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Act of War: US copters kill 30 inside Pakistan

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment
Isaf confirmed that the helicopters struck at the Haqqani Network fighters in Pakistan on Sunday.

WASHINGTON: US attack helicopters have killed more than 30 people inside Pakistan, diplomatic sources told Dawn on Sunday.

US military sources say that all 30 – killed during a hot pursuit on Friday – were Haqqani Network fighters.

The militants, the sources said, had attacked Combat Outpost Narizah, an Afghan base eight miles from the Pakistani border in Tani district of Khost.

US forces repelled the attack and pursued the militants to their post just across the border in North Waziristan.

“An air weapons team in the area observed the enemy fire, and following Inter-national Security Assistance Force rules of engagement, crossed into the area of enemy fire,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.

“The Isaf aircraft then engaged, killing more than 30 insurgents.”

Isaf confirmed that the helicopters struck at the Haqqani Network fighters in Pakistan.

The attack helicopters launched their attack “after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self-defence,” Master Sergeant Matthew Summers, a public affairs official, told reporters.

On Saturday, Isaf launched a second attack against the Haqqani Network, after taking fire in the border area. “Several additional insurgents” were killed in that attack.

The assault on Combat Outpost Narizah is the sixth against outposts in eastern Afghanistan since the end of August.

The US claims that the Haqqani Network is based near Miramshah in North Waziristan, and has close ties to Al Qaeda and other Pakistani and Central Asian militant groups.

US officials say that Isaf forces are permitted to pursue Taliban forces across the border if they are engaged in fighting or are under attack.

They said that US and Pakistani military commanders have agreed to a set of rules for hot pursuit, which says that US forces must be engaged with the Taliban or Al Qaeda as they cross into Pakistan.

US forces, however, not penetrate more than six miles into Pakistani territory.

But they can go deeper inside Pakistan if they identify the location of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahri, or Mullah Omar.

Pakistan denies having such an agreement while US officials refuse to offer on the record comments on this issue.

US/NATO Need To Watch Their Back From Afghan Soldiers

Was the Taliban behind the actions of a rogue Afghan army soldier who allegedly shot dead three British servicemen overnight while they slept? The militants claimed that the incident, which included a shooting and a grenade assault, was a premeditated attack, part of a new strategy to push back against coalition forces spread out in record numbers across southern Afghanistan’s battle zones. Although the inside-job claim remains unconfirmed, the killings cast a shadow on the quality and reliability of Afghan security forces deployed in a hostile region where they are being groomed to take the reins of the country’s own security and wean themselves away from dependence on western troops.

The incident took place at a British military outpost in Nahr-e-Saraj district, a Taliban stronghold near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. A senior Afghan National Army (ANA) officer identified the gunman as Talib Hussein, 23, a member of the ethnic Hazara minority from Ghazni province who had served for less than a year, mainly in remote swaths of Helmand, far from home. After killing a Major in his bed, the suspect fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the base’s command center that left a British lieutenant and Nepalese Gurkha dead and four others injured, before he managed to flee outside the wire. A manhunt has ensued even as the Taliban assert he is now with them in a “safe place.”

It’s a strange sequence of events, given how the Hazara were brutally persecuted under a Pasthun-dominated former Taliban regime that massacred thousands. Today, Hazara Taliban are all but unheard of due to the history of bad blood and differences of orthodoxy: Hazaras are Shi’ite Muslims, considered heretics by the rigidly Sunni Taliban hardliners. By way of explanation, Gen. Ghulam Farook Parwani, the deputy corps commander for the ANA’s southern forces, alleged that Hussein was a habitual hashish smoker, a widespread phenomenon within the ranks. Even if it’s true, however, this hardly provides a clear motive for the deadly outburst.

But this is also not the first time that Afghan security forces in Helmand have turned against their foreign partners. In November, five British soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan policeman they were training in Nad-e-Ali district. In that incident, there were reports the policeman might have lashed out after being repeatedly insulted. While these cases are still isolated, they are sure to amplify existing anxieties felt by NATO military planners over the status of Afghan security forces, expected to shoulder greater responsibility when foreign troops eventually start to withdraw. Though the Afghan army is held in higher regard than the national police, which is widely deplored as corrupt and erratic, when put to the test, billions in American taxpayer dollars nonetheless appear to have yielded less than stellar results.

Their shortcomings were cast in sharp relief when U.S. Marines launched a February offensive to clear the Taliban out of Marjah, the opium-poppy trafficking area in central Helmand. Despite a game fighting spirit exhibited by many of the Afghan troops involved, U.S. officers grew more and more frustrated with the ANA’s general inability to follow complex orders and coordinate attacks against a determined foe. As the campaign wore on, they were largely consigned to a secondary role. Much to the dismay of American officers, these troubles persist in parts of Marjah where the Taliban has since regrouped with help from outside fighters trying to chip away at the Marines’ hard-won gains.

The summer fighting season is now in full gear across the south. Over the past 24 hours, eight American troops died in a series of attacks that included a car bomb assault and gunfight outside the Kandahar City police compound. In Marjah, where fierce firefights and roadside bomb strikes occur every day, the ANA often appear to be yet another burden for U.S. forces, with problems ranging from insubordination to the careless handling of weapons. On a morning patrol on the edge of town late last month, for example, a gunshot rang out within seconds of U.S. troops stepping outside the base, sending Marines ducking for cover. The discharge, however, was accidental, occuring as an Afghan soldier fumbled his rifle. It wasn’t the first time something like that has happened.

The love-hate relationship was better illustrated during a route clearance operation later in the week. The three Afghan army soldiers who accompanied Marines were useful when a private compound with women and children needed to be searched for possible weapons. With respect to the deeply conservative mores of the area, Marines stood back while the Afghans talked reassuringly with the family and checked things out. That same day, however, the men brazenly disobeyed the orders of a Marine officer when they refused to walk any further toward a dangerous stretch of road. They simply stood their ground as he cursed up a storm and made threats to throw them in the nearby canal, threats they could not understand.

“These guys are gonna be in pretty bad shape when we finally get out of here,” said a low-level Marine officer, shaking his head. “Most of them are a danger to themselves.” He wasn’t entirely kidding. In the case of one frontline unit based in northern Marjah, three attached Afghan soldiers, at last count, had shot themselves in the foot and one in the hand. Whether intentional or not, the upshot is that such accidents usually result in quick transfers out of the battle zone.

This story was reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

US withdrawal from Afghanistan on target in July 2011-White House, Pentagon

US withdrawal from Afghanistan on target in July 2011-White House, Pentagon

As expected the Pentagon and the White House have once again reaffirmed that the troop withdrawal will happen on time and on schedule. The surge has failed to garnish the results that had been advertised, but that does not shake the resolve of the Obama Administration, the NATO command, the the US Generals–they are committed to a timely withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The negotiations with the Anti-Occupation forces are going on full steam ahead.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday that it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, despite reservations among top generals that absolute deadlines are a mistake.

President Barack Obama’s chief of staff said an announced plan to begin bringing forces home in July 2011 still holds.

“That’s not changing. Everybody agreed on that date,” Rahm Emanuel said, adding by name the top three officials overseeing the policy girding the war: Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

Petraeus, the war’s top military boss, said last week that he would recommend delaying the pullout if conditions in Afghanistan warranted it. Days after the date was announced in December, Gates pointedly said it was not a deadline.

Emanuel’s remarks reflect the White House view that Obama must offer a war-weary American public and Congress a promise that the nearly nine-year war is not open-ended. The problem, congressional Republicans and some military leaders say, is that a fixed date encourages the Taliban-led insurgency and undermines U.S. leverage with Afghan leaders.

Gates pledged Sunday that some troops would begin to leave in 13 months, but he was more cautious.

“We clearly understand that in July of 2011, we begin to draw down our forces,” Gates said. “The pace with which we draw down and how many we draw down is going to be conditions-based.”

Uniformed and civilian defense leaders accepted the announcement of a date to begin leaving as a condition of Obama’s major expansion of the war. Obama ordered an additional 30,000 troops, the last of whom are arriving now, with a mission to squeeze the Taliban on its home ground, build up Afghan security forces and improve chances that local people would swing behind the U.S.-backed central government.

With little progress apparent in the critical Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan, the split between politics and tactics is again on display. As Gates acknowledged Sunday, it is taking longer than he hoped to gain an enduring edge over the Taliban in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Gates asked for time and patience to demonstrate that the new strategy is working. He lamented that Americans are too quick to write off the war when Obama’s revamped strategy has only just begun to take hold.

“It is a tough pull,” Gates said. “We are suffering significant casualties. We expected that; we warned everybody that would be the case last winter.”

At least 34 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan this month, making June among the deadliest months of the war. Casualties are expected to rise through the summer and fall as fighting expands in Helmand and Kandahar.

Earlier this month, Gates said the United States and its partners must demonstrate progress this year or risk the collapse of already dwindling public support for the war.

Petraeus told Congress last week that he would recommend postponing the start of the withdrawal if security conditions and the capability of the Afghan government could not support it.

That does not mean Petraeus is opposed to bringing some troops home, and he said repeatedly that he supports Obama’s strategy. His caution, however, is rooted in the fact that the uniformed military — and counterinsurgency specialists in particular — have always been uncomfortable with fixed parameters for an inexact process of persuasion.

The war strategy Obama adopted is based on the success of Petraeus’ counterinsurgency tactics in the Iraq war. It combines a short-term “surge” of forces to blunt rising violence and a longer-term project to persuade locals to help uproot a homegrown insurgency.

Emanuel did not dispute quoted remarks from Vice President Joe Biden that “a whole lot” of forces would come home in July 2011. Biden, who argued within the administration for a narrower mission in Afghanistan involving fewer troops, was interviewed for the book “The Promise,” by Jonathan Alter.

Gates, however, said he had never heard Biden say such a thing, and that the evaluation by the on-the-ground war commander will largely determine the scope of the withdrawal.

“That absolutely has not been decided,” Gates said. “I’m not accepting, at face value, that … he said those words.”

Emanuel spoke on ABC’s “This Week.” Gates appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”