Archive for category Pakistan

Leaked US-Afghan Agreement Offers Open-Ended American Troop Commitment

Endless war?

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel has obtained a leaked draft of the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This agreement, as yet unsigned, provides for an endless war despite President Obama’s repeated assurances that U.S. forces are leaving Afghanistan next year.

Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.

This morning on MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked Richard Engel (who is still in Kabul) if the Afghan officials he has spoken to have any idea how unpopular the Afghanistan War is in America. Engel responded that they do not. Probably they are talking to the wrong Americans. More than two-thirds of us say this war was not not worth fighting.

The average annual cost to keep one American soldier deployed in Afghanistan is now $2.1 million. Total cost to taxpayers for our country’s longest war in history is estimated at $1.6 trillion (not counting interest). The human toll (including US soldiers and contractors, allied soldiers, and Afghan security forces, insurgents and militants, and civilians) is estimated to be at least 145,000 deaths by direct war violence since 2001 in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More info:
Leaked Draft Points To Endless War In Afghanistan
America’s Future in Afghanistan Hinges On One Key Question: Can Soldiers Operate With Impunity?

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Will I Be Next? Amnesty International Investigates Pakistan Drone Strikes

Will I Be Next?

I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?
–Nabeela, eight-year-old granddaughter of US drone strike victim Mamana Bibi

“WILL I BE NEXT?” US DRONE STRIKES IN PAKISTAN

On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes. Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive any acknowledgment that it was the US that killed her, let alone justice or compensation for her death.

Earlier, on 6 July 2012, 18 male laborers, including at least one boy, were killed in a series of US drone strikes in the remote village of Zowi Sidgi. Missiles first struck a tent in which some men had gathered for an evening meal after a hard day’s work, and then struck those who came to help the injured from the first strike. Witnesses described a macabre scene of body parts and blood, panic and terror, as US drones continued to hover overhead. The use of pilotless aircraft, commonly referred to as drones, for surveillance and so-called targeted killings by the USA has fast become one of the most controversial human rights issues in the world. In no place is this more apparent than in Pakistan.

Amnesty International has documented nine U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan from last year and this year. Their report, available online in PDF format, includes a discussion of so-called “signature strikes,” follow-up missile attacks launched against people rescuing the wounded from a drone strike, and other tactics. Must-read.

According to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns, “When one drone attack is followed up by another in order to target those who are wounded and hors de combat or medical personnel, it constitutes a war crime in armed conflict and a violation of the right to life, whether or not in armed conflict.”

h/t Kevin Gosztola on FDL

UPDATE: Obama Administration Has Launched Drone Strikes Against AQAP Suspects Who Could’ve Been Captured

UPDATE: Translator at drone strike hearing moved nearly to tears by survivor testimony

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President Obama Tells CNN He Can Kill You

From Roots Action:

President Obama told CNN this week that he can kill Americans or non-Americans, the difference being that with Americans their killing amounts to their Constitutionally guaranteed due process.

CNN asked Obama how he chooses names for his kill list, but he declined to say. Obama claimed that there are checks on his power, pointing only to checks by his own subordinates, not by courts, not by Congress, and not by the public — which he reassures with vague statements that amount to “trust me.”

Obama claimed that his preference is to capture people rather than to kill them. This does not fit with cases like that of Tariq Khan, a 16-year-old killed by drone strike following his participation in a conference at which he could have easily been captured. It does not fit with the lack of criminal charges against virtually any of the people killed.

Obama claimed that he avoids killing civilians, yet careful research has documented large numbers of civilians killed, including this week in Yemen.

President Obama claims to have the power to kill anyone anywhere in the world, including Americans, based on a secret memo written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice. This is the same process used by the Bush administration to claim that torture was all of a sudden legal. Unlike the Bush torture memos, Obama’s “kill list” memo remains classified.

Some drone war terms that have become public.

“Personality strike” – An attack aimed at named, so-called “high-value terrorists” (and their families).
“Signature strike” – An attack that targets allegedly suspicious compounds in areas controlled by “militants.”
“Double tap” – Following a drone strike with a second attack on first responders and rescuers, or later on the funeral for victims of the original attack.
“Combatant” – The Obama administration considers any military-age male in the vicinity of a bombing to be a combatant unless proven otherwise.

Michael V. Hayden, former head of the CIA (referring to the Bush administration’s program of torture):

“I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. safe.”

Dennis Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence, explains the attraction of waging war by drone:

“It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it might be a good time to debate the tactics and strategy of drone warfare. Unfortunately, both major political parties seem to be in agreement, so there is no debate.

More info: Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will

UPDATE: Senator Rand Paul: ‘Bomb Everybody Tomorrow’ Is ‘Typical’ Republican Policy

UPDATE: Yemen Claims Death Of Al-Qaeda Regional Head (possibly a drone attack, though not reported as such).

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Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us?

Why hate us?
Pakistanis hold up a burning mock drone aircraft during a 2011 rally against drone attacks in Peshawar.

Why do “they” hate us? The answer ought to be so obvious that there’s no need to actually explain it. Glenn Greenwald (the whole post is well worth reading):

Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?

…I realize that screaming “9/11″ has been the trite tactic of choice for those seeking to justify the U.S. Government’s militarism over the last decade, but invoking that event strongly militates against the policies it’s invoked to justify, precisely because those policies are the principal cause of such attacks, for obvious reasons.

…Anwar Awlaki was once such a moderate that he vehemently denounced the 9/11 attacks, got invited to the Pentagon to speak, and hosted a column in The Washington Post on Islam — but then became radicalized by the constant post-9/11 killing of Muslims by his country (the U.S.).

There are plenty of intelligent people in the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. Why is our foreign policy so boneheaded?

UPDATE: Members of Congress call on Obama to justify drone strikes

“We are concerned that the use of such ‘signature’ strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States,” the members of Congress, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), wrote Wednesday in a letter to Obama. “Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight. We are further concerned about the legal grounds for such strikes under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.”

“The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound,” they added. “They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.”

UPDATE: Ibrahim Mothana: How Drones Help Al Qaeda

Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen.


UPDATE:
Clive Stafford Smith: I Met a 16-Year-Old Kid. 3 Days Later Obama Killed Him

UPDATE:
UN Investigator Says Drone Strikes May Constitute War Crimes

Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict but many targeted killings take place far from areas where it’s recognized as being an armed conflict. [If] there have been secondary drone strikes on rescuers who are helping [the injured] after an initial drone attack, those further attacks are a war crime.

Related One Utah posts:
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 6, 2010)
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 20, 2009)

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Drone Strikes Will Continue Until Alliance Improves

Aftermath of drone attack

“The beatings will continue until morale improves” is a famous quotation of unknown origin. It pretty much describes the state of U.S. diplomacy in Pakistan today. From The Guardian:

The frequency of US drone attacks [in Pakistan] has stepped up considerably since last month’s NATO conference in Chicago.

…Bill Roggio, an analyst who runs the Long War Journal website, said the recent attacks underlined “just how bad Pakistan and US relations are at the moment”.

“These last eight strikes all occurred after the NATO summit,” he said. “The strikes were halted in an attempt to get the Pakistanis on board to reopen the supply lines but when they didn’t happen they turned the programme back on.”

…Pakistan closed its borders to NATO supply vehicles in November after US forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in a border incident.

Despite several false hopes that Islamabad would relent, including in the run-up to last month’s NATO conference, Pakistan continues to demand an apology for the killing of its soldiers, an end to all drone attacks and a sharp increase in the tariff paid by NATO for moving cargo across Pakistani territory as conditions for reopening them.

Glenn Greenwald points out the very ugly tactics now being employed, including secondary missile strikes on rescuers trying to help victims, and the killing of mourners attending funerals. Yet our government insists that “the terrorists” are the other guys.

Without going into an analysis of the very complex situation in the region, suffice it to conclude: As long as the USA stays in Afghanistan, our relations with Pakistan are going to be rocky. It’s important to be realistic about what, if anything, there is to gain by continuing to fight what is already the longest war in U.S. history — and what we have to lose. From an American foreign policy standpoint, Pakistan is a far more important country than Afghanistan. If their status goes from “frenemy” to enemy, the consequences could be significant.

Any thoughts?

UPDATE: Pakistan: Drone Strikes Are Violations Of Sovereignty

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President Obama Acknowledges Existence of Pakistan War

Predator firing missiles

For the first time, President Obama has officially acknowledged that the USA is waging war in Pakistan. It’s sometimes difficult to keep in mind that almost everything we know about drone strikes is based on anonymous sources. The U.S. government until now has refused to address the subject on the record. David Dayen on FDL:

It’s a sad commentary on our media that the President had to answer questions yesterday about drones for the first time, and the questions didn’t come at a White House press briefing or major print interview, but in a virtual YouTube town hall with members of the public.

The L.A. Times has more:

“I think that we have to be judicious in how we use drones,” Obama said Monday, adding that they have been used for “very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates.”

Obama went on to say that “obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA,” the acronym for Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, and for “going after Al Qaeda suspects who are in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

“This thing is kept on a very tight leash,” Obama said. The U.S. does not use drones “willy-nilly” but in a way that avoids more intrusive military actions.

He described the attacks as carefully targeted. But drone attacks known as “signature strikes” — which are not aimed at specific individuals but against vehicles, camps or houses believed to be used by militants — have expanded dramatically during his presidency.

Now that our government has admitted waging war in Pakistan, the next step is to ask how these attacks, and the hundreds of civilian casualties, can be justified. Maybe the Washington press corps will start asking some questions now that this is out in the open.

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The Long Goodbye

Casing the colors
Retiring the colors, US Forces Iraq.

Most accounts of the pullout are brief. Five years after Americans voted for withdrawal in the 2006 elections, the U.S. departed Camp Adder on December 16, the last base to be turned over to Iraq. It is now called Imam Ali Base and will be used by the Iraqi Air Force. (Shi’a Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam).

The Iraq fiasco started as a war of aggression labeled “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL), which quickly changed to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” because the acronym gave away the real objective. At the end, it was “Operation New Dawn” (specially formulated for grease-cutting, but gentle enough for your hands).

More than 1.5 million U.S. soldiers have served in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, with around 4,500 of them losing their lives, out of more than 30,000 American casualties. At least 104,000-113,000 Iraqis were killed, though exact totals are nearly impossible to calculate. More than 1.6 million Iraqis fled the country, with another 2.5 million internally displaced. We lost $3 trillion of our taxpayers money.

For America, the occupation of Iraq was unwinnable. Intended to demonstrate the extent of our military power, it instead exposed how limited it really is. At one point almost all our ground forces were either in Iraq, just returned from Iraq, or preparing to deploy back to Iraq. The winners, such as they are: the Kurds, the Shiites, the Iranians and the Chinese.

Iraqis continue to live with a level of violence that would be considered apocalyptic anywhere else. Parts of Baghdad still get only 5 hours of electricity a day. A bomb attack on the oil fields halved production again this week.

Now, the “Mission Accomplished” banner is in storage awaiting the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013.

We can hope to assign to the history books (but never forget) Saddam Hussein, WMD, “shock and awe,” “enhanced interrogation,” Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Haditha, “Concerned Local Citizens,” and The Sandbox.

Still with us: security contractors (aka mercenaries), “kinetic operations,” PTSD, and the unfinished unwinnable war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.

UPDATE: In Iraq, the last to fall: David Hickman, the 4,474th U.S. service member killed

UPDATE: Video: Drone Watches Last U.S. Convoy Leave Iraq

UPDATE: Andrew Bacevich: “Seldom in the course of human history have so many sacrificed so dearly to achieve so little.”

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Michele Bachmann Fear-Mongering Fail

During last night’s 11th Republican presidential debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann uncorked the threat of nuclear terrorism in a desperate bid for attention. This debate was co-sponsored by CNN, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation – your “liberal media” at work! There are 13 more Republican debates scheduled.

Disputing Texas Governor James (“Rick”) Perry’s suggestion that the U.S. cut off aid to Pakistan, Bachmann argued that “it’s kind of like too nuclear to fail.” She stated that 15 Pakistani nuclear sites are vulnerable to terrorist attack, and appeared to claim that al-Qaeda has already made six attempts to seize Pakistani nuclear weapons, then speculated: “These weapons could find their way out of — out of Pakistan, into New York City or into Washington, D.C., and a nuclear weapon could be set off in this city. That’s how serious this is.”

“This is more than an existential threat,” Bachmann declared nonsensically.

Some suspected that Bachmann, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had made news by releasing classified information. CNN later speculated that Bachmann simply exaggerated from reports already in the public domain.

According to Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, six incidents at sites considered known or likely nuclear installations in Pakistan have occurred. But they do not appear to represent threats to the country’s nuclear arsenal: a suicide bomber drove a motorcycle into the side of a bus and killed eight air force personnel; seven people were wounded in a school bus bomb explosion; a munitions factory blast killed scores of civilians; a suicide attack killed a civilian, a vehicle-borne IED killed 33; and militants assaulted a naval aviation station.

There have been no reported attempts to steal nuclear weapons in Pakistan.

UPDATE: Neocon Bush Alums Question GOP Candidates On National Security

UPDATE:
Spencer Ackerman: The GOP’s National Security Debate Sucked

Read the rest of this entry »

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Best Account Yet of Bin Laden Raid

Bin Laden compound
Osama bin Laden’s compound – Abbottabad, Pakistan

Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press has the best account yet of the bin Laden raid. The details, from unnamed “U.S. officials,” actually make sense. This narrative account is worth reading, although it does not resolve all of the conflicting information.

Dozier’s sources say that the government of Pakistan was never consulted, making the raid a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

The plan called for Navy SEALs to rappel from two stealth-modified Blackhawk helicopters, assaulting the bin Laden house from both the roof and ground floor. The Blackhawk for the roof assault was unable to hover due to the weight of the stealth modifications and warmer-than-expected air, and its tail connected with the top of a wall, so the pilot made a forced landing.

The assault team lost the element of surprise, but still managed to get to bin Laden and kill him within 15 minutes.

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War Is Not a Football Game!

They can always point to the fact that Michael Moore makes a lot of money, compared to most of us, but I’m thinking he could make a whole lot more by going over to the dark side at Fox “news”. There are many blogs and bloggers, [don't you just love that terminology?], who make next to nothing – or nothing, for that matter – pouring their hearts out against the lies that are fed to us, 24/7, by the best damned propaganda “Noise Machine” ever conceived. Spanning television, radio, and print media in our once near-free country, these media entities have gone for the buck instead of providing us with important information about where our country is headed.

Let’s face it; nobody really has any affection for Osama Bin Laden, but Michael Moore brings up some important facts in his recent post on the matter:

I remember my parents telling me how, on the day it was announced that Hitler was dead, there was no rejoicing in the streets, just private relief and satisfaction. The real celebration came six days later at the announcement that the war in Europe was over. THAT’S what the people wanted to hear – not just the demise of one evil madman, but the end to all the killing.

Two men who make very little money, but take MUCH flack trying to inform us of what is going on in our country are Brad Friedman and David Swanson. David sent a letter to United Airlines after being incensed by what the pilot had to say over the intercom when learning of the death of Bin Laden. He posted the letter on his blog and the response on BradBlog.

I don’t think Mr. Swanson would call for the pilot to be fired. He’s just brainwashed because he can’t get any truth from the media bosses. They are the ones who should be fired.

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Too Bad They Couldn’t Get the Story Straight

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[Sorry about the commercial, but Rachel's segment is worth it]

Look, I know initial reports are often inaccurate, but this is ridiculous. Official U.S. government sources and our news media have made a mess out of the narrative of the bin Laden raid. All these contradictory accounts, like the confusion that followed the 9/11 attacks, will provide fodder for conspiracy buffs for years to come.

The only good thing is, the official story seems to be converging with the facts of what really happened. In the space of three days, it has evolved from a 40-minute firefight to a quick hit job.

It’s not as if Americans can’t handle the truth. We all wanted bin Laden dead, if only because we’re tired of politicians using al-Qaeda to scare us. Now that bin Laden is gone, the rationale for the war in Afghanistan is even weaker than it was before. Without bin Laden, the government loses its justification for taking away our freedoms and spying on us. We didn’t need a cover story — we’re OK with a straight-up kill mission. It’s not as if our armed forces never wipe out defenseless people, who generally aren’t wanted terrorist leaders. They do, nearly every day.

This operation might even be legal, if it turns out that the Pakistanis knew about it. Congress had exactly this kind of raid in mind when they passed the September 2001 AUMF.

UPDATE: CIA Denies “Captured, Then Killed” Bin Laden Scenario. “This isn’t the fog of war, it’s the pea soup of war,” says FDL’s David Dayen.

UPDATE: No resistance in ‘cold-blooded’ U.S. raid: Pakistan officials

UPDATE: Joshua Holland lists some facts we now know that contradict the initial reports of the raid. There wasn’t a prolonged firefight, nobody used human shields, the mission was to kill bin Laden not capture, it wasn’t a million-dollar house, and that helicopter we lost was a secret stealth model — the wreckage is probably on its way to China by now.

UPDATE:
Glenn Greenwald worries about the precedent set by what was apparently an assassination or summary execution mission:

If you believe that Terrorists are criminals and not warriors, and that the law enforcement context is the proper one to apply, how can the shooting of an unarmed suspect be justified?

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‘Geronimo KIA’

Osama bin Laden

In August 1996, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States of America on behalf of al-Qaeda. Now, almost 15 years later, the CIA and U.S. Navy SEALs found him and killed him. Finally. The code phrase was “Geronimo KIA.” His body was buried at sea.

I suppose the street celebrations in this country were our answer to those in other parts of the world who danced with joy after the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps some thought the war was over. Unfortunately, our state of permanent war is never-ending.

UPDATE: Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad: Pakistani Incompetence or Complicity?

UPDATE: Local news anchor: ‘President Obama is in fact dead’

UPDATE:
On FDL, David Dayen tracks the changing story of what happened during the bin Laden raid. Official Bin Laden Story Changes in Various Places

UPDATE: Senate Intelligence Chair: Information That Led To Bin Laden’s Killing Did Not Come From Torture

UPDATE: Palin Thanks Bush For Bin Laden Raid, Doesn’t Mention Obama Once

UPDATE: Now That Bin Laden Is Dead, Can We Have Our Freedoms Back?

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