Archive for Kunduz

German general fully support airstrike

Posted in counterterrorism, foreign policy with tags , , , , , , , on September 10, 2009 by admin

German general backs officer in Afghan airstrike

Germany’s top military commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday he stood “fully behind” the German commander who called in a U.S. airstrike on fuel trucks hijacked by Taliban that killed civilians as well as insurgents.

Brig. Gen. Joerg Vollmer insisted in a phone interview with The Associated Press that Germany’s relations remain good with its NATO allies, including the United States, even after the U.S. military criticized the German officer who requested the attack in northern Kunduz province.

An Afghan official appointed by President Hamid Karzai to examine Friday’s attack said his best estimate of the death toll was 82, including at least 45 armed militants. (Problem here: how to discover who are terrorists and who are civilians, when no terrorist wears an identification?).

The top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has pledged a full investigation.

…Insurgents have stepped up attacks in Kunduz, a province dominated by Pashtuns — the largest Afghan ethnic group from which the Taliban garner their support and recruits. Some analysts say that insurgents have been able to operate with relative freedom because of the German military’s policy to make the security of its own troops its top priority.

Vollmer hinted that operations like Friday’s airstrike — the first German-led action in seven years to cause significant militant deaths — could become more frequent in future.

Vollmer blamed the tense security situation in Kunduz on the lack of Afghan police, the influx of former refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran, and efforts by militant groups to protect lucrative smuggling and extortion rackets from government interference.


NATO troops free reporter, while Afghan translator and UK soldier are killed

Posted in hostages with tags , , , on September 9, 2009 by admin

NYT reporter freed; Afghan aide killed in rescue – Yahoo! News

British commandos freed a New York Times reporter in an early Wednesday raid on a Taliban hide-out in northern Afghanistan. The journalist’s Afghan translator and one of the troops were killed in the rescue, officials said. 

Reporter Stephen Farrell was taken hostage Saturday along with his translator in the northern province of Kunduz when they went to cover a German-ordered airstrike of two hijacked fuel tankers. The bombing, carried out by U.S. jets, caused a number of civilian casualties.

A UK soldier was also killed. He is believed to be a paratrooper. Another two civilians were killed in the cross-fire (What were doing several civilians on a cross-fire there?).

About the Kunduz mission, Angela Merkel has defended the raid, while underlining she deeply regreted any civilian lifes lost after German actions. The difficulty in separating Talibans from civilians makes it,  in turn, very difficult to know how many of each were killed.

German Defense Minister on Afghan NATO’s air strike.
Scores killed after NATO air strike on tanks of petrol, hijacked by Afghan Taliban.

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Taliban’s funding: extortion, ransom and “business license”

Posted in funding with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2009 by admin

Not only drugs then:

The Taliban are acting like a broad network of criminal gangs that enables them to utilize different sources of income,” says Ahmad Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission…

.Jan, 72, with closely cropped hair, a thick white beard and a string of amber prayer beads, claims he was targeted in retaliation for not paying off the Taliban, even though the provincial governor and district governor say he did. Not that Jan would have refused — he says the Taliban never asked. “If the Taliban had asked for $100,000, I would have gladly paid them,” says Jan. “This equipment was worth $230,000.” What probably happened, says Abdul Wahid Omerkhil, district governor of Char Dara, where the attack took place, is that Jan paid off the wrong people. “It usually happens like that. You pay one group and you don’t pay the other, and they will burn you.”

…The arrival of Mullah Salam, the Taliban governor, coincided with the return of a local man, Shirin Agha, who had fled to Pakistan after he got into a gunfight at a wedding. While the commanders work independently, they share common tactics, demanding usher, kidnapping for ransom and taking cuts of construction projects. Sitting in the dilapidated foyer of his mansion, Mohammed Omer, the provincial governor of Kunduz, marvels at the scale of the two Taliban leaders’ rackets. By his estimate, Salam and Agha amassed at least $100,000 in a month through kidnappings for ransom and protection payments from contractors, who in turn had been paid by international donors.

…It’s not just the big foreign-aid projects that get hit. Local businesses are victims too. In Kandahar, says a businessman who asked for anonymity out of fear of Taliban retribution, even the smallest shops pay a “business license” to the Taliban.

…That analysis is confirmed by Sargon Heinrich, a Kabul-based U.S. businessman in construction and service industries. Heinrich says some 16% of his gross revenue goes to “facilitation fees,” mostly to protect shipments of valuable equipment coming from the border. “That is all revenue that will ultimately be shared by the Taliban.” As an American, Heinrich is troubled by the implication that he may be funding the insurgency. “All of this could be seen as material support for enemy forces,” he muses.

…Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan’s Minister of the Interior, says increased financing, particularly through extortion, is emboldening the enemy and admits that part of the fault lies with his government. “Yes, I blame [contractors and construction companies] for the fact that they are paying these insurgents, but at the same time, I sympathize with them because they are not doing it out of their own accord but because they are forced to. It is our responsibility as the government of Afghanistan and the international community to provide a secure environment for them to work. And so far, we have not been able to do so.”

Karzai’s links with Afghan Drug Warlords.