Afghan Forces Crunch Haqqani Network


by Hamid Shalizi

April 30, 2014



KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan troops backed by Western air power have killed at least 60 militants near the Pakistan border, Afghan security officials said on Wednesday, in one of the single biggest assaults against the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.

U.S. officials say Washington has intensified its drive against the network in an attempt to deal a lasting blow to the militants before foreign combat forces depart at the end of the year.

The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, said in a statement that about 300 Haqqani insurgents and foreign fighters came under intensive fire on Monday when they tried to storm Afghan bases in Ziruk district of Paktika province.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Afghan forces were already in position after receiving information about imminent attacks by the insurgents.

“Hundreds of insurgents tried to take over the district centre but we were there and hit them with a huge blow,” Sediqqi told Reuters, adding that five Afghan policemen were wounded.

“Dead bodies, wounded fighters, their weapons and pick-up trucks were left on the battlefield,” Sediqqi added.

The NATO-led international force declined to comment.

Haqqani Crackdown

The Haqqani network, which professes obedience to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, is believed to have been involved in some of the most deadly attacks of the Afghan war.

The group has been blamed for attacks on hotels popular with foreigners in Kabul, the bombing of the Indian embassy in the capital, a 2011 attack on the U.S. embassy and several big attempted truck bombings.

The United States blacklisted the group as a terrorist organization in 2012. It also accuses Pakistan’s powerful spy agency of supporting the network and using it as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage against growing influence of its arch-rival India. Pakistan denies that.

Monday’s battle occurred in the southeast province of Paktika which shares a long and porous border with lawless areas in Pakistan where foreign fighters and the Haqqani network are believed to be based.

The Obama administration has created a special unit based in Kabul to coordinate efforts against the militant group, officials familiar with the matter have told Reuters. It was set up late last year, as part of a new strategy that involves multiple government agencies.

The unit, headed by a colonel and known in military parlance as a “fusion cell”, brings together special forces, conventional forces, intelligence personnel, and some civilians to improve targeting of Haqqani members and to heighten the focus on the group, the officials said.

The U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan is due to end on December 31, although the United States wants to keep a small force in the country for counter-terrorism support and training.

Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign a security agreement allowing U.S. forces to stay, but the two front runners to replace him as president in an election say they will enact the pact.

Afghan insurgents have pledged to disrupt the election with a campaign of violence, but the first round of the vote passed off relatively peacefully. As the country readies for a second round run-off in June, there is concern the conditions will be more favorable for militant attacks.


Additional reporting by Jeremy Laurence; editing by Robert Birsel


The New York Times Version Of Afghanistan Election News


by Rod Nordland and Azam Ahmed
New York Times
April 26, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan — Abdullah Abdullah, a longtime opponent of President Hamid Karzai and an ardent supporter of the United States, emerged Saturday as the clear front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election.

In preliminary results released Saturday, Mr. Abdullah had won 45 percent of the vote, not enough to avoid a runoff with Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist and Karzai adviser, who had won 32 percent. But Afghan government officials say Mr. Abdullah is on the verge of forging alliances with at least two of the runners-up to gain their support, and possibly the presidency, in the next round.

Either of the top two candidates would represent a significant break with the years of deteriorating relations the United States has had with Afghanistan under Mr. Karzai, and a shift toward greater bilateral cooperation. Each candidate has said, for instance, that he would sign a security agreement allowing American forces to remain in the country past 2014, which Mr. Karzai negotiated but refused to sign.

But the United States and its NATO allies were likely to see the apparent advantage for Mr. Abdullah, with his long record of advocating closer relations with the United States and a more militant stance against the Taliban, as encouraging, although they have been careful not to express support for any candidate in the race.

Mr. Abdullah, a northerner of mixed Tajik and Pashtun ethnicity, would also become one of the few northerners to lead a country long dominated by Pashtuns from the south.

The election, the third for president since the NATO-led invasion of 2001, appears to have been the country’s most democratic yet. The turnout was roughly 50 percent higher than that of the last election, the deeply tainted race that Mr. Abdullah lost to Mr. Karzai in 2009. Early indications suggested that it was also far cleaner than the last one, although final rulings on fraud complaints may not come for several weeks.

Mr. Ghani was the leading Pashtun candidate, but the other top two Pashtuns — Zalmay Rassoul, believed to have been Mr. Karzai’s favorite, and Gul Agha Sherzai, a former warlord favored by the C.I.A. and popular in the Taliban’s southern heartland — were expected to throw their support to Mr. Abdullah, according to two senior Afghan government officials.

Their support could give Mr. Abdullah a powerful mandate if he wins the runoff, which will be held no sooner than May 28. In a recent interview, he said he would set a different tone with the United States, ending the often acrimonious criticism from the Afghan president over prisoner releases, civilian casualties and night raids. “This rhetoric has not helped Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr. Karzai, who is stepping down after 12 years in power, has been studiously neutral throughout the campaign and has maintained silence on the issue since the April 5 election. Officials in the presidential palace have said he is deeply worried about Mr. Abdullah’s apparent success.

Ethnic divisions are important here, not least because of the Taliban’s largely Pashtun base. The largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, Pashtuns are believed to represent 42 percent of the population and have taken leading Afghanistan as a birthright ever since Ahmad Shah Durrani created an Afghan-based empire in 1747 that ruled much of present-day Iran, India and Pakistan.

Many moderate Pashtuns worry that a government led by Mr. Abdullah, whose power base has been among Tajiks in northern Afghanistan, would drive more Pashtuns into supporting the insurgents. That made his expected alliances with the Pashtun candidates, Mr. Rassoul and Mr. Sherzai, critical in a second round.
Mr. Ghani could still cut enough deals with some of the other six losing candidates to regain the ground lost to Mr. Abdullah.

Or, as has happened many times in the past, Afghans might vote their ethnicities, with the more numerous Pashtuns all rallying to Mr. Ghani’s side. Mr. Abdullah dismissed that possibility, saying Afghans had “risen beyond” ethnic politics.

Mr. Ghani is closely associated with Mr. Karzai’s government, serving in the past three years as his adviser in charge of transition, the process in which responsibility for security was being gradually transferred from the Americans and NATO to Afghan security forces.

In an interview Saturday, Mr. Ghani cited that work as an indication of the less contentious relationship with the United States he espouses. “Neither you nor any journalist can cite a single incident where any aspect of transition became a public debate or an issue of contention,” he said.

But some voters assign him a measure of guilt by association for Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the bilateral security agreement with the United States, a move that has thrown the future of a Western military presence here into doubt and turmoil. The deal had widespread support among Afghans and was endorsed by the grand council of elders, or loya jirga, that Mr. Karzai called to ratify it.

American officials have expressed alarm that the lack of an agreement would force a total American military withdrawal by the end of the year and the potential loss of air bases used for drone strikes in Pakistan. Some American policy makers fear it could also ease the way to a Taliban resurgence and even a regrouping of Al Qaeda, whose presence here the 12-year NATO-led war was intended to eliminate.

While Mr. Ghani has also promised to sign the security agreement if he takes office, he has refrained from criticizing Mr. Karzai on the issue. Mr. Abdullah, on the other hand, has assailed Mr. Karzai for it, saying his refusal to sign had imperiled Afghanistan’s security in the midst of a war.

Mr. Ghani also was deeply involved in the bitter disputes between Mr. Karzai’s government and the Americans over the transfer of Taliban prisoners to Afghan control and their subsequent quick release, which Mr. Abdullah criticized as sending them directly back to the battlefield.

Mr. Abdullah, whose father was a Pashtun from Kandahar, has been more closely identified with the Tajiks in the north, who were central in the fight against the Pashtun-led Taliban, which swept to power in most of Afghanistan in the 1990s, except for small parts of the north under Northern Alliance control.

During the Taliban government, from 1994 to 2001, Mr. Abdullah, an ophthalmologist by training, served as the spokesman for Ahmed Shah Massoud, the northern leader assassinated by Al Qaeda days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mr. Abdullah was one of Mr. Massoud’s few confidantes who could speak English, and had a close relationship with the alliance’s C.I.A. handlers at the time.

In the first Karzai government after the American-led invasion toppled the Taliban, Mr. Abdullah served as foreign minister, while Mr. Ghani was the minister of finance. Mr. Abdullah acquired a reputation for suavity, and a penchant for expensive suits and Louis Vuitton slippers. Mr. Ghani was widely admired for his intellectual wattage, but often infuriated other officials who complained he was condescending and prickly.

During the 2014 campaign, they met several times in televised debates. Mr. Abdullah said his whole strategy was to nettle Mr. Ghani into losing his temper; he is famous for tantrums which have alienated many Afghan officials, and which have worried American military leaders who have dealt with him regularly during the transition process.

There was little evidence of that during the campaign, however.

“He was the one who was angry during campaign debates,” Mr. Ghani said. “Isn’t that ironic? If the campaign has shown anything it’s that my alleged reputation is manufactured.”

Mr. Abdullah often boasted during the campaign that he had never left Afghanistan, remaining to fight with the Northern Alliance while the Taliban were in power. Mr. Ghani, on the other hand, was a longtime exile and lived in the United States; his wife is an American citizen of Lebanese descent.

Many Afghans have been resentful of exiles who escaped the hard years of civil war and the Taliban government, only to return to fame and fortune in 2001 with connections in Western countries that gave them advantages in business and government.


Abdullah Ahead, Runoff Likely


Associated Press



(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Preliminary results in Afghanistan’s presidential election show former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah won the most votes but not the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

The chairman of the Independent Election Commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, said Saturday that Abdullah had 44.9 percent of the vote and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai came in second with 31.5 percent. The preliminary results are due to be finalized on May 14 after investigations into fraud complaints.

Electoral law requires a runoff between the top two candidates if no one candidate gets a majority. A runoff should be held within 15 days of final results.

The candidates are vying to replace President Hamid Karzai, the only president Afghans have known since the U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban’s hard-line Islamic regime.


Helicopter Crashes In Kandahar


Associated Press

April 26, 2014


(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Five NATO troops died in a British helicopter crash Saturday in southern Afghanistan, authorities said, the single deadliest day this year for foreign forces as they prepare to withdraw from the country.

The helicopter crash came as an Afghan university official identified two Americans killed in a shooting at a Kabul hospital earlier this week, the latest incident of local security forces opening fire on those they are supposed to protect.

The cause of the helicopter crash was not immediately known. Kandahar provincial police spokesman Zia Durrani said the aircraft went down in the province’s Takhta Pul district in the southeast, about 50 kilometres from the Pakistani border. He said five international troops were killed but did not know what caused the crash.

The coalition said it was investigating the circumstances of the crash but said it had no reports of enemy activity in the area. The United Kingdom’s Defence Ministry confirmed that the helicopter was British, but could not confirm the nationalities of the dead.

A Taliban spokesman claimed in a text message to journalists that the insurgents shot down the aircraft.


Battle Aftermath In Afghaneeland




Col. Sheena’s ex-Taliban husband

dressed like a waiter

comes up balancing on one hand

a platter of fried chicken & potato salad


Ever since the wedding with his lovely infidel

Habibullah’s mind has been doing triple flips

One day one way, the next day another

And today he is a really polite waiter


He sets the platter down

Infront of the three mouseketeers

Returns to the house to do the dishes

Col. Sheena & her soldier compadres pray & eat


Behind the pile of boulders

The last Taliban alive

Takes aim at Sheena right between the eyes

With his trusty AK-47 weapon


The devastatingly eye-enslaving empress of Pluckame

In her worn torn yellow polka-dot burka

Makes eye contact with the last Taliban alive & winks

The poor boy trembles, pulls the trigger & misses


The Afghan National Army GIs look at each other & shrug

“This is really good chicken,” one says

The other helps himself to more potato salad

And says, “This stuff is really good too”


Habibullah watches thru the window

As the hard brick of jealousy in his chest

Drops into his belly & melts into a gooey lump of love

For the legendary Col. Sheena Johnson…



Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II




Copyright Clyde Collins 2014