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September 15, 2012 

Afghan parliament votes in new spy chief and ministers
By Mirwais Harooni
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's parliament voted in a new intelligence chief and two security ministers on Saturday, stepping closer to settling a row with President Hamid Karzai over ministerial appointments.

Taliban claim attack on base in south Afghanistan
By PATRICK QUINN | Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban claimed responsibility Saturday for an attack on a sprawling British base in southern Afghanistan that killed two U.S. Marines and wounded several other troops, saying it was to avenge an anti-Islamic film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad and also because Britain's Prince Harry is serving there.

UK military: No plan to end Harry's Afghan tour
Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Britain says it doesn't plan to cut short Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan, despite the Taliban attack on the base where he is stationed.

'Afghan policeman' kills two NATO soldiers: military
AFP
Two NATO soldiers were shot dead on Saturday by a man believed to be a member of a controversial Afghan police force in southern Afghanistan, the US-led military said.

13 Taliban killed, 30 surrender in Afghanistan
By Indo Asian News Service
Kabul, Sep 15 (IANS) At least 13 Taliban militants were killed in operations launched by the army and police in Afghanistan while 30 militants led by their commander, Mullah Sohbaat, joined the peace process, officials said Saturday.

Curbing Corruption in Afghanistan
Foreign Policy in focus By Inge Fryklund September 14, 2012
Governmental corruption is a huge issue in many of the countries that the United States seeks to influence. Afghanistan is only one of the more notable cases in which corruption is rampant. America has put millions into USAID and State Department projects designed to combat corruption, but there is very little to show for its efforts. To date, no high-level corruption prosecution has gone forward in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan 'facing civil war when US troops leave'
Afghanistan will slide back into civil war when American troops leave, according to a key insurgent negotiator who says peace talks now have no chance of success.
Telegraph.co.uk By Rob Crilly 14 Sep 2012
Islamabad - Ghairat Baheer, a senior figure in Hizb-i-Islami who has held three meetings with US officials in Kabul, told The Daily Telegraph that last week's decision by Hillary Clinton to declare the Haqqani network, an insurgent group linked to the Taliban, has killed off hopes of a negotiated settlement.

Marines honored for counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, The Washington Post September 15
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A brigade of U.S. Marines that evicted Taliban insurgents from a broad swath of southern Afghanistan received the nation’s highest collective military honor at a ceremony here Friday.


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Afghan parliament votes in new spy chief and ministers
By Mirwais Harooni
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's parliament voted in a new intelligence chief and two security ministers on Saturday, stepping closer to settling a row with President Hamid Karzai over ministerial appointments.

Political turmoil has delayed decisions on crucial legislation, including a revised mining law being closely watched by Western donors and foreign mining companies.

Any fresh dispute between Karzai and parliament could also complicate the timetable for the planned transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces and a withdrawal by most foreign combat troops by 2014.

The nomination of the influential former Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid as the new head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), has alarmed human rights groups who say the NDS has a long and well-documented history of torturing its detainees.

Diplomats and rights groups have linked Khalid to abuse of suspected insurgents at a prison in Kandahar during his time as provincial governor.

An MP from northern Kunduz province, Shukria Paikan, dismissed the human rights abuse allegations against Khalid.

"Until I see human rights violations by my eye, I never trust any report or claim," she told Reuters. "Whenever we find enough and accurate evidence, we will decide whether to keep him as a chief of intelligence service or not."

Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, previously interior minister, was voted in as defence minister, and former deputy interior minister Mushtaba Patang became minister.

Some parliament members had said they wanted fresh appointments to come from outside Karzai's increasingly unpopular inner circle.

The approval of the majority of Karzai's appointments averted a deepening row, although one ministerial position remained vacant after the vote.

Haji din Mohammad, former governor of Kabul and close ally of the president, failed to win parliament's vote of confidence.

"We wish success to our winning ministers and ask President Karzai to appoint a new candidate as a minister of border affairs" said lower house speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi.

Previous defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak was sacked by parliament over deteriorating security in Afghanistan, 11 years after the NATO-led war against the country's former Taliban rulers began.

New defence minister Mohammadi is an ethnic Tajik with a strong power base in the country's north, while NDS chief Khalid is an ethnic Pashtun with strong connections in the south, from where the Taliban draw most support.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Andrew Roche)
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Taliban claim attack on base in south Afghanistan
By PATRICK QUINN | Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban claimed responsibility Saturday for an attack on a sprawling British base in southern Afghanistan that killed two U.S. Marines and wounded several other troops, saying it was to avenge an anti-Islamic film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad and also because Britain's Prince Harry is serving there.

The U.S.-led NATO coalition said in a statement that nearly 20 insurgents armed with guns, rocket-propelled grenades and explosive vests infiltrated the perimeter of Camp Bastion. The huge British base is adjacent to Camp Leatherneck, which houses U.S. Marine operations in southern Helmand province.

The coalition said the attack, which began shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, killed two NATO service members, wounded several others and damaged multiple aircraft and structures.

Coalition forces returned fire and killed 18 militants. One other insurgent, who was wounded, has been detained and is being given medical treatment, the coalition said. NATO service members, who cleared the base of attackers early Saturday, were still assessing the damage to aircraft and buildings on the air field.

"Despite the damage, there will be no impact to ground or air operations from Camp Bastion," the coalition said. "An investigation is ongoing."

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said: "We attacked that base because Prince Harry was also on it and so they can know our anger." The group often tailors its claims to the news of the day.

"Thousands more suicide attackers are ready to give up their lives for the sake of the Prophet," Ahmadi said in a telephone call with The Associated Press.

Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, is based at Camp Bastion. A spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defense told the AP that Prince Harry was unharmed in the attack, which according to Britain's Press Association took place two kilometers (one mile) from the section of the complex where the prince was located. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

Capt. Harry Wales, as the prince is known in the military, is serving a four-month combat deployment as a gunner on an Apache helicopter. Harry, who turns 28 on Saturday, is expected to start flying Apache missions this week. This is his second tour in Afghanistan.

In its statement, the International Security Assistance Force, NATO's Afghan mission, said insurgents attacked "with both small arms fire and indirect fire killing two ISAF service members and causing damage to buildings and aircraft." Indirect fire usually refers to mortars or rockets.

Jamie Graybeal, a coalition spokesman, confirmed that two U.S. Marines died in the attack, but he said that how they died remained under investigation. Graybeal said two insurgents wearing suicide vests were part of the assaulting force, although he did not say whether they blew themselves up.

It was unclear what the insurgents hoped to accomplish in attacking Camp Bastion, one of the largest and most heavily defended military facilities in Afghanistan.

Bastion is located in a remote desert area northwest of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand. It is the hub for all British operations in the province and along with Leatherneck houses thousands of combat troops and Marines, including Danish and Estonian forces.

Afghanistan's southern region has been a hotbed of the insurgency and attacks against foreign forces occur daily, although the Taliban have largely been routed in its capital and larger towns. Helmand remains an active battlefield between insurgents and NATO forces and for years has been the site of some of the war's bloodiest engagements.

There were few protests against the film in Afghanistan on Friday and Saturday. The largest on Friday involved several hundred people in eastern Nangarhar province. On Saturday, a few hundred of university students protested in the eastern city of Khost, shouting "Death to America" and burning an effigy of President Barack Obama.

"Infidels have insulted our beloved Prophet," said protester Mohammad Abdullah.

The Afghan government has indefinitely blocked YouTube to prevent Afghans from viewing a video clip of the film that was posted on the Internet site, said Khair Mohammad Faizi, a spokesman for the Communication Ministry. He said it will remain blocked until the video is taken down.

Other Google services, including gmail, were also blocked in Afghanistan on Friday and Saturday. Faizi did not comment on this.

In other violence, a police vehicle hit a roadside bomb on Saturday during a routine patrol in Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan, killing a police inspector and wounding two other policemen, according to Kandahar provincial spokesman Jawed Faisal.

Twelve other civilians from two families were killed on Friday when their car hit a roadside bomb in Gereskh district of Helmand province, according to the office of President Hamid Karzai.

Separately, the Afghan parliament on Saturday voted to approve three of four individuals Karzai nominated to fill senior security positions.

The lawmakers approved Assadullah Khalid to lead the intelligence agency despite allegations that he has committed human rights abuses in the past. Khalid was the minister of border and tribal affairs and also has been governor of Kandahar and Ghazni provinces.

Human Rights Watch has reported allegations that forces under Khalid's authority operated a private prison in Kandahar from 2005 to 2008 in which detainees were beaten and tortured with electric shocks. The New York-based group said Khalid also has been accused of corruption and high-level involvement in the country's narcotics trafficking. Khalid has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

The Afghan parliament also approved former Interior Minister Bishmullah Mohammadi as defense minister and Mushtaba Patang, a former police chief in northern Afghanistan, as the new minister of interior.

Azizullah Din Mohammad, a former mayor of the Afghan capital Kabul, was not approved as Khalid's replacement as minister of tribal and border affairs.
___

Robert Burns contributed from Washington, Amir Shah from Kabul and Mirwais Khan from Kandahar.
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UK military: No plan to end Harry's Afghan tour
Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Britain says it doesn't plan to cut short Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan, despite the Taliban attack on the base where he is stationed.

Two U.S. Marines died in the assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand Province Friday, and Taliban claimed it carried out the attack to avenge an anti-Islamic film that insulted the Prophet Muhammad and because Harry is there.

Britain's defense ministry said the prince's deployment was carefully planned and the threat to all British troops "is continually assessed and all measures taken to mitigate it."

Harry's status as third in line to the throne has complicated his military career. A deployment to Iraq was announced, then abandoned, in 2007.

His tour to Afghanistan in 2007-2008 was cut short after 10 weeks when a media blackout was breached.
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'Afghan policeman' kills two NATO soldiers: military
AFP
Two NATO soldiers were shot dead on Saturday by a man believed to be a member of a controversial Afghan police force in southern Afghanistan, the US-led military said.

The attack means that so far this year, Afghan security personnel have shot dead at least 47 NATO soldiers, the majority of them American, threatening to jeopardise Western plans to train Afghan forces to take over when they leave in 2014.

"An individual believed to be an Afghan Local Police (ALP) member turned his weapon against (NATO's) International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two," ISAF said.

The attacker was killed in return fire, the military said, refusing to disclose the nationality of the victims.

The police spokesman for southern province Helmand, where British and American troops dominate the NATO contingent, said the incident happened in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah on Saturday afternoon.

The attack came just two weeks after US special forces suspended training for about 1,000 recruits to the ALP.

The force -- which has around 16,000 members -- is US-sponsored and recruited to fight Taliban insurgents in remote areas of the Afghan countryside, though it has been accused of corruption and violence towards civilians.

Training for the mainstream police and the Afghan army -- carried out by NATO rather than the US -- has not been affected.

Afghanistan says it has arrested or sacked hundreds of Afghan soldiers for suspected insurgency links in a bid to stem a trend that threatens to undermine Western plans for a troop withdrawal.

NATO attributes around 75 percent of the attacks to grudges, misunderstandings and cultural differences. The Afghan defence ministry this month published a hastily-written brochure for 195,000 members of the Afghan army with advice on how to behave around and not misunderstand Western soldiers.
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13 Taliban killed, 30 surrender in Afghanistan
By Indo Asian News Service
Kabul, Sep 15 (IANS) At least 13 Taliban militants were killed in operations launched by the army and police in Afghanistan while 30 militants led by their commander, Mullah Sohbaat, joined the peace process, officials said Saturday.

In the eastern province of Ghazni, seven militants were killed, and in neighbouring Paktika province, six militants were gunned down in a search operation, army spokesman Mohammad Nazar Sultani told Xinhua.

A Taliban leader named Omari was among the dead in Paktika, police said.

A roadside bomb went off in Wardoj district of Badakhshan province Saturday, which killed a policeman and injured seven others, police said.

At least six civilians were killed in Paktika province's Khoshamand district when a bomb planted on the roadside hit their vehicle.

Meanwhile, up to 30 Taliban militants surrendered to the government in Badakhshan province, 315 km northeast of Kabul, a government spokesman said.

Led by their commander Mullah Sohbaat, the Taliban renounced violence and joined the peace and reconciliation process in Shahri Buzurg district Saturday.

The militants also handed over 30 AK-47 rifles to security officials.

Reports said more than 3,500 insurgents have laid down arms in Afghanistan in the past year.
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Curbing Corruption in Afghanistan
Foreign Policy in focus By Inge Fryklund September 14, 2012
Governmental corruption is a huge issue in many of the countries that the United States seeks to influence. Afghanistan is only one of the more notable cases in which corruption is rampant. America has put millions into USAID and State Department projects designed to combat corruption, but there is very little to show for its efforts. To date, no high-level corruption prosecution has gone forward in Afghanistan.

Why are U.S. efforts to reduce corruption in Afghanistan and other places so unsuccessful? The United States is a well-developed economy with relatively minimal corruption. One would think that our experience can show the way to other countries. It can, but to date we have approached the problem backwards, in ways guaranteed to fail.

When Americans think of anti-corruption programs, they naturally think of prosecution. It seems obvious that detecting and prosecuting those who violate the public trust is the thing to do; it takes the bad actor out of play and deters those who may be similarly inclined.

However, we are not sufficiently aware of the political-cultural context in which prosecution proves useful. Preventing corruption—rather than prosecuting it after the fact—requires fine-tuned day-to-day mechanisms, and these we have developed over more than a century.

We have gradually constructed public systems that prevent most would-be criminals from acting on their desires. We have governmental systems incorporating checks and balances. We prevent the one-on-one citizen-civil servant transactions that offer space for bribes or extortion. A single line at a government office, for example, with each person going to the next available window, may look like good customer service, but it has the underlying purpose of ensuring that clerk-citizen interactions are randomly paired. (It is no surprise that in the United States, building code and health department inspections of restaurants are a common source of graft and extortion. These site visits take place out of public view.)

We are so cushioned by such arrangements that we never notice their ubiquity. (The fish, they say, are the last to discover water.) The threat of prosecution in the United States is for the handful of people who are determined to beat the odds stacked in favor of prevention.

When we go to other countries, we can be misled into applying Western approaches without realizing how context-dependent our tools are. In a country like Afghanistan that lacks all the everyday systems that we take for granted, prosecution is like bailing from a leaking boat. We can prosecute individuals just about indefinitely, but if there are no systemic checks put in place, new miscreants will always replace those who are removed. When prosecution is used as the first (or only) line of defense, the hapless citizen is no better off; he is at the mercy of the next predatory official. Asking President Karzai to prosecute government officials is not a systemic solution.

Corrupt governments are often enthusiastic about prosecution—as long as they can select which individuals are thrown to the wolves (typically internal competitors or someone not sharing kick-backs with higher-ups). There is similar enthusiasm for “anti-corruption commissions.” Western support for such institutions is puzzling. Such panels allow corrupt officials to pretend to virtue, give them cover to remove a few competitors, and allow corrupt business as usual to proceed. The citizen, of course, is the loser.

My approach in countries such as Afghanistan is to focus on systemic improvements—always labeling them “customer service” rather than “anti-corruption.” Reduce the number of signatures required to open a business. (Each signature represents an opportunity for extortion.) Eliminate opportunities for public employees to negotiate fees. The possibilities are unlimited. In Kabul several years ago, a USAID-funded land records project imaged property deeds so they could be retrieved in the records office within minutes. This replaced a system in which it could take two weeks to locate a paper record—during which time the public employee could transfer title to someone else. Just good customer service.

No single step is going to make a dramatic difference. Improvements in public accountability will accumulate slowly, but over time they can systematically reduce vulnerability to public corruption. Improvements create a constituency that will expect more, driving further improvements in customer service and accountability. This approach also ensures sustainability—which prosecutions coached by foreign attorneys and conducted at the whim of the president can never guarantee.

Incremental improvements may not be what the international community wants to see. A highly visible prosecution—even though it effects no change to the underlying system—is much more exciting than a reduction in the number of signatures required for a license. But there are no shortcuts to good government.
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Afghanistan 'facing civil war when US troops leave'
Afghanistan will slide back into civil war when American troops leave, according to a key insurgent negotiator who says peace talks now have no chance of success.
Telegraph.co.uk By Rob Crilly 14 Sep 2012
Islamabad - Ghairat Baheer, a senior figure in Hizb-i-Islami who has held three meetings with US officials in Kabul, told The Daily Telegraph that last week's decision by Hillary Clinton to declare the Haqqani network, an insurgent group linked to the Taliban, has killed off hopes of a negotiated settlement.

He said the withdrawal of US combat troops by the end of 2014 would leave Afghan forces ill-equipped to withstand the combined threat of insurgent groups.

"The Americans have their calculation that if it bring down expenses the lowest level but I don't think the national army and national police will be able to resist. They don't have the morale," he said. "It will lead to civil war."

His prediction of "chaos" contradicts an upbeat assessment delivered by Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, who said British troops may leave sooner than the end of 2014.

In an interview with the Guardian he claimed commanders were "surprised by the extent to which they have been able to draw back and leave the Afghans to take the lion's share of the combat role".

The spectre of civil war is the worst case scenario envisaged by Nato commanders as they gradually hand over responsibility for security to Afghan forces. The strategy is coupled with moves to engage Taliban leaders in talks.

Earlier this week, General John Allen, commander of Nato-led troops in the country, said more than three quarters of the population now lived in areas where local forces had taken the lead for security. And this week the Kabul government took control of Bagram prison – long seen as a symbol of American brutality and contempt for justice by locals – in a move hailed as a victory for Afghan sovereignty. Dr Baheer, who spent six years held by US forces at different prisons including Bagram, has met American officials three times in Kabul as part of a nascent peace process, which he now says holds no prospect of progress.

However, now he says Hizb-i-Islami has ended its involvement in talks with the Afghan government because of its close alliance with the US. He said that blacklisting the Haqqani network had made it impossible for the Taliban to negotiate.

"It is OK to renounce al-Qaeda but how can they renounce Haqqani, when he and his people are part of the Taliban? This breaks all negotiations and chance of settlement," he said.

Instead he insisted that a national government, including the Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami, be established to represent all of Afghanistan.
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Marines honored for counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, The Washington Post September 15
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A brigade of U.S. Marines that evicted Taliban insurgents from a broad swath of southern Afghanistan received the nation’s highest collective military honor at a ceremony here Friday.

Troops of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, who engaged in pitched fighting along the Helmand River Valley, are the first conventional forces in the nearly 11-year-long Afghan war to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

The brigade “brought the fight to the heart of the insurgency,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in announcing the award. “You made 58,000 square miles of battle space — that’s 10,000 square miles larger than North Carolina — a more stable and secure place in the world. That’s remarkable. That’s incredible.”

The Presidential Unit Citation recognizes group valor equivalent to individual action that would merit the Navy Cross or the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross.

Under the command of then-Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the brigade conducted the largest helicopter-borne assault since the Vietnam War in the summer of 2009. The following February, the brigade assaulted the Taliban stronghold of Marja, which led to months of arduous combat. The brigade, which comprised almost 11,000 Marines and sailors, suffered 90 fatalities and hundreds of severe injuries during its year-long deployment.

Although some senior military officers have questioned the decision to send the brigade to Helmand province instead of neighboring Kandahar province, which is more populous and strategically significant, the Marines used their time in Helmand to demonstrate how counterinsurgency tactics — employing military resources to protect civilians from insurgents — could beat back the Taliban.

“The reason you got this award is because you gave all of us hope that the counterinsurgency strategy would work,” Marine Commandant James Amos told a small group of officers from the brigade after the ceremony. “You showed us how it could be done.”

Nicholson, now a major general, noted that the brigade consistently sought to experiment with new ways to improve security, including one of the first large-scale efforts to encourage religious leaders to stand up to the insurgency.

Despite the Marine achievements in Helmand, the counterinsurgency strategy eventually proved to be too costly, troop-intensive and time-consuming to be expanded across every part of Afghanistan that is being contested by the Taliban. The United States and its NATO allies, which have pledged to end their conventional-force combat missions by the end of 2014, are now focusing on training and supporting the Afghan army to lead the fight against insurgents.

It is also not clear whether the security improvements in the brigade’s area of operations will be sustained by the Afghan army and police as the number of Marines in Helmand province shrinks to comply with a force drawdown ordered by President Obama. The province, which once had 20,000 U.S. troops, is slated to have about 6,000 by the end of this month.
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