Taliban insurgents arrested with 11 tons of explosives en route from Pakistan to Afghanistan

Afghanistan National Policeman in front of a banner of assassinated president Burhanuddin Rabbani
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Afghan security forces have arrested five militants with 11 tons of explosives that they had brought from Pakistan to use to carry out a massive attack in Kabul, as well as another three planning an assassination attempt against the vice president…

The reports of new planned attacks in the Afghan capital came just days after militants said to be part of a Pakistan-based group launched brazen coordinated assaults in the heart of Kabul and in other cities.

U.S. officials say they have stepped up pressure on Islamabad to crack down on that group, the Haqqani network, which specializes in high-profile strikes against well-protected targets.

Three of the five men arrested with the explosives were members of the Pakistani Taliban, while the other two belonged to the Afghan Taliban, National Director for Security spokesman Shafiqullah Tahiry said at a news conference. He said their orders came from militant leaders with ties to Pakistani intelligence. He did not say when the arrests took place, nor what their intended target was…

Tahiry said the captured explosives were in 400 bags and hidden under potatoes loaded in a truck with Pakistani license plates…

He claimed that the three Pakistani members of the group picked up the explosives just outside the Pakistani city of Peshawar, and were under the orders of two local Taliban leaders named Noor Afzal and Mohammad Omar, who Tahiry said had ties with the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI…

Washington has long demanded that Pakistan target the Haqqani network. They are seen as more ideologically tied to Al Qaeda than some of the other militant groups, and they have been particularly adept at sophisticated strikes…

Not that our criticism, arrests made by joint NATO-Afghan forces or any concrete evidence will make much difference in American foreign policy, American foreign aid to the Pakistan government. Our politicians have been as uncreative about foreign policy since early days of the Cold War as they are about education, taxation, the environment and issues more visible to the average American voter.

A plague on both your houses — adequately describes the usual response to Congressional politics. But, changing nothing about who is elected means nothing is changed by those elected and serving. As if we actually expected leadership and service from hacks who learned to “follow the money” long before the phrase became fashionable.

Afghan soldiers signing ceasefire deals with Taliban who — let’s face it — will still be around when Uncle Sugar leaves!

Afghan military already selling heavy weapons to Taliban

Afghan soldiers are selling their weapons and vehicles to the Taliban, sharing intelligence and even signing covert ceasefire agreements with the insurgent group as they prepare for the withdrawal of Nato forces…

Despite Britain and its western allies having spent billions on training and equipping Afghanistan’s security forces, they are freely co-operating with the Taliban and in some cases, ceding territory without a fight or even joining forces with their opponents…

According to the Nato study, Taliban fighters believe they have overcome the American troop surge, that victory and their return to power is “inevitable” and that they can easily subdue President Hamid Karzai’s forces once they take charge of security in 2014.

It also says that after trying by turns to threaten or cajole Pakistan away from its covert support for the Taliban, the Pakistani government remains “intimately involved” with the insurgent group. Taliban prisoners also claim the country’s ISI intelligence agency is “thoroughly aware of Taliban activities and the whereabouts of all senior Taliban personnel”.

In a further setback yesterday, the Afghan Taliban said that no peace negotiation process had been agreed with the international community, “particularly the Americans”. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that prior to any negotiations, confidence building measures must be completed…Har!

A bazaar in Miranshah, capital of North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal region, was “increasingly inundated with rifles, pistols and heavy weapons which have been sold by Afghan security forces.”

“The vehicles and weapons were once only acquired on the battlefield. They are now regularly sold or donated by the Afghan security forces,” the report concluded…

Yes, NATO officers, highly-placed Brits, American PR flacks all deny the likelihood of any of these really happening. Of course, all three categories of Blimp have only just progressed from trench warfare to helicopters in the past couple of decades.

Potential peace talks on the horizon as Taliban open office in Qatar

Giving a first major public sign that they may be ready for formal talks with the American-led coalition in Afghanistan, the Taliban announced Tuesday that they had struck a deal to open a political office in Qatar that could allow for direct negotiations over the endgame in the Afghan war.

The step was a reversal of the Taliban’s longstanding public denials that they were involved in, or even willing to consider, talks related to their insurgency, and it had the potential to revive a reconciliation effort that stalled in September, with the assassination of the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council…

American officials have said in recent months that the opening of a Taliban mission would be the single biggest step forward for peace efforts that have been plagued by false starts. The most embarrassing came in November 2010, when it emerged that an impostor had fooled Western officials into thinking he represented the Taliban and then had disappeared with hundreds of thousands of dollars used to woo him…

The opening of an office in Qatar is meant to give Afghan and Western peace negotiators an “address” where they can openly contact legitimate Taliban intermediaries. That would open the way for confidence-building measures that Washington hopes to press forward in the coming months. Chief among them, American officials said, is the possibility of transferring a number of “high-risk” detainees — including some with ties to Al Qaeda — to Afghan custody from Guantánamo Bay. The prisoners would then presumably be freed later…

The American officials said that another idea under consideration was the establishment of cease-fire zones within Afghanistan, although that prospect was more uncertain and distant. The officials asked not to be identified because of the delicacy of the talks.

Plus – they just may not have a clue of what they’re talking about.

RTFA. Longish with lots of detail. The most interesting part – to me – is that Qatar volunteered to host this potential peace process.

A blunt warning to Pakistan

We sit down to talk, the smile goes away!
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Islamabad — An unusually powerful American delegation arrived here on Thursday to deliver the starkest warning yet to Pakistan, according to a senior American official: that the United States would act unilaterally if necessary to attack extremist groups that use the country as a haven to kill Americans…

“This is a time for clarity,” Mrs. Clinton declared in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she met President Hamid Karzai before leaving for Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. “No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price.”

“There’s no place to go any longer,” Mrs. Clinton added, referring to Pakistan’s leaders, whom the administration has accused of equivocating by supporting the Afghan insurgency…

Before the meeting, which took place at the residence of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a senior administration official said that the delegation would make it clear that if the Pakistanis did not act against insurgents like the Haqqani network, then the United States would have to.

The Haqqani network uses Pakistan’s tribal areas as a base and has become the most potent part of the insurgency in Afghanistan. Before stepping down last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, General Dempsey’s predecessor, called the Haqqanis “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence service…

Pakistan’s response remains to be seen

RTFA. I understand they are between a rock and a hard place. It is – to a certain extent – a problem of their own making. The habit of funneling virtually all foreign aid through Pakistan’s military who dole it out to their bandit buddies as freely as they do to political hacks – ain’t any way to build and maintain democratic and progressive leadership of a nation still climbing out of the Stone Age they agreed to with the departure of the Brits at the end of colonial days.

If they don’t try, if they fail to take a stand for the advancement of the whole of Pakistan’s population while rejecting the sectarian bandits from fear of confrontation – US largesse and tribute must be cut off. Simple enough. Easy enough. Lose the Cold War mentality.

Money from Pentagon trucking contracts funded Taliban

A U.S. military task force has discovered that part of a $2.16 billion transportation contract was diverted through a murky network of subcontractors and into the hands of a group of Afghan power-brokers, criminals and Taliban insurgents…Roughly $600 million of the contract had been spent before authorities were alerted to the scandal…

Only part of that money, however, is believed to have been diverted to “nefarious elements,” the source added…Well, that makes me feel better.

The official said it appears some of the payments were given for truckers to be assured of safe passage through insurgent areas of Afghanistan. As has happened in other instances, trucking contractors paid off local drivers who then turned around and paid local security forces, who in turn paid insurgents in their areas…

Actually, when I worked in traffic management, we did the same thing to get our shipments through Mafia checkpoints in Newark.

The contract program, called Host Nation Trucking — which expires in September — has since been replaced by a more stringent system that requires up to 40 different contractors — an effort to reduce overall reliance on a single firm.

The new program is also meant to tighten accounting measures of second and third party vendors, an area various groups had previously been able to exploit, the source said…

Government officials are currently pursuing corrective actions against the trucking firms, including suspensions and limits on work, though all eight companies still remain on the U.S. payroll.

If you’re functioning here at home within a Republican-devised system like “mark to market” accounting, why expect the Pentagon to deploy legitimate accounting and oversight in a war zone created by the same phonies?

Taliban begins tweeting in English – adds “followers”

The Taliban have long been known as haters of modern technology, certainly the kind that comes out of the Western world they revile.

Now, they’re on Twitter, and as of this week, even tweeting in English.

The account, @alemarahweb, links back to the Taliban’s website, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is the name they use for themselves. Most of the tweets on the account, which was created on December 19, are written in Pashto, the native language in parts of Afghanistan.

As The Guardian, the UK publication, noted, the feed had fewer than 1,000 followers as of Thursday. The addition of English, as well as the media reports about it, have more than tripled that total to over 3,000 as of Friday morning.

The feed appears almost entirely made up of links to the Taliban website. The English-language posts appear to be wildly exaggerated claims of attacking and killing NATO and U.S. troops and Afghan government personnel.

If the tweets were to be believed, 81 “enemy” troops were killed since the feed began publishing in English on Thursday. A U.S. spy plane, and 23 vehicles, including five U.S. tanks, also were destroyed by Taliban attacks, according to the tweets.

Military and news reports do not support anything approaching those claims.

I’d say this alternates between hilarious and thoroughly dumb. I doubt if it carries odds of growing their support at roughly a hundredth of that enjoyed by the average religious nutball who leaves their sect’s newsmagazine rolled up and stuck into the top of our front gate.

Founding patron of the Taliban dies as their prisoner

A founding patron of the Taliban in Afghanistan died in the hands of a younger generation of militants in the tribal badlands of Pakistan in the last few days, a victim of the vicious forces he helped create, Pakistani officials said Monday.

Brig. Sultan Amir, known by his nom de guerre, Colonel Imam, was captured by the Pakistani Taliban in northern Waziristan last March. Whether he was killed by his captors, or died of a heart attack as reported by the Taliban, remained unclear.

The demise of Colonel Imam comes 10 days after another veteran figure in the emergence of the Afghan Taliban, Gen. Naseerullah Babar, 82, died after a long illness at his home in Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan.

The death of the two men signified the end of an era of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that began in the 1970s, stretched into the American-backed mujahedeen resistance against the Soviet occupation and was followed by the coercive Taliban rule of Afghanistan in the 1990s…

Colonel Imam formed a close bond with Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader who welcomed Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan…

A weathered figure with a long white beard and white turban who looked to be in his 70s, Colonel Imam was initially trained by the Special Forces at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1974, and completed a master parachutist course with the 82nd Airborne Division…

A senior Pakistani government official in the tribal areas, Tariq Hayat, said Monday that he had been informed by a Pakistani official in North Waziristan that Colonel Imam was dead. The militants were demanding a ransom for the return of the body, he said. Only after the body has been reclaimed would the cause of death be known, Mr. Hayat said.

Chickens coming home to roost land in the Pentagon about as frequently as any other center for the training of imperial flunkies.

RTFA for the details. If you have watched American policy in South Asia for a spell you ain’t about to be surprised.

MI6-backed phony several inches shorter than real Taliban leader

The confusion is understandable, right?

The imposter who posed as a Taliban leader to open peace negotiations with Kabul was put forward by British agents who failed to note he was several inches shorter than the man he was impersonating.

The man masquerading as Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was paid a six figure sum and was flown three times to secret meetings with Nato and Afghan representatives before he was rumbled.

Afghan intelligence agents later determined he was a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

A senior aide to Hamid Karzai said the man had been recommended by the British.

Mohammad Umer Daudzai, Mr Karzai’s chief of staff, said British officials brought the impostor to meet the president in July or August, where he was spotted as a fraud. Senior American officials confirmed the impostor was “the Brits’ guy”.

The British embassy in Kabul declined to comment.

Har! What could they say?

We noted this tale earlier this week; but, accepting a ringer, paying him big bucks to “negotiate” – and failing to notice he was a shrimp compared to the real deal. Laughable.

Taliban impostor duped those truly sharp Afghan officials

What – me worry?

A man who has been representing Taliban senior leadership in secret talks with the Afghan government appears to have been an impostor.

The man, calling himself Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the Taliban’s second-ranking official, was exposed after another man who knows Mansour did not recognise him during a negotiation session…

The secret talks with the impostor had been going on for months and were used by senior US officials to claim progress on the diplomatic front in the Afghan war.

NATO and Afghan officials told the New York Times they held three meetings with the man, who allegedly received large sums of money to take part in the negotiations.

The fake Taliban leader, who travelled from across the border in Pakistan, even met with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, in the presidential palace in Kabul, the capital. He was flown to the capital on NATO aircraft…

I’ll bet the TSA would have caught him, right?

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Kabul, said US officials always held suspicions about the identity of the man.

“Americans here admit that they don’t often know what these people look like; that they can only go on who they say they are because these people have been hiding and fighting this insurgency for so long,” she said.

“So they have to go on trust to a certain extent, and it seems that this particular man has managed to get away with it.”


Commentary: Pakistan bombshell by Arnaud de Borchgrave

The prestigious Council on Foreign Relations’ 25 experts-strong, 71-page task force report on the [Afghan] crisis, says, given “the complex political currents of Pakistan and its border regions … it is not clear U.S. interests warrant” the costly war, “nor is it clear that the effort will succeed…”

The same week CFR published its gloomy assessment of the Afghan war, one of Pakistan’s most influential journalists, the editor of a major newspaper, made the “off the record” — which now means go ahead and use it but keep my name out of it — rounds in Washington to deliver a stunning indictment of all the players.


— All four wars between India and Pakistan (1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999) were provoked by Pakistan.

— There is no Indian threat to Pakistan, except for what is manufactured by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency…

— Pakistan has a big stake in Afghanistan. And America’s own exit strategy is entirely dependent on Pakistan. Our army has a chokehold on your supply lines through Pakistan. And Pakistan wants to be the U.S. proxy in Afghanistan. ISI wants to make sure Pakistan doesn’t become a liability in Afghanistan…

— There is no chance whatsoever for the United States and its NATO and other allies to prevail in Afghanistan. No big military successes are possible. All U.S. targets are unrealistic. You cannot prevail on the ground. ISI won’t abandon Taliban. And if Taliban doesn’t have a major stake in negotiations with the United States, these will be sabotaged by Pakistan…

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