Police in Kabul
by Azam Ahmed & Jawad Sukhanyar
New York Times
November 16, 2013
KABUL, Afghanistan — A powerful car bomb that exploded near the site where Afghan elders are set to vote on a long-term security agreement with the United States killed at least 10 people on Saturday, rattling central Kabul and underscoring the insurgency’s desire to prevent an American presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
The bomb exploded shortly after 3 p.m. near the gates of Kabul Educational University, as students and pedestrians were filtering through the area, police officials said. An Afghan Army Humvee patrolling the area was also struck, killing at least one soldier and wounding three others, according to witnesses and the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
As the area is cleared, more bodies are likely to be uncovered.
The scene around the gates of the school was one of devastation. More than a dozen cars were destroyed in the blast, which leveled structures and pulverized bystanders, leaving shattered glass, blood and pieces of flesh covering the ground. The attack occurred at a police checkpoint on the way to the university, which is near a major transportation hub. A large bus filled with people was shredded in the blast.
“Students and schoolgirls were passing,” said Dr. Ghulam Sarwar Zohair, an employee of a nongovernmental organization with offices nearby. “Lots of people got injured and probably killed.”
The gate of the university is just a few hundred yards from the site where elders and other important Afghans are scheduled to assemble to vote on the security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States on Thursday. The approval of the pact by the assembly, known as a loya jirga, is a vital step toward allowing United States forces to remain in the country and continue training the Afghan Army.
“We believe it was meant to bring disorder before we convene the jirga,” said a spokesman for the loya jirga, Abdul Khaliq Hussain Pashayee. “We are hopeful and expect Afghan security forces to provide a better security environment for the representatives of the people who will be meeting next week.”
Violence has been somewhat muted in Kabul in recent months. A spate of major attacks on the capital early in the summer, including one that killed at least nine people, gave way to an uneasy silence.
Afghan security forces have been on high alert in the days before the vote. Soldiers and police officers have been searching the area surrounding the site in recent weeks, demanding documentation and ownership papers from people in households in the vicinity.
The bombing on Saturday was a major blow to efforts to protect a significant symbol of the country’s fledgling democracy. About 2,500 people are expected to convene next week for the jirga, supported by President Hamid Karzai.
The Taliban, which did not immediately take responsibility for the attack, have been vehement in their opposition to the security pact, calling Mr. Karzai’s jirga a “farce.” The group released a statement last week denouncing the security deal and urging Afghans to boycott the jirga.
The Karzai government, the Taliban wrote in the statement, wants to carry out the wishes of the Americans and “implement a treacherous deal which in our history will forever be known as national sedition and a criminal act against our nation. Under this treacherous deal, undertaken between a master and slave, the barbarian American Army will continue its occupation of our beloved homeland.”
As recently as a month ago, it was far from assured that the Afghan government even wanted to sign the deal. Bitter recriminations between Mr. Karzai and his American counterparts had led to a stalemate, leaving the future of training — and, indirectly, funding — for the Afghan forces up in the air.
But last month, Afghan and American officials reached a crucial breakthrough. Secretary of State John Kerry spent nearly 24 hours negotiating with Mr. Karzai, ending the marathon session with an agreement on major elements.
But crucial issues remain unresolved, in particular the requirement by the United States that its troops are granted immunity from prosecution under Afghan law. The issue is a deal-breaker for the United States, which withdrew its forces from Iraq when a similar demand was not met. Mr. Karzai, meanwhile, has not indicated any softening in his own stance on the matter, saying only that he maintains a different view from his American allies.
The loya jirga, as a traditional gathering of elders and other important figures in Afghanistan, is often viewed as an expression of the will of the Afghan people. Mr. Karzai has insisted on using the gathering to make the formal decision on the bilateral security agreement, in part so as not to be seen as a puppet of the Americans.
Still, most here expect the vote to reflect the will of Mr. Karzai.
Tabliban Claim Credit
by Bill Roggio
The Long War Journal
November 17, 2013
The Afghan Taliban took credit for yesterday’s (Nov. 16th) suicide attack in the capital of Kabul that targeted the site of an upcoming meeting of Afghan leaders who will vote on the Bilateral Security Agreement.
The Taliban claimed credit for the attack in a statement released on their official propaganda website, Voice of Jihad. The statement was written by spokesman Zabihullah Muhajid.
“A martyr attack hit the heavily-guarded military convoy of the puppets [Afghan security personnel] in Kabul city, the capital of the country, later on Saturday, killing as many as 32 puppets and wounding several others,” the Taliban statement said.
The Taliban identified the suicide bomber as “Mujahid Saeed” and said he was a member of “the martyrdom-seeking unit of the Islamic Emirate.”
Saeed “drove his Corolla car loaded with explosives toward the convoy of the enemy stopped to search the people and slammed into it, blowing 7 enemy’s military vehicles to pieces as well as inflicting mentioned fatalities on the enemy,” according to the Taliban.
The Ministry of Interior said that 13 Afghans, including three security personnel, were killed in the blast, and “17 cars and 18 shops were ruined,” Pajhwok Afghan News reported.
While the Taliban claimed the attack directly targeted security personnel, they did not mention that the suicide bombing occurred just outside the location of the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly. The Loya Jirga, to be held on Nov. 21, is a meeting of politicians, tribal leaders, clerics, and other influential Afghans who are to vote on the Bilateral Security Agreement, the security pact that is to decide on the future of US forces in country after 2014, when NATO’s Afghan mission ends.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has invited the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan, such as the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, to attend the Loya Jirga.
“We invite them, please come to this national jirga of Afghanistan, raise your voice… and share your views,” Karzai said yesterday, according to AFP.
The Taliban have repeatedly said they would not join in an inclusive Afghan government and have insisted that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s shadow government, be returned to power. The Taliban have also rejected the Bilateral Security Agreement and demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops (except Al Qaeda ~ notes Rawclyde!) from Afghanistan.