Posts tagged ‘Afghan’

July 1, 2011

Afghan district governor accuses Pakistan of stoking war on border

fghan Border police aims his AK-47 rifle towards the Gorbuz highway from a guarding tower as he monitors trucks loaded with goods coming from Pakistan’s border to Khost province. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: At the last military post before the Pakistan border, Afghan district governor Wali Shah explains why the insurgents seem untouchable. “The Pakistan government protects them,” he said.

Shah has daily experience of a key problem threatening any future peace deal in Afghanistan, namely that Taliban rebels fighting US troops and the Kabul government live and operate in safety from Pakistan.

“When Pakistan says it will crack down on them, it is just pretending,” he told AFP at Bowri Tana, a US and Afghan army post in the eastern province of Khost, 11 kilometres (seven miles) from the border.

“The Taliban are trained by the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency) and come into Afghanistan to launch attacks. Pakistan doesn’t want the violence here to stop. It doesn’t want Afghanistan to develop.”

For years, Afghans and Pakistanis have traded accusations of blame over the insurgents who pose a threat to security in both countries and seemingly criss-cross the porous border with impunity.

Pakistan was a key ally of the Taliban until joining the US-led “war on terror” after the September 11, 2001 attacks but has been accused by friend and foe alike of tacitly or, worse still, actively supporting Afghan insurgents.

Officials vigorously deny the allegations and point out there are 140,000 Pakistani troops committed in the northwest fighting a Pakistani Taliban insurgency — leaving them too overstretched to do more.

But rebel safe havens in Pakistan infuriate Afghan President Hamid Karzai and remain a major obstacle to peace as the United States prepares to start withdrawing 33,000 troops by the end of summer 2012.

A diplomatic spat has also flared recently amid accusations from Kabul that Pakistani rocket attacks have killed dozens this month. The Afghan government says this may damage “improving trust and cooperation” between the two.

Pakistan says its security forces may have fired only a few accidental rounds while pursuing militants but also claims that insurgents from Afghanistan have crossed the border to attack security checkpoints.

Lieutenant Colonel Jesse Pearson, US commander along 120 kilometres of the border in Khost, does not duck the issue of Pakistan sheltering the Taliban and other groups such as the Haqqani network.

“Most attacks are commanded from Miranshah (in Pakistan),” he said during a meeting this week with Shah at Bowri Tana. “That is frustrating as we want to go after the enemy but we can’t go across the border.

“Despite their advantage, it doesn’t mean that we can’t win. Indeed, it is clear to me that we are winning this war.”

Pearson said he believed Afghanistan was reaching a “tipping point where the people reject terrorists and look to the government to provide a brighter future for their children.”

Many Afghans are not so sure as 10 years after the fall of the Taliban regime, US President Barack Obama starts to cut troop numbers ahead of a 2014 deadline for all coalition combat forces to leave the country.

“If I am honest, things were better between 2001 and 2005 than today,” said Shah, the governor of Khost’s Gorbuz district. “I don’t believe we can handle security by ourselves. Improvements are being made, but 2014? We will see.”

US military officers in Khost admit that Afghan security forces are below standard and that Taliban infiltrators exist within the ranks who live and work with US troops.

“All ANSF (Afghan national security forces) are penetrated to some level,” said Pearson after one IED was found near Bowri Tana in a spot that suggested inside knowledge of gaps in the military’s surveillance capability.

“Senior police and army leaders know the issue, and are ready to compartmentalise operations so that not all their men have access to all information.”

For district governor Shah, the best hope lies in increasing cross-border commerce which he believes would bring greater wealth to the area, as well as stability.

His district includes Ghulam Khan Gate, a road crossing similar to the famous Khyber Pass between northwest Pakistan and Kabul.

“The road is going to be improved and a new customs house will be built. We want to boost traffic from 80-100 trucks a day to 1,000,” he said.

“I am optimistic we can hit that target within two years. It would change a lot of things.”

June 30, 2011

Blackwater guard jailed over Afghan shooting

Members of the US private security company Blackwater aboard a Hughes 500 helicopter. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: A US federal judge sentenced a former Blackwater security guard on Monday to 30 months in prison for shooting and killing an Afghan citizen in 2009.

The judge also ordered 29-year-old Justin Cannon to serve two years of supervised release after his prison term ends.

Cannon and a second Blackwater guard, Christopher Drotleff, 31, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the May 5, 2009 shooting of Romal Mohammad Naiem, an unarmed Afghan civilian.

Drotleff was sentenced to three years and one month in prison on June 14.

“Justin Cannon opened fire with an AK-47 at the rear of a retreating vehicle and took the life of an innocent Afghan,” said US Attorney Neil MacBride.

“While Mr Cannon was in Afghanistan to support US troops, his incredibly reckless behavior instead undermined our military mission and weakened the bond of trust with the Afghans,” MacBride said.

Both Cannon and Drotleff were accused of leaving their military base without authorisation to transport local interpreters.

After the the lead vehicle in their convoy crashed during the nighttime outing and overturned on its side, they firing several multiple shots at a passing car, killing Naiem, who was a passenger in the car, and injuring the car’s driver.

Another Afghan man walking his dog in the area was also fatally shot. Both Drotleff and Cannon were acquitted of charges in his death and the shooting of the driver.

Blackwater was renamed Xe after it was caught up in several scandals in Iraq, in particular the deaths of between 14 and 17 civilians in Baghdad in September 2007.

June 30, 2011

Taliban Threat: Afghan and coalition forces recover 100 caches in 10 days

One cache recovered had rockets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: The expected Taliban summer surge seemed to have matured when six militants stormed the Intercontinental hotel late on Tuesday night. Further evidence to increased Taliban activity was discovered after Afghan security forces started discovering caches of weapons by the dozen over the past two weeks.

An ISAF release said that Afghan National Security Forces had been recovering caches in villages, thereby thwarting terrorist activity. “Taking weapons and communication equipment out of the hands of the enemy is one way to disrupt its network – and one many Afghan civilians are helping with,” said German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, International Security Forces Afghanistan spokesman, during a press conference held on June 27.

The release said that the Afghan and coalition forces had seized more than 100 weapons caches in the past two weeks which were used to carry out insurgent attacks. For example, one cache contained more than 35 rockets, 24 mortars and 22 rocket propelled grenades.

Tips from Afghan citizens have aided forces in finding the caches, which is a sign of their trust in ANSF and their local police forces – the Afghan Local Police (ALP), said Blotz.

The ALP forces are selected by their community to provide local defence against insurgents and are trained by the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MOI). They are legitimate, enrolled members of the MOI.

“They are not militia. They are vetted, trained, and enrolled by the MOI, and, where available, wear a distinctive brown uniform,” said Blotz.

Role of ALP highlighted

The ALP has been instrumental in protecting the local populace. Today, there are 41 validated sites with more than 6,500 members, said Blotz.

“Afghan National Security Forces grow stronger every day,” said Dominic Medley, NATO senior civilian representative’s spokesman. “The transition is on track. In 2014, Afghanistan’s security will rest with the ANSF and that’s exactly where it should be.”

“The ANSF are showing more and more resolve,” stated Blotz. “We salute them for their resilience and commitment to their country.”

Increased Taliban activity

Traditionally, the summer months see increased insurgent activity. This was witnessed in the rising number of cross border Taliban attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

The recent jailbreak where Taliban were able to aid the escape of up to 500 of their comrades is believed to have bolstered Taliban ranks.

The Afghan security forces now face a stiff challenge of tackling with the Taliban in wake of the US troop drawdown announced by US President Obama a few days ago which will see up to 30,000 troops being withdrawn by the end of 2012 and more territories being handed over to the Afghan security forces.