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Wikileaks expose Afghan war’s dirty secrets

Wikileaks expose Afghan war’s dirty secrets

Hundreds of civilians killed by coalition troops. Covert unit hunts leaders for ‘kill or capture’. Steep rise in Taliban bomb attacks onNATO

A huge cache of secret U.S. military files on Monday provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in U.S. military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and over 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US navy sailors captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

– How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.

– How the U.S. covered up evidence that the Taliban has acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

– How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

– How the Taliban has caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of its roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House said the chaotic picture painted by the logs was the result of “under-resourcing” under Obama’s predecessor, saying: “It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009.”

The White House also criticised the publication of the files by Wikileaks: “We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the U.S. and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us.”

The logs detail, in sometimes harrowing vignettes, the toll on civilians exacted by coalition forces: events termed “blue on white” in military jargon. The logs reveal 144 such incidents. Some of these casualties come from the controversial air strikes that have led to Afghan government protests in the past, but a large number of previously unknown incidents also appear to be the result of troops shooting unarmed drivers or motorcyclists out of a determination to protect themselves from suicide bombers. At least 195 civilians are admitted to have been killed and 174 wounded in total, although this is likely to be an underestimate because many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.

Bloody errors at civilians’ expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A U.S. patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.

Questionable shootings of civilians by British troops also figure. The American compilers detail an unusual cluster of four British shootings in the streets of Kabul within the space of barely a single month, in October/November 2007, culminating the killing of the son of an Afghan general. Of one shooting, they wrote: “Investigation is controlled by the British. We not able [sic] to get the complete story.”

A second cluster of similar shootings, all involving Royal Marine commandos in the ferociously contested Helmand province, took place in a six-month period at the end of 2008. Asked about these allegations, the British Ministry of Defence said: “We have been unable to corroborate these claims in the short time available and it would be inappropriate to speculate on specific cases without further verification of the alleged actions.”

The reports present an unvarnished and often compelling account of the reality of modern war. Most of the material, although classified “secret” at the time, is no longer militarily sensitive. A small amount of information has been withheld from publication because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets. Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, obtained the material in circumstances he will not discuss, also says it redacted harmful material before posting the bulk of the data on its own “uncensorable” series of global servers.

Wikileaks published in April this year a previously suppressed classified video of U.S. Apache helicopters killing two Reuters cameramen on the streets of Baghdad, which gained international attention. A 22-year-old intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, was arrested in Iraq and charged with leaking the video, but not with leaking the latest material. The Pentagon’s criminal investigations department continues to try to trace the leaks and recently unsuccessfully asked Mr. Assange, he says, to meet them outside the U.S. to help them.

Mr. Assange allowed the Guardian to examine the war logs at the newspaper’s request several weeks ago. No fee was involved and Wikileaks has not been involved in the preparation of the Guardian’s articles. Nick Davies, David Leigh. The Hindu. Guardian News & Media 2010

US cancels plan to attack Qandahar

US cancels plan to attack Qandahar

As expected General Petraeus has canceled the plans to attack Qandahar. The attack doesn’t make any sense while Mr. Hamid Karzai is trying to build relationships with the Afghan National Resistence (aka Taliban).

He has decided a full-scale military encirclement and invasion – as American troops had done in Iraq’s Fallujah – was not an appropriate model to tackle the Taliban in the southern capital.

Gen Petraeus’s decision to revise the entire strategy comes just weeks after he arrived in Afghanistan following the abrupt dismissal of Gen Stanley McChrystal for insubordination.

Gen McChrystal had planned a summer conquest of the Taliban in Kandahar to reinvigorate the battle against the Taliban.

But the operation has been repeatedly delayed by concerns that it would not adequately restore the confidence of city residents in the security forces.

Gen Petraeus is reported to believe that the operation must be a broad-ranging counter-insurgency campaign, involving more troops working with local militias.

The plan he inherited was criticised for placing too much emphasis on targeted assassinations of key insurgent leaders and not enough on winning over local residents.

Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said yesterday that the US-led strategy in southern Afghanistan was undergoing sweeping changes.

“Kandahar is not a military operation like Fallujah,” Mr Holbrooke said. “We have Gen David Petraeus looking at the plan, scrubbing it down, looking at it again.”

President Hamid Karzai has bolstered Gen Petraeus’s efforts by agreeing to a US proposal to pay defectors from the Taliban to form local defence militias.

Mr Holbrooke, who oversees the civilian component of the American campaign in Afghanistan, has been described by Gen Petraeus as his “wing man” in the effort to reverse Taliban gains.

He said that the changes of strategy in the area also included a decision not to destroy poppy crops this year, an action that had in the past “driven” farmers into alliance with the Taliban.

He also said that the Afghan police force in Marjah – which now numbers 60 – could not yet replace thousands of US Marines. Efforts to stabilise Helmand’s Marjah have been bogged down by stronger resistance.

Gen Petraeus recruited prominent military experts who assisted him in the surge of forces that brought stability to Iraq.

Stephen Biddle, a military strategist at the US Council for Foreign Relations, coauthored as suggestion that the US would be successful in Afghanistan if it could set up a strong local government in places like Kandahar.

Defections from the Taliban are crucial to the goal of ending the war within four years but Mr Holbrooke said only insurgent groups that had split with al-Qaeda, and willing to work within the framework of the Afghan constitution would be approached.

More effort was being put into recruiting local allies on a district by district basis.

“The reintegration policy is the key to a successful counter-insurgency campaign,” he said. “As for reconciliation, it’s out there somewhere. We’ve talked about it. The US will support Afghan-led reconciliation and by that we mean we need to know what’s going on. Not much is going on now, and nothing is going on with the United States.”

Mr Holbrooke said Pakistan had dramatically increased its co-operation with the US in the battle against the Taliban but he criticised Islamabad’s continuing support for the Haqqani network of insurgents.

“Without Pakistan’s participation, this (Afghan) war could go on indefinitely,” he said. “There’s much more co-operation at every level

“But I don’t want to mislead you, it is not yet where we hope it will be. What we talk about is the Haqqani network. Let’s be very specific. It’s a real problem.” Guardian by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent Published: 9:00PM BST 23 Jul 2010

India stand alone in opposing Pan-Afghan solution

July 12, 2010 1 comment

Bharat (aka India) stands alone in opposing the Pan-Afghan reconciliation solution in Afghanistan. It is trying to reverse the Afghan Jirga’s desire to make peace among Afghans. Delhi is also attempting to reverse the US and UK sponsored London conference which approved the recommendations of all the neighbors of Afghanistan (Istanbul Conference) for a move to reconcile all the diverse elements in Afghanistan. Earlier still Iran, and Pakistan had agreed to the Afghan proposal for reconciliation and peace.

Bharat today wants to bifurcate Afghanistan along ethnic lines because it thinks it has sway over Mr. Adbullah Abdullah a Tajik (though his mother was Pakhtun–he cannot speak proper Pushto or Darri). The Bharati plan is to stand in front of the steam roller and try to stop a train which has left the station. Delhi is attempting to thwart the peace plans because of it paranoia about Pakistan. Islamabad is simply facilitating the peace process that has been agreed upon by all the parties. Some recalcitrant opposition figures are smelling victory and may have to be brought to the table kicking and screaming. Others have to be cajoled. Some have to be dealt with. Pakistan is helping the US with a face saving exit. Delhi wants to colonize Afghanistan and thinks of Curzon and his policies as the natural boundary of Greater Bharat.

Sify News reports that Mr. Krishna is now attempting to reverse the tide of history and somehow put the genie back i the bottle. Bharat does not have a foreign policy, it has a plan to disrupt peace, partition Afghanistan and continue the war forever.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will represent India at the July 20 conference of international donors in Kabul that will review reconciliation moves between the Hamid Karzai regime and the Taliban, a cause of anxiety for New Delhi.Krishna goes to Kabul shortly after his July 14-16 trip to Islamabad for the foreign ministers-level talks aimed at reviving dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The focus of the first Kabul-hosted international conference on Afghanistan will be on finding Afghan solutions to the dragging conflict against the Taliban, officials have said.

More than 70 countries are expected to send their representatives for the conference where the Karzai government will seek help to bolster governance and national stability.

The conference will also take up the contentious proposal of reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban, a move backed by the earlier London conference and endorsed by the peace jirga.

India has reiterated its concerns many a time about the reintegration proposal as it fears it may end up propping up anti-India Taliban elements back in the saddle in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Pakistan’s intensified efforts to influence power-sharing negotiations in Afghanistan has added to New Delhi’s worries, specially in view of the July 2011 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from that country.

India has followed closely reports of a recent meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Al Qaeda-linked militant commander Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The meeting was allegedly arranged by Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera, Karzai met Haqqani along with Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha in Kabul for ‘face-to-face talks’. Both Kabul and Islamabad have denied these reports.

Kayani and Pasha, according to sources, tried to influence Karzai to accommodate the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network which has targeted Indian assets in Afghanistan.

India conveyed its unease about the Taliban power-sharing deal when Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Eklil Ahmad Hamiki came to New Delhi this week. Amid Pakistani moves, Krishna to attend Kabul meet 2010-07-10 17:10:00

Delhi is well advised to take care of its problems in Kashmir, Assam, and 40% of the territory which is controlled by the Naxals. Its attempt to cross NATO, ISAF, the US, and the world will cost it dearly in terms of diplomatic jilting and scorn–already seen in Washington, London and Beijing.