[Afghan News] August 17, 2012 - 08-18-2012, 11:29 AM
AFP via Yahoo! News - Aug 17 04:24am
Two Afghan security personnel opened fire on Western colleagues Friday, killing two US soldiers and causing a number of other casualties in two separate attacks, the military said.
US concern is mounting of the unprecedented number of such "green-on-blue" attacks, which have now killed 39 international troops in 29 such incidents so far this year, according to NATO figures.
Friday's attacks will further erode trust between foreign troops and the Afghans they work with, a week after six American troops were killed in a single day by their local colleagues.
The two Americans were killed in western Farah province, NATO's US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
"A member of the Afghan Local Police turned his weapon against two USFOR-A service members. The attacker was shot and killed."
Just hours later, ISAF confirmed that "a number" of foreign and Afghan soldiers were shot and wounded by an Afghan soldier in the southern province of Kandahar.
"The attacker was shot and later died of his wounds in the hospital," a spokesman said, without providing any further details. Local officials said two Americans and one Afghan soldier were wounded.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday he was "very concerned" about the attacks and the impact they are having on cooperation with Afghan allies.
The Taliban's reclusive supreme leader, Mullah Omar, has boasted that the attacks are the result of a deliberate plan by the Islamist militants to sow distrust between foreign and Afghan troops.
"Mujahideen (holy warriors) have cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year," Omar said in a message to mark the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
NATO says most of the incidents are motivated by cultural differences between troops and plays down the role of Taliban infiltration.
"What we identified was that most of them were caused by personal grievances and stress situations," the chief spokesman for ISAF, Brigadier General Gunter Katz, told AFP.
"We are confident that the morale (among international troops) is still good and those incidents will not affect our transition process," he said.
Panetta, however, admitted that he was "very concerned about these incidents... because of the lives lost and because of the potential damage to our partnership efforts".
NATO has about 130,000 soldiers helping the Afghan government fight an insurgency by Taliban Islamists, but they are due to pull out in 2014 and are increasingly working with Afghans they are training to take over.
Panetta said General John Allen, who heads the international coalition force in Afghanistan, was meeting Afghan security ministers and village elders to discuss further steps to protect against such attacks.
These measures include increasing the intelligence presence to get better information about potential attacks, he said.
NATO had already this year started a so-called guardian angel program in which one soldier watches the backs of others as they work with Afghan forces, but it has not prevented a spike in attacks.
Apart from the impact on the morale of foreign troops, the growing number of insider attacks will likely add to pressure in NATO nations for an exit as soon as possible from an increasingly unpopular war.
All coalition troops at Afghan bases now armed around the clock
By Barbara Starr, Masoud Popalzai and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The uptick in attacks by Afghan security forces against coalition troops has hit home, with all troops at NATO headquarters and all bases across Afghanistan now ordered to carry loaded weapons around the clock, CNN learned Friday.
Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, ordered the move, according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the orders. The order, made in recent days, was divulged amid two more so-called green-on-blue or insider attacks Friday.
An Afghan police officer opened fire on U.S. troops in Farah province in southwestern Afghanistan, killing two service members, the NATO-led command said. Two International Security Assistance Force troops and an Afghan service member were wounded by another Afghan service member in Kandahar province, in the south.
The order comes as coalition forces adopt and study measures aimed at thwarting such attacks.
In Afghan combat situations, all troops are armed. But at other locations, only base security forces had been regularly armed. Those troops have been called into action when insurgents have launched attacks on the base.
Coalition steps up fight against Afghan 'green-on-blue' attacks
Now, anyone who goes to the base headquarters would see that all troops, regardless of their tasks, carry weapons with a magazine of ammunition attached, a U.S. official confirmed.
Troops now could fire against an attacker within seconds by sliding a lever on their weapons to make a round drop into the firing chamber. Loaded weapons are being carried both in the open outdoor areas of the base and inside buildings and meeting rooms.
Allen and his top commanders live and work at the Kabul NATO headquarters, attached to the U.S. Embassy.
The Friday green-on-blue attacks follow a claim purportedly from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar that fighters are infiltrating Afghan security forces to attack NATO-led forces on their bases.
"Many Afghans in the rank and files of the enemy have shown a willingness to help the (Taliban) in a shrewd manner," said a statement posted on militant websites Thursday and obtained by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the activities of militant groups on the Web.
"As a result, the foreign invaders and their allies at their military centers and bases are suffering crushing blows by these heroic soldiers."
CNN can't independently verify the authenticity of the statement, which was released in advance of this weekend's Eid al Fitr celebrations that mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The Taliban are known routinely to claim responsibility for attacks and inflate casualty numbers.
Omar also urged employees of the Afghan government to seek out the group's newly established "Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration" departments that have been established throughout the country "so that they may leave the enemy ranks and join the fighters," according to SITE.
Omar's statement drew a sharp response from Allen, who accused the Taliban leader of issuing "an unmistakable message of death, hate and hopelessness for the Afghan people" on the eve of the Eid celebrations.
"The pride of the Afghan people has been smeared by killers who pose as soldiers and police, yet they represent the worst of humanity," Allen said Friday.
The commander accused of Omar of sending "young brainwashed men to carry out attacks in a fruitless cause," while he "rests comfortably from afar."
"He professes love for his fighters, yet he sends them to their deaths by the hundreds. Where is the vision that Omar speaks of? Where is the love he professes for the Afghan people?" Allen said.
"Are these not the acts of a deranged man who puts his own goals of personal domination ahead of the future of the Afghan people?"
Shootings by Afghan forces take growing toll on NATO troops
An estimated 101 NATO troops have been killed in green-on-blue attacks since May 2007 across the country, military analyst Bill Roggio said Friday.
Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal blog, which reports and analyzes terror issues, said green-on-blue attacks have caused around 13% of coalition deaths this year.
Of the green-on-blue attacks since 2007, about 40% of the deaths have occurred this year and 35% occurred last year, he said.
Roggio said there was a flurry of insider attacks early in the year, then a lull, and now a flareup in recent days. Green-on-blue is military lingo, with green a reference to Afghan forces and blue to coalition troops.
" 'Blue' is always the color of the friendly force, i.e. NATO/ISAF; 'Red' signifies the enemy force; and 'Green' is the indigenous force allied with, but separate to, the friendly force. In this case, 'Green' is the ANSF," said Maj. Adam Wojack, a media officer with the International Security Assistance Force, referring to the Afghan National Security Forces.
The U.S. military is starting to use the term "insider attack" rather than "green-on-blue" because it's easier to understand and because Afghan troops have been victims of the attacks.
The NATO-led command did not provide details about the deadly attack in Farah, but a provincial police chief told CNN that an Afghan policeman shot the American service members early Friday during a training session in the Bala Boluk district.
Police Chief Aqa Noor Kintos said two U.S. Special Forces members were killed and another was injured. The gunman was killed when troops returned fire, he said.
During the gunfight, an Afghan National Police member was also killed, and another was injured, he said. Lt. Col. Hagen Messer, a NATO-led command spokesman, confirmed that two U.S. service members were killed in the attack.
The Taliban claimed responsibility in a text message to journalists, saying a 70-year-old policeman killed the three troops.
It's the second time a man in an Afghan security uniform has opened fire on coalition troops in the Bala Boluk district. In December 2011, a gunman posing as an Afghan soldier wounded coalition troops.
Official: Man in Afghan security uniform kills 3 U.S. troops
In the Kandahar incident, the member of the Afghan National Army who turned his weapon against coalition forces was shot and later died of his wounds after he was taken to an ISAF medical facility. The incident occurred in the province's Zharay district, ISAF said.
The frequency of the insider attacks has prompted Afghan intelligence agents to go undercover during recruit training to spot possible extremists, military officials said.
Allen said coalition officials were working on a new procedure to check the backgrounds of Afghans who sign up for the army or police force.
The U.S. government has offered a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of Omar, who took over Afghanistan in the early 1990s and established a hard-line Islamic fundamentalist regime that gave shelter to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Omar vanished from public view after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban and its leaders from power in Afghanistan in December 2001 for refusing to hand over bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.
Over the years, he has refused to be photographed or filmed, and has rarely traveled. As a result, Omar's appearance has remained a mystery to many. Those who have met Omar say he has one eye stitched shut, the result of a wound suffered during a battle with Soviet troops during their occupation of Afghanistan.
There have been conflicting reports about Omar's fate. As late as last year, the Taliban denied reports the leader was dead.
The attacks come a day after a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan killed seven U.S. service members, three Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter. Authorities are investigating whether the crash was caused by technical problems or a shoot-down.
Barbara Starr reported from the Pentagon, Masoud Popalzai reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Chelsea J. Carter from Atlanta. CNN's Joe Sterling and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.
US says infiltration not main cause of Afghan 'insider' attacks
WASHINGTON, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Only about 11 percent of so-called "insider attacks" by Afghans against NATO troops are due to Taliban infiltration, the Pentagon said on Friday, as more American troops were killed at the hands of Afghans posing as allies in the 11-year-old war.
The vast majority of insider attacks this year -- nearly 90 percent -- are due to other motives, including personal grudges, Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Steven Warren said, citing a new study by the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. The data challenge Taliban assertions of widespread infiltration of Afghan security forces, but also raise questions about the limits of NATO efforts to weed out insider threats as they prepare to hand over lead security control of the country to the Afghans in 2014.
The Pentagon announced earlier this week it was expanding counterintelligence staff in Afghanistan after a rise in insider attacks by Afghans, including attempts to spot signs of Afghan forces becoming radicalized without contact with insurgents. But that would be little help in preventing grudge-related killings.
And the number of attacks has been rising. As of Tuesday, there had been 29 attacks so far in 2012, resulting in 37 deaths among the NATO-led coalition forces, 21 of which were Americans, according to Pentagon data. For the same period last year, there were 16 attacks and 28 deaths. In all of 2011, there were 35 coalition troops killed, 24 of whom were U.S. troops.
The latest incident on Friday came in Afghanistan's western Farah province, where a recently recruited police militia member in his late 60s killed two U.S. troops shortly after being given his weapon at an inauguration ceremony, a U.S. official said. The motives of the killings were still unclear and an investigation was underway, NATO-led forces said.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that Afghan forces had so far discharged hundreds of soldiers who showed a risk of radicalization -- including travel back and forth to Pakistan, where many militants enjoy safe haven.
Reclusive Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has said insurgent fighters have successfully infiltrated the Afghan security forces. In a statement released late on Thursday, Mullah Omar urged police, soldiers and government workers to "abandon support of the invaders" and back the Taliban ahead of the departure of most Western combat troops in 2014.
Taliban leader urges insurgents to cut civilian deaths
By Rob Taylor
KABUL (Reuters) - Reclusive Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has urged insurgent fighters, who he said had successfully infiltrated the security forces, to avoid civilian deaths after a swathe of suicide bombings this week killed 63 people.
In a message to the Afghan people ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festival ending the holy Ramadan fasting month, the one-eyed leader said insurgents should "employ tactics that do not cause harm to life and property of the common countrymen".
"The instructions given to you for the protection of civilian losses are, on you, a religious obligation to observe," Mullah Omar said in a seven-page statement released late on Thursday and translated into five languages.
"Any violation readily incurs loss in this world and in the world to come. Therefore, I urge you emphatically to be careful about the civilian losses and take this on yourselves as an explicit responsibility."
Amid mounting anger among Afghans over civilian deaths caused by both the insurgency and NATO, the statement is probably aimed at presenting a more moderate face for the Taliban as efforts continue to re-start peace talks which could foster a power-sharing deal for the insurgency.
A recent UN report said the Taliban were responsible for 80 percent of civilian casualties.
Islamist suicide bombers on Tuesday targeted markets crowded with Ramadan shoppers and a provincial hospital in Afghanistan, killing scores and wounding 148 in the worst attack since a series of sectarian bombings against Shi'ite Muslims late last year.
The Interior Ministry said the Taliban had not let up on attacks during Ramadan and security forces had stepped up security ahead of the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival.
But Mullah Omar, who is thought to be sheltering in Pakistan despite government denials there, boasted that his forces had successfully infiltrated Afghan security forces to mount rogue shootings of foreign troops that have killed 39 soldiers in 30 attacks this year.
A police militia member, in his late 60s, on Friday turned his guns on U.S. military trainers in western Farah province, killing two before he was shot dead.
"Mujahideen have cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year," he said. "They are able to (safely) enter bases, offices and intelligence centers of the enemy. Then, they easily carry out decisive and coordinated attacks."
So called green-on-blue shootings, which NATO-led forces recently began calling "insider incidents", have so far this year have accounted for 13 percent of foreign troop deaths, according to the Long War Journal website.
The coalition has said most were the result of stress or personal disagreements between NATO mentors and Afghan police or soldiers, rather than insurgent infiltration.
But U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged this week that the Taliban had been behind at least some of them, but said they did not "reflect any kind of broad pattern".
"The reality is, the Taliban has not been able to regain any territory lost, so they're resorting to these kinds of attacks to create havoc," Panetta told reporters.
Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, urged police, soldiers and government workers to "abandon support of the invaders" and back the Taliban ahead of the departure of most Western combat troops in 2014.
The Taliban, who call themselves the Islamic Emirate, had set up a shadow government organization called the "Department of Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration", he said, countering Afghan government efforts to reintegrate former insurgents.
The new department has set up branches across the country to "provide you facilities to leave the ranks of the enemy and join the Mujahideen", he said, although the Taliban frequently exaggerate their reach and military successes.
The coming withdrawal has deeply worried many Afghans, with property prices slumping in Kabul and some businesses preparing to flee the country [ID:nL4E8J401J]
The World Bank said that while the economy had been expanding strongly in the past few years, with aid helping real gross domestic product growth reach 8.4 percent in 2010/11, the pullout was expected to cut that by about half.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)
NATO brands Taliban leader Omar's Eid message 'insane'
By Lawrence Bartlett | AFP
The Taliban's reclusive leader Mullah Omar has issued a bellicose Eid statement that was swiftly denounced by the commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan Friday as a message of hate from a deranged man.
The rare statement by the Islamic militants' one-eyed leader claims victories on the battlefield against NATO and defends as tactical the Taliban's initial contacts, now suspended, with the United States.
General John Allen pilloried the statement as "an unmistakable message of death, hate and hopelessness for the Afghan people" on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Calling Omar a "deranged man" using "insane language", Allen scoffs at his call on Taliban militants to avoid killing civilians, pointing to the deaths of dozens of civilians in a series of suicide and bomb attacks this week.
"Either Omar is lying, or his henchmen are not listening to him, but it is clear that innocent Afghan civilians are paying the price for his corrupt leadership," Allen said in a statement.
In an apparent move to allay fears among some Taliban factions, Omar said in his seven-page statement that initial talks with the United States "had not meant submission or abandoning our goals".
Instead they had been aimed at initiating an exchange of prisoners, opening a political office and to "reach our goals", he said, noting that the Taliban had suspended the talks earlier this year.
He called the "so-called transition", under which NATO is handing increasing responsibility for the war to Afghan security forces ahead of the exit of some 130,000 foreign troops by the end of 2014, a sign of defeat.
And Omar, said by the Afghan government to be based in neighbouring Pakistan, warned the war would continue after their departure.
"The Afghan people will wage jihad (holy war) against the foreign invasion until complete independence of the country, though the invasion may ensconce itself in the garb of peace-keeping forces or strategic cooperation," he said.
The United States has signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the government of President Hamid Karzai pledging support after the departure of combat troops and is expected to leave a residual force behind.
The Taliban has always refused to negotiate directly with Karzai's government, labelling it a puppet of Washington, and Omar dismissed it in his statement as "corrupt, collapsing and ill".
But, he said in his message, which mixed belligerence with promises of future "unity and harmony", the Taliban "will make efforts to reach an understanding with the Afghan factions in due time following (the) pull-out of the invaders".
On the war itself, Omar claimed that the "unique distinction" of this year's summer offensive by the Taliban was that it had reached all areas of the country and forced NATO and Afghan government into defensive positions.
NATO has acknowledged a spike in attacks this summer over the same period last year.
Omar also claimed that a spate of green-on-blue attacks, in which Afghan forces turn their weapons against NATO personnel, was the result of Taliban infiltrating local security units.
NATO says most of the incidents, in which 39 foreign soldiers have been killed this year, are motivated by cultural differences between troops and plays down the role of Taliban infiltration.
The Taliban, led by Omar, were in power from 1996 until being ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001 for harbouring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
News analysis: Taliban insurgents step up attacks in Afghanistan
By Abdul Haleem
KABUL, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants fighting the Afghan government have stepped up their attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, demonstrating their ability to expose the weaknesses in Afghanistan's security apparatus.
"By conducting indiscriminate attacks in the holy month of Ramadan,the Taliban on one hand wants to expose the government's weak security and on the other hand, to demonstrate that they are capable of carrying out attacks anytime and anywhere in the country," Nazari Pariani, the editor in chief of the Daily Mandegar observed.
But Pariani said that by killing people, particularly civilians, during the fasting month of Ramadan has only exposed the Taliban ideology that it has no respect for Ramadan and Islamic values.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world observe roza or fast from dawn to dusk during which drinking, eating, fighting between Muslims and even using harsh language are forbidden.
However, during the last few days the Taliban, which is practicing the fundamentalist brand of Islam, have stepped up their attacks on the run-up to Eid-ul-Fitr, which is the culmination of the month-long fasting and the holiest day among Muslims.
Eid-ul- Fitr would probably fall on Saturday or Sunday depending on the sighting of the new moon.
In the latest wave of violent incidents, a roadside bomb struck a military van in the northern Baghlan province on Thursday killing seven soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA), an army official Janullah Khan confirmed.
In the previous attack in Khost province on Wednesday, 11 civilians were injured when a Taliban loyalist threw a hand grenade at a group of workers near the entrance gate of a U.S. base in Khost city, the capital of Khost province.
Zabihullah Mujahid, who claims to speak for the Taliban in talks with media via telephone from unknown location, said that the Taliban had already warned people working for the foreign troops to stop working for them or face the music. "Since they did not heed our advice, our mujahidin (holy warriors) punished them," Mujahid said.
A day earlier on Tuesday, 25 people including four policemen were killed and 50 others, including seven police sustained injuries, as a group of six suicide bombers targeted Zaranj city, the capital of southwestern Nimroz province 790 km southwest of Kabul.
An official of the Interior Ministry has confirmed the report and blamed the Taliban for the attack.
On the same day, according to Interior Ministry, 11 people, including 10 civilians and one policeman, were killed and 36 others were injured as an explosion rocked Dashti Archi district in Kunduz province 250 km north of Kabul.
"Taliban, by intensifying attacks in the month of Ramadan, want to gain ground and boost the morale of their supporters at home and abroad,"a Kabul University professor and political analyst Faizullah Jalal said.
Jalal said that the Taliban sanctuary is in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
According to Jalal, for carrying armed attacks during Ramadan, the Taliban would only "defame" itself. "Since killing people during Ramadan is forbidden in Islam, the Taliban would further lose its support even among its backers," the analyst said.
Kabul Court Discovers Forensics
U.S. Introduces Science to Justice System Long Reliant on Coerced Evidence; Some Locals Remain Wary
Wall Street Journal By NATHAN HODGE August 16, 2012
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Inside a Spartan spartan courthouse here, an Afghan judge explained to the prisoner he had just convicted why the proof against him was incontrovertible.
"Since the prophet Adam until today, the fingerprints of every human are unique," the judge lectured a shackled man named Khalid. "Fingerprints are a matter of science, and are undeniable."
They are also a relative novelty in Afghan courts, where convictions are usually based on defendants' confessions—often extracted under duress or even torture. That wasn't so with Khalid, who uses only one name. He went on trial last month at a court complex next to the main U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan, known as the Detention Facility in Parwan, or DFIP.
Mr. Khalid's prosecution hinged on modern forensic techniques, but how deeply the scientific approach to justice has rooted remains unclear.
Located inside the sprawling U.S. military base in Bagram Airfield, the prison and all its Afghan inmates must be transferred to Afghan government custody by Sept. 9. The U.S., which is mentoring the judges and the staff at the DFIP, aim to leave behind a system that can withstand international scrutiny.
"What we want the system to do is to be less reliant upon confession-based systems," said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. James Crawford, who until recently headed the Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan. "Forensics is going to be part of that."
An Afghan committee is now reviewing the case files of DFIP's inmates, deciding whether to release them, keep them in administrative detention, or prosecute them. The Wall Street Journal last month was granted unusual access to the trial of Mr. Khalid, a DFIP detainee already transferred to Afghan custody inside at the facility.
Coalition forces captured Mr. Khalid in a military raid in 2011. He was then "biometrically enrolled," with his fingerprints and retina digitally scanned. His fingerprints matched ones on bits of a roadside bomb that hit a coalition military patrol in April 2010, wounding five troops, according to evidence presented by Afghan prosecutors. The bomb was rigged to go off when a victim stepped on or drove over it. Military evidence collectors found one part wrapped inside an old inner tube and lifted fingerprints from tape used to hold the device together.
In an opening statement at the trial, Mr. Khalid maintained his innocence, saying he was an ordinary man who had spent his life working in the fields of his native province.
"I don't have any connection to any armed groups," said Mr. Khalid, a thickly bearded man wearing a common baggy tunic and trousers in white with his prisoner number handwritten in magic marker.
After hearing his sentence—a maximum of 12 years, including time served—Mr. Khalid said he disagreed. A court official signed his thumbprint to a verdict sheet. His attorney didn't immediately say whether he would seek an appeal.
In reading the sentence, the lead judge—who requested anonymity out of fear for his personal safety—asserted the court's independence. The American-led approach is unpopular with some Afghans and central government opponents, who regard them as show trials.
"Nobody—Afghan or foreigner—has the right to interfere in our affairs, to tell us what to do," he said, referring to U.S. military personnel in the courtroom. "According to Afghanistan's law, the judiciary is independent.The foreigners you see sitting here, none of them has the right to interfere in the court's affairs."
It is a fledgling independence, however. While the Afghans ran the trial proceedings without any direct U.S. participation, U.S. advisers helped to prepare case summaries and provided the forensic evidence. U.S. troops also protect the surrounding base.
Other recent high-profile criminal cases in which the U.S. wasn't involved have raised concern internationally about the effectiveness and fairness of Afghanistan's system for investigating and trying terrorism and national-security cases.
In one recent case, Afghanistan's intelligence agency released videotaped confessions of individuals—including two young girls—who allegedly conspired with the Taliban to poison schoolgirls in northern Afghanistan, drawing criticism from the United Nations mission to Afghanistan.
More recently, a military court sentenced an Afghan soldier to death for shooting and killing five French soldiers in a highly publicized incident early this year. The handling of the case prompted rights groups to question the transparency of Afghan courts.
"Afghanistan's justice system in both military and civilian trials remains weak and compromised, in spite of over 10 years of donor assistance," said the advocacy group Human Rights Watch. "It relies heavily on confessions, including some obtained through torture. Use of physical evidence is rudimentary."
U.S. and Afghan officials, who are keen to persuade both a skeptical Afghan public and international observers that Afghanistan will inherit a transparent and fair judiciary system, say DNA evidence and fingerprints represent a potent new tool for trying terrorism suspects.
Less clear, though, is who will collect and process all the masses of biometric data needed that are used to secure such that kind of convictions once the American U.S. troops leave go home. The U.S. military referred questions on the issue long-term biometrics collection to the Afghan interior ministry. The ministry didn't respond to repeated requests to comment.
Why civil servants hold the key to Afghan prosperity
CNN By Javid Ahmad, Special to CNN August 16th, 2012
Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is a program coordinator with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own.
Recent events have underscored the extent to which Afghanistan’s inept leadership undermines the country’s nascent administrative capabilities. Last week, two of President Hamid Karzai’s most powerful cabinet colleagues – Defense Minister Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi – lost no-confidence motions in the Afghan parliament and were disqualified from holding office due to their perceived inaction over a spate of violence. Bismillah Khan was also reportedly accused of carving out his own ethnic Tajik fiefdom within the Afghan police force and alienating and marginalizing Pashtun officials working under him.
As Karzai struggled to find replacements for those two, the Afghan television network Tolo released bank statements purportedly belonging to Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, which suggested more than $1 million in deposits (keep in mind that Afghan cabinet ministers receive an average monthly salary of $3,500). Zakhilwal’s claims that he was remunerated for his work as consultant before joining the government in 2005 ring hollow – nongovernmental organizations and foreign government entities operating in Afghanistan don’t pay that lavishly. More importantly, all of the deposits coincided with Zakhilwal’s time in the Afghan government as finance minister and as the financial chief of President Karzai’s reelection campaign.
All three ministers have denied the charges, which have yet to be proven, although Wardak has resigned and was subsequently appointed by Karzai as his senior military advisor. The other two ministers, meanwhile, are clinging to what’s left of their legitimacy. In Kabul, these episodes have undeniably undermined the legitimacy of Karzai’s government and seem to have further emboldened opposition groups. In Washington and elsewhere, these developments will likely buttress the views of those who support an accelerated troop drawdown and reduction in funding for the Afghan mission. In the run up to the U.S. election, such steps may also seem appealing to American voters. But they would actually only intensify the challenges facing the United States and its allies in Afghanistan.
While these episodes aren’t likely to drag on for long, the situation still highlights some deeper problems with Afghan politics. While it’s not the first time that Kabul has been unable to find political replacements without resorting to ethnic politics, the fallout from these events reveal the stark absence of a competent Afghan civil service. The country’s indigenous civil services are characterized by corruption, political patronage and nepotism, leaving them incapable of delivering basic services to the Afghan people. There’s a shortage of capability and capacity – over the past decade, foreign NGOs provided basic services in the absence of preexisting institutions – and no real merit-based pay and grading review system. Too often, foreign NGOs, contractors, and subcontractors funded individuals within certain ministries, through government budgets and via opaque processes, who in turn promoted their interests from within. In addition, many well-educated Afghans are stationed in embassies abroad, while h
undreds of key positions in Kabul and the provinces are filled through patronage networks. There’s also been little involvement from those within Afghan civil society, which has developed at about the same pace as the Afghan government.
Regrettably, judging from Afghanistan’s current trajectory, the challenges presented by such questionable practices have the potential to cause far-reaching turmoil. Yet this latest political crisis in Kabul – triggered by parliamentary oversight and media activism – suggests that the political landscape may actually be starting to change. While ordinary Afghans currently have no say in the appointments of ministers and other officials, the public is clearly clamoring for an alternative to the unholy alliance of corrupt officials, warlords, and drug kingpins.
Of course, Washington’s poor handling of Afghanistan’s bureaucratic development after eleven years of war are also partly to blame for the current lack of capacity. But the United States could still invest in future generations, helping to turn young Afghans into capable technocrats and civil servants and bringing new, dynamic, educated, and more impartial young leaders into the political sphere. This would be best done through large-scale investments in education, citizen and leadership training, and an exposure to the work of Western institutions through foreign visits. If the United States’ goals are to be achieved in Afghanistan, the country’s civil services – and not just its security forces – must be properly trained and equipped to face the challenges ahead.
Attack shows need for Pakistani Taliban offensive
Associated Press By SEBASTIAN ABBOT Fri, Aug. 17, 2012
ISLAMABAD - The Pakistani Taliban's brazen attack on a major air force base near the capital underscores the need for the Pakistani army's planned offensive against the group in its last major sanctuary along the Afghan border.
But the operation in the remote, mountainous North Waziristan tribal area is fraught with danger, both in terms of battling the Taliban and avoiding combat with other militants who are not viewed by the state as a threat because they have focused their attacks on NATO and Afghan forces inside neighboring Afghanistan.
The United States has repeatedly pressed Pakistan to attack this latter group of militants in North Waziristan, especially the so-called Haqqani network. But the offensive is likely to disappoint on that front and is shaping up to be much less dramatic than the type Washington has long wanted.
The major perceived threat for Islamabad is definitely the Taliban's Pakistani branch, which has waged a bloody insurgency in the country for years that has killed over 30,000 people.
A team of nine Taliban militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a Pakistani air force base near Islamabad with possible links to the country's nuclear program before dawn Thursday, killing two security officials. Security forces managed to retake the base after two hours of heavy fighting in which all nine militants were killed.
Asad Munir, a retired army brigadier who served as an intelligence officer in Pakistan's tribal region, said the attack reinforced the need for an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan.
"They should not be allowed to have any territory under their control," said Munir. "That enhances their ability to plan and send people to attack."
Pakistan long refused U.S. demands to launch an offensive in North Waziristan, saying its forces were stretched too thin by fighting in other parts of the tribal region. Many analysts believe Pakistan's stance was also driven by its reluctance to upset the Afghan Haqqani network, because of its historical ties to the group and the possibility that the Haqqanis could be a useful ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw. Angering the group and other militants who have focused on fighting Afghanistan could trigger a backlash of attacks inside Pakistan.
But North Waziristan - the only part of the tribal region where the army has not carried out an offensive - has become an increasing problem for Pakistan as the Taliban and their allies, including al-Qaida and other foreign fighters, have migrated there to escape fighting elsewhere.
Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani army brigadier and former head of security in the tribal region, said intelligence briefings indicate more than 5,000 militants are based in North Waziristan, 3,000 of whom are enemies of the Pakistani state.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told The Associated Press this week that Pakistan has informed U.S. military officials that it plans to launch an operation against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan in the "near future." Reports of possible offensives in North Waziristan have arisen in the past without action, but Panetta said he was more confident this time.
"They've talked about it for a long time. Frankly, I'd lost hope that they were going do anything about it. But it does appear that they in fact are going to take that step," Panetta said.
The top U.S. commander in the region, Gen. James Mattis, met with Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and other senior officials in the country Thursday. It's unclear if they discussed the North Waziristan operation.
Pakistani military officials downplayed Panetta's comments, with one saying "you will see a slow ratcheting up over many months, even a year," not a swift, sweeping campaign as implied by the defense secretary.
Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani seemed to rally public support for the new push in speech on the country's independence day Tuesday.
"The fight against extremism and terrorism is not just the army's, but the whole nation's," said Kayani.
The crackdown in North Waziristan started in recent months as the army increased its forces in the area, said a Pakistani military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the plan publicly.
But local residents said they haven't seen any unusual military activity.
"We have been seeing these media reports of an operation since 2010," said Safeer Ullah Dawar, a resident in Mir Ali, one of North Waziristan's main towns and a key area for the Pakistani Taliban and their allies. "Why should I worry when I know there is no unusual movement of security forces?"
Pakistan has long had more than 30,000 troops stationed in North Waziristan, but their operations have been limited.
The army boosted that force over the past three months by adding an additional brigade - about 4,000 soldiers - and plans to add another in the coming months, said the Pakistani military official.
"Some minor operations are happening, but I believe it's going to disappoint the West completely because it has nothing to do with the Haqqani network," said Moeed Yusuf, the South Asia adviser at the United States Institute of Peace.
The U.S. would welcome action against the Pakistani Taliban and their allies, especially al-Qaida, because they do pose a threat. The Pakistani Taliban were linked to a suicide attack in Afghanistan in 2009 that killed seven CIA employees and a failed car bombing in New York's Times Square in 2010.
But the U.S. has been intensely focused on the Haqqani network. Washington views the group as one of the most dangerous fighting in Afghanistan, partly because of its record of carrying out high-profile attacks in Kabul.
Any Pakistani operation in North Waziristan would likely be coordinated with the Haqqani network to avoid drawing them into the fight, said Pakistani analysts and retired military officers.
The army would also likely negotiate with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the most powerful local warlord in North Waziristan, who has also focused on fighting inside Afghanistan. He is widely believed to have a nonaggression pact with the army, an accord which the generals have never officially acknowledged. But he has also clashed with the army in the past and could feel threatened by operations on his home turf.
Mansur Mahsud, director of administration and research at the Islamabad-based FATA Research Center, believes Pakistan can successfully carry out a targeted operation against the Pakistani Taliban and their allies without drawing in the Haqqanis or Bahadur.
"If Pakistan says 'I'm going to target only those groups that are targeting me,' then I don't think they would be foolish enough to fight against Pakistan because it would weaken them a lot," said Mahsud.
Pakistan would be helped somewhat by geography. Most of the Pakistani Taliban militants and their allies are based in and around Mir Ali. Many of the fighters loyal to the Haqqani network and Bahadur are in and around Miran Shah, a town about six miles (10 kilometers) away, said Mahsud.
But there is some geographic overlap, and the groups have common allies. Both the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network are closely aligned with al-Qaida and other foreign fighters.
"I don't think the operation will be feasible beyond a point because they do coexist geographically, and the army doesn't want to force Haqqani's hand into saving the Pakistani Taliban," said Yusuf, the South Asia expert. "But I think they will do enough against the Arabs, Uzbeks and other foreign fighters and some Pakistani Taliban just to show they have done something there."
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Robert Burns and Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report from Washington.
War-weary families looking to leave Afghanistan before end of 2014
Associated Press By Deb Riechmann Thursday, August 16, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - Asadullah Ramin has lost all hope in his homeland – he’s so worried about what will happen when U.S. and international troops leave that he is ready to pay a smuggler to whisk his family out of Afghanistan.
It would cost the 50-year-old, self-employed electronics engineer tens of thousands of dollars to leave his middle-class life in the Afghan capital and start over with his wife and their three daughters.
He has done OK in recent years, even getting contracts from the foreign forces, and he has warm memories of Kabul from his teens before Soviet forces invaded the nation.
But he wouldn’t hesitate for a moment. He has already paid to have his two sons smuggled to a European country he won’t disclose.
“If I could go in the next hour, I would leave everything – the house, my shop,” Mr. Ramin said, tears welling in his eyes as he spoke in his dusty workshop.
“I have no hope, no hope,” he said, opening his palms as if pleading to be understood.
The United States and its allies have tried to reassure Afghans that they are not abandoning the country when international combat troops leave by the end of 2014.
Donor nations have pledged billions to bankroll Afghan security forces and billions more in development aid. Country after country has signed a long-term partnership pact with Kabul.
But the promises have done little to buoy the hopes of Afghans who are in despair about the future of their nation.
Lack of confidence
Among Afghans throughout the country interviewed by the Associated Press, the worry is pervasive.
Many are deeply skeptical that Afghan police and security forces, which the U.S.-led coalition has spent years trying to build, will be able to fight insurgents and militants without American and NATO fighting alongside.
Worse-case scenarios that some fear: The Afghan forces could splinter along ethnic lines and prompt civil war, the nation could plunge into a deep recession, or the Kabul government – beset with corruption and still fragile despite efforts to establish its authority – could remain too weak to hold off a Taliban takeover.
Just a 45-minute drive south of Kabul, residents of Wardak province directly feel the tenuousness. The province is a battleground for Afghan and coalition forces trying to quash hotbeds of Taliban militants.
Residents quickly warn visitors that it’s dangerous just to go past a checkpoint a half-mile outside the provincial capital, Maidan Shahr.
“We don’t know if the government has been successful or not,” said Mohammad Ashaq, 17, chatting inside a tiny pharmacy in the city. “Most people think that after 2014, the government will not exist.”
Hanging over the fear is a sense that history could repeat itself.
Afghans felt abandoned by the U.S. after 1989, when the Soviet army withdrew from the country. U.S. support to mujahedeen fighters battling the Soviets dried up quickly, and Afghanistan sank into civil war as militias and warlords clashed for power and, in the process, devastated the capital Kabul.
That was followed by the rise of the Taliban and years of rule under the repressive regime.
In one sign of the lack of confidence, the number of Afghan asylum seekers in 44 industrialized countries went up 34 percent in 2011 over the previous year, according to the latest figures issued by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
In 2011, a total of 35,700 Afghans sought asylum, compared with 26,000 the previous year.
Another ominous sign: the real estate market in Kabul.
Donors and pledges
Broker Mir Ahmad Shah said this is the worst of his seven years selling properties in the capital. No one wants to buy.
A parcel of land that went for $100,000 last year now is priced as low as $60,000; but even at that cut-rate price buyers aren’t tempted.
It’s in part because of increased security concerns in the past year, but it’s “especially because of the announcement about the coalition leaving,” Mr. Shah said.
“I’m not hopeful for the future and it’s not just me,” he said, waving his hand toward small shops across the street where a vendor was selling live chickens. “The shopkeepers, the businessmen – they are all [feeling] hopeless.”
One of his listings is the house of a man moving to Canada, he added.
The Americans insist that the pledges of international support going forward will prevent the worst from happening.
The pledges make the possibility of another civil war or deep recession “unlikely scenarios,” according to Ryan Crocker, who just stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
At a NATO summit in May in Chicago, members agreed to help the Afghan government bankroll its security forces after 2014.
Earlier this month in Tokyo, the international community pledged $16 billion in aid – at least through 2015 – to further assist rebuilding.
“We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a stop in Kabul en route to the Tokyo gathering.
She announced that Afghanistan is the newest “major non-NATO ally” – a statement of political support for the country’s long-term stability and close defense cooperation.
Afghan, U.S. and coalition officials believe Afghan forces are becoming more capable day by day. They boast that while insurgents remain a threat, they have been forced out of population centers.
Seventy-five percent of the Afghan population lives in areas where security is being transferred to Afghan forces, they said.
‘Open for business’
The Afghan army and police force are trying to cope with low levels of literacy, corruption within their ranks and lack of equipment and experience, but are showing themselves to be increasingly capable on the battlefield – and there are still two years to go, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Associated Press in a recent interview.
“It’s gaining experience. It’s gaining leadership,” Gen. Allen said of the national army.
Still, civilians increasingly are caught in the middle of the fight against insurgents.
Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed as insurgents stepped up suicide attacks and roadside bombs, according to the U.N.
In the south, where the Taliban have strongest roots, the governor of Helmand province praises the security gains.
In 2008, provincial capital Lashkar Gah was surrounded by militants and the Taliban controlled a number of districts. There was only one brigade of the Afghan army in the province, and the police forces were beset by drug addiction, Gov. Gulab Mangal told Pentagon reporters recently.
But after years of operations by coalition and Afghan forces, insurgents have been pushed back. Today, 80 percent of the Helmand police are trained and equipped, he said, declaring Helmand is “open for business.’
The pan-Afghan imperative
Asia Times By Khalil Nouri and Michael Hughes Aug 17, 2012
Ethno-sectarian violence engulfing Afghanistan after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 2014 exit has become something of a fait accompli, especially given the depth and intensity of the divide between the Pashtuns and northern minority groups.
To be sure, Pakistan and the United States have stoked the flames of intra-Afghan animus in pursuit of broader geostrategic aims. However, unless the Afghans can come to some internal political accommodation, all roads will lead to civil war - with or without external interference.
For all practical purposes the Afghans are stuck in the middle of a US-Pakistani proxy war with the Americans backing the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras of the former Northern Alliance against Pakistan's extended expeditionary force, the Taliban, which consists primarily of Pashtuns from the south and east.
Exploiting Afghan rivalries is a legacy of the British colonial "divide and conquer" stratagem which Pakistan inherited at the dawn of the Cold War. But the Pakistanis haven't been content with simply dividing, they've tried to destroy the very fabric of Pashtun tribal culture and replace it with a violently radical strain of Islam.
By providing militants with sanctuary and pitting Pashtuns against minorities in the north, Islamabad has been able to "keep the pot boiling" in an effort to keep Kabul under its thumb, part and parcel of its "strategic depth" doctrine driven by Pakistan's illusory competition with an ambivalent India.
The US, for its part, exacerbated tensions when it supported the Northern Alliance during the post-9/11 Taliban takedown. NATO has also built up a primarily non-Pashtun central army to prevent the Taliban from taking Kabul after 2014. Meanwhile, amidst this military stalemate, the CIA will continue its counter-terror operations against suspected anti-Western elements within the Pashtun tribal belt.
Afghanistan has been an acephalous society beset by a certain degree of ethnic and tribal rivalry for most of the past millennium. However, one could describe it as a form of "regulated anarchy" that was kept in check by a unifying monarch, especially during a 40-year era of "peaceful coexistence" which ended when superpowers began meddling in Afghan affairs in the 1970s. But even then one would never describe it as racial antagonism. In fact, since Afghanistan was founded in the mid-18th century it had enjoyed a long history of ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism until the US and Soviet Union began using it as a geopolitical chessboard. The country has never seen the type of racial animus that has plagued Afghanistan for the past 30 plus years.
For centuries the disparate Afghan tribes and ethnicities rallied whenever threatened by foreign domination. But because of societal fragmentation, the death of the dynastic principle and the absence of a well-respected national leader, the Afghans now lack a common lineal thread that could unify the nation. As a result, inter-ethnic ties have become so corroded Afghanistan will be too weak to defend itself against external actors like Pakistan after the international coalition leaves.
Afghanistan's vulnerability derives from a lack of political legitimacy, which will never be attained until there is ethnic and sectarian unity. Multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian political parties do not even exist for the Afghans have failed to share a common platform due to lack of direction.
The Afghans do have a common foe to rally against in Pakistan. Hence, the time is ripe for ethnic unity, balanced security forces and a "Pashtun awakening" that can restore Afghanistan's sacred tribal structure and reverse Pakistan's de-Pashtunization operations.
Prominent members from civil society from both sides of the ethnic divide have stepped forward recently and called for unification. Unfortunately, they have largely been ignored by the coalition, which has its eyes on the exit doors as the US continues to prop up the corrupt Karzai regime and local warlords who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Not to mention, it seems the US wants to strike a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban - an unholy alliance that could only make things worse.
Most Afghans long for pluralism, equality and political participation and the first step in realizing such a vision is the establishment of the country's first ever pan-Afghan political party. The US has a horrible record of trying to "pick winners" and must give Afghans of all ethnicities enough space to allow such an inclusive movement to come to fruition.
Incessant warfare over the course of the past three decades has engendered a culture of hesitancy amongst the Afghans, who are now voiceless and paralyzed with fear. A vibrant pan-Afghan movement can foster national solidarity, empower the silent majority, strengthen internal resolve and pave the way for the founding of a legitimate nation-state.
Khalil Nouri and Michael Hughes are foreign policy strategists with the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), an Afghan native think tank that focuses on developing non-military solutions for Afghanistan. Hughes and Nouri have, collectively, been published in The Huffington Post, CNN, Examiner.com, The Salem News, The Seattle Times and Afghan Online Press, among others, and have made several media appearances on BBC Pashto, RT News and Alhurra TV.
Afghanistan, Pakistani Governments Hide Meeting with Mullah Bradar
TOLOnews.com Thursday, 16 August 2012
Pakistani political expert Rahimullah Yousufzai told TOLOnews recently that Afghanistan and Pakistan governments are trying to hide their meeting with Mullah Ghani Bradar, who is currently in Pakistan's custody after being arrested in Karachi in 2009.
The alleged meeting between the Afghan delegation and Mullah Bradar was denied by the Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Mohammad Omar Dawoodzai, and Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
"This meeting will not have any benefits because Mullah Bradar was held two year ago," Yousufzai told TOLOnews in an exclusive interview.
Mullah Ghani Bradar, Taliban's number two in command was held in Pakistan two years ago. His arrest angered President Karzai because Mullah Bradar had secret talks with the Pakistani government to reach a peace process.
The talks between US officials and Taliban were suspended several months ago as the Taliban accused the US for not having a clear vision of peace. According to Dawoodzai, meetings between the two sides have resumed.
Attorney General Suspends Top Commerce and Industry Ministry Official
TOLOnews.com Thursday, 16 August 2012
The Attorney General has suspended Pamir Patang, Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Commerce and Industries after it was revealed that his Master's degree from Brunel University in the United Kingdom is fake.
According to the Attorney General's inquiry, Patang has been suspended from duty while an investigation has been launched to gather further details about Patang's high school certificate and discrepancies in his Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
However, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries claims that Patang has not been the Chief of Staff for some time and lived in the United Kingdom
Via telephone, The Ministry Spokesman Wahidullah Ghazi Khail said, "Pamir Patang lives with his family in England and left his post due to personal matters."
Brahimi to become new Syria conflict envoy
By Tim Witcher | AFP
Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran diplomat troubleshooter, will take over from Kofi Annan as the international envoy on the Syria conflict, the United Nations said.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon appealed to the divided international powers to give "strong, clear and unified" support to the new envoy, who in turn said he was not confident he could end the 17-month-old civil war.
Annan is stepping down at the end of the month. The former UN secretary general complained about the lack of international support shown for his six-month campaign to make President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters end their hostilities.
Brahimi, 78, has vast experience handling conflict-stricken states.
He was Algeria's foreign minister from 1991-93 and later became a UN envoy in Afghanistan before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
While representing the Arab League, Brahimi helped end the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, negotiating with the Syrian government of the time.
UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said Brahimi would come to New York "soon" for talks.
"The violence and the suffering in Syria must come to an end," Ban said in a statement released by his spokesman.
"The secretary general appreciates Mr Brahimi's willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council," the spokesman added.
Russia, Assad's main ally, and China have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, accusing Western nations of only seeking forced regime change.
Brahimi has been in prolonged talks with Ban on the role and at times there has been doubt over whether he would take the post.
Seeking to distinguish himself from Annan, Brahimi will be known as the joint special representative instead of joint special envoy.
But he will still act for the United Nations and the Arab League, even though Assad's government has refused to recognize Arab League involvement in the mediation.
Brahimi said again that the UN Security Council must overcome its bitter divisions on Syria, where activists say more than 23,000 people have died.
"We are going to discuss very, very seriously how they can help," Brahimi told the France 24 news channel. "They are asking me to do this job. If they don't support me, there is no job so I am looking forward to discussing with them."
Asked whether he was confident the civil war could be ended, Brahimi said: "No, I'm not. What I am confident of is that I am going to try my utmost, my very, very best."
Diplomats said Brahimi had sought a sign of "strong support" from the Security Council before accepting.
In a letter to Ban on Thursday, the 15 Security Council members said they "reiterated their support to your good offices and to the mission of the joint special envoy for Syria."
But in a new sign of the international divisions over the conflict, Western and Arab nations boycotted a meeting called by Russia in New York. Russia postponed the meeting.
Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said his government had wanted to discuss a possible appeal to Assad and the opposition to end the fighting.
But the United States, Britain, France and Arab nations Qatar and Turkey told Russia they would not attend, diplomats said.
Only China and the United Nations accepted the invitation, while Iraq was the only Arab nation to express an interest.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed Brahimi as the new international envoy, while the White House asked for the UN to provide answers about his mandate.
"My message to Special Envoy Brahimi is simple: The United States stands ready to support you and secure a lasting peace that upholds the legitimate aspirations for a representative government of the people of Syria," Clinton said.
Britain said it "fully supports" Brahimi's appointment, welcoming the "vast experience" he brought to the role of seeking a political solution to the violence.
Alistair Burt, a junior British foreign minister, said he looked forward to a chance to discuss with Brahimi "the ways in which the UK can support him and diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Syria."
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