View Full Version : [Afghan News] April 1, 2012

04-04-2012, 02:53 AM
Afghanistan names general to run U.S. prison, asserts control
By Sanjeev Miglani
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan named a three star general to take over Bagram prison from the U.S. military and with him, final say over which prisoners are released, an issue with the potential to open another rift in relations between Washington and Kabul.
The issue of the release of any of the 3,200 people held in the prison at the sprawling American base, north of Kabul, is sensitive to both countries as Afghanistan assumes full security responsibilities ahead of departure of most NATO combat forces in 2014.
Washington fears the prisoners, most of whom it says are mid to high level members of the Taliban, might return to the battlefield as has happened in the past, citing the case of a Taliban commander transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Afghan custody in 2007 who ended up fighting coalition forces again.
"They (the United States) can have a consultative role, but not a veto," said Aimal Faizi, chief spokesman of President Hamid Karzai.
"What's the point of the transfer if we don't have full control," he said, in remarks that have become increasingly assertive following a string of incidents that have strained U.S.-Afghan ties, notably the killing of 17 villagers blamed on a U.S. soldier and the burning of Korans at the Bagram base.
Afghan General Ghulam Farooq Barekzai - formerly in charge of policy at the defense ministry - has been named to take over the Bagram detention centre, a palace statement on Saturday said.
It was the first step toward handing over control of the prison to Afghan authorities and another move to transferring complete security responsibility to the volatile country before the planned pullout of most Western forces.
Afghanistan, which has long sought control of Bagram prison, says no sovereign country can allow thousands of its people to be held indefinitely under foreign guard and that it alone has the powers to determine what to do with them.
The two sides reached an agreement in March to shift the prison to Afghan control after months of wrangling and a key element of the pact was that Afghanistan would consult with the United States before freeing any of the men incarcerated there.
"And if the United States provides its assessment that continued detention is necessary to prevent the detainee from engaging in or facilitating terrorist activity, Afghanistan is to consider favorably such assessment," the document said.
U.S. officials have interpreted that to mean that the two sides at the very least would have to agree before any of the detainees, many held for years without any trial, could be freed.
Prisoners there will gradually be transferred to Afghan custody over six months, and U.S. forces will provide "technical and logistical support" for a further six months.
About 50 non-Afghan detainees at the prison will remain in U.S. custody, both sides have said.
Under the agreement, Afghanistan also has to provide the United States access to the transferred detainees to ensure that they are being treated in accordance with humanitarian laws.
They may also be able to interrogate them, which has long been a key U.S. demand, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
"This is something that Afghan commanders at the prison will decide," said an Afghan government official, who declined to go into any more detail because of the sensitivity of the matter.
(Editing by Jack Kimball and Jonathan Thatcher)

Police: Roadside Bombs Kill 5 in Afghanistan
By RAHIM FAIEZ Associated Press April 1, 2012
KABUL, A remote-controlled bomb in southern Afghanistan killed a police official Sunday who had survived multiple previous attempts on his life, police said.
Toor Jan, an officer in charge of several checkpoints in Uruzgan province's capital Tarin Kot, died along with one of his bodyguards when their vehicle passed through an area where explosives had been planted, said Fareed Ayal, a spokesman for the provincial police chief.
Taliban and other insurgents frequently target local officials to undermine the Kabul government's authority.
On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed two local council members and an Afghan policeman in Gizab district of Uruzgan province, Ayal said.
He said two other council members were wounded when their car hit a second bomb nearby.
Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report

Details emerge about bin Laden's other residences
Associated Press Sunday, April 1, 2012
It's an ornate but not lavish two-story house tucked away at the end of a mud clogged street. This is where Pakistan's intelligence agency believes Osama bin Laden lived for nearly a year until he moved into the villa in which he was eventually killed.
The residence in the frontier town of Haripur was one of five safe houses used by the slain al-Qaida leader while on the run in Pakistan according to information revealed by his youngest wife, who has been detained.
Retired Pakistani Brig. Shaukat Qadir, who has spent the last eight months tracking bin Laden's movements, told The Associated Press that he was taken to the Haripur house last November by intelligence agents who located it from a description they got from Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada.
Al-Sada, a 30-year-old Yemeni, has been in Pakistani custody since May 2 when U.S. Navy SEALs overran the Abbottabad compound, killing bin Laden and four other people inside. Since then, Pakistan's intelligence agency, known as the ISI, has been trying to uncover the trail that brought him to Abbottabad villa in the summer of 2005.
The best information appears to have come from al-Sada, who was believed to be his favorite and who traveled with bin Laden since his escape from Afghanistan's eastern Tora Bora mountain range in 2001.
Qadir, a 35-year army veteran who is now a security consultant, was given rare access to transcripts of Pakistani intelligence's interrogation of al-Sada and access to other documents on bin-Laden's movements. He provided the AP with details in a recent interview.
The details of bin Laden's life as a fugitive _ which were first published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn _ raise fresh questions over how bin Laden was able to remain undetected for so long in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, despite being the subject of a massive international manhunt.
Yet a senior U.S. official, who is familiar with the contents recovered in bin Laden's Abbottabad house, said there was no evidence that Pakistani officials were aware of bin Laden's presence. "There was no smoking gun. We didn't find anything," he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the contents of the Abbottabad house
According to the interrogation report, bin Laden lived in five safe houses and fathered four children _ the two youngest born in a public hospital in Abbotabad. But investigators have only located the houses in Abbottabad and Haripur.
Al-Sada's descriptions of the homes have been vague and the Haripur house was found only after a series of hits and misses.
She knew only that it was located on the edge of Haripur, it was two stories and it had a basement. It apparently was used by bin Laden while he waited for construction crews to finish his new home Abbottabad, a garrison town just 30 kilometers (20 miles) away.
Investigators scoured the area looking for properties until they found the Haripur house in Naseem Town, a chaotic suburb where relatively affluent houses bump up against sun-baked mud huts that belong to nomadic Afghans.
Like the CIA, the Pakistani agency also tracked the movements of bin Laden's Pakistani courier who used the pseudonym Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti and his brother. The two were ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan's Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province on the border with Afghanistan. They were bin Laden's front men.
The ISI discovered that the Haripur house, like the land on which bin Laden's Abbottabad villa was built, was rented by two Pashtun brothers claiming to be from Charsadda, a Pashtun dominated town about 110 kilometers (80 miles) away.
The AP located the Haripur house that Qadir said ISI agents had taken him to last November and found the real estate broker, Pir Mohammed, who rented the four-bedroom house to the two brothers, Salim and Javed Khan from Charsadda, for $150 a month.
At the time Pir Mohammed ran a small real estate firm called Mashallah. He said his meeting with the brothers was random.
"They must have seen my sign and come in," Mohammed said, adding that he had met the brothers only three times _ when they signed the contract, when they moved into the house and when they moved out 11 months later.
Two months ago several ISI agents took all the records of the house and its tenants since its construction in 2000, said Qasi Anis Rahman, the brother of the widow who owns the house.
"All they said was that it was for 'security purposes,'" said Rahman.
Al-Sada is currently in Pakistani custody, along with bin Laden's two other wives and several children. They were arrested after the raid. The U.S. Navy SEALs shot al-Sada in the leg during the operation.
Mohammed Amir Khalil, a lawyer for the three widows, said the women would be formally charged for illegally staying in Pakistan on April 2. That charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Kathy Gannon is the AP Special Regional Correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan

Bin Laden May Have Moved Freely Through Pakistan
One of bin Laden's wives reportedly told interrogators this week that her husband moved around Pakistan frequently. Terry McDermott on why the government might have truly been ignorant.
The Daily Beast By Terry McDermott Apr 1, 2012
In December 2001, in the mountains of the Pashtun belt in eastern Afghanistan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah convened a meeting of the remnants of al Qaeda, who were fleeing the American assault on their Afghan hideouts. Mohammed, otherwise known as KSM, and Zubaydah wanted to bring some order to the retreat.
The ferocity of the American counterattack after 9/11 had not been anticipated, and the al Qaeda fighters were running for their lives, like cockroaches running around after the light had been turned on, as one American intelligence operative put it. “****,” KSM later told an American interrogator, “we’ve awakened a sleeping bear ... I think we bit off more than we could chew.”
Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were in hiding. Mohammed Atef, al Qaeda’s operational commander, had been killed in an aerial bombardment. The organization’s remaining chain of command was disintegrating. KSM and Zubaydah stepped in to bring some order to the chaos.
Unlike most of al Qaeda’s top operatives, the two of them had been living mainly in Pakistan for most of a decade—Zubaydah in Peshawar in the northwest and KSM in Karachi in the south. Even before the attacks, they had organized a collection of dozens of safe houses throughout Pakistan (they had more than 20 in Karachi alone), many of them operated by jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The militant groups were a classic Pakistani creation. Most originated in the 1980s with full support and funding from the Pakistan spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, ISI, as frontline resistance to India in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Dozens of groups were supported by the ISI as they morphed and splintered over the years, and ISI officers established their training regimens and sat on councils to plan strategy and attacks. Within Pakistan’s urban areas the jihadi network was omnipresent. KSM had cultivated relationships throughout this underground.
After 9/11, the groups became indispensable in organizing the retreat from Afghanistan. KSM’s connections helped al Qaeda fighters regroup in Pakistan by providing money, logistics, safe havens, and a ready army of trustworthy foot soldiers. He was the bridge between the largely Arab al Qaeda leadership and its allies in Pakistan.
KSM was born and raised in Kuwait, but his family was from Pakistan. He spoke the local languages and moved easily among its citizens. His family were members of a tightly bound ethnic group called the Baluch, who live throughout southwestern Pakistan and eastern Iran. KSM used these blood ties to build his own network. Fellow Pakistanis, including some who had also grown up in Kuwait, became his trusted lieutenants and couriers. They transported men, money, and messages throughout the region. They helped operate dozens of safe houses, havens from which al Qaeda could bide its time for future attacks.
Nothing ever happened without its agents knowing about it, ISI officers said.
Bin Laden undoubtedly turned to KSM’s network when he escaped American and Afghan forces at Tora Bora in late 2001. We know that two of KSM’s most trusted Kuwaiti-born couriers, Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti and his brother, became bin Laden’s links to the outside world while he was in hiding for the last decade. They were killed with him at his Abbottabad compound last year.
The Dawn newspaper in Pakistan reported this week that one of bin Laden’s young wives has told interrogators that bin Laden and his family moved several times throughout Pakistan while on the run. Amal Ahmad Abdul Fateh said that the family lived in four different houses before settling in Abbottabad and that bin Laden fathered four children while on the move. Two of the children, she said, were born in government hospitals.
This once again raises the obvious question of what, if anything, the Pakistani government knew of bin Laden’s movements. Pervez Musharraf, who was president for most of the time bin Laden was living in Pakistan, has denied any knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts. During the decade-plus that bin Laden was in Pakistan, Musharraf said repeatedly that he was certain bin Laden was holed up in the Afghan wilderness. The ISI has long claimed that its own networks were omnipresent throughout the country’s cities. Nothing ever happened without its agents knowing about it, its officers said.
This became the conventional wisdom, although it is unclear why. Nearly every significant al Qaeda figure who has been run down has been captured in Pakistan, and most in the country’s largest cities. KSM, for example, was caught in Rawalpindi in 2003 and Zubaydah was caught a year earlier in Faisalabad. Many of the urban areas of Pakistan overflow with migrants; the comings and goings of an individual family would hardly be remarkable and probably not much noticed. Houses throughout the country are frequently walled off from neighbors. This was true of the houses where KSM and bin Laden were caught.
The ISI is not telling the truth about something. Either they have the country wired and they knew about bin Laden, or its leaders like to brag about the breadth and depth of its knowledge as a form of intimidation. The latter seems much more likely.
This doesn’t mean that no one in Pakistan knew about bin Laden’s presence. Pakistan is in many ways a fractured state. Although the army, of which the ISI is a part, is by far the most powerful entity in the country, it is not the only one. There are competing government bureaucracies, including police and intelligence agencies for whom the ISI is more rival than ally. There are functioning political parties who wield their own influences.
Any or all of these groups are shot through with corruption. The military has battled politicians for its share of the country’s wealth forever. (Ironically, the military’s economic success has led to a dramatic overbuilding in the cities; as a consequence empty dwellings and office buildings provide perfect hideouts everywhere.)
Somebody undoubtedly knew something about bin Laden’s movements, but money can buy a lot of silence, and bin Laden enjoyed more than a decade of it.
Terry McDermott is the author of Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers—Who They Were and Why They Did It and most recently of 101 Theory Drive: A Neuroscientist's Quest for Memory.
For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at

Lifting the veil on Afghanistan's female addicts
IBN live - Sun Apr 1, 1:03 am ET
Kabul: Anita lifted the sky-blue burqa from her face, revealing glazed eyes and cracked lips from years of smoking opium, and touched her saggy belly, still round from giving birth to her seventh child a month ago.
"I can't give breast milk to my baby," said the 32-year-old Anita, who like other women interviewed for this story, declined to give her full name. "I'm scared he'll get addicted."
She was huddled with other women at the UN-funded Nejat drug rehabilitation center in the old quarter of Kabul, having sneaked out of her home to avoid being stopped by her husband from going outside alone.
With little funding and no access to substitution drugs such as methadone, treatment is rudimentary at Nejat for a problem that is growing in a dirt-poor country riven by conflicts for more than three decades.
Afghanistan is the source for more than 90 percent of the world's opium, which is used to make heroin, and more of it is being grown than ever before.
While it is not uncommon to see men shooting up along the banks of the dried of up Kabul riverbed in broad daylight, women in the ultra-conservative culture of Muslim Afghanistan are expected to stay out of public view for the most part. They often have to seek permission from a male relative or husband to leave their home, and when they do they are encased in the head-to-toe burqa.
"I am not allowed to leave home for medical checks. What can I do? I am a woman," Anita said matter of factly.
Like many of Afghanistan's female drug users, Anita picked up the habit from her husband.
Like other women interviewed for this story, Anita asked that only her first name be used. Shrouded in stigma, female drug users is a topic that is almost never mentioned in Afghanistan.
They agreed to tell their stories to a reporter only through an intermediary they trusted.
Opium poppy cultivation in a country that has been growing the plant for a thousand years increased 7 percent in 2011 from the year before, due to a spike in prices and worsening security, according to a survey sponsored by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
In 2011, the farm-gate value of opium production more than doubled from 2010 to $1.4 billion and now accounts for 15 percent of the Afghan economy, the UNODC says.
Opiate consumption in Afghanistan, where it has long been a medication but in recent years has been used increasingly for recreation, is also on a sharp rise. The UNODC says Afghanistan has around one million heroin and opium addicts out of a population of 30 million, making it the world's top user per capita.
No estimates are available on how many women are addicted to opium or heroin. Nejat estimates around 60,000 women in Afghanistan regularly take illegal drugs, including hashish and marijuana.
"There has been a definite increase amongst women drug users over the last decade," said Arman Raoufi, director of harm reduction for women at Nejat.
Smoking opium costs around 200 Afghanis a day, a very expensive habit in a country where a third live beneath the poverty line. Women send their children to collect scrap and bottles to help pay for their habit, or resort to begging, extending a hand to cars from beneath their burqa on busy streets when their husbands have left home.
"My husband took on a second wife and began to ignore me, so I started to smoke his powder (opium) and now must beg," said Fauzia, 30, a petite mother of five sitting in the corner of Nejat, her embroidered floral slippers poking out from under her baggy trousers. She said she was terrified that her husband and male relatives might discover she was seeking treatment on her own at the center.
Treatment options are sorely limited. A pilot project launched two years ago by Medecins du Monde, which gives methadone to drug addicts, is the only one in the country.
The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) wants to roll it out across the country, but the Ministry of Counter-narcotics has objected, saying it would introduce yet another narcotic onto the black market.
With her five-year-old son tugging on her unwashed burqa, 30-year-old Najia said she has smoked opium for nine years.
"It is so hard for me. I have kids. I'm poor. I'm not able to work -- my husband won't allow me," said the raven-haired mother of four.
Najia said she picked up the habit from her husband after he returned from his job as a labourer in neighbouring Iran.
Raoufi at the Nejat center says the return of migrant workers and refugees, who fled to Iran and Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, and the bloody civil war and Taliban rule that followed, is the main reason behind the rise in female drug addicts.
Increased street prostitution since the fall of the Taliban, which policed the trade more rigorously than the government does today, has also contributed, he said.
Iran has the second highest heroin abuse rate in the world after Afghanistan, according to UNODC. Afghan addicts among the 1 million refugees in Iran have become such an issue Tehran has started to expel them.
"Our relatively open borders are not doing us any favours," said Feda Mohammad Paikan, who heads the NACP working under the Afghan Ministry of Public Health. "Most addicts get hooked in Iran, and many of these men have wives."
Afghanistan's female narcotics problem is now filling the country's largest women's prison, Badam Bagh or "Almond Orchard", on the outskirts of Kabul.
Of its 164 inmates, 64 are opium and heroin users, double what it was when the clinic started in 2008, said clinic doctor, Hanifa Amiri.
"There are simply more drugs out there available to women now," she said, waving a medical-gloved hand over a prison courtyard, where burqa-clad female relatives were bringing gifts of pomegranates and flat naan bread for the inmates.
With cropped black hair, a leather jacket and a henna tattoo of a scorpion on her hand, inmate Madina looks nothing like an ordinary Afghan woman.
One of seven injecting heroin users in Badam Bagh, she lives with her teenage son and daughter in prison, where she has been for seven years since she killed her husband.
She said she murdered him after he forbade her from prostituting herself to support her habit, said Madina, the only inmate at the prison who agreed to speak to Reuters.
"I would love to give it all up, but how am I meant to, as a woman?" the 37-year-old mother of two said as she scratched at the scabs on her arm, dark red from recent use.
She supports her habit by selling handmade sexual aid tools -- stuffing compacted wool into condoms -- to other inmates, several of whom have developed lesbian relationships.
HIV and AIDS is becoming a more serious issue, largely spurred by injecting drug use, and could reach the general population if not tackled properly.
A new strategy being rolled out by the health ministry to target more women in counseling and HIV testing is being met by opposition from the strong conservative forces in Afghan society.
"HIV and drug use are viewed as evil in Muslim society, and even more so for women," said specialist Mohammad Hahn Heddait, who works at the infectious diseases hospital under the ministry of health.

French diplomat doubts Afghan attack claim
AFP 31/03/2012
KABUL - A former French ambassador Saturday confirmed a plot to assassinate him and two other top Western diplomats in Afghanistan, but doubted whether the governor whose province they were in was involved.
Jean de Ponton d'Amecourt, France's ambassador to Afghanistan at the time of the alleged plot in May 2009, told AFP he doubted Abu Bakr, then governor of Kapisa, had tried to have him and the US and British ambassadors killed.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a US investigation report, said Bakr had "planned" to have the men killed during a visit to Kapisa and had also "ordered" a suicide bombing.
The three envoys abandoned their trip after receiving intelligence about an attack, however two American soldiers were killed in Kapisa in a suicide bombing.
William Patey, Britain's outgoing ambassador to Afghanistan, said the Wall Street Journal report was "credible".
De Ponton d'Amecourt said he had been given information about a "very serious" attack. "They intended to shoot us with rockets and automatic weapons," he said.
He doubted the former governor was behind it.
"Some time later, I asked the US ambassador if Abu Bakr was involved in this case and in the insurgency. He said not," the former ambassador said.
"Mr Bakr was someone extremely corrupt. We lobbied for him to be pushed out of his post, which happened. But he was not an insurgent," said de Ponton d'Amecourt.
The US embassy and ISAF, NATO's International Security Assistance Force, both declined to comment on the allegations.
The Wall Street Journal said that Bakr "has met regularly with senior Hezb-i-Islami insurgent commanders in Kapisa, providing them with weapons, police vehicles and lists of people cooperating with coalition troops, according to investigators."
The speculation over Bakr comes after a rash of incidents in which Afghan security personnel have turned their guns on their foreign colleagues.
So far this year 17 foreign troops, including at least seven Americans and five French trainers, have been killed in such shootings.
The attacks threaten to undermine efforts to train Afghan troops to take over security for the entire country ahead of the pulling out of NATO forces by the end of 2014, the cornerstone of the West's strategy in Afghanistan.
Relations between the allies have also been strained by a video of troops urinating on Taliban corpses, the burning of Korans at a US military base and a massacre of civilians by a US soldier who has been charged with 17 murders.

How Short-Term Thinking Makes the U.S. Worse at Fighting Wars
From Vietnam to Afghanistan, 12-month deployments and institutional norms have made long-term planning more difficult.
The Atlantic By Joshua Foust Mar 31 2012
In 2010, the U.S. adopted a new tactic in southern Afghanistan: it began to bulldoze entire villages to clear them of IEDs. The policy -- reminiscent of Vietnam, of destroying villages to save them -- spoke to a deeper issue with how the war was being fought. Short-term objectives were emphasized over long term planning or consequence management. Destroying villages carries enormous long-term costs for a region, and the U.S. military just wasn't paying attention to what those would be.
Soldiers, from the bottom of the ranks to the very top, are rarely sent into combat for longer than 12 months at a time. Thus, when they think about what they need to accomplish, they're thinking 12 months into the future. It's rare one can find even a four-star general who makes a campaign plan that reaches three or four years ahead.
In Vietnam, the short deployment cycle brought us the cliche that it wasn't a ten-year war, but a one year war fought ten times. This is also true in Afghanistan, where a dogged inability to learn from past mistakes defines military policy there: continued calls to build up tribal militias, create a separate local police, and repeatedly "sweep" areas of insurgents. The war effort has been spinning its wheels for years, in other words, which is why it seems to go nowhere despite all the public declarations of progress and turning points.
Is there a way to break out of this destructive spiral? This past week I was out at the Command General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, speaking with some majors who are studying how future small wars can be made better and smarter. They were an impressive bunch, grappling with huge issues in how both Afghanistan and Iraq failed to work out the way proponents or supporters thought it would. We discussed how we can better plan for operations and management in future stability operations or even counterinsurgencies (should one come about any time soon).
We arrived at an early consensus: the U.S. government is terrible at identifying and managing consequences in foreign conflicts. Bulldozing a village in Afghanistan creates enormous dependencies -- homeless people who need to be housed and fed, the reassignment of land rights in an area where they were never formalized, the destruction and then restarting of economic activity, and the possible reassignment of power relationships are just a few of the serious problems that are created by destroying a village in rural Afghanistan.
Luckily, not many villages have been bulldozed. Still, the U.S. government has made other, smaller missteps. Something as simple as giving a poor, small community the money to build things and buy food can create enormous ripple effects. That community had established relationships with nearby communities, and a settled hierarchy for self-government; adding money into that mix -- in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars a month -- destroys that fragile equilibrium. Now, that may not always be a bad thing, especially if the equilibrium is abusive, but upending it has long-term costs that need to be accounted for but currently aren't.
Is there a way to plan for such a thing? In a direct way, there is not -- humans are not very good at predicting the precise consequences of our behavior. But what can happen is for us to change our perspective. For example, why not assume that sending troops somewhere constitutes a long-term commitment?
Think of this way: when have ground troops been committed for a short-term project? It happens in some places -- Somalia in 1992, Haiti in 1994 -- but for the most part, when boots are put on the ground, they stay there for a long time. There are still 6,000 NATO troops in Kosovo, 13 years after intervening there. They still face some attacks, and Kosovar troops depend on NATO for resupply. This intervention was initially sold as a limited thing, lasting just a few months and using only air power. It has lasted well over a decade in part because, in the initial stages of the intervention, few thought there would need to be a long term presence there, and fewer still ever planned for it.
In 2002, few thought there would be 80,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan in 2012, to say nothing of 2014. As a result, the war never benefited from long-term planning or sufficient efforts to grapple with the long-term consequences of short-term U.S. and NATO decisions. If a commander didn't assume soldiers a decade later would still be dealing with the consequences of his decisions, he wouldn't make decisions that accounted for things in a decade's time -- hence, he'd make decisions with an eye only on short term gain and wouldn't keep track of consequences down the line (and future commanders might not have enough information to trace current problems back to earlier decisions).
I put this question to the majors in the classroom: what if you just assume there will still be troops there in five years? What if you assume there will be political, social, and economic consequences to your tactical decisions, and what if you assume you won't always know when they'll strike or how they'll affect future units?
It was like a lightbulb went off. This matched so much of what they'd experienced on multiple combat tours -- a confusing mixture of actions and consequences that happened so often, and with such confusing regularity (given how often units rotated in and out of the warzones) that they had an extremely difficult time keeping up.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution once you realize a problem like this. Deployments are limited to 12 months or less because of the severe strain deploying puts on soldiers and their families. In a small, messy war that relies on commanders being politicians as often as military leaders, handing over relationships from one rotation to the next is no simple task, and often requires more time than the usual RIP/TOA process.
Still, small changes to perspective can at least help commanders get better advice from their subordinates. Asking what happens two years after a troop movement or an air assault into somewhere, for example, can yield a dramatically different sense of what an operation will accomplish instead of thinking about three weeks down the road. Similarly, gauging success shouldn't happen at the end of a deployment, but at the end of the effects of that deployment's decisions -- which can sometimes be years later.
The military bureaucracy is unlikely to adopt a more long-term perspective on the conflicts it fights or in how it rewards the soldiers who fight them. Waiting for years to evaluate a commander's decisions is just not practical, and it's rare that a commander will even be in place long enough to see through a years-long campaign plan. I'm not sure yet if there even is a practical way to start making better plans for future conflicts. But even just thinking about them a bit differently -- assuming they will be long-term, and assuming there will be long-term consequences to every action and decision -- would go a long way toward making us smarter the next time we go to war.

Haqqani Network Leader Captured in Afghanistan Saturday, 31 March 2012
A Haqqani network leader was captured in central Wardak province on Saturday, Isaf said.
The leader named Sayf-ul-Rahman was accused of launching several attacks on US troops and killing civilians in the country, Isaf said in a statement.
Two of his comrades were also held during the operation in Sayed Abad district in Wardak province, it said.
It comes as the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker has told a British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, that Al Qaeda would be able to increase its presence if the West leaves Afghanistan prematurely.
His comments come as the US is preparing to withdraw the bulk of the surge this year and plan to end transition to Afghan forces next year.
"If we decide we're tired, they'll be back," Ambassador Crocker has warned.
The foreign troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and Afghan security forces will take full security responsibility.

At southern Afghan outpost, U.S. soldiers prepare for transition
McClatchy Newspapers
By Adam Ashton Sunday, April 1, 2012
MIZAN, Afghanistan - Last year, Taliban threats and buried roadside bombs kept farmers from selling their fruit at marketplaces outside this small community in southern Afghanistan. Similar intimidation stopped residents from sending their children to school or attending their bazaar.
Change has come slowly, but the road is now open and ready for harvest traffic this fall. So is the Mizan bazaar. Children, including girls, are learning to read at a mosque while the district governor negotiates a deal to open five schools.
"Mizan is open for business," said Command Sgt. Maj. James Coroy, the top enlisted officer in the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, which ended its deployment here last week and made way for cavalry troops from the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, Wash.
As they prepare to turn over this district in Zabul province to Afghan forces later this year, the American soldiers could point to signs of hope as well as to ongoing challenges as the U.S.-led NATO coalition pushes ahead with the security transition in the country. The soldiers are aware of calls to hasten the American withdrawal, and many expect the transition to take place well before President Barack Obama's announced drawdown target of 2014.
Their challenges include bomb-making Taliban cells in nearby villages and ancestral ties that keep some families looking to neighboring Pakistan to settle their disputes instead of to their own government.
Their assets are a well-regarded governor and Afghan forces who are planning their own missions to disrupt the Taliban. Afghan troops man five checkpoints along the road from Mizan to Qalat, the provincial capital; they're keeping the two-lane highway open for commerce.
The Afghan army "will stay and fight," said Maj. Dave Polizzotti, 36, the cavalry squadron's executive officer. "These guys have a sense of duty, a sense of purpose."
Last week, the small combat outpost was packed as the Alaska soldiers ended their deployments and the Lewis-McChord troops — Stryker soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division _laid the groundwork for a new high-level Army advisory team that's moving in to coach the Afghan police, the last phase of NATO's transition to Afghan control.
Insurgents attacked the outpost — which looks over a farming community next to the Arghandab River — a handful of times last summer. In July, a drone aircraft captured images of 16 armed insurgents moving in a valley on the other side of a nearby mountain. American aircraft destroyed them before they could enter the Mizan valley.
One of the most trying times for the Alaska soldiers came in January, when a man who was wearing an Afghan uniform shot and killed Pfc. Dustin Napier of London, Ky., on another American base in Zabul province. Napier belonged to the same company as the soldiers here, and many knew him.
The shooting, as with dozens of other "green-on-blue" killings over the past few years, seemed to strike at the heart of the NATO-Afghan cooperation that's essential to ending the war on a positive note. But the American officer who commanded the outpost for the past year said the shooting didn't weaken the bonds that had been forged with the Afghan army company attached to the outpost.
"We'd been together for six months by then," said Capt. Greg Benjamin, 26, of Boise, Idaho. "We'd been in firefights together. We fought the Taliban together. l trusted them."
Likewise, he strove to retain the Afghans' trust in their U.S. counterparts. Benjamin defused some unrest about the burnings of Qurans by U.S. personnel Feb. 20 at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan, explaining to Mizan elders that the soldiers weren't a part of his platoon and their actions didn't represent the intentions of the U.S. Army.
News of the killings of 17 Afghan civilians March 11 allegedly at the hands of Lewis-McChord Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Kandahar province hasn't caused a ripple of protest here, Benjamin said.
While the Alaska team was proud to help open the roads and the bazaar, it's still waiting to see Afghans make full use of those projects. About five shops are open in the bazaar, up from none when the team arrived. But that's well below the estimated 50 shops that were in business five years ago before security deteriorated, a Mizan elder said.
Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeff Stewart said they'd listened to what Mizan Gov. Mohammed Zarif wanted to accomplish and aimed to build Zarif's credibility by acting on his plans and steering requests for assistance through him.
"Everything we did was something the district governor said was important and the elders would protect," Stewart said.
They passed out small radios and changed the programming from NATO messages to ones Zarif wanted, making the communication tools instantly more popular.
Stewart said the battalion had spent less than $100,000 on community assistance projects, mostly small efforts to spur commerce in the bazaar or to help the Afghans build irrigation networks.
The only failures they saw were NATO efforts that foisted American concepts on Afghan people, such as a large, concrete dam that collapsed and an agricultural cooperative that didn't fit in with the Afghan style of farming.
In a meeting with Mizan elders last week, Stewart pointedly sidestepped Zarif's requests for a new cellphone tower and for 60 men to gather intelligence against the Taliban. Neither request could be achieved without NATO's pocketbooks, and Zarif's inability to execute similar proposals in the future could discredit him among the district's elders.
"We're looking for projects that are sustainable," Benjamin said.
Two weeks ago, Afghan soldiers planned and executed a 10-day sweep of neighboring villages with minimal American assistance. A homemade bomb during the mission wounded Mizan's district chief of police. Other bombs hit several Afghan soldiers.
Attempting to deny the Taliban a propaganda victory, Zarif took to his radio broadcast to tell Mizan that the police chief survived and would return to duty. Benjamin asked the police chief to record a message from his stretcher telling residents that the Taliban couldn't kill him.
"Hopefully things are all right, but we need time," Zarif said.
Elders considered the Afghan army mission a success; there were no complaints about soldiers misbehaving during home searches, Zarif said.
The Americans were pleased that the only resources they'd needed to provide were food and air support.
"The cake is almost done baking here, " said Lt. Jason Oberoi, the new platoon leader from the Lewis-McChord squadron, who lives in Lacey, Wash. "They are close to being independent."
Zarif is turning his attention to building schools now that NATO and the Afghan army have followed through on his requests for more security checkpoints. He's pursuing schools in spite of Taliban threats against him, but of course he doesn't get the only vote in determining whether they succeed. Taliban intimidation could keep children from attending.
"The physical changes are easy," Coroy said. "It's the psychological ones that take work."
Mizan elder Mohammed Nayim exemplified that contradiction at a meeting in front of his home this week with Oberoi and Benjamin. Nayim told the officers that security was the best it had been in years. Even so, he wouldn't promise to send his children to school, no matter how much he wants them to have an education.
He also said Taliban threats had compelled two shop owners in his small village to close, because they'd been selling goods to Afghan soldiers and police. Benjamin and Oberoi implored Nayim to move his shop to Mizan's main bazaar, the one they'd helped reopen.
"You will be rich," Benjamin said.
"I am waiting for the people," Nayim said.
(Ashton reports for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash.)

Marine sergeant receives Silver Star for bravery in Afghanistan
March 31, 2012 | 12:37pm Los Angeles Times,
The ambush was quick and intense on that Thanksgiving Day 2010 in Sangin, Afghanistan, long a Taliban stronghold.
The platoon commander was killed and his Marines were under withering small-arms fire by Taliban fighters.
Sgt. Ryan T. Sotelo, a squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, took charge immediately, military officials said, dashing through heavy enemy fire to retrieve the body of 1st Lt. William Donnelly IV.
In the minutes that followed, Sotelo called for backup, led a counterattack to repel an enemy assault, killed one Taliban fighter with a grenade, and then killed a Taliban machine-gunner with his personal weapon.
Rather than wait for air cover, Sotelo led his Marines in a "fighting withdrawal" more than 600 yards through enemy fire.
On Friday at Camp Pendleton, the 29-year-old Sotelo, from San Mateo, Calif., was awarded the Silver Star for "bold leadership, wise judgment and complete dedication to duty" during the attack.

General warns of 'endless cycle' in Afghanistan
DW 31/03/2012
At the beginning of March, Major General Markus Kneip handed over the reins of the ISAF mission to his successor. This week he spoke to press in Berlin about his deployment to Afghanistan.
Major General Markus Kneip seemed cautious, serious and modest during his press appearance in Berlin. It's only been a few weeks since he handed over command for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to his successor, Erich Pfeffer.
In front of the Berlin press he explained how ISAF's partnership with local Afghan security forces developed, what the problem areas are and what tasks international troops need to accomplish before leaving the country. Kneip, however, did not mention his own fate - last May he was wounded during an explosion and required two months of treatment in Germany before returning to Afghanistan.
Safety first
International cooperation in northern Afghanistan is particularly important, Kneip said, adding that the region is currently home to troops from 21 countries. This makes a high degree of communication crucial.
He said he was always kept well informed by US commanders General David Petraeus and his successor General John Allen. In northern Afghanistan, Germany provides services to troops from several other countries, some of whom serve in German uniforms.
After several deadly confrontations with Afghan rebels, the main focus of attention has been the security of military facilities and their surroundings. Bases have been outfitted with cameras and surveillance balloons. Biometric information is also used to uncover and identify potential attackers.
Close contact with Afghan partners and the public is also a key element of the security plan. Kneip said if German troops can't keep themselves safe, they cannot be a serious and trustworthy partner for the local population.
"If we're not safe we're not going to get anywhere," he said.
Deadly dangers for ISAF troops
The main threat to ISAF troops remain traps set with explosives and insider threats, or Afghans who cooperate with rebels and suddenly turn against international forces. Six soldiers were wounded and three German troops were killed in February 2011 when a uniformed Afghan soldier opened fire from a position outside a base.
"It could happen again at any time," Kneip warned.
However, it's attacks from the Taliban or improvised explosive devices hidden along roads that claim the most lives. The German general said improved cooperation with Afghan security forces remains key, adding that Germany's Bundeswehr troops should not be forced to maintain isolated positions while Afghan soldiers stay in their barracks.
Overall, according to Kneip, the security situation has clearly improved. Incidents have fallen by between 40 and 70 percent, he said, before adding that for a solider this was still unsatisfactory. His goal was to eliminate attacks.
"I judge every fallen solider or dead innocent person as a damage to my personal image," he said.
Cooperation with civilians
Cooperation between the military and civilian population is also in need of improvement, Kneip said. Numerous development groups have been active in northern Afghanistan and engaged in multifaceted projects.
Kneip said he attempted to improve contact with civilian aid groups and added that he wished there were more transparency between the military and aid groups, including the human rights organizations Afghan Independent Human Rights Watch and the United Nation's mission to Afghanistan.
Consultations with local leaders when it comes to civilian development also needs to be expanded, he said. The German government has significantly increased its financial commitment to civilian projects in Afghanistan, but according to Kneip the implementation of government plans is lacking.
"It's an endless cycle," he said. "You have the feeling you'll never reach the end."
Author: Bettina Marx / sms Editor: Martin Kuebler (