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Posts Tagged ‘force’

Meet the US Air Force’s Mega-Bunker-Buster Bomb

July 27th, 2012 Comments off

“… The military has been at work super-sizing its bunker-busters for years, and the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is the premier upgraded weapon. Supposedly, it can penetrate 60 feet of reinforced concrete, although it depends just how hard that concrete is. Although the Pentagon has spent over $200 million developing 30 of the bombs, there are doubts over how well equipped it is to destroy the hardened facilities believed to house Iran’s nuclear program.…”



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Women testify at Air Force instructor’s sentencing – San Francisco Chronicle

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

San Francisco Chronicle

Women testify at Air Force instructor's sentencing
San Francisco Chronicle
WILL WEISSERT, AP Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker arrives for the fourth day of his trial at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Friday, July 20, 2012. Walker is accused of sexually assaulting 10 basic trainees, with charges ranging from
Women testify at Air Force instructor's sentencing in sexual assault caseFox News
Air Force instructor convicted of rape, assaultUSA TODAY

all 1,187 news articles »

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What America would be like if it was like Afghanistan (Engelhardt)

June 18th, 2012 Comments off

Tom Engelhardt writes at Tomdispatch [satire alert]

It Couldn’t Happen Here, It Does Happen There
The Value of American — and Afghan — Lives

By Tom Engelhardt

“Do you do this in the United States? There is police action every day in the United States… They don’t call in airplanes to bomb the place.” — Afghan President Hamid Karzai denouncing U.S. air strikes on homes in his country, June 12, 2012

It was almost closing time when the siege began at a small Wells Fargo Bank branch in a suburb of San Diego, and it was a nightmare.  The three gunmen entered with the intent to rob, but as they herded the 18 customers and bank employees toward a back room, they were spotted by a pedestrian outside who promptly called 911.  Within minutes, police cars were pulling up, the bank was surrounded, and back-up was being called in from neighboring communities.  The gunmen promptly barricaded themselves inside with their hostages, including women and small children, and refused to let anyone leave.

The police called on the gunmen to surrender, but before negotiations could even begin, shots were fired from within the bank, wounding a police officer.  The events that followed — now known to everyone, thanks to 24/7 news coverage — shocked the nation.  Declaring the bank robbers “terrorist suspects,” the police requested air support from the Pentagon and, soon after, an F-15 from Vandenberg Air Force Base dropped two GBU-38 bombs on the bank, leaving the building a pile of rubble.

All three gunmen died.  Initially, a Pentagon spokesman, who took over messaging from the local police, insisted that “the incident” had ended “successfully” and that all the dead were “suspected terrorists.”  The Pentagon press office issued a statement on other casualties, noting only that, “while conducting a follow-on assessment, the security force discovered two women who had sustained non-life-threatening injuries.  The security force provided medical assistance and transported both women to a local medical facility for treatment.”  It added that it was sending an “assessment team” to the site to investigate reports that others had died as well.

Of course, as Americans quickly learned, the dead actually included five women, seven children, and a visiting lawyer from Los Angeles.  The aftermath was covered in staggering detail.  Relatives of the dead besieged city hall, bitterly complaining about the attack and the deaths of their loved ones.  At a news conference the next morning, while scenes of rescuers digging in the rubble were still being flashed across the country, President Obama said: “Such acts are simply unacceptable.  They cannot be tolerated.” In response to a question, he added, “Nothing can justify any airstrike which causes harm to the lives and property of civilians.” 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey immediately flew to San Diego to meet with family members of the dead and offer apologies.  Heads rolled in the local police department and in the Pentagon.  Congress called for hearings as well as a Justice Department investigation of possible criminality, and quickly passed a bill offering millions of dollars to the grieving relatives as “solace.”  San Diego began raising money for a memorial to the group already dubbed the Wells Fargo 18.

One week later, at the exact moment of the bombing, church bells rang throughout the San Diego area and Congress observed a minute of silence in honor of the dead.

The Meaning of “Precision”

It couldn’t have been more dramatic and, as you know perfectly well, it couldn’t have happened — not in the U.S. anyway.  But just over a week ago, an analogous “incident” did happen in Afghanistan and it passed largely unnoticed here.  A group of Taliban insurgents reportedly entered a house in a village in Logar Province, south of Kabul, where a wedding ceremony either was or would be in progress.  American and Afghan forces surrounded the house, where 18 members of a single extended family had gathered for the celebration.  When firing broke out (or a grenade was thrown) and both U.S. and Afghan troops were reportedly wounded, they did indeed call in a jet, which dropped a 500-pound bomb, obliterating the residence and everyone inside, including up to nine children.

This was neither an unheard of mistake, nor an aberration in America’s Afghan War.  In late December 2001, according to reports, a B-52 and two B-1B bombers, using precision-guided weapons, wiped out 110 out of 112 wedding revelers in a small Afghan village.  Over the decade-plus that followed, American air power, piloted and drone, has been wiping out Afghans (Pakistanis and, until relatively recently, Iraqis) in a similar fashion — usually in or near their homes, sometimes in striking numbers, always on the assumption that there are bad guys among them. 

For more than a decade, incident after incident, any one of which, in the U.S., would have shaken Americans to their core, led to “investigations” that went nowhere, punishments to no one, rare apologies, and on occasion, the offering of modest “solatium” payments to grieving survivors and relatives.  For such events, of course, 24/7 coverage, like future memorials, was out of the question. 

Cumulatively, they indicate one thing: that, for Americans, the value of an Afghan life (or more often Afghan lives) obliterated in the backlands of the planet, thousands of miles from home, is next to nil and of no meaning whatsoever.  Such deaths are just so much unavoidable “collateral damage” from the American way of war — from the post-9/11 approach we have agreed is crucial to make ourselves “safe” from terrorists.

By now, Afghans (and Pakistanis in tribal areas across the border) surely know the rules of the road of the American war: there is no sanctity in public or private rites.  While funerals have been hit repeatedly and at least one baby-naming ceremony was taken out as well, weddings have been the rites of choice for obliteration for reasons the U.S. Air Force has, as far as we know, never taken a moment to consider, no less explain.  This website counted five weddings blown away (one in Iraq and four in Afghanistan) by mid-2008, and another from that year not reported until 2009.  The latest incident is at least the seventh that has managed, however modestly, to make the news here, but there is no way of knowing what other damage to wedding parties in rural Afghanistan has gone uncounted.

Imagine the uproar in this country if a jet took out a wedding party.  Just consider the attention given every time some mad gunman shoots up a post office, a college campus, or simply an off-campus party, if you want to get an idea.  You might think then that, given the U.S. record of wedding carnage in Afghanistan, which undoubtedly represents some kind of modern wedding-crasher record, there might have been a front-page story, or simply a story, somewhere, anywhere, indicating the repetitive nature of such events. 

And yet, if U.S. carnage in that country gets attention at all, it’s usually only to point out, in self-congratulatory fashion, that the Taliban — with their indiscriminate roadside bombs and their generally undiscriminating suicide bombers — are far worse.  If an American college campus is shot up, what are the odds that the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech won’t be mentioned?  And yet not a single report on the recent deaths in Logar Province has even noted that this is not the first time part of an Afghan wedding party has been taken out by the U.S. Air Force.

Over the years, such incidents, when they rose individually to the level of news, almost invariably followed the same pattern: initial denials by U.S. military or NATO spokespeople that any civilian casualties had occurred and then, if outrage in Afghanistan ratcheted up or the news reports on the incident didn’t die down, a slow back-peddling under pressure, and the launching of an “investigation” or, as in the case of the Logar bombing, a “joint investigation” with Afghan authorities, that seldom led anywhere and often was never heard from or about again.  In the end, in some circumstances, apologies were offered and modest “solatium” payments made to the survivors.

And yet, over the years, amid all the praise for the “precision” of American air power, for the ability of the Air Force to bring a bomb or a missile to its target in a fashion that we like to call “surgical,” it is no small thing — explain it as you will — to wipe out parts or all of seven weddings. You might almost think that our wars on the Eurasian continent had been launched as an assault on “family values.”  At the very least, the Afghan War has given a different meaning to the ceremonial phrase “till death do us part.”

The Country Crasher

For years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has bitterly complained about similar air strikes that kill and wound civilians in or near their homes and repeatedly demanded that they be stopped.  In this particular case, he cut short a trip to China and returned to Afghanistan to denounce the attack as “unacceptable.”  Ordinarily, this has meant remarkably little.

In this case, however, the Afghan president, who lacks much real power (hence his old nickname, “the mayor of Kabul”), seems to have the wind at his back.  Perhaps because the Obama administration is on edge about its disintegrating relations with Pakistan (thanks, in part, to its unwillingness to offer an apology for cross-border U.S. air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November); perhaps because the list of recent U.S. blunders and disasters in Afghanistan has grown long and painful — the urinating on bodies of dead enemies, the killing of civilians “for sport,” the burning of Korans, the slaughter of 16 innocent villagers by one American soldier, the rise of green-on-blue violence (that is, Afghan army and police attacks on their American allies); perhaps because of its need to maintain a façade of — if not success, then at least — non-failure in Afghanistan as drawdowns begin there in an election year at home; or perhaps thanks to a combination of all of the above, Karzai’s angry initial response to the Logar wedding killings did not go unnoticed in Washington. 

In fact, the initial denials that any civilian deaths had occurred were quickly dropped, the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, promptly apologized to the president, and then, in what might have been a unique act in the Afghan War record, went to Logar Province to meet with the provincial governor and apologize directly to grieving relatives.  (“The faces of the people were very sad,” said Mohammad Akbar Stanekzai, a parliamentarian member of a delegation Karzai appointed to investigate the incident.  “They told [General Allen], ‘These incidents don’t just happen once, but two, three, four times and they keep happening.’”)

At the same time, it was announced that there would be a change in the American policy of calling in air strikes on homes and villages in support of U.S. operations.  The Afghans promptly claimed that the Americans had agreed to stop calling in air power at all in their country.  The Americans offered a far vaguer version of the policy change.  Anonymous U.S. military officials in Kabul quickly suggested that it represented only “a subtle shift in the ground realities of the war against the Taliban.”  In fact, it did contain loopholes big enough to slip a B-52 through.  As General Allen put it, “What we have agreed is that we would not use aviation ordnance on civilian dwellings.  Now that doesn’t obviate our inherent right to self-defense. We will always… do whatever we have to do to protect the force.”

It’s easy enough, however, to sense an urge in Washington to calm the waters, not to have one more thing go truly wrong anywhere.  At this very moment, the president and his top officials are undoubtedly praying that the Eurozone doesn’t collapse and that the Af-Pak theater of operations doesn’t disintegrate into chaos or burst into flames in the early months of a planned drawdown of U.S. troops; that, in fact, nothing truly terrible happens — until at least November 7, 2012. 

Karzai has clearly grasped the Obama administration’s present feeling of vulnerability and frustration in the region and, gambler that he is, he promptly upped the ante.  While the Americans were speaking of those “subtle” changes, he branded American air strikes in Afghanistan an “illegitimate use of force” and demanded that, when it came to air attacks on Afghan homes, the planes simply be grounded, whatever the dangers to U.S. or Afghan troops.  

Back in 2009, then war commander General Stanley McChrystal ordered a somewhat similar reining in of American air strikes, a position countermanded by the next commander, General David Petraeus, who called the planes back in force.  Now, those air strikes will, to one degree or another, once again be a limited option.  But realistically, air power remains essential to the American way of war, whatever Karzai may demand.  So count on one thing: before this is all over, it will be called in again — and in Afghanistan, weddings will still be celebrated.

In the meantime, after more than a decade of our most recent Afghan War, the Obama administration and the U.S. military are clearly willing to hang out a temporary sign saying: “Washington at work.  Afghans, thank you for your patience…”  Just across the border in Pakistan, however, “kill lists” are in effect and the air campaign there is being ratcheted up.

In the process, one thing can be said about American firepower: it has been remarkably precise in the way it has destabilized the region.  In December 2001, we first took on the role of wedding crashers.  More than 10 years later, it couldn’t be clearer that we’ve been country crashers, too. 

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses drone warfare and the Obama administration, click here or download it to your iPod here.

[Note for Readers: For their remarkable usefulness (to me) in keeping track of American war-making in the Greater Middle East, I would like to offer a special bow of thanks to three invaluable websites: Antiwar.com, Juan Cole’s Informed Comment blog, and Paul Woodward’s The War in Context.  On military matters, I always keep an eye on Noah Shachtman’s provocative and informative Danger Room blog.  For Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular, it’s well worth checking out Foreign Policy’s AfPak Daily Brief, a particularly useful summary of press reports on the region.]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt

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The Unofficial Final Results, and Suggested Slogans for the Runoff

May 26th, 2012 Comments off

And the final breakdown is: Morsi 24.9%, Shafiq 24.5%, Sabahi 21.1% (he carried Cairo), then Abu’l-Futuh and Moussa.

A useful spreadsheet of the results is here. Put together by Iyad al-Baghdadi and others.

And here are my suggested slogans for the candidates:

Morsi: “Of course we believe in one man, one vote, The Supreme Guide is the man, and he has the vote.”

Shafiq: “After 30 years under a corrupt ex-Air Force general, what Egypt needs is a corrupt ex-Air Force general. 30 More Years!”


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US F-15 crashes in Mideast, crew ejects safely

May 4th, 2012 Comments off

A U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter crashed Thursday during a routine training mission in the Middle East, but investigators have ruled out insurgent activity as a cause, the military said. Both crew members ejected safely.
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U.S. Amasses Stealth-Jet Armada Near Iran

April 28th, 2012 Comments off

The U.S. Air Force is quietly assembling the world’s most powerful air-to-air fighting team at bases near Iran. Stealthy F-22 Raptors on their first front-line deployment have joined a potent mix of active-duty and Air National Guard F-15 Eagles, including some fitted with the latest advanced radars. The Raptor-Eagle team has been honing special tactics for clearing the air of Iranian fighters in the event of war.The fighters join a growing naval armada that includes Navy carriers, submarines, cruisers and destroyers plus patrol boats and minesweepers enhanced with the latest close-in weaponry…”



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'Rattled and worried' crew forces Force India to almost pull out of Bahrain Grand Prix

April 22nd, 2012 Comments off

As thousands of protesters thronged the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Force India team came close to withdrawing itself from the mega event scheduled for today.
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Bahrain defence chief says a coup was attempted on anti-govt. protest anniversary

February 15th, 2012 Comments off

The commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) has claimed that a coup was attempted on the government on the first anniversary of anti-government protests.
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Tomgram: Nick Turse, Prisons, Drones, and Black Ops in Afghanistan

February 14th, 2012 Comments off

Nick Turse writes at Tomdispatch.com

450 Bases and It’s Not Over Yet: The Pentagon’s Afghan Basing Plans for Prisons, Drones, and Black Ops

By Nick Turse

In late December, the lot was just a big blank: a few burgundy metal shipping containers sitting in an expanse of crushed eggshell-colored gravel inside a razor-wire-topped fence. The American military in Afghanistan doesn’t want to talk about it, but one day soon, it will be a new hub for the American drone war in the Greater Middle East.

Next year, that empty lot will be a two-story concrete intelligence facility for America’s drone war, brightly lit and filled with powerful computers kept in climate-controlled comfort in a country where most of the population has no access to electricity. It will boast almost 7,000 square feet of offices, briefing and conference rooms, and a large “processing, exploitation, and dissemination” operations center — and, of course, it will be built with American tax dollars.

Nor is it an anomaly. Despite all the talk of drawdowns and withdrawals, there has been a years-long building boom in Afghanistan that shows little sign of abating. In early 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had nearly 400 bases in Afghanistan. Today, Lieutenant Lauren Rago of ISAF public affairs tells TomDispatch, the number tops 450.

The hush-hush, high-tech, super-secure facility at the massive air base in Kandahar is just one of many building projects the U.S. military currently has planned or underway in Afghanistan. While some U.S. bases are indeed closing up shop or being transferred to the Afghan government, and there’s talk of combat operations slowing or ending next year, as well as a withdrawal of American combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. military is still preparing for a much longer haul at mega-bases like Kandahar and Bagram airfields. The same is true even of some smaller camps, forward operating bases (FOBs), and combat outposts (COPs) scattered through the country’s backlands. “Bagram is going through a significant transition during the next year to two years,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Gerdes of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bagram Office recently told Freedom Builder, a Corps of Engineers publication. “We’re transitioning… into a long-term, five-year, 10-year vision for the base.”

Whether the U.S. military will still be in Afghanistan in five or 10 years remains to be seen, but steps are currently being taken to make that possible. U.S. military publications, plans and schematics, contracting documents, and other official data examined by TomDispatch catalog hundreds of construction projects worth billions of dollars slated to begin, continue, or conclude in 2012.

While many of these efforts are geared toward structures for Afghan forces or civilian institutions, a considerable number involve U.S. facilities, some of the most significant being dedicated to the ascendant forms of American warfare: drone operations and missions by elite special operations units. The available plans for most of these projects suggest durability. “The structures that are going in are concrete and mortar, rather than plywood and tent skins,” says Gerdes. As of last December, his office was involved in 30 Afghan construction projects for U.S. or international coalition partners worth almost $427 million.

The Big Base Build-Up

Recently, the New York Times reported that President Obama is likely to approve a plan to shift much of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan to special operations forces. These elite troops would then conduct kill/capture missions and train local troops well beyond 2014. Recent building efforts in the country bear this out.

A major project at Bagram Air Base, for instance, involves the construction of a special operations forces complex, a clandestine base within a base that will afford America’s black ops troops secrecy and near-absolute autonomy from other U.S. and coalition forces. Begun in 2010, the $29 million project is slated to be completed this May and join roughly 90 locations around the country where troops from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan have been stationed.

Elsewhere on Bagram, tens of millions of dollars are being spent on projects that are less sexy but no less integral to the war effort, like paving dirt roads and upgrading drainage systems on the mega-base. In January, the U.S. military awarded a $7 million contract to a Turkish construction company to build a 24,000-square-foot command-and-control facility. Plans are also in the works for a new operations center to support tactical fighter jet missions, a new flight-line fire station, as well as more lighting and other improvements to support the American air war.

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered that the U.S.-run prison at Bagram be transferred to Afghan control. By the end of January, the U.S. had issued a $36 million contract for the construction, within a year, of a new prison on the base. While details are sparse, plans for the detention center indicate a thoroughly modern, high-security facility complete with guard towers, advanced surveillance systems, administrative facilities, and the capacity to house about 2,000 prisoners.

At Kandahar Air Field, that new intelligence facility for the drone war will be joined by a similarly-sized structure devoted to administrative operations and maintenance tasks associated with robotic aerial missions. It will be able to accommodate as many as 180 personnel at a time. With an estimated combined price tag of up to $5 million, both buildings will be integral to Air Force and possibly CIA operations involving both the MQ-1 Predator drone and its more advanced and more heavily-armed progeny, the MQ-9 Reaper.

The military is keeping information about these drone facilities under extraordinarily tight wraps. They refused to answer questions about whether, for instance, the construction of these new centers for robotic warfare are in any way related to the loss of Shamsi Air Base in neighboring Pakistan as a drone operations center, or if they signal efforts to increase the tempo of drone missions in the years ahead. The International Joint Command’s chief of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations, aware that such questions were to be posed, backed out of a planned interview with TomDispatch.

“Unfortunately our ISR chief here in the International Joint Command is going to be unable to address your questions,” Lieutenant Ryan Welsh of ISAF Joint Command Media Outreach explained by email just days before the scheduled interview. He also made it clear that any question involving drone operations in Pakistan was off limits. “The issues that you raise are outside the scope under which the IJC operates, therefore we are unable to facilitate this interview request.”

Whether the construction at Kandahar is designed to free up facilities elsewhere for CIA drone operations across the border in Pakistan or is related only to missions within Afghanistan, it strongly suggests a ramping up of unmanned operations. It is, however, just one facet of the ongoing construction at the air field. This month, a $26 million project to build 11 new structures devoted to tactical vehicle maintenance at Kandahar is scheduled for completion. With two large buildings for upkeep and repairs, one devoted strictly to fixing tires, another to painting vehicles, as well as an industrial-sized car wash, and administrative and storage facilities, the big base’s building boom shows no sign of flickering out.

Construction and Reconstruction

This year, at Herat Air Base in the province of the same name bordering Turkmenistan and Iran, the U.S. is slated to begin a multimillion-dollar project to enhance its special forces’ air operations. Plans are in the works to expand apron space — where aircraft can be parked, serviced, and loaded or unloaded — for helicopters and airplanes, as well as to build new taxiways and aircraft shelters.

That project is just one of nearly 130, cumulatively valued at about $1.5 billion, slated to be carried out in Herat, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces this year, according to Army Corps of Engineers documents examined by TomDispatch. These also include efforts at Camp Tombstone and Camp Dwyer, both in Helmand Province as well as Kandahar’s FOB Hadrian and FOB Wilson. The U.S. military also recently awarded a contract for more air field apron space at a base in Kunduz, a new secure entrance and new roads for FOB Delaram II, and new utilities and roads at FOB Shank, while the Marines recently built a new chapel at Camp Bastion.

Seven years ago, Forward Operating Base Sweeney, located a mile up in a mountain range in Zabul Province, was a well-outfitted, if remote, American base. After U.S. troops abandoned it, however, the base fell into disrepair. Last month, American troops returned in force and began rebuilding the outpost, constructing everything from new troop housing to a new storage facility. “We built a lot of buildings, we put up a lot of tents, we filled a lot of sandbags, and we increased our force protection significantly,” Captain Joe Mickley, commanding officer of the soldiers taking up residence at the base, told a military reporter.

Decommission and Deconstruction

Hesco barriers are, in essence, big bags of dirt. Up to seven feet tall, made of canvas and heavy gauge wire mesh, they form protective walls around U.S. outposts all over Afghanistan. They’ll take the worst of sniper rounds, rifle-propelled grenades, even mortar shells, but one thing can absolutely wreck them — the Marines’ 9th Engineer Support Battalion.

At the beginning of December, the 9th Engineers were building bases and filling up Hescos in Helmand Province. By the end of the month, they were tearing others down.

Wielding pickaxes, shovels, bolt-cutters, powerful rescue saws, and front-end loaders, they have begun “demilitarizing” bases, cutting countless Hescos — which cost $700 or more a pop — into heaps of jagged scrap metal and bulldozing berms in advance of the announced American withdrawal from Afghanistan. At Firebase Saenz, for example, Marines were bathed in a sea of crimson sparks as they sawed their way through the metal mesh and let the dirt spill out, leaving a country already haunted by the ghosts of British and Russian bases with yet another defunct foreign outpost. After Saenz, it was on to another patrol base slated for destruction.

Not all rural outposts are being torn down, however. Some are being handed over to the Afghan Army or police. And new facilities are now being built for the indigenous forces at an increasing rate. “If current projections remain accurate, we will award 18 contracts in February,” Bonnie Perry, the head of contracting for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Afghanistan Engineering District-South, told military reporter Karla Marshall. “Next quarter we expect that awards will remain high, with the largest number of contract awards occurring in May.” One of the projects underway is a large base near Herat, which will include barracks, dining facilities, office space, and other amenities for Afghan commandos.

Tell Me How This Ends

No one should be surprised that the U.S. military is building up and tearing down bases at the same time, nor that much of the new construction is going on at mega-bases, while small outposts in the countryside are being abandoned. This is exactly what you would expect of an occupation force looking to scale back its “footprint” and end major combat operations while maintaining an on-going presence in Afghanistan. Given the U.S. military’s projected retreat to its giant bases and an increased reliance on kill/capture black-ops as well as unmanned air missions, it’s also no surprise that its signature projects for 2012 include a new special operations forces compound, clandestine drone facilities, and a brand new military prison.

There’s little doubt Bagram Air Base will exist in five or 10 years. Just who will be occupying it is, however, less clear. After all, in Iraq, the Obama administration negotiated for some way to station a significant military force — 10,000 or more troops — there beyond a withdrawal date that had been set in stone for years. While a token number of U.S. troops and a highly militarized State Department contingent remain there, the Iraqi government largely thwarted the American efforts — and now, even the State Department presence is being halved.

It’s less likely this will be the case in Afghanistan, but it remains possible. Still, it’s clear that the military is building in that country as if an enduring American presence were a given. Whatever the outcome, vestiges of the current base-building boom will endure and become part of America’s Afghan legacy.

On Bagram’s grounds stands a distinctive structure called the “Crow’s Nest.” It’s an old control tower built by the Soviets to coordinate their military operations in Afghanistan. That foreign force left the country in 1989. The Soviet Union itself departed from the planet less than three years later. The tower remains.

America’s new prison in Bagram will undoubtedly remain, too. Just who the jailers will be and who will be locked inside five years or 10 years from now is, of course, unknown. But given the history — marked by torture and deaths — of the appalling treatment of inmates at Bagram and, more generally, of the brutality toward prisoners by all parties to the conflict over the years, in no scenario are the results likely to be pretty.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. This article is the sixth in his new series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.

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Copyright 2012 Nick Turse

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US provides evidence

February 1st, 2012 Comments off
In early January, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassim Suleimani, visited Damascus, raising suspicions that Iran was advising Mr. Assad on how to quash the uprising.”  Wait. So by that logic or evidence, when US military commanders visited Bahrain or Egypt (under Mubarak) they were advising those desports on how to “quash the uprising”?   But what do I expect from a reporter who concludes his article by words of “objective” wisdom from a fellow at WINEP?  Really.  

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