Serving you since 1998
November 2011:   2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

November 22, 2011 

Afghanistan will need $7 billion a year over next decade: WB
By Emma Graham-Harrison
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan is likely to need around $7 billion a year from the international community to help pay its security and other bills long after foreign troops leave, even if two large mines start production as planned, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

Afghan mines no solution for economic woes
Reuters By Jan Harvey Tue Nov 22, 2011
KABUL - The Afghan government, struggling to rebuild one of the world's poorest countries, believes it holds a trump card in its estimated $3 trillion in natural resources. But minerals in the ground are very different to cash in the bank.

Pakistani Taliban declare nationwide cease-fire
By ISHTIAQ MEHSHUD
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban has declared a cease-fire to encourage nascent peace talks with the government, a senior commanders said, a move that appears to show the deadly group's willingness to strike a deal with state.

Pakistan Denies Peace Talks as Taliban Commander Says Truce Was Declared
By Anwar Shakir and James Rupert - Nov 22, 2011 Bloomberg
Pakistan’s government denied media reports that it is holding peace talks with the country’s Taliban militants, even as an unidentified commander of the movement was cited as saying a truce has been declared.

EU Pledges $2 Million for Afghan Drought Victims
VOA News November 22, 2011
The European Union is pledging an additional $2 million in food assistance to drought victims in northern Afghanistan.

Defining Victory in Afghanistan
Look to Colombia, where the U.S. helped the government in Bogota achieve success short of complete victory.
Wall Street Journal By MICHAEL O'HANLON AND PAUL WOLFOWITZ NOVEMBER 22, 2011
The American debate on Afghanistan seems to be framed by two diametrically opposed definitions of success. One says that we have effectively won the war already—that the death of Osama bin Laden and the increase in targeted drone attacks have achieved the goal of preventing transnational terrorists from once again using sanctuaries

War Outside the Frame
It's not Restrepo. The conflict in northern Afghanistan has no running time.
Foreign Policy BY ANNA BADKHEN NOVEMBER 21, 2011
OQA, Afghanistan - The video runs 6 minutes and 53 seconds. The villagers call it "the film."
The footage jerks between a road hugging a mountainside of Kunar province's Kashmund Range and the terraced sierra across the valley. A column of armored Afghan military trucks is stopped on the road. Soldiers dash between the trucks. Someone is firing rockets at them from the other side of the coulee. The soldiers return fire with Kalashnikovs.

Only military action no solution to Afghan issue: Farooq Naek
Associated Press of Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 22 (APP): Chairman Senate, Farooq H. Naek has said that military action alone could not resolve Afghanistan issue, rather military measure had to be supported by political and development tracks.Pakistan had always supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan

US Should Explain its Military Bases in Afghanistan, Russia Says
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia expected an explanation from the US about its military bases in Afghanistan after 2014.

The Rebirth of Afghanistan's Banking
By Dinesh Narayanan Forbes
Nearly nine million Afghans are living in extreme poverty because of a lack of investment in farming, Mohammad Asif Rahimi, Afghanistan's minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation, said on October 16, World Food Day.

Choosing Sides in Afghanistan: Spies Playing in the Great Game
By CHARLES ISHERWOOD Theater Review | 'Blood and Gifts' November 21, 2011 The New York Times
The gifts referred to in the title of “Blood and Gifts,” a superb new play by J. T. Rogers about the long history behind the American involvement in Afghanistan, are on ominous view throughout the play. Big boxes are carried onstage and cracked open to reveal piles of artillery. Shiny new rifles are waved in the air like harmless toys. Suitcases full of dollars are handed over with a cool smile.

5 injured in grenade attack in N. Afghanistan
PUL-E-KHUMRI, Afghanistan, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- Five persons were injured Tuesday in a hand grenade attack in Afghanistan's Baghlan province with Pul-e-Khumri as its capital, 160 km north of capital city of Kabul, an official said.

British soldier killed in Afghanistan
AFP
A British soldier has been killed by an explosion in Afghanistan while on patrol in Central Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence said.

Three Afghan civilians killed by roadside bomb
AFP
Three civilians were killed and three others including a woman and child wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, police said.

Rocket attack on Afghan loya jirga assembly 'foiled'
21 November 2011 BBC News
Several plots to attack last week's tribal assembly, or loya jirga, in the Afghan capital Kabul were foiled by Afghan intelligence, officials say.

Special forces in Afghanistan could stay beyond 2014
The Sydney Morning Herald November 22, 2011
JULIA GILLARD and Tony Abbott have supported keeping special forces troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if required to suppress a resurgence of terrorism, while other troops could be home earlier than anticipated.

Karzai skates on thin ice
Asia Times By M K Bhadrakumar 21/11/2011
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has seriously dented the credibility of one of the noblest institutions of his country's history and culture. A large number of Afghans today would hope that the institution of the loya jirga (grand tribal assembly) survives Karzai's presidency.

U.S. visa programme for Afghan allies comes up empty
Reuters By Christine Kearney Tue Nov 22, 2011
KABUL - Afghans who have spent years working for U.S. troops, diplomats or agencies say their lives are at risk for that service as soldiers head home, and fear a visa programme that promised an escape for those facing serious threats has failed them.

Why night raids in Afghanistan should continue
ABC Online By Jason Thomas 22 November 2011
The US and NATO forces should resist the demand by the recent Loya Jirga in Kabul to stop night raids as this has been one of the most effective asymmetric counterinsurgency tactics since the war in Afghanistan began.

INTERVIEW-Olympics-Afghanistan trailblazer targets London gold
Reuters By Jan Harvey Tue Nov 22, 2011
KABUL - The luxury apartment in north Kabul where Rohullah Nikpai lives with his family was a gift from the Afghan president, made after the 24-year-old Taekwondo champion brought home his country's first ever Olympic medal in 2008.

Back to Top
Afghanistan will need $7 billion a year over next decade: WB
By Emma Graham-Harrison
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan is likely to need around $7 billion a year from the international community to help pay its security and other bills long after foreign troops leave, even if two large mines start production as planned, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

That annual spending, projected for the decade to 2021, does not include the cost of thousands of foreign troops expected to stay in Afghanistan to support and train Afghan forces after 2014, the deadline for NATO-led combat soldiers to return home.

The gap in how much money the Afghan government can raise and how much money it needs to fight a powerful insurgency while trying to develop one of the world's poorest nations will be the equivalent of a quarter of national income by 2021.

This is under a "cautiously optimistic" scenario where agriculture becomes more efficient, a large copper mine and another large iron ore mine are opened on schedule, taxes increase and security does not get any worse.

None of these are guaranteed, and without them the growth will be slower and the funding gap larger, the World Bank warned in a report "Transition in Afghanistan: Looking Beyond 2014."

Aid, which in 2011 was nearly $16 billion, will decline along with troop numbers as the West scales down its presence in Afghanistan. But the United States and its allies face a serious financial burden for many years after the official end of combat operations.

The World Bank forecasts that with firm economic growth the gap will still average around $7 billion a year after 2014.

Asking the government in Kabul to tighten its belt by cutting spending on security forces risks allowing the Taliban-led insurgents to make headway. If services like health and education are reduced instead, that could damage growth and indirectly bolster support for the insurgency.

Urging the Afghan government to increase taxes is not an option either, as the mismatch between the size of the economy and the scale of the problems is simply too large.

"If these levels of foreign assistance...are not forthcoming, then the government of Afghanistan will need to make extremely difficult and possibly destabilizing trade-offs," the report said.

"Either grossly underfunding or significantly shrinking Afghan security forces, or crowding out essential civilian spending, or both."

DESPERATELY POOR
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with annual per person income just $528. Its fast-growing population means that to provide jobs the economy must expand far more rapidly than in countries where there is no baby boom.

With foreign troops pouring into the country and their governments supporting aid and development programs, the last decade has seen the economy grow at around 9 percent a year.

Last year's aid spending was equivalent to the country's entire national income, or gross domestic product.

Very few other countries benefit from such generous largesse, and those mentioned by the World Bank for comparison -- including Liberia -- are much smaller in size.

Without that spending, growth will fall; even the "cautiously optimistic" scenario will bring only a slow increase in living standards for ordinary Afghans.

"We have to note that as Afghanistan's population is growing at about 2.8 percent a year," said Josephine Bassinette, acting World Bank country director for Afghanistan.

"So for example if we were to assume that Afghanistan was growing 6 percent a year, their average per capita income would take about a generation to double," she added.

EFFICIENT SPENDING?
Foreign governments may cut their bills if they let the Afghan government spend their money through the national budget, rather than running independent programs "off-budget."

A World Bank estimate suggests only about a quarter of the $5.2 billion in civilian aid that Afghanistan received "off-budget" in 2010 actually fed into the domestic economy.

The rest was spent on things like imports of goods and services, or sent home as profits.

In contrast over two-thirds of civilian aid channeled through the Afghan economy stayed in the country.

The difference for aid money spent on security is even more pronounced, with only 10 to 15 percent of cash channeled "off-budget" staying in the impoverished country.
(Editing by Ron Askew)
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghan mines no solution for economic woes
Reuters By Jan Harvey Tue Nov 22, 2011
KABUL - The Afghan government, struggling to rebuild one of the world's poorest countries, believes it holds a trump card in its estimated $3 trillion in natural resources. But minerals in the ground are very different to cash in the bank.

Assessment, extraction, processing, transportation and sales will take a lot of investment, and a long time -- bad news for a country that says it expects a $5 billion annual security bill after a pullout of foreign troops is completed in 2014.

Even if production does crank up fast enough to pay the army and police salaries without foreign assistance, mining income is unlikely to assuage the economic woes of a country riven by insurgency with broken infrastructure, dismal education levels and unemployment believed to run as high as 40 percent.

"Mining is seen as a silver bullet, not only by the Afghan government but also by the international community," said Thomas Ruttig, co-founder of the Kabul-based Afghan Analysts' Network.

"It is very welcome that Afghanistan has mining on the horizon... (but) extraction of mineral wealth does not necessarily produce an improvement of life for the local population. Very often, mining under a weak state which cannot control it is a recipe for more conflict."

Afghan officials claim its deposits -- including copper and iron ore, oil and gas, niobium, cobalt, gold, molybdenum, silver and lithium -- could generate $3.5 billion a year.

Mineral wealth is attractive in a year when prices of metals like gold and copper have hit record highs. But there are many bridges to be crossed before the country can capitalise on its riches.

Much information now available on the country's deposits dates from the Soviet era, and geologists say more evaluation is necessary before their potential can accurately be assessed.

"Until (it) is ascertained that the mineralisation exists, it is only a potential resource which may or may not be there," said Hassan Alief, an Afghan-American geologist who has worked extensively in Afghanistan.

WESTERN MINERS CAUTIOUS
After decades of conflict, Afghanistan lacks vital infrastructure and has little hope of changing that fast. The United Nations said this year that violence across Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban regime was toppled 10 years ago.

"The smallest projects cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the larger projects cost in the billions," said Richard Lachcik, a mining lawyer with Macleod Dixon in Toronto.

"People just aren't going to invest that level of capital in a country like Afghanistan. It's just not stable enough."

Western mining firms are predictably reluctant to invest, analysts say.

"I'd be most surprised if a company like Rio Tinto, Anglo American or BHP Billiton went into such a risky area, and there are plenty of other places for the juniors to operate," said Neil Buxton, an analyst at metals consultancy GFMS.

However, companies from resource-hungry China -- the world's biggest consumer of copper and iron ore -- and India have wasted no time moving into Afghanistan.

A consortium led by the Metallurgical Corp of China won the country's first big mining contract to develop the Aynak copper deposits in 2008, and Indian firms are currently bidding billions of dollars to develop the Hajigak iron ore concession.

But despite sizeable payments to governments, their self-sufficient operating methods in other countries often bring very limited benefits to the wider local economy. There are fears Afghanistan may also see few trickle-down effects.

BENEFITS FOR ALL
Bidders for the Aynak project were expected to show a commitment to Afghan social development as part of the tender process. While details of the MCC contract are unforthcoming, analysts say it has so far generated few jobs for Afghans.

"MCC and all the (bidding) companies said they would be hiring Afghans locally and had a timetable for when Afghans would be in technical and management positions," says James Yeager, an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Mines during the Aynak tender process.

"Take a look at what MCC have since done. They brought in their own people, they buy their own goods from China and have them shipped in. The large capital investments by MCC are not benefitting the Afghan people like they should."

Neither MCC nor the Ministry of Mines responded to questions on current and planned employment of Afghans at Aynak.

Managing its mineral resources is particularly critical for Afghanistan, given how narrow the country's economic base is after decades of conflict.

Other mineral-rich countries like Nigeria have shown that, poorly managed, such resources can bring in billions of dollars while making little impact on the poverty levels of most of the population.

Sayed Massoud, an economist at Kabul University, warns that mistakes made now in monetising the mineral wealth could cost the country dearly in future, when it tries to balance its budget.

"There are only two sources which can provide this budget. One is the finance ministry (from taxes), another is mines.

"Today, with Afghanistan full of corruption and insecurity, we can earn hundreds of millions of dollars from these mines. But if we (develop) them in the next few years, through partnerships, we will earn billions of dollars."

(Reporting by Jan Harvey; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
Back to Top

Back to Top
Pakistani Taliban declare nationwide cease-fire
By ISHTIAQ MEHSHUD
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban has declared a cease-fire to encourage nascent peace talks with the government, a senior commanders said, a move that appears to show the deadly group's willingness to strike a deal with state.

The commander said the cease-fire has been in effect for the past month and was valid throughout the country.

"We are not attacking the Pakistan army and government installations because of the peace process," he said late Monday. The commander is close to Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not the official spokesman of the insurgent network.

His statement adds credence to recent announcements by anonymous Taliban and intelligence officials that government intermediaries recently met Taliban commanders to talk about a possible peace deal. The government has not officially commented, and on Tuesday the Pakistani army denied it was involved in any talks.

The Pakistan Taliban, an umbrella grouping of militants allied with al-Qaida and based in the northwest close to the Afghan border, has been behind many of the scores of bloody suicide attacks around Pakistan over the last 4 1/2 years. At least 35,000 people have been killed in the bloodshed.

The United States wants Pakistan to keep the pressure on insurgents and would likely be concerned about any effort to strike a deal. Many of its fiercest foes in Afghanistan, as well as al-Qaida operatives from around the world, live alongside the Pakistan Taliban in North Waziristan.

Much remains unclear about the nature of the talks and their potential. Both the army and the militants have engaged in misinformation before. Some reports have said any deal would only cover one region in the northwest, South Waziristan, but could be extended.

The Pakistan Taliban is believed to be divided. Many of its leaders and foot soldiers have been killed in U.S. drone attacks and Pakistani army offensives over the last few years. Some faction and allied groups are still committed to war against the state, and there been several insurgent attacks over the last month.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Pakistan Denies Peace Talks as Taliban Commander Says Truce Was Declared
By Anwar Shakir and James Rupert - Nov 22, 2011 Bloomberg
Pakistan’s government denied media reports that it is holding peace talks with the country’s Taliban militants, even as an unidentified commander of the movement was cited as saying a truce has been declared.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the army issued separate statements denying reports in recent days of secret talks between officials and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the main Islamic guerrilla movement fighting the government.

Hours later, a senior Taliban commander said the group had ordered a halt to attacks a month ago in support of a peace process, the Associated Press reported. While the story did not name the commander, it said he was close to Hakimullah Mehsud, the most prominent of the Pakistani movement’s leaders.

A member of the Taliban’s governing council, Umar Khalid Khurasani, denied in an interview that a truce is in effect. “We are not in any negotiations with the government,” he said.

The conflicting statements over a possible peace process come weeks after the government held a conference of political parties that urged a new effort at seeking talks. Militants and government troops have in the past month continued to fight in several of the seven ethnic Pashtun tribal districts that form the main base of the Taliban movement.

“There is nothing formal regarding talks with the Taliban,” Malik said in remarks reported by the official Associated Press of Pakistan. While he said the government and guerrillas have periodically exchanged messages, Malik repeated a demand that the Taliban “get rid of their arms” before any talks can be held, the agency said.

Tribal Intermediaries

Reports from Pakistan have said in the past week that officials were holding talks with Taliban leaders from South Waziristan, one of the tribal districts along the border with Afghanistan, using leaders of ethnic Pashtun tribes there as intermediaries. The latest such report, published today by the Islamabad-based news agency Online, cited a Taliban commander and tribal leaders without naming them.

Militant attacks continued last week in at least two tribal districts, Kurram and Orakzai, where more than 30 guerrillas and an army officer were killed, according to officials and tribal sources cited by The News, a national newspaper.

“The army is not undertaking any kind of negotiations,” said a statement on the website of the military press office. “Any contemplated negotiation/reconciliation process with militant groups has to be done by the government.”

Mullen Claim

While the U.S. has pressed Pakistan to extend the army offensives it has conducted to clear some Taliban-controlled regions since 2009, the biggest remaining stronghold is a base for the guerrilla force of Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Former U.S. military chief Admiral Mike Mullen said in September the Haqqani network, which targets American troops based in Afghanistan from its Pakistani bases, operates as a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s main military spy agency.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has favored trying to negotiate peace with Taliban groups attacking the state. Last month he held a conference with the country’s main political parties that advocated a conciliatory approach. Days afterward, Pakistani newspapers quoted Gilani as saying he had dropped a demand that the guerrillas disarm before talks. One daily, the Express Tribune, quoted Maulvi Faqir, the deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban movement, as welcoming that offer.

Malik this month has restated the demand for disarmament.

Since 2004, when Pakistan began military offensives against the Taliban movement then beginning to take control of the border zone with Afghanistan, several peace deals have been negotiated, often collapsing within months.

Almost 20,000 people have been killed in insurgent violence in Pakistan since 2009, most of them in violence related to the Taliban, according to a database maintained by the New Delhi, India-based South Asia Terrorism portal.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anwar Shakir in Peshawar, Pakistan at ashakir1@bloomberg.net; James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net
Back to Top

Back to Top
EU Pledges $2 Million for Afghan Drought Victims
VOA News November 22, 2011
The European Union is pledging an additional $2 million in food assistance to drought victims in northern Afghanistan.

The European Commission said Monday that the aid will help those in affected communities that are already weakened due to conflict, security issues and under-development.

The commission says close to 3 million people are already suffering due to the drought in northern Afghanistan and the crisis may worsen before the 2012 harvest.

So far, the EU has given more than $6 million to help some 72,000 Afghans affected by the drought.

Separately in eastern Afghanistan, police say a roadside bomb has killed at least three civilians in the Alingar district of Laghman province. Two others were wounded in Tuesday’s attack.

And NATO says two of its service members were killed on Monday in the south. One coalition soldier died in an insurgent attack, the other in a roadside bombing.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Defining Victory in Afghanistan
Look to Colombia, where the U.S. helped the government in Bogota achieve success short of complete victory.
Wall Street Journal By MICHAEL O'HANLON AND PAUL WOLFOWITZ NOVEMBER 22, 2011
The American debate on Afghanistan seems to be framed by two diametrically opposed definitions of success. One says that we have effectively won the war already—that the death of Osama bin Laden and the increase in targeted drone attacks have achieved the goal of preventing transnational terrorists from once again using sanctuaries in Afghanistan to attack the United States. The other view holds that success is impossible—that the goal of a stable Afghan government in control of its own territory is beyond our reach.

Both views lead to the same result: a premature abandonment of Afghanistan that could return it to the control of the Taliban and allow al Qaeda and other extremists to regain sanctuaries. Even targeted drone strikes would be much less effective without the human intelligence needed to support them.

But there is an alternative: the"Colombia standard" of success. It's probably unrealistic to think that the Afghan government can completely control Afghan territory by 2014 or even some later date. But, like the Colombian government, it could achieve success short of complete victory.

After decades of struggle against its armed insurgency, Colombia has substantially reduced the territory held by the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Fatality rates and kidnappings have been cut roughly in half over roughly a decade, and key FARC leaders have been killed. Assassinations of judges and other government officials were once frequent but now are much less so.

Crucially, nearly all of the fighting has been done by Colombian armed forces, with the U.S. providing advisers, intelligence and military equipment. Even today the homicide rate in Colombia remains high—much higher than violent civilian deaths in Afghanistan. But 10 years after Colombia seemed headed to collapse, it has achieved something that is widely regarded as a victory.

In Colombia's jungles as in Afghanistan's mountains, the guerillas can always find sanctuaries. Both countries' guerillas also enjoy sanctuaries across the border—and Pakistan probably gives more support to the Taliban than Venezuela gives the FARC. Guerilla movements that enjoy sanctuaries can never be completely defeated. But the important thing, from an American point of view, is that in Colombia it is Colombians, not Americans, who are fighting for their own country.

In Afghanistan our goal should be an Afghan government and security forces able to control the country's major cities and most of its territory with only modest outside help. Substantial territory, mostly in the rural South and East, would remain contested or even partly insurgent-controlled. But any large concentrations of extremists would be vulnerable to drone strikes or commando raids by Afghan and American forces. And over time, Afghan government forces could gradually reduce the remaining enemy strength.

A Colombia standard of success cannot be taken as an excuse for hasty withdrawal. For one thing, Afghanistan's security forces are two years away from being fully built. And while enemy-initiated violence is down about 25% from a year ago, and progress has been made in Helmand and Kandahar, additional American and NATO effort in the more densely populated East—as planned for 2012 and 2013—is needed before the Afghan army can take over primary responsibility. This may require keeping 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the 2013 fighting season, before cutting forces further.

While Colombians deserve most of the credit for success, they depended on a long-term U.S. commitment that was limited in scale but not in time. Afghanistan will need that even more. With a desperately poor economy (one-sixteenth the size of Colombia's), Afghanistan cannot sustain the army it needs without help. The country will need some $3 billion annually in foreign military assistance for an extended period after 2014, as well as a continuing military presence in the range of 10,000 U.S. and other NATO troops in a supporting role.

A U.S.-led commitment to provide that funding in the future would help the current situation. Making clear that we will not abandon the country the way that we did after the defeat of the Soviets in 1989 would reassure our friends, discourage our enemies, and induce the Pakistanis to cooperate.

It would also give the U.S. valuable leverage in the current Afghan debate about post-2014 security arrangements. Instead of appearing as the supplicant—seeking to use Afghan territory for our own purposes—and allowing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to burnish his nationalist credentials by imposing conditions, we should make it clear that the help the Afghans need will be forthcoming, provided our conditions are met. One condition should be a process of consultation that extends beyond Mr. Karzai's hand-picked loya jirga.

We should certainly ask other countries to share the burden in both military and economic assistance, but the annual cost of this commitment would be roughly 10% of what we are currently expending—and Afghanistan's neighborhood remains central to American national security.

Even these costs would be too high if the cause were indeed lost. But success is possible if we think in terms of Colombia. Giving up now—or declaring victory prematurely—would be a grave mistake when, despite the challenges, three-fourths of Afghanistan is now reasonably secure and the Afghan armed forces are well over halfway toward achieving the capabilities they will need.

Our current exit strategy of reducing American troops to 68,000 by the end of next summer and transferring full security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014 is working. In a war where the U.S. has demonstrated remarkable strategic patience, we need to stay patient and resolute.

Mr. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is co-author of its Afghanistan Index and author of "The Wounded Giant: America's Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity" (Penguin, 2011). Mr. Wolfowitz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is a former U.S. deputy secretary of defense.
Back to Top

Back to Top
War Outside the Frame
It's not Restrepo. The conflict in northern Afghanistan has no running time.
Foreign Policy BY ANNA BADKHEN NOVEMBER 21, 2011
OQA, Afghanistan - The video runs 6 minutes and 53 seconds. The villagers call it "the film."

The footage jerks between a road hugging a mountainside of Kunar province's Kashmund Range and the terraced sierra across the valley. A column of armored Afghan military trucks is stopped on the road. Soldiers dash between the trucks. Someone is firing rockets at them from the other side of the coulee. The soldiers return fire with Kalashnikovs.

The camera points fitfully at the dirt on the road, at the pale sky, at the mountains. You can hear rockets and bullets ripping out chunks of stone. You can hear the low rattling of Kalashnikovs and the higher-pitched pings of M16s. A young man's scared face briefly appears on the screen -- a passerby? A soldier? You don't see him again. The cinematography is spasmodic, erratic, much like the war it is documenting. Abed Nazar, the nephew of Baba Nazar, the Oqa elder, says he shot the video himself, with the camera in his cell phone.

Oqa is far from the tragic mountain passes of Kunar, which many Americans know from the movie Restrepo. It is a tiny cluster of some 40 low houses raised with mud and straw that gape doorless at the Bactrian desert from a desolate barchan. One of the houses belongs to Baba Nazar; we watch the video in his tiny thatch-roofed room. The room fits two narrow mattresses, an old trusseau, and a bukhari stove upon which water is boiling in two fire-blackened pitchers; apart from the screen of Abed Nazar's cell phone, the only sources of light are three small ovoids punched at irregular heights through the two-foot-thick cob walls. Outside these windows, a different kind of war rages on; a war of attrition that cannot be easily captured on 6 minutes and 53 seconds of film.

In this war, the Taliban are quietly claiming dominion over swatches of the trout-colored northern Afghan desert. They impose tithes on farmers and merchants, silence cell phone networks at night, stop musicians from performing at weddings. The episodic violence -- a murder here, a suicide bomb strapped to a bicycle there -- is not cinematic. It is just enough to inject a population exasperated by a decade of unfulfilled promises of a better life with subtle, nameless angst.

Just as quietly, villagers in northern Afghanistan are arming themselves, clustering into vigilante teams. Last month, near the village of Siogert, about 20 miles south of Oqa, a group of ethnic Tajik and Turkmen minutemen killed two Pashtun Taliban fighters, apparently in retaliation for the Taliban's murder of a local teacher in June. Are such killings homespun counterinsurgency operations, old-school revenge killings, or the latest spasms of ethnic strife that has bled the Khorasan for centuries? Who can tell? In this war, Manichaean definitions almost never apply.

In this war, civilians perish because incessant violence has decimated the land's infrastructure, stunted its healthcare, and sentenced millions of civilians to deaths that could have been prevented, or at least significantly postponed. Despite billions of dollars of international aid that has poured into Afghanistan in the decade since the U.S.-led invasion, Oqa's children perish each year of preventable diseases that go untreated because no one in the village has a car and the nearest clinic -- indeed, the nearest settlement -- is three hours' walk away across a roadless desert, and because the doctors who staff the government-run mobile clinics say that visiting the village is too dangerous.

Most children here are born addicted to opium; pregnant women eat it to stave off hunger and pains, exposing their babies to the drug prenatally. The survivors grow up to eke out the life Abed Nazar fled two years ago, when he enlisted in the army and went to serve in Kunar. They collect tumbleweed under agonizing sun for sale as firewood in larger villages and draw murky water by rope out of an open well 75 feet deep. They share pittances of bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with their sickly siblings. They smoke or chew opium to take their mind off their hardships.

Every life here is a wartime tragedy. Most flit by unnoticed, impossible to capture in video snippets. A few months ago I mentioned Oqa to a group of officials at the Balkh provincial department of education. They told me the village didn't exist.

In Baba Nazar's room, a dozen men and boys have crammed next to the bukhari to watch Abed Nazar's video with me. They have seen it before, but they watch again anyway, in respectful silence. "The film" is the only video they will see for months. Few Oqans have cell phones; there is no electricity in the village, no television. Even Nurullah, the host's rowdy seven-year-old grandson, is hushed. Until Abed Nazar's phone battery dies, the only sound in the room in Oqa is men killing each other in Kunar.

Abed Nazar explains that six soldiers died in the attack: two Americans and four Afghans. The video does not capture their deaths. I cannot confirm this tally because the video is undated, and Abed Nazar cannot tell me exactly when, during his two years as an Afghan infantryman in Kunar, he filmed it. "Two Americans, four Afghans," he repeats. He is 25 years old, and awed by this terrible war he is part of."Two Americans," he says. "Four Afghans. Two of the Afghans were my close friends."

Baba Nazar shakes his head. "Every day war, every day war," he says. He is 70 years old. A bit of shrapnel mars his son's right eye, from a buried rocket that exploded when he unwittingly built a fire over it in the desert. His daughter lost her left leg and the fingers on her left hand on a landmine that blew up behind his house 15 years ago. Baba Nazar hitches his donkey to an anti-aircraft shell anchored in hard-packed clay.

"War!" he spits. "More and more people get killed." Heavily, he rises from his mattress: a signal for me to step outside.

The desert, scoured raw by a week of rain, stretches to the end of the world: pink and ocher and scarlet, blue-gray where drying mud reflects Michelangelo clouds. To the west, smoke from shepherds' fires hangs on the wind. A bevy of village kids surrounds us as we take a stroll. The children slip on patches of exposed wet clay, somersault, jump up, fall down again, turn to make sure we are watching, laugh.

Then, in the sand, I spot a rusted hand grenade. I point it out to Baba Nazar; the old man picks it up, turns it in his hands, shows me that it has no detonator, and tosses it on the ground. Inferring that I have a special interest in old ammo, the children scatter and return almost immediately bearing offerings: a piece of a mortar shell. A handful of bullet casings. A fragment of an anti-personnel mine.

I think: If I ignore their gifts, they will stop. Then, maybe, no one will get hurt here today. The ruse works: The children chuck their bits of ordnance back at the desert, the desert upon which war waxes and wanes like the shifting sand dunes. Soon they are somersaulting in the dirt once again. The tiny mirrors sewn into the skullcaps of the boys and the beaded taweez amulets pinned to the shoulders of the girls sparkle in the pale November light.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Only military action no solution to Afghan issue: Farooq Naek
Associated Press of Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 22 (APP): Chairman Senate, Farooq H. Naek has said that military action alone could not resolve Afghanistan issue, rather military measure had to be supported by political and development tracks.Pakistan had always supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and there should be no doubt that any peace solution devised out side Afghanistan and imposed on the country would not work.He made these remarks while deliberating on Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral during Nato Parliamentary Assembly’s 78th Rose-Roth Seminar on the subject “2011-2014: Afghanistan Towards Transition” in London.

He said that Pakistan had always supported peace initiatives of President Karzai and urged the regional countries to respect the unity, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan while holding the principle of non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

While explaining the economic cost of war on terror, the Chairman Senate pointed out that it was tremendous and Pakistan had spent more than what it received in compensation.

Commenting on Pak-Afghan relations, he said that Pakistan’s unique ties with Afghanistan drew their strength from common faith, cultural affinities and shared traditions that made the destinies of the two countries inextricably linked.

Farooq Naek who highlighted Afghanistan’s significance for the region, said that since the revival of democratic rule in Pakistan in 2008, Pak-Afghan relations had undergone a qualitative transformation, marked by growing trade and people to people interaction, progressive institutionalization, and Pakistan’s active participation in reconstruction of Afghanistan, says a message received here on Tuesday.

He said that frequent visits of President Hamid Karzai to Pakistan and President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to Afghanistan have helped in not only improving relations but have brought two nations close to each other.

Speaking about the effects of war, Farooq Naek said that instability of three decades in Afghanistan had made a colossal impact on the peace and stability of the region especially Pakistan.

“The region witnessed enhanced radicalization taking roots in the society and Pakistan was the biggest victim of terrorism, and we lost a great leader Benazir Bhutto Shaheed in an act of terrorism,” he said.

For Pakistan, Farooq Naek said, the bottom line was a peaceful, stable, prosperous and developed Afghanistan.

He hoped that the seminar would prove highly conducive to help Afghan nation and state cope successfully with seemingly dauntless challenges lying ahead on the road to transition.

In his opening address, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, William Hague emphasized on efforts towards enhancing the socio-economic stability of Pakistan so that it could play the vital role in war on terror.

He also urged the need of enduring partnership with Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Hague expressed confidence that the upcoming Bonn Conference on Afghanistan would further strengthen the commitment of International to bring about peace in Afghanistan.

Afghan representative, Zia Nezam stressed that end of transition should not be the end of assistance to and cooperation with Afghanistan.

Nato Assistant Secretary General for Operations Ambassador Stephan Evans said that the combat role of Nato in Afghanistan would end in 2014 whereas its assistance and advisory role would continue beyond 2014.

Pakistan High Commissioner for UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Minister Press, Shabbir Anwer and Deputy High Commissioner, Nafees Zakaria also attended the seminar.
Back to Top

Back to Top
US Should Explain its Military Bases in Afghanistan, Russia Says
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia expected an explanation from the US about its military bases in Afghanistan after 2014.

Russia wants to know what tasks these bases will accomplish, Mr Lavrov told reporters in Moscow after a meeting with his Kazakh counterpart.

"There is some contradiction we would like to clarify," the Russian foreign minister said.

His comments come after 2,000 delegates at a Loya Jirga in Kabul over the weekend gave their backing to a long-term Afghan-US partnership deal. The agreement will allow the US to have bases on Afghan soil until 2024.

Mr Lavrov said that it is important for Russia to understand how US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the creation of US military bases correspond.

Russia will discuss the issue in an open way with Afghanistan and the United States, he added.
Back to Top

Back to Top
The Rebirth of Afghanistan's Banking
By Dinesh Narayanan Forbes
Nearly nine million Afghans are living in extreme poverty because of a lack of investment in farming, Mohammad Asif Rahimi, Afghanistan's minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation, said on October 16, World Food Day.

The World Bank estimates that about 36% of Afghans live below the poverty line or survive on less than $25 a month and nearly half the population lives on less than $30 a month. Minister Rahimi also said in the past three decades investment in agriculture had shrunk 43%.

Throughout 2009 and until mid-2010, the country was gripped by a price deflation. In 2009, average consumer price inflation was a negative 12.02%. Since then, prices have risen gradually, led by housing costs. By December 2010, the needle had swung to 12.09%. Afghanistan's output grew 8.2% in 2010 and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects it to expand by 7.4% in 2011.

The central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), missed its monetary target of 22% money circulation growth in 2009- 10, but that hardly made any impact because of deflation. Actual money circulation grew 29%, the World Bank says.

The monetary policy framework of Afghanistan is designed under the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program. The banking industry had collapsed during the Taliban years and the country was practically a cash economy. Of the six state-owned banks, three were illiquid, dysfunctional and nearly insolvent, a central bank strategic paper mentions in a background note. In 2002, there were three or four versions of the local Afghani, including two issued by warlords. The IMF estimated hyperinflation in the range of 495-600%.

The turnaround achieved since then has been remarkable. The currency, which is now a managed float, is stable in a band of 45-50 to a dollar. There are now 17 licensed commercial banks in operation, accounting for a quarter of the GDP. The government bonds, called capital notes, market is developing and international reserves have steadily increased to over $5.5 billion in mid-May. DAB's 182-day capital notes had a weighted average interest rate of 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2010.

"There is not too much of commercial lending because of lack of industry, but micro-finance is doing very well," says Hafizullah Walirahimi, president of Fair Trade in the ministry of commerce and industry. Some industries like construction are gathering momentum as incomes are rising, albeit slowly.

Over the past few months, however, worsening security has cast a shadow on macroeconomic development. In the upcoming Bonn Conference, if the international community pledges prolonged military and economic support, there is a possibility of the economy improving significantly. Increased economic activity itself may present incentives to sustain peace in this country where no one below 30 has ever known what it is.

This article appears in the November 18 issue of Forbes India, a Forbes Media licensee.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Choosing Sides in Afghanistan: Spies Playing in the Great Game
By CHARLES ISHERWOOD Theater Review | 'Blood and Gifts' November 21, 2011 The New York Times
The gifts referred to in the title of “Blood and Gifts,” a superb new play by J. T. Rogers about the long history behind the American involvement in Afghanistan, are on ominous view throughout the play. Big boxes are carried onstage and cracked open to reveal piles of artillery. Shiny new rifles are waved in the air like harmless toys. Suitcases full of dollars are handed over with a cool smile.

On the other hand, blood never flows in Mr. Rogers’s drama, which opened on Monday night at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in a first-rate production from Lincoln Center Theater. But then it is hardly necessary to go to the theater to get an unpleasantly vivid sense of the violence that has stained the country for decades now. You only need to read today’s headlines to comprehend the continuing human cost of the political and military transactions depicted in this engrossing, illuminating play from the author of “The Overwhelming.”

Although the history “Blood and Gifts” relates is complex, and the players involved range from Afghan warlords to Pakistani military functionaries to United States senators, the production, directed with a steady hand by Bartlett Sher, has the taut grip of a spy novel by Graham Greene or John le Carré. Set in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Washington in the years between 1981 and 1991, the play gives a remarkably lucid and compelling account of how the American and British view of Afghanistan as a vital front in the cold war against the Soviet Union shaped the calamitous recent history of the country.

The play opens as a motley assortment of Afghan fighters is desperately trying to regain control of the country from the Soviet forces, who were invited in by the reigning, repressive government to help quell incipient rebellion. James Warnock (Jeremy Davidson), a C.I.A. operative, has been sent to Islamabad to forge an alliance with the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the intelligence branch of the Pakistan Army. (You may have read a little about this organization lately.)

His mission is delicate, because the Americans are not officially engaged in this conflict. Hence the need for the Pakistani middlemen, led by the ISI chief Afridi (Gabriel Ruiz), and the rather unimpressive first “gift” to the Afghan cause Warnock has come to offer: 100,000 rifles manufactured in Greece and India.

This inspires outrage in Afridi and snorts of scorn in Simon Craig (the ever-amazing Jefferson Mays), Warnock’s British counterpart, working for the British intelligence service MI6. But Warnock has a blunt message for both of them: “Deniability, first and foremost. No weapons can be traced to us.”

With deniability, of course, comes a lack of responsibility and control. And Warnock and particularly Craig are dismayed when they learn that Afridi insists that the weaponry should go to a warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is known for his fanatical Islamic beliefs and his penchant for wanton violence, sometimes directed at his own people for their lapses in religious fervor.

Behind Afridi’s back, Warnock establishes his own relationship with another Afghan warlord fighting the Soviets, Abdullah Khan (Bernard White). “I need someone on the ground,” Warnock tells Abdullah, “and I can’t set foot in your country.” This, of course, will ultimately involve more “gifts.”

As the Soviet aggression increases, and the Afghan armies begin to gain strength, their demands for weapons — functioning, first-class American weapons — become ever more urgent, and their calls find a willing ear in Washington, where several scenes in the second act take place.

“Everything here is connected,” a mistrustful Warnock says grimly at one point, and the strength of Mr. Rogers’s drama is in its dramatically clarifying the murky motives driving all the big players in the drama, at the same time humanizing the characters representing them. A history lecture “Blood and Gifts” definitely isn’t; Mr. Rogers’s knowledge of the hearts and minds of his characters is as deep as his grasp of the geopolitical games being played.

And Mr. Sher has cast the production in depth, resulting in vital, precisely detailed performances in both the major roles and the minor ones. Mr. Davidson could ease up a little on the wary squint and the John Wayne swagger as Warnock, but his cool reserve is effective. As Dmitri Gromov, the Soviet agent who strikes up a sort of neutral friendship with Warnock for reasons personal (they both miss their wives back home) and professional (better to keep your enemy close), Michael Aronov is winning and quite funny, especially when Gromov’s hearty good cheer wilts into glum resignation as the Russian mission falters.

I suspect Mr. Mays has been boning up on Greene and le Carré to prepare for his performance, so richly saturated is it in the sardonic humor and bruised humanity of the best depictions of cynical British operatives in those novelists’ work. Craig is always scrambling in late for meetings with the sweat of a hangover still upon him. He is also often hilarious in his bitter commentary on both the British government’s impecunious support for the cause and the moral morass that the Afghan conflict has become.

When he learns that major weaponry is to be channeled to Hekmatyar, Craig erupts in a typical burst of seething sarcasm, asking Afridi if the Afghans themselves have been consulted: “You know, ‘Hello Afghans! Would you mind terribly if we try and install a maniac to rule you and then sink your country into civil war?’ ”

Plays determined to give audiences a quick adult-education class in history tend to be staid lectures clumsily dressed as drama. (See David Hare’s “Stuff Happens.”) By contrast, the characters in “Blood and Gifts” never come across as proxies for the author, re-enacting his view of the events for our edification. They really seem to be living in this turbulent history, trying to stay one step ahead of the unfolding chaos, and to stay alive, too, while retaining some small measure of moral dignity.

BLOOD AND GIFTS

By J. T. Rogers; directed by Bartlett Sher; sets by Michael Yeargan; costumes by Catherine Zuber; lighting by Donald Holder; sound by Peter John Still; stage manager, Jennifer Rae Moore; managing director, Adam Siegel; production manager, Jeff Hamlin. Presented by Lincoln Center Theater, under the direction of André Bishop and Bernard Gersten. At the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center; (212) 239-6200, telecharge.com. Through Jan. 1. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.

WITH: Michael Aronov (Dmitri Gromov), Jeremy Davidson (James Warnock), Robert Hogan (Senator Jefferson Birch), Jefferson Mays (Simon Craig), Andrés Munar (Military Clerk/C.I.A. Analyst), Rudy Mungaray and J Paul Nicholas (Mujahideen/Clerks/Aides), Paul Niebanck (Soldier/Administrative Aide), John Procaccino (Walter Barnes), Liv Rooth (Congressional Staffer), Gabriel Ruiz (Colonel Afridi), Pej Vahdat (Saeed), Andrew Weems (Political Speech Writer) and Bernard White (Abdullah Khan).
Back to Top

Back to Top
5 injured in grenade attack in N. Afghanistan
PUL-E-KHUMRI, Afghanistan, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- Five persons were injured Tuesday in a hand grenade attack in Afghanistan's Baghlan province with Pul-e-Khumri as its capital, 160 km north of capital city of Kabul, an official said.

"An unknown man hurled a hand grenade on a house in Nahrin district in the wee hours Tuesday. As a result, five people, including two women, were injured," administration chief of Nahrin district, Mawlana Fazil Rahman, told Xinhua.

He said the motive behind the attack have not been clear so far, adding that the injured were shifted to a district hospital and that police have initiated an investigation into incident.

The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since the militant group launched a spring rebel offensive from May 1 against Afghan and NATO-led troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The militant group warned people against supporting government and foreign troops.
Back to Top

Back to Top
British soldier killed in Afghanistan
AFP
A British soldier has been killed by an explosion in Afghanistan while on patrol in Central Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence said.

The death of Private Thomas Lake, of the 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales?s Royal Regiment, takes the number of British troops who have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001 to 389.

Lake was taking part in a patrol to reassure the local population in the Jamal Kowi area of the Nahr-e Saraj District when the blast happened. He was airlifted to the field hospital at Camp Bastion where he was declared killed in action, the ministry said.

The 29 year-old from Watford joined the Army in November 2009 and passed out of training in May 2010, joining the regiment, known as the ?Tigers?, in Germany shortly afterwards.

His mother Carol said: "Tom was a wonderful son and I will miss him more than I can say. He had so many friends who will remember him as a loyal, fun loving action man who was always the first to try anything new and usually excelled at it.

"Tom loved the Army and was so proud to be a soldier; he died doing something he loved and believed in. I will always be proud of my boy.

?The amount of support, phone calls and flowers I have received pays tribute to the sort of man Tom was and I would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and words.?

The battalion's commander Lieutenant Colonel James Coote said: ?Private Lake packed an almost impossible amount into his two years in the Army, both at work and off duty.

Where many soldiers would have sought one specialisation in that time he had three ? he was a medic, an Assault Pioneer and was also training as a sniper. Equally energetic out of uniform, he represented the Battalion at football, easily earning a coveted place in the team in his first season

"He also turned his hand with equal ease to skiing and motor-cycling and was passionate about sky diving. Older than many of his peers, he was often the man that they would turn to for help or advice; maturity and potential abounded and he was fully expected to attend the promotion cadre on his return to Germany. "

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: ?The tributes paid to Private Lake by his friends portray a brave soldier who was held in the highest regard. His professionalism marked him as an outstanding member of his platoon and he was, by all accounts, destined for promotion. Sadly, his full potential will not now be realised and at this tragic time, my thoughts are with his mother, Carol.?
Back to Top

Back to Top
Three Afghan civilians killed by roadside bomb
AFP
Three civilians were killed and three others including a woman and child wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, police said.

The bomb was planted under a bridge in Alingar district of Laghman province before it ripped through a civilian van, provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang told AFP.

"The van was hit by a roadside bomb on a bridge in Alingar, killing three men and wounding three other people including a woman and a child," he said.

Roadside bombs are frequently planted by insurgents but there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

According to the United Nations, the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 per cent in the first six months of this year to 1,462, with insurgents responsible for 80 percent of the killings.

There are around 140,000 international troops, mainly from the United States, in Afghanistan helping government forces combat a Taliban-led insurgency in a war which has so far lasted ten years.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Rocket attack on Afghan loya jirga assembly 'foiled'
21 November 2011 BBC News
Several plots to attack last week's tribal assembly, or loya jirga, in the Afghan capital Kabul were foiled by Afghan intelligence, officials say.

Rockets and car bombs were reportedly discovered and about 15 suspects, Pakistanis among them, detained.

Pakistan has agreed to allow in an Afghan team investigating the killing of ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

He was assassinated by a man posing as a Taliban peace envoy. Afghan officials believe his killer was a Pakistani.

He had been leading Afghan efforts to negotiate with the Taliban and the Afghan government has said it believes forces in Pakistan were behind the suicide attack that killed him on 20 September.

Islamabad has denied all charges of involvement.

But earlier this month both sides agreed to jointly investigate his murder and on Monday an Afghan presidential spokesman said that Pakistan had agreed to accept the delegation and the committee would leave for Pakistan imminently.

"After the pressures that Afghanistan and Turkey put on Pakistan at the Istanbul conference, Pakistan finally agreed to accept our delegation," presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said.

'Four locations'

Two months on from the killing, last week's loya jirga was held amid intense security in Kabul. Two rockets were fired at the assembly, injuring one civilian, but in spite of threats from the Taliban, there were no major attacks.

But Afghanistan's intelligence agency says that long-range rockets were found in four locations around the city, all aimed at the meeting venue, and several vehicles filled with explosives were also recovered.

Afghan intelligence agency spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said would-be attackers had been rounded up before they could strike.

"They were trying to plot suicide attacks and car bombs," Mr Mashal said. "We foiled more than one dozen plots and we arrested about 15 people with rockets, explosives, suicide vests, and other equipment and ammunition."

The spokesman also said that some of those arrested were from Pakistan's tribal belt, adding that the attacks were planned from outside Afghanistan.

He appeared to point the finger at regional intelligence agencies, without naming names or providing proof, the BBC's Orla Guerin in Kabul reports.

In recent months, both Afghanistan and the US have accused Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting militant groups.

In particular, the ISI is accused of backing the Haqqani network, said to be behind a series of high-profile attacks on US and Afghan government targets in Kabul.

But Pakistan has dismissed such allegations as "baseless and irresponsible".
Back to Top

Back to Top
Special forces in Afghanistan could stay beyond 2014
The Sydney Morning Herald November 22, 2011
JULIA GILLARD and Tony Abbott have supported keeping special forces troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 if required to suppress a resurgence of terrorism, while other troops could be home earlier than anticipated.

As the annual parliamentary debate on the war began yesterday, the Prime Minister urged Pakistan to do more along its border with Afghanistan to curb terrorism and extremism, echoing US criticisms of Pakistan's links to the resurgent al-Haqqani network.

''It is time for Pakistan to do more to counter terrorism and extremism,'' Ms Gillard said. ''That is in the interests of Afghanistan, Australia, our coalition partners. It is in the interests of Pakistan itself.''

Australia has been in Afghanistan 10 years, during which 32 armed services personnel have been killed and 213 wounded.

Ms Gillard said that despite recent heavy casualties, Australia's national interest or its mission had not changed.

An Essential Media poll showed yesterday that 64 per cent of Australians think the troops should be withdrawn, but Ms Gillard urged the public to look beyond the tragedy, and extolled the mentoring, community work and counterinsurgency operations being undertaken.

''The moving and now sadly familiar images of ramp ceremonies overseas and funerals at home are a very real part of the story of war but they are not the whole story,'' she said. ''We owe it to our troops and to our nation to understand the whole.''

Ms Gillard said last year that Australia would withdraw its military forces by 2014 but would stay in the country for about 10 years providing humanitarian assistance.

Yesterday she said Australia's post-2014 role would have a national focus and not just be concentrated in Oruzgan.

There would be substantial development assistance and an AusAID presence, she said. There would also be ongoing military and police training.

Presently, Australia's main military role is to train and mentor the Afghan 4th Brigade. Ms Gillard said yesterday the brigade was on track to take the lead security role in Oruzgan province by 2014 or earlier.

But the special forces mission may extend beyond that.

She said the decision to withdraw special forces troops would be made following an assessment of the security situation and following discussions with the US and other allies.

''The government will keep under consideration a continued Australian special forces presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014,'' she said.

''We will take a firm line on our national interest that terrorism finds no safe haven in Afghanistan.''

Mr Abbott, who could be prime minister after 2013, supported this. ''Withdrawal dates can't be irrevocable or the Taliban win by just waiting out the West,'' he said.

Mr Abbott agreed Australia must remain a reliable friend and partner of Afghanistan after 2014 and ''that may require contributing to Afghan security beyond 2014''.

Mr Abbott urged the government to allow Australian soldiers to detain terrorist suspects for longer periods because the troops complained suspects were being released and rejoining the fight.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Karzai skates on thin ice
Asia Times By M K Bhadrakumar 21/11/2011
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has seriously dented the credibility of one of the noblest institutions of his country's history and culture. A large number of Afghans today would hope that the institution of the loya jirga (grand tribal assembly) survives Karzai's presidency.

There are very few Afghan institutions remaining after the systematic vandalization of society and its native traditions through the past three decades of civil war, foreign interference and blood-soaked chaos.

Loya jirgas are called rarely - fewer than 20 have been held in the past 300 years of Afghan history. And they were probably never called to sanctify the bonding of an Afghan ruler with a foreign power. Karzai has violated a sacrosanct tradition. There could be a price to pay.

The 2,300-strong four-day jirga that concluded in Kabul on Saturday was packed with "tribal leaders and other community leaders" whom Karzai nominated. According to the New York Times:

From the beginning, the jirga was called into question by both its timing - it seemed to undercut an active session of parliament - and its composition, in which about 90% of the delegates were handpicked by Mr Karzai or his aides.

Important Afghan figures, including many members of parliament, prominent civic leaders and political opposition, responded by boycotting the meeting. That undermined the traditional weight that jirgas are given in Afghan society.

Karzai's nominees dutifully handed to him their approval for his decision to ink a strategic partnership with the United States that allows American military bases after most foreign troops leave in 2014. The jirga resolution noted that the strategic partnership would be for 10 years and could be extended if necessary.

Put plainly, Karzai can now claim he has a mandate from the Afghan nation even if parliament were to refuse to ratify the Afghan-US strategic pact.

More questions than answers Karzai promptly declared, "I agree with your decisions and the resolution read out today has been a comprehensive decision that will be represented and implemented."

The funny side is that Karzai did not even share with the jirga the terms of the agreement, since Washington insisted it might not be a good idea to publicize them. Indeed, this political theater was not entirely Karzai's brainwave.

Washington wanted Karzai to secure a mandate from a loya jirga before the pact is inked at the Bonn Conference II on December 5 to which 90 countries have been invited.

The US expectation is that the loya jirga's "mandate" and the presence of the "international community" at Bonn will give the strategic pact a degree of legitimacy that irate regional powers - Russia, Iran and Pakistan, in particular - may find difficult to question.

Washington is also sensing (rightly so) that Afghan opinion would militate against foreign occupation. Significantly, the recently formed National Front, which includes heavyweights like former vice president Ahmad Zia Massoud (brother of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud), Jumbish leader Abdur Rashid Dostum and Hezb-e-Wahdat chief Muhammad Mohaqiq with a power base among the Tajiks, Uzbek and Hazara communities, called Karzai's move to convene a loya jirga "unconstitutional" and boycotted it.

The administration of US President Barack Obama burnt its fingers in Iraq where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wouldn't or couldn't steamroll public opinion into accepting an extended US presence after formal withdrawal at the end of this year.

Again, regional opposition to the US military bases is much stronger with regard to Afghanistan. Tehran has been a trenchant critic of Karzai's proposed pact. Pakistan has made no bones that it disfavors US military bases in Afghanistan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov questioned American intentions in a lengthy statement in Moscow on Thursday. He seemed to have had the ongoing jirga in mind:

It is not yet clear how the planned 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, determined, we are told, by the completion of the anti-terrorist operation there, correlates with the plans to set up large US military bases in the country.

We put these questions to our American partners, and discussed them with the leadership of Afghanistan. So far there are more questions than answers - especially with the information that US colleagues want to expand their military presence in Central Asian countries.

Since the beginning of the operation against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, we have been constantly told that the foreign presence in Afghanistan and the use of the transit facilities in Central Asia are only required to remove the specific terrorist threat, which manifested itself on September 11, 2001, and that no long-term geopolitical calculation is hidden behind this. We will assume that the principles referred to in the beginning of the operation must be respected in full. (Emphasis added.)

With the Taliban repeatedly and categorically stating their opposition to Karzai's pact with Washington and influential sections of Afghan (non-Taliban) opinion and key regional powers questioning the move, what does the Afghan president hope to achieve?

In a nutshell, he hopes to secure American consent to his continuing in power in the period beyond 2014. But Karzai will find the going very tough now that his peace and reconciliation process with the Taliban has run aground.

His equations with the Pakistani leadership continue to deteriorate. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar last week publicly aired annoyance with the Karzai government. The recent Turkish move to mediate apparently met with no success. Karzai had a frosty meeting last week with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of a regional South Asian summit in Male.

Once a lion, ever a lion To be sure, the most critical factor on the chessboard is that Pakistan views the Bonn Conference with a singular lack of enthusiasm. Without Pakistan's whole-hearted support, the Bonn process won't have much meaning. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited Islamabad last week and met army chief General Ashfaq Kiani.

However, an all-consuming political crisis is threatening to unfold in Pakistan - stemming from disclosures that a few months ago the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari sought Washington's help to crack down on the military leadership.

These are early days, but two things are becoming apparent. One, the political crisis is bound to strengthen the Pakistani military vis-a-vis a civilian government that is perceived to be selling out to the US.

Two, Washington figures at the epicenter of the ensuing civil-military rift in Pakistan and this is bound to weaken the US's capacity to influence the leadership in Islamabad in the near term.

The high probability is that the Pakistani leadership will not budge from its position as regards the Afghan settlement. The US can have its security pact with Karzai, but it means nothing if the peace process can't get underway. The more time passes, the more untenable Karzai's position would become.

Karzai would know that Washington has a poor opinion of him and that there is no dearth of Afghan politicians who could fill his shoes in 2014 and equally sub-serve American interests.

Washington couldn't have felt comfortable with Karzai's "fiery" speech at the loya jirga on Wednesday when he posed as a staunch nationalist who is at loggerheads with the Americans. For establishing his nationalistic credentials, Karzai said words that have since become the butt of jokes in the Kabul bazaar:

Even if old, sick and feeble, a lion is still a lion. Other animals in the jungle are afraid of even a sick lion and stay away from him. We are lions, the United States should treat us as lions, and we want nothing less than that. We therefore are prepared to enter into a strategic agreement between a lion and America.

A lion hates a stranger entering his home; a lion dislikes a stranger trespassing its space, a lion does not want his offspring taken away at night. The lion does not allow parallel structures to operate, the lion is the king of his territory and he governs his own territory. The lion has nothing to do with others in the jungle.

Then he added:

They [US presence] bring us money; train our soldiers and police, and provide security for the home of the lion. The lion does not have leisure time to do all these things. They should protect his surroundings but should not touch the lion's home. They should protect the four boundaries of the jungle.

Karzai seemed acutely self-conscious that the Afghan people would not take kindly to a ruler who is so obviously the puppet of a foreign power. Shuja Shah was put on the throne by the British in 1839 out of sheer gratitude for concluding Kabul's first and only "strategic pact" with an imperial power, but could not remain in power when the British left.

The saving grace is, perhaps, that Karzai is intuitive. He chose to make the short trip from his presidential palace to the venue of the jirga by helicopter. On the conclusion of the meeting on Saturday, when he returned home, two additional helicopters were also deployed as decoys.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
Back to Top

Back to Top
U.S. visa programme for Afghan allies comes up empty
Reuters By Christine Kearney Tue Nov 22, 2011
KABUL - Afghans who have spent years working for U.S. troops, diplomats or agencies say their lives are at risk for that service as soldiers head home, and fear a visa programme that promised an escape for those facing serious threats has failed them.

The Afghan Allies program was approved two and half years ago for Afghans who have worked for the U.S. government. Since then, of the 2,630 who have so far applied, 48 have been rejected and one has received an interview.

Not a single visa has been handed out under the programme.

Those still waiting said they have been marked as traitors by the Taliban, and fear they will be targeted if they remain when the last of foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

"My real concern is when the coalition forces and American troops withdraw from Afghanistan," said Mohammad Zaher Moshtaq, employed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the past two and a half years. He applied for his visa more than seven months ago and has not heard back.

"I will be worried about my life. That is my concern. If I have not heard anything from this program. I don't know what my other option would be after 2014," he said.

Interpreters working with the U.S. military already face grave dangers in the line of duty. An Afghan interpreter died along with three foreign troops in southern Afghanistan in late October when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them.

Outside work there are further threats. Assassinations of government and foreign military employees, or those seen as their supporters, are rising. Others receive "night letters" warning them to quit their jobs or they will be killed.

An interpreter, one of several Afghans who did not want to be named for fear of upsetting their U.S. employer and visa hopes, worked for 7 years for U.S. troops. An anonymous phone call two years ago labelled him a spy and told him to quit his job based in Kabul or "you will be killed."

If Americans trusted Afghans enough to work with them in deadly Afghan environments, they should trust them enough to let them enter the United States, he said.

"We have helped them night after night, day after day. Now we want their hand," he said. "If they don't help us, every Afghan will know they abused us, used us."

MORE RESOURCES?
The U.S. embassy in Kabul said it is putting more resources into processing applications for a scheme that allows for 7,500 visas to be issued until 2013, or 1500 per year.

A unit set up in September "has made significant progress in reducing the backlog" for initial stages of applications, said acting assistant chief of mission Alaina Teplitz.

"The pipeline is full and moving and it wasn't previously," she said. "It has not been simple, our feeling on this is we had to get this right," she added, without specifying what problems have held up the programme since 2009.

The embassy said it has now issued 110 initial approval letters -- the first of five steps to getting a full visa, which requires checks of factors including background and employment.

But Jamshid Anwari, 26, an interpreter for the U.S. military since July, 2006, said time is running out.

"I can't trust Afghan national security forces, I can't trust the police...I have to get out. If I live in Afghanistan, somebody definitely will kill me."

Anwari first applied two years ago to an older programme that awards up to 50 US visas a year for Afghan interpreters, except for 2 years where 500 were allowed. So far a total of 797 interpreter visas have been issued, the U.S. embassy said.

But when that programme was full, he applied to the Afghan Allies program. He received an email ten months ago saying the initial mission approval letter would arrive shortly.

"I am still waiting," he said. "It is frustrating."

Afghans must prove an ongoing threat and at least one year's employment by the U.S. government to gain a visa.

The first half of this year was the deadliest for civilians yet in the last decade of conflict in Afghanistan, with nearly 1,500 killed, according to the UN. Some Afghans fear higher fatalities if the Taliban regains power either through U.S.-backed peace talks or through force.

Moshtaq, 27, a former senior logistics manager for a USAID agricultural project, has spent $1200 on the visa applications for his family. He was warned by a Taliban commander's brother in Kapisa to quit his job. "Most of the people knew that I had a senior position, which was a high risk," he said.

(Reporting By Christine Kearney, editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Sanjeev Miglani)
Back to Top

Back to Top
Why night raids in Afghanistan should continue
ABC Online By Jason Thomas 22 November 2011
The US and NATO forces should resist the demand by the recent Loya Jirga in Kabul to stop night raids as this has been one of the most effective asymmetric counterinsurgency tactics since the war in Afghanistan began.

Night raids are a highly sensitive issue in the conservative Afghan society, where the mere act of strangers entering a home and seeing women living inside is considered a grave offence. Afghan district and provincial leaders are under pressure from the Taliban, whose apparchiks are riddled through the Afghanistan political system, because they are so successful. Yet, the West must not fall for an appeal to cultural or social sensitivities; a classic attempt to appeal to our propensity for political correctness, even in times of war.

Night raids involve special force operations, led by ODA teams launching a surprise entrance on a Taliban militant in the dead of night. We have all seen the footage of the Navy Seal team bursting through Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan; green night vision goggles and red-dot shooting out from their weapon of choice with a direct and concentrated amount of aggression that overwhelmed a stunned and surprised adversary.

The great Chinese warrior and philosopher, Sun Tzu wrote, "if the enemy is superior in strength, evade him. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared. Appear where you are not expected". US Army Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, who heads the coalition's Joint Command Special Operations Forces was right when he said that night raids allow US-NATO forces to put constant pressure across the entire insurgent network that we're going after.

Military success in Afghanistan is as much about exploiting an adversary's weaknesses while exploiting one's own strengths as it is about an overwhelming application of power and resources. This is what the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have been doing to us for years. Now when the worm turns they make political appeals to the Afghan leadership for this asymmetric tactic to stop.

The irony is that the dominant US standard of warfare gives its adversaries an incentive to differentiate, by adopting idiosyncratic technologies (the IED) or tactics (civilians as human shields). The US was differentiated from its Vietnamese opponents in level of resources available, level of military technology, type of warfare (conventional or guerrilla), and in perceived costs of conflict (the Vietnamese were willing to take much larger casualties than the US).

The ability to apply asymmetrical tactics depends as much on a mindset as it does in how limited resources are utilised. Ahmed Rashid, author of the Taliban and Decent into Chaos (2008), explains this well. Rashid suggests that the devastation and hardship of the Soviet invasion and the following civil war influenced Taliban ability to survive. In my view the simplicity of life is a camouflage for their ability to prevail against asymmetrical threats - climate, environment, the terrain and technologically superior foreign forces. They don't study asymmetrical warfare and have probably never read Sun Tzu, Clausewitz or The Accidental Guerilla. For the Taliban their method of engagement and how they deploy resources is a fact of life - they just do it.

The Taliban also know how to appeal to the West's political and cultural sensitivities. It is as much about our societal psychology as our abundance of resources that is seen as a weakness by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The fact is the greater the gap in relative power, the less resolute and more politically vulnerable strong actors are, and the more resolute and less politically vulnerable weak actors are. Big nations therefore lose small wars because frustrated publics (in democratic regimes) or countervailing elites (in authoritarian regimes) force a withdrawal short of military victory.

The post Afghanistan conflict environment, regardless of whether it is counter terrorism, counter radicalisation or stability operations, is going to require more simplistic driven resourcefulness than ever before. Night raids exactly fit this concept of small teams with a light footprint in sensitive environments. Again the Osama Bin Laden raid is a great example.

Michael Gross gives this notion a good shake that may make some feel uncomfortable in Moral Dilemmas of Modern War: Torture, Assassination, and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict (2009). A person, a tribe and a nation has to be placed into a position to ask whether they still have the ticker for the fight. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda have a sense of the effects their actions will achieve in the cultural and religious environment in which they operate. We often misread the cultural context of this movement and misjudge its ability to undermine Western psychological and moral dimensions. The Ismaili poem says:

"By one single warrior on foot, a king may be stricken with terror, though he own more than a hundred thousand horsemen."

This was the fear and terror unleashed by the Assassins or Hashishins from the order of Nizari Ismailis, that existed from around 1090 across Syria and Persia. The Assassins tactic is a simple but effective act that psychologically undermined a more powerful opponent at little cost.

US-led strategy in Afghanistan has in some areas inflicted a simple, discriminate and psychologically effective tactic with the high rate of night-raids. Even though Afghan president Karzai continues to call for an end to night-raids the US Commanding Generals in Afghanistan should be praised for resisting the pressure to stop the night raids. Karzai's complaint should be seen for what it is, a political statement sent by the Taliban who ironically oppose the political structure in Afghanistan.

Jason Thomas worked alongside US forces in Afghanistan in 2009-2010 and in 2011 with the USMC in Helmand. He has also worked in the Civil War area in Sri Lanka, negotiating with the Tamil Tigers and South Sudan. He is undertaking his PhD on home grown terrorism through Curtin University.
Back to Top

Back to Top
INTERVIEW-Olympics-Afghanistan trailblazer targets London gold
Reuters By Jan Harvey Tue Nov 22, 2011
KABUL - The luxury apartment in north Kabul where Rohullah Nikpai lives with his family was a gift from the Afghan president, made after the 24-year-old Taekwondo champion brought home his country's first ever Olympic medal in 2008.

As he prepares for his next qualification opportunity in Thailand this week, his hopes for the London Olympic games next year are even higher.

"In the last Olympics, I got a bronze medal," he says, serving tea and snacks in his beautifully decorated lounge from a gold and silver tray. "This time, I want to win a gold medal for my country."

Nikpai received a hero's welcome when he returned to his native Kabul, a city scarred by three decades of conflict, from Beijing after beating Spanish world champion Juan Antonio Ramos in the 58kg category.

He has come a long way since his early days training in an Iranian refugee camp in the 1990s, where he took up taekwondo at the age of 10.

"Before, I didn't have any facilities for my training," he says. "Now it is better, but we need it to be even better. We need a lot more training, a lot more equipment."

In the immediate aftermath of the Games, he received a raft of gifts: his new home, money, a car.

But not all the support he was promised appeared, and with state funding sporadic at best from a government struggling with a tricky security transition, persistent violence and a flailing economy, Nikpai is having to do without the financial means star athletes in other countries might expect.

Despite his obvious pride in his country, Nikpai has been less than impressed by the support offered to the Afghan taekwondo team. They needed more equipment, he says, and more regular wages.

Team members can receive a monthly government stipend of 500-700 Afghanis (around $10-$14.50), but even this modest payment often fails to materialise.

"We are getting a lot of medals for Afghanistan, the government should look after these people," he says. "We hope to have better facilities before the fight, for all fighters. The government should be preparing for that."

"Athletes should have security," he adds. "When they have security, they can train well, they can fight well, and they can win medals."

FIST AND FOOT

Nikpai has been winning medals since the age of 19, when he took gold in his first major competition in India. Two years later, he was an Olympian.

If his most recent training under the guidance of coaches Bashir Taraki and Korea's Min Sin-hak takes him through qualification, he will be fighting for Olympic gold in east London's ExCel centre next August.

While the sport, whose name translates from Korean as "the way of foot and fist", is dominated by South Korea and China, Nikpai is loath to be drawn on the fighters he expects to prove toughest to beat.

"At the Olympics, all of the sportsmen are champions," he adds with a smile.

Having been first inspired to enter the sport by his brother Habib, he now trains twice a day with the national team. Competing at the Olympic Games was a longstanding goal for him, even during his early years in local competitions in Kabul.

"When I started out in competitions, I made a lot of mistakes, I got knocked down," he says. "I got a lot of experience from that."

"In 2006, when I got gold medal at the south Asia games, I felt like I was ready to fight in an Olympic match."

Given that it took him only two years to claim a bronze medal in Beijing, the additional four may be long enough to lift him two more places on the podium. (Reporting by Jan Harvey; Additional reporting by Hamid Sayedi; Editing by John O'Brien)
Back to Top
 Back to News Archirves of 2011
 
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).