View Full Version : [Afghan News] October 17, 2011

02-20-2012, 03:16 PM
China mining giant tapped for Afghan rail project
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's mining minister says the China Metallurgical Group Corp. has been selected to carry out technical studies for two proposed rail lines in the country.
Wahidullah Shahrani said Monday that the state-run Chinese company, also known as MCC, will begin the preliminary studies soon for building a rail line from Kabul to Turkam in the east, and Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif in the north. The rail lines are seen as essential to help Afghanistan develop a mining industry that could bring in billions of sorely needed dollars to the impoverished nation.
MCC had already been awarded a $3 billion copper mining project in Afghanistan. Shahrani cited that contract as well as other road projects MCC had carried out in country as reasons why it was chosen for the railway study.

Suicide Bomber Targets Afghan Intelligence Official
VOA News October 17, 2011
A suicide bomber has attacked a provincial intelligence chief in northern Afghanistan, wounding the official and killing a young boy.
Police say the attacker detonated his explosives near Sayed Ahmad Sadat's convoy in the capital of Faryab province, Maimanah, early Monday.
A child was killed. Sadat and at least four other people were wounded in the blast, which took place as the chief of Faryab's National Directorate of Security traveled to his office.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, authorities say the Taliban killed five Afghan soldiers in the western province of Farah over the weekend. Three other soldiers were wounded in the ambush.
International forces are in the process of handing over security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts as they begin pulling out of Afghanistan. Foreign combat troops are set to complete their withdrawal from the country by the end of 2014.

NATO claims success with Afghan security forces
AFP via Yahoo! News
Afghan security forces are showing "significant progress" with a swell of new recruits and better training, NATO's head of training said Monday before leaving his post.
Lieutenant General William Caldwell said he was optimistic about the country's ability to "sustain the force we've built them... over the long term" after NATO troops hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
His upbeat assessment comes in stark contrast to widespread fears over the ability of the army and police to protect the country.
A decade into the war, US troops on the ground complain that Afghan forces are still over-reliant on them and fail to take initiative.
But Caldwell said there are now 306,000 Afghan security personnel, exceeding the recruitment target for this year, with 50,000 officers and non-commissioned officers hired, standardised training and better equipment and weapons.
"Two years ago there were real reasons to be sceptical," he said.
"Today we see (a national force) being trained and equipped, which is developing the leaders and the people with the right vocational skills, and the institutions and systems to make this an enduring force."
Better pay and literacy programmes had also been integrated into the national forces, he said, addressing two key issues within the ranks.
The Afghan army and police have grown rapidly from around 190,000 personnel in late 2009, when the current programme to train them began.
The US-led training mission has an $11.6 billion budget for this year alone, and there are now 170,000 troops in the Afghan army, with combined army and police numbers due to peak at 352,000 by November 2012.
Around $2.7 billion worth of vehicles, weapons, communications equipment and aircraft are being provided to Afghan forces between August this year and March 2012, a surge in equipment provision which is part of the overall spending.

Pakistan wants Afghan action on Taliban cleric
By Qasim Nauman
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan said Monday that Afghan and U.S-led forces had failed to hunt down a Taliban cleric responsible for a spate of cross-border raids despite repeated requests from Islamabad, a complaint likely to deepen tension between the neighbors.
The attacks in which militants loyal to Maulvi Fazlullah took part killed about 100 members of Pakistan's security forces, angering the army which faces threats from multiple militant groups.
"We have given locations and information about these groups to the Afghanistan government and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), but apparently there has been no action," Pakistani army spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas, told Reuters.
"The problem refuses to go away."
Fazlullah was the Pakistani Taliban leader in Swat Valley, about 100 miles northwest of Islamabad, before a 2009 army offensive forced him to flee.
Also known as FM Mullah for his fiery radio broadcasts, he regrouped in Afghanistan and established strongholds, and poses a threat to Pakistan once again, said Abbas.
Fazlullah, a leading figure in the Pakistani Taliban insurgency, is based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan, said Abbas.
He is a prime example of the classic problem faced by Pakistan's military. Militant leaders can simply melt away in the rugged mountainous frontier area in the face of army offensives.
"When they ran away from Swat, Fazlullah's group was in tatters and was scattered," said Abbas. "They got time and support in Afghanistan."
Mansur Khan Mehsud of Islamabad's FATA Research Center doubts Fazlullah could take control of Swat or other areas.
"While Fazlullah has the support of local Taliban in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces, he has the capacity to only launch hit-and-run attacks," he said.
"He does not have the ability to overpower security forces and hold territory."
In Kabul, National Directorate of Security spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said "terrorist groups usually come from the other side of the border and do some attacks."
"One thing for sure I can say that no one is regrouped or settled here in Afghanistan," he added.
Ties between Kabul and Islamabad, marred by mistrust in the best of times, have been heavily strained in recent months.
First, Afghanistan complained that Pakistan was shelling Afghan border areas in response to militant raids.
More recently, Afghan officials accused Pakistani intelligence of involvement in the suicide bombing assassination of the chief Afghan peace envoy with the Taliban. Pakistan denied the accusation.
"With this new element, friction will increase. The problem is the issue is highly politicized given the state of affairs in the region, with accusations coming from both sides," said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies.
"What was simply a border security issue is now politicized, and will impact bilateral relations."
Fazlullah, who Swat residents said ordered beheadings, public executions and the bombing of girls' schools, is the last thing Pakistan needs.
It is battling a Taliban insurgency, and has been facing stepped up U.S. pressure to attack Afghan militant groups who cross the border to attack Western forces in Afghanistan since U.S. special forces in May killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town, where he had apparently been living for years.
"Now Fazlullah and his group are trying to re-enter Swat through Dir," said Abbas, referring to a border region in northwest Pakistan which was relatively stable before the cleric's men recently staged attacks there on security forces.
Only police and paramilitary forces were based in Chitral and Upper and Lower Dir border districts in Pakistan before Fazlullah started raids there. Now regular army units have been deployed to tackle the threat, said Abbas.
The United States wants Pakistan to help stabilize the border region described by President Barack Obama as the most dangerous place in the world.
Doing so would require Pakistan to break up complicated and powerful networks that include al Qaeda, the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban and Arab fighters.
Critics say Pakistan has created chaos in the area by using militants as proxies in Afghanistan to block the influence of old rival India, allegations it denies.
Pakistani officials have urged the United States to focus on defeating its enemies in Afghanistan instead of blaming Islamabad for its failures.
Asked about Pakistan's complaint about Fazlullah, ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings said:
"We are working with Pakistan to achieve our shared goals of lasting stability and security in Afghanistan and the broader region."
Residents of the Swat Valley, once a tourist destination with cascading rivers and forest-clad slopes, are still haunted by memories of a life of fear under Fazlullah.
The Taliban capitalized on a widely criticized government peace deal with the Taliban to take control of Swat, home to more than a million people. In April 2009, the United States termed the agreement an abdication to the Taliban.
"There is no village in Swat where Fazlullah's men did not murder someone's brother or father or son. There is no place where they did not destroy homes and families. Most people of Swat are against the Taliban," said Nisar Khan, a Swat farmer.
"We are now armed, we have weapon permits from the army. There are many soldiers here."
(Additional reporting by Junaid Khan in MINGORA and Mirwais Harooni and Emma Graham-Harrison in KABUL; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Troops kill three suicide bombers in east Afghan city
By Kamal Sadaat and Elyas Wahdat | Reuters – Sun, Oct 16, 2011
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan troops shot dead three would-be suicide bombers who attempted to enter an office in an eastern city on Sunday to launch attacks on government targets, officials said.
The heavily armed insurgents had explosives strapped to their chests and were killed in a 10-minute gunfight with Afghan troops outside the mayor's office in Gardez, Paktia province, said Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
The insurgents arrived in a car laden with explosives, which were detonated during the gunbattle, without causing injury, Samon said, adding that one state employee was killed in the crossfire.
They had planned to use the office as a stage post to launch attacks on the governor's compound and other key buildings in the city from an elevated position, he said.
Insurgents fighting Afghan and foreign forces have previously used half-built high rises or poorly guarded buildings to stage big attacks on government targets.
The most notable was the September 13 attack on Kabul's diplomatic enclave, when five suicide fighters took over an abandoned building and showered the U.S. embassy and the headquarters of NATO-led forces with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire for 20 hours. (ID:nL3E7KD27C)
Suicide and roadside bombings and high-profile, coordinated attacks are being used more frequently by the Taliban, with high numbers of casualties among Afghan security forces and civilians.
Foreign forces say such attacks are attempts to grab media attention and avoid heavy losses sustained on the battlefield.
The attack in Gardez came a day after four suicide bombers targeted a compound housing an Afghan and U.S. military/civilian reconstruction team inside Afghanistan's fiercely anti-Taliban Panjshir valley, killing two civilians.
Violence is at its worst since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with attacks spreading from militants strongholds in east and south to normally peaceful areas in north.
(Reporting by Kamal Sadaat and Elyas Wahdat; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Martin Petty and Sanjeev Miglani)

Restored citadel is symbol of hope in Afghanistan
By DEB RIECHMANN - Associated Press
HERAT, Afghanistan (AP) — In the 1970s, tourists traveled to western Afghanistan to climb on the ruins of an ancient citadel, a fortress resembling a sandcastle that has stood overlooking the city of Herat for thousands of years.
The citadel was crumbling then, but today the newly restored structure, dating back to the days of Alexander the Great, is a hopeful sign of progress in a country beset by war.
Hundreds of Afghan craftsmen worked to restore the ruins' past glory with help from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and about $2.4 million from the U.S. and German governments.
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, was among the tourists drawn to Herat decades ago, and on Sunday he celebrated the citadel's restoration and the opening of a new museum of Afghan artifacts at the site.
"Until 35 years ago, tourists from around the world came here to experience heritage, history and incomparable national landscapes," Crocker said.
"We look forward to the day when Afghans and visitors from around the world will once again come here to learn about Afghanistan's rich history and enjoy the great hospitality and beauty that this land and its people have to offer," he said.
Tourism seems far-fetched in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of foreign troops are in their 10th year of fighting Taliban insurgents.
Yet, the rebuilt, imposing brick structure called the Qala Ikhtyaruddin is a new symbol of the nation's desire to emerge from the bloody conflict.
"As this citadel represents, Afghanistan stood as a great nation. It will so stand again," Crocker said.
Taliban attacks have recently occurred inside Herat. They are rare, though there are districts on the city's outskirts where violence flares.
While there was mention of the recent attacks, several officials at the ceremony were warning of another threat: Uncontrolled development that is endangering other historical sites in the city along the famous Silk Road that linked Europe and Asia in ancient times.
"As we sit within the high walls of this impressive monument celebrating the fruits of our joint effort to save this site, I would like to remind all those present here that the rate at which historic quarters and buildings in this city are being destroyed far surpasses the four dozen buildings that we've restored over the past seven years," said Ajmal Maiwandi, chief executive officer of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The Ministry of Information and Culture is now the caretaker of the citadel, which has survived years of territorial battles among Persians, Uzbeks and Afghans and today's Taliban.
The current structure was built on the site of an ancient citadel that some historians claim was established by Macedonian warrior-king Alexander the Great around 330 B.C. The battlements and towers that still stand are believed to date from the 14th or 15th century when it was reconstructed after being destroyed by Mongol invaders. Some of the blue tile work from that period can still be seen on some towers.
UNESCO did extensive renovation at the site in the 1970s. The Culture Ministry took over stewardship at the site in 2005 and has worked since 2008 with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the U.S. and German governments to restore the structure and set up a museum at the site. U.S. support for the citadel restoration came from the U.S. Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation and is the fund's largest project in the world.
Mohammad Rafiq, a mason from Herat who worked on the project, said he took pride in the work because he sees it as part of the country's broader reconstruction.
"It was not only about making money. It was good work to do," he said. "This is the biggest monument in the region. We tried our best to do the reconstruction so that it recopied the old styles of the building."
Housed at the citadel is the National Museum of Herat, one of four provincial museums in Afghanistan to reopen to the public. The Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin worked with the German Archaeological Institute to document and restore artifacts and prepare them for display. There are about 1,100 items from the Herat region in the museum; about 250 are on display.
Most of them are from the 10th to 13th centuries when Herat was a center of politics and culture. There is pottery, metal work, a tombstone of major Persian painter Behzad, 260 manuscripts and books and a cenotaph adorned with tiles that date from 1378.
Nancy Dupree, an American who has worked in Afghanistan for decades to protect and preserve the country's culture and heritage, stood outside the museum and glanced up at the citadel's sunbaked towers.
"I've been here many times, but it was crumbling," she said. "This is impressive."
"I think the most exciting thing is to see something finally accomplished. I have seen so many half-finished things."

Failed peace council dashes hopes Afghans can achieve reconciliation
The Globe and Mail By Susan Sachs Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011
KABUL - Afghanistan’s High Peace Council has unravelled in the month since its leader was assassinated, discrediting President Hamid Karzai’s scattershot approach to making peace with the Taliban and exposing the country’s deep splits over whether any Afghan-led effort at reconciliation is worthwhile.
“The idea that there is going to be some major reconciliation has been parked to the side,” said a Western diplomat, speaking off-the-record. “The effect of it will be to call into question the way the government has been pursuing reconciliation.”
The Sept. 20 murder of the council’s leader, Burhanuddin Rabbani, did not kill a peace process – there was none in progress. The government had no substantive dialogue with Taliban leaders, other council members and diplomats in Kabul now say.
The peace council, rather, was Mr. Karzai’s attempt to create the image of a national front in favour of negotiations by gathering together ex-Taliban officials and Pashtuns from the south, where the Taliban has deep roots, with people such as Mr. Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, who fought against the old Taliban regime.
The flimsiness of that front is now apparent, underscoring the ever-diminishing hope for an Afghan political settlement before NATO withdraws from its longest and costliest war ever by the end of 2014. Canadian forces pulled out in July. American and other troops have begun the first phase of their drawdown.
With the death of Mr. Rabbani, whose killer apparently claimed to have a message from Taliban leaders, the council is in disarray. Many Afghans who were already suspicious that it would cut an unsavoury peace deal see the assassination as proof of Taliban treachery.
Mr. Karzai has, typically, tried to appease his critics and supporters alike and has opened up a fresh confrontation with Pakistan, where the insurgent leadership is believed to be living. Since Taliban leaders have not responded to peace overtures, he said, “I don’t have any other answer except to say that the other side for this negotiation is Pakistan.”
Mr. Rabbani’s murder remains a mystery. Neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani network, another deadly insurgent group, has taken responsibility. But both groups sometimes claim attacks they did not carry out and deny involvement in attacks, such as those that kill Afghan civilians, which discredit them in Afghan eyes.
Arsullah Rahmani, a former Taliban government official and a High Peace Council member, said Mr. Karzai’s inner circle bears some blame for their secretive ad-hoc outreach to the Taliban.
A year ago, Mr. Karzai and others secretly met with a man they believed to be a Taliban envoy, but was nothing more than a soap-seller in Quetta, where the Taliban’s governing council, or shura, is based. They made the same mistake last month, according to Mr. Rahmani.
“If I had known Rabbani was meeting this Hamidullah, I would have told him not to trust him,” he said, referring to the man who has confessed to the Afghan intelligence service that he brought the suicide bomber from Pakistan to Mr. Rabbani. “He is not a Talib. He had no authority from the Quetta shura. I don’t know why they keep on believing these people.”
A related theory is that Mr. Rabbani was targeted as part of a political chess game over who will control Afghanistan after the NATO pullout. Several regional leaders of his Tajik political party, Jamiat-e-Islami, have already been killed in suicide bombings claimed by the Taliban this year, suggesting it is systematically eliminating its political and military rivals in advance of the NATO pullout.
Other Afghans, critical of Mr. Karzai’s peace overtures to the Taliban, say Mr. Rabbani’s murder presents a fleeting opportunity to unite the country.
“There’s a huge amount of anti-Taliban and anti-Pakistan sentiment among Pashtuns,” said Davood Moradian, an adviser to the Afghan foreign ministry and assistant professor at the American University of Afghanistan. “They haven’t been able to articulate it because there’s been a systematic campaign of assassination against moderate clergy and tribal leaders.”
If Mr. Karzai decides to mobilize that feeling, he could bring the mutually suspicious ethnic and political factions to a consensus. “But if he continues business as usual – giving something to someone and then giving something to someone else – you will see a united front against him from all corners by next year,” Mr. Moradian said.
Editor’s Note: An earlier online version and the newspaper version of this story carried an incorrect name for the man who has confessed to bringing a suicide bomber to Burhanuddin Rabbani. This online version has been corrected.

Suicide Bomber Targets Afghan Intelligence Official
VOA News October 17, 2011
A suicide bomber has attacked a provincial intelligence chief in northern Afghanistan, wounding the official and killing a young boy.
Police say the attacker detonated his explosives near Sayed Ahmad Sadat's convoy in the capital of Faryab province, Maimanah, early Monday.
A child was killed. Sadat and at least four other people were wounded in the blast, which took place as the chief of Faryab's National Directorate of Security traveled to his office.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, authorities say the Taliban killed five Afghan soldiers in the western province of Farah over the weekend. Three other soldiers were wounded in the ambush.
International forces are in the process of handing over security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts as they begin pulling out of Afghanistan. Foreign combat troops are set to complete their withdrawal from the country by the end of 2014.

Training of Afghan security forces on track: NATO general
KABUL, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- The training process of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) has been on track as NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) has trained over 114,000 Afghan army and police over the past two years, a NATO general in charge of the process said on Monday.
"NTM-A in last two years has trained and helped field just over 114,000 new additional police and army in additional who were present two years ago," Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, commander of NTM-A, told reporters in a joint press conference with spokesman of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson here.
In recent months, Afghan security forces have taken the lead for securing seven areas of the nation.
Afghan police and army took full control of seven areas including three provinces in July this year and by 2014 they are to be in charge across the country, allowing foreign combat troops to either leave or take on supportive roles.
By the end of 2014 the number of ISAF combat troops will drawdown but their support to ANSF and Afghan people will continue, said Caldwell.
Currently over 130,000 NATO-led ISAF with majority of them Americans have been serving in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan launches probe into torture allegations
Afghanistan's intelligence agency said Sunday it had launched an investigation into allegations that its personnel had beaten an inmate nearly to death while interrogating him in the province of Khost.
The probe ordered by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) follows media reports that said the beating of the inmate, a preacher, caused kidney failure and other internal injuries.
The suspect was detained late September in the eastern province of Khost.
"The NDS has launched an investigation into this case," the agency said in a statement. "If any NDS official is found guilty in this regard we will hand them over to legal authorities."
But the agency added that an initial probe revealed that the inmate had been suffering from kidney illness before his detention.
It said a delegation led by one of the agency's deputies had travelled to Khost to investigate the matter.
The allegations come just days after the United Nations said in a report that torture is practiced systematically in some Afghan intelligence detention centres.
It said that it had "compelling evidence" that Afghan intelligence officials at five centres "systematically tortured detainees for the purpose of obtaining confessions and information".
The Afghan government has rejected the allegations.

Isaf Investigates Rocket Attacks from Pakistan Sunday, 16 October 2011
Isaf said on Sunday that it is investigating continued missile attacks from Pakistani soil into Afghanistan, and stressed that talks must occur before any "appropriate action" is taken.
Isaf spokesman General Carsten Jacobson said that the organisation is still trying to confirm whether it is the Pakistani army that is firing the rockets.
Referring to the huge presence of militants in border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, General Jacobson said insurgents should not be allowed to use the area to the detriment of either country.
It is suspected that the Pakistani army has some role in the rocket attacks emanating from its soil. The attacks have continued for several weeks, targeting the border regions in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces.
According to local officials, the attacks have killed dozens of people and displaced hundreds of families.
General Jacobson said: "Isaf is investigating this. The commander of Isaf has been talking to the Pakistan's chief of staff. Just lately this is a matter of concern and we have to look at it."
He highlighted the need for proof and understanding the "real size of these incidents" before taking any action.
Afghanistan shares a long border with Pakistan to the southeast. The porous nature of that border has long been problematic, given that insurgents stationed in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas are easily able to pass into Afghanistan and carry out their brutal attacks against Afghan and international troops.

Afghan parliament approves $51m payout over Kabul Bank
AFP 16/10/2011
KABUL - Afghanistan's parliament approved a $51m payment to the central bank on Sunday as part of a planned compensation package over its multi-million-dollar bailout of the scandal-hit Kabul Bank.
The payment is part of a package of government measures agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a new loan for Afghanistan. The IMF stalled renewal of its assistance programme in the wake of the scandal, which highlighted endemic corruption among Kabul's elite.
It comes as planned NATO troop withdrawals and waning donor support are expected to challenge economic growth in the heavily aid-dependent nation.
The central bank bailed out Kabul Bank, the war-torn country's biggest commercial lender, to the tune of $825 million last year, after it collapsed in a scandal which saw hundreds of millions of dollars stolen.
"The $51m approved by the parliament is from the national budget of Afghanistan, and it is transferred... to compensate the central bank asset," finance minister Omar Zakhilwal told a press conference.
The finance ministry in a statement said that the payment had been agreed by the lower house of parliament, and was passed with two dissenting votes cast.
"This will be strong encouragement to the teams working hard to restructure the new bank, recover the assets and investigate any criminal activity," said Zakhilwal in a statement.
Kabul Bank was put into receivership following the scandal and a new bank set up, but only $70 million of fraudulent loans it granted have so far been recovered, with criminal investigations ongoing.
The ministry's statement said that work would now begin on wide-ranging financial sector reform, to include improved banking regulation, reform and privatisation of New Kabul Bank, and the recovery of misappropriated assets.
Afghanistan has been without an IMF programme since the Kabul Bank failure in September 2010. A new three-year extended credit facility was held back pending a cleanup of the banking system.
But this month the IMF announced that it is moving ahead on a new $129 million loan in the wake of the government's reform promises, with a new programme expected to be submitted to the IMF executive board for approval in November.
Western officials say that while Afghanistan's gross domestic product (GDP) is around $16 billion a year, the country receives some $15 billion annually in security and civilian aid from the international community.

Afghanistan’s lessons weren’t just military
david bercuson AND j.l. granatstein From Monday's Globe and Mail Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 2:00AM EDT
Canadian troops fought in Afghanistan for a decade, and the Canadian Forces suffered substantial casualties. The country’s military and political leadership learned on the job about the costs of war, the intractability of counterinsurgency warfare and the difficulties of managing an increasingly unpopular conflict through a prolonged period of domestic political turmoil. But what did Canadians learn?
The first lessons can be derived from the Canadian military’s experiences in Kabul from 2003 to the beginning of 2006. Here, Canadians played an important role because they had capable officers in command of substantial numbers of troops able to act with force at a time when Canada’s partners were not. And the Canadian Forces’ intelligence resources were as good or better than any others in the theatre, America’s excepted.
Simultaneously, able diplomats ran the newly created embassy and directed the country’s aid program. At a time when NATO’s International Security Assistance Force was only just being established, this confluence of abilities and power gave Canada a more prominent voice than it usually achieves in coalition operations.
As ISAF expanded over Afghanistan, and the U.S. took on the director’s role, Canada’s influence shrank. But because the Canadians fought in Kandahar with great skill, this influence was not completely lost. Soldiers who perform well in action always matter. The training system in Canada from the first rotation to the last produced well-trained battle groups able to adapt to changes in Taliban tactics.
Very simply, the battle groups put into the field were as well prepared, well led and, over time, well equipped as any Canadian soldiers have been. Their record, and the record of the governments that supported it, looks very good.
But Ottawa must be very wary of future alliance operations. Canada will never conduct a major operation abroad on its own, but, at the same time, can’t escape the conclusion that NATO did not function well in Afghanistan. The alliance went to war, but its members hamstrung ISAF’s operations with caveats that made military success ever harder to achieve.
Canada initially imposed its own caveats but lifted them early in 2006; many allies retained theirs. This greatly affected Canadian commanders and soldiers in Kandahar, inflicted unnecessary casualties and forced them to rely on U.S. resources, the only ones that could be counted on. At the same time, most NATO members were unwilling to commit troops to Kandahar, even when a single battle group of Canadians faced a major Taliban offensive in 2006. Unconstrained military commitments will be essential if Canada should ever again wish to place its soldiers and treasure into a major NATO operation. Anything less will call into question Canada’s membership in the alliance.
Public opinion during a war is a critical component of national will, but it’s fragile. If Americans and NATO were unclear why they were fighting in Afghanistan, then Canadians were similarly confused. If Canada’s political leaders were inconsistent in their aims, and if there were no clear strategy behind the nation’s actions, then no one should be surprised that public opinion turned against the war.
At the same time, the political manoeuvring over the war during a succession of minority governments also weakened public support. Politicians always strive to gain advantage, but they need to realize that their posturing will have a deleterious effect on support for any war we choose to fight.
The Afghan war was a just one, and Canada was right to participate. The Canadian Forces served with distinction and, though our soldiers paid a heavy price, they fought with honour and courage. The military forged its leadership for the next generation in Kandahar, and learned significant military lessons. But unless our politicians also grasp the lessons of Afghanistan, the price will have been too high.
David Bercuson is director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. Jack Granatstein is a military historian. The authors’ paper Lessons Learned? What Canada Should Learn from Afghanistan is on the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute’s website (

NATO’s conditional support in Kandahar cost Canadian lives: report
The Globe and Mail Steven Chase Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011
OTTAWA - Canada should not commit to another Afghanistan-scale mission with NATO unless more alliance members assume their fair share of the blood and treasure burden in such conflicts, two senior military historians say.
They also warn Canada must better prepare for future combat than it did in 2006 when Ottawa failed to anticipate how a Pakistan-fed insurgency would frustrate Canadian efforts in the deadly southern Afghan province of Kandahar.
In a new paper drawing lessons from the Afghanistan war, David Bercuson and Jack Granatstein say restrictions that some NATO allies maintained on their participation in the mission cost Canada dearly.
“Less constrained military commitments, and greater political will from NATO members, will be essential if Canada should ever again wish to place its soldiers and treasure in a major and long-lasting NATO operation,” they write in a report titled “Lessons Learned? What Canada Should Learn from Afghanistan.”
“Anything less must call into question Canada’s membership in the Alliance.”
The restrictions, commonly called “caveats,” meant that many NATO Alliance members such as Germany, France and Italy stayed away from the Kandahar where Canada found itself in ferocious combat with the Taliban from 2006 onwards.
“Most of the Alliance members were unwilling to commit troops to Kandahar province, even when a single battle group of Canadians in 2006 faced the Taliban’s major offensive effort,” the authors write in the 19,600-word paper.
“Canadian decision makers should think long and hard before entering into any coalition to which national caveats have been attached,” the authors warned.
The refusal to help Canada in Kandahar cost lives, they say.
“This greatly affected Canadian commanders and soldiers in Kandahar; inflicted unnecessary casualties and forced them to rely on U.S. resources, the only military resources that could be counted upon, for succour.”
The authors, who were also helped by Nancy Pearson Mackie, stressed they’re big supporters of the mission and their analysis is an attempt to improve future missions rather than lay blame.
Canada dropped its own restrictions on military commitment in late 2005 as it moved from Kabul to take in the lead in a combat mission in Kandahar. The U.S., by far the lead nation in Afghanistan, and the U.K., had huge unrestrained commitments in the south too – although the Americans were preoccupied with the fight in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.
The war in Afghanistan was the largest Canadian military effort since the Korean War and eventually surpassed the 1950s effort in numbers of troops deployed and the length of commitment. Canada’s five-year combat mission in Kandahar ended this year, capping a nine-year engagement by Ottawa in that country that saw 157 soldiers killed.
More than 900 Canadian soldiers remain in Afghanistan solely to train Afghan troops.
The authors sharply fault the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force for letting down Canadians as they replaced the American operation in Kandahar. They describe how Canadian commanders were shocked to discover how alone they were.
“Canada expected NATO/ISAF to deliver the command, logistics, air support, and intelligence that the Americans enjoyed under their Operation Enduring Freedom, the backing it needed to carry out its mission successfully, wherever it decided to locate its PRT and Battle Group,” Mr. Bercuson and Mr. Granatstein write.
“Canada was wrong.”
The authors take aim at notion that former Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hillier was virtually alone in convincing Ottawa in 2005 to head to Kandahar. “That is an oversimplification to say the least.”
The Hillier-did-it version of history is often used to heap blame at the former general’s feet for the problems Canada encountered in Kandahar.
Mr. Bercuson, director of the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, and Mr. Granatstein, say the decision to go to this particular province came about after “considerable discussion and consultation within the Department of Foreign Affairs and National Defence and the Canadian International Development Agency.”
They say Ottawa had considered and rejected at least two safer locations in Ghor and Herat provinces and picked Kandahar because it was close to a major airfield and strategically more important than Herat.
The failure of Canada to anticipate just how ferocious the battle against the Taliban would be in Kandahar was a government-wide intelligence blunder that they blame on weak preparation.
“That any number of senior Canadian diplomats, intelligence officers, strategic analysts, and policy advisors at DND were unaware or neglectful of Pakistani complicity in the Taliban insurgency or of the almost insurmountable challenges to Afghan security posed by the Taliban’s safe havens just across the border seems very difficult to comprehend.”
The authors call for Ottawa to develop a far better capability to analyze and predict the environment Canadians troops will face in combat missions.
They are especially critical of the muddled and shifting objectives that Canada publicly set for itself in Afghanistan and the confusing way it was explained to Canadian voters by successive governments, most notably Stephen Harper’s.
“The mission from which Canada would not ‘cut and run’ in March 2006 became the mission that would definitely end for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2011,” they wrote.
Subsequently, of course, the Harper government announced Canada would keep 900 to 1,000 soldiers in the Kabul area until 2014 to train Afghan forces.
Mr. Bercuson and Mr. Granatstein say the changing public rationale for the mission confused Canadians and didn’t help the eroding support for the war.
In 2005, the Liberals sold the Kandahar deployment as a “quintessentially Canadian” effort to rebuild a war-torn country. Then, in 2008 – after years of fighting the Taliban – the Manley panel talked of being part of an international response to the threat to peace and “human security” – one that supported the United Nations and NATO.
“All these objectives, from those laid down by Bill Graham in the summer of 2005 to those articulated by the Manley Panel in early 2008, were diffuse and difficult to measure, and many could not be achieved at all under the prevailing political and social conditions in Afghanistan,” the authors wrote.
“With its limited number of troops and even smaller number of aid workers, capacity builders and police training teams, Canada could certainly have some effect improving conditions in a small part of Kandahar Province, but the rest of the province and country was well beyond Canada’s means or reach.”
As the months rolled by it was clear Canada was not meeting its lofty goals.
“Thus the Canadian public was told that Canada was fighting to build a better Afghanistan even though the media clearly showed almost every day that a better Afghanistan was not being achieved,”
Mr. Bercuson and Mr. Granatstein said Ottawa should have been more frank with Canadians about why it was spending lives and dollars in southern Afghanistan.
“Canada did have one core reason and one secondary reason to be in Kandahar from beginning to end. Ottawa wanted to take on a dangerous and heroic mission in a difficult struggle in order to achieve influence in determining the course of that struggle,” they said.
“That was so that Canada would no longer be seen in Washington and Brussels as a free rider and, secondarily, so that the limited Canadian interests in central Asia could be addressed. But no one in government wanted to put things that bluntly to Canadians.”

Tensions Flare as G.I.’s Take Fire out of Pakistan
New York Times By C. J. CHIVERS October 16, 2011
American and Afghan soldiers near the border with Pakistan have faced a sharply increased volume of rocket fire from Pakistani territory in the past six months, putting them at greater risk even as worries over the disintegrating relationship between the United States and Pakistan constrain how they can strike back.
Ground-to-ground rockets fired within Pakistan have landed on or near American military outposts in one Afghan border province at least 55 times since May, according to interviews with multiple American officers and data released in the past week. Last year, during the same period, there were two such attacks.
May is also when members of a Navy Seals team killed Osama bin Laden in the house where he lived near a Pakistani military academy, plunging American-Pakistani relations to a new low. Since then, the escalation in cross-border barrages has fueled frustration among officers and anger among soldiers at front-line positions who suspect, but cannot prove, a Pakistani government role.
The government’s relations with the United States frayed further after senior American officials publicly accused Pakistan of harboring and helping guerrillas and terrorists. Last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, called the insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in the Afghan capital “a veritable arm” of the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence service.
Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied aiding fighters for the Taliban and the Haqqani militant network, who operate on both sides of the border. They insist they try to prevent cross-border incursions or violence.
In this climate, American officers were in a difficult position when describing the attacks. Many, especially those who might be identified, painstakingly tried not to blame Pakistan directly.
“I don’t have the smoking gun,” said Col. Edward T. Bohnemann, who commands the 172nd Infantry Brigade, which has hundreds of American soldiers in outposts near the border. “Do I have my thoughts, just because it happens so often? Yes, I have my thoughts. But there isn’t a smoking gun.”
But other officers viscerally rejected Pakistan’s official position, and said elements of the Pakistani military or intelligence service were most likely involved.
“The level of command and control, and the level of sophistication of the IDF, is showing that there is some type of expertise being employed,” said one American officer, using the acronym for indirect fire, the term the military uses for mortar, artillery and rocket attacks. The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic tensions.
The precise reasons for the increase in rocket fire are unclear. Whether the surge in attacks indicates Pakistani military retaliation, an emboldened insurgency, some degree of both or some other factors cannot be determined from the data alone.
The attacks covered by the military’s data included those on three American-Afghan outposts — Forward Operating Base Tillman, Combat Outpost Boris and Combat Outpost Margah — and usually involved two to four rockets each, officers said. The incoming fire has continued through recent days, including an attack last Friday that set buildings ablaze at Forward Operating Base Tillman.
The data release does not include attacks against American military positions in provinces other than Paktika or against Forward Operating Base Lilley, in the same province, which is used by the C.I.A.
But it does include attacks from several insurgent positions just inside Afghanistan, some within 200 yards of the border, from where rocket crews fire and then rush to Pakistan.
There were at least 102 of these so-called close-border attacks against the same outposts since May, including one on Oct. 7 that the American military called the largest and most coordinated insurgent operation in the province since 2009. Last year, during the same period in the same places, there were 13 close-border attacks. Most of the indirect-fire attacks, officers said, have been with 107-millimeter rockets, which have a range of about five miles. They were designed in China in the 1960s but have been reproduced by several nations. The exact source of the rockets was not immediately clear. Chunks of expended munitions examined by The New York Times had minimal markings, preventing a ready identification.
The perils and sensitivities surrounding the rocket fire starkly underscored the longstanding difficulties faced by the latest rotation of soldiers in the Afghan war, who are in front-line positions built by previous units, under fire, but with restrictions on firing back or when planning operations to deter more attacks.
Another officer, who analyzed each incident, said attacks often come from positions next to Pakistani military or Frontier Corps border posts. He said there has been no sign of Pakistani units trying to stop the firing, or of willingness to help American units identify who is shooting at them.
He offered a commonly held assessment: “They are getting help,” the officer said of the insurgents. “It’s PakMil,” he added, using the acronym for Pakistani military.
Asked what evidence supported this claim, he said: “Contact with the PakMil when these incidents are going on is often nonexistent. We usually can’t get a hold of these guys. When we do get a hold of these guys, they say they are not aware or can’t see it. Looking at the terrain, it is very hard to believe.”
The officer pointed on a map to several frequently used firing sites. Then he pointed to Pakistani military positions. Some Pakistani military positions were less than a mile from insurgent firing positions — and had clear line of sight. The officer asked not to be identified.
Other officers added that the Americans have been lucky so far. None of the rockets have wounded an American soldier since July 1, roughly when the current unit began to arrive in the province. A 107-millimeter rocket that struck Forward Operating Base Tillman on July 27, however, wounded 18 Afghan guards, three of them fatally. The rocket was fired from Pakistan, officers said.
Several officers said that a rocket could strike an American building any day, to similar effect. “Eventually we’re going to get hit, and we’re going to lose soldiers,” one said.
This officer was especially frustrated, he said, because an operation planned for early October, in which soldiers intended to sweep on foot through a firing position on Afghan soil beside the border, was canceled by senior officers in Bagram, where the regional American command is located.
The general who soldiers said had canceled that mission did not reply to a written request to be interviewed.
The day after the cancellation, journalists at Forward Operating Base Tillman observed rockets fired from that position onto the base. Enlisted soldiers there seethed.
The soldiers explained the usual practices.
When taking fire from Afghanistan, they said, they return fire with barrages of high-explosive and white phosphorus artillery rounds. (The burning effects of white phosphorus, they said, can detonate rockets waiting on launchers; for this reason, white phosphorus falls within rules guiding the soldiers’ use of force.)
When receiving fire from Pakistan, they said, they do not return fire with white phosphorus and fire far fewer high-explosive rounds. Attack helicopters and aircraft are also less likely to fire ordnance the closer the firing position is to the border, they said, even if it is on the Afghan side.
Several soldiers complained of what they called the “politics” limiting their choices. “We’re just sitting out here taking fire,” one soldier said. “If they want us to do our jobs, let us do our jobs.”
Senior officers described a tactical and strategic puzzle.
On one hand, soldiers said a principle of any modern military defense is that they patrol to and beyond the range of weapons systems that can menace them, and, in this case, at least to the border of the nation that the United States, in essence, has underwritten. On the other, heavy return fire against the firing positions inside Afghanistan has not prevented the attacks from continuing, so it is not clear that more fire into Pakistan would stop the cross-border firing, either.
And Colonel Bohnemann noted a complicated history. Afghan units have patrolled to the border, he said, and then been fired on by Pakistani military units who claimed they mistook the Afghans for insurgents. That fighting included Pakistani artillery fire.
The risk of having an American patrol face similar fire has been reasonable grounds for caution when planning sweeps near the border, and when returning fire over it, he said.
“Am I frustrated?” he asked. “Yes. Would I like to fire more? Yes. But do I want to be sure not to escalate out of frustration? Absolutely.”
One recent attack — which both marked an escalation from Pakistan and hinted at the coordination and expertise behind it — occurred on Oct. 3, when four 122-millimeter rockets were fired at one of the outposts.
These rockets, known as Grads, are larger, more lethal and have a greater range than 107-millimeter rockets. They had not been fired at the American outposts here in recent memory, officers said, and perhaps had not been fired before.
Each round struck closer than the previous one, which indicated, four military officers said, that whoever fired them from Pakistan was communicating with a forward observer near the outpost, and adjusting the fire.
The Americans’ counterbattery radar indicated that the firing position was less than 100 feet from a Pakistani Frontier Corps border post, several officers said.
The Americans contacted a Pakistani military officer who lives on Forward Operating Base Tillman and serves as a liaison between the two militaries. His answer cast the episode into gray.
“He called me back a few minutes later and said that border position is unoccupied and empty, and has been for years,” Colonel Bohnemann said. “That may be an absolutely true statement,” he added. “I don’t know.”

No Way Forward For Afghan Asylum Seekers In Europe's Capital
RFE/RL By Rikard Jozwiak October 16, 2011
BRUSSELS - Mahboub and his wife, Rama, fled from Afghanistan's Helmand Province three years ago to what they thought would be a better life in Europe.
But while they no longer face threats from the Taliban, comfort has proven elusive for the couple and their growing children. They find themselves between a rock and hard place in Belgium, often spending time on the streets, their future shrouded in uncertainty.
In a cozy, one-bedroom flat in the little Belgian town of Binche, an hour's drive south of Brussels, Rama brews some tea and prepares food for her 1-year-old son. With her 3-year-old daughter away at preschool, Rama reflects on the changes her family has seen.
The flat, she says, is the nicest place they have had since they left their home country via Pakistan in 2008. But not all is for the better.
"First, when we started our trip from Pakistan, we were thinking that now the danger is finished and we are safe and that we would have a safe life," she says. "But when we arrived in Belgium, it was worse than Afghanistan."
Personal Hell
From the life Rama describes in the European capital, it is clear the family did not find the promised land, but rather a kind of personal hell. The family has had three asylum applications rejected. And if their appeal of the last decision isn't successful, they might become homeless -- not for the first time.
Mahboub remembers when his family first came to Brussels three years ago.
"We were put in the middle of the city and we didn't know what to do," he says. "We were just shown a building where we could go and ask for asylum. When we went there, it was Christmas. We were knocking on the door and nobody came. The weather was so cold. No one was helping us. We stopped a policeman and the policeman was drunk because it was Christmastime and they were partying. It was tough."
After a week on the streets, they found shelter at a refugee camp, then a social house, followed by a hotel room provided by the state. But it was short-lived. Once their asylum application was denied, they were thrown out and forced to go back to living on the street.
Mahboub recalls a week spent in the Gare du Nord train station, in one of the more dangerous parts of the city.
"I remember that we didn't have any cover to cover ourselves. It was really cold. The cover we borrowed from our neighbor," he says. "There were a lot of people living in Gare du Nord. We were [having] a very bad time. In the evening, we were eating some soup. The only money we had, we had to buy Pampers for the children, and milk."
They later joined about 100 other Afghan refugees living in a derelict house in the city center, not far from the European Union government district, where they endured life with no running water, heat, or electricity. But at the urging of the Belgian authorities -- who were alerted to their living conditions when other occupants began a hunger strike to remain in the country -- they left the house and again applied for asylum.
No Papers
They were placed in a new social-housing project, but once again their application was rejected. Rama's argument -- that her work teaching illiterate women in Helmand had prompted the Taliban to threaten her -- was deemed insufficient because she had no papers to back up the claim.
"The basic problem, in my [mind], is that they believed the papers more than words. Because they need more documents and we cannot provide it," she says. "How can I, for example, go to the Taliban now and ask: 'Please give me a paper that you are killing me.' It is impossible. We cannot provide such a thing for them now."
Since moving to Belgium, the family has converted to Christianity and fears persecution for this if they were to return to Afghanistan.
Helene Crokart, a lawyer who represents the family, says the Belgium asylum office argues that Christians are safe in Kabul and that the family can move back to the country because Rama is originally from the capital.
"The mother comes from Kabul, so [the authorities] told the family that they can perfectly well live in Kabul, and we don't have proof that all the family was living in the village of the father," Crokart says. "It is ridiculous because in Afghanistan it is always like this. The woman joins the family of the father and they are living in the village of the father."
Adding to the family's difficulties in moving forward is that, even if they wanted to return, Belgium does not return rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan.
"It is crazy because the Belgian state doesn't want to send back people to Afghanistan because they consider it too dangerous, even for the policeman who is obliged to join the Afghan refugees when they are sent back to their country," Crokart says. "So they say it is too dangerous for the Belgian policemen and it is too dangerous also for the people. So we agree to say that it is impossible to send them back to their country, but [at] the same time it is possible that they decide not to give them any papers in Belgium."
When contacted by RFE/RL, the Belgian Asylum Office said it could not comment on individual cases.
Punished For Playing By The Rules
Crokart explains that the family continues to encounter hurdles. The lawyer says she sought a different route -- a procedure called 9bis that falls short of asylum but which would allow the family to stay and work in the country legally. But again, Mahboub and his family did not qualify.
While other Afghans who lived in the squat in Brussels were granted 9bis status in July, Mahboub's decision to leave at the behest of the Belgian authorities left him with no documentation that they had ever lived there.
Mahboub feels he is being punished for trying to play by the rules.
"The reason I went to the occupation was because I was on the street. I am also eligible to have the paper, but I am not fighting. I am going through [the process in a] a peaceful way. I am obeying what they say. I am obeying what they do to us, where they send us," he says. "Those people who started a hunger strike, it is like a war. They fight against the government and I didn't want war."
A further request for 9bis status has been initiated, but there is no clear timetable of when a decision might be made. Until then, the family exists on a small stipend from the state but with no possibility of finding legal work and with no certainty that their daughter can remain in preschool.
Mahboub says he would take any job to avoid living on the money supplied to him by the state, if he were only given the chance.
"I don't know why they left us in this situation. We come here not to eat the food the people provide us," he says. "We want to work here. We want our life to be a normal life, like the way other people are living." (