Archive for the ‘War on Terror’ Category

To the “Mouth of Hell” and back

October 26, 2008

The Taliban called it the ‘mouth of hell’, the tiny British fort in southern Afghanistan they relentlessly attacked throughout the summer. Today, the last paratroopers who defended its remote ramparts return home but, as ever with war, the cost has been great. Of the 160 men who manned Forward Operating Base Gibraltar, almost one in three was killed or wounded, a higher casualty rate than that suffered by British soldiers during the Second World War.

Indeed, Gibraltar was so treacherous that its occupants faced a similar likelihood of being killed or injured as those who fought on the bloody battlefields of the First World War.

Now the men are back in Britain after a period of fighting during which their battle group – 2 Para – sustained the highest number of deaths on a single six-month tour in Afghanistan or Iraq. Those who survived told yesterday of chasing Taliban fighters through shoulder-high cornfields, shooting men from punching range and pulling the bodies of comrades through streams with banks ablaze from rocket-propelled grenades.

Gibraltar was arguably the most vulnerable and dangerous British base in Helmand province. The men of C Company, who manned its fortifications, were on average 23 years old. Five of its occupants died in action, 14 were seriously injured and another 30 wounded.

The stories told by the survivors are brutal. Theirs is not a tale of technological might against a primitive foe, rather an insight into war seemingly unchanged throughout the centuries, a gruelling campaign involving daily skirmishes against a redoubtable enemy.

There are moments when men such as Corporal Matthew ‘Des’ Desmond, 31, pulled out his pistol and shot a Taliban gunman from two metres. ‘There is no emotional attachment, you’d feel more anguish shooting a bunny rabbit,’ he smiled ruefully, hours after arriving at his Colchester barracks.

Stories from the men of C company provide a snapshot of Helmand’s unique hazards. They tell how children ushered British soldiers into deadly ambushes, how troops were targeted the instant they crept out from Gibraltar’s front gates and how the Taliban planted rings of hidden explosives around the base. In the space of four months Gibraltar was attacked 36 times. In addition, its defenders became embroiled in 29 firefights while on another 22 instances they were either targeted or stumbled across explosive booby traps laid out for them.

‘We never stood down,’ said Desmond, a father-of-three. ‘We would always push on to them, even chasing them through their own ambushes,’

By the end, at least 150 Taliban were confirmed dead around their small base. Long before then, however, the Taliban had started referring to the paras’ home as the ‘mouth of hell’ or ‘devil’s place’.

For the first two months of the tour barely a shot was fired in anger. Then, on 8 June, news filtered up the Helmand valley that three men from 2 Para had been killed when a suicide bomber walked up to them and detonated his vest. The following day a suicide bomber mounted an attack on Gibraltar. The day after that a patrol came under fire. Another suicide mission was launched hours later.

The morning of 12 June defines the moment C company would first experience the horrors of Helmand. Several platoons had spent the night under the stars beyond enemy lines and were heading back when they stopped at a village. As usual, they dished out sweets and wind-up radios to the children, but this time the youngsters seemed preoccupied with what lay beyond a track winding towards a stream. ‘They were laughing and pointing. In hindsight, it’s strange they would find it so amusing,’ said Desmond.

As the paras went to investigate, four Taliban sections opened up simultaneously. ‘The weight of fire was incredible, their weapons were rocking and rolling without stopping. In 13 years in the army that was the best initiated ambush I’ve come across,’ Desmond went on.

The paras returned 9,000 machine gun and automatic rifle rounds plus 179 mortar shells. Then came the cry ‘man down’. Amid the din, it came again. In the initial chaos, Private Jeff Doherty, 20, and James Bateman, 29, had been killed instantly. Another soldier collapsed, shot in the leg, while a machine gunner took a bullet in the face. Miraculously the projectile glanced off his chin; colleagues scraped the blood from his face and the gunner got back to work.

The fight lasted 18 minutes. ‘But time stops during such moments. Fighting is like a waltz, quick, quick, slow slow,’ said Desmond. Back at Gibraltar, the mood was sombre but resolute. Five men from 2 Para had been killed in four days.

At dawn next day C Company went on patrol. Through intercepted communications they heard the Taliban exclaim their disbelief at the paras’ refusal to be cowed. Desmond said: ‘From that point on, every time we saw them we would smash them. They would choose the ground and we would beat them. Every time.’

Captain Josh Jones, 32, from London, who briefly left Helmand for the birth of his daughter Isabella, now eight weeks old, said: ‘We never relied on air cover, we always fought them head on.’

But one facet that could not be altered was Gibraltar’s reputation as the most exposed of Helmand’s bases. Easy to attack, it was hard to defend. Troops who ventured outside were often shot from snipers. As the conflict intensified, conditions deteriorated. On one occasion the ground temperature taken by a sniper read 78C.

Desmond’s desert boots melted. Forced to lug packs weighing 90lbs, many of C Coy cursed the clunky body armour designed to save their lives. As summer gave way to autumn, the enemy amended its tactics. Chechens, Uzbeks and trained Pakistani fighters began to lay siege to Gibraltar. Corporal Paul Knapp, 26, from Bristol said: ‘You can tell immediately they are different, the way they move, the way they fight.’

Knapp also travelled back from Afghanistan for the birth of his son, Colburn, seven weeks old yesterday. His wife, Chanelle, 24, said: ‘It was really hard before the tour because you don’t know what to expect. It’s just good to have him back.’

Now home with their families, the readjustment starts. Desmond admits to being a bit ‘jumpy’ in downtown Colchester. Knapp jokes about the cacophony of bonfire night jangling the nerves. ‘When we started, we all knew we would not be coming back with all the guys,’ said Jones. On Thursday the 13 men from the 2 Para battle group who died this summer will be remembered at a ceremony in Colchester. Yet a return to Helmand already looms C Company are pencilled in for southern Afghanistan in 2010.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/26/military-afghanistan

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Government Says Six Years Not Long Enough to Prepare Evidence

September 25, 2008

Imagine being seized in Afghanistan or Pakistan, where you were, perhaps, a completely innocent man sold for a bounty, or a Muslim soldier fighting other Muslims in a civil war whose roots lay in the resistance to the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, which was partly funded by the United States.

Then imagine that, both during and after being treated with appalling brutality by U.S. forces, you are given no opportunity to establish whether you are an innocent man seized by mistake, a soldier, or the victim of bounty hunters, and you are, instead, flown halfway around the world to an experimental offshore prison, where you are interrogated about your connections to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

At no point are you offered the protection of the Geneva Conventions (to which your captors are a signatory), which were designed to prevent the “humiliating and degrading treatment” of prisoners seized during wartime, and also to prevent their interrogation (prisoners may be questioned, but any form of “physical or mental coercion” is prohibited). Moreover, if you struggle to answer the questions put to you – perhaps because you know nothing about al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden – you are not only interrogated relentlessly, you are also subjected to an array of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which contravene the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which your captors are also a signatory.

Now imagine that, after six and a half years of this imprisonment – in which, unlike convicted criminals on the U.S. mainland, you have never been charged, tried, or allowed a single visit from your loved ones – the highest court in the United States rules, in Boumediene v. Bush, that you have habeas corpus rights; in other words, the right to know why you are being held. And finally, imagine that, in response to this ruling, when the judges responsible for establishing the reviews have ordered the cases to be addressed “as expeditiously as possible,” and have set a deadline for the government to comply, your captors turn around and say that, after holding you for up to 2,444 days in Guantánamo, they need more time to prepare a case against you.

You would, I think, be appalled, and would conclude that the government was specifically dragging its heels for political purposes, hoping to avoid humiliation ahead of the presidential election, and, in particular, hoping to prevent a replay of the verdict in Parhat v. Gates, the only case reviewed since the Supreme Court made its ruling in June, in which the judges – two conservatives and a liberal, no less – ruled that the designation of Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Muslim, as an “enemy combatant” was “invalid.” They even lambasted the quality of the government’s evidence as being akin to a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

And in this opinion you would, I think, be correct. When the Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners were entitled to “a prompt habeas corpus hearing,” adding that “[w]hile some delay in fashioning new procedures is unavoidable, the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody,” it’s certain that they did not intend, over three months down the line, for the government still to be dragging its heels. In the immediate wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, meetings were scheduled to appoint judges to review the 250 cases and to set dates for the government and the prisoners’ defense lawyers to file their evidence. On July 11, the district court dealing with the reviews “ordered the government to file factual returns at a rate of fifty per month, with the first fifty due by August 29, 2008.”

“Just before midnight” on Aug. 29, however, with only 22 returns filed, the government filed an “instant motion” begging for more time, pleading that it “simply did not appreciate the full extent of the challenges posed by the extensive need for classified information in these cases when [it] proposed to complete the first set of factual returns by the end of August” and asking for “partial and temporary relief” from the order of July 11. Specifically, as Judge Hogan noted in the opinion of Sept. 19 [.pdf], from which this article draws extensively, the government asked for an extension of 30 days. High-ranking figures – the acting general counsel for the Department of Defense, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, and the director of the CIA – explained “the substantial resources and efforts the government has devoted to preparing factual returns and the risk of harm to the national security involved in releasing classified information to persons outside the Executive Branch.”

After noting that delaying the schedule by a month was neither “partial” nor “temporary” relief, Judge Hogan agreed to grant the government’s motion. He stated that, after reviewing the declarations, “the court is satisfied that the government is not dragging its feet in an attempt to delay these matters beyond what is necessary to protect the national security concerns associated with releasing classified information. These cases are not run of the mill; they involve significant amounts of sensitive, classified information concerning individuals whom the government alleges were part of or supporting the Taliban or al-Qaeda or other organizations against which the United States is engaged in armed conflict.”

However, Judge Hogan also noted that “the court grants the government’s motion reluctantly,” explaining that “it is disappointed in the government’s failure to meet the schedule the court adopted based in part on the government’s assurances.” Citing statements in which the government claimed that it had “attempt[ed] to meet its goal” and that it would “continue to strive to meet the 50-per-month requirement,” Judge Hogan added, pointedly, that the court was “not merely setting a ‘goal’ for which the government is to ‘strive,'” but was, rather, “ordering the government to produce at least fifty factual returns by month’s end, followed by at least another fifty more each month thereafter until production is complete.”

In conclusion, while Judge Hogan recognized, as the government explained, that, since the Supreme Court ruling, its “[a]ttorneys and others from multiple agencies have worked long and hard, nights and weekends,” he reminded the executive that “the government has detained many of these petitioners for more than six years, and the time has come to provide them with the opportunity to fully test the legality of such detention in a prompt, meaningful manner.”

He added, with just a hint of irritation, that the decision to grant the prisoners the right “to fully test the legality of their detention through habeas corpus challenges” was “no bolt out of the blue,” as the government contended, because the Supreme Court had ruled, four years before (in Rasul v. Bush), that they had this right. This was, it seems, a barbed comment on the legislation passed by the government in the wake of Rasul (the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act), which was partly overturned – and ruled unconstitutional – in Boumediene.

The court’s decision will be small comfort to the prisoners languishing in Guantánamo while the government does all in its power to avoid exposing its reasons – or lack of reasons – for holding them, but it shows, at least, that the judges responsible for reviewing their cases are paying attention.

by Andy Worthington

http://www.antiwar.com

‘With Musharraf, a Scapegoat Leaves the World Stage’

August 20, 2008

Pakistan is without Musharraf for the first time in nine years. German commentators on Tuesday asks whether the fractious coalition government will be any better at dealing with the country’s daunting problems, including a floundering economy and militant Islamists. And will the West be able to help keep the nuclear state stable?

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf after his resignation on Monday.

When Pervez Musharraf finally decided to call it a day on Monday and resigned after nine years in power, much of Pakistan sighed with relief, glad to see the back of a leader many had come to regard as a US puppet and a man desperate to cling on to power at all costs. Now, however, they are left with a fractious coalition government that has to face up to the problems it has until now been able blame on the former general: ongoing Islamist militancy and violence, as well as a floundering economy.

Musharraf announced his resignation to avoid impeachment but there was no indication that he will get immunity from prosecution. On Tuesday Pakistan’s Law Minister Farooq Naek said that there had been “no deal” with Musharraf and that the coalition leaders had yet to make a decision on “accountability.” The smaller of the two coalition parties, led by Nawaz Sharif, who Musharraf ousted in a putsch back in 1999, have called for him to be tried for treason. According to the Associated Press, however, reports in the Pakistani media suggest he could leave the country for security reasons.

The government, headed by the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is meeting on Tuesday to discuss a replacement for Musharraf. The chairman of the Senate, Mohammedmian Soomro, is to be acting president until a new one is elected by parliament within 30 days. Traditionally the president had been a figurehead in Pakistan, although the office had gained much more power under Musharraf.

The coalition is also expected to tackle the issue of whether to reinstate the judges that Musharraf purged last year in a bid to hinder legal challenges to his presidency. Musharraf’s decision to sack the judges and impose emergency rule last year caused his popularity plummet to new lows.

The West is hoping that Pakistan will not be plunged into further political instability now that its key ally Musharraf has left the political stage. The former general’s position had weakened considerably since his rivals won elections in February. US officials have since sought to strengthen relations both with the new Army Chief of Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, and the new government.

There has been some disappointment in Washington with Pakistan’s efforts to tackle the resurgence of the Taliban in the tribal areas along with border with Afghanistan. It is assumed that the region is providing a safe haven for insurgents launching attacks across the border in Afghanistan and that al-Qaida may also have regrouped there.

The civilian government in Islamabad has opted to negotiate with tribal leaders. In exchange for keeping the Pakistani military out of the areas, tribal leaders have pledged to take on militant Islamists tehmselves. With the power struggle with Musharraf out of the way, some hope the government will soon have greater resources at its disposal to fight Islamic militancy and terrorism.

On Tuesday the German press not only writes Musharraf’s political obituary but also assesses the impact of his resignation on Pakistan and the region. Many call on the West to increase its efforts to help Pakistan find its feet economically so that militant Islamism can be rooted out and warn that the country’s rivalry with India poses real dangers.

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“Musharraf’s participation in the war on terror and the cooperation of the intelligence agency with the United States were, to put it mildly, never popular in the country. Moreover he was only ever half-hearted in his fight against the militant Islamists — sometimes ruthless, sometimes conciliatory. The coalition government is strategically unsure of itself, and seems to want to secure an end to domestic terror through deals — something that the increasingly bold Islamists won’t thank them for but will simply use to increase the areas they control. In light of this situation, the West in general and the US in particular, must do more about Pakistan than before. … It must prevent the nuclear nightmare of Islamists gaining access to atomic weapons.”

“It needs to become clear to the Pakistani leadership that when they take on militant Islamists, they are not just doing the West a favor — they are also helping to develop their own country. The belief that the fall of the Kabul government and the return of the Taliban would be a strategic victory over India is a fantasy from previous centuries. Allowing Islamism to flourish politically, militarily, socially and ideologically cannot be in the interests of most Pakistanis. Their interests lie in achieving economic stability. And the West can do more here too.”

“The West should take the opportunity of Musharraf’s resignation to encourage a policy in Islamabad that combines international dependability with development and democracy — the preconditions for long-term stability.”

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

“The assessment of the American intelligence agencies is that the risk of an Islamist take-over is very low. The US government never saw the promotion of democracy in Pakistan as the main task. Washington depended on the army to keep the country under control. Ashfaq Kayani, the new US-trained head of the army since January, has Musharraf to thank for his career: He first made him head of the ISI intelligence agency and then his successor as the head of the army. He now determines the scope within which the parties and democracy can operate.”

“Nevertheless, with Musharraf going a scapegoat is disappearing from the stage — one whom Afghan President Hamid Karzai and, when required, the Americans, could blame everything on. They could claim that Pakistan and Musharraf in particular were responsible for the instable situation in Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban (more…).”

“Karzai and his backers will soon need a replacement for Musharraf. His resignation does not mean that the Pakistan army will go on the offensive against the Pashtun tribes in the border regions. The problems there, anyway, cannot be solved by military means. They can only be fixed with dialogue and development aid.”

“In addition the Pakistanis — civilians and soldiers — have no interest in a stable Afghanistan, in which its archenemy India is increasing its influence, encouraged by Karzai. Every conflict in this region that Pakistan is involved in has to be seen through the prism of its enmity toward India.”

The conservative Die Welt writes:

“Musharraf had a vision: he wanted to put his country on the path toward the Turkish, secular model and saw himself as the Pakistani Atatürk. … However, the dream of a secular Pakistan is probably dead.”

“He failed because of the country’s poverty, the fatally high birth rate, the boom in the price of natural resources, the divide between the Islamists and the secular part of society, the politicians’ ambition and his inability as president to find a consensus across the board, and to step down at the right time. By the time he took off his uniform, his ‘second skin,’ it was already too late.”

“Pakistan is more important than it seems: a nuclear-armed state, not tied in to arms control, with conflicts on both sides, fragile internally, on the new frontline between the East and the West. Pakistan after Musharraf is the cause for much worry in global politics.”

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

“The fact that the dictator is finally stepping down presents Pakistan with a unique opportunity. Now the democratic structures can grow in those regions and parts of society that had been left in a vacuum by repeated dictatorships. And it is only in these political vacuums that fanaticism can take hold.”

Business friendly Handelsblatt writes:

“Pakistan is now facing a period of political instability, perhaps even a period of chaos on the streets. It is doubtful if the divided coalition, which was so busy in its efforts to have the president impeached that it forgot about the really urgent problems facing the country, will now be able to find the necessary unity to prevent a power struggle. Pakistan is ill-prepared for life after Musharraf.”

“The fight against the Taliban must be taken as seriously as reviving the economy. It is only if Pakistan’s government and future president apply themselves to solving these problems and manage to fight against corruption and inefficiency, that the country can free itself from the vacuum that is looming and achieve a fresh political start.”

“The West absolutely has to contribute to this. Musharraf’s close ties to the US may not have pleased many people in the country. However, without the Americans’ help the country would have been left helplessly in the grasp of the Islamists. The best thing the US administration could do now is to use its influence to make sure that democracy in Pakistan is not smashed in a power struggle. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal must never be allowed to fall into the hands of extremists.”

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“The developments in Pakistan affect important Western interests. One is the question of what policy the country will pursue with regards to the Taliban, which is launching its war in neighboring Afghanistan from Pakistan. Another is the issue of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, which must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. And then there is the potentially extremely dangerous ongoing conflict with its larger neighbor India, which also has nuclear weapons.”

“After Sept. 11, 2001, Musharraf decided — admittedly under extreme pressure from Washington — to allow the fall of the Taliban, which had been long been backed by his own foreign intelligence agency. Since then Pakistan has been a part of the international alliance against Islamist terrorism. Musharraf also disempowered Abdul Quadeer Kahn (more…), ‘the father of the Islamic nuclear bomb,’ who had been secretly selling nuclear know-how and technology to dubious regimes around the world.”

“These strategic decisions were and remain extremely important to the West. With the dictator’s departure there is now at least a theoretical chance that the democratic forces in the country will come to an arrangement with the army, which will put a stop to the rise of the Islamists in the border regions. A return to the times when the army was openly in cahoots with the Islamists would be disastrous.”

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“After Musharraf’s departure the West can now prove that it wants to bring lasting peace to the region. The governments in Berlin, London, Paris and Washington, however, will have to try to encourage development in a country in which the majority of people try to live on less than a dollar a day and parents send their children to radical Koran schools because they at least provide for their accommodation and care. ”

“More commitment on the part of the West would not just be a humanitarian gesture but also in its own interests. A half-way stable Afghanistan would only be possible if its neighbor Pakistan receives the same kind of attention. In the face of the desolate situation, this is a task the will take decades, not just a few years.”

“The new Western strategy must start with the choice of words: They should make it clear to Pakistanis that their hardships have been noticed and that the West is fully aware that only a minority of the 160 million people support the militants. That may seem like just a small step but it is necessary as there is great anger in Pakistan at being used and then neglected by the West. Rhetoric, however, is not enough. In the future, economic support should at the very least match the military support.”

— Siobhán Dowling, 1:20 p.m. CET

Taliban Escalate Afghan Fighting

August 20, 2008

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting in Afghanistan over the last two days, including a coordinated assault by at least 10 suicide bombers against one of the largest American military bases in the country, and another by about 100 insurgents who killed 10 elite French paratroopers.

The New York Times: Insurgents carried out attacks in Sarobi and Camp Salerno.

The attack on the French, in a district near Kabul, added to the sense of siege around the capital and was the deadliest single loss for foreign troops in a ground battle since the United States-led invasion chased the Taliban from power in 2001.

Taken together, the attacks were part of a sharp escalation in fighting as insurgents have seized a window of opportunity to press their campaign this summer — taking advantage of a wavering NATO commitment, an outgoing American administration, a flailing Afghan government and a Pakistani government in deep disarray that has given the militants freer rein across the border.

As a result, this year is on pace to be the deadliest in the Afghan war so far, as the insurgent attacks show rising zeal and sophistication. The insurgents are employing not only a growing number of suicide and roadside bombs, but are also waging increasingly well-organized and complex operations using multiple attackers with different types of weapons, NATO officials say.

NATO and American military officials place blame for much of the increased insurgent activity on the greater freedom of movement the militants have in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the Afghan border. The turmoil in the Pakistani government, with the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf on Monday, has added to the sense of a vacuum of authority there.

But at least as important, the officials say, is the fact that Pakistan’s military has agreed to a series of peace deals with the militants under which it stopped large-scale operations in the tribal areas in February, allowing the insurgents greater freedom to train, recruit and carry out attacks into Afghanistan.

More foreign fighters are entering Afghanistan this summer than in previous years, NATO officials say, an indication that Al Qaeda and allied groups have been able to gather more foreigners in their tribal redoubts.

The push by the insurgents has taken a rising toll. Before the attack on Monday, 173 foreign soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan this year, including 99 Americans. In all of 2007, 232 foreign troops were killed, the highest number since the war began in 2001.

The attack with multiple suicide bombers, which struck Camp Salerno in the eastern province of Khost, wounded three American soldiers and six members of the Afghan Special Forces, Afghan officials said. It was one of the most complex attacks yet in Afghanistan, and included a backup fighting force that tried to breach defenses to the airport at the base.

The assault followed a suicide car bombing at the outer entrance to the same base on Monday morning, which killed 12 Afghan workers lining up to enter the base, and another attempted bombing that was thwarted later.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, reached by telephone at an unknown location, said the attack was carried out by 15 suicide bombers, each equipped with machine guns and explosives vests, and backed by 30 more militants.

He also claimed that some of the bombers had breached the walls of the base and had killed a number of American soldiers and destroyed equipment and helicopters. This last claim was denied by Gen. Zaher Azimi of the Afghan military.

The insurgents began attacking with rockets and mortars at 11 p.m. Monday, and a group of militants began to move toward the airport side of the base, the Afghan military said. An Afghan commando unit encircled them, killing 13 militants, including 10 who were wearing suicide vests, General Azimi said.

A fierce battle raged through much of the night, until 7 a.m. Tuesday, said Arsala Jamal, the governor of Khost. American helicopter strikes against the militants, who were moving through a cornfield around the base, also struck a house in a village, killing two children and wounding two women and two men, the provincial police chief, Abdul Qayum Baqizoy, said.

The attack on the French also began late Monday and continued into Tuesday, after they were ambushed by an unusually large insurgent force while on a joint reconnaissance mission with the Afghan Army in the district of Sarobi, 30 miles east of Kabul, according to a NATO statement.

The French soldiers, part of an elite paratrooper unit, had only recently taken over from American forces in the area as part of the expanded French deployment in Afghanistan under President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In addition to the 10 French soldiers killed, 21 were wounded, the NATO statement said. It was the deadliest attack on French troops since a 1983 assault in Beirut killed 58 French paratroopers serving in a United Nations force.

The latest casualties bring to 24 the number of French troops killed in Afghanistan since they were first sent there in 2002.

The Taliban have seemingly made it part of their strategy to attack newly arriving forces, as well as those of NATO countries whose commitment to the war has appeared to waver, in an effort to influence public opinion in Europe. NATO countries have been under increasing pressure from the United States to increase their troop commitments to Afghanistan, which many have been hesitant to do.

The Taliban’s surge in attacks also comes at a delicate moment in American political life, as the departing Bush administration will have to hand over control of the war to a new president, whose administration will need time to get up to speed.

But Mr. Sarkozy, who has been a strong supporter of the United States, made it clear that the French would be undeterred.

“In its struggle against terrorism, France has just been hard hit,” Mr. Sarkozy said in a statement. He arrived in Kabul on Wednesday, according to Reuters, a trip he made to reassure French troops that “France is at their side.”

But Mr. Sarkozy said France would not be deterred from its Afghan mission, where 3,000 troops are serving in a NATO force of more than 40,000 soldiers from nearly 40 nations.

“My determination is intact,” he said. “France is committed to pursuing the struggle against terrorism, for democracy and for freedom. This is a just cause; it is an honor for France and for its army to defend it.”

The Sarobi District has been the scene of a growing number of insurgent attacks in recent months, most thought to be instigated by fighters loyal to the renegade mujahedeen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is allied with the Taliban but not formally part of the movement.

Mr. Hekmatyar, who NATO officials say is based in Pakistan, has increased his militant activity in northeast Afghanistan and around Kabul, while the Taliban, foreign fighters and Al Qaeda have accelerated their attacks in the east, southeast and south.

The increase in insurgent activity northeast of Kabul is part of an attempt by the insurgents to encircle the capital and put pressure on the Afghan government and the foreign forces, some NATO and Afghan officials say.

Insurgent activity has also increased sharply in recent months in Logar and Wardak Provinces, south of the capital, sometimes making the main roads impassable.

The deployment of elite French troops to the area was intended to reinforce the Afghan Army and help keep the insurgent threat to the capital at bay. General Azimi, the Afghan military spokesman, said two companies of Afghan Army soldiers were sent in at dawn to assist the French.

In all, about 27 Taliban were believed to have been killed in the clash in the Sarobi District, around Uzbin, he said. Thirteen insurgents were later found dead on the battlefield, including a Pakistani fighter, he said.

Carlotta Gall reported from Bamiyan, and Sangar Rahimi from Kabul, Afghanistan. Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Paris.

Resurgent Taleban kill 10 French troops and assault US base

August 20, 2008

The Taleban have staged two of their most spectacular operations in Afghanistan, killing ten French troops in a battle just outside Kabul and launching a frontal assault on a big US base near the Pakistani border.

The attacks, which began on Monday and continued yesterday, are the latest in a series of dramatic raids by the militant group, including a prison break in Kandahar and the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, suggesting a tactical shift from multiple skirmishes to bold offensives.

They have also raised fears that the Taleban are expanding their operations in eastern Afghanistan as part of a new strategy to cut off supply routes to Kabul, the capital.

The attack on the French, of whom 21 were also injured, was one of the deadliest on foreign troops in Afghanistan since the start of the US-led war in 2001, which originally ousted the Taleban from Kabul. It was the heaviest loss of life suffered by the French since 1983 and increased pressure on President Sarkozy to withdraw from Afghanistan.

“In its struggle against terrorism, France has just been hit hard,” Mr Sarkozy said, before boarding an aircraft to Afghanistan to show support for his troops.

The French soldiers were on patrol with the Afghan National Army 30 miles (50km) east of Kabul when they were ambushed by about a hundred insurgents, sparking a gunfight that continued into yesterday, according to military officials. France has 2,600 soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly as part of the Nato International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), and has lost 24 in action or accidents since sending them there in 2002.

Mr Sarkozy dispatched an extra 700 soldiers after a Nato summit in April, when Washington asked allies to contribute more troops. Critics accused him of leading France into a Vietnam-style quagmire to regain favour with the Bush Administration.

The French are mostly deployed in Kabul province and Kapisa province, northeast of the capital, which is dominated by conservative Pashtun tribes.

Kapisa is also considered a stronghold of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Mujahidin leader who is now fighting Nato forces and is wanted as a terrorist by the US. The French were ambushed in Sarobi district, which is on the main eastern supply route between Kabul and Pakistan and is dominated by Pashtun tribes considered loyal to Mr Hekmatyar. Senior Taleban commanders told The Times this year that they aimed to cut off supply routes to Kabul. Since then the Taleban have closed in on the capital to such an extent that it is now dangerous for troops, aid workers and civilians to travel on the routes to the south, east and west of the city.

Haroun Mir, of the Afghanistan Centre for Research and Policy Studies, said that the Taleban appeared to be using the same tactics as the Mujahidin against Soviet forces.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taleban spokesman, declined to explain the aims of the Sarobi attack, but said that the French had lost 30 troops.

“Many civilians were killed when the French called in an airstrike,” he told The Times, without giving further details.

The Taleban also carried out two bold attacks over the past two days on Camp Salerno in the eastern province of Khowst, 20 miles from the Pakistani border, according to Isaf and Mr Mujahid.

Several car bombs on the base perimeter killed ten Afghans and wounded thirteen on Monday. Seven insurgents, including six suicide bomb-ers, were killed trying to attack the base yesterday, Isaf said.

Mr Mujahid said that 30 insurgents took part and had killed 40 US soldiers, but Isaf said that no Americans had died.

Comments

Oi Mac..the problem with the Russian involvement was that the Afghans were against them. This conflict is different. Nobody wants the Taleban in there..they are an obscene group who are hated by their own people. I get so annoyed at this defeatist attitude. Sympathise with the families of the dead!

kirk, Rotherham, UK

Good for the insurgents. They are defending their land.
All talk of democracy and western values… Do people really believe that rubbish.. or do they actually know they are complicit in murder and occupation for cheap transit of pipelines?

Conrad Konig, London, UK

In a word? Oil.

Thank you and good night.

Scott, Los Angeles, USA

God bless the French soldiers and their families. They are fighting for freedom from terrorism and we in the United States appreciate their ultimate sacrifice.

Wm., Madison, Wisconsin , USA

7 years and still no democracy or reelection. Hamid Karzai has been the prime minister or government head since the invasion. Only a few have been ruling and the rest mind their business so they do not caught between talebans and the ruling government. Foreigner’s come and go all the time.

Naleen Lal, Northern California,

“Struggle against terrorism”? Pull the other one. What’s going on in Afghanistan is an occupation by foreign forces. The locals don’t want to be occupied and will win in the end, as they always have. Remember the USSR’s humiliating defeat?

David MacGregor, Auckland , New Zealand

Taliban welcome back an old friend

April 7, 2008

KARACHI – Like a voice from the grave, legendary Afghan mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani has emerged from years of silence to boldly launch the Taliban-led spring offensive in Afghanistan, at the same time burying any doubts of a split between his coalition of resistance groups and Mullah Omar’s Taliban.

In a video message released last week and which is only now coming into wider circulation, Haqqani, speaking in his trademark low-pitched voice and with his hair dyed red with henna, called on the people of Afghanistan “to stand up against the US-led forces in Afghanistan and drive them out”.

The release of the message by Haqqani, who has a bounty on his head as one of the US’s most-wanted men, coincides with an important North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Bucharest, Romania, this weekend at which the divided alliance will try to hammer out a more coherent strategy in the war in Afghanistan which many analysts believe it is losing.

As Haqqani speaks on the video, he is accompanied by a background song which pledges his allegiance to Mullah Omar, laying to rest any doubts that he has set himself up as a rival to the mainstream Taliban.

Along with his son Sirajuddin, Jalaluddin Haqqani has built up a well-organized group, known as the Haqqani Network, with roots in Pakistan’s tribal areas, that, now firmly allied with Mullah Omar, will pose a dangerous challenge to the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Haqqani soundly dismissed any notion – as touted by senior NATO officials – that the Taliban were weakened and might forego their spring offensive. “All 37 allies [in NATO] will be humiliated and driven out of Afghanistan – jihad is compulsory and will continue until the end of time; we are without resources, but we have the support of God.”

Haqqani said the Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan had come up with new plans to fight against NATO, but these did not have any room for reconciliation. “We are geared for war,” Haqqani stated.

“[President George W] Bush and his allies have decided to kill us or arrest us – they consider us as weak and think of themselves as all powerful. They think we have no place left in the world to survive – they think we are destined either to die or to be captured … they think they are wealthy nations, with their money and with half of the world behind them.

“They think they can enslave poor Afghans – bomb us with their planes and gunship helicopters – they think they have everything and we are voiceless – the media are with them and they belittle our resistance. We kill 80 and they report two or one. I promise the Afghan nation that soon we will be victorious,”said Haqqani.

The long speech by the Pashtun leader, who made his name fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and remains the most-respected tribal figure in southeastern Afghanistan, is the most sophisticated yet of the Taliban’s presentations to Pashtun people.

Copies of Haqqani’s speech have spread all over eastern Afghanistan and are available in various formats, including on cassette tape and through cell phone downloads. After being silent for so long, and having been reported dead on numerous occasions, the impact of people listening to Haqqani is immense and will undoubtedly work as a galvanizing force among Pashtuns.

This especially as NATO has in recent months worked hard to portray the Taliban as a spent force consisting of a bunch of naive young lads with no credible leader left.

“They projected the rumor that Jalaluddin Haqqani had died in Dubai [in the United Arab Emirates]. I am neither a shopkeeper nor a trader that I would travel to Dubai. Neither am I a politician who roams all around the world … the Americans thought that with their developed technology they could plant the news of my death in the media. But now the media are realizing their lies to demoralize the mujahideen,” Haqqani said.

A graphic part of Haqqani’s video shows a suicide operation carried out by a Turk-German named Cuneyt Ciftci, also known as Saad Abu Furkan. He is seen in the video blowing himself up in a delivery truck near a US base in the Sabari district of Khost province in Afghanistan on March 3. According to Western press reports, two soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and two Afghan workers were killed and six others wounded. But the video claims the killing of 63 people.

The Taliban’s new battle
The inclusion in the video of this suicide attack – one of dozens that has taken place in the country in recent years – is important as it shows an unprecedented level of planning and organization not normally associated with the Taliban.

Footage shows a professionally drawn map, like an architect’s, of a compound of the Sabari district headquarters. There is detail of the boundary walls, the protective inner walls, entry points, rooms, backyard and front portions of the newly built structure. Clearly the Taliban had contacts among the laborers or contractors. There are pictures of Taliban guerrillas sitting around the map discussing their plan to launch the suicide bomber in an explosive-laden vehicle.

This is a far cry from usual grainy Afghan videos of ambushes on military convoys in the mountains. Haqqani’s video is reminiscent of those made by the Iraqi resistance in 2004-05, when operations were meticulously planned by former officers of Saddam Hussein’s army and executed with precision.

In the many years since being ousted in 2001, the Taliban have had numerous ups and downs, from the successful spring offensive of 2006 to the failed mass uprising of 2007. Now, the Taliban have adopted a policy of preserving their strength by only hitting specific targets, rather than waste their resources in multiple direct confrontations with NATO forces.

The Taliban have also opened up a new front based in Khyber Agency in Pakistan just across the border from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, as NATO has beefed up its presence in the traditional Taliban strongholds of Paktia, Paktika, Khost and Kunar provinces.

Last week, NATO announced the opening of an intelligence center near the Torkham border post, at the crossroad of Khyber Agency and Nangarhar province. But it was not able to thwart the biggest-ever guerrilla operation against a US base in the province a few days later. More than 200 Taliban participated in an overnight hit-and-run operation. Taliban sources claimed the killing of 70 US soldiers, but there was no confirmation of that figure from NATO or any other independent source.

According to the video, the Taliban will use as much foreign expertise as possible, as well as tapping into tribal elders and their supporters. This means that mainstream Taliban commanders like Mullah Beradar from southwestern Afghanistan and commanders who are allied with the Taliban but who keep their own identities, like Anwarul Haq Mujahahid from Nangarhar and Uzbek and Arab commanders, will join hands for a coherent overall strategy. This of course includes Haqqani and his considerable following.

A relatively new string in the Taliban’s bow is the reliance on thousands of Pakistani and other jihadis put out of “work” since the struggle in Kashmir de-escalated. They are well trained, and as they did in Indian-administered Kashmir and other parts of India, they can be expected to target key infrastructure and high-profile targets, such as government buildings.

This year’s suicide attack by the Haqqani Network on the Serina Hotel in Kabul, in which several people, including foreigners, were killed, and the attack in Khost on March 3 shown in the video, indicate one key direction in which the Taliban-led insurgency is headed.

Over 70,000 U.S Troops Dead – Says U.S. Government Data

April 6, 2008

Over 70,000 deaths, and over 1 million disabilities among American soldiers attributed to Iraq Wars says U.S. Government data

by Peter Tremblay and Libertyforlife.com researchers

According to U.S. media reports, there are well below 5,000 U.S. soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. However, this data appears to be very misleading. Why? Because many tens of thousands of American soldiers have apparently been killed to-date, as a result of being exposed to radiation poisoning from the indiscriminate killing machines of U.S. military weaponry. Ironically, the only Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that Americans soldiers have found in Iraq are “Made in America”.

U.S. investigative researchers have discovered an official U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs official, but not well publicized count, of 73,846 U.S. soldiers who have perished as an apparent result of Depleted Uranium based bio-chemical warfare exposure. This exceeds an estimate of 58,000 U.S. soldiers who had been killed in relation to the Vietnam War.

Well over 200,000 American soldiers could be killed by 2010, as a result of the after effects of exposure to U.S. dirty bombs.

Over One million U.S. soldiers have apparently been disabled from Depleted Uranium based biochemical exposure. Over one million Iraqis have also been documented to have been killed.

This is what the U.S. ruling elite including U.S. President George W. Bush and U.S. Republican Presidential candidate John McCain calls a “success”. How many sons and daughters of the American ruling class have been sent in harms way of the apparent biological warfare that is being perpetrated in Iraq? Not to many, huh? The Iraq War is a class-and-racial-inspired war that is being masqueraded into being about fighting “extremists” and “terrorists”. The Iraq War is an extension of brutality by the prevailing elites of the global capitalist system, that the 9/11 Truth Movement has accused to be the ultimate perpetrators of 9/11. Indeed, ruling elites are the only group that could pull off the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City which engineers have represented to be specifically designed to withstand being hit simply by aeroplanes. Investigative scholarly researchers who include Dr. David Ray Griffin, present critical evidence of a technologically sophisticated military planning associated with 9/11, including a ’Controlled Demolition’, that could in no way be executed by the alleged Muslim perpetrators.

More than 1,820 tons (3-million, 640 thousand pounds) of radioactive nuclear waste uranium were exploded into Iraq alone in the form of armour piercing rounds and bunker busters, representing the worlds worst man made ecological disaster ever. 64 kg of uranium were used in the Hiroshima bomb. The very broad human and ecological disaster of the Iraq War has been drowned out by America’s sound-bite driven media organizations, that are owned by the same fascist clique which presides over the Iraq War.

The apparent use of these dirty bombs, could be perceived to a categorical Crime Against Humanity, both against the Iraqi people, and military personnel. Indeed, there are far more people getting killed from these dirty bombs than the alleged terrorist targets of U.S. military propaganda.

The fascist clique that is presiding over the Iraq War, clearly seeks to perpetrate widespread Eugenics inspired depopulation of Iraq.

Millions of Iraqis could be killed as a result of contamination from the use of U.S. “strategic” “mini nuclear bombs”.

It is apparent that a Eugenics-inspired megalomaniacal fascist clique seeks to further make Iran a toxic nuclear wasteland.

The use of these dirty bombs demonstrates that the War in Iraq is not simply about “going after terrorists”, but rather, is the apparent premeditated execution of Crimes against Humanity. The kind of demonic intelligence that is associated with such a Crime against Humanity is consistent with the kind of criminal profile associated with what critically acclaimed author Dr. David Ray Griffin labels as the ultimate perpetrators of 9/11.

What kind of socio-pathetic milieu would seek to inspire jingoistic patriotism in statements about military personnel “defending the Homeland” while wilfully exposing them to the toxic by-products of radiation poisoning?

Libertyforlife.com researchers document: “What the government is doing is only counting the soldiers that die in action on the ground before they can get them into a hummer, helicopter or ambulance. Any soldier who is shot but they get into a vehicle before ’the die’ is not counted.”

“Uranium poisoning, which can take decades to kill not only the soldier but family members as well” are further cited documents in Libertyforlife.com.

Libertyforlife.com also adds that more than 1,820 tons of radio active nuclear waste uranium were exploded into Iraq alone in the form of armour piercing rounds and bunker busters (also known as dirty bombs), representing the worlds worst man made ecological disaster, over the 64 kg of uranium that was used in the Hiroshima bomb.

“The U.S. Iraq Nuclear Holocaust by mass, represents between fourteen and twenty eight thousand Hiroshima’s from a uranium poisoning perspective. In Hiroshima 70 thousand died from the blast and 70 thousand died from uranium poisoning.”

“The nuclear waste the U.S. has exploded into the Middle East will continue killing for billions of years and could wipe out a third of life on earth.

Winds can and will blow the uranium dust from the U.S. weapons around the world. Gulf War Veterans and civilians who have ingested the uranium will continue to die off from uranium poisoning over a number of decades.”

“So far, more than one million people have been slaughtered and four million are homeless as a consequence of the U.S.’s illegal invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Birth defects are up 600% in Iraq – the same will apply to U.S. Veterans children.”

When depleted uranium nuclear waste in the form of a “dirty bomb” is blown up or released into the atmosphere it has the potential of killing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. Well it turns out that instead of storing the nuclear waste from power plants in proper and very expensive storage facilities, the apparent neo-fascists who have taken over America, have been machining the depleted uranium into dirty bombs in the form of armour piercing bullets.

Libertyforlife.com researchers critically add: “That’s right, those tanks you saw exploding into flame, as our troops invaded other nations, were being hit with dirty bombs. You were actually witnessing “mini atomic bombs” as the uranium armour piercing rounds made out of nuclear waste called ’Depleted Uranium’ or ’DU’ hits it’s target.”

“It turns out the uranium from nuclear waste is very dense and possesses pyrophoric properties. That is, it bursts into flame releasing an explosion of heat so intense when the DU bullet hits the armour, it literally melts through armour, ” further documents Libertyforlife.com

Many American soldiers have been literally fried from the intense radio energy released from the mini DU atomic explosions.

“Now our boys in the military have not been firing just one or two of these dirty bomb bullets and bunker busters, they have been letting loose a hail of death. In Iraq alone during the two invasions, more than one thousand eight hundred and twenty tons of Depleted Uranium dirty bomb bullets and bombs were blasted into that innocent nation,” further documents Libertyforlife.com investigative researchers.

Astonishingly, Libertyforlife.com researchers also document, because most Americans watch TV, many still think Iraq had something to do with blowing up the three large World Trade center buildings and the Pentagon. Otherwise they try to suggest that Saddam Hussein had it coming because he murdered the Kurds with the helicopters we provided, the year we gave him a billion dollars.

Now if 64 kg of uranium can poison seventy thousand people. How many people will two thousand tons kill? The numbers are staggering, that’s more than twenty eight thousand Hiroshima’s. Forty percent of the Gulf War veterans are on “Gulf War Syndrome” disability from uranium poisoning. Seventy Three thousand of them have already died.

Every time that U.S troops (and coalition soldiers) fires depleted uranium against “enemy targets” in Iraq, they are also being exposed to radiation poisoning that is much more intense than the radioactive by-products associated with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima to end World War II in the Pacific.

The U.S. War on Iraq both represents an apparent Eugenics inspired genocide against perceived “lesser breeds” of U.S. combat troops largely made up of African Americans and “poor whites” as well as Muslim infidels. Eugenics seems to be the driving motivation of the U.S. religious-political-military-industrial complex agenda against Iraq.

In the apparent view of the architects of the Iraq War, the use of “dirty bombs” accomplishes an apparent depopulation agenda which “frees up more resources” for the “racially superior” self-anointed rulers of our planet Earth. The Iraq War seems to be an attempt to fulfill in the Middle East the Eugenics inspired military expansionist goals that Adolf Hitler had.

http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/home/Frontpage/2008/03/21/02286.html

Hello world!

February 18, 2008

Its an attempt to distinguish the facts from fiction in the war on terror and its tailored stories to meet the ends.

Its an attempt to bring to light the players, thier goals, the victims and their resolve.

What we can do, the least possible is to know the truth and
spread it around.

Informed public is a weapon available to us against the onslaught of the war-mongers.