US and Pakistan: deadliest of friends

With the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in an air strike, the US may have made its costliest mistake of the war in Afghanistan

How bad can a relationship between two military allies get? If this year’s tally of incidents is anything to go by, Pa Pakistan’s rage against the American military machine can get a lot worse. First came the affair over Raymond Davis, the CIA agent who shot dead two men who had pulled up in front of his car at a traffic light in Lahore. Then came the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. And now this.

An Afghan special forces operation, backed up by Nato troops, allegedly came under fire from across the border (a false excuse) . Afghan troops called in Nato airstrikes, and two Pakistani military posts were hit, killing 24 soldiers. The reaction in Pakistan ranged yesterday from cold fury (it is just not believed in Pakistani military circles that Nato was unaware of the co-ordinates of the two military posts in the village of Salala) to hot conspiracy: America was the “big evil”. The politician Imran Khan told thousands of supporters on Saturday that it was time to end the alliance with the US. It would be folly to dismiss this as mere populism. After a year like this, the Pakistani military will have to cope with rising levels of pressure from within its own ranks to end co-operation with the US.

The short-term response is not as troubling as the long-term implications. Pakistan closed two border crossings and gave the US 15 days to quit Shamsi airbase in Baluchistan, from which it flew drones targeting militants in the tribal areas. The closures will make Barack Obama more dependent on Vladimir Putin’s goodwill, and the northern supply route through which 60% of troops and military cargo to Afghanistan now travel. But, of itself, the closures will be a temporary problem. Of greater significance is the erosion of Pakistani public support for the US fight against the Taliban. It would not be the first strategic mistake the US had made in this war, but it could yet prove the costliest.

Courtesy: Guardian UK

The Assassination Blowback

2011 has been a banner year for taxpayer-funded assassinations — Osama bin Laden, Anwar Awlaki, five senior Pakistani Taliban commanders in October and many more. Given the crucial U.S. backup role in Libya, and the ringing exhortation for the Libyan leader’s death issued by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton just before the event itself, Uncle Sam can probably take a lot of credit for Moammar Gaddafi ‘s messy end too.

Once upon a time, U.S. officials used to claim that they were merely targeting “command and control centers,” rather than specific individuals, as in the hunt for Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the raid on Gaddafi in 1986. Nowadays no one bothers to pretend. Successful assassination missions, whether by elite special forces or remote-controlled drones, are openly celebrated.

Clearly, the sentiment prevalent among our leaders is that eliminating particular enemy leaders is bound to have a beneficial effect. Thus in recent wars, the U.S. has made the pursuit of “high-value targets,” the principal objective of so-called human network attacks, a priority. “The platoon’s mission is to kill or capture HVTs,” recalled Matt Cook, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne based in northern Iraq in 2005. “That is all we do.”

By 2008, according to a U.S. Strategic Command study, the U.S. military was simultaneously engaged in no fewer than 285 human network attack programs.

So, now that assassination is an official tool of U.S. foreign policy, along with trade embargoes and overseas aid, it is surely time for an open debate on whether it is indeed effective. Surprisingly for some, evidence based on hard numbers demonstrates unequivocally that the answer is No.

The numbers are derived from a study conducted in Iraq during the “surge” campaign of 2007-08 that enabled the U.S. to declare victory and wind down the war. Key to the surge was an intensive and ruthless hunt for key individuals in the “IED networks” that were organizing homemade bomb attacks against U.S. troops. Cause and effect — more dead network leaders leading to fewer bombs — seemed so self-evidently obvious that nobody bothered to check.

Early in 2008, however, Rex Rivolo, an analyst at the Counter-IED Operations/Intelligence Center attached to U.S. headquarters in Baghdad, briefed his superiors on some hard realities of the campaign. With access to any and all information relating to U.S. military operations in Iraq, he had identified about 200 successful missions in which key IED network individuals had been eliminated. Then he looked at the reports of subsequent bomb attacks in the late insurgent leader’s area of operation. The results were clear: IED attacks went up, immediately and sharply. One week after the hit, on average, incidents within about three miles of the dead leader’s home base had risen 20 per cent.

Why, with the commander dead, did the enemy fight with such reinforced vigor? Eliminated enemy commanders, intelligence revealed, were almost always replaced at once, usually within 24 hours. “The new guy is going to work harder,” Rivolo told me. “He has to prove himself, assert his authority. Maybe the old guy had been getting lazy, not working so hard to plant those IEDs. Fresh blood makes a difference.”

Once posited, this consequence may appear obvious, but Rivolo’s study, so far as I am aware, was the only time that anyone with access to relevant data had looked at the consequences of our principal national security strategy in a systematic way. However, even as he submitted his conclusions, the same strategy was being exported to Afghanistan on a major scale. Ever-increasing special forces “night raids” have indeed subsequently succeeded in killing large numbers of insurgent commanders (along with many civilians), but the consequences have been depressingly predictable.

“I used to be able to go talk to local Taliban commanders,” a journalist long resident in Afghanistan told me, “but they are all dead. The ones who replaced them are much more dangerous. They don’t want to talk to anyone at all.”

Nongovernmental groups similarly report that the new breed of Taliban leadership is unwilling to allow the free passage of aid workers permitted by their assassinated predecessors. Neither in Afghanistan nor Pakistan, where high-value targets are the responsibility of the CIA‘s burgeoning killer-drone bureaucracy, is there any indication that the enemy’s military capability has been diminished.

As Matthew Hoh, the foreign service officer who quit in protest at the futility of the Afghan war, told me recently, “War is a breeding ground for unintended consequences.”

By: Andrew Cockburn, An investigative journalist and author. His article, “Search and Destroy: The Pentagon’s Losing War Against IEDs,” appears in the November issue of Harper’s magazine.

Safety while in a Building

ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot. This is especially true at NIGHT!

1. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; and even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ… RUN, Preferably in a zig-zag pattern!

2. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked ‘for help’ into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

3. Another Safety Point: Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird.. The police told her ‘Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door’ The lady then said that it sounded like the baby had crawled near a window, and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get run over. The policeman said, ‘We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.’ He told her that they think a serial killer has a baby’s cry recorded and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby… He said they have not verified it, but have had several calls by women saying that they hear baby’s cries outside their doors when they’re home alone at night.

4. Water scam! If you wake up in the middle of the night to hear all your taps outside running or what you think is a burst pipe, DO NOT GO OUT TO INVESTIGATE! These people turn on all your outside taps full ball so that you will go out to investigate and then attack.

Stay alert, keep safe, and look out for your neighbours!

The Lynching in Libya

British writer and political thinker George Orwell died at 46. In the short span of his writing life, he left behind lucid pieces of prose in which he articulated his brilliant political thought. Had he lived longer, the world would have been further enriched by his political philosophy. In his essay “Shooting an Elephant,” Orwell wrote, “When the white man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom that he destroys.” After having launched unprovoked wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the white man has now inflicted tyranny on Libya.

Before finally murdering Libyan leader Col Muammar Qaddafi together with his son as they fled the town of Sirte on Oct 20, and then having put their bloodied, rotting bodies on display, the US-led Nato forces had been bombing and systematically destroying Libya for nine months with the specific objective of regime change. According to Barack Obama, the war in Iraq was of choice, in Afghanistan of necessity and in Libya simply to change regime. As renowned documentary filmmaker John Pilger said of Obama, “The son of Africa claims a continent’s crown jewels.” That was the title of his article on Oct 26 on Obama’s thrust into Libya and then Uganda. Obama announced on Oct 14 that he was dispatching US Special Forces to join the civil war in that county.

NATO particularly focused on destroying Sirte, Qaddafi’s hometown with a population of 100,000. For months, thousands of citizens were trapped without food and medicines while they faced bombardment by American, British and French aircraft round the clock. Consequently, many thousands were killed, but the mainstream Western media remained shamelessly silent.

As Qaddafi and his retinue left the city in a small convoy, the vehicles were spotted by American AWACS aircraft, which in turn called in French fighter jets that bombed them. The Libyan leader was seriously wounded in the raid. Soon the so-called rebels “liberating” Libya caught up with him. One of them, Sanad al-Sadek al-Ureibi, claimed to have shot Qaddafi twice, hitting him in the head and the chest. But before being murdered, Qaddafi was humiliated and brutally beaten – and according to Seaumus Milne’s Guardian article (Oct 26), even sodomised with a knife.

Would the International Criminal Court in The Hague reconsider who deserves to be tried for war crimes, Qaddafi posthumously, or his tormentors, and all those who perpetrated the genocide of the people of a country? The barbarity has removed the thin mask of civility from the face of Western civilisation. Rest well, Orwell: your observation stays valid.

Behind the “liberation” and “humanitarian intervention” is a mad scramble for Libya’s energy resources. The United States and Europe targeted Qaddafi because he stood in the way of their establishing Western control over the African continent and its vast energy and minerals reserves, including those hitherto untapped.

Just a day after the Libyan leader’s assassination, British defence secretary Philip Hammond – who did concede that the new Libyan regime’s image was “a little bit stained” by the murder – told the BBC: “I expect British companies and their sales directors to pack their suitcases and go to Libya to participate in the reconstruction of the country as soon as they can. Libya is a rich country with oil reserves, and I expect there will be opportunities for British companies to get involved.”

British Conservative MP Daniel Kwaczynski did one better. He demanded that Libya pay for Britain’s bombing raids on it during the NATO campaign.

Meanwhile, US politicians are apprehensive that Britain and France might carve out a larger share of the spoils. Republican senator Lindsey Graham urged the United States: “Let’s get in on the ground [in Libya]. There’s a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya. Lot of oil to be produced.”

The kings, princes and princelings of the oil-rich Arab should take warning from Qaddafi’s fate. Nicholas Sarkozy threatened right at the start of the US/Nato intervention in Libya: “Every ruler, and especially every Arab ruler, could confront a similar situation.”

By: Iftekhar A Khan

Safe Getting into Your Car

A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:

1. Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor, and in the back seat.

2. If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

3. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side… If a male is sitting alone
in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (Better paranoid than dead)