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
The second high-profile assassination of an Afghan politician in a week, the killing of Hamid Karzai’s long-time adviser Jan Mohammad Khan has Afghans worrying that anyone close to the President is a target
Gunfire rang out again Sunday night in Kabul, first as single shots and then in stuttering bursts, as two gunmen stormed the villa of President Hamid Karzai’s long-standing confidante Jan Mohammad Khan. Armed with AK-47s and grenades, the attackers shot their way into the compound in a leafy quarter of Kabul called Kart-e-Sey, at around 8 p.m. They knocked out Khan’s son with the butt of a rifle and killed a guard, according to an officer on the scene with Kabul’s criminal-investigations department. Then they shot Khan as he sat on a couch, chatting with a member of parliament who had come to visit.
Khan and the MP Mohammad Hashem Watanwal died instantly, but what followed ran for eight and a half hours as the attackers took hostages and holed up inside the villa. A rapid-reaction force from the Afghan police and intelligence services slowly closed the net, killing one assailant with a direct shot and freeing the last of the hostages shortly before midnight. As dawn broke, and the house burned after the gunmen threw 13 grenades according to one police source, counter-terrorism officers and their foreign advisers ended the siege, blowing apart the wall of the bathroom in which the last surviving attacker was concealed, killing him.
That was the easy part. Khan’s death is the second high-profile assassination of an Afghan politician in a week, and will almost certainly add to the shivers of uncertainty rippling across Afghanistan. His peach-colored compound may hardly have been Fort Knox (Khan apparently sent all but one of his guards home each evening) and the Uruzgan strongman may not have been the power that once he was. But taken in conjunction with the assassinations of President Karzai’s half-brother on July 12, and the police chief for northern Afghanistan, General Daud Daud, earlier this summer, Khan’s killing plays right into the Taliban narrative that no one, no matter how close to Karzai, is safe from their assassination campaign. Continue reading
View from Sangin: A tentative peace accord struck at the start of the year is holding, at least to the extent that it still exists
Seven months ago 500lb bombs were tearing into Taliban positions outside Sangin district centre in Helmand province as the US Marines here launched an aggressive and costly campaign against Taliban insurgents. What was already Afghanistan’s bloodiest district for foreign troops quickly became more so.
The infusion of troops, including US Marines, was part of President Obama’s surge and despite widespread suspicion of Nato’s spin, it genuinely seems that their arrival had an impact, especially in Helmand and neighbouring Kandahar – although neither province is yet safe, nor going to be in the immediate future. The Taliban matched Obama’s surge with their own escalation, knowing full well that tactical defeats matter little, provided they can simply hang-on under the drawdown.
But the gun battles and roadside blasts that once took place in Sangin’s heart have migrated to its fringes – and it’s hard to see that as anything but a vindication of the Marines’ aggressive tactics. Yesterday there was barely a single explosion within earshot of the Marines’ main base. Continue reading
Afghans have voiced fears that aid will dry up when foreign troops are replaced by the country’s own forces later this year.
They were speaking after President Hamid Karzai announced on Tuesday that Afghan forces would take responsibility this summer for security for seven areas, including Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand where British troops are currently deployed.
“The Afghan nation doesn’t want the defence of this country to be in the hands of others anymore,” he told hundreds of dignitaries, police and soldiers. “This is our responsibility to raise our flag with honour and pride.”
The plan will also see Afghan forces take charge of security in areas including Kabul and Panjshir provinces, Herat city in the West, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Methar Lam to the east of Kabul as part of the overall strategy to start bringing Nato troops home. Continue reading
Christian Science Monitor
Corruption, drug addiction, and too many Afghan deserters, make handing over power a daunting task, say NATO officials and Western diplomats.
Men hurried through the dark with a stretcher, flares burst, and a helicopter thumped in to the forward operating base in southern Afghanistan. The evacuation was evidence of slick professionalism. But the casualty – a young Afghan policeman who had apparently overdosed on drugs – was an illustration of the immense difficulties facing NATO as it prepares Afghan National Security Forces to take responsibility for their country.
Handing over security to the Afghan government, as per the Lisbon summit two weeks ago, is an uphill task. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen want to finish transferring security by the end of 2014. Yet there are too few NATO trainers, too many Afghan deserters, and too much corruption, NATO officials and Western diplomats say, to make that a credible scenario. Continue reading