Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
While Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his American backers were having a very public row, 170 people were killed in political violence in Afghanistan last week, foreign affairs expert Juan Cole points out on his blog Informed Comment.
There were 117 incidents according to the Afghan interior ministry, four times the number for the previous week. Most of the violence was in the south casting a shadow over supposed U.S. gains in the region, Cole says. Indeed residents in Marjah, the site of a major military offensive against the Taliban, are complaining of lack of security, he quotes a report by the local Pajwhok news agency as saying.
Residents say there is poor security, that civilians are caught in the cross-fire between U.S./Afghanistan National Army troops and the Taliban, and that it is dangerous to work their fields (Marjah is a set of agricultural villages and scattered farm houses).
They say that the Afghanistan police have not provided even the level of security that the Taliban once had, the report says. Security for villagers remains precarious in Marjah, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson who led the Marine assault told the Los Angeles Times in an interview this week. The Taliban were still planting explosives and intimidating people.
It could be early days yet, and the sampling may be small, but there are signs of a drop in Taliban attacks following the Pakistani crackdown on the Quetta Shura, an intelligence website says. If the assessment put out by NightWatch intelligence turns out to be true over the next few weeks, it will reinforce U.S. military officials’ long-standing position you cannot win the war in Afghanistan unless you take out the Taliban leadership in Pakistan
Almost two years ago, Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic captured a dramatic shot of U.S. Marine Sergeant William Bee, from Wooster, Ohio, the moment a Taliban bullet hit a wall inches from this head.
In the photo Bee is just about holding on to his rifle as he is hit by a spray of rocks and dirt when the bullet hits a compound wall in front of him.
Reuters correspondent Golnar Motevalli was emebedded with U.S. Marines as they launched one of the biggest offensives of the eight-year-war in Afghanistan last month. Here’s her moving account of how soldiers and civilians are both scarred by deaths around them in the southern district of Marjah where the operation was carried out.
Corporal Jacob Turbett gave out a single groan of pain before the Taliban bullet, which had pierced his heart, ended his life.
By Golnar Motevalli
All militaries are notorious for their use of jargon, acronyms and code names to describe people, places and operations. The village of Koru Chareh in the centre of Marjah and a key area in the U.S. Marines’ objective to seize the town in Operation Moshtarak was also given a moniker.
One of the reasons the big U.S.-led offensive in Afghanistan’s Marjah area has slowed down is because the Marines are trying to avoid civilian casualties at all costs, according to military commanders. So use of air power, the key to U.S. battle strategy, has been cut back because of the risk of collateral damage from strikes.
Lara M. Dadkhah, an intelligence analyst, in a New York Times op-ed says troops under heavy attack in Marjah have had to wait for an hour or more for air support so that insurgents were properly identified. “We didn’t come to Marjah to destroy it, or to hurt civilians,” Dadkhah quotes a Marine officer as saying after he waited 90 minutes before the Cobra helicopters he had requested showed up with their Hellfire missiles.