Indian Consulate Attacked In Herat

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by Jalil Ahmad

REUTERS

May 23, 2014

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HERAT, Afghanistan – A handful of heavily armed insurgents, including suicide bombers, launched a rocket propelled grenade and gun attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat hours before dawn on Friday, officials said.

Indian staff at the mission escaped soon after the shooting began at around 3 a.m.. Police said Afghan security forces had killed the attackers, who were holed up in buildings overlooking the consulate, following a firefight that lasted several hours.

“They fired a couple of RPG shots. It was dark and they couldn’t verify where it was coming from,” India’s ambassador to Kabul Amar Sinha told Reuters by telephone.

He said there had been around 10 staff resident at the consulate in Herat, which stands close to the border with Iran and is Afghanistan’s third largest city.

The attack underscored a worrying security picture as Afghanistan prepares to take over from foreign combat troops after more than 12 years of war against a Taliban insurgency and prepares for a presidential election run-off next month.

The consulate was guarded by a team of commandos from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Afghan security forces form an outer ring, an Indian security official in New Delhi said.

Herat police chief General Samihullah Qatra told Reuters four attackers, including suicide bombers, had entered houses close to the consulate before dawn and began shooting into the compound.

“There were three suicide bombers armed with AK-47, RPG, hand grenade and suicide vests. Our security forces killed all of them. Only five of our security forces were wounded.”

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack and no one claimed responsibility, though suspicion would inevitably fall on the Taliban and other loosely associated groups .

On the other side of the country, in the northeast province of Badakhshan, Taliban fighters were holding 27 police and officials hostage, and dozens of people have killed or wounded.

REPEATED ATTACKS

Militants have repeatedly attacked Indian targets in Afghanistan. Last August, an assault on the Indian consulate in the eastern city of Jalalabad killed at least nine people, and earlier this year a suicide bomber was gunned down near the consulate in the southern city of Kandahar.

In 2008, suicide bombers attacked the Indian embassy in the capital, Kabul, killing about 50 people and wounding scores. There was another attack on the embassy in 2009.

Security officials in India believe that previous attacks on Indian missions in Afghanistan have been carried out by the Haqqani network, a Taliban and al Qaeda-linked group that has also long had ties with Pakistani intelligence.

U.S. officials and India had also accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence of organizing the 2008 attack in Kabul.

Pakistan has long complained about the number of Indian consulates in Afghan cities, fearful that friendship between India and Afghanistan could leave it isolated, and NATO prepares to withdraw the competition for influence in Kabul is expected to become fiercer.

On this occasion, however, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry was quick to issue a condemnation of the attack on the Indian consulate.

“No cause justifies targeting of diplomatic missions. It is a matter of relief that no one from the Consulate staff was hurt,” the ministry said in a statement issued in Islamabad.

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Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Jessica Donati in KABUL and Sanjeev Miglani in NEW DELHI; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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Herat

Friday_Mosque_in_Herat,_Afghanistan

~~~                                                                                          Beautiful mosque in Herat

by Kathy Gilsinan

World Politics Review

January 15, 2014

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Historically a crossroads of commerce and culture linking Persia and Central Asia, the ethnically mixed western region of Afghanistan has more recently been notable for the stability and wealth of its most important province, Herat, and its capital city of the same name. The province of Herat, which borders Iran and Tajikistan, owes much of its prosperity to customs revenue, which in turn is one of the two main domestic sources of revenue for the central government in Kabul. Herat’s growth and integration with the rest of Afghanistan, however, are threatened by instability and poor infrastructure in the surrounding provinces.

Since 2005, Italy has served as the lead nation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Regional Command West, which includes Herat and the surrounding provinces of Ghor, Badghis and Farah. There are currently about 5,000 ISAF troops in the region, from a peak of about 8,000 in late 2011, and under the draft U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement currently pending signature, the military base south of the city of Herat would be one of nine across the country the U.S. would retain access to after 2014.

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) began to assume lead responsibility for security in Herat in late 2011, and have gradually taken over in the rest of the western region since then. Herat itself has remained secure in the transition period, according to Aziz Hazim of the Herat Government and Media Information Center. “Given the relative stability” of the provincial government, he says, after the handover to Afghan forces, “there was not much change in the security situation in Herat province.” Col. Stefano Cianfrocca of the Italian air force, deputy chief of staff for stability in Regional Command West, says the ANSF passed the crucial early test of securing the voter registration process ahead of the presidential election set for this April. “There have been elections before, but they have been closely supervised and supported by ISAF and international organizations,” Cianfrocca says. “This time the Afghans have taken the lead on the elections.”

Working in the ANSF’s favor in western Afghanistan is the absence of conditions faced by Afghan forces in other parts of the country. “Western Afghanistan has not had a history, like that of the east and south, of intertribal fighting over the decades,” says Karl Eikenberry, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011. (Disclosure: I worked for Eikenberry as a graduate research assistant at Stanford University from 2011 to 2012.) “There were sources of violence and instability in the west, but not to the degree we found in Regional Commands East, South and Southwest,” he adds.

It also helps that western Afghanistan does not share a border with Pakistan. Iran has demonstrated a keen interest in western Afghanistan’s development, and though there have been reports of Iran arming and training militants there, its alleged support for the insurgency has not been nearly so widespread and well-funded as Pakistan’s. Iran has meanwhile provided some $500 million in aid to Afghanistan, most of it concentrated in the western region; it has granted Afghanistan access to its Chabahar port, freeing Afghan businesses from nearly exclusive reliance on Pakistan’s port at Karachi; and it is constructing a railway link between eastern Iran and Herat, which could further cement Herat’s role as a regional trade hub.

But if geography has given western Afghanistan, and Herat in particular, some advantages, it also presents dangers. Iran has deported thousands of Afghan refugees, exacerbating a potentially destabilizing flow of migration along Afghanistan’s western border. Meanwhile, rising instability in Herat’s neighboring provinces could suffocate Herat’s growth or damage its links to the rest of Afghanistan. A recent Pentagon report noted rising violence in Farah, which borders Herat to the south, attributing it to militants pushed out of neighboring Helmand province by the 2009 U.S. military surge.

But the conditions for Farah’s instability predated the surge. Farah is a large province with poor infrastructure, making it difficult and expensive for Afghan security forces to control; they rely instead on local militias known as the Afghan Local Police, which are controversial for their history of abusing residents. “Just keeping the road infrastructure safe must be . . . a nightmare,” says Fabrizio Foschini of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, who has documented “a serious deterioration in security” as the province transitioned to Afghan security lead. Farah is also the only province in western Afghanistan heavily affected by the opium economy. “We’ll see it again in a couple of months come harvest time—you have Taliban and communities fighting side by side against the government,” Foschini says. “The situation can become problematic in the next few years in what lies around this sort of security oasis” in Herat.

Even Herat’s wealth has attracted its own kind of violence, more opportunistic than ideological. While the province rarely makes headlines for spectacular attacks—though a suicide attack on the U.S. consulate last September, claimed by the Taliban, showed the city was not immune—insurgents and criminals more often resort to kidnapping for ransom. “Herat has long been the kidnapping capital of Afghanistan,” Foschini says. Criminal networks that may not be formally allied with the Taliban have a freer hand to extort locals given that the police are, in Foschini’s words, “fighting basically a war”—in turn, the unsafe environment they create may scare off the businesses Herat depends on, creating opportunities for the Taliban through rising instability.

The Taliban’s fall, and international investment in infrastructure and development, have allowed western Afghanistan to capitalize on some of its geographical advantages. Through expanding trade links and improved customs collection, Herat’s growth in particular is less dependent on international aid than that of other pockets of relative wealth in Afghanistan, making it more likely that most of Herat’s gains over the past 12 years will outlast the international presence there. Whether and to what extent those gains can benefit the rest of the country, given the belt of instability that surrounds Herat, is unclear, though, and protecting western Afghanistan’s “security oasis” will test ANSF for many years to come.

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http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com

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Taliban Attack U.S. Consulate

who dat

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi took responsibility for the Herat U.S. Consulate attack in a phone call with the Associated Press, says Guardian News and Media Limited.

He might also be a member of the NRA, notes Rawclyde!

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By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 14, 2013 – On the second day of his trip to Afghanistan to assess the progress of the retrograde, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the U.S. Consulate in Herat, which was attacked yesterday morning.

Following a stop at Camp Leatherneck for a briefing by Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Lee Miller, commander of Regional Command Southwest, Miller and Carter flew to Herat aboard a V-22 Osprey.

Two Afghan police officers and a security guard were killed in a complex early morning assault that involved armed Taliban fighters and a vehicle bomb. About 20 people were injured and the consulate building was damaged, and all seven of the Taliban attackers were killed.

“Now, the individuals that attacked here yesterday did what they did because they wanted to get headlines,” Carter told the U.S., Afghan and coalition forces at Herat. “But they didn’t get the headlines they expected,” the deputy defense secretary added.

“The headline they’re getting is that they were defeated,” he said. “They were defeated in just a few minutes. And not only were they defeated, but there was an overwhelming and incredibly confident American, Afghan and coalition response … ready to deal with the situation.”

Carter told the troops that he and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were incredibly impressed with their efforts. “You should be very proud,” he added.

After a brief stop at the Shindand air base, where Afghan air force pilots and aircraft maintainers are trained, Carter returned to Kabul for meetings with Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi and Interior Minister Umar Daudzai.

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rocket-300x228

Legitimate Gunslinger, Afghanistan National Army, 2013…

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The Reality of Life In Afghanistan:

http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews

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