The Taliban launched coordinated attacks in the Afghan capital and three other provinces on April 15. In Kabul, the Taliban targeted seven different locations in the Wazir Akbar Khan diplomatic enclave, seizing control of several buildings under construction and opening fire on the US, German, Russian, and British embassies, the Afghan parliament, the Kabul Military Training Center, and other sites. Gunfire and at least 10 explosions were heard in locations throughout the capital. Two people were reported killed and fighting is said to be ongoing. In Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, a suicide assault on the airstrip left several wounded. Attacks were also reported in the provincial capitals of Paktia and Logar. (Long War Journal, AFP, April 15) Hours earlier, Pakistani Taliban militants launched a nighttime assault on the prison at Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, freeing nearly 400—including what the Taliban Movement of Pakistan called "special members" in a statement. (Long War Journal, April 15)
An Afghan soldier killed two British soldiers on a military base in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, on March 26. The Afghan soldier was killed by ISAF troops, who opened fire on the attacker. That same day, an officer of the Afghan Local Police killed an ISAF soldier in the east of country; authorities did not release the name or nationality of the soldier, or the exact location of the attack. Afghan security personnel have now killed 16 ISAF troops this year. (Long War Journal, March 26)
Two US troops were killed by an Afghan army solider outside a coalition military base in Nangarhar province Feb. 23 as protests escalated over the burning of Korans that had been issued to detainees at Bagram Air Base. Protests have spread across half a dozen provinces following the revelations, with demonstrators arming themselves with rocks, bricks, sticks and pistols. The Taliban issued a statement signed by the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" on their website, Voice of Jihad, calling for an uprising against the "American invaders." The unrest comes as the US Department of Defense announced the next round of unit deployments to Afghanistan. Five brigades and one army command will deploy to Afghanistan between April and August 2012. These units will not be assigned to regular combat operations, but to train and support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The deployment will constitute an unprecedentedly large training mission. (VOA, Feb. 23; NYT, Feb. 22; Long War Journal, Feb. 19)
Two years ago when we reported revelations that two Czech NATO commanders in Afghanistan had worn Nazi SS regalia while on duty, everyone told us it was an isolated incident and not to make a big deal of it. What do you say now, pronoiacs?* From MSNBC, Feb. 9:
Marines posed with flag resembling Nazi SS logo in Afghanistan
SAN DIEGO — The US Marine Corps confirmed Thursday that a sniper team in Afghanistan posed for a photograph in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS.
The number of civilians casualties in the Afghan conflict has risen for the fifth year in a row, according to the annual report of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which documents 3,021 civilian deaths in 2011 compared with 2,790 in 2010 and 2,412 in 2009. Most deaths were caused by insurgents, the report said, finding that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were being used more widely and suicide attacks had become deadlier. However, it also said the civilian toll from air strikes in support of the Afghan government rose in 2011. The 2011 "Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict" said a total of 11,864 civilian lives had been claimed by the conflict since 2007.
In a Jan. 30 Google-sponsored "video chat," President Barack Obama gave the first public acknowledgment of what has been a very open secret—the use of US drones against militant forces in Pakistan's tribal areas. Obama responded to a question from a young man in Brooklyn, who noted that the president had ordered more drone attacks in his first year in office than his predecessor George Bush. Saying the attacks cause "a lot of civilian casualties," he asked if they were worth it. Obama responded (rather disingenuously, in light of some recent horrific news accounts): "I want to make sure that people understand that actually, drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part, they have been very precise precision strikes against al-Qaeda and their affiliates. And we are very careful in terms of how it has been applied." Asked by another participant in a follow-up question whether drone strikes "send a message" that the US is interfering in other countries' affairs, Obama responded with the kind of downright Orwellian logic that he has already proved himself capable of:
The BBC says it has seen what it calls a "secret NATO report" (referred to in other media accounts as a "secret US military report"), based on some 4,000 detainee interrogations in Afghanistan, that finds the Taliban continue to be heavily backed by Pakistan, are confident they can win the Afghan war, and are gaining popular support at the expense of the Kabul government. The report, "The State of the Taliban 2012," portrays the Taliban as being under the virtual direction of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but resenting that control. According to published excerpts, the report finds that "Taliban commanders, along with rank and file members, increasingly believe their control of Afghanistan is inevitable. Though the Taliban suffered severely in 2011, its strength, motivation, funding and tactical proficiency remains intact."
A new survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicates that the value of opium in Afghanistan soared by 133% in 2011 over the previous year, netting farmers $1.4 billion. A blight last year wiped out much of the poppy yield, driving up prices. Yields have now returned to pre-blight levels—a 61% increase, from 3,600 tons in 2010 to 5,800 tons last year. But prices remain high, and UNODC says a simultaneous drop in the price of wheat contributed to the increase in poppy cultivation. Gross income from opium in 2011 was 11 times higher than that earned from wheat—the biggest difference in income since 2003. Afghanistan currently supplies an estimated 90% of the world's opium, with the largest areas of poppy cultivation in the country's restive south. (VOA, Jan. 13)