[Afghan News] September 8, 2012 - 09-10-2012, 03:35 AM
KABUL, Sept.8 (Xinhua) -- The government and people of Afghanistan on Saturday commemorated the late resistance leader and national hero Ahmad Shah Masoud, who was martyred in northern Takhar province 11 years ago.
Observing the day, the people by holding conferences pay tributes to the late resistance leader Masoud.
The late Ahmad Shah Masoud who had fought against the erstwhile Soviet Union troops and the then Soviet-backed regimes Kabul in 1980s in Afghanistan had also offered stiff resistance against Taliban onslaught in 1990s and blocked Taliban military campaign to take over the whole country, till his death.
However, two pro-Taliban and al-Qaida-linked Arabs disguised themselves as journalists blew themselves up during interview with Masoud in Khawja Bahaudin district of Takhar province on September 9, 2001 which coincided on 18 Sinbillah (Afghan month) killing him on the spot.
In a ceremony held in Kabul on Saturday to mark the 11th Martyrdom anniversary of Masoud, the first vice president Mohammad Qasim Fahim who served as a close aide to late Masoud during resistance against Taliban placed floral wreath on Masoud minaret, the Monument of Resistance, in Kabul, Saturday morning amid tight security.
The martyr day of Masoud has been observed as Haftai Shahid or (Martyrs Week) is also national holiday in Afghanistan.
Children killed in Kabul suicide raid
Kabul, Sept. 8 (Reuters): A 14-year-old suicide bomber detonated explosives near the heavily barricaded Nato headquarters in Kabul today, killing six civilians including children, Nato and local officials said.
The bomber wore a vest packed with explosives and rode right up to the Nato gates on a bicycle, underscoring the insurgents' ability to strike deep inside the Afghan capital, ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign combat forces by the end of 2014.
Pieces of flesh and splattered blood lay on the street near the base, where the small bodies of children were lifted into ambulances. Scores of young children peddle trinkets and chewing gum around the foreign bases, hoping to earn a bit of cash.
Wailing women in head-to-toe burqas who said they were the dead children's mothers rushed shortly after the attack to the site, where small flip flops lay strewn in the mud. Kabul Police, in a statement to media, said the bomber was 14 years old.
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, but denied they had deployed a teenage bomber.
Nato's International Security Assistance Force condemned the use of children. "Forcing underage youth to do their dirty work again proves the insurgency's despicable tactics," said spokesman Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz.
Pakistan strongly condemns terrorist attack in Kabul
ISLAMABAD, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan strongly condemned the bomb attack carried out in Kabul on Saturday in which innocent civilians lost their lives, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
Afghan officials said that at least six people were killed and several others were injured in a suicide attack in Kabul.
Pakistan said the cowardly act is the work of the enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
"The perpetrators of such terrorist attacks should know that they will not dent the resolve of the people to live in a peaceful and secure environment," a Foreign Ministry statement said. The statement said Pakistan would like to reassure the people and the Government of Afghanistan of its full support and cooperation in their efforts to defeat terrorism in the country.
"We convey our deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in the bomb attack," it said.
Afghan TV quoted the Interior Ministry spokesman as saying that the attack could be the work of Haqqani Network, which was designated as terrorist group by the United States on Friday.
The tug o' war at Bagram
Foreign Policy (blog) By Chris Rogers Friday, September 7, 2012
On Sunday, there will be a "splendid ceremony" marking the handover of the United States' Bagram prison. Yet despite the pomp, the handover hides the real story - the Afghans wanted this to mark the end of U.S. detention power in Afghanistan, while the U.S. has other ideas.
Remaking Bagram: The Creation of an Afghan Internment Regime and the Divide over U.S. Detention Power, a new report from the Open Society Foundations, revealed that while Afghan officials say they will have complete control over the Bagram detention facility-also known as the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP)-by September 9, 2012, the United States is likely to continue to control a portion of the facility. The Afghan government says that no detentions will be carried out by the U.S. military, while the United States maintains that it "still retains the authority to capture and detain."
This partial handover has come at a high cost for Afghanistan: the creation of a new internment regime that will allow the Afghan authorities to detain without trial. A number of Afghan officials have called this new regime unconstitutional and fear it will be subject to abuse.
The creation of an Afghan internment regime appears to have been introduced largely at the behest of the United States, in order to facilitate the handover of U.S. held detainees, and satisfy the U.S. desire for a lasting internment system on the Afghan side into which it could continue to transfer future captures. The system, created last March, closely resembles the U.S. system at Bagram. It was not introduced through legislation or even consultation with Parliament-instead it was created last March through a secret "inter-ministerial agreement" and unpublished presidential decree that are vaguely worded and ripe for abuse.
There is a danger that this will be the real legacy of Bagram--the creation of a flawed system of detention without trial in a country already wracked with decades of internal conflict, impunity, and weak rule of law. The Open Society Foundations learned that U.S.-Afghan disagreements over these issues led to a temporary suspension of detainee transfers from U.S. to Afghan control, which was resolved only days before the handover deadline.
And yet the "handover" ceremony will go on. In fairness, the majority of U.S.-held detainees have been transferred to the Afghan authorities at enormous speed over the past six months, and U.S. officials in Afghanistan are confronted with genuine challenges to transferring detainees responsibly. Handling of detainees by the Afghan government carries the potential for politicization and corruption of detainee releases. The capacity of the current government to process and properly prosecute detainees' cases is weak, and there is risk of detainees suffering torture and abuse, concerns that were compounded by a controversial new appointment to head the intelligence directorate. But differences between the United States and Afghanistan also reflect a central, long-lasting tension between Afghan sovereignty and U.S. strategic interests that has yet to be resolved, and that the March 9 handover merely papered over.
With the ISAF troop drawdown underway, the United States is trying to thread a tough needle: put Afghans in the lead on security, while at the same time continuing U.S. military operations, and protecting U.S. personnel. The role of special operations forces, and the reliance on detention operations like night raids, remain central to U.S. military strategy. Despite Afghan demands for sovereignty over night raids, there has been no sign of a decrease in these detention operations or the number of detainees sent to Bagram. The Open Society Foundations learned that since March, the United States has sent an additional 600 detainees into U.S. detention at Bagram, which President Karzai's National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Spanta said was "not in accordance with our agreement."
Not only is this at odds with Afghan officials' unqualified insistence on complete control of the DFIP, and an end to U.S. detentions there, but it highlights another, related disagreement: how long the United States can detain an individual before handing over to Afghan authorities. "After the signing of the [Detentions] MoU the time limit to hold detainee is 72 hours and should be respected," Presidential Spokesperson Aimal Faizi told us. National Security Advisor Dr. Spanta reiterated that "There is a big difference in perception between them and us on this issue. ...I have discussed this with Karzai...and there is no tolerance with him on this issue."
Another unresolved issue is that of "third country nationals," or non-Afghan detainees. They remain in U.S. custody at the DFIP, their fate uncertain, and at risk of falling into a legal limbo of indefinite detention. The stalemate on these detainees ensures that the United States will continue to retain at least some portion of the DFIP for the foreseeable future, raising the troubling specter of another Guantanamo in Afghanistan.
Not wanting to rob President Karzai of a key political victory, the Afghan government appears, for now, to be turning a blind eye to these issues, and to the serious rule of law concerns that they raise. However, one of the principal criticisms of Bagram was its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of many Afghans-its secrecy, prolonged detention without trial, lack of access for lawyers and fears of detainee abuse. One has to wonder whether this is precisely what the United States has handed over to Afghanistan.
Agreeing to vaguely worded agreements that permits the U.S. and Afghan governments to interpret their obligations in starkly different ways may serve immediate political interests, but it is no way to build a lasting, legitimate, or lawful framework for detentions and ongoing military operations. Both governments have failed to resolve fundamental differences over the future of U.S. detention power in Afghanistan, and have presented the Afghan and American publics with very different pictures. These tough questions will be answered another day, it seems, as is often the case in Afghanistan.
Chris Rogers is a human rights lawyer for the Open Society Foundations specializing in human rights and conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
US ambassador urges resolve in Afghan mission
ABC News 07/09/2012
America's ambassador to Australia has made a public appeal for people to support the continuing war effort in Afghanistan.
At the end of last month Australia suffered the greatest loss of life in wartime since the Vietnam war.
Three soldiers were allegedly shot by an Afghan national and two men died in a helicopter crash.
Jeffrey Bleich has acknowledged the collective pain for Australia following the deaths, and says given the loss of life it is understandable for people ask themselves whether the fight is worth it.
He says the Taliban is using the harsh reality of war as a tactic designed to force a troop withdrawal before the planned date of 2014.
He says that must not happen as there is still work to be done by troops who have committed to stay on in order to train Afghan security forces.
Mr Bleich says that training will help ensure Afghanistan does not backslide to a dangerous point, and if allied forces leave now the achievements of those who have given their lives will be abandoned.
Mr Bleich says the most dangerous aspects of the Al Qaeda network have been dismantled and there have been significant social improvements in Afghanistan.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has earlier urged Australia to maintain its resolve and see the mission through.
In the wake of the deaths the Government reiterated its commitment to remaining in its base in Uruzgan until a planned security handover in 2014.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says leaving early would hand victory to the Taliban.
"I cannot and will not countenance giving a strategic victory to people who have made it their work to kill Australian soldiers," she said.
Australia has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, and 39 have been killed in the country since 2002.
‘Little America,’By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
New York Times By LINDA ROBINSON September 7, 2012
Rajiv Chandrasekaran has done it again. Like “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” his chronicle of Washington’s hapless management of the Iraq war in its early days, “Little America” is a beautifully written and deeply reported account of how a divided United States government and its dysfunctional bureaucracy have foiled American efforts abroad, this time to suppress the Taliban insurgency and bring stability to Afghanistan. It tells a story of political foibles, overly ambitious goals and feckless Afghans and Americans. The United States seems condemned to lurch between disastrous quick fixes and unrealistic visions of remaking countries overnight in its own image, never finding a middle road. No doubt most readers of this book will come away with the conclusion that our principal enemy in all this is ourselves.
Chandrasekaran takes his title from an earlier effort to help Afghanistan. In the 1950s the Afghan king set out to bring prosperity to the rural southern region of his country through a huge development project supported by Afghan and American money. The construction giant Morrison Knudsen built a Little America enclave for engineers, workers and their families, complete with a swimming pool and card parties. In a telling vignette, Chandrasekaran recounts a riot that erupted in Kandahar when the conservative Pashtun elders found out that Afghan girls were being taught alongside boys in schools the Americans had built. The elders violently rejected this form of progress, but ultimately it was the land itself that thwarted the program: the salinity of the soil wrought havoc with most crops.
Fifty years later, the United States has repeated many of its past errors in the very same place. Chandrasekaran, an associate editor at The Washington Post, skewers the United States Agency for International Development, which refused to back an Afghan program to revive cotton gins in the south on the grounds that it would not be a free-market endeavor — no matter that the American cotton industry depends on government protection. Another tragicomedy is a hydropower project at Kajaki Dam, in a guerrilla-infested corner of Helmand Province. If it is ever finished, it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and only slightly increase the supply of electricity.
Such fiascoes highlight U.S.A.I.D.’s lack of management skill and expertise. But the most egregious error in development policy, Chandrasekaran shows, is a simple one: gushers of cash have been pumped into one of the world’s poorest economies, creating Potemkin progress and a tidal wave of corruption.
If the American model for promoting economic growth is fundamentally broken, the same might be said for its wartime policy-making process. The Pentagon favored a broad counterinsurgency program, whereas the Obama White House wanted a narrower effort directed at preventing Al Qaeda from regaining a foothold in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the legendarily energetic and egotistic Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, pursued a third strategy, trying to negotiate an end to the Taliban insurgency, that was supported by neither the White House nor the military.
Chandrasekaran adds important new details to previous accounts of the crippling infighting at the top levels of government. Douglas E. Lute, the White House’s chief adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the American ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, engaged in perpetual bureaucratic warfare with Holbrooke and the Pentagon. Lute tried to get Holbrooke fired. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Holbrooke’s friend and boss, protected his job, though his ceaseless forays, before his death, in quest of a Balkan-like peace deal were bearing no fruit. And while Holbrooke and Eikenberry were allied in their criticism of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, neither had much influence with him. The only senior official to forge decent relations with Karzai was Stanley McChrystal, the four-star commander in Kabul, who resigned after his staff’s scathing remarks about the White House became public. According to Chandrasekaran’s sources, President Obama became increasingly skeptical of American involvement, but h
e did not intervene to stop the infighting that undermined whatever chance it might have had of succeeding.
On the military front, Chandrasekaran spent most of his time on the ground charting the Marines’ operations in Helmand. They arrived to bolster the undermanned and faltering British effort, but Helmand, which had a booming opium crop, was not in any sense the strategic center of the war. Neighboring Kandahar, the Pashtun homeland and the Taliban heartland, had half the 20,000 troops that Helmand received. According to Chandrasekaran, both McChrystal and Lute recognized this as a misallocation of forces but did not correct it. The young Marines fought heroically, taking terrible casualties, especially from thickets of homemade mines affixed to irrigation canals, culverts and walls.
Some of the troops grumbled at the restrictions on air power that McChrystal had imposed to reduce the number of civilian casualties as being too soft on the enemy. But there was still plenty of killing in the fields of Helmand and western Kandahar. Explosives were used to blast open routes to villages on heavily mined roads, and when the 101st Airborne arrived in Arghandab District, it leveled a few villages that had been vacated except for Taliban fighters. Chandrasekaran tells the discouraging story of Harry Tunnell, the commander of the Fifth Brigade, Second Infantry Division, which took heavy casualties in Arghandab, came out swinging with rogue kill teams and never stopped. Tunnell was an unrepentant opponent of counterinsurgency who gave his brigade the moniker “Destroyer” during training, and ordered its vehicles painted with the motto “Search and Destroy.” Senior leaders wondered if he should have been relieved of command, but by the time his unit’s possible crimes were uncovered, he was back home. A
n investigation absolved him of responsibility.
“Little America” is a brilliant and courageous work of reportage. Its only weakness is a final chapter that feels more like a grab bag of complaints than a coherent critique. Chandrasekaran’s contribution to our current debates over Afghanistan would have been greater had he answered more definitively the questions of whether Obama’s policy was essentially unworkable, and whether there was a path not taken.
Chandrasekaran does provide some tantalizing possibilities. A diplomat advising the Marines in Helmand advocated a more modest but sustained approach, and, the author writes, “he had been right all along: . . . Obama should have gone long, not big.” Chandrasekaran also recounts a pragmatic attempt by the United States commander in Kandahar, Maj. Gen. James Terry, and his deputy Ken Dahl to achieve a balance among competing factions in the south, but this became a lost cause, Chandrasekaran says, once Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the plan’s chief Afghan architects, was murdered by an aide. Clearly, Afghanistan is a Hobbesian world of palace intrigue, where life for many will go on being nasty, brutish and short.
Linda Robinson is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her most recent book is “Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq.”
Tea and honey with the "lion of God"
CBS News By Jere Van Dyk September 7, 2012
On Friday, the Obama administration announced its decision to declare the Pakistan-based Haqqani network a terrorist body, subjecting all of its members to financial sanctions. This post was written by CBS News terrorism consultant Jere Van Dyk, who has worked in Afghanistan as a journalist over a 30-year period. He is the author of "In Afghanistan," about his time living with Mujahideen in the 1980s, and "Captive," about his time as a prisoner of the Taliban in 2008. He worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan for CBS News, off and on, from 2001 to 2008.
In July 1973, the former Afghan Prime Minister Sardar Daoud Khan overthrew King Zahir Shah, who was his brother-in-law and first cousin, and established the Republic of Afghanistan. There was no sign of Islamic fundamentalism in Kabul then. School girls wore short skirts and long socks and laughed in the streets. There were outdoor restaurants, Russian movies, hippies, the smell of hashish, garbage and wood burning stoves. Long camel caravans moved slowly through the city, silent in the afternoon sun.
That same year Burhanuddin Rabbani, a professor at the Islamic Faculty, Kabul University, where he founded the Muslim Youth Organization (MYO), sent a letter to Daoud, called by some Afghans the "Red Prince" for his liberal leanings. "If you free yourself from the communists, we will accept you," Rabbani wrote.
"The communists had power and we realized that we had to flee," he told me in late 2006.
About 12 students led by Gulbadeen Hekmatyier and Ahmed Shah Massoud fled to Peshawar. There, Maj. Gen. Nassarullah Babar, inspector general of Pakistan's Frontier Corps, secretly put them in the Pakistani army. "We gave them code names, Pakistani passports, and brought over Rabbani to be their leader," he told me in 2003. "I told the U.S. Embassy what we were doing."
"We established a Shura (Islamic Council) in Peshawar," Rabbani said.
In July 1975, the young men launched their first attacks in Afghanistan. They called themselves the "Mujahideen," or holy warriors.
At this time, Jalaladin Haqqani, born in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, a member of the Zadran tribe, whose lands are on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, was attending Dar al'Uloom Haqqania, a madrasa near Peshawar. As is common among Afghans, he created his own name: Jalaladin means "lion of God;" Haqqani is from "al-Haqqania." He returned home and began to preach jihad against Kabul. He was a malang: a mullah who stood by the road near his small baked-mud mosque begging for money.
Complete Coverage: Afghanistan Haqqani: Terrorist label may bring American POW "hardships"
Marxists overthrew Daoud in 1978 and formed a communist government. Haqqani joined Hezbi-i-Islami Khalis (The Islamic Party), a mujahideen political party led by Yunus Khalis, based in Peshawar.
In 1979, Osama bin Laden followed his former university professor Abdullah Azzam from Saudi Arabia to Peshawar.
I met Hekmatyier, Rabbani, Khalis, and other Mujahideen leaders in October 1981, when I went to Peshawar as a freelance reporter for The New York Times. Each of the men had their own political parties, backed by Pakistan, our ally fighting the Soviet Union. With Yunus Khalis' men I travelled to Miran Shah, North Waziristan, and up into Afghanistan to the compound of Jalaladin Haqqani.
He was on the dirt floor in his room, reading a map with other men, when I arrived. He ordered a plate of honey for me to go with my tea. He had a long dark beard, wore glasses and smiled warmly. Every day, five times a day, he stood on the roof of his room, cupped his hands and called his men to prayer. Before going into battle against the Afghan Army and its Soviet backers, he stood on a rock and put the Koran out and his men passed under it as they went off to battle. Haqqani and I rode horses together in the mountains. He always made sure I had food to eat when there was precious little.
One afternoon, an Egyptian army major, disguised as a journalist, came to stay with us, and Haqqani made him stay with me. He hated me because I was American and was happy that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had been assassinated. The Afghans didn't like him, but deferred to him, because he seemed to have power over Haqqani. He was the beginning of what would become al-Qaeda. I learned that Haqqani had ties to political religious parties in Pakistan and in the Middle East.
For 10 years ending in 1989, the U.S. and its allies, mainly Saudi Arabia, supplied billions of dollars in materiel to the mujahideen, our allies fighting the Soviets. The U.S. sent most if not all of this material to Pakistan, where the ISI, Pakistani military intelligence, distributed it to the Mujahideen groups in Peshawar. The lion's share went to Pashtun fundamentalist leaders Khalis and Hekmatyier, who extended their power from eastern Afghanistan down to Kandahar. Mullah Muhammad Omar, from the south, became part of the Yunus Khalis group.
In 1994, the Taliban came to power and asked the ISI to withdraw its support from the Mujahideen leaders. They wanted to hang them all for destroying Afghanistan. In 1995, Haqqani declared his support for the Taliban. In October 2001, 20 years after I'd first met Haqqani at his compound, Omar appointed him military commander of the Taliban.
In 2002, I returned to Khost. Haqqani's giant marble and hardwood mosque, with turquoise minarets, dominated the skyline of Khost, like a cathedral overlooking a village in France or Spain, just as his network dominates the battle against America, secularism, and westernization in Afghanistan. His second wife is an Arab.
Afghan police reform should be about more than protecting soldiers
Attacks on Nato soldiers triggered action against the Afghan Local Police, yet abuses against civilians have been ignored
Guardian.co.uk By Heather Barr Friday 7 September 2012
The announcement by Nato and US forces that they would suspend the training of new recruits and re-vet all 16,300 members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) force was long overdue. Sadly, the decision was only made after an alarming escalation of so-called "green on blue" attacks, in which Nato forces were killed by their ostensible Afghan allies. This year alone, 45 foreign soldiers have died in more than 30 "green-on-blue" attacks, at least 15 in August alone.
While it is understandable that Nato and the US have taken urgent steps to protect their own soldiers, it is shocking that ALP members and recruits have not been thoroughly vetted before. As Human Rights Watch and others have reported over the past two years – long before the recent spate of green on blue attacks – the ALP has repeatedly been involved in serious abuses against Afghan civilians. But the killings, rape, and extortion of Afghan civilians evidently was not reason enough for a rethink.
The ALP was created in 2010 at the request of Gen David Petraeus, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan and now the director of the CIA. The ALP is a loose network of local defence forces designed to mobilise and arm local civilians to defend their communities from the Taliban in areas where the national police and army have a limited presence. ALP recruits are mentored by foreign troops, most frequently US special forces, but in some parts of the country by troops from other nations, including Britain. They are nominally under the supervision of the Afghanistan National Police, but in practice they are sometimes no more than deputised gunmen loyal to a local warlord or members of violent local militias who are given a new uniform.
While ALP units have been credited with improving security in some locations, there were warning signs about the programme from the beginning. Afghanistan has a long history of local control by armed groups. Not only have these groups frequently preyed on the local population and contributed to ethnic violence, they have too often spun beyond the control of those who established and supported them. The ALP from the beginning risked being yet another militia in which armed men were essentially set loose under the colour of law on local communities.
Human rights organisations identified structural problems with the ALP early on, including a system of vetting easily defeated by local warlords, a command and control structure undermined by the limited capacity of the Afghanistan National Police, and virtually no effective means for accountability when abuses are committed by ALP members.
As the programme was implemented, reports of abuses against Afghan civilians began to pile up. In a September 2011 report, Human Rights Watch documented extortion, illegal raids and detention, theft, assault, rape, and murder by the ALP. Since then, the abuses have continued, including the May 2012 alleged rape of a teenage girl in northern Kunduz province by ALP members.
For the US and Nato, with plans to expand the force to 30,000 by the end of 2014, the ALP is a cornerstone of the handover of Afghanistan's security to Afghan forces. It has become an integral part of the international withdrawal strategy, which is one reason why the US and Nato have mostly dismissed concerns raised by human rights groups about the ALP, claiming that abuses were committed by other armed groups or were aberrations that were dealt with.
One exception was a US military investigation triggered by the Human Rights Watch report. The investigation, concluded in December 2011, largely confirmed the contents of the Human Rights Watch report, including a need for better understanding of local context and ethnic dynamics, deficits in training, and a lack of procedures to fire or discipline abusive ALP members. Unofficially, many US and UK officers have expressed serious concern about the way the ALP was set up and how it may become an uncontrolled monster unless it is quickly brought under proper command and control.
Unfortunately, the new measures announced by Nato to reform the ALP – including increased counter-intelligence, new systems for detecting "insider threats", establishment of anonymous reporting, and enhanced cultural training – are focused solely on containing the threat that the ALP and other Afghan security forces present to foreign troops working alongside them, not improving the way that ALP members treat Afghans.
Earlier attention by Nato and the US to the ALP abuse of civilians might have not only better protected civilians but also prevented some "green on blue" attacks. The same measures human rights activists have been recommending – better vetting, more comprehensive training, a fully functional command structure, and real accountability mechanisms to discipline, dismiss and prosecute those responsible for abuse – might have screened out or expelled ALP members at risk of turning on their international partners.
Now that Nato and the US have taken on the difficult but essential task it is time to go further and engage in wholesale reform of an institution that poses a serious threat, not just to foreign troops but also to Afghan civilians. Any overhaul of the programme should value protection of civilians just as highly as protection of Nato soldiers.
UK's Prince Harry deployed to Afghanistan
CNN By Max Foster and Laura Smith-Spark September 7, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - Prince Harry arrived in Afghanistan on Friday on a four-month military deployment in his role as an Apache helicopter pilot, Britain's Ministry of Defense said.
Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and third in line to the British throne, is a captain in Britain's Army Air Corps.
He will be stationed at dusty Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province -- considered a Taliban heartland -- with the 100-strong 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.
The austere conditions will be a far cry from the more luxurious lifestyle he enjoys when on leave in the United Kingdom -- or on his widely covered trip to Las Vegas last month, where a scandal broke after he was photographed naked while partying in his hotel room on what turns out to have been a predeployment vacation.
Prince Harry served briefly in Afghanistan four years ago, but he was hurriedly withdrawn amid safety fears when news of his deployment to a small forward operating base leaked.
The media are allowed to report on his deployment this time, although the timing of his arrival in Afghanistan was kept under wraps.
"He's approached the deployment with a range of emotions like any other soldier and feels both pride and anticipation as he deploys for a job he's trained for, for so long," a St. James's Palace spokesman said.
"Prince Harry, like any soldier, considers it a great honor to represent his country in Her Majesty's armed forces wherever it chooses to deploy him."
A palace source said the prince, who turns 28 this month, will be treated just the same as his fellow soldiers.
The queen and Prince Charles have been fully briefed on his deployment, the source said, adding that Charles was immensely proud of his son.
Harry qualified to fly an Apache helicopter in combat early this year, after doing some of his training over the deserts of Arizona and Nevada. He won an award as the best co-pilot gunner in his peer group during training.
The Camp Bastion complex, near the large U.S. Camp Leatherneck, is one of the busiest airfields in the world, with more than 28,000 people working on site, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.
While stationed there, Prince Harry will be part of the Joint Aviation Group, which provides support to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and Afghan forces in the region.
Capt. Jock Gordon, commander of the Joint Aviation Group, welcomed Prince Harry to Camp Bastion -- and appealed for him to be allowed to get on with his job.
"Working together with his colleagues in the squadron, he will be in a difficult and demanding job, and I ask that he be left to get on with his duties and allowed to focus on delivering support to the coalition troops on the ground," he said, in remarks quoted by the Press Association news agency.
The Ministry of Defense said Harry's squadron would "provide surveillance, deterrence and, when required, close combat attack capabilities as well as escort duties for other aircraft."
Since Harry qualified in February he has been gaining additional flying experience with 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, the statement said.
"He has been trained to fly in the front seat as the mission commander, a role that equips the operative to fly the aircraft from the back seat but the majority of the time involves operating the Apache's sights, sensors and weapons systems," it said.
Harry was withdrawn only 10 weeks into his last deployment to Afghanistan, amid concern that knowledge of his presence there could expose him and his fellow troops to greater risk.
This time, he is based in a more secure military complex, and Apache helicopters are a target for Taliban attacks regardless of whether Prince Harry is piloting them or not.
His deployment is expected to be a big morale boost for British forces in Afghanistan and may go some way to restoring his public image following last month's scandal.
The prince hit the headlines after he was photographed naked while in his swanky Las Vegas hotel suite with friends and a group of women they had met.
The images were widely published on the Internet and by Britain's best-selling tabloid newspaper The Sun, prompting questions about media invasion of privacy.
Other UK media outlets respected a request by St. James's Palace not to publish the images, one of which showed Harry using his hands to shield his modesty, while another showed his bare bottom.
The Press Complaints Commission, the UK newspaper watchdog, said Thursday it had received about 3,800 complaints from the public about the decision by The Sun to publish the images -- but none from palace officials.
"The Commission is in continuing dialogue with Prince Harry's representatives but as yet has not received a formal complaint," the commission said in a statement.
While the body appreciates the concerns raised by members of the public, an investigation without the consent and involvement of royal officials would be "inappropriate," the statement said.
Before the drama over the photographs, Prince Harry had won praise from the UK media in recent months for embracing a more central public role in support of the queen in her diamond jubilee year.
This included representing his grandmother at the Olympics Closing Ceremony and on a royal tour to the Caribbean.
CNN's Anna Coren contributed from Kabul; Max Foster and Laura Smith-Spark reported from London
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