Category: Afghanistan

‘More Questions Than Answers’: MSF Not Buying Pentagon Probe into Hospital Attack

What about the hour-long attempts to stop the bombing? Why is this damning report being released the day before Thanksgiving? And what does this say about the competency of the U.S. military?

Common Dreams, By Lauren McCauley, November 25

Doctors Without Borders is challenging the Pentagon over the findings of internal probes into the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3, saying the military’s conclusions offer “more questions than answers” and that claims of “human error” simply don’t correspond to the available facts.

The pair of investigations, which trickled out by way of the mainstream media, reduced the attack on the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital to series of human errors and technical glitches. The findings claim to show that despite the medical charity’s documented efforts to alert commanders to the onslaught, those signals did not reportedly reach the trigger team until it was “too late,” resulting in the deaths of at least 31 civilians and injuring 28 more.

Among observers—including the head of MSF—the findings have raised some eyebrows as well as questions such as: What about the hour-long attempts to stop the bombing? How does this compare to MSF’s own investigation? Why are these damning reports being released the day before Thanksgiving? And what does this say about the competency of the U.S. military?

‘I’m praying for you’: MSF posts grim details from Afghan hospital strike

AFP, By Hashim Safi, November 5

Medical charity MSF Thursday released chilling details from a devastating US bombing of an Afghan hospital, saying staff and patients had been decapitated and lost their limbs with some gunned down from the air.

The raid on October 3 in the northern city in Kunduz killed at least 30 people, sparking an avalanche of global condemnation and forcing the French-founded charity to close the trauma centre.

An AC-130 gunship repeatedly bombed the hospital for around an hour even as MSF staff sent out harrowing messages to officials in Kabul and Washington, informing them of heavy casualties, the charity said in an internal review of the strike.

Médecins Sans Frontières: Afghanistan: MSF releases internal review of the Kunduz hospital attack

Massive earthquake shakes South Asia

Dozens reported dead in Afghanistan and Pakistan as powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocks South Asia.

A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake has struck in northern Afghanistan and has been felt in a large area from northern India to Pakistan with scores of people killed across the region.

The US Geological Survey put the epicentre of Monday’s quake near Jarm in Afghanistan’s northeast, 250km from the capital Kabul and at a depth of 213km.

The total death toll stood at about 111 with at least 85 people killed in Pakistan and at least 26 more in Afghanistan, according to official reports from the two countries.

Hikmat Fasi, a resident of Parwan Province in northern Afghanistan, said the quake caused a lot of damage in the area.

“We are safe but I saw a lot of buildings collapse,” Hikmat Fasi said. “It [earthquake] caused severe damage to our area. We are just praying.”

The Guardian: Live Blog

Possible U.S. airstrike hits Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan; at least 19 dead

Washington Post, By Tim Craig, October 3

Kabul – U.S. forces may have mistakenly bombed a hospital in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 19 people, including three children, in an incident that will likely raise new questions about the scope of American involvement in the country’s 14-year war.

In a statement, Doctors Without Borders said an airstrike “partially destroyed” its trauma hospital in Kunduz, where the Afghan military has been trying to drive Taliban fighters from the city.

The airstrike killed at least 12 Doctors Without Borders staff members, the group said. Three children were also reportedly killed. At least 37 other people were seriously injured, including 19 staff members and 18 patients and caretakers. Officials warned the death toll could rise as dozens of people remain unaccounted for.

“This attack is abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law,” Meinie Nicolai, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Nicolai called for an independent investigation into the incident: “We demand total transparency from Coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage.’”

Explosions, gunfire as Taliban attack Afghan parliament

AFP, By Emal Haidary, June 22

Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on Monday, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.

The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said of the ongoing attack.

All Members of Parliament were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament.

The assault on such a high-profile target in downtown Kabul raises fresh questions about security as Afghan forces battle a resurgent Taliban for the first time without the aid of NATO forces, who ended their combat mission in December.

US to delay Afghanistan withdrawal, leave more troops – report

RT, March 15

The White House has dropped plans to slash the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan to 5,500 this year, AP reported. Official sources claim the withdrawal is likely to be much slower and have 9,800 US troops remain in Afghanistan well into 2016.

The report, citing unnamed officials, states that no final decision has been made, but discussions are ongoing about keeping US troops in Afghanistan or nearby even after 2016.

It is believed that US President Barack Obama will use Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit later this month as an opportunity to announce a new withdrawal deadline. In the past, Ghani made clear he wanted the pace of US withdrawal to be slower.

U.S. Is Escalating a Secretive War in Afghanistan

Data From Seized Computer Fuels a Surge in U.S. Raids on Al Qaeda

New York Times, By Matthew Rosenberg & Eric Schmitt, February 12

Washington — As an October chill fell on the mountain passes that separate the militant havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a small team of Afghan intelligence commandos and American Special Operations forces descended on a village where they believed a leader of Al Qaeda was hiding.

That night the Afghans and Americans got their man, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti. They also came away with what officials from both countries say was an even bigger prize: a laptop computer and files detailing Qaeda operations on both sides of the border.

American military officials said the intelligence seized in the raid was possibly as significant as the information found in the computer and documents of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after members of the Navy SEALs killed him in 2011.

In the months since, the trove of intelligence has helped fuel a significant increase in night raids by American Special Operations forces and Afghan intelligence commandos, Afghan and American officials said.

U.S. formally ends the war in Afghanistan

AP, December 28

Kabul, Afghanistan – The United States and NATO formally ended their war in Afghanistan on Sunday with a ceremony at their military headquarters in Kabul as the insurgency they fought for 13 years remains as ferocious and deadly as at any time since the 2001 invasion that unseated the Taliban regime following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The symbolic ceremony marked the end of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, which will transition to a supporting role with 13,500 soldiers, most of them American, starting Jan. 1.

Gen. John Campbell, commander of ISAF, rolled up and sheathed the green and white ISAF flag and unfurled the flag of the new international mission, called Resolute Support.

“Resolute Support will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership” between NATO and Afghanistan, Campbell told an audience of Afghan and international military officers and officials, as well as diplomats and journalists.

Iran extends visas for 450,000 Afghan refugees

Reuters, By Jessica Donati, December 13

Kabul – Iran said it had agreed to extend temporary visas for 450,000 Afghan refugees for six months, lifting a threat to send them back home to a country facing attacks by resurgent militants.

Afghanistan — struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of people left homeless inside its own borders by a wave of violence — this month asked its neighbor not to expel the Afghan refugees who did not have the right documents.

Kabul said 760,000 refugees were at risk and it was not immediately clear what would happen to those who did not receive extensions.

United Kingdom ends Afgan combat operations

CBS/AP, October 26

London – Britain has ended combat operations in the Helmand province in Afghanistan, defense officials said Sunday.

U.K. troops have witnessed the lowering of the Union flag for the last time at the Camp Bastion complex in Helmand, which they shared with U.S. Marines, who also folded up operations in Afghanistan in a ceremony at Camp Leatherneck on Sunday.

Every single combat Marine and British troop will soon board planes to head home – the exact date has been withheld for security reasons, reports CBS News’ Erin Lyall. It’s a milestone in Helmand, the deadliest province for coalition forces throughout the war, with more than 940 troops killed, including 360 Marines. Five have died this year.

U.S. and Afghan soldiers witnessed the British ceremony, which marked the end of operations for the Southwest Regional Command, a U.S. and U.K. coalition operating under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, British officials said.


U.S. ends operation at Camp Leatherneck Afghanistan

Base to be handed over to Afghan military control

NBC, October 26

American combat operation have ended in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.

A ceremony at the Bastion-Leatherneck military complex Sunday marked the official end of the operations in Helmand. The US and British flags were lowered and folded up at the regional headquarters of the international military.


Reuters: Britain ends combat role in Afghanistan, last U.S. Marines hand over base

US and Afghanistan sign long-awaited security agreement

A deal signed Tuesday allows US forces to remain in Afghanistan after the majority of NATO coalition forces withdraw.

Al Jazeera, September 30

The United States and Afghanistan on Tuesday signed a long-awaited security pact to allow U.S. forces to remain in the country after the majority of NATO coalition forces withdraw at the end of the year, fulfilling a campaign promise by newly elected President Ashraf Ghani.

At a ceremony in the capital, Kabul, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and Afghanistan’s newly appointed national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar signed the document.

There are currently about 41,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 130,000 in 2012. Most will leave after the international military force formally ends its combat mission at the end of 2014.

Under the terms of the agreement, troops from Germany, Italy and other NATO members will join a remaining force of 9,800 U.S. soldiers, bringing numbers up to about 12,500. The foreign troops will be tasked with training and assisting Afghanistan’s security forces maintain stability.

The Price of Freedom

People are allowed to think, say, and yes, even tweet whatever the hell they want, so long as their actions do not contravene the law. They are still American citizens:

Since Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2009, his father had become an expert on Guantanamo Bay’s detainees. It was out of necessity, because the Taliban demanded that the United States free prisoners from Guantanamo in exchange for Bergdahl.

“No family in the United States understands the detainee issue like ours,” Robert Bergdahl said in a 2011 plea to his son’s captors.

So it wasn’t entirely unusual when Bergdahl apparently published a tweet last week about Guantanamo’s detainees. Except this tweet was directed at a Taliban spokesman. And it came just four days before it was announced that his son was finally being released.

“I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners,” the tweet said, according to various screen grabs. The tweet was subsequently deleted. “God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen.”

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Republicans Suck

Would You Buy A Used Hostage From This Man?

Really:

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl can expect a buoyant homecoming after five years in Taliban hands, but those in the government who worked for his release face mounting questions over the prisoner swap that won his freedom.

Even in the first hours of Bergdahl’s handoff to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration. Five terrorist suspects also walked free, stirring a debate in Washington over whether the exchange will heighten the risk of other Americans being snatched as bargaining chips and whether the released detainees — several senior Taliban figures among them — would find their way back to the fight.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Bergdahl’s health and safety appeared in jeopardy, prompting rapid action to secure his release. “Had we waited and lost him,” said national security adviser Susan Rice, “I don’t think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.”

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Russian forces storm Ukrainian air base in Crimea

Washington Post, By Carol Morello, Will Englund & Griff Witte, March 22

Belbek, Crimea — Russian forces used at least four armored vehicles to break into an air base here, seizing control of one of the last Ukrainian military outposts in Crimea.

After an hours-long tense standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces, gunfire and explosions could be heard as the vehicles broke down the gate at the air base located just outside Sevastopol. It appeared that at least two people had been wounded and were taken away in ambulances.

The assault on the base in Belbek came as an ominous mood was settling over the town. Russians and their many supporters want the Ukrainian forces to join their side or leave Crimea. Signs calling for the death of the base commander had been posted outside the installation.

[…]

Yuli Mamchur, the Ukrainian base commander, said he had ordered his men not to resist to avoid casualties.

“We have done everything we could,” Mamchur told his men after the Russians took over the base. “You acted with honor. There is nothing we should be ashamed of.”

[…]

Ukrainian troops spent the afternoon burning documents and toasting with champagne two lieutenants who were married on what may be the base’s last day in Ukrainian hands.


Also, WaPo: As U.S. war ends, Russia returns to Afghanistan with series of investment projects