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NATO Expands Afghan War Into Pakistan

September 30, 2010 1 comment

On October 7 the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization military allies will begin the tenth year of their war in Afghanistan, over 3,000 miles from NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

The following month midterm elections will be held in the U.S. and NATO will hold a two-day summit in Portugal. The American administration is eager to achieve, or appear to have achieved, a foreign policy triumph in an effort to retain Democratic Party control of the Congress and NATO something to show for the longest and largest military mission in its 61 years of existence.

President Barack Obama has tripled the amount of American combat troops in Afghanistan to 100,000 and along with forces from other NATO member states and partner nations there are now over 150,000 foreign troops in the nation, the most ever stationed in the war-wracked country. 120,000 of those soldiers are now under the command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the most ever serving in a North Atlantic Alliance-led military operation. NATO Kosovo Force at its peak had 50,000 troops, but they entered the Serbian province after an almost three-month air war had ended.

The 120,000 NATO forces currently in theater – from 50 nations already with more pegged to provide troops – are at the center of the world’s longest-lasting and increasingly deadly hot war. NATO’s first ground war, its first combat operations in Asia.

Last year was the most lethal for the U.S and NATO in what is now a nine-year conflict and this year has already proven even more costly in terms of combat deaths. And there are three more months to go.

Washington and Brussels could decide to save face and end the fighting through some combination of an internal political settlement and a true international peacekeeping arrangement – rather than the subversion of the International Security Assistance Force that was established by a United Nations mandate in December of 2001 but which is now the Pentagon’s and NATO’s vehicle for waging war in Afghanistan. And in neighboring Pakistan.

But the military metaphysic prevalent in Washington over the past 65 years will allow for nothing other than what is seen as victory, with a “Who lost Afghanistan?” legacy tarnishing the president who fails to secure it and the party to which he belongs being branded half-hearted and defeatist.

As for NATO, the Strategic Concept to be adopted in November is predicated upon the bloc’s expansion into a 21st century global expeditionary force for which Afghanistan is the test case. A NATO that loses Afghanistan, that loses in Afghanistan, will be viewed more critically by the populations of its European member states that have sacrificed their sons and daughters at the altar of NATO’s international ambitions. In the words of then-Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer six years ago: “What is NATO doing in Afghanistan? Defending values at the Hindu Kush in the present day international climate. We have to fight terrorism wherever it emerges. If we don’t do it at the Hindu Kush, it will end up at our doorstep. In other words, this perception gap [of the North Atlantic military alliance operating in South Asia] in the long run must be closed and must be healed – that is, for NATO’s future, of the utmost importance.” [1]

Not satisfied with the Vietnam that Afghanistan has become, NATO has now launched its Cambodian incursion. One with implications several orders of magnitude greater than with the prototype, though, into a nation of almost 170 million people, a nation wielding nuclear weapons. Pakistan.

As the U.S. delivered its 20th deadly drone missile attack of the month inside Pakistan on the 27th, five times the amount launched in August and the most in any month since they were started in 2004, NATO conducted a series of attacks with helicopter gunships in Northwest Pakistan. Claiming the “right of self-defense” and in “hot pursuit” of insurgents that had reportedly attacked a NATO camp, Combat Outpost Narizah, in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the Pakistani border, this past weekend NATO attack helicopters conducted two forays into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where U.S. drone strikes have killed a record number of people this month.

Estimates of those killed, dutifully referred to in the Western press as insurgents, militants or terrorists, were 30, then 50, afterward 60, 70 and later “82 or higher.” [2]

The amount, like the identify, of the dead will never be definitively known.

Press reports stated the targets were members of the Haqqani network, founded by veteran Afghan Mujahedin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who when he led attacks from Pakistani soil against Afghan targets slightly over a generation ago was an American hero, one of Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters.” Two years ago the New York Times wrote: “In the 1980s, Jalaluddin Haqqani was cultivated as a ‘unilateral’ asset of the CIA and received tens of thousands of dollars in cash for his work in fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, according to an account in ‘The Bin Ladens,’ a recent book by Steve Coll. At that time, Haqqani helped and protected Osama bin Laden, who was building his own militia to fight the Soviet forces, Coll wrote.” [3]

As to the regret that the otherwise praiseworthy Haqqani has of late allied himself with the Taliban, one voiced by among other people the late Charlie Wilson who once celebrated Haqqani as “goodness personified,” in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press last year Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told his American audience that the Taliban “was part of your past and our past, and the ISI and the CIA created them together. And I can find you 10 books and 10 philosophers and 10 write-ups on that….” [4]

On September 27 two NATO helicopters attacked the Kurram agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, killing six people and wounding eight. A local Pakistani government official described all the victims as civilians. According to Dawn News, “Nato has also shelled the area before.” [5] Three attacks in three days and as many as 100 deaths.

On the same day a U.S. drone-launched missile strike killed four people in the North Waziristan agency. “The identities of the four people killed in the attack were not known….” [6]

The above events occurred against the backdrop of the revelation in Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars that “a 3,000-strong secret army of Afghan paramilitary forces run by the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted cross-border raids into Pakistan.” [7]

After mounting in intensity for two years and consisting in part – helicopter gunship attacks and special forces assassination team raids – of covert operations, the U.S. and NATO war in Northwest Pakistan is now fully underway and can no longer be denied.

The Pentagon – the helicopters used in the attacks on September 25 and 26 were American Apaches and Kiowas – defended the strikes over the weekend as falling within its rules of engagement and Defense Department spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said the U.S. had adhered to “appropriate protocol” and “Our forces have the right of self-defense.” [8]

A spokesmen for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force initially denied that Alliance forces had launched any attacks inside Pakistani territory, although Afghan police officials had confirmed that they did. On September 27, however, the International Security Assistance Force verified that NATO forces had conducted the deadly strikes. As the third attack by NATO helicopters occurred on the same day, “Coalition officials said the cross-border attacks fell within its rules of engagement because the insurgents had attacked them from across the border.” [9]

A NATO official informed the press that “ISAF forces must and will retain the authority, within their mandate, to defend themselves in carrying out their mission.” [10]

Mehmood Shah, former top security official of the Pakistani government in the region where the helicopter gunship and drone strikes have killed over 200 people so far this month, said of the recent NATO attacks: “This should be considered a watershed event. They [Nato] must be warned: the next time you do this, it can lead to war. Our units should be deployed to fire upon them. This border has sanctity. Nato must realise they have a mandate to operate in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.” [11]

On September 27 Interior Minister Rehman Malik denounced the NATO raids as a violation of Pakistani territorial integrity and national sovereignty and told the nation’s Senate that the Afghan ambassador to Islamabad would be summoned to explain the attacks. Malik and the Pakistani government as a whole know that the Hamid Karzai administration in Kabul has no control over what the U.S. and NATO do in its own country, much less in Pakistan. The interior minister’s comment were solely for internal consumption, for placating Pakistani popular outrage, but as Pakistan itself has become a NATO partner and U.S. surrogate [12] its officials, like those of Afghanistan, will not be notified of any future attacks.

Nevertheless domestic exigencies compelled Malik to denounce the strikes inside his country and assert “I take the drone attacks in Pakistani territory as an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan.” A senator from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz “asked the government to inform the parliament about any accord it had reached with the US under which drone attacks were being carried out.” [13]

At the same time Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit went further and lodged what was described as a strong protest to NATO Headquarters in Brussels over the weekend’s air strikes, issuing a statement that said in part: “These incidents are a clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates,” as its mandate “terminates/finishes” at the Afghan border.

“There are no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules. Any impression to the contrary is not factually correct. Such violations are unacceptable.” [14]

By the evening of September 27, after the Pakistani complaints were registered, NATO’s ISAF attempted to conduct damage control and reverted to the military bloc’s original position: That it has not launched attacks inside Pakistan at all. On that very day it had dispatched two more helicopter gunships for the third raid in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

NATO will continue to launch lethal attacks inside Pakistan against whichever targets it sees fit and will proffer neither warnings nor apologies. The U.S. will continue to escalate attacks with Hellfire missiles against whomever it chooses, however inaccurate, anecdotal and self-interested the reports upon which they are based prove to be.

The death toll in Pakistan this month is well over 200 and for this year to date over 2,000. The justification for this carnage offered by the U.S. and NATO is that it is intended to extend the policy of Barack Obama to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” insurgent networks in Afghanistan into Pakistan, supposedly the sooner to end the war.

Forty years ago Obama’s predecessor Richard Nixon began his speech announcing the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia with these words: “Good evening, my fellow Americans. Ten days ago, in my report to the nation on Vietnam, I announced the decision to withdraw an additional 150,000 Americans from Vietnam over the next year. I said then that I was making that decision despite our concern over increased enemy activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam. And at that time I warned that if I concluded that increased enemy activity in any of these areas endangered the lives of Americans remaining in Vietnam, I would not hesitate to take strong and effective measures to deal with that situation.” [15]

He claimed that “enemy sanctuaries” in Cambodia “endanger the lives of Americans who are in Vietnam,” and “if this enemy effort succeeds, Cambodia would become a vast enemy staging area and a springboard for attacks on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier: a refuge where enemy troops could return from combat without fear of retaliation.”

The course he ordered was to “go to the heart of the trouble. And that means cleaning out major North Vietnamese and Vietcong occupied territories, these sanctuaries which serve as bases for attacks on both Cambodia and American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.”

The practical application of the policy was that “attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border.”

In language that has been heard again lately in Washington and Brussels – with nothing but the place names changed – Nixon claimed: “We take this action not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam….”

Washington indeed expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia, with what disastrous effects the world is fully aware, and soon thereafter departed Southeast Asia in defeat, leaving vast stretches of Vietnam and Cambodia in ruins.

Afghanistan and Pakistan will not fare any better.

Intimidating Iran: Mubarak allows US warships to cross Egyptian Suez Canal

June 21, 2010 1 comment

Intimidating Iran: Mubarak allows US warships to cross Egyptian Suez Canal

Egyptian president Hasni Mubarak faces a tough time in Egypt for allowing US warships to pass Egyptian territory. The ships are being sent to intimidate Iran to force it to abandon its nuclear program.

Haaretz: More than twelve United States Naval warships and at least one Israeli ship crossed the Suez Canal towards the Red Sea on Friday, British Arabic Language newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Saturday.

According to the report, thousands of Egyptian soldiers were deployed along the Suez Canal guarding the ships’ passage, which included a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The Suez Canal is a strategic Egyptian waterway which connects between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

According to eyewitnesses, the U.S. battleships were the largest to have crossed the Canal in many years, Al-Quds reported.

Egyptian opposition members have criticized the government for cooperating with the U.S. and Israeli forces and allowing the ships’ passage through Egyptian territorial waters.

They said they viewed the event as Egyptian participation in an international scandal, and added that the opposition would not sit with its arms crossed while the country allowed a fleet of U.S. and Israeli military ships to cross.

Egypt allows use of Suez Canal for build-up of war against Iran. Report: U.S., Israeli warships cross Suez Canal toward Red Sea 20 June 2010

Cairo, 19 June – Egypt allowed eleven US Navy battleships transporting an aircraft carrier, infantry troops, armoured vehicles and ammunition as well as one Israeli warship to cross from the Mediterranean Sea into the Red Sea via the Suez Canal.

Talking to the London-based daily Al-Quds, retired Egyptian General Amin Radi, chairman of the national security affairs committee, told the paper that “the decision to declare war on Iran is not easy, and Israel, due to its wild nature, may start a war just to remain the sole nuclear power in the region”.

Israel’s worst-kept secret revealed: Nuclear proliferation

RUPEENEWS | Israel’s worst-kept secret revealed: Nuclear proliferation

Israel’s worst-kept secret has finally been revealed.

Documents published in recent days show that Israel not only has nuclear weapons — something it has never officially acknowledged — but that it considered selling them to South Africa’s white minority government in 1975. The evidence — contained in Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s new book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa — appears strong and credible.

But will it cause Europe and America to rethink their relationship with Israel? The truth is that Israel already enjoys such a privileged level of access to their key institutions that any rethink is improbable — at least in the short-term. One of the most important aspects of this relationship relates to how Israel interacts with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In December 2008, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited the headquarters of NATO in Brussels to sign an “individual cooperation program” with its member states. By hooking up Israel to NATO’s computer systems and facilitating its increased participation in the alliance’s missions, this agreement has helped give Israel closer ties with NATO and its 28 member states than any other country outside the club.

Within a few weeks of that agreement being signed, Israel launched a brutal offensive against Gaza, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians. The slaughter did not deter then-NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer from making a public gesture of friendship with the Israeli state. While the death toll in Gaza was continuing to mount, he visited Israel in January 2009 to celebrate “the growing depth both of our practical cooperation and of our political dialogue.” Even though Israel’s armed forces caused almost all of the deaths in that three-week assault and had unilaterally broken off a ceasefire with Hamas by attacking it two months earlier, he repeated the official Israeli narrative of blaming the violence on Hamas.

Over the past week, NATO has published a paper recommending an update to the “strategic concept” that underpins its activities. Partly authored by Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, this report “NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement,” signals that the alliance is mired in a Cold War funk. As well as advocating that the US, Britain and France hold on to their nuclear missiles as long as these weapons “remain a reality in international relations,” it identifies the development of a missile defense shield as “an essential military mission.” This system is — if you believe the propaganda — supposed to protect the member countries against Iran, which is singled out as the state most likely to present a fundamental security challenge in the coming decade. Substitute Iran for the Soviet Union and the case for the system is almost identical to that put forward by US President Ronald Reagan when proposing his “Star Wars” initiative in the 1980s.

NATO has already signaled that Israel will be involved in the development of the defense shield (an Orwellian term, given that the project will probably only ratchet up tensions in the Middle East). Earlier this month, NATO representatives took part in an armaments conference in Airport City, a “business park” near Tel Aviv. Alan Berry, a senior NATO official, confirmed that he and his colleagues were studying Israel’s own military interceptors and had helped preliminary discussions about how Israel could take part in the defense shield project.

So far Turkey appears to be the only NATO member to have indicated there is an inherent double standard in seeking Israel’s assistance to ward off a perceived threat from Iran. Unlike Iran (and most other nations), Israel has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with the result that its nuclear weapons program has never been subject to international scrutiny. Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, is reported to have raised this anomaly with his NATO peers at a meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, last month, telling them that “no country should be exempted from joining this treaty.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s reputation for inventing some of the most technologically advanced weapons used in modern warfare is attracting an increasing level of attention from that other powerful club based in Brussels: the European Union.

Sources in the European Defense Agency (EDA) — a body set up following lobbying by leading arms manufacturers and dedicated to boosting military expenditure by EU governments — have told this writer they are particularly excited by Israel’s pilotless drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Many officials in the EDA regard the agency’s work on drones as its most important activity. In July, the EDA will participate in a major conference here aimed at convincing the public that these sophisticated spy-planes can help achieve such laudable objectives as protecting the environment.

This exercise bears all the hallmarks of what ecologists call “greenwash.” Far from being invented to save the planet, drones have been used in numerous attacks by Israel on Palestinian civilians, as well as by NATO forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Britain and the Netherlands are among the countries taking part in the war in Afghanistan to have signed contracts to buy or rent Israeli drones in recent months.

A spokeswoman for the EDA explained that while her agency keeps a close eye on Israel’s arms industry, there are no plans for a formal cooperation agreement with Israel. The same cannot be said for the EU’s multi-annual scientific research program, which has a budget of 53 billion euros ($66.7 billion) for the 2007-13 period. Israel is the largest foreign partner in this program and the country’s arms-makers are intimately involved.

To prove that it was committed to former US President George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” the EU has decided in recent years to include security as a theme within the program. Nearly 60 projects have been financed under this category, with Israel taking part in 12 of them. Motorola Israel, for example, is signed up to a project designed to help the detection of “intruders” to buildings or areas deemed of high economic value. Motorola has ample experience in developing the kind of surveillance equipment that will probably feature in this project: it has installed a “virtual fence” around a network of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This “fence” uses thermal cameras and other sensory devices to pinpoint anyone — such as a Palestinian — who the Israeli authorities believe should not be allowed to enter settlements built illegally on Palestinian land in open violation of international law.

In another example of greenwash, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is playing a prominent role in the “Clean Sky” project, which is supposed to encourage the development of less-polluting aircraft engines. Far from being an eco-warrior, IAI is a top supplier of warplanes to the Israeli army.

Earlier this year, Irishwoman Maire Geoghegan-Quinn became the new European commissioner for science and research. When her spokesperson Mark English was asked if she has any ethical concerns about how EU-funded projects have been opened up to Israeli firms who have field tested their weapons against Palestinian civilians, rather than answering that question, he said that all of the EU’s research activities “maintain an exclusively civilian orientation.” He added: “our rules, however, do not preclude enterprises, which are also active in the defense industry — be they in the EU or in an associated country like Israel — from participating.”

It is deceptive for EU officials to claim that activities that involve arms companies are entirely civilian, especially when those companies hail from a highly militarized country like Israel and are directly implicated in the occupation and its attendant abuses of international law. As it happens, other officials have acknowledged that the EU institutions are preparing a blueprint for extending the scope of its scientific research programs into more hardcore military research.

Nobody should be surprised if Israel’s merchants of death and destruction will gobble up an even greater chunk of the EU’s research pie in the coming years. The only positive aspect of this ever-deepening relationship with Israel is that it helps shatter all illusions that the EU is serious when bragging routinely of its commitment to human rights.

David Cronin’s book Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation will be published later this year by Pluto Press. NATO’s Other Member State By David Cronin, 27 May, 2010, The Electronic Intifada