V. Postscript

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Medford (Ore.)–As chronicler starts out (June 23rd) from Southern Oregon, the news coming from the Middle East is principally from Libya.   Although the Colonel is maintaining his fasces, the analysis is that Colonel Khadafy’s hold on power is loosening even though the outgoing head of the Arab League has renounced his prior endorsement of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s) intervention while Italy has herself, a participant in the assault and the former Colonial power there, asserted that the Libyan contest should be halted.  On the other hand the Islamist government of Turkey has called (JuJy.3rd) for the Colonel to step down promising material aid to the Benghazi rebels while the Greek, Ankara’s traditional “enemies,“ the Greeks have  refused to permit (on the second of this month) the first relief ship’s for Gaza to exit Hellenic waters.

The IDT (Israeli Defense Force’s )General Sharoni (retired), a supporter of the two-State solution,  rejoined, “We should press for solutions by September [when the Palestinians are going to the United Nations – U.N. – for approval for their Statehood]…we have negotiated previously, and we shouldn’t have to start at stage one again…We should start negotiating [again] because the clock is ticking.”  The Israeli position – and even their Left – is that Palestinian Statehood should be through bi-lateral agreement – with the help of external actors — rather than an international dictate.  (Your author’s opinion is that Tel Aviv has to make just concessions this summer if there would be any hope of mutual agreement; otherwise, it will be Ramallah who will achieve independence solely on their own terms in league with international acclamation!)

Taras Hassan asserted that “… [a] third of [the Jewish] Settlers [in the Occupied Territories] can be brought back] to Israel [itself].”  Hasan believes that “…many Israelis do not support the annexation of the West Bank because they [the Palestinians there] would [receive] protection under Hebrew law, and [would have the right to] vote, and [Tel Aviv would]would  cease to be [the capital of] a Jewish State.”

Sharoni interjected, “…who is the enemy, and who are you [we] defending yourself [ourselves] from?..I am [more] concerned over my nation’s isolation…In order to survive we have to become part of the community of nations!”  (It is very true that Israel has become a pariah in most of the civilized world!)

Hassan adds:  What would happen if the two-State option fails?  Major-General Natan Sharoni replies, we “…can’t have a one-State alternative… [for the General, it] won’t work…because there would be two different peoples living within one State.  (The example of the U.S., Canada et al. would counter this argument) “One side or the other would dominate.”  (Curiously, the progressive Israeli argument – and most recently — it appears that most of their upper military  commanders –  favor a dual-national conclusion, (but the time might  have transpired over peace on those terms.  Your commentator still stands behind this domestic path, but, if a justful compromise is not made soon, such a one-State route must be explored!)

Hassan exclaims:  It would destroy (the ideology of)Israel!

Jeremy Ben Ami from Washington entered his voice to the call, if  “…the issues aren’t resolved between the parties involved,..[unfortunately for Jewish Jerusalem]…[and] a U.N. understanding is… made before a [bilateral] arrangement is finalized, it will impact Israel as a sectarian State”  negatively, (and the winners demographically would be the Muslims in a one-State solution).

The general stated that “…Common sense should prevail…We have to have a regular [regulated] peace!”   He, further, alleged the Israeli (along with the American) bugaboo over Iran was a mere charade.

Hassan remarked that “It is a very sensitive time for the Arab “Spring”… (In fact, your columnist has uttered the success or failure of that “Spring” depends upon the reaction within the Israeli nation!  That is why your narrator is dedicating so much of his energy looking at the interior “soul” of the Jewish terrain.   Hassan noted, “…American Jews can…influence…opinion in Israel.”  (Your commentator adds that it, also, is important for liberal American Jews and Muslims to establish better communication to solve the dangers within this most dangerous of international theaters.)

“We [the Hebrews] have to be the initiators!”  (This is a very serious issue, though.)  Although the negotiations must not be dominated by one side or the other, here, Ms. Hassan is advocating Israeli dominance without any international diplomatic intervention which  would bolster the weakened Palestinian positions.  This will not work. The negotiations must be between equals, and that is where the international nations – especially the United States because of its history of enablement for the crisis itself – to create an equal “pitch.”  Taras Hassan declaimed that “Otherwise, we [Tel Aviv shall] only be reacting… It is in Israel’s interest to split [divide the land.”  That is, the liberal Jews’ position is a two-State solution to save their State as a Jewish dominated one.  It is very different than the Arab (or even the mainstream politically liberal American) vision of a two-State outcome.

Ben Ami “hits it on the nail’’ when he says, the “Jewish…State cannot be based on permanent occupation!…”  This is a refutation to (former) Prime Minister Sharon’s policy of Permanent War which, incidentally, was picked up by the (last U.S.) President George W. Bush’s Neo-Conservative advisors who gave the American Republic the tragedy of the Iraq War! 

This five-segmented study has become an important one, for it has established a basis for negotiation.  Your investigator has already pointed out this composition to two decision-makers in the American government, and  he hopes to get their aides to look at it, for there are people on both sides of the Middle Eastern conundrum who could seriously talk to each other along with their neutral  international friends in a constructive manner.

Time is running out, and your author has even proposed a Constitutional framework for a one State Solution should it come to that, but he still holds onto a two-State solution — for different reasons than our Israeli colleagues — for the best outcome.

13-28

IV. End Game!

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Ashland (Ore.)–Your raconteur has found himself in the Siskiyou (Mountains) of Southern Oregon (about ten miles north from the California border).

This charming small city has been short-listed as one of the best “urban” areas in America with the right mix of (nearby) nature (Crater Lake National Park et al. is close) in balance with (Euro-American) culture.  This municipality is home to the highest acclaimed Shakespeare Festival in the United States along with other festivals and individual events.  Provided one is not working against a deadline, one does not have to be bored here – with Allah (SWT’s) awe-inspiring natural landscape during the day, and His arousing beauty of the human mind’s creations during the evening!
In the Middle East the vocabulary is stalemate.  Libya, Syria and Yemen are in all-out civil war with no end in sight although Colonel Khadafy is “testing the waters” for an amnesty from prosecution if he steps down and to allow polls to determine the will of the people to conclude this status of civil war.  It was reported Sunday (the 19th) a horrible bungled NATO (North Atlantic Treaty organization) sortie over the city of Tripoli missed its target slaughtering a large number of human souls.  Although your author had originally supported the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty organization’s) intervention at the behest of Islamic organizations pressing for the end to these repressive regimes, I must question its methods at this time, for it is doing further damage to the Muslims there who have suffered so much.

On the 15th, the Lower House of the (U.S.) Congress passed a vote of “no confidence” for their support of the Executive’s activities in Libya; and, thus, also, of our orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan as well.  Curiously, on Saturday (the eighteenth), (U.S.) Secretary of State Robert Gates admitted that the District of Columbia had recently had face-to-face negotiation with the Taliban, too, which is a positive sign towards solving an intractable confusion between the West and a less than attractive faction within Islam itself.

Let it be noted that Barrack Hussein Obama has been the most sensitive of American Chief Executives to Dar al-Islam.  He has nearly rectified the mess George W. Bush had created through his criminal aggression and War Crimes against Humanity (especially torture) in Iraq; the Obama Administration has fashioned a reasonable policy for Afghanistan, which mêlée was dumped upon him by the previous Administration when it refused to neutralize a legitimate threat to the Columbian Commonweal (Al-Qaeda) – because it violently and maliciously crashed into the heart of North American Metropolis, and, instead, “W” began to chase imaginary “goblins” elsewhere in the Islamic world (i.e., Iraq). 

The current regime in Washington has shown a much greater restraint compared to France and Britain over the  Tripolian desert, and the U.S. has served officially in more of a supportive than leadership role.  The criticism of Obama in and out of Congress is from the Tea Partyers (“No Nothings”), and disgruntled Leftists who are unable to cope with the real-world; and, therefore, criticize almost anything practical. 

(For the American populace of Islam, the bell-weather Representative Keith Ellis should be listened to determine a correct course for those of the faith, for he is a Muslim who has chosen to work within the highest levels of the System, and can guide all of us well!)

In Islamic South Asia, the ill-falling out between the District (Center) and Rawalpindi over the Punjab-related incident of the bin-Laden raid is inanely claimed by ill-trained (U.S.A.) J-School (Journalism School) graduates that the two uneasy long-phased allies—the U.S. and Pakistan – now against the Taliban – and even  before the U.S.S.R. (Union of Socialist Soviet Republic) invaded the Afghans — are almost at the point of pugilism is pure rubbish…although the unannounced commando attack next to an Army base near Rawalpindi (and, thereby, Islamabad) against bin-Laden himself has provoked tension that will not go away quickly!

Let us continue, and move to the denouement of the view of what is happening within the Middle Eastern Hebrew  State from the perspective of a dissident retired IDF General and a Ministry of “Justice” lawyer with the comments of the Director of a liberal American pro-Israeli group, J-Street, who are seeking a realistically striving  for an  acceptable peace with justice between our mutual Holy Land’s inhabitants (from where Prophet Muhammad (s) made his Night Right from the Spire of Solomon’s Temple). 

Just this afternoon (the twentieth) the journal, Foreign Affairs, reported that there was a great uneasiness between the Tel Aviv establishment and their military (IDF) over the actual security situation over the Jewish State and their Islamic neighbors – including the “Occupied Territories.”  General Sharoni

Our discussants, who acknowledged the Palestinians just entitlements, were noticeably at odds with their Prime Minister (Netanyahu’s) positions.  It was interesting to hear a high-ranking Israeli military officer’s comments regarding the defensibility of the pre-1967 borders from the perspective of his homeland.  In his estimation, they are eminently defendable from his military view:  “Formerly, we were threatened by the surrounding nation-States.  Now that is not the case [they’ve made peace and/or understanding with their neighbors].  Today, the threat is terrorism, and having unsecured borders makes it hard for us to defend ourselves!”  In the end, this interpretation of their security counters his government’s claim that the Obama proposed borders are indefensible, and forces Tel Aviv to continue their policy of “unending War” which in the end is unsustainable.  (It, also, demonstrates that the contemporaneous rightist establishment is more concerned with founding a “greater” Israel which is a dangerous policy both to their dominantly Islamic neighbors.)

Ms. Hassan of Justice; therefore, urges all of us (Jews, Muslims and Christians, etc. alike) to request (our governments) to support the Two-State Solution as the only workable resolution! 

The American-Jewish leader on the call, Jeremy Ben-Ami, rejoined his recommendation that the American Jewish Community support this resolution within the Halls of Congress, and to explain their assessment to their co-religionist landzmen!  (Your critic behind the computer has advocated the best allies for American Muslims are progressive American Jews, for they have had to go through many of the same things American Islamic citizens/residents to become accepted on this Continent, and you must get to know each other better to build avenues for communication between each of your communities if you, personally, are willing to do so.  Liberal American Jews and Muslims can do much to walk together to change things around in Washington for all of us born from Abraham’s seed!  That is, we, personally, must resolve to be part of the resolution.  We have agency!

There is still one more section to go before the final analysis and conclusions can be made from this rich experience your reporter stumbled upon.  Hopefully, it will provide one of many possible scenarios for discussion.

13-26

The General and the Lawyer

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Let us continue our discussion with The IDF (Israeli Defense Force’s) Retired General and their Ministry Of Justice Official

Last week (May 30th-June June 5th), the Yemeni unrest has broken out into a full-fledged civil war with tribal groups on one side opposing the government in Sana’s Army seriously wounding the nation’s President.  Today (124 Yemeni Army personal were reported as casualties of the battle while the NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) perceives the situation with alarm because of the large concentration of Al-Qaeda on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  While in Libya the consternation still converges, with NATO’s overwhelming air forces backing the rebels in Benghazi a resolution to the clash looks far away.  The Arab “Spring” has degenerated into an ugly Middle Eastern / North African clash of wills.

Let us continue with the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) Retired General Sharoni and Ms. Taras Hassan of her nation’s Ministry of Justice Department reaction to (U.S.) President Obama’s speech of a fortnight ago on establishing a basis for negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on (U.S.) President Barrack Obama’s proposals for peace dialogues.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, who is domiciled here in Washington, is the Executive Director of J-Street joined the conversation by the miracles of the Internet.  Both the two influential progressive Israelis and a liberal Jewish-American thinker shared an alternative vision for Tel Aviv’ State which includes an independent Palestinian State on their borders: A vision that would guarantee their country as a majority Jewish entity, but with better integration into the Middle Eastern environment.  Such individuals are the only hope for that nation’s survival since their citizen’s are threatened by their government’s policy of “Eternal War” which cannot be kept up indefinitely without eventual disaster. A progressively political Israeli government could be trusted to confer trustfully and honestly with the opposing side.    

Your writer is always interested in the comments of a military man like the general.  If you remember this author wrote several pieces on these pages regarding the retired American Marine Corps General Anthony Zini.  Because he was no longer on active duty, he was free to criticize (his) President Bush’s morality and his Administration conduct of the Iraq War.  Sharoni is in the exact same position in respect to his (Israeli) Prime Minister (P.M’s) policy towards the suppression of the Palestinian’s rightful desire for nationhood.  After all, unlike the Judaic ultra-Orthodox, who are not required to serve because of their long curled hair; yet, they are among the most conservative within the Hebrew body politic. (Strange, because the Sikhs, who have a reputation for being among the best soldiers in the world — are required by their religion never to cut any of their body hair; nevertheless, they have consistently served honorably, and are considered among the best soldiers in the world.  Sometimes being “shoot at” will encourage one to settle social conflicts short of war if possible.)  General Sharoni had an honorable career as a man of arms often risking his own life throughout his career.

The two people, who were in Jerusalem — contrary to their Prime Minister, were advocates, along with (U.S.) President Barrack Obama, that the basis of negotiation should begin at the acceptance of the pre-1967 borders with certain mutually concurred land exchanges resolved between the two parties through bargaining amongst themselves.  This is necessary because of the pattern of the Settlements.

(The United States or any other third foreign delegation should not impose its own will upon the principal actors, but should be there to aid the two groups to find a middle ground between them.)

The upcoming U.N. (United Nations’) vote to decide upon Palestine independence is on the Israeli liberals “radar.”  Several progressive Israeli organizations support and have already made a public endorsements in favor of this vote in favor of the Palestinians. In fact, on the fourth, a major demonstration of 5,000 residents was held in Tel Aviv in favor of Obama’s peace proposals.

The retired Major-General Sharoni is of the opinion that the only way to keep the “democratic” Motherland for the Jews is the two-State solution.  (Your author, of course, is of a slightly different opinion.  I envision a multi-sectarian State upon the territory of the present-day Israel.  The ultra-conservative Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposal to genetically cleanse the Hebrew State – mainly of the Palestinian Arabs — is not a positive sign for the peace process to proceed nor is the P.M.’s rejection of the (U.S.’) proposition.  Your commentator would not object to non-coercive policies to keep Israel a Jewish Majority State, though.)  The General, differing, presumes it is of the utmost urgency that Israel must remain an ethnic nation-state for Jewry.  Therefore, to assure its Jadishness, he reasons this terrain on the Mediterranean should continue as a nation-state for the Jews, and the best way to ensure this is to create a homeland for the Palestinians on their borders.  Further, that this will be advantageous to the Arabs there, too.  (What he does not factor is that Palestine is a bi-sectarian body.  In pre-Partition Palestine, the Christians were the largest congregate.  Now, they represent a mere 7% of the population, and the Muslims overwhelmingly make up most of the remaining populace.  If, the right of return is recognized the percentage of Christians should go up, but Islam would still dominate the State.)

Ms. Abbas of the Justice department reasons that there is flexibility amongst the Israelis.  It must become a de-militarized – (especially its nuclear arsenal should be reduced to the threat that is present.)  On the other hand, she believes it will be hard for the Arab’s to be flexible, whatever.

We are coming to the end of the column inches dedicated to your contributor for this week, and the comments within this international phone conversation are very rich, indeed; therefore, your evaluator will continue with his evaluation of this encounter in future segments of this study.

Especially, while writing, this piece, a sizeable Palestinian demonstration was held at the Israeli–Syrian Hebrew border on the sixth a large group of Palestinian citizens marched to Syria’s border with Israel on the Golan Heights, but were driven back with deadly force leaving twenty-three dead Arabs dead.

13-24

The “Surge” in Iraq & Afghanistan

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

NATO & the Pashtuns–A Misunderstanding of Tribal Identities

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Richmond, VA–April 9th–Your narrator finds himself in the (U.S.) Civil War-era (1860s) era capital of the Confederacy (i.e., the South) where he listened to the research of a Michael Yalchi on the lack of understanding between NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the operation of tribal identity within the Southern Afghani battle theater.  This article is written with a considerable amount of your essayists own research, too.

Richmond, from which your author is reporting, is a moderate-sized (American) Revolutionary-era city of a little over 200,000, and is, also, the present-day seat of government of the current (U.S.) Commonwealth (State) of Virginia on the Atlantic seaboard a hundred miles below Washington D.C.  (Most of the American Civil War [1860-1865] was fought within this hundred miles between the two fore-mentioned two cities.)  This War fought on U.S. soil is considered the first “modern” martial dispute.

While in the Middle East, this past week (18th-24th) of the actual physical act of writing (April 23rd –26th) this article, the Libyan Civil War continues to fume, and Colonel Khadafy may even overcome his armed opposition as the battleground is raging back and forth between his divisions along with their African mercenaries against the rebels headquartered in this barren environment second city, Benghazi, the latter’s de facto capital.   Succinctly, there is no way to predict the outcome of this clash.

At the same time, British officers have been on the ground secretly for several weeks now whipping the rag-tag insurgent “military” into a credible resistance as the established government in Tripoli has ordered allied tribal leaders into the fray against a strategic dissident-held urban center.

The European Union (EU) intends to go to the Security Council of the U.N. (United Nations) in New York City to obtain the “legal” permission to plant the soldiers on the Maghreb soil there to, supposedly, institute safe-sanctuaries there.  (There was a great failure by the Dutch Army in the 1990s Bosnian War wherein Muslims were massacred by the failure of Amsterdam to enforce their assigned asylum.)  In Libya, what had started as a “no-fly” zone to protect unprotected non-combatants is, unfortunately, becoming a campaign for regime change in that North African nation.  Fortunately, Washington has pledged not to place land troops on another Islamic territory.  Hopefully, they will keep to their promise!

Concurrently, Ba’athist Syria is teetering toward a civil war; while Yemen “ancient” fissure between the North and South is beginning to crack again.  It was announced on the 23rd that Sana’a head of State was willing to step down, but this had become questionable by the 25th.  The Crown Prince of Bahrain has informed the British Royal family (the 24th) that he would not be able to attend Prince William’s wedding in London because of the unrest on his island.  Most of the other States in the Islamic West (of Dar al Islam) are in the midst of upheaval, too.  Some more dramatically and critically than others.  The end results in this overall region will depend upon how the present elites of their individual nation-states will react to their internal populist challenges.

Back to Michael Yalchi:  Iraq, which he only mentions only in passing, is, also, going through disturbance.  Strangely, if the late Bush Administration had refrained from its aggression, Sadam Hussein’s government’s days were limited anyway without so many Western allied lives lost!  Michael Yalchi did mention the success of General Petraeus’ surge in Mesopotamia, but he spent most of his time on its application on the Afghanistani battlefield.

One cannot talk about the Middle East unless one considers Afghanistan.  The U.S. strategic position is that it is on the eastern limits of American calculated policy regarding the Middle East — along with Pakistan (whose civil society is presently up in “arms” over the U.S.A’s drone [unmanned aircraft] attacks mainly in the tribal areas within their nation that may have caused as many as nine hundred non-combatant Pakistani deaths last year).    On the other hand, if you were in the Kremlin’s foreign office, the Hindu Kush Mountains is definitely part of Central Asia.  To the British and (now) New Delhi and Islamabad, it is unequivocally part of South Asia since it is solidly and historically inter-connected  to the nations across the Khyber.

In one sense, although it has an ancient history as a separate country, modern Afghanistan was a creation of the British and Russian Empires during the Nineteenth Century as a buffer zone between the two.  During the last decade of that century, the border was forced upon the tribes in the desert-like mountains (i.e., the Durand Line) to slow down what was known as the “Great Game.”  The British Indian Army had fought three disastrous wars over that world on the other side of their Line in the Nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, and the War from which Moscow had retreated in 1989 was in effect their Third Afghan War.  All (total) six Afghan Wars fought by the two dissimilar Empires ended disastrously for the European powers.  The current War is an American/NATO adventure with the puppet-placed Kabul government as ally.  The enemy, of course, is the Taliban “army” (whose mass Kandahar prison break-out this past week-end [23rd  through  24th]shows a degree of popular support and effective tactical ability).

Some political scientists have described the current dispute not as a War an Afghani War, but as a revolt of a regional sub-nationality, the Pashtuns, for self governance and unification since they are divided by the arbitrary and ill-delineated Durand Line which currently serves as the border between Islamabad and Kabul.  The War on The Afghani side of the boundary is in the South of their countryside while in Pakistan it is being waged mostly within Peshawar’s Provinces by Rawalpindi‘s army.

Since we are discussing the War about Kandahar, the demographics of Afghanistan show forty percent Pashtun (the highest single element within the total population).  Near 11 and one-half percent are of the Durrani tribal group, and almost 14 percent are Ghilzai.  The Tajiks within the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are the second largest ethnic group with a little over 25 percent of the population.  The Hazaras stand at 18 percent while the Uzbeks that are ruled from Kabul are at slightly over 6 percent.  The Turkmen there are at 2.5 percent.  The lowest identifiable ethnic group, is the Qizilbash at 1%.  Other minuscule clusters measure about 7 percent all together.  As can be seen the mountainous nation is a multi-ethnic and, further, multi-lingual, and discord has arisen out of these issues.

Within Pakistan, on the other hand, who are divided by the aforementioned frontier from their Pashtun brothers to the north — they make up about  fifteen and one-half percent of the whole of the latter country’s population.   The Pastuns there — besides the Northwest Provinces — are largely settled in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in Baluchistan on the Iranian periphery, but pockets are scattered all over that nation-state.  Also, the Taliban themselves are mainly Pashtun, and are logically located in Afghanistan’s south and the Northwest Provinces in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush.
Back to Michael Yalchi’s comments:  The American-led coalition is attempting a surge in Afghanistan similar to the successful one in Iraq, but the tribal composition and internal identification within the two states are significantly different.  The Wickileaks of last week (18th-24th) has brought the District of Columbia’s faulty assumptions to light.  In Afghanistan, it is a social misunderstanding by NATO in how the various high tribes and sub-tribes relate amongst themselves that creates a problem for the Europeans and North Americans in their counter-insurgency.

Yalchi asserted that “Afghani (tribal) territorial ‘maps’ inform their society.”  That is, the clans are essentially local, and the division of customs, etc. between groups are determined by the harsh landscape, for they are isolated one from another, and, curiously, the same geographical constraints that make travel problematic throughout the region for Brussels (i.e., NATO‘s) armed forces has created shortcomings in the Western alliance’s rush throughout that craggy topography.

Your correspondent, who happens to be an anti-imperialist personally, desires to end this piece by stating, unlike the British in their Imperial times who would be stationed in the Mountains for thirty years, and often would take a Pashtun woman to wife, etc., and was trained to speak the local language fluently.  (In other words, although alien, he was intimate with the culture.)  The American soldiers are posted in Southern Afghanistan for about a year at a time.  Mostly, they depend upon “fixers,” a journalistic term denoting a person native to the country who leads non-indigenous individuals through the landscape, translates and arranges things with the local inhabitants.

This lack of cultural comprehension is the real reason the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s campaign in Helmet and other Provinces in the South of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is going inadequately for the Western offensive in suppressing the Taliban’s insurgency.

Whereas Michael Yalchi regulates his analysis to the NATO alliance’s lack of accomplishment to a deficiency in grasping the lack of cohesion between the clannish customs who are opposing the Western soldiers in the combat zone in the high country, your commentator would go further to say it is a total cultural insensitivity and disrespect for their Pashtun opponent.

13-18

Negotiating with the Taliban?

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sleeping” with the Enemy”

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Differences Between the U.S., Afghani and Indian Governments

Point Isabel, Point Richmond (Calif.)–Your author is taking his subtitle from a less than notable American film of several years ago to finish up his report on the recent Indian Ambassador to Kabul’s comments , Gautam Mukhopadhaya.

At the moment your reporter finds himself at a lovely promontory pointing into San Francisco Bay, and it seems strange to be considering so many matters so far away that I begun two weeks ago from Berkeley.  At that time I decided to divide the presentation into two parts because of its length.

Mukhopadhaya continued on how the political position amongst the American voters regarding Afghanistan was shifting away from support to criticism of official military policy in the Hindu Kush.  Therefore, the District of Columbia had to change its tactics in response.

Pakistan operates in this War as it perceives to its own interests.  Thus, the Ambassador deems that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s) allies in the Hindu Kush consider Rawalpindi to be unreliable — which is far from the truth in your writer’s opinion. 

Both the U.S. and Pakistan are targeting the Taliban, (but Islamabad only considers one branch of the Taliban to be hostile to their interests.  The other four branches – which are within their territory, too – they do not consider a threat, and all these parties are comparatively accommodating to the other – including Pakistan.  Up to 80% of the Pakistani Taliban resides in the federally administered Northwest Provinces.)

The Americans and Pakistani Armies mutually oppose one “clan” of Taliban, and they are fully within Islamabad’s Federally Administered Territories.  Thus, Peshawar sees no threat to their survival from the Afghani Taliban. 

Further, Washington sees no alternative to the Karzai government that the District of Columbia (D.C.) perceives as militarily undependable.  At the same time, the U.S. Administration comprehends Kazai’s Presidency to be a corruptible one – an uneasy alliance to say the least! 

In the London Conference on the Afghani conflict last January (2010), the European and Canadian allies supported the “Afghanization” of the War and the “regularization” (normalization) of our relations with the Taliban!  This, hopefully, would lead to meaningful discussions and, eventually, peace within the Mountains!  These talks should be mutually respectful between each party – including the Taliban.

At same time, the Indian representative from New Delhi’s Department of External Affairs had to take a dig at their traditional competitors:  “We need leadership from the Pakistanis!”  (This struggle beyond the Khyber is an opportunity to bring these two South Asian nuclear neighbors closer together instead of tearing them further apart to the dangerous detriment to all!)  His Excellency accused D.C. of a failure of leadership during this international crisis.  To settle the military security, he urged U.S.-Pakistan operations.  (Of course, the loss of Islamabad’s national sovereignty would be totally unacceptable to its Muslim citizenry, and put the security of Pakistan’s topography under question for its Western and regional allies!)  Simultaneously, the Saudis close allies to both, are working with Islamabad and Washington to bring their policies closer together.

On the other hand, the Taliban itself is fed-up.  The London Conference approved the Taliban’s grasp of the countryside while NATO and the Afghani government would occupy the cities.  This is not the battle plan of these “Students.”  They wish to hold the total fasces within the dry, cold hills, and their mindset is far from compromise at this time.

Yet the Americans presume that they have an upper hand, and, correspondingly, are in the position of strength to negotiate with their adversaries.  Actually, it is the Pakistanis who are central for negotiating with the problem some Quetta branch of the Talibani. The Pakistani Army has already begun to begin dialogue in Baluchistan.  Rawalpindi considers it has made some progress, and the Generals at their Military Headquarters are encouraged by their discourse with the irregular tribesmen.

The U.S.A. has been following a contradictory policy in the Af-Pak itself.  While D.C. has been throwing development funds in Southern Afghanistan, it has been shoring up the military on the frontlines in Pakistan.

Ultimately, though, Ambassador Maukapadya does not discern a desire by the Taliban to parley.  In the late 1990s, the Taliban regime in Kabul led the U.S. on their intentions.  (Your essayist has some questions about this, and that is His Excellency is not separating the goals of a Nationalist Taliban and an Internationalist Al’Quaeda.)  Would the Taliban be willing to form a coalition government with Karzai or whoever may succeed him (them)?  (Whatever, a re-establishment of the regime of the 1990s is totally unacceptable to International Civil Society without the checks and balances of the partnership of all Afghani peoples and tribes!)  The Ambassador is “…not optimistic.” 

There is preparation for a major NATO assault upon the Taliban stronghold around the southern city of Kandahar, the center of Talibani power.  Maukapadya  does not feel the battle will turn the War around.

Concurrently, Europe and North America and their regional associates are employing dual strategies against the Taliban who are replying in kind.  This War is far from coming to a mutually acceptable denouement.

12-17

Shadow War in Afghanistan

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse

2010-01-09T110013Z_1558274224_GM1E6191GAK01_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN-CIA-BOMBER

Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud (L) sits beside a man who is believed to be Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal Al-Balawi, the suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan, in this still image taken from video released January 9, 2010. A Pakistan television station showed on Saturday what it said was the suicide bomber double agent who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan sitting with the Pakistani Taliban leader, and reported he shared U.S. and Jordanian state secrets with militants.

REUTERS/Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan via Reuters TV

It was a Christmas and a New Year from hell for American intelligence, that US$75 billion labyrinth of at least 16 major agencies and a handful of minor ones. As the old year was preparing to be rung out, so were the US’s intelligence agencies, which managed not to connect every obvious clue to a (literally) seat-of-the-pants al-Qaeda operation. It hardly mattered that the underwear bomber’s case – except for the placement of the bomb material – almost exactly, even outrageously, replicated the infamous, and equally inept, “shoe bomber” plot of eight years ago.

That would have been bad enough, but the New Year brought worse. Army Major General Michael Flynn, the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces deputy chief of staff for intelligence in Afghanistan, released a report in which he labeled military intelligence in the war zone – but by implication US intelligence operatives generally – as “clueless”. They were, he wrote, “ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced … and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers … Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the US intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy.”

As if to prove the general’s point, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor with a penchant for writing inspirational essays on jihadi websites and an “unproven asset” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), somehow entered a key agency forward operating base in Afghanistan unsearched, supposedly with information on al-Qaeda’s leadership so crucial that a high-level CIA team was assembled to hear it and Washington was alerted.

He proved to be either a double or a triple agent and killed seven CIA operatives, one of whom was the base chief, by detonating a suicide vest bomb, while wounding yet more, including the agency’s number-two operative in the country. The first suicide bomber to penetrate a US base in Afghanistan, he blew a hole in the CIA’s relatively small cadre of agents knowledgeable on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

It was an intelligence disaster splayed all over the headlines: “Taliban bomber wrecks CIA’s shadowy war”, “Killings Rock Afghan Strategy”, “Suicide bomber who attacked CIA post was trusted informant from Jordan”. It seemed to sum up the hapless nature of America’s intelligence operations, as the CIA, with all the latest technology and every imaginable resource on hand, including the latest in Hellfire missile-armed drone aircraft, was out-thought and out-maneuvered by low-tech enemies.

No one could say that the deaths and the blow to the American war effort weren’t well covered. There were major TV reports night after night and scores of news stories, many given front-page treatment. And yet lurking behind those deaths and the man who caused them lay a bigger American war story that went largely untold. It was a tale of a new-style battlefield that the American public knows remarkably little about, and which bears little relationship to the Afghan war as we imagine it or as our leaders generally discuss it.

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A man reads a copy of the day’s newspaper whose front page shows a photo of suspected suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi in Amman January 9, 2010.

REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

We don’t even have a language to describe it accurately. Think of it as a battlefield filled with muscled-up, militarized intelligence operatives, hired-gun contractors doing military duty, and privatized “native” guard forces. Add in robot assassins in the air 24/7 and kick-down-the-door-style night-time “intelligence” raids, “surges” you didn’t know were happening, strings of military bases you had no idea were out there, and secretive international collaborations you were unaware the US was involved in. In Afghanistan, the American military is only part of the story. There’s also a polyglot “army” representing the US that wears no uniforms and fights shape-shifting enemies to the death in a murderous war of multiple assassinations and civilian slaughter, all enveloped in a blanket of secrecy.

Black ops and black sites

Secrecy is a part of war. The surprise attack is only a surprise if secrecy is maintained. In wartime, crucial information must be kept from an enemy capable of using it. But what if, as in the US’s case, wartime never ends, while secrecy becomes endemic, as well as profitable and privitizable, and much of the information available to both sides on the US’s shadowy new battlefield is mainly being kept from the American people? The coverage of the suicide attack on forward operating base (FOB) Chapman offered a rare, very partial window into that strange war – but only if you were willing to read piles of news reports looking for tiny bits of information that could be pieced together.

We did just that and here’s what we found:

Let’s start with FOB Chapman, where the suicide bombing took place. An old Soviet base near the Pakistani border, it was renamed after a Green Beret who fought beside CIA agents and was the first American to die in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It sits in isolation near the town of Khost, just kilometers from the larger Camp Salerno, a forward operating base used mainly by US Special Operations troops.

Occupied by the CIA since 2001, Chapman is regularly described as “small” or “tiny” and, in one report, as having “a forbidding network of barriers, barbed wire and watchtowers”. Though a US State Department provisional reconstruction team has been stationed there (as well as personnel from the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of Agriculture), and though it “was officially a camp for civilians involved in reconstruction”, FOB Chapman is “well-known locally as a CIA base” – an “open secret”, as another report put it.

The base is guarded by Afghan irregulars, sometimes referred to in news reports as “Afghan contractors”, about whom we know next to nothing. (“CIA officials on Thursday would not discuss what guard service they had at the base.”) Despite the recent suicide bombing, according to Julian Barnes and Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times, a “program to hire Afghans to guard US forward operating bases would not be canceled. Under that program, which is beginning in eastern Afghanistan, Afghans will guard towers, patrol perimeter fences and man checkpoints.”

Also on FOB Chapman were employees of the private security contractor Xe (formerly Blackwater), which has had a close relationship with the CIA in Afghanistan. We know this because of reports that two of the dead “CIA” agents were Xe operatives.

Someone else of interest was at FOB Chapman at that fateful meeting with the Jordanian doctor Balawi – Sharif Ali bin Zeid, a captain in the Jordanian intelligence service, the eighth person killed in the blast. It turns out that Balawi was an agent of the Jordanian intelligence, which held (and abused) torture suspects kidnapped and disappeared by the CIA in the years of George W Bush’s “global war on terror.”

The service reportedly continues to work closely with the agency and the captain was evidently running Balawi. That’s what we now know about the polyglot group at FOB Chapman on the front lines of the agency’s black-ops war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the allied fighters of the Sirajuddin and Jalaluddin Haqqani network in nearby Pakistan. If there were other participants, they weren’t among the bodies.

The agency surges

And here’s something that’s far clearer in the wake of the bombing: among the US’s vast network of bases in Afghanistan, the CIA has its own designated bases – as, by the way, do US Special Operations forces, and according to a Nation reporter, Jeremy Scahill, even private contractor Xe. Without better reporting on the subject, it’s hard to get a picture of these bases, but Siobhan Gorman of the Wall Street Journal tells us that a typical CIA base houses no more than 15-20 agency operatives (which means that Balawi’s explosion killed or wounded more than half of the team on FOB Chapman).

And don’t imagine that we’re only talking about a base or two. In the single most substantive post-blast report on the CIA, Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times wrote that the agency has “an archipelago of firebases in southern and eastern Afghanistan”, most built in the last year. An archipelago? Imagine that. And it’s also reported that even more of them are in the works.

With this goes another bit of information that the Wall Street Journal seems to have been the first to drop into its reports. While you’ve heard about President Barack Obama’s surge in American troops and possibly even State Department personnel in Afghanistan, you’ve undoubtedly heard little or nothing about a CIA surge in the region, and yet the Journal’s reporters tell us that agency personnel will increase by 20-25% in the surge months. By the time the CIA is fully bulked up with all its agents, paramilitaries and private contractors in place, Afghanistan will represent, according to Julian Barnes of the Los Angeles Times, one of the largest “stations” in agency history.

This, in turn, implies other surges. There will be a surge in base-building to house those agents, and a surge in “native” guards – at least until another suicide bomber hits a base thanks to Taliban supporters among them or one of them turns a weapon on the occupants of a base – and undoubtedly a surge in Blackwater-style mercenaries as well.

Keep in mind that the latest figure on private contractors suggests that 56,000 more of them will surge into Afghanistan in the next 18 months, far more than surging US troops, State Department employees and CIA operatives combined. And don’t forget the thousands of non-CIA “uniformed and civilian intelligence personnel serving with the Defense Department and joint interagency operations in the country”, who will undoubtedly surge as well.

Making war

The efforts of the CIA operatives at Chapman were reportedly focused on “collecting information about militant networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting missions to kill the networks’ top leaders”, especially those in the Haqqani network in the North Waziristan tribal area just across the Pakistani border. They were evidently running “informants” into Pakistan to find targets for the agency’s ongoing drone assassination war.

These drone attacks in Pakistan have themselves been on an unparalleled surge course ever since Obama entered office; 44 to 50 (or more) have been launched in the past year, with civilian casualties running into the hundreds. Like local Pashtuns, the agency essentially doesn’t recognize a border. For them, the Afghan and Pakistani tribal borderlands are a single world.

In this way, as Paul Woodward of the website War in Context has pointed out, “Two groups of combatants, neither of whom wear uniforms, are slugging it out on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Each group has identified what it regards as high-value targets and each is using its own available means to hit these targets. The Taliban/al-Qaeda are using suicide bombers while the CIA is using Hellfire missiles.”

Since the devastating explosion at Chapman, statements of vengeance have been coming out of CIA mouths – of a kind that, when offered by the Taliban or al-Qaeda, we consider typical of a backward, “tribal” society. In any case, the secret war is evidently becoming a private and personal one. Balawi’s suicide attack essentially took out a major part of the agency’s targeting information system.

As one unnamed NATO official told the New York Times, “These were not people who wrote things down in the computer or in notebooks. It was all in their heads … [The CIA is] pulling in new people from all over the world, but how long will it take to rebuild the networks, to get up to speed? Lots of it is irrecoverable.” And the agency was already generally known to be “desperately short of personnel who speak the language or are knowledgeable about the region”. Nonetheless, drone attacks have suddenly escalated – at least five in the week since the suicide bombing, all evidently aimed at “an area believed to be a hideout for militants involved”. These sound like vengeance attacks and are likely to be particularly counterproductive.

To sum up, US intelligence agents, having lost out to enemy “intelligence agents”, even after being transformed into full-time assassins, are now locked in a mortal struggle with an enemy for whom assassination is also a crucial tactic, but whose operatives seem to have better informants and better information.

In this war, drones are not the agency’s only weapon. The CIA also seems to specialize in running highly controversial, kick-down-the-door “night raids” in conjunction with Afghan paramilitary forces. Such raids, when launched by US Special Operations forces, have led to highly publicized and heavily protested civilian casualties. Sometimes, according to reports, the CIA actually conducts them in conjunction with special ops forces.

In a recent American-led night raid in Kunar province, eight young students were, according to Afghan sources, detained, handcuffed and executed. The leadership of this raid has been attributed, euphemistically, to “other government agencies” (OGAs) or “non-military Americans”. These raids, whether successful in the limited sense or not, don’t fit comfortably with the Obama administration’s “hearts and minds” counter-insurgency strategy.

The militarization of the agency

As the identities of some of the fallen CIA operatives at Chapman became known, a pattern began to emerge. There was 37-year-old Harold Brown Jr, who formerly served in the army. There was Scott Roberson, a former Navy SEAL who did several tours of duty in Iraq, where he provided protection to officials considered at high risk. There was Jeremy Wise, 35, an ex-SEAL who left the military last year, signed up with Xe, and ended up working for the CIA. Similarly, 46-year-old Dane Paresi, a retired special forces master sergeant turned Xe hired gun, also died in the blast.

For years, American author and professor Chalmers Johnson, himself a former CIA consultant, has referred to the agency as “the president’s private army.” Today, that moniker seems truer than ever. While the civilian CIA has always had a paramilitary component, known as the Special Activities Division, the unit was generally relatively small and dormant. Instead, military personnel like the army’s special forces or indigenous troops carried out the majority of the CIA’s combat missions.

After the 9/11 attacks, however, George W Bush empowered the agency to hunt down, kidnap and assassinate suspected al-Qaeda operatives, and the CIA’s traditional specialties of spycraft and intelligence analysis took a distinct back seat to Special Activities Division operations, as its agents set up a global gulag of ghost prisons, conducted interrogations by torture, and then added those missile-armed drone and assassination programs.

The military backgrounds of the fallen CIA operatives cast a light on the way the world of “intelligence” is increasingly muscling up and becoming militarized. This past summer, when a former CIA official suggested the agency might be backing away from risky programs, a current official spit back from the shadows: “If anyone thinks the CIA has gotten risk-averse recently, go ask al-Qaeda and the Taliban … The agency’s still doing cutting-edge stuff in all kinds of dangerous places.”

At about the same time, reports were emerging that Blackwater/Xe was providing security, arming drones, and “perform[ing] some of the agency’s most important assignments” at secret bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It also emerged that the CIA had paid contractors from Blackwater to take part in a covert assassination program in Afghanistan.

Add this all together and you have the grim face of “intelligence” at war in 2010 – a new micro-brew when it comes to Washington’s conflicts. Today, in Afghanistan, a militarized mix of CIA operatives and ex-military mercenaries as well as native recruits and robot aircraft is fighting a war “in the shadows” (as they used to say in the Cold War). This is no longer “intelligence” as anyone imagines it, nor is it “military” as military was once defined, not when US operations have gone mercenary and native in such a big way.

This is pure “lord of the flies” stuff – beyond oversight, beyond any law, including the laws of war. And worse yet, from all available evidence, despite claims that the drone war is knocking off mid-level enemies, it seems remarkably ineffective. All it may be doing is spreading the war farther and digging it in deeper.

Talk about “counter-insurgency” as much as you want, but this is another kind of battlefield, and “protecting the people” plays no part in it. And this is only what can be gleaned from afar about a semi-secret war that is being poorly reported. Who knows what it costs when you include the US hired guns, the Afghan contractors, the bases, the drones and the rest of the personnel and infrastructure? Nor do we know what else, or who else, is involved, and what else is being done. Clearly, however, all those billions of “intelligence” dollars are going into the blackest of black holes.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. He is the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books). His website is NickTurse.com.

(Copyright 2010 Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse.)