Posts Tagged ‘Kandahar’
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 »
The two Afghan farmers were gathering alfalfa in their fields when a convoy of heavily armoured American vehicles rolled through the outskirts of their hamlet.
Suddenly Taliban gunmen unleashed a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and mortars at the American soldiers. As the insurgents fled, attack helicopters and fighter jets roared overhead.
Sensing danger, the farmers raced towards a cluster of mud homes. They were less than 100 yards away when a missile cut them down.
One of the men, Karimullah, 26, was killed instantly and his 30-year-old cousin Farid was lacerated by shrapnel.
“I cried so hard when I saw him,” said Ezatullah, 21, the dead man’s brother. “He was the eldest among us. I loved him deeply.”
Last week Farid, who also lost a limb in the attack, was lying in hospital, so badly brain-damaged that he did not even recognise his visitors.
His family’s outrage reflected growing resentment at a change of American tactics in the war which is being blamed for a big increase in civilian casualties. Since General David Petraeus took over as Nato’s commander in Afghanistan in June, airstrikes have been sharply escalated.
In September and October alone, Nato planes fired their weapons on 1,700 missions — an increase of 85% compared with the same period last year.
It is a significant shift for the coalition, which had limited airstrikes under General Stanley McChrystal. Petraeus’s predecessor. Now civilian casualties are up by 30%.
Ezatullah said the attack on his brother and cousin may have been the result of a tragic misunderstanding. Read the rest of this entry »
Two Taliban fighters crept into the middle of a dirt road near Kandahar city. Unaware that an American spy plane had spotted them, they began to dig a hole as the sun beat down on their heads.
American soldiers at Forward Operating Base Wilson little more than a mile away watched the drone’s grainy video feed on a large flatscreen monitor as the insurgents planted an improvised explosive device (IED) in the hole.
Soon an A-10 tankbuster growled overhead. The aircraft dropped a laser-guided bomb that thudded into the ground and exploded with a loud crump as earth, smoke and rocks mushroomed into the air.
As the cloud settled and the video feed flickered back into life, soldiers positioned 300 yards down the road pushed out a patrol to look for the bodies.
American ground commanders in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar province are hellbent on eradicating the IED teams, which have killed and wounded dozens of troops since the end of August.
Ridding the districts surrounding Kandahar city of insurgents is the key objective for the commanding officer of 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment (1-75) whose men have the task of seizing land in Zhari, a district to the west of the city.
Colonel Thomas McFayden is determined to kill as many fighters as possible before they withdraw for the winter to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. Governance, the Americans believe, can wait for now.
McFayden’s men say they have wiped out scores of Taliban in the past month since launching operations to flush the militants from Zhari.
They rarely find the bodies. The Taliban are quick to remove their dead from the battlefield, making it difficult to verify how successful the targeted killing campaign has been.
A reminder of how brutally effective the Taliban’s tactics can be came last Monday.
American soldiers from Chaos Company, stationed at a patrol base close to Highway One, the main road that bisects Kandahar province, were busy loading a trailer with rubbish to take back to the forward operating base.
As the soldiers milled around in the courtyard of the compound, an ear-piercing explosion shook the ground. I turned to face the noise and saw an Afghan soldier cartwheeling through the air in a ball of smoke and dust before disappearing behind a wall. Read the rest of this entry »
The blast from the mine tore into the American soldier’s body, tossing him backwards through the air like a rag doll. He spun in mid-flight and thumped onto a dirt path 20ft away.
Silence descended for a moment as a large brown cloud of dust settled over his comrades where they crouched between two mud walls. Then the shouting began.
“Medic,” yelled one of the men. The cry was repeated down a line of soldiers. “Get a f****** medic up here now!”
An Afghan soldier who had been caught in the explosion was beyond help. His legs were sliced off above the knees. He quickly bled to death.
The American, however, was conscious and became the focus of frenzied activity.
With their ears ringing from the blast, two US soldiers raced through the haze and knelt beside Specialist Robert Trujillo, 25, an amateur boxer from Denver, Colorado.
When they rolled him onto his back they were shocked by what they saw. Blood pulsed from two gaping wounds on the insides of his thighs. His fingers were smashed and limp. Small stone fragments were embedded in the blackened flesh of his arms and legs.
As Captain Matt Crawford, a 31-year-old intelligence officer from Darlington, Pennsylvania, took in the extent of the injuries, all he could think was: “He’s going to die unless we do something now.”
Crawford and Sergeant Zane Cordingly, a close friend of the injured man, stuffed gauze into the open wounds as pools of blood began to leak into the dirt beneath him.
“He’s bleeding bad. He’s going to bleed out,” said Cordingly, a deeply religious, blond-haired 24-year-old who had himself been knocked flat by the force of the blast.
Both men dug their knees into Trujillo’s groin, pressing their whole body weight down on either side to cut off the blood supply.
Taliban gunmen opened fire 300 yards to our west. Bullets cracked overhead but the battle to save Trujillo continued regardless. “Where does it hurt? Tell me about your baby boy,” Cordingly told Trujillo, fighting to keep his friend alert. “Tell us how you met your wife. How’s the weather in your home state?”
“I met her at a party,” Trujillo struggled to reply. “F*** the weather, man.”
An Afghan soldier attached to the unit started cutting off Trujillo’s body armour. As he bandaged his fingers, he ran out of dressings. He raced over to me, ducking low to avoid incoming rounds, and I handed him bandages and pressure dressings from a pouch on the side of my armour.
“Everything f****** hurts right now, man,” Trujillo groaned, his chest heaving as he sucked in air. “I just want to see my boy Jackson again.”
The men of the 75th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, had no warning that they had walked into a trap laced with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Alpha Company, from the regiment’s 1st Squadron — known simply as “1-75” — had entered the village of Zenadan, a cluster of mud homes, with the intention of presenting some sheep to celebrate its liberation from the Taliban. The “freedom sheep” did not arrive so the soldiers set about delivering blankets and food. Read the rest of this entry »