Poppy Cultivation is Flourishing Under US/NATO Occupation of Afghanistan
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File.
Fri 27 Oct 2006 5:45 AM ET
By Saeed Ali Achakzai
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The Taliban accused NATO forces of genocide on Friday after the latest in a series of civilian combat deaths, and said they would step up already rising suicide attacks.
The strict Islamist group's one-legged military commander, Mullah Dadullah, also denied NATO charges the guerrillas used villagers as human shields in combat against foreign forces.
The warning came as a provincial official said a bomb had killed at least 14 civilians in the rugged southern province of Uruzgan on Friday.
"We want to inform the foreign forces and their slaves that their defeat is inevitable in Afghanistan," Dadullah told Reuters by satellite phone from a secret location.
"The Taliban's mujahideen are ready to fight until death and in the coming days will increase their activities and suicide attacks to such an extent that the infidel forces will not get a chance to rest.
"The Taliban will not let the the killers of Afghan women and children rest in peace and will continue to target them."
Witnesses and officials say NATO air strikes in neighbouring Kandahar province, where the Taliban began and remain strong, killed at least 50 civilians this week in an area the alliance had said it had cleared of insurgents in a recent offensive.
The Defence Ministry, NATO and a team of local elders appointed by President Hamid Karzai are investigating.
Fighting, mainly in the Taliban's southern stronghold, is the worst since U.S.-led forces drove the group from power in 2001.
More than 3,000 people have died this year, mostly rebels but including hundreds of civilians and about 150 foreign soldiers.
Recent Taliban video shows a robust Dadullah walking the mountains of Uruzgan and firing a machine gun.
Karzai this week appealed to fellow ethnic Pashtun leaders in neighbouring Pakistan to help quell the Taliban insurgency.
The mainly Pashtun Taliban freely cross the porous border. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of not doing enough to stop them, or even of continuing to support its former protege.
Islamabad and most Western nations reject this.
Karzai sought help from Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and a leading pro-Taliban cleric, and Pashtun nationalist leader Asfandayar Wali Khan.
Khan, head of the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party, said Karazi wrote to him and spoke with him on Thursday.
"Right now two forces are operating in the region. One is promoting war, hatred and isolation while the other is trying for peace and harmony," Khan said. "We are in the latter camp."
Kabul and Islamabad, key U.S. allies in its war on terrorism, last month agreed to call tribal gatherings, or jirgas, on both sides of the border to win support against the Taliban.
But the border issue and the division of the Pashtuns by frontiers drawn by British colonisers has long been a source of tension.
As NATO deals with the fallout of the civilian deaths, Germany said on Friday it has suspended two soldiers for their part in the desecration of human skulls in Afghanistan.
Images of soldiers striking a variety of poses with skulls were published in a major German newspaper and on television, sparking anger and condemnation in Afghanistan and Germany.
Germany, with 3,000 troops here as part of the NATO operation, has boosted security at its embassy in Kabul and missions across the Middle East in case of a backlash.
Nato confirms Afghan raid deaths
Nato has confirmed that at least 12 civilians were killed in an air strike targeting Taleban militants in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday.
Reports suggest at least 40 civilians died when a nomad camp was hit in Kandahar province's Panjwayi district.
A team of tribal and community elders will hold an inquiry, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office said.
On Friday, at least 14 people died in Uruzgan province when their bus struck a roadside bomb, officials said.
It was not immediately clear what kind of the bomb caused the blast, or who planted it.
'Things go wrong'
Nato has said 48 Taleban fighters were killed in three raids in Kandahar province, but the Taleban have denied losing any men.
Local police and officials confirmed more than 40 people were killed in one of the Nato raids, Afghan interior ministry spokesman Zmarai Bashiry told the BBC.
Other local officials put the death toll at between 60 and 85.
One Afghan survivor told the BBC that those attacked were nomads who had been living outside a village in tents. Nato forces are the main component in Isaf, the international force deployed in Afghanistan.
A spokesman, Capt Andre Salloum, told AFP news agency:
"As soon as the battle ended, troops on the ground were able to identify 12 civilians."
Nato forces were working with the Afghan defence ministry to conduct further investigations, he added.
Another Nato spokesman, Mark Laity, said the troops sought to take maximum care to avoid civilian casualties.
"We've got tight rules of engagement but sometimes things go wrong..." he said.
"President Karzai quite understandably and correctly wants us to show maximum care - that's what we do."
Residents in Panjwayi say the bombing began on Tuesday and continued into the night.
Local people as well as district officials have described buildings destroyed by aerial bombings during the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan.
"The planes came and were bombing 3am," one man said.
"And, in the morning, they started hitting our village with mortars and rockets. They didn't allow anybody to come to our help."
People told the BBC that the bodies of many locals had been pulled from the rubble of their homes and buried.
One local man who did not want to reveal his name said 20 members of his family had been killed and 10 injured.
He said that a nomad camp with no connection to the Taleban had been attacked:
"There are no Taleban here. We live outside the village in an open area in tents.
"Anyone can come here to see our homes and area. There are no Taleban here. We all are nomads living in tents.
"Each time they say that it was a mistake. They have destroyed us all in such mistakes. For God's sake, come and see our situation."
Karzai under pressure
President Karzai's office said his investigators would make suggestions on how to prevent such "unfortunate" incidents in future and ensure better co-ordination with foreign forces.
Mr Karzai has been under mounting pressure over civilian deaths and has urged foreign forces to exercise more caution.
Last week, up to 21 civilians were killed in two Nato operations in Kandahar and neighbouring Helmand province.
Hundreds of people have been killed in Afghanistan this year, the bloodiest since the Taleban were removed from power by US-led forces in 2001.
The UN mission in Afghanistan has voiced serious concern about the Panjwayi deaths.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/27 08:38:34 GMT
NATO, Afghans dispute civilian death toll in bombing
Last Updated: Friday, October 27, 2006 10:34 AM ET
Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan are working with NATO and Afghan officials to investigate claims by local people that dozens of civilians died in heavy fighting Tuesday between NATO and Taliban forces.
Local villagers have fled districts outside of the city of Kandahar and there were angry scenes Thursday at funeral services for some of the victims.
A NATO spokesman says 12 civilian bodies have been seen so far and it's likely that many of the other casualties were Taliban fighters.
Local officials say between 40 and 80 civilians were killed in three separate incidents involving aerial bombardment and artillery shelling.
Canadian troops have been meeting tribal leaders and Muslim clerics in the area to look into the claims and to attempt to mollify growing anger about the deaths, according to the CBC's Stephen Puddicombe, who is travelling with a Canadian military convoy in the area.
NATO and Afghan army units came under heavy attack from Taliban fighters during operations Tuesday and called in air and artillery strikes. U.S. aircraft dropped several 500-kilogram bombs on what were thought to be "Taliban strongholds," Puddicombe reported.
Meanwhile, there were more civilian casualties in southern Afghanistan Friday. At least 14 people villagers travelling to Eid-al-Fitr celebrations in a nearby town were killed when an explosion tore apart their vehicle.
Three people were also wounded in the blast, which occurred north of Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province, said Abdul Qayum Qayumi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
Qayumi told the Associated Press that police have not yet determined if the explosion was caused by a mine left on the ground from previous conflicts in Afghanistan or by a bomb that had been planted by insurgents who are currently battling NATO forces in the country.
Capt. Andre Salloum, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, blamed the blast on an anti-tank mine, but said it wasn't clear who had planted it.
Canada has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority stationed in the volatile southern province of Kandahar. Forty-two Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since Canada first sent troops there in early 2002.
Travelling with the Taleban
The BBC's David Loyn has had exclusive access to Taleban forces mobilised against the British army in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.
There is no army on earth as mobile as the Taleban.
I remember it as their secret weapon when I travelled with them in the mid-1990s, as they swept aside rival mujahideen to take most of the country.
Piled into the back of open Toyota trucks, their vehicle of choice, and carrying no possessions other than their weapons, they can move nimbly.
The bare arid landscape of northern Helmand suits them well.
After one hair-raising race across the desert last week, patrolling the large area where they can move at will, they screamed to a stop at a river bank.
It was sunset, and time to pray before breaking the Ramadan fast they had kept since sunrise.
Before praying, they washed in a dank-looking pool at the side of the almost-dry river bed.
Afghanistan has been in the grip of a severe drought for several years, but the lack of clean water does not seem to concern these hardy men.
They clean their teeth with sharpened sticks taken from trees, and sleep with only the thinnest shawls to cover them.
They have surprised the British by the ferocity of their fighting and their willingness to take casualties.
Their belief in the imminence of paradise means that few exhibit fear.
When we stopped for the night, they would break into groups to eat in different houses in a village.
They demand and get food and shelter from places where they stop, but it is impossible to say how enthusiastic the villagers really are.
These remote villages, scattered across the huge expanse of the northern Helmand desert, are very poor, and made poorer by the drought.
The food we shared was just a bowl of rice, a vegetable stew made only of okra, and flat roughly-ground country bread.
The failure of aid policies to make a difference in southern Afghanistan and increasing corruption in the government and the national army, are spreading the power base of the Taleban.
The trucking companies, who backed them first in 1994 when they emerged to clear illegal checkpoints on the roads, are now backing them again.
This time the checkpoints are manned by Afghan government soldiers, who demand money at gunpoint from every driver.
The failure of the international community to stop this makes the military task of the British-led Nato force in the south much harder.
The Taleban official spokesman, Mohammed Anif, explained: "When the Islamic movement of the Taleban started in the first place, the main reason was because of concern among people about corruption.
"People were fed up with having to bribe governors, and other authorities.
"We rose up and saved almost the whole country from the evils of corruption and corrupt commanders. That's why people are supporting the Taleban again now."
The intensifying conflict itself also plays into their hands. It is hard for Nato to promote its mission as humanitarian given the inevitable civilian casualties of conflict.
The Taleban deny British claims that hundreds of their soldiers have been killed.
They say that since they wear only the loose long cotton shirts and trousers - shalwar kameez - of any local villager, then the British cannot easily tell them apart.
In a village damaged by a British attack on the night of 7 October, some people were too angry to talk to me because I was British.
One merely pointed to the torn and bloody women's clothing left in the ruins of the house and said bitterly, "Are these the kind of houses they have come to build - the kind where clothing is cut to pieces?".
Nato sources describe this village as being heavily defended by the Taleban, who fired on their forces throughout the operation.
British soldiers landed in helicopters, arrested a suspect and flew away.
But they left six dead in one family, including three young girls, and partially demolished the mosque.
Thousands of people have fled the fighting, many seeking refuge in Kandahar city, where they are putting severe pressure on the ability of the UN's World Food Programme to help.
They fear for the homes and farms they have left behind, and while not active Taleban supporters, it is clear that most blame Nato more for the worsening violence.
One man, Nazar Mohammed, now squatting with his family in a building site in Kandahar, said the Taleban have most to gain in the continuing conflict.
"It's very obvious. Right now we see foreigners with tanks driving through our vineyards. They destroy people's orchards.
"They break through the walls and just drive across. When they take up positions in the village like this, nobody can cooperate with them."
There is one other factor that increases Taleban morale.
Few have any education beyond years spent in the madrassas, the fundamentalist religious schools in Pakistan that have produced an endless supply of Taleban for more than a decade.
But all know the story of Afghanistan's past victories over the British.
Engraved in their collective folk memory of Afghanistan's warrior history are tales of the defeat of the British in 1842 and 1880 along with the defeat of the Russians in the 1980s.
The Taleban disappeared to the mountains after their defeat in 2001, and found it hard to recruit.
Five years on they are back, and regrouping against an old enemy.
David Loyn's TV report on Afghanistan was broadcast on Newsnight Wednesday, 25 October at 2230 (BBC Two).
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/24 23:11:53 GMT
Tories criticise BBC over Taleban
The BBC has been criticised by the Conservative Party after it broadcast an interview with a Taleban spokesman.
Dr Mahammed Anif told Newsnight that the UK and US had wanted an "excuse" to invade Afghanistan, and foreign armies would be thrown out of the country.
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said the interview was
"obscene" and accused the BBC of broadcasting propaganda on behalf of Britain's enemies.
The BBC said it was "entirely legitimate" to air the Taleban's views.
During the interview, with the BBC's David Loyn, other members of a Taleban group in Helmand province were also filmed vowing to fight to the death against the British troops.
In the film, broadcast on Wednesday, a Taleban fighter who gave his name as Mullah Assad Akhond said: "We see the English as our enemy since the time of the Prophet Mohammed. They are our enemies now and they were then.
"We will fight them to our death. We will not let them into our country. They can't deceive us about their propaganda that they are here for reconstruction or rebuilding this country."
Another member, Hajimullah Wahidullah, warned that the militant group planned to step up suicide bombings, which until recently had been rare in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Dr Anif - who the BBC said was giving his first broadcast interview as an official spokesman for the group - said: "Americans used force and attacked us. They invaded our country and occupied it.
"They killed our women and children. That's why mujahideen want to throw them out of the country.
The spokesman also denied claims that the Taleban had burnt down many schools which they accuse of teaching children non-Islamic values.
Dr Fox said the entire interview had been "obscene".
"I am disgusted that the BBC should broadcast an interview with a Taleban 'adviser' while our troops are being murdered by them," he said.
"The brave men and women of our armed forces rightly feel nothing but revulsion at the BBC's actions.
"We have become used to a non-stop anti-war agenda from the BBC but broadcasting propaganda on behalf of this country's enemies - at a time when our armed forces are being killed and maimed - marks a new low."
In a statement, the BBC said: "It was entirely legitimate for BBC News to broadcast the Taleban's views.
"Reporter David Loyn made the Taleban's intention to increase suicide attacks patently clear.
"BBC News also regularly reports on the British troops and have interviewed their officers and soldiers on many occasions."
Also on Newsnight, defence minister Adam Ingram was asked whether the government believed the war in Afghanistan could be won.
"Of course we do. There are many indications that it is being won," he said.
"Our brave soldiers are bringing peace and stability to that country."
British forces have been in the country since 2001, when they took part in the US-led invasion designed to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
The Taleban was swept from power and UK troops remained in the country to assist the transitional government as part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).
UK forces are now leading Isaf in the volatile southern province of Helmand, where their duty to make the area secure for reconstruction regularly brings them into conflict with Taleban fighters.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/26 10:01:38 GMT