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Foreign Policy

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Exploding shells twinkle over a hilltop in northern Afghanistan as opposition soldiers try to show that one day they will have the strength to overthrow the Taliban in Kabul. A line of soldiers advances on the enemy's position and flushes out a single prisoner. It was a perfectly efficient operation as a training exercise by... Read More
The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
in the Panjshir Valley The Independent Soldiers of the Afghan opposition will launch ground attacks on the Taliban only when the US begins military action in Afghanistan, a senior general of the Northern Alliance has said. General Feisal Ahmed Hazimi, a veteran commander who claims to lead 10,000 troops, said: "If the Americans attack then... Read More
Deep inside Afghan territory, the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance is secretly building an airbase at breakneck speed, which the US-led coalition will then use to funnel massive amounts of military supplies to the one force that is already taking the war to Osama bin Laden's protectors. The new airfield is expected to transform the military balance... Read More
From a hilltop 40 miles north of Kabul, across a clear night sky illuminated by a half a silver moon, I saw flashes on the skyline last night as the Allied air strikes began. Under a canopy of stars, plumes of fire were visible across the flat, heavily populated Shomali plain, which leads to the... Read More
It is a strange battlefield. The front line cuts across the green Shomali plain, one of the most fertile parts of Afghanistan, its fields fed by the rivers flowing out of the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains. Here, amid the close-packed mud-brick villages, home to 800,000 people, the Taliban and the opposition Northern Alliance... Read More
The son of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has been killed by an American air strike. An Afghan doctor said yesterday that he had struggled in vain to save the life of the boy, aged 10, after the child was injured during the first night of strikes on the southern city of... Read More
Fighting raged around Mazar-i-Sharif when the Afghan opposition advanced on the strategic northern city for the first time, aided by American bombers pounding Taliban frontline positions. If the city falls, then the Taliban position to the north of the country, where they have never been popular, might begin to unravel. In the past two days,... Read More
Inside Afghanistan
in Faizabad The Independent We had just driven through the village of Jorm, a huddle of mud-brick houses surrounded by trees in an upland valley in northern Afghanistan, when we saw about fifty people running towards us in a sort of bewildered panic. As they grew closer we saw that two of them were carrying... Read More
Tribal Council:
The Independent in Mohammed Agha, Afghanistan In a field in an arid valley south of Kabul a hundred local leaders, all powerful in their own districts, assembled yesterday to debate the future of their province at the same time as Afghan politicians were meeting in Germany to try to create a stable government for their... Read More
In the depths of the Pankisi Gorge, a natural fortress in the mountains of northern Georgia shielded from the outside world by its sheer rock walls, kidnappers are holding an Orthodox monk and demanding $1 million for his release. The kidnapping has provoked a public outcry and highlighted the disintegration of Georgia. Demonstrators gathered last... Read More
A series of bomb attacks on civilians in Russia two and a half years ago killed 300 and set the scene for a new war in Chechnya and the sudden elevation of Vladimir Putin, a little-known intelligence officer, as the unchallenged leader of Russia. The bombs terrified Russians, as they were designed to do, because... Read More
In the first concrete sign that the US is planning military action against Iraq despite objections from its allies, CIA officers have surveyed three key airfields in northern Iraq. The airfields, situated in northern Iraq near the cities of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan--the only part of Iraq not held by Saddam Hussein--could be... Read More
The Pentagon Prepares a Prolonged Campaign from Turkey & Kuwait
The long snouts of anti-aircraft guns are again protruding from the tops of tall buildings in Iraq. Tank units have been deployed around oilfields. Special committees drawn from local leaders of the army, security forces and the ruling Baath party will try to ensure that any rebellion is quickly crushed. President Saddam Hussein himself has... Read More
Putin's Gas: 115 Hostages Killed by Russian Poison Gas
MOSCOW. The dreadful truth about the end of the Moscow theatre siege was becoming clear yesterday. The secret gas, pumped into the building to knock out the Chechen rebels and allow crack Russian troops to storm the building just before dawn on Saturday, killed scores of hostages and caused many others to slip into a... Read More
The deep differences between enemies of President Saddam Hussein was underlined yesterday when a group of his opponents walked out of a conference in London dedicated to forging opposition unity. The five Iraqi Shia Muslim groups said the largest Shia party was monopolising representation of their community, to which the majority of Iraqis belong, on... Read More
Kurds Outraged by American Plan to Occupy Iraq
in Arbil, northern Iraq The US is abandoning plans to introduce democracy in Iraq after a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, according to Kurdish leaders who recently met American officials. The Kurds say the decision resulted from pressure from US allies in the Middle East who fear a war will lead to radical political change... Read More
Promises, Promises
Irbil, Iraq. The first checkpoint outside Iraqi government control at Girda Rasha on the road north from Kirkuk is a grim spot. Kurdish security men living in a few filthy cabins on the desolate plain carefully check the cars of people arriving in Kurdistan from all over Iraq. It is as good a place as... Read More
"Perhaps They're Not Invincible"
General Nasrudin Mustafa, commander of the Kurdish forces north of Kirkuk, was just finishing a sentence, saying: "There is nothing new happening on my front." But as he spoke the last word there a thunderous roar, his headquarters building shook and the door of his office rattled on its hinges. A US aircraft had just... Read More
Playing Into Saddam's Hands
The US soldier, surrounded by Kurdish militiamen on a green plain in the heart of Iraqi Kurdistan, was a worried man. Since the Kurds are the one community in Iraq unanimously in favour of the Anglo-American invasion, he could not have been in a safer place. But the soldier refused to give his name, eyed... Read More
Slaughter on the Road to Dibagah US Pilot Kills 18 in Kurdish Convoy
Northern Iraq. In the worst friendly fire incident of the war so far, two US F-15 bombers killed 17 Kurdish and American soldiers and a BBC translator yesterday when they mistakenly attacked an Allied convoy in northern Iraq. The explosions ripped apart the vehicles, the heat of the blast so intense that it melted the... Read More
The US has a Lot to Answer For Mounting Ethnic Violence and Misery
Northern, Iraq. A machine-gun chattered just outside the gate of the biggest hospital in Mosul just as Dr Ayad Ramadani, the hospital director, was saying he blamed the Kurds for the orgy of looting and violence which had engulfed Iraq's northern capital. "The Kurdish militias were looting the city," he explained. "Today the main protection... Read More
The Omens of Occupation are Not Good The Iraqi Quagmire
At a US military checkpoint on the road north of Kirkuk last week two American soldiers were holding up cardboard placards on each of which was a message written in Kurdish. One said 'Drivers must get into one lane' and the other read 'carrying weapons is forbidden." The problem was that the soldiers, not being... Read More
The Real Quagmire is the Aftermath Everywhere There are Signs of Breakdown
In one sense everybody, supporters and opponents of the war in Iraq, got it wrong. Opponents denounced US plans to impose neo-imperial control the country. Supporters spoke of the good things the US planned to bring to the Iraqi people once Saddam Hussein was overthrown. It was only as the looting of Baghdad continued week... Read More
The Terrorism Trap Terror, Bush and Joseph Conrad
The terrorist attacks attributed to al-Qaida are succeeding better than Osama bin Laden can ever have expected, thanks to the co-operation of the US administration. Whether it comes in the form of bomb attacks or assassinations the aim of terrorism is most obviously to intimidate, and to advertise a cause, but it only really succeeds... Read More
One More US Soldier & Eleven Iraqis Dead on the Fourth of July
in Baghdad As the American army in Iraq prepared to celebrate Independence Day, an Iraqi sniper aimed at a US soldier in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle outside the national museum in Baghdad and shot him. The soldier died of his injuries a few hours later, bringing close to 30 the number of US soldiers killed... Read More
A Failure of Historic Proportions The Iraq Wreck
A friend representing a French company in Washington recently went with some trepidation to Paris with the unwelcome news that he had been told by the Pentagon that there was absolutely no chance of his employers getting a contract inIraq He was not looking forward to report total failure of his well-paid efforts but to... Read More
Brutal Punishment of Villagers US Troops Bulldoze Crops
Dhuluaya, Iraq. US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops. The stumps of palm trees, some... Read More
Baghdad Diary Iraqis are Naming Their Babies "Saddam"
Baghdad. The centre of the book trade in Baghdad is al-Mutanabi Street, which runs between the Tigris and Rashid Street, now shabby and decayed but once the city's commercial heart. The bookshops are small, and open all the time; on Friday there's a market, when vendors lay out their books in Arabic and English on... Read More
Chinook Attack The Bloodiest Day in Iraq for Americans
Fallujah. In the deadliest single attack on the United States army since it invaded Iraq, guerrillas shot down a Chinook helicopter with a missile yesterday killing 15 and wounding 21 American servicemen. The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, called the incident a national tragedy for Americans. The Chinook, which came down in a field near... Read More
Senior Iraqi Official Contradicts Pentagon Saddam "Not Organizing" Resistance
Baghdad. A senior Iraqi official said on Monday there was no truth in claims by the Pentagon that Saddam Hussein and Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of his aides, were orchestrating anti-US resistance in Iraq. In an interview, the official--a veteran opposition leader to the former Iraqi regime now working for the Governing Council, who did... Read More
With Only a Whimper The Capture of Saddam
For Saddam Hussein his capture is the moment of supreme humiliation. He has always portrayed himself as the Arab hero who would fight to the last bullet and die surrounded by the bodies of his enemies. Instead he has fallen alive into the hands of US troops after successfully evading them for over half a... Read More
Iraq's Shia
At the height of the shortage of petrol in Baghdad a month ago people queued in their cars for as long as 18 hours outside petrol stations. One reason for the lack of petrol was that much of it was being stolen by black marketeers. One day Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the 73-year-old clerical leader... Read More
Rebellion Across Iraq
Baghdad. Savage fighting raged across Iraq yesterday as at least 20 US soldiers were killed in attacks on the American-led coalition that reached a crescendo of violence not seen since the end of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. At least a dozen US Marines were killed in the town of Ramadi near the Sunni... Read More
US Bombs Mosque, Kills 40
Baghdad. An airborne assault on a mosque killed 'at least 40 worshippers' attending prayers in the city of Fallujah yesterday as US-led occupation forces lost control of large parts of Iraq. American attack helicopters and fighter aircraft supported marines as they stormed Fallujah 30 miles west of the capital. The aircraft fired a rocket and... Read More
Ambush, Murder and Kidnap
Abu Ghraib, Iraq. First there were staccato bursts of fire from Iraqi guerrillas on the other side of the road. Then came the whoosh of RPG launchers. American soldiers on their Humvees immediately fired back with shuddering machine guns and M-16s. We rapidly drove off the road on to a piece of waste ground along... Read More
The Sick, the Old and the Young Ask:
In an abandoned air-raid shelter in west Baghdad, people from Fallujah crouch in semi-darkness. Their voices tremble as they recall how they survived the week-long siege. Not all did. In a tent outside relatives were mourning for Mushref Mohi, aged 70, who died of exhaustion during the eight hours that his family was kept waiting... Read More
"I Saw a Minibus of Children on Fire"
Baghdad. It was the turn of Basra's schoolchildren yesterday to suffer the horror of a suicide bombing. In what was the bloodiest attack on Iraq's largest Shia city, bombers in vehicles packed with explosives detonated them against police buildings, killing 68 people, including children burnt to death in school buses. "I looked around and saw... Read More
Ba'athists Ride Again The Return of Saddam's Generals
Baghdad Iraqi generals who fought for Saddam Hussein are being reinstated to strengthen the new US-trained Iraqi army half of whose soldiers mutinied or went home during fighting earlier this month. More than half a dozen generals from the old Iraqi army, dissolved by the US-led Coalition last May, have already been given jobs say... Read More
Crossing the Shia Line US Troops Threaten to Enter Najaf
Baghdad American troops will enter parts of the holy city of Najaf to crush the radical Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr but will avoid its sacred sites, a US general said yesterday. Shia leaders have warned there will be an explosion of anger among the 15 to 16 million Iraqi Shia if US soldiers enter Najaf,... Read More
Saddam's General Now in Charge
Baghdad. US marines handed over control of Fallujah to a former general in Saddam Hussein's army yesterday and began to withdraw troops from positions close to the besieged city. In a significant climbdown by the US, the former Republican Guard general Jasim Mohammed Saleh arrived in Fallujah to take command of 1,100 soldiers from the... Read More
A Year from "Mission Accomplished"
Baghdad. Wisps of grey smoke were still rising from the wreckage of four Humvees caught by the blast of a bomb which had just killed two US soldiers and wounded another five. It seemed they had been caught in a trap. When the soldiers smashed their way into an old brick house in the Waziriya... Read More
"What's the Difference Between Them & Saddam?" Iraqis: Disgusted, But Not Surprised at Torture
Baghdad Iraqis were disgusted yesterday at further accusations of brutality and torture at the hands of western troops, but few expressed surprise. "I expect much worse than that to come out," said Abu Hashem, an engineer, said, referring to the pictures of naked detainees being ill-treated by US guards in Abu Ghraib prison. "They said... Read More
The Baghdad Bombings
Baghdad. Nine Iraqis were killed and 61 injured yesterday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car outside a security base at Taji, north of Baghdad, part of a wave of attacks in and around the Iraqi capital. And, in a separate attack, a British security contractor was killed in a drive-by attack... Read More
The Rich Have Been Warned to Leave Baghdad
Baghdad. Qasim Sabty, a painter who owns the Hewar art gallery in Baghdad, is scared. "So many of my relatives have been kidnapped that I fear I am going to be next," he says. He mentions the name of another gallery owner who had to pay kidnappers $100,000 (lbs60,000) for the return of her grandson.... Read More
The Iraqi Street Speaks
Baghdad. Iraqis are highly sceptical that the US occupation will, as promised, end on 30 June and predict worse fighting to come if real power is not handed over. "I don't believe there will be a transfer of power," said Ali Hashimi, a computer accessories salesman. "It is just a show for the international community."... Read More
Carbombs and Street Dances 13 More Die in Baghdad Blast
Baghdad. A suicide car bomb killed 13 people, including five foreigners, in central Baghdad yesterday as insurgents stepped up attacks aimed at driving foreign contractors out of the country. The explosion, in Tahrir Square in the centre of Baghdad, hit a convoy of vehicles carrying power workers and security guards. Two Britons, an American and... Read More
Boom! Boom! Out Go the Lights
Baghdad. Iraq's main oil export terminal was hit by sabotage yesterday, delivering a further blow to the interim government just two weeks before the official transfer of power. In the second attack on vital oil supplies in two months, insurgents also attacked two oil pipelines in southern Iraq, cutting exports from the south by half,... Read More
Inside the Green Zone US is Paranoid and Isolated
Baghdad. An Iraqi friend, who feared for his life because he was close to the Americans, used to live inside the Green Zone, the heavily protected area in central Baghdad where the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has its headquarters. One day he fell into conversation with an American soldier guarding one of the gates.... Read More
The Pretense of an Independent Iraq "The League of Frightened Gentlemen"
Baghdad. 'Our soldiers call them the League of Frightened Gentlemen," said an American officer pointing derisively towards the buildings in the so-called green zone in Baghdad, housing the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority which has ruled Iraq for over a year. It is a miserable record. Isolated behind the concrete walls of the green zone, Paul... Read More
Defusing Bombs, Facing Death Threats
In Baghdad. It is probably one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Colonel Abu Mohammed is the policeman in charge of defusing unexploded bombs in Baghdad, where the sound of explosions is so common that, unless the blast is very close, people no longer come to their doors to check what has blown... Read More
Patrick Cockburn
About Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent. He was awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting. His book on his years covering the war in Iraq, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for non-fiction.

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