Afghans protest US church's plans to burn Quran
By RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan – Hundreds of Afghans railed against the United States and called for President Barack Obama's death at a rally in the capital Monday to denounce an American church's plans to burn the Islamic holy book on 9/11.
The crowd in Kabul, numbering as many as 500, chanted "Long live Islam" and "Death to America" as they listened to fiery speeches from members of parliament, provincial council deputies, and Islamic clerics who criticized the U.S. and demanded the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. Some threw rocks when a U.S. military convoy passed, but speakers shouted at them to stop and told police to arrest anyone who disobeyed.
The Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center announced plans to burn copies of the Quran on church grounds to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but has been denied a permit to set a bonfire. The church, which made headlines last year after distributing T-shirts that said "Islam is of the Devil," has vowed to proceed with the burning.
"We know this is not just the decision of a church. It is the decision of the president and the entire United States," said Abdul Shakoor, an 18-year-old high school student who said he joined the protest after hearing neighborhood gossip about the Quran burning.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement condemning Dove World Outreach Center's plans, saying Washington was "deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups."
Protesters, who gathered in front of western Kabul's Milad ul-Nabi mosque, raised placards and flags emblazoned with slogans calling for the death of Obama, while police looked on. They also held up a cardboard effigy of Dove World Outreach Center's pastor Terry Jones.
Muslims consider the Quran to be the word of God and demand that it, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad, be treated with the utmost respect. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Quran is considered deeply offensive.
In 2005, 15 people died and scores were wounded in riots in Afghanistan sparked by a story in Newsweek magazine alleging that interrogators at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay placed copies of the Quran in washrooms and had flushed one down the toilet to get inmates to talk. Newsweek later retracted the story.
Also Monday, NATO said an American service member was killed in fighting in the country's turbulent east on Sunday.
No other details were given in accordance with standard procedure. The death was the fifth among U.S. troops in Afghanistan in September, following the deaths of more than 220 American troops over the past three months.
This year is already the bloodiest for American forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, with at least 321 killed so far.
Violence is increasing with the infusion of 30,000 additional U.S. troops that brings the total number of foreign forces in Afghanistan to more than 140,000. Stepped-up operations ahead of next week's parliamentary elections and an ongoing campaign to drive the Taliban from its southern strongholds are also boosting the numbers of dead and wounded.
Taliban insurgents on Sunday vowed to attack polling places during the Sept. 18 vote and warned Afghans not to participate in what it called a sham election. The insurgency aims to topple the government in Kabul and drive foreign troops from the country, and has boycotted or tried to sabotage all aspects of the political process.
Taliban threats and intimidation drove down voter turnout in last year's fraud-marred presidential election, especially in rural areas where security is harder to ensure, and many Afghans this time say they won't vote for fear of attacks.
Stratfor Global Intelligence`````````````````````````````
Afghanistan and the War Legend
September 3, 2010 | 1608 GMT
As many of you know, Robert Merry joined STRATFOR as publisher in January. While primarily focused on our business (bless him) he is also a noted reporter (years with The Wall Street Journal as Washington correspondent and head of Congressional Quarterly). Bob knows Washington well, while STRATFOR has always been an outsider there. Since Bob brings a new perspective to STRATFOR, we’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. This analysis marks the first of what will be regular contributions to STRATFOR’s work. His commentary will be titled “Washington Looks at the World” and will focus on the international system through the eyes of official Washington and its unofficial outriders. In this first analysis, Bob focuses on the thinking that went into President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 speech on the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. As with all of STRATFOR’s pieces, it treats political leaders as rational actors and avoids ideology and advocacy. Both are in ample supply in this country, and there is no need to add to it. Bob is not trying to persuade, praise or condemn. Nor is he simply providing facts. He is trying to understand and explain what is happening. I hope you find this of value. I learned something from it. By all means let us know what you think, especially if you like it. Criticisms will also be read but will not be enjoyed nearly as much.
— George Friedman, STRATFOR CEO
'Washington looks at the world'
By Robert W. Merry
U.S. President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 Oval Office speech on the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq had many purposes: to claim a measure of credit for largely fulfilling one of his major campaign promises; to thank those who have served and sacrificed in the cause; to spread the balm of unity over any lingering domestic wounds; to assure Americans that it has all been worth it and that no dishonor was attached to this foreign adventure, which was opposed by many in Obama’s own party and by him from the beginning.
Of all those purposes, and any others that might have been conceived, the need to express assurance of the war’s validity — and honor in its outcome — is by far the most important. Any national leader must protect and nurture the legend of any war over which he presides, even those — actually, particularly those — he has brought to a close. The people need to feel that the sacrifice in blood and treasure was worth it, that the mission’s rationale still makes sense, that the nation’s standing and prestige remain intact.
In terms of America, nothing illustrates this more starkly than the Vietnam experience. This was a war that emerged quite naturally out of a foreign policy outlook, “containment,” that had shaped American behavior in the world for nearly two decades and would continue to shape it for another two decades. Hence, one could argue that the Vietnam War was a noble effort entirely consistent with a policy that eventually proved brilliantly successful. But the national pain of defeat in that war spawned an entirely different legend — that it was a huge mistake and a tragic loss of life for no defensible purpose. The impact of that legend upon the national consciousness could be seen for decades — in war-powers battles between the president and Congress, in a halting defense posture often attributed to what was called the “Vietnam Syndrome,” in the lingering civic hostility engendered when the subject emerged among fellow citizens, in the flow of tears shed daily at Washington’s Vietnam Memorial.
So the presidential responsibility for the legend of war is no trivial matter when young Americans begin returning home in body bags. A wise president will keep it well established in his mind in selling a war, in prosecuting it and eventually in explaining it at its conclusion.
This important presidential function posed two particular challenges for Obama during his Oval Office speech: First, his past opposition to the war in Iraq created a danger that he might appear insincere or artificial in his expressions, and second, it isn’t entirely clear that the legend can hold up, that the stated rationale for the war really withstands serious scrutiny. Yes, America did depose Saddam Hussein and his regime. But the broader aims of the war — to establish a stable, pro-Western regime in the country and thus maintain a geopolitical counterweight to the regional ambitions of Iran — remain unfulfilled. The president handled the first challenge with aplomb, hailing the war’s outcome (so far) while avoiding the political schisms that it bred and delivering expressions of appreciation and respect for his erstwhile adversaries on the issue. Whether he succeeds in the second challenge likely will depend upon events in Iraq, where 50,000 American troops remain to support Iraqi security forces and help maintain stability.
But Obama’s effort to preserve the war’s legend, which was ribboned throughout his speech, raises the specter of an even greater challenge of preserving the legend of a different war — the war in Afghanistan, which Obama says will begin to wind down for America in July of next year. It remains a very open question whether events will unfold in that nettlesome conflict in such a way as to allow for a reassuring legend when the troops come home. That open question is particularly stark given the fundamental reality that America is not going to bring about a victory in Afghanistan in any conventional sense. The Taliban insurgency that the United States is trying to subdue with its counterinsurgency effort is not going to go away and, indeed, the Taliban will likely have to be part of any accommodation that can precede America’s withdrawal.
Thus, the Obama administration has become increasingly focused on what some involved in war planning call “the endgame.” By that, they mean essentially a strategy for extricating the country from Afghanistan while preserving a reasonable level of stability in that troubled land; minimizing damage to American interests; and maintaining a credible legend of the war that is reassuring to the American people. That’s a tall order, and it isn’t clear whether the nearly 150,000 U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, under U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, can affect the magnitude of the challenge one way or another.
Very quietly, top officials of the Obama administration have initiated a number of reviews inspecting every aspect of this endgame challenge. Some involve influential outside experts with extensive governmental experience in past administrations, and they are working with officials at the highest levels of the government, including the Pentagon. One review group has sent members to Russia for extensive conversations with officials who were involved in the Soviet Union’s ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Others have traveled to Pakistan and other lands, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France, to master the diplomatic implications of any Afghan exit strategy.
It’s too early to determine just what impact these review groups will have on administration thinking, which appears to remain in a state of development. But it can be said that at least some of these outside experts are pressing hard for an endgame approach that moves beyond some earlier thinking about the war and its rationale. For example:
The need to involve Afghanistan’s neighbors in any accommodation that would allow for at least a reasonably graceful American exit. In addition to next-door Pakistan, these likely would include Russia, India and perhaps even Iran. All have a stake in Afghan stability, and all have their own particular interests there. Hence, the diplomatic game will be extremely difficult. But it is worth noting that during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Russia served as a facilitator of U.S. cooperation with the northern ethnic tribes, and Russians even provided personnel and vehicles to America’s Northern Alliance allies. Iran also helped facilitate the invasion by suggesting security for American pilots faced with ditching over Iranian territory.
The necessity of working with local power centers and finding a way of developing a productive discussion with the different ethnic groups that need to be part of the Afghan endgame. How to do that reportedly was one question posed to Russian officials who were involved in the Soviet Union’s Afghan experience and who had to deal with insurgent leaders on the way out.
A probable requirement that the United States relinquish any hope that a strong central government in Kabul will form and bring about stability in the country. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government, and the various ethnic and religious groups, local warlords, tribes and khans aren’t going to submit to any broad national authority. Their mountainous homeland for centuries has afforded them plenty of protection from any invading force, and that isn’t going to change.
A probable need to explore a national system with a traditionally weak central government and strong provincial actors with considerable sway over their particular territories.
Underlying all this is a strong view that the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force cannot impose an endgame. The Taliban are not going to submit to U.S. blandishments for negotiation as a result of any fear of what will happen to them if they don’t. That’s because they are winning and possess the arms, wiles, knowledge of terrain and people and insurgency skills to keep on winning, irrespective of what Petraeus does to thwart them. Besides, the tribes of Afghanistan have demonstrated through the centuries that they have the patience to outlast any invader.
If the Taliban won’t negotiate out of fear of what the U.S. military can do to them, the question becomes whether they will negotiate out of a sense of opportunity — as a means of bringing about the U.S. exit that American government officials increasingly seem to want as well. There are indications the Taliban might be interested in participating in such a negotiated American exit, perhaps in exchange for some kind of international recognition. At this point, however, there is no firm evidence that such an approach could prove fruitful, and hence this question remains one of the great imponderables hovering over America’s presence in Afghanistan.
But, if that does prove possible, the question of America’s war legend will loom very large indeed. Those involved in the review groups reportedly are well aware that the nature of the U.S. departure will inform the legend, and they are intent on crafting an outcome that will honor America’s Afghanistan war dead and U.S. war veterans. In other words, in this view, there must remain a narrative that explains why America was there, what was accomplished, and why the departure was undertaken when it was. It must resonate throughout the nation and must be credible.
This poses another fundamental question: Is there an inherent inconsistency between the outlook emerging from these governmental review groups and the recent pronouncements of Petraeus? Many of the review-group participants seem to be working toward what might be called a “graceful exit” from Afghanistan. Yet Petraeus told The New York Times on Aug. 15 that he does not see his mission in such small terms as a “graceful exit.” Rather, he said his marching orders were to do “all that is humanly possible to help us achieve our objectives.” By “our objectives,” he seemed to mean establishing, through military force, a sufficient degree of stability in the country to allow a negotiated exit on American terms, with his Iraq record serving as the model. Even if that is possible, it certainly will take considerable time. The general made clear in the Times interview and in others that he fully intended to press Obama hard to delay any serious troop withdrawal from Afghanistan until well beyond the July 2011 time frame put forth by the president.
Thus, the nature and pace of withdrawal becomes another big question hovering over the president’s war strategy. Many high-ranking administration officials, including the president, have said the pace of withdrawal will depend upon “conditions on the ground” when July 2011 arrives. Obama repeated that conditional expression in his Iraq speech the other night. But that leaves a lot of room for maneuver — and a lot of room for debate within the administration. The reason for delaying a full withdrawal would be to try to apply further military pressure to force the Taliban to become less resistant. That goal seems to be what’s animating Petraeus. But others, including some involved in the review groups, don’t see much prospect of that actually happening. Thus, they see no reason for much of a withdrawal delay beyond the president’s July deadline — particularly given the need to preserve the country’s war legend. The danger, as some see it, is that an effort to force an outcome through military action, given the unlikely prospect of that, could increase the chances of a traditional military defeat, much like the one suffered by the Soviets in the 1980s and by the British in two brutal military debacles during the 19th century.
Many of the experts involved in the Afghanistan review effort see a link between the departure of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, as described by Obama in his Oval Office speech, and the imperative to fashion an Afghanistan exit that offers a war legend at least as comforting to the American people. Certainly, the importance of the war legend was manifest in Obama’s Iraq speech. First, he repeatedly praised the valor and commitment of America’s men and women in uniform. Even in turning to the need to fix the country’s economic difficulties, he invoked these U.S. military personnel again by saying “we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.” He expressed a resolve to honor their commitment by serving “our veterans as well as they have served us” through the Department of Veterans Affairs, emphasizing medical care and the G.I. Bill. And he drew an evocative word picture of America’s final combat brigade in Iraq — the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade — journeying toward Kuwait on their way home in the predawn darkness. Many Americans will recall some of these young men, extending themselves from the backs of convoy trucks and yelling into television cameras and lights, “We won! We’re going home! We won the war!”
But, as Obama noted in his speech, this is “an age without surrender ceremonies.” It’s also an age without victory parades. As he said, “we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.” That’s a bit vague, though, and that’s why Obama’s speech laid out the elements of the Iraq success in terms that seemed pretty much identical to what George W. Bush would have said. We succeeded in toppling Saddam Hussein. We nurtured an Iraqi effort to craft a democratic structure. After considerable bloodshed, we managed to foster a reasonable amount of civic stability in the country so the Iraqi people can continue their halting pursuit of their own destiny. Thus, said the president, “This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security.” He added, “Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it’s time to turn the page.”
That’s probably enough of a legend to fortify the good feelings of those young men yelling of victory from the backs of Stryker Brigade vehicles on the way out of Iraq. But getting to even that degree of a war legend in Afghanistan will be far more difficult. And, as the endgame looms in that distant land, the administration will have to grapple not only with how to prosecute the war and foster a safe exit but also with how to preserve a suitable legend for that war once the shooting stops.
"Afghanistan and the War Legend is republished with permission of STRATFOR."
Militancy and the U.S. Drawdown in Afghanistan
September 2, 2010 | 0856 GMT
Stratfor Global Intelligence
By Scott Stewart
The drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq has served to shift attention toward Afghanistan, where the United States has been increasing its troop strength in hopes of forming conditions conducive to a political settlement. This is similar to the way it used the 2007 surge in Iraq to help reach a negotiated settlement with the Sunni insurgents that eventually set the stage for withdrawal there. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, the Taliban at this point do not feel the pressure required for them to capitulate or negotiate and therefore continue to follow their strategy of surviving and waiting for the coalition forces to depart so that they can again make a move to assume control over Afghanistan.
Indeed, with the United States having set a deadline of July 2011 to begin the drawdown of combat forces in Afghanistan — and with many of its NATO allies withdrawing sooner — the Taliban can sense that the end is near. As they wait expectantly for the departure of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan, a look at the history of militancy in Afghanistan provides a bit of a preview of what could follow the U.S. withdrawal.
A Tradition of Militancy
First, it is very important to understand that militant activity in Afghanistan is nothing new. It has existed there for centuries, driven by a number of factors. One of the primary factors is the country’s geography. Because of its rugged and remote terrain, it is very difficult for a foreign power (or even an indigenous government in Kabul) to enforce its writ on many parts of the country. A second, closely related factor is culture. Many of the tribes in Afghanistan have traditionally been warrior societies that live in the mountains, disconnected from Kabul because of geography, and tend to exercise autonomous rule that breeds independence and suspicion of the central government. A third factor is ethnicity. There is no real Afghan national identity. Rather, the country is a patchwork of Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and other ethnicities that tend also to be segregated by geography. Finally, there is religion. While Afghanistan is a predominantly Muslim country, there is a significant Shiite minority as well as a large Sufi presence in the country. The hardcore Deobandi Taliban are not very tolerant of the Shia or Sufis, and they can also be harsh toward more moderate Sunnis who do things such as send their daughters to school, trim their beards, listen to music and watch movies.
Any of these forces on its own would pose challenges to peace, stability and centralized governance, but together they pose a daunting problem and result in near-constant strife in Afghanistan.
Because of this environment, it is quite easy for outside forces to stir up militancy in Afghanistan. One tried-and-true method is to play to the independent spirit of the Afghans and encourage them to rise up against the foreign powers that have attempted to control the country. We saw this executed to perfection in the 1800s during the Great Game between the British and the Russians for control of Afghanistan. This tool was also used after the 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and it has been used again in recent years following the 2001 U.S. invasion of the country. The Taliban are clearly being used by competing outside powers against the United States (more on this later).
But driving out an invading power is not the only thing that will lead to militancy and violence in Afghanistan. The ethnic, cultural and religious differences mentioned above and even things like grazing or water rights and tribal blood feuds can also lead to violence. Moreover, these factors can (and have been) used by outside powers to either disrupt the peace in Afghanistan or exert control over the country via a proxy (such as Pakistan’s use of the Taliban movement). Militant activity in Afghanistan is, therefore, not just the result of an outside invasion. Rather, it has been a near constant throughout the history of the region, and it will likely continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
When we consider the history of outside manipulation in Afghanistan, it becomes clear that such manipulation has long been an important factor in the country and will continue to be so after the United States and the rest of the ISAF withdraw. There are a number of countries that have an interest in Afghanistan and that will seek to exert some control over what the post-invasion country looks like.
The United States does not want the country to revert to being a refuge for al Qaeda and other transnational jihadist groups. At the end of the day, this is the real U.S. national interest in Afghanistan. It is not counterinsurgency or building democracy or anything else.
Russia does not want the Taliban to return to power. The Russians view the Taliban as a disease that can infect and erode their sphere of influence in countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and then move on to pose a threat to Russian control in the predominately Muslim regions of the Caucasus. This is why the Russians were so active in supporting the Northern Alliance against the Taliban regime. There are reports, though, that the Russians have been aiding the Taliban in an effort to keep the United States tied down in Afghanistan, since as long as the United States is distracted there it has less latitude to counter Russian activity elsewhere.
On the other side of that equation, Pakistan helped foster the creation of the Pashtun Taliban organization and then used the organization as a tool to exert its influence in Afghanistan. Facing enemies on its borders with India and Iran, Pakistan must control Afghanistan in order to have strategic depth and ensure that it will not be forced to defend itself along its northwest as well. While the emergence of the Pakistani Taliban and the threat it poses to Pakistan will alter Islamabad’s strategy somewhat — and Pakistan has indeed been recalculating its use of militant proxies — Pakistan will try hard to ensure that the regime in Kabul is pro-Pakistani.
This is exactly why India wants to play a big part in Afghanistan — to deny Pakistan that strategic depth. In the past, India worked with Russia and Iran to support the Northern Alliance and keep the Taliban from total domination of the country. Indications are that the Indians are teaming up with the Russians and Iranians once again.
Iran also has an interest in the future of Afghanistan and has worked to cultivate certain factions of the Taliban by providing them with shelter, weapons and training. The Iranians also have been strongly opposed to the Taliban and have supported anti-Taliban militants, particularly those from the Shiite Hazara people. When the Taliban captured Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998, they killed 11 Iranian diplomats and journalists. Iran does not want the Taliban to become too powerful, but it will use them as a tool to hurt the United States. Iran will also attempt to install a pro-Iranian government in Kabul or, at the very least, try to thwart efforts by the Pakistanis and Americans to exert control over the country.
A History of Death and Violence
It may seem counterintuitive, but following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the casualties from militancy in the country declined considerably. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies Armed Conflict Database, the fatalities due to armed conflict in Afghanistan fell from an estimated 10,000 a year prior to the invasion to 4,000 in 2002 and 1,000 by 2004. Even as the Taliban began to regroup in 2005 and the number of fatalities began to move upward, by 2009 (the last year for which the institute offers data) the total was only 7,140, still well-under the pre-invasion death tolls (though admittedly far greater than at the ebb of the insurgency in 2004).
Still, even with death tolls rising, the U.S. invasion has not produced anywhere near the estimated 1 million deaths that resulted during the Soviet occupation. The Soviets and their Afghan allies were not concerned about conducting a hearts-and-minds campaign. Indeed, their efforts were more akin to a scorched-earth strategy complete with attacks directed against the population. This strategy also resulted in millions of refugees fleeing Afghanistan for Pakistan and Iran and badly disrupted the tribal structure in much of Afghanistan. This massive disruption of the societal structure helped lead to a state of widespread anarchy that later led many Afghans to see the Taliban as saviors.
Following the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the communist government in Kabul was able to survive for three more years, backed heavily with Soviet arms, but these years were again marked by heavy casualties. When the communist government fell in 1992, the warlords who had opposed the government attempted to form a power-sharing agreement to govern Afghanistan, but all the factions could not reach a consensus and another civil war broke out, this time among the various anti-communist Afghan warlords vying for control of the country. During this period, Kabul was repeatedly shelled and the bloodshed continued. Neither the Soviet departure nor the fall of the communist regime ended the carnage.
With the rise of the Taliban, the violence began to diminish in many parts of the country, though the fighting remained fierce and tens of thousands of people were killed as the Taliban tried to exert control over the country. The Taliban were still engaged in a protracted and bloody civil war against the Northern Alliance when the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. During the initial invasion, very few U.S. troops were actually on the ground. The United States used the Northern Alliance as the main ground-force element, along with U.S. air power and special operations forces, and was able to remove the Taliban from power in short order. It is important to remember that the Taliban was never really defeated on the battlefield. Once they realized that they were no match for U.S. air power in a conventional war, they declined battle and faded away to launch their insurgency.
Today, the forces collectively referred to as the Taliban in Afghanistan are not all part of one hierarchical organization under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar. Although Mullah Omar is the dominant force and is without peer among Afghan insurgent leaders, there are a number of local and regional militant commanders who are fighting against the U.S. occupation beside the Taliban and who have post-U.S. occupation interests that diverge from those of the Taliban. Such groups are opportunists rather than hardcore Taliban and they might fight against Mullah Omar’s Taliban if he and his militants come to power in Kabul, especially if an outside power manipulates, funds and arms them — and outside powers will certainly be seeking to do so. The United States has tried to peel away the more independent factions from the wider Taliban “movement” but has had little success, mainly because the faction leaders see that the United States is going to disengage and that the Taliban will be a force to be reckoned with in the aftermath.
Once U.S. and ISAF forces withdraw from Afghanistan, then, it is quite likely that Afghanistan will again fall into a period of civil war, as the Taliban attempt to defeat the Karzai government, as the United States tries to support it and as other outside powers such as Pakistan, Russia and Iran try to gain influence through their proxies in the country.
The only thing that can really prevent this civil war from occurring is a total defeat of the Taliban and other militants in the country or some sort of political settlement. With the sheer size of the Taliban and its many factions, and the fact that many factions are receiving shelter and support from patrons in Pakistan and Iran, it is simply not possible for the U.S. military to completely destroy them before the Americans begin to withdraw next summer. This will result in a tremendous amount of pressure on the Americans to find a political solution to the problem. At this time, the Taliban simply don’t feel pressured to come to the negotiating table — especially with the U.S. drawdown in sight.
And even if a political settlement is somehow reached, not everyone will be pleased with it. Certainly, the outside manipulation in Afghanistan will continue, as will the fighting, as it has for centuries..
Militancy and the U.S. Drawdown in Afghanistan | republished with permission from STRATFOR
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen....Backs Starting
Security Handover To Afghans Next Year
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
August 31, 2010
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says he hopes NATO member states will agree at an upcoming summit to start handing over security responsibilities in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities next year.
The NATO chief's comments came on August 30, as the deaths of four more NATO soldiers were reported due to fighting in Afghanistan.
The alliance said four U.S. troops were killed in a Taliban-style bomb attack -- raising to 21 the number of Americans killed in the past three days, according to the AFP news agency.
The alliance said an eighth NATO soldier, who was not American, was also killed the same day in a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan.
Canada, meanwhile, said one of its soldiers had died in the hospital after suffering injuries in a bomb attack in Afghanistan on August 22.
In his interview with Danish television, the NATO chief said the security situation in Afghanistan was "definitely" not satisfactory.
But he said there had been some progress in security, and that he hoped NATO members would agree at a November summit in Lisbon to begin gradually handing over security responsibilities in 2011.
Rasmussen added that he supported the intensification of the military campaign against Taliban strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, saying the Taliban had no chance of defeating NATO forces on a military level.
But he said the Afghan conflict couldn't be won by military means alone, as building stability will depend on educational, health, and economic advances as well.
compiled from agency reports
Taliban footprint 'spreading' in Afghanistan: Petraeus
By Lynne O'Donnell
August 31, 2010
(AFP) – KABUL — The US commander of the Afghan war acknowledged Tuesday that the Taliban were expanding their footprint across the country even as international forces close in on their traditional southern strongholds.
General David Petraeus said a sharp rise in attacks on foreign troops showed the Taliban were feeling threatened but said there needed to be political as well as military action to wipe out the "industrial-strength insurgency".
In an interview with foreign media organisations, Petraeus also hailed the counter-insurgency efforts by neighbouring Pakistan, which has faced accusations it has not done enough to combat extremism.
Petraeus said the overall campaign strategy in Afghanistan after almost nine years of war was reaching its "final stages," with the number of US and NATO troops set to peak at 150,000 in the coming days.
The number of American troops killed fighting the Taliban in the last four days hit 22 on Tuesday with the deaths of five US soldiers in the east of the country, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
The total number of foreign troops to die this year is now 485, compared to 521 for all of 2009, according to an AFP count based on a tally kept by the independent icasualties.org.
Petraeus said the intensified fighting was a reflection of the militants' desperation as the alliance poured in more resources in an effort to speed an end to the war.
US President Barack Obama's surge of an extra 30,000 troops, announced last December, is aimed at flooding the Taliban hotspots of Kandahar and Helmand and adding pressure on the insurgents, he said.
"Levels of attacks have gone up and that's a manifestation of us increasing our resources substantially and taking away safe havens that the Taliban have been able to establish over the course of the last several years," he said.
"And when the enemy's safe havens are threatened they fight back.
"I said in testimony last year several times... that indeed it would become harder before it got easier. That's the nature of these endeavours," he said.
Petraeus acknowledged the spread of Taliban influence, especially to parts of the formerly peaceful north.
"I don't think anyone disagrees that the footprint of the Taliban has spread," he said, adding the insurgents had "reconnected in various safe havens and sanctuaries outside and inside the country," a reference to Pakistan.
"The US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan have worked hard to try to get the inputs right, to establish the organisations that are necessary for the conduct of a civil-military counter-insurgency campaign with our Afghan partners.
Petraeus, 57, took over command of international forces in Afghanistan on June 4, after his predecessor US General Stanley McChrystal was sacked.
As US combat forces pulled out of Iraq, Petraeus said Obama's plan to begin drawing down in Afghanistan from next July would be gradual.
Obama has been accused of stoking Taliban morale with the withdrawal announcement, though his administration has said any drawdown would be "conditions based".
"The transition likely will occur in districts initially, rather than in entire provinces although there may be some provinces where this may be possible," Petraeus said.
While the surge had hit the Taliban leadership hard, he said, "you don't kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency".
Military effort needed to be backed with good governance in order to build popular faith in the government, he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose government was first installed by the West after the toppling of the Taliban in 2001, has criticised the coalition strategy as "ineffective" and resulted only in civilian casualties.
Petraeus said Karzai's call last week for a shift in military focus to insurgent hideouts in neighbouring Pakistan was "understandable... and we share those concerns".
"We have obviously worked with our Pakistani partners over time to increase their capability to deal with the extremist elements on their soil who are threatening their writ of governance and who are causing enormous security problems in Afghanistan and in some cases in other areas of the world as well," Petraeus said.
"The fact is that Pakistan does deserve credit for having waged a very impressive counter-insurgency campaign over the last 18 months."
5 US troops killed in Afghanistan
Press TV / August 31, 2010
Five more US troops have been killed in eastern Afghanistan, bringing the number of US troops killed in the war-torn country to 21 since Friday, NATO says.
The soldiers lost their lives by an improvised explosive devise (IED) on Tuesday, NATO spokesman James Judge told AFP.
The deaths came a day after seven American soldiers were killed in two separate bomb attacks in the country's volatile south.
One Canadian soldier also died on Monday of injuries sustained in a bomb attack on August 22, the Canadian military said on Tuesday.
At least 484 foreign troops, 319 of them Americans, have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared to 521 for all of 2009.
The rising casualties of the US-led forces have increased opposition to the Afghan war in the US and other countries contributing troops to the mission.
Some 140,000 US-led troops are currently deployed in the war-ravaged country.
A further 10,000 are expected to be deployed to Afghanistan in the coming weeks.
British deputy PM visits troops in Afghanistan
LONDON, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has visited British troops in Afghanistan and insisted the military campaign there is "turning the corner," Britain's Skynews reported on Tuesday.
Clegg praised the "bravery and professionalism" of British forces stationed in the country and said there would be no extension to the deadline for combat troops to leave.
"This is not something you do overnight, but we have got five years to do this right," he said, "we have been very clear, we have put a full stop at the end of our engagement. By 2015 there will not be any British combat troops in Afghanistan."
The deputy prime minister spent time in Helmand Province before meeting troops at Camp Bastion, saying that "what I have seen today is a complete transformation of the military effort that I first saw when I visited two years ago."
After British Prime Minister David Cameron's trip there in June it emerged the Taliban had come close to launching an attack on his helicopter.
In addition to Camp Bastion, Clegg went to a frontline operating base in Nad-i-Ali and visited a school, clinic and police station funded by Britain.
Attack on private security company leaves 2
dead, 5 injured, 15 vehicles burned in Afghanistan
QALAT, Afghanistan, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Anti-government militants attacked a convoy of a private security company in Zabul province south of Afghanistan Monday night killing two guards and set on fire over a dozen vehicles, spokesman for provincial government Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar said Tuesday.
"The Taliban rebels attacked the convoy of a security company in Shahr-e-Safa district Monday night killing two guards, wounding five and set ablaze 15 vehicles," Rasoulyar told Xinhua.
However, he failed to identify the name of the company, saying it escorts logistic convoys of NATO-led troops in the province.
He also said that all those killed and injured were Afghans.
Taliban militants have speed up activities against Afghans and NATO-led troops based in Afghanistan.
Roadside bomb kills 3 aid workers in NE Afghanistan
FAIZABAD, Afghanistan, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Three aid workers were killed and two others sustained injuries as a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in Afghanistan's northeast Badakhshan province, Mohammad Amin Sohail the spokesman for provincial administration said Tuesday.
"The tragic incident happened in Shahr-e-Buzarg district on Monday afternoon. As a result, Mohammad Javed the office in-charge of OXFAM and two of his colleagues were killed," Sohail told Xinhua.
All the victims are Afghans, he asserted.
Another two people, including an employee of the office, were injured, he further said.
The authorities in provincial capital Faizabad could not get information about the tragic incident on time due to poor communication, Sohail added.
OXFAM, a London-based aid agency, has been serving in Afghanistan since long, he said.
The official further said that an investigation has been initiated to find the fact and bring to justice those behind the heinous crime.
A rocket fired by Taliban militants slammed close the compound of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in the southern Kandahar province, wounding a guard on Monday night.
Attack on gov't employees bus
leaves 2 dead in Afghan capital
KABUL, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Unknown armed men attacked a bus of government employees killing two service members and wounding six others in Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday, a private television channel reported.
"Unidentified armed men opened fire on a bus carrying employees of Supreme Court leaving two service members dead and wounding six others," Tolo broadcast in its news bulletin.
The incident occurred in Musayi district bordering Logar province. No groups or individuals have claimed of responsibility so far. Taliban militants often target government interests.
This is the first time over the past two years that armed militants directly target government employees' bus in the capital city Kabul.
Two years ago, the Taliban militants organized suicide attacks against the personnel of Defense and Interior ministries in Kabul, killing and injuring several service members.
14 Candidates Removed from
Parliamentary Elections List
Tolo news / August 31, 2010
The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) delisted 14 new names from its parliamentary elections list
Officials in ECC say these candidates from Kabul and other provinces were delisted for not resigning from their governmental posts in a timely manner.
These officials say, according to the article 13 of the elections law, one of the conditions to nominate for the parliamentary elections is to resign from governmental posts before certain deadline.
"The Electoral Complaints Commission decided that 14 candidates do not have the right to run for elections since they did not resign from their governmental positions," Ahmad Zia Rafat, a spokesman for ECC told reporters.
ECC had previously delisted 25 other parliamentary elections candidates for not resigning from their governmental posts.
"The documents of some other candidates for the parliamentary elections suspected for not having resigned from their governmental posts are under investigation and the results will be announced in a few days," Mr Rafat added.
Meanwhile, some delisted candidates criticise the Electoral Complaints Commission and the Independent Elections Commission for not acting transparently and say that they have resigned from their governmental posts already.
"I was delisted because I am an academic. If I had guns and rockets, or if I were related to irresponsible armed groups, or to any power holder or a murderer and criminal, I would not have been delisted now," General Aminullah Amarkhil, a delisted candidate told TOLOnews reporter.
ECC has so far removed the names of around 76 parliamentary elections candidates from its list.
sign agreement on TAPI gas pipeline
ASHKHABAD, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - Turkmenistan and Afghanistan have signed an agreement on construction of the Trans-Afghanistan (TAPI) gas pipeline for the transfer of Turkmen gas to Pakistan and India, local media said on Tuesday.
The TAPI project, first put forward in 1995, was promoted by the country's late leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, in the early 2000s.
It secured strong support from Washington after a U.S.-led offensive ended the Taliban's five-year rule over Afghanistan in 2001.
The Turkmen delegation is expected to visit Pakistan and India to sign agreements with the two countries in the near future.
Local media said earlier that Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai have agreed to discuss the project at the 65th United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.
Leading stories in today’s Afghan media
31 August 2010 - Security forces arrest 24 Taliban insurgents in Zabul; ECC to remove names of 10-15 parliamentary election candidates; Bomb explosion kills governor of Nangarhar’s Lal Poor district; Interior Ministry sets over 8 tons of narcotics on fire; UNAMA slams candidates’ killing; 20 million acres of land grabbed in Afghanistan; Radio editor freed in Paktika.
AFGHAN TV NEWS
Tolo TV Headlines
Director Ghulam Ishan of the Afghan Survey and Cadastre Department said over four million jirebs (almost two million acres) of Government land have been grabbed by powerful people in the country. He added that the Department could only survey 34 per cent of the country’s land due to lack of professional human resources and advanced equipment.
The Afghanistan Election Complaints Commission (ECC) announced on Monday that the Commission is planning to remove the names of 10 to 15 parliamentary election candidates who have not resigned from their official posts.
During his visit to Afghanistan, Germany’s Defence Minister said serious efforts should be made to ensure the security of the upcoming parliamentary elections. He also reiterated his country’s commitment towards Afghanistan, saying that there is no specific timeline for withdrawal of German forces from Afghanistan.
In an interview with the Times, US General Benjamin Freakley criticized Britain's military tactics in Helmand, saying Britain’s military forces have not pressured the Taliban sufficiently.
A bomb killed Sayed Mohammed Pahlawan, governor of the Lal Poor district of Nangarhar, and injured four of his bodyguards on Monday.
A police officer beat and insulted a Tolo TV reporter who was asking permission to enter Serena Hotel to cover a news conference on Monday. Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Journalists Union has condemned the act, calling on the Afghan Interior Ministry to investigate the case.
The Counter-Narcotics Department of the Interior Ministry set on fire over 8 tons of seized narcotics on Monday.
Shamshad TV Headlines
In order to prevent fraud in the upcoming parliamentary elections, ECC started on Monday a two-day workshop attended by three ECC officials from each province.
The Counter-Narcotics Department of the Interior Ministry set on fire over 8 tons of seized narcotics on Monday.
Afghan and foreign forces have arrested 24 Taliban militants, including two commanders, in Zabul.
Ariana TV Headlines
Remote controlled explosion kill Lal poor district chief in Nangarhar.
In his meeting with Afghan authorities, United States Ambassador to Islamic Countries Reshad Husain says people in America now do not relate terrorism to Islam.
Security authorities in Zabul arrested 24 Taliban insurgents.
The Interior Ministry’s Deputy Minister for Counter-Narcotics said counter-narcotics police arrested 300 traffickers, including 10 policemen from the Public Order Office and six foreigners. Five networks of drug traffickers were also disbanded and 8.5 tons of narcotics set on fire.
The United States ambassador to Afghanistan discussed issues of security, reconstruction, counter-narcotics campaign and corruption with residents of Takhar.
Paktika police closed Radio Pashtun, accusing its leadership of violating national sovereignty.
NATO troops in Khost, together with Afghan soldiers, arrested the head of the Afghan Red Crescent Society and five members of his family, and handed them over to the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
AFGHAN PRINT MEDIA
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the killing of a parliamentary election candidate and five election campaigners in Herat.
A parliamentary candidate in Faryab, Dr Naqibullah, who enjoys support from General Dostum, survived an attack on his life, but one of his aides died in the incident.
Personnel of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) seized a huge consignment of arms and military kits belonging to Blue Hager Company which was to be shipped to one of the provinces.
Turkmenistan and Afghanistan signed in Kabul several agreements on the extension of economic ties, railway and pipeline construction, trade relations, transport and tourism.
Poll candidate Fawzia Gelani from western Herat province, whose five campaign workers were recently slain, had received threat calls from the kidnappers who warned her to quit her candidacy or they would kill her campaign workers.
In his meeting with an Iraqi delegation in Kabul, the Afghan foreign minister urged the Iraqi Government to open its embassy in Kabul.
The United Nations condemned on Monday the killing of a fourth parliamentary election candidate and five men supporting the electoral campaign of a female candidate in Herat province. UNAMA offered its condolences to the victims’ families. “Those responsible for the killings must be brought to justice,” it stressed.
The Cadastral Survey of Afghanistan (CSA) has reported the grabbing of more than 20 million acres of land by power holders in the country. The CSA head said his office was able to survey only 34 per cent of Afghanistan lands.
Police have freed the editor of a private radio station (Pakhtun Ghag Radio) in Paktika province. The station was accused of airing programmes that harm the country’s sovereignty and detained the editor, said the spokesperson of the provincial governor on Monday.
A parliamentary election candidate, Haji Naqeebullah Faiq, escaped unhurt but his campaigner was killed in a bomb attack in Faryab province on Monday, said security officials.
In compliance with a Presidential decree issued on Afghanistan Independence Day, 52 prisoners, including five women, have been freed from the central jail in Balkh while 39 prisoners have been freed in Nangarhar, an official said on Monday.
In an effort to assess the effectiveness of the polio surveillance system in Afghanistan, a group of experts from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) spent a week in villages across the country examining a system used to detect the paralyzing disease in children under the age of 15. “The first and most important step toward eliminating polio is to know where the polio virus is circulating,” said Peter Graaff, WHO Representative to Afghanistan.
The Taliban has abducted four female doctors working for the Nijat Healthcare Centre in the Qarmqul district of Faryab. The police have so far failed to find any clue about the doctors’ whereabouts, and a search is ongoing, said the deputy provincial police chief.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) joint command ordered on Monday an investigation into allegations of civilian casualties during the 22 August operation in Baghlan, said the NATO lead forces in a statement.
As a result of disobeying the Elections Law, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) will removed on Tuesday the names of around 10-15 parliamentary poll candidates, said ECC Commissioner Sultan Akifi.
A bomb blast killed a district chief in Nangarhar on Monday, said the the provincial governor’s spokesperson.
State Media Editorials
The people support the move by the Interior Ministry and Kabul Municipality to remove all concrete barriers which have been blocking almost all roads and streets in Kabul.
Under present circumstances where insurgency and terrorism remain, the potential threats in the south, south-eastern and central regions have increased the concern that subversive activities of opponents will create certain problems during the elections. Concerned authorities should assure the people in advance that both the candidates and voters will be secure and safe.
Private Media Editorials
It is thought that the outcome of the parliamentary elections will be much worse than last year’s presidential election if Afghan and foreign forces do not take effective measures regarding the security of candidates and the election.
The presence and policies of the Government and international community will be acceptable to some extent for the people if they show sincerity in the fight against the Taliban and corruption, implement infrastructure projects and support democracy and human rights in the country.
Referring to the recent wave of attacks against poll candidates and their campaign workers, the editorial says that such attacks are planned by neighbouring countries and such plots should be neutralized otherwise even more serious attacks are predicted as election day approaches.
It is worth mentioning that the lax approach towards Taliban militants, insurgent groups and their foreign supporters has led to the current chaos and growth of insecurity. One should also criticize President Karzai for calling these brutal militants as his “disgruntled brothers.” The security situation is getting worse day by day. The parliamentary elections are nearing but there is widespread fear of mounted attacks by the Taliban on voting day. Many people will not have access to polling stations. There is dire need for a quick turnaround to change this situation.
The recent UNHCR report, which showed an increase in the number of Afghan returnees comparing to that of the previous year, can hardly be seen as a positive sign because it is caused by other factors rather than the improvement in living conditions in the country.
Paktya (Paktya RTA) Headlines
Police arrested two suspects on charges of planting roadside bombs in Paktya province, said Ghulam Dastageer Rustamyar, the provincial Deputy Police Chief on Monday.
Balkh (RTA) Headlines
Based on a Presidential Decree issued on the occasion of the 91st anniversary of Afghan Independence Day, 52 prisoners, including five women, were released from Balkh central jail in Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday.
Balkh (Arzu TV) Headlines
In his visit from Taloqan city of Takhar province on Monday, US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry announced that the US Government plans to support the Amu River edges strengthening project as well as construction of asphalt roads in Taloqan in the near future. His visit is said to be related to the fight against corruption and supporting good governance in that province.
Jawzjan (RTA) Headlines
A consignment of over 1,000 metric tons of wheat flour donated by Turkmenistan arrived in Jawzjan province on Monday and will be distributed to the vulnerable families through Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA).
Faryab (RTA Faryab) Headlines
Based on a Presidential Decree issued on the occasion of the 91st anniversary of the Afghan Independence Day, 28 prisoners were released from Faryab central jail in Maimana city on Monday.
Nangarhar (RTA) Headlines
Based on a Presidential decree issued on the occasion of the Afghan Independence Day, a total 39 prisoners were released In Jalalabad, and the period of imprisonment of 19 prisoners has been reduced.
Kandahar (RTA) Headlines
The Kandahar Provincial Council appointed a delegation to monitor the activities of the International Relief and Development (IRD) – a USAID-funded programme in Kandahar.
A huge gathering of local government officials, tribal elders and locals in Zherai district of Kandahar province discussed the clean-up military operation and the reopening of closed schools in the province.
Petraeus to talk Obama out of pullout
Sun, 15 Aug 2010 17:24:49 GMT
Gen. Petraeus says progress in Afghanistan will take time.
The commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan says he reserves the right to advise US President Barack Obama against a troop pull-out from the country in 2011.
General David Petraeus said Obama had assured him that he would seek the commander's advice before making any decision on withdraw from Afghanistan.
"The president has been clear...this is the date when the process begins which is conditions-based," Gen Petraeus said in comments broadcast by NBC on Sunday.
Obama had vowed that he would start troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in mid 2011. However, officials like Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Robert Gates later said that the number of troops to be withdrawn could be as low as 2,000.
The developments come as the security situation keeps deteriorating in Afghanistan with US-led forces being killed by Taliban militants on a near-daily basis.
According to official figures, so far more than 2,000 US-led soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. Figures released by Afghanistan's Baakhtar news agency, however, put the death toll at near 4,500.
Gen. Petraeus also said that progress in Afghanistan will take time and US will hand over the country's security to Afghan troops as soon as they are ready
"As conditions permit, we transition to our Afghan counterparts in the security forces and government, and that allows a responsible draw-down of our forces."
Petraeus said he has maintained good ties with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, saying the two meet "on average about once a day."
"We have had numerous conversations and a couple of those have been at his residence, even you know, walking in his garden out behind his house and so forth. And again we have the kind of relationship that I believe we can each be forthright with the other and that means occasionally, again, confronting issues that are difficult for either of us," he said.
This is while Karzai and Obama are in an apparent rift over the war strategy in Afghanistan and the growing number of civilian deaths.
The UN has put the number of civilian casualties at nearly 1,300 so far this year. It blames a quarter of the deaths on foreign troops.
Civilians have been the main victims of violence in Afghanistan, particularly in the country's troubled southern and eastern provinces.
The issue of civilian casualties has caused friction between Washington and the Karzai government in Kabul.
Petraeus's remarks come as US public support for the Afghan mission and Obama's handling of the war hits an all-time low.
Afghanistan: NATO strike kills 2 fleeing militants
August 15, 2010 - 12:16pm
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - NATO forces killed two insurgents who attacked a police station in northern Afghanistan by hitting their truck with an airstrike as they fled the area, the coalition said Sunday.
Three pickup trucks full of gunmen launched an attack on the main police station in Kunduz province's Aliabad district on Saturday afternoon, said Deputy Provincial Police Chief Abdul Rahman Aqtash.
"They started a gunbattle that lasted for about one and half hours," Aqtash said, with both police reinforcements and NATO air support called in.
One police officer was killed in the fighting, he said. NATO said in a statement no one was killed or injured in the gunfight. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the discrepancy.
A NATO air team tracked the insurgents as they drove away, and fired on the truck after determining there were no civilians nearby, the statement said. Several other militants were wounded. Aqtash said the number killed may have been higher, but he was still confirming figures.
Violence has been on the rise in Kunduz and other northern provinces as the Taliban extend operations beyond their traditional bases in the south.
In the east, meanwhile, a crowd of protesters set upon U.S. troops outside of Bagram Air Field _ the main U.S. base in the country. A number of people were wounded as the demonstration in Pul-e-Sayad village turned into a riot, NATO said.
The crowd of about 250 people gathered around the American troops to protest the building of an Afghan Army base on land owned by local villagers, said Abdullah Adil, an Interior Ministry official who works with NATO forces in the area. A few villagers had first gone to the construction site in the morning to demand that work be stopped and when it wasn't, they returned with a crowd of people, he said.
Protesters threw baseball-size rocks at the troops as they escorted a contractor to the base, NATO said.
The rocks injured some service members and when they couldn't quell the riot, a soldier fired at the crowd in self-defense, NATO said.
Three Afghans were wounded in the melee, NATO said, without saying who was at fault for the injuries. The troops offered to help the wounded, but the locals rejected the assistance, a statement said.
One 12-year-old boy was shot, but his wounds were not life-threatening, Adil said.
Construction has now been halted pending more discussion with the villagers, he added.
"The land dispute is clearly an Afghan government issue that must be settled in order to resolve the ongoing concern of Afghans from the village," Col. William F. Roy said in the NATO statement.
Also Sunday, police in the southern province of Zabul said two Afghan policemen were killed and four wounded when their vehicle struck a hidden bomb in the Surai district.
Targeted killing is new U.S. focus in Afghanistan
Obama administrations starting to focus less on winning over civilians
By Helene Cooper and Mark Landler
WASHINGTON — When President Obama announced his new war plan for Afghanistan last year, the centerpiece of the strategy — and a big part of the rationale for sending 30,000 additional troops — was to safeguard the Afghan people, provide them with a competent government and win their allegiance.
Eight months later, that counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success, as demonstrated by the flagging military and civilian operations in Marja and Kandahar and the spread of Taliban influence in other areas of the country.
Instead, what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Faced with that reality, and the pressure of a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents. The shift could change the nature of the war and potentially, in the view of some officials, hasten a political settlement with the Taliban.
Based on the American military experience in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it is not clear that killing enemy fighters is sufficient by itself to cripple an insurgency. Still, commando raids over the last five months have taken more than 130 significant insurgents out of action, while interrogations of captured fighters have led to a fuller picture of the enemy, according to administration officials and diplomats.
American intelligence reporting has recently revealed growing examples of Taliban fighters who are fearful of moving into higher-level command positions because of these lethal operations, according to a senior American military officer who follows Afghanistan closely.
Rattling the Taliban
Judging that they have gained some leverage over the Taliban, American officials are now debating when to try to bring them to the negotiating table to end the fighting. Rattling the Taliban, officials said, may open the door to reconciling with them more quickly, even if the officials caution that the outreach is still deeply uncertain.
American military officials and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan have begun a robust discussion about “to what degree these people are going to be allowed to have a seat at the table,” one military official said. “The only real solution to Afghanistan has got to be political.”
The evolving thinking comes at a time when the lack of apparent progress in the nearly nine-year war is making it harder for Mr. Obama to hold his own party together on the issue. And it raises questions about whether the administration is seeking a rationale for reducing troop levels as scheduled starting next summer even if the counterinsurgency strategy does not show significant progress by then.
A senior White House official said the administration hoped that its targeted killings, along with high-level contacts between Mr. Karzai and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief and a former head of its intelligence service — which is believed to have close links to the Taliban — would combine to pressure Taliban leaders to come to the negotiating table.
Taliban attack US air base in Kandahar
Press TV / August 3, 2010
A group of Taliban militants have launched a ground attack on the Kandahar US air base in Afghanistan, setting off a spate of deadly clashes with foreign troops.
Some of the Taliban forces blew themselves up in front of NATO's largest base in southern Afghanistan after having failed to infiltrate into the base while others began firing at US-led forces with rocket propelled grenades, a Press TV correspondent reported on Tuesday.
The gun firing between the Taliban and the US forces has not came to a halt, but the American and Afghan security forces have now taken control of issues at the base.
According to Taliban spokesperson Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the fresh round of attacks is waged as part of a stepped-up campaign against US-led troops in Kandahar province.
Meanwhile, Maj. Fred De Mos, a spokesman for NATO forces told AFP that the number of casualties during the fight is still unknown.
Taliban forces made a similar attempt on May 22, just a few days after militants sent a number of bombers to raid the Bagram Air Field near the capital.
The incidents come as the number of attacks against US-led troops in Afghanistan has soared significantly over the past months amid public outcry over the prolonged war in the war-crippled country.
The latest development also comes as July set the record as the deadliest month for US-led forces stationed in the country since 2001.
Kandahar air base is considered the largest US base in southern Afghanistan, and is used by American, Canadian and Afghan soldiers.
Some 140,000 NATO and US soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan-30,000 of whom are deployed in the southern Taliban heartlands of Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Afghan, ISAF coalition forces take Taliban
stronghold of Sayedebad in southern Afghanistan
NATO News Release
KABUL, Afghanistan (August 3) - The Afghan National Army (ANA), in partnership with ISAF coalition forces, have seized and held the last Taliban stronghold of Sayedebad in southern Afghanistan. Moving out under the cover of darkness, ANA and coalition forces patrolled through fields and waist-high irrigation ditches to reach the outskirts of the town. In a swift move, under the protection of fire support provided by troops to the east, two compounds to the south of the village were cleared of possible insurgents and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
"The Company, along with our Afghan partners, has cleared through Sayedebad and we have systematically cleared through each of the compounds looking for insurgent activity," said Maj. Darren Newman, Somme Company commanding officer.
Once a foothold was achieved, and defensive positions established in the compounds, Afghan and ISAF soldiers moved forward clearing the town on the west and east sides from the south. At each stage, Afghan security forces were used to interact with the local Sayedebad population. "As we have pushed through we've found nothing to suggest the Taliban have been here in the last 48-72 hours," said the major. "It appears the presence of overwhelming forces from ANA and the ISAF has effectively meant the insurgents have fled out of this area before we arrived -- local atmospherics appear to be good. The locals are welcoming and pleased with our presence."
Once the village had been cleared, ANA and ISAF forces held a shura with the elders of the town to explain the operation. "They've agreed to work with us in partnership to provide security here and clear the area of improvised explosive devices -- their main concern was security," said Newman.
Although Sayedebad was free of insurgents, as the shura was taking place heavy firing could be heard off in the distance to the north as ANA and coalition forces continued its push south to open up the road between Sayedebad and Nad-e-Ali. The road continues to present a heavy IED threat to security forces and the local population. "We'll now look to consolidate our position and start searching for improvised explosive devices in the vicinity of the local compounds and routes in and out," said Newman. "Where we find them we'll remove them."
Bomb blast kills 4 civilians,
wounds 3 in N. Afghanistan
KABUL, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Four civilians were killed and three others wounded in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack in Afghanistan's northern Faryab province on Monday, a press release issued by NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said here Tuesday.
However, the press release, without giving more details, said that the indiscriminate use of IEDs again claimed the lives of innocent civilians.
"Once again, we see that the insurgent's indiscriminate use of IEDs has killed and injured several innocent civilians," said Col. James Dawkins, ISAF Joint Command's Combined Joint Operations Center director in the press release.
According to ISAF records, more than 400 civilians have been killed and 860 others wounded by insurgents' use of IEDs since the beginning of 2010, the press release stated.
The IEDs and roadside bombs, used by Taliban militants as part of their campaign, have also been proved the deadliest weapon against Afghan and NATO-led in the militancy-hit Afghanistan.
The hardliner Taliban-led militias who have vowed to speed up activities this year in Afghanistan have yet to make comments.
UN Removes Names From
Taliban Sanctions Blacklist
August 3, 2010
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The UN Security Council has decided to remove 45 names from its Taliban and Al-Qaeda sanctions blacklist.
Thomas Mayr-Harting, chairman of the UN Security Council panel that maintains the list, said that from the original 488 names on the list, 35 of the de-listed names had been associated with Al-Qaeda and 10 with the Taliban.
Additionally, eight of the names were people who had died. The council says it is still reviewing 66 names.
Of the 35 linked with Al-Qaeda, 14 are individuals and 21 are entities such as firms and foundations including companies based in Europe and the United States.
People or organizations on the list are subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze.
There's been no official reaction yet from the government in Kabul. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman declined comment today, saying they had not yet received the list.
Karzai has been asking the UN to review the list in hopes that delisting some 20 names would help advance reconciliation talks with insurgents.
"It would certainly have positive effects [on the whole process of reconciliation] and build mutual trust," Kabir Ranjbar, a member of Afghanistan's parliament, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan today.
"We must show encouraging signs to the Taliban that are willing to lay down weapons, give up on violence and ready to live a peaceful life and in accordance to the Afghan Constitution."
Ranjbar added that dropping "certain names" from the UN blacklist "indicates to the rest that the world community and the Afghan government is ready to treat them with respect only if they follow the same path. It shows that the world and the Afghan government provide them with a fair chance to start living a normal and peaceful life.
"More importantly, not only their names are dropped from the list, but they can travel and live normally, reactivate their bank accounts. This is a very encouraging and positive move."
However, Aziz Royesh, a political analyst based in Kabul, says that while the delisting of certain names is "encouraging," he doubts it will help combat the insurgency in Afghanistan.
"I think eliminating some names does not solve the problem because they [Taliban] aren't challenging the regime and the international community simply because their names are in the UN blacklist," Royesh says.
"They are challenging the legitimacy of the Afghan government. Considering their latest military operations, I think they are in a superior position."
Security Council Review
In order for a name to be deleted, it must be proved that the organization or individual has no links to Al-Qaeda, is not involved in terrorist activities, and has accepted the Afghan Constitution.
Even when the person is assumed to be dead, their death and the state of their assets must be verified. Information about the individual or organization is generally difficult to confirm since many are located in remote areas near the Afghan-Pakistani border. All 15 members of the Security Council have to agree to remove a name.
Some diplomats say that Russia had been particularly hesitant to approve the delisting of names because of worries about drug trafficking and rebel groups in Chechnya that are linked to the Taliban.
This review by the Security Council, which has taken 18 months, is the only such audit since the list was created in 1999.
with material from RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, agencies
Petraeus Issues First Guidance
to Allied Troops in Afghanistan
August 2, 2010
Al Pessin | Pentagon
The U.S. and international commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, who took command a month ago, has issued his first guidance document for the nearly 150,000 troops under his command. He is emphasizing the need to provide security and good governance for the Afghan people.
In a three-and-a-half-page document, General Petraeus' first two guidance points order his forces to "secure and serve the population" and "live among the people." His 24 points also include fighting corruption and abuse of power, which he says fuel the insurgency. He also tells the troops to "pursue the enemy relentlessly," to "fight hard" and also "with discipline," and to consult local people and their leaders as they make plans.
The document makes many of the same points as the one issued a year ago by Petraeus' predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, who was forced to resign in June after he and members of his staff were quoted criticizing senior Obama Administration officials.
Petraeus also is expected to issue a new tactical directive - probably this week - designed to clarify some of McChrystal's orders, particularly one that some troops have complained limits their ability to call in air strikes to protect themselves. Senior officials say air strikes should be kept to a minimum to avoid civilian casualties, but Petraeus has already said troops must be allowed to defend themselves.
Speaking to a veterans' group Monday, President Barack Obama indicated the tactical directive will be well timed, as most of the additional forces he ordered to Afghanistan have arrived and operations are steadily increasing.
"Nearly all the additional forces that I ordered to Afghanistan are now in place," said the president. "Along with our Afghan and international partners, we are going on the offensive against the Taliban, targeting their leaders, challenging them in regions where they had free rein, and training Afghan national security forces."
The president said the United States and its coalition and Afghan partners "will continue to face huge challenges in Afghanistan," but he said the new strategy he announced in December is generating progress toward what he called "achievable" goals.
The key goals are to defeat al-Qaida and it supporters, including the Taliban, and to enable the Afghan government and security forces to keep the terrorists out in the future. The president says he will begin to withdraw U.S. troops next July, but officials say the United States will maintain a substantial military and civilian commitment to Afghanistan for years after that.
The guidance document General Petraeus issued Sunday tells the troops they need to work closely with the Afghan forces, and with U.S. and international civilian agencies. He also tells the troops it is important to gain the trust of the Afghan people by interacting with them and by communicating allied intentions, and the results of operations, quickly and accurately.
He also endorses the Afghan government's somewhat controversial plan to reintegrate some low-level Taliban fighters into society, saying the foreign troops should work with local officials to identify which insurgents are "reconcilable," and which need to be pursued militarily.
According to the Pentagon, there are now 98,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That is the target number for the enhanced force ordered by President Obama. Officials say the number, however, reflects some overlap between newly arrived units and some that are preparing to rotate out of the country, and there still several thousand of the additional forces yet to deploy. The Pentagon says there also are 49,000 troops from NATO and other international partner countries.
Afghan president to visit Iran
KABUL, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai would pay an official visit to Iran to attend the tripartite summit, presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said Tuesday.
"The President is going to Iran in near future possibly in a few days and will take part in a trilateral summit among Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan," Omar told a regular weekly press conference here.
Without giving more details, he said that a high ranking delegation will also accompany the president in his tour to Iran.
Pakistani President Travels to Britain
VOA News / August 3, 2010
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is set to arrive in Britain Tuesday, where he is expected address allegations that his country supports terrorism.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that Pakistan exports terrorism to the South Asia region.
Pakistan was outraged by the comments, which came during Mr. Cameron's visit to India, and followed the leak of classified U.S. military documents detailing alleged ties between Pakistan's intelligence services and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
Mr. Cameron and Mr. Zardari are scheduled to meet Friday in London.
Mr. Zardari met Monday in Paris with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The two discussed fighting terrorism and nuclear cooperation and announced that Mr. Sarkozy will visit Pakistan before the end of the year. Under pressure from the United States, Pakistan has conducted military campaigns against Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants within its borders.
A spokesman for Mr. Cameron said the prime minister stands by his remarks. She said he has acknowledged that Pakistan is taking action against extremism, and that the issue will be discussed further during his meeting with Mr. Zardari.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.
U.S. Dispatches Helicopters
for Flood Relief Assistance
NATO News Release
KABUL, Afghanistan (August 3) - Six U.S. Army aircraft consisting of four tandem-rotor CH-47 Chinook helicopters and two UH-60 Blackhawk utility helicopters arrived in Pakistan today, as part of the United States Government's continued assistance to Pakistan during humanitarian relief operations.
The helicopters were dispatched to Pakistan from Afghanistan in response to the Government of Pakistan's request for flood relief assistance. The helicopters and their crews will operate in partnership with the Pakistan government and military throughout the flood-impacted areas to deliver much-needed relief supplies and provide transport to people who need emergency assistance in flood-stricken areas. The United States responded immediately to Pakistan's call for assistance following the tragic and devastating floods, consistent with our humanitarian values and our deep commitment to the people of Pakistan.
Additional assistance will be provided based on the Government of Pakistan's assessments of humanitarian needs.
Dozens of Afghan refugees
missing, thousands displaced
PESHAWAR, 3 August 2010 (IRIN) - Dozens of Afghan refugees have been reported missing and thousands displaced by severe floods in Pakistan over the past two weeks, according to refugees, aid workers and officials.
Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP) Province, northwestern Pakistan, where most of the 1.7 million Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan are living, has been worst affected, officials said.
At least two camps, which accommodated over 5,000 refugee families, have been washed away by floods, Jamaluddin Shah, a Pakistani government commissioner on Afghan refugee affairs in KP, told IRIN.
Floods have damaged thousands of houses in about 20 refugee camps out of 29 across the province, he said.
“Some displaced refugees have been temporarily sheltered at schools and in other buildings,” said Shah, adding that the exact number of Afghan refugees killed by the floods was unknown. “Dozens of people are reported missing,” he said.
The floods are the worst to hit Pakistan in decades. Hundreds have lost their lives, tens of thousands have been displaced and about three million people have been affected, aid agencies and government officials say.
“We have no shelter, no food and don’t know how long this catastrophe will continue,” said Abdul Wasi, a refugee in Azakhil camp, northeastern KP, where hundreds of houses have been completely destroyed.
“My wife and two children are missing,” said another refugee, Zabiullah.
Diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases have been reported in several affected areas, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said in a situation update on 2 August.
In collaboration with other aid agencies, WHO said it had helped send mobile health teams to some of the worst affected areas in a bid to prevent outbreaks of contagious diseases.
Officials in the Afghan Commissioners’ Office said cooked food had been distributed to some of the most vulnerable refugee families sheltering in schools.
“UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] has given us some tents and non-food aid items which we will start distributing soon,” said commissioner Shah.
Provision of relief to flood-affected communities has been described as slow and there has been criticism of the government.
Salih Mohammad Sherzai, the Afghan consul in KP, said the Afghan government was considering ways to provide assistance.
However, Afghanistan is struggling with its own flood crisis: up to 80 people are feared dead. It is unclear what the government would be able to do to help Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Some 300 refugees reportedly returned from KP to Afghanistan on 2 August, despite the floods. According to UNHCR, over 90,000 refugees have voluntarily returned from Pakistan to Afghanistan since 22 March.
Landmine museum in Kabul educates Afghans
BEIJING, Aug. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Over the past three decades of conflict in Afghanistan, millions of land mines and unexploded ordnance have been scattered all over the country. Almost 90 percent of the devices are on agricultural land.
The landmines museum in the Afghan capital Kabul tell people about these explosive devices that can endanger their lives.
More than 60 thousand Afghans are victims of the landmines. During 30 years of conflict and civil war, more than 2 million explosive devices were planted across the country. Learning from the past experience, an Afghan de-miner has established the only landmine museum in Afghanistan and the region.
Fazil Karem Fazil, Museum Founder, said, "In 1994, when I and others worked at the UN in Hirat province, we found various kinds of mines. In the UN standards, the mines should be destroyed immediately when they are discovered. I asked myself, if we destroy the mines, what we will show for the next generation. What the Russian or the civil war our neighbor did Afghanistan. They supplied deadly weapon to kill the Afghan people."
The exhibited landmines show various types of landmine. They come in butterfly, trays and pressure cooker shape. The Afghan refugees are considered as main victims of the landmines. Some of them cross the neutral boarders between Afghanistan and Pakistan with the minimum information about the landmines.
Jamila Bahram, Landmine Civic Education Officer, said, "The Afghan Refugees live in countries that are not familiar with landmines. They don't have enough information about the landmines and never saw it. The refugees who are registered with the UN are trained and informed about the landmines that may explode when they cross the boarders. Most of the victims are the refugees who lack access to information about landmines."
Tamara Aqrabawe, Kabul, Afghanistan, said, "The museum has become an important travel site in Kabul. It houses 51 types of landmines including cluster bombs used during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001."
The museum doesn't tell the Afghans only about their history of war. It tells them about the Afghan children who had nothing to do with the war and need to be protected from the landmines.
Mohammad Arff, Operations Manager, said, "The child noticed the landmine which is in butterfly shape, he picked it from the ground and carried it in his hand. It exploded in his hand so he lost a few fingers and vision."
The Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation that runs the museum says the successful mine awareness campaigns have declined the landmine explosions from several hundred per month to around 60 incidents. The museum management says the landmines are the best warning for the Afghans to stop the conflict in the war-torn country.
Unknown armed men kill 6 guards
of bank, rob money in N. Afghanistan
MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Unknown armed men raided the branch of a popular Afghan private bank Kabul Bank early Tuesday and after killing six of its guards robbed the money inside, an official with the bank Mohammad Ibrahim said.
"Unknown armed men sneaked into a branch of Kabul Bank in Mazar-e-Sharif city late night and after killing six guards took away some money," Ibrahim told Xinhua.
He also said that the robbers snubbed to dead the six guards of the bank by knife.
Ibrahim who is the in-charge of the branch further said that the burglars entered the bank from the backside of the building and committed the crime. However, he did not provide more information.
Meantime, Abdul Rauf Taj the deputy to police chief of Mazar- Sharif city in talks with Xinhua said the incident apparently occurred in the wee hours when the city was calm and all were asleep.
He also added that the robbers had robbed more than 200,000 U.S. dollars and 3.5 million Afghanis (some 75,000 U.S. dollars) from the bank.
Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest city in north Afghanistan has been regarded as the peaceful city in the militancy-ridden country. Few attacks on businessmen have been reported, and this is the first time that a bank is robbed there.
Leading stories in today’s Afghan media
3 August 2010 - US military will have wide presence in Afghanistan after initial troop pull-out in July 2011 - Gates; Presidential advisor Sabawoon escapes attempt on his life; Big military operation to be launched in Ghazni; Karzai’s economic advisor urges international aid to be channeled through Government; Independent Election Commission (IEC) disqualifies six parliamentary poll candidates; Sixteen prisoners released from Parwan detention facility; Suicide attacker kills five children.
AFGHAN TV NEWS
Tolo TV Headlines
According to ABC News, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has warned the Taliban not to look forward to a US withdrawal in July 2011, emphasizing that a large portion of US forces will stay in Afghanistan after the initial US drawdown.
The Head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate, Senator John Kerry, said the only solution to the ongoing Afghan conflict is a political settlement, adding that the United States should have presence in the talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.
Five civilians were killed and one other wounded in a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar on Monday.
In an explosion in Nangahar on Monday, Waheedullah Sabawoon, President Karzai’s Advisor on Tribal Affairs, two of his relatives, three of his bodyguards and three civilians sustained injuries.
Four armed men in police uniforms kidnapped on Sunday the son of Afghan Refugees and Repatriations Minister Jamahir Anwari from the fifth district of Kabul.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has urged the Attorney-General’s Office to launch an immediate investigation into the case of Mullah Tara Khel, a parliamentary elections candidate.
Following his anti-Iranian slogans and protests, Afghan MP Najeebullah Kabuli, head of Emroz TV, claimed that he has obtained a letter from the Iranian Embassy in Kabul addressed to the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), asking the commission to remove his name from the parliamentary candidates’ list.
Former Deputy UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Christopher Alexander said Pakistan’s Military Chief General Ashfaq Kayani has supported suicide attacks in Afghan cities. Alexander added that General Kayani, in his talks with President Karzai, had set the closure of Indian consulates in Afghanistan as a precondition for Pakistan’s mediation between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.
The Afghan Defence Ministry has announced that a huge military operation named Shamsher (Sword) is to be launched soon in Ghazni province to ensure the security of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Ariana TV Headlines
A remote-controlled bomb in eastern Nangarhar province targeted Waheedullah Sabawoon, President Karzai’s Advisor on Tribal Affairs who, along with three civilians and four of his men, sustained injuries.
NATO and Afghan forces launched a joint military operation on Monday in four insecure districts of southern Ghazni province. The officials said the operation will last 10 days.
The IEC has removed six candidates from the poll list, accusing them of not quitting their government jobs.
The Afghan Research and Consultancy Centre says international troops have lost the Afghan people’s support, adding that the documents from WikiLeaks prove that Afghanistan is not a proper place for a counter-terrorism war as the terrorists’ centres are not in Afghanistan. The Centre has also asked Afghanistan’s Government to start talks with the international community regarding the issue.
President Karzai’s senior advisor on economic affairs said that based on the agreements made at the Kabul Conference, capacity building is a top priority for the Government.
Shamshad TV Headlines
At a press conference on Monday, the head of the Kabul Media Centre said foreign forces should move the current fighting to the terrorists’ sanctuaries outside Afghanistan.
Afghan political analysts believe that Iran’s nuclear establishments will endanger the region.
An explosion in Nangarhar on Monday injured eight people, including Waheedullah Sabawoon, President Karzai’s advisor.
At a press conference, President Karzai’s Advisor on Economic Affairs Ishaq Nadiri said problems in Afghanistan will remain unsolved if the international community does not channel 50 per cent of its assistance through the Government, as agreed at the Kabul International Conference.
Afghan security forces have arrested six terrorists who planned a suicide attack on Kabul.
Afghan and NATO-led ISAF forces wounded eight civilians in a five-hour clash with insurgents in Alasay district of Kapisa province.
The Taliban has been planning to "increase voter intimidation" in Laghman province in an attempt to suppress and disrupt the 18 September elections, the NATO-led force warned Monday.
The IEC has disqualified six parliamentary poll candidates from the 18 September parliamentary elections for failing to quit their Government jobs, said the IEC spokesman on Monday. Disqualified were Aasfa Shams from Kabul, Karima Kohistani from Kapisa, Zamin Poya from Day Kundi, Parveen Sadat from Logar, Fauzia Younisi Kakar and Muhammad Hashim Garani from Zabul.
A presidential advisor on economic affairs, Muhammad Ishaq Naderi, warned on Monday that Afghan institutions lack the capacity to utilise the international aid pledged at the Kabul Conference held on 20 July.
United Nations agencies said Tuesday they have begun providing relief assistance to thousands of flood-affected families in central and eastern Afghanistan following torrential rains in the region. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it is working with the Afghan Government and other UN agencies and partners to respond to the hygiene, nutrition and primary health needs of up to 4,000 families in the affected regions.
Sixteen detainees have been released from the Detention Facility in Parwan after committing not to return to insurgency, a US military official said Monday.
Suicide bombing killed five children in Kandahar on Monday.
A Criminal Court tried Mulham, a former Afghan police general, on Monday for allegedly receiving tens of thousands of dollars from drug traffickers smuggling opium across the western border with Iran.
President Karzai’s Advisor on Tribal Affairs Waheedullah Sabawoon and five others who were wounded in a Monday roadside bomb attack in Jalalabad have been airlifted to Kabul for treatment, officials said.
Afghan troops, with the support of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), killed some 30 Taliban in Nuristan province on Monday.
State Media Editorials
Women’s rights advocates should make their best possible efforts to eliminate violence against women in Afghanistan to bring women security, peace and gender equity.
Effective plans should be developed to strengthen economic, political and military sectors in Afghanistan.
Private Media Editorials
The Afghan Government is responsible not only to monitor violations of media agencies but also to monitor the performance of high-ranking Government officials who fuel ethnic and tribal differences in the country.
If the international community desires a stable Afghanistan, it should strengthen the Government’s pillars and advocate human rights and democratic values.
The Afghan Government, the IEC and the international community should pave the ground for holding a fair, free and transparent election in the country. It is presumed that some political movements which will not succeed in the parliamentary elections will resort to violence after the election. Therefore, institutions including the United Nations representative in Afghanistan and the foreign forces should pay their utmost attention to foil such post-election conspiracies.
Both the national and international media made different remarks about the Kabul Conference before it was convened. But now there is no more news about it.
Paktya (RTA) Headlines
IEC Head Fazel Ahmad Manawi travelled to Gardez, the provincial capital of Paktya province, to review the security situation there for the upcoming parliamentary elections. He also met with local government officials and members of the Provincial Council.
Four policemen were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Yosufkhil district of Paktika province on Monday, said Mukhlis Afghan, the Governor’s spokesperson.
Afghan and NATO forces killed five Taliban militants and detained three others during a military operation in Andar district of Ghazni province, said District Chief Sher Khan Yousafzai on Monday. Meanwhile, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, said all victims were civilians.
Afghan and NATO forces detained a commander of the Haqqani network along with several other militants in Zurmat district of Paktya province, said a NATO statement on Monday.
Herat (RTA) Headlines
The overall security situation in western Badghis province has considerably improved compared to the previous months, said an Army official.
The Word Breastfeeding Week was marked by the provincial departments of Health and Women’s Affairs in Herat city.
Nangarhar (RTA) Headlines
The Emergency Taskforce Committee meeting discussed effective aid distribution to the flood- affected people. The representatives of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN World Food Programme (WFP), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Afghan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) presented their reports on the assistance they provided for the flood-affected communities.
Seven people, including President Karzai’s Advisor on Tribal Affairs Waheedullah Sabawoon,, who were wounded in a bomb attack on Monday, have been evacuated to Kabul.
Afghan National Army Corps 201 distributed food and non-food assistance to 100 flood-affected families who have been evacuated from Bila village in Kama district of Nangarhar province.
Aiming at improving the capacity of agriculturists and farmers, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) conducted a one-day workshop in Jalalabad which was attended by the representatives of the aid community and the departments of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of four eastern provinces.
Religious scholars of Laghman province pledged to support the Government in the holding of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Pistachio Forests Destroyed in Western Afghanistan
Tolo News / August 3, 2010
More than 50 percent pistachio forests have been destroyed in the western provinces of Herat and Badghis, officials say
The government has no control over most of these forests. Locals cut down pistachio trees in these areas and also use the jungles as pastures for their cattle, head of the Environmental Protection Department of Herat (EPDH), Abdul Qayum Afghan, told Tolo news.
A proposal by the department addressed to Herat authorities demands that nomads (kuchis) must leave these forests and the areas must be protected by locals, he added.
"EPDH made the plan to maintain security in the region, and to help develop the people's economic conditions, as well as conserving the country's natural resources," he added.
Meanwhile, the first documentary film about environmental protection was shown in Herat that pointed out the deterioration of environment and air pollution in the province.
"In the film, we tried to depict anything that can cause environmental pollution in Herat," said the film producer, Basir Ahmad Danishyar.
Experts believe that living conditions will become intolerable in Herat in the next 15 years, if air pollution is not controlled in the province.
Afghan, UN officials highlight
importance of breastfeeding in Herat
By UNAMA/Henri Burgard
3 August 2010 - Breast milk provides a baby with all the essential fluids, energy and nutrients needed during the first six months of life, according to a campaign launched this week by the Ministry of Public Health with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.
This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps - the Baby Friendly Way,” spotlights the impact health-care workers have on how mothers decide to feed their babies.
“Action is also needed to ensure that breastfeeding mothers are supported … by their husbands, families, and the community at large,” Peter Crowley, UNICEF country representative, told an assembly of provincial authorities, doctors, nurses and other health sector workers in Herat city in the west.
While early initiation of breastfeeding can decrease newborn mortality by around 20 per cent, the majority of women do not breastfeed, according to UNICEF.
In a country where access to clean water is often lacking, breastfeeding can keep young children safe from dangerous - often fatal - water borne diseases such as diarrhoea.
The campaign, launched on Sunday, is also meant to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding at later stages. Breast milk meets half or more of a child’s nutritional needs in the first year and up to a third in the second year.
The Breastfeeding Week campaign runs in most countries through Saturday.
Netherlands becomes first NATO country to end its combat mission in Afghanistan
By Robert H. Reid
Monday, August 2, 2010
The Netherlands became the first NATO country to end its combat mission in Afghanistan, drawing the curtain Sunday on a four-year operation that was deeply unpopular at home and even brought down a Dutch government.
The departure of the small force of nearly 1,900 Dutch troops is not expected to affect conditions on the ground. But it is politically significant because it comes at a time of rising casualties and of growing doubts about the war in NATO capitals, even as allied troops are beginning what could be the decisive campaign of the war.
Canada has announced that it will withdraw its 2,700 troops in 2011, and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has promised to pull out his country's 2,600 troops the year after.
That is likely to put pressure on other European governments such as Germany and Britain to scale back their forces, adding to the burden shouldered by the United States, which expects to have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of next month.
President Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing American troops starting in July 2011. But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told ABC's "This Week" broadcast Sunday that only a small number of troops would leave in the initial stage.
The end of the Dutch mission took place amid bad news from Afghanistan -- including rising casualties and uncertainty over a strategy that relies heavily on winning Afghan public support through improved security and a better performance by Afghanistan's corrupt and ineffectual government.
July was the deadliest month of the nearly nine-year-long war for U.S. forces, with 66 deaths. U.S. commanders have warned of more losses ahead as the NATO-led force ramps up operations in longtime Taliban strongholds in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, which accounted for most of last month's American deaths.
Two more international service members were killed Sunday in fighting in the south, NATO said without specifying nationalities.
Twenty-four Dutch troops have died in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2006. Most of the Dutch force was based in the central province of Uruzgan, where it will be replaced by troops from the United States, Australia, Slovakia and Singapore.
-- Associated Press
Maintainers resurrect F-16's that will become targets
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.:
Maintainers are towing F-16 Fighting Falcons out of retirement from the "boneyard" here July 29 and preparing them to become the Air Force's newest platform for target training.
Specialists with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group are regenerating F-16s so they can be flown to a Boeing facility in Florida where they will be converted to QF-16 full-scale aerial targets.
Boeing officials received a $69.7 million contract from Air Force officials in March to convert up to 126 retired F-16s into QF-16 drones that can fly either manned or unmanned, according to a Boeing press release.
As part of the QF-16 program developmental phase, Boeing officials tasked 309th AMARG maintainers to regenerate six F-16s. The maintainers spent more than a year and a half, an average of about 80 days per aircraft, preparing the first six aircraft to fly to the Boeing facility. The first F-16 arrived in at the Boeing facility in April. The fourth is scheduled to fly out next week, while two are still in the maintenance phase.
"Once we pull the aircraft from storage, we remove all the panels to conduct our preliminary inspections," said Rob McNichol, an F-16 aircraft supervisor with the 309th AMARG. "We remove components so that we can get specialists such as nondestructive inspection members to find out if the aircraft is going to be airworthy. If it isn't, then there's no sense doing anything else to it, and we'll take it back to the desert."
Once an aircraft passes the initial inspections, it is further disassembled to refurbish, upgrade or replace components. A number operational checks and test flights are performed to ensure the aircraft is safe and ready for flight.
"We are regenerating these aircraft from purely storage to a fully-flyable, mission-capable aircraft," Mr. McNichol said.
Maintainers are converting F-16C models as well as older F-16A aircraft. Once converted, the QF-16s will replace the few QF-4s left in the inventory.
"We're running out of airworthy airframes, there's not that many more left," Mr. McNichol said. "The F-16 is a much lower radar picture which is much needed in modern warfare. Everyone is getting into smaller profiles, a smaller radar footprint, which is what the F-16 can give you; plus, it's a lot faster."
After modification to the QF-16 configuration, the six aircraft will serve as prototypes for engineering tests and evaluation prior to production, according to a Boeing press release. Deliveries of QF-16 drones are scheduled to begin in 2014.
"With the advent of the QF-16 program, we're giving the warfare a better active weapon system," Mr. McNichols said. "Even though these will be flyable by a pilot, once they go to the drone packaging they can do everything unmanned that they can do manned. They'll be used to test new weapons coming on board, looking at a very small radar signature. It's just the modernization of it, which we need to keep building and to become more technically advanced."
Royal Navy Divers Join Fight Against IEDs in Helmand
Army News — By UK Ministry of Defence on August 2, 2010 at 5:40 am
Four Royal Navy bomb disposal experts from the Fleet Diving Squadron based at Horsea Island, Portsmouth, are heading to Afghanistan in a few weeks to help deal with the improvised explosive device threat.
Predominantly based at Camp Bastion, the quartet of divers will work in support of the British Army's 61 Field Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and other coalition forces.
They will deploy to forward operating bases within Helmand province from where they will carry out offensive searches and clearance of insurgent-laid improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and conventional munitions, and will accompany regular foot patrols.
They will also train the Afghan National Army in explosive ordnance recognition and search and disposal skills.
Heading the team is Lieutenant Chris Stephenson who is joined by Leading Seaman (Diver) Jason Webb, Able Seaman (Diver) Rod Mackenzie and Able Seaman (Diver) Mark Humberstone.
They have just completed six months of training with 61 Field Squadron, culminating in a major exercise on Salisbury Plain.
Lieutenant Stephenson said:
"I am looking forward to getting out there and getting on with the job. The biggest challenges will be the environment and the constant threat of IEDs - it's quite different to how we would work normally.
"Usually I'm here running a dive team for the Royal Navy and out there I'm part of a coalition force in Afghanistan.
"We prepared for this tour with a six-month intensive course with the Army, which mainly taught us infantry skills, and we worked on our knowledge of the different types of IEDs that are out there.
"We constantly adapt our way of working because things change out in theatre, in terms of the type of IEDs they use, and so then we adapt our procedures here so we are constantly up-to-date."
The Royal Navy Diving Branch is a small specialisation of the Mine Warfare Branch, dedicated to a wide range of underwater diving tasks and more specifically to mine and ordnance disposal underwater.
Army Widens Probe Into WikiLeaks Scandal
AOL News (July 31) --
Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking an air strike video, was in solitary confinement Saturday as suspicion mounted about his possible involvement in the recent WikiLeaks scandal and prosecutors investigated whether anyone else should join him behind bars.
Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning is being held at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in northern Virginia, awaiting possible trial on 12 offenses. Manning was processed at the Quantico detention facility in Virginia on Thursday. He may face a military judge in August, but the complexity of the case means there is a strong chance of a delay, CNN reported.
According to CNN, Manning is the prime suspect in the recent case, in which thousands of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan were leaked by WikiLeaks to publications including The New York Times and The Guardian.
Defense Secretary Robert M Gates denounced WikiLeaks on Thursday, saying that leaking the documents to the press endangered lives.
"The battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world," Gates said, according to The New York Times.
Manning has already been charged with disseminating a classified video of an air strike in which U.S. military personnel are shown killing civilians, including Reuters journalists.
Now, authorities are investigating if Manning physically passed on discs that contained classified military information to somebody in the United States, CNN said.
Manning, who is half-British, frequently complained about the Army via his Facebook page, The Daily Telegraph reports. His status updates included comments saying he was "beyond frustrated" and "Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment."
He also quipped that the phrase "military intelligence" is an oxymoron.
The inquiry into the recent leak has been expanded to search for civilian accomplices, The New York Times reported.
Investigators are checking out Manning's social circle in Cambridge, Mass., in the belief that whoever leaked the documents may have had civilian help.
A computer hacker named Adrian Lamo told The New York Times that he believes WikiLeaks helped Manning with the technical aspect of downloading classified documents.
Lamo says he believes that WikiLeaks helped Manning devise encryption software that allowed him to e-mail classified data out of the military computer system.
Manning "was to a great extent manipulated by WikiLeaks." Lamo told The New York Times. Lamo admits he has no direct evidence to back his claim that Manning received help.
Lamo knew Manning via extensive e-mail conversation and later turned him in to authorities.
One civilian interviewed by the authorities told The New York Times that authorities may be concerned that there is more classified material in the Boston area.
The F.B.I., which can prosecute civilians, has been brought in to assist the military in the inquiry.
Contractors, Afghan recruits in deadly training dispute
By Wayne Anderson - The Washington Times
Updated:11:11 a.m. on Friday, July 30, 2010
CAMP SPANN, Afghanistan
A training exercise this month erupted into a deadly gunfight between Afghan and U.S. instructors, illustrating the problems officials face in preparing the Afghan soldiers and police officers for the drawdown of U.S. troops next year.
What's more, the July 20 incident at the Regional Mass Training Center at Camp Shaheen, about 10 miles east of Mazar-e Sharif, was the second fatal shooting this month of Westerners by their Afghan counterparts.
According to Afghan armyLt. Col. Mohammed Naem, the media officer at Camp Shaheen, Afghan army recruits were participating in a training exercise when an argument erupted between an Afghan enlisted man named Jafar and a U.S. contractor who worked for Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI).
The men were skilled weapons trainers and friends, said Col. Naem, who works frequently with NATO public affairs personnel.
"The MPRI guy raised his fist and was yelling obscenities at [Jafar]," he said. "Jafar steps back, and his sidearm ... accidentally falls to the ground."
A U.S. soldier standing nearby witnessed the quarrel and, thinking Jafar was reaching for his pistol to harm the MPRI instructor, "unloads a magazine" into Jafar, killing him and wounding another, Col. Naem said.
An Afghan recruit saw the U.S. soldier shoot Jafar and, in retaliation, shot the soldier and another MPRI contractor, the media officer said. Other trainees rushed to the area and, seeing the Afghan recruit standing amid the carnage, drew their weapons and opened fire, killing the recruit.
In the end, two American contractors and two Afghans were killed, and one U.S. soldier and one Afghan were wounded.
However, Col. Naem's account differs markedly from that of an eyewitness and from the official Afghan army report about the incident, both of which point to an attack by the Afghan weapons trainer.
According to the eyewitness, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, the MPRI contractor and the Afghan weapons trainer were unarmed, which is standard procedure. After their argument, Jafar left and got two loaded M-16 rifles from the Afghan trainees and an extra ammo clip, the eyewitness said.
Jafar then opened fired with one rifle, with the second M-16 slung across his chest, the witness said. He shot his civilian counterpart and another MPRI contractor, along with a U.S. soldier. The wounded soldier drew his sidearm and shot back at Jafar, but missed.
Two U.S. soldiers rushed to the scene and, assessing the situation, fired several M-16 rounds and killed Jafar, the witness said. In the crossfire, some Afghan and NATO troops also were wounded.
Brig. Gen. Sanaull Hag, acting commander of the 209th Shahin Corps of the Afghan National Army, essentially confirmed the eyewitness account.
A week ago on Tuesday "an accident happened," Gen. Hag said. "So we send some of our attorneys from the military court and also some mentors with them."
He said the report's conclusion about the "live-fire exercise" confirms that Jafar and the MPRI contractor were friends and had a good working relationship. Jafar was a trainer for the past year; the contractor had arrived two days earlier.
"They had argued about something," Gen. Hag said. That argument led Jafar to shoot his American counterpart and the others before being killed himself.
Gen. Hag said he did not know the motive for the killings. "I don't see any particular reason," he said.
But the eyewitness noted that Jafar was holding prayer beads "in his shooting hand."
MPRI had no immediate comment on the incident, said Amy Smith, vice president of communications with Raytheon Co., which owns MPRI.
An investigation is being conducted by military officials, said British Col. Stuart Cowen, a NATO spokesman in Kabul. The FBI is reported to be involved, too.
Earlier this month, in the southern Helmand province, three British soldiers were killed and four wounded by an Afghan soldier who then fled, presumably to join the Taliban.
Presently 20,000 Afghan soldiers are receiving training at six centers across the country, Col. Cowen said.
Afghanistan: War via the web
Jul 31, 2010, 04.15am IST
This week,via the internet,the world found itself the surprised recipient of thousands of leaked American military documents dealing with the war on terror in Afghanistan.The documents revealed American intelligence and classified findings detailing Pakistan's role in the war,figures of Afghan civilian casualties and the success of the war itself.The posting of these documents by the WikiLeaks website generated fresh controversy around the war,its data and its combatants.The American government voiced concern over the security risks posed by such Web-based information leaks while others questioned the exact dynamics of the war itself.
In a scathing article criticising the war in the wake of Wikileaks,The American Conservative commented,"The war in Afghanistan is a disaster,something President Obama refuses to acknowledge and insists on continuing for no discernible reason.Afghanistan's top commander,Gen.Stanley McChrystal voiced his frustration and lost his post.His replacement,Gen.David Petraeus isn't any clearer about our prospects than his predecessor or the president.Who truly puts the nation's security more at risk? A government that continues to put soldiers in harm's way with no clear mission or strategy,as the bodies,dollars and questions continue to pile up,or a website that insists the general public should know what their government is up to?"
However,the American government remained adamant in its search of the intelligence trail leading towards Wikileaks.CNN.com reported,"An Army private suspected of leaking classified material,including videos and other documents,has been transferred from Kuwait to a Marine Corps brig in Quantico,Virginia.Pfc.Bradley Manning,who served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq,was charged in June with eight violations of the U.S.Criminal Code and is the military's focus in the investigation into who leaked tens of thousands of documents to the website WikiLeaks."
In its intensive search of the information trail,the American government has received little assistance from Wikileaks itself.CNN.com reports,"Julian Assange,WikiLeaks founder,has declined to say where his whistle-blower website got about 91,000 US documents about the war.About 76,000 of them were posted on the site on Sunday in what has been called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War."
The episode has also sparked off a debate over the role of the media in multiple forms through the times of global war.Writing in The Washington Post,Anne Applebaum commented,"I didn't think it was possible,but Julian Assange has done it: By releasing 92,000 pages of intelligence documents relating to the Afghanistan war onto the laptops of an unsuspecting public,the proprietor of WikiLeaks has made an iron-clad case for the mainstream media.If you were under the impression that we no longer need news organisations,editors or reporters with more than 10 minutes' experience,think again.When such a report is placed in a long list with other equally enigmatic,equally out-ofcontext documents,it isn't easy to say.But there weren't any reporters,or any time to do real journalism,and thus the deeper context for these documents will have to be acquired in some other fashion.Eventually,historians or good investigative reporters will make sense of them,using interviews,memoirs,documentation from other sources."
There have,however,been concerns voiced over the personal identities of those involved in the war also being revealed via these documents.The BBC reported,"Wikileaks said it had removed the names of informants contained in the US military files that it published,but it has since emerged that hundreds of names have been exposed online." The American Conservative commented caustically on the specific information revealed through the episode."How about the most significant stories to come out of the Wikileak : That we pay Pakistan $1 billion a year to help the Taliban;that drone attacks are far less effective than portrayed;that significant civilian deaths are being covered up.Which of these is truly a massive security risk,domestically or abroad?"
Pakistan's alleged role in the war on terror,as revealed in the documents presented by Wikileaks,received global comment.BBC News quoted the Afghan President: "The war against terrorism is not in the villages or houses of Afghanistan... but in the sanctuaries,sources of funding and training [of terrorism] and they lie outside Afghanistan."
The Indian government assumed a "we-told-you-so" with respect to the sensational leak.An NDTV.com report stated,"Indian officials stress that the leaked documents only reaffirm what New Delhi has always maintained about the ISI's support to terror.But now that this and the US complicity are in the public domain,will support for the Prime Minister's peace initiative with Pakistan wane?" The news website also voiced Indian opposition's take on the issue.Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh said: "We have been wishy-washy in our approach to the US and Pakistan,we cannot take this lightly." The website added that government maintains dialogue is the only way forward with terror as the key focus.Some Pakistan watchers have asked whether there should instead be talks with those who are really calling the shots in Pakistan - the army.
It remains to be seen whether the Wikileaks episode will cause changes in the way the world and India engage with the war on terror,or whether the business of war will go on as usual.
Reference to missile-downed helicopter in leaked Afghanistan reports highlights a threat
If the Taliban had many surface-to-air missiles, it could dramatically alter an already struggling allied war effort. Shoulder-launched missiles downed scores of Soviet helicopters in the 1980s.
July 28, 2010|By Laura King and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Washington —
Wherever there are Western troops in Afghanistan, the clatter-thump of helicopter rotors serves as the soundtrack. Choppers are the workhorses of this war, with hundreds of them moving soldiers and supplies daily across a rugged landscape.
Because of the NATO force's heavy reliance on them, one of the most eye-catching revelations in a trove of classified documents posted on the Internet this week was that insurgents apparently used a portable heat-seeking surface-to-air missile to shoot down a twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook in Helmand province in May 2007, killing seven Western service members.
If the Taliban and other insurgent groups possessed large numbers of these weapons, it could dramatically alter the dynamics of a war effort that already is struggling. Shoulder-launched missiles downed scores of Soviet helicopters in the 1980s, helping ragtag Afghan rebels prevail against a vastly superior force.
Most experts believe that the antiaircraft threat currently posed by the insurgents is relatively limited, and that they don't have significant stocks of surface-to-air missiles, at least for now.
The shooting down of choppers remains a relative rarity in the Afghan conflict, and heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades are almost always found to have been used.
"After nine years, if they had a lot of them, we would have seen them by now," said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the subject on the record. Sporadic reports of attacks with surface-to-air missiles have often turned out to involve other weapons, the official said.
But portable surface-to-air missiles can be procured from many illicit sources in the region. Afghanistan's neighbors include Iran, Pakistan and China. NATO said this month that an intercepted memo from Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar suggested that the insurgents were redoubling efforts to obtain a variety of sophisticated armaments.
"It's wartime, and our warriors are searching for new weapons," said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, reached by telephone.
By their nature, shoulder-launched missiles — "manpads," in military parlance — are easily transportable, making them less difficult to smuggle than bulkier weapons systems. Mujahid declined to discuss any recent additions to the Taliban arsenal, but said, "It is difficult to stop weapons trafficking. The world's black market is open to us."
Matt Schroeder, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, said it is possible that there have been more attacks on coalition aircraft than have come to light. Yet Schroeder was skeptical that shoulder-fired missiles represented a major threat because such attacks in large numbers would be likely to come to public attention.
The downing of any aircraft is usually announced quickly by NATO's International Security Assistance Force. Two U.S. servicemen died last week when a helicopter was brought down by hostile fire in Afghanistan's south; the incident was disclosed by military officials within hours.
"It's hard to hide the loss of a lot of aircraft," Schroeder said.
Missiles being used by Afghan insurgents are generally thought to be of older Soviet and Chinese design, types that can be neutralized by common countermeasures such as diversionary flares.
The missiles are not easy to aim, and sometimes can be thrown off target even by sunlight and clouds. That could account for the fact that the classified documents posted by the organization WikiLeaks referred to at least 10 suspected missiles having missed their targets, according to an analysis by Britain's Guardian newspaper.
Taliban leaders have said the movement has a number of stored Stinger missiles left over from the period of Soviet occupation, which ended more than 20 years ago. The leaked documents suggested that some of them still might have been usable.
"The presumption had been that those systems that were distributed by the United States in the 1980s would be inoperable because their batteries would have run out," said Jeremy Binnie, a senior terrorism and insurgency analyst at IHS Jane's. "But [in the leaked documents] there are people reporting to have seen contrails like those left by a Stinger."
Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr., who was appointed in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration to take the shoulder-fired missiles out of circulation, said there remains a real threat from the weapons in Afghanistan, as elsewhere.
"The U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan attract adversaries," he said. "This is among the elements in their playbook."
He said that even though older missiles may have been sitting in hot, dusty warehouses for years, "sometimes they still work."
Bloomfield said the U.S. government has destroyed about 28,000 of the weapons since 2002 through buyback programs and other efforts. As special envoy, he negotiated with governments to destroy the portable missiles in their arsenals, or at least to ensure that they were safe from theft.
On the black market, the missiles' cost ranges from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. But at least for some insurgent factions, money may not be much of an issue.
The German magazine Der Spiegel, which like the Guardian and the New York Times received advance access to the WikiLeaks documents, cited insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as exhorting followers to procure weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to use against coalition forces.
"Attack him with Stinger missiles!" Hekmatyar told followers in Lowgar province in 2005, according to the magazine. "No matter the cost, $150,000 or $200,000, I will pay."
Holbrooke tries to ease lawmakers’ Afghan war fears
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Richard Holbrooke, the top US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, sought on Wednesday to allay growing concerns in Congress over the course of the war, saying the task is difficult but can succeed.
At a hearing on oversight of billions of taxpayer dollars spent in Afghanistan, lawmakers listed concerns from specific cases of corruption to the most basic question of whether the nine-year-old war can be won. “Do you really believe that we can succeed at this?” Democratic Representative Ben Chandler asked Holbrooke.
“I think we really have to ask ourselves serious questions about whether or not this really is doable.” Holbrooke, who helped broker peace in Bosnia, conceded that fighting a resurgent Taliban and helping to rebuild Afghanistan were massive tasks but he repeatedly defended the Obama administration’s strategy.
“So yes, of course, I believe we can succeed. But it is difficult. And it is the most difficult job I’ve had in my career,” he said. “Number one, on a personal note, I wouldn’t be in this job if I thought it was impossible to succeed.”
“We’re not delusional,” he added, listing problems from high illiteracy to trying to help Afghanistan’s government be accountable to its own people. US lawmakers, many facing re-election in November, are edgy over the unpopular and costly war, particularly within President Barack Obama’s own Democratic Party.
After months of wrangling, Congress on Tuesday approved an additional $37 billion to pay for Obama’s troop increase, with more Republicans than Democrats supporting the bill. The $37 billion is above about $130 billion Congress had already approved for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for this year. Congress has appropriated more than $1 trillion for the two wars since 2001.
Democratic Representative Jim Moran voted against the new funds on Tuesday and told Holbrooke: “You’ve lost me, for whatever it’s worth, in terms of the viability of this mission, and I voted accordingly.” Using large charts, USAID director Rajiv Shah and Holbrooke listed safeguards the Obama administration and Afghan government were putting in place to help curb corruption, which Holbrooke said was the “number one” recruiting tool for the Taliban.
The chair of the House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee on aid, Nita Lowey, has cut billions of dollars in aid from spending legislation because of concern over corruption in Afghanistan. She told Reuters much more needed to be done before she would stop “fencing off money” in the fiscal 2011 foreign aid appropriations bill before her committee.
“With every life that is tragically lost and with the reports that are coming out about corruption and the lack of accountability, it is extremely difficult to get the support of the people which determines the support of the members,” Lowey said.
Representative Kay Granger, the top Republican on the subcommittee, said she was concerned by the new approach of funneling more funds directly through the Afghan government. “The ongoing allegations of corruption and illicit activity do not give me confidence that now is the time to subject US funds to unnecessary risk,” Granger said.
The hearing came just days after whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks made public more than 75,000 classified US military reports covering a range of incidents in the Afghan war. Holbrooke said the leak was “pretty appalling” but did not think there was anything in them that should change people’s views of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A Pentagon investigation is so far focused on an Army intelligence analyst charged earlier this month with leaking information about the Iraq war published by WikiLeaks, US defence officials say.
But neither he nor anyone else has been named as suspects in the Afghanistan leak and investigators are not ruling out the involvement of more people, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
War boost of $33B clears Congress
Published: Wed, July 28, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.
The House on Tuesday sent President Barack Obama a major war- funding increase of $33 billion to pay for his troop surge in Afghanistan, unmoved by the leaking of classified documents that portray a military effort struggling between 2004 and 2009 against a strengthening insurgency.
The House voted, 308-114, to approve the spending boost for the additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Other nonwar provisions brought the total bill to nearly $59 billion.
From Obama on down, the disclosure of the documents was condemned by administration officials and military leaders Tuesday, but the material failed to stir new anti-war sentiment. The bad news for the White House: A pervasive weariness with the war was still there — and possibly growing.
Republicans in Congress still were strongly behind the boost in war spending, but there was unusually strong opposition from members of Obama’s own Democratic Party. All but 12 of the “no” votes in the House came from Democrats.
In debate before the vote, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said the leaked documents revealed corruption and incompetence in the Afghanistan government.
“We’re told we can’t extend unemployment or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom, but we’re asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation-building in Afghanistan,” McGovern said.
At a Senate hearing on prospects for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict, there was scant mention of the leaked material, posted on the website of the whistleblower group WikiLeaks, but there were repeated expressions of frustration over the direction of the fighting.
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told senators at a hearing on his nomination to lead the military’s Central Command that, whatever other lessons are drawn from the WikiLeaks documents, no one should doubt that the U.S. is committed to staying in Afghanistan until it wins.
“We are on the right track now,” Mattis said, while predicting that the U.S. casualty rate would increase in coming months as still more U.S. troops join the fight against the Taliban.
Afghan President: NATO Rocket Killed 52 Civilians
by The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan July 26, 2010, 10:56 am ET Afghanistan's president says that a NATO rocket attack killed 52 civilians in the south of the country on Friday.
Hamid Karzai's statement issued Monday says the Afghan intelligence service determined that a NATO rocket hit Regi village in Helmand province's Sangin district. The dead included women and children. Karzai condemned the attack.
But NATO spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks says initial reporting from the area did not confirm any civilian casualties or NATO rockets gone astray.
He said insurgents and NATO forces fought Friday in an area about seven or eight kilometers (4.3 to 5 miles) away but there was no evidence in initial reporting that it was connected to the claims of rocket fire in Regi.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan government said Monday it is "shocked" that 91,000 U.S. military documents on the war were leaked, especially those about civilian casualties and the role of Pakistan's intelligence service in destabilizing activities inside Afghanistan.
In Islamabad, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency lashed out against the trove of leaked papers that alleged close connections between it and the Taliban militants who are fighting U.S., Afghan and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The ISI called the allegations, which have been repeated for years, unsubstantiated.
The documents, which were released by the online whistle-blower Wikileaks, raised new questions about whether the U.S. can persuade Pakistan to sever its historical links to the Taliban and deny them sanctuary along the Afghan border — actions that many analysts believe are critical for success in Afghanistan.
"The war on terrorism will not succeed unless we address the root causes ... the role forces behind the borders of Afghanistan play in destabilizing activity here in Afghanistan," Waheed Omar, the spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told reporters.
In a clear reference to Pakistan, Omar said the Afghan government has repeatedly told its international partners over the years: "We will not be able to defeat terrorism in the villages of Afghanistan unless we pay attention to the places where terrorism has been nurtured — where terrorists are kept, where they are given sanctuary, where they are given ideal motives to carry out their attacks in Afghanistan."
The U.S. has given Pakistan billions in military aid since 2001 to enlist its cooperation. But the leaked reports, which cover a period from January 2004 to December 2009, suggest current and former ISI officials have met directly with the Taliban to coordinate attacks in Afghanistan.
A senior ISI official denied the allegations, saying they were from raw intelligence reports that had not been verified and were meant to impugn the reputation of the spy agency. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the agency's policy.
In one report from March 2008, the ISI is alleged to have ordered Siraj Haqqani, a prominent militant based in northwestern Pakistan, to kill workers from archenemy India who are building roads in Afghanistan. In another from March 2007, the ISI is alleged to have given Jalaluddin Haqqani, Siraj's father, 1,000 motorcycles to carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan. The Haqqanis run a military network based in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area that is believed to have close ties with the ISI.
Other reports mention former ISI officials, including Hamid Gul, who headed the agency in the late 1980s when Pakistan and the U.S. were supporting Islamist militants in their fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. In one report, Gul, who has been an outspoken supporter of the Taliban, is alleged to have dispatched three men in December 2006 to carry out attacks in Afghanistan's capital.
"Reportedly Gul's final comment to the three individuals was to make the snow warm in Kabul, basically telling them to set Kabul aflame," said the report.
Gul, who appeared multiple times throughout the reports, denied allegations that he was working with the Taliban, saying "these leaked documents against me are fiction and nothing else."
Wikileaks released the documents, which include classified cables and assessments between military officers and diplomats, on its website Sunday. The New York Times, London's Guardian newspaper and the German weekly Der Spiegel were given early access to the documents.
The Guardian expressed skepticism about the allegations in the documents, saying "they fail to provide a convincing smoking gun" for complicity between the ISI and the Taliban. It said more than 180 intelligence files accuse the ISI of supplying, arming and training the insurgency since at least 2004. One of the reports even implicates the ISI in a plot to assassinate Karzai, said the newspaper.
The Afghan presidential spokesman said that while the Afghan government was "shocked" that such a large number of documents were leaked, Karzai's immediate reaction was that "most of this is not new," Omar said. The issue of civilian casualties has been repeatedly raised with coalition forces, he said.
"Luckily we have had over the past one and half years a reduction in the civilian casualties," he said. "Certain procedure were put in effect that helped reduce civilian casualties." He said the issue of civilians killed in fighting "is something we will continue to press hard on."
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., also noted that many of the documents were dated and did not "reflect the current on-ground realities."
The United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan are "jointly endeavoring to defeat al-Qaida and its Taliban allies militarily and politically," he said.
But the U.S. has had little success convincing Pakistan to target Afghan Taliban militants holed up in the country, especially members of the Haqqani network, which the U.S. military considers the most dangerous militant group in Afghanistan.
Pakistan helped the Taliban seize power in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Although the government renounced the group in 2001 under U.S. pressure, many analysts believe Pakistan refuses to sever links with the Taliban because it believes they could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.
White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones defended the partnership between the U.S. and Pakistan in a statement Sunday, saying "counterterrorism cooperation has led to significant blows against al-Qaida's leadership." Still, he called on Pakistan to continue its "strategic shift against insurgent grou
Associated Press Writers Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Munir Ahmed and Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Secret Archives update leaks.....
This article was written and reported by C.J. Chivers, Carlotta Gall, Andrew W. Lehren, Mark Mazzetti, Jane Perlez and Eric Schmitt, with contributions from Jacob Harris and Alan McLean of the New York Times.
c.2010 New York Times News Service
A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.
The secret documents, to be released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.
The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.
The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.
As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.
The publication of this material comes as Congress and the public grow increasingly skeptical of the deepening involvement in Afghanistan and its chances for success as next year’s deadline to begin withdrawing troops looms.
The archive is a vivid reminder that the Afghan conflict until recently was a second-class war, with money, troops and attention lavished on Iraq while soldiers and Marines lamented that the Afghans they were training were not being paid.
The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:
— The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
— Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.
— The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.
— The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct raids. From 2001 to 2008, the CIA paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.
Overall, the documents do not contradict official accounts of the war. But in some cases the documents show that the American military made misleading public statements — attributing the downing of a helicopter to conventional weapons instead of heat-seeking missiles or giving Afghans credit for missions carried out by Special Operations commandos.
White House officials vigorously denied that the Obama administration had presented a misleading portrait of the war in Afghanistan.
“On Dec. 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al-Qaida and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” said Gen. James L. Jones, the White House national security adviser, in a statement released Sunday.
“We know that serious challenges lie ahead, but if Afghanistan is permitted to slide backwards, we will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like al-Qaida who will have more space to plot and train,” his statement said.
He also condemned the decision by WikiLeaks to make the documents public, saying that “the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.”
“WikiLeaks made no effort to contact us about these documents — the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted,” Jones said.
The archive is clearly an incomplete record of the war. It is missing many references to seminal events and does not include more highly classified information. The documents also do not cover events in 2010, when the influx of more troops into Afghanistan began and a new counterinsurgency strategy took hold.
They suggest that the military’s internal assessments of the prospects for winning over the Afghan public, especially in the early days, were often optimistic, even naive.
There are fleeting — even taunting — reminders of how the war began in the occasional references to the elusive Osama bin Laden. In some reports he is said to be attending meetings in Quetta, Pakistan. His money man is said to be flying from Iran to North Korea to buy weapons. Bin Laden has supposedly ordered a suicide attack against the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. These reports all seem secondhand at best.
— The reports, a sample of which are summarized here, portray a resilient, canny insurgency that has bled American forces through a war of small cuts. The insurgents set the war’s pace, usually fighting on ground of their own choosing and then slipping away.
Sabotage and trickery have been weapons every bit as potent as small arms, mortars or suicide bombers. So has Taliban intimidation of Afghan officials and civilians — applied with pinpoint pressure through threats, charm, violence, money, religious fervor and populist appeals.
FEB. 19, 2008 — ZABUL PROVINCE
INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY: OFFICER THREATENED
An Afghan National Army brigade commander working in southern Afghanistan received a phone call from a Taliban mullah named Ezat, one brief report said. “Mullah Ezat told the ANA CDR to surrender and offered him $100,000(US) to quit working for the Afghan Army,” the report said. “Ezat also stated that he knows where the ANA CDR is from and knows his family.”
MAY 9, 2009 — KUNAR PROVINCE
INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY: TALIBAN RECRUITER
A Taliban commander, Mullah Juma Khan, delivered a eulogy at the funeral of a slain insurgent. He played on the crowd’s emotions, according to the report: “Juma cried while telling the people an unnamed woman and her baby were killed while the woman was nursing the baby.” Finally he made his pitch: “Juma then told the people they needed to be angry at CF (Coalition Force) and ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) for causing this tragedy” and “invited everyone who wants to fight to join the fighters who traveled with him.”
The insurgents use a network of spies, double agents, collaborators and informers — anything to undercut coalition forces and the effort to build a credible and effective government capable of delivering security and services.
The reports, a sample of which are summarized here, repeatedly describe instances when the insurgents have been seen wearing government uniforms, and other times when they have roamed the country or appeared for battle in the very Ford Ranger pickup trucks that the United States had provided the Afghan army and police force.
NOV. 20, 2006 — KABUL
INCIDENT REPORT: INSURGENT SUBTERFUGE
After capturing four pickup trucks from the Afghan National Army, the Taliban took them to Kabul to be used in suicide bombings. “They intend to use the pickup trucks to target ANA compounds, ISAF and GOA convoys, as well as ranking GOA and ISAF officials,” said a report, referring to coalition forces and the government of Afghanistan. “The four trucks were also accompanied by an unknown quantity of ANA uniforms to facilitate carrying out the attacks.”
The Taliban’s use of heat-seeking missiles has not been publicly disclosed — indeed, the military has issued statements that these internal records contradict.
In the form known as a Stinger, such weapons were provided to a previous generation of Afghan insurgents by the United States, and helped drive out the Soviets. The reports suggest that the Taliban’s use of these missiles has been neither common nor especially effective; usually the missiles missed.
MAY 30, 2007 — HELMAND PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: DOWNED HELICOPTER
An American CH-47 transport helicopter was struck by what witnesses described as a portable heat-seeking surface-to-air missile after taking off from a landing zone.
The helicopter, the initial report said, “was engaged and struck with a Missile ... shortly after crossing over the Helmand River. The missile struck the aircraft in the left engine. The impact of the missile projected the aft end of the aircraft up as it burst into flames followed immediately by a nose dive into the crash site with no survivors.”
The crash killed seven soldiers: five Americans, a Briton and a Canadian.
Multiple witnesses saw a smoke trail behind the missile as it rushed toward the helicopter. The smoke trail was an important indicator. Rocket-propelled grenades do not leave them; heat-seeking missiles do. The crew of other helicopters reported the downing as a surface-to-air missile strike. But that was not what a NATO spokesman told Reuters. “Clearly, there were enemy fighters in the area,” said the spokesman, Maj. John Thomas. “It’s not impossible for small-arms fire to bring down a helicopter.”
The reports paint a disheartening picture of the Afghan police and soldiers at the center of the American exit strategy.
The Pentagon is spending billions to train the Afghan forces to secure the country. But the police have proved to be an especially risky investment and are often described as distrusted, even loathed, by Afghan civilians. The reports recount episodes of police brutality, corruption petty and large, extortion and kidnapping. Some police officers defect to the Taliban. Others are accused of collaborating with insurgents, arms smugglers and highway bandits. Afghan police officers defect with trucks or weapons, items captured during successful ambushes or raids.
MARCH 10, 2008 — PAKTIA PROVINCE
INVESTIGATION REPORT: EXTORTION BY THE POLICE
This report captured the circular and frustrating effort by an American investigator to stop Afghan police officers at a checkpoint from extorting payments from motorists. After a line of drivers described how they were pressed to pay bribes, the American investigator and the local police detained the accused checkpoint police officers.
“While waiting,” the investigator wrote, “I asked the seven patrolmen we detained to sit and relax while we sorted through a problem without ever mentioning why they were being detained. Three of the patrolmen responded by saying that they had only taken money from the truck drivers to buy fuel for their generator.”
Two days later when the American followed up, he was told by police officers that the case had been dropped because the witness reports had all been lost.
One report documented the detention of a military base worker trying to leave the base with GPS units hidden under his clothes and taped to his leg. Another described the case of a police chief in Zurmat, in Paktia province, who was accused of falsely reporting that his officers had been in a firefight so he could receive thousands of rounds of new ammunition, which he sold in a bazaar.
Coalition trainers report that episodes of cruelty by the Afghan police undermine the effort to build a credible security force to take over when the allies leave.
OCT. 11, 2009 — BALKH PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: BRUTAL POLICE CHIEF
This report began with an account of Afghan soldiers and police officers harassing and beating civilians for refusing to cooperate in a search. It then related the story of a district police commander who forced himself on a 16-year-old girl. When a civilian complained, the report said, “The district commander ordered his bodyguard to open fire on the AC (Afghan civilian). The bodyguard refused, at which time the district commander shot (the bodyguard) in front of the AC.”
Rivalries and friction between the largest Afghan security services — the police and the army — are evident in a number of reports. Sometimes the tensions erupted in outright clashes, as was recorded in the following report that was described as an “enemy action.” The “enemy” in this case was the Afghan National Security Force.
DEC. 4, 2009 — ORUZGAN PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: POLICE AND ARMY RIVALRY
A car accident turned deadly when an argument broke out between the police and the Afghan National Army. “The argument escalated and ANA & ANP started to shoot at each other,” a report said.
An Afghan soldier and three Afghan police officers were wounded in the shootout. One civilian was killed and six others were wounded by gunfire.
One sign of the weakness of the police is that in places they have been replaced by tribal warlords who are charged — informally but surely — with providing the security the government cannot. Often the warlords operate above the law.
NOV. 22, 2009 — KANDAHAR PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: ILLEGAL CHECKPOINT
A private security convoy, ferrying fuel from Kandahar to Oruzgan, was stopped by what was thought to be 100 insurgents armed with assault rifles and PK machine guns, a report said.
It turned out the convoy had been halted by “the local Chief of Police,” who was “demanding $2000-$3000 per truck” as a kind of toll. The chief, said the report from NATO headquarters in southern Afghanistan, “states he needs the money to run his operation.”
The chief was not actually a police chief. He was Matiullah Khan, a warlord and an American-backed ally of Karzai who was arguably Oruzgan’s most powerful man. He had a contract, the Ministry of Interior said, to protect the road so NATO’s supply convoys could drive on it, but he had apparently decided to extort money from the convoys himself.
Late in the day, Matiullah, after many interventions, changed his mind. The report said that friendly forces “report that the COMPASS convoy is moving again and did not pay the fee required.”
The documents show how the best intentions of Americans to help rebuild Afghanistan through provincial reconstruction teams ran up against a bewildering array of problems — from corruption to cultural misunderstandings — as they tried to win over the public by helping repair dams and bridges, build schools and train local authorities.
A series of reports from 2005 to 2008 chart the frustrations of one of the first such teams, assigned to Gardez, in Paktia province.
NOV. 28, 2006 — PAKTIA PROVINCE
CIVIL AFFAIRS REPORT: ORPHANAGE OPENS
An American civil affairs officer could barely contain her enthusiasm as she spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new orphanage, built with money from the American military.
The officer said a friend had given her a leather jacket to present to “someone special,” the report noted. She chose the orphanage’s director. “The commander stated that she could think of no one more deserving then someone who cared for orphans,” it said.
The civil affairs team handed out blankets, coats, scarves and toys. The governor even gave money from his own pocket. “All speeches were very positive,” the report concluded.
DEC. 20, 2006 — PAKTIA PROVINCE
CIVIL AFFAIRS REPORT: NOT MANY ORPHANS
The team dropped by to check on the orphanage. “We found very few orphans living there and could not find most of the HA (humanitarian assistance) we had given them,” the report noted.
The team raised the issue with the governor of Paktia, who said he was also concerned and suspected that the money he had donated had not reached the children. He visited the orphanage himself. Only 30 children were there; the director had claimed to have 102.
OCT. 16, 2007 — PAKTIA PROVINCE
CIVIL AFFAIRS REPORT: AN EMPTY ORPHANAGE
Nearly a year after the opening of the orphanage, the Americans returned for a visit. “There are currently no orphans at the facility due to the Holiday. (Note: orphans are defined as having no father, but may still have mother and a family structure that will have them home for holidays.)”
FEB. 25, 2007 — PAKTIA PROVINCE
DISTRICT REPORT: LACK OF RESOURCES
As the Taliban insurgency strengthened, the lack of a government presence in the more remote districts — and the government’s inability to provide security or resources even to its own officials — is evident in the reports.
An official from Dand Wa Patan, a small sliver of a district along the border with Pakistan, so urgently wanted to talk to the members of the American team that he traveled three and a half hours by taxi — he had no car — to meet them.
“He explained that the enemy had changed their tactics in the area and were no longer fighting from the mountains, no longer sending rockets toward his compound and other areas,” the report noted. “He stated that the enemy focus was on direct action and that his family was a primary target.”
Ten days earlier the Taliban crept up to the wall of his family compound and blew up one of the security towers, the report said. His son lost his legs in the explosion.
He pleaded for more police officers, weapons and ammunition. He also wanted a car so he could drive around the district he was supposed to oversee.
But the Americans’ situation was not much better. For months the reports show how a third — or even a half — of the team’s vehicles were out of service, awaiting spare parts.
NOV. 15, 2006 — PAKTIA PROVINCE
CIVIL AFFAIRS REPORT: LOCAL CORRUPTION
For a while the civil affairs team worked closely with the provincial governor, described as “very charismatic.” Yet both he and the team are hampered by corrupt, negligent and antagonistic officials.
The provincial chief of police is described in one report as “the axel of corruption.”
“He makes every effort to openly and blatantly take money from the ANP troopers and the officers,” one sympathetic officer told the Americans.
Other officers are more clever. One forged rosters, to collect pay for imaginary police officers. A second set up illegal checkpoints to collects tolls around Gardez. Still another stole food and uniforms, leaving his soldiers underfed and ill equipped for the winter.
The governor, meanwhile, was all but trapped. Such animosity developed between him and a senior security official that the governor could not leave his office for weeks at a time, fearing for his life. Finally, the corrupt officials were replaced. But it took months.
SEPT. 24, 2007 — PAKTIA PROVINCE
CIVIL AFFAIRS REPORT: THE COST OF CORRUPTION
Their meetings with Afghan district officials gave the American civil affairs officers unique insights into local opinions. Sometimes, the Afghan officials were brutally honest in their assessments.
In one case, provincial council officials visited the Americans at their base in Gardez to report threats — the Taliban had tossed a grenade into their compound and were prowling the hills. Then the officials began a tirade.
“The people of Afghanistan keep loosing their trust in the government because of the high amount of corrupted government officials,” the report quoted them as saying. “The general view of the Afghans is that the current government is worst than the Taliban.”
“The corrupted government officials are a new concept brought to Afghanistan by the AMERICANS,” the oldest member of the group told the civil affairs team.
In conclusion, the civil affairs officer who wrote the report warned, “The people will support the Anti-Coalition forces and the security condition will degenerate.” He recommended a public information program to educate Afghans about democracy.
The reports also evoke the rivalries and tensions that swirl within the presidential palace between Karzai’s circle and the warlords.
OCT. 16, 2006 — KABUL
INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY: POLITICAL INTRIGUE
In a short but heated meeting at the presidential palace, the Kabul police chief, Brig. Gen. Mir Amanullah Gozar, angrily refuted accusations made publicly by Jamil Karzai that he was corrupt and lacked professional experience. The report of the meeting identified Jamil Karzai as the president’s brother; he is in fact a cousin.
Gozar “said that if Jamil were not the president’s Brother he would kidnap, torture, and kill him,” the report said. He added that he was aware of plans by the American-led coalition to remove him from his post.
He threatened the president, saying that if he were replaced he would reveal “allegations about Karzai having been a drug trader and supporter of the Pakistan-led insurgency in Afghanistan,” presumably a reference to Karzai’s former links with the Taliban.
Incident by incident, the reports resemble a police blotter of the myriad ways Afghan civilians were killed — not just in airstrikes but in ones and twos — in shootings on the roads or in the villages, in misunderstandings or in a cross-fire, or in chaotic moments when Afghan drivers ventured too close to convoys and checkpoints.
The dead, the reports repeatedly indicate, were not suicide bombers or insurgents, and many of the cases were not reported to the public at the time. The toll of the war — reflected in mounting civilian casualties — left the Americans seeking cooperation and support from an Afghan population that grew steadily more exhausted, resentful, fearful and alienated.
From the war’s outset, airstrikes that killed civilians in large numbers seized international attention, including the aerial bombardment of a convoy on its way to attend Karzai’s inauguration in 2001. An airstrike in Azizabad, in western Afghanistan, killed as many as 92 people in August 2008. In May 2009, another strike killed 147 civilians.
SEPT. 3, 2009 — KUNDUZ PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: MISTAKEN AIRSTRIKE
This report, filed about the activities of a Joint Terminal Attack Controller team, which is responsible for communication from the ground and guiding pilots during surveillance flights and airstrikes, offers a glimpse into one of the bloodiest mistakes in 2009.
It began with a report from the police command saying that “2X FUEL TRUCKS WERE STOLEN BY UNK NUMBER OF INS” and that the insurgents planned to cross the Kunduz River with their prizes. It was nighttime, and the river crossing was not illuminated. Soon, the report noted, the “JTAC OBSERVED KDZ RIVER AND REPORTED THAT IT DISCOVERED THE TRUCKS AS WELL AS UP TO 70 INS” at “THE FORD ON THE RIVER. THE TRUCKS WERE STUCK IN THE MUD.” How the JTAC team was observing the trucks was not clear, but many aircraft have infrared video cameras that can send a live feed to a computer monitor on the ground.
According to the report, a German commander of the provincial reconstruction team “LINKED UP WITH JTAC AND, AFTER ENSURING THAT NO CIVILIANS WERE IN THE VICINITY,” he “AUTHORIZED AN AIRSTRIKE.” An F-15 then dropped two 500-pound guided bombs. The initial report said that “56X INS KIA (insurgents killed in action) (CONFIRMED) AND 14X INS FLEEING IN NE DIRECTION. THE 2X FUEL TRUCKS WERE ALSO DESTROYED.”
The initial report was wrong. The trucks had been abandoned, and a crowd of civilians milled around them, removing fuel. How the commander and the JTAC had ensured “that no civilians were in the area,” as the report said, was not explained.
The first sign of the mistake documented in the initial report appeared the next day, when another report said that at “0900 hrs International Media reported that US airstrike had killed 60 civilians in Kunduz. The media are reporting that Taliban did steal the trucks and had invited civilians in the area to take fuel.”
The reports show that the smaller incidents were just as insidious and alienating, turning Afghans who had once welcomed Americans as liberators against the war.
MARCH 5, 2007 — GHAZNI PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: CHECKPOINT DANGER
Afghan police officers shot a local driver who tried to speed through their checkpoint on a country road in Ghazni province south of Kabul. The police had set up a temporary checkpoint on the highway just outside the main town in the district of Ab Band.
“A car approached the check point at a high rate of speed,” the report said. All the police officers fled the checkpoint except one. As the car passed the checkpoint it knocked down the lone policeman. He fired at the vehicle, apparently thinking that it was a suicide car bomber.
“The driver of the vehicle was killed,” the report said. “No IED (improvised explosive device) was found and vehicle was destroyed.”
The police officer was detained in the provincial capital, Ghazni, and questioned. He was then released. The American mentoring the police concluded in his assessment that the policeman’s use of force was appropriate. Rather than acknowledging the public hostility such episodes often engender, the report found a benefit: It suggested that the shooting would make Afghans take greater care at checkpoints in the future.
“Effects on the populace clearly identify the importance of stopping at checkpoints,” the report concluded.
MARCH 21, 2007 — PAKTIKA PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: A DEAF MAN IS SHOT
Members of a CIA paramilitary unit moved into the village of Malekshay in Paktika province close to the border with Pakistan when they saw an Afghan running away at the sight of their convoy, one report recounted. Members of the unit shot him in the ankle, and medics treated him at the scene. The unit had followed military procedure — first shouting at the man, then firing warning shots and only after that shooting to wound, the report said.
Yet villagers told the unit that the man, Shum Khan, was deaf and mute and that he had fled from the convoy out of nervousness. Khan was “unable to hear the warnings or warning shots. Ran out of fear and confusion,” the report concludes. The unit handed over supplies in compensation.
The reports reveal several instances of allied forces accidentally firing on one another or on Afghan forces in the fog of war, often with tragic consequences.
APRIL 6, 2006 — HELMAND PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: FRIENDLY FIRE
A British army convoy driving at night in southern Afghanistan came under small-arms fire. One of the British trucks rolled over. The British troops split into two groups, pulled back from the clash and called in airstrikes from American A-10 attack planes. After several confusing minutes, commanders realized that the Afghan police had attacked the British troops, mistaking them for Taliban fighters. One Afghan police officer was killed and 12 others were wounded.
The shifting tactics of the Americans can be seen as well in the reports, as the war strategy veered from freely using force to trying to minimize civilian casualties. But as the documents make clear, each approach has its frustrations for the American effort.
Strict new rules of engagement, imposed in 2009, minimized the use of airstrikes after some had killed civilians and turned Afghans against the war. But the rules also angered American troops and their families. The troops felt that their lives were not sufficiently valued because they had to justify every request for air or artillery support, making it easier for the Taliban to fight.
OCT. 1, 2008 — KUNAR PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: ARTILLERY BARRAGE
In the days when field commanders had a freer hand, an infantry company commander observed an Afghan with a two-way radio who was monitoring the company’s activities. Warning of “IMMINENT THREAT,” the commander said he would “destroy” the man and his equipment — in other words, kill him. A short while later, a 155-millimeter artillery piece at a forward operating base in the nearby Pech Valley began firing high-explosive rounds — 24 in all.
NOV. 13, 2009 — HELMAND PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: ESCALATION OF FORCE
As the rules tightened, the reports picked up a tone that at times seemed lawyerly. Many make reference, even in pitched fights, to troops using weapons in accordance with “ROE Card A” — which guides actions of self-defense rather than attacks or offensive acts. This report described an Apache helicopter firing warning shots after coming under fire. Its reaction was described as “an escalation of force.”
The helicopter pilots reported that insurgents “engaged with SAF (surface-to-air fire)”and that “INTEL suggested they were going to be fired upon again during their extraction.”
The helicopters “fired 40x 30mm warning shots to deter any further engagement.”
The report included the information that now is common to incident reports in which Western forces fire. “The terrain was considered rurally open and there were no CIV PID IVO ((ivilians positively identified in the vicinity of) the target within reasonable certainty. There was no damage to infrastructure. BDA (battle damage assessment) recording conducted by AH-64 Gun Tape. No follow up required. The next higher command was consulted. The enemy engaged presented, in the opinion of the ground forces, an imminent threat. Engagement is under ROE Card A. Higher HQ have been informed.”
The reports show in previously unknown detail the omnipresence of drones in Afghanistan, the Air Force’s missile-toting Predators and Reapers that hunt militants. The military’s use of drones in Afghanistan has rapidly expanded in the past few years; the U.S. Air Force now flies about 20 Predator and Reaper aircraft a day — nearly twice as many as a year ago — over vast stretches of hostile Afghan territory. Allies like Britain and Germany fly their own fleets.
The incident reports chronicle the wide variety of missions these aircraft carry out: taking photographs, scooping up electronic transmissions, relaying images of running battles to field headquarters, attacking militants with bombs and missiles. And they also reveal the extent that armed drones are being used to support American Special Operations missions.
Documents in the Afghan archive capture the strange nature of the drone war in Afghanistan: missile-firing robots killing shovel-wielding insurgents, a remote-controlled war against a low-tech but resilient insurgency.
DEC. 9, 2008 — KANDAHAR PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: PREDATOR ATTACK
Early one winter evening in southern Afghanistan, an Air Force Predator drone spotted a group of insurgents suspected of planting roadside bombs along a roadway less than two miles from Forward Operating Base Hutal, an American outpost.
Unlike the drones the CIA operated covertly across the border in Pakistan, this aircraft was one of nearly a dozen military drones patrolling vast stretches of hostile Afghan territory on any given day.
Within minutes after identifying the militants, the Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile, all but evaporating one of the figures digging in the dark.
When ground troops reached the crater caused by the missile, costing $60,000, all that was left was a shovel and a crowbar.
SEPT. 13, 2009 — BADAKHSHAN PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: A LOST DRONE
Flying over southern Afghanistan on a combat mission, one of the Air Force’s premier armed drones, a Reaper, went rogue.
Equipped with advanced radar and sophisticated cameras, as well as Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs, the Reaper had lost its satellite link to a pilot who was remotely steering the drone from a base in the United States.
Again and again, the pilot struggled to regain control of the drone. Again and again, no response. The reports reveal that the military in Afghanistan lost many of the tiny five-pound surveillance drones that troops tossed out like model airplanes to peer around the next hill. But they had never before lost one of the Reapers, with its 66-foot wingspan.
As a last resort, commanders ordered an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet to shoot down the $13 million aircraft before it soared unguided into neighboring Tajikistan.
Ground controllers picked an unpopulated area over northern Afghanistan and the jet fired a Sidewinder missile, destroying the Reaper’s turbo-prop engine. Suddenly, the satellite link was restored, but it was too late to salvage the flight. At 5:30 a.m., controllers steered it into a remote mountainside for a final fiery landing.
As the Afghanistan war took priority under the Obama administration, more Special Operations forces were shifted from Iraq to conduct secret missions. The CIA’s own paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan grew in tandem — as did the agency’s close collaboration with the Afghan spy agency.
Usually, such teams conducted night operations aimed at top Taliban commanders and militants on the “capture/kill” list. While individual commandos have displayed great courage, the missions can end in calamity as well as success. The expanding special operations have stoked particular resentment among Afghans — for their lack of coordination with local forces, the civilian casualties they frequently inflicted and the lack of accountability.
JUNE 17, 2007 — PAKTIKA PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: BOTCHED NIGHT RAID
Shortly after five American rockets destroyed a compound in Paktika province, helicopter-borne commandos from Task Force 373 — a classified Special Operations unit of Army Delta Force operatives and members of the Navy Seals — arrived to finish the job.
The mission was to capture or kill Abu Laith al-Libi, a top commander for al-Qaida, who was believed to be hiding at the scene of the strike.
But al-Libi was not there. Instead, the Special Operations troops found a group of men suspected of being militants and their children. Seven of the children had been killed by the rocket attack.
Some of the men tried to flee the Americans, and six were quickly killed by encircling helicopters. After the rest were taken as detainees, the commandos found one child still alive in the rubble, and performed CPR for 20 minutes.
Word of the attack spread a wave of anger across the region, forcing the governor to meet with villagers to defuse the situation.
American military officials drew up a list of “talking points” for the governor, pointing out that the target had been a senior al-Qaida commander, that there had been no indications that women and children would be present and that a nearby mosque had not been damaged.
After the meeting, the governor reported that local residents were in shock, but that he had “pressed the Talking Points.” He even “added a few of his own that followed in line with our current story.”
The attack was caused by the “presence of hoodlums,” the governor told the people. It was a tragedy that children had been killed, he said, but “it could have been prevented had the people exposed the presence of insurgents in the area.”
He promised that the families would be compensated for their loss.
Al-Libi was killed the following year by a CIA drone strike.
APRIL 6, 2008 — NURISTAN PROVINCE
INCIDENT REPORT: A RAGING FIREFIGHT
As they scrambled up the rocks toward a cluster of mud compounds perched high over the remote Shok Valley, a small group of American Green Berets and Afghan troops, known as Task Force Bushmaster, were confronted with a hail of gunfire from inside the insurgent stronghold.
They were there to capture senior members of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin militant group, part of a mission that the military had dubbed Operation Commando Wrath.
But what they soon discovered on that remote, snowy hilltop was that they were outnumbered by a militant force of hundreds of fighters. Reinforcements were hours away.
A firefight raged for nearly seven hours, with sniper fire pinning down the Green Berets on a 60-foot rock ledge for much of that time.
Casualties mounted. By midmorning, nearly half of the Americans were wounded, but the militants directed their gunfire on the arriving medevac helicopters, preventing them from landing.
“TF Bushmaster reports they are combat ineffective and request reinforcement at this time.”
For a time, radio contact was lost.
Air Force jets arrived at the scene and began pummeling the compounds with 2,000-pound bombs, but the militants continued to advance down the mountain toward the pinned-down group.
The task force reported that there were “50-100 insurgents moving to reinforce against Bushmaster elements from the SW.”
Carrying wounded Americans shot in the pelvis, arm and legs — as well as two dead Afghans — the group made its way down toward the valley floor. Eventually, the helicopters were able to arrive to evacuate the dead and wounded.
Ten members of the Green Berets would receive Silver Stars for their actions during the battle, the highest number given to Special Forces soldiers for a single battle since the Vietnam War. By Army estimates, 150 to 200 militants were killed in the battle.
MARCH 8, 2008 — BAGRAM AIR BASE
MEETING REPORT: A PLEA FOR HELP
Toward the end of a long meeting with top American military commanders, during which he delivered a briefing about the security situation in eastern Afghanistan, corruption in the government and Pakistan’s fecklessness in hunting down militants, Afghanistan’s top spy laid out his problem.
Amrullah Saleh, then director of the National Directorate of Security, told the Americans that the CIA would no longer be handling his spy service’s budget. For years, the CIA had essentially run the NDS as a subsidiary, but by 2009 the Afghan government was preparing to take charge of the agency’s budget.
Saleh estimated that with the CIA no longer bankrolling the Afghan spies, he could be facing a budget cut of 30 percent.
So he made a request. With the budget squeeze coming, Saleh asked the Americans for any AK-47s and ammunition they could spare.
If they had any spare boots, he would also take those, he said.
Leaks provide ground-level account of Afghan war
Associated Press, Updated: July 26, 2010 19:23 IST
Some 90,000 leaked US military records posted online on Sunday amount to a blow-by-blow account of six years of the Afghanistan war, including unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings as well as covert operations against Taliban figures.
The online whistle-blower WikiLeaks posted the documents on its website Sunday. The New York Times, London's Guardian newspaper and the German weekly Der Spiegel were given early access to the documents.
The leaked records include detailed descriptions of raids carried out by a secretive US special operations unit called Task Force 373 against what US officials considered high-value insurgent and terrorist targets. Some of the raids resulted in unintended killings of Afghan civilians, according to the documentation.
Among those listed as being killed by the secretive unit was Shah Agha, described by the Guardian as an intelligence officer for an IED cell, who was killed with four other men in June 2009. Another was a Libyan fighter, Abu Laith al-Libi, described in the documents as a senior al-Qaida military commander. Al-Libi was said to be based across the border in Mir Ali, Pakistan, and was running Al-Qaida training camps in North Waziristan, a region along the Afghan border where US officials have said numerous senior Al-Qaida leaders were believed to be hiding.
The operation against al-Libi, in June 2007, resulted in a death tally that one US military document said include six enemy fighters and seven noncombatants - all children.
The Guardian reported that more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and Al-Qaida are on a "kill or capture" list, known as JPEL, the Joint Prioritized Effects List. It was from this list that Task Force 373 selected its targets.
The New York Times said the documents - including classified cables and assessments between military officers and diplomats - also describe US fears that ally Pakistan's intelligence service was actually aiding the Afghan insurgency.
According to the Times, the documents suggest Pakistan "allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders."
The Guardian, however, interpreted the documents differently, saying they "fail to provide a convincing smoking gun" for complicity between the Pakistan intelligence services and the Taliban.
In a statement released Sunday, White House national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones lauded a deeper partnership between the US and Pakistan, saying, "Counterterrorism cooperation has led to significant blows against Al-Qaida's leadership." Still, he called on Pakistan to continue its "strategic shift against insurgent groups."
Pakistan's Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani said the documents "do not reflect the current on-ground realities." The United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan are "jointly endeavoring to defeat Al-Qaida and its Taliban allies militarily and politically," he added.
Der Spiegel, meanwhile, reported that the records show Afghan security officers as helpless victims of Taliban attacks.
The magazine said the documents show a growing threat in the north, where German troops are stationed.
The classified documents are largely what's called "raw intelligence" - reports from junior officers in the field that analysts use to advise policymakers, rather than any high-level government documents that state US government policy.
While the documents provide a glimpse of a world the public rarely sees, the overall picture they portray is already familiar to most Americans. US officials have already publicly denounced Pakistani officials' cooperation with some insurgents, like the Haqqani network in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The success of US special operating forces teams at taking out Taliban targets has been publicly lauded by US military and intelligence officials. And just-resigned General Stanley McChrystal, who was leading the Afghan war effort, made protecting Afghan civilians one of the hallmarks of his command, complaining that too many Afghans had been accidentally killed by Western firepower.
WikiLeaks said the leaked documents "do not generally cover top-secret operations." The site also reported that it had "delayed the release of some 15,000 reports" as part of what it called "a harm minimisation process demanded by our source," but said it may release the other documents after further review.
Jones, the White House adviser, took pains to point out that the documents describe a period from January 2004 to December 2009, mostly during the administration of President George W. Bush.
That was before "President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al-Qaida and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years," Jones said.
But Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan."
A different US official said the Obama administration had already told Pakistani and Afghan officials what to expect from the document release, in order to head off some of the more embarrassing revelations.
Another US official said it may take days to comb through all the documents to see what they mean to the US war effort and determine their potential damage to national security. That official added that the US isn't certain who leaked the documents.
Another official said teams of analysts started examining the documents the moment they were disclosed online.
All three officials spoke on condition of anonymity to comment on the release of classified material.
US government agencies have been bracing for the release of thousands more classified documents since the leak of a classified helicopter cockpit video of a 2007 firefight in Baghdad. That leak was blamed on a US Army intelligence analyst working in Iraq.
Spc. Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Md., was arrested in Iraq and charged earlier this month with multiple counts of mishandling and leaking classified data, after a former hacker turned him in. Manning had bragged to the hacker, Adrian Lamo, that he had downloaded 260,000 classified or sensitive State Department cables and transmitted them by computer to the website Wikileaks.org.
Lamo turned Manning in to US authorities, saying he couldn't live with the thought that those released documents might get someone killed.
Story first published: July 26, 2010 11:23 IST
Read more at: http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/leaks-provide-ground-level-accoun...
Afghanistan pulls off biggest international event since 1970s
By Abaceen Nasimi Published July 20th 2010 in Asia
The best thing about the Kabul Conference is that it happened at all.
It was Afghanistan’s biggest international event since the 1970s, and the fact that the government was able to pull it off is testimony to the progress that has been made over the past nine years.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was cleaned up for the event. New red carpets were laid and the chandeliers sparkled. An exhibition by Afghan businessmen seemed designed to convince the high-level international visitors that the country’s economy is in good shape: carpets, embroidery, stone works and other products line the corridors.
But outside the hall, it looked more like a war zone. There were armored vehicles of every description in the parking area and on the roads surrounding the ministry. With so many foreign ministers in town, security was incredibly tight.
The police took the lead — a major achievement, meant to showcase how far the Afghan National Security Forces have come. Every roundabout had Humvees, manned by the Afghanistan National Civil Order Police, or ANCOP, the elite defense corps.
Vehicles were stopped and searched at the gates of the city; police vehicles blocked many of the roads in the center. Shahr-e-Naw and Wazir Akbar Khan, the two major neighborhoods where the events were taking place, were almost completely closed off. No unauthorized vehicles could get in or out of “the zone.”
The police did not want any movement at all in those areas; they told reporters straggling home after midnight from bureaus in Shahr-e-Naw to “sleep in the car.” The only way we found to get out of the cordon was to follow a convoy of important people in land Cruisers — the police assumed we were part of the parade.
Most people were home during the day, watching the events live on television. There was not much else to do, since everything was closed.
President Karzai showed the strain. He delivered his long speech in English, wearing glasses and looking much older.
But he seems to have got what he wanted — the international community supported him, promising money and showering him with praise.
Of course the major issue for Afghanistan is corruption. Karzai is demanding that at least 50 percent of all aid money should go directly to the government, rather than through other organizations. But unless they do something about the corruption problem, this will be difficult.
Dr. Ashraf Ghani, the former finance minister, has played a major role in organizing the conference. He said that he expects the number to go up to 80 percent.
Despite all the excitement in the domestic and foreign media, Afghans are feeling a bit down, even hopeless, about the conference. Many think that a new set of pledges and commitments could come out of the event, but most of them will never materialize. We have had a lot of experience — the past eight conferences on Afghanistan gave us a lot of fine words, but not much else.
The general impression is that the international community is exhausted and looking for a quick way out while still trying to save face. This is why they want to have a smooth and rapid transition of security responsibility to the Afghans.
But it is far from sure that the Afghan side will be able to manage this transition — militarily, economically or any way at all.
Some people are optimistic, though, and say that this is an historic chance for the Afghan government to show what it can do.
The rhetoric about the conference is everywhere — much is being made of the fact that it is being led by Afghans, even though everyone knows it is really an American initiative. They want to focus attention on Afghanistan again, and make it seem that things are going well.
Well, at least the center of Kabul has been cleaned up. Many streets got paved in the last few days, crews were working all night to paint the lines and dividers in the roads, repairing streetlights and hanging banners.
That is something, at least.
The 'bomb magnet' soldier blown up 15 times
A soldier who earned the nickname "bomb magnet" after being blown up 15 times has spoken of how his unit survived one of the bloodiest episodes of the Afghan War.
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Published: 9:00PM BST 24 Jul 2010
Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Patrick Hyde was attacked on 15 separate occasions during his company's six month mission Photo: HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Patrick Hyde was attacked on 15 separate occasions during his company's six month mission, part of which was to secure a key supply route leading to the strategically important town of Sangin.
His unit – A Company 4 Rifles – repelled more than 500 attacks and was forced to contend with 200 improvised explosive device (IED) incidents.
War in Afghanistan: timeline of British deathsFragmentation bombs, dubbed by the soldiers as "party poppers" were routinely fired at troops, armoured vehicles were attacked with long range Chinese rockets rockets, dummy bombs were used to lure in bomb disposal teams, and insurgents recruited children to plant IEDs just yards away from British bases.
One in four of the company were killed or injured in battle - a casualty rate last experienced by the British Army in the Korean War. Ten soldiers were killed in action and a further 53 were wounded.
WO2 Hyde, A Company's sergeant major, was in charge of six strong team which ran a daily gauntlet of bomb attacks to keep beleaguered troops supplied with food, water and ammunition.
The 34-year-old married father of two was hit by IEDs 11 times while in a vehicle and twice while on foot patrol. On two other occasions his Mastiff armoured troop carrier was struck by rockets.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, WO2 Hyde, who has served in the Army for 17-years, said: "We prepared ourselves for the very worst but I didn't expect that many casualties. It was unrelenting, the attacks were coming in thick and fast.
"One of our bases was attacked 25 times a day from multiple firing points. One culvert (under ground drainage tunnel), which had to be defended to prevent Taliban from planting a bomb inside, caused 12 casualties. Two were killed and there was one triple and one double amputee."
Sangin has become the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in the Afghan War. It is one of the main areas of narcotics production in Helmand and profits from the sale of opium are used to fund the insurgents' campaign against Nato. Since 2006, the Taliban have been trying to force British troops to leave the town.
Forward Operating Base Inkerman, where A Coy 4 Rifles were based during their tour between October 2009 and April this year, sits on Route 611, one of the main transit routes into Sangin. During A Company's tour, the road became riddled with IEDs which effectively made resupplying the British base impossible. Alternative supply routes through the desert were equally dangerous, with resupply operations taking six days to travel eight kilometres.
Commanders feared that if FOB Inkerman could not be sustained it would have to be abandoned and the Taliban would be given unfettered access into Sangin.
It was decided that the only option was to create a series of patrol bases adjacent to the road in a bid to secure it from Taliban bombers and to give the local population and British troops greater freedom of movement.
During the tour, W02 Hyde's team – call sign Hades 49 – became the most heavily deployed unit in the whole of the area, spending on average 60 hours week on the ground resupplying various small bases.
Early in the company's tour, WO2 Hyde was on a patrol to clear a route in an area close to the British base when Rifleman Sam Bassett, 20, was killed.
"There was a massive bang. At that stage you know that you are going to have a casualty. I ran down the line of troops and told everyone to stay still. The patrol commander had been hit in the neck by a lump of shrapnel and there was another casualty further forward. I moved up and jumped into the crater where Rifleman Bassett was injured. He had lost both his legs but was still conscious. We managed to get him out and onto a helicopter but he died in hospital. We later discovered that there were three other devices in the same area, one of which I had driven across."
A few weeks later WO2 Hyde survived another attack when an IED detonated 10 feet in front of him while he was searching an area of ground. The blast knocked him backwards and he sustained whiplash injuries but was otherwise unscathed.
On another occasion, the sergeant major spent 26 hours in a Mastiff, which had been blown up by two Russian-made anti-tank mines stacked on top of each other.
Describing the event, he said: "We were moving down Route 611 to recover a vehicle which had been blown up after a 107mm rocket had been fired at it. The vehicle had burned for 36 hours and no one had gone near it but as soon as the fire went out, the area as flooded with kids. We recovered the vehicle and then returned along the same stretch of road two hours later on another job.
"What we didn't know at the time was that the Taliban had managed to lay three devices in a carefully planned IED ambush in just 20 minutes, in broad daylight in an area being monitored by two bases with cameras.
"My team of six was split between two Mastiffs and as we moved down towards the area of the damaged vehicle we hit the two anti-tank mines. It was a massive explosion, which took the front end off the Mastiff. The shock wave tore through the vehicle. You are left feeling physically sick. I was providing top cover and was pretty shaken up.
"But the Mastiff is an awesome vehicle and everyone was OK. I got out and did a check of the area and discovered another device, which was designed to take out a soldier. We also later found another device in an area where a helicopter would have landed if we had had a casualty. There was no way an operation could be mounted to recover us that evening so we remained in the vehicle for the next 26 hours until we were rescued."
W02 Hyde said occasions did arise when some of his soldiers would question the need for operations or patrols but there was never a moment when troops refused to leave the base. He continued: "Every day my soldiers stepped up to the plate. They were focused, they knew why they were there and what they had to do. When we arrived we were told that FOB Inkerman was unsustainable but we kept it functioning"
But towards the end of the tour the numbers of battle casualty replacements could not keep pace with the numbers of troops being wounded. "In the last month of the tour we constantly said to ourselves, "do we need to do this operation or this patrol?". We couldn't afford to take any more casualties so we reduced the number of patrols to those which we deemed vital. By the end of the tour it was taking two hours to patrol 600 metres so we had very limited freedom of movement."
Despite the gruelling nature of the operation, W02 Hyde says that he would "go back tomorrow given half the chance" but added: "I might have to convince the wife first."
The 4th battalion the Rifles are due to return to Helmand in 2013.
Senate returns $60B stripped out war bill to House
By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer Andrew Taylor,
Associated Press Writer – WASHINGTON
In a take-it-or-leave-it gesture, the Senate voted Thursday night to reject more than $20 billion in domestic spending the House had tacked on to its $60 billion bill to fund President Barack Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan.
Instead, the Senate returned to the House a measure limited chiefly to war funding, foreign aid, medical care for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and replenishing almost empty disaster aid accounts.
The moves repel a long-shot bid by House Democrats earlier this month to resurrect their faltering jobs agenda with $10 billion in grants to school districts to avoid teacher layoffs, $5 billion for Pell Grants to low-income college students, $1 billion for a summer jobs program and $700 million to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The House bill fell prey to a 46-51 tally that fell short of a simple majority, much less the 60 votes required to defeat a filibuster. The Senate is instead insisting on its almost $60 billion version of the measure, passed on a bipartisan vote in May.
Eleven Democrats and Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted against the House measure. Not a single Republican supported it.
The Senate measure is likely to be grudgingly accepted by House Democrats next week despite opposition by many liberals to the war in Afghanistan, which many of them view as unwinnable.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been agitating for the money and warned lawmakers this week that unless the measure is enacted into law before Congress leaves for its August recess, the Pentagon could have to furlough thousands of employees.
The House bill also attracted a White House veto threat over $800 million in cuts to education programs to help pay for the additional domestic spending under a "pay-as-you-go" culture that the administration itself advocates.
The Senate measure blends about $30 billion for Obama's 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan with more than $5 billion to replenish disaster aid accounts, as well as funding for Haitian earthquake relief, and a downpayment on aid to flood-drenched Tennessee and Rhode Island.
The war funding would bring the amount of money appropriated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan above $1 trillion.
The measure contains $13 billion in benefits for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, but does not provide more than $4 billion requested by the administration to finance settlements of long-standing lawsuits against the government, including $1.2 billion to remedy discrimination by the Agriculture Department against black farmers and $3.4 billion for mismanaging Indian trust funds.
The measure contains $1.1 billion for mine-resistant vehicles, $657 million for military bases in Afghanistan and $6.2 billion in foreign aid for Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Haiti.
By William M. Welch, USA TODAY
ARGHANDAB VALLEY, Afghanistan —
The operation began before dawn. Two hundred Army soldiers moved into a village in the Taliban's southern stronghold of Kandahar province over a few hours' time, their military vehicles rumbling past lush orchards seeded with mines.
As villagers shopped at a market selling melons, watches and cellphone cards, the soldiers walked about in the searing heat, searching buildings, fields and people for booby-trap bombs or Taliban fighters.
"Nobody's going to get hurt. It's going to be fine. Everybody's going to be respectful," Capt. Adam Armstrong told a group of elders who gathered.
The soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 508th Parachute Infantry, had taken over one of the few unsecured villages left along the banks of the Arghandab River a few miles west of Kandahar City.
An offensive on Kandahar City has been on hold as hundreds of servicemembers who are part of a U.S. surge ordered by President Obama arrive.
Kandahar City is the birthplace of the Taliban, which took over Afghanistan in the 1990s. The clerics who headed the movement terrorized Afghans with harsh Islamic rule and gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden until they were ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of late 2001.
The city of 400,000 people is second only to the capital, Kabul, in size. It is the hometown of the Taliban's leader, Mohammed Omar, and a lair for Taliban forces fighting to return to power, the Pentagon says.
The city and the surrounding valley are referred to as the breadbasket of Afghanistan because of the lush farmlands that spread from both banks of the Arghandab, the soil irrigated by canals dug by the U.S. in the 1950s. The tangle of grapevines, briars and pomegranate trees that crowd many of the farms provides cover for insurgents. Armstrong said they have sniped at troops and planted thousands of improvised explosive devices that have killed and maimed hundreds of coalition servicemembers.
The International Security Assistance Force, which oversees military operations, says the insurgents use the area to funnel explosives, weapons and ingredients for home-made bombs into Kandahar City. Spot raids here produced caches of weapons as well as insurgent leaders, the force says.
On Wednesday, U.S. soldiers, along with troops from the Afghan national army and Afghan national police, set up a combat outpost in an orchard within the dried mud walls that frame the village.
Troops encountered no resistance while heading in on MRAPs, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Armstrong, commander of the 2-508's Bravo Company, part of the 82nd Airborne, said village leaders had been told the U.S. forces would be coming but not when.
He was invited to drink chai tea in the shade by an intersection of dirt streets accompanied by Afghan army and police commanders.
Armstrong told residents the military's aim was to make the area safer for the villagers and asked for their help in finding hidden bombs and Taliban fighters. One bearded man was searched before he and his burqa-clad wife sped out of town on a motorbike. Afghan army and police took the lead in many of the searches. Female soldiers were on hand to search women.
Most of the 400 families living in the village, which has 10 mosques, remained out of sight behind the high walls inside compounds. Scores of children played in the streets and flocked around soldiers.
Forces found no weapons or explosives but did stumble across a crop of 8-foot-tall marijuana plants. Armstrong suspected many merchants were Taliban but had no proof. The Pentagon said a Taliban commander was captured in the village May 23 after intelligence indicated insurgents were present and active.
Armstrong said IEDs would be the primary threat when his soldiers fan out to look for insurgents.
"Our noses are on the ground. We're looking for IEDs," said Sgt. Erik Hoeksema of Chicago, who has been injured twice by the devices.
Stay or Go: Will Obama Challenge Petraeus's COIN Strategy?
More By John Hudson on July 22, 2010 3:30pm
In Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus is planning to "ramp up" the military's troop-intensive, counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, reports the Wall Street Journal. Senior military officials say Petraeus's predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, focused too heavily on assassinating Taliban leaders rather than implementing a broader strategy of protecting civilians and propping up the government. However, Petraeus's plans to implement a troop-intensive strategy could face opposition from the Obama administration as enthusiasm for the war effort diminishes.
As elite opinion begins to sour on America's chances in Afghanistan, will the White House call for deescalation against Petraeus's wishes? Here are reports and opinions that suggest it might:
•Dissent in the White House "Some in the White House advocate a pared-down approach that requires fewer troops and greater emphasis on drone attacks on insurgent leaders," reports Julian Barnes at The Wall Street Journal. "These officials would like to see an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops."
•Dissent Outside the White House David Sanger in The New York Times observes:
Mr. Obama has begun losing critical political figures and strategists who are increasingly vocal in arguing that the benefits of continuing on the current course for at least another year, and probably longer, are greatly outweighed by the escalating price.
Obama's mentors on foreign policy issues in the Senate, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, argued that "the lack of clarity in Afghanistan does not end with the president’s timetable," and that both the military and civilian missions were "proceeding without a clear definition of success." ... The allies, voicing similar concerns, have abandoned most talk of a conditions-based withdrawal in favor of harder timetables ... The Dutch leave this fall, and the Canadians say they intend to follow suit by the end of 2011.
•Obama Won't Be Able to Resist This Pressure, writes Michael Cohen at Democracy Arsenal: "It seems increasingly clear that elite opinion on Afghanistan is beginning to shift against the current mission and toward a more limited set of goals. Unless Barack Obama is LBJ re-incarnated I think that has to, at some point, make a difference. It will be interesting to see how things play out on the ground over the next few months, but I think we've hit a genuine inflection point on Afghan policy--and it leans toward de-escalation, not escalation."
•Deadline Cuts Both Ways David Sanger, The New York Times
•Petraeus Sharpens Strategy Julian Barnes, The Wall Street Journal
•Exit Strategy Michael Cohen, Democracy Asrenal
Jul 22, 2:31 PM EDT
World court says Kosovo's independence is legal.....
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) --
The United Nations' highest court ruled Thursday that Kosovo's declaration of independence was legal, dealing a blow to Serbia, which vowed never to accept its former province as a separate state and warned the ruling could embolden separatist movements around the world.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci hailed the ruling as a "historic victory" and "the best possible answer for the entire world," while Foreign Minister, Skender Hyseni, said outside the International Court of Justice: "my message to the government of Serbia is 'Come and talk to us.'"
A tiny patch of the Balkans with a population of 2 million, Kosovo declared independence in February 2008 after years of fruitless talks with Belgrade about its desire to break away.
Issuing the nonbinding advisory opinion, International Court of Justice President Hisashi Owada said international law contains "no ... prohibition of declarations of independence" and therefore Kosovo's declaration "did not violate general international law."
In the capital, Pristina, ethnic Albanians honked their horns and waved Kosovo and U.S. flags to celebrate the ruling.
"What happened today is the greatest joy for Kosovo since the declaration of independence," said ethnic Albanian Shpresa Gosalci. "It is something that has sealed our status forever."
Kosovo's independence has been accepted by 69 countries so far. U.N. diplomats say they expect the court's decision to spur recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. After more than 100 countries grant such recognition - more than half the 192 U.N. member states - a senior Western diplomat said it will in effect have achieved "full statehood."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will forward the advisory opinion to the General Assembly "which had requested the court's advice and which will determine how to proceed on this matter," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
"The secretary-general strongly encourages the parties to engage in a constructive dialogue," Nesirky told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York. "The secretary-general urges all sides to avoid any steps that could be seen as provocative and derail the dialogue."
Serbia's diplomatic campaign to prevent recognition of Kosovo has left the fledgling nation in limbo and cut off from international organizations and European Union membership. Serbia's stance is likely also hampering Kosovo's attempts to join the EU, as the bloc insists member states have friendly relations with their neighbors.
In a statement, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the future of Serbia and Kosovo lies in the EU.
"Good neighborly relations, regional cooperation and dialogue are the foundations on which the EU is built," Ashton said. "The EU is therefore ready to facilitate a process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade."
Kosovo had been under international administration for nearly a decade following a bloody 1998-99 war with Serbia, and thousands of NATO troops are still stationed there guarding a tense peace. Some 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian; the rest are mostly Serbs.
Serbia argues that Kosovo has been the cradle of its civilization and national identity since 1389, when a Christian army led by Serbian Prince Lazar lost an epic battle to invading Ottoman forces.
"Serbia has its history, Serbia has its roots, Serbia has its faith and they are all related to our policy in Kosovo," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said.
Serbian President Boris Tadic said Serbia will propose to the U.N. General Assembly in September a resolution on Kosovo that will represent a "compromise" between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.
"The only sustainable solution is one accepted by all sides," Tadic said.
The United States called the ruling "a judgment we support," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "Now it is time for Europe to unite behind a common future."
Jeremic warned, however, that the ruling could encourage separatist movements elsewhere around the world who would now be "tempted to write declarations of independence."
"We will never recognize the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence," Jeremic told reporters on the steps of the court's Peace Palace headquarters in The Hague.
"Difficult times are ahead ... but it is crucial that our people don't react to any possible provocations," Jeremic said, amid fears that angered ultranationalists in Serbia and Kosovo might become violent. Ultranationalists set the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade on fire when Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
Serbia's ultranationalist Radical Party said the court had "gravely violated" international law, and called on the government to demand an urgent session of the U.N. Security Council to end the EU peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.
And in Kosovo's divided northern city of Mitrovica, Kosovo Serb Tihomir Markovic called the ruling shameful.
"Justice is on our side, God is on our side," he said. "After this it will be hard for us - the Serbs in Kosovo."
NATO-led troops increased their presence Thursday in the Serb-controlled part of Mitrovica.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ruling would not affect the role of the 10,000-strong peacekeeping force in Kosovo, known as KFOR.
"KFOR will continue to implement its mandate to maintain a safe and secure environment in an impartial manner throughout Kosovo, for the benefit of all communities, majority and minority alike," he said.
Associated Press Writers Dusan Stojanovic and Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Nebi Qena in Pristina, Edith Lederer at the United Nations and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.
Press TV / July 20, 2010
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he expects the country's armed forces to take full control of the security situation in war-torn Afghanistan by 2014.
Addressing representatives from 70 states attending a major international conference in Kabul, President Karzai said, "I am committed to having the ability by 2014 to reach the level of strength and ability and capacity in our own forces to provide for our own security."
The Afghan leader went on to call for having more control over international aid money for the country as only 20 percent of billions of dollars in aid budget is currently distributed through the Afghan government.
President Karzai also raised the alarm about the ongoing Afghan problems, including massive illiteracy following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Speaking at the Afghan conference, NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that the alliance would stay in the country even after Afghans take over responsibility, adding that such a decision would be based on "conditions, not calendars."
Commenting on the issue, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a transition to Afghan leadership should not be put off, adding that the US would accelerate the process from July 2011.
Delegates from 70 countries, including 40 foreign ministers have attended the one-day event.
Reports said rocket attacks prevented a plane carrying the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from landing in Kabul. He, however, managed to attend the conference after being transferred to the US-run Bagram Airbase outside the Afghan capital.
The conference on the situation in Afghanistan comes as there has been an upsurge in attacks against US-led foreign troops and government forces in Afghanistan over the past months.
Foreign forces are experiencing some of their deadliest days in Afghanistan since the start of the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
Iran outlines solutions to Afghan crisis
Press TV / July 20, 2010
At the international conference on Afghanistan, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki outlines Tehran's solutions to the Afghan crisis.
Speaking at an international conference on Afghanistan on Tuesday, Mottaki called for a regional solution to the Afghanistan crisis and blamed growing insecurity and drug trafficking on foreign military presence in the war-ravaged country.
During his speech, he outlined five Iranian proposals to bring back stability to Afghanistan. He said that any solution to the Afghan crisis needs to take into account the following issues:
1) The Afghan Constitution is the greatest achievement of the country and hence needs to set the criterion for any measures to be taken in the country. Besides that, the process of government formation and the reinforcement of civil institutions should be supported by the international community.
2) The presence and increase of foreign forces will not help the situation in Afghanistan. Afghan people and government need to be trusted and a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces should be set as well.
3) A double standard policy on fighting terrorism has to be avoided.
4) Security and development are two inseparable factors; hence the reconstruction of Afghanistan and its infrastructures should become the focus of more attention. In doing so, Iran continues to contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and welcomes other countries' participation as well.
5) Regional cooperation needs to be supported as the proper approach to the issue. Iran for its part continues to hold regional meetings on Afghanistan and expects other non-regional countries to support the move. Iran believes that increased regional cooperation in transportation, energy and other sectors will contribute to development in Afghanistan.
The international conference on Afghanistan opened in Kabul on Tuesday, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai delivering the opening speech.
Delegates from more than 70 countries and several international bodies, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki- moon, are attending the one-day conference.
Iran has attended the meeting as an immediate neighbor of Afghanistan.
Increasing the capacity of the Afghan security forces and reconciliation with Taliban militants are the main topics of the Kabul Conference.
Clinton puts Afghan insecurity on Bush
Press TV / July 20, 2010
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blames the former Bush administration for the insecurity gripping Afghanistan amid rise in attacks against foreign troops.
Clinton, who arrived in Kabul on Monday ahead of a key international conference on the future of peace and security in Afghanistan, held talks with the country's President Hamid Karzai who will co-chair the summit with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday, AFP reported.
The US Secretary of State defended the Obama administration's strategy in Afghanistan at a time when a recent poll shows more than 50 percent of Americans want US soldiers to pull out of the war-hit country.
In an interview with BBC, she warned against abrupt and permanent withdrawal from Afghanistan, adding the war was "a fight worth waging."
However, Clinton acknowledged that the Obama administration was playing "catch up" and said that George W. Bush's administration should be blamed for the deterioration and difficulties facing the Obama administration.
Defending the strategy in Afghanistan that has so far failed to curb the mounting insurgency, Clinton said she thinks the current plan is the right one.
"I don't see an alternative. I think we are on the right track and I think we have to persevere and I think we can do that," Clinton said.
After landing at the Kabul airport, she was greeted by the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, and the commander of US and NATO forces, Gen David Petraeus.
The US Secretary of State dined with President Karzai as the two were putting final touches on preparations for the international conference on Afghanistan, which will be attended by 70 international representatives including 40 foreign ministers.
Karzai is expected to negotiate with visiting officials over issues ranging from development priorities and peace talks with the Taliban to setting a timeframe for the Afghan police to take over responsibility for the country's security, allowing foreign combat troops to withdraw by the end of 2014.
Afghan officials are set to unveil a string of proposals covering governance, economic and social development, the rule of law and justice, human rights and aid effectiveness.
Explosions rock Afghan capital
Press TV / July 20, 2010
Blasts have rocked Kabul hours before a major international meeting to be attended by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and near 40 foreign ministers starts in Afghan capital.
According to witnesses, an explosion was heard Tuesday morning in the northern outskirts of Kabul, dpa news agency reported.
At least four other explosions were also heard near the city's international airport on Monday night, but there were no reports of casualties.
The Afghan Interior Ministry Spokesman, Zemarai Bashary, said there were no casualties in the rocket attacks, AFP reported.
"A couple of rockets landed in Kabul city district 9 (near the airport) last night," he said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said their militants had fired four rockets at the airport, adding that electricity at the airport was cut as the rockets triggered "heavy explosions."
Nearly 70 international representatives are to participate in the Kabul Conference, which is expected to approve new development projects and transfer aid money and responsibility to the Afghan government.
Most of the nearly 40 foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, arrived in Kabul on Monday. President Hamid Karzai has already met several of the foreign dignitaries, his office said.
Thousands of security personnel have been deployed around the city, while NATO said it was ready to help with protection if asked.
US-led soldier killed in Afghanistan
Press TV / July 20, 2010
Another US-led soldier has been killed in southern Afghanistan as an international conference has opened in the war-torn country.
NATO said in a statement that the soldier was killed in a roadside bomb attack on Tuesday, a Press TV correspondent reported. The statement did not reveal the nationality of the trooper.
The death comes as Kabul is hosting officials from over 60 nations during a conference aimed at helping the war-torn country.
The deaths bring to 381 the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
There has been an upsurge in attacks against US-led foreign troops and government forces in Afghanistan over the past months.
Foreign forces are experiencing some of their bloodiest days in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
Some 140,000 US-led troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan. A further 10,000 troops are expected to be deployed to the war-ravaged country in the coming weeks.
NATO's mounting death toll has led to a dramatic decline in public support for the Afghan war across Europe and the US.
NATO: Afghan Soldier Kills Two U.S. Civilians
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
July 20, 2010
An Afghan soldier thought to be an army trainer has shot dead two U.S. civilians and a fellow Afghan soldier during a weapons-training exercise at a military camp in northern Afghanistan.
NATO said in a statement that it was investigating with Afghan authorities whether it was a deliberate attack or an accident.
The gunman himself also died in the July 20 incident, in unclear circumstances.
A NATO soldier and an Afghan service member were also wounded at the training facility near Mazar-e Sharif, the largest city in the relatively peaceful north of the country.
compiled from agency reports
Canadian soldier acquitted of Taliban murder charges
July 19, 2010
(AFP) – OTTAWA — A military panel acquitted a Canadian officer Monday of murder of an unarmed and badly wounded insurgent in Afghanistan but sentenced him to up to five years in jail for "disgraceful conduct."
After two days of deliberations, Captain Robert Semrau, 36, was found not guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder or negligent performance of military duty, despite the four-member military panel concluding he had indeed shot and killed an unarmed Taliban fighter.
The lesser disgraceful conduct charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. The Canadian National Defense Department said Semrau's sentence would be determined at a later date.
If Semrau had been found guilty of first-degree murder, he could have faced life in prison, which in Canada means he must serve 25 years behind bars before he can be eligible for parole.
The drama unfolded on October 19, 2008, as Canadian soldiers faced an increasingly tough insurgency as they defended key positions in the region. Semrau was mentoring Afghan soldiers under a NATO program.
Following several clashes, British and Afghan troops along with their Canadian mentors came across two "presumed" Taliban fighters: one dead, the other too severely wounded for treatment on site.
According to prosecutors, the wounded man was "insulted, spat upon and kicked" by Afghan soldiers in Semrau's company. His rifle, ammo and vest were taken and the patrol moved on, deciding to leave his fate "in Allah's hands."
Semrau, a Canadian private under his command and an Afghan interpreter codenamed Max soon returned to photograph the two insurgents, after deciding they could be "high value targets."
They found the wounded man still breathing, prosecutors said.
Semrau then told Max and the private to "head back" as they "should not have to see this," prosecutor Captain Thomas Fitzgerald had said in earlier proceedings. The pair walked a short distance "when they heard two distinct shots," he added.
The private "whirled around thinking he'd been caught in another ambush," his gun ready. He saw the victim was "no longer moving."
Semrau is alleged to have told the private under his command "that he couldn't live with himself if he had left a wounded human being and nobody should be made to suffer like that."
Later that day, Semrau was overhead saying that he fired the shots that killed the insurgent and that "anyone would do the same for any other human being in that situation. He is still a human being and should not suffer like that."
But neither Canadian, nor international law recognizes mercy killings.
GOP chairman Michael Steele was blasted by fellow Republicans recently for describing Afghanistan as “a war of Obama’s choosing,” and suggesting that the United States would fail there as had many other outside powers. Some critics berated Steele for his pessimism, others for getting his facts wrong, given that President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan soon after 9/11. But Steele’s critics are the ones who are wrong: the RNC chair was more correct than not on the substance of his statement, if not the politics.
The war being waged by the United States in Afghanistan today is fundamentally different and more ambitious than anything carried out by the Bush administration. Afghanistan is very much Barack Obama’s war of choice, a point that the president underscored recently by picking Gen. David Petraeus to lead an intensified counterinsurgency effort there. After nearly nine years of war, however, continued or increased U.S. involvement in Afghanistan isn’t likely to yield lasting improvements that would be commensurate in any way with the investment of American blood and treasure. It is time to scale down our ambitions there and both reduce and redirect what we do.
At Outpost Restrepo The first thing we need to recognize is that fighting this kind of war is in fact a choice, not a necessity. The United States went to war in October 2001 to oust the Taliban government, which had allowed Al Qaeda to operate freely out of Afghanistan and mount the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban were routed; members of Al Qaeda were captured or killed, or escaped to Pakistan. But that was a very different war, a necessary one carried out in self-defense. It was essential that Afghanistan not continue to be a sanctuary for terrorists who could again attack the American homeland or U.S. interests around the world.
The Bush administration was less clear on what to do next. Working in the State Department at the time, I was appointed by President Bush as the U.S. government’s coordinator for the future of Afghanistan. At a National Security Council meeting chaired by the president in October 2001, I was the one arguing that once the Taliban were removed from power there might be a short-lived opportunity to help establish a weak but functional Afghan state. There and at subsequent meetings I pressed for a U.S. military presence of some 25,000–30,000 troops (matched by an equal number from NATO countries) to be part of an international force that would help maintain order after the invasion and train Afghans until they could protect themselves.
My colleagues in the Bush administration had no interest in my proposal. The consensus was that little could be accomplished in Afghanistan given its history, culture, and composition, and that there would be little payoff beyond Afghanistan even if things there went better than expected. They had no appetite for on-the-ground nation building. The contrast with subsequent policy toward Iraq, where officials were prepared to do a great deal because they hoped to create a potential model for change throughout the Middle East, could hardly be more stark.
As a result, the United States decided not to follow up its ouster of the Taliban with anything ambitious. U.S. troop levels did top out at about 30,000, but most of those just hunted the handful of Al Qaeda who remained. The United States never joined the international force sent to stabilize Afghanistan and in fact limited its size and role.
By the time Obama became president in 2009, the situation inside Afghanistan was fast deteriorating. The Taliban were regaining a foothold. There was concern in Washington that if left unchecked they could soon threaten the existence of the elected government in Kabul headed by Hamid Karzai. Trends were judged to be so bad that the president ordered 17,000 more American combat troops to Afghanistan even before the first review he’d ordered up was finished.
Since then Obama has had several opportunities to reassess U.S. goals and interests in Afghanistan, and in each instance he has chosen to escalate. Upon completion of that first review in March 2009, he declared that the U.S. mission would henceforth be “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.” But in reality the U.S. objective went beyond taking on Al Qaeda; the president announced in those same remarks that the additional U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan would “take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border.” In short, the return of the Taliban was equated with the return of Al Qaeda, and the United States became a full protagonist in Afghanistan’s civil war, supporting a weak and corrupt central government against the Taliban. Another 4,000 U.S. troops were sent, to train Afghan soldiers.
Just five months later, a second, more extensive policy review was initiated. This time the president again described U.S. goals in terms of denying Al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan, but again he committed the United States to something much more: “We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.”
The decisions that flowed from this were equally contradictory. On the one hand, another 30,000 U.S. troops were pledged, both to warn the Taliban and to reassure the shaky government in Kabul. Yet the president also promised that “our troops will begin to come home” by the summer of 2011—to light a fire under that same government, as well as to placate antiwar sentiment at home.
Today the counterinsurgency strategy that demanded all those troops is clearly not working. The August 2009 election that gave Karzai a second term as president was marred by pervasive fraud and left him with less legitimacy than ever. While the surge of U.S. forces has pushed back the Taliban in certain districts, the Karzai government has been unable to fill the vacuum with effective governance and security forces that could prevent the Taliban’s return. So far the Obama administration is sticking with its strategy; indeed, the president went to great lengths to underscore this when he turned to Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Kabul. No course change is likely until at least December, when the president will find himself enmeshed in yet another review of his Afghan policy.
This will be Obama’s third chance to decide what kind of war he wants to fight in Afghanistan, and he will have several options to choose from, even if none is terribly promising. The first is to stay the course: to spend the next year attacking the Taliban and training the Afghan Army and police, and to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in July 2011 only to the extent that conditions on the ground allow. Presumably, if conditions are not conducive, Petraeus will try to limit any reduction in the number of U.S. troops and their role to a minimum.
This approach is hugely expensive, however, and is highly unlikely to succeed. The Afghan government shows little sign of being prepared to deliver either clean administration or effective security at the local level. While a small number of Taliban might choose to “reintegrate”—i.e., opt out of the fight—the vast majority will not. And why should they? The Taliban are resilient and enjoy sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, whose government tends to view the militants as an instrument for influencing Afghanistan’s future (something Pakistan cares a great deal about, given its fear of Indian designs there).
The economic costs to the United States of sticking to the current policy are on the order of $100 billion a year, a hefty price to pay when the pressure to cut federal spending is becoming acute. The military price is also great, not just in lives and matériel but also in distraction at a time when the United States could well face crises with Iran and North Korea. And the domestic political costs would be considerable if the president were seen as going back on the spirit if not the letter of his commitment to begin to bring troops home next year.
At the other end of the policy spectrum would be a decision to walk away from Afghanistan—to complete as quickly as possible a full U.S. military withdrawal. Doing so would almost certainly result in the collapse of the Karzai government and a Taliban takeover of much of the country. Afghanistan could become another Lebanon, where the civil war blends into a regional war involving multiple neighboring states. Such an outcome triggered by U.S. military withdrawal would be seen as a major strategic setback to the United States in its global struggle with terrorists. It would also be a disaster for NATO in what in many ways is its first attempt at being a global security organization.
There are, however, other options. One is reconciliation, a fancy word for negotiating a ceasefire with those Taliban leaders willing to stop fighting in exchange for the chance to join Afghanistan’s government. It is impossible, though, to be confident that many Taliban leaders would be prepared to reconcile; they might decide that time is on their side if they only wait and fight. Nor is it likely that the terms they would accept would in turn be acceptable to many Afghans, who remember all too well what it was like to live under the Taliban. A national-unity government is farfetched.
One new idea put forward by Robert Blackwill, a former U.S. ambassador to India, is for a de facto partition of Afghanistan. Under this approach, the United States would accept Taliban control of the Pashtun-dominated south so long as the Taliban did not welcome back Al Qaeda and did not seek to undermine stability in non-Pashtun areas of the country. If the Taliban violated these rules, the United States would attack them with bombers, drones, and Special Forces. U.S. economic and military support would continue to flow to non-Pashtun Afghans in the north and west of the country.
This idea has its drawbacks as well as appeal. A self-governing “Pashtunistan” inside Afghanistan could become a threat to the integrity of Pakistan, whose own 25 million Pashtuns might seek to break free to form a larger Pashtunistan. Any partition would also be resisted by many Afghans, including those Tajik, Baluchi, and Hazara minorities living in demographic “islands” within the mostly Pashtun south, as well as the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and others elsewhere in the country who want to keep Afghanistan free of Taliban influence. And even many Pashtuns would resist for fear of the harsh, intolerant rule the Taliban would impose if given the chance.
Another approach, best termed “decentralization,” bears resemblance to partition but also is different in important ways. Under this approach, the United States would provide arms and training to those local Afghan leaders throughout the country who reject Al Qaeda and who do not seek to undermine Pakistan. Economic aid could be provided to increase respect for human rights and to decrease poppy cultivation. There would be less emphasis on building up a national Army and police force.
The advantage of this option is that it works with and not against the Afghan tradition of a weak ruling center and a strong periphery. It would require revision of the Afghan Constitution, which as it stands places too much power in the hands of the president. The United States could leave it to local forces to prevent Taliban inroads, allowing most U.S. troops to return home. Leaders of non-Pashtun minorities (as well as anti-Taliban Pashtuns) would receive military aid and training. The result would be less a partition than a patchwork quilt. Petraeus took a step in this direction last week by gaining Karzai’s approval for the creation of new uniformed local security forces who will be paid to fight the insurgents in their communities.
Under this scenario, the Taliban would likely return to positions of power in a good many parts of the south. The Taliban would know, however, that they would be challenged by U.S. air power and Special Forces (and by U.S.-supported Afghans) if they attacked non-Pashtun areas, if they allowed the areas under their control to be used to supply antigovernment forces in Pakistan, or if they worked in any way with Al Qaeda. There is reason to believe that the Taliban might not repeat their historic error of inviting Al Qaeda back into areas under their control. Indeed, the United States should stop assuming that the two groups are one and the same and instead start talking to the Taliban to underscore how their interests differ from Al Qaeda’s.
Again, there are drawbacks. This approach would be resisted by some Afghans who fear giving away too much to the Taliban, and by some Taliban who don’t think it gives enough. The Karzai government would oppose any shift in U.S. support away from the central government and toward village and local leaders. Fighting would likely continue inside Afghanistan for years. And again, areas reclaimed by the Taliban would almost certainly reintroduce laws that would be antithetical to global norms for human rights.
So what should the president decide? The best way to answer this question is to return to what the United States seeks to accomplish in Afghanistan and why. The two main American goals are to prevent Al Qaeda from reestablishing a safe haven and to make sure that Afghanistan does not undermine the stability of Pakistan.
We are closer to accomplishing both goals than most people realize. CIA Director Leon Panetta recently estimated the number of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to be “60 to 100, maybe less.” It makes no sense to maintain 100,000 troops to go after so small an adversary, especially when Al Qaeda operates on this scale in a number of countries. Such situations call for more modest and focused policies of counterterrorism along the lines of those being applied in Yemen and Somalia, rather than a full-fledged counterinsurgency effort.
Pakistan is much more important than Afghanistan given its nuclear arsenal, its much larger population, the many terrorists on its soil, and its history of wars with India. But Pakistan’s future will be determined far more by events within its borders than those to its west. The good news is that the Army shows some signs of understanding that Pakistan’s own Taliban are a danger to the country’s future, and has begun to take them on.
All this argues for reorienting U.S. Afghan policy toward decentralization—providing greater support for local leaders and establishing a new approach to the Taliban. The war the United States is now fighting in Afghanistan is not succeeding and is not worth waging in this way. The time has come to scale back U.S. objectives and sharply reduce U.S. involvement on the ground. Afghanistan is claiming too many American lives, requiring too much attention, and absorbing too many resources. The sooner we accept that Afghanistan is less a problem to be fixed than a situation to be managed, the better.
Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars.
The Real Failed-State Risk
It isn’t the one you keep hearing about.
“What happened in Kampala is just the beginning!” So warned Abu Zubayr, the leader of Al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the bombings in the Ugandan capital that killed more than 70 people who had gathered to watch the World Cup soccer final. In the bombings’ wake, Al-Shabab has drawn renewed attention for its murky links to Al Qaeda, and analysts once again are warning that failed states are a mortal threat to American national security. In fact, though, the case of Somalia and Al-Shabab proves precisely the opposite.
That Somalia is a failed state is beyond dispute. Foreign Policy just published its annual Failed States Index, and for the third year running, Somalia ranks No. 1. Somalia has had no functioning government since 1992, longer than probably any other present-day state. This is a tragic situation, but U.S. policy-makers seem convinced it’s also one that poses a grave danger to American national interests. “Dealing with such fractured or failing states is, in many ways, the main security challenge of our time,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said. Hillary Clinton has voiced strong support for this view and has taken steps to help tackle the problem. It’s not a new concern. Condoleezza Rice, when she was secretary of state, used to call failed states the worst threat to American security, as did a host of scholars, U.N. officials, and pundits.
The chief exhibit for this far-reaching claim was, of course, Afghanistan, which descended into chaos in the 1990s and became a staging ground for Al Qaeda as it prepared to attack America. But Afghanistan’s story is actually a bit more complicated. The Taliban came to power there with support from the Pakistani military, which had long supported radical Islamists. The group also received private and public support from Saudi Arabia, which viewed it as a convenient dumping ground, far from home, for its own radicals. Today there are very few Qaeda members in Afghanistan—between 60 and 100, says CIA head Leon Panetta—and Al Qaeda operates out of Pakistan. As the scholar Ken Menkhaus has pointed out, global terrorism seems to profit less from failed states and more from weak ones, like Pakistan, where some element of the regime is actively assisting the terrorists. After all, there are many drastically failed states (Burma, Congo, Haiti) that pose no global terrorist threat.
The trouble with trying to fix failed states is that it implicates the United States in a vast nation-building effort in countries where—by definition—the odds of success are low and the risk of unintended consequences is very high. Consider Somalia. In 1992, after the government’s collapse, U.S. troops were sent into the country as part of a U.N. mission to avert famine, but they soon became entangled in local power struggles, ending in a humiliating withdrawal. About a decade later, worried by the rising strength of a radical movement called the Islamic Courts Union, Washington began funding rival Somali factions, and finally gave tacit backing to an Ethiopian intervention. The Islamic Courts Union was destroyed but regrouped under its far more radical, violent arm, Al-Shabab, which is now on the rise.
Somalia highlights the complexity of almost every approach to failed states. If Washington goes after the militants aggressively, it polarizes the political landscape and energizes the radicals, who can then claim to be nationalists fighting American imperialism. If it talks to them, it is accused of empowering jihadis. The real answer, argue many, is to strengthen the state’s capacity so that the government has greater legitimacy and the opposition gets discredited. But how easy is it to fast-forward political modernization, compressing into a few years what has taken decades, if not centuries, in the West? All these dilemmas are on full display in Afghanistan right now.
What to do in Somalia? In a thoughtful report, Bronwyn Bruton of the Council on Foreign Relations makes the case for “constructive disengagement.” The idea is to watch the situation carefully for signs of real global terrorism—which so far are limited. Al-Shabab’s “links” with Al Qaeda seem to be mostly rhetoric on both sides. But if they become real and deadly, be willing to strike. This would not be so difficult. Somalia has no mountains or jungles, making it relatively hospitable for counterterrorism operations. Just be careful not to become a player in the country’s internal political dynamics. “We have a limited capacity to influence events in Somalia, to influence them positively,” says Bruton. “But we have an almost unlimited capacity to make a mess of things.”
Fareed Zakaria is editor of NEWSWEEK International and author of The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad.
In Islamabad, Clinton Unveils $500 Million Aid Package to Pakistan
Grant designed to improve perception of America, strengthen ties.
Aamir Qureshi / AFP
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Pakistan on July 18.
In a bid to shore up flagging relations with a key ally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced more than $500 million in aid projects to Pakistan at a meeting Monday in Islamabad. The projects, meant to bolster Pakistan's infrastructure through agricultural improvements and construction of health facilities and dams, will be funded through the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (also known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill) that President Obama signed into law last October. The Act allots $1.5 billion in nonmilitary aid to Pakistan annually. Clinton's visit with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was part of a two-day swing through Islamabad and marks the second ministerial-level session of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, aimed at improving ties and building support for America's fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the region.
"We would like to work more closely together to go after them and either capture or kill them," Clinton reportedly told a roundtable of journalists, referring to Qaeda leaders she said she believes are in Pakistan. In an interview with the BBC in July, Clinton called on Pakistan to deal with the Haqqani network, a branch of the Afghan Taliban operating in Pakistan that Gen. David H. Petraeus recommends be blacklisted as terrorists. Clinton said that if an attack on the U.S. were to originate in Pakistan, U.S.-Pakistan relations could be compromised.
Apart from the stern talk about combating terrorism, Clinton's remarks also focused on the skepticism she says many in Pakistan still harbor about America's intentions. Qureshi echoed her concerns: "The opinion about the United States in Pakistan will change when the people of Pakistan see how, through this partnership, their lives have changed," he said during a press conference with his American counterpart.
Clinton's announcement is "a step in the right direction," says Ashraf Qazi, chairman of the Council of Pakistan Relations, a Washington, D.C., group that lobbies to improve U.S.-Pakistan ties. Qazi described the meeting as "positive" but says he and his organization were hoping for the U.S. to make a greater commitment to larger-scale infrastructure programs—something he says could serve as a metaphorical "made in USA" banner and tangible symbol of U.S. good intentions at a time when only 17 percent of Pakistanis have a favorable opinion of America, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.
The Wall Street Journal reports that $100 million of the aid will help small and medium-size businesses while another $50 million is earmarked for developing new technologies.
The announcement comes as Pakistan faces a growing economic imbalance at home, where those with the lowest incomes shoulder the heaviest tax burdens. A New York Times story reports that Pakistan's broken tax system, in which the country's wealthiest—often politicians—pay little or no tax, helps feed "a festering inequality in Pakistani society … That is creating conditions that have helped spread an insurgency that is tormenting the country and complicating American policy in the region."
In addition to the aid Clinton unveiled, another sign of positive activity in the region came today when Pakistan signed a trade deal with Afghanistan, which the U.S. Embassy in Kabul lauded as "the most significant bilateral economic treaty ever signed" between the two countries. The agreement means landlocked Afghanistan will now have access to the sea and to markets in India, as well as a healthy upswing in imports that may boost stability in the country. But the world will have to wait to see whether the economic benefits for both Afghanistan and Pakistan will put a dent in economic inequality and militant insurgency in the region.
Clinton arrived in Kabul on Monday for an international conference where leaders will discuss Afghanistan's plan for future development, governance, and stability. President Hamid Karzai and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon will chair the conference, scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Feisal Omar / Reuters-Corbis
Somalia Strikes Out
Horrific bombings in the Ugandan capital seemed to mark the arrival of a new player in global jihad. But the world shouldn’t overreact: the killings are also a sign of splits within the Somali militant community.
At first glance, the images of overturned tables and blood-soaked walls seemed to tell a familiar story. The setting—Kampala, the laid-back capital of Uganda, during the World Cup championship last week—was new, but the lesson of the latest global terrorist bombings was by now routine: jihadi groups are ruthless, unpredictable, and prone to metastasize. Chaotic backwaters in the Horn of Africa can spawn threats just as dangerous as those in the Middle East and South Asia. The newest addition to the global most-wanted list: Al-Shabab (“the Youth”), a murderous clique of Somali militants who claimed last week’s bombings as their first act of terrorism outside their own country’s borders.
American policymakers have long been following the growth of Al-Shabab. The State Department designated the group a terrorist organization in 2008, and in recent years U.S. investigators have watched with alarm as a stream of Somali-American youngsters have gone missing, apparently to fight alongside the militants in Mogadishu. Yet a paradox lies at the heart of Al-Shabab’s newfound notoriety. Even as the group’s global profile has risen, the militants are less popular and less effective at home than they’ve ever been. “The local jihad is no longer working in their favor,” says Rashid Abdi of the International Crisis Group. “They have lost the political momentum.” The Uganda attacks, he says, “are probably a sign of desperation.”
The organization wasn’t always so isolated inside Somalia. Its leadership initially emerged from the ranks of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a popular network of local Islamists that tried to restore some measure of order to Somalia after years of warlord rule. The ICU ran schools and other social services, winning the affections of impoverished Somalis. The group’s stature rose further in the eyes of locals in late 2006, when Ethiopian troops, encouraged by the Bush administration, invaded Somalia in an effort to oust the Islamists. Al-Shabab and a number of other fundamentalist factions were hailed by ordinary Somalis as freedom fighters as they battled the invading Ethiopians.
But when the Ethiopian military finally pulled out last year, Al-Shabab’s support waned and Islamist factions began to quarrel among themselves. More moderate elements of the former ICU grew wary of the group’s hardline positions. As Al-Shabab extremists carved out enclaves of control south of Mogadishu, they imposed their own harsh—and wildly unpopular—brand of justice. Adulterers were stoned to death. Other Somalis had their limbs hacked off. Hardline commanders—some of them Arabs and other foreigners—began calling the shots. In December last year, a suicide bomber killed dozens of Somalis at a graduation ceremony for medical and engineering students in Mogadishu, a cynical act of terrorism that infuriated many Somalis.
Top Terrorists at Large
Al-Shabab’s decision to bomb foreign targets was probably taken reluctantly. Somalis depend heavily on more than 1 million expats to send home remittances, which are estimated at roughly $1 billion a year. The militants, too, rely on expats in Africa and elsewhere to funnel money and weapons to Al-Shabab fighters inside the country. Attacks like those in Uganda, which killed more than 70 civilians, are likely to result in xenophobic retaliation against Somalis living abroad, perhaps alienating those people from Al-Shabab’s radical cause. The bombings could also spur Somalia’s neighbors to crack down on Al-Shabab’s supply lines.
But Al-Shabab must have calculated that the potential benefits outweighed the risks. On the surface, last week’s attacks seemed to be an attempt to frighten Ugandans into pulling their peacekeeping troops out of Somalia. (Ugandan soldiers are part of the African Union force that helps protect the transitional government.) But Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College, says the opposite may be true. The militants may be aiming to provoke wider international involvement in Somalia that “could inadvertently drive Somalis back into the Shabab’s arms.” In the view of the militants, the “best opportunity to regain popularity locally” may be to “regionalize the conflict,” says Menkhaus.
Pinpoint strikes targeting Al-Shabab’s leadership could be an effective way to hit back. Yet Menkhaus and other analysts believe it’s important for Somalia’s neighbors—and U.S. policymakers—to avoid overreacting. Al-Shabab “will benefit from an indiscriminate response,” says one Western observer with long experience in Somalia who did not want to be named discussing the volatile political situation.
A better approach may be to encourage the transitional government, led by Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, to broaden its support. Ahmed and his backers could use this opportunity to quietly reach out to Al-Shabab’s erstwhile allies among other Somali opposition groups. Many street fighters are just teenagers who could be bought off, and even some old-guard commanders are probably resentful of Al Qaeda–linked foreigners who have become more influential.
Unfortunately, Ahmed is not popular either. He is widely viewed as a stooge of foreign powers, and his government is “deeply incompetent and corrupt,” says Abdi Samatar, a professor at the University of Minnesota. “The Somalis have lost faith in it.” Moreover, the president’s troops control little territory outside his own palace. In this sense, anyway, Somalia’s tragedy is a familiar story after all.
With Mark Hosenball in Washington