US troops will stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, with Kabul’s permission, Vice President Joe Biden said last week. While insisting the US does not intend “to govern or nation-build” as that “is the responsibility of the Afghan people and they are fully capable of it,” Biden added: “We stand ready to help you in that effort … after 2014.” Biden’s comments come a month after he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan by 2014 “come hell or high water.”
At a November conference in Lisbon, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen signed a long-term partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai under which “NATO will stay as long as necessary to support Afghanistan until it can no longer become a safe haven for terrorism.” (CNN, Jan. 11)
Afghan authorities are looking to a New Year’s Day agreement with Alikozai tribal leaders to bring peace in Sangin district, Helmand province. Tribal elders pledged to call off attacks in exchange for a prisoner release, pledge of development aid, and the possibility of setting up their own security force. (UPI, Jan. 5) Sounds like another “shock and bribe” or peace-for-sharia deal.
Meanwhile, the US/NATO air war with its devastating toll in civilian casualties, continues. The decision to destroy an entire village by Lt. Col. David Flynn, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th, has ignited a debate over the Pentagon’s counterinsurgency strategy. The village in question, Tarok Kolache, Kandahar province, was overrun with Taliban insurgents, who had allegedly chased villagers out and were using the site for staging attacks. After two failed attempts at clearing the village with ground troops resulted in multiple US and Afghan casualties, Flynn decided to wipe it out with air-strikes. While the attack allegedly resulted in no civilian casualties, an adviser to Hamid Karzai said that it “caused unreasonable damage to homes and orchards and displaced a number of people.” Before-and-after aerial photos in the press show a village of white-painted houses surrounded by green fields and orchards reduced to a field of rubble, with devastation extending into the agricultural ring. (Daily Mail, Macleans, Jan. 21)
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