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Afghanistan

Afghan News Round Up for May 2013 part two, compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service

In High Places

President Hamid Karzai is constitutionally prohibited from running for a third term on April 5 2014. His older brother Qayum will be a presidential candidate.

"Qayum will announce his candidacy soon and will represent our political movement ... the party will run his election campaign," said Mahmoud Karzai in an interview at his home in Kandahar.

Qayum Karzai will have the backing of De Woles De Mulatar Baheer, or the Movement for the Support of the People. Pashtun dominated, the group has no affiliation with Hamid Karzai.

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Afghan News RoundUp April 2013 - part two

Afghan Artists

Since 2001, Afghan artists have worked in relative freedom. Will it endure ?

The Taliban banned music. Public concerts are now common, though not universally. In March, in Ghazni province, a show was banned after local officials reportedly described music as "forbidden."

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Afghan News Roundup - April 2013 compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service

On the next page : The return of Nancy Hatch Dupree, the non-return of an Afgantsy, photographers, feminists and Facebook fraud.

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By Alex Shone, UK Defence Forum Research Associate in Residence

The total number of drone attacks for 2011 has now reached 19 according to the Long War Journal resulting in a total of 83 insurgent and terrorist casualties. The journal now reports at least 21 civilian casualties as a result of attacks.

March has been a month of steady drone activity. Notable events were the controversial attack on the 17th March which is thought to have killed a large number of suspected militants, though perhaps also to have killed civilians.

It is also worthy of note the reaction by militant groups in the region to the drone strikes, particularly the strike of the 17th. Action taken by the militants against those they deem as 'spies', the human intelligence assets helping to target drone strikes, appears to have intensified.

28th March:

The Taliban have created a group assigned to hunt down tribesmen suspected of providing information to the CIA that enables the Predator campaign to target terrorist leaders in Pakistani tribal areas.

The group, known as the Lashkar-e-Khorasan, or Army of the Khorasan, was established in North Waziristan last year by both the Haqqani Network and Taliban forces under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The creation of the group was confirmed by Pakistani intelligence officials, tribesmen, and members of the Taliban.

22nd March:

A "dual hatted Taliban and al Qaeda commander" who leads forces on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border has threatened to avenge a recent controversial Predator strike in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Qari Zia Rahman, who commands both al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, threatened to retaliate against US forces in Afghanistan for the March 17 Predator strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The strike, which was denounced by top Pakistani military and political leaders, killed more than 30 people, including 10 Taliban fighters and a senior lieutenant loyal to North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.

21st March:

The Taliban executed four more so-called 'US spies' who were accused of providing information that led to last week's controversial Predator airstrike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.

The Taliban also accused the men of aiding the US in the March 17 Predator strike that killed more than 30 people, including 10 Taliban fighters and a senior lieutenant loyal to North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar.

17th March:

US Predators carried out another attack in the al Qaeda haven of Datta Khel in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, the second in the area in two days.

Reports as to the precise number of casualties differ as do those surrounding the target of the strike. It is believed that a large number of militant fighters were among the dead, as were civilians and even perhaps members of the security forces.

This strike was strongly and openly condemned by Pakistan's top military commander, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

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Since December 6th the United States has carried out six unmanned airstrikes:

December 10th: Four 'militants' were killed in an airstrike against a vehicle and compound in the village of Khadar Khel, Datta Khel, North Waziristan. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were thought to be amongst the casualties.

December 14th: Two missiles were fired at a vehicle travelling through the village of Spalga, Miramshah, North Waziristan. Four 'militants' were killed in the attack.

December 16th: The United States carried out their first unmanned airstrike outside of North Waziristan since late September. Unmanned aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle travelling in the Tirah Valley, Khyber. Seven 'militants' believed to be from Swat and South Waziristan were reportedly killed in the attack. The airstrike was only the second undertaken within the Khyber region since the US began its unmanned campaign in 2004.

December 17th: The Khyber region remained the focus of US airstrikes for the second day running. Three separate strikes reportedly resulted in the deaths of 54 'militants'. Fifteen were reported killed in an attack on a compound in the village of Shandana in the Tirah Valley; seven were killed in an airstrike on a similar building in the village of Nakai, Malik Deen Khel. According to reports, 32 members of the Lashkar-e-Islam were killed in an attack on a compound in the village Speen Drang, Tirah Valley. As with all recent attacks no senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were amongst the casualties.

According to the Long War Journal the recent relocation of the unmanned campaign to the Khyber region may represent a shift in US strategy. The Khyber – and in particular the Tirah Valley – has become a hub of Taliban and al Qaida activity. This came in response to Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan in late 2009.

 

In my statement to the House on 27 October, I said that the Government would update Parliament on developments in Afghanistan every month. This is part of our commitment to keep Parliament regularly informed. This first monthly report covers a range of issues: the Lisbon Summit, Afghanistan's Parliamentary Elections, governance and regional engagement. Future reports will update on progress in Afghanistan.

The Rt. Hon. William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

Lisbon Summit

Afghanistan was at the heart of the NATO Lisbon Summit on 19-20 November, demonstrating the high priority that NATO places on its efforts to build a secure and stable Afghanistan.

All 48 nations contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) reaffirmed their enduring commitment to Afghanistan's security and stability. They also welcomed the participation and support of other international partners at the Summit, including the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and Japan, with all of whom ISAF shares a common vision for a better Afghanistan.

The ISAF Commander, General David Petraeus, reported that progress had been made on several fronts: the momentum of the insurgency had been broadly arrested across Afghanistan –though not in all locations – and reversed in a number of key areas; the area under the Afghan Government's control continued to expand and the Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF) was proving to be an increasingly effective force, having successfully provided security for two nationwide elections in 2009 and 2010.

ISAF partners agreed that they would work in partnership with the Afghan Government to deliver President Karzai's objective of transitioning lead security responsibility to the ANSF, in all provinces, by the end of 2014. Transition to Afghan lead security responsibility will be dependent on the conditions in each district and province. It will see ISAF's role evolve away from combat towards increased training, mentoring and support. The transition process is on track to begin in some provinces and districts in early 2011 following a joint Afghan and NATO/ISAF assessment and decision.

In advance of the Summit NATO asked ISAF partners to fill additional training positions that would help the NATO Training Mission to Afghanistan (NTM-A) continue to meet targets for expanding the Afghan National Army (ANA)and Afghan National Police (ANP). The Summit reported a strong response from partners. The UK had already announced a contribution of approximately 320 additional trainers. Canada confirmed that it would deploy a training mission with approximately 700 military trainers, 200 support troops and 45 police; Italy pledged an additional 200 trainers; Portugal 42; Croatia 30; and Bulgaria three additional mentoring and training teams. Other countries confirmed that they were considering new pledges, which would be discussed at a Force Generation Conference at the end of November.
Although the NTM-A priority shortfalls have therefore been met, the UK will continue to press our international partners to ensure that NTM-A continues to have the resources to fulfil its mission.

Looking beyond ISAF's current mission, NATO and Afghanistan agreed at the Summit the framework of a long-term partnership. NATO agreed to provide sustained practical support for Afghanistan, while the Afghan Government affirmed that it would be an enduring partner to NATO and committed itself to carry out its responsibilities in a manner consistent with the commitments made at the London Conference of January 2010 and the Kabul Conference of July 2010. These would include measures to combat terrorism, address corruption and support regional security. NATO and the Afghan Government will now agree the details of a co-operation programme to take forward this partnership.

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By Nick Watts, Defence Correspondent, Great North News Services

British military sources are confident that the Afghan National Army will be ready to take over operations from ISAF by 2014. At the Lisbon summit NATO committed itself to hand over counter insurgency operations to the Afghan National Army (ANA) by the end of 2014. Recently the British prime minister spoke of beginning to withdraw personnel as early as next year. British experience of partnering with 3215 Brigade ANA, which was raised in February this year, is cited as a good example of how this ambition is progressing. Much depends on this process succeeding.

NATO leaders recognize that the way to ensure that ISAF can hand over by 2014 is to step up the tempo of training of the ANA. The target for recruited and trained strength of the ANA is 171,600 by November 2011. Currently there are 144,000 trained soldiers in 28 Kandaks (Battalions). Following the transition of ISAF forces from Mentoring to partnering the emphasis has shifted to putting ANA forces in the lead on operations, with British and other ISAF forces in support. This has meant that the quality of soldiers needs to be raised.

The priority of the ANA is to concentrate on counter IED training (CIED), which Afghan soldiers take pride in doing well. Another priority is to improve medical training. In parallel with this is the need to improve absenteeism, which is addressed through better pay, and illiteracy which is being addressed by putting 34,000 soldiers through literacy training.

Putting the ANA into the front line more has had the effect of raising their self esteem, according to MOD commanders. The NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTMA) estimates that as of November 2010, of 28 ANA Kandaks, seven are capable of undertaking operations with minimal advice; ten remain reliant on ISAF for direct assistance; nine are at an early stage of development and a further two are still being assessed. British officers admit that the ANA is being fashioned from the bottom up and that future senior leaders will emerge from the current cadres of middle ranking officers. Technical training is increasing alongside tactical training, but this will take time.

British experience with 3215 ANA Brigade has been positive. A small operation OMID DO was undertaken earlier this year, which the ANA planned and lead. There were no major tactical engagements with insurgents but the new partnering system proved itself. A subsequent larger scale operation OMID CHAR was launched in support of the governor of Garesh district, again with ANA elements taking a leading role. British commanders are upbeat about progress, but admit that General Petreaus's ambition to increase the tempo of operations against the insurgents will require a close eye to be kept on how the ANA progresses.

 

Since November 3rd the United States has carried out 10 unmanned airstrikes.

November 7th: The US carried out two airstrikes in North Waziristan today. Unmanned Predators or Reapers first attacked a vehicle and a compound in the village of Ghulam Khan in the Miramshah area. Nine 'militants' were reported killed in the attack.

The second attack targeted a vehicle in the village of Maizer, Datta Khel. Five 'foreigners' – the term used to describe Arab and Central Asian operatives – were killed in the strike.

No senior al Qaida or Taliban figures were reported killed in the attack.

November 11th: Six missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Gulli Khel, Ghulam Khan. The attack targeted a group of 'fighters' returning to North Waziristan from Khost province in Afghanistan. Of the six killed in the attack none were believed to be senior operatives. However the nature of the strike suggests that a senior figure or wanted operative was the main focus of the attack.

November 13th: An unmanned airstrike targeted a compound and a vehicle in the village of Ahmad Khel in the Mir Ali region of North Waziristan. Whilst Pakistani officials claimed four 'militants' were killed in the attack, reports from the scene also suggested that civilians may have been killed in the strike.

November 19th: Three 'militants' were killed in an attack on a vehicle travelling in the village of Norak, Mir Ali. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were believed to be amongst the casualties.

November 21st: The US struck a compound and vehicle in the village of Khaddi, near Miramshah. Pakistani intelligence officials initially indicated that six 'militants' were killed in the attack. However later press reports speculated that nine 'militants' were killed and that three civilians harbouring operatives were also amongst the casualties.

November 22nd: The second attack in as many days targeted a vehicle and motorcycle in the village of Khushali, Miramshah. Five 'militants' were reported killed in the attack, yet none were believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives.

November 26th: An unmanned airstrike today against a vehicle travelling within the village of Pir Kali, Mir Ali, North Waziristan. The area is known to host a number of al Qaida operatives. Yet of the four killed in the attack none were deemed to be senior figures.

November 28th: The US undertook a similar strike against a vehicle as it travelled within the village of Hasan Khel, Mir Ali. Despite the continued concentration on a region known to host al Qaida operatives, the four 'militants' killed in the strike were not thought be senior figures in this movement or the Taliban.

December 6th: After a period of relative quiet the United States today struck a vehicle and a compound in the village of Kyshore, Datta Khel. The U.S. drone first attacked the 'militants' vehicle, killing two whilst another three escaped. The drone then attacked a shop hiding the others. This strike killed the three 'militants' whilst wounding three others.

According to the Long War Journal the United States has carried 106 unmanned airstrikes to date throughout 2010. This is a 50% increase from last year, and just over 50% of all airstrikes undertaken since 2004. The focus of attacks has overwhelmingly been North Waziristan. To date, 92% of all strikes have been carried out here in comparison with 7% in South Waziristan. Interestingly there has been a significant shift in the targeting of al Qaida/Taliban factions. In 2009 the main focus of attack was the Mehsud network. However 2010 saw an increase in attacks on Bahadar network and to a lesser extent the Haqqanis.

 

Speech by General Sir David Richards KCB CBE DSO ADC Gen ,Chief of Defence Staff, The Policy Exchange, Monday 22nd November 2010

Over the past month I have been getting to grips with my new appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff. Whilst I do not have time to ponder it too much, I am genuinely still somewhat baffled how I have ended up in this position. The 18 year old boy who joined 29 Commando Regiment to follow his brother would not recognise the rather care-worn man who stands before you – and would have quailed at the thought of high rank dismissing it without doubt as ridiculous anyway.

The job will not be simple, but it will be made easier by the fact that I know I will be supported by some of the most capable, dedicated and selfless soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that this country has ever produced. And by the civilians in the MOD who have again and again demonstrated their skills and commitment.

I am not going to dwell on people in this talk other than to say that if we fail to attract and retain the very high quality people that historically join the British Armed Forces, our prospects for the future will diminish markedly. They lie at the heart of military capability. I am not certain the consequences of failing in this are always fully appreciated. People tend to focus more on the kit and metal than the people.

Over the next decade we will need every ounce of their dedication because the issues that we, in Defence as a whole, have to address are diverse and challenging. And, as was the case with every one of my predecessors, I recognise that the outcome of our efforts must meet the very real challenges confronting us. It is vital for the future security of our nation.

I speak at a time when all three services are heavily committed to operations. In Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa, in the Gulf and in the Falkland Islands, to name a few prominent examples, the Navy, Army and Air Force are together ensuring the UK's interests are defended. They and the civilians who work alongside them across the Ministry of Defence, and indeed on operations themselves, have rarely been pushed so hard. Current commitments demand our endurance and test our resolve. But I have no doubt that with the support of the people of this country – support not only for who we are but for what we do – the Armed Forces will meet every challenge thrown at us. I am confident that they will not let you down.

I wanted to talk to you this evening about three things:

First, the National Security Strategy which is the guiding document for our analysis. It set the strategic context for and then shaped the Strategic Defence and Security Review, as it will the follow-on work. It is, in military speak, our Commander's Intent.
Secondly, the Review itself; the options we had, the choices we made and the military judgments that lay behind them. As with any outcome that is properly strategic in its approach, our military judgments are matched to the resource it is deemed the country can afford. This has required the difficult decisions we have taken to be a reasoned balance of acceptable risks.

And third is Afghanistan; the last in this list but the absolute priority of the National Security Council and the Armed Forces. The Defence Secretary reiterated in parliament this month that it is our main effort. And as I have said in the past, our actions in Afghanistan are vital for the short and long term national security of our country. The consequences of the choices made there will reverberate for many years to come, on international security and stability but also on the ability of Britain to exert influence worldwide.

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Since October 13th the United States has carried out 12 unmanned air strikes.

October 15th: The United States today launched a pair of unmanned air strikes against villages in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan. The first strike hit a compound in the village of Marchi Khel, killing five 'militants'. The second attack on a vehicle in the village of Aziz Khel killed an additional four 'militants'. No senior Taliban or al Qaida operatives were reported killed in the attacks.

October 18th: Six missiles were fired at a compound and vehicle in Sunzalai village, Datta Khel, North Waziristan. Six 'militants' were reported killed in the attack, with an additional five injured. Interestingly, four Predators appeared to circle over the scene after the attack.

October 27th: The United States launched its first strike in nine days with two attacks on targets in North Waziristan. The first attack struck a compound in the village of Spin Wam, Mir Ali. The target was a house belonging to a militant identified as Nasimullah Khan. According to the Associated Press foreign fighters were reported to be staying at the house. Two 'militants' were reported killed in the attack.

The second strike hit a vehicle in the village of Degan, Datta Khel. Two Arab al Qaida members and two 'Westerners' were reported killed in the attack.

In both instances, the exact targets of the strikes remain unclear, and no senior operatives were thought to be amongst the victims.

October 28th: The US launched their third attack in two days against a compound in the village of Ismail Khan, Datta Khel. Seven 'militants' were reported killed and were wounded.

November 1st: Two missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Haider Khan, Mir Ali, North Waziristan. According to Pakistani security sources the compound belonged to a local tribesman and was believed to be sheltering local 'militants'. Six 'militants' were reported killed; however none were thought to be senior operatives.

November 3rd: Thirteen 'militants' were killed in three separate airstrikes within North Waziristan. In the first strike four 'militants' were reported killed after two missiles were fired at a vehicle in Qutub Khel, a suburb of Miramshah. The vehicle was reportedly laden with arms and ammunition.

In the second strike another vehicle was targeted in the village of Kaiso Khel, Datta Khel. Five 'militants' were reported killed in this strike.

Yet another vehicle was attacked in a strike in the Mir Ali area. Four 'militants' were reported killed in this attack. Yet despite the intensity of today's airstrikes, no senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were believed to be amongst the dead.
November 7th: Two airstrikes today in North Waziristan killed 14 'militants', including five 'foreigners'.

In the first attack missiles were fired on a compound and vehicle in the village of Ghulam Khan, Miramshah. Nine 'militants' were killed in this strike.

The second airstrike of the day targeted a vehicle in the village of Maizer, Datta Khel. Five 'foreigners' – a term used to describe Arab or Central Asian al Qaida operatives – were reported killed. However in both instances no senior operatives were believed to be amongst the casualties.

In comparison with last month's Drone Wars, the United States appears to have dramatically scaled back its unmanned campaign. Nevertheless, the Long War Journal reports that the US has conducted 97 airstrikes to date in 2010. Should the attacks continue with the same intensity throughout the rest of November/early December then the United States is likely to double its tally of unmanned strikes in comparison with 2009.

North Waziristan remains the overwhelming focus for the majority of airstrikes. However on the 8th November the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) claimed that six Taliban groups in South Waziristan had now joined the larger organization. The groups have all reportedly expressed their confidence in the leadership of the TTP's Hakeemullah Mehsud. As a result of increased TTP activities in South Waziristan, it will be interesting to monitor how many airstrikes are undertaken here throughout the rest of 2010.

 

Since August 27th the United States has carried out 31 unmanned airstrikes.

September 3rd: The United States carried out two airstrikes in North Waziristan. The first attack saw two missiles fired at a compound near Miramshah. Six 'local militants' were killed in the attack, with none believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban figures. A second strike hit a compound in the town of Data Khel. Nine Taliban fighters were reported killed in this attack, including a local commander known as Inayatullah.

September 4th: A third airstrike in the space of two days focussed upon a compound and vehicle in the Data Khel region of North Waziristan. Between five and eight militants were reported in the attack on the village of Mizer.

September 6th: Two missiles were fired at a vehicle in the village of Khar Qamar, Data Khel, North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that five militants were killed in the attack, although none were believed to be senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives. However, the Long War Journal indicates that not only is Data Khel the stronghold of Hafiz Gul Badahar – a leading Taliban commander – it is also a known hub for al Qaida's top leadership.

September 8th: There were four unmanned airstrikes over twenty-fours as the United States' campaign in North Waziristan gathered momentum. The first strike against a compound in the town of Danda Darpa Khel reportedly killed ten militants. This was followed by another attack claiming the lives of four Haqqani network fighters. A third airstrike took place in the town of Ambor Shaga, Data Khel. In this attack three missiles were fired at a vehicle, killing four militants. No senior al Qaida or Taliban operatives were reported killed in these strikes.

The fourth airstrike of the day focussed upon the town of Miramshah. Three missiles were fired at a compound resulting in the death of six Taliban fighters and five injuries. It was reported that some of the victims were Afghans. Whilst no senior operatives at the time were believed to have been killed in this attack, the Taliban reportedly cordoned off the area and attempted to recover the dead and the wounded.

However on September 30th reports emerged that eight Germans and two Britons were amongst the dead in the Data Khel airstrike. They were involved in the recently exposed plot to conduct a range of Mumbai-style attacks throughout Europe. The casualties also included an Islamic Jihad Group commander who trained Europeans to carry out attacks on their home soil.

The Islamic Jihad Group – a splinter faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – is known to operate a 'German Taliban village' in Waziristan.

Today was the first time that the United States carried out four airstrikes within a 24 hour period.

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Since the 25th July the United States has carried out five unmanned airstrikes:

August 14th: The U.S. carried out its first airstrike in almost three weeks on a compound in the village of Issori, near Miramshah, North Waziristan. Reports suggested that twelve al Qaida or Taliban operatives sheltering in the compound were killed in the attack. None were believed to be senior figures.

August 21st: Reports claimed that the United States fired four missiles from an unmanned aircraft at vehicles and a compound outside the village of Anghar Kala, Miramshah, North Waziristan. The airstrike killed six people, including 'foreigners'.

August 23rd: An unmanned airstrike targeted a compound in the village of Danda Darpa Khel, Miramshah, North Waziristan. Five terrorists and seven civilians were killed in the attack. In a second attack, five Taliban fighters were killed when UAVs fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Derga Mandi. The latter strike was the 53rd conducted by the United States this year. This meant that the United States had now matched its entire strike total for the previous year.

August 27th: The United States changed the focus of its unmanned airstrikes to the tribal agency of Kurram. An unmanned airstrike hit two vehicles near a compound in the village of Shahidano. Whilst no senior al Qaida or Taliban figures were amongst the four killed in the attack, Pakistani sources claimed the airstrike targeted members of Hakeemullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban. According to the Long War Journal the Taliban regrouped in Kurram after the Pakistani military launched its offensive in South Waziristan in 2009. The Taliban in Kurram are commanded by Maluvi Noor Jamal, who is regarded as a potential successor to Hakeemullah.

 

The UK Government has announced that the next roulement of UK forces in Afghanistan will take place in April 2009. The force package will see the current lead formation, 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, replaced by 19 Light Brigade which will command the majority of the units serving in Afghanistan, until October 2009, when it will be replaced by 11 Light Brigade.

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As reviewed by Madeleine Moon MP

If you want to understand how we came to the current impasse and difficulties ISAF forces are facing in Afghanistan then Ann Jones' description of life in Kabul between 2002 and 2005 is a good place to start. The book chronicles the hope with which the American forces were greeted in 2002 through to the exhaustion as reconstruction and development fail to take place; attention shifts to Iraq and the Talban re-emerge as a powerful force.

Ann gives the back history to Afghanistan, its times of peace and affluence and attempts to change and modernise this deeply traditional male dominated society. She neatly lays out British failure to establish control and the use of Afghanistan to fight proxy wars by Pakistan, Russia and the US. The terrible impact of years of war are starkly set out in figures. In 1979 the population of Afghanistan was 16 million. When the US quit in 1992, over two million Afghans had been killed, 600,000 to two million maimed, one and a half million driven insane, two million were internal refuges while six million had fled to Pakistan or Iran. All of this before the mujadaden civil war, the rise of the Taliban and the invasion of 2002.

Grim facts cascade from Ann's record of her life in Afghanistan. The lives of women and girls are starkly set out with the routine use of rape, confinement, beatings, murder and sale as their lot in life from the moment of birth. In 2001 Physicians for Human Rights reported that 70% of Afghan women suffered from major depressions, nearly two thirds were suicidal and 16% had attempted suicide. The granting of equal rights and duties before the law to men and women by the 2004 constitution is shown to be sham. The Chief Justice setting out the three privileges accorded to women lists them as, praying, obeying the husband and restraining from bad acts. It is estimated that 95% of Afghan women are subject to violence, living their lives only at the pleasure and command of men.

Education is seen as the way to improve the lives and opportunities of the people of developing countries. Afghanistan's education system was described by the UN as the worst in the world but sadly the NGO and military investment in education by 2005 has made little impact on literacy and numeracy. Donor aid for education fails as 80-90% of aid goes into US contractors and sub-contractors US bank accounts leaving only 10-20% spent in Afghanistan. Action Aid paint a rosier picture estimating that only 60% of aid is phantom, spent on accounting, technical assistance and international experts.

Below the statistics and evidence of failure are the human stories which make this an enjoyable read. Ann paints a picture of people struggling to make a life in the midst of chaos and the clashing to two cultures. The description of the holiday journey taken to Mazir-i-Sharif through the Salang tunnel sums up the chaos, the unpredictability and the everyday dangers of life in Afghanistan while highlighting the difficulty of moving goods south to meet the voracious needs of a military campaign.

With her class of women students Ann celebrates International Women's Day and goes through a list of rights for women. The right of a woman to make choices is one the woman struggle to comprehend. The description of life inside the Kabul women's prison is as cold and stark as the reasons behind the women's imprisonment. The women live a life of Catch 22, they are guilty because they are in the prison, they are in the prison because they are guilty. Afghanistan has many laws but not one against rape. Rape is described as a subsection of adultery. A woman who is raped is imprisoned and charged with adultery and investigated to see if she consented to the rape. Compensation can be given for crimes often in the form of fat sheep, new copies of the Koran and women as second or third wives or for household labour.

The invading military forces and the NGO's are mostly painted in a negative light. They drive up the cost of housing for ordinary Afghans, seduce professionals away from jobs to act as guides and interpreters, create chaos in the streets and ignore the views and opinions of Afghans when planning aid and development. I smiled at the joke that when men are put in charge of an aid project they think first of concrete.

This is a book about survival and failure between 2002-2005. The personal stories of survival within the chaos of war, invasion and a society which discounts the lives of 50% of its population are riveting. The failure is of the west to understand the world it has entered. There is a lack of engagement with the population, peace, infrastructure and governance but corruption, promotion of warlords and the vacuum into which the Taliban re-emerged funded by drugs.

Ann's account of her years in Afghanistan paints a picture of wasted opportunity, wasted money and wasted talent as the focus moves to Iraq. We are now five years on from Ann's departure from Afghanistan. Recently in the voting lobby I spoke to a colleague who had just returned from Afghanistan and he talked of visiting a northern town which was orderly, growing in affluence and where he had visited a factory where men and women worked together. I hope he is right.

Kabul in winter, by Ann Jones is published by Picador

 

In July 2010 the Chief of the General Staff Sir David Richards (CDS-designate) hosted a special showing of The Great Game, a series of 12 short plays about the culture and history of Afghanistan, at the Tricycle Theatre in London. He took his own immediate staff, people from the MoD including the Second Permanent Secretary, a senior Treasury official and other opinion-leaders.

The programme notes included an excellent history of modern Afghanistan from the 1830's to the present day by Jane Shallice, who is also a member of the Stop the War Coalition. It is reproduced here by her kind permission and that of the theatre, whose Director Nicolas Kent commissioned the works and which, with the active support of General Richards, is taking them to be performed across the United States (including Washington DC.)

You can read the whole history here.

 

What follows is an edited version of an article which appeared in the New York Times on March 17th. The full article can be found here

A missile fired by an American drone killed at least four people recently at the house of a militant commander in northwest Pakistan, the latest use of what intelligence officials have called their most effective weapon against Al Qaeda.

Pentagon officials say the remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours, have done more than any other weapons system to track down insurgents and save American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The planes have become one of the military's favourite weapons despite many shortcomings resulting from the rush to get them into the field.

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Since the 29th June the United States has carried out four unmanned airstrikes:

July 10th: The United States' first unmanned airstrike in two weeks was against a compound in the village of Sheerani Mada Khel near Miramshah, North Waziristan. Pakistani officials reported that between 10 and 14 'militants' were killed in the strike. However at this time none were believed to be senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures.

July 24th: Several missiles were fired during an unmanned strike against a hideout used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Angora Adda area of South Waziristan. The strike killed 16 Taliban 'militants,' however none were deemed senior operatives.

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Written by Simon Roberts

Soldiers at Camp Phoenix, located near Kabul, are facing hard times. With the shelves at the base store looking a little bare; there's no Irish Spring Body Wash, no Doritos and no Aspirin. While actual items themselves may seem a little trivial, the missing supplies underscore a more serious problem, which senior military officials have been saying for months: U.S. and coalition troops must find new routes to supply what will be a rapidly growing force in Afghanistan, ones that avoid the treacherous border areas of Pakistan where convoys have been ambushed.

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By Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP, Minister for the Armed Forces

The then Secretary of State for Defence's statement on 16 June 2008 (Official Report column 677-678) referred to the decision to withdraw the Harrier force and replace it with an equivalent force of Tornado GR4s by Spring 2009 to Kandahar airfield. Delays in construction of the necessary supporting infrastructure and our current estimate of the time required to complete the Tornado Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) enhancements means that the Tornado GR4s will now deploy in Summer 2009. We expect delivery of the UORs in advance of completion of the infrastructure project and will keep both programmes under constant review to ensure completion as quickly as possible. In the interim, Joint Force Harrier will continue to contribute to the provision of close air support to UK and Allied Forces in Southern Afghanistan; 1 (Fighter) Squadron will therefore replace IV (Army Co-operation) Squadron in mid-April.

 

Statement made to the House of Commons by Rt Hon John Hutton MO, UK Secretary of State for Defence

I wish to make a statement on the results of a recent MOD review of records of detention resulting from security operations carried out by UK Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is essential I believe that our Armed Forces are able to detain people who pose a real threat, either to our troops, those of our allies, or to the local population that we are seeking to protect. These operations are conducted by our forces with courage, integrity and professionalism and in undertaking these operations we take fully into account our obligations under international law.

In February last year, allegations were made that persons captured by UK forces in Iraq were transferred to US detention facilities were mistreated and removed unlawfully from Iraq.

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