May 27, 2011 – At least one American Representative has begun calling for the re-evaluation of US Afghanistan strategy and patience is wearing thin. Vermonter Peter Welch is proposing a five-point plan for amending the Defence Authorization Bill that is up for Congressional approval and the first item on the agenda is a new strategy for America’s imposition in Afghanistan to be proposed within 60 days.
Also on the floor of Congress was the McGovern-Jones “Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act” which yesterday came within 12 votes of passing. This was a noticeable change in attitude on the floor of the Congress compared with the last 3 years’ worth of Congressional proposals to end America’s involvement in Afghanistan which had been received, up until yesterday’s vote, with nothing but yawns and “who cares?” from Congress. The defeated Amendment will now be converted into a Bill that will be re-introduced in the summer and will be timed to pass perfectly in co-ordination with Obama’s re-election campaign, during which he will attempt to win back support from the anti-war voters.
The Afghanistan Study Group, headed by Matthew Hoh – who resigned from the American Foreign Service because he refused to accept the country’s lack of direction in Afghanistan – had a good description for the apparent awakening of US politicians:
“(Congress is coming to) the realization that support for $120 billion a year nation-building adventures may not convey the appropriate image of fiscal responsibility to constituents enduring budget cuts back home”.
This would be doubly true now that Osama Bin Laden is dead – there are no longer any of the original reasons left for going into Afghanistan in the first place that NATO’s current methods of operation can achieve.
-Meanwhile, NATO’s affect of continuing to drone bomb and kill civilians with perceived impunity is apparently getting worse, not better, judging by their latest actions in the country. This afternoon a NATO airstrike has killed 85 people in Nuristan Province – of which 17 were Afghani policemen. The chief of police and the head administrator were also wounded in the attack, in which exact death tolls are not yet certain, although approximately 70 of the dead are claimed to be Taliban fighters.
Understanding the methods of operation used by NATO is not difficult to understand given an objective interpretation of these emerging figures, and are a clear indication why 90% of Afghani resistance against NATO is purely civilian-led and has nothing to do with the Taliban. It appears as if the NATO strategy in Afghanistan is simply to have Afghani police and local soldiers confront armed resistance on the ground and then NATO airstrikes move in and carpet-bomb everything and everyone in sight, regardless of civilian or allied designations.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is simply a pseudonym for NATO operatives, has claimed that no Afghani policemen had been killed or wounded and that no civilians had been killed in any regional airstrikes. In fact, today’s ISAF press release did not even mention the attack at all.
-Britain’s former ambassador and special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles had some highly critical insights this week regarding the use of international force in Afghanistan and America’s lead role in particular. Cowper-Coles stated that the American direction taken by General David Petraeus has been “counter-productive” and “profoundly wrong”. He added that Petraeus should be “ashamed of himself” for boasting about body count numbers.
“(Petraeus) has increased the violence and tripled the number of Special Forces raids going out killing Taliban commanders. It is profoundly wrong and it is not conducive to a stable political settlement. I think that any general that boasts of the number of insurgents he’s killed should be ashamed of himself.”
Throughout England, in general, there is growing uneasiness that the United States is becoming further off-track from what they are trying to accomplish in Afghanistan. “There are different parts of the Washington establishment who are pulling in different ways,” said an anonymous British Intelligence official. “But as long as Petraeus is in Kabul, the military approach will take precedence”.
As Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit and expert on the Taliban sees it, “The Red Army tried that for ten years, and they were far more ruthless and cruel about it than us, and it didn’t work out so well for them”.
-And some good news is that the NY Times is reporting that American officials have met with senior aides to the Taliban leadership at least three times in recent months to explore and lay foundation for direct peace talks. The meetings have been facilitated by Germany and Qatar and have been confirmed by both American and Afghani sources, however under the conditions of anonymity because of an apparent media ban on reporting peaceful developments in the region.
Hopefully, the establishment and continuation of these talks, in addition to the re-commitment for defining an exit strategy in Afghanistan by the US congress – are not just showing the world that the US is slowly understanding that a change in direction is necessary – hopefully this time the US will deliver, the world, specifically regional partners Pakistan and India have long been calling for these negotiations to begin.
Canada’s Role in Afghanistan – May 27, 2011
-Nik Nanos made some interesting comments and stats analysis on his blog this week. He noted that 67% of Canadians believe that Canada’s actions in Afghanistan make this country and its citizens more at risk of terror attacks – precisely the opposite result of what a “security” mission should accomplish. He also noted that 55% of Canadians believe Canada should pull out of Afghanistan if casualties continue – 40% of Conservatives, perhaps unsurprisingly as their families make up a large part of our Forces, felt the same way.
In terms of affecting Canada’s political future, Nanos explained that although most foreign policy issues usually stay below the radar, Afghanistan is a sleeper issue.
“Whenever Afghanistan is in the news Tory numbers in Quebec drop. Although the mission may be good at consolidating core Tory support it basically throws a wrench in any effort for the Tories to build a majority coalition.”
Basically, maintaining a majority government will depend on Conservative support in Quebec that will not be there as long as the Conservatives keep Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
-What Nanos didn’t mention (maybe he didn’t have the numbers!) is that the primary Afghanistan issue, the issue that has the potential to bring down the majority-Conservative government before their mandate is up – is the Canadian- Afghani detainee issue and its fallout.
With the stigma of war crimes looming over all Canadians for 5 years now, the Conservatives have done nothing but stonewall and obstrifucate on releasing any information pertaining to Canada’s involvement in torture and assistance in the torture of Afghani detainees. In fact, many insiders are claiming that the Conservative government and the Department of Canadian Defence have been well aware of Canada’s culpability in torture since at least 2006, and have gone so far as to prorogue Parliament in order to avoid dealing with this issue; instead just hoping to put it off until another government has to deal with the ramifications. Now with a majority government and looking at a fresh five-year term, the Conservatives are going to have to give the Canadian people the full public inquiry that we have been calling for – calls coming in particular from now-opposition NDP defence critic Jack Harris and Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair.
Politically, the Conservatives are once again liable to be found in contempt of Parliament (if not the entire country) should a full public inquiry uncover that the government has known about this issue for years and not done anything about it. What is most interesting is that scandals like this usually surface at the end of the term – MP Mulcair went so far as to compare it to Nixon’s Watergate -“The truth always gets told…it always comes out,” said Mulcair. In this case we have a newly-elected government that still has not answered or addressed the transgressions and stigma of war crimes’ allegations that affect and misrepresent Canadians worldwide.
-What will be noteworthy, and Canadians have to realize that this is what the rest of the world is seeing Canada become, is that should our government fall as a result of the full public Afghani-detainee inquiry, that would mean that our last two governing dynasties, representing the two most established political parties in Canada, the Liberals and the Conservatives – will both have had their holds on power prematurely ended because of corruption, transgression and/or belligerence. Some Canadians may still feel as though we are a role model to the world but we can no longer assume that we still have the image of Boy Scout to the world. Do Canadians even care?
-Not surprisingly, the Department of Defence on Monday appointed a former Provincial Supreme Court Chief Justice, Patrick J. LeSage to review Bill C-25, the Statutes of Canada 1998, which made amendments to the National Defence Act concerning the military justice system, the Canadian Forces grievance process, and the military police complaints process. Unfortunately, the history of Canadian government’s handling of these affairs is accomplished in these steps: 1. Determine the extent of the damage 2. Amend the laws to remove accountability for the actions 3. Then have the inquiry.
This would be step two in that process.
One of many specific prior examples of this operation involves Canadian citizen Abdullah Al Malki, who was tortured for 482 days in Syria based on CSIS and RCMP mis-information. Two government inquiries, the Iacobucci Commission and the O’Conner Report undertook proceeding to determine the extent of Canadian culpability in Mr.Al Malki’s torture. While the inquiries were deliberating the Canadian Department of Justice amended their definition of complicity versus responsibility so that to this day no Canadian official has ever been held accountable or even apologized for the torture of Mr. Al Malki. This has occurred despite the fact that both government inquiries found that Canada did directly contribute to the torture of Abdullah Al Malki.
The most obvious connection here between Al Malki’s case and those of the Afghani detainees is that they were both a result of the same sense of impunity from the “security” agencies who acted as though they were not bound by the laws or regulations that they are paid to uphold. If Canadian security agencies were guilty of rendering a Canadian citizen to torture – how can our government expect any Canadian to seriously believe that the same organizational mentalities weren’t rendering Afghani citizen detainees to the same results? Obviously there is guilt of holding violations here if not overt war crime violations and every move that our Canadian government has made and continues to make on this issue must be scrutinized with overdue vigilance from a Canadian public that has been acting like they have forgotten how to care.
The Weekly Update into the Afghanistan Situation and Canada’s Role in Afghanistan have returned every Friday at www.jeeroburkhan.wordpress.com