Friday, July 20, 2007

Civilian Casualties Wiki Tries To Document Afghan War

You should go...

While browsing Wikipedia I found a wiki dedicated to tracking civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan.

As well, I thought a little history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979 - 1989) might be an interesting read, it sums up with a familiar polemic...

“..the Soviet war in Afghanistan has often been referred to as the equivalent of the United States' Vietnam War.”

So now, the cold war is over, and Afghanistan is the United States' Vietnam again... (with Iraq, the evil twin).

However much things change, sometimes they seem to
stay just the same.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Surge In Afghanistan? -- It May Already Be Too Late

On Wednesday July 18, '07 a British Parliamentary Committee report on the war in Afghanistan was released; it is full of bad news, and some inane talking points...

The Associated Press wrote a story carried in the International Herald Tribune entitled, "NATO's Force In Afghanistan Is Being Undermined, UK Panel Warns",

"The NATO mission in Afghanistan is being undermined by its members' failure to provide adequate troops and serious strategic mistakes, a British parliamentary committee said in a report Wednesday.

Echoing concerns expressed by senior British military figures in recent weeks, the legislators warned that the entire Afghan campaign is at risk if leading NATO countries continue to refuse to deploy additional personnel.

Lawmakers also criticized the pace of work to combat the opium trade in Afghanistan and said NATO was failing to communicate its successes to ordinary Afghans, handing the propaganda initiative to the Taliban."


The 'serious strategic mistakes' referred to above, is talking about the three major coalition entities working at cross purposes. With-in the nexus of these, NATO (with three different sets of engagement rules), Enduring Freedom (US Air Power and special forces), and the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief or ACBAR (relief groups) are the horrific, and unprecedented civilian death rates, the lack of coordination and investment in rebuilding and security, and the lack of a central military command. (!?)

The Guardian Unlimited weekend edition, The Observer, ran a piece by Nicholas Watt and Ned Temko last Sunday, July 15, '07. From interviews with Lord Ashdown, a career diplomat and politician, and Lord Inge, former chief of the defence staff, Watt and Temko out-line the British defence staff's opinion of the state of the war in Afghanistan:

(my emphasis)

"Inge's remarks reflect the fears of serving generals that the government is so overwhelmed by Iraq that it is in danger of losing sight of the threat of failure in Afghanistan. One source, who is familiar with the fears of the senior officers, told The Observer: 'If you talk privately to the generals they are very very worried. You heard it in Inge's speech. Inge said we are failing and remember Inge speaks for the generals.'

Inge made a point in the Lords of endorsing a speech by Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, who painted a bleak picture during the debate. Ashdown told The Observer that Afghanistan presented a graver threat than Iraq.

'The consequences of failure in Afghanistan are far greater than in Iraq,' he said. 'If we fail in Afghanistan then Pakistan goes down. The security problems for Britain would be massively multiplied. I think you could not then stop a widening regional war that would start off in warlordism but it would become essentially a war in the end between Sunni and Shia right across the Middle East.'

'Mao Zedong used to refer to the First and Second World Wars as the European civil wars. You can have a regional civil war. That is what you might begin to see. It will be catastrophic for Nato. The damage done to Nato in Afghanistan would be as great as the damage done to the UN in Bosnia. That could have a severe impact on the Atlantic relationship and maybe even damage the American security guarantee for Europe.'

Ashdown said two mistakes were being made: a lack of a co-ordinated military command because of the multinational 'hearts and minds' Nato campaign and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom offensive campaign against the Taliban. There was also insufficient civic support on, for example, providing clean water.

Ashdown warned: 'Unless we put this right, unless we have a unitary system of command, we are going to lose. The battle for this is the battle of public opinion. The polls are slipping. Once they go on the slide it is almost impossible to win it back. You can only do it with the support of the local population


To me, it doesn't seem that the message being sent by the military leaders to the politico's has gotten though. The Parliamentary Panel's high-lighting of the heroin issue shows a cultural myopia and a miss-understanding of the war that may actually speed the disillusionment of the Afghan population with NATO.

If we wish to see this through, we need an Afghan Surge, a spreading area of operations that
constantly establishes new 'forward operating bases' in each capital, in each town until every crossroads has a federal and/or local police presence. At The Same Time, irrigation and electrical infrastructure projects, and training on all levels must move ahead. NATO/ACBAR need to be paying farmers to work at improving the value of their land.

More than 33,000 western soldiers are in Afghanistan now. It's going to take perhaps 100,000 soldiers, plus twice as many civil engineers, planners, police, training not to mention MONEY.

This needs to be approached with the same sense of import as the reconstruction of Europe after WWll. This will be harder though, 20 years of war rather than 5, and a level of infrastructure and education levels that are behind by a century.


Negotiate with the Taleban, and get out as soon as possible. Offer the Taleban a share of government in exchange for a guarantee Afghanistan would not tolerate foreign extremists (Al Qaeda). It's an olive branch the Taleban have extended on several occasions; most recently when they made the statement that they had nothing to do with the 'new' suicide tactics in the
summer 2006. It will mean we have to tolerate another Iran -- a new Islamic state in the region -- in exchange for regional stability.

I think it's a good deal.

The buffoons in political office through-out NATO seem to think 2,000 more troops and few more helicopters will rescue victory from the jaws of defeat.

What the generals are saying -- I think -- is that we may wake up some morning soon, and be shocked to discover that over night, the Canadians
at Kandahar have been over run.

Canadians need to press government for clarity here, what will it actually take to win this war? Not one more drop of blood is worth it if this continues as an escalating series of civilian horrors.

FilterBlogs Afghanistan label.


Friday, July 6, 2007

A Bad Day, Early In July...

Captain Jefferson Francis, Captain Matthew Dawe, Master Cpl. Colin Bason, Cpl. Cole Bartsch, Cpl. Jordan Anderson and Pte. Lane Watkins were killed in a IED attack upon their armored personnel carrier, on 04 July 2007.

I grieve for the lost of Canadian soldiers and offer my sincere condolences to their families and friends.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week echoed the release of an ACBAR report on civilian casualties in this war. The ratio of civilian to combatant deaths is around 1 to 1; meaning that as many Taleban and Nato forces have died as innocent civilians.

As a result of nine deaths in two separate IED attacks on Canadian Forces in the last three weeks, the conversation on the home front has come down to "we need safer transport" More highly armed personnel carriers is a good idea, yet it will only skew that terrible ratio for the worse -- and will be countered by the Tabeban, in time, with better more powerful IED's.

Can we buy piece of mind? This discussion about 'safety' in a war is ridiculous, in my opinion.

The Associated Press published a piece, picked up by The Independent, that has a good over-view of what the last few weeks has been like for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

"Southern Afghanistan has seen fierce fighting in recent weeks. More than 2,900 people - mostly militants - have been killed in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press tally of numbers provided by Western and Afghan officials.

Of the 102 foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, 46 were Americans, 18 Britons and 22 Canadians.

Also in the south, militants battled Afghan and US-led coalition troops in separate clashes that left 20 militants and one policeman dead, officials said.

Militants attacked at least three police checkpoints in Ghazni province on Tuesday, and ensuing gun battles left 13 militants and one officer dead, said. General Ali Shah Ahmadzai, the provincial police chief.

In Zabul province, Afghan and US-led coalition forces clashed with suspected Taliban militants on Tuesday in Shahjoy district, leaving seven militants dead and six others wounded, said Ali Kheil, a spokesman for the province's governor."

We lost another battle last week, 45 civilian dead, 20 Tabeban -- in one incident -- from Yahoo! News.

ACBAR is the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) umbrella group; all the non government players active in re-building infrastructure, in-country.

List of the dead from CBC


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

UPDATED: CIA's "Family Jewels" Raise Concerns About Civil Liberties

Today's release of some, still censored CIA illegal operations, began a discussion on NPR's radio show "To the Point", with Warren Olney, about current tactics in the Global War on Terror.

The web site frames the discussion like this:

The CIA has released "the Family Jewels," agents' reports on 25 years of illegal activities ending in 1974. CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, says it reveals "a very different time and a very different agency." How different is the CIA now, with Dick Cheney holding the intelligence portfolio for President Bush?

The podcast of the episode.

These revelations come as Vice President Dick Cheney's Office is coming under increasing scrutiny by law makers.

Never in history has the office of the vice president been so large. Conventionally, the office was seen as that of an 'apprentice', an 'observer', ready to fill the void should the president become un-able to execute the office.

Now it seems to be a clearing house for black operations, a way to compartmentalize, isolate the office of the president from illegal activities which the president could be impeached for under law passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

From USA Today:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Sunday that a court should decide whether the vice president belongs to the executive or legislative branch. "The vice president needs to make a decision," he said.

Lea Anne McBride, a Cheney spokeswoman, said Emanuel is the one who has to decide. "He can either deal with the serious issues facing our country or create more partisan politics," she said.

The Empirists are saying, this is like WW ll, the state requires special powers to fight The Global War on Terror. They're objective would appear to be the repeal of the 'Watergate' laws.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Essentially, Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker Is Lying By Omission.

In my last post on the War in Afghanistan I tried to give a broad picture of the Taleban offensive and NATO's reaction to it.

Now, a little more detail on the Kind of war Canadian soldiers are fighting.

(Here's some music to listen to while reading THIS article.)

I came across this quote from Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker, battle group commander for the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan, in the Saturday June 23, 2007 edition of the Globe and Mail in a story by Graeme Smith entitled, "Afghan Civilian Casualties Soaring":

“We're being very judicious about our fire,” Col. Walker said. “We've had no complaints about women and children getting killed.”

That's horse sh*t.

When Canadian Forces find Taleban dug in, they call in air support from 'Enduring Freedom', the US operation in Afghanistan, who then - guided by lasers pointed by Canadians - blow the target to smithereens.

Essentially, Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker is lying by omission.

(WARNING: the following contains horrific detail.)

After the bombs hit, our boys don't experience that disingenuous tripe; instead they get reality. They go in and reconnoiter the target - to see how many Taleban bodies they can identify - and in some cases, they get to count dismembered corpses of babies, women and old men.

And then they get to puke.

One of the most awful descriptions of the casualties I've heard of in this new era of high energy explosives comes from Iraq...

You get to the target, and there's movement in the smoke, 'things' are moving in there - then you realize it's people, live people - with no arms or legs, in shock - they're trying to move, trying to get away... get to safety.

Our young men are now faced with a moral dilemma (if there's no superior officer present), shoot them in the head to put them out of their misery; or try to tourniquet the stubs (which, when you try, just breaks the burnt skin and makes the wound worse); or do you continue about your duties, secure the area etc., while the bodies continue to scream, writhe, and finally die.

A third option, give the one screaming the loudest, the heroin in your med kit (which is against regulation, but you can replace it easily enough).

Here's another example of spin doctoring from the battle group commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan; from a June 14, 2007 Globe and Mail story by Graeme Smith. (now, only available with a subscription from Canada's National, Profiting from Death, Newspaper.)

"Pressure from NATO forces has so far prevented the Taliban from forming into large attack groups of the kind witnessed last year", Lt.-Col. Walker said..
That's horse sh*t too.

The tanks we shipped over there last year... ..that has nothing to do with the Talebans changed tactics this year... we should all feel better knowing we fought them to a stand-off LAST year.

While we're at it, if we're talking about the 'last war', why not mention how surprised we were when they used regular tactics, the failure in our intelligence, that gave us no clue that they were capable of that level of organization.

Don't try to bull sh*t the Canadian people, Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker, Canadians may be a few days behind the news, but we're not stupid - or ignorant.

Why is the battle group commander running psychological operations any way? Does DND not have a communication department in country?

Man, we look provincial.

In other developments, CTV reported that,

"..NDP Leader Jack Layton said Canada should stop aggressive military action in the war-torn country and move towards political negotiations."

Agreed, but we should be in constant negotiation with the enemy, even if we decide that continuing aggressive military action is in our interest.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Lost Battles In Afghanistan - The Forgotten War

In my last post on the Taleban offensive in Afghanistan, I supposed Canadian Forces were likely in the thick of it.

They are.

On Wednesday, three Canadian soldiers died on the road near Masum Gar, Afghanistan.

Written by Stephanie Levitz, Canadian Press @

"The blast killed all three soldiers in the vehicle while they were carrying out a resupply operation near a forward-operating base at Sperwan Ghar, the military said."

And later in the same story...

"The latest deaths came on the day of the military funeral for 25-year-old Trooper Darryl Caswell in Bowmanville, Ontario. He was also killed by a roadside bomb on June 11, when the Canadian military in Afghanistan came across a large number of improvised explosive devices."

The national media is
presently reticent to offer an over-view, from scant reports, about what's going on in this forgotten war. I am not as reticent as they, but I understand their point. Writing war is full of land mines; what you think is going on, is probably wrong. If your facts are straight, the story may not be temporal.

Luckily, I am not beholden to anyone at this blog, only the attentions of you readers. So, here are a collection of my 'temporal slices' from this forgotten war.

The new British ambassador to Afghanistan, in his first statement in his present capacity expressed either the level of his ignorance, or the height of his arrogance...

(quoted from an article in The Independent, June 20, 2007, by James Tapsfield, my emphasis)

Ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles:

"The great(?!) thing about the Taliban is that they haven't been reading their Chairman Mao. They don't have popular support."

The Taleban are not disciples of the idea of populism like the communist movement
(which champion the majority, peasants or workers), that the ambassador refers to.

Taleban don't care if they have popular support; in 'imperially occupied territories', they create a tension of insecurity, going as far as butchering citizens they deem un-Islamic. On this Podcast from The Guardian Unlimited "..Declan Walsh reports on how locals are resisting this Talibanisation. Also, see an informative audio slide show, historical backgrounder, from the Guardian Unlimited.

The Taleban exude purposefulness and discipline; and they demand popular obedience, not support. They are the products of a sect of fundamentalist Islam's, 'madrassa', schooling. They are the elite of a education system that teaches extreme intolerance and armed insurrection towards an Islamic state. They insist on an extreme standard of public decorum in the areas they dominate. Disobedience is rewarded with brutal public sanction, including death.

The population is suffering under the Tabeban's Islamic law, murder-squads, and a NATO war machine that is unbelievably powerful, destructive, and indiscriminate. The Taleban draw their enemy to fight in populated areas because towns are the fulcrum of government power; and it is to their strategic advantage. Regularly, a village will become a free fire zone, a rule of engagement I've heard interpreted as, 'shoot anything that moves' orders. And they do.

Published in the New York Times Barry Bearak and Taimoor Shah wrote,

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 18, 2007

Afghan officials said late Monday that more than 50 civilians may have died during fierce fighting over the past three days between NATO forces and the Taliban in the Chora district of the southern province of Uruzgan.
Lost that battle.

That's Canada's bailiwick. No reports yet as to which NATO force was involved.

Maj. Dave Quick, commanding officer of India Company, Royal Canadian Regiment, told Stephanie Levitz,
"..Wednesday's (June 20, 2007) battle was longest firefight his company has been in even though it was their 12th combat mission in the last month."

On Thursday Canadian troops were involved in another action in Helmand province.

By Peter Walker of The Guardian
"The air strike - which happened late yesterday (June 21, 2007) - was launched in response to an attack on police posts near the town of Gereshk by militants. It killed 25 civilians including nine women, three babies and the mullah of a local mosque."

Lost that battle.

Later in the same story Peter Walker writes.

According to the Associated Press news agency, the latest deaths - if confirmed - will bring the number of civilians killed in NATO or US-led military operations this year to 177. Among these were seven children who died in a US air strike on Sunday.

A total of 169 civilians have been killed in militant attacks this year, including a recent series of suicide bombings.

So between us and them are 346 civilian dead.

"The latest NATO deaths bring to 606 the number of foreign troops killed in action in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001."(from © Reuters 2007)

Sixty Canadians serving in the Canadian Forces and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan so far.

I hope this over-view gives Canadians an idea of the intensity of action our soldiers are facing right now.

Map courtesy of University of Texas, Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection

Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) press release: "Protecting Afghan civilians: Statement on the conduct of military operations."


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Invite The Taleban To Join A Broad-Based National Government In Afghanistan"

The Taleban are taking the war to us, as expected. Right now in Afghanistan, Canadians are likely in the thick of it, marshaling in response to a multi pronged offensive by the Taleban. The Taleban's tactical plan for this year is to attack closer and closer to the capital, while simultaneously attacking strong points everywhere -- towards toppling the government.

"What did he say???"

That's right folks, that's where we are, that's the topic list.

The Taleban are attacking towns as close as 150 miles from Kabul. No road is 'safe' as police stations all over the country are being attacked; forcing the NATO war colossus to operate in a complex, multi faceted manner -- testing the limits of it's advantage.

We have lost the hearts and minds of Afghans by now, I fear. If this continues into the summer, then the war is over -- time to pack up and leave.

June 19, 2007 -- BBC NEWS,

By BBC World Affairs editor, John Simpson

In the east of the country, around Jalalabad, suicide bombings have become such frequent occurrences that the road from there to Kabul is now known as "the Baghdad road".

In the far western, Herat Province, May 31, 2007 BBC NEWS,

By Alastair Leithead

He described how it was only after the villagers were angered by culturally insensitive house searches that they picked up guns and took on the American military machine.

"When the Americans came the people started fighting them back, and then the planes came and started bombing us. "Even under the Russians we haven't witnessed bombardments like it before."

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) investigated the accounts and identified that at least 25 of those killed in Shindand were women and children.

Lost that battle.

In the following, the mans question gets to the point - the battle is not to beat the Taleban with military might, it can't be done, but rather to win the hearts and minds of Afghans.

From BBC NEWS story, "Afghan villagers answer your questions"
(My emphasis)

QUESTION: from Farid Mamundzay, Birmingham, UK,

It is often argued that Afghanistan was peaceful during the Taleban rule, and that after their fall, the country has not enjoyed the same level of peace and stability. Do you agree? Do you see the presence of foreign forces important for the future of Afghanistan or should the Taleban be invited to participate in a broad national government?

ANSWER: from,
Rahmat Gul:

You are partly right. People did enjoy peace and stability. But Taleban laws were harsh and draconian. Now the laws are within the framework of a democracy and if we implement them we could have more peace and security.

To your second question - I think foreign forces should coordinate their operations with Afghan forces in a bigger way to avoid civilian casualties.

The thing is that if you invite the Taleban to join a broad-based national government, there will be no need for foreign troops in the country at all. It would not be such a bad idea, though I wonder how the Taleban would react to such a proposal.

It would be a good idea to declare an amnesty for all the indigenous Taleban and bring them into the mainstream of politics. The foreign Taleban should be kept out.

Invite the Taleban to join a broad-based national government, in exchange, NATO could leave. I wonder how the Taleban would react to such a proposal. As we see in Gaza, the fundamentalists don't play well with others... The other choice, for both sides, is endless this.

Building schools has failed I believe, because the tactic falls directly into the scope of the most effective of Taleban tactics -- playing to the fears of men and boys, who's identity is already in an abused state, now challenged by a liberating of women in the law -- while their identifier, farming, remains impossible because irrigation projects 1000's of years in use, remain destroyed from thirty years of war.

Rebuilding and improving the irrigation infrastructure, would employ farmers in their own self interest.
They gain back identity in providing for their families, and the Taleban lose a fighter -- progress then would then surely follow.

Irrigation Infrastructure should be the the focus of a re-newed attempt, that is coming soon, to re-build infrastructure. Essential, culturally based infrastructure like the irrigation system --would help Afghans live day to day, and at the same time employ would be fighters at farming, and thus empower the family and local authority against the Taleban.

Information in the form of high quality color coded topographical mapping, and meteorological information would be a great way to interlock with the local economy -- and later as security returns, help NATO influence WHAT is grown with the water.

I fear these are but lost opportunities in the this, other imperial blunder. We have lost so many battles for minds in Afghanistan, and our tactics remain intractable -- that we are now losing this war.