Monday, May 11, 2015

‘Possible UK-EU referendum is about legitimacy, EU has changed’

Abuse, sexual violence, exploitation, religious prosecution – this is life as a migrant in Libya

Migrants in Libya face "cruelty" and abuse, driving many people to risk their lives in dangerous Mediterranean crossings aimed at reaching sanctuary in Europe, Amnesty International said on Monday.
For years Libya has been a stepping stone for Africans seeking a better life in Europe. Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict at home are also making their way to Libya to try to reach the West.
"The ghastly conditions for migrants, coupled with spiralling lawlessness and armed conflicts raging within the country, make clear just how dangerous life in Libya is today," said Amnesty's Philip Luther.
The situation has worsened since the NATO-backed 2011 uprising that toppled veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with powerful militias battling for Libya's oil wealth and two governments vying for power.
Feeding on the chaos, people smugglers have stepped up their lucrative trade. The flow of migrants also rises when sea conditions improve in warmer months.
"With no legal avenues to escape and seek safety they are forced to place their lives in the hands of smugglers who callously extort, abuse and attack them," Luther said.
Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director urged the European Union to deploy more rescue vessels in the Mediterranean while tackling smugglers at the same time.
"Introducing measures to tackle smugglers without providing safe alternative routes out for the people desperate to flee conflict in Libya, will not resolve the plight of migrants and refugees," he said.
The rights group also called on Tunisia and Egypt to ease border restrictions with Libya, in order to provide migrants -- who would otherwise embark on a dangerous sea journey to Europe -- haven.
The Amnesty report, "Libya is full of cruelty", details testimonies of abuse, sexual violence, exploitation or religious prosecution.
Charles, a Christian from Nigeria, told Amnesty he was beaten and abducted by armed gangs in Libya several times.
Others have spoken of abuse at the hands of smugglers, who they say treat them like "animals".
Women migrants complained of sexual abuse, with one saying she was "gang-raped" by 11 men after her husband was tied to a pole and forced to watch.
Amnesty quoted Syrian refugees as saying smugglers moved them to boats in poorly ventilated refrigerator trucks.
It also criticised Libya's policy of locking up illegal migrants in detention centres where conditions are dire.
Libyan officials, who have complained of a lack of means, have said that 7,000 illegal migrants are being held in 16 detention centres across the country awaiting deportation.

Video - Airstrikes hit arms depot in Sanaa, Yemen

Continued explosions could be seen and heard in Sanaa, as the Arab coalition - led by Saudi Arabian planes - carried out several raids just next to the city. It is reported that the strikes hit an 'arms depot' held by Houthis. The raid targeted the supposed depot in the Mount Noqum area, on the eastern outskirts of the Yemeni capital. Local media reported that debris from the explosion was scattered in residential areas down the hill.

Is Iran really to blame for Yemen conflict?

By Seyed Hossein Mousavian

The deaths of at least 1,000 Yemenis, including 115 children, and over 3,500 injuries has seemingly been the main result of the Saudi-led military strikes against the country. The conventional wisdom of these attacks on Yemen has been that it is the latest battlefield in a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Such portrayals of the conflict often frame Iran as the aggressor, parroting claims that Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen was somehow forced due to Iranian meddling in its backyard. However, such assertions ignore not just the realities of Yemen’s internal politics, but also more than a little bit of history.
To gain a better understanding of the recent actions of the Houthi forces, it is vital to understand the broader historical context of their origins. The Houthis, who call themselves Ansar Allah, are members of the Zaydi sect of Islam. The adherents of Zaydi Islam, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, comprise upward of 40% of Yemen's population.
Yemen was effectively ruled by Zaydi "Imams" for over 1,000 years up until 1962, when military officers led a coup that overthrew the Zaydi-led state and attempted to establish a republican system. The ensuing civil war saw the heavy involvement of outside powers, in particular Egypt, under the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser. At its peak, the conflict saw the deployment of 70,000 Egyptian troops to Yemen and ultimately cost the lives of over 10,000 of them. Ironically, given the current events, Saudi Arabia supported the return to power of the Zaydi imams.
At its conclusion, the conflict left Yemen fractured. The republicans prevailed in the northern part of the country while the southern part of the country became a separate communist state. Despite the triumph of the republican officers supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia still managed to co-opt the new North Yemen government and bring it firmly into its sphere of influence.
For the past several decades, Saudi-backed strongmen such as Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled over North Yemen and, later, unified Yemen. Saleh’s tenure was marked by the persecution of the country’s Zaydi minority, even as Saleh himself was nominally Zaydi. Saleh was also a strong supporter of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Yemen became a refuge for Baathists, garnering Saleh the nickname “Saddam Saghir” (Little Saddam). After 34 years, Saleh's fall from power came in 2012, when he signed onto an agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to transfer power to his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in the midst of Arab Spring-inspired protests.
The Houthis have long described their grievances as derived from the socio-economic and political oppression faced by many Yemenis at the hands of their government, as well as the influx of divisive Saudi-sponsored Salafist propaganda in the country. They have also opposed US intervention in their country, making it a key part of their platform. The Houthis' armed insurgency against the Saleh government began in 2004, with six wars being fought between the two sides until Saleh’s 2012 ouster.
The Houthis also played an integral role in the protests that led to the removal of Saleh from power, and by all accounts were a significant power in the country when Hadi was sworn in as president. However, they were sidelined from the GCC-led political process that brought Hadi to power. Their continued marginalization from the transitional government and its seeming refusal to recognize the Houthi movement as a legitimate player soon led to protests, which eventually morphed into renewed military conflict.
The Houthis have been able to make impressive advances because they reflect in large part the genuine grievances of many Yemenis, regardless of sect. They have also proven themselves to be shrewd pragmatists and have made the most out of an alliance of convenience with former President Saleh. Hence, it is not only an exaggeration to attribute Houthi gains to supposed Iranian support, but it would also be disingenuous given the reality of the conflict inside Yemen.
This is first and foremost a Yemeni civil war, in which Saudi Arabia and other states have unwisely chosen to dramatically intervene. Furthermore, alleged direct Iranian intervention in Yemen not only contradicts Iran’s intrinsically defensive posture in the region — which many US policymakers and institutions have acknowledged — but also greatly overstates Iran's capability to influence events in Yemen in such a decisive way. 
By attacking the Houthis, Saudi Arabia is further contributing to the destabilization of its southern neighbor and border, and weakening one of the only groups in Yemen that has successfully been fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As numerous similar foreign interventions in Middle Eastern civil wars have demonstrated over the years, Saudi Arabia has little chance in achieving a positive outcome in Yemen. In all likelihood, Saudi Arabia will only succeed in exacerbating the situation. It is easy to envision a scenario where al-Qaeda fills the power vacuum in Yemen and the Islamic State even potentially establishes a presence in the country.
To end hostilities and stabilize Yemen, the six world powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia should have an immediate meeting to discuss an inclusive plan aimed at reaching an immediate and complete cease-fire; ending all foreign military incursions; providing widespread humanitarian assistance; resuming broad national dialogue; addressing the concerns of the various factions and stakeholders inside the country in a non-zero-sum manner; agreeing on a power-sharing system; and establishing a national unity government. This needs to be done with a keen understanding of the root issues and concerns that have led to the present situation in the country and the Houthis taking the actions that they have, not through a reckless belief in self-deluding and simplistic narratives that blame everything on Iran.
Iran has, in fact, already made strides in this direction, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sending a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlining a four-point peace plan for Yemen. Zarif emphasized the need for an inclusive dialogue between all respective parties and the “establishment of an inclusive national unity government.”
As the Yemen attack shows, Saudi Arabia’s regional strategy is bent on using Iran as a scapegoat to justify its own aggressive policies. These policies appear geared at maintaining and expanding uncompromising Saudi hegemony across the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East. However, by aiming to preserve authoritarian governance in Yemen and further marginalizing vast segments of Yemeni society, Saudi Arabia is only damaging its own interests and opening the door for violence to spill over into its own territory. The Saudis should be cognizant that, just as it is with other crises in the Middle East, the only solution to the Yemeni conflict is a political solution based on addressing the concerns of all parties involved.

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Yemen civilian casualties to soar if Saudi siege continues: HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Saudi Arabia to lift a blockade it has placed on Yemen, stressing that the continuation of the siege will raise the number of victims of the Saudi aggression on the neighboring impoverished country.

“The rising civilian casualties from the fighting could become dwarfed by the harm caused to civilians by” Saudi Arabia’s “blockade on fuel, if it continues,” Joe Stork, the HRW deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa, said on Sunday.
The Al Saud regime has imposed a blockade on the delivery of relief supplies to the war-stricken people of Yemen in defiance of calls by international aid groups.
“It is unclear how much longer Yemen’s remaining hospitals have before the lights go out,” Stork said, warning about the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.
Yemenis wait to fill jerrycans with water from a public tap amid an acute shortage of water supply to houses in the capital Sana'a, on May 9, 2015. (AFP photo)
Scarcity of diesel fuel as well as gasoline has also paralyzed the transportation system across Yemen, forcing millions of civilians to travel on foot to reach their destinations.
The Saudi “blockade is keeping all fuel out of Yemen, while civilians are desperately in need of water and electricity,” Stork said.
Shortages of fuel have driven many Yemenis to look for alternative ways and turn their gasoline-powered cars into ones running on natural gas.
Stork insisted that Saudi Arabia "should take urgent steps to end this threat to Yemen’s civilian population, and ensure that fuel quickly reaches hospitals and other civilians in need.”
“The impact on civilian infrastructure across Yemen has been devastating. Many Yemenis are now deprived of access to basic services, including medical treatment, food, water and other necessities. Conflict continues to rage across the country, putting men, women and children from all of Yemen's communities at risk,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Johannes van der Klaauw on Sunday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned that a lack of fuel is preventing aid agencies on the ground from distributing crucial supplies, “making the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen even worse.”
“Humanitarian operations will end within days unless fuel supplies are restored,” Ban warned.
Smoke billows following an airstrike by Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, on May 11, 2015. (AFP photo)
Meanwhile, the World Food Program said it is in dire need of more than 200,000 liters of fuel to be able to continue distributing food supplies already in its warehouses across Yemen.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the current fuel shortage in Yemen as “alarming”.
“After a month of airstrikes and fighting, Yemen’s health system is struggling to cope and there are severe shortages of essential items, especially food and fuel,” the ICRC said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia started its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 -- without a UN mandate -- in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to the fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
According to the latest UN figures, the Saudi military campaign has so far claimed the lives of over 1,400 people and injured close to 6,000, roughly half of whom have been civilians.

Leona Lewis - Fire Under My Feet

Video - Made in Bangladesh: The labour rights' advocate who took on the garment industry #The51Percent

NFL Suspends Tom Brady for Deflated Footballs

Video - President Obama Speaks on Global Entrepreneurship

Video - The White House Global Entrepreneurs Event with Shark Tank

First Lady Michelle Obama on Malia & Sasha - David Letterman May 1, 2015

Michelle Obama talked very candidly about race — and her critics — this weekend

By Philip Bump

The heart of Michelle Obama's commencement address at Tuskegee University on Saturday centered on her role as the first black first lady of the United States as a lesson to the students. It offered a reminder that the role of first lady -- a position that for so long was seen as ornamentation to a powerful man -- has evolved and changed along with the country.
Speaking at the historic university that hosted the first flight school for black pilots in World War II, Obama transitioned from the school's history to her own. She noted the tension that surrounded her and her husband during his first campaign. She repeated the questions she faced -- a blend of her position, gender, education and race: "Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?"
"Throughout this journey," she continued, "I have learned to block everything out and focus on my truth. I had to answer some basic questions for myself: Who am I? No, really, who am I? What do I care about? And the answers to those questions have resulted in the woman who stands before you today."
Referring to herself as mom in chief, she acknowledged that "that may not be the first thing that some folks want to hear from an Ivy-league educated lawyer," but "it is truly who I am." She encouraged the students to follow the paths that felt true to themselves, to challenge themselves with similar complexities. And she reiterated a key point from her husband's recent talking points:

"You’ve got to vote, vote, vote, vote. That’s it; that's the way we move forward. That’s how we make progress for ourselves and for our country." Young black Americans between 18 and 24 recently passed young whites in turnout -- in presidential elections. The next presidential election in which those students will vote, of course, will almost certainly feature another complex former first lady on the ballot.

White House calls Seymour Hersh story about Osama bin Laden raid ‘baseless’


Famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is standing byhis controversial account of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden despite a growing chorus of critics, including the White House, who say his version is flat-out wrong.
“This is not a wager,” Hersh told CNN’s “New Day” Monday. “This is a story that has to be dealt with by this government very seriously.”
“The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll,” Hersh wrote in a 10,356-word report published in the London Review of Books Sunday. “Would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town 40 miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.”
The White House refuted Hersh’s account Monday, calling his report “baseless.”
“There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact-check each one,” White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Citing an anonymous “major U.S. source” described as “a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad,” Hersh alleges that the White House engaged in what amounts to a massive conspiracy. He writes that:
• The U.S. was tipped off to bin Laden’s whereabouts by a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who was paid nearly $25 million for that information. The Obama administration has said repeatedly it located the terror leader by tracking his couriers.
• Two senior Pakistani military officials knew about the raid in advance, Hersh writes, contrary to the White House’s insistence that no one outside a small group of senior U.S. officials was informed of the operation.
• There was no firefight during the nighttime raid on the Abbottabad compound, because bin Laden was being held there as a prisoner by the Pakistani military; the only shots fired, Hersh writes, were the ones that the Navy SEALs used to kill bin Laden.
• The Obama administration had initially agreed with Pakistani officials to say bin Laden had been killed by a U.S. drone strike in the mountains a week after the raid but that President Obama decided to go public that night.
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell calls the report nonsense.
“It’s all wrong. I started reading the article last night. I got a third of the way through and I stopped, because every sentence I was reading was wrong,” Morrell said on “CBS This Morning.” “The source that Hersh talked to has no idea what he’s talking about.
“The person obviously was not close to what happened. The Pakistanis did not know,” Morrell continued. “The president made a decision not to tell the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis were furious with us. The president sent me to Pakistan after the raids to try to start smoothing things over.”
“The notion that the operation that killed [bin Laden] was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false,” Price said. “As we said at the time, knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of senior U.S. officials. The president decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred. We had been and continue to be partners with Pakistan in our joint effort to destroy al-Qaida, but this was a U.S. operation through and through.”
CNN National Security analyst Peter Bergen called Hersh’s account of the bin Laden raid “a farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts and simple common sense.”
According to Bergen, who wrote “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden — From 9/11 to Abbottabad,” Hersh’s story “reads like Frank Underwood from ‘House of Cards’ has made an unholy alliance with Carrie Mathison from ‘Homeland’ to produce a Pakistani version of Watergate.”
Other critics wondered why Hersh’s explosive story was not published in the New Yorker, where he has been a regular contributor since 1993.  According to, the magazine “had rejected it repeatedly, to the point of creating bad blood between Hersh and [New Yorker] editor in chief David Remnick.”
In 2013, Hersh told the Guardian newspaper that the Obama administration’s account of the bin Laden killing is “one big lie, not one word of it is true,” and that he was devoting a chapter of an upcoming book — “an alternative history of the war on terror” — to the raid.
On CNN, Hersh, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970, defended his use of an anonymous retired source.
“It’s very tough for guys still inside to get quoted extensively,” he said. “There are other people who have retired with great information, so it’s much easier to quote some of them than somebody on active duty.”
Hersh did admit he may have gotten one detail wrong: that the U.S. Navy SEALs practiced for the bin Laden raid in Nevada — not in Utah, as his piece suggests.
“If I’m wrong about Utah, that’s just a mistake, because I know exactly where they were in Nevada,” he said. “Sometimes my geography gets lousy.”

Jeb Bush’s Revisionist History of the Iraq War

Last week, a spokesman for Jeb Bush, who used to be governor of Florida and is now vacuuming up as much dark money as he can without actually announcing a run for president, tried to unspin a comment Mr. Bush made in a private gathering that suggested he was taking advice about the Middle East from his brother, former President George W. Bush.
Since it’s hard to think of a foreign-policy success by George Bush in that region, it was alarming that the would-be president would take his brother as his role model. Turns out it’s much worse. Jeb Bush doesn’t seem to have learned anything from his brother’s failures and he is blithely parroting the worst propaganda about the war in Iraq.
Asked on Fox News (in an interview to be aired tonight) if he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq, knowing what the world now knows, Jeb Bush replied: “I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”
Let’s leave aside for a moment that Mr. Bush has no clue what Mrs. Clinton would have done given her knowledge now about the lack of a security threat to the United States from weapons of mass destruction or anything else in Iraq. What he appears to be referring to is the fact that Mrs. Clinton, like most of the Senate, voted in favor of a war resolution after George W. Bush presented Congress with a National Intelligence Estimate that said Saddam Hussein had active programs in nuclear, chemical and biological warfare.
The former president likes to say Congress had the “same intelligence” he had when they voted to authorize the war, which sounds good, but is not exactly true. George Bush decided to invade Iraq long before the National Intelligence Estimate was ever even drafted. Its purpose was not to inform policymaking, but to fool Congress, the United Nations, the American people and the rest of the world into supporting the war.
The world now knows that the document was reverse-engineered to suit a policy that had already been created. The assessments of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs were wrong, and hotly disputed within the intelligence community at the time; the Bush administration just conveniently forgot to mention that to Congress.
Mr. Bush said in his interview: “Once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein we didn’t focus on security first,” a stunning understatement of the incompetent way Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld planned the invasion. Jeb Bush added that his brother “thinks those mistakes took place as well.”
That may set a new standard for passive shifting of responsibility — even worse than the classic dodge, “mistakes were made.”

Music - Prince Releases A New Song ‘Baltimore’

Urdu Music - Komal Rizvi - Tu Beh Gaya

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar(ګل ګل ماشومانےدی) Song For School going girls, Poetry BEHROZ KHAN

Indian Village Moves Against Female Feticide

The dwindling number of girls in India due to gender-driven, illegal abortions has fueled deep social problems, including a lack of women for young men to marry. Anjana Pasricha visited Bibipur village in the country's worst-affected state, Haryana, where in an unusual initiative, the local council is battling to change the country's deep seated preference for sons.

Pakistan - Sherry Rehman - Karachi’s Pashtun community is a key component of peace-making and development

Vice President PPP Sherry Rehman said that Karachi’s Pashtun community is a key component of peace-making and development for the mega-city. She was addressing a gathering of Pashtun elders at former PPPP MPA, Akhtar Jadoon’s residence on Monday to congratulate him on appointment as Special Assistant to Chief Minister Sindh. At the occasion, Rehman also reaffirmed her party’s continued and equal support for all citizens of Karachi. She said that the PPP is committed to serve the underprivileged communities of the city and will continue to pursue progressive policies for the underprivileged. She called for higher community involvement in the campaign leading upto the local bodies poll this summer, and promised to return soon for a longer listening tour of their problems. She said the party is re-organizing at many levels, and pledged commitment to Chairman Bilawal and Co-Chair President Zardari’s leadership.

Afghanistan Housing 400,000 Football Fields Worth of Opium


Afghanistan is housing the equivalent of 400,000 football fields worth of opium fields, despite the United States having spent billions in taxpayer funds to combat the growth of illicit narcotics, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
While the United States has spent $8.4 billion on counter-narcotics programs in Afghanistan over the years, the country is estimated by the United Nations to have “roughly 500,000 acres, or about 780 square miles, devoted to growing opium poppy,” according to SIGAR head John Sopko, who criticized the billions in taxpayer money spent on these programs during a speech last week in New York City.
“As of this March, the United States has provided $8.4 billion-I repeat, billion-for counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan,” Sopko said, according to text of his remarks. The Pentagon “and State [Department] give information to SIGAR every quarter on their successes such as drug-treatment centers built, rehab workers trained, tractors donated (31 last year), alternative-livelihood programs executed, drug seizures, and so on. Yet, despite all this, we see record and rising levels of opium production.”
Despite these taxpayer-funded efforts, “The United Nations reports that Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s illicit opiates,” Sopko said.
“That’s equivalent to more than 400,000 U.S. football fields, including the end zones,” he added. “This enormous acreage devoted to opium feeds a huge tragedy-fostering heroin addiction and crime around the world, including here-as well as a strategic threat. Taxes on opium are a major revenue source for Afghan insurgents, and a powerful prod to corruption among Afghan officials.”
The billions the United States spends on counter-narcotics programs reduced Afghanistan’s opium fields by just more than 1 percent in the last year.
“The bottom line—record opium cultivation and production—clearly shows we are not winning the war on drugs in Afghanistan,” Sopko said.
Since 2002, Congress has appropriated nearly $110 billion for various Afghanistan reconstruction projects. The money continues to flow despite many instances of fraud and waste identified by SIGAR in recent years.
Security in Afghanistan also continues to deteriorate, making it more difficult for inspectors to provide oversight on the projects receiving U.S. funding.

Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World review – a lucid account of the longest war

War reporter Christina Lamb illuminates Nato’s failures in Afghanistan in this captivating memoir of her years on the frontline
 In November 2008, an Estonian minister by the name of Harri Tiido was being given a tour of Helmand province. Estonians were stationed in Nawzad, which had once been a town of 30,000 people, but was now deserted, “with the two sides dug into first world war-type trenches with their lines 300 yards apart”. After receiving the usual PowerPoint briefing, Tiido was asked by his British hosts if he had any questions: “I have only one,” he said. “What the fuck are we doing here?”

The minister at least knew what he was talking about. During the previous Afghan war, Tiido had been a conscript in the Soviet 40th Army. The Soviets had gone the same way as the Brits in the 19th century, beating a hasty retreat from a land often invaded but never subdued – a land, according to Christina Lamb, “of pomegranates and war”. This was the longest war in British living memory, and the longest in American history, one that has seen hundreds of soldiers come home in body bags, tens of thousands of civilians dead, and to what end?

This is a journey through more than a decade of hell and futility, written vividly
Lamb spent 13 years on and off in a country that she came to love. Arriving straight after 9/11 at the start of what George Bush claimed would be a swift incursion to snuff out Osama bin Laden’s terrorist cell and, as an optional extra, to remove the Taliban. Operation Enduring Freedom turned out to be none of the above.

This is a journey through more than a decade of hell and futility, written vividly, with emotion but mercifully shorn of polemic. The author gets to know a number of the main characters well. One of her first sources was Hamid Karzai, well before the Americans identified him as the man they could do business with. Over the years, Karzai becomes a prisoner in his own fortified compound, increasingly furious with the erstwhile “liberators” and mired in corruption. The author has much sympathy for the squaddies and their commanders, who are charged with an impossible mission. She describes in vivid detail going on foot patrol in Helmand. The British commander concedes that they have no interpreter, adding: “We don’t know if people are friend or foe until they fire.”

Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran – review
This account of America's decade-long adventure in Afghanistan makes for essential reading, writes Jason Burke

 Read more
The war becomes an industry. The number of arrivals and departures at the airfield at Camp Bastion, from jumbo jets to unmanned Reaper drones, turns it into the fifth busiest UK-operated airstrip. The Americans spend more on Afghanistan than they did on the Marshall plan to rebuild Europe after the second world war. Warlords who would relish torturing their opponents are given palaces, reinforced cars, trips to Dubai for R&R and to Germany to get their teeth fixed.

The hapless number crunchers back home dispense with any of the checks they would normally make. Of the many vignettes about waste and corruption, this one is my favourite: more than $3m is spent on patrol boats that end up languishing unused in a Virginia warehouse. “Somehow each of the eight boats had cost $375,000 – far more than the usual £50,000 usual price tag – before anyone realised that Afghanistan had no coastline.” At one point, the British sent grey-suited customs officers to Kabul airport; incoming passengers, groaning under the purchases they had made abroad, would simply walk around them.

In the post-“victory” period of the early 00s, Kabul became a pocket party town for westerners and a clique of westernised Afghans. Those living in the “Kabubble” enjoyed a raucous social life fuelled by illicit alcohol, cheap hash and the adrenaline of fear. Among the many expat ventures were a sea-green-and-chrome “lounge bar” serving margaritas and club steaks, a Deutsche Hof Bierhaus offering pork chops and sauerkraut and a French restaurant replete with swimming pool, which the foreigners dubbed Latmo.

The author scarcely disguises her contempt for the political masters back home. Of the many absurd utterances, the hubris of Labour’s defence secretary John Reid is hard to beat: “We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years, and without firing a single shot.” At every step of the way, the strategy changed and the strategy failed. The initial invasion was a rapid success (just as Iraq was). By 2003, the attention of George W Bush and Tony Blair was focused on the newly invented ogre, Saddam Hussein. Afghanistan became an afterthought. “Nation-building”, such as there was, stopped. The warlords and the Taliban regrouped. Repeated attempts, dating back to 1999, to snatch Bin Laden failed.

The initial casus belli – rooting out terrorism – got nowhere. That was followed by the need to destroy the opium crop. That morphed into cementing democracy and the rule of law, finally the vague and desperate aspiration to improve infrastructure and “quality of life”. The hubris was accompanied by self-delusion that Pakistan was part of the solution, rather than the problem, its security service, the ISI, being one of the chief sponsors of al-Qaida and disrupter of attempts to bring a modicum of stability to Afghanistan.

In the introduction to this most captivating of war journals, Lamb poses the following rhetorical question: “How on earth had the might of Nato, 48 countries with satellites in the skies, 140,000 troops dropping missiles the price of a Porsche, not managed to defeat a group of ragtag religious students led by a one-eyed mullah his own colleagues described as ‘dumb in the mouth’?”

Pakistani intelligence officer disclosed terrorist Osama’s hideout - Seymour M. Hersh

U.S. journalist Seymour M. Hersh calls Obama administration’s narrative on Osama killing ‘a lie’

A former Pakistani intelligence officer disclosed the hideout of Osama bin Laden to CIA in exchange for $25 million bounty on the head of the al-Qaeda chief, who was living as prisoner under ISI protection in the garrison town of Abbottabad, according to a report.
“In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001,” the Dawn reported, citing American investigative journalist and author Seymour M. Hersh.
The intelligence official, Mr. Hersh said, was a military man who is now living in Washington and working for the CIA as a consultant.
U.S. informed ISI

The U.S. confirmed the information provided by the official and put the compound under satellite surveillance. Americans later informed the ISI which set up a cell in Ghazi, Tarbela, where “one man from the SEALs and two communicators” practised the raid before executing the operation, Mr. Hersh said, adding that it was difficult decision but Pakistan was ultimately taken on board and told about the script to kill Osama.
Mr. Hersh said that whatever the Obama administration told about the operation to kill Osama was part of fiction and the real story was totally different.
“The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders — Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani [the then Army chief] and Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha [the then ISI chief] — were never informed of the U.S. mission,” he told Dawn.
Mr. Hersh said the Saudi government also knew about Osama’s presence in Abbottabad and had advised the Pakistanis to keep him as a prisoner.
He said President Barack Obama did not consult Gen. Kayani and Gen. Pasha before releasing the cover story that he shared with his nation in a live broadcast.
Mr. Hersh also said that Dr. Shakil Afridi, the physician now jailed in Peshawar for helping CIA trace down Osama’s hideout, was a CIA asset but he did not know about the operation.

Pakistan - Kayani, Shuja Pasha knew of Terrorist Osama raid in advance: author

US forces killed Osama bin Laden with the full cooperation of Pakistani military and intelligence agencies, who had kept the 9/11 mastermind prisoner inside his infamous Abbottabad compound for years before the fatal raid, according to a controversial article in the London Review of Books by veteran investigative journalist Seymour M Hersh.
According to the 10,000-word expose published on the London Review of Books website, Bin Laden was a prisoner of the Pakistan military, who not only knew of his location, but were keeping him under house arrest and accepting funds from Saudi Arabia for his upkeep.
Another official US account Hersh contradicts is the idea that water-boarding and other “harsh interrogation” produced the intelligence that led to Bin Laden (as in the fictionalised movie Zero Dark Thirty). In his article, Hersh claims a “walk-in” tipster told US officials about Bin Laden’s whereabouts in exchange for $25 million.
The article widely contradicts multiple elements of the original account of the May 2011 raid by US forces provided by the Obama administration. Hersh’s primary source for most of the revelations was a “a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.”
“The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders — General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI — were never informed of the US mission.
This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions,” Hersh wrote, adding that he had unearthed the following new pieces of information:
“(B)in Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006 … Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms … that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.”
US officials, including President Obama, have repeatedly maintained that the Navy SEALS operation to take out bin Laden in 2011 was conducted without the help of Pakistan’s Special Forces and without notifying the Pakistani government beforehand.
Throughout his account, Hersh maintains that it “just made no sense that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad,” a military stronghold that is home to the nation’s equivalent of the West Point military academy in the US.
Obama, Hersh wrote, doubted that Special Forces could carry out any kind of assault on the terrorist’s purported compound without help from Pakistan. “The only way to accomplish both things, the retired official said, ‘was to get the Pakistanis on board,’” Hersh wrote.
US intelligence services gradually collected information about the compound, until they were able to eventually prove that Bin Laden had lived there with help from ISI.
“The compound was not an armed enclave — no machine guns around, because it was under ISI control,” Hersh wrote.
Bin Laden had lived undetected in the Hindu Kush mountains that straddle northern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan from 2001 to 2006, until the ISI “got to him by paying some of the local tribal people to betray him,” Hersh wrote. ISI then hid Bin Laden in the Abbottabad compound for years, keeping his presence a secret, but using him to “keep tabs on al Qaeda and the Taliban,” a source told Hersh.
“The ISI was using bin Laden as leverage against Taliban and al Qaeda activities inside Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Hersh wrote.
But in 2010, the US began learning of bin Laden’s whereabouts, and months later, CIA officials began bringing a small number of Pakistani officials into the planning of the potential operation.
“It didn’t take long to get the co-operation we needed, because the Pakistanis wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid, a good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding that finances personal security,” a source told Hersh.
American and Pakistani officials bargained for weeks over how the mission would be carried out, and the Pakistanis proved instrumental in providing intelligence, in the final agreement, that allowed the raid to occur successfully.
“At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters,” Hersh wrote.
“An ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters. The Seals had been warned by the Pakistanis that heavy steel doors blocked the stairwell on the first and second-floor landings; bin Laden’s rooms were on the third floor,” Hersh alleged, citing his sources.
After bin Laden was shot and killed during the raid, White House officials contended that his body was brought to the USS Carl Vinson, possibly in the Indian Ocean, for a burial at sea that was conducted in accordance with Muslim law.
Again, Hersh claims that the administration lied. “Within weeks of the raid, I had been told by two longtime consultants to Special Operations Command, who have access to current intelligence, that the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place,” he wrote.
“One consultant told me that bin Laden’s remains were photographed and identified after being flown back to Afghanistan. The consultant added: ‘At that point, the CIA took control of the body’,” Hersh wrote.