Tuesday, 24 November 2009

War in Afghanistan and Iraq, Part 1

The two thousand five hundred day old war has seen 5, 292 Americans killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined, over 200, 000 injured including at least 4, 000 maimed for life and another 448 servicemen who have since committed suicide.

Actual figures however, some reports state, may be up to 12, 000 Americans killed. The US Coalition in contrast is less affected. The USA has been more of an attractive target in comparison. Total fatality figures from both fronts for the coalition currently stand at 919 dead (414 British). This low figure is best explained by the involvement of ‘special forces’ who officially don’t exist and whose statistics go unreported.

The coalition armies’ conduct the ‘mop op operations’ after the commandos are sent in. The role of the former is to look good and take all the glory while the latter do all the hard work.

Former US President, George Bush, in a rare public move authorised the use of more special military personnel in Afghanistan, the new hotbed of hatred for Uncle Sam. The object was to hunt down the enemy within their own territory and engage in combat with Taliban militias.

Coalition militias of local origin also play a key role, as do informers and defectors, who can be paid handsomely and maybe the equivalent of a year’s salary. The only thing is they are not counted as members of the coalition in official statistics.

Militias and local tribesmen are not officially military personnel; hence their presence is a godsend when it comes to casualties among them. Since they are not officers or soldiers, light or heavy losses are acceptable in their ranks and no reports need arise of fatalities within them.

Similarly any defeats, failed uprisings and unsuccessful adventures can be attributed to irate local tribesmen opposed to the Taliban and Anti-American Iraqis with no connection or knowledge whatsoever to the US-led Coalition.

The local security forces make up the next group of ‘insignificant allies’ to be pushed to the frontline. Insignificant in the sense their casualties and fatalities are not recorded with the same disdain, tension and anxiety as coalition countries. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, this means the police force, intelligence services as well as the national army.

Aside from the military figures, civilian personnel are the next greatest source of both actual assistance, World sympathy, propaganda, brainwashing and international media manipulation. The fact that these same non military individuals, organisations and teams of people have openly declared their full support to one side over another should be sufficient to know that you don’t have to be a soldier to be a legitimate enemy target.

Civilian aircraft, truck drivers, construction workers and other artisans, tribal elders at a gathering and even paramedics and hospital workers are brought over for the service of one belligerent in the conflict and to the detriment of its immediate adversary.

In this manner their very presence indicates tacit support for the side they have been employed to serve. They are working for a cause, championing the defence, offensive systems, operations, aspirations and visions of the nation/s they work for.

In Iraq there are few groups opposed to the US than before and whilst they don’t have common agendas and differ geographically, in size, sectarianism and strategy they are united in their hostility to foreign forces determined to remain in their country.

However, four main groups stand out from the rest. They include; ‘Al-Qaeda Organisation in the land of the two rivers’, ‘The Mujahideen Shura Council’, ‘Ansar Al Sunnah’ and ‘The Islamic Army in Iraq’. At least two of the four above groups aspire to achieve and implement an Islamic State based on Shariah law.

Sunni support for the US inside Iraq has contributed to declining US fatalities. In 2007 alone, 904 Americans were killed and it was only in May 2008 that more fatalities occurred in Afghanistan on the American army than in Iraq since the war on terror first began in 2001. Sunni groups are paid regular salaries (bribes) for turning against fellow Muslims, selling their country and making it into a US colony.

The Iraq Islamic Party, a Sunni political organisation, however broke away from US support after one of its men was killed by American soldiers in the City of Falluja in late October 2008.

Whilst the US claims it has brought peace and security to Iraq, the Americans were intent on revising an earlier agreement that would have ended their occupation of the country on December 31st 2008.

The US threatened to cut off all electricity in the country, shut down all reconstruction projects and withdraw all funding to Iraq if their demand to remain were not met, this to the nation they call their friend.

Halting training Iraqi police and soldiers goes without saying adding deep tensions and frustrations about an Iraq that can’t imagine life without an American oxygen tank to pump energy into its atmosphere just so that it can breathe.

Six years into freedom by the US has given most Iraqis no access to clean drinking water, a scarcity of electricity, heavy unemployment, few functioning industries, a high rise in crime in addition to heavy press censorship and an army of occupation that is above the law. All US military personnel whether on or off duty are ‘largely’ immune from prosecution for any actions they commit within the country.

On the war front, in 2008 alone there have been 314 Americans killed in Iraq, coalition forces in contrast had not lost a soldier for five months until December and only six fatalities were recorded outside the US army for the whole year. Pro-American Iraqi security forces in contrast lost 1, 046 servicemen, down from 1, 830 killed in 2007.

It’s obvious the US and its Coalition are not the seen as the major enemy and hence are targeted much less. In 2009, Coalition fatalities are 145 killed (144 US soldiers, the exception was a suicide from a British soldier). This is the first year both US and Coalition losses are so much higher in Afghanistan than Iraq. As of November 2009, there have been up to 481 killed (297 Americans), a difference of 336 and among US soldiers; a difference of 152.

The standard figure in Iraq for losses is nonetheless the smallest ever for the US. The previous lowest was 486 killed in 2003 when the US-led Coalition first invaded the country. In comparison, the Coalition has had 318 killed in total; the largest casualty has been inflicted upon the British army (most of whom were in Basra) who lost 179 men.

War wounded however for the Brits hit over the 1, 000 mark. Some reports indicated it is over 3, 000. The UK announced an end to hostilities in Iraq in May 2009 and left the country in late July 2009 but returned to train Iraqi forces in October 2009. Australia also left in July, but unlike the British were not as selfish to retain a military presence there.

While coalition casualties have indeed fallen sharply, attacks on Iraqi security personnel, native military units and police have risen just as dramatically as have a new wave of anti-American targets on individuals, companies and anyone associated with the US-led alliance. These have included members of the puppet government, contractors and pro-US war journalists.

Among its coalition allies, Poland has withdrawn its entire 100-man army out of Iraq. At its peak, the Polish military stretched to 2, 500 troops in 2003. The 5-year mission ended in late October 2008 with all aims achieved and by common agreement with the US, the Poles withdrew in good terms.

23 Poles were killed in that time. Poland however, still retains a military presence in Afghanistan nonetheless (it currently has 15 soldiers slain there) and is committed to remain in the country for the time being at least. Macedonia and Albania followed suit and left Iraq in December 2008

2008 has also witnessed the heaviest number of fatalities in US and Coalition forces in the war on terror in Afghanistan with 295 deaths (155 Americans and 139 Coalition soldiers), up from 232 in 2007 (117 Americans and 115 Coalition soldiers) and with the credit crunch nibbling away at US finances, so is the American stranglehold on its Asian adversary.

The 1, 000 fatality mark passed in mid October 2008 for Americans and coalition forces combined. Afghan security personnel have ‘officially’ lost 4, 603 men. There are few reports of any regularity as to the casualties of pro-US Afghan forces.

Interestingly, the bulk of British forces (currently 9, 000 troops) are stationed in the South, specifically in the Helmand Province while the remainder serve in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) across the country.

The UK boasts of coming under fire from Taliban forces with great regularity and actual engagements between them. Only scant information is ever presented, but all of it with pro-British results.

It insists many battles have been hard fought but have always resulted in a ‘decisive’ victory on every occasion. While giving accounts of Taliban casualties, British forces consistently rarely lose a single soldier and sustain no injuries, even minor ones, are not inflicted on its men despite the many battles between them over several months.

The US thus ‘perplexingly’ sent 5, 000 additional troops to Helmand to ‘relieve’ and assist the ‘strong’ and ‘brave’ British army who otherwise don’t really need them. A so-called defence force that has an upper hand over its enemies doesn’t need help, but the British in Afghanistan may just be ‘lonely’ out there by themselves.

That still didn’t stop the head of the SAS, a military branch of the British Special Forces, separate from the British Army, resigning in October 2008, disgusted at his country’s inability to protect its own soldiers in Afghanistan.

The UK, it seems to have an invincible army nonetheless, one that is even greater than the Americans. Even the US loses soldiers every so often while having less combat duties and engaging in fewer battles than its British counterparts.

Not to be outdone by the Brits, the Canadian and Danish militaries also announced a series of fantastic victories in October 2008 against the Taliban army. Like the British before them, both the Danes and Canadians pushed the Taliban out of several areas and secured their gains without conceding a single casualty, even with minor injuries. Interestingly most Danes, Norwegians and even many Canadians are largely air combatants and as such ‘safer’ than on the ground. As of October 2009, even the Afghan army has become ‘invincible’ able to exterminate so many of its adversaries without a single loss to its name in the process.

That’s at least 3 coalition countries with few fatalities and not a single major injury to their name in heavy battles (according to them), some lasting days and weeks at a time. One has to wonder just how ‘heavy’ and ‘intense’ these battles actually were.

What’s more plausible is that Afghan military units were commanded by European officers and supported by drones and Coalition airpower from a distance. Its also possible Afghan soldiers are sent on regular missions to engage with the Taliban and the NATO generals (who are likely to be having tea far from the battleground) take the honours on every occasion.

The forgotten player are sometimes the 80, 000 soldiers from the Afghan National Army in addition to the 82, 000 member police troops (162, 000 men from these two forces alone) and an undisclosed number of Afghan security personnel and indigenous ‘Special Forces’ as well as Afghan Intelligence.

All are heavily armed, NATO-trained and indoctrinated, very much involved and part and parcel of the war on terror against the Mujahideen. Now the US is reaching out to the more than 150 tribes in Afghanistan that border Pakistan (the majority of whom are Pushtun) to join their ranks against their own people.

While the US is an effective enemy in its own right, the chief opponent of the Taliban are those who have sold out their souls and turned their backs on their brothers; the Afghan government, local elders and other lesser leaders and groups of Afghan origin in addition to anyone who actively assists the US Coalition in its vision of Afghanistan on its own terms to the detriment of the country, which includes contractors, who have by default supported the Afghan genocide by the US.

Although the US retains overall command of the coalition and jealously guards its authority and control over all its allies, its forces have moved back to safer areas away from immediate combat zones and flashpoints and left the Afghan security forces (and to a much lesser degree ISAF) to battle the Taliban alone. Most ‘brave’ European countries have opted for the same, mostly in the safest parts of Afghanistan.

In December 2008, Coalition forces said they wanted Afghan security forces to be present everywhere in the country, an indication of the prevailing circumstances in which the US and its allies are actually losing ground but don’t wish to admit it.

Stationing your forces in war-torn nations is one thing, putting them in the frontline where the battle lines are drawn is quite another and not to the taste of the World’s richest countries. Prestige and often praise is gained for the former while the risk of heavy fatalities and image is evident in the latter.

Afghan military casualties and deaths in comparison are not reported separately from civilian fatalities allowing the coalition to hide the true figures of its actual losses to the Taliban.

Regular reports of tremendous successes with the Taliban are clouded by questions over casualties sustained in the operations mounted against them. This is further undermined by Washington’s new approach to offering an olive branch to ‘moderate’ members of the Taliban (i.e. likely insincere ‘sell outs’ and select members excluding the most senior officials), the same people it accuses of being sponsors of terrorism and militant extremists themselves.

Officials now seem to portray Al Qaeda and Taliban as different entities, one as the enemy and the latter as someone they can bargain with (even though Washington still chooses to vilify both). Observers feel this is one way of signalling eventual withdrawal without conceding military or political defeat.

The war in Afghanistan is nevertheless far from won. There is a scarcity of food, healthcare and medicine. In its place, we have strip clubs, wine bars and luxurious hotels and restaurants serving exotic foreign food (which few can afford); even the Internet can be accessed. No industry or infrastructure exists other than the poppy trade which is back and booming.

Eight million Afghans are starving as winter approaches, while Hamid Karzai, the country’s President, has instead spent much needed finances on a luxurious airport in the capital. A worthy investment some would say, while 80% of the population are impoverished and most are still illiterate.

Civilian casualties are rising heavily and this time no one’s blaming the Taliban, US air strikes are not winning friends and American pilot-less drones firing missiles into both Afghanistan neighbouring Pakistan aren’t helping either.

It is estimated that since 2005, approximately between 2, 700 and 3, 210 Afghan civilians have been killed by US and NATO air strikes alone. The US and their allies continue to state the possibility of civilian losses from air strikes, but regard the same from the adversaries as deliberate.

Interestingly Afghan security forces and police units are often used to protect and escort US and Coalition troops in their own barracks! So much for Western valour and zealotry. At other times they are mistaken for Taliban soldiers and shot at. In one of the earliest instances, 14 Afghan soldiers were killed by US ‘friendly fire’.

The US refused to apologise or recognise its forces were in the wrong. Other episodes like this included the aerial bombardment of an Afghan checkpoint where six policemen and one civilian were killed in early December 2008. Another drone assault killed 7 Afghan police in August 2009.

Nevertheless, Switzerland, Georgia and Kazakhstan have withdrawn their forces in the face of their objectives being won. The latter two countries had a small contingent of troops, mainly in maintenance, land mine clearance and administration and neither were involved in combat operations as such.

South Korea similarly withdrew its entire 600-man force in late December 2008 after 4 years. They were involved largely in construction projects in the Kurdish north. In 2004, when it first came, it had 3, 600 troops, the third largest in Iraq at the time, after the US and the UK.

Nevertheless, South Korea supplied only defence troops with even more civilian personnel in comparison in ‘safe areas’ within the capital and did not engage in actual fighting. El Salvador withdrew all its forces out of Iraq in February 2009.

Australia’s 1100 troops which were occasionally involved in military operations are now scheduled to stay longer under a new deal in late 2008. Canada has similarly announced it is to withdraw in 2011.

The Dutch military presence in Afghanistan will come to a close in 2010 as announced in 2009. As of 2009, 21 Dutch troops have been killed since 2001. The Netherlands withdrew its forces in Iraq which numbered 1, 345 troops much earlier.

They join Ukraine (1, 650 troops), Spain (1, 300 troops), Japan (600 troops), Bulgaria (462 troops), Thailand (423 troops), Honduras (368 troops), Philippines (51 troops) and Tonga (45 troops) and Denmark (?) to leave the coalition from Iraq (not Afghanistan) since 2003.

Fatality figures for the two major frontlines in the US-led War on Terror for the Americans and its puppet allies currently stand at 4, 683 in Iraq and 1, 528 in Afghanistan, making a grand total of 6, 212 American and its Coalition troops killed.

If local security forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan combined are included alongside the ‘official’ Coalition, then the fatalities are much larger. The grand total works out to be approximately over 20, 000 killed. That’s too much of an embarrassing insight to publish in the Western mass media.

This is especially more humiliating since the enemy is said to be a few thousand strong, are lightly clad in armour, possess few arms, have no fighter aircraft, contain no modern surveillance equipment, have no anti aircraft weapons or a navy, have no government support from anywhere and are located in the smallest proximity of areas.

Their adversaries, the US, has one of the largest and theoretically most modern armies and air forces of the World, are supported by over forty nations from permission to use their airspace, territory and waterways to supplying combat troops, engineers, field hospitals and contractors.

They are further assisted with intelligence agencies, police networks, a variation of specialist teams and medics of every kind and are literally pumping millions of dollars into the war effort annually and pounding Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan back to the Stone Age, yet are still losing the war on terror nonetheless.

A Brief Note on the Russian Experience in Afghanistan

"The whole problem is that military results are not followed up by political actions. At the centre there is authority; in the provinces there is not.

We control Kabul and the provincial centres, but on occupied territory we cannot establish authority. We have lost the battle for the Afghan people".

The words were spoken by Marshall Sergei Akhromeev, the Russian armed forces commander, to President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, but the sentiments expressed and actual situation on the ground for the US, its NATO allies and the Anti-Taliban Alliance is either similar or the same.

He continued-

“There is no single piece of land in this country which has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier. Nonetheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of rebels”.

If you replace ‘Soviet’ with Coalition, the portrait of the Western occupation today is all to obvious and perhaps correct as well. It may remain so until a complete withdrawal or a settlement not satisfactory to the present ‘friends’ of the government.

It was in December 1979, 100, 000 Russian troops entered Afghanistan after a plea to invade the country by the Communist President in Kabul. A year earlier, the nation had become Marxist and invited the Russians to ‘restore order’.

The non communists therefore conveniently became ‘terrorists’ in their own country just because they disagreed with totalitarian dictatorship and the occupiers, were ceremoniously described as ‘liberators’. Incidentally, only one non communist country agreed to the Russian invasion, India, under its Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.

Kabul was stormed and occupied within hours of the invasion by the Russian army and air force, but resistance continued. By 1985, the Russians declared an interest to withdraw.

Over 10, 000 Russian soldiers had been killed by 1986 when the first units of the army of occupation withdrew. By 1988 when the final outposts were handed back to Afghan officers, another five thousand were dead.

Russia had been more than humbled, they had been humiliated and harassed out of a country they had under-estimated and scorned. The same may happen to the US and its allies some twenty years after Soviet forces had been forced to evacuate.

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