Thursday, December 12, 2019

Pashto Music - دا زمونږ زیبا وطن، دا زمونږ لیلا وطن، دا وطن مو ځان دی، دا افغانستان

18 years, 2,300 deaths & $978 bn later, why America’s Afghan war is being called a failure


The figures were revealed in an investigative report, titled The Afghanistan Papers, published by The Washington Post Monday.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar, had told government interviewers in 2015. Lute served in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.
This was revealed in an investigative report, titled The Afghanistan Papers, published by the The Washington Post Monday.
After years of painstaking probe, The Washington Post has come out with these papers on the US’ so-called ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan that began 18 years ago in 2001 as the Bush administration’s answer to the devastating 9/11 twin-tower attacks. Subsequent Presidents Barack Obama and now Donald Trump have continued the war.
These startling revelations came after The Washington Post got access to confidential documents of the US government following a three-year battle under the Freedom of Information Act. The 2,000-page document shows interviews conducted by government-appointed interviewers. 
They interviewed US Army generals, diplomats, aid workers as well as Afghan government officials — all pointing to one fact on how America hid the fact that “the war had become unwinnable”.
According to Lute, who blamed the deaths of around 2,400 US soldiers on “bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department” also said in an interview to the government interviewers “Who will say this was in vain?”

According to the US State Department, which The Washington Post revealed in its story, more than 7,75,000 US troops have been deployed in Afghanistan, of which many were posted on a repeated basis. Of these, 2,300 troops died, while 20,589 were wounded in action since 2001.

‘Core failings of the war that persist to this day’

The undisclosed interviews also revealed how Bush, Obama and Trump, and their military chiefs, under whom the war began and continue until this day, failed to bring about a positive change in the strife-torn country even as rampant corruption continued, opium trade thrived while the Afghan army and police remained incompetent.
“The interviews, through an extensive array of voices, bring into sharp relief the core failings of the war that persist to this day. They underscore how three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan,” the report noted.
It also highlighted how the US government failed to even know how its money was being spent in keeping the war alive, the costs of which are “staggering”.
According to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University, the US government is estimated to have spent anywhere between $934 billion and $978 billion since the war started 18 years ago.
“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, had told government interviewers.
“After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan,” Eggers added, as reported in the article.

Statistics ‘distorted’

The report further noted that the documents accessed by the newspaper, negate the “long chorus of public statements from US Presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting”.
“Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the US government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case,” the newspaper noted.
Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counter-insurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers that every data obtained had been fudged to portray a rosy picture that justified the war.
“Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that (what) we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice-cream cone,” he added.
In a shocking revelation, even one of the federal agency interviewers John Sopko told the newspaper that “the American people have constantly been lied to”.
Sopko had led an agency nicknamed SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction), which was created by the US Congress in 2008 to investigate and audit the war and its outcome.
It was also revealed in one of the interviews that the US was not aiming to make a poor Afghanistan rich, but was only focussed at promoting its own agenda.
“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich,” James Dobbins, a former senior US diplomat, who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers. 
“We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan,” said Dobbins.

The ‘AfPak strategy’

The US’ strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan was popularly called the ‘AfPak’ strategy. It was rolled out in 2008 and discontinued abruptly in 2010 due to opposition from both the countries. The strategy was basically aimed at initiating counter-terrorism measures, thereby bringing Afghanistan out of the ill-effects of the war and rebuilding its society.
During one interview conducted in 2015, an unidentified US official told one of the government interviewers, “With the AfPak strategy, there was a present under the Christmas tree for everyone…By the time you were finished you had so many priorities and aspirations it was like no strategy at all.”
A project — Lessons Learned — run by SIGAR conducted many such interviews to understand whom the US was fighting in reality.

Who was the enemy?

“Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll? According to the documents, the US government never settled on an answer…As a result, in the field, US troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe,” the report said.
An unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team told government interviewers in 2017, US military commanders expected him to come up with a map to direct them to their targets.
“It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?” the former adviser said.

‘US Presidents failed in nation-building in Afghanistan’

According to The Washington Post article, this is one aspect where the “Presidents failed miserably”. It said while America attempted to create a Washington out of Afghanistan, the concepts were alien to Kabul, who only knew “tribalism, monarchism, communism and Islamic law”.
“Our policy was to create a strong central government which was idiotic because Afghanistan does not have a history of a strong central government,” an unidentified former State Department official told government interviewers in 2015. “The time-frame for creating a strong central government is 100 years, which we didn’t have.”
Some of the aid workers interviewed also pointed to the fact that during the peak of the war between 2009-12, the US government’s move to spend money on schools, bridges, canals and other such developmental projects only helped in “pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive”.
Many aid workers also blamed the US Congress for this “mindless rush to spend”.
Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel, who was deployed in Afghanistan several times and advised three US generals in charge of the war, had even accused former Afghan President Hamid Karzai of “kleptocracy” that the US government failed to recognise.
Ryan Crocker, who served as the top US diplomat in Kabul in 2002 and again in 2011-12, told government interviewers, “Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption…Once it gets to the level I saw, when I was out there, it’s somewhere between unbelievably hard and outright impossible to fix it.”

‘Incompetent Afghan commanders’

The investigation also revealed how the Afghan commanders were pocketing lump sum salaries under the garb of providing training to their forces.
“In the Lessons Learned interviews…US military trainers described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters. They also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries — paid by US taxpayers — for tens of thousands of ‘ghost soldiers’,” the article said.
“None expressed confidence that the Afghan army and police could ever fend off, much less defeat, the Taliban on their own. More than 60,000 members of Afghan security forces have been killed, a casualty rate that US commanders have called unsustainable,” it noted.

The major miscalculation by US in its Afghan war — Pakistan


Former US envoy and defense officials point out the flaws in policymaking, say successive administrations failed to see the ‘Pakistan danger’.

At the heart of the United States’ failed Afghanistan war was Washington’s inability to spot the “Pakistan danger” for seven to eight years after the war started in 2001, revealed former US acting ambassador to Afghanistan James Dobbins.
Reacting to Dobbins’ rather earnest acceptance, Candace Rondeaux, who was special adviser to US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said she was “stunned by such analysis … mainly because the fingerprints (of Pakistan’s support for Taliban) were there in every way”.
Many such damning pieces of information on what transpired between Pakistan and the US as the Afghanistan war was under way have now come to light after the release of The Afghanistan Papers by The Washington Post.
Various raw interviews contained in The Afghanistan Papers highlight some new revelations pertaining to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan war and flaws in US’ policymaking.

The Bonn insult

In a revealing anecdote, Dobbins recounts an incident at the Bonn negotiations — the multi-party Afghanistan peace negotiations — which led to the Bonn Agreement of December 2001. Dobbins was the lead US negotiator there.
These negotiations had representatives from all major Afghan factions, major world powers, but none from the Afghan Taliban.
In order to show its displeasure, Dobbins revealed, the Pakistani government sent a representative, who had until recently been its ambassador to the Taliban-run Afghan government.
“Everybody said, ‘Gee, couldn’t they send somebody other than this guy’ who was recently representing them to the Taliban,” said Dobbins.

Taliban was defeated but Pakistan wasn’t factored in

In one of the most telling revelations, Dobbins talked about the shift in the US administration’s thinking with respect to Taliban.
“I have to say that I think at least I shared a general assumption which was that the Taliban had been so quickly and rapidly overthrown that it was likely that it was — that it had been heavily discredited and unlikely to make a comeback,” Dobbins said during his interview.
“That turned out to be wrong largely because it discounted the likelihood the Pakistan would continue to see Taliban as a useful surrogate and would essentially resuscitate it,” he added.
Several officials say there was a growing sense between 2001 and 2004 that the Taliban was too decimated to recover. But such analysis had discounted how Pakistan was supporting the Taliban during those years, claim some of the interviewed officials.
“In East (Afghanistan), there was the assumption that Pakistan would take up that part of the fight. Instead, they shelled us,” remarked a US military officer who has served in Afghanistan.
“If we had anticipated that Pakistan would have helped the Taliban as much as it did to escalate the war in 2005-2006, and if we had been smart enough to essentially adopt the Obama ANSF program, right from the outset, we would have precluded the ability of Taliban to escalate,” remarked Marin Strmecki, former adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, who as President Bush’s Defence Secretary launched the Afghan war in 2001. 

Institutional issues

Several former officials argued that the failure of the US Afghan war was caused by its policy to treat Pakistan and Afghanistan as two different theatres. The implicit sense here was the officials running America’s Afghanistan policy were not addressing how Pakistan’s support for the Taliban was exacerbating the war in Afghanistan.
“The people managing Afghanistan were not managing Pakistan,” said Strmecki.
“The Defense Department was responsible for the war on Afghanistan but it wasn’t the lead in the relationship with Pakistan,” remarked Dobbins. “The State Department, of course, had responsibility for relationships with Pakistan and with Afghanistan.”
An unnamed White House official said, “To treat Afghanistan and Pakistan separately… It was like a donut hole in the middle of the whole policy for South Asia. The Obama administration just thought if you just hang in there Pakistan will see the light.”
In his interview, the White House official critiques such a policy, but most of those criticisms have been redacted before being released to The Washington Post.

Pakistan’s point of view

A couple of interviews also help highlight Pakistani thinking on why it supports the Taliban and how it perceived American presence in the region. In one such interview, Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, tried to articulate the Pakistani thinking.
He argued that the root of the Taliban problem goes back to President H.W. Bush and the end of the Soviet-Afghan war. During the war, Pakistan was a “critical partner”. But once the war ended, the US was “done with Pakistan too”. Moreover, opposition to Soviets was the only thing uniting several factions in Afghanistan, thus the end of war had to kickstart a civil war, argued Crocker.
“So, as Pakistanis describe it, they went from being the most allied of allies to the most sanctioned of adversaries literally overnight with that civil war next door,” said Crocker.
In such a scenario, Pakistan supported whichever Afghan faction it could — which happened to be Taliban, Crocker was told by his Pakistani interlocutors.

#Pakistan - Four more #polio cases reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The tally of polio cases this year in the country has reached 98, excluding 12 vaccine-derived cases, after four polio cases were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) Lakki Marwat and Tank districts on Thursday.
In Lakki Marwat, poliovirus was detected in a three-month-old boy and an 11-month-old girl in tehsil Sarai Naurang. The third case in the district was reported in union council Dara Tang involving an 11-month-old girl. According to the polio emergency operation centre, the cases were a result of the children not being administered polio drops.
Meanwhile, in Tank, polio was confirmed in a 12-month-old girl.
According to an Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio: “Lakki Marwat and Bannu have become high-risk districts for polio cases in 2019. Out of the 98 polio cases reported in the country this year, 72 were reported in KP, 14 in Sindh, seven in Balochistan and five in Punjab. In addition, 12 VDPV2 polio cases were also reported across districts in Pakistan.
In spite of tall claims by the government and several anti-polio drives, there has been no let-up in the polio cases across the country, with the cases being reported in regular intervals in Sindh and KP. These two provinces are among the worst-affected regions, witnessing a spike over the recent months.

#Pakistan #PPP - Former president Asif Ali Zardari released from Pims sub-jail a day after bail approval

Former president Asif Ali Zardari was on Thursday released from custody at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), a day after he was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the Park Lane and fake accounts cases on medical grounds.
The PPP leader was taken to Zardari House in the capital. Although he was expected to fly to Karachi today, the party decided against it.
Sindh Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said Zardari will spend the night at his Islamabad residence and will be shifted to Karachi.
The former president was accompanied by his children Bilawal and Aseefa when he was allowed to leave Pims, which had been declared a sub-jail, after the completion of legal formalities. A large number of supporters gathered at the scene and threw rose petals on his car.
The IHC had on Wednesday granted post-arrest bail to Zardari in the Park Lane and fake accounts cases on medical grounds against surety bonds of Rs20 million and adjourned proceedings on the bail petition of his sister and lawmaker Faryal Talpur till December 17.
Both Zardari and Talpur had been under detention for the past six months, until the former's bail.
The court noted that the petitioner, who is one of the accused in a reference pending before an accountability court, “has not been convicted and, therefore, he is to be treated as innocent unless proven guilty”.
PPP information secretary and MNA Dr Nafeesa Shah while commenting on Zardari's release said today was a "good day" for the country and democracy.
She expressed the hope that like Zardari, other PPP leaders who are incarcerated due to "NAB's black law" will also be given relief.
Shah said the court had granted bail to Zardari on medical grounds and merit after government-appointed doctors recommended his treatment at a specialist care facility.
NAB had initiated proceedings against Zardari earlier this year while his arrest warrants were issued on June 10 after the rejection of his pre-arrest bail. He remained in the anti-graft watchdog's custody for 68 days before being sent to Adiala jail in August on judicial remand. During his incarceration, the health of the former president started deteriorating. After a couple of months, Zardari was taken to Pims for treatment on the recommendation of a medical board. He had been under treatment at the hospital since October 22.