Washington fuelling graft in Afghanistan

(By Deutsche Welle) Washington has long maligned Kabul for being weak on corruption. But the Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly been buying access to President Hamid Karzai’s inner circle for a decade.

The United States and its NATO allies have complained for years about rampant corruption in Afghanistan, voicing frustration with President Karzai’s inability – or perhaps unwillingness – to fight graft and improve the rule of law.

But according to a report published by the New York Times on Monday, Washington may be one of the biggest contributors to that very corruption. The Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly been dropping off suitcases stuffed full of American dollars at the office of the Afghan president for years, in an effort to buy influence in Kabul.

The British Guardian reported on Tuesday that the United Kingdom’s MI6 also may have made cash payments to Karzai’s office, in an effort to promote meetings between the Taliban and the Karzai government.

The alleged CIA bribes have supposedly amounted to tens of millions of dollars over the past decade. Much of the money was reportedly distributed to warlords and politicians, in an effort to buy their loyalty.

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Insider attacks threaten NATO mission in Afghanistan

(By Deutsche Welle) A spike in insider attacks on NATO troops by Afghan soldiers and police has threatened to undermine trust between the comrades-in-arms. NATO has begun to resume work with Afghan units after suspending joint patrols.

After a decade of war and just two years before NATO’s 2014 withdrawal deadline, the US-led military coalition and Afghan forces are struggling to maintain confidence in each other amid a rise in insider attacks. NATO has begun to slowly lift a week-long suspension of joint patrols with Afghan security forces, which had been imposed as a consequence of the “green-on-blue” attacks.

The Long War Journal, a website devoted to tracking the so-called “global war on terrorism,” has reported that 51 coalition troops have been killed at the hands of rogue members of the Afghan military and police in 2012. That represents 15 percent of the total casualties suffered by the international coalition this year and a 35 percent increase over the number of green-on-blue attacks in 2011. Green refers to Afghan forces and blue to coalition troops.

“We’re all seized with (the) problem,” General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the American Forces Press Service. “You can’t whitewash it. We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change.”

“But we’ve got to make sure our Afghan counterparts are as seized about it as we are,” said America’s top military officer. “We have to get on top of this. It is a very serious threat to the campaign.”

Although NATO claims that most of the attacks are the consequence of cultural differences and personal disputes, the Afghan government has said that the insider attacks are largely due to infiltration by Taliban insurgents, supported by the Iranian and Pakistani intelligence services.

“The National Security Council has enough evidence to prove that Afghans are being used and brainwashed by these foreign agencies,” Aymal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told the Washington Post. “They see this as a way of attacking the buildup of the Afghan National Security Forces…proving that they are weak and unable to protect the country.”

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Trillion-dollar-business: US war spending spirals out of control

(By Deutsche Welle) The heated debate over the US debt ceiling focused almost exclusively on cuts in social security and raising taxes. But a main item of government expenditure was hardly addressed at all: the rising cost of the wars.

For weeks a fierce political fight over government debt raged in Washington. Both parties agreed that a default had to be avoided and that the debt burden of the US must be addressed.

But while Republicans pushed for a steep reduction of government expenditures mainly through drastic cuts in social programs, Democrats wanted to tackle the issue mainly by increased taxes for the rich.

In their zeal to cut welfare programs and raise taxes both parties completely neglected one area of government spending that comes with a hefty sticker price: the cost of war.

Back in the winter of 2002, when the United States was still contemplating whether or not it would wage war against Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush’s key economic advisors estimated that an invasion would cost between $50 and $60 billion (35-41 billion euros).

With US troops scheduled to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, the war there has cost a cumulative total of $806 billion over the past eight years, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, dwarfing the Bush administration’s original projections.

Washington, however, has also spent a decade waging a counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan and launching clandestine military strikes in Pakistan. A new study by Brown University entitled the “Costs of War” estimates that in total, when all is said and done, the United States will have spent between $3 and $4 trillion on foreign wars since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“If you study the history of war, throughout the millennia those who have been in favor of going to war have always very substantially underestimated the costs in both blood and treasure,” Linda Bilmes, coauthor of the book the “Three Trillion Dollar War,” told Deutsche Welle.

“You had an administration where they were expecting a quick, cheap war.”

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Growing US war-weariness defies traditional partisan divide

(By Deutsche Welle) Conservatives and progressives in the US have become odd bedfellows as they begin to question America’s costly military interventions in the Muslim world. But Congress remains unlikely to force an end to the conflicts.

For 10 years, the United States has waged war in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq without a conclusive victory. The military interventions in Central Asia and the Middle East have cost America nearly $4 trillion (2.8 trillion euros) and the lives of over 6,000 troops. Around 225,000 people have died directly from the wars, according to a recent study by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

The high cost and low return on these conflicts has worn down the political will among many members of Congress who represent an increasingly war-weary public. In May, a congressional resolution calling for an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan narrowly failed in the House of Representatives in a 204 – 215 vote.

The House also recently refused to authorize President Obama’s intervention in Libya for one year, although representatives shied away from defunding the operation. The vote was the first such congressional rebuff of a president since the House refused to authorize the military action in Kosovo in 1999.

And for the first time since the Vietnam War, the US Conference of Mayors – which represents more than 1,000 cities with populations over 30,000 – passed a resolution calling on Washington to “end the wars as soon as strategically possible and bring war dollars home to meet vital human needs.”

A war skepticism originally anchored in the respective poles of the American political spectrum is increasingly gaining ground in the moderate center.

“Support for the war is strongest in the middle and weakest on either extreme,” Stephen Biddle, an expert on US national security policy with the Council on Foreign Relatins, told Deutsche Welle.

“Left-wing Democrats are strongly against the war and so are right-wing Republicans. What’s taking shape is a left-right coalition against the center on the war.”

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Iraq syndrome haunts Obama Administration in Libya

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened with Iraq and Afghanistan, US President Obama clearly limited the Libyan operation. But as the ground war drags on, Washington may come under growing pressure for a military escalation to break the stalemate.

From the outset of the intervention in Libya, US President Barack Obama called for a limited American military involvement aimed at protecting civilians. NATO allies, particularly Britain and France, would take the leadership role.

However, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi remains in power and the civil war rages on, despite more than a month of allied airstrikes targeting his forces. Pressure has mounted for a military escalation as diplomats have shuffled between London, Doha, Paris and Berlin in search of a Libyan endgame.

As Britain and France argue with NATO over the intensity of the airstrikes, the Obama administration has largely taken a back seat and deferred to its divided European partners. After a decade of war, Washington has lost its enthusiasm for intervening militarily in the Muslim world.

But with the rebels and Gadhafi loyalists currently in a stalemate on the ground, Washington may come under growing pressure to launch a military escalation designed to bring the conflict to a decisive close.

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