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US bombs erase Afghan village from map

Posted by Admin on January 25, 2011

Gen. McChrystal disembarks a Black Hawk with D...

How to level an entire city and destroy a nation.

http://in.news.yahoo.com/us-bombs-erase-afghan-village-map-20110121-211000-122.html

By Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – Sat, Jan 22 10:40 AM IST

 

London, Jan 22 (IANS) A village in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province has been completely wiped out of the map after an offensive by the US Army to get rid of the Taliban militants in the area, a media report said here.

Tarok Kolache, a small settlement in Kandahar near the Arghandad River Valley, has been completely erased from the map, according to the Daily Mail.

Taliban militants had taken control of the village and battered the coalition task force with home-made bombs and improvised explosive devices. After two attempts at clearing the village led to casualties on both sides, Lieutenant Colonel David Flynn, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th gave the order to pulverise the village.

His men were ‘terrified to go back into the pomegranate orchards to continue clearing (the area); it seemed like certain death’, Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate, writes on the Foreign Policy blog.

Instead of continuing to clear the tiny village, the commander approved a mine-clearing line charge, which hammered a route into the centre of Tarok Kolache using rocket-propelled explosives.

The results of the offensive were adjudged to have left ‘NO CIVCAS’ – no civilians killed, the daily said. But with Tarok Kolache bombarded with close to 25 tonnes of explosives, assuming some collateral damage does not seem unjustified.

Analysts have not been able to assess the impact of the bombing on civilians due to security concerns. However, it has been agreed that ‘extreme’ operations such as the destruction of an entire village are likely to have a negative impact on attempts to improve coalition-Afghan relations.

The erasure of Tarok Kolache was exactly the type of behaviour that would deal a body blow to Afghan acceptance of the presence of the International Security Assistance Force, Erica Gaston, an Open Society Institute researcher based in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying.

‘But for this, I think (NATO) would have started to get some credit for improved conduct,’ Gaston wrote in an email.

‘Some Kandahar elders (and I stress ‘some’, not ‘all’ or even ‘most’) who had initially opposed the Kandahar operations were in the last few months expressing more appreciation for ISAF conduct during these operations, saying they had driven out the Taliban and shown restraint in not harming civilians.

‘I think this property destruction has likely reset the clock on any nascent positive impressions.’

According to Broadwell’s post on Foreign Policy, US military commander Gen. Petraeus has approved $1 million worth of reconstruction projects but also told his commanders in the south of Afghanistan to ‘take a similar approach to what 1-320th was doing on a grander scale as it applies to the districts north of Arghandab’.

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Burqa-clad suicide bomber kills 40 in Pakistan

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – A burqa-clad suicide bomber attacked a crowd of people waiting for aid in Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 40 of them, officials said, showing militants’ ability to strike despite army offensives.

The attack in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border came a day after fierce clashes between Pakistani Taliban insurgents and security forces in the neighboring Mohmand region that left 11 soldiers and 24 militants dead.

“I myself have counted 40 bodies but the death toll could rise as several wounded people are in critical condition,” Dosti Rehman, an official at the main government hospital in Bajaur, told Reuters.

Zakir Hussain, the top government official in Bajaur, confirmed the death toll and said 60 tribesmen were wounded. He said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition. Several women and children were among casualties, officials said.

The suicide bomber, who was wearing a head-to-toe burqa but whose gender has not been ascertained, detonated explosives as hundreds of people from the Salarzai tribe were heading toward a food distribution center. The World Food Programme (WFP) set up the center for people forced from their homes by earlier fighting between security forces and al Qaeda-linked militants.

A WFP spokesman said the attack took place where people were being screened at a security checkpoint near their center.

Witnesses said the attacker first threw hand grenades at tribesmen before detonating the bomb.

“First there were two small explosions and people started running for cover. But within seconds there was a major blast and there were dead bodies scattered everywhere,” witness Hussain Ahmed said. “It was very terrifying.”

ANTI-TALIBAN TRIBE

The Salarzais are a major regional anti-Taliban tribe, which has been backing army operations against the militants.

Militants have infested Pakistan’s volatile ethnic Pashtun tribal lands on the Afghan border, and the army has mounted a series of operations to dislodge them.

Salarzai tribesmen have been instrumental in raising lashkars, or tribal militia, to back the government’s operations against the militants.

A Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was retaliation for “Salarazais activities against the Taliban.”

Militants have attacked pro-government tribes in the past to punish them for supporting the government.

Hundreds of militants have been killed and many of their strongholds captured but the insurgents have shown they are able to strike back and have killed hundreds of people in a campaign of bomb attacks across the country.

On Friday, about 150 Taliban militants staged simultaneous attacks on five paramilitary checkpoints in the Baizai area of the Mohmand tribal agency, killing 11 soldiers and wounding a dozen, officials said.

At least 24 militants were killed by defending paramilitary forces but government officials said the militant death toll rose to 40 as 16 more insurgents were killed in air raids by the security forces.

A Taliban spokesman on Friday confirmed clashes but disputed the official death toll, saying only two of their fighters were killed.

Officials have claimed several times that militants have been driven out of Bajaur. A senior military official in October said it would take at least six months to clear militants from Bajaur and Mohmand.

(Additional reporting by Izaz Mohmand and Sahibzada Saeed-ur-Rehman; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Daniel Magnowski)

(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: http://www.reuters.com/places/pakistan.

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Pakistani officials: US missiles kill 54 in NW

Posted by Admin on December 17, 2010

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101217/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Three American missile attacks killed 54 alleged militants Friday close to the Afghan border, an unusually high number of victims that included commanders of a Taliban-allied group that were holding a meeting, Pakistani officials said.

The attacks took place in the Khyber tribal region, which has been rarely struck by American missiles before over the last three years. That could indicate a possible expansion of the CIA-led covert campaign of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory.

The Obama administration has intensified missile attacks in northwest Pakistan since taking office, desperate to weaken insurgent networks there that U.S. officials say are behind much of the violence againstU.S. troops just across the frontier in Afghanistan.

The first strike targeted two vehicles in the Sandana area of the Tirah Valley, killing seven militants and wounding another nine. The men were believed to belong to the Pakistani Taliban, one of the country’s largest and deadliest insurgent groups.

Later, missiles hit a compound in Speen Darang village where the Lashkar-e-Islam, a Taliban affiliate known to be strong in Khyber, were meeting, killing 32 people, among them commanders. The third strike took place in Narai Baba village and killed 15 militants, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

U.S. officials do not acknowledge firing the missiles, much less comment on who they are targeting. It is impossible to independently report on the aftermath of the attacks because outsiders are not allowed to visit the tribal regions. Human rights groups say there are significant numbers of civilian casualties in the attacks.

Most of the more than 100 missile attacks this year inside Pakistan have taken place in North Waziristan, which is effectively under the control of a mix of Taliban, al-Qaida and related groups. The region, seen as the major militant sanctuary in Pakistan, has yet to see an offensive by the Pakistani military.

On Thursday, President Obama urged Pakistan to do more in tackling extremists in the border lands. Pakistan’s army has moved into several tribal regions over the last two years, but says it lacks the troops to launch a North Waziristan operation anytime soon and hold gains it has made elsewhere.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said the United States would like the Pakistani army to move into North Waziristan “tomorrow” but that he believed Islamabad’s stated reasons for not attacking the region immediately.

“I think there is a capacity issue,” Munter told reporters Friday. “There is a great amount of capacity being used in holding the ground the Pakistani army has won at great cost.”

Pakistani officials protest the missile strikes, but are believed to secretly authorize and provide intelligence on at least some of them. Analysts also say targeting information for many of the attacks is likely to be provided by Pakistani intelligence officials.

Also Friday, police said nine people were killed by mortar rounds fired by suspected Sunni extremists in two attacks in the northwest. The presumed targets in Hangu district and the nearby tribal area of Kurram were Shiite Muslims, said Hangu police chief Abdur Rasheed.

In Hangu, three mortars missed a Shiite mosque, hitting a house, killing six and wounding eight. In Kurram, a mortar hit a house, killing three, he said.

Anti-Shiite militants in Pakistan predate al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni. These days, the groups are firmly allied and have overlapping memberships. They generally believe it is acceptable, even meritorious, to kill Pakistan’s minority Shiites because they consider them heretics.

___

Associated Press writers Nahal Toosi in Islamabad, Ishtiaq Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Hussain Afzal reporting from Parachinar.

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Another US missile strike kills 3 in Pakistan

Posted by Admin on November 26, 2010

MQ-1L Predator UAV armed with AGM-114 Hellfire...

Remote Controlled Drone Plane

By RASOOL DAWAR, Associated Press Rasool Dawar, Associated Press 56 mins ago

MIR ALI, Pakistan – Suspected U.S. missiles hit a vehicle carrying three alleged militants in Pakistan’s northwest on Friday, the latest in a barrage of strikes by unmanned planes on the Taliban stronghold, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The officials say a pair of missiles hit a moving vehicle in Pir Kali village in North Waziristan. The area is home to a mix of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters who target American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters and local tribesmen fired at three more drones still hovering after the attack, but their assault rifles could not hit the aircraft. The two Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media on the record.

The U.S. has ramped up its officially unacknowledged drone attacks in Pakistan‘s lawless border region, launching more than 100 missile strikes this year in an attempt to kill key Taliban and al-Qaida figures.

Most of the attacks have been in North Waziristan, where Islamist militants run terrorist training camps and plot attacks in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has pressured Pakistan to launch a military offensive in North Waziristan to bring the border region under control. But the army has said its forces are stretched thin fighting the Taliban in other areas and dealing with the aftermath of the country’s worst floods, which have driven about 7 million people from their homes.

 

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West faces a losing battle for Afghan "human terrain"

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

This image geographically depicts the four ISA...

Image via Wikipedia

Mon, Aug 30 2010

(For more on Afghanistan, click [ID:nAFPAK])

By Sayed Salahuddin and Paul Tait

KABUL, Aug 30 (Reuters) – As the conflict in Afghanistan deepens, with more foreign troops fighting and casualty tolls rising against a bolder Taliban-led enemy, a parallel battle is being fought to win the hearts and minds of Afghans.

Despite vast, sophisticated resources at their disposal, it is a battle some analysts fear NATO and U.S. forces can’t win.

“In my opinion NATO is making a monumental mistake,” said Kabul-based political analyst Haroun Mir.

“No matter what policy NATO might adopt, they are losing the trust and respect of the Afghan population because Afghans consider the Taliban the winners of this war,” he told Reuters.

That view was supported by a July poll by the Kabul-based International Council on Security and Development that showed the NATO force was failing to win hearts and minds and that most Afghans in Taliban heartlands viewed foreign troops negatively.

Since taking command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June, General David Petraeus, the master of counter-insurgency tactics honed in Iraq, has stressed that the key battleground in Afghanistan will be what he calls “the human terrain”.

Many U.S. military officials feel the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) must do better at heading off Taliban propaganda by speaking directly to Afghans, seeing such “strategic communications” as part of the larger war effort.

It is no coincidence that, since Petraeus took over, media outlets have been flooded with media releases every day, many more than ever before, detailing the successes of Afghan and foreign forces and the perfidy of the Taliban-led insurgents.

KILLING CIVILIANS “NOT GOOD POLICY”

ISAF sent more than 20 media releases on Sunday from their 24-hour-a-day media unit.

One release, about two Afghans wounded by a roadside bomb in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, quoted U.S. Army Colonel Rafel Torres as saying: “The insurgents are as indiscriminate as their choice of weapons. Killing innocent civilians isn’t good policy in Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter.”

No doubt these are fairly straightforward counter-insurgency tactics but, analysts say, what is interesting is that the Taliban have been doing the same for much longer.

On Sunday, the Taliban went so far as to suggest holding a news conference to counter Petraeus’ assertion last week that his forces were making progress, an unprecedented move since the Islamists were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

It was their second media release in four days, somewhat unusual for a group which banned television and computers during their rule from 1996-2001.

The Taliban’s tactics have not gone unnoticed by ISAF.

“One way of tackling this issue is to undermine the Taliban’s influence in society,” said Kamran Bokhari, regional director for global intelligence firm STRATFOR.

“The key to this is to try and drive a wedge between the Afghan jihadist movement and their social support network.”

Earlier this month, ISAF issued an extraordinary media release in which an unidentified “senior ISAF intelligence official” denounced the Taliban’s “attempt to manipulate the media in order to misrepresent the truth”.

The official said the Taliban used a “formalised network”, overseen by Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself, and which included spokesmen who usually give names like Yousuf Ahmadi and Zabihullah Mujahid.

Those spokesmen, he said, worked directly with “external malign media support, which is largely comprised of sympathetic media outlets”.

The Taliban usually communicate by telephone, their spokesmen calling reporters from undisclosed locations.

They are quick to claim credit for attacks on foreign forces, whether they were involved or not, and usually inflate casualty figures. They are equally quick in their attempts to discredit foreign troops when civilian casualties are involved.

Regardless of how untrue that information might be, analysts say there is little Western forces can do to counter it.

“There is only so much that they can do to improve their standing among the public because of certain structural problems, the key to which is the perception that Western forces won’t be in the country for long,” Bokhari said.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani) (For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here) (paul.tait@reuters.com; Kabul Newsroom, +93 706 011 526) (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com)

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Talking to Taliban and Tribal Warlords

Posted by Admin on March 29, 2010

Talking to Taliban and Tribal Warlords

Sunday 28 March 2010

by: J. Sri Raman, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Across the sands

Across the sands

From October 7, 2001, until about a year ago, the world was hearing of the “war on terror” in the Af-Pak region as one on Taliban and tribal warlords allied to them. No longer. What assails our ears increasingly over the recent period is talk of a campaign to woo and win over a section of the same “enemies of civilization.”

All the avowed “anti-terror” warriors are engaged in the campaign. The US administration and the Afghanistan government are publicly committed to this policy change, with powerful quarters emulating the example despite protestations of uncompromising opposition to terrorism. Voices from within India, meanwhile, suggest pressures for a similar attempt by New Delhi. South Asia’s biggest power is being nudged to do business with forces officially regarded until the other day as implacably fundamentalist foes.

The campaign is approaching its culmination, with the highest international forum extending far-from-hidden support to the process. The United Nations, too, is now involved in not-so-secret talks with those considered not long ago as too terrorist for such UN-conferred legitimacy.

In one sense, it all began with President Barack Obama’s moves for a new Afghanistan strategy. Weeks before the strategy was announced on March 27, 2009, Obama said in a newspaper interview that the US “was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq.”

Around the same time, speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Vice President Joe Biden claimed that “at least 70 percent” of Taliban guerrilla fighters were “mercenaries” who could be “persuaded” to lay down their arms and join the “peace process.”

These signals could not but have strengthened the hands of those in Pakistan who were never excited about engaging in a serious conflict with Afghan insurgents – particularly the Taliban, perceived as largely a creation of Pakistan during the days of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Officially, of course, Pakistan is supposed to have abandoned all its reservations about an all-out “war on terror” with its offensive in the Swat region in May 2009. Ties with the Taliban, however, are still cherished in powerful quarters.

Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, caused much more than a ripple recently when he issued an appeal to the Taliban as the chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and leading province closely identified with the country’s army. Shahbaz requested his “friendly” terrorists to spare Punjab because his party, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), had “something in common with them” (opposition to former President General Pervez Musharrf).

The appeal came in the wake of 12 terror attacks in less than a year, which left hundreds killed, including women and children, in Punjab’s Lahore, considered the country’s cultural capital. It has led to an outrage.

In a newspaper article captioned “The terror is next door, Mr. CM,” leading cultural activist Naeem Tahir says: “Rarely had he (Shahbaz) been noticed as much as he was noticed this time. Explanations followed, but these explained nothing. Everyone, including parliamentarians, journalists, government functionaries and the general public tried to figure out the meaning of this request.”

“Did he mean to suggest” – asked Tahir – “that the terrorists should spare Punjab and try Balochistan? Or Sindh or, for convenience of proximity to the Punjabi Taliban, try the capital Islamabad?” No convincing answer has been forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani army has undertaken an agitprop operation alleging links between India and the Taliban. Military aircraft drop pamphlets in North Waziristan on ties between the Taliban and India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). The pamphlets also talk of relations between Israeli intelligence outfit Mossad and Indian consulates in Afghanistan.

Until recently, the official Indian stand was against attempts to differentiate between “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban.” Of late, however, New Delhi has signaled its willingness to try out the line. The policy draws support from the thinking of the country’s security establishment over more than a decade of experience in the Af-Pak region as well.

A case for some ties with the Taliban is argued, for example, in an over-a-decade-old document authored by a former RAW official who is an informed and influential security analyst today. B. Raman, now a well-known columnist as well, talks in this paper titled “Bin Laden, Taliban and India” of the al-Qaeda leader’s ambiguous stance on Pakistan’s chief adversary.

Noting that the Taliban had issued no “call for killing Indians or Hindus,” Raman says: “The past anti-India comments of Osama and the Taliban were restricted to supporting the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination … It has repeatedly denied Indian allegations that its volunteers were active in Kashmir.”

Raman quotes the Taliban’s “most comprehensive statement to date on this subject (September 20, 1998)” as saying: “Afghanistan and India had friendly relations in the past. We don’t have any diplomatic ties now, but we won’t mind resuming relations with India as, at least, we won’t have to contend with an enemy India…. We obviously support the jihad in Kashmir… It is also true that some Afghans are fighting against Indian troops in Kashmir. The Taliban has not sent them…. We have no intention of exporting our jihad or revolution to any country.”

Raman’s counsel: “… India should test out the sincerity of the Taliban’s interest in a non-adversarial relationship with India by maintaining a line of communication with the Taliban leadership through their office in New York. Its professions of innocence should be tested out and not dismissed out of hand.” He adds: “The USA too, while taking strong action against the Taliban’s support to Osama and its violation of human rights, has at the same time maintained a dialogue with the Taliban leadership through their New York office and during the visits of US officials to Islamabad.”

Whether the counsel is heeded at last remains to be seen. Meanwhile, however, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has opened talks with the country’s second-largest militant group linked to the Taliban. The Hizb-e-Islami has reportedly submitted to Karzai a 15-point plan for possible peace talks. The main point envisages withdrawal of all foreign forces from July this year, to be completed within six months.

At the helm of the Hizb-e-Islami stands Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord and former prime minister classified as a terrorist by the US and the UN. This, however, has not stopped the world body from joining the bandwagon and initiating its own parleys with the insurgents.

First came former UN special envoy Kai Eide’s secret talks with Taliban leaders during his two-year tenure (from March 2008) in Afghanistan. The process was made public on March 25, 2010, with Staffan de Mistura, special UN representative in Afghanistan, meeting the men of UN-blacklisted Hekmatyar.

We do not know where the process will lead. It will be a strange end to the “war on terror,” however, if it leaves the Taliban and tribal warlords tyrannizing over their wild terrain and threatening peace over a larger South Asian region.

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What is Happening in the Gulf of Aden?

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2010

“GULF OF ADEN” RELATED VIDEOS FEED FROM YOU TUBE

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