Afghanistan Reality Check: Taliban Strikes Undermine U.S. Optimism

Time.com

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.” Read the rest of this entry »


The siege of Parun and the mystery of the Du Ab airstrikes

Miles Amoore  has lots of fresh detail on the Taliban’s takeover of Nuristan in the Sunday Times, including the siege of the provincial capital, Parun:

So far a militia led by a former Taliban commander and backed by Afghan police has held the Taliban at bay outside the city. But the blockade has brought the city to its knees, sources say.

Nato denies Parun is under siege but acknowledges that “insurgent activity on the roads … up to Parun has restricted civilian and Afghan police movement”.

Amoore also provides the only account to appear in the mainstream media of the NATO airstrikes that took place in Du Ab (or Doab or Do Ab, you choose) on May 25:

When the planes screeched over Doab, the only police commander who had refused to surrender, Commander Said Rasoul, was having lunch with his men next to a field of wheat. The Taliban, who had entered the main town that morning, had been taunting Rasoul over his radio, his cousin Qari Daoud said. Read the rest of this entry »


Nato urged to investigate Afghan ‘war criminal’ employed by US

The Independent

The head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission has urged Hamid Karzai’s government and Nato to investigate allegations, first reported in The Independent, that an Afghan strongman employed by United States Army Special Forces embarked on a spate of war crimes, including rape, the summary execution of children, and torture. “We call on Special Forces – indeed, any forces – and the Afghan government to conduct an investigation of these allegations and find out if [the allegations are] correct or not,” said Nader Nadery, who heads the Human Rights Commission.

He said the commission would make its own efforts to verify the claims against Commander Azizullah, the leader of a US-sponsored militia in the south-eastern Paktika province, but that “it is a core responsibility of the government of Afghanistan to launch an investigation… this is the only way to build confidence in [the country’s security] forces”. Read the rest of this entry »


Afghanistan: ‘If he is aware of our complaints, he will find us and kill us’, say witnesses

The Independent

Proper procedure would have been to detain and question the family he suspected of hosting Taliban insurgents but Azizullah did things differently, opening fire on their house with his men. Then they locked the survivors inside. And then they set the place ablaze.

This story is one of many separate alleged instances reported by interviewees during an investigation by The Independent lasting several months. Three separate reports, including two by the UN from early 2010, confirmed many of The Independent’s findings, and documented their own, separate allegations of atrocities. Read the rest of this entry »


Revealed: Afghan chief accused of campaign of terror is on US payroll

The Independent

Witnesses back leaked UN reports detailing claims of rape and murder against feared Tajik warlord

An Afghan warlord backed by US special forces faces persistent allegations that he launched a two-year spate of violence involving burglary, rape and murder of civilians, desecration of mosques and mutilation of corpses. Yet, despite repeated warnings about the atrocities Commander Azizullah is alleged to have committed, he has remained on the payroll of the US military as an “Afghan security guard”, a select band of mercenaries described by some as “the most effective fighting formation in Afghanistan”.

Interviews with religious leaders, tribal elders, villagers, contractors and Western and Afghan officials all pointed to a reign of terror in which they believe 31-year-old Azizullah, a ethnic Tajik, targeted Pashtun civilians while fighting the Taliban. Although individual allegations, all from ethnic Pashtuns, might be inaccurate, malicious or motivated by envy of Azizullah’s close and lucrative links to US special forces, taken together they come from sources belonging to a range of tribes and from several areas. The testimony also tallied with several independent reports documenting the allegations against Azizullah and seen by The Independent, including two confidential reports compiled by UN officials and circulated to Nato personnel last year. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Afghans Don’t Bash the Taliban for Bombings

Time.com

The civilian collateral damage of Taliban bombings is enormous, and yet coalition forces never catch a break because of it. Why?

It was carnage. There was a momentary crackle of gunfire and then, as a powerful car bomb detonated in Khost, a city in southeastern Afghanistan, a shock wave splintered trees and scattered body parts across 50 m of parkland and marketplace. Rags from what looked like children’s clothes lay caught on the twisted metal of an axle; nearby, shops’ windows were blown in, and the dirt road was slicked with blood. The iron strut supporting a giant billboard was bent like a paper clip.

Officials say nine people died and more than 30 were wounded in the Feb. 18 suicide bombing, although the toll rose over the course of the day and could still increase, with at least four survivors in critical condition. Among the casualties were women, children and two policemen, according to the public-health director for the province. It was a reminder that although spectacular attacks in Kabul, the capital, garner lots of airtime and column inches, most of Afghanistan’s violence takes place in the provinces, where murderous atrocities can go unreported and don’t attract attention in the way an attack against Westerners does. Read the rest of this entry »


Supermarket Attack: A Dangerous Turn in Kabul

Time.com

The suicide assault on an upscale grocery patronized by foreign residents in the capital may be the beginning of a violent new phase in the war in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a popular grocery close to the British, Canadian and Pakistani missions in Kabul Friday afternoon in an indiscriminate attack that analysts say could spell the beginning of a new trend in the Afghan capital. Unlike most previous attacks, this one fell on the Afghan weekend and was timed to inflict maximum civilian casualties as predominantly Western shoppers browsed through the store on their day off.

The bomber, a man in his 40s with dark skin and a long beard according to one witness, shot his way into the grocery, threw one or possibly two grenades and then detonated his vest. By late Friday night the death toll had reached nine, including a child and four Filipinos — probably employees of one of the many contractors working in Afghanistan. The nationalities of the other victims, including two wounded shoppers in critical condition, are still unknown. Read the rest of this entry »


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