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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan

Pentagon maintains ties to creepy helicopter firms — why?

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Afghan Air Force [sic] Mi-17s

After almost four years of allegations that two related helicopter companies in Lithuania and Russia were doing substandard work and should be banned from new contracts, the Pentagon continued to give them business, according to interviews and documents seen by Reuters.

As recently as last month, an Army planning document shows, the service was weighing contracting helicopter overhauls from the firms, which have been the subject of multiple internal warnings and two Defense Department Inspector General reports…

The Pentagon has been working with Lithuanian company Aviabaltika and a sister Russian firm, the St. Petersburg Aircraft Repair Company (SPARC), for more than a decade to buy spare parts and overhaul Russian Mi-17 helicopters.

Pentagon officials say the Mi-17 helicopters are crucial to the ability of the Afghanistan military to conduct counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics mission as U.S. troops leave, since local pilots have a long history with the rugged aircraft. They have also been supplied to U.S. allies Pakistan and Iraq.

Criticism of the two companies, which are run by the same person and described as a single entity, AVB/SPARC, in Pentagon documents, grew in recent months while the Army continues a review of allegations of overcharging, blocked access to outside quality inspectors and improper advance payments

The scrutiny of AVB/SPARC comes amid a broader backlash against the Army’s more than $1 billion Mi-17 program. Congressional and human rights critics say the program has put the Pentagon in bed with questionable business partners, and they are pressuring the Obama administration to wind it down.

RTFA for all the gory details. In an honest business environment – as scarce as that may seem in headlines about the US economy – these creepy firms might be on the block for sale as scrap and salvage. In practice, most public companies in the United States had better be on the straight and narrow for – even though conservative politicians try like hell to reinvent the mythical Free Market of the 19th Century – oversight and regulation still exists in sufficient enough form to catch a portion of the crooks in business.

Admittedly, the honesty patrol has a harder time with the US government and the Pentagon in particular; but, then, that’s what this investigative piece is all about, eh?

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Written by Ed Campbell

December 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm

US Military has no problem wasting $25 million on a useless project

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Afghan poppy field
Could you teach me to grow these here poppies back in Texas?

A U.S. military investigation found no wrongdoing in a decision to keep building a $25 million regional headquarters in Afghanistan that local commanders said they didn’t need or want.

The 64,000-square-foot command headquarters in Helmand province, approved as part of a surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2009, has a war room, a briefing theater and enough office space for 1,500 people.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, criticized the project in July, saying he was “deeply troubled that the military may have spent taxpayer funds on a construction project that should have been stopped.”

Army Major General James Richardson, a deputy commander of United States Forces-Afghanistan, found “no evidence” that proceeding with construction amounted to any “violation of law or regulation,” according to a memo obtained yesterday on his investigation of the project at the request of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Sopko had said the headquarters risked becoming a “white elephant” to the Afghan government when most U.S. and allied forces depart by the end of next year. The inspector general has issued a stream of reports that he says show waste and mismanagement of U.S. spending in the country.

As early as April 2010, the local Marine commander of the region found the project “was no longer necessary to execute the mission” and requested its cancellation

Not that the Pentagon and their overseers – the real ones in the military-industrial complex, not the incompetents in Congress – have any problem with cost overruns or producing structures and devices of no value whatsoever. After all, the worst case scenario – for them – is a minimal cost-plus structure. And the average American politician like the average American voter never has caught on to programs with costs inflated – since the guaranteed profit is based on “costs”.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 19, 2013 at 8:00 am

US invasion of Afghanistan began 12 years ago – today!

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Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, began 12 years ago Monday…There are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan and the number of coalition bases has gone from a high of 800 to about 100, Stars and Stripes reported…

Discussion and media interest about Afghanistan have faded since President Obama ordered a troop surge three years ago, but a White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion, Stars and Stripes said.

A. Trevor Thrall, a professor at George Mason University, said this isn’t the first time a president has tried to avoid news out of Afghanistan, the report said.

George W. Bush stopped talking about Afghanistan almost immediately after he shifted focus to Iraq,” Thrall said. “Afghanistan was truly a forgotten war [when] Obama took over and it became it again after the surge was over. The result is the public really has no idea what’s going on there.”

Troops still in Afghanistan told Stars and Stripes they have mixed feelings about the lack of attention.

“It’s kind of sad, because I think some people are a little more occupied with the latest TV show,” said Lt. Uriel Macias, a Navy reservist assigned to a stability operations team in Kabul. “But what is often forgotten is that we are still losing people all the time.”

Of course, we could have left a long time ago – just as we could have stayed out of Iraq altogether. But, that not only would have required reason and objectivity among our elected officials in the White House and Congress – it would have required courage in the face of right-wing chickenhawks, war-lovers and profiteers.

Not especially likely in the Land of Liberty.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm

The US has little credibility – Syria won’t change that

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Same as it ever was

Much of the contemporary turmoil in the Middle East owes its origins to foreign powers drawing lines in the sand that were both arbitrary and consequential and guided more by their imperial standing than the interests of the region. The “red line” that president Barack Obama has set out as the trigger for US military intervention in Syria is no different.

He drew it unilaterally in August 2012 in response to a question about “whether [he envisioned] using US military” in Syria. “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

On 21 August there was a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus believed to have been carried out by the Syrian government. That changed both Obama’s calculus and his memory. “I didn’t set a red line,” he claimed last week. I didn’t draw it, he insisted, everybody did. “The world set a red line”.

This was news to the world, which, over the weekend, sought to distance itself from his line, as the US president doubled-down on his double-speak…

The alleged urgency to bomb Syria at this moment is being driven almost entirely by the White House’s desire to assert both American power and moral authority as defined by a self-imposed ultimatum. It is to this beat that the drums of war are pounding. But thus far few are marching. The American public is against it by wide margins. As a result it is not clear that Congress, whose approval he has sought, will back him. The justification and the objectives for bombing keep changing and are unconvincing. He has written a rhetorical cheque his polity may not cash and the public is reluctant to honour. On Tuesday night he’ll make his case to a sceptical nation from the White House…

…The insistence that a durable and effective solution to this crisis lies at the end of an American cruise missile beggars belief. It is borne from the circular sophistry that has guided most recent “humanitarian interventions”: (1) Something must be done now; (2) Bombing is something; (3) Therefore we must bomb…

The problem for America in all of this is that its capacity to impact diplomatic negotiations is limited by the fact that its record of asserting its military power stands squarely at odds with its pretensions of moral authority. For all America’s condemnations of chemical weapons, the people of Falluja in Iraq are experiencing the birth defects and deformities in children and increases in early-life cancer that may be linked to the use of depleted uranium during the US bombardment of the town. It also used white phosphorus against combatants in Falluja.

Its chief ally in the region, Israel, holds the record for ignoring UN resolutions, and the US is not a participant in the international criminal court – which is charged with bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice – because it refuses to allow its own citizens to be charged. On the very day Obama lectured the world on international norms he launched a drone strike in Yemen that killed six people.

Obama appealing for the Syrian regime to be brought to heel under international law is a bit like Tony Soprano asking the courts for a restraining order against one of his mob rivals – it cannot be taken seriously because the very laws he is invoking are laws he openly flouts.

Since the end of World War 2 – and the way we ended it – the United States has ignored international law, treaties and the worldwide expansion of a struggle for human rights that happened in parallel with anti-colonialism. Our nation supported any and all colonial powers that weren’t smart enough to withdraw gracefully. We volunteered the lives of our military personnel in a foolhardy quest to shut down efforts to shrug off the imperial yoke of Western corporate power – all the way to VietNam.

We lost every one of those battles more often sooner than later; but, we lost them all. Obama believes like all self-deluded American politicians he still can find some means of reintroducing that control. Most recently by technological means – as ignorant as ever of the fact that knowing which people would prefer to get your foot off their neck doesn’t mean they will stop threatening to break that foot if you don’t remove it. Declaring the rest of the world to be led by religious terrorists – from atop a pyramid of dollars worshipped by our own religious terrorists – changes nothing. And never reinstates credibility lost over decades.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Dutch court blocks extradition of terror suspect to the United States – concern over torture and civil liberties

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A Dutch court has blocked the extradition of a terrorism suspect to the United States amid concern about American collusion in his torture.

The 26-year-old man, known only as Sabir K, is accused of taking part in attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

He says he was tortured in Pakistan after his arrest there in 2010, and that the Americans knew about it…

The suspect, who is a Dutch citizen of Pakistani origin, was returned to the Netherlands after his arrest and immediately taken into custody.

The appeals court in The Hague said he could not be extradited to the US “because too much is unclear regarding the role of the American authorities in Sabir’s torture“…

The BBC’s Hague Correspondent Anna Holligan says the judgement is significant as it appears to acknowledge that the US may have been aware of torture techniques used against suspects overseas – something Washington has always refused to comment on.

Chickens coming home to roost.

No doubt our government will follow standard operating procedure [Imperial version, latest edition] and bluster, try to bully the Netherlands government into making illegal procedures legal. After all, it works well here at home.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 24, 2013 at 2:00 am

May was the most violent, the deadliest month in Iraq for years

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The United Nations says more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in May, the highest monthly death toll for years.

The violence makes it the deadliest month since the wide sectarian violence of 2006-7, and raising concern that the country is returning to civil war.

The vast majority of the casualties were civilians, and Baghdad was the worst hit area of the country…

Figures released on Saturday showed 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May, far higher than the 712 who died in April, the worst recorded toll since June 2008…

Analysts say al-Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents have been invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in neighbouring Syria and by the worsening sectarian tensions in the country…

On some days, Shia areas across Baghdad appear to have been the main target, while on others, the Sunni areas outside the capital saw most explosions.

One explanation is that Sunni militant groups linked to al-Qaeda want to provoke civil war in Baghdad and undermine the government in areas they see as their strongholds, our correspondent says.

But other explanations link the violence to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, he adds.

The bloodshed has been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours about sectarian militias roaming Baghdad for revenge, which have caused fear in many areas of the capital.

It’s not only inside Iraq that folks lay the responsibility for continued violence on Bush’s War. As violent and corrupt as was Saddam Hussein, the invasion demonstrated sovereignty means nothing in a world facing United States military power.

The people of Iran will never forget the democratic government overthrown by the United States. Good, bad or indifferent, Iraqis will never forget the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and maimed in the name of liberation by the United States. Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Saudi Arabia watch the way we ignore accepted global law – and take whatever we want, however we wish. No one forgets.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 1, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Karzai assured of sufficient cash by CIA delivery boy

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“I don’t care if Bush said he’d let you plant this to poppies…Michelle won’t allow it.”

The C.I.A.’s station chief here met with President Hamid Karzai on Saturday, and the Afghan leader said he had been assured that the agency would continue dropping off stacks of cash at his office despite a storm of criticism that has erupted since the payments were disclosed.

The C.I.A. money, Mr. Karzai told reporters, was “an easy source of petty cash,” and some of it was used to pay off members of the political elite, a group dominated by warlords.

The use of the C.I.A. cash for payoffs has prompted criticism from many Afghans and some American and European officials, who complain that the agency, in its quest to maintain access and influence at the presidential palace, financed what is essentially a presidential slush fund. The practice, the officials say, effectively undercut a pillar of the American war strategy: the building of a clean and credible Afghan government to wean popular support from the Taliban.

Instead, corruption at the highest levels seems to have only worsened. The International Monetary Fund recently warned diplomats in Kabul that the Afghan government faced a potentially severe budget shortfall partly because of the increasing theft of customs duties and officially abetted tax evasion…

…Mr. Karzai, in offering his most detailed accounting to date of how the money had been used, probably raised as many questions as he answered…Formal aid, for instance, is publicly accounted for and audited. The C.I.A.’s cash is not, though Mr. Karzai did say the Americans were given receipts for the money they dropped off at the presidential palace.

Asked why money that was used for what would appear to be justifiable governing and charitable expenses was handed over secretly by the C.I.A. and not routed publicly through the State Department, Mr. Karzai replied: “This is cash. It is the choice of the U.S. government.”

He added, “If tomorrow the State Department decides to give us such cash, I’d welcome that, too.”

Mr. Karzai declined to specify how much cash his office received each month, or how much it had been given by the C.I.A. so far. At his meeting with the station chief, it was made clear to him that “we are not allowed to disclose” the amount, he said…

The American Embassy in Kabul, which handles queries for the C.I.A., declined to comment.

Heartwarming to note that American foreign policy hasn’t especially changed since the days of John Foster Dulles and Dean Rusk. Corruption is closer akin to the White House and Congress than anything offered by sovereign democracy.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Staff sergeant says she betrayed her country and her family – as an embezzler in Afghanistan

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This is how we shipped cash to Iraq for Bremer

In Afghanistan, Tonya Long, a 13-year Army veteran, approved military cash payments to Afghan drivers of “jingle trucks,” the colorful transport trucks that carry supplies to U.S. bases.

Last week, Staff Sgt. Long stood in the dock in a federal courtroom here and read aloud from a statement she had written on notebook paper:

“I cannot express how sorry I am … I chose to betray my country and my family.” She did not ask for mercy, she told a judge, “because I don’t deserve it.”

Long, 30, had pleaded guilty to stealing at least $1 million and shipping the cash in hundred-dollar bills to the U.S. in the guts of hollowed-out VCR players.

Long’s scam is part of a pattern of fraud and theft among U.S. soldiers responsible for paying Afghans who support U.S. forces. Last year, 18 U.S. soldiers were charged with such thefts, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction. Nine U.S. contractors also were charged…

At least two other U.S. Army officers are under investigation in Long’s scam, and federal prosecutors say more indictments are likely. As part of a plea deal, Long agreed to testify against others allegedly involved.

At Long’s hearing March 4, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle called the case “a critically symbolic prosecution,” and speculated that Long and her suspected allies might have actually stolen $10 million or more. The judge suggested that such thefts have been going on since the U.S. mission in Afghanistan began more than a decade ago.

The judge said…Long’s theft undermined America’s mission in a country where the Afghan government is routinely accused of rampant corruption and bribery…

“There were tens of thousands of other soldiers … under 24-hour-a-day threat of death,” the judge told Long. “Where is your sympathy for them while you were stealing? What a betrayal!”

Under Long’s plea agreement, Boyle could not sentence her to more than five years in prison. He told her he was imposing the full five years, plus three years of supervised release — and ordered restitution of $1 million.

Someone mail me a penny postcard when Dick Cheney, George W Bush and flunkies like Paul Bremer and Ahmad Chalabi are indicted for corruption – sending our nation’s military off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, “losing” money by the pallet-load.

There’s no denying Sergeant Long is a crook. But, her crime compares to those of Bremer, Chalabi and Company like someone robbing parking meters compared to car theft rings shipping boatloads of hot cars to Mexico. And she didn’t kill any civilians in the process.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Jihadi leader lives openly in Pakistan – no one wants $10 million reward offered by the United States

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Lahore, Pakistan — Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.

“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”

Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state.

Mr. Saeed’s very public life seems more than just an act of mocking defiance against the Obama administration and its bounty, analysts say. As American troops prepare to leave Afghanistan next door, Lashkar is at a crossroads, and its fighters’ next move — whether to focus on fighting the West, disarm and enter the political process, or return to battle in Kashmir — will depend largely on Mr. Saeed…

His security seemingly ensured, Mr. Saeed has over the past year addressed large public meetings and appeared on prime-time television, and is now even giving interviews to Western news media outlets he had previously eschewed…

Still, he says he has nothing against Americans, and warmly described a visit he made to the United States in 1994, during which he spoke at Islamic centers in Houston, Chicago and Boston. “At that time, I liked it,” he said with a wry smile.

During that stretch, his group was focused on attacking Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir — the fight that led the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate to help establish Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1989…

“When there are no Americans in Afghanistan, what will happen?” said Mushtaq Sukhera, a senior officer with the Punjabi police who is running a fledgling demobilization program for Islamist extremists. “It’s an open question.”

A shift could be risky for Mr. Saeed: Some of his fighters have already split from Lashkar in favor of other groups that attack the Pakistani state. And much will depend on the advice of his military sponsors.

For their part, Pakistan’s generals insist they have abandoned their dalliance with jihadi proxy groups. In a striking speech in August, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the country’s greatest threat came from domestic extremism. “We as a nation must stand united against this threat,” he said. “No state can afford a parallel system of governance and militias.”

Unfortunately, that last statement by General Kayani although truthful guarantees nothing. No one is confident that Pakistan’s military – and especially the ISI, their answer to the CIA – is at all interested in building anything more than bank vaults filled with looted gold. The blood of their fellow Pakistanis means nothing.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

British government accused of war crimes over man held by US for eight years without trial

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Human rights campaigners have accused the British government of possible war crimes for failing to secure the release of a man held without trial for eight years by the Americans.

Yunus Rahmatullah, 30, was captured by UK special forces following the invasion of Iraq and handed over to the Americans, who eventually transferred him to Bagram air base. Despite US assertions that he is no longer considered a “security threat” he remains incarcerated in Afghanistan.

The legal charity Reprieve failed to persuade the Supreme Court to come to Mr Rahmatullah’s aid as it rejected the Pakistani’s case by a majority of 5-2 that the British had not done enough to persuade the Americans to hand him over.

But the UK’s highest court also rejected an appeal by the Foreign Secretary that the Court of Appeal had been wrong to issue a writ of habeas corpus – an ancient tenet of English law giving the legal right to be charged or released from arbitrary detention.

Reprieve welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the Government’s appeal to overturn the writ of habeas corpus, adding that there should be a police investigation into whether “grave war crimes may have been committed”…

Jamie Beagent…representing Mr Rahmatullah, said: “We will be drawing the Supreme Court’s findings to the attention of the Metropolitan Police who are currently investigating our client’s case in relation to offences under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

I think it as unlikely for the British government to start obeying the Geneva Convention – as the United States. The Bush-Blair Axis decided they needn’t pay any attention at all to international law or human rights. The politicians who followed them into office have neither the courage nor integrity to reverse that decision.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 3, 2012 at 12:00 am

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