World's Largest Online Pashtun Community

Go Back   "Pull out your swords and slay anyone that says Pashtun and Afghan are not one! Arabs know this and so do Romans: Afghans are Pashtuns, Pashtuns are Afghans!" -Khushal Khattak > >
Reload this Page [Afghan News] December 8, 2011
User Tag List

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
(#1)
Old
یاسمینه's Avatar
یاسمینه یاسمینه is offline
PF senior
یاسمینه is on a distinguished road
 
Posts: 2,711
Thanks: 663
Thanked 957 Times in 620 Posts
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Join Date: Jul 2011
Default [Afghan News] December 8, 2011 - 02-26-2012, 07:03 AM

Afghan General Survives Assassination Attempt
By TAIMOOR SHAH and ROD NORDLAND The New York Times December 8, 2011
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The bomb under the general’s chair was pretty clearly an inside job.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Hameed’s chair was on a dais full of military dignitaries, including American trainers, as he officiated at a graduation ceremony here for 200 Afghan National Army sergeants on Thursday.
“The enemy of this country wanted to kill me,” General Hameed, the highest-ranking Afghan officer in the south, said moments after the explosion, his voice shaking. He was reached by cellphone.
The ceremony was inside the training center of the A.N.A.’s 205th Corps, nicknamed the Atal Corps, or Hero Corps. The insurgents had managed to penetrate at least three rings of heavy security around the base, sneak onto the dais and rig five grenades together under the general’s chair, with a remote-controlled detonator attached, General Hameed said.
Fortunately, the insurgents once again proved better at infiltration than at munitions. Just as fortunately, the order of the ceremony changed at the last minute. Having given his speech, the general sat down, but got back up to start handing out graduation certificates when the grenades were set off by remote control.
The bomb was more embarrassing than lethal, wounding only one soldier who was close by.
“The blast was powerful enough though,” General Hameed said. “It demolished the chair where I had been sitting. I could have died if I were on it, but thank God I was not.” He sounded both amazed and angry.
The kind of remote-control device used had to have been set off from somewhere relatively nearby, certainly within the sprawling training center, which is near the major American military base at Kandahar Air Field. “We are investigating the event, and soon we will find the plotters,” General Hameed said.
It was a reminder of the ease with which the Taliban have been able to infiltrate even the most heavily guarded Afghan facilities, particularly in this southern city that was their original power center.
This year, an insurgent infiltrated the Afghan Army and worked as a medic for six months, until one day in October when he strapped on a suicide vest and tried to enter the crowded bank branch at the 205th Corps headquarters. He was stopped before he entered and shot by guards, but he detonated his explosives, wounding three people.
Last April, a series of attacks took place. First, a police officer who infiltrated the Kandahar Police Department sidled up to the police chief, Gen. Khan Mohammad Mujahid, and set off a suicide bomb, killing him.
Then someone in an army uniform sneaked into the heavily guarded headquarters of the 201st Corps in Laghman Province, in eastern Afghanistan, and detonated a suicide bomb, killing five NATO soldiers.
Another insurgent in an Afghan Army uniform shot his way into the headquarters compound of the Ministry of Defense in Kabul wearing a suicide vest and carrying a rifle; he killed two soldiers but was shot before he could detonate his explosives.
And later in April, 500 Taliban insurgents escaped en masse from the Sarposa Prison in Kandahar, through tunnels that took months to build and were an open secret around the prison. The warden and nine other prison officials were arrested and charged with aiding the escapees.
In July, the powerful Kandahar provincial council chairman, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a half brother of President Hamid Karzai, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. At his funeral, a suicide bomber with a bomb hidden in his turban killed several mourners. And two weeks later, a man posing as a tribal elder hid a bomb in his turban and killed the Kandahar mayor.
Infiltration is a worrisome problem for the NATO coalition and the Afghan government as they seek to rapidly increase the size of Afghanistan’s army, which now has about 175,000 troops, in a country without identity cards, where even birth certificates do not exist. Compounding the need for constant recruitment, the A.N.A. attrition rate is now about 24 percent annually, according to NATO statistics. That means nearly a fourth of all Afghan soldiers quit or desert every year.

U.S., allies must stay committed to Afghanistan
By Marco Vicenzino, Special to CNN Thu December 8, 2011
Editor's note: Marco Vicenzino runs the Global Strategy Project, a nonprofit global political risk and business advisory firm.
(CNN) -- Ten years after the fall of the Taliban, the horrific attack in Kabul on Shiite worshippers, in which nearly 60 people were killed, bolsters the prevailing perception that the Afghan War is a hopeless conflict with no end in sight. Politicians from across the political spectrum in the United States and other states that supported the mission are rushing to the exit door amid mounting public opposition and deteriorating economies.
Despite these perceptions, Afghanistan is not a lost cause. But it continues to be an uphill struggle, because the nation has not yet achieved a level of sustainable progress that would guarantee long-term security and self-sufficiency.
The attack makes it clear that the insurgency likely will not be defeated by December 2014 when full transition to Afghan control is scheduled. The objectives must be to downgrade the insurgency to the point where it is no longer a threat to the Afghan state and Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for extremists. As the international mission's size and scope decreases over time, a long-term international commitment beyond transition is required.
In retrospect, there is plenty of room to spread blame, both internal and external, for failures and shortcomings. While Afghanistan, with international assistance, has been trying to engage in critical state-building since 2001, President Hamid Karzai has often hampered this process. His announcement that he would resign by 2014 provides relief to many -- but much damage, possibly permanent and irreversible, has already been done.
The Western orientation and emphasis on the importance of the central government was misguided from the start. Only a bottom-up approach, and not top-down, with an emphasis on robust local government, can guarantee long-term stability.
Before the 1979 Soviet invasion, the Afghan central government mobilized resources and security and recognition of local authority. Real decision-making was traditionally at the local level. The Soviet invasion turned this structure upside down.
Greater progress in Afghanistan is likely to be achieved more by muddling through on an ad hoc basis than it is by Western-style master plans and statistical targets. It is more realistic to judge progress within the context of evolving Afghan dynamics than through the expectations of Western policy-makers.
I recently traveled to Afghanistan as a guest of the NATO-sponsored Transatlantic Opinion Leaders delegation. NATO gave us access to the highest officials to gain detailed understanding of the operations and mission there.
The bottom line is that desired change requires time and patience. However, the United States, which provides most of the Afghan funding, and allies are running out of patience and have economic woes of their own.
From 2001 to 2009, the international mission was disjointed and plagued by inefficiency. The year 2009 marked the surge, the first real concerted effort to turn the tide through a comprehensive approach.
Although its primary purpose was to buy time for Afghan security forces to build up, it included a considerable civilian component. The architect of the surge, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, recently said the coalition was "a little better than" halfway to achieving its military ambitions.
A long road lies ahead. President Karzai admitted his government and NATO have "failed to provide Afghans with security." Ultimately, whichever side can provide security will prevail. But security is not just physical protection -- it also includes access to jobs, opportunities, health, education and credible dispute resolution.
There have been positive developments. On the military front, recruitment and training of security forces has improved. The attrition rate has lowered from 70% to 20% for the Afghan National Police and 30% for the Afghan National Army. Better pay and working with international forces have contributed. But expanding training and mentoring programs beyond 2014 is critical.
Combat operations involving Afghan troops and international forces is proceeding gradually, but at a constructive pace. This has been marked by considerable advances in southern Afghanistan over the past year. More effective night raids, accompanied by lethal drone attacks, have played a key role.
Outreach to different insurgents and neighboring states is critical to Afghanistan's long-term stability. The reconciliation process has suffered from major reversals, including the recent accidental killing of more than 20 Pakistani troops by NATO and the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan president and head of High Peace Council.
The threats and challenges to Afghanistan's future that have emerged over the last 10 years include ethnic strife, corruption and criminality, insurgents' external sanctuaries, undermining by neighboring states and dwindling staying power of the international mission.
But the greatest threat to the country's future economically and otherwise may be insufficient development. Afghanistan's poor oversight of its banking system and fraud at Kabul Bank, the country's largest private bank, led to millions of dollars in losses.
The International Monetary Fund stopped its credit program for more than a year. Despite the IMF's recent decision to renew its Afghan operations, this scandal caused long-term damage to Afghanistan's credibility with international donors and lenders. It has strengthened Afghan-fatigue and the reluctance of financially strapped Western governments to give more money.
The common refrain is that Afghans need to assume greater responsibility. Fundamentally, this is correct and is the principal guarantor of long-term stability.
At the recent Bonn conference on Afghanistan's future, President Karzai renewed his pledge to fight corruption. For optimists, this is better late than never. For pessimists, it is too little, too late. Realistically, there is no other option but gradual transformation through consistent international engagement, detached from political calendars.
Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Marco Vicenzino.

Karzai Asks Pakistan for Answers About Blasts
Wall Street Journal By DION NISSENBAUM And HABIB KHAN TOTAKHIL DECEMBER 8, 2011
KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would ask Pakistan to explain why it provides sanctuary for an extremist group suspected of killing dozens in two suicide bombings in Afghanistan that are likely to exacerbate strains between the two neighbors.
Mr. Karzai, who visited survivors at a Kabul hospital, pledged to seek justice with a thorough investigation into Tuesday's attacks, which targeted Shiite gatherings in Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
"Afghanistan takes this very seriously. It is the issue of the life of the people which we will fully follow up with Pakistan," he said. "We can't let go and ignore the blood of our children."
A Pakistan-based militant group notorious for attacks on Shiites, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, took responsibility for the attacks. Afghan officials said Wednesday that 56 people were killed in the Kabul blast, a downward revision from tuesday when they said 59 died in the attack. Four others were killed in Mazar-e-Sharif.
The U.S. Embassy said one American was killed in the Kabul attack, and it was investigating reports that a second U.S. citizen may have been among the dead.
Citing the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claim, Mr. Karzai said he would ask Pakistan to explain why it allows such groups to operate within its borders. Tuesday's explosions, some of the worst since the war began ten years ago, followed a dramatic deterioration in Pakistan's ties with Kabul.
In September, Afghan officials accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate spy agency of involvement in the assassination, by a purported Taliban emissary who arrived from Pakistan, of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the country's main peace negotiator. Pakistan denied those accusations.
Last month, ties were further strained as a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol called an airstrike that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops posted along the border.
Islamabad responded to the airstrike by shutting the border to coalition supplies bound for Afghanistan, and ousting the U.S. from an airbase on its soil.
Other Afghan officials have gone further than Mr. Karzai, openly accusing the ISI of orchestrating Tuesday's bombings. "ISI is directly involved in the attack," a senior Afghan security official said. "The main purpose is to spark sectarian violence among Afghans. The militants have used every single tactic in the war, but have failed—and now this was their new tactic and they successfully carried it out."
An ISI spokesman in Pakistan denied this and challenged Afghan officials to prove their claims. "Can you ask them to show the proof?" he said.
Some Pakistani analysts also scorned the Afghan assertions. "It's a piece of sheer ignorance on the part of Afghan intelligence if they think Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is backed by the ISI," said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies, a think tank.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has turned on the Pakistan state since being banned a decade ago, and was involved in attempts to kill former President Pervez Musharraf and other political leaders. Their campaign against Shiites in Baluchistan province also has caused significant security problems for the government there.
Critics say Pakistan has been reluctant to crack down on the organization for fear of a backlash.
The Afghan security official, along with a senior official with the U.S.-led military coalition, said there were indications that the Haqqani network, the Afghan militant group responsible for most of the recent high-profile attacks in Kabul, had helped facilitate Tuesday's blasts.
The Haqqanis are part of the Taliban movement and recognize the authority of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, though the group operates on its own. The Taliban condemned Tuesday's bombings as "inhuman and un-Islamic," denying any involvement.
On Wednesday, another deadly blast killed 19 Afghan civilians when a packed van hit a hidden explosive in Helmand Province's Sangin District, a volatile area of southern Afghanistan that remains a focus of the military effort to drive Taliban insurgents out of their longtime strongholds.
In Kabul, as Afghan Shiites buried their dead, one Shiite cleric urged mourners not to let the attacks create a dangerous rift between Afghan's majority Sunni and minority Shiite populations that could drag the country back into a brutal civil war.
"Our people must think sensibly and realize that the real enemies of Afghanistan and Afghans want to destroy the unity between Shiite and Sunnis in Afghanistan," said Mohammad Baqer Nateqi, a cleric speaking to 700 people gathered for the burial of five victims of the Kabul blast. Shiites account for some 20% of Afghanistan's Sunni-majority population.
The mourners directed their fury at Pakistan. "It is Pakistan that kills our people," said Rafiq, who lost a 25-year-old cousin in the Kabul blast. "Soon, tolerance will be finished."
At a Kabul hospital, Karima, a 22-year-old mother of four, recovered from the explosion, which took the lives of ten of her relatives. Still disoriented from the blast, which ravaged the right side of her body, Karima hadn't been told that three of her four children were among the dead.
"I don't know who is dead and who is alive," she said from her hospital bed.
Karima had taken the children—ages two, three and four—to the Shiite shrine in Kabul's old city for Ashura, a day of mourning that commemorates the killing of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein during Islam's seventh-century split into Sunni and Shiite sects.
As the family watched the processions of men whipping their own bare backs with sharp blades set on steel chains, the suicide bomber detonated his explosives.
Her husband, Zabih, buried their three children and seven other relatives Wednesday morning, and turned his attention toward looking after their only surviving child. "I am sitting in my house, alone, with my daughter, as a single man," he said. —Ziaulhaq Sultani in Kabul and Tom Wright in New Delhi contributed to this article.

NATO Tries to Engage Islamabad
Wall Street Journal By YAROSLAV TROFIMOV DECEMBER 8, 2011
BRUSSELS - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is trying to defuse the crisis in relations with Pakistan, its secretary-general said Wednesday as foreign ministers from the 28 member-states gathered to discuss the alliance's Afghan campaign.
"The only way forward is positive cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the United States and Pakistan, between NATO and Pakistan," Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. "We need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region. There is no alternative."
Already tense relations between Pakistan and the U.S.-led coalition were badly damaged last month, after a U.S. airstrike mistakenly hit Pakistani military outposts near the border, killing 24 troops. While saying they "regret" the incident, the U.S. and NATO declined to apologize before an investigation concludes.
In retaliation, Pakistan has shut down the border to NATO fuel supplies, evicted the U.S. from an air base used to launch drone attacks, withdrew from this week's international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, and pulled its officers from border liaison posts.
Further complicating attempts to mend relations is this week's hospitalization of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Dubai, and the recent firing of Pakistan's longtime ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, who had helped tamp down previous crises.
"That's a huge void that's going to make it a lot more difficult this time," said retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who served as the commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan.
The two-day Brussels conference is supposed to pave the way for NATO's summit in Chicago in May to determine what role the Western alliance will play—such as training Afghan forces— after most of its combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul will attend.
About half of the fuel supplies for the nearly 140,000 NATO forces currently deployed there come from Pakistan, with much of the rest delivered via Russia and the Central Asian republics. The allied forces would reach a "critical point" if the Pakistani blockade is maintained for more than a few weeks, a person familiar with the coalition's operations said.
"Despite the efforts in recent years to diversify logistical supply lines, the U.S. and NATO forces remain heavily dependent on Pakistan," added Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington. "There is no conceivable possibility of a smooth transition in 2014 if the current state of play in U.S.-Pakistani relations remains in place."
In an additional complication, NATO's relations with Russia have recently deteriorated over the alliance's missile defense plans, with President Dmitri Medvedev threatening to deploy missiles to Russia's westernmost enclave of Kaliningrad. The Russian foreign minister is slated to join his NATO counterparts on Thursday to discuss the issue.
The Pakistani blockade has provided Moscow with extra leverage in this confrontation, and the Russian ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has already linked Moscow's cooperation with the alliance in Afghanistan to the missile defense project.
"It's an empty threat," Mr. Rasmussen responded on Wednesday. "It's clearly in Russia's self interest to contribute to a success in Afghanistan. Russia knows from bitter experience that instability in Afghanistan has negative repercussions in Russia as well."

Pakistani Extremist Group In Focus After Unprecedented Attack On Afghan Shi'a
RFE/RL By Abubakar Siddique December 07, 2011
As Afghanistan recovers from a deadly and unprecedented attack on a Shi'ite shrine in Kabul, the finger of blame is pointing directly at a Sunni extremist group with a long history of carrying out such attacks in neighboring Pakistan.
At least 55 people were killed and more than 160 wounded in the December 6 suicide attack, which occurred as Shi'ite worshippers were assembled outside the shrine to commemorate Ashura, a Shi'ite religious holiday. A separate attack near an Ashura procession in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif killed at least four people.
Shortly after the midday attack in Kabul, a man claiming to be a spokesman for Lashkar-e Jhangvi al-Alami contacted RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal to claim responsibility on behalf of the Pakistan-based militant group.
It was impossible to independently verify the claim made by the man, who identified himself as Qari Abubakar Mansoor.
The man first contacted a Radio Mashaal correspondent in Pakistan who covers the western Kurram tribal district, where the group is believed to be headquartered. A man going by the name of Qari Abubakar had previously contacted Radio Mashaal to provide information regarding the Lashkar-e Jhangvi al-Alami. Following RFE/RL's report tying the group to the attack in Afghanistan, various media reported receiving similar claims from the same spokesman.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who cut short a European trip and returned to the Afghan capital to deal with the crisis, appeared to accept that the attack was carried out by Lashkar-e Jhangvi al-Alami. While visiting survivors of the attack in the hospital, he was quoted as telling reporters that "we are investigating this issue and we are going to talk to the Pakistani government about it."
Ties To Al-Qaeda, Taliban
Farzana Sheikh, a Pakistan specialist at the Chatham House think tank in London, says the group evolved from the Anjuman-e Sipahe Shaba Pakistan, an extremist political party intent on transforming Pakistan into a Sunni state. One of its splinter groups, Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ) was considered the most deadly sectarian militia in the South Asian state in the 1990s. Lashkar-e Jhangvi al-Alami is now considered a splinter group of the LeJ, which was banned in Pakistan in 2002 because of its role in the killing of thousands of Shi'a.
"Its roots really lie in southern Punjab [Province], in the district of Jhang, from where they have clearly spread to other parts of Pakistan," Sheikh says, "but particularly the [southwestern province of] Balochistan, where they have been responsible, and indeed claimed responsibility, for a series of murderous attacks against Shi'a Hazaras."
Sheikh says that the group once enjoyed close links to Pakistani intelligence agencies. This, she notes, enabled LeJ to maintain bases in Taliban-controlled Afghan regions because of Islamabad's relationship with the Taliban regime. However, the LeJ's Shi'a-killing campaign made it a prime security threat for Pakistan, according to observers.
The demise of the Taliban regime forced LeJ back to Pakistan. But observers say its uneasy relations with the government led it to become a surrogate for Al-Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas. The group is also believed to have influenced the Pakistani Taliban, which has former LeJ members among its key leaders.
The LeJ and its off-shoot Lashkar-e Jhangvi al-Alami have been involved in fierce attacks in Pakistan. It was held responsible for the 2008 bombing of the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad, which killed more than 50 and injured hundreds. Its March 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team -- in which six police escorts and one civilian were killed -- shocked the cricketing world and has prevented Pakistan from hosting international cricketing events to this day. The group has taken responsibility for killing some 600 ethnic Hazaras in Balochistan since 1999.
Sheikh says the LeJ might now be attempting to precipitate a much wider conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Relations between the two neighbors have been tense since the September assassination of former Afghan President Buhannuddin Rabbani. Islamabad recently boycotted an important international conference on Afghanistan's future in Germany and suspended supplies to NATO forces though its territory after accusing the alliance of killing 24 of its troops in a border attack.
"If it is shown that this group has been responsible for this attack, it will not only further inflame relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan but, of course, it also for many spells the possibility of widening the conflict in Afghanistan, which until now has been political and ethnic," Sheikh says.One Objective: Sectarian War
Pakistani journalist Azmat Abbas has been tracking LeJ's evolution for the past two decades. He says LeJ today is a transnational organization with mostly Pakistani membership. Abbas claims the group provided Al-Qaeda with some of its first suicide bombers to foment a sectarian war in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. LeJ was also instrumental in propping up Jundallah -- an Sunni extremist group responsible for several large-scale attacks inside Iran.
Abbas says that despite its history of cooperation with the Taliban, the two groups have distinct objectives. "Lashkar-e Jhangvi's declared agenda is to target the Shi'a. They have never said that they want to establish an Islamic state [in Afghanistan] or want to drive U.S. forces from it. Their only agenda is to target the Shi'a. And their choice targets are the places where the Shi'a live."
The Afghan Taliban has rejected government claims that it orchestrated the December 6 attacks. A statement attributed to their spokesman called the attacks "savage acts" whose aim was to divide the Afghan people.
Chatham House's Sheikh says that bombings showcase the "Pakistan-ization" of the Afghan conflict, as sectarian conflicts have been rare in Afghanistan. "If the current trends are to go by, it is an extremely disturbing development," she adds.
RFE/RL Radio Mashaal correspondent Abdul Hai Kakar contributed to this report

US urges Pakistan to act after Afghan attacks
AFP 07/12/2011
The United States on Wednesday urged greater action by Pakistan against a Sunni Muslim militant group that Afghanistan blamed for an unprecedented massacre against its Shiite minority.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the banned Pakistani extremist movement Lashkar-i-Jhangvi orchestrated the bloodshed Tuesday on the Shiite holy day of Ashura.
Fifty-five people were killed in Kabul and another four in a similar attack in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States did not know the full details of the attacks but that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in mind when she urged Pakistan to act against extremists during an October visit to Islamabad.
"It's precisely the kind of organization that the Secretary was trying to address when she went to Pakistan in calling for Pakistan to do more to combat this kind of extremist terrorist activity within its own borders," Toner told reporters.
Pointing out that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has been blamed for attacks in Pakistan as well, Toner said: "It's clearly a threat to both countries."
"It's just too important, the threat we face. There needs to be ongoing, sustained and even increased cooperation and coordination between Afghanistan (and) Pakistan and certainly with the international community," Toner said.
Toner also confirmed that one US citizen was among the dead in Kabul. He said that the American was a civilian and not linked to the US government but declined further details, saying the family had requested privacy.
Karzai on Wednesday vowed to press Pakistan to take action against the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, potentially raising fresh tensions between the neighbors days after Pakistan boycotted an international conference on Afghanistan.
Pakistan asked Afghanistan to share any evidence pointing to Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim extremist movement that was banned in 2001 by then military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Lashkar-i-Jhangvi was one of the groups implicated in the kidnapping and beheading in 2002 of US journalist Daniel Pearl. But it has not before been tied to attacks in Afghanistan, where the Shiite community has largely lived in peace even during the rule of the hardline Sunni Taliban regime.

Afghan pass shows struggle of handover
By HEIDI VOGT
GULRUDDIN OUTPOST, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. forces scored a strategic victory against the Taliban four months ago when they seized a mountain pass that had enabled suicide bombers to make their way from Pakistan to the Afghan capital, Kabul.
But as American troops draw down in the war, it will fall on Afghan soldiers and police to hold this dirt road in eastern Afghanistan's Taba Kakar mountains. So far, the signs are not encouraging.
The district police chief was a drug addict who was fired at the end of November only after he punched a U.S. military translator, according to American soldiers. He then sold or stole everything from electronics to teacups, even removing the batteries from the remote control for the heating unit supplied by the Americans.
The Afghan soldiers aren't much help either. Westerners working in the area have found them to be unmotivated and undependable. The soldiers go out on few patrols and are mistrusted by the local population because most are from a different ethnic group.
The U.S. plans to hand over more and more volatile areas like Gulruddin before the end of 2014, when the Afghans are expected to oversee security nationwide. If the Afghan government cannot hold these key gateways, insecurity could quickly spread.
At Gulruddin, that could come as early as next summer. After the snows melt and the traditional fighting season begins, the Afghans may be asked to hold the pass with a lot less help from the Americans.
The U.S. force in Afghanistan is already shrinking, and President Barack Obama has pledged to pull out 33,000 American troops by the end of 2012. That's a third of those deployed in the country at the peak of the U.S. military presence in June.
As recently as June, the Gulruddin area of Paktika province was an insurgent sanctuary.
Fighters crossing from Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan would travel by motorcycle for a day and a half over remote mountain tracks, sleeping in caves to evade U.S. surveillance, then funnel through Gulruddin pass into the unfolding valley below. In the first few villages, they'd find sympathetic locals with spare beds and warm meals. They'd recover their strength, resupply and continue the remaining 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the capital on a clear and flat road.
Back then, U.S. and Afghan forces were attacked whenever they approached Gulruddin. Insurgents would dress up in Afghan army uniforms and shake down passing vehicles. And buried bombs regularly devastated trucks.
So the Americans decided to shut down what they called the "Taliban Motel 6." In late July U.S. special forces attacked nearby Marzak village, considered a key Taliban refuge, and killed nearly 100 insurgents. After the fighting subsided, U.S. troops intercepted a trailer truck piled high with bodies — some in coffins, some just loose corpses — that was headed back to Pakistan.
U.S. forces used the relative calm they had won to establish a presence at the pass. They brought in backhoes and carved a road up the hill to an overlook where they built an army outpost at 8,600 feet. On the road below, they erected a vehicle checkpoint. In September, Afghan soldiers moved into the outpost and police started manning the checkpoint.
The first couple weeks did not go well. The Taliban shot rockets at both the outpost and the checkpoint. The attacks then started to diminish in October and there were none in November.
Although the U.S. offensive appears to have decimated this year's supply of insurgent fighters, there will likely be more next spring after border passes are clear of snow. U.S. commanders say new insurgents have arrived in Marzak even in the past two months.
U.S. military commanders in Paktika have recommended that the province be one of the last in Afghanistan to lose American forces. But higher-level commanders may be forced to make reductions, and the Afghan government is considering taking over parts of the province as early as July, according to U.S. military officials.
"We may be seeing some districts moving forward a lot sooner than what people are recommending, because the process is a political process," said Lt. Col. Rafael Paredes, the deputy commander for U.S. forces in Paktika.
In previous negotiations with international forces, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has lobbied to transition areas that international forces think are still too insecure, according to a Western official familiar with the discussions. The official spoke anonymously to discuss private talks.
It's an issue still under debate — whether to transition difficult areas while a sizable U.S. force remains in the country, or to give these areas as much time as possible before handing them over to Afghan security forces.
The approximately 100 U.S. soldiers who are responsible for the area surrounding Gulruddin are defiantly optimistic. They say they expect to have until the end of 2014 and that they can have Afghan forces ready by then. It will succeed, they say, because it has to.
"This is the area that can't fail," said Capt. James Perkins, the commander of Apache company of Task Force 3-66 Armor, based out of Grafenwoehr, Germany.
So Perkins is taking the training of the Afghan forces as seriously as any battlefield operation.
"Mission success for us is the quality of the Afghan security forces we leave behind," he said. A poster with that same mantra is taped on the wall inside each of the latrines at Apache Company's small base.
About 50 Afghan soldiers and a handful of police currently man Gulruddin pass. U.S. soldiers provide tarps to keep the snow from seeping through their roofs, U.S. advisers file the paperwork to get ammunition for the police, and U.S. liaisons put pressure on the local government to hire Afghans they trust for posts or fire those they don't like.
Perkins said both forces in the district, Sar Hawza, have a long way to go — the army even more so than the police. The supply lines are also dismal: The Afghan soldiers couldn't patrol for a month recently because they had run out of fuel and Kabul had not provided more.
The government administrator for the district was killed in early November by a hidden bomb in an unmarked grave in a cemetery. His nephew has just been named the new administrator.
A police commander who works closely with the U.S. forces said he sees improvements but the situation is still precarious.
"Last year most of the people in Sar Hawza seemed to me to be with the Taliban. Now only half of them are," said Commander Mahmood, who goes by only one name. He said fighters who used to carry their weapons openly through the market now hide them at home.
"The security condition is very good right now, but the Taliban are still trying to find a way to attack," Mahmood said.
To keep Sar Hawza district from gradually slipping back into the hands of the insurgents, the Americans are counting on a new government-sponsored militia program called the Afghan Local Police. About 30 men in the district are working for the program so far — all locals who are expected to have more invested and more at stake that the traditional security forces.
The idea is that the local force will help keep the insurgents out of the communities, taking pressure off the soldiers and police trying to hold the pass. It's just not clear when these three forces will be ready to stand on their own.
"We go to the Americans whenever we need something: They help us with fortifications, sandbags and things like that," said Lt. Hashmatullah Najirabi, the Afghan army commander at Gulruddin. "They do a lot because our Afghan army is just not self-sufficient right now."

US 'agent' Ghulam Nabi Fai 'took Pakistan spy money'
BBC News 08 December 11
A Kashmiri-born American citizen has pleaded guilty to secretly receiving millions of dollars from Pakistan's spy agency in violation of US federal laws.
Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, was accused of working in Washington for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to lobby for Kashmiri independence.
He was arrested in July and charged with failing to register as a foreign government agent.
The Pakistan government has denied any knowledge of Mr Fai's activities.
Kashmir is at the centre of its row with India.
Mr Fai, who was born in Indian-administered Kashmir, and another man, Zaheer Ahmad, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, were charged with using at least $4m (£2.5m) in Pakistani funds in a bid to influence the US position on the disputed territory of Kashmir, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Mr Ahmad recruited people to act as donors who would give money to the council which really was coming from the Pakistani government. He is not under arrest and is believed to be in Pakistan.
"For the last 20 years, Mr Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the US government," US Attorney Neil MacBride said in statement.
"As a paid operative of ISI (Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency), he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with US elected officials, funded high-profile conferences, and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington."
Correspondents say Mr Fai's guilty plea comes at a time when relations between Washington and Islamabad have worsened.
The US said Mr Fai's Pakistani handlers funnelled millions of dollars from the ISI through a front group, the Kashmiri American Council.
Officially, the Kashmiri American Council had a much smaller budget and it said that it received no foreign grants.
The group contributed money to US election campaigns, helped fund conferences and other efforts, including meetings with White House and state department officials, the US alleges.
Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for decades. Both countries claim the territory in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over it.

Why Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are finding civilian reentry harder
A Pew study finds that military veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 are surviving more serious injuries – another one of the reasons civilian reentry is so difficult.
By Brad Knickerbocker, Staff writer / December 8, 2011 The Christian Science Monitor
The American military has been at constant war for more than 10 years. Thousands of soldiers, marines, and other servicemembers have been killed; tens of thousands have been wounded. Many more are dealing with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.
For those who served in uniform and are now back home, reentry into civilian life has not always been easy, and a new report details the degree of difficulty.
The Pew Research Center reported Thursday that 27 percent of all military veterans say the time following their release from active duty was difficult for them. Among those who served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, that portion swells to 44 percent – a higher rate than for those who served in Vietnam, Korea, or World War II.
Overall, 32 percent of all military vets say their military experience was “emotionally traumatic or distressing” – a proportion that increases to 43 percent among those who served since 9/11, Pew found.
One reason for that difference is the nature of military service over the past decade: 16 percent of post-9/11 vets experienced a serious injury, significantly more than the 10 percent of vets overall who were seriously injured. (Pew notes that servicemembers with serious injuries are more likely to survive today than in previous wars – a trend that began in Korea with the use of helicopters to bring the wounded to more advanced field hospitals.)
Not surprisingly, those who served in a combat zone and those who knew someone who was killed or injured in combat faced steeper odds of an easy reentry.
What did surprise Pew researchers was finding that post-9/11 vets who were married while in service had a harder time readjusting to civilian life.
“At first glance, this finding seems counterintuitive,” the Pew report states. “Shouldn’t a spouse be a source of comfort and support for a discharged veteran? Other studies of the general population have shown that marriage is associated with a number of benefits, including better health and higher overall satisfaction with life.”
“In fact, the answer to another survey question points to a likely explanation. Post-9/11 veterans who were married while in the service were asked what impact deployments had on their relationship with their spouse. Nearly half (48 percent) say the impact was negative, and this group is significantly more likely than other veterans to have had family problems after they were discharged (77 percent vs. 34 percent) and to say they had a difficult re-entry.”
The study finds several factors tied to an easier reentry into civilian life: being a commissioned officer, having a college degree, and having a clear understanding of the mission. Religious faith is found to have a positive impact here as well.
“Recent veterans who attend services at least once a week are 24 percentage points more likely to say they had an easy re-entry back into civilian life than those who never attend services (67 percent vs. 43 Percent),” Pew reports. “This finding is consistent with other studies of the general population that suggest religious belief is correlated with a number of positive outcomes, including better physical and emotional health, and happier and more satisfying personal relationships.”
It seems likely that the results of this survey are linked, to some degree, to another recent Pew study, “The Military-Civilian Gap: Fewer Family Connections.”
Here, Pew finds that a smaller share of Americans currently serve in the armed forces than at any time since the peace-time era between World Wars I and II, and that consequently far fewer people have relatives in uniform or even know anybody who has served. As a result, Pew reported, fewer than half (47 percent) of those without family ties to the military say they have reached out to help a servicemember or military family – efforts that might help with reentry difficulties.
“During the past decade, as the military has been engaged in the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history, just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time,” Pew reported in November. “As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.”

Ex-ambassador criticises Afghan deadline
The Independent By Daniel Bentley Wednesday 07 December 2011
A former British ambassador to Afghanistan today denounced the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of troops from the country as "tactics without strategy".
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, ambassador from 2007 to 2009, said the move was "worse than questionable, it's disgraceful" if it was not to be accompanied by a concerted peace process.
Nato troops including UK forces are to be withdrawn from combat roles by 2015.
"It is very questionable - it's worse than questionable, it's disgraceful if it's not accompanied by serious political strategy," Sir Sherard told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"Had the decision to stop fighting been accompanied by an effort led by (US Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton to bring all the regional leaders together and keep them together until they thrashed out an agreement, had we started a serious peace process ... then signalling to the people of Afghanistan that our troops were going to come out of combat wouldn't have been a bad thing.
"But to do it without that is rather similar to our scuttle from Palestine in 1948 or our scuttle from India in 1947 - it's tactics without strategy."
Asked whether there was still time to initiate such a peace process, he said it depended on whether US President Barack Obama had the will to do so.
"It breaks my heart, because we owe it to the people of Afghanistan, we owe it to all our servicemen and women who have fought and died and been wounded in Afghanistan," he said.
"I don't think time is ever too short to start something like that but the problem lies not in Kabul, Kandahar, Islamabad or even in London - it lies in Washington. Is Obama's America up for it?"

Iran releases video of downed U.S. spy drone–looking intact
By Laura Rozen | The Envoy via Yahoo News
Iran's Press TV on Thursday broadcast an extended video tour of the U.S. spy drone that went down in the country--and it indeed appeared to look mostly intact.
American officials have acknowledged that an unmanned U.S. reconnaissance plane was lost on a mission late last week, but have insisted that there is no evidence the drone was downed by hostile acts by Iran. Rather, they said, the drone likely went down because of a malfunction, and they implied the advanced stealth reconnaissance plane would likely have fallen from such a high altitude--the RQ-170 Sentinel can fly as high as 50,000 feet--that it wouldn't be in good shape.
But Iranian military officials have claimed since Sunday that they brought down an American spy drone that was little damaged. And now they have provided the first visual images of what looks to be a drone that at least outwardly appears to be in decent condition, in what is surely another humiliating poke in the eye for U.S. national security agencies.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the released images Thursday, a Defense Department spokesman told Yahoo News. But military analysts said it appeared to them to be the American drone in question.
"I have been doing this for thirty years, and it sure looks like [a stealthy U.S. drone] to me," Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute and consultant to the RQ-170's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, told Yahoo News in a telephone interview Thursday. "I think we are going to face the high likelihood that Iran has an intact version of one of our most important intelligence gathering tools."
Still, Thompson went on, the intelligence "windfall" to Iran from obtaining the advanced U.S. stealthy drone may be mitigated.
"I don't think the Iranians get as much out of it as they might hope," he said. "It probably came into their hands as a result of a technical malfunction. What that means is they still don't have a real defense against the U.S. flying other vehicles that have similar capabilities, without much fear of interception."
Analysts also noted that the video of the drone released by Iran did not show the drone's underside. "Pretty intact," the Center for Strategic and International Studies' James Lewis said by email. "Interesting that they covered the underside."
The New York Times reported Thursday that--unsurprisingly--the RQ-170 was lost while making the latest foray over Iran during an extended CIA surveillance effort of Iran's nuclear and ballistic weapons program.
"The overflights by the bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin and first glimpsed on an airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2009, are part of an increasingly aggressive intelligence collection program aimed at Iran, current and former officials say," the Times' Scott Shane and David Sanger wrote. "The urgency of the effort has been underscored by a recent public debate in Israel about whether time is running out for a military strike to slow Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon."
Iran in turn has complained that the drone overflights represent an act of aggression and violation of its sovereignty, and summoned the Swiss envoy--who represents U.S. interests in Iran--on Thursday to lodge a protest.
However, while the images of the U.S. drone surely allowed Iran to score another public relations blow against Washington, Iran may find it tough to generate much in the way of international sympathy for being the target of U.S. surveillance.
Last week, Iranian hardliners ransacked the British embassy in Tehran, prompting the United Kingdom to recall its diplomatic staff from Tehran and order Iran's embassy in London closed. Last month, the UN atomic watchdog agency issued a report raising concerns about research Iran is suspected by some nations to have conducted before 2003 on military aspects of its nuclear program. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes. In October, the United States accused elements of Iran's Qods force of plotting to assassinate the Saudi envoy to the United States. The United Nations General Assembly voted last month in favor of a resolution condemning the Iranian plot.
Amid its growing international isolation, Iran, unsurprisingly, seemed intent to play up the drone incident for all it could.
"China, Russia want to inspect downed U.S. drone," proclaimed a headline from Iran's Mehr news agency Thursday.
The RQ-170 Sentinel, however, reportedly did not use the latest U.S. surveillance technology on board, in part because as a single-engine aircraft, it was thought more likely to occasionally go down.
"The basic principles of stealthy aircraft are fairly well known," Thompson said. "In terms of [the drone's] on-board electronics and information systems, it is fairly routine in combat to require authentication codes to make them hard to unlock."

www.afghanistannewscenter.com
Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
2011, afghan, december, news

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off




History of Pashtuns| Learn Pashto Online| Afghan Wiki| TheHujra.com| Pukhtoogle| Afghan MP3| Khyber.org| Pukhto.net| Tor_Khan's blog| Abdul Rahman Karim's blog| Voices of the Pashtun land| Pashto TV

Search Engine Optimisation provided by DragonByte SEO (Lite) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2018 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.0.6 (Lite) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2018 DragonByte Technologies Ltd. Runs best on HiVelocity Hosting.
No part of this site may be copied without permission of the administration. The views, posts, opinions and threads expressed by members of the community here are not necessarily those of the staff and management of Pashtun Forums.