Leadership, October 17, 2011
Afghanistan and Libya
Investigative journalists have discovered that more than six months before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 the then Carter-administration had decided to intervene in an Afghan civil war
Chickens of war keep coming home to roost
This October marks the 10th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan under the pretext of self-defense. The roots of events – including the 9/11-attacks in the US – that led to the need to invade Afghanistan date back to actions during the days of the Cold War which set a train of events in motion that might just in future still reverberate through a potential deadly blowback from the present-day conflict in Libya.
Ten years after the event the US still describes the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan as a war of self-defense The legal argument used by Washington and NATO to invade Afghanistan was that the September 11 attacks on New York constituted an undeclared armed attack from abroad by an unnamed foreign power, and that consequently the laws of war apply, allowing the nation under attack, to strike back in the name of self-defense.
To this date, however, there is no proof or evidence that Afghanistan as a nation state was behind or in any way complicit in the 9/11 attacks.
Ironically the Afghan government in the weeks following 9/11, offered on two occasions, through diplomatic channels to deliver Osama bin Laden to US justice, if there were preliminary evidence of his involvement in the attacks. These offers were refused by Washington.
The US involvement with the Afghan-situation however lies at least 20 years plus back and in the view of some analysis that involvement might have helped create the circumstances that led to the 9/11-attacks.
Investigative journalists have discovered that more than six months before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 the then Carter-administration had decided to intervene in an Afghan civil war. In a July 1979 finding the White House authorised US military and intelligence agencies to provide the anti-communist mujahideen fighters with money and supplies.
The “finding” was the beginning of “Operation Cyclone,” a clandestine plan aimed at luring the Soviets into invading Afghanistan. From a relatively modest $23 million down payment, Cyclone turned into a multi-billion behemoth—the most expensive intelligence operation in US history—and one that eventually forced the Soviets to withdraw.
Conn Hallinan writes in an article published on the website Information Clearinghouse “… when one totes up the collateral damage from that July 1979 memo, which led to the eventual victory of the Taliban, it chills the soul.
“When the mujahideen went home, they took the war with them, to Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Central Asia, North Africa (our emphasis), and a host of other places. They also permanently altered the skyline silhouette of New York City. In the annals of disastrous “blowbacks”—unintended consequences flowing from a policy or event—US support for overthrowing the Afghan government and supporting the mujahideen has little competition.”
Now, 10 years after the US itself invaded Afghanistan, professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University’s assessment is that the “Taliban (is) emboldened and the United States enfeebled.”
On March 18, President Obama told Congress that US involvement in the war in Libya would be a matter of days not weeks. It turns out, lots of days, 227 and counting, writes Hallinan.
In the long run the combination of bombing, ground support by British Special Forces, and the unpopularity of the regime will eventually defeat the pro-Gaddafi forces, but because this has turned into a war of some 34-plus weeks, there is going to be some very serious blowback.
For starters, take the 20,000 mobile ground-to-air missiles, most of which have gone missing. There are two basic kinds that someone—we haven’t the foggiest idea who—has gotten their hands on.
The SA-24 “Grinch,” or Igla-S, is a very dangerous character. It has a range of some three miles, a powerful warhead, and a guidance system that lets it find targets at night. It is similar to the US Stinger that so distressed the Soviets in Afghanistan. Introduced in 1983, it can hit a plane at 11,000 feet. It can also down drones and cruise missiles, and helicopters are toast.
The other ground-to-air is the older Russian SA-7 “Grail,” or Strela-2, originally deployed in 1968, but upgraded in 1972. It has an infrared detection system—it homes in on an aircraft’s engine heat—and the upgraded model has a filter for screening out decoy flares. The SA-7 is similar, but considerably superior, to the US Redeye. The SA-7 has a range of a little over two miles and can reach up to 16,000 feet.
Hallinan’s chilly warning is that while the blowback from the conflict is still unclear “it might be a bad idea to invest a lot of your money in commercial air travel, particularly anywhere in Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia. Gaddafi’s days may be numbered, but those SA-24s and SA-7s are going to be around for a long time.”
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