Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update – 6 September 2012


LDESP AFPAK NEWS UPDATE: 6 September 2012

This update is a summary of various news articles from open sources relating to US AFPAK policy and governance, economy, security and regional interests in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan. Please click on the links below to access the complete article from the internet. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries given below highlight only the portion of each article that is relevant and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Please note that the update includes articles, which use the British English spelling. Articles are taken from diverse regional, American and European media sources, reflecting a range of political views/biases, and are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

Disclaimer: Articles are taken from established and diverse professional periodicals, news articles, and editorial commentaries from different countries, reflecting a range of political views/biases, that are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries may highlight only a portion of an article that is relevant to the readers and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Opinions expressed in the articles, commentaries and features do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

GOVERNANCE: DEMOCRACY & RULE OF LAW

Afghanistan: Governance & Civil Society

Afghan Leader Names Appointees To Key Security Portfolios

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has named appointees to be the new ministers of defense and interior, and head of intelligence. All the appointees are well-known government loyalists and officials, leading some observers to describe the changes as a mere reshuffling and a continuation of policies that have held sway in Kabul for years. Afghan media on 3 September quoted an unnamed presidential adviser as confirming that former Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi had been appointed defense minister. The official said Deputy Interior Minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang had been appointed interior minister, and former Frontiers Minister Asadullah Khalid was appointed new intelligence chief. Former Kabul Governor Din Mohammad was named the new minister of frontiers. Mohammadi and former Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak were ousted last month after parliament faulted them for failing to protect the border from attacks originating in Pakistan. Karzai last week dismissed intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil. (RFE/RL)

Delay in Voter Registration

Head of Independent Election Commission (IEC) Fazal Ahmad Manawi expressed concerns about the delay in voter registration process for the coming President election in March 2014, the time schedule as per constitutional conditions. Prevailing insecurity in parts of the country, absence of census data and lack of sufficient funds are main obstacles for the process. Manawi urged the international community to provide IEC with funds needed to start the registration drive, asking the Government to take necessary administrative and technical steps for this process to be launched, as IEC is running out of time and further delay can make inevitable postponement of the polls, which would cause a constitutional crisis. (…) Afghan opposition political parties have been calling for restoration of credibility to the electoral process. The debate about changes in election law and formal participation of political parties are popular demands, which should be considered with serious intentions by the concerned authorities. Transparent transfer of power is most crucial for smooth transition of the current process established after the ouster of Taliban. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Won’t Run for 3rd Term: Karzai

President Hamid Karzai, pledging respect for Afghanistan’s constitution, on 4 September said he had no plan to contest the 2014 presidential ballot. At a meeting with tribal elders and religious scholars from Badakhshan province, he stressed the ballot must be held in a transparent manner; otherwise the government would lose its credibility. “I’m not a candidate for the next presidential election, because the constitution doesn’t allow me to run for a third term,” the president added. In a statement from his office, Karzai urged the Afghans to vote for a candidate who is God-fearing, devout Muslim, with a high sense of patriotism and justice. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Senators Warn Govt.on Graft, Growing Unrest

A number of Meshrano Jirga, upper house, members on 2 September asked the Karzai-led administration to intensify efforts at stemming widespread government corruption and escalating insurgency-related violence. Lawmaker from southeastern Paktia province, Abdul Hanan Haqwayun, said that security problems had recently increased across the country. Insecurity in Paktia has reached its peak, compelling residents to cooperate with insurgents, he said. “If the insecurity continues to worsen, people of the country would start joining the rebels as a result of the widening gap with the government,” he remarked. Another MP from Nuristan, Hafiz Abdul Qayum, also came up with similar complaints, insisting crackdown on graft-tainted government officials. The legislator asked government departments to cooperate with the anti-graft body in implementation of President Hamid Karzai July’s decree that called for sweeping reforms. Issuing the executive order, Karzai admitted his government was corrupt, saying despite major achievements, Afghans had confronted problems in governance, the fight against corruption, strengthening the rule of law and economic self-sufficiency. The president called on the Supreme Court to “work on and finalize all the cases regarding administrative corruption, land-grabbing within six months. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Karzai decrees wide-ranging reforms

President Hamid Karzai listed good governance, an effective anti-corruption fight, rule of law and a strong economy as top priorities of his administration. Recalling his address to last month’s joint sitting of parliament, Karzai’s office referred to a wide-ranging presidential decree for reforms in the three branches of the government. A detailed statement from the Presidential Palace in Kabul said that government departments would thoroughly discuss the reforms aimed at grappling with the current challenges. Under the decree, cases against the individuals detained by police or investigated by the Attorney General Office (AGO) have to be disposed of on a fast-track basis. Parliament was directed to set store by the core national interest in exercising its legislative powers and accord priority to answering urgent and genuine demands from the executive. High-ranking officials were ordered to refrain from nepotism and other extraneous considerations in the recruitment of technocrats and super-skilled experts. While stressing a halt to the land-grab practice, the president decreed security agencies to collect unlicensed weapons and probe all parallel organizations in the country. The authorities concerned were asked to present a comprehensive report in three months to the Council of Ministers on the first phase of the project for issuing computerized identity cards. Similarly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was instructed to look — in coordination with relevant state organs — into the affairs of all Afghan diplomatic missions across the globe. The Ministry of Justice was tasked with preparing draft laws governing elections, municipalities and AGO. The proposed laws have to be submitted to the Cabinet in six months. Additionally, the AGO was given a month’s time to investigate the inmates of detention centres throughout the country. It was further asked to constitute an oversight body within two months and make functional district attorney offices. In compliance with the directives, the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption will keep an eye on strategic benchmarks put in place by public and private sector entities to combat graft. As part of the drive, the watchdog will have to probe questionable assets of government and NGO officials in six months. By the same token, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance will have to look into gubernatorial slots and float in a month workable recommendations aimed at strengthening the office. (Pak Tribune)

Peace Talks

Safe passage for Taliban discussed in Pakistan

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States on 5 September discussed how to provide Taliban leaders safe passage to join peace negotiations, a key issue to allow the talks to succeed, officials said. Many senior Taliban commanders, including leader Mullah Omar, are believed to be based in Pakistan, making Islamabad’s cooperation critical. Pakistan also has strong historical ties with the group that many analysts believe have continued. The U.S. and Afghan governments have urged Islamabad to push the Taliban to participate in a peace process that has had trouble getting off the ground. All three countries believe a peace deal is necessary to prevent Afghanistan from descending into civil war after most foreign forces withdraw by the end of 2014. But the process has been plagued by mistrust between the three governments and the Taliban. The discussions that took place on 5 September in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, marked the inaugural meeting of the Safe Passage Working Group, said the Pakistani Foreign Ministry in a written statement. The three governments agreed to form the group in April, the ministry said. The group is focused on choosing which Taliban leaders should be provided safe passage, guaranteeing their security and dealing with logistics like visas, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to talk to reporters about the meeting. The official described the meeting as “positive.” (Yahoo News, AP)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

Economy, not just war, has many Pakistanis losing sleep

The United States’ focus in Pakistan since 9/11 has been on combating radicalism, the latest example of which was the suicide bombing on 3 September of a U.S. government vehicle. The explosion killed two Pakistanis and wounded two Americans. For Pakistanis, the declining standard of living — and not the war against Islamists here or in Afghanistan — is what many say concerns them most. The government has failed to turn around high unemployment, soaring inflation and stagnant wages. Pakistan’s latest shift in leadership placed former energy minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the prime minister’s seat. He was appointed in June after the Supreme Court ruled that his predecessor, Yousaf Raza Gilani, had to resign for refusing to investigate charges of corruption against the government. Ashraf inherits a country where killings for profit, as well as politics, honor and religious beliefs, are not uncommon, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. (…) Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists roam free in the country’s northwest and have launched attacks against people it considers un-Islamic in more modern cities such as Lahore. The U.S. military believes the reclusive head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, is here, and U.S. and Pakistani news media report that U.S. drone strikes regularly kill leaders of radical groups. (…) Many in Pakistan believe Ashraf will do little to change everyday life for Pakistanis. “Raja Pervez Ashraf is a nothing candidate, picked in haste,” said Cyril Almeida, a columnist at the DAWN daily newspaper. “His influence on policy will be zero to none.” (…) Meanwhile, ordinary Pakistanis hope for improvement. Pakistan’s economic growth rate is the lowest in South Asia and has been in decline for 10 years. Nearly one-quarter of its 177 million people live under the international poverty line, according to the World Bank. (USA Today)

ECONOMY, RECONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT

Amu River Oil Will Strike 12M Barrels by its Fifth Year

The oil in Afghanistan’s Amu River Zone is expected to produce more than 12 million barrels of oil by its fifth year of operation, the Afghan Ministry of Mines said on 6 September. Mines Ministry Policy Director Abdul Jalil Jebrani said that the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which holds the extraction contract, is also looking at the possibility of building an oil refinery in the field after defining the oil density in the Amu River Zone. (…) Jebrani stressed that building the refinery will ensure that the oil is not shipped to other countries for refining. According to the extraction agreement, the CNPC will start extracting oil this year, with an expected production of 150,000 barrels by the end of the Persian calendar year – March 2013. Around 1.6 million barrels are expected in the second year, 3.9 million barrels in the third year, 7.4 million barrels in the fourth year, and 12.3 million by the fifth year. However, Jebrani was not optimistic of the income from the initial stages of production, saying that most of the income is being spent on the manufacturing and infrastructure facilities. Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said in May that the production would be sufficient to supply not only Afghanistan’s oil needs but also countries interested in buying. Amu River is the border dividing Afghanistan from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the far north of the country. (TOLOnews)

Human Rights

Central Asia: Group Says SCO ‘Vehicle’ For Rights Abuses

A report by an international human rights group says the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is being used by its members as a “vehicle for human rights violations.” The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) concludes that Russia and China, as well as Central Asian states, use the SCO’s legal framework as an excuse to ignore international human rights safeguards. The SCO, created in 2001, comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Its charter calls for members to work together to protect human rights. But Richard Wild, a law lecturer at the University of Greenwich who worked on the FIDH report, says the SCO is more concerned with security and border issues. “We need to make a distinction between rhetoric and practice. There is talk of human rights within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s charter. But actually, if we look operationally how it is being used, it is actually being used around border issues and security,” Wild explains. “All the instances are targeting of minority groups, of political oppositional groups [and] of religious groups. So there are wider human rights implications around discrimination in there as well.” The FIDH report says all SCO member states have “authoritarian regimes or severely repress independent voices.” (RFL/RE)

Culture & Society

Afghan NGO Inspires Unlikely Reconciliation

Recent Afghan history has been marked by war, much of it fought among Afghans themselves on the basis of religious, ethnic, or political rivalries. So it should come as no surprise that even if they are all under the Afghan flag today, there are few places where onetime enemies can work together — let alone live under the same roof. Yet at a shelter in Kabul’s old city, the scene of some of the fiercest interethnic and sectarian fighting in the country, a motley crew of battle-hardened veterans is doing just that. Former combatants, many of them permanently disfigured, leave their differences at the door when they enter the shelter. There they can receive food, lodging, and even financial support thanks to the nongovernmental Union for Afghanistan’s Disabled. Mohammad Isaq, director of the Afghan-run union, says the shelter takes in Afghans regardless of their ethnicity, politics, religion, and past history. Brought together by their common misfortune, an unlikely solidarity has emerged. “They all face the same pressing problems,” Isaq says. “Each has a lot of family members they must provide for. They get around with difficulty. They don’t have transport or enough money for medicine. Even the small amount of income that we can provide them is not enough.” Isaq adds that the shelter, which has more than 100 registered occupants, is funded partly by locals and in part by the dwellers themselves, who undertake odd jobs. The work they find depends on their handicap. Some haul building materials for construction crews; others help out in the bazaars; still others do handy work like repairing shoes, bikes, or even cars. At the end of the day, Isaq says, all the members of the shelter bring back the money they have earned, which is then evenly distributed. The roughly 200 Afghanis (roughly $4) they earn every day is then matched by the shelter. (…) An estimated 900,000 Afghans suffer from severe disability, according to Handicap International, an independent international aid organization. That means some 3 percent of the Afghan population, estimated to be around 30 million, live with permanent disfigurement. War-related disabilities, mainly the loss of limbs, accounts for the majority of that number, with land mines one of the primary causes. Sayid Anwar, who is blind, was once a fighter in the ranks of the Hizb-e Islami, headed by notorious former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is now blacklisted as a terrorist by the United States. Anwar says he stepped on a mine in the early 1990s, during the country’s brutal civil war. He lost both of his legs as he and his group retreated from their positions on a hillside outside Kabul. He pays tribute to the shelter, insisting that if it was not for its support he and his family would be begging on the streets. “The government hasn’t given us anything. Everywhere I go now, they say, ‘You’re handicapped, we can’t make use of you,'” Anwar says. “If I wasn’t here at the shelter I would be idly roaming the streets. It’s because of this shelter that we get by every day. If this shelter wasn’t here, my family would be starving.” (RFE/RL)

CENTRAL & SOUTH ASIA

Regional Cooperation

‘Turkey Has No Hidden Agenda for Afghanistan’: Jayhoon

Afghan Ambassador to Turkey Amanullah Jayhoon has said that Turkey, a country friendly to Afghanistan, pursues a very transparent foreign policy with regard to Afghanistan, adding that Turkey’s Afghan policy is very promising. “Turkey’s policy is one of friendship and brotherhood. Turkish-Afghan relations have withstood the test of time and Afghanistan does not have any doubts over Turkey’s friendship,” the Afghan envoy stated, adding that he was very pleased with Turkey’s policy towards Afghanistan. Turkey has close ties with Afghanistan and has spearheaded efforts for peace building in the war-torn country. In an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman, Jayhoon stated that bilateral relations between the two countries have been deep-rooted since Ottoman times, adding that with the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, bilateral relations took on another dimension. Paraphrasing Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic, Jayhoon said, “Afghans and Turks are one soul in two bodies.” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Tehran Supports Kabul’s Peace Efforts

Iran on 5 September voiced its willingness to support the Afghan government’s efforts at bringing durable peace and stability to the war-torn country. Currently in Kabul to attend the fourth meeting of the Joint Economic Commission, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters that Kabul-Tehran ties were better than ever before. At a joint news conference with his Afghan counterpart Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Salehi said trade, cultural and educational links should lend depth to political relations between the neighbors. Amid allegations by some Afghan officials and Western nations that Iran is fuelling unrest in Afghanistan, the visiting minister insisted Tehran was ready to help stabilize the country. In response to a query, he scorned the accusation that Iran was meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. He also vehemently denied his country’s involvement in recent suicide attacks in Nimroz province. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman recently expressed concern at the US-Afghanistan strategic cooperation agreement, fearing the deal would perpetuate instability in the country. But Salehi said that the Afghans, who had suffered a lot over the past three decades due to foreign interference, were headed toward an “encouraging future”. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Afghanistan, Iran and India Reach Chabahar Agreement

Afghanistan, Iran and India have reached an agreement on the use of Chabahar port to boost trade efforts and provide investment opportunities for the countries. The deputy foreign ministers met in Iran ahead of the meeting of non-aligned states in Tehran. The meeting discussed the expansion of regional trade and investments between Afghanistan, Iran and India. “The purpose of this trilateral meeting is the joint cooperation and expansion of trade, transit and investment at Chabahar port. The representatives of the three countries will meet again in three months at Chabahar port,” director of Iran’s Foreign Ministry’s Afghanistan Committee Mohsen Pak-Ayeen said 27 August. Afghan experts supported the move to make Chabahar port, connecting Afghanistan to the Gulf waters, a good alternative to Karachi port. (…) Security issues on the Afghan highways leading to Chabahar, particularly the Zaranj-Delaram highway, remain a concern for traders, however, the Afghan Ministry of Interior said it would do more for security in that region. (TOLOnews)

India is Friend of Afghans and Remains longside them: Singh

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Sing in meeting with President Hamid Karzai at the sideline of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran said that India is the friend of Afghans and would stay alongside Afghans. In the meeting both the leaders also exchanged views on the bilateral relations and Indian Premier said that his government would continue to support Afghanistan and completes all the developments projects there. He also invited President Karzai to visit India in near future which accepted by the president with thanks. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Regional Security Threats & Cooperation

Kyrgyz Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘Leader’ Arrested

Officials in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Jalal-Abad region say a branch of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization has been discovered in the region and an alleged leader of the group detained on 26 August. Another alleged member of the group was hospitalized, as he felt unwell during the arrest. Police found books and CDs with extremist content, officials said. Investigations have been launched into the alleged “calls to overthrow Kyrgyzstan’s constitutional government and spreading extremist ideas.” Hizb-ut-Tahrir is an international Sunni political party that seeks to unite all Muslim countries into an Islamic caliphate. It says it uses peaceful means to pursue its goals but has been banned by many countries in which it is active, including Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL)

Alleged Members Of Banned Tajik Extremist Group Tried

The trial of 15 suspected members of banned Islamist organization Jamaat Ansarullah has begun at Tajikistan’s Supreme Court. It’s the first trial of suspected group members since it was banned in May. The trial is being held behind closed doors. Most of those on trial were arrested during counterterrorist operations in Tajikistan’s eastern Rasht region last year. Jamaat Ansarullah became known after it issued several videos last year calling on Tajik citizens to embrace holy war against infidels, and urging citizens to take action to support the Koran-based Shari’a law. Tajik authorities have banned more than 10 Islamic groups and organizations since 2000, including Al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Jamaat Tablig, and Hizb ut-Tahrir. (RFE/RL)

Russian Language Courses For Tajik Law Enforcement Officers

Russia has announced the start of Russian-language courses for Tajik law enforcement officers. Russia’s Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States said on 4 September that at least 20 officers of the Tajik Prosecutor General’s office, along with officers at the Tajik Defense Ministry and presidential administration, have expressed their intention to study Russian. Tajik police are also expected to take Russian classes. In July, Russia sent 200 Russian language instructors to schools in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region. The use of Russian has been on the wane in Central Asia in the years since the 1991 Soviet Union collapse. Moscow has been seeking to promote the use of Russian as part of what is seen as an initiative to strengthen Russian influence in Central Asia and Caucasus. (RFE/RL)

BUILDING SECURITY CAPACITY & SECURITY ASSESSMENT

Afghanistan Security Forces

Afghans to Take Control of Bagram Prison on 10 September

Afghanistan will take full responsibility for the control of Bagram prison from US forces on 10 September, President Karzai’s office said late on 4 September. (…) The joint session in the Presidential Palace was also attended by head of Constitutional Oversight Commission, acting director of Supreme Court, ministers of Justice, Defense, Interior and acting director of the National Directorate of Security, the Attorney General, and General Barekzai, the Commander in-charge of the Commission on the transfer of Bagram Detention Center, it said. A “splendid ceremony” is being planned to mark the full handover to underscore that the transfer of “Bagram prison to Afghan authority is a great success for Afghanistan,” it said. The US agreed to hand over control of its biggest prison in Afghanistan in March this year, which was one of Karzai’s demands before he would consider signing a long term strategic agreement with the Americans. The transfer means the Afghan military will take control of around 3,000 detainees at Bagram, including the most senior insurgent captives held in the country. In March while signing the agreement, the former Afghan Defense Minister Gen Abdul Rahim Wardak said that full handover from American control would take six months. (TOLOnews)

Afghanistan acknowledges wider causes of ‘insider’ attacks on NATO troops

As fatal attacks on U.S. and NATO troops by their Afghan partners kept up at an alarming rate this year, Afghan officials largely blamed infiltrators they said had been sent by foreign spy agencies. But on 5 September, the Afghan army acknowledged far wider causes, saying hundreds of its soldiers have been expelled or arrested because of deficient vetting and links to insurgents. At the same time, Afghanistan’s top military commander said his officers also shared blame for the so-called insider attacks for not giving their men a better understanding of why they should fight against the Taliban alongside their Western allies. (…) The Defense Ministry offered no precise numbers or a breakdown of the Afghan troops being held as suspected turncoats vs. those who were dismissed for insufficient documentation and proof of loyalty. Nor did it specify when the actions were taken. “Hundreds were sacked or detained after showing links with insurgents,” ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said at a news conference. “In some cases, we had evidence against them; in others, we were simply suspicious.” At the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. James Terry, deputy commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said he had heard that 200 or 300 Afghan soldiers were involved but had not confirmed that with Afghan officials. “I am pleased that they are going back and re-vetting,” he said. “The number is, I think, an indication of the seriousness of the Afghan national security forces.” The announcement came after NATO and Washington stepped up pressure on the Afghan government to curb the escalating number of insider attacks. (Washington Post)

Pakistan Security Forces

Taliban threat: Nuclear site in DG Khan cordoned off

It could be the first-ever security threat to a nuclear facility in Pakistan, and the Army and security forces are taking no risks. Following ‘serious’ security threats from the homegrown Taliban, the Army and Punjab police have deployed heavy forces at one of Pakistan’s largest nuclear facilities in Dera Ghazi Khan (DG Khan), credible sources told The Express Tribune. Besides the deployment inside and around the nuclear installation, three divisions in South Punjab have also been asked to launch a crackdown against banned outfits, sources added. “DG Khan houses one of the largest nuclear facilities in the country, and has faced the first-ever serious security threat from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),” said a high ranking military officer currently serving at the installation. According to an official who works at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, a key military and civilian fuel cycle site is located 40 kilometres from DG Khan. The site comprises uranium milling and mining operations, and a uranium hexaflouride conversion plant. (The Express Tribune)

Leader Of Banned Pakistani Extremist Group Arrested

Police in Pakistan say the leader of a banned Sunni extremist group has been arrested. Malik Ishaq, leader of Lashkar-e Jhangvi, is accused of inciting sectarian hatred and masterminding an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009. Police announced on 30 August that Ishaq had been arrested in the eastern city of Lahore after returning from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Lashkar-e Jhangvi, which allegedly has links to Al-Qaeda, is accused of killing hundreds of minority Shi’ite Muslims after its emergence in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the United States has slapped sanctions on eight Pakistanis allegedly linked to the militant group Lashkar-e Taiba, one of them allegedly a key planner of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. (RFE/RL)

Pakistani intelligence agents deployed in Nuristan province

Local authorities in eastern Nuristan province of Afghanistan expressed concerns regarding the infiltration of Pakistani intelligence officers among the anti-government armed militant groups in this province. Nuristan provincial security chief Gen. Ghulamullah said around 50 Pakistani intelligence officers armed with heavy and light weapons have entered Kamdish and Barg-e-Matal districts. Mr. Ghulamullah further added based on the preliminary investigation reports the ISI agents have been based in Mehrdish, Bazgul and Batigul areas in Kamdish districts and are in negotiations with the anti-government armed militant groups in order to launch deadly coordinated attacks in the areas which are under the control of the Afghan government. He said majority of the Pakistani intelligence agents have disguised themselves in local clothings. Majority of the Pakistani intelligence agents who have entered Kamdish district belong to Pakistani military intelligence known as Markali based in Chitral Pakistan, Ghulamulah provincial security chief said adding that the intelligence agents are coordinating with the militants groups in Kamdish and Barg-e-Matal districts. Nuristan province is located in eastern Afghanistan which borders volatile regions of Pakistan bordering regions specifically Chitral. Nuristan province has recently witnessed deadly clashes among the Afghan security forces and Afghan security forces. This comes as a major military operation was launched in Kamdish district earlier this year where militants suffered heavy casualties, Kamdish district Mohammad Tamim Nuristani said. (Khaama Press)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

New Intelligence Teams to Probe Insider Attacks

Isaf and Afghanistan have formed new joint intelligence teams to further investigate every single incident where a member of the Afghan forces has attacked or killed an ISAF soldier, ISAF Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw said on 6 September. In a Kabul press briefing with Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Gen Zahir Azimi, Bradshaw said that more will be done through the joint teams to share information and receive more input from Afghans on cultural and religious matters. “To add to current counter-intelligence activity, we are forming new joint counter-intelligence teams,” he said. “We have a new coalition-Afghan post-attack assessment process to examine the cause of each incident and to identify lessons. We have improved the sharing of the information and intelligence and we are complimenting already extensive cultural training with direct input from Afghan army religious and cultural affairs advisors.” Gen. Azimi blamed the insider attacks on neighbouring countries who cannot tolerate the thought of a strong Afghan army in the region. (TOLOnews)

U.S. to Retain Role as a Jailer in Afghanistan

The United States military will maintain control over dozens of foreign detainees in Afghanistan for the indefinite future, even as the two countries prepare to ceremonially mark the hand-over of detention operations to the Afghan government, officials from both countries say. Further, although thousands of Afghan detainees have already been turned over, the United States will continue to hold and screen newly captured Afghans for a time, ensuring continued American involvement in detention and interrogation activities. (…) The persistence of American-operated prison buildings, in a section of the main Parwan complex at Bagram Air Base, underscores the complexity of relinquishing control over detainee operations while American troops are still in the field conducting raids and making arrests — including the risk that detainees could be freed only to come back and stage attacks. (NY Times)

Taliban Will Not Be Able to Return Without Reconciling: ISAF

The Taliban will not be able to return to Afghanistan unless they accept and recognise the reconciliation process and the Afghan constitution, Isaf Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw told TOLOnews on 5 Septermber. Bradshaw emphasised that the international community will not abandon the Afghan security forces and will stand with them in order to prevent the Taliban returning to its former power in Afghanistan. “The Afghan National security forces now understand that they will not be abandoned by the international community and we will stay shoulder to shoulder with them even though we will no longer be involved in combat operations ourselves,” he said. The outgoing three-star British General said that the Taliban leaders sitting in exile for more than a decade should realise that it is not possible for them to return to Afghanistan unless they recognise the Afghan constitution which rejects violence and their affiliation with Al-Qaeda. (…) He added that the local uprisings against Taliban in villages and districts was good to see, but it was the job of the Afghan government to support such movements. (TOLOnews)

Australian Troops to Stay in Afghanistan: Gillard

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has renewed her country’s commitment to staying in Afghanistan despite calls for an early pullout after the death of five soldiers. (…) Gillard said Australia was in “a state of shock” but an early withdrawal would create a security vacuum across Afghanistan. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

NATO

NATO Suspends Training Of Some Afghan Forces

NATO officials say they are temporarily halting training for local police and special operations forces in Afghanistan in an attempt to stop insider attacks on foreign troops. “The New York Times” cites a NATO spokesman as saying training will continue for the more than 350,000 members of Afghanistan’s National Army and national police. But training will be suspended for the additional 20,000 Afghans making up the local police and special forces units, while their American trainers introduce a stricter vetting process for new recruits. The move comes as a total of 15 American and international special operations forces have been killed in the past month in attacks by Afghan trainees. NATO is due to hand over command of combat operations to Afghan forces within a year’s time. (RFE/RL)

NATO Chief Says Afghan Attacks Will Not Hasten Pullout

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance will not leave Afghanistan ahead of its end-of-2014 pullout date because of a surge in attacks against NATO-led troops by rogue members of the Afghan security forces. “Don’t forget that for the Taliban, it is impossible to win militarily, but they try to gain some PR by undermining trust and confidence between the foreign troops and the Afghan security forces,” Rasmussen told the Reuters news agency in an interview. “So, obviously, I will not exclude the possibility that the Taliban tries to infiltrate the Afghan security forces, but once again, they will not succeed in derailing our strategy.” At least 45 NATO-led troops have been reported killed by members of the Afghan security forces this year. (RFE/RL)

NATO Closes Over 200 Bases in Afghanistan

The international military coalition in Afghanistan says it has closed 202 bases as part of its drawdown in troops, and has transferred more than that number to the Afghan government. NATO forces spokesman Lt. Col. David Olson says all the shuttered facilities were small — ranging from isolated checkpoints to bases housing a dozen to as many as 300 soldiers. He says most of the closures have been along the country’s major highways and that they have been spread across nearly every province. Olson says another 282 bases of a similar size have been handed over to the Afghan government. That means international forces now operate about half as many bases in Afghanistan as in October of 2011, when they ran about 800 of them in the country. A senior U.S. logistics commander rejected accusations on 26 August from frontline combat troops that the complicated rollback from bases across Afghanistan and packing up of military equipment was disrupting NATO-led operations against insurgents. U.S. Brigadier-General Steven Shapiro said around 400 bases had been successfully closed or handed to Afghan security forces from a high of around 800 last October as part of a withdrawal of foreign troops from combat operations winding up in 2014. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

NATO Official: Most Insider Attacks in Afghanistan ‘Personal’

Despite a recent spate of insider attacks, most U.S. and Afghan deaths at the hands Afghan security forces have not been organized by the Taliban as part of a larger insurgency, and coalition forces are continuing to make progress in the country, a senior NATO official said on 29 August. Thus far in 2012, more than 40 coalition deaths have been attributed to insider attacks, compared with 35 for all of 2011. “There are a variety of reasons that these attacks have occurred over the last few years,” said Alexander Vershbow, deputy secretary-general of NATO. “The majority still are viewed as having been the result of personal grievances or clashes between Afghan personnel and coalition personnel, and only a small percentage may have been engineered by the Taliban.” Vershbow acknowledged there has been increased activity by the Taliban in recent weeks but said that NATO has implemented background checks and cultural sensitivity training for troops that will help combat insurgent efforts. Speaking to reporters about the larger security situation in Afghanistan, Vershbow expressed optimism that the country is headed in the right direction. “In the broader scheme of things, our strategy is working, and the coalition is solid,” he said. (Defense News)

UN

UN to Limit its Offices to Afghan Zones: Kubis

UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Jan Kubis, who arrived in central Uruzgan province on 30 August, said the world’s body mission in the country was going to shut its offices in several Afghan provinces and confine them to zone level. Kubis, who arrived in Tirinkot, told reporters that UN was planning to limit its United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) local offices to the country’s zones within next few months. However, he said the move would have no impact on the UN’s assistance with Uruzgan and other provinces, where the offices were being closed. The UN official, who met local officials and residents, said Uruzgan was more backward as compared to other provinces. Security in the province has improved, but still much works needed to be done in various spheres, he said. He asked regional countries, especially neighboring Pakistan and Iran, to initiate sincere efforts at bringing stability and peace to Afghanistan. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Militants

Haqqani Behind Wardak Double-Suicide Attack: NATO

The double suicide attack in Maiden Wardak province on 1 September was the work of the militant Haqqani Network, according to ISAF. The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen said that NATO believes that Haqqani is behind the Wardak attack which killed 12 people and injured at least 59 others. “We believe this attack bears the mark of the Haqqani network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans and blatantly violates Afghan sovereignty,” the ISAF commander said in a statement on 1 September. “A number of Afghan civilians were killed and wounded by vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (IED) near a combined Afghan National Security Force and International Security Assistance Force base in Sayed Abad district of Wardak province today,” he added. While the attack did not breach the base’s walls, the blasts caused widespread damage to the surrounding civilian Sayed Abad area with large numbers of Afghan civilian casualties. (TOLOnews)

Karzai, U.S. Condemn Mass Beheadings

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has condemned the mass beheadings of 17 Afghan civilians in southern Helmand Province. In a written statement, Karzai called the killings an “unforgivable” crime in complete defiance of Islamic teachings. The statement said resorting to such acts “clearly demonstrates that the enemy is desperate and in disarray.” U.S. officials have also condemned the beheadings, with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul calling them a “shameful act,” and U.S. General John Allen, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, describing the killers as “cowards.” Taliban militants are suspected of carrying out the massacre, whose victims included two women. Some reports said the victims had staged a music and dance party before the slayings. Other reports said they were suspected of working against the Taliban.(RFE/RL)

ISAF Confirms Death of Al-Qaeda Leader Abu Saif

Al-Qaeda commander Abu Saif, also known as Haidar Baba, was killed on 31 August in the Watapur district of eastern Kunar province last week, Isaf said in a statement on 6 September. Saif died in the precision airstrike on 31 August along with two other insurgents during a joint military operation of Isaf and Afghan forces, the statement said, after Isaf confirmed the identities of those killed. Saif worked with Kunar-based Al-Qaeda leaders Yusuf and Mufti Assad and was also an associate for Hanzallah, an Al-Qaeda leader who was killed in an Afghan and Isaf operation in July this year, Isaf said. In southern Kandahar province, a Taliban leader was detained Thursday during a joint Afghan and Isaf troops operation. Isaf said that the leader was involved in the distribution of weapons and explosive devices throughout Kandahar city and was believed to have planned several high profile attacks in the region against Afghan and foreign soldiers. (TOLOnews)

Security Threats

Afghans Terrorized By Border Shelling As Blame Game Goes On

Abdul Karim was inside when the first rocket struck, killing nearly everyone in a neighboring mud-brick house. Many more rockets followed, raining down on the village as Karim and others fled for safety in the nearby mountains. Within minutes, it was over, but it was only a sign of what was to come. Since that day in late June, crossborder rocket and mortar fire has continued to pepper villages in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, located along Afghanistan’s insurgent-ridden northeastern border with Pakistan. Nearly 3,200 attacks have been recorded across five districts in Kunar alone, according to the provincial government. Kabul has accused the Pakistani Army of indiscriminately shelling Afghan villages in order to further destabilize the already restive regions. Islamabad, which denies the accusations, says its troops are responding to attacks by militants on the Afghan side of the border. And while the blame game goes on, the rockets keep coming, adding to the misery of everyday residents. Tens of people have been left dead and thousands displaced already in the remote, mountainous provinces. Homes have been lost and dozens of schools closed. Forest fires caused by the shelling have destroyed crops and killed livestock. (RFE/RL)

Kunar Province Vows Jihad if Cross-Border Shelling Continues

Residents of eastern Kunar province are registering their names to be included in a fighting force to take on Pakistan if the cross-border shelling into the province is not stopped. Kunar residents and local officials on 5 September blamed the Afghan government for not taking the shelling seriously, claiming that all the people including women and children are ready to defend their province and stand against Pakistan. Kunar senator Rafiullah Haidari said that a tribal meeting held during the past Eid holiday took a decision to declare “Jihad” and respond in equal force if the shelling continues. (…) Kunar provincial governor Sayed Fazlullah Wahedi believes that Pakistan’s cross border shelling is a clear invasion into Afghanistan and it will result in massive uprisings against Pakistan. “This is a clear invasion. The monitoring balloons above us are filming everything very clearly. They have political, cultural and traditional hostilities against Afghanistan,” he said. However, he was not confident that the foreign forces present in Afghanistan will help the situation in Kunar. “The countries who have signed agreements with us are not interested in worsening their relations with Pakistan for the sake of Afghanistan,” Wahidi said. (TOLONews)

Kapisa Residents Take Fight to the Taliban

The residents of Kapisa’s Nijrab district said that they took up arms against the Taliban in order to reopen schools, clinics, and resume other social activities which were being stopped by their threats. A resident of Nijrab told TOLOnews: “We don’t want the Taliban insurgents in the district. We want to drive them out. They are threatening the residents and want to make the district insecure.” Another resident said: “We want peace in our district and Afghanistan. Every day, dozens of residents join with us and the tribe elders also help us in the uprising.” One resident said that the President, Hamid Karzai, did not care about the province and security was diminishing each day, to the concern of the people. “We don’t want the insurgents placing roadside bombs and being active in the district. If they do not leave the province, they will face the reaction of the people,” he added. In Nangarhar during the last week of August residents of Shigal and Dangam districts called on the Taliban insurgents to leave. The tribal elders had a meeting with residents and the decision was made to fight back. The warning was given by the elders that “if the insurgents do not leave the district, we will take up arms and launch an uprising against them.” Ordinary civilians fighting back against the militant Islamists was first reported in eastern Ghazni province in June. Since then it has continued to be reported in several parts of Afghanistan, including, Faryab and Laghman. It comes as Afghan lawmakers recently raised concerns over the rise of “illegal” militia, and also whether another militant group Hezb-i-Islami is taking advantage of the uprisings in villages to wrest power from the Taliban. (TOLOnews)

U.S. POLICIES

Are We Winning in Afghanistan?

The lack of a clearly defined narrative about Afghanistan, combined with election noise and economic worries in the United States, has pushed the war out of the American consciousness. In recent weeks, the spate of insider attacks put it back on the media’s map, temporarily. But the next several months will in many ways shape the U.S. exit between now and December 2014. Soon, we will learn how many troops will remain in the country. We’ll learn what impact attacks on militants may have on the battlefield. We’ll see if the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) can truly stand on their own. And we’ll learn just how fast U.S. forces will be sent to the exits. International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in his office in Kabul on 29 August — as he scrambled to stop the insider attacks against U.S. forces and just over two months before he submits his recommendation to President Barack Obama on the size of the force he thinks he’ll need through next year. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. In addition to troop levels and the state of the ANSF, Allen talked about a new phenomenon in the war: a series of local uprisings that remain disconnected from each other and the Afghan government but that could possibly come together to pose a serious threat to the Taliban. Talking at greater length about the uprisings than he has before, and drawing a link to the Anbar Awakening in Iraq, Allen said, “This is a really important moment for this campaign because the brutality of the Taliban and the desire for local communities to have security has become so, so prominent — as it was in Anbar — that they’re willing to take the situation into their own hands to do this.” Meanwhile, Allen provided some insight into how he will frame his report to the president: “The battle space has really changed. I used to say how much combat power I’m going to need. It’s not any longer a pure measure of combat power, because much of what is generating success for us is less about conventional maneuver units than it is about the combination of conventional maneuver units with the success that is being achieved with the security force assistance.” The Afghans, he says, are really stepping up to the task. Washington will certainly be watching to see whether he is right. (Foreign Policy)

Obama: ‘Tough Fight’ Still In Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama has told U.S. soldiers heading to Afghanistan they still faced a “very tough fight” but vowed to end the war there as “responsibly” as in Iraq. Obama was speaking on 31 August at Fort Bliss in the southern state of Texas. “You know this. You carry it in your hearts, the memory of comrades who made that ultimate sacrifice, including six heroes from Bliss who gave their lives on that awful day last month.” (…) Obama was at Fort Bliss to mark the two-year anniversary of the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. “You left Iraq with honor and a mission completed, your heads held high. After nine years, our war in Iraq was over and today Iraq has the chance to forge its own destiny. There are no American troops fighting and dying in Iraq. On this anniversary we honor the memory of all who gave their lives there, nearly 4500 American patriots, including 198 fallen heroes from Fort Bliss,” Obama told a gathering of soldiers. Obama praised the strength and commitment of U.S. allies around the world while ensuring Al-Qaeda’s defeat. “With our allies and partners we’ve taken out more top Al-Qaeda terrorists than at any time since 9-11. And thanks to the courage of our forces, Al-Qaeda is on the road to defeat and Bin Laden will never again will threaten the United States of America,” Obama stated. (RFE/RL)

Pentagon fighting Taliban on social media front

The U.S. military is ramping up efforts to counter the Taliban’s growing presence on social media sites by aggressively responding to falsehoods and reporting violations of the sites’ guidelines on violent threats, experts say. Twitter accounts or websites associated with militant groups typically take responsibility for attacks whether or not they had anything to do with them. But most of the information they provide is either exaggerated or false, said Army Lt. Col. T.G. Taylor, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. The Pentagon has become quicker and more effective at issuing rebuttals through Twitter and other venues, said Christopher Paul, an information operations analyst at RAND Corp. “Insurgents have always wanted to make themselves look like winners,” Paul said. “The Internet makes it a whole lot easier.” Winning the information war is particularly important in insurgencies, where shaping public opinion can count as much as what happens on the battlefield. The Taliban and other militant groups issue statements and video to create a perception of chaos in the country and to undermine the legitimacy of the Afghan government. Despite the Taliban’s hostility to modernity, they have adapted well to social media, military officials said. “They’re all over Twitter,” said Marine Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for Regional Command Southwest. “They’re incessantly tweeting.” Internet access remains limited in Afghanistan, but increasingly people have cellphone and Taliban claims often spread from social media to satellite television and local news outlets. Militants also use a variety of languages on the Internet, including English. The military has long struggled with how to counter enemy propaganda in Afghanistan. Insurgents post claims quickly and the military had been slow to respond, waiting to get the full story. “We’re getting better,” Paul said. “There’s a practical limit to how good we can get.” The military says it has reported militants when they have directly promoted violence. Twitter could suspend an account if a user violates policies. Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz said the social networking service does not discuss specific accounts, including military requests. (USA Today)

US Pressure Haqqani as Blacklist Deadline Looms

The United States is keeping up pressure on the Pakistan-linked Haqqani network, a US official said on 5 September, just days ahead of a congressional deadline on whether to designate it a terrorist group. “We’ve been pretty clear for a long time… that the US policy is to put pressure on the Haqqani network,” acting US State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell told journalists. “That includes both the sanctions we have already disclosed, but also military pressure as well.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she will meet an obligation to decide by 9 September whether the Haqqani should be considered terrorists. US lawmakers have pressed her to blacklist the group, but some US officials have warned such a move could further fray already fragile ties with Pakistan. US officials have linked the Haqqani network to some of the boldest attacks in Afghanistan including a June assault on a hotel near Kabul that killed 18 people and a siege last year of the US embassy. Clinton last week declined comment on which way she is leaning, but said the United States was already “putting steady pressure” on the Haqqani network. “That is part of what our military does every single day along with our ISAF partners,” she said, referring to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan. “We are drying up their resources, we are targeting their military and intelligence personnel, we are pressing the Pakistanis to step up their own efforts,” she said during a visit to the Cook Islands. The State Department has designated certain members of the Haqqani network as terrorists but has resisted blacklisting the entire group. (TOLOnews)

As always, we’re eager to hear feedback on the usefulness of this service as well as your suggestions on improving it.

LDESP Staff
ldesp_staff@nps.edu

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