Former Hezb-i-Islami tank driver Naquibullah (L), and brothers Eidmajan (9 yrs), former TTP commander Gulzaman (30), and former TTP fighter Nikzaman (22). Since reintegrating they have been jobless outcasts | Julius Cavendish
Very little of the money allocated by donors to offer an alternative livelihood to insurgents willing to put down their weapons is actually reaching Taliban turncoats
About 18 months ago, Haji Ismail, an elderly government official in southeastern Afghanistan, received a letter from an old friend. “Whether this peace process, which our elders are discussing with the government, succeeds or fails,” it read, “I want to come in.” It was signed, with a blue-ink ballpoint pen, by Maulawi Sangeen — one of the Taliban’s most dangerous battlefield captains and a deputy to veteran jihadist Jalaluddin Haqqani himself.
Not only was the erstwhile implacable jihadist seeking peace terms; he was also, if Ismail understood correctly, offering the release of the only U.S. soldier in Taliban captivity as part of the deal. “We have something that belongs to the Americans,” the letter said. “It is safe. And we will talk about this as well.” The letter was written on a Taliban letterhead and was drafted in a faltering Pashto script. It was political dynamite.
The only problem with Ismail’s story is that it was also, according to analysts, an elaborate lie — part of “a long tradition” in Afghanistan of political fakery. “I don’t see how you can reach any conclusion other than it’s a wheeze by Ismail to persuade someone to give him more money,” says Michael Semple, an academic and leading expert on the Taliban. Ismail insists the letter is genuine. “I don’t lie,” he told TIME. “If I’m lying, then punish me, stone me.” But others analysts concur with Semple, arguing that the last thing any senior insurgent trying to defect would do is provide signed evidence of his intentions to a garrulous local official. Continue reading
Delegates’ reaction to Rabbani’s role as High Peace Council head was so ferocious that he was forced to flee
A militant detonated a bomb hidden in his turban as he met the former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani yesterday, killing the man given the task of reconciling with the Taliban and further crippling efforts to bring peace to the county.
Two insurgents feigning an interest in coming in from the cold met Mr Rabbani at his house in Kabul’s diplomatic enclave, close to the site of last week’s 20-hour battle between security forces and Taliban-linked militants.
According to initial reports, one of them detonated the explosives hidden in his turban, as he hugged Mr Rabbani, killing the politician instantly.
Massoum Stanikzai, President Hamid Karzai’s advisor on reconciliation and reintegration – a technocrat seen as the architect of the Afghan government’s overtures for peace – was left “alive but badly wounded” by the blast, according to police.
President Karzai promptly cut short his visit to the UN General Assembly in New York to return home and deal with the fallout – which could, over time, be considerable. Continue reading
Claims by U.S. officials that the insurgents are on the run are challenged by new attacks in the capital
Four earth-shaking explosions in Kabul on Tuesday signaled the start of the Taliban’s latest riposte to claims by the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan that the insurgents are on the run. After a Sunday truck bombing that had injured 77 American troops, militants stormed a high-rise close to the U.S. embassy and began firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. In hellish scenes replayed repeatedly on Afghan TV, dust swirled on deserted streets as civilians, some soaked in their own blood, fled whenever a letup in the fighting allowed. Under a gunmetal sky, Afghan military Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships flew in to support a rapid-reaction force, unleashing bursts of heavy machine-gun fire back at insurgent positions. “This is not an exercise,” the public-address system at nearby NATO headquarters crackled. “This is an ongoing situation.”
From the half-built high-rise, muzzle flashes flared in the gloom and militants launched rocket-propelled grenades at the fortress-like U.S. embassy. One overshot, chewing up tarmac on the main drag that leads into the heart of Kabul’s diplomatic enclave. The building, originally intended as a shopping mall, offered such good lines of fire over NATO headquarters, the U.S. embassy and, farther away, the presidential palace, that a police checkpoint had been established to prevent entry to the higher levels. But enough of the skeletal structure had been erected to give the insurgents their firing platform. “They’re on the fourth floor,” Afghan police Lieut. Colonel Haji Mohammad told TIME close to the scene of the fighting. “We’re not sure if they’re all dead yet.”
The answer came soon enough in a rumble of heavy machine-gun fire, and then long sustained bursts from U.S. troops guarding a base across the road from the U.S. embassy. Jumpy police and Afghan soldiers had locked down the long road leading to the siege site, allowing only fleeing civilians and wounded security personnel through. Tensions flared as the battle continued. A police pickup carrying an officer with a gunshot wound to the neck screeched to a halt besides an Afghan army checkpoint, demanding entrance to the military hospital behind. “Only if you disarm,” came the reply, at which point a police officer drew his pistol and angrily fired two rounds into the air before snarling off in search of another medical facility. Continue reading
Militias in Afghanistan funded by the United States are terrorising the communities they were supposed to protect, murdering, raping and torturing civilians, including children, extorting illegal taxes and smuggling contraband, according to a damning new report from Human Rights Watch.
In a 102-page report entitled ‘Just Don’t Call It a Militia’ the group documents how the Afghan government and the U.S. military have provided guns and money to paramilitary groups without adequate oversight or accountability. Because of their links to senior Afghan officials, many of these groups operate with impunity.
Their behaviour fuels support for the Taliban, and creates insecurity rather than decreasing it. But, under U.S. General David Petraeus, who recently left Afghanistan to head up the Central Intelligence Agency, Nato aggressively pursued a strategy of raising militias as a security quick-fix ahead of its departure in 2014. Continue reading