Afghanistan now has a clearer timeline for when US and international troops will leave, but the questions surrounding what this means for civilians and aid operations in the country remain the same. US President Joe Biden on April 14 confirmed plans to withdraw American forces before Sept. 11—the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the Afghanistan invasion. NATO also said 9,500 international soldiers—including 2,500 US troops—would leave, beginning May 1. But the implications of the pullout are as volatile as they were when Biden's predecessor first inked a peace deal with the Taliban last year. Will the Taliban pursue a decisive military victory or continue with sporadic peace negotiations with the government? How will women and minorities fare? How will this affect local and international aid operations, and the roughly 16 million Afghans—more than 40% of the population—who rely on humanitarian relief? Will there be a future for reconciliation after decades of war? And what about the militias still active in many areas? More than 1,700 civilians were killed or injured in conflict in the first three months of 2021, the UN said the same day as Biden's announcement.
Nobody has less patience than CounterVortex with the kneejerk squawking of "McCarthyism" any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge. Unlike all too many on the "left," we have no illusions about Russia's increasingly fascist direction, or its obvious designs on the political process in the United States in favor of Donald Trump. But we nonetheless must register our skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops. This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances. Russia and the Taliban have traditionally been on opposite sides, and the mutual animosity between them was the basis for the post-9-11 rapprochement between Washington and Moscow. We also aren't sure why the Taliban would need any extra motivation to kill US soldiers—they seem quite sufficiently motivated on their own.
The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David—a week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!—will further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. So it is almost comforting that the meeting was axed, and on the 9-11 commemoration in Washington, Trump was back to his blustering, bellicose self. "The last four days, we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before, and that will continue," he boasted. The Taliban responded in kind, releasing a statement saying that Trump "will soon regret" cancelling the peace talks. (Khaama Press, CBS)
The Trump administration has yet to repatriate Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, effectively missing the Feb. 20 deadline established in his 2014 plea deal. Darbi pleaded guilty and admitted (PDF) to involvement in al-Qaeda operations including the 2002 attack on a French-flagged oil tanker near Yemen. In his pre-trial agreement (PDF), it was determined that, contingent on his cooperation, he would be sent back to Saudi Arabia to serve the duration of his sentence. Feb. 20 marked four years from the close of the deal and Darbi was not repatriated to Saudi Arabia.
Journalist Dan Young speaks with CounterVortex editor Bill Weinberg in an interview for Northern California's KNYO. They discuss the prospects for resisting the global vortex of ecological collapse, totalitarianism and permanent war—and supporting indigenous and autonomy struggles, popular democracy, and peace initiatives. Weinberg traces his own political evolution through the Cold War endgame of the Reagan era, the Lower East Side squatter scene, the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, 9-11 and the "Global War on Terrorism," to the Arab Revolution, the Syrian war and the current dilemma. The discussion touches on the abysmal politics of the contemporary American left, the urgent need for international solidarity across Great Power "spheres of influence," the contradictions and challenges posed by digital technology, and the possibilities for a decent future for humanity on Planet Earth.
Military judge James Pohl ruled Jan. 19 that no wrongdoing occurred when he authorized the destruction of a CIA secret prison, or "black site," despite the fact that a protection order was in effect on any remains from the CIA black sites. Prosecutors, citing national security powers, obtained permission from the judge to give defense attorneys photographs and a diagram of the site as a substitute for preservation the actual facility. According to Pohl, defense attorneys failed to show that "the physical evidence is of such central importance to an issue that is essential to a fair trial, or that there is no adequate substitute for the physical evidence." According to the Miami Herald, from 2002-2006, prisoners at the black site were subjected to waterboarding, sexual abuse, and other forms of torture.
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer issued a statement Dec. 13 calling on the US to end impunity for "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse" at Guantánamo Bay and other detention facilities. Melzer urged US authorities to take action on the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report, which found that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) deliberately misled Congress and the White House about information obtained using so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" between 2002 and 2007. Melzer contends that the US us in violation of the Convention Against Torture by failing to prosecute instances of torture outlined in the Senate Report, "sending a dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world." (Jurist, Dec. 14)
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled (PDF) Aug. 16 that Judge Scott Silliman should have recused himself in a case concerning multiple defendants who were charged with aiding in the 9-11 attacks. The petitioner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, argued that Silliman was biased in the matter and cited a 2010 comment in which Silliman called Mohammad and his co-defendants the major conspirators in th attacks. The court found that because Silliman "expressed an opinion that Petitioner is guilty of the very crimes of which he is accused," he manifested an "apparent bias" and thus should have recused himself. The court granted the petition seeking recusal of Silliman and vacated a decision (PDF) by the US Court of Military Commission to reinstate charges for "attacking civilians and destroying property in violation of the law of war" against Mohammad and his co-defendants.