Sunday, October 9, 2016

Video: Afghanistan: Fifteen Years of Invasion and Occupation

October 7th marks the 15 anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.Fifteen years of massacres, fifteen years of drone strikes and civilian massacres…We were told that the invasion of Afghanistan was in response to the 9/11 attacks.
Fifteen years after NATO’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the 9/11 and Al Qaeda lies that were used to justify the war have disappeared.

Afghanistan Is an Infinite Quagmire


 ''It began as the “good” war. Fifteen years on, it’s a disaster we can’t escape.''
When the United States went to war in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, the impetus and aims seemed clear. “Make no mistake,” President George W. Bush told reporterson September 11, “the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly attacks.” Within days, American bombs began to rain down on Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad, in an effort to smoke out Osama bin Laden and cripple the Taliban regime that harbored him. In a matter of weeks, Kabul had fallen to coalition forces, the Taliban were on the run, and Hamid Karzai was sworn in as the leader of a new interim government. A swift victory appeared all but assured.
Today, 15 years after the invasion began, Afghanistan has turned into America’s longest war. More than 2,300 American troops have died in the conflict, which has cost U.S. taxpayers $686 billion. As a candidate, Barack Obama vowed that we would quickly “finish the job” in Afghanistan. Instead, Obama has presided over a war that went from dismal to disastrous. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Taliban gained ground this year, while the government in Kabul grows weaker. In July, Obama announced that the United States will leave 8,400 troops in Afghanistan—up from the 5,500 he originally called for. By almost any measure, we are moving backwards.
When the conflict began, no one guessed that America would become tangled in a forever war. As a candidate for president, Bush had famously derided the concept of nation-building. The mission in Afghanistan was supposed to be limited in scope: We would go in, get rid of the bad guys, and get out. “For the first time in our history,” Vice President Dick Cheney remarked on October 18, 2001, eleven days after the start of the war, “we will probably suffer more casualties here at home in America than will our troops overseas.” General Tommy Franks, the head of U.S. Central Command, said early on that the war was not about “occupying major strategic terrain,” and therefore offered “the easiest exit strategy we’ve had in years.”
Almost immediately, however, our ambitions metastasized. A month after the war began, First Lady Laura Bush framed the fight against terrorism as a fight for the “rights and dignity of women.” Her speech inspired a long procession of gender initiatives, and scores of Afghan women became pilots, police officers, soldiers, lawmakers, judges, and teachers. Millions of Afghan girls now attend school. Yet it remains common to hear of Afghan women who have been stoned to death, attacked with acid, or beaten by relatives. According to a report by the British government, more than 5,000 cases of violence against Afghan women—including 241 murders—were reported in the first half of this year.
Other initiatives have followed a similar trajectory. Each country in the U.S.-led coalition was assigned a project. Germany was tasked with police reform. Italy would overhaul the justice system. The United Kingdom was put in charge of counter-narcotics. But the fragmented approach further splintered the Afghan state. “Instead of responding to the needs of the population, the initiatives answered the objectives and agendas of the international sponsors,” says Timor Sharan, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. Today, police corruption is widespread, access to justice remains wildly uneven, and Afghanistan is still the world’s leading producer of opium.
The United States has spent $113 billion on reconstruction efforts: building schools, installing irrigation systems, funding anticorruption campaigns. Yet billions of dollars were wasted on projects that were never completed or have fallen into disrepair. The failure is particularly clear in rural Afghanistan, where over 70 percent of the population lives. Much of the money for building and employment projects, according to Sharan, was funneled into urban areas at the expense of more remote regions, fostering resentment and contributing to the ongoing civil war. In Kandahar, for example, the security and stability of the city has come at the expense of rural residents, who are routinely discriminated against by the powerful police commander, Abdul Raziq, who has been accused of running a police state.
It is almost hard to remember now that in May 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld landed in Kabul and declared that major combat operations in Afghanistan were officially over. At the time there were just 8,000 American troops on the ground. As the situation deteriorated, however, the U.S. presence ramped up. By 2007, there were 25,000 troops in Afghanistan—but the added firepower only made things worse. The next year was the deadliest of the war so far: More than 150 American troops died, along with more than 2,000 Afghan civilians, many of them killed by coalition air strikes.
The next year, shortly after taking office, Obama announced a surge of 21,000 troops, bringing the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to more than 50,000. That December, he announced he was sending 30,000 more. By August 2010, the number of U.S. troops reached 100,000. Afghans, meanwhile, took advantage of Western forces to settle personal vendettas. The Alakozai clan, for example, convinced U.S. forces to crack down on the rival Chowkazai clan by claiming they were aligned with the Taliban.
At the end of 2014, with an eye on his legacy, Obama declared victory in Afghanistan. “The longest war in American history,” he insisted, “is coming to a responsible conclusion.” Despite the continued presence of U.S. troops, the war receives little attention in the media: There are just over a dozen full-time foreign correspondents stationed in Kabul, down from hundreds at the height of the war. The major TV networks have closed their offices, and newspapers have whittled down their staffs. Deteriorating security has made it harder to go out on reporting trips. The bacchanal of the expat community is a thing of the past, which is good—such excess was long a point of contention for Afghans, who viewed it as a sign of the international community’s wastefulness. Many of those who remain have moved inside the secure walls of the Green Zone in Kabul, along with the embassies and government agencies.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, continues to unravel. The unchecked flow of foreign dollars has made the country’s power brokers rich, resurrecting the widespread discontent that gave rise to the Taliban. And the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces—supported by more than $68 billion in U.S. tax dollars—have proven unable to hold their ground. When Kunduz fell back under Taliban control last fall, government forces deserted en masse. Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, is teetering on the verge of collapse: The Afghan government controls only a fourth of the province, and some 30,000 civilians have been displaced, creating a humanitarian crisis. “Families, children, women, all have to sleep on the streets,” says Omar Zawak, a spokesman for the provincial governor. “There is a shortage of food and clean water.” Since 2009—the first year the United Nations began keeping records—the war has claimed the lives of 63,934 civilians.
Before the war started, Mullah Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader, told a visiting Pakistani official that Osama bin Laden was an unwelcome guest of the Taliban regime. He did not want his government to become embroiled in bin Laden’s global jihad, but the Pashtun code of honor demanded that he host the Al Qaeda leader with grace. “He is like a bone stuck in my throat,” Omar complained. “I can’t swallow it, nor can I get it out!”
Afghanistan may have begun as a “war of necessity,” as Obama once put it—a forceful and targeted response to the attacks of September 11. But today, after 15 years, it’s a catastrophe from which we cannot seem to free ourselves. Osama bin Laden has been dead for five years. But Afghanistan remains the bone stuck in America’s throat.

Pakistan - Hazara massacres: evasiveness or reluctance to act?

By Lal Khan

There have been increased and numerous sporadic attacks on people belonging to the Shia Hazara community particularly over the last two decades, resulting in spilling the blood of this unfortunate and targeted community.

Another atrocity committed against the Hazaras by the so-called non-state actors and the state’s another usual evasion. This time five innocent women belonging to the Shia Hazara community were returning home when their bus was stopped on Quetta’s Kirani Road by armed men, and one of them barged inside and started shooting indiscriminately. The murderous action was barely noticed during a media circus that is preoccupied with phony war hysteria.
Such is the condition of state security for ordinary people that this atrocious terror struck even when the authorities had claimed tighter security measures for Muharram in Quetta. As after every such murderous act under every regime of the last decade, federal and provincial rulers “strongly condemned the tragic incident and directed law enforcement agencies to ensure the arrest of perpetrators of the assault.” The top state official had their usual regrets conveyed to media through their spokespersons. Once again the Hazaras were the victims of this sectarian monstrosity with the regime, and the state having failed them yet again.
There have been increased and numerous sporadic attacks on people belonging to the Shia Hazara community particularly over the last two decades, resulting in spilling the blood of this unfortunate and targeted community. On Feb 16, 2013, a bomb blast at a market in Hazara Town left 89 people dead. In January 2013, 81 people were killed and 121 injured in suicide and car bomb blasts in the Alamdar Road area. Terrorists gunned down 26 people belonging to the community when, on Sept 20, 2011, they were travelling in a bus near Quetta. In September 2010, a suicide bombing during a Shia rally in Quetta killed around 50 people and injured many others. In March 2004, an Ashura procession was attacked in the city, which left 42 people dead and many injured. Most of the victims were Hazaras.
The earlier attacks were often claimed by the so-called Sunni subsect, calling itself Lakshar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a Pakistani-Taliban-affiliated organisation that considers Shias as heretics and their killing as a pious religious act. After the last attack this summer, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan responded by banning Shia pilgrims from traveling by road between Quetta and the Iranian border, saying it was impossible to “fully secure” the route. Now will he ban the Hazaras from even travelling less than five kilometres to the Quetta city for their groceries? This lays bare the mind-set of our ruling elite in power.
There has been widespread sectarian violence between Pakistan’s different Sunni sects and Shia groups for long. But in the past five years groups including Jaish-ul-Islam and the LeJ have launched and executed sectarian terrorist acts in an increasingly brutal campaign. Balochistan has become one of the epicentres of this slaughter. However, historically, there was very little sectarian violence in Balochistan. Sectarian violence has only recently raised its ugly head, and this has been deliberately nurtured by sections of the bureaucratic elite to crush and demoralise the movement against class and nation oppression. Over half-million Hazaras were forced out of Afghanistan during the 1980s due to the ‘dollar jihad’. After the US aggression and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, this community has been bled and maimed by sectarian butchery.
After these acts of sectarian killings of Shias in Balochistan during the last few years, the state launched rigorous military operations against ‘terrorists’. But it is an open secret that these military operations were mainly conducted against ‘other targets’. No efficacious operation has ever been executed against these sectarian outfits.
A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report paints a grim picture of the authorities. It states: “The Pakistani government’s response to this violence suggests incompetence, indifference, or possible complicity by security forces and other state personnel with the extremists. Authorities have failed to apprehend or prosecute members of militant groups, including the LeJ, that have claimed responsibility for such attacks. While Pakistan and Balochistan authorities claim to have arrested dozens of suspects linked to attacks against Shia since 2008, only a handful have been actually charged with any crimes.”
The barbarous acts of non-state actors and the total indifference of the Pakistani state to the plight of the ones being slaughtered have multiplied insecurities leading to severe psychological and social traumas on the Hazara community. A malaise, a painful irrelevance has set in the community’s prevalent psyche that is practically ghettoised. Since 2012, Quetta’s Hazaras have been forced to restrict their lives and activities to the neighbourhoods of Marriabad and Hazara Town along with economic hardships and limited freedom of movement and safe access to education. It is not an accident that the Hazaras, mainly the youth, are trying to get out from this suffocating isolation and social and cultural privation, escaping Pakistan to seek refuge in countries as far away as Australia.
However, continuous targeting is posing serious questions of an existential threat to the Hazara community. Narendra Modi’s cynical rhetoric on Balochistan was more damaging for its inhabitants than to anyone else. But pointing fingers at proxy wars being the only cause of this murderous campaign is insufficient. There has been a history of alienation, oppression and isolation of the region. Pakistan was created on August 14, 1947, but until March 29, 1949, the Khanate of Kalat was a separate princely state that was annexed under duress. Ever since the region has been in turmoil and bloody conflict. With the discovery of huge reserves of minerals, imperialist vultures have swarmed onto the region for naked plunder. The alienation and sentiments of national and socioeconomic deprivation, exploitation, state and non-state brutalities have aggravated people’s revulsion against the system. The disparity of socioeconomic development and relatively less terrorist violence and state repression in Punjab and some other regions is increasing alienation and a seething discontent in Balochistan. The fight against religious sectarian bestiality, and struggle for national and socioeconomic liberation has to be united in a collective struggle on class basis. Only through the victory of this class struggle can this sectarian savagery — the distilled essence of the rotten capitalism — be obliterated, once and forever.

Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba suffered maximum damage in surgical strikes, 20 militants killed: Reports

Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashker-e-Taiba(LeT) suffered the maximum damage in the cross-LoC surgical strikes on terror launch pads+carried out by Indian army with assessment reports of radio intercepts indicating that around 20 of its militants were killed.

The assessment reports available from Indian army field units which included radio conversations between various Pakistani formations showed maximum damage was inflicted on LeT, a banned terror group, at Dudniyal launch pad in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, opposite to Kupwara sector of North Kashmir, according to sources in the know of details of the recent surgical strikes.

The sources said on Sunday that five teams culled out from the army division in the area were tasked to destroy launch pads of terror groups located at Kail also known as Kel and Dudniyal.

In a well calibrated operation, which started on the intervening night of September 28 and 29, Indian army moved across the LoC and smashed four launch pads that were under the guard of a Pakistani post located 700 metres from the LoC.

The sources said that the terrorists were not expecting an action by the Indian army and therefore were taken by surprise+ .

The terrorists, mainly belonging to the LeT, were seen running towards the Pakistani post when they were killed by the Indian troops, according to the assessment reports.

After the successful strike inside the PoK, an effective radio monitoring and strict vigil was maintained, the sources said, adding the wireless messages from radio intercepts of Pakistani army indicated that at least 10 LeT terrorists had been been killed during the multiple and near synchronised surgical strikes on four launch pads.

There was heavy movement of Pakistani army vehicles till the break of dawn and all the bodies were cleared off and taken away, the sources said, adding as per the radio intercepts there was a mass burial in the Neelum valley.

Similar blow was dealt to the terrorist launch pads located at Balnoi area opposite of Poonch in which nine people belonging to LeT were killed as per the radio intercepts of Pakistani army, the sources said.

Two Pakistani soldiers belonging to 8 Northern Light Infantry were also killed in the strike in this sector, they said.

However, the sources said that post 8.30 AM of September 28, radio and wireless intercepts between various formations of Pakistan have fallen silent.

Indian films banned, Pakistani actors ejected – how the Kashmir crisis is hitting Bollywood

Michael Safi

Adark cloud has hung over Delhi these past few weeks, and it isn’t just the pollution. Ever since a September attack by militants in Kashmir killed 19 Indian soldiers, war has been in the air. And, as with the pollution, no part of life here is unaffected. A 65-year-old water-sharing pact between India and Pakistan is apparently being reconsidered. The famous Wagah checkpoint – where audiences watch Indian and Pakistani border guards trade high kicks and handshakes – was briefly shut to the public, reportedly after Pakistani revellers pelted the Indian side with stones.
And last week, after India announced its troops had launched “surgical strikes” in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association said it, too, was on a war footing. The legion of Pakistani actors and technicians in Bollywood, and other Indian cinema hubs, would be banned from working “until normalcy returns”, it said. The organisation’s president, TP Aggarwal, went even further, saying Pakistanis would be banned from the industry “for ever”, and asking the Indian government to boot them from the country.
Fawad Khan, a meticulously bearded leading man from Lahore, is the ban’s most famous victim. Khan planned to return to India later this month to promote his Diwali holiday blockbuster, the romantic drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Instead he will stay put in Pakistan, while plans for the film’s debut languish after threats by ultra-nationalist MNS party in Mumbai to disrupt screenings and promotional events.Two Pakistani singers have also cancelled their Indian concerts after the same far-right party ordered Pakistani artists to leave the country within two days – or face being “pushed out”.Even Indians have been caught in the crossfire. On Friday, actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui dropped out of a Hindu theatre festival, forgoing a role that had been his “childhood dream”, after objections by another nationalist party, the Shiv Sena. Party member Mukesh Sharma told the Times of India: “In the 50- to 60-year history of the Budhana Ramlila, no Muslim artist has set foot on the stage. We couldn’t allow that now. It’s about tradition.”The line between art and politics in India is already blurry. Actors regularly swan into parliamentary seats and lend their colossal fame to one candidate or another. Inevitably, politics intrudes the other way. But the cold shoulder shown to Khan and other Pakistanis has kicked off a spirited debate in the Indian media and among Bollywood’s brightest stars.Karan Johar, the director of Fawad Khan’s upcoming release, said his “heart bleeds for the lost lives” among India’s soldiers, but insisted a ban “is not a solution”. Indian Salman Khan, one of world’s highest-paid actors, said his Pakistani colleagues had all been cleared for entry by the Indian government, and in any case, were “artistes not terrorists”. Others have walked a finer line. Veteran actor Anupam Kher said Pakistani artists needed to publicly denounce the attacks on Indian soldiers – as some, but not Khan, have done.
The irascible Nana Patekar thinks Bollywood ought to simply shut up about the matter: “Artistes are small insects in front of the nation, we are nothing compared to the country. I don’t want to know what Bollywood says,” he said.
This treatment of Indian Muslim and Pakistani actors takes place against the backdrop of increasing threats to free speech in the world’s largest democracy, according to human rights groups.
Divya Spandana (also known as Ramya), another Indian actor turned politician, was threatened with a civil sedition charge after visiting Pakistan in August. Her crime? Saying India’s rival was “a good country, not hell”. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s cinema lobby has called the restriction on its nationals “deeply regrettable”, and announced its own embargo, pulling all Indian films from Pakistani screens. Indian cinema was already banned in Pakistan for 43 years, after the second Kashmir war between the countries, and only permitted again in 1998. On Thursday, Indian sitcoms and soap operas – already restricted on Pakistani television to 86 minutes a day – were also completely banned by the country’s media regulator.
It is a predictable response, but presents a conundrum for the Pakistani cinemas. “The lifespan of any film is one week; a blockbuster, two weeks. There were a total of 15 Pakistani films released last year,” Khorem Gultasab, the general manager of cinema chain SuperCinema, told the Dawn newspaper.
“Even if you double the amount of each film’s run time, with the few films released, you’re still left with 40-42 weeks of empty screens. What will cinemas do for those weeks?”