Posts Tagged ‘McChrystal’
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 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 »
The Sunday Times, Combat Outpost Monti, Kunar Province
Specialist Alexander Miller had been watching a mysterious Afghan standing in a cornfield for 20 minutes. But it took only a split second for the American soldier to be mortally wounded.
As Miller turned his back momentarily, the Afghan picked up a weapon hidden at his feet and fired a burst. One of the rounds tore into the 21- year-old soldier’s groin. Troops rushed to apply pressure to the wound as they called in a helicopter, but he was dead on arrival at the nearest field hospital.
Miller, a keen roller-hockey player with a goofy smile, left behind a girlfriend in Clermont, Florida. He was one of three American soldiers killed in the battle for Barji Matal, a village in the eastern province of Nuristan that nestles in a fertile valley surrounded by the barren peaks of the Hindu Kush.
Nuristan’s rugged landscape, dotted with stone huts encircled by farmland, formed the backdrop to Rudyard Kipling’s short story The Man Who Would Be King, written when the province was still called Kafiristan or “Land of the Infidels” for its struggle to resist the spread of Islam. American commanders say little has changed since the story was written: the province’s clans still retain a fierce independence.
US troops clash daily with Taliban militants over control of this isolated region on the Pakistan border. But as President Barack Obama reconsiders his overall strategy in Afghanistan, military officials on the ground are questioning the purpose of sending soldiers into sparsely populated areas such as Barji Matal when the army lacks the resources to hold on to them. They argue that such battles reduce the military’s capacity to conduct counterinsurgency operations along the porous border with Pakistan.
It was in mid-July that President Hamid Karzai asked for 100 American soldiers to go to the village after Taliban militants overran it.
The soldiers believed they could secure Barji Matal within a week, allowing 500 farmers to return to their work in the flour mill and cornfields. But the date for their withdrawal came and went with soldiers bogged down in close-quarter combat. One was killed instantly when a Taliban fighter popped up 10 yards ahead of his position and loosed off a burst of machinegun fire.
“We made the decision to stay to ensure that we didn’t spend all that money, blood, sweat and tears for nothing,” said Captain Albert Bryant, commanding officer of C Company in the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. Read the rest of this entry »