Tag Archives | Afghanistan

State Department Offering Contractors $10 Billion To Operate Overseas Drug-War Airforce

With such an effort, surely this war on drugs will be won soon. Wired reports:

Unsure how your private security firm makes money as the U.S. war in Afghanistan winds down? One option: Go into the drug trade — more specifically, the lucrative business of fighting narcotics. The State Department needs a business partner to keep its fleet of drug-hunting helicopters and planes flying worldwide. You could make up to $10 billion.

Starting next month, the State Department will solicit some defense-industry feedback on a contract to help operate its 412 aircraft, based in at least eight nations, before it reopens the contract for bidding. Among the missions: “Provide pilots and operational support for drug interdiction missions such as crop spraying.”

In Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan, and Guatemala, State Department air operations mostly perform “counternarcotics and law enforcement activities,” explains State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala, and in Afghanistan it does transportation support as well.

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Iran and America Joined at the Hip by Snake Venom Antidote

Picture: Julie Anne Workman (CC)

When the US government needs anti-venin effective against Afghanistan’s venomous snakes (there’s eight species, by the way) it turns to Iran…

Via Newser:

The US leads the charge when it comes to economic sanctions against Iran—but when American soldiers’ health is at stake, the military is willing to do a little business with the Islamic republic. Iran produces antivenin against the poisonous snakes of Afghanistan; our own antivenins are toothless against such bites, as they’re made from domestic species. Working through a middleman, the US has bought 115 $310 vials of the stuff since January 2011, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal’s reporting has prompted a military review to see whether the practice violates sanctions rules. If so, a government waiver may be needed.

Check your tourniquet and keep reading.

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Private Contractors Will Conduct Our War On Drugs In Afghanistan For Years To Come

Wondering what exists at the center of the War on Drugs vs. War on Terror Venn diagram? Wired reports that well into the foreseeable future, our military will be pumping billions of dollars into the pockets of Blackwater-esque private contractors in a battle against Afghanistan’s drug economy:

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is supposed to be winding down. Its contractor-led drug war? Not so much. Inside a compound in Kabul called Camp Integrity, the Pentagon stations a small group of officers to oversee the U.S. military’s various operations to curb the spread of Afghanistan’s cash crops of heroin and marijuana, which help line the Taliban’s pockets. Only Camp Integrity isn’t a U.S. military base at all. It’s the 10-acre Afghanistan headquarters of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

Those officers work for an obscure Pentagon agency called the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office, or CNTPO. Quietly, it’s grown into one of the biggest dispensers of cash for private security contractors in the entire U.S.

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America’s Dangerous Love Affair With Counterinsurgency

The incomparable Adam Curtis, director of several powerful documentary films including The Power of Nightmares, delves deep into the psychology of the war on terror via his BBC blog:

At the beginning of this year one of the weirdest characters ever to become involved in the present Afghan war died. He was called Jack Idema and he was a brilliant con-man. For a moment, during the early part of the war, Idema persuaded all the major TV networks and scores of journalists that he was some kind of special forces super-hero who was using all kinds of “black ops” to track down and arrest the terrorists.

In reality, before 2001, Idema had been running a hotel for pets in North Carolina called The Ultimate Pet Resort. He had been in prison for fraud, and had tried to con journalists before about being some kind of super-spy. But September 11th gave him his chance — and he turned up in Kabul dressed like this.

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Australia’s Drone War: The ‘Kill Chain’

Reports ABC News:

A senior Australian Defence Force officer has revealed details of how the Royal Australian Air Force deploys Israeli-owned drones for battlefield surveillance and to target anti-government Islamic fighters in Afghanistan.

Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan says Australia is “just buying hours” on the Heron drones from a Canadian company that in turn “leases them from IAI” (Israel Aerospace Industries), which is wholly owned by the Israeli government.

While enthusiastically endorsing the Heron’s capabilities, Wing Commander McMullan was highly critical of the quality of training provided by Israeli and Canadian instructors to Australian drone crews.

The unarmed Israeli Herons first entered RAAF service in Afghanistan in December 2009. They are the centrepiece of the ADF’s rapidly expanding drone warfare capability that has so far cost an estimated $550 million. Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra late last month: “I wouldn’t discount the fact that we might have armed UAVs thinking through our force structure review into the future.”…

More: ABC News

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Suicide Has Killed More Troops Than the War in Afghanistan This Year

Writes Alexander Abad-Santos on the Atlantic Wire:
This is a pretty terrible statistic: 154 active duty troops have committed suicide in the first 155 days of the new year--a rate alarmingly close to one per day. The number dead from suicides eclipses the U.S. forces killed in Afghanistan by about 50 percent. For comparison, there were around 130 suicide deaths during the same time last year, reports The Associated Press' Robert Burns. It's difficult to wrap our brains around that number and that rate, and of course that statistic is just one more troubling recent finding from our troops. (Remember the reports that found that sexual assaults among members of the army were up 64 percent from 2006? Or the rise in alcohol abuse?) "It's a sign in general of the stress the Army has been under over the 10 years of war," Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired Army general told Burns. "We've seen before that these signs show up even more dramatically when the fighting seems to go down and the Army is returning to garrison."...
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The Controversial Email From America’s Last Prisoner Of War

Rolling Stone on the strange and sad saga of Bowe Bergdahl, the final U.S. prisoner of war being held by the Taliban. After sending a goodbye email to his parents stating that he was “ashamed to be an American”, Bergdahl walked off his base in Afghanistan three years ago:

The Taliban captured 26-year-old Bowe Bergdahl on June 30th, 2009, and since that day, his parents, Jani and Bob, have had no contact with him. Like the rest of the world, their lone glimpses of Bowe – the only American prisoner of war left in either Iraq or Afghanistan – have come through a series of propaganda videos, filmed while he’s been in captivity.

Bowe’s own tour of duty in Afghanistan mirrored the larger American experience in the war – marked by tragedy, confusion, misplaced idealism, deluded thinking and, perhaps, a moment of insanity. And it is with Bowe that the war will likely come to an end.

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Nearly Half of New U.S Veterans Are Seeking Disability

US Dept. of Veterans AffairsReports the AP:

America’s newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.

What’s more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

It’s unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors.

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