[Afghan News] July 31, 2012 - 08-09-2012, 03:53 PM
By Farid Behbud, Abdul Haleem
KABUL, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The death toll of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the Afghan war has slightly increased in July compared with the previous month.
A total of 46 ISAF service members have lost their lives, including four service members who died in non-battle incidents in July, according to the iCasualties, a website tracking the casualties of NATO-led troops in the war on terror in Afghanistan.
Out of 46 deaths in July, according to the website, 41 are U.S. soldiers; while fatalities of the foreign forces totaled 39 in June including 29 Americans.
The latest casualties of the foreign troops in Afghanistan were the killing of two U.S. Marines in an insurgent attack in western Afghan province of Badghis on Sunday July 29, the ISAF forces confirmed.
A Georgian soldier who got injured in southern Helmand province in a hostile fire in January this year died of his wounds in a Georgian hospital on Sunday, according to reports.
Some 130,000-strong NATO-led ISAF with nearly 90,000 of them Americans are currently stationed in Afghanistan to fight Taliban militants and help stabilize the war-battered nation.
The Taliban militants which have been waging over a decade-long insurgency since a U.S.-led invasion ousted their regime in late 2001, launched an annual spring offensive from May 3 this year against Afghan security forces and the NATO-led coalition troops across the militancy-plagued country.
The Taliban-led attacks have increased by 10 percent within the past three month compared with the first three months of the current year, a NATO spokesman confirmed earlier this month.
"In terms of enemy initiated attacks I can confirm that if you look at the last 12 weeks we had a slide increase of enemy initiated attacks of about 10 percent," Brigadier General Gunter Katz, a spokesman for the NATO-led ISAF, told reporters at a weekly press briefing on July 16.
On Saturday, two U.S. soldiers with the NATO-led ISAF were killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Wardak province.
A single deadliest attack against the coalition forces was a roadside bombing or Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast that left six American soldiers dead in Wardak province on July 8.
The IED attack occurred in Mullah Khil area of Wardak's provincial capital Maidan Shar 35 km west of Afghan capital of Kabul, according to Wardak provincial administration spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.
Separately, two NATO service members were injured when a military helicopter went down in western Afghanistan on July 18; no more details have been released by the coalition.
Days earlier, on July 16, two U.S. soldiers with the NATO-led coalition lost their lives in a Rocket-Propelled Grenade attack in Shah Wali Kot district of Taliban birthplace the southern Kandahar province.
In the latest so-called "green-on-blue" attack, a man in Afghan National Police uniform opened fire against coalition forces in Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province killing three British troopers on July 1.
In 2010 and 2011, the NATO-led ISAF had respectively lost 711 service members including 499 Americans, and 566 service members including 418 Americans.
According to iCasualties, a total of 3,113 service members with the NATO-led ISAF force have lost their lives so far in Afghanistan. Among them 2,069 Americans, 422 Britons and 622 from other troops-contributing-countries.
Pakistan, U.S. sign agreement on NATO supply routes
ISLAMABAD, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan and the United States on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to replace the existing arrangement for NATO supply routes.
American Charge d'Affaires in Islamabad, Richard Hoagland, and a senior Pakistani Defense Ministry official, Rear Admiral Farrokh Ahmad, signed the MoU on behalf of the two governments.
Pakistan reopened the land route for transporting supplies to the NATO-led coalition force in neighboring Afghanistan on July 3 after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized for the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a U.S. airstrike on a border checkpost last November.
Pakistan blocked the supply line for nearly seven months before Washington agreed to tender apology.
Officials from both countries will meet once every two months to evaluate the implementation of the MoU.
Transportation of arms and ammunition via Pakistan will not be allowed except for the Afghan National Army, according to the MoU.
Transport of non-lethal cargo including food, medicine and fuel will be allowed.
The MoU will be valid till 31 December 2015 and could be extended for one year after consultations.
In Afghanistan, targeted attacks on leaders an ominous trend
The attacks on Afghan leaders come as the NATO force hands over more security duties to the Afghan police and army and begins its troop drawdown in earnest.
Los Angeles Times By Laura King July 31, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - Tamim Nuristani used to own a pizza chain in California. Now he's a marked man in Afghanistan.
This month, insurgents ambushed the provincial governor's convoy in northeastern Afghanistan, sparking a fierce battle that pinned down his entourage for the night. When the motorcade tried to move in the morning, the assailants struck again. Miraculously, all those in the convoy survived.
It was not the first attempt on Nuristani's life; he did not expect it to be the last. Not long ago, security forces discovered and defused a remote-controlled explosive device apparently meant for him, and a defecting Taliban fighter told officials that he had been personally tasked with assassinating the Nuristan governor.
"Based on the intelligence reports we receive, myself, the police chief, the provincial head of intelligence and a lawmaker from Nuristan are high on the list of targets," Nuristani said. "But I will do my best to keep serving my country."
Taliban and other insurgent groups have long targeted Afghan government officials and community leaders. But this month has seen an extraordinary spate of assassinations and attempted assassinations of public figures, raising the specter of many more such killings as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force here begins its troop drawdown in earnest.
Over a span of four days beginning July 13, a provincial women's affairs chief in eastern Afghanistan was killed by a car bomb; the mayor of a western town was gunned down on the way home from evening prayers; a prominent member of parliament was slain in a suicide attack that also killed 18 others at festivities for his daughter's wedding; a district police chief in Kandahar was killed in a drive-by shooting; a Cabinet minister and another provincial governor escaped uninjured when their motorcade was bombed; and a district chief in northern Kunduz province hopped out of his vehicle to shop — just before the car blew up.
The latest jolt came Sunday, when the governor of Chak district in Wardak province, Mohammad Ismail Wafa, was shot to death by assailants. His young son died with him. And the Muslim holy month of Ramadan proved no protection for a prominent imam in Oruzgan province: He was killed Monday by a bomb outside his mosque.
Authorities are uncertain whether the recent drumbeat of attacks represents a coordinated campaign by a single group or if the strikes were unrelated actions by disparate militant organizations — or even whether internal power struggles were at play.
Either way, the seeming open season on Afghan public servants represents an ominous trend as the NATO force hands over more security responsibilities to the Afghan police and army, while simultaneously trying to build public confidence in all levels of the Afghan government.
"What better way to undermine government power than by killing the Afghan leadership?" asked Brig. Roger Noble, an Australian serving as a senior military operations officer with NATO's International Security Assistance Force. At a recent shura, or consultative session with tribal elders, he said, the most urgent request was for more support for vulnerable district officials.
Ramadan, which began Friday, could prove particularly perilous, because politicians and dignitaries are expected to mingle with crowds of constituents at the daily iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daytime fast observed by devout Muslims. And the Taliban has vowed no letup in violence during the time of fasting and prayer.
The latest series of killings and attacks was unusual in that it was largely concentrated inAfghanistan'snorth, a region that is mainly populated by ethnic minorities with a more pronounced grass-roots distaste for the Taliban than is seen in the predominantly Pashtun south and east, historically the war's main battlegrounds.
Some non-Taliban insurgent groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Pakistani-based organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba have made inroads in the north in recent years. And the security situation is complicated by internecine tensions among some former comrades in arms from the Northern Alliance, the U.S.-backed militia that helped drive the Taliban from power.
Some northern strongmen have reportedly been stockpiling weapons in advance of a potential power vacuum when Western combat troops depart, or in the event of a peace pact with the Taliban, which most of them strongly oppose.
The wedding hall blast in Samangan province that killed the father of the bride, well-connected lawmaker Ahmad Khan Samangani, swiftly gave rise to a rash of conspiracy theories about his rivalries with other northern power brokers.
But the Samangan police chief, Gen. Khalil Andarabi, blamed what he described as an Al Qaeda-linked faction assembled by the late Mullah Amir Gul, a onetime Taliban shadow governor in the province who also once served in the Afghan army.
The Taliban movement, made up of sometimes-quarreling factions and with fluid and shifting alliances with other militant organizations, has claimed responsibility for some of the recent attacks, including the one against Nuristani. But its leadership has disavowed responsibility for others, such as the July 13 car bombing that killed Hanifa Safi, a respected women's rights advocate in Laghman province.
Although Taliban fighters have repeatedly targeted and threatened women's activists, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid — disingenuously, perhaps — suggested that "personal enmity" might lie behind Safi's murder. No arrests have yet been made in her death, which brought an outpouring of grief and anger from the community, including many conservative male tribal elders.
"The people who commit these despicable acts are enemies of peace and security," said a Laghman provincial spokesman, Sarhadi Zewak. "They don't care who they kill — men or women, tribal elders or government officials. Their targets are simply anyone who is working for the betterment of this country."
Special correspondents Hashmat Baktash and Aimal Yaqubi contributed to this report.
MPs Criticize Govt. Silence Over Pakistan's Cross-Border Shelling
TOLOnews.com Monday, 30 July 2012
Representatives of the House Have expressed anger about the government's silence over the cross-border shelling of Kunar from Pakistan.
MP Obaidullah Barekzai from Uruzgan said that he does not know why the Afghan government has kept quite towards the shelling from Pakistani soil.
Speaking to the general assembly, the MPs criticized the government for not defending Afghanistan's sovereignty and asked President Hamid Karzai to take the necessary action to prevent attacks.
"Not defending the sovereignty of Afghanistan is a national treason. Let's ask the president to respond to this," Kabul MP Ramazan Bashar Dost said.
"Pakistan's military fires rockets onto Afghan territory, which is a clear invasion," Barekzai said.
Top Afghan Official to Visit Pakistan
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Pakistan has invited key Afghan leaders and former Northern Alliance members to visit the country, The Express Tribune has reported.
The politicians and former Northern Alliance members will be lead by the Afghan High Peace Coucil chief, Salahuddin Rabbani, who recently replaced his father Burhanuddin Rabbani after his assassination by the Taliban last year.
Salahuddin accepted the invitation earlier this month when Pakistan's Prime Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, visited Kabul, the reported said.
The report added that Pakistani officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Pakistan's ambassador to Kabul Muhammad Sadiq had already extended an invitation to the delegation.
The impending visit comes as the Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that Pakistan will do whatit can to assist the Afghan-led peace process.
Ashraf met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the 19th of July for the first time since he taking office and has visited British Prime Minister David Cameron.
According to a statement from the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the leaders discussed the regional security concerns related to terrorism and the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Both Cameron and Ashraf reiterated their commitment to support Afghanistan in achieving stability and prosperity.
Afghans Hopeful, But Worried About Future
Sharon Behn VOA News July 30, 2012
KABUL — During the past forty years, Afghanistan has had several national anthems and flags. After decades of political change, many worry about the next big transition after international combat forces leave in 2014.
There is a growing middle class in Afghanistan’s cities, including the capital Kabul.
It is an increasingly urban population. They are Muslim, modest, and enjoy having fun.
Places like this bowling alley are new to Afghanistan, as is the idea of women playing sports with men, even their brothers, in public.
Sarwar Sarwari says the bowling alley opens up new possibilities. “To me, I think, it is a step toward democracy, where you see women and men come together and play something like this," he stated. "I never had this in Afghanistan when I was a child.”
But Sarwari says people are uncertain about their future. “Nervousness is all around, you can feel it in the city, within the government, within the people, when people talk around. I am hoping that things will work out to the best in this country, because people put in [worked] their hardest to make it happen,” he said.
Extravagant wedding halls show there is a lot of money is some parts of Kabul.
There are many businesses investing here.
But Afghanistan’s six national flags and six national anthems in less than 40 years are reminders of how different leaders tried to shape the country’s direction.
Afghans are very different from 11 years ago when the Taliban was thrown out. They are more educated. More people live in cities and almost half own cell phones. But many remain uncertain about the future.
Afghan analyst Omar Sharifi says violence will not dictate who runs the country. “Now nobody sees a coup d’etat, or overthrowing the government, or the taking by force of power as a legitimate means. The people believe in elections as a legitimate means of establishing authority,” he explained.
Despite the political changes, many women in Kabul remain too frightened to speak on camera. Privately, they say they fear losing the few rights they have gained in the past decade.
In a male-only billiards hall, patrons worry about the increasing violence and about the future of Afghanistan’s democratic government.
Yar Gul Nader Safi is pessimistic. “The future as I can see it: for the past two months there are a lot of suicide attacks, and also the Taliban they are attacking all different places. It seems to us that it [the future] will be dark,” he said.
After 40 years of dramatic political swings, many Afghans in Kabul worry that the country’s political future may be similar to its tumultuous past.
Aid will not sustain Afghanistan’s economy
Financial Times By Ahmed Rashid and Alexis Crow July 30, 2012
Last month 70 nations and institutions pledged $16bn for Afghanistan’s development over the next four years. Sadly, the money is likely to be wasted, just as the vast sums already invested since the US-led intervention have made little progress in creating a self-sustaining Afghan economy.
After western forces depart, Afghanistan will be a fragile state, threatened by the Taliban and other warlords and unable to create jobs. During the occupation, western governments and development agencies have failed to invest enough in local people to enable them to earn lasting livelihoods.
What has emerged in Afghanistan is an inefficient system that fails to motivate or educate local people in economic development, but reinforces dependence on foreign aid. Two-thirds of the population are under 25 and there will be no jobs for most of them once servicing foreign troops comes to an end. The government has never had the capacity to produce jobs, while the private sector is too small and has not been encouraged sufficiently to do so. Yet only by enabling local people to share in their own profit can stability and growth last.
As all too often in the developing world, there is a tension between the foreign ownership of many projects and public services, and Afghans’ desire to design and implement such projects themselves. Western institutional aid has such difficult monitoring and accounting rules that most Afghans cannot benefit from it. Western state-driven development agencies are ill equipped for encouraging the local private sector.
Greater involvement by the west’s private sector would help bridge the gap. The only way that small, profit-based incentives can be fostered is for the west to concede that it may not know what is best for the Afghan people and that although humans may have similar needs (such as food, shelter, education), they have distinct preferences as to how these needs are met. However, the private sector will only invest once security improves – which will only happen if the west ceases to impose its preferences for society and governance on Afghanistan.
We need a new model for economic development that gives Afghans profit-based incentives to build their own economy. Big Chinese and Indian mining companies are already investing in Afghanistan: the US should now encourage bold private equity groups with a long-term, high risk investment strategy.
The new model must also take a different attitude towards peace making with the Taliban, so hampered not so much by Taliban intransigence as by infighting in Washington and addiction to old style diplomacy. Western institutions still act like 19th-century imperial behemoths, ignoring their opponents’ cultures and values. The US military expects the Taliban to accept that they have lost the war and surrender as the Japanese did in 1945. Yet the Taliban demand negotiations between equals. Accepting this will be the only way to end the war.
Only when the west stops imposing its will and vision of governance on the Afghan people will a permissible environment be created for peace. The Taliban have repeatedly said that once the Americans leave, Afghans will determine their own future. This is said not as a threat but an assertion of the natural order.
The UN diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi tried to forge a new way of negotiating in Afghanistan during the creation of a new government after the US invasion in 2001. He assembled a group of civilian scholars and journalists who knew the region far better than diplomats. They formed a core advisory group that declined to treat any side as loser or victor and approached peacemaking as locals would. The group worked with Afghans from all social sectors to create both political and economic incentives for all groups to back peace negotiations. Mr Brahimi regretted being unable to include the Taliban then. To negotiate with the Taliban now, the US needs a similar team of civilian experts, perhaps led by a US official.
Peace will come only by mobilising all sectors of society for national reconciliation. Stability and growth will follow only by enabling local people to share the profits and encouraging private sector solutions. Two years before Nato withdraws from Afghanistan, it is still not too late for the US to change strategy – but throwing billions of dollars of aid at the problem is not the answer.
The writers are a research fellow at Chatham House and the author of ‘Pakistan on the Brink, the future of American, Pakistan and Afghanistan’
Crocker On Afghanistan's 'Extraordinary Achievement'
NPR July 30, 2012
Renee Montagne speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker as he prepares to step down from his posting.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Our next guest spent some of his long diplomatic career in Syria, as well as Lebanon, Iraq and Pakistan. Ryan Crocker served in Lebanon during its civil war and in Iraq during the surge of U.S. troops. He arrived in Kabul again last year as ambassador to Afghanistan at a sensitive and dangerous time. NATO troops were drawing down after 10 years of war - which is why he sees as one of his greatest achievements a 10-year partnership agreement which cements the U.S. as an ally long after American troops are gone.
AMBASSADOR RYAN CROCKER: After the Soviet defeat and withdrawal in 1989, we basically said our work here is done and withdrew from any meaningful engagement with Afghanistan. That led to the civil war and the rise of the Taliban. So, for Afghans, they see this as the guarantee that we won't let that happen again, that we will be with them.
MONTAGNE: Crocker also helped secure international pledges of aid worth $16 billion at this month's donors' conference in Tokyo - impressive, given the tough economic times.
Ryan Crocker joined us for a last interview as ambassador.
CROCKER: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Do you think this money, this $16 billion will, in fact, be forthcoming over the coming years? Can Afghanistan count on it?
CROCKER: The Tokyo conference and its outcome I think is highly significant, because it produced, you know, a document in which the international community accepts certain obligations to provide funding, and the Afghan government accepts certain obligations to fight corruption, to build institutions. And I think as the international community sees the Afghan government deliver on its side, both the incentive and the pressure on international community to provide the promised assistance simply increases. And I note that President Karzai came out with a 14-point decree for all ministries to begin to implement to deliver on their side of the undertaking, and I find that highly encouraging.
MONTAGNE: It's highly encouraging, even though President Karzai has made promises before - and feels like many promises before - to crack down on corruption, to manage the economy better, and hasn't delivered.
CROCKER: I think the circumstances are significantly different now. President Karzai believes that he has the solid backing of the international community.
MONTAGNE: But he didn't think that before? I would think there was plenty of evidence that the international community was behind Afghanistan and this president.
CROCKER: In terms of a long-term commitment, the way he frames it now is that the international community has done everything that Afghanistan could conceivably ask. It is now up to the Afghans to put their own house in order.
MONTAGNE: There's a steady drumbeat of stories and predictions about a possible civil war. Now, you've repeatedly said you do not see a civil war in the future for Afghanistan. But speaking to an American audience, can you give one particular example of, in a sense, why not? I think Americans think of this country as a place with a corrupt government, a history of violence. Why wouldn't it fall into, if not a civil war, some type of violent chaos?
CROCKER: I can give you several reasons, Renee, that I have certainly found compelling. Perhaps most important is the Afghans have been there and done that. When I got there at the beginning of 2002, it looked like Berlin in 1945, and that was because of the Afghan civil war. No one wants to go back to that. The second point is minority groups clearly see their interests having a voice in national decisions - no major minority politician is thinking in terms of separatism. It's all how can they be more - rather than less - involved in Kabul.
A third point would be, of course, the enemy himself. The Taliban and their allies are equal opportunity killers: Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks. So, you know, in a sense, an enemy who indiscriminately kills all Afghans regardless of community or ethnicity or political affiliation has actually been a unifying factor.
MONTAGNE: Let me ask a larger question. You've just stepped down as the ambassador to Afghanistan. You came to Afghanistan in January of 2002. You were the man who reopened the embassy doors after the fall of the Taliban. Looking back, what will you miss the most?
CROCKER: You know, what I'll miss the most is the chance to see Afghanistan move to the next stage of its development at every level - economic, governance and security - because I think they're on the right trajectory. I felt we had a pretty good last year in setting that up. I would have liked to have been part of the process of seeing it through. I'm confident they will get there. It would have been nice to be on deck to watch them do it.
MONTAGNE: What did it look like to you as you took your last look at Kabul?
CROCKER: A vibrant, bustling city with shops open, streets crowded, horrendous traffic - which some would consider a problem, but frankly I see as a sign of confidence in the security and stability of the capital. There's a long ways to go, but from the devastated ghost town of 2002 to the Kabul of today, it's an extraordinary achievement. And I leave with the sense of a city that is very, very much alive and moving into the future.
MONTAGNE: Ambassador Crocker, thank you very much for joining us.
CROCKER: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Ryan Crocker just stepped down from his position as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. It's NPR News.
Afghanistan war: When 'friends' attack, who can you trust?
In Afghanistan, our soldiers are being attacked by the men they're training to take over for them. That's a mission failure.
Los Angles Times By Tom Engelhardt Opinion July 31, 2012
It has a name: green-on-blue violence. But the label doesn't begin to suggest the seriousness of the increasingly common phenomenon of Afghan soldiers, policemen and security guards attacking their NATO or U.S. mentors, the people who are funding, supporting and teaching them. Think of it as death-by-ally.
Such incidents have occurred at least 21 times so far this year, resulting in 30 American and European deaths. That's the same number of green-on-blue attacks reported in all of 2011. And, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. and NATO don't always release news of the assaults unless they result in deaths, so the number could be higher.
There have been at least four incidents of green-on-blue violence this month. The initial one, on July 1, reportedly involved a member of the elite Afghan National Civil Order Police shooting down three British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand province, deep in the Taliban heartland of the country. The shooter was captured.
Two days later, a man the Associated Press said was in "an Afghan army uniform" turned his machine gun on U.S. troops just outside a NATO base in Wardak province, west of the Afghan capital, Kabul, wounding five before fleeing.
Then, on July 22, a security guard gunned down three police trainers — two former U.S. customs and border protection agents and a former United Kingdom revenue and customs officer. This happened at a police training facility near Herat inAfghanistan'sgenerally peaceful northwest near the Iranian border.
The next day, an Afghan soldier on a military base in Faryab province in the north of the country turned his gun on a group of American soldiers also evidently working as police trainers, wounding two before being killed by return fire.
In 2007-08, there were only four green-on-blue attacks, resulting in four deaths. When they started multiplying in 2010, the initial impulse of coalition spokespeople was to blame them on Taliban infiltrators (and the Taliban did take credit for most of them). Now, U.S. or NATO spokespeople tend to blame such violence on individual pique or some personal grievance against coalition forces rather than Taliban affiliation. They prefer to present each case as if it were a local oddity with little relation to any of the others.
In fact, there is a striking pattern at work that should be front-page news. The attacks appear not to be coordinated, but they nevertheless seem to represent a kind of collective rejection of what the U.S. and NATO are trying to accomplish, some kind of primal Afghan scream from an armed people who have known little but fighting, bloodshed and destruction for more than three decades.
The number of these events is startling, given that an Afghan who turns his weapon on well-armed American or European allies is likely to die. A small number of shooters have escaped and a few have been captured alive (including one recently sentenced to death in an Afghan court), but most are shot down. In a situation in which foreign advisors and troops are now distinctly on edge, however, these are essentially suicidal acts.
It's reasonable to assume that, for every Afghan who acts on such a violent impulse, there must be a larger pool who have similar feelings but don't act on them (or simply vote with their feet, like the 24,590 soldiers who deserted in the first six months of 2011 alone).
If the significance of green-on-blue violence hasn't quite sunk in yet here in the U.S., consider this: There is nothing in our historical record faintly comparable, no war in which our "native" allies have turned the weapons we supply on our forces in anything like these numbers — or, as far as I can tell, in any numbers at all. It didn't happen in the 18th and 19th century Indian wars, in the Philippine insurrection at the turn of the last century, in Korea during the early 1950s, Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s, or Iraq in this century. (In Vietnam, the only somewhat analogous set of events involved U.S. soldiers, not their South Vietnamese counterparts, turning their weapons on their own officers in acts that, like "green-on-blue" violence, got a label all their own: "fragging.")
Whatever the singular bitterness or complaint behind any specific green-on-blue attack, a cumulative message clearly lurks in them that theU.S. militaryand Washington would prefer not to hear. To do so would be to acknowledge the full-scale failure of the ongoing American mission in Afghanistan. After all, what could be more devastating 12 years after the U.S.-led invasion than having such attacks come not from the enemies the U.S. is officially fighting, but from the Afghans closest to us, the ones we have been training at a cost of nearly $50 billion to take over the country as U.S. combat troops are drawn down.
What we're seeing, in the most violent form imaginable, is a sweeping message from our Afghan allies, from the security forces Washington plans to continue supporting long after most American troops have been withdrawn. To the extent that bullets can be translated into words, that message would be something like "Your mission has failed; get out or die."
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com, in which a longer version of this piece appears. His latest book is "The United States of Fear."
Afghan war: Who's in charge, again?
A check point delay on a reporting trip in Afghanistan raises questions for Monitor reporter Tom Peter as to whether the phrase 'Afghan-led' is more mantra than an actual practice.
Christian Science Monitor By Tom A. Peter, Correspondent July 30, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - It’s almost impossible to talk to the US military in Afghanistan without someone mentioning that the effort here is increasingly Afghan led. This is, after all, their country, say US soldiers, so it only makes sense that they take the wheel and the US slides into the backseat. As a reporter working in Afghanistan, I’ve listened to the US military say this for years now. Despite Afghans being given much more authority recently, I’ve still often wondered just how much control Afghans have over their own country. While reporting in Kandahar recently, I received a reminder that “Afghan-led” is often more mantra than an actual practice.
For several years now, I’ve known the district governor of Kandahar’s Arghandab district. I first met him about two years ago, shortly after he took over when his predecessor was assassinated and security seemed to be at an all time low. Since then, whenever I travel to Kandahar I try to pay him a visit.
His office is situated on a compound that is divided between the Afghan district center and a US military base. To enter the district government office, you must first pass through a US checkpoint. After that, another checkpoint divides the US side from the Afghan side.
As I’ve known the district governor for some time, I called him directly to arrange the meeting. Given that he’s an independent politician who is supposed to take his directives from the Afghan government, not the Americans, I didn’t think to bother scheduling an appointment via the Americans he shares a base with. In all my visits this had never been a requirement.
When I arrived at the main gate of the base, the American soldiers there told me that I’d need to check with their commander at the inner checkpoint before they could allow me to bring in my audio recorder. In a country where reporters often aren’t allowed to bring their own pens to press conferences, this didn’t strike me as unreasonable.
At the next checkpoint, however, I was ushered on to the US side of the base where a senior ranking sergeant asked why I needed the recorder. I explained that I was a journalist who’d come to interview the district governor in a meeting independent of anything to do with the US military. He then informed me that he’d have to verify with his unit’s top commanders before he could allow me to meet with the district governor.
Then began an almost 90 minute waiting period where I was asked to sit just inside the checkpoint.
At one point, the sergeant told me his commanders had denied me my meeting because I hadn’t arranged my meeting through them. When I asked why they were even involved with an independent meeting scheduled directly with the district governor, they told me that if I didn’t want them involved I shouldn’t have come to their side of the base. They ignored my protests when I said the guards forced me to come to their side of the base to get permission to bring my audio recorder to the district governor’s office.
At no point did anyone walk the short distance to the district governor’s office to ask if he was in fact expecting me, nor could I call him because the guards had taken my cellphone and my interpreter was already waiting in the district governor’s office.
After about 90 minutes, and without any real explanation as to the delay, I was eventually allowed to have my meeting with the governor.
Just why they held me for more than an hour and seemed to deny my meeting with the district governor remains unclear. The only reason I was offered is that I hadn’t scheduled the meeting through the US military.
While my experience was an isolated incident, with such a focus on making the NATO effort here "Afghan led," it's hard to imagine behavior from the US military that could undercut this idea more than what I experienced trying to meet with the district governor. What message are they sending to both Afghan politicians and a reporter when American soldiers control a local politician's schedule? Whatever they're trying to communicate, it certainly does not convey their confidence in an Afghan-led Afghanistan.
U.S. Afghan aid could flop on counterinsurgency goals - watchdog
Reuters Mon Jul 30, 2012
WASHINGTON - Costly U.S. efforts to build major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan are running far behind schedule, and may fall short of counter-insurgency goals central to the U.S. military campaign there, a government watchdog warned on Monday.
Almost $400 million (254 million pounds) in power grid, roads and other construction projects from fiscal 2011 "may not achieve the desired COIN effects," the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said.
The COIN acronym refers to the military strategy, credited with helping turn around the war in Iraq, that is now a mainstay of the Pentagon's bid to weaken the Afghan Taliban. With the strategy, the counter-insurgency campaign depends on winning the local populace's backing, turning it away from insurgents.
"In some instances, these projects may result in adverse COIN effects because they create an expectations gap among the affected population or lack citizen support," the inspector general said of activities under the Afghanistan Infrastructure Project, jointly backed by the Defense and State departments and carried out by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
SIGAR found that procurement and funding delays - from many sources including poor security, personnel changes, faulty cost estimates and slow transfer of funds between government agencies - had put five of seven projects from fiscal 2011 six to fifteen months behind schedule.
"And most projects may not achieve desired COIN benefits for several years," SIGAR said.
The report comes as the Obama administration pushes ahead with its gradual exit from Afghanistan, where the Taliban remains a dire threat after more than a decade of U.S. and NATO efforts to defeat it.
Equally daunting, as NATO nations plan the removal of most troops by the end of 2014, is the challenge of making sure that billions of dollars in aid since 2001 makes a permanent, positive mark.
While donor nations are pledging to give $16 billion in development aid through 2015, annual Western assistance is already shrinking. U.S. assistance peaked in 2010.
The Afghanistan Infrastructure Project, or AIP, is a U.S. effort to provide better roads, power grids and water supplies for Afghans, in part to erode support for the Taliban and its allies, who have deep roots in much of the Afghan south and east.
The report also found that the projects could remain uncompleted or fall into disrepair because officials had not properly arranged for future maintenance and funding, or because they planned to rely on Afghan government agencies of "questionable capacity."
"The success and viability of many ... projects hinge, in part, on unidentified, unfunded infrastructure projects and the successful, timely completion of other projects that the U.S. government has been unable to complete for more than 7 years," SIGAR said.
Widespread public corruption remains a major concern in Afghanistan even as President Hamid Karzai promises outside donors he will crack down on fraud.
In its response, the Defense Department said that SIGAR's study revealed "a clear lack of understanding of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine" and failed to note that Afghans might rally around a building project long before it was finished.
"Clearly, if dashed hopes can produce adverse effects, then that very hope produces positive COIN effects in advance of project implementation," it said.
(Reporting By Missy Ryan; Editing by Warren Strobel and Vicki Allen)
Herat MPs: Rise in Kidnapping Cases
TOLOnews.com Monday, 30 July 2012
Kidnapping is a major source of money for criminals working in collaboration with local Afghan security officials, Herat Members of Parliament (MP) have said.
Herat MP Mohammad Saleh Saljoqi accused local security forces of being involved in the kidnapping of local businessmen's relatives and other popular figure in exchange for cash.
"Criminal groups in Herat are trying to kidnap youth to earn money by making a deal between the kidnappers and their supporters within Herat security organizations. The security officials don't care about protecting the life of residents," Saljoqi said. He warned the government of massive protests if the problem exists.
However, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Interior, Sediq Sediqi, rejected the claims, stating that the security officials in Herat province are committed to protecting the people.
"Concern over kidnapping is only propaganda. The police forces are not careless and many of the kidnappers were arrested in the recent months. The police are in full control of the situation," Sediqi said.
Afghan National Security Forces' inability to take charge of security is a concern for the Afghan residents and the international community. Illiteracy and the lack of insufficient training are some of the challenges they have faced since the beginning of the handover.
Judge Killed, 4 Civilians Injured in Blast at Uruzgan Mosque
TOLOnews.com Monday, 30 July 2012
A provincial judge was killed and four civilians were wounded in a bomb blast at a mosque in southern Uruzgan province on Monday morning.
The incident happened in Tarin Kowt, the provincial capital of Uruzgan. The judge was identified as Taj Mohammad, provincial police chief Farid Hayeel said.
"A bomb had been placed inside the mosque," Mr Hayeel said.
No one has as yet been arrested in connection with the incident but the police have started an investigation, according to Mr Hayeel.
No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Australian forces handed over the responsibility for providing security in all of Uruzgan to Afghan troops on July 17 as part of the third phase of national security transition.
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