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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pepe Escobar: The secrets of Obama's surge

Is United States President Barack Obama telling it like it is as far as his new strategy for the Afghanistan and Pakistan war theater - AfPak, in Pentagonspeak - is concerned? There are reasons to believe otherwise.

Obama's relentless media blitzkrieg stressed the new strategy is refocusing on al-Qaeda. Washington, we got a problem. Why deploy 17,000 troops against "the Taliban" in the poppy-growing province of Helmand, not in the east near the Pakistani tribal areas, where "al-Qaeda" is holed up, plus 4,000 advisers to train the Afghan Army, when Washington actually wants to fight no more than 200 or 300 al-Qaeda jihadis roaming in Afghanistan, plus another 400 maximum in the Pakistani tribal areas? And by the way they are not Afghans - they are overwhelmingly Arabs, with a few Uzbeks, Chechens and Uyghurs thrown in.

The Salvador option
And then Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to AfPak, finally let it slip on CNN: the "people we are fighting in Afghanistan" are essentially ... Pashtuns. This was followed by a stark admission: "In the informational side ... we don't have a strong enough counter-informational program to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda."

So this amounts to the State Department admitting that the Pentagon/Petraeus "humint" (human intelligence) component of counter-insurgency in AfPak, hailed as a gift from the Messiah all across US corporate media, is essentially useless. This also means there's no way of winning local hearts and minds.

In the absence of "humint", what prevails is inevitably The Salvador option, performed by a Dick Cheney-supervised-style "executive assassination wing", as investigative icon Seymour Hersh first revealed in a talk at the University of Minnesota on March 10, "going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or to the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving". The "assassination wing" is in fact the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - a shadowy, ultra-elite unit including Navy Seals and Delta Force commandos immune to Congressional investigations.


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