Pakistani Strikes Irk Taliban Boss

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by Bill Roggio

May 21, 2014

The Long War Journal

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A series of military strikes in the tribal agency of North Waziristan has caused a Taliban commander who is favored by Pakistan’s ruling class to reconsider his peace agreement with the military and the government.

A spokesman for Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who is considered to be a “good Taliban commander” as he does not advocate attacking the Pakistani state and instead directs his forces to fight in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban group’s executive council has met at an undisclosed location to reconsider its peace deal with the government. Ahmadullah Ahmadi, Bahadar’s spokesman, told Dawn that his forces “cannot remain silent over [the] bombardment on people.”

“The spokesman warned that the government would be responsible for any destruction in case it did not stop the military offensive,” Dawn reported.

The Pakistani military launched a series of airstrikes in the Miramshah and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan last night to punish groups responsible for “various terrorists’ acts of IED blasts and suicide attacks in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], KPK [the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], and Karachi,” the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) branch said in a statement released today on the attacks.

The ISPR claimed that “60 hardcore terrorists including some of the important commanders and foreigners were also killed in the strikes and around 30 were injured” during airstrikes that targeted “terrorist’s hideouts in North Waziristan Agency.” The reports cannot be confirmed; tribesmen in North Waziristan have claimed that civilians were the targets of the attacks.

An additional 11 “terrorists” and four soldiers, including an officer, are reported to have been killed during clashes in North Waziristan today.

The Pakistani military has launched similar punitive raids against Taliban fighters in North Waziristan this year, but the strikes have not been aimed at Bahadar’s group or the Haqqani Network, another Taliban group favored by the Pakistani military and government. Those strikes were directed at the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is at war with the Pakistani government, and also targeted allied groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Group.

Background On Bahadar & His Ties To Terrorist Groups

Bahadar, the senior leader in North Waziristan, is known to shelter top al Qaeda leaders and is one of the most powerful Taliban commanders in Pakistan’s tribal areas. His forces fight US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. Bahadar is also allied with and shelters the Punjabi Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and other terrorist groups that conduct attacks inside and outside of the country.

Bahadar has long been described by Pakistani officials as a “good Taliban leader” as he does not openly attack the Pakistani state and wages jihad against the US and NATO in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government and military have long rebuffed US pleas to conduct an operation against Bahadar and the allied Haqqani Network. In early May, the US ambassador to Pakistan yet again pleaded for Pakistan to take action in North Waziristan.

Bahadar and the Taliban maintain a “peace agreement” with the Pakistani military that allows him to run a state within a state in the remote tribal agency. Bahadar and his commanders have set up a parallel administration, complete with courts, recruiting centers, prisons, training camps, and the ability to levy taxes.

The peace agreement allows North Waziristan to serve as a base for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and nonaligned Taliban groups, as well as the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and a host of Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Punjabi Taliban.

Bahadar wields considerable power in North Waziristan. In July 2011, a spokesman for Bahadar claimed that there were no “militants” in North Waziristan, and that Bahadar’s Taliban faction has lived up to its terms of a peace agreement with the Pakistani military. But, as documented here at The Long War Journal numerous times, Bahadar provides support and shelter for top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from a number of Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups, including the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Bahadar’s Taliban subgroup is a member of the Shura-e-Murakeba, an al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban-brokered alliance that includes the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and the Mullah Nazir Group, another “good Taliban” group in South Waziristan. Mullah Nazir, the group’s former emir, was killed in a US drone strike in early 2013.

In June 2012, Bahadar suspended polio vaccination programs in North Waziristan in protest against the US drone strikes in North Waziristan. Bahadar has objected to the US drone strikes in the past. On Nov. 12, 2011, Bahadar suspended meetings with the government and threatened to attack the Pakistani state if it continued to allow the US to conduct attacks in areas under his control.

The US has conducted numerous airstrikes against terrorist targets in areas under Bahadar’s control. Of the 354 drone strikes that have taken place in Pakistan’s tribal areas, 99 of the strikes, or nearly 28 percent, have occurred in areas directly under the control of Bahadar. Numerous al Qaeda leaders have been killed while being sheltered by Bahadar.

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http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/05/pakistani_military_s_1.php#

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“Jihadis In Charge” Confirmed Dead

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Written by Bill Roggio

The Long War Journal

April 23, 2014

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The Afghan Taliban confirmed that its shadow governors for Kunar and Kandahar provinces were killed during combat over the past month.

The Taliban noted the deaths of Noor Qasim Sabari (or Noor Qasim Hayderi) and Abdul Wasi’ Azzam, the shadow governors of Kunar and Kandahar respectively, in a statement that was released on April 22 on Voice of Jihad, the group’s official website. Sabari and Azzam were described as the “Jihadi in-charge” of their provinces.

Sabari was killed “in a cowardly enemy airstrike in Kunar,” the Taliban stated, without releasing further details. The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s domestic intelligence service, claimed that Sabari and several senior commanders were killed in an airstrike that targeted “a gathering of the senior Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leaders.”

Also reported killed in the strike that killed Sabari were Qari Osman, the shadow district governor for Shigal; Qari Nasir Gajar, the chief suicide attack coordinator; Mullah Bashir Gajar, the IED coordinator; Qari Sherin, an assassination squad leader; and senior commanders Qari Zubair, Qari Latif, and Qari Tari. Their deaths have not been confirmed.

Azzam, the shadow governor of Kandahar, was “martyred in a firefight with enemy forces in Gerimsir [Garmsir] district of Helmand.”

Both leaders served in the Taliban over the span of three decades, according to the Taliban statement.

“The mentioned martyrs played important roles in Jihadi services throughout the country during the previous Jihad [likely a reference to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in the early 1990s], at the time of rule of the Islamic Emirate and during the harsh conditions of the current Jihad against the invading crusaders,” the Taliban said.

Airstrikes such as the one that killed Sabari in Kunar may become much more difficult for the US to execute as the drawdown continues. The Obama administration is seriously considering a force of less than 10,000 and possibly fewer than 5,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan after the end of 2014.

US military officials said that a small force would focus on securing its own base or bases, but that the reduced size would hinder the execution of counterterrorism operations and robust air operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda, which still maintain a presence in the country.

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Long War Journal

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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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_44791030_afghan_afp466b

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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Duty World By Rawclyde!

3ri4wmok5vwnl1t

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I am an American who backs whatever choice the Afghan people make in regards to the government we’ve been nurturing in their country.  I believe in free will.  I do not believe in tyranny.  Taliban believe in tyranny.

Most Americans with whom I am acquainted know next to nothing about Afghanistan ~ the country in which the United States has been waging war for around 12 years.  The two countries have a relationship ~ but it could be better ~ much better.  As far as I am concerned, that better relationship begins right here with me.  At times it may not seem so, but I’m quite serious about this.  Just because we’re getting a divorce certainly doesn’t mean we have to be enemies.  However, that might occur if the Taliban end-up ruling in Afghanistan.  But that’s up to the citizens of Afghanistan.

April 5, 2014, about a week from now, an election is on that nation’s schedule to happen, more intense & important than any to which I’ve ever been privy.  Lot’s of people are dying.  I’m sorry about that.  The fighting, as observed from my perch on the other side of our planet, is fierce.  And it’s between the Afghans, nobody else, although each side has its own back-up & loyal & un-loyal tribes.  Somehow, the Afghan government & my government have made it this way.  And it’s about as fair as it can get.  It’s just too bad there’s so much bloodshed.  I blame that on the Taliban.

They are the sons of Afghanistan ~ but not the only sons of that country.  I back the Afghan National Army.  They are also sons (and daughters) of Afghanistan ~ and are democratic rather than tyrannical like their fierce but not fiercer opponents, the Taliban, who governed for a while but not right now.  Presently, if the Taliban want to govern they must run for election, campaign & be elected ~ or blow the whole thing to pieces if the rest of Afghanistan and its brand new army let’s them.  Also, I must add, if the Taliban do get elected sometime in the misty future, they’ve got to uphold a democratic rather than instigate a tyrannical rule, or, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they quite possibly won’t be ruling for but a few months.

The Taliban have nobody to blame but themselves for the presence of my countrymen & others in Afghanistan.  You don’t coddle the murderer of 3,000 American citizens on American soil (September 11, 2001) and likely get away with it.  The staunch and fierce Taliban are doomed as long as they are unwilling to compromise ~ and that’s how they appear to be ~ uncompromising.  I’ve read that at one time they were kind of like folk heroes.  But it looks to me now that nobody likes them, not even their own people.  If they think their own people are only Pashtun, I beg to defer.  Their people now include all the other Afghans too.  Sorry.

One last thing ~ the Taliban or any other extremist-group highjacking of the Islamic faith is not appreciated by the truly religious anywhere on Earth.  Go ahead & ask Benazir Bhutto, the Islamic prime minister twice of Pakistan who was assassinated, as she rolls in her grave with each murder that the misled Talibanee commit in her neighboring country as well as in her own.

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new heros in town

Afghan National Army ~ new heroes in town

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http://dutypoeticslab.yolasite.com/dreaming-about-the-infantry.php

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Journalist & Family Laid to Rest

 

Sardar Ahmad & sons

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The Afghanistan Express Daily Newspaper

March 23, 2014

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KABUL – An Afghan reporter and his family, killed in last week’s attack on a luxury hotel here, were laid to rest in Kabul on Sunday. His relatives asked the government to stop addressing Taliban as brothers.  Sardar Ahmad, his wife and their two children were shot dead in the Taliban attack on Serena Hotel. Nine people, including foreigners, were killed in the assault.

Funeral prayers for Sardar and his family were held after their bodies were taken from the Sardar Daud Khan Hospital to their residence in the Shahr-i-Naw neighbourhood of Kabul. Hundreds of journalists, civil society activists and lawmakers attended the prayers at the Eidgah Masque. The AFP reporter and three of his family members were laid to rest in Qala-i-Zaman Khan locality.

Sardar’s nephew Toraj criticised the government’s policy that encouraged the Taliban who kill innocent people. “President Karzai calls the Taliban his brothers, which has led to increased attacks on innocent people; he should not call them brothers.”… (Pajhwok)

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How will Taliban Respond to Elections?

Tali
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by Thomas Omestad
U.S. Institute of Peace
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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As Afghanistan moves toward April 5 elections for president and provincial councils, key questions loom: Among them, just what will the Taliban do to disrupt or distort that nation’s exercise in democratically selecting its leadership, and what might those efforts accomplish?

Two Peace Briefs recently published by the Institute lay out contrasting takes on those questions. Yet taken together, they illuminate an urgent issue that is shrouded by several factors: rapidly evolving circumstances, the internal complexity of the Taliban and the sheer opacity of its decision-making and follow-through. These two pieces offer much for anyone trying to understand Afghanistan’s internal conflict at a critical moment in its history.

U.S. and allied governments are focused on the April political contests as a vital opportunity for the Afghan government to demonstrate its legitimacy as the presidency of Hamid Karzai ends and as foreign military forces fighting alongside the Afghan Army prepare to withdraw. It is to be the first democratic transfer of power from one Afghan president to another, and relative success could provide a boost to the country’s stability as the United States and others end combat operations and Afghan forces take on full security responsibilities.

If Afghanistan can overcome logistical challenges, possible attempts at vote manipulation and Taliban threats and still run generally credible and transparent elections, then the government’s standing among Afghans will be strengthened, as will its position in future peace talks with the Taliban, should they happen.

The general Taliban line has been that elections cannot be allowed as long as foreign troops remain in Afghanistan and that the United States, in particular, will have a dominant hand in shaping the outcome.

Indications of the violence to come have appeared even two months before the polls open. On February 1, two members of the campaign team of former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, one of the leading candidates to succeed Karzai, were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the city of Herat.

“The attack came at a critical moment for Afghanistan on the eve of the election campaign,” said a statement issued by United Nations Special Representative Jan Kubis. “This cowardly action constitutes a violent intimidation of electoral candidates and their supporters, and cannot be tolerated.” Kubis called for heightened vigilance in the weeks before the elections and for efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The USIP Peace Briefs, in differing ways, anticipate moves by at least parts of the Taliban to launch violent, election-related attacks.

In the first paper, “Electoral Offensive: Taliban Planning for Afghanistan’s 2014 National Elections,” authors Antonio Giustozzi and Casey Garret Johnson note that “the Taliban have more resources and are better organized to disrupt Afghanistan’s 2014 national elections than was the case in any of the country’s last four elections. Still, there are disagreements between insurgent leaders about carrying out a campaign of violence and intimidation.”

Giustozzi, an independent researcher and expert on the Taliban who is associated with King’s College London, and Johnson, a senior program officer at USIP, offer a fascinating glimpse into Taliban thinking on the election that is based on more than 50 interviews last spring with Taliban foot soldiers, subcommanders and leaders. What they reveal is more internal disagreement—suggestive of widely varying levels of anti-election activity—than might be expected.

One group of Taliban led by Akhtar Mansur and tied to the Quetta Shura leaned toward a more conciliatory approach, at least for a period of time, Giustozzi and Johnson say. Some Taliban even met with Afghan government figures “to discuss allowing the polls to go forward.” However, disrupting the election is favored by Taliban military commander Zakir and the Peshawar Shura, the authors say. Their research indicates that the Peshawar group is more unified in its stand against elections and better funded.

The Taliban have created a network of so-called “electoral commissions” in part to convince influential elders not to vote in elections. However, in at least some areas, Taliban operatives bought rather than destroyed voters’ cards, copied them and returned them to elders with instructions to wait for orders, according to the Giustozzi-Johnson paper. That leaves at least the possibility that Taliban in some areas will seek to influence instead of undermine elections.

Adding further uncertainty, fighters in some areas might cut local deals with candidates or power brokers in which the Taliban refrain from election attacks. That sort of bargaining has occurred in past elections, they say.

In general, “the prospect of disruption is particularly worrying because Taliban influence is greatest in the Pashtun south and east. The suppression of turnout in Pashtun areas could lead to an indefinite suspension of the polls or an outcome seen as illegitimate by those unable to vote,” the authors say. Attributing attacks to particular Taliban factions will also be difficult, in practice.

The second Peace Brief, “The Taliban’s View of the 2014 Elections,” observes that the Taliban publicly reject the legitimacy of the elections and have ordered their disruption—but have also “left field commanders with wide discretion on how to go about doing so.”

This piece is written by Michael Semple, a visiting professor and conflict specialist at Queen’s University Belfast, and draws on interviews with Taliban conducted between November and January.

Semple concludes that within the Taliban there is “no scope for any faction to cooperate” with the election process, though many follow the political races and comment on them in ways similar to the political class in Kabul. And, he argues, whatever intensity of violence emerges prior to the election, it is unlikely to “derail the overall process.”

The Taliban movement is hierarchical, with Mullah Omar retaining supreme authority. At all levels, Semple notes, Taliban say they are “boycotting” the elections.

But counter to the hierarchical tendency, the movement also functions like “a fraternity [which] means that local commanders and officials can use a high degree of discretion in choosing how they will conduct this opposition [to the elections],” Semple explains. That flexibility, or variation, in how the contests are opposed is a point of agreement with Giustozzi and Johnson. This aspect of Taliban structure will mean significant uncertainty about the scope of anti-election activity, probably up to the last moment.

Indeed, Semple says that some Taliban field commanders in eastern Afghanistan “expressed dissent” about general guidance to proceed with disrupting the elections, reportedly because they depend upon “maintaining local popular consent” to operate in some areas and attacks on civilians would undermine that. At the same time, in some provinces such as Ghazni, Afghan media have described cases of Taliban targeting civilians who have registered to vote. Such violence, Semple says, did not succeed in derailing the national voter registration campaign, in which 3.4 million additional cards were handed out last year.

He also refers to “rifts between pragmatists and hardliners” within the movement over whether to plan attacks on provincial council candidates.

Semple suggests that a 25 percent rise in violent incidents during the election period over what would have happened anyway is a “realistic” expectation. “Groups in the provinces will carry out more attacks than they would have otherwise, but the increase in violence will be less dramatic and widespread than hoped for by Taliban hardliners or predicted by their propagandists,” Semple writes.

Voting would likely be reduced in the rural south, southeast and east and generally in Pashtun areas, where the Taliban has more influence.

Semple believes that “the most significant impact of Taliban pressure” ultimately may not be the mayhem they unleash but rather the opportunities for electoral fraud they creates. How? The threat of Taliban attacks “will help create a category of stations which are difficult to monitor and inaccessible to voters and polling agents.” Any efforts to commit large-scale voting fraud, he argues, are likely to be concentrated in those areas.

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U.S. Institute of Peace

http://www.usip.org/category/countries/afghanistan

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Art courtesy of Ian Boa

http://www.ianboe.com/IB.html

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Taliban Key Commander Gives Up

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QALAT, Afghanistan, March 18, 2014 (Xinhua) — A Taliban key commander in southern Afghan province of Zabul has given up fighting and joined the government-backed peace process, provincial police chief Ghulam Jilani Farahi said Tuesday.

“Taliban key commander in Zabul province Mullah Daud has given up fighting and joined the peace process,” Farahi told Xinhua.

The former Taliban commander, after fighting the government and NATO-led forces over the past eight years, has laid down arms, Farahi said, adding that the decision would further boost the peace and reconciliation process in Zabul and adjoining provinces.

Taliban militants fighting the government have yet to make comment.

More than 4,000 militants have given up fighting and joined the peace process over the past one year in Afghanistan, according to officials, a claim rebuffed by the Taliban outfit as groundless.

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Taliban Polka

KrsnawithCow

~

Col. Sheena Johnson, U.S. Army

Forever, no matter what, with valor

Slips the yellow polka-dot burqa over her head

The silk toboggans down her She curves & rides!

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Krshna tells a another wild tale

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Oh oh, Taliban Bullah’s eyes are oat meal

His captured hand sloshes red syrup up & down her arrow

Remember, his hand is pinned to the ruin of the village mosque

Col. Sheena stands there & let’s it happen

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Tanya-Roberts-likes-what-she-hears

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Eyeball to eyeball, their eyeballs explode heaven

Sheena misses walkin’ down the block to the 7-ll

Sheena becoming Pluckame on the high Nuristan ridge

A dew drop plummets from a cloud passing by

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48c3ee5c-8798-4526-8626-661a73fafe97

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Outta the yellow burqa comes Sheena’s knife sharper than invisibility

Slices off the feathered end of the protruding stick

Habibullah’s hand slips off, he’s free

Musical notes glide outta his eyes singing “Marry Me”

~

RadhaKrishna01

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Suddenly Taliban surround the broken building

brandishing gun & rocket & stoic hypocrisy

Their holy war now gots only hate within

Gonna punish Habibullah real good for his handsome sin...

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Radha-Krishna-with-Gopis

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from Rawclyde!

The Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

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art

http://www.krishna.com/paintings

~

model

http://www.tanyaroberts.biz

~

text

Copyright Clyde Collins 2014

~

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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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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Taliban Reject U.S. Peace Pipe

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Written by Bill Roggio

The Long War Journal

January 19, 2014

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A top spokesman for the Afghan Taliban rejected the US’ call for the group to “put down their arms and begin peace talks,” a request that was made just one day after a Taliban suicide assault team killed 21 people, including two Americans, at a restaurant in Kabul.

“We strongly reject the American demand,” Zabihullah Mujahid, an official Taliban spokesman, said in an email sent to The Long War Journal. Mujahid’s statement was also published on the Taliban’s website, Voice of Jihad.

“America wants to turn a blind eye from a manifest reality and conveniently skip over the primary reason for the problems of Afghanistan,” he continued. Mujahid said that “the American invasion and its resultant barbarity” was the Taliban’s reason for continuing the fight.

“If America truly wants peace and stability for Afghanistan then it should immediately withdraw all its forces from our land and leave the Afghans to their own wills and aspirations,” he continued. “If America is adamant on war and occupation then it should wait for more deadly attacks.”

Mujahid was responding to an official statement by the White House that condemned the Jan. 17 suicide assault on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul that killed 21 people, including the IMF’s representative to Afghanistan, three UN workers, two Americans, two Brits, two Canadians, and a Danish citizen.

The Taliban claimed the Kabul attack was retaliation for the Jan. 15 raid in Parwan province that targeted a senior Taliban commander who is linked to the Haqqani Network and supports suicide bombings and attacks in the capital.

In the White House statement, the US reiterated that it wants to negotiate with the Taliban.

“We call again on the Taliban to put down their arms and begin peace talks, which is the surest way to end the conflict in a peaceful manner,” the White House statement said.

The US government has unsuccessfully pursued peace talks with the Taliban for the past five years as the Obama administration seeks to withdraw the bulk of the forces from the country by the end of 2014. Vice President Joe Biden is pushing for a residual force of less than 3,000 troops to remain in country, while the ‘zero option,’ or no US forces in country, is a distinct possibility. The administration believes that a peace deal with the Taliban will end the fighting and prevent al Qaeda from operating in the country.

Previously, the US has demanded that the Taliban denounce al Qaeda and join the Afghan political process. The demand that the Taliban denounce al Qaeda was dropped last year as the Taliban were permitted to open an office in Qatar. Western officials wanted the Taliban to use the office to conduct peace talks, but the Taliban insisted it was to be used to raise the profile of the group in the international community and serve as a “political office.” Additionally, the Taliban wanted to use the office in Qatar to secure the release of five al Qaeda-linked commanders who are being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay.

The Taliban signaled in early 2012, during another US push for peace talks, that they had no intentions of disowning al Qaeda, and refused to denounce international terrorism. A Taliban spokesman even said that al Qaeda is officially operating under the banner of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

“They [al Qaeda] are among the first groups and banners that pledged allegiance to the Emir of the Believers [Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban], and they operate in Afghanistan under the flag of the Islamic Emirate,” a spokesman to jihadist forums known as Abdullah al Wazir said in February 2012.

“They are an example of discipline and accuracy in the execution of missions and operations entrusted to them by the Military Command of the Islamic Emirate,” Wazir continued, calling al Qaeda “lions in war.”

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The Long War Journal

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Taliban Target Foreigners in Kabul

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Grand Mosque of Kabul constructed 2001-2009, no doubt payed for by “foreigners”

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Written by Bill Roggio

The Long War Journal

January 17, 2014

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The Afghan Taliban claimed credit for a suicide assault in Kabul today that killed more than 20 people, including the International Monetary Fund’s representative to Afghanistan and three UN employees.

A three-man suicide assault team targeted a Lebanese restaurant in a secured area of the capital that is frequented by Westerners, foreigners, and the Afghan elite. A suicide bomber detonated outside of the restaurant, while the other two Taliban fighters entered the building, shot at the customers, and fought with the guards for 20 minutes before being killed.

Twenty-one people, including the IMF’s representative to Afghanistan, three UN workers, two Americans, two Brits, two Canadians, and a Danish citizen were killed in the attack, according to Reuters.

The Taliban released a statement on their website, Voice of Jihad, taking credit for the attack. The Taliban claimed that their fighters “killed many foragers [foreigners], mostly German invaders.” The group routinely exaggerates the effects of its operations. The German foreign ministry has not confirmed that its citizens were among those killed.

Today’s attack took place just two days after Afghan and Coalition special operations forces targeted the Taliban’s deputy shadow governor for Parwan province, which borders Kabul. The Taliban leader, Qari Nazar Gul, is linked to the Haqqani Network and “transports weapons, fighters and suicide bombers to Parwan and Kabul,” ISAF stated. He supports the Kabul Attack Network, an alliance of jihadist groups that includes al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network and is tasked with executing attacks inside the capital.

The Taliban later released a statement claiming that the attack in Kabul was executed to avenge the Afghan and Coalition raid in Parwan province that targeted Gul.

The Afghan Taliban lauded suicide attacks against Western and Afghan targets as “heroic operations of the Mujahideen” in statement released on Voice of Jihad last summer.

The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using multiple suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic that is frequently used in Afghanistan by the Taliban and their allies, including the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Suicide assaults are also commonly executed by al Qaeda and jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

The Taliban have launched numerous suicide assaults against Coalition and Afghan bases. One of the more prominent attacks over the past several years was the Afghan Taliban’s assault on Camp Bastion in Helmand in September 2012; two US Marines were killed, and six Harriers were destroyed and two more were damaged.

The Taliban launched a failed suicide assault on an Afghan base in Nangarhar on Jan. 4; the seven members of the Taliban team were gunned down by security forces. One ISAF soldier was killed in the attack.

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http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/01/taliban_suicide_assa_17.php

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