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Thread: Afghanistan and Pakistan

  1. #2901

    Armed uprising against Taliban forces insurgents from 50 Afghan villages

    An uprising against the Taliban has evicted the gunmen from 50 villages in eastern Afghanistan, according to local leaders, beginning a revolt that Kabul hopes will spread across insurgent-held territory.

    Village fighters in Andar, where they have been involved in almost daily clashes with the Taliban Photo: JASON P. HOWE

    By Ben Farmer, Andar

    8:00PM BST 14 Aug 2012

    More than 250 men have taken up arms in Ghazni province and are fighting nearly daily skirmishes against determined Taliban attempts to retake the area.

    Their armed campaign began in protest at insurgent edicts closing schools and bazaars, as well as resentment that the Taliban were outsiders taking orders from Pakistan.

    In four months of fighting, the uprising has lost more than 20 members and claims to have cleared an enclave of Andar district which had previously been under tight Taliban control.

    Its progress is being closely watched by Nato and Western officials who have long hoped the insurgents' repression might trigger a movement similar to the Sunni 'Awakening' brigades which turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    But they are doubtful over who is directing the revolt and wary it has been hijacked by leaders from other armed factions.

    Many in the uprising seem as opposed to the international coalition and Hamid Karzai as they are to the insurgents.

    Lotfullah Kamrani, a 24-year-old graduate who now commands dozens of anti-Taliban fighters, said his men were in daily clashes, some lasting up to 10 hours.

    Since kicking out the insurgents from around a sixth of Andar's villages they had been able to reopen shops in the district centre and boys' schools which had been long closed.

    Militiamen on motorbikes patrol their fields and villages armed with a jumble of their own weapons left over from the Russian occupation and ensuing civil war.

    "The Taliban are very strong, but according to my belief the community is on our side and they cannot stand against us," Mr Kamrani said.

    As he showed off his force, they received a call that Taliban had been spotted near one of their villages and several of his men took to their motorcycles to chase them away.

    Frustration with the Taliban had grown in recent years, he said, as they appeared to be controlled more and more by outsiders from Pakistan.

    "They were applying the law of Pakistan here in Afghanistan. They were creating their own rules on the orders of Pakistan," he said.

    Mohammad Nazir, a 42-year-old father of four, said the Taliban had initially been welcomed in Andar, but had grown tyrannical.

    "We were helpless in many things," he said. "The schools were closed, the shops were closed, my sons were not able to go to school. We had talked about what to do many times in the past, but we decided to rise up in the spring."

    The Taliban deny the rebellion is a popular movement, saying it is funded and directed by America and the Afghan government. They have promised to retake the area and this week distributed letters again threatening to kill those who resist. Privately though, they have tried to negotiate.

    "The Taliban have requested many times for us to talk with them," said Mr Kamrani. "There's no trust left though."

    Many observers are still suspicious of who is really behind the uprising. Local MPs and Western officials say that Asadullah Khalid, Mr Karzai's southern security chief, had tried to take control and steer it to other areas.

    Mr Khalid and Mr Kamrani both confirmed he was helping the uprising to find ammunition, but claimed he was acting independently of the government because his family was from Ghazni province. The government had no involvement in the uprising, they said.

    Another fear is that the fighting may only be a power grab by a rival armed faction which had been disguised as a popular movement.

    Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan, a former intelligence chief in the province, said the revolt had been orchestrated by members of Hizb-i-Islami, a powerful faction dating from the war against the Russian invasion of the 1980s founded by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and remembered for its brutality in the civil war. Hekmatyar has led his own insurgency against Nato and Mr Karzai since 2002.

    Fighters conceded that many of their number had once belonged to this group, but denied they were organised along political lines.

    Faizanullah Faizan, a former governor and senior Hizb-i-Islami commander now playing a leading role in the uprising, said: "It's a 100 per cent civilian uprising. It doesn't belong to any political party, but we are made up of all the old groups."

    Nato commanders stress they are watching, but not giving support. Brigadier-General Lewis Boone, from the International Security Assistance Force, said: "The basic situation in Andar is they don't like us and they don't like the Taliban. They want to be left alone essentially. Are we looking at it closely? You bet we are. Is it another uprising like we saw in Iraq? I think that would be a leap."

  2. #2902

    Militants attack major Pakistan air base; 9 killed

    Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:06am EDT

    By Qasim Nauman

    Paramilitary soldiers guard near the main entrance of the Minhas in the town of Kamra in Punjab province on August 16, 2012.
    REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

    KAMRA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Islamist militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fought their way into one of Pakistan's largest air bases on Thursday, the air force said, in a brazen challenge to the nuclear-armed country's powerful military.

    Only one aircraft was damaged, said an air force spokesman, adding that the Minhas air base at Kamra, in central Punjab province, did not house nuclear weapons. "No air base is a nuclear air base in Pakistan," he said.

    A gunbattle raged for hours after the attack started. Commandos were called in to reinforce and police armored personnel carriers could seen heading into the base.

    Eight militants and one soldier were killed, the spokesman said. The attackers moved through a nearby village under cover of darkness and climbed a nine foot (2.7 meter) wall strung with barbed wire to break into the base. Some were wearing military uniforms.

    The assault cast doubts over official assertions that military operations had severely weakened militants waging a violent campaign to topple the U.S.-backed government and impose strict Islamic rule.

    Security forces opened fire when militants strapped with suicide bombing vests approached aircraft hangars, prompting other militants to fire rocket-propelled grenades from outside the base's walls, said the air force spokesman.

    Base commander Air Commodore Muhammad Azam, who led the operation against the attackers, was shot in the shoulder, but is in stable condition, said spokesman Captain Tariq Mahmood.

    It was not immediately clear if the attack was beaten back but a Reuters reporter who reached Kamra in the morning did not hear any gunfire. Combing and sweeping operations were still underway.

    "We are checking every inch of the complex to make sure there are no other miscreants," said Mahmood.

    Minhas, 75 km (45 miles) northeast of Islamabad, is adjacent to the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, a major air force research and development centre. Pakistan manufactures JF-17 fighter planes, jointly developed with China, at the site.

    Suicide bombers launched attacks near the base and the aeronautical complex in 2007 and 2009, but news reports said defenses were not breached.


    It was not immediately clear how the attackers managed to enter the sprawling base this time. Although the attack took place at about 2 a.m. (2100 GMT Wednesday), it is likely many of the soldiers on the base were awake for prayers or breakfast during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

    Faheemullah Khan, a civilian who lives near the base, said he was at a mosque praying when he heard gunfire and explosions which he thought were military exercises.

    "Then we came to a restaurant, which is next to the main entrance to the base, and heard a louder explosion," he said.

    "We saw six police vans rush in, and realized something was wrong."

    Several squadrons of fighters and surveillance planes are believed to be based at Minhas.

    "One body of a suicide bomber strapped with explosives has been found close to the impact area," said an air force statement.

    Pakistan's Taliban movement has staged a number of high-profile attacks over the past few years, including one on army headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009.

    Last year, six Taliban gunmen attacked a naval base in Pakistan's biggest city Karachi to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. At least 10 military personnel were killed and 20 wounded in the 16-hour assault.

    Those attacks, and the latest one, are embarrassing for Pakistan's military, which has ruled the country for more than half of its 65-year history and is seen as the most efficient state institution.

    The Taliban, which is close to al Qaeda, is blamed for many of the suicide bombings across Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally.

    Pakistan's military, one of the biggest in the world, has staged several offensives against Taliban strongholds in the unruly tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.

    But the operations have failed to break the back of the Taliban. Major suicide bombings have eased considerably over the past year but that could be due to a tactical shift and not pressure from the military.

    (Additional reporting by Sheree Sardar in ISLAMABAD and Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

    © Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved.

  3. #2903

    Afghanistan helicopter crash kills 11

    Taliban claims it downed Black Hawk helicopter in Kandahar province, killing seven US troops and four Afghans

    Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul

    guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 August 2012 19.49 BST

    Afghanistan helicopter crash – US troops board a Black Hawk near Arghandab river in Kandahar province. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

    A Black Hawk helicopter has crashed in a restive corner of southern Afghanistan, killing seven US soldiers and four Afghans, the Nato-led coalition said.

    A Taliban spokesman said they had downed the helicopter over southern Kandahar province, using a rocket-propelled grenade.

    Although the group are quick to claim crashes caused by mechanical problems as successful hits by their fighters, they have brought down some Nato helicopters, including one two months ago in eastern Ghazni province.

    In Kabul, Nato said only that it was investigating the cause of the crash and it was too early to say whether it was due to enemy fire or a fault with the aircraft.

    It landed so hard that it was completely destroyed, Pentagon officials said. Everyone on board was killed, Nato said.

    The helicopter, which was carrying US special operations troops, came down in insurgent-dominated Shah Wali Kot district to the north-east of Kandahar city, said Jawed Faisal, spokesman for the provincial governor.

    Officials from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would not confirm the site of the crash, but said it was a volatile area and troops sent to recover the bodies and wreckage came under attack.

    "About two hours after the crash we fought off a very minor assault, one or two individuals attacked with small arms fire. They were fought off by ISAF forces, who either killed them or drove them away," said spokesman Major Adam Wojack. "The current threat in the area is considered by ISAF as significant," he added.

    Helicopter crashes have caused some of the highest death tolls of the war. Many have been the result of mechanical failures or errors by pilots flying in difficult conditions, but insurgents have brought down some aircraft.

    Last August, the Taliban hit a Chinook with rocket-propelled grenades as it carried troops on a combat mission in eastern Afghanistan; the crash killed all 38 people inside.

    It was the deadliest day of the decade-long war for the US military.

    Many of those killed were from Navy Seal Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden in a night-time raid deep inside Pakistan, though it was not the same men on the chinook.

    And in June, insurgents shot down a smaller helicopter in eastern Ghazni province, killing both officers on board.

    Whatever its cause, the Black Hawk crash is the deadliest in Afghanistan since 12 March, when a Turkish helicopter hit a house on the outskirts of Kabul, killing 12 soldiers and two Afghan girls.

    And it comes after a bloody week for foreign forces and Afghan civilians. There has been a string of insider attacks by Afghan police and soldiers on the Nato troops training them or fighting beside them, with six killed in two attacks last Friday.

    On Tuesday, suicide attacks on a packed bazaar in south-western Nimroz province and a food market in northern Kunduz province killed 40 people and injured over 90 others, almost all of them civilians.

    Mokhtar Amiri contributed to this story

  4. #2904

    Taliban Infiltrators Blamed For Insider Attacks

    Aug 17, 2012

    Military.com| by Richard Sisk

    U.S. military officials suspect the 60-year-old Afghan police recruit who killed two Special Forces trainers Friday with a weapon just handed to him was a Taliban plant and part of a growing threat from enemy infiltrators.

    To counter the threat, the U.S. and NATO have begun a major review of the vetting process for Afghan recruits for the police and the army to include checking on the identities and loyalties of village elders and Afghan officials who are required to vouch for the trainees, the officials said.

    Until recently, Pentagon and NATO officials had routinely dismissed Taliban claims to have infiltrated the ranks of the Afghan National Security Forces as idle boasts, but the recent spike in insider attacks has forced commanders to rethink policy.

    "We think it’s about 10 percent," a Pentagon official said of the percentage of deadly insider attacks carried out by Taliban soldiers or sympathizers since January 2011.

    Fifty insider attacks had occurred through Friday and killed 74 coalition troops, the vast majority of them Americans, which could mean that at least seven troops were killed by infiltrators.

    Supposed Afghan allies killed six Marines in separate shootings Aug. 10. Marine leaders did not say whether the Afghan police officer and soldier responsible for those shootings were affiliated with the Taliban.

    The Pentagon official wouldn’t speculate on how many other Taliban agents may have infiltrated the ranks of the ANSF, now numbering more than 300,000.

    The latest insider attack in the Farah province, which borders Iran, was especially disturbing to the planners of the transition of the security lead to Afghan forces as U.S. and coalition combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014. Farah was considered by many as a relatively peaceful province.

    Afghan and NATO officials identified the attacker as 60-year-old Mohammad Ismail, who was being recruited for the Afghan Local Police. The ALP is part of a new initiative funded by the U.S. to serve as a part-time militia force in areas where Western troops were less likely to patrol as they become fewer in number.

    Ismail allegedly opened fire and killed the two Special Forces troops as soon as he was handed a weapon. Other Afghan and coalition troops then shot and killed Ismail.

    In reviewing the vetting process for recruits, the U.S. and NATO will go back to the eight-step vetting process outlined at Pentagon briefings in May 2011 by top officials of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan.

    Jack Kem, deputy to the commander of the Training Mission, said the vetting process for recruits had been put in place, including identity card verifications, biometric scans, and a requirement for at least two letters from village elders or Afghan officials from the recruit’s district vouching for the trainee.

    Kem cautioned that the system was not foolproof.

    "No, I'm not confident 100 percent because I don't think any system's foolproof; so I'm not a 100 percent confident that we'll weed out everything, but I am confident that this system is the best system we can do now."

    The Pentagon official said the review of the vetting process will determine whether standards have been maintained in the vetting process and focus on the vouchers from the village elders to determine whether those individuals actually exist and are trustworthy.

    Despite the infiltration of the ranks, the official said the vast majority of insider attacks were the result of stress, emotional problems and "personal vendettas that they’ve decided to solve with a gun."

    © Copyright 2012 Military.com. All rights reserved.

  5. #2905

    'Absolutely gutting': New Zealand mourns three soldiers killed in bomb blast

    DateAugust 20, 2012 - 1:12PM

    New Zealand has lost its first female soldier since the Vietnam war in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan which claimed three lives.

    Medic Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26 of Christchurch, Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, of Kawerau, and Richard Harris, 21, of Pukekohe died helping a fellow soldier about 9.20am Afghanistan time (5pm NZ time) yesterday when their humvee was hit by a roadside bomb in Bamiyan province. Their vehicle was the last in a convoy taking one of their patrol members to Romero base to see a doctor.

    A second bomb was found and disarmed, while the remaining personnel in the patrol secured the location and awaited more support.

    The attack occurred northwest of Do Abe, near where Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer were killed in a firefight only two weeks ago.

    Advertisement Defence Force Chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said Baker was the first female killed in action since the Vietnam war when a nurse was killed. Females were also killed in World War 2.

    There were 10 women serving in Bamiyan and another two at the United States air base at Bagram near the capital Kabul, he said. Women made up 16 per cent of the wider Defence Force.

    New Zealand wasn't unique having women on the front line, Jones said. "A lot of European countries are putting women on the front line because of the roles we do with community engagement. Having women there to interact with children and other women in Islamic society becomes quite important."

    Baker went to the Solomons Islands in 2010. She received a chief of army commendation in 2011 for her professionalism and courage. She had a partner in the army.

    The humvee was being driven by Harris who joined the army in 2009 and was previously deployed to Timor-Leste.

    Tamatea joined the army in 2000 and served in Timor Leste in 2001, the Solomons 2003 and helped with the tsunami recovery in Sumatra in 2005. He had previously served in Afghanistan in 2007.

    All three soldiers were deployed to Bamiyan in April and were from the 2nd/1st battalion royal infantry.

    Their bodies were evacuated by helicopter and an Australian military aircraft would take them back to Australia from where they would be flown home.

    Casualties were possible at any time in Afghanistan, Jones said.

    "The group that we are operating against is very proficient and we know they have other IEDs (improvised explosive devices)."

    The Defence Force was aware of the psychological impact of the recent deaths on troops in Bamiyan and a specialist team was now in the province helping the contingent, he said.

    Prime Minister John Key told a press conference, which was also attended by Jones and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman, that the soldiers' sacrifice would not be forgotten.

    Ministers had for some weeks been considering options for an "orderly withdrawal".

    A decision was still to be finalised but it was likely to take place in the earlier part of 2013, Key confirmed.

    "There is no question we are coming home."

    New Zealand had to withdraw in conjunction with its international partners, he said.

    "Otherwise the signal we send to the rest of the whole of Afghanistan is that it's time to run for the exit. If you do that then the thousands of people who have lost their lives have been in vain."

    Key conceded keeping troops in the war-torn nation was a hard call.

    "Every time I get a phone call from the Defence Minister or the Chief of the Defence Force about this, it is a gut-wrenching experience. I want our boys and girls to come home."

    The timing of the withdrawal had not been affected by loss of five soldiers in last few weeks, he said. New Zealand has now lost 10 soldiers in Afghanistan.

    Coleman said it was "absolutely gutting" to be delivering such news again so soon after last week's funerals for Malone and Durrer.

    "This is the most terrible day that could ever be visited on loved ones of a service person."


    It would take months, not days, for New Zealand to withdraw, Key said.

    "We made a commitment... I don't think we are the type of country that cuts and runs."

    There were three large New Zealand bases with about 150 troops and the soldiers were supporting New Zealand aid workers in the province.

    Key said the three troops were killed instantly as a result of an "enormous explosion" from a road-side bomb.

    A LAV would have been carrying seven troops, so more people could have been killed if they were not in the humvees, Key said.

    The blast was attributed to bomb makers who were part of a new insurgent group the New Zealanders had been targeting.

    Key said he was confident the soldiers had the equipment they needed but he would be double-checking with the Defence Force today.

    Replacement troops had arrived in Afghanistan following Durrer and Malone's deaths. They were specialist troops, due to the bomb-making threat.

    Jones said the Kiwis had been working for some time to disrupt the bombmakers.

    He believed the "bombmaker" forces had been trying to track was still out there.

    Labour Foreign Affairs spokesman Phil Goff, a former defence minister, said it was not a case of "cutting and running".

    "It's a case of managing an orderly transition out of Bamiyan which the Government should have been embarking on already."

    New Zealand had done everything it could in the province.

    "There is nothing further we can do to influence outcomes in Bamiyan or in Afghanistan. To justify sacrifice, you've got to have obtainable objectives.

    "Things are going backwards in Afghanistan, not forwards. Not because of what our guys are doing but because the [Afghanistan] government has failed utterly to win the support of its own people."

    There has been a string of attacks in Afghanistan this weekend, including the shooting of an international service member by a man in Afghan police uniform.


    Among the many to offer their condolences, Key, Jones and Coleman were joined by Governor-general Sir Jerry Mateparae, a former Defence Force chief, and the RSA.

    All said they were deeply saddened and that their thoughts were with the victims' families.


    Cabinet approved New Zealand's Bamiyan-based Defence Force staff extending operations east into the hostile Baghlan province following the firefight which killed Malone and Durrer and injured six other Kiwi soldiers.

    Durrer and Malone, both 26, were on their first deployment to Afghanistan as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). The insurgents which killed them were from Baghlan province.

    Baghlan is the responsibility of Hungarian forces, who are reluctant to patrol the area, however, Key has ruled out seeking a change to the Hungarian's rules of engagement.

    The reluctance of the Hungarians to patrol their area had led to an increase in insurgent activity in recent years, Key said.

    "It's a very hostile environment and it's a dangerous and difficult environment there."

    Fairfax NZ and AP

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/absolute...#ixzz243ZczMBt

  6. #2906

    a sad day for new zealand.

    one does have to wonder about the PMs quote

    A LAV would have been carrying seven troops, so more people could have been killed if they were not in the humvees, Key said.

  7. #2907

    Drone Strikes: 'Least Horrible' Choice In Pakistan, Yemen

    By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

    Published: August 21, 2012

    WASHINGTON: In lawless, inaccessible regions of the world, drone strikes are America's least-worst option for pursuing terrorists, a panel of experts agreed today -- and many of the civilians whose deaths are blamed on US drones were actually killed by local factions on the ground or never existed at all.

    "They are actually our least horrible option," said Prof. Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at Georgetown University who has made many trips to Pakistan, including to the badlands known formally as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). "I am... within the strict case of FATA, a drone proponent," she said, speaking Monday afternoon at the American Security Project in Washington, DC. And while most Pakistanis deplore the drones when polled about them, Fair added that FATA residents she spoke to who have first-hand knowledge of specific strikes and who really died in them are, "very positive.... They know who's being killed."

    So while the risk of backlash against Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attacks is real, the alternatives are worse because they would cause even more unintended casualties -- American, allied, and civilian -- while doing less damage to the terrorists. It would be ideal to capture terrorists, bring them to justice, and interrogate them rather than kill them, Fair said, but in the Pakistani tribal lands, "there are no police, there are no law enforcement agencies. When the Pakistani military goes in after insurgents, she said, "they're very imprecise and kill loads of people," sending thousands of civilians fleeing from their homes.

    An American ground attack would be even more costly in human, military, and political terms, added CNA research analyst William McCants, editor of Jihadica.com. After 9/11, McCants noted, America's initial response to countries that it thought harbored terrorists was to invade, not just bomb specific targets: The shift to drones, he argued, is actually a de-escalation, "a reaction to this overreaction." The risk of anti-US backlash remains, McCants said, but it is driven less by US drone strikes specifically than by US support in general for oppressive regimes, like that in Yemen, as they crack down "indiscriminately" against both terrorists and political critics.

    In Afghanistan and Pakistan, even al-Qaeda and Taliban themselves make relatively little use of drone attacks to motivate supporters and recruits, added Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: "They more or less have been mum about this issue in their propaganda," he said. Al-Qaeda's Yemeni branch has put drone-related video online, but that has focused instead on the grisly executions of alleged US informants who provided targeting data, which is a backhanded compliment to the often paralyzing "paranoia" the drone strikes have created among their targets.

    While it is difficult to measure the damage done to al-Qaeda as an organization, Zelin went on, one telling sign is that al-Qaeda used to hold month-long training courses for new bomb-makers. Not so much these days. In Yemen for example, recruits now come together briefly to practice with various weapons and then "melt away into the desert." As a result, al-Qaeda explosives have often failed to go off in recent plots.

    But what about the civilian deaths that are sometimes the price of such successes? "We're looking at really lousy data," said Fair. In FATA, "there are no birth certificates and there are no death certificates," she said, and many news reports on drone strike deaths don't even "try to confirm there was in fact a burial." Drone strikes tend to take place in the same areas where insurgents and the Pakistani authorities are already clashing, she said, and, on closer examination, some of the injuries attributed to US drones are more likely to come from terrorist bombs -- "the Taliban don't always claim the bad stuff they do" -- or from errant ordnance from Pakistani military operations. Some of the alleged victims don't seem to have ever existed.

    Civilian casualties from strikes against terrorists tied to the Pakistani military are often inflated in the Pakistani press, she said, while those from strikes against enemies of Islamabad are downplayed. Between unreliable Pakistani sources and a close-mouthed US government, Fair said, the picture is painfully foggy.

    "The lack of empirical data... should be ensuring a certain amount of humility about our ability to draw conclusions," summed up Joshua Foust, the American Security Project fellow who hosted Monday's discussion. Having just published his own study on the subject, he said, drones' value for specific tactical missions is clear, but their long-term strategic effect is not. His greatest worry is that "in a lot of ways drones have taken the place of US strategic decisionmaking," Foust said. "People think there's a problem, it's a difficult place to get to, [they say] 'let's send in drones, that solves the problem.'" Drones are a tool of strategy, and a powerful one -- but not a strategy in themselves.

  8. #2908

    Afghans to spy on own troops to stop ‘insider’ attacks

    By Kevin Sieff, Tuesday, August 21, 8:41 AM

    The Washington Post

    KABUL — Afghan officials say they have launched an expanded effort to spy on their own police and army recruits, an acknowledgment that previous measures designed to reduce insurgent infiltration in the country’s security services have failed.

    The steps come amid a spate of “insider” attacks that have shaken the U.S.-Afghan military partnership during a stage of the war that hinges on close partnership between the two forces.

    Nine U.S. troops have been killed by their Afghan counterparts in the past 12 days. They are among 40 coalition service members who have died in insider attacks this year. President Obama, in his most extensive comments to date on the issue, said Monday that his administration is “deeply concerned about this, from top to bottom.”

    The Afghan measures include the deployment of dozens of undercover intelligence officers to Afghan security units nationwide, increased surveillance of phone calls between Afghan troops and their families, and a ban on cellphone use among new recruits to give them fewer opportunities to contact members of the insurgency, Afghan officials say.

    The initiatives appear aimed at addressing U.S. criticism that the Afghan security forces are not doing enough to ferret out insurgents within their ranks. The top U.S. military official, Gen. Martin Dempsey, was in Kabul on Monday for consultations on the matter, and Obama said he would soon be “reaching out” to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

    “Soldiers must feel that they are under the full surveillance of their leadership at all levels,” the Afghan army chief of staff, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, said in an interview after meeting with Dempsey and other U.S. commanders. “Initially, it will have a negative impact on morale, but we have to do something. We have to look seriously at every individual.”

    Coalition policy changes

    NATO has taken steps in recent days to try to limit the attacks, which Taliban leader Mohammad Omar has described as an integral part of his group’s strategy.

    Across Afghanistan, service members have been asked to keep their weapons loaded at all times, according to coalition officials. NATO has also activated an existing program, dubbed “Guardian Angels,” in which coalition troops whose only job is to watch their fellow troops attend meetings with Afghan officials prepared to quell an insider attack if one should occur.

    Obama said U.S. forces are “seeing some success when it comes to better counterintelligence, making sure that the vetting process for Afghan troops is stronger.” But, he added, “obviously, we’re going to have to do more, because there has been an uptick over the last 12 months on this.”

    Insider attacks are a relatively new aspect of the war, having emerged as a major problem for the United States and its allies only in the past several years. There have been more deaths from insider attacks in 2012 than in any other year of the war, and they have accounted for 13 percent of all NATO fatalities this year.

    Tight choreography

    As U.S. troops begin to withdraw, the attacks threaten to upend plans for a transition from foreign to Afghan control of security that will require tight choreography between the two forces.

    But the new Afghan measures carry their own peril, with the potential to further alienate rank-and-file troops and would-be recruits at a time when the government is struggling to build loyalty.

    Afghan officials say that 176 intelligence officers were assigned to army battalions last week and that most will remain undercover. They join hundreds of others who are tasked with spotting wayward troops before they carry out “green-on-blue” attacks.

    Karimi said Afghanistan would also reinforce a vetting procedure that had never been properly employed, allowing cursory or no background checks for new recruits.

    A number of the attacks this year were carried out by individuals who faced little scrutiny in getting access to joint U.S. and Afghan bases. This month, an unvetted 15-year-old “tea boy” who had been living on a police base in Helmand province killed three U.S. Marines while they exercised.

    “We had a policy for recruiting from Day One, but it hasn’t been implemented. We needed too many people,” Karimi said. “When you need 12,000 people each month — it’s a number so high that we couldn’t implement the policy,”

    Now that the security forces are approaching their targeted recruitment levels, officials said, they can concentrate on ensuring that the right soldiers and police have entered the ranks. That means paying close attention to what recruits do after enlisting.

    “Whenever a new recruit goes on leave, we have reconnaissance following that person to make sure he doesn’t pose a threat,” said Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid, the top Afghan army official in Kandahar.

    The Afghan efforts represent an expansion of earlier attempts to curb insider killings. Earlier this year, for instance, soldiers were forced to move their families back from Pakistan or quit their jobs. Many infiltrators are thought to have received training from insurgent groups in Pakistan.

    Karimi on Monday briefed Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, on Afghanistan’s plans for the expanded counterintelligence measures.

    Dempsey has long complained about the flawed Afghan vetting process, telling reporters in March that the problem of insider attacks would be solved only “when they have the same vetting as we do.”

    He sounded an encouraging note after his meeting Monday with Karimi. “In the past, it’s been us pushing on them to make sure they do more,” Dempsey said. “This time, without prompting, when I met General Karimi, he started with a conversation about insider attacks.”

    Cultural clashes

    Not all attacks have been the result of insurgent infiltration, and NATO officials have said that most stem from personal disputes. Afghan military officials say they have asked their U.S. and other NATO counterparts to better educate their troops in local traditions and culture to help reduce the potential for conflict.

    “If a U.S. soldier says something against our tradition, it makes Afghan soldiers upset and could even cause an attack,” said Feda Wakil, the chief of staff for recruitment at the Afghan National Police. “We always tell NATO that the troops are not arriving with enough knowledge. They are learning from Afghans overseas who do not truly understand our culture.”

    Afghan officials say they have also asked the Americans for help in tightening standards within the Afghan forces. The army says it wants polygraph machines and interceptors to monitor phone calls. Police officials have asked for more biometric equipment, which they say will help them check the criminal records of potential recruits.

    “If we can’t reduce the number of these attacks to zero, we should at least minimize the number,” Karimi said.

    Javed Hamdard and Sayed Salahuddin contributed to this report.

  9. #2909

    RAF Reaper Team Uncovers Afghan Drugs Haul

    (Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Aug. 21, 2012)

    An RAF team has uncovered a huge stash of drugs in a truck in Afghanistan using a Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS).

    Members of 39 Squadron (39 Sqn) were supporting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in identifying drug traffickers transiting through southern Helmand.

    During the mission, 39 Sqn were directed to a suspect vehicle which later met up with a pick-up truck. 39 Sqn used their Reaper RPAS to observe from above that the flatbed section of the truck was too shallow for a normal vehicle and as a result probably contained a hidden compartment.

    Using the Reaper, the team from 39 Sqn tracked both vehicles, enabling ANSF and USMC personnel to intercept them safely.

    As a direct result of the work the RAF team did, 1,280kg of dry opium and 59kg of refined heroin was found hidden within the vehicles. Four weapons were also confiscated and the drug traffickers involved were detained.

    The US street price for the heroin alone was estimated at $14,750,000, and 39 Sqn were involved in the interdiction of a further two vehicles where 860kg of dry opium was discovered. The narcotics were destroyed on site.

    So far, this narcotics operation has denied criminal gangs approximately $10m (at local Afghan prices) in funding.

    Officer Commanding 39 Sqn, Wing Commander Andy Bird, said:

    "The pick-up truck looked heavy and the flatbed at the rear seemed too shallow, so it aroused our suspicions. This is exactly the sort of indicator that our personnel are trained to identify.

    "We were able to work closely with coalition troops who seized weapons and a large haul of opium and heroin worth millions of dollars. We were delighted, as this sort of success deprives the Taliban of resources and it helps keep drugs off the streets of the UK too.

    "It was a very good spot indeed and I was very proud of the whole team. We are contributing directly to bringing stability to Afghanistan as we prepare to hand over responsibility to the Afghan security forces."

    The Reaper is a medium-to-high-altitude, long-endurance RPAS and its primary mission is as an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance asset. Its sensors provide real-time data to commanders and intelligence specialists at all levels.

    Its secondary mission is to attack targets in the battlespace and also to provide close air support options to the unit being supported by the Reaper and its remote crew.

    Wg Cdr Bird added:

    "The Reaper is a really flexible system - we can be airborne for up to 20 hours, building up a detailed picture of what is happening on the ground. If needed, we have sophisticated weapons which can be precisely targeted.

    "One of our main jobs is spotting insurgents who might be targeting troops on the ground with improvised explosive devices. We are their 'eyes in the sky' - we do everything we can to enable coalition troops to conduct their important missions as safely as possible.

    "Although we are remote from the battlefield, there is always a team of RAF personnel involved in flying every mission. We take real pride in our mission, which is to support troops on the ground."

    The RAF team operates the Reaper remotely from Creech Air Force Base in the United States.


  10. #2910

    NATO airstrike kills top Pakistani Taliban leader and 11 other militants in Afghanistan

    By Associated Press

    PUBLISHED:18:00 GMT, 25 August 2012| UPDATED: 18:00 GMT, 25 August 2012

    A NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan killed a Pakistani Taliban leader who had close ties with al Qaeda, dealing a blow to the militants who operate on both sides of the countries' porous border.

    Mullah Dadullah was killed Friday in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, which lies just across the border from the Pakistani tribal area of Bajur, the military alliance said.

    He was the Pakistani Taliban leader in Bajur, and NATO said Saturday that Dadullah also was responsible for the movement of fighters and weapons across the frontier as well as attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

    Killed: Mullah Dadullah, seen centre, a regional commander of Pakistani Taliban group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was killed by a NATO airstrike late Friday; he was responsible for the movement of fighters and weapons across the frontier as well as attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan

    Eleven other militants were also killed in the airstrike in Kunar's Shigal district, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Pakistani border, including Dadullah's deputy, identified only as Shakir, the coalition said.

    Dadullah's death will be a blow for the Taliban in Bajur, where the Pakistani military launched an offensive against militants in 2010, because he was an experienced commander and close to al Qaeda, said Mansur Mahsud, an Islamabad-based expert on Pakistani militants.

    But he said it's unlikely to have much of an impact on the broader Pakistani Taliban movement that operates in the rest the country's rugged, lawless tribal region along the Afghan border.

    'He wasn't that senior in the group, and he wasn't that influential in the six other tribal agencies outside Bajur,' Mahsud said.

    Still, the killing of a foe of the Pakistani government is likely to be well received in Islamabad at a time when Pakistan's military is said to be preparing an offensive in North Waziristan, the base of the powerful Haqqani network that has been behind a string of high-profile attacks on Western targets in Kabul.

    The militant hideouts along the Afghan-Pakistan border have long been a source of tension for Kabul, Islamabad and the international coalition, and Dadullah's killing could help ease the pressure that has built up.

    Several times this summer, Afghan officials have said Pakistani shells have landed on Afghan territory, sometimes killing civilians. Pakistani officials have said their forces have been responding to cross-border attacks by militants from Afghanistan.

    Islamabad has long demanded that NATO and Afghan forces crack down on Pakistani militants launching attacks from hideouts on the Afghan side of the border. At the same time, American military commanders have been pressuring Islamabad to launch military strikes on the Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

    Crighton, however, said there was no coordination between Pakistan and NATO on the airstrike.

    'This was an independent operation and not associated with any others,' he said, adding that coalition forces detected the group of armed men moving through an isolated area of Kunar and targeted them with the airstrikes.

    He would not say whether an unmanned drone or manned aircraft had carried out the strike.

    A Pakistani Taliban spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, said it was a drone that killed Dadullah. He said Maulana Abu Bakar was named the new Taliban chief of Bajur.

    Dadullah became Bajur's Pakistani Taliban chief early this year after the Taliban removed his predecessor to punish him for holding unauthorized peace talks with Islamabad, Pakistani intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

    Dadullah, who real name was Sayed Jamal, was a shop owner in Bajur before joining the Pakistani Taliban in 2008, and he was believed to be in his mid-30s or 40s, they said. He worked with al Qaeda prior to that and maintained close ties to the group.

    As head of the Taliban's religious police unit in Bajur, he enforced a strict interpretation of Islam, and closed shops that sold CDs – music is deemed heretical – to close, according to the intelligence officials. Shop owners who refused were punished and their stores were bombed.

    The Pakistani Taliban, one of many loosely allied extremist groups that operate in Pakistan's tribal region, wants to impose the same kind of hardline interpretation of Islamic law as the Afghan Taliban that ruled Afghanistan until the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted the hardline regime for sheltering al Qaeda's leaders.

    But the Pakistani branch primarily focuses its attacks on the Pakistani state, not international troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

    The Pakistani intelligence officials said Friday's coalition airstrike occurred after a cross-border attack by Pakistani Taliban militants who came from Afghanistan. The Pakistani intelligence officials said the militiamen and army soldiers fought the militants for hours but eventually repelled the attack.

    A Kunar provincial government spokesman, Wasifullah Wasifi, said four wounded Pakistani citizens have been hospitalized in Kunar and will be questioned about the activities of the Pakistani Taliban inside Afghan territory.

    'We are trying to find out how long these people have been here and why they were here,' Wasifi said.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...#ixzz24byAfPrY

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