Afghanistan

angelburst29

The Living Force
The trove of U.S. “Lessons Learned” documents on Afghanistan published by the Washington Post portrays, in excruciating detail, the anatomy of a failed policy, scandalously hidden from the public for 18 years. The “Lessons Learned” papers, however, are based on the premise that the U.S. and its allies will keep intervening militarily in other countries, and that they must, therefore, learn the lessons of Afghanistan to avoid making the same mistakes in future military occupations.

SIGAR | Lessons Learned

This premise misses the obvious lesson that Washington insiders refuse to learn: underlying fault is not in how the U.S. tries and fails to reconstruct societies destroyed by its “regime changes,” but in the fundamental illegitimacy of regime change itself.

The Real Lesson of Afghanistan? Regime Change Does Not Work

The Real Lesson of Afghanistan? Regime Change Does Not Work

December 20th, 2019 - The “Lessons Learned” documents reveal the persistent efforts of three administrations to hide their colossal failures behind a wall of propaganda in order to avoid admitting defeat and to keep “muddling along,” as General McChrystal has described it. In Afghanistan, muddling along has meant dropping over 80,000 bombs and missiles, nearly all on people who had nothing to do with the crimes of September 11th, exactly as Ben Ferencz predicted.

It shouldn’t take 18 years for U.S. officials to publicly admit that there is no military solution to a murderous and unwinnable war for which the U.S. is politically and legally responsible.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
At least 27 security personnel were killed when a military base was stormed in Afghanistan on Thursday, in one of the biggest attacks since a violence reduction agreement was signed between the United States and the Taliban last month.

Afghan military base stormed, 27 security personnel killed
March 20, 2020 - The Afghan government blamed the attack on the Taliban, with whom the United States signed a peace deal last month for an eventual pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for reduced violence by the militant group.

As part of the agreement, the Taliban was also supposed to begin talks with a delegation of Afghan leaders for sustained peace in the country – but the process never took off after disagreement on the release of prisoners.

Armed Taliban fighters stormed a joint military base of the Afghan National Defense Forces in the southern province of Zabul late Thursday night, according to a member of the provincial council, Haji Atta Jan Haqbayan.

The clash continued till the early hours of Friday, leaving 27 members of the Afghan forces dead, Haqbayan said, adding that the Taliban fighters left the area after capturing weapons and ammunition.

“The attack happened with the help of infiltrators,” a spokesman for the Zabul provincial governor said.

The Afghan defense ministry also said infiltrators within the Afghan forces helped carry out the attack, adding that the incident was being investigated. The defense ministry put the death toll at 17.

The government earlier on Thursday said it was ordering its forces to switch to an “active defense posture” as Taliban attacks continued.
“This heinous act of the Taliban is a clear example of their commitment for continued violence and against the Afghan peace process,” Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan president, said on Twitter.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
This article was published early this morning on Reuters website, that Pompeo's visit was unannounced (to the public) two hours later they pulled it and updated with two other articles, neither mention that the visit was "unannounced". It was a one day trip, where he meet both men claiming to have won the recent Afghan election, then went to Qatari to meet a spokesmen for the Taliban. From the reports, the situation to enforce a Peace Plan is still in limbo because the prisoner swap is still in the talking stage. If they do come to an agreement, the next problem is dealing with two men claiming the Presidency. The whole situation sounds like everyone is dragging their feet and neither situation is moving forward, other then two weeks have pass with sides claiming to work together.

Pompeo meets Afghan political rivals during visit to Kabul
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (R) meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Kabul, Afghanistan March 23, 2020. Afghan Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the Afghan capital on Monday on a previously unannounced visit to try to salvage a historic deal between Washington and the Taliban, struck in February but marred by a political feud.

Slideshow (3 Images)
U.S. to reduce Afghan aid by $1 billion after Pompeo fails to break impasse

Pompeo strives to salvage stalled Afghanistan peace effort
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought on Monday to salvage a U.S.-led effort to bring peace to Afghanistan, meeting with Taliban officials at a Qatari military base after visiting Kabul to try to end a feud between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political foe.

U.S. to reduce Afghan aid by $1 billion after Pompeo fails to break impasse
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced a $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political foe to end a feud that has helped jeopardize a U.S.-led peace effort.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
NATO is short on details - does not state where the 4 service members were prior to being sent to Afghanistan?

Four NATO service members arriving in Afghanistan test positive for coronavirus
Four NATO service members in Afghanistan tested positive for coronavirus shortly after entering the country, the first confirmed cases in the mission,
NATO said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The service members were newly arrived in country, and were in a precautionary screening facility when they became symptomatic, were moved to isolation and were tested,” the statement said, adding that the nationalities of the people would not be released.

Around 1,500 NATO service members, most who had recently arrived in Afghanistan, were in screening facilities as a precautionary measure, NATO said.

Three US sailors on aircraft carrier test positive
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly says sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus. The aircraft carrier at sea in Asia last made a port call 15 days ago in Vietnam.

The chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, says there currently is no plan to pull the carrier from its mission. He says the three sailors are being removed from the ship and admitted to a Defense Department hospital.

Navy officials say those who came in contact with the trio are in isolation aboard the ship, as best they can do that while at sea. But the officials couldn’t say say how many are in isolation.


Ghani tries to play down impact of US aid cut to Afghanistan
Pledges to review austerity budget as an immediate compensatory measure.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
A suicide bombing near Kabul, the Afghan capital, killed three people and wounded 15 on Wednesday, the interior ministry said, as violence in the war-torn nation threatens a fragile peace process.

Bombing near Afghan capital kills three amid unabated violence
April 29, 2020 - It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, amid the coronavirus pandemic and United States-led efforts for peace talks between the Taliban militia and the Afghan government.

“A suicide bomber detonated his explosives among civilians,” interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said in a statement, adding that the blast happened in the Char Asiab district of Kabul province, about 11 km (7 miles) from the capital.

More than 500 civilians die in Afghan violence in first quarter: U.N.

April 27, 2020 - More than 500 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in the first three months of the year as violence raged even after an agreement between the United States and the Taliban on withdrawing foreign forces, the United Nations said on Monday.

In all, fighting in the first three months caused 1,293 civilian casualties, of which 760 were injuries and the rest deaths, including 152 children and 60 women, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report.

The violence increased after a Feb. 29 U.S.-Taliban pact on the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. It includes a commitment by the Taliban and the Afghan government to work towards peace.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
I really don't envision Peace coming to Afghanistan until the U.S. gives up it's bases and moves it's Military out? After 19 years of illegal occupation - it's time to re-evaluate American intervention and it's third party status? The U.S. Military troops stationed there have been reduced to "Poppy Field nannies" overseeing the cultivation and operations of the drug trade? Not exactly - a honorable position!

Taliban step up attacks on Afghan forces since signing U.S. deal: data
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan man wearing a protective face mask walks past a wall painted with photo of Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan April 13, 2020.REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
The Taliban have mounted more than 4,500 attacks in Afghanistan, marking a sharp escalation in violence, in the 45 days since signing a deal with the United States that paves the way for a U.S. troop drawdown, according to data seen by Reuters.

Afghanistan likely facing coronavirus 'health disaster': U.S. watchdog
Afghanistan, beset by a poor healthcare system, malnutrition, war and other vulnerabilities, likely is facing a "health disaster" from the coronavirus, a watchdog report to the U.S. Congress warns.

Afghanistan suffers upsurge in fighting and in coronavirus
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier stands guard at a check point near the Bagram Airbase north of Kabul, Afghanistan April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Clashes between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces intensified in northern Balkh and southern Logar province as warring sides fought to control checkpoints and the number of coronavirus cases in Afghanistan rises, officials said on Friday.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah are close to resolving a standoff over last year's disputed presidential election that has threatened a U.S.-brokered peace process, both sides said on Saturday.

Afghan rivals say they're close to ending leadership feud
FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (L) and Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (R) participate in a family photo at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The feud culminated in both men declaring themselves president at parallel inauguration ceremonies in March.

A draft deal had been finalized that included proposals that Abdullah lead a high council for peace talks and have a half-share in government appointments, Fraidoon Khwazoon, a spokesman for Abdullah, said.

“In principle an agreement is reached but there are a few things that need to be finalised. We believe they are not big obstacles and will be solved,” Khwazoon said.

The dispute has sparked fears among many, including the United States, that the split was undermining momentum in peace talks with Islamist Taliban insurgents.

Ghani’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqi, had said on Twitter late on Friday that there had been progress in resolving the dispute. “Progress has been made in the ongoing negotiations and discussions on important political issues and matters to resolve them politically,” Sediqi said.

Both sides have been under international pressure to strike a deal. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Afghanistan in March for a one-day visit to try to broker an arrangement even as most travel was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We have told both sides to firm up a deal this week. If not, then aid could be hit badly in this time,” a senior Western diplomat said on Saturday.

Spokesmen for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and for Ghani declined to comment. A spokesman for Abdullah said donors had emphasised they should solve the issue but they had not been given a deadline to come to a resolution.

Pompeo had announced a $1 billion reduction in aid and threatened to slash the same amount next year to try to force Abdullah and Ghani to end their feud.

After nearly 20 years of fighting the Taliban, the United States is looking for a way to extricate itself and to achieve peace between the U.S.-backed government and the militant group.

The United States and the Taliban signed a pact on Feb. 29 that was designed to pave the way for peace talks between the militant group and the Afghan government.

But formal talks have not started because of the political feud, as well as an escalation in violence by the Taliban since the deal was reached and disagreements over a prisoner swap.

Afghanistan probes reports Iranian guards forced migrants into river (???)
Afghan officials were hunting on Sunday for Afghan migrants in a river bordering Iran after reports that Iranian border guards tortured dozens and threw them into the water to keep them out of Iran.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
I can not realistically anticipate any real "Peace" coming to Afghanistan until "all foreign troops and mercenaries" are removed from the Country? For the last 19-20 years, the illegal occupation by the U.S., NATO and allies has decimated a once vibrant and thriving multi- cultural environment.

Gunmen disguised as police attacked a hospital in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Tuesday, killing 16 people including two newborn babies from a maternity clinic run by the international humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders.

Newborns among 16 dead in Kabul hospital attack; 24 killed in funeral bombing
Afghan security forces stand guard outside Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital which came under attack in Kabul, Afghanistan May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Afghan security forces stand guard outside Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital which came under attack in Kabul, Afghanistan May 12, 2020. Mohammad Ismail

In a separate attack the same day, a suicide bomber struck the funeral of a police commander, attended by government officials and a member of parliament, in the eastern province of Nangahar, killing at least 24 people and injuring 68.
Authorities said that toll could rise.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s main Islamist insurgency group which says it has halted attacks on cities under a U.S. troop withdrawal deal, denied involvement in both.

The Islamic State militant group operates in Nangahar and has carried out a number of high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent months. On Monday security forces arrested its regional leader in the capital.

The violence, as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, risks derailing momentum towards U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Taliban and an Afghan government long sceptical of the insurgents’ renunciation of attacks.

“If the Taliban cannot control the violence, or their sponsors have now subcontracted their terror to other entities —which was one of our primary concerns from the beginning — then there seems little point in continuing to engage Taliban in ‘peace talks,” tweeted Hamdullah Mohib, the government’s national security advisor.

The Kabul attack began in the morning when at least three gunmen wearing police uniforms entered the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, throwing grenades and shooting, government officials said. Security forces had killed the attackers by the afternoon.

“The attackers were shooting at anyone in this hospital without any reason. It’s a government hospital, and a lot of people bring in their women and children for treatment,” said Ramazan Ali, a vendor nearby who saw the start of the attack.

The 100-bed government-run hospital hosted a maternity clinic run by Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

MSF confirmed in a tweet that the hospital had been attacked. Just hours before it had tweeted a photo of a newborn at the clinic in his mother’s arms after being delivered safely by emergency caesarean section.

Interior and health ministry officials said that mothers, nurses and children were among the dead and wounded.

Photos from the Ministry of Interior showed two young children lying dead inside the hospital. Soldiers ferried infants out of the compound, some wrapped in blood-stained blankets. Officials said 100 people in total were rescued, including three foreign nationals.

The neighbourhood is home to many members of Afghanistan’s Hazara community, a mostly Shia Muslim minority that has been attacked by Sunni militants from Islamic State in the past, including at a Kabul ceremony commemorating the death of one of its leaders in March. Rights group Amnesty International condemned both attacks.

“The unconscionable war crimes in Afghanistan today, targeting a maternity hospital and a funeral, must awaken the world to the horrors civilians continue to face,” the group tweeted. “There must be accountability for these grave crimes.”

Foreign powers including the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey and Pakistan released statements condemning the violence.
(Comment:
If these Foreign Countries "condemn" these violent acts - they should consider pulling their mercenaries and military operations out of Afghanistan and lower the risk of resentment and confrontation!)

Last week, security forces killed and arrested several members of an Islamic State cell that authorities said was responsible for several attacks in Kabul including one on a Sikh temple in March. A roadside blast in the capital on Monday, which wounded four civilians, was claimed by the group.

Afghanistan is also facing violence around the country from the Taliban, even as the United States tries to usher in peace talks after signing a troop withdrawal agreement in February with the militants. The Taliban say they are holding back from attacking urban centres and their operations are aimed at government security forces.

Slideshow (3 Images)
Newborns among 16 dead in Kabul hospital attack; 24 killed in funeral bombing
 

angelburst29

The Living Force

angelburst29

The Living Force
The Pentagon continues to claim a drawdown of Troops in Afghanistan but there has been no mention - where these Troops are being re-located? I suspect, they are part of the military forces and reinforcement into Syria recently, in the past few weeks?

Drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan continuing: Pentagon
May 15, 2020 - The United States is continuing its drawdown of troops from Afghanistan and is expected to meet a timeline that had been agreed upon with the Taliban earlier this year, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Brutal Afghan attacks highlight limitations of U.S.-Taliban deal
FILE PHOTO: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between members of Afghanistan's Taliban and the U.S. in Doha, Qatar February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari/File Photo
Two brutal attacks this week laid bare major weaknesses of the U.S.-Taliban troop withdrawal pact: nothing in it obliges the Taliban to prevent such massacres and the Afghan government's ability to thwart them will only wane as U.S. troops pull out.

New date for intra-Afghan peace talks under discussion, Khalilzad says
FILE PHOTO: U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a debate at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
A new date for intra-Afghan peace talks is under discussion and the United States has heard positive reports about the formation of an inclusive Afghan government, U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday.

Afghans say Taliban behind bloodshed, reject U.S. blame of Islamic State
Afghan officials on Friday blamed the Taliban for a bloody attack on a maternity hospital in the capital, Kabul, this week, rejecting a U.S. assertion that it was carried out by Islamic State militants.

U.S. says Islamic State conducted attack on Kabul hospital
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan policeman keeps watch outside of a hospital which came under attack in Kabul, Afghanistan May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo
The United States on Thursday blamed Islamic State militants -- not the Taliban -- for a gruesome hospital attack in Afghanistan this week that killed two newborn babies, and it renewed calls for Afghans to embrace a troubled peace push with the Taliban insurgency.

US blames Daesh for Afghan hospital attack

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In this Feb. 8, 2019, file photo, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad pauses while speaking about the prospects for peace, at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in Washington. (AP)

A newborn baby receives treatment on Friday for the gun wound in her right leg in Kabul. She lost her mother in Tuesday’s terror attack. (AFP)

KABUL: Washington believes Daesh was behind this week’s deadly attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul, US peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Friday.

US asks Taliban, Afghan government to bring perpetrators to justice
KABUL: In the wake of two deadly attacks in Afghanistan on Tuesday, the US has asked both the government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, and the Taliban to cooperate and bring those behind the killings to justice.

In his statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the Taliban’s denial of its involvement in the attacks, and urged both groups to work together.

“The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said. “As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress toward a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism.”
 

angelburst29

The Living Force

Afghan president and rival announce power sharing agreement

In this handout photograph taken on May 17, 2020 and released by Afghanistan's Office of Chief Executive, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) and his rival Abdullah Abdullah (L) exchange documents after signing a power-sharing deal agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.. (AFP)

KABUL: May 17, 2020 - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah have signed a power-sharing agreement two months after both declared themselves the winner of last September’s presidential election.

Ghani spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted Sunday a political deal between Ghani and Abdullah had been signed in which Ghani would remain president of the war-torn nation. The deal calls for Abdullah to lead the country’s National Reconciliation High Council and some members of Abdullah’s team would be included in Ghani’s Cabinet.

The Reconciliation Council has been given the authority to handle and approve all affairs related to Afghanistan’s peace process.
Omed Maisam, a spokesman for Abdullah’s team, confirmed an agreement had been signed at the presidential palace. “A technical team will work on the implementation of the agreement and details will be shared later,” he said.

Kabul shrugs after US says troop pullout ‘on track’

Security forces stand guard outside a hospital in Kabul, which came under attack on May 12. The US has blamed Daesh for the assault.

May 16, 2020 - KABUL: Afghanistan on Saturday downplayed Washington’s claim that it was on track with a total pullout of US troops from the war-torn country, saying that Kabul was self-sufficient and the withdrawal would have no impact on local forces.

“If US troops leave Afghanistan, there will be no vacuum because the Afghan forces are in a position to conduct ground operations 100 percent. They have become self-sufficient and can perform ground offensives independently,” Fawad Aman, chief Defense Ministry spokesman, told Arab News.

However, local forces will continue to bank on US and NATO nations for some time, with “serious discussions” underway, he said.

It follows a statement by US officials in Washington on Friday, claiming that the withdrawal process was on track, despite a spike in attacks, a stalled intra-Afghan dialogue and a political stalemate.

As part of the conditions-based deal signed in February this year, the process will see the reduction of troops by 8,600, by July 15, and the abandonment of five bases in Afghanistan, media reports citing US officials said on Friday.

Additionally, by next spring, all foreign forces are expected to leave Afghanistan, ending Washington’s longest war in history after nearly 20 years of engagement, with loss of money and lives on all sides, particularly among Afghans, who have witnessed more than four decades of conflict.

“However, based on the pledges made in the peace deal, US and NATO member countries will continue to mentor Afghan forces and provide them with equipment and funding, costing billions annually until 2024,” Aman said.

US President Donald Trump had made the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan his top priority during the 2016 election campaign.
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
Based on anonymous intelligence sources, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal released bombshell reports alleging that Russia is paying the Taliban bounties for every U.S. soldier they can kill. The story caused an uproar in the United States, dominating the news cycle and leading presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to accuse Trump of “dereliction of duty” and “continuing his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.” “This is beyond the pale,” the former vice-president concluded

Afghan Bounty Scandal Hits at Suspiciously Important Time for US Military
July 01st, 2020 - However, there are a number of reasons to be suspicious of the new reports. Firstly, they appear all to be based entirely on the same intelligence officials who insisted on anonymity. The official could not provide any concrete evidence, nor establish that any Americans had actually died as a result, offering only vague assertions and admitting that the information came from “interrogated” (i.e. tortured) Afghan militants. All three reports stressed the uncertainty of the claims, with the only sources who went on record — the White House, the Kremlin, and the Taliban — all vociferously denying it all.

The national security state also has a history of using anonymous officials to plant stories that lead to war. In 2003, the country was awash with stories that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, in 2011 anonymous officials warned of an impending genocide in Libya, while in 2018 officials accused Bashar al-Assad of attacking Douma with chemical weapons, setting the stage for a bombing campaign. All turned out to be untrue.

“After all we’ve been through, we’re supposed to give anonymous ‘intelligence officials’ in The New York Times the benefit of the doubt on something like this? I don’t think so,” Scott Horton, Editorial Director of Antiwar.com and author of “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” told MintPress News. “All three stories were written in language conceding they did not know if the story was true,” he said, “They are reporting the ‘fact’ that there was a rumor.”

Horton continued: “There were claims in 2017 that Russia was arming and paying the Taliban, but then the generals admitted to Congress they had no evidence of either. In a humiliating debacle, also in 2017, CNN claimed a big scoop about Putin’s support for the Taliban when furnished with some photos of Taliban fighters with old Russian weapons. The military veteran journalists at Task and Purpose quickly debunked every claim in their piece.”

Others were equally skeptical of the new scandal. “The bottom line for me is that after countless (Russiagate related) anonymous intelligence leaks, many of which were later proven false or never substantiated with real evidence, I can’t take this story seriously. The intelligence ‘community’ itself can’t agree on the credibility of this information, which is similar to the situation with a foundational Russiagate document, the January, 2017 intelligence ‘assessment,’” said Joanne Leon, host of the Around the Empire Podcast, a show which covers U.S. military actions abroad.

Suspicious timing
The timing of the leak also raised eyebrows. Peace negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban are ongoing, with President Trump committing to pulling all American troops out of the country. A number of key anti-weapons of mass destruction treaties between the U.S. and Russia are currently expiring, and a scandal such as this one would scupper any chance at peace, escalating a potential arms race that would endanger the world but enrich weapons manufacturers. Special Presidential Envoy in the Department of the Treasury, Marshall Billingslea, recently announced that the United States is willing to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in a new arms race, mimicking the strategy it used in the 1980s against the Soviet Union. As a result, even during the pandemic, business is booming for American weapons contractors.

“The national security state has done everything they can to keep the U.S. involved in that war,” remarked Horton, “If Trump had listened to his former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, we’d be on year three of an escalation with plans to begin talks with the Taliban next year. Instead Trump talked to them for the last year-and-a-half and has already signed a deal to have us out by the end of next May.”

“The same factions and profiteers who always oppose withdrawal of troops are enthusiastic about the ‘Bountygate’ story at a time when President Trump is trying to advance negotiations with the Taliban and when he desperately needs to deliver on 2016 campaign promises and improve his sinking electoral prospects,” said Leon.


If Russia is paying the Taliban to kill Americans they are not doing a very good job of it. From a high of 496 in 2010, U.S. losses in Afghanistan have slowed to a trickle, with only 22 total fatalities in 2019, casting further doubt on the scale of their supposed plan.

Ironically, the United States is accusing the Kremlin of precisely its own policy towards Russia in Syria. In 2016, former Acting Director of the C.I.A. Michael Morell appeared on the Charlie Rose show and said his job was to “make the Russians pay a price” for its involvement in the Middle East. When asked if he meant killing Russians by that, he replied, “Yes. Covertly. You don’t tell the world about it. You don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say, ‘We did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow.”

Like RussiaGate, the new scandal has had the effect of pushing liberal opinion on foreign policy to become far more hawkish, with Biden now campaigning on being “tougher” on China and Russia than Trump would be. Considering that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently set their famous Doomsday Clock — an estimation of how close they believe the world is to nuclear armageddon — to just 100 seconds to midnight, the latest it has ever been, the Democrats could be playing with fire. The organization specifically singled out U.S.-Russia conflict as threatening the continued existence of the planet. While time will tell if Russia did indeed offer bounties to kill American troops, the efficacy of the media leak is not in question.

How the Media Used the Bounty Scandal to Stop the ‘Threat’ of Peace in Afghanistan
July 02nd, 2020 - This is not a column defending Donald Trump. Across my career, I have said more positive words about the scolex family of intestinal tapeworms than I have said about Donald Trump. (Scolex have been shown to read more.)

No, this is a column about context. When The New York Times reports anonymous sources from the intelligence community say Russia paid Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers, context is very important.

Some of that context is that Mike Pompeo said, “I was the CIA director – We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses.” So we know for certain that U.S. intelligence agencies lie to you and me. We saw it with WMD, and we might be seeing it again now.

But that’s not the context I’m referring to ... We could talk about the context of the fact that the Taliban does not need to be paid to kill American soldiers because their entire goal for the past twenty years has been to kill American soldiers. Paying them a bounty would be like offering the guy sleeping with your wife twenty bucks to sleep with your wife.

But that’s not the context I’m referring to ... We could talk about the fact that the U.S. has been funding the Taliban for years! Yes, we fund them, sometimes arm them, and then fight them. This is barely a secret. So for all intents and purposes, the U.S. does the same thing our corporate media is now accusing Russia of doing (with no proof).

But that’s not the context I’m referring to ... No, the context I’m referring to is how our military industrial complex (with the help of our ruling elite and our corporate media) have stopped Trump from pushing us toward the brink of peace. …Yes, the brink of peace.

Now, I’m not implying Trump is some kind of hippy peacenik. (He would look atrocious with no bra and flowers in his hair.) No, the military under Trump has dropped more bombs than under Obama, and that’s impressive since Obama dropped more bombs than ever before.

However, in certain areas of the world, Trump has threatened to create peace. Sure, he’s doing it for his own ego and because he thinks his base wants it, but whatever the reason, he has put forward plans or policies that go against the military industrial complex and the establishment war-hawks (which is 95 percent of the establishment).

And each time this has happened, he is quickly thwarted, usually with hilarious propaganda. (Well, hilarious to you and me. Apparently believable to people at The New York Times and former CIA intern Anderson Cooper.)

I know four things for sure in life. Paper beats rock. Rock beats scissors. Scissors beat paper. And propaganda beats peace. All one has to do is look at a calendar.

Trump has essentially threatened to create peace or pull U.S. troops out of a war zone in three countries – North Korea, Afghanistan, and Syria. Let’s start with Syria.

April 4, 2018: President Trump orders the Pentagon to plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

This cannot be allowed because it goes against the U.S. imperial plan. So what happens within days of Trump’s order?

April 7, 2018: Reports surface of a major chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria.

What are the odds that within days of Trump telling the Pentagon to withdraw, Bashar al-Assad decides to use the one weapon that will guarantee American forces continue attacking him? Assad may not be a chess player, but I also don’t think he ate that many paint chips as a kid. And sure enough, over the past two years we’ve now heard from four whistleblowers at the Organization for The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) saying the so-called chemical attack didn’t happen. (Notice that the number “four” is even bigger than the numbers “one,” “two,” and “three.”)

But establishment propaganda beats peace any day and twice on Sunday. The false story succeeded in keeping America entrenched in Syria.

The DPRK
Let’s move on to North Korea. As you surely know, Donald Trump “threatened” to create peace with the hermetic country. Simply saying he would attempt such a thing sent weapons contractor stocks tumbling—one of the many reasons peace had to be stopped.

Feb 27, 2019: Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un meet in Vietnam.

The summit fails, and reports begin emerging that Mike Pompeo and John Bolton succeeded in napalming any progress.

March 15, 2019: Pompeo and Bolton deny derailing North Korea nuclear talks.

From The Nation, “There were reports from South Korea that the presence at the talks of John Bolton, Trump’s aggressively hawkish national-security adviser, helped torpedo the talks.“

But just destroying the peace talks wasn’t enough. The American people needed some good, solid propaganda to reassert the idea that Kim Jung Un was a dastardly bloodthirsty dictator.

March 30, 2019: The New York Times reports North Korea executed and purged their top nuclear negotiators.

Yes, apparently Kim Jung Un must’ve fed his top diplomats to his top alligators. Then, two months later we learn…

June 4, 2019: The fate of the North Korean negotiator “executed” after the failed summit “grows murkier” with new reports that he’s still alive.

One would have to say that his being alive does indeed make the report that he’s dead “murkier.” Within the next day or two it becomes quite clear the diplomat is very much in the land of the living. But the propaganda put forward by The New York Times and many other outlets has already done its job.

Far more people saw the reports that the man had been murdered than saw the later retraction. And to this day, the Times has not removed the initial article saying he was executed. Exactly how wrong does propaganda have to be, to warrant an online deletion? Dead versus alive is a pretty binary designation. And now we get to the outrage du jour, and it’s a bombshell!

Bounties!
May 26, 2020: Pentagon commanders begin drawing up options for an early Afghanistan troop withdrawal, following Trump’s request.

June 16, 2020: “President Donald Trump confirmed in public for the first time his administration’s plans to cut the U.S. military troop presence in Germany from its current level of roughly 35,000 to a reduced force of 25,000.” – ForeignPolicy.com

June 26, 2020: The New York Times reports Russia paid the Taliban to attack U.S. troops. (According to anonymous sources from an intelligence community that proudly admits they lie to us all the time, sometimes just to amuse themselves.)

So when this story first came out, I thought, “You know, Trump has been stopped from withdrawing troops in the past by ridiculous propaganda that seems to land like a giant turd right after he announces his intentions. Maybe I’ll check what happened in the days preceding this jaw-dropping story.”

So just days after Trump goes against the military industrial complex and against the ruling establishment by announcing he’ll be withdrawing about a third of our troops from Germany, and just weeks after announcing an early withdrawal from Afghanistan, a seemingly mind-blowing story drops about Russia paying the Taliban to kill American troops.

This serves to remind everyone what a threat Russia is (so we better put more troops in Germany!) and serves to keep us in Afghanistan (because screw those Russian-funded Taliban!).

Look, I’m not saying Trump is a hero or a great guy or even a man who wants peace. I’m not even saying he’s a man. He very well may be a giant blood-sucking leech in a human skin suit. (A poorly tailored human skin suit.)

All I’m saying is the timing doesn’t add up. Either these landmark stories that destroy every chance of peace are false (in fact we’ve already proven two out of three of them are false), or peace has exceedingly, ridiculously, laughably bad timing.

Every American Should Watch Abby Martin's Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy
June 29, 2020 - Abby Martin’s new documentary, “Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy,” is a tour de force, a must watch for every American seeking a holistic understanding of American’s longest-running war,

 

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The Living Force
The Taliban's political chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, warned the US that an appropriate decision will be made if the American forces fail to pull out of Afghanistan according to the agreed timetable.

Taliban Warn of Action If US Refuses to Leave Afghanistan on Schedule - World news - Tasnim News Agency

Taliban Warn of Action If US Refuses to Leave Afghanistan on Schedule

July, 26, 2020 - In an interview with Tasnim, Abdul Ghani Baradar said the Doha agreement between the Taliban and the US entails the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan under a 14-month timetable.

“The results of implementation of the Doha agreement with the US have been positive so far. In the first stage, the US announced it has evacuated five military bases, and the number of American troops has been reduced to 8,600, as this process continues,” he added.

“However, if the foreign forces do not leave Afghanistan on schedule, the Islamic Emirate will make the necessary decisions,” the Taliban’s political chief warned.

On intra-Afghan talks for the peace process in Afghanistan, Baradar underlined that there is no hidden agreement between the group and the US.

The Taliban insist that the Afghan government “should release the Islamic Emirate prisoners according to the Doha agreement to prepare the ground for the launch of intra-Afghan negotiations”, he said, denying reports that the Taliban have submitted a new list of prisoners to the Kabul government.

“The release of all 5,000 Taliban prisoners is the precondition for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar stated.

Asked about the Taliban’s push to take full power in Afghanistan, he said the group is after the establishment of an inclusive Islamic administration, but does not seek a monopoly of power.

“All Afghans have the right to be involved in serving and safeguarding the Islamic establishment and their country,” he concluded.

A few days ago, the Taliban said they were prepared to hold peace talks with the Afghan government next month straight after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, provided a continuing prisoner swap has been completed.

The Taliban’s political spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said on Twitter on Thursday that the Taliban were ready to release the remaining Afghan security force prisoners in their custody, as long as Kabul freed all Taliban inmates "as per our list already delivered" to authorities.

The prisoner-exchange issue, agreed to under a deal between the US and the Taliban, has proved a major sticking point ahead of peace talks.

The Afghan government is supposed to release up to 5,000 Taliban fighters, while the armed group has pledged to free 1,000 Afghan security forces in their custody, according to the US-Taliban agreement.

Deal or no deal: Intra-Afghan talks hang by a thread as Kabul, Taliban set conditions

Members of the Taliban delegation gather ahead of the signing ceremony with the United States in the Qatari capital Doha, on February 29, 2020. (File/AFP)

July 25, 2020 - Afghanistan’s government said on Saturday that there remained an opportunity for peace in the war-ravaged country, but that the Taliban needed to shun violence first to engage in direct talks with Kabul.

“There is an opportunity for peace, provided that the Taliban abandon violence and agree to direct negotiations with the Afghan government,” Sediq Seddiqi, chief spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, told Arab News.

His comments came a day after US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that intra-Afghan talks had “never” been as close as they currently were.

“This is an important moment for Afghanistan and for the region — perhaps a defining moment,” Khalilzad, who struck a historic deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar in late February this year, said on Friday while addressing a virtual event organized by the Washington-based US Institute of Peace.

On Thursday, the Taliban announced, for the first time, a timetable for the start of talks with Kabul after delaying them twice due to pre-conditions set by the group and Ghani’s government.

Confirming the reports, Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office, said that the talks could start after Eid Al-Adha, which will be celebrated by Muslims across the world in 10 days, as long as “Kabul freed the remaining Taliban inmates,” the list for which is with the government.

Ghani’s government, which was sidelined from the Qatar talks, has refused to free hundreds of Taliban prisoners, as demanded by the group, considering over 4,000 militants have already been released from Afghan jails in recent months, and said that the Taliban needed to stop committing violence “to show their sincerity” for the talks.

“The release of more than 4,000 Taliban prisoners ... created this opportunity and should be considered a big step and must be reciprocated by the Taliban ceasing violence. The world and the Afghan people want peace and are tired of war,” Seddiqi said.

The Taliban, for their part, freed nearly 1,000 government inmates as part of the prisoner exchange program outlined in the Qatar accord which, according to the agreement, should have been completed by the end of March to pave the way for the departure of all foreign troops from Afghanistan by next spring.

However, despite Khalilzad’s optimism that the talks could materialize soon, some Afghan analysts believe the Taliban’s insistence on further releases, and the government’s emphasis on a halt in insurgent activity, could block dialogue.

“Both sides have repeated their past pre-conditions. Unless there is leniency from them, it is tough to be optimistic like Khalilzad has been,” Taj Mohammad, a Kabul-based analyst and a former journalist, told Arab News.

Nasratullah Haqpal, a political analyst for Central and South Asian affairs, agreed, adding that the delay in the start of the intra-Afghan talks was putting pressure on both Khalilzad and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who appointed Khalilzad to the role two years ago.

US President Donald Trump, who is standing for re-election in November, is keen to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan after 19 years of war, despite opposition from several former and current US generals over the move, and from Ghani, who is in his second term of office following last year’s controversial elections.

Haqpal said Khalilzad and some other US diplomats had been “putting pressure on Ghani” to free the remaining Taliban prisoners and engage in talks with the Taliban, while “Ghani was against the peace process … because it endangers his power and presidency.”

With mistrust on all sides and each using the peace process to its advantage, Haqpal said there would be no clarity on the start of the peace talks until the US presidential elections.

Until then, we will not have any tangible developments,” he told Arab News.
Mohammad said that, instead, there could be further escalation of violence in the coming months as both sides “seek to use the supremacy in the battlefield for their advantage on the negotiations table” when and if the talks start.

There has been a surge in attacks and counter-attacks from the Taliban and Afghan government in recent months, causing hundreds of casualties on both sides with Sediqqi saying earlier this month that the “intensification of violence by the Taliban lately,” which also claimed civilian lives, “damages hopes for the start of the talks and stable peace in the country.”

He did not give an estimate of casualties sustained by government forces. However, official data released last month showed that hundreds of army and police personnel died during Taliban attacks in June.

The Taliban has rejected the claims, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid blaming Kabul for several strikes which “led to the fatalities among non-combatants.”

U.S. sends envoy to press for peace talks in Afghanistan
July 25, 2020 - Washington has dispatched a special envoy for Afghanistan to press for peace talks between the government and Taliban fighters, with the diplomat scheduled to visit Kabul on a trip with stops in five nations, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad departed on Friday to travel to Doha, Kabul, Islamabad, Oslo and Sofia, the department said in a statement.

The United States is drawing down its troops in Afghanistan under an agreement struck in February with the Taliban.

The agreement aimed to pave the way for formal peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government, and Khalilzad’s task is to try and bring both sides to the table.

Khalilzad plans to press for a deal on prisoner exchanges and a reduction in violence, two issues that have hampered progress toward starting peace talks.

“Although significant progress has been made on prisoner exchanges, the issue requires additional effort to fully resolve,” the State Department said in its statement.

On Wednesday, Khalilzad condemned an attack by Afghan government forces that killed 45 people, including civilians, in airstrikes against Taliban fighters in a western province bordering Iran.
 
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