Divining the News (DTN)

Not Mainstream News

Five Excerpts with pics on Afghanistan and the Taliban

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From Wired and the Guardian:

  • Civilian Casualties Hit New Highs in Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan’s Civilian Toll, Seen from the Ground

  • Drone War Escalates; 30 More Dead in Pakistan

  • Obama Okays Afghanistan Troop Increase

  • Nato is deeper in its Afghan mire than Russia ever was

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Civilian Casualties Hit New Highs in Afghanistan

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By Noah Shachtman EmailFebruary 17, 2009 | 9:21:49 AM

The fighting has grown more and more intense this year. So it’s no surprise that the civilian casualties in Afghanistan have spiked, as well. 2,118 innocents died in 2008 — an increase of 40 percent, according to the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan’s Civilian Toll, Seen from the Ground

By Nathan Hodge EmailFebruary 17, 2009 | 11:58:54 AM

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While many IMF [international military forces] say they have an ‘open door’ to civilians, Afghans often found it barricaded by sandbags, razor wire and hostile, heavily-armed soldiers. Many said they are turned away without their grievances heard. As one Afghan staff of an international organization described: ‘People don’t even try [to get compensation from the military] because the military are so hard to get to. You cannot get through or you can’t even get to the gate sometimes.’ One man, whose brother was shot in ISAF crossfire following a suicide attack on a military convoy, described how he ‘went to the airport to see the PRT [provincial reconstruction team] twenty times but nobody was ever available to see me.’

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Drone War Escalates; 30 More Dead in Pakistan (Updated)

By Noah Shachtman EmailFebruary 17, 2009 | 12:45:00 PM

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The drone attacks keep coming. Just in the month since Barack Obama took office, U.S. unmanned aircraft have killed approximately 80 people in Pakistan. The latest strike came Monday, in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Kurram. Reports put the death toll between 25 and 30.

“Three U.S. spy planes were seen hovering over the area during the attack,” local sources tell The News. “They said the planes fired four Hellfire missiles around 9:00 am that hit a primary school building and an adjoining house reportedly inhabited by Taliban militants. The residents said both the buildings were flattened in the attack, inflicting heavy losses on the inmates. According to the sources, Taliban militants had been living there for the past two years.”

According to the Long War Journal, this is the sixth strike in this new year. “There were 36 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan during 2008 . Twenty-nine of these attacks took place after August 31st. There were only 10 recorded strikes in 2006 and 2007 combined.”

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Obama Okays Afghanistan Troop Increase

By Noah Shachtman EmailFebruary 17, 2009 | 4:48:50 PM

Hires_081122m6159t008 For nearly a year, U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan have openly begged for extra boots on the ground. Now, President Obama is going ahead with it: “a Marine Expeditionary Brigade later this spring and an Army Stryker Brigade and the enabling forces necessary to support them later this summer,” according to the White House.

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The Guardian, Saturday 14 February 2009 Jonathan Steele

Nato is deeper in its Afghan mire than Russia ever was

Two decades after the Soviet withdrawal, ever more resources are being poured into a war with scant chance of success

Getting out was easier for Moscow than it will be for the US. International negotiations in Geneva gave the Kremlin the face-saver of “parallelism”. The peace terms were that the Russians would leave when aid to the mujahideen ceased and an intra-Afghan dialogue was launched. This disguised any appearance of defeat. It even provided a good chance for the Afghan government to continue after Soviet troops withdrew. In fact, it lasted three more years.

The causes and consequences of the Soviet withdrawal and Najibullah’s eventual fall have led to some of the phoniest myths of the cold war. Claims that US-provided Stinger missiles forced the Russians to give up and that this humiliation provoked the Soviet Union’s collapse are nonsense. Moscow’s ally Najibullah fell four months after the USSR died, when the Kremlin’s new ruler, Boris Yeltsin, cut fuel supplies to the Afghan army and Abdul Rashid Dostum, the leading Uzbek commander, defected to the mujahideen. Until that moment, they had not captured and held a single city.

Another myth is that the west “walked away” after the Russians left. If only it had. Instead Washington and Pakistan broke the Geneva agreement by maintaining arms supplies to the mujahideen. They encouraged them to reject Najibullah’s repeated efforts at national reconciliation. The mujahideen wanted all-out victory, which they eventually got, only to squander it in an orgy of artillery shelling that left Kabul in ruins and produced the anger that paved the way for the Taliban. If western governments are now paying a high price in Afghanistan, they have brought the disaster on themselves.

The Taliban will not drive Nato out militarily. The notion that Afghans always defeat foreigners is wrong. The real lesson of the Soviet war is that in Afghanistan political and cultural disunity can slide into massive and prolonged violence. Foreigners intervene at their peril.

Nato is in a cleft stick and the idea that, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is the “right war” is a self-deluding trap. A military “surge”, the favoured Obama policy, may produce short-term local advances but no sustainable improvement, and as yesterday’s Guardian reported, it will cost the US and Britain enormous sums. Pouring in aid will take too long to win hearts and minds, and if normal practice is followed, the money will mainly go to foreign consultants and corrupt officials. Talking to the Taliban makes sense under Najibullah-style national reconciliation. But the Taliban themselves are disunited, with a host of local leaders and generational divisions between “new” and “old” Taliban. Worse still, since the war spilt into Pakistan’s frontier regions, there are now Pakistani Taliban.

What of the better option, a phased Nato withdrawal? It will not produce benefits as clear or immediate as the US pull-out from Iraq. Most Iraqis never wanted the US in the first place. They know the destruction the invasion brought, have stepped back from sectarian war, and now have a government which has pressed Washington to set a timetable to leave. In Afghanistan the risks of a collapse of central rule and a long civil war are far greater. –more–

Written by morris

February 17, 2009 at 11:42 pm

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