Nomadic rebels now armed to the teeth after fall of Gaddafi

The Times

To cries of Allahu akbar and the din of heavy weaponry looted from Colonel Gaddafi’s arsenals, Tuareg rebels rode out of the desert on January 17 to attack the flyblown town of Ménaka in eastern Mali.

The veiled warriors, historically known as the Blue Men because of their distinctive flowing indigo robes and black headscarves, struck at dawn, their armoured column approaching army and National Guard posts, sending the government troops fleeing.

In successive months they waged a lightning brand of desert warfare, striking on multiple fronts and humiliating the Malian Army with a series of defeats. Read the rest of this entry »


Mali: Big Trouble in a Poor Country Awash in Post-Gaddafi Weapons

TIME.com

Renegade soldiers claim to have overthrown the government as the president claims otherwise. Meanwhile, rebels armed with Libyan firepower watch and wait

To the clatter of gunfire and under the cover of darkness the president who ushered Mali into an unprecedented era of multiparty democracy fled the West African country’s sleepy capital Bamako last night as an army mutiny rapidly escalated into a full-blown coup attempt. The renegade soldiers had claimed to have seized the country after storming the presidential palace during the night. But President Amadou Toumani Toure’s reappearance at a nearby military cantonment, apparently at the head of a crack bodyguard of ‘Red Beret’ paratroopers, now leaves Mali on the brink of a civil war — apart dealing with the thorny Tuareg rebellion that helped precipitate the military uprising. In less than 24 hours one of Africa’s most stable democracies has turned upside down. Read the rest of this entry »


Mutiny in Mali: On the Ground as Soldiers Target the Government in Bamako

TIME.com

In one direction sped a tan-colored ambulance, red crescent glistening on its side as it wailed north across the Bamako’s Bridge of Martyrs toward the sound of gunfire. In the other came people. Hundreds, if not thousands of them, women with their market goods bundled atop their heads, young men talking little and walking quickly, green buses packed with young and old, escaping the army mutiny that shattered the peace of Mali’s laid-back capital. Read the rest of this entry »


Justice for Ivorians starts with Gbagbo’s extradition. Can it continue?

Gbagbo and his wife Simone in the custody of forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan on 11 April 2011 (Aristide Bodegla/AP)

The Independent

Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivorian president who led his country to the brink of civil war, shuffled off a chartered plane and into the custody of The International Criminal Court at The Hague yesterday in a groundbreaking extradition that could spell an end to a decade of bloodshed and rebellion in Ivory Coast.

Amid howls of protest by some Gbagbo supporters, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, promised that the strongman’s arrest was “just the beginning” and that more suspects would stand trial for crimes committed during inter-ethnic violence that flared up following Ivory Coast’s 2010 presidential election.

Diplomats, human rights groups and analysts say Ocampo’s ability to honor that commitment, and the willingness of the Ivorian authorities to try people on both sides of the political divide, are essential if the West Africa nation is to put its troubles behind it. Read the rest of this entry »


After the US pulls out, will CIA rely more on Afghan mercenaries?

The Christian Science Monitor

Thousands of Afghan mercenaries are believed to be helping America battle Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies. But they’re accused of flagrant human rights abuses.

With his broad cheekbones, hair swept back under a sequined cap, and the gentle manner of a well-to-do Pashtun, Atal Afghanzai might easily pass for a doctor or an engineer.

Instead, his career path led into a cloak-and-dagger world of covert armies and foreign agents, until a rare lethal run-in with an Afghan police chief landed him on death row in Kabul’s most notorious prison.

Young and motivated, Mr. Afghanzai is one of thousands of Afghan mercenaries believed to be working with the CIA to help America battle Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies. His story – confirmed by US diplomats, other Western officials, and Afghan authorities – illustrates the military advantages of this secret war. But, with the US poised to ramp up reliance on paramilitaries like Afghanzai as it pulls out frontline troops, the practice is raising the ire of Afghans who accuse the groups of human rights abuses. Read the rest of this entry »


Afghanistan’s Dirty War: Why the Most Feared Man in Bermal District Is a U.S. Ally

 

Commander Azizullah, Sept 23, 2010 | U.S. Army photo by Sgt Justin P Morelli

Time.com

So-called Afghan security guards have become essential to what NATO calls security in parts of the country. The local populace, however, is terrified

On Nov. 30, 2009, in the shadow of mountains that crumple up 9,000-ft. ridges, an Afghan mercenary bankrolled by the U.S. military and hell-bent on the destruction of Taliban rebels allegedly stopped three men heading home to celebrate ‘Id al-Adha with their families. According to an elder from Bermal, the Afghan district where the incident took place, Commander Azizullah and his men bound their hands. Then, the elder told TIME, Azizullah drew his pistol and shot them. There was no evidence that these men were insurgents, the elder says. “But he killed them anyway.” Read the rest of this entry »


Luring Fighters Away from the Taliban: Why an Afghan Plan Is Floundering

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

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

Time.com

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. Read the rest of this entry »


Afghan peace effort in tatters as turban bomb kills ex-president

The Independent

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. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


Militias funded by US accused of rights abuses

The Independent

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. Read the rest of this entry »