$900 billion spent in Afghanistan

The most telling moment in the SASC hearing came when Nicholson remarked that plans were being developed to “find success” in Afghanistan within the next four years. That would mark a full twenty years of direct U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Since the first Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary teams entered Afghanistan in November 2001, 2,350 servicemembers have given their lives and almost $900 billion in taxpayers’ money has been spent. Meanwhile, the country is less politically stable and less secure from all forms of insurgent and criminal predation. No one can say how or when this largely forgotten war will end, but “finding success” certainly should begin with some realism, honesty, and a corresponding adjustment in U.S. expectations and objectives.

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America dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016

President Obama did reduce the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.

Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Continue reading

Thousands of US military’s stats on airstrikes have gone unreported

The American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters. Continue reading

Saferworld new reports: Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia

However, alternatives to the dominant military-authoritarian paradigm – in which militarised notions of masculinity are also a prominent feature – are available. In the discussion paper, Dilemmas of Counter-Terror, Stabilisation and Statebuilding, Saferworld provided a review of global evidence on the impacts of existing approaches, and suggested a number of constructive directions for improved policy, including:

  • Avoiding defining conflicts narrowly as problems of ‘terror’, ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalisation’, and instead adopting a more impartial, holistic and sustainable approach to resolving them
  • Changing international and national policies and approaches that fuel grievances and undermine human rights
  • Redoubling efforts for diplomacy, lobbying, advocacy and local-level dialogue to make the case for peace and adherence to international law by conflict actors
  • Looking for opportunities to negotiate peace – balancing pragmatic considerations with a determined focus to achieve inclusive and just political settlements in any given context
  • Considering the careful use of legal and judicial responses and targeted sanctions as alternatives to the use of force
  • Taking greater care when choosing and reviewing relationships with supposed ‘allies’
  • Supporting transformative reform efforts to improve governance and state-society relations and uphold human rights
  • Choosing not to engage if harm cannot be effectively mitigated and no clear solution is evident.

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How the US blew $17 billion in Afghanistan

ProPublica pored over more than 200 audits, special projects and inspections done by SIGAR since 2009 and built a database to add up the total cost of failed reconstruction projects. Looking at the botched projects collectively — rather than as one-off headlines — reveals a grim picture of the overall reconstruction effort and a repeated cycle of mistakes.

  • In just six years, the IG has tallied at least $17 billion in questionable spending. This includes $3.6 billion in outright waste, projects teetering on the brink of waste, or projects that can’t — or won’t — be sustained by the Afghans, as well as an additional $13.5 billion that the average taxpayer might easily judge to be waste. Exhibit A for “You be the judge”: $8.4 billion was spent on counter-narcotics programs that were so ineffective that Afghanistan has produced record levels of heroin — more than it did before the war started.

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5% Digest (week 30/03/15)

Physicians for Social Responsibility’s (PRS) study concluds that the death toll from 10 years of the “War on Terror” since the 9/11 attacks is at least 1.3 million, and could be as high as 2 million.

It is heavily critical of the figure most widely cited by mainstream media as authoritative, namely, the Iraq Body Count (IBC) estimate of 110,000 dead. According to the PSR study, the much-disputed Lancet study that estimated 655,000 Iraq deaths up to 2006 (and over a million until today by extrapolation) was likely to be far more accurate than IBC’s figures.

Nafeez Ahmed argued that

total deaths from Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan since the 1990s – from direct killings and the longer-term impact of war-imposed deprivation – likely constitute around 4 million (2 million in Iraq from 1991-2003, plus 2 million from the “war on terror”), and could be as high as 6-8 million people when accounting for higher avoidable death estimates in Afghanistan.

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5% Digest (Week 23/03/15)

Gregory D. Johnsen wrote a detailed account of the rise of Huthis in Yemen. Adam Baron argued that the power struggle is primarily local and foreign intervention will be a very bad idea.

But what is abundantly clear at the moment is that this remains, by and large, an internal Yemeni political conflict—one that, despite frequent sectarian mischaracterizations and potential regional implications, remains deeply rooted in local Yemeni issues.

And if history is a guide, foreign intervention will only stand to exacerbate the situation. Ironically, talk now centers on a potential Saudi Arabian and Egyptian military intervention in Yemen, a scenario that immediately brought to mind the memory of North Yemen’s 1960s Civil War which saw both sides intervene—albeit on different sides—in a matter which only appeared to draw the conflict out further. This is not to say that there isn’t a place for foreign powers to aid Yemeni factions in negotiating some new political settlement. But any nation that aims to make Yemen’s fight their own is more than likely to come out on the losing side.

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