Pentagon's 21st Century Counterinsurgency
Wars: Latin America and South Asia
by Rick Rozoff
More than half a year after the departure
of the George W. Bush administration the United States is embroiled
in its largest combat operation since the second attack on Fallujah
in November of 2004 and the most extensive and lengthy offensive
in its nearly eight-year-old war in Afghanistan.
It has also announced plans to intensify
its involvement in the 45-year counterinsurgency war in Colombia
with deployments of 1,400 additional soldiers and contractors
to five more military bases there.
The qualitative escalations of counterinsurgency
wars in Afghanistan and Colombia are, first of all, integrally
related and, second, both part of far broader regional strategies.
The current Obama administration has continued and accelerated
the expansion of the Afghan war into neighboring Pakistan, with
almost six times the population of its neighbor and nuclear weapons;
and its enhanced role in Colombia, a nation that launched a military
assault into Ecuador in March of last year and has been installing
bases and deploying troops on its border with Venezuela, can also
drag the entire Andean region into the vortex of armed confrontation
and eventual war.
Two recent appointments have signalled
that cross-border counterinsurgency wars in Asia and South America
will be the dubious "peace dividend" following withdrawal
of troops - far slower and less extensive than promised - from
On June 10th of this year the US Senate
approved former chief of the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations
Command, Stanley McChrystal, to replace General David McKiernan,
previously sacked, as commander of the U.S. Forces Afghanistan
(USFOR-A) and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF), putting him in charge of over 90,000 US, NATO and NATO
partner troops in Afghanistan.
The Joint Special Operations Command was
created in December of 1980 after the disastrous Operation Eagle
Claw operation in Iran . A 2006 book by The Times of London journalist
Michael Smith on the Command is titled Killer Elite: The Inside
Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team.
During McChrystal's tenure as its commander
he oversaw counterinsurgency operations, acknowledged and clandestine,
in Iraq from the invasion in 2003 to last year.
A report called " US shifts focus
to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan " synopsized the current
situation by mentioning that "With the US pulling out from
major Iraqi cities, many believe Washington is switching its focus
to Afghanistan ....By the end of this year, 68 thousand US troops
will be in Afghanistan , more than double the number at the end
of 2008. General Stanley McChrystal is the top commander of the
US and NATO troops." 
Afghanistan: US Shifts Troops From Iraq,
NATO Provides 10,000 More
Entire US military units have been transported
directly from Iraq to Afghanistan or had deployments slated for
the first switched to the second in recent months, including 4,500
airborne troops. The US escalation has been supplemented by boosts
in the number of soldiers, armor, attack helicopters and warplanes
deployed or scheduled for deployment by NATO allies. Germany is
soon to have the 4,500-troop maximum currently allowed by parliamentary
restrictions, along with Tornado warplanes, Marder tanks and AWACS;
Italy is sending more troops, helicopters and drones; Turkey may
dispatch an additional 1,000 soldiers; Romania has been tapped
for over 1,000 troops; Britain, which has lost 191 soldiers, its
highest combat fatalities since the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas War,
recently revealed it was deploying yet more troops, Chinook and
Merlin helicopters and Predator drones.
In mid-June outgoing NATO Secretary General
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer pledged between 8,000 and 10,000 troops
for the war, adding to nearly 65,000 already under NATO command
in Afghanistan .
US and NATO drones, planes and helicopters
now routinely violate the airspace of neighboring Pakistan , usually
with deadly consequences.
On July 27 NATO and the Pentagon activated
a new global Strategic Airlift Capability in Papa, Hungary - described
in the local press as "the biggest NATO project in 40 years"
For the occasion the first C-17 Globemaster
III transport plane, "used for rapid strategic airlift of
troops and cargo to main operating bases or forward operating
base anywhere in the world,"  arrived at the base where
"Soldiers, combat vehicles...will be flown on the heavy transport
planes, primarily to remote countries, even amid warlike conditions."
 Afgahnistan will be their chief destination.
Troops, arms and equipment are pouring
into Afghanistan from all parts of the world. US ambassador to
NATO Ivo Daalder has just recruited more New Zealand special forces;
Armenia announced that it may send its first troops under NATO
Partnership for Peace obligations to join those from its Caucasus
neighbors Georgia and Azerbaijan; South Korea has been pressured
to return military forces withdrawn in 2007 as part of a hostage
release deal; Japanese government officials have recently spoken
of deploying soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan even while
armed hostilities rage, a violation of the nation's constitution;
the army of Mongolia, wedged between Russia and China, "which
has not seen major combat since assisting the Soviet invasion
of Manchuria in 1945" will soon deploy troops as part of
its "third neighbor" policy "to reach out to allies
other than China and Russia" and "cement its alliance
with the United States and secure grants and aid....Mongolia's
deployment will mark its largest military presence in Afghanistan
since the age of Genghis Khan...." 
On July 28, the world's newest nation,
diminutive Montenegro (population 650,000), announced that it
was assigning an initial 40 troops to NATO for the war. On the
same day it was reported that fellow Balkan nation Albania, inducted
into NATO in March, will double its contingent and CBS News reported
that US Green Beret-trained Colombian commandos were headed to
Afghanistan to apply their brutal counterinsurgency methods in
There will soon officially be military
units from fifty or more nations serving under NATO command in
Afghanistan - including what is left of alleged neutral nations
in Europe ( Austria , Finland , Ireland , Sweden and Switzerland
) - from four continents and the Middle East . Never before in
history have soldiers from so many nations served under a common
military structure in a single war theater. Afghanistan is the
training and testing ground for an embryonic world army.
From Nominal Peacekeeping to Classic Counterinsurgency
No longer will this international military
force disguise itself under a mask of providing security for the
capital of Kabul or national elections, for peacekeeping and reconstruction.
It now has only one purpose, to wage war. Counterinsurgency war.
On July 28 McChrystal was interviewed
by the Los Angeles Times and asked concerning the war in Afghanistan
if there "has been too much focus on counter-terrorism?"
His response was: "I think there
hasn't been enough focus on counterinsurgency. I am certainly
not in a position to criticize counter-terrorism. But at this
point in the war, in Afghanistan , it is most important to focus
on almost classic counterinsurgency." 
This May a Western airstrike killed an
estimated 140 Afghan civilians in the province of Farah and the
following month it was reported that " US airstrikes have
killed hundreds of Afghan civilians over the past months"
and "some 800 civilians have perished in the past five months
during clashes between US-led troops and insurgents affiliated
with the Taliban." 
As he was stepping down from the post
of NATO Supreme Allied Commander late last month US General Bantz
Craddock shouted the truth about Afghanistan over his shoulder
as it were: "The politicians can call it whatever they like.
I am a military man and for me it is a war." 
Within weeks of now General McChrystal
assuming control of all US and NATO military forces in Afghanistan
and nearby nations ( Kyrgyzstan , Tajikistan and Uzbekistan )
on July 2nd the US launched its largest combat offensive in Asia
(and probably the world) since its war in Indochina decades ago.
Operation Strike of the Sword (Khanjar) began with an assault
by Marines, tanks and attack helicopters and is still raging almost
a month afterwards. Britain began a simultaneous and complementary
offensive, Operation Panther's Claw, also in Helmand Province
. Less than two weeks after the commencement of both German NATO
Rapid Response Force troops started a major, Germany 's first,
combat offensive in the northern province of Kunduz which is still
being carried out and may last six weeks altogether.
A Reuters account of the American offensive
was entitled "First major action under Obama's war plan:
US launches big offensive in Helmand" and detailed that "Thousands
of US Marines on Thursday [July 2] stormed deep into Afghanistan's
Helmand province, the Afghan Taliban's stronghold, launching the
biggest military offensive there since 2001, and the first under
the presidency of Barack Obama." 
The operations have contributed to this
month being the deadliest for both US and NATO troops in a war
that will be eight years old in October. The US has lost 40 soldiers
and Western forces in general 70 so far this July.
In tandem with the US and British attacks
the Pakistani army was deployed to the border with Helmand .
On July 10 the Chairman of the NATO Military
Committee, Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, "said that either
Pakistan was already carrying out a military operation against
militants in Balochistan bordering southern Afghanistan or would
be doing so in line with ongoing action on the other side of the
To Cross-Border South Asian Conflict
The expansion of the Afghan War into Pakistan
began in earnest in the last months of 2008 with drone missile
attacks and helicopter raids in the nation. It has intensified
appreciably under the current US administration. Dozens of drone
strikes have been carried out this year so far, the deadliest
to date in June which targeted a funeral of victims killed earlier
in the day, resulting overall in 80 dead and almost 100 wounded,
referred to in the Western press as "terrorists." "The
US has carried out at least 35 drone attacks on Pakistan 's tribal
areas, killing and wounding over 500 people over the past year."
A week later another US drone fired three
missiles inside Pakistan 's Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA), which killed 15 and wounded dozens on a Friday, the Muslim
As regards claims that some 180 victims
at a funeral were all al-Qaeda operatives or Taliban militants,
a news source from the region wrote:
"The airstrikes are said to be aimed
at militants, but Pakistani media say only one in six have targeted
Taliban insurgents in the country. More than five hundred Pakistanis
have been killed over the past year in US drone strikes."
In between the two deadly attacks, in
late June, the Pentagon inaugurated its new Pakistan Afghanistan
Coordination Cell (PACC) "to ensure expertise developed during
deployments to Afghanistan gets channeled directly back into supporting
warfighters on the ground.
"Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal
came up with the PACC concept, based on a similar model that's
proven successful in Iraq , while he was director of the Joint
US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy
Michele Flournoy told a Congressional committee "the new
cell's focused support for McChrystal's effort will have a big
impact on advancing the administration's Afghanistan-Pakistan
The Pentagon no longer offers even the
pretense of a distinction between war in Afghanistan and war in
Pakistan . It and its NATO allies are waging a cross-border war
in South Asia .
As the US , British and German offensives
were underway in Southern and Northern Afghanistan, the Pakistani
press on July 26 reported a massive build-up of NATO forces on
the country's borders. US and NATO troops and equipment were moved
to Afghan areas adjoining North Waziristan in Pakistan . One major
newspaper reported on this unprecedented deployment that "Armoured
vehicles, tanks and helicopters are included in the build-up.
"Planes of the American Air Force
have come into action. It has also been learnt that American jet
fighters are hovering over these areas and about 80 NATO vehicles
have been shifted to these areas.
"NATO brigades in the Afghan provinces
of Khost, Paktia and other areas are preparing to move to these
Another account, relying on eyewitnesses
in Waziristan, said that "Official and tribal sources...from
the border villages of North Waziristan [reported] unusual movement
of what they termed a 'huge number' of US and NATO forces along
the Pak-Afghan border.
"They said the NATO troops were armed
with helicopter gunships, tanks and armoured personnel carriers
(APCs) and had started establishing camps and checkpoints along
the border." 
A third report from the same day documented
that "NATO helicopter gunships violated... Pakistan 's airspace,"
which "was the fifth incident of violation of Pakistan 's
airspace by NATO." 
McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy
resembles that of the Pentagon in 1970 when it expanded the Vietnam
War into Cambodia , but Pakistan is far larger and more dangerous
in relation to Afghanistan than Cambodia was to Vietnam .
McChrystal's Commanders: Robert Gates
and James Stavidis - Colombian Counterinsurgency to Be Replicated
McChrystal is in charge of the prototype
of history's first international army in Afghanistan , forged
in the fire of war and soon to reach 100,000 troops from over
50 nations, but himself must report to two superiors.
The first is US Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates, former CIA director who in his earlier positions with the
Agency help create the current Afghan tragedy by supplying arms
and training to the Pakistan-based mujahedin from 1979 to 1989
under the largest covert undertaking in the CIA's history, Operation
The second is the recently appointed top
NATO military commander, James Stavridis. He was head of the Pentagon's
Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) from October of 2006 until being sworn
in as NATO Supreme Allied Commander on July 2, the same day the
American offensive began in Afghanistan .
As SOUTHCOM chief Stavridis was in charge
of US military operations in the Caribbean and Central and South
America . Those included the ongoing counterinsurgency war in
In an interview with an American newspaper
in June he said, inter alia:
"The operations I've been most focused
on in South America has been the insurgency in Colombia . My experience
there will translate well to my role as the NATO commander in
Afghanistan....[M]y experiences in understanding and learning
counter-insurgency I think are up to the task.
"I'm very encouraged with the selection
and conformation of Gen. Stan McChrystal to be the commander of
ISAF, which is the International Security Assistance Force in
Afghanistan , the NATO command in country. I think he's a perfect
A New York Times profile of Stavridis
in its June 29th edition - in truth a fawning puff piece called
"For a Post in Europe , a Renaissance Admiral" - included
"In [his new] NATO position, he will
be a partner with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who recently became
the new commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan,
where he must carry out a new strategy that is the premier national
security initiative of the Obama administration.
"Reflecting on his tour as the top
officer at Southern Command, Admiral Stavridis said he was proud
of the counterinsurgency and counternarcotics assistance to Colombia
His predecessor as NATO Supreme Allied
Commander and head of the Pentagon's European Command (EUCOM)
- the two posts go together - was the aforementioned General Craddock
who was also transferred to the two commands from that of SOUTHCOM
and overseeing Plan Colombia, nominally a drug eradication and
interdiction but in fact a counterinsurgency operation.
SOUTHCOM's Targets: FARC, Venezuela and
Stavridis' replacement as SOUTHCOM chief
is General Douglas Fraser, who in late June, not wasting any time
is identifying future casus belli, said that "Iran's growing
influence in Latin America is a 'potential risk' to the region"
and "I'm concern with the military build-up in Venezuela
because I don't understand the threat that they see." 
Fraser was also paraphrased as saying
"Southern Command would continue to help [ Colombia ] combat
leftist guerillas like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
- the FARC" and was quoted as saying that "The FARC
is not defeated and we need to continue that effort....."
Shortly afterward Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez responded that the "government is strengthening
its military because the United States is a threat to Caracas
Chavez recommended someone give Fraser
a mirror over which was inscribed "Look, general, you're
the threat!" 
A month later, after the story broke about
Washington taking over five more military bases in neighboring
Colombia, Chavez renewed his concerns and said that Colombia is
acting as a base for "those who constantly attack us and
to those who are getting ready new attacks against us." 
The threat that he was alluding to is
exemplified by a news story of earlier this month about a US special
forces training camp in North Carolina called Pineland.
The latter was described as "a fictional
country created five decades ago, made up of 16 counties in central
North Carolina " which is "the setting for Robin Sage,
the Special Forces final exam. In it, students from nearby Fort
Bragg parachute and helicopter into Pineland at the end of almost
a year of training, organize a guerrilla force and overthrow an
oppressive regime on the eve of an American invasion."
The training at Pineland includes "an
exercise that borrows liberally from actual American missions
in Iraq , Afghanistan and Colombia ." 
US-Trained Colombian Counterinsurgency
Commandos on Way To Afghanistan - Colombia: Pentagon's Proxy Used
CBS news on July 28 ran a feature on General
Stavridis' two wars coming together, revealing that the US was
sending Green Beret-trained Colombia commandos to Afghanistan
and quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as saying "The more
Afghanistan can look like Colombia , the better."
The story also stated that "For Colombia
, it's a way to give something back to the U.S. , and the American
Green Berets who've spent the last decade training them.
"The relationship took years to build
with the Green Berets working to turn Colombia 's best soldiers
into an organized special operations force. They helped train
a police Special Operations unit known as the 'Jungle Commandos.'
The Commandos hit targets deep in the jungle....
"With the help of America 's best
warriors, the Colombian Special Forces have become some of the
finest soldiers in the world." 
The above account could definitively lay
to rest US government and media attempts to present the war in
Colombia as either a campaign against drugs or an anti-terrorist
A Chilean defense official in mid-June
partially described the extent of the Pentagon's penetration of
Colombia , one which in the decade beginning in 1998 has seen
US military assistance rise from $50 million to $5 billion annually:
"What Colombia has is even more dangerous
than any F-16 or aircraft carrier. It has access to United States
satellite technology that allows it to monitor and supervise operations
anywhere in real time. No other country in the region can do that."
On July 23th Venezuela, responding to
the heightened threat that the US was presenting to it from Colombia
on its western border, announced that it was negotiating the purchase
of Russian T-90 main battle tanks, and its president said, "We
are going to buy more tanks to have an armored force at least
twice the size of what we have today and "We need to strengthen
our forces on land, at sea, and in the air and we are going to
continue doing that." 
On the following day Miguel Carvajal,
Domestic and Foreign Security Minister of Ecuador , Colombia 's
southwestern neighbor, said that his nation "will react to
further Colombian military incursions into the country" and
"that there will be a military escalation against Colombia
if that country makes another incursion into Ecuador such as happened
March 1, 2008 ." 
On July 25th the Colombian government
said it had conducted a deadly bombing raid against suspected
FARC guerrillas in the south of the country. The warplanes employed
weren't named but their origin is certain.
Last week the Uribe regime in Bogota announced
a billion dollar a year "war tax" on the wealthy and
businesses, which is to say those who domestically most benefit
from the decades-old counterinsurgency war. 
What the tax will pay for and what the
Pentagon official's desire to have Afghanistan look more and more
like Colombia may mean were revealed last month by Philip Alston,
the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary
or arbitrary executions.
US Transfers South American Death Squads
To South Asia - Honduras: 20th Century Coup Targets 21st Century
Latin American Independence
Referring to behavior by the US-trained
Colombian army in general and the killing of impoverished urban
youth as part of a combination of false body counts and bounty
killing - defenseless victims were murdered and then represented
as slain guerrillas - Alston denounced the army's actions as "cold-blooded,
premeditated murder of innocent civilians for profit." 
Colombian rights groups have estimated
the death toll from such murders as being in the hundreds.
Perpetrators of this gruesome campaign
may be on their way to Afghanistan .
In addition to bordering and threatening
Ecuador and Venezuela , Colombia also abuts Panama , its former
possession, and as such Central America .
Should a regional armed conflict result
from the June 28 coup d'etat in Honduras , where hundreds of troops
on the orders of US-trained commanders attacked the presidential
quarters and arrested President Manuel Zelaya, Colombia may be
called upon by its American paymasters to assist in more conflicts
than that in Afghanistan .
How fraught the lingering crisis in Honduras
, artificially prolonged by the US , is with the threat of escalating
into a conflict not only in Central America but one also engulfing
South America is demonstrated by developments that started on
the day of the coup.
The day after the coup and the simultaneous
assault by Honduran troops on the ambassadors and embassies of
Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba - all three members of the Bolivarian
Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) along with Bolivia and Ecuador
itself until the coup - Venezuelan President Chavez stated "If
our ambassador or embassy were attacked, that would be de facto
beginning a war" and "Venezuela's National Armed Forces
have been put on alert"  as they were after the Colombian
attack in Ecuador last year.
The same day the head of the new Honduran
junta Roberto Micheletti blustered that "the country's armed
forces are ready to cope with any external threats." 
Two weeks later Bolivian President Evo
Morales said, according to a press report characterization of
the time, "the Honduras military coup was a warning from
Washington to stop the growth of governments opposed to US imperialism."
The same dispatch quotes Morales as saying,
"This threat doesn't scare us; on the contrary, with more
force, we will be stronger." 
A week later Morales urged ALBA members
to increase defense cooperation in the wake of the Honduran military
takeover and said "This coup is a threat against the continued
growth of ALBA." 
Following that he leveled the accusation
that "I have first-hand information that the empire, through
the U.S. Southern Command, made the coup d'etat in Honduras ."
The Southern Command whose head is now
NATO's top military commander in charge of the Alliance 's expanding
war in South Asia .
Also last week Ecuador's President Rafael
Correa said that "it is unlikely the Honduras coup took place
without the knowledge of the U.S. military, which has a base in
that country" and "the coup is a message from Latin
American and U.S. 'ultraconservatives' to keep leftist governments
in line." 
Russian analyst Nil Nikandrov wrote that
throughout 2008 John Negroponte, US ambassador to Honduras from
1981-1985 and a key architect of the Reagan administration's contra
wars and military build-up in Central America, "was building
in Central America an intelligence and diplomacy network charged
with the mission of regaining the positions lost by the US as
well as of neutralizing left regimes and ALBA integration initiative.
"At present the US ambassadors to
Latin American countries - Hugo Llorens to Honduras , Robert I.
Blau [Deputy Chief] to El Salvador , Stephen G. McFarland to Guatemala
, and Robert J. Callahan to Nicaragua - are Negroponte's people.
All of them have practical experience in destabilizing and subverting
political regimes unfriendly to the US , launching propaganda
campaigns, and creating fifth columns in the form of various NGOs."
If the attempt in the Honduras to effect
"regime change" other than through the recently fashionable
mode of "color revolutions" should give rise to a conflict
between the Micheletti junta and its Central American neighbors
- or with the ALBA bloc - the US would prefer to have a military
client regime do its dirty work for it. Mexico currently has its
own problems to contend with and so Colombia would be the chief
candidate for the job.
Coups and counterinsurgencies engineered
and supported by Washington are no longer relics of the past century.
Coups of the Georgian variety and its offshoots or of the Honduran
model and Vietnam-style counterinsurgency wars have been reactivated
as foreign policy options of choice. What is new is the degree
of international coordination now practiced by the US and its
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