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Outlook worsens in Afghanistan

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  • KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, July 22 (Reuters) - A second explosion rocked the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Saturday shortly after a suicide car bomber targeted U.S.-led coalition troops, a witness said.

    At least four local people were hurt in the second explosion.

    Earlier coalition spokesman Major Scott Lundy said a suicide car bomber had rammed a vehicle carrying foreign troops near the scene of the second blast.

    Blast rocks Afghan city after suicide attack - witness


    • The most senior British military commander in Afghanistan yesterday described the situation in the country as "close to anarchy" with feuding foreign agencies and unethical private security companies compounding problems caused by local corruption.

      The stark warning came from Lieutenant General David Richards, head of NATO's international security force in Afghanistan, who warned that western forces there were short of equipment and were "running out of time" if they were going to meet the expectations of the Afghan people.

      The assumption within NATO countries had been that the environment in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2002 would be benign, Gen Richards said. "That is clearly not the case," he said yesterday. He referred to disputes between tribes crossing the border with Pakistan, and divisions between religious and secular factions cynically manipulated by "anarcho-warlords".

      Corrupt local officials were fuelling the problem and NATO's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan were sending out conflicting signals, Gen Richards told a conference at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "The situation is close to anarchy," he said, referring in particular to what he called "the lack of unity between different agencies".

      He described "poorly regulated private security companies" as unethical and "all too ready to discharge firearms". NATO forces in Afghanistan were short of equipment, notably aircraft, but also of medical evacuation systems and life-saving equipment.

      Officials said later that France and Turkey had sent troops to Kabul but without any helicopters to support them.

      Gen Richards will also take command of the 4,500-strong British brigade in Helmand province at the heart of the hostile, poppy-growing south of the country when it comes under Nato's overall authority. He said yesterday that NATO "could not afford not to succeed" in its attempt to bring long-term stability to Afghanistan and build up the country's national army and security forces. He described the mission as a watershed for NATO, taking on "land combat operations for the first time in its history".

      The picture Gen Richards painted yesterday contrasted markedly with optimistic comments by ministers when they agreed earlier this month to send reinforcements to southern Afghanistan at the request of British commanders there. Many of those will be engineers with the task of appealing to Afghan "hearts and minds" by repairing the infrastructure, including irrigation systems.

      Gen Richards said yesterday that was a priority. How to eradicate opium poppies - an issue repeatedly highlighted by ministers - was a problem that could only be tackled later.

      General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the British army, said recently: "To physically eradicate [opium poppies] before all the conditions are right seems to me to be counter-productive." The government admits that Helmand province is about to produce a bumper poppy crop and is now probably the biggest single source of heroin in the world. Ministers are concerned about criticism the government will face if planting over the next few months for next year's crop - in an area patrolled by British troops - is not significantly reduced.

      Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister responsible for Afghanistan, told the Guardian that the immediate target had to be the biggest poppy cultivators and dealers who control the £1bn-plus Afghan drug trade.

      The strategy should be: "Go for the fat cats, very wealthy farmers, the movers and shakers of the drug trade" and their laboratories, he said. Asked about the concern of British military commanders that by depriving farmers - and warlords - of a lucrative crop, poppy eradication would feed the insurgency, Mr Howells admitted: "It's a big problem for us."

      Afghanistan close to anarchy, warns general


      • KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A suicide bomber slammed his explosives-laden car into a coalition vehicle in Kandahar Saturday, killing two Canadian soldiers and wounding eight others, officials said. Another bomber, in a simultaneous attack nearby, blew himself up and killed six Afghanis.

        A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for both blasts and warned of more as NATO prepares to take control of the volatile southern Afghan region.

        In western Afghanistan, suspected Taliban militants killed three Afghan policeman and one civilian in the town of Gelan in Ghazni province, police said.

        The attacks highlighted the continuing challenges confronting the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan allies as they battle still defiant Taliban militants.

        The southern regions, in particular, have witnessed some of fiercest fighting since the toppling of the Taliban regime in late 2001, and the militants have stepped up suicide attacks and assaults on Afghan and coalition forces as NATO beefs up its forces in the country to 16,000 from 9,700.

        In the first bombing, a suicide attacker rammed an explosive-laden car into a coalition vehicle, killing the two Canadians and wounding eight others, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a U.S.-led coalition forces spokesman.

        The soldiers were among some 2,200 Canadian troops deployed in the southern part of Afghanistan.

        In the second, attack, which occurred shortly after the first about 100 feet away, another attacker approached a crowd of people and detonated his vest, killing six bystanders and wounding another 20, said Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, adding that both bombers died in the attack.

        Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, said both suicide bombers were Afghans and threatened more suicide attacks and ambushes against the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces.

        The attacks came on the heels strikes by Afghan and U.S.-led coalition in the southern Helmand province over the past three days that left 19 suspected Taliban fighters dead, said Haji Ghulam Muhiddin, the provincial governor's spokesman.

        He said another 15 Taliban were also wounded Saturday, but managed to flee the area, which is one of the two southern districts briefly captured by militants earlier this week and then reclaimed by coalition and Afghan forces. A search was under way for those who fled.

        More than 800 people, mostly militants, have died nationwide since mid-May.

        Many from the U.S. force of at least 21,000 troops in Afghanistan are slated to be incorporated into the NATO force of mainly British, Canadian and Dutch troops. They have worked in tandem as part of an anti-terror campaign that has met with stiff resistance from Taliban fighters.

        But the U.S. will also maintain an independent combat force to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaida militants, including Osama bin Laden, whom authorities believe is being sheltered somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

        Also Saturday, coalition forces transferred an accused militant leader detained last week to Afghan authorities, the U.S. military said. Amir Gul Hassanyar was arrested July 16 in northern Kunduz province and allegedly carried out numerous roadside bombings and trafficked in weapons and drugs.

        Afghan suicide attackers kill 8 people, including 2 Canadian soldiers


        • 'New York Times' editorial:

          Things are not going well in Afghanistan, the original front in the war on terrorism:

          American and NATO casualties are rising in some of the deadliest fighting since 2001. The Taliban are enjoying a resurgence in presence and power, especially in their traditional southern and eastern strongholds. And with civilian casualties mounting and economic reconstruction in many areas stalled by inadequate security, the American-backed government is in danger of losing the battle for Afghan hearts and minds. If this battle is lost, there can be no lasting military success against the Taliban and their Qaeda allies.

          There is still a chance to turn things around. The first step must be enhanced security, so that foreign and local civilians can carry out reconstruction projects. That will require a large and long-term foreign military presence, with a large American component. Unfortunately, Washington is headed in a different direction. With the Army overstretched in Iraq and Congressional elections coming up, the Pentagon is moving to prematurely reduce already inadequate American troop strength.

          The plan is for European and Canadian NATO forces to step in and provide security for civilian teams in southern and eastern Afghanistan while the remaining Americans concentrate on fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This is a new variant of the Bush administration’s misbegotten theory that Americans should be war-fighters and leave nation-building to others.

          There are two big problems with this. First, in violent situations like that in southern Afghanistan, NATO can assure security only if America, its leading member, provides reconnaissance, transport and combat support. Second, the idea that American troops are there not to bring security to Afghans but to hunt down the Taliban — and too bad if Afghan civilians are caught in the cross-fire — is a disastrous approach to counterinsurgency warfare. It has not worked in Iraq and it is not working in Afghanistan.

          In the end, international military efforts can only buy time to build an Afghanistan its own people will fight to defend after Western troops leave. In addition to foreign aid, that will require improved performance by the government of President Hamid Karzai, which has been plagued by corruption and hobbled by the alliances it has made with local warlords to extend its authority beyond Kabul.

          In particular, the Karzai government has not made much of a dent in Afghanistan’s hugely profitable drug trafficking operations. Corruption and governmental feckless are only partly to blame. This is an area in which Afghanistan’s multiple problems have begun to feed off one another. A lack of credit and security has left farmers few economic alternatives to opium. Drug revenues feed corruption and make the warlords who run many of the trafficking rings more powerful. They, in turn, use their additional money and influence to recruit more fighters and expand into new areas, promoting wider instability.

          Building a stable Afghanistan that can stand up to the Taliban once Western soldiers leave is going to take many years, many billions of dollars and more foreign troops for longer than most Western governments are now prepared to contemplate. Yet signs of fatigue with the Afghan mission are already beginning to appear in Western capitals, including Washington. These must be resisted.

          Washington made the mistake of premature disengagement once before, after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal. That opened the door to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Sept. 11. If America now means to be serious about combating international terrorism, it cannot make the same mistake twice.

          Losing ground in Afghanistan


          • KABUL (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier and seven insurgents have been killed in two separate clashes in Afghanistan, coalition forces said on Tuesday, in the latest spate of violence in the country.

            Afghanistan is going through its bloodiest phase of violence since the ouster of the Taliban government in 2001, with most attacks occurring in the south where NATO will assume security responsibilities next week.

            Both incidents occurred on Monday, one in the southeastern province of Paktika and the other in eastern Kunar.

            Seven insurgents were killed in the Paktika clash after militants attacked a patrol with small arms and rocket propelled grenades, a forces statement said. A coalition soldier suffered minor shrapnel wounds.

            In Kunar, the American soldier was killed by militants during a coalition ground operation, backed by aircraft fire.

            The statement did not say if there were any casualties among the militants.

            More than 1,700 people have been killed since the start of the year in attacks by Taliban guerrillas and U.S.-led coalition operations.

            Most of the victims have been militants, according to Afghan and foreign commanders, but the death toll also includes civilians, aid workers, Afghan forces and over 70 foreign troops.

            Civilians are increasingly being caught up in the violence and on Tuesday an Afghan national was killed and four others wounded when the taxi they were traveling in hit a roadside bomb north of Kabul, NATO-led forces said.

            The Taliban have vowed to drive out foreign forces from Afghanistan and topple President Hamid Karzai's government.

            The rise in violence comes as NATO-led peacekeepers prepare to take charge of security from the coalition in six southern provinces, the main stronghold of the militants. The change in command will see NATO oversee all security except in the east.

            Separately, Younus Khalis, leader of a pro-Taliban faction, died last week, the Pakistan based Afghan Islamic Press quoted a statement signed by Khalis' son as saying.

            Khalis, who was in his late 70's, went into hiding in late 2003 when he announced a holy war against foreign forces in Afghanistan. His loyalists are active in some parts of southeastern Afghanistan.

            U.S. soldier, seven rebels killed in Afghan violence


            • They are doing well AlKhiyal... almost every newspaper mentions that the Afghans are with the Taliban especially after the people noticed the Americans have not done anything for them, on the contrary, they killed civilians, imprisoned them, dishonorred and humiliated their women, and the proverty is on the increase.

              I really doubt that this puppet government of karzai will stay long.



              • The only media that calls the Taliban, Iraqi resistance, Hamas, Hizbullah..etc terrorists is the American and the Israeli media.... the language has changed alot over the past year or so. . .they became insurgents, fighters, guerilla, militia,... but not terrorists.

                They are all afraid to refer to the Americans and the Israelis as terrorists, cos they are the ones causing most terrorism in this world.



                • KABUL, July 26 (Reuters) - An unidentified plane crashed in southeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, reportedly causing casualties, but few other details were available, Western and Afghan officials told Reuters.

                  The plane had taken off from the southeastern province of Khost, where U.S.-led coalition forces have a base, before crashing in a nearby province, Afghan officials said.

                  A Western source said he had heard reports of casualties, but had no further information.

                  A spokesman for the coalition forces in Kabul confirmed the crash, but said he had no details.

                  The crash occurred in an area where Taliban insurgents are active.

                  Plane crashes in Afghanistan, casualities reported


                  • KABUL, July 27 (Reuters) - All 16 people aboard a helicopter, including several foreigners, were killed in Wednesday's crash in rugged mountain terrain in southeastern Afghanistan, foreign military officials said.

                    Colonel Tom Collins, a spokesman for U.S.-led coalition forces, said 12 bodies had been recovered from the site, which had been secured by foreign troops.

                    He said the cause of the crash was not known, but it took place in an area where insurgents are active.

                    A Taliban spokesman said militants had shot down the helicopter. Insurgents have in the past claimed responsibility for shooting down aircraft, but their reports have often proved unfounded.

                    The helicopter, destined for Kabul after taking off from Khost, was ferrying contractors working for a reconstruction company.

                    A spokesman for NATO-led troops Major Luke Knittig said at least two coalition soldiers were killed. Details on the nationalities of those aboard were not immediately available.

                    Helicopter crash kills 16 in Afghanistan - officials


                    • KABUL, July 29 (KUNA) -- At least 18 Taliban fighters and four policemen have been killed in southern Afghanistan as NATO commanders announced the anti-insurgents "Operation Mountain Thrust" will end at the close of this month.

                      British commander David Richard told journalists on Saturday they would extend long term support to Afghanistan. He said after taking over command of security in the region, the alliance would deploy 9,000 troops there.

                      He said the ongoing operation against Taliban will be ended as the 26-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) take charge of security from the coalition forces by the end of this month. The "Operation Mountain Thrust" was started in mid May this year and the military said more than 600 Taliban had so far been killed in the southern parts.

                      Meanwhile, 18 Taliban fighters and four Afghan policemen were killed in separate operations and attacks in southern and northern parts of Afghanistan over the past 24 hours.

                      Interior Ministry's spokesman Yousuf Stanizai told reporters 14 Taliban insurgents were killed during an operation in the Garmser district of Helmand province. Four more Taliban were killed in the Kapisa province in a clash with police, said the spokesman.

                      In a separate attack by Taliban fighters, two policemen were killed and two others wounded in the same province, official sources told KUNA. Two more policemen were killed when unidentified assailants attacked a police post in the northern province of Balkh last night. Provincial police department said the attackers fled the scene. Without naming any one, police spokesman Sher Jan Durrani said they had launched investigations into the incident.

                      22 killed in fresh Afghan violence


                      • KABUL (Reuters) - Two British soldiers were killed and a third is missing and presumed dead after an ambush in southern Afghanistan the day after NATO forces took over the region from U.S. troops.

                        A British convoy was attacked on Tuesday by rebels using rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns in Helmand province - one of the most dangerous in the country - a MoD spokeswoman said in London.

                        "Two U.K. soldiers have died. One is missing presumed killed and another is seriously injured," she said.

                        A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf, said the group carried out the ambush, killing six NATO soldiers. He said the rebels had killed another seven in a separate clash further south.

                        But an ISAF spokesman rejected the Taliban death toll claim.

                        Taliban guerrillas and drug barons have been operating for years in Helmand, the biggest drug growing area in a country that is the world's major heroin producer.

                        Residents said heavy fighting erupted in Musa Qala district where the soldiers were ambushed.

                        The ISAF spokesman confirmed the fighting, saying it was part of an ongoing operation but giving no further details.

                        On Monday, NATO forces took over security in the south from the U.S.-led coalition to begin one of the biggest ground operations in the alliance's history and allow the United States to withdraw about 3,000 soldiers from the country.

                        More than 1,700 people have been killed in the Taliban-led insurgency, attacks by drug barons and operations by U.S.-led forces this year, mostly in the Taliban heartland in the south.

                        The violence is the bloodiest since the U.S.-led coalition overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

                        NATO troops, mostly from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, have been taking up positions in the south for the past few months and have already been engaged in heavy fighting with Taliban guerrillas, in some cases allied with drug runners.

                        British forces lead the command of NATO in Helmand where six British soldiers have been killed in combat in six weeks.

                        The NATO takeover should allow the U.S. army to trim the size of its force from 23,000 to 20,000 and the alliance is expected to expand its mission this year into the east where the militants are also active.

                        On Tuesday, Afghan and coalition forces detained four suspected al Qaeda operatives during a raid on a village in the south-eastern province of Khost, a coalition statement said.

                        The raid was part of an operation to stop attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, and smuggling of explosives.

                        Two British troops killed in Afghanistan


                        • KABUL (Reuters) - A blast in a car killed at least one man and wounded two more in the Afghan capital on Wednesday, police said.

                          The cause of the explosion was unclear, said Ali Shah Paktiawal, a senior police official for Kabul. The blast occurred on a main road to the south of the city center.

                          Afghanistan is going through the bloodiest period of violence since U.S.-led coalition troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

                          Taliban guerrillas are mostly active in southern and eastern areas where more than 1,700 people have been killed this year in attacks by militants, drug gangs and in operations by foreign forces.

                          Eight people were killed and 16 wounded in a car bomb in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Monday, the day when NATO forces took over security of the volatile south from U.S.-led forces.

                          Car blast in Afghan capital kills at least one


                          • Afghanistan is to deport hundreds of visiting South Korean Christians after Islamic clerics demanded their expulsion, accusing them of trying to spread Christianity.

                            About 2,000 Koreans say they came to Afghanistan for a "peace festival and educational and entertainment programmes".

                            Kang Sung Han, a member of the visiting Korean team in Kabul, said on Thursday: "Yes, yes, we have been told to leave Afghanistan because of security concerns".

                            Han said the Koreans in Kabul have been confined to their accommodation while those outside the capital are preparing to leave the country.

                            A foreign ministry official in Seoul said the Afghan government had already deported 35 of the evangelical Christians in the past few days and would soon send home another 900.

                            "The government has started the process of deporting the South Koreans, but securing available planes to take them back to South Korea would not be a easy job," the official said.

                            Hundreds of Islamic clerics rallied in an ancient mosque in a the north of Afghanistan on Wednesday to demand the Koreans' expulsion after accusing them of trying to spread Christianity.

                            In February, thousands demonstrated against the release of a man facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity from Islam.

                            The man, Abdur Rahman, was released from prison and left for Italy after international condemnation of the sentence by Western leaders and Pope Benedict.

                            Afghanistan to deport Christian group


                            • At least 21 Afghan civilians have been killed in a suicide car bomb attack on a NATO troop convoy in the southern province of Kandahar.

                              Thirteen people were also injured in Thursday's blast at a local market in the Panjwayi district, said Iyousef Stanezai, an interior ministry spokesman.

                              No NATO troops were hurt by the blast, a NATO spokesman said

                              However four NATO soldiers were killed six wounded during a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the outskirts of Kandahar on Thursday, the spokesman said.

                              Earlier on Thursday, a Canadian soldier from the NATO force was killed and four wounded in roadside bombings, also near Kandahar.

                              The attack, which took place just days after NATO took over security from US troops in the increasingly volatile south, is one of the bloodiest in Afghanistan for months.

                              Four NATO soldiers have been killed since the group assumed security control of southern Afghanistan on Monday.

                              Six other NATO soldiers have been killed in recent months as NATO stepped up its deployment ahead of the takeover.

                              The Taliban, intensifying operations in recent months, have vowed to topple President Hamid Karzai's US-backed government and drive out foreign forces.

                              Afghan suicide attack 'kills 21'


                              • Four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghan attacks


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