Endgame Afghanistan: India's worries
Kabul: Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai will be on a two-day visit to India starting Monday. He will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on enhancing strategic ties, security and developmental work in the run-up to next year’s withdrawal of western troops. As Afghanistan braces for 2014, we travelled extensively in the AfPak region to find out whether the proposed end of war would impact India.
Braving for 2014, whether the exit of western troops will end the war in Afghanistan or start a fresh round of violence is a million dollar question, an important one for India’s security concerns as well.
After the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Pakistan pushed the trained jihadis to fight the insurgency in India. Kashmir saw its bloodiest decade. 9/11 made Pakistan, America’s ally on the war against terror and gave birth to Pakistan Taliban - a group attacking Pakistan itself. Pakistan’s attention shifted to the western border and some experts believe Pakistan’s internal worries led to relative peace on its eastern front, one it shares with India.
Will Pakistan push the trained militants again in our direction?
Over the last decade India has earned immense good will in Afghanistan. At a certain point, the timing of soap opera ‘sans bhi kabhi bahu thi’, popularly known as ‘Tulsi’ here, coincided with the time of the prayers. This was taken up in the parliament of Afghanistan, so the shows timing could be adjusted. India has made friends across the ethnic groups through cultural connections and developmental work.
None of this pleases Pakistan. Rawalpindi has always thought of Afghanistan as a no go area for India, a strategic base for themselves in event of war against India. In the past Kashmir insurgents have received training in mountainous areas of Afghanistan.
Retired Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul of Pakistan’s army once headed the ISI. Credited in Pakistan for pushing hard line policies against India, he played a pivotal role in the insurgency that began in Kashmir.
He warns India of tomorrow’s reality. “Tomorrow’s reality is, if Afghan freedom fighters come out freely then they will give a fillip to the idea. It is going to kindle a new spirit, because yet another superpower has been defeated. They will think why we can’t do it, the Kashmiris will do it.”
In Afghanistan, the governor of Nuristan tells us, “Many border areas are full of anti-India groups. LeT is here, they are more powerful than Al Qaeda. If Afghanistan is a trouble area, if there is a war here, I think India will never feel safe. The war is going to come to their borders.”
Sources in the United States government have told NDTV, for months now the US has been trying to convey to India of a change of heart in Pakistan’s deep establishment, though most Afghan leaders like Amarullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s former chief of intelligence do not buy into that.
“They define Pakistan as a vulnerable country, which if truly put under pressure, may collapse. We don’t buy the argument. We see it as a calculative strategy. India should strengthen Afghanistan. Every spectacular attack in Afghanistan one way or another is linked to Rawal Pindi and every spectacular attack in India is linked to LeT. So why is the root of terrorism not drying up in our region? One primary reason is the ambiguity of the Western policy vis-a-vis Pakistan,” said Amarullah Saleh.
India’s decision-makers acknowledge that India’s own internal security would be at risk especially if the drawdown of international troops from Afghanistan leaves behind a security vacuum that is filled by militant groups backed by Pakistan. India is aware of Pakistan’s sensitivities but is not shying away for defining it as a long-term relationship with Afghanistan. India’s former ambassador to Afghanistan confirms “In terms of being able to contribute more to Afghanistan security, to regional security through co-operative activities, yes that is possible. But as always it is something that has to be decided and we have to take into account their requirements, we have to take into account our capacities, and we have to take into account regional stability. So whatever we try to do, we would do in a responsible way in a responsible direction.”
The Afghans want India to play a bigger role, not only in developmental work and investments but also security cooperation. While president Karzai’s visit is unlikely to bring any major surprises, sources have told NDTV, India has not yet revealed its entire plan for Afghanistan. Policy they say is work in progress.
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister says Afghanistan would be left to Afghans and has made all the right noises on relationship with India. The big question, will his words become reality?
1:33 pm • 18 May 2013 • 9 notes
Bacha Khan: Only a dead nation remembers its heroes when they die. Real nations respect them when they are alive.
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was called “Frontier Gandhi” by Indians.
Such is the respect Indians had towards him; nobody else would be given an epithet that equated them with the Mahatma in any way.
6:03 pm • 17 May 2013 • 26 notes
What I’m about to write is grisly but it’s based on reality and on war. And the word needs to get out. It’s about how wars distort the truth and how gender becomes a fancy topic to throw in when convenient.
Imagine. You are in Gardez, Afghanistan. You are celebrating the joyous arrival of a newborn - a little baby - in your house. You all speak Dari, one of the most beautiful languages spoken in Asia. There is music, there is dancing; All to welcome the birth of a child. You are happy. At midnight, a raid is carried out by US forces in your house because their (flawed) intelligence agencies claim there’s a meeting going on to prepare a suicide bomber. They don’t double check, they don’t verify but they carry weapons that can put holes in your bones so they go on anyway. They carry out a massacre in your house. Five people are killed. Three are women. One of them is pregnant. One of them is a senior Afghan police officer. One of the men is zip-cuffed up and watches in horror how US soldiers dig bullets out of his dead wife. They cover the entire incident up. It never reaches the news. When it does, it’s a quick flash. Most of us don’t even remember.
After the US soldiers - the Joints Special Operations Command members - raided that house, they take the remaining men into custody and interrogate them through barbaric means trying to get them to indicate that the family had a connection with the Taliban. Men who had nothing to do with the Taliban. In international press, the report is presented as: “US Forces stumble upon the aftermath of what looks like a Taliban honor killing.”
Honor killing. Feminists in the world roar. Liberal feminists want justice for these dead women. “Religion is oppressive! Those men killed these women for dancing, didn’t they? Those monsters!” Little do they know, the same saviors that were in the region to “rescue” women were the killers. But we see no link between dogma and gender when we look at the US Military; We are taught to see them as saviors, as warriors of justice. And so the leader of the JSOC, Vice Admiral William McRaven enters that village post-raid with scores of Afghan soldiers and American soldiers and offers a sheep to sacrifice - a tradition in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is done to gain one’s forgiveness after misconduct - in front of the family. A photographer snaps a photo of the reconciliation that is offered to the grieving family. All is well, all is good. At least according to selective media reports.
But it is never found out whether those soldiers were disciplined for killing innocent people. Whether they were held accountable for murder. Yes, murder. Call it what it is. And it goes on. A journalist who tries to present this brutal incident in public is instantly demonized and hushed. Similar to the case of the Yemeni journalist who was jailed - at Obama’s order - for exposing a US missile strike in Yemen that killed civilians.
The truth is obscured and distorted during war. It is presented in bits and pieces understated and overstated at will. But what is horrifying is how easily it is fed into a consumer’s mind. Imagine how many massacres have been hidden from us to keep a war going on and on and on.
Click the link.
2:25 am • 23 January 2013 • 812 notes
“President Obama, my understanding from sources, within the intelligence and military world, has really sort of micromanaged this process [of war]. John Brennan is basically the hit man of this administration, except he never has to go out and do the hitting himself. He orders, you know, planes and missile strikes and AC-130 strikes to, you know, hit in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan. You know, we’re looking right now at a reality that President Obama has essentially extended the very policies that many of his supporters once opposed under President Bush. And I think it says something about the bankrupt nature of partisan politics in this country that the way we feel about life-or-death policies around the world is determined by who happens to be in office. That, to me, is a very sobering reality.”
— Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare (via mehreenkasana)
12:54 am • 23 January 2013 • 125 notes
Recommended Reads of 2012 on US Drone Strikes:
The year is coming to an end but the atrocities and havoc inflicted by US drone strikes and cruise missiles in the Middle East and South Asia seem like they will, unfortunately, continue in the coming year. In order to understand the gravity of the situation and the repercussions these drone strikes are causing in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond, it is important to gain a comprehension of the nature of the policy and the laws that its implementation is continuously violating. Given below is a list of questions, arguments and statistics involving the drone strikes and the casualties - of women, children and innocent bystanders - it’s caused. Furthermore, questions involving the demand to make Barack Obama responsible for these strikes, the lack of transparency and the infamous, inhumane definition of “military age males” is taken into serious consideration.
- “What is the difference — legally and morally — between a sticky bomb the Israelis place on the side of an Iranian scientist’s car and a Hellfire missile the United States launches at a car in Yemen from thirty thousand feet in the air? How is one an ‘assassination’ — condemned by the United States — and the other an ‘insurgent strike’? What is the difference between attacking a country’s weapon-making machinery through a laptop computer or through bunker-busters? What happens when other states catch up with American technology — some already have — and turn these weapons on targets inside the United States or American troops abroad, arguing that it was Washington that set the precedent for their use? These are all questions the Obama team discusses chiefly in classified briefings, not public debates.”
- A new study conducted by law professors at Stanford and New York University relies on some 130 interviews with civilians living in the regions of northern Pakistan where targeted drone strikes have been most frequent. Working with the activist group Reprieve, the team of professors have added to the growing body of literature that argues, contrary to Obama administration claims, that numerous civilians have been killed, and many more traumatized, by the drone strike program.
- U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan haven’t made America safer. The Stanford/NYU study notes: “Publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best … The number of ‘high-level’ militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low — estimated at just 2%. Evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks.”
- Why has the administration fought the ACLU’s efforts to make America’s use of drones more transparent, and what justifies its opposition? The Obama administration has authorized hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan alone, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilians. Why is it justifiable to kill such a large number of civilians in the name of protecting civilians from terrorism? Are so-called “double-tap” drone strikes morally justifiable, considering that the United States has criticized terrorist groups for using the tactic? [Full text here]
- Five Specific Questions Journalists Should Ask About the Drone Strike Policy.
- The Pentagon’s top lawyer has resigned and says he will return to private practice. Jeh (jay) Johnson is stepping down at the end of December after four years that included a number of controversial legal issues including the escalation in the use of drone strikes, the revamping of the use of military commissions rather than civilian trials for terrorism war-era detainees, and the repeal of the Pentagon’s ban on openly gay military service.
- How do you define “precise”, Mr. President?
- War Costs’ latest video (with accompanying report) brings attention to the children who have died as a result of drone strikes. The video names some of the children who perished in these strikes, and points out the obfuscation tactics of American officials who will not own up to the significant amount of civilian casualties that have occurred due to this legally- and morally-dubious policy.
- Drones Obliterate Shades of Gray Between Militants and Civilians.
- A soldier sets out to graduate at the top of his class. He succeeds, and he becomes a drone pilot working with a special unit of the United States Air Force in New Mexico. He kills dozens of people. But then, one day, he realizes that he can’t do it anymore.
- The drone war violates both domestic and international law, and the Obama administration’s vehement disdain for transparency in government is the only thing keeping it from public and legal scrutiny. Beyond the law, it’s terrorism.
- Obama has scarcely mentioned the drone programme and has said nothing about its killing of children. The only statement I can find is a brief and vague response during a video conference last January. The killings have been left to others to justify. In October the Democratic cheerleader Joe Klein claimed on MSNBC that “the bottom line in the end is whose four-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that four-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror”. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, killing four-year-olds is what terrorists do. It doesn’t prevent retaliatory murders, it encourages them, as grief and revenge are often accomplices. [Full text]
- Living Under Drones
- My article in Himal: The other part of the drones myth has to do with how ‘productive’ they are in ‘controlling extremism’. Mahmood Shah, a retired Pashtun brigadier from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in North West Pakistan where many of the drone strikes have been taking place, says that the families of drone victims go on to ‘seek revenge’, making them ideal recruits for the Pakistani Taliban. Baitullah Mehsud, a Pashtun Taliban commander until his own death in a US drone strike, liked to boast that each drone attack “brought [him] three or four suicide bombers.”
- ACLU’s report on drone strikes.
- Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike. We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.
- Normalising death: The business of drones.
- Fighting back against the CIA drone war.
- The US government, and a pliant mainstream media, are making sure the public remain ignorant of civilian casualties.
The more you know.
10:58 am • 23 December 2012 • 537 notes
“Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike. We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.”
— Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones - Juan Cole. (via mehreenkasana)
2:40 am • 18 December 2012 • 626 notes
“I felt disconnected from humanity.”
Ex-drone pilot speaks up on the twisted, perverse phenomenon of US drone strikes (via Der Spiegel)
Not only do drone strikes kill people in Afghanistan and Pakistan but, in this article, we find out that there’s an extremely sickening invasion of privacy as well. The ex-drone pilot, Byrant, tells how he could see Afghan couples on their rooftops during summer.
I saw them having sex with their wives. It’s two infrared spots becoming one.
Another pilot tells:
There was no time for feelings.
Shame on the US Government, shame on Barack Obama for continuing this intrusive, morally revolting policy.
10:12 am • 16 December 2012 • 948 notes
“Reading the Stanford/NYU report Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan (2012) is chilling. There are, of course, the deaths, but then there is the experience of “living under drones,” the anxiety and the stress, the fear and the nightmares. A father of three told the researchers, “drones are always on my mind. It makes it difficult to sleep. They are like a mosquito. Even when you don’t see them, you can hear them, you know they are there.” Saeed Yayha, a day laborer injured by a 2011 strike and now reliant upon charity, said, “I can’t sleep at night because when the drones are there….I hear them making that sound, that noise. The drones are all over my brain. I can’t sleep. When I hear the drones making that drone sound, I just turn on the light and sit there looking at the light. Whenever the drones are hovering over us, it just makes me so scared.” Akhuzada Chitan, a member of Pakistani’s parliament, travels to his home in Waziristan and hears from people who “often complain that they wake up in the middle of the night screaming because they are hallucinating about drones.”
Euphemisms of Obama’s War - Vijay Prashad.
The original al-Qaeda, with its tentacles reaching from Afghanistan into the United States, does not exist any longer. On 16 September, 2001, President George W. Bush said, “This crusade – this war on terrorism – is going to take a while.” By a narrow standard, that “while” has arrived. But then, four days later, Mr. Bush inflated his reach, saying that the war on terror “begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” This is a recipe for endless war, and endless confusion: it has always been a problem to define a terrorist given the casualness with which States tend to label dissident groups or national liberation movements as terrorist. The al-Qaeda that attacked the US is now gone. But its demise has not ended this endless war.
3:47 pm • 7 December 2012 • 117 notes
“Is torture justified if the torturer is a university-educated woman, and the tortured a bigoted Muslim fundamentalist? I think those are excellent questions for us to ask ourselves, arguably defining questions of the age, and I think the longer you look at them the thornier they get.”
Today in Worst Questions Asked: Another instance of weaponized, imperialist feminism. The fact that this has already occurred - in Abu Ghraib and other torture cells maintained by USA and Western allies in the War on Terror - proves how Western feminism has been co-opted for global wars for many years now. What’s even worse is how many Western feminists condone these practices i.e. Invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, drone attacks in Pakistan, speaking for Others, so on and so forth for the sake of “emancipation”. Subashini says it with one tweet:
If it’s justified to torture brown people, then “university-educated” (Western) women really can Have It All #thenewfeminism
5:27 pm • 2 December 2012 • 180 notes
“The past 11 years of war and occupation in the name of women’s rights should have served as a cautionary tale for how easily liberal (and left-liberal) guilt can be used to authorize terrible deeds, especially in view of the clear evidence showing that the status of Afghan women has seriously declined during the last 11 years largely as a consequence of the war/occupation, and in the face of consistent critiques of the occupation by Afghan (women) activists such as Malalai Joya. Instead, the idea that the US/NATO war in Afghanistan has been good for Afghan women continues to hold sway within the liberal mainstream in the United States. In August 2009, for example, Time magazine’s cover featured a disfigured young Afghan woman with the caption, “What Happens When We Leave Afghanistan.” More recently, in May this year, Amnesty-USA ran a campaign openly supportive of the US/NATO presence in Afghanistan just in time for the NATO summit in Chicago. Ads on city bus stops featured images of Afghan women in burqas along with the caption: Human Rights for Women in Afghanistan. NATO: Keep the Progress Going! Alongside this ad campaign, Amnesty conducted a “shadow summit” featuring former secretary of state Madeline Albright, with promotional material rehashing Bush-era “feminist” justifications for the war in Afghanistan and claiming that the 11 years of war and occupation had improved conditions for Afghan women.”
Saadia Toor - Imperialist feminism redux.
What explains this “politically expedited collective amnesia” (Dabashi 2006
) which allows Afghan/Muslim women to be constantly dredged up in order to support military adventures? Hamid Dabashi argues that a new breed of native informants is central to constantly refreshing this notion in order to legitimize the contemporary imperialist project. In particular, Dabashi draws attention to “a body of memoire by people from an Islamic background,” which has flooded the US market since 9/11, and which is characterized by “legitimate concerns about the plight of Muslim women in the Islamic world,” but in order to “put that predicament squarely at the service of the US ideological psy-op, militarily stipulated in the US global warmongering” (Dabashi 2006
). Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel
) and Irshad Manji’s The Trouble with Islam
)—both bestsellers—exemplify this genre.
10:10 am • 1 December 2012 • 234 notes
The Propaganda War | Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
The struggle against patriarchy and other oppressive structures has been sacrificed to the imperatives of a propaganda war.
It is easy to forget now that through much of the 20th century it was not the “Taliban” or “al-Qaeda” that imperiled “civilization” and “freedom.” Until only two decades ago, communism rather than terrorism constituted an existential threat to the world and its people. Neither the New York Times nor the Reagans and Thatchers of the world seemed too worried about the Taliban then. As Reagan, referring to the forefathers of today’s terrorists, the mujahideen, triumphantly declared in 1985, “The gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”
12:57 pm • 28 November 2012 • 43 notes
“I urge the media from both countries to let us, the people, decide who is the enemy and who is the friend. Do not feed us with enmity from the day when we are born, instead, I request them to promote a culture of peace and friendship.”
Faisal Malik Moonjazer, an Afghan activist and journalist writes in a post titled ‘I was born to hate Pakistan.’
Read Faisal and other journalists from across the borders rediscover the bond between of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Global Voices.
I really like this. In the sense that I really love this.
12:45 pm • 15 November 2012 • 139 notes
Jeremy Scahill and Dennis Kucinich: In Obama’s 2nd Term, Will Democrats Challenge U.S. Drones, Killings?
During Democracy Now!’s seven-hour election special last night, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill asks Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich about the secret drone war that has expanded under President Obama’s first term and the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen struck by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last year.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, U.S. representative from Ohio: I expect that the Obama administration will continue their policies of drone strikes, which have killed hundreds of innocent people and have put to death, through drone strikes, thousands of individuals who were just determined to be combatants, often because they happened to be the wrong age. This is repugnant to morality. It’s morally depraved, this drone strikes. And whether you’re a Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter. This is about what kind of human beings we are.
1:35 pm • 7 November 2012 • 47 notes
“President Obama, on his own initiative, has moved beyond the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, launching illegal wars against Libya, Yemen and Pakistan, largely through the use of American military aircraft, cruise missiles and especially pilot-less drones. In addition to being illegal acts of war against nations that pose no imminent threat to the US, these clear acts of war have caused vastly disproportionate civilian deaths — reportedly as many as 40 civilians, including many children, are being killed by drone strikes inside Pakistan for each of the supposed targeted “terrorists.” Just the disproportionality of such “collateral damage” is a heinous war crime, even leaving aside the illegality of such strikes being conducted by the US within the border of a sovereign nation not at war with the US.”
The Constitutional Crimes of Barack Obama.
Not one, not two, not three but twelve. Twelve constitutional crimes.
And like Dana Olwan said: “No more practical, lesser evil arguments, please. Hold Obama accountable. It’s time. That is the least you can do.”
12:52 pm • 7 November 2012 • 642 notes