Taliban Overrun East Afghan Outpost

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by Bill Roggio

Long War Journal

September 22, 2015

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As the Taliban mounts offensives in the northern province of Kunduz and the southern province of Helmand, it has also been consolidating its grip on areas in eastern Afghanistan. A video from Paktika province, a bastion of the Haqqani Network, shows the Taliban in control of a military outpost along the Pakistani border.

The Taliban released a video entitled “Liberation of Ghwasta”  that shows scores of its fighters attacking and then walking inside a US-built outpost in the Waza Khwa district in Paktika. The footage was released on Voice of Jihad, the jihadist group’s official propaganda website, on Sept. 21. The exact date of the attack was not given, but the accompanying statement said that it occurred “a few weeks earlier.”

According to the Taliban, the Ghwasta area of the district “was cleared from the hireling troops after dozens were killed and wounded, many vehicles destroyed and a sizable amount of arms and ammunition seized.”

The video does show the jihadists in possession of captured vehicles, including a US-made Humvee, and a large quantity of weapons, rockets, mortars, ammunition, and other supplies. The Taliban does not show the bodies of Afghan soldiers or policemen who were purportedly killed in the battle.

Also included in the footage is an interview with Mawlawi Muhammad Iqbal, AKA Takal, the “deputy provincial governor,” or deputy shadow governor, for Paktika. Iqbal is on the scene with the Taliban in Waza Khwa district.

The Taliban’s shadow governor for the province is Bilal Fateh, who swore allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Mansour, the new emir, in early August. The Taliban previously identified the deputy shadow governor of Paktika as “Abdullah” and “Hamad.” In a December 2013 interview, Abdullah claimed that the districts of Dila, Nika, and “Charbaran,” which may be a reference to Gomal district (the Charbaran Valley is in Gomal), are under the jihadist group’s control.

The exact security status of Paktika is unclear. The Afghan government has claimed that the Taliban only controls four of the more than 400 districts in the entire country, but the Taliban are known to control far more than that number. In Paktika, the districts of Bermal, Dila, Nika, Urgun, Yahya Khel, Waza Khwa, Yusuf Khel, and Ziruk are thought to be heavily contested or under Taliban control. The Afghan government often only maintains its writ in the district centers but not in the rural areas of the country.

The Waza Khwa district borders Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, where the Afghan Taliban wields considerable influence. The cities of Zhob and Qila Saifullah, where the jihadist group runs madrassas, recruiting centers, training camps, and command centers, are within 50 miles of the district.

Paktika province is also a stronghold of the Haqqani Network, a powerful subgroup that wields considerable influence within the Taliban. Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group’s founder, is a member of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, while Sirajuddin Haqqani is one of Mansour’s two deputy emirs.

The Haqqanis maintain close ties with al Qaeda and shelter the global jihadist group’s top leaders in Paktika to this day. At the end of July 2015, the US killed Abu Khalil al Sudani, a senior al Qaeda leader who took direction from Ayman al Zawahiri, in an airstrike in Paktika’s Bermal district. Sudani had a hand in al Qaeda’s external operations network, which plots attacks against the US and the West. On Sept. 14, Afghan intelligence said that it killed an al Qaeda commander known as as Khuram in the Gomal district.

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http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/09/taliban-overruns-outpost-in-eastern-afghanistan.php

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Afghan Villagers Hang Taliban Militants

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NBC news

Ghazni, Afghanistan

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Afghan villagers hanged four captured Taliban militants from a tree on Saturday as security forces battled the insurgents for a sixth day in a district of Ghazni province, an official said. The hangings were carried out after Taliban fighters had killed more than 100 people in the area in the past week, including more than a dozen who were beheaded, according to Ghazni deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi.

The battle in the Ajrestan district of Ghazni, southwest of the capital Kabul, is part of an escalation of Taliban attacks around the country as the militants take advantage of dwindling U.S. air support as foreign forces leave. The assault by an estimated 700 Taliban fighters began about six days ago but Afghan army commando reinforcements and the threat of NATO air strikes have so far prevented the district from falling under Taliban control, said Ahmadi. Heavy fighting continued on Saturday in Ajrestan, in the far west of the province.

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http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/afghan-villagers-hang-taliban-fighters-amid-raging-battle-n213031

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‘Friendly Fire’ Gets Wrong Fellers

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by Azam Ahmed

New York Times

June 10, 2014

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Five American Special Operations service members and at least one Afghan soldier were killed when a United States Air Force B-1 bomber unleashed an airstrike on their position in southern Afghanistan, in one of the deadliest instances of friendly fire in more than a decade of war, Afghan and American officials said Tuesday.

Investigators were looking into possible causes, including faulty coordinates, an errant bomb or other human errors.

The Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, said in a statement that five American soldiers had been killed “during a security operation in southern Afghanistan.” He added: “Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen.”

While the military had not identified the dead, relatives identified one as Aaron Toppen, 19, of Mokena, Ill., telling The Chicago Sun-Times he was deployed early this year, a month after his father died.

The deaths happened Monday night in the restive Arghandab district of Zabul Province, where troops were conducting security operations connected to the presidential runoff election on Saturday, said Ghulam Sakhi Roghliwanai, the province’s police chief.

As the mission drew to a close, Taliban militants ambushed the troops, Mr. Roghliwanai said. The troops called for air support, but were killed when the airstrike hit them.

Hajji Qudratullah Khan, a resident of the village of Giza, near where the airstrike hit, said the area is a Taliban stronghold, in a valley surrounded by mountains covered in bushes. He said the military had not been based in the area for some time, allowing the Taliban there to operate with impunity.

“Security is not good in the district,” he said. “We have only one school in the district center, it is for boys, and the rest of the area is controlled by Taliban.”

“I don’t think people will come out for election, because only the district center is secure,” he added.

Airstrikes have long been a point of contention between the Afghan government and the coalition forces, most often when they have caused civilian casualties.

Airstrikes that kill coalition soldiers have been less common. Since the war began, there have been more than a dozen cases in which airstrikes mistakenly killed allies, or gunfights erupted among coalition troops unaware they were firing on one another. Among the most highly publicized was the fatal shooting of the former National Football League player Pat Tillman, who was serving in an Army Ranger unit when he was killed by coalition fire in April 2004.

More recently, Afghan security forces have been the victims in such cases, including an airstrike in March that killed five Afghan soldiers in eastern Logar Province. That is in large part because there are fewer coalition soldiers fighting on the ground in Afghanistan other than Special Operations forces…

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Afghanistan Provinces

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The Taliban also released a statement about the airstrike, confirming their role in the ambush and claiming that their troops also ambushed a joint patrol in the Mizan district of Zabul.

As in the first round of the presidential election in April, Afghan forces have stepped up security operations ahead of the runoff vote on Saturday. Zabul Province is an especially challenging place to hold an election, with an unforgiving landscape and a heavy insurgent presence. In Arghandab district, just 183 ballots were cast in the first round of voting, the second-smallest number of ballots of any district in the province, according to the National Democratic Institute, an American-financed pro-democracy organization.

With the exception of a recent attack in Kabul on the convoy of the presidential front-runner, Abdullah Abdullah, the insurgents seem to be focusing their efforts to disrupt elections on more rural areas, where security is lighter or absent.

“They know that our security forces are now very capable of controlling the security situation in the cities, so they are targeting areas where it is difficult for the security forces to reach and defeat them right away,” said Hajji Abdullah Barakzai, a member of the Afghan Parliament for Zabul Province.

Perhaps the most devastating example took place last month in a mountainous area of northern Badakhshan Province, where the Taliban overran the district center, capturing 27 police officers and holding the government compound for nearly three days.

In the Charchino District of Oruzgan Province, Afghan officials said the Taliban marshaled hundreds of fighters to mount a coordinated assault on as many as 20 police checkpoints two days ago. After a long firefight, the Afghan forces were reported to have lost five men, while the Taliban lost nearly two dozen, said Dust Mohammad Nayaab, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

In another audacious militant attack in southern Afghanistan, gunmen on Tuesday abducted a busload of 35 teachers and students from Kandahar University who were traveling to visit their families during a school holiday week. The bus was stopped in Ghazni Province, where officials are scrambling to secure the release of the captives.

“We have not yet been contacted by any group who claims the arrests or kidnapping of the teachers,” said Hazrat Mir Totakhail, the chancellor of Kandahar University. “However, whoever is involved, we are asking them to free them, because the teachers are not involved in politics and are not supporting any political group.”

The Taliban also appeared confused about the abduction, with the group’s spokesman saying he did not know about the detentions. “If our mujahedeen did it, we will investigate who they are and what they are doing,” said the Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid. “If they prove to be university students and teachers, then we have no problem with them.”

He added: “Afghanistan is full of teachers and students. It is not a crime.”

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A Legacy Under Construction

Canada has spent $50 million on Dahla Dam in Afghanistan…

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By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

February 18, 2014

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SHAH WALI KOT, Afghanistan — It is one of Canada’s main legacies in Afghanistan, meant to bring prosperity and jobs and win the hearts and minds of the Afghans in Kandahar province. And it still isn’t fully functioning.

Situated around 35 kilometres north of Kandahar City, the massive Dahla Dam has been visited by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who highlighted it as one of his government’s “signature projects” in this destitute South Asian country. Bev Oda, then the international co-operation minister, called it “one of Canada’s most significant contributions to the Afghan people.”

When Canada’s diplomats, development specialists and soldiers left Kandahar in 2011, our involvement with the dam ended and the government declared the $50-million project a success. But even now, water doesn’t reach 30 per cent of the 500 kilometres of canals that Canada paid to refurbish, according to the U.S. army Corps of Engineers. That’s because the dam itself is not expected to be fully functional until at least 2017.

Afghan farmers told Canadian government officials 13 years ago that for the silt-clogged dam to work, it would have to be raised so more water could be trapped in the reservoir. Better yet, they said, build a new dam.

The job of raising the dam, which will cost between $150 million to $250 million, now falls to the U.S. government.

Some Afghans in the area blame the Canadians for not doing it, although that was never the publicly stated goal of the project. Others say much of the Canadian funding was wasted since it went to pay for security or high-priced foreign contractors and not Afghan labourers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada won’t detail how the money was spent, saying it cannot divulge a breakdown of the figures because it has to protect the commercial privacy of the firms involved. SNC-Lavalin, the main contractor, also won’t release a breakdown.

Accounting and accountability aside, Canadian diplomats and military officers say the work on the dam has been a resounding success. They say it provides water for farmers to irrigate large tracts of land, allowing them to grow various crops such as pomegranates. If people can make a living, Canadian officials say, support for the insurgents is undercut.

The Citizen recently visited the dam but at the insistence of the Kandahar governor’s office travelled with seven heavily armed bodyguards for protection against the Taliban as well as rogue police officers who might take the opportunity to harass foreign journalists for bribes. Contractors paid for by the U.S. government were working on fixing equipment at the site’s intake tower. Water at the base of the dam’s earthen wall was thick with brown sludge from the buildup of silt.

Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, whose command oversees domestic and military missions, was in Kabul in November and received a briefing from Canadian diplomats.

“The update I got was the investment made has had a huge positive impact already, agriculturally, water management, the whole nine yards,” he said. “Notwithstanding that it may not be at a particular end state or end date, the investment has paid out and it continues to pay out.”

Foreign Affairs says the project created 5,000 seasonal jobs, although some Kandahar residents doubt that actually happened. They suggest much of the money instead went to well-connected Afghans and high-priced foreign contractors, and they may have a point.

An estimated $10 million of the $50 million was spent on security, with an undisclosed amount paid to Watan Risk Management, a controversial firm providing for-hire gunmen and run by two Afghan men, Rashid and Rateb Popal.

Both have been convicted of drug-related crimes and Rateb has also been accused by a U.S. congressman of once being an interpreter for the Taliban.

Numerous reports state the men are related to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but a lawyer for the two denies that is the case. The U.S. military tried to blacklist Watan after allegations surfaced that bribes may have been paid to the Taliban. The firm has denied any wrongdoing…

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…U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan, however, did raise concerns in 2009 about the Dahla Dam project, alleging that it was being used by the Karzai family to consolidate its power in the region and to reward friends. They also noted the Watan connection to the project.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul was so concerned that it sent a confidential cable to Washington, later obtained by WikiLeaks, that highlighted the involvement of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s younger brother. The cable also highlighted the role of Watan’s Rashid Popal, who the diplomats stated was a cousin of Ahmed Wali Karzai.

The Americans described Ahmed Wali Karzai, also known as AWK, as the “kingpin of Kandahar” who headed a network of political clans that used state institutions to “protect and enable licit and illicit enterprises.”

The U.S. diplomats also warned that the Karzai family was trying to increase its political dominance over two of the most valuable resources in Kandahar — fertile land and water.

“Production and land values there will increase greatly as a result of Canada’s “signature” rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and irrigation works,” the U.S. diplomats warned. “Karzai businesses are also set to acquire multiple patronage benefits from Dahla Dam construction and security contracts but the main prize will be political control over long-term allocation of water flows.”

AWK, described by the Americans as “widely unpopular” in Kandahar for the way he wielded his power, successfully lobbied Canada on behalf of the Watan security company, the cable added.

Another 2009 report from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul noted that the Canadians were worried about Ahmed Wali Karzai and his suspected ties to the illegal drug trade.

AWK was assassinated in 2011 by his bodyguard and while the Taliban took credit, some suggest the killing may have been linked to his criminal activities.

Romel Punsalan, who oversees work on the Dahla Dam for the U.S. army Corps of Engineers, is aware of some of the controversy surrounding the project.

But he is more focused these days on trying to get the dam up to full capacity. Workers are fixing valves and the intake tower and are expected to be done by early 2015.

After that the Americans plan to raise the height of the dam by five metres. That should improve the volume of available water and deal with the silt that has built up over the last 60 years. It should also allow the irrigation ditches cleaned under the Canadian program to be fully utilized.

Punsalan hopes work on that phase will start this summer and be completed by 2017.

But he doesn’t know how it might be affected by the U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“I’m not sure what will happen,” Punsalan said from Kabul. “All I’m directed to do is continue planning and moving forward.”

The Dahla Dam is not the only such project to run into problems. About 95 kilometres northwest of Kandahar City is the Kajaki Dam, the main source of electricity for Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Like Dahla, it was built in the 1950s by an American company and deteriorated because of a lack of maintenance. Kajaki’s turbines still operate, albeit inefficiently.

The Taliban in the area have constantly attacked coalition troops and prevented any significant repairs. Dozens of soldiers have been killed in the ongoing clashes, including Canadian Forces Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede, a military photographer whose helicopter was shot down near Kajaki in 2007.

The ongoing problems were highlighted by Canadian Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, who warned that the situation was hindering international efforts in the province. “The lack of access to electricity continues to be one of the top concerns of the people of Kandahar, a problem which has been exacerbated by a turbine failure at Kajaki Dam,” Gauthier wrote in a February 2008 report obtained by the Citizen.

“The people of Kandahar continue to see an imbalance between (reconstruction and development) efforts conducted versus their stated needs. Specifically, they state that unemployment and lack of electricity are their greatest concerns but do not see corresponding (reconstruction and development) effort in those specific efforts.”

To improve the availability of electricity, NATO mounted one of its largest military operations in 2008: An estimated 4,000 soldiers, most of them British, were involved in transporting a new turbine from Kandahar Airfield to the Kajaki Dam.

The mission was heralded as one of the British army’s biggest success stories from Afghanistan.

Ultimately though, the effort was a failure. It was too difficult to truck in the cement needed to build a pad for the new turbine because of insurgent attacks. The Chinese company hired to install the machinery abandoned the project because it was too dangerous. The turbine sits, rusting, in a dirt lot near the dam, according to reports.

The U.S. government is now paying an American firm to install the turbine and other work will be done to refurbish the hydroelectric power system. The work on the $500-million project is ongoing and it’s unclear when the turbine will be installed, if ever.

In July 2013, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress his office remains “concerned about the prospects of success at Kajaki.”

In the meantime, with the Kajaki Dam still not functioning properly, the U.S. military has tried to solve Kandahar’s energy shortage a different way. In 2011 it paid for the installation of large, gas-powered generators in the city, capable of producing 20 megawatts of power.

The Americans will cover the $106-million cost of the generators and fuel until 2015.

After that, Kandahar City may be back to square one without a reliable source of electrical power; the Afghans can’t afford the fuel needed to keep the generators running.

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Karzai And The Taliban Fiddling

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by Azam Ahmed and Matthew Rosenberg

New York Times

Feb. 3, 2014

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KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States.

The secret contacts appear to help explain a string of actions by Mr. Karzai that seem intended to antagonize his American backers, Western and Afghan officials said. In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has continued to refuse to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington that he negotiated, insisted on releasing hardened Taliban militants from prison and distributed distorted evidence of what he called American war crimes.

The clandestine contacts with the Taliban have borne little fruit, according to people who have been told about them. But they have helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy endgame of the Afghan conflict even more volatile. Support for the war effort in Congress has deteriorated sharply, and American officials say they are uncertain whether they can maintain even minimal security cooperation with Mr. Karzai’s government or its successor after coming elections.

Frustrated by Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security agreement, which would clear the way for American troops to stay on for training and counterterrorism work after the end of the year, President Obama has summoned his top commanders to the White House on Tuesday to consider the future of the American mission in Afghanistan.

Western and Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the peace contacts, said that the outreach was apparently initiated by the Taliban in November, a time of deepening mistrust between Mr. Karzai and his allies. Mr. Karzai seemed to jump at what he believed was a chance to achieve what the Americans were unwilling or unable to do, and reach a deal to end the conflict — a belief that few in his camp shared.

The peace contacts, though, have yielded no tangible agreement, nor even progressed as far as opening negotiations for one. And it is not clear whether the Taliban ever intended to seriously pursue negotiations, or were simply trying to derail the security agreement by distracting Mr. Karzai and leading him on, as many of the officials said they suspected.

As recently as October, a long-term agreement between the United States and Afghanistan seemed to be only a few formalities away from completion, after a special visit by Secretary of State John Kerry. The terms were settled, and a loya jirga, or assembly of prominent Afghans, that the president summoned to ratify the deal gave its approval. The continued presence of American troops after 2014, not to mention billions of dollars in aid, depended on the president’s signature. But Mr. Karzai repeatedly balked, perplexing Americans and many Afghans alike.

 

Peace Contacts Fade

The first peace feeler from the Taliban reached Mr. Karzai shortly before the loya jirga, Afghan officials said, and since then the insurgents and the government have exchanged a flurry of messages and contacts.

Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Mr. Karzai, acknowledged the secret contacts with the Taliban and said they were continuing…

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Aimal Faizi, Karzai spokesman...

Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman

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Mr. Faizi said, “The last two months have been very positive.”  He characterized the contacts as among the most serious the presidential palace has had since the war began. “These parties were encouraged by the president’s stance on the bilateral security agreement and his speeches afterwards,” he said.

But other Afghan and Western officials said that the contacts had fizzled, and that whatever the Taliban may have intended at the outset, they no longer had any intention of negotiating with the Afghan government. They said that top Afghan officials had met with influential Taliban leaders in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in recent weeks, and were told that any prospects of a peace deal were now gone.

The Afghan and Western officials questioned whether the interlocutors whom Mr. Karzai was in contact with had connections to the Taliban movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose blessing would be needed for any peace deal the group were to strike.

Though there have been informal contacts between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders since the very early days of the war, the insurgents’ opaque and secretive leaders have made their intentions difficult to discern. Afghan officials have struggled in recent years to find genuine Taliban representatives, and have flitted among a variety of current and former insurgent leaders, most of whom had only tenuous connections to Mullah Omar and his inner circle, American and Afghan officials have said.

 

Western Outreach

The only known genuine negotiating channel to those leaders was developed by American and German diplomats, who spent roughly two years trying to open peace talks in Qatar. The diplomats repeatedly found themselves incurring the wrath of Mr. Karzai, who saw the effort as an attempt to circumvent him; he tried behind the scenes to undercut it.

Then, when an American diplomatic push led to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, Mr. Karzai lashed out publicly at the United States. Afghan officials said that to them, the office looked far too much like the embassy of a government-in-exile, with its own flag and a nameplate reading “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Within days, the Qatar initiative stalled, and Mr. Karzai was fuming at what he saw as a plot by the United States to cut its own deal with Pakistan and the Taliban without him.

In the wake of the failure in Qatar, Afghan officials redoubled their efforts to open their own channel to Mullah Omar, and by late autumn, Mr. Karzai apparently believed those efforts were succeeding. Some senior Afghan officials say they did not share his confidence, and their doubts were shared by American officials in Kabul and Washington.

Both Mr. Karzai and American officials hear the clock ticking. American forces are turning over their combat role to Afghan forces and preparing to leave Afghanistan this year, and the campaigning for the Afghan national election in April has begun. An orderly transition of power in an Afghanistan that can contain the insurgency on its own would be the culmination of everything that the United States has tried to achieve in the country.

“We’ve been through numerous cycles of ups and downs in our relations with President Karzai over the years,” Ambassador James B. Cunningham said during a briefing with reporters last week. “What makes it a little different this time is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple of months.”

Mr. Karzai has been increasingly concerned with his legacy, officials say. When discussing the impasse with the Americans, he has repeatedly alluded to his country’s troubled history as a lesson in dealing with foreign powers. He recently likened the security agreement to the Treaty of Gandamak, a one-sided 1879 agreement that ceded frontier lands to the British administration in India and gave it tacit control over Afghan foreign policy. He has publicly assailed American policies as the behavior of a “colonial power,” though diplomats and military officials say he has been more cordial in private.

Mr. Karzai reacted angrily to a negative portrayal of him in a recent memoir by the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and he is still bitter over the 2009 presidential election, when hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots were disqualified and, as he sees it, the Americans forced him into an unnecessary runoff against his closest opponent.

 

Domestic Interests

In some respects, Mr. Karzai’s outbursts have been an effort to speak to Afghans who want him to take a hard line against the Americans, including many ethnic Pashtuns, who make up nearly all of the Taliban. With the American-led coalition on its way out and American influence waning, Mr. Karzai is more concerned with bridging the chasms of Afghan domestic politics than with his foreign allies’ interests…

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…If the peace overture to the Taliban is indeed at an end, as officials believe, it is unclear what Mr. Karzai will do next. He could return to a softer stance on the security agreement and less hostility toward the United States, or he could justify his refusal to sign the agreement by blaming the Americans for failing to secure a genuine negotiation with the insurgents.

Mr. Karzai has insisted that he will not sign the agreement unless the Americans help bring the Taliban to the table for peace talks. Some diplomats worry that making such a demand allows the Taliban to dictate the terms of America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan. Others question Mr. Karzai’s logic: Why would the insurgency agree to talks if doing so would ensure the presence of the foreign troops it is determined to expel?

The White House expressed impatience on Monday with Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the agreement. “The longer there is a delay, the harder it is for NATO and U.S. military forces to plan for a post-2014 presence,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. “This is a matter of weeks, not months.”

The military leaders expected to attend the planning conference at the White House on Tuesday include Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of American forces in Afghanistan; Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the former Iraq commander now serving as head of the United States Central Command; and Adm. William H. McRaven, head of the United States Special Operations Command.

In recent statements, Mr. Karzai’s office in Kabul has appeared to open the door to a resolution of the impasse over the security agreement. The presidential spokesman, Mr. Faizi, has said that if one party is obstructing the American efforts to get talks going, the United States need only say so publicly.

“Once there is clarity, we can take the next step to signing” the agreement, he said.

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Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.

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Shrapnel From Afghanistan III

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Historic Shrapnel #20

Despite Pakistan’s assertion that the Taliban had solid Afghan roots, these had atrophied over time and would be hard to rebuild.  Taliban ideology was more Pakistani than Afghan, and while its popularity surged in Pakistan’s NWFP, fewer Afghans saw it as a model for the future.  Its Pakistani-based leadership could not wage an insurgency without the recruits, bases, and safe refuge it had access to there.  If Pakistan ever reversed its policy of support, as it did to Mullah Omar in 2001, the insurgency in Afghanistan would be dealt a fatal blow…

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Historic Shrapnel #21

The Taliban’s condemnation of the Karzai regime as subservient to the United States looked hypocritical in light of their own subservience to Pakistani interests…

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excerpts from the book

Afghanistan

A Cultural and Political History

by Thomas Barfield

2010

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Historic Shrapnel #22

Afghanistan had always been the “other war” under the Bush administration, starved of resources, attention, and troops in favor of Iraq.  By mid-2009 that status was reversed.  The number of casualties and war costs in Afghanistan exceeded those in Iraq for the first time.  The first surge of seventeen thousand U.S. troops was designed to both provide greater security for the Afghan election in August 2009 and lay the foundation of a new counterinsurgency strategy.  That strategy was confirmed in December when after months of deliberation, President Obama announced the dispatch of another thirty thousand additional troops to Afghanistan, putting U.S. forces over the one hundred thousand mark in 2010.  The planned size of the Afghan army and police was also greatly increased…

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Historic Shrapnel #23

Afghanistan was the only place in the region that the United States had a direct presence that could prevent the reconsolidation of Islamic extremists, and serve as a base for responses to potential state collapse in the surrounding countries of central Asia and Pakistan.  And the fear that nuclear-armed Pakistan might either disintegrate in the face of an Islamist insurgency or that its government could be seized by a radicalized military faction that supported the insurgency’s cause gave a U.S. presence in Afghanistan even more importance.  As had many foreign powers before it, the United States found its Afghan policy as much driven by events in south and central Asia as those within Afghanistan itself…

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Historic Shrapnel #24

Qandahar in the south, Mazar in the north, Kabul in the east, and Herat in the west, remain the leading cities that dominate their own large regions in Afghanistan…

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Historic Shrapnel #25

Both the United States and India have given priority to eliminating the power of radical Islamists, and hence are more in sympathy with each other than either is with Pakistan.  Such an alliance, if it were to occur, would mark the end of the cold war legacy that has undergirded U.S. support of Pakistan for more than a half century…

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Historic Shrapnel #26

Pride in the past is no bar to change in the future.  Perhaps the best recent example of this was the Pashtun leader, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, in the NWFP.  Inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, he founded the nonviolent Khudai Khitmatgar (“Servants of God”).  After taking an oath to foreswear violence, retaliation, and revenge, its eight thousand members divided into trained regiments, and devoted themselves to village improvement, education, and reform.  They also led the resistance to British rule in the region in which hundreds of their members lost their lives in nonviolent protests in the 1930s.  When the British left India, Ghaffar Khan remained a gadfly.  He was jailed by the Pakistani government in the 1960s when he protested against military dictators there.  That such a nonviolent movement could emerge and thrive in a culture that had raised revenge to a holy principle should caution anyone against believing that people or cultures are forever prisoners of the past.  It also stands as a challenge to the Afghans themselves to take the lead in breaking the cycle of violence that has generated so much suffering for so little benefit for far too long.

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edited by Rawclyde!

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