sacrificial attackers are competing among themselves to carry out martyrdom seeking attacks against your invading forces.

This national religious resistance of the Afghans is not a futile war, rather it is progressing everyday as various parts of the country are liberated. At this moment the head of SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) acknowledged that sixty percent of Afghan territory is under the control of Taliban (Islamic Emirate).

In 2001 during the American invasion of Afghanistan, a number of world countries came under the influence of misleading propaganda by your officials and supported the warring strategy of the then president George W. Bush. But today we see that your government has lost that international support as a number of your coalition partners have withdrawn their forces from our country by discerning the prevailing realities and they are currently seeking a political solution. The international community at large is now backing our justified resistance against the illegitimate American occupation. If your government is still insisting on perpetuating the war in Afghanistan by conjuring excuses, it will further undermine American prestige in the world.

The People of America!

In the American society where the main source of power is the masses and the authorities are elected by public votes, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – as representatives of the will of Afghan nation – asks the American people and the peace loving Congressmen to put pressure on your authorities and demand an end to the occupation of Afghanistan because stubbornly seeking the protraction of this war and existence of a corrupt and ineffective regime here in Kabul will have dreadful consequences for the region and particularly for the stability of America herself.

The Afghan masses feel pity for the whole American nation because they are being sacrificed and are losing respect through the world with each passing day solely due the war-mongering policies of a few war-mongering officials.

Your intellectuals, peace loving Congressmen and independent chiefs of civil organizations should question your authorities as to why the American people are so insecure and detested at home and abroad despite their international prestige?

For how long will your modern country and your children continue to be sacrificed for the war-mongering policies of a few war-mongering officials?

And what eventual benefit will these warring policies bring for your country?

The American People!

Your president and his military and political officials following his war policies still speak the language of war in Afghanistan. They intentionally release fake statistics for the sake of their vested interests and misguide you and the world by throwing dust in your eyes. The reality is that in contemporary world, the use of force and arms has been replaced by peaceful dialogue and wars cannot be won with lies.

Only in past September – in accordance with Trump’s new strategy – American forces used all their new powers and carried out 751 air strikes. You should ask your Generals that despite using such force, have you retaken even a single inch of land from the Taliban or have they become even more powerful.

If you do not understand the inexperienced policies of president Trump and his war-monger advisors, then look no further than his irrational decision of shifting the American embassy to from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which brought America in opposition with 128 countries of the world.

Truly it is humiliating for a civilized people like you to be confronted with such a decisive international majority. It was only due of the pursuit of policies of force which pitted majority of the world countries against America, and your authorities are still insistent upon that ridiculous policy!!

The Islamic Emirate had asked America from the very beginning to solve her issues with the Islamic Emirate through talk and dialogue. The use of force has adverse consequences, and you might have now discerned the bitter consequences of American aggression against Afghanistan. If the policy of using force is exercised for a hundred more years and a hundred new strategies are adopted, the outcome of all of these will be the same as you have observed over the last six months following the initiation of Trump’s new strategy.

According we still believe that it is not too late for the American people to understand that the Islamic Emirate – as representative of its people – can solve its problems with every side through healthy politics and dialogue. Needless use of force only complicates the issues by creating new dimensions which gradually move out of the realm of control. The Islamic Emirate is a regional power with deep roots which cannot be subdued by sheer force. The chances of dialogue however are not exhausted. The American people must understand that the Islamic Emirate understands its responsibility and can play a constructive role in finding a peaceful solution for issues but this can never mean that we are exhausted or our will has been sapped. It is our policy that logic should be given a chance before the use of force. Whatever can be achieved by logic, should not be relinquished due to the use of force. It is the moral obligation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to inform you, the American masses, about these realities.

We must state that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan undertakes legitimate efforts for the independence of our homeland. Having a sovereign country free from any foreign occupation is our natural and human right. Seeking freedom of our homeland and establishing an Islamic system conforming to the creed of our people can never be called terrorism by any law of the world. It is worth mentioning that we have no agenda of playing any destructive role in any other country and we have practically proven over the past seventeen years that we have not interfered in any other country. Likewise we will not allow anyone else to use Afghan territory against any other country. War is imposed on us, it is not our choice. Our preference is to solve the Afghan issue through peaceful dialogues. America must end her occupation and must accept all our legitimate rights including the right to form a government consistent with the beliefs of our people. After gaining independence, we would like to have positive and constructive relations with all countries of the world including our neighboring countries. We welcome their assistance and support in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our country. We want to play a beneficial role in regional and world peace and stability, provide high standard education and employment opportunities for our people and guarantee all human and legal rights of every child, woman and man, secure our youth from drugs and all other moral indecencies, provided job opportunities to every individual such that they not leave their homeland or seek refuge abroad.

In brief, insisting on prolonging the war in Afghanistan and maintaining American troop presence is neither beneficial for America nor for anyone else, rather it endangers the stability of the entire world. This is irrefutable reality which is only rejected by your arrogant authorities. If you want peaceful dialogue with the Afghans specifically and with the world generally, then make your president and the war-mongering congressmen and Pentagon officials understand this reality and compel them to adopt a rational policy towards Afghanistan!

This will be the most constructive step for the stability of your people, the Afghans as well as the whole world.

Our only obligation is to convey (the message) to you!

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
هـ ق 1439/5/28
هـ ش 1396/11/25

February 15, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 8 Comments

Afghan Officials in Secret Talks With Taliban – Reports

Sputnik – February 13, 2018

Kabul has found itself in a challenging situation due to the intra-governmental struggle and the Taliban’s expanding influence on Afghan soil.

Afghan officials are holding secret talks with Taliban representatives amid the bombings that have left some 200 people dead and the group’s outgrowth in the country, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing individuals “familiar with the backdoor negotiations.”

Afghanistan’s intelligence Chief Masoom Stanikzai and its National Security Chief Mohammed Hanif Atmar continue to each talk separately to the Taliban,” the outlet said.

According to the sources cited by the AP, the move was prompted by Kabul’s desire to end the Taliban’ militancy that has been continuing for 17 years since the US overthrew the then-ruling group.

Speaking further, the sources pointed out disagreements in the Afghan government, as neither of the two officials, assigned to hold talks with Taliban, want to talk to each other or the High Peace Council that was established to discuss the Afghan peace process.

At the same time, Hakim Mujahid, a member of the High Peace Council, has confirmed that Stanikzai still maintains contacts with the Taliban’s negotiator Mullah Abbas Stanikzai, who is not related to the government’s official, the Associated Press continued.

Furthermore, former top Taliban member Aga Jan Motasim has said that he was eager to be a mediator in talks between Kabul and the group. He is now reportedly traveling between Kabul, where he holds talks with the authorities, and Turkey, where he is in contact with Taliban representatives.

Meanwhile, according to the US, the Taliban has gained control over more than a half of Afghanistan, while some reports say that the group either controls or has influence over some 70 percent of the countries territory.

In this respect, Donald Trump has ordered to intensify airstrikes on Taliban’s positions. The order came half a year after the US president released his new Afghanistan strategy, envisaging the deployment of an additional 4,000 troops, as well as other support to the politically, socially and security-wise unstable country.

See Also:

Chief of Iranian General Staff Accuses US of Transferring Daesh Terrorists to Afghanistan

February 13, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan War Spending, In 2018 Alone, Could End US Homelessness—TWICE

While the United States government spends $45 billion on the 17th year of the Afghanistan War, it ignores the fact that just half of that money could be used to virtually end homelessness in the U.S. annually.

By Rachel Blevins | Free Thought Project | February 7, 2018

Defense Department officials are claiming that the cost of the United States’ longest war in history will be $45 billion in 2018, which is actually double to estimate of what it would cost to end homelessness in the U.S. annually.

Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said that he expects the Afghanistan war to cost American taxpayers $45 billion this year, which in addition to logistical support, will include about $13 billion for U.S. forces, $5 billion for Afghan forces, and $780 million for economic aid.

Schriver made the announcement during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan also spoke, and said he believes the United States’ policy “acknowledges that there isn’t a military solution or a complete solution.”

“I understand it’s America’s longest war, but our security interests in Afghanistan, in the region are significant enough … to back the Afghan government in their struggle against the Taliban,” Sullivan said.

Over 31,000 civilian deaths have been documented in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting civilian casualties in 2009, and the combined number of civilians who were killed and injured that year was nearly 6,000. The number has steadily increased over the years, and in 2016, it reached a record high with nearly 3,500 killed and nearly 8,000 injured.

report from the UNAMA noted that in 2017, the death rate for children increased by 9 percent over the previous year, and the death rate for women increased by 23 percent. The report also claimed that an increase in airstrikes has led to a 43 percent increase in causalities.

The Hill reported that the Defense Department officials did receive some criticism from senators such as Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, who questioned why the Taliban would want a political settlement now when they already “control more territory than they did since 2001” when the U.S. invaded the country—claiming the purpose was to defeat the Taliban.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, also criticized the massive 2018 budget for the Afghanistan War, and argued that after 16 years, Afghans still “don’t seem to be able to defend themselves,” and for U.S. taxpayers, billions of dollars are “just being thrown down a hatch in Afghanistan.”

“I think there’s an argument to be made that our national security is actually made more perilous the more we spend and the longer we stay there. … We’re in an impossible situation,” Paul said. “I just don’t think there is a military solution.”

Paul has a history of criticizing the amount of money the U.S. government spends in foreign countries, especially on wars in the Middle East. After Trump vowed to continue the longest war in U.S. history in August 2017, Paul criticized the move and asked when the U.S. would start focusing on its own country.

“We spent billions of dollars—I think it’s over $100 billion—building roads in Afghanistan, blowing up roads in Afghanistan, building schools, blowing up schools, and then rebuilding all of them,” Paul said. “Sometimes we blow them up, sometimes someone else blows them up, but we always go back and rebuild them. What about rebuilding our country?”

Paul has a point, and the money that is being used to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan is desperately needed in the United States. According to estimates from Mark Johnston, the acting assistant housing secretary for community planning and development, “homelessness could be effectively eradicated in the United States at an annual cost of about $20 billion.”

If the United States government cut its budget for the Afghanistan War in half, and put half of the money towards ending homeless in America, it could make a difference. If the government gave the entirety of the money it is using for endless proxy wars in the Middle East back to the taxpayers it was originally stolen from so that they could invest it in helping the individuals in need in their own communities, it could work wonders.

Rachel Blevins is an independent journalist from Texas, who aspires to break the false left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives. Follow Rachel on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Steemit and Patreon.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 4 Comments

The US-ISIS Nexus in Afghanistan Becomes Hot Topic

By Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR | Strategic Culture Foundation | 06.02.2018

Tehran has begun highlighting in loud decibel its hitherto-low key voice of disquiet that the United States is transferring the Islamic State* fighters from Syria and Iraq, where they have been defeated, to Afghanistan.

On January 30, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said: “The US goal of transferring the ISIL terrorists to Afghanistan is aimed at creating the justification for its continued deployment in the region and for buttressing the security of the Zionist regime.” Indeed, any statement at the level of the Supreme Leader invariably draws attention as signaling an authoritative policy directive based on careful decision taken in the light of relevant intelligence inputs.

The point is, three days before Khamenei spoke, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had an encounter with ISIS terrorists infiltrating Iran’s western province of Kermanshah from Iraq. By all accounts, it was a major encounter in which three IRGC personnel were killed, including an officer of the rank of major. According to the commander of the IRGC’s ground forces, Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, as many as sixteen ISIS terrorists were captured. Incidents of this nature are happening with increasing frequency along Iran’s borders and Iranian security agencies are busting large caches of explosives and arms smuggled across the border, but this is the first time such a big encounter took place.

Significantly, the senior foreign policy advisor to the parliament speaker, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who is an influential voice in the Iranian diplomatic circuit, raised the issue of the US’ covert transfer of ISIS fighters to “northern Afghanistan” at a meeting with Jan Kubis, chairman of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq on January 28.

Kubis, a Slovak career diplomat, has previously served as UN special envoy to Tajikistan (during the transitional period following the civil war in the late 1990s), Secretary-General of the OSCE (1999-2005), EU’s special envoy to Central Asia (20015-2006) and, most recently, as UN Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (2011-2015). Abdollahian couldn’t have chosen better his interlocutor for making such a sensitive demarche. The message would have reached the intended quarters in no time.

Two days after that, Khamenei spoke. Given the above backdrop, it needs to be noted carefully that Iran has since listed the topic of US-ISIS nexus as a bilateral issue between Tehran and Kabul. On February 4, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami made a phone call to his Afghan counterpart Tariq Shah Bahrami and warned that Washington is “implementing plots to transfer the ISIL terrorist group to Afghanistan.” General Hatami spoke on the lines of Khamenei’s remarks, and, importantly, warned against the US’ plans to increase its military deployment to Afghanistan. He underscored that security in Afghanistan is going to be possible only in harmony with the regional states and by pooling their resources to fight terrorism.

Gen. Hatami stopped just short of warning that Tehran may have to act to counter the perceived threat to its national security interests from Afghan soil. It is conceivable that his phone call to Kabul reflected the threat perceptions in Tehran following the interrogation of the 16 ISIS terrorists in the IRGC’s custody.

Iran has reason to feel perturbed that western Afghanistan is also witnessing a political vacuum lately similar to what has been happening in northern Afghanistan in the Amu Darya region during the past several weeks. The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has destabilized the entire northern region bordering Central Asia by his abrupt dismissal of the governor of Balkh province, Atta Mohammad Noor in November. It is improbable that Ghani took such a precipitate step on his own volition. Atta is a powerful figure, popularly known as the ‘King of the North’. Noor, by the way, is also the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami and happens to be an aspirant to contest the presidential election in 2019.

No doubt, the US concurred with Noor’s removal – if not outright sought it. Curiously, the Trump administration has since voiced support for Ghani’s move. The US Vice-President Mike Pence made two phone calls to Ghani in January to express solidarity. On January 24, the White House took an extraordinary step to issue a statement that it “has been closely following the current dispute” and demanding a quick resolution to the Ghani-Noor standoff, virtually forewarning the latter to capitulate. But Noor hit back on February 3, naming the Kabul regime as puppets of the Americans and stoking the fires of Afghan nationalism.

Of course, the prolonged power vacuum in Balkh has created favorable conditions for the ISIS terrorists to establish presence in northern Afghanistan. Similarly, Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek strongman, who has been a bulwark against terrorist groups in the northern provinces, is on enforced exile in Turkey. The US, which controls Afghan air space, twice refused permission to his aircraft to land. (Interestingly, Turkish President Recep Erdogan since had a one-on-one with Dostum in Ankara.)

The heart of the matter is that a situation similar to Balkh is also on cards in the western province of Farah bordering Iran, where the provincial governor Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan abruptly “resigned” from the post ten days ago, citing as reasons “the worsening security situation in Farah” and “interference in my responsibilities from various individuals.” From all appearances, he decided to quit under duress. (In recent months, US made fresh deployments to Farah.)

What becomes an enigma wrapped in mystery is that Jahan, a Pashtun, and Noor (a Tajik) also happen to enjoy reputation as staunch Afghan nationalists. The conclusion becomes unavoidable that for reasons of its own, Washington desires ‘regime change’ in these two crucially important border provinces (Balkh and Farah), which border Central Asia and Iran respectively. Suffice to say, Tehran would wonder, “Who stands to gain?” Of course, it can only be the ISIS.

February 6, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment