Posts Tagged ‘ANP’
I thought I’d flag up a story in The Times newspaper yesterday that highlights how far the rights of Afghan women have slipped down the agenda in Afghanistan. One of the justifications for going to war in 2001 was to “free the Afghan women” from the “barbaric” Taliban. Despite this pledge, little has changed for women in the 10 years since the US-led invasion.
The Times’ story is about how the European Union banned a film it commissioned on the rights of Afghan women. The censored film documents the cases of a number of Afghan women jailed for “moral crimes”. These “crimes” are usually committed by women who try to run away from their homes because they’ve suffered horrific torture and abuse at the hands of their husbands or male relatives.
One of the women featured in the film, Gulnaz, was raped and impregnated by a relative. She reported her rape to the police, who promptly locked her in jail for committing adultery. One and a half years later Gulnaz is still in jail, although she will soon be released because she has agreed to marry the rapist (a condition set by the judge).
Instead of publicising the suffering of women locked up for moral crimes the EU decided to prevent the film from seeing the light of day. Read the Times’s story here.
The Times followed this story with another today. The paper quoted Gulnaz’s rapist, who said that the EU had “done a good thing” by banning the film. The rights of women have slipped so far down the agenda in Afghanistan that we now have convicted rapists thanking the EU for concealing the suffering of women here.
As one senior rights activist told me: “It’s all about withdrawing the troops now. That’s the main focus for the foreigners here. Everything else, especially the rights of women, has pretty much been forgotten”.
There’s now a petition calling for the immediate release of Gulnaz. It has already attracted more than 5,000 signatures and will be sent to President Hamid Karzai. Sign here http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/freegulnaz/
A suicide bomber yesterday killed 17 people, including five US soldiers and eight British and American civilian contractors, when he drove a minibus packed with explosives into the side of a military bus in Kabul in one of the deadliest attacks inside the city since the conflict began.
The explosion hurled the heavily armoured bus into the air, engulfing it in a fireball as it travelled in a convoy of armoured vehicles towards a nearby Nato base in the southwest of the Afghan capital.
Thick black smoke poured from the side of the bus as it lay on its side opposite Kabul’s American University and Darulaman palace, the bombed-out seat of Afghanistan’s former kings and presidents.
The victims included five American soldiers, a Canadian soldier, five American civilian contractors, two British contractors, an Afghan policeman and three Afghan civilians. Two children were among the wounded.
Ambulances and fire engines sped to the scene as Nato soldiers treated some of the casualties. The twisted frame of a motorcycle lay among the charred metal fragments that littered the road.
“There was a huge explosion and I turned to see a massive cloud of smoke rising into the air,” said Mokhtar Aria, who works as a mechanic. “The bus was on fire. I watched them pulling the bodies from it.”
Two Nato helicopters landed to evacuate the dead and wounded to a military hospital near Kabul. Later, witnesses saw US soldiers carry three black body bags from the bus before lifting out another badly charred body from the burnt-out wreckage.
Another witness said he saw the badly charred bodies of US soldiers inside the military bus, known as a Rhino because of its heavy armour. In accordance with usual practice, none of the military victims has been named.
Throughout yesterday, French and American bomb disposal units conducted a forensic examination of the area while Afghan intelligence officials scoured the site for evidence. A military guard dog was also killed in the blast.
As Nato cordoned off the surrounding streets, the wounded were rushed to Kabul’s Estiqlal hospital. Among them was Ali Ahmad, 9, who was yesterday recovering.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, although in the past the Haqqani network, the most lethal insurgent force in Afghanistan, has been blamed for similar high-profile attacks in the capital. Read the rest of this entry »
A classified document seen by The Sunday Times shows planners are mulling the idea of completing the planned transfer of power in 2013
Nato has drawn up plans to accelerate the passing of security to Afghan soldiers and police before it withdraws from the country.
It currently plans to hand over all 34 provinces to the Afghan forces by the end of 2014. But a classified Nato document seen by The Sunday Times shows planners have put forward the idea of completing the transfer a year early. “The plan is to have all the provinces transferred to Afghan control by the end of 2013,” a senior Nato official confirmed.
The intention of a hastier transfer would be to give Nato more time to assess the success of the process and to intervene if security deteriorates, Nato and US officials said.
General John Allen, head of American and Nato forces, is pushing for an even faster handover.
The United States had initially wanted Afghan security forces to take control of the most peaceful areas first, but this plan has now been scrapped.
“We would like this speeded up while we still have enough combat power in the country to support the Afghans in the more troubled areas,” an American official said. Nato is committed to withdrawing the majority of its forces by the end of 2014.
The organisation has acknowledged that deals may have to be struck between Afghan commanders and insurgent leaders in some of the most violent provinces.
“Local army and police commanders will do a deal with the insurgents. They will do it in an Afghan fashion,” said a senior western official. “But it doesn’t mean the problem goes away. This will be one of the big repercussions of the transition in those much harder areas.”
Western experts fear some of the provinces listed in the Nato document may be transferred too early.
Kunar, for example, which the planners want to hand over to the Afghans midway through next year, remains one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan. Analysts warn that the country’s nascent security forces might crumble under insurgent pressure in such places.
The risk was underlined by a series of events in Kunar earlier this year. 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 »
The bullet tore into the British sniper’s hip and knocked him to the ground. Surrounded by Taliban fighters after being pinned down by heavy fire inside a mud compound for seven hours, British soldiers suffering from heat exhaustion dragged the wounded corporal from the rooftop and into an inner courtyard.
They bent him over a table, stuffing bandages and gauze into the wounds to stem the flow of blood.
Attack helicopters circling above the compound strafed the surrounding wheat fields with chain guns to prevent Taliban fighters from attacking the medical evacuation helicopter when it landed.
As the American helicopter came into sight, soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, The Rifles, staggered out of the compound carrying the sniper on a stretcher. Taliban bullets zipped overhead.
Lying inside the helicopter, the corporal apologised for “letting the team down”. High on morphine, he demanded his pistol to fend off the Taliban creeping through the fields around their position.
The company’s sergeant-major ejected the magazine from his pistol and cleared a round from the barrel, handing the empty weapon back to the wounded sniper. The corporal shouted above the din of rotor blades before the helicopter, still under fire, lifted him to safety.
The men of A Company had mounted an air assault into the village of Alikozai on May 18, swiftly becoming embroiled in a 12-hour gun battle with as many as 50 Taliban fighters, according to soldiers who took part.
Battles of this ferocity have dropped in number since US Marines took control of Helmand’s most violent districts last year, allowing the British to concentrate more troops in the centre of the province.
As a result, British forces have gradually begun to wrest territory from the Taliban, killing or capturing dozens of insurgent commanders.
David Cameron said on a visit to Afghanistan last week that the conflict had entered a new phase. Afghan security forces were increasingly capable of handling security in Helmand, the Prime Minister said. He pointed to Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, which is due to be formally handed over on July 20, as an example.
Having announced that 426 British troops would be withdrawn by next February, Cameron said a further 500 would depart by the end of next year.
British officials who say the war is being won on the ground believe victory will ultimately be defined by the extent to which the Afghan army and police protect territorial gains from Taliban incursion as they leave. They believe the progress of recent months can be sustained.
But while the Afghan army has been moulded into a force regarded by British officers as “superb in a firefight”, its reluctance to perform basic tasks such as planning operations is causing frustration.
“At the moment, without us cajoling, pushing or pleading, the Afghan army would sit on their arse and do f*** all,” said a British officer advising the Afghan army in Helmand.
As for the Afghan police, coalition officers remain concerned about recruitment, corruption and involvement in the opium trade.
So will security forces that still find it hard to feed and water their men crumble under Taliban pressure? Or will the “counterinsurgency savvy” Afghan soldiers keep them at bay? Read the rest of this entry »