View Full Version : [Afghan News] September 19, 2011


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02-14-2012, 03:26 AM
Report: Night raids a losing tactic in Afghanistan
By HEIDI VOGT - Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Increased nighttime military raids by international military forces in Afghanistan have created a resentment that has undercut any battlefield gains from the tactic, according to a report released Monday by a U.S. think tank.
The New York-based Open Society Foundations, founded by liberal U.S. billionaire George Soros, said in its report that NATO and U.S. troops have made important improvements in the way they conduct night raids following complaints from the Afghan government that its citizens were being treated unfairly or rudely.
Civilian casualties are down in overall NATO operations, which have also become better targeted.
However, the report says even nighttime raids conducted with the best practices breed discontentment and mistrust among both ordinary Afghans — who feel less secure knowing that armed men in uniform might burst into their homes at any time. The Afghan government has repeatedly called for a reduction in nighttime operations over which it has little control. The report said Kabul officials have warned that such raids undermine efforts to reconcile with those open to leaving the insurgency.
The findings are potentially troubling for coalition forces that are likely to depend even more on quick-strike operations like night raids as the U.S. and other troop-contributing nations draw down forces over the next few years.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has publicly denounced the nighttime raids in speeches and interviews, saying that the operations — in which a small group of soldiers push into a compound and search the premises and the residents — treat too many civilians as if they are insurgents and violate citizens' privacy in an intensely conservative society. Troops on night raids are also regularly accused of mistreating women or defiling copies of the Quran. Though the allegations often turn out to be specious, they damage NATO's reputation.
International troops conducted an average of 19 raids per night between December 2010 and February 2011, according to NATO figures cited in the report. More up-to-date figures were not available but the researchers interviewed a NATO official in April who said that as many as 40 raids might take place on any given night in Afghanistan. That represents a sharp increase over the past two years, the report says.
"The escalation in raids has taken the battlefield more directly into Afghan homes, sparking tremendous backlash among the Afghan population," the report argues, adding "Complaints over night raids have marred Afghan relations with international partners, particularly the United States, and have complicated long-term strategic partnership discussions."
NATO spokesmen in Kabul said that more than 90 percent of night operations are conducted alongside Afghan forces and that all are approved by Afghan officials.
Spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings believes that evening raids are a useful way to combat the Taliban insurgency.
"Night operations are an effective method of maintaining the pressure on the enemy while minimizing risk to innocent civilians," Cummings said. "Eighty-five percent of night operations are conducted without a shot being fired and account for less than 1 percent of civilian casualties."
Cummings said, however, that NATO forces are reviewing the report and are open to implementing any recommendations that will improve their operations in Afghanistan. He stopped short of saying if NATO was willing to sharply reduce the raids.
The author of the report, Erica Gaston, said an increase in the frequency of nighttime raids has come alongside an increase in insurgent attacks, meaning that Afghan citizens are not feeling any security benefits from the raids.
She said that her organization asked NATO officials what other methods they were trying to use instead of night raids, but that officials said they could not think of an example when a planned raid had been abandoned for another strategy.
According to Gaston, NATO rules of engagement say that troops should try to use alternative tactics instead of the raids.
"In practice, I think this is their go-to detention method. This is how they go out and get people," Gaston said.

'Pak must stop treating Afghanistan like its colony and come down hard on Haqqani network'
New Kerala
Islamabad, Sep 19: Pakistan must stop treating Afghanistan like its colony and fight the war against terror for its own good, according to an editorial in a leading Pakistani newspaper.
The editorial in the Daily Times also said that instead of complaining about the United States' "do more" mantra, Pakistan should take swift action against the Haqqani network.
"Sirajuddin Haqqani's statement about having shifted to Afghanistan sounds hollow. The Haqqani network might not be present in North Waziristan now as some reports suggest that they have moved to Kurram Agency. Our intelligence agencies are well aware of their presence in the country," the editorial said.
"Instead of supporting the Afghan Taliban, we must realize that in the end, the Taliban — be they local or otherwise — are no one's friends, but themselves. The attacks by the Pakistan Taliban from across the border show that they have found support from the Afghan Taliban," it added.
It further said that the US-led war in Afghanistan is far from over.
"It has already spilled into our borders and when the foreign troops leave, there is more danger of an escalation in the Taliban's activities," the editorial said.
The editorial further stressed that Pakistan should not take the US warnings lightly.

President Karzai leaves for New York to attend UN assembly
KABUL, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai left for New York on Monday to attend the United Nations General Assembly, a statement released Monday by his office here said.
"Hamid Karzai, the president of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan left for New York this morning to attend the 66th General Assembly of the United Nations," the statement added.
Afghan president will deliver his speech in the General Assembly on Wednesday, and he also will hold meetings with leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama at the sideline of the General Assembly, the statement further said.

Security officer assassinated in northern Afghan province
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Unknown armed men gunned down a security officer in Kunduz province Sunday evening, police said on Monday.
"Unidentified armed men opened fire on Gul Mohammad, a police officer with counter-terrorism department in Khan Abad district, on Sunday evening and killing him on the spot," Sufi Habibullah, the police chief of Khan Abad district told Xinhua.
Four persons have been arrested in this case, he said, adding investigation has been initiated to unearth the network behind subversive activities.
Meanwhile, he blamed the enemies of peace, a term used against Taliban militants by Afghan officials, but the outfit fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops has yet to make comment.

NATO has confidence in Afghan security forces: spokesman
KABUL, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- NATO has confidence in the capability of Afghan security forces and Afghanistan remains the key operation for NATO, a NATO spokesman said on Monday, adding the alliance continues to remain committed to the operations in the militancy-hit country.
"NATO has full confidence in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)," Dominic Medley, NATO's civilian representative's spokesman, told reporters in a joint press briefing with the spokesman of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force ( ISAF) Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson.
Afghanistan is due to take over the leadership of its own security responsibilities from some 140,000-strong NATO-led ISAF forces, with nearly 100,000 of them Americans, by the end of 2014.
Afghan forces have taken control of seven areas including the capital city Kabul since July and the process will be completed by the end of 2014.
"The international community will stay in Afghanistan's corner, not only up to 2014, but afterwards as well," Medley added.
The process of security transition from around 140,000-strong NATO-led ISAF forces will go on despite a rise in Taliban-led attacks across the country including capital city Kabul, said Carsten in the same press briefing.
"Security transition will continue. ISAF and the Afghan people will not let incidents such as the one this past week derail our momentum," Carsten said, referring to the Taliban multiple attacks on the U.S. embassy and ISAF headquarters in Kabul, which began last Tuesday and ended Wednesday leaving 16 people dead and over 40 others injured.
He also blamed Haqqani network, the military wing of Taliban outfit operating in eastern Afghan provinces and capital Kabul for the brazen multiple attacks that lasted for 20 hours.

Bomb Targets Pakistani Police Official, 8 Killed
VOA News September 19, 2011
A suicide bomber has detonated a vehicle packed with explosives outside the house of a senior police official in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi, killing at least 8 people.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday's attack, which killed six police officers guarding the police official's house. A woman and child were also killed in the blast.
The target of the bombing, Senior Superintendent of Police Chaudhry Aslam, survived the attack. Aslam heads the counter-terrorism unit in Karachi, which investigates militant groups.
The senior police official told reporters he has received threats from Pakistani Taliban in the past and will not be deterred by Monday's “cowardly act.” Aslam added that he is not scared of the Taliban and that he will “teach them a lesson.”
The Pakistani Taliban said the group targeted Aslam because he had detained and killed many of its fighters.
Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said the militant group will “continue targeting” officers who are “involved in the killing of our comrades.” Ahsan told AFP that Aslam is still on “our hit list.”
Monday's explosion caused extensive damage to Aslam's house and neighboring buildings. The blast left a large crater outside his home. Cement blocks, car parts, and other debris were strewn at the scene.

Brother of slain Afghanistan journalist seeks safe passage to Australia
The Australian - Amanda Hodge
THE brother of a Tarin Kowt-based journalist mistakenly killed by coalition forces in July has appealed for asylum in Australia, claiming he and his family have been threatened by Taliban and US forces.
Omed Khpalwak, a well-respected journalist who worked as a stringer for the BBC and the ABC, was killed in the immediate aftermath of a Taliban attack on the Oruzgan capital.
A NATO investigation conducted at the behest of the BBC found he had been shot by US soldiers who mistook him for a suicide bomber.
His brother, Ahmad Jawid Khpalwak, told The Australian yesterday his family was no longer safe.
"We have to leave Tarin Kowt but we don't know where we will go," Mr Khpulwak said. "We have had warnings from both sides -- from the Taliban and Americans. When we started our investigation as to who killed my brother, we had a warning from an American to stop our investigation and stop talking to the media."
He said the Taliban had demanded the family hand over any money they received in compensation for Omed's death.
The claims have been denied by the International Security Assistance Force, which said it had been working closely and openly with the Khpalwak family since the "unfortunate incident".
"No one from the family has contacted US officials, military officials or ISAF with any of these concerns," Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings said yesterday. "As far as any claims of harassment by US officials or US military, that is totally untrue.
"We do not go around threatening people we have been helping."
Mr Khpalwak said he had been advised by Australian embassy officials there was little they could do to help him.
The Australian embassy yesterday confirmed an official had spoken to Mr Khpulwak, but would not comment further.

Mullen Presses Pakistan for Action Against Haqqani Militants
Bloomberg By Viola Gienger Sep 18, 2011
U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged his Pakistani counterpart to take action against the Haqqani militant group that the U.S. blames for attacks on Americans in Afghanistan.
Mullen met for more than two hours with Pakistan’s Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Seville, Spain on Sept. 16, said Navy Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen. The two were attending a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military committee to discuss operations in Afghanistan.
“Admiral Mullen conveyed his deep concerns about the increasing -- and increasingly brazen -- activities of the Haqqani network,” Kirby said in an e-mailed statement. Mullen “restated his strong desire to see the Pakistani military take action against them and their safe havens in North Waziristan.”
The Mullen’s appeal was the latest U.S. effort to elicit more action from Kayani.
U.S. officials have blamed the Jalaluddin Haqqani militant group, one of the Taliban factions most closely aligned with Pakistan’s military, for an assault on the U.S. embassy in Kabul last week and a Sept. 10 truck bomb attack that injured 77 Americans at a base southwest of the capital. While no U.S. personnel were killed in the embassy attack, there were 11 Afghan civilian deaths and five Afghan police officers died.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters this week that it was “unacceptable” that the Haqqani network can stage such attacks in Afghanistan and then find a haven across the border in Pakistan. ’Extremely Concerned’
Mullen said during an April visit to Pakistan that he was “extremely concerned” that the Pakistan army’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, “has a longstanding relationship with the Haqqani network.”
Still, Mullen, who leaves office at the end of this month, has combined his exhortations with praise for military action that Pakistan has taken against other militants.
Mullen and Kayani “agreed that the relationship between our two countries remained vital to the region and that both sides had taken positive steps to improve that relationship over the past few months,” Kirby said in his e-mailed statement. “They also discussed the state of military-to-military cooperation and pledged to continue to find ways to make it better.”
Mullen will be succeeded by General Martin Dempsey, who most recently served as Army chief of staff.
Kayani has faced pressure from within his own ranks to curb cooperation with the U.S. after American Navy Seals killed al- Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a May raid in Pakistan without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities.

Violence 'Affecting Afghan Children's Mental Health'
September 19, 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
KABUL -- Human rights officials in Afghanistan have endorsed earlier findings suggesting that endemic violence is inflicting considerable psychological trauma and distress on children in that country, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul told RFE/RL that many Afghan children have witnessed acts of violence, seeing people being killed in bomb attacks or seeing dead bodies on the streets.
A 2009 study by England's Durham University, the first large-scale survey of Afghan children's mental health, reported that one in five children suffers from psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
An RFE/RL correspondent in Kabul's Abdul Haq neighborhood -- the scene of a recent Taliban attack in which six militants launched assaults against Afghan and international forces -- interviewed some children who had witnessed the violence.
"We were in the classroom when we heard gunfire behind our school," said one student. "We all escaped and ran home. A lot of my classmates were crying saying that we were going to die."
"When we were running from the school, I saw a car pull up by the road," Najib, a sixth-grader, told RFE/RL. "A man dressed in women's clothing came out and shot a policeman and then ran into a building."
Hasib, 15, said the attacks caused panic among his classmates, with some still traumatized days later. "Psychologically it hit everybody hard," he said. "Many of us don't eat properly, we have trouble sleeping, and find it hard to concentrate on our studies."
Children have been some of the worst victims of Afghanistan's nearly three decades of war.
According to UNICEF, more than 30 percent of children of elementary-school age are working on the streets in Afghanistan and are often their family's sole breadwinners. That means that millions of children are not going to school.
Child labor in Afghanistan is also rampant, with many impoverished families selling their kids into forced labor, sexual exploitation, and early marriage.
Some of the children -- who can be as young as 3 years old -- are overworked and are suffer from malnutrition and disease.

In Kabul, It’s Not MTV, It’s a Mission
New York Times By DAVID CARR September 18, 2011
Tom Freston is a pretty mellow guy, but sitting in the corner of a downtown Manhattan restaurant last week he was getting very excited as he talked about his new project. “Every time I go there, there are kids doing a bunch of new things, making all kinds of interesting programming,” he said. “The work they are coming up with is remarkable.”
Given that Mr. Freston ran and later oversaw MTV Networks for 17 years, building a channel that changed broadcasting and the culture at large, you might guess that he was plotting the next television youthquake. After all, people are still complaining that MTV simultaneously sexed-up and dumbed-down American culture. So what kind of caper is Mr. Freston fired up about? Here’s a hint: That very day, a missile had landed on the production facility he was going on and on about.
The missile strike was in Afghanistan, where Mr. Freston lived during the 1970s when he was in the clothing business. Now he is serving as a board member and adviser to the Moby Group, which owns a burgeoning string of television and radio networks in a country where simply owning a television was illegal not so long ago. Forget about wanting their MTV, Afghans just wanted their TVs.
The Moby Group owns Tolo TV, a Dari language network; Lemar TV, which beams out in Pashto; two FM stations; and Farsi1, a joint television venture with the News Corporation that serves millions of Farsi speakers in Iran as well. When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, it all but criminalized most of pop culture, so it’s remarkable that Moby is broadcasting shows in which men and women interact, often to hilarious effect, and the radio station has a male and a female D.J. bantering away the morning. And the audience apparently is there: Tolo TV has a 45 percent market share, according to Saad Mohseni, the head of Moby.
In Afghanistan, many women still wear burqas, and freedoms are limited, , so working with the guy who helped bring “Beavis and Butt-Head” into public consciousness would not seem especially helpful. But Mr. Mohseni said Mr. Freston has been critical to the enterprise.
“He is a prolific e-mailer and always available for making connections for even the smallest things,” said Mr. Mohseni, speaking by phone during a visit to the United States last week from Afghanistan. He said that Mr. Freston had introduced him to Rupert Murdoch, among others. “When he comes here, he talks with the producers, the managers, the people doing the work,” Mr. Mohseni said.
In the ’70s, Mr. Freston ran a clothing company called Hindu Kush — “I had no idea what I was doing,” he said — out of Kabul and New Delhi. He developed a lasting crush on Afghanistan and now, more than 30 years later, he’s traveling there about three times a year.
He has time on his hands because in 2006 he parted ways with Sumner Redstone, the founder of Viacom, which owns MTV. The reason? Because Mr. Freston failed to buy MySpace. “One of the best deals I never made,” he said, smiling in retrospect. He now sits on the board of DreamWorks Animation and serves as chairman of the One campaign, the African poverty initiative co-founded by Bono.
In addition to working with Vice Media, he does consulting for Oprah Winfrey, a broadcast superstar who has discovered that starting your own cable channel has its challenges. But his work with Moby combines his enduring interest in Afghanistan with the belief that storytelling can help change a nation. “All Americans ever see of Afghanistan is the brown mountains in the war footage and things getting blown up, but when you spend time at Tolo TV, you get a feeling of what this place could be,” Mr. Freston said.
Unlike some foreign affairs analysts, he’s optimistic about the country’s future. “People assume that when the U.S. leaves, the Taliban will just resume control, but Afghanistan has become a different place because independent media has become an instrument of social change.”
A popular soap opera from Tolo TV, “The Secrets of This House,” has frankly discussed the gender inequality, domestic abuse and government corruption, all in the name of entertainment.
Cynthia P. Schneider, professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University, said that it’s hard to underestimate the value of such programming, which the rest of us take for granted.
“Last year, 10 million people watched the finale of ‘Afghan Star,’ which is one third of the people in the country,” she said, referring to the Afghan version of “American Idol.” “You have men and women in a competition that is based on merit, which is unusual in a tribal society. And the results are settled by voting, which is very important.” She added, “In a country where nothing else seems to work, independent media has been a huge success story.”
Mr. Freston got involved in Moby after meeting with Mr. Mohseni, the son of an Afghan diplomat who decided not to return to Afghanistan with his family after the Soviet invasion. After many years of living in Australia, Mr. Mohseni returned in 2002 to Kabul, where he began building a media infrastructure in a country with an unreliable electric grid and a 70 percent illiteracy rate.
Improbably enough, Moby has become an epicenter of original programming, and last year it began a news channel that has become a source of accountability for a populace accustomed to corruption and dysfunction.
“We are a very young country,” said Mr. Mohseni. “Sixty percent of the people here are under 20 years old, and if anyone knows how to reach young people, it’s Tom.”
Mr. Freston deflects attention to Moby’s content. “The Ministry” is an “Office” knock-off, featuring a preening bureaucrat in charge of garbage collection who mostly drinks tea and gives jobs to his relatives. “Eagle Four” brings to mind “24,” featuring brave men and women who deliver action-packed justice.
“When those actors hit the streets of Kabul in costume, they are like the Beatles, they get mobbed,” said Mr. Freston. “The people in Afghanistan can’t depend on their government, so they are inspired by the show.”
Fifty percent of Afghans have TV sets, according to Mr. Mohseni, compared with almost none in 2001. The advertising market, because of the influx of international aid and global brands, is estimated at $50 million and growing, Mr. Mohseni said.
“In today’s Afghanistan, you can’t go to the ballet or go out to dinner with friends,” Mr. Mohseni said. “So they watch television. It is very much like America in the 1950s when families gathered around the TV set to watch a show together.”
It’s not all inspiration and aspiration. On the day I had lunch with Mr. Freston, a rocket aimed at the American embassy in Kabul landed on the roof of a Moby production facility.
“If it were simple, big media companies would be here and doing business,” Mr. Mohseni said. “The difficulties of doing business here have created an opportunity for us to come up with our own programming and facilities.”
The interests of Moby and the United States government occasionally align, and the American government is a big advertiser and has underwritten some of the production costs of “Eagle Four.” Mr. Mohseni plays down the role of any one advertiser. And he prefers to talk about Mr. Freston as a kind of a secret weapon.
“Afghanistan was stuck in the 12th century, not because of any decisions we made, but because we had these proxy wars imposed on us,” said Mr. Mohseni. “There are people here who oppose what we are doing, but then, there were a lot of people who said the same thing about MTV when Tom was building it.”

Afghanistan: Helmand Farmers Threaten Return To Opium
IWPR By Gol Ahmad Ehsan September 19, 2011
Farmers in Helmand have threatened to go back to growing opium poppy because the Afghan government has not helped them market the alternative crops it encouraged them to grow.
Although the opium grown in this southern province is still the source of most of the world’s heroin, a two-year eradication campaign conducted by the Afghan government and the international community has shown some results. The area under cultivation this year was seven per cent down on 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC.
The main substitute crop chosen for Helmand was cotton, which had been successfully grown there between the 1960s and 1980s.
Farmers like Mohammad Jan, from the Marja district, say they are not selling enough to make a living these days.
“I haven’t grown poppy for the past two years; I’ve grown cotton instead,” Mohammad Jan said. “But I failed to feed my family. I’ve been disappointed this year, too, because there’s no market for cotton. The government won’t buy it from us, and the price the traders pay isn’t profitable for us.”
As a result, this farmer has made a difficult decision.
“If things go on like this, I will grow poppy again next year, and I will defend the crop [from eradication officers] as well, because it’s better to be killed than to die of starvation,” he said.
Sherin Khan, director of the Bost cotton gin in Helmand, says the plant cannot afford to take all the raw cotton produced in the region.
“We cannot buy all the cotton, because the finance ministry provides us with a budget to buy only 3,000 tons,” he said. “That’s why we cannot solve the farmers’ problems.”
The Bost plant closed after civil war broke out with the collapse of President Najibullah’s government in 1992. Until then, much of the cotton was bought up by the state. In the chaos that followed, the factories that used the cotton to manufacture fabric also closed down.
The head of the provincial agriculture department, Ahmadullah Ahmadzai said it was proving difficult to find new markets.
“We have talked to foreign donors and organisations about finding international markets for Helmand products, particularly cotton. They have made promises to us, but so far we haven’t made any progress,” he said.
Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand’s provincial governor Gulab Mangal, recognises the danger of the cotton project failing.
“There’s concern that if farmers don’t have markets for their produce and are unable to sell them, they may start growing poppy again in the coming years,” he said.
At the same time, Ahmadi said the governor’s office bore no responsibility for the Bost cotton gin’s inability to buy up the whole crop.
With local processing capacity limited, farmer sell the surplus to commercial middlemen.
The head of the economics department in the provincial government, Abdul Rashid, accused these middlemen of paying rock-bottom prices.
Traders retorted that prices were low because of lack of demand for cotton both in Afghanistan and abroad, principally in Pakistan.
“I bought some cotton last year myself,” Ali Ahmad Naseri, who heads the provincial branch of a traders’ association, said. “At that time the price was over one [US] dollar a kilogram. But I was unable to sell the cotton – I still have it. The price has fallen by 50 per cent this year, because so much cotton was grown. I’ve made a big loss.”
He added that many others related similar experiences, and they were now reluctant to buy more cotton.
The head of counter-narcotics in Helmand, Abdul Qader Zahir, warned that opium production remained illegal whatever the economic circumstances, and would not be tolerated.
“If there is no market for the farmers’ cotton, that does not mean they can grow poppy,” he said. “There are markets for all of Helmand’s agricultural products and business is good here. There are problems only with cotton, because the government is unable to buy up as much as it used to take.”
As well as disappointing cotton sales, another factor motivating farmers to switch back to opium may be the rising prices paid for the latter. Average farm-gate prices for dry opium reached 274 dollars a kilo in March 2011, from 98 dollars a year earlier, according to UNODC.
Matiullah, a farmer in Helmand who spoke to IWPR, reported earning 300 dollars a kilo this year.
In 2010, he said, his earnings did not even cover his outlay on running a generator to pump well water for irrigation, so he planted poppy this year to recoup his losses.
“I thought I’d make a loss if I grew cotton or other crops,” Matiullah said. “I decided to grow poppy, reasoning that if I harvested it, I’d make a profit, and if they [eradication squads] destroyed the field, I’d have made a loss anyway. So I grew poppy and earned good profits – I sold it [opium] at 300 dollars a kilogram. If I don’t grow anything for another two years, the profits will still have been enough for me.”
Gol Ahmad Ehsan is an IWPR-trained reporter in Helmand province This article was produced by IWPR’s Afghanistan Reports.

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