More war in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Congressional testimony Tuesday by the senior US military commander and the US ambassador in Afghanistan has set the stage for a dramatic escalation of the war in that country and its expansion across the border into Pakistan: here.

This is a music video of an anti war song, called Ready to Die, by Pakistani rock band co-VEN.

Pakistan’s creeping coup being organised by the US: here.

The Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PCMLF) and the All-Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (APLF) jointly held a manifestation on January 13 at the Quetta Press Club to protest at safety inaction by Balochistan provincial authorities in coal mining, international union federation ICEM reports: here.

A report commissioned by the British Council reveals widespread dissatisfaction and frustration among Pakistani youth due to bleak economic prospects, great and deepening social inequality, a grossly inadequate education system and the indifference and corruption of the ruling elite: here.

German “Green” Joschka Fischer supports Afghan war: here. German original text: here.

USA: MARFA, Texas, Dec 7 (IPS) – Kernan Manion, a psychiatrist who was hired last January to treat Marines returning from war who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other acute mental health problems borne from their deployments, fears more soldier-on-soldier violence without radical changes in the current soldier health care system: here.

2 thoughts on “More war in Afghanistan and Pakistan

  1. Lawmakers slam office overseeing Afghan rebuilding

    Associated Press Writer

    FILE – In this March 26, 2009, file photo, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, speaks with The Associated Press during an interview at the Pentagon. The office has failed to hire enough staff, has issued too few audit and investigative reports, and may be losing sight of its mission, three senators say in a Dec. 8, 2009, letter to President Barack Obama.
    Haraz N. Ghanbari, FILE

    The U.S. office overseeing billions of dollars for Afghanistan’s rebuilding lacks leadership and focus at a time when aggressive, independent oversight of the country’s reconstruction is more important than ever, three senators told President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

    The office of the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, headed by retired Marine Corps Gen. Arnold Fields, has failed to hire enough staff, has issued too few audit and investigative reports, and may be losing sight of its mission, they say in a Dec. 8 letter to Obama.

    In a statement, Fields said the letter from Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., paints an inaccurate picture. The office “started from scratch with minimal funding,” Fields said, adding that he has formed an experienced team that is helping to improve the reconstruction effort.

    The inspector general’s office is responsible for monitoring a broad range of projects, including training of the Afghan army and police, and ensuring U.S. tax dollars are spent properly. The office was created by Congress in 2008, nearly seven years after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan.

    In their letter to Obama, obtained by The Associated Press, the senators don’t call for Fields’ resignation. But they do want the White House to conduct a thorough review of the office “to determine if improvements can be made to the organization.”

    The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The senators are members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

    The criticism of Fields’ office comes as the Obama administration is escalating the U.S. mission in Afghanistan to stabilize the government and defeat the Taliban insurgency. But corruption with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government and the primitive state of much of the country’s infrastructure have led to concerns the goals may not be met even with more money and people.

    According to the most recent quarterly report to Congress from Fields’ office, the U.S. has committed $39 billion for reconstruction programs in Afghanistan. That figure is expected to hit $50 billion in 2010.

    Without vigorous oversight by an experienced staff, the senators say, the rebuilding of Afghanistan will run into the same problems that occurred in Iraq, where nearly $50 billion was spent on reconstruction projects marred by waste and fraud.

    Fields’ office has “experienced significant, ongoing difficulty in recruiting adequate, qualified staff,” the letter states. Of particular concern is the inability to hire investigators and auditors working in the office overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction. As that effort winds down, those employees should be looking for new opportunities.

    But because of “the perception that the leadership and quality of work” in Fields’ office are not as robust, there’s little interest in moving there, the senators say.

    Fields says he is “perplexed” by that allegation. His office has hired employees from the Iraq office, but he also notes that he agreed “not to poach their staff.”

    He also says auditors and investigators are hired on merit and rejected the idea that his office simply absorb employees from another organization without considering their qualifications.

    They also find fault in the number of reports the office has done and the topics selected. Since Fields was sworn in July 2008, his office has issued 14 audits and inspection reports, the senators say. By comparison, the Iraq oversight office issued nearly 70 reports in its first 18 months.

    The senators say Fields’ office has chosen questionable subjects for review. A report issued in late October examined the role of women in Afghanistan’s recent presidential election when the office should be concentrating on contracting. The senators call the failure to set priorities for what the office examines a matter of “grave concern.”

    Fields said five more reports will be published in coming weeks and 13 other reviews of major programs and contracts are under way.

    He also defended the election report, saying Congress allotted $150 million for the promotion of gender equality in Afghanistan.

    To harness the experience of the Iraq oversight staff, McCaskill, Collins and Coburn recommend the two offices be combined with a single person in charge. Their letter doesn’t suggest any candidates for the post.

    Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has held that job since October 2004.

    Posted on Tue, Dec. 08, 2009 08:17 PM


  2. Beaten prisoner was questioned but not detained, top soldier says

    Chief of the Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk, middle, is flanked by Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard and Major-General Mark McQuillan as they appear at the Commons defence committee on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009.

    Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009. The Canadian Press

    Peter MacKay faces calls for his head after Chief of Defence Staff brushes off suggestion that 2006 incident proves government was aware of torture

    * Globe editorial: The record and the falsehoods
    * Former ambassadors condemn Ottawa’s attack on diplomat
    * Protest grows against Tories’ attack on Colvin

    Murray Brewster

    Ottawa — The Canadian Press Published on Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009 1:23PM EST Last updated on Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009 5:39PM EST

    The fury over the Afghan detainee controversy flared anew Tuesday with demands for Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s head following an unprecedented letter from 23 former ambassadors condemning the Harper government.

    The NDP demanded Mr. MacKay’s resignation, accusing him of misleading the House of Commons over what the government knew about the possible torture of prisoners handed over by Canadian troops – and what it did about the allegations.

    “MacKay has zero credibility,” MP Paul Dewar told a news conference. “The buck stops with MacKay and he has to go, and the Prime Minister must call a public inquiry into this cover-up.”

    The fresh furor came after the release of a letter signed by 23 ex-ambassadors that condemned Conservative attacks on the credibility of diplomat Richard Colvin, saying it threatens to cast a chill over Canada’s foreign service.

    Mr. Colvin testified before a Commons committee that Canadian officials were warned about possible torture in 2006 but took little or no action to halt the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities.

    A series of secret memos examined by The Canadian Press support his assertion and show the government placed more emphasis on writing key messages on how Canada respects human rights, rather than fixing the transfer arrangement.

    Mr. MacKay and others in the Conservative government have tried to discredit Colvin’s testimony. They accuse him of basing his reports on hearsay, and some have painted him as a dupe of Taliban propaganda.

    The main line of defence for the government has been that there is no evidence of Canadian-captured prisoners being abused by the Afghans prior to 2007.

    All opposition parties pounced on the government in the Commons in the wake of the letter, repeating demands for information and an inquiry. But the government ignored questions and criticism as the countdown to Parliament’s holiday recess approaches. Mr. MacKay and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have ruled out a public inquiry.

    Mr. Dewar said regardless of the government’s strategy, the critical issue of human rights will not go away over the Christmas break. He said a special House of Commons committee, where some of the most explosive revelations have been made, is contemplating holding public hearings over the break.

    Opposition parties have pointed to a June 2006 incident, in which a suspected Taliban was beaten by Afghan National Police, as proof that the Tory government knew of credible incidents of torture and of the dangers of transferring prisoners.

    “Our soldiers saw it first-hand, they took photographs, they did the right thing, it was reported up the chain of command,” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said.

    “What kind of Canadian government refuses to act on first hand accounts of their own troops?”

    Canada’s top military commander denied that Canadian soldiers captured the suspect and offered a qualified explanation of events.

    General Walter Natynczyk, the Chief of Defence Staff, told the House of Commons defence committee that Canadian troops questioned but did not detain the man, who was on the fringes of a battle.

    He said the man was released, but picked up almost immediately by Afghan police, who led him away and started beating him with their shoes. Troops then rescued the suspect from the Afghan police.

    Had Canadian soldiers captured the suspect, Gen. Natynczyk said, he would have been sent back to Kandahar Airfield and processed through a different system before being handed over to the Afghans.

    Notes from a military police officer suggest the prisoner was captured by Canadians and turned over to the Afghans and his account is backed up by the sworn testimony of two other officers.

    Gen. Natynczyk refused to say that the accounts of his soldiers were wrong, but said the military police officer wasn’t present when the incident happened.

    The general also skirted around the question of whether Canadian soldiers, who are either mentoring or acting as a security screen for Afghan forces, capture prisoners on the battlefield and transfer them directly to the Afghans.

    “If you have an Afghan operation and we are along with them, it’s their operation,” he said.

    During the June 2006 operation, Gen. Natynczyk said the “majority of the soldiers out there were Afghan army and it was their operation.”


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