Everyone Hates the Taliban

I was engaged in a discussion amongst some people about the state of affairs in Afghanistan after reports had come out on Sunday about a border skirmish between Taliban and Iranian troops at the border with Iran. This had come after the explosion earlier in the day that would turn out to be the CIA blowing up Ayman al-Zawahiri I had made something of a tongue-in-cheek comment about the Taliban having such a bad day, and that it had seemed to me as though everybody hated them. I mean hell, they’ve been known to have deadly factional clashes amongst themselves. A short time later I received a rather eloquent message from someone who wanted to remain anonymous, and I thought that it warranted being published. This individual is a retired professional with a bachelor’s degree and has experience living and working in the Middle East and Central Asia, having been to a number of countries including Syria.

I had been impressed not only by the response but also by the fact that it had been crafted and sent to me with the utmost confidence in a relatively short period of time, telling me that they knew of what they spoke. They also speak plainly and at times use explicit language that might be offensive to some readers, therefore I highly recommend discretion for anyone proceeding beyond this point. While I have made some minor changes to the formatting and have included photos and illustrations in this piece, I have left the content itself unchanged. I will also state that the contents published herein do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of either myself or Invictus Bellator Media Corporation.

Afghan Taliban fighters and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal signed between U.S. and Taliban in Laghman Province, Alingar district on March 2, 2020 / Wali Sabawoon / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Certainly, they do.

The ‘stans.

The other “Stans” hate the current Afghan Taliban (the Talibs) regime because it fulfills and supports the grassroots Western fear-driven view of countries with “Crazy Islamic Governments” that they are all trying to distance themselves from.  Iran hates them because of what they as a Pashtun-dominated, predominantly Sunni organization, have done to the Shia/Hazaras for decades (such as recent bombings in Western Kabul targeting Hazaras) and because they draw US attention.  From the Iranian perspective, who wants another US base in Helmand, close enough for sneaky sneaky JSOC ninjas to do ground incursions into Iran without detection?

Turkey.

Turkey hates them because it’s a short leap of Canadian and US-based Republican/MAGA/Scared Liberal/Green/Democrat/Conservative/People’s Party of Canada faith to draw the conclusions that “Erdogan = Muslim dictator, Taliban=Muslim dictators, therefore Erdogan=Taliban = WHY DO WE GIVE AID TO TURKEY, OMG THE USA HAS A BASE THERE?????  OMG CLOSE INCIRLIK, OMG WHY DO WE LET L3 FROM CANADA GIVE CAMERAS TO THE BAKTAYR DRONES…AAHHH TERROR!

And greater scrutiny on Turkey may just draw forward the skeletons of the Ottoman (Turkish) Armenian Genocide of 1915 onwards, and the ongoing long-standing persecution of ethnic Kurds by the Ottoman Empire and modern-day Turkey back into the media cycle.  And then there will be questions….  Turkey doesn’t want that.

Russia.

Russia hates them, well, because.  So many books have been written on the subject, no need to mention it again here.  That being said, would Russia try to exploit them as a lever against regional competitors?  To keep the “Stans” off balance and a convenient buffer for Russia proper as it’s been since the days of the Tsars?  To pressure Pakistan?  To keep India off-balance?  Absolutely.  They may hate them… but would not be above using them.

Pakistan.

Pakistan hates them because they are shrugging off/ignoring ISI and Pakistani “advice/influence”. These Talibs grew up seeing Pakistan sell them out daily by playing USA vs Pakistan vs Taliban/Afghan Armed Faction chess where the Afghans always lost.  If these Taliban are truly devout they have to realize Pakistan’s long-standing duplicity, finally, and say “enough is enough… yes, you let HiG and others hide there for years, but you have been FUCKING US for years”.  Pakistan, of course, will not like to be called on its duplicitous bullshit.

India.

The Indians hate them because they are an unstable Islamic fanatic rulership in the region, and just because the Taliban hate the Pakistanis now, doesn’t mean that hate will stay hate, so therefore the Taliban can’t be trusted.  This is bolstered by the fact that for religious and propaganda reasons, the Talibs need to hate the Indians on spec just because, so those feelings are mutual.  It won’t stop India from making feelers into Afghanistan via aid and influence, to be a thorn in Pakistan’s side; if the Talibs rebuff India’s attempts… more reason to hate them.

Bangladesh.

Bangladesh hates the Taliban for causing the current refugee flood (think of Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian feelings, reflected in their domestic policies towards Palestinian refugees that keep them impoverished, stateless and unable to own property) and because Western people (American Dems/Republicans and Euro Brexiteers and Greens, plus pretty much all Canadians with a limited view of the world) will look at a map and be like “OMFG Bangladesh is like 3cm away from Afghanistan on a map, so they might be ISLAMIC RADICALS THAT CRUSH HUMAN RIGHTS AND PERSECUTE LBGTQS++ PEOPLE and NOT EMBRACE GREEN ENERGY and MIGHT BE TERRORISTS so we CANNNOT GIVE THEM AID” so Bangladesh gets painted with the same brush and guess what no US/Western Aid Dollars for it. Plus the Talib recruits from Bangladesh and takes leave there while the Bangladeshi security service look the other way while pocketing the requisite bribe money proceeds.

China.

China hates them because again, instability, the Talibs likely are not willing to follow directions from Beijing, may not let China exploit their resources, and are generally a regional pain in the ass that could give the USA another “Foot in the Door” into the region, and just after they finally left after 20 years! 

The Gulf States.

The Gulf States hate the Talibs because FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY WILL YOU STOP WITH THIS JIHAD ALREADY YOU ARE FUCKING UP OUR OIL SALES AND IT’S EXHAUSTING TRYING TO PRETEND TO BE FRIENDS WITH THE USA AND KEEPING UP THE CHARADE OF THAT WHILE YOU FUCK THE USA OFF IN PUBLIC AND THEN CALL US YOUR FRIENDS… AT SOME POINT THEY MAY START NOTICING!!! The Gulf States, of course, particularly their more virulent and fundamentalist Wahabbist elements, want all Westerners dead or converted to Islam, but they don’t want that stated in public because it’s bad for business and hampers the cash flow.  No cash, hard to buy a new Lamborghini… Again, closeness to Talibs, such as the Taliban offices in Qatar, makes them suspect in the eyes of concerned citizens from Des Moines Iowa, Tyrell, Texas, and Cleveland. 

Canada.

In the Great White North, no one in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto cares, nor does anyone in Red Deer, Iqaluit, Saint John or Revelstoke.  Not that Canada’s thoughts or any lip service pontification by Canadian politicians would matter, because the Gulf States love current Canadian policies that hamstring Canada’s own domestic energy industry, essentially giving the Gulf States a ready, hungry energy market on a platter that they need make NO political concessions to access!  Money talks… So they DON’T want the Talibs messing with cash flow!

North Korea.

NK hates the Talibs because they are subhumans who believe in the fairytale of Imaginary SkyGod which is anathema to the True Realism of Communism and the understanding that the Family Kim are the TRUE GODS. Plus, they are not orderly and are a chaotic society so worthy only of contempt. While not as morally corrupt as what the USA has done to their Brothers in the South, they still must be destroyed to ensure purity and order in the world.  Plus, they may have much-needed resources, that NK will be unable to access under the Talib regime.

South Korea.

SK hates them because the US hates them and the last thing the SK wants are more fanatics on the doorstep, giving them another problem to deal with when “they know who the real enemy is” – ie The North and possibly China. They also hate the Talibs because they know that at some point the USA will get interested in quelling Afghan Terror again, which will draw attention, US Aid and diplomatic resolve away from supporting SK against NK and others, reducing their regional importance and making them stand more on their own vice relying on Big USA Brother whose attention is drawn away.

Also, Talibs in power and a failed Afghan state are not going to buy Samsung and LG appliances, Hyundai cars, trucks and equipment, Doosan excavators, paving machines and heavy equipment, which limits economic development and expansion, therefore it’s best they go so that the Afghan market can open up and benefit South Korea’s economy.

Australia.

Australia hates the Talibs because they know that due to the recently-consummated Pacific Defence BroMance (that Canada was excluded from, and rightly because Canada, despite rhetoric, is a non-lifter in the Pacific and inept, less lip service, in all aspects of Defence) they will get sucked into the USA’s next intervention there, so they are like “Oh Crikey like Vietnam again… and Iraq… and Afghanistan, fuck that shyte mate, we got to think about the Indonesians, sort the Solomon Islands out and get rid of these fackin migrants”.  So they just don’t relish the thought of getting involved in that Afghan quagmire (some may describe it as a shower of shit) again, which they will if the USA goes in.

Plus, Australians killing Muslims in Afghanistan gives their greatest regional rival, Indonesia (the reason why Australia bought F-111 fighter-bombers, so they could fly them over Jakarta as needed and maybe influence the Indonesians with some High Explosive bombs If needed), a great source of diplomatic and regional influence ammunition to use against “Australian White Christian Commonwealth Colonizer Aggression” on the world stage, therefore opening Australia up to terror attacks from like-minded Western-influence-hating groups all over.

Singapore.

Singapore… like AC/DC says, Money Talks.  Sucking interest into a worthless desert in SouthWest Asia draws attention from the Pacific Commons where Singapore’s economy needs the attention, US dollars, oil tanker transit money, wharfage fees, brokerage fees and the umbrella of security that US Carrier Battle Groups interested in playing Maritime Chess with China provide to Singapore.  Carriers in the Indian Ocean flying air strikes into Afghanistan are less helpful.

Ukraine.

Ukraine and the Caspian Region… They are the latest members (with Syria’s rebels) of the “hey the Russians and Russian Proxies attacked us too and keep doing bad things, help us”.  Drawing attention and money from them back into Afghanistan is a bad thing when they are looking for arms and reconstruction money.  Now, Ukraine, everyone can agree, is in a terrible situation.  However, as seen in Afghanistan, particularly the disastrous Western (ie USA) withdrawal from Afghanistan, and how many countries, including Canada as one of the worst culprits, have, to be clear, fucked over their Afghan former employees, military and police proxies and refugees, thoughts/prayers and Strongest Possible Condemnation and Support today mean NOTHING for tomorrow, and I’m sure Ukraine realizes this.  Right now, Ukraine is the flavour of the day.  It won’t last.  If the penny drops and attentions pivot back to the “urgent need to defeat the Taliban”, Ukraine will become a bullet point on a briefing slide.  

So in the long game, once Russia declares defeat and shows itself as well and truly finished, and/or collapses, will divide attention away from Ukraine’s need for reconstruction money, aid, etc, particularly if the West turns to a Mission of Mercy/Reconstruction (ie the 2024 version of the Marshall Plan) to reconstruct a collapsed and unstable nuclear-armed Russia.  Concurrently, if the Talibs continue with their ways, the hungry-for-weapons-release Western Military Machine that didn’t get to drop a lot of ordnance in Ukraine will want to get Back Into The War Business and send its sons and daughters back into the Hindu Kush.  This will be bad for Ukraine – they could get squeezed out and forgotten if the attention is divided between “Build Back Better” for Russia and “defeat Terrorist, Human Rights Abusing Dictators in Afghanistan”.  We all know how that goes.

Israel.

Well, Israel has, for its entire existence, posited itself to the West (after being rebuffed by the Soviet Union in the 1950s) as the “friend” that says “Hey, we need to be your primary for you to everything to give to us, we are the true front line against Islamic terror that keeps you safe”. But the Talibs might consider giving Hamas, PLO, PFLP, Hezbollah (although they are filthy Shia unbelievers that the Talib would love to exterminate, to White People, they are all stinky scary bearded guys that beat women and want to blow themselves up), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other GoodTime Fun Guys a run for their money.

And that is NO GOOD for Israel.  The world needs to focus, from the Israeli perspective, on the Greatest Threat to Israel, ensure it’s also seen as Greatest Threat to the USA, to ensure that free F35s, Iron Dome rockets, M109s, F16s, F15s, HIMARS, MLRS, communications intercept, digital surveillance and satellite intelligence keep flowing unhindered into Israel. Therefore, a Talib government that can actually govern and is coherent is a HUGE THREAT to Israel’s place in the world and its position as the “world’s greatest Victim that USA and Germany and Europe need to fund and cater to”. Better for them if the Afghans are just another collection of starving barefooted Muslims, like Palestinians but thankfully with no land claims in the West Bank to have to deal with.  The Afghans?  Fuck ’em says Chaim from Ramat Gan, Dorit from Azur, and Shlomo from Ashdod… we are the Chosen People and the USA and World need to keep showing that by giving us money and weapons.

Better for Israel to have a hostile terrorist Syria on their flank to tug at the Park Slope heartstrings and bank accounts in NYC than have to take action themselves, action which isn’t Cordon and Search operations on Palestinian villages and shooting kids throwing rocks which, as seen in the 2006 Hezbollah/Israel Rocket War facing an armed and determined enemy, they kind of suck at.

So from the Israeli perspective, having the West crush the Talibs and keep Afghanistan a stone age puppet state, but Free of ISLAMIC TERROR, plus keeping a hostile but ineffective Syria on the doorstep to enhance the Victim Culture that keeps Western money flowing and gives Israel carte blanche for assassination, murder, atrocities and use of heavy weapons in densely populated areas in Gaza and the West Bank and Ramallah and Bethlehem and Nazareth and Beit Jinn to “stop Palestinian Terrorists” without too much oversight is the best option.  Therefore… need to hate the Taliban!

Syria.

Syria. Under the radar now, Assad is like “yeah everybody leave me alone, I’ll continue to gas my own population and fly my Russian-supplied gunships to rocket urban areas where the “terrorists” are when I FEEL LIKE IT.” Sucks for Assad if Russia collapses and Turkey gets tired of Syria’s shit and takes the gloves off.  But likely it won’t happen, the USA will keep Turkey on the leash.  However, if the Talibs get sporty and aggressive, someone like the Toms (Ricks or L. Friedman) or a place like the Centre for a New American Security think tank will start talking again about the “New Axis Of Evil” and you bet they’ll line up Syria with the Taliban government again, to justify and demand crossing “red lines”… and Tomahawks will fly…

So Syria will get hit with the splatter of Western hand-wringing “OMFG The Taliban are EVIL and DANGEROUS”, of course, players like Israel will feed that because why have half the Golan Heights when you can have all of it…. plus everything else up to the Litani River in the North and the Euphrates in the East (ie the State That Will No Longer Exist That Was Once Called Syria) as the Greater Eretz Israel, if given permission (plus significant continuing military aid) to do so, in order to ensure “Security” against “Terror”. While extremely unlikely to happen, the culturally-ingrained Baath Party suspicion of Israel’s desire to occupy and destroy Syria colours a lot of thinking as it has since the days of Assad Senior and his struggle to rule, hence, not wanting the undue attention that the Talibs can bring to the region and the convenient “Axis of Evil” regrouping popping up again.  It would be best for all in that region if the whole “Syria/Talib” issue is not linked and causes bloodshed. In conclusion…

In conclusion…

Whew. I’m done.. for now. But that’s the world as I see it in real-person terms, not couched in the flowery and obtuse Nadsat-speak favoured by International Relations experts.  To me, it does not really serve any of the players to have the Talibs be effective in governing, whether they are a terror-focused government or not. Like neighbourhood kids who want to keep a vacant lot in the hood to play in, find dead things in, drink stolen beers, light fires, in short a place where no one really cares too much what happens, that’s what the World and Region want for Afghanistan.  A vacant lot is best for all because it doesn’t mess with the established order of things, or cause the upset that the 20+ years in Afghanistan before caused to the flow of aid, arms and attention to those “long-standing” players in the game who feel they deserve the attention of Rich Western Countries vice them wasting money dropping Hellfires on illiterate 15-year-olds putting bombs in the road.

Food for thought…. have a happy day, comrades!

Analysis & Observation Extra: al Qaeda Leader al Zawahiri Killed in Afghanistan Drone Strike

Source of mystery missile attack solved and its victim identified.

Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri in a photograph taken by Hamid Mir, who took this picture during his third and last interview with Osama bin Laden in November 2001 in Kabul. Dr. al-Zawahri was present at the interview where he acted as translator for bin Laden. Source: Wikipedia

So it would appear as though the mystery behind the recent missile attack in Kabul may have been solved, as news broke Monday that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike on Sunday in Afghanistan. As it turns out I was wrong in thinking that the explosion was probably linked to violence between Taliban factions, in fact, I hadn’t even considered this as a possibility. Then again I also wasn’t aware that the Egyptian-born cleric and heir to Usama bin Laden was even in Kabul, nor were many others.

This image taken from a video issued by As-Sahab, al Qaeda’s media branch, on April 5, 2022, shows al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri speaking. (As-Sahab via AP)

Don’t uncork the champagne quite yet.

Screengrab from an address made by Joe Biden announcing the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In announcing the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri, US President Joe Biden had the opportunity to make an address to the American people that many of his predecessors made. Making it almost seem as though they had gone out and killed one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, the fact is that Biden and the others just happened to be in office at the time these events took place. So even though Biden and his administration might be happy that something has finally happened which might actually translate into some better polling numbers heading into the mid-terms, they shouldn’t exactly be uncorking any champagne.

Many serious concerns still remain.

That al Zawahiri was hanging his hat in downtown Kabul came as a complete surprise to observers and analysts, myself included, but it just goes to show yet again that the Taliban had absolutely no intent on living up to their commitments in the Doha Agreement. As you may remember, one of the things that the Mullahs agreed to was that they wouldn’t allow al Qaeda or any other terrorist organizations to set up shop in areas under Taliban control. It would be rather impossible for them to deny knowledge of the fact that he was there when he was living in an area known to house their senior leadership and administration. Ties between the two groups were clearly not severed.

A statement put out by the Atlantic Council outlined their major concerns in the wake of the assassination.

Three critical counterterrorism concerns raised by the strike

The killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri is a huge blow for al-Qaeda, which has spent the past year working to rebuild its capabilities in Afghanistan after the chaotic US withdrawal. Zawahiri may not have been as charismatic a leader as his predecessor Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS. But the fact that he has now met the same fate will demoralize al-Qaeda’s rank and file, demonstrating that no terrorist is beyond the United States’ reach.

While this is a day to celebrate, Zawahiri’s death raises a number of critical questions about the future of American counterterrorism.

First, Zawahiri’s presence in post-withdrawal Afghanistan may indicate that, as feared, the Taliban has once more granted safe haven to the leaders of al-Qaeda—a group with which it has never broken. Zawahiri evidently felt safe enough to move back to downtown Kabul.

Second, it’s not clear if Sunday’s success can be replicated against other terrorist targets. This was the first US drone strike in Afghanistan in almost a year, and it remains to be seen whether the administration has the capability or intent to systematically dismantle the terror networks in the country that threaten the homeland. Until we know more, we should resist the urge to see the strike as a vindication of “over the horizon” counterterrorism.

Third, the next man on al Qaeda’s depth chart is Saif al-Adel—who has long been a guest of the Iranian regime. Tehran and al-Qaeda have made common cause against their shared enemies in recent years. We’ll need to keep a close eye on what their relationship looks like if, as expected, Saif ascends to al-Qaeda’s top role.

Atlantic Council

Ending the charade.

It is well past time enough now for this ridiculous charade to come to an end. I’m speaking of the dog and pony show that the Mullahs have been putting on for the benefit of whatever foreign media happens to be in Kabul. It is high time they realize that their quest for international recognition has not and will not be successful and that there are consequences that need to be paid for their intransigence. They need to know in absolutely no uncertain terms that death will rain down upon them from above if they continue to constitute a threat not only to international security but also to the security and well-being of the people of Afghanistan. The targeting and brutal killing of innocent civilians whom they consider to be traitors who aided the “foreign invaders” needs to end, and the only way that will ever happen is if the Taliban are punished through the use of devastating military force by the US and its NATO allies.

NATO would rather be in the Balkans however.

There is absolutely no chance that NATO will be doing this, considering they didn’t act one year ago when they should have. Instead, they put on an embarrassing display in allowing themselves to prove completely ineffective against a group of misfits who didn’t even have a semblance of having any kind of organized and coordinated leadership at the helm. They still don’t have that.

Instead, NATO will be doing as it always has, intervening in a situation that would be best left to take care of itself on its own, not unlike their other Balkan adventures over the years. Rather than acting to try and fix the problems that it was responsible for creating in Afghanistan to begin with, NATO has decided that it has much better things to do, like setting up the conditions for an all-out global conflict which could end in catastrophe for the human race. The next time mystery missiles start to rain down on people, they could have nuclear warheads, and it won’t really matter who launched them.

Analysis & Observation: Mystery Missiles Raining Down Upon Mullahs

Analysts and observers will no doubt be debating over who could be launching attacks targeting Taliban leadership.

(I had been wanting to do something for some time that would really let me get my foreign policy/international relations geek on, and since I recently decided to break ground on a new project I thought this would be a great time to start another one. This time it will be a weekly (I hope) thing where I will either be writing about a particular subject, or, hopefully, having a discussion in a podcast. So, I present to you the premiere edition of “Analysis & Observation”.)

A pair of loud explosions rocked Kabul at 6:30 AM local time today according to one of my sources in Kabul, who says he heard and felt the blasts while he was the passenger in a car several kilometers away. According to another reliable source, a release put out by the Ministry of the Interior stated that a BM missile had landed in the densely populated area of Sherpor in Kabul at 6:30 AM and that there were no reports of any casualties. My first source tells me that the area the attack took place in was once the home to many senior Afghan government officials, and is now occupied by senior Taliban officials.

He also tells me that according to some of the responses to a story about this in the local media, there were unconfirmed reports of a drone being in the area immediately before the explosions were heard. This is similar to an incident that happened a few months ago after an explosion at a Taliban ammunition depot in which people were claiming to have seen drones in the air prior to the explosions. He tells me that he believes these reports to be “gossips and stomach speech”, so I will definitely be taking these claims with a grain of salt.

The BM-21 Grad is a Soviet truck-mounted 122-mm multiple rocket launcher, developed in the early 1960s. The development of the 122 mm BM-21 Grad divisional-level RSZO took place in the mid-1950s under the guidance of the Splav Scientific Production Concern at Tula. The BM-21 122 mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL) system entered service with the Soviet Army in 1963 to replace the aging 140 mm BM-14 system. The main role of the BM-21 Grad system is to support the division with suppressive fire to counter anti-tank missile, artillery and mortar positions, destroy strong points and eliminate enemy nodes of resistance on the immediate battlefield. (Army Recognition)

The only problem is that the Ministry of the Interior is now under the control of the Taliban, so I view any statements from them as being specious at best. Assuming they are actually on the level this time, there are three possibilities as to who might be responsible for launching these attacks on Taliban targets, since as yet no group has claimed responsibility.

The National Resistance

Formally The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, the rebel group operates out of its stronghold in the Panjshir Valley in the north of the country. It is led by Ahmad Massoud, son of the charismatic Ahmad Shah Massoud, the onetime guerilla commander and Afghan politician who was assassinated in 2001, one week after his 48th birthday and two days before the September 11th attacks rocked the world.

Photo: Wikipedia
Ahmad Massoud, son of Afghanistan’s slain anti-Soviet resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, is seen in Bazarak of Panjshir province in this file photo.(Reuters Photo)

While it is within the realm of possibility that the Northern Resistance could have launched an attack using a BM-21 Grad rocket launcher, likely as not they would have claimed responsibility for the attacks by now. This doesn’t seem to fall into line with their past behaviour.

Flag of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan

Daesh K

The Khorasan franchise of the organization known colloquially in the region as Daesh, otherwise known as ISIS-K, is yet another possible choice.

ISIS members in Aleppo, Syria teach recruits to spread its message through a combination of preaching and violence. (Medyan Dairieh/Corbis)

But Daesh also tends to claim responsibility for their operations in fairly quick order as well, so again it seems unlikely that they would be responsible.

Factional infighting within the Taliban

With Haqqani Network controlling Kabul and Mullah Yaqoob holding the Kandahar, there is concern that the Taliban government may have a pro-Afghan faction of Kandaharis and pro-Pak faction of Haqqanis. Photo: Hindustan Times

The third, and I think the most likely possibility, is that this has been the result of factional infighting within the Taliban. What many people do not realize is that the Taliban are not an organized and cohesive group by any stretch of the imagination. It is made up of a loose association of a number of factions, primarily the Yaqoob and Haqqani factions, so named for their leaders, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob and the late Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Yaqoob and Haqqani factions fight over Taliban government

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/yaqoob-and-haqqani-factions-fight-over-taliban-government-101630474732128.html

Mullah Yaqoob

Afghan Taliban’s acting Minister of Defense Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, January 11, 2022. Photo: Defense ministry/mod.gov.af

The Yaqoob Faction is led by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the one-eyed Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar who died of illness in April 2013.

Mullah Mohammed Omar

Mullah Haqqani

The Haqqani Faction is believed to be led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the late founder of the infamous Haqqani Network, Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Sirajuddin Haqqani

Formed in the late ’70s or early ’80s depending upon the information you read online, the Haqqani Network had a fearsome reputation for executing devastating and brutal attacks that primarily targeted innocent civilians. They constituted the “muscle” of the Taliban and used a number of diabolical methods to terrorize and kill innocent civilians, including the use of suicide bombers.

Jalaluddin Haqqani’s network was known for picking civilian targets. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

In a previous article I called the Taliban “basically a group of Central Asian hillbillies”, and to carry this just a little bit further, the situation would be comparable to a feud among clans as in the case of the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Reports of drone sightings

I was also told that there had been reports of drone sightings prior to this incident today and the other incident that I mentioned earlier. The initial feeling that my contact had was that these claims were started by “people who want to start rumors and stomach speakers”, he then sent me a Facebook post from the former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, which was their version of the CIA once upon a time.

Rahmatullah Nabil, chief of the Afghan National Directorate of Security from 2010-2012

Rahmatullah Nabil has also made claims in online posts that US drones had been spotted over Kabul. I’m not sure how he would know this with any kind of certainty, when you consider the fact that drones are ubiquitous now and no longer strictly the domain of the American military and intelligence communities.

I’m not sure if he is implying that these drones were used as the weapons platforms to carry these attacks out, or if they were used in more of a spotting and observation capacity for artillery or rocket attacks. For me, either of these assertions doesn’t hold any water with me. The reason is that given the current state of US military drone technology, it would be safe to assume that any drone they would use for either observational or strategic purposes would be small enough and operating at a height that would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see unaided.

Afghanistan is something of an intelligence battleground for neighboring countries right now, and some of them also have drones. Iran has drones, Pakistan has drones, Russia has drones, and likely as not so do the Chinese. Any of these alleged drones that Nabil speaks of could just as easily belong to one or possibly more of these other regional stakeholders.

It isn’t easy being king.

Having been in power for almost a year now, the Mullah’s are learning a valuable piece of wisdom that I myself learned while watching Star Trek many years ago. The episode in question is the one where Spock must return to Vulcan to either mate or die, titled “Amok Time”. Near the end, he reproaches his about to be former wife in some words that he speaks to the man who wants to marry the woman himself.

Photo: Star Trek.com

“She is yours”, Spock tells the man named Ston, “however, you may find that over time, having, is not as desirous a thing, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

Now that they have what they have wanted, the Taliban must now face the bitter reality that their hold on power is tenuous, and that they are now being targeted by many, even from within theor own ranks. In as much as I don’t really care who it is that kills them, what I do care about are the innocent civilians who will be the victims of this bloody internal conflict. They will be among the ones to suffer through this, adding further trauma to a population already traumatized by years of violence.

My Five Cents Worth…

War in Ukraine overshadows the plight of those who remain left behind in Afghanistan.

26th February, 2022, Ukraine, Uzhgorod-Vyshne Nemeckoe: Refugees from Ukraine on the border with Slovakia (checkpoint “Uzhgorod-Vyshne Nemeckoe”) in the Zakarpatya regions. — Photo by Fotoreserg

I’m writing this on day 154 of the war in Ukraine, or day 154 of Russia’s “Special Military Operation” as Vladimir Putin prefers to call it. That the conflict has gone on this long has been a surprise to many analysts and observers, and has shown not only the incredible resolve of Ukrainians but also how unbelievably inept Russia has been in its execution of this Special Military Operation.

A disaster created by NATO.

When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February it really came as no surprise to many who years ago knew that something like this would eventually happen, and it is because of NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 by the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and several other Western European nations, as a counter to the eastern bloc’s Warsaw Pact.

By the early 1990s, a dramatic turn of events would see many eastern European countries abandoning communism and on January 1st, 1992, the Soviet Union no longer existed, being replaced by the Russian Federation. For all intents and purposes, from that point on, NATO no longer had a raison d’etre, or so it would seem.

According to the NATO website:

NATO endured because while the Soviet Union was no more, the Alliance’s two other original if unspoken mandates still held: to deter the rise of militant nationalism and to provide the foundation of collective security that would encourage democratisation and political integration in Europe.

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/declassified_139339.htm

Over time, other European nations would join the organization, and soon the buffer zone between NATO and Russia that was once made up of Eastern Bloc countries began to get smaller. Vladimir Vladimirovich is a former KGB officer and was known to have sentimental feelings about the Soviet Union, so it shouldn’t come as any great surprise to anyone that he would view NATO’s incursion eastwards as a potential threat to Russia. If the Ukrainians were to become a member of the alliance, it would mean that NATO forces could be set up right on the Russian border, with no buffer zone of any kind between them. It isn’t unreasonable or irrational for him to act accordingly in the way that he has.

Fear and loathing in Central Asia.

Taliban patrol during a protest by Afghans, outside the building of former US embassy, demanding the US to unfreeze Afghan assets, in Kabul, Afghanistan, 21 December 2021. [EPA-EFE/STRINGER]

A little over a year ago, I co-authored a guest essay with Australian veteran Stuart McCarthy that appeared in the July 10th weekend edition of The Globe and Mail titled “Opinion: By abandoning our Afghan interpreters, we’re leaving them for dead.”. Prior to that, we had been campaigning for almost two months to get this issue front and centre in the Australian and Canadian news media.

The issue would eventually begin to make the headlines internationally, however, it would do little to spur any country into taking the actions that they should have taken in the first place, namely employing the use of military force to protect and evacuate those in Afghanistan who were at risk. Instead, a group of the world’s “most powerful” militaries, which was led by the only apparent “superpower” nowadays, had their collective asses handed to them by what is essentially a gang of Central Asian hillbillies. This was definitely not the proudest moment in NATO’s history, and only a few short months later another catastrophe of their making was making news.

Afghanistan veterans answer pleas for help.

Afghanistan veterans from a number of countries began receiving messages from their former colleagues, usually interpreters, who were in grave danger of being the victims of Taliban retribution. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these former soldiers were contacted around the world, several years after their deployments. For many, it would bring back past traumas and reopen once-healed psychic wounds.

One of these is Canadian veteran Brock Blaszczyk, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. He was 21 years old when he lost his leg to an explosion from an IED made out of an old Soviet landmine, spending several months afterwards in rehabilitation.

Afghanistan veteran Brock Blaszczyk

But it wasn’t until February of 2018 that Blaszczyk would become a hero to many Canadians, though for a different reason. It was during a federal election campaign, and a town hall was being held in Edmonton by Liberal candidate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Blaszczyk stood and took Trudeau to task over his government’s treatment of veterans and the very controversial $10.5 Million payout to Omar Khadr. A seemingly flustered Trudeau would issue a response he would later go on to regret, with the words “veterans are simply asking for more than the government can afford to give”, words which would come back to haunt him repeatedly in the campaign and in the years after.

Now, unbeknownst to many, Blaszczyk is one of those veterans who was contacted by someone in Afghanistan looking for help. I had heard this through the grapevine, and so I got in touch with him to talk about things. I had wanted to reach out to him before but hadn’t, and now this gave me the opportunity to talk to him. I wanted to know how he was holding up through all that had been happening, but I also wanted to talk with someone else who was able to relate to this in a way that so many other people I knew simply couldn’t.

Brock Blaszczyk is very much a hero in the truest sense of the word, as are many other veterans who answered the call for help from afar. They willingly decided to act, knowing that it would mean having to relive some of the nightmares from their past. They were well aware of the fact that there would be a psychological toll to be paid, and that they could possibly end up with a profoundly broken heart as a result. This in my book is very much the definition of a hero.

Taliban treachery.

Kabul City, Afghanistan 08.10.2012: Men climbing on Mini Truck in Evening. People trying to leave town with all kind of vehicles, Kabul, Afghanistan, War, Civil War, Escape, Traffic Jam on the Main Routes out of the city, Bicycles, small truck or horse drawn carts. Credit:FotoGablitz

For months now, the Taliban have been trying to put on its best face for the world’s media in Kabul, and their efforts so far have at best given them a rather homely visage that even their mothers would have a hard time loving.

The mullahs have been desperately seeking international recognition and in an effort to court the world community at large they have embarked on a campaign aimed at rehabilitating their image somewhat. In Kabul for instance, they have scaled back their searches for those who are on their list of people who helped the “foreign invaders”, and aren’t carrying out extrajudicial executions like they were when they first took charge. These activities are now only taking place out in the rural areas of the country. They also made the unprecedented move of appealing for foreign assistance in the wake of last month’s earthquake that killed over 1,100 people in the southeast of the country.

If history has taught us anything however it’s that the Taliban are not to be trusted under any circumstances, having proven time and again that they are unable to live up to any agreements, and are devious and underhanded when dealing with them. They have also demonstrated an absolute contempt for human life and are more often than not cruel and barbaric in the way they deal with their opponents.

This appears to be the case in the dramatic rise in the number of heroin addicts on Kabul’s streets over the last twelve months. According to what Al tells me, about 90% of those who became heroin addicts in that period of time are former members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. In “Kabul Trolleyman”, I wrote that what the Taliban have done is to effectively neutralize any potential future threat these men might pose by getting them hooked on junk and keeping them loaded. They have succeeded in eliminating a potentially existential threat to themselves without having to fire a shot, leaving their victims as nothing more than a tragic backdrop for foreign cameras to shoot.

The man in the red cap is Taliban, and he is there to ensure that nobody else is selling heroin other than those who have been authorized to do so. He has also been known to give out free heroin to those addicts who cannot afford their fix.

With the knowledge that he has obtained in recent days, Al really begins to worry about what kind of future his children will have if he isn’t able to get them out of Afghanistan. One wonders what future any of the children have under the malevolent tyranny of the mullahs and their henchmen.

Let there be none left behind.

If there is one thing that a government bureaucracy does not feel it is loyalty. Loyalty is the reason why many people have tried to help these poor wretched souls in Afghanistan, and it is why they would do it again if they had to. It is a loyalty that was forged in the furnace of combat and was quenched in trust, the trust that is formed when two people rely on each other in order to protect their lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.

It is this ethos that is at the very heart of the belief that nobody gets left behind, and it is what drives so many veterans to act in this instance. I myself have not formed that level of trust with anyone in Afghanistan, I just happen to think that it’s the right thing to do. I made a promise to Al and a number of other people, that I would make sure the world knew about them and that I would tell their stories. A number of other people made promises to the Left Behinds as well, and they intend on holding to those promises, even if Afghanistan is yesterday’s news to the rest of the world and all the attention is being put on Ukraine.

I’m pretty sure that I can speak here for many of the veterans who have given so much of themselves to help their friends in their darkest and most desperate hour. We support the people of the Ukraine who have fled to other countries as refugees and are saddened by the humanitarian tragedy that is still unfolding.

But I also support those fleeing from or who remain trapped in Afghanistan, and I made them a promise. It’s a promise I intend to keep until there are no more left behind.

And that is my five cents worth about that.

Kabul Trolleyman

A former government employee, he now sells produce in the bazaars of Kabul and bears witness to Taliban treachery.

In August of last year, I was busy keeping up with events in Kabul and writing about them in the hopes that it would get people everywhere to put pressure on their governments to help rescue those at risk in the country, in particular the translators and other Locally Employed Civilians who had once worked for NATO/ISAF coalition forces.

About half an hour after hearing that the last flights had departed from Hamid Karzai International Airport, I received a message on social media from someone in Kabul. He was desperately looking to get out of Afghanistan and was seeking my assistance to do so. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a thing that I could do for him at that point, but I promised him that I would do whatever I could to help him.

Al had once worked as an interpreter for the Canadians on the Provincial Reconstruction Teams as a part of ISAF, and as such he was in danger of being killed by the Taliban. Unfortunately, Al had been employed by one of the many shady fly-by-night companies that had been hired by the various coalition countries with troops in Afghanistan, leaving him without the required proof of employment he would need for a Special Immigrant Visa in Canada or elsewhere. He is one of the untold thousands who were left behind by Canada and the numerous other foreign governments that sent troops there.

Nearly one year on, Al and his family remain stuck in Kabul, surviving at first on what savings Al had managed to put away. It eventually ran out after a few months, and Al needed to find some means of providing for his family. Another job in his field was completely out of the question meaning he would have to find something else, only there wasn’t exactly a lot of work to be found in Kabul of any kind. They had already lost the home they had owned and were living in when the Taliban suddenly took over the capital and many residences within it. Now they were living in something that was more ramshackle, but they were at least together. Unless he could find a way to provide for his family, they would have to part ways, his wife and kids moving in with her brother, and Al on his own somewhere, not knowing whether his family would ever be together again. Never again seeing his children, whom he refers to as his jewels, is what he fears the most. Ultimately, he would do what many other entrepreneurial Afghan men have done and go into business for himself selling goods from a cart at the local bazaars, and on occasion, at the side of the road. 

Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, thousands of men across Kabul load up their wheeled trolleys and head to one of the capital’s many open-air markets, where they sell almost anything that one might find in a western department store, and probably more than a few things that you most definitely would not find in one. There are even Trolleymen who sell hot or cold drinks and as well as packs of cigarettes in a variety of brands like Seven Stars and Mild88s from Japan, as well as Marlboro and other American brands. They even sell the cheaper locally made cigarettes, that that you really can’t be sure don’t contain any cow manure that isn’t listed on the ingredients. It’s mostly these Trolleymen that work the overnight hours, sometimes in a bazaar, sometimes along the side of a road, like pop-up convenience stores. 

A vendor sells cold drinks and cigarettes in a Kabul bazaar.

No matter what country you are in, going into business for yourself, assuming you’re allowed to in the first place, can be a risky proposition. This is especially the case in those countries where haggling over the price is a part of the culture, something we in the West aren’t all that familiar with since the price is the price whenever we go shopping. Businesses that operate this way are extremely sensitive to the pressures of supply and demand, as the retail prices that they can sell their merchandise for are driven directly by the demand in the market in which they are selling. If demand should unexpectedly tank in a particular marketplace, it can mean immediate ruination for some of these Trolleymen. 

A vendor sells bolani, a popular Afghan offering of stuffed flatbread.

The alarm on Al’s phone wakes him at 5AM, and he gets out of bed trying not to wake up his sleeping wife. His kids are still asleep at this early hour as he heads to the kitchen to make himself a breakfast consisting of a cup of tea and a toffee before he heads out the door to work. He makes his way to retrieve his trolley from where he keeps it near the market where he will buy the produce that he will sell that day. It can change from one day to another, okra one day and peaches the next, it all depends on what is available and what the prices are like.  

I ask him where the fruits and vegetables that he sells come from, expecting that some might come from abroad and I’m surprised when he tells me that it all comes from within Afghanistan. They can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables because of the different growing climates within the country without having to rely on imports from other countries. This means that people can enjoy cherries, peaches, and other seasonal fruits along with things like okra, cucumber, and potatoes. Once he arrives at the market, he will then know what he will have available for him to sell that day.  

Afghanistan’s chief export is produce with Pakistan being one of its largest importers, as the country can grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in its various climate zones. Vegetables such as potato, onion, carrot, tomato, pepper, okra, cucumber, cauliflower, pumpkin, and eggplant are staples of the bazaars, and apricots, apples, cherries, melons, and grapes are among the many fruits that Afghanistan has to offer. Al tells me that he makes better money selling fruit than he does when he sells vegetables. The margins are considerably better, meaning that he can make more money selling a smaller amount of fruit as compared to vegetables.  

He bought his trolley in March, paying 4,600AFG (about $50USD) for a used cart with new ones going for around 6,000AFG (about $65USD). They will typically weigh a few hundred pounds and even on wheels moving them for any kind of distance can prove to be a workout. Add say another 50 or 60 Kilograms or more in merchandise onto it, and Al really starts feeling the burn as he navigates his way through the streets of Kabul to the places that he frequently sells from. The oppressive daytime heat of Kabul in the summer is also a huge drain on his energy and he needs to be sure to carry several litres of water along in order to keep himself hydrated. On many of the hottest days, he will wait until after 5 o’clock in the afternoon to head to the bazaar, as the day begins to cool down some. 

 

Al usually puts in a six-day work week, he typically takes a day off in order to spend time with his family. He has a son in elementary school, so he spends some time helping with homework lessons. When he is able, Al takes his wife and kids out for a picnic lunch, a special treat whenever he has been able to earn enough money in the bazaar. Some days are busy, and then there are others that are absolutely abysmal, days he says when children are the only ones who are coming out to buy anything. With 60 KGs of okra on his trolley to unload, a day like this could see him dropping his prices early and often, hoping that he might at least be able to break even. On average he says that he makes between 250AFG and 300AFG per day, or about $3USD. It doesn’t sound like very much, and it really isn’t, but it’s just enough for him to squeak by every month. It covers the rent on the small two-bedroom house they live in, which sustained some minor damage during last month’s major earthquake.   

It wasn’t very long after that temblor however that Taliban officials began going through the bazaars in order to levy a new municipal tax on the Trolleymen. They were imposing a fee of 50 Afghanis per stall per day from all the Trolleymen selling goods in the bazaars, or roughly $0.50USD. There were some who resisted and refused to pay, so the Taliban dealt with them by beating the crap out of the poor merchant and throwing them and their trolley’s out of the bazaar and onto the street. 

I then had to explain to Al what a “shakedown” was, showing him the similarities between paying the “municipal levy” to the Taliban and the way some business owners in the United States pay members of organized crime “protection” money. He agreed that my word was by far better suited to the situation. A few days after this he informs me that the Taliban have amended the formula for calculating how much they would be ripping off each Trolleyman. Instead of a flat fee, the amount payable would now vary according to the size of each trolley. The rate would be set at 100AFG per square meter of trolley.     

Based on the size of his trolley, Al was having to pay over 150 Afghanis per day to sell in the bazaar, and other Trolleymen were seeing similar increases. This would effectively wipe out most of what he takes in daily, leaving him with very little left over to support his family, and he wouldn’t be alone. Thousands of Trolleymen across Kabul risked holding a demonstration, in response to the massive increases on a tax that had been thrust upon them with no warning. The Trolleymen were successful in putting some pressure on the authorities, thanks to some local and international media coverage of the demonstration, seeing the amount of the tax lowered slightly. Having said that, Al is still paying more than twice the original rate of 50 Afghanis per day.  

Using numbers that Al has provided me as to the approximate number of trolleys in his district and multiplying that number by the number of districts in Kabul (twenty-two), I calculated that the Taliban were collecting tax equivalent to somewhere between $17,500(USD) and $20,000(USD) per day from the Trolleymen. He’s beyond angry and frustrated, having to give so much of what he earns to the people he considers murderers and butchers, but he has very little choice in the matter right now. He explains to me how it all works, and it sounds like Al and many other Trolleymen are getting the dirty end of the stick. 

There are those Trolleymen who are known as “stake holders”, the ones who have been in the bazaars for some time and make the highest sales, typically earning 1,000 Afghanis per day at an absolute minimum. These vendors have established preferential spots in the bazaars, and they also pay taxes at a much better rate than others. Then, there are the guys like Al, who haven’t reached that level, or even come anywhere near it. They end up paying a bigger proportion of their earnings, and the idea of making at least 1,000 Afghanis per day is but a dream.  

Sweets for sale in a Kabul bazaar.

Alternately, they can set up shop on the side of the road somewhere and pay no taxes, however, they will also make far fewer sales than they would in a bazaar. He also points out to me that there are “official” hours of business in the bazaars, those hours being 8AM to 4PM daily, which tend to be the busiest hours of the day. What this means is that there will be Taliban officials on hand during those times who are there to collect the levy from the Trolleymen. Many vendors simply wait until later in the day, 5PM and after, to set up in the bazaar, but this draws the ire of many of the more seasoned veterans who abide by the “official” hours. 

 

Every day, beggars come to him asking for handouts, the vast majority of them being drug addicts. Initially, I found this surprising, but then after some consideration, I figured that it shouldn’t have been a great surprise at all. Afghanistan is after all the supplier of much of the world’s heroin, and the Taliban have done nothing to put a stop to it. In fact, they seem to be rather flexible in their enforcement of Islamic law, ignoring it completely whenever it is convenient for them, which are usually those instances where they could be making a lot of money from illicit activities.  

He tells me that there have always been heroin addicts wandering the streets of Kabul, but their numbers increased dramatically over the last year. Many are what Al calls “new” addicts, ones whose addictions began over that same period, and they consist primarily of former Afghan National Army troops and former Afghan Federal Police officers. The Taliban seem quite content to leave these men to die on the streets while taking their money and providing them with the poison that will ultimately kill them. Al isn’t sure how much heroin goes for on the streets, but he’s sure it couldn’t be very much considering its availability. 

Heroin addicts huddled together on a Kabul street.
Many of these addicts were once in the Afghan National Army or with the Afghan National Police.
The man in the red cap is Taliban, and he is there to ensure that nobody else is selling heroin other than those who have been authorized to do so. He has also been known to give out free heroin to those addicts who cannot afford their fix.
An “authorized” heroin dealer conducting business.

This is the plight of perhaps hundreds of thousands of other Trollymen in Kabul and in the other cities, towns, and villages of Afghanistan. I hate that this man I now call a friend and brother must live like this, and it serves to motivate me to do what I have to do in order to get him and his family over here. It is a story that the world needs to hear because there are so few stories to come out of Afghanistan that tell of the everyday lives of the people who live there. The world needs to know about the daily struggles that the average family in Afghanistan now faces under Taliban rule.

I also thought that the world needed to hear about how the Taliban are using heroin not only as a means of generating revenue, but also to effectively neutralize any potential future threats to itself from former members of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and done so without the need to fire a shot. The Taliban will not be subject to international backlash as would happen if they were to summarily shoot and butcher thousands of men. Instead, these poor souls will be considered just another tragic image among the many others that are to be seen in the stories and reports published by the international media.

My Five Cents Worth…..

ON TARGET: THE DEMISE OF SOLDIERING IN CANADA?

http://espritdecorps.ca/on-target-4/on-target-the-demise-of-soldiering-in-canada?fbclid=IwAR3eX5H_iYIB8eoVqqzpdQ3uJFe_8eVTW6nXda4QFUDU5lZXvQ8IvN2dlRA

When the Government of Canada decided to do away with the penny about a decade ago, it also did away with the phrase “Putting in my two cents” as a means of expressing one’s opinion, leaving the nickel as the next available alternative. Hence, I have decided to start a new regular (or at least somewhat regular) opinion piece that I am calling “My Five Cents Worth…”.

I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while now, and so I thought that I might take a page from Scott Taylor’s book and try something a little different, as he has done lately with his On Target videos now on YouTube and articles in Esprit de Corps. Since I seem to have an opinion on most of what Scott has to say, I figured that I would use this new space to add my voice to the fray.

I will begin then, with the July 11th article, “The Demise of Soldiering in Canada?”, because the subject matter has succeeded in angrying up the blood of a good many veterans, and a LOT of them have something to say about it.

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes!

It all started on July 5th, when the Government of Canada unveiled the “Changes to the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions” which had the subheading “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Changes to the Canadian Forces Dress Instructions” Upon reading the document I was left wondering if ANYBODY had even asked ANY of these questions a single time.

Now, I should put some things into context here before I go any further. I’m what you might call “old school”, though not as old school as Taylor. I entered CF reserve basic training in 1987, five years after he joined the regular force, and more or less at the beginning of the “human rights” era of the Canadian Forces. I seem to remember that at least once a day one of our instructors would go on about how we now had “human rights” and as such, they were prohibited from doling out to us the punishments we so richly deserved. I had heard stories from old-timers who told of beatings with swagger sticks or the occasional smack to the teeth as a means of enforcing unit discipline and cohesion. Suppose we were lucky enough to be dodging that bullet.

Company Photo SYEP ’87 BMT/GMT Course. I’m third from the left, second row from the top.

It would still mean having to comply with the regs on dress and deportment, and both male and female soldiers would have to abide by the orders that were set out with regards to the length of our hair and how much facial hair we were allowed to have. Sure, there were some obvious safety reasons for many of these, but we also understood that these regulations were put in place as a means of ensuring that we would obey the orders that we were given, as we were given them. Obeying an order could mean the difference between living or dying in a combat situation.

One of the most important things that I think it helped to instil in us was a sense of team. Something that was constantly being pounded into our heads, metaphorically speaking, was that this was not the place to have individuals, and there was absolutely ZERO room for individuals in my platoon or the other two that were in our company. Jerry Gilligan was a platoon warrant in the company, and I’m fairly certain that his ticker would explode in the middle of the parade square upon seeing the sight of an entire company full of nothing but individuals. He would have completely lost his shit and probably turned around and walked out, never to return. I know I’d probably be doing that.

An iconic movie helped build team cohesion

About a week before the course began, Stanley Kubrick’s summer blockbuster “Full Metal Jacket” made its theatre debut. For the instructors and officers who were there to turn us into soldiers, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only would it be bringing out the gung-ho in a bunch of young men with testosterone to spare, but it would also prove to be an excellent team builder, as recruits from different platoons in the company would get to bond at the movie theatre.

It’s all in the Details

There’s a section right at the end that is called “Details”, which is apparently the section that contains the aforementioned frequently asked questions.

Will recruits need to shave their head on (sic) basic training?

No, the updated hair policy applies to all CAF members from recruitment to retirement.

So the answer is no, recruits will not have to shave their heads DURING basic training. Okay so someone didn’t run this through Grammarly first apparently.

Is there a maximum length for hair?

No, there are no restrictions on the length of hair. However, during  parade and ceremony long hair must be tied when extending below the top/ridge of the shoulder or that extends below the service dress collar for ceremonial occasion. It must not prevent the proper wear of headdress and must not impede the visibility of the member’s face. Safety and operational requirements shall be met.

Clear as mud.

What types of braids are considered acceptable?

Any style braid(s) may be worn, as long as it remains in line with safety and operational requirements. Hair must be tied to ensure the headdress can be worn properly and the face is visible. A bun, braids, or ponytail are examples of appropriate ways to tie the hair.

Okay, so back when I was in reserve basic in ’87, I had a Master Corporal who would jump all over my ass if my hair was a millimetre longer than he liked it. I can just picture Ed Capulong’s head about exploding in today’s Canadian Forces.

Are tattoos on the face permitted? And what is considered the face?

The face is the front part of the head that extends from the forehead to the chin and from the anterior part of one ear to the other. Tattoos are permitted on the face as long as they conform to the regulations outlined in Section 2 – Appearance. “Tattoos that the member knows, or ought to know, are associated with criminal activities (e.g. criminal gangs), tattoos that promote and/or express, on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), the following: hatred, violence, discrimination, or harassment: and tattoos that a CAF member knows, or ought to know, promote and/or express: racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism, or sexual explicit material” are not permitted.

Did anyone else read this and right away picture “Harry, the Guy With A Snake On His Face” on a parade square?

Can CAF members with eye lash extensions be ordered to have them removed?

Yes, if they affect operational duties, as in the case of wearing night-vision goggles (NVGs).

Would this happen often?

Are CAF members permitted to have long fingernails in uniform?

Yes, long fingernails are permitted so long as they do not impede the member’s ability to perform their duties. An example of this is being unable to do weapons drills due to long fingernails. Safety and operational requirements must always be met.

Why no follow-up question with regards to the colour of said nails? Would it have to coordinate with the uniform of the day? Do they even make “Goose-shit Green” nail polish?

Are CAF members required to wear gloves at all times while wearing a toque?

No, gloves do not need to be worn when the toque is worn or vice versa. The toque is authorized as alternative winter headdress and can be worn with all orders of dress.

Okay, what? We’re seriously paying money for someone to come up with this?

Changing values dictate changing styles

Throughout history, the Canadian military has indeed reflected the values of society at large.

When viewed through the prism of 2022 hindsight, those values do not always stand the test of time.

Scott Taylor – The Demise of Soldiering in Canada

As Taylor sees it, our society’s changing values are at the heart of this decision, and he isn’t wrong on this point. He provides as an example the challenges faced by Black Canadians who wanted to volunteer to fight during the War of 1914-18. As a means of accommodating these men, they were placed in the segregated No. 2 Construction Battalion and were only ever tasked with performing menial labour under the watch of white officers. This would warrant an official apology to the descendants of these men nearly one hundred years later. I wonder who Little Potato sent to cry in his place for that one?

More than just about values

I myself see it a little bit differently. Yes, the shift in societal values over the last generation has led to the need for employers in every sector to change with the times, and some have resorted to changing the workplace culture in order to be able to attract new employees. The military has followed along with other employers in this regard.

However, what if there are things about the workplace culture that simply can’t be fixed using cosmetic means? What young person in Canada would seriously give any kind of consideration to a career in the Canadian Armed Forces given the untold scandals involving sexual assault and abuse, or soldiers being sent out on deployments without the proper equipment, or veterans being unable to count on a system that should be there to look after them in their time of need.

Unless and until the Canadian Forces can manage to get its collective shit together, and very quickly, it will continue to see ever dwindling recruitment numbers. The brain trust within DND Headquarters in Ottawa hasn’t seemed to learn that you can put lipstick, and nail polish on a pig, and maybe braid its hair, but…well you know.

And now you’ve heard my five cents worth about that.

2022 EDITION OF THE CANADIAN WALK FOR VETERANS DEDICATED TO INTERPRETERS

Standing Shoulder to Shoulder.

https://canadianwalkforveterans.com/

Last weekend I registered for this year’s annual Canadian Walk for Veterans which is going to be held on the weekend of September 24th & 25th. Since I missed last year’s edition, I figured I’d pay for two registrations this year, and so my cousin will be joining me.

A year ago at this time, I was busy writing about the situation facing interpreters in Afghanistan and I would ultimately end up being involved in efforts to try and rescue some of those who were trapped there and in grave danger. It’s something that I continue to work on to this day, and it is an issue that is of significant importance to me to this day.

So I must admit that I got a little emotional when I saw that the goal of this year’s Canadian Walk for Veterans was to “raise awareness of the plight of translators, interpreters, cultural advisors and other locally employed people who were essential to Canada’s missions in conflicts throughout the world such as the Balkans, Somalia, Rwanda and Afghanistan.”. In addition, a major portion of this year’s net proceeds will be allocated to the True Patriot Love Afghan Resettlement Fund.

There will be Walks held in a number of locations across the country again this year, though you can always participate virtually if there isn’t one in your community. Visit the website for all the details, or check out the Canadian Walk for Veterans Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/canwalk4vets/videos/1036458010375293/

Shemaghs of Solidarity

Last year a veteran by the name of Dave Morrow decided to show support for Afghan interpreters by starting something he called “Shemaghs of Solidarity”. Also known as a “keffiyeh”, a shemagh is a type of scarf that is used as a means of protecting one’s face and neck from sun, wind, and sand and is commonly worn in the Middle East and Central Asia. They can be found for sale online or at your nearest army surplus store for around $20, which is what I paid for one last year from a surplus store. If you’re wondering how they are worn like I was then, there are a number of helpful videos to be found on YouTube that will show you.

I have worn it as often as possible in the time that I’ve had it, to serve as a reminder to me that there are still people over there who are in need of help. It has also proven to be another way of raising awareness as I have received a number of compliments on my “scarf”. This will often lead to a discussion about what it is and what it represents, thus providing an excellent opportunity to spread the word about what is going on, so I plan on wearing it on this year’s walk.

You are NOT required to wear a shemagh in order to participate in the Walk, however, if you do have an extra $20 to spare it’s an awesome way to show

This year’s coin

As in previous Walks, everyone who registers for this year’s will receive a commemorative Challenge Coin made by Drack’s Military Plaques, another outstanding Canadian business that is owned by veterans. I had tears welling up in my eyes as soon as I saw this year’s Challenge Coin, displaying a Canadian soldier standing shoulder to shoulder with an interpreter, and the words Leave No One Behind on the other side.

For anyone who pays the $25 registration fee before September 10th, you will receive your coin at the event. For those registering after September 10th, or who will be participating virtually, you will receive your coin via mail.

https://canadianwalkforveterans.com/register/

Calgary

This year I will be in Calgary, where the Walk takes place on Saturday, September 24th, along the South Glenmore Park Pathway, 8414 24th St. SW. Registration starts at 9AM with the walk starting at 9:30AM and ending at 12:30PM. I’m hoping to be able to see some of my fellow Calgarians out there.

The Government of Australia Needs to Pull Its Support for the Prosecution of David McBride

Don’t punish McBride for doing what was required of him by law and canon of ethics.

It has been over a year since I last wrote about Australian whistleblower Maj. (Ret.) David McBride and there are some important updates to his case to report. 

June 2019

It was in June of 2019 that I posted my first article about McBride, not long after hearing about a raid conducted by the Australian Federal Police at the headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The AFP was searching for classified documents that had been leaked to them by McBride that pertained to a story ABC was doing about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, war crimes it was said were committed by members of the Australian Special Air Service (SAS).  

Although the documents he had leaked to ABC pertained to these alleged war crimes, the reason that McBride leaked them in the first place was that they also revealed potential criminal activity on the part of members of the Australian government of the day, as well as by senior members of the Australian Defense Forces. Prior to leaking the documents, McBride had presented his case and the evidence to every level of law enforcement, only to be told that despite having the proof, there would be no charges forthcoming. On more than one occasion he was told “What do you want us to do mate, you can’t just charge the government.”

Having run out of whatever legal options were available to him, McBride then decided that he had no alternative but to turn over what he had found to the press. It is important to note that, under the law and according to his professional code of ethics, McBride was obliged to report what he had found, although I believe that he would have done so anyway. It was simply the right thing to do. The article was mentioned in a Tweet by well-known Australian investigative journalist Ross Coulthart shortly after I published it. 

The government brought several charges against McBride including the theft of classified material and because of this, all or part of his trial would have to be held in secret. He was potentially looking at spending the rest of his life in prison, and he initially had to defend himself because there aren’t a great many defence attorneys in Australia who have Top Secret level clearance. Any who did were not going to come cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but a successful Go-FundMe campaign would later allow him to retain the high-priced help that he was going to desperately need. 

The issue that is really at the heart of this matter, and an integral part of McBride’s defence, is simply this; when is a secret not a secret? Governments everywhere have it within their power to decide what is a secret and what isn’t a secret, but this doesn’t mean that they have carte blanche to classify anything they want as being secret. Naturally, any information that relates directly to the national security of a country could be classified as being secret and as such, it should not be divulged. However, in countries like Australia and several others, any information that might only prove to be an embarrassment for the government, or be evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing, cannot be classified as being secret. As such it should be open to public scrutiny and not subject to public (or secret) prosecution. 

November 2020

The last article I published about this case was on November 21st of 2020 when I wrote: “Brereton Findings Exonerate Aussie Whistleblower David McBride”. It was written shortly after the release of the Brereton Report, which contained the findings of the inquiry headed up by Major General Paul Brereton. Its task was to investigate allegations of war crimes and atrocities being committed by ADF personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. The contents of the final report would be an absolute bombshell, as it revealed evidence of at least 39 murders attributable to Australian Special Forces personnel, and of an effort on the part of some ADF senior commanders to cover this up. 

Prominent among these was an Australian SAS soldier named Ben Roberts-Smith, who in 2011 won the Victoria Cross for actions and conduct that were unlawful. At the time of this writing, a lawsuit is being heard in an Australian court to determine whether Roberts-Smith was defamed by several news outlets as he is alleging. It is important to note that none of the allegations against Ben Roberts-Smith have been proven in a competent court of law, and as such, they remain allegations.  

The pieces to this mysterious puzzle had finally started to fall into place, and I now had a much better idea about what exactly had been going on. McBride could never reveal any of the details because they were classified, but those things he was able to say began to make more sense to me. The long and short of it is this; among other things, he had found evidence that Roberts-Smith had committed war crimes and that a cover-up had been taking place within the highest levels of the ADF as well as the contemporaneous Australian government, with at least one senior minister being implicated. THIS was why they wanted McBride, he had the goods on them, and he was going to spill the tea, all of it, leaving a lot of people stained. They simply could not have that. 

Regime change

Since that time McBride has continued to languish in limbo with a legal Sword of Damocles hanging over his head, which has taken its toll on the single father of two daughters. That he has managed to get to this point without completely cracking under the pressure is a testament to his inner strength and the support that he has received from across Australia and overseas. 

There have also been some developments in that time which may bode well for McBride. A general election was held in Australia which saw Scott “ScoMo” Morrison’s Liberal government fall to the Australian Labor Party led by new PM Anthony Albanese. It was under Morrison’s watch that charges were brought against McBride. Then, last week, an article published by the BBCs Tiffanie Turnbull reported that Attorney General Mark Dreyfus was withdrawing government support for the prosecution of lawyer Bernard Collaery. This might seem to leave the door open for the possibility that this could also happen in the matter of David McBride. 

Bernard Collaery: The spy case that ignited an Australian secrecy row

Bernard Collaery

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61836078

Ms. Turnbull does a fantastic job of breaking down and analyzing what is a very complex and extremely important issue, making it understandable and meaningful for laypeople both in Australia and abroad. For the sake of expediency, I will provide the broad strokes of the story, the Cliff Notes version if you will.

It starts in 2004, when Australia was in negotiations with its neighbour, the tiny and impoverished nation of East Timor, over lucrative oil and gas reserves. In order to gain the upper hand in the negotiations, the Australian government of the day bugged the offices of the government of East Timor. The Australians would go on to get themselves a very good deal as a result.

Then, in 2012, the government of East Timor found out what the Australians had done. It then went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, in an effort to put pressure on the Australians to reopen negotiations. The East Timorese would have a pretty solid argument that the Australians were definitely not negotiating in good faith at the time and as such stood a good chance of winning. The Australian government of the day accused Collaery and his client, a spy known only as “Witness K”, of leaking the information to East Timor and, in 2013 the Australian Federal Police raided Collaery’s law practice and seized a legal brief that he was preparing on behalf of the East Timorese government, whom he was representing at The Hague. This despite the fact that the brief was the subject of legal privilege.

In 2017 a new attorney general, Christian Porter, would sign a new agreement with East Timor, one that had been fairly negotiated. A short while later, Porter would give the go-ahead for charges to be laid against Collaery and his other client Witness K. Collaery was charged with conspiracy to reveal classified information and share it with journalists, charges that he would decide to fight. Witness K was charged with a single offence that he would plead guilty to in 2021, thus avoiding any jail time.

Collaery would spend the next four years in legal limbo, until last week that is when the newest Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, announced that the government would no longer support the prosecution of Collaery and would say that he had given “regard to our national security, our national interest and the administration of justice”.

McBride reaction

After I had finished reading the article, I sent a link to David McBride and asked him if he would care to comment on it. A short time later he sent me this reply:

The facts of my case are well known. If the AG goes ahead anyway, it suggests he is really trying to make an example against doing the right thing. If instead the judge finds my actions were in fact correct, then the AG should immediatey resign and I should be paid compensation. It’s not as if he was unaware of the either the facts or the law. There should be consequences for him if he gets it wrong. He is after all playing with my life and that of my family.

David McBride

Send the Attorney General a message

I have sent a media request to the Office of the Attorney General, to ask the AG if he is also considering withdrawing support for the prosecution of David McBride. I will be publishing any response I receive from them as soon as I get one.

If anyone should want to send AG Dreyfus a message asking him to also withdraw his support for the prosecution of David McBride, you can do so by clicking the link below.

https://www.ag.gov.au/about-us/connect-us/contact-us

I am asking anyone in Australia or around the world who supports McBride and other whistleblowers to send a message to the Albanese government. If they are really and truly serious about doing what is right, then they must continue to act with the same courage of conviction they demonstrated when they dropped their support of the Collaery prosecution.

Paul Miller To Provide An Update on the Canadian Mass Tort This Fall at The Veteran’s Mefloquine Rally in Saskatoon

Weekend of September 17th & 18th, 2022, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Hello to all, I hope everyone is having a good start to their summer. I have been told that Paul Miller is scheduled to be speaking at the 6th Annual Veterans Mefloquine Rally in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, happening the weekend of September 17-18, 2022. Once we are closer to the date I will be able to confirm with further details. For the many of you who have been waiting patiently over the last several months, there is hope that there will be some word on the status of the case soon.

I thank all of you for your ongoing continued patience and understanding as this matter makes its way through Canada’s legal system.

Derek

SCOTT TAYLOR IS ON TARGET WITH NEW PLATFORM FOR ESPRIT de CORPS

Offering his insightful analysis of defence and security issues to viewers on YouTube.

I was pleased to get a message recently from Scott Taylor, the founder and publisher of Canada’s premier military affairs periodical, Esprit de Corps magazine. I have a lot of time for Scott, although there are at least a few people out there who probably wouldn’t give Scott the time of day. Given that we run in similar circles in so far as veterans go, I have met some of those who like him and some of those who don’t, though I don’t hold anyone’s opinions against them.

Esprit de Corps magazine has been around since 1988, near as long as I can remember, and I have relied on it for news and information about the Canadian Forces and the DND over the years. It’s become a reliable and trusted source for me.

Well, Scott decided that he wanted to try something new this year, so he started a YouTube channel for Esprit de Corps and is now offering his thoughtful and unbiased analysis of the issues in video format. Just like he does in his written articles and media interviews, Taylor will now be telling you just what he thinks about what’s happening in Canada and around the world in a regular series of videos that will be around 5 minutes in length.

Some of you reading this who are from Canada and of a particular age might be familiar with the name Gwynne Dyer. He’s an accomplished author, columnist, freelance journalist, and lecturer in international affairs among a number of other things. Back in the mid ’80’s Dyer released his first television documentary series, the seven-part “War” which received critical acclaim and had an episode nominated for an Academy Award. The series was shown on the CBC, which apart from Hockey Night in Canada and a sketch comedy show by The Frantics called 4 on the Floor, was about the only thing worth watching on the network. I have followed his work over the years because I like and respect his analysis.

Much in the same way, I would tune in to the Communist Broadcasting Corporation in order to watch something that Scott Taylor had put together. Fortunately, I don’t have to do that because he’s on YouTube.

So, whether you like him or you don’t, Scott Taylor’s always worth a listen and I hope you’ll join me in tuning in.