View Full Version : [Afghan News] February 13, 2012


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03-03-2012, 04:17 AM
Taliban announces death of ex-defense minister in 2010
February 13, 2012 Associated Press
KABUL – The Taliban's former defense minister died in a Pakistani jail in 2010, a spokesman for the insurgent group said Monday.
Little had been heard of Obaidullah Akhund since he was arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2007.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Monday that relatives have just recently been informed that Obaidullah died of heart disease in a Karachi prison on March 5, 2010.
Obaidullah was one of the top deputies of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar when the Islamist regime ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s. He was arrested in early 2007 in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta. At the time, he was the highest-ranking Taliban figure to be captured since the fall of the hardline regime in 2001.
The Taliban said they want Pakistani officials to provide details about his arrest, incarceration and death.
Obaidullah's name was among those floated earlier this year as possible representatives for potential peace talks with the insurgent group.
The Taliban are setting up an office in Qatar in the first step toward formal talks. The Obama administration is now considering the release of five top Taliban leaders from the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo as a starting point for negotiations. Republicans in Congress oppose the release of the prisoners.
Fighting has continued amid talk of negotiations with the Taliban. In southern Afghanistan on Monday a NATO service member died in an insurgent attack, the international military coalition said in a statement. Further details were not provided.
The death brought to at least 36 the number of international service members who have died since the beginning of the year.
Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians since the beginning of the Afghan war, with more than 3,000 killed primarily in insurgent attacks and bombings, according to a U.N. report released earlier in February. Civilians have also died in NATO operations, though in lower numbers.
Also Monday, Afghan investigators said they have confirmed that 15 civilians died in two NATO operations in Kunar and Kapisa provinces earlier this year. A NATO spokesman said the coalition regrets any civilian lives lost from the operations but that the international troops followed appropriate protocol in both instances.
In the more recent incident in Kapisa, German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, the spokesman, said it was not clear if all the deaths were caused by the NATO operation.

Afghan Taliban asks Pakistan to explain death of ex-minister
ISLAMABAD, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Afghan Taliban on Monday demanded Pakistani officials to share information about the arrest, illness and death of their former Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, who has died in a Pakistani prison.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that Mullah Obaidullah Akhund was arrested in Balochistan in January, 2007 and he died in a Karachi jail in 2010. He said that no information had been provided to Akhund's family since his arrest. "It has now been confirmed that Akhund's family members have received some proofs that he had passed away on March 5, 2010 in a prison in Karachi due to heart failure. They (family) have enough evidence proving that the distinguished leader is no longer alive," he said.
However, The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is not sure whether Akhund had lost his life due to illness or because of torture in prison, he said. "Pakistan should immediately share information on his arrest, reason for his martyrdom,"the spokesman added.
Mujahid regretted that the family of Akhund got the information two years after his death, adding that the International Committee of the Red Cross along with Pakistan are also responsible for such ignorance. "The ICRC has so far not shared any information about prisoners of the Islamic Emirate in Pakistani jails and that is its duty," the Taliban spokesman said.
He demanded the Islamic countries to treat the war-torn Afghans, refugees and prisoners in a manner that could reflect Islamic brotherhood.
Mullah Akhund was a famous Jihadi leader and lieutenant of Taliban Chief Mullah Mohammad Omar, said a Taliban statement posted on its website.
He fought against the former Soviets and earned his name as a brave commander in the Taliban leadership. When Taliban controlled Kabul in 1996, he was appointed as defense minister.
After Sept. 11 terrorist attack in 2001 when US-led coalition forces ousted Taliban from Kabul, Mullah Omar had appointed Akhund as his lieutenant.

NATO: Afghan Children Found Dead After Airstrike
VOA News February 13, 2012
NATO officials in Afghanistan say coalition aircraft may have mistakenly killed several children during a bombing raid last week in the eastern part of the country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned the air strikes and ordered an investigation after saying that eight children were killed on February 8.
NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said Monday coalition aircraft and ground forces attacked insurgents in Kapisa province. After the raid, NATO forces found several “young Afghans of varying ages” among the casualties.
Jacobson said the deaths of innocent people are a tragedy but insisted that so far, they are not yet certain how the children's deaths happened.
The issue of civilian casualties caused by coalition operations has long been a source of tension between President Karzai and NATO.
A United Nations report released earlier this month said more than 3,000 civilians were killed in 2011 — the worst death toll in the decade-long Afghan war.
Officials with the U.N. mission in Afghanistan said insurgents were responsible for 77 percent of Afghan civilian deaths and that the number of deaths caused by foreign and local forces dropped by 4 percent.

Afghanistan arrests preteen would-be bombers months after pardon
Afghan police arrest two 10-year-old would-be bombers. The boys were pardoned in previous attempts, but mullahs in Pakistan told them to try again, officials say.
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times February 13, 2012
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan - Six months ago, in a moving ceremony during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Hamid Karzai went on Afghan television to pardon about two dozen young boys, the youngest only 8 years old, who had been caught trying to carry out suicide attacks.
On Monday, authorities in Kandahar province reported that two of the children, 10-year-olds, had been rearrested last week, apparently intending again to carry out bombings.
Provincial spokesman Zalmay Ayubi said the boys each had a vest full of explosives when they were detained along with three adults suspected of being militants, and that they told intelligence officers they had been recruited for suicide missions.
A statement from provincial officials quoted one of the boys, named Azizullah, as saying the pair had undergone training at a madrasa, or religious school, in Pakistan. The mullahs there told the boys they would be unharmed when they set off their bombs, Azizullah reportedly said.
The other child, named Nasibullah, told authorities he had been taught how to detonate an explosives-laden vest. "They showed me how to press the button in my hand," he said, according to a statement issued by the provincial government, which cited officials from the National Directorate for Security, the country's main intelligence agency.
The agency said one of the boys was from Pakistan's Baluchistan province, across the border from southern Afghanistan, and that the other was from Afghanistan's Paktia province, which borders Pakistan's tribal areas.
During the emotional televised pardon of the would-be bombers in August, Karzai was shown talking with all the boys about their experiences. Before the pardon, the youngsters had been held in a juvenile detention center in the capital.
The children spoke to Karzai of having been told to try to approach foreign troops and set off their explosives, and of receiving drugs beforehand, which they were told was medicine to make them strong.
Authorities in Kandahar said the rearrested boys expressed regret and hoped they would be pardoned again.
Human rights groups have strongly denounced the use of children in attacks, and at least a dozen such incidents have been documented in recent years. A spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force, Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, said Western troops had not been involved in apprehending the boys, but that the coalition was "outraged by the Taliban's continued use of children" as potential suicide bombers.
Karzai's office said an investigation had been launched to find out how the two boys were induced to again attempt suicide bombings, and that it was hoped they could be given an education. Officials at the Kabul juvenile detention center said at the time of the mass pardon that the boys had been brainwashed and that it was difficult to make them see that their actions were wrong.

ISAF to chalk out methods to check Afghan civilian casualties: spokesman
KABUL, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Afghan authorities and officials with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are to hold a meeting to minimize civilian casualties in the conflict-ridden country, a spokesman with ISAF said on Monday.
"It is a conference on civilian casualties, it is the third of its kind and it is a conference in which the Afghan leadership, the government's representative and representative of international community and ISAF will take part," spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson told reporters in an ISAF weekly press briefing.
He said the meeting will be held in ISAF headquarters in Kabul on March 4, adding representatives of U.N. mission in Afghanistan and International Red Cross will also take part in the forum.
He made this comment days after eight children were killed in an ISAF alleged air strike in the country's eastern province of Kapisa, according to the Afghan officials.
"Every civilian innocent life that is lost is one life too much, " Jacobson said, adding "that conference doubts with the question of air operations and brought all air operators those who called for air operations on the ground and those who do the operations to talk about measures to take against civilian casualties caused by air power."
The civilian casualties in Afghanistan has increased for a fifth successive year as a total of 3,021 Afghan civilians were killed in 2011, an 8 percent rise over the same period of 2010, according to a United Nations annual report released in Kabul on Feb. 4.
The U.N. report attributed 77 percent of the civilian deaths last year to the Taliban attacks and other armed groups opposing the Afghan government. Another 14 percent of the deaths were attributed to Afghan and NATO-led forces and 9 percent were unattributed.

Investment in Afghan minerals a potential factor for security
KABUL, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Encouraging national and international companies to invest in Afghan minerals and extract the untapped underground treasures would help alleviate poverty and eventually lead to strengthening security in the militancy- plagued Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, according to officials, has minerals worth around 3 trillion U.S. dollars which, if extracted and utilized properly, would help rebuild the war-battered country and ultimately improves the living conditions of the people.
"In the past I had worked in Iran as a daily wager to support my family in Afghanistan. But some three years ago my family called me from Logar province and asked me to come home and work for Aynak Copper mine project, I felt happy and returned home and since then have been working with the archeological section, in Aynak area and receives a 'reasonable' salary," a resident of Logar province Abdul Ghani Khan told Xinhua.
Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) had won the bidding in 2008 and agreed to invest more than 3.5 billion U.S. dollars in the Aynak Copper Mine in Logar province 60 km south of Afghan capital Kabul, the ever-biggest investment in the war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The war-torn Afghanistan, according to the U.S. geological survey released in mid 2010, has huge reserves of untapped natural treasures including copper, iron, cobalt, lithium, gold, mercury and others worth around one trillion U.S. dollars.
However, Afghan Minister for Mines Wahidullah Shahrani has said that mineral deposits in his country could be worth up to 3 trillion U.S. dollars.
The implementation of Aynak Copper project and sub-agreements inked with MCC which also include railway construction, would create around 4,000-5,000 job opportunities directly and thousands more indirectly which is vital for stabilizing economy, according to Minister Shahrani.
Since security and economic development are inter-linked, many Afghans believe that durable security will not return in the country unless and until job opportunities are provided to the economically impoverished people.
"I laid down my arm two years ago and resumed normal life, but in return I have received 2,000 Afghanis (1 U.S. dollar equals 49. 43 Afghanis) which is no remedy to my ordeal," a former Taliban fighter Fazludin told this scribe.
"I need permanent job, regular income and to ensurence of my security," he further said, adding economic hardship would push anyone to the wall and lack of security would force anyone to take self-defense measures.
Another former anti-government fighter Baba who gave up militancy and handed over his weapon to authorities in northern Baghlan province on Saturday also called for providing job opportunities.
"We want the government to ensure justice, accelerate reconstruction process and provide job opportunities" Baba the commander of 13 armed militants told newsmen after handing in his assault rifle to police.
The root cause of endemic instability in Afghanistan, at the eyes of public in Afghanistan is chronic poverty and high rate of unemployment.
"Usually the son of poor people is exploited by Taliban, by drug barons and other evils. Seldom is the son of well-off killed. It is the son of have-nots who leave the country to support family but dies on the way, it is the son of poor fathers joins Taliban to support the family but killed in clash," said a former Taliban foot soldier who declined to give his name.
Investment in Aynak Copper Mine has already begun delivering and hundreds of Afghans have been absorbed there to work, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines Jawad Omar said.
"More than 3,000 people including 243 Chinese experts have been working in Aynak," Omar told Xinhua on Sunday.
Out of these, 1,660 are personnel of security forces, 300 are de-miners, while 296 are working in the archeology field and 400 others are involved in construction section with reasonable salary.
"Of course, security is linked with economic development and vice versa. No doubt investment in projects such Aynak copper mine, Hajjigak iron ore and other minerals would provide thousands of job opportunities and eventually lead to poverty alleviation which is essential to stabilizing economy and security," the official went on to say.
Launching any development projects in Afghanistan where some 9 million people out of around 30 million, according to officials, live under poverty line, would help bring prosperity and stability.

19 Taliban surrender in western Afghan province
HERAT, Afghanistan, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- A total of 19 Taliban fighters surrendered to government on Monday in Herat province, some 640 km west of capital city of Kabul, provincial governor said.
"Today, 19 armed Taliban rebels, including their commander namely Syed Zia, laid down their arms in Chishti Sharif district and surrendered to the government. We appreciate their decision and hope other oppositions to follow the step," Governor Daud Sabah told Xinhua.
He said the former commander of insurgents Syed Zia was serving as Taliban shadowy governor in Chishti Sharif district before joining the peace process.
Taliban militants fighting the government have yet to make comment.
More than 3,000 militants, according to officials, have laid down arms and resumed normal life in Afghanistan over the past one year, according to officials.
However, the Taliban outfit has termed the claim as baseless, saying no Taliban loyalists have surrendered.

Long Neglected, Camps in Kabul Get a Deluge of Aid
New York Times By ROD NORDLAND February 12, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - The 6,000 refugees living in the Charahi Qambar camp did not object when American soldiers came by Saturday to deliver 1,100 blankets for the families there. Nor did they mention that the day before, an Afghan aid group, Aschiana, had also made a delivery of blankets, and was planning to come back on Sunday with clothing — at least the third such donation in a few days, the others coming from businessmen.
And two Afghan aid groups financed by the German government brought about $187,000 worth of charcoal, milk and hot water bottles on Sunday, while the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees planned to give each family three more blankets on Thursday.
The Charahi Qambar site is one of the camps where shortages of food and fuel have led to young children dying of the cold during severe weather over the past month, and news coverage of the deaths has galvanized the aid community and the government here, as well as donors abroad. There are 40 camps in Kabul housing repatriated refugees and other displaced Afghans.
But the response has been chaotic and disorganized, with some camps receiving little aid and others being deluged with duplicated aid. “We don’t know who’s done what and where; it’s mad,” said Federico Motka, whose organization, Welthungerhilfe, a German aid group, has had a long-term presence in the camps.
“We have to do something about the duplication,” acknowledged Mehr Khuda Sabar, an official with the Afghan government’s disaster relief and development agency.
Much of the disorganization is a result of many new agencies joining the effort that had not worked in the camps before, said Aidan O’Leary, the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “People are anxious to do something and that’s all very, very positive,” he said.
Despite the Afghan government’s early skepticism that any children were dying of the cold, last week President Hamid Karzai asked embassies and donors to provide emergency aid. Relief agencies that had previously not been involved rushed out winter emergency programs, including the United States. Emissaries of the Afghan president visited Sayid Mohammad, a father who recently lost the eighth of his nine children, this one to the cold, promising to bring him to the presidential palace for an audience, Mr. Mohammad said.
On Sunday, two deaths were reported in the Parwan-e-Do camp, housing refugees from northern Baghlan Province, as were two more in the Parwan-e-Se camp. The victims were all 2 or younger, according to the parents and camp leaders. In all, The New York Times has confirmed the deaths of 28 children in the camps since mid-January.
Charitable groups working in the camps confirmed a major increase in donations. “People are writing from all over the country wanting to send their winter clothing and baby sweaters, etc. to us,” said John Bradley, head of the Lamia Afghan Foundation in the United States, which moved quickly to deliver warm clothing it had already shipped to Afghanistan on military transports. The Afghan aid group Aschiana, which has the largest full-time presence in the camps, reported raising more than $17,000 in a few days from small donors in the United States through its American branch.
Individual Afghans pitched in as well. Ramazan Bashardost, a member of Parliament and well-known gadfly, visited the Nasaji Bagrami Camp, where 16 children died of cold, and handed out 1,000 Afghanis (about $20) to each of the 250 families there. He was shocked by the conditions of the tent-and-mud-hut camps, most of them within Kabul and many next to comparatively well-off neighborhoods. “It is not a life for a human, it is a life for animals,” he said.
The turnabout among government and international agencies was drastic, though all had explanations for why they had not previously paid attention to the camps. The United Nations refugee agency said it had focused on providing winter aid to 200,000 people in rural and remote areas. The World Food Program said its Kabul programs targeted the most vulnerable: widows and disabled people. And the American military does not normally distribute humanitarian aid in the camps; this one, however, was organized by the chaplain’s office at headquarters in Kabul.
The United States aid agency, U.S.A.I.D., by far the largest aid donor in Afghanistan, said that its winter efforts in have been in remote areas like Badakhshan Province, where winters are very harsh. “Being prepared for a disaster is one of the most difficult things to do,” said S. Ken Yama****a, the agency’s director in Afghanistan, “because by definition you do not know when a disaster will strike.”
Mr. Yama****a declined to say where those distributions would take place because the groups providing aid on behalf of the agency did not want it known in which camps they were working. In addition, he confirmed that the aid was not being identified as coming from the United States, in case it might pose some risk or discomfort to the recipients.
Lane Hartill, a spokesman for Save the Children, which delivered some of the American agency’s assistance on Saturday, said the organization preferred to distribute aid without identifying the source. “Our ability to provide help in a place like Afghanistan relies on us being neutral and being perceived as neutral,” Mr. Hartill said.
Aid groups with experience in the camps found the extra attention a mixed blessing. Mr. Motka, with the German aid group, said the increased donations had enabled his organization to schedule a second distribution of firewood to all the residents in 17 camps, which should take place in the next few days and should get them through until March.
On the other hand, he said, he was concerned that focusing on the humanitarian emergency would distract attention from the need for long-term solutions, such as finding the displaced Afghans land and adequate housing.
The outpouring of aid “will keep them alive,” Mr. O’Leary, of the United Nations, said. “But we can’t afford to lose sight that there has to be a better solution going forward, so we are not dealing with this situation every time winter comes about.”
Aid workers in the camps were confident that the worst of the crisis was past. “It is enough now that no more children will die,” said Mohammad Zahir Haslam, who was supervising the German charcoal aid delivery.
Many of the camp residents said they were not so sure. Mr. Mohammad, whose 3-month-old son, Khan, died Wednesday, was contemptuous of the clothing distribution he received from the Afghan Red Crescent — much of it consisting of thin scarves and summer blouses, some so gossamer they were culturally inappropriate, and none very warm.
With many of his neighbors, Mr. Mohammad spent Sunday worrying about another snowstorm, currently under way and expected to last through Monday, with temperatures predicted to drop even lower — to 5 degrees Fahrenheit — than the historic lows of the past month.
“What can we do?” Mr. Mohammad asked. He did not mention that he and everyone else in the camp had just received a bag of the German charcoal; on the other hand, they apparently had little or no food.
Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting.

6 Taliban, 2 policemen killed in eastern Afghanistan clash
KABUL, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Six Taliban insurgents and two Afghan policemen were killed Sunday night in a clash in the country's eastern province of Paktika, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Monday.
"A clash broke out when a group of Taliban insurgents attacked a unit of police in Ghozi Khil area of Abband district of eastern Paktika province Sunday night," the ministry said in a statement.
Two policemen with Afghan National Police (ANP) were killed and four other police force were injured following the attack, according to the statement.
"In retaliatory attack by ANP, a total of six Taliban, including their commander namely Fida Mohammad, were killed," the statement said, adding the ANP also found and seized two vehicles and a heavy machine gun with 900 bullets after the clash in the province with Sharan as its capital 155 km south of capital city of Kabul.
Taliban has yet to make comments.
The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since the militant group announced to launch a rebel offensive from May 2011 against Afghan and NATO-led troops stationed in Afghanistan.
In a separate development, a soldier with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was killed Monday following an insurgent attack in restive southern Afghan region, said a press release issued by ISAF forces here.
Troops mainly from the United States, Britain and Australia have been stationed in the southern region within the framework of ISAF to fight Taliban militants there.
However, the brief ISAF statement did not disclose the nationality of the victim under ISAF police only, saying "it is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities,"
The Monday's casualty brings the number of NATO soldier have been killed in Afghanistan since beginning this year to 39.
Currently over 130,000 NATO-led ISAF with majority of them Americans have been serving in Afghanistan.

Afghan Officials’ Relatives Appointed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs
TOLOnews.com By Shakeela Abrahimkhil Sunday, 12 February 2012
Relatives of some Afghan high-ranking officials and powerful figures have been appointed in key posts in the Afghan Ministry of Affairs, experts said on Sunday.
Experts warn that politicising the positions in the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that appointment of Afghan officials' relatives in the Ministry will damage national interests of Afghanistan.
"Not only the Afghan government's domestic policy, but also its foreign policy is also affected by this disease," Lecturer of Kabul University, Faizullah Jalal, said citing appointments of Afghan officials' relatives as ambassadors, deputy ambassadors and secretaries.
Mr Jalal said many of such people who are appointed by the Afghan embassies get involved in personal business rather than the embassy affairs.
Experts urge the Afghan government to clear government organisations of unprofessional employees and unqualified diplomats.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed the reports and stressed that all staff and diplomats for the Afghan embassies had been employed based on their merits and qualifications.
The Ministry said it has set up a special commission to interview those who are employed by the Afghan embassies.
It comes as recently a physical clash has occurred among the staff at the Afghan embassy in Washington.
According to reports, Haroon Alako, the son of Afghan Attorney General, who is the counsellor of the embassy, has reportedly beaten the Afghan Ambassador and one of the embassy staff. But the Ministry denied that any physical clash had taken place at the embassy in Washington, saying that it will investigate about it.
It comes as on Saturday Afghan senators said that that Afghan Minister of Immigration had employed some of his relatives in some positions in the ministry.
Head of the Afghan Senate's Complaints Commission, Zalmai Zabuli, presented some documents showing that some people who have been employed by the Afghan Ministry of Immirgration are not even literate enough to fit the positions.
Nematullah and Noor Murad are apparently two relatives of the minister who have been employed for the salary of 40 to 60,000 Afghanis as advisors to the ministry.
"The minister's niece who is from Andkhoi and does not have a command in Persian, Pashtu or Uzbek language, has been employed as marketing advisor, because he only speaks in English and Urdu languages and gets a salary of 60,000 Afghanis," Mr Zabuli said.
But Afghan Minister of Immigration, Jamahir Anwari, dismisses the claims saying that the staff have been employed based on the rules of the ministry and agreement of the ministry of finance.
"Three people who have been employed were interviewed by a commission consisted of a representative from the ministry and a representative from the UNHCR," Mr Anwari said.
Mr Zabuli said that some senators have also complained to the President about the issue.
It comes as the Afghan High Office of Oversight and Anti-corruption has said that 70 high-level cases of corruption had been referred to the Attorney General's Office and that cases of some ministers were also among them.
Around 251 corruption cases have been recorded out of which 32 cases have been referred to the Attorney General's Office, according to the Oversight office.

US gambles on special forces in Afghanistan strategy
AFP By Dan De Luce 12/02/2012
As it draws down troops in Afghanistan, the United States plans to rely heavily on its special forces, gambling the elite troops can serve as a firewall to prevent the Taliban seizing back power, experts and officials say.
Having backed a major troop buildup when he entered office, President Barack Obama is shifting course, opting for a scaled back military presence built around 9,000 special operations forces focused on training Afghan troops and striking insurgent leaders, officials said.
"It's a natural progression," said one defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"As the mission becomes more focused on training, it makes sense that special forces take on more importance. Training is one of their primary missions. That's what they do."
The approach reflects lowered expectations about what can be accomplished after ten years of war and carries an array of risks, analysts and former officials said.
"It's a policy calculation that these (conventional) troops won't be needed. I would bet there would be some challenges," said Jeffrey Dressler, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
Obama's initial strategy was to knock back the insurgency in strategic areas in the south and east, gaining the upper hand on the battlefield to pave the way for handing over security to the Afghans and possible peace talks.
But while the Taliban lost ground in the south, NATO-led forces have yet to roll back the insurgents in the east and the war is still widely seen as a stalemate.
"The military mission is not complete," said Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation, a former adviser to special forces commanders.
A smaller NATO military footprint could allow the Taliban to gain back lost ground on the battlefield, especially in the southern Helmand province, possibly undermining Kabul's bargaining power in any peace talks with the insurgency, he said.
Obama's wager, however, has a chance of succeeding if the military aim is much narrower -- to avert disaster instead of fighting the Taliban in every corner of the country, Jones said.
"The only way this is likely to work is if the objectives begin to change," Jones said.
"If the US objectives are to prevent the Taliban from overthrowing the Kabul government, that may be something that is achievable."
Already, the United States no longer expects the central government in Kabul to provide security in every area. Instead, the US military has built up local police forces, leaving it to towns and villages to fend off the insurgents, he said.
It remains unclear how the drawdown of most coalition troops by the end of 2014 will affect the morale of Afghan forces as well as the West's uneasy relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Deploying and supplying special forces will require continued cooperation from the Afghan government, which harbors deep distrust of the special forces due to aggressive night raids and assaults that have claimed civilian lives.
If US economic aid and financial support for Afghan forces declines dramatically, Karzai and other leaders may choose to provide less than full cooperation to the Americans, said Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations.
"The special forces' presence in particular has been quite controversial for Afghans," Biddle said.
"We sort of assume that we can withdraw all sorts of other things that the Afghans want, and they'll still give us what we want," he said. "One needs to think carefully about the sustainability of that."
By relying on a limited troop presence and special forces, the US approach has come full circle, resembling the model employed at the outset of the war by former president George W. Bush and his controversial defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
Unlike the Rumsfeld era, fiscal pressures are partly driving the latest emphasis on a light footprint.
Circumstances in Afghanistan also are markedly different from 2001-2002, when the Taliban were in disarray, before the Islamist militants rebounded as a formidable insurgency.
"The problem now is without a sizable counter-insurgency effort, can the (Kabul) government persist in the face of a large, capable insurgency that did not exist in 2002?" Biddle said.

Afghan Govt Will Not Introduce Remaining Cabinet Members, ACSF Says
TOlOnews.com By Shahla Murtazaie Sunday, 12 February 2012
The Afghan Civil Society Forum on Sunday said that government may not introduce the remaining cabinet members even by the end of the announced deadline.
Head of the Afghan Civil Society Forum, Azizullah Rafie, said that despite several promises by the government, the remaining cabinet members have not been introduced to the Afghan Parliament to win vote of confidence.
"Unfortunately, the government is playing a long game, it has been more than one and a half years that acting Cabinet and High Court members are working," Mr Rafie added.
He also said that there will be a meeting at the presidential palace on Wednesday to discuss about appointment of the Independent Human Rights Commission members.
"We are concerned about appointment of unprofessional people in the Human Rights Commission," Mr Rafie said.
Several ministries including Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Transport and Aviation, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Energy and Water, Ministry of Women Affairs, Ministry of Communication and Technology and Ministry of Urban Development are still being managed by acting ministers.
Recently, Afghan Parliament decided not to approve next year's budget unless the government introduces the remaining ministers and members of the High Court and Attorney General.
Some of the MPs believe that even if the budget is approved, some ministers within Afghan cabinet are not competent enough to spend it properly.

Afghan police kill 10 insurgents: Interior Ministry
KABUL, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Operations led by police throughout Afghanistan have left 10 anti-government militants dead over the past 24 hours, a press of Interior Ministry issued here Monday said.
"Afghan national police backed by national army and NATO-led forces have killed 10 armed rebels and arrested three others over the past 24 hours across the country," the press release added.
A number of arms and ammunitions including one pistol, 11 anti- vehicle mines and 16 hand grenades were also seized during the operations, it further said.
However, it did not say if there were any casualties on the security forces. Taliban militants fighting Afghan government has yet to make comment.

Blast rocks Afghan southern town, kills 1, wounds 1
TRINKOT, Afghanistan, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- A bomb blast rocked Trinkot the capital of Uruzgan province 370 km south of capital city Kabul on Monday, killing one person and injuring another, police said.
"It was a remote-controlled bomb blast took place at around 08: 00 a.m. local time in Trinkot city as a result one person namely Mohammadullah was killed and another injured," deputy to provincial police chief Gulab Khan told Xinhua.
The man killed in the blast was a contractor who supplied food items to police, he further, adding the injured man was a civilian and relative of Mohammadullah.
Meantime, an eye witness who declined to give his name said three civilians were injured in the blast.

Afghan private security handover looking messy
Associated Press By Heidi Vogt Sunday, February 12, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - The push by Afghanistan’s president to nationalize legions of private security guards before the end of March is encouraging corruption and jeopardizing multibillion-dollar aid projects, according to companies trying to make the switch.
President Hamid Karzai has railed for years against the large number of guns for hire in Afghanistan, saying private security companies skirt the law and risk becoming militias.
He ordered them abolished in 2009 and eventually set March 20 of this year as the deadline for everyone except NATO and diplomatic missions to switch to government-provided security.
Afghan officials are rushing to meet the deadline with the help of NATO advisers. But with less than six weeks to go, it’s likely that many components still will be missing on March 20. Even when everything falls into place, higher costs and issues of authority over the government guards will remain.
The change imperils billions of dollars of aid flowing into Afghanistan, particularly from the United States.
In a country beset by insurgent attacks and suicide bombings, the private development companies that implement most of the U.S. aid agency’s programs employ private guards to protect compounds, serve as armed escorts and guard construction sites.
On March 21, about 11,000 guards now working for private security firms will become government employees as members of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF). They will be working in the same places with the same jobs, except they will answer to the Interior Ministry.
“We don’t want to have security gaps. This is really important to our customers and to us,” said Deputy Minister Jamal Abdul Naser Sidiqi, the head of the APPF.
It will happen, he said, because the presidential order says it has to.
Everyone is officially optimistic. “The APPF is now open for business,” a U.S. Embassy official said, speaking anonymously to discuss private agency contracts.
Still, many are worried that the entire plan could crumble.
Development contractors for the U.S. Agency for International Development told the Associated Press that they were told explicitly not to discuss the changeover with reporters because media attention could endanger the delicate process. Everyone critical of APPF insisted on speaking anonymously for this article.
This month, the chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on national security, homeland defense and foreign operations wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressing concern that the APPF may not be ready to take over security for aid projects.
Even so, no one expects that there will be a visible problem on March 21.
“The guys who guard our gates today wear a certain baseball hat, and on the 21st of March they’ll come wearing a different uniform. It should be pretty seamless,” said Bill Haight, head of an infrastructure-building project run by Louis Berger Group and Black and Veach.
He said his projects are nearly finished, so he doesn’t expect many problems.
But companies with long-running projects are worried. New contracts and operating rules probably will still be in the works when the deadline arrives.
The APPF still has not signed a contract for any of the nearly 75 companies expected to switch over to government guards in March, said Noorkhan Haidari, the APPF business manager.

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