It will be a banner year for poppy growers in Afghanistan, largely due to a new kind of seed.
The new poppy seeds allow farmers to almost double the output from each plant, said Helmand's provincial police chief Nabi Jan Malakhail. At harvest, collectors cut the bulb of the plant, allowing the raw opium to ooze out. This resin dries and is collected the following day.
Malakhail said the new seeds grow bulbs that are bigger than usual and can be scored twice within a few days, thus doubling the quantity of raw opium. The plants mature in three to four months, rather than the five months of the previous seed variety, allowing farmers to crop three times a year instead of just twice.
Drug officials blame the Taliban. Farmers blame the Afghan government which doesn't provide irrigation and power, both of which would allow them to grow other crops. [More...]
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The LA Times has photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan posing with body parts of dead Afghans.
The troops were with the 82nd Airborne Division. In one instance, their mission on the first such occasion was simply to :
Check out reports that Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber. Try to get iris scans and fingerprints for identification.
They did the same while investigating another suicide bombing a few months later. The photos were given to the Times by a soldier in the division. A criminal investigation has been launched:
It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes," said George Wright, an Army spokesman. "Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas."
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Crossposted from Antemedius
In 2010, American voters foolishly aided and abetted the Republicans by giving them control of Congress.
We now enter a very dangerous period in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.
If Obama is not re-elected, and people don't work towards returning workable majorities in the House and the Senate to the Democrats, then the country only continues its decline, and all will be lost.
It may be the end of a two century great social experiment unequaled in human history.
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The Taliban spent the past 5 months building a 1,060 foot underground tunnel that led directly into Sarposa Prison in Khandahar and broke out 575 inmates, including about 100 Taliban commanders.
Their tunnel operation was not discovered. They were able to bypass checkpoints and main roads. When asked how the Taliban were able to build the tunnel and effect the breakout, Gov. Tooryalai Wesa said only, "It's under investigation."
This is one of the prisons at which the U.S. has been providing training and funding to strengthen the Afghan secuirty guards.
The facility has undergone security upgrades and tightened procedures following a brazen 2008 Taliban attack that freed 900 prisoners. Afghan government officials and their NATO backers have regularly said that the prison has vastly improved security since that attack.
All the prisoners had left through the tunnel, taking 4.5 hours to do so, before anyone knew they were gone.
Guess they are still not ready for prime-time. How much more will it cost us to stay longer and re-train them?
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The latest Wikileaks document release has a state department cable from August, 2009 on Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's pardoning of convicted drug traffickers (many of whom were cops.)
This was reported in depth at the time, and I don't see that the cable adds much. But perhaps it will put the spotlight on a bigger issue.
While searching around trying to determine if Ismal Safed ever got his pardon (and why it was considered a big deal since it involved only one sale of three kilos to an undercover agent), I came across this March, 2010 GAO report on the DEA's performance in Afghanistan. It says the DEA seized 4,083 metric tons of heroin in Afghanistan in 2008. (One metric ton equals 1,000 kilograms.) Three kilos out of 4,083,000 kilograms (and considering the opiate/heroin trade in Afghanistan amounts to $3 billion a year)is like a grain of sand. It also notes the pervasive problem of corruption, and interestingly, the high number of Afghan police who use heroin. [More...]
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The Open Society Foundation has released a new report on detainee abuse by the U.S. military at a detention facility in Afghanistan:
The accounts by Afghans—who refer to the site as “Tor Jail” or “Black Jail”—are not in accordance with U.S. detention rules. The report, Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base, provides the first detailed account of detainee treatment at this classified site, which is different than the well-know Bagram detention facility.
Detainees state that they were held in excessively cold isolation cells; supplied inappropriate or inadequate food, bedding, and blanketing; denied exposure to natural light; unable to carry out their religious duties; restricted from exercise; and kept from meeting with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
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"America's Secret Afghan Prisons", the result of a year long investigation from Afghanistan, by reporter Anand Gopal, conducted on behalf of The Nation, The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and TomDispatch.com, has been released. The report appears today at Tom Dispatch, tomorrow at TheNation.com and will be on newsstands Friday in the next issue of The Nation.
The report examines counter-terror policies in Afghanistan. What it finds:
- widespread and feared American "night raids" in Afghanistan
- a network of secret prisons on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan where detainees from raids are held.
- allegations of prisoner abuse, and in some cases disappearances.
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Apparently, $708 billion isn't enough for the Defense Department for the coming year. The AP reports that military commanders briefed on an upcoming report say President Obama will ask Congress to approve another $33 billion when it submits its budget request in February.
What for? Supposedly for beefing up the war in Afghanistan, but it sounds more like the global war on terror, even though Obama insists on not using that phrase.
The administration also plans to tell Congress next month that its central military objectives for the next four years will include winning the current wars while preventing new ones and that its core missions will include both counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
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Update: 1/1/10: More confirmation here.
As I speculated here, new reports show the suicide bomber who killed 8 CIA agents yesterday at a U.S. intelligence post in Afghanistan, was a person being groomed to be an informant. He had been invited onto the base, and although he had never been there before, he wasn't searched. As to why he was invited on to the base:
An experienced Central Intelligence Agency debriefer came from Kabul for the meeting, suggesting that the purpose was to gain intelligence, the official said.
Among the seven CIA officials killed was the female base chief, a mother of three. While some reports say the attack happened in the gym, others says it happened as he was getting out of a car. Maybe she walked up to the car to greet the would-be informant and he blew himself up as he was getting out.
The Taliban, which has taken credit for the attack, says the bomber was posing as an Afghan officer. So the CIA thought they had flipped the guy, but he was playing them. This story is still developing.
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The Taliban has reacted strongly to President Obama's pledge of more troops for Afghanistan. From one of its commanders:
"Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan and that means more Americans will die. With just a handful of resources we can cause them even more casualties and deaths."
Where's the exit strategy? We will have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan after the additions. Obama says we will begin withdrawal in 2011. That's too nebulous. When will we be finished?
Where's the clarity? Training Afghan troops to turn the war over to them didn't work too well in Iraq. How will sending more troops strengthen Afghan institutions or create a sustainable economy?
David Sirota asks, Is this hope or change? This is Obama's war now. He owns it. [More...]
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a new report on Afghanistan.
The report states categorically that bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora when the U.S. had the means to mount a rapid assault with several thousand troops at least. It says that a review of existing literature, unclassified government records and interviews with central participants "removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora."
The blame for blowing the chance to get bin Laden -- and for the current state of the war in Afghanistan -- is placed squarely on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top commander Tommy Franks.
The full report is here (pdf). [More...]
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It's not a country; it's not even a place. It's just an empty place on the map. It's terra incognita. People who live there are a welter of different tribes, different language groups, different religious beliefs.
All over the country you find different people who have nothing to do with each other except for the fact that we call them Afghans, and they don't even call themselves Afghans. They're Tajiks or they're Pashtuns, or they're Hazzaras or someone else. The things that hold them together are simply the things that we try to create artificially.
With all due respect, which is actually a lot, I have to say that Rep. Grayson has been addled by world-tourism, and when you spend just a few days or weeks or even a few months in very foreign countries like Afghanistan, it's easy to avoid understanding that you don't understand anything at all, and only if you're very, very lucky will you ever experience even one or two epiphanies of the obvious like a sudden realization that...
Afghanistan is the Taliban is Afghanistan is the Taliban.
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A declassified version of a report by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on the war in Afghanistan predicts the U.S. will lose the war there if more troops aren't provided. McChrystal is the top U.S. and Nato Commander in Afghanistan.
"Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."
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Ask Uncle Abdul before you walk out the door!
Meanwhile in the United States, popular revulsion against legalization of marital rape may undermine support for President Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan, since it isn't exactly easy to sell the idea of sacrificing American lives and money to make the world safe for rape.
This problem has produced an expectable wave of crazy excuses from Obama's koolaid-huffing partisans in the blogosphere, and one of the most bizarre is the egregious Jon Taplin's column on Talking Points Memo, "Holier Than Thou."
"We should remember that until 1993 marital rape was legal in North Carolina."
So let's not act "holier than thou" by protesting the legalization of marital rape in Afghanistan, because only 15 years ago, in the former Confederate state of North Carolina... and so on.
But if it were worth asking Mr. Taplin a question (and it isn't), someone might ask...
When is the last time US law forbade women to leave the house without permission from a male relative? Is it supposed to be insignificant that the so-called "rape law" also turns every home into a prison for women?
House-arrest for life!
What a beautiful empire!
So Mr. Obama wants more war in Afghanistan, and 30,000 more American soldiers to fight it, after seven long years of fighting to create a narco-state where 50% of the gross domestic product is produced by heroin, and millions of women will be prisoners in their own homes forever.
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[Judge]Bates noted that the detainees are similar to those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Those detainees won the right to challenge their confinements in federal court under a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year.
....Bates ruled that while the sites were "not identical," the "objective degree of [U.S.] control" was not "appreciably different." Obstacles to resolving the detainees' rights "are not as great as respondents claim," Bates said of the U.S. position. "And importantly," he wrote, the obstacles "are largely of the Executive's choosing," because the men "were all apprehended elsewhere and then brought (i.e. rendered) to Bagram for detention now exceeding six years."
The Obama Administration had sided with Bush on the case.
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