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Afghanistan five years later: poverty, violence, misery

The hard-line Islamic Taliban that appeared down and out has returned, taking control of large swaths of countryside. Widespread poverty has smoothed its way, shaking what little confidence Afghans have in their democratically elected government. . . . More than 3,000 people have been killed in rising violence this year. Suicide bombers are targeting ordinary Afghans and Western troops. Militants are assassinating key political figures, burning down schools and using roadside bombs to deadly effect. . . . The 40,000 U.S. and NATO troops appear further from bringing stability than they did three years ago when their number was 2 ½ times smaller. And Osama bin Laden, whose presence here was a trigger for the U.S.-led attack, is still at large, possibly hiding in the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. . . . "This is likely to be a long war," said Seth Jones, an analyst with the U.S.-based RAND Corp. . . . Drug production that was all but wiped out by the Taliban by 2001 has shot up. Afghan farmers grew enough opium in 2005-06 to make 610 tons of heroin — more than all the world's addicts consume in a year. . . . Profits go to Taliban supporters — and to corrupt government officials and police who, like teachers and soldiers, make only $70 a month. . . . Large areas of southern and eastern provinces near the Pakistan border are under Taliban control, said Ayesha Khan, an Afghanistan expert in Britain. Abdul Salaam Rocketi, a legislator and former Taliban commander, ticks off the militant strongholds: Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Zabul, Paktika, Khost, Kunar and Ghazni provinces. . . . When 8,000 NATO troops moved to the border area this year to extend the government's control, they were surprised by the intensity of the resistance, often in pitched battles. . . . More than 3,000 people, mostly militants, have been killed nationwide in 2006, according to an Associated Press count. The tally, also including Afghan security forces, officials and civilians, is about 1,500 more than the toll for all of 2005. . . . Western casualties have been rising, too — 152 foreign troops killed this year, according to That's almost triple the number of deaths in 2003 or 2004. . . . Of the 280 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001, 69 have died in nine months this year. NATO countries Britain and Canada are reeling from recent losses, including 10 Canadians killed last month. . . . The war's cost for U.S. taxpayers: $97 billion, and Congress just appropriated $70 billion more for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Is NATO backing out of Afhaanistan?
(BBC News, 13 September 2006)
No formal offers have been made by Nato states in response to requests by commanders in Afghanistan for 2,500 extra troops, Nato says. . . . Differing rules of engagement between Nato states are creating difficulties. . . . However, a Nato spokesman said there were "positive indications" some might consider sending forces in the future. . . . There are at least 18,500 foreign, mainly Nato soldiers in Afghanistan in addition to about the same number of US troops deployed. . . . Half of them are in the south where Canadian and British forces are sharing the burden with US aircraft support and special forces on the ground. . . . "The Canadians, Brits and many others are fighting very, very hard and they're stretched thin, and they need overall support," Mr Appathurai said. . . . The Dutch, Australians and Estonians are also in southern Afghanistan but correspondents say many other countries have been reluctant to commit troops to what is currently the most dangerous part of the mission. . . . Last month, Nato commanders took over from US-led coalition forces but there has been a resurgence of Taleban attacks, above all in the south.

Hundreds of Taliban assault police post
(AMIR SHAH, Associated Press, July 24, 2006)
Hundreds of Taliban fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades on Monday attacked a district headquarters in southwestern Afghanistan, killing three police and wounding seven, amid of a flurry of suicide attacks, roadside bombings and shootings that claimed lives across the country. . . . A car bomb seriously wounded two U.S.-led coalition soldiers near Kandahar, and in another incident, four suspected suicide attackers riding two motorcycles died in a confrontation with Afghan police. In the west, gunmen killed two Afghans working for international aid agency World Vision who had been delivering medicine. . . . It was the latest in a bloody wave of violence between resurgent Taliban-led rebels and Afghan and foreign troops . . . Afghanistan is experiencing its worst spate of violence since late 2001, when the Taliban regime was overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion. . . . The most intense fighting has been in the south, where NATO is bolstering its presence as it prepares to take over the security of the region from U.S.-led coalition by the end of July with troop numbers increased to 16,000 from 9,700. . . . It's one of the biggest and most dangerous missions in NATO's history, and has been met with stiff resistance from Taliban-led fighters who increasingly appear to adopt methods used by militants in Iraq.

US crash sparks Afghanistan riot
(BBN News, 29 May 2006)
Riots have broken out in the Afghan capital, Kabul, after at least seven people were killed in an accident involving a US military convoy. . . . The incident sparked angry scenes in which crowds shouting anti-US slogans began throwing stones and burning cars, police said. . . . The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Kabul says he can hear the sound of machine-gun fire which suggests that US troops may have returned fire. . . . Staff at the US embassy have been moved to a secure location, a spokesman says. . . . The unrest began after a US military vehicle apparently lost control and smashed into other vehicles, reports say. . . . "There was a military flatbed truck which had a mechanical failure, maybe a break problem, and it crashed into some civilian vehicles," a US-led coalition spokeswoman, Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence, is quoted as saying by AFP. . . . Hundreds of Afghans gathered in the wake of the accident chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai", referring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. . . . They pelted the US military vehicles with stones before the shooting began, forcing them to scatter.

Innocent civilians killed by US forces'
(BBC News, 18, April, 2006)
Six people, including a mother and her newborn baby, have been injured in two incidents in eastern Afghanistan, reportedly by American forces. . . . Both the incidents took place in Khost province. A six-year-old boy was also injured in one of the incidents. . . . The reports come as President Hamid Karzai has ordered a probe into the killing of seven civilians by coalition forces over the weekend. . . . The mother was travelling home from a clinic with her newborn baby after midnight in the Yaqubi district of Khost in the east of Afghanistan when they were fired upon by US forces, a family member told the BBC. . . . The mother, the baby and two other women in the car were injured. One of had gunshot wounds in her mouth, doctors said. . . . Wakil Ahmed, a family member, told the BBC: "We were on our way back home from the clinic. The American patrol was driving and as they stopped, we stopped. They started driving, we did the same. . . . "As we got close to our house they stopped, and we started driving towards our house. They opened fire on us. Minutes later a translator came to us and asked who we were." . . . Then in Khost city a few hours later, another car was shot at by a US patrol - a young man and a six-year-old boy were wounded. . . . The civilians were reportedly killed in "friendly fire" incidents during fighting against militants.

Uzbekistan President Orders U.S. Base Closed
(Alex Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune, November 22, 2005)
The US military yesterday closed its air base in Uzbekistan that was used for Afghanistan operations, a shutdown ordered by Uzbek President Islam Karimov after the United States joined calls for an international inquiry into the authoritarian leader's handling of the Andijan uprising. . . . The shutdown of the air base at Karshi-Khanabad leaves a US air base at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, as the Pentagon's primary staging point in Central Asia for combat and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan. . . . Continued US access to Manas became crucial after Karimov announced in late July that he was giving the United States six months to shut down its operations at Karshi-Khanabad. US and Western European leaders had been pressing Karimov to allow an international investigation into his regime's bloody crackdown on demonstrators May 13 in the eastern Uzbekistan city of Andijan. . . . Human rights groups have said that up to 700 or more people died that day. Eyewitnesses said most of the dead were unarmed demonstrators shot by Uzbek soldiers. Karimov has maintained that his troops fired solely on armed protesters. He put the death toll at 187. . . . The United States has maintained air bases in northern Kyrgyzstan and southern Uzbekistan since 2001, when American troops invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime. The Taliban collapsed by December 2001, but insurgents have kept up attacks on US troops and Afghan authorities. . . . Shortly before Karimov ordered the United States out of Karshi-Khanabad, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in July to win assurances for continued access to Manas. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Bakiyev in October and secured a written commitment from the Kyrgyz leader. . . . The Russian news agency Interfax reported that the last US military plane left the base yesterday afternoon after a short ceremony. The Pentagon also has agreed to pay Uzbekistan $23 million for use of the base. Some US lawmakers bristled at the idea of paying an authoritarian government with a long history of human rights abuses.

Was Pat Tillman Murdered to Keep His Anti-war Position a Secret?
(Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, September 25, 2005)
As [Mary Tillman] pores through testimony from three previous Army investigations into the killing of her son, former football star Pat Tillman, by his fellow Army Rangers last year in Afghanistan, she hopes that a new inquiry launched in August by the Pentagon’s inspector general finally will answer the family’s questions: Were witnesses allowed to change their testimony on key details, as alleged by one investigator? Why did internal documents on the case, such as the initial casualty report, include false information? When did top Pentagon officials know that Tillman’s death was caused by friendly fire, and why did they delay for five weeks before informing his family? . . . "There have been so many discrepancies so far that it's hard to know what to believe," Mary Tillman said. "There are too many murky details." . . . A Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages of testimony, as well as interviews with Pat Tillman’s family members and soldiers who served with him, found contradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to be the military’s attempt at self-protection. . . . For example, the documents contain testimony of the first investigating officer alleging that Army officials allowed witnesses to change key details in their sworn statements so his finding that certain soldiers committed "gross negligence" could be softened. . . . Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. . . . The soldier next to him testified: “I could hear the pain in his voice as he called out, ‘Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat f—ing Tillman, dammit.” He said this over and over until he stopped,” having been hit by three bullets in the forehead, killing him. . . . The soldier continued, “I then looked over at my side to see a river of blood coming down from where he was … I saw his head was gone.” Two other Rangers elsewhere on the mountainside were injured by shrapnel. . . . Tillman's death came at a sensitive time for the Bush administration — just a week before the Army's abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq became public and sparked a huge scandal. The Pentagon immediately announced that Tillman had died heroically in combat with the enemy, and President Bush hailed him as "an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror." . . . Not until five weeks later, as Tillman’s battalion was returning home, did officials inform the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by his fellow soldiers. . . . "The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons," said the father, Patrick Tillman. "This cover-up started within minutes of Pat’s death, and it started at high levels. This is not something that (lower-ranking) people in the field do," he said. . . . The files show that many of the soldiers questioned in the inquiry said it was common knowledge that the incident involved friendly fire. . . . A soldier who on April 23 burned Tillman’s bullet riddled body armor -- which would have been evidence in a friendly-fire investigation -- testified that he did so because there was no doubt it was friendly fire that killed Tillman. Two days later, Tillman’s uniform and vest also were burned because they were soaked in blood and considered a biohazard. Tillman’s uniform also was burned. . . . The officer who led the first investigation testified that when he was given responsibility for the probe the morning after Tillman’s death, he was informed that the cause was "potential fratricide." Yet other Tillman family members are less reluctant to show Tillman's unique character, which was more complex than the public image of a gung-ho patriotic warrior. He started keeping a journal at 16 and continued the practice on the battlefield, writing in it regularly. (His journal was lost immediately after his death.) Mary Tillman said a friend of Pat's even arranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the antiwar author, to take place after his return from Afghanistan -- a meeting prevented by his death. She said that although he supported the Afghan war, believing it justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, "Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war."

Afghan Elections: US Solution to a US Problem
(Jim Ingalls and Sonali Kolhatkar, October 6th, 2004)
Afghanistan will undergo the first presidential elections in the country's history on October 9, 2004. As if surprised by the fact that Afghans could want a voice in their country's future, George W. Bush touted the fact that over 10 million Afghans registered to vote as "a resounding endorsement for democracy." The real surprise is that, despite rampant anti-election violence and threats of violence, so many people were brave enough to register. This certainly indicates that Afghans are desperate for a chance to control their own lives. But, even though many will risk their lives to vote, the majority of Afghans played no part in decisionmaking regarding the schedule and structure of the elections, and will not benefit from the results. This election process was imposed by the United States to solve "Afghan problems" as defined by the United States. In reality, the problems facing Afghans are the results of decisions made in Washington in the 1980s and 1990s. . . . Violence against election workers and politicians is on the rise...Hardly anyone expects the voting to meet international standards." A commonly cited statistic indicating voter fraud is the estimated 10% over-registration countrywide. According to Business Week, "some areas have registration rates as high as 140% of projected eligible voters." This is definitely disturbing, and is a blow to Bush's own election propaganda, since he uses the "over 10 million registered" figure in campaign speeches as an example of the success of his foreign policy. . . . In reality the Afghan presidential elections will be a test not of "Afghan democracy," but of Bush's ability to impose his political order on a country. . . . Women are Pawns in Election . . . The Bush administration constantly calls attention to the fact that 4 million of those who registered to vote in Afghanistan were women. . . . the Afghan political environment, controlled by US-backed warlords and a US-backed president, remains extremely hostile to women. Women comprise 60% of the population but only 43% of registered voters. Additionally, sharp differences in literacy between men and women put women at a huge disadvantage. Only 10% of Afghan women can read and write. While school attendance of girls has increased to about 50% nationwide, it is too early to affect women voters. Furthermore, under Karzai's presidency, married women were banned from attending schools in late 2003. . . . only one dollar out of every $5,000 ($112,500 out of $650 million) of US financial aid sent to Afghanistan in 2002 was actually given to women's organizations. In 2003, according to Ritu Sharma, Executive Director of the Women's Edge Coalition, that amount was reduced to $90,000. At the same time, women have increasingly been the targets of violence. New studies by groups like Amnesty International reveal that sexual violence has surged since the fall of the Taliban, and there has been a sharp rise in incidents of women's self-immolation in Western Afghanistan. Amnesty International has documented an escalation in the number of girls and young women abducted and forced into marriage, with collusion from the state (those who resist are often imprisoned). . . . US policy has empowered extreme fundamentalists who have further extended women's oppression in a traditionally ultra-conservative society. In a public opinion survey conducted in Afghanistan this July by the Asia Foundation, 72% of respondents said that men should advise women on their voting choices and 87% of all Afghans interviewed said women would need their husband's permission to vote. On International Women's Day this year, Hamid Karzai only encouraged such attitudes. He implored men to allow their wives and sisters to register to vote, assuring them, "later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go [to register]." Most of the candidates running against Karzai have mentioned rights for women in some form or another as part of their campaign platforms. While this is obligatory in post-Taliban Afghanistan, it is little more than lip service. Latif Pedram, a candidate who went slightly further than others by suggesting that polygamy was unfair to women, was barred from the election and investigated by the Justice Ministry for "blasphemy". . . . "warlords and local commanders are the main sources of instability in the country." While most women may need the permission of their husbands to vote, their choices will be extremely limited, since most Afghans are being intimidated by US backed warlords into voting for them. According to Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, "Many voters in rural areas say the [warlord] militias have already told them how to vote, and that they're afraid of disobeying them." . . . To preserve control, or at least validate the propaganda that Afghanistan is a victory for the US "war on terror," the Bush administration is actively lobbying Karzai's opponents to not run. According to the Los Angeles Times, thirteen of the 18 candidates, including Qanooni, have complained about interference from Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador. Khalilzad has reportedly "requested" candidates to withdraw from the race, attempting to bribe them with a position in the cabinet. . . . Post election Afghanistan will look very much as it does today, if not worse. If Karzai wins with the backing of some or all Northern Alliance factions, their leaders will be awarded high-level positions, further entrenching and legitimizing them. If Karzai wins without enough support from his opponent warlords, the losing parties may attack the central government, reverting the country to civil war. If Karzai loses, the warlords might form an alliance government, a horrible thought to contemplate considering the 1992-1996 "coalition government" of many of the same factions.


Security woes plague Afghanistan
(Malcolm Garcia, Knight Ridder Newspapers, April 14, 2004)
With the United States preoccupied by the insurgency in Iraq, Afghan and Western officials are warning that rebellious warlords and a rise in crime are threatening the security of Afghanistan and could undermine efforts to hold national elections in the fall. . . . The violence still plaguing Afghanistan almost three years after coalition forces toppled the hard-line Taliban regime illustrates the kinds of problems that the United States could face in Iraq, even if it subdues the current insurgency and transfers power by the end of June. With the United States preoccupied by the insurgency in Iraq, Afghan and Western officials are warning that rebellious warlords and a rise in crime are threatening the security of Afghanistan and could undermine efforts to hold national elections in the fall. . . . militias associated with warlords are a growing presence, particularly in Kabul's western suburbs. Soldiers with the international security force in Kabul regularly find heavy weapons and ammunition hidden throughout the city. To date, they have destroyed more than 200,000 antitank weapons, guided missiles, mines and other explosives. . . . January was a deadly month in Kabul. A suicide bomber drove into a security patrol killing one British soldier and injuring several others. A few days later, two people were killed and several others injured by another suicide bomber. . . . "These attacks are a shock to the system in Kabul, especially politically," said Nick Downie, project coordinator for Afghanistan's NGO Security Offices. "The expectation was Kabul was not in a war. This was thought to be a protected area." . . . Areas just outside Kabul are opposed to the central government, which makes it unsafe to travel even short distances, especially at night. Letters threatening the international community are routinely found in Logar province, a former Taliban stronghold, less than an hour from Kabul. . . . A poorly paid police force -- wages average about $50 a month -- lacks the motivation to crack down on crime. Demonstrations by officers for higher pay are common. Many police remain employed by warlords. Those who are assigned to work in the provinces are often rejected by the regional warlord and sent back to Kabul. . . . In west Kabul, residents regularly report being robbed by troops of the former fundamentalist mujahideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, whose headquarters in the Paghman district are less than an hour from Kabul.

Senators Worried Afghanistan Falling Apart

Two influential U.S. senators questioned the stability of the Afghan government on Wednesday and warned the U.S. envoy and ambassador-designate to Kabul that the country may fall apart on his watch. . . . "We are in jeopardy of losing Afghanistan to become a failed state again," Sen. Joseph Biden told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the nomination of Zalmay Khalilzad as ambassador to Kabul. . . . Lugar and Biden, a Delaware Democrat and ranking minority senator on the committee, have long urged a greater U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, which the United States invaded in 2001 to overthrow the ruling Taliban. . . . The Bush administration has given Afghanistan a lower priority than Iraq, as reflected in its request that the U.S. Congress approve $20 billion for rebuilding Iraq and about $1 billion for Afghanistan. . . . The United States has also pressed other members of NATO to provide most of the troops for an international peace force in Afghanistan. Until recently, it showed little enthusiasm for the idea of expanding the NATO force to areas outside Kabul. . . . Biden said that even after NATO approved an expansion, he was not sure that the Bush administration fully backed it. . . . Biden also quoted a report by the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime as saying that Afghanistan was in danger of falling into the hands of drug cartels. . . . "Either major surgical drug-control measures are taken now or the drug cancer in Afghanistan will keep spreading and metastasize into corruption, violence and terrorism," the U.N. agency's director, Antonio Maria Costa, said in the report.

[COMMENT: It seems to me that the Bush administration is creating more terrorists than it is capturing. ... Lorenzo]

Afghans on Edge of Chaos
(Robyn Dixon, The Los Angeles Times, 04 August 2003)
The May attack on the Afghanistan Development Agency car in Wardak province, south of Kabul on the road to Kandahar, injured Kahn but killed the driver. . . . "They weren't robbers or thieves," said Kahn, 46. "They just wanted to kill us. They're people against the government. They thought that maybe there would be some foreigners or some officials from aid organizations in the car. That's why they shot us." . . . U.S. forces have their hands full trying to subdue attacks in Iraq. But with the slow buildup of a national Afghan army, an inadequate U.S. and coalition presence and poor progress on reconstruction projects, Afghanistan is spiraling out of control and risks becoming a "narco-mafia" state, some humanitarian agencies warn. . . . If the country slips into anarchy, it risks becoming a haven for resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. And the point of U.S. military action here could be lost - a major setback in the war against terrorism. . . . U.S. promises of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan raised Afghan expectations, but security and reconstruction woes are undermining support for the coalition among ordinary Afghans. Their disappointment and disillusionment plays into the hands of anti-government militants. . . . There are 8,500 U.S. military personnel leading the 11,500 anti-terrorist coalition forces in Afghanistan. An additional 5,000 international troops secure the capital city, Kabul. A key missing piece is an Afghan army, but with only 4,000 troops trained so far, it will take many years to reach the planned 70,000-strong force. It won't be ready in time to ensure free and fair elections scheduled for June. Some of the 4,000 trained soldiers have already defected because of poor salaries and low morale. . . . The security vacuum outside Kabul has emboldened Taliban fighters, who constitute the bulk of anti-government militants, some who cross from Pakistan, others based in the east and south. U.S. officials say the Taliban controls part of the opium business, a rich source of funds to attract fighters.

Why the US needs the Taliban
(Ramtanu Maitra, Information Clearing House, 07/29/03)
US troops in Afghanistan are now encountering more enemy attacks than ever before, and clashes between Pakistani and Afghan troops along the tribal borders have been reported regularly. . . . the Taliban and its allies have regrouped in Pakistan and are recruiting fighters from religious schools in Quetta in a campaign funded by drug trafficking. Hagenbeck also said that these enemies of US and Afghan forces have been joined by Al-Qaeda commanders who are establishing new cells and sponsoring the attempted capture of American troops. One other piece of news of import from Hagenbeck is that the Taliban have seized whole swathes of the country. . . . Among Americans, only the special envoy of the US president to Afghanistan and a good friend of President Karzai, Zalmay Khalilzad, has shown any concern about the recent developments. Khalilzad has little choice but to keep up a bold front to the Afghans, telling them how his bosses in Washington are doing their best to rebuild Afghanistan, and attributes the present crisis to the security situation. Like everyone else, Khalilzad has little in reality to offer and, given the opportunity, falls back on what "must be done" and "should be done". . . . To begin with, it was clear from the outset that the United States never really wanted to be in Afghanistan. It was basically a jumping-off point for the "big enchilada", the re-shaping of the Middle East's politics and regimes. The Afghan reconstruction talk was mostly wishful thinking. For anyone familiar with present-day Afghanistan - its security situation, the drug production and trafficking, its destroyed infrastructure, its rampant illiteracy and poverty - its reconstruction by foreigners is either a dream or a string of motivated lies. . . . the Bush administration has come to realize that it is impossible to keep Pakistan as a friend and simultaneously keep the Northern Alliance-backed government in power in Kabul. The "puppet" Pashtun leader in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, does not have the approval of Pakistan and the majority of the rest of the Pashtun community straddling both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. So, either one has Pakistan as a friend with an Islamabad-backed Pashtun group in power in Kabul, or one gets Pakistan as an enemy. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind how the Bush administration would act when confronted with such a choice. . . . "Russia remains involved with the major warlords [of Afghanistan]. One such warlord, Rashid Dostum, was recently on a shopping spree for arms and equipment from Moscow. Russia believes it has its own experience and expertise in Afghanistan and must reestablish its interests. Given the history, Pakistan is very uncomfortable with this development." . . . .It was evident in October 2001, when the United States went pell-mell into Afghanistan with the help of the Northern Alliance, that America's hastily-organized arrangement there was unsustainable. It was clear that no matter what Islamabad says, or how much pressure is brought to bear on it, Pakistan has absolutely no reason whatsoever to agree to such an arrangement. . . . Washington came to appreciate the non-sustainability of this arrangement when Musharraf, in a sleight of hand, brought the Muttahida Majlis-e Amal - the MMA, also known as "Musharraf, Mullahs and the Army" - to power in the two provinces bordering Afghanistan. At that point, Karzai's tenure as president of Afghanistan shrank abruptly, and Washington deemed it time to give up the "Marshall Plan for Afghanistan" and settle for next best - Taliban rule in Afghanistan under Pakistani control, once again.


(William Thomas, May 26, 2003)

The Caspian Sea basin's 200 billion barrels of untapped "black gold" appeared to offer Washington a strategic counterbalance equal to Saudi Arabia's immense oil reserves. At least those were the Central Asian oil estimates in 2001 when the Bush administration ignored UN sanctions against the Taliban and began crude negotiations with murderous misogynist mullahs for a pipeline deal. [The Forbidden Truth: U.S. -- Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy, Saudi Arabia and the Failed Search for bin Laden]

Now, after war crimes that included the slaughter of thousands of unarmed prisoners, and cluster bomb and radioactive cruise missile attacks against thousands more defenseless civilians, the return to rapacious rule by warlords worse than the Taliban is being overlooked by American occupiers preoccupied with three exploratory oil wells.

Guess what? These new findings shrank the Caspian oil ocean to a more modest subterranean lake of just 10 to 20 billion barrels of poor quality, high-sulphur crude. According to top oil experts interviewed by Mike Ruppert, several "majors" have already abandoned their post-war pipeline plans.

Oops! With the planet's biggest polluters and oil consumers set to import 90% of their addiction by 2020, Bush and his Enron backers quickly turned their attention to Iraq's awesomely estimated oil reserves. As Ruppert remarks, "Our greatest nemesis, Bin Laden, was quickly replaced with our new public enemy #1, Saddam Hussein" -- whose brutal regime had been virtually ignored for decades by the government which put him in power. [From The Wilderness 10/19/02, 12/5/02]

Still no peace in Afghanistan
(Seumas Milne, The Guardian, Thursday April 10, 2003)
On the streets of Baghdad yesterday, it was Kabul, November 2001, all over again. Then, enthusiasts for the war on terror were in triumphalist mood, as the Taliban regime was overthrown. The critics had been confounded, they insisted, kites were flying, music was playing again and women were throwing off their burkas. In parliament, Jack Straw mocked Labour MPs who predicted US and British forces would still be fighting in the country in six months' time. . . . Seventeen months later, such confidence looks grimly ironic. For most Afghans, "liberation" has meant the return of rival warlords, harsh repression, rampant lawlessness, widespread torture and Taliban-style policing of women. Meanwhile, guerrilla attacks are mounting on US troops - special forces soldiers have been killed in recent weeks, while 11 civilians died yesterday in an American air raid - and the likelihood of credible elections next year appears to be close to zero.

Peaceful transition in Afghanistan?

A letter to the LA Times, 12/17/01:

Re "Interim Afghan Leaders Sworn In," Dec. 23: After hearing a similar claim on TV, I was flabbergasted to read in The Times that the ceremony swearing in Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai marked "the first time in 28 years that power has been transferred to a new Afghan government without the use of guns."

Excuse me? In what universe does the dropping of 15,000-pound "daisy cutter" bombs, three months of tribal fighting and thousands dead not constitute the "use of guns"?

Truly, if The Times wishes to propagandize it should at least wait until the fighting has ceased before it rewrites history.

Alex Bogartz
Van Nuys, CA

(Eric S. Margolis,, December 19, 2002)
It took Soviet forces only a few days to occupy Afghanistan. They installed a puppet ruler, Babrak Karmal. Moscow proclaimed it had invaded Afghanistan to 'liberate' it from 'feudalism and Islamic extremism,' and 'nests of terrorists and bandits.' . . . Soviet propaganda churned out films of Red Army soldiers playing with children, building schools, dispensing medical care. Afghan women were to be liberated from the veil and other backwards Islamic customs. The Soviet Union and its local communist allies would bring Afghanistan into the 20th Century. . . . Two years later, Afghans had risen against their Soviet 'liberators' and were waging a low-intensity guerilla war.Unable to control the countryside, Moscow poured more troops into Afghanistan. . . . Fast forward to December, 2002 and a disturbing sense of dŽjˆ vu. A new foreign army has easily occupied Afghanistan, overthrown 'feudal' Taliban and installed a puppet regime in Kabul. Western media churns out the same rosy, agitprop stories the Soviets did about liberating Afghanistan, freeing women, educating children. The only real difference is that kids in today's TV clips are waving American instead of Soviet flags. Invaders have changed; the propaganda remains the same.. . . America's Afghan adventure has gotten off to as poor a start as that of the Soviet Union. The US-installed ruler of Kabul, veteran CIA 'asset' Hamid Karzai, must be protected from his own people by up to 200 US bodyguards. Much of Afghanistan is in chaos, fought over by feuding warlords and drug barons. . . . There are almost daily attacks on US occupation forces. My old mujihadin sources say US casualties and equipment losses in Afghanistan are far higher than Washington is reporting - and rising. . . . CIA is trying to assassinate Afghan nationalist leaders opposed to the Karzai regime in Kabul, in particular my old acquaintance Gulbadin Hekmatyar. . . . The Chief of the Russian General Staff and head of intelligence directed the Alliance in its final attack on Taliban last fall. Russia then supplied Alliance forces with $100 million of arms, and is currently providing $85 milion of helicopters, tanks, artillery, spare parts, as well as military advisors and technicians. Russia now dominates much of northern Afghanistan. . . . Anti-American Afghan forces - Taliban, al-Qaida, and others - have regrouped and are mounting ever larger attacks on US troops and, reports the UN, even re-opening training camps. Taliban mujihadin are using the same sophisticated early alert system they developed to monitor Soviet forces in the 1980's to warn of American search and destroy missions before they leave base. As a result, US troops keep chasing shadows. . . . The ongoing cost of Afghan operations is a closely guarded secret. Earlier this year, the cost of stationing 8,000 US troops, backed by warplanes and naval units, was estimated at US $5 billion monthly! . . . CIA spends millions every month to bribe Pushtun warlords. Costs will rise as the US expands bases in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan - all placed along the planned US owned pipeline that will bring Central Asian oil south through Afghanistan. . . . The UN reports Taliban and al-Qaida on the offensive, Afghan women remain veiled, and the country in a dangerous mess. Declaring victory in Afghanistan may have been premature.

It isn't Viet Nam . . . yet.
This Afghan war is young; it may get a lot messier
(Fergal Keane, The Independent , 23 March 2002)
The allied operation in Afghanistan is not Vietnam. Not yet. But there are similarities that any political and military leader would do well to consider. The foreigners and their Afghan allies hold the towns, but even here, as in Afghanistan, much of the power is in the hands of powerful local figures. The central government is weak and riven with discontent . . . The guerrillas roam across a difficult terrain, sucking in ever larger numbers of troops and then vanishing. Tonnes of bombs fall from a great height but, like the airstrikes in Vietnam, they cannot destroy the enemy. . . . I read of an American soldier who expressed shock at these "guys who come out and shoot at us and then vanish". He shouldn't just study the Vietcong but go back to the British military archive of the 19th century Afghan wars. . . . True the technology available to attacking forces has improved dramatically over the past decade, and the élite forces deployed by the Allies are better trained and equipped than their Soviet predecessors. But the Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters have many advantages. They know the terrain and they have numerous escape routes along the porous border with Pakistan. They have a vast constituency of support in the tribal areas on the border and the renegades within Pakistan intelligence provide them with information and matériel. . . . They also have a great deal of time. Winters and summers will pass and the guerrillas will wait and wait. They don't have to do very much. An ambush here and there, and they can tie down huge numbers of troops. . . . George Bush may have pledged an endless war against terror. But I doubt the American people will thank him if their sons are still dying in Afghanistan in 10 years.

No quick pullout from Afghanistan - More U.S. ground troops to be deployed
(Roland Flamini, UPI, 3/21/2002)
"We would be misleading our publics if we said our peacekeeping force was going to be out of Kabul by the end of 2003," a senior European official in Washington said Thursday. At the same time, he said, the United States "is preparing itself for a massive longer-term effort in Afghanistan, with a lot more ground troops." . . . The United States has about 5,000 troops inside Afghanistan, and a total force of 60,000 involved in the Afghan offensive, mostly on ships. . . . European commentators have said that there would then effectively be two parallel but separate peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan -- ISAF in Kabul, and a U.S. peacekeeping force in the rest of the country.

'Inadequate' US troops pulled out of battleground, rescued by Afghan fighters
(Catherine Philp, Times Onlie, March 12, 2002)
HUNDREDS of American troops were pulled out of the ground battle with al-Qaeda forces because they failed to adapt to the guerrilla tactics required for fighting in the mountains, according to their Afghan allies. . . . More than 1,000 Afghan troops rushed to the front line yesterday to take up the slack after the withdrawal of 400 US troops from the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. . . . The American military has described the withdrawal as a tactical reappraisal of their battleplan, but Afghan commanders told a different story of inexperienced American soldiers unable to advance through the unfamiliar mountains to track down al-Qaeda and Taleban foes. . . . Shah Mahood Popal, their deputy commander, believed it was self-preservation that stopped the Americans from launching a more decisive attack. "They didn't want to risk losing lots of fighters. Afghans don't care if they lose lots of fighters, so we are better suited for the task. They should stick to bombing," he said. . . . The new troops were dispatched from Kabul last week after it became clear that the Americans had underestimated the number of militants still left hiding up in the mountains. Afghan commanders believe that the US has exaggerated the number of casualties in the bombing campaign, saying that at least several hundred al-Qaeda forces are up in mountain caves ready to fight back. . . . "We have been very close to their positions and we have seen no dead bodies," Commander Mohammed said.

Poll: Muslims call U.S. 'ruthless, arrogant' (CNN, February 26, 2002)
Most Muslims surveyed expressed the view that the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States were not justified morally, but larger majorities labeled U.S. military action in Afghanistan "morally unjustifiable." . . . Sixty-one percent said they did not believe Arab groups carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks. . . . Most respondents said they thought the United States was aggressive and biased against Islamic values. Specifically, they cited a bias against Palestinians. . . . On Bush, 58 percent of those surveyed had unfavorable opinions, compared with 11 percent who had favorable views.

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