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Wikileaks expose Afghan war’s dirty secrets

Wikileaks expose Afghan war’s dirty secrets

Hundreds of civilians killed by coalition troops. Covert unit hunts leaders for ‘kill or capture’. Steep rise in Taliban bomb attacks onNATO

A huge cache of secret U.S. military files on Monday provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in U.S. military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and over 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US navy sailors captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

– How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.

– How the U.S. covered up evidence that the Taliban has acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

– How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

– How the Taliban has caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of its roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House said the chaotic picture painted by the logs was the result of “under-resourcing” under Obama’s predecessor, saying: “It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009.”

The White House also criticised the publication of the files by Wikileaks: “We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the U.S. and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us.”

The logs detail, in sometimes harrowing vignettes, the toll on civilians exacted by coalition forces: events termed “blue on white” in military jargon. The logs reveal 144 such incidents. Some of these casualties come from the controversial air strikes that have led to Afghan government protests in the past, but a large number of previously unknown incidents also appear to be the result of troops shooting unarmed drivers or motorcyclists out of a determination to protect themselves from suicide bombers. At least 195 civilians are admitted to have been killed and 174 wounded in total, although this is likely to be an underestimate because many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.

Bloody errors at civilians’ expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A U.S. patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.

Questionable shootings of civilians by British troops also figure. The American compilers detail an unusual cluster of four British shootings in the streets of Kabul within the space of barely a single month, in October/November 2007, culminating the killing of the son of an Afghan general. Of one shooting, they wrote: “Investigation is controlled by the British. We not able [sic] to get the complete story.”

A second cluster of similar shootings, all involving Royal Marine commandos in the ferociously contested Helmand province, took place in a six-month period at the end of 2008. Asked about these allegations, the British Ministry of Defence said: “We have been unable to corroborate these claims in the short time available and it would be inappropriate to speculate on specific cases without further verification of the alleged actions.”

The reports present an unvarnished and often compelling account of the reality of modern war. Most of the material, although classified “secret” at the time, is no longer militarily sensitive. A small amount of information has been withheld from publication because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets. Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, obtained the material in circumstances he will not discuss, also says it redacted harmful material before posting the bulk of the data on its own “uncensorable” series of global servers.

Wikileaks published in April this year a previously suppressed classified video of U.S. Apache helicopters killing two Reuters cameramen on the streets of Baghdad, which gained international attention. A 22-year-old intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, was arrested in Iraq and charged with leaking the video, but not with leaking the latest material. The Pentagon’s criminal investigations department continues to try to trace the leaks and recently unsuccessfully asked Mr. Assange, he says, to meet them outside the U.S. to help them.

Mr. Assange allowed the Guardian to examine the war logs at the newspaper’s request several weeks ago. No fee was involved and Wikileaks has not been involved in the preparation of the Guardian’s articles. Nick Davies, David Leigh. The Hindu. Guardian News & Media 2010

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US cancels plan to attack Qandahar

US cancels plan to attack Qandahar

As expected General Petraeus has canceled the plans to attack Qandahar. The attack doesn’t make any sense while Mr. Hamid Karzai is trying to build relationships with the Afghan National Resistence (aka Taliban).

He has decided a full-scale military encirclement and invasion – as American troops had done in Iraq’s Fallujah – was not an appropriate model to tackle the Taliban in the southern capital.

Gen Petraeus’s decision to revise the entire strategy comes just weeks after he arrived in Afghanistan following the abrupt dismissal of Gen Stanley McChrystal for insubordination.

Gen McChrystal had planned a summer conquest of the Taliban in Kandahar to reinvigorate the battle against the Taliban.

But the operation has been repeatedly delayed by concerns that it would not adequately restore the confidence of city residents in the security forces.

Gen Petraeus is reported to believe that the operation must be a broad-ranging counter-insurgency campaign, involving more troops working with local militias.

The plan he inherited was criticised for placing too much emphasis on targeted assassinations of key insurgent leaders and not enough on winning over local residents.

Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said yesterday that the US-led strategy in southern Afghanistan was undergoing sweeping changes.

“Kandahar is not a military operation like Fallujah,” Mr Holbrooke said. “We have Gen David Petraeus looking at the plan, scrubbing it down, looking at it again.”

President Hamid Karzai has bolstered Gen Petraeus’s efforts by agreeing to a US proposal to pay defectors from the Taliban to form local defence militias.

Mr Holbrooke, who oversees the civilian component of the American campaign in Afghanistan, has been described by Gen Petraeus as his “wing man” in the effort to reverse Taliban gains.

He said that the changes of strategy in the area also included a decision not to destroy poppy crops this year, an action that had in the past “driven” farmers into alliance with the Taliban.

He also said that the Afghan police force in Marjah – which now numbers 60 – could not yet replace thousands of US Marines. Efforts to stabilise Helmand’s Marjah have been bogged down by stronger resistance.

Gen Petraeus recruited prominent military experts who assisted him in the surge of forces that brought stability to Iraq.

Stephen Biddle, a military strategist at the US Council for Foreign Relations, coauthored as suggestion that the US would be successful in Afghanistan if it could set up a strong local government in places like Kandahar.

Defections from the Taliban are crucial to the goal of ending the war within four years but Mr Holbrooke said only insurgent groups that had split with al-Qaeda, and willing to work within the framework of the Afghan constitution would be approached.

More effort was being put into recruiting local allies on a district by district basis.

“The reintegration policy is the key to a successful counter-insurgency campaign,” he said. “As for reconciliation, it’s out there somewhere. We’ve talked about it. The US will support Afghan-led reconciliation and by that we mean we need to know what’s going on. Not much is going on now, and nothing is going on with the United States.”

Mr Holbrooke said Pakistan had dramatically increased its co-operation with the US in the battle against the Taliban but he criticised Islamabad’s continuing support for the Haqqani network of insurgents.

“Without Pakistan’s participation, this (Afghan) war could go on indefinitely,” he said. “There’s much more co-operation at every level

“But I don’t want to mislead you, it is not yet where we hope it will be. What we talk about is the Haqqani network. Let’s be very specific. It’s a real problem.” Guardian by Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent Published: 9:00PM BST 23 Jul 2010

India stand alone in opposing Pan-Afghan solution

July 12, 2010 1 comment

Bharat (aka India) stands alone in opposing the Pan-Afghan reconciliation solution in Afghanistan. It is trying to reverse the Afghan Jirga’s desire to make peace among Afghans. Delhi is also attempting to reverse the US and UK sponsored London conference which approved the recommendations of all the neighbors of Afghanistan (Istanbul Conference) for a move to reconcile all the diverse elements in Afghanistan. Earlier still Iran, and Pakistan had agreed to the Afghan proposal for reconciliation and peace.

Bharat today wants to bifurcate Afghanistan along ethnic lines because it thinks it has sway over Mr. Adbullah Abdullah a Tajik (though his mother was Pakhtun–he cannot speak proper Pushto or Darri). The Bharati plan is to stand in front of the steam roller and try to stop a train which has left the station. Delhi is attempting to thwart the peace plans because of it paranoia about Pakistan. Islamabad is simply facilitating the peace process that has been agreed upon by all the parties. Some recalcitrant opposition figures are smelling victory and may have to be brought to the table kicking and screaming. Others have to be cajoled. Some have to be dealt with. Pakistan is helping the US with a face saving exit. Delhi wants to colonize Afghanistan and thinks of Curzon and his policies as the natural boundary of Greater Bharat.

Sify News reports that Mr. Krishna is now attempting to reverse the tide of history and somehow put the genie back i the bottle. Bharat does not have a foreign policy, it has a plan to disrupt peace, partition Afghanistan and continue the war forever.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will represent India at the July 20 conference of international donors in Kabul that will review reconciliation moves between the Hamid Karzai regime and the Taliban, a cause of anxiety for New Delhi.Krishna goes to Kabul shortly after his July 14-16 trip to Islamabad for the foreign ministers-level talks aimed at reviving dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The focus of the first Kabul-hosted international conference on Afghanistan will be on finding Afghan solutions to the dragging conflict against the Taliban, officials have said.

More than 70 countries are expected to send their representatives for the conference where the Karzai government will seek help to bolster governance and national stability.

The conference will also take up the contentious proposal of reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban, a move backed by the earlier London conference and endorsed by the peace jirga.

India has reiterated its concerns many a time about the reintegration proposal as it fears it may end up propping up anti-India Taliban elements back in the saddle in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Pakistan’s intensified efforts to influence power-sharing negotiations in Afghanistan has added to New Delhi’s worries, specially in view of the July 2011 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from that country.

India has followed closely reports of a recent meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Al Qaeda-linked militant commander Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The meeting was allegedly arranged by Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera, Karzai met Haqqani along with Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha in Kabul for ‘face-to-face talks’. Both Kabul and Islamabad have denied these reports.

Kayani and Pasha, according to sources, tried to influence Karzai to accommodate the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network which has targeted Indian assets in Afghanistan.

India conveyed its unease about the Taliban power-sharing deal when Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Eklil Ahmad Hamiki came to New Delhi this week. Amid Pakistani moves, Krishna to attend Kabul meet 2010-07-10 17:10:00

Delhi is well advised to take care of its problems in Kashmir, Assam, and 40% of the territory which is controlled by the Naxals. Its attempt to cross NATO, ISAF, the US, and the world will cost it dearly in terms of diplomatic jilting and scorn–already seen in Washington, London and Beijing.

Iran and Pakistan sign gas export agreement

Iran and Pakistan formally signed yesterday an export deal which commits the Islamic republic to supplying its eastern neighbour with natural gas from 2014.

The contract is the latest step in completing a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan within the next four years.

“This is a happy day,” Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Javad Ouji told reporters at the contract signing ceremony in Tehran. “After decades of negotiations, we are witnessing today the execution of the agreement… to export more than 21 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from 2014 to Pakistan,” he added.

He said that from today, Iran will start building the next 300-kilometre leg of the pipeline from the southeastern city of Iranshahr to the Pakistani border, through the Iranian port of Chabahar.

Iran has already constructed 907km of the pipeline between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, which will carry natural gas from Iran’s giant South Pars field. Pakistan’s Deputy Energy Minister Kamran Lashari, who was present at the signing ceremony, said Islamabad will conduct a one-year feasibility study for building its section of the pipeline.

It will then “take three years for constructing the 700km pipeline” from the Iranian border to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, he added. The pipeline was originally planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter pulled out of the project last year. Pakistan plans to use the gas for its power sector.

Maoists winning the battle to control India

Friday’s train crash in India has been blamed on “sabotage” by Maoist rebels. It was the latest in a series of rebel attacks after the government launched an offensive against them. The BBC’s Soutik Biswas asks whether the rebels are gaining the upper hand.

It is not surprising that Maoist rebels are being blamed for the derailment of an express train in India’s West Bengal state, in which 71 passengers were killed.

The police claim they have found posters signed by a local Maoist militia claiming responsibility for removing part of the track, which led to the train skidding off and colliding with a freight train coming in the opposite direction.

West Midnapore district, where the incident happened, is the hotbed of Maoist rebellion in West Bengal, one of the states where the rebels have a presence.

Tribespeople dominate the district, especially the forested Junglemahal region bordering Jharkhand state.

They feel ignored and deprived by the Communist government which has been ruling the state since 1977. Most live in abject poverty. The only visible signs of “development” I spotted during a trip to the area some years ago were cheap liquor shops.

Strong support

Fed up with the state of affairs, Junglemahal’s tribespeople even agitated for a separate state.

When neighbouring Jharkhand was carved out as a separate state, their alienation grew and they were quick to welcome the Maoists, who wield most influence in areas which are poor and dominated by tribespeople.

The security forces are on the backfoot after a spree of rebel attacks
The Lalgarh area in Junglemahal is the rebels’ most formidable stronghold.
In February, they stormed a police camp in Lalgarh, killing 24 policemen.
Rebels love to describe Lalgarh as a “liberated zone” where the state has withered away – schools and medical centres have closed down because teachers and doctors are afraid to attend, and policemen are confined to the police stations fearing reprisals.

Friday’s incident in West Midnapore demonstrates how the rebels are taking the battle to their enemies ever since the federal government launched an offensive in what is known as India’s “red corridor” earlier this year.

This comprises 223 of India’s 636 districts in 20 states which the government says are “Maoist affected”, up from 55 districts in nine states six years ago.
Ninety of these affected districts, the government says, are experiencing “consistent violence.”

The rebels have been carrying out attacks with impunity in recent months – two major attacks Dantewada in Chhattisgarh state left more than 100 people dead, including 75 paramilitary troops.
But there are also theories that in this case the Maoist script went slightly awry.

Maoists frequently tamper with railway lines and often these lead to minor derailments; a number of such attempts have been caught well in time. There have been hijackings but no major attacks on civilian transport with such a death toll.

In the past year, Maoists have carried out 32 attacks on railways, mainly in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh – but no major casualties have been reported.

Support for the Maoist cause across India generally will be dented by such an attack, just as it was after the assault on troops in Dantewada.

Following the twin Dantewada attacks, the government said it was reviewing its strategy for fighting the rebels, who have refused to respond to repeated government offers for talks.

Analysts say that the strategy of “clearing, holding and developing” rebel-affected areas evidently inspired by the US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not working.

‘Visible retreat’

One reason, they say, is that the surge of security forces and resources on the ground are not sufficient enough to take on the rebels who are spread over a vast swathe of remote mineral-rich forest lands.

Maoists call Lalgarh a “liberated zone”

The government is now in a “visible retreat” after a spree of rebel attacks, says security analyst Ajai Sahni.
He believes that a lack of adequate forces, training and intelligence is leading to these “disasters”.

“Unless local capacities for intelligence and operations are enormously augmented, this [offensive] can go nowhere, and lot of lives are going to be lost for no useful purpose,” Mr Sahni says.

But the under-equipped local police and intelligence-gathering networks remain Indian security’ s weakest link, and there no visible efforts to bolster them.

The government appears to be confused over how the rebels should be tackled – there are differences in the ruling Congress party itself on whether the state should strike hard against it’s own people.

Recently federal home minister P Chidambaram requested wider powers to deal with the rebels, saying that he had been given a “limited mandate.”
He said the chief ministers of some of the worst affected states have asked for air power to be used against the rebels – a measure that the government has refused to sanction.

Analysts believe that many states are not doing enough to take on the rebels, leading to a “centralisation” of the problem.

The train ‘”sabotage” was one of the biggest attacks launched by the rebels
“The principal responsibility for dealing with the Maoists remain that of the states; the first responders, the local police stations, have to be strengthened and equipped to deal with the task on their own.”

Till that happens, the rebels will be seen to have an upper hand in what promises to be long drawn out and bloody conflict, the like of which India has never seen.

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India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

India left out. Iran and Pakistan ink $7.5 billion Pipeline deal

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and Iran on Friday signed a “sovereign guarantee” agreement paving the way for the completion of a 7.5-billion-dollar gas pipeline project within the next four years.

The 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline will be between Asalooyeh, in southern Iran, and Iranshahr, near the border with Pakistan, and will carry natural gas from Iran’s South Pars field.

Pakistan petroleum minister Syed Naveed Qamar told reporters after a signing ceremony in Islamabad that originally the pipeline was planned between Iran, Pakistan and India, but the latter withdrew from the project last year.
“I am extremely pleased that after 17 long years this project is finally starting. It would help us generate energy for our industrial growth,” Qamar said of the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) between the two countries.
Qamar added that “Iran had assured us that they would complete the project between two-and-half to three years, ahead of schedule.”

The imported natural gas — whose volume is estimated at nearly 20 percent of Pakistan?s current gas production — will be dedicated to the power sector.

Electricity generation through gas would result in “significant” annual savings when compared with other fuels, a petroleum ministry statement said.

Supply is contracted for a period of 25 years, the statement said, renewable for another five years.
“While all other CPs (Conditions Precedent) of the GSPA are completed, the project is now ready to enter into its implementation phase,” the ministry statement said.

“As per current project implementation schedule, the first gas flow is targeted by end 2014.
“The capital cost for the Pakistan section is estimated at 1.65 billion dollars.”

At least 35 die as Maoists blow up bus in India

RAIPUR: At least 35 people were killed after Maoist rebels blew up a bus carrying police and civilians in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Monday, an official said.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters in the state capital Raipur that the dead included 11 police personnel.

“Twenty-four civilians and 11 policemen have died and 15 persons including 14 police personnel were injured in the blast,” the chief minister said.

He said an unspecified number of bodies were still trapped in the mangled bus following the mine blast in Dantewada district, a Maoist stronghold where rebels ambushed and killed 75 policemen last month in the bloodiest massacre of security forces by the extremists.

Television footage showed bodies laid out on the road next to the wreckage of the bus. The front portion of the vehicle had been almost completely destroyed by the force of the blast.

“The killing and targeting of innocent civilians travelling on a bus is to be strongly condemned by all right-thinking people,” Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters in New Delhi.

The security men among the dead and injured were special police officers, who are recruited from the civilian population to help security forces in anti-Maoist operations, said S.R. Kalluri, deputy inspector general of police.

The left-wing guerrillas have stepped up attacks in response to a government offensive against them that began late last year in the forests of the so-called “Red Corridor” that stretches across north and eastern India.

The insurgency began in the state of West Bengal in 1967 in the name of defending the rights of tribal groups, but attacks have since spread to 20 of India’s 28 states.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labelled the insurgency the biggest internal security threat to India.
Tribal groups and many rural areas have been left behind by the country’s economic development, and the poverty and discontent with local government corruption is seen as a major source of Maoist support.

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