- 16-06-2007, 23:03 #3101
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.Originally Posted by micksmith
Added: Whitecity - my point, exactly. Thanks.Summer grasses - all that is left of the dreams of soldiers
- 17-06-2007, 03:03 #3102
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Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.
More on the US soldier in Kabul...
U.S. soldier fires into crowd in Kabul after suicide bombing, sparks protests
June 16, 2007
KABUL (AP) - A suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of American contract workers and military personnel in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least four civilians, officials said. A U.S. soldier opened fire afterward, killing one civilian and sparking an angry protest.
Saturday's blast killed the bomber, wrecked a taxi and other nearvehicles, and shattered windows of roadside homes and shops.
Maj. Sheldon Smith, a U.S. spokesman for troops training Afghan police and army soldiers, said American contract workers and military personnel were in the convoy. A spokesman at the U.S. base at Bagram said workers with DynCorp, who are helping train Afghan police, were attacked.
Smith said the coalition "never intentionally endangers the lives of innocent Afghan civilians" but that the Taliban routinely and intentionally uses explosive devices in heavily populated areas.
Taliban spokesmen have warned Afghan civilians to avoid military convoys, but suicide bombings still commonly kill or wound far more civilians than military targets.
The American soldier in a Humvee "mistakenly" opened fire on the crowd after the suicide attack, killing one civilian and wounding three, said Zalmai Khan, deputy Kabul police chief.
Khan said the gun inadvertently fired when the soldier shifted it from one side to another.
Some 50 to 100 people began chanting "Death to America," and others jabbed their fingers at Afghan police.
One man in the crowd, Atta Mohammad, said the civilian killed the U.S. soldier was just trying to buy credit for his cellphone.
"Nobody among us was doing anything wrong," Mohammad said.
"They are against us. They are against Afghans," added another man in the crowd, Abdul Rahim.
He said such civilian deaths should be stopped. "Otherwise we will join hands and stand against them alongside the others" - a reference to the Taliban, he said.
Zabiullah Mujahid, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said the insurgent group was behind the blast.
The explosion came amid a wave of violence in Afghanistan, particularly the volatile south, including a suicide blast Friday that targeted a NATO convoy at Tirin Kot in Uruzgan province, killing 10 people including five children and a Dutch soldier.
Kabul has been spared the worst of this year's bloodshed that has claimed 2,300 lives so far, mostly insurgents, according to an AP count based on figures from U.S., NATO, UN and Afghan officials.
In Saturday's attack, witnesses gave a higher casualty count than police, saying seven or eight people had died.
"We were busy with our work making window frames. I heard a very strong sound, and when I turned around I saw a big fire in the street," said Mohammed Noor, 22, who owns a nearcarpentry shop. He said the blast fired bits of metal shorn from the attacker's car into his shop front.
Noor said he helped four seriously wounded people into cars to ferry them to hospital. He said at least seven people were killed and 10 were wounded.
Elsewhere, a soldier in the U.S.-led coalition was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his vehicle Saturday in Uruzgan province, the coalition said. The soldier's nationality was not released.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Defence said three soldiers were killed a roadside bomb in Helmand province on Friday. It also said three "terrorists" - an Arab, a Chechen and a Pakistani - were killed during a U.S.-Afghan raid in Paktika province on Friday.
This spring, supporters of the Taliban government ousted U.S.-led forces in late 2001, have increased bombings and suicide attacks, but NATO and U.S. forces claim operations in the south and east are seeing some success against the rebels.
A look at Afghanistans Parliament in action.....
Tussle at the top
Jun 17, 2007
The Afghan Parliament, dominated by minority interests, initiates a series of bills, not all of them intended to benefit the people it represents. AUNOHITA MOJUMDAR
IN October 2005, the international community was in a celebratory mood. Elections to Afghanistan’s first fully representational parliament had been completed. Sceptics and critics were silenced as doubters and cynics. Yet, since then, this opti mism has dribbled out. Violence has reached proportions higher than at anytime since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 and there are serious issues regarding the non-delivery of development. However, while these problems are visible, less evident but more serious are the systemic flaws that are revealing themselves in the institutions of State. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the Parliament itself.
In 2005 the international community pushed through its agenda of Parliamentary elections in the face of concerned and informed criticism on the grounds that a less than perfect election was better than no election since it was time to empower the representatives of the people. In its eagerness to meet its own deadline, it accepted many compromises. It agreed to President Karzai's desire to ban political parties from contesting (in any other country this would have been likened to autocratic governance), it agreed to a multi-seat constituency contest while marrying it to the single non-transferable vote system — a hybrid system that beggared belief. Elections also took place before a country-wide census (anyone claiming to be a voter could get a voter identity card), before the disarmament of the legal and illegal armed groups and before any efforts to rein in the more powerful war lords. The result has been a Parliament that is dominated by a minority of interests. In the absence of political parties, issued based politics and ideologies, the most powerful groups emerging from Parliament are those coming together to preserve the status quo, whether it is their own power or a conservative dogma.
Adding to the confusion is a lack of clarity about the procedures of Parliament, or even the demarcation of authority between the three pillars of State. In fact each contested decision is now becoming the battleground for this separation of powers, with the jury out on who will emerge the strongest.
The first visibly disturbing law to be passed was the “amnesty law”. The bill, piloted by former warlords, called for immunity from prosecution for all jihadis, regardless of their actions, on the grounds that they shoul d be honoured. It also called for reconciliation with currently warring groups.
What of the MPs? The Chairman of the Religious and Cultural Affairs Commission, Haji Mohammed Mohaqiq, a former commander, told this reporter that the international community should not interfere with the right of the Parliament to make laws. “There is a contradiction in the action of the international community. First they spent $360 million to organise elections and now they are criticising democracy. We have the right to make laws. Anyone criticizing us is violating our sovereignty and interfering in our internal affairs. The Parliament is the highest law making body.”
Woman MP Shukriya Barakzai challenged this right stating, “in which country does a criminal become his own judge? These people are just using their chairs to protect themselves.”
Missing the wood
Eventually protests from the international community led President Karzai to include a clause that would allow individuals to pursue prosecution for individual crimes notwithstanding the reconciliation with currently warring groups. This was, at best, a dubious protection of the interests of the thousands of victims. However, rather than pursuing this flagrant breach of the human rights of victims of war crimes, the international community decided to accept each clause at its face value on a stand-alone basis, rather than examine the contradictions of the law in its totality.
The debate however opened up interesting questions about the authority of the parliament. While internationals suggested that war crimes could not fall within the ambit of amnesty, parliamentarians cited the process of reconciliation in South Africa to defend their right. So did the members have the right, however morally reprehensible their decision might have been?
This week threw up yet another conundrum. The fieriest parliamentarian in Afghanistan, the young woman MP Malalai Joya was suspended for insulting the house. In her comparison of Parliament with an animal barn, animals had come off better. Human Rights Watch rushed to her defence arguing “the article banning criticism of parliament is an unreasonable rule that violates the principle of free speech enshrined in international law and valued around the world.” While the extent of the punishment, suspension for the remainder of her entire term was indeed extreme, there are provisions for punitive action for breach of privilege in every parliament and HRW may have jumped the gun.
In recent weeks, the Parliament has also attempted to dismiss two ministers of the Hamid Karzai on ground of non performance. While Karzai accepted the removal of one minister, he has challenged the decision on the second on the grounds that the process was flawed. The international community came up with an entirely different stance saying that the right of parliament to dismiss ministers was not spelt out explicitly. While the Supreme Court will be the deciding authority the issue does highlight the differing interpretations or rules.
A similar confusion exists over a “bill” passed by the Parliament's upper house calling for an end to military operations by international forces and talks with the Taliban. No one is quite clear whether the upper house has the authority to initiate a bill.
Other contentious moves have included attempts to pass through a media bill restricting many rights (the bill has now been moderated after an intense campaign by journalists and is under consideration) and several moves which have received far less publicity since they relate to women’s rights, a low priority for parliament, the international community and the Afghan government. They include attempts to lower the age of majority of girls to 13 years, make it mandatory for women MPs and officials to have a mehram or male escort from the family for visits outside the country and an attempt to abolish the Ministry of Women's Affairs altogether.
The series of conflicts leads to an interesting conundrum. How do you strengthen a democratic institution, the Parliament, while at the same time tempering its democratic authority in the interests of upholding larger democratic values?
Sunday Observer(Sri Lanka)
Recruiting Taleban 'child soldiers'
Sunday, 17 June 2007
Children in Tank, a remote town at the centre of Taleban activity in north-west Pakistan, are going missing.
It is a disturbing phenomenon that Tank shares with other towns on the edge of Pakistan's tribal belt.
Reports says the children - some as young as 11 - are being kidnapped by pro-Taleban militants.
Most people in Tank are unwilling to admit it is happening and few will talk about it. Pro-Taleban militants in the region deny they are recruiting children, blaming the region's troubles on government policy.
When people in Tank can be persuaded to talk about the missing children, most appear to guard every word.
"They don't really kidnap the children," says a local teacher.
But he is hesitant and thinks his words through.
"The Taleban convince them it is their duty to carry out jihad [holy struggle]." But then he admits what he's left unsaid.
"How much convincing does a child need? ... Especially when promised adventure." The trouble is that in most cases, the "adventure" the Taleban offer usually results in no possibility of return.
"They are being trained as fidayeen," the teacher half whispers.
"Fidayeen" literally means "those who sacrifice their lives".
In Afghanistan today, the term has a new meaning - suicide bomber.
The tale of a local school administrator in the town is typical of what is happening. "The purpose of their visit [in January] was clear from the start," he said.
"The militants came to town with a mission, and wanted to convert us to their cause.
"They said that jihad was obligatory and those who heed the call are rewarded," the principal said.
"As many as 30 students from each of the four government schools in Tank 'enlisted'. A similar number have also joined from private schools. The ages of those taken are between 11 to 15 years.
Asked why the school administration has not simply refused, the staff appear flabbergasted.
"Do you want me to lose my neck?" one asks bluntly.
"The Taleban don't ask for permission - they just tell us."
Even so, not everyone has given way to the militants.
At the private English medium school, Oxford High, an extraordinary battle for influence over the pupils was recently fought.
"They came on 23 March but the children had left," said a school teacher.
"The Taleban said they would be back later."
They did indeed return three days later, while an exam was taking place. The militants agreed for the exam to finish before they tried to take them away.
"They went outside to wait at 1000," the teacher said, "and an hour later all hell broke loose."
Local police and security forces had been monitoring the militants' activities.
"The first sound we heard was of a helicopter flying in low and then a loud explosion," a local explained.
This was at 1100. Over the next two hours the militants and security forces fought pitched battles.
The militants suffered greater losses in the earlier exchanges. But they were soon back in greater numbers, and rolled through the town attacking anything or anyone connected with the government.
Some of the fighters were children as young as 12, eyewitnesses told the BBC.
The security forces were also attacked, and now keep a low profile.
Since then, the militants have had a free hand in the town.
But the authorities are not willing to admit anything is amiss. "I have been here just two months," says Muhammad Idrees Khan, the town's deputy chief of police.
He argues that the parents should come forward if there is a problem.
But locals says that parents are extremely scared.
"They harbour hopes of their children returning if they keep quiet," explains one.
"But if they open their mouths, the whole family would suffer the Taleban's wrath."
On the streets of Tank, students coming out of the local college have ambivalent feelings about the situation.
"We are not extremists... we are liberal people," says a student who has just appeared for his physics paper.
"But our identity is Islamic."
Others are highly critical of the government.
"They are the ones who should be protecting us," said one, "and yet there is not much sign that they are even half-prepared to do so."
The true cost of the helicopter shortage revealed...
Why rescue came too late for minefield hero
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
It was an act of selfless bravery that ultimately cost Corporal Mark Wright his life.
In a desperate effort to help a fellow soldier who was close to death after being injured by an explosion, the 27-year-old paratrooper led a patrol into a minefield in Helmand, southern Afghanistan.
As the troops went to their comrade's rescue, other mines were detonated, setting off a chain of events that was to leave one man dead and six more seriously wounded.
In the aftermath of the tragedy on September 6, 2006, the Ministry of Defence suggested that the injuries sustained by Cpl Wright put him effectively beyond medical help.
However, The Sunday Telegraph has established that many of those involved in the recovery operation and treatment of the wounded believe Cpl Wright could have survived if rescued sooner.
Senior officers have told this newspaper that while the blast had severed his arm and left him with shrapnel wounds in his chest and shoulder, the injuries were not necessarily fatal. Instead, it has been claimed that the soldier, who was posthumously awarded the George Cross for bravery, died because his rescue was delayed by six hours.
A senior officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained that Cpl Wright's arm was virtually blown off and his radial artery severed in the explosion but added: "These aren't necessarily life-ending injuries. If he could have been evacuated back to a field hospital in one or two hours he could have survived.
"But six hours is too late. With those injuries, in that heat, the body cannot cope. We didn't have enough helicopters or pilots in Afghanistan to properly resource operations and troops died unnecessarily."
Those claims are supported by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Parker, an Army surgeon, who has concluded that the helicopter evacuation of wounded soldiers from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan is "excessively slow".
Blaming "middle managers", Lt Col Parker says that helicopter evacuations by US forces in Vietnam 40 years ago were quicker than those by the RAF in Afghanistan.
A military board of inquiry is examining the events that led to Cpl Wright's death. What is known, however, is that within minutes of the first blast, Cpl Wright sent an urgent message to his headquarters requesting a helicopter for an immediate casualty evacuation or "casevac".
A few minutes later, another soldier, Cpl Stuart Pearson, stood on a mine. It blew his leg off. Cpl Wright crawled across the minefield to administer first aid. He stemmed the bleeding, gave morphine and reassured his comrade that rescue was on its way.
Within an hour, a Chinook helicopter had arrived above the scene, but it could not land in a minefield and - crucially - was not fitted with a winch. It could not lift the stricken troops out of danger. The pilot had to withdraw.
It was at this stage that Cpl Wright was injured. Witnesses claim that the down-draught from the Chinook detonated a mine near where he was standing. The Ministry of Defence maintains, however, that the mine was accidentally detonated by Cpl Wright himself as he tried to stand.
Cpl Wright continued to encourage those around him and remained in contact with his headquarters. Operations elsewhere in Helmand province meant that none of the remaining seven RAF Chinooks could respond.
It was not until six hours after the first blast that two US Black Hawk helicopters, fitted with winches and manned by a fully equipped medical crew, pulled the injured men out. Cpl Wright died in the helicopter, minutes before it landed at the British base at Camp Bastion.
Five of those wounded in the minefield are suing the Ministry of Defence for more than £5 million, claiming their commanders were negligent.
Paul Harrington, the solicitor representing the injured men, as well as Cpl Wright's family, said: "Lt Col Parker's paper clearly demonstrates that there were significant failings in the extraction of casualties from the battlefield in Afghanistan.
"I am hopeful that Cpl Wright's inquest will provide answers as to why he and six other soldiers spent six hours in a minefield before they were rescued."
The 'Nimrod saga' continues, Mick Smith exposes more faults...
The Sunday TimesJune 17, 2007
Blast fears as Nimrod planes leak fuel on spy missions
RAF Nimrod spy planes flying over Iraq and Afghanistan have been losing hundreds of gallons of fuel during mid-air refuelling, according to leaked official reports (read them here: report 1 and report 2).
The documents record large amounts of fuel running along the inside of the fuselage and pouring out of the rear of the aircraft leaving it at risk of fire or explosion.
Air-to-air refuelling has continued despite it being the suspected cause of a mid-air explosion over Afghanistan in September that killed 14 Nimrod crew members.
One former RAF engineer said he believed the decision to continue with air-to-air refuelling in the face of the leaks was “criminal”.
A former RAF pilot said the scale of the leaks was shocking. “You never lose fuel like that. It is incredibly dangerous, especially if the fuel is atomised.”
A leak in the air-to-air refuelling system caused by excessive pressure is believed to have led to the fire on board Nimrod XV230 which caused it to explode.
Official air incident reports show leaks were much larger than previously thought with pressure building up inside the Nimrod’s refuelling system to more than twice the level it should have been.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted repeated small fuel leaks. But in one incident in November last year hundreds of gallons of fuel poured out of the back of the aircraft.
The crew of the RAF tanker aircraft refuelling the Nimrod reported that the fuel coming out of the back of the aircraft was “similar to that of a fuel dump”, when aircraft dump large amounts of fuel before landing.
Fuel had built up in the bomb bay, which was opened on two occasions to get rid of it. Air-to-air refuelling was suspended for a short period in the wake of the November incident and new operating procedures were introduced.
But even after these were put in place, the leaks continued. A second report covering an incident a month later shows the aircraft leaking 958 gallons of fuel.
“On landing, the rear fuselage was found to be covered in fuel,” the air incident report said. “Fuel had gathered in the doors.”
There was a pool of fuel inside an aerial housing and flares were found to be covered in fuel.
“There was fuel found covering the plastic base of the flares,” the report said. “Each flare was removed from its housing and evidence of fuel was found approximately a third of the way up the flare housings.”
Jimmy Jones, a former RAF engineering officer who worked on the Nimrod aircraft, said the air-to-air refuelling system had been fitted quickly for the Falklands war in 1982 and was not designed for extensive use.
“It was fitted so that the aircraft, in time of crisis, could transit from one theatre of operation to another. It was not fitted with ‘everyday’ use in mind.
“Personally, I believe it was criminal to continue flying after the explosion on board XV230 without a full understanding of what caused it.”
The aircraft that exploded is believed to have sprung a leak during midair refuelling while it was monitoring a Nato offensive against Taliban insurgents west of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on September 2 last year.
The fuel appears to have leaked into the bomb bay where it caught fire, either as the result of an electrical fault or hot air leaking from a heating pipe.
The pilot reported a fire in his bomb-bay. He tried to reach Kandahar air base, taking the aircraft down from 23,000ft to 3,000ft in 90 seconds.
An RAF Harrier aircraft followed the Nimrod down and saw a wing explode, followed a few seconds later by the rest of the aircraft.
A board of inquiry was due to report this month. A draft report was known to be circulating in the MoD in April. But the report is not now expected to be released until September at the earliest.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, chief of the air staff, said last month that he was “very concerned” about the number of leaks but the aircraft was “as safe as it needs to be”.
The Ministry of Defence said: “The Nimrod has an excellent safety record and is airworthy and fit to fly. If the RAF didn't have confidence in the aircraft, it would not continue to fly it.”
More on Nimrod in his blog, here: http://timesonline.typepad.com/mick_smith/
- 17-06-2007, 07:43 #3103
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.
At Least 35 Afghans Killed in Bus Bombing
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A bomb ripped through a police bus in a crowded civilian area in Kabul on Sunday, killing more than 35 people, officials said, in what appears to be the deadliest attack in the capital since the fall of the Taliban.
- 17-06-2007, 09:48 #3104
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.Originally Posted by "HansVonHealing/MickSmith
We're all doomed.Summer grasses - all that is left of the dreams of soldiers
- 17-06-2007, 11:28 #3105
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- Jun 2005
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.
Another part of Reuters defence correspondent Peter Graff's blog, which gives a first hand report on the bus bombing in Kabul...
June 17th, 2007, filed by Peter Graff
Forget the day off and the good news. We were back in Kabul and it may as well have been Baghdad.
A suicide bomber had completely hollowed out a bus that was carrying police trainers into a compound. Officials said more than 35 people died.
I was being jostled by a crowd in front of the Jamuriat hospital in the centre of the Afghan capital, pressed up against an iron fence. Eighteen bodies and ten wounded patients had arrived here. Doctors had run out of room inside and were handling the wounded and the dead at a makeshift triage station in the courtyard. Ambulances were pushing through the crowd.
Through the bars, I saw a corpse under a sheet, next to a pair of bloody shoes. All I could see of the body was his feet, with cuffs of a police uniform. A male relative was wailing into a mobile phone, being restrained and consoled by friends.
Sunday's bomb was the deadliest such strike in the Afghan capital since the Taliban fell in 2001. The attack played out the greatest fear of Afghans, that the tactics that have caused such mayhem in Iraq would be imported here.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for a “very, very successful” suicide attack and announced plans for more. In four smaller suicide attacks over the past two days, they killed at least 14 other people. At the scene of one of those strikes, American troops opened fire and shot one civilian dead.
I had finished my embed and returned to Kabul on Saturday in a Hercules military cargo plane, a solemn flight accompanied by three coffins draped with Afghan flags containing the bodies of Afghan soldiers killed in the south.
I had missed my flight back to London, but was initially secretly glad. It would mean two extra days in Kabul. Local resident Masood had offered to host me in the Panjsher valley for a barbecue, and I was looking forward to a relaxing day in that beautiful mountain valley, breathing fresh air and eating roast goat by the river.
I also wanted to get there to write a “good news” story. Whatever else has happened over the past five years, the Panjsher and neighbouring Salang valleys are areas that have dramatically improved since the fall of the Taliban. The valleys had been cut-off from the capital by an impenetrable frontline during the civil war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, and when I first visited them they were packed with desperately poor refugees, many hungry. Today, Masood explained to me, life in those valleys is much easier, with a newly paved road allowing people to bring goods to market in Kabul and move there for work. I hoped to write a simple, good story, while enjoying my own relaxing day out.
Sunday morning I was drinking coffee in the Reuters office when I heard of the bombing. Instead of heading out into the countryside, I hit the streets of the capital to report.
Speeding through the town, rushing to the hospital with our Kabul TV camera crew, I could see the contradictions of contemporary Kabul. We raced through a wealthy street where endless rows of enormous, brightly coloured marble-clad palaces are being built. At a nearby corner, a tiny beggar girl wiped our window with a dirty cloth.
For now, much of Afghanistan is still at peace, or the closest thing to peace the country has seen since the 1970s. But the war in the south has escalated sharply over the past year. And the Taliban are now bringing the sort of carnage to the city streets that caused the meltdown of Iraq. At the end of our trip, I remain hopeful, just, that improvements will still come faster than the violence worsens. But I'll have to wait until my next trip for that chance to relax in Afghanistan's quiet valleys.
- 17-06-2007, 14:32 #3106
- Join Date
- Jun 2005
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.
Four foreigners dead in Afghan blast
June 17, 2007
FOUR foreign nationals were among those killed in a suicide bombing against a police bus on Sunday in the Afghan capital, the interior ministry said.
The foreigners, whose identities were not immediately clear, served as instructors for Afghan police, it said.
Germany leads the training of the Afghan police.
A bomb blew up a police bus in the middle of the Afghan capital on Sunday and police said more than 35 people had been killed in one of Kabul's deadliest explosions.
International Herald Tribune
3 U.S.-led coalition members, 1 Afghan interpreter killed in roadside blast in Afghanistan
The Associated Press
Published: June 17, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan: A roadside blast hit a U.S.-led coalition vehicle in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, leaving three coalition members and their Afghan interpreter dead, a coalition statement said.
The attack occurred in the southern province of Kandahar, the coalition said.
It did not disclose the nationalities of the soldiers. The U.S.-led coalition is comprised of special forces soldiers from several nations, but most of the troops are American.
- 18-06-2007, 03:12 #3107
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- Jun 2005
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.
Confirmation of the bomb in Kandahar...
Kuwait News Agency
Roadside bomb kills 3 US soldiers in Afghanistan
KABUL, June 17 (KUNA) -- A roadside bomb killed three US soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in southern Afghanistan on Sunday. A brief statement from the Coalition's main Bagram base said the military vehicle stepped on an improvised explosive device around 1:30 pm in Kandahar province.
Blair feared US would 'nuke' Afghanistan
From correspondents in London
June 18, 2007
BRITAIN joined the US in ousting the Taliban in 2001 because it feared America would "nuke the sh-t" out of Afghanistan, the former British ambassador to Washington has reportedly said on a TV documentary.
In comments published in advance in the Daily Mirror tabloid today, Christopher Meyer said fear explained why Prime Minister Tony Blair chose to stand with US President George W. Bush in his decision to invade Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks - to temper his aggressive battle plans.
"Blair's real concern was that there would be quote unquote 'a knee-jerk reaction' by the Americans ... they would go thundering off and nuke the shit out of the place without thinking straight," Mr Meyer reportedly told the documentary, according to the Mirror.
In other excerpts of the documentary, printed in The Observer newspaper yesterday, members of Mr Blair's inner circle said the Prime Minister agreed to commit troops to the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq despite believing that the US had failed to prepare adequately for post-war reconstruction.
Britain's Channel 4 will air the first part of The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair on Saturday.
Two stories from 'The Herald'...
Former Navy chief warns over soaring cost of ground forces
IAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent
June 18 2007
Sir Alan West, who retired last year as First Sea Lord and head of the Navy, has warned that the costly demands of Iraq and Afghanistan might make cancellation of the carrier project attractive to a hard-pressed MoD.
Despite government statements that "urgent operational requirements" (UORs) such as new mine-protected vehicles and extra helicopters are met from Treasury contingency funds, this is not always the case.
The defence equipment budget, already overstretched by paying for Typhoon Eurofighters, Type 45 destroyers, Astute submarines and new Nimrod surveillance aircraft, is now being tapped to pay for unplanned kit for the Army's front lines. Six Merlin helicopters bought from Denmark in March to shore up battlefield mobility will cost £180m. All of that has to be taken from the equipment budget and will not be underwritten by the Treasury.
Insiders say the Treasury meets only 60% of many UORs from the contingency war chest, leaving the MoD to find the rest from its existing, overstretched budget. A review of defence spending priorities has been under way since last year and most senior officers say money is being funnelled away from the Navy and the RAF to support ground forces facing daily combat.
Sir Alan, who spent three years arguing the strategic case for two large aircraft carriers, said: "There are still those in the MoD challenging the requirement for their own parochial reasons.
"The pressures of the Comprehensive Spending Review make the large piece of equipment programme money that has not yet been committed highly attractive to those running much less important projects who can see a painful squeeze coming."
If the carriers were cancelled, Sir Alan believes the consequences would be far-reaching for decades to come and would endanger the UK's security. "I see the CVF project as a make-or-break challenge for the MoD and, indeed, a litmus test for the government's commitment to defence," he added.
Meanwhile, The Herald can reveal that the UK is delaying the in-service date of the US-designed F35 future strike fighters intended for the carrier force until at least 2017.
Britain was due to take delivery of 150 of the stealth aircraft from 2014 onwards in a £10bn deal.
The MoD is now facing a financial "black hole" as major bills become due for multi- billion pound projects in the middle of the next decade and is trying to delay deliveries to spread the load.
And this editorial...
Taliban's grim reminder
Yesterday's suicide bomb on a police bus in the heart of Kabul was one of the deadliest since the Taliban was ousted from Afghanistan in 2001. The scale of the carnage ensured the kind of headlines that the Taliban has been desperate to achieve to bolster its case that the government and the Nato-led forces have lost control of the country. Although final numbers are in dispute, it seems that at least 35 people were killed, 22 of whom were police instructors, and many others injured. There can be no doubt that it was a successfully targeted attack on a bus taking police officers to their beats, with the bomber boarding when it stopped to pick up additional officers.
With more deaths and injuries among civilian bystanders prevented only by the fact the police bus was blocked by another bus, the insidious effect of such attacks is also bolstered, making ordinary people scared of the police, because they fear an attack.
With Nato-led forces reporting that they had repelled incursions by the Taliban in their spring offensive in Afghanistan, there was a tendency to refocus our attention on Iraq, but this fifth suicide attack in three days - the first four having already killed 14 people - is the grimmest of reminders that the Taliban forces have also been looking to Iraq and al Qaeda.
The group scarcely needs confirmation of the effectiveness of suicide bombing. In its long battle to oust the elected government of President Hamid Karzai, the tactic first killed at least 26 people and wounded 150 in a car bombing in Kabul in 2002. The years since have seen a series of suicide bombs; just a month ago three blasts in one day killed 21 police officers.
All this is on top of increasing casualties among the foreign troops, the British contingent of which is fighting in particularly difficult terrain in Helmand province. According to a senior British Army surgeon, injured soldiers face a delay of seven hours in reaching a field hospital. Lt Col Paul Parker lays the blame for delays - in both Afghanistan and Iraq - on a lack of dedicated helicopter ambulances and too many layers of command. This is a variation on the complaints we have heard before about the shortage of specialist equipment for the task we have dispatched our armed forces to carry out.
This must be properly addressed. The least we can do for the people who put their lives on the line for the betterment of the world is to give them the best possible chance of survival: that means an effective command structure as well as enough vehicles without having to borrow them from the Estonians or others. That the MoD is to provide 14 additional helicopters for Afghanistan over the next two years is welcome news, but a salutary reminder that there will be no quick solution.
Two from the Telegraph'...
MoD shunned chance to hire more helicopters
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
The Ministry of Defence has for a year ignored a £20 million deal to hire transport helicopters from a British firm which could have resolved the transportation shortage in Afghanistan.
The desperate lack of air transport, highlighted at the weekend by The Daily Telegraph, could have been resolved if ministers had agreed last year to an offer from Security Support Solutions Ltd to provide four Mi17 Hip helicopters and an Mi26 Halo transporter, capable of carrying 20 tons.
But the deal foundered because the MoD was reluctant to fly troops in Soviet era helicopters despite the aircraft being specifically designed for the heat and dust of Afghanistan.
Last year Lord Drayson, the defence procurement minister, told the House of Lords that the Government was "seriously considering" an offer from an independent helicopter company to provide logistical support.
Security Support Solutions had the aircraft, flown by former British and European special forces pilots, available immediately to carry troops, food and ammunition in Helmand province.
It said the helicopters would also be "Westernised" and European engineers would carry out all maintenance.
Last night another civilian helicopter company, Skytech, stepped in saying it could offer aircraft and pilots for immediate use in Afghanistan.
With the private helicopters taking the workload off the RAF, the Chinooks would be released to carry out combat operations and more would be available for medical evacuations.
"At the moment it is the equivalent of using your Cabriolet Mercedes to pick up shopping from the supermarket," said the former Army commander Col Tim Collins. "Our Chinooks are being made to do logistics tasks where they are getting the stuffing knocked out of them.
"Common sense dictates that we need to accept that this is a war and then decide what resources we need to get the battle won."
Col Bob Stewart, the former British commander in Bosnia, said the lack of basic equipment "directly translates into greater casualties".
"If you cannot move people by air it means they have to travel by road which leads to a proportionate increase in the dangers faced.
"If a garrison is down to its last 200 mortar rounds it means that the risks just get greater.
"They have been asking for more helicopters forever but still have not got them despite Tony Blair twice promising they would get all they want."
Following this newspaper's report on Saturday highlighting the shortage of spare helicopter parts the aircraft manufacturers Boeing have indicated that they would be able to supply machinery if required.
Under a memorandum of understanding for "joint military procurement" between the US and Britain, the MoD has an open account to buy spares for Apache helicopters.
There was also angry reaction to the story by worried family and friends who contacted the Telegraph website.
One reader wrote: ''Thank you for your continued support of our Armed Forces. I would humbly suggest that in actual percentage terms of the overall UK budget it would not take a great deal to resolve some of the very urgent equipment issues for the Armed Forces. A billion pounds of genuinely brand new money, (not old money recycled by spin), spent wisely and without extensive tendering and other resource wasting tactics would greatly enhance current capability.''
Another reader wanted to know if the public could contribute to a fund buying kit and another suggested money could be saved by the Prime Minster canceling his valedictory visit to Helmand.
Taliban fighters back in caves of Tora Bora
By Tom Coghlan
Insurgents backed by al-Qa'eda have opened a new "front" on the eastern border of Afghanistan, re-occupying the Tora Bora cave complex from which Osama bin Laden escaped the closing net of US forces in 2001.
The "Tora Bora Front", as Taliban propaganda calls it, borders the province of Nangahar and has been active for about three weeks. The complex of deep caves, which proved impervious to US bombing in 2001, sits on an infiltration route from the Spin Ghar mountains between Nangahar province and Pakistan's lawless Tribal Areas, where bin Laden is still thought to be hiding.
Western officials and local government authorities confirm that Taliban insurgents backed by al-Qa'eda have reoccupied the complex.
They believe that one of the group's leaders could be Amin ul-Haq, a close associate of bin Laden. One western official also named Maulvi Anwar ul-Haq Mujahed as a commander of the group. He is the son of Younis Khalis, one of the most famous Islamist leaders in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets.
Initial estimates of the Tora Bora force by local Afghan officials put the number at between 200 and 250, including Arab, Chechen and Pakistani fighters.
"They have reoccupied the old base," said Haji Zalmai, the district governor of Khogiani, which borders the Spin Ghar mountains at Tora Bora.
"We feel the effect directly here. They want to extend this front and to establish their control in these two or three districts on this side of the border in the way that they did in parts of Uruzgan, Helmand and Kandahar."
Khogiani district is a dusty plain dominated by the imposing rampart of peaks that make up the Spin Ghar mountains and the border with Pakistan. Governor Zalmai survived an assassination attempt two weeks ago that blew up his car and the district, which has never been secure, has experienced a recent rise in insurgent activity.
The area, which is also notorious for poppy production and smuggling, has had three governors in a year. Zalmai's predecessor was killed and the governor before him was injured and swiftly left the post.
A Taliban propaganda blitz across southern Nangahar has led to "night letters" being dropped in villages boasting of the new front. They warn Afghans of the dire repercussions for supporting the government or western forces.
Officials in Kabul believe that the move is part of a more general strategic shift in the focus of Taliban operations away from their previous epicentre in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, where a series of offensives by British troops supported by US and other Nato forces has left the Taliban with a battered command structure and weakening morale.
The death of the notorious Mullah Dadullah Akhund in May was only the most high-profile success of a little-publicised campaign, largely conducted by both British and American Special Forces, to decapitate the leadership of the Taliban in the south.
There also appears to be a shift in tactics, with the insurgents turning more to terrorist tactics such as yesterday's suicide bombing in Kabul.
Al-Qa'eda has been retrenching its influence in Pakistan's tribal belt since the signing of a peace deal between the Pakistani government and Taliban militants in South Waziristan in September 2006.
The area has proved a heartland of support for al-Qa'eda's brand of religious extremism and western officials in Kabul are concerned by the spread of Talibanisation from across the border in Pakistan into Afghanistan.
One senior western diplomat in Kabul told The Daily Telegraph that Gen Dan McNeill, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, was reviewing whether to shift Nato's "Theatre Reserve", which is made up of troops from the US 82nd Airborne division, from Helmand and Kandahar provinces to areas along the eastern border.
- 18-06-2007, 03:55 #3108
- Join Date
- Jun 2005
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.
When you examine some of the political alternatives in Pakistan, you begin to understand why the present regime is preferred...
Fazl wants Taliban role in dialogue
By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, June 17: Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that Taliban are a major force in Afghanistan and peace cannot be achieved without their participation in the dialogue process.
Talking to journalists after a general meeting of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) on Sunday, he said that the Pakistan-Afghan Loya Jirga could only be successful if all parties, including Taliban, were included in it.
He said that the jirga had been formed with a view to resolve some disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan, despite the fact there were no such problems.
The JUI-F chief said that the problem was inside Afghanistan, but the government of that country had not yet identified the parties involved in the conflict.
He demanded that Pakistan should not poke its nose into the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Maulana Fazl said that the Afghan conflict was directly affecting Pakistan’s tribal areas, which was further affecting peace in the settled areas.
He said that the people on both sides of the Durand Line could not be separated as they had blood relations.
“Peace in Afghanistan holds the key to peace in Pakistan,” he said. He alleged that through the new world order America wanted to bring about geographical changes in some developing countries and the people and governments in those countries should unite to foil such attempts.
Paying tribute to the people of Fata, he said that by staying calm during the war being fought on their borders they had kept their traditions and the mission of Islam alive.
He said that it was the need of the hour that the JUI-F should come with solid and the rationalised policy after its successful government in the NWFP.
“We have to identify conspiracies being hatched against us in order to adopt strategies to counter such conspiracies,” he said.
He called upon the people of Fata to throw their full weight behind ulema in the next general elections like the past.
- 18-06-2007, 07:18 #3109
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.US-led air raid kills seven Afghan children
18 Jun 2007 05:19:27 GMT
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL, June 18 (Reuters) - At least seven children have been killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike in a religious school in Afghanistan, the coalition said on Monday, amid rising anger over civilian deaths from foreign military operations.
Violence has surged in recent months in Afghanistan after the traditional winter lull, with foreign forces launching attacks against Taliban guerrilla strongholds in the south and east and the Taliban hitting back with a string of suicide bombings.
In a separate incident, three coalition soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed on Sunday when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle near the southern city of Kandahar.
The air strike, late on Sunday in southeast Paktika province near the Pakistan border, was part of an operation aimed at a compound containing a mosque and a madrassa thought to have been used as a safehouse by al Qaeda fighters, the coalition said.
Al Qaeda is fighting alongside the Taliban to overthrow Afghanistan's Western-backed government and drive out foreign troops. U.S.-led forces removed the Taliban from power in 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The coalition statement said early reports showed seven children at the madrassa had been killed in the air strike and several militants were also killed.
The mosque sustained minor damage, it added.
More than 120 civilians have been killed by foreign troops in Afghanistan in recent months, according to the Afghan government and residents.
IN FULLSummer grasses - all that is left of the dreams of soldiers
- 18-06-2007, 09:08 #3110
- Join Date
- Feb 2006
Re: Afghan fighting - the latest reports.US-led air raid kills seven Afghan children
The air strike, late on Sunday in southeast Paktika province near the Pakistan border
The most coordinated effort, the most productive effort in terms of counterinsurgency, of fusing together security sector reconstruction and enabling governance is occurring in Regional Command East. Some very gifted commanders, the largesse of the U.S. government, and the help of the Afghan people make this so.
The U.S. forces out there are well-connected with village, district and provincial leadership. The U.S. government is providing them a considerable amount of funds to do reconstruction projects. Roads seem to be especially having an effect out there, and they are getting after it in the security sector. Everybody is benefiting from what's going on out there.
Gen Dan "Bomber McNeil