Posts Tagged ‘Ghazni’
By Miles Amoore and Christina Lamb
THE two men should be sworn enemies. One is a Taliban commander waging what he says is a holy war against foreign soldiers in Afghanistan. The other is an Afghan army officer trained and paid by Nato to fight the Taliban.
Yet rather than do battle, the two men have forged a secret alliance. In the area of Ghazni province where both are based, just an hour’s drive south of Kabul, they collaborate to loot Nato supply convoys, dividing up the proceeds. They even share intelligence about military operations.
“We lost seven men in an ambush when I first arrived at the base,” explained Afghan army lieutenant Mohammad Wali, who commands 18 men. “So I thought, why risk my life when there’s another way?”
These are the security forces on which Nato strategy depends as world leaders gather in Chicago today to set in motion an end to the alliance’s biggest military operation — if not an end to the war itself.
The drawdown — officials avoid the word withdrawal — is based on handing over security to an Afghan army able to prevent Afghanistan from plunging into civil war when most of the 130,000-strong Nato-led force pulls out in 2014.
Last week, the alliance announced the transfer of another chunk of territory to Afghan control and soon three-quarters of the Afghan population will come under the protection of the Afghan security forces (ANSF).
In its latest report to the US Congress, the Pentagon claims 40% of operations are already led by Afghans. But Michael O’Hanlon, a defence expert at the Brookings Institution, who visited Afghanistan last week, said almost all were simple operations.
Revelations of secret ceasefire agreements between Taliban insurgents and Nato-trained Afghan soldiers appear to undermine Nato’s confidence that the latter can hold the line.
Nato handed over control of Ghazni city, the provincial capital, to Afghan security forces at the end of last year. Last month the Taliban closed down 100 schools in the province.
Wali said he had been approached by the local Taliban commander six months ago. Meeting in a bazaar, the pair agreed a ceasefire and a plan to ambush Nato supply convoys on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, which passes through the province.
“The plan is simple,” said Wali. “When the Taliban attack the convoys we stay in our bases. If the Taliban capture something valuable then they share it with us later.” Read the rest of this entry »
The young Taliban commander with a penchant for severing spies’ heads with strands of thin wire dragged 28 of his foot soldiers from a makeshift jail and lined them up against a mud wall at his base.
Pacing along the row of handcuffed men, the fresh-faced 21-year-old — surrounded by bodyguards — drew his pistol.
“You’re about to be punished because you’ve taken money from infidels by working on building projects in winter,” shouted Ferozuddin. He had arrived in the east Afghanistan province of Ghazni in March to take command of Andar district after an American airstrike killed his predecessor.
As the fighters begged forgiveness, Ferozuddin marched up to the first one and shot him in the left knee. One by one he kneecapped the others.
“Ferozuddin is possessed,” said a Taliban judge from the same notoriously dangerous district. “He listens to no one, not even his elders. He is more sadistic than any commander Andar has ever seen.”
Ruthless young commanders like Ferozuddin are a by-product of Nato’s campaign to kill or capture Taliban commanders, say Afghan intelligence officials, analysts and western diplomats. They claim the new breed of militants replacing commanders killed or captured by Nato have stronger links to extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani Taliban. Nato’s kill and capture campaign has also hampered negotiations with the Taliban, they say.
“They’re killing people we want to talk to and the new generation aren’t interested in talking at all,” said Haji din Mohammed, head of the contact committee of the High Peace Council, the Afghan government body responsible for liaising with insurgents. “The operation has been successful — Nato is killing a lot of people — but the patient is still dying.” Read the rest of this entry »
THE two helicopters swooped low over a cluster of mud homes, whirling in the cold night sky before landing in a wheat field on the edge of the small Afghan village.
From his home nearby, 23-year-old Najibullah Omar strained his eyes in the darkness as he made out the faint shapes of armed men pouring from the helicopters’ bellies.
A third helicopter circled menacingly in the moonless sky above the village of Karakhil in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul.
Then a loud explosion shook the ground and a plume of smoke rose from his cousin Hamidullah’s house 20 yards away. Its guest room caught fire. Omar heard a burst of gunfire before all went quiet.
His worst fears were confirmed the moment he walked through the compound gate at first light.
The body of his cousin, a 32-year-old construction engineer who had taken a break from his job in a far-off province to visit his family, lay sprawled next to those of his wife and their seven-year-old son. Blood ran in dark pools on the mud floor of the terrace outside their door.
The wife and son had been shot in the head, each with a single bullet. The engineer had died from a shot to the chest. The precision of the killings, coupled with his failure to find any bullet casings after the raid, led Omar to believe that his cousin was murdered either by US special forces or by an intelligence agency.
The sole survivor was the couple’s younger son, aged six, whose upper torso was riddled with puncture wounds from grenade shrapnel.
Some of the villagers dug away the fallen wooden beams, revealing the charred corpses of three Taliban fighters — a mid-level commander and two bodyguards, apparently killed where they slept by a missile from the circling helicopter.
“The Taliban often force themselves into our homes. What can we do?” said Omar. “We’re afraid of them. It’s better to keep your house and shelter the Taliban when they demand it than to lose your home.”
Last week General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of Nato troops in Afghanistan, responded to President Hamid Karzai’s call for a ban on night raids by publicly ordering his troops to curb their use.
The general’s order aims to end the killing and detention of innocent civilians during night operations. According to the United Nations, 98 civilians were killed in such raids last year, provoking widespread outrage. They are believed to have swollen the ranks of the Taliban, who score an easy propaganda victory every time Nato kills a civilian.
In his order, first issued confidentially to officers in January, McChrystal wrote that violating Afghans’ homes made it more difficult to win vital public support.
The new policy has created tensions with officers commanding special forces units, who often launch night operations without informing Nato commanders. Read the rest of this entry »