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