[Afghan News] September 6, 2011 - 02-13-2012, 10:29 AM
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- An Indian government-backed group, two Iranian contenders and Canada's Kilo Goldmines Ltd. are among six bidders seeking to mine Afghanistan's richest iron-ore deposit, an Afghan official said.
Afghanistan's mines ministry opened the bids today for the estimated 1.8 billion metric tons of ore at Hajigak, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Kabul, said Abdul Jalil Jumriany, a ministry director-general. The tender is the biggest on offer in a country that the U.S. government estimated last year holds $1 trillion in untapped minerals.
Seven Indian steel and mining companies, led by the state- owned Steel Authority of India Ltd. and NMDC Ltd., offered a bid that is part of an effort by the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a bigger role in a nearby country whose stability it describes as essential to India's interests. India's presence in Afghanistan, including a decade-old aid program of more than $1 billion, has raised tensions with Pakistan, where some officials say close Indian-Afghan ties may pose a threat.
The Indian group includes state-owned Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd., and private-sector companies JSW Steel Ltd., Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., Monnet Ispat Ltd. and JSW Ispat Steel Ltd. A separate Indian contender is Corporate Ispat Alloys Ltd., said Jumriany in a text message listing the bidders.
Two Iranian bidders are Gol-e-Gohar Iron Ore Co., one of Iran's biggest iron ore producers, and Behin Sanate Diba Co., a privately run group of 10 investment, mining and industrial companies, some of which are partly state-owned, said Leyla Rashno, the group's director for tenders.
Rashno declined in a phone interview in Tehran to say whether the group's bid has been encouraged or backed by Iran's government.
Toronto-based Kilo Goldmines, which trades on Canada's TSX Venture Exchange, focuses mainly on gold mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The other bidder for Hajigak is Acatco LLC, whose owner, Afghan-American businessman Nasir Shansab, lives near Washington and said in a phone interview he is ready to develop the mine at the head of a partnership that totals 30 employees.
Indian authorities decided to help organize their country's consortium because "it makes business and strategic sense to have a presence in mining in Afghanistan," Indian Mines Secretary S. Vijay Kumar said in January. Hajigak also offers India a chance for an investment foothold in Afghanistan to rival that of China's state-owned Metallurgical Corp. of China Ltd., which is developing the country's biggest copper deposit, at Aynak.
Hajigak is a range of treeless mountain ridges with a thin population of villagers who graze animals and farm the valleys below. The costs of developing mines will be increased by the need to build paved roads or rail lines to connect the site to potential markets.
While the ultimate cost of mining Hajigak is unclear, Indian companies "should have every reason to go for the Hajigak mines" if the cost of acquisition is about $1 to $1.5 per ton, said Ravindra Deshpande, an analyst with Mumbai-based Elara Securities Ltd.
Taliban guerrillas based partly in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for attacks on Indians in Afghanistan, such as a February 2010 assault on guesthouses in Kabul and two suicide bombings of India's embassy in the city.
While the bidders did not include the world's biggest mining groups, which the government of President Hamid Karzai had hoped to attract, the six contenders represent progress for the government in attracting investors' interest. It canceled a previous tender last year when only one of seven initial competitors showed up to visit the Hajigak site.
The U.S. Defense Department has backed efforts to draw in international investors that it says are essential to stabilizing Afghanistan. Still, the decade-old war and corruption remain obstacles. Afghanistan tied with Myanmar for the second-worst ranking, behind Somalia, among 178 countries where perceived corruption was measured last year by the monitoring organization Transparency International.
--With assistance from Rajesh Kumar Singh in New Delhi and Ladane Nasseri in Tehran. Editors: Mark Williams, Indranil Ghosh
China’s CNPC close to Afghan oil deal
Financial Times By Matthew Green and Leslie Hook Monday, Sep. 05, 2011
CNPC, the Chinese energy company, is poised to win the first oilfield to be tendered in Afghanistan since the U.S. ousted the Taliban in revenge for sheltering Osama bin Laden a decade ago.
China’s push into Afghanistan is part of a broader drive to secure resources to fuel economic growth that has seen its state-owned companies venture into increasingly risky countries.
CNPC, China’s biggest oil and gas producer, beat rival bids from Australia’s Buccaneer Energy, London-based Tethys Petroleum and Shahzad International of Pakistan in a tender for three blocks in the Amu Darya basin in the relatively peaceful north-west.
The state-owned company has a history of working in tough political environments shunned by western companies, including Sudan, Burma and Iran.
The Afghan government has ordered the mining ministry to negotiate the details of the contract before a final decision is made.
“CNPC gave the highest bid,” Jalil Jumriany, head of policy and promotion in Afghanistan’s mining ministry, told the Financial Times.
“It depends on how the negotiation goes on and then the final winner will be chosen.”
CNPC appears to have offered a similar combination of attractive royalties and promises to develop infrastructure that helped a Chinese consortium win a bid for Afghanistan’s $3.4-billion Aynak copper deposit in 2008.
Mr. Jumriany said CNPC had offered to pay a 15 per cent royalty on each barrel of crude and 30 per cent corporation tax on its profits, as well as build a $300-million refinery. CNPC declined to comment.
Afghan officials have been keen to tout the country’s mineral resources – including the vast Hajigak iron ore deposit that has attracted interest from mainly Indian companies. A lack of exploration means the country’s true oil and gas potential remains largely unknown.
“What CNPC is doing here is taking a position on relatively unknown oil assets at potentially low prices,” said Bradley Way, Beijing-based head of Asia energy for BNP Paribas.
CNPC’s foray into Afghanistan mirrors the way the company has made strides in Iraq, where it has also gained a foothold in the wake of the US-led invasion. CNPC is providing services for Iraq’s biggest oilfield, in conjunction with BP and an Iraqi group.
Although the Amu Darya blocks are only estimated to contain about 80 million barrels of oil, a tiny amount by global standards, analysts say a successful bid could put CNPC in prime position to win bigger fields.
Mr. Jumriany said Afghanistan’s government is planning to conduct seismic surveys before tendering blocks in the Afghan Tajik Basin, which he said is estimated to hold some 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
China has long cultivated oil and gas ties with Central Asia. In recent years the completion of two major Chinese pipelines into Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan has allowed China to further tap the region’s hydrocarbons.
Civilian with US military killed in Afghanistan
By RAHIM FAIEZ - Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that an American civilian employee was killed in Kabul province, the second announcement of an international civilian death in two days.
J.D. Hardesty, a spokesman for the corps in Kabul, declined to give further details because the death was being investigated. NATO has previously said that the civilian was killed Monday but had not given any other details.
About 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the north of the capital, meanwhile, Afghan police retrieved the bodies of two Germans found Monday on a remote mountain after they disappeared while hiking in Parwan province nearly three weeks ago.
While the area of eastern Afghanistan in and around the capital is relatively safe, the city of Kabul is a target for Taliban attacks and criminal kidnappings are common throughout the region.
In Parwan, officials abandoned a plan to use helicopters to bring the bodies out because of the difficulty of flying in the high-altitude region of the Hindu Kush mountains where the bodies were found. Instead, police hiked to the site and back over more than eight hours and carried the bodies down, said Parwan province Police Chief Gen. Sher Ahmad Maladani.
The police handed the bodies over to U.S. soldiers, who loaded them into vehicles. A soldier at the site, Staff Sgt. Ashley Waruch, said that the bodies would be flown back to their families.
Their bodies were badly decomposed making it difficult for officials to determine the cause of death. Initial reports indicated they had been shot but Salamg district police chief Quddus Khan said on closer inspection the Germans might have died from blunt trauma. It was unclear when they died.
A spokesman for the Afghan agriculture ministry said the two worked for a German development and assistance organization, GIZ. Majeed Qarar, the spokesman, said they were advisers to the agriculture ministry and that they regularly went hiking in the mountains in Parwan.
A spokesman for GIZ declined to comment, referring all queries to the German foreign ministry.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle confirmed that two bodies were found in Parwan province but refused to give any further details until they had been identified beyond doubt.
The region where the Germans disappeared is not a Taliban area. Last month Afghan police speculated the two men could have gotten lost in the high mountains or may have been the victims of a crime.
The day they disappeared, the two traveled to the south end of the Salang Pass, north of Kabul, around 8 a.m. and told their driver they were going into the mountains. They promised to return at 4 p.m. The driver waited until 6 p.m. before contacting local authorities, and the search began.
The Salang Pass is a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the Afghan capital, Kabul, with the northern part of the nation.
Germany has been a major contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and currently has some 5,200 troops stationed in the country, largely in the north.
In eastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, a district government head and three of his bodyguards were killed in a roadside bomb blast, said Ahmadzia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the government of Nangarhar province.
The official, Asel Ahmad Khogyani, was driving in Sherzad district on Tuesday afternoon when a remotely detonated bomb went off, killing everyone in the vehicle, Abdulzai said.
Norway freezes Afghanistan aid: report
By Victoria Klesty
OSLO (Reuters) - Norway is blocking payments of 300 million crowns ($55.2 million) in aid to Afghanistan until issues surrounding the collapse of the country's biggest private lender, Kabulbank, are resolved, a Norwegian newspaper said on Tuesday.
Kabulbank collapsed last year with outstanding loans of about $926 million, and was later taken over by Afghanistan's central bank and split into two. The International Monetary Fund and the Afghan government are at loggerheads over how to wind up the bank, recover lost assets and strengthen the sector. The impasse has delayed tens of millions of dollars in aid.
In an interview with Norwegian daily Dagens Naeringsliv, deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said the Afghan authorities' failure to provide good governance was one of the biggest problems for Norway in Afghanistan.
"If Afghan authorities and the IMF do not find a solution, we will not go back to business as usual," he said. "We will in that case find other solutions."
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withheld a scheduled payment of $70 million from the World Bank-administered Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).
Afghanistan relies on foreign aid for around 90 percent of its spending but many international donors say they are reluctant to channel aid through the country's ministries because of a lack of capacity and corruption.
($1 = 5.433 Norwegian Krones)
(Reporting By Victoria Klesty; editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Talking With the Taliban Is Not Diplomacy, It's Deadly
By Michael Rubin September 06, 2011 FoxNews.com
Against the backdrop of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, progressives seem intent on repeating the mistakes that led up to that tragic day.
Last month, John Podesta, President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, returned from a whirlwind trip to Afghanistan to recommend that the Obama administration enter into new talks with the Taliban.
Podesta’s recommendation melds with Obama’s preference for diplomacy with international rogues, but talking to the Taliban has precedent. Between 1995 and 2000, declassified documents show American diplomats met on almost three dozen occasions with the group. The Taliban promised to close terror training camps, but always came up with an excuse not to allow inspections.
Still, diplomats were giddy with the possibility that their dialogue could transform the Taliban. Demonstrating how little the State Department understands the perniciousness of radical Islamist ideology, one diplomat even suggested sending Taliban to Saudi Arabia to learn moderation. Some officials urged American recognition of the Taliban up until 9/11. Demonstrating no failure goes without reward in Washington, one now serves on the National Intelligence Council.
While the press pilloried former Secretary of State Colin Powell for even suggesting incorporating “moderate Taliban” into Afghanistan’s political future, Obama has made an embrace of the Taliban a pillar of his Afghan strategy. “We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence,” the president declared while outlining his Afghanistan strategy two years ago. Marc Grossman, the State Department’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has in practice eliminated even this condition.
Even though diplomacy with the Taliban has repeatedly failed—at the cost of thousands of lives—the State Department has yet to consider lessons learned from their previous negotiations with the Taliban. To do so might let reality get in the way of a policy.
British diplomats learned this the hard way last month: In their enthusiasm to engage, British ambassador William Patey invited the Taliban to an embassy party, even posing for a photograph with Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan. The next day, the Taliban repaid the favor by attacking the British Council’s compound, killing eight policemen in the process.
The American military leadership has embraced negotiations with such enthusiasm that they have at times made themselves laughing stocks. In November 2010, the U.S. military facilitated talks with a man claiming to be the Taliban’s second-in-command. In reality, he was reportedly a Pakistani shop-keeper. The cost to American taxpayers? Several hundred thousand dollars.
The deception permeates every level.
Both Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus promoted reconciliation councils as keys to peace. "This is the way you end insurgencies," Petraeus remarked. While Petraeus counts on affirmation by pundits brought to Afghanistan on his dime, every Afghan with whom I spoke disagreed during recent trips to Afghanistan not sponsored by the State Department or Pentagon.
Whether in favor of Taliban reconciliation or opposed, Afghans depicted the reconciliation councils as elaborate failures, meant to satisfy Obama but not end the fighting.
Despite the Taliban’s history, some officials—most prominent among them Bush-era deputy national security advisor Robert Blackwill—suggest cutting a deal to let the Taliban govern certain provinces of Afghanistan in exchange for peace in other regions.
Afghans, however, ridicule the idea as ignorant of both history and culture. The international community repeatedly sponsored ceasefires between the Taliban and their Afghan opponents for six years before 9/11. In 1997, for example, Bill Richardson, at the time a cabinet-level U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, flew to Kabul and announced a breakthrough to bring the Taliban to the table. There followed the civil war’s most brutal fighting. The Taliban accepted each ceasefire, regrouped, and then attacked: This is how the Taliban extended their control from 30 percent of the country to more than 90 percent on the eve of 9/11.
What proponents of dialogue and compromise ignore is the importance of both momentum and culture. Afghans have never lost a war; they just defect to the winning side. Enabling the Taliban to consolidate its gains brings not stability, but rather wholesale surrender by more moderate factions.
Compromise has other costs. Soft-partition betrays Afghans. While the Afghan Taliban may be Pushtun, not all Pushtun are Taliban. According to e-mails shown to me by an Afghan official, one American ambassador went so far as to rationalize Taliban abuses of women (such as cutting off noses) as simply Pushtun cultural practice. This is nonsense. As one former Karzai advisor told me in October 2010, “Suggesting the Taliban represent Pushtun is akin to saying Pol Pot represents Cambodians.”
Diplomacy can never supplant the importance of military victory. Obama may want to bring the troops home, but the diplomacy-first strategy hampers peace. As the history of drinking tea with the Taliban shows, talk is not only cheap; it is deadly.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Differing Data Shape Views of Surge
The U.S. and U.N. Come to Conflicting Conclusions as the Troop Drawdown in Afghanistan Begins
Wall Street Journal By DION NISSENBAUM SEPTEMBER 6, 2011
KABUL - Has the U.S. military surge in Afghanistan been a success?
As America begins to scale back its presence in the country, that question is generating diverging answers from U.S. military commanders and United Nations officials in Afghanistan.
American military commanders argue the infusion of 33,000 more American forces has helped change the tide of the war by driving down violence and reducing the number of civilian casualties this summer.
U.N. officials, along with independent security analysts in Afghanistan, contest that analysis and say violence and civilian deaths both hit record highs in recent months.
Somewhere between those contrasting interpretations of the strength of the insurgency is the question of whether the Afghan army and police will be able to protect their own people from the Taliban as the U.S. cedes security responsibility to local forces.
As the U.S. begins a phased withdrawal of the added forces who were deployed beginning early last year, American commanders say the surge has done exactly what was intended: dislodged Taliban fighters from southern sanctuaries and put insurgents on the defensive.
Coalition officials say insurgent attacks fell 20% in July from the same month in 2010. As of late August, violence was down 12 of the previous 16 weeks when compared with last summer, according to coalition officials, who declined to release specific numbers.
"Violence is down over the course of the last couple of months considerably from what it was this time last year," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Afghanistan this summer.
The drop in attacks, military officials say, is a sign the coalition has gained a decisive upper hand. "I think it's a leading indicator," a coalition official in Kabul said of the military analysis. "We believe we are making progress based on the numbers."
U.N. officials disagree, and say the coalition failed to achieve a counterinsurgency goal it set for itself ahead of the surge: protecting Afghan civilians.
"The most important criteria for the average Afghan is whether civilians are dying, and whether their quality of life and capacity of moving around has increased or not," said Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan. "In terms of civilian casualties, all the reports we get are that they are not happy with this."
In the three months through July, the war claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Afghan civilians, according to U.N. statistics, the first time since U.N. investigators began tracking casualties in 2007 that they have documented more than 1,000 civilian deaths in a three-month period.
The U.N. charted a 15% rise in civilian casualties in the first six months of this year compared with the year-earlier period.
The single largest killer: Hidden explosives, a hallmark of the insurgency's summer campaign. Roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices planted by insurgents accounted for nearly half the civilian casualties recorded by the U.N. in the first six months of 2011.
U.N. officials said that May was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since the international body started tracking the figures in 2007, and that June marked a high in security incidents.
Coalition officials disputed the U.N. estimates and said that they documented a 14% decrease in civilian deaths between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011.
August also marked a grim milestone for the U.S. as the most deadly month in nearly a decade of war: 69 American soldiers died last month, according to the iCasualties website, with nearly half killed when a Taliban insurgent shot down a Chinook helicopter in eastern Afghanistan. So far this year, 310 Americans and 111 other coalition forces have been killed.
While the U.N. and the U.S.-led military coalition confer on their numbers, they still rely on their own investigators, collect varied intelligence and sometimes draw different conclusions on civilian casualties.
Military commanders and U.N. officials expressed confidence that their differing analysis, interpretations and methods of collecting data were accurate reflections of the state of the conflict.
Some Afghan leaders worry that the debate about numbers may miss the point.
Shaida Mohammad Abdali, President Hamid Karzai's deputy national security adviser, said the issue isn't the amount of violence; it is the Taliban's increasing effectiveness in killing prominent Afghan officials.
Since May, the Taliban have taken credit for killing a string of Afghan leaders, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Karzai's half-brother who worked closely with U.S. officials to fight the Taliban in Kandahar, and Gen. Daoud Daoud, the powerful police commander for northern Afghanistan.
That has raised concerns that a decline in overall insurgent attacks might not be a sign that things are getting better.
"We have to think about the optimism that we show about the level of violence," said Mr. Abdali. "Yes we may have a much more quiet countryside than before, but generally I am more concerned about the strategic impact of this war."
Mr. Abdali said American and Afghan military leaders had to focus more efforts on countering the Taliban's targeted assassination campaign.
"I hope that, instead of speaking about the decrease in the level of violence, we think about how we can counter this new tactic of the Taliban, or the terrorists, who are simply looking for the high-profile targets."
Michael Capstick, a retired Canadian military officer who worked in Afghanistan as an officer and a civilian, said the trends are taking a toll on the faith of the Afghan people.
"The high-profile attacks and assassinations since the spring are really eroding whatever confidence the Afghan people might have had in their security forces and, by extension, the military coalition," Mr. Capstick said. "The prevailing view seems to be: 'If theycan't protect themselves, how can they protect us?'," he said.
U.S. military commanders say the assassinations are militarily insignificant. "Those are not going to be decisive," a senior U.S. military commander said. The Taliban "are not physically controlling the terrain, they're not retaking what they have lost. And I don't think they can."
The U.N. assessment is supported by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which examines security risks for aid groups working in the country. While the military charted a 20% decline in insurgent attacks in July, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, or ANSO, documented a 7% rise.
The insurgency, the group concluded, has adapted to the surge, creating what it dubbed a "perpetually escalating stalemate."
The military's reports of progress against the Taliban are "at best misleading and at worst gravely irresponsible," says Nic Lee, director of the independent organization, which assesses security risks for scores of prominent aid groups in Afghanistan.
The coalition "is under a lot of pressure to demonstrate results ahead of transition, and this inevitably shapes the content of their data and the conclusions they draw from it," Mr. Lee said.
The U.S. military, when asked about ANSO's figures, said it stands by its analysis and sees it as the most comprehensive view of the conflict.
U.S. must stay in Afghanistan or risk more attacks: envoy
Reuters By Emma Graham-Harrison 05/09/2011
KABUL - The United States must keep fighting the Taliban or risk more attacks like those of September 11, 2001, because the insurgent group is a ruthless enemy that has not cut ties to al Qaeda, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul said.
Ryan Crocker, a career diplomat who was ambassador in Iraq, also warned the United States would have to spend billions more in the coming years to bolster Afghanistan's government and security forces as its own troops prepare to return home.
"What we have to do is I think demonstrate the strategic patience that is necessary to win a long war," he told Reuters, in an interview ahead of the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
"It is going to require more resources, its going to require time. I hope we can bring all those to bear, because as hard, painful, as expensive as this has been in blood and treasure, it has cost a lot less than 9/11 did."
Crocker flew into New York early on the morning of September 11, 2001, and saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapse as he drove into Manhattan after landing.
He has carried his boarding pass from that flight around the world with him, to a decade of senior positions at the heart of the conflicts that followed in the wake of the attacks.
"My life to a significant degree was never the same after 9/11 ... what drives me is what happened that day, and what I saw. And not that I need a reminder, but this is just a small memento of why we are in this fight and why we need to stay in it."
He described building a stable Afghanistan as "the ultimate guarantee that there will not be another 9/11."
After nearly a decade of fighting in Afghanistan the Taliban have greater reach than any time since they were ousted from power, and civilian casualties -- the majority caused by insurgents -- are at the highest since 2001.
"These are tough, determined guys, and we have got to stay in the fight, because if we decide we are done, without completing the mission along the lines I laid out earlier, well the Taliban is going to be back," Crocker said.
Polling showed Afghans do not want the Taliban back, however, and broadly support their own security forces. Western mistakes, especially careless spending, had been corrected, he added.
"I think we all made mistakes, the international community, in the way we put resources into this country. Often without due consultation with Afghan partners, without Afghan buy-in, without appropriate oversight," he said.
"I think we are on the right path now. Yes these are mistakes, but boy the people who are doing the finger pointing ought to come out here and try and get it right in the smoke and dust of a hot war."
Over 1,600 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan, and the war has cost nearly $450 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. It also stirred up vocal domestic opposition.
Foreign forces have now started handing over control of some areas to the Afghan police and army, and the NATO-led coalition expects to have all combat troops home by the end of 2014.
Crocker hopes this plan will bolster support for the next few years of fighting and institution-building.
"Americans, they are war-weary, it has been a decade, but they also see a plan for future transition. So I think we will be able to maintain the necessary commitments as we move forward to 2014," he said.
The United States is also expected to have some presence in the country beyond that date, with Kabul and Washington currently in trying to hammer out a "strategic partnership" agreement to define the U.S. role longer-term.
Stopping the Taliban fighting their way back to power -- whether with U.S. troops on the ground or through support for Afghan forces -- is critical to U.S. security, Crocker added.
"With the Taliban will come al Qaeda, and we will have the same situation that we had pre-9/11, and that to me is an utterly unacceptable outcome," he said in his Kabul residence, in the heart of the heavily guarded embassy.
"That is a risk of our national security that I think no sane person would willingly take."
Despite preliminary contacts with insurgent groups, Crocker also said he did not expect a negotiated settlement in the short-term, because without stronger military pressure insurgents would not accept changes in Afghanistan, including improvements in women's rights.
"The Taliban needs to be further weakened to the point where they will come to the table prepared to accept the conditions we have set jointly with the Afghans," he said.
"That's not the Taliban I think we are engaged with today."
Crocker dismissed critics who argue that limited progress in Afghanistan is due in part to the shift in focus to Iraq.
"If for example in 2002, 2003 or 2004 we had substantially increased the number of our forces without an active Taliban threat, which didn't come until later, I think there is every chance the Afghans would have seen us as occupiers," he said.
"We could have had a backlash of proportions that would have given us even a worse situation today."
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Ed Lane)
Nato stops sending prisoners to Afghan jails over torture fears
General said to have ordered suspension of detainee transfers ahead of UN report expected to tell of beatings and electric shocks
eremy Kelly in Kabul and Richard Norton-Taylor guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 6 September 2011
Nato has suspended the transfer of detainees to some Afghan jails after fears they were being subjected to systematic torture, British defence officials have said.
The directive, issued this week, comes ahead of the imminent release of a UN report into detainees that is expected to be highly critical of the Afghan police, who process many of the detainees through the fledgling justice system.
The report is understood to outline how prisoners are routinely beaten, given electric shocks and subjected to other human rights violations, some within private jails run by police commanders.
The order from the head of the Nato-led mission, General John Allen, is understood to have directed with immediate effect that prisoners not be transferred to nine locations, including one in Kabul, where the abuse was reportedly the worst.
"With appropriate caution, ISAF [Nato's International Security Assistant Force] has taken the prudent measure to suspend detainee transfer to certain facilities," a Nato official said.
However, the defence officials said the warnings did not apply to Helmand province, where most British troops are based. The province's northern neighbour, Uruzgan, is thought to be where abuse is most common.
An Uruzgan tribal elder has provided the Guardian with mobile phone footage of a man being stripped naked in front of a few dozen other men who, amid laughter from the onlookers, is then briefly chased with a stick that they threaten to sodomise him with.
The elder, Mohammad Dawood Khan, said the perpetrators were all Uruzgan police and while none were wearing uniforms, a police truck is parked next to the group.
Separate research by human rights observers has uncovered medieval-like torture systems, including a stretching rack, and reports of a juvenile detention centre head who together with his son raped teenage inmates.
It appears money is often the motivation for the mistreatment of detainees. A former district governor in Uruzgan, Haji Salari, explained how it was usually perpetrated. "When the police arrest someone from the villages or the bazaar, as soon as they take them inside the jail they ask the prisoner for 2000 rupees or afghanis (£28)," he said. This was considered an "entry fee" for the prison, which equates to about 20% of a regular policeman's monthly salary.
"Inside the prison they put pressure on the prisoners by beating them. There's no power for electric shocks so they use wood on the soles of the feet and on the ass."
After the prisoner had been abused, Haji Salari said, they would be allowed to have family members visit. "When the visitors come, the prisoner will explain the situation to his family and plead with them to get them out. Then they have to find money to give to the police chief, or police officer [for their release]."
The head of the Uruzgan Ulema Council, Maulawi Hamidullah Akhund, said he had continually warned authorities of torture inside the province's jails. "Many, many times I have heard from prisoners that they have been beaten in the jail," he said.
He claimed he convinced the Ministry of Justice to send a delegation to Uruzgan eight months ago but after their visit, nothing changed.
The high court in London last year imposed strict conditions on the transfer by British forces of suspected insurgents to Afghan detention centres, after hearing evidence of "horrible abuse" in breach of international law.
However the court said then that the transfer of suspects to National Directorate of Security (NDS) prisons in Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, should be allowed provided existing safeguards were "strengthened by observance of specified conditions". The court insisted that safeguards must include the right of British monitors to get regular access to the detainees.
A researcher for Human Rights Watch Afghanistan, Heather Barr, said she had not seen the UN report but its contents were not surprising: "But we are glad to see ISAF responding to it even through it's overdue. We hope it's not temporary until the bad press passes."
German Secret Service Helped Save Karzai in 2001
Spiegel Online 05/09/2011
A tip-off from Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, enabled American forces to rescue Hamid Karzai from a Taliban ambush in November 2001, according to previously secret records. The BND had monitored a phone call between two Taliban commanders plotting to capture and kill the future Afghan leader at a meeting with tribal elders.
The mission that brought Hamid Karzai to Afghanistan in autumn 2001 was extremely dangerous. The West had pinned its hopes on him. He had left his place of exile in the Pakistani city of Quetta and was on his way to the province of Oruzgan to meet tribal elders who had previously supported the Taliban. The plan was for the clan chiefs to join Karzai and thereby speed up the regime's fall. The meeting was scheduled for Nov. 4, 2001.
But in the rugged mountains of central Afghanistan, Karzai wasn't about to be welcomed by would-be allies. Instead, heavily armed Taliban units were lying in wait for Karzai and his entourage. News agencies later reported that the force numbered some 700 Taliban fighters. The man who went on to become Afghan president managed a narrow escape.
Ten years on, secret documents have revealed that the German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) saved Karzai's life.
On Nov. 1, BND records show, the BND's monitoring service had heard a telephone conversation between two commanders of Taliban chief Mullah Omar. One of them passed on Mullah Omar's directive relating to Karzai. The Taliban had apparently found out when Karzai would arrive in Oruzgan. They knew his precise itinerary.
One of the Taliban commanders said the "friend of the Americans" should be treated "like Abdul Haq," and that that was an order from Mullah Omar. Abdul Haq, a Pashtun and an important ally of the United States government, had traveled to Oruzgan a few days before to negotiate with the tribal leaders. The Taliban captured him on Oct. 26. The US Air Force had rushed to his aid and bombed Taliban positions but couldn't prevent them from publicly executing him.
Rescued from the Taliban
When the BND's analysts at the agency's headquarters in Pullach near Munich realized the importance of the conversation they had overheard, they immediately informed the US Army. The US had assigned special forces members as security advisors to Karzai, but they weren't aware of the danger lurking in the mountains.
The warning came just in time. The Taliban had just opened fire on Karzai's fighters when US combat helicopters appeared, rescued Karzai and flew him to Karachi. The next day, the US Defense Secretary at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, told reporters about the dramatic rescue, without mentioning the German contribution.
Karzai himself made up a story to hide the help he had received from the West. He said he had been rescued not by the Americans but by a friendly villager who had told him about the planned ambush that day. After that he and his closest aides had fled through the mountains on foot in a three-day march, with no supplies other than some bread and green tea.
Isaf Begins Delivering Military Supplies to Afghan Forces
TOLOnews.com Monday, 05 September 2011
International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) has begun delivering large supplies of military equipment, including aircrafts, to Afghan National Security Forces, Isaf said on Monday.
Isaf Spokesman Gen Carsten Jacobson told a press conference that the programme, which will cost $2.7 billion when fully delivered, started in August and will continue until March next year.
Earlier this month, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who oversees transition from Nato to Afghan forces, said the military supply would help this process gain further successes.
The programme named Mountain Iron is aimed at building up Afghan forces' war skills like fire power, capability and mobility, General Jacobson said.
The equipment delivery programme started as there were widespread concerns about equipment shortfalls in Afghan security forces while security burdens have been started to transition to Afghan lead this year.
Gen Jacobson told reporters: "as an investment in the future of this force, Isaf has begun the delivery of large supplies of vehicles and equipment. This programme is called Iron Mountain. It started in August and will be completed in March 2012."
"It is aiming to provide Afghan National Security Forces with greater mobility, stronger fire power, increased communication capability and it will help to reduce many of the shortfalls that Afghan National Security Forces are currently experiencing."
Battle for Afghanistan's Gambir Jungle: Soldiers' tale of an epic fight
Operation Hammer Down was supposed to clear out insurgent camps in Afghanistan's fabled Pech Valley. Instead, for three Army units, it became a five-day struggle for survival.
By Anna Mulrine | Christian Science Monitor
The helicopters were flying low and fast through the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in the dead of night.
The soldiers of Havoc Company were rushing to the aid of an American unit pinned down by insurgents in a steep-walled canyon of the Pech River Valley. As they headed toward a 10,000-foot ridgeline not long before midnight on June 25, they knew they were entering one of the toughest neighborhoods in a country notorious for them.
Below Havoc Company that June night were hundreds of insurgents, commanders estimate, the product of Al Qaeda-run training camps that had been cleared out a year before – and now needed clearing out again.
But as the large Chinook transport helicopter carrying the bulk of the unit's forces was preparing to land, it clipped a nearby tree line.
Troops already on the ground watched in horror as it fell 80 feet and burst into flames.
"The first thought I had was that everyone was dead," says Pfc. John Litwinczuk, a broad-shouldered machine-gunner with Havoc Company who had been watching from below.
Amazingly, none were. But those who crawled out of the burning fuselage were to face the fight of their lives come daybreak.
No longer would Havoc's mission be to descend into an area that US commanders had nicknamed "the Gambir jungle" – thick with pines and undergrowth and interlaced with a complex network of caves – to relieve the besieged 1st Platoon. Instead, it would stay on this high outcrop and bar the back door against Taliban reinforcements seeking to join the battle below – a five-day-long brawl that, at one point, had the company commander asking his troops, "Can you hold your line?"
The stories of the soldiers involved in the mission, code-named Operation Hammer Down, are both harrowing and heroic, starkly illustrating the harsh realities of America's war in Afghanistan. This is particularly true in the country's east, which has seen none of the "surge" reinforcements that were primarily sent to the south. Instead, commanders call the east an "economy of force" operation.
Today, the troops here have responsibility for twice the area of their predecessors. With US forces levels across Afghanistan, now at 100,000, set to diminish by 30,000 at year's end and another 23,000 by next summer, some soldiers in the east openly question whether drone strikes wouldn't be a better option than risking American lives for what can seem like temporary gains.
"This was not the first time the Gambir mission has been executed. The unit we replaced, they did it," says Sgt. Ridge Kaaekuahiwi of 1st Platoon. The Gambir Jungle has been cleared every year since 2006, according to US intelligence officials. "And probably when we make it out of here, the next unit is going to do the same thing," Kaaekuahiwi adds.
Commanders call it a complicated puzzle in which air assaults and repeated clearing missions are necessary. "I think you continue to chip away," says Col. Richard Kim, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, which includes the units that fought in Operation Hammer Down. "And that's what we're doing. We're chipping away."
Bleak assessment for Afghanistan peace prospects
ABC Online By Peter Lloyd Monday, September 5, 2011
MARK COLVIN: Australia's military has been involved in the war in Afghanistan for 10 years now. So far the campaign has cost the lives of 29 servicemen.
The defence force is now spending more than $1 billion a year sustaining a military campaign based largely in the southern Uruzgan province.
Australia's commitment of blood and treasure is only a fraction of the hundreds of billions spent by the United States and its NATO allies in Afghanistan.
And so now a decade on what has been achieved? And what are Afghanistan's prospects as Western political and military planners craft and execute exit strategies?
Peter Lloyd is a former ABC South Asia correspondent. He compiled this assessment which begins with his first report from Uruzgan five years ago.
PETER LLOYD (archival): The safest way to travel around southern Afghanistan these days is by air. So we flew low and fast across the hostile southern desert onboard an American Black Hawk helicopter, armed, ready and rehearsing for trouble.
PETER LLOYD: That was September 2006, half way into the Afghan war without end, back when Australian troops working under the banner of the Provincial Reconstruction Taskforce, or PRT, set to work on the allied hearts and minds strategy.
It was a neat combination of military muscle and engineering know-how that war planners believed would counter the growing menace of a resurgent Taliban.
The same model was applied by the NATO allies across Afghanistan, producing a legacy of statistics that seemed impressive: 6.2 million children attending school, child immunisation levels up considerably and healthcare access to 85 per cent of all Afghans.
Yet for all of those laudable achievements there is deep disquiet about the sustainability of many military-assisted aid projects.
Marc Purcell is the executive director of the Australian Council for International Development. He represents 70 Australian not-for-profit aid and development organisations, a dozen of whom have done business in Afghanistan over the years.
MARK PURCELL: First and foremost it's not about alleviating poverty. It's the defence force engaging in aid activities, creating aid projects with an explicit policy of trying to win hearts and minds, technically well executed.
PETER LLOYD: Can you give me some examples of the kind of aid projects you're talking about?
MARK PURCELL: The Australian Defence Force has spent about $1.3 million building a sewage disposal plant. But because the project was done without any consideration of trained staff to run it, of technical parts and supply, basically it remains unused to this day.
PETER LLOYD: According to figures compiled by the Foreign Affairs Department, the Australian Defence Force has spent more than $3 billion in Afghanistan, $1.2 billion in the last financial year alone.
By comparison the spending on development assistance has officially amounted to $565 million. That is roughly one-sixth of the amount that's been spent in fighting the Taliban.
But it is now apparent that a huge amount of that supposed development assistance has been spent by the military on the military.
Greens Leader Bob Brown:
BOB BROWN: The military could identify $37 million of the $252 million over four years that was going to aid in Afghanistan as being spent on identifiable projects like schools or hospitals. But the rest of it we must be left to simply speculate about.
PETER LLOYD: These questions of effectiveness and transparency dog the entire Western project in Afghanistan.
A recent report by the esteemed International Crisis Group said again what aid groups have been saying for years.
EXTRACT FROM INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP REPORT: Despite billions of dollars in aid state institutions remain fragile and unable to provide good governance, deliver basic services or guarantee security. The insurgency is spreading to areas regarded as relatively safe until now and policymakers are seeking a way out of an unpopular war.
PETER LLOYD: It is a sobering and bleak assessment endorsed by one of Australia's pre-eminent experts of Afghanistan, the ANU professor William Maley.
WILLIAM MALEY: A lot of observers would share that particular perspective, that the international community has been divided in its approaches to Afghanistan. It's opted for a light footprint when it might have been better to have a heavy one. And on occasions it's adopted a heavy one when it might have been better to have a light one.
PETER LLOYD: The latest reason given for Australia remaining in Afghanistan is that our military is training up police and army units based in Uruzgan province.
It may not be mission impossible but it could be mission improbable.
More than half of total international assistance - roughly $30 billion - has been invested in the security sector. And yet the Afghan army and police remain incapable of countering the insurgency alone, ensuring stability and enforcing the writ of the Karzai government.
In Uruzgan, Australia has helped ensure the promotion of a local warlord who can neither read nor write to the post of police chief.
William Maley again:
WILLIAM MALEY: Ultimately you can stick him in a uniform but he's still a war lord. As Barack Obama said in 2008 you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig.
PETER LLOYD: And what of the regime of president Hamid Karzai? We know that it is famously weak and corrupt. What is less well publicised is its disturbing tendency for extremism of a kind not seen since that Taliban.
This year it considered regulations demanding abandoned, abused and widowed women in NGO-run shelters be subjected to a virginity test. The project was eventually abandoned after pressure from donors.
But as NATO draws down its troop presence and Hamid Karzai seeks a deal with the Taliban no-one knows what rights may be sacrificed to political expediency.
MARK COLVIN: Peter Lloyd.
District chief and 2 bodyguards killed in roadside bombing in E. Afghanistan
JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- An administrative chief along with two bodyguards was killed on Tuesday when his car ran over a roadside bomb in Sherzad district of Nangarhar province with Jalalabad as its capital, 120 km east of capital city of Kabul, a spokesman for the provincial government said.
"A bomb was placed along a road and was detonated by a remote control device when the motorcade of the Sherzad district administrative chief was passing by the area on Tuesday afternoon," Ahmad Zia Abdulzai told Xinhua.
He said as a result of the explosion, Sherzad District Chief Assel Ahmad and two of his guards were killed.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far but Taliban militants have been behind most suicide and roadside bomb attacks across the war-ravaged country.
The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since the militant group announced to launch a spring offensive from May 1 against Afghan and NATO-led troops stationed in Afghanistan.
6 Taliban commanders detained in S. Afghanistan: Official
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Security forces have arrested six Taliban commanders in Helmand province 555 km south of capital city Kabul, spokesman for Helmand's provincial administration said Tuesday.
"Personnel of law enforcing agencies have captured six Taliban commanders over the past week from different parts of Helmand province," Daud Ahmadi told Xinhua.
With the capture of these commanders the situation will be further improved across the restive Helmand province, Ahmadi stated.
Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops have yet to make comment.
NATO airstrike kills two militants in southern Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- A NATO airstrike killed two suspected Taliban IED (Improvised Explosive Device) planters in Taliban birthplace Kandahar province on Monday, said a statement released by local administration on Tuesday. "An airstrike conducted by NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) killed two insurgents who were busy in planting IED along a road in Sozanian village of Shah Wali Kot district at around 04:00 p.m. local time on Monday," said the statement.
The bodies of the two militants were recovered by police and no civilian casualties or property damages were reported after the operation, it said.
It added that police found and defused two more explosive devices near the gate of municipality office building in first precinct of Kandahar city, the capital of Kandahar province Monday.
Taliban militants who largely rely on IED and suicide attacks have yet to make comment.
The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since the militant group launched spring offensive on May 1 against Afghan security force and NATO-led troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Five civilians were killed on Monday when their vehicle ran over a roadside bomb in Qaisar district of northern Faryab province.
Russian Ambassador To U.S.: Don't Flee Afghanistan
NPR By NPR Staff September 5, 2011
When the Soviet military occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s, Andrey Avetisyan served as a young diplomat in Kabul who witnessed a war that ultimately ended with a humiliating Soviet withdrawal.
Today, he is back in Kabul, this time as the Russian ambassador. And his advice to the United States is not to pull out of Afghanistan precipitously.
Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, who is reporting from Afghanistan this month, sat down with Avetisyan and asked him about the U.S.-Soviet rivalry in the 1960s, when the superpowers were competing to help develop a poor — but peaceful — Afghanistan.
Andrey Avetisyan: This is the best weapon you can choose in any kind of war — development — because what Afghanistan needed then and what Afghanistan still needs now is development, not fighting. I wouldn't call this situation, the international situation, around Afghanistan in the '60s, a Cold War. It was competition, healthy competition. And both sides, the Soviet Union and the U.S.A., tried their best to help these people, to show them that their way of development, social system, was better. And that was the competition, the fighting that could have done something to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it stopped later then, but in the '60s, it was golden time for Afghanistan.
Renee Montagne: So in the'60s and the late '50s, you had Helmand province being something of a little America. A lot of development going on — schools, English, young girls being taught, and taught in English. A big dam being built to provide electricity, which even today could provide an enormous amount of electricity for Afghanistan if fighting wasn't preventing it. And then the Soviets, for your part, built a famous tunnel, a really important tunnel [the Salang Tunnel] that was needed.
Avetisyan: Absolutely, and a couple of things that are still working now are those built by the Soviets. Bread is produced by the silo built in Kabul by the Soviet Union. Some fertilizers are produced in Mazar-e-Sharif by the fertilizer factory built by the Soviet Union. So, a lot of important projects were implemented here, even in the '80s, during the fighting.
Montagne: People seem to be very fond of comparing this current conflict to the Soviet-Afghanistan war. It seems to me that there are some very important differences, although in the end, what are the similarities?
Avetisyan: Similarities [are] those who decided to go into Afghanistan to fight terrorism hoped for several months — exactly like the Soviet Union, which didn't want to be involved here for so many years. But they were dragged deeper and deeper into this, and in a couple of years' time found themselves in the midst of internal conflict. So, fighting in Afghanistan is not what you think it's going to be. So, what is the end to this? Just withdraw? I think premature withdrawal now will bring a lot of problems, new internal war, new civil war to Afghanistan. It is a very dangerous thing just to put yourself a date, artificially calculated, and then withdraw. I don't think today the circumstances are right for withdrawal of the international forces and transition of responsibility for the security to the Afghan security forces. They're not yet ready.
Montagne: Speaking as the Russian ambassador, who was here during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, you'd say now's not the time to get out precipitously.
Avetisyan: Because the job is not done yet. But I'm afraid with the troops drawdown, economic assistance will go as well. Instead, what Afghanistan needs is an increase of development assistance, not just aid money, because we saw billions of them disappearing through the sands of Helmand and other sandy parts of the country. That is not what is needed, pouring Afghanistan with dollars, but giving it to the government in return shows a clear development strategy, but the government must be held responsible for it.
Montagne: Does President [Hamid] Karzai have the will, or the power, to actually change the way the government is being run now, which is widely known to be quite incompetent and corrupt?
Avetisyan: Well, he has all the power he needs by the constitution.
Montagne: But will he do that? Will he do what needs to be done?
Avetisyan: I think if the international community decided to support this government, it must support it in everything, and if they make mistakes — of course they make mistakes because it is an [experiment] in general government, with very able ministers, but generally with very little expertise — they must be helped, supported. A school here, a dam there is not what Afghanistan needs. It needs real development as a country, with infrastructure projects. Not just roads that are needed for foreign tanks to go somewhere, but for the future of the economic development of this country. Not a single big infrastructure project was implemented for the past 10 years.
Montagne: Although the ring road, which is really key to allowing goods and services and people to travel around Afghanistan, a road that, by the way, was originally partly built by the Americans and the Soviets back in the 50s and 60s, that road was repaired and put back into service but the use of it has been thwarted by fighting along the road, where people cant really get on it and travel on it.
Avetisyan: Yes, of course. Without the security situation no serious company will come and put money into it. I had this problem in attracting Russian companies in Afghanistan, like Lada, they were very worried about security and they just don't waste money building things that will be destroyed tomorrow.
Montagne: After the Soviet Union withdrew its troops in the late '80s, in '89, it might have stayed committed to Afghanistan in terms of development and helping with development, but it was actually unable to, because the Soviet Union, pretty shortly after that, broke apart.
Avetisyan: Absolutely. The Soviet Union made a huge mistake sending troops to Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union paid a huge price for this mistake. Russia prefers to learn from the mistakes of the past and we will never send our troops to Afghanistan.
Apart from this, we are ready and already cooperating with Afghanistan on everything. We support the army and police, we support international coalition here, because we share the goals of fighting against terrorism and international crime. For us, drugs are even more important. Every year about 30,000 Russians die from Afghan heroin. Russia can't be involved in Afghanistan from a distance because we are members of the region. We are here. We can't go anywhere like many countries involved now can.
Montagne: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
Avetisyan: Thank you, thank you, it's been a pleasure.
Suicide attack hits Herat in west Afghanistan
HERAT, Afghanistan, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- A suicide attack hit Herat, 640 km west of capital city Kabul on Tuesday, leaving the attacker dead, police said.
"A suicide bomber riding an explosive-laden car blew himself up next a convoy of NATO-led troops on a road in Ahmadabad area outside Herat's provincial capital the Herat city this morning leaving himself dead," police spokesman in western region Abdul Rauf Ahmadi told Xinhua.
There were no casualties on military and civilians, Ahmadi emphasized.
Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops have yet to make comment.
Afghan army: If you build it, who will come?
The Globe and Mail By TAYLOR OWEN Tuesday, Sep. 06, 2011
The regional military training centre in Herat is a desolate and harsh place. On the outskirts of an Afghan city bustling with commerce and construction, the vast training grounds extend out into the desert and high into the mountains.
We were at this training facility to see a live-fire exercise, intended as a demonstration of what is now the primary pillar of the International Security Assistance Force mission: forging the Afghan army into a force capable of securing the country and keeping the national government together as NATO draws down.
After winding through dozens of marching drills and shooting ranges, we arrived at the edge of the facility and a line of six young Afghan soldiers, each with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher on their shoulder. They were aiming at three burned-out Russian tanks. One by one, they fired at the tanks, most missing wildly.
After this somewhat chilling demonstration, we were taken to meet the commander of Regional Command West; he will ultimately take control of one of five regional armies. His message was blunt: He had fought for the mujahedeen, the Russians, the Taliban and now for NATO. While he appreciated our support, he had no doubt it would be fleeting.
It would be difficult to find a better distillation of the challenges NATO faces in Afghanistan than what we saw at this training facility. But such is the current state of the mission. With eight years of fighting having mostly failed, the NATO mission is in a process of transition, with security being transferred to Afghan forces between now and 2014. Training, which began in earnest only in November of 2009, is at the centre of this strategy.
Canada may no longer be fighting in Kandahar, but this new mission is nonetheless a daunting and risky task.
The police training process, for example, involves only three weeks of very basic security and language training (85 per cent of the recruits are illiterate). As one German colonel who is part of the mentoring program put it, we are training them to be checkpoint guards, not police officers.
This has real consequence for our counterinsurgency strategy. In the north, the Afghan National Police has proved incapable of patrolling and securing villages; immediately after NATO soldiers leave, the insurgents simply return. The village is then taken again and those who assisted NATO are punished. Each time this happens, more civilians are killed. The villagers then stop pointing out the whereabouts of IEDs, thereby increasing NATO casualties.
In the past year, there hasn’t been a single village held by the Afghan National Police in the north. The insurgents always come back.
Also of concern is the fact that the departing Americans are meant to be replaced by these new Afghan recruits. For example, the 30,000 U.S. soldiers who are being withdrawn over the next 18 months are supposed to be replaced by 50,000 to 70,000 new Afghan National Army troops. While there’s something to be said for the argument that an Afghan soldier can be more effective than a Western one, the lack of training, organization, leadership and equipment, combined with corruption, make one seriously question NATO’s math.
Training is also incredibly expensive. NATO support for training now costs $11-billion a year, mostly paid by the Americans. After 2014, the security sector is expected to require a continual $4-billion a year of external financial assistance, in a country with a GDP of $15-billon. It’s extremely unlikely that this level of financial and logistical assistance will be politically and economically sustainable by Western countries tired of war and teetering on the edge of yet another recession.
Ultimately, the questionable quality of the forces being trained, combined with the unsustainability of NATO support, presents potential strategic peril. As we put $11-billion a year of arms and training into the security sector, the civilian governance structures continue to falter amidst corruption and diminishing authority. Are we paving the way for a military-run Afghanistan?
One thing is clear: Our participation in this training process, while likely the best course of action in a very challenging situation, simply adds to both the moral responsibility we owe Afghanistan and the strategic corner we have backed ourselves into. If we build this army, we had better be willing to fund it and support it long into the future. This will be added to the long-term development and humanitarian engagement we also have rightly committed to and have the obligation to maintain. Afghans, of course, have been taught to shoot RPGs before.
Taylor Owen is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and the senior editor of www.opencanada.org. He recently returned from a NATO opinion leaders tour of Afghanistan.
9/11 and the Successful War
September 6, 2011 STRATFOR.COM
By George Friedman
It has been 10 years since 9/11, and all of us who write about such things for a living are writing about it. That causes me to be wary. I prefer being the lonely voice, but the fact is that 9/11 was a defining moment in American history. On Sept. 12, 2001, few would have anticipated the course the resulting war would take — but then, few knew what to think. The nation was in shock. In retrospect, many speak with great wisdom about what should have been thought about 9/11 at the time and what should have been done in its aftermath. I am always interested in looking at what people actually said and did at the time.
The country was in shock, and shock was a reasonable response. The country was afraid, and fear was a reasonable response. Ten years later, we are all much wiser and sure that our wisdom was there from the beginning. But the truth is that, in retrospect, we know we would have done things superbly had we the authority. Few of us are being honest with ourselves. We were all shocked and frightened. Our wisdom came much later, when it had little impact. Yes, if we knew then what we know now we would have all bought Google stock. But we didn’t know things then that we know now, so it is all rather pointless to lecture those who had decisions to make in the midst of chaos.
Some wars are carefully planned, but even those wars rarely take place as expected. Think of the Germans in World War I, having planned the invasion of France for decades and with meticulous care. Nothing went as planned for either side, and the war did not take a course that was anticipated by anyone. Wars occur at unpredictable times, take unpredictable courses and have unexpected consequences. Who expected the American Civil War to take the course it did? We have been second-guessing Lincoln and Davis, Grant and Lee and all the rest for more than a century.
This particular war — the one that began on 9/11 and swept into Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries — is hard to second-guess because there are those who do not think it is a war. Some people, including President George W. Bush, seem to regard it as a criminal conspiracy. When Bush started talking about bringing al Qaeda to justice, he was talking about bringing them before the bar of justice. Imagine trying to arrest British sailors for burning Washington. War is not about bringing people to justice. It is about destroying their ability to wage war. The contemporary confusion between warfare and criminality creates profound confusion about the rules under which you operate. There are the rules of war as set forth in the Geneva Conventions, and there are criminal actions. The former are designed to facilitate the defense of national interests and involve killing people because of the uniform they wear. The latter is about punishing people for prior action. I have never sorted through what it was that the Bush administration thought it was doing.
This entire matter is made more complex by the fact that al Qaeda doesn’t wear a uniform. Under the Geneva Conventions, there is no protection for those who do not openly carry weapons or wear uniforms or at least armbands. They are regarded as violating the rules of war. If they are not protected by the rules of war then they must fall under criminal law by default. But criminal law is not really focused on preventing acts so much as it is on punishing them. And as satisfying as it is to capture someone who did something, the real point of the U.S. response to 9/11 was to prevent anyone else from doing something — killing and capturing people who have not done anything yet but who might.
Coming to Grips
The problem is that international law has simply failed to address the question of how a nation-state deals with forces that wage war through terrorism but are not part of any nation-state. Neither criminal law nor the laws of war apply. One of the real travesties of 9/11 was the manner in which the international legal community — the United Nations and its legal structures, the professors of international law who discuss such matters and the American legal community — could not come to grips with the tensions underlying the resulting war. There was an unpleasant and fairly smug view that the United States had violated both the rules of war and domestic legal processes, but very little attempt was made to craft a rule of warfare designed to cope with a group like al Qaeda — organized, covert, effective — that attacked a nation-state.
As U.S. President Barack Obama has discovered, the failure of the international legal community to rapidly evolve new rules of war placed him at odds with his erstwhile supporters. The ease with which the international legal community found U.S. decision makers’ attempts to craft a lawful and effective path “illegal and immoral” (an oft-repeated cliche of critics of post-9/11 policy) created an insoluble dilemma for the United States. The mission of the U.S. government was to prevent further attacks on the homeland. The Geneva Conventions, for the most part, didn’t apply. Criminal law is not about prevention. The inability of the law to deal with reality generated an image of American lawlessness.
Of course, one of the most extraordinary facts of the war that begin on 9/11 was that there have been no more successful major attacks on the United States. Had I been asked on Sept. 11, 2001, about the likelihood of that (in fact, I was asked), my answer would have been that it was part of a series of attacks, and not just the first. This assumption came from a knowledge of al Qaeda’s stated strategic intent, the fact that the 9/11 team had operated with highly effective covert techniques based on technical simplicity and organizational effectiveness, and that its command structure seemed to operate with effective command and control. Put simply, the 9/11 team was good and was prepared to go to its certain death to complete the mission. Anyone not frightened by this was out of touch with reality.
Yet there have been no further attacks. This is not, I think, because they did not intend to carry out such attacks. It is because the United States forced the al Qaeda leadership to flee Afghanistan during the early days of the U.S. war, disrupting command and control. It is also because U.S. covert operations on a global scale attacked and disrupted al Qaeda’s strength on the ground and penetrated its communications. A significant number of attacks on the United States were planned and prosecuted. They were all disrupted before they could be launched, save for the attempted and failed bombing in Times Square, the famed shoe bomber and, my favorite, the crotch bomber. Al Qaeda has not been capable of mounting effective attacks against the United States (though it has conducted successful attacks in Spain and Britain) because the United States surged its substantial covert capabilities against it.
Obviously, as in all wars, what is now called “collateral damage” occurred (in a more civilized time it would have been called “innocent civilians killed, wounded and detained”). How could it have been otherwise? Just as aircraft dropping bombs don’t easily discriminate against targets and artillery sometimes kills innocent people, covert operations can harm the unintended. That is the nature and horror of war. The choice for the United States was to accept the danger of another al Qaeda attack — an event that I am certain was intended and would have happened without a forceful U.S. response — or accept innocent casualties elsewhere. The foundation of a polity is that it protects its own at the cost of others. This doctrine might be troubling, but few of us in World War II felt that protecting Americans by bombing German and Japanese cities was a bad idea. If this troubles us, the history of warfare should trouble us. And if the history of warfare troubles us, we should bear in mind that we are all its heirs and beneficiaries, particularly in the United States.
The first mission of the war that followed 9/11 was to prevent any further attacks. That mission was accomplished. That is a fact often forgotten.
Of course, there are those who believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy carried out by the CIA in order to justify interference in our liberty. But an organization as capable as they believe the CIA is would not need a justification to abridge liberty. That was a lot of work to justify something, and the truly powerful don’t need to justify anything. Nor do they need to leave people who are revealing the truth alive. It is striking that the “doubters” believe 9/11 was created in order to crush American freedoms but that the conspirators are so incompetent they cannot shut down those who have discovered the conspiracy and are telling the world about it. Personally, if I were interested in global domination triggered by a covert act like 9/11, I would silence those revealing my secret. But then I’m not that good at it, and the doubters all have reasons why they are blogging the truth and are not dead or languishing in a concentration camp.
I take this detour for four reasons. First, doubters should not be ignored but answered. Second, unless they are answered, they will be able to say the CIA (or whomever they think did it) needed one attack to achieve its goals. Third, the issue the doubters raise is not the structural integrity of a building but the underlying intent of the CIA in carrying out the attack. The why is everything to them, and it is important to point out that it is their explanation of motive that makes no sense. Finally, I am engaging the doubters here because I enjoy receiving an abundance of emails containing fascinating accusations and the occasional threat.
Considering the Failures
But to return to the main theme, it is important here to consider not only the successes but also the failures of the war, and here Iraq comes to mind. There is a case to be made that the Iraq campaign was not irrational, but even more interesting, I think, is the fact that no war is without its disastrous misjudgments, even successful wars. In my mind, the U.S. invasion of the Philippines in 1944 was a major mistake. It did little to contribute to the fall of Japan, cost far more than the 4,000 American lives lost in Iraq, and it could have actually delayed the end of the war. It was opposed by senior commanders and was essentially something Gen. Douglas MacArthur insisted on for political reasons. The Battle of the Somme in World War I cost 600,000 British and French casualties, with 60,000 in one day. Their total gain during the battle was perhaps six miles. And in the American Civil War, the federal drive into Virginia turned into a disaster.
Every successful war is built around a series of defeats and miscalculations. The perfect war is built around deeply flawed and unnecessary campaigns. My own personal selections are not as important as the principle that all successful wars contain massive mistakes. If we simply write off Iraq as one of these, that in itself does not change the fact that the American homeland was not attacked again. Did Iraq contribute to that? This is a question that warrants a long discussion. But conceding that it had no effect simply makes the post-9/11 war normal and, in that normality, tragic.
What has not been normal has been the length of the war. Heavy fighting continues in Afghanistan, Iraq is not quite done and new theaters for covert operations are constantly opening and closing. It is the first U.S. campaign — Afghanistan — that actually poses the most vexing problem, one that is simple to express: When is the war over? That, of course, depends on the goal. What is the United States trying to achieve there?
The initial goal of the invasion was to dislodge al Qaeda, overthrow the government that had supported it and defeat the Taliban. The first two goals were accomplished quickly. The third goal has not been accomplished to this day, nor is it likely that the United States will ever accomplish it. Other powers have tried to subdue Afghanistan, but few have succeeded. The Taliban are optimized for the battlefield they fight on, have superior intelligence and have penetrated and are able to subvert government institutions, including the Afghan military. They have the implicit support of elements in a neighboring major nation — Pakistan — that are well beyond American means to intimidate. The United States has no port from which to supply its forces except the one controlled by Pakistan and only complex and difficult supply routes through other countries.
On the other hand, the Taliban cannot defeat the United States, which can stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. But the major U.S. mission in Afghanistan is concluded. Al Qaeda has not used Afghanistan as a primary base since 2002. Al Qaeda in Pakistan, according to the United States, has been crippled. The Taliban, products of Afghanistan for the most part, have no international ambitions. Al Qaeda has relocated to other countries like Yemen and Somalia.
Given this, continued combat in Afghanistan cannot be linked to al Qaeda. It could be said that the reason to go to war in Afghanistan was to prevent al Qaeda’s return. But the fact is that it doesn’t need Afghanistan, and if it did return to Afghanistan, it would be no more dangerous to the United States than it currently is with its bases elsewhere.
In wars, and especially in counterinsurgencies, the mission tends to creep upward. In Afghanistan, the goal is now the transformation of Afghan society into one that is democratic, no longer corrupt by American standards and able to defend itself against the Taliban. This goal does not seem attainable given the relative forces and interests in the country.
Therefore, this war will go on until the United States decides to end it or there is a political evolution in Kabul in which the government orders us out. The point is that the goal has become disengaged from the original intent and is unattainable. Unlike other wars, counterinsurgencies rarely end in victory. They usually end when the foreign forces decide to leave.
There is talk of a long war against radical Islam. It had better not be. The Islamic world is more than a billion people and radical Islam is embedded in many places. The idea that the United States has the power to wage an interminable war in the Islamic world is fantasy. This is not a matter of ideology or willpower or any other measures. It is a matter of available forces, competing international interests and American interests.
Ultimately, there are three lessons of the last decade that I think are important. The first is the tremendous success the United States has had in achieving its primary goal — blocking attacks on the homeland. The second is that campaigns of dubious worth are inevitable in war, and particularly in one as ambiguous as this war has been. Finally, all wars end, and the idea of an interminable war dominating American foreign policy and pushing all other considerations to the side is not what is going to happen. The United States must have a sense of proportion, of what can be done, what is worth doing and what is too dangerous to do. An unlimited strategic commitment is the definitive opposite of strategy.
The United States has done as well as can be expected. Over the coming years there will be other terrorist attacks. As it wages war in response, the United States will be condemned for violating international laws that are insensate to reality. At this point, for all its mistakes and errors — common to all wars — the United States has achieved its primary mission. There have been no more concerted terrorist attacks against the United States. Now it is time to resume history.
|2011, afghan, news, september|