Germany has slipped up again in Afghanistan, mistakenly killing five Afghan soldiers after losing three of its own soldiers in a gunfight with insurgents in the northern province of Kunduz. For a nation with little appetite for a war 3,000 miles away, the losses couldn’t come at a worse time. Germany is still feeling the repercussions of an incident in September in which its forces called in a U.S. air strike that killed scores of people, at least 30 civilians, the deadliest incident involving German forces since World War 11.
It could be early days yet, and the sampling may be small, but there are signs of a drop in Taliban attacks following the Pakistani crackdown on the Quetta Shura, an intelligence website says. If the assessment put out by NightWatch intelligence turns out to be true over the next few weeks, it will reinforce U.S. military officials’ long-standing position you cannot win the war in Afghanistan unless you take out the Taliban leadership in Pakistan
For all the hand-wringing in India over getting sidelined by the United States in its regional strategy, the two countries have gone ahead and just completed an important deal on the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from reactors to be built in India.
The agreement is a key step in the implementation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear pact which grants India access to nuclear fuel and technology, even though it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the agreement India can reprocess U.S.-originated nuclear material under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards which in itself is a symbolic concession, according to the Washington Post. It said that the Indians were a bit concerned about the idea of American officials running around their nuclear reactors , a sort of “a symbolic, sovereignty issue” as a source in the U.S. nuclear industry said. They would rather submit to oversight by the IAEA, which thus far is a model the United States has only followed for nuclear collaboration with Europe and Japan.
For a leader who has come to own the Afghan war, U.S. President Barack Obama’s first trip to Kabul and the military headquarters in Bagram since he took office 15 months ago was remarkable for its secrecy and surprise.
He flew in late on Sunday night, the blinds lowered on Air Force One all the way from Washington, and left while it was still dark.
“The Hurt Locker”, the Oscar-winning story of a U.S. army bomb disposal squad defusing explosives in the combat zones of Baghdad, may well have been shot in the riverine valleys of southern Afghanistan.
For it is in the Afghan theatre that Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs as everyone calls them, have become the bigger threat to U.S.-led forces, just as they taper off in Iraq. U.S. army Lieutenant General Michael L Oates told the House Armed Services Committee in a testimony earlier this month that Afghanistan had experienced a near doubling of IED attacks in the last year with a corresponding significant rise in U.S. and coalition casualties.
(A protester outside the White House in Washington dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Photo by Kevin Lamarque)
The United States is considering a proposal to hold foreign terrorism suspects at the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported this week, a new Guantanamo Bay just as it is trying to close down the original facility in Cuba.
Early this month Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered what military experts are saying was the final nail in the coffin of the Powell doctrine, a set of principles that General Colin Powell during his tenure as chairman laid out for the use of military force. A key element was that the military plan should employ decisive and overwhelming force in order to achieve a rapid result. A clear exit strategy must be thought through right from the beginning and the use of force must only be a last resort, Powell said, the experience of Vietnam clearly weighing on him.
U.S. military involvement overseas has deviated far from those principles since then but Mullen finally finished it off, according to Robert Haddick in this piece for Foreign Policy. The United States is faced with low-level warfare and the public must accept it as a way of life. The question no longer is whether to use military force; America’s enemies whether in Afghanistan or Iraq or Yemen have settled that issue, ensuring it remains engaged in conflict. The question is how should it use its vast power.
Gallup has a new poll out testing the mood inside Afghanistan and Pakistan and it remains downbeat. Roughly half of those surveyed in both countries said their governments were not doing enough to fight terrorism, despite the infusion of troops in Afghanistan and military offensives in Pakistan.
The dissatisfaction is even more pronounced the closer you are to the trouble spots. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed in Pakistan’s northwest, which is really the ground zero of the war against militant groups, were unhappy with the government’s efforts. Afghans were even more impatient, with some 67 percent in the east which faces Pakistan’s troubled northwest, registering their disappointment.