Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 31, 2010

Have A Good New Year ...

... and thanks for coming back.

Posted by b on December 31, 2010 at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Reading Zaeef: 18. Guantánamo Bay

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

When the third camp was built, our circumstances deteriorated. We were served less food, the quality worsened and punishment increased. Cube block was an example: newly made, the living conditions were very hard. Prisoners were left to live in open cages in their underwear no matter what the season, not being able to cover themselves even for prayers. Very little food was served and the soldiers would abuse the prisoners. The toilet was visible to all and the cages weren’t big enough for prisoners to lie down to sleep.

In the winter it was very cold; prisoners would jump up and down just to get warm. One of the worst things was when the toilets became blocked. The smell of dirty water and faecal matter would blanket the whole block. We were not given toilet paper or water to clean ourselves after using the toilet; only our hands could be used, but could not be washed afterwards. The prisoner had to use those same hands to eat his food with afterwards. This is how those who claim to defend human rights made us live.

Prisoners were made to live in Cube block for one to five months at a time. Those who could not control themselves stayed for longer. A separate block was built for psychiatric patients; most of the prisoners detained there were suffering from severe depression and wanted to kill themselves. At the time I was there, there would be suicide attempts even on a daily basis. They were chained afterwards and given injections of barbiturates to calm them down; many of them became addicted to the injections.
Two more camps were built; one was a good place with facilities and better living conditions. The other was another place for punishment. Camp Five was far away from the other camps, but word about this place soon spread, and even the interrogators told us that it was the worst place to live.
Mullah Fazl was detained in Camp Five; he was suffering from a gastric disease and so asked for treatment for over one year but was only transferred to the hospital after he went on hunger strike and lost consciousness.

The conditions were extremely severe. The American soldiers often lied and deceived us, and there were many cases of abuse. Each brother who spent time in Camp Five looked like a skeleton when he was released; it was painful to look at their thin bodies. When Abu Haris returned from the camp, I did not recognize him; there was no resemblance between the man who had been taken away and the body that was returned. I was so scared by his appearance that sometimes I would even dream of him and would wake up screaming. May Almighty Allah release all Muslim brothers in good health and save them from the hands of the pagans and cruel people. Camp Five was often called Grave Five; it was like a grave for the living.

Posted by b on December 31, 2010 at 06:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 17. Prisoner 306

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

The Pakistani soldiers were all staring as the Americans hit me and tore the remaining clothes off from my body. Eventually I was completely naked, and the Pakistani soldiers—the defenders of the Holy Qur’an—shamelessly watched me with smiles on their faces, saluting this disgraceful action of the Americans. They held a handover ceremony with the Americans right in front of my eyes.
That moment is written in my memory like a stain on my soul. Even if Pakistan was unable to stand up to the godless Americans I would at least have expected them to insist that treatment like this would never take place under their eyes or on their own sovereign territory.

I was still naked when a callous American soldier gripped my arm and dragged me onto the helicopter. They tied my hands and feet, sealed my mouth with duct tape and put a black cloth over my head. That was in turn taped to my neck, and then I was shackled to the floor of the helicopter.

All this time I could neither shout nor breathe. When I tried to catch my breath or move a little to one side, I was kicked hard by a soldier. On board the helicopter, I stopped fearing the kicking and beating; I was sure that my soul would soon leave my body behind. I assured myself that I would soon die from the beatings. My wish, however, wasn’t granted.
On our penultimate stop when I was thrown to the ground, one of the soldiers said, “this one, this is the big one”. And while I could not see them, they attacked me from all sides, hitting and kicking me on the ground. Some used their rifles and others just stomped on me with their army boots.

My clothes were torn to pieces and soon I was lying naked in the fresh snow. I lost all feeling in my hands and feet from the restraints and the cold. The soldiers were singing and mocking me. The USA is the home of Justice and Peace and she wants Peace and Justice for everyone else on the globe, they said over and over again. It was too cold to breathe and my body was shaking violently, but the soldiers just shouted at me telling me to stop moving. I lay in the snow for a long time before I finally lost consciousness.

I woke up in a big room. I could see two guards wearing balaclavas and holding large sticks in their hands in front of me. My body ached all over. When I turned my head I saw two more guards behind me in each corner of the room, both pointing pistols at my head. They were all shouting at me. “Where is Osama? Where is Mullah Omar? What role did you play in the attacks on New York and Washington?” I could not even move my tongue. It had swollen and seemed to be glued to my upper palate. Lying in that room, in pain and being screamed at, I wanted to die. May Allah forgive me for my impatience!

Posted by b on December 31, 2010 at 06:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 16. A Hard Realisation

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

When I reached Kandahar, the city was in chaos. Kabul had fallen only two days previously, and a cloud of sorrow hung over those left in Kandahar. I went straight to the headquarters that had been set up in a new building inside the city. I wanted to meet Mullah Mohammad Omar.
He was not at the office and I waited for a while. An hour after I left, the headquarters was attacked by the US air force. The airstrike destroyed the building, but luckily no one was killed. Since the attack and my departure had happened in such quick succession, Mullah Mohammad Omar suspected that I was under surveillance and that meeting me would endanger him.

I was on my way to Mullah Mohammad Omar’s old house, which stood empty behind a jihadi madrassa, when another airstrike hit close to my car. The shock wave of the cruise missile destroyed my Thuraya satellite phone. After the second attack Mullah Mohammad Omar was certain that my position was being tracked. Perhaps it was true, and perhaps it was connected to my satellite phone; only God knows, but after my phone was destroyed I had no more near misses.

Some minutes later, the Russian state news agency, ITAR-TASS, announced that the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan had been killed in a cruise missile attack in Kandahar. It was only a short news bulletin, but I knew why the Russians had said this.
Despite all my documents—the protection I should have had under international law, even the letter from the United Nations stated that “the bearer of this letter should not be harmed due to his status of representation”—three vehicles pulled up at my door at midnight. All the roads were blocked and guards posted. Even journalists who were there at the time were denied access. I wasn’t allowed to speak to them to let people know what had taken place. They ordered me to leave my house. My children were crying as I walked out through the garden into the street.

If it hadn’t happened to me, it would be hard to imagine that the Pakistani soldiers—trained to defend Islam—would turn on their Muslim brothers even when they had committed no crime. In fact, no law offered justification for what they were doing, but American pressure, the anger of its people and the hope of a lucky break turned them against us. I find it difficult to understand how they could abandon their honour and self-respect; how they could turn against the word of the Holy Qur’an and its customs of bravery and hospitality; how they could ignore international laws and even the humblest notions of brotherhood and sympathy.

As I walked into the street and out into the thick dark night, it struck me that there was no one who could rescue me, nobody to prevent them from doing whatever they wanted.

Posted by b on December 31, 2010 at 06:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2010

The Washington Post's Link With al-Qaeda

As the Washington Post reports, the British police believes that the Washington Post has links to al-Qaeda. The British police also seems to believe that I am a likely terrorist.

This week the British secret services hauled in some twelve poor chaps from Bangladesh for allegedly planing terror attacks. Three of those dangerous folks were let go after a day but the other nine are still in custody.

The Washington Post's piece about the issue on its 'World' page is prominently headlined "Terror suspects alleged link to al-Qaeda group".

The story itself says:

LONDON - Nine men arrested in Britain on terrorism charges last week found inspiration and bomb-making instructions in an English-language Internet magazine published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, British investigators reportedly said.

The revelation, relayed by British newspapers, provided the first purported link between the nine British-based suspects, some of Bangladeshi origin, and an anti-Western terrorism campaign being waged by Yemen-based jihadists of Yemeni, Saudi, U.S. and other nationalities under the aegis of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In links related to the story, the Washington Post helpfully offers INSPIRE: full version of the al-Qaeda propaganda magazine which is hosted on its website.


As the British police obviously thinks that owning a copy of that magazine is a serious indication for a connection to al-Qaeda, the WaPo editors shall better defer from visiting London.

From The Telegraph we learn of other serious indications of foreigners planing terror attacks in London:

A reconnaissance trip is alleged to have been made from Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to Westminster Bridge where Big Ben was studied intently.

A mobile phone had appeared to be raised and pointed towards the clock tower, the court heard.

Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye were also closely examined before the Church of Scientology near Blackfriars was allegedly observed intently for some minutes.

The journey ended with a meal in a McDonald’s fast food restaurant, the court heard.

So a sightseeing walk along London's attractions, taking a picture of Big Ben, looking at pretty buildings and eating crap at a Mac D is now a terrorist reconnaissance trip?

Dear British police, I confess that I have downloaded the Inspire magazine - all three editions. I read the Inspire nonsense piece on "How to make a pipe bomb in the kitchen of your mom”. I confess that I have made several long terrorist reconnaissance trips in London. These including making pictures of Big Ben and a ride on the London Eye. Places that could blow up any day! And beware! Just an hour ago I bought some strong explosives and I WILL USE THEM tomorrow night.

Now, you idiots, come and get me.

Posted by b on December 30, 2010 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Reading Zaeef: 15: 9/11 and its Aftermath

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

My mind raced as I looked at the screen and considered the probable repercussions of the attack. At that very moment, I knew that Afghanistan and its poverty-stricken people would ultimately suffer for what had just taken place in America. The United States would seek revenge, and they would turn to our troubled country.
The thought brought tears to my eyes, but those sitting with me in the room looked at me with genuine surprise and asked me why I was sad. To be honest, some of them were overjoyed, offering congratulations and shaking each other’s hands for the events that we had just witnessed.

This happiness and jubilation worried me even more; I was anxious about the future. How could they be so superficial, finding joy in an event for a moment, but oblivious to its impact on the days to come? I turned to the others, asking them, “who do you think the United States and the world will blame for what has just happened? Who will face their anger?”
Pakistan was making every effort to meet with Communist generals and former mujahedeen commanders while the ISI facilitated contacts for the United States, introducing them to potential allies in a war against the Islamic Emirate. America was willing to pay for the cooperation of commanders; they spent millions of dollars, providing free satellite phones and other resources in unimaginable quantities. Even staff from the Afghan embassy in Islamabad received money to gather information for America.

America’s efforts were a blessing for Pakistan, which grasped at the generous provisions of money and resources with outstretched hands. Pakistan provided military bases in Sindh and Baluchistan province to the US and these were soon overflowing with stockpiled arms and munitions for the war against Afghanistan. The Pakistani and American intelligence agencies shared information on various issues, including details about the leaders of the Afghan forces who commanded the Afghan military and air bases.

The ISI, however, had their own secret agenda in order to gain a strategic advantage in Afghanistan. They sought to regroup and organize the jihadi commanders who were living in the frontier regions—as well as throughout Pakistan—who hadn’t been involved in operations inside our country since the end of the wars of the 1980s. In a parallel move, they secretly planted commanders among the military forces of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan who would be used to bring down our government. And finally, Pakistan held its own secret talks with the Northern Alliance to discuss the military and political future of the country. Pakistan saw the Northern Alliance as the future leaders of Afghanistan, who would have not only a considerable stake in any new government, but also continue to be important to the United States, which would have to rely on them for a long while yet.

All the signs were pointing towards war, and the more I learnt the clearer it became to me that a war could not be avoided. Pakistan, once our brother, had turned its back on us and the world was rallying behind President Bush and his call for action. I knew that the calm days would soon come to an end, and that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan would have to face a mighty enemy in a battle for its very survival.

Posted by b on December 30, 2010 at 06:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Reading Zaeef: 14. The Osama Issue

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

The UN worked hard to maintain a good relationship with Afghanistan and the embassy. They would visit regularly and make sure that whenever a senior official from abroad paid a visit to their department, they would include a meeting with our embassy in their schedule. In retrospect, I believe it was as a result of their frequent visits that we came under more and more pressure.
In a meeting with Francesc Vendrell that took place in his office one time, he was talking enthusiastically about handing over Osama bin Laden to America, saying that the Taliban should respect the decision of the UN. It was not the UN’s decision to discuss handing someone over to America, and also it was not their right, but they were being pressured by America. I told him that I was not in the position to decide about Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, I was curious and asked him why the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should hand him over to America. He was a wanted man in America; but Afghanistan had made no legal agreement with America that would oblige it to hand over individuals. Furthermore, how could he, representing the supposedly impartial UN, support a request without any legal basis? He did not answer my question but said, “Listen! The decision has been taken, and if you don’t hand him over soon, America will take him from you by force”.

I didn’t doubt that America was preparing for a war and that the UN was cooperating. Only when and how she would start her assault was unclear. “America might go to war”, I said, “but she will never reach her objectives. A war will ruin her administration and ours, blood will flow, hostility will rise and Afghanistan will fall into war with itself and the world once again”.
“Afghanistan has no intention to harm the United States of America now or in the future. We do not condone attacks of any kind against America and will prevent anyone from using Afghan soil to plan or train for any such attack.”

It was a letter of assurance that clearly outlined the Emirate’s position. I personally translated it and passed it on to the American ambassador along with the original Pashtu text. But nevertheless, the letter did not rid America of her doubts.

The last time I saw the American ambassador was when he came to say goodbye. He told me that he appreciated the good diplomatic relationship that we had cultivated and expressed his concern about the future and about forthcoming events that were likely to spell disaster. He believed that Osama remained a threat and would continue his fight against America. And nor would the US tolerate any longer his threats and attacks. It was time to find a solution or the problem will get out of hand, he said. Even though America had imposed sanctions on Afghanistan through the UN and had taken diplomatic steps to isolate it further, there were still concerns about Osama bin Laden. The issue was discussed in countless private parties and gatherings; America would drop all its other demands and formally recognize the Emirate if he were handed over.

When the attacks of 11 September 2001 took place on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, everything came to a standstill and the world was flipped on its back. The negotiation process was derailed by the events and all of us witnessed what happened next.

Posted by b on December 30, 2010 at 06:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 13. Growing Tensions

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

Even though Pakistan and the ISI maintained close relations with the Taliban, they also continued to uphold their ties to our opposition.
Both before and after 11 September 2001, they assisted various commanders who were operating against us, giving them permission to carry weapons and organize themselves politically. Some of the commanders —like Karzai, Abdul Haq,2 Mullah Malang3 and Gul Agha Shirzai— were in direct contact with America and were working with the CIA and FBI. They received financial and other assistance through the US embassy. They enjoyed a considerable freedom and privileges in Pakistan. They were—and some still are—important commanders, but without the support of the US they would have had little influence.

A former leading mujahed lived on Street F-10–3, where our own embassy guesthouse was also located. We watched his activities closely from the embassy, and set up surveillance equipment to record the phone calls coming in and out; we also tracked the movements of his associates. There was constant activity at his house, and every two or three days men from the ISI would pay him a visit. At times, even other opposition leaders would gather there. He used to meet Hezb-e Islami commanders and exchange views with the Northern Alliance, the main opposition to the Taliban, led by Ahmad Shah Massoud. From this surveillance we learned that money was being passed to support the Northern Alliance.

Posted by b on December 30, 2010 at 06:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

First U.S. Financed Resistance, Then Soviet Invasion

The AFP is pushing a wrong history of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and "western" financing of the resistance to that.

West quickly agreed to back Afghan resistance in 1980: files

LONDON (AFP) – Western powers met in secret soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and formed plans to back Islamic resistance, according to British files from 1980 released Thursday.

Senior officials from Britain, France, then West Germany and the United States met in Paris on January 15 that year to discuss the West's response to the December 24, 1979 invasion.

While that meeting may well have taken place, the notion that the financing of a resistance by western money followed only after the Soviets invaded is wrong.

As then CIA director Robert Gates wrote in his memoir and then National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski confirmed in an interview with the French Le Nouvel Observateur, the U.S. was financing an Islamic resistance against the Afghan government long before the Soviets invaded. Indeed part of the intent of pushing such a resistance was to drag the Soviet Union into its Vietnam:

Q: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Posted by b on December 30, 2010 at 02:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2010

Some Help For Race For Iran

Israel's relentless campaign to incite a U.S. led military attack on Iran intensified this year. It will further intensify next year and will continue until the bombs fall on Tehran.

With many U.S. troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan a low risk military attack is not yet possible. But by the end of 2011 U.S. troops will likely have left Iraq and by the end of 2014 they will probably have left Afghanistan. After that an attack on Iran is very likely.

The history of the war on Iraq has shown that the chance of a low risk attack can and will be furthered by long years of ever increasing sanctions and a parallel campaign of brainwashing of the U.S. public. That is why the ongoing campaign against Iran is extremely dangerous.

The only people who argue with some success against that campaign, against war and for a big U.S.-Iran relation realignment are Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett. At their blog, the Race for Iran, they are asking for  contributions to help that cause.

If you can, please send them some $$$s.

Posted by b on December 29, 2010 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

A Warning Shot For Petraeus

The Washington establishment is turning against last years darling General Petraeus.

A public warning shot against him was fired today by the Washington Post's David Ignatius. It starts off with a great but deadly line:

If briefings could win wars, Gen. David Petraeus would already be finished in Afghanistan.


Now Ignatius has certainly more friends in the CIA than in the Pentagon and this shot may well come from the three letter agencies with Ignatius just being their usual mouth piece. The intelligence community is certainly not convinced of Petraeus happy review of the Afghanistan campaign, marketed as progress by the Obama administration. The recent National Intelligence Estimates of Afghanistan and Pakistan were very negative.

Additionally a leaked UN map shows a deterioration of the security situation and various aid groups have serious doubts that the Taliban are on the run. The new year outlook by the experts at the Afghanistan Analysts Network is also full of gloom and doom.

So Ignatius is justified in his critic even if it is a CIA plant. He states:

History shows that three variables are crucial in countering an insurgency: a real process of reconciliation, no safe havens for the enemy and a competent host government. None are present in Afghanistan.

He asks Petraeus how these can be fixed. He is unlikely to get answers as there is no ready fix available.

One has to note that this was obvious from the beginning. The Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency (pdf), copied by its "author" Petraeus from an older Vietnam version, refers to legitimacy as the core of COIN:

Legitimacy is the Main Objective
1-90. The primary objective of any counterinsurgent is to foster the development of effective governance by a legitimate government.

The U.S. imposed government in Afghanistan and its unelected president and parliament have no legitimacy at all. COIN and its pope Petraeus are thereby the wrong answer for Afghanistan.

A good answer would include a serious reconciliation effort which would give the Taliban a chair at a new government table. It would include a U.S. led regional truce and 'stay out' agreement with all neighbor countries of Afghanistan (but would exclude India).

But the Obama administration is too coward to go that way. It will rather follow the troop reduction the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas, proscribed which -in the end- will be a simple withdrawal without any political solution. And here is the second hint that Petraeus will (rightly) be sacrificed. Hass closes his piece:

[I]t is the commander-in-chief's responsibility to take into account the nation's capacity to meet all of its challenges, national and international. It is for this reason that the perspectives of Gen. Petraeus and President Obama must necessarily diverge.

Not only the perspectives ...

Posted by b on December 29, 2010 at 07:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Reading Zaeef: 12. Diplomatic Principles

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

I often told the US Ambassador that he should contact myself and the Afghan Embassy directly and not try to solve the problems they had with Afghanistan though the mediation of the government of Pakistan or its administration. “Pakistan”, I told him, “is never an honest mediator and will control and manipulate any talk they mediate or participate in”. I passed on the same advice to all other diplomats and embassies, as well as the United Nations.
When recommendations from a third party were passed to me through the Pakistani administration, I never gave them a straight answer but advised them that whoever submitted the request or letter should contact me directly if they wanted an official reply.

On several occasions other governments approached me about specific issues through the Pakistani administration, but my reservations about Pakistani involvement often meant that matters could not move forward or be resolved. On one occasion a French journalist had been arrested in Afghanistan and the government of France demanded his release. Instead of negotiating directly with us, though, they chose to send officials from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry. I advised the representatives that the French government should contact me directly. It took another three days before the French ambassador called me and I was able to hand over the journalist on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Pakistani officials were well aware of the general diplomatic principles, but they seemed to think that we at the Embassy were simple minded because we lived simple lives. Furthermore, America was pressuring Pakistan and other countries not to establish or maintain direct contact with us in an effort diplomatically to isolate the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Even when I was alone with Pakistani officials they were afraid that there was an American hiding behind the next door. They would speak cautiously and always with the utmost respect to any Americans, even when they were only talking about them. They would refer to damned President Bush as “His Excellency, Mr. Bush”, or would refer to “Colin Powell Saheb”. I remember well how much it annoyed me.

Posted by b on December 29, 2010 at 06:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Reading Zaeef: 11. A Monumental Task

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

Working in the field of diplomacy without any experience in such a fragile and charged environment was a monumental task. I knew about the difficult situation and the role that the embassy in Islamabad played in the events that were unfolding. All this left me concerned upon hearing the announcement of my appointment as ambassador.
I later came to learn that the ISI played a key role within the Pakistani government and became accustomed to the fact that representatives from other countries also recognized its growing power. The intelligence agency’s officers had established a close relationship with Afghanistan and had influenced Afghan politics even before the Soviet invasion. But it was after the Russians had provoked Daud Khan’s coup against Zahir Shah that the ISI showed the extent of their influence and ambition. With Russia gaining ground in Afghanistan, the ISI felt increasingly threatened.

In an attempt to stop the Soviets, the ISI turned to some jihadi leaders who had already come to Pakistan and who were organizing the resistance to the Soviet puppet regime from outside Afghanistan. By the time the Russians staged the Saur coup in April 1978 against their former ally Daud Khan, the ISI had already established firm relationships with the resistance, even doubling the money, operations and training for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

Many countries outside the region agreed with Pakistan and openly expressed their concern about the growing influence of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Many Arab countries also gave support to Pakistan to stop the spread of communism. In 1980, the mujahedeen opened offices in Pakistan under the supervision of the ISI. When Moscow decided to intervene by sending the Red Army to invade Afghanistan, the situation became more and more urgent. The arrival of Russian troops triggered the exodus of the Afghan people, and over the next few years Pakistan welcomed over two million Afghan refugees.

What began as small refugee camps soon grew into cities, and the ISI started an extensive programme to assist the mujahedeen in their struggle. The ISI was responsible for uniting the mujahedeen and forcing them to adopt a united strategy. The agency continued to play a crucial role among the jihadi factions until the outburst of the Taliban. At the time, even low-ranking Pakistani officials were more popular in Afghanistan than in Pakistan.

As an official representative of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan it was important to maintain my independence from this foreign intelligence agency, but I couldn’t entirely avoid their influence. In my dealings with them I tried to be not so sweet that I would be eaten whole, and not so bitter that I would be spat out. I attempted to work in an official way rather than clandestinely, and worked mostly with the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to establish an amiable relationship.

Posted by b on December 29, 2010 at 06:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 10. Mines And Industries

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

I was still upset when I returned to Kabul. I had no wish to return to government, but going to prison wasn’t a serious alternative and I had sworn in Sangisar to stand by Mullah Mohammad Omar no matter what. After two days in Kabul I was appointed the Deputy Minister of Mines and Industries. Amir ul-Mu’mineen had written a decree that was announced over the radio. A few days later I was officially introduced at the ministry by members of the Independent Administration of Affairs.
While I was with the ministry we built industrial parks in Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and approved a site in Jalalabad for more than four hundred small and large projects. One of the key problems that we had was the rocky relationship with Iran and Pakistan.

Afghanistan had few domestic markets and exported most of its produce to its neighbours. Even though we had managed to rebuild some factories and establish a few new industries, we were still heavily dependent on imported raw materials from Pakistan and Iran. When they started to introduce export taxes on raw materials they effectively rendered our emerging industries useless; it became more expensive to produce the goods in Afghanistan as opposed to simply importing them.

The situation was replicated with imported goods. As soon as we became ready to produce something ourselves, Pakistan would grant a tax exemption to its own companies that produced the same goods and would crush the emerging industries in Afghanistan. In other cases, Pakistan started to use cheaper materials to produce products of poorer quality that undercut ours. If we look at fertilizer, for example: Afghanistan managed to increase its productivity and started making agricultural fertiliser with the industry-standard 46 per cent nitrogen content. Pakistan and Iran were also producing fertiliser that claimed to be equal in quality but that sold for less. Most Afghan farmers chose to buy this cheaper Pakistani or Iranian fertiliser. We tested these foreign fertilisers in a laboratory for content and quality. The results clearly proved that instead of the advertised 46 per cent they only contained a meagre 20 per cent. This was in turn disastrous for many farmers in Afghanistan, and the poor quality led to disease and pestprone crops as well as lower production. This was the reason that the harvest decreased from a normal production level.

Soon many Afghans started to complain about the quality of the ghee, plastic and iron from neighbouring countries. Most of the material could have been produced in Afghanistan with the natural resources we had available, but this would have required a far greater investment from the ministry than we could afford. Only the coal, salt and marble mines were developed. The products were sold at low prices—often lower than international prices. Rukham marble was exported to Pakistan, however, where it was polished and resold with a significant profit. We later established our own factories to polish the marble in Kandahar, Herat, Kabul and Jalalabad.

Posted by b on December 29, 2010 at 06:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 28, 2010

Another Gaza Slaughter?

Just in:

Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian man and wounded five others in tank shelling and gunfire attack on Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip.
The incident comes two days after two Palestinians died in Khan Yunis after Israeli soldiers launched a gun battle in the area.

There has been an increase in incidents this month with Israel shooting and bombing Palestinians on Gaza while various Israeli officials threaten further attacks:

"The IDF is working hard to deal with this issue. I'm not waiting for a disaster to happen," said [Deputy Defense Minister] Vilnai

Historian Ilan Pappe fears that Israel is planing another Gaza massacre:

There is no new plan for Gaza – there is no real desire to occupy it and put in under direct Israeli rule. What is suggested is to pound the Strip and its people once more, but with more brutality and for a shorter time.
The scenario for the next round is unfolding in front of our eyes and it resembles depressingly the same deterioration that preceded the massacre of Gaza two years ago: daily bombardment on the Strip and a policy that tries to provoke Hamas so that more expanded assaults would be justified.

I have no idea if Israel really plans another slaughter party. Already feeling delegitimized, it would only further international opinion into that direction. But would it really care?

Posted by b on December 28, 2010 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Reading Zaeef: 9. Administrative Rule

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

After returning from Herat I decided to stay home for a month to reflect on the past few years, while my brother—who had since returned from his studies—stood in for me at the mosque. But before I could return to my mosque Mullah Mohammad Omar sent a car for me. His title had changed and he was now called Amir ul-Mu’mineen. We sat down in his office and he asked me about my health and my family. “It was a good idea to take a month off”, he told me. “It is good to rest. But now you should return to your work”.
Kabul had fallen to the Taliban and Mullah Saheb Amir ul- Mu’mineen wanted me to become the administrative director of the National Defence Ministry. He wrote a letter of official appointment for me, and even though I no longer wanted to work for the government, I could not turn him down. I had taken an oath in Sangisar to follow and stand by him, so if he needed me in Kabul then I would go.

I gathered a few belongings, said goodbye to my family and left for Kabul. The Taliban had reached the capital while I was in Herat and by the time I arrived Mullahs Mohammad Rabbani and Abdul Razaq had already secured the city, putting an end to the fighting between the Hizb-e Islami commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmed Shah Massoud. Like many of my colleagues in the Taliban, it was the first time I had visited Kabul.

The Taliban had also started to implement shari’a law: women were no longer working in government departments and the men throughout the city had started to grow beards. Life in the city was returning to normal. People were coming to the market again and security improved on a daily basis even though there was still a curfew in place. The fighting in the city had taken its toll, though, and many seemed to suffer psychologically.

There was little left of the previous administration: most of the offices were looted and the government departments were in chaos. Parts of the city had been completely destroyed and many of the ministries lay in ruins. Fortunately, the Ministry of Defence building appeared to be intact. When I first arrived to take up my duties there was still no budget in place and no one knew anything about the ministry’s expenditures. Most of the offices were empty; many of the former officials had had ties with the Northern Alliance and had fled Kabul, and others were unaware that the ministry was working again and did not show up for work. It was difficult for me to start work in the middle of such chaos at the same time as trying to settle in a new and unfamiliar city. I had to navigate a minefield of conflicts among ministry officials, but even though I was new to the job it wasn’t long before I was promoted and became the administrative Deputy Defence Minister. This made me responsible for all the financial and logistics affairs of the ministry. On several occasions I was even acting Defence Minister.

Posted by b on December 28, 2010 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Reading Zaeef: 8. The Beginning

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

At the time the Taliban did not have any plans to extend their activities beyond those two districts. We were mainly thinking about our friends and neighbours, the villages and towns in which we lived. The situation had become so bad that something needed to be done, but no one seemed to be able or willing to try to stand up to the rogue commanders and bandits. We informed only the people along the road. But instead of complying with our calls for them to leave their checkpoints, the situation deteriorated.

Negotiations didn’t help, either. We needed to prove that we would act if our demands were ignored. At a meeting we all resolved to attack Daru Khan’s checkpoint. A group of ten or twelve Taliban armed with one RPG and a few Kalashnikovs approached the checkpoint from a village close by, while another group came down the road. When he noticed us Daru Khan opened fire and the fight began. He was being attacked from two sides and he realized that we were serious: we would neither tolerate his checkpoint nor would we retreat just because he forced a fight on us. A few of his men died in the exchange of fire. Daru Khan started to plead with us. “For the sake of God! Killing me will not serve you well. I am a Muslim. I fought in the jihad side-by-side with you. Just give me a chance to leave this place. I will carry out any order you give me!” he begged. With words like these he tricked us and fled.

When Yaqut, Bismillah and Pir Mohammad saw the fate of Daru Khan they, too, abandoned their posts without a fight.
With the fall of Kandahar, the Taliban began to re-establish their judicial system throughout the south. Several courts were opened and the judges started hearing ongoing disputes. I was deputed by Mullah Mohammad Omar to assist Mawlawi Pasanai Saheb in his court.
Twan, also known as Qurban, had slaughtered a man with a knife in cold blood in my childhood village of Charshakha. He was brought to Shukur Hill. Many mujahedeen had gathered there, and the father of the victim and his family were waiting for him. When Twan was brought onto the empty square the people started to beg the father of the victim for forgiveness, as was the custom in these cases.

The Ulema’ explained the virtue of forgiveness, other people offered money, and some commanders pledged weapons. One of the commanders offered fifty Kalashnikovs and some money on behalf of the condemned man, but the father of the victim could not be convinced to forgive Twan. The on-duty personnel gave him a knife and Twan was brought to him with his hands and legs tied. The father of the victim walked over to him slowly, rolling up his sleeves. He first knelt on the ground then uttered Allahu Akbar loudly and put the knife on Twan’s neck.

Taking back the knife and raising it in the air, he started to speak. “Look! God has given me this power. No one can release you from me but God. You are the one who brutally killed my son without any lawful reason. Based on the shari’a, God has given me the right to take revenge for my dear son or to forgive you for sake of God. Forgiveness pleases God more than revenge. I forgive you, so that God will be pleased with me. Now it is he who shall take revenge when the final day comes”.

He threw the knife away and at once people were crying out the takbir, others were firing guns and the people were rushing forward to kiss the hands and feet of the father. Someone untied the hands of Twan but he could not move or talk for a full five minutes. People congratulated him on this unexpected chance for a new life and told him that he should devote himself to Islam and the worship of God. “God has shown mercy. Regret your deeds and never even think of actions like these again”, he was told.

I was convinced that the man would never commit another crime, but he soon killed again. I also heard that he himself was killed in a robbery a short while later.

Posted by b on December 28, 2010 at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 7. Taking Action

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

For the next few years I lived in Pakistan but frequently visited Kandahar. In the early 1990s, after the fall of Najibullah and the arrival of the mujahedeen government, Afghanistan seemed to disintegrate.

Fighting had broken out in Kabul but soon swept down through the south. Local commanders such as Ustaz Abdul Haleem, Hajji Ahmad, Mullah Naqib and others were clashing within the city limits and in the surrounding districts for power and control. Fighting became so intense that it was impossible to live a normal life.

In 1992, I returned to Afghanistan and became the Imam of the mosque of the late Hajji Khushkiar Aka11 in a tiny village inhabited by no more than ten or fifteen people located on the way to Panjwayi district centre. I felt calm and for once life passed easily, allowing me to keep busy with my studies. I avoided the city altogether and never went anywhere near the various checkpoints and known hangouts of local criminals and gangs. Whenever I needed anything I would ask a member of my congregation to bring it for me. I spent little time with my friends from the jihad period, just meeting them occasionally when they happened to pass through the village.

Many of the people who went to the city would come back with tales of anarchy and chaos, and often I heard artillery fire in the distance. The stories made me feel uneasy; I remembered the jihad and the sacrifices we had made. It seemed that it had been for nothing, but I still remained patient and gave the same advice to my congregation.
Everyone became animated when they heard the story. They were already talking about tracking down the men and going to their houses. I stayed silent until Abdul Mohammad had left. Then I spoke. “First, we need more men, a force big enough to be able to hold its own ground and defend itself. We need enough men to stand up to other groups of bandits and robbers, a group that cannot just defend itself, but also other people’s rights. We need the support of the people and we need to find a solution together with the people. We should not only focus on our own problems”.
We started to meet other mujahedeen and Taliban from the time of the Soviet jihad. After a few days we decided to hold a meeting in Pashmol. Thirty-three people came to the mosque to attend the meeting which was chaired by Mullah Abdul Rauf Akhund. The discussions lasted for several hours before we reached a plan of action: we would seek the support of other mujahedeen and Taliban and together with them we would clear the streets of the rogue commanders and checkpoints.
The founding meeting of what became known as ‘the Taliban’ was held in the late autumn of 1994. Some forty to fifty people had gathered at the white mosque in Sangisar. Mawlawi Saheb Abdul Samad, Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund, Mullah Abdul Sattar Akhund and Mullah Sher Mohammad Malang all spoke, outlining their responsibilities.

The respected Mawlawi Abdul Samad was designated the Taliban’s Amir, and Mullah Mohammad Omar was its commander. Mullah Mohammad Omar took an oath from everyone present. Each man swore on the Qur’an to stand by him, and to fight against corruption and the criminals. No written articles of association, no logo and no name for the movement was agreed on or established during the meeting.

The shari’a would be our guiding law and would be implemented by us. We would prosecute vice and foster virtue, and would stop those who were bleeding the land. Soon after the meeting, we established our own checkpoint at Hawz-e Mudat along the Herat-Kandahar highway, and we immediately began to implement the shari’a in the surrounding area.

We sent out groups of people to the nearby villages to let them know who we were, and to collect bread and sour milk from the houses. Mullah Masoom was in charge of managing the collection and of informing the people. Many of the Taliban were well known in the area and respected, and people were eager to help.

Posted by b on December 28, 2010 at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 27, 2010

Khodorkovskiy Is Guilty

One wonders why exactly "western" media and politicians are up in arms about the new guilty verdict against the former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The man, as most of the other oligarchs, is of course guilty of stealing the Russian natural riches from the Russian people, of tax evasion and even more serious criminal stuff. The "western" media know this.

Even a cable from the Moscow embassy reported that the first trial against him was went as it should:

An observer for the International Bar Association stated his belief that the trial is being conducted fairly.

The first judgment against Khodorkovsky as well as the current second one are fair, legal and just.

What irks the "west" is that especially those oligarchs opposed to the democratically elected Putin administration ran into trouble. Says the cable:

It is not lost on either elite or mainstream Russians that the GOR has applied a double standard to the illegal activities of 1990s oligarchs; if it were otherwise, virtually every other oligarch would be on trial alongside Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev. There is a widespread understanding that Khodorkovskiy violated the tacit rules of the game: if you keep out of politics, you can line your pockets as much as you desire.

The "western" elites hate democracy. They had hoped to have an authoritarian Khodorkovsky as the head of Russia. A criminal, like Jelzin, who would sell out the Russian resources for nothing but some handsome bribes.

Unfortunately for them, democracy still rules in Russia. Unlike the people of the United States, who's  government in Washington is wholesome owned by Wall Street, the Russians, even while tolerating some stealing, will still fight against being also ruled by those thieves.


Posted by b on December 27, 2010 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

On Reading Zaeef

My Life With The Taliban is a subjective and naturally self-serving memoir of a Taliban fighter/commander/politician, Abdul Salam Zaeef. Zaeef was incarcerated and tortured by the United States in Guantanamo and elsewhere before being released in 2006.

The book is an important correction to the "western" history myth that sees the Taliban, Afghan religious scholars and students taking up arms, as a creation of the 1990s. Zaeef describes the Taliban as a distinct part of the mujaheddin fighting against the communist Afghan state and the Soviet occupiers. When the Soviets left, the Taliban laid down their arms and took them up again only when the warlord anarchy which followed the Soviet withdrawal became insufferable.

Zaeef's editors and translators Felix Kuehn and Alex Strick van Linschoten will further document this next year in their upcoming History of the Taliban.

The book also documents the deep believes, cultural conservatism and the breath of the Afghan national resistance against the Soviets. It is the same national resistance that is now winning against allegedly superior "western" occupation forces.

During the next days and while reading the book I will continue to publish a few subjectively selected paragraphs from each chapter. I hope that some of you will enjoy them. They may even motivate you to buy the book.

With the U.S. continuing to escalate the War On "AfPak", those countries and the war on them will certainly be the focus of further posts here. Reading Zaeef will hopefully set some context for that.

Some links to recent stories on the campaign in Afghanistan:

U.S. troops battle to hand off a valley resistant to Afghan governance - WaPo/Greg Jaffe

"There is nothing strategically important about this terrain," said Ryan, 41, a blunt commander who has spent much of the past decade in combat. "We fight here because the enemy is here. The enemy fights here because we are here."
"I came in looking for a counterinsurgency victory," Ryan said. "But here, there is no such thing."

Taliban Challenge U.S. in Eastern Afghanistan - NYT

Obama’s Afghanistan Review: A Whitewash of a Disastrous Occupation - Alternet

A closer look at claims in Obama's Afghanistan strategy review - Landay/McClatchy

U.N. Maps Show Afghan Security Worsens - WSJ

NATO challenged over Kabul raid that killed two guards - McClatchy

After forcing the surviving guards to surrender, the NATO-led team scoured the area and came up with no explosives, no car bombs and no evidence that the company was involved in a plan to attack on the U.S. Embassy.

Sakhizada said the soldiers apologized after finding nothing and cautioned the company not to speak to reporters. But company officials refused to remain quiet.

“Saying sorry is not so easy,” said Mohammed Faird Wafah, a friend of Sakhizada family who came to visit the office on Sunday. “Afghan blood is not so cheap. When something like this happens in the center of Kabul, what do you think happens in the more remote provinces?

Posted by b on December 27, 2010 at 07:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Reading Zaeef: 6. Withdrawal

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

Under the shadow of this new government, the Russians announced their intention to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. When I first learned about this I was very happy. The jihad seemed to be over, and we had won. I had never thought that I would live to see the day when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan. I was sure I would be martyred by one of their bullets: I even wished for it. Every time I went on an operation I believed I would not return. With the defeat came new hope, though, and I found myself praying to God that he would let me live to see Afghanistan as a free and independent Islamic country with an Islamic government.

But the loose alliance between the different mujahedeen groups crumbled before our eyes as everyone started to pursue their own goals. What came next obliterated what we had fought for, and defamed the name and honour of the mujahedeen and the jihad itself.

In Kabul, fighting soon broke out between Massoud and Hekmatyar. Massoud had demanded full control of the city but Hekmatyar -as Prime Minister— didn’t accept this. The old Communist party splits between Khalqis and Parchamis were being played out again, and while alliances were never clear, the Khalqis sided with Hekmatyar while the Parchamis seemed to support Massoud. Soon the fighting reached Kandahar, where rival commanders clashed in the city. Ustaz Abdul Haleem,19 a commander of Sayyaf’s faction, had taken the provincial police department, but Mullah Naqib’s forces turned it into rubble. Abdul Hakim Jan was the commander at that battle, which lasted just one day before Ustaz Abdul Haleem fled. Most people in the building were killed, but some escaped towards Sarpoza and to the main base of Ustaz Abdul Haleem.

The Taliban didn’t involve themselves in these disputes, and in any case most had returned home by now. Mullah Mohammad Omar turned our old mujahedeen base in Sangisar into a madrassa. I briefly considered staying there as well, but without any work it would be difficult. I decided to return to my wife and children. I had married in 1987 and we had moved in with my father-in-law in Deh Merasay. My wife had given birth to our children by then. I discussed our situation with her and my father-in-law and we decided that I should start to look for work.
So I took my family and we fled to Pakistan. We avoided all the main roads and used smugglers’ routes and back roads to avoid the criminal gangs that were holding up travellers, robbing them and raping their wives all over southern Afghanistan. There was no security and there was no law. Gangs of former mujahedeen, thieves and thugs were bleeding the people. No one was holding them accountable and travel had become dangerous and expensive. I was relieved when we arrived in Pakistan without incident.
Business was good and soon I was able to leave for Peshawar to focus on my Islamic studies and finish my education. It was there that I started to develop and cultivate an interest in politics.

Posted by b on December 27, 2010 at 06:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 5. Bitter Pictures

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund, who later became the leader of the Taliban movement, was the commander of our fronts in the north. Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund, Mullah Mazullah, Mullah Feda Mohammad and Mullah Obaidullah Akhund were the main leaders of that battle in Sangisar.
The Russians pushed forward, and soon we could see them from our trenches. By the late afternoon they were only a hundred metres away. The clash was brief but the fierce fighting left the battlefield littered with bodies. We seized two PKs and many light weapons. Jan Mohammad took one of the PKs and Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund took the other. The battle turned into a hand-to-hand fight, with grenades flying over our heads. Some mujahedeen managed to catch them in midair and throw them back, though in one case a mujahed was martyred when a grenade exploded in his hand before he could throw it back. The Russians pulled back and started shelling our position with DC guns. The ground shook with the explosions and the air was heavy with the smell of gunpowder. Smoke and dust rose up all around. Their air forces bombed our positions; every house and trench was hit. Four mujahedeen were martyred and another four injured. Mullah Najibullah was hit by a bomb, and the blast knocked him out. His hand was injured and when he came to he could no longer hear. Shrapnel, pieces of stone and wood flew through the air. Mullah Mohammad Omar was only twenty metres away from me taking cover behind a wall. He looked around the corner and a shard of metal shrapnel hit him in the face and took out his eye.

Soon every room was filled with injured mujahedeen, but none of them lost their composure. The bodies of the martyred mujahedeen lay on the ground, a jarring reminder of the battle outside. Mullah Mohammad Omar busied himself bandaging his eye. On that same night we held a marvellous party. The late Mullah Marjan sang and we accompanied his sweet voice with percussion on whatever we had to hand. I can still remember the ghazal that Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund sang:
My illness is untreatable, oh, my flower-like friend
My life is difficult without you, my flower-like friend
Even though he was injured, Mullah Najibullah amused us a lot. He still could not hear a word but we kept on trying to talk to him. A bomb had also injured Khan Abdul Hakim, the commander of the other front.

May God be praised! What a brotherhood we had among the mujahedeen! We weren’t concerned with the world or with our lives; our intentions were pure and every one of us was ready to die as a martyr. When I look back on the love and respect that we had for each other, it sometimes seems like a dream.
Many great battles were fought against the Russians and the government forces by the mujahedeen but none was as intense for me as the final assault on Kandahar Airport near Khushab in 1988. The Russians had already retreated to their main base camp and were preparing to withdraw when we decided to make a final push. It was summer and the grapes were not yet ripe when we gathered our forces together. It was the biggest operation I personally took part in, with some five or six hundred mujahedeen led by Mullah Mohammad Akhund and myself. I commanded a group of fifty-eight approaching the base from the northeast, while Mullah Mohammad Akhund attacked the camp from the north with the rest of the fighters.

The Russians fought back aggressively—no holds barred—in a way we hadn’t seen before. There was no way for them to retreat and it was their last base in the south. We fought for three days and three nights. I did not sleep or eat. It was the month of Ramazan and I was fasting, but the attacks did not cease and went on all throughout the night. The Ulemaa’ advised me to break my fast, but I was afraid that I would die any minute in the storm of bombs and rockets being launched at us, and I did not want to be martyred while not fasting. In only three days, I lost fifty of the fifty-eight men under my command.

We came under attack from Dostum’s men and his government forces. In all my life and out of all the fights I saw and took part in, the battle for Khushab was the fiercest, most dangerous and hardest of all.
Hajji Latif, who was the commander of the joint front at this time, told Mullah Burjan, “Mullah Saheb! Fear God! You should not sacrifice our young Taliban to the Russians”. “Hajji Saheb!” Mullah Burjan responded. “There is no other option. If we don’t fight the jihad, then the Russians will conquer our homeland. To fight the jihad means that martyrdom and losses are inevitable”.

This didn’t satisfy Hajji Latif. “Mullah Saheb! I don’t mean that we should not fight the jihad, but I am concerned about the Taliban and the Ulemaa’, for they are the spiritual heart of our country and they need to be protected. Most of the fighters I have on my fronts smoke hashish, shave their beards and know little about Islam. They would fight against the mujahedeen if I let them. Making them stay stops them from joining the government forces. If they die along the way, well then they will be martyred and enter heaven. The Taliban have a greater role in society”.

The Taliban encountered Hajji Latif and his men later, at a meeting of commanders in Nelgham. Hajji Latif had arrived at the meeting escorted by rough-looking, hashish-smoking boys. They were young, wore western-style clothes and carried small Kalakov machine guns slung over their shoulders. The difference between them and the Taliban was clear and plain to all.

Posted by b on December 27, 2010 at 06:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 4. Lessons from the ISI

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

In the early 1980s the ISI began to run a special weapons training programme for the mujahedeen. The new weapons, so we were promised, would allow us to destroy Russian tanks and shoot their helicopters out of the sky. Mullah Mohammad Sadiq chose me along with several other mujahedeen to take part in the training programme. We went to Sayyaf’s office in Quetta where Commander Abdullah, the head of the office and responsible for south-eastern Afghanistan, introduced us to Pakistani officials.
Pakistan was very different from Afghanistan. In Kandahar, at the fronts and in the midst of battle it was hardly important which faction you were with; the mujahedeen would support each other no matter what. Among the different Taliban and semi-Taliban fronts people were especially known for cooperating as equals and brothers. It was only later in the jihad that factional and tribal disputes erupted; Mullah Naqibullah and Sarkateb Atta Mohammad frequently fought with each other, for example. Across the border, though, the factional politics were everything.
The course had a theoretical component that was held in a classroom, and a practical one that took place with the actual weapons to hand. The theory introduced basic weapons handling and maintenance, the different parts and problems of target calculation, range and impact. We would study from 7 a.m. to 12 noon. In the afternoon I would read or review the day’s lessons. The theory section lasted for ten days before we actually got to handle the weapons.
The entire area was barren; there were no houses or gardens, only some barracks that looked like a military outpost. Some five kilometres away in the mountains to the north we could see a white object shaped like a square. There were BM41s, BM12s and a few rockets on the ground outside the barracks. The Pakistani instructors were sitting on a bench in front of the building. We were ordered to stand in a line and the instructors explained that we were going to use the weapons in practice. This, they said, would be our first chance to actually fire the new weapons that would help us to destroy the Russian helicopters and tanks.

A man was standing by the road. He told us that the Russians had come through earlier with tanks and transporters. They took the same route as you are planning to take, he said. There might be an ambush ahead.
I remember feeling dizzy as I knelt next to the water; it was like I was dreaming. Only two days before, twenty-three of Hajji Babai’s fighters had been martyred in a Russian ambush here. I stood up and after a few steps two PK19 tracer bullets whizzed through the air close to my ear. There was another burst of gunfire. Nazar Mohammand and Mir Hamza were hit and fell to the ground. Another PK bullet pierced my torso at the waistline. The Russians fired Roshanandaz and RPGs; grenades and bombs exploded all around us; smoke and dust filled the air. For a second it felt as if doomsday had come upon us.
I was brought back to Pakistan. Seven or eight days had passed since I had left.

Posted by b on December 27, 2010 at 05:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 26, 2010

The NYT Is Getting Cold Feet

Having been part of ever single government conspiracy in recent years, from the War On Afghans, the War On Iraqis to the to the future War On Iranians, the NYT suddenly discovers that the War On The Freedom Of Speech has been going for years and that now The NYT is very likely to be on the casualty list:

Our concern is not specifically about payments to WikiLeaks. This isn’t the first time a bank shunned a business on similar risk-management grounds. Banks in Colorado, for instance, have refused to open bank accounts for legal dispensaries of medical marijuana.

Still, there are troubling questions. The decisions to bar the organization came after its founder, Julian Assange, said that next year it will release data revealing corruption in the financial industry. In 2009, Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive.

What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was “too risky”? What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks.

No, I do not expect them to learn from this.

Posted by b on December 26, 2010 at 02:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Reading Zaeef: 3. The Jihad

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

We travelled on foot, each carrying our own ammunition, although later we occasionally found tractors and cars as transport. Back roads and smuggling tracks through valleys and mountains bypassed Soviet or Afghan Communist checkpoints and we sometimes rode motorcycles or horses on longer journeys.
We fought on regardless of exhaustion, hunger and thirst, walking from Maiwand to Dand, from Shah Wali Kot and Arghandab to Panjwayi and other regions. We would even walk the hundred kilometres or so from Nelgham to Helmand or to Tirin Kot in Uruzgan. We would wear the same clothes for months at a time, surviving on just a loaf of bread or a few dates each day. Many were eager to fight, eager to die, especially young mujahedeen like myself.

We lived off the land and thanked those who donated food and money. People wanted to help just as we wanted to fight. If a commander left somebody out of an operation, that fighter would feel angry and disappointed. Just as normal people are eager to get married, we were desperate for martyrdom. At times you could hear mujahedeen cry out in the midst of battle, but not out of fear. Even though many of our friends were martyred, one after another, we weren’t scared. We would have leapt at the first opportunity to run into open fire during battle, if only our commander hadn’t reigned us in. It is hard to believe, maybe, but we were happy. From time to time we danced the Atan, such was our elation. At other times we suffered grieviously, but it was the true path: if one died, it was meant to be.

What a happy life we led! At the end of an operation we would return to our positions and hideouts; we would sit in our rooms, relieved and comforted that we had succeeded in damaging the enemy’s military machinery—until the next operation, that is.

Fighting alongside the Taliban meant more than just being a mujahed. The Taliban followed a strict routine in which everyone who fought alongside us had to participate, without exception. We woke before sunrise to perform the fajr or morning prayer in the mosque, and afterwards sat together before returning to the camp. We would recite Surat Yasin Sharif every morning in case we were martyred that day. Some would then leave to strengthen some front or other, or to carry out a raid, while others would tend to prisoners, the wounded or spend some time studying.

Posted by b on December 26, 2010 at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading Zaeef: 2. The Camps

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

When we arrived there, some 75 kilometres west of Quetta, we found nothing but wilderness. The sun was already setting when the truck finally came to a stop at the end of a small dirt track. We tried our best to improvise for the night. In these first days everyone was busy cutting down trees and clearing the ground, building small huts and a mosque out of wood. We set up the tents we had brought with us and tried to settle down as best we could. Around our makeshift huts we laid fences made of osh murghai, a type of thorn bush.
The land was dry and the weather as hot as in Nushki. We found nests of scorpions, snakes and tarantulas everywhere. Every night when we lit the small kerosene lamp in our tent three or four scorpions would come out of the dark, scuttling towards us. There was no water and during the first days we were forced to ration what we had brought in buckets and canisters. We even used earth and sand for our ablutions before prayer.

The nearest wells were several kilometres away from the camp at a local village. I was sent to fetch water along with the other children. Each morning we would go to the well with our buckets. By the time we returned it was already time for the afternoon prayer. It was a long way and the buckets were heavy. We were usually exhausted when we we reached the camp.
Some of the children from our camp attended classes there and I also took the admissions exam and passed for entry to the sixth grade.

We went there every morning to study. The school was far away and we had to get up at six in the morning, walking for over an hour to reach it. In the afternoons we would gather together in a small assembly with Mawlawi Hanifa Saheb who attended to our religious studies. I was one of a group of seven from Panjpayi camp who attended the madrassa. I studied hard at school and passed the sixth and seventh grades. I still remember that I received 480 points in the final examination of the seventh grade, the best result of the entire class. For the eighth grade, I was appointed class captain.

I liked my time at school and enjoyed studying. My instructors were happy with me, and in turn I was happy with them. I followed their advice and instructions and behaved well in class. My love of learning never deserted me, even when I was fighting the Russians.

Posted by b on December 26, 2010 at 08:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 25, 2010

Open Thread

Me busy with family stuff ...

Posted by b on December 25, 2010 at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (39)

Reading Zaeef: 1. Death At Home

Reading Abdul Salam Zaeef: My Life with the Taliban:

In the summer of 1975, my father died in Rangrezan. He got up in the middle of the night, earlier than was his habit. Later, when it was time for the night prayer, I woke up and lay still, listening to my father in the moonlit darkness. I could only make out parts of the words he was whispering, and I saw tears running down his face.

He was praying for us children, asking God for our safety, for our futures and for our health. I had never heard him pray like that before, but I did not think much of it at the time. He left the house early to pray eshraq at the mosque.

When he returned, he seemed to be in pain. I could see tears in his eyes when he looked at us, but he said nothing, turned away, and went into his room. I was scared. An hour passed before he called for my sister. He asked her to go and get the neighbours. Neither I nor my sister understood what was happening. I looked at my father lying on his bed, his face moist with tears and strained with pain. The neighbours came, an old woman and a man. We knew them well and often played with their children.

The man went straight to my father and took his pulse at his wrist. Immediately he started to recite Surat Yasin Sharif.

He turned to us and told us to leave the room. After a short while the old woman came out of my father’s room. Her face was pale when she walked over to my sister and I. Stroking our heads all the while, she burst out in tears, and cried out loud. Then all of a sudden she fainted and collapsed on the floor.

We were shocked and ran to my father’s room to tell him what had happened. We called out to him: “Father! Father! Come quick, look what happened to the aunt!” But my father did not answer. When we looked at him we saw that the neighbour had bound his lower jaw to his head with a white strip of cloth as is the custom once someone dies. We shouted again: “Father! Father!” But it was only his body that was lying on the bed. He had died a few moments earlier.

Posted by b on December 25, 2010 at 05:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 24, 2010

There shall be peace.

And this wall shall come down.

Contemplative, hope- and peaceful holidays to all of you.

Posted by b on December 24, 2010 at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

December 23, 2010

LA Times Misleads on Iran's Subsidy Reform

Los Angeles has a lot of immigrants from Iran, many of whom came to the U.S. after the revolution kicked the Shah out of his office. The Los Angeles Times is therefore the paper that many of these immigrants read. Unfortunately it does not inform them, but it propagandizes against the Iranian system.

For proof see today's piece on just launched subsidy reform in Iran: Prices in Iran rise after lifting of subsidies

The austerity measures generate work stoppages and embolden the political opposition. Critics contend that the price increases hurt those with modest incomes while leaving the wealthy unscathed.

That short summary printed at the top of the story includes at least two big lies.

Economic austerity (used by the LAT writes because it just made Websters "word of the year"?), is shortly defined as:

a policy of deficit-cutting, lower spending, and a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided.

The subsidy reform in Iran will NOT cut the deficit Iran doesn't have. It will also NOT lower government spending and it will NOT reduce the amount of provided benefits and public service. There are zero austerity measures in Iran.

During the "imposed war" with Iraq Iran introduced subsidies for several products, energy, gasoline, flour, etc. Those subsidies proved to be hard to cut after the war and this has been a hot political issue in Iran for several decades.

The subsidies have led to some severe misallocations and waste of resources. For example: Gasoline a third of which Iran has to import at world market prices, was subsidized down to about 15% of the world market price. This had several bad effects. As private individual traffic by car was cheap, motors were just kept running and public transport got neglected. Early this month Tehran had to shut down because of heavy smog. Cheap gasoline was horded and smuggled out of the country to be sold elsewhere.

The Ahmadinejad government now finally managed to reform the system. Instead of subsidizing product prices, the government will subsidize people with lower income. In the first step of subsidy reform, 80% of the Iranian people got a monthly subsidy cash payment from the government. In a second step, which started this week, subsidies for gasoline and other raw energy products were reduced and will eventually, over five years, go down to zero. Prices for gasoline will thereby increase until they have reached world market prices.

Higher gasoline prices will of course effect many other prices as transport cost are a component of nearly all product prices. There will be nominal inflation from this move but this is not inflationary in the bad sense as peoples income also increases. In the terms of Austrian economics, there will be no real inflation at all as only the allocation of the money changes and the total money supply will not increase. Of course there will be quite a bit of turmoil in the local markets as people change their buying habits but in the end demand and supply will find a new balance.

So when the LA Times writes of "critics contend that the price increases hurt those with modest incomes while leaving the wealthy unscathed" this is very easy to debunk.

The wealthy in Iran will not get any income subsidy from the government and will have to pay higher prices. The people with modest income do get additional money from the government and will have to pay higher prices. Idealized their household balance sheet will expand on both sides but with the same balance result. In effect the opposite of the LAT "critics" say, unchallenged by LAT, will happen.

As the government changes the system simply from product subsidies to income subsidies its balance sheet does not change either. How can that be austerity?

But the whole LA Times article will let not you know this. There is zero mentioning of the direct government payments to the less wealthy people in it. None at all.

As for an "emboldening political opposition" that the LAT claims. There is no emboldening to see but a statement from irrelevant former politicians on an obscure website the LAT uses for picking quotes.

As professor of economics at Virginia Tech Djavad Salehi-Isfahani blogs from a visit in Tehran:

So far [Ahmadinejad] seems to have succeeded: day one of the implementation has gone by without panic buying or a serious incident. Patience and gradualism seems to have paid off.
In my view, it would be enough of an achievement for the current plan to succeed and Iran get rid of its vast energy subsidies, even with some inflation. That would prove the critics wrong and become a model for other countries that are looking for a way to wean their citizens off cheap energy.


Just to add for the fun of it. How does the LA Times endorsed "critics" assertions stand up in light of this World Bank(!) country report (pdf) on Iran?

Targeting the poor more accurately by the public transfers would help to reduce poverty. Half of the poor in Iran, about 4.5 million people, or 1.5 million households, benefit from social coverage by government social safety net programs, charity institutions, and other nonprofit organizations. Whereas this support is partly effective, it is not specifically targeted to the poor, and remains expensive. Extensive subsidies, including energy subsidies, and credit subsidies are excessively large, and their distribution is skewed toward the rich. Subsidies for bread and medicine, for example, are highly untargeted vis-à-vis the poor, and the richest decile of households benefits 12 times more from gasoline subsidies than the poorest decile.

Posted by b on December 23, 2010 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

December 22, 2010

The Cairo Speech Was a Lie

Of course the headline is not news to anyone who has been watching, but here is additional proof.

The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
Text: Obama’s Speech in Cairo - June 4, 2009


[France] MFA Middle East Director (Assistant Secretary-equivalent) Patrice Paoli informed POL Minister Counselor June 18 that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told French officials in Paris June 15 that the Israelis have a "secret accord" with the USG to continue the "natural growth" of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
US Embassy France Cable: "FRANCE MID-EAST DIRECTOR ON PEACE PROCESS" - June 22, 2009

Posted by b on December 22, 2010 at 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Some Links Dec 22

(Sorry for not posting - busy day)

Taking Robert Kaplan's "Monsoon" apart: Recall America's imperial past, understand its present - Manan Ahmed /The National

Important piece: The Great Islamophobic Crusade - Max Blumenthal/TomDispatch

Spare Afghanistan Iraq's success - Nir Rosen/FP

Heroism is no substitute for an Afghan strategy - Max Hastings/FT


Posted by b on December 22, 2010 at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 21, 2010

Petraeus Wants To Attack Pakistan

As the General's favored spokesperson and NYT writer Dexter Filkins reports, General Petraeus wants to widen the war in Afghanistan by sending troops into Pakistan.

The plan has not yet been approved, but military and political leaders say a renewed sense of urgency has taken hold, as the deadline approaches for the Obama administration to begin withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. Even with the risks, military commanders say that using American Special Operations troops could bring an intelligence windfall, if militants were captured, brought back across the border into Afghanistan and interrogated.

Those reasons given are quite interesting.

a. It seems to be urgent for Petraeus to totally mess up Pakistan before withdrawing from Afghanistan.
b. The General's torturers have run out of useful clients and need to capture new militants to interrogate.

Ain't those cute ideas?

The Filkins/Mazzetti report is useful as it finally confirms what people in Pakistan have been saying all along and which the U.S. always denied. There are U.S. ground attacks withing Pakistan. Those and the assassinations by drones may by and large explain the troubles in the tribal areas as a result of U.S. (and Indian) meddling.

Afghan militias backed by the C.I.A. have carried out a number of secret missions into Pakistan’s tribal areas. These operations in Pakistan by Afghan operatives, known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, have been previously reported as solely intelligence-gathering operations. But interviews in recent weeks revealed that on at least one occasion, the Afghans went on the offensive and destroyed a militant weapons cache.

And what about the people that guarded the weapon cache?

Also, all those reports from Afghans who tell about black helicopters landing at nighttime and mysterious Taliban forces seem to have a true element:

The Paktika Defense Force is one of six C.I.A.-trained Afghan militias that serve as a special operations force against insurgents throughout Afghanistan. The other militias operate around the cities of Kandahar, Kabul and Jalalabad as well as in the rural provinces of Khost and Kunar.

The report does not include any voice from Pakistan. Though from the last reaction against U.S. incursions, when the Pakistani military just shut the boarder and let some 150 fuel trucks go up in flames, one would assume that any Pakistani reaction to these plans will not be sympathetic. On hopes to soon see their salvo that will shoot down this trial baloon.

Just like the Vietnam war was escalated beyond Vietnam's borders and inflamed Laos and Cambodia the war in Afghanistan is now to be carried into Pakistan. At least until some religiously motivated Colonel there takes over and starts throwing nukes around.

Posted by b on December 21, 2010 at 12:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (73)

December 20, 2010

South Korean Artillery Fire - How Will North Korea Respond?

So despite protests South Korea did its announced live fire artillery drill at the disputed border today but North Korea did not immediately respond in kind.

Good. With the South Korean military on high alarm and a lot of the U.S. fleet around an immediate response would have been quite dangerous. And why fight on your enemies' terms?

But just as the South could not back off for fear of losing face, the North will now have to do something to keep its face. It will do that something pretty soon but probably still at a surprising place and time.

What might something be?

Another nuke test or firing off of some bigger missiles is a possibility but might be just too normal and predictable to be seen as an appropriate response. Something asymmetric like a daring infiltration into the South to blow up this or that bridge or military outpost is my best guess.

But your guess is as good as mine. How do you think North Korea will respond to this provocation?

Posted by b on December 20, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

NYT Headline Turns Fact On Its Head

The New York Times reports on the election in Belarus with this headline.

After Belarus Vote, Riot Police Attack Protesters

Reading the headline one assumes an unprovoked attack of brutal police on peaceful demonstrators.

But that is not what happened. The article itself gives the real version which is quite the opposite of what the headline says:

At one point, protesters charged the entrance of the imposing government headquarters, breaking through glass doors and trying to push through barricades that had been erected inside.

But armored riot troops quickly overwhelmed the protesters, at times funneling them toward packs of plainclothes officers who beat them.

The reporter observed a violent attack of protesters against a protected government building with a police force defending against that. The headline is thereby a willful falsification of cause and effect. Violent  protesters attacked and the riot police action was a reaction to that.

We have seen such willful falsification before. After the election in Iran, which unlike the recent one in Belarus were not manipulated, U.S. media emphasized police action in Tehran while leaving out the fact that protester brutalities had caused them.

For the record. I am generally not against violent protest against governments and have personally taken part in several demonstrations that ended in big and violent clashes. It is sometimes necessary to show the state that there are limits it better does not cross.

But there is no justification for manipulating casual readers of a 'free press' by a headline which says the opposite of what the facts bear out.

Posted by b on December 20, 2010 at 03:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 19, 2010

The CIA And U.S. Media (Self-)Censorship

One detail is the story about the recent drone strikes in Khyber agency makes Paul Woodward and me a bit curious about censorship in the U.S. media. While a CIA agent's name was discussed publicly in Pakistan and elsewhere, the U.S. media censored it out.

The CIA station chief in Islamabad, named as Jonathan Banks in various reports in English language Pakistani media for over two weeks now, left Pakistan last Thursday, December 16. The reason given was that his name was exposed in a law suit and that there were threats against him.

That may or may not be the real reason for him to leave (we think not). But what is curious is how and why the U.S. media is now censoring the name of the CIA man in its reports about the issue. As the Pakistani journalist Omar R Quraishi points out:

MSNBC, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Associated Press all ran stories but declined to name the CIA officer. Both MSNBC and the AP mentioned explicitly in the text of their main stories that they were not naming the official. The New York Times ran a story on December 17 raising the issue of the ISI’s involvement in the naming of the official but this was strongly denied by the intelligence agency. The Times then ran a story on December 18 quoting a senior ISI official as “strongly” denying any link to the CIA official’s name being outed.

The AP, too, ran a follow-up on December 18 of the ISI denying any involvement. However, this story stated the following:

The Associated Press learned about the station chief’s removal on Thursday [December 16] but held the story until he was out of the region. The CIA’s work is unusually difficult in Pakistan, an important but at times capricious counterterrorism ally.

Not all U.S. media blocked the name at all times.

The news website Monster and Critics ran a DPA news agency story on the lawsuit on November 30:

Karim Khan, a local journalist from the North Waziristan tribal district, said he had sent a 500-million-dollar claim to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, CIA chief Leon Panetta and the agency's station head in Islamabad, Jonathan Banks, for the deaths of his teenage son and brother in a drone airstrike.

A November 30 story in the Washington Post suppressed the name.

A Friday, December 12 McClatchy story on the lawsuit in the Miami Herald said:

The lawsuit, which stands little chance of being won, is lodged against the CIA station chief in Islamabad, identified as Jonathan Banks; CIA Director Leon Panetta; and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

It seems that only after Jonathan Banks was leaving Pakistan, news the Associated Press suppressed (at who's request?) for 24 hours, did U.S. media start to suppress the CIA man's name. The LA Times, also not naming Jonathan Banks, tries to explain:

The officer, whose name remains classified, is returning to the U.S. because "terrorist threats against him in Pakistan were of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act," said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

"Whose name remains classified"? So what, if it is all over the internets? Did the LA Times not report on the Pentagon Papers? Doesn't it quote WikiLeaks cables? In an administrative sense both are still classified but who cares and why should anyone?

If anyone with not-so-secret-access to Google can find the name in about 0.06 seconds, why do the U.S. media suppress the name of Jonathan Banks? Did they get orders to do so? If so why follow them?

Posted by b on December 19, 2010 at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Some Links Dec 19 and Open Thread

Imperial by Design (long) - Mearsheimer/The National Interest
The zombie war in Afghanistan - Walt/Foreign Policy

Why Night Raids May Doom U.S. Prospects in Afghanistan - Time
Afghan tribal elders threatened to ‘fight Nato like the Soviets’: US embassy cables - Dawn
Patrick Cockburn: History is repeating itself in Afghanistan

The Law Office of David E. Coombs - A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning

Israel, Obama & The Bomb

Posted by b on December 19, 2010 at 04:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

December 18, 2010

A Nice Christmas Gift For Kids

This afternoon I was looking for gifts for kids between 3 and 6. This is the best-ever I ended up with.

The Playmobil Security Check Point sells on Amazon for just $225.

It even makes these beautiful new 'naked' scanner pictures.

Now that will give the kids some really creative ideas.

What really convinced me to buy this toy are the very favorable customer reviews. One finds it Educational and Fun:

I applaud the people who created this toy for finally being hip to our changing times.

This one is a bit negative though:

Unfortunately, this toy comes short in a few areas:
1) It does not show that if you're rich, you don't have to wait in line for hours. If you can travel first class, you get your own fast-track screening. Too bad the terr'ists have plenty of Saudi and Pakistani cash and can easily travel first class should they want to. They should have included another screening set in the box.
2) It does not come with the 300 tired-looking playmobils you would need to show the passengers waiting in line behind the screening area.

However, it does some things very well: for instance, the screening apparatus is not actually functional. This represents faithfully the actual TSA system, which, every time it is tested or audited, fails to catch anything (weapons, even bombs).

Now I am off to pick up my gift: A 'harsh interrogation method' starter kit. That will come in handy when the kids let someone terrorists get through their gate.

Posted by b on December 18, 2010 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Coincidences With Drones Over Khyber

Last month a law suit was filed in New York against several U.S. and Pakistani officials for killing two persons through a drone strike in Waziristan. The CIA station chief in Pakistan was named in that law suit as one "Jonathan Banks". The picture in the link is the actor Jonathan Banks, not the CIA station chief. Jonathan Banks is likely not his real name anyway. Allegedly a Pakistani website asked people to track down a real picture of the CIA station chief.

On Thursday Michael J. Morell, the C.I.A.’s deputy director, met with Pakistani officials in Islamabad. The same day the CIA station chief Mr. Banks left the country. The CIA claims that this was unrelated and that Banks left because of public threats against him. That claim seems dubious.

The CIA then claimed through several U.S. media that the Pakistani military secret service ISI was responsible for the threats. The ISI denies that.

Six days earlier, on Friday the 11th, the U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar Elizabeth Rood’s suddenly left her position and returned to Washington:

There were rumours circulating in the town on Friday that she had been frequently receiving life threats from militants, which prompted her to rush back to the States.

However, the US Embassy spokesperson contradicted the reports and pronounced “personal matters” to be the actual reason behind her departure.

Note that I find no U.S. media entity even mentionig that.

Six days after Mrs. Root and one day after Mr. Banks were gone: Scores die as drones renew attack on Pakistan's Khyber:

Nearly 60 people have been killed in a series of attacks by US drones in the past 24 hours in Pakistan's Khyber tribal district, officials say.

At least 50 died in three unmanned air strikes in the Tirah Valley, a day after seven others were killed nearby.
The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says Khyber is an unusual target for drone attacks, as it is not usually seen as a major militant sanctuary.

Those killed are said by an "Pakistani official" to be part of a Taliban group, Lashkar-e-Islam, that is active in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan.

I do not believe that the sudden leaving of a Consulate General in Peshawar, which is only a few miles east to Khyber agency, the visit of the CIA second in command in Islamabad, the sudden leaving of the CIA station chief in Pakistan, a smear campaign against the ISI and several heavy drone strikes in an area that is usually off limits for CIA drone strikes - all within very few days - are unrelated. The claim that the target was an anti-Pakistan-state group makes this even more curious.

This stinks. Though I have no idea yet why and how these items really connect.

Mrs. Rood's bio says:

Previously, Mrs. Rood was the Department of State representative on the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in Paktika Province in southeastern Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009.

Mrs. Rood speaks several languages including Pashto.

Paktika has seen quite some fighting allegedly against the Haqqani network. The BBC remarked:

The Paktika region has been the target of many US drone attacks on insurgents.

Several drones crashed in Paktika, likely shot down.

Mrs. Rood thereby seems to have some affinity with areas that are hit hard by drones. She also one of only few Pashto speakers in U.S. government service. This suggests that she is not only working for Foggy Bottom but also for Langley.

But again, so far I have no real connection for these bits.

Some conflict between ISI and the CIA about widening drone strike areas? Some ISI faction that revolted against this? An ISI requested drone hit, denied by the Peshawar consulate and the CIA station chief, then agreed to by the CIA's number two?

Please let me know your theories about this issue.

Posted by b on December 18, 2010 at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

December 17, 2010

Afghanistan - U.S. Concern About China Hinders Political Solution

For the "western" troops to leave Afghanistan without letting it continue to fall deeper into its the civil war a political solution will be required. Such a solution will have to include a government participation for the Taliban.

Washington is not yet willing to allow that. That has nothing to do with some moral question or women rights. Washington has lots of friends and allies who behave much worse then the Taliban ever did. The real issue is a, largely imagined, U.S. conflict with China.

To negotiate seriously with the Taliban an agreement will have to be found with the Pakistani military which at least partly controls that movement.

The concern of the Pakistani military is an Afghanistan under heavy Indian influence and, resulting from that, a potential two front war. The concern is not without merit. Karzai was educated in India and India has same para-militaries, an embassy and four consular offices in Afghanistan which certainly do not have the sole purpose of stamping visa into passports.

For Pakistan to agree to further serious negotiations with the Taliban, at least a temporary solution has to be found to alleviate its fears with regard to India.

The way to fundamentally relieve Pakistani fear of India is to find a solution for Kashmir. While the Kashmir conflict is partly a Hindu versus Muslim religious conflict and partly an ethnic/tribal conflict the real Kashmir concern for Pakistan are the water sources from the Himalaya that spring up in Kashmir and feed the Indus river. The Indus is literally the lifeline that feeds Pakistan's people. Uncontested Indian rule in Kashmir with the ability to cut off Pakistan's water is a knife to its throat.

A solution for Kashmir could be some vote for independence by the people living there, as promised to them a long time ago but never allowed, followed by a neutrality and water sharing agreement with its neighbors.

To at least temporarily have the Pakistani agree on a negotiated solution for Afghanistan, India (and Karzai) will have to leave Afghanistan. The U.S. would have to press India for this to happen.

But the U.S. does not want to pressure India on anything, not even on leaving Afghanistan. It is fantasizing about a big conflict with China in which, it assumes, India will be an ally.

So for now the U.S. will continue to pay a $120 billion per year in Afghanistan to achieve nothing. A few years down the road and after some more serious budget pressure Congress will finally have enough of it. The U.S. will then leave without a political solution. The civil war in Afghanistan will continue and a few years later the Taliban will have again won.

That is not the necessary outcome, but it is what the current purely military U.S. policy, if continued, will achieve.

Recommended readings:
How the Afghan Counterinsurgency Threatens Pakistan - Anatol Lieven/The Nation
The Way Out of Afghanistan - Ahmed Rashid/NYRB
In deadly Kandahar, skepticism over gains cited in Afghan war review - CSM
Fresh Approach: It’s Time for the Afghans to Leave Afghanistan - World Affairs

Posted by b on December 17, 2010 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 16, 2010

WikiLeaks: Observing The Effects III

WikiLeaks is becoming a cultural phenomenon :-).

Art imitating life: Funky new ad puts a spin on personal hygiene and politics

Posted by b on December 16, 2010 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Attrition Warfare

American commanders say their plan in the next few years is to kill large numbers of insurgents in the border region — the military refers to it as “degrading the Taliban” — and at the same time build up the Afghan National Army to the point that the Afghans can at least contain an insurgency still supported by Pakistan.
Intelligence Reports Offer Dim View of Afghan War, NYT, Dec 15


Thus, the administration escalated in response to North Vietnamese Taliban actions. Its objective was to inflict a level of pain on the North Vietnamese Taliban that was sufficient to make them bargain in earnest. Thus Vietnam Afghanistan became a war of attrition. Johnson Obama would regularly characterize his decisions as taking the middle ground. He would not "pull out" as the "doves" and "nervous Nellies" suggested nor would he go "all out" as the "hawkish" military advisors recommended.
Fighting a war with limited and political objectives had an added liability. It was difficult to define and convey the idea of "progress" to the public. There were few set piece or conventional battles and American objectives were not defined in geographical terms (e.g., Berlin and Tokyo). Instead, the administration was forced to create and essentially sell indicators of progress to the public. Herein lies the origin of such commonly used terms as "pacification zones" and "kill ratios."
The Vietnam War 1962-1968


Ho Chi Minh said, in reference to the French, "You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win." Most analysis of war casualties indicates that the allied army inflicted roughly a three-to-two ratio of communist combat deaths against allied deaths. Ho Chi Minh was proved correct in that the US eventually pulled out.
Body Count, Vietnam War

Posted by b on December 16, 2010 at 02:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 15, 2010

Korea War II?

What is the cause of the recent flare up of tensions between the two Koreas?

One of my theory says that this is an Obama administration ploy to put pressure on China. This to achieve a Yuan revaluation that in the end is hoped to lower the U.S. trade deficit and revive its economy.

The economic part of this would unlikely work as hoped for. When Japan was pressed in the 1980s to increase the value of the Yen the U.S. trade deficit with Japan widened.

But besides that any tensions, even artificial ones, in the area are extremely dangerous as both Koreas are not under real control of their hegemonic overlords and things may just get out of hand with very serious consequences. The North, relying on a self sustenance ideology (juche), may not respect any restraining order it gets from Beijing and the very hawkish South Korean president Lee Myung-bak may escalate any situation without first asking for Washington's okay.

After his election Lee Myung-bak stopped nearly all cooperation and agreements with the North. While the "western" tale says that the South Korean ship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean submarine I, like the Russians, have serious doubt that this is what really happened. The recent artillery exchange between the North and the South came after not necessarily helpful firing of South Korean artillery very near to the northern border. Are we sure that none of those first barrage rounds actually landed in North Korean territory?

Currently we are seeing a strong military buildup. The U.S. is deploying Joint STAR ground surveillance planes. The aircraft carrier group around the USS George Washington is deployed to the south-west of Korea while the carrier group of the USS Ronald Reagan is on its way to the area. Recently the so far biggest ever U.S. navy maneuver with the Japanese navy was immediately followed by one with the South Korean navy. The U.S. air force now transfers 30,000 tons of jet fuel from Japan to South Korea while the U.S. army is pre-positioning additional equipment in South Korea. South Korea is holding a nationwide emergency drill.

While that all may be part of some show Russia alerting its far-east forces is something different.

The current propaganda from the North has more bluster than usual:

A second Korean War would not fail to disappoint Western experts who wish to see Kim Jong-eun given an opportunity to prove his unprecedented military genius. He would preside over the evaporation of the world's sole superpower in the first thermonuclear exchange ever fought on the spaceship Earth.

That would certainly not happen. But any escalation would likely include a serious land war which South Korea and the U.S. may well "win" in the first few days, but in which any fast "victory" would immediately degrade into a protracted guerrilla war with China feeding whatever may be needed to its North Korean allies to keep the U.S. away from its borders.

Obama must pull the South Koreans back or this might explode very violently.

Posted by b on December 15, 2010 at 06:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

WikiLeaks: Observing The Effects II

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.
Julian Assange: The non linear effects of leaks on unjust systems of governance, Dec 31, 2006 (pdf) via

The U.S. Air Force just cyber-defeated itself by falling into the trap andby decreasing the information available for its operators:

The Air Force is blocking computer access to The New York Times and other media sites that published sensitive diplomatic documents released by the Internet site WikiLeaks, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Tones said the New York Times is the only major U.S. newspaper included in the ban. Others include Der Spiegel in Germany, the Guardian in Britain and Le Monde in France.

Tones said that the 24th Air Force routinely blocks network access to websites that host inappropriate material, including classified information such as that released by WikiLeaks. Any computer on the Air Force network is now unable to link to the sites.

Without access to major world media the Air Force will be unable to assess the political implication of its operations. Air Force actors in contact with allies as well as adversaries will now have less knowledge then their contacts. This will lead to misjudgments. It also allows foreign actors to manipulate Air Force personal.

Fine with me. Such utter silliness requires punishment.

Posted by b on December 15, 2010 at 04:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

Some Links, Dec 15

Harping about "anti-semitism" and the "Iranian threat" pays very, very well:
How much do U.S. Jewish leaders make? - Haaretz
The expiration of the 'Peace Process': Where now for the Middle East? - Alastair Crooke/FP

How Holbrooke Lied His Way into a War - Sam Husseini
200,000 Skeletons in Richard Holbrooke's Closet - Dissident Voice
Holbrooke failed in Afghanistan, say analysts - Pajhwok
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan about the Sudden Death of Holbrooke - The Unjust Media

On how the U.S. tortured him My Life With The Taliban: An Excerpt - Abdul Salam Zaeef/ICH
Spot-on  David Petraeus - Hero for our Times - Michael Brenner/National Journal

Overheard in Kabul:

Afghan governor: "OK, I will decrease corruption but, how much are you going to pay me for that?"
NATO official: "Will a million do?"

Posted by b on December 15, 2010 at 03:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2010

Some Links, Dec 14

No cable released by WikiLeaks in the last 36 hours. Why?

WikiLeaks cables: Mervyn King plotted banks bailout by four cash-rich nations - Guardian

Six months before the world financial crisis reached its peak, forcing taxpayers to rescue collapsing financial institutions, King told US officials in London that the UK, US, Switzerland and Japan could jointly enable a multibillion-pound cash injection into global banks, overriding the "dysfunctional" G7 nations.

About time - someone takes on Krugman: Reconsidering Japan and Reconsidering Paul Krugman - TruthOut

Sane people: An Open Letter to President Obama - Afghanistan: Call To Reason

$52bn of American aid and still Afghans are dying of starvation - Independent

Former U.S. envoy in Afghanistan worried about insurgent havens in Pakistan - WaPo

He noted that the mayor of Kandahar offered to hire local workers to build roads for a quarter of what USAID was paying an international engineering firm, but the agency has been reluctant to provide funds directly to local officials because it is concerned about waste and corruption. "There's no way in the world that the Afghans could steal as much as we waste," he said.

Said better - "... could steal as much as much as the U.S. "contractors" are stealing."

No loss for mankind: Richard Holbrooke, veteran US diplomat dies aged 69

Annals of stupid headline writing: Ahmadinejad wields axe to cement his position - Independent

Pouring cement with an axe?

Posted by b on December 14, 2010 at 04:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

December 13, 2010

Some Links, Dec 13

U.S. diplomacy and the attack on Kuwait: Blinkered View of Iraq - Diplomats Were Misled by Saddam's 'Cordial' Manner - Der Spiegel

The "misled" attribut is somewhat dubious.

The El-Masri Cable - Harpers

Though this cable is framed in typically diplomatic politesse, the underlying message seems clear: it was a demand that Chancellor Merkel’s government intervene to block the criminal investigation, coupled with a threat of negative consequences if it failed to do so.

The puppet that doesn't dance as the empire think it is supposed to do - As U.S. assesses Afghan war, Karzai a question mark Key sentence:

Skeptics of the strategy contend his actions, particularly in the six months since the Obama administration started to embrace him as a partner, demonstrate that he cannot be rehabilitated.

So in the eyes of the empire Karzai is criminal, addicted or ill and therefore in need of "rehabilitation"?

Billmon and I have written quite a bit about the Lincoln Group. A shop the U.S. military paid to produce hidden propaganda in Iraq and elsewhere. Walter Pincus points out that the Lincoln Group is still in that business: Pentagon forced to extend Iraq contracts that are under appeal

Central Command announced last week it had to extend the Fulcra contract for six months because to "award to any other source would result in unacceptable delays and negatively impact the ability" of U.S. forces in Iraq to carry on "all aspects of media communications activities," according to the paper justifying the decision.

Under the contract, which it has had for more than three years, Fulcra not only works directly with the Iraq government spokesman and ministers at the Defense and Interior ministries, but also carries out monitoring of media in Iraq, plans strategic messaging, and manages web materials for English and Arabic sites supporting the Iraq command. Fulcra is the new name for the Lincoln Group, which as a Pentagon contractor in 2005 was found to have paid Iraqi newspapers to print stories written by American soldiers or its employees.

The Lincoln Group propaganda shop changed its name to Iraqex, then to Fulkra and, something Pincus missed, is now running as Strategic Social. Years ago Billmon wrote about black funding for the GOP through DOD contracts with the Lincoln Group.

The Fed and the role of TARP - The Invisible Bailout - A Tiny Revolution

Posted by b on December 13, 2010 at 05:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 12, 2010

Who Elected Archbishop Porras?

Venezuelan Archbishop Baltazar Porras, head of the council of Catholic bishops of Venezuela, told Ambassador January 6 the USG ought to be more outspoken in its criticism of Hugo Chavez. Porras urged more international community involvement to contain Chavez's regional aspirations, though he admitted that political will to do so is minimal. He asserted that Chavez will continue to dismantle democratic civil society such as organized labor, the business sector, and the church.

Since when is the catholic church "democratic civil society"? Asked differently, who elected the Archbishop?

Posted by b on December 12, 2010 at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 11, 2010

View From My Window

Two snapshots taken yesterday while sitting at my desk:



Bad quality - but these beasts are damned fast.

Please send views from your window to publish here.

And. Oh yes. Welcome back at the bar. I missed your comments.

Posted by b on December 11, 2010 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Why Is Brian Whitaker Lying About Israel And Cablegate?

Via Xymphora and The Arabist we find one Brian Whitaker who asks Wikileaks: Where are the Israel documents? and claims:

[I]t seems that all we're getting is incidental references to Israel in cables from the US embassies in other countries.

I've heard people voicing suspicions about this. Have the Israel cables been suppressed, they ask.

The answer, apparently, is no. There's little or nothing from Israel in the 250,000 or so documents – and the explanation, I'm told by someone who ought to know, is very simple.

Israel, in the eyes of the US diplomats, is not a normal country like any other and so it's not dealt with in the normal way. Sensitive documents from Israel go through different channels – to the White House rather than the State Department – and are therefore not among the batch leaked to Julian Assange.

This is, apperently, nonsense.

Just check the graph at the bottom of the WikiLeaks page partly shown below.

According to this graph the leaks include some 3,600 cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv with 22 of those published so far. Some of the 8,000 cables from the Secretary of State, about 80 of which have been published, certainly also relate in one form or another to Israel.

As for why Brian Whitaker, who as the Middle East editor of The Guardian's Comment is Free section certainly has access to all cables, falsely asserts - in fact is lying about - , that there is "little or nothing from Israel" in the cable hive, we do not know.

Could it be that he just wants to deceive from the fact that he and his paper are not publishing them?

Is he, like Reza Esfandiari asserts, a "bigoted Islamophobe" and "neoimperial" and represents a mind that is "no different from the neoconservative ideology in the United States" and a Zionist?

I do not know Whitaker or his mind. But I do know that he is obviously wrong in his "explanation" of why he have seen so few Cablegate stories about Israel. This while he has direct access to information that refutes that "explanation".

Arnold Evans analyses the current publishing process of Cablegate and concludes:

What we are left with is a process that appears to be a release of 250,000 documents but actually is the major Western news organizations, led by the New York Times, releasing small numbers of documents that they select in coordination with the US government and using the wikileaks name to generate interest.

To me that inherent bias of the releases so far is a much better explanation of what is really happening here than Whitaker's obviously false assertion.

Posted by b on December 11, 2010 at 05:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)