By Syed Zafar Mehdi
On Sunday, the protracted war in Afghanistan completed 17 years. It was on October 7, 2001 the U.S. government and its allies launched the so-called ‘Operation Freedom’ apparently to topple the Taliban regime in Kabul, following the 9/11 attacks. Yet 17 years later, America’s longest war still grinds on, despite more than $2 trillion investment and thousands of casualties.
Bearing testimony to America’s disastrous venture in Afghanistan, in the 24 hours corresponding with the 17th anniversary of its invasion, at least 54 people were killed across the war-ravaged country, including 35 Afghan security forces and 19 civilians. It is a grim reminder that the war has only got deadlier with time and the Taliban has managed to reinvent itself, belying tall claims of the U.S. generals that the insurgency was waning in Afghanistan.
It started a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks when the George Bush administration launched the so-called ‘Global War on Terror’. Bush’s defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, flanked by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, announced what were to be America’s longest war and the biggest disaster.
On the afternoon of Oct. 7, 2001, as the U.S. and its allies started the deadly and indiscriminate air raid in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said the objective of the ‘campaign’ was to decimate the Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in the country. Bush, in an address to the nation, declared the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida, vowing to “crush” them.
As of today, the war has completed 17 years, consumed thousands of lives, and cost U.S. taxpayers more than $150 billion. All this without achieving the stated objectives.
The U.S. government, prior to the 9/11 attacks, had been asking the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, the ‘most-wanted terrorist’ who had previously fought alongside the U.S. forces against Soviets in Afghanistan. The Taliban had asked for evidence of his complicity in crimes and a commitment to conduct a trial in a third country.
After the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban offered to hand over bin Laden to a third country to be tried, dropping the demand for evidence of his guilt. But the Bush administration turned down the offer and launched deadly airstrikes, not even halting it when bin Laden was believed to have run away from Afghanistan, and not even halting it after he was declared dead in an air operation inside Pakistan.
So, what were the objectives of carpet bombings and the war in Afghanistan? Anand Gopal, the author of ‘No Good Men Among the Living’, which should be a required reading for every American, agrees that the top Taliban leadership had tried to surrender soon after the U.S. invasion.
“The mood at the time was that, like Bush said, “You are either with us or against us.” America’s goal was to wage a war on terror, and the fact that its enemies were trying to switch sides was something that did not mesh easily with the ideology of counterterrorism,” he told me in an interview a few years ago.
David Swanson, an American author and activist, also believes that invading Afghanistan had little or nothing to do with bin Laden or 9-11. “The motivations in 2001 were in fact related to fossil fuel pipelines, the positioning of weaponry, political posturing, geopolitical posturing, maneuvering toward an invasion of Iraq, patriotic cover for power grabs and unpopular policies at home, and profiteering from war and its expected spoils,” he wrote in an article.
The clamor for ending the “failed war” in Afghanistan has been gaining momentum in the U.S. Daniel Davis, a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015, says the evidence that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is failing and cannot be won is “dramatic and overwhelming”, yet no leader has had the “wisdom or courage to call for a withdraw”. Journalists John Dale Grover and Jerrod Laber in an article recently said the U.S. has been “unable to build an Afghan government that is capable of providing for its own security and there is no reason to believe that will change.”
The outgoing top U.S. commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson was very blunt in his farewell address. “It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end,” he said. John Sopko, who has served as the special inspector general of a U.S. watchdog in Afghanistan for past six years, is also disillusioned. In an interview to Canada’s Global News recently, Sopko noted that 17 years after Western nations invaded Afghanistan, the capabilities of Afghan security forces remain questionable, corruption remains endemic and rampant, and opium production continues to fuel insurgency, complicating matters.
Chukh Pezeshki, a professor at Washington State University, also believes that it is time for the American public to demand an end to this pointless war. “Our leaders in both the military and the government do not know what they are doing, and they are sending our sons and daughters to be killed because of their ignorance and avarice,” he wrote in an article.
These statements show the growing frustration among Americans that the war in Afghanistan was proving an expensive proposition and costing U.S. tax payers billions of dollars.
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, nearly half of Americans think the U.S. has failed to achieve most of its goals in Afghanistan, 17 years after the war kicked off. The previous Pew surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 had also reported predominately negative views of America’s longest war. In 2015, 56 percent described the war as “mostly a failure.
In December 2014, almost 13 years after the war began, President Barack Obama announced the end of so-called ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’. The operations by the U.S. military forces, both noncombat advisers and combat forces, he said, would henceforth take place under the name ‘Operation Freedom’s Sentinel’. The nomenclature changed, but the war did not.
Seventeen years down the line, almost 56.3 percent of Afghanistan’s districts are currently under government control and at least 30 percent of districts are contested, according to a recent SIGAR report. And, there have been reports recently about secret negotiations between the U.S. government and the Taliban in Qatar, which seems to suggest that the world’s biggest military has surrendered before the Taliban in Afghanistan after 17 years of futile war and bloodshed.
Today, on average, the war in Afghanistan consumes lives of 30 to 40 Afghan forces and at least 13 civilians on daily basis. There appears to be no strategy to contain violence, to prevent civilian casualties, to combat terrorism, to find a way out of this logjam.
Now there is a talk about ‘privatizing the war”. Erik Prince, the founder of notorious U.S. security company Blackwater, which came under scrutiny after its employees were accused of killing Iraqi civilians in 2007, visited Afghanistan last week to sell his proposal.
In an interview, Prince said hiring his contractors to support Afghan forces could end the war in “six months after the program is fully ramped up.” But, it drew sharp reactions from Afghan political and military leadership, including President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. The country’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib termed the proposal “destructive and divisive.”
While the long-standing war stretches and the civilian casualties surge to a record high, sending more U.S. troops or privatizing the war cannot end the stalemate. The only way out is for the U.S. troops to go home and let Afghans take charge of their country.
(Courtesy: Tehran Times)
Silence and mayhem go together in India
By Anand K Sahay
There is perhaps nothing more striking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s present tenure — which ends in a few months — than its silence on matters where the clear choice of right and wrong, moral versus immoral, ethics or the want of it, and adherence to the Constitution or its negation, has presented itself.
Since a clear endorsement of what society considers bad, wrong, undesirable or lacking in constitutional propriety or probity cannot be a public good, and may cost at election time, remaining quiet is designed as a clever tactic. Its purpose is to offer comfort to wrongdoers (sometimes evildoers) and suspected criminals, thus causing injury to the notion of what’s right, valid and appropriate conduct for an elected government.
That, in turn, amounts to a violation of the compact between the government and the country’s citizens, and causes visible injury to the oath every minister of the government takes at the time of being sworn in.
In the process the state and the government lose their authority. The emperor begins to be seen as being denuded. There may be murmurs of rebellion but the people do not rise in revolt because too much force is ranged on the other side. They would rather bide their time.
Two recent instances come to mind — though several more can be cited — of the regime’s sly silence. Consider first the case of M.J. Akbar in relation to the vigorous #MeToo campaign and the stunning allegations of sexual predation made against him by more than 20 women.
The minister of state for external affairs was eventually forced to resign under the weight of his omissions and commissions in the course of dealing with young women over whom he had authority. But the point here is the reaction of the BJP, the ruling party; the RSS, which holds that party’s moral compass and is its moral arbiter; and more importantly the government, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made Mr Akbar minister, and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj under whom he served.
It would be understandable if all the above had remained circumspect and quiet when the minister was overseas on assignment. But BJP and RSS spokesmen, speaking on television, were anything but discreet. They in fact went out of their way to attack the women who had accused Mr Akbar — asking for proof of allegations of sexual misconduct as if these can ever exist (by the very nature of the alleged crime) — and the RSS representatives, in particular, maintaining that India “is not a banana republic and the rule of law exists here”.
In effect, the victims of the minister’s alleged predatory conduct were sought to be demonised and traduced. Those engaging in this sport gave no evidence of appreciating that moral uprightness is a requirement in governance, not legal proof, when confronted with allegations of wrongdoing.
They had obviously not heard of a former Prime Minister, a man called Lal Bahadur Shastri (who had resigned as railway minister in the Nehru Cabinet, accepting constructive responsibility when a train accident occurred).
This may be the RSS’ idea of morality, but the Narendra Modi government should have had its own mind on the matter since, unlike the RSS, the government is a creature of the Constitution.
The Prime Minister was morally duty-bound to give the minister marching orders upon his return to India if only to make the point that a sustained record of alleged crimes against women cannot be tolerated as it robs the government as well as the society of its dignity, and the entire class of women of their very being and soul. But Mr Modi maintained a sphinx-like silence as is his wont, and this encouraged
Mr Akbar to file a case of criminal defamation — pointedly not civil defamation — against the first woman to have raised her finger.
The government’s ear-splitting silence was consistent with its lack of any communication with the public whenever serious crimes against women rocked the country, signifying that the Union government had no sympathy for the females whose bodily integrity had been criminally encroached upon.
Two shameful episodes illustrate this — the Kathua gangrape and murder of an eight-year-old child near Jammu and the subsequent open public defence of the criminals by ministers of the J&K government to the shock of the entire country, with the government at the Centre remaining stoical. The second numbing episode is that of a BJP MLA in Uttar Pradesh, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, raping a minor girl and having her father tortured and murdered at a police station when he went there to lodge a complaint.
The second recent instance of governmental encouragement through the use of silence as tactic concerns RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat. During his recent three-day outreach programme in New Delhi, the RSS leader declared, in effect, that while the Supreme Court may be adjudicating the Ayodhya title dispute, in reality it was the Temple Construction Committee (of the Hindutva outfits) that would decide the construction of the Ram temple (at the site where the Babri mosque was felled in 1992) — irrespective of the outcome of the court’s labours.
This was nothing if not heaping humiliation on the highest court of the land. But the government just stood and watched in a neutral stance. Perhaps the regime’s thinking is in harmony with the outrageous proposition outlined by the top boss of a dangerous outfit whose mention comes up in “riot after riot” (to recall the title of a book authored by Mr Akbar in his pre-BJP days).
This is not the only serious infraction the RSS leader is guilty of. Just weeks afterward, delivering his Vijayadashami address on October 18, Mr Bhagwat referred to the permitting of the entry of women to the Sabarimala temple (by a recent order of the Supreme Court) in inflammatory and prejudicial terms, choosing to renew his assault on the top court with an emotional pitch to the target audience, doubtless with a view to rabble-rousing.
In the context of the Sabarimala judgment, the man actually said that “repeated and brazen onslaughts” happened to “Hindu society alone”. In a Hindu-majority country, this is a call to arms for the Hindus on a false and hypocritical premise. The call to arms is not against the Supreme Court, not even only against the traditionally targeted minorities, but on the Constitution itself. Once again, the government answered the challenge with silence.
It is time to ponder if the leader of the RSS would have thought it prudent to speak in this manner and idiom if he didn’t have under his command a trained paramilitary-style volunteer force, which receives the benign attention of the government. It’s also worth wondering what’s left of the sheen of the government and the majesty of the law. Big trouble lies ahead. We may as well brace for it.
The truth of BJP victory in Kashmir
By Rahiba R. Parveen
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has claimed victory in the urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the “stupendous effort” of the party.
“I salute the entire team of @BJP4JnK for their stupendous efforts in the local body elections. I am glad that they reached out to every section of society and explained the Party’s development agenda,” he tweeted.
Both are factually correct. After all, the BJP did win 100 of the 624 wards in the Kashmir region — its best performance ever — and will head six municipal bodies.
It won over 212 of the 520 wards in Jammu, a notable feat in view of the anti-incumbency of the last four years.
However, there’s a subtext to the BJP’s big achievement.
Of the 100 seats that it won in Kashmir, the party had no opponent in 76. In at least two seats, even the party’s own candidate stayed away from the polling booth.
That’s not all.
Of the 157 wards won by the Congress, 78 were uncontested. Independents won 178 wards, of which 75 witnessed no contest.
Of the 624 wards in Kashmir, as many as 185 wards still remain vacant in the absence of any candidate willing to contest. A significant 231 saw a single candidate, while just 208 witnessed a contest.
In Nawakadal, for example, BJP’s Arif Majeed Pampoori got 27 of the 45 votes polled, while the total number of voters registered for this ward are 5,372.
In Karan Nagar, Ashok Kabul (BJP) won by 73 votes of 144 polled. All 73 votes were cast by migrants.
Another victory for BJP was in Bagh-e-Mehtab, where Bashir Ahmed Mir secured eight votes of the nine polled. This ward has 5,118 electors.
Nazir Ahmed Gilkar from Basant Bagh won 77 votes of 133 polled; there are 13,748 electors in this ward.
Farooq Ahmad Khan alias Saifullah (BJP) lost to Nakul Matto in Tankipora (ward 33). A former militant, Khan could only get four votes. Of the four votes, three were cast by migrants.
In four militancy-hit districts of south Kashmir, BJP won 58 wards. Around 34 winners in these wards are non-Muslims. In the Anantnag municipal committee, the BJP secured 29 of 132 wards. In Shopian, of the 17 wards, it won 12. In Kulgam, of the 47 wards, the party won eight. In the Pulwama municipal committee, of the 69 wards, the BJP won nine.
The Congress won 50 seats in Anantnag against the BJP’s 29. The grand old party won 16 wards in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, while independents, including former National Conference spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu, won 49 of the 66 wards.
In its stronghold Jammu, the BJP fared on expected lines. It won 13 urban local bodies, including the Jammu Municipal Corporation, and emerged as the single-largest party in eight others. The Congress managed to win just three committees.
Of the 37 urban local bodies, the BJP won in 212 wards while Congress won just 110 wards, with the number two spot going to independents — 185 wards.
For the opposition Congress, the loss of face in Jammu, what with the BJP facing huge anti-incumbency, would be worrisome, observers said.
The saving grace for the Congress was that it won all 13 seats of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh and five of 13 seats in Kargil. The BJP won the Ladakh Lok Sabha seat in 2014.
With the worst-ever polling percentage in the Kashmir Valley, the elections were always going to attract questions.
Adding to the controversy was the claim by governor Satya Pal Malik that a foreign-educated person would be the next mayor of Srinagar. That person, it now seems clear, will be Junaid Mattu. Immediately after the results were announced, separatist-turned-politician and People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone nominated Mattu as his party’s mayoral candidate.
“Congratulations to PC Mayoral Candidate @Junaid_Mattu and the victorious candidates from PC for heralding a new change in Srinagar and thanks to Irfan Ansari and all my senior colleagues for his successful campaign management during the ULB elections,” Lone tweeted.
Governor Malik, who’s currently in charge of the state’s administration, said his government had managed to conduct “successful” elections under immense pressure.
“A biased person will count the percentage. My assessment of the election is everyone — both the mainstream parties, small parties, Hurriyat and terrorists — all of them opposed this election, but people still came (to vote),” Malik told ThePrint.
“In 2002 as well, the percentage was as low as it was (this time). So that way, I see no reason to feel very good or exalted. But yes, the basic thing which we should take note of is that entire election was violence-free. Not even a bird was harmed. In other elections — parliamentary and assembly — nine people died.
“We held these elections successfully. We could thwart the threats we (the administration) and the voters were given, and fight it out.”
TRANQUILITY OF PRESENT GENERATION: LOST LOVE AND CARE
By SEHRISH SHAFI
Tranquility is a state of physical ease that has several dimensions. In this digital world every work is carried out by artificial machines like robots, mixers, washing machines etc. Our life is has been made very easy with these artificial machines and our lives have become dependent on these machines. Before a decade people were served by the food that was cooked on firepot, (Daan in Kashmiri) and it was having the best taste. Nowadays, we cook food in rice cookers and on electric heaters that has some dangerous aspects associated with these electronic gadgets and some of the diseases and risks have been related with the use of these gadgets.
In olden days people were busy in their work which they were doing manually, like washing clothes by hands, cooking food on fire pots, going one place to another by foot etc., thereby consuming less resources, that was having double benefits like keeping environment free from pollutants and those who were doing manual labor remained always fit and healthy. Their minds were also busy with their work with limited wants. They always feel themselves in a relaxed and comfort zone. Currently, humans are full of desires and wishes. They make themselves busy with different types of modern electronic gadgets. People want to do things with more and more comfort.
Those muddy and wooden houses with joint families, listening the folklores of our ancestors were full of love and affection. The joint meals, the sharing of happy and sad moments, the visit of neighbors and relatives, the harmony of villages, the celebrations of festivals all are missing from the present generation, and the credit goes to mobile phones. The irony is that if a daughter or a son wants to share something with their parents they can’t as their parents are either busy in offices or in parties or with mobile phones. This has made life of present generation very strained, full of anger, disloyalty etc. We have left that comfort or placidity in the houses of mud, where all family members lived together with love and reminding us the culture that was prevalent in valley before few decades.
Everyone in this digital world wants the comfort zone and in every nook and corner people searches the calmness and peace. The digital world has transformed almost every aspect of our life. No doubt present generation is having unlimited facilities still they are lacking the love and care. The artificial technologies will not provide them the care and love which they are of basic need. If we want to build a house, it must have a strong base and if the base is weak the house may fall at any time. So, is the case of present generation our base is so weak that we can fall at any level where it is difficult to recover and in teenage we need proper guidance and care from our parents or our elders that will have direct impact on our bright future and improper guidance or no guidance may make our future bleak.
Therefore, parents and elders have a role in shaping our future towards a better and happy life. They have to think, they have to ponder.
(The author is B. Sc I year student at Govt degree college Bijbehara)
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