Friday, January 13, 2012

In Afghanistan, Some Former Taliban Become The Police

NATO officials say they have reversed a disturbing trend in northern Afghanistan.

In 2009 and 2010, Taliban insurgents made inroads across the north of the country, which had been secure for years. NATO says that last year it brought the north back under control, but Afghan officials say it's thanks to one of the most controversial American tactics here: the use of ad hoc local militias.

American officials say they intend to triple the number of local "police" teams in the coming years and put all the groups under Afghan government control. But some residents complain that the militias are not much different from the insurgents they're supposed to be fighting.

By Quil Lawrence  from
View original article at
source: WBUR

The northern Afghan town of Char Bolak is guarded by the Critical Infrastructure Police, an auxiliary police program. The U.S. is increasingly relying on ad hoc local militias to fight the Taliban, but residents and government officials have concerns about the militias. (Quil Lawrence / NPR)
Advantage Of An Insider
A hilltop police station in the northern province of Sari Pul would command a view of the town of Sayat, if the whole valley weren't cloaked in a dense cloud that threatens snow at any moment.
The approach road to the outpost is steep and thick with mud that clings to the flimsy boots and sneakers police wear. A few Afghan Local Police, or ALP, stand shivering at the gate.
They're not fully trained police officers or soldiers, but graduates of a cram-course in counteracting the Taliban. Despite the limited training, some do have one key advantage for performing the job: They were Taliban fighters until last year.
Inside the station, Col. Ghafur, head of police in Sayat, is feeding logs into what appears to be the only woodstove on the hill. Ghafur, who uses only one name, is with the national police, but he says it's the ALP that turned security around in Sari Pul.
One year ago, it was bad here, Ghafur says, but then the ALP was created and it defeated the Taliban. Ghafur says the men are from the communities, so they can tell much better than an outsider when a Taliban infiltrator arrives.
That's especially true for those who were previously with the Taliban, Ghafur says. He invites half a dozen former Taliban members into his office, where they eagerly crowd around the oil-drum woodstove.
Mir Ahmad has gray stubble covering his face; he says he's 46. A few years ago, he says, he was falsely accused of being with the insurgents. He fled his village and felt he had no where to turn but the Taliban. At the time, it was easy to join, since the insurgents controlled the district.
But Ahmad says he saw the Taliban abusing civilians, and he stopped believing in their claims of holy war.

Local Concerns
As might be expected, all the men swear they were never really committed to the Taliban cause. That may be true, but it leaves some residents wondering how committed they are to any cause.
Residents of another northern community are asking the same thing. At the twice-weekly market in Char Bolak, in Balkh province, villagers come from miles around to sell everything from winter coats to livestock. Residents say the Taliban controlled this town a year ago.
Now it's guarded by another auxiliary police program called the Critical Infrastructure Police, or CIP. In fact, there have been at least half a dozen different programs like this set up in the past six years, mostly run directly by the American military.
Shop owners at the market say there are no more Taliban in town, but claim the CIP is almost as bad.
They know no one will arrest them, so they rob whomever they want, says Mir Alam, who is selling wheat in one stall. He says ethnic Pashtuns, who make up the majority of the Taliban, are often singled out by these police, and they have sometimes squeezed protection money out of entire villages. Last month, complaints reached President Hamid Karzai's office, and he called for the CIP to disband.

After The International Troops Leave
U.S. military commanders say they are in the process of vetting all of the different police militias and folding them into the ALP, which will be under direct Afghan control. They also plan to triple the number of ALP. That plan is worrying to monitors, like Rachel Reid, who researched the ALP for Human Rights Watch.
"You've got now a series of effectively rival militias lined up against each another. They may be calm now, but when we come to a situation where ... the Americans have left, the money's running out, what do those groups do then?" she says.
"Who are they loyal to? Do they stay calm then? Do they fight for their nation? Do they fight for their community? Do they fight for their commander? That's what Afghans are most concerned about," she says.
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R.I.P. - Pfc. Neil I. Turner

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

            The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
            Pfc. Neil I. Turner, 21, of Tacoma, Wash., died Jan. 11, in Logar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.
            For more information media may contact the First Armored Division public affairs at 915-744-8406/915-203-3769 or at .

Danish ship frees nine Pakistanis from Somali pirates

English: Map showing the extent of Somali pira...
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ISLAMABAD: Nine Pakistani sailors together with five Iranians have been rescued by the Danish Navy vessel Absalon, off the coast of Somalia. The vessel, which is participating in NATO’s anti-piracy operation ‘Ocean Shield’ took control of the hijacked Iranian fishing vessel Tahari after following the ship overnight and conducting helicopter surveillance.

The vessel Absalon received information from the Navy Operational Command, reporting the suspected pirate ship. After warning shots and tear gas shells were fired, the vessel was quickly brought to a halt and the Navy Maritime Action Team took control of the ship. Subsequently, it was found that the Tahari’s original crew of nine Pakistanis and five Iranian nationals were on board and had been held hostage by 25 suspected pirates since November 2011.

“We are extremely glad to know that innocent people have been liberated. One cannot even imagine what ordeal these innocent sailors must have been through while trying to do their best to earn a living,” said the Danish Ambassador to Pakistan, Uffe Wolffhechel.

He further added that in the past year, the Somali pirates have been responsible for numerous kidnapping cases of official crewmembers from companies around the world, including several Pakistani nationals. “Their criminal activities have become of high concern among the international community and calls for concerted, global action against piracy on the high seas,” said the ambassador.

The crew members of the Danish Navy Vessel have been on board on the Tahari since the action and have reported that the ship is in good condition. It is expected that the 14 rescued crew members will return to Iran with the Tahari.

The vessel was hijacked between November 7 and 10, 2011. Nobody was injured during the operation. It appears that the hostages have been subjected to rough treatment by the pirates but, bearing in mind the circumstances, are now in good shape.

In April 2011, another Danish Navy vessel, Esbern Snare rescued 16 Pakistanis, who had been kept hostage by Somali pirates for several months before they were rescued.

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US warns of terror threat in Thailand

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By Bill Roggio - January 13, 2012 - Threat Matrix

The US Embassy in Bangkok issued an "Emergency Message to US Citizens" that warned of "Possible Terrorist Threat." The statement was released on the embassy's website:

    This message alerts U.S. citizens in Thailand that foreign terrorists may be currently looking to conduct attacks against tourist areas in Bangkok in the near future. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution when visiting public areas where large groups of Western tourists gather in Bangkok.

    U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a heightened awareness when out in public; be alert for unattended packages/bags in public/crowded places and report any suspicious behavior to the nearest law enforcement personnel. We also encourage you to keep a low profile in public areas, particularly areas frequented by foreign tourists.

The statement did not indicate who may carry out the attack. Thailand has been plagued by an brutal Islamist insurgency in its southern provinces. The shadowy Islamist groups are seeking to break away from Thailand, and have received support from Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda's affiliate in Southeast Asia.

Jemaah Islamiyah is known to have a network in Thailand. Hambali, the Jemaah Islamiyah operations chief who was close to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was captured in the city of Ayutthaya in 2003. He was thought to had been plotting attacks in Bangkok.

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Shabaab names new leader of Kenyan branch

Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, has named a radical Kenyan preacher who has advocated jihad across the globe to lead to lead their branch in Kenya.
The Muslim Youth Center, a radical Islamist group in Kenya, said that Shabaab named Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali its "Supreme Amiir", or leader, on Jan. 10. The Muslim Youth Center released a statement on their blog, which was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.

By - LWJ
Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali, the leader of Shabaab's branch in Kenya, from a videotape released on Jan. 6. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.

Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, has named a radical Kenyan preacher who has advocated jihad across the globe to lead to lead their branch in Kenya.

The Muslim Youth Center, a radical Islamist group in Kenya, said that Shabaab named Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali its "Supreme Amiir", or leader, on Jan. 10. The Muslim Youth Center released a statement on their blog, which was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.

"Allah favours our beloved al Shabaab, and al Shabaab in return has placed the responsibility of waging jihad in Kenya in the capable Kenyan hands of our Amiir Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali," the statement said.

According to the Muslim Youth Center, Ali has fought in Somali, where he led other Kenyans against Somali troops and African Union forces.

"Some years back our beloved brothers in al Shabaab called upon our Amir to take up his duty and help the mujahideen in Somalia," the statement said. "Without hesitation or excuses like many of the other Sheikhs in Kenya our Amiir left Majengo and MYC [Muslim Youth Center] to begin fighting in Allah cause. As a result, many of us in MYC and others in Kenya followed our dear Amiir to the land of Somalia."

The Muslim Youth Center said Kenya as "is legally a war zone" and Ali now "now leads us into jihad in Kenya without hesitation or fear."

"We will wage defensive jihad as we have been instructed to so without mercy for the sake of our precious religion," the statement continued.

The Muslim Youth Center also said that Ali is following in the footsteps of "brother Fazul," or Fazul Mohammed, the former leader of al Qaeda's operations in East Africa who also served as a senior leader in Shabaab. Fazul has been indicted along with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other top al Qaeda leaders by the US government for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Fazul was killed by Somali troops at a checkpoint south of Mogadishu in June 2011.

"We in MYC have no doubt that our Amiir Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali will continue the unfinished work of brother Fazul in Kenya and in the region of East Africa," the statement said.

Shabaab named Ali to lead their branch in Kenya just four days after the terror group released a 51-minute-long video by that featured him. In the video, he urged Muslims to travel to the global theaters of war, and if the could not make the journey, he urged them to wage jihad at home.

"[If] are unable to reach the land of jihad, the land of ribat, like the land of Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Algeria, or Iraq, if you are unable to reach these lands which have established the banner of tawheed and the Shariah of Allah, then raise your sword against the enemy that is closest to you," he said according to the translation of the video by the SITE Intelligence Group.

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US to withdraw about 7,000 troops from Europe: Panetta

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WASHINGTON: The United States plans to withdraw about 7,000 US troops of the 81,000 troops based in Europe, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

In an interview with the Armed Forces Press Service, Panetta said two brigade combat teams, or roughly 7,000 US troops, would be withdrawn from Europe, but rotational units would still maintain strong military presence in the region.

“The Secretary and other senior Department officials have consulted closely with our European allies on our new strategic guidance,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in an email.

“Our security commitments to Europe and to Nato are unwavering,” he added.
The move is part of a 10-year defence strategy that President Barack Obama presented on January 5, giving strategic priority to the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions.

“We will continue to maintain our presence both in the Middle East and Asia,” Panetta said, according to the Armed Forces Press Service, an in-house Defence Department news service.

“Yes, we’ll have the Navy and the Air Force, but in my experience, in any conflict you need to have the potential use of ground forces.”

Each combat brigade consists of around 3,500 troops. According to Pentagon figures, there were 81,000 US troops based in Europe as of late last year.
Obama unveiled the new military strategy earlier this month for a leaner US military focused on countering China’s rising power and signalling a shift away from large ground wars against insurgents.

The plan calls for preparing for possible challenges from Iran and China, emphasising air and naval power, while discounting future long-term, counter-insurgency campaigns like those conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The “defence strategic review” sets out an approach for the US military in a looming era of austerity, as Obama’s administration prepares for $487 billion in defence cuts over the next 10 years.
“Our budget is, basically, designed to reinforce the new missions we are talking about and that agile, deployable and ready force that has to move quickly,” Panetta said in the interview with Armed Forces Press Service.

“The example I’ve used is if we are in a land war in Korea and Iran does something in the Strait of Hormuz — to go after that and to deal with that threat is largely going to be the responsibility of the Air Force and Navy,” Panetta told the publication.

Anticipating attacks from his Republican rivals in an election year, Obama said earlier this month that reductions would be limited and would not come at the expense of America’s military might.

Washington’s focus on Asia is fuelled by concerns over China’s growing navy and arsenal of anti-ship missiles that could jeopardise America’s military dominance in the Pacific.

At the time, Britain cautioned that the US pivot to Asia should not neglect Russia, calling it an unpredictable force on the global stage.

from DAWN
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Gunmen kill three policemen in Peshawar

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PESHAWAR: Police say about 100 militants have ambushed a police station in the northwestern city of Peshawar, shooting dead three officers.

Saeed Khan, a senior police official in the city, says the early Friday attack wounded another nine officers in the Sarband neighbourhood on the edge of the city.

He says Sarband borders the Khyber tribal region, an area where many insurgents live.
Khan says he doesn’t know what group to which the shooters belong.

Police fought back and killed some of the militants, Khan said, but did not know how many. The militants took the dead bodies of their comrades with them, he said.

Sarband borders the Khyber tribal region, an area where many insurgents live. Khan said he did not know to which group the shooters belonged.
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Jan.13., 2012. - ISAF Joint Command Morning Operational Update

KABUL, Afghanistan (Jan. 13) – A combined Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Taliban leader in Almar district, Faryab province, Wednesday.  The targeted leader is an explosives expert with ties to suicide-attack networks known to target Afghan government officials. He is suspected of planning a suicide-bomb attack that killed an Afghan security official in October 2011.
Numerous armed insurgents fired at the security force during the operation. Responding to the immediate threat, the security force engaged and killed several insurgents.
Multiple weapons, chest racks, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives were confiscated during the operation and will be destroyed at a later date.

In other International Security Assistance Force news throughout Afghanistan:

In Now Zad district, Helmand province, a combined Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Taliban leader today. The leader commands multiple attack cells in Helmand province and plans bomb and small-arms attacks against Afghan government officials. One suspected insurgent was detained during the operation.

A combined Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Haqqani network leader in Nerkh district, Wardak province, today. The leader plans suicide-bomb attacks and coordinates insurgent activity. The security force detained several suspected insurgents during the operation.
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Police Undermine Fight Against Taliban

JANI KHEL, Afghanistan—In the American war against the Taliban, on whose side are the Afghan police? For many U.S. soldiers serving in the insurgent heartland, the answer is: both.

"They smile to our face when we're here, giving them money and building them buildings," says U.S. Army Capt. Cory Brown, a provost marshal officer helping to oversee Afghan security forces here in volatile Paktika province. "But they've given insurgents money, food and even rides in Afghan police cars."

Worse, he says, some policemen are also suspected of selling their U.S.-provided weapons to the Taliban.

Building up the Afghan police—often the only visible Afghan government presence outside major cities—is critical for U.S. transition plans, which see a pullout of about one-third of U.S. forces by September, ahead of a near-total withdrawal in 2014.

Across Afghanistan, the police tend to have higher attrition rates and drug-abuse problems than their army counterparts. U.S. officials and the Afghan army—a more disciplined and trusted force—broadly agree that the police have a long way to go to win Afghans' trust.

That is especially important here in Paktika, which borders Pakistan's tribal area of Waziristan, a base for the Taliban, their allies in the Haqqani network and al Qaeda. American officers say this proximity to a reservoir of insurgent fighters means that the U.S. won't be able to kill its way to victory here.

Read the full story on Wall Street Journal:

AQIM threatens to execute western hostages if their countries use force to liberate them

NOUAKCHOTT, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The North African wing of Al-Qaeda AQIM threatened on Thursday to execute Western hostages if their countries try to use force to liberate them.

In a statement published by the Nouakchott Information Agency (ANI), Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) indicated that it had received credible information that French troops, aided by Algerian forces, had an "imminent" plan to forcefully liberate the hostages.

US Predators kill 6, including 'foreigners,' in North Waziristan strike

The US killed six "militants," including foreigners, in the second drone strike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal area of North Waziristan in two days, after a two-month lull in strikes.


Today's strike took place in the village of Dogga near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
The unmanned Predators or Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle in the village, Pakistani intelligence officials told Reuters.

"The missiles hit two cars that were heading towards the [Afghan] border. Several foreigners were in the cars, but we have no information on their nationalities yet," an intelligence official told Reuters.
Pakistani officials often use the term "foreigners" to describe members of al Qaeda and other non-Pakistani terror groups operating in the country.

Today's strike takes place just one day after four "militants," including three "Arabs," were killed in a drone strike that hit a compound on the outskirts of Miramshah.

The Haqqani Network, a Taliban group that operates in North Waziristan as well as in eastern Afghanistan, administers the area where the strikes yesterday and today took place. Al Qaeda leaders and operatives, who are closely allied with the Haqqani Network, shelter in the area, as do other terror groups.

Yesterday's strike was the first by the US in Pakistan in 55 days. The previous strike took place on Nov. 16, 2011. The pause was the longest since the program was ramped up at the end of July 2008 [see LWJ report, US drone strikes in Pakistan on longest pause since 2008, from Dec. 19, 2011].
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Dozens killed in fresh tribal conflict in South Sudan

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KHARRTOUM, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- More than 50 people were killed in the latest tribal conflict in the hotspot of Jonglei state in South Sudan, a South Sudan official said on Thursday.

The anonymous official in the government of the world's newest country said that the fresh cycle of violence in Jonglei state had continued Wednesday, with youths from the ethnic Murle community launching a counter attack on Uror County, burning down villages and rustling a large number of cattle.

"Over 50 people were killed, and most of them were women and children, with some more others wounded," the official noted.

The attack was launched by young armed men of the Murle tribe at the villages of the rival Lou-Nuer tribe of Wek and Panyok in Tiam Payam district from 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) until the midnight, according to the official.

Around 60,000 have been displaced by the violence between the Murle and the Lou-Nuer, which began on Dec. 23 and lasted until last week, according to figures from the United Nations.

Wednesday's clash occurred as local officials reported that displaced persons were returning to their villages in the restive state.

The commissioner of beleaguered Pibor County, Joshua Konyi, said Wednesday that some people, mostly women with children and elderly people, who had fled the violence, started returning to the area.

The village was one of the latest to succumb to ethnic clashes which began last month among the Lou-Nuer and the Murle. Commissioner Konyi has estimated that over 3,000 people died in the violence but this has not been independently verified.

"The security situation has subsided though it remains unpredictable," Commissioner Konyi told the Sudantribune Website on Wednesday.

"Additional police forces and troops from the South Sudan army (the Sudan People's Liberation Army) have arrived. They are providing security to those who are returning," he added.

Konyi denied reports that his neighboring County of Akobo had been attacked by armed groups allegedly identified as members of the Murle, a move seen as a retaliation to attacks by the Lou Nuer in late December and early January.

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