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The 9 Surges of Obama's War

The troop surge is only one part of the escalation of the Afghanistan war. Here are 8 more signs of how fully the President has committed us.

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This is, after all, to be a national program, the Community Defense initiative, which,  according to Jim Michaels of  USA Today, will “funnel millions of dollars in foreign aid to villages that organize ‘neighborhood watch’-like programs to help with security.”  Think of this as a “bribe” surge.  Such programs are bound to turn out to be essentially money-based and designed to buy “friendship.”

4.  The Civilian Surge:  Yes, Virginia, there is a “civilian surge”  underway in Afghanistan, involving increases in the number of “diplomats and experts in agriculture, education, health and rule of law sent to Kabul and to provincial reconstruction teams across the country.”  The State Department now claims to be “on track” to triple the U.S. civilian component in Afghanistan from  320 officials in January 2009 to 974 by “the  early weeks of next year.”  (Of course, that, in turn, means another mini-surge in private contractors:  more security guards to protect civilian employees of the U.S. government.)  A similar civilian surge is evidently underway in neighboring Pakistan, just the thing to go with a  surge of civilian aid and a plan for a humongous new,  nearly billion-dollar embassy compound to be built in Islamabad.

5. The CIA and Special Forces Surge:  And speaking of Pakistan, Noah Shachtman of Wired’s Danger Room blog  had it right recently when, considering the CIA’s “covert” (but openly discussed) drone war in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, he wrote:  “The most important escalation of the war might be the one the President didn’t mention at West Point.”  In fact, the CIA’s drone attacks there have been escalating in numbers since the Obama administration came into office.  Now, it seems, paralleling the civilian surge in the Af/Pak theater of operations, there is to be a CIA one as well.  While little information on this is available, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt of the  New York Times report that in recent months the CIA has delivered a plan to the White House  “for widening the campaign of strikes against militants by drone aircraft in Pakistan, sending additional spies there and securing a White House commitment to bulk up the C.I.A.’s budget for operations inside the country.”

In addition, Scott Shane of the  Times reports

“The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said..., to parallel the president’s decision… to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time -- a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas -- because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide.”

 

The Pakistani southern border province of Baluchistan is a  hornet’s nest with its own sets of separatists and religious extremists, as well as a ( possibly U.S.-funded) rebel movement aimed at the Baluchi minority areas of Iran.  The Pakistani government is powerfully opposed to drone strikes in the area of the heavily populated provincial capital of Quetta where, Washington insists, the Afghan Taliban leadership largely resides.  If such strikes do begin, they could prove the most destabilizing aspect of the widening of the war that the present surge represents.

In addition,  thanks to the Nation magazine’s Jeremy Scahill, we now know that, from a secret base in Karachi, Pakistan, the U.S. Army’s Joint Special Operations Command, in conjunction with the private security contractor Xe (formerly Blackwater), operates “a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, ‘snatch and grabs’ of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan.”  Since so many U.S. activities in Pakistan involve secretive, undoubtedly black-budget operations, we may only have the faintest outlines of what the “surge” there means.

 
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