Thursday, December 31, 2009

Escalation in Afghanistan--the plot thickens

Escalation in Afghanistan – the plot thickens.

Pres. Obama's plan to send 3000 more soldiers to Afghanistan made absolutely no sense as presented. As many observers note, there are about 100 members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. With US troops reaching levels of 100,000, we have 1000 soldiers for every Al Quaeda member. That seems a bit excessive.

The recent attempt by the Nigerian Abdulmutallab to blow up an airplane underlines that Afghanistan is not the only center, if a center at all, of Al Queada. Abdulmutallab claims to have received training and the explosives in Yemen.

Moreover, Obama bin Laden is believed to be in Pakistan although our government claims not to know where.

The war in Afghanistan is the wrong war in the wrong place. So what is going on?
Information has emerged lately that makes this whole undertaking a little less bizarre but also much more frightening. Apparently the number of drone bombings of targets in Pakistan has gone up sharply in the last year of Obama's presidency. We are rapidly escalating a secret war in a country that is supposedly our ally. In addition, there are reports of up to 100,000 mercenaries working for Blackwater (now called Xe) in Pakistan doing jobs for the CIA and for the military. Both Blackwater and the US Defense Department denies this, of course, but the evidence for this shadow army in Pakistan seems fairly reliable.

In a recent issue of The Nation, Jeremy Cahill reports:

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

This means that in escalating the war in Afghanistan we are also seriously escalating a secret war in Pakistan. Of the two parts of that campaign, only the escalation of drone bombings have been mentioned in the news. Again and again these attacks kill civilians. Claims to have killed leaders of the Taliban are often denied later on. But there seems little doubt that the bombings harm ordinary Pakistanis and Afghans and thus do terrible damage to the cause of bringing peace to these two countries.

Much less is know about the “snatch and grabs.” Who is being taken and what happens to them? It is not clear, given the paucity of information that these covert operations will serve to make Pakistan more peaceful and do damage to Al Quaeda there.

In that context, the thinking might be that unless Afghanistan is pacified, Taliban and Al Quaeda will simply move from Pakistan to Afghanistan if they are pressed too hard by the US forces in Pakistan. So it turns out that the escalation in Afghanistan may have to do as much with denying Al Quaeda and Taliban in Pakistan a place to hide as it has to do with Afghanistan proper.
But will escalation in Afghanistan and intensifying a secret war in Pakistan help to bring peace to the region and weaken Al Quaeda?

The people of Pakistan are understandably extremely resentful of US bombing and killing civilians in their country. The American presence in that country is becoming rapidly difficult to defend. The government we are propping up has always been weak. As America becomes more and more hated, the government's future becomes ever darker. Stubbornly committed to solving our problems in the Mideast by military means – in spite of Obama's public commitment to diplomacy – we may well increase chaos in the region.

As we begin to see a bit more clearly what the American plan in Afghanistan and Pakistan is, it becomes even more frightening because it becomes more and more obvious that the end result may very well be disastrous for the people in the region as well as for us. The very fragile societies and governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan may through our efforts fall part completely and drown in civil war. The escalation of war in Afghanistan and, secretly, in Pakistan may well hasten what we fear most: chaos and lawlessness in the region.