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9/11 plus 15

Fifteen years ago today, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four American planes, used them as guided missiles, brought down the World Trade Towers, severely damaged the Pentagon, and four terrorists were overpowered by Americans over a field in Pennsylvania. The suicide terrorist attacks killed 2,996, caused more than $100 billion in damages and stole America’s innocence.

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According to a new Pew Research Center poll, the 9/11 attacks continue to be a powerful memory for Americans: 91 percent of adults remember exactly where they were or what they were doing when they heard about the terrorist attacks.

So how has the 15–year “war on terror” changed America? Looking back and forward, can Americans really believe they are safer?

First a bit of history, the “war on terror” rightly started in the tribal nation of Afghanistan. Brand-new President George W. Bush summoned his top advisors to the Oval Office and chose Cofer Black, former CIA whiz, to implement a devastating retaliation for the nearly three thousand deaths. Black offered no mercy and told the rookie president that this effort required a few hundred specially trained military forces, 110 CIA officers, direct firepower, a bunch of money and his plan would end with what Black called – using an old Angola War expression – “when this is all over, the bad guys are going to have flies walking across their eyeballs.”

After 10 weeks, Black and his stealth-fighting machine proclaimed victory. All the Taliban cities, as well as their government, had been toppled.

In a 2013 Men’s Journal interview Black was asked if he briefed the Russians about the impending attack and how the Ruskies responded to his plan. They said, “You’re really going to get the hell kicked out of you.” Black replied, “We’re going to kill them – we’re going to put their heads on sticks… and you know what, the Russians loved it! After the meeting was over, two senior Russian officials, whom I will not name, said to me, ‘Mr. Black, finally America is acting like a superpower!’”

The follow through earned Black and the US the respect that had been sorely lacking.

The success should have ended there. But as we know, it didn’t. Bush ensnared the country into an ill-defined and ill-conceived “war on terror” that continues today.

Whether you agree with the “war on terror” or not, the consequences are very real and very alarming. With the advent of comprehensive counterinsurgency, COIN or nation-building, thanks General Petraeus, the taxpayers have spent trillions of dollars in a region made up of tribal nations.

Case in point, in a recent interview, Commander of Afghanistan US and NATO Forces, General John Nicholson told PBS the war’s progress is tedious. “We’re trying to build an airplane while in flight, OK? So they’re fighting a war while we’re trying to build an army. This is very hard,” he explained.

It must be said that the “war on terror” falls under the asymmetrical category. The sneaky “stateless” armies must be defeated with clear goals and end-state solutions. It’s here where the most powerful armed forces on the planet have stumbled.

In his book the Field of Fight, retired Army three-star General Mike Flynn describes the best way to defeat marauding radical Islamic terrorists. Flynn says to win the battle against radical Islam we must destroy the jihadi armies, kill or capture their leaders, discredit their ideology, create a 21st-century alliance and must hold countries, like Saudi Arabia, accountable for supporting terrorism.

“The best plan gives you the most options at the last possible minute. Right now we don’t have the best plan. A real strategic discussion about what it is that we are trying to achieve. Is it the defeat of radical Islam? It has to be beyond that and that’s where an alliance of nations has to get it together,” Flynn said.

It cost Osama bin-Laden roughly $500,000 to bring down the Twin Towers and Pentagon. In return, the US has suffered tens of thousands of casualties and flushed away trillions of dollars into the Middle East black hole. Plus, hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners have died and more than 12 million of refugees are now stateless. Newt Gingrich said this week the US has failed so badly in the Middle East that we are giving the number one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, $1.7 billion in cash, just like a drug cartel.

“So 15 years after 9/11, we’re not winning.  We’re not winning in Afghanistan.  We’re not winning in Iraq.  We’re not winning in Syria.  We’re not winning in Libya. We’re not winning in Yemen,” Gingrich emphasized (mimicking Donald Trump). He’s right.

One reason for the protracted war may be the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. American arms and technology companies export, firearms, fighter jets, tanks, as well as Patriot Missile batteries.

The big winner in the Department of State’s 2017 budget includes $5.7 billion for Foreign Military Financing. The main recipients of the proposed budget will be Israel ($3.1 billion), Egypt ($1.3 billion), Jordan ($350 million), Pakistan ($265 million), and Iraq ($150 million).

While the Middle East tops the list, funding for Africa in 2017 will double from last year. Due to ISIS’ expansion into Africa, countries like Mali, Somalia, and Nigeria will see an influx of American weaponry. But why do American leaders want to militarize the African continent? Of course, the prominent argument is; “if the US doesn’t do something then other countries will do it.” However, no other country on the planet finances military sales like the US.

The US and its band of misfit coalition partners have implemented a massive military build-up on the Arabian Peninsula and Israel. Let’s take a look at the military arsenal provided to a few coalition partners, most of which are also classified as human rights violators according to the State Department (link to other FMS article).

For the last three years, the US has provided tens of billions of dollars in military weaponry through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to the United Arab Emirates (UAE); population 5.6 million, Qatar; population 2.1 million, Kuwait; population 2.7 million and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA); population 27.3 million.

The US has also provided both offensive and defensive weapon systems – some are designed to protect against airborne missile retaliation and air attacks. For example, the US supplied Qatar ($9.9B), Kuwait ($4.2 billion), and UAE ($1.1B) with Patriot anti-missile systems and UAE also acquired a $6.5B theater anti-air defense (THAAD) system. This type of weaponry typically protects against missile attacks from such weapons as SCUDs and the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket Systems) like the 880 launchers the Islamic Republic of Iran operates. The MLRS has a range of approximately 300 kilometers, making it easily capable of reaching any of the Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and even KSA.

America also sold KSA $6.7 billion worth of KC-130 aerial refueling tankers, the UAE $4 billion and KSA $6.8 billion of munitions including “bunker buster bombs,” (typically used to attack harden targets like nuclear facilities); Qatar a $1.2 billion early warning radar suite; KSA $1.3 billion for 30 patrol boats for use in the Gulf of Hormuz; KSA $4 billion to upgrade its national guard; Qatar spent $3 billion on Apache Longbow attack helicopters used for special operations insertions. The list also includes the Globemaster long-range air transport planes, Javelin missiles, F-18’s and F-16’s, and Sidewinder anti-air missiles.

Also for last few years, the US has been quietly aiding the rebel insurgency in Syria trying to overthrow the Iranian-backed government of Bashir al-Assad. There have been multiple news reports, (including this report) that the US provided weapons collected from deposed Libyan Dictator Qaddafi and moved them through its CIA clearinghouse in Turkey to supply al-Qaeda-linked extremist groups opposing the Assad regime. It’s worth pointing out that both Qatar and KSA have been major supporters of the anti-Assad insurgency that evolved from a national rebellion and morphed into a major jihadi operation.

Details of this massive military build-up can be found on the Department of State (DoS) website. The DoS oversees Government-to-Government defense transfers through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and is implemented through DoD’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Interestingly, “(I)n addition to FMS, the Department of State also issues export licenses to US companies providing defense articles and services through our Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) efforts, usually after an intensive interagency review to ensure that exports further US foreign policy and national security interests,” a State Department official said. However, “Export license information is not disclosed by the Department due to restrictions under the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, but general information is released from DCS.”

According to the State Department, in the case of either FMS or DCS, the United States takes into account political, military, economic, arms control, and human rights conditions in making decisions on the provision of military equipment and the licensing of direct commercial sales to any country, in accordance with the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the Arms Export Control Act, and relevant international agreements

“Review and monitoring are an integral component of the process for US- origin defense articles delivered to any recipient nation. This is to make sure that those articles are being used in the manner intended and are consistent with our legal obligations, foreign policy goals, and values,” a Senior State Department official said.

And both State and Defense argue that Middle Eastern countries have agreed to work toward US security interests and abide by President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine.

However, looking at the current Middle East conflicts finds every country focused on sectarian protectionism, especially since the Obama administration has seemingly checked out. It is essential that this high-tech arsenal provided to foreign nations by US defense contractors be carefully monitored. The consequences of equipment falling into the wrong hands can be deadly, as it was for flight MH17 in Ukraine.

As the impact of ISIS’ offensive continues to sink in, US intelligence officials contend ISIS did not just randomly explode on the scene in 2014, they claim to have been reporting to high-level government officials the rise as well as the expansion of ISIS since 2012. This murderous organization is largely fueled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk testified before a Committee claiming, “The ISIS’ operations are calculated, coordinated and part of a strategic campaign led by its Syria-based leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

“This was a very clear case in which the US knew what was going on but followed a policy of deliberate neglect,” said Vali Nasr, the Dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and a former State Department adviser for the Middle East. During its assault in the region, ISIS received protection from KSA and Qatar. Both nations warned the US not to interfere with ISIS’s march to conquer northwestern Iraq and its turn west toward Syria and Jordan. America obeyed and ISIS gobbled up the region and spoils of war that included American tanks, helicopters, and artillery.

Many military experts said the opportunity to strike ISIS came and went when the 7,500-man Islamic Army crossed the wide-open Damascus-Baghdad Highway.

Military generals said the terror group was vulnerable to air attack with minimal collateral damage concerns. In the end, ISIS got its free passage from Mosul to eastern Syria with US inaction, which was tantamount to acquiescence.

“We oppose all foreign intervention and interference. There must be no meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, not by us or by the US, the UK or by any other government. This is Iraq’s problem and they must sort it out themselves,” Saudi Prince Mohammed told the UK Telegraph. Just in case that bad intel was on the horizon, the Saudis immediately moved 30,000 combat troops to protect its border with Iraq.

Many Middle East policy experts say the Sunni’s view of ISIS as an Iraqi Sunni revolution against their Shiite oppressors is myopic and portends a broader Islamic war between Sunnis and Shiites.

From the US perspective, the ISIS campaign presents a myriad of conflicts. Qatar and KSA are major recipients of billions of dollars worth of US weapons through FMS, yet their direct support of ISIS, a terrorist group, means Qatar and KSA meet the definition of state sponsors of terrorism and should be banned from participation in the military program. Nevertheless, the end user certificates and export licenses are routinely approved by the State and Defense Departments, including an $11 billion sale to Qatar. (The Pentagon has refused multiple efforts to release the end-user agreements to this reporter as requested under FOIA.)

Furthermore, Qatar, KSA, and Kuwait are listed as Tier 2WL (Watch List) and Tier 3 under U.S. anti-trafficking in humans reports, which require a waiver by President Obama stating the sale is in national security interests. To the outside world, the US ostensibly appears to be violating its own anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking laws to provide sophisticated weapons systems to these human rights violators.

The infusion of military-grade weapons in the region only portends much more war. The war between the Sunnis and Shiites has grown more contentious due to the dysfunction of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916. Essentially the Agreement drew a twentieth-century map that granted control of Syria, Lebanon and Turkish Cilicia to the French and Palestine, Jordan and areas around the Persian Gulf, Baghdad to the British. That was followed by the 1919 Paris Peace Conference that outlined a “Kurdistan” as an entity by Şerif Pasha, who represented the Society for the Ascension of Kurdistan (Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti). That promise was never kept and it’s doubtful the Kurds, who are Caucasian or Indo-European and not Arab, will wait another 100 years to establish their own country, one that will control its destiny through its own oil and revenues from oil pipelines from the Caspian Sea.

The complexity of the middle east  today reflects Winston Churchill’s description of Russia in October 1939: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Perhaps Russia is the key to the Middle East today.

Neither agreement ever took into account the tribal nature of the region that will continue to dog the Middle East until new maps emerge, or complete Armageddon is achieved. Until that day, America will continue to find itself under the threat of attack from a region that really doesn’t offer the US much. So are we safer after 15 years of war? Stay tuned!

© Copyright 2016 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved

Afghan President’s brother gunned down – U.S. opinion remains low

Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s controversial half brother, was shot twice in the head at point blank range by a trusted employee yesterday. The murder will surely cause more instability for Afghanis loyal to the President.

As reported in this column (read here) in April, Ahmed Karzai had well established links to drug traffickers, a reputation for ruthless corruption, and also links to the CIA.

He was assassination at his well-protected compound in central Kandahar during a routine meeting with petitioners and provincial contemporaries. According to friends at the upscale compound, there were more than 60 guests present at the time of the slaying.

While President Karzai tried to rebuild his brother’s reputation inside the country the past few years, Ahmed was never able to shake his connection with the illicit drug world and thug-like politics. Mr. Ahmed Karzai was reputed to have amassed a fortune of U.S. dollars since his return to Afghanistan from San Francisco to support his brother.

Ahmed Karzai’s killer, Sardar Mohammed, was immediately shot and killed by loyal bodyguards. Speculation surrounding Mohammed’s motivation for the assassination of President Karzai’s brother remains unclear. However, the Taliban did claim responsibility for the murder, but political leaders say there is no proof the Taliban was involved.

Just two hours after the news of his brother’s murder was delivered, President Karzai spoke at a joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, confirming the assassination had taken place.

“This is the life of Afghan people, this sorrow is in every Afghan home, every one of us has this sorrow,” Karzai told his loyal followers.

Despite Ahmed Karzai’s tarnished reputation, the President relied heavily on his half-brother to control the crime-and-drug laden southern region of Afghanistan. Another issue that dogged Ahmed Karzai at home and abroad was the not-so-secret relationship he shared with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

It’s been reported that Ahmed Karzai was receiving customary payments for a number of shadowy services. This relationship with the U.S. was seen negatively by many Afghans in the southern part of the country. Yet it was his heavy-handed tactics that secured order despite resistance from the Taliban over the democratization of Afghanistan.

In an effort to reassure Afghan leadership, Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, released a statement regarding the murder of President Karzai’s divisive half-brother.
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“I called President Karzai today to extend my deepest condolences to him and to his family on the death of Ahmed Wali Karzai. The United States condemns this murder in the strongest terms,” Clinton said. “For too long, the people of Afghanistan have suffered under the threat of violence, intolerance, and extremism. We join President Karzai in his prayer for peace and stability in Afghanistan and remain committed to supporting the government and people of Afghanistan in their struggle for peace.”

The American people remain solidly on the side of peace for the war-torn tribal nation, however, 58 percent of U.S. public want the soldiers’ home, according to a June 24-28 CBS News/New York Times Poll.

It is unclear if Afghanistan will ever become a democratic nation, but it is imperative that the Afghan people decide what kind of government they are willing to fight for.

The power vacuum created by the assassination of Ahmed Karzai will most definitely leave President Karzai’s government in a much weaker position when it comes to the Taliban – opening the door to even more instability in the war-torn region.

For Parts 1-5 of this series;

#1 U.S. troops fight and die to preserve Shariah Law in Afghanistan

#2 U.S. payments to Taliban & Afghan warlords threaten American/NATO troops

#3 Billion dollar corruption within the U.S.-picked Afghan regime

#4 Terrorism’s down payment in the form of drugs and U.S. aid money

#5 Obama begins to wind-down the costly war in Afghanistan

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Afghan President’s brother gunned down – U.S. opinion remains low – National Homeland Security | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/afghan-president-s-brother-gunned-down-u-s-opinion-remains-low#ixzz1S130Igmg

Afghan Heroin and Mexican cartels are a recipe for disaster

There’s no doubt about the wreckage that illegal drugs and their pushers leave behind. In Mexico’s case, the five-year narco battle with the cartels has taken 40,000 lives, but to make matters worse, Afghanistan, the central battlefield for the “War on Terror” has company- the Mexican drug cartels.

A recent El Universal story confirmed that “Mexican narco-traffickers operate like multinational emissaries to establish contacts and place operatives that can deal with the Turkish and Indian criminal organizations in order to facilitate the production and sale of drugs, specifically heroin.”

By controlling the flow of illicit narcotics in the Western hemisphere, the Mexican cartels can use those profits to market their product globally. Combine that with the virtual lawlessness in Mexico and Central America and criminal organizations have an environment suitable for continued criminal activity.

“It is in the interest of these Mexican groups (in particular the Sinaloa cartel) that they open smuggling routes for the distribution of heroin (Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s heroin) to the U.S. market. Furthermore, they are not only focusing on the movement of Afghan heroin through Mexico; they are also taking positions of power as major players in the international world of the heroin trade,” according to Edgardo Buscaglia, director of the International Center of Legal and Economic Development.

When considering the strict Muslim religious lifestyle the Taliban imposes on its followers it may seem ironic to think the Taliban leaders would partner up with the nefarious Mexican drug lords, but in both cases, it is about the money needed to achieve their perspective goals. It is a match made in Heaven.

Leading the way is Mexico’s top cartel leader “El Chapo” (Joaquin Guzman Loera) of Sinaloa fame who has eluded capture by the Mexican government since his famous prison breakout in 2001. Many argue El Chapo’s family relationship with current Mexican President Felipe Calderon has kept him from being apprehended by authorities.

“It is not as if (Joaquín) El Chapo Guzmán (Loera) himself travels to Turkey, it is up to his emissaries to maintain good relations in that country. They keep the flow of heroin packages and money that belongs to the Sinaloa cartel moving to their appropriate destinations,” said Buscaglia in his interview with El Universal.
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Once the illicit narcotics reach the U.S., cartels are able to outsource their distribution by enlisting established gang members.

In turn, money from the sale of Afghanistan heroin is used by emissaries often to purchase arms, bribes and other drug-trafficking items.

Buscaglia assured readers that “Mexican groups are gaining a presence on the world stage, not only in drug trafficking, but also in the arms smuggling and money laundering schemes of Romania and Bulgaria. They are also making inroads into the European Union markets.”

Currently the largest firearm suppliers, other than China or America, are the Albanians, Russians, Venezuela and Germany. The largest buyers for these weapons are located in known- drug producing countries.

Keeping an eye on the drug trade is the U.S. Drug and Enforcement Agency (DEA), and they consider “El Chapo” the cartel’s top dog.

Despite having a $7 million bounty on his head and evading thousands of law enforcement agents from the U.S. and Mexico devoted to his capture, Guzman has made the Forbes’s “Most Powerful People” list. It appears to law enforcement agencies that the destruction of the Sinaloa cartel and its boyish kingpin remain a top priority.

“We have personnel dedicated strictly to Chapo Guzman. That’s the importance we have placed on getting him,” a DEA official told the Associated Press. “If you totaled up U.S law enforcement and foreign law enforcement stretching through Central America, South America, certainly thousands of law enforcement personnel is exclusively focused on the entire Sinaloa operation.”

That being said, the DEA manhunt for El Chapo appears similar in scope to the search for Osama bin Laden.

“With Chapo, he’s got the whole Robin Hood thing going,” DEA told the AP. “People in close proximity to him might not be motivated to turn him in.”

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Afghan Heroin and Mexican cartels are a recipe for disaster – San Diego County Political Buzz | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/afghan-heroin-and-mexican-cartels-are-a-recipe-for-disaster#ixzz1O3ArzzOH

US troops fight and die to preserve Shariah Law in Afghanistan (Series pt. 1)

Most Americans would be shocked to know that THEIR government created an Islamic Theocracy subject to Shariah law when it developed the Afghanistan Constitution. (Link to Afghan Constitution).

That constitution establishes Afghanistan as an Islamic Republic subject to Shariah law: “We the people of Afghanistan With firm faith in God Almighty and relying on His lawful mercy, and Believing in the Sacred religion of Islam; Realizing the injustice and shortcoming of the past, and the numerous troubles imposed on our country; While acknowledging the sacrifices and the historic struggles, rightful Jihad and just resistance of all people of Afghanistan, and respecting the high position of the martyrs for the freedom of Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan is committed to Islamic Law/ Shariah Law as evidenced by Article Three, Chapter 1, “In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” Any doubt about the commitment to Islam is resolved by the oath of Supreme Court Justices… “In the name Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate I swear in the name of God Almighty to support justice and righteousness in accord with the provisions of the sacred religion of Islam and the provisions of this Constitution and other laws of Afghanistan, and to execute the duty of being a judge with utmost honesty, righteousness and nonpartisanship (Ch. 7. Art. 4).”

But what is this Shariah law the U.S. and its NATO allies are passionately supporting in lives and resources? “Islamic theology divides the world into two spheres locked in perpetual conflict: The House of Islam and the House of War. The House of Islam (dar al-Islam) embraces territory where Islamic law (Shariah) is the law of the land, while the House of War (dar al- Harb) comprises the rest of the world. The House of Islam is enjoined by Allah to make war upon the House of War until the latter is permanently assimilated into the former,” an excerpt from Shariah Law Definition – Religion of Peace, by Gregory Davis.

It continues; “The term jihad, which literally means ‘struggle,’ denotes the military effort to bring new lands into the House of Islam. While the state of war between the Islamic-non-Islamic worlds is sometimes hot or sometimes cold, it is permanent until Shariah law reigns over the entire planet.”

As with any nation building process, the U.S. government usually plays an active role is rewriting or constructing a country’s Constitution and the same is true in Afghanistan. In the past the State Department played a big role in establishing Russia’s Constitution after the Cold War. Yet, a call to the State Department produced coy words to deflect what input the U.S. made to Afghanistan’s new Constitution.

This vision for Shariah Law is shared by some Muslims in America. Check the website Shariah for America and read their plans to use U.S. laws to ensure the Muslim faith is followed worldwide.

It’s been a long war. Afghanistan is a tribal nation trying to transition to a “modern” nation through a small group of “globalists” and with the help of the all-knowing Western world. But what is it about the war-torn region that captivates the hearts and minds of the globalists that the people of Afghanistan are worth the cost?

History knows better. It doesn’t matter how long American/NATO troops occupy Afghanistan to enforce the Shariah Law based Constitution – the end result will be the same – more suffering and corruption. American troops are fighting the Taliban and other al-Qaeda sympathizers to establish an Afghan nation, but the Constitution Americans helped the Afghanis adopt mandates Shariah Law.

Meanwhile on the battlefield, U.S. troops display their heroic bravery and compassion in trying to make a difference in this tribal region. The 10-year conflict the American military has been waging is growing more and more unpopular. Currently only 39 percent of Americans think we are doing the right thing (an all-time low), according to a 3/18-21 CBS News Poll. Another survey from an ABC News/Washington Post Poll confirmed the American people are questioning the cost versus benefits of the war – only 31 percent want America to continue its Middle East wars. A big reason for the dwindling popularity of the Afghanistan War is the corruption within the government that U.S. officials have installed to bring democracy to the war-torn nation (see Part III of this series).
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Insurrection in a fragile new country

As the old saying goes, ‘it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks’ and Afghanistan is no exception. The opponents to the “globalist’s vision” look for any event to protest the West.

“Clearly the Islamist agenda is to use any tidbit of information out of the West to try to paint America and the West as anti-Islam and anti-Muslim,” said M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a practicing Muslim.

Take Afghanistan for example, many say President Hamid Karzai was responsible for all the hype surrounding the burning of the Quran by a Florida preacher. Clearly the majorities of Afghanis do not own computers and aren’t glued to the smart phones loaded with social networking apps ready to start the next revolution.

However American leadership gladly complied with the corrupt rulers as they continually disparage westernized countries and incite violence.

The Quran burning episode should provide insight for Americans as the Afghan people embarked on a deadly three days of rioting; this unrest burdens the U.S.-led military against the Taliban.

Running the day-to-day operations of the coalition war is General David Petraeus, and he even scolded the insensitivities of burning the Quran. “Every security force leader’s worst nightmare is being confronted by essentially a mob, if you will, especially one that can be influenced by individuals that want to incite violence, who want to try to hijack passions, in this case, perhaps understandable passions,” Petraeus said. “Obviously it’s an additional serious security challenge in a country that faces considerable security challenges. This was a surprise.”

Petraeus also felt the Quran burning was “hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant.”

In fact it’s been reported that the majority of Afghans learned about the Quran burning from President Karzai who condemned the act as “a crime against the religion and the entire Muslim nation.” He went on to demand the U.S. and the U.N. to bring the Florida pastor to justice. Karzai also insisted that Americans provide “a satisfactory response to the resentment and anger of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.”

President Barack Obama also weighed in and extended his condolences to the people who were killed by the protesters and said burning the Quran “is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry.” But cautioned that there was no justification for attacking and slaughtering innocent people, calling it “outrageous and an affront to human decency and dignity.”

It didn’t take long for the “peace loving” religious demonstrators in Afghanistan to recite the familiar mantra, “Death to America.” In the end the deadly protests claimed dozens of lives, including U.S. soldiers.

Moving forward, the threshold question that remains to be answered is whether Americans wish to continue fighting so Afghanis women can be stoned and caned or thieves can have limbs severed?

Part two of this series: U.S. Pays Afghan Warlords to kill American/NATO Troops

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/

© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

U.S. moves forward with relaxing PTSD treatment regulations for veterans

President Obama said that the Department of Veterans Affairs will begin the process of making it easier for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to get the treatment and benefits they need.

“Just as we have a solemn responsibility to train and equip our troops before we send them into harm’s way, we have a solemn responsibility to provide our veterans and wounded warriors with the care and benefits they’ve earned when they come home,” Obama said in a weekly radio address.

“We also know that for many of today’s troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home,” Obama admitted. “Too many suffer from the signature injuries of today’s wars: post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury (TBI). And, too few receive the screening and treatment they need.”

For many returning war veterans they “have been stymied in receiving benefits” because they had to produce a plethora of paperwork and prove they suffered a traumatic event that caused PTSD. The President insisted that streamlining the process would “help both the veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, along with generations (veterans from other eras), who have served and sacrificed for the country.”

However the Chairman of the House Veteran Affairs Committee, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) says soldiers shouldn’t prove they have PTSD, but they should have to prove they don’t. The Congressman has worked tirelessly on these issues and believes the military is letting down the soldiers by not decompressing these guys once they return from the battlefield.

The new PTSD regulations will relieve veterans from proving a single wartime moment that caused the hopelessness and fear. Now veterans only need to show evaluators they served in a region where there would be cause to fear the reprisal of terrorist attack.

“I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. And, I’ve met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war,” Obama said.

The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division Barry Searle concurs; “This requirement seems to be a step backward in an otherwise commendable move by the VA. Private healthcare providers should be given the opportunity to work with veterans and diagnose those who suffer from PTSD.”

Searle points out that if the VA has real concerns about the treatment methods of PTSD assessment standards, “it should create a certification process for private practitioners that would satisfy its requirements.”

If the government opened up returning veterans to the Tri-Care health program, which is similar to a PPO health care plan, the private sector doctors could alleviate the backlog for PTSD/TBI treatment.

“When the VA makes claims they have enough doctors on staff to take care of the PTSD cases they are wrong. I just went to the La Jolla, CA VA and they said there was a hiring freeze for psychiatrists,” Filner said. “It’s baloney; we don’t have enough psychiatrists to treat these guys and girls.”

One congressional analysis reportedly put the cost of the new changes at $5 billion

A senior department official said the price tag is “relatively small.” Under the older system bureaucrats claimed veterans eventually received the treatment they needed and hoped the new “stealthy process” would speed up the wait time. White House Senior staffers said the new process should also bring the cost of treating PTSD down.

The Veterans Affairs Department Secretary, Eric Shinseki complimented the new PTSD treatment process and said the new directive was another critical step forward in providing an easier process for combat veterans seeking health care treatment and disability compensation. The new VA regulation was published in the Federal Register last week.

“This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served this country and suffer from the often devastating emotional wounds of war,” Secretary Shinseki said. “This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and services they need.”

By publishing a new regulation in the Federal Register it clears the way for the VA to simplify the process for a veteran to claim service connected PTSD immediately. In return the VA reduces the evidence needed if the trauma claimed by a veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the veteran’s service.

Shinseki said the science-based regulation relies on evidence that concludes a veteran’s deployment into a war zone is link enough to increase the risk of developing PTSD.

Looking back at PTSD pitfalls

In the past, VA claims adjudicators were required to corroborate that a non-combat veteran actually experienced a stressor related to hostile military activity. The new rule simplifies the development that is required for these cases and will make it easier for those serving to receive the treatment they have been denied in the past.

However, it’s Rep. Filner’s view that the military “has a much deeper problem.” Filner also alludes to the stigma attached to PTSD. “The military doesn’t want to know the full extent of the problem; they just don’t want to know.”

Nevertheless the VA expects this new rule will decrease the time it takes the VA to decide access to care.

Shinseki claims there are more than 400,000 veterans currently receiving compensation benefits that are service connected for PTSD. Congressman Filner challenges this number and believes the number is much greater than anyone is willing to admit and the VA could not handle an influx in veterans coming forward.

In the private sector, PTSD has been a medically recognized anxiety disorder that can develop from seeing or experiencing an event that involves actual threatened death or serious injury to which a person responds with intense fear, helplessness or horror, and is not uncommon among war veterans.

Filner says he has been trying to encourage the military to add an eight week decompression course for all soldiers to attend. “Right now the veterans coming home are asked two questions to self assess a PTSD problem. On top of that many of the Commanding Officers tell them to mark no on the questionnaire so they can get home faster,” Filner explained.

The program Filner describes could take place at their home base with brothers in arms, family members and trained clinicians. “This would be a good dovetail with job training classes as well,” he said.

The costs led to the new VA regulation

The process of change within the giant bureaucracy that is Washington D.C. came about in part by testimony of Barton F. Stichman, Joint Executive Director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

“Under current law, VA has to expend more time and resources to decide PTSD claims than almost every other type of claim. A major reason that these claims are so labor intensive is that in most cases, VA believes that the law requires it to conduct an extensive search for evidence that may corroborate the veteran’s testimony that he experienced a stressful event during military service,” Stichman testified to at the House Veterans Committee.

“According to the VA, an extensive search for corroborating evidence is necessary even when the medical evidence shows that the veteran currently suffers from PTSD, and mental health professionals attribute the PTSD to stressful events that occurred during military service.”

“Often there is no corroborative evidence that can be found – not because the in-service stressful event did not occur – but because the military did not and does not keep detailed records of every event that occurred during periods of war in combat zones,” he concluded.

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs conducted the hearing to discuss the compensation owed for mental health. The hearing addressed the difficulties veterans encounter when they are required to prove stressors in order to receive service-connected compensation for PTSD that occurred as a result of their military service.

A different outcome for British soldiers with PTSD

When looking into PTSD issues in other countries, a report shows the British soldiers are far less likely to demonstrate symptoms of PTSD. Why?

While the numbers of U.S. soldiers suffering PTSD land somewhere in the 20-30 percent range, depending who you talk to, only four percent of British soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan exhibit symptoms of PTSD even though both countries’ warzone veterans have seen comparable levels of violent combat, according to an English study.

“This is truly a landmark study, in its size and rigor, and the findings are surprisingly positive,” said Richard J. McNally, a psychologist at Harvard, told the New York Times. “The big mystery is why we find these cross-national differences.”

Researchers for the British study analyzed answers to mental health questionnaires given to Royal Army, Navy and Air Force members. The results showed that approximately 20 percent suffered some form of mental health issues, including moderate anxiety and depression. Another 13 percent admitted to drinking heavily. However, few were diagnosed with PTSD.

Once researchers began to dissect reasons for the PTSD discrepancies, possible reasons included the use of reservist soldiers and differences in ‘dwell time.’

The mental health study found British reservists were more likely to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Another factor that could determine the successful processing of PTSD may be the fact that British troops serve six-month tours and do not spend more than 12 months in combat in every 36 months.

As far as their American soldier counterparts, U.S. military personnel, depending on their service, can serve more than 12 months at a time with only a single year in between combat deployments.

Living with the aftermath of TBI and PTSD

A common thread soldiers share is their fear of losing loved ones; “Will they still want me.”
It’s a legitimate fear as many end up losing their significant others once the hard work of rehab, reality sets in and they learn their lives will never return to pre-deployment fitness.

“I was in a coma for 12 days and now I’m like a six-year-old in a man’s body,” says S. Sgt., Jay Wilkerson, U.S. Army barracks, Iraq. He suffers from a closed-wound head trauma commonly known as TBI one of the signature wounds of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.

“Sometimes I can’t remember my own kid’s names… I feel stupid, but my brother helps me. My son’s name is Manny and my daughter is Precious,” Wilkerson tearfully repeats.

His grueling treatment schedule includes memory groups, cognitive-skills training, physical therapy as well as psychology appointments; “All these appointments are meant to build me up and get me where I used to be.”

The Army soldier acknowledges that war is war and no medals will bring him a normal life again, but at least he is making the effort and hopes to regain a sense “normalcy.”

That life of “normalcy” often includes using nonprofit groups like Help Wounded Troops or Wounded Warrior Foundations. They step in when the Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense fall short.

It’s not unusual for wounded veterans to seek financial help while waiting for benefits to kick in. Many soldiers don’t know there are advocacy organizations out there that can assist them with the mountain of paperwork the VA requires. During the sometimes lengthy paperwork process military families can lose their homes, cars and jobs.

These nonprofit organizations provide soldiers with money to pay for rent, electricity, food or even car payments. Without the support from a generous American population these wounded warriors may otherwise fall through the cracks and disappear into homelessness.

The bottom line for the VA to consider is the need to speed up an effective TBI/PTSD treatment program. The process must ensure that there are no military service members left behind or undertreated.

Just as there have been technological breakthroughs in medical treatments, there have been significant advancements in treating TBI and PTSD. The all-volunteer troops serving in a long Middle East war deserve to be treated with the best PTSD/TBI protocol available and then the treatment plan needs to be individually tailored to meet each soldiers needs, according to Dr. Mark Wiederhold who has developed a new virtual-reality based PTSD program.

This often proves the private-sector lays claim to the most up-to-date treatment methods.
However, the VA bureaucracy doesn’t act quickly enough or at all when providing the best care for returning war veterans. One program with a stellar record is Mt. Sinai hospital in New York City. Their TBI treatment employs a rigorous-daily cognitive therapy without the use of drugs.

Another highly-successful, private sector PTSD treatment facility is located in San Diego, California. The Virtual Reality Medical Center uses virtual reality computer generated programs with physiological readings to monitor soldier’s reactions to incidents that cause them severe anxiety. The success for the $4-6 thousand program is 85 percent. However, the doctors running the virtual reality retraining sessions are working overtime to find ways to improve their success rate to more than 90 percent.

Side affect of war – suicide among soldiers on the rise

Army suicide statistics just released leave military officials trying to reverse a grim trend in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A recent report showed that 32 soldiers killed themselves in June; it is the highest number of suicides in a single month since the Vietnam era. At least 21 took their lives while on active duty and the other 11 were inactive National Guard or Army Reserve.

The Army admits seven of the soldiers killed themselves while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. “There were no trends to any one unit, camp, post or station,” Col. Chris Philbrick said, of the Army’s suicide prevention task force. “I have no silver bullet to answer the question why.”

With no solutions on the horizon Philbrick said his department will: “look for opportunities we have been facing in terms of the challenges in the Army and continue to prevent these events from taking place.”

In conclusion

There is no doubt that streamlining the TBI/PTSD screening process is a step in the right direction, but what returning war zone soldiers really need is their quality of life.

Oftentimes when soldiers are separated from military service they lose extra-combat pay, housing allotments and their Tri-Care health insurance. The loss of income can split families apart, especially if there is a serious injury to contend with.

A country at war must live up to all the promises they offer military personnel. These brave soldiers should not have to lose their quality of life along with any means to earn an honorable income for their families.

America has done better, but as the “War on Terror” enters its ninth year, it must do better- the all volunteer forces are not expendable on any level.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

On eve of Afghanistan offensive General McChrystal in hot water amid Rolling Stone story

A hierarchical undercutting in the decision making process in any work environment lends itself to a severe tongue lashing, however, in the military world it requires one of two things- resignation or firing.

This is exactly the position current Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal finds himself in.
A senior Capitol Hill source says McChrystal will resign, leaving the White House in a pickle as the summer offensive in Afghanistan, already causing heartburn, with no other choice but to regroup with new leadership.

Insiders are also saying Congress is already seeking McChrystal’s replacement and names like General James Mattis of the US Joint Forces Command and Lieutenant General William Caldwell, the current commander of Nato’s Training Mission in Afghanistan are the frontrunners.

However, President Obama hasn’t indicated which way he will go and it is no secret the president’s choice in words calling “Afghanistan the right war,” could come back to haunt him. Americans have lost interest in the Middle East War effort and losing soldiers on the battlefield when the Administration refuses to kill the opium poppy fields is not helping shore up support on the home front.

As word spread yesterday of the Rolling Stone story a universal consensus formed that McChrystal and his entourage crossed the sacred line by criticizing the President and his staff.

“This is clearly a firing offense,” said Peter Feaver, a former official in the Bush White House and strong backer of a fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan in a Washington Post story.

But military experts also question relieving McChrystal of his leadership role on the eve of a major offensive in Kandahar, which is the most critical of the war, could hurt the Afghanistan war effort. It has also been said that McChrystal was not onboard with the July 2011 timetable for withdrawal.

The Rolling Stone story reads in part; “According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked ‘uncomfortable and intimidated’ by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. ‘It was a 10-minute photo-op,’ says an adviser to McChrystal. ‘Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his f-ing war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.’”

President Barack Obama said earlier that McChrystal is guilty of “poor judgment” but said he will wait to pass judgment until the two meet at the White House.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and his aides also made disparaging comments about Vice President Joe Biden, special envoy Richard Holbrooke, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and others in the story titled “The Runaway General.”

“Gen. McChrystal is on his way here, and I am going to meet with him. Secretary Gates will meet with him as well,” Obama said Tuesday evening. “I think it’s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed poor judgment, but I also want to talk to him directly before I make any final decisions.”
Asked earlier in the day whether McChrystal’s job is on the line, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that “everything is on the table.”

McChrystal apologized for the article Tuesday morning.

“It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal said in a statement. “Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard. I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war, and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”

Nevertheless McChrystal received harsh words from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. “I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine,” Gates said in a statement. “I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world.”

“Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well,” Gates said. “I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person.”

Cable television pundit Sean Hannity said he did understand General McChrystal’s frustration “with how the Obama administration has mishandled the ‘War on Terror.’ “I don’t think Obama takes his role as commander in chief as seriously as he should.”

“What are we to think of a president who only sends 20-to 30-thousand more soldiers in a war in Afghanistan, but not that amount the generals on the ground ask for?” Hannity questioned. “What about a president who resists using the term ‘war on terrorism?’ I don’t think this president is seeking victory in Afghanistan.”

With a drug war raging in Mexico, a defiant Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Gulf oil spill disaster and a trouble economy will President Obama rock the boat in Afghanistan or move forward with more of the status quo?

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner

It’s time to move on Afghanistan

After returning from Afghanistan over the weekend, Congressman Duncan Hunter-R CA called on the Obama Administration to accept Stanley McChrystal’s strategy of sending more troops to the hostile region.

With the number of U.S. deaths on the rise, Rep. Hunter, who is a veteran of the wars in the Middle East, would like to see the White House make a swift decision to fight the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.

“This trip to Afghanistan provided a great opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing our combat personnel and the efforts of military and civilian leadership to achieve victory,” said Hunter. “There appears to be unanimous agreement among military commanders and their civilian counterparts that additional combat troops are needed – and needed fast.”

Now that the Afghan Presidency has been decided, Hunter says it’s up to President Hamid Karzai to step up and provide the type of leadership that is needed to carry Afghanistan forward.

“Karzai must reassert himself as a strong national leader who is committed to fighting corruption, establishing the rule of law and creating new opportunities for the Afghan people,” he explained.

Hunter also would like to see the U.S. begin taking a leading role when it comes to training the Afghanistan military and law enforcement agencies.

“Training Afghanistan’s military and police forces must also be a priority, much like it was in Iraq at the time of the surge. Afghanistan is certainly not Iraq but we know from experience that a strong counterinsurgency strategy and well-trained security forces can put us on a direct path toward mission success.”

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Entertaining the troops in Afghanistan proves enlightening

San Diego – Entertaining the troops in Afghanistan proved to be an eye-opening experience for professional volleyball players.

“The Fourth of July will definitely have more meaning this year,” says Matt Olson, a San Diego native and professional AVP beach volleyball player. Olson was one of four players invited by the United Service Organization, USO, to play volleyball and sign autographs for the troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The Middle East Journey was an eight-day crash course in military procedures and 100- degree temperatures in the desert.

“The troops were very gracious and appreciative. They were completely different than what I had envisioned,” Olson said. “I didn’t know what to expect and what I found to be true was awesome and reassuring.”

Olson who read previous news stories about the troops was under the impression that they were are all from the mid-west and high school dropouts; “That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” according to Olson. “They were articulate and well-educated.”

The four AVP players who made the Afghanistan June 1-10th trip were Matt Olson, Jeff Nygaard, Ryan Mariano and Brooke Hanson. Their journey began in as Sayliyah air base in Qatar. This is the gateway base where U.S. troops on break seek rest and relaxation from the daily 18-hour-a-day grind of the war zone.

From there the players were fully outfitted in “personnel body armor and helmets,” to be worn at all times while traveling inside the war zone. “Even though we had to wear the 40-pound gear, we felt safe through out our time in Afghanistan,” Olson said.

Typical days started before dawn and ended well-after midnight as the troops usually played volleyball until 2 a.m. Chow time was also much different than expected the players said. “We were treated to “surf & turf” one night and barbeque lobster another.”

The three main bases in Afghanistan are Kandahar, Gardez and Bagram. The group was ferried between the bases in C-130 cargo planes and Chinook helicopters that traveled in pairs. The military personnel were “battle ready” at all times.

“The coolest thing I did during one of the flights was hanging off the back of the Chinook helicopter and shoot a machine gun into the bare hillside,” Olson explained. “It was like a big boys club.”

Another flight Olson will never forget is the famous corkscrew landing. “The pilot puts the airplane’s nose down and corkscrews all the way to the runway in order to avoid being shot down, it was crazy.”

Once on the ground at the bases, the AVP players were given a VIP tour by the base commander who explained the duties of the base. Then the players were free to eat and play volleyball with the military personnel.

Each base had volleyball courts set up and a number of the Army personnel played on a daily basis. The AVP players played six on six in tennis shoes because the “sand” was more like “dirt.”

While the players were out mingling with the troops they were able to visit a base hospital and talk with some wounded soldiers. They were also lucky enough to be a part of a Purple Heart ceremony. “It was pretty intense,” Olson said.

“The guys in the hospital were amazing and all they wanted to do was get back to their units as soon as possible,” Olson explained. “The soldiers all wanted to be there and were anxious for us to go home and tell everyone that they were doing good things in Afghanistan. The Afghan people want us here.”

Indeed, the soldiers are fighting for the freedom of the Afghan people as well as ensuring that Americans are able to enjoy their hot dogs, cold beers and BBQ on the Fourth of July.

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