Posts Tagged ‘Mazar-i-Sharif’

New U.S. Tactic in Afghanistan Mirrors Past Plans for Retreat

July 29, 2018

The Trump administration is urging American-backed Afghan troops to retreat from sparsely populated areas of the country, officials said, all but ensuring the Taliban will remain in control of vast stretches of the country.

The approach is outlined in a previously undisclosed part of the war strategy that President Trump announced last year, according to three officials who described the documents to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. It is meant to protect military forces from attacks at isolated and vulnerable outposts, and focuses on protecting cities such as Kabul, the capital, and other population centers.

The withdrawal resembles strategies embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations that have started and stuttered over the nearly 17-year war. It will effectively ensure that the Taliban and other insurgent groups will hold on to territory that they have already seized, leaving the government in Kabul to safeguard the capital and cities such as Kandahar, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad.

The retreat to the cities is a searing acknowledgment that the American-installed government in Afghanistan remains unable to lead and protect the country’s sprawling rural population. Over the years, as waves of American and NATO troops have come and left in repeated cycles, the government has slowly retrenched and ceded chunks of territory to the Taliban, cleaving Afghanistan into disparate parts and ensuring a conflict with no end in sight.

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper
The New York Times

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An American outpost in the Afghanistan province of Nangarhar. CreditWakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When he announced his new war strategy last year, Mr. Trump declared that Taliban and Islamic State insurgents in Afghanistan “need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.”

After the declared end of combat operations in 2014, most American troops withdrew to major population areas in the country, leaving Afghan forces to defend remote outposts. Many of those bases fell in the following months.

During a news conference last month in Brussels, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of the American-led coalition in Afghanistan, said remote outposts were being overrun by the Taliban, which was seizing local forces’ vehicles and equipment.

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Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr.

“There is a tension there between what is the best tactic militarily and what are the needs of the society,” General Nicholson said.

The strategy depends on the Afghan government’s willingness to pull back its own forces. A Defense Department official said some Afghan commanders have resisted the American effort to do so, fearing local populations would feel betrayed.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/28/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-strategy-retreat.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

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Red Cross to reduce Afghanistan presence after deadly attacks

October 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Mourners carry the coffin of one of the six Afghan employees of the Red Cross murdered in Mazar-i-Sharif in February
KABUL (AFP) – The International Committee of the Red Cross will “drastically” reduce operations in war-torn Afghanistan after seven of its employees were killed in attacks this year, the aid organisation said on Monday.

The decision by the charity, which has been working in Afghanistan for over three decades, underlines the growing dangers for aid workers, who have increasingly become casualties of a surge in militant violence in recent years.

“We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence and activities in Afghanistan,” Monica Zanarelli, the ICRC head in Afghanistan, told reporters.

“Exposure to risk has become our greater challenge in Afghanistan, and we know that zero risk doesn’t exist and we are not aiming at that, but our security has to be guaranteed by every party,” she said.

The humanitarian group will close its facilities in the northern city of Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, and in Kunduz province, also in the north and a hotbed of Taliban activity.

Operations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif will be scaled back.

The group has suffered a series of deadly attacks in northern Afghanistan, where Taliban and Islamic State group militants have intensified their assaults on police and troops.

In February six ICRC employees were killed when their convoy came under insurgent attack in the northern province of Jowzjan.

Two of their colleagues were abducted in a separate incident and only released by their captors last month.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction or killings, but Jowzjan police have blamed local Islamic State jihadists who are making inroads in the country.

In the most recent attack, a Spanish physiotherapist working for the ICRC in northern Afghanistan last month was shot and killed by a wheelchair-bound patient.

Lorena Enebral Perez, 38, was shot inside the aid group’s rehabilitation centre in Mazar-i-Sharif, where she treated disabled children, women and men including amputees.

Two people were arrested over the deadly attack, including the 21-year-old shooter whom police said was a “regular patient”.

Last December a Spanish Red Cross employee was abducted when workers from the charity were travelling between Mazar-i-Sharif and neighbouring Kunduz. He was released several weeks later.

The ICRC has around 1,800 staff including 120 international aid workers in Afghanistan — helping wounded and disabled people, supporting hospitals, making prison visits and assisting prisoners to maintain contact with their families.

In many areas such as the north, they are the only international organisation providing such services.

“We understand the consequences to stop our activities in the north but we have no choice,” Zanarelli added.

She said the organisation was not leaving Afghanistan but to prevent more losses the “necessity of reviewing our presence is strongly requested”.

Afghan Governor Accused of Abduction, Assault — Adds to Woes for President Ghani

August 18, 2017

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — A powerful Afghan governor is facing accusations he detained and assaulted a political rival in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif this week, the second senior Afghan official to be accused of violence in a year.

The fresh allegations add to Afghanistan’s domestic political woes, as President Ashraf Ghani’s government has struggled in the war against Taliban insurgents amid a fractious political arena that includes former warlords with armed followers.

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President Ashraf Ghani

Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of Balkh province, denies an accusation by provincial council member Asef Mohmand that Noor and his sons abducted him from the Mazar-i-Sharif airport and then assaulted him.

Mohmand told reporters one of Noor’s son bit off part of his ear during the beating.

A spokesman for Noor called Mohmand’s story a “pure lie”.

The claims come as Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum remains in Turkey amid unresolved accusations that he ordered his men to abduct, beat, and rape a political rival last year.

Noor was among several prominent politicians to form a coalition with Dostum and earlier in August he held a demonstration to call for the “unconditional return” of the vice president.

A government delegation has been dispatched to Mazar-i-Sharif to investigate the allegations against Noor, his office said.

On August 9, Mohmand held a press conference in Kabul criticizing Noor for corruption and running personal prisons. When Mohmand returned to Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday, he said he was met by Noor and “dozens of armed men”.

Mohmand, appearing at a press conference on Kabul on Thursday with a bandaged head, told reporters that he was taken to Noor’s house where the governor and his sons beat him.

“His son came forward and bit my ear as you can see,” Mohmand said. “His second son was punching and kicking me and saying, ‘Now you can see how powerful we are’.”

Mohmand said Noor himself stepped on his throat and accused him of trying to conspire against the governor.

Noor’s office rejected Mohmand’s account.

“Mohmand was directly taken to the police station and the injuries could have happened during his arrest,” said Muneer Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the Balkh governor’s office. “He was not taken to the governor’s residence.”

Many of Afghanistan’s leaders, including Noor and Dostum, are former warlords who maintain large followings and armed militias.

After Ghani was elected in 2014, he removed all of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial governors.

Noor, however, refused to leave and has retained his position in Balkh.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Security officials inspect the scene of the blast outside the Great Mosque in Herat, August 1, 2017.

Afghan Defense Minister, Army Chief of Staff Resign Over Deadly Attack

April 24, 2017

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accepted the resignations of his defense minister and army chief of staff on Monday, after more than 140 soldiers were killed last week in the deadliest ever Taliban attack on a military base, the president’s office said.

“Defence Minister Abdullah Habibi and Army Chief of Staff Qadam Shah Shahim stepped down with immediate effect,” the presidential palace announced in a post on its Twitter account.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, acting spokesman for Ghani, told Reuters the resignations were because of Friday’s attack on a major army base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

In a serious security failure, as many as 10 Taliban fighters, dressed in Afghan army uniforms and driving military vehicles, made their way onto the base and opened fire on soldiers and new recruits eating a meal and leaving a mosque after Friday prayers, according to officials.

Multiple Afghan officials said the final death toll was likely to be even higher.

 

Coffins containing the bodies of Afghan national Army (ANA) soldiers killed in April 21’s attack on an army headquarters are lined up in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan April 22, 2017. Presidential Palace /Handout via REUTERS

The attackers used rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, and suicide vests, they said.

Ghani declared Sunday a day of mourning, ordering flags to be flown at half staff.

On Monday, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside the presidential palace in Kabul to demand the resignation of top Afghan defense officials over the attack.

The attack, and resulting military leadership shake-up, come as the Afghan army prepares for what is expected to be a year of hard fighting against Taliban militants, who now control or contest more than 40 percent of the country.

Nearly 9,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, in addition to thousands of international coalition forces.

The administration of new U.S. President Donald Trump is considering whether to make changes to the U.S. mission training and advising Afghan forces, and conducting raids against militant groups such as Islamic State.

The German military, which has led much of the advising effort in northern Afghanistan, said in the wake of the attack it would continue to work with the Afghans.

(Reporting by Josh Smith and Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Alex Richardson)