Obama at crossroads on Afghanistan —and anti-war movement?

There is ironic timing to Barack Obama‘s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. Hours after getting the nod from the Nobel committee, he convened his war council in the White House Situation Room for talks on his military strategy in Afghanistan. (AFP, Oct. 9) Gen. Stanley McChrystal, US commander in Afghanistan, has sent alternative proposals with requests for more troops ranging from 40,000 to 60,000. (WSJ, Oct. 9) Obama is said to have ruled out de-escalating the Afghan war to a counter-terrorism effort aimed at al-Qaeda rather than the Taliban. (AlJazeera, Oct. 7) Other reports indicate Obama is willing to consider a role for the Taliban in Afghan’s security forces as the price of peace. (The Telegraph, Oct. 9)

The Peace Prize also comes amid controversy over a a new $1.5 billion aid package for Pakistan. The Pakistani armed forces have raised “serious concern” over the package, which it fears will allow Washington to interfere in government policy. Conditions that come with the Kerry-Lugar Bill, passed by Congress late last month, require monitoring and certification of Pakistan’s action against terrorism and efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, and to determine that the military is not interfering in the political process. (The Telegraph, Oct. 27)

On Oct. 10, insurgents attacked Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi with rifles and grenades. (PTI, Oct. 10) On Oct. 9, Pakistani insurgents torched six NATO supply trucks bound for Afghanistan at a terminal near Peshawar—as they did in January and December. (AlJazeera, Oct. 9) Later that day, a blast at a market in Peshawar left 48 dead. (NYT, Oct. 9) One day earlier, US military authorities acknowledged that American and Afghan forces accidentally killed a child during a raid on a Taliban compound in eastern Afghanistan’s Logar province. (AP, Oct. 8)

Also Oct. 8, a suicide car bomber attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 17 by-standers. Three members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, who were guarding the compound, were wounded. The Taliban reportedly claimed responsibility, and Western diplomats pointed to Jalaluddin Haqqani, a pro-Taliban warlord whose Pakistan-based forces are battling US troops in eastern Afghanistan. (FT, Oct. 8) A car bomb also killed 40 at the Indian embassy in Kabul last July.

In an embarrassing blow for US forces Oct. 3, insurgents attacked two base camps in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan province, leading to a pitched battle that left eight Americans and four Afghans dead. (NYT, Oct. 5)

Anti-war movement divided?
As the US-led war in Afghanistan began its ninth year this week, 61 were arrested at the White House Oct. 5 in a protest organized by the War Resisters League. Hundreds marched to the White House in a solemn procession, carrying large photographs of war victims, led by a banner that read: “Mourn the dead, heal the wounded, end the wars.” Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, welcomed the group on the sidewalk in front of the White House. (AllVoices, Oct. 6)

Meanwhile, the anti-war group Code Pink appears to be softening its stance against the war in Afghanistan over concerns that a troop withdrawal could harm women’s rights in the country. “We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline,” Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin told the Christian Science Monitor. “That’s where we have opened ourselves … to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, ‘If the US troops left the country, would collapse. We’d go into civil war.’ A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that.”

The apparent shift in policy comes in the wake of a week-long trip to Afghanistan by Code Pink members, where activists said they were surprised to find widespread support among women’s rights activists for maintaining the US and NATO presence in the country. “In the current situation of terrorism, we cannot say troops should be withdrawn,” said Shinkai Karokhail, an Afghan member of parliament and a women’s rights activist, at a meeting of international rights groups. “International troop presence here is a guarantee for my safety.” (Raw Story, Oct. 7)

See our last posts on Afghanistan, Pakistan, US/NATO atrocities, the women’s struggle and the anti-war effort.

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  1. Orwellian Nobel Prize
    From the New York Times, Oct. 10:

    To the Editor:

    Have we returned to George Orwell’s “1984”? Does “peace” mean “war”?

    I believe that President Obama is the first recipient of the Peace Prize to be waging two wars at the very moment of the announcement of the award.

    I voted for Mr. Obama, but the Nobel Committee has in one stroke devalued the moral currency of the prize. I hope that some of the previous laureates who were true seekers of, and workers for, peace will say so — women and men like, to name a few, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and President José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams of Northern Ireland, Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar.

    Judith Mahoney Pasternak
    New York, Oct. 9, 2009

    The writer is a member of the national board of the War Resisters League.

  2. RAWA responds to Code Pink
    We queried the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) on the Code Pink controversy, and received the following reply via e-mail Oct. 11:

    Dear Bill,

    We think Medea Benjamin in a large degree herself answers the question and correct[s] her stand in the interview with Antiwar Radio.

    Their group has visited just the green zone of Kabul and met some governmental women and members of parliament, which can’t represent the whole Afghanistan. We have over 34 provinces and Kabul is only one out of them. And real victims of conflict and war are mostly in remote sides of the country whose point of view and stand has not been heard by Code Pink, so they should not regard the point of view of these women as “public opinion”. Women like Shinkai Karokhail, Roshanak Wordak, Shukuria Barakzai, Fouzia Kofi and other MPs in the parliament are all showcases of the West and part of the mafia puppet regime, and everyone of them are having luxury life in Kabul which is the result of the US occupation of Afghanistan, so how they can reject the occupation? They are afraid that by the withdrawal of the troops they may loose their current high posts!!

    [T]he current rise of Taliban and their presence in 80% of Afghanistan itself is the game played by the US. They make the situation look very serious to make public opinion to sending of more troops and long presence in Afghanistan. In fact, defeating of Taliban is an easy task for a Super Power supported by NATO and 40 countries, but when Taliban are gone, everyone will ask the US and allies to leave Afghanistan and there will be no excuse for their presence to implement their strategic, economic and regional interests.

    And next, today there are the warlords and drug-lords who are greater threat to Afghanistan and its people than the Taliban. But these warlords and drug-lords are now friends of the US and being supported by the west, they have high posts in the government, parliament and judiciary.

    How can there be peace and stability in Afghanistan when two dreaded warlords like Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili are vice presidents of Karzai, his brothers who are biggest drug-lords and business-lords Afghanistan, have upper hand in the government, a murder like Rashid Dostum is the chief of the army staff, a convicted drug-trafficker named Izzatullah Wasifi, is the anti-corruption chief in the government, warlords and drug-traffickers such as Gen. Daud and Khodiedad both hold the highest posts in the so-called counter-narcotics drives and this list can have hundreds of such names.

    The US puppet regime is the most corrupt in our whole history, despite receiving 36 billion $ of aid in the past 8 years, still in the Human Development Index Afghanistan is ranked 181 out of 182 countries and over 80% of our people are living in severe poverty and destitution. Even during the medieval rule of the Taliban, Afghan people were not [so] poor.

    We think the occupation has doubled our problems and pushed Afghanistan in a narco-state. In 2001 Taliban could easily control the puppy cultivation and Afghanistan produced around 180 tones of opium, but in 2008 it jumped to 8,400 tones (around 4,500% increase). Today drug-mafia and opium is a bigger threat to Afghan then the rule of the Taliban. Mafia holds the economic ranks of the country and everyone knows that without the encouragement and hidden involvement of the US and allies the drugs business can’t be boosted in this capacity.

    Thousands of our innocent civilians have been killed during the air raids of US/NATO troops which have sparked protests across Afghanistan, and these killings continue till today, not to mention the use of illegal DU weapons and cluster bombs which have ruined our environment.

    The conditions of women are so tragic that self-immolation among them is increased in alarming rate. In 2008 a single hospital in Kabul had a record of 600 suicide cases.

    We try to be very brief here, while there are many more such issues to be addressed as the outcome of the US occupation of Afghanistan.

    When Code Pink or any other group review their stand on war, they should take into account all of these issue, it is not enough to just hear from few pro-US and pro-warlord women and then say Afghans want occupation of their country. It is a direct insult to our poor and suffering people.

    RAWA always says that no nation can/want to liberate another nation, it is the responsibility of our own people to fight for their liberation. If the US and allies just stop making things complicated in Afghanistan and stop their support to the warlords and drug-lords, we are sure things can change to positive.

    Hope this note is enough.


    See our last statement from RAWA.

  3. Taliban weigh in on Nobel Prize
    “The Nobel prize for peace? Obama should have won the ‘Nobel Prize for escalating violence and killing civilians’,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. “When Obama replaced President Bush, the Afghan people thought that he would not follow in Bush’s footsteps. Unfortunately, Obama actually even went one step further.” (Reuters, Oct. 9)

  4. CIA “suggests” propaganda exploitation of Afghan women
    From The Telegraph, March 29:

    CIA ‘suggests’ Europe should understand suffering of women under Taliban
    European NATO governments should emphasise the suffering of women under Taliban rule to counter domestic calls for troop withdrawal a leaked CIA analysis suggests…

    Paris and Berlin should start a targeted propaganda campaign to “forestall or at least contain” a backlash by stating the benefits of military action…

    Afghan women are “ideal messengers in humanising the [international coalition] role” and should be put in front of European media for their “ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory.”

    The analysis, marked “confidential” and not for release to foreign nationals, comes amid American concern that heavy fighting this summer could prompt a “precipitous” departure of Nato allies.

    It was complied by the CIA’s Red Cell, which is charged with “taking a pronounced ‘out-of-the-box’ approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint”.

    A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on the document, dated March 11. It was leaked anonymously to the WikiLeaks whistle-blower website on March 26.