Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This article, by Martin Fletcher, was published iun the London Times, October 9, 2009
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan are depressed and deeply disillusioned, according to the chaplains of two US battalions that have spent nine months on the front line in the war against the Taliban.
Many feel that they are risking their lives -- and that colleagues have died -- for a futile mission and an Afghan population that does nothing to help them, the chaplains told The Times in their makeshift chapel on this fortress-like base in a dusty, brown valley southwest of Kabul.
"The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families," said Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division's 2-87 Infantry Battalion.
"They feel they are risking their lives for progress that's hard to discern," said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division's 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion. "They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through." The chaplains said that they were speaking out because the men could not.
The base is not, it has to be said, obviously downcast, and many troops do not share the chaplains' assessment. The soldiers are, by nature and training, upbeat, driven by a strong sense of duty, and they do their jobs as best they can. Re-enlistment rates are surprisingly good for the 2-87, though poor for the 4-25. Several men approached by The Times, however, readily admitted that their morale had slumped.
"We're lost -- that's how I feel. I'm not exactly sure why we're here," said Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, whose closest friend was shot dead by a renegade Afghan policeman last Friday. "I need a clear-cut purpose if I'm going to get hurt out here or if I'm going to die."
Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, has lost six colleagues and survived two roadside bombs. Asked if the mission was worthwhile, he replied: "If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don't."
The only soldiers who thought it was going well "work in an office, not on the ground." In his opinion "the whole country is going to s***."
The battalion's 1,500 soldiers are nine months in to a year-long deployment that has proved extraordinarily tough. Their goal was to secure the mountainous Wardak province and then to win the people's allegiance through development and good governance. They have, instead, found themselves locked in an increasingly vicious battle with the Taliban.
They have been targeted by at least 300 roadside bombs, about 180 of which have exploded. Nineteen men have been killed in action, with another committing suicide. About a hundred have been flown home with amputations, severe burns and other injuries likely to cause permanent disability, and many of those have not been replaced. More than two dozen mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been knocked out of action.
Living conditions are good -- abundant food, air-conditioned tents, hot water, free internet -- but most of the men are on their second, third or fourth tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, with barely a year between each. Staff Sergeant Erika Cheney, Airborne's mental health specialist, expressed concern about their mental state -- especially those in scattered outposts -- and believes that many have mild post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "They're tired, frustrated, scared. A lot of them are afraid to go out but will still go," she said.
Lieutenant Peter Hjelmstad, 2-87's Medical Platoon Leader, said sleeplessness and anger attacks were common.
A dozen men have been confined to desk jobs because they can no longer handle missions outside the base. One long-serving officer who has lost three friends this tour said he sometimes returned to his room at night and cried, or played war games on his laptop. "It's a release. It's a method of coping." He has nightmares and sleeps little, and it does not help that the base is frequently shaken by outgoing artillery fire. He was briefly overcome as he recalled how, when a lorry backfired during his most recent home leave, he grabbed his young son and dived between two parked cars.
The chaplains said soldiers were seeking their help in unprecedented numbers. "Everyone you meet is just down, and you meet them everywhere -- in the weight room, dining facility, getting mail," said Captain Rico. Even "hard men" were coming to their tent chapel and breaking down.
The men are frustrated by the lack of obvious purpose or progress. "The soldiers' biggest question is: what can we do to make this war stop. Catch one person? Assault one objective? Soldiers want definite answers, other than to stop the Taliban, because that almost seems impossible. It's hard to catch someone you can't see," said Specialist Mercer.
"It's a very frustrating mission," said Lieutenant Hjelmstad. "The average soldier sees a friend blown up and his instinct is to retaliate or believe it's for something [worthwhile], but it's not like other wars where your buddy died but they took the hill. There's no tangible reward for the sacrifice. It's hard to say Wardak is better than when we got here."
Captain Masengale, a soldier for 12 years before he became a chaplain, said: "We want to believe in a cause but we don't know what that cause is."
The soldiers are angry that colleagues are losing their lives while trying to help a population that will not help them. "You give them all the humanitarian assistance that they want and they're still going to lie to you. They'll tell you there's no Taliban anywhere in the area and as soon as you roll away, ten feet from their house, you get shot at again," said Specialist Eric Petty, from Georgia.
Captain Rico told of the disgust of a medic who was asked to treat an insurgent shortly after pulling a colleague's charred corpse from a bombed vehicle.
The soldiers complain that rules of engagement designed to minimise civilian casualties mean that they fight with one arm tied behind their backs. "They're a joke," said one. "You get shot at but can do nothing about it. You have to see the person with the weapon. It's not enough to know which house the shooting's coming from."
The soldiers joke that their Isaf arm badges stand not for International Security Assistance Force but "I Suck At Fighting" or "I Support Afghan Farmers."
To compound matters, soldiers are mainly being killed not in combat but on routine journeys, by roadside bombs planted by an invisible enemy. "That's very demoralising," said Captain Masengale.
The constant deployments are, meanwhile, playing havoc with the soldiers' private lives. "They're killing families," he said. "Divorces are skyrocketing. PTSD is off the scale. There have been hundreds of injuries that send soldiers home and affect families for the rest of their lives."
The chaplains said that many soldiers had lost their desire to help Afghanistan. "All they want to do is make it home alive and go back to their wives and children and visit the families who have lost husbands and fathers over here. It comes down to just surviving," said Captain Masengale.
"If we make it back with ten toes and ten fingers the mission is successful," Sergeant Hughes said.
"You carry on for the guys to your left or right," added Specialist Mercer.
The chaplains have themselves struggled to cope with so much distress. "We have to encourage them, strengthen them and send them out again. No one comes in and says, 'I've had a great day on a mission'. It's all pain," said Captain Masengale. "The only way we've been able to make it is having each other."
Lieutenant-Colonel Kimo Gallahue, 2-87's commanding officer, denied that his men were demoralised, and insisted they had achieved a great deal over the past nine months. A triathlete and former rugby player, he admitted pushing his men hard, but argued that taking the fight to the enemy was the best form of defence.
He said the security situation had worsened because the insurgents had chosen to fight in Wardak province, not abandon it. He said, however, that the situation would have been catastrophic without his men. They had managed to keep open the key Kabul-to-Kandahar highway which dissects Wardak, and prevent the province becoming a launch pad for attacks on the capital, which is barely 20 miles from its border. Above all, Colonel Gallahue argued that counter-insurgency -- winning the allegiance of the indigenous population through security, development and good governance -- was a long and laborious process that could not be completed in a year. "These 12 months have been, for me, laying the groundwork for future success," he said.
At morning service on Sunday, the two chaplains sought to boost the spirits of their flock with uplifting hymns, accompanied by video footage of beautiful lakes, oceans and rivers.
Captain Rico offered a particularly apposite reading from Corinthians: "We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."
This article was posted to Military Families Against the War, August 23, 2009
The ‘Naming the Dead’ ceremonies, held in Edinburgh’s Princes Street and Glasgow’s George Square, came only hours after it emerged the son of a SAS hero is one of the latest British soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan.
Serjeant Paul McAleese, 29, of 2nd Battalion The Rifles, died alongside Private Jonathan Young, 18, of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment in Helmand province on Thursday.
Sjt McAleese's father John McAleese, who lives near Falkirk, was at the centre of the dramatic raid that ended a siege on the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980.
He was watched by millions of television viewers as windows were blown out moments before the building was stormed and 19 hostages rescued from fanatical gunmen.
The deaths of Sjt McAleese and Private Young took the number of UK troops killed in the conflict to 206. They came as voters went to the polls in Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Defence said the troops were on a routine patrol not connected with election security. It later emerged that Sjt McAleese died in a secondary explosion after going to the aid of Private Young, who was killed in the initial blast.
Sjt McAleese leaves a widow, Jo, and a son, Charley, who was born a week before his deployment to Afghanistan
This article was posted to Raw Story, August 19, 2009
The U.S. military said Wednesday six American troops were killed in Afghanistan, as militants killed six election workers amid growing fears on the eve of the presidential election that insurgents would mar the vote.
Two troops were killed in gunfire in the south on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, while a third was killed in an unspecified hostile attack. The U.S. also said a roadside bomb Tuesday in the south killed two troops, while another died of noncombat-related injuries. No other details were released.
The deaths bring to at least 32 the number of American troops killed in the country this month, a record pace. Forty-four U.S. troops died in Afghanistan last month, the deadliest month of the eight-year war.
Attacks in the countryside killed six election workers, officials said Wednesday, one day before Afghanistan decides whether President Hamid Karzai deserves a second five-year term. In Kabul, three Taliban militants took over a bank, and gunfire and small explosions reverberated throughout the capital. Police stormed the bank and killed the three militants.
Violence has increased across the country as the Taliban have ramped up attacks ahead of Thursday's election, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.
Fearing that violence could dampen turnout, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday saying that news organizations should avoid "broadcasting any incidence of violence" between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day "to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people."
Afghanistan's active local media - the country has a host of newspapers, radio stations and television news outlets - condemned the statement as stifling freedom of the press that was supposed to have returned after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.
In preparation for the election, U.S. Marines have been engaged in a delicate balancing act between rooting out militants and protecting civilians. Under Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, the military is seeking to build up its relations with locals.
CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan, accompanying a company of Marines in Helmand province, reports that U.S. forces are walking a "tightrope of death" in trying to ensure the safety of voters.
Roads in Helmand province are "literally awash" with improvised explosive devices as the Marines try to clear areas of militants, writes Logan.
Karzai faces some three dozen presidential candidates at the polls, including his former foreign minister and top challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
Afghanistan's electoral commission said all but one of the country's 364 districts had received voting materials. Polls open at 7 a.m. Thursday.
In a region generally considered safe, four election workers were killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb about 20 miles outside the capital of northeastern Badakhshan province. Officials said the four were delivering materials to a polling station.
Another two election workers were killed in Shorabak district of Kandahar province on Tuesday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, said Abdul Wasai Alakozai, the chief electoral officer for southern Afghanistan.
A remote-controlled roadside bomb exploded early Wednesday near a vehicle taking voting supplies to a poll in the Chaparhar district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the governor's spokesman. The driver was slightly wounded, but the voting materials were not damaged, he said. Security forces arrested the man who detonated the bomb, he said.
The Interior Ministry says about a third of Afghanistan is at high-risk of militant attack, and that no polling stations will open in eight Afghan districts under control of militants.
The three armed men took over a branch of the Pashtani bank early Wednesday in a section of Kabul's old city still in ruins from the country's 1990s civil war. Police surrounded the building, exchanging gunfire with the attackers.
Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, head of Kabul's criminal investigations unit, said police eventually stormed the building and killed three "terrorists." Few civilians were in the area because government ministries and businesses were closed Wednesday in observance of Afghanistan's independence from British rule.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said 20 armed suicide attackers wearing explosive vests had entered Kabul and that five of them battled police. The claim could not be confirmed, but the Taliban in recent months have unleashed several attacks involving teams of insurgents assaulting government or high-profile sites.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the rise in insurgent violence in Afghanistan reflected a deliberate campaign to intimidate voters. A shopkeeper near Wednesday's gunfire attack in Kabul, Abdul Jalal, said that if violence persisted into Thursday, he and his wife would not vote.
"Tomorrow we plan to go the polling center," said Jalal. "But if it was like today, we will not vote. Elections are a good thing for Afghanistan, but security is more important."
Attacks nationwide have increased in recent days from a daily average of about 32 to 48, said Brig. Gen. E. Tremblay, the spokesman for the NATO-led force. Even with the increase, Tremblay said that insurgents do not have the ability to widely disrupt voting at the country's 6,500 or so polling sites.
When you're looking purely at statistics ... they're not going to be able to attack even 1 percent of the entire polling sites in this country," he said on Tuesday.
U.N. Secretery-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged all Afghans to vote and said that by participating in the election Afghans will help "bring fresh vigor to the country's political life, and ultimately reaffirm their commitment to contribute to the peace and prosperity of their nation."
The next president will face challenges on several fronts: the rising Taliban insurgency, internal political divisions, ethnic tensions, unemployment, the country's drug trade and corruption.
Karzai is favored to win, but if he does not get more than 50 percent of Thursday's vote he and the second-place finisher will face off in an October run-off. Polls show Abdullah in second place with around 25 percent support and Karzai's support around 45 percent.
Preliminary official results of the presidential election should be announced sometime Saturday evening.
Fearing that violence may dampen turnout, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday demanding that news organizations to avoid "broadcasting any incidence of violence" between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day "to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people."
In other violence, a roadside bomb killed a district government leader and a tribal elder early Wednesday in the Registan district of Kandahar, said Ghulam Ali Wahadat, a police commander in southern Afghanistan.
Another roadside bomb in Tirin Kot, in Uruzgan province, killed three policemen, said Ali Jan, a provincial police official.
This article, by Jason Straziuso, was posted to Yahoo News, August 11, 2009
KABUL – U.S. and NATO deaths from roadside and suicide bomb blasts in Afghanistan soared six-fold in July compared with the same month last year, as militants detonated the highest number of bombs of the eight-year war, figures released Tuesday showed.
Three U.S. Marines and a Polish soldier died in the latest attacks, setting August on course to surpass the record 75 deaths U.S. and NATO troops suffered from all causes in July.
U.S. commanders have long predicted that 2009 would be the deadliest of the war, after President Barack Obama ordered an additional 21,000 troops here to try to quell the rising Taliban insurgency. A record 62,000 U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan.
U.S., NATO and Afghan troops are working to protect voting sites around the country so Afghans can take part in the country's second-ever direct presidential election Aug. 20. Taliban militants have vowed to disrupt the elections, and attacks are on the rise around Afghanistan, where roadside bombs are now the cause of the majority of U.S. and NATO deaths.
Last month 49 coalition troops died in bomb attacks, a more than six-fold increase from the eight killed in roadside and suicide bomb attacks in July 2008, according to figures from the U.S.-based Joint IED Defeat Organization.
The number of incidents from IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, soared to 828, the highest level of the war and more than twice as many as in July 2008. Of those 828 incidents, 410 bombs were found and neutralized and 310 were ineffective. But 108 bombs were effective, triple the 36 effective attacks a year ago, an increase that suggests militants are getting better at placing and detonating bombs.
"The major challenge today for us is roadside bombs and suicide attacks," said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for Afghanistan's Defense Ministry. Azimi said that Taliban militants have figured out that roadside bombs are an efficient and effective method of attack. "They stay safe while the other side suffers."
Though roadside bombs target U.S., NATO and Afghan troops, the blasts have killed a record number of civilians this year as well. Nine Afghans riding in a vehicle died in a bomb blast Tuesday in Kandahar province, said Daud Farhad, a doctor at Kandahar's Mirwais hospital.
"The enemy has moved to increase the use of indiscriminate IEDs against our forces as well as the Afghan people," said U.S. Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. He said IED attacks are up in part because of increased operations by NATO troops.
Afghan soldier deaths from IEDs are also up sharply, Azimi said, but had no figures. A roadside bomb in Zabul killed two Afghan soldiers Tuesday, said Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Zazai.
At least 14 NATO troops, including at least seven Americans, have died in bomb blasts this month.
Some 4,000 U.S. Marines who stormed into southern Helmand province last month were confronted with dozens of bombs buried in Afghanistan's dirt roads. Militants have become more sophisticated at hiding the bombs, and insurgents have begun planting several in small areas, troops say.
British troops operating in Helmand have also suffered greatly from roadside bombs. A record number of British troops — 22 — died in Afghanistan last month, including 12 from explosions, raising an outcry in Britain about a lack of helicopters and other equipment.
More than 230 coalition troops were wounded in bomb attacks last month, more than triple the 67 wounded last July, U.S. figures show. Joint Task Force Paladin, the counter-IED unit at the main U.S. base at Bagram, predicted earlier this year that IED attacks would rise 50 percent in Afghanistan in 2009.
A recent U.N. report said at least 1,013 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year from insurgents bombs, compared with 818 for the same period in 2008 — an increase of 24 percent.
Even as bomb blasts spike in Afghanistan, such attacks have dropped precipitously in Iraq.
No coalition troops died in Iraq last month from bomb attacks, only the second month that's happened since the military began keeping statistics in June 2003. March 2009 was the other month. The number of IED incidents in Iraq fell from 557 in July 2008 to 166 last month. Only nine of those incidents were classified as effective attacks.
The NATO command in Afghanistan said Tuesday that three U.S. troops died in southern Afghanistan in separate "hostile fire incidents." It did not disclose the exact location of the attacks. The first died of wounds suffered in an incident that occurred Saturday, another died Sunday and the third died Monday, a NATO statement said.
At least 27 foreign troops, including 18 Americans, have died in August, a record pace, according to an Associated Press count. July, when 75 troops died, was the deadliest month in Afghanistan for U.S. and NATO forces since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Forty-four Americans died last month.
A Polish soldier and 22 Taliban insurgents also died in the latest violence.
Polish Capt. Daniel Ambrozinski, 32, disappeared Monday after his foot patrol of about 50 Afghan and Polish troops came under fire, Poland's Defense Ministry said. His body was found early Tuesday in Ajristan, in eastern Ghazni province.
Afghan officials said clashes and airstrikes in the south of the country killed nearly two dozen Taliban fighters. Twelve insurgents died in airstrikes and clashes with Afghan and Western forces on the border of Ghazni and Zabul provinces, said Wazir Khan, a local official. The militants were killed late Monday inside a compound, Khan said.
Ten Taliban were killed in Uruzgan Monday night in a fight with Afghan and foreign troops, Zazai said.
Elsewhere in the south, British troops seized a quarter ton of opium and killed seven militants in a major air assault involving 300 troops and 18 U.S., U.K. and Australian helicopters, officials said. The troops found 550 pounds (250 kilograms) of wet opium.
This article, originally published by IslamOnline.net, was posted to UrukNet.info, August 10, 2009
CAIRO — Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, inflicting record losses on the US-led troops and forcing the US to change its strategy, the top US commander in Afghanistan admitted.
"It's a very aggressive enemy right now," Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who will soon present his assessment of the war to Washington, told the Wall Street Journal on Monday, August 10.
He noted that Taliban are now advancing from their traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan to threaten formerly stable areas in the north and west.
McChrystal said Taliban are launching a record number of sophisticated attacks on Afghan and foreign forces, causing significant number of causalities.
On Monday, Taliban fighters launched a major attack on a provincial government and police headquarters near the capital Kabul.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed six suicide attackers mounted the offensive and 21 people had been killed.
"We've got to stop their momentum, stop their initiative," said McChrystal. "It's hard work."
The US commander warned that troops casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
Twelve American troops have already been killed in August.
July was the deadliest month for the US-led foreign troops since the 2001 invasion, with 76 killed.
Over 1,301 from the foreign soldiers were killed and thousands others injured in the fighting with Taliban, which has been engaged in protracted guerrilla warfare against foreign forces since its ouster in 2001. Strategy Shift The top US commander in Afghanistan admitted that these developments have forced a change in the American strategy.
They are now pushing more troops to heavily populated areas like the southern city of Kandahar.
"Helmand is a sideshow. Kandahar is the capital of the south [and] that's why they want it."
Thousands of US Marines in addition to British forces have been trying to flush out Taliban from the southern province of Helmand, a major Taliban bastion.
McChrystal said the shifts are designed to better protect Afghan civilians.
"It's important and so we're going to do whatever we got to do to ensure that Kandahar is secure."
One senior defense official, briefed on McChrystal assessment, said the US will need more troops if security conditions in the north and west continue to deteriorate.
"At the end of the day, it's all about the math," he said.
"The demand and the supply don't line up, even with the new troops that are coming in."
There are now about 101,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, with Americans numbering about 62,000.
The number of American troops is expected to reach 68,000 by year end.
McChrystal said the new strategy had to show results within roughly 12 months to prevent public support for the war from evaporating in both the US and Afghanistan.
"This is a period where people are really looking to see which way this is going to go.
"It's the critical and decisive moment."
This article, by John Byrne, was posted to UrukNet.info, August 10, 2009
About that country where the Sept. 11 attackers were actually given safe harbor: We’re losing.
The top American commander in Afghanistan declared that the Taliban are winning in Afghanistan in a startling interview published Monday — a striking contrast to the "Mission Accomplished" rhetoric of the Bush Administration as regards Iraq.
His remarks appear carefully tailored to lower expectations and shift public opinion in support of operations in the war-torn country where few foreign powers have ever seen victory. The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when they were routed by a US invasion.
Currently, US operations in Afghanistan cost taxpayers about $4 billion a month. That comes to roughly $133 million per day, or $5.5 million per hour.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, admitted that the Islamic fundamentalist group had gained the "upper hand" in Afghanistan, where the US has had a presence for the last eight years. Critics of the Bush Administration bemoaned the Administration’s diversion of troops to Iraq in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, saying that the reduced level of troops fostered a climate which allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda to regroup.
McChrystal’s interview also appeared designed to augment support for increasing troop levels in parts of Afghanistan. Since President Barack Obama took office, the Pentagon has increased the number of US troops in the country. The strategy described suggests a "hearts and minds" approach which favors securing civilian areas rather than focusing on full-frontal engagement with militants.
"It’s a very aggressive enemy right now," the paper quoted Gen. McChrystal as saying. "We’ve got to stop their momentum, stop their initiative. It’s hard work."
The interview also quotes unnamed US officials arguing for a further increase in US troops.
"The U.S. will also need more troops if security conditions in north and west Afghanistan continue to deteriorate, the official" told the Journal.
"At the end of the day, it’s all about the math," the anonymous aide purportedly said. "The demand and the supply don’t line up, even with the new troops that are coming in."
McChrystal is calling for a mushrooming of troops in areas where the concentration of Afghan civilians are high, such as Kandahar, where the Taliban currently hold political sway.
But, he says, things are grim: Taliban forces are expanding their presence in areas beyond their usual bases in southern Afghanistan to areas north and west.
The general’s comments appear to contrast anonymous quotations published in Newsweek following the death of Talibani leader Baitullah Mehsud, who the CIA announced had been killed last week.
"Mehsud’s death means the tent sheltering Al Qaeda has collapsed," Newsweek quoted a purported Afghan Taliban intelligence officer as saying. "Without a doubt he was Al Qaeda’s No. 1 guy in Pakistan."
Twelve US troops have already been killed in Afghanistan this month.
McChrystal said he plans a "very significant" expansion of the Afghan army and national police — with a goal of doubling their size.
This article was posted to Press.TV, August 2, 2009
Following the bloodiest month for foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan, roadside bombs and ambushes have killed 9 more NATO troops in the war-ravaged country.
Three American troops were killed on Saturday when a roadside explosion ripped through an army convoy in the troubled southern Kandahar Province.
Meanwhile, two Canadian soldiers were also killed on Saturday in the same region where foreign troops have lost several grounds to the insurgents over the past months.
Also, a French soldier died after a deadly gun battle with militants north of the capital, Kabul.
Moreover, another three US soldiers died in an ambush in the volatile Wardak province on Sunday.
The US military confirmed the latest deaths, saying that the insurgents killed the troops with gunfire after attacking their military convoy.
July was the deadliest month for international forces since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Seventy-five foreign troops -- including 43 Americans -- were killed in militant attacks across Afghanistan particularly in the troubled southern and eastern provinces during the deadly month
This article, by Bronwen Roberts, was posted to Yahoo News, July 31, 2009
KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan's intensifying conflict killed more than 1,000 civilians in the first six months of 2009, an increase of nearly a quarter over the same period last year, the United Nations said Friday.
This year has been the bloodiest in a Taliban-led insurgency that has drawn thousands of international military reinforcements, most of them deploying into areas where a strong militant presence could prevent August 20 elections.
The boost in troop numbers -- now roughly 90,000 -- was one reason for the higher toll of 1,013 dead civilians, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Human Rights Unit.
Nearly 60 percent of the civilian deaths so far this year were caused by insurgents, 30 percent by pro-government military forces and the rest unattributable to any party to the conflict.
The same period last year saw 818 civilians killed in insurgency-linked violence. In the first six months of 2007, 684 were killed -- 41 percent by security forces and 46 percent by militants, it said in a report.
"The armed conflict intensified significantly throughout Afghanistan in 2008 and in the first six months of 2009, with a corresponding rise in civilian casualties and a significant erosion of humanitarian space," the unit said.
Reasons for the surge in violence were increased military operations in civilian areas, more complex insurgent attacks and a crackdown on extremists in neighbouring Pakistan that forced fighters into Afghanistan.
Militant activity was also sustained during the winter, unlike in previous years when there had been a lull in fighting, it said.
Almost a third of Afghanistan was now directly affected by insurgent activities with civilians bearing the brunt of the fighing, it added.
"In addition to the sharp increase in civilian deaths, vulnerable groups are also suffering in terms of destruction of vital infrastructure, loss of income and earning opportunities, and deterioration of access to essential services."
Most civilians were killed by insurgent bombs, called improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide attacks, the report said.
The widespread use of IEDs "contributes to a climate of fear and intimidation that has significant repercussions for Afghan civilians, including in particular in terms of loss of life and livelihoods," it said.
Militants often target security forces but with no regard for the impact of their operations on civilians, it said.
The unit also said that militants based themselves in civilian areas as part of "an active policy aimed at drawing a military response to areas where there is a high likelihood that civilians will be killed or injured."
A new trend was the use of bombs that could be magnetically attached to vehicles. Schools, particularly for girls, came under increasing attack with 16 IED explosions on school premises this year.
International air strikes killed just over 64 percent of those civilians killed in military action and 20 percent of all civilian deaths from January to June, the report said.
These figures were down slightly and followed efforts to minimise the impact of military operations on civilians, the report said.
Such killings by pro-government forces created a "strong feeling of anger and disappointment among the Afghan general public" which undermined support for the international community generally, it said.
More has to be done by all, in particular the armed opposition, to reduce the impact of operations and activities on civilians, the report concluded.
This article, by Laura MacInnis, was posted to Truthout, July 31, 2009
Geneva - The Afghan battlefield is spreading into residential areas where more people are being killed by air strikes, car bombs and suicide attacks, according to a U.N. report published on Friday.
The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of the armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007.
Commenting on the report, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.
"All parties involved in this conflict should take all measures to protect civilians, and to ensure the independent investigation of all civilian casualties, as well as justice and remedies for the victims," the South African said.
Taliban fighters and their allies were named responsible for 59 percent of bystander deaths, caused mainly by roadside blasts. The Afghan government and international forces were also faulted for errant air strikes that claimed hundreds of lives.
"Both anti-government elements and pro-government forces are responsible for the increase in civilian casualties," the human rights report said, arguing that tactical changes in the war had put more innocent people in the cross-fire.
A recent directive instructs U.S. forces to look for alternatives to continued fighting if they engage with the enemy in areas where civilians may be present, Lieutenant-Commander Christine Sidenstricker, spokeswoman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
"We are doing everything we can to eliminate civilian casualties wherever possible," she said.
Insurgents, who previously targeted the Afghan military and NATO troops with frontal attacks and ambushes, are now employing "guerrilla-like measures" in residential zones "to deliberately blur the distinction between combatants and civilians," the U.N. report said.
This shift, it said, is "what appears to be an active policy aimed at drawing a military response to areas where there is a high likelihood that civilians will be killed or injured." Further Casualties Likely
Afghan and international forces have launched more operations in areas where ordinary Afghans live, killing people and damaging homes, assets and infrastructure, the report said.
The United Nations warned that resistance to a U.S. troop surge and efforts to disrupt August elections [ID:nISL383254] could lead to more loss of life in Afghanistan, where war has been waged since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for having sheltered al Qaeda militants.
"Given the pattern of the conflict so far, further significant civilian casualties in the coming months are likely," the human rights report concluded.
The U.N. tolls are based on witness testimonies, military and local leader interviews, hospital visits, and photographic and film evidence as well as media and secondary-source reports.
The latest report said 200 civilians have been killed since the start of the year in 40 air strikes by pro-government forces. May was especially bloody, with 63 civilian deaths in one aerial bombardment and a total of 81 deaths over the month.
"While the number of deadly air strike incidents remains low overall, when they do occur they can claim a significant number of lives," the report said.
It said pro-government forces -- who until last year were responsible for the bulk of Afghan civilian deaths -- seemed to have clamped down on "force protection incidents" where civilians are killed after failing to follow instructions when nearing military convoys, sites or checkpoints.
This article, by Eric Schmitt and Jane Perlez, was published in the New York Times, July 22, 2009.
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is objecting to expanded American combat operations in neighboring Afghanistan, creating new fissures in the alliance with Washington at a critical juncture when thousands of new American forces are arriving in the region.
Pakistani officials have told the Obama administration that the Marines fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will force militants across the border into Pakistan, with the potential to further inflame the troubled province of Baluchistan, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
Pakistan does not have enough troops to deploy to Baluchistan to take on the Taliban without denuding its border with its archenemy, India, the officials said. Dialogue with the Taliban, not more fighting, is in Pakistan's national interest, they said.
The Pakistani account made clear that even as the United States recommits troops and other resources to take on a growing Taliban threat, Pakistani officials still consider India their top priority and the Taliban militants a problem that can be negotiated. In the long term, the Taliban in Afghanistan may even remain potential allies for Pakistan, as they were in the past, once the United States leaves.
The Pakistani officials gave views starkly different from those of American officials regarding the threat presented by top Taliban commanders, some of whom the Americans say have long taken refuge on the Pakistani side of the border.
Recent Pakistani military operations against Taliban in the Swat Valley and parts of the tribal areas have done little to close the gap in perceptions.
Even as Obama administration officials praise the operations, they express frustration that Pakistan is failing to act against the full array of Islamic militants using the country as a base.
Instead, they say, Pakistani authorities have chosen to fight Pakistani Taliban who threaten their government, while ignoring Taliban and other militants fighting Americans in Afghanistan or terrorizing India.
Such tensions have mounted despite a steady rotation of American officials through the region. They were on display last weekend when, during a visit to India, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said those who had planned the Sept. 11 attacks were now sheltering in Pakistan. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry issued an immediate rebuttal.
Pakistan's critical assessment was provided as the Obama administration's special envoy for the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday night.
The country's perspective was given in a nearly two-hour briefing on Friday for The New York Times by senior analysts and officials of Pakistan's main spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. They spoke on the condition of anonymity in keeping with the agency's policy. The main themes of the briefing were echoed in conversations with several military officers over the past few days.
One of the first briefing slides read, in part: “The surge in Afghanistan will further reinforce the perception of a foreign occupation of Afghanistan. It will result in more civilian casualties; further alienate local population. Thus more local resistance to foreign troops.”
A major concern is that the American offensive may push Taliban militants over the border into Baluchistan, a province that borders Waziristan in the tribal areas. The Pakistani Army is already fighting a longstanding insurgency of Baluch separatists in the province.
A Taliban spillover would require Pakistan to put more troops there, a Pakistani intelligence official said, troops the country does not have now. Diverting troops from the border with India is out of the question, the official said.
A spokesman for the American and NATO commands in Afghanistan, Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, said in an e-mail message on Monday that there was no significant movement of insurgents out of Afghanistan, and no indication of foreign fighters moving into Afghanistan through Baluchistan or Iran, another concern of the Pakistanis.
Pakistani and American officials also cited some positive signs for the alliance. Increased sharing of information has sharpened the accuracy of strikes against militant hide-outs by Pakistani F-16 warplanes and drones operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. And Pakistani and American intelligence operatives are fighting together in dangerous missions to hunt down fighters from the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas and in the North-West Frontier Province.
But the intelligence briefing clearly illuminated the differences between the two countries over how, in the American view, Pakistan was still picking proxies and choosing enemies among various Islamic militant groups in Pakistan.
The United States maintains that the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, leads an inner circle of commanders who guide the war in southern Afghanistan from their base in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.
American officials say this Taliban council, known as the Quetta shura, is sheltered by Pakistani authorities, who may yet want to employ the Taliban as future allies in Afghanistan.
In an interview last week, the new leader of American and NATO combat operations in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, paused when asked whether he was getting the cooperation he wanted from Pakistani forces in combating the Quetta shura. “What I would love is for the government of Pakistan to have the ability to completely eliminate the safe havens that the Afghan Taliban enjoy,” he said.
The Pakistani intelligence officials denied that Mullah Omar was even in Pakistan, insisting that he was in Afghanistan.
The United States asked Pakistan in recent years to round up 10 Taliban leaders in Quetta, the Pakistani officials said. Of those 10, 6 were killed by the Pakistanis, 2 were probably in Afghanistan, and the remaining 2 presented no threat to the Marines in Afghanistan, the officials said.
They also said no threat was posed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, an Afghan Taliban leader who American military commanders say operates with Pakistani protection out of North Waziristan and equips and trains Taliban fighters for Afghanistan.
Last year, Washington presented evidence to Pakistani leaders that Mr. Haqqani, working with Inter-Services Intelligence, was responsible for the bombing last summer of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed 54 people.
Pakistani officials insisted that Mr. Haqqani spent most of his time in Afghanistan, suggesting that the American complaints about him being provided sanctuary were invalid.
Another militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is also a source of deep disagreement.
India and the United States have criticized Pakistan for allowing Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, to be freed from jail last month.
The Pakistani officials said Mr. Saeed deserved to be freed because the government had failed to convince the courts that he should be kept in custody. There would be no effort to imprison Mr. Saeed again, in part because he was just an ideologue who did not have an anti-Pakistan agenda, the officials said.