Posted tagged ‘Afghanistan’

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.

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond

April 27, 2017

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond, Long War Journal, April 27, 2017

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.

 

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Editor’s note: Below is Bill Roggio’s testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation. A PDF of the testimony, with footnotes, can be downloaded here.

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Keating, and other members of this subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about the terrorist groups based in Afghanistan and their continuing threat to U.S. national security.

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

U.S. Estimates on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan Were Incorrect

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.

This assessment, which contradicted the U.S. military’s own press releases announcing raids against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was consistently repeated by U.S. intelligence and military officials. In June 2015, the U.S. military claimed in its biannual Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report that al-Qaeda “has a sustained presence in Afghanistan of probably fewer than 100 operatives concentrated largely in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces, where they remain year-round.” The December 2015 report claimed that al-Qaeda is “primarily concentrated in the east and northeast.

This estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength, which consistently downplayed al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, came crashing down in mid-October 2015, when the U.S. military and Afghan forces orchestrated a large-scale operation against two al-Qaeda camps in the Shorabak district in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

The scale of al-Qaeda’s presence at the two camps in Shorabak quickly disproved the longstanding 50 to 100 estimate. A U.S. military statement, quoting spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, described the raid as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” It took U.S. and Afghan forces more than four days to clear the two camps, with the aid of 63 airstrikes.

Shoffner’s description of the al-Qaeda facilities indicated that they had been built long ago. “The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” Shoffner said. “We struck a major al-Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” he added.

Weeks later, General John F. Campbell, then the commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support mission, described one of the camps, which was run by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), al-Qaeda’s branch in South Asia, as “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

It has been estimated that at least 150 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the raids on the two camps in Shorabak. This is 50 more al-Qaeda fighters than the upper end of the Obama administration’s estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength throughout all of Afghanistan. And the al-Qaeda members were killed in southern Afghanistan, not in the northeastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, where we have been told they were concentrated.

The U.S. military was ultimately forced to concede its estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan was wrong. In mid-December 2016, General Nicholson admitted that the U.S. military killed or captured 50 al-Qaeda leaders and an additional 200 operatives during calendar year 2016 in Afghanistan.

In April 2016, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN that the 50 to 100 estimate was incorrect based on the results of the Shorabak raid. “If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al-Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” he said. The estimate of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan was revised upwards to about 300.

However, well before the Shorabak raids, it was evident to those of us closely watching the war in Afghanistan that al-Qaeda was stronger in Afghanistan than the official estimates, and was not confined to small areas in the northeast. Al-Qaeda consistently reported on its operations throughout Afghanistan, and the U.S. military, up until the summer of 2013, reported on raids against al-Qaeda cells in multiple provinces.

Surely, there was something seriously wrong with the CIA and the U.S. military’s ability to properly report on al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda’s footprint inside Afghanistan remains a direct threat to U.S. national security and, with the resurgence of the Taliban, it is a threat that is only growing stronger.

The Enduring Taliban-al-Qaeda Relationship

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has not occurred in a vacuum. It has maintained its strength in the country since the U.S. invasion, launched a new branch, AQIS, and established training camps with the help and support of the Taliban.

When Generals Campbell and Buchanan discussed al-Qaeda in the wake of the Shorabak raid, they described the group as resurgent. Campbell described the Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship as a “renewed partnership,” while Buchanan said it “has since ‘grown stronger.’”

But like the estimate that al-Qaeda maintained a small cadre of 50 to 100 operatives in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2016, the idea that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have only recently reinvigorated their relationship is incorrect. Al-Qaeda would not have been able to maintain a large cadre of fighters and leaders inside Afghanistan, conduct operations in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, establish training camps, and relocate high-level leaders from Pakistan’s tribal areas to Afghanistan without the Taliban’s long-term support.
Al-Qaeda has remained loyal to the Taliban’s leader, which it describes as the Amir al- Mumineen, or the “Commander of the Faithful,” since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Osama bin Laden maintained his oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s founder and first emir. When bin Laden died, Ayman al-Zawahiri renewed that oath. And when Mullah Omar’s death was announced in 2015, Zawahiri swore bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Mullah Mansour, the Taliban’s new leader. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s oath.

The close relationship between the two jihadist groups is also evident with the assent of the Taliban’s new deputy emir, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the powerful Taliban subgroup known as the Haqqani Network. Sirajuddin and the Haqqani Network have maintained close ties to al-Qaeda for years. The relationship is evident in the U.S. government’s designations of multiple Haqqani Network leaders. Two documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound show that Siraj has closely coordinated his operations with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship remains strong to this day. And with the Taliban gaining control of a significant percentage of Afghanistan’s territory, al-Qaeda has more areas to plant its flag.

Rise of the Islamic State

Shortly after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the caliphate in 2014, announcing the formation of the Islamic State, a small number of disgruntled jihadists from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, as well as al-Qaeda, discarded their oaths to the Taliban, pledged their fealty to Baghdadi, and established the so-called Khorasan province.

While the Islamic State dominates the jihad in Iraq and is a major player in Syria, the group has posed a smaller threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan when compared to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their jihadist allies. The U.S. military estimated the group had upwards of 2,000 fighters at the beginning of 2016, but had lost between 25 and 30 percent of its men in the months that followed. While U.S. military estimates of the strength of jihadist groups in Afghanistan must be taken with a grain of salt, this number is likely in the right ballpark.
The Islamic State has a much smaller presence in Afghanistan when compared to the Taliban. While the Taliban controls or contests more than 200 of Afghanistan’s 400 districts, the Islamic State only controls terrain in several districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group also reportedly has a presence in the Afghan north.

The Islamic State’s Khorasan province has remained entrenched in Nangarhar and has withstood multiple U.S.-backed offensives over the past two years. The U.S. military has had success in killing key leaders, but the group has proven resilient.

Still, the so-called caliphate’s Khorasan province has remained on the margins of the Afghan war. It has conducted a limited number of suicide attacks and other operations in the Afghan capital of Kabul and elsewhere, but has not come close to matching the Taliban’s operational tempo.

Khorasan province has had a difficult time gaining traction throughout much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as it is unwilling to cooperate with other, long-entrenched jihadist groups. In fact, the Taliban crushed the Khorasan province’s forces in Helmand, Farah, and Zabul after they demanded that the Taliban’s fighters swear allegiance to Baghdadi.

Pakistani Jihadist Groups Operating in Afghanistan

In addition to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State, numerous Pakistan-based jihadist groups are known to operate in Afghanistan. For the most part, these organizations remain in the Taliban and al-Qaeda sphere, and leaders of the groups often backfill leadership positions when al-Qaeda commanders are killed in U.S. airstrikes.

The three largest Pakistani groups operating in Afghanistan are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) is largely made up of Taliban groups from Pakistan’s tribal areas. It is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. In 2010, the TTP organized the Times Square bombing plot.

The TTP has taken advantage of the turbulent and ungoverned Afghan-Pakistani border to shift its base of operations when the Pakistani military targets it in offensives. The U.S. has killed several TTP leaders in airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a dangerous jihadist group that is backed by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The LeT is known to operate training camps in Afghanistan and attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat in 2014.26 The U.S. has killed several senior LeT operatives in airstrikes in northeastern Afghanistan over the years. The U.S. has also listed several senior LeT operatives, including Hafiz Saeed, the group’s emir, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) is another Pakistani jihadist group that is known, as of August 2014, to operate training camps in Afghanistan.27 HuM has been involved in numerous acts of terror in the region, including hijacking an Indian airplane, attacking the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, and murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

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

 

The Legacy of the Taliban: Sunni Allies of Tehran

April 20, 2017

The Legacy of the Taliban: Sunni Allies of Tehran, The Jerusalem Center via YouTube, April 20, 2017

(Please see also Taliban Decry ‘Detriments for the Environment’ from U.S. MOAB Explosion. — DM)

The blurb beneath the video states,

The West must not allow terror sanctuaries to grow, thrive, and be used to plan attacks against the West.

The U.S. decision to drop an 11-ton bomb, known as the “mother of all bombs,” in Afghanistan against an ISIS target brought back into focus that entire war and the fact that, aside from the problem of ISIS, there has still been a problem in Afghanistan of the Taliban.

How did the Taliban become so significant over the last number of years since the 9/11 attacks? It’s important to remember that the Taliban are as much a problem as the terror organizations that have congregated on Afghan soil. Taliban policies since the late 1990s involved a number of acts which they undertook which have undermined not just the security of the Middle East but also the security of the world. Of course it was the Taliban who gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and to al-Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. They were originally located or protected by the regime in Sudan, but then in the mid-90s, bin Laden moved to Afghanistan where the Taliban had taken control and offered him a location for his training camps. It was there that bin Laden planned and implemented the horrible attack on the United States – against New York and against Washington, D.C.

One thing we’ve learned from this entire experience is that the West must not allow terror sanctuaries to grow, to thrive, and to be used to plan attacks against the West. That is the first lesson from the experience the West has had with the Taliban.

There’s a second experience with the Taliban that should be recalled. In March 2001, the Taliban decided to dynamite Buddhist statues in the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan that were 2,000 years old. These statues were located along the Silk Route and they were treasured by adherents of Buddhism, but all of a sudden the Taliban decided to attack these religious sites. The Taliban attack actually induced a debate in many radical Islamic circles about whether it was the right thing to do. At first, for example, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi , thought it would be a mistake for the Taliban to attack the Buddhas because it would set up Muslims to be assaulted in Buddhist countries. Later, later Qaradawi and others said, “You know what? The attack on these pre-Islamic sites was the right thing to do” and there was even a discussion about destroying pre-Islamic sites in Egypt like the pyramids and the Sphinx.

It isn’t surprising that the derivatives of al-Qaeda that have grown, like ISIS, have been attacking pre-Islamic religious sites all over the Middle East, destroying the heritage of mankind in tens of cities that were once manned and lived in by ancient empires – the Persians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians. This tendency to attack religious sites of other faiths is a very dangerous trend that really had its first modern example with the attacks of the Taliban, and they remind us of a disastrous effects of the Taliban in the years that came afterward.

A third feature of the Taliban presence in Afghanistan is an opportunity we have to learn what are the exact relations between Shiites and Sunnis. Taliban, of course, are radical Sunnis and almost everybody who starts learning about the Middle East begins thinking that Sunnis are at war with Shiites, and that’s how you understand the politics of the Middle East. But it doesn’t always work that way because the Taliban today are equipped and even trained by Iranian forces. Iran is an essential ally of the Taliban despite the fact that the Taliban are radical Sunnis and the Iranians are radical Shiites.

So if there are those who think that they could allow Iran to expand its influence around the area of the Middle East and South Asia and it won’t affect them because their enemies are essentially Sunni, they’re making a big mistake, because an expanded Iran will also enhance radical Sunnism as it has with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Dore Gold has served as President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs since 2000. From June 2015 until October 2016 he served as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously he served as Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN (1997-1999), and as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

 

Taliban Decry ‘Detriments for the Environment’ from U.S. MOAB Explosion

April 20, 2017

Taliban Decry ‘Detriments for the Environment’ from U.S. MOAB Explosion, PJ Media, Bridget Johnson, April 19, 2017

Afghan commandos are positioned in Pandola village near the site of the U.S. MOAB bombing in the Achin district of Afghanistan on April 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

(St. Al the Gored has not yet registered his displeasure at this obvious effort to promote global warming. — DM)

“The use and experimentation of such destructive weapons by foreign occupiers on our war-weary people and in every corner of our war-ravaged country is inexcusable,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. “The Islamic Emirate condemns such barbarity in the strongest of terms and considers its perpetrators as war criminals. Such over-proportionate use of destruction poses long-term detriments for the environment and the development of our nation.”

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster visited Afghanistan after the MOAB attack to help determine if the U.S. will have an increased presence in Afghanistan moving forward.

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The Taliban accused Washington of harming the environment and using disproportionate force against ISIS by dropping the “mother of all bombs” in Nangarhar province last week.

It was the first time the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, packed with 11 tons of TNT and dropped from an MC-130, was used in combat.

The U.S. Resolute Support Mission said forces “took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike.” An Afghan army spokesman told the country’s Tolo News that one civilian family lived in the blast area, but they were evacuated by security forces before the MOAB was dropped.

“Many families had long been displaced from the area due to ISIS brutality,” said Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. “Government also took great care to avoid civilian harm.”

Tolo reported Tuesday that the majority of the 96 fighters killed by the MOAB in the ISIS stonghold were Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and members of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. TTP’s attacks include the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the shooting of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, and the 2014 massacre at a Peshawar school. Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda, was behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Also reportedly among the dead: 13 ISIS commanders, 12 Tajiks, and 13 Indian nationals who had joined ISIS.

ISIS operatives are still active in other provinces including Kunar, Zabul, Ghor, Jawzjan and Sar-e-Pul, where Afghan officials say ISIS has beheaded children and torched homes.

ISIS and the Taliban called a truce last August, agreeing to stop fighting each other to both focus on fighting U.S. forces and the U.S.-backed Afghan forces.

In a statement posted on their website over the weekend, the Taliban said the “barbarity” of the Achin district MOAB drop “was followed with much fanfare with the Americans proudly boasting about it in the media thus showcasing the increasing barbarity of the foreign occupation.”

“The use and experimentation of such destructive weapons by foreign occupiers on our war-weary people and in every corner of our war-ravaged country is inexcusable,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. “The Islamic Emirate condemns such barbarity in the strongest of terms and considers its perpetrators as war criminals. Such over-proportionate use of destruction poses long-term detriments for the environment and the development of our nation.”

He added that ISIS in Afghanistan is an internal Afghan matter and “if Americans fear for their security they should foil such plots at their own borders.”

Mujahid accused the U.S. of using ISIS “as a ploy” to “experiment novel weapons and extend the illegitimate occupation.” Further, he claimed the Taliban “came close to completely eradicating this group” but their operations were stymied by U.S. bombing.

“The fact that the Americans claim that their presence in Afghanistan is limited only to a train and assist role while dropping 10 kiloton bombs on our lands only strengthens the voices of independence and jihad in our land,” he added. “…Such irresponsible actions only light the flames of vengeance and show the ugly face of foreign occupation.”

Taiban terrorist attacks this year include a car bombing that killed 7 people outside of a bank and an insider attack that killed a dozen policemen in February. In November, the Taliban claimed a suicide bombing at Bagram Airfield that killed four Americans.

The Obama administration would not call the Taliban a terrorist group, claiming they were an “armed insurgency” and encouraging the Afghan government to broker a deal with the group.

The Taliban were the first terrorist group to openly address President Trump after he won the election, telling him in November and again in December to pull out of Afghanistan or face an “incurable wound.” After the inauguration, Mujahid argued in an open letter to Trump that the previous administration erred in viewing the Taliban as “mere rebellion” instead of “a governing system,” and he should “unwaveringly accept” the “historically successful struggle” of jihadists over the past 15 years and give up the fight in Afghanistan.

Gen. John Nicholson, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, told a Senate panel in February that Russia has been giving support to the Taliban, who have been training with al-Qaeda.

Nicholson said “just within the last year” Russia began cozying up to the Taliban — “this has started and it was a gradual progression,” and the support continues to increase as the Kremlin is “concerned that if there’s a coalition and a U.S. presence in Afghanistan that this affects their ability to influence the Central Asian states to the north.”

Pressed on what Russia’s endgame in Afghanistan could be, Nicholson said he thinks the Kremlin’s goal is to “undermine United States and NATO.”

This month, some Afghan officials in Uruzgan province reported seeing Russian trainers among the Taliban.

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster visited Afghanistan after the MOAB attack to help determine if the U.S. will have an increased presence in Afghanistan moving forward.