Afghan war, Australia, and NGO’s

This video from the USA is an anti-war speech by veteran Mike Prysner.

From Associated Press:

Cracks emerge in Australian unity on Afghan war

By ROD McGUIRK Associated Press

Posted: 10/18/2010 03:51:26 PM PDT
Updated: 10/18/2010 09:28:09 PM PDT

CANBERRA, Australia—Australia was opening its first parliamentary debate Tuesday on its nine-year military deployment in Afghanistan, after fractures appeared in the national commitment to the war, its strategy and objectives.

The three-day debate was unlikely to lead to any major policy change, because the major political parties have expressed their determination to stay the distance with the United States, Australia’s most important military ally.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard succumbed to pressure from the anti-war Greens party by agreeing to the parliamentary debate on Australia’s commitment of 1,550 troops to the conflict. Gillard relies on support from the Greens to rule since August elections gave no party a parliamentary majority.

It will be the first such debate on the Afghan deployment. In Australia the Cabinet commits the nation to war without any need to consult the parliament.

Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott both indicated that they would use their speeches Tuesday to maintain bipartisan support for the Australian mission in southern Uruzgan province, where Australian soldiers train an Afghan army battalion to take charge of provincial security. That mission is expected to take between two and four years.

But a lawmaker in Abbott’s Liberal Party, Mal Washer, and newly elected independent lawmaker, Andrew Wilkie, have announced that they agree with the Greens that Australian troops should be withdrawn.

Defense Minister Stephen Smith said the U.S.-led coalition had made a mistake in becoming distracted by the Iraq war and had taken too long to find the right strategy in Afghanistan. Smith’s Labor Party was not in power when Australia supported the 2003 Iraq invasion.

“It took us too long … to define what we had to achieve,” Smith told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. “That’s why political will, and the patience of domestic constituencies, is now an issue” in Australia, the U.S. and Europe.

A dozen members of group representing veterans and former service personnel opposed to both the Afghanistan and Iraq [wars] demonstrated outside Parliament House on Tuesday before the debate began.

“In the history of Australia at war, this in an important day—a war is being reviewed,” the group Stand Fast‘s spokesman Graeme Dunstan said.

Greens leader Bob Brown said most Australians now agreed that their troops should be withdrawn.

“Things are changing rapidly in Afghanistan, and I’m concerned about the lives and safety of Australian troops,” Brown told ABC. ….

Australia is the largest contributor of troops of any country outside NATO. Opinion polls show that Australian support of the war has slid as the Australian death toll has mounted to 21.

Hugh White, Australian National University’s Professor of Strategic and Defense Studies Center, said Gillard’s explanation that the troops were protecting Australians by preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists was “very unsatisfactory.”

Since U.S. led-forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, al-Qaida has created new bases in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that also pose terrorist threats to Australians, White said.

White said most people believe that “the core reason” Australia was in Afghanistan was because the United States wanted Australian troops there.

From CNN in the USA:

The death this month of British aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan and the subsequent discussion about aid worker safety have fueled a row between the United States and nongovernmental organizations about how to deliver aid and do development work in conflict zones like Afghanistan and Pakistan. …

NGOs have been operating in Afghanistan for more than 30 years with minimal protection from armed security guards. They are not getting security from “deterrence,” but rather from the acceptance of the local population, which helps protect them and advises about the security situation.

In areas of Afghanistan still rife with insurgent activity, NGOs lament that the distinction between them and the military is being blurred, hindering their ability to develop critical trust from the community.

Afghanistan, War And The Media: Deadlines And Frontlines: book review here.

USA: Paul Rieckhoff: After nearly a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 2 million Americans have served, a trillion dollars have been spent and yet only 3 percent of Americans have war on their radar this election. 

But unlike Congress, our troops don’t have the luxury of quitting before their mission is complete. They can’t cut out early when lives are on the line. For a country in the midst of two wars, Washington’s recent commitment to ensuring these men and women have the tools to successfully transition home has been half-hearted: here.

USA: Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past: here.

The New York Times Hypes the Afghanistan War, Again: here.

Britain: Cameron & Clegg say we’ll keep sending soldiers to kill and die in the pointless, unwinnable Afghanistan war: here.

Red Cross: War casualties soar in south Afghanistan: here.

Afghans say Nato ‘as bad as the Taliban’: here.

A local official told CNN that two civilians were killed by NATO-led forces in Afghanistan on Saturday: here.

7 thoughts on “Afghan war, Australia, and NGO’s

  1. Dear Friend,

    If the Kabul government can’t be trusted to run a legitimate election, they certainly can’t be trusted with U.S.-bought weapons and a massive U.S. taxpayer-funded military force. Our latest Rethink Afghanistan video shows they can’t be trusted with either.

    Our video features footage obtained from our network of contacts in Afghanistan and clearly shows widespread vote fraud during the recent parliamentary elections. These images show that the Kabul government is blatantly illegitimate, and that means our soldiers are fighting and dying to prop up a gang of election-stealing frauds. And while these crooks steal elections, U.S. policymakers are spending our tax dollars to create a huge military force that these thugs can use to stay in power.?

    Help us send a message to our elected officials: we don’t want another dime of U.S. money spent on Afghan military forces until the Kabul government addresses rampant election fraud.

    Please sign our petition, and join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter as we fight to bring our troops home.


    Derrick Crowe, Robert Greenwald
    and the Brave New Foundation team


  2. Afghan govt throws out nearly a quarter of ballots

    Posted: Oct 20, 2010 10:44 AM Updated: Oct 20, 2010 8:24 PM

    Associated Press Writer

    KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Afghanistan has thrown out nearly a quarter of ballots cast in last month’s parliamentary elections because of fraud, but it is still far from clear whether the public will accept the results as fair.

    The full preliminary results from the Sept. 18 poll were released Wednesday after multiple delays as election officials struggled to weed out results from polling stations that never opened, along with bunches of ballots all cast for one candidate, or suspiciously split 50-50 between two people.

    After last year’s fraud-marred presidential election, the government wanted to prove to the Afghan people and international allies that it is not mired in corruption but making strides for reform.

    While findings indicate that cheating was pervasive, the rulings also show election officials were doing their job this time around – by keeping fraudulent ballots out of the totals.

    “They’ve been doing a moderately good job at detecting the fraudulent ballots and removing them. That’s a positive thing,” said Andy Campbell, the Afghanistan director for the National Democratic Institute, a U.S.-based election-monitoring group.

    It’s a major change from last year’s presidential vote, when election commissioners dumped obviously fraudulent ballots into the tally to help President Hamid Karzai avoid a runoff with his top challenger. It was only after drawn-out investigations that about a million ballots were thrown out – the majority of them for Karzai.

    The 2009 presidential election nearly derailed international support for Karzai, turning this year’s poll into a test of whether the government is committed to reforms seen as key for justifying NATO funding and troops.

    Election commission chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi said about 1.3 million votes were disqualified out of 5.6 million – or about 23 percent – because of ballot-box stuffing or manipulated totals.

    In many cases, commission officials discovered as they investigated suspicious totals that they came from voting sites that never opened on election day – which was marked by rocket attacks and insurgent takeovers of polling stations in many provinces.

    Other instances involved polling stations that submitted exactly 600 ballots – the precise number allotted to each station – or had the votes suspiciously split even for one or two candidates, said Abdul Ahmadzai, the commission’s chief electoral officer.

    But the ballot annulment may itself prompt cries of disenfranchisement. Voting was hardest to monitor in insecure areas, meaning many of the disqualified ballots likely came from the most contentious parts of provinces. And in many cases that also matches up with ethnic divisions, suggesting results could get weighted toward one ethnic group.

    In the province of Ghazni, hardly anyone voted in the volatile areas dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group, while people turned out in large numbers in areas primarily occupied by the Hazara ethnic group. Of the 11 seats in Ghazni, eight went to Hazaras.

    It was not immediately clear what the results released Wednesday would mean for the makeup of the 249-member parliament. Manawi said he did not have figures on how many of the winners were incumbents, though he said he believed it was about a 50-50 split between those who were returning and new representatives. An Associated Press count revealed about 73 incumbents, suggesting that about two-thirds of the representatives will be new.

    Though Karzai has repeatedly bypassed the parliament by issuing laws by decree, the legislative body remains one of the few checks on his power. A legislature loaded with Karzai allies could make it easier for the president to avoid opposition.

    A fraud investigation panel still needs to rule on more than 2,000 complaints deemed serious enough to affect results before they can be finalized, which could take weeks.

    In some provinces, the investigations could drastically change the results. In eastern Nuristan, for examples, Ahmadzai said it was nearly impossible to untangle the fraud and they eventually released the results they had since they knew the fraud panel was planning to probe nearly all the province’s voting sites.

    Some candidates may also be disqualified outright if the anti-fraud panel finds they were behind attempts to manipulate results. The election commission has referred 224 candidates to the panel for investigation because they appeared to be involved in cheating, Manawi said. About 2,500 candidates ran across 34 provinces.

    The commission had originally reported a lower turnout figure of about 4.3 million. That earlier figure was based on election day estimates and revised up when the actual tallies came in, said Ahmadzai.

    These sorts of mathematical shifts worried some observers.

    “What I’ve seen over the last elections, whenever figures don’t add up it can mean funny business, but often it means there was a loss of control,” said Martine van Bijlert, the co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a Kabul-based think tank.


    Associated Press Writer Amir Shah contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


  3. Soldier in Custody After Detainee Death

    (KABUL, Afghanistan) — A U.S. soldier is in custody after the shooting death Sunday of a Taliban insurgent in a holding cell at a jail in the Kandahar area. The U.S. has launched a full investigation in the matter. …

    Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


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