Friday, June 26, 2009

Drugs, secrets, deaths and enemies

First, a little house keeping: This blog, transmitting out of for two years now, is now being mirrored at (Big thank you to the good people at rabble.) The format is still the same - an emphasis on aspects of the war that are not reported on the front pages coupled with a tendency to quote rather than summarize, yet also to draw in the facts as well as plenty of parallels and recollections. However, until I have figured out images for the rabble version, there may be more graphics at the blogspot version.

Today, rather unusually for this blog, we play catch-up with a series of info snatches:

More dead civilians
From Reuters reports on NATO's doings in Helmand (where British forces predominate in the NATO mission):

HELMAND, June 24 - An Afghan civilian was shot dead by a NATO-led patrol on Sunday after he ignored signals to stop while driving his car towards the patrol near Babaji district, the alliance said in a statement. (link)
NATO in Khost province (an American-run affair):
KHOST, June 24 - NATO troops shot dead an Afghan civilian in a car in Khost province in the southeast after the car failed to stop following a warning, the alliance said. (link)
And in the war in Pakistan:
US drones kill scores of people in Pakistan tribal region
Jeremy Page and Zahid Hussain - The Times

ISLAMABAD, June 25 - A US drone fired at least three missiles at a Taleban training camp in the Makeen area of the tribal region of South Waziristan on Tuesday morning, killing at least seven militants, including a commander called Niaz Wali, according to local officials.

Another drone then fired at least four missiles in the evening at a funeral prayer meeting for Wali, attended by hundreds of militants and local villagers, the officials said...

... estimates from local officials and residents for the two strikes combined ranged from 45 to 70.

Jalaluddin Mehsud, who lives near the area and knew many people at the funeral, told The Times that 67 people had been killed, including 18 civilians... (link)
Later reports say "more than 80 militants" died in the Waziristan incident but are vague about how many civilians were killed.

Harper government keeps costs secret
Canwest reports on the Harper government's approach to public relations:
In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country's taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security...

The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under Access to Information by the federal NDP for the military costs... (link)
Afghan public opinion is enemy number two
Pursuant to the previous post on this blog the other day: Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reports on an American unit in Kunar province as it tries to win hearts and minds:
[The company commander] faces two enemies in Afghanistan. The most obvious is the Taliban, whose fighters lurk in the mountains along the border. The other is the overwhelming frustration that Afghans feel toward U.S. forces.

Eight years of airstrikes, civilian casualties and humiliating house-to-house searches have left the Afghan people deeply suspicious of the U.S. troops who are supposed to be protecting them... (link)
Jaffe's assessment of Afghan opinion echoes that of many other observers, especially Pamela Constable of the Washington Post, who wrote in February:
The additional 17,000 troops the Obama administration is preparing to send to Afghanistan will face both an aggressive, well-armed Taliban insurgency and an unarmed but equally daunting foe: public opinion... (link)
A slight change of course?
The US appears to be adjusting its disastrous drug war policy for Afghanistan. To call it a reversal, as Reuters does, seems a bit of an exaggeration, since under the new strategy they will still be pursuing drug lords, thus marking poppy growers as targets in counterinsurgency efforts.
U.S. Reverses Afghan Drug Policy, Eyes August Vote

TRIESTE, Italy, Jun 27 (Reuters) -- Washington is to dramatically overhaul its Afghan anti-drug strategy, phasing out opium poppy eradication, the U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan told allies on June 27...

"We are not going to support crop eradication. We're going to phase it out," [Richard Holbrooke] he said. The emphasis would instead be on intercepting drugs and chemicals used to make them, and going after drug lords.

He said some crop eradication may still be allowed, but only in limited areas...

The head of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, told Reuters the old U.S. eradication strategy had been "a sad joke."

"Sad because many, many Afghan policemen and soldiers...have been killed and only about 5,000 hectares were eradicated, about 3 percent of the volume," Antonio Maria Costa said... (link)

1 comment: said...

I'm with you on this one - "Harper government keeps costs secret"
However, to be fair, there was another story a few days later with the following admission:
“The Defence Department admitted Wednesday that it was wrong to withhold the future cost of the war in Afghanistan on the basis that releasing it would violate national security …. “It was unnecessarily severed. It was a human error and we acknowledge that mistake,” military spokesman Jeremy Sales said in an interview….”
You've gotta admit it's pretty rare for someone to come out as clearly mistaken as this, no?