Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Taliban Return To Afghan Town That Rose Up And Drove Out Its Leaders

Within hours of "formal" British, U.S. pullout in Helmand, Taliban moves in to reclaim lost ground in Gizab: Now let's see Cameron, Obama, Bush/Cheney attempt to justify needless military deaths, emptied treasuries, destroyed economies        

By Sue Engel Rasmussen

The Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir Nick Houghton, said the UK's armed forces had "played a hugely significant role in delivering a security legacy for the people of Afghanistan"

When the people of Gizab district rose up and ousted their Taliban rulers four years ago, international forces touted the district as a success story of civil courage and a milestone in the decade-long war. But now the district in Uruzgan, central Afghanistan, is about to fall back under the control of the insurgents, according to officials and community leaders.

A look of bitterness reflects Afghan occupation
The insurgent offensive comes a year after international troops withdrew from Uruzgan, and as UK troops are closing their largest base in Helmand, another embattled province in the south. A month of intense fighting in Gizab has displaced up to 500 families, and Taliban fighters are forcing residents to provide them with food and transportation and threatening people to stop them cooperating with the government, elders from the area said.

“The Taliban are using people as shields and are firing on security forces from civilian houses,” said Haji Abdur Rab, head of Gizab’s development council.

Wedged into the top corner of Uruzgan province, Gizab lies about 62 miles north of Tarin Kot, the provincial capital. Roads leading here are unpaved, making the transfer of food and weapons and the evacuation of the wounded difficult. 

To add to the troubles, the national army only has three helicopters, one of which is currently defunct, to support Uruzgan and three other provinces. According to Colonel Rasul Kandahari, commander of the Afghan national army’s 4th brigade in Uruzgan, the helicopters have little capacity beyond airlifting bodies from the battlefield.

After insurgents cut off all roads to the district capital, security forces now await air support from the government. So far, however, the unrest in Gizab has failed to trigger a reaction from Kabul.

Estimates of casualties vary widely. While the police chief’s office in Tarin Kot claimed only a couple of people had been wounded and killed, the provincial governor, Amanullah Khan Timuri, said non-civilian casualties had reached 70, distributed equally on each side.

A western official familiar with security in the region, who is not authorised to speak publicly on the matter, said Gizab was the most insecure district of Uruzgan. More than a third of clashes in Gizab this year have reportedly occurred within the past month.

Will Blair ever be held accountable for Afghan military deaths?
The battle for Gizab will vex western military leaders, who pinned great hopes on the district. In 2010 American and Australian special forces supported a revolt of a few hundred people against the Taliban, as part of a declared effort to support bottom-up counter-insurgency. 

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) trumpeted the uprising as an example of a successful “village stability operation”, designed to encourage ordinary Afghans to wrest power from the Taliban.

“The success with village stability in Gizab is a great example for the surrounding villages,” Isaf said in 2010.

Will the Bush war criminals ever be brought to justice for their war crimes, lies to the American public and needless American military deaths?

This strategy also helped bring about the birth of the Afghan Local Police. Established in 2010, the ALP drafts members from local communities and empowers Afghans to take responsibility for security, linking them with the central government. The US military expected most Afghans to turn against the Taliban when they realised that government forces were the stronger part. In Gizab, however, residents waited in vain after the revolt for the government to exert control, said Martine van Bijlert, an Uruzgan expert with the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

Was this illegal, immoral "war" ever about Afghan national security?

“Instead, they just felt like a lot of local commanders were given a lot of power,” she said. “And it wasn’t necessarily better.” Corruption, nepotism and hard-handed treatment of residents remained the order of the day.

International forces also underestimated the fluctuating nature of Afghan politics, expecting local power-brokers to throw their lot behind those that booted out the Taliban. “In reality, the US military were dealing with commanders who have a history of going back and forth between the different sides,” said Van Bijlert.

Was it about dope?

Violence flared up when insurgents crossed into Gizab from Ajristan district in neighbouring Ghazni province after clashing with government forces there in September. At the same time, Gizab’s core of anti-Taliban fighters from the 2010 revolt has been weakened.

In the summer, one of the leaders of the rebellion, a former shopkeeper called Lalay, reportedly left Gizab after a brawl with Tarin Kot’s police chief, Matiullah Khan. According to sources in Tarin Kotwith knowledge of the infighting, Lalay attempted to usurp the police chief, who responded by propping up Lalay’s rival, a local Taliban leader, despite the police chief’s usual animosity for the insurgents. Consequently, Lalay left for Kandahar, taking 300-400 fighters with him.

Was it ever about providing "security" to Afghan civilians?

Illustrating how swiftly loyalties can change, the power struggle also shows the mistrust seeping through factions of the Afghan security forces. In Uruzgan, the army, governor and police have been feuding for years, partly because of the police chief’s involvement in foreign-funded reconstruction projects and allegations of officials’ involvement in the drug trade.

However, Haji Abdullah Zafar, the district governor of Gizab, said all sections of the security forces were fighting shoulder to shoulder in Gizab, and numbered 400 men, including 300 police, soldiers and members of the intelligence service. Taliban fighters are twice as numerous, Zafar said, adding that there had recently been fierce clashes. 

“The fighting was like a world war,” he said.

Although estimates of insurgent numbers should be taken with a dose of salt when coming from officials seeking to draw more government support to their area, security forces in Gizab are clearly stretched to their limits. Their supply lines have almost entirely been cut off. According to several elders, the Taliban now controls about 80% of the district.

Were the needless deaths and maiming of our military personnel ever seriously taken into account, or was Afghanistan merely another ticket-punching exercise for military brass like Vietnam?  Will Powell and Petraeus ever be prosecuted for their lies to the American public?  Will Hagel?  Will they ever be held responsible?  If not them, then who?

The failure to tie Gizab more firmly to the provincial or national governments has allowed the Taliban to retake areas that had been secure, which seems to be the insurgents’ goal. While Taliban fighters occasionally attack district centres, they have recently focused on rural areas in an apparent attempt to secure freedom of movement through the country.

Afghan forces in Gizab have been largely left to fend for themselves after international forces left Uruzgan at the end of last year. In some areas of the country, insurgents have spent the past months testing the resilience of government forces, who lack the international support of the past, especially air power. The Afghan security forces cost an estimated $5bn-6bn (£3-3.7bn) annually, almost three times total government revenue last year.

Will Obama and his war criminals ever be held responsible for their lies?  For their corruption in Afghanistan?  For bankrupting the American economy in prosecuting this illegal, immoral "war?"

It is not the first time the people of Gizab have felt neglected. Gizab straddles a border between the Hazara people of the central highlands and the Pashtuns of the south. In 2004, president Hamid Karzai cut out a chunk of Uruzgan and created the predominantly Hazara province of Daykundi. Initially, Gizab belonged to Daykundi, much to the aggravation of some of its Pashtun population, who responded by in effect surrendering control of the area to the Taliban. Two years later, the district was annexed to Uruzgan. This administrative tossing back and forth has created a sense of abandonment among Gizab’s residents, who complain of being ignored by the government in Kabul.

WHO, will be held responsible and accountable for THIS?

“We don’t have representatives in parliament or the provincial council to complain about the situation,” said Zafar, the district governor. “If the central government is not listening to us, we want the international community to help.”

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