View Full Version : [Afghan News] April 10, 2012

04-11-2012, 04:01 PM
Twin Suicide Attacks Kill 15 in Afghanistan
VOA News April 10, 2012
Suicide bombers have killed at least 15 people in two separate attacks in western and southern Afghanistan, raising fears of a renewed spring offensive by insurgents.
Officials say at least 11 people were killed, including three policemen, in a suicide car bombing outside a local government facility near the capital of the western province of Herat.
The militants, who were being pursued by police, detonated their explosives after being told to stop their vehicle on an airport road in Guzara district. Officials say one of the bombers was wearing a burqa.
At least 23 people were wounded in the attack.
Hours later, officials in the southern province of Helmand said at least four policemen were killed when three bombers stormed a police compound in the district of Musa Qala. The police commander was wounded in the attack.
Two of the assailants were able to set off their explosives, while a third was shot dead by police.
The Associated Press reports that the Taliban has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Herat province, which borders Iran, is normally relatively peaceful, with most insurgent attacks concentrated in Afghanistan's south and east.
Observers are concerned the Taliban may attempt a repeat of last year's spike in violence during the warmer spring months, which saw several high-profile attacks on Afghan and foreign bases.
NATO troops have already transferred security control of large portions of Afghanistan to local authorities. All foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014.

Afghanistan night-raid deal: Does it handcuff US forces?
While the deal gives Afghanistan legal and military 'ownership' over the night raids, on a practical level US forces still have leverage and flexibility, especially to react quickly to intelligence.
Christian Science Monitor By Anna Mulrine, Staff writer April 9, 2012
Washington - The Pentagon has just negotiated its way out of a major stumbling block in its long-term relationship with the Afghan government: night raids conducted by US forces.
Under an agreement reached Sunday, Afghan commandos will now “take the lead” in night operations, heavily supported by US special operations forces. An Afghan judicial panel will also have to sign off on these raids with a warrant.
Though the agreement is a vital to an Afghan government under intense political pressure from civilians concerned about the intrusiveness of the raids, in practical terms not much is likely to change from the perspective of US troops.
Though the new memorandum of understanding now requires that the military obtain a warrant within 72 hours of conducting a night raid, these warrants may also be issued after a raid in cases in which intelligence requires quick action.
“That leaves the door open for some flexibility,” says Jeffrey Dressler, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “So if there’s something that needs to be done quickly, and we can’t necessarily wait three days, then it can be sort of retroactive.”
Will this sort of flexibility delegitimize the process in the eyes of the Afghans? Mr. Dressler argues that it does not, but rather “provides an outlet for quick emergency action.”
He points out that the Afghan judicial panel could also refuse to issue a warrant retroactively, which would then require the release of any suspected insurgents scooped up in the raids.
Yet US forces are likely to have some measure of leverage in the issuing of warrants, senior officials say. Though Afghan forces have long been “in the lead” for a variety of missions, including securing the capital city of Kabul, Afghan troops still rely on US forces for nearly all of their operating needs, including supplies, intelligence analysis, and money for salaries.
The greater worry, however, is that the process of securing warrants might lead to leaks that could tip off insurgents that they may be the target of a raid, say some officials.
Another key question is going to be “exactly how well these Afghan judicial panels function,” Dressler says. Will the military “be able to wait three days for an Afghan judicial panel to authorize a raid? I think that’s not always going to be realistic.”
Yet in conducting the raids themselves, Afghan special forces are widely considered some of the best-trained and most effective units operating in the country.
In recent congressional testimony, Gen. John Allen, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, pointed out that in the 2,200 night raids conducted last year, Afghan forces took part in most of them, with a civilian casualty rate of less than 1.5 percent.
This sort of competence could in turn help US forces carry out a smoother exit strategy. “With conventional Afghan forces, you really have to drill down with what it means to be ‘partnered’ ” with US forces, Dressler says.
Not so with these special-forces commandos, military officials add. “The Afghan special operations units have developed at extraordinary speed and are manned by courageous and capable operators,” Allen noted in a statement during the signing of the memorandum Sunday.
US officials are also hoping that the new agreement undercuts Taliban propaganda efforts now that Afghan troops officially “own” these operations, Dressler says.
“The important thing here more than anything is symbolic,” he adds. “If something goes wrong the Afghans can step up and say that this wasn’t an American operation or American forces preying on the Afghan populace.”

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: What the End of U.S. Night Raids Means for Afghanistan
TIME By John Wendle Monday, Apr. 09, 2012
Kabul - Night raid. The phrase bears with it images of both daring and terror — from a SEAL team taking down Osama bin Laden to a sinister midnight knock on the door in Soviet times. In Afghanistan, the night raid is altogether more miserable: resulting often in civilian deaths and worsening relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. The collateral damage of coalition raids has also been a stumbling block toward an accord over the nature of the announced U.S. troop withdrawal at the end of 2014. Early Sunday evening that obstacle was removed with a stroke of the pen when General John Allen, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and General Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afghan Defense Minister, signed an agreement that only Afghan forces can raid homes at night.
Now, along with the transfer of the Parwan Detention Facility on March 8 to Afghan control, two of the final barriers preventing a agreement over a post-2014 strategic partnership have been removed. This has left the White House, Pentagon and Afghan officials all heralding another milestone toward Afghan sovereignty, which will pave the way toward an eventual U.S. withdrawal. But according to some observers, this hasty American pullback may have far less rosy consequences. A closer look at the memorandum of understanding on night raids obtained by TIME shows that the U.S. gets nothing out of the agreement. What this could mean in the long run is that Karzai may have shot himself in the foot — since he may no longer be able trade access to intelligence gathered through raids for foreign aid money. It also points to the White House's waning appetite to fight the war in Afghanistan.
The agreement signed Sunday says that only an all-Afghan body called the Afghan Operational Coordination Group can approve night raids and that these raids will be carried out only by the Afghan Special Operations Unit, which will be made up of Afghan army, police and intelligence personnel. Searches of houses must be done in accordance with Afghan law, and houses will only be searched by Afghan forces. Importantly, the document also says that U.S. forces can support "only as required or requested." Afghan judicial and investigative mechanisms will be established to issue "timely and operationally secure judicial authorizations." And, besides promising to help train and improve the Afghan raid squads, the U.S. will also be expected to cooperate in a full range of support roles from intelligence sharing to air support and transport. Finally, the agreement says that any Afghans detained outside of these Afghan raids are to be released or transferred to Afghan authorities.
All of this means that night raids are not going to end anytime soon — regardless of the outcry from Afghan civilians or rights groups, who have in the past complained of U.S. and NATO troops running roughshod over the lives and rights of innocent civilians during such nocturnal missions. Night raids "are very useful and remove the irreconcilable insurgents, allowing more time and space for moderates on all sides to find a middle ground," says a U.S. Army captain with experience in southern Afghanistan, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Besides taking radical and mid- and high-ranking Taliban off the battlefield, "night raids, and the threat of these raids, force Taliban leaders and support elements to take significant security precautions to avoid detection, which makes it more difficult to plan, coordinate and direct attacks and other subversive activities," says Joseph Felter, the commander of the NATO counterinsurgency advisory and assistance team from 2010 to 2011 and current professor at Stanford's C
enter for International Security and Cooperation. Seth Jones, a Rand Corporation political analyst and sometime adviser to the U.S. Special Operations Command, agrees with the U.S. Army captain and Felter, but adds that "night [and day] raids are useful, but they are not a magic bullet."
For the most part, everyone TIME spoke to agreed that the Afghan Special Operations Unit is indeed ready to take over from U.S. Special Forces. "The Afghan Special Operations Unit that has partnered with U.S. Special Operations Forces has become better in conducting night raids — in planning operations, collecting intelligence, and conducting tactical maneuvers," says Jones. "In addition, other Afghan forces — such as the Afghan Army Commandos and Afghan Army Special Forces — can also conduct direct action and other missions." Felter tells TIME that the U.S. Special Forces he talked to in 2010-2011 were "very impressed with the quality and readiness of these [commandos]." He adds that Afghan commandos lead "close to half" of night raids already. Altogether, 97% of night raids involve Afghan forces, 40% are led by Afghan troops, 89% occur without a shot fired, and less than 1% result in civilian casualties, says Pentagon press secretary George Little.
But at the same time, problems are just around the corner. Says Felter: "Fielding forces capable of carrying out these complex missions requires significant investments in the training, leadership and human capital of these forces. If night raids are carried out by less well trained and equipped Afghan national security forces, or the quality of the commandos is compromised, we can expect poorer performance. Also, even the commandos will need significant coalition intelligence and mobility support to execute these raids effectively."
When asked what problems could arise if the Afghan Special Operations Unit proves to not be up to the task, Felter says that "if these raids result in a significant amount of collateral damage and/or civilian casualties and fail to effectively interdict their intended targets, then Afghan forces will lose credibility and provide the Taliban with greater opportunity to discredit them in the eyes of the local population."
At the same time, Rand's Jones says he does not believe "the relationship between NATO and U.S. forces and Afghan civilians has ever hinged on one factor, including night raids." He adds that this "will not significantly change the relationship. The United States will continue to conduct night and day raids. The Afghan Special Operations Unit will take over the lead responsibility for conducting them. In reality, this will likely be more of a political than a military shift."
Indeed, says one Afghan rights activist who spoke on condition of anonymity, the whole outcry over night raids is "nothing more from President Karzai than a populist gesture to show the Afghan people that he's standing against the international forces — that he is not a puppet but a president."
But, in the end, a valuable trade mechanism may have been broken by Karzai's insistence on this deal. Currently, some 90% of the government's budget depends on foreign funding and about 97% of the country's GDP depends on foreign aid and international military spending. One foreign observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says that now that the U.S.'s direct access to intelligence from detainees has been effectively cut off by these agreements, Washington will be less likely to continue funding the Afghan government. In effect, it seems to the observer that by getting nothing out of this agreement and losing so much control, the U.S. may be signaling that it has had enough and is giving up on the war. The observer says that a lack of new funds offered at the upcoming donor conference in Tokyo in July could be an indication not only of tough economic times, but also that the U.S. sees it can not get anything useful out of its relationship with Afghanistan.
Even if such speculation proves true, the U.S. will continue to have a strong Special Forces footprint in Afghanistan — especially as high-profile jihadists remain at large. Although Felter believes the agreement on night raids "is an important gesture and precedent. We'll be turning over many, many more missions to Afghan security forces in the coming months and years. I think we will be impressed with the Afghan Army Commandos, and they'll perform well if we can maintain their current quality and level of intelligence and mobility support." But the U.S.'s cowboys aren't riding into the sunset. "That said, I anticipate that certain targets — should they present themselves — would warrant stacking the deck with the 'varsity team' [with U.S. Special Forces] as long as they are available — should a guy like [Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad] Omar or [al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-]Zawahiri stray across the border." For some jobs, Washington will still stalk the dark.

How restrictive is the night raid deal?
CNN Analysis by Adam Levine April 9th, 2012
The agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan on night raids raises the question of whether the Afghan government is essentially getting veto authority over U.S. military actions in the war, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
But a top military spokesman disputed the characterization, saying that the Afghans are the ones putting the missions together and leading them, with intelligence being provided by both the U.S. and Afghanistan.More than 97% of the night operations are combined missions, and almost 40% of night operations are now Afghan-led, according to International Security Forces of Afghanistan data. Since December 2011, all night raids have been Afghan-led, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby, who said the agreement was merely "formalizing" the process.
"They are in lead of all these operations," he said.
Since December, there have been more than 350 operations, according to Kirby, who said that in 270 of those missions, the target of the operation was detained with shots being fired only 31 times.
"This is a very capable force," he said.
Kirby denied that the agreement cedes responsibilities or lets Afghans veto U.S. operations.
"This is not about a veto at all," he said.
"There aren't and haven't been disputes or disagreements about whether or not to develop an operation. It's based on confirmed - as I said, confirmed - intelligence from various sources and means," Kirby told reporters during a teleconference Monday afternoon. "And when the team has confidence that a target has been identified, they plan and execute that mission accordingly."
The night raid agreement is similar to the protocol agreed to in Iraq in the final years of the war, said CNN military contributor Gen. Spider Marks, who was a senior intelligence officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
As intelligence in Iraq was developed and targets were finalized, an Iraqi lawyer attached to Joint Special Operations Command would determine probable cause, Marks explained.
Operations were then approved or denied based on the "veracity and credibility of the intelligence." Among the considerations were access, reliability of the information and the sources, and potential for collateral damage assessments. U.S. military lawyers were always part of this decision-making process.
"Once in play, it worked exceptionally well, very quick decision timeline, full trust between coalition and Iraqis," Marks told Security Clearance. "Intelligence was never in question; it was a sovereignty issue."
Operations can happen without a warrant, though a warrant needs to be pursued afterward.
Kirby insisted that is not something "people are going to take advantage of" routinely.
But there are areas not covered by the agreement. Other NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan are not covered by the agreement, just American forces. In addition, night raids by other entities, including CIA-trained units, are not covered by the agreement, The New York Times reported Monday.

Special Operations, a New Test for Afghan Security Forces Monday, 09 April 2012
Afghan experts said Monday that the country's armed forces would struggle to lead the unpopular military special operations, with one analyst describing yesterday's deal with the US as "propaganda".
The agreement signed between Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and top US military commander General John Allen on Sunday handed leadership of the controversial "night raids" to Afghan forces.
Military analyst and former general Jawed Kohistani said he believed the US would continue conducting night raids without Afghan approval, and that the agreement was merely a win for Karzai in the form of pro-government "propaganda".
"I think US forces will continue their operations in the future. I don't believe this agreement will stop US forces from the serious and crucial operations they are launching against terrorist groups in Afghanistan," he told TOLOnews.
"This deal is just a type of media propaganda to reduce some of the weight on President Karzai in front of Afghans."
He pointed out that the agreement was necessary for the long-term strategic pact with the US to move ahead, but it did not mean the Afghan forces had the necessary skills to conduct the special operations.
"Right now the Afghan forces don't have enough experience and don't have the proper equipment to launch such operations," he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai had long demanded an end to night raids, saying they were an affront to Afghan sovereignty and cultural traditions.
He later changed his demand to that of handing authority for the night raids to Afghans, making this a requirement before he would sign a long-term agreement with the US.
Kabul University law and political science professor Faizullah Jalal also voiced concerns about the terms of the agreement.
He said keeping operations such as night raids in accordance with Afghanistan's constitution would create a series of problems.
"When it comes to fighting, the top military commander will give the orders, but as far as searching homes is concerned, it will require a judicial warrant," he said.
The deal says only Afghan forces are allowed to enter residential homes and private compounds, with US forces to be involved only in a supporting role "as required or requested".
However, vice chair of the Rights and Justice Party Moien Marastiyal said that he saw the deal as a positive move towards expanding the co-ordination between Afghan security forces and guaranteeing the sovereignty of Afghanistan.
"It's an important step to guarantee the national sovereignty," he told TOLOnews.
"It was the demand of the Afghan people that night operations and house searches should be conducted by Afghan forces."
Yet residents of southern Kandahar province, where a large part of the night operations have been conducted, have called for all night raids to end.
The residents insist that no military personnel, including Afghan forces, should be allowed to enter houses without prior permission.
As for the expansion of co-ordination between security forces, Kohistani was critical again, citing fears of intelligence leaking to the insurgents and regional countries if Afghan forces take control of special operations.
In spite of the criticisms, the deal paves the way for the signing of the Afghan-US long-term strategic agreement, outlining the US' commitment to Afghanistan for the decade after combat troops officially withdraw in 2014.
The US provides about 90,000 of the 130,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.
A gradual withdrawal of foreign troops is underway, slated for completion by the end of 201

Afghanistan, India Sign Framework Deal On Ore Investments
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan April 10, 2012
KABUL -- Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani says Kabul and New Delhi have signed a legal framework to allow Indian investors to participate in developing his country's ore industry.
Shahrani told a press conference in Kabul that the agreement allows Indian state and private companies to extract iron ore and invest in future steel production in Afghanistan.
Under the agreement, New Delhi is to encourage companies both to invest and to provide vocational training for Afghan workers in ore extraction and steel technologies.
Indian Steel Minister Shri Beni Prasad Verma told the joint press conference that India is also interested in investing in natural gas and oil in Afghanistan.
India is among the world's largest steel producers.
According to the Afghan government, the country's mineral resources are worth up to $3 trillion.

Afghanistan Seeks Bidders For First Telecommunications Satellite
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan April 10, 2012
KABUL -- Afghan Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amir Zai Sangin says that country will accept bids from investors to build and place in orbit its first telecommunications satellite.
Sangin told RFE/RL's Afghan Service that the cost of the satellite will be approximaely $250 million and selection of the winning investor will be finalized within six months.
Afghanistan has one assigned space in geosynchronous orbit for a satellite under international agreements but has never used it.
Sangin said the satellite's orbital position is attractive to investors because it allows for providing telecommunications services across the country.
Afghanistan's telecommunications market has been expanding dramatically over the past 10 years, but much is still concentrated in the capital.
The winning bidder will reportedly be allowed to earn back the initial investment by providing channels for businesses such as private television and telecommunications companies.

Afghanistan's unrelenting war on women
Washington Post By Michelle Bernard 09/04/2012
There is absolutely a war on women being waged right now. In Afghanistan.
According to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday, women in Afghanistan are being arrested for “moral crimes,” including such treasons as running away from abusive husbands and fleeing child marriages. Some women were even kidnapped, accused of having sex with their kidnappers, and consequently thrown in jail.
Human Rights Watch reports that, while accurate statistics are not publicly available, there were approximately 400 women and girls imprisoned in Afghanistan for “moral crimes.” That turns out to be about half of all adult women and all the teenage girls currently locked up in the country.
Little has been done to right this wrong. In 2009, Afghan president Hamid Karzai passed the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, banning forced and underage marriages, domestic violence, rape, and other abuses against women. Yet, as Human Rights Watch reports, many of the police officers in the country either ignore this law or ignore testimony from the abused women because they are considered immoral and liars.
Add to this these women can rarely go back to their families when they are released from their long jail terms. They are accused of shaming their families for their actions.
Some brave non-governmental organizations have set up shelters for these women in the country, but they are few and far between and considered anything but safe. One woman was even arrested in a shelter for fleeing her abusive husband.
While, since the end of the Taliban rule, women’s rights have expanded in Afghanistan, the progress is far from enough. Education is more accessible, yet half of all girls still don’t attend school. Human Rights Watch also reports that an Afghan woman or girl dies of pregnancy-related causes every two hours, often because girls are forced to marry young and have children before their bodies are ready.
There are heroic programs right now helping Afghan women participate in democracy, launch their own businesses, rebuild their lives after surviving war, and even help govern their country. The National Democratic Institute, the Women’s Democracy Network of the International Republican Institute, the George W. Bush Institute, and Women for Women International are just a few of the organizations working to advance women’s human rights in Afghanistan.
Still, until we can assure these women’s safety, until they can walk down a street without fear of being kidnapped, until they can report abuse to local authorities with the knowledge that, not only will they not be thrown in jail but their claims will be taken seriously and honestly investigated, the future for Afghan women, their children and their country is bleak.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the 1995 U.N. Women’s Conference in Beijing, “ human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Women are the lifeblood of all nations and as long as Afghanistan fails to recognize the equal rights and humanity of its women, it is destined to fail as a nation. Afghanistan must wake up.
Michelle D. Bernard is the president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy. Follow her on Twitter @michellebernard. (