Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pentagon wants $33 billion more for war in Afghanistan

Geeeezzzz will it never end???
You can read the orginal article at:

The Pentagon's request for a $33 billion war supplemental for Afghanistan has Congress concerned about long-term costs. Training Afghan security forces, for instance, could take years.

By Gordon Lubold, Staff writer / March 25, 2010

The Pentagon wants $33 billion in additional funding to pay for the
war in Afghanistan this year and train the Afghan military, but members of Congress want to make sure they’re not writing a blank check.Skip to next paragraph
Related Stories
Iraq and Afghanistan: America's invisible wars
Marjah, Afghanistan: Guns quiet, the battle for power now begins
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared before Senate appropriators to defend the war supplemental, which is on top of the $708 billion baseline budget submitted to Congress in February.
Most of the war supplemental – a separate account used to pay for war costs – will pay for Afghanistan operations. Of that, $2.6 billion is to train the Afghan national security force, seen as a long-term endeavor that Congress worries could become a burden over time.

When can US forces leave?
“The question is, how long is that going to have to continue to the point where we can kind of say we’ve done our thing,” asked Sen. George Voinovich (R) of Ohio. “Five years, ten years, 15 years?”
That question is atop many lawmakers minds as they consider what the Obama administration has said from the start will take years to accomplish.
The Iraq security forces, now nearly 665,000 strong, took at least six years to build. But Iraq had more resources, and American trainers were already working within a culture in which a formal military existed under Sadaam Hussein. Afghanistan’s modern history has never had a formal military structure, and there are even fewer resources in Afghanistan to support one.
Despite contributions from NATO countries, that still leaves the US holding much of the bag when it comes to training the Afghan indigenous force.
While President Obama has pledged to begin removing American troops from Afghanistan in 2011, the training mission will likely continue long after that.
“We are in this intense phase that will be several years,” Ms. Clinton said in answer to Mr. Voinovich’s question. “Obviously, I don’t know that either of us could put a timeline on it. What we’re trying to do simultaneously is clear territory from the Taliban, be able to work more closely with the Afghan army, and at the same time create more capacity.”
Although NATO allies contribute to the training effort – Germany, for example, the third largest contributor of forces to Afghanistan, is almost uniquely charged with training operations in the north – the US will shoulder much of the burden for the long-term.

US commanders concerned about Afghan forces
“I know many of you have concerns about the Afghan security forces,” Mr. Gates said in his opening statement. “I share those concerns, as do our military commanders.”
Gates noted that the Afghan army has made “real progress” over the last year, and that many Afghan soldiers are making enormous sacrifices for their country. But Gates emphasized that the US can get out of Afghanistan faster if the training piece of the mission is done right, and that will likely take time. And while much praise goes to the Afghan army, the police force – seen as widely corrupt – will be a much harder fix.
“As you consider this request, I would emphasize that successfully accomplishing the training mission represents both our exit strategy and the key for long-term stability in Afghanistan,” Gates said.
But as a reminder of
the cost of training indigenous militaries, the $33 billion funding request includes $1 billion still needed to strengthen Iraqi security forces, a force many consider to be all but fully trained as the US prepares to remove all its combat forces by August.
Gates said the money will help to “ensure that the Iraqis are fully prepared to assume internal security responsibilities

Goodbye, Burger King: Top U.S. General Orders Closure of Western Comforts in Kandahar

Not my usual article on the war, but I did find this interesting...
You can read the orginal article at:
Western troops prepare to say goodbye to many of the comforts of home that currently populate the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan

The boardwalk at Kandahar Airfield is lined with many American standards that remind international forces fighting in the Taliban heartland of the Western culture of home. But it will soon be gone, the Miami Herald reported.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has ordered the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to close many of the restaurants (Burger King, Subway and TGI Friday's included), stores, sports venues and concert stages that provide U.S. troops with some comforts of home while fighting a war abroad.

The decision seems to be geared toward the military image and perception of Western forces as much as it is about logistics, the Miami Herald reports. Some say the Western material comforts do not provide the impression Gen. McChrystal is trying to put forward that the U.S. is not trying to force American culture on Afghanistan.

"This is a war zone - not an amusement park," the Herald quoted Command Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall from an ISAF blog.

The decision will likely be unpopular with U.S. forces, the Miami Herald reported, but officially the decision is being blamed on logistical reasons.

"Some will say the decision to do away with these amenities is meant only to make things harder for deployed service members, but nothing could be farther from the truth," the Herald quotes Hall. "Closing these facilities will free up much-needed storage facilities at both Bagram and Kandahar, space which is critical as 30,000 additional American and up to 7,000 international troops flow into Afghanistan over the next several months."

Not every establishment will be shuttered, however. The Green Beans coffee house, AT&T phone stores, fitness centers and some Afghan-run stalls will remain open to the ISAF troops, according to the Herald.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Afghanistan: U.S. General McChrystal given major powers over all troops in Afghanistan

By reading the following article I'm not sure if all US troops will now be under NATO (No more Operation Eduring Freedom OEF) or what. I will continue my research to see what I can come up with.
The one thing that does seem certain is that our reason for being in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks is no longer our main focus.

Kabul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The General Stanley McChrystal, commander of troops in Afghanistan (pictured with President Obama), is about have his authority extended over all the United States and NATO troops in the country. The goal is to have all soldiers under one general command, with the exception of a small contingent of U.S. special forces troops and some support troops from other nations.

McChrystal is already the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, but the new position would give the approximately 121 thousand men from the international forces and more control than his predecessors ever had. "He wants to have operational control over all U.S. troops, with the exception of a small group of special forces," said an unnamed American officer. The American task force that oversees prisoners remain outside his command as well as some support troops from other countries.

The increase of McChrystal’s authority falls during the increase of the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which since August has seen the number of foreign soldiers in the country amount to 150 thousand men,.
The new command, as reported by some officers, would lead operations in Helmand province in the southwest of the country, while the current NATO command of the area, led by the British, will have its hands free to concentrate on attacking the Taliban stronghold in Kandahar

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The new Afghan plan: buy off Taliban

By Katherine Butler and Andrew Grice
Thursday, 28 January 2010

Britain and the US are backing a new strategy to buy off "soft" supporters of the Taliban in a radical attempt to end nine years of war in Afghanistan. The plan, to be approved at a 60-nation conference in London today, comes amid unexpected signs of growing political support for the equally high-risk idea of talks leading to a political settlement with the Taliban leadership.
In a telling move, on Tuesday night the UN Security Council bowed to pressure from the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, to lift sanctions imposed on former officials who served in the Taliban government driven from power by the US-led invasion of 2001.
The multimillion-pound "peace and reintegration" fund would seek to lure low ranking Taliban fighters, who join out of poverty rather than ideology, by giving them jobs, schooling or land for farming. An effective amnesty for these men, now believed to make up 75 per cent of the insurgency's ranks, means that even those who took part in attacks involving the deaths of British or US soldiers would be rehabilitated.
The UN sanctions had been imposed under a resolution aimed at punishing the Taliban for their support of Osama bin Laden's network. More than 100 Taliban names including that of Mullah Omar, the hardline Taliban spiritual leader, remain on the list. But the move to rehabilitate five former senior Taliban officials, greeted with deep suspicion by human rights groups, could be a pathway to direct negotiations with senior figures in the movement. While they remain on the UN blacklist, they cannot appear in public or attend talks. The decision was warmly welcomed yesterday by Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan, who said it was "a long overdue step".
President Karzai, who has said he would be prepared to give Mullah Omar "safe passage" if he agreed to lay down his arms, is using the London conference to push for more names to be taken off the list.
General Stanley McChrystal, the US Nato commander, said earlier this week that he could envisage some former Taliban members being brought into the Kabul government. And Kai Eide, the UN chief in Kabul, called for the lifting of sanctions as a prelude to the opening of direct negotiations. "If you want relevant results then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority. I think the time has come to do it," he said in an interview this week.
Offering the Taliban leadership an olive branch with a view to a negotiated peace settlement is the "second prong" of a strategy now favoured by the Karzai government. But it is politically more sensitive for the West than reaching out to low-ranking fighters, because of what any "grand bargain" might entail. In 2007 two Western diplomats were expelled from Afghanistan for engaging in contacts with the extremists.
There are intense concerns among human rights groups that the movement's leaders could try to water down the Afghan constitution before agreeing to end the fighting.
Some US officials are worried that any talk of engagement will be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Another risk is they could signal a willingness to talk as a diversion. But Mr Holbrooke and Joe Biden, the US Vice-President, are said to be privately interested in exploring the possibilities.
In London yesterday Mr Holbrooke played down any early movement towards reconciliation with the "core" Taliban but said the question of "whether there is some basis between them and the [Kabul] government for common ground" was "very interesting". Asked what should be done by Kabul on reconciliation with the Taliban leadership, he said: "I will leave that to President Karzai," but added that removing the five Taliban officials, including the former foreign minister Mullah Mutawakil, from the UN sanctions watch list, was a "noteworthy step" in the process.
He stressed that the US had clear "red lines" which could not be crossed. There would have to be a complete repudiation of ties to al-Qa'ida, a commitment to laying down arms and to participating in a peaceful political approach. Certain aspects of Taliban behaviour "including the unacceptable nature of their treatment of women" were also a major concern.
Asked about the acceptability of granting an amnesty to rank and file fighters who had so recently taken part in attacks on British or American soldiers Mr Holbrooke said: "You won't hear the word amnesty from Afghan or American officials; it is an old-fashioned word that doesn't quite cover the situation. What you are trying to do is to prevent future deaths. Everybody has acknowledged that you can't win the war by trying to kill very single person fighting for the Taliban. That is just demonstrably not possible and senior British commanders have acknowledged it.
"We are trying to offer the opportunity for shooters to come off the battlefield so they don't kill more troops. My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere. But it is not a disservice to them to try to take people who have killed off the battlefield, give them jobs and land and opportunites to reintegrate."
British officials insist that the plan does not involve "bribing the Taliban with cash handouts" or Britain talking directly to them. The Afghan government will take the lead in bringing the Taliban back into the fold, they say, persuading them to renounce violence. British officials see the initiative more as a "divide and rule" strategy which will isolate or split the Taliban leadership.
Mark Sedwill, the British ambassador to Afghanistan who has just been appointed to head the civilian wing of the Nato mission there, cautioned earlier this week that luring youthful fighters away from the insurgency should be the focus before any talk of political negotiations with the "core" Taliban. "We need to proceed very carefully, with the Afghans deciding." Noting however, that ex-warlords were already in senior positions in Afghanistan, he said: "We can't be hypocrites, we need to look at it in a similar way to Northern Ireland. So some pretty unsavoury characters have to be brought into the system. If you don't do that you risk the system breaking apart."
He said "terrible" human rights abuses had been committed. "But I believe, I'm afraid, that it is one of the tough choices we have to make. Their future conduct of course is different."
The conference at Lancaster House, to be opened by Gordon Brown, will be attended by 60 foreign ministers including Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State. It will discuss plans for a gradual handover of some of Afghanistan's 34 provinces within the next 18 months so that US, British and other foreign troops can take a "subordinate role".
It will discuss plans to step up the training of the Afghan police and army but will not set a timetable for a withdrawal of allied forces, British sources said last night.
In from the cold Taliban's last foreign minister
The Taliban's last foreign minister before the US-led invasion in 2001, Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, was seen as the figure best able to put a gloss on the regime's rights abuses. Even in 2007, he said the country had a "love in our hearts" for foreign militants who flocked there. But he was said to have tried to warn the US before 9/11. Some say he then defected, and he ended up at Bagram air base for 18 months, disowned by the Taliban.
Since then he has downplayed the crimes of the regime. "We hoped our laws would bring freedom to everyone in every part of life," he said in 2007.
Mutawakil was joined in the change in status by four other former officials. Abdul Hakim Monib, a frontier affairs minister, also renounced the Taliban and became a provincial governor, only to step down after corruption complaints. Shams-ul Safa Aminzai was a press officer. Mohammad Musa, a planning minister, later won election as an MP. Faizl Mohammed Faizan was the deputy commerce minister.

While NATO countries, and especially the US, lose lives in Afghanistan and invest billions into the so-called war against terrorism, China invests, wo

Dec 30, 2009 by R. C. Camphausen

While NATO countries, and especially the US, lose lives in Afghanistan and invest billions into the so-called war against terrorism, China invests, works and builds; and will soon harvest rich treasure.
Hardly anyone in the media or the public at large knew about it, but since a publication in Fortune 500 (Dec 25) and an article in the New York Times (Dec 29) it's no longer a secret: China is preparing to mine a mountain of copper in Afghanistan with an estimated worth of 80 billion U.S. dollars - and it's happening in the middle of a war, in a war-torn country.
Near a tiny hamlet called Aynak, about 100 km from the capital Kabul, a most valuable mountain is being prepared to be stripped of it's estimated 700 million tons of ore, the largest remaining source of high quality copper left on the planet.
Having bid more than any competitor, among which Canada, Russia, the US and Europe, a state-owned industrial conglomerate - China Metallurgical Group Corporation- has won the concession to mine this treasure. Roads are being built and a huge power station, just as all else that will be needed for the mining and the subsequent transport across Afghanistan's most difficult terrain.
While the US and it's NATO allies are fighting the Taliban and an assortment of insurgents and drug-lords, Chinese engineers and workers proceed in relative safety towards securing it's commercial interests in an attempt to feed it's growing economy.
While the US is pledging 16 billion to train the future Afghan army, China invests 3.5 billion in Afghanistan's infrastructure - which it needs to make the mine work and the transport feasible.
So what's the deal here, who were the real dealers? Is it true that the Ministry of Mines near the Kabul Presidential Palace is considered to be a stronghold of corruption? Who in Hamid Karzai's government, in NATO, in the US or elsewhere knew about it and let it happen?
Another very pointed question has been asked by Thomas P.M. Barnett at Esquire magazine, and I quote:
... how many deaths in Afghanistan for the People's Liberation Army? Zero. Will China step in to protect the largest single foreign investment in Afghanistan's history? You bet — but only after fighting the Taliban to the very last American soldier it could muster.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where is Bin Laden?

No Bin Laden information in years, says Gates
(Read entire article)

The US has had no reliable information on the whereabouts of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in years, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has admitted.

No kidding...hmmmmm...again I ask, why are we in Afghanistan?

'Safe havens'
Mr Gates' comments came after US President Barack Obama announced a decision this week to send 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.

He recalled that the US was fighting there in response to the 9/11 attacks against America by al-Qaeda, and had made the decision to invade "only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama Bin Laden".

Mr Obama said al-Qaeda leaders had escaped into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002 and had been able to "retain their safe-havens along the border".

A recent US Senate report prepared by the Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff concluded that Bin Laden had been "within our grasp" in Afghanistan in late 2001.
But it said that at the time, calls for US reinforcements had been rejected, allowing the al-Qaeda leader to "walk unmolested" into Pakistan's unregulated tribal areas.
Last week, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on Pakistan to do more to find Mr Bin Laden.

"We've got to ask ourselves why, eight years after September the 11th, nobody has been able to spot or detain or get close to Osama bin Laden, nobody's been able to get close to [Ayman al-] Zawahiri, the number two in al-Qaeda," he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani responded by saying he did not think Bin Laden was in Pakistan, and that his country had yet to be given any "credible or actionable information" by the US on Bin Laden.

I'm told that we are still there to help establish a peaceful, honest central government, build infrastructure, educate and train the Afghan people so they can live safe and prosperous in the future... Isn't that the American dream?

On a different note:
Let me think...China and Pakistan are allies...
We have lost a lot of American soldiers and others as well...
China is preparing to reap many natural resources from Afghanistan...near the border of Pakistan.
The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan remains one of the most violent areas.
We believe Taliban, al-Qaeda, (bad guys in general) are travelling back and forth between the two countries which makes it difficult to catch them.
China has NO soldiers in the area.
So I ask, Why doesn't China take an active diplomatic role and insist that Pakistan REALLY cooperate in stopping the "bad guys?"
The answer I received was disturbing... "Because China doesn't believe in meddling in other countries internal affairs."

American Deaths in and around Afghanistan
Afghanistan 887
Germany (from wounds in theatre) 12
Pakistan 15
USA (from wounds in theatre) 17
Uzbekistan 1
Total 932

Friday, February 26, 2010

When did NATO take over in Afghanistan? IASF vs OEF-A

What is Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan (OEF-A)?

On October 7, 2001, early combat operations including a mix of strikes from land-based B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress bombers; carrier-based F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet fighters; and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from both U.S. and British ships and submarines signaled the start of Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan (OEF-A).

The initial military objectives of OEF-A, as articulated by Former President George W. Bush in his Sept. 20th Address to a Joint Session of Congress and his Oct. 7th address to the country, included the destruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure within Afghanistan, the capture of al-Qaeda leaders, and the cessation of terrorist activities in Afghanistan."[7][8][9]

What is the International Assistance Security Force (Isaf)?

Q & A: Isaf troops in Afghanistan

The majority of foreign troops in Afghanistan are under the command of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

Established by the UN Security Council in December 2001, its stated role is to promote security and development.

It is also involved in training the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

As of October 2009, Isaf had 67,700 personnel from 42 different countries including the US, European countries, Australia, Jordan and New Zealand.

There are about 36,000 US troops who are not part of Isaf serving in the east of Afghanistan - on the border with Pakistan - under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

Who are the main contributors to Isaf?

The largest contributing nations are the US and Britain. They provide around 31,855 and 9,000 troops respectively

Who is in charge of Isaf and who is in charge of OEF-A

Until August 2003, command of Isaf rotated among different nations on a six-month basis. But because of difficulties in finding new lead nations, Nato took over responsibility for appointing commanders.

Since then, Isaf has been commanded by generals from Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Britain and the US who have been in charge for between six months to a year.

The last three commanders have been Americans. The latest, Gen Stanley McChrystal, has made the protection of Afghan civilians the centrepiece of his new strategy.

Isaf vs OEF-A

Do you believe these two groups--both who employee several thousand American soldiers--have the same mission? How is their missions coordinated?

Critics have also argued that communication between Isaf and thousands of American troops - including special forces - serving with Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is not as strong as it should be.

When Nato decides it's time for a general from Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, or Britain to take over again...will they cooperate/coordinate with our soldiers in OEF-A?

When an American Solider is deployed to Afghanistan how is it determined which operation he will be assigned to?

Your thoughts?