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  War and Terror

September 2011

Karzai trapped in no-man's land
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has come out fighting after Burhanuddin Rabbani's assassination, painting the Taliban as a Pakistani proxy. However, the death of the Afghan High Peace Council's chief has stranded Karzai in isolation as the insurgents, the United States and erstwhile Northern Alliance allies seize on his weak position. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 30, '11)

Sex and the
single drone

When government lawyers reach for their dictionaries to define terms, whether having to do with torture or "targeted killings" by robotic drones, it's time to duck. A new form of on-the-cheap American imperial wars is emerging right before our eyes, involving drones, the Central Intelligence Agency, and growing special operations forces.
- Tom Engelhardt (Sep 30, '11)

Pentagon aims at target Pakistan
If - when - the Pentagon decides that United States Special Forces will violate Pakistani sovereignty by helicopter, a la the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and go for the Haqqani network in the North Waziristan tribal area, it risks a direct clash with the Pakistani army. Yet Washington is desperate, feeling the urge to do something.
- Pepe Escobar (Sep 29, '11)

Embattled Ahmadinejad stands his corner
Mahmud Ahmadinejad recently and characteristically came out fighting on the world stage. But two years before his term expires, the pugilistic Iranian president had one hardline eye focused on home, where he and his inner circle are under ferocious attack for erring from Islamic Republican orthodoxy. Given the support Ahmadinejad enjoys from the lower classes and fresh memories of reformist suppression, the establishment must step lightly. - Mahan Abedin (Sep 28, '11)

US knows pressure on Pakistan won't work
Sharp words from the United States that military escalation is possible if Pakistan fails to cut ties with the Haqqani network carry more hot air than substance. The tougher line is primarily about domestic political damage control and an emotional reaction to recent attacks by the anti-US insurgents. The White House knows it's futile to press Islamabad to change long-held allegiances. - Gareth Porter (Sep 28, '11)

Church bomb exposes Indonesian rifts
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono links Sunday's suicide attack on Christian worshippers to a national terrorist network. Growing religious intolerance that he condones seems a more likely candidate. While minorities are increasingly marginalized by a combination of violent extremism and politicians playing the Muslim card, religious strife threatens to serve as a convenient smokescreen for forces that challenge freedom for all. - Gary LaMoshi (Sep 27, '11)

The age of the Reaper
For the MQ-9 Reaper drone that struts its stuff equipped with Hellfire missiles and rains death from above, the sky, literally, is the limit. It's expanding its footprint from AfPak to the whole of East Africa up to the Gulf of Aden. The Reaper, though, can also wear a business suit and incorporate the persona of the president of the United States. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 22, '11)

New bases extend US's drone war
The United States is expanding its network of bases to carry out drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Somalia. The "constellation" will include a secret new Central Intelligence Agency facility that the US announced this year would be situated somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula - most likely in Saudi Arabia. - Jim Lobe (Sep 22, '11)

US night raids 'aimed at Afghan civilians'
United States special forces in Afghanistan have increasingly targeted their night raids at civilian non-combatants to exploit their possible intelligence value, according to a new study. The sweeping up of large numbers of people to find out what they know about insurgents is stoking anger, and their brief detention may violate the Geneva Conventions.
- Gareth Porter (Sep 21, '11)

Taliban strike at peace process
The Taliban have struck a major blow by assassinating former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chairman of the High Peace Council that is trying to end 10 years of war. President Hamid Karzai has cut short a visit to the United States for urgent meetings, but vows that the peace process will not be derailed. (Sep 21, '11)

Khamenei throws gauntlet at the West
The weekend speech by the leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, is one of the most important he has made in many years. His description of the underlying motivations behind the Arab Spring protests is synonymous with the Islamic Republic's understanding of the most important mission of Islamization, namely the quest to remake the geopolitical map of the region with a view to expelling all uninvited or coercive foreign influences, chiefly the massive United States military presence in the Persian Gulf. - Mahan Abedin (Sep 20, '11)

Obama prepares to punish Pakistan
Uzbekistan is assuming more significance for Barack Obama as the kingpin for any orderly American military pullout from Afghanistan - and a contingency for a failing relationship with Pakistan. As the United States president cultivates ties with Tashkent as a possible long-term partner in Afghanistan, he is sending out strong signals that Islamabad should expect a showdown. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 20, '11)

Obama sears the arc of instability
What in the George W Bush years was branded the "the arc of instability" involves at least 97 countries across global south, much coinciding with the planet's oil heartlands. A startling number of these nations are now in turmoil, and in every single one - from Afghanistan and Algeria to Yemen and Zambia - Washington is involved in outright war or what passes for peace. In the projection of military power, President Barack Obama is trumping his predecessor. - Nick Turse (Sep 19, '11)

Haqqani network sours Pakistan-US ties
The audacious attack on the US Embassy in Kabul has been squarely blamed on the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, one of the key militant groups fighting with the Taliban against foreign forces in Afghanistan. The United States - tired of Islamabad's stalling on going after the Haqqanis - now says it will take matters into its own hands to eliminate this ever-growing threat.
- Amir Mir (Sep 19, '11)

Iraq intel specter casts shadow on Iran
Popular skepticism greets Washington hawks in the campaign for ever-more aggressive actions against Iran in light of the failure in Iraq to find the weapons of mass destruction used to justify invasion. A new report finds both improvements and shortfalls in intelligence on the nuclear program, but the biggest hurdle to knowing what Iran is up to remains determining just what its leadership wants the program to accomplish.
- Ali Gharib (Sep 19, '11)

Pakistan takes rap for Taliban's Kabul attack
As new US Ambassador to Kabul Ryan Crocker was dismissing the Taliban's brazen attacks on high-value Western targets in Kabul as an exercise in desperation, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta was blaming Pakistani militants in the latest tightening of Washington-Islamabad tensions. Regardless, the Taliban's message to the US was clear: we're ready to step in as you step out. - Karamatullah K Ghori (Sep 16, '11)

The suicide-bomb capital of the world
Pakistan suffered one suicide bombing before 9/11 - and 4,808 deaths in 303 attacks since. Responsibility is at the door of jihadi groups who for years had been indoctrinated by the Pakistan military and intelligence services for action in Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir. In a circuitous path that leads from the establishment's switch to Western allegiance, to the Red Mosque siege and tribal Waziristan, Pakistan is now the suicide-bomb capital of the world. - Amir Mir (Sep 15, '11)

Lashkar-e-Toiba in the dock
Allegations from a Virginia-based federal court about a 19-year-old man and investigations into the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai lead to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the leadership regarded as the moving spirit behind its guerrilla operations. Though proscribed in Pakistan, its base, the Lashkar continues to morph unchecked as a wider jihadi threat across Pakistan, India and beyond, taking inspiration from al-Qaeda.
- Amir Mir (Sep 13, '11)

The twin legacies of September 11
The two enduring legacies of the twin tower attacks a decade ago are the United States' struggle to accumulate more power to manage its decline and the birth pangs of a new generation of political Islamists in the Arab world. Whether they collide will depend in part on Islamists' ability to become deeply entrenched in Middle Eastern governments and on the US modifying its support for Israel. - Mahan Abedin (Sep 12, '11)

What if the 'Lion' hadn't been slain?
Al-Qaeda's assassination on September 9, 2001, of the Taliban regime's most powerful enemy - Ahmad Shah Massoud - was as pivotal an event for Afghanistan as the United States-led invasion of the country following the 9/11 attacks. Ten years on, the legend of the "The Lion of Panjshir" lives strongest at his birthplace, the Panjshir Valley, and in neighboring areas in the northeast where he is most revered.
- Farangis Najibullah (Sep 12, '11)

Al-Qaeda's roots grow deeper in Pakistan
The United States and its allies claim to have killed or captured over 75% of senior al-Qaeda leaders, the latest being operational chief Younis al-Mauritania. Despite this, and the elimination of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda remains a potent threat from its base in the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt, where it has forged an alliance with anti-American sectarian and jihadi groups. - Amir Mir (Sep 9, '11)

O src=nbsp;TD src=69 vspace=sama crippled the American century
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda appears to have largely succeeded in its hope of bleeding America as a global power. The foreign-policy elite, with few exceptions, believes the George W Bush administration "over-reacted" to the 9/11 attacks, driven by a close-knit group of hawks who seized control of Bush's foreign policy even before the dust had settled over Lower Manhattan - and played its hand as if it was following al-Qaeda's script. - Jim Lobe (Sep 9, '11)

Tear down the Freedom Tower
Ten years into the new era, it is time for Americans to rip the Band-Aid off, tear down the Freedom Tower and end the misuse of the nearly 3,000 victims in the guise of pious remembrance. In the name of humanity and decency, invocation of the monstrous attacks to explain inexplicable wars has to stop.
- Tom Engelhardt (Sep 9, '11)

Post-9/11 America fishes for answers
The United States is a different place since the deadly attacks of a decade ago. One family's travels in the wake of the US Patriot Act illustrate how easy it can be for law-enforcement officials to swallow terrorism red (or pickled) herrings hook, line and sinker. - Muhammad Cohen (Sep 9, '11)

Obama and Osama
as archetypes

Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President
by Dinesh Sharma
The ashes and the bellowing smoke of 9/11 metaphorically touched all corners of the Earth. They also touched the core of Barack Obama's identity as a would-be senator, global citizen and progressive thinker who knew the world had been pushed to a cataclysmic point and was determined to play a role in shaping events. Moreover, in the minds of millions, the Obama-Osama bin Laden binary opposition formed archetypes of good and evil. (Sep 9, '11)

Taliban claim new missiles downing aircraft
The Taliban say sophisticated new surface-to-air missiles downed at least four United States and Afghan helicopters in recent months, including the Chinook incident that killed 30 US soldiers. The claim raises historic parallels with the game-changing US-supplied Stingers used against the Soviets, but government officials insist that in most cases, technical problems or low-level flying were to blame.
- Habiborrahman Ibrahimi (Sep 9, '11)

Enduring freedom forever
Ten years after 9/11, facts on the ground spell out a world shocked and awed to endure war rather than justice, while freedom, shrinking by the minute, is just another word for everything left to lose. The road to war is a mission that goes on forever. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 8, '11)

Post-9/11 rebuff sunk US-Iran ties
Just two months after George W Bush's "axis of evil" comment, Iran was brushing off the harsh words and offering assistance. Had the White House welcomed rather than rebuffed repeated overtures and Iran's genuine sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, it might have cemented a powerful ally against al-Qaeda, made it easier to pacify Iraq and reduced Iranian motivation to oppose Arab-Israeli peace. - Barbara Slavin (Sep 8, '11)

How the hijackers
changed American culture

There has been a six-fold increase in the total number of horror films released since 1999. Starting on September 11, 2001, Americans were confronted with an enemy that uses horror as a weapon. In its attempt to engage the countries whence the terrorists issued, America has exposed its young people to cultures in which acts of horror (suicide bombing, torture and mutilation) have become routine. (Sep 7, '11)

Was there an alternative?
The past decade, with its torture, renditions, black sites and drone assassination campaigns, has had little to do with bringing anyone to "justice", and especially not Osama bin Laden. Why was it, then, that the Barack Obama administration chose to assassinate the al-Qaeda leader, rather than bring him into a court of law? - Noam Chomsky (Sep 7, '11)

Libya: The real war starts now
As the Libyan Transitional National Council already behaves like a lame duck and as the militias will simply not vanish, it's not hard to picture Libya as a new Lebanon, with regions carved up between numerous factions. This includes the deadly Islamic temptation - which is spreading like a virus across the Arab Spring. In this environment, Muammar Gaddafi can reveal himself to be even more dangerous than he was in power. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 6, '11)

CIA drone war driven by internal needs
As David Petraeus takes control at the Central Intelligence Agency, he is walking into an organization where a profound shift from gathering intelligence for policymakers to supporting drone wars is now ingrained. The institutional interests in continuing drone strikes on al-Qaeda targets may have become so commanding that no director can afford to override them.
- Gareth Porter (Sep 6, '11)

It's a Total war, monsieur
Call it the Friends of Libya war; the R2P war (as in "responsibility to protect" Western plunder); the Air France war; the Total war; anyway, the "friends" had a blast spinning their win in Libya, which magically is not in Africa anymore. It has been relocated (upgraded?) to Arabia. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 2, '11)

US debates 'leading from behind'
President Barack Obama's strategy of "leading from behind" - quietly galvanizing action by others to gain the desired result without the United States itself being seen to lead the charge - seems to have paid off in Libya. While this angers hardball neo-conservatives, a new model for military intervention and "regime change" might be in the making.
- Jim Lobe (Sep 2, '11)

Re-imagining the resistance axis
Iran harbors deep but myopic fears that the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and the Alawite-led regime in Syria will enmesh the intricate set of relations that makes up the "resistance axis". That nervous energy could be better applied to the real challenges in the offing as the emergence of independent-minded regional powers calls into question the wisdom of extending support to non-state actors - notably Hezbollah and Hamas - indefinitely. - Mahan Abedin (Sep 1, '11)

More power to Pakistan's jihadis
The resurgence of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group shows that the Pakistani intelligence establishment remains deeply embroiled with its jihadi proxies and continues to treat them as the civilian face of the Pakistan army. - Amir Mir (Sep 1, '11)

 July, August 2011

ATol Specials

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports on the Afghan war from the Taliban side
(Dec '06)

How Hezbollah defeated Israel
Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
(Oct '06)

Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
talk to the 'terrorists'
(Mar, '06)

  The evidence for and against Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program

  Nir Rosen goes inside the Iraqi resistance

Nir Rosen rides with the 3rd armored cavalry in western Iraq

Islamism, fascism and terrorism

by Marc Erikson

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