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Tuesday, November 15, 2005 

Afghanistan, Iraq, CIA flights, white phosphorous, napalm, where does it all end?

Numerous stories coming out today concerned with military endevaours in various fields. The main one appears to be of how the US is abandoning Afghanistan and letting us here in the coalition of the doing the dirty work follow up:

Britain is attempting to build a coalition to pursue counter-insurgency combat operations against al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan after the withdrawal by the Bush administration of 4,000 US troops early next year.

Talks with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and several other countries are being held before a Nato meeting in Brussels on December 7. They follow the refusal of European allies, such as France and Germany, to allow their troops to become involved in counter-insurgency.

The discussions are among preparations for the deployment of 2,000 crack British troops backed by Apache attack helicopters to lawless Helmand province at the head of an expanded, British-led Nato force next spring. An additional 2,000 British troops are expected to be sent to Afghanistan next year bringing the total number to somewhere around 4,800. The British mission in the south represents a significant escalation of its overall involvement in Afghanistan. Military sources said it was potentially more hazardous - and could last longer - than Britain's postwar involvement in Iraq.

"The debate is not whether, but to what extent these troops will get into counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics," a military source said. "We are not talking war fighting. But there is potential for armed conflict in some areas. The reality is that there are warlords, drug traffickers, al-Qaida, al-Qaida wannabes and Taliban."

An officer said: "It could take longer to crack than Iraq. It could take 10 years."

Violence in Afghanistan is at its highest since the 2001 US-led invasion. Suicide bombers killed a German peacekeeper in Kabul yesterday. A British soldier died recently in a gun battle in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Mainly this is down to the public in America forgetting that there even was a war before the one in Iraq. I mean, Afghanistan is democratic, women are free and children can fly kites now right? That's all the matters really. The main problem which the west has with Afghanistan now is that they have gone back to their old ways of growing opium instead of crops. While the Taliban decimated the poppy crop through brutality, attempts by the British led counter-narcotics team have mainly failed. It hasn't been helped that America doesn't really care about the massive opium crop. It doesn't reach their streets, as it instead floods the pavements of Europe. A recent study suggested that just one kilo of heroin leads to 20 additional crimes. While America focuses on its "war on drugs" on Latin America and continues with its attempts to eradicate the coca crop in Columbia, Afghanistan's heroin problems are ignored. Even this focus ignores the underlying problems of Afghanistan, the warlords, the continuing instability and that the country has been through at least 25 years of turmoil. It also reflects on America's reluctance to face up to its funding of the mujahadein fighting the Soviet occupation, which led to the forming of al-Qaida. Instead of finishing off what they started, they're leaving it to the lackeys and minor partners in the war on terror to continue fighting what may become a perpetual battle.

More American arrogance is exposed with the revelation that Spanish officials have uncovered more secret flights allegedly made by the CIA transporting terror suspects to countries which turn a blind eye or participate in torture. The CIA seems to consider some individuals such a threat to either the security of the world or to the "new world order" that it has abducted people without bothering to inform the countries they have citizenship with. This has now happened in both Italy and Germany, where in the former a judge has called for extradition of alleged CIA agents for kidnap. Don't expect anything to happen or for the flights to legal black holes to end shortly. The Bush administration continues to fight attempts by the senate to make the mistreatment of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay illegal, and is likely to win, while those incarcerated there have lost their right to appeal against their detention, as they are "enemy combatants".

While America ignores the right to imprisonment without trial and the right to legal advice in their little part of Cuba, it seems to be doing the same in Iraq. Figures received by the Liberal Democrats show that over 35,000 Iraqis have been detained since the invasion in March 2003, and of the 1,300 of that number who have been charged with any offence, only half have been convicted. Even more worrying, or not, if you're being cynical and have the feeling that the US intends to stay Iraq for a lot longer than they claim, is that the system of detentions may be fuelling the insurgency, with the amount of attacks doubling over the time that the number of detainees has doubled. Nothing like being humiliated by a foreign occupier to make a native react against a "liberation."

And last but certainly not least, George Monbiot crystallises a lot of blog activity and research into the allegations that the Americans have used both white phosphorous and napalm as offensive weapons in Iraq. As usual, the bottom half of the coalition of the willing is lied to, and made to look foolish when it turns out they have been, in this case the new Blair loyalist Ann Clywd. Ann became a minor celebrity in the Labour party ranks before the war, as she was one of the few who had condemned Saddam's attack on Halabaja in parliament at the time. She was one of the major backers of regime change, and has since become the chairman of the parliamentary Labour party. She also has a high entertainment value, as she is regularly asked onto Newsnight and seems to be pathologically convinced that Iraq is now a haven of sweetness and light where everyone is safe and Sunni and Shia tuck each other up in bed and tell each other bed time stories. Her claims that Iraq is safer, that democracy is flourishing and that less people are dying are laughable to anyone who often reads the depressing reality of Iraq as conveyed by the likes of Juan Cole.

As George Monbiot concludes, Saddam Hussein faces trial accused of mass murder, torture, false imprisonment and the use of chemical weapons. It's incredibly sad to realise that the liberators of Iraq have done all four of those things in a much shorter time frame than Saddam ever managed.

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