Archive for July 2010
The Taliban gunmen drove into the bazaar last Saturday in a three-car convoy. Tyres screeched as the vehicles skidded to a halt outside a shop where eight Afghan interpreters working for the US army were packing newly bought fruit into plastic bags.
The Taliban levelled assault rifles at their heads and ordered them into the cars. As bystanders fled, two of the translators made a run for it. Ducking into an alleyway as bullets ricocheted off the walls around them, they escaped.
Their six colleagues were less fortunate. They were driven to a Taliban “safe house” in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. Early last Sunday their headless corpses were found on the south-western outskirts of the city. The Taliban had cut out each man’s tongue and placed his head on his chest.
A note pinned to one body read: “The same fate awaits those who work for infidels.”
The killings appear to be part of a Taliban initiative aimed at disrupting Nato’s counter-insurgency strategy, which hinges on the soldiers’ ability to protect the Afghan population.
Last weekend Nato announced that it had intercepted a letter from Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, which had apparently been sent in June. It called on Taliban field commanders to kill or capture civilians working for foreign soldiers and the Afghan government.
If genuine, the directive has come as US forces dig in across Kandahar in preparation for a fierce fight to wrest territory from the Taliban. ]Interpreters such as those killed last week will be crucial: the military relies on them to act as its eyes and ears as it struggles to win over the local population.
“The Taliban know we’re a vital asset for the Americans. That’s why the Taliban have singled us out,” said one translator stationed with American troops in Kandahar.
Nato acknowledges a steady rise in murders of interpreters, many of them unreported. Read the rest of this entry »
The killing of three British soldiers by an Afghan comrade last week has intensified Nato concern that Taliban fighters may be infiltrating Afghanistan’s army in growing numbers.
An Afghan sergeant shot dead a sleeping British officer and launched a rocket-propelled grenade that killed two other soldiers. British and Afghan military intelligence searching for the gunman suspect he may have been trained in Iran.
“Of course we’re worried about infiltration,” said an American colonel who works closely with the Afghan National Army (ANA). “The signs are that it is on the increase too. This is a big problem for us but there is little we can do.”
Nato’s eventual exit from the conflict relies heavily on the ability of the Afghan army to take responsibility for security. News of Taliban infiltration casts further doubts on the effectiveness of the Afghan force.
“Partnering with the Afghans is key to our success in this mission,” said Major-General Nick Carter, the commander of Nato troops in southern Afghanistan. “This [the murders] is damaging to the relationship we have with the Afghans. They are absolutely gutted by this.”
Carter said his opposite number in the ANA, Maj-Gen Sher Mohammad Zazi, had warned his subordinates to “look closely” at new recruits to see if any of them “behave in a strange way or act in an unusual fashion”. Read the rest of this entry »
When the Taliban hammered on Haji Abdul Haideri’s door at 1am, he naturally refused to let them in. They responded by lobbing a hand grenade over a mud wall into his courtyard. Shrapnel tore into his leg.
Haideri, a frail old man of 70, picked himself off the ground and grabbed his rifle while one of his sons opened fire from the roof into the narrow street below.
As the Taliban fled, Haideri limped to his front door and loosed off a volley. By the time the gunfire had died down, the bodies of seven Taliban fighters lay in the road.
The old man then walked out to strip the bodies of their weapons. It was a fatal mistake. Two Taliban fighters, lying in cover, opened fire and four bullets thumped into his chest, killing him instantly. The assassins escaped through the shadows of Arghandab, a village near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
“He was a great man. He led his village for 25 years. The Taliban knew if they killed him, they would create fear and the locals would stop helping the foreign soldiers,” said his nephew Massoud, speaking days after the killing.
Haideri’s sons gave chase and spotted the killers pass a police checkpoint. They asked the deputy commander why his men had failed to stop the fighters. He allegedly replied that it was not his job. Furious, the youngest son raised his assault rifle and shot dead the deputy. Both sons are now facing murder charges.
Village elders such as Haideri are frequently murdered in Kandahar province.
In four years Taliban death squads have killed more than 400 elders, government officials and Afghans working for foreign organisations, according to a tribal expert who keeps a list of the dead.
The Taliban have now drawn up a hitlist of 633 Kandaharis, according to an official from the National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence agency. The government has refused to release the names for fear it would accelerate an exodus of officials. Read the rest of this entry »