Archive | Afghanistan

Clash of terrorists: ISIL vs. Taliban in Afghanistan

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Zio-Wahhabi ISIL Takfiri militants and the Taliban terrorist movement have allegedly declared war against each other in Afghanistan, a recent report says.

Afghan online newspaper Khaama Press made the announcement on Monday, quoting a police chief from the southern Helmand province as saying in an interview with Radio Mashaal, a member of Radio Free Europe in Pakistan.

During the interview, Nabi Jan Mullahkhil claimed that he obtained evidence proving that the two terrorist groups have entered into battle.

In January, Zio-Wahhabi ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi referred to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar as a ‘fool and illiterate warlord’ saying that over the last two years ISIL had achieved much more than the Taliban had over the past ten.

There are already some reports about the clashes between Taliban and Zio-Wahhabi ISIL militants.

On February 21, 2015, Zio-Wahhabi ISIL militants replaced the Taliban’s white flag with their own black flag in the Afghanistan’s Charkh district in eastern Logar province.

On Saturday, Zio-Wahhabi ISIL claimed responsibility for a series of explosions in Afghanistan’s city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province that killed at least 35 people and injured more than 100 others.

According to Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a provincial government spokesman, the explosion happened outside the New Kabul Bank branch when government employees and civilians were collecting their monthly salaries.

He said another blast took place near the Da Afghanistan Bank branch, just 60 meters away from the first attack, followed by a third attack which took place near a shrine in the city, in which no one was injured.

Later on Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, ‘Who claimed responsibility for horrific attack in Nangarhar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack, ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack.”

The Taliban terrorist group formed a government in Kandahar in 1996 and ruled the country until December 2001.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity remains across the country.

The US-led combat mission in Afghanistan ended on December 31, 2014. However, at least 13,500 foreign forces, mainly from the United States, have remained in the country in what Washington calls a support mission. NATO says the forces will focus mainly on counterterrorism operations and training Afghan soldiers and policemen.

The ISIL terrorist group controls parts of Syria and Iraq, and has been carrying out horrific acts of violence such as public decapitations and crucifixions against all communities such as Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians.

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Afghan Mission Accomplished: More Heroin for the World

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Global Research
opium-site

Dees Illustration

The Guardian reports statistics on opium agriculture in Afghanistan:

“…the US counternarcotics mission in Afghanistan stands out: opiate production has climbed steadily over recent years to reach record-high levels last year.”

“Far from eradicating the deep-rooted opiate trade, US counternarcotics efforts have proven useless, according to a series of recent official inquiries. Other aspects of the billions that the US has poured into Afghanistan over the last 13 years of war have even contributed to the opium boom.”

“In December, the United Nations reported a 60% growth in Afghan land used for opium poppy cultivation since 2011, up to 209,000 hectares…”

“…the [UN] inspector general also noted that US reconstruction projects, particularly those devoted to ‘improved irrigation, roads, and agricultural assistance’ were probably leading to the explosion in opium cultivation.

“’[A]ffordable deep-well technology turned 200,000 hectares of desert in southwestern Afghanistan into arable land over the past decade,’ the inspector general found, concluding that ‘much of this newly arable land is dedicated to opium cultivation’.”

Who’s kidding who?

In Colombia, the US government proved it could eradicate coca and opium-poppy growing fields. One of the solutions was an herbicide called Roundup. You may have heard of it.

But in Afghanistan, the US just didn’t remember that. It skipped their mind. Oops.

Suddenly, the Afghanistan mission became one of good will. Mustn’t upset the farmers. In Colombia, upsetting the farmers was perfectly all right.

When you can lessen a problem but choose not to, you want the problem to persist. It’s simple.

And at that point, the problem becomes an opportunity—it always was.

More opium poppy; therefore, more heroin. More trafficking, more profits.

Since the US government has been consciously facilitating the growth of opium farming in Afghanistan, it stands to reason that government players have been taking their cut of the action.

If the US government, which has been fighting a full-scale war in Afghanistan, wanted to destroy the opium-heroin business in that country, it had the ideal opportunity.

The mission would have been far easier than waging “the war against drugs” in Mexico, where US military intervention has been limited.

In Afghanistan, there were US troops on the ground. There were air attacks. What else would you need?

Pentagon planners spend their lives working out multiple scenarios for possible wars in various regions of the planet. They take into account all aspects and contingencies.

In planning for a war in Afghanistan, what to do about the opium-poppy growing fields would have been high on the list of options.

So opium-poppy farmers were no “delicate problem” the US invading force encountered after entering the country. There were no surprises.

Since the US invaded Afghanistan, the Army knowingly undertook operations that would definitely expand opium-poppy agriculture.

Of course, the CIA’s connections to the drug trade in Afghanistan go back a long way, so it’s no surprise that the US war in Afghanistan has facilitated and expanded opium-poppy production.

Peter Dale Scott, in his essay, “Drugs, Contras, and the CIA,” writes:

“[Circa 1980], the CIA was arming and advising heroin-trafficking guerrillas in Afghanistan. Its preferred leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, became for a period one of the leading heroin suppliers in the world.”

“In 1979, when the U.S. first established contact with heroin-trafficking guerrillas in Afghanistan, no heroin from the so-called Golden Crescent on the Afghan-Pakistan border was known to reach the United States. By 1984, according to the Reagan Administration, 54 percent of the heroin reaching this country came from the Afghan-Pakistan border.”

” [CIA officer] John Millis had served for thirteen years as a case officer supplying covert CIA aid to the heroin-trafficking guerrillas in Afghanistan…At least one of the airlines involved in the Afghan support operation, Global International Airways, was also named in connection with the [US] Iran-Contra scandal…”

The war against drugs? A towering joke.

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Afghanistan: India’s Drug Smuggling Verified

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By Sajjad Shaukat

While echoing Hobbes and Machiavelli, Morgenthau opines that in international politics,

countries act upon various immoral activities like deceit, fraud, falsehood and so on. In one way

or the other, they also follow these tactics to fulfill their selfish aims. But, in the modern era of

electronic and social media including open diplomacy, it is difficult for the sovereign states to

continue mal-practices of the past, as sinister politics has been replaced by world’s new trends

such as fair-dealings, reconciliation and economic development.

In this respect, the news item, “India accused of using Afghan soil for Heroin smuggling”,

published in the leading daily Dawn on March 18, 2015 verified previous reports of India’s

involvement in drug smuggling from Afghanistan.

In the recent past, a released video by Washington Free Beacon pointed out that the US Secretary

of Defence Chuck Hagel disclosed during a speech at Oklahoma’s Cameron University in 2011,

“India has always used Afghanistan as a second front” and “has over the years financed

problems for Pakistan on that side of the border.” Earlier, the then NATO commander in

Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal had revealed: “Indian political and economic influence is

increasing in Afghanistan…is likely to exacerbate regional tensions.”

In fact, by availing the golden opportunity of the 9/11, India has signed a number of bilateral

agreements with Kabul, during the regime of Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai in

getting its hold in Afghanistan by manipulating US strategy. New Delhi which has already

invested billion of dollars in Afghanistan, signed a wide-ranging strategic agreement with that

country on October 5, 2011 also includes to help train Afghan security forces, while assisting

Kabul in diversified projects. Apparently, it is open strategic agreement, but secretly, India seeks

to further strengthen its grip in Afghanistan to get strategic depth against Islamabad.

In this regard, stiff resistance of the Taliban militants against the occupying forces created

unending lawlessness in the country which has become a most suitable place for Indian secret

agency RAW to implement a conspiracy to fulfill its country’s strategic designs against Iran,

China and particularly Pakistan, while achieving collective goals of the US against these

countries including Russia.

Especially, based in Afghanistan, Indian consulates including agents of RAW, who are also

supporting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), are behind various acts of terrorism in Pakistan

such as target killings, bomb blasts, suicide attacks, assaults on civil and military installations

including churches, religious leaders etc. to destabilize Pakistan. They have also perennially been

arranging similar subversive acts in Balochistan.

As a matter of fact, with the cooperation of ex-president Karzai and Afghan intelligence-National

Directorate of Security (NDS), and with the tactical assistance of American CIA and Israeli

Mossad, RAW has well-established espionage network in Afghanistan, which has also been used

for smuggling of drugs so as to obtain Indian sinister designs in the region, particularly against

While, poppy cultivation has risen to all time high, and Afghanistan has become one of the

biggest contributors of drug proliferation in the region and beyond. And, Afghan government has

failed in controlling corruption and implementing rule of law, while international community

especially major donors are averse to such malpractices.

According to some sources, modern weapons of Indian, American and Israeli origin are available

in the markets of Afghanistan. Smuggling of latest arms from west to Afghanistan is also being

supported by the drug mafia of Afghanistan. In this connection, Afghan President Karzai’s real

brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, and high officials have been found involved in drug smuggling for

raising funds to support insurgency in Pakistan with the support of RAW.

It would not be out of context to mention here that primarily these are the Afghan drug Barons

and Warlords like Hamid Karzai and his brother in whose interest it is to keep the region in state

of war. It is also a known fact that Qasim Fahim, Vice President of Afghanistan is also a warlord

and a drug baron. In the recent past, American troops destroyed poppy fields, but, they failed in

stopping poppy cultivation, because India was involved in supporting Afghan warlords and drug

In this connection, on November 2, 2009 John Burns, the chief foreign correspondent for The

New York Times, while answering questions about a New York Times article about Ahmed

Wali Karzai, exposed his ties to the nation’s opium trade. And on October 27, 2009, the same

newspaper pointed out, “The brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the

country’s booming illegal opium trade…in a large area of southern Afghanistan where the

Taliban insurgency is strongest, undermines the American push to develop an effective central

government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to

withdraw…on at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an

unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government.”

Quoting a senior American military officer in Kabul, The New York Times elaborated,

“Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and

nothing happens in Afghanistan without the regional leadership knowing about it.”

However, besides the involvement of other Afghan entities, Indian engagement in drugs in

Afghanistan was proved in the news item of Dawn, which quoted world’s renowned news

agency, Reuters as a source and also included AFP file. It is given below.

UN officials recorded a sharp spike this year in the amount of heroin being seized from

passengers trying to fly from Afghanistan to India, a worrying trend since the Taliban insurgency

lines its pockets on the illegal drug trade.

A lack of coordination is hampering efforts to clamp down on the route, officials said, with India

blaming Afghanistan for poor cooperation in helping to track smugglers.

In January alone, officials intercepted 44 kilograms of heroin from Afghan airports in eight

separate cases, compared to 50 kilograms of heroin and hashish seized during the whole of last

year, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime data.

Most of the cases have involved passengers trying to board flights bound for the Indian capital

New Delhi after swallowing as much 2 kg of the illegal opiate in capsules, like condoms.

The spike is an “alarming trend”, said Mark Colhoun, deputy representative to the UNODC in

“These mule are small fry,” he said. “You need to track down the networks.” The UNODC

started working with Afghan police and customs in 2013 at Kabul’s airport, and later expanded

to airports in Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif. It is unclear whether the rise in heroin being

seized represents an increase in trafficking or better tracking of smugglers. But opium cultivation

in Afghanistan, which produces some 90 per cent of the world’s illegal opiates, is on the rise.

Afghan smugglers often travel to India under the guise of seeking medical care, said a senior

official in India’s Narcotics Control Bureau speaking on condition of anonymity.

Nevertheless, news of Dawn has verified Indian negative role of drug smuggling from

Afghanistan. Therefore, it is the right hour that the US-led international community must take

action against New Delhi, and by rolling back Indian network in Afghanistan, which includes

smuggling of drugs, especially Heroin for the purpose of its secret strategic goals. While the

western countries and Russia are worried about instability in Afghanistan, spilling over into the

former Soviet Central Asia and about drug smuggling pushing up the numbers of heroin addicts.

Nonetheless, western donors’ aid to Kabul for bringing stability in that country will prove

fruitless, if India continues drug smuggling in Afghanistan which has become one of the biggest

contributors of drug proliferation in the world.

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US to keep more troops in Afghanistan than planned

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While no final decision on numbers has been made, the officials said the administration is poised to slow withdrawal plans and probably will allow many of the 9,800 American troops to remain well into next year. — AFP/file
While no final decision on numbers has been made, the officials said the administration is poised to slow withdrawal plans and probably will allow many of the 9,800 American troops to remain well into next year. — AFP/file

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration is abandoning plans to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 by year’s end, bowing to military leaders who want to keep more troops, including many into the 2016 fighting season, US officials say.

While no final decision on numbers has been made, the officials said the administration is poised to slow withdrawal plans and probably will allow many of the 9,800 American troops to remain well into next year.

There also are discussions about keeping a steady number of counterterrorism troops into 2015, including options under which some would remain in the country or be nearby beyond 2016.

Read: Pakistan, Afghanistan welcome US decision

Currently, about 2,000 US troops are conducting counterterrorism missions, and military leaders have argued that they will need to continue pursuing the remnants of al Qaeda and to monitor Islamic State militants looking to recruit in Afghanistan.

Officials say President Barack Obama probably will use a Washington visit by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani this month as the time to announce his decision on a new withdrawal timeline.

Also read: US not to abandon Afghanistan, says White House

US officials familiar with the debate said it’s not clear yet whether the White House will agree to a small, symbolic decrease by the end of this year or insist on a larger cut.

They note that there is some stiff opposition to any change, largely from national security adviser Susan Rice.

In recent weeks, Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter, have acknowledged the discussions about slowing the pace of troop withdrawal.

But they increasingly are confident that the military will get its way and keep a robust force in Afghanistan beyond year’s end.

The administration, however, has shown no inclination so far for going beyond 2016; that’s a hard line drawn by the president when he announced the withdrawal plan.

The 2016 deadline is considered a politically crucial national security goal for Obama, who promised to get all troops out by the end of his presidency, ending America’s longest war.

Obama, who also pledged to end the war in Iraq, has had to send troops back there to help Iraqi forces fight Islamic State militants.

So his promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan has taken on more political importance. Military leaders want to keep what they consider a “modest” number of troops in Afghanistan longer in order to protect America’s investment and provide as much training and advice as possible to Afghan forces.

Maintaining a more stable number of troops, military leaders have argued, would allow better support of the Afghans during this summer’s fighting season and better prepare them for 2016 battles.

Members of Congress, including Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also have expressed concerns about a sharp drawdown this year.

During a hearing last month, McCain said a lack of presence in Afghanistan would create a vacuum and “allow terrorists to foment the same disaster in Afghanistan as we have seen in Iraq, growing instability, terrorist safe havens and direct threats to the United States. “

The original plan Obama announced last year would reduce the number of US troops to 5,500 by the end of 2015, and take all but a routine, embassy-based security force out by the end of 2016.

The embassy security mission varies widely around the world, but could total 1,000 troops.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly before final decisions have been made.

When Carter was in Kabul for meetings with his military leaders in February, he told reporters that the new thinking on troop levels was fueled by the improving relations between the US and Afghan governments.

The unity government of Ghani and the chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, offers new promise for a more effective partnership with Washington in stabilizing the country, Carter said during the visit.

US officials grew impatient with former president, Hamid Karzai, who sometimes publicly criticized the US military and took a dimmer view of partnering with it.

Carter said the new, more hopeful outlook is an important reason for the administration’s decision to consider slowing the troop withdrawal.

Ghani and other Afghan leaders have made it clear that they would like as many U.S. troops to remain for as long as possible.

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Afghanistan gave CIA money to Al Qaeda to free diplomat

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The terror group’s leader at the time, Osama bin Laden, worried that the Americans knew about the payment and were either tracing the cash or had laced it with poison or radiation. — Reuters/file

WASHINGTON: Afghanistan used about $1 million provided by the CIA to a secret government fund to pay Al-Qaeda in 2010 for a diplomat’s release, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The terror group’s leader at the time, Osama bin Laden, worried that the Americans knew about the payment and were either tracing the cash or had laced it with poison or radiation, and suggested it be converted to another currency, according to the Times.

The newspaper said letters by bin Laden and his group’s general manager Atiyah Abd al-Rahman were found among computers and documents seized by US Navy SEALs during a 2011 raid in which the Al Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan.

Read: Afghan diplomat set free after two years

They had been classified until presented as evidence by federal prosecutors at the trial in New York of Abid Naseer, an Al Qaeda operative convicted this month of supporting terrorism and plotting to bomb a British shopping center.

Abdul Khaliq Farahi was serving as Afghanistan’s consul general in Peshawar, Pakistan, when he was kidnapped in September 2008, just weeks before he was due to start in a new post as Kabul’s ambassador in the country.

He was released more than two years later after Afghanistan paid Al-Qaeda $5 million, a fifth of which came from a secret fund the CIA supplied with monthly cash payments to the presidential palace, according to the Times, which also cited Afghan and Western officials.

In addition to the CIA funds, Pakistan paid for nearly half the ransom, and the rest came from Iran and Gulf states.

“It seems a bit strange somewhat because in a country like Afghanistan, usually they would not pay this kind of money to free one of their men,” bin Laden wrote about the funds.

In the end, the United States appeared to have inadvertently funded the very militant group it was fighting only due to poor oversight and controls.

Rahman wrote that the cash would be used for weapons, operational needs and to pay families of Qaeda fighters imprisoned in Afghanistan, which refused an offer from the group to release fighters in exchange for Farahi’s freedom.

The CIA cash sent to the secret fund was used to bu the loyalty of warlords, lawmakers and other prominent Afghans, though the payments have slowed under new President Ashraf Ghani, the Times noted.

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UN Reveals ‘Credible and Reliable’ Evidence of US Military Torture in Afghanistan

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New report finds U.S.-backed Afghan government still committing widespread torture

The United Nations revealed Wednesday it has “credible and reliable” evidence that people recently detained at U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan have faced torture and abuse.

The UN’s Assistance Mission and High Commissioner for Human Rights exposed the findings in a report based on interviews with 790 “conflict-related detainees” between February 2013 and December 2014.

According to the investigation, two detainees “provided sufficiently credible and reliable accounts of torture in a U.S. facility in Maydan Wardak in September 2013 and a U.S. Special Forces facility at Baghlan in April 2013.”

The report states that the allegations of torture were investigated by “relevant authorities” but provided no information about the outcome of the alleged probes or the nature of the mistreatment.

This is not the first public disclosure of evidence of torture during the U.S. war in Afghanistan, now into its 14th year. The U.S. military’s Bagram Prison, which was shuttered late last year, was notorious for torture, including beatings, sexual assault, and sleep deprivation, and further atrocities were confirmed in the Senate report (pdf) on CIA torture, released late last year in a partially-redacted form. Afghan residents have repeatedly spoken out against torture and abuse by U.S., international, and Afghan forces.

The Senate report on CIA torture, released late last year in a partially-redacted form, exposes U.S. torture at black sites in Afghanistan and around the world.

Moreover, residents of Afghanistan have testified to—and protestedtorture by U.S., international, and Afghan forces.

Beyond U.S.-run facilities, the UN report finds that torture and abuse have slightly declined over recent years but remain “persistent” throughout detention centers run by the U.S.-backed Afghan government, including police, military, and intelligence officials. Of people detained for conflict-related reasons, 35 percent of them faced torture and abuse at the hands of their Afghan government captors, the report states.

According to the report, prevalent torture methods used by Afghan forces include, “prolonged and severe beating with cables, pipes, hoses or wooden sticks (including on the soles of the feet), punching, hitting and kicking all over the body including jumping on the detainee’s body, twisting of genitals including with a wrench-like device, and threats of execution and/or sexual assault.”

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Afghan Civilian Deaths Rise to Record High

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Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, a U.N. report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, a U.N. report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Children have been the worst affected by soaring rates of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

Over 10,000 civilians died in Afghanistan’s ongoing civil war in 2014, according to a grim United Nations report released Wednesday.

Despite claims from Washington that the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan has left behind a stable country, the U.N. report states the country’s decade-old conflict is only intensifying.

“In 2014, (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNMA) documented the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries in a single year since it began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009,” the report stated.

Painting a bleak picture in the divided country, the report said civilian deaths increased by 22 percent between 2013 and 2014. The report attributed the steady rise in civilian killings to “increased ground engagements” and the mushrooming use of heavy explosives such as mortars in civilian populated areas.

Among the victims, children accounted for 714 killed and 1,760 wounded – a 40 percent increase over the previous year.

At 72 percent, the vast majority of civilian deaths were blamed on “anti-government elements,” which includes the Taliban and other militant groups. Around 12 percent of casualties were caused by Afghan government security forces, while “international military forces” were responsible for 2 percent.

According to U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Nicholas Haysom, “Rising civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 attests to a failure to fulfil commitments to protect Afghan civilians from harm.”

“Parties to the conflict should understand the impact of their actions and take responsibility for them, uphold the values they claim to defend, and make protecting civilians their first priority,” Haysom stated.

More Afghanistan news:

27 Taliban Militants Killed by Afghan Military

Record Number of Landmine Clearer Deaths in Afghanistan in 2014

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Afghanistan Wakes Up To Islamic State Threat

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Afghan security officials check people at a road side as part of increased security measures in Helmand Province following the death of Islamic State recruiter Mullah Abdul Rauf in a military operation on February 9.

Afghan security officials check people at a road side as part of increased security measures in Helmand Province following the death of Islamic State recruiter Mullah Abdul Rauf in a military operation on February 9.

By Qadir Habib and Michael Scollon

After consistently rejecting the idea, Kabul could no longer ignore what self-declared recruiters and fighters had been telling them for months — the Islamic State (IS) group had indeed arrived in Afghanistan.

“Islamic State or those people who call themselves Islamic State are active in some areas and our intelligence reports confirm it and we cannot deny it,” Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Sidiqqi admitted during a February 10 interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan.

The message resonated, particularly considering that it came just two days after Sidiqqi had urged media not to report on “a group that doesn’t even exist in Afghanistan” because it could further IS’s aims.

But he said that national security forces were on top of the situation, offering assurances that “wherever they act we destroy them and don’t give them the opportunity to become active in Afghanistan.”

Top Priority

As it turns out, even as Kabul worked to downplay talk of IS’s arrival in Afghanistan, it was actively trying to ensure the import did not gain a foothold in the country.

The efforts paid off on February 9 when Mullah Abdul Rauf, who had publicly declared that he was recruiting for Islamic State in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, was killed in a military operation there.

Confirming the death of the former Taliban commander and Guantanamo prison inmate, Afghanistan’s spy agency — the National Directorate of Security  (NDS) — said Rauf had been a top priority for a month.

The same day, the Islamic State’s self-declared spokesman in Afghanistan, Abdul Qadir Wahidi (alias Abu Ibrahim Khurasani), spoke to Radio Free Afghanistan from a prison in the central Ghazni Province.

He said that he was arrested about two months ago by NDS officers when he appeared in Kabul for what he thought would be peace talks with government officials.

Wahidi said it was he who sent and appeared in a video to a Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in September in which he claimed to represent a group called the Islamic Organization of Great Afghanistan, and expressed its willingness to fight for Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wahidi was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for serving as Islamic State’s spokesman and for his role in kidnapping a Ghazni official in late 2014.

Skeptics Abound

There has been ample skepticism about whether Islamic State is capable of carving out a place for itself in a militant scene dominated by well-established groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Some pointed to cultural clashes that would erupt when outsiders adhering to a strict form of Wahhabism encroached on long-established tribal traditions in Afghanistan. Others asked whether disgruntled Taliban were simply saying they were allying themselves with Islamic State in order to gain street cred. And the possibility was raised that provincial officials were heightening alarm in order to attract more funding and security from Kabul.

But as the discussion wore on, reports about the presence of Islamic State and Wahhabist, foreign fighters continued to trickle in.

Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, deputy governor of Helmand Province, claimed in late January that IS militants were active in Kajaki District, where Rauf was later killed.

Rasulyar said the Islamic State militants, who were carrying black flags to indicate their allegiance to Al-Baghdadi’s group, were clashing with white-flagged Taliban.

“We consider both groups an enemy, both of them are enemies of Afghans and killing Afghans,” Rasulyar said. “But, it would better for us if they would fight each other and our Afghans were spared from their evil.”

A local resident, who spoke to Radio Free Afghanistan on condition of anonymity, said on January 26: “They have come here, spreading propaganda and talking a little bit about Wahhabis. Local mullahs are concerned.”

To the west, in Farah Province, an official told RFE/RL that IS-linked militants had moved into a mountainous region in Khak Safed district.

“There are about 80 people in 10 groups, they are flying the black flag. They are training children to use weapons and when they come to the village, they spend their own money,” district Governor Abdul Khaleq Norzai said on January 25. “They don’t take anything from others and don’t eat others’ food. If something costs 10 afghanis they pay 20 afghanis for it.”

Nipping IS In The Bud

“Worrisome” and “serious” appear to be the common refrain among Afghans and outside observers when discussing Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan.

The group’s emergence comes as Afghan security forces and U.S. Special Operations forces are already engaged in increasing raids targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives, and as new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tries to maintain security amid a drawdown of U.S. troops.

Speaking before a gathering of Afghan clerics in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on February 13, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Mohammad Mohaqiq called on the Afghan government to take serious action to counter Islamic State’s activities.

Military analyst Jawed Kohistani said that, if Kabul doesn’t answer the call now, it will mean trouble by as early as this summer.

“They [IS recruits in Afghanistan] will resolve their problems with the Taliban, find resources to fund their activities, and will be prepared for offensive operations,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan on February 13. “If [the government] doesn’t make good use of the capabilities and abilities of its military forces and doesn’t pay attention to intelligence, we will be confronted with enormous problems in the future.”

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Legacy of Endless Afghan War Includes Nation Plagued by Unexploded Bombs

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With a majority of the victims children, unexploded ordnances in war-torn Afghanistan are claiming more than one life every single day

Children at Kandahar airfield being educated about unexploded ordnances in 2009. One person on average is killed every day in Afghanistan from munitions that were dropped or left behind by U.S. or Nato forces. (Photo: Thomas Sjørup/Afghanistan Matters/flickr/cc)

As seen in other abandoned battlefields in the anals of U.S. wars overseas, new reporting out of Afghanistan shows that among the other deadly legacies left behind by foreign troops are tens of thousands unexploded munitions dropped from the sky or left in the ground that will continue to kill and maim civilians long after the “official” fighting has stopped.

Reporting from the Afghan city of Khost, Guardian foreign correspondent Sune Engel Rasmussen reviewed data and spoke with members of the UN’s Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (Macca) to learn that unexploded bombs and shells in Afghanistan “are killing and maiming people at a rate of more than one a day”—the vast majority of whom are children.

Citing MACCA statistics from 2014, Rasmussen reports “there were 369 casualties in the past year, including 89 deaths. The rate rose significantly in October and November when 93 people were injured, 84 of them children. Twenty died.”

Offering a tragic account of siblings from a single family, Rasmussen relays the story of 10-year-old Mohammad Yunus and his eight-year-old sister, Sahar Bibi. “The grenades that killed Mohammad and Sahar, as they were combing through dry branches to collect firewood for their family, should have detonated long before they were picked up. Instead, the shells exploded in the children’s hands and ripped through their bodies, killing them instantly. The blasts also injured their two brothers, aged five and 12.”

In a war that has spanned more than twelve years—with no end in sight—it is not surprising that the number of unexploded ordnances (UXOs) has risen to alarming rates, but as was true in the U.S. war in southeast Asia—where the nations of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia continue to suffer the consequences of years of carpet bombing by the U.S. military—the problem will not go away just because the war is at some point declared over.

As the Guardian reports:

Though first steps have been taken to tackle [UXO], agencies complain the US-led forces are withholding information about where they may have dropped explosives.

“We ask for information about battlefields that may have UXO, but we have received coordinates for only 300 locations. It’s not enough,” said Mohammad Sediq Rashid, director of Macca.

Colonel Calvin Hudson, Nato’s Combined Joint Task Force chief engineer in Kabul, says Nato gives as much information to mine-clearing agencies as possible without compromising operational operational security – coordinates for areas where Afghan forces continue their operations are withheld.

Much of the fighting in Afghanistan has taken place in and around residential areas, increasing the risk of civilian casualties in the aftermath of the war. UK and US diplomats emphasise that international law does not give their countries a responsibility to clear battlefields. But that does not absolve Nato countries of their duty to clean up after themselves, said Rashid.

“It is a moral responsibility,” he said, adding that scattering unstable explosives around the country defeats the initial purpose of the war. “Military intervention is the last resort, and it’s intended to protect people and stabilise the country,” he said.

Posted in Afghanistan, USA0 Comments

White House declines to call Afghan Taliban ‘terrorists’

NOVANEWS

The White House on Thursday declined to describe Afghanistan’s Taliban as a terrorist group, prompting consternation from the right, which accused President Barack Obama’s administration of being out of touch.

“They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism, they do pursue terror attacks in an effort to advance their agenda,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

“What’s also true though is that it is important to draw a distinction between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” he said, pointing to a difference in designation.

“The Taliban is a very dangerous organisation,” he added.

The Treasury Department has imposed anti-terror sanctions on around 2,000 Taliban fighters, leaders, supporters and financiers.

But the White House’s distinction got short shrift from its political opponents, with Republicans sending footage of the comments to supporters.

“It slits throats, it attacks buses, it drives car bombs into markets and it’s not a terrorist group. Look, you can’t parody this administration,” said conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer.

Others said the White House’s distinction was based more on politics than reality, pointing to the negotiated release of Taliban captive and US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

The White House says it does not negotiate with terror groups.

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