Monday, February 27, 2012

Bay-Peace Anthem | Luis Montoya & Egypt Claxton

"Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind"
- John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

World Premiere - 2nd Annual
"If I Had A Trillion Dollars" Youth Film Festival

Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm

American Friends Service Committee and National Priorities Project are proud to invite you to the World Premiere of the 2nd Annual "If I Had A Trillion Dollars" Youth Film Festival.

The IHTD Youth Film Festival asks young people to speak out on the federal budget and asks them to consider:

The $1 trillion spent yearly on the U.S. military
The $1 trillion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
The $1 trillion plus in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans

Please join us for an evening of youth voices on the cost of war.

Check out the films here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Congressional Briefing | Afghan Civil Society Perspectives

I am thrilled to be a part of this briefing hosted by Rep. James McGovern and Rep. John Garamendi. It will be Wednesday 29 February at 2 PM. Click on the image above for details.

The screening, presentation and live discussion will be an opportunity to bring Afghan perspectives to the forefront of the conversation about crucial economic and social development issues.

It will also serve as the formal launch of the Windows and Mirrors mural exhibit that will be in Washington for the month of March. A key sponsor of the exhibit will be the Faith Roundtable on Afghanistan.

The briefing will feature a live video conference with Afghan NGO directors and filmmakers, a screening of a selection of the Afghan–made documentary shorts The Fruit of Our Labor, and a roundtable discussion with Community Supported Film, 3P Human Security, and the American Friends Service Committee.

The live video conversation and Q&A with Afghan and US participants will include: Zarah Sadat, filmmaker and Founder and Director of Open Society Organization in Afghanistan; Jamal Aram, filmmaker and Program Coordinator of Community Supported Film, Afghanistan; Michael Sheridan, Director and Founder of Community Supported Film; Peter Lems, AFSC Program Director for Education and Advocacy on Afghanistan and Iraq; Lisa Schirch, Director of 3P Human Security

Take a moment to check out The Fruit of Our Labor on their home page.

The films allow viewers to witness reality through Afghan eyes, offering a deeper understanding of Afghanistan that is crucial for mapping a peaceful and stable path forward as US and NATO troops withdraw.

The films are a collection of documentary shorts made by Afghans in a training provided by Community Supported Film in Kabul.

Windows and Mirrors DC Schedule here.

A Year of Secrets | A poem by Iris M. Feliciano

January 3, 2002
We board an aircraft in route to a secret airbase
With secret boxes with locks and secret codes
We consent

March 8, 2002
We transmit secret signals about enemies
and their secret hideaways for boots to storm
We certify

June 22, 2002
We find a secret stash of hash
and smoke beneath a rock
We approve

July 12, 2002
I am forced into a secret place
and robbed of my greatest secret
threatened never to tell
I succumb

September 4, 2002
We pack up secret photos of boys and girls
of dead camels and burnt homes
We lock them in a secret box with a secret code
We concede

November 17, 2002
We have secret meetings about
how to keep the secrets we were told
We board an aircraft with more secrets than any
box could hold.
We assent

December 7, 2002
My love kisses me
Once again we lay in our secret place
together, yet still so alone.
We don’t share any more secrets.
We defer.

Iris M. Feliciano is a Marine Corps veteran and a writer with the Warrior Writers Project , a national writing project for "veterans transforming their lives through art". She also works at a Chicago-based non-profit agency where she assists transitioning veterans with employment and supportive services.

Additional Resource: The Invisible War

THE INVISIBLE WAR is a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of our country's most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within our US military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire with the number of assaults in the last decade alone in the hundreds of thousands.

Afghanistan’s Most Vulnerable | The Poverty of War

Click on image for slideshow.

"At least 150 people in Afghanistan have died in the past month after some of the coldest weather for years." - IRIN

Afghanistan is one of the most poor, unstable and insecure countries of the world. Decades of war and military occupation by foreign powers have created one of the largest communities of displaced people in the world.

The death of so many Afghan’s highlights the tragedy of the U.S. commitment to war-fighting instead of human needs. See the most recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

IRIN is a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and focuses on humanitarian news and analysis.

“DUBAI, 24 February 2012 (IRIN) - At least 150 people in Afghanistan have died in the past month after some of the coldest weather for years. The deaths - mainly of those without adequate food, housing or heating in Kabul and the northern province of Badakhshan - have prompted some to ask how this can happen given that the country has received billions of dollars of aid since the Taliban regime fell in 2002.

Sediq Hassani, director of policy at the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, said every possible effort had been made to stock food and other items in the most at-risk areas, but acknowledged: “We were not 100 percent successful. There were districts to which, due to bad roads, we couldn’t send food items before winter started.”

He blamed lack of investment by the government and international community in the last decade, but one UN official told IRIN the international community has failed to prioritize disaster reduction management in Afghanistan.

“The ones who died were mostly the children of internally displaced persons who live in tents and mud-huts in Kabul and those poor families in other parts of the country who can’t afford to keep their homes warm,” said Health Ministry spokesman Kargar Norughli.

“In the last few days, 35 children were killed by pneumonia in two districts of Badakhshan Province and more than 30 others by avalanches in the last few weeks,” Abdul Marouf Rasekh, a spokesperson for the governor of Badakhshan said.

“I thought everybody was dead after an avalanche hit our village,” Ghulam Yahya, 48, from Eshkashim District in Badakhshan Province, told IRIN in Faizabad, the provincial capital. “I saw one of our relatives die after being trapped in the snow for hours. Many houses were destroyed by the avalanche.”

NGO Save The Children has launched a rapid response to get help to families as more heavy snowfall is predicted for this coming week and temperatures are expected to drop as low as minus 17 degrees centigrade.

See a slideshow about how the cold weather is affecting some of the country’s most vulnerable people.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Parwan Prison and the Destruction of Religious Items | Adding Insult to Injury

Image above from January 2012 ceremony.
"An Afghan calligrapher has worked for five years to create the world's biggest Quran, a bid to show the world that Afghanistan's rich cultural heritage and traditions have been damaged but not destroyed by 30 years of war."

AP reports that seven people have been killed in protests over Quran burning at the Bagram Air Base.
“Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm Wednesday after clashes in several cities between Afghan security forces and protesters furious over the burning of Muslim holy books at a U.S. military base left seven people dead.

The anger over the Quran burning has sparked two days of protests across Afghanistan and tapped into anti-foreign sentiment fueled by a popular perception that U.S. and Western troops disrespect Afghan culture and Islam. The demonstrations prompted the U.S. to lock down its embassy and bar its staff from traveling.”

The WSJ points out:
“The clashes highlighted mounting anti-Western resentment in Afghanistan as top American officials tried to contain the damage by personally apologizing to Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his Kabul palace.

Such contrition failed to dampen the anger as Afghans reacted to reports that coalition soldiers at Bagram Air Field Monday night tried to incinerate a truckload of Islamic religious items, including copies of the Quran, Islam's holiest book. U.S. military officials have launched an investigation to try to determine why the soldiers were directed to destroy Islamic books from the detention center's library that were said to have contained "extremist literature" and "clandestine communications" shared among detainees."

The religious items being destroyed were from the US- Run military detention center library in Parwan.

U.S. Super-Sizing Afghan Jail It Promised to Abandon

Reproduced in full from Spencer Ackerman | 20 February 2012

There once was a plan to turn over the main U.S. detention center in Afghanistan to control of the Afghans in 2011. That’s out the window. Instead, the military is offering millions to vastly expand the center’s inmate intake.

Specifically, $35 million will fund expansions necessary to house “approximately 2,000 detainees” at the Detention Facility at Parwan on the outskirts of Bagram Air Field, an hour’s drive from Kabul. The Army Corps of Engineers wants to expand “detainee housing, guard towers, administrative facility and Vehicle/Personnel Access Control Gates, security surveillance and restricted access systems,” according to a recent solicitation. A Turkey-based company received the contract in late January.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. As far back as summer 2010, senior military officials in charge of the detention center boasted to Danger Room outright that by January 2012, they wouldn’t be running the square-mile sized prison. They considered handing the detention center to the Afghans a mark of their own success at fostering a culture of law and order within the Afghan government.

Alas. A year later, the command in charge of the detention center, Joint Task Force-435, admitted that it wouldn’t complete the handoff until the U.S. ended combat in 2014. The reason? “The Afghans don’t have the legal framework or the capacity to deal with violence being inflicted on the country by the insurgency,” an official told the Financial Times.

But the expansion is only going to increase the caseload the Afghans will eventually deal with. This is no minor refurbishment. The Detention Facility at Parwan held 1,000 inmates in August 2010. The $35 million expansion will prepare it to double the detainee population.

That should underscore the amount of fighting still to come in Afghanistan ahead of 2012. Even though much of the U.S. military views Afghanistan as a war with an expiration date — as I learned during a brief trip to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. yesterday, where soldiers referred to the war in the past tense — there will still be 68,000 troops there by summer’s end, and it’s not clear how many troops will leave Afghanistan by 2014.

Nor will 2014 mark the end of the war. The U.S. wants a residual military presence in Afghanistan, keeping troops on bases run by Afghans, as an insurance policy against the country falling apart and to stage the shadow war in Pakistan. The war will become heavy on Special Operations Forces in lieu of conventional troops — and human rights workers allege that the commandos run an unacknowledged torture facility at Parwan.

Even if they don’t, there are few who believe the Afghanistan War is on the cusp of ending, even if the U.S. will — slowly, incompletely — cease waging it. Where there’s war, there’s wartime detentions. And Parwan isn’t the only detention center on the grow: the U.S. is spending up to $100 million building jails across Afghanistan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Forgotten Victims | Institute for War and Peace Reporting

“The Forgotten Victims”, a new documentary produced by IWPR, sheds light on the war crimes and other human rights abuses committed in Afghanistan over two decades of serial conflict. The film raises difficult issues about accountability in a country where the victims of crimes against humanity are sidelined, while the perpetrators walk free and in some cases continue to hold political power.

“The Forgotten Victims” covers the period from just before the 1979 Soviet invasion and the ensuing war with the mujahedin, through the brutal civil war of the early 1990s, to the Taleban’s rule from 1996 to 2001.

Because of this wide historical sweep, the film focuses on selected incidents, such as a massacre of civilians in Yakawlang, central Afghanistan, committed by Taleban forces at the beginning of 2001.

At public screenings around Afghanistan, audiences praised the filmmakers for telling the victims’ stories and opening up a debate on justice and accountability.

Making a film like this in the current climate requires a lot of courage. It’s a great step towards seeking justice,” Mohammad Nader Atash, a defence lawyer in Nangarhar.”

While this film may focus on pre-2001 IWPR has done a tremendous amount of documentation about the war that began with the US attack and occupation.

Here is a previous story on the film.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Refugee Profile | Abdul Rahim

The UN refugee agency has been asking refugees and others all around the world to tell us their stories on camera. They are stories of escape, survival, and triumph after being forced to flee their homes.

Abdul Rahim, 24, was born in Pakistan after his family fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. His family lived in Azakhel refugee camp in Pakistan's north-west, until their home was destroyed in the devastating floods of summer 2010. Abdul Rahim almost drowned and lost everything he owned. Luckily, he managed to salvage his refugee card, saying
“It is a very important card, proof that we are the nationals of Afghanistan… We are the citizens of Afghanistan”

Here is the full play list.Storytelling: Through the Eyes of Refugees.

For more posts on refugees click here.
For more posts on Pakistan click here.

Windows and Mirrors in Washington DC for March

Click on the postcard for the video page.

Opening Reception

Thursday 1 March | 7 PM
First Congregational United Church of Christ
945 G Street, NW

Display locations:

First Congregational United Church of Christ
945 G Street, NW
Open to the public March 1, 8, 15, 22
(Thursdays) from 5–8 p.m.
and Sunday, March 4 from 3–7 p.m.

Methodist Building
100 Maryland Avenue NE
Open to the public March 1–22
from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For more events in Washington, click here.

Co-sponsors: American Friends Service Committee, Church of the Brethren, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mennonite Central Committee US Washington Office, National Council of Churches, Pax Christi USA, SOJOURNERS, Split This Rock, United Church of Christ, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society

More on Windows and Mirrors here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

CIA Drone Strikes leave 21 dead in North Waziristan

The BBC is reporting that CIA drone attacks have left 'at least' 21 dead in North Waziristan. The number of dead from the two separate attacks was confirmed by Pakistani security officials.

Pakistan has previously complained that such attacks violate its sovereignty and in fact increase militancy. Last Friday Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said.

"Drones are not only completely illegal and unlawful and have no authorization to be used within the domains of international law but even more importantly, they are counter-productive to the objective of getting this region rid of militancy, and terrorism and extremism."

On February first the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the US government asking for basic — and accurate — information about the government’s targeted killing program.

“Our government’s deliberate and premeditated killing of American terrorism suspects raises profound questions that ought to be the subject of public debate. Unfortunately the Obama administration has released very little information about the practice — its official position is that the targeted killing program is a state secret — and some of the information it has released has been misleading.

Our suit overlaps with the one recently filed by The New York Times insofar as it seeks the legal memos on which the targeted killing program is based. But our suit is broader. We’re seeking, in addition to the legal memos, the government’s evidentiary basis for strikes that killed three Americans in Yemen in the fall of 2011. We’re also seeking information about the process by which the administration adds Americans to secret government “kill lists.” We think it’s crucial that the administration release the legal memos, but we don’t think the memos alone will allow the public to evaluate the lawfulness and wisdom of the program.”

More on drones here.
More on Pakistan here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NATO Admits Killing 8 Children in Bombing Attacks | Kapisa

In a press conference this morning NATO spokesman Mike Wigston took responsibility for the bombing deaths of eight young shepherds in Kapisa province. Here is how Radio Free Europe covered the event.
“The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan says it regrets that eight young Afghan males were killed in a NATO air strike in the northeastern province of Kapisa on February 8.

British Air Commodore Mike Wigston, a NATO spokesman, told a news conference on February 15 that the eight appeared to be carrying arms, according to Afghan and French troops who were operating in the area.”

Kathy Kelly has a more appropriate response in this article published yesterday.

It’s hard to fathom the vast indifference of Western observers to what their militaries are doing in Afghanistan - to the lives lost, the futures broken, the families and friendships and loves torn apart - all of which will occur in the next country we collectively agree to demolish, and the next. Our apathy surely makes it easier for military and political elites to wage multiple wars. They count on us to look out at a world that we have been told is barbaric and feral, addled (unlike ours) with terrifying fundamentalism driving them (unlike us) to incessant violence.”

Here are some details from the press conference that the Afghan Government investigators held on Monday. Click on the image to read the Daily Star coverage.

Cold, Cold Heart | Kathy Kelly
“It’s Valentine’s Day, and opening the little cartoon on the Google page brings up a sentimental animation with Tony Bennett singing “why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart.”

Here in Dubai, where I’m awaiting a visa to visit Afghanistan, the weather is already warm and humid. But my bags are packed with sweaters because Kabul is still reeling from the coldest winter on record. Two weeks ago, eight children under age five froze to death there in one of the sprawling refugee camps inhabited by so many who have fled from the battles in other provinces. Since January 15, at least 23 children under 5 have frozen to death in the camps.

And just over a week ago, eight young shepherds, all but one under 14 years of age, lit a fire for warmth on the snowy Afghan mountainside in Kapisa Province where they were helping support their families by grazing sheep. French troops saw the fire, and acted on faulty information, and the boys were all killed in two successive NATO airstrikes. The usual denunciations from local authorities, and Western apologies, followed. (Trend News, February 10, 2012).”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Impunity | Private and Military Contractors in Afghanistan

More civilian contractors working for U.S. companies than U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.

While mercenaries and contractors have been used in every US war – including the revolutionary war – the number of private contractors used by the military and increasingly by the State department is higher than ever before. Raising questions of ethics and morality.


98,933 – Troops Deployed in and around Afghanistan (December 2011)
113,491 – Department of Defense (DoD) Contractors (Jan. 2012)
20,375 – DoD Private Security – does not include USAID and State (Jan. 2012)

Total – 232,799

Contractor numbers from CENTCOM Quarterly Contractor Census Report (DoD)
Number of US Troops from SIGAR

These figures do not include the estimated 11,000 private security contractors that will report directly to the Government of Afghanistan in March following the implementation of Presidential degree 62.

In December 2009, Afghan President Karzai issued Presidential Decree 62 dissolving private security contractors (PSCs), which provide security for the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. embassy and U.S. government contractors. The U.S. embassy subsequently negotiated an exemption for U.S. government facilities, including the Department of Defense, but failed to include an exemption for USAID development projects or any other U.S. Government contracts performed by U.S. firms in Afghanistan.

Under intense diplomatic pressure, President Karzai approved a “bridging strategy” that extended the use of PSCs to guard foreign-funded development projects to March 20, 2012 while the new APPF was stood up.

These figures also do not account for U.S. Special Forces, the CIA, CIA trained Afghan forces, US armed militias or the Afghan Local Police.

Click troop levels for more posts.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Afghan Deaths Set Record High in 2011 | United Nations

Civilian deaths from the war have increased for the fifth year in a row. The record loss of the life for men, women and children creates anger, fear and resentment at all parties.

The foreign occupying armies whose very presence and kill/capture policies have escalated fighting, the anti-government forces who are increasingly killing people, and the dramatic increase in deaths attributed to the Afghan National Security Forces.

The vast majority of Afghans want the violence from all parties to end. There is more background information on previous UNAMA reports at the bottom of this message.

Kate Clark writing for the Afghanistan Analysts Network has a good summary. The title of her essay is ‘Talks have not stopped killing of Afghan Civilians.'

“Reading UNAMA’s latest annual report on the protection of civilians is difficult – a bludgeoning of the brain with statistics of death, injury and bereavement. It is an indication that whatever assertions might be made of progress in the war, Afghan civilians are dying in increasing numbers. It reinforces the urgency – as peace talks may now be on the agenda - of the war itself needing to be ended. And as UNAMA itself says: ‘[A]ny such negotiations [should] place the highest priority on protection of civilians in the ongoing armed conflict and in any outcome that leads to its resolution with an emphasis on concrete and effective measures to reduce civilian deaths and injuries.’

‘Anti-government elements’ continue to kill the vast majority of civilians. UNAMA puts this figure at 77 per cent:”


“Deaths by ‘pro-Government elements’ which include international and Afghan government forces are down by four per cent, although there has been a marked increase in deaths from aerial attacks and a 196 per cent increase in deaths by Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Geographically, the impact of the war has got less, although it is still bad in the south, and it has got a lot worse in the south east and east.”

Background to UNAMA reporting on civilian deaths

Starting in 2009, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began to document and publish details about the violence against civilians in Afghanistan every six months. Each six month report has shown an increase in violence against civilians. It is important to note that the beginning of the reporting cycle started with levels of violence higher than at any point since 2001. Irrefutable evidence that violence against civilians is increasing.

Here is how they defined general trends in the first mid-year report of June 2009.

"Armed conflict in Afghanistan intensified significantly after 2005, with insurgent/AGE attacks and operations by PGF encroaching into more areas of the country. As the conflict has widened and deepened throughout 2007, 2008 and into 2009, almost a third of the country is now directly affected by insurgent activities with differing intensity."

Annual Report 2009

"The intensification and spread of the armed conflict in Afghanistan continued to take a heavy toll on civilians throughout 2009. At least 5,978 civilians were killed and injured in 2009, the highest number of civilian casualties recorded since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001."

Mid-Year 2010

"The human cost of the armed conflict in Afghanistan is escalating in 2010. In the first six months of the year civilian casualties – including deaths and injuries of civilians - increased by 31 per cent over the same period in 2009."

Annual report 2010

"The human cost of the armed conflict in Afghanistan grew in 2010. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA Human Rights recorded 2,777 civilian deaths in 2010, an increase of 15 per cent compared to 2009. Over the past four years, 8,832 civilians have been killed in the conflict, with civilian deaths increasing each year."

Mid-Year 2011

"UNAMA documented 1,462 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2011, an increase of 15 percent over the same period in 2010. The main trends that led to rising civilian casualties in early 2011 were increased and widespread use of improvised explosive devices, more complex suicide attacks, an intensified campaign of targeted killings, increased ground fighting, and a rise in civilian deaths from air strikes, particularly by Apache helicopters."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Afghanistan: Ten Years On | Photojournalist Guy Smallman

Photojournalist Guy Smallman has been to Afghanistan four times, working independently of the NATO media system. He is the only western journalist to have visited the scene of the Granai massacre in which 147 people, including 93 children, were killed by NATO bombing.

He returned from his latest trip in January and is touring with a photo exhibit. The work documents the everyday struggles faced by ordinary Afghans from the violence of war as well as poverty, drug abuse, and unemployment. Realities that are often ignored or obscured in mainstream media coverage.

He also has a short film called “Fifteen million Afghans”.

To see the special 6 page supplement Afghanistan: 10 Years On in Peace News click here. To see more of Guy’s photographs click here.


Here are more details about the speaking tour. It is organized by Quaker Peace and Social Witness and Peace News. Tomorrow they are at Friends House in London. He is joined by ex-soldier Benn Griffin.

Profiles of Nonviolent Resistance | Maya Evans

In December Maya Evans was part of a peace delegation to Afghanistan. Below is a profile she had published in Peace News. Peace News is a grassroots peace and justice movement building magazine in the UK.

Forgiving the Taliban

In the morning we were visited by one of the female members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, Lena, a young, intelligent, outspoken Afghan woman who has just qualified as a teacher and has already taught in various schools inside Kabul.

Lena was very much anti-NATO intervention and felt that foreign involvement in Afghanistan was only bringing further violence and unrest. She also emphasised the importance of free state education for all, explaining that she could earn a very good wage working for private schools, but she preferred to work in government schools, educating the people of Afghanistan. She felt that providing she had food for lunch and dinner that was good enough for her.

We were then visited by Feda Mohammed, a former official in the ministry of education and now an education consultant. Over lunch, Feda, a slim, tall, middle-aged family man, dressed in a neat suit and tie, put across the opposing view to Lena. He was very much in favour of NATO and foreign intervention, his analysis was very black-and-white: Afghanistan could have either foreign occupation or the Taliban (a horrible prospect to most in Afghanistan, especially those who had experienced their previous reign). He viewed the killing of civilians by NATO as “collateral damage”, a necessary part of eradicating the Taliban, even if those deaths included his three sons.

There was a stony silence in the room.

AYPV Abduli, a 16-year-old Hazara boy from Bamiyan, whose father had been killed by the Taliban, was asked for his opinion. One of the most moving moments of my life then took place.

Abduli was silent for a while and then he quietly said: “If a Talib was in this room now, I know there is only one way forward to resolve the situation… forgiveness”.

The room fell silent.

I looked down and wept quietly. I wept for his pain and I wept for his strength and wisdom. I was astounded that such a young person, who had experienced one of the worst things a child could endure, had chosen the hardest path to walk. Without a doubt that moment will stay with me forever and whenever I weaken in my conviction to walk the path of nonviolence and forgiveness I will think of Abduli.

Click here for more stories about the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

Maya also participated in a recent delegation to India with members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers to India. Visit their inspiring travelogue here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Death and Deception | A Colonel Speaks Out

Death and Deception in Afghanistan
Matthew Hoh | Monday 6 February 2012
“Today, the New York Times reports that an active duty Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis, has submitted a classified report to members of Congress that documents the failings of US policy in Afghanistan. More importantly, LTC Davis attests that senior leaders of the Department of Defense, both uniformed and civilian, have intentionally and consistently misled the American people and Congress on the conduct and progress of the Afghan War. The 58-page classified report he prepared, briefed and submitted to senators, representatives and cleared staff members over the last few weeks utilizes nearly 50 historical and current classified sources and draws from 250 interviews he conducted with soldiers throughout Afghanistan during his most recent year-long combat deployment.

In addition to the classified report, LTC Davis has written an 86-page unclassified version, as well as an article, published today by the Armed Forces Journal (below). These reports depict a near institutionalizing of dishonesty and deception by senior DOD leadership towards the American public and Congress. LTC Davis documents, as well, examples from the Iraq war and major weapons procurement programs to illustrate the persistent duplicity of the Pentagon's senior ranks. Victory narratives, career ambitions and institutional protection fuel these deceits. Deceits that have only delivered the loss of thousands of lives, the waste of hundreds of billions of dollars and the failure to achieve American policy objectives.”

Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down
“I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground."

He ends with an appeal for truth.
"When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start."

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Forgotten Victims |A Film by Firouz Rahimi

- Click image for link -

Activists in Afghanistan are using film to open conversations with young people about the countries recent history and concepts of transitional justice and accountability.

“ My aim is to start out a dialogue regarding the implementation and transition of human rights issues in this political climate. So that the audiences will want to discuss it openly and not shove it under the carpet. Many HR institutions have said repeatedly that the war crimes committed in this country are extremely widespread. In the last 30 years - especially up until 2001 – many people lost their lives or were disabled as a result of various wars, they have to live with it every day.”

- Firouz Rahimi, Filmmaker

Additional Resources:

The Afghan Experience With War

Healing the Legacy of Conflict in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Experience With Conflict 1978 – 2009

Thursday, February 2, 2012

State of the Taliban 2012 | Leaked NATO Report

The drawing is from a project with Afghan students who were asked to create images of what their lives are like.

"The BBC and The Times have obtained a classified NATO assessment of the Taleban. The leaked report, which has made headline news, has informed us that NATO thinks Pakistan is supporting the Taleban, that the Taleban are defiant and enjoy widespread support, that Afghans frequently prefer them to their corrupt government and that Afghan government officials have secretly reached out to insurgents locally.

The presence and actions of international forces as a driver of the insurgency apparently did not come up in the detainee interrogations which form the basis for the assessment. That all this should be news only exposes the wishful thinking which lie at the heart of the international mission in Afghanistan, says AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark."

According to The Times, the State of the Taleban report was put together by the US military at Bagram air base in Afghanistan for top NATO officers last month. President Karzai also demanded last month that the prison be turned over to Afghan control.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

What the report appears to be silent on is the other huge factor driving the war, the ten year foreign occupation – as many Afghans, whether they welcome international forces or not, call it. Night raids, killing civilians, detentions - even when all three of these actions may be legal and/or militarily necessary - upset people. Then there was the torture, mainly by US forces, in the first couple of years and the support the international military gives to abusive Afghan actors. Curiously, there is no mention of this - did the detainees not mention the foreigners?”


One of the major problems of the post-2001 settlement has been the narratives told about and to Afghans and to the voters back home which were never really anchored in reality. There has been a frequent gap between talk and belief and between talk and action. Praise for the Afghan army and police in public, while in private, there is criticism and worry. Promises of democracy and then white-washing of fraudulent ballots. Assurances that human rights will be protected and then an endorsement of impunity for both war criminals and those currently abusing their power.

In Afghanistan, few are fooled and it leads many to wonder (a question I have been asked on many occasions) whether the foreigners are stupid or complicit. Back home, voters have also become increasingly bewildered as news of corruption and abuses have filtered back even as the same story is peddled by their governments: their brave soldiers fighting to defend a democratic, women-friendly state against the black-hearted, terrorist Taleban. Voters are convinced that Afghanistan – in its current incarnation - is not worth fighting or footing the bill for.

There is a chance that the leaking of this report might be an Emperor’s New Clothes moment when the international powers start speaking honestly – or at least not lying – about what they are doing in Afghanistan and what they actually hope to achieve. On the ground, their current narratives of success and progress are fooling very few. When there is such a deep gap between what is thought and what is said and policy is built on what one wishes were true, failure surely awaits.”

Additional analysis with NYT’s

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

SIGAR Report on Relief and Reconstruction

On Monday the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released the final report for 2011. These reports are mandated by law and must be delivered to Congress each quarter. The report covers the time period that marked 10 years since the US assault in October of 2001 and carries the tag line '10 years of reconstruction 2001-2011'.

Of particular interest is the fact that 61% of the money articulated for relief and reconstruction is actually spent on funding, arming and training government forces, private militias, and undercover units that operate along the border with Pakistan.

The report confirms that 98,933 U.S. forces remained in the country at year’s end.

It does not dwell on the Afghan government demands to disband the failed military-led Provisional Reconstruction Teams linking US military strategy with development and reconstruction, or the Afghan government demand that armed private security firms be disbanded.

Nevertheless, these are authoritative figures on what the US is actually spending resources on in Afghanistan. You can see from the chart above that all assistance for humanitarian relief will be eliminated in 2012.

The chart graphically shows the growing dependance on exclusive military priorities over the years.

For this year 88% will be military.

Simply appalling and immoral.


I added the percentages in brackets for the text below lifted from the report.

SIGAR – 2011 Final Report - Some Figures

As of December 31, 2011, the United States had appropriated nearly $85.54 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan since FY 2002. This total has been approximately allocated as follows:

• $52.14 billion for security (61%)
• $20.28 billion for governance and development (24%)
• $5.67 billion for counter-narcotics efforts (7%)
• $2.24 billion for humanitarian aid (3%)
• $5.20 billion for oversight and operations (6%)

US Troop Levels – 31 December 2012

According to U.S. Forces - Afghanistan (USFOR-A), 98,933 U.S. forces were serving in the country as of December 31, 2011.

• 71,742 to ISAF
• 2,780 to NTM-A/CSTC-A
• 14,565 to USFOR-A
• 9,846 to other assignments (CENTCOM)

Additional Resources:

Eisenhower Research Project | War Costs $4 Trillion

3 Cents on the Dollar
Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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