Archive for July 2011
Back to the battle in Nuristan’s Doab district. Fresh details have emerged that seem to contradict ISAF’s public version of the battle, which took place in May this year.
An article in the Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday strongly suggests that the fight between US forces and insurgents for control of the district centre was far more violent than ISAF initially let on.
ISAF told me in June that there was no evidence to suggest that insurgents had reached the district centre or, needless to say, had the insurgents ever controlled the district centre. However, an American major general quoted in the CSM piece says:
At the end of the day, the insurgents held the district center for 24 hours…
The Americans dropped 14 bombs on insurgent positions, killing 200 of the 300 fighters, according to an F-15 fighter pilot interviewed for the same article. American forces on the ground were surrounded and outnumbered about 10-1, the article states.
The F-15 fighter pilot said:
It’s extremely rare that we find ourselves in a fight where we deploy all of our bombs. But that day we dropped everything we had….Our guys got really close to being overrun.
Sounds slightly more violent than the sanitised account provided in the ISAF press release about the battle. I’ve highlighted the bits in bold that are at odds with the Air Force and Army commanders’ accounts. Read the rest of this entry »
The terrorists who launched a commando assault on one of Kabul’s leading hotels received help from three insiders, including a police officer, according to the man who planned the attack.
Eight suicide bombers armed with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machineguns, assault rifles, grenade launchers and suicide vests stormed the InterContinental Hotel on the night of June 28, triggering a battle that lasted more than seven hours and left 20 dead.
The attack highlighted the inability of Kabul’s security forces to thwart attacks on high-profile targets in the Afghan capital as Nato begins to hand over control of parts of the country to the Afghan government.
Closed-circuit TV footage taken from the InterContinental on the night of the attack showed the commander of the hotel’s police force asleep as the first shots were fired. After he awoke to the sound of gunfire, he could be seen fleeing the hotel with his men.
Last Sunday, militants assassinated an Afghan politician and a close aide of President Hamid Karzai’s. The attack underlined the threat insurgents pose to security in the capital. It also hinted at the role Pakistan plays in stoking insecurity in Afghanistan.
Mobile phone intercepts made during the initial stages of the InterContinental attack show the attackers were communicating directly with their commander, Badruddin Haqqani, who is based in Pakistan, where the attack was planned.
Badruddin is the deputy leader of the Haqqani network, which is considered the most sophisticated insurgent force in Afghanistan. The Haqqanis maintain close ties with Al-Qaeda and are often accused of receiving support from the Pakistani military and intelligence services.
“It’s like a PlayStation game,” said an Afghan intelligence official. “Pakistan always holds one of the controllers so they can play their games whenever they want.”
Police investigating the attack are baffled by how the InterContinental attackers were able to break into the well-guarded hotel with such a large arsenal. One insurgent was caught on camera carrying 16 RPG warheads in a quiver on his back. “How they got into the hotel with this much ammunition is still a mystery,” said an Afghan security official.
The deputy head of the Haqqani network’s Kabul cell, which is responsible for planning and co-ordinating attacks in the Afghan capital, told The Sunday Times that the attackers were aided by a police officer, an interpreter and the bodyguard of a senior government official who was staying at the hotel. Read the rest of this entry »
Ahmad Wali Karzai, the half-brother of the Afghan president, lived under constant fear of assassination. His death last week was the latest of 10 attempts to kill him.
“The seventh bomb to target me was so big that hundreds of cats fed on human flesh for days afterwards,” he told me last July.
The man who finally killed Karzai was someone he trusted with his life. Not only was Sardar Mohammed a close confidant, but he also worked as an informant for the CIA, according to relatives, Karzai’s friends and the Afghan intelligence agency.
Mohammed, who shot dead Karzai, 49, at his home on Tuesday, ran a network of spies who passed information to the CIA, according to Mohammed’s brothers-in-law, two of whom work for the CIA.
Karzai, known as the “King of Kandahar” for the iron fist with which he ruled the southern province, was himself working for the CIA, according to his brother Mahmoud.
Karzai, likened to the gangster Al Capone by US officials for his alleged links to the drug trade, helped the US spy agency run a clandestine paramilitary unit called the Kandahar Strike Force. The CIA uses the unit to conduct covert counterterrorism operations in the city. Some members of the strike force are in prison in Kabul for shooting dead Kandahar’s police chief in 2009. Critics say that Karzai used the militia to kill off his rivals.
“If there was something Sardar could do that the Americans couldn’t, then they would ask him to do it,” said Abdul Malik, one of Mohammed’s brothers-in-law. “The Americans were very happy with his performance.”
One of Malik’s brothers carried an identity card with the words “Qandahar Strike Force” emblazoned in red ink on the back.
Afghan intelligence officials confirmed they knew of Mohammed’s links to the CIA, but insisted there was no evidence that the agency had ordered the hit on Karzai.
“It would be crazy to think the Americans could do this to my brother,” said Mahmoud Karzai, another Karzai brother who is under investigation for tax evasion in the US, where he used to live. Karzai’s family believe Mohammed’s Taliban informants may have persuaded Mohammed to switch sides.
Ahmad Wali Karzai had no shortage of enemies in the city. His foes accused him of assassinating and imprisoning his rivals, exploiting American military contracts and running drugs. His supporters said his powerful oratory and deft political skills held the south together.
Mohammed’s motive continues to baffle the police, the Afghan intelligence service and the government’s national security council. All three agencies have launched investigations into the murder.
At the heart of the mystery is the close relationship between Karzai and Mohammed — the men had been allies and friends for seven years. Read the rest of this entry »
Gunmen wearing suicide vests shot dead a presidential advisor and an Afghan politician at a house in Kabul last night.
The two gunmen stormed into the house of the former governor of Uruzgan, Jan Mohammed Khan, at 8pm on Sunday night as both men were sitting down to dinner.
The attackers shot and killed the governor’s bodyguards at the gate before storming into the house and executing Mohammed Khan and the MP, Mohammed Watanwal as they sat talking together on the floor of one of the rooms, according to a detective who arrived at the scene shortly after the killings.
Police then surrounded the house in Kabul’s peaceful Kart-e-Char district, triggering a gun battle that raged into the early hours of Monday morning.
Policemen shot and killed one attacker before the other blew himself up. Three policemen were also killed in the fire-fight.
President Hamid Karzai relied on Mohammed Khan, who was a close friend of his, for advice.
His death comes less than a week after Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president’s half-brother, in Kandahar City.
“We are under siege,” said Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s brother, speaking shortly after escaping a suicide bombing at a mosque in Kandahar last week.
The bomb, which the attacker placed in his turban to avoid security, exploded six metres from Mahmoud and three of his brothers at the funeral ceremony of their half-brother, Ahmad Wali, who was killed on Tuesday by a close friend.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing of Mohammed Khan and the MP Watanwal, accusing the former of passing information about insurgent locations to Nato troops.
Mohammed Khan was a former mujahideen and militia commander in the southern province of Uruzgan. He was a close friend of the president’s father. Khan, with the help of American Special Forces, was also instrumental in helping President Karzai return to Afghanistan after 9/11.
For more information on Khan’s past and his ties to the Karzai family read this blog on the Afghan Analysts Network website.