[Afghan News] October 14, 2011 - 02-16-2012, 06:35 PM
October 14, 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
KABUL -- Afghan police have broken up a protest by a hunger-striking female politician and her supporters and taken her to hospital, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
Police overnight dismantled the tent outside the presidential building in Kabul where ousted lawmaker Simeen Barakzai had been on hunger strike for 12 days to demand her reinstatement in parliament.
Speaking in Kabul on October 14, supporters of Barakzai who had joined her hunger strike this week said she was forced into a car and taken to Daud Khan Hospital, where she is currently receiving treatment.
The supporters claimed police, disguised as doctors, dismantled their tents, handcuffed and beat them, and took them to a local police station where they were held overnight and released this morning.
Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi confirmed that Barakzai was taken to a hospital, but denied any misconduct against the former politician or her supporters.
"Yes, police escorted Barakzai to a hospital in Kabul. We all know that she was in a very serious health condition," Siddiqi told RFE/RL.
"I can confirm that the police were in their rights as they had received information that Barakzai was in danger from enemies who wanted to harm her," he said, without elaborating. "The situation was handled in an orderly fashion."
Barakzai, 30, was among nine lawmakers expelled from parliament in August over vote-rigging claims.
Barakzai has been in a critical condition, but speaking earlier this week she vowed not to eat or drink anything until she is reinstated.
To show their support a female member of parliament, Nilofar Ibrahimi, along with a number of civil activists and students from Kabul University, joined the hunger strike on October 11.
Barakzai and eight fellow lawmakers were removed by the Independent Election Commission in August in a bid to end a dispute over who should occupy seats in the Afghan parliament.
The saga has continued for more than one year after elections were marred by widespread fraud.
Sixty-two losing candidates challenged the election results in a special court. Earlier this summer the court declared them winners, saying 62 lawmakers should be unseated.
But the Independent Election Commission in August decided to replace only nine.
Big Tent Key to Saving Afghanistan
The US and Afghan governments need to rethink the current peace process. Striking a deal with the Taliban is no magic bullet.
The Diplomat By Javid Ahmad & Louise Langeby October 14, 2011
The assassination late last month of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the Afghanistan High Peace Council, was another in a long series of blows to an already fragile reconciliation process in the country. And, although US President Barack Obama affirmed shortly after that the assassination wouldn’t deter the United States and NATO from pursuing their current path, the incident has significantly undermined the prospects for peace in Afghanistan. The fallout from Rabbani’s killing continued last week as Afghan officials announced their plans to cancel trilateral talks with Pakistan and the United States. Senior officials from the three countries had been expected to meet in Kabul on October 8 to discuss the fragile Afghan reconciliation process that many hope will bring an end to the decade-old conflict.
Viewed in the context of the past six months – a period marked by political assassinations and other deadly targeted attacks – the latest tragedy also calls into question the very fundamentals of the current reconciliation and reintegration process. Instead of moving on without further reflection, a serious reappraisal of the process is needed.
After 10 years of fighting, the idea of finding a political solution to the war in Afghanistan has become a top priority on the international agenda. With extremist factions steadily undermining moderates, as demonstrated by the escalating violence and spectacular nature of recent attacks, the current process is being heavily undermined. This casts doubts on the effectiveness of the US-initiated talks with a marginalized faction of the Taliban. Further, it begs the question of whether a lasting solution involving just moderates isn’t overly optimistic.
When evaluating the peace process, the inherent domestic challenges of reconciling the Taliban must also be considered. Rabbani’s death is set to exacerbate the already stark opposition to negotiations that exists in many parts of Afghan society. Rabbani was tasked with not only reconciling and negotiating a peace settlement with the Pashtun-dominated insurgency, but also bringing the so-called ‘anti-Taliban constituency’ to the table. This opposition group is comprised of non-Pashtuns – Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras – who fought against the Taliban under the umbrella of the Northern Alliance in the 1990s.
Led by influential warlords and former mujahideen commanders, this opposition group remains opposed to any peace talks with the Taliban, and believes they have the most to lose from a negotiated settlement. The killing of Rabbani has significantly bolstered this opposition group along with other critics of the peace talks. Opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah and former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh announced that all reconciliation efforts were dead. Although President Hamid Karzai has struggled to keep them on board, most of the leaders of these groups have gradually drifted away. Indeed, Rabbani was the only influential Northern Alliance leader loyal to Karzai and his circle.
There are further obstacles to peace talks well beyond the need to placate the erstwhile Northern Alliance or Karzai’s appointment of Rabbani, a Tajik warlord, as his chief peace negotiator. Karzai is widely viewed by the majority of Afghans as an ineffectual leader who has held on to power through fraudulent elections. The United States, for its part, is seen as having further facilitated the situation by supporting Karzai’s strongman rule in a myopic attempt to militarily defeat the Taliban.
At the same time, both the US and Afghan governments have failed to provide political space for the mainstream Afghan population, sidelining influential tribal leaders viewed as local power brokers with historical legitimacy. Moreover, while negotiating an enduring peace deal and political settlement in Kabul will require extensive engagement with a wide range of state and non-state actors, including leaders of political parties, armed opposition groups, civil society representatives, religious leaders, and youth groups, neither the United States nor the Afghan government has yet declared peace with the Taliban as a national priority.
Under such conditions, any efforts by the United States or Afghan leadership aimed at reaching a peace deal appear more bleak and elusive than ever. Ultimately, striking a deal with the Taliban doesn’t automatically ensure a political solution to Afghanistan’s problems. In order to restore a true sense of reconciliation, both Washington and Kabul must reconsider the current peace talks and promote a more inclusive process that engages the entire spectrum of actors. In other words, they shouldn’t leave a matter that is a national and international priority in the hands of a few.
Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is Program Coordinator with the Asia Programme of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington DC. Louise Langeby is a Programme Associate with the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels.
New American Duo Pursues Warmer Relations With Afghan President
Wall Street Journal By MARIA ABI-HABIB OCTOBER 14, 2011
KABUL - The U.S. is trying to improve troubled relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, installing a new ambassador and military commander who Afghan and allied officials say are already beginning to improve frayed ties.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, in interviews with The Wall Street Journal, cited what they saw as improvements in the relationship with Afghanistan's president, who has made increasingly strident anti-American remarks over the past year.
"I think we've kind of had a reset in recent weeksand that's been reflected in the public discourse as well as in private," Mr. Crocker said. "What we want here is what they want here—a stable, secure, un-Talibanized, pluralistic Afghanistan with a reasonable level of prosperity."
Although the new U.S. team hasn't had any showdowns with the palace yet, Mr. Karzai will likely press them to try to reduce civilian casualties and stop night raids, issues that caused friction with the previous team. The raids, in which soldiers enter Afghan homes, violate cultural taboos in a country where women are often secluded from mingling with unrelated men.
The president's frequent anti-American outbursts have been damaging to support within the U.S. for the effort in Afghanistan, while also inflaming anti-Western feelings among Afghans.
Mr. Karzai's aides said the president felt he had been treated with insufficient respect by the former coalition commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and by former U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.
Gen. Petraeus, early in his tenure, pressed Mr. Karzai on corruption and ramped up night raids. Mr. Eikenberry pursued a policy of engaging Mr. Karzai, but it didn't take long for things to sour. In 2009, Mr. Karzai believed the U.S. was plotting to unseat him during the presidential election; in 2010, the leak of a diplomatic cable in which Mr. Eikenberry said the Afghan president was "not an adequate strategic partner" further poisoned relations.
In June, shortly before he left his post, Mr. Eikenberry labeled Mr. Karzai's public backlash against the U.S. as "hurtful and inappropriate."
The new duo are seen as more culturally astute. Gen. Allen, 57 years old, takes pains to pronounce Afghanistan with a guttural "gh," as locals do. "I treat the president with respect—I treat him with the same respect that I treat my own president," he says.
Gen. Allen says that as he prepared for his first meeting with the Afghan president after arriving in Kabul in July, he was told by aides that it would be "a tough one" and that Mr. Karzai will "try you out."
Instead, says Gen. Allen, "the moment I walked into his office, he stood up and shook my hand and said 'welcome to Afghanistan.' And I said 'Mr. President, I'm here to serve for all Afghans, for your country and to assist you in solving this issue with the insurgency.' "
Mr. Crocker, 62, has decorated his residence with Islamic calligraphy and a framed photo showing Mr. Karzai with the president's son Mirwais. He speaks Arabic, which although it isn't spoken here, gives him respect among the population, whose holy book, the Quran, is in the language.
Afghan officials say they are pleased with the new U.S. chiefs. "Crocker and Allen have better relations with the president, they know how to handle Afghans better," says Abdul Karim Khurram, Mr. Karzai's chief of staff. "They now listen to us, they try to understand us, and they take our recommendations into consideration."
The new effort to accommodate Mr. Karzai reflects, in part, the changing mission here, with the focus shifting to finding an exit strategy instead of engineering a profound turnaround.
After last year's surge of 30,000 troops, the U.S. has now begun pulling out forces, aiming to transfer responsibility for security across Afghanistan to the Afghan army and police by the end of 2014.
Amid this shift, Mr. Crocker is widely seen as the more senior partner of the American diplomatic-military tandem in Kabul, making frequent public appearances and speaking to the media.The new duo speak several times a day, according to officials. "We call ourselves the diplomatic and military wingmen," Gen. Allen says.
That is a change from the recent past, when Mr. Eikenberry, a retired general of more junior rank, was overshadowed by Gen. Petraeus and the previous coalition commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
"Petraeus was the political and military presence of the U.S. in Afghanistan," says a senior European diplomat in Kabul. "We now are returning to a normal civilian-military relationship and it's a healthy and welcome balance."
Mr. Crocker has served across the Middle East since joining the State Department in 1971, including ambassadorships in Pakistan and Iraq, and was pulled out of retirement to oversee the Afghan transition. His ties to Mr. Karzai go back a decade: Mr. Crocker reopened the American mission in Kabul after the Taliban's downfall in late 2001.
Gen. Allen overlapped with Mr. Crocker in Iraq. In 2006-2008, he commanded U.S. Marines in Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold where American efforts to reintegrate militants were particularly successful.
Both men face similar challenges in Afghanistan, as the U.S.-led military coalition is trying to force Taliban insurgents to join in a political settlement to end the war. —Dion Nissenbaum contributed to this article.
Preparing for a Way Out of Afghanistan
New York Times By C. J. CHIVERS October 13, 2011
OBSERVATION POST TWINS, Afghanistan - Much of what the Pentagon hopes to accomplish in Afghanistan before withdrawing most of its forces by 2014 is visible from this small, sandbagged mountaintop, where the risks and ambitions guiding the latest effort to reshape a foreign nation are equally clear.
The outpost was built about six months ago. Perched on a ridge near Pakistan and inhabited by side-by-side American and Afghan infantry platoons, it looks down on several villages under the control of the Taliban and the Haqqani insurgent network.
Steep mountains all but close off the basin below, known as the Naka bowl, helping to make it one of the fighters’ many havens. The ruins of a government center and police station, built by the United States and destroyed by those who hold the real sway in Naka, lie abandoned near the base of a facing slope.
After ousting the Taliban from power in 2001, the United States brought multiple ambitions to Afghanistan: establishing democracy, developing a strong central government and security forces to keep it alive, reducing the country’s role in the heroin trade, building infrastructure, and promoting education and women’s rights. All of these have been frustrated to varying degrees.
Where once there were lofty plans, more pragmatic voices reign. American military officers now brief from a shorter list. A top item reads “transition,” the label for an endgame: turning over Afghanistan to American-financed Afghan forces in ways that, in theory, should allow most of the Pentagon’s troops an exit and leave behind a partner for future counterterrorism efforts.
But transition, too, is freighted with questions and diminished expectations — as is evident in the now-hurried contest for the Naka bowl, which provides a microcosm of the larger plan.
Observation Post Twins, in northern Paktika Province, stands about 8,500 feet above sea level. It was built for a single purpose: to allow American troops to introduce an Afghan security presence in the valley. During the next few weeks, ahead of the winter freeze, the close-out will begin as American soldiers expect to increase the Afghan force level and decrease their own numbers.
First, said Capt. Craig A. Halstead, the commander of Company B, Second Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, his platoons will turn over several bunkers to Afghan National Army soldiers. Many American soldiers will return to the company’s larger outpost in nearby Zerok.
Some time later, the Americans will build, once again, a police station and government center and help dozens of Afghan police officers and a subgovernor move in.
One recent day, while Captain Halstead discussed the transition with Lt. Bismillah, the executive officer of an Afghan infantry company, Shahidullah, the Afghan interpreter assisting the conversation, reprised local history. It was a chronicle of thwarted plans.
“This is the third plan that we are making,” he said. “Two times before when the police came to Naka, the Haqqani guys stopped them.”
The last time, he said, the station was destroyed before the police arrived. Guerrillas threatened to kill the villagers building the station. Then, after the workers fled, the guerrillas laced the structure with explosives and leveled it.
This time, Captain Halstead said, before building anything, this fortified observation post was established. And the new police station will not be by the far ridge, which is out of heavy-machine gun range. It will be closer to the post, from where Afghan soldiers should be able, at least theoretically, to protect police officers below.
Once the station is built, said First Lt. Sidney E. Talley, an American platoon leader, the Afghan police will start patrolling, trying to develop relationships in the villages.
For now, after a unilateral cease-fire on the part of the insurgents that allowed pine-cone harvesters to work on the mountains, the outpost is often under rocket or mortar fire. The Naka bowl is considered to be brimming with danger, so much so that American platoons rotate through the post only at night, to avoid ambushes in the ravine they must cross to reach it.
The sense of imminent threat could be seen on a recent day when an American Black Hawk helicopter flew past. The aircraft held three sergeants-major. As it made a U-turn over a nearby ridge from where the local fighters often fire, American troops here jeered.
They said that one of the Haqqani mortar crews, expecting the aircraft to land, might fire on the post’s landing zone, putting the soldiers on the ground in danger. “Are you high?” one of them shouted. “You trying to blow me up?”
Another yelled, “They’re smoking rock!”
In this climate, officers speak of “tactical patience” — not pushing out too often or too aggressively, which could set off gunfights near civilians, encourage local men to line trails with bombs, and lose lives in clashes that could be avoided and replaced with more culturally attuned Afghan-on-Afghan efforts.
“We have a plan for deliberate transition,” Captain Halstead said. “By next year we will leave the bowl, and it will be the Afghans’ to secure.”
By then the remaining Americans, he said, freed from duties here, plan to build another outpost on another ridge overlooking another nearby Haqqani haven, and to establish an Afghan toehold there, too.
Lieutenant Bismillah, the Afghan officer, was upbeat. “If we build a police station, the people will come,” he said.
But there is a wild card: No one yet knows how the local guerrillas will react.
One common theory is that without American soldiers, the violence will subside, and Afghan forces and their foes will broker local arrangements.
An opposite theory predicts that Taliban and Haqqani fighters will press harder and Afghan troops, without American protection, will desert or be overrun.
At the outpost, Lieutenant Bismillah’s optimism was tempered by worries that his forces lack firepower.
The Americans’ uneasy presence here is made possible with sophisticated communications and fire support: a combination of radars that detect incoming rounds and locate their sources, and the radios and satellite links that organize artillery, mortar and aircraft crews that fire back.
Afghan units do not have these weapons and communications systems, much less the skills to integrate them.
“If you do leave tomorrow, and you leave heavy weapons for us, we will bring security here in a week,” Lieutenant Bismillah said. “But what can we do with rocket-propelled grenades and our machine guns?”
There are also questions as to whether Afghan forces will be able to sustain themselves in a more basic sense.
Observation Post Twins is supplied almost solely by helicopters that carry in water, ammunition, batteries and food. Overland routes from Orgun, the nearest city, to the larger outpost in Zerok are plagued by roadside bombs and ambushes. And the last leg, from Zerok to the mountain where the outpost stands, is a three-hour hike on a dirt trail through a winding river bed.
Without helicopters, it is not clear whether Afghan troops can keep themselves fed and equipped, evacuate their wounded or rotate troops.
“I don’t think they’ll make it through the first winter,” said one American noncommissioned officer, who asked that his name be withheld.
Lt. Col. John V. Meyer, the battalion commander, said the Afghans would be forced to adapt. “I do think they will figure out how to do basic resupply,” he said. “But that’s the challenge: everything we build has to be Afghan-sustainable.”
He also said the route to the Naka bowl would be secured in part by village guards, known as Afghan local police officers, who work with American Special Forces. Then he added what could pass as a summary of the uncertainties that accompany the Pentagon’s plan.
“When I am up there in force, I am up there and we can have security,” Colonel Meyer said. “But what happens when we leave?”
Afghan Anticorruption Official Suspects Ministers Of Graft
October 13, 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
KABUL -- A senior Afghan official says he believes some cabinet ministers are involved in corruption because of their failure to work with his graft-monitoring agency, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
Azizullah Ludin, the head of Afghanistan's High Office for Oversight and Anticorruption (HOOAC), told RFE/RL that several senior government officials have failed to cooperate with his office, leading him to suspect they are involved in corruption.
"We are facing a lack of cooperation from those in high positions in the government," Ludin said on October 11. "They think they are above the law. Their behavior is comparable to King Louis the 14th of France who declared 'I am the state.'"
Ludin did not name specific ministers who are not cooperating with the HOOAC or offer proof that they are involved in corruption.
He said he told President Hamid Karzai about this issue and "informed him that measures need to be taken to ensure everybody is equal before the law."
Ludin added that the existence of corruption and the government's inability to tackle it are one of the reasons for the Afghan people's lack of trust in Kazai's administration.
Kabul-based political analyst Isak Atmar told RFE/RL that a special tribunal should be created to tackle corruption cases among top government officials.
"The people of Afghanistan want action to be taken against corrupt officials," Atmar said. "People expect that sooner or later those accused of widespread corruption will be brought to justice in court. The other option would be to create a special court that will primarily investigate corruption at the highest levels of government."
This is not the first time anticorruption agencies have accused ministers in Karzai's government of corruption, bribery, or abuse of office.
Western officials have complained about such problems for several years, leading Karzai to establish the HOOAC in 2010.
Karzai has said on several occasions that he is doing all he can to battle corruption within his government.
Nonetheless, he maintains that government officials are not the only perpetrators of such crimes, citing foreign security firms and even provincial reconstruction units working in Afghanistan as also being involved in corruption.
The timeless intractability of Afghanistan
The Globe and Mail By JEFFREY SIMPSON Friday, Oct. 14, 2011
Before the Taliban briefly ran Afghanistan, opium poppy production ranged from 54,000 to 91,000 hectares. Today, a decade or so after the Taliban’s forcible removal from power, opium poppy production covers 131,000 hectares. In the province of Kandahar, where Canadian forces were stationed, cultivation doubled from 2006 to 2010.
Profits from opium poppies fuel the insurgency and criminal networks. Despite all sorts of eradication efforts, production remains high. It grew by 7 per cent from 2010 to 2011.
Afghanistan, the principal source for Canadian aid, remains the world’s leading narco-state. The farm-gate value of opium, according to the United Nations, represents 9 per cent of the country’s economy. But the share would be far higher if the black market were included.
The other day, a senior U.S. military leader let slip the observation that, for foreign intervention to succeed (and he didn’t define success precisely), it would take one or two generations of effort.
Of course, no Western country has the stomach for anything like that. The U.S., by far the largest NATO-troop contributor, is withdrawing some of its soldiers in 2012, with the rest set to leave in 2014. The second-biggest contributor, Britain, isn’t going to keep large number of troops there. Canada has already switched its role from combat to training.
The U.S. and British economies are both in dreadful shape, as are their budgets. Their publics want the war ended; their treasuries require it – and the insurgents know it.
Predictions are always risky, and often wrong. But here’s one offered in the face of those cautionary words: After foreign troops leave, Afghanistan is likely to descend once again into some sort of civil strife between Pashtun insurgents in the south and other ethnic groups spread across the country. Pakistan, which has always played a double game in Afghanistan, will further intensify its efforts to support the insurgency, some of whose leaders are based in Pakistan itself.
Afghan society’s fundamental cleavages, therefore, haven’t disappeared. They’ll either play themselves out in conflict or in negotiations from which Westerners will be excluded.
One man who believed in the possibility of negotiations, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was recently assassinated. He had been sufficiently trusted by the Taliban’s former enemies, and by a few members of the Taliban, to be an interlocutor. Now he’s dead, and so are the peace feelers.
A decade after U.S.-led military intervention began, the insurgency remains active and lethal. It recently launched attacks on the U.S. embassy, killed President Hamid Karzai’s brother in Kandahar and assassinated the chief of police there. Said the authoritative International Crisis Group: “The inflow of billions of dollars in international assistance has failed to strengthen significantly the state’s capacity to provide security or basic services.” Worse, the ICG reports an increase of “collusion” between insurgent elements and corrupt government officials in and around Kabul.
The Karzai government is widely considered corrupt to the core. Proceeds from the drug trade grease some of that corruption and assist the insurgency. The government and its Western allies are incapable of stopping the opium trade. Eradicated areas increase; so do areas under cultivation.
The spin-doctoring around the Afghan mission has been relentless from the beginning, in Canada and elsewhere. Leaked cables recently revealed – to nobody’s surprise – the fixation of the Harper government and the military with the war’s public relations. The spin no longer fools the observant.
Western nations are entering their final phase in Afghanistan, having distended their military and aid budgets. There’s little to show for their involvement, relative to their expenditure of blood and treasure.
And the country’s ethnic and religious schisms endure, as do suspicions of foreigners and their intentions. Afghanistan remains the playground for Pakistan, India and Iran. The timeless intractability of a country that only Afghans can understand has shown itself again immune from the ministrations of outsiders with all their money and might, good intentions and hubris.
Preacher Held by Afghan Spy Agency Is Near Death
New York Times By ALISSA J. RUBIN October 13, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan - An itinerant preacher who had been detained for 12 days by the Afghan intelligence service arrived at a hospital badly beaten, suffering from kidney failure, and slipping in and out of consciousness, said doctors at the hospital and local health clinic where he was treated Thursday. They said they were not sure he would survive.
The man was admitted to the hospital in the eastern province of Khost on Wednesday morning, said the doctors, who requested anonymity because they feared retribution from local members of the intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security.
This week the United Nations released a detailed report concluding that torture by the Afghan agency and the police was common and entrenched at some facilities, even as the United States and other Western nations finance and train the Afghan security forces. The Khost Province office of the intelligence agency was one of five where the United Nations report said that it found “compelling evidence of torture” to obtain information and confessions.
“We are aware of the incident and we are monitoring the situation,” said Georgette Gagnon, who is in charge of human rights for the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan.
Afghan intelligence agents wearing local dress known as shalwar kameez swarmed the public hospital in Khost City, the capital of Khost Province, where the man, Maulavi Abdullah, 30, was admitted Wednesday. They kept both doctors and reporters from talking to the patient with the exception of two doctors who were treating him.
“The detainee has been beaten really badly, and both his kidneys may have stopped working,” one doctor said. The man cannot drink and is being given fluids by IV, the doctor said, adding, “There are no signs of torture on his body or open wounds, but he has been kicked and punched in the belly, which may have damaged his kidney and other internal vital organs.”
At the intelligence directorate in Kabul, the spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal, said: “We do not have any official report yet on the incident in Khost.”
He said that two previous deaths in detention, in Takhar and Badakhshan, were both investigated and that the detainees had died from natural causes.
Beatings and torture have long been part of the local detention culture, especially for the intelligence service, which is under pressure to get confessions so that cases can proceed to rapid trials.
In the wake of the United Nations report, the intelligence directorate and the police have said that they are instituting reforms to safeguard against torture and that the American military is working with them to help teach alternative methods of interrogation that do not involve torture as well as setting up a monitoring program.
Khost Province, which has a long border with Pakistan, is heavily infiltrated by Taliban, many of them with ties to the Haqqani network, a particularly brutal offshoot with extensive organized crime interests in southeastern Afghanistan.
The heavy insurgent presence does put the intelligence service under heavy pressure to intercept insurgents and try to determine where they will strike next.
Family members of the detainee said that Maulavi Abdullah was a high school teacher in Sorbari district and also served as a mullah at a village mosque. In addition, they said, he is an itinerant teacher of the Koran. Such teachers go from village to village and stay for as long as the community welcomes them, teaching the Koran in the mosque and occasionally meeting with other itinerant evangelicals.
Maulavi Abdullah was at one of these meetings in Khost City 13 days ago when, on his way home to Sorbari district, he was detained by intelligence agents, said his younger brother, Maulavi Habibullah.
“He has been beaten with ruthlessness,” Maulavi Habibullah said. “Whenever you touch a part of his body, he shouts in pain. He has not urinated in the past few days, except once he urinated, which was bloody urine.”
Sangar Rahimi and Sharifullah Sahak contributed reporting from Kabul, and an employee of The New York Times from southeastern Afghanistan.
Suspected US Drone Strike Kills 4 in Pakistan
VOA News October 14, 2011
Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. drone strike has killed four militants in the country's northwest, the third such attack in less than two days.
Officials say missiles struck a vehicle Friday as it traveled near the town of Miran Shah in the North Waziristan tribal region.
The day before, a drone strike in the same region killed a ranking member of the militant Haqqani network. A U.S. official in Washington described Janbaz Zadran, also known as “Jamil,” as the senior most Haqqani leader in Pakistan to be taken off the battlefield.
Pakistani officials said the man killed in Thursday's attack in North Waziristan was an important Afghan commander of the al-Qaida-linked militant network and a close aide to the group's leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani.
The Haqqani network, which has launched numerous attacks in Afghanistan, is believed to be based in North Waziristan.
Troops set to withdraw from several Afghan bases by early next year
Sydney Morning Herald By Daniel Flitton, Rafael Epstein October 14, 2011
AUSTRALIAN forces expect to pull back from more than a dozen bases in Afghanistan to just four by early next year as local forces take control, the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, said yesterday.
In an upbeat assessment of the conflict, Mr Smith said the Taliban had failed to make any inroads during the summer fighting despite mounting a series of sensational attacks.
But the claim of progress in the decade-long conflict comes as new research shows the success of one of the principal tactics against the Taliban - night raids aimed at killing or capturing leaders of the insurgency - may have been exaggerated to make the military campaign look more effective.
Special forces from the US, Britain, Australia and others have dramatically increased capture-or-kill operations since the middle of last year, claiming they are a precision tactic that effectively targets Taliban commanders.
But the study of NATO press releases and media briefings by the Afghanistan Analysts Network shows that for every ''insurgent leader'' killed in the raids, eight more also die.
The report tallied 2365 capture-or-kill raids since December 2009 - including some by Australian special forces in the most violent provinces of Uruzgan, Kandahar and Helmand.
During this period at least 3873 people were reported killed and 7146 detained.
The Taliban has focused on guerrilla-style attacks such as disrupting local mobile phone networks rather than attacking coalition or Afghani troops.
In Uruzgan, the researchers tallied 23 insurgent leaders killed, compared to the 21 insurgent leaders whose deaths were reported publicly by the Australian Defence Force, according to an analysis by the Herald.
American special forces also operate in Uruzgan.
Federal Parliament is expected to again debate the conflict in Afghanistan before the end of the year, similar to the debate last October that was part of the price of Greens support for Labor's minority government.
Mr Smith told Parliament yesterday that Australian special forces had carried out about 40 operations outside Uruzgan.
He said plans to hand control to Afghan forces by 2014 was ''a realistic transition timeline''.
''This fighting season, the Taliban has been unable to retake any ground in Uruzgan, or Afghanistan,'' he said.
Despite requests from the Herald, the Defence Force does not release detailed figures on capture-or-kill raids. The study counted 34 capture-or-kill raids in Uruzgan with 105 people detained. The ADF specifically mentions only 17 insurgents captured in the same period, but often doesn't give precise figures and doesn't distinguish between missile strikes and raids.
Aust to spend $6b on Afghan war by 2014
The Canberra Times BY DAVID ELLERY, DEFENCE REPORTER 14 Oct, 2011
Australia would have spent about $6billion on the war in Afghanistan by the time our troops leave in 2014, according to Defence.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith defended the country's decade-long involvement in the conflict in Parliament yesterday.
The Opposition expressed bi-partisan support.
''It is in our national interest to be in Afghanistan, not just with our alliance partner, the United States, but also with 47 other members of the International Security Assistance Force acting under a United Nations mandate,'' Mr Smith said.
He welcomed El Salvador, the latest country to join the coalition, to ISAF.
''Australia's fundamental goal is to prevent Afghanistan from again being used by terrorists to plan and train for attacks on innocent civilians, including Australians, in our region and beyond.''
This has come at a cost.
With almost 1000 diggers injured or wounded in the country since the war began ADF rehabilitation costs have escalated year after year. A Defence spokesman said they had jumped from $3 million in 2006-2007 to $12.6 million for 2010-2011.
These figures do not include the cost of artificial limbs, appliances, physiotherapy, medications and other prescribed treatments.
A total of 30 Australians, 29 ADF members and one who was serving with the British army, have also been killed.
''No liability'' payments to Afghan civilians for the deaths of family members, personal injury and damage to property stand at $169,104.
Blood money payments are reported to average about $6000, however, this can go higher depending on the status of the individual.
Mr Smith said Australia and the other ISAF member nations needed to set out a clear policy for Afghanistan after the troop withdrawals scheduled for 2014.
To fail to do so would be to ''send the wrong message to regional neighbours, including Pakistan''.
Raspal Khosa, an independent defence analyst formerly with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, has warned Pakistan is waiting on the Western withdrawal to ramp up its continuing policy of destabilisation in Afghanistan.
''They [Pakistan] continue to view Afghanistan as a source of strategic depth in their regional competition with India,'' he said.
Australia would have spent $6.75 billion on Operation Slipper and enhanced force protection in Afghanistan by the end of 2013-2014.
''Operation Slipper also includes Australia's maritime contributions to security operations in the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian and Red Seas and the Horn of Africa,'' the Defence spokesman said.
By far the largest share of the spend has gone to Afghanistan.
The Canberra Times was told the value of major equipment losses in the theatre to date came to $30 million.
This includes numerous Bushmaster vehicles and one of Australia's six Chinook helicopters that crashed earlier this year.
The figure is based on net book value; the cost of acquisition less depreciation, not replacement cost. It is believed the new Chinooks currently on order from the US will cost about $70 million a machine plus support equipment. With some of the Chinooks in the fleet dating back to the early 1970s, the depreciation would be considerable.
Mr Smith said the mission was on track.
|2011, afghan, news, october|