NATO, US forces suffer deadliest month in Afghanistan

June was the deadliest month for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 fall of the Taliban and the second in a row in which casualties exceeded those in Iraq, official figures showed Tuesday.

Forty-nine soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the separate US-led coalition died in combat, attacks or accidents in June, according to an AFP tally based on military statements.

June accounted for more than 40 percent of the 122 deaths of foreign soldiers in Afghanistan during 2008, according to the independent website icasualties.org.

Most were killed by roadside bombs hitting their convoys or patrols.

ISAF spokesman General Carlos Branco said the figures should be seen in the context of rising numbers of international forces fighting a resurgent Taliban militia.

Read moreNATO, US forces suffer deadliest month in Afghanistan

Taleban ‘siege’ of Peshawar threatens Pakistan’s grip

Pakistan’s battle against the Taleban threatened to spiral out of control yesterday after Islamic militants extended their grip in the lawless North West Frontier region.

Emboldened by an increasingly weakened and demoralised security force, Taleban fighters moved in to the outskirts of the provincial capital. Peshawar, surrounding the city and placing it virtually under siege.

Army troops have increased patrols in the garrison areas and paramilitary soldiers carrying machineguns are posted at government buildings. But senior security officials said that militants, who now control the region’s main arterial roads, were in a position to cut off communications at will.

Police on the city’s outskirts have long given up patrolling at night for fear of attacks by militants, who are organised under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taleban, the group led by the notorious commander Baitullah Mehsud. Several officers have been killed in rocket attacks on police posts in recent months. “It is a highly alarming situation,” said a senior provincial government official.

The Taleban raided the main government hospital in the heart of the city last week, kidnapping 16 Christians and taking them to the Khyber Agency tribal region outside Peshawar. Although they were freed after a few hours, the incident heightened fears among non-Muslims.

The Khyber Agency, the supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan, has emerged as the new centre of Taleban activity. Ambushes on convoys have become more frequent.

Read moreTaleban ‘siege’ of Peshawar threatens Pakistan’s grip

The Coming Catastrophe?

Global Research Editor’s note

We bring to the attention of our readers David DeBatto’s scenario as to what might occur if one of the several contingency plans to attack Iran, with the participation of Israel and NATO, were to be carried out. While one may disagree with certain elements of detail of the author’s text, the thrust of this analysis must be taken seriously.

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By David DeBatto

David DeBatto is a former U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent, Iraqi war veteran and co-author the “CI” series from Warner Books and the upcoming “Counter to Intelligence” from Praeger Security International.

The finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iran

“Israel has said a strike on Iran will be “unavoidable” if the Islamic regime continues to press ahead with alleged plans for building an atom-bomb.” (London Daily Telegraph, 6/11/2008)

“Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany joined President Bush on Wednesday in calling for further sanctions against Iran if it does not suspend its uranium enrichment program.” Mr. Bush stressed again that “all options are on the table,” which would include military force. (New York Times, 6/11/2008)

We are fast approaching the final six months of the Bush administration. The quagmire in Iraq is in its sixth painful year with no real end in sight and the forgotten war in Afghanistan is well into its seventh year. The “dead enders” and other armed factions are still alive and well in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan again controls most of that country. Gas prices have now reached an average of $4.00 a gallon nationally and several analysts predict the price will rise to $5.00-$6.00 dollars per gallon at the pump by Labor Day. This, despite assurances by some major supporters of the decision to invade Iraq that the Iraq war “will pay for itself” (Paul Wolfowitz) or that we will see “$20.00 per barrel” oil prices if we invade Iraq (Rupert Murdoch).

One thing the Pentagon routinely does (and does very well) is conduct war games. Top brass there are constantly developing strategies for conducting any number of theoretical missions based on real or perceived threats to our national security or vital interests. This was also done prior to the invasion of Iraq, but the Bush administration chose not to listen to the dire warnings about that mission given to him by Pentagon leaders, or for that matter, by his own senior intelligence officials. Nevertheless, war gaming is in full swing again right now with the bullseye just to the right of our current mess – Iran.

It’s no secret that the U.S. is currently putting the finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iranian nuclear and military facilities. With our ground forces stretched to the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of the most likely scenarios involve a ground invasion. Not that this administration wouldn’t prefer to march into the seat of Shiite Islam behind a solid, moving line of M1 Abrams tanks and proclaim the country for democracy. The fact is that even the President knows we can’t pull that off any more so he and the neo-cons will have to settle for Shock and Awe Lite.

If we invade Iran this year it will be done using hundreds of sorties by carrier based aircraft already stationed in the Persian Gulf and from land based aircraft located in Iraq and Qatar. They will strike the known nuclear facilities located in and around Tehran and the rest of the country as well as bases containing major units of the Iranian military, anti-aircraft installations and units of the Revolutionary Guard (a separate and potent Iranian para-military organization).

Will this military action stop Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons? Probably not. It will probably not even destroy all of their nuclear research facilities, the most sensitive of which are known to be underground, protected by tons of earth and reinforced concrete and steel designed to survive almost all attacks using conventional munitions. The Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard will most likely survive as well, although they will suffer significant casualties and major bases and command centers will undoubtedly be destroyed. However, since Iran has both a functioning Air Force, Navy (including submarines) and modern anti-aircraft capabilities, U.S. fighter-bombers will suffer casualties as well. This will not be a “Cake Walk” as with the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 when the Iraqi Army simply melted away and the Iraqi Air Force never even launched a single aircraft.

Not even close.

If the United States attacks Iran either this summer or this fall, the American people had better be prepared for a shock that may perhaps be even greater to the national psyche (and economy) than 9/11. First of all, there will be significant U.S. casualties in the initial invasion. American jets will be shot down and the American pilots who are not killed will be taken prisoner – including female pilots. Iranian Yakhonts 26, Sunburn 22 and Exocet missiles will seek out and strike U.S. naval battle groups bottled up in the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf with very deadly results. American sailors will be killed and U.S. ships will be badly damaged and perhaps sunk. We may even witness the first attack on an American Aircraft carrier since World War II.

That’s just the opening act.

Israel (who had thus far stayed out of the fray by letting the U.S. military do the heavy lifting) is attacked by Hezbollah in a coordinated and large scale effort. Widespread and grisly casualties effectively paralyze the nation, a notion once thought impossible. Iran’s newest ally in the region, Syria, then unleashes a barrage of over 200 Scud B, C and D missiles at Israel, each armed with VX gas. Since all of Israel is within range of these Russian built weapons, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and virtually all major civilian centers and several military bases are struck, often with a result of massive casualties.

The Israeli Air Force orders all three squadrons of their F-16I Sufa fighter/bombers into the air with orders to bomb Tehran and as many military and nuclear bases as they can before they are either shot down or run out of fuel. It is a one way trip for some of these pilots. Their ancient homeland lies in ruins. Many have family that is already dead or dying. They do not wait for permission from Washington, DC or U.S. regional military commanders. The Israeli aircraft are carrying the majority of their country’s nuclear arsenal under their wings.

Just after the first waves of U.S. bombers cross into Iranian airspace, the Iranian Navy, using shore based missiles and small, fast attack craft sinks several oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, sealing off the Persian Gulf and all its oil from the rest of the world. They then mine the area, making it difficult and even deadly for American minesweepers to clear the straits. Whatever is left of the Iranian Navy and Air Force harasses our Navy as it attempts minesweeping operations. More U.S casualties.

The day after the invasion Wall Street (and to a lesser extent, Tokyo, London and Frankfurt) acts as it always does in an international crisis – irrational speculative and spot buying reaches fever pitch and sends the cost of oil skyrocketing. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iran, the price of oil goes to $200.00 – $300.00 dollars a barrel on the open market. If the war is not resolved in a few weeks, that price could rise even higher.  This will send the price of gasoline at the pump in this country to $8.00-$10.00 per gallon immediately and subsequently to even higher unthinkable levels.

If that happens, this country shuts down. Most Americans are not be able to afford gas to go to work. Truckers pull their big rigs to the side of the road and simply walk away. Food, medicine and other critical products are not be brought to stores. Gas and electricity (what is left of the short supply) are too expensive for most people to afford. Children, the sick and elderly die from lack of air-conditioned homes and hospitals in the summer. Children, the sick and elderly die in the winter for lack of heat. There are food riots across the country. A barter system takes the place of currency and credit as the economy dissolves and banks close or limit withdrawals. Civil unrest builds.

The police are unable to contain the violence and are themselves victims of the same crisis as the rest of the population. Civilian rule dissolves and Martial Law is declared under provisions approved under the Patriot Act. Regular U.S. Army and Marine troops patrol the streets. The federal government apparatus is moved to an unknown but secure location. The United States descends into chaos and becomes a third world country. Its time as the lone superpower is over.

It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Then the first Israeli bomber drops its nuclear payload on Tehran.

Source: Global Research

US role in Afghan prison attack



US-led forces have played a part in a Taliban attack on an Afghanistan prison that set hundreds of militants free, some reports speculate.

Experts in regional affairs believe that Taliban militants attacked the Kandahar prison with the green light from US forces.

They say it is questionable – how could the militants dare attack the prison with US-led troops stationed just northeast of the jail?

The sources also noted that although clashes between Afghan security forces and the militants lasted for several hours, US-led troops did not intervene.

Ordinary people share the idea, asking how is it possible that hundreds of militants could attack a government prison, detonating more than 800 kilograms of explosives and foreign forces show no reaction.

They say the blasts were deafening and awakened everyone in the region. No one can claim not being aware of the attack.

“There are two opinions among Afghans following up the attack; non-political individuals say the Taliban managed to attack the prison with the help of God, while those more political believe that US forces helped them,” Ahmad Saadat, a political expert, said.

Read moreUS role in Afghan prison attack

Militants attack Afghan prison, free hundreds of inmates

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Taliban militants staged a brazen bomb and rocket attack on the main prison in southern Afghanistan today, blowing down the gate and helping hundreds of suspected insurgents flee, officials said. Many police officers were reported killed.

The complex attack included a truck bombing at the main gate, a suicide bomber who struck a back wall and rockets fired from outside, setting of a series of explosions that rattled Kandahar, the country’s second biggest city.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said 30 insurgents on motorbikes and two suicide bombers attacked Sarposa Prison and freed about 400 Taliban members.

Abdul Qabir, chief of the Sarposa Prison, also said hundreds of prisoners escaped, but did not provide an exact figure. He said some inmates stayed at the jail, which also held criminals.

Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai who is president of Kandahar’s provincial council, said the prison held about 350 suspected Taliban fighters.

He said “all” the prisoners escaped, but also had no specific number. “There is no one left,” he said.

Kandahar was the Taliban’s former stronghold and its province has been the scene of fierce fighting the past two years between insurgents and NATO troops, primarily from Canada and the United States.

The prison attack came just a few hours after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told his counterparts in Europe that NATO members need to bolster their military effort in Afghanistan, where violence has been escalating.

Dramatizing his report, Gates said that for the first time, American and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan last month had exceeded the toll in Iraq.

Qabir, the prison warden, said the assault began when a tanker truck full of explosives detonated at the prison’s main entrance, wrecking the gate and a police post, killing all the officers inside. He couldn’t say how many police were killed.

Read moreMilitants attack Afghan prison, free hundreds of inmates

Pakistan condemns “cowardly” U.S. attack; 11 dead

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan said on Wednesday an “unprovoked and cowardly” air strike by U.S. forces had killed 11 Pakistani soldiers on its border with Afghanistan and undermined the basis of security cooperation.

The soldiers were killed at a border post in the Mohmand region, opposite Afghanistan’s Kunar province, late on Tuesday as U.S. coalition forces in Afghanistan battled militants attacking from Pakistan, a Pakistani security official said.

The U.S. military said in a statement issued on Wednesday that it had coordinated the artillery and air strike with Pakistan, but was investigating further.

The incident came as frustration is rising in Kabul and among Western forces in Afghanistan over Pakistani efforts to negotiate pacts to end militant violence on its side of the border. NATO says such deals lead to more violence in Afghanistan.

In its strongest criticism of the U.S. military since joining the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, the Pakistani military condemned the killing of the 11 paramilitary soldiers, including an officer. If confirmed, it would be the most Pakistani soldiers ever killed in an attack by U.S. forces.

The attack “hit at the very basis of cooperation and sacrifice with which Pakistani soldiers are supporting the coalition in the war against terror,” the military said.

“Such acts of aggression do not serve the common cause of fighting terrorism,” it said in a statement.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also condemned the attack.

“We will take a stand for sovereignty, integrity and self-respect and we will not allow our soil (to be attacked),” he told parliament.

Read morePakistan condemns “cowardly” U.S. attack; 11 dead

Taliban capture Afghan district

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Taliban fighters have captured a remote district in central Afghanistan, taking prisoner the police and administration chiefs, officials and the Taliban have said.

The fighters attacked the district of Rashidan in the central province of Ghazni in a night attack, the provincial governor and a Taliban spokesman told the AFP news agency on Friday.

“Last night, Taliban attacked Rashidan district and it fell,” Jan Mohammad Mujahed, a provincial police chief, said.

Mujahed said the plight of the seized officials was unknown.

‘Under control’

Zabihullah Mujahed, a spokesman for the Taliban, confirmed the fighters were in control and said the district chief, acting police chief and eight policemen had been taken prisoner.

“They are alive and we have captured them. The district is totally under our control,” he said.

Rashidan is a small district about 120km southwest of Kabul.

Teresa Bo, reporting for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, said Ghazni – located along a major highway from Kabul, the capital, to the south – is one of the most complicated areas where fighting between Afghan, US and Taliban forces takes place almost everyday.

She said the Taliban hold power in strategic locations, adding: “Some of the police officers working here say they are afraid they will be the next target.

“Security is one of the major concerns for every one in the area; the soldiers know they can be attacked any minute.”

Vicious circle

Bo said a vicious cricle of violence continues as the Taliban fight for the control of the country and the US-led coaliton struggles between re-construction and war.

The Taliban, in government between 1996 and 2001, last year overran several districts in remote parts of Afghanistan, but in most cases were ejected by government troops and soldiers attached to Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and a separate US-led military coalition are fighting Taliban militants.

Taliban officials say they control a handful of districts, mostly in the south of the country.

Nato military force officials said in December that the Taliban held not more than five districts.

May 30, 2008

Source: ALJAZEERA

U.S. Planning Big New Prison in Afghanistan

Some detainees have been held without charge for more than five years, officials said. As of April, about 10 juveniles were being held at Bagram, according to a recent American report to a United Nations committee.
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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new, 40-acre detention complex on the main American military base in Afghanistan, officials said, in a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come.

The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Until now, the Bush administration had signaled that it intended to scale back American involvement in detention operations in Afghanistan. It had planned to transfer a large majority of the prisoners to Afghan custody, in an American-financed, high-security prison outside Kabul to be guarded by Afghan soldiers.

But American officials now concede that the new Afghan-run prison cannot absorb all the Afghans now detained by the United States, much less the waves of new prisoners from the escalating fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The proposal for a new American prison at Bagram underscores the daunting scope and persistence of the United States military’s detention problem, at a time when Bush administration officials continue to say they want to close down the facility at Guantánamo Bay.

Military officials have long been aware of serious problems with the existing detention center in Afghanistan, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. After the prison was set up in early 2002, it became a primary site for screening prisoners captured in the fighting. Harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used widely, and two Afghan detainees died there in December 2002, after being repeatedly struck by American soldiers.

Read moreU.S. Planning Big New Prison in Afghanistan

Pentagon Targeted Iran for Regime Change after 9/11

WASHINGTON, May 5 (IPS) – Three weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, former U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith’s recently published account of the Iraq war decisions.

Feith’s account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country’s top military leaders.

Feith’s book, “War and Decision”, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W. Bush on Sep. 30, 2001 calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing “new regimes” in a series of states by “aiding local peoples to rid themselves of terrorists and to free themselves of regimes that support terrorism.”

In quoting from that document, Feith deletes the names of all of the states to be targeted except Afghanistan, inserting the phrase “some other states” in brackets. In a facsimile of a page from a related Pentagon “campaign plan” document, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein regimes are listed as “state regimes” against which “plans and operations” might be mounted, but the names of four other states are blacked out “for security reasons”.

Gen. Wesley Clark, who commanded the NATO bombing campaign in the Kosovo War, recalls in his 2003 book “Winning Modern Wars” being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.

Clark writes that the list also included Lebanon. Feith reveals that Rumsfeld’s paper called for getting “Syria out of Lebanon” as a major goal of U.S. policy.

When this writer asked Feith after a recent public appearance which countries’ names were deleted from the documents, he cited security reasons for the deletion. But when he was asked which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, “All of them.”

Read morePentagon Targeted Iran for Regime Change after 9/11

Marines ignore Taliban cash crop to not upset Afghan locals

The Marines of Bravo Company’s 1st Platoon sleep beside a grove of poppies. Troops in the 2nd Platoon playfully swat at the heavy opium bulbs while walking through the fields. Afghan laborers scraping the plant’s gooey resin smile and wave.

Last week, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit moved into southern Helmand province, the world’s largest opium poppy-growing region, and now find themselves surrounded by green fields of the illegal plants that produce the main ingredient of heroin.

The Taliban, whose fighters are exchanging daily fire with the Marines in Garmser, derives up to $100 million a year from the poppy harvest by taxing farmers and charging safe passage fees — money that will buy weapons for use against U.S., NATO and Afghan troops.

Yet the Marines are not destroying the plants. In fact, they are reassuring villagers the poppies won’t be touched. American commanders say the Marines would only alienate people and drive them to take up arms if they eliminated the impoverished Afghans’ only source of income.

Many Marines in the field are scratching their heads over the situation.

Read moreMarines ignore Taliban cash crop to not upset Afghan locals