Showing posts with label Afghanistan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Afghanistan. Show all posts

December 11, 2015

US Gay Attitudes in Afghanistan and Now in Syria Seems to be Unsupportive of Gays

Afghan Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massoud

Although the U.S. government seems to support gay rights domestically, it might be pursuing an opposite approach in its foreign affairs. Perhaps the earliest indication of this during the beginning of the Islamic revolution was the failure of the U.S. to wholeheartedly support the Afghan Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. The “Lion of Panjshir,” named after the valley in Northern Afghanistan where Massoud was born, seemed to be quite tolerant of homosexuality among his troops in Afghanistan who fought against the Soviets and the Taliban in the 1980s and 1990s, unlike most of the Arab world.

As a glaring example of this prejudice by the United States, it was widely believed the crucial factor in winning the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was putting American-made Stinger missiles into the hands of the Afghan mujahideen. Massoud’s forces, though considered among the best, received none of those missiles while the war against the Soviet Union’s military was still going on.

More recently, the same pattern seems to be emerging in the Syrian war, wherein the U.S.-supported Syrian rebels might be almost as intolerant of homosexuality as ISIS and the Taliban are. Major news outlets reported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though wanting above all else to stay in power and willing to do almost anything to accomplish this, has relatively benign attitudes toward gay rights and other lifestyle choices. Whether this is true or not, or whether he is at least better than the rebel forces, why aren’t matters like this being investigated beforehand, before the United States goes off half-cocked in support of, or opposition to, some foreign power?

“The fear of a horrific death [throwing people off of high buildings] among gay men under Islamic State rule is further compounded by their isolation in a deeply conservative society that largely shuns them,” wrote Associated Press reporter Bassem Mroue. “Even among IS opponents, gays find little sympathy. Some in the public who might be shocked by other IS atrocities say killings of gays is justified. Syrian rebel factions have killed or abused gays as well.”

Mroue continues, “In mid-2013, IS had just started to spread from neighboring Iraq into Syria. It didn’t yet hold the large stretches of territory across both countries that it would capture the next year. Instead, its fighters pushed into rebel-held areas in Syria and tried to dominate other rebels, often clashing with them for control and imposing the group’s strict law wherever they could.
“In September 2013, IS fighters besieged … [an] Aleppo neighborhood … trying to wrest it from the rebel Free Syrian Army. The two sides negotiated over an end to the siege and during the talks, IS gave the rebels a list of people [including gays] they demanded be handed over to them.”
Whether the Free Syrian Army complied with ISIS’s demand, Mroue does not state.

Mroue then writes: “Life for gays in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, was always hidden, [Daniel Halaby, a gay Syrian man] said. When the secular-led peaceful protests erupted against al-Assad in 2011, he said he quickly joined, sure they would lead to a democratic government ‘that will respect everyone no matter their religion, ethnicity, sect or sexuality.’

“‘We were very naive’, he said. ‘What happened was exactly the opposite.’”
Was this hidden life of gay men in Aleppo primarily the fault of al-Assad, or was it the result of the conservatism of the Syrian people that will continue on unabated, even if Assad is ousted, the Free Syrian Army wins and a democratic regime is established in Syria?

Jonathan Miller is a graduate student studying geography. He can be reached at [DBK]

 Gays and heroes come in all colors and nationalities. Massoud is seen as abandoned by the Bush administration. Now the gay supportive Obama administration needs to be seen in supporting gay supportive people even if they are in the Syrian camp. Many times in a civil war is not the side you choose but the one that chooses you. Adam Gonzalez

Russia Believes ISIS Could Swallow Taliban Becoming Even Stronger


According to Russian sources[] while NATO sees no danger of Islamic State (ISIS) gaining a strong enough foothold in Afghanistan to represent a serious threat to regional security, Russia is concerned that the jihadist organization is growing in strength and may soon supplant the Taliban – and Moscow fears that ISIS has ultimate plans to make Central Asia part of its caliphate. 

Russia and the West diverge in their assessments of whether Islamic State (ISIS) is expanding geographically and constitutes a disaster waiting to happen in Afghanistan. Lack of understanding and cooperation on the ground might once again, as in Syria, only be a prelude to a rough awakening to the actual scale of the threat.

In the previous week NATO has pledged to maintain the 12,000-strong contingent of its troops and instructors throughout 2016 as part of its Resolute Support mission. Yet the alliance has dismissed the assumption that ISIS could be in a position to dismember the Taliban, radicalize the local tribes, and turn it into a province of the caliphate.

This does not resonate with articles in the British newspapers The Times and The Guardian this week describing in detail the scale of state-building and strategic ambitions of ISIS. It is also not compatible with the opinion of General Stanley McChrystal (retired), who helped destroy ISIS’s predecessor organization (ISI) in Iraq from 2006 to 2008. “If the West sees ISIS as an almost stereotypical band of psychopathic killers,” he has said, “we risk dramatically underestimating them.”

Moscow views recent developments in Afghanistan in an alarming context. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov has revealed that, according to intelligence sources, ISIS has “established its presence in 25 out of 34 Afghan provinces.” According to UN experts’ estimates, the numbers of ISIS fighters in the four districts south of Jalalabad total between 1,200 and 1,600. Some are elite fighters. This apart, Taliban militants are also defecting to ISIS. 

Should Moscow look well ahead and start mapping out contingency plans? Talking to Troika Report, Alexander Ignatenko, president of the Moscow-based Institute of Religion and Politics, assessed the level of the security threat to Russia and its allies posed by the gradual advancement of ISIS into the non-Arab region.

Will hybrid warfare doctrine draw NATO and Russia further apart?

“The expansion of ISIS in the region has gone along proven routes, with its sponsors simply buying out whole units of Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups in a particular country. An explicit example is Boko Haram (in Nigeria): Originally this organization had no relations with ISIS, but then it allowed itself to be bought, swore allegiance to ISIS, and furthermore, became the nucleus of what is called the ‘Islamic State’s vilayet of Western Africa’.”

– Are we witnessing the implementation of the ISIS grand project of a caliphate stretching from Morocco to Central Asia?

“Not exactly. There is a transparent geopolitical and economic interest for ISIS’s sponsor – and this is Qatar – when it comes to Afghanistan: to prevent the construction of a gas pipeline known as TAPI. The idea of TAPI is to supply gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.

“Moreover, this is only part of the long-term strategy. Once Afghanistan falls under the rule of ISIS, Qatar will proceed further, to the northern border of the Muslim-populated China's Xinjiang Province. The goal is to have a stronghold to prevent the coming onstream of another major infrastructure project, the Power of Siberia pipeline, designed to supply Russian natural gas to China.”

What Ignatenko is basically saying amounts to the following uncomfortable truth: Qatar, for the purpose of maintaining its present dominant position on the global market of liquefied natural gas (LNG), is ready to eliminate alternative suppliers by using Islamic State militants either as an instrument of regime change or, if this tactic fails, as a potent irritant that will create regional instability and, consequently, raise the risks of any investment enterprises.

– An opinion has been floated that Russia should not get involved in the Afghanistan quagmire. Yet, Russia is currently fighting ISIS in Syria, so why not confront it on the ground much closer to Central Asia, which is rightly considered Russia’s ”soft underbelly”?

“Those who claim that the Taliban would remain a closed Pashtun-centered movement and would never expand northward are making a mistake. The Taliban would definitely move into Central Asia either as an affiliate of Islamic State or as part of an alliance of Islamist radicals already in existence in this part of the world, like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the anti-China East Turkistan Islamic Movement, etc.”

– Is this threat being neglected or underestimated in Moscow?

“It is my understanding that the Russian political and military leadership is getting ready for such a scenario. Certain pre-emptive measures are being taken within the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Both organizations regularly hold military exercises with the aim of confronting the threat of terrorism.”  
Russia-Turkey crisis: What do other regional players stand to gain?

While acknowledging the threat of ISIS in Afghanistan, Russia’s top officials are not in a hurry to get involved. Moscow will “thoughtfully” assess requests from the government in Kabul for arms supplies, said Zamir Kabulov, Russian presidential special envoy for Afghanistan. At the same time, Russian Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko pointed out that in 12 years the 140,000-strong NATO contingent in Afghanistan has failed to eliminate the internal security threats. As long NATO considers Afghanistan its zone of strategic interest, it is unlikely that Russia would step in.

Yet, the security environment here is volatile. The gearing up of internal feuds among local radicals has been evidenced lately by the as-yet unconfirmed death of the Taliban’s elected leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was reportedly targeted by militants of an ISIS-led breakaway cell. It appears likely, since Mullah Mansour supported the Afghan-focused agenda and was reluctant to accept the expansionist drive of Islamic State.

This is only proof that the internal strife in the Taliban is heating up. Should the Taliban split and end up being reformatted into an expansionist force targeting neighboring countries, it will become part of a global issue. The consolidation and internationalization of terrorist groupings all along the Arc of Instability will require a concerted response by Russia and its allies.

October 17, 2015

Pres.Obama Changes Mind about Afghanistan, Why?

 Americans Training Afghanistan forces

As he described the factors that went into his decision to keep American troops in Afghanistan, the one word President Obama did not mention on Thursday was Iraq. 
Four years ago, he stuck to his plan to pull out of Iraq, only to watch the country collapse back into sectarian strife and a renewed war with Islamic extremists. Facing a similar situation in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama has decided not to follow a similar course.

Whether keeping a residual American force in Iraq would have made a difference is a point of contention, but the president chose not to take a chance this time. In seeking to avoid a repeat of the Iraq meltdown by keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan next year and 5,500 after he leaves office, he abandoned his hopes of ending the two wars he inherited.
In Reversal, Obama Says U.S. Soldiers Will Stay in Afghanistan to 2017OCT. 15, 2015
Dr. Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders, spoke on Wednesday in Geneva.Obama Issues Rare Apology Over Bombing of Doctors Without Borders Hospital in AfghanistanOCT. 7, 2015
While not openly drawing lessons from the Iraq withdrawal, Mr. Obama drew an implicit distinction by emphasizing that the new Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani, unlike the Baghdad government in 2011, still supported an American military presence and has taken the legal steps to make it possible. 

“In the Afghan government, we have a serious partner who wants our help,” Mr. Obama said in a televised statement from the White House. “And the majority of the Afghan people share our goals. We have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation.”

Lisa Monaco, his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, later addressed the comparison during a conference call with reporters. “The differences are clear from 2011,” she said. “The Afghan government has asked us to stay, has invited us in, wants to work with us and wants to have an enduring partnership,” she said.

By contrast, said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, “in 2011, we didn’t have that effective cooperation from the Iraqi central government.”

In 2011, the Obama administration and the Iraqi government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, then the prime minister, negotiated over the possibility of keeping thousands of American troops there after the end of the year but bogged down in a dispute over liability for American forces. Ultimately, Mr. Obama gave up and decided to stick to the original schedule for a 2011 withdrawal enshrined in an agreement reached between President George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki at the end of 2008.

Mr. Obama then went on the campaign trail seeking re-election boasting about pulling out all troops from Iraq. But without an American presence, Mr. Maliki turned increasingly sectarian, repressing Sunnis and aligning more closely with Iran. Critics argue the vacuum left by departing American troops fueled the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Obama has since sent back about 3,000 American troops to help a new Iraqi government fight the Islamic State.

Similarly, in Afghanistan, despite years of fighting and a temporary increase in American troops there at the start of Mr. Obama’s presidency, the Taliban have made a comeback, a point starkly underscored by the brief takeover of the city of Kunduz, while the Islamic State has begun making inroads as well. 

Mr. Obama’s plan to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan other than a small embassy contingent by the time he left office always struck national security experts in both parties as untenable, and most assumed he would reverse himself. A bipartisan group of former officials, including two of Mr. Obama’s defense secretaries, released a report this week urging him to keep troops there.

Stephen J. Hadley, a national security adviser to Mr. Bush and a signatory to the report, said on Thursday that Mr. Obama presumably wanted to “avoid giving the Republicans another issue” after the setbacks in Iraq. 

The White House rejected such interpretations. “I can tell you that politics played absolutely no role in the president’s decision-making here,” Mr. Earnest said.

Even if it did, Republicans in Congress like Senator John McCain of Arizona and Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio only gave Mr. Obama partial credit, applauding his decision to reverse the withdrawal while contending more forces were still needed.

Security analysts said the new plan may be just enough to preserve the status quo. “Keeping 5,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan with a training and direct action mission may prevent the country from deteriorating as quickly as Iraq did after the U.S. withdrawal in 2011,” said Seth Jones, an Afghanistan specialist at the RAND Corporation. “But it’s unclear whether it will be enough to turn the Afghan ship around.”

Antiwar activists, however, expressed disappointment that Mr. Obama went back on his word, pointing to the recent bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital as an example of the increasing cost of war. Keeping troops for a 15th year, they said, would likely make no more difference than they had during the previous 14 years.

“This is disastrous,” said Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of “Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror,” a new book on the Islamic State. “The notion that the lesson of Iraq is keeping a military occupation permanently in place is somehow the answer is absolutely the wrong lesson.”

Mr. Obama has long made it clear he is loath to commit American military forces to the region, especially ground troops, deeming it a largely losing proposition that costs American lives without fixing the problems being addressed. And he repeated on Thursday that he opposes “endless war.”

But he views Afghanistan as more directly tied to American interests than Iraq or Syria, since it was the base from which Al Qaeda planned its attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. And Mr. Obama does not want to pass along to his successor a fraying situation in Afghanistan on top of the current turmoil in Syria and Iraq.

The presence of 5,500 troops — down from more than 100,000 at its peak — may make only a modest difference militarily. But Mr. Obama is gambling that it matters politically by showing that the United States will not give up on the Kabul government and leave a vacuum for other forces to fill.

“We’ve made an enormous investment in a stable Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama said. “Afghans are making difficult but genuine progress. This modest but meaningful extension of our presence — while sticking to our current, narrow missions — can make a real difference. It’s the right thing to do.”

July 30, 2014

Thousands of American Weapons given to Afghanistan Missing

U.S. forces help train new Kabul police recruits to fire the AK-47 assault rifle on the grounds of the Kabul Military Training Center in this 2009 photo. A newly released report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction finds that the Defense Department has not accurately tracked 747,000 weapons purchased for Afghan National Security Forces.

Neither the American military nor the Afghan government can keep track of hundreds of thousands of weapons provided to Afghan security forces, sparking fears that some could land in the hands of insurgents or terrorist groups, according to a U.S. watchdog.
Of the nearly half a million weapons registered in a U.S. Department of Defense database called OVERLORD, more than 40 percent of the entries had missing or duplicated information, investigators with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report released on Monday.
Another U.S. government inventory database had similarly incomplete information, the report found.
Since 2004 the United States has provided Afghan security forces with more than 700,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment worth about $626 million, SIGAR said. Now however, inconsistencies in the methods used by both the U.S. and Afghanistan to track those weapons have left potentially tens of thousands of weapons unaccounted for.
“Accountability over these weapons within DOD prior to their transfer to Afghan ownership is affected by incompatible inventory systems that have missing serial numbers, inaccurate shipping and receiving dates, and duplicate records, that may result in missing weapons prior to transfer to the ANSF,” investigators concluded. “However, the problems are far more severe after the weapons are transferred to the ANSF. ANSF record-keeping and inventory processes are poor and, in many cases, we were unable to conduct even basic inventory testing at the ANSF facilities we visited.”
As an example, SIGAR noted that the Afghan National Army has 83,184 more AK-47 assault rifles than it needs. The Russian-designed rifles were phased put in favor of NATO weapons to ensure compatibility, but the excess guns were never disposed of, and the Defense Department told SIGAR investigators it doesn’t have the authority to do anything about it.
That issue of excess weapons will only be exacerbated by the planned reduction in the number of Afghan forces, SIGAR argued.
“Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, SIGAR is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to Afghan civilians and the ANSF,” the report concluded.
SIGAR recommended that the Defense Department patch the holes in its databases, and work with the Afghan government to try to recover the extra weapons, including by requiring the Afghans to conduct a comprehensive inventory check.
In written responses to the SIGAR report, Defense officials said they are already in the process of combing their two databases into one. They said they are working to make future delivery of weapons contingent on regular inventory check, but that it’s up to the Afghan government to determine how many weapons it needs and what to do with them.
“It is the Afghan government’s responsibility, not DOD’s, to determine if they have weapons in excess of their needs,” Defense officials wrote. “It is premature to speculate on potential ANSF force strength reductions. Weapons that are transferred to the ANSF become property of the Afghan government and under its control.”
Stars and Stripes

February 8, 2014

US Military Dog Taken Hostage by Afghans

It may be the first time a canine has been used in a prisoner of war video.

As The Washington Post reports, a Twitter account from a user who normally distributes Taliban propaganda posted a video this week that allegedly shows a sad-looking American military dog chained by a group of Taliban fighters.

The BBC says the men in the video claim the dog came to their camp after it was raided by U.S. forces. The dog is wearing a vest, and the men say it was outfitted with a GPS device and a flashlight. The dog, the men say, was given the rank of colonel.

"Allah gave victory to the Mujahedeen!" one of the fighters exclaims, according to the Post. "Down with them, down with their spies!"

The Pentagon confirmed to the Post that "the [international] force lost a military working dog during an operation in December." The newspaper adds:

"Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials could think of no prior instance in which a military working dog had been taken captive. ...
"The video caught the attention of analysts at Site Intelligence Group, which tracks and studies insurgent propaganda. Founder Rita Katz said she could not recall anything like it.
" 'I don't remember seeing a dog used as a hostage,' she said after checking her database. The only time canines were featured in insurgent propaganda, Katz said, was in Iraq, when insurgents once proposed using the mutts as unsuspecting suicide bombers."
The dog in the video looks like a Malinois, a breed often used by coalition forces in Afghanistan. The BBC reports that "dogs are considered unclean by Afghans, and their use by international forces in house searches has been controversial."

Obviously, the dog’s future is uncertain.

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