THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
March 28, 2009
The Guardian (UK)

Barack Obama's War: Focus on Taliban, al-Qaida

At end of two-month review, president puts region at centre of foreign policy, warning of plans to attack US homeland

by Ewen MacAskill

President Barack Obama yesterday embarked on a new and risky US strategy for Afghanistan aimed at wiping out al-Qaida and the Taliban and forcing Pakistan to tackle safe havens inside its borders.

Speaking at the White House at the end of a two-month long review of policy in Afghanistan, he described the situation as "increasingly perilous" and the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan as "the most dangerous place in the world".

His new policy, putting Afghanistan at the centre of US foreign policy, effectively makes the conflict Obama's war in the way that Iraq was President George Bush's.

In a half-hour speech in front of troops and diplomats headed for Afghanistan, Obama set out what he regards an achievable mission: "I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Selling the war to the US public, he presented Osama bin Laden and his allies as unfinished business that posed a real threat to America. . . .

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Standard Schaeffer, "'Al Qaeda Itself Does Not Exist'," CounterPunch, June 21, 2003

Enver Masud, "Bin Laden Not Wanted for 9/11," The Wisdom Fund, June 8, 2006

John Gray, "Control Oil and Water, Control the World," Newsweek, March 30, 2008

Syed Saleem Shahzad, "Faceless Taliban Rule Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province ," Asia Times, January 29, 2009

John Barry and Evan Thomas, "Afghanistan: Obama's Vietnam," Newsweek, January 9, 2009

[Even before the attacks of September 11, 2001, its leaders were formulating a response to what they saw as the reptilian encroachment of the West on the oil and gas lands of Central Asia, especially in the Caspian Sea region. To be specific, in June 2001, its leaders joined with Russia's to form the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. . . .

Meanwhile, as the Obama administration tries to sort out its Iranian, Afghan, and Central Asian policies, Beijing continues to dream of a secure, fast-flowing, energy version of the old Silk Road, extending from the Caspian Basin (the energy-rich Stans plus Iran and Russia) to Xinjiang province, its Far West.

The SCO has expanded its aims and scope since 2001. Today, Iran, India, and Pakistan enjoy "observer status" in an organization that increasingly aims to control and protect not just regional energy supplies, but Pipelineistan in every direction. This is, of course, the role the Washington ruling elite would like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to play across Eurasia. Given that Russia and China expect the SCO to play a similar role across Asia, clashes of various sorts are inevitable.--Pepe Escobar, "Liquid War: Welcome to Pipelineistan," Asia Times, March 25, 2009]

[He said American strategy must relate directly to the threat posed to the Americans by al-Qaeda and its allies - who, he reminded his listeners, were behind the 9/11 attacks on American soil eight years ago.--John Barry and Evan Thomas, "Afghan leader welcomes US review," BBC News, March 28, 2009

Robert Naiman, "Afghanistan: The four Questions," truthout.org, March 28, 2009

[The initial surge will add 17,000 troops to the 36,000 already there. Then, later this year, there is to be a second troop surge of another 17,000 or so.--Jim Hightower, "Obama to Bring More Mercenaries to Afghanistan - Sound Familiar?," alternet.org, March 28, 2009]

[ . . . the U.S. seems to be in the process of trading in a limited war in a mountainous, poverty-stricken country of 27 million people for one in an advanced nation of 167 million, with a crumbling economy, rising extremism, advancing corruption, and a large military armed with nuclear weapons. Worse yet, the war in Pakistan seems to be expanding inexorably (and in tandem with American war planning) from the tribal borderlands ever closer to the heart of the country.--Tom Engelhardt, "The Great Afghan Bailout," tomdispatch.com, March 29, 2009]

[Taliban insurgents rejected on Wednesday a U.S. offer of "honourable reconciliation" as a "lunatic idea" and said the withdrawal of foreign troops was the only way to end the war in Afghanistan.--Sayed Salahuddin, "Taliban say U.S. reconciliation offer 'lunatic'," Reuters, April 1, 2009]

[Top experts on Afghanistan and Pakistan's troubled tribal areas agree that President Barack Obama's new strategy for the region is a recipe for disaster from Islamabad's point of view. They lament that short-sighted people at the helm of affairs are jubilant over the $1.5 billion yearly reward for implementation of the plan.--Ansar Abbasi, "Obama plan seen as disastrous for Pakistan," thenews.com, April 3, 2009]

[ . . . there have been longstanding plans for a pipeline from Turkmenistan in Central Asia to India, which would go - TAPI, it's called: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India.

Now, that's of significance to the United States for a number of reasons. For one thing, if it - it would run right through Afghanistan and through Kandahar province, one of the most conflicted areas. If it was established, it would, for one thing, reduce the reliance of the Central Asian states on Russia. So it would weaken their role. But more significant, it would bypass Iran. I mean, India needs energy, and the natural source is Iran. And, in fact, they're discussing an Iran-to-India pipeline. But if you could get natural gas flowing from Central Asia to India, avoiding Iran, that would support the US policy, which is now very clear - in Obama's case, it's been made more concrete - of forming an alliance of regional states to oppose Iran.--"Noam Chomsky on US Expansion of Afghan Occupation, the Uses of NATO," democracynow.org, April 3, 2009]

[Decades after the British Empire, "Europe" tries to (re)occupy the Hindu Kush. Afghanistan is NATO's first war outside Europe and first ground war ever. It involves all 26 members (now 28; Albania and Croatia were finally admitted) plus 12 "partners", including five European nations that used to be neutral: Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.--Pepe Escobar, "Globocop versus the TermiNATO," Asia Times, April 4, 2009

[As many as one million people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.--Daud Khattakin and Christina Lamb, "Thousands flee bomb attacks by US drones," Sunday Times, April 5, 2009]

Amir Mir, "60 drone hits kill 14 al-Qaeda men, 687 civilians," Sunday Times, April 10, 2009

[A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists, posing the a greater threat to the U.S. than Afghanistan's terrorist haven did before 9/11.--Jonathan S. Landay, "U.S. experts: Pakistan on course to become Islamist state," McClatchy Newspapers, April 16, 2009]

[Given the Taliban's limited interest in issues outside the "AfPak" region, if they came to power again now, they would be highly unlikely to host provocative terrorist groups whose actions could lead to another outside intervention.--John Mueller, "How Dangerous Are the Taliban? Why Afghanistan Is the Wrong War," Foreign Affairs, April 15, 2009

Pamela Constable, "After Reaching Deal in North, Islamists Aim to Install Religious Law Nationwide," Washington Post, April 20, 2009

[President Obama . . . By catapulting drone attacks on FATA villages, he's pushing militants further east into Pakistan proper, and the US escalation has so far had the effect of uniting the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistan Taliban, and various pro-Taliban militias into a unified fighting force. We're also providing recruiting posters for Pakistani fundamentalists.--Robert Dreyfuss, "Talibanistan in Pakistan," Nation, April 21, 2009]

Ewen MacAskill and Mark Tran, "US air strikes kill dozens of Afghan civilians," Guardian, May 6, 2009

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