[Afghan News] August 20, 2012 - 09-01-2012, 06:19 AM
AFP via Yahoo! News - Aug 20 07:42am
Afghanistan will not unravel into a civil war after the withdrawal of NATO combat troops in two years or return to Taliban rule, a senior NATO diplomat said Monday.
The planned departure of the bulk of US and NATO troops by the end of 2014 has prompted gloomy forecasts of an internecine war pitting proxy forces backed by Pakistan and India.
But NATO's senior civilian representative, Simon Gass, rejected those predictions, arguing Afghan security forces were too strong for the Taliban and that regional powers had no interest in a return to the "dark days" of the 1990s.
"I really don't buy the (civil war) scenario. I think some people find it an attractive scenario because it looks like history rewriting itself," Gass told AFP and Fox News in an interview in Kabul.
"I really don't think that will happen. One of the reasons it won't happen is because Afghanistan's neighbours realise the huge amount of problems that they would face if Afghanistan were tipped into a position of constant conflict and chaos," he said.
Full-blown civil war would result in a massive flow of refugees out of Afghanistan, he said.
"I really don't think any of Afghanistan's neighbours would welcome the instability in this region that would be triggered by that sort of scenario."
He said said Afghan leaders from all parts of the country all desperately want to avoid a return to the anarchy and bloodshed of the 1990s.
"There is one thing that comes across quite strongly, I would describe it as horror at the idea of returning to the dark years, '92 and '93, when the civil war was raging and shells were falling on Kabul.
"Nobody wants to go back there."
Although he acknowledged the Taliban insurgency remains a resilient force that could stage bombings and disruptive assaults, he said the Islamist militants could not defeat Afghan government forces in a direct confrontation.
"I don't know anybody who thinks the Taliban have the military strength to overturn the Afghan security forces," said Gass, a British diplomat and former ambassador to Iran.
"The Taliban don't have anymore the ability to get back into their Hiluxes and drive back into Kandahar. It's just not feasible," he said, referring to the Islamists' former stronghold.
He said that "in order to return to power, the Taliban have to mass.
"If the Taliban mass, they can be hit. That's their fundamental problem. You can't imagine them having success against the ANSF (Afghan national security forces) on the battlefield."
But he acknowledged that Haqqani militants, which stage attacks in eastern Afghanistan from sanctuaries inside Pakistan, remained a serious threat that would require Pakistan's help to counter.
Top US general in Afghanistan to discuss attacks
By HEIDI VOGT | Associated Press
ABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military's top general met with senior officials in Afghanistan on Monday to attempt to stop a recent wave of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police against international forces in the country.
Once an anomaly, attacks from inside the Afghan security forces have been climbing in recent months. There have been 30 such attacks so far this year, up from 11 in 2011.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed at Bagram Air Field outside Kabul earlier in the day. Dempsey and the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James R. Mattis, met with NATO and U.S. Afghan commander Gen. John Allen in Kabul and discussed the progress of the Afghanistan campaign, a statement issued by the coalition said.
Allen said in the statement that they discussed "how to maintain momentum against the insurgents," adding that international forces continued to support a push to train and equip Afghans in preparation of the departure of most international combat forces at the end of 2014.
"The campaign remains on track," Allen said in the statement.
Dempsey and Mattis also met with a number of senior Afghan and coalition leaders, the statement said.
Ahead of the talks, a spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan said Dempsey would be bringing up the rising number of attacks by Afghan forces in his discussions.
"He's certainly talking about a number of issues including progress with the (military) campaign and the like," Jamie Graybeal said. "He's also obviously talking about the insider attacks," he added, declining to provide further details.
In the latest such attack Sunday, two Afghan policemen turned their weapons on U.S. troops in Kandahar province, killing an American service member, officials said. That raised the death toll to 10 U.S. troops killed in such attacks in the space of just two weeks.
Sunday's attack happened in Kandahar's Spin Boldak district near the border with Pakistan. One of the attackers was killed when the troops returned fire and the other escaped, Graybeal said.
A U.S. Defense Department official confirmed that the dead service member was American. The official spoke anonymously because the nationality of the deceased had not been officially released.
The Taliban have been actively recruiting members of the Afghan security forces, saying in a statement last week that they considered these turncoat attacks a major part of their strategy against international forces.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to encourage him to work with U.S. commanders to ensure more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits. It was disclosed Friday that U.S. troops have been ordered to carry loaded weapons at all times in Afghanistan, even when they are on their bases. The order was a precaution against such insider attacks.
Meanwhile, in the eastern province of Paktia, three Afghans from a politically connected family were killed when their car struck a roadside bomb. Provincial police chief Zulmai Oryakhail said one of the dead had two brothers close to the government — one an adviser to President Hamid Karzai, and the other a former provincial governor and parliamentarian who is now a tribal leader.
The blast occurred outside of the provincial capital of Gardez, Oryakhail said.
Pacha Khan, a relative of the dead men and former governor of Khost province, said he believed the Taliban had been following his family members and targeted them specifically.
"Three times in the past two years they sent suicide bombers to attack me. They are the enemies of Afghanistan and they killed my family. They followed them," Khan said.
Such targeted killings of Afghan civilians have surged this year, according to the United Nations. Civilian deaths from targeted killings and assassinations jumped 34 percent for the first six months of 2012 to 255 killed, from 190 in 2011, the U.N. said in a report issued earlier this month.
Analysis: Afghanistan's peace hopes may rest on Taliban captive
By Matthew Green
KABUL (Reuters) - In the cloistered circles of the Taliban high command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had no equal.
As military chief of the hardline Islamic movement that once ruled Afghanistan and was ousted by a U.S.-led alliance, he oversaw the campaign of ambushes and roadside bombings that proved his fighters could threaten the most advanced armies.
When the talismanic leader was caught in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2010, some Afghan officials hoped the magnetism he forged in war would persuade his former comrades to start talking peace. Indeed, news that Islamabad had allowed Afghan officials to visit Baradar two months ago sparked speculation in both countries of the prospects for a settlement.
Instead, Pakistan's refusal to hand him over to Afghanistan symbolizes one of the biggest obstacles to negotiations: a legacy of bone-deep suspicion dividing the neighbors.
Afghanistan fears that Pakistan is only pretending to support dialogue while its intelligence agencies harbor Taliban leaders to project influence across their shared frontier.
Any move to repatriate Baradar would raise Afghan hopes that Pakistan is willing to play a genuinely constructive role and open the door to other prominent insurgents.
"Releasing Mullah Baradar would encourage other Taliban leaders to embrace reconciliation," Ismail Qasemyar, an adviser to Afghanistan's High Peace Council, told Reuters. "It would be a huge symbolic step."
Members of the council, who are charged with reaching out to insurgents, aim to visit Islamabad in the next few weeks to make a fresh plea for Pakistan to allow Baradar to return to Kabul as a guest of the Afghan government.
With the United States and its allies due to withdraw the bulk of their combat forces by the end of 2014, pressure is mounting on President Hamid Karzai to start meaningful negotiations with the Taliban and prevent violence spiraling.
But there is no guarantee Pakistan will agree to release Baradar, or that he retains enough influence to play a decisive role.
"We are fully cooperating with Afghanistan in whatever they are asking for the peace process," Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in a recent interview.
"For developing peace in Afghanistan, we are giving every kind of help. We have given access."
He did not comment further on the subject.
The Afghan government believes Baradar is more amenable to dialogue than many of his comrades.
In the months before his arrest, Baradar authorized contacts with United Nations representatives to explore the possibility of dialogue, according to former U.N. and Taliban officials.
Afghan officials believe Pakistan detained him as part of a broader strategy to retain a veto over any eventual settlement in Afghanistan.
More cautious voices argue that negotiations will only work if Karzai broadens his strategy of lobbying prominent insurgents to defect into a wider process to address the roots of Afghanistan's conflict.
Pakistan, for its part, will have to radically rethink the terms of its long-standing relationship with the Taliban before it can consider meeting Afghan demands.
Taliban folklore has it that Baradar was present on the day in 1994 when Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's leader, launched his campaign to cleanse Afghanistan of rapacious warlords by hanging one particularly loathsome militia chief from the barrel of a tank.
Their friendship bolstered Baradar's stature during the Taliban's march on Kabul and its 1996-2001 reign. The Taliban government collapsed after the United States and its allies attacked Afghanistan for harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
Baradar would later emerge as Mullah Omar's second-in-command, translating spiritual guidance into orders as the Taliban insurgency gathered strength.
Mullah Omar bestowed him with the nom de guerre "Baradar," which means "brother". Although a ruthless fighter, Baradar had a knack for forging compromise, another trait that appeals to mediators.
Baradar was captured in early 2010 in the Pakistani port city of Karachi in a joint operation between Pakistani intelligence officers and the CIA.
Some argue that more than two years in detention have eroded his sway over an evolving insurgency.
The Haqqani network, which has used havens in Pakistan to launch attacks on Kabul, is showing signs of growing independence from the Taliban hierarchy.
And a blistering campaign of U.S. night raids on Taliban commanders has weakened Mullah Omar's chain of command.
What does seem certain is that Baradar's return would give Karzai's outreach more credibility among Pashtuns, the community that dominates southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the insurgency is strongest.
The captive's mystique is burnished by his status as the highest-ranking Taliban commander to hail from the Popalzai, the same Pashtun sub-group as Karzai.
"If Mullah Baradar joins the government, 80 per cent of the problem with the Taliban will be solved," said Haji Obaidullah Barakzai, a lawmaker from Uruzgan, the southern province where Baradar was born.
Baradar's capture after he authorized his followers to contact U.N. officials has sharpened Kabul's suspicions that Pakistan's military is intent on using its leverage over the insurgents to shape any future settlement.
Pakistan's security establishment backed the Taliban's rise in the mid-1990s as part of its policy of sponsoring Islamist militants as proxies in a struggle with nuclear rival India.
Pakistan joined the U.S. war on terror in 2001 and backed the attack on its former allies in power in Kabul, but, at the same time, maintained unofficial links with the Taliban. Many of its fighters are based in the border regions, where Pakistan's own Pashtun community lives.
Some Western diplomats in Islamabad believe Pakistan's generals are reviewing their relationship with their increasingly troublesome assets. Many of their home-grown militant groups have turned on their former masters. An embarrassing raid on an airbase outside Islamabad on Thursday was only the latest display of the threat they pose.
For now, Pakistan has chosen to hedge. The military has made some moves to facilitate dialogue while avoiding irreversible steps that might diminish its sway over the insurgents.
For example, Pakistani intelligence allowed Taliban envoys to travel to Qatar for talks with US officials late last year. Hopes that the discussions would lead to a confidence-building prisoner exchange have, however, yet to materialize.
Some Afghans detected a further shift in February, interpreting a Pakistani pledge to support dialogue as the country's first admission that it had sheltered the Taliban.
That was followed by the decision to allow Afghan officials to meet Baradar in detention.
Repatriating Baradar would require a much bigger leap of faith. Although Pakistan's relations with the Taliban are poisoned by mistrust, the army will be loathe to sacrifice control as long as Afghanistan's future remains uncertain.
"The question is what the Afghan groups who are currently enjoying the patronage of NATO will do after the withdrawal," said a Pakistani official with experience in Afghanistan. "Are the current crop of Afghan leaders simply going to melt away?"
STRATEGY UNDER FIRE
While Afghan officials portray Pakistan as a recalcitrant partner, Karzai's lack of a coherent strategy may be an even bigger problem.
The Afghan government has focused on luring individual Taliban leaders to abandon the insurgency, rather than laying the groundwork for a more comprehensive peace process that might satisfy the country's many constituencies.
"It's not enough just to bring former Taliban commanders to Kabul," said Haji Mangal Hussain, a former adviser to Karzai. "The most important factor for bringing peace is to improve the quality of the Afghan government."
With Karzai due to step down at elections due by 2014, and his administration steeped in allegations of nepotism, warlordism and corruption, many fear he lacks the legitimacy to serve as guarantor for a viable power-sharing deal.
The Taliban's traditional enemies from northern Afghanistan, who wield considerable power in Kabul, fear Karzai may betray them at the negotiating table and doubt Pakistan will ever abandon its insurgent proxies.
The Taliban is also divided. Mullah Omar, in a message for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, assured Afghans on Thursday that he was committed to building an all-inclusive government after foreign forces leave.
Doves in the movement, who doubt their fighters can overrun Kabul, want to start talks now to spare Afghanistan the risk of a new civil war. They risk being drowned out by hardened jihadists who argue that the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces will clear the path to victory.
Against this kaleidoscope of competing factions, Karzai's focus on Baradar has a seductive simplicity. Whether he one day serves as a conduit for talks - or merely as a trophy - will depend largely on the maneuverings of generals, politicians and fighters beyond either man's control.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Nadem in Kandahar and Mirwais Harooni in Kabul; Editing by Michael Georgy and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
Obama, Gen. Dempsey address Afghanistan 'insider' attacks
Dempsey arrives in Afghanistan for talks, and Obama says he will reach out to President Hamid Karzai about the killings of Western soldiers by supposed allies.
By Laura King, Los Angeles Times August 20, 2012, 5:37 p.m.
KABUL, Afghanistan — With the tempo of "insider" shootings accelerating, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff arrived in Afghanistan for talks on the phenomenon of Western troops dying at the hands of Afghan allies, U.S. and Afghan officials said Monday.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey flew into the sprawling Bagram air base north of Kabul and was holding consultations with senior U.S. and Afghan commanders and government officials. Hours before his arrival, another American service member was killed in an insider shooting, the 10th such U.S. death this month.
In Washington, President Obama told reporters that he had spoken with Dempsey and would be "reaching out to [Afghan] President [Hamid] Karzai as well, because we've got to make sure that we're on top of this."
Obama said steps were being taken to ensure that the "vetting process for Afghan troops is stronger" and to keep American troops out of "isolated situations that might make them more vulnerable."
At the same time, he said, "obviously we're going to have to do more" because of the increase in such killings.
Forty NATO service members have died this year in attacks by Afghan police, soldiers or base workers, according to the Western military count. The NATO force's figures do not reflect the full scope of the problem, because Western officials do not routinely disclose attacks that do not involve Western fatalities, and because tallies earlier this year did not include attacks carried out by Afghans who were part of the security apparatus but were not members of the uniformed Afghan police and army.
Authorities in Kandahar province said the latest American death occurred Sunday when two Afghan policemen opened fire on a group of coalition and Afghan troops. The gunfire also killed a police sergeant and wounded an Afghan interpreter. One of the shooters was killed in return fire and the other escaped, said Mohammad Khan, the Spin Buldak district police chief.
Afghan "insider" escapes after latest attack
CBS.com August 20, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - Two men in Afghan police uniforms shot at NATO service members in southern Afghanistan Sunday, killing one and injuring another, according to the International Security Assistance Force.
ISAF tells CBS News the latest "insider attack" took place in Spin Boldak, in Kandahar province, Sunday evening.
The attack raised the death toll in such "insider" attacks to 10 in the space of just two weeks.
One attacker was killed when ISAF troops returned fire, and the other escaped the scene, ISAF says.
It wouldn't disclose the nationality of the troops involved, but U.S. and British forces are prominent in that area of Afghanistan.
The surge in violence by Afghan allies against their international partners has raised doubts about the ability of the two forces to work together at a key transition time. Afghan forces are expected to take over security for the country by the end of 2014, when the majority of international combat forces are scheduled to leave.
On the other side, a coalition airstrike killed dozens of Taliban militants, including one of their leaders, officials said.
The Taliban have been actively recruiting members of the Afghan security forces, saying in a statement last week that they considered these turncoat attacks a major part of their strategy against international forces.
Once an anomaly, these attacks have been climbing in recent months. There have been 30 such turncoat attacks so far this year, up from 11 in 2011.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to encourage him to work with U.S. commanders to ensure more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits.
On Friday it was disclosed that U.S. troops have been ordered to carry loaded weapons at all times in Afghanistan, even when they are on their bases. The order was a precaution against such "insider" attacks.
The month-long Ramadan fasting period that ended Sunday has been particularly violent. The Eid al-Fitr holiday on Sunday continued the trend.
Insurgents killed two pairs of brothers with links to the government as well as three NATO service members in three separate attacks.
In the first attack, a bomb hidden in a cemetery in the southern province of Helmand killed a police chief and his brother who were visiting a family grave for the holiday.
Seven of the men's family members were wounded in the early-morning blast in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, said the Helmand deputy police chief, Ghulam Rabbani.
No one claimed responsibility, but the attack was consistent with the Taliban's strategy to target authorities and others who align themselves with the government or international forces.
The two men were brothers of a lawmaker for Helmand province, Abdulwadood Popal, who was not at the cemetery at the time of the blast. The family was visiting the grave after attending a morning prayer service for the holiday, which ends the month-long Ramadan fasting period.
Later in the western Farah province, gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on the car of an intelligence service official as he was driving home from a family visit, killing him and his brother, who worked for the customs service.
Another relative was wounded, provincial deputy police chief Ghulam Ghows Malyar said.
In central Afghanistan, three NATO service members were killed when a vehicle struck a roadside bomb, officials said. Bamiyan Gov. Habiba Sarabi said the blast went off in Kohmard district while the troops were out on patrol.
NATO forces confirmed that three coalition service members were killed in a bombing, but did not provide their nationalities or other details.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.
Including Sunday's deaths, at least 41 international troops have been killed so far this month in Afghanistan.
In a speech marking the holiday, Karzai condemned the Ramadan attacks.
"The enemies of Muslims ... during the holy month of Ramadan treated the nation of Afghanistan cruelly: bombs, explosions in mosques, suicide attacks in mosques," Karzai said.
He challenged the Taliban to disavow them.
"If you are not behind this, it is being done in your name. As Muslims, as Afghans, raise your voice and say that you did not do it," he appealed.
In a message ahead of Eid al-Fitr, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar instructed his fighters once again to avoid killing or wounding Afghan civilians.
The Taliban have said previously, however, that they do not consider those who collaborate with the government to be civilians.
Killings of Afghan civilians have surged this year, according to the United Nations. Civilian deaths from targeted killings and assassinations jumped 34 percent for the first six months of 2012 to 255 killed, from 190 in 2011, the U.N. said in a report issued earlier this month.
Also Sunday, officials said that an airstrike by coalition forces in the northeast killed a large group of Taliban fighters and a local insurgent leader. At least two dozen insurgents were killed in the attack in Kunar province, said NATO forces spokesman Maj. Martyn Crighton.
Kunar Gov. Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi said the strike killed as many as 50 insurgents who had massed in a remote area of the province. He said it was not clear why they had gathered.
Three Relatives Of Influential Afghan Politician Killed
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan August 20, 2012
KHOST, Afghanistan – Officials said three Afghans from a politically connected family were killed on August 20 when their car struck a roadside bomb in eastern Paktia Province.
Provincial police chief Zulmai Oryakhail said the dead included a brother of former governor and lawmaker Pacha Khan Zadran.
He said Zadran's nephew and uncle were also killed in the blast in the eastern Melan area of Gardez city.
Zadran said he believed the Taliban had been following his family members and targeted them specifically.
He said the Taliban has tried to kill him three times during the past two years in attacks by suicide bombers.
Zadran, a sometime-ally of President Hamid Karzai, is known for his opposition to Islamic extremism.
With reporting by AP
New Zealand Signals Early Afghan Exit
August 20, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
New Zealand has pledged to withdraw from Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
Prime Minister John Key said it was "highly likely" that the remaining soldiers from New Zealand's contingent of 145 troops would be withdrawn in April 2013.
The government had previously announced the troops would be withdrawn "in the latter part of 2013."
Key said the move was not prompted by the deaths this month of five New Zealand soldiers, including three who were killed on August 19 by a roadside bomb.
A total of 10 New Zealand soldiers have now died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
The New Zealand contingent has been stationed in the central province of Bamiyan.
Based on reporting by AFP and AP
New Zealand troops to remain in Afghanistan: PM
WELLINGTON, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Monday that New Zealand troops would remain in Afghanistan until next year, despite the deaths of five soldiers so far this month.
Key was speaking at a press conference after a young medic became the first New Zealand woman soldier to die in Afghanistan when she and two male colleagues were killed by a roadside bomb Sunday.
The New Zealand Defence Force Monday named the three members of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team who died when their vehicle was blasted by an improvised explosive device (IED) in the northeast of Bamyan Province.
They were medic Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and infantry troops Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, and Private Richard Harris, 21.
All three were serving with the 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
The troops were traveling in the last vehicle in a convoy northwest of Do Abe on the road to Romero, when it was hit by the blast at about 9:20 a.m. Sunday Afghanistan time.
The remaining personnel in the patrol secured the location and waited for support, said an NZDF statement.
Their deaths followed those of two other members of the provincial reconstruction team in an insurgent attack on Aug. 4 and they bring the total number of New Zealand troops killed in Afghanistan to 10.
Radio New Zealand reported that Key said New Zealand soldiers had been in Bamyan since 2003 and it was highly likely that troops would be brought home about April next year.
New Zealand had to rely on another coalition partner for logistical support and at the moment those arrangements meant April was the most likely date, he said.
Key told Radio New Zealand earlier Monday that "to cut and run now would not honor those deaths" and he thought the families of those who had died in Afghanistan would be shocked if New Zealand pulled out now.
Key said there had been increased insurgent activity in the northeast of Bamyan Province where a new bomb-maker had been working.
He told Radio New Zealand that New Zealand forces have been targeting him for some time and Sunday's deadly blast might be linked to his work.
Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, said in a statement that the NZDF remained committed to ensuring a smooth and measured handover of responsibility to Afghan authorities.
"New Zealand should be proud of our contribution in Bamyan, and so too the families of those who have been killed in the service of New Zealand in Afghanistan. Their sacrifice has not been in vain," he said.
"As a result of the security that the Provincial Reconstruction Team provides significant progress has been made and is clearly visible in the classrooms built; the wells and village water supplies hooked up; the roads that have been paved; the bridges and flood protection constructed; and in the hospitals refurbished. "
U.S., Afghan elite forces merge
USA TODAY By Carmen Gentile, Special for USA TODAY 20/08/2012
KABUL - Elite U.S. and Afghan special operations forces have been combined under a single command in an effort to improve coordination and pave the way for the possibility of continued U.S. military presence after 2014 when most American forces will withdraw.
The unprecedented joint command "demonstrates our commitment to an enduring presence beyond 2014," said Army Lt. Col. Todd Harrell, spokesman for special operations forces in Afghanistan.
No decisions have been made on the composition of a U.S. force after 2014, but Afghanistan and the United States have both expressed interest in a continued military presence.
A key component of any residual U.S. force would probably include elite special operations forces, which can train Afghan forces and assist in conducting raids aimed at insurgent leaders, which the Pentagon has said has helped weaken the Taliban.
The joint command — created in recent weeks — includes special operations forces from several branches of the U.S. military and elite forces from 23 other countries in Europe and the Middle East, an unprecedented wartime act of cooperation, U.S. officials said.
"This is the first time in a deployed environment that special operations is all under one command," said Army Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas, the leader of Special Operations Joint Task Forces Afghanistan.
The U.S.-led command includes American special operations forces from several branches of the military, including Green Berets, Navy SEALS and the Marines special operations command, as well as forces from countries such as Britain, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
Afghan special operations forces, such as commandos, are very effective in conducting raids though they rely on the United States for critical intelligence and other support. Afghan forces have "some crippling logistical issues," Harrell said.
Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, declined to discuss the possibility of special forces operations continuing in Afghanistan beyond 2014, saying it was a matter being discussed at top levels of the Afghan government.
The creation of the special operations command comes in the wake of Afghan criticism of night raids, which the government of President Hamid Karzai has said cause civilian casualties. The raids are conducted by special operations forces.
In April, the U.S. military and Afghan Defense Ministry signed an agreement allowing night raids if Afghan forces were in the lead while searching homes and arresting suspects.
Azimi praised the efforts of the United States and its NATO partners, though he stressed the importance of minimizing civilian casualties.
"Even though special operations forces are good at fighting the insurgency, the problem of the civilian casualties (caused during missions) remains," Azimi said.
Civilian casualties are declining. A United Nations report said there were 3,099 civilian casualties from January to June, a 15% decline over the same period last year. Most of the casualties are caused by the Taliban.
The coalition faces a growing number of attacks by Afghan forces on troops. Sunday, a man in an Afghan police uniform shot and killed an international servicemember, raising the death toll to 10 in such attacks in two weeks, the Associated Press reported.
2 Insurgents Gunned Down in Kapisa Mosque
TOLOnews.com Sunday, 19 August 2012
Armed insurgents opened fire Sunday morning, the first day of Eid, on worshippers attending a mosque in Afghanistan's eastern Kapisa province, local officials said.
Two insurgents were killed and one other was wounded in return fire from security personnel at the mosque, the media spokesman for the police 202 Shamshad zone told TOLOnews Sunday.
Local men from Kapisa had gathered for prayer at a mosque in the Mulayan area of Kapisa's Najrab distract on the first of the holy days of Eid when the gunmen opened fire.
None of the worshippers were harmed, but one of the security forces who returned fire was wounded, the spokesman said.
The spokesman declined to be named.
No group, including the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the gun attack.
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