View Full Version : [Afghan News] December 29, 2011


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02-27-2012, 01:12 PM
Taliban, US Agree Several Negotiation Points
TOLOnews.com By Shakeela Abrahimkhil Wednesday, 28 December 2011
A former leader of Taliban's Jaish-ul-Muslimin Movement said that some agreements have been made to negotiate with the US.
Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, the former leader of Taliban's Jaish-ul-Muslimin Movement said that Qatar would be the best place for the Taliban to open an office.
Some reports say that Sayed Tayeb Agha, Shahabuddin Delawar and Shir Mohammad Stanikzai who are close to Mullah Mohammad Omar the leader of Afghan Taliban have met with US representatives.
Taliban have no problems in negotiating with the US, he added.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the first time agreed with a Taliban liaison office in Qatar.
The leader of Taliban's Jaish-ul-Muslemin, Sayed Akbar Agha, says that the Taliban always welcomed a peace initiative.
"The Taliban were optimistic about peace talks from the beginning, but the talks were not held according to their wish," Sayed Akbar Agha said.
While releasing some of the Taliban members are prioritised by Taliban, Mr Akbar says their presence in the negotiations will be necessary.
There are possibilities that the release of Maulawi Khairkhah, Noorullah Noori, Maulawi Wasiq, Mohammad Nabi Khosti, Haji Wali Mohammad and Mullah Fazlullah, Taliban's chief of staff, from Guantanomo Bay prison will be proposed.
"I think that the talks have progressed to some level. The talks that have been held in Qatar would be good to save Afghanistan from problems. Whether the Taliban office is in Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, I think it would make no difference," Sayed Akbar Agha said.
There are some reports that US has been negotiating with Taliban over the past ten months in Doha and Germany.
Earlier reports had said that Maulawi Khairkhah, Noorullah Noori, Maulawi Wasiq, Mohammad Nabi Khosti, Haji Wali Mohammad and Mullah Fazlullah are reportedly among those to be released from the Guantanamo Bay.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently expressed anger over the Taliban office in Qatar because of the fact the the Afghan government had not been consulted.
President Karzai even recalled the Afghan ambassador from Doha because the government had no information that talks had been held between the US and the Taliban.
Meanwhile, some of the Afghan political parties believe that unless the government has a clear definition of the anti-government armed groups, holding talks with them will be of no use.
The political parties warn that the international community and the Afghan government must give the Taliban privileges ahead of time.
"I think if members of international community or the Afghan government gives anti-government armed groups privileges ahead of time, it will not lead to positive results," Dr Abullah Abdullah, Head of the Leading Council of the newly formed National Coalition, said.
The political parties also believe that the US has made efforts to open a Taliban office outside Afghanistan, so that it can lead the Afghan peace talks itself.

Afghanistan Blasts US for Striking Off Taliban Leader from Terror List
Fars News Agency December 29, 2011
TEHRAN (FNA)- The office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai lambasted the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for removing the name of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar from the list of most wanted terrorists, and called on Washington to present explanation for such an unexpected action.
"The Afghan government has called on the US embassy in Kabul to explain about the reports on removing Mullah Mohammad Omar's name from the black list," Afghanistan Presidential Spokesman Aimal Faizi told reporters on Thursday.
"In case the reports on the removal of Mullah Omar's name from the US blacklist prove to be true, the US should then explain why and on what basis it has embarked on taking such a measure," Faizi stressed.
He reiterated that the Afghan government will announce its official position after relevant talks with the American side.
The Pakistani media revealed on Monday that the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has removed the name of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar from the list of "most wanted terrorists."
The report came following Washington's secret meetings with the Taliban after one decade of war. US officials have held several meetings with representatives of the Afghan Taliban leader, headed by Tayyib Agha, in Germany and Qatar over the past months.
During the meetings, the US and Taliban negotiators reached a deal to transfer five Taliban militants, who are under custody in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, to Qatar. The removal of Mullah Omar's name from the terror list comes after the prisoner deal.
The founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, has been in hiding since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Washington removed Mullah Omar's name despite its continued allegations that the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden were behind the September, 11 attacks in the US. Mullah Omar was Bin Laden's staunchest ally and most intimate friend.
The United States invaded Afghanistan 10 years ago under the pretext of eradicating the Taliban, but its failure has forced Washington to turn to negotiation with militants.
The US government has planned new round of talks with the Taliban in early 2012.

At U.S. Base, Afghan Endgame Begins
Decision to Withdraw Troops Puts the Brakes on a $300 Million Expansion Project in Paktika Province
Wall Street Journal By MARIA ABI-HABIB DECEMBER 29, 2011
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan - On this barren base, the beginning of the end of America's military presence in Afghanistan is under way.
Plans to double personnel, build a runway long enough for C-17 cargo planes, a power plant and more have ground to a halt, a result of President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw 33,000 troops by September—about one-third of U.S. forces in Afghanistan—ahead of a near-complete pullout in 2014.
At FOB Sharana, the main base in volatile Paktika province, which sits astride major insurgent infiltration routes from Pakistan, the military is cutting as much as $300 million in spending. That includes $180 million that had been intended to accommodate more American troops and cargo under now-abandoned plans to shift the surge next year to eastern Afghanistan.
Military officials say the U.S. is also scrapping projects to spend $75 million on building over a dozen Afghan police and army outposts and checkpointsthat would have been intended to stem the flow of insurgents and arms through the province. The U.S. military is concerned the Afghan army won't be able to sustain and resupply the outposts once they are handed over.
"There is less money in the system," said U.S. Army Col. Edward Bohnemann, commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, which is responsible for Paktika. "We're trying to put some reality back into the contracting program to figure out what can the Afghans realistically sustain post-2014."
Cutbacks are being made across Afghanistan, and not only by the U.S., as foreign governments, coping with their own economic hardships and skepticism about the Afghans' ability to take over some projects, put greater scrutiny on spending.
In a sign of how cutbacks are being institutionalized, the U.S. military has launched a program to vet military development expenditures of over $200,000.
Fighting does continue in Paktika, and military officials expect they will maintain a brigade in Paktika until 2014, when most troops are due to pull out.
But in a shift from the high-budget, troop-intensive counter-insurgency approach which aimed to win over the population with lavish development projects, the U.S. strategy here, as in much of the rest of Afghanistan, is increasingly turning toward trying to shut down insurgent networks by capturing and killing their members.
Not all development projects have stopped. The brigade command has axed those deemed too complicated and time-consuming, such as building a fish hatchery. Instead, it is trying to get some roads paved.
U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan had initially hoped that the 33,000 U.S. forces deployed in 2010 as part of President Obama's surge would be able to shift to eastern Afghanistan next year, after making progress against the insurgency in southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
FOB Sharana, in Paktika's capital, was slated to become one of the biggest military bases in the country. Construction for the landing strip able to accommodate the C-17 larger military transport aircraft had already started. So did some of the building of additional Afghan police and army stations and checkpoints.
Much of the work stopped as soon as Mr. Obama announced in October the withdrawal of the surge forces, said Lt. Col. Rafael Paredes, the deputy commander of the brigade.
Despite a decade of international assistance, Afghanistan doesn't have the capacity to take over many projects. "The international community is responsible for making Afghanistan dependent on foreign money and they haven't learned to do things for themselves," Col. Paredes said.
The remoteness of the province, with a sparse population and limited resources, has made it difficult for the U.S. military to carry out plans to leave a viable Afghan state presence behind.
In their time left here, the U.S. forces in Paktika are pushing their Afghan counterparts to take more responsibility to fight off insurgents crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Yet the 172nd Brigade still doesn't give Afghan forces much advance notice of operation, for fear of leaks.
The Americans—and the local population—especially mistrust the police, seeing them as corrupt and abusive. After an Afghan police patrol came under attack in the town of Yahya Khel in October, policemen gathered up locals, burned down parts of the bazaar, and beat several young men, said Col. Paredes.
Afghan security forces "aren't ready to take control because they aren't very well-equipped, their quality and quantity isn't enough," said Paktika Gov. Mohibullah Samim.
Like many Afghan officials, Gov. Samim refused to believe that American largess will end. "We will ask the international community for assistance and the international community will do it," he said.
The fate of U.S.-provided power generators at FOB Sharana encapsulates U.S. concerns about whether Afghan forces will be able to hold their ground after the foreigners leave.
The generators often break because the Afghan operators haven't learned to turn them on properly and keep overloading them, said engineers of the 172nd brigade. The engineers figured they have replaced at least 25 generators given to the Afghan forces since July, at a cost of $400,000 each.
"We've taught them the steps to turn it on, but it hasn't stuck, and the generators, air conditioners, all of that will break," said Capt. Mike Merseburg.
"The answer for them has always been,˜'Well, give me a new one,' " said another engineer, Capt. Adrian Sanchez. "But what's the point if they can't sustain it?" —Habib Khan Totakhil contributed to this article.
Write to Maria Abi-Habib at maria.habib@dowjones.com

Afghan Police, NATO Troops Killed In Separate Attacks
December 29, 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Ten Afghan policemen have been killed in the southern Helmand Province when the vehicle in which they were traveling hit a roadside bomb.
Daud Ahmadi, the provincial governor's spokesman, said the police were returning from a recruitment center.
Ahmadi said all the policemen were members of the U.S.-funded Afghan Local Police and some of those killed were new recruits.
Meanwhile, NATO says a man wearing an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO troops in eastern Afghanistan. The alliance gave no further details.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said targeted French troops in Kapisa Province, which is east of the capital, Kabul.
France confirmed that two of its troops were killed in the attack.
compiled from agency reports

Book: Petraeus almost quit over Afghan drawdown
AP By KIMBERLY DOZIER AP Intelligence Writer Dec 29, 2011
WASHINGTON - Four-star general-turned-CIA director David Petraeus almost resigned as Afghanistan war commander over President Barack Obama's decision to quickly draw down surge forces, according to a new insider's look at Petraeus' 37-year Army career.
Petraeus decided that resigning would be a "selfish, grandstanding move with huge political ramifications" and that now was "time to salute and carry on," according to a forthcoming biography.
Author and Petraeus confidante Paula Broadwell had extensive access to the general in Afghanistan and Washington for "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus," due from Penguin Press in January. The Associated Press was given an advance copy.
The book traces Petraeus' career from West Point cadet to his command of two wars deemed unwinnable: Iraq and Afghanistan. Co-authored with The Washington Post's Vernon Loeb, the nearly 400-page book is part history lesson through Petraeus' eyes, part hagiography and part defense of the counterinsurgency strategy he applied in both wars.
Critics of counterinsurgency argue the strategy has not yet proved a success, with violence spiking in Iraq after the departure of U.S. troops, and Afghan local forces deemed ill-prepared to take over by the 2014 deadline.
The book unapologetically casts Petraeus in the hero's role, as in this description of the Afghanistan campaign: "There was a new strategic force released on Kabul: Petraeus' will."
Broadwell does acknowledge that Petraeus rubs some people the wrong way.
"His critics fault him for ambition and self-promotion," she writes. But she adds that "his energy, optimism and will to win stand out more for me."
The book also is peppered with Petraeus quotes that sound like olive branches meant to soothe Obama aides who feared Petraeus would challenge their boss for the White House.
"Petraeus tried to make clear that he and Obama were in synch," Broadwell writes of Petraeus' Senate testimony on the Afghan war.
The book describes Petraeus' frustration at still being labeled an outsider from the Obama administration, even as he retired from the military at Obama's request before taking the job last summer as the CIA's 20th director.
The book depicts Petraeus' rise at an unrelenting, near-superhuman pace. He starts his career as a fiercely competitive West Point cadet known as "Peaches," where he famously wooed the school superintendent's daughter, Holly Knowlton. He went on to command the 101st Airborne Division as part of the invasion of Iraq, then masterminded the rewrite of the Army and Marine Corps' counterinsurgency training manual before returning to command the surge in Baghdad. He was then appointed to head Central Command, overseeing the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as military affairs across much of the Gulf and the Mideast.
He accepted a cut in authority and pay to lead the Afghanistan war campaign when Gen. Stanley McChrystal was forced to resign after a Rolling Stone article that "scorched the general (McChrystal) and his aides, caricaturing them as testosterone-addled frat boys as they insulted Obama" and other officials, Broadwell writes.
She describes how Petraeus' first act was to lift McChrystal's restrictions on the use of force - especially on airstrikes - if civilians were nearby.
"There is no question about our commitment to reducing civilian loss of life," Petraeus told his staff. There was, however, "a clear moral imperative to make sure we are fully supporting our troops in combat."
Broadwell adds that the problem, according to Petraeus, was less McChrystal's order than how it was even more strictly re-interpreted by lower commanders.
In her account, Petraeus also faults McChrystal for overpromising and underdelivering in places like Taliban-riddled Marjah in the south, producing months of embarrassing headlines that hurt the war effort back in Washington.
But the book also includes Petraeus' own Rolling Stone-esque moment, when he was quoted badmouthing the White House in Bob Woodward's latest book, "Obama's Wars." A frustrated Petraeus is described as telling his inner circle, on a flight after a glass of wine, that "the administration was (expletive) with the wrong guy."
"Petraeus later expressed his displeasure to all of them for betraying his confidence," Broadwell wrote. "But he knew he was ultimately responsible for making the intemperate remark," a candid admission, through Broadwell, of his lapse in judgment.
He also concedes the Afghan war is not yet won.
"He had wanted to hand (Marine Corps Gen. John) Allen ... a war that had taken a decisive turn," Broadwell writes of what had been Petraeus' goal for his successor. "He knew that, despite the hard-fought progress, that wasn't yet the case."
Yet that admission also presents a get-out clause when combined with the book's account that he considered resigning over the rapid drawdown of troops, neatly removing Petraeus from responsibility if the war goes wrong.
And the account does nothing to puncture the mythology his troops built up around him, something an early mentor, retired Gen. Jack Galvin, told Petraeus to embrace.
"They want you to be bigger than you are, so they magnify you," Galvin said in an interview with Broadwell. "Live up to it all with the highest standards of integrity. You become part of a legend."
"All In" fits neatly into that.

Two French soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Dec. 29, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A man dressed in an Afghan army uniform shot and killed two French soldiers in Afghanistan's Kapisa province, military officials said.
The two members of the French Foreign Legion were in the Tagab valley in Kapisa, where the French military was deployed as part of the NATO coalition forces, Radio France Internationale reported Thursday.
French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said the shooting was an isolated incident and didn't "pose a challenge to the transition process that has been initiated to pass responsibility for security to the Afghan National Army."
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said the two soldiers were junior officers in the French army.
Seventy-eight French troops have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 toppling of the Taliban.

Music In Afghanistan A Sensitive Subject
by Quil Lawrence NPR
Afghanistan sits at a crossroads between central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, and the country's music reflects that. Kabul hosted two international music festivals this fall — one traditional, the other a rock concert — but music is still a sensitive issue. International donors, including the U.S., have helped refurbish a conservatory in Kabul, but some of the students say they still face disapproval from extremist elements, even at the university.
Just over one-year-old, the Afghan National Institute of Music is something of a revival of musical traditions that have been battered by years of war, and sometimes, religious prohibition. Students at the Institute practice Western instruments as well as traditional ones, like the tabla (drums well known in Indian classical music) or the rubab (a sort of cross between a banjo and a sitar with sympathetic strings that drone along with the melody and a resonating chamber that is covered with skin and sometimes filled with egg shells).
But Afghanistan also has a long tradition of controversy about music, with rural religious leaders often labeling it an un-Islamic foreign vice enjoyed by city-dwellers. That's sometimes still the case today according to one student.
Charshambay is a willow-thin tabla student from northern Afghanistan. He says that some of his religion teachers at Kabul University have tried to convince him that music is forbidden, and he's even been told not to practice his tabla in the dormitory. He doesn't care. For him, the music is a gift from god. Something else does worry him though.
"I'm worried about losing our culture," says Charshambay. He says many unique traditions from Afghanistan's different regions are being lost in the melting pot of globalization — that's a fear shared by ethnomusicologists.
John Baily is head of the Afghan Music Unit at the University of London. He says some modern instruments have crowded out traditional ones, and that many Afghan weddings now feature one-man bands with lots of electronic help.
But Baily, an accomplished rubab player himself, is encouraged by the Afghan National Institute, and he recently visited Kabul and put on a concert along with some other Afghan masters. He still finds the issue of music in Afghanistan to be a touchy one, as musicians are still considered somewhat irreputable, and those who support it most publically link music to religion, like some of Afghanistan's Sufi orders.
"Those who support music strongly here actually see it from a religious point of view," says Baily. "From their point of view — and you hear this a lot in Afghanistan — music is 'ghazairoo,' food for the soul, and I think that's such a wonderful idea."
Musicians from the Afghan National Institute have also been turning Afghan instruments toward Western music, most recently in "Bolero" by Maurice Ravel.

Pakistani Officials Acknowledge Closer Ties with China
VOA News December 29, 2011 Ayaz Gul
Islamabad - During a year marked by increasing strain on the relationship between Pakistan and the United States, Pakistani officials publicly emphasized closer ties with China.
China was one of the few nations that expressed public support for Pakistan when it was learned that the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, was living in a town some 120 kilometers from the Pakistani capital.
Two weeks after the covert American raid that killed bin Laden, plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations to a new low, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani traveled to Beijing. At the time, many wondered whether Islamabad was turning to China as a replacement for its extensive military and diplomatic ties with Washington.
Analysts like former foreign secretary Inam-ul Haq dismiss such speculation, saying that a politically as well as economically vulnerable Pakistan has to maintain and cultivate good relations with all major powers of the world. “Neither can Pakistan play one major power against the other. It would be futile and stupid to believe that we can do that and any effort at doing that would be shortsighted and totally counterproductive,” Haq explained.
But Pakistan's relationship with China was not without its challenges. In late July, suspected Uighur separatists in China's troubled Xinjiang region killed more than 20 people in terrorist attacks.
Pakistan-based radical Islamic groups were accused of training the predominantly Muslim Uighur rebels linked to the outlawed East Turkestan Islamic Movement or ETIM.
Top political and military leaders of both countries vowed to fight terrorism together, and conducted joint counterterrorism exercises. Pakistan’s army chief and top Chinese military officials pledged to cooperate.
“Those elements of ETIM who are operating in the border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan even there we had a very close cooperation and we exchange intelligence. We have done the utmost to eliminate this threat of ETIM and other extremists for China,” said General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan Army Chief.
“Joint counterterrorism training will help us to fight against the regional terrorist forces and deepen the cooperation for more peace and security in the region,” stated General Hou Shusen, China Deputy Chief of General Staff.
These public expressions of solidarity stand in sharp contrast to Pakistan’s relationship with Washington, which was defined in the past year more by its public disagreements than statements of cooperation.
Former Pakistani Senator Muhshahid Hussain is the chairman of Pakistan-China Institute, an independent think tank working for the promotion of bilateral ties. He says China’s longstanding support of the world’s only nuclear Islamic state, regardless of who has been in power in Islamabad, has led to a broad political consensus for close ties with Beijing.
“The issue of China is one amongst three issues in Pakistan on which there is a complete national consensus, the nuclear program, [the] Kashmir [dispute with India] and relations with China, all across the political divide,” Hussain said.
Despite the widespread political support for China, skeptics say that to further strengthen their ties, Pakistan must first address its own deep economic, political, institutional and security crises, before it can develop a broader relationship with Beijing.

A Project Is Curbed in Kabul
Wall Street Journal By DION NISSENBAUM and ZIAULHAQ SULTANI DECEMBER 29, 2011
KABUL - The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan and the American-led military coalition have withdrawn their staff from the Afghan government's main media center in Kabul, amid a dispute over whether it was being improperly used by some Afghan officials to attack U.S. policy.
American officials said it was also reviewing financial support for the Government Media and Information Center, or GMIC, describing the decision as part of the transition strategy to cede control to Afghan authorities. The center has received millions of dollars in aid in an effort to combat Taliban propaganda.
But Afghan officials said the move, announced Wednesday, appeared to be the result of American displeasure with a Dec. 24 news conference at the GMIC in which participants accused foreign forces of killing innocent Afghan civilians.
"We heard from one of the American advisers who was with us that the U.S. Embassy asked them to leave GMIC because the conference was unprofessional," Sefatullah Safi, GMIC's deputy director, said Wednesday.
Gavin Sundwall, the U.S. Embassy's spokesman, said the decision to pull the staff had nothing to do with the news conference. "The decision has been under consideration and happened to coincide with the press conference," he said.
The embassy said it was "reassessing and reviewing its relationship" with the Afghan-run center. Mr. Sundwall said the staff was withdrawn during this review.
The dispute comes as American officials are trying to speed up the process of handing over responsibilities to the Afghan counterparts in hopes of easing the way for the U.S.-led coalition to wind up major military operations in 2014.
Also on Wednesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would accept the establishment of a Taliban office in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar if American negotiators so desired. Afghanistan recalled its ambassador to Qatar this month over the issue. After conferring with Western allies, Mr. Karzai said on Wednesday he would accept the Taliban office in Qatar, even though Kabul would prefer it to be located in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The Taliban haven't commented on the issue.
The Qatari plan is backed by the U.S., which seeks to inject some momentum into peace contacts with the insurgents, and to diminish their dependence on Pakistan.
The GMIC is a key element of a $250 million U.S. initiative designed to fight anti-American perceptions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, the U.S. Embassy gave the center $4 million. Afghan officials said the U.S. had committed $3 million more to operations this year.
Afghan and Western officials said they had become increasingly concerned that Afghan officials were trying to use the operation to attack the U.S.-led coalition.
"It's not supposed to be a propaganda arm of the government," said a Western official.
At the Dec. 24 event at the center, an official Afghan investigative committee joined families of Afghans killed in night raids in accusing the U.S.-led military of killing innocent civilians. Night raids are a key issue of contention between the U.S. and Mr. Karzai, who demanded a stop to the U.S.-led operations as his condition for a long-term strategic partnership deal still being negotiated with Washington.
The coalition says the raids are a critical tactic in the fight against the Taliban.
While the GMIC has held other events that have been critical of the U.S., a Western official familiar with the dispute described the latest news conference a "the straw that broke the camel's back."
An Afghan official involved in the center's operations said the move was the outgrowth of longstanding frustrations with the media center. "It's not about transition," the Afghan official said. "It's about GMIC's failure to do what it's supposed to do."

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