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Entries in Afganistan (17)

Sunday
Apr282013

Taliban Gearing Up for Spring Offensive

iStockphoto(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- With the weather in Afghanistan warming up and the United States on the verge of withdrawing from the region, experts are expecting the Taliban’s familiar spring offensive to be more pronounced this year.

This year marks a real test for Hamid Karzai’s government, as it is the first year that NATO will be backing up Afghan National Security Forces, rather than the other way around.

The Taliban is well aware of this, according to Stephen Ganyard, Retired Marine Col. and ABC News military consultant.  Ganyard says he expects we will see “something fairly spectacular the Taliban will use to announce the resuming of the fighting season.”

NATO forces will be on guard, by Ganyard says now is when the fight begins in earnest.

“What we're seeing here is the Taliban have their last best chance to gain military advantage in the leadup to the events of 2014, which include a NATO withdrawal, elections and hopefully negotiations for peace,” said Ganyard.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar092013

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Afghan Visit Met by Suicide Attacks

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- At least 18 people are dead following two suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday that coincided with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the country.

The first bomber struck the defense ministry in Kabul. The bomber was riding a bicycle when the bomb was set off. Nine people were killed and 20 additional people were injured.

The aftermath of the scene was chaotic. The explosion was so strong it left large shrapnel holes in nearby concrete blast walls.

Saturday's other reported attack occurred outside Khost, a city to the south-east of Kabul. The bomber was on foot, targeting a joint patrol close to the U.S. military's Camp Salerno base, according to a police spokesman who spoke with BBC News.

A policeman spotted the bomber and hugged him in an attempt to shield others from some of the force of the blast with his body. Still, ninewere killed, and some boys working in a nearby field were caught in the blast.

Hagel was in Kabul during the bombing, though at a different location.

It was not a coincidence that the attacks happened while Hagel was in Afghanistan. In an email, the Taliban took credit for the Kabul attack and said they had targeted one of the entrances used by soldiers and officers.

"The attack happened during the trip of the U.S. defense secretary, and the attack had a message for him," the statement added.

Hagel expressed his condolences to those who lost loved ones. The defense secretary came to Afghanistan to get a better feel for what it was like on the ground, and was not shocked by the suicide bombings or the reality of the situation.

“We're in a war zone. I've been in war,” Hagel said. “So, [we] shouldn't be surprised if a bomb goes off or an explosion."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb212013

“Buzkashi Boy” Oscar Nominee Hopes to Meet Rambo, Angelina Jolie

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- When 14-year-old Fawad Mohammadi boarded a plane this week at Kabul's International Airport, he was carrying so much more than the airline's two-bag allowance.

Like, the weight of an entire country on his shoulders.

Mohammadi is the unlikely star of the hit film Buzkashi Boys, nominated in the Best Live Action short category at this year's Academy Awards. The film follows two young street kids who grow up dreaming of playing buzkashi, Afghanistan's national sport. The game is similar to polo, but played with a goat or sheep carcass.

In the film, Mohammadi plays the gritty son of a poor blacksmith who is told that like his forefathers he too would eventually assume the family business. In real life, Mohammadi knows all about life on Kabul's harsh streets. For the past seven years, he's been hawking street maps and used magazines on the city's famous Chicken Street, a place where foreigners often come to buy Afghan goods. For years, it was the only way he could to support his mother and four siblings after their father passed away.

Two years ago, thanks to a random encounter with American filmmaker Sam French, Mohammadi's life changed forever. French was in Afghanistan starting up a new initiative called the Afghan Film Project, lending his expertise to a group of Afghan filmmakers, helping them tell Afghan stories in their own words. Their first project, Buzkashi Boys, cost less than $4,000.

He cast Mohammadi in one of the lead roles. Alongside fellow Afghan child actor Jawanmard Paiz, Mohammadi's performance is receiving critical acclaim. His deep, wide-eyed innocence and expressive silences in the film are haunting, giving Buzkashi Boys a gravitas far beyond its relatively meager budget. The film is widely seen as a success story, proof that Afghanistan's film industry can be revived after years of being suppressed by the Taliban and more than a decade of war.

 

"Anybody who watches the film will come away thinking it's really well done," says Jean Manes, counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy. After Buzkashi Boys was nominated for the Oscar, the embassy set up a special screening, including an autograph signing session for the kids.

"There's a whole vibrant society here," Manes adds, "from film to music to education. Lots of really positive things are happening here, and it's really important that the American public see that."

Growing up, Mohammadi's family was so poor they couldn't afford a television set. He'd heard of the Oscars before, but has never seen the ceremony. Now, as he prepares to walk down the red carpet for the first time, he already knows who he wants to meet.

"I want to meet Rambo," he told ABC News recently, taking a break from his job on Chicken Street.

"I also want to meet Angelina Jolie."

A few weeks ago, Mohammadi didn't think the trip would ever happen. He couldn't afford the airfare. Thanks to donations from Turkish Airlines, logistical support from the U.S. Embassy, and a crowd-funding campaign that raised more than $10,000 – the remainder of which will go towards Mohammadi and Paiz' education – Mohammadi will be walking down the red carpet.

While in Los Angeles, Mohammadi and Paiz will be staying with relatives of the film's Afghan co-producers. And once the ceremony is over, the State Department will fly them to Washington, D.C. for a special screening. They'll also be going to Disneyland.

For Mohammadi, whose skinny frame belies a quiet sort of confidence, win or lose, he hopes the world – or at least the hundreds of millions who will be tuning into the Academy Awards ceremony – will hear his simple message.

"We're not terrorists," Mohammadi says. "Afghanistan is a peaceful country. A good country."

A country whose Oscar dreams now rest on the shoulders of two young boys, and the hope they represent.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep172012

NATO Scales Back Afghan Partner Patrols to Stem Insider Attacks

NATO(WASHINGTON) -- Seeking to stem the insider attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan, commanders have scaled back partnered operations in the field between NATO troops and Afghan security forces.  The move is being done primarily to ease the risk to coalition troops from the growing number of insider attacks, but it also means troops will be less involved if there are further protests like the deadly 9-11-timed attack against the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi and also protests against The Innocence of Muslims, the controversial anti-Islam film that has stoked Islamist demonstrations around the world.

“We are not going to be conducting as many operations together,” said Maj. Martin Crighton, a coalition spokesman, who said it is inaccurate to describe the scaling-back as a suspension of joint operations in Afghanistan.

It has become the norm for NATO troops to go out on patrols together with their Afghan partners.  These partnered operations are meant to help ease Afghan forces into handling security on their own, as NATO forces pull out by the end of 2014. But the U.S. and other NATO partners' sacrifice and their willingness to help the nascent army get on its feet has been met with having the guns they supplied to their so-called allies turned on them in dozens of terror attacks.

Under the new directive issued Sunday by Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of ISAF Joint Command, Afghan and NATO troops will still live and operate together at bases, but when they go on patrol they will go out independently, not together.   Sometimes insider attacks occur during joint patrols far from a base.

Lt. Gen. Terry’s directive requires that any joint patrols or operations must now be approved by a regional commander, usually a one- or two-star general.  Until now the permission for joint patrols lay with the lieutenant colonels or colonels in charge of a certain geographic area.  Now, if an Afghan commander says he wants a joint patrol in a certain area, the approval must come from the general in charge of the regional command.

Maj. Crighton says there will not be a cookie-cutter approach to the approval process as the regional commanders know what works best in their areas.  It will have no impact on Afghan forces who are already acting independently of NATO forces and in areas of the country that have not seen as many insider attacks.

Daily partnering will still occur between NATO and Afghan battalion commanders, a step up from the previous practice of partnering NATO company commanders (junior commanders) with Afghan battalion commanders.

Crighton says while the mentoring will still take place, the new directive gives "a bit of space” for troops from both sides to act independently and operate outside of any relationship that might have been causing strain at the lowest levels.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb242012

Several Killed in Deadliest Day of Afghan Protests over Koran Burning

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Protests over the inadvertent burning of Korans and other religious materials earlier this week by coalition forces in Afghanistan continued in the country for a fourth straight day on Friday, claiming the lives of at least 10 people.

Herat took the biggest hit, with six fatalities reported in and around the city, according to local officials.  Two others, including a child, died in Khost, while one person was killed in Kabul and another north of the Afghan capital in Baghlan.

Friday's demonstrations were the deadliest so far, and come a day after two American members of NATO's International Security Assistance Force were fatally shot by an Afghan Army soldier.

Thursday night, Gen. John Allen, the commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, made an unannounced visit to the base where the two U.S. soldiers were killed.

In an impassioned speech, he urged his men not to lash out with their own anger.

"There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss. There will be moments like this, when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back. These are the moments when you reach down inside and you grip the discipline which makes you a United States soldier and you gut through the pain, and you gut through the anger and you remember why we’re here.  We’re here for our friends, we’re here for our partners, we’re here for the Afghan people," Allen said.

"Now is not the time for revenge, now is not the time for vengeance, now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are," he continued.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb052012

Car Bomb Kills Kandahar Police Officers; Injures Dozens

Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan) -- Afghan officials say at least seven people, including five police officers, were killed when a car bomb exploded outside police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar on Sunday.

So far, there has been no claim of responsibility for the blast that has left nearly two dozen people injured. Many of the people injured are in critical condition, according to health officials in Kandahar.

The attack follows last month's bombing just outside the main NATO base in Kandahar, an attack claimed by the Taliban. Despite the addition of tens of thousands of NATO forces in southern  Afghanistan, Kandahar and the surrounding province remain of the most dangerous areas in the country.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec022011

Pakistani Troops Allowed to Retaliate If NATO Attacks Again

Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on right. AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- Pakistani commanders deployed along the Afghan border have the authority to fire at NATO troops and helicopters without seeking prior permission, according to a new “command communiqué” from Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The communiqué -- delivered in writing to all commanders in Pakistan -- is an attempt to pacify the overwhelming outrage felt in Pakistan and within its military ranks after 24 soldiers were killed by NATO helicopters last weekend.

It’s not clear if the communiqué changes the existing rules of engagement, but it can easily be used by Pakistani troops on the border as a justification for opening fire on U.S. troops.

“I want to reemphasize and leave no ambiguity in the rules of engagement for everyone, down the chain of command, especially in unit/sub unit commanders, when under attack you have full liberty of action to respond employing all capabilities available at your disposal.  This will require no clearance at any level,” the statement reads.  “All of us have the resolve and faith to go down fighting if required rather than being coerced into a fait accompli.  Be assured that we will not let the aggressor walk away easily.”

Kayani calls last weekend’s attack a “blatant act of aggression.”

The communiqué was delivered as U.S. military officials in Washington briefed reporters on their version of the raid.  The U.S. officials said that a Pakistani officer had approved the cross-border strike after confirming there were no Pakistani soldiers in the area.

Pakistan’s military disputes that.  It acknowledges there was an initial communication by the U.S., but it was limited to a description of fire coming from across the border -- and that just a few minutes later, NATO helicopters attacked the Pakistani bases at least five miles away from where the U.S. said the fire was emanating.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Nov052011

US General in Afghanistan Fired Over Karzai Remarks

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A senior U.S. army general was fired on Friday by the commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan following remarks he made about Afghan President Hamid Karzai during an interview with Politico.

General John R. Allen's firing of Major Gen. Peter Fuller, who was deputy commander for NATO training programs in Afghanistan, was effective immediately. Fuller was in the United States on a speaking tour when he made the remarks saying Karzai was erratic and did not appreciate the U.S. training efforts. Karzai had said in a recent interview that his country would side with Pakistan if a war erupted with the U.S.

"These unfortunate comments are neither indicative of our current solid relationship with the government of Afghanistan, its leadership, or our joint commitment to prevail here in Afghanistan", said Allen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep302011

Karzai Ends Peace Talks with Taliban After Rabbani's Death

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani on Sept. 20 ended further peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban.

Rabbani was the head of the country's peace council; his death by a suicide bomber was the latest in a spate of high profile killings of Afghan officials.

According to BBC News, President Hamid Karzai said he will no longer hold peace talks with the Taliban because he does not know who his administration is negotiating with since they are unable to locate the Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the Taliban Council. Karzai was speaking to religious leaders and government officials concerning the talks. He said he will instead focus on talks with Pakistan.

Karzai is in a tenuous position with the U.S. and Pakistan's relationship souring after the White House accused Pakistan of harboring and supporting the Haqqani network, a military group believed to be reponsible for a recent attack on Kabul.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug272011

Al Qaeda No. 2 Atiyah Abd al-Rahman Killed in Pakistan

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda's new deputy leader, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, was killed—almost certainly by a CIA drone strike—in Pakistan's tribal areas earlier this week, according to U.S. officials.

The official described the deputy’s death as a major setback to an organization still reeling from Osama bin Laden's death.

Al-Rahman, a Libyan, was al Qaeda's "operational leader," planning attacks, helping manage the terrorist group on a daily basis and communicating with and speaking on behalf of both bin Laden and his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to U.S. officials.

His death is "a tremendous loss for al Qaeda, because Zawahiri was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organization, especially since Bin Laden's death," a senior administration official said.

"The trove of materials from bin Laden's compound showed clearly that Atiyah was deeply involved in directing al Qaeda's operations even before the raid," the official said. "He had multiple responsibilities in the organization and will be very difficult to replace."

Al-Rahman was on a list of five militants that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed over to Pakistani officials three weeks after bin Laden was killed.

At the time, a senior U.S. official and a senior Pakistani official said the United States requested help hunting al-Rahman down and killing him.

On Saturday, a senior Pakistani military official said Pakistan's intelligence services did not provide any intelligence for the Aug. 22 drone strike that U.S. officials say killed him.

Other than Zawahiri himself, al-Rahman was the most senior al Qaeda member on the list of five militants that Clinton landed over. The U.S. saw the days after bin Laden's death as a chance to deliver a death blow to al Qaeda, especially while the group chose its next leaders.

Last month, while flying to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. was "within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda."

"We've now identified some of the key leadership within al Qaeda, both in Pakistan as well as in Yemen and other areas, that if we can be successful in going after them, I think we can really undermine their ability to be able to do any kind of planning to conduct any kind of attack on this country," Panetta said.

U.S. officials said the files discovered in bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan home made clear that al-Rahman was in regular communication with bin Laden, discussing plots and personnel. The files, the U.S officials say, also gave "critical" clues about al-Rahman's location.

"His combination of background, experience, and abilities are unique in al Qaeda," another U.S. official said. "Zawahiri needed Atiyah's experience and connections to help manage al Qaeda. Now it will be even harder for him to consolidate control."

On the day of the drone attack, a Pakistani official told ABC News that two missiles had struck a car in Norak Village, North Waziristan and killed three militants. There was no information on the target.

Al-Rahman joined al Qaeda as a teenager and helped a group led by bin Laden fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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