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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/6/10

Afghan War: Petraeus Expands U.S. Military Presence Throughout Eurasia

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He also met with Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich and President Lech Kaczynski as well as delivering a lecture at the National Defence Academy. Kaczynski, who would perish in an airplane crash three days later, presented Petraeus with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and the Iraq Star. [7]

Other new NATO members in Eastern Europe are equally involved, with the Pentagon employing seven new military bases in Bulgaria and Romania to train Stryker brigades and airborne troops for the war in Afghanistan. [8]

As commander of CENTCOM and superior to General McChrystal in Afghanistan, Petraeus methodically laid the groundwork for expanding the scope of the greater Afghan war throughout his command's broad geographical reach, the heart of what has been deemed the broader Middle East - from Egypt in the West to Kazakhstan in the East, taking in Iraq and the rest of the Persian Gulf region, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, and all of Central and much of South Asia.

On January 2 of this year he traveled to Yemen and met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the Christmas Day airline bomb scare outside Detroit, though Petraeus had also been in Yemen the preceding summer. Pentagon assistance to the Yemeni government, administered under what is described as a counter-terrorism program, had grown from $4.6 million in fiscal 2006 to $67 million in fiscal 2009.

While in Iraq the day before his departure for Yemen in January, Petraeus stated, "We have, it's well known, about $70 million in security assistance last year. That will more than double this coming year." [9]

At the time leading U.S. officials and those of its NATO allies strained to link their counterinsurgency wars - overt and otherwise - in the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden regions as extensions of the Global War on Terror from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia. Then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown even affirmed that "The weakness of al Qaeda in Pakistan has forced them out of Pakistan and into Yemen and Somalia." [10]

In May the New York Times revealed that last September Petraeus had authorized covert special forces operations under a directive called the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order.

A United Press International feature last month indicated part of the order's designs:

"The recent disclosure that the U.S. military is expanding its
covert operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa is widely seen as a dangerous precedent, with Iran as one of the main targets....Officials stressed that the directive...permits operations that could pave the way toward possible military attacks against Iran if the confrontation over Tehran's nuclear program worsens." [11]

This March the U.S. Defense Department's website featured an article entitled "Centcom Looks Beyond Iraq, Afghanistan, Petraeus Says" in which, in addition to discussing counterinsurgency operations in Pakistan and Yemen, "Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the
United States must remain vigilant in overseeing broader security challenges throughout the region.

"Petraeus called Iran the 'primary state-level threat' in the Middle East. He told the panel that Iran undermines security throughout the region in its efforts to gain nuclear weapons, which threatens a broader arms race, and uses its paramilitary force to influence Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Afghanistan and the Gulf region." [12]

Two months before he announced the U.S. was maintaining several Aegis class warships in the Persian Gulf, ships equipped with advanced missile radar and Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles. "The U.S. positioned eight Patriot missile batteries in the Middle East and Aegis ballistic missile cruisers in the Persian Gulf, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. Central Command leader, told the Institute for the Study of War on Jan. 22." [13]

The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 theater missile interceptors are to be deployed to Iran's Persian Gulf neighbor states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

In early March Petraeus was in what is now crisis-stricken Kyrgyzstan, less than a month before President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown in a bloody uprising [14]. He had arrived in Kyrgyzstan on March 10, one day after "the U.S. embassy said [a] $5.5 million anti-terrorist center would be built in Batken in southern Kyrgyzstan - where Russian and Kyrgyz officials had earlier said Moscow might consider building a similar military facility." [15] It would appear that Petraeus and the Pentagon once more beat Russia to the punch.

He met with Bakiyev (who would be forced into exile early the next month) "to discuss bilateral cooperation and the situation in Afghanistan." [16] The U.S. has used an air base at the Manas International Airport near the nation's capital since 2001 for moving troops in and out of Afghanistan, recently at a rate of 55,000 a month.

A political analyst based in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, Aleksandr Knyazev, was quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty during Petraeus' visit on the repercussions of the Pentagon constructing a counterinsurgency/special forces base in the country: "Such a demonstrative act by the Kyrgyz side to agree...to (build a U.S.-funded counterterrorism center) is like throwing down a challenge to Russia and China."

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
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