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(newsjunkiepost.com) When Obama began his Presidency there were close to 38,000 troops in Afghanistan. If he keeps the promises that he will make in his speech tonight, eighteen months months from now, after withdrawing, or reclassifying, 30,000 troops, there will still be 68,000 troops left in Afghanistan.

December, 2009, in a speech delivered at the U.S. military academy at West Point, President Obama explained what he called his “strategy to bring this war to a successful conclusion.”   Then, almost within the same breath,  he announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops for the purpose of turning back Taliban advances. I’m not sure where he was going to turn them back to, it’s there country that the American forces are occupying.

“As commander in chief I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S troops to Afghanistan.   After 18 months our troops will begin to come home.  These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative while building the Afghan capacity that will allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan,” promised President Obama.

Everyone nodded.  Yeah, exit strategy, send more troops… what?

There are, currently, 98,000 troops in Afghanistan.  He started with 38,000 troops, announced an increase of 30,000 more troops, and ended up with 98,000 troops. Every time Obama has an exit strategy for Afghanistan more American soldiers seem to end up in the country. It almost seems as though the number of troops on the ground were purposely inflated in order to present the appearance of a reduction in troops with this maneuver, but actually result in a net increase.

Read more: http://newsjunkiepost.com/2011/06/22/obamas-withdrawal-strategy-leaves-twice-as-many-troops-in-afghanistan/

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(csmonitor.com) Even though the Taliban has ties with Al Qaeda, the Afghan militants are focused on fighting a national insurgency, not waging global jihad.

Kabul, Afghanistan

As the Afghanistan war heats up with the launch of the Taliban‘s spring offensive, so does talk among foreign-policy experts about how long American support for it will last now that Osama bin Laden is dead.

Yet there are few indications that even with the Al Qaeda mastermind behind 9/11 out of the picture, the security situation in Afghanistan will improve.

In recent days, Taliban militants attacked security forces in Nuristan Province, wounding six policemen. A NATO airstrike reportedly killed seven Taliban in Nangarhar Province early on May 4, and on May 3 an International Security Assistance Force soldier died in a roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan.

“It’s possible that fighting will continue at least in the short- to medium-term, and in that regard one can say that the death of bin Laden isn’t going to significantly bring down those levels of fighting,” says Farzana Shaikh, an associate fellow for the Asia Program at Chatham House, a London think tank.

Though the Taliban and Al Qaeda are sometimes lumped together in the West, the two have key ideological differences and competing goals. The Taliban are focused on national insurgency, while Al Qaeda is more interested in global jihad.

Al Qaeda’s footprint in Afghanistan has also decreased markedly since NATO forces invaded in 2001. Some estimates now place the number of Al Qaeda operatives here at less than 100 fighters. And the group has come to increasingly rely on the Afghan Taliban organization for its survival, rather than the other way around.

“I don’t think it’s going to have any impact on the Taliban. I don’t think Osama’s death is going to demoralize, or persuade, or provoke them to take their revenge. Their fight is different,” says Rahimullah Yusufzai, an independent analyst and editor of Pakistan’s The News International.

After nearly 10 years of war and thousands of civilian and military deaths, average Afghans also question whether Mr. bin Laden’s death will change anything.

“When he arrived here it was good when he fought the Russians, but suddenly everything changed and he was the opposite of what he was before,” says Saleem, a bicycle repairman in Kabul. “Maybe [his death] will help, maybe it won’t. He was only one person and the insurgents come from everywhere.”

One area where the bin Laden operation could have a sharp impact is in the ability of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership to operate somewhat freely, say many Taliban observers. Key figures wanted by the US are believed to be hiding in Pakistan and may now worry that they are next on America’s hit list.

US drone strikes have killed scores of militants in Pakistan, but most were Al Qaeda or Pakistani Taliban, a different group than the Afghan Taliban. Since 2003, only two members of the Afghan Taliban’s senior leadership council have been killed by foreign forces.

Prior to his assassination, bin Laden managed to keep his location secret, whereas Tali­ban leaders have stayed in the open more, occasionally speaking to journalists and maintaining contact with Afghan government officials. “If the CIA can catch bin Laden, it’s surely not too hard to find the senior Tali­ban leadership, especially if journalists can find them,” says Alex Strick van Linschoten, an independent researcher based in Kandahar.

Indeed, speaking to the Monitor by phone just one day after the US Navy SEAL team killed bin Laden, a mid-level Taliban commander based in Pakistan broke off mid-sentence, worried that foreign forces might be able to trace his location.

Even as spring fighting intensifies, the knockout of bin Laden will shape conditions for talks. Pakistan is a key player, and most observers say it can bring the Taliban to the table. Much will depend on whether the US and Pakistan can work together after the bin Laden killing. Another key factor is whether the Tali­ban will use bin Laden’s death as an opportunity to cut ties with Al Qaeda. In addition to accepting the Afghan Constitution and renouncing violence, that is a precondition for Afghan and NATO talks with the Taliban.

The close relationship between bin Laden and the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, was seen as a central reason for the group’s continued support of Al Qaeda. But even without bin Laden, breaking ties remains highly unlikely. Maintaining official ties with Al Qaeda provides the Taliban with important credibility among jihadist groups in addition to access to training and Arab funding.

“The Taliban are very much concerned about the general public opinion,” says Hamid Mir, a Pakistani journalist and independent analyst. “Some of them say that ‘We cannot give an impression to the Afghan or Pashtun masses that we are making any deals with the United States or that we are under pressure.’ They are sure that in three or four years they will defeat the United States.”

Still, there may be some factions willing to break ties. “Those who asked Mullah Omar to hand over bin Laden and save the Islamic Emirate in 2001 will probably ask Mullah Omar again to break ties with Al Qaeda,” says Mohammed Hashim Watanwal, a member of parliament from Uruzgan Province. “If he doesn’t, maybe they will quit the movement and sit down for talks with the government.”

By Tom A. Peter

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2011/0507/Why-bin-Laden-killing-won-t-dampen-Afghan-fight

(greenleft.org.au) The disgusting and heartbreaking photos published in March by the media are finally bringing the grisly truth about the war in Afghanistan to a wider public.

All the PR about this war being about democracy and human rights melts into thin air with these pictures of US soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of innocent Afghan civilians.

I must report that Afghans do not believe this be a story of a few rogue soldiers. We that is part and parcel of the entire military occupation.

The photos are new, but the murder of innocents is not. Such crimes against civilians have sparked many protests in Afghanistan and have sharply raised anti-US sentiments among ordinary Afghans.

I am not surprised that the mainstream media in the United States has been reluctant to publish these images of the US “kill teams” who made sport out of murdering Afghans.

There is, after all, a concerted effort to keep the reality of Afghanistan out of sight in the US. General David Petraeus, now in charge of the US-led occupation, is said to place great importance on the “information war” for public opinion.

Based on this strategy, the Pentagon has tried hard to cover up these crimes.

Although a few soldiers seen in these photos are being prosecuted, I think this is another effort to hide larger human rights violations carried out by the US in Afghanistan.

The US must first prosecute those responsible for killing 65 women and children in Ghaziabad, Kunar, in mid-February, for killing 150 civilians in Kunduz province in October 2009, for killing over 140 civilians in Balabluk, Farah province, in May 2009, for killing 100 children and women in Azizabad, Heart, in September 2008 and many more such inhuman crimes for which the Pentagon only said “sorry”.

If the US was really honest, then top US officials from defence secretary Roberts Gates to Petraeus, under whose command all of these war crimes take place, would be put on trial.

Yet while the US and NATO are busy committing war crimes in Afghanistan, they attack Libya to punish Gaddafi for human rights violations!

For us, this is a joke when we see the US government whole-heartedly supporting forces much dirtier than Gaddafi’s in our country.

In March, my initial application for a US entry visa was turned down, and so my ongoing book tour in the United States was delayed as supporters demanded my right to enter the country.

The US government was pressured to relent and allow my visit to go ahead. Ultimately, it will also be unable to block the truth about the war in Afghanistan.

The “kill team” images will come as a shock to many in Europe and North America, but to Afghans it is nothing new. For the past decade, we have seen countless incidents of US and NATO forces killing innocent people like birds.

For instance, they recently killed nine children in Kunar Province who were out collecting firewood in the mountains. Another, out of countless massacres of innocent civilians, took place in mid-February of this year when US-led forces killed 65 innocent villagers, most of them women and children.

In this case, as in many others, NATO claimed that it had only killed insurgents, even though local authorities acknowledged the victims were civilians.

To keep the facts from coming out, it arrested two Al Jazeera journalists who tried to visit and report from the site of the massacre.

The US and NATO have tried hard to hide these civilians deaths by calling the dead terrorists or insurgents. Afghans regard such lies as an insult to their loved ones who have been brutally killed.

Successive US officials have said they would safeguard civilians and they would be more careful. In fact they are only more careful in their efforts to cover up their crimes and stop their publication in the media — therefore many horrific killings are never reported.

The US and NATO, along with the office of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, usually give statistics about civilian deaths that underestimate the numbers killed by the occupying forces.

The reality, however, is that civilian deaths are up since US President Barack Obama raised the number of US troops in Afghanistan. The president’s “surge” has only led to a surge of violence from all sides.

Believe it or not, the occupying armies have even tried to buy off the families of their victims, offering US$2000 for each member of a family killed.

Afghan lives are cheap for the US and NATO, but no matter how much they offer we don’t want their blood money.

Once you know this, you will understand more clearly why Afghans have turned against this occupation. The Karzai regime, which is full of the most infamous brutal warlords of the Northern Alliance, is more hated than ever.

It rules through intimidation, corruption and the help of the occupying armies. Afghans deserve much better than this.

However, this does not mean that more Afghans are supporting the reactionary so-called resistance of the Taliban, who also continue to kill innocent Afghans through suicide bombings.

We are seeing the growth, under very difficult conditions, of another resistance, led by students, women and the ordinary poor people of Afghanistan. They are taking to the streets to protest the massacre of civilians, and to demand an end to the war.

Demonstrations like this were recently held in Kabul, Marzar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kunar, Herat and elsewhere.

This resistance is inspired by the movements in other countries like Egypt and Tunisia — we want to see “people power” in Afghanistan as well.

And we need the support and solidarity of peace-loving people power in the countries occupying Afghanistan as well.

Many new voices are speaking up against this expensive and hypocritical war in Afghanistan. This includes some soldiers from the NATO armies.

When I last visited Britain, I had the honour of meeting Joe Glenton, a conscientious objector who spent months in jail for his resistance to the war in Afghanistan.

Of his time in prison, Glenton said: “In the current climate I consider it as a badge of honour to have served a prison sentence.”

While the world looks in horror at the “kill team” photos, Joe’s courage and humanity is an important reminder that the war in Afghanistan need not last forever.

By Malalai Joya

Via: http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/47314

(csmonitor.com) Protests over Terry Jones’s Quran burning spread to the southern city of Kandahar Saturday. By contrast, there was little popular reaction to recent photos of US soldiers posing with the bodies of Afghans they had killed for sport.

Kabul, Afghanistan

Protests in response to a US pastor burning the Koran spread across Afghanistan for a second day on Saturday, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 70 in the southern city of Kandahar. On Friday, a demonstration in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif turned violent whenan angry mob stormed a United Nations compound killing seven members of the foreign staff and five Afghans.

The sustained unrest over Quran burning in Afghanistan stands in sharp contrast to the virtual shrugging off of another shocking incident involving US forces. A day after Terry Jones, the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., a church of about 30 congregants, burned the Quran on March 20, the German magazine Der Spiegel published photographs of US soldiers posing with dead Afghan civilians they’d killed for sport. Yet there was little, if any, popular reaction.

The disproportionate responses to the two incidents reveal Afghans’ increasingly complex attitude to the ongoing foreign presence in their country. Internationals have become increasingly unpopular, but after nearly a decade of the current war, many Afghans say they are numb to civilian causalities. Some say they assume that killing innocent people is business as usual for foreign forces.

“The people of Afghanistan are very sensitive about Islamic principles. But … there was a lot of blood shed for three decades in Afghanistan. Also it has become common since 2001 that many civilians are killed during military operations,” says Baryalai Hakimi, the head of the law and political science department at the National Center for Policy Research in Kabul. “The issue of killing civilians is serious, but not so serious as the Quran burning.”

The photographs in Der Spiegel surfaced last month, just as members of the US Army who were accused of operating in so-called kill teams and murdering Afghan civilians in 2010 went on trial. In the graphic photos, soldiers posed with their victims like hunters showing off a trophy deer. One soldier was convicted last week, receiving a sentence of 24 years in exchange for agreeing to testify against other men in his unit.

As the photos began to spread across the Internet, a number of officials feared it could create a violent public reaction like the one that followed the release of prisoner abuse photos at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Yet in a country where only 28.1 percent of the population is literate and many Afghans, especially those in rural areas, have only sporadic access to TV, such a news story is difficult to translate.

Most reaction, therefore, was confined to political circles and educated Afghans. And among the broader population who were aware of the killings and trial, the muted response may simply confirm the well-entrenched view that international forces place limited value on protecting civilians.

“When it comes to the general population’s perception of what is being done in terms of civilian casualties, I believe it has promoted a very negative picture of international forces. I think that for the legitimacy of the Afghan government, for the legitimacy of the international community, we have to avoid such perceptions getting stronger and stronger,” says Walilullah Rahmani, executive director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies.

A story about Americans burning a Quran, on the other hand, moves easily by word of mouth and is readily understood by all Afghans.

“Afghans are religiously conservative people and most of our population, they are not even middle class. So the lower class level of Afghans are highly tribal and religious and this religious sector always motivates things,” notes Mr. Rahmani.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2011/0402/Why-Terry-Jones-Quran-burning-spurred-two-days-of-deadly-Afghan-protests

(c4ss.org) In his groundbreaking treatise Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, Kevin Carson argues that we are living in a world created by the “neoliberal revolution,” the present-day successor to the policies of the “Open Door Empire” era beginning at the close of the nineteenth century. That revolution, conditional on military might and its warped version of “free trade,” has “created a ‘de facto world government’ on behalf of global corporations.”

Like all empires, the American version, which involves shipping our Big Business economy abroad, depends on bludgeoning susceptible states into discreet subservience. To fill the role of underboss to the United States’ kingpin of course requires a certain temperament, a cupidity and lack of moral scruples found mostly in tin pot dictators wearing funny costumes. And but for his occasional teary outburst, Afghanistan’s President Karzai pretty well fits the bill.

This week, though, Karzai piped up to spurn the tepid apologies of General David Patraeus, the red-handed butcher who currently occupies the post of Commander in the war-torn country. Patraeus’ half-hearted apology, a gauche case of damage-control PR, comes after “an error in the handoff” of intelligence ended in the death of nine children. By now even the most offhand observation of the decade-long war in Afghanistan reveals countless civilian deaths, and from wedding receptions to kids the “insurgency” has become more and more ill-defined.

In another timely episode of American Empire Media, Defense Secretary Gates, alongside faithful underling Karzai, parroted the American state’s stock apology and foretold of a schedule for leaving Afghanistan. Well, Patraeus can issue as many apologies as he likes — with Karzai’s muted objections and Gates’ announcements of troop draw-downs in the background — but the reality is that, no matter what happens in Afghanistan, there’s no draw-down planned for the Empire in general.

For the economic program of the American ruling class to function, governments amenable to its hierarchical, corporate framework are a practical imperative. Today, the Big Business economic blueprint, created by and for the state’s elites, is so ubiquitous that no one of its vavasour states — be it Afghanistan or any other — is necessary by itself. The investments of the American state converge with nearly every building block of the “flat world” of neoliberalism, which, by concentrating wealth in a tiny sliver at the top, is anything but true to its metaphorical namesake.

Intimidatory international agreements, conceived and executed by corporate interests, ensure the dominance of a very specific business modality, one completely severed or insulated from the corollaries of genuine free markets. Market regions covering entire hemispheres, whatever one thinks of them, simply would not have been possible at their commencement but for the wars and other, less noticeable deeds of state coercion.

States like Afghanistan may be the citadels of American imperialism, but its ideological strongholds exists in the intangible space of faith in the state. To the proponents of “free trade” who see it as a force for peace in the world: Are we really to believe that the American state, with all of its warlike foreign meddling, isn’t also engaged in global,economic intervention?

Quoting Christopher Layne and Benjamin Schwarz, Carson observes that, in today’s global economy, “U.S. security commitments are viewed as the indispensable precondition for economic interdependence.” The one doesn’t exist without the other, and defenders of a real liberty need not pretend they are independent phenomena.

by David D’Amato

Source: http://c4ss.org/content/6381

(Democracy Now!) Federal law prohibits the military from using propaganda and psychological tactics on U.S. citizens, but that is exactly what may have happened in Afghanistan according to reporter Michael Hastings, who joins us to speak about his recent expose for Rolling Stone magazine is called, “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-ops on U.S. senators.” In the article, Hastings writes that Lt. General William Caldwell, the commander of NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, illegally employed psychological operations to manipulate visiting U.S. senators into providing more troops and funding for the war effort. “It show how far-off the rails the entire operation has gone,” Hasting says. “The most important battlefield isn’t in Afghanistan, it is in Washington.”

Watch report here:
http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/4/michael_hastings_army_deploys_psy_ops