The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Friday, August 2, 2013

War News for Friday, August 02, 2013

US Army officer found guilty in Afghanistan shootings

Kerry: Pakistan drone strikes to end 'soon'

Afghans Yield in Dispute With U.S. Over Stiff Fines for Cargo Shipments

Reported security incidents
#1: Saifullah Baidar, chief of Koh-e-Safi District in Parwan Province, July 31 escaped a roadside bombing while another man was killed by a separate land mine, media reported. An improvised explosive device (IED) in the Belan area damaged Baidar's car but did not hurt him, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. Separately, a roadside blast in the Multani locality of Charikar District killed civilian Noor Aga, Provincial Crime Branch Chief Col. Mohammad Naram said. Aga stepped on the mine en route to a mosque.

#2: The hujra (guest house) of Awami National Party (ANP) Khyber Agency chapter was attacked by some militants in the wee hours of Friday. Unknown miscreants threw a hand grenade on the Hujra of Shah Hussain Shinwari, that caused a slight damage to the two cars parked in the area. “The grenade attack caused no human loss to, but damaged slightly two cars parked in the yard of the hujra,” Shah Hussain Shinwari told, adding so far no FIR has been lodged.

#3: Three Afghan soldiers lost their lives and four others sustained injuries while they were defusing a bomb and the device exploded accidentally in Badghis province 555 km northwest of Kabul on Thursday, a local official said Friday.

#4: At least seven members from a single family were killed following an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan. The incident took place in Maiwand district late Thursday evening after an IED planted by Taliban militants went off, killing at least seven people including two women. Provincial governor spokesman Jawid Faisal confirming the report said at least three others were also injured in the explosion.


Dancewater said...

McClatchy Washington Bureau
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Posted on Thu, Aug. 01, 2013
Senators spar over definition of ‘journalist’ in seeking to protect them
By Kate Irby | McClatchy Washington Bureau

last updated: August 02, 2013 10:05:44 AM

The Senate Judiciary Committee, looking to provide protections for journalists and their sources, ran into a roadblock Thursday when lawmakers couldn’t agree on the definition of “journalist.”

Under the legislation, journalists wouldn’t have to comply with subpoenas or court orders forcing them to reveal sources or confidential information unless a judge first determines there’s reason to think that a crime has occurred and government officials have exhausted all other alternatives.

It’s the third time Congress has considered a “shield law” for journalists. Similar bills have failed despite bipartisan support.

"I’m hoping the third time’s a charm," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee’s chairman.

The bill defines a journalist as a person who has a "primary intent to investigate events and procure material" in order to inform the public by regularly gathering information through interviews and observations. The person also must intend to report on the news at the start of obtaining any protected information and must plan to publish that news.

But senators disagreed on how to define journalists, since some thought the bill’s definition wasn’t specific enough.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wondered whether it could be used to provide protections to employees of WikiLeaks, an organization that allows anonymous sources to leak information to the public.

"I’m concerned this would provide special privilege to those who are not reporters at all," she said.

Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to "real reporters." The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was against that idea, since there are bloggers and others in the Internet age who don’t necessarily receive salaries.

"The world has changed. We’re very careful in this bill to distinguish journalists from those who shouldn’t be protected, WikiLeaks and all those, and we’ve ensured that," Schumer said. "But there are people who write and do real journalism, in different ways than we’re used to. They should not be excluded from this bill."

The Standing Committee of Correspondents, a group of reporters that issues congressional press passes, requires that reporters be full time and paid in order to receive passes.

The reconsideration of a shield law comes on the heels of media controversies that came to light in May. The Justice Department had seized the phone records of 20 Associated Press reporters over two months without giving them prior notice and had traced the phone calls and emails of a Fox News reporter.

The bill also would require the Justice Department to notify any reporters it chose to monitor. It allows Justice officials to delay that notice by 45 days and permits them to ask for an extension of another 45 days.

Most states have their own shield laws for journalists, but those laws don’t apply in federal court. That means any monitoring of reporters by the federal government would be covered only under a federal shield law.

The committee will continue debating the bill when it reconvenes in September, and Schumer said he hoped it would head to the Senate floor by the end of the year.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story wrongly attributed thoughts and comments by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.


Dancewater said...

Wounded Afghan civilians tell how it happened
By Jay Price | McClatchy Foreign Staff

A new report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said Wednesday that the number of civilians who’d been killed and wounded in the war rose 23 percent in the first half of the year over the same period last year. It was a reversal of a decline that had been recorded last year, due in part to greater fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban as the U.S.-led international coalition takes a smaller role in the fighting.

Here are the stories of some of the wounded, in their own words.

Mohammad Sadiq

(Sadiq is a tanker truck driver who delivers fuel to U.S. bases.)

We’ve been ambushed three times on the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Wardak province, and I survived the first two but I was trapped in the third one, and I caught some bullets.

In the first ambush, they fired at me, but the bullets hit the fuel tanker and I never stopped. The same happened in the second ambush. But in the third ambush, a burned fuel tanker was ahead of me and one of the Taliban fighters was hiding behind that. He came out and pointed the gun at me and told me to stop but I didn’t, so he jumped up on the right door of the truck, but the door was locked and he was hanging on there. He told me to turn down a narrow road which goes to their village, but instead of that I sped up. Then another one of them fired bullets at me.

I was afraid that if they captured me alive they would torture me, then kill me. I preferred to die there instead of being caught alive by them.

I was unconscious for about 20 seconds, then I woke up again and saw that the truck was still going and hitting some trees on the side of the road. I drove toward a police checkpoint, but the Taliban hit the truck with a rocket and it caught on fire and I had to jump out.

They were armed with AK-47s and PK (machine guns) and I was hit by both. I don’t know how many bullets I took. I lost two fingers on my right hand and the third one is partly damaged but it was treated in this hospital.

If my hands work properly again, then I have to keep driving the tanker. I have no other choice, and I don’t have any other skills, and I am the only one who feeds the family. Three of my colleagues who do the same job have been killed and six others injured. All the drivers in my company are afraid when they drive toward the south, but we surrender ourselves to God and continue to do this job because we are all illiterate and this is the only way we can feed our families.

A woman from Logar province

(She’d brought her son to the hospital in Kabul run by the charity Emergency. She spoke only on the condition of anonymity, for fear of retaliation.)

He’s 4 years old and his name is Rabiullah. There was massive fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan National Army, and a mortar hit our house. One of my daughters, who is 12, was also injured but she’s discharged from the hospital now.

I have eight children. They were in the hall of our house when the mortar hit. That hall was destroyed. These mortars were shot by the Afghan National Army, not the Taliban. The incident occurred around 20 days ago, and the fighting happens almost every day, and we always stay at home when there is fighting.

There are no airstrikes now where we are, but the ground fighting continues on a daily basis. Now they are also firing rockets and mortars on the civilians. Taliban are coming in and going out of the village always, and the ANA is always chasing them and shooting at them.

Dancewater said...

Kabul hospital is sad symbol of Afghanistan’s rising civilian toll
By Jay Price | McClatchy Foreign Staff

Zarsanga, a tiny 5-year-old with serious eyes who, like many Afghans, uses a single name, was inside her home in rural Ghazni province, playing on the floor with a 3-year-old cousin, when a firefight broke out nearby between Afghan soldiers and insurgents.

Now she’s in a war trauma hospital in Kabul run by the small international charity Emergency, the victim of a major reason that civilian casualties have jumped sharply in the first half of the year: getting caught in crossfire between insurgents and Afghan soldiers and police.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported Wednesday that the number of civilians wounded in the war here during the first half of the year rose 23 percent compared with the same period last year. The increase was even higher among women and children, up 61 percent for women and 30 percent for children.

No single reason is responsible for the full increase. In many cases, insurgents have struck targets such as police highway checkpoints, courthouses or government offices without regard to the presence of civilians or they’ve used improvised bombs indiscriminately.

However, the report says a major cause is that as the U.S.-led coalition has closed hundreds of small bases in outlying areas, insurgents have become more bold. That’s led Afghan security forces to attack, according to the report, and civilians often are caught in the ensuing fighting.

Zarsanga’s bullet entered her right hip and smashed the femur just below the joint. X-rays show that what’s left of the top of the bone sits at a 90-degree angle, and is mending that way.

"My cousin is fine. It was only me who was injured," Zarsanga said, dangling her legs in a wheelchair that was built for children but was still too large. "I can’t walk, but it doesn’t hurt right now."

It’s unclear how much she understands about how her life will be different.

The doctors are trying to partly fuse the joint, but that leg will always be shorter than the other, said Luca Radaelli, the hospital’s medical coordinator. At best, Zarsanga will walk with a slow, swinging gait.

Just inside the door of Zarsanga’s ward, a whiteboard bears the name and cause of wound for each patient.

"Bullet, bullet, shell, bullet, shell, bullet, bullet, knife, shell, bullet," Emergency’s Afghanistan program director, Emanuele Nannini, read on a recent day, hitting a rhythm as he worked down the list.

There are whiteboards like that one in all six wards of the hospital, and more in Emergency’s hospital in Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province, where the fighting has been particularly fierce. These days, those boards stay full.

Emergency admits only patients with severe trauma. Nearly all are civilians, though there also are police officers, and even Taliban. Its admissions are up 59 percent for the first half of the year, including an 89 percent increase at its hospital in the violent south.

Nannini said the spiking seemed to be in part because the fighting had moved closer to towns and villages in many areas. Also, government clinics in the most dangerous areas have been closing or seeing members of their staff flee, so Emergency is getting patients the Afghans can’t handle.

The U.N. report looks at deaths and injuries across the country, not just in the worst-hit places, where Emergency works. It says that all told there were 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 injuries. That reverses a decline last year.

The bulk, 74 percent, are still caused by insurgents and other "anti-government forces" such as criminal groups.

Improvised bombs remain the largest cause. In some cases, they’re triggered by the weight of vehicles, which can be minibuses carrying locals just as easily as they can be Afghan army Humvees.

Dancewater said...

"And if a bomb hits a minibus, who’s inside? Often, it’s women and kids," said Georgette Gagnon, a representative of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Afghanistan.

For women, the ground fighting between insurgents and Afghan security forces was the most common cause of death or injury. For children, it was improvised bombs, then ground fighting and then accidental detonation of munitions left behind by fighting or the closing of a coalition base.

The U.N. mission called on the Afghan security forces to develop proper methods for tracking and reducing civilian casualties. It blamed government forces directly for 9 percent of the casualties.

For Afghans who are badly wounded, Emergency is widely regarded as the safest place to go. Even Afghan hospitals send deteriorating cases there that they’ve treated but cannot save.

Despite the fact that Emergency gets some of the worst cases, if a patient makes it there alive his or her chances improve instantly: Ninety-five percent of those who reach the Kabul hospital survive.

Emergency has three hospitals and about 40 clinics across the country, and a lean staff with a few foreign doctors and nurses and a few from Afghanistan.

In Kabul it has what was the first CAT scan machine in the country, and its facilities are among the best in Afghanistan, though it’s modest by Western standards.

The nonprofit is aggressive in maintaining its neutrality. It asks no questions about which side patients might have been fighting on or the circumstances of their wounds, other than what’s necessary to treat them.

The history of the organization’s Kabul hospital is a reminder of the seemingly endless chain of violence in the country for the past few decades.

It was a kindergarten, built by the Soviets before CIA-backed insurgents ran them out of the country.

During one of the various phases of civil war that followed, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar gave the building to Emergency at the group’s request to help underline its neutrality. That balanced the earlier gift of a hospital by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famed Northern Alliance commander and fierce Taliban opponent.

Now it’s a quiet, almost gardenlike oasis from the tumult of the city around it. But there’s a sign on the grounds near a small monument that dates to its days as a kindergarten.

"A rocket landed in this place in 1992 and killed five children," it says.

Dancewater said...

A few feet away, in the women’s and children’s ward, the beds around Zarsanga are filled with other children. A boy, 8, who’d been hit in the abdomen by shrapnel. A boy, 10, who’d lost much of a hand to a land mine. A boy, 7, with a shell injury to his back. A girl, 10, who’d been hit in the buttocks, left thigh and right leg by shrapnel from a shell or bomb. A 5-year-old boy hit in the right leg with a bullet.

His leg had been amputated just two days earlier, but he was grinning and laughing with another patient.

Watching, Radaelli just shrugged. Afghan children are tough, he said. After they’ve been in the ward for only a few days, it becomes their community.

In the hospital’s intensive care unit, two other wounded children lay. One, a 5-year-old boy, had taken a shell blast to the abdomen, shoulder and groin. Doctors had removed part of his intestines and were monitoring his condition carefully.

The other, a 10-year-old boy, had been struck by a bullet that entered his skull low, from behind, and passed out the upper left front. Initially, he was unable to breathe without a respirator, his eyes had rolled back and he twitched rhythmically. A few days later, almost miraculously, he was able to breathe again, though how much function he will have is unclear, Radaelli said.

For every name on the whiteboards at Emergency, for every person in a bed, there are plenty who don’t get the chance, Nannini said.

"It’s hard to say this, but those we actually get are the lucky ones," he said. "We have no idea how many patients don’t reach us."

McClatchy special correspondent Rezwan Natiq contributed to this story.