Lately in Afghanistan



Lately in Afghanistan


 Here’s a rundown of developemen in (and/or related to) Afghanistan over the last month.

August 22, 2012

  • The U.S. military has beefed up security measures for contractors in Afghanistan to protect them against “green-on-blue” violence—incidents in which Afghans in army or police uniforms attack the NATO soldiers they’re working with.
  • New Zealand prime minister John Key said his country’s 145 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan in April of 2013, a bit earlier than planned. This month, his country suffered five casualties in Bamiyan, long one of Afghanistan’s most peaceful provinces but an area that seems to be sinking into violence now.

August 21, 2012

  • A rocket hit and damaged a plane at Bagram airport. Rockets hitting foreign bases are commonplace here, but this plane belonged to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was sleeping nearby. Dempsey is in Afghanistan to discuss the green-on-blue attacks with Afghan officials.
  • The Afghan government has developed a plan to spy on its own army and police forces as part of the effort to stop green-on-blue attacks. The Pentagon is expanding counterintelligence staff in Afghanistan and assigning a “guardian angel” to observe gatherings of NATO and Afghan troops and identify potential troublemakers.
  • The Pentagon claims its studies show that most “green-on-blue” attacks are not carried out by Taliban infiltrators but by disgruntled individuals working out private grievances.
  • A consortium of Indian companies will bid on the right to mine copper at the Shaida mine in Herat province.

August 20, 2012

  • Two men in Afghan police uniforms killed a NATO soldier in southern Afghanistan and then fled. The previous week, a 15-year-old Afghan working for the police chief of Garmsir district in Helmand Province stole a Kalashnikov rifle from an unlocked army barracks and killed three Marines exercising in a gym, then walked out to brag: “I just did jihad.”
  • The US military has put the Green Berets, the navy SEALS, the marines special operations, and the elite forces of Afghanistan, Britain, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and 20 other countries under one unified command.
  • Insurgents fired into a crowded mosque in Kapisa on the first day of Eid. Security forces killed two of them. The rest fled.

August 19, 2012

  • A man in a police uniform killed an American serviceman in Helmand province.
  • Iran denies any role in suicide bombings that have killed 28 people in Afghanistan recently.
  • A NATO drone strike killed 50 in Kunar, allegedly including senior Taliban leader Maulawi Nur Mohammad.

August 18, 2012

  • Karzai presided over a low key ceremony in Kabul to mark the 93rd anniversary of Afghan independence from Britain (remember them?)
  • A bazaar bomb in western Afghanistan killed four civilians. A roadside bomb in the south killed a NATO soldier.
  • A drone strike in Pakistan killed five allies of powerful warlord Mullah Bahadur.
  • Iranians are trading truckloads of rials for dollars in American-occupied Afghanistan, now that American and European sanctions have set off a currency crisis in Iran.
  • Experts have determined that Afghanistan has enough hydropower, gas, and oil to produce 30 megawatts of electricity per year, enough to make it self-sufficient and restore the Afghan economy with energy exports alone. So far, security concerned have scared away most foreign investors, but the China National Petroleum Company recently signed a 25-year deal with Afghanistan’s Watan Oil and Gas for access to 160 million barrels of oil from oil fields in Northern Afghanistan.
  • Ahmad Rashid writes that the Taliban are fearful of a civil war because they know that, unlike in the 1990s, they could not win this one: the government would hole up in fortress cities, leaving the countryside to the Taliban, and the northern warlords are now re-armed and would halt any Taliban expansion north.

August 15, 2012

  • Abdul Rahim Wardak caused panic by quitting as Minister of Defense. Parliament had pressured him to resign by giving him (and interior minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi) votes of no-confidence, but Karzai had asked him to stay until he could be replaced. Parliamentarians claimed they voted to oust the two ministers for failing to protect the country from recent Pakistani military incursions into Kunar Province, but some speculate that this vote may have actually been a move by the Pushtoons in government to disempower the Tajiks ahead of the impending NATO withdrawal.
  • The border war between Pakistan and Afghanistan continues to heat up. Shelling from Pakistan has displaced almost 600 families from seven villages in Kunar. Karzai is demanding that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari put an end to attacks on Afghan territory. Pakistani officials counter that Afghanistan’s spy agency has been planning car bomb attacks in Islamabad and Lahore and have helped Taliban commander Fazlullah attack Pakistan from bases in Afghanistan. In June, they say, militants from Afghanistan attacked a Pakistani border post, killed six soldiers and kidnapped 17 others, whom they later beheaded.
  • A bicycle bomb wounded 14 people at a market in western Afghanistan, and a roadside bomb killed four children in Paktika.
  • The US military is winding down a year-long “surge” in Ghazni aimed at securing the Kabul-Kandahar road, That surge raised troops levels in Ghazni Province from 1,000 to 3,000 but the surge does not seem to have accomplished anything.
  • Many sources now say the uprisings against the Taliban by villagers in Ghazni’s Andar district and in Laghman actually represented a turf war between the Taliban and another radical Islamist group, Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islam.

August 14, 2012

  • Three US marines were shot dead by an Afghan worker at a base in southern Afghanistan. Three other US marines from a Special Forces unit were killed earlier in the day by a man in an Afghan police uniform.
  • Suicide bombers attacked multiple targets all across Afghanistan killing at least 46 civilians.
  • The Taliban have killed a man accused of kidnapping a child in Qarabagh after government officials failed to move against him.

August 10, 2012

  • Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal broke down crying at a meeting he himself had called with foreign diplomats to refute charges of corruption leveled against him by TOLO TV. On August 1, TOLO broadcast bank statements showing that payments of $1.5 million had been made into the minister’s bank accounts over the past five years, and that half a million deposited into a Canadian bank account of his in 2010 brought his total holdings there to more than one million dollars. Tolo has alleged that the money comes from bribes: it claims finance ministry officials took $3 million under the table from a private company called Global Link in exchange for giving them a $12 million tax break. Zakhilwal wrote a letter to the New York Times claimed that he earned extra money from consulting work he did for the World Bank and for teaching at Canada’s Carlton University. The World Bank denies paying him anything and the University states that his salary there was $1,000 per month, not the $1,500 per day Zakhilwal has claimed.
  • An Afghan police officer sharing a meal with three U.S. Marines suddenly shot them dead and fled. One day earlier an Afghan soldier turned on his fellow NATO soldiers but they gunned him down before he could get off a shot..
  • An Afghan bank worker named Habib Rahman is suing the British government for helping the American military draw up a secret kill list targeting insurgents and drug dealers. Rahman lost five relatives to a missile strike that was meant to kill an insurgent named Mohammed Amin but instead killed Rahman’s relative Zabet Aminullah. Rahman’s lawyers are asking that the British government disclose how it chooses targets for the kill list.
  • U.S. Army Sgt. Walter Taylor, on trial for murder after he killed a female Afghan doctor during a 2011 firefight with insurgents, has been acquitted of all charges. She was a bystander passing by when the American troops were ambushed by insurgents.
  • A roadside bomb killed six Afghan civilians in Helmand Province.

August 9, 2012

  • Taekwondo master Rohullah Nikpai won a bronze model at the London Olympics, just as he had done at the Beijing Olympics four years ago. Nikpah grew up in a refugee camp in Iran and is ranked 13th by the World Taekwondo Federation (in his weight class.) He runs an electronics business in Kabul to make ends meet.
  • Sprinter Tahmina Kohistani, Afghanistan’s only female athlete at the Olympics, failed to qualify in the 100-meter race but set a personal best time in the qualifying race and returned to much acclaim at home. Kohistani ran in a headdress and in clothing that covered her arms and legs.
  • Suicide bombers killed three senior officers of America’s 4th Infantry Division 4th Brigade, stationed in Kunar.
  • Most Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are struggling to escape Afghanistan, claiming they’ve endured worse persecution under Karzai than under the Taliban.
  • August 8, 2012
  • Two suicide bombings killed three NATO troops in eastern Afghanistan; meanwhile a bus bombing in Farah killed five Afghans.
  • Holland’s Maurits R. Jochems will represent NATO in Afghanistan.

August 7, 2012

  • Two men wearing Afghan national army uniforms killed their American trainer in eastern Afghanistan, the 21st green-on-blue killing of the year. A video posted online showed Taliban commanders giving a hero’s welcome to one of the first green-on-blue assassins Ghazi Mahmoud, who turned upon the American soldiers in his unit and killed three of them.
  • A remote-controlled bomb blew up a mini-bus outside Kabul, killing nine civilians. Meanwhile, a suicide truck bomb exploded at a NATO military base south of Kabul and an ambush in Kapisa killed a French soldier.

August 6, 2012

  • Anti-government militants used a poor little donkey to deliver a bomb that killed a police officer in Ghor.
  • Belgium withdrew the first of its troops from Afghanistan. France turned over a base it was occupying to Afghan forces and announced that it will withdraw 2,000 of its troops from the country this year. A district governor in Wardak province warned, however, that Afghan forces in his district are not ready to take over security duties and British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that handing control of Afghanistan over to Afghans as currently planned will only help Al Qaeda.
  • Pushtoon nomads have been attacking Hazara villages in Wardak.
  • August 5, 2012
  • Insurgents ambushed a bus near Bagram and killed six civilians.

August 4, 2012

  • A Hazara military commander in Bamiyan led a raid that killed nine Pushtoon villagers, allegedly as a reprisal for anti-Hazara attacks by Pushtoons.
  • Pressure is mounting in the US congress to have the Haqqani network declared a terrorist organization. A study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, New York shows that the Haqqani network has morphed from an insurgent group into a sophisticated organized-crime outfit, profiting from extortion, racketeering, kidnapping-for-ransom, and illegal trafficking. It has also forged alliances with al Qaeda, various Talibanist movements, and the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies. It receives donations from private sources in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and extracts “protection fees” from development projects funded by NATO countries and other outside donors. It also collects taxes from various smuggling mafias, and exploits corruption within the Afghan government to control the trade in chromite, a rare-earth mineral found in Afghanistan which is essential to producing stainless steel. The network also controls numerous legal enterprises including hospitals, religious schools, real estate, trucking, and construction firms, and import-export companies.

August 3, 2012

  • A member of the government-backed Afghan Local Police in Uruzgan murdered eleven people and fled into hiding.
  • Insurgents launched simultaneous attacks all over Kunar. A bomb hidden in a small-town mosque in Nangarhar wounded 19.
  • The US Senate confirmed James Cunningham as America’s new ambassador to Afghanistan.
  • U.S. and Pakistani spy chiefs met, talked, and discovered that they could not agree on a single thing.
  • Britain has a new spy “nano-drone,” a 7-ounce airplane only 9 inches around. It has two cameras and can fly for 8 hours and hover for 30 minutes. Its “pilot” operates the drone remotely from a control room thousands of miles away.

August 2, 2012

  • Signs of “withdrawal anxiety” ahead of the upcoming pullout of NATO troops are proliferating. Afghans seeking asylum in industrialized countries , which was 34% higher in 2011 than in 2010, is rising even more steeply now. The Kabul real estate market has slumped: houses that went for a $100,000 last year are price at $60,000 now and attracting no offers. Homes that rented for $10,000 a month two years ago now rent for $4,000 a month Insurgent attacks from April to June of this year were up 11% compared to the same period last year.
  • The Ministry of Interior said it foiled an Haqqani network operation with a pre-dawn raid that killed five of Haqqani’s agents.
  • Afghan and NATO troops killed 24 insurgents in a 24-hour period. Insurgents killed 5 civilians in Logar
  • Afghanistan’s largest solar power plant, which will supply electricity to 2500 homes and business, is being built in Bamiyan by the New Zealand companies, NetCon Ltd. and Sustainable Energy Services International.
  • The latest congressional budget estimate shows that America has spent $443 billion on the war in Afghanistan so far.
  • In Herat, the 35-year-old child-rapist Wakil Ahmad has been sentenced to 50 years in prison.

August 1, 2012

  • In the last two days of July, insurgents killed 13 people; NATO and Afghan troops killed 22.
  • July 31, 2012
  • Sources in Herat claim that, increasingly, Afghan government security officials are working with local kidnapping-for-profit syndicates.

July 30, 2012

  • U.S. government inspectors found that several Afghan police bases on the Pakistan border funded by 19 million American dollars are deserted: no word on the whereabouts of the police supposedly stationed there.
  • Five of seven planned US infrastructure projects that were meant to woo the population away from the insurgents in the south have never even been started. Now that the withdrawal is coming, they never will be. The projects included power lines, diesel generators, and “justice centers.”
  • Karzai has cancelled all debts incurred by the national airline Ariana, clearing the way for Ariana to buy $23 million worth of new planes. 

July 29, 2012

  • President Karzai issued a sweeping order aimed at restoring respect for his government. His order mandates that corruption cases be prosecuted, nepotism be discouraged, and officials stop grabbing land illegally. He posted his 33 chapter, 164-article decree on his website after donor nations at a recent conference in Tokyo pledged billions of dollars of development aid to Afghanistan provided the Afghan government reduce corruption. Some Afghan parliamentarians scoffed at the idea of eliminating corruption by decree. Newspapers cautiously applauded the order until they came to an article aimed at “reforming” the media by establishing “minimum quality standards.” These include banning the use of foreign words in news broadcast and forbidding criticism of the country’s traditions and customs.
  • Over 100 Afghans were arrested in Pakistan as undocumented illegal aliens, part of a growing move in Pakistan to oust all Afghan refugees from its soil by the end of this year. The Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriates has warned that it will not let Pakistan make unilateral decisions regarding Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
  • Tajikistan has sealed its border with the Afghan province of Badakhshan to keep out supporters of Tolib Ayombekov, a Tajik militant accused of killing a Tajikistani provincial security chief. NATO supply trucks will still be permitted to cross.
  • A law aimed at restraining big fat Afghan weddings is proving difficult to enforce.
  • Italy and Spain are cutting back on their development aid to Afghanistan, they themselves being in such deep economic trouble.

July 28, 2012

  • A US drone attack Sunday killed seven militants in Pakistan.

July 26, 2012

  • Hayatullah Dayani, former head of the national Pashtany Bank, has been sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment for stealing $26 million from 2006 to 2008.
  • Police in Samangan say a pregnant woman named Khal Mina, who was found hanging in her home, did not commit suicide as originally thought but was murdered.
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