Posts Tagged ‘corruption’
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Having announced that 426 British troops would be withdrawn by next February, Cameron said a further 500 would depart by the end of next year.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 »
Their faces concealed with chequered scarves, the Taliban assassins found Haji Zahir Arian sitting on cushions in the living room of a friend’s house. They wasted no time in striking a blow against peace.
The first hitman to enter the small room raised his rifle and loosed off four rounds as Arian, the deputy head of the peace council in Helmand province, lifted his arms to shield himself.
One of the bullets grazed the 59-year-old’s underarm, striking a wall behind him. The other three rounds thudded into his chest, causing his body to convulse against the wall before it slid to the floor.
The Taliban fled, leaving Arian’s friend, Najibullah Popal, trembling with fear as he watched the body ooze blood into the cushions.
Afghan policemen guarding a checkpoint just 100 yards away failed to give chase as the gunmen sped off in a black Toyota Corolla. “Who killed him?” asked Ghulam Farooq, a colleague and close friend of Arian whose uncle was strangled by the Taliban two months ago. “The security forces killed him, by failing to protect him.”
The assassination of Arian on April 23 is one of several attacks in which the Taliban have singled out “soft targets” inside Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital, in recent months.
The killings are aimed at destabilising the town as British troops prepare formally to transfer control to Afghan security forces next month. The handover marks the beginning of the end of British and American military engagement in Helmand. Read the rest of this entry »
The Al-Qaeda instructor spent an hour schooling his protégé, a 12-year-old Afghan boy, in the art of suicide bombing.
Flanked by retired officers from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Arab militant is said to have shown the boy how to approach his target calmly before pressing the handheld button that would detonate the explosives.
At the end of the lesson, the trainer strapped a suicide vest over the child’s clothes and told him to demonstrate what he had learnt.
“Okay, so I walk like this,” the boy said as he walked across the living room of a house built from mud and stone in the hamlet of Chatras in Nuristan province. “And then I press this button. Like this?”
Before anyone could stop him, he pressed the detonator. The blast killed seven men — two Al-Qaeda trainers, three Taliban fighters and, according to Afghan officials, two agents from a shadowy unit of retired ISI agents called S Wing, which supplies military advisers to the insurgents.
“Maybe the boy’s family sent him over to the Taliban or perhaps they chose him because he was an orphan,” said a senior Afghan source, whose account of the incident was confirmed by the province’s police chief.
The boy and four other suicide bombers were being primed to cause chaos in Parun, Nuristan’s capital, at the start of a planned Taliban assault aimed at seizing control.
The explosion three weeks ago stalled their advance, but not for long. Last week the Taliban had Parun surrounded, according to Afghan officials and western analysts.
The Afghan government was forced to airlift supplies into the city by helicopter to deal with shortages of butter, flour, fuel, tea and sugar. “It’s medieval. They’re trying to starve the population so that they rise up against the government,” said Ahmadullah Moahid, a local MP. “You can’t even get snuff.”
If the Taliban enter Parun, it will be the first provincial capital to fall since the start of the decade-long war.
Insurgents have already regained control of much of Nuristan, including the entire district of Waygal, where they have smashed televisions and beaten up men without beards for failing to comply with their interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law. Read the rest of this entry »
The old man woke in the middle of the night to the sound of someone rifling through drawers in his living room. He reached for a shotgun stashed beneath his bed and crept into the hallway.
The robber, who was after his gold, heard him coming. He shot the old man twice in the chest at point blank range, killing him instantly, and fled into the night.
Alerted by the screams of the women in the house, a Taliban foot soldier mobilised patrols of the area. Two hours later, Taliban fighters caught Mohammad Basir, 32, as he tried to steal a motorbike to escape. They dragged him back to the dead man’s house, where he confessed to the murder.
Hauled before Bayatullah Qasim, a Taliban judge in the Ghazni province of eastern Afghanistan, he was sentenced to hang.
A length of coarse rope was tied around Basir’s neck and he was winched into the air by a small crane mounted on the back of a Toyota pick-up truck. Only two days had passed since his crime.
“It’s this type of fast justice that makes people want to come to us if they have a problem,” said Qasim, the 41-year-old judge.
In an unprecedented interview with The Sunday Times, the judge spoke at length last week about Taliban justice, which is seen by a growing number of Afghans as more effective than a badly corrupted official system.
The punishments available to Qasim include beheading, stoning and chopping off hands. He employs two “butchers” to hack off robbers’ limbs with axes and saw off spies’ heads with knives.
“The butchers know exactly what punishment fits what crime,” he said. “All I have to do is tell them what the crime is and they know what and how much to cut off.”
Qasim made me remove the Sim card from my mobile phone for fear it might be bugged. He had every reason to be nervous: American forces arrested two Taliban judges in a nearby district earlier this month and two days before I met him, they appeared to have discovered his hideout. Read the rest of this entry »
The Sunday Times
TALIBAN insurgents who have infiltrated Kabul are nailing “night letters” to the doors of policemen, soldiers and government workers, warning them to leave their jobs or face punishment.
The militants are being welcomed in the Afghan capital’s poorer areas among inhabitants who are disaffected with corruption, and who supply them with food, cash and weapons.
Safe houses and bomb-making workshops have begun to appear in run-down districts close to the city centre as the militants increase their presence and plot attacks on prominent local targets.
“They know who we are, where we live and what we do,” said Dr Ehsan Anwari, who used to work as an Afghan army medic and now runs a clinic in Company district, where Highway One, the main road from Kandahar to the south, enters the capital. “Whenever we hear shooting we think that the Taliban are taking over the district by force. We are afraid.”
Described by one police officer as a den of vice, Company district is a warren of tightly packed, single- storey houses and mud-caked, narrow streets. Last month, the Taliban tried to blow up the house of Anwari’s brother, a police officer, by pouring petrol through his front gate. The policeman grabbed his gun and opened fire. His attackers fled but he found mortar rounds, explosives and ammunition by the gate. Read the rest of this entry »