Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 13, 2008

Reading Maps of Incidents in Afghanistan

In what seems to have been a raid against a small U.S. outpost in Afghanistan at least nine U.S. soldiers were killed today:

Militants fired machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars from homes and a mosque in the village of Wanat in the northeastern province of Kunar, a mountainous region that borders Pakistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

Such an incident is unusual. The Taliban now try to avoid big fights as they usually lose in frontal assaults against U.S. fire power. This year they used IED attacks, suicide bombings or PR operations like the attack on the parade in Kabul and the prisoner escape in Kandahar. I don't remember any recent big number assault towards a U.S. outpost. Something is really odd here.

I checked the maps and remembered to have looked at a nearby place recently because of another incident:

A US air strike killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, as they were travelling to a wedding in Afghanistan, an official inquiry found today. The bride was among the dead.
...
Fighter aircraft attacked a group of militants near the village of Kacu in the eastern Nuristan province, but one missile went off course and hit the wedding party, said the provincial police chief spokesman, Ghafor Khan.

Different towns and provinces, but Kunar is next to Nuristan.

Hmm.

Kacu is at 34° 1' 12N, 70° 30' 23E and Watan is at 35° 3' 8N,  70° 54' 26E. The distance between these, as the crow flies, is some 77 miles.

The earth bound travel distance between these places is about 120 miles but not really difficult. From Kacu north through the plain of Nangahar to Jalalabad, then north-east along the green river valley and after some 30 miles at Kerala north-west along a smaller river to Watan.


(note: the yellow line is the border to Pakistan)

Under Afghan circumstances that maybe a day or two of driving and riding.

Was the bride killed in the incident in Kacu related to people in Watan or did folks from Kacu travel north to take revenge?

Posted by b on July 13, 2008 at 19:24 UTC | Permalink

Comments

These events took place in Nuristan, formerly known as Kafiristan, a region entirely cut off from the outside world until 1895, when the Amir of Kabul conquered the region, and imposed Islam, by the simple act of putting the heads of the captives through a hole in a rock, and saying "convert" or beheading.

Actually this is one of the rare cases of forced conversion to Islam, though famous. Numerically unimportant compared to to the forced conversions of Sicilians and Spaniards to Christianity in the 12th century.

I don't see that the Nuristanis would have been pleased by the death of a wedding party. A military occupation can be imposed for a certain time, GI's in posts on the heights, but for how long?

Posted by: alex | Jul 13 2008 22:32 utc | 1

Completely outside the subject
Good prophets are vague and I will be a bad one by being precise. Israel will attack Iran at the time of the Olympic Games.Concerning Alex I am with him pitying the poor Muslims converted to Christianity forcefully while the Almoravids the Almohads and the Marinids in successive waves invaded the Peninsula.

Posted by: jlcg | Jul 13 2008 23:45 utc | 2

Spending Bill Suggests Long Stay in Afghanistan

In the recently approved supplemental funding bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, legislators approved construction of a $62 million ammunition storage facility at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, where 12 planned "igloos" will support Army and Air Force needs.

"As a forward operating site, Bagram must be able to provide for a long term, steady state presence which is able to surge to meet theater contingency requirements," the Army said in requesting the money.

When he initially sought the funds last year, Adm. William J. Fallon, then commander of U.S. Central Command, described Bagram as "the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia."

In another sign that U.S. troops will be there a long time, the Army requested, and Congress provided, $41 million for a 30-megawatt power plant at Bagram. It is capable of generating enough electricity for a town of more than 20,000 homes.

Posted by: b | Jul 14 2008 5:25 utc | 3

yeah, well they prepared to stay a long time in Iraq too... but now who is to say, they may have no choice but to march. Similarly in Afghanistan. There are mountains of historical evidence against attempts of long term occupation by outsiders. To me, it seems, that the imperialists will have to settle for the deal being provided by the Indian bourgeoisie. The second colonizations of India in history. This should provide lots of excitement for the 'Empire-ists' until the working class in that country once again starts to churn for a revolution.

Posted by: a | Jul 14 2008 14:59 utc | 4

For those who haven't put the jig saw together yet, **Bagram is the new Gitmo,**
never mind the oil/gas pipe line, rail line, heroin node, and copper lode.

Foolishly comparing pre-digital Soviet occupation failure to post-digital night-
vision Full Spectrum Dominance G8 occupation, just reveals a knee jerk mentality,
and completely ignores the role of Pakistan, which spinmeisters aren't allowed to acknowledge, because Musharraf is a G8 "ally".

Here's the money line: "$41 million for a 30-megawatt power plant at Bagram"
No regular electric power for Kabul, the country's capitol, everyone on generators, no lights at night, but a 30-megawatt military power plant for Bagram.

Here's the chewed up and spat out domestic propaganda byline, and why MoA's should refrain from blogging a limited on-the-ground knowledge and Pashtu-ene perspective.
Can you smell what the NeoZi.con's are cooking?

Top Canadian general denies significant increase in Afghan violence
Assertion contradicts data showing rise in Taliban attacks

BY GRAEME SMITH
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN

Canada’s top soldier has dismissed the growing violence in
Kandahar as “insignificant,” contradicting all public data
and highlighting the growing gap between Canada’s upbeat
view of the war and the sober analysis from other NATO
countries. General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, has
frequently claimed troops are making progress, but during a
visit to Afghanistan this weekend he offered his first specific
comments on the number of Taliban attacks.
“In Kandahar province we’re generally along the same lines
as we have been the past few years,” Gen. Natynczyk said.
“Looking at the statistics, we’re just a slight notch, indeed an
insignificant notch, above where we were last year.”
Pressed by journalists to back up his claim, Gen. Natynczyk
turned to his commander of all overseas forces,
Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, who gave a figure
that initially appeared to support the general’s assessment.
A comparison of figures from June, 2007, and June, 2008,
shows violence was similar during the two months, he
said.
“They’re within 3 or 4 per cent of each other, so certainly
not a marked increase in any way shape or form,” Lt.-Gen.
Gauthier said. The lieutenant-general later corrected himself, saying the
comparison was, in fact, limited to the first days of July.

‘If things are okay here, why are the soldiers scared?’

He provided no other data. Neither of the two
senior Canadian officers explained why they based their
assessments on a span of days, instead of following the practice
of most analysts who examine months and years.
Gen. Natynczyk’s claim that violence has not significantly
increased in Kandahar does not fit with any of the published
statistics, all of which show major increases in Taliban
attacks since 2005. The most recent numbers
were compiled by Sami Kovanen, a respected security consultant
at Vigilant Strategic Services Afghanistan. Mr. Kovanen
has been counting all security incidents in the country
since the beginning of last year, and while his figures occasionally
differ from similar counts by the United Nations and the
Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, Western security officials say
the trends revealed by Mr. Kovanen’s work are closely mirrored
by the other assessments. No matter how the numbers
are broken down – for the past month, for the past two
months, or for the entire year thus far – the VSSA statistics
show insurgent attacks have dramatically increased in 2008
compared with 2007.
A comparison of the past two months against the same period
in the previous year shows that insurgent attacks have
more than doubled in the current fighting season, from 134
in 2007 to 289 in 2008. For the year to date, VSSA
counted 532 insurgent attacks as of July 6, up 77 per cent from
300 last year. Canadian military officials
have argued that the shifting nature of the Taliban’s attacks
shows that the insurgents are growing weaker, because they
are increasingly relying on bombs, or improvised explosive
devices, instead of direct combat.
In fact, the statistics for Kandahar don’t show a clear trend
toward bombs as the weapon of choice for the insurgents.
While IEDs were the most common type of attack last year,
the number of successful IED strikes was slightly smaller this
year than the number of so called complex attacks – ambushes
using more than one type of weapon. Such multilayered
attacks have increased this year by 116 per cent, to 123,
according to VSSA numbers.
When asked why he refuses to acknowledge that the security
situation has grown worse, Gen. Natynczyk responded
Canada’s control of the Afghan countryside has expanded.
However, over the past two years, Canada’s regular forces
have abandoned positions such as Forward Operating Base
Martello, about 100 kilometres north of Kandahar city, and the
Gumbad Platoon House, about 80 kilometres north of Kandahar
city, in favour of concentrating troops in core districts.

--

Read, study and observe, hey, send donations! But don't add to drivel and chatter:
http://www.globeandmail.com/afghanistan
http://www.e-ariana.com

Posted by: Lash Laroo | Jul 14 2008 16:39 utc | 5

A knee jerk reaction is when people refuse to believe that the Empire can be defeated.
BTW this has happened many times since Vietnam but they never also learn, do they?

Whats this nonsense of pre-digital and post-digital? Did bombs not kill people in the pre-digital age? Sounds like you were impressed by the shock and awe campaign, which was actually meant to impress Saddam ;-)

Please also read up the stuff that you suggest to others, you missed the latest article by Saleem Shahzad (which is also on e-ariana). Please also follow Shahzad's recent travel to Afghanistan Ducking and diving under B-52s and A fighter and a financier .

Also, you are just dreaming about what Pakistan has to do in this scenario.

If the umreekans do not wisen up quicckly, Afghanistan will be worse than vietnam.
Here is the latest by Shahzad on AToL.


Afghanistan's 'sons of the soil' rise up
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - The resilient Taliban have proved unshakeable across Afghanistan over the past few months, making the chances of a coalition military victory against the popular tide of the insurgency in the majority Pashtun belt increasingly slim.

The alternative, though, of negotiating with radical Taliban leaders is not acceptable to the Western political leadership.

This stalemate suits Pakistan perfectly as it gives Islamabad the opportunity to once again step in to take a leading role in shaping the course of events in its neighboring country.

Pakistan's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi are thrilled with the Taliban's sweeping military successes which have reduced President Hamid Karzai's American-backed government to a figurehead decorating the presidential palace of Kabul; he and his functionaries dare not even cross the street to take evening tea at the Serena Hotel.

June (28 US combat deaths) was the deadliest month for coalition troops since they invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and fatalities have increased steadily since 2004, when 58 soldiers were killed that year. The total more than doubled to 130 killed in 2005, 191 in 2006 and 232 in 2007. One hundred and twenty-seven have died so far this year.

Pakistan's planners now see their objective as isolating radicals within the Taliban and cultivating tribal, rustic, even simplistic, "Taliban boys" - just as they did in the mid-1990s in the leadup to the Taliban taking control of the country in 1996. It is envisaged that this new "acceptable" tribal-inspired Taliban leadership will displace Taliban and al-Qaeda radicalism.

This process has already begun in Pakistan's tribal areas.

A leading Pakistani Taliban leader, Haji Nazeer from South Waziristan, who runs the largest Pakistani Taliban network against coalition troops in Afghanistan, recently convened a large meeting at which it was resolved to once again drive out radical Uzbeks from South Waziristan. This happened once before, early last year.

In particular, Nazeer will take action against the Uzbeks' main backer, Pakistani Taliban hardliner Baitullah Mehsud, if he tries to intervene. Nazeer openly shows his loyalty towards the Pakistani security forces and has reached out to other powerful Pakistani Taliban leaders, including Moulvi Faqir from Bajaur Agency, Shah Khalid from Mohmand Agency and Haji Namdar in Khyber Agency. Nazeer also announced the appointment of the powerful commander of North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, as the head of the Pakistani Taliban for all Pakistan.

The bulk of the Pakistani Taliban has always been pro-Pakistan and opposed to radical forces like Baitullah Mehsud and his foreign allies, but this is the first time they have set up a formal organization and appointed an amir (chief) as a direct challenge to the radicals.

At the core of their beliefs is a stress on traditional tribal values and following the tribal agenda of supporting the Afghan resistance against Western troops, rather than any global agenda such as attacks on Europe or the United States.

Soon after the announcement of the amir, two prominent Afghan Taliban commanders from eastern Afghanistan gave their support to the new Pakistani Taliban network. They are Moulvi Abdul Kabeer, a former Taliban governor in the province of Nangarhar before the US invasion in 2001, and commander Sadr-uddin. To date, the most important Afghan commander in the eastern region, Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, has remained neutral, perhaps because of his close ties with Pakistan and also with the radical camp.

Earlier, the Hezb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, another pro-Pakistan commander in Afghanistan, claimed several successful operations in the northeastern Kapisa and Wardak provinces - just a few score kilometers from Kabul. This is another significant development as it gives a boost to that segment of the insurgency which is more local than global.

This is the new picture emerging in eastern Afghanistan. If these groups, with Pakistan's support, can join hands with the Kandahari clans of the Taliban from the southwest, which already form a non-radical tribal resistance, it would give Islamabad the opportunity to make a proposal to Washington.

That is, the process of jirgas (tribal councils) should be restarted, this time only with the sons-of the-soil Taliban, to get them to lay down their arms and negotiate a new political role before the Afghan presidential elections next year.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

Posted by: a | Jul 14 2008 19:35 utc | 6

He said some local people may have joined the militants since a group of civilians were killed in American air strikes on July 4 in the same area. "This made the people angry," he said. "It was the same area, the air strikes happened maybe one kilometer away from the base."

Nuristani strongly criticized those air strikes, saying that 22 civilians had been killed. The provincial police chief later confirmed that at least 17 civilians were killed. The American military said planes had struck vehicles of insurgents but has announced an investigation. Days after his comments, Nuristani was removed from his post.

From IHT/NYT Link

Posted by: biklett | Jul 15 2008 4:37 utc | 7

Tom Engelhardt: The Wedding Crashers

That makes four wedding parties blown away by U.S. air power in Iraq and Afghanistan since the end of 2001. And there was probably at least one more. Back in May 2002, it was claimed that U.S. helicopters wiped out a wedding party in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, killing 10 and wounding many more. An Agence France Presse report at the time concluded: "A wedding was in progress in the village when people fired into the air in traditional celebration and US helicopters flying over the area could have mistaken it for hostile fire. An aircraft later bombed the area for several hours."
BBC with the first account from the last wedding bombing: Afghan survivors tell of wedding bombing
From nowhere a fast jet flew low and dropped a bomb right on top of the pass near a group of children who had impatiently rushed ahead and were resting, waiting for the women to catch up.

Lal Zareen was waiting expectantly for the guests to arrive when he heard the explosion and began to climb up the steep mountain track to the pass.

Shah Zareen was part of the group up on the path - he had narrowly escaped being caught in the first bomb and told the women to stay where they were as he rushed to help the children.

Second blast

Shah Zareen picked up one of the injured, ran down to the village and on his way was calling his local member of parliament on a mobile phone to say they had been attacked.

But then he heard the second blast - the bomb had been dropped on top of the women and almost all of them had been killed.

Posted by: b | Jul 15 2008 5:25 utc | 8

Maybe it wasn't the wedding bombed but another recent airstrike Taliban Breached NATO Base in Deadly Clash

He said some local people might have joined the militants since a group of civilians were killed in American airstrikes on July 4 in the same area. “This made the people angry,” he said. “It was the same area. The airstrikes happened maybe one kilometer away from the base.”

Mr. Nuristani strongly criticized those airstrikes, saying that 22 civilians had been killed. The provincial police chief confirmed that at least 17 civilians had been killed. The American military said planes had struck vehicles of insurgents but it has announced an investigation. Days after his comments, Mr. Nuristani was removed from his post.

Posted by: b | Jul 15 2008 5:43 utc | 9

holy mother of grog..
it's all too obscene, but this wedding bombing goes far beyond grotesque, and basically sums up the whole thing: the only intelligence involved is brown skin moving equals insurgent in action
there's this awful saying in brasil: if is a white running, he must be jogging, if is black, must be a thief escaping
(but i think it translates a widespread human condition)

...
and i shall give my proper big thanks to you, b, for all your research and clinical eye getting all the pieces of this global puzzle/mess (and all the great thinkers that you gather here)

Posted by: rudolf | Jul 15 2008 10:24 utc | 10

this vid was pointed out by a pat lang's commenter, it's supposed to be the Kundar outpost

i donnow res about military matters, but why the heck they are outposted at the bottom of a valley?

Posted by: rudolf | Jul 15 2008 11:33 utc | 11

U.S. Abandons Site of Afghan Attack

American forces have abandoned the outpost in northeastern Afghanistan where nine American soldiers were killed Sunday in a heavy attack by insurgents, NATO officials said Wednesday.

The withdrawal handed a propaganda victory to the Taliban, and insurgents were quick to move into the village of Wanat beside the abandoned outpost, Afghan officials said.
...
Local people have been angered by civilian casualties caused by American airstrikes aimed at militants, and some now may be cooperating with the militants, Afghan officials said.

Rahmatullah Rashidi, the leader of the provincial council of Nuristan, said some insurgents occupied Wanat on Tuesday immediately after American and Afghan troops had withdrawn. “They were up in the forest not far away,” he said. But on Wednesday, he added, a council of village elders persuaded the Taliban to leave, saying they feared that the Taliban’s presence would draw more fighting.

The local police, who pulled out Tuesday with the American force, returned to Wanat on Wednesday with the support of the tribal elders, Mr. Rashidi said.

Posted by: b | Jul 17 2008 5:43 utc | 12

The comments to this entry are closed.