Our Afghan partners go missing in action
January 15, 2012/Sunday AGE
Whether militia, army or police, the Afghan forces "did not appear to be actively responding to the situation in an organised manner".
A SECRET US Army report has undermined a glowing Australian account of the role Afghan forces played in repelling an unprecedented Taliban attack near Australia's main base in Afghanistan.
The 166-page report obtained by The Sunday Age, raises fresh doubts about the capacity of Afghan forces to take over when Australian and other foreign troops pull out.
The federal government insists the Afghans are on track to take charge of security by 2014, so Australians can leave.
The Australian Defence Force praised what it said was the prompt, professional and co-ordinated Afghan response to the Taliban attack in Tarin Kowt on July 28 last year.
But the US report paints a picture of confusion, with Afghan forces failing to respond to a key part of the Taliban assault - an attempt to kill a militia leader who is a close ally of Australian special forces.
Afghan forces were either absent or stood by and watched as US troops attacked Taliban fighters who had blasted their way into the government broadcasting station adjoining the compound of militia leader Matiullah Khan.
Adding to the confusion was the fact US troops could not distinguish between official Afghan forces and the militia. While Afghan forces repelled a related Taliban assault on the nearby governor's office, US troops were on their own at the broadcasting station.
Standard procedure was for Afghan forces to take the lead in clearing a building where the Taliban were holed up.
In their absence, US troops stormed the building, with disastrous consequences. Two Taliban fighters detonated suicide vests, burying seven soldiers, including the battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel David Oeschger, who was seriously wounded.
In what the report says was the ''stress and urgency of the moment'', a US soldier then shot dead Afghan journalist Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak, in the mistaken belief he was a suicide bomber. Afghan forces only moved into the building once the Taliban and the journalist were killed, and wounded Americans were dug out of the rubble.
The US report also suggests the Australian response to the attacks was more extensive than the ADF revealed at the time.
Initially classified as secret, the report was heavily censored before being released to The Sunday Age under the US Freedom of Information Act. Even so, it contains detail rarely, if ever, released by Australian agencies ....<cont>
Just for a minute consider the Afghanistan war/invasion from the perspective of a country which is an ally of the US......
No one is quite so cynical as a thwarted idealist, JTT.
Who knows, I might be even more cynical than you are about this war business?
Pretty incredible to see it in that way, yes?
All those attacks on third world countries, all those disastrous losses (for the US). Surely it is time to stop?
I wonder, if Hunter was still alive & kicking, what he would be saying about the Afghanistan debacle now?
I think I have a pretty good idea.
Taliban will rule Afghanistan again, says leaked US military report
Classified document is said to warn that Pakistan is plotting to help reinstall Taliban once Nato-led forces depart
Reuters/guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 1 February 2012 03.39 GMT
The Taliban have secured Pakistan's support for a return to power in Afghanistan as well as toning down their severe brand of Islamism, according to reports citing a leaked US military assessment. Photograph: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
The Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control of Afghanistan after Nato-led forces withdraw from the country, according to reports citing a classifed assessment by US forces.
The Times described the report as secret and "highly classified", saying it was put together last month by the US military at Bagram air base in Afghanistan for top Nato officers. The BBC also carried a report on the leaked document.
"Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban," the report was quoted as saying. "Once Isaf (Nato-led forces) is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable."
The document stated that Pakistan's security agency was helping the Taliban in directing attacks against foreign forces – a charge long denied by Islamabad.
The findings were based on interrogations of more than 4,000 Taliban and al-Qaida detainees, the Times said, adding the document was scarce on identifying individual insurgents.
A US state department spokesman and Britain's Foreign Office both declined comment on the report. Nato and Pakistani officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Despite the presence of more than 100,000 foreign troops, the UN has said violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted by US-backed forces in 2001.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) says levels of violence are falling.
Citing the same report, the BBC reported on its website that Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency knew the locations of senior Taliban leaders and supported the expulsion of "foreign invaders from Afghanistan".
"Senior Taliban leaders meet regularly with ISI personnel, who advise on strategy and relay any pertinent concerns of the government of Pakistan."
The Times said the document suggested the Taliban were gaining in popularity, partly because the severe Islamist movement was becoming more tolerant.
The report was quoted as stating: "It remains to be seen whether a revitalised, more progressive Taliban will endure if they continue to gain power and popularity. Regardless, at least within the Taliban the refurbished image is already having a positive effect on morale."
Afghanistan: Leon Panetta signals end to US combat role
2 February 2012/BBC News
The US will seek to wind down combat operations in Afghanistan during 2013, more than a year before a deadline for withdrawal, the defence secretary says.
Speaking while travelling to a Nato summit, Leon Panetta said the US hoped to switch to a role training and supporting Afghan forces.
It is the most detailed public indication of when US troops might pull back from America's longest war.
Some 68,000 troops are due to remain in Afghanistan after the end of 2012....<cont>
British troops killed in Afghanistan - interactive
Hundreds of British soldiers, sailors, airmen and other military personnel have died since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.
Here we provide a full list of the servicemen and women who have lost their lives, plus the six believed killed in an explosion on Tuesday, with links to Guardian and MoD reports
Datablog: full data on British troops dead or wounded in Afghanistan, month by month:
Private Darren John George
Tuesday 9 April 2002
Taliban will rule Afghanistan again,
Why does it seem that democracy has such a hard time taking root in the Arab world?
As it happens, a Harvard economics professor, Eric Chaney, recently presented a rigorous paper that helps unravel that knot. Chaney asks why there is a "democracy deficit" in the Arab world and systematically tests various hypotheses against the data. He notes that such majority-Muslim nations as Turkey, Indonesia, Albania, Bangladesh and Malaysia have functioning democratic systems, so the mere presence of Islam or Islamic culture cannot be to blame. He looks at oil-rich states and finds that some with vast energy reserves lack democracy (Saudi Arabia), but so do some without (Syria). He asks whether Arab culture is the culprit, but this does not provide much clarity. Chaney points out that many countries in the Arab neighborhood seem to share in the democracy deficit — Chad, Iran, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan — yet they are not Arab.
Then Chaney constructs a persuasive hypothesis based in ancient history — and modern economics. He notes that the democracy deficit today exists in lands that were conquered by Arab armies after the death in A.D. 632 of the Prophet Muhammad. Lands that the Arabs controlled in the 12th century remain economically stunted today. This correlation is not simply a coincidence. Scholars from Montesquieu to Bernard Lewis suggest that there was something in the political development of the Arab imperial system that seemed to poison the ground against economic pluralism. Arab imperial control tended to mean centralized political authority, weak civil society, a dependent merchant class and a large role for the state in the economy. Chaney documents the latter, showing that the government's share of GDP is 7% higher on average in countries that were conquered by Arab armies than in those that were not. He also finds that countries in the first group have fewer trade unions and less access to credit, features of a vibrant civil society.
We interlope. We spend astronomically. As I usually say, we have big feet.
Taliban launch raids on Kabul and other Afghan targets
15 April 2012 Last updated at 13:11 GMT
The BBC's Bilal Sawary says he can hear gunfire from his location in Kabul
Latest updates Live
Militants are carrying out what they say are co-ordinated attacks on Kabul and other targets in Afghanistan.
A Taliban spokesman said fighters were attacking embassies in the diplomatic enclave, Nato's HQ and the parliament building in the west of the capital.
Multiple blasts and gunfire have been heard across Kabul.
The Taliban spokesman said there were also attacks in Logar and Paktia provinces. There are also reports of suicide attacks in Jalalabad.
Nato said it had reports of attacks in seven locations in Kabul.
The British embassy was one of the targets, with two rockets hitting a guard tower. A rocket-propelled grenade was also fired into a house used by British diplomats, witnesses told Reuters.
A medical source in Kabul told the Associated Press news agency five people had been wounded in the attacks, and at least two militants are reported dead in the city.
According to another unverified report, from Afghan broadcaster channel Shamshad TV, eight people were also wounded, and two militants killed, in an attack in the eastern city of Gardez, in Paktia.
At least seven large explosions were heard in central Kabul and gunfire erupted from various directions in the heavily barricaded diplomatic zone.
Some explosions were also heard near the parliament building in western Kabul and police said it was under attack.
A number of MPs joined the fight against the insurgents, shooting at them as they tried to storm parliament, Kandahar lawmaker Naeem Hameedzai Lalai told reporters.
"I'm the representative of my people and I have to defend them," he said.
Rockets were reportedly fired at the Russian embassy and smoke was said to be billowing from the direction of the German embassy.
The US embassy confirmed there were attacks nearby. It said: "The embassy is currently in lockdown... all compound personnel are accounted for and safe."
Britain's Foreign Office said it was "in close contact with embassy staff".
AFP news agency reported that the newly built Kabul Star hotel was on fire.
Kabul resident Idris Ghairat, who lives near the hotel, told the BBC: "I can see the smoke rising. The fighting is around us and I have heard the blasts and gunfire. The security forces have taken position on top of all government buildings close to the hotel."
Another attack appeared to target a Nato base known as Camp Warehouse on the outskirts of the city, where Turkish and Greek Nato forces were trying to repel militants.
The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says there are also reports of a suicide attack that has closed the centre of the eastern city of Jalalabad.
Police said suicide bombers had attacked the airport there.
image of Bilal Sarwary Bilal Sarwary Kabul
The Taliban have said they are behind the attacks. Last week they warned that a new offensive would start soon. The last major attack in Kabul was last September when insurgents attacked.
This is a large-scale attack, right in the heart of Kabul. Many questions remain unanswered. How did a large group of heavily armed insurgents, with a huge amount of weapons, manage to get inside Kabul and inside the central district of Wazir Akbar Khan?
In their defence, Afghan intelligence officials say they did have prior intelligence about attacks on several locations in Kabul, which helped prevent bloodshed.
But today's attacks have shattered the confidence of Afghans once more. The insurgents have once more shown that they can strike right in the heart of Kabul.
Series of attacks shake Kabul
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2012 12:25
Taliban claim responsibility as Western embassies and key government buildings come under attack in Afghan capital. ......