Afghanistan Mazar-e Sharif Attack: US-Backed Regime Suffers Another Setback

April 25, 2017 (Ulson Gunnar - NEO) - It was just recently that the United States deployed its GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon against alleged tunnels belonging to the Islamic State terrorist organization in Afghanistan. The strike was meant to project US strength amid an increasingly challenged and contracting "international order."

However, striking a terrorist organization's tunnel complex in a country the organization did not even exist in until after the US established a presence there over 16 years ago, does not seem to project "strength" at all, but rather weakness, or perhaps even conspiracy.

The growing complexity of the Afghan conflict and America's mired presence there also fails to project the sort of "strength" Washington appears intent on demonstrating worldwide.

And if the use of a GBU-43/B weapon was meant to project "strength" to America's enemies, the message failed to reach Afghanistan's Taliban, who has consistently challenged, confounded and even reversed American objectives in the Central Asian state for over a decade and a half.

Over 100 Afghan soldiers have recently perished in an attack allegedly carried out by the Taliban, following the wake of the GBU-43/B's deployment. The BBC in an article titled, "Afghan casualties in Taliban Mazar-e Sharif attack pass 100," would report:
More than 100 Afghan soldiers were killed or wounded in a Taliban attack on an army base on Friday, the defence ministry has confirmed. 

Fighting lasted for several hours near the city of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Balkh province.
The BBC would also report that:
The raid shows the Taliban can plan and carry out complex attacks. The militants said four of the attackers had served as soldiers for a long time and had knowledge of every corner of the base.
The BBC would also note that the Taliban have made much more significant gains elsewhere, including taking back an entire district:
Also in March the Taliban said they had captured the crucial south Afghan district of Sangin after a year-long battle. 
The attack along with other activities of the Taliban, then, bears the hallmarks of a deeply rooted resistance against both the US occupation and the US-backed regime and the military forces propped up to protect it both in Kabul and across the country. That the base targeted by the recent attack also reportedly garrisoned German troops is also significant. The prospect of ending such attacks or securing any sort of "victory" over the Taliban and the local tribes allied to it is as unlikely now as a US victory was in Vietnam during the 1970's.

Efforts to "rebuild" Afghanistan have suffered from a lack of genuine participation and shared vision from among the Afghans working with foreign contractors. In turn, foreign contractors seek to fulfill their contracts and spend their money back home, clearly indifferent to whether or not their efforts "transform" Afghanistan into the ideal client state Washington envisions. Corruption both among local Afghans participating in the US-backed regime, and the contractors charged with working beside them has grown to a pandemic. Record amounts of money have been lost with little "on the ground" to show for it.

With the very heart of US efforts undermined by America's own self-serving drive for power and wealth, and with the Taliban weathering America's longest war in its history and still carrying out "complex attacks" and taking back entire districts, America and its client regime face what is clearly an insurmountable battle against a determined, indigenous enemy.

Compounding this is the fact that Afghanistan's neighbors (those nations actually sharing a border with Afghanistan, unlike the US), are determined to broker peace deals within the country between various groups for the sake of internal and regional stability. By doing so, the Taliban have been able to work toward achieving a certain degree of political legitimacy both within Afghanistan, and more importantly, beyond its borders, securing them bases of support beyond America's and its client regime's ability to strike, all but ensuring perpetual resistance.

The real question is; how many lives more will be spent, both among Afghanistan's US-trained security forces and the US-led coalition forces supporting them, and the civilian population subjected to attacks from US drones, Western warplanes and the largest non-nuclear weapon in America's arsenal until the US accepts it is once again fighting (and losing) another "Vietnam War?"

Also worth asking is; why the so-called "international community," and in particular, the United Nations, remains indifferent to America's occupation of Afghanistan and its 16 years of warfare there, or the US coalition devastation of Yemen, and instead, so focused on obstructing Syria's efforts to restore order and security within its borders?

The US-led "international order" is suffering serious setbacks, increasing resistance from alternative centers of global power and appears increasingly unstable. But an "international order" indifferent to both human life and global stability most likely should be undermined and dismantled, and with all possible expediency.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.    

Thailand: Crushing Localism Threatens National, Regional Stability

April 22, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - Street vendors of all kinds are facing a complete ban of their livelihood across Bangkok, the capital of Southeast Asia's Thailand. While it may appear to be a minor move falling in line with many other nations within the "developed world," the significance of it both to Bangkok, Thailand, and the rest of Asia in socioeconomic terms is indeed, major.

Just like the "developed" nations the new ban seeks to emulate, it is driven not by a genuine desire to clear sidewalks, beautify the city, or enhance consumer health and safety.

Cui Bono? Not for Safety or Health

Instead, it is driven by larger corporations both foreign and domestic, and in particular, agricultural giant Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) which is connected to the massive and ever-expanding network of 7-Eleven convenience stores and Lotus retailers dotting every corner and crevice in both Bangkok and beyond.

The ban is in fact another salvo fired by special interests at Thailand's considerable "informal economy." Bloomberg in its article, "Thailand's Unemployment Rate is a Ridiculously Low 0.6%. Here's Why," would report that:
The informal sector of the Thai economy, comprising anyone who's not covered by formal work arrangements, accounted for more than 64 percent of the total workforce in 2013. It includes street vendors and taxi-motorbike drivers, the self-employed and those operating in gray areas of the economy. They are largely counted as employed.
And as technology further empowers the self-employed and is already disrupting economic monopolies in the "developed world,"  such trends in a nation like Thailand with a sizable informal economy already stand to transform Bangkok into a regional, even global "grey market capital" and model for economic alternatives, start-ups, and other disruptive economic models springing up elsewhere around the world.

While rational leaders within Thailand's government have seen this as an immense opportunity, investing in start-ups, small businesses, the leveraging of technology to empower independent entrepreneurs, other interests appear threatened by the prospect of an economy shifting decisively in favor of independent business owners who are increasingly able to compete against established monopolies across multiple industries.

While the actual number of users employing disruptive technology to compete against established business monopolies is small at the moment, as solutions are employed into markets, Thailand's substantial informal economy is likely to adopt them as well.

CP Group's Vision for the Future

For CP executives and investors, they envision a monopoly over Thai agriculture, food, beverages, retail, telecom, and other sectors. With the prospect of street vendors being swept from Bangkok's roads, CP's network of convenience stores would remain one of the remaining competitors, open 24 hours a day, and providing all the amenities currently provided for by street vendors.

Afghanistan: Why Did the US Deploy its Largest Non-Nuclear Ordnance?

April 19, 2017 (Ulson Gunnar - NEO) - Sixteen years onward and the US is no closer to its alleged goal of creating a stable Afghanistan free of terrorist organizations using its territory to stage attacks  regionally and globally. Thousands of US troops still remain in Afghanistan, attempting to prop up the disorganized, immensely corrupt regime Washington installed and maintains in the nation's capital of Kabul. Entire provinces of the nation remain under the control of groups opposed to both the regime in Kabul and its American sponsors.  

Furthermore, Afghanistan's neighbors, including Russia, China and Iran, have attempted to broker a peace between Afghanistan's various factions, undermining America's divide and conquer strategy.

More recently, the US announced that it had deployed its largest non-nuclear ordnance in an operation it claims was targeting terrorists of the Islamic State organization.

The New York Times in an article titled, "U.S. Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs’ on ISIS Caves in Afghanistan," claims that:
The United States dropped the “mother of all bombs” — the most powerful conventional bomb in the American arsenal — on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan on Thursday, the Pentagon said, unleashing a weapon so massive that it had to be dropped from the rear of a cargo plane. 

The strike was the first combat use of what is formally named the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast. President Trump has bestowed additional authority on the Pentagon in his first months in office, which the military has argued will help it defeat the Islamic State more speedily. Mr. Trump did not say whether he had personally approved Thursday’s mission.
However, the narrative propagated by both the US media and the government that the US is attempting to "defeat the Islamic State more speedily" is fundamentally flawed.

It was the US, by its own admission, that sought the creation of a "Salafist principality" in eastern Syria, precisely where the Islamic State now resides. It was also admitted by the United States that its closest allies in the Persian Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, constitute state sponsors of the Islamic State.

A genuine effort to defeat the Islamic State would require then, to first identify and eliminate the source of the terrorist organization's funding and fighting capacity. The US has demonstrably failed to do either, and instead continues using the terrorist organization as a pretext to maintain a global military presence to "fight" the group perpetually. Its military presence also coincidentally allows the US to continue confronting and undermining competitors seeking to establish an alternative, multipolar world order.

What Does the use of MOAB Mean for US Foreign Policy? 

At face value, the use of such an immense ordnance by the US so many years after it began its military operations in Afghanistan in 2001, would appear to be a sign of desperation. That sixteen years onward, the US is still mired in combat operations fighting against multiplying terrorist threats including the Islamic State which previously did not exist in Afghanistan, indicates an absolute and total failure of US foreign policy in Central Asia.

US Didn't "Change Priorities" in Syria, It Lost

April 18, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - The United States - according to Western media sources - has shifted priorities in Syria, no longer focusing on regime change aimed at Damascus. 

However, in reality, it is not a shift in priorities, it is recognition that US ambitions in the Middle East have been thoroughly disrupted by Syrian, Russian, and Iranian resolve.

The US must now resort to pursuing secondary courses of action - no less malicious in intent or ultimate outcome than its original plan which has left a region at war since 2011, killed tens of thousands, and displace or otherwise disrupted the lives of millions more.

A Reuters report titled, "U.S. priority on Syria no longer focused on 'getting Assad out': Haley," would claim:
The United States' diplomatic policy on Syria for now is no longer focused on making the war-torn country's president, Bashar al-Assad, leave power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Thursday, in a departure from the Obama administration's initial and public stance on Assad's fate. 

The view of the Trump administration is also at odds with European powers, who insist Assad must step down. The shift drew a strong rebuke from at least two Republican senators.
And while some have taken this recent announcement as "proof" that the White House has made good on its promise to withdraw from American adventurism abroad,  US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley would go on to claim:
Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No. What we are going to focus on is putting the pressure in there so that we can start to make a change in Syria.
That "change in Syria," however is verbatim the partitioning of the nation that began under the previous administration of former US President Barack Obama. It is essentially the secondary objective laid out by corporate-financier funded US policymakers as early as 2012 when initial attempts at lightning-fast regime change failed and the Syrian conflict transformed into a protracted, highly destructive war.

A 2012 Brookings Institution document titled, "Middle East Memo #21: Saving Syria: Assessing Options for Regime Change" (PDF), revealed US policymakers openly declaring their intentions to create "safe havens" stating (emphasis added):
An alternative is for diplomatic efforts to focus first on how to end the violence and how to gain humanitarian access, as is being done under Annan’s leadership. This may lead to the creation of safe-havens and humanitarian corridors, which would have to be backed by limited military power. This would, of course, fall short of U.S. goals for Syria and could preserve Asad in power. From that starting point, however, it is possible that a broad coalition with the appropriate international mandate could add further coercive action to its efforts.

The document would then openly admit that - failing to overthrow the Syrian government - bleeding the nation would be an acceptable alternative, claiming (emphasis added):
The United States might still arm the opposition even knowing they will probably never have sufficient power, on their own, to dislodge the Asad network. Washington might choose to do so simply in the belief that at least providing an oppressed people with some ability to resist their oppressors is better than doing nothing at all, even if the support provided has little chance of turning defeat into victory. Alternatively, the United States might calculate that it is still worthwhile to pin down the Asad regime and bleed it, keeping a regional adversary weak, while avoiding the costs of direct intervention.

Reaffirming US commitment to this 2012 policy is US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. The Guardian's article, "Rex Tillerson says US will set up safe zones for refugees from Isis," notes:
Rex Tillerson has said the United States would set up “interim zones of stability” to help refugees return home in the next phase of the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaida in Syria and Iraq. The US secretary of state did not make clear where these zones were to be set up. He was addressing a meeting of 68 countries and organizations gathered in Washington to discuss accelerating the battle against Isis.
The notion that the US is in Syria to "fight the Islamic State" is a documented absurdity. It was the US and its allies, by their own admission, who sought the creation of a "Salafist principality" in eastern Syria precisely where the Islamic State now exists. The militant proxy maintains an immense fighting capacity possible only through equally immense, multinational state sponsorship - provided by the US and Europe and laundered through their regional allies in the Persian Gulf - primarily Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Syria: Watching the Jordanian Border

April 14, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - While focus regarding the Syrian conflict has shifted almost exclusively to recent US cruise missile strikes, what the strikes are designed to lay the groundwork for holds much larger implications. Particular attention should be focused on US forces operating both within Syrian territory and along Syria's borders.

Normalizing the use of stand-off weapons like cruise missiles makes it easier and more likely that similar attacks will unfold in the near future - particularly if Syria and its allies fail to demonstrate a significant deterrence against future attacks.

The use of stand-off weapons by the United States and the routine use of airstrikes by US allies including Israel within Syrian territory will likely open the door to wider and more direct military intervention against the Syrian government.

Punitive strikes will shift incrementally to a concerted effort to dismantle Syria's fighting capacity, inviting either US proxies to overthrow the Syrian government, or for US forces to do so directly - or likely a combination of both.

Preparing for just such an escalation are not only US forces continuously expanding the scale and scope of their presence in eastern Syria and NATO-member Turkey's forces in northern Syria, but also a US-led proxy army being staged in and operated from, for years now, in Jordan.

Jordan: The Other "Turkey" 

It was from Jordan that a rumored column of US armored vehicles recently entered Syrian territory. CNN, in an article titled, "Coalition and Syrian opposition forces repel ISIS attack," would report that:
Anti-ISIS coalition troops and allied Syrian opposition forces have repelled an attack by the terrorist group on a joint base in southern Syria, according to the coalition. 

The US-led coalition said ISIS initiated a complex attack on Saturday at the At Tanf Garrison on the Syrian-Jordanian border using a vehicle-borne IED, and 20-30 fighters followed with a ground assault and suicide vests.
CNN would also report that:
Some American forces were at the base at the time of the assault, the official said.
Additionally, for years, US policymakers and media platforms have discussed both potential plans for staging an invading force in Jordan, as well as ongoing efforts to stand up a proxy force in Jordan before moving it into Syrian territory.

In 2015, the Guardian in an article titled, "US begins training Syrian rebels in Jordan to become anti-Isis force," would report:
Jordanian officials told reporters on Thursday that coalition forces have begun training prescreened rebels at a site inside the Middle Eastern kingdom. Training locations are also expected to begin operation in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
A 2016 article by the Washington Post titled, "Revamped U.S. training program, with new goals, has trained fewer than 100 Syrians so far," would report:
U.S. military officials are considering ways to ramp up training of Syrian fighters against the Islamic State as the Pentagon moves cautiously forward with a revamped program to create an effective local ground force.

The series of setbacks hindering the creation of an "opposition army" from scratch, and even setbacks in training and effectively utilizing existing militant and terrorist groups may be why the US has also sought to create its own large and growing military presence in Jordan.

In 2013, the Heritage Foundation would publish an article titled, "Hagel Announces Deployment of U.S. Troops to Jordan in Response to Worsening Syria Crisis," claiming:

Although initially tasked with playing a support role in assisting Jordan in developing contingency plans for mitigating the destabilizing spillover effects of Syria’s civil war, the troops could “potentially form a joint task force for military operations, if ordered.” The headquarters staff will lay the foundation for a formal U.S. military presence that could grow to 20,000 troops or more, if the Obama Administration activates contingency plans for a major U.S. military intervention.
According to most estimates from across the Western media, approximately 1,000-2,000 US service members are currently stationed in Jordan. Expanding that number to 20,000 or more would surely be noticed by Syrian, Russian, and Iranian intelligence agencies. Likewise, the creation and deployment of a full-scale invasion force created by America's Persian Gulf allies or NATO-member Turkey would likewise be noticed long before having a chance to storm Syrian territory.

Invasion or Further Balkanization? 

Instead of a full-scale invasion, what is more likely is the incremental Balkanization of Syria, with Turkey already holding significant territory in the north, Israel maintaining its long-term occupation of the Golan Heights in the west, US troops occupying Syrian territory in east, alongside Persian Gulf sponsored terrorists holding both the eastern city of Raqqa and the northern city of Idlib.