Monthly Archives: February 2011

Ghazni Taliban

Related to my recent post on how the Taliban operates a shadow government in Ghazni, here is another update from the New York Times reporter currently embedded with the American troops in Ghazni province which reveals the extent to which the Taliban have infiltrated the region. These pictures highlight how weapons that the American DoD purchases for the Afghan security forces, can end up in the wrong hands, with the result that America is funding both sides of the war.

In Ghazni Province, Stacks of Taliban Records and Photographs
BY C. J. CHIVERS

Captured photographs, made by Taliban fighters and those who live with them, offer views of the fighters and how they see themselves.

Two fighters with rifles originally issued to the Afghan security forces. These rifles, purchased by the Pentagon, were a common sight in the trove of Ghazni Taliban photographs.

Full slideshow at the New York Times, here.

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Poles arrest Taliban leader in Afghanistan

The Andar district in Ghazni province is just to the Southeast of Ghazni city, and as I posted yesterday, the American battalion which arrived in the fall has been operating here. However, it appears the Poles are working either in conjunction or at least simultaneously in the region, as they just captured a Taliban leader here:

Polish soldiers have detained one of the most important Taliban leaders during a night raid in a remote village in the Andar district.

Sana Mohammad, who was arrested in the Afghan province of Ghazni, was on NATO’s list of most-wanted terrorists. News of the action was released by Poland’s HQ in Afghanistan.

The arrest occurred four days ago in one of the villages in the Andar district. In the middle of the night, Polish and Afghan commandos surrounded the house where the Taliban leader was hiding.

Besides arresting Sana Mohammad, the detachment also managed to detain a local leader of the Taliban. The action was reportedly completed during very difficult conditions, in the midst of a snowstorm.

Full report from thenews.pl here.

Ghazni’s shadow government

The New York Times currently has a reporter embedded with the American battalion that entered Ghazni in late fall of last year. The Americans are operating mostly in Andar and Dih Yah districts, in the Eastern part of the province.

It’s a story worth reading to learn more about what the situation in Ghazni is really like:

February 6, 2011
In Eastern Afghanistan, at War With the Taliban’s Shadowy Rule
By C. J. CHIVERS

The picture is of an underground government by local fighters, organized under the Taliban’s banner, who have established the rudiments of a civilian administration to complement their shadowy combat force. They run schools, collect taxes and adjudicate civil disputes in Islamic courts. And when they fight, their gunmen and bomb makers are aided by an intelligence and support network that includes villagers, who signal for them and provide them shelter, and tunnels in which to elude capture or find medical care.

As part of the Obama administration’s campaign to subdue a sprawling insurgency and create a durable Afghan government, the military sent thousands of soldiers last year into rural areas under the influence, if not outright control, of the Taliban. One of those task forces, the Third Battalion of the 187th Infantry Regiment, arrived in Miri in September to help establish a government presence in a place — though it is the official seat of the Ghazni Province’s Andar District — where government had been sporadic for a decade.

Almost five months later — through prisoner interrogations, informants’ reports, intercepted radio chatter, surveillance of fighters’ funerals, Taliban documents, nearly 200 gunfights, and captured photographs, equipment and bombs — the Americans have assembled an expanding portrait of how the latter-day Taliban functions here.

The analysis outlines two distinct elements of Taliban structure: — a quasi government and the military arm that empowers it.

On one level, the Taliban has firmly re-established its hold over civilian life in rural Ghazni. Even with an American battalion patrolling Andar and the neighboring Deh Yak District each day, the Taliban runs 28 known schools; circulates public statements by leaflets at night; adjudicates land, water-rights and property disputes through religious courts; levies taxes on residents; and punishes Afghans labeled as collaborators.

Read the rest at the NYTimes, here.

NYTimes slideshow on Americans in Ghazni, here.

France calls Poland “Intelligent and Bold”

Related to my last post on a meeting of the Weimar triangle, via Euractiv.com:

Polish President Bronisław Komorowski said yesterday (7 February) that he would welcome Russia to meetings of the Weimar Triangle countries – comprising Poland, Germany and France – as a way of strengthening Moscow’s ties with the EU. EurActiv Poland reports.

In response to Komorowski’s inviting Russia to the Weimar Triangle meetings, French President Sarkozy said:

Komorowski’s approach to relations with Russia is both very intelligent and bold. Such activity will make a good impression and will facilitate the awareness of the fact that the Cold War is no more.

Read the full report here on the web portal of thePolish President.

“Old Europe” courts Poland

Great insight from global intelligence site Stratfor on developments in Central and Eastern Europe. Their article entitled: “Nordic-Baltic Alliance and NATO’s Arctic Thaw,” addresses problems facing the Baltic states  (February 9):

“Meanwhile, Poland, a fellow Central European state and a potential security partner in countering the Russian resurgence, is being courted by France and Germany to join the EU ruling elite. Monday’s meeting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French and Polish presidents looks to revive the “Weimar Triangle” — with regular meetings of the leaders of the three countries. At the press conference following the meeting, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said Russian President Dmitri Medvedev should join the Weimar Triangle discussions, to the nodding approval of French and German leaders. The underlying message was clear: Warsaw may be accepted as an equal to France and Germany — or close to it — if it acquiesced or at least closed its eyes to the emerging Franco-German entente with Russia.

With Poland being wooed by Paris and Berlin, the U.S. consumed by the Islamic world and NATO quickly becoming aloof to their security woes, the Baltic states are turning to the one alternative in the region: Nordic states. The Estonian agreement with Sweden is one example of recent moves by the Baltic states to increase cooperation with the Nordic countries — Sweden, Finland and Norway — of which only Norway is a formal NATO member. Sweden has a history of being a power in the region, with Latvia and Estonia being part of the Swedish Empire until the early 18th century. It also has the most powerful military in the region, a strong armaments industry and a knack for standing up to Moscow in its own sphere of influence, albeit thus far only via the nascent diplomatic initiative, the Eastern Partnership.”

The Eastern Partnership and the Weimar Triangle are two serious diplomatic initiatives that Poland dedicates its time to. Read the rest from Stratfor here (subscription required).

Reconstruction in Ghazni

Recently on the official Ghazni PRT blog, there was an interesting story about a little-known aspect of what the Polish contingent in Afghanistan is doing to try to help the Afghan people:

“GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – More than 150 contractors participated in a contracting conference held by the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghazni City Feb. 8. The conference was organized to familiarize contractors from Ghazni Province with the requirements for submitting bids on projects organized by the PRT. The orientation was critical due to the large number of bids rejected as a result of errors, according to the PRT. “This figure reaches up to 70 percent,” said Polish Army Lt. Col. Cezary Kiszkowiak, Ghazni PRT deputy commander.

Organizers were positively surprised by the large number of participants, said Dominika Springer, PRT specialist for NGOs and small businesses. She said in January, they made initial contact with the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “By collaborating with this institution we were able to reach a very large number of contractors with information and invitations about the conference,” said Springer. “Interestingly, information about the training also reached beyond the borders of the province as we also met people from Kabul at the conference.”

The training for contractors was the first of its kind in Ghazni Province.

Angela Szyszlo (right), a Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team education specialist, talks to Afghan contractors Feb. 8 during a break at a conference in Ghazni City. The conference goal was to enhance cooperation between the PRT and local industry and clarify bidding procedures and legal requirements for PRT contracts. (Photo by Artur Weber, Task Force White Eagle Public Affairs)

Read the rest here.

The situation in Ghazni – background

Freelance journalist Jason Motlagh stirred the coalition’s pot with his December article in Time Magazine which showed the Poles in an unfavorable light. One of his earlier articles about Ghazni gives a little more context about what the situation in Ghazni is really like, and gives more detailed reasons for escalating tension in the region. People on the ground there will tell you that both the ethnic racism among Afghans, as well as President Obama’s troop surge pushing Taliban North out of their safe havens have a lot to do with the increased attacks in Ghazni. This article explains the situation well, as far as I understand it. It was written in the wake of the most recent elections.

“The results of Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections announced this week were an anti-climax, coming two months later and tainted by an avalanche of fraud and vote-rigging allegations. But returns from one of the country’s 34 provinces were not certified, and that’s where things get interesting. In Ghazni, a Taliban stronghold with an ethnic Pasthun majority, preliminary results apparently show that the Hazara minority swept the polls by claiming all 11 seats. Given the eastern province’s mixed demography, it’s widely agreed the improbable outcome stems from the insecurity that kept tens of thousands of Pashtuns away from the polls. Much as the Afghan government and its foreign backers want to move on, there are now fears that if corrective steps are not taken, the country’s largest ethnic group could be further isolated — to the Taliban’s advantage.”

Read the rest here.