Robert Gates Warns of ‘Hard Afghan Fight Ahead’

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

BBC News

2010-03-10T114104Z_1761587333_GM1E63A1IIX01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN-USA-GATES

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has warned that “hard fighting” lies ahead, in his first visit to Afghanistan since the launch of a major offensive there.

After meeting military chiefs overseeing the anti-Taliban operation in southern Helmand province, Mr Gates also said some progress had been made.

Preparations have already begun to secure control of neighbouring Kandahar province, military commanders said.

Additional troops ordered by US President Obama have begun arriving.

About 6,000 of the 30,000 extra forces assigned to Afghanistan have already arrived in Afghanistan. Thousands more are due to arrive over the next few months.
But Mr Gates warned: “People still need to understand there is some very hard fighting, very hard days ahead.”

Kandahar target

The offensive in Helmand, targeting the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, has been described as the biggest operation since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 – it involves Nato, US and Afghan troops.

But officials have recently hinted that the current action in Marjah is a “prelude” to a bigger operation.

Nato commander Gen Stanley McChrystal has made it clear that Kandahar is the next priority for troops, once enough reinforcements have arrived.

The general said that, although the district was not under Taliban control, it was “under a menacing Taliban presence, particularly in the districts around it”.

The BBC’s Chris Morris in Kabul says that, as was the case with Marjah, international commanders are making little effort to conceal plans about where they intend to take the fight to the Taliban.

There is a vast swathe of territory across southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces from which forces want to drive the Taliban before re-establishing a functioning civilian infrastructure, our correspondent says.

But, he adds, military operations are deeply unpopular with local people and military commanders are aware of the need to get the balance right.

Afghan police and government agencies have already started to deploy in and around Marjah but officials warn that the region is not yet totally free from Taliban influence.

On Monday Mr Gates discussed the progress of the operation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

On Sunday President Karzai visited the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah for the first time since the beginning of the offensive in Helmand.

He promised elders that the town would be rebuilt and appealed to local people for support.

12-11

Wars Sending US into Ruin

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Obama the peace president is fighting battles his country cannot afford

By Eric Margolis, QMI Agency

2010-02-10T142132Z_01_BTRE61913W200_RTROPTP_3_NEWS-US-AFGHANISTAN-ASSAULT

U.S. Marines walk during a dust storm in a U.S Marines camp near the town of Marjah in Nad Ali district of Helmand province, February 8, 2010.    

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

U.S. President Barack Obama calls the $3.8-trillion US budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health.

In fact, it’s another potent fix given to a sick patient deeply addicted to the dangerous drug — debt.

More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself into ruin by buying tanks.

Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a vertiginous $1.6 trillion US this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, to which the U.S. already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion.

To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.

Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $880 billion. Add secret black programs (about $70 billion); military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan; 225,000 military “contractors” (mercenaries and workers); and veterans’ costs. Add $75 billion (nearly four times Canada’s total defence budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama’s Afghan “surge” of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion — more than Germany’s total defence budget.

No wonder U.S. defence stocks rose after Peace Laureate Obama’s “austerity” budget.

Military and intelligence spending relentlessly increase as unemployment heads over 10% and the economy bleeds red ink. America has become the Sick Man of the Western Hemisphere, an economic cripple like the defunct Ottoman Empire.

The Pentagon now accounts for half of total world military spending. Add America’s rich NATO allies and Japan, and the figure reaches 75%.

China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10% of what the U.S. spends on defence.

There are 750 U.S. military bases in 50 nations and 255,000 service members stationed abroad, 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea.

Military spending gobbles up 19% of federal spending and at least 44% of tax revenues. During the Bush administration, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — funded by borrowing — cost each American family more than $25,000.

Like Bush, Obama is paying for America’s wars through supplemental authorizations ­– putting them on the nation’s already maxed-out credit card. Future generations will be stuck with the bill.

This presidential and congressional jiggery-pokery is the height of public dishonesty.

America’s wars ought to be paid for through taxes, not bookkeeping fraud.

If U.S. taxpayers actually had to pay for the Afghan and Iraq wars, these conflicts would end in short order.

America needs a fair, honest war tax.

The U.S. clearly has reached the point of imperial overreach. Military spending and debt-servicing are cannibalizing the U.S. economy, the real basis of its world power. Besides the late U.S.S.R., the U.S. also increasingly resembles the dying British Empire in 1945, crushed by immense debts incurred to wage the Second World War, unable to continue financing or defending the imperium, yet still imbued with imperial pretensions.

It is increasingly clear the president is not in control of America’s runaway military juggernaut. Sixty years ago, the great President Dwight Eisenhower, whose portrait I keep by my desk, warned Americans to beware of the military-industrial complex. Six decades later, partisans of permanent war and world domination have joined Wall Street’s money lenders to put America into thrall.

Increasing numbers of Americans are rightly outraged and fearful of runaway deficits. Most do not understand their political leaders are also spending their nation into ruin through unnecessary foreign wars and a vainglorious attempt to control much of the globe — what neocons call “full spectrum dominance.”

If Obama really were serious about restoring America’s economic health, he would demand military spending be slashed, quickly end the Iraq and Afghan wars and break up the nation’s giant Frankenbanks.

12-7

US Troops ‘Stormed Through Afghan Hospital’

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kay Johnson, Associated Press

2009-09-08T160728Z_01_GOT08_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN

A Marine searches an Afghan man for weapons near the town of Khan Neshin in Rig district of Helmand province, southern Afghanistan September 8, 2009.                

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

A Swedish charity accused American troops of storming through a hospital in central Afghanistan, breaking down doors and tying up staff in a search for militants. The US military said it was investigating.

The allegation that soldiers violated the neutrality of a medical facility follows the reported deaths of Afghan civilians in a US airstrike in the country’s north last week.

Nearly eight years after the US-led coalition invaded to oust the Taliban, foreign forces are working to persuade the population to support the Afghan government. But civilian deaths and intrusive searches of homes have bred resentment.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan said the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division entered the charity’s hospital without permission to look for insurgents in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, according to the charity’s country director, Anders Fange.

“This is simply not acceptable,” he said.

The US troops came to the hospital looking for Taliban insurgents late at night last Wednesday, Fange said. He said they kicked in doors, tied up four hospital employees and two family members of patients, and forced patients out of beds during their search.

When they left two hours later, the unit ordered hospital staff to inform coalition forces if any wounded militants were admitted, and the military would decide if they could be treated, Fange said.

The staff refused, he said. “That would put our staff at risk and make the hospital a target.”

The charity said on its Web site that the troops actions were not only a violation of humanitarian principles but also went against an agreement between NATO forces and charities working in the area.

“We demand guarantees … that such violations will not be repeated and that this is made clear to commanders in the field,” a statement said.

Navy public affairs officer Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker confirmed that the hospital was searched last week but had no other details. She said the military was looking into the incident.

“We are investigating and we take allegations like this seriously,” she said. “Complaints like this are rare.”

Violence has surged across much of Afghanistan since President Barack Obama ordered 21,000 more US troops to the country this year. Two foreign troops were killed yesterday when their patrol hit a roadside bomb in the country’s south, NATO said without giving their nationalities. Three civilians also died in a militant rocket attack on the capital.

NATO was also investigating reported civilian deaths in a US airstrike last week. Afghan officials said up to 70 people were killed in the early morning airstrike Friday in the northern province of Kunduz after the Taliban hijacked two fuel tanker. After the trucks became stuck in the mud on the banks of a river, villagers came to siphon off gas and some were reported killed when an American jet dropped two bombs on the stolen tankers.

The increasingly violent Taliban have killed more Afghan civilians in bombings and other attacks. On Monday, the government said three insurgent rockets landed in the capital, Kabul, killing three people when one of them hit a house.

A United Nations report in July said the number of civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan has jumped 24 per cent this year, with bombings by insurgent and airstrikes by international forces the biggest single killers. The report said that 1,013 civilians were killed in the first half of 2009, 59 per cent in insurgent attacks and 30.5 per cent by foreign and Afghan government forces. The rest were undetermined.

11-38