Finding the silver(ish) lining in Afghanistan's Emerald City

5 Things I Learned This Week: Afghanistan

1. Showing remarkable initiative in embracing the idea of targeted killings, a provincial governor allegedly ordered a hit.

On a PRT commander. Sadly, he killed the wrong one. Once again, the Wall Street Journal puts together a truly interesting (and hugely underported) story.

Ex-Governor Ghulam Qawis Abu Bakr (US Air Force)

In early 2009, as corruption allegations against Mr. Abu Bakr mounted, the Provincial Reconstruction Team, a U.S. military unit overseeing the development projects, broke off almost all contact with him, a decision that would direct aid money to rivals.

Mr. Abu Bakr subsequently invited the American PRT commander for Kapisa to an unscheduled security meeting on May 26, U.S. officials say.

By coincidence, the convoy of Col. Stratton, commander of the PRT in neighboring Panjshir province, was traveling that morning on the same road.
As the convoy was traveling through an intersection, a suicide bomber slammed his explosives-laden Toyota Corolla into the Humvee that carried Col. Stratton and Airman Goodman.

Shortly after the blast, according to the report, Hezb-i-Islami issued a statement taking responsibility for killing the PRT commander for Kapisa, who wasn’t in the vicinity of the attack.
The statement gave “every impression it was a targeted murder” that claimed the wrong victim, U.S. findings say.

2. $50K payout for Afghan killings.

Anar Gul gestures to the body of her grandchild, who was allegedly killed by a US service member in Panjwai, a Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

Well, that’s per dead body, with $11K for each wounded, totalling upwards of $856K. So the lottery’s come to Afghanistan. Lucky, lucky them.

A U.S. official in Kabul confirmed the payments, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“The amount reflects the devastating nature of the incident,” the official said.

Esaqzai said U.S. Special Forces commanders gave villagers $50,000 for each of the 17 people shot to death and $11,000 for each of the six people wounded in the shootings. The U.S. military charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, with 17 counts of premeditated murder Friday. He had been assigned to a Special Forces base in Panjwai district.

“The victims’ families said that by accepting the money, it didn’t mean that they forgave the killer,” Esaqzai said.

3. No disciplinary charges for US soldiers in Pakistan incident. 

Not the best thing from a political perspective, and maybe it would’ve appeased some folks if this had been a joint investigation, but, write it off to “fog of war.” You could not pay me enough to work a cross-border post.

A funeral service in November in Peshawar for soldiers killed in the NATO airstrike. Pakistan has rejected the American findings. (Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press)

A funeral service in November in Peshawar for soldiers killed in the NATO airstrike. Pakistan has rejected the American findings. (Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press)

An American investigation in December found fault with both American and Pakistani troops for the deadly exchange of fire, but noted that the Pakistanis fired first from two border posts that were not on coalition maps, and that they kept firing even after the Americans tried to warn them that they were shooting at allied troops. Pakistan has rejected these conclusions and ascribed most of the blame to the American forces.

The American findings set up a second inquiry to determine whether any American military personnel should be punished. That recently completed review said no, three senior military officials said, explaining that the Americans fired in self-defense. Other mistakes that contributed to the fatal cross-border strike were the regrettable result of battlefield confusion, they said.

“We found nothing criminally negligent on the part of any individual in our investigations of the incident,” said one senior American military official involved in the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the results of the review had not been made public.

4. US Negotiations with the Taliban? #Epic #Fail  

Yes, I’m mixing hashtags with a WordPress post. It’s my blog. I will roll as I please. The fail? Having the Pentagon take the lead from the Department of State. Nicely done, everybody. Way to work out that political solution. For some interesting reading, I suggest this report from International Crisis Group. Not sure if this is going to be a longer blog post from me or not, but I suspect it will be. It completely misses the point that Team America is the first team, and therefore does everything. Exactly. Right. 

A Taliban militant poses for a picture after joining the Afghan government's reconciliation and reintegration program, in Herat January 30, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Shoiab

In a blow to hopes of a negotiated end to the war, the Taliban suspended talks with the United States two weeks ago after the alleged massacre of 17 Afghan civilians by a lone U.S. soldier and the burning of Korans at a NATO base last month.

“U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Taliban to date have failed and risk further destabilizing the country and the region, and as a result we call for the U.N. Secretary General to intervene and appoint a team of negotiators,” said Candace Rondeaux, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

5. Suicide vests found in the MoD. Or. Not. 

Nope, didn’t happen, says MoD. This was probably the oddest story to come out of here in a while. Apparently it was…all…a…drill.

General Omar Zadran, commander of the ministry of defence support and security brigade (AFP, Shah Marai)

First report:

Several Afghan soldiers have been arrested after authorities found a number of suicide vests inside the country’s Defense Ministry, a senior Afghan defense official said Tuesday.

The discovery triggered a lockdown of the ministry, which has since been lifted, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.

The official could not confirm the number of arrests, and there was no comment on the report from the NATO command in Kabul.

And a rebuttal:

The Afghan general in charge of security at the ministry of defence in Kabul on Wednesday flatly denied reports by local and foreign media that a huge suicide attack had been foiled at the compound.

General Omar Zadran, commander of the ministry of defence support and security brigade, blamed foreign spy services — among them Pakistan and Iran — trying to destabilise Afghanistan for the confusion.

Reports on the BBC, citing Afghan intelligence sources, said that first 11, then a total of 18 people, many of them Afghan soldiers, had been arrested at the ministry compound, and suicide vests and explosives recovered near the car park.

It was suggested that as many as 1,100 employees could have been targeted.

The BBC report was followed up by private Afghan television station TV1 and The New York Times, which quoted anonymous Afghan and Western sources and said a lockdown had been imposed at the ministry.

One Afghan intelligence source told AFP that 11 people had been arrested, including an unspecified number of soldiers, and suicide vests and explosives found, although further details were limited.

But Aimal Faizi, spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said: “There is no truth in this at all. It’s absolutely not true.”

Zadran told AFP he had called a drill with a scenario of an attempt to poison the ministry’s thousands of employees, and suicide attackers targeting the compound kitchens.

“We issued an alarm to check how quick our units reacted. That’s probably the reason the journalists got it wrong,” he said.

He accused regional intelligence services’ agents of planting the initial reports that a suicide attack had been prevented.

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  1. The Madness of SPC Weichel « It's Always Sunny in Kabul
  2. This guy gets it… | Three Guys' Rant

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