via Student Reader @4LDE6QGR3L
In northern افغانستان (Afghanistan) a group of 21 Taliban fighters surrendered their weapons and gave up fighting last week. The surrender offered a glimpse of what Afghan and American officials hope might one day grow into a larger movement. The fighters, led by a Taliban commander named Mullah Obeidi, gathered Friday at a government building in Muqoor, a district in Badghis Province, and promised to fight no more. Each of the erstwhile fighters received a “re-integration certificate” and congratulations from several hundred tribal elders who had gathered to celebrate. Most important, the provincial governor, Delbar Jan Arman, promised to provide the men with jobs to help ensure that they would not return to fighting. “All of our angry brothers came in,” said Sharafuddin Majidi, a spokesman for the Badghis governor. “And we hope we will get some more.”
One of the fighters who gave up was Abdul Karim, a 45-year-old father of three who had been fighting with the Taliban for more than four years. In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Karim said he had lost heart over what the Taliban were doing to his fellow Afghans. Mr. Karim said he had initially been persuaded to fight by Taliban recruiters who told him the Afghan government was backed by non-Muslims. Mr. Karim said his salary was $12 per month, not enough to feed his family. His commander, Mr. Obeidi — as well as Taliban advisers who had traveled from Pakistan — urged him to attack construction crews upgrading the national highway. The road runs through Badghis and links the province to the rest of Afghanistan.
“ ‘If you see the engineers or the laborers, try your best to kill them,’ ” Mr. Karim said. "This is what our Pakistani advisers were telling us.” Also, Mr. Karim said, the Taliban’s local leaders were earning large sums smuggling opium. “When I heard all these things, I thought this is not the fight of Islam,” he said. “Why would we blow up a school or a clinic or a road — these things are for all of us?”
Spotlight on Kandahar
via Student Reader @4E6B49XC74
The top U.S. general in Afghanistan vowed that coalition forces "are absolutely going to secure Kandahar," as security efforts expand in the country's south. "We already are doing a lot of security operations in Kandahar, but it's our intent -- under President [Hamid] Karzai -- to make an even greater effort there," Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters Tuesday [2010 03 09]. McChrystal indicated a military operation could begin in the province as early as this summer, but McChrystal cautioned that much political groundwork lay ahead for NATO-led coalition troops before an offensive can begin. The push to secure Kandahar from what McChrystal calls a "menacing Taliban presence" is part of a larger counterinsurgency effort in the country's south. The effort started last month in Marjah in southern Helmand province.
Taliban Peace Talks
via Student Reader @CXGVTESZUB
In an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" scheduled to broadcast 2010/10/11, Karzai confirmed peace talks with the Taliban but clarified they were unofficial. "We have been talking to the Taliban as countryman to countryman," said Karzai. "Not as a regular official contact with the Taliban with a fixed address, but rather unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some time." Fox, 2010/10/10
Sarposa Prison Break
via Student Reader @QU25QJF1SZ
From 11PM Sunday night until 3:30AM Monday the 25th, inmates from the political section (mostly insurgents) broke out of Kandahar's central Sarposa prison via a small hole in the floor that led to a 400 meter tunnel. Afghan officials said 475 inmates escapes; a joyful Taliban press release said 541 did, bragging that only three prisoners had advance knowledge and that militants dug the passage for five months, under a major highway and police checkpoints, from outside the prison. “It is impossible for the Taliban to get 500 men out of prison without anyone’s help," Ahmad Shah Khan Achakzai, a former member of parliament in Kandahar, told the Monitor. "I believe there are some people from the prison or the government who gave the Taliban support.… It’s now clear to everyone how corrupt the government is.”
1,240 Marjah Evacuees
via Student Reader @UYEP2YGZDT
Dawud Ahmadi - a spokesman for Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal - said that 1,240 families had been displaced and evacuated from Marjah - and all had received aid in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
Taliban Tactical Shift
via Student Reader @67WH4A9P9V
Amidst the surge in foreign troops,The wave of killings has created speculation that insurgents may be shifting their focus away from direct engagements with NATO and Afghan forces and investing their resources in infiltrating Afghanistan's security forces so they can carry out complex suicide attacks. ... “If they carry out large attacks on the roads and in the mountains, they will lose many people. They are trying to reduce their casualties by carrying out small attacks in more high-profile places,” says Saleh Mohamed Saleh, a member of parliament from Kunar Province. Mr. Saleh adds that the military has also not done enough to develop the means to collect intelligence about its own security forces, a necessity since a stated goal of the Taliban is to infiltrate security forces. Official military uniforms are also widely available for sale in markets throughout Afghanistan, making it easy for anyone to impersonate a soldier or policeman. link
The Afghan government named former President Burhanuddin Rabbani as chief of a new peace council tasked with talking to insurgent groups. The 70-member panel was created by Karzai to guide peace negotiations.
via Student Reader @LSA1T59LY9
Mohammed Ismail, governor of Tala Wa Barfak, a district in Baghlan Province, said 8 civilians were killed and 12 wounded in the village of Naik early Sunday by what appeared to have been a raid carried out by special forces. The governor said a group of tribal elders he had sent to the village had returned with details. Among the dead were two women and a child, he said. Six of the dead were found in Naik, and two more villagers were found later in a field farther away, he said. “It was a cruel act against the civilians,” he said.
Witnesses said the raid began Sunday at 2 a.m., when a number of helicopters descended on Naik. Groups of commandos entered a pair of houses, where the gunfire began, the witnesses said. “As they entered our neighbor’s house, we heard some shouting and yelling and then gunshots,” said Ahmad Shah, a resident of Naik. In Kabul, a spokesman for the American-led coalition said a team of investigators had been sent to the scene. They arrived Tuesday.
via Student Reader @Q7N1QN77NC
The massive US and Afghan military operation in Kandahar was the linchpin of McChrystal's strategy to turn the tide, using the bulk of 30,000 reinforcements sent by U.S. President Barack Obama in a final "surge" of extra troops announced in December. After months of delays, Operation Hamkari began shortly after Ramadan, beginning when thousands of troops entered the farm land in the Zhari District on September 15, 2010. Very little resistance opposed the American led offensive as they pushed forward on the first day.
NATO commanders have sharply curtailed airstrikes and night raids to reduce the number of civilian deaths. But special forces commandos are sent on missions at a high tempo, in a campaign to kill midranking Taliban leaders. Those commandos often carry out their raids at night, exploiting the elements of darkness and surprise. Afghanistan is a tribal society, and the results of botched raids are often difficult to overcome. Mahmood Haqmal, a spokesman for the governor of Baghlan Province, put it this way: “If coalition forces kill one civilian, 20 other family members will pick up weapons and stand against them.”
via Student Reader @JUCWW637HN
A suicide bomber entered a wedding party with about 400 attendees, and detonated an IED at about 9:30PM. Ball bearings were used as shrapnel, according to hospital reports cited by Governor Tooryalai Wisa; ball bearings are a hallmark of suicide bombings. Children were among the dead, according to the Interior Ministry.
A Kandahar policeman said many of the guests had links to local police officials or a local militia, which was why it was likely targeted, although the Taliban denied responsibility. "We condemn such a brutal act," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told Reuters from an undisclosed location. "The Taliban wage Jihad (holy war) in order to free the people from the hands of occupiers. How can we kill them?"
The Taliban have previously claimed responsibility for insurgent attacks but recanted once civilian casualties have become clear. Ahmadi laid blame at the feet of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan, which has killed hundreds of civilians in misdirected air strikes. Taliban attacks have claimed more civilian lives.
"Some people were waiting for food, others were dancing inside a big tent, when I heard a deafening blast," a wounded survivor named Aminullah said. "The dust went up in the sky and I saw dead bodies everywhere. Women and children were screaming. I thought it was end of the world."
About 40 schoolgirls became ill and were taken to hospital after a suspected gas poisoning in the Afghan capital Wednesday, another apparent attack by hardline Islamists opposed to female education. Wednesday's incident followed a similar pattern to other recent attacks at girls' schools involving an airborne substance which officials said could be some form of gas. Asif Nang, a spokesman for the Education Ministry, said the girls, of differing ages from a school in Kabul's east, were being treated in hospital. Their illnesses were not believed to be serious. "It looks like it is another case of gas poisoning, but it is being investigated now," he said.
Sarposa Prison Break
via Student Reader @WYXF71AUMV
In just 30 minutes, the Taliban attacked Sarposa and ~900 prisoners (~400 Taliban) escaped. Two suicide bombers entered the prison, followed by 30 motorcycle-riding militants who systematically broke down ever cell door in the jail. This prompted Canada to invest $4 million in the prison defenses and guard training.
Obama Details Plan
via Student Reader @D2PSX1ALZ5
During a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in December, 2009, Obama pledged to boost the number of American troops in the country by 30,000. But he also detailed a plan to start a drawdown within 18 months. "Taken together ... additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011," he said. Supporters of the July 2011 date to start withdrawing forces, conditions permitting, say it conveys a needed sense of urgency to Kabul. Afghans must quickly ramp up the size of their security forces for a gradual handover.
This more nuanced assessment of Obama's plans for the war in Afghanistan was in line with others in the administration, NBC News Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said. "Nobody in (the Pentagon), nobody in this administration, except perhaps (Vice President) Joe Biden, nobody thinks that July 2011 will be the start of a great exodus" from Afghanistan, he said. The administration has been trying to appease the left of the Democratic Party, which largely supports a speedy exit from Afghanistan, he said. "The White House has been purposefully ambiguous … they wanted to have it both ways," Miklaszewski said.
Critics in Afghanistan say Obama's strategy has backfired. "There is still a threat which unfortunately has not been eliminated, and the withdrawal (deadline) will ... invigorate the terrorists," said Siamak Herawi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"Withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan should be based on the situation on the ground. When Afghan forces are enabled from every aspect, so it is obvious that international forces have to go home," Herawi said. (link)
via Student Reader @PNMT6QA5KE
A series of explosions rocked southern Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar, killing at least 35 people and wounding 47 others, local officials said.
Taliban Killing Spree
via Student Reader @8MWXMBJN6JThe recent wave of killings began on Friday [the 15th], when a man dressed as a policeman entered the police headquarters in Kandahar city and detonated a suicide bomb that killed three people, including the provincial police chief, and injured three others. The following day, five NATO soldiers were killed alongside four of their Afghan counterparts when a suicide bomber dressed in an Afghan military uniform detonated himself at a joint NATO-Afghan base in Laghman Province. ... A man dressed in an Afghan military uniform entered the Ministry of Defense in Kabul Monday and opened fire, killing at least two people and injuring seven. The incident – which preceded a press conference with the Afghan and French defense ministers – marks the third time in four days that an attacker dressed in an Afghan police or military uniform has infiltrated a secure compound and carried out a lethal attack. link
There are currently almost 100,000 American troops and 45,000 foreign soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan.
via Student Reader @6DEQ3X4DUX
Operation Hamkari was slowed so that locals could be mobilized to avoid a vacuum of government officials.U.S. commanders had initially seen the main thrust of military operations in Kandahar running from this month [June] to the beginning of August, before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to an internal schedule seen by Reuters in March. "I do think that it will happen more slowly than we had originally intended," McChrystal told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels. "But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I think it's more important we get it right than we get it fast." (Reuters 2010/06/10)Citing shortcomings that set back the last big U.S.-led offensive in neighboring Helmand province, General Stanley McChrystal said he wanted more time to shore up Afghan support for the Kandahar campaign and to prepare local authorities to provide government services when security improves. ... U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said gains would need to be seen by then in order to maintain public support for the war in NATO countries, which has eroded as the death toll has soared. At least 17 foreign troops have been killed this week.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen brushed aside suggestions the campaign was faltering. The alliance was "making a lot of progress" although member-states should be ready for a "very tough time in the coming weeks and months" as extra troops pour into Taliban strongholds in the south, he said.
Obama has embraced a counterinsurgency strategy devised by McChrystal last year that aims to push the Taliban from key population centres. But in agreeing to send McChrystal extra troops, the White House also set a goal of starting a gradual drawdown in July 2011, making the next 12 months critical.
McChrystal said he wants to make sure local leaders are on board before launching the Kandahar operation. "We really want the people to understand and literally pull the operation toward them as opposed to feel as though they are being forced with something they didn't want," he said.
The changes in Kandahar plans also reflect lessons learned by the U.S. military during the offensive earlier this year in Marjah, a rural area of Helmand, the biggest operation of the war so far, which proved more difficult than expected.
"More prep" would have helped in Marjah, particularly when it came to ensuring Afghans were ready to step in and provide government services, McChrystal said. "As we did it, we found that it's even more complex than we thought, and so we need to educate ourself from that and do it even better in Kandahar."
McChrystal said he still envisaged a gradual campaign in Kandahar aimed at delivering security and governance, as opposed to one big military assault. "We are already in the process of doing political and military shaping but ... I think that the timing in which we can be decisive in the environs around the city will probably happen more deliberately than we had originally laid out." Reuters 2010/06/10
Iranian Engineers Kidnapped
via Student Reader @WMH1QHF6GY