Archive for the ‘War on Terrorism’ Category

Senator Barbara Boxer: End Afghanistan War

February 23, 2012

I recently wrote California Senator Barbara Boxer to give her my opinion that the Afghanistan war should be ended immediately. Boxer — or more likely, someone on her staff — sent a reply. Senator Boxer advocates a rapid draw-down of US military forces in Afghanistan. While it isn’t exactly a call for an immediate end to the war, her position is closer to that than I had expected.

The letter:

Dear __________:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the withdrawal of United States combat forces from Afghanistan. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I strongly believe that it is time to significantly decrease the presence of US combat forces in Afghanistan. That is why I proudly co-sponsored an amendment to the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act requiring President Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and report to Congress on the progress of his plan. I was pleased that language based on this amendment was included in the final bill.

I believe that the United States has accomplished much of what it set out to achieve in Afghanistan and that the current cost — both to our armed forces and to the American taxpayer — is far too high. Ten years ago, the US Senate unanimously voted to use all necessary and appropriate force against those responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001 — the al Qaeda terrorist network. On May 2, 2011, the United States dealt al Qaeda a major blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Although we must remain vigilant in our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and continue our support for the Afghan people, there is simply no justification for the continued deployment of roughly 90,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Our current forces should be drawn down to a point where they are sufficient only to conduct targeted counter-terrorism operations, train Afghan security forces, and protect American and coalition personnel.

As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, be assured that I will continue to advocate for a plan to accelerate the withdrawal of US combat forces from Afghanistan while protecting US national security.

Again, thank you for writing to me. Please feel free to contact me in the future about this or any other issue of concern to you.

Sincerely,
Barbara Boxer
US Senator

Related Previous PeacePundit Posts

Truth, Lies and Afghanistan

February 7, 2012

The Armed Forces Journal recently published an article by Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis that assesses the state of the war in Afghanistan. Lt. Col. Davis wrote two versions of his assessment: a classified version for security-cleared personnel only, and a shorter unclassified version. The unclassified article is amazingly candid. Here are excerpts from the unclassified article.

By Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, Armed Forces Journal, 07 February 2012

I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. … I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.

I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.

I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.

I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.

I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.

Much of what I saw during my deployment, let alone read or wrote in official reports, I can’t talk about; the information remains classified. But I can say that such reports – mine and others’ – serve to illuminate the gulf between conditions on the ground and official statements of progress.

In August, I went on a dismounted patrol with troops in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. … One of the unit’s senior officers rhetorically asked me, “How do I look these men in the eye and ask them to go out day after day on these missions? What’s harder: How do I look [my soldier’s] wife in the eye when I get back and tell her that her husband died for something meaningful? How do I do that?”

On Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the infamous attack on the U.S., I visited [a] unit in Kunar province, this one near the town of Asmar. I talked with the local official who served as the cultural adviser to the U.S. commander. Here’s how the conversation went:

Davis: “Here you have many units of the Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF]. Will they be able to hold out against the Taliban when U.S. troops leave this area?”

Adviser: “No. They are definitely not capable. Already all across this region [many elements of] the security forces have made deals with the Taliban. [The ANSF] won’t shoot at the Taliban, and the Taliban won’t shoot them.

In all of the places I visited, the tactical situation was bad to abysmal. If the events I have described – and many, many more I could mention – had been in the first year of war, or even the third or fourth, one might be willing to believe that Afghanistan was just a hard fight, and we should stick it out. Yet these incidents all happened in the 10th year of war.

I’m hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground.

If Americans were able to compare the public statements many of our leaders have made with classified data, this credibility gulf would be immediately observable. Naturally, I am not authorized to divulge classified material to the public. But I am legally able to share it with members of Congress. I have accordingly provided a much fuller accounting in a classified report to several members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, senators and House members.

When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid – graphically, if necessary – in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

[Read entire article at Reader-Supported News]

[Read entire article at Armed Forces Journal]

Related Previous PeacePundit Posts

Osama bin Laden is Dead. Bring the Troops Home.

May 5, 2011

Early reports of the US raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden said that he was armed and “engaged in a firefight” with US troops, but more recent reports from the Obama administration say that he was unarmed.

It’s hard to know what was possible in the confusion of the night raid, but if bin Laden was in fact unarmed, it is too bad he was killed rather than captured.

Bringing bin Laden to justice, as President Obama said he wanted to do, would have involved putting him on trial in every country where his organization carried out terrible acts of mass murder and destruction: Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen, the US, and others. In Kenya and Tanzania, for example, he would have had to face hundreds of Kenyans who lost relatives or were maimed or blinded in Al Qaeda’s attack on the US embassies. In the US, he would have had to face families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, as well as first responders. He would have been treated like the criminal he was.

But he’s dead, so let’s move on. Moving on means, among other things, ending the US-led war on Afghanistan, which was launched to punish the Afghan Taliban regime for harboring bin Laden and his cohorts and refusing to turn them over to the US. Both stated reasons for being in a war in Afghanistan are gone: 1) the Afghan Taliban are no longer harboring bin Laden and his cronies (and, it turns out, haven’t been for years), and 2) we caught bin Laden, killed him, and took possession of his body. It’s over. Time to move on.

We have about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan now, plus thousands of military security contractors (aka mercenaries). It costs about $1 million per year to keep one US soldier in Afghanistan, and that doesn’t include the cost of caring for those troops after they come home with physical and psychic trauma. The war also costs many US and Afghan lives each month. We cannot afford these terrible costs. Moving on means withdrawing the vast majority, if not all, of our troops from Afghanistan.

We don’t need 100,000 troops there.

  • We don’t need 100,000 US troops there to hunt down remaining Al Qaeda leaders. The handful that remain are probably in Pakistan — not Afghanistan — anyway. Wherever they are, our regular troops won’t find them. Bin Laden was located by CIA intelligence analysts piecing together tiny shreds of evidence over a decade, and he was killed by Special Forces troops, in this case Navy SEALs. Regular troops were not involved at all.
  • We don’t need 100,000 US troops there to keep Afghanistan from exploding into civil war. True, the west should not simply abandon Afghanistan as it did after ousting the Soviets. But peacekeeping is better done by trained peacekeepers than by trained combat soldiers. Bring in United Nations peacekeepers, as in the Yugoslavian breakup conflicts.
  • We don’t need 100,000 US troops there to fight the Taliban. They only fight us because we are there. If we leave, they will stop fighting us. Unlike Al Qaeda, they have no international terrorism agenda.

We do not need 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Bring them home.

Related PeacePundit Posts

US Drone Strikes in Pakistan Incite Resistance There and Here

April 24, 2011

As the US continues and intensifies its use of unmanned Predator drone aircraft (flown remotely by operators in the US) to strike at targets in Pakistan, resistance is increasing both in Pakistan and in the US.

Predator drone firing missile

Predator drone firing missile

On March 17, a US missile strike fired from a drone killed more than 40 people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. Pakistani officials claim that the dead were civilian tribal elders meeting to resolve a mining rights dispute, but the US military claims that those killed were Taliban militants.

The Pakistani government has protested the drone-strikes as a violation of their sovereignty.

Recently, two high-level meetings between US military and Pakistani intelligence officials — one in Washington DC between the US CIA Chief and the Pakistani ISI Chief and one in Pakistan between US Admiral Mike Mullen (Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff) and General Khalid Shameem Wynne (Pakistani military chief) — took place to discuss the issue.

Two days after the CIA/ISI meeting, while the Mullen/Wynne meetings were taking place, another US drone strike killed 25 or more people in North Waziristan. According to officials, those killed included 18 suspected militants, three women, and four children.

Both drone strikes sparked protests by Pakistani citizens as well as official protests from Pakistani government officials. The protests by Pakistani citizens included a mass demonstration that shut down critical NATO military supply shipments from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Some Pakistani intelligence officials, in frustration over US drone strikes, disclosed that the US has personnel in Pakistan to refuel and relaunch the drones but may now be shutting down that operation. US officials deny the existence of military or CIA personnel in Pakistan but otherwise refuses to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, in the US, protesters blockaded Hancock Air Base in upstate New York to protest the US military’s use of drones, resulting in 37 arrests.

Other Drone-Related News and Analysis

Related PeacePundit Posts

Outstanding Book: War is a Lie

January 29, 2011

David Swanson, former Press Secretary for US presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, has just published an amazing new book: War is a Lie. The book is so up-to-date that it discusses events that took place in September 2010.

It’s a point-by-point, historically rich, well-researched and well-documented expose’ of the lies that have been used to start and sustain humanity’s wars, including some that are usually considered “good wars” (a term that Swanson considers an oxymoron). The books provides the historical context and stated vs. actual motivation for most of our wars, as well as evaluating the results of wars against the goals.

Book Cover: War is a Lie

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Wars Are Not Fought Against Evil
  3. Wars Are Not Launched in Defense
  4. Wars Are Not Waged Out of Generosity
  5. Wars Are Not Unavoidable
  6. Warriors Are Not Heroes
  7. War Makers Do Not Have Noble Motives
  8. Wars Are Not Prolonged for the Good of Soldiers
  9. Wars Are Not Fought on Battlefields
  10. Wars Are Not Won, and Are Not Ended By Enlarging Them
  11. War News Does Not Come From Disinterested Observers
  12. War Does Not Bring Security and Is Not Sustainable
  13. Wars Are Not Legal
  14. Wars Cannot Be Both Planned and Avoided
  15. War Is Over If You Want It

Some interesting excerpts from the book:

“If WWII was a good war, why did 80 percent of the Americans who … made it into combat choose not to fire their weapons at the enemies? … There is good evidence that this was the norm in the ranks of the Germans, British, French, and so forth, and had been the norm in previous wars as well. The problem … was that about 98 percent of people are very resistant to killing other human beings. You can show them how to use a gun and tell them to go shoot it, but in the moment of combat many of them will aim for the sky, drop in the dirt, assist a buddy with his weapon, or suddenly discover that an important message needs to be conveyed along the line. … They’re horrified of committing murder.” — Chapter 4

“One need not think about … wars solely in terms of winning or losing. If the US were to elect officials and compel them to heed the public’s wishes and retire from foreign military adventures, we would all be better off. Why … must that desired outcome be called ‘losing’?” — Chapter 9

Bottom Line: War is a Lie should be read by everyone in the peace movement, every political analyst, every student of political science, ever Congressional Representative and Senator, everyone in the Obama administration, every non-US leader… oh, the heck with it! This book should be read by everyone who can read. Seriously.

The author’s website for the book, including opportunities for readers to help get it distributed to elected representatives, peace groups, and anti-military-recruitment youth organizations, is: http://warisalie.org.

Related Previous PeacePundit posts

Pakistan Nixes US Widening Drone Strike Zone

January 21, 2011

For years, the US has flown aerial drones over the mountainous regions of western Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Operated by the CIA, the drones are launched by ground crews in Afghanistn but flown remotely — via satellite link — by pilots based near Las Vegas, Nevada. Drones were originally designed mainly for aerial reconnaissance, but in Afghanistan and Pakistan they are used chiefly to locate Taliban, Al Qaida, and other insurgent forces, and fire deadly missiles at them. In fact, the Obama administration has greatly increased the use of the drones and the number of drone-launched missile strikes in Pakistan.

Predator drone firing missile

Predator drone firing missile

Of course, launching missiles from high-flying drones against targets far below seen through video cameras relaying images via satellite to bases half a world away is highly error-prone. The images are poor and delayed by a second or so, and operator commands to the drones are similarly delayed. Thus, drone pilots base fire/no-fire decisions on information that is already outdated by the time they see it and even more outdated by the time their commands get back to the drones.

Therefore, the missiles often miss their targets, hitting other people and vehicles instead. Estimates of the ratio of civilian deaths to total deaths from drone-launched missile strikes range from about one third of those killed to over 90%.

Contributing to those statistics, unwillingly, was farmer Daraz Khan, who was blown to bits by a missile fired from a drone while he and two colleagues searched for scrap metal in the mountains. The drone operator targeted Khan because he was tall and had a beard.

Furthermore, the missiles contain high-power explosives that pulverize entire buildings, so even when they hit their intended targets, people who have the misfortune to be nearby are often killed or injured, and neighboring structures are damaged. “Collateral damage” they call it.

Even when they don’t launch missiles, drones buzzing high over towns and farms are a huge source of stress and psychological trauma for civilians, especially parents and children. Imagine what it would do to your psyche if you constantly had to be keeping an eye on a drone circling high over your neighborhood — you know it can fire missiles at you, but you can’t predict when or why.

For obvious reasons, the drones are highly unpopular in Pakistan. They are a significant source of anti-US sentiment.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Pakistani government recently denied a US request to expand the areas in that country over which the US can fly aerial drones and launch missile-strikes. The US wants to use the drones in areas other than the tribal mountain regions bordering Afghanistan, but the Pakistani government has said “no”. [Read Full Story]

They should say “Hell no!” and they should revoke permission to use them anywhere over their country.

Related Stories:

Karzai: Military Strategy in Afghanistan is Counterproductive

November 14, 2010

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the US-led coalition’s “hunt, capture, and kill” military strategy in Afghanistan — where the targets include Taliban as well as Al Qaeda militants — not only is not working, it is actually counterproductive in that it produces more insurgents than it eliminates.

This is significant because until now the US has argued that the Afghan government needs and wants NATO’s military presence in order to not be immediately overthrown by the Taliban. Now it appears that even the Afghan government wants us out.

Afghan leader says U.S. must reduce troop presence

By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, November 14, 2010

President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that the United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan and end the … night raids that aggravate Afghans and could exacerbate the Taliban insurgency.

In an interview, Karzai said he wanted American troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes and that the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers would only worsen the war. His comments placed him at odds with U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus, who has made capture-and-kill missions a central component of his counterinsurgency strategy, and who claims the 30,000 new troops have made substantial progress in beating back the insurgency.

In an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors in his office in Kabul, Karzai said he was speaking out not to criticize the United States but in the belief that candor could improve what he called a “grudging” relationship between the countries. … And he said Afghans have lost patience with the presence of American soldiers in their homes and armored vehicles on their roads.

Karzai has long been publicly critical of civilian casualties at the hands of U.S. and NATO troops and has repeatedly called for curtailing night raids into Afghan homes. Under Petraeus and his predecessor, such raids by U.S. Special Operations troops have increased sharply, to about 200 a month, or six times the number being carried out 18 months ago, said a senior NATO military official, … These operations capture or kill their target 50 to 60 percent of the time, …

To American commanders, the nighttime strike missions are a crucial weapon to capture Taliban commanders, disrupt bomb-making networks and weaken the 30,000-man insurgency in Afghanistan. In the past three months, U.S. Special Operations troops have killed or captured 368 insurgent leaders. …

But Karzai was emphatic that U.S. troops must cease such operations, which he said violate the sanctity of Afghan homes and incite more people to join the insurgency.

[Read entire story]

[Associated Press version of same story]

Related Previous PeacePundit Posts

Photos from SF Afghan War Ninth Anniversary Panel 10/6/10

October 10, 2010

On Oct 6, 2010, to mark the ninth anniversary of the US-led war in Afghanistan, speakers from a variety of political positions, all of whom oppose the war in Afghanistan, met at First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Francisco to discuss how to build a broadly-based political consensus to end the war.

The speakers were:

Moderator: Jeff Johnson, PeacePundit.com

The program:

  • Welcome: Unitarian Universalist Minister Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae
  • Commemoration of Afghan and U.S. War Dead
  • Introduction by Moderator
  • Brief presentations by each speaker (see above)
  • Q&A from audience to speakers (questions submitted on cards)
  • Benediction: Father Louie Vitale

Follow-up:

  • Members of audience pledged to call or visit House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and urge her to support Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to repeal Congress’s 2001 Authorization to the President of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Members of audience signed a list offered by the Unitarian Universalists for Peace volunteering to help forge a broad political coalition to end the Afghanistan war.

Photos from the event (by Karen Ande, AndePhotos.com):

Petraeus versus the American Public

September 5, 2010

Two recent news reports show the widening rift between US military leaders in Afghanistan — specifically General David Petraeus — and the American public.

First, the Associate Press conducted a poll that showed that 58% of Americans oppose the Afghan war. Second, the New York Times reported that General Petraeus may push back against President Obama’s stated goal of beginning to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, because Petraeus believes the Afghan war is winnable. President Obama may have to remind General Petraeus that hey both work for the American people.

Excerpts of both stories below.

Nearly 6 In 10 Americans Oppose The War In Afghanistan (POLL)

By Glen Johnson, Associated Press, Aug 21, 2010

LAWRENCE, Mass. — A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan — a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.

The growing frustration with the Afghanistan war was evident in Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District, not far from Concord where Minutemen fought for a new nation in 1775. In Lawrence, whose textile mills once relied on the roaring Merrimack River, exasperation with the war in Afghanistan is evident.

“If they could resolve the issue, stabilize the government, that would be good. But we can’t do this forever and lose more lives,” said Terry Landers, 53, an electrician from North Andover.

U.S. troops have suffered more than 1,100 deaths in Afghanistan since fighting began in October 2001, including a monthly record of 66 in July. Last fall, Obama authorized an increase in the force in Afghanistan by 30,000 to 100,000 troops – triple the level from 2008. Many in Congress are increasingly doubtful that the military effort can succeed without a tough campaign against bribery and graft that have eroded the Afghan people’s trust in their government.

The war views expressed in a Lawrence diner, in a park across from City Hall and at an Essex Street hot dog cart, were echoed by poll participants across the country.

Bea Boynton, 57, of Marysville, Pa., said she is less supportive of the wars than when Obama took office.

“I just think it’s not going well. Too many of our men and women are being killed,” she said of Afghanistan in particular.

Boynton, a registered Democrat who voted for Republican John McCain in 2008, added: “I don’t think what we initially set out to do has been done. I mean, we still don’t have (Osama) bin Laden.”

[Read entire story]

Petraeus Opposes a Rapid Pullout in Afghanistan

By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, Aug 15, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces, began a campaign on Sunday to convince an increasingly skeptical public that the American-led coalition can still succeed here despite months of setbacks, saying he had not come to Afghanistan to preside over a “graceful exit.”

In an hourlong interview with The New York Times, the general argued against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011, the date set by President Obama to begin at least a gradual reduction of the 100,000 troops on the ground. General Petraeus said that it was only in the last few weeks that the war plan had been fine-tuned and given the resources that it required. “For the first time,” he said, “we will have what we have been working to put in place for the last year and a half.”

In another of a series of interviews, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” General Petraeus even appeared to leave open the possibility that he would recommend against any withdrawal of American forces next summer.

The statement offered a preview of what promised to be an intense political battle over the future of the American-led war in Afghanistan, which has deteriorated on the ground and turned unpopular at home. Already, some Democrats in Congress are pushing for steep withdrawals early on, while supporters of the war say that a rapid draw-down could endanger the Afghan mission altogether.

“The president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit,” General Petraeus said at his office at NATO headquarters in downtown Kabul. “My marching orders are to do all that is humanly possible to help us achieve our objectives.”

[Read entire story]

Related Previous PeacePundit Posts

Mortenson and Military: Encouraging and Scary

July 31, 2010

Two recent NY Times stories mention Greg Mortenson, the former mountain climber who found his calling building schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

An article published July 7 2010 describes Mortenson’s deepening relationship with the US military. This news is both encouraging and scary. Encouraging, because it indicates that Mortenson is stepping up his efforts to convince the military that building schools with local involvement is a more productive way to win Afghan hearts and minds than military force is. Also encouraging, because it suggests that military leaders are growing more receptive to Mortenson’s ideas. However, Mortenson’s relationship with the military is also scary because it could reduce Afgan and Pakistani trust in “Dr. Greg” and his organization, and increase the likelihood that some will view him, his co-workers, and the schools they build as targets. It is also scary because of the possibility that Mortenson is being used by the military to learn more about “the enemy” for combat purposes. [Read article]

An op-ed article by Pulizer-prize-winning author Nicolas Kristof, published July 29, points out — as Mortenson also has — that about 20 schools can be built for the cost of putting one US soldier in Afghanistan for a year. Kristof offers the opinion that spending US taxpayer dollars on the schools would do far more to neutralize the Central Asian breeding ground for terrorists than does spending it on sending additional combat troops, as President Obama is doing. [Read article]

Related Previous PeacePundit posts


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.