View Full Version : [Afghan News] January 11, 2012

03-01-2012, 09:27 AM
Talking to the Enemy
How German Diplomats Opened Channel to Taliban
Spiegel Online By Christoph Reuter, Gregor Peter Schmitz and Holger Stark 10 Jan 2012
After months of secret negotiations, the Taliban are opening a political office in Qatar, a first step toward peace talks between the US and the group. The breakthrough was largely due to painstaking German diplomacy. But it could be years before the initiative bears fruit.
The man who landed at Munich's snow-covered airport in the last weekend of November 2010 was to have as little interaction as possible with normal airport operations. He arrived in a Falcon 900EX, the three-engine official aircraft of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, after being picked up in the Persian Gulf. German officials then took him to accommodations prepared by the BND.
Normally the man, Tayyab Agha, would likely have been arrested as a terrorist in Germany; Agha is on an internal list of the Taliban leadership. But nothing was normal on that particular weekend. The top-secret meeting, arranged by the BND and the German Foreign Ministry, was a political first. It marked the beginning of talks between the Taliban and the United States government, which had sent its own delegation to Munich.
Now, more than 13 months later, it is clear that the negotiations were successful. Last Tuesday, the Taliban announced plans to open a liaison office in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. The office, as spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid explained in a statement posted on the Internet, will be "a political office for negotiations."
An office in Qatar? It doesn't exactly sound earthshaking. Nevertheless, it sends the message that all sides have agreed to the commencement of peace negotiations involving the Taliban, the government in Kabul and the forces stationed in Afghanistan. It also signals that the Taliban are now stepping onto the global stage, even if their office does not enjoy the status of a diplomatic mission.
Talking to Their Enemies
Now, in January 2012, a significant change is coming to a conflict that once seemed intractable: The Americans will talk to their mortal enemies. These are the men who are to blame for the deaths of 1,783 American and almost 990 non-American soldiers in the international Afghanistan mission -- and who still provide support to the al-Qaida terror network.
The goal of the talks is to provide Afghanistan with a political outlook for the period following the withdrawal of Western troops in 2014. Everything seems possible, even the inclusion of the Taliban in a government of national unity.
The leadership, headed by Mullah Omar, has even indicated that it could agree to one of the West's central conditions: that it part ways with al-Qaida and renounce international terrorism. This would be a signal that would enable Western governments to sell the Afghanistan mission as a political success after all.
As a presidential candidate, current US President Barack Obama promised that he would talk with America's "enemies." Now Vice President Joe Biden has even said: "The Taliban per se is not our enemy" -- a remark its leadership had suggested as an initial confidence-building measure.
Tough Search for Reliable Partners
But what prompted the Taliban to open the door to talks with the Americans, contrary to all vows not to negotiate with the West until after the withdrawal of foreign troops? In essence, says an Afghan with close ties to the Quetta Shura, the top leaders of the Afghan Taliban linked with Mullah Omar, it was the Taliban leadership's belief the Americans could be convinced to withdraw completely, and that the best way to achieve this is through negotiation. But, says the Afghan, "if there is no withdrawal in the end, then there will be no agreement either."
Apparently, the Taliban also sense that even a victory in their campaign against the current regime in Afghanistan could be disastrous for them. They would be able to assume power in Kabul, but if Afghanistan was broke, cut off from the rest of the world and treated as a pariah state once again, they would have achieved little. This was already the case before the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, when the only countries that recognized the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" were Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. Even the Taliban realize that without billions in foreign aid, Afghanistan would be on the verge of collapse after 2014.
For the Americans, finding reputable negotiating partners among Mullah Omar's men was the toughest nut to crack. Afghans had already offered their services as emissaries. But some were already removed from circulation in Pakistan, like the Taliban's second-in-command Mullah Baradar in early 2010, who took it upon himself to negotiate with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- and was promptly arrested. Others turned out to be frauds, like the presumed shop owner from the Pakistani city of Quetta, who spent several months in Kabul in 2010, claiming he was Mullah Omar's representative, only to disappear with the six-figure goodwill payment he had been given.
Other "emissaries" killed their negotiating partners in suicide bomb attacks, like the two men who assassinated former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chairman of the High Peace Council, in his house in Kabul in September 2011.
Testing the Waters
Tayyab Agha, on the other hand, was quickly recognized as a reliable man. For the German government, discovering him was one of the rare moments of successful international diplomacy. For the second time within a few months, following the prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas, Germany is serving as a global intermediary.
In late 2009, an Afghan exile living in Europe contacted the BND, saying that he could put the agency in touch with the Taliban leadership. He wanted to know if the Germans were interested.
In the summer of 2005, the BND had already tested the waters to see if there was a basis for talks with the insurgents. The Germans put up two Taliban representatives in a Zürich hotel, but the talks failed because Mullah Omar refused to distance himself from al-Qaida.
This time the BND handled only the logistics, and let the Foreign Ministry lead the diplomatic efforts. In the spring of 2010, Bernd Mützelburg, Germany's special envoy to Afghanistan at the time, met for the first time the man who was to represent the Taliban and Mullah Omar: Tayyab Agha.
Part 2: A Reputation for Keeping His Word
Agha is a calm and levelheaded negotiating partner, a Pashtun with a reputation for keeping his word. The meeting with Mützelburg took place in the neutral terrain of the Persian Gulf, easily reachable from both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In April 2010, Mützelburg was succeeded as Germany's special envoy to Afghanistan by Michael Steiner. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had given her blessing to talks with the Taliban, as had President Obama. The White House agreed to guarantee Agha's security, a condition without which he would likely not have agreed to the meetings, given the substantial risk of being arrested en route and flown to Guantanamo.
In Washington, Richard Holbrooke, Obama's then special envoy for Afghanistan, coordinated the negotiations. However, with his determination to head possible talks with the Taliban, he alienated many government advisers who were opposed to dialogue of any kind solely for this reason. Shamila Chaudhary, the former National Security Council Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan, argues that, because Holbrooke wasn't able to become secretary of state, he wanted to singlehandedly broker peace in the region, as he had done in the Balkans.
Tense Mood
The communication between Agha and the Berlin brokers was handled through intermediaries, without the use of mobile phones or email, so that no one could determine the whereabouts of the insurgents' representative. Agha proved that he was indeed in contact with the Islamist group's leadership by posting a pre-arranged message on a website attributed to the Taliban.
The mood was reportedly extremely tense when he and the Americans met for the first time in November 2010. The Americans were very aware of a 2009 incident in the eastern Afghan city of Khost, when a supposed CIA informant detonated an explosive belt, killing himself and seven CIA agents. But the BND guaranteed that nothing would go wrong in Munich.
The American delegation consisted of diplomats from the State Department and intelligence officials. Agha was accompanied by two of his closest associates. The meeting was "a breakthrough," according to sources in Washington. In May 2011, the German government hosted another meeting in Munich.
The German government has now acquired experience with negotiations between mortal enemies, a process that consists of many small steps. Agha took one of these steps last summer, when he helped the Americans in the case of Bowe Bergdahl.
Possible Deal
Bergdahl, 25, is an American GI who disappeared, under circumstances which are unclear, from his post in Afghanistan's Paktika province in June 2009. He left his weapon, protective vest and radios behind. In a video later released by the Taliban, he said that he had been kidnapped.
Last summer, Agha provided the Americans with a sign that Bergdahl was still alive, while simultaneously demonstrating that he has access to the senior Taliban leaders who are allegedly holding Bergdahl. Under a deal which is currently being worked out, the GI could be exchanged for five senior Taliban officials being held in Guantanamo.
They include two former provincial governors, the former intelligence agent Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Mohammed Fazl, who was deputy defense minister in the former Taliban regime.
Agha supplied the list of names. Under the proposed agreement, the prisoners will be placed under house arrest in the Qatari capital Doha, where they will be taken care of by the Red Cross. It is still unclear whether the exchange will actually take place. It is a potentially risky move for the Obama administration, because it could provide the Republicans with ammunition against the Democrats in an election year. Obama is hesitating, but without the exchange there will be no political negotiations, despite the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar.
The president's problem is that the US public still perceives the Taliban as a terrorist group. The Republicans are openly rebelling against any approach to negotiations. Senator Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Intelligence, warns against talks with "terrorists," while presidential candidate Mitt Romney accuses Obama of having a "foreign policy of appeasement."
Vali Nasr, a former senior adviser to the late Richard Holbrooke who is now a professor of political science at Tufts University, holds a different view. "We're going to leave Afghanistan, so it's better to help negotiate an agreement with the Afghan Taliban that would make our exit easier" and help stabilize the country "after we leave," Nasr said in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency.
Political Balancing Act
But stumbling blocks remain. What role will President Karzai, the Iranians and, most importantly, Pakistan play? The Americans practically had to force Karzai to agree to the opening of the Taliban office, given Mullah Omar's obvious intent to boycott the current Afghan president. But Karzai is demanding that whatever happens now, it must be subject to his administration's control. That is an illusion.
The Iranian leadership, which recently signed a defense pact with Kabul, also wants to play a stronger role in Afghanistan and is seeking contact with the Taliban, despite having almost gone to war against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 1998. Senior military leaders in Pakistan will also do what they can to keep the Taliban under control.
A lot of time will pass before negotiations with the group produce results. It is a political balancing act that "is more likely to take years than months," say officials in Washington and Berlin.
For now, however, the fighting goes on in Afghanistan. Washington insists on continuing its "kill-or-capture" operations, which have claimed the lives of thousands of Taliban fighters in recent years.
Mullah Omar's fighters are unlikely to behave any differently.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Afghan Police Chief Escapes Suicide Bombing
VOA News January 11, 2012
The police chief of Afghanistan's restive Kandahar province has escaped a suicide bombing outside his office.
Authorities say the attacker entered the police station in southern Kandahar city Wednesday, posing as a resident who wanted to file a complaint.
Officials say he managed to make it to the waiting room outside the office of the police chief, General Abdul Razaq, before detonating his explosives. Razaq was not hurt in the blast, which killed no one other than the bomber.
The Afghan interior ministry says police have launched a probe into the attack.
Last April, the then police chief of Kandahar, Khan Mohammad Mujahid, was killed in a suicide bombing near his office. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.

Police Undermine Fight Against Taliban
Wall Street Journal By MARIA ABI-HABIB JANUARY 11, 2012
JANI KHEL, Afghanistan - In the American war against the Taliban, on whose side are the Afghan police? For many U.S. soldiers serving in the insurgent heartland, the answer is: both.
"They smile to our face when we're here, giving them money and building them buildings," says U.S. Army Capt. Cory Brown, a provost marshal officer helping to oversee Afghan security forces here in volatile Paktika province. "But they've given insurgents money, food and even rides in Afghan police cars."
Worse, he says, some policemen are also suspected of selling their U.S.-provided weapons to the Taliban.
Building up the Afghan police—often the only visible Afghan government presence outside major cities—is critical for U.S. transition plans, which see a pullout of about one-third of U.S. forces by September, ahead of a near-total withdrawal in 2014.
Across Afghanistan, the police tend to have higher attrition rates and drug-abuse problems than their army counterparts. U.S. officials and the Afghan army—a more disciplined and trusted force—broadly agree that the police have a long way to go to win Afghans' trust.
That is especially important here in Paktika, which borders Pakistan's tribal area of Waziristan, a base for the Taliban, their allies in the Haqqani network and al Qaeda. American officers say this proximity to a reservoir of insurgent fighters means that the U.S. won't be able to kill its way to victory here.
Waziristan "is filled with thousands upon thousands of people who would fight the coalition," says U.S. Army Col. Edward Bohnemann, commander of the 172nd Brigade, which is responsible for Paktika. "Focusing on killing 200 insurgents is not a healthy way to look at it. We need to focus on governance and improving the Afghan security forces."
Col. Bohnemann has his work cut out for him. Much of the Paktika population despises the police force here, whose members are largely drawn from ethnic Tajiks from the north who don't speak the local language, and from a rival Pashtun tribe from a neighboring province, U.S. and Afghan officers say.
Some police here, even if they aren't actively aiding the Taliban, engage in the kind of behavior that can fuel support for the insurgents.
Policemen have repeatedly erected illegal checkpoints to extort money from the population, the military officials say. In October, after coming under fire, police torched part of a village bazaar and beat local males. A U.S. military official called the incident "apocalyptic."
Paktika Gov. Mohibullah Samim denied that any violations occurred and praised the police force's work.
When Lt. Col. Curtis Taylor, a battalion commander in the 172nd Brigade, met with Afghan army battalion commander Maj. Abdul Ghafar to plan a recent mission here, the police were a top concern.
"The only problem and issues I see are with the police," Maj. Ghafar said over tea. "The last time, they allowed the enemy to go by and ran away from the target."
Advised Col. Taylor: "Keep them close to you. Keep them very close to you."
That night, soldiers from Col. Taylor's battalion set out to support Maj. Ghafar's operation to reclaim a village overrun with insurgents. Company commander Capt. Sam Rosenberg brought rice for Afghan forces to distribute in the village, to win over local support. "We better make sure that rice doesn't stay here," said Maj. Robert Gagnon, the American transition adviser to the Afghan battalion, pointing to the Afghan base.
The police commander was briefed at the last moment, to minimize leaks. In previous operations, U.S. troops had stormed villages to find no men there.
As the mission began, Capt. Rosenberg's radio cackled. Circling above, two Apache attack helicopters spotted armed men running from the village. "Move, move, move," Capt. Rosenberg yelled, as his soldiers raced through fields and lurched in and out of five-foot ravines. The choppers, spotting two men on a motorbike, got clearance to engage and fired about 120 rounds.
One mangled body lay next to a bullet-pierced motorcycle and pools of blood. Another insurgent lay about 800 yards away, gunned down as he ran toward two houses.
"These men, they aren't from here. They are slaves of Pakistan," a resident of a nearby house told the Americans. His eyes shifted nervously.
The Americans searched the bodies, finding six mobile phones, a notebook with insurgent contact numbers, grenades, two AK-47s, a map with coordinates and a pink hairbrush.
Within an hour, pickup trucks crammed with Afghan policemen hanging off rolled up. The cops yelped in joy, kicked the bullet-ridden motorcycle and took photos of the bodies with their phones, in violation of protocol.
It turned out the dead insurgents weren't strangers, after all. The Apaches had killed Abdul Bari, the local Taliban commander and village resident. His young brother was found in a nearby house. "I know nothing of my brother's work," the boy barely managed to whisper, sweating in panic. Triumphant Afghan policemen proceeded to seize motorcycles from the house, strapping them to their Humvees. "Those bikes don't go anywhere!" Maj. Gagnon yelled, worried about looting.
The Afghans said they needed to dust them for fingerprints.
"WellOK," Maj. Gagnon reluctantly agreed. He sounded unsure.

42 insurgents killed, over 240 detained in Afghanistan
KABUL, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- A total of 42 insurgents had been killed and over 240 others were detained in a series of military operations conducted by Afghan army and NATO-led Coalition force over the past 20 days, a spokesman for the country's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
"The Afghan National Army (ANA) have killed 42 insurgents and detained 241 other suspected insurgents during independent and joint operations with NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces over the last 20 days," General Zahir Azimi told reporters in a weekly press briefing here.
However, he asserted that 18 ANA soldiers and officers have been killed in insurgent attacks, military operations and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts around the country over the same period of last time.
"Some 20 military and cleanup operations have been going on around the country currently including six operations that were launched over the past 20 days in Wardak, Laghman and Helmand provinces," Azimi said.
Afghan officials often use the word "insurgents" referring to Taliban. However, the insurgent group, who launched in May 2011 a rebel offensive against Afghan and NATO forces, has not to make comments yet.

From Prison To Kabul's Presidential Palace
January 11, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
KABUL -- In the spring of 2003, Haji Nahim Kuchi was a number -- US9AF-000931DP -- in a Guantanamo detainment cell.
This week, Kuchi was at the Presidential Palace in Kabul for his regular consultations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Kuchi -- whose son is a member of parliament, or Wolesi Jirga -- is the tribal leader of Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtun Kuchi nomads.
Kuchi was detained by U.S. forces near his native Logar Province on January 1, 2003. U.S. military records show he was suspected of having ties to the Taliban and thought to have information on the movement of Arab Al-Qaeda fighters and Taliban officials who had fled to Pakistan.
After 11 weeks at the Bagram detention center, he arrived at Guantanamo by plane -- blindfolded and in chains -- on March 22, 2003.
"Our biggest problem was the mounting mental pressure on us. We had no news from our families, our country, our community. We didn't know what was happening in the outside world," Kuchi says.
"Every letter we received from our families through the Red Cross was tampered with. Anything that told you how your family was doing or had any happy message was erased from the letter. You didn't feel as though it was a letter from your family."
It wasn't until early 2005 that a military review board determined Kuchi did not pose a security risk and could be transferred back to Afghanistan.
"When I arrived back in Afghanistan, I felt as though I had begun a new life," he says. "The past two years had felt like a lifetime."
Kuchi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan he does not hold a grudge against the United States.
"The first day I arrived back, I said I don’t want any compensation," he says. "I joked with the Americans and told them that being free from their clutches was enough for me. I wasn't looking for anything and they didn’t offer me anything."
compiled by Frud Bezhan and Ron Synovitz, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul

Afghan Officials Concerned Over Situation of Prisons Tuesday, 10 January 2012
The Afghan Ministry of Interior on Tuesday expressed concern about the situation in the Afghan prisons.
The Pul-e-Charkhi central prison which is one of the main detention centres in the country is not in good condition.
"Despite your efforts and commitments, the Afghan Prisons and Detention Centres are facing many challenges that need practical efforts to be tackled," Afghan Minister of Interior, Gen. Besmellah Mohammadi said. "The Interior Ministry is committed to take necessary actions in this regard."
Infiltration of insurgents, presence of mobile phones with prisoners, and using drugs inside prisons are the current challenges in prisons.
"Lack of appropriate surveillance outside of the prison is the main cause of infiltration of mobile phones and drugs inside the prison," Afghan Minister of Justice Habibullah Ghalib said.
The concerns come as Afghan authorities are due to take over responsibilities of all prisons in the country including the US-run Bagram detention centre.
Some experts believe that the Afghan government has failed to provide proper environment for the prisoners in the jails under its control.

Afghan police to control prisons, rights group concerned
Reuters By Hamid Shalizi Tue Jan 10, 2012
KABUL - Afghanistan handed control of all its prisons on Tuesday to the interior ministry, which commands the police force, raising concerns among human rights activists that prisoners could be at greater risk of torture and mistreatment.
President Hamid Karzai passed a decree last month ordering the transfer from the justice ministry, saying the move would result in improved supervision of prisoners.
"The interior ministry has more resources and capabilities to handle the control of the all prisons properly," interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Tuesday.
Afghanistan was humiliated in April when hundreds of prisoners escaped from a jail in the country's south through a tunnel dug by Taliban insurgents.
New York-based Human Rights Watch warned the police have long been implicated in cases of "torture and other ill-treatment".
"Criminal justice in Afghanistan will not be improved by giving the police free rein of the prisons," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
"Greater police involvement in jails is likely to lead to more torture, not less," he said. Adams said the move reversed a 2003 decision to pass control of prisons from the interior ministry to the justice ministry.
In September 2010, NATO-led forces said they had stopped sending prisoners to several Afghan jails because of U.N. warnings of torture, raising fresh questions about the capacity of Afghan security forces.
The U.N. report on torture, released in October, said the Afghan intelligence agency and police force had been "systematically" torturing detainees, including children, at a number of jails in breach of local and international laws.
But the head of the United Nations in Afghanistan said the torture was neither institutional nor government policy, and praised the ministry and intelligence agency for allowing access to their prisons for research.
The interior ministry said the prison transfer would bring positive change and fears of ill-treatment were misplaced.
"We want to reassure (everyone) that there will be no human rights violations under the leadership of interior ministry and, with the passing of time, we will prove all allegations wrong," Sediqqi said.
Foreign forces fighting Taliban-led insurgents in Afghanistan are in the process of handing control of security over to the Afghan army and police, with foreign combat troops due to leave by the end of 2014.
(Editing by Paul Tait)

First Drone Strike Hits Pakistan After NATO Incident
VOA News January 11, 2012
Pakistani officials say a U.S. drone strike has killed four suspected militants in the country's northwest near the Afghan border, the first such attack in two months.
The missiles hit a compound near Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region, late Tuesday. Residents reported seeing the building on fire. U.S. officials confirmed the attack.
The suspected U.S. drone strike was the first since NATO helicopters operating out of Afghanistan mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border last November.
That attack worsened already strained U.S.-Pakistan relations and prompted Pakistan to block supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
American officials have denied that the recent drop-off in drone strikes was deliberate.
But in December, a prominent U.S. newspaper said the Central Intelligence Agency had suspended drone strikes targeting low-ranking militants in Pakistan for six weeks in an effort to mend badly frayed relations with the South Asian nation.
The Los Angeles Times quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying the CIA's “undeclared halt” in attacks was aimed at reversing a “sharp erosion of trust” between the two countries, following a series of deadly incidents, including the NATO attack in November.
A joint U.S.-NATO-Afghan investigation concluded that a series of errors — including botched communications — on both the NATO and Pakistani sides led to November's incident. Pakistan — which did not participate in the review — rejected the findings.
The killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers prompted Pakistan to block the Khyber and Chaman routes to Afghanistan for NATO. The closures have choked major supply lines for the 130,000-strong U.S.-led force in Afghanistan. It is unclear, if and when, Pakistan will reopen those routes, and NATO officials say they are transporting supplies through other countries and relying on stockpiles in Afghanistan to sustain operations.
Drone strikes in Pakistan are credited with killing dozens of of al-Qaida operatives and hundreds of low-ranking fighters since 2004. But, at the same time, they have infuriated many Pakistanis and complicated relations between Washington and Islamabad.

Military investigates theft of gear en route home from Afghanistan
Globe and Mail By Steven Chase Tuesday, January 10, 2012
OTTAWA - Someone is plundering the sea containers the Canadian Forces are using to ship supplies home from the Afghanistan war – theft that has prompted a military investigation.
Canada ended its combat role in Afghanistan in 2011, and hundreds, if not thousands, of boxy sea containers are being shipped back home loaded with everything from tents to tires.
The boxes are taken from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan by land to a port on the coast of Pakistan, where they are placed on ships to Montreal.
But upon unloading the containers in Canada, the Forces discovered that thieves have emptied some, and replaced the contents in some instances with rocks to simulate the weight of the pilfered goods.
“Some sea containers have arrived in Canada missing equipment,” Lieutenant-Commander John Nethercott told The Globe.
The Forces say no weapons or ammunition or explosives have been determined to have been stolen. Munitions and restricted equipment is instead airlifted back to Canada.
“We can additionally confirm that no uniforms are missing from any of the containers that have been inventoried to date,” Lt.-Cdr. Nethercott said.
Military investigators together with the Canadian Border Services Agency are probing the theft.
“The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is investigating the matter and the Canadian Forces are working to ensure every reasonable security measure is in place to ensure the secure shipment of the remaining containers,” the spokesman said.

Afghanistan pullout 'could reduce threat of terrorism in West'
The pull-out of British and American troops from Afghanistan could reduce the threat of terrorism in the West, a leading think tank will say today. By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent 10 Jan 2012
The International Institute of Strategic Studies will publish a study today in which it will say that a less visible security presence in the region could reduce extremist attacks.
But Britain and the US will have to keep paying more than £6bn each year for more than a decade to keep Afghanistan from sliding back into chaos, the IISS says.
The book, “Afghanistan: To 2015 and Beyond” is the result of a two-year research project by military and intelligence experts at the IISS looking at what will happen when Western troops withdraw in two years’ time.
It paints an uncomfortable picture of the two most likely scenarios - either “slow uneven progress” or “a relatively rapid descent into disorder.”
Nigel Inkster, the former deputy head of MI6 and now an expert at the IISS adds that a reduced US presence, whether military in Afghanistan or CIA in Pakistan, “represents the best option for lowering the temperature and creating circumstances in which the countries of the region can best address the threats they face from militancy.”
But he warns that policymakers will have to “assume a different calculus of risk in respect of terrorism” and to accept that some “residual threat” will continue to emanate from Afghanistan and Pakistan for the foreseeable future, particularly towards the US.
Despite progress in the south of the country, eastern Afghanistan “is likely to be an ungoverned territory up to 2014 and beyond, with control contested between warlord factions,” the study says.
“Most likely, it will become a base for attacks on government controlled territory and a recruiting ground for militants, as well as an area of increasing opium cultivation.
“Potentially, it could also be a base for international terrorist groups.”
The key to any peace process is the position of the Haqqani network of militants, supported by Pakistan, that control the eastern approaches to Kabul, according to Mr Inkster.
He describes the head of the network, Jalaluddin Haqqani as “al-Qaeda’s main patron” but adds there is “little evidence to indicate what Haqqani wants to achieve and what, if anything, the group might regard as an acceptable resolution of the current conflict short of all-out victory.”
Citing discussions with officials in the Ministry of Defence, the IISS warn that without continuing finance of between $6bn and $8bn (£4.7bn and £6.3bn) a year for Afghan security forces, control could “quickly slip” from the grasp of the government.
The money will be needed in order to keep Afghanistan’s 400,000-strong security forces going until at least 2020 and probably until 2025, according to the report.
The Afghan forces will also need airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance along with fixed wing air support and helicopters, according to Brigadier Ben Barry of the institute.
“Any shortfall in external support for the Afghan state will oblige the government to make potentially ruinous choices between cutting back on the armed forces or cutting back on the provision of basic services such as health and education,” the report says.
The IISS assess whether Hamid Karzai and his government is likely to meet the same violent end that the Najibullah regime did three years after the Soviets withdrew in 1989.
“The principal conclusion arising from this volume is that Kabul will prevail,” the book says, “because the central government has probably amassed sufficient power to ensure that the centre will hold.”
However only 13 of the army’s 20 brigades are assessed as even “semi capable” and the aim of getting the majority of them acting independently by the end of 2014 pits Nato’s trainers in a “race against the clock”, the report says.
Even then there is a danger of that the Afghan security forces will split along ethnic lines.
Ironically, given Nato’s attempts to root out corruption, the experts warn that if a new president were elected in 2014 who decided to run the country in a legal and transparent way “this in itself would represent a major transformation of an systemic shock to the country with all the attendant risk.”
The book warns that an attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities could lead to Iran supplying advanced weaponry and training to the Taliban in revenge.
It also warns of the dangers of the collapse of the Pakistani state, adding: “The true value of the Pakistani military to Afghanistan’s security may only be recognised in a situation where it is no longer able to play any role at all.”
“If any of these risks were to materialise, it is likely that a contagion effect would be observed in short order,” they add.

Pakistan’s Army Chief Warns of “Grievous Consequences” After PM’s Comments
VOA News January 11, 2012
Pakistan's military is warning of “grievous consequences” following the prime minister's remarks that the country's army and intelligence chiefs acted unconstitutionally.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was quoted as telling China's People's Daily online that army chief General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence head Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha acted unlawfully by making unilateral submissions to an ongoing Supreme Court inquiry.
The court is investigating a controversial unsigned memo that allegedly sought U.S. help in preventing a military coup in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Gilani told the Chinese newspaper that Kayani and Pasha should have sought government approval before submitting their statements about the memo to the Supreme Court. He made the remarks while the army chief was visiting China.
On Wednesday, the Pakistan military said Mr. Gilani's comments have “very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country.”
Meanwhile, senior government officials said Wednesday that the prime minister has fired Defense Secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi, who is a retired lieutenant general, for “misconduct” relating to his role in submitting the army and intelligence chief's statements to the Supreme Court.
Wednesday's developments highlight the growing tensions between Pakistan's civilian government and the military.
A Supreme Court-appointed panel is investigating the origins of an unsigned memo in which Pakistan's civilian government asked for U.S. help in reining in the Pakistani military, following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.
The existence of the document came to light in October when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz accused the then-Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, of writing the memo. Haqqani denies he wrote the document and has since resigned.
U.S. military officials confirmed that the top U.S. military officer at the time, Admiral Mike Mullen, received the memo but did not find it credible.

China's investment in Afghan oil field a step towards self-sufficiency: Afghan official
By Farid Behbud
KABUL, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan's first ever oil production will start over the next few months by a Chinese firm and it would beef up the country's efforts for economic stability and eventually self-reliance, an Afghan official said.
"Launching the first oil extraction project in Afghanistan by a Chinese company, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and its Afghan partner will help our energy-thirsty country to meet its rising energy demands and to ease its reliance on oil imports," spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Mines Jawad Omar told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday.
He was optimistic that oil exploitation by the Chinese firm will further increase government revenue in natural resources and would also create thousands of job opportunities for Afghans.
After winning the bidding recently, the state-owned Chinese company CNPC signed an agreement with the Afghan government in December to extract crude oil from Amu Darya River Basin oil deposits in northern Afghan region.
"According to the agreement signed with CNPC on Dec. 28, 2011, the Chinese company and Watan Group-- a national firm will explore and extract the Amu Darya River Basin oil deposits in northern Afghanistan and will start producing oil by October 2012, besides building an oil refinery in the next two years," Omar added.
Going into details, Omar said as per the contract, the CNPC, together with Watan Group, will explore oil in three fields including Kashkari, Bazarkami and Zamarudsai in Saripul and Faryab provinces, which are estimated to contain around 87 million barrels oil.
The reserves of these fields are expected to be more than 87 million barrels of crude oil, which will be extracted over a 25- year period, he said, adding Northern Afghanistan region is believed to contain more than 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 500 million barrels of natural liquids gas.
While there is no official statistic of the percentage of the nation's dependency on foreign oil imports, Omar said Afghanistan annually spends an estimated 2.5 to 3 billion U.S. dollars to import oil mostly from neighboring countries.
"We are happy and welcomed as the CNPC won in a transparent bidding procedure, Afghan government has awarded the contract to CNPC, which offered the most favorable terms to the government," Omar added.
However, he admitted that the continued insurgency has remained the main challenges for the country to explore and extract its natural resources.
"Under the contract, CNPC agrees to pay a-15 percent royalty in oil itself, a 20- percent corporate tax and Afghanistan would have a share of 70 percent in the profit proceeds," the official said, adding the project would constantly bring Afghanistan some 7 billion dollars over the next 25-year period of time.
Afghanistan's mineral deposits may worth 3 trillion dollars and the government would utilize it for economic development, according to Afghan officials.
"Eventual investments in the Amu Darya Basin are expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and will spur improvements in roads and other infrastructure," Omar maintained, saying the Afghan Ministry of Interior will set up a special unit of police force to protect the Amu Darya River oil zone as soon as the project begins as it did in Aynak copper mine project in the province of Logar, some 60 km south of Kaubl.
The war-plagued Afghanistan does not have any mining industry or infrastructure to explore natural resources properly, so it will take decades for the country to exploit its untapped underground treasury.
Afghanistan is endowed with rich natural resources, including extensive deposits of copper, iron, coal, marble, precious metals, gemstones and hydrocarbons. These resources have remained untouched and undeveloped, Afghan Minister for Mines Waheedullah Shahrani said in a message posted in the ministry's website.
"Generations of instability have resulted in little exploration, minor development attempts and an inadequate infrastructure for development and transportation of these resources," Shahrani said in the message.
Oil exploration agreement is the second biggest project launched by Chinese firm.
The first but giant project is China's Metallurgical Corporation of China Limited (MCC) agreement signed in May 2008 under which the Chinese company agreed to invest more than 3.5 billion dollars, the first ever huge investment in the post- Taliban Afghanistan.
Omar also noted that Afghanistan would welcome more Chinese companies to invest in Afghanistan.

Int'l conference on Afghanistan to be held in Japan: Afghan FM
KABUL, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul said here Wednesday that an international conference on Afghanistan will be held in Japan in July this year.
After meeting with his visiting Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba in Kabul, Rassoul told reporters that "a number of important issues about Afghanistan, especially the country's economy, will be discussed in an international conference on Afghanistan scheduled to be held on July 19 in Tokyo this year."
He said the conference will be at foreign-ministerial level and it would be an economic conference which will assess the international communities' assistance towards Afghanistan from 2014 (after withdrawal of foreign troops) to 2024.
"We hope that the Japan Conference on Afghanistan will lay down the foundation for Afghanistan's prosperity, stability and peace and continuity from 2014 in terms of assistance Afghanistan needs in all aspects of life to 2024," he said.
The Japanese foreign minister arrived in Kabul earlier Wednesday for an unannounced visit and called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and exchanged views pertaining mutual interests.
Rassoul said that during the meeting with the Japanese foreign minister, they discussed the current peace process with the Taliban and the transition of security responsibly from NATO and U. S. forces to Afghan army and police.
The Taliban insurgents, in a surprise announcement last week, said that they have agreed to have office in Qatar and hold dialogue for the negotiated settlement of Afghan crisis besides asking for the release of Taliban prisoners held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay.
According to the Afghan Foreign Ministry, Japan is the second largest donor to Afghanistan since the fall of Taliban late 2001 as it has pledged around 7 billion U.S. dollars of aid, among which until mid 2011 about 3.15 billion has been spent on various reconstruction projects in the post-Taliban country.

In One Girl’s Story, a Test of Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
New York Times By GRAHAM BOWLEY January 10, 2012
I went to find Sahar Gul.
Hers was not the kind of story I expected to find in my first week as a reporter in this war-ravaged country, where attacks and counterattacks by the insurgents and the United States-led alliance seem the more common narrative.
Afghan government officials say that Sahar Gul is 15, and that her husband’s family in Baghlan Province in northern Afghanistan tortured her and kept in a dirty basement bathroom with limited food and water for five months for refusing to go into prostitution.
Her suffering seemed a part of a nation where advances in human rights appear meager. And now as the alliance prepares to withdraw and the Taliban encroaches, the whole country seems to be holding its breath to see what happens next. For now, it was enough to know what would happen to this one little girl.
Sahar Gul, I learned, had been taken to a government hospital in central Kabul, only a mile or so from the New York Times bureau.
My translator and I drove out past the main military hospital, which was the target of a suicide bombing last May. Soldiers, blast walls and rolls of barbed wire now defend it like a garrison.
Further on, we passed two checkpoints where more guards with guns peered cold-eyed into our car. Even hospitals are targets for the Taliban’s new insurgency in Afghanistan.
The Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, known locally as WAK, is a four-story white building with balconies in a sunny compound. It bears a large portrait of its namesake, the Afghan hero of the First Anglo-Afghan War who, as my Afghan translator gleefully reminded me, killed the senior British envoy, Sir William Hay Macnaghten.
Inside, the hospital corridors were clean but frayed and crowded — the product of a society whose resources have been drained by decades of conflict. Near the door, two men lay on beds, one with his leg in a cast, another not dead but with a blanket over his head. Beside them, patients and their families waited on rows of blue plastic seats. An old woman held up a drip leading into her arm. Trollies bearing big kettles of rice were wheeled by. Pink or blue Croc shoes seemed to be the favored footwear of the doctors.
Mirwais Ayoubi, a tall, thick-set man who is the hospital director’s secretary, shook his head at us.
“No one can see Sahar Gul,” he said. “Too many people have come to see her. She has psychological problems. She is hitting herself. “
I told him that we didn’t want to talk to Sahar Gul if it would upset her. We just wanted to tell her story, and we had a signed permission letter from the Public Health Ministry.
Mr. Ayoubi disappeared into the director’s office behind a big, frosted-glass wall, through which the afternoon sun was shining. But when he returned, he furrowed his brow and said the same thing. “You can’t see Sahar Gul.”
Outside, I talked to people who were milling around. Sahar Gul’s story was just one among many. A student, Noor Habib, 22, with a scarf over his head to protect against the cold, was waiting to go inside to visit his brother who had hepatitis. Another brother, he told us, was a soldier in the Afghan army, but he had been killed in the fighting against insurgents.
The hospital was “so-so,” he said. “The doctors sometimes are good and let you visit the patients, but the food is not good. Beans, milk, egg, rice.”
Behind us, three cars and a police jeep lined up the concrete ramp to the door to deliver more huddled-over patients. Another man, Safiullah Ahmadi, 32, was crouching near a barbed wire fence close to the hospital mosque. His mother was inside with an appendix problem, he said. He was unemployed. He told me that while the government hospital was free, you always ended up paying something, a mark-up, especially for the drugs they prescribed. “They ask you to go to a special drug store they know, and you have to pay a little more,” he said.
When I arrived back at the Times’s bureau, I found that the Associated Press had also visited the hospital — and had more luck interviewing Sahar Gul.
When I was reporting for the business desk, being doggedly persistent — and even pushy — to get access to a protected source was a feature of normal life. But I am new to reporting in Afghanistan, and I have found myself treading lightly around a culture to which I’m not yet accustomed. But I realized that despite the delicacy of the situation, I should have pushed past ‘no.’ Her story was too important.
The next day, Sunday, we returned to Wazir Akbhar Khan. And this time, I wouldn’t be turned away.
Sayad Hassan, a white-bearded man who was in charge of the nurses, led us up the tiled stairwell to Sahar Gul’s room.
I found a small girl, cringing beneath a comforter. Her face was cut and scratched, her left eye bruised and half closed. Her forearm was withered and thin. Her hair was a dark tangle beneath a brown headscarf.
An old woman, who said she was her aunt, held a carton of mango juice as the girl turned her head on the pillow and drank through a straw. A second woman there said she was from the government’s human rights commission.
I knelt down beside her bed and asked how she was feeling. Her voice was soft and meandering.
“I would like bread,” she said.
Her doctor, Feriba Omarzada, a plump woman in a white coat and headscarf, came into the room.
“She only eats bread now,” Dr. Omarzada said. “That is all they fed her.”
Sahar Gul rubbed her eye repeatedly. She still seemed dazed, barely comprehending that I was there.
“She has some headaches,” the doctor said. “She had stress but her fever is O.K.” She spoke to the girl: “Put your legs straight. Move your legs. They should see you can do these things.”
X-ray pictures lay on the side table and two bouquets of flowers from well-wishers. There were plans to take the girl to India for treatment, but her doctor said she was well enough to now stay in Kabul.
Sahar Gul, from Badakhshan Province in the far northwest, left home when her brother was married and his wife did not want her in their house. They found her a husband, Ghulam Sakhi, now 30, a soldier who had served in the Afghan Army in Helmand Province. She was married off for 246,000 Afghanis, or about $5,000, the doctor and the two other women in the room told me.
She moved to Baghlan, a journey across two provinces on poor roads that can take one or two days. Government officials had said she was 14 then, and by now was 15, but no one really knew her actual age, it seemed.
“She is not that old,” Doctor Omarzada said. “I have washed her and I think she is only 13 now. I see she is not even a woman.”
In Baghlan, her new family tried to force her into prostitution. She ran away, but a neighbor caught her. Her husband and his family locked her in a dingy basement bathroom, beat her,and worse, the women in the room and the doctor told me.
Her uncle came to visit but they said she was not at home. But when he came another time, another neighbor said they were hiding her. The uncle called the police and they broke down the basement door, according to officials.
Sahar Gul held out her blackened fingertip where a nail was missing.
“My husband took away my nail,” she said in a low whisper.
Her father-in-law pulled out chunks of skin from her chest and other parts of her body with pliers and burned her hair with a hot poker, said the doctor, lifting back the girl’s hair from her ear to show her injuries.
“Do you know where your husband is?” I asked.
Sahar Gul, just one victim in this war-torn country, put her finger in her mouth and distractedly rubbed her gum. She couldn’t say.
The extent and length of her ordeal has become big news in the country. Even President Hamid Karzai has taken up her case. Last Sunday, he spoke out about the girl’s plight in a statement, saying that the case had to be pursued and that the people responsible should be arrested.
As of this writing, officials say that the police have arrested her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and father-in-law. They are still searching for her husband, who has fled.
The quick arrests may be a small sign that the Afghan government is starting to take women’s rights seriously, though others say the government was only prompted into action by embarrassing news media reports. But no one knows what will now happen to Sahar Gul.
“She has psychological problems,” Doctor Omarzada said. “The government will decide.”
Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting. (