Tag Archive: KABUL


Afghan rally over NATO raid turns violent; 11 die

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110518/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

By RAHIM FAIEZ and HEIDI VOGT, Associated Press Rahim Faiez And Heidi Vogt, Associated Press 41 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – Hundreds of protesters, angered by an overnight NATO raid that they believed had killed four civilians, clashed on Wednesday with security forces on the streets of a northern Afghan city. Eleven people died in the fighting, government officials said.

The demonstrators fought with police and tried to assault a German military outpost in the city of Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, the officials said, adding that some 50 were injured.

The protest was triggered by an overnight NATO raid on the outskirts of the city. The coalition said four insurgents died in the operation and that two others were detained.

Night raids targeting insurgents regularly stir up controversy in Afghanistan, where angry residents often charge the next day that international forces go after the wrong people or mistreat civilians as they search compounds. Success by NATO in reducing civilian casualties and agreements to conduct night raids alongside Afghan forces have not managed to stem the tide of accusations.

Adding to the confusion, it is often difficult to know who is a militant in insurgent-heavy areas, where entire villages are often allied with the Taliban or other groups.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered on the road from Gawmal to Taloqan and carried the four bodies — two men and two women — on platforms as they marched into the city. They shouted insults at Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States as they pumped their fists in the air.

“Death to Karzai! Death to America!” they yelled. Officials estimated there were about 1,500 demonstrators.

The crowd started looting shops and throwing stones at a small German base in the city. Police were out throughout the city trying to calm the crowd, Taqwa said. Gunfire could be heard in a number of neighborhoods and troops at the German outpost shot off rounds in an attempt to disperse the crowd outside their walls.

The German military said in a statement that the demonstrators threw hand grenades and Molotov cocktails into the base, injuring two German soldiers and four Afghan guards. The German soldiers, one of whom was lightly injured and one somewhat more seriously, were both in stable condition, the military said.

At least 11 protesters were killed in the fighting, and 50 people were wounded — some of them police officers, said Faiz Mohammad Tawhedi, a spokesman for the Takhar government.

The raid late Tuesday killed two men and two women who were inside a home in an area known as Gawmal, provincial Gov. Abdual Jabar Taqwa said. He said that no one in his government was informed about the raid and that NATO acted unilaterally.

Provincial police chief Gen. Shah Jahan Noori said he had not been informed of the operation and said none of his officers were involved. Army officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

NATO confirmed it killed four people, two of them women, but said all were armed and tried to fire on its troops.

One of the women was armed with an assault rifle and tried to fire on the troops, NATO said. The other woman was armed with a pistol and pointed her gun at the security force as she was trying to escape the compound.

It is rare for women to be part of an insurgent fighting force in Afghanistan, but not unheard of. There have been cases in the past of women fighting with the insurgency, including as suicide bombers.

NATO said the raid was conducted by a “combined Afghan and coalition security force” and an alliance spokesman said that the governor was contacted ahead of the raid.

“It is standard practice in Takhar province to contact the Afghan provincial leadership prior to an operation. In this case, calls were placed to the provincial governor six times prior to the operation,” Maj. Michael Johnson said.

“We are aware of the claims of civilian casualties, and are looking into them,” Johnson added.

President Hamid Karzai sided with the Afghan officials. He issued a statement condemning the night raid as having killed four members of a family, and said it was not coordinated with Afghan forces.

“Despite repeated warnings that have been issued by President Karzai to top these uncoordinated NATO operations, it seems these types of operations still have not stopped,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

He said the Afghan people should protest without turning to violence, but also said that the blame for the protest lies with NATO.

NATO said that the raid targeted a man working with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — an insurgent group that is powerful in the north. The man was involved in arms trafficking and building explosives, NATO said. The alliance did not say if he was killed or captured.

In the south, meanwhile, a NATO service member died Wednesday in an insurgent attack, the military coalition said. NATO did not provide further details or the service member’s nationality.

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Mullah Omarhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110504/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – Osama bin Laden’s death is likely to revive a debate within the Afghan Taliban about their ties to al-Qaida — a union the U.S. insists must end if the insurgents want to talk peace.

The foundation of their relationship is believed to be rooted in bin Laden’s long friendship with the Taliban’s reclusive one-eyed leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who might now find it more palatable to break with al-Qaida and negotiate a settlement to the war. Much may depend on the newly chastened power-broker next door: Pakistan.

“I think now is an opportunity for the Taliban to end their relations with al-Qaida,” said Waheed Muzhda, a Kabul-based analyst and former foreign ministry official under the Taliban regime that was toppled in late 2001.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, said it was too early to comment.

But the death of the world’s top terrorist gives momentum toward finding a political solution to the nearly decade-long war, according to analysts familiar with U.S. officials’ stepped-up effort this year to push a peace agenda.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Obama administration have said they will negotiate with any member of the Taliban who embraces the Afghan constitution, renounces violence and severs ties with al-Qaida. Informal contacts have been made in recent months with high-ranking Taliban figures, but no formal peace talks are under way.

The possible opportunity comes just as the spring fighting season is kicking into gear. The U.S.-led coalition hopes to hold ground in southern Afghanistan gained as a result of the addition last year of an extra 30,000 American troops. The Taliban’s goal remains undermining the Afghan government, discrediting its security forces and driving the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops and other foreign forces out of the country.

Even before bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs at a compound in Pakistan on Monday, the links between the al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban had weakened during the 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, Muzhda said. Mullah Omar’s refusal to hand over bin Laden after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon prompted the U.S.-led assault on Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban from power. By siding with bin Laden, Mullah Omar’s hardline regime lost control of the nation.

The goals of the two movements are not closely aligned. While al-Qaida is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious superstate in the Muslim world, the Afghan Taliban have focused on their own country and have shown little to no interest in attacking targets outside Afghanistan. The car bombing in May 2010 in New York’s Times Square was linked to the Pakistani Taliban — an autonomous group on the other side of the border.

But breaking with al-Qaida would mean forgoing some reliable funding channels in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Syria, according to a Western intelligence officer. Mullah Omar’s association with bin Laden also gave him clout, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Al-Qaida shares its technical expertise in explosives and helps the Taliban traffic narcotics made with opium poppies grown in Afghanistan, he said. For their part, the Taliban allow al-Qaida to come into Afghanistan on the backs of Taliban fighters.

Still, some members of the Taliban’s top leadership council have grown uncomfortable with al-Qaida, and a vocal minority want to distance themselves from the mostly Arab terrorist network, he said.

There are also cultural differences. Al-Qaida has viewed the Taliban as more backward, “kinda like West Virginia mountain folk — unrefined, uneducated,” the officer said.

And “the older generation of Taliban leaders had long ago become fed up with the arrogance of Arab jihadists,” Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote Monday in a column in the Financial Times.

Two other issues, according to the intelligence officer, could affect the Taliban’s internal debate about al-Qaida. While Bin Laden had personal connections to Taliban leaders, the man expected to replace him, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri, is a less charismatic, unifying figure. And top Taliban leaders now know that the U.S. might hunt them down in Pakistan even without the cooperation or knowledge of the Pakistani military — as was done with bin Laden.

In June 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta estimated that there were probably only 50 to 100 al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan — that most of the terrorist network was, without question, operating from the western tribal region of Pakistan. Last month, Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said that while some al-Qaida fighters have been searching for hide-outs in rugged areas of eastern Afghanistan, he did not think they were making a comeback inside the country.

Abu Hafs al-Najdi — a senior al-Qaida leader in Afghanistan and the coalition’s No. 2 overall targeted insurgent in the country — was killed in an April 13 airstrike in Kunar province, a hotbed of the insurgency in the northeast. In the past several weeks, coalition forces reported killing more than 25 al-Qaida leaders and fighters.

While the military offensive continues, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that the United States had accelerated a diplomatic push to craft a political solution to the war. Marc Grossman, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan who is heading up the effort, met with Afghanistan and Pakistan officials on Tuesday in Islamabad and agreed to set up a so-called Core Group for promoting the Afghan-led reconciliation effort.

With little known about the secret inner workings of the Afghan Taliban’s governing council, called the Quetta Shura, analysts can only speculate about the group’s plans.

“The killing of bin Laden might motivate them to sever their ties,” said Brian Katulis, of the Washington-based think-tank Center for American Progress. “I think the signal that the Quetta Shura and others are getting from people in Pakistan in the security services will be key.”

The U.S. has accused Pakistan’s military-run spy service of maintaining links with the Haqqani network, which is affiliated with the Afghan Taliban and closely aligned with al-Qaida. Pointedly, the Americans did not inform Pakistan about Monday’s helicopter raid that killed bin Laden until it was over.

That bin Laden’s hideout turned out to be a three-story home a short drive from the capital, Islamabad, and close to various Pakistani army regiments has raised suspicions in Washington that the Pakistanis may have been sheltering him. For years, Western intelligence had said bin Laden was most likely holed up in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The Pakistani government has denied suggestions that its security forces knew bin Laden was there. Pakistani officials have long argued that they have done their part in the fight against militants and denounce allegations that they are backing insurgents.

“The raid was obviously deeply embarrassing for the Pakistanis,” Katulis said. “They could either redouble their efforts to try to cooperate more closely with the U.S. or they can continue to play their passive-aggressive game.”

Don’t expect a near-term divorce with al-Qaida, said Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst with The Century Foundation, a New York-based think tank.

“It makes no sense for the Taliban to concede this point on the front end — without receiving any commensurate concession from the other side,” Hanna said. “Some of the Taliban I have spoken to have made the point that as long as the military fight escalates, they will cooperate with other forces who are willing to assist them in their fight against the U.S.-led coalition. They portray any pre-emptive severing of ties as a type of unilateral, partial disarmament.”

Seth Jones, a RAND Corp. political scientist who advised the commander of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said he suspects “the Taliban would interpret cutting ties with al-Qaida as kowtowing to the Americans.”

Jones said that while the Taliban don’t need al-Qaida to operate, they still retain ties with al-Qaida’s senior leaders as they have for decades.

Former Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Abdul Hadi Khalid said some members of the Taliban want to split with al-Qaida. The fighting spirit of the Taliban has been dampened by recent brutal attacks around the country that killed scores of Afghan civilians — attacks he suspects were inspired by al-Qaida.

These Taliban members “feel they are going the wrong way,” Khalid said.

However, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president, said top Taliban leaders directing the insurgency remain very closely associated with al-Qaida. Al-Qaida still helps train Taliban fighters, and foreign fighters aligned with al-Qaida continue to fight side-by-side with Taliban foot soldiers, he said.

“I don’t know how they will be able to distance themselves,” Karzai said.

___

Associated Press Writers Heidi Vogt, Solomon Moore and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.

Afghan Taliban declare start to spring offensive

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110430/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_taliban

By Jonathon Burch and Rob Taylor Jonathon Burch And Rob Taylor 2 hrs 18 mins ago

KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban declared the start of a spring offensive across Afghanistan on Saturday, warning they would target foreign troops as well as Afghan security forces and top government officials in a wave of attacks including suicide bombings.

In a statement, the hardline Islamists warned Afghan civilians to stay away from public gatherings, military bases and convoys, as well as Afghan government centers and buildings, as these would be the focus of attacks starting on May 1.

The Taliban statement comes just a day after senior military officials and Western diplomats warned they expected a surge in attacks over the next week, beginning on Sunday.

“The Leadership Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to declare the launching of the spring military operations named as “Badar” to be waged against the invading Americans and their foreign allies and internal supports,” the Taliban said in an emailed statement.

“Operations will focus on attacks against military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country,” the Taliban said.

Senior military officials told Reuters on Friday that recent intelligence reporting indicated the campaign of increased violence would last about a week and would be mounted by the Taliban, supported by the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and other insurgents.

Brigadier General Josef Blotz, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said coalition bases were bolstering security in anticipation of attacks.

“We do know for quite some time already that the insurgency plans an attempt to come out with a surge of violence in certain areas of this country in the next days,” Blotz told Reuters.

The United Nations said it was relocating some of its staff in Afghanistan after receiving “credible threats” of increased attacks in a “number of locations around the country.”

The United Nations has been the target of several insurgent attacks over the past two years. Earlier this month, seven international staff were killed after protesters overran a U.N. compound in northern Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Taliban denied involvement in that attack, but officials said insurgents had been involved in stirring up an already angry crowd.

“As a precautionary measure the United Nations is shifting its staff from some of its regional operational centers into safe locations for a short period. Staff are not leaving their regions and will continue working from these locations,” said Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan.

CIVILIAN WARNING

The Taliban said the targets of the attacks would be foreign forces, high-ranking officials of President Hamid Karzai’s government, members of the cabinet and lawmakers, as well as the heads of foreign and local companies working for ISAF.

“All Afghan people should bear in mind to keep away from gatherings, convoys and centers of the enemy so that they will not become harmed during attacks of Mujahideen against the enemy,” the Taliban said.

Senior military commanders have long anticipated a spike in violence with the arrival of the spring and summer “fighting season,” although the usual winter lull was not seen as U.S-led forces pressed their attacks against insurgents, particularly in the Taliban’s southern heartland.

While Washington and ISAF commanders have trumpeted successes against a growing insurgency since 30,000 extra U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan last year, the insurgency has shown little sign of abating.

Violence across Afghanistan hit record levels in 2010, with civilian and military casualties the worst since U.S-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001.

The Pentagon said in a report on Friday that an overall increase in violence was due in part to increased targeting of insurgent safe havens and unseasonably mild weather.

The Taliban did not say how long their stepped-up campaign would last, but said it had been codenamed “Badar” after a decisive Muslim 7th century battle victory in western Arabia that Muslims attribute to divine intervention.

In the statement, the Taliban repeated their frequent claim that fighting in Afghanistan would not end until foreign troops had left the country. They also called on Afghan government officials and security forces to switch sides to the insurgency.

Military commanders interviewed by Reuters this week were not sure why May 1 had been chosen by the Taliban to launch their renewed offensive.

The anticipated Taliban campaign would not change the coalition’s counterinsurgency strategy put in place last year by U.S. General David Petraeus, the commander of the 150,000 U.S. and ISAF troops in Afghanistan, they said.

Under a program agreed at a NATO summit last year, ISAF said it will begin handing security responsibility to Afghan forces in several areas from July. The program will end with the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

(Additional reporting by Abdul Saboor; Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Paul Tait)

NATO: Bomb kills 10 in Afghanistan

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110416/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

By SOLOMON MOORE, Associated Press Solomon Moore, Associated Press 2 hrs 38 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan — Like hundreds of thousands of Afghan men, he volunteered in the national army, ran drills in the mud, carried an automatic rifle, and worked alongside coalition mentors struggling against a hardcore insurgency.

But he was not one of them.

On Saturday, he walked into a meeting of NATO trainers and Afghan troops at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in the eastern province of Laghman and detonated a vest of explosives hidden underneath his uniform, killing 10.

Five NATO troopers, four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter were killed in the deadliest sleeper agent assault since November, when an Afghan border policeman shot six U.S. soldiers to death at a base in the eastern province of Faryab.

Four Afghan soldiers and three interpreters were wounded in Saturday’s attack.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing and said the soldier was a sleeper agent who joined the army a month ago_a contention confirmed by an Afghan army official.

“Today, when there was a meeting going on between Afghan and foreign soldiers, he used the opportunity to carry out the attack,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an email to reporters.

Attacks by insurgents donning security uniforms are a relatively rare, but recurrent problem as NATO and Afghan forces work more closely together. Afghanistan’s security forces are also ramping up recruitment of Afghan soldiers and policemen so they can take the lead in securing their nation by the end of 2014 — adding more than 70,000 police and soldiers last year in an effort to reach a goal of 305,000 troopers by the end of this year.

Afghan security forces are supposed to be vetted by past employers or even village elders, but in a country where unemployment is about 35 percent, the literacy rate is about 28 percent, and computerized record-keeping is a novelty, background checks are often rudimentary.

The explosion took place at 7:30 a.m., as many people on the base were beginning the morning shift and as NATO and Afghan service members conducted what military officials call a “key leader engagement” meeting according to a NATO spokesman.

Following the explosion, Blackhawk helicopters swooped down to carry the dead and wounded to hospitals.

The bodies of four Afghan soldiers brought to a hospital in Jalalabad were too badly damaged to determine their military rank, said Baz Mohammad Sherzad, the health director in nearby Nangarhar province.

NATO declined to provide further identifying information about its soldiers killed in the blast pending notification of their next of kin.

In the wake of such attacks, often it’s not clear whether the shooter was an Afghan trooper who turned on his Western counterparts spontaneously or an insurgent who donned a uniform to infiltrate the base and attack from inside.

On Friday, a suicide bomber dressed as a policeman blew himself up inside the Kandahar police headquarters complex, killing the top law enforcement officer in the restive southern province. The funeral of Police Chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid, one of Afghanistan’s most prominent law enforcement officials, was attended Saturday by at least 1,500 people including Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa, Afghan Interior Minister Gen. Bismillah Khan Mohammad, Afghan chief justice Abdul Salam Azimi, and the Afghan president’s half brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai.

Earlier this month, a man wearing an Afghan border police uniform shot dead two American military personnel tasked with helping train members of the country’s security forces in Faryab province.

In February, an Afghan soldier shot and killed three German soldiers and wounded six others in the northern province of Baghlan.

Until Saturday, the worse case of a sleeper agent attack was in November, when an Afghan border policeman shot to death six American soldiers before he himself was shot to death in the eastern province of Nangahar. The policeman had been in the force for three years and had accompanied American troopers for about three months when he opened fire on them.

The Taliban took responsibility for that attack.

___

Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

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