Category Archives: Afganistan

Afghanistan: Islamic State expands footprint with terror campaign

In this Nov. 29, 2015 photo, an internally displaced girl peeks from a tent after her family left their village in Rodat district of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Nangarhar’s chief refugee official says that at least 25,200 families, or more than 170,000 people, have been displaced across the province, either by Islamic State or perceived threats from the group. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AP) — Rahman Wali’s younger brother was one of 10 Afghan men forced by Islamic State militants to kneel over bombs buried in the soil in a lush green valley in eastern Nangarhar province. The extremists then detonated the bombs, turning the pastoral countryside into a scene of horror.

The August killings were recorded on camera and posted on social media like so many IS atrocities across the Mideast — reflecting how the Islamic State is exporting its particular brand of cruelty as the group seeks to enlarge its footprint in Afghanistan.

It was through the macabre video that 44-year-old Wali learned the fate of his brother, Rahman Gul, an imam in their remote Shinwar district bordering Pakistan. Gul had been kidnapped weeks earlier, together with his wife and six children who were quickly set free.

After his brother’s death, Wali and his family fled to the provincial capital of Jalalabad, seeking refuge in a makeshift camp with thousands of others who left their homes in the valleys hugging the border to escape what is turning out to be an increasingly vicious war for control of the region between the Taliban and fighters of Afghanistan’s IS affiliate.

Reports of an IS presence in Afghanistan first emerged early this year in southern Helmand province, where recruiters believed to have links to the IS leadership in Syria were killed by a US drone strike in February.

In the summer, extremists pledging allegiance to IS also surfaced in Nangarhar, where they challenged the Taliban in border clashes. After see-sawing between the two groups, four districts — Achin, Nazyan, Bati Kot and Spin Gar — fell under IS control, according to Gen. John F. Campbell, the US commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John F. Campbell speaks during a press conference at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on November 25, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI/POOL / AFP / POOL / MASSOUD HOSSAINI)

Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John F. Campbell speaks during a press conference at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul on November 25, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI/POOL / AFP / POOL / MASSOUD HOSSAINI)

Campbell told The Associated Press in an interview this week that IS loyalists in Afghanistan are now trying to consolidate links to the mothership — the so-called “caliphate” proclaimed on territory IS seized in Syria and Iraq after its blitz there in the summer of 2014.

For the present, IS ambitions for Afghanistan seem focused on setting up what it calls “Khorasan Province,” taking the name of an ancient province of the Persian Empire that included territories in today’s Afghanistan, Iran and some Central Asian states. It parallels names for affiliates elsewhere, such as the IS branch in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which is known as “Sinai Province.”

“I think ISIL is really trying to establish a base in Nangarhar … and establish Jalalabad as the base of the Khorasan Province,” Campbell said, using an alternative acronym for IS.

Several residents who fled the four Nangarhar districts say IS’s “reign of terror” there includes extortion, evictions, arbitrary imprisonment and forced marriage for young women. Beheadings and killings with “buried bombs” — such as the gruesome slaying of Wali’s brother — are filmed and posted on social media to instill fear, they said. Some spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals for relatives back in the districts.

Mimicking IS’s media outreach in Syria and Iraq, the Afghan branch also set up a radio station in Nangarhar, “Radio Caliphate,” broadcasting at least one hour a day to attract young Afghan men disenchanted by dim job prospects in a war-torn country with an overall 24 percent unemployment rate. The joblessness is even higher among youths targeted in the IS recruitment drive.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government forces, busy fighting the Taliban elsewhere, left the two militant groups to battle it out.

And battle they did. Hundreds of Taliban fighters — disillusioned with the 14-year war to overthrow the Kabul government — switched allegiance to IS.

Though estimates say that IS fighters number a few thousand nationwide, they are still far outnumbered by the Taliban, who have anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000 in their ranks, according to Afghan political analyst Waheed Muzhdah, who worked in the Taliban foreign ministry during their 1996-2001 rule.

Still, many admit the IS Afghan branch could pose a serious threat to the unstable nation.

In a report released this week, the Pentagon referred to the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — Khorasan Province” as an “emergent competitor to other violent extremist groups that have traditionally operated in Afghanistan.”

“This may result in increased violence among the various extremist groups in 2016,” the Dec. 16 report said.

Campbell said some foreign IS fighters have joined the Afghans from Iraq and Syria. Former residents said they spotted gunmen from Pakistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Arabic speakers flush with money and apparently better armed than the Taliban.

Nangarhar is attractive to IS for its mix of insurgent groups, some of which are based across the border in Pakistan, and criminal gangs involved in lucrative drugs and minerals smuggling.

Alarm bells rang when students at the prestigious Nangarhar University staged a pro-IS demonstration on campus in August, sparking arrests by the Afghan intelligence agency and a crackdown on universities nationwide.

Governor Salim Kunduzi put IS’s battleground strength in Nangarhar at around 400 fighters. The province’s mountainous terrain provides perfect ground for an insurgency, and militants can easily resupply from Pakistan, he said. The province can also serve as a staging ground for a push north, along the eastern border and eventually on to Kabul, just 125 kilometers (77.5 miles) to the west, he added.

Both Campbell and Kunduzi agree IS may see Jalalabad as its base for expansion in Afghanistan.

“I do not think Daesh will focus only on the east,” Kunduzi said, using the Arabic language acronym for the Islamic State group.

Nangarhar’s chief refugee official, Ghulam Haidar Faqirzai, said that at least 25,200 families — or more than 170,000 people — have been displaced across the province, either directly by IS or by perceived threats from the group. As the winter sets in, needs of the displaced are intensifying, he warned.

In a camp on Jalalabad’s eastern outskirts, 70-year-old Yaqub, who like many Afghan men uses only one name, said he left his village in Maamand Valley in Achin district six months ago, after “fighters of the black flag” — the Islamic State’s banner — dragged him and his son into prison where they were beaten and tortured. He said he still does not know why.

“They covered my head with a black bag so I couldn’t breathe while they beat me for a whole day, and every day they said they were going to kill me,” he said.

Yaqub and his son were released after the family paid their captors 200,000 Pakistani rupees, or almost $2,000 — a fortune in Afghanistan, where the average annual income is around $700.

“Anything is better than going back there,” said Yaqub.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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Poisoning Afghan Schoolgirls

 

Arnold Ahlert//On Monday, as many as 126 teachers, schoolgirls and kindergartners were poisoned at the Habibul Mustafa School in Afghanistan’s western Herat province. Herat provincial hospital spokesman Muhammad Rafiq Sherzai revealed some of the victims were vomiting and some were unconscious when they were admitted, but that they were all in stable condition. “A health team has been sent to the area for investigations,” he added. Herat police spokesman Abdul Raouf Ahmadi said police have initiated an investigation, but no arrests have been made at this point. And while no group has claimed responsibility for the incident, the Taliban have a despicable track record of targeting school girls.

A 2001 State Department report titled “The Taliban’s War Against Women” reveals that the “assault on the status of women” began immediately after the group’s takeover of Kabul in 1996, following 20 years of civil war. The women’s university was closed, nearly every woman was forced to quit her job, access to medical care was restricted, and a restrictive dress code was brutally enforced. As many as 50,000 women who had worked as teachers, doctors, nurses, and clerical workers, because they had lost male relatives and husbands during the long civil war, were reduced to begging on the streets (or worse) to support their families. The Taliban also precipitated a campaign of violence against women that included rape, abduction, and forced marriage.

Beginning in 1998, girls over the age of 8 were prohibited from attending school.

The liberation of Afghanistan in 2001 changed that loathsome equation, but the Taliban continued to attack defenseless schoolgirls whenever the opportunity presented itself, especially in the neighboring country of Pakistan where many of them fled following their rout by US troops. A 2014 report by the Global Committee to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) reveals that Pakistan endured more than 838 school attacks from 2009 through 2012 that left hundreds of schools destroyed. “When the Pakistani Taliban did gain control of the Swat Valley, they first banned girls’ education and banned women from teaching, through an edict in December 2008, and later amended their edict to permit the education of girls, but only up to grade 4,” the report stated.

A June 2014 report by the International Crisis Group also illuminated the twisted rationale behind such efforts, explaining that the Taliban target educational institutions in general, and girls’ schools in particular, because they view education as the “promotion of Western decadence and un-Islamic teachings.” “Militant jihadi groups have destroyed buildings, closed girls’ schools and terrorised parents into keeping daughters at home,” the report added. “More than nine million children do not receive primary or secondary education, and literacy rates are stagnant.”

This overt viciousness remained largely under the media radar until Taliban gunmen attempted to assassinate education activist Malala Yousafzai, then 14, as she rode the bus to her Pakistani school in 2012. Yousafzai was hit in the head by a bullet that traveled down her neck. She was brought to a military hospital in Peshawar where a portion of her skull was removed to treat brain swelling before she was transferred to Birmingham, England. Following a painful recovery that included multiple surgeries, she continued to promote the right to an education, ultimately winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize following her second nomination for that honor.

Taliban savages made sure other children weren’t as lucky. On December 16, 2014, six Taliban terrorists massacred 132 children and nine staff members and wounded another 122, shooting their way through the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. The eight hour atrocity included burning a teacher to death in front of her students, and Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed credit for it. Pakistan security expert Ahmed Rashid cited two reasons for the attack, including revenge for the Pakistani Army taking the fight to terrorists in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan, close to the Afghan border—and the accolades received by Yousafzai, who was “heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar.”

The poisoning in Herat follows a number of similar incidents that occurred beginning in April 2012 when 150 girls were poisoned by contaminated water, leaving some in critical condition at a high school in Afghanistan’s Takhar Province. A year later at a school in Taluqan, the capital of Takhar Province, 74 girls were hospitalized when they became ill after complaining about a gas smell. In May another 150 were hospitalized in Kabul after voicing similar complaints about the smell of gas and bad drinking water at the Sultan Razia school.

Two other incidents occurred in June. In Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, 77 girls were hospitalized due to suspected gas poisoning, followed by a similar incident the on same day in the town of Behsud, where 20 girls attending a local secondary school fell ill for unknown reasons.

In an April 2013 column for the New York Times, Kabul-based writer Matthieu Aikins insisted no one had been poisoned, citing “never-released reports showing that the United Nations, the World Health Organization and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force had investigated the incidents for years and had never found, despite extensive laboratory tests, any evidence of toxins or poisoning.” Rather the girls were victims of “mass hysteria.”

Perhaps. On the other hand, writer Andrea Ayres-Deets rightly takes Aikins to task, citing a UN report issued June 5, 2015. That report not only reveals the 185 documented attacks on schools in 2011 Ayres-Deets uses to mockingly pose the question, “Were all of those fabricated by scared school children too?”  but a 48 percent increase in “the killing and maiming of children in Afghanistan” to 2,502 in 2014. Moreover, there were 163 verified incidents of school attacks that same year, including ”28 incidents of placement of improvised explosive devices inside school premises.”

A total of 94 of those school attacks were attributed to the Taliban and other “armed groups.”

Unsurprisingly, very little of these ongoing attempts to mortgage the future of women in Afghanistan has received much attention from the American feminist movement or an Obama administration determined to abandon these girls to the Taliban and their equally savage Haqqani network allies, courtesy of the president’s vow to “end” the war before his term in office expires. “Afghanistan is still a dangerous place,” Obama said. “The way it’s going to become less dangerous is by Afghan security forces­ being capable of keeping law and order and security in the country, and that is not going to happen if foreign forces­ are continually relied upon.”

If that has a familiar ring, perhaps it’s because Obama said virtually the same thing about Iraq in 2011. “Iraq’s future will be in the hands of its people. America’s war in Iraq will be over” he stated.  “Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”

One suspects the thousands of Yazidi women who have been systematically raped, tortured and sold into slavery by ISIS, who filled the vacuum left by Obama’s fecklessness, would heartily disagree. That would be the same President Obama who steadfastly refuses to acknowledge ISIS’s Muslim roots, even as ISIS leaders have enshrined their “theology of rape,” which has “become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden,” as the New York Times puts it.

Beginning in July, the Afghan government began negotiating with the Taliban, despite the reality that in 2015, 4,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, nearly 8,000 have been wounded, and the Taliban is making territorial gains. It follows the complete failure of negotiations by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010, when the Taliban completely rejected her demands for disarmament, acceptance of the Afghan constitution, and cutting ties with Al Qaeda.

Comedian Jay Leno’s wife, Mavis, who chairs a committee of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), a group dedicated to women’s equality, emphasized the grim reality that faces an Afghan government forced to negotiate with the Taliban before a U.S. withdrawal reduces what little leverage it has to zero. “I don’t believe (the Taliban) would consider themselves contractually, morally or in any other fashion bound by any agreements they made with us, or any of our allies,” she stated. “That is not their history and I don’t believe for one minute they are going to change because it’s their belief system.”

That assertion is well-founded. That it utterly eludes the Obama administration and its feminist allies—either by accident or design—is shameful.

500+ U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan directly linked to Iran #irandeal

The origin of the dirty Iran nuke deal can be traced back to the Bush days when Democrats decided to do everything they could to undermine an enemy administration. Back then the cause they threw themselves into was “saving” the Iran-Syria axis from Bush.

Pelosi and Kerry visited Assad to protect him from Bush, even though Obama nearly ended up going to war with Assad anyway. The amount of Americans killed by Iran wasn’t discussed. Information like this was usually buried.

At least 500 U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were directly linked to Iran and its support for anti-American militants, a newly disclosed statistic that offers grim context for the Obama administration’s diplomatic deal with the Iranian regime aimed at curtailing the rogue nation’s nuclear ambitions.

Many of those estimated 500 deaths occurred during the so-called surge in Iraq, when President George W. Bush ordered an influx of tens of thousands of troops to confront what had devolved into a sectarian civil war. Scores of American personnel were killed or maimed by highly lethal bombs, known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, that Iran manufactured and supplied to Shiite militias across the border in Iraq. Many EFPs were powerful enough to destroy U.S. humvees and breach tank hulls.

The estimate of 500 American deaths is probably on the low side, said David “Bo” Bolgiano, a retired Army Special Forces officer who deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2007 with the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, an organization created by the Pentagon to rapidly address the number of casualties inflicted by roadside bombs and other IEDs.

“It’s very difficult to quantify because, when you have an IED explosion that occurs in theater, you’d have to connect the dots and say, ‘Well, we have three U.S. casualties tied to that IED,’ and then that IED is tied to a specific copper-plated EFP from Iran. Often times, those forensics are missing,” Bolgiano said in an interview.

But really even few Democrats in Congress seem to be enthusiastic about the Iran deal. California Dem Brad Sherman’s rundown ends on a particularly grim note.

“The arms embargo was not a nuclear sanction, yet it’s being waived,” he said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “The Iran Sanctions Act will be waived even though there are basically nine reasons recited in the act as to why we imposed it. Only one of them is nuclear. This sanctions relief is so complete that we’re even going to import things from Iran. Not oil, but only the things that we don’t need and they can’t sell to anybody else.”

“They’ll spend it on graft and corruption,” Sherman said. “They’re good at that. They’re going to kill a lot of Sunnis, some of whom deserve it and many of whom do not. Then they’ll have a few billion at least left over to kill Americans, Israelis and worth other mischief.”

That’s grim, but accurate. Especially since ISIS has put American personnel back on the ground in Iraq.

Even Sherman’s more optimistic assessment concedes that it’s an unworkable mess and offers few solutions.

Ugly (After Year 10): End of restrictions on quality and quantity of centrifuges. Even President Obama says this reduces break-out time to virtually zero.

Our goal must be to prevent what happens after year ten. We must act this decade to demand that the restrictions on Iran’s centrifuges be extended for decades to come. We must put all options on the table to achieve this extension.

Perhaps the best part of the deal is that it is not binding on future Congresses and Presidents under international law. This is particularly true if Congress refuses to approve the deal, and a Congressional vote of approval is highly unlikely.”

And that’s coming from a Democrat. But Sherman fails to explain how the deal can be extended for decades to come without sanctions. And even if the deal somehow were extended, and even if Iran didn’t just manage to set up a parallel program that used the technologies from the legalized program to weaponize, which it arguably has been doing all along, Iran ends up always being on the edge of going nuclear.

And that’s the very optimistic best case scenario.

The realistic scenario involves killing a whole lot of Sunnis, Americans and Israelis.

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