4,100 Afghan Soldiers Long Gone

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by Mirwais Adeel

Khaama Press (KP)

Jul 22 2015

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At least 4,100 service members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) forces have lost their lives during the first six months of the year 2015.

The latest statistic regarding the Afghan National Security Forces casualties was disclosed in a report by the New York Times which shows a 50% increase as compared to the first six months of the year 2014.

According to the Times, the data regarding the Afghan forces casualties was provided by an official with the American-led coalition.

The data also revealed at least 7,800 service members of the Afghan National Security Forces were wounded during the same period.

In the meantime, the Afghan officers identified desertion as a serious problem saying that many soldiers were simply being barred from going home and required to fight on the frontlines for months straight.

The considerable growth in Afghan forces casualties comes as the Taliban-led insurgency has also been rampant with Afghan commanders and officials in key battleground areas saying that while Afghan forces nominally hold key areas, they are often penned in by Taliban forces.

Abdul Hadi Khalid a retired Afghan Lieutenant General told the Times “We are in a passive defense mode — we are not chasing the enemy,” and called the mounting casualties “grave.”

Mirdad Khan Nejrabi a member of Afghanistan’s parliament said that while the casualties were “very concerning” there would be no large-scale collapse of Afghan forces.

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The Afghan National Army (ANA)

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written by Sayed Sharif Amiry

TOLO news

25 September 2014

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Formation of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and development of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) were among President Hamid Karzai’s top priorities during his 13 year presidency.

Now as his term comes to an end, Karzai leaves behind his presidential legacy with security forces able to protect the nation despite all challenges.

According to the Ministry of Defense (MoD), if the ANA is provided with necessary arms and weaponries, the forces could be regionally unique.

“We can count on the ANA on a regional level,” MoD spokesman Zahir Azimi said. “With more investments, the ANA could be unique in the region.”

Meanwhile, critics have stated that the ANSF’s ability to maintain security in many parts of the country is questionable, adding that the forces have missed massive opportunities for growth.

After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 through 2005, security was not a major issue for the Karzai and his administration. However, the Taliban were able to regain their capabilities and disrupt the security once again starting with rising insecurities in 2007.

“Helmand, for instance, didn’t face any major threats until 2007,” MP Shukria Barakzai said. “Regrettably, lack of good governance, lack of coordination among politicians and the U.S. war in Iraq contributed to the rising insecurities in Afghanistan.”

The ANA has conducted at least 6,000 nighttime military operations and has accomplished major military tasks despite the lack of sufficient artillery.

“We still have no defending army, it is only an anti-rebel army, it still has long ways to go,” military commentator Jawed Kohistani said.

The total number of soldiers serving in the ANA ranks is about 150,000, with an additional 195,000 in the Afghan National Police (ANP) branch.

With the new president being inaugurated on Monday, the new government’s approach to the ANA’s future and development is a major topic of discussion.

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http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/16517-ana-one-of-karzais-top-legacies

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Shrapnel From Afghanistan IX

kabul graveyard

Kabul graveyard

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quoting

The Wrong Enemy

a book by Carlotta Gall

copyright 2014

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They were poor farmers with weather-beaten faces and gnarled hands.  They slipped off their muddied galoshes and sat cross-legged on the floor of a deep verandah, sipping green tea as Wudood recounted his story of the uprising.  As I looked around at the gathering of elders, I realized what I was witnessing:  the end of the road for the Taliban in this area…

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He was proud that he had never been driven from his home ~ not by the Soviets, not by the chaos of mujahideen rule, not by the seven years of Taliban govern- ment, and not through ten years on the frontline between Taliban insurgents and American and NATO forces…

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Afghan farmer

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Resentment of the Taliban was already brewing in the village of Pishin Gan Sayedan.  When villagers had begun their yearly collective task of cleaning the irrigation canal, digging out the silt and clearing the undergrowth along the sloping banks, the Taliban commander Mullah Noor Mohammad turned up with a group of fighters and ordered them to stop.  The undergrowth provided the Taliban with good cover for ambushes, he told them.  The villagers answered back that they needed the water to flow for their crops.  They continued working.  These Taliban were outsiders, and the villagers were fed up with them.  The Taliban caused trouble by laying mines everywhere and staging ambushes in the village.  Now they were threatening the villagers’ livelihood by disrupting the irrigation supply.  “The Taliban were saying we don’t care if your fields die, or if you die, so the people said, ‘Then you can die,'” one resident told me.

The Taliban resorted to force.  They waded in with their rifle butts, cracking several people on the head and breaking the arms of two of the farmers.  They detained the village elder in charge of the canal cleaning and took him off to their base in the desert.

Just a few days later, the Taliban returned, looking for Wudood and his sons.  By now the mood in the village was boiling.  Villagers who had lost relatives to the Taliban offered their support to Wudood.  When he met with the police chief, they hatched a plan.  Sultun Mohammed immediately sent a posse of fifteen men to guard Wudood’s house in case the Taliban came back.  After three days of waiting, they decided to spring an attack on Taliban positions in the nearby village of Kakaran.  The place was an operational base where the Taliban were making bombs and explosives, and where they believed the Taliban commander stayed since the approaches were heavily mined.  The police gathered a force of local and national police and intelligence officers, and attacked from two sides.  Thirty to forty unarmed villagers accompanied the police, guiding them through the land mines and acting as lookouts.  In a short firefight, they shot three members of the Taliban and seized control of the village.  The Taliban commander, Mullah Noor Mohammad, escaped with ten others.  The police knew his radio code name, Rahmani, and were able to follow his movements on the radio.  The three wounded Talibs died as they retreated south.

Villagers from all around, delighted that the Taliban had been sent packing, now came forward to give their support to Wudood.  They thronged his courtyard and pledged to stand with him.  His group of thirty supporters grew to hundreds, from thirty different villages.  Overnight the whole of Zangabad turned against the Taliban…

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sourthern reaches of Afghanistan

Southern reaches of Afghanistan

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Having security forces strong enough to protect them had encouraged the people to turn against the Taliban, General Razziq said…

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By the end of February, fifty men from Zangabad had joined the local police program.  Villages further along the horn of Panjwayi had come over to the government and were asking for local police, Sultan Mohammed, the police chief, told me.  “It is not thirty, not fifty, it is hundreds of villages…”

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Afghan village

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An Afghan elder who lived  in Quetta (Pakistan) and knew many members of the Taliban in his neighborhood told me that the insurgent fighters were more scared of the local police than the NATO forces and all their firepower.  “Forty-two countries have come here with all their high-tech equipment, but the Taliban are not as scared of their technology as they are of the local police.”

In Zare, the local police turned the tables on the Taliban.  Drawn from the villages, trained and mentored by U.S. special forces, they were largely responsible for preventing the Taliban from regaining a foothold in the district in 2012, and the population swung behind them, residents told us…

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afghan village homes

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By September 2012, spontaneous uprisings against Taliban forces had occurred in half a dozen places around the country including Ghazni, Nuristan, Wardak, Ghor, Faryab, and Logar provinces…

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In Kamdesh in Nuristan, local tribesmen fought for months against a determined Taliban and al Qaeda force.  At one point the government and the United States flew in supplies and commandos to assist them.  A senior Afghan intelligence official warned that it was not enough and the government was going to lose the moment.  Kamdesh remained cut off by road, and the government was doing nothing to clear the route, the official told me.  Karzai was issuing orders, but the ministry responsible was not acting.  Nevertheless the tribesmen hung on…

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Looks like northeast Afghanistan...

Northeastern Afghanistan

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When I remember the beleaguered state of Afghanistan in 2001, I marvel at the changes the American intervention has wrought:  the rebuilding, the modernity, the bright graduates in every office.  Yet after thirteen years, a trillion dollars spent, 120,000 foreign troops deployed at the height, and tens of thousands of lives lost, the fundamentals of Afghanistan’s predicament remain the same:  a weak state, prey to the ambitions of its neighbors and extremist Islamists.  The United States and its NATO allies are departing with the job only half done.  Counter-insurgency is slow work.  A comprehensive effort to turn things around only began in 2010.  The fruits were only starting to show in 2013, and progress remains fragile.

Meanwhile the real enemy remains at large.  The Taliban and al Qaeda will certainly seek to regain bases and territory in Afghanistan upon the departure of Western troops.  Few Afghans believe that their government and security forces can keep the Taliban at bay.  I believe they can, but they will need long-term financial and military support…

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village boys with gifts Afghanistan

Gifts

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The Haqqania madrassa, near the famous Moghul fort of Attock in Pakistan, is a notorious establishment; it follows the fundamentalist Deobandi sect and is often described as the alma mater of the Afghan jihad since it has trained generations of students over three decades for war in Afghanistan…

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The Haqqania madrassa houses three thousand religious students from Pashtun areas, Afghans and Pakistanis, in large, white-washed residence blocks built around a series of courtyards.  Ninety-five percent of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan have passed through its classrooms, a spokesman for the madrassa, Syed Mohammad Yousuf Shah, proudly told me…

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Jalaluddin Haqqani or son

Jalaluddin “The Ugly” Haqqani

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Their most famous graduate is Jalaluddin Haqqani, the veteran Afghan mujahideen commander, who took his name from the madrassa and won renown as a ferocious warrior against the Soviet occupation.  During that time, he forged strong ties with Arab groups, including bin Laden’s, and the ISI (Pakistan secret service).  He served as a minister in the mujahideen and Taliban governments, and remained an important ally to Pakistan, with control of a large section of eastern Afghanistan.  That did not change after 9/11.  He continued to head a network of commanders known as the Haqqani network and became the main protector of al Qaeda in North Waziristan.  His long and close ties to the ISI and to Arab groups has been the critical element in creating a safe haven in the tribal areas for the Taliban and foreign militants.  It is Haqqani who is the linchpin for the entire ISI operation in the tribal areas.  He is the most powerful commander who oversees all the other groups.  Now elderly, he has passed daily operations to his son, Sirajuddin.  Born of an Arab mother, Sirajuddin Haqqani is known as the Khalifa, or Caliph, to his followers although he does not have a high religious standng.  He derives his power from his military clout and mafia businesses.  His network has become the main instrument for ISI-directed attacks in Kabul and eastern Afghanistan…

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the_sufi_mg56

The Sufi

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Wahabi Extremism

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Afghan People Earn International Praise

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Afghans secure & deliver the 2014 ballot here & there & everywhere…

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And the people line up to vote here & there & everywhere in Afghanistan…

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TOLOnews.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Updated Monday, April 7, 2014

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World leaders have come out left and right to praise Afghans, following Saturday’s vote, which marked the beginning of Afghanistan’s first democratic transition of power in modern history. Although insurgents had threatened to derail the elections, they were carried out peacefully and saw turnout that surpassed expectations.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) estimated in a press conference Saturday night that over seven million Afghans participated in the presidential and provincial council elections, which would mean twice as many as did in 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday congratulated Afghanistan for the election and said it was “critical” to securing the country’s democratic prospects and continued international aid. The U.S.-led NATO coalition is prepared to withdraw from the country by the end of this year, and the person elected to succeed President Hamid Karzai will likely play a key role in shaping the future of relations between Kabul and Washington.

The ballots “represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces,” Obama said in a statement. “These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support.”

The U.S. has been trying to settle a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the Karzai administration that would allow some foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 to help advise the Afghan security forces, conduct counterterrorism operations and oversee the use of aid money. Over four billion USD in military supported funding is tied to the deal. With Karzai refusing to sign on, however, the last hope for the pact seems to fall on whoever is elected to replace him.

Heading into Saturday’s vote many Afghans and non-Afghans alike were concerned about insurgent violence and possible fraud. Militants led a surge of violence in the weeks leading up to the vote. But Saturday came and went with a few scattered attacks that had no large effect on the national process, and fraud, for the moment, appears to have been more subdued than in past years.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has welcomed the Afghan elections as a historic event, and urged all candidates to respect the electoral institutions and their processes. It is likely the vote counting process will not be complete for several weeks.

“The members of the Council reiterate the importance of these historic elections to Afghanistan’s transition and democratic development,” the UNSC said in a statement.

“Members commend the participation and courage of the Afghan people to cast their ballot despite the threat and intimidation by the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups,” the statement added.

The high turnout, from both male and female voters, was celebrated by most as the major success of the day, regardless of the elections’ outcome.

“It is a great achievement for the Afghan people that so many voters, men and women, young and old, have turned out in such large numbers, despite threats of violence, to have their say in the country’s future,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also chimed-in, calling the elections “a historic moment for Afghanistan”. Saturday was the first time since the coalition invaded the country that an election has been managed entirely by Afghans.

“This will be a historic moment, if we get this right, this democratic transition,” European Union (EU) Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

The Indian government, a close ally of the Karzai administration, also commended Afghans on their participation in Saturday’s elections. “We salute the people of Afghanistan who turned out in such great numbers to exercise their right to vote despite the threat of violence and intimidation from terrorists and those who do not wish to see a strong, democratic and sovereign Afghanistan,” an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials also congratulated the people of Afghanistan. “Today’s success clearly demonstrates that the Afghan people have chosen their future of progress and opportunity,” ISAF said in a statement.

“As the world watched, the Afghan National Security Forces provided the opportunity for the Afghan people to choose their new President, securing over 6,200 polling centers across the country,” the statement added.

The Afghan security forces have taken over responsibility for security from US-led forces, and this year the last of the NATO coalition’s remaining 51,000 combat troops will pull out. The relative peacefulness of Saturday’s vote will mark a crowning success for the security forces who have already been applauded for their impressive performance during their first fight season in the lead over the past year.

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Afghans Clear Sangin Valley

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Story by Cpl. Joshua Young

1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Regional Command Southwest

February 8, 2014

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CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers with 2nd and 3rd Brigades, 215th Corps, teamed with the Afghan Uniform Police and other Afghan National Security Forces to conduct a completely Afghan-led operation called Oqab 144, with only advisor-related help from coalition forces.

The operation, which took place Jan. 27 – Feb. 4, means “Eagle 144,” in English. It is a process to eliminate hostile threats from the Sangin Valley, Helmand province, Afghanistan, prior to the upcoming national election in order to offer a better environment for potential voters and the local populace.

The operation was conducted weeks before the Afghan presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place April 5. The current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is not eligible to run for re-election due to term limits, making this the first transfer of the presidency since his inauguration in 2004 and the first democratic transition of power in the history of Afghanistan.

“They’re sharing stories about the election and belief in their government,” said Col. Christopher Douglas, the team leader of Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215. “I believe this gives people the opportunity to see that the future is bright because these operations are being executed for Afghans by Afghans with no coalition presence visible to them during the operation.”

The ANSF partners are working together to build trust within the local populace to achieve a more stable and secure environment for the election as well as the future of Afghanistan, Helmand province, and Sangin Valley.

“This shows that it’s an Afghan election process,” said Douglas, whose team is stationed out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. “We’re not driving it. It shows faith in the system, now they’re gaining more of that confidence. We can’t force them to do something, so it comes down to inspiring them.”

During May 2012, the Afghan and U.S. governments agreed a contract needed to be created to establish how many, if any, American forces would remain in Afghanistan following the end of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission in 2014. Without such a contract, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, the U.S. must pull all forces out of the country by the end of the year.

The two governments began working on the agreement Nov. 15, 2012, which would allow a contingent of U.S. troops to stay in the country in an advisory role.

Despite the approval of the Loya Jirga, or “grand council” on Nov. 24, 2013, and increasing support from Afghanistan and the international community, President Karzai has yet to sign the agreement.

Due to the hesitation from President Karzai, the next president of Afghanistan may be responsible for signing the agreement. This places the fate of the BSA in the hands of the voters —the people of Afghanistan — as they choose their next leader.

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Maj. Paul D. Tremblay, deputy team leader, SFAAT 2-215. “It’s an election where the people can choose a leader who’s going to take them the rest of the way.”

The operation to clear the Sangin Valley of hostile threats was met with resistance and casualties, but also several milestones of success.

Seeing only Afghan uniforms during the operation helped build the locals’ confidence in the ANSF. In turn, some locals provided the forces with information on insurgent movements and known locations, as well as locations of improvised explosive devices and explosives labs.

“As (the operation) went on through the Sangin area with 2nd and 3rd Brigades, they were approached by some locals who advised them they missed some IEDs during the clear,” Douglas said. “That was a great surprise. It showed confidence in the ANA’s ability to work with the locals and them feeling comfortable enough to come up to members of the ANA or the police and work with them to create a more secure environment in their community.”

When they first entered the Sangin Valley in 2006 after the resurgence of the Taliban, the coalition forces had the lead role in all combat operations. During the course of the campaign, the lead has steadily been turned over to Afghan forces as the coalition took on an advisory role.

Oqab 144 marks one of the first operations in the region during which the populace hasn’t seen a coalition force presence. Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215 played a silent role in the operation, offering only advisory assistance and minimal relief in casualty evacuations.

“They’re in the lead,” Douglas said. “We’re here and able to watch through some of our assets, but the big thing is seeing their excitement for how well things are going for them and hearing their stories of sharing a big success together. Now they’re out there doing it.”

“We’re kind of like father figures, and we’re watching our children grow and flourish,” Tremblay said. “They have it, you can see it in their eyes. They just need to continue to grow and mature. Once they get in the highest leadership positions, they’ll be unstoppable.”

“They have an incredibly capable staff,” Tremblay said. “They have all the enablers and they’re learning each and every day. This operation is certainly demonstrating their capacity to take independent action and learn and grow as they progress.”

“It’s one of the most complex problems I’ve ever seen in my 18 years in the Marine Corps,” Tremblay said. “It’s fascinating to study and the more you do, the more you learn about the intricacies at play here and what can potentially be done in the future.”

The SFAAT considered the operation to be a success and is dedicated to helping the ANA in the region become completely sustainable and self-sufficient.

One of the obstacles the SFAAT and the ANA face in the region is the annual fighting season, tied to the weather and poppy harvest.

The Sangin Valley is known by many as a hotbed for nefarious and illegal activities. It’s strategic in its relevance to major corridors such as Route 1 and Route 611.

Drug runners and insurgents often use Route 1, which runs all the way through Afghanistan from Pakistan to Iran. The two routes are a crossroads for both trade and drug trafficking. Much of the Taliban’s funding comes from the profits of the poppy harvests. Black-tar heroine is extracted from the poppy plants and the drugs are shipped all over the world.

The Taliban control much of the heroine trade and are dependent on the industry. When the weather cools off, the insurgency turns toward facilitating the poppy planting. When planting begins, fighting almost instantly ceases.

“It’s a constant disruption mentality,” Tremblay said. “Whether it’s Marines, British or Afghans, their ability to consistently disrupt the activity of the insurgents by projecting combat power prevents the insurgent from feeling comfortable enough to go in and interact with the populace, plant an IED or set up a firing position.”

The progress that has been made since the coalition first entered the Sangin Valley can be measured by the success of Oqab 144 and the relationship building between the ANSF and the local populace.

“Without this group we would not have reached this stage,” said Col. Abdul Hai Neshat, executive officer, ANA 2nd Brigade. “Due to the Marines’ hard work along side us, we can lead our units. They’re very helpful and useful.”

Success in the region did not come easily. Many service members from coalition forces and the ANSF have paid the ultimate price to bring stability to the war-torn area.

“I don’t think we could ever put a number on the blood, treasure and heartache that has been poured into this area,” Tremblay said. “The blood, sweat and tears, the brothers we’ve lost, the horrific injuries sustained and the invisible ones that keep you up at night are beyond description. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to capture what has been sacrificed to get us to this point. Especially when you read in the media what’s going on in certain areas in Iraq, it’s hard not to question: ‘Has it been worth it?’ In my opinion, the answer is absolutely, ‘Yes.’ All of that sacrifice has led to an opportunity we’re seeing start to grow and gain momentum today.”

With all the progress that has been made in the past eight years, there is still more to be done.

“I’d like to say, on behalf of my personnel and soldiers, thank you to the Marines and the U.S. in a common (effort) for helping Afghanistan,” Neshat said. “Without U.S. support, we would not be able to stand as a country. Hopefully in the future the U.S. will continue the support and help Afghanistan and not leave. All people in Afghanistan want peace in this country and to live a normal life. It’s very important to help us. These are the wishes of all of Afghanistan.”

Following the operation, Maj. Gen. Sayed Malook, commanding general, 215th Corps, traveled to Camp Leatherneck via Route 611 to show his confidence that the Sangin Valley had been cleared, said Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller, commanding general, RC(SW). “Every day is a step in the right direction.”

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Afghan Forces In “The Valley Of Death”

IED hunt

The Afghan National Army (ANA) regards Taliban improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried in Afghan highways as unacceptable…

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BBC News

9 November 2013

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If the Afghan National Army (ANA) is to prevent the Taliban from taking control of the country after Nato withdraws in 2014, its success in capturing and securing the strategically important and mountainous district of Chapa Dara in the eastern province of Kunar may provide a template, the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary reports:

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There is no decent road to Chapa Dara – only a bumpy dirt track takes you to this mountainous district. The area is known for its dense forests and vast maize fields that offer a perfect hideout to Taliban insurgents.

Lack of development and a near total absence of government helped the Taliban take control of the only road access to Chapa Dara two-and-a-half years ago, paralysing an already weak administration.

“The Taliban did not allow food, fuel, even medicine to pass through this road,” General Hayatullah Aqtash, commander of the Afghan National Army in Kunar, tells me.

“Prices of essential items sky rocketed, the government was paralysed and locals were terrorised.”

Kunar Province has always been a crucible of conflict. Tucked away in the north-eastern corner of Afghanistan, it borders Pakistan’s tribal badlands. It is one of the first ports of call for war-minded militants crossing the mountain passes.

In recent months US drones – and the aerial intelligence they provided – are estimated to have killed more than 100 Taliban fighters, breaking the backbone of the Taliban and enabling the ANA to assume control of Chapa Dara, Gen Aqtash said.

Last year a US drone attack in the Shegal district of Kunar killed Mullah Dadullah, a high-ranking Pakistani Taliban commander.

Top Taliban commander Maulawi Nur Mohammad and his deputy Atiqullah were also killed in Kunar during 2012.

One of the main aims of the recent military operation was to reopen the Kunar-Nuristan road, which was eventually achieved earlier this year…

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As the army convoy in which I travelled drove on the dirt track alongside the Pech river, we could see white flags – similar to the ones the Taliban flew during their five-year rule in Afghanistan – fluttering on the other side.

The flags symbolise that the Taliban are in control.

But they have been ejected from Chapa Dara by the ANA.

“We have secured the road, because you have to start from the road,” Gen Aqtash said.

“We have come under attack and we suffered casualties in road-side bomb blasts. But we want the Taliban to know that we are not going anywhere.”

After two hours driving, the convoy reached Chapa Dara…

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Most local people seem to welcome the removal of the Taliban, some even providing ANA troops with food, milk and tea.

“Until recently, the Taliban controlled our lives,” says Mohammad Bashir, a shopkeeper in the district market.

“Men were beaten up for not having a beard. Music was banned. People were shot dead on the slightest suspicion of spying for the government.”

Locals said continuous clashes between the security forces and insurgents over the past two-and-a-half years forced closure of the market and the district’s only school.

“Life here came to a standstill,” one village elder said. “We were stuck between the government forces and the insurgents.”

Ihsanullah Gojar, the police chief of Chapa Dara, said his men suffered most during the siege.

“Dozens of policemen have been injured fighting the Taliban over the past two years,” he said.

“Many of them had injuries that were treatable but they died of their wounds because of the shortage of medical supplies and doctors.

“We were promised helicopter pick-ups for the injured, but they never came. It was painful to see my men die before my eyes and I could do nothing about it,” the police chief said.

As he spoke, several villagers gather around the military convoy, greeting the soldiers with flowers.

“People are happy that Taliban has been removed from Chapa Dara,” one elder said.

But the district is desperate for development. There is no judge or prosecutor in Chapa Dara, no clinic, no public health officials or teachers.

The absence of government services is so grave in fact that it threatens to undermine military advances on the ground.

The government is only in control of the town and district headquarters and surrounding areas. Most valleys and villages are still in the hands of the Taliban or foreign fighters…

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“This means that even though the army has taken control of the district and the road leading to it, the government can’t provide any services to the people,” Gen Aqtash said.

“It is obvious that there is a crisis of governance here. Militarily, we have done the job. But if the civilian side doesn’t work, this success will be for the short term.

“When the US forces were here, they used to nickname the Pech Valley as the Valley of Death, now we are calling it the Valley of Peace.

“But one has to fight and work hard for peace, it does not come cheap.”

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Bilal Sarwary

http://journalisted.com/bilal-sarwary

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BBC News

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24546628

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NATO Reduces Scope of Its Plans

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by Thom Shanker

New York Times

October 27, 2013

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BRUSSELS — After months of tense negotiations over the size and role of a postwar presence in Afghanistan, senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say they are planning a more minimalist mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not squandered or pilfered.

The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears that the United States Congress and European parliaments might cancel their financial commitments — amounting to more than $4 billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in the world — unless American and NATO troops are positioned at Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is spent in a country known for rampant corruption.

The reduced scope is also a result of conflicting interests among military and political leaders that have been on display throughout the 12-year war. Military commanders have advocated a postwar mission focused on training and advising Afghans, with a larger number of troops spread across the battlefield. Political leaders in Washington and other NATO capitals have opted for smaller numbers and assignments only at large Afghan headquarters.

Any enduring NATO military presence in Afghanistan “is tied directly to the $4.1 billion and our ability to oversee it and account for it,” a senior NATO diplomat said. “You need enough troops to responsibly administer, oversee and account for $4 billion a year of security assistance.”

The senior diplomat — who, like other military officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the alliance’s deliberations — described continued financing of Afghan security forces as vital to avoid political chaos and factional bloodshed after NATO’s combat role ends in December 2014. “It’s not just the shiny object, the number of troops,” he said. “Perhaps much more meaningful is, does the funding flow?”

NATO has endorsed an enduring presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with two-thirds expected to be American. That is well below earlier recommendations by commanders, but senior alliance officials say larger numbers are unnecessary given the more limited goals now being set by political leaders.

The postwar plan depends on a security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan concerning the number, role and legal protection of American troops. But one lesson of the war in Iraq is that domestic politics in the war zone and in Washington can scuttle a security deal, resulting in zero American troops remaining. Afghanistan’s desire to assure the continued flow of billions of dollars in assistance is one reason American and NATO officials are expressing guarded optimism that an agreement will be reached.

A traditional Afghan council is expected to meet in the coming weeks to pass its judgment on the proposed United States-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement.

NATO officials say they are acutely aware that Afghanistan has been the scene of spectacular corruption, including bank fraud, drug trafficking and bribery for services, all of which undermines the credibility of the Afghan government and its Western benefactors.

The problems run to the very top of the Afghan government. Many of President Hamid Karzai’s most senior aides and cabinet ministers have grown wealthy in the past dozen years, parlaying political power into lucrative businesses serving foreign militaries and development projects — or simply demanding a cut of business from other Afghans, much as organized crime bosses offer protection in exchange for regular payoffs.

The NATO personnel overseeing the security aid would be assigned to Afghan ministries and military headquarters, where they would review payments to make sure the money went to its intended purposes, like fuel, supplies and training. They would review money allotted to and disbursed by those programs and provide regular reports to NATO leaders assessing whether the goals of the assistance were being met.

Military officials said that initial plans had envisioned a far larger enduring presence of foreign trainers and advisers, who would have been spread across the country and embedded within small units of Afghan troops as they carried on the tactical fight against the Taliban. Only over time would foreign troops have been reduced and withdrawn back to headquarters.

Under the new plans, NATO military personnel would be assigned only to the headquarters of the two security ministries, defense and interior; to the six Afghan National Army corps headquarters; and to the similar number of national police headquarters. They would also be well represented in army and police training institutions.

With that more restricted mission in mind, NATO has approved outlines for a smaller force than commanders advocated. Just before his retirement last spring, the top officer of United States Central Command, Gen. James N. Mattis, told the Senate that he recommended keeping 13,600 American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, resulting in an overall allied troop level of more than 20,000.

Military officials still hope the current plans will allow them to carry out a substantial mentoring mission from the larger headquarters and training centers, and some said the emphasis on financial accountability was overstated.

“While we do need to oversee the money to maintain donors’ confidence, a critical component of our presence is capability development,” one American military officer said. “If we are at the corps level and in the four corners, we could provide the right level of train, advise and assist, and ensure that the funds led to combat effectiveness.”

Pentagon officials say they want at least some American commandos to remain to carry out counter-terrorism missions, unilaterally or in coordination with Afghan forces.

Allied military personnel who support a larger deployment say the United States and NATO have an obligation to send foreign advisers into the field with tactical-level units to ensure that forces armed by the coalition operate at standards deserving of financial support from other countries.

These officers note that the Afghan army is still developing its tactical prowess, evolving in its leadership skills and learning how to wage a war against an insurgency that hides among civilians. It has significant gaps in capability, especially in air transport and medical evacuation. There are concerns that assigning foreign advisers only to large headquarters may prevent the hands-on mentoring that field units need and allow Afghan troops to return to illegal and immoral methods learned over brutal years of Soviet and jihadist fighting.

Even so, some Afghanistan policy experts, including former military commanders, say the focus on the money makes sense.

David W. Barno, a retired lieutenant general who spent 19 months as the senior American officer in Afghanistan, agreed that sustained financial assistance was the “strategic center of gravity.”

“The most important thing we can do is keep writing checks so the Afghan National Security Forces can remain funded — fuel, food, weapons, salaries,” said General Barno, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.  “If that continues, they will be at least able to maintain a stalemate with the Taliban, and that is enough to keep the state up and running.”

Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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Afghans Fend Off Taliban Threat

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Col. Sheena Johnson, U.S. Army, advises villagers in Nuristan, Afghanistan…

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By Rod Nordland, Thom Shanker and Matthew Rosenberg

New York Times

October 16, 2013

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KABUL, Afghanistan — When the Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive, they saw few limits to their ambitions: to kill top Afghan officials across every major ministry, to plot even more infiltration attacks against Americans and to bloody, break and drive off the Afghan security forces who were newly in charge across the country.

Now, Afghan and American officials are cautiously celebrating a deflation of the Taliban’s propaganda bubble, the militants’ goals largely unmet.

With this year’s fighting season nearly over, the officials say the good news is that the Afghan forces mostly held their own, responding to attacks well and cutting down on assassinations. But at the same time, the Afghans were unable to make significant gains and, worse, suffered such heavy casualties that some officials called the rate unsustainable.

That assessment, detailed in interviews with commanders, officials and local leaders, is an important factor in urgent efforts by the Americans and Afghans to hash out a long-term deal to support the Afghan security forces, with national elections and the Western military withdrawal looming over the coming months.

Though the Afghan forces endured, they did little to answer some persistent questions about their ability and image, including whether they can handle their own planning and logistics as American forces continue to pull back. And in the rural southern Taliban heartland, the insurgents’ continued appearance as the more credible military force away from cities added weight to theories that the Taliban could control those areas after 2014.

“What we saw this year was an insurgency unable to make a decisive blow against the A.N.S.F.,” one Pentagon official said, referring to the Afghan National Security Forces. But the official added: “The Afghans still have a lot of learning to do. They had some tough brawls, and they took substantial casualties.”

Some American and Afghan commanders characterized a kind of moral victory for the Afghan forces: they mostly survived, and they did not completely give back gains from past Western offensives.

“The Taliban’s operational directive at the start of the fighting season was to press the Afghan security forces and try to break their will,” said Col. David Lapan, a spokesman for the American military commander, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. “It’s so far been our assessment they have not succeeded in any of their stated goals.”

While the Taliban’s assassination campaign did take a toll on police officials and mostly low-level district officials, an insurgent success came late in the season — on Tuesday, when the well-regarded governor of Logar Province was killed  while preparing to speak in a mosque, though the Taliban denied responsibility.

The Taliban were quick to take responsibility for many of the so-called insider attacks last year, when Afghans in uniform killed 60 members of the international military force, and vowed to intensify them this year. But with new security measures in place, there have been just 14 such killings this year.

Even the insurgents’ strategy of waging high-profile attacks against Western targets in the capital, Kabul, mostly fizzled or ended up misdirected, as in a bombing that the Taliban said had been aimed at a C.I.A. safe house but instead killed four at the International Organization for Migration.

“We knew going into this that the insurgency understood this would be the last fighting season before the elections of April 2014,” said one Defense Department official, who along with some other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Afghan forces’ progress. “They knew it was time to get creative, that if ever there was a time to make a spectacular impact or strike a decisive blow, this would be it.”

Though there was no such decisive blow, the cuts were deep.

In some areas of the south and east, most notably in the Sangin district of Helmand Province, the Taliban were able to restrict movement of Afghan forces and inflict heavy casualties.

Just how much those casualties have increased, however, is a matter of dispute. American officials defer requests for statistics to the Afghan authorities, saying it is now their responsibility.

Sediq Seddiqi, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said the increase was only slight  for the police forces, who suffered the greatest share of the casualties. But he refused to give any recent statistics. The Afghan military has similarly resisted giving figures for this year.

Last year, the Afghan government said 2,970 police officers and soldiers had been killed in 2012.

The toll this year is at least double that, and probably much more, said Hamayoun Hamayoun, the chairman of the defense committee in the Afghan Parliament. He said figures given in confidence to his committee by government ministries showed that 6,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers had been killed since March.

“You know the government hides the correct numbers,” he said.

Mr. Hamayoun cited a major fight in northern Badakhshan Province in August. Government spokesmen said 20 policemen had been killed, but when committee investigators went to the area, they found the total was 80, he said.

In addition, Mr. Hamayoun expressed concern about the continued high attrition rate for the Afghan National Army from desertions, casualties and resignations. In recent years, the military had to replace roughly a third of its force annually, and that has continued, he said.

“If this keeps on for a long time, the military will collapse,” Mr. Hamayoun said.

American military officials say they are not nearly so alarmed. They expected the Afghans to take some punishment once they were really on their own, and they say that so far the Afghans have not had a hard time finding replacement recruits in a country with high unemployment and widespread poverty.

Trying to blunt the effect of increased Afghan casualties, American commanders say, they flew more helicopter medevac missions for Afghan forces — despite an effort to persuade the Afghans to use ground transportation and regional military hospitals in preparation for the decreasing American support presence.

“This is their first fighting season in the lead, so we’re doing more medevacs than previous years because they’re doing more than previous years,” said Colonel Lapan, the American military spokesman.

The performance of their allies was not as poor as many American military officials had feared. One senior military officer said he would give the Afghan security forces a C-plus grade — not a ringing endorsement, but better than the C he said he would give the insurgency.

But if the Afghans’ performance has allayed short-term fears, it has answered few questions about what the long-term balance against the Taliban will look like.

One critical point will be security for the national election, scheduled for the first week in April and characterized as crucial to the government’s credibility. Some Afghan officials insist that date is too early — snow is still likely to be blocking mountain passes, potentially reducing turnout. But American officials are quietly urging the Afghans to stay on course anyway, because a later date would make it easier for the Taliban to disrupt the vote.

“It is not lost on us that the timing of the election is April, which is generally before the major fighting season starts,” one Pentagon official said. “We are encouraging our counterparts to continue moving toward that goal. If it is delayed into the summer fighting season, the A.N.S.F. will be challenged.”

There are longer-term questions as well, particularly in remote districts of eastern Afghanistan and stretches of farmland in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban are strongest.

One American official involved with the Human Terrain System, a program that uses social science techniques to help the military understand Afghan society, said that in those areas, the perception among most people was that the Taliban remained the dominant force in their villages.

That, in particular, does not bode well for the hope that the central government will be able to exert its authority in those southern and ethnic Pashtun areas after the official end of the American combat mission next year.

“You’re looking at these people, you listen to them and you hear them out and you talk, and you realize that these are the Taliban,” said an American Army officer who served in rural areas thick with insurgents outside Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan.

“It’s not that each one of them is an active insurgent — these are old men, a lot of them. It’s that they are the reason the Taliban exists. It came from where they live,” the officer said. “I think, when we take the long view here, we should be cognizant of the context. Maybe the best outcome would be Taliban in the villages and the government in the district centers.”

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Rod Nordland and Matthew Rosenberg reported from Kabul, and Thom Shanker from Washington. Azam Ahmed contributed reporting from Kabul and Sangin, Afghanistan.

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