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The Latin Alphabet in Central Asia — America’s Geopolitical Tool

By Vladimir Odintsov – New Eastern Outlook – 04.12.2019

Central Asia has long been one of the key fronts in America’s ideological battle and information war against Russia.

A year ago, the American geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor published its forecast for US policy in Central Asia, which focuses much attention on Russia. Analysts from this agency, which is dubbed the “Shadow CIA”, indicated in this forecast that the United States is looking to strengthen ties with countries along the periphery of the former Soviet Union — from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus and Central Asia — in an effort to put more pressure on Russia. A geopolitical war is going to be waged against Russia, or a multi-domain battle to use the American military terminology, affecting the political, economic, energy and military spheres.

Washington has long identified the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan a “zone of US national interests”, which is why this region is targeted with the full spectrum of American information campaigns. In order for these campaigns to be effective, not only have so-called “independent” media outlets and pro-Western NGOs, been making a massive contribution in Central Asia over the past number of years, which the US has been busily implanting in the region, but military specialists in information warfare have also been recruited — servicemen from the United States Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group. The 8th Psychological Operations Group is responsible for work in Central Asia, which runs the Caravanserai information portal, a website specifically created to counter Russia, sponsored by the United States Central Command and targeted at residents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The main aim shared by most of the information campaigns Washington supports is to separate the regional population from Russia, mentally and psychologically, and to undermine Russia’s position in Central Asia. The campaigns mainly target young people in the hope that the leaders of the future in these countries will have been brought up on Western “democratic” ideals and will therefore be less inclined to partner with Russia.

Special programs are being launched and implemented by NGOs and “independent” media outlets in order to counteract Russia’s influence in the CIS countries. For instance, a new five-year program called MediaCAMP was presented at the end of last year in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, which is run in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan by an American NGO called Internews Network (California, USA), and receives heavy funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The program has a budget of $15 million. Its official goal is “to develop a more balanced information environment”, but in reality, it is used for intensive anti-Russian propaganda. Internews Network had its activity suspended in Russia back in 2007, but it has continued to operate efficiently in most Central Asian countries up to this day. The USAID Agency, funded by the United States federal government, also ran programs in Russia up until 2012 when it was banned.

One clear example of the United States’ involvement in this anti-Russian information war in Central Asia would be the material that was published at the end of January by the Pentagon’s Caravanserai information portal mentioned earlier, pushing Central Asian countries to switch to the Latin alphabet. At the same time, Washington does not try to hide the fact that specialists in information warfare are pushing people to use the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic alphabet, and it is part of their plan because it primarily acts as a tool to drive a cultural wedge between Russia and the Central Asian republics, and would erase the Russian language’s historical presence in Eurasia, constricting and shrinking the Russian-speaking cultural sphere and sphere of information.

It is important to remember that the extensive process of transcribing almost all the languages spoken in the Soviet Union into Cyrillic, which began in 1935, was one of the measures the Soviet government took to unite people in the former USSR. This included transliterating languages with a rich written tradition, interrupted by the reforms of the late 1920s, and languages that had only recently adopted a written form. By 1940, the “Cyrillization of the entire country” was largely complete. Dozens of languages acquired a writing system which united them with the Russian cultural sphere, and it was essentially the first time speakers of these languages received access to a single Eurasian space to share information. After the Second World War ended with Soviet victory in 1945, the Cyrillic alphabet was further consolidated as the main alphabet in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc which was beginning to take shape (for example, the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in Mongolia).

That is why Caravanserai’s sponsors not only see replacing the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet as a kind of symbolic act; it is also meant to drive a mental and psychological wedge between Central Asian countries and Russia. This is the precise aim of the language conflict and Russophobia Washington has been encouraging in the Baltic States, Ukraine, and in some countries in the Caucasus.

It was Washington that began stirring things up, stressing the need for Latinization in Central Asian countries through various channels under its control in Kazakhstan, where Russian is not only a native language for the ethnic Russians who live there, but also for many of the Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Germans and Koreans living in Kazakhstan. Now the Russian language has even been erased from Kazakhstan’s national tenge banknotes. Around 300 thousand people have emigrated from Kazakhstan over the past 10 years, most of them Slavs, and to some extent, it is due to this policy. As it was put in an article published in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita in November 2017, “by abandoning the Cyrillic alphabet, Nazarbayev is cutting the umbilical cord with Russia.”

Latinization has also been foisted in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

However, as we have seen in recent years, switching to the Latin alphabet has clearly been an unhappy experience in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Thus, it is worth recalling that Uzbekistan looked to the Turkish model in its first years of independence, and switching to the Latin alphabet was viewed a sort of “basis for unity”. Transitioning to the Latin alphabet also came to symbolize national identity and independence for the new Uzbek authorities. At the time however, no one stopped to consider the financial side of this transition, the costs associated with transliterating a huge archive of literature from Cyrillic into Latin script. Another thing no one saw coming was the conflict between generations reading in different alphabets. Relations between Uzbekistan and Turkey cooled within a very short space of time, the alphabet stayed the same, but the country’s education suffered a significant loss, which even affected basic literacy.

Attempts to switch to Latin have unleashed significant problems in Kazakhstan. In the 80 years since Kazakhstan made the transition from Arabic to Cyrillic, a huge network of libraries was created in this country, even in remote villages. The country had already achieved a literacy rate of 100%, which meant that the whole “matrix” of thinking for the entire population would need to be changed in switching to a new alphabet, and that would not only entail significant financial costs, but would also create generational conflict.

People in the region have responded to the attempts the West has been making to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet in Central Asian countries as fast as possible. They have increasingly begun to realize that there is no point in making this transition. Russian is a second language in Central Asian countries anyway, these states are geographically, economically, politically and linguistically distant from the West, and they are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, where the working language is Russian. Given these circumstances, there is a growing understanding that this issue requires a logical approach and some common sense, and linguistic problems should not be politicized.

Various foreign NGOs, such as Freedom House and other similar organizations, have been interfering in the domestic affairs of Central Asian states, destroying the linguistic and cultural heritage of the people who live there, and clearly pose a threat to their constitutional order, a threat coming from outside the region, so it is therefore unsurprising that this issue has been discussed more and more heatedly over recent years, with an increasingly resounding negative tone.

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will the ICC Prosecute Perpetrators of the ‘War on Terror’?

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | November 30, 2019

On May 13 2014, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Chief Prosecutor announced it would reopen the investigations into alleged war crimes committed by British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, following additional submitted information pertaining to the investigation which had been concluded in 2006.

A recent BBC Panorama investigation, in collaboration with the Sunday Times, ascertained a cover-up by the UK government of British soldiers torturing and murdering Iraqi and Afghan civilians, including children since 2003, when the UK participated alongside the US in invading Iraq under the pretext of the so-called “war on terror”.

In 2010, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was tasked with investigating allegations of abuse in Iraq, with the possibility of prosecuting the perpetrators. However, mismanagement and corruption within the body, including claims that solicitor Phil Shiner had paid people to find clients for IHAT, failed to open a single case from its investigations. For the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the allegations against IHAT were an opportune moment to discredit the claims of human rights violations committed by British troops. Rather than prioritise the allegations of human rights violations, IHAT was deemed harmful and “making soldiers on the battlefield anxious about later legal repercussions.”

In a 2018 report issued by the ICC, UK soldiers are alleged to have committed war crimes against 61 Iraqis in custody, including killings, torture, rape and sexual violence. Seven deaths occurred in custody and 54 victims died of “mistreatment”. The ICC report specifies: “At this stance, these incidents should not be considered as either complete or exhaustive, but rather illustrative of the alleged criminal conduct.”

In July 2019, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) submitted a follow-up to the ICC Prosecutor, informing the office about the UK’s failure to investigate or prosecute those responsible for war crimes, “despite significant and growing evidence indicating that liability extends up the chain of command to senior military and civilian officials.” The ECCHR also described the closing down of IHAT as a politically motivated decision to avoid ICC prosecution.

The UK’s intention was clearly to preserve its impunity. During the course of the BBC investigation, it was revealed that “The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary, and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it.” Among the concealed crimes, a soldier from an SAS unit shot 4 Afghan civilians, three of them children, in the head, while they were in their own home, drinking tea. “When I entered the room, the bones, teeth, blood and brain were all over the place,” a witness to the aftermath stated. The UK government dismissed the war crime allegation by stating the four Afghans were Taliban suspects and commanders.

Other war crimes were concealed through fabricated evidence in order to evade such classification. Evidence of sexual abuse was also revealed to have occurred at Camp Stephen in Basra, Iraq, which was under the command of the Black Watch.

If the ICC does investigate the UK government for these violations of the Geneva Convention, it would have set a precedent, given that the Court has, so far, focused on investigating the leaders of African nations as opposed to the crimes of Western governments and foreign intervention. The “war on terror” is characterised by two main factors – perpetual aggression and extended impunity for the perpetrators. Justice for the Iraqi and Afghan people, by now, is worse than a macabre farce. Yet the ICC must fulfil its duty to lay bare the dynamics that have so far shielded the UK military and governmental collaboration from judicial scrutiny.

December 1, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Bereft of soft power, India stands diminished in Hindu Kush and Central Asia

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 24, 2019

The dichotomy between the regime policy and public opinion is nowhere near as sharp as in the world of diplomacy. And nowhere in the contemporary situation is this maxim so sharply visible as in the dalliance of the West Asian oligarchies with Israel. The romance began at least a decade ago — perhaps, more — but it still remains an illicit affair.

Israel would have liked an open relationship. It has a lot to gain thereby. But that’s possible only when pigs fly. The reason is that the authoritarian rulers of Muslim Middle East are acutely conscious of the so-called ‘Arab Street’. This may seem a paradox — that oligarchies need to be mindful of popular opinion — but, in actuality, they do not enjoy such a big leeway as one imagines to trample upon public opinion to the extent that strong elected leadership would have.

When they defy or ignore public opinion, it must be for weighty reasons — mostly, when existential issues are involved such as the regime’s survival, for instance. Israel doesn’t fall into that exceptional category — it is not as if without a relationship with Israel, the Arab oligarchies would face extinction. The dalliance between the Arab regimes and Israel is characterised by pragmatism rather than principles or critical imperatives. So long as Israel lacks any ‘soft power’ in its Arab neighbourhood and the ‘Arab Street’ views it negatively, the hands of the authoritarian rulers are tied. They can go only thus far, and no further. In turn, it severely limited the relationship.

The Indian leadership should realise the limitations of pragmatic external relations in diplomacy. There is no gainsaying the fact that India’s ‘soft power’ is depleting at an alarming rate. The acolytes of the Modi government do not seem to care and even those amongst the few amongst them who are erudite enough to comprehend the significance of what is happening tend to put on an air of defiance or studied indifference — or worse still, become polemical.

The External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s recent remark that Imperial Britain divested India of $44 trillion is a typical remark. Faced with the quandary of searing criticism in Britain regarding the J&K situation, he takes a de tour to malign Britain. (How this round figure of $44 trillion has been arrived at is another matter — even if one doesn’t want to get into the modernisation of India under British rule that made the evolution of the Indian state as a political entity possible.)

Today, ‘soft power’ is no longer in vogue in the Indian diplomatic toolbox. The obsession with ‘macho’ image is so overpowering. Under the Modi government, the accent on ‘soft power’ began with a bang in 2014 and is quite visibly ending after five years with a whimper.

A number of mistakes have been made during the past 5-year period that dented India’s ‘soft power’ (which one doesn’t want to go into there). But it is the appalling situation in the Kashmir Valley that dealt a body blow to India’s image.

An opinion is steadily gaining ground in the Muslim countries in India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’ that the Modi government is adopting state policies that are decidedly ‘anti-Muslim’. Even the elites in friendly countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia or Turkey, who are by no means ‘Islamist’ tend to see Kashmir as a ‘Muslim issue.’

A recent opinion piece in the influential US magazine Foreign Policy is entitled Kashmir Could Wreck India’s Reputation Among Afghans. It is a nuanced analysis — by no means ‘anti-Indian’ — of how Afghan public opinion, which is traditionally friendly, is discernibly getting disenchanted with India’s repression of Kashmiri Muslims.

This is a depressing scenario, because ‘soft power’ has been historically the bedrock of India-Afghan relations, and for that reason, Delhi under successive governments right from 1947, placed great emphasis on people-to-people relations between the two countries.

Certainly, our diplomacy will be by far diminished if the Afghans perceive us as no different from Pakistan — pursuing cold, pitiless geopolitical objectives in their country. It is small comfort that Afghans will probably continue to view India as a ‘stabilising factor’.

To quote Hari Prasad, the author of the article, “The positions of political actors in Afghanistan have ranged from neutral to explicitly pro-India, primarily for India’s support for the Afghan government as well as anti-Pakistan animus. But our discussions with journalists and Afghans in the region show the popular reaction is decidedly more nuanced. Many working-class Afghans, drawing from their own experiences of conflict and oppression, identify with Kashmir’s Muslims.”

The analysis makes the foreboding conclusion: “Afghans are closely watching the actions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in Kashmir and throughout the region. That should be a reality check for New Delhi; its courting of Afghan opinion can only go so far. India may have the funding and power to shape public opinion and support in Afghanistan, but it will take much more to overcome growing mistrust.”   

If the changing perceptions regarding India are such in Afghanistan, can it be any different in the Central Asian region? The people in the steppes are, if anything, far more deeply immersed in Islamic culture, ethos and identity than Afghans, given the historical reality that their region was also the cradle of Islam in its golden era.

The Uzbeks, for instance, take great pride that Babur set out from Fergana, which, incidentally, has a museum dedicated to Babur. One of the most evocative historical monuments in Kabul is the Bagh-e Babur (Garden of Babur), the final resting place that the great emperor chose for himself — rather than Agra.

Even if Delhi were to build half a dozen parliament buildings in Kabul, Afghans will continue to treasure the Bagh-e Babur as the living monument to their abiding links with India.

November 24, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan: An On-Going Story of War Crimes

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By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 09.11.2019

While the Afghan peace process has been stalled and US forces have been busy dropping more bombs on Afghanistan than any other time in the last decade or so of the Afghan war, the story of gross human rights violations and even potential war crimes, too, continues to unfold in the country. With more civilian and unarmed innocent people dying at the hands of US and Afghan forces, including CIA-trained, funded and backed paramilitary militias, the question of which side actually follows barbaric methods has gained an unusual significance. According to the UNO, only during the first half of 2019, US and Afghan forces killed more civilians than the Taliban or ISIS, known as IS-K in Afghanistan, did. This figure does not include the number of innocent people who die due to heavy bombing in isolated areas of Afghanistan, where documenting these deaths is almost impossible.

Ever since the so-called ‘reduction’ of US forces from Afghanistan–a sugar-coated pill that the US policy makers fed their public with—the US war strategy has put on a much more secretive and a lot less accountable veil. The organisation of the US and Afghan elite units that mainly operate in Afghanistan tell the story of how the war is being fought. For one thing, there is little to nothing that people generally know about them. There is no clear information available about how many Afghans and Americans belong to them, how members are recruited, what their budget is, how their hierarchy functions, or if they are subject to oversight. These groups have been organised regionally: Zero-One in central Afghanistan, Zero-Two in the east, Zero-Three in the south, and Zero-Four in the north.

While these groups, as Afghan officials themselves claim, have been effective in killing both the Taliban and ISIS fighters, they also frequently engage in extra-judicial killings. Significantly enough, these groups operate solely under the command of the CIA and are answerable not to the Afghan authorities or the Afghan military forces but to the CIA. Therefore, what they do and how they do it must directly be attributed to the CIA.

Thus the story of their activity, as recently documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW) not only reveals their atrocities but also brings to light the ugly face of the Afghan war after the so-called ‘withdrawal’ of the bulk of US forces first under the Obama administration and then the Trump administration.

This withdrawal has only led the CIA to not only expand its role but also turn itself into a rather independent actor in Afghanistan. Therefore, as many even in the main stream western media have reported, these operations are not “military operations” and it is not clear if laws governing military operations can apply to these militias.

Perhaps, they don’t and that explains the impunity with which these groups operate and shoot people summarily or disappear them for a long time. The said HRW report has documented at least 14 cases from 2017 to 2019 which clearly show the trail of abuse and anger that these ‘special operations forces’ leave behind.

However, while these operations are not technically “military operations”, a US policy shift in 2017 created a provision for these groups to call in air-strikes as and when needed, thereby implying that these operation still had US military’s blessings and aren’t just an exclusive affair of the CIA. The “zero” groups, according the 2017-policy, can call for air strike even without the US forces present on the ground alongside them to identify targets.

According to HRW report, this change of policy and discretion given to the militias has “meant that airstrikes are hitting more residential buildings, while a decreased US ground presence and a reliance on local Afghan intelligence sources has meant there is less information available about the possible presence of civilians in those buildings.”

Accordingly, the report claims, “in many of the night raids that Human Rights Watch investigated, Afghan paramilitary forces seem to have unlawfully targeted civilians because of mistaken identity, poor intelligence, or political rivalries in the locality”; hence, an increasing number of the loss of innocent lives at their hands, explaining why the Taliban continue to receive support from the public. As it stands, in many of the cases the New York Times had investigated back in 2018, one of the primary reasons behind “night raids” and disappearance and killing of people by them was their support for the Taliban, which was often confined to just providing food and shelter out of fear.

The militias’ inability to wean people away from the Taliban explains why these groups engage in what the HRW report calls “willful violation of the law” and unjustifiable use of force.

As is evident, the long trail of abuse that these operations leave behind will never let the US win the war in Afghanistan. On the other hand, a deliberate policy followed by the highest US officials, including the president, continues to encourage these acts through a systematic blockade of any attempts at war crimes investigation. In 2018, when the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested an investigation of possible war crimes by the US forces in Afghanistan, including abuses by the CIA, the US State Department bullied the ICC into silence by revoking the chief prosecutor’s visa and threatening the court with sanctions, thus unwittingly posing serious questions about the sincerity of usual US concerns and claims about human rights and liberty. Obviously, these concerns don’t apply to the US-occupied and CIA-managed Afghanistan.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

November 9, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

The Duplicitous Agenda Endorsed by the UN and NATO

By Ramona Wadi | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 4, 2019

To the undiscerning, the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) perform different roles in the international arena. Yet both organisations have a common aim – the promotion of foreign intervention. While the UN promotes its humanitarian façade, NATO provides the militarisation of the UN’s purported human rights agenda.

NATO’s participation at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September provided an overview of the current collaboration the organisation has with the UN. Jens Stoltelberg, NATO’s Secretary-General, mentioned the organisations’ collaboration in “working closely to support Afghanistan and Iraq”.

Since the 1990s, the UN and NATO cooperation was based on a framework which included decision-making and strategy on “crisis management and in the fight against terrorism.” In 2001, US President George W Bush launched his ‘War on Terror’ which eventually expanded to leave the Middle East and North Africa in perpetual turmoil, as the coined euphemism morphed into the so-called Arab Spring.

While the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were led by the US, it is worth remembering that the absence of the organisation at that time is not tantamount to the exclusion of warfare from NATO member states. Notably, the US invasion of Afghanistan invoked Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which stipulates that an attack on a NATO member state constitutes an attack on all member states.

“For NATO-UN cooperation and dialogue to remain meaningful, it must continue to evolve.” The statement on NATO’s website is a bureaucratic approach which detaches itself from the human rights violations created and maintained by both parties, which form the premise of such collaboration.

UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), upon which NATO based its collaboration with the UN, reaffirms, “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence as recognised by the Charter of the United Nations.” The resolution provides impunity for member-states and other collaborators with the UN, including NATO, to define what constitutes terrorism while eliminating foreign intervention as a terror act, despite the ramifications which last long after the aggression has been terminated or minimised.

The UN-NATO duplicity is exposed in Stoltenberg’s speech when he states, “NATO has also contributed to developing UN disposal standards to counter improvised explosive devices, which remain one of the greatest threats to peacekeepers.” Why are the UN and NATO selecting rudimentary forms of warfare over precision bombing which has killed thousands of civilians in the name of fighting terror or bringing democracy?

In 2011, the UNSC’s arms embargo was supposed to prevent the proliferation of weapons to the rebels in Libya – a contradiction given the UNSC’s authorisation for NATO to bomb Libya. France, however, defied the resolution by publicly declaring its proliferation of weapons to rebels in Libya, on the pretext of their necessity to protect Libyan civilians. NATO denied its involvement as an organisation in providing arms to the rebels, despite the fact that action was taken by a NATO member. With the UN endorsing foreign intervention and NATO implementing the atrocities, the UN can fall back on its alleged peace-building and humanitarian roles, of which there is never a decline due to the irreparable damage both organisations have wreaked upon exploited, colonised and ravaged countries. The cooperation lauded by NATO does not rest on a division of roles but rather on blurring the differentiation between war and humanitarianism, in order to generate both as a duplicitous agenda.

NATO maintains that the UNSC holds “primary responsibility” for maintaining international peace and security. What the statement evades is the individual interest of each member, as well as their collective framework as NATO members. To satisfy the UNSC, individual interests and NATO membership, a common denominator is imperative. For the perpetrators of foreign intervention, war constitutes the binding legacy.

October 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware of blowback from Afghan policies

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 25, 2019

During an exclusive interview with the Associated Press this week, the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has severely questioned the rationale behind the presidential election which is due to take place in his country on September 28. Those who drive the Afghan policy in the Indian establishment should take careful note.

Karzai’s opinion runs completely contrary to the Indian stance. Delhi must be probably the only world capital that is enthusiastic about the Afghan presidential election. Delhi has exhorted Afghan people (“brothers and sisters”) to turn out in large numbers to cast their ballots

The Indian calculus is that by rigging the election, the incumbent president Ashraf Ghani and his group will be able to secure another 4-years in power. What brings the Indian establishment and Ghani’s group on the same page is their common interest in preventing the Taliban from holding the levers of power in Kabul, no matter what it takes. India has emerged in the most recent years as the main patron of Ghani’s group.

Ghani’s group comprising figures like the country’s security czar Amarullah Saleh maintain a policy trajectory that is hostile toward Pakistan, which helps Delhi’s hardline policies toward Pakistan. In this ‘Chanakyan’ thinking, India stands to gain if Pakistan is bogged down in a seamless war of attrition, sandwiched between its two hostile neighbours.

A hostile regime in Kabul will never compromise on the Durand Line, which implies that Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will remain under challenge for the foreseeable future if Ghani and his group remain in power.

Delhi blithely overlooks that the Afghan situation also impacts regional security and stability and that India’s medium and long term interests lie in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Hopefully, the views expressed by Karzai, who is a close and longstanding friend of India, would have a salutary effect on the Indian establishment and prompt it to rethink.

Karzai is spot on in his assessment that the prevailing politico-security situation in Afghanistan is not at all conducive to the holding of a free and fair election. Ironically, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is nowhere near as precarious as in Afghanistan and yet the elections in the Indian state have been postponed indefinitely.

The outcome of Saturday’s election will be severely contested by the other Afghan (non-Taliban) groups and we are going to witness a replay of the 2014 charade when Ghani’s ‘victory’ under extremely controversial circumstances marred by cheating on an industrial scale stalled the transition. Washington finally deputed then US senator John Kerry to Kabul to cajole the warring factions to accept the idea of a so-called national unity government.

The spectre that is facing Afghanistan is a highly problematic political transition. Considering that more than half the country is under Taliban control and that the Taliban are viscerally opposed to the charade of election on Saturday, Ghani’s legitimacy to rule for another term is in serious doubt. Delhi should ponder over the emergent scenario.

Only through an inclusive democratic process can the Afghan transition be peacefully managed. And that is only possible if the transition is predicated on a peace agreement with the Taliban, followed by inter-Afghan dialogue (including with representatives of Ghani’s ‘government’) on a political settlement, which would be put before a Loya Jirga for approval. The elections should be held only thereafter.

On the contrary, the US President Trump’s impetuous decision to call off the negotiations with the Taliban (although a draft agreement was initialed in Doha) has been seized by Ghani’s group to front-load the presidential election. This is like putting the cart before the horse.

What will happen now is that Ghani’s group will rig the election and win it and proceed to claim a mandate to rule for another 4 years, while other Afghan groups — Taliban and non-Taliban — will not accept Ghani and his coterie for a second term.

There are signs that even Washington has distanced itself from Ghani’s government by withholding assistance to the tune of $160 million. The US state department statement announcing this was highly critical of the Ghani government.

Equally, the USG-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in a commentary on Monday was frankly skeptical of the entire exercise of Saturday’s election. It sounded a warning that “many Afghans remain wary of the landmark presidential vote, fearing Taliban violence aimed at disrupting the vote and disillusioned at the widespread fraud and corruption that has tainted other elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

“Analysts say voter fatigue and safety concerns could depress turnout to undermine the legitimacy of the vote and give any winner only with a weak mandate to rule a country reeling from economic turmoil, an escalating war, and political infighting.”

Where does all this leave India? Clearly, Delhi’s backing for Ghani’s group is a cynical, self-serving attempt to exploit an unstable Afghanistan to India’s advantage. It does not constitute an Afghan policy. It reflects a pitiless mindset to keep Afghanistan in civil war conditions for as long as possible. It is indifferent towards the long-suffering Afghan people (here and here.) How is such a ‘policy’ any different from Pakistan’s?

Surely, the Indian embassy in Kabul would have reported on the meeting in Kabul on Monday of prominent Afghan political figures including Mujahideen leaders and erstwhile Northern Alliance stalwarts — former President Karzai, former Vice President Yunus Qanooni, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, former Minister of Energy and Water Mohammad Ismail Khan, former National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and so on — which issued a formal statement calling for the deferment of the presidential election and an immediate resumption of the US-Taliban negotiations.

The statement highlighted that the Afghan people do not trust in the electoral management organisations to prevent “widespread manipulation” of the presidential election. It said, “There are many realities which show that the election will not reduce the crisis in the country, instead it will double the crisis, fuel division among the people, weaken institutions and affect the trust in democracy and political partnership.”

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

War is imposed on us by US, we can fight it for 100 years, Taliban tells RT after talks cut off

RT | September 13, 2019

Talks with the Taliban to put an end to the longest of America’s forever wars were killed off by the US last week. The Afghan militant movement is prepared to fight a hundred more years, its chief negotiator told RT.

The peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban were called off by President Donald Trump days ahead of a planned signing of a formal agreement. The draft has even been initialed by both parties and Qatar, which mediated in the talks, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban’s delegation, told RT. As far as the Taliban is concerned, the US decision can be easily reversed and the agreement put into force as agreed, he said.

“We are still committed to the negotiations. Our stance is that there is no solution to the conflict except negotiations and except peace on the table. We hope that Mr. Trump rethinks his announcement and comes back to where we were,” the official said.

Trump cited an attack by the Taliban, which killed a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan, as the reason for the surprise cancellation of the talks. The militants say their attacks were well justified by attacks against them by the US and the Afghan security forces. They see the Americans as a foreign occupying force and themselves as freedom fighters and protectors of the Afghan civilians, who are injured and killed when the US attacks the Taliban, which regularly conducts terrorist attacks.

“The war was imposed on us. It is American soldiers who are in Afghanistan. It’s not our mujahedeen in Washington,” he said. He added that Trump’s justification for stopping talks clashed with statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who appeared on TV the following day and said the US killed “over 1,000 Taliban” over ten prior days, as negotiations were under way.

“Mr. Pompeo admitted that they have killed a thousand Taliban,” Stanikzai pointed out. “If they can kill a thousand of us, why can we not kill one or two of them? This is our right. We have to defend ourselves and defend our people.”

The Taliban representative said the Trump administration proved to be no different to that of Barack Obama, which also held peace talks with the Afghan militants before ending them at the last moment. He questioned Washington’s commitment to resolving the situation and ending what is now a 19-year-long anti-insurgency war that the US apparently cannot win through military force.

“If the American side is not willing to negotiate and they do not want peace on the table, we will be compelled to defend ourselves,” he said.

“We can do it for a hundred years.”

Stanikzai reiterated that only after a formal agreement is signed and US troops are pulled out of Afghanistan would the Taliban be able to settle its differences with other political forces in Afghanistan, including the US-backed government in Kabul.

“We need a practical thing. When it is signed, there will be [a] ceasefire between us and the American forces. We will give safe passage to the American forces,” he said. “When they go out, inter-Afghan talks can start and a comprehensive ceasefire and other domestic issues can be discussed.”

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Trump Didn’t Start the War in Afghanistan, But He Owns It

By Thomas L. Knapp | Garrison Center | September 11, 2019

National Security Advisor John Bolton became the latest American casualty of Washington’s 18-year war in Afghanistan on September 10, fired by US president Donald Trump shortly after Trump announced that he had planned, but was canceling, a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David to ink a “peace deal.”

Firing Bolton is a good start. Nobody sane wants a guy who looks like Captain Kangaroo but talks like Dr. Strangelove whispering foreign policy advice in a president’s ear. The main effect of his departure from the White House is to shift perceived responsibility for America’s ongoing fiasco in Afghanistan back where it belongs: Squarely on the shoulders of Donald J. Trump.

Before Trump became a presidential candidate, his views on the war made sense. “We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives,” he tweeted on March 1, 2013. In November of that same year, he urged Americans to “not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024.”

Unfortunately his position on the war became “nuanced” (read: pandering and weaselly) as he became first a presidential candidate and then president.

As president, he increased US troop levels in Afghanistan and dragged out the war he once said he wanted to end. In fact, the notional Camp David “peace deal” would merely have reduced those troop levels back to about where they were as of his inauguration. Some “peace deal!”

Throughout Trump’s presidency, his non-interventionist supporters have continuously made excuses for his failure to end US military adventures in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere.

It’s always John Bolton’s fault, or Mike Pompeo’s. It’s always this general, or that bureaucrat, or the “fake news media,” or the “deep state” undermining poor, powerless little Donny Trump, thwarting his sincere desire to do the right thing and bring the troops home.

Oddly, those same supporters would have us believe that Trump is a bold and commanding genius, scattering his opponents before him as he  maneuvers 5D chess pieces around their tiddlywinks with his abnormally small hands, Making America Great Again.

It can’t be both. Nor is it necessarily either of those things. Whatever it is, this is necessarily part of it:

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States …” — Article II, Section 2, US Constitution

Trump can pick up his phone any time, call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and order the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. If his order is disobeyed, he can relieve the generals who fail to follow it and replace them with others who’ll do their jobs.

John Bolton didn’t stop him from doing that. Mike Pompeo can’t stop him from doing that. The “fake news media” and the “deep state” don’t get to countermand presidential orders to the armed forces.

Donald Trump owns this war. If he doesn’t end it, that’s on him and no one else.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Condoleeza Rice wants the US to stay in Afghanistan, and this time it’s for ‘the women’

RT | September 11, 2019

Former National Security Advisor and State Secretary Condoleeza Rice appeared on a late-night comedy show, calling for a continued US presence in Afghanistan, this time for apparently feminist reasons. She was swiftly called out.

After some de-rigeur Trump-bashing, host Stephen Colbert and Rice got down to the topic at hand: President Donald Trump’s decision to host, and then cancel, a meeting with the Afghan Taliban at Camp David last week.

Speculating that Trump might cut a deal with the Islamic militants to wrap up the war in Afghanistan –which turns 18 next month– by any means necessary, Rice made the case for continued American involvement in the country. “I hope we’re not going to abandon the women of Afghanistan,” she proclaimed, to cheers from the audience.

“We’ve gone a long way toward helping to create a decent place for the Afghan people to live,” she continued, without mentioning that an estimated 38,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, along with more than 2,400 US troops, 4,000 US contractors and 58,500 Afghan military and police personnel.

While she trumpeted the fact that women may now join Afghanistan’s military and police force, Rice did not mention the near-weekly attacks on these forces, like the Taliban bombings that killed at least 179 security personnel in one week at the beginning of this month.

Commenters were quick to call out the former Bush administration official. “‘Women of Afghanistan’ is a strange euphemism for defense contractors,” one wrote. “[I] Love late night comedy,” another sarcastically quipped.

And while life for these women under the Taliban was certainly repressive and cruel, life with American boots on the ground and drones in the sky can be nasty, brutish and short, too. A joint American/Afghan airstrike killed seven civilians on Monday, obliterating a crowd reportedly on their way to a wedding party in the Sayed Abad district. Furthermore, a UN report revealed in July that Afghan government forces and their US and international partners had killed more civilians in the first half of 2019 than the Taliban, Islamic State, and other anti-government fighters.

Colbert, however, did not press Rice on any of this. Instead he took a moment to plug Rice’s new book, unironically entitled ‘To Build a Better World.’ Colbert’s show was just one stop on a recent media blitz for Rice, who told CBS on Tuesday that “No one but the US” can guarantee stability in Afghanistan.

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

Zarif reminds Trump: Did you know Netanyahu pushed you into Afghan war, too?

Press TV – September 10, 2019

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reminds the United States that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contributed to the launch of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan before he tried bringing about the Washington-spearheaded war on Iraq.

“Did you know, realDonaldTrump (the name of the US president’s Twitter account), that Netanyahu was also instrumental in pushing the US into the Afghanistan quagmire?” Zarif tweeted on Tuesday.

The tweet incorporated a video showing the Israeli premier’s promoting the Afghan invasion before its realization in 2001 during a congressional hearing in the US.

“His (Netanyahu’s) motto since 1986: Fight to the last American soldier,” Zarif added. He was citing a remark made by the Israeli politician in a book written by him that year, to which Netanyahu himself is seen referring during the hearing.

About 18 years on, Zarif said, the United States is now bogged down in Afghanistan and unable to “get out,” referring to Washington’s inability to strike a peace deal with the Afghan militant group Taliban, which the US overthrew through the invasion but failed to eliminate.

On Monday, Zarif had posted another tweet indicating Netanyahu’s influence in realization of the US-led invasion of Iraq two years after the invasion of Afghanistan.

In that tweet, he pointed to Netanyahu’s remarks back in 2002, during which the Israeli premier promoted a US-led military aggression against the Arab country by claiming that it would hugely benefit the region.

The United States led its allies in the invasion a year later. The war was ensued by devastating chaos in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. The tumultuous aftermath also paved the way for the emergence of Takfiri terrorists in the Middle East.

“Remember his “GUARANTEE” of “positive reverberations” in ’02?” the tweet read, and also incorporated a video of Netanyahu’s giving the pledge.

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 5 Comments

Bulgarian journalist reveals how US-purchased arms end up with ISIS in Yemen

‘It’s a tip of an iceberg’

RT | September 5, 2019

Mortar shells shown in an Islamic State propaganda video have put a Bulgarian journalist on the scent of an alleged US-run arms shipping network supplying militants in the Middle East, she told RT in an exclusive interview.

This story began back in June, when Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Yemen demonstrated several Serbian-made 82mm mortar shells in their propaganda video. Independent investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, believes that the deadly munitions ended up with the jihadists after going through US hands.

Tracing origins

Clearly visible on one of the shells is a mark that reads ’82 mm M74HE mortar shells KV lot 04/18.’ The letters KV stand for the Serbian state arms manufacturer Krusik, located in the town of Valjevo, while the digits 04/18 refer to lot 04 produced in 2018. One should not jump to any conclusions, however, as it is not the Serbs who were responsible for the shells suddenly appearing in the hands of terrorists, according to Gaytandzhieva.

A trove of “explosive” leaked documents she said she received from an “anonymous source” shows that the lot in question was part of a deal between the Serbian arms factory and a Pentagon contractor, Alliant Techsystems LLC. It was part of a purchase of more than 100,000 such shells “for the needs of the US government.”

“In the shipping documentation and on the labels on the mortar shells’ containers, there is a name of… the importer… that purchases the weapons on behalf of the US government,” the journalist told RT, citing the documents.

“There are indications and information about a US federal contract, under which these weapons were purchased, and this is absolutely verifiable in the case of Alliant Techsystems LLC, the company, which purchased the mortar shells and this particular lot of weapons pictured in the ISIS video in Yemen.”

Some leaked documents published by Gaytandzhieva do indeed mention a contract between Alliant Techsystems LLC and the Pentagon, which was allegedly aimed at supplying the Afghan National Army. “This lot was purchased under a $50 million contract between Alliant Techsystems and the US DoD for the delivery of non-standard US weapons to Afghanistan,” the journalist said.

Gaytandzhieva believes, however, that this case is just the tip of the iceberg. It could be a part of a far-reaching arms supply scheme involving up to “three million pieces of weapons – rockets and mortar shells – that have been diverted either to Syria or to Yemen.”

‘Corporate international weapons shipment network’

The leaked documents, which include emails, internal memos, photos and correspondence between the American arms dealers and the Serbian arms factory Krusik, have helped Gaytandzhieva to “expose the existence of a secret US special command unit code-named “Task Force Smoking Gun.” That unit has allegedly operated an arms depo since at least 2017, which is used in shady arms shipping operations by the US and its allies.

“I found that four private American companies were US government contractors and they were commissioned by the Pentagon to deliver non-US standard weapons to different destinations. According to the other leaked documents, I found that one of these destinations was Syria.

“This is a whole international weapons shipment network,” the journalist explained to RT, adding that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also using it for its operations alongside the US. “The scheme is using different routes and diplomatic flights diverting weapons via a third party to their final destination, which appears to be Syria or Yemen.”

Gaytandzhieva said that she investigated at least “350 diplomatic flights carrying weapons for the last three years” by the same Azeri state-run company that delivered the mortar shells to Afghanistan in 2018. “They made technical landings with stays varying from a few hours to up to a day in intermediary locations without any logical reasons such as needing to refuel the planes,” she wrote in a separate report investigating this particular issue.

“That means that this international weapons shipment network has never [ceased to exist] and continues [it operations] to this date.”

RT has managed to independently verify parts of Gaytandzhieva’s report by finding the contracts between Alliant Techsystems LLC and the Pentagon that she mentions in the US Federal Procurement Data System. It has also been established that the company has regularly worked for the US Department of Defense since at least 2016.

Also on rt.com:

Al Qaeda team plays on the same side as the US in Yemen

Weapons ending up with terrorists is OK, as long as Obama did it: The world according to CNN

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Moratorium on US oil sanctions to open talks with Iran

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 2, 2019

The diplomatic manoeuvrings over the situation around Iran are entering a crucial phase with an Iranian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi leaving from Tehran for Paris today to pick up the threads of the 3-way discussions involving France, Iran and the United States at Biarritz a week ago on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

Araqchi is Iran’s chief negotiator with the E3 — France, UK and Germany — on the nuclear issue. Interestingly, Araqchi openly acknowledged on Saturday that the US has “shown some flexibility on the licensing of Iranian oil sales.”

The formula that was tossed around in Biarritz that the US will not oppose income being generated for Iran through oil sales is being finessed and linked to the working of the European Union’s trade mechanism for legitimate trade with Iran known as INSTEX. In essence, the formula is based on the French proposal of “freeze for freeze” — US freezing oil sanctions against Iran while Iran will freeze its steady pullback from the JCPOA commitments.

Araqchi said Iran and its European partners in the nuclear deal faced “difficult and complex” talks towards salvaging the pact. But a note of cautious optimism is apparent in Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s remark in Tehran following a meeting of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee at the Iranian parliament on Sunday afternoon that Iran may review the decision to further reduce JCPOA commitments if the European countries take action on INSTEX to live up to their own obligations. Tehran expects the Europeans to take a final decision by Thursday.

In the above backdrop, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani telephoned French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday to convey Tehran’s interest in resuming the discussions under the latter’s mediation. Macron welcomed the move. Rouhani also assured Macron that Iran is supportive of a political settlement in Yemen and is willing to guarantee the security of the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Perhaps, in an indirect alert to the US President Trump, Rouhani conveyed to Macron Iran’s misgivings that Israel is pulling all stops to derail the current negotiations which are at a delicate stage. Rouhani specifically referred to the Israeli attempt to provoke a flare-up involving Iran somehow, as evident in its recent air attacks on Lebanon, Syria and Iraq successively. The Hezbollah retaliated on Sunday by attacking Israel’s military vehicles, leaving a number of Israeli forces reportedly dead or injured.

In a sure sign that a broad settlement of the situation around Iran is under discussion, Zarif has travelled to Moscow with a high-level delegation aimed at coordinating the Iranian and Russian positions. Iran’s special envoys for Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria are accompanying him. (Interestingly, Zarif referred to “serious developments” in Afghanistan, hinting at imminent US-Taliban deal this week.) Indeed, Iran is across the board addressing the western disquiet over Iran’s role in the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan. Tehran’s diplomatic priority will be to underscore that it can be a factor of regional security and stability.

From all appearance, Macron is steering the negotiations along three parallel tracks: a) forestall any precipitate crisis in the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal by enabling Tehran to generate income out of oil sales that helps alleviate the hardships in the Iranian economy; b) persuade the Trump administration to concede Iran’s prerogative to resume trade relations with Europe and generate income through oil sales; and, c) defuse and de-escalate the various ‘hotspots’ in the Middle East where Iran’s role is regarded as critical — principally, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.

A convergence of the three tracks can be expected to lead to a new understanding between Tehran and Washington, possibly even a near-future summit involving the US and Iranian presidents. The clock is ticking and there is urgency to generate momentum for Macron’s efforts, as Trump and Rouhani are due to attend the UN General Assembly in September. A meeting is entirely conceivable as things stand.

Indeed, a deeply troubled relationship such as the Iranian-American is bedeviled with a lot of signalling and grandstanding, especially on the part of Tehran where Rouhani has to overcome significant resistance to the very idea of engaging with the US. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has not said a word so far on Zarif’s visit to Biarritz or the 3-way France-Iran-US discussions under way. Tehran keeps repeating the demand on the lifting of the US sanctions as a pre-requisite for a face-to-face meeting between Rouhani and Trump.

However, it is possible to discern that Tehran is open to negotiations without preconditions and to strive for a meaningful breakthrough by optimally resorting to creative and flexible diplomacy. This flexibility factors in the assessment that Washington too is in a chastened mood.

Trump will not brook disruption by “hardliners”. Several Israeli attempts to have a phone conversation between PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump at Biarritz failed to materialise. Trump understands that all attempts by the US to create an international coalition against Iran have failed.

The law of diminishing returns is at work. The maximum pressure strategy against Iran is opening the window for an unprecedented expansion of Russian and Chinese influence in Tehran which may damage American regional interests in the long-term. The planned first-ever naval exercises between Iran and Russia in the Persian Gulf has rattled the US.

All in all, we may expect a moratorium on US oil sanctions in exchange for Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA obligations, which would be followed by direct negotiations for a historic thaw in the US-Iran relations.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment