Archive for the ‘Afghan military’ category

Taliban seizes 3 districts from Afghan government

July 25, 2017

Taliban seizes 3 districts from Afghan government, Long War Journal, , July 25, 2017

Even as the three districts fell, the Taliban is on the offensive in all of the other regions. Afghan security forces, which are sustaining record highs in casualties and desertions, is largely on the defensive in most areas of the country.

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The Afghan Taliban has overrun three districts previously held by the Afghan government in the provinces of Paktia, Farah and Ghor over the past several days. The Taliban is demonstrating that it can sustain operations in all theaters of Afghanistan. The three districts are located in three different regions of the country.

The district of Jani Khel in Paktia, a known stronghold of the Haqqani Network – the powerful Taliban subgroup that is based in eastern Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal areas – fell to the Taliban earlier today after several days of heavy fighting, according to Afghan officials and the Taliban. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the district headquarters buildings, the police headquarters and all security checkpoints are under his group’s control. Fighting is underway at a nearby military base.

Jani Khel was effectively under Taliban control. At the end of March, the group claimed that all but six percent of the district, including the district center, was under Afghan government control.

The districts of Taywara in Ghor in central Afghanistan, and Kohistan (or Lolash) in Faryab in the northwest fell to the Taliban on July 23 after several days of fighting. TOLONews confirmed that the two districts are now Taliban controlled and “government forces have not yet launched military operations to re-capture these districts.”

The loss of the three districts shows that the Taliban is capable of conducting operations in all regions of the country. Even as the three districts fell, the Taliban is on the offensive in all of the other regions. Afghan security forces, which are sustaining record highs in casualties and desertions, is largely on the defensive in most areas of the country.

The state of play of Afghan districts is often difficult to determine. Often, some districts switch hands multiple times over a short period of time. For instance, Nawa district in Helmand province has gone back and forth between the Taliban and the Afghan government four times over the past year. The Afghan government retook it just last week, but the Taliban are fighting to regain control.

In some cases, such as with Jani Khel or all of the districts in Uruzgan province, the Taliban controls all of the district except for the district center, which hosts the government facilities and police headquarters.

Estimates issued by the US military and the Taliban are not that far apart. The US military estimated in the spring that the Taliban now controls or contests 40 percentof Afghanistan’s districts, while the Taliban in late March claimed the number is closer to 50 percent. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, Taliban controls or contests 40 percent of Afghan districts: SIGAR and Afghan Taliban lists ‘Percent of Country under the control of Mujahideen’.]

Afghan forces have ceded control of some rural districts to the Taliban, excusing the districts as strategically unimportant. The Taliban has instead used these districts as bases to attack Afghan forces in more populous districts.

Report: U.S.-Backed Afghan Government Funding Taliban Schools, Hospitals

June 11, 2017

Report: U.S.-Backed Afghan Government Funding Taliban Schools, Hospitals, BreitbartEdwin Mora, June 11, 2017

REUTERS/Mustafa Andaleb

The U.S.-led coalition overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001, soon after invading Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S homeland.

Afghanistan has been gripped by a Taliban resurgence since former President Barack Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission at the end of 2014.

“The Taliban has grown in confidence three years since Western troops withdrew from the country,” declares the Telegraph.

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The U.S. taxpayer-backed Afghan government is reportedly funding schools and hospitals operated by the Taliban as the terrorist group attempts to establish itself as a legitimate administration in the large swathes of the country under its control.

“They are trying to set up a mini-state – if not the actual state – in Helmand,” Auliya Atrafi, a journalist from the BBC Afghan service who made a film about the deteriorating security conditions there, told the Telegraph.

“In the evening when we sat with the [Taliban] elders and the local leaders, they asked us: ‘Where do you think we will be in 10 years time?’ We knew what they were thinking. They see themselves in ten years time as the government,” added the BBC journalist.

Citing the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) revealed that jihadists, primarily the Taliban, contest or control 40 percent of Afghanistan.

In particular, the Taliban controls or influences 64 percent (nine of 14 districts) of opium-rich Helmand province, located along the Pakistan border next to Kandahar, the birthplace of the terrorist group.

The Telegraph reports that the Taliban controls at least 80 percent of Helmand province, considered one of the deadliest provinces of the ongoing 16-year-old war for the American-led coalition and their Afghan allies.

Taliban jihadists generate 60 percent of its funding from the illicit opium business in Afghanistan, the world’s top producer of the poppy plant, according to the U.S. military.

The American government has invested more than $117 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Most of those funds (more than $71 billion) have been devoted to training, housing, equipping, and sustaining the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in their fight against the Taliban and other jihadist groups.

Nevertheless, the Telegraph points out, “the Afghan government is funding schools and hospitals run by the Taliban as the militant group seeks to establish itself as a legitimate administration in large swathes of the country, a new film has found.”

“A report by a BBC team granted rare access to the group’s stronghold in Helmand province found the Taliban has been forced to present itself as somewhat modernized since Afghans have grown used to government services and a different way of life after the group was ousted from official power,” it adds.

An estimated 300 U.S. Marines have recently returned to the Taliban-stronghold Helmand.

The U.S.-led coalition overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001, soon after invading Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S homeland.

Afghanistan has been gripped by a Taliban resurgence since former President Barack Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission at the end of 2014.

“The Taliban has grown in confidence three years since Western troops withdrew from the country,” declares the Telegraph.

 

Massive Kabul truck bomb kills 80, wounds hundreds

May 31, 2017

Massive Kabul truck bomb kills 80, wounds hundreds, BreitbartAFP, May 31, 2017

(How to have a joyous and reflective Ramadan. — DM)

AFP

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 now, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies. They mainly serve in an advisory capacity — a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.

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Kabul (AFP) – At least 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded Wednesday when a massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul’s diplomatic quarter, bringing carnage to the streets of the Afghan capital and blowing out windows several miles away.

Bodies littered the scene and a huge cloud of smoke rose from the highly-fortified area which houses foreign embassies, after the rush-hour attack tore a massive crater in the ground just days into the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

No group has so far claimed the powerful blast, which a Western diplomatic source said was caused by 1,500 kilogrammes of explosives packed inside a water tanker.

Rescue workers were digging bodies from the rubble hours after the explosion as anguished residents struggled to get through security cordons to search for missing relatives. Dozens of damaged cars choked the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls sought safety.

It was not immediately clear what the target was. But the attack suggests a major security failure and  underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where the NATO-backed military, beset by soaring casualties and desertions, is struggling to beat back insurgents.

Over a third of the country is outside government control.

“Unfortunately the toll has reached 80 martyred (killed) and over 300 wounded, including many women and children,” said health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh, adding the figures would continue to climb as more bodies are pulled from the debris.

President Ashraf Ghani slammed the attack as a “war crime”.

The Taliban — currently in the midst of their annual “spring offensive” — tweeted that they were not involved and “strongly condemn” the blast. The insurgent group rarely claims responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in the Afghan capital, including a powerful blast targeting a NATO convoy that killed eight people earlier this month.

The sound of the bomb, which went off near Kabul’s busy Zanbaq Square, reverberated across the Afghan capital, with residents comparing it to an earthquake. Most victims appear to be civilians.

“The vigilance and courage of Afghan security forces prevented the VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) from gaining entry to the Green Zone, but the explosion caused civilian casualties,” NATO said in a statement.

– Embassies damaged –

The BBC said its Afghan driver Mohammed Nazir was killed and four of their journalists wounded. Local TV channel Tolo TV also tweeted that a staff member Aziz Navin was killed.

The explosion damaged several embassies in the area, which houses diplomatic and government buildings and is a maze of concrete blast walls, vehicle barriers and armed security guards.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the “despicable” attack killed an Afghan guard from the German embassy, and added that some employees had been injured, though he did not give further details.

He said the bomb had gone off “in the immediate vicinity” of the German embassy.

France, India, Turkey, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Bulgaria similarly reported damage to their embassies, including shattered windows, as the blast drew an avalanche of international condemnation.

US ambassador to Afghanistan Hugo Llorens issued a scathing statement condemning the “complete disregard for human life”, saying those behind the attack deserved our “utter scorn”.

Amnesty International said the attack underscores the fact that the conflict in Afghanistan is “dangerously widening in a way that should alarm the international community”.

Germany was forced to postpone a scheduled deportation flight of rejected Afghan asylum-seekers in the wake of the attack. The European nation has drawn criticism for sending back Afghans to an increasingly dangerous country.

Wednesday’s blast was the latest in a string of attacks in Kabul. The province surrounding the capital had the highest number of casualties in the country in the first three months of 2017 due to multiple attacks in the city, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of “another tough year” for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan.

Afghan troops are backed by US and NATO forces, and the Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more soldiers to break the deadlock in the battle against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 now, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies. They mainly serve in an advisory capacity — a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.

Full Measure A-Block 04/23/2017 Ghost Soldiers

April 24, 2017

Full Measure A-Block 04/23/2017 Ghost Soldiers via YouTube, April 24, 2017

 

Trump Admin Inherits Continued Insecurity, Corruption in Afghanistan

January 12, 2017

Trump Admin Inherits Continued Insecurity, Corruption in Afghanistan, Washington Free Beacon, January 12, 2017

Afghan security personnel inspect at the site of roadside bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Afghan officials say that at least three people have been wounded by a roadside bomb blast in the capital, Kabul. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghan security personnel inspect at the site of roadside bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016.  (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Donald Trump will need to confront the continued instability and corruption in Afghanistan as well as a resilient Taliban insurgency that continues to challenge Afghan military and police forces, according to the special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction.

John Sopko, the U.S. government’s special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction, offered a bleak assessment of the security situation and rebuilding efforts in the war-torn country on Wednesday during remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, admitting that little has improved in Afghanistan over the past two years despite billions of dollars in investments from the United States.

The special inspector general unveiled a list of high-risk challenges facing the new administration in Afghanistan, including the capacity and capabilities of Afghan security forces, corruption, sustainability, on-budget assistance, counter-narcotics, contract management, general oversight, and planning and strategy.

Failure in any one of these eight areas, Sopko said Wednesday, could “fatally undermine the reconstruction mission in Afghanistan.”

The special inspector general identified corruption and poor leadership of the Afghan military and police forces as the root cause of the persisting insecurity in Afghanistan. He pointed to the tens of thousands of U.S. taxpayer-funded “ghost soldiers,” as well as evidence of Afghan forces selling U.S.-bought weapons and fuel for profit.

“Afghan commanders often pocket the paychecks of ghost soldiers for whom the U.S. is paying the salary,” Sopko said. “The number of ghost soldiers is not insignificant. It likely reaches into the tens of thousands of soldiers and police.”

“[Corruption] is so bad that there is evidence that the Taliban have instructed their field commanders to simply purchase U.S.-supplied weapons, fuel, and ammunition from the Afghan government because it is both easier and less expensive for the insurgents to do so,” he continued.

“There are reports that when fuel finally reaches the frontlines in Afghanistan, that some Afghan commanders refuse to use it, refuse to go on patrols, so they can save the fuel which they then can sell on the open market,” Sopko said.

The special inspector general has said as much as 50 percent of U.S.-purchased fuel is siphoned off and sold for profits.

“Our new administration and Congress should ask: Is it finally time to stop talking about combatting corruption and time for the Afghan government to start prosecuting senior officials who are either corrupt or feel they are above the law?” Sopko said.

The Taliban has continued to launch attacks and seize territory in Afghanistan, as U.S. and allied forces have withdrawn troops from the country. President Obama last year decelerated his planned drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, leaving some 8,400 service members in the country through the end of his term. Gens. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, have both characterized the security situation as a “stalemate.”

The Taliban on Tuesday set off two large bombs near a government compound in Kabul, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens. The attack was among 56 security incidents that occurred over the last two days in 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, according to the special inspector general.

The Pentagon’s latest assessment of the Afghan military and police forces evaluated them as effective in repelling insurgents in key population areas and retaking territory seized by the Taliban. But Sopko on Wednesday offered a negative take on the assessment, saying that the Afghan forces are “basically playing whack-a-mole, following the Taliban around Afghanistan and retaking territory that was lost.”

“The DoD report reiterates this point by noting that the vast majority of the Afghan national army has little offensive capability,” the special inspector general said. “So, the best spin the Afghan security forces can put on their activities in 2016 is that they were able to retake strategic areas that had temporarily been lost to the Taliban. So, we’re defining success as the absence of failure. At a minimum, they are playing defense and are not taking the fight to the Taliban.”

The United States announced this week that it will send 300 Marines to Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, in order to train, advise, and assist Afghan government forces fighting Taliban insurgents. Obama marked the end of combat in Afghanistan in December 2014.

Trump has not yet outlined a strategy for Afghanistan, which after 15 years has stretched to America’s longest war, but has pledged to end “nation building” by the United States. Under the new administration, the Pentagon will likely be led by retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who faces a confirmation hearing to become defense secretary this week.

The United States has spent $115 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan and is expected to contribute between $5 and $6 billion annually through 2020.

Sopko, who was appointed to the inspector general post in 2012 by President Obama, urged the incoming administration to “conduct a thorough assessment of resources and personnel to ensure they are sufficient to meet our military, law enforcement, and civilian objectives in Afghanistan.” He also recommended the new government work with Afghan and coalition allies to develop a “new and better strategy” in Afghanistan that avoids failures revealed by his office and other oversight investigations.

“Fifteen years in, there is no reason we should be seeing the problems we continue to witness and document in the nearly 250 reports my little office has released,” Sopko said. “My hope, and the hope of my staff, is that the high-risk report we are issuing today and the examples it provides will help guide Congress and the Trump administration as we move into 2017 to ensure a strong, better, and more effective reconstruction effort in what has become America’s longest war.”

Oops. First Female Afghan Fighter Pilot Pleads For Asylum In America

December 27, 2016

Oops. First Female Afghan Fighter Pilot Pleads For Asylum In America, Hot Air, JAZZ SHAW, December 27, 2016

(Nah. Obama’s America prefers jihadists. — DM)

Afghan air force 2nd Lt. Niloofar Rhmani and Capt. Aaron Marx preflight a Cessna 208 at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan. On this day, Rhmani became the first woman to fly a fixed wing combat mission. Marx hails from San Antonio, Texas, and is deployed from RAF Mildenhall, England, were he pilots KC-135R Stratotankers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Afghan air force 2nd Lt. Niloofar Rhmani and Capt. Aaron Marx preflight a Cessna 208 at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan. On this day, Rhmani became the first woman to fly a fixed wing combat mission. Marx hails from San Antonio, Texas, and is deployed from RAF Mildenhall, England, were he pilots KC-135R Stratotankers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Niloofar Rahmani has become somewhat famous in the United States. She’s the first female fighter pilot from Afghanistan and her story has been sold as proof of a new dawn of western ideals in her home country. That story fell apart somewhat this year, however. In order to complete her training she’s been serving at various bases in the United States, and during the course of this process she has asked for asylum in America because she fears returning to her home nation. This has enraged the Afghanistan government and she’s been accused of lying by her own military command. (New York Times)

Contending that her “life isn’t at risk at all,” military officials in Afghanistan have asked that the United States reject the asylum case of Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force.

On Thursday, Captain Rahmani revealed that she had applied for asylum this summer, saying she felt unsafe in Afghanistan, where she and her family have received death threats. For the last 15 months, she has been training at air bases in Arkansas, Florida and Texas.

This attempt to flee for her life is proving embarrassing for the United States. While it sounds like Rahmani is a capable pilot, she’s become more of a political selling point for the war in Afghanistan, showing how the country is slowly but surely modernizing and our efforts there have not been in vain. The fact that she wishes to stay here to avoid some sort of honor killing or other peril shows that things really haven’t changed all that much.

The idea that she wasn’t facing any danger (as Afghan officials claim) seems problematic at best. Back in March of 2015, after she was honored during a ceremony with First Lady Michelle Obama, the pilot was being interviewed and talked about the threats she faced both from the Taliban and her own family.

She shared the extreme pressure she is under with female pilots from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Rahmani said she has been subjected to multiple death threats from members of the Afghan military, people in her own country, the Taliban and eventually her extended family.

Her sister she said was beaten and is forbidden from seeing her own daughter. Her bother had to hide from gunfire while walking home from class one day. Her family has to move every couple of months to stay safe.

While serving in the military is something to be proud of, for Rahmani, there is a huge price to pay. “Being a female in the military is a shame for all family,” she said.

It’s not just the Taliban putting her in danger. The current government in Afghanistan is still ruled by people very much set in the old ways. One of the worst examples is Abdul Rashid Dostum. A former warlord, he’s now the Vice President of that nation and you should see what he’s been up to lately. (Washington Post)

Dostum has long been infamous for his cruelty: He has reportedly ordered tanks driven over enemies’ legs and been accused of suffocating hundreds of Taliban prisoners in sealed truck containers. He is also known for violent and abusive rages. But none of the accusations ever landed him in serious trouble. He was either too intimidating, or too important, to challenge.

But now, Dostum may have gone too far.

His latest alleged victim, a 63-year-old former provincial governor named Ahmad Ishchi, has accused Dostum on television of imprisoning him, beating him and ordering him raped in November; Ishchi has also submitted to medical tests at a U.S. military hospital. This time, Dostum, 62, is not a warlord but the first vice president of a government backed by the United States and Europe — a heartbeat away from replacing President Ashraf Ghani.

This is the reality of the nation that Niloofar Rahmani will be returning to if her request for asylum is denied. Their government and particularly their military remain mired in ancient, repressive culture, where pedophilia is openly embraced by military commanders and women are killed as punishment for being raped. Getting out of line and above your station – particularly for women – can be a death sentence. And to repeat the point, it’s not just the Taliban doing all of this.

I don’t know whether the final decision on this request will be handled by the Obama administration or Trump, but if we really honor the contributions of Ms. Rahmani as much as we claim to, her request should be approved. If we send her back there and she winds up dead, the blame won’t be placed entirely on people in Afghanistan.

Gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms kidnap American, Australian in Kabul

August 8, 2016

Gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms kidnap American, Australian in Kabul, Jihad Watch

The AP headline says that the perpetrators were “gunmen posing as Afghan soldiers,” but there is no reason why the kidnappers couldn’t be members of the Afghan military, which is rife with jihadis, as the green-on-blue killings demonstrate.

Meanwhile, the hostages will now be killed, enslaved, ransomed or freed outright.

Here is a salient passage on this issue from a Shafi’i manual of Islamic law:

When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph considers the interests … (of Islam and the Muslims) and decides between the prisoner’s death, slavery, release without paying anything, or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy. (Umdat al-Salik o9.14)

A revered Islamic jurist, Al-Mawardi, agrees with ‘Umdat al-Salik:

As for the captives, the amir has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first, to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale or manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. (Al-Ahkam As-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance), 4.5)

American-University-of-Afghanistan

“Gunmen posing as Afghan soldiers kidnap American, Australian in Kabul: official,” by Rahim Faiez, Associated Press, August 8, 2016:

KABUL – Five gunmen wearing Afghan military uniforms have abducted an American and an Australian in the Afghan capital, Kabul, a security official said Monday.

The two foreigners were taken from their SUV while driving on Sunday night on a main road near the American University of Afghanistan, according to Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry. They are believed to be employees of the university and were travelling between the university and their residence, he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Sediqqi also added that initial reports show that up to five armed men stopped the foreigners’ vehicle and carried out the kidnapping. The two abducted are both men, he said. He did not reveal any more details except to say that an investigation is underway.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a brief statement confirming the kidnapping of an American citizen but gave no further details “due to privacy concerns.”

“U.S. Embassy security officials are working closely with Afghan law enforcement and security colleagues and AUAF to assist in the investigation into the kidnapping,” it said, referring to the American University of Afghanistan.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also issued a statement confirming “the apparent kidnapping of an Australian in Kabul.” No further details were released, also for privacy concerns.

“We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, including the serious threat of kidnapping,” it said….

Sediqqi said that kidnappers in all the Kabul cases, including Monday’s, had been wearing military uniforms, establishing a pattern and hinting at some form of organized gang activity….