Congratulations From India

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Oct 18, 2014

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New Delhi, Oct 18 — Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, Saturday said Afghanistan had achieved “huge” progress under its former president Hamid Karzai and congratulated him for the formation of the new national unity government in that country.

Modi, who spoke with Karzai over phone, congratulated the former Afghan president for his leadership in ensuring a historic and peaceful political transition and formation of a national unity government in Afghanistan.

“This would not have been possible without the wisdom, courage and foresight of Karzai,” he said.

The prime minister noted that under Karzai, Afghanistan had achieved huge progress in its quest to build a strong, peaceful, inclusive, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, an official release said here.

He also warmly recalled Karzai’s contribution to the strengthening of India-Afghanistan relations, the release said.

He said that both India and Afghanistan had new governments in place which look to Karzai as a mentor for guidance in furtherance of bilateral relations.

Karzai, on his part, said that he deeply cherished his long association with India. “No other country in the world had done as much for Afghanistan as India had despite constraints of resources”.

The former Afghan president said he was confident that the new government in Afghanistan will continue to attach the highest priority to strengthening ties with India.

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https://en-maktoob.news.yahoo.com/pm-congratulates-karzai-afghan-government-104624397.html

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Women In The Infantry

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Strategy Page

October 17, 2014

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October 17, 2014: After two years of trying to justify allowing women into the infantry, artillery and armor and special operations forces, the U.S. government has decided to just order the military to make it happen and without degrading the capabilities of these units. While the army is inclined the just say yes, find out what quotas the politicians want and go through the motions, the marines are refusing to play along. The marines are pointing out that the research does not support the political demands and that actually implementing the quotas could get people killed while degrading the effectiveness of the units involved. This is yet another reason why many politicians do not like the marines.

Back in 2012 the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were ordered to come up with procedures to select women capable of handling infantry and special operations assignments and then recruit some women for these jobs. This had become an obsession with many politicians. None of these proponents of women in the infantry have ever served in the infantry, but they understood that if they proceeded without proof that women could handle the job, that decision could mean getting a lot of American soldiers and marines killed. If it came to that, the military could be blamed for not implementing the new policy correctly.

So far the tests, overseen by monitors reporting back to civilian officials in Congress and the White House, have failed to find the needed proof that women can handle infantry combat. The main problem the military has is their inability to make these politicians understand how combat operations actually work and what role sheer muscle plays in success, or simply survival. But many politicians have become obsessed with the idea that women should serve in the infantry and are ignoring the evidence.

All this comes after decades of allowing women to take jobs that were more and more likely to result in women having to deal with combat. Not infantry combat, but definitely dangerous situations where you were under attack and had to fight back or die. The last such prohibition is the U.S. Department of Defense policy that forbids the use of female troops in direct (infantry type) combat. Despite the ban many women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan found themselves in firefights and exposed to roadside bombs, something that’s normal for a combat zone. Meanwhile, women were allowed to serve in MP (military police) units and serve regularly on convoy duty. Those convoys often included other female troops who were trained to fight back, if necessary. It was usually the MPs who did the fighting and the female MPs performed well. Several of them received medals for exceptional performance in combat. Hundreds of these female MPs were regularly in combat since September 11, 2001. This was the largest and longest exposure of American female troops to direct combat. Yet women have often been exposed to a lot of indirect combat. As far back as World War II, 25 percent of all troops in the army found themselves under fire at one time or another, although only about 15 percent of soldiers had a “direct combat” job. In Iraq women made up about 14 percent of the military personnel but only two percent of the casualties (dead and wounded). Most women do not want to be in combat but those who did get the job proved that they could handle it. This experience, however, did provide proof that women could perform in infantry or special operations type combat.

All this is actually an ancient problem. The issue of women in combat has long been contentious. Throughout history women have performed well in combat but mainly in situations where pure physical force was not a major factor. For example, women often played a large, and often decisive, part of the defending force in sieges. Many women learned to use the light bow (for hunting). While not as lethal as the heavy bows (like the English longbow), when the situation got desperate the female archers made a difference, especially if it was shooting a guys coming over the wall with rape and general mayhem in mind.

Once lightweight firearms appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries women were even deadlier in combat. Again, this only occurred in combat situations where the superior physical strength and sturdiness of men was not a factor. Much of infantry operations are all about the grunts (as infantry are often called) just moving themselves and their heavy loads into position for a fight. Here the sturdiness angle was all about the fact that men have more muscle and thicker bones. This makes men much less likely to suffer stress fractures or musculoskeletal injuries than women. This phenomenon has been noted as women became more active in sports like basketball. Modern infantry combat is intensely physical, and most women remain at a disadvantage here. There are some exception for specialist tasks that do not involve sturdiness or strength, like sniping. Then there is the hormonal angle. Men generate a lot more testosterone, a hormone that makes men more decisive and faster to act in combat. Moreover testosterone does not, as the popular myth goes, make you more aggressive, it does make you more aware and decisive. That makes a difference in combat.

The main problem today is that the average load for a combat infantryman is over 40 kg (88 pounds) and men (in general) have always had more muscle, upper body strength and the ability to handle heavy loads better than women. But in situations like convoy escort, base security, or support jobs in the combat zone the combat load is lower and more manageable for women. At that point there’s plenty of recent evidence that women can handle themselves in combat. That said, women, more than men, prefer to avoid serving in combat units. During the last decade American recruiters found it easier to find young men for combat units than for support jobs. It’s mainly female officers who demand the right to try out for combat jobs. That’s because the most of the senior jobs in the military go only to those who have some experience in a combat unit. But when the marines allowed 14 female marines to take the infantry officer course, none could pass and all agreed that they were treated just like the male trainees. This was not a unique situation.

Because of the strenuous nature of combat jobs (armor, artillery, and engineers, as well as infantry) there are physical standards for these occupations. The U.S. military calls it a profile and if you do not have the physical profile for a job, you can’t have it. Thus while many men are not physically fit for the infantry, even fewer women are. For example, 55 percent of women cannot do the three pull-ups required in the physical fitness test, compared to only one percent of men. Some women could meet the physical standards and be eager to have the job. But Western nations (including Canada) that have sought to recruit physically qualified female candidates for the infantry found few volunteers and even fewer who could meet the profile and pass the training. So while it is theoretically possible that there are some women out there who could handle the physical requirements, none have so far come forward to volunteer for infantry duty. A recent survey of female soldiers in the U.S. Army found that over 92 percent would not be interested in having an infantry job. The last two years of American research into the matter concluded that about three percent of women could be trained to the point where they were at the low end of the physically “qualified” people (male or female) for infantry combat. What that bit of data ignores is how many of those physically strong women would want a career in the infantry or special operations. There would be a few, but for the politicians who want women represented in infantry units this would smack of tokenism. Moreover this comes at a time when physical standards for American infantry and special operations troops have been increasing, because this was found to produce more effective troops and lower American casualties.

One area where women are sometimes recruited for infantry combat is in commando and paramilitary intelligence organizations. This is kept secret but having a combat-qualified woman along on some missions can be the key to success. While these women usually cannot carry as much weight, they often have language, cultural, and other skills that make them an essential part of the team. Exceptions can be made for exceptional people and the exceptional missions where they can be decisive. Women have long served as spies, and this is apparently how women came to become part of some commando organizations.

When the U.S. used conscription the infantry ended up with a lot of less-muscular and enthusiastic men in the infantry. Allowances were made for this, but for elite units there were no corners cut and everyone had to volunteer and meet high physical standards. That made a very noticeable difference in the combat abilities of the elite unit. Now all infantry are recruited to those old elite standards and it would wreck morale and decrease the number of male volunteers if it was mandated that some less physically qualified women be able to join infantry units. This doesn’t bother a lot of politicians but it does bother the guys out there getting shot at.

Meanwhile over the last century women have been increasingly a part of the military. In most Western nations over ten percent of military personnel are female. In the U.S. military it’s now 15 percent. A century ago it was under one percent (and most of those were nurses and other medical personnel). More women are in uniform now because there aren’t enough qualified men, especially for many of the technical jobs armed forces now have to deal with. In the United States women became more of a presence in the armed forces after the military went all-volunteer in the 1970s. That led to more and more combat-support jobs being opened to women. This became popular within the military because the women were often better at these support jobs. This led to women being allowed to serve on American combat ships in 1994. In most NATO countries between 5-10 percent of sailors are women, while in Britain it is 10 percent, and in the United States 16 percent.

Once women were allowed to fly combat aircraft, it was only a matter of time before some of them rose to command positions. Currently, about ten percent of navy officers are female, as are nine percent of enlisted personnel. Only 4.2 percent of navy aviators (pilots) are women, as are 6.9 percent of flight officers (non-pilot aircrew). In the air force five percent of pilots are women. Women now command warships and air combat units (including fighter squadrons). Some women, and their political supporters, want to do the same thing in the infantry and special operations. If only the physical problems could be taken care of.

Advocates for women in combat also have to worry about combat casualties and the very well documented history of women in combat. During World War II over five million women served in the military, although they suffered fewer losses than the men, several hundred thousand did die. These women were often exposed to combat, especially when fighting as guerillas or operating anti-aircraft guns and early warning systems in Russia, Germany, and Britain. Russia also used women as traffic cops near the front line, as snipers, and as combat pilots. They tried using them as tank crews and regular infantry, but that didn’t work out. Women were most frequently employed in medical and other support jobs. The few who served as snipers or pilots were very good at it.

Most of the women who served in combat did so in guerilla units, especially in the Balkans and Russia. The women could not haul as heavy a load as the men but this was often not crucial, as many guerillas were only part-time fighters, living as civilians most of the time. Full time guerilla units often imposed the death penalty for pregnancy, although the women sometimes would not name the father. That said, guerilla organizations often imposed the death penalty for a number of offenses. The guerillas had few places to keep prisoners and sloppiness could get a lot of guerillas killed. The women tended to be more disciplined than the men and just as resolute in combat.

In the last century there have been several attempts to use women in combat units, and all have failed. When given a choice, far fewer women will choose combat jobs (infantry, armor, artillery). But duty as MPs does attract a lot of women, as do jobs like fighter, bomber, helicopter pilots and crews, and aboard warships. That works.

Meanwhile the casualty rate for women in Iraq was over ten times what it was in World War II, Vietnam, and the 1991 Gulf War (where 30,000 women served). A lot of the combat operations experienced by women in Iraq involved base security or guard duty. Female troops performed well in that. These were jobs that required alertness, attention to detail, and ability to quickly use your weapons when needed. Carrying a heavy load was not required. In convoy operations women have also done well, especially when it comes to spotting, and dealing with, IEDs (roadside bombs and ambushes). Going into the 21st century, warfare is becoming more automated and less dependent on muscle and testosterone. That gives women an edge, and they exploit it, just as they have done in so many other fields.

Meanwhile the military has been ordered to continue conducting experiments in order to find a way to justify allowing females in the infantry and special operations troops. After that comes the difficulty in finding women who are willing to volunteer and pass whatever standards survive.

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmurph/20141017.aspx

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“One Step Closer” by Nigel Hendrickson

http://soulrebel.cgsociety.org

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Afghan Citizens Pay The Price

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by Josh Smith

Stars & Stripes

October 18, 2014

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LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — Mohammad Wazir is 12. Or maybe 13. He doesn’t know for sure.

One thing is certain: Growing up in rural Helmand province, Mohammad has seen more war than anyone should, let alone a young boy.

So when a firefight broke out between the Taliban and Afghan forces in July, Mohammad knew the drill: He and his family fled. When they returned, however, they found that the Taliban had turned their farm into a fighting position, complete with foxholes dug inside the home.

A curious Mohammad jumped into one of the holes, and his world exploded.

The insurgents had planted a bomb. When it went off, shrapnel sliced through his legs.

Mohammad’s brother found him bleeding and unconscious. The family rushed him to an Afghan National Army base for first aid, and then on to a hospital in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, an hour and a half drive along dangerous roads to the south.

Mohammad is among the growing number of noncombatants paying the price for the continuing insecurity in Afghanistan. After more than a decade of international military involvement, the NATO-led coalition is departing, but that hasn’t coincided with a drop in violence. With NATO combat troops leaving by the end of the year, civilian casualties are up 15 percent from last year, according to the United Nations. The rising tide of civilian deaths and injuries may become one of the lasting legacies of the unfinished war in Afghanistan.

NATO troops will be leaving behind thousands of Afghans like Mohammad, maimed by a war over which they had little control, condemned to suffer long after foreign forces depart.

When I met Mohammad, he had put his crutches aside and was sitting in a compound in Lashkar Gah, surrounded by other Afghans displaced by fierce fighting that consumed Sangin district for much of the summer and into the fall.

A young man with just the first wisps of a mustache cradled a Kalashnikov rifle as he guarded the compound’s door. Seated cross-legged on a well-worn carpet inside, the men and boys sipped cups of green tea sweetened with candy lemon drops as they told their stories.

Shamsullah Sarayee, an Alokozay tribal leader from Sangin, had arranged the gathering. Just a month earlier, four members of his family, including two children, had been killed when their van hit a roadside bomb. Four more family members in the vehicle were injured.

Gul Janan, an older man of unknown age, lost much of his left leg when he returned home only to step on a mine planted in his living room. Without hesitation, he showed the purplish stump that protruded a few inches below his knee.

A lean, weathered man with a wavy white beard, Mohammed Dawoud was shot twice in the arm and once in the torso when a firefight broke out on his farm. “I couldn’t get out of the way of the bullets,” he said. “What was I to do? I was not safe in my own field. We are not safe anywhere.”

According to the U.N., the number of civilian casualties caused by violence in Afghanistan is at an all-time high. In the first eight months of 2014, 2,312 civilians were killed and 4,533 injured, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year, Jan Kubis, the U.N. representative in Afghanistan, told the U.N. Security Council in September. The first six months of the year saw a 24 percent increase.

EMERGENCY, an Italy-based medical aid organization, says it is treating “staggering” numbers of patients with war wounds at its Kabul surgical center — more than 10 per day in July.

“The situation is getting worse day by day,” EMERGENCY officials said in a statement. “Our hospitals are full and our ambulances keep going back and forth, ferrying the injured from the various first aid posts scattered around the country.”

Among the hardest hit in the latest escalation of violence are women, as well as children like Mohammad. In its last comprehensive report, released in July, the U.N. found that the “devastating” levels of violence during the first half of the year had left 295 children dead and 776 injured, a 34 percent spike over the same period in 2013.

Mohammad was relatively lucky. He’ll walk again.

As we talked, the flies buzzed around the scabs that peeked out on both sides of the cast encasing one of his skinny legs. That didn’t stop a shy, half-smile from creeping onto his face as he talked of his dreams for the future.

“I want to go to school to be a doctor,” he said, “and help people like they helped me.”

But as the insurgency drags on, more children are dying violently. And with them their dreams.

Defining success

Adorned with row upon row of campaign ribbons, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal sat before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington. It was June 2, 2009, and the general, a longtime veteran of the American special operations community, had been tapped by President Barack Obama to be the top commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

“Although I expect stiff fighting ahead, the measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed,” he said, looking up from his notes and peering at the lawmakers through his wire-rim glasses for emphasis. “It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence.”

During McChrystal’s tenure as ISAF commander, civilian deaths caused by coalition forces reached a crisis point. Seeing it as a threat to the international effort, McChrystal imposed new rules that led to a 28 percent reduction in such casualties caused by American, NATO and Afghan forces, according to the U.N.

Those rules weren’t always popular with ISAF troops, especially those who felt they had lost comrades because of the restrictions placed on airstrikes and other tactics that could threaten civilians.

But the combination of new policies and a significant reduction in foreign forces’ involvement in combat operations has led to a further decrease in the number of civilians killed or injured by foreign troops. The U.N. says international forces accounted for just 1 percent of the most recent casualties, a decline attributed largely to the reduction in airstrikes.

As bitter fighting continues between insurgents and Afghan forces, however, the growing number of civilians in hospital beds and morgues is casting doubt on the Afghan government’s ability to protect its citizens, even as Afghan national security forces prepare to take charge of all of the country’s security.

Five years after that Senate confirmation hearing, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend paused when asked how ISAF’s work here measured against McChrystal’s definition of success.

Gazing out the open door of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on its way to the air field in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Townsend studied the vast area of Afghanistan for which he’s responsible as commander of ISAF’s Regional Command-East.

“I disagree a bit with the premise of the question, because that’s not really how I define success,” he said over the chopper’s intercom. “Our goals are a competent and confident ANSF.”

Civilian casualties aren’t something he officially tracks in his capacity as a commander in one of the most violent regions of Afghanistan, Townsend said. “What we’re trying to shoot for is an ANSF that can secure the country.”

But aren’t rising civilian casualties a measure of the Afghan forces’ ability to secure their country?

“That probably has something to say about their competency, yes,” he acknowledged. “But in no country in the world can security forces protect all civilians all the time. It does call into question their abilities; but at the same time, I think they can do it.”

A poster in a conference room at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad outlines the coalition’s view of “what winning looks like.” It’s a lengthy list that includes goals such as eliminating the country as an al-Qaida safe haven, encouraging a constructive relationship between the Afghan and Pakistani militaries, and creating a security force “capable of protecting and securing a legitimate Afghan government.”

There’s no mention of protecting and securing Afghan citizens, although the list does envision an “endstate” with “conditions set for the Afghan people to exploit the decade of opportunity/transformation” that ISAF believes it has provided.

“Protecting the population is the bedrock of [counterinsurgency] policy, and according to the best measures we have, the population is not being protected,” said Graeme Smith, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Kabul. “The sad reality is that this war continues to intensify and is poised to take a heavy toll on the civilian population.”

A sensitive history

Civilian casualties caused by coalition forces — as well as by U.S. forces who sometimes operated outside of ISAF, such as special operations troops on counterterrorism missions — were a hot-button issue throughout the international military intervention.

In a report released in August, Amnesty International detailed 10 cases in which it says airstrikes, night raids and drone attacks against civilians were not fully investigated by ISAF, if at all. The human-rights watchdog singled out two cases in which it said the military is not urgently investigating evidence that strongly suggests war crimes were committed — including kidnapping, torture and execution.

“It’s an issue that creates a lot of resentment,” said Joanne Mariner, one of the report’s authors. “Special forces especially have a particularly bad track record that they’re leaving for Afghanistan.”

One of the most egregious cases cited by Mariner involved allegations that U.S. special operations troops and their Afghan allies were involved in the torture and murder of local residents.

In a secret 2009 cable published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, State Department officials warned that civilian casualties, among other controversial issues, including night raids, would be a barrier to better Afghan-U.S. relations until they were addressed.

Now, even critics such as Mariner say the coalition made strides since then by implementing policies to reduce noncombatant casualties, and by establishing more appropriate compensation.

In 2008, ISAF established a Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell, “the first large-scale tracking of data on civilian harm by a warring party,” according to a report by the Center for Civilians in Conflict. That later became part of a Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team.

According to the report, as of January the CCMT had been downsized, while the remaining members of the team focused on helping the Afghan forces with their mitigation policies. ISAF says it still tracks the number of civilians injured or killed around the country and that its numbers “are consistent” with those released by the U.N.

Former President Hamid Karzai was quick to call attention to incidents in which civilians were hurt by coalition forces. Although the number of coalition-related casualties has dwindled, however, Karzai’s concerns over such incidents did not disappear. Citing concern over potential atrocities, for example, he refused to sign an agreement with the United States laying out the terms for a continued U.S. presence last year, in part because it gave future U.S. troops in Afghanistan immunity from local prosecution. His successor, Ashraf Ghani, signed it the day after his Sept. 29 inauguration.

Now, though, the decline in casualties caused by the coalition has been more than offset by a major increase in casualties attributed to the range of anti-government insurgent groups, the largest among them being the Taliban.

The U.N. said nearly 75 percent of noncombatant casualties in the first half of 2013 were directly caused by anti-government groups, including 147 attacks claimed by the Taliban that killed 234 civilians and left 319 injured.

Human-rights officials say the focus now is on getting the Taliban and other groups to change their tactics to protect civilians.

For their part, the Taliban reject the U.N.’s estimates as “propaganda of the enemy.”

“As we have seen clearly during attacks by foreign forces and the Afghan soldiers, they have killed many women and children,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said during a phone interview. “Still, we are paying real attention to reducing civilian casualties.”

When asked about the accounts from Sangin of improvised bombs and mines being left in houses, Mujahid said he “totally rejects” the idea that Taliban fighters could be responsible, though he would look into the allegations.

So far, however, human-rights advocates say the Taliban’s actions haven’t matched their rhetoric. With the presidential election controversy fading, rights advocates are hoping that all sides will try to focus on shielding noncombatants from the violence.

“Reducing civilian casualties across the board is a key measure in improving the security situation for Afghans around the country,” Georgette Gagnon, the U.N.’s top human rights officer in Afghanistan, said in an interview. “All parties should view this as the priority in improving the security situation.”

A plea for help

There is some good news. In Sangin, for example, residents who had fled the fighting said they generally trust the government forces and have received medical and other care when needed.

But if residents have come to look to the ANSF for help, they also see the local forces as lacking equipment and training. Because of this, the people I spoke to favored maintaining the flow of international aid.

At FOB Fenty in Jalalabad, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rob Connell is a Special Forces soldier tasked with commanding the advisers who help the area’s police forces.

He said Afghan forces have become better than ever at securing government centers and other centralized areas, as evidenced by the failure of insurgent efforts to disrupt the election. But they “still have problems” securing the population itself, he said.

“It’s a little like the Wild West of the 1860s or whenever out here,” Connell told me. “District centers and towns are kind of like Fort Apache, and officials expect residents to go to those locations if they have trouble.”

Still, he said, ANSF leaders are trying to expand their reach. “They have the will and the intent, but it will take some time.”

Back in Helmand, Sarayee, the tribal leader from Sangin, looked mournful when I asked if I could take his photograph. He agreed, but only after asking if it would help his people.

“Pictures and photographs cannot help us,” he said. “We are screaming, but no one pays attention.”

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Elyas Dayee and Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

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http://www.stripes.com/news/in-afghanistan-s-unfinished-war-civilians-pay-the-price-1.309051

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Fruit of the Taliban…

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New Gov’t Tells Taliban Get Peaceful

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by Haleem

Xinhua News

October 16, 2014

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KABUL, Oct. 16 — After assuming office late last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced that one of his priorities would be to reopen talks with the Taliban as he called on the insurgent group to respond positively to the peace dialogue that has been started by the previous administration.

“Political disputes should be solved through political means since war is not the solution,” President Ghani said.

But political observers here are pessimistic on the success of the dialogue process, saying the Taliban are bent on pursuing their armed insurrection in order to restore its brutal Islamic rule by re-establishing the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban won’t agree to a peace dialogue unless and until they are defeated in battle ground,” a U.S.-based Afghan political analyst Edris Rahmani told the Afghan media recently.

Rahmani said the pullout of U.S. and NATO-led forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year has only encouraged the Taliban militants to intensify their attacks against government and civilian targets.

He said the Taliban have never abandoned their resolve to regain power through armed struggle.

After it was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban have waged a bloody guerrilla war, staging suicide bomb attacks and ambuscades not just in the provinces but also in the capital Kabul.

Another political observer said the Taliban, which have been discredited by the Afghan people for imposing strict Sharia law during its reign, are still trying to return to power.

What the insurgents are trying to achieve is to sabotage the newly-formed national unity government in the country by stepping up its armed attacks now targeting “soft targets” in Kabul.

Since the start of this month, the insurgent group has conducted a series of attacks, including eight suicide bombings, across the country, leaving more than 60 people dead and scores of others injured that included civilians.

On Tuesday, the militants attacked the motorcade of Governor Omar Zawak of Nad Ali District in the southern Helmand province, killing the governor along with a policeman while six more police officers were injured in the attack, according to the spokesman for Helmand’s governor.

In a statement sent to media outlets recently, the Taliban described the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014 as “a defeat of occupying troops” even as it vowed to continue the war “until the complete eviction of all foreign forces from the country.”

As expected, the Taliban also slammed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) signed recently by the new Afghan government with Washington, saying it would only serve the interests of the United States.

The BSA, which former President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign during his administration, would allow some 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to assist the Afghan security forces in promoting stability in the country.

The Taliban said they do not recognize any security agreements entered into by the Afghan government. They said the mujahideens or holy warriors of the Islamic Emirate would continue to fight against all foreign forces in the country until their complete eviction.

Meanwhile, Ismael Qasimyar, a senior member of the government- backed peace body, the High Peace Council, recently revealed to media that former President Karzai, in order to win Islamabad’s support in the Afghan peace process, had visited Pakistan more than 20 times but all his efforts were in vain.

Qasimyar said the new government of Afghanistan should re- establish contacts with the Pakistani government since Islamabad has a key role to play in any peace initiatives with the Taliban.

For his part, Ahmad Sayedi, a former Afghan diplomat and a respected political analyst, said that since most Taliban sanctuaries are outside Afghanistan, “all efforts for peace would be useless unless Taliban’s financial resources are blocked and their backers are pressured to stop giving support to the militant group.”

Although Sayedi did not specifically mention any country, he was obviously referring to Pakistan as one of the backers of the Taliban since the insurgent group has several sanctuaries in the mountains that straddle the boundaries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-10/16/c_133721804.htm

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Pakistan Seeks Good Karma

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by Muhammad Tahir

Xinhua News

Sept 30, 2014

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ISLAMABAD, Sept. 30 — Pakistani leaders are hopeful to develop good neighborly relations with the new Afghan government as the years of tensions have proved unhelpful to effectively counter serious security challenges.

In his farewell speech last week, former President Hamid Karzai blamed both the United States and Pakistan for the continuing war with the Taliban insurgents. This blame game continued for a long time over the cross-border shelling, lack of cooperation to jointly fight terrorism and alleged hideouts of the Taliban militants in both countries. The lack of trust harmed all efforts for reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban and Karzai admitted his failure to carry forward the reconcilary process.

Karzai also pointed out that peace with the Taliban is not possible without the help of the U.S. and Pakistan. Cross-border attacks have caused a serious blow to bilateral relations and Afghan Foreign Minister Zarar Ahmad Osmani raised the issue of the alleged Pakistani “rocketing into Afghanistan” at his U.N. General Assembly’s address last week. This shows a deterioration in bilateral relations, as Kabul preferred an international forum rather than using bilateral diplomatic channels.

Kabul claims Pakistani rockets affect “civilians” in eastern Kunar province. Pakistan, however, denies it fired rockets into civilian areas and says its forces only target positions of the militants who attack Pakistani border posts. Karzai seemed to be upset at what he described as, “Pakistan’ s lack of cooperation” to encourage the Taliban to enter into peace talks with his government.

Islamabad, for its part, added that they do not have control over the Taliban and that it can only play the role of a facilitator. Pakistani officials insist they have freed over 50 Taliban detainees, including some senior leaders and former ministers, at the request of Karzai and his peace council to accelerate the reconciliation process, however, all the freed Taliban refused to join the intra-Afghan dialogue.

For its part, Pakistan says it is disappointed at “Afghanistan’ s failure to stop the Pakistani Taliban from entering the Afghan side of the border.” Security officials insist that many Pakistani Taliban fighters who have fled to Afghanistan following military operations in the tribal regions and Swat valley, now operate from the Afghan border region. Afghanistan-based Pakistan Taliban insurgents are being blamed for cross-border attacks on check post and villages. Pakistan military spokespeople have claimed that the Afghan gov’ t has not helped to stop fleeing militants from crossing the border from North Waziristan tribal region, where the security forces are battling local and foreign militants.

Pakistani forces launched the biggest offensive in the region in June to flush out the militants from their last major sanctuary. Afghanistan itself and the U.S. had also been calling for the operation, as they claimed al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network also had hideouts in North Waziristan.

As political tensions had a negative impact on bilateral relations over the past 13 years, the two countries now have a good opportunity to bury the hatchet and deal with the post-NATO situation. Any instability in Afghanistan will directly affect Pakistan’s fragile security situation.

Pakistan made the wise decision to represent itself at the highest level in attending the swearing-in ceremony for President Ashraf Ghani on Monday. President Mamnoon Hussain was the only head of the state among the nearly 200 foreign guests who attended Afghanistan’s historic first ever democratic transition. President Mamnoon Hussain held separate meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and ” conveyed Pakistan’s commitment to working closely with the new government for the promotion of common goals,” the Foreign Ministry said late Monday at the conclusion of his day-long visit to Kabul.

“Underlining the importance Afghanistan attached to its relations with Pakistan, President Ashraf Ghani reiterated his perspective that both countries should have a ‘special relationship,'” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Dr. Abdullah also expressed his desire for the new government to forge a cooperative and forward-looking relationship with Pakistan. Statements from the leadership of the two countries have raised hopes for a new tension-free beginning, as their cooperation could enable them to meet the ongoing serious security challenges they would be facing after the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan in less than three months.

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http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2014-09/30/c_133685329.htm

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The Security Pact & The Peace Process

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by Slobodan Lekic

Stars & Stripes

October 1, 2014

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The top U.S. envoy in Afghanistan said Wednesday that the newly signed security pact with the United States may boost chances for a resumption of peace talks with the Taliban by demonstrating to the insurgents that they cannot hope to achieve a military victory.

“The BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) is part of a broader strategy to try to encourage the opening of peace negotiations,” Ambassador James Cunningham told reporters.

Cunningham dismissed reports that Islamic State militants, who have overrun large parts of Syria and Iraq, are now trying to establish a presence in Afghanistan. The Afghan media have reported that leaflets calling on Afghans to join the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, have appeared in several provinces in recent days.

“There are definitely al-Qaida and al-Qaida affiliates in Afghanistan; there’s no question about that,” he said. “As to the rumors about some kind of ISIL presence … I haven’t seen any firm reports of evidence of that.”

Cunningham spoke a day after he signed the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement with the newly installed government of President Ashraf Ghani. The accord will allow 9,800 U.S. troops — mainly trainers, advisers and counterterrorism teams — to remain in Afghanistan after the end of the current NATO mission at the end of this year and the withdrawal of coalition combat troops.

Also on Tuesday, NATO signed a similar Status of Forces agreement that will allow several thousand NATO advisers to remain in Afghanistan.

While few analysts believe the Taliban could ever retake Kabul or occupy much of the country as they had in the 1990s, only the most optimistic see the Afghan security forces defeating them — something that more than 140,000 U.S. and NATO troops failed to accomplish during the 13-year war.

Cunningham said he expected that both Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief executive officer, would continue to pursue efforts to open up meaningful peace discussions with the insurgents.

He suggested that the BSA should demonstrate the Taliban’s lack of options.

“The intent is clear, to continue to strengthen the Afghan security forces, which is what the BSA provides for, so that it becomes clear that the Taliban cannot prevail through terror and violence,” he said.

“It’s at that point that … we hope to encourage them to come to the realization that terror is not going to work, is not going to get them what they want and that the way open to them is through a political process through peace negotiations with President Ghani and his government.”

Ghani during his swearing-in ceremony on Monday called for renewed negotiations with the Taliban, a proposal the Taliban immediately rejected.

U.S. officials have praised the performance this year of the Afghan army and police force, which were challenged as never before by the guerrillas. The Taliban mounted a series of attacks nationwide, inflicting heavy casualties on the security forces. But in all cases they were beaten back and failed to hold any urban centers.

“The tenacity and unity displayed by the Afghan security forces — their success, through two elections and protracted political uncertainty — is enormous,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Martin Dempsey said Tuesday in a statement following the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement.

“While they are excellent fighters, their forces are still maturing at the institutional level and our efforts there over the next year will be key to the long-term sustainability of their forces,” Dempsey said.

NATO officials have said that with Afghanistan’s fighting season drawing to a close, the insurgents are expected to return soon to their winter safe havens in neighboring Pakistan. This will give the Afghan army and police a chance to regroup and prepare for next year’s combat.

Signing of the BSA and Status of Forces agreements were delayed for about a year because outgoing President Hamid Karzai refused to sign the former document. One of the reasons he cited was that it would undermine chances for a reconciliation with the Taliban, who have vowed to continue fighting until all foreign forces leave Afghanistan.

In rejecting Ghani’s Monday appeal for peace, a Taliban spokesman reiterated that stance, saying “there will be jihad in Afghanistan until the Americans leave.”

As if to underscore the guerrillas’ determination, two suicide bombers struck military vehicles in Kabul on Wednesday, killing seven people and injuring several more. Military officials said the attacks were coordinated. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

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http://www.stripes.com/news/security-pact-may-foster-afghan-peace-process-us-envoy-says-1.305996

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Ghani & Abdullah Sworn In

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by Sudarsan Raghavan

The Washington Post

Sept. 29, 2014

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They both have advanced degrees, but they come from different worlds. Ashraf Ghani, who earned a doctorate from Columbia University, is a former academic and World Bank official.  Abdullah Abdullah, who earned a medical degree from Kabul University, is a former resistance figure who fought against the Soviet occupation and the Taliban. On Monday, after months of political tensions, the unlikely pair took their oaths of office to lead a U.S.-brokered coalition government in Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power.

Ghani became the country’s new president. He then swore in Abdullah as his chief executive.  Only a few weeks ago, Ghani and Abdullah were at odds over an election that threatened to split Afghanistan’s ethnic groups and trigger violence. Both claimed victory in the vote held to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who came to power after U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001. The two rivals relented only after the United States stepped in to carve out a compromise deal. Now, many Afghans and Western diplomats hope that the two can set aside their differences and address their nation’s numerous challenges, including rampant corruption, high unemployment and growing security threats.

Ghani and Abdullah are taking charge as most foreign troops are scheduled to withdraw by year’s end and the Taliban is resurging in many areas of the country. Afghanistan’s central government is also nearly broke and can barely pay the salaries of its federal and provincial employees.

“These two guys with different philosophies and ideas, and coming from different regions, ethnic and educational backgrounds, do not seem like they will merge easily,” said Farouq Bashar, a political analyst and lawyer. “These two may not easily accept candidates for government positions from each side. Everyone has their own commitment to their followers.”

At Monday’s inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in central Kabul, Ghani and Abdullah promised to work together for Afghanistan’s progress. In the audience were hundreds of dignitaries from 34 countries, as well as the United Nations and the European Union. John Podesta, a senior adviser to President Obama, led the U.S. delegation, which included Ambassador James B. Cunningham and other senior officials.

“I am your leader, but I am not better than you. If I make mistakes, hold me accountable,” Ghani said in his address.

“Our commitment will be fulfilled together as a unified team to create national unity,” Abdullah said in his address.

Just as the ceremony began, a suicide bomber struck near a checkpoint close to the Kabul airport, underscoring Afghanistan’s security woes. Four security personnel and three civilians were killed, said Seddiq Seddiqi, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

In his address, Ghani called upon the Taliban and another armed faction, Hezb-i-Islami, to enter “a political negotiation” with the new government, saying that “we are tired of fighting and our message is peace, but this does not mean we are weak.”

A Taliban spokesman rejected the overture, saying the group does not recognize Ghani as the new president. “The presidential inauguration has no meaning to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesman, said in a phone interview, using the Taliban’s name for the country. “It is the project of the United States.”

Monday’s inauguration also marked the end of Karzai’s long presidency. In his final speech as president, Karzai told the audience that he would support Ghani and Abdullah and that he would be “at their service.”

Despite their promises of working together, lingering tensions between the two leaders were apparent. Abdullah nearly boycotted the inauguration over a dispute about office space and whether he would be allowed to address the dignitaries, an aide said. Cunningham helped end the squabble.

At a news conference after the ceremony, Podesta called the inauguration “a momentous day for the Afghan people” and said Ghani and Abdullah are “seasoned leaders” with the “will and capacity to work together.” He played down the disputes that unfolded the night before the inauguration. “The most important thing is that President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah resolved their problems,” Podesta said. “Are there remaining tensions? Are there going to be remaining issues? One would be surprised if there weren’t. But I think they both have the commitment to work those things out, to build a structure where they could collaborate.”

On one front at least, Ghani and Abdullah appear unified: the relationship with the United States. A representative of the new unity government, Cunningham said, is expected to sign a bilateral security agreement on Tuesday (they did) that would allow about 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country after 2014 to train and advise Afghan security forces. Karzai had refused to sign the pact, further souring ties with Washington. But Ghani and Abdullah have said publicly that they would endorse the agreement swiftly. “The U.S. government has a solid relationship with both President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah, forged over a long period of time,” Podesta said. “Both recognize the commitments, both financially [and] particularly the sacrifices that U.S. personnel have paid here in Afghanistan.”

“We’ve turned a page,” he added, referring to the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan.

On the streets of Kabul, residents in cafes and restaurants watched the inauguration, which was televised nationally. Many expressed optimism that the new government could solve the challenges facing the country. “Dr. Ghani has a clean past, and he is well educated,” said Ahmad Mubashir, 33, a shopkeeper. “The root of all problems that Afghans face is economic hardship, and I think he is the guy who has the ability to solve this problem. Once he solves the economic problems, definitely security will improve.”

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Sharif Hassan contributed to this report

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/afghanistans-new-president-hold-me-accountable/2014/09/29/0f229a14-47c0-11e4-b72e-d60a9229cc10_story.html

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Ants

by Rawclyde!

Thousands of ants

Tumble across the raggedy ground

At the feet of Col. Sheena Johnson

& her faithful hubby Habibullah

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The couple sit cross-legged honing arrowheads of Sufi bliss

In front of the commander’s imported Native American teepee

“I’ve never seen a horde of ants like this,” says ex-Talib Habibullah

“I wonder where they are going?”

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Elder Haji Mujadooti having trudged up the mountain-ridge trail

Stands out of breath amidst the horde of ants, tries to say something

He slaps his pants frantically, falls down, rolls around spastically

Thus disrupting the peaceful scene with idiotic old-man antics

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Covered head to toe with angry biting ants

He heroically stands up & despite the pain he is suffering

Says to Habibulla’s infidel wife,  “Do something, Sheena!

Our courageous Afghan soldiers are dying below!”

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Ahhh!

The commander knows Afghanistan

She knows Taliban & she knows ants too

She arises

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The empress of the Afghaneeland village of Pluckame

Pulls Haji Mujadooti out of the jam in which he stands

“Darling husband, please tend to this poor wise man”

Habibullah smiles, arises & does as bidden

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Barefoot, Sheena steps into the rapidly moving horde of angry ants

Not one lousy insect crawls onto one toe of the formidable goddess

She stands erect as the Rock of Gibraltar & prays to St. Joan of Arizona

Who in a distant land relays the message to heaven

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And by God, Sheena’s Sufi bow materializes in her held out hand

Sufi armor crackles sparsely here & there on her outrageously perfect body

She picks up a freshly cut & carved & honed world-peace arrow

Fits it to the bow string, aims, shuts her eyes, let’s it go

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The cosmic forces of the universe gather upon the arrowhead point

Thrust forward into the oblivion of every Taliban brain below

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Sufi Bubble

& divine revelations explode!!! 

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Suddenly beyond anybody’s wildest expectation

There are no more Taliban in the tumultuous nation of Afghanistan

The insurgents have transformed into the silliest looking little ants ever seen

All carrying rifles tinier than toothpicks

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Pvt. Ghani Gandhara gut-shot and breathing his last breath

Picks up one of these purple insects on the end of his thumb & smiles

The Afghan National Army defending the nation’s new democracy shall prevail

Pvt. Gandhara leaps beyond the veil… 

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Text / Copyright Clyde Collins 2014

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Col. Sheena Johnson at the helm of

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Sufi Bubble

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Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

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