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Gawker - The logo and the company name change, but business stays the same. The mercenary syndicate formerly known as Blackwater has raked in more than half a billion dollars from U.S. contracts to thoroughly fail at stemming the terrorist-supported trade in Afghan opium, according to a new government report.
That report, part of a larger investigation by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on how the U.S spent an allocation of $66 billion in Afghanistan, notes that AcademiBlackwater's latest name, after a series of changes to rehabilitate its public imagehas racked up hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to train, equip, and coordinate an Afghan counternarcotics force that's spun its wheels as the country's farmers continue to pump out more opium than any other nation on earth.
The watchdog news site District Sentinel offers additional detail and context on the sweetheart deal:
Between 2002 and 2013, Academi received $569 million from the Pentagon for counternarcotic operationsa sum that accounted for 32 percent of all money spent on contractors involved in drug interdiction.
Other major defense and security companies like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon also did counternarcotics work in Afghanistan but none won bids worth half the value of the contracts secured by Academi.
the national security investments, Afghanistan is still the world's
leading producer of opium. In a report released last December,
SIGAR said that "Afghan farmers are growing more opium than
International Business Times - The United States has likely reached a grim but historic milestone in the war on terror: 1 million veterans injured from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But you haven't heard this reported anywhere else. Why? Because the government is no longer sharing this information with the public.
All that can be said with any certainty is that as of last December more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics since returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the monthly rate of new patients to these facilities as of the end of 2012 was around 10,000. Beyond that, the picture gets murky. In March, VA abruptly stopped releasing statistics on non-fatal war casualties to the public. However, experts say that there is no reason to suspect the monthly rate of new patients has changed.
VA ceased to disclose this data despite President Obamas second-term campaign pledge that his administration would be open and transparent. Absent information about the number of soldiers that have sought government medical help and about the types of injuries they had, policymakers, Capitol Hill and health care professionals may be hamstrung in making decisions about funding for crucial veterans' health programs and the treatments and diagnostic tools that should be researched and targeted. The reliability of future military strategies could be in jeopardy as well.
Common Dreams - The public should expect more U.S military casualties in Afghanistan, the top commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) recently warned, in the latest sign that, despite U.S. claims, the war is not actually over.
"All of us as commanders have reminded our senior leadership ... the war in Afghanistan has not ended, [just] the combat mission for NATO," General Philip Breedlove told Stars and Stripes, according to an article published Thursday.
"Its hard to say, but we are going to continue to have [U.S.] casualties" in Afghanistan, Breedlove continued, according to journalist Carlo Munoz. "It is going to be unavoidable."
Trevor Timm, Guardian - The holiday headlines blared without a hint of distrust: End of War and Mission Ends and U.S. formally ends the war in Afghanistan, as the US government and Nato celebrated the alleged end of the longest war in American history. Great news! Except, that is, when you read past the first paragraph: the fighting is as intense as it has ever been since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, according to the Wall Street Journal. And about 10,000 troops will remain there for the foreseeable future (more than we had a year after the Afghan war started). Oh, and theyll continue to engage in combat regularly. But other than that, yeah, the war is definitely over.
This is the new reality of war: As long as the White House doesnt admit the United States is at war, were all supposed to pretend as if thats true. This ruse is not just the work of the president. Members of Congress, who return to work this week, are just as guilty as Barack Obama in letting the public think were Definitely Not at War, from Afghanistan and Somalia to the new war with Isis in Iraq and Syria and beyond.
Thirteen years on, the near limitless war authorization Congress passed for the Afghanistan war remains in place, with no sign that Congress wants to even debate revoking it.
51% Want All U.S. Troops out of Afghanistan next year
Troops may stay in Afghanistan
American troops protecting
the poppy fields of Afghanistan
One of 18 photos obtained by LA Times
US Marines in Afghanistan sport Nazi flag
War is obsolete. The last time someone surrendered was Japan and that was 60 years ago. The Afghans will never surrender. We will just get tired and come home. - Ted Turner
How to tell you're no longer an empire
John Mueller, Foreign Affairs: An al Qaeda computer seized in Afghanistan in 2001 indicated that the groups budget for research and weapons of mass destruction, almost all of it focused on primitive chemical weapons work, was some $2,000 to $4,000.
before it was liberated by the U.S. military.
US troop levels the Afghan war - 2003 through the planned increase - laid alongside US troop levels in Vietnam during 1960-1965
1. The planning of 9-11 was done in hotels and apartments in Germany and Spain, and flight schools in the United States. Even Paul Pillar, former CIA deputy chief for counter-terrorism will tell you that an al Qaeda base in Afghanistan would not significantly increase threats to the United States.
2. If the Taliban had control of Afghanistan, it would likely not allow al Qaeda in. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. president's guy in Afghanistan, will tell you the same.
3. The Taliban would not necessarily gain full control of Afghanistan if the United States left. It never had it before, and appears unlikely to be able to take it now. These three points, as Robert Naiman has pointed out, make the leap from US withdrawal to an al Qaeda attack on the United States quite a large one.
4. Occupying and bombing Afghanistan is actually making us less safe. It is enraging people against the United States, building the Taliban and other resistance.
5. The occupation is also damaging the rule of law. Our engagement in this illegal enterprise makes it more difficult to prevent other nations from engaging in wars of aggression.
6. The occupation is not benefiting the Afghan people. It is not protecting their rights or their lives. It is brutally taking their lives with bombs and imprisoning them without charge or trial or the rights of prisoners of war.
7. The Taliban is made up of poor people fighting in order to eat. They need aid, diplomacy, jobs, education, and resources, not bombs and troops and mercenaries. We're paying tens of thousands of Afghans to fight as mercenaries. We could pay them to rebuild their country and have money to spare.
8. That we are supposedly succeeding against al Qaeda when arguments are needed to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, but supposedly failing against al Qaeda when it's time to continue or escalate wars is insulting, not credible.
9. The citizens of the United States oppose the war, and it's our money and our kids, and our country being placed in danger of blowback.
10. The people of Afghanistan, according to an ABC News poll, want the United States to withdraw. It's their country, and you cannot impose democracy on them without obeying their majority opinion.
11. If we've been through eight years of this and not been able to even devise a rough description of what a "success" would look like, what are the chances that it will be identified and achieved in year nine?
12. It's called the graveyard of empires for a reason.
13. Our states' militias, the national guard, are needed at home and cannot constitutionally be sent abroad to fight for empire.
14. US soldiers signed up to defend the United States, not to commit war crimes in distant lands.
15. There is nothing worse than war that could conceivably take its place. Killing people is the worst thing there is.
David Swanson is the
author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency
and Forming a More Perfect Union"
Asia Times - [An] intelligence assessment shared by Moscow reveals that almost half of the US supplies passing through Pakistan is pilfered by motley groups of Taliban militants, petty traders and plain thieves. The US Army is getting burgled in broad daylight and can't do much about it. Almost 80% of all supplies for Afghanistan pass through Pakistan. The Peshawar bazaar is doing a roaring business hawking stolen US military ware, as in the 1980s during the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. This volume of business will register a quantum jump following the doubling of the US troop level in Afghanistan to 60,000.
AFGHANISTAN: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED?
PROGRESS REPORT In a press conference, President Bush said, "I think we're making progress in Afghanistan" -- days after President Hamid Karzai was the subject of an attempted assassination plot. The Interior Ministry said the Taliban, nearly vanquished from the country in 2001, admitted to launching the attack. These rounds of violence are the latest in what has been an eroding situation over recent years. . .
2007 was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001, with 6,000 killed in the country. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, who commands U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said violence in 2008 "may well reach a higher level than it did in 2007," as insurgents pour in from Pakistan. "This year won't be different," he said. The attempted assassination of Karzai "came as the latest sign of a trend" that the insurgency in Afghanistan "is spreading from the Taliban stronghold of the south to the central and northern regions of the country," Christian Science Monitor reported this week. Furthermore, "there is no security force in Afghanistan that people trust," according to member of parliament Ramazan Bashardost. He added that, after a recent attack, "the security forces fled the area before the ordinary people did." Afghanistan also has rates of illiteracy "among the highest in the world," a "weak and corruption-ridden government," and still retains the world's largest opium poppy crop.
According the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, "Western countries have failed to deliver $10 billion of nonmilitary assistance pledged to Afghanistan over the last six years and the United States, by far the biggest donor, is responsible for half of the shortfall." Funding for Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which Bush "has called the leading edge of stabilization efforts," is "ad hoc and comes from so many sources that congressional investigators were unable to determine how much has been spent," a House Armed Service Committee report said last week. Overall, 42 percent of Afghans rate U.S. efforts in Afghanistan positively," down from 68 percent in 2005 and 57 percent last year, according to a December ABC News poll.
AFGHAN ANTI-CORRUPTION CHIEF IS DRUG DEALER
JUSTIN HUGGLER, INDEPENDENT, UK - Afghanistan's new anti-corruption chief has a shady past. Izzatullah Wasifi served nearly four years in a US prison for trying to sell heroin to an undercover agent in Las Vegas for $65,000. It is not the ideal CV for a man appointed to root out corruption in the country that is overwhelmingly the world's biggest supplier of opium, from which heroin in refined.
UN CHIEF: NATO CANNOT DEFEAT TALIBAN BY FORCE
GUARDIAN - NATO "cannot win" the fight against the Taliban alone and will have to train Afghan forces to do the job, the UN's top official in the country warned yesterday. "At the moment NATO has a very optimistic assessment. They think they can win the war," warned Tom Koenigs, the diplomat heading the UN mission in Afghanistan. "But there is no quick fix." In forthright comments which highlight divisions between international partners as NATO battles to quell insurgency, Mr Koenigs said that training the fledgling Afghan national army to defeat the Taliban was crucial. "They [the ANA] can win. But against an insurgency like that, international troops cannot win."
JUST WHAT AN AFGHAN FARMER NEEDS
PR WATCH - Hill & Knowlton will head "a complex $3.8M PR effort" for the U.S. State Department, "targeting Afghan citizens and stakeholder groups to dissuade Afghan farmers from cultivating poppies and boosting global drug trade." Poppy production has soared since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Afghanistan provided 86 percent of the world's heroin in 2005, and "planting has significantly increased in 2006," according to a State Department official. Hill & Knowlton will "deploy communications through seven Afghan provinces" and "build capability" within the Agriculture, Interior and Counter-narcotics Ministries, by providing "communications professionals" and developing each ministry's own communications office. "Foreign and domestic media will be brought along" on poppy eradication missions, and "alternative livelihood efforts" will be promoted in the PR campaign. Current messages include, "Growing poppies is against Islam and harmful for the reputation of Afghanistan." Previous U.S.-funded PR work, by the Rendon Group and others, has been called costly and ineffective by Afghan officials.
OUR FORGOTTEN COLONY
PROGRESS REPORT - In a visit last month to Afghanistan, President Bush depicted the country as an unqualified success story, describing it as "inspiring." The reality is much more complicated and troublesome. A report released this month by the Council on Foreign Relations provides the grim details. The Council describes a country "challenged by a terrorist insurgency that has become more lethal and effective and that has bases in Pakistan, a drug trade that dominates the economy and corrupts the state, and pervasive poverty and insecurity."
Last year "was the deadliest [year] in rebel violence since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001." With the country on the verge of becoming "a disastrous situation," the United States is withdrawing troops and disbursements of financial assistance are declining. Counter-terrorism expert Steven Simon predicts, "There will likely be a crescendo of violence, focused largely on Kabul, this summer." It's time to face reality and change course.
Even the Bush administration "has now admitted that the insurgency [in Afghanistan] is growing and becoming more effective." Attacks "have increased in lethality, with increased use of tactics seen in Iraq, including suicide bombings, which...have quadrupled in the past year, and improvised explosive devises, whose use has doubled." . . . Some experts attribute the spike in violence to "a vast canvas of weakly governed and unprotected territory in which drug traffickers, feuding tribesmen and opportunistic criminals -- as well as Taliban gunmen on motorbikes and mysterious suicide bombers -- operate with increasing ease." Last year "1,600 people, including 91 U.S. troops, were killed...more than double the total in 2004." Violence is expected to increase further as "insurgents will try to test the NATO forces that are moving in to take over from more seasoned US military troops.
In 2005, Afghanistan produced 87 percent of the world's opium. With the exception of 2001, when coalition forces deposed the Taliban, opium production has steadily increased since 1995. Last year, the export value of the illicit opium was $2.7 billion, accounting for more than 50% of the Afghan economy. About 2 million Afghans (about 9% of the population) is involved in opium production. It's not hard to understand why. The average yearly gross income for an opium-growing family ($1800) is about nine times Afghanistan's average per capita GDP ($226). Ultimately, "efforts to stabilize Afghanistan will fail if the licit economy does not expand fast enough to provide enough employment, income, and investment to more than balance the loss of income from opiates."
The key to economic expansion in Afghanistan is reconstruction. In 2002-2003, per capita economic assistance in Afghanistan "was far below all Balkan operations, East Timor, and Iraq, and even below Namibia and Haiti" during the first two years of stabilization operations in those countries. . . One big problem: "much of the increase in aid has gone to the security sector, which has cost far more than projected." Richard Holbrooke, former Ambassador to the UN, noted, "With so much at stake, it is surprising that the administration asked for a pittance (about $40 million) for Afghan reconstruction in its recent supplemental, after the State Department and the U.S. Embassy requested about 10 times as much. Still worse, Congress compounded the lowered funding request by cutting the appropriation to $4 million."
A United Nations report concluded last year that Afghanistan remains one of the world's least developed countries, ranking 173rd out of 178 countries surveyed. For every 1,000 babies born in Afghanistan, 142 die before their first birthday. An Afghan woman dies in pregnancy every half-hour. Overall life expectancy is estimated at just under 42 years. Three-quarters of adults are illiterate and few girls go to school. But no problem haunts the country more than its displaced peoples - the UN estimates four million Afghans are refugees in Pakistan and Iran, and another two million are uprooted in their own country. The total, a fifth of the population, represents the largest refugee crisis in the world.
NY TIMES - Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, the source of most of the opium and heroin on
BACK AGAIN: THE RENDON GROUP TO SPIN AFGHANISTAN
DAILY SPIN - "The Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group to counsel and coordinate communications for Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. "The U.S., according to the New York Times, wants to bolster the leadership of Karzai by promoting 'visible signs of reconstruction.' The paper reports that Karzai's government, in recent weeks, has issued 'choreographed announcements about hundreds of schools and clinics to be built or rehabilitated in the next few months.' Karzai and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the country's defacto CEO, made a media splash on April 17 with a ceremony to celebrate the planting of 850,000 trees as part of the 'greening of Kabul' campaign." But Afghanistan is far from the success story that the Bush administration has been projecting, according to a recent New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh. An unpublished report commissioned by the Pentagon found that "the victory in Afghanistan was not, in the long run, a victory at all," Hersh writes.
DISINFOPEDIA - The Rendon Group is a secretive public relations firm that has assisted a number of U.S. military interventions in nations including Argentina, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Panama and Zimbabwe. Rendon's activities include organizing the Iraqi National Congress, a PR front group designed to foment the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
In May 1991, then-President George Bush, Sr. signed a presidential finding directing the CIA to create the conditions for Hussein's removal. The hope was that members of the Iraqi military would turn on Hussein and stage a military coup. The CIA did not have the mechanisms in place to make that happen, so they hired the Rendon Group to run a covert anti-Saddam propaganda campaign. Rendon's postwar work involved producing videos and radio skits ridiculing Saddam Hussein, a traveling photo exhibit of Iraqi atrocities, and radio scripts calling on Iraqi army officers to defect. . . According to ABC, Rendon came up with the name for the Iraqi National Congress and channeled $12 million of covert CIA funding to it between 1992 and 1996. Writing in The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh says the Rendon Group was "paid close to a hundred million dollars by the CIA" for its work with the INC.
MS NEWS - Female performers in an Afghan province have been banned from performing on television and radio. According to Reuters, female entertainers have been declared un-Islamic in the Southeastern province. . . Earlier this year, for the first time in over a decade a video with footage of a famous Afghan female singer was broadcast on public television. The footage of the female performer came just a few weeks after the approval of Afghanistan's new constitution that endorses equal rights for women and men. However, Afghanistan's Supreme Court protested the video, stating that they were opposed to women singing. From 1992-1996, during Afghanistan's civil war, the Islamic mujahadeen did not allow images of women to be broadcasted on television. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, they banned television altogether
IRIN - Less than one percent of the money requested by US president George W Bush, in an overall funding request of US $87 billion to cover post-war activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, would go towards Afghan reconstruction, the representative of a leading NGO in the country said on Wednesday. . . A sum of just US$ 800 million has been earmarked for reconstruction in Afghanistan, forcing CARE to promptly issue a press statement, following the budget's announcement on Monday evening, suggesting that more priority appeared to be attached to Iraq - a country with at least some semblance of a physical infrastructure in place - than to Afghanistan
MEET YOUR NEW ALLIES
[Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum is a nasty piece of work, an Afghan warlord and drug lord who easily qualifies as an international war criminal. He'll be visiting Washington soon and you can expect the media to overlook his seamy side, perhaps giving the general a makeover much as the National Geographic did describing a piece by its writer Robert Young Pelton]
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC - Though Dostum's name is almost always preceded in print by the seemingly oxymoronic "brutal warlord," Pelton paints a more benign portrait, calling the general "gentle" and "shy." . . . Dostum's appointment [to the new government] was met with understandable controversy, given his initial opposition to the interim government and his reputation for political infidelity - a reputation Pelton disputes. "Afghanistan is a collection of alliances. It's like Survivor on steroids," says Pelton. "You don't get to the top by being a traitor or by undermining people or backstabbing people. You get to the top by forming people around you who trust and support you." Among those people who came to trust and support Dostum were the 12 Green Berets assigned to the general. Pelton spent much of his several-week stay in their company and was "blown away" by what he saw.
[Now here is an excerpt from a document filed in federal District Court by lawyers for John Walker Lindh to support their motion that he be released from jail pending his trial on charges of conspiring with Al Qaeda to kill Americans]
JOHN WALKER LINDH FILING: In early November 2001, troops of the State of Afghanistan defending a battle line against Northern Alliance advances in the Takhar region retreated toward Kunduz. Mr. Lindh walked without rest for about two days, covering approximately 50 miles through mountainous terrain before arriving in Kunduz. Upon arrival, he was exhausted, severely dehydrated and in physical and psychological shock that impaired his ability to speak. On approximately Nov. 24, 2001, Mr. Lindh and others surrendered their weapons to troops under the command of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum and were driven by truck to the fortress at Qala Jangi near Mazar-i-Sharif.
At Qala Jangi, Mr. Lindh was held prisoner by Dostum's forces. Dostum and his troops have a reputation for massacring, raping and looting prisoners. That reputation was known to Mr. Lindh and others. On or about Nov. 25, 2001, Mr. Lindh was seated on the ground in the area around the Qala Jangi fort with his hands bound behind him. At that time, he heard an explosion. When Mr. Lindh attempted to run, he was hit by shrapnel or bullets and fell to the ground, where he lay for some hours until he was helped into the basement of the fort by other prisoners.
Mr. Lindh remained in the Qala Jangi fort basement for about seven days until Dec. 1, 2001. During that time, Mr. Lindh had almost no food and very little drinking water. While Mr. Lindh was in the basement, Dostum's soldiers threw grenades through ventilation ducts, killing prisoners below.
At one point, Dostum's soldiers poured oil or diesel fuel down a duct into the basement. About 5 to 10 minutes later, Dostum's soldiers lit the fuel and also poured it into another area of the basement, in which prisoners were more tightly packed. Many prisoners died from the fire. Dostum's soldiers also fired large rockets into the basement through a ventilation shaft, killing many prisoners.
Toward the end of the week, Dostum's soldiers directed ice cold water through the ducts to flood the basement. As the water rose, Mr. Lindh was able to stand up with the help of other prisoners to avoid drowning. Around Mr. Lindh, other prisoners who could not stand were drowned. Wounded, starved and freezing, Mr. Lindh emerged from the fort on Dec. 1, 2001. He was dizzy and numb from the events and apparently still had shrapnel or bullets imbedded in his body.
YURY RAZGULAYEV, PRAVDA, November 2001: The Northern Alliance . . . have weaker funding sources, so they were earning their income from selling drugs. General Dostum had a factory producing heroin.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR - As the 1989 to 1995 civil war ground on, Dostum enjoyed an increasingly ferocious reputation. According to Ahmed Rashid's book, "Taliban," he once had one of his own soldiers - accused of stealing - tied to the treads of a tank and rolled to his death. In one Taliban attempt to take Mazar-e Sharif in 1997 - and again when they were retreating last fall - soldiers who might have surrendered or been captured seem to have wound up in mass graves. Only last month, prisoners being held in a jail here were found near starvation . . .
[DOSTUM] WAS suspected of earning huge profits by exporting drugs via Uzbekistan" - Cooley, Unholy Wars
ASIA TIMES, August 27, 1997 - The analytical unit of the Russian Federal Security Bureau recently issued a classified intelligence report on the current situation in the war-torn former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. The report pins the primary blame for the present aggravation of the military-political situation in the republic on the powerful Afghan warlords, and the Uzbeki warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum in particular . . . Why were Dostum's henchmen interested in perpetuating a destabilized Tajikistan? Simple, say specialists from the FSB: The Afghan warlords are interested in continuation of the civil war in Tajikistan because the violence and unrest facilitates the task of smuggling huge amounts of drugs into the republic and from there to Russia, Europe and North America. The report specifically emphasizes that drug trafficking is a primary source of income for different warring factions in Afghanistan. More importantly, of course, drug trafficking supplements the personal income of the leaders from the various Afghan factions -- including Taliban officials.