Afghanistan
ground zero

Podcast: 9-11 and the GWOT at 20

In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush’s Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghanistan: no, the war is not over

With absurd hubris, Biden in his speech as the last US troops left Kabul declared that “the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan.” It’s perverse enough that he called the US evacuation of some 120,000 Afghans and Americans an “extraordinary success”—despite the fact that more than 100 US nationals and many thousands of desperate Afghans were left behind. But this reality-denying “ended the war” rhetoric is being uncritically echoed by media accounts. The war in Afghanistan began in 1979, with the massive Soviet military intervention to put down the Mujahedeen, and the country hasn’t seen a moment of peace since then. Nor is there much prospect for peace any time in foreseeable future. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US “withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2014, and the “withdrawal” from Iraq in 2011. But this time, Afghanistan is essentially being turned over to the Taliban as a US-collaborationist or even near-proxy force to fight ISIS. The Taliban remain a brutal, intolerant and ultra-reactionary Islamist entity, but are now baited as co-opted moderates by the even more extremist ISIS. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Afghanistan
Ghor women

Afghan women take up arms against Taliban

As the US withdraws and the Taliban advance across large stretches of Afghanistan, women are taking up weapons in local militias to defend their villages. In Ghor province, ethnic Hazara women posed for social-media photos wielding rifles and rocket-launchers, pledging to resist by arms a return to “the dark era of Taliban.” With US and NATO forces evacuating Bagram Air Base, prelude to a full withdrawal by September, the Taliban are rapidly seizing territory. Since launching a spring offensive, the Taliban have doubled their area of control, and now hold nearly 100 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts. In retreat, the central government is calling upon civilians to form militias to fight back. (Photo via Twitter)

Watching the Shadows
Gitmo

Gitmo ‘forever prisoner’ petitions United Nations

Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah, who has been held for 19 years without charges or a trial, filed a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (UNWGAD) requesting intervention in his case. Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks and was held and tortured by the CIA in various top-secret “black sites.” The CIA originally believed that Zubaydah was a close associate of al-Qaeda, but after four years of interrogation, they concluded that he was not linked to the group. He was then moved to Guantánamo in 2006. The US government has justified Zubaydah’s continued detention by asserting its broad authority under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Under the AUMF, passed after 9-11, detainees can be held until the “cessation of hostile activities,” But Zubaydah asserts in his complaint that this “law of war” rationale is in conflict with international human rights laws. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghan pullout: unanswered questions for civilians

Afghanistan now has a clearer timeline for when US and international troops will leave, but the questions surrounding what this means for civilians and aid operations in the country remain the same. US President Joe Biden confirmed plans to withdraw American forcesbefore Sept. 11—the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the Afghanistan invasion. NATO also said 9,500 international soldiers—including 2,500 US troops—would leave, beginning May 1. But the implications of the pullout are as volatile as they were when Biden’s predecessor first inked a peace deal with the Taliban last year. Will the Taliban pursue a decisive military victory or continue with sporadic peace negotiations with the government? How will women and minorities fare? How will this affect local and international aid operations, and the roughly 16 million Afghans—more than 40% of the population—who rely on humanitarian relief? Will there be a future for reconciliation after decades of war? And what about the militias still active in many areas? More than 1,700 civilians were killed or injured in conflict in the first three months of 2021, the UN said the same day as Biden’s announcement. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Is Russia really backing the Taliban?

The kneejerk squawking of “McCarthyism” any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge is tiresome and dangerous. But there is reason for skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops. This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances: US ally Pakistan has been the traditional patron of the Taliban, while Russia’s closest ally in the region is Iran, which opposes the Taliban on sectarian grounds. The notion that Moscow would do anything to strengthen the hand of Sunni extremism in a country where it faced its own counterinsurgency quagmire in the ’80s, and which still borders its “near abroad,” stretches credulity. (Photo of abandoned Soviet tank in Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons)

Afghanistan

Trump-Taliban schmooze: don’t call it ‘peace’

The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David—a week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!—will further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. But the supposed “peace” talks with the Taliban completely sidelined Afghanistan’s actual government and civil society alike—and were bitterly protested by Afghan women and their advocates. It was to be a “peace” crafted by genocidal clerical-reactionaries and imperialists, with the actual aim to prosecute a war on their mutual enemy, the ISIS insirgency that has now emerged in the country.  ISIS are now the “bad” (undomesticated) clerical reactionaries, who will not abandon their ambitions to attack the West. This only sends the message (entirely accurate, from the imperial persepctive) that Western lives matter, and Afghan lives do not.  (Photo: Khaama Press)

Watching the Shadows

US misses transfer deadline for Gitmo detainee

The Trump administration has yet to repatriate Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, effectively missing the deadline established in his 2014 plea deal. Darbi pleaded guilty and admitted to involvement in al-Qaeda operations including the 2002 attack on a a French-flagged oil tanker near Yemen. In his pre-trial agreement, it was determined that, contingent on his cooperation, he would be sent back to Saudi Arabia to serve the duration of his sentence. Feb. 20 marked four years from the close of the deal and Darbi was not repatriated to Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch

Podcast: The countervortex of global resistance

Journalist Dan Young speaks with CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg in an interview for Northern California's KNYO. They discuss the prospects for resisting the global vortex of ecological collapse, totalitarianism and permanent war—and supporting indigenous and autonomy struggles, popular democracy, and peace initiatives. Weinberg traces his own political evolution through the Cold War endgame of the Reagan era, the Lower East Side squatter scene, the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, 9-11 and the "Global War on Terrorism," to the Arab Revolution, the Syrian war and the current dilemma. The discussion touches on the abysmal politics of the contemporary American left, the urgent need for international solidarity across the Great Power "spheres of influence," the contradictions and challenges posed by digital technology, and the possibilities for a decent future for humanity on Planet Earth.

Watching the Shadows

Military judge approves destruction of ‘black site’

Military judge James Pohl ruled that no wrongdoing occurred when he authorized the destruction of a CIA secret prison, or "black site," despite the fact that a protection order was in effect on any remains from the CIA black sites. Prosecutors, citing national security powers, obtained permission from the judge to give defense attorneys photographs and a diagram of the site as a substitute for preservation the actual facility. The question concerned the admissibility of evidence possibly extracted by torture in the 9-11 case now underway at Guantánamo Bay. From 2002-2006, prisoners at the black site were subjected to waterboarding, sexual abuse, and other forms of torture. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Watching the Shadows

UN expert: torture continues at Gitmo

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer issued a statement calling on the US to end impunity for "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse" at Guantánamo Bay and other detention facilities. He added that that he has information that Guantánamo detainee Ammar al-Baluchi, awaiting trial in the 9-11 case before a military tribunal, is still being tortured despite the banning of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Watching the Shadows

Appeals court: military judge biased in 9-11 case

A federal appeals court in Washington DC ruled  that the military judge hearing the case against the 9-11 defendants should have recused himself for making comments that revealed his bias in the matter. The case against the accused conspirators is still pending nearly a decade after it opened, beset by a long string of controversies and irregularities.