Entries in Kabul (33)


Afghan President Hamid Karzai to US Special Ops: Get Out

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered all U.S. Special Forces out of two key provinces within two weeks, accusing Afghan units under their jurisdiction of being responsible for the torture, abuse, and disappearance of Afghan civilians.

The deadline was announced Sunday by Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi at a hastily convened press conference, and later repeated in a statement from the Presidential Palace.

The decision came after Karzai met Sunday with his National Security Council. According to the statement, during the meeting "it became clear that armed individuals belonging to U.S. Special Forces engaged in harassing, annoying, torturing, and even murdering innocent people."

A NATO spokesperson says they are aware of the allegations, but would not provide further comment.

U.S. Special Forces are known to conduct operations with Afghan units that are separate from the normal Afghan Army. Because these units are often directly recruited, trained and supported by U.S. Special Forces, they fall outside of Karzai's control.

Afghans have long complained of harassment and intimidation at the hands of these forces, some of whom are seen as former criminals and militia members out to settle petty vendettas against tribal enemies.

Karzai's allegations refer to two specific incidents: The disappearance of nine Afghan civilians following a Special Forces operation, and the death of a student who was taken away during a night raid and whose body was found two days later under a bridge with torture marks and his throat cut. The incidents are believed to have occurred recently.

Wardak lies just to the west of Kabul and Logar to the south. Both provinces are considered key gateways to the city of Kabul.

In addition to the two-week deadline for all U.S. Special Forces to leave the two provinces, Karzai also ordered an immediate halt to all U.S. Special Operations activities in Wardak province.

The move comes a week after Karzai lashed out at coalition forces, ordering a ban on all airstrikes in residential areas. The ban came after several civilians were reportedly killed in an airstrike requested by Afghan forces.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Report: US Embassy in Kabul ‘Dangerously Vulnerable’ to Attack

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul is “dangerously vulnerable to a new attack,” according to a new report issued Friday by an independent watchdog group that monitors government spending and misconduct.

For the report, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) said it interviewed a number of current and former guards at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Kabul, obtaining testimony and documents showing guards had raised alarm bells over a series of major security vulnerabilities.  Their allegations include guards being overworked, weapons improperly calibrated, accusations of incompetence among supervisors, lax inspections of vehicles entering the compound, a “mutiny” by guards against their supervisors, and in one case, sensitive information being posted to a social networking site.

The report comes on the heels of concerns that lax security at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya may have contributed to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in a terrorist attack there in September.

Many of the new accusations are aimed at AEGIS, the U.S. wing of the British firm contracted to provide security for the compound.  AEGIS was awarded the $497 million dollar contract in 2011 and assumed responsibility for the security of the compound in 2012.

According to the report, guards said they were forced to work 14-15 hour work days, even though the government prescribed maximum for private guards is 12.  Guards also complained they weren’t given sufficient time to “qualify” or test their weapons, including calibrating their sight scopes at a shooting range, a process known as “zeroing.”

“Without a zeroed weapon,” one guard stated, “I can’t defend myself or the embassy.”

Other guards complained that canine inspections of vehicles entering the embassy were faulty.  At least one supervisor was caught posting security sensitive information on LinkedIn, a career networking site.

In July, shortly after AEGIS took over security for the compound, a group of guards sought to raise their concerns in meetings with State Department officials and AEGIS supervisors.  At one point, 40 guards signed a petition accusing AEGIS supervisors of “tactical incompetence” and a “dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.”

According to the report, the State Department conducted its own review of security procedures at the embassy and “determined that security policies and procedures are sound.”

This isn’t the first time security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has come under criticism.  In 2009, then contractor AGNA was caught in a scandal when photos surfaced showing its security guards nude and in several compromising positions, as detailed in an ABC News investigation.  The photos appeared to be taken at a party, with the guards drunk, surrounding a large bonfire.

A representative for AEGIS told ABC News that they could not comment on the POGO report, per “contractual obligations,” and directed all inquiries to the State Department. The State Department did not immediately return requests for comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Suicide Bombers Attack US Base in Kabul

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Two men wearing suicide vests blew themselves up near a U.S. base in the Afghan capital of Kabul early Wednesday, killing two Afghan guards. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.

According to police officials, the goal was to attack a U.S. base located in the area of the attack.

Kabul police chief Gen Ayub said the attackers wore private security guards uniforms.

Police on duty identified the attackers and opened fire on them. But at the same time, the attackers’ suicide vests exploded killing them and the two guards on duty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hours After President Obama Leaves, Explosions Rattle Kabul

The White House(KABUL) -- Just hours after President Barack Obama delivered his pre-dawn, prime time speech Wednesday in Kabul marking the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death and reaffirming his commitment to fulfill the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, at least two major explosions rocked the capital, killing seven.

The Taliban claimed credit for the attacks, which began with a suicide car bomb that went off near Jalalabad Road at 6 a.m. Wednesday and was followed by a much larger explosion two hours later. Taliban leaders told media that they targeted Green Village, a heavily fortified compound home to many westerners including U.S. Department of Defense contractors.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told The Wall Street Journal that the attack was a direct response to Obama’s visit.

“This delivers a message to President Obama that he is not welcome in Afghanistan,” Mujahid said. “When he is in Afghanistan, we want him to hear the sound of explosions. Afghanistan does not want his imposed strategy.”

At least 17 people were also wounded in the blasts, the majority of whom were children on their way to school, according to the Interior Ministry.

In the aftermath of the explosions, well-trained contractors and private security forces reportedly defended the facility against insurgent rocket-propelled grenades. At this hour, the firefight is ongoing and it is unclear to what extent the compound has been compromised.

The U.S. Embassy posted an Emergency Advisory to U.S. Citizens warning of an ongoing attack in Kabul, telling U.S. citizens to take shelter immediately. This followed an earlier tweet from @USEmbassyKabul: “Duck and cover here at the embassy. Not a drill—avoid the area.”

The U.S. Embassy remains on lockdown and has cancelled all appointments for Wednesday.

Green Village was also the target of protests following the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base in February but protesters were unable to breach the compound’s high walls.

ISAF has not released any casualty numbers, but the Kabul Police Chief, General Ayoub Salangi, tells ABC News that at least six people were killed including a Gurkha guard and an Afghan student.

TOLO News showed images of flames coming out of smoldering cars.

President Obama left Kabul Wednesday roughly two hours before the attacks began and had cleared Afghan airspace by daylight.

Afghan Security Forces released a statement Wednesday saying that it led a capable and quick response in containing and then killing all attackers.

“This is another desperate attack by the Taliban, but again another noteworthy performance by Afghan Security Forces for taking the lead in putting down another desperate attack by insurgents,” General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force said. “Another attack by the insurgency that resulted in the deaths of innocent Afghan civilians, with most of that being children from a nearby school.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama Visits Afghanistan on Bin Laden Anniversary

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL) -- President Obama made a surprise visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, overnight Monday on a secret trip that coincides with the one-year anniversary of the U.S. mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

Obama touched down at Bagram Air Field just outside the Afghan capital at 1:50 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to press pool reports, following a roughly 13-hour flight that was shrouded in secrecy to protect the president's security.

He will address the nation live from the base tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, following meetings with Afghan president Hamid Karzai in Kabul. He is expected to announce the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which will ensure U.S. military and financial support for Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the final U.S. combat troops will withdraw.

The arrangement, penned ahead of a NATO summit on Afghanistan in Chicago later this month, is designed to send a strong message to the region that the U.S. is not abandoning the country even as it sharply reduces its footprint there. Even as Afghans take the lead in domestic security operations, U.S. military intelligence resources, aircraft and counterterrorism tools will continue to provide support, officials say.

A semi-annual Pentagon report to Congress released Tuesday on the status of the 11-year war concluded that coalition forces still face "long-term and acute challenges" because of safe havens in Pakistan and "widespread corruption" within the Afghan government "that limits its effectiveness and legitimacy."

Still, the Taliban has been degraded and security in the country has improved over the past six months, according to the report. After five consecutive years where enemy-initiated attacks rose, they dropped 9 percent in 2011 over 2010 and were down 16 percent in 2012 compared to the year before.

"We are making serious important progress" but "challenges remain," a senior Defense Department official told reporters this week.

A number of bloody incidents involving American as well as Afghan soldiers and civilians have also complicated the war effort.

In March, a U.S. soldier went on a shooting rampage in an Afghan village, killing 17 civilians including women and children, sparking anti-American protests across the country.

Meanwhile, the number of U.S. service members killed by Afghan allies they worked alongside has continued to climb, with more than a dozen so-called green-on-blue attacks, leaving 10 dead Americans dead this year alone.

The inadvertent burning of Korans by American soldiers on a military base earlier this year and photos of troops posing with deceased Afghans and urinating on their corpses have also inflamed U.S.-Afghan relations.

The U.S. and its NATO allies intend to turn over security control to the Afghans by the end of 2014. The U.S. is expected to reduce its force to about 68,000 by the end of September, down from the roughly 88,000 now in Afghanistan.

The withdrawal has become a major selling point of Obama's re-election campaign.

"Change is the promise we made in 2008," Obama told supporters at a campaign fundraiser in Detroit last month. "For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. We have refocused our efforts on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. Al Qaeda is weaker than it's ever been. Thanks to our amazing troops, Osama bin Laden no longer walks the face of this Earth."

"We have begun to transition out of Afghanistan. That's what change is," he said.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found a record high number -- 66 percent -- of Americans believe the Afghanistan war has not been worth fighting, matching opposition to the war in Iraq at its peak five years ago.

As for views of Obama's handling of the war effort, more Americans approve than disapprove of his leadership, 48 to 43 percent.

Tuesday's trip marks Obama's third visit to Afghanistan since he took office in 2009. He most recently visited Kabul in December 2010, one year after approving a surge of U.S. troops to try and stabilize the war-torn country. Obama made his first visit as president in March 2010, when he rallied U.S. troops and pressed Karzai in a private meeting to more forcefully combat government corruption and fight Islamic extremism.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Haqqani Network Charged with Launching Major Offensive in Afghanistan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The U.S. is blaming a Pakistani insurgent group for launching a series of coordinated attacks last Sunday that struck Kabul and other major cities in Afghanistan.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said Thursday that the Pentagon is confident the Haqqani network, which has ties to both the Taliban and al Qaeda, was behind the effort to target the Afghan parliament and various embassies in Kabul.

The assault was initially billed as the start of the Taliban's spring offensive, but evidence since then points to a more intricate and carefully plotted attack that is more the hallmark of the Haqqani network.

Crocker called the insurgents "the worst of the worst" and "a group of killers, pure and simple."

Afghan security forces with little help from the coalition were able to beat back the 18-hour siege, which cost the lives of 12 Afghans.  Meanwhile, three dozen Haqqani fighters died during the attacks.

This latest action by the Haqqani network spurred Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demand that Islamabad shut down sanctuaries in Pakistan that the group and other militants continue to use as a base to launch attacks inside Afghanistan.

However, critics in Pakistan accused the U.S. of using the Haqqani network as an excuse to justify drone attacks in the lawless northwestern region where the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Haqqanis hold sway.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two American Officers Murdered As Afghan Unrest Continues

ABC News(KABUKL, Afghanistan) -- Two high-ranking United States officers were shot and killed Saturday by an assailant believed to be Afghan inside a high-security government building in Kabul on the fifth day of nationwide unrest sparked by the burning of Korans at a NATO military base.

The assailant entered the officers' room at the Interior Ministry, which had a security code lock, and shot both in the head, according to a senior police official. The shooter escaped and remains at large, according to NATO and Afghan officials.

The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, though there is not yet any evidence connecting the group to the shooting.

Gen. John Allen, commander of the ISAF, responded to the attack by pulling all foreign advisers out of Afghan ministries. There are hundreds of advisers from 49 coalition countries assigned to various ministries.

"I condemn today's attack at the Afghan Ministry of Interior that killed two of our coalition officers, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the brave individuals lost today," Allen said Saturday. "We are investigating the crime and will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for this attack. The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered."

According to the senior Afghan official, the shooter walked into a room at the Interior Ministry used by U.S. advisers and fired six to seven bullets.

The shooter's access to one of the most secure parts in all of Kabul may mean that he either worked in the ministry or was given the information by someone in the ministry.

Afghan and U.S. officials are currently looking at security camera footage to try to identify the shooter. The nationality of the shooter has not yet been officially identified by police, but the ISAF directive recalling the foreign advisers indicated that he was Afghan.

"The assailant is unknown, and an aggressive search is under way to determine who is responsible," Pentagon spokesman, George Little, said.

Since Tuesday, the country has been roiled by protests over the American military's burning of religious texts, including Korans. NATO is investigating the burning. A public apology by President Obama on Thursday failed to quell the unrest.

Just hours after the attack at the Interior Ministry on Saturday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office released a message from the nation's top religious council demanding that the U.S. "guarantee" no further desecration of Korans.

On Thursday, two U.S. soldiers were gunned down by a member of the Afghan Army at a base in eastern Afghanistan as civilians protested the Koran burnings outside the base.

Protestors took to the streets today throughout Afghanistan. A crowd of 5,000 attacked U.N. headquarters in the northern city of Kunduz. Five protestors died and more than 50 were wounded, according to officials.

Dozens were also wounded in the eastern province of Laghram when police opened fire as protesters marched on the governor's palace.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Taliban to Open Office as Obama Admin. Looks for Political Solution in Afghanistan

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Negotiations with the very people who have been killing American service members in Afghanistan are now seen by the Obama administration as the only way to salvage a positive outcome there.

To that end, after nearly a year of direct negotiations with the United States, the Taliban is about to open its first official office, according to Afghan and Western officials. It's the most significant sign yet that the Obama administration has decided an expedited political solution including the al Qeada-linked group is the only way to end the war in Afghanistan.

According to officials, the office is expected to open as early as the next few months in Qatar. It will facilitate negotiations with the Taliban that will include unprecedented local ceasefires in Afghanistan and the transfer of Afghan prisoners from American prisons -- even though they are labeled “high risk” to the U.S. and associated with the deaths of a CIA officer in 2001 and hundreds of U.S. soldiers in 10 years of fighting since the attacks on 9-11.

Direct negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban began early this year and sped up in the summer, in part because the White House has doubts about the military’s ability to decisively win the war, according to two Western officials.

The war’s costs, widespread corruption in the Afghan government, Pakistani intransigence and continued violence in eastern Afghanistan -- even as violence in southern Afghanistan decreases – have led many to lower expectations for what can be accomplished by a shrinking number of U.S. troops.

“Insurgencies end with political processes,” said a senior administration official. “We have been very clear that we are open to a reconciliation process provided Taliban who engage in it recognize that the process will be Afghan-led and that at the end of the day they break ties with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and accept the Afghan Constitution, including its protections of women’s and human rights.”

The details of the Taliban office were confirmed by Western officials and were given by Afghan officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Obama administration officials declined comment for the record.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Suicide Attackers Storm Afghanistan Police Station

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Several suicide attackers stormed a police station in district five of Kabul City on Friday, and a gun battle between the attackers and Afghan security forces immediately followed.

The gunmen escaped after the battle.

The police station is located on the outskirts of Kabul on a main highway linking Kabul to Kandahar.

The Kabul police chief has confirmed the incident but little is known about those who may have been injured or killed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dozens Killed, Injured in Attacks During Holy Holiday in Afghanistan

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty ImagesUPDATE: The Taliban has issued a statement denying any kind of involvement in Tuesday's attacks in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- For the first time, militants targeted Shiite mourners in Afghanistan on one of their holiest holidays Tuesday, setting off bombs in downtown Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, according to police officials.

In the most significant attack, at least 54 people were killed and 164 injured, according to the Afghan health ministry, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Abul Fazel Shrine in the middle of Kabul, not far from the ministry of defense and the presidential palace.  Reporters at the shrine described a horrific scene, with bodies of the dead and injured strewn across the entry of the shrine and the street outside.

Almost simultaneously, a bomb hidden in a bicycle exploded by a Shiite shrine in Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan, near the border with Uzbekistan.  Four were killed and 21 others were injured in that attack, according to police.

Tuesday is Ashurra, a national holiday in many Muslim countries that marks the death of the prophet’s grandson Hussein -- an event that helped cement the separation of Shia and Sunni Islam.  Shiites mark the day by mourning, often beating or cutting themselves to reenact the pain that Hussein suffered.

There has been horrible violence on Ashurra in Iraq over the years -- as well as in Pakistan -- but never in Afghanistan, which is why Tuesday's attack is troubling.  The Afghan Taliban is an almost entirely Sunni group, but there has not been major sectarian violence in Afghanistan since the initial U.S. invasion in 2001.  The worry is that this will set off more sectarian attacks and instability in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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