Saturday, August 21, 2004

Exactly how Mr Wahid managed to survive in such a Taliban-afflicted area was not explained. One of the American's Afghan translators didn't like the village and wasn't taking any chances. He kept his checked scarf wrapped around his face at all times, even while conveying the colonel's generous offers of help. "The people here are scary mother******s," he said later in Afghan-accented GI-speak. "I have a nice life in Kandahar city. If they come there and recognise me, I'm dead." The US officers admit that four months in-country they can rarely be sure who is a friend, who is an enemy, and who can be both at different times.
CFC-A Public Affairs Weblog
News and information for the media and the public from the Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan.
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An Afghan Islamic cleric who died in custody in Pakistan on Wednesday had signs of torture on his body, an intelligence official said. Pakistani security forces arrested Qari Mohammad Noor along with three associates last week in a raid on an Islamic school, or madrassah, in the central city of Faisalabad.
As the country proceeds towards its first post-conflict presidential election, Afghans are optimistic that despite many remaining difficulties, a democratic poll will make a difference to their lives. Almost 10 million eligible Afghans have registered for the forthcoming vote, most appear enthusiastic about selecting a leader who would bring peace and prosperity to the country.
Some candidates running against Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the country's October election say they may discuss a boycott of the race unless the president leaves his post. One candidate had earlier said that all 17 rival presidential candidates supported the proposed boycott. But later, at least three candidates disagreed, saying they did not support calls for Mr. Karzai's resignation. Opposition candidates have accused Mr. Karzai of misusing government resources to aid his electoral campaign. The accusations came as President Karzai celebrated Afghanistan's Independence Day holiday Wednesday with a televised speech praising the voter registration campaign. Mr. Karzai said the government, international forces and the United Nations will try their best to make the presidential election safe. Instability in some areas of Afghanistan has raised security concerns for the election. Some election workers have been attacked and killed while trying to register people to vote.

Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an urgent increase in international forces in Afghanistan to address the deteriorating security situation in the country.
Today at Ano Liossia Olympic Hall, an Afghan woman will step on a mat and fight in judo. On Friday, another will ease into the starting blocks at Olympic Stadium. She will run the 100 meters without anything covering her head to contain her hair. No matter what the U.S. women's soccer team or our gymnasts or Marion Jones accomplish in Athens, they won't do more for women's sports than a pair of Afghans who'll likely finish last.
Following three days of clashes in western Afghanistan, the ICRC sub-delegation in Herat was approached by those involved in the fighting, on behalf of families whose relatives had been killed, for help in retrieving their bodies from across the front line.
An American mercenary accused of kidnapping and torturing terror suspects in Afghanistan told a court in Kabul yesterday that the FBI was withholding hundreds of papers, photographs and videotapes showing that he was employed by the agency, as well as by the CIA and the US military. The American government denies all links with the former special forces soldier, Jonathan "Jack" Idema, a convicted fraudster, but has agreed to return the controversial documents, the court hearing was told. The case against Mr Idema was adjourned for a week to allow him to examine the documents and prove his alleged links with the US government.
About 80 Taliban fighters attacked a district chief's office in southern Afghanistan early today, sparking a two-hour gunbattle with government militia that left three people dead, an official said. The insurgents launched the assault in Miana Shien district, about 90km north of Kandahar, about 1am (6.30am AEST), firing assault rifles and heavy machine guns before retreating about 3am (8.30am AEST). One government militia fighter was killed and two wounded, while two Taliban were killed and three wounded, said district chief Shadi Khan.
The Netherlands will send six F-16 fighter jets and up to 210 supporting troops to Afghanistan to boost security during elections there, said the Dutch Cabinet. The move will more than double the contingent of 140 Dutch soldiers already in Afghanistan. Most of those troops are supporting a detachment of Apache helicopters.
The US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan would soon establish a second Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in west province where severe factional clash broke out near the border of Iran last week, US military said Saturday. "The coalition plans to open a PRT in Farah in the very near future," Scott Nelson told reporters here at a news briefing. His comment came after explosions in an electoral office in Farah city, the provincial capital of Farah province Thursday night that wounded six policemen. With the establishment of the new PRT in Farah, the number of the US-run civilian-military units in the post-war Afghanistan would reach to 14. Another three PRTs will be opened in future. One PRT has already been operating in the factional fighting-hit province of Heart where the US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad brokered a ceasefire between Heart's governor Ismael Khan and his rival commander last week. The development, which began last Saturday, enabled US militaryto airlift Afghan National Army (ANA) along with US advisors to the regional Shindand airport close to Iran. "We plan to establish PRT in Farah and we believe it will help bring security and stability to that part of the country," the US military spokesman noted. Media reports suggest that Iran has expressed concern over the development in west Afghanistan and the deployment of US military in Shindand district. "We remain optimistic that Iran understands that coalition and Afghan government are trying to ensure stability in Afghanistan and it is for the interest of the region to have a stable Afghanistan," the spokesman stressed.

Sarwawi, a native of Afghanistan, said the resurgence of Taliban militancy in vast areas of east, south and part of central Afghanistan “shouldn’t have happened three years after the war on terrorism” and “poses a serious threat to the Afghan government.” He claimed that between 30 and 40 percent of soldiers initially enlisted with the Afghan national army to meet a pre-election deadline had already deserted and that the training period for the remaining recruits had been reduced from 12 weeks to eight weeks.
“There is a tendency to rush things to meet deadlines — that may not prove be a good thing for Afghanistan,” he warned, citing the countryy’s first presidential elections in October as an example.
Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura will participate in a conference call next week to help launch a new group called Operation Truth, an organization being created "to give voice to troops who served in Iraq." The New York-based group is holding its official launch party and fundraiser Wednesday, according to its website, paulrieckhoff.com. According to the website: "Operation Truth will educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them firsthand. We will provide returning veterans with national, regional and local podiums from which they will expose the preventable hardships that they endured as a result of failures at the top levels of leadership."
Seven people were hurt two seriously when several explosions rocked an electoral commission building in western Afghanistan late on Thursday, a United Nations spokesman said on Friday. The United Nation had previously said no one was injured in the blasts in the city of Farah -- the latest attack ahead of a landmark presidential election in October. "Six explosions, very close together, occurred at 8:15 pm (1545 GMT) Thursday," UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters on Friday. "The police arrived very quickly at the scene at the same time as the last two explosions. Seven police were injured, including two seriously. The three foreigners and a radio operator working in the commission office at the time of the blasts were unhurt, he .
(Pakistan Times)
Army investigators believe that some of the military interrogators who were implicated in the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were involved in earlier deaths and abuses of detainees held by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The UN Staff Union urged Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday to consider withdrawing UN personnel from Afghanistan following the bombing of a UN voter registration site and a spate of attacks on election workers. The union’s committee on staff security called for a comprehensive review of the security situation in Afghanistan and new security measures before staff are sent back, saying “the safety of staff remains the highest priority."
A US-led coalition warplane Friday fired on suspected Taliban militants who were attacking a convoy of trucks in south-central Afghanistan, a US military spokesman said.
Soldiers were dispatched and an A-10 Thunderbolt-II aircraft was called in when 25 to 30 militants attacked a "convoy of Afghan jungle trucks" in Uruzgan province, military spokesman, Major Rick Peat said. "Coalition air and ground forces were dispatched to assist the convoy," Peat told AFP. "An A-10 Thunderbolt II 'Warthog' airplane fired rockets and 30 mm canon shells at the attackers while the convoy evacuated the area," he added. Peat said that the convoy of 12 trucks and five pick-up jeeps were accompanied by Afghan militia forces, but did not specify whether all the trucks were government vehicles.
Noone was injured in the attack, but one of the vehicles was destroyed in the exchange of fire, he added. Uruzgan, some 370 kilometers (220 miles) south of the capital Kabul was the birth-place of Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and is a stronghold for insurgents. The rugged valley was also the scene of bloody clashes between fighters and more than 2,400 US marines who pulled out of the province in late July after four months of fighting. Taliban-led militants have stepped up a guerrilla campaign in the south and southeast of the country in recent months as Afghanistan draws closer to the country's first presidential elections on October 9.
(Agence France Presse)

The US military today denied reports that the coalition in Afghanistan had launched air strikes to quell fighting between rival warlords just weeks ahead of presidential elections. An Afghan official had earlier reported coalition air strikes against the forces of Amanullah Khan, who have been battling militia loyal to the governor of Herat province, strongman Ismael Khan, for several days.
"We did not conduct any air strikes in the Herat area today," said US military spokesman Major Rick Peat, adding that coalition patrol and transport planes were in the area. "We are providing air support to the Afghan security forces, at the request of the Afghan government," he said.
The US military in Afghanistan should open its detention centres to independent inspectors to address any questions about the legality of holding prisoners, a UN human rights expert said on Saturday.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Computer problems continue. Light posting until solved.
Coalition assists in launching Afghan version of QRF
By Sgt. 1st Class Darren D. Heusel
105th MPAD

Monday, August 16, 2004

Fighters loyal to rival warlords clashed in western Afghanistan Saturday, sending tanks into the streets of a regional capital in the latest jolt to the country's shaky security ahead of national elections. More than 20 fighters were killed by one estimate...
The U.S. military said it was "very concerned" about tension in the region but pointed out that it had only a few dozens troops in Herat, mostly engaged in reconstruction projects. Spokesman Maj. Rick Peat said it was still "trying to assess what's going on."
Soldiers from Afghanistan's fledgling national army have seized an airbase near the western city of Herat from a rebel warlord, government sources say.
Shindand airbase has been the site of clashes between men loyal to Aminullah Khan and Herat's governor, Ismail Khan...Further police and army units - numbering some 1,500 troops - are reportedly being sent to halt clashes that have claimed at least 20 lives.
The US military on Friday revised down the casualty toll in a US helicopter crash in southeast Afghanistan, saying one soldier was killed and 12 injured. After the crash on Thursday the US military said one US soldier was killed and 14 were wounded in the crash in Khost province — a stronghold for loyalists from the ousted Taliban regime. But US military spokesman Major Rick Peat told the news agency on Friday that “one soldier was killed, eight have been hospitalised and six have returned to duty”. The helicopter, which was transporting 11 Marines and a crew of four, was destroyed in the crash, the US military said earlier.
Six Taliban guerrillas were killed and 11 captured in an air and ground assault by U.S. and Afghan government forces on Sunday in the southern province of Kandahar, a provincial government spokesman said. Earlier on Sunday, the Taliban confirmed a police report that their fighters had killed six Afghan National Army troops in a pre-dawn raid on a military post in Maiwand district, 50 km west of the provincial capital. According to Khalid Pashtun, a spokesman for Kandahar's governor, U.S.-led forces unleashed air power on a pocket of Taliban, and ground troops mopped up in an operation close to the border with Pakistan in the remote Marouf district, 160 km east of Kandahar city.
As voter registration closes for Afghanistan's first post-war elections, the country is still suffering from factional fighting between rival militia groups. The United Nations said Sunday that over 9.9 million Afghans had registered to vote in the upcoming elections. U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said that of those registered, close to 42 percent are women, despite the severe restriction of women's rights under Afghanistan's previous Taleban regime.
The September11 terror attacks in the US were staged to overcome disunity in al-Qa'ida, confidential computer records reveal. Alan Cullison reports on what happened after his laptop was wrecked while he was covering the combat in Afghanistan.
The arrests of two terror suspects in the Pakistani capital have unraveled a plot to assassinate senior Cabinet ministers and led to a series of raids against other militants, intelligence officials said Sunday. The suspects are believed to belong to an al-Qaida-linked local militant group, Jundullah, or Allah's Brigade, accused in an assassination attempt in June against the top general in Karachi that left 10 people dead. Security agencies are meanwhile hunting for Abu Farj, a Libyan believed to be al-Qaida's operational commander in Pakistan, accused of masterminding two assassination attempts on President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in December.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Mohammed Sadiq, a religious scholar and Supreme Court judge, thought the bearded men who had come to his Kabul home one morning in late June could only be U.S. soldiers. They carried sidearms and wore military-style clothing affixed with American flags, he recounted. Dark sunglasses covered their eyes. They spoke English as they barked orders to him and to their Afghan interpreters. What came next for Sadiq were 12 days and 11 nights of torture.
Reuters reported Monday that a dissident group named Taliban Jamiat Jaish-e-Muslimeen (Muslim Army of the Taliban) had broken away, taking with it about one-third of the Taliban's fighting strength. "That's a significant development which demonstrates the Taliban are falling apart a little bit on the leadership side," Major Scott Nelson told a regular news briefing in Kabul. Nelson said the military was still assessing what impact the split was having on the Islamist militants' strategy and operations against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. "That fissure is widening -- we see that. Specifically what that means we're still looking into it," he said.
At the 19th century fortress once occupied by the British army, Maj. Adbul Qadir narrowed his eyes and looked at the crumbling walls when asked if Afghans supported the Americans. In a country that has seen many foreign armies come and go, the commander of the 1st Battalion of the Afghan National Army took his time replying. Finally he said: "The Afghans want the Americans here, not the Taliban. But they are waiting to see which force will stay longer."
Here in the heartland of the Taliban resistance, the U.S.-led coalition is in the middle of Operation Lightning Resolve, a quasi-humanitarian military operation aimed at ridding four southern provinces of militants and paving the way for democracy.
The Americans and Qadir's battalion are also helping the United Nations to identify as many voters in Zabul province as possible in advance of the Oct. 9 presidential election. The national deadline for the voter registration process was Aug. 1, but in Zabul it was extended until today because of poor security.
Bringing democracy to Zabul has proven difficult: Fewer than half of the eligible 124,000 people have received voter cards, and only 8% are female. By contrast, the U.N. has registered more than 90% of the estimated 10 million eligible voters nationwide, and about 40% are women. Qadir said people were too scared to participate.
"When we go to a village, we persuade people to take part in elections, but when we leave the Taliban threatens them," he said. "The Americans need to stay. Otherwise, I don't know what would happen to us."
Zabul province is so isolated that when the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment arrived in the remote districts of Arghandab and Khak-i-Afghan last month to hunt down the Taliban, the residents thought the Soviets had invaded again.
They had never seen, or heard of, the U.S. forces because the areas were in the firm control of the Taliban, said Maj. Joseph Walsh, the executive officer of the battalion. But after a combat mission involving air assaults with a B1 bomber and a Black Hawk helicopter, security has improved to such an extent that 1,000 Afghans have registered in Arghandab alone.
"We have B1 bombers flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in Zabul," Walsh said.
Commanders of an outpost of U.S. Marines operating in Afghanistan's southeastern provinces of Khost, Paktiya, Lowgar, and Nangarhar say they have successfully contained the threat posed by Taliban insurgents. Most attacks in this former Taliban heartland originate from behind the Pakistani border from Pashtun areas there. Although threats are expected to escalate in the run-up to the 9 October elections, U.S. officials say much of their attention now goes to the reconstruction effort.
With presidential elections around the corner, the word on the street in Kabul is that no matter who wins, current Afghan leader Hamid Karzai will be president for yet another term. Such is the prevailing cynicism about the country's first democratic elections, which are scheduled to be held on 9 October.
How great is Karzai's support base? No viable census has been conducted to assess his popularity across the country, let alone the city of Kabul. While he is still widely considered the man supported by Afghanistan's foreign backers, the elections are a good time to ask: Is Karzai Afghanistan's man.
Chuck Little, Marine Forces Pacific spokesman, confirmed yesterday that the U.S. Central Command has requested that 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), normally stationed on Okinawa, replace the 22nd MEU, which has been in Afghanistan since February.
Taking on Afghanistan's powerful drug lords could force US troops to confront dangerous new enemies, however. One US soldier in Kandahar said: "We start taking out drug guys, and they will start taking out our guys." Many of the roadside bombs and sporadic guerrilla attacks on US soldiers in southern Afghanistan are already blamed on criminal gangs seeking to spread chaos as well as Taliban insurgents. The overstretched military is thought to prefer its current brief, which explicitly excludes it from drug eradication. One senior officer said: "If we take on the drug trade in this country, that will be a bigger challenge than any other threat we have dealt with so far in Afghanistan."
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