Afghanistan Theater

US to retain control of detainees at Afghanistan prison

It was reported July 9 in the Times of London that the US will retain control of non-Afghan detainees at Parwan Detention Center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, despite plans to transfer control of the facility to the Afghan government in two months. Under the terms of the agreement with Kabul, the Afghan government is to assume control of all prisons in the country, including the Bagram facility. The US, however, will retain control over about 50 non-Afghan detainees in a separate US-run section of the compound, with US officials claiming the agreement does not cover foreign nationals. The detainees apparently will be held without access to legal assistance or prospect of release. Such quarantining of prisoners and officials' attempts to distinguish between "prison" and "detention facility" have reportedly led many commentators and human rights activists to condemn the deal, questioning its legitimacy. The Bagram facility has widely become known as "the other Guantánamo" since its opening in 2009.

Pakistan NATO resupply deal: house of mirrors

Right-wing and Islamist political leaders and activists united under the Difa-i-Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defense Council, DPC) launched a cross-country march from Lahore to Islamabad on July 8 to oppose the resumption of NATO supply lines to Afghanistan through Pakistan. A convoy of some 200 vehicles is accompanying the march of some 8,000. The DPC is made up of several Islamist parties, including the Jamatud Dawa, Ahle Sunnat Waljamat (formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba), Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), and Jamat-e-Islami. (Pakistan Observer, July 9; Pakistan Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan, July 8)

Pakistan: deadly blast at Sufi shrine

Three people, including two children, were killed when a bomb planted in a donkey cart exploded at a Sufi shrine in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on June 21. Worshippers had gathered for a weekly event at the at the Panj Peer shrine, which houses the graves of several Sufi saints, as well as popular Pashto poet Rahman Baba. The donkey, whose front legs were tied with a rope, was blown to pieces. Almost simultaneously, another bomb exploded at a mosque in Quetta, Baluchistan, killing two worshippers and wounding 13 others. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, but militants such as the Taliban vehemently oppose Sufism, a form of "folk Islam" that they consider heretical. (Pakistan Express Tribune, June 22; AFP, June 21)

US to downsize drones amid growing outcry over civilian casualties

Responding to outcry over civilian casualties, the Pentagon is preparing to deploy a new generation of drones the size of model planes, with miniscule warheads that can allegedly be delivered with pinpoint accuracy. The Predator and Reaper drones now in use typically carry 100-pound laser-guided Hellfire missiles or 500-pound GPS-guided "smart bombs" that can reduce buildings to smoldering rubble. The new Switchblade drone weighs less than six pounds and are supposedly designed to kill a sniper on a rooftop without destroying the building. (LAT, June 11) The announcement comes days after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on a visit to Pakistan said: "Drone attacks do raise serious questions about compliance with international law. The principle of distinction and proportionality and ensuring accountability for any failure to comply with international law is also difficult when drone attacks are conducted outside the military chain of command and beyond effective and transparent mechanisms of civilian or military control... I see the indiscriminate killings and injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations." (AFP, June 7)

Pakistan: doctor who helped CIA not convicted for ties to US

A Pakistani doctor who helped the US government find Osama bin Laden was convicted last week for his association to a militant group in Pakistan, not for his ties to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as was originally reported. A court document released to the press indicates that Dr. Shakeel Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison because of his association with a banned militant group (Lashkar-e-Islam, according to Reuters). The document noted that the court did not have jurisdiction to address Afridi's association with the CIA. Afridi was part of a CIA attempt to gather DNA samples from residents of bin Laden's Abbattobad compound in an effort to determine whether bin Laden was present there. Pakistani court officials originally reported that Shakil was imprisoned because of his work with the CIA. It is unclear why these false reports were made.

Tribal jurisdiction at issue in Pakistan treason case

Pakistani Dr. Shakeel Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison on treason charges May 23 for helping the US CIA locate Osama bin Laden, immediately sparking stateside outrage. US Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) issued a joint letter, warning: "We call upon the Pakistani government to pardon and release Dr. Afridi immediately. At a time when the United States and Pakistan need more than ever to work constructively together, Dr. Afridi's continuing imprisonment and treatment as a criminal will only do further harm to US-Pakistani relations, including diminishing Congress's willingness to provide financial assistance to Pakistan." But there are a few complicating factors here...

NATO summit and "shadow summit" both betray Afghan women

The typical equivocation from NATO at the Chicago summit—acting as if there were a firm 2014 deadline for a withdrawal despite Obama's deal for an extended US (at least) military presence in the country. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen went through the motions of calling the Taliban "terrorists" virtually in the same breath that he invoked negotiations with them. "I don't know whether the Taliban leadership is prepared to negotiate a solution, maybe not, I don't know, but I think we should give it a try, providing certain conditions," Rasmussen told reporters, without specifying those "conditions." So much for not negotiating with terrorists, but Western leaders have displayed such doublethink before. (Chicago Sun-Times, May 20)

Anti-war roots of Mother's Day: forgotten history

The joke used to be that it was a holiday created by the greeting card industry, but does anyone send greeting cards anymore in this digital age—even on Mother's Day? You'd never know that the holiday actually has subversive anti-war roots if it weren't for periodic efforts by pacifists to rescue this inconvenient historical fact from oblivion. The latest such effort is an editorial on the lefty website Nation of Change, entitled "The Radical Roots of Mother's Day." We give them creds for serving the cause of historical memory—but, alas, we have the odious duty of calling them out on their own insidious revisionism, which sheds light on the weakness of a pure pacifist position. Here's the critical chunk of the text:

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