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Afghanistan Timeline: News, Updates & Discussions

Discussion in 'South Asia & SAARC' started by @speaks, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. The enlightened

    The enlightened Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

    Mar 11, 2012
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    It is not possible to know what Americans are thinking because they themselves don't know what they are thinking. Whether Pak can get Agent Orange drinking into the Kool-Aid that Taliban are an inevitable unstoppable force of nature, but can be made to focus their jihadists gaze only on AF and IND, will determine the future of American withdrawal strategy. Drumpf may be persuaded to make some 'peace deal' directly with the Talis to sell home as part of his 'America First' banner. The optics of troops returning home after a long and weary deployment to nowhere will be good publicity and Drumpf is all about good publicity. After all their major objectives of avenging 9/11 is long over.

    The alternative is maintaining and even increasing American commitment without any date of withdrawal. With increasing Chinese support, Packis will grow more confident in their support to Talis which would result in more body bags returning home. Like Obummer, Trump has his hands tied by the fact that the only viable gateway to Afghanistan is controlled by Packis and thus for all his rhetoric he can't punish them for their blatant support to terrorism. Without Obummer's moral compass, a deal is far more likely in the making.
    A_poster and layman like this.
  2. SrNair

    SrNair Captain FULL MEMBER

    Oct 28, 2016
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    Pashtun's Support Taliban and they are growing daily .
    ANA also has a lots of ghost soldiers .
    Americans dont need a peaceful ,stabilised Afghanistan nor they need complete failure .
    They need a boiling pot ,to justify their presence in Afghan Soil.
    Perhaps only nation that wish the well being of the Afghanistan would be India.
    There is a reason for non existent of anti Indian statements from Taliban.
    Afghanis love us .India is still not strong enough to take care of that nation .We need some time.
    layman likes this.
  3. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Russian entry on an apparent Pakistani side, namely, support for Taliban to 'fight ISIS', is directly on perceived 'US withdrawal' from many regions. This is something that US will not allow. Post-Obama, the policy of minimalistic interference is over.

    Trump has proclaimed an 'America First' approach, but that includes the pre-dominance of US in all regions across the region and world as a whole. Without an emphatic 'US leadership' in place, there can not be 'US first'.

    If you read the history of US politics, it is not the first time, nor the last time, that US' president/administration has seemingly set a course of 'isolation'. It was observed in the pre-World War era in the immediate aftermath of the US Civil War too. The consequences, as per US' own assessment, have costed them more than a direct interference and pro-active interjection would cost.

    Hence, Russian move has to be read in overall context of US-Russian rivalry for influence and not on behalf of Pakistan.

    Henry Kissinger has summed up these aspects of US foreign policy beautifully in his book 'Diplomacy' (if I recall correctly)
    Lion of Rajputana likes this.
  4. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Top-level Pak Army delegation meets Afghan officials


    A high-level Pakistan Army delegation headed by Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Bilal Akbar in a visit to Afghanistan offered free medical treatment to Afghans injured in an attack on a military base in Mazar-i-Sharif last week.

    The delegation, on the direction of Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, met Afghanistan's acting Defence Minister Tariq Shah Bahramee and the Afghan Army Chief Gen Muhammad Sharif Yaftali, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

    The top-level delegation held talks with Afghan officials over bilateral border coordination measures, and conveyed condolences on behalf of Gen Bajwa over the loss of lives in the Mazar-i-Sharif attack, and expressed solidarity with the Afghan forces and people.

    Afghan authorities during the meeting were assured that the Pakistan Army has control over all areas on the Pakistan side of the border and would not allow its soil to be used against Afghanistan, ISPR said.

    "Terrorists are a common threat and shall be defeated," the statement read.

    The meeting was held a day after the Army released a 'confessional' video showing former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaatul Ahrar spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, in which the militant claimed that the TTP and JA have been coordinating with Indian and Afghan security agencies to move freely in Afghanistan and have been guided by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's apex spy agency, in infiltrating into Pakistan.

    Ehsan said that militants had fled to Afghanistan after Pakistan Army kicked off an operation in North Waziristan. In Afghanistan, they established and developed contacts with the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's intelligence service, and India's RAW.

    The army had also announced a day before the meeting that several militants attempting to enter Khyber Agency from Afghanistan's Nangarhar province had been killed in targeted air strikes in the Sattar Kalay and Narai Nau areas of Rajgal Valley.

  5. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Afghan And Pakistani Officials Meet Over Border Clashes
    By Ghafoor Saboory

    Afghan and Pakistani border forces met in Spin Boldak district of southern Kandahar province on Friday evening to discuss the security situation - an hour after clashes stopped following a ceasefire.

    This came after border forces opened fire on each other across the Durand Line after Afghan authorities accused Pakistani officials of having breached their territory.

    At the meeting, a number of Pakistani officers raised their concerns over the heightened tension between Afghan and Pakistani border forces in recent months and said this was not in the best interests of either country.

    Kandahar Police Chief Lieutenant Gen. Abdul Raziq, who chaired the Afghan delegation at the meeting, warned that they are monitoring Pakistani forces movements and that Afghan security forces will respond to any intervention against Afghan territory.

    “Our security forces have been busy fighting terrorists in recent years, but I warn you that your forces should not use the situation for their own benefit. We will stand against any personal or group intervention,” he said.

    Raziq also accused Pakistani forces of entering Afghan territory and said such moves are against international laws.

    “Both countries are Muslim and we are neighbors, so I urge you that we should not do anything against the laws. Your moves are obvious interventions in our affairs and after this any actions against the laws should not be repeated,” said Raziq.

    Pakistan forces meanwhile accused Afghan soldiers of crossing over the border and occupying Pakistani soldiers’ strongholds.

    “Afghan security forces have crossed an international border and came towards our side of the divided village and they occupied the positions over there. So we took it seriously because it is threatening the sovereignty of the neighboring country and a Muslim country,” said General Nadim, a Pakistani military official.

    Nadim said tensions between Afghan and Pakistani border forces are bad for both countries.

    Meanwhile, Afghan border soldiers also warned that they will stand against any move by Pakistan's military.

    “I will defend my country until the last drop of blood remains in my body. I will not allow any group or country to intervene in my country,” Gul Ahmad, a border soldier said.

    According to Kandahar police, the clash between Afghan and Pakistani forces started on Friday when Pakistani forces entered Afghan territory.

    Four Afghan soldiers along with two civilians and nine Pakistani soldiers were killed in the clash and nearly 80 others were wounded from both sides.

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  6. vstol jockey

    vstol jockey Colonel MILITARY STRATEGIST

    Mar 15, 2011
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    Jai Ho.
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  7. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    NATO to increase combating role in Afghanistan
    By Suraya Raiszada 06/05/2017

    NATO is considering boosting its troop strength again in Afghanistan, where it is helping the military in the fight against insurgents, chief Jens Stoltenberg told a German newspaper Sunday.

    Given the “challenging” security situation, the 28-nation alliance was weighing an increase of the personnel of its “Resolute Support” train, assist and advise mission from about 13,000 now, he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. NATO expected to make a decision by June on the possible troop increase and on whether to lengthen the time frame of the deployments which are now renewed annually, he was quoted as saying.
    The US general commanding NATO forces in Afghanistan, John Nicholson, in February told Congress he has a “shortfall of a few thousand” troops needed, warning that “we’re in a stalemate”.
    US-led forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for 16 years, making it already America’s longest-ever war.
    Since NATO’s combat mission formally ended in 2014, Taliban attacks have intensified and Afghan military and civilian casualties have risen.
    Welcoming continued NATO cooperation with Afghanistan, a number of experts and lawmakers stressed that Afghanistan needs world community particularly NATO’s firm cooperation in war on terror.
    At the same time, praising the international community particularly NATO’s supports, officials of the ministry for defense are stressing on further equipping and supporting of the Afghan security forces by the world community. They added the Afghan security forces are not lonely capable to fight terrorism, thus, NATO’s support can pave the ground for further professionalization of ANSF in war on terror.
    A political expert, Sahib Nazar Muradi said “Current strategy of fighting international terrorism has been focused on wrong geography as it has been facing with defeat.”
    He added that focus should be made on terrorists’ supporting centers. He said there was no doubt that the government of Afghanistan was not lonely capable to fight terrorism, because, this war needed world cooperation.
    That is why presence of NATO forces alongside ANSF is advantageous in war on terror, he went on to say.
    A political and military expert, Amir Mohammad Agah said, “Over the last one and half a decade, the government of Afghanistan has time and again stressed that peace will not restore in Afghanistan unless the terrorists’ hideouts beyond the country are annihilated.”
    At the same time, a number of citizens told The Kabul Times that still terrorism takes the lives of our innocent people, adding the international community should not let Afghanistan alone and cooperate with ANSF in their supporting and equipping so they can succeed in fighting terrorism.
    This is while that the U.S. and NATO military mission in Afghanistan have cost billions of dollars, but still terrorism not only threatens Afghanistan but all regional and world countries as well.

    Lion of Rajputana likes this.
  8. vstol jockey

    vstol jockey Colonel MILITARY STRATEGIST

    Mar 15, 2011
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    Once again, I am getting a feeling that in next Pak-Afghan Border clash a place Farkhor might come in to picture to shoot down PAF aircraft. Am I drunk?
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  9. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Huge bomb blast kills at least 80, wounds hundreds in Afghan capital
    By Mirwais Harooni and Josh Smith | KABUL

    A powerful bomb exploded in the morning rush hour in the center of Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds and sending clouds of black smoke into the sky above the presidential palace and foreign embassies.

    The bomb, one of the deadliest in Kabul and coming at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, exploded close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy, killing a security guard and wounding some staff, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Twitter.

    Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police, said it was a car bomb near the German embassy. "But there are several other important compounds and offices near there too," he told Reuters.

    The blast, which shattered windows and blew doors off their hinges in houses hundreds of meters (yards) away, was unusually strong, with some reports saying it was caused by explosives concealed in a water tanker.

    A statement from the NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission in Kabul said Afghan security forces had prevented the vehicle from entering the heavily protected Green Zone that houses many foreign embassies as well as RS headquarters, suggesting it may not have reached its intended target.

    A public health official said at least 80 people had been killed and more than 350 wounded. The victims appear mainly to have been Afghan civilians.

    As well as the German embassy, the French and Chinese embassies were among those damaged, the two countries said, adding there were no immediate signs of injuries among their diplomats.

    Video shot at the scene showed burning debris, crumbled walls and buildings and destroyed cars, many with dead or injured people inside.

    Afghan officials inspect outside the German embassy after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

    At the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital a few blocks away, there were scenes of chaos as ambulances brought in wounded and frantic relatives scanned casualty lists and questioned hospital staff for news.

    "It felt like an earthquake," said 21-year-old Mohammad Hassan, describing the moment the blast struck the bank where he was working. His head wound had been bandaged but blood still soaked his white dress shirt.


    Another lightly wounded victim, Nabib Ahmad, 27, said there was widespread destruction and confusion.

    "I couldn't think clearly, there was a mess everywhere," he said.

    Later, frenzy broke out outside the hospital as ambulances and police trucks began bringing in the bodies of those killed. Some bodies were burned or destroyed beyond recognition.

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the blast.

    "India stands with Afghanistan in fighting all types of terrorism. Forces supporting terrorism need to be defeated," he said in a tweet.
    The Taliban denied responsibility and said they condemned attacks that have no legitimate target and killed civilians. Islamic State, the other main militant group active in Afghanistan, has carried out high profile attacks in Kabul, including an attack on a military hospital in March that killed more than 50 people.

    However the attack provided another clear demonstration that Ramadan, which began at the weekend, would provide little respite from the violence across Afghanistan.

    The Taliban have been stepping up their push to defeat the U.S.-backed government and reimpose Islamic law after their 2001 ouster in a Washington-backed invasion.

    Since most international troops withdrew at the end of 2014, the Taliban have gained ground and now control or contest about 40 percent of the country, according to U.S. estimates, though President Ashraf Ghani's government holds all provincial centers.

    U.S. President Donald Trump is due to decide soon on a recommendation to send 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to bolster the small NATO training force and U.S. counter-terrorism mission now totaling just over 10,000.

    The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a congressional hearing earlier this year that he needed several thousand more troops to help Afghan forces break a "stalemate" with the Taliban.

    (Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Emmanuel Jarry in Paris, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Madeline Chambers and Michelle Martin in Berlin; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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  10. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Hmm, Talibanis deny responsibility. Why? Is it the Chinese connection here? :undecided:

    Anyways, we now know that Pakistan has conducted a 'surgical' strike in Afghanistan.
    Grevion likes this.
  11. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Mattis Is Authorized to Set Troop Levels for Afghanistan

    WASHINGTON — President Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, three administration officials said Tuesday, seeking to bolster the American military and its Afghan allies in a war that the Pentagon chief acknowledged the United States was “not winning.”

    Mr. Mattis is believed to favor sending several thousand more American troops to strengthen the effort to advise Afghan forces as they push back against gains made by the Taliban, the Islamic State and other militant groups. But officials said he had not yet decided how many more forces to send to Afghanistan, or when to deploy them.

    One United States official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal deliberations, said that Mr. Trump decided on Tuesday morning to grant Mr. Mattis the authority. It was the latest in a series of moves by the White House to give the Pentagon and its military commanders more latitude to deploy forces and carry out operations.

    Mr. Mattis alluded somewhat cryptically to the decision when he testified on Tuesday morning to the Senate Armed Services Committee. During his appearance, the defense secretary promised Congress that the Trump administration would hammer out a new strategy for Afghanistan by mid-July to turn around the war.

    That timetable led to a feisty exchange with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the committee’s chairman, who complained that the Pentagon had yet to present a plan to regain momentum in a conflict that has been going on for more than 15 years.

    “We’re now six months into this administration,” Mr. McCain said. “We still haven’t got a strategy for Afghanistan. It makes it hard for us to support you when we don’t have a strategy.”

    Mr. Mattis sought to ease his concerns by hinting that some troops might be sent as an interim step before the administration’s new strategy is finalized. “There are actions being taken to make certain that we don’t pay a price for the delay,” Mr. Mattis said.

    Mr. Trump has already given his Pentagon chief similar authority for Iraq and Syria.

    Mr. Trump’s approach makes a sharp break from former President Barack Obama, who tightly controlled decisions on military troops, an approach that some critics complained smacked of micromanaging. The president has relaxed the rules for counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen and was quick to approve the military’s plan to fire sea-launched cruise missiles at an airfield that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used to mount a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

    Proponents say that delegating the authority to the Pentagon will enable it to carry out campaigns against the United States’ adversaries without interruptions and will allow it to respond more quickly to changes on the battlefield. The risk, critics say, is the president may become too detached from developments on the battlefield and may use this approach to distance himself from a decision that could be politically unpopular.

    There is no debate that the war is Afghanistan is not going well. Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of the American-led international force in Afghanistan, told Congress in February that the United States and its NATO allies were facing a “stalemate.”

    Mr. Mattis offered a similarly sober assessment. “The Taliban had a good year last year, and they’re trying to have a good one this year,” he said. “Right now, I believe the enemy is surging.”

    The main question before the administration is how to reverse the trends on the battlefield.

    The military’s advice from the field has long been clear. In his February testimony, General Nicholson said he needed a “few thousand” troops.

    The Pentagon later developed options to send 3,000 to 5,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, including hundreds of Special Operations forces. The reinforcements would be augmented by troop contributions by NATO nations, which American officials have begun to solicit.

    An estimated 9,800 American troops are deployed to Afghanistan, most of whom are assigned to an international force of about 13,000 troops that are training and advising the Afghan military. About 2,000 of the American troops are assigned to fight Al Qaeda and other militant groups.

    But Mr. Trump had long expressed skepticism about sending more troops, and the issue has never been easy for an administration that trumpets an “America first” strategy. While Mr. Trump has vowed to defeat terrorist groups, sending more American forces to Afghanistan could cost billions of dollars, and there is no guarantee of producing a clear win.

    Even as Mr. Trump has granted Mr. Mattis the authority to set troop levels, the administration’s broader strategy review has yet to be completed. Officials said the Afghan review has been broadened to include the policy toward neighboring Pakistan, particularly the question of how to prevent that country from being a haven for the Taliban and militants involved in the Afghan conflict.

    That in turn has led to a discussion within the administration about what steps might be taken to mitigate Pakistan’s decades-long anxieties over India. The result is that the Afghan review has turned into a larger review of American policy toward Southwest Asia.

    Mr. Mattis did not discuss the details of the review with the senators on Tuesday, but he vowed to reverse the slide.

    “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s going to require a change in our approach from the last several years.”

    Alluding to the troop reinforcement plan that has been under discussion, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States and allies could help reduce the substantial number of casualties that Afghan forces have sustained by “more effectively advising them, both in planning operations and delivering combined arms.”

    One argument that proponents have made for sending more troops is that it would enable the United States to advise Afghan units closer to the battlefield.

    Asked what it would mean to win in Afghanistan, Mr. Mattis provided a definition that might have been produced by the Obama administration.

    The idea, he said, would be to drive down the violence to a level that could be managed by Afghan government forces with the help of American and allied troops in training their Afghan counterparts, providing intelligence and delivering what Mr. Mattis called “high-end capability,” an apparent allusion to air power and possibly Special Operations forces.

    The result, he said, would be an “era of frequent skirmishing,” but not a situation in which the Afghan government no longer faced a mortal threat.

    The main purpose of the hearing was to review the Trump administration’s $603 billion military spending request, which represents a 3 percent increase over Mr. Obama’s last defense plan.

    Mr. McCain and other hawkish lawmakers have described the request as far too little to carry out the military buildup Mr. Trump has advertised, a point that Mr. Mattis and General Dunford uncomfortably acknowledged.

    The Pentagon officials asserted that the current spending request would help the military improve the readiness of its existing forces while 3 to 5 percent growth would be needed during the 2019 to 2023 budget years to expand the size of the military and buy new weapons.


    Are we likely to see increased number of strikes within Pakistan at bases of the Talibans in the backdrop of the increase in troop levels as also the statement of Mattis that the policy has to change to 'win'?
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  12. Butter Chicken

    Butter Chicken Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

    Oct 31, 2016
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    Taliban attacks Indian-made Salma Dam

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  13. Agent_47

    Agent_47 Admin - Blog Staff Member MODERATOR

    Aug 3, 2011
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    Attack is not on the dam.
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  14. Hellfire

    Hellfire Devil's Advocate Staff Member MODERATOR

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Iran Gains Ground in Afghanistan as U.S. Presence Wanes
    By CARLOTTA GALLAUG. 5, 2017


    An Afghan police officer at his unit’s outpost overlooking the districts north of Farah, the capital of the province that goes by the same name. In October, the Taliban overran posts like this one in a siege.
    Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

    FARAH, Afghanistan — A police officer guarding the outskirts of this city remembers the call from his commander, warning that hundreds of Taliban fighters were headed his way.

    “Within half an hour, they attacked,” recalled Officer Najibullah Amiri, 35. The Taliban swarmed the farmlands surrounding his post and seized the western riverbank here in Farah, the capital of the province by the same name.

    It was the start of a three-week siege in October, and only after American air support was called in to end it and the smoke cleared did Afghan security officials realize who was behind the lightning strike: Iran.

    Four senior Iranian commandos were among the scores of dead, Afghan intelligence officials said, noting their funerals in Iran. Many of the Taliban dead and wounded were also taken back across the nearby border with Iran, where the insurgents had been recruited and trained, village elders told Afghan provincial officials.

    The assault, coordinated with attacks on several other cities, was part of the Taliban’s most ambitious attempt since 2001 to retake power. But it was also a piece of an accelerating Iranian campaign to step into a vacuum left by departing American forces — Iran’s biggest push into Afghanistan in decades.

    President Trump recently lamented that the United States was losing its 16-year war in Afghanistan, and threatened to fire the American generals in charge.

    There is no doubt that as the United States winds down the Afghan war — the longest in American history, and one that has cost half a trillion dollars and more than 150,000 lives on all sides — regional adversaries are muscling in.

    Saudi Arabia and Pakistan remain the dominant players. But Iran is also making a bold gambit to shape Afghanistan in its favor.

    Over the past decade and a half, the United States has taken out Iran’s chief enemies on two of its borders, the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Iran has used that to its advantage, working quietly and relentlessly to spread its influence.

    In Iraq, it has exploited a chaotic civil war and the American withdrawal to create a virtual satellite state. In Afghanistan, Iran aims to make sure that foreign forces leave eventually, and that any government that prevails will at least not threaten its interests, and at best be friendly or aligned with them.

    One way to do that, Afghans said, is for Iran to aid its onetime enemies, the Taliban, to ensure a loyal proxy and also to keep the country destabilized, without tipping it over. That is especially true along their shared border of more than 500 miles.

    But fielding an insurgent force to seize control of a province shows a significant — and risky — escalation in Iran’s effort.

    “Iran does not want stability here,” Naser Herati, one of the police officers guarding the post outside Farah, said angrily. “People here hate the Iranian flag. They would burn it.”

    Iran has conducted an intensifying covert intervention, much of which is only now coming to light. It is providing local Taliban insurgents with weapons, money and training. It has offered Taliban commanders sanctuary and fuel for their trucks. It has padded Taliban ranks by recruiting among Afghan Sunni refugees in Iran, according to Afghan and Western officials.

    “The regional politics have changed,” said Mohammed Arif Shah Jehan, a senior intelligence official who recently took over as the governor of Farah Province. “The strongest Taliban here are Iranian Taliban.”

    Iran and the Taliban — longtime rivals, one Shiite and the other Sunni — would seem to be unlikely bedfellows.

    Iran nearly went to war with the Taliban when their militias notoriously killed 11 Iranian diplomats and an Iranian government journalist in fighting in 1998.

    After that, Iran supported the anti-Taliban opposition — and it initially cooperated with the American intervention in Afghanistan that drove the Taliban from power.

    But as the NATO mission in Afghanistan expanded, the Iranians quietly began supporting the Taliban to bleed the Americans and their allies by raising the cost of the intervention so that they would leave.

    Iran has come to see the Taliban not only as the lesser of its enemies but also as a useful proxy force. The more recent introduction of the Islamic State, which carried out a terrorist attack on Iran’s parliament this year, into Afghanistan has only added to the Taliban’s appeal.

    In the empty marble halls of the Iranian Embassy in Kabul, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, the ambassador, denied that Iran was supporting the Taliban, and emphasized the more than $400 million Iran has invested to help Afghanistan access ports on the Persian Gulf.

    “We are responsible,” he said in an interview last year. “A strong accountable government in Afghanistan has more advantages for strengthening our relations than anything.”

    But Iran’s Foreign Ministry and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps act as complementary arms of policy — the first openly sowing economic and cultural influence, and the second aggressively exerting subversive force behind the scenes.

    Iran has sent squads of assassins, secretly nurtured spies and infiltrated police ranks and government departments, especially in western provinces, Afghan officials say.

    Even NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan at the time, Gen. Sir David Richards of Britain, discovered that Iran had recruited his interpreter, Cpl. Daniel James, a British-Iranian citizen. Corporal James was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sending coded messages to the Iranian military attaché in Kabul during a tour of duty in 2006.

    More recently, Iran has moved so aggressively in bulking up the Taliban insurgency that American forces rushed to Farah Province a second time in January to stave off a Taliban attack.

    “The Iranian game is very complicated,” said Javed Kohistani, a military analyst based in Kabul.

    Having American forces fight long and costly wars that unseated Iran’s primary enemies has served Tehran’s interests just fine. But by now, the Americans and their allies have outlasted their usefulness, and Iran is pursuing a strategy of death by a thousand cuts “to drain them and cost them a lot.”

    An Ambitious Expansion

    The depth of Iran’s ties to the Taliban burst unexpectedly into view last year. An American drone struck a taxi on a desert road in southwestern Pakistan, killing the driver and his single customer.

    The passenger was none other than the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour. A wanted terrorist with an American bounty on his head who had been on the United Nations sanctions list since before 2001, Mullah Mansour was traveling without guards or weapons, confident and quite at home in Pakistan.

    The strike exposed for the second time since the discovery of Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani hill town of Abbottabad the level of Pakistan’s complicity with wanted terrorists. It was the first time the United States had conducted a drone attack in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province, a longtime sanctuary for the Taliban but until then off limits for American drones because of Pakistani protests.

    Yet even more momentous was that Mullah Mansour was returning from a trip to Iran, where he had been meeting Iranian security officials and, through Iran, with Russian officials.

    Afghan officials, Western diplomats and security analysts, and a former Taliban commander familiar with Mullah Mansour’s inner circle confirmed details of the meetings.

    Both Russia and Iran have acknowledged that they have held meetings with the Taliban but maintain that they are only for information purposes.

    That the Taliban leader was personally developing ties with both Iran and Russia signaled a stunning shift in alliance for the fundamentalist Taliban movement, which had always been supported by the Sunni powers among the Arab gulf states and Pakistan.

    But times were changing with the American drawdown in Afghanistan, and Mullah Mansour had been seeking to diversify his sources of money and weapons since taking over the Taliban leadership in 2013. He had made 13 trips to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and one to Bahrain, his passport showed, but also at least two visits to Iran.

    Set on expanding the Taliban’s sway in Afghanistan, he was also preparing to negotiate an end to the war, playing all sides on his terms, according to both Afghan officials with close knowledge of the Taliban and the former Taliban commander close to Mullah Mansour’s inner circle.

    It was that ambitious expansionism that probably got him killed, they said.

    “Mansour was a shrewd politician and businessman and had a broader ambition to widen his appeal to other countries,” said Timor Sharan, a former senior analyst of the International Crisis Group in Afghanistan who has since joined the Afghan government.

    Mullah Mansour had been tight with the Iranians since his time in the Taliban government in the 1990s, according to Mr. Kohistani, the military analyst. Their interests, he and other analysts and Afghan officials say, overlapped in opium. Afghanistan is the world’s largest source of the drug, and Iran the main conduit to get it out.

    Iran’s border guards have long fought drug traffickers crossing from Afghanistan, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Taliban have both benefited from the illicit trade, exacting dues from traffickers.

    The main purpose of Mullah Mansour’s trips to Iran was tactical coordination, according to Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst and fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. At the time, in 2016, the Taliban were gearing up for offensives across eight Afghan provinces. Farah was seen as particularly ripe fruit.

    Iran facilitated a meeting between Mullah Mansour and Russian officials, Afghan officials said, securing funds and weapons from Moscow for the insurgents.

    Mullah Mansour’s cultivation of Iran for weapons was done with the full knowledge of Pakistan, said the former Taliban commander, who did not want to be identified since he had recently defected from the Taliban.

    “He convinced the Pakistanis that he wanted to go there and get weapons, but he convinced the Pakistanis that he would not come under their influence and accept their orders,” he said.

    Pakistan had also been eager to spread the political and financial burden of supporting the Taliban and had encouraged the Taliban’s ties with Iran, said Haji Agha Lalai, a presidential adviser and the deputy governor of Kandahar Province.

    On his last visit, Mullah Mansour traveled to the Iranian capital, Tehran, to meet someone very important — possibly Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the former Taliban commander, who said he had gleaned the information from members of Mullah Mansour’s inner circle.

    Mullah Mansour stayed for a week, also meeting with a senior Russian official in the town of Zahedan, said Mr. Lalai, who spoke with relatives of the Taliban leader.

    He was almost certainly negotiating an escalation in Iranian and Russian assistance before his death, Mr. Lalai and other Afghan officials said, pointing to the increase in Iranian support for the Taliban during his leadership and since.

    But the meeting with the Russians was apparently a step too far, Afghan officials say. His relations with Iran and Russia had expanded to the point that they threatened Pakistan’s control over the insurgency.

    The United States had been aware of Mullah Mansour’s movements, including his ventures into Iran, for some time before the strike and had been sharing information with Pakistan, said Seth G. Jones, associate director at the RAND Corporation. Pakistan had also provided helpful information, he added. “They were partly supportive of targeting Mansour.”

    Gen. John Nicholson, the United States commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, said President Barack Obama had approved the strike after Mullah Mansour failed to join peace talks being organized in Pakistan.

    Col. Ahmad Muslem Hayat, a former Afghan military attaché in London, said he believed that the American military had been making a point by striking Mullah Mansour on his return from Iran.

    “When they target people like this, they follow them for months,” he said. “It was smart to do it to cast suspicions on Iran. They were trying to create a gap between Iran and the Taliban.”

    But if that was the intention, Mr. Lalai said, it has not succeeded, judging by the way the new Taliban leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, has picked up his predecessor’s work.

    “I don’t think the contact is broken,” he said. “Haibatullah is still reaching out to Iran. They are desperately looking for more money if they want to extend the fight.”

    Intrigue in ‘Little Iran’

    There is no place in Afghanistan where Iran’s influence is more deeply felt than the western city of Herat, nearly in sight of the Iranian border.

    Two million Afghans took refuge in Iran during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. Three million live and work in Iran today. Herat, sometimes called “Little Iran,” is their main gateway between the countries.

    People in Herat speak with Iranian accents. Iranian schools, colleges and bookshops line the streets. Women wear the head-to-foot black chador favored in Iran. Shops are full of Iranian sweets and produce.

    But even as the city is one of Afghanistan’s most decorous and peaceful, an air of intrigue infuses Herat.

    The city is filled with Iranian spies, secret agents and hit squads, local officials say, and it has been plagued by multiple assassinations and kidnappings in recent years. The police say Iran is funding militant groups and criminal gangs. A former mayor says it is sponsoring terrorism.

    Iran is constantly working in the shadows. The goal, Afghan officials say, is to stoke and tip local power struggles in its favor, whether through bribery, infiltration or violence.

    One day in January, Herat’s counterterrorism police deployed undercover officers to stake out the house of one of their own men. Two strangers on a motorbike seemed to be spying on the house, so secret agents were sent out to spy on the spies.

    Within hours, the police had detained the men and blown their cover: They were Iranian assassins, according to the Afghans. The passenger was armed with two pistols.

    Forensics tests later found that one of the guns had been used in the murder of an Iranian citizen in Herat 10 months earlier, police officials said. The two Iranians are still in Afghan custody and have yet to be charged. They have become a source of contention between Iran and Afghanistan.

    Iran disowned them, pointing to their Afghan identity cards, but Afghan officials paraded them on television, saying they were carrying false papers and had admitted to being sent by Iran as a hit squad.

    The Afghan police say they have arrested 2,000 people in counterterrorism operations in Herat over the last three years. Many of them, they say, are armed insurgents and criminals who reside with their families in Iran and enter Afghanistan to conduct dozens of attacks on police or government officials.

    Iran is set on undermining the Afghan government and its security forces, and the entire United States mission, and maintaining leverage over Afghanistan by making it weak and dependent, Afghan officials say.

    “We caught a terrorist who killed five people with an I.E.D.,” a senior police officer said, referring to a roadside bomb. “We released a boy who was kidnapped. We defused an I.E.D. in the city.”

    Flicking through photographs on his phone, he pointed to one of a man in a mauve shirt. “He was convicted of kidnapping five people.” Much of the kidnapping is criminal, for ransom, but at least some of it is politically motivated, he added.

    The 33-year-old, English-speaking Farhad Niayesh, a former mayor of Herat, is even more blunt, and exasperated. He says the Iranians use their consulate in the city as a base for propaganda and “devising terrorist activities.”

    “Iran has an important role in terrorist attacks in Herat,” Mr. Niayesh said. “Three or four Iranians were captured. They had a plan against government officials who were not working in their interest.”

    Members of Parliament and security officials say Iran bribes local and central government officials to work for it, offering them 10 to 15 Iranian visas per week to give to friends and associates. Afghans visit to conduct business, receive medical care and see family.

    The Afghan police have uncovered cases of even deeper infiltration, too. A female member of the Afghan police service was sentenced to death, accused of being a secret Iranian agent, after fatally shooting an American trainer in the Kabul Police Headquarters in 2012.

    “Our western neighbor is working very seriously,” said the senior Afghan police official in Herat who requested anonymity because of the nature of his work. “ We have even found heavy artillery to be used against the city.”

    Iran is supporting multiple anti-government militant groups in half a dozen western provinces, he said. The Afghan police, despite a lack of resources, are working to dismantle them.

    “The same sort of people are still in the city,” he added. “They are doing their work, and we are doing our work.”

    Double-Edged Soft Power

    Afghans dream of restoring their landlocked, war-torn country to the rich trading center it was in days of old, when caravans carried goods along the Silk Road from China to Europe, and people and ideas traveled along the same route.

    If Tehran has its way, the modern Silk Road will once again run across Afghanistan’s western border, and proceed through Iran. At least that is the ambition.

    On one side of the Afghan border, India has been building a road through southwestern Afghanistan to allow traders to bypass Pakistan, which has long restricted the transit of Afghan goods.

    Tehran’s goal is to join that route on the Iranian side of the border with road and rail links ending at the port of Chabahar on the Persian Gulf.

    “We said that Afghanistan would not be landlocked anymore and we would be at Afghanistan’s disposal,” said Mr. Bahrami, the Iranian ambassador in Kabul, stressing that Iran’s contribution to the Afghan road was not stalled even by its economic difficulties under sanctions.

    But Iran’s economic leverage comes at a price.

    Afghan officials say Iran’s support of the Taliban is aimed in part at disrupting development projects that might threaten its dominance. The Iranian goal, they contend, is to keep Afghanistan supplicant.

    The biggest competition is for water, and Afghans have every suspicion that Iran is working to subvert plans in Afghanistan for upstream dams that could threaten its water supply.

    Iran has raised the issue of the dams in bilateral meetings, and President Hassan Rouhani recently criticized the projects as damaging to the environment.

    With the upheaval of 40 years of coups and wars in Afghanistan, large-scale development plans, like hydroelectric projects, have largely been stalled since the 1970s. Even after international assistance poured into Afghanistan after 2001, internal and external politics often got in the way.

    But President Ashraf Ghani, determined to generate economic growth, made a priority of completing the Salma dam in Herat Province, and has ordered work on another dam at Bakhshabad, to irrigate the vast western province of Farah.

    In Farah, despite the two calamitous Taliban offensives on the provincial capital in October and January, the Bakhshabad dam is the first thing everyone mentions.

    “We don’t want help from nongovernmental organizations or from the government,” said Mohammed Amin, who owns a flourishing vegetable farm, growing cucumbers and tomatoes under rows of plastic greenhouses. “We in Farah don’t want anything. Just Bakhshabad.”

    Afghanistan’s lack of irrigation makes it impossible to compete with Iranian produce prices, something Bakhshabad could solve, he said.

    The project is still only in the planning stage. But the dam, with its promise of irrigation and hydroelectricity for a population lacking both, is a powerful dream — if Iran does not thwart it.

    “The most important issue is water,” Mr. Lalai, the presidential adviser, said of relations with Iran. “Most of our water goes to our neighbors. If we are prosperous, we might give them less.”

    Peace or Proxy War?

    The death of Mullah Mansour removed Iran’s crucial link to the Taliban. But it has also fractured the Taliban, spurring a number of high-level defections and opening opportunities for others, including Iran, to meddle.

    An overwhelming majority of Taliban blame Pakistan for Mullah Mansour’s death. The strike deepened disillusionment with their longtime Pakistani sponsors.

    About two dozen Taliban commanders, among them senior leaders who had been close to Mullah Mansour, have since left their former bases in Pakistan.

    They have moved quietly into southern Afghanistan, settling back in their home villages, under protection of local Afghan security officials who hope to encourage a larger shift by insurgents to reconcile with the government.

    Those with family still in Pakistan live under close surveillance and control by Pakistani intelligence, said the former Taliban commander, who recently abandoned the fight and moved his family into Afghanistan to escape reprisals.

    He said he had become increasingly disaffected by Pakistan’s highhanded direction of the war. “We all know this is Pakistan’s war, not Afghanistan’s war,” he said. “Pakistan never wanted Afghanistan to be at peace.”

    The question now: Does Iran?

    Citing the threat from the Islamic State as an excuse, Iran may choose, with Russian help, to deepen a proxy war in Afghanistan that could undermine an already struggling unity government.

    Or it could encourage peace, as it did in the first years after 2001, for the sake of stability on at least one of its borders, prospering with Afghanistan.

    For now, Iran and Russia have found common cause similar to their partnership in Syria, senior Afghan officials and others warn.

    Emboldened by their experience in Syria, they seem to be building on their partnership to hurt America in Afghanistan, cautioned the political analyst Mr. Sharan.

    As American forces draw down in Afghanistan, jockeying for influence over the Taliban is only intensifying.

    “Pakistan is helping the Taliban straightforwardly,” said Mr. Jehan, the former Afghan intelligence official who is now governor of Farah. “Russia and Iran are indirectly helping the Taliban. We might come to the point that they interfere overtly.

    “I think we should not give them this chance,” he added. “Otherwise, Afghanistan will be given up to the open rivalry of these countries.”

    The former Afghan foreign minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, warned that the country risked being pulled into the larger struggle between Sunni powers from the Persian Gulf and Shiite Iran.

    “Afghanistan should keep out the rivalry of the regional powers,” he said. “We are vulnerable.”

    Some officials are optimistic that Iran is not an enemy of Afghanistan, but the outlook is mixed.

    “There is a good level of understanding,” Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan government’s chief executive, said of relations with Iran.

    “What we hear is that contacts with the Taliban are to encourage them to pursue peace rather than military activities,” he said.

    Mohammad Asif Rahimi, the governor of Herat, warned that if Farah had fallen to the Taliban, the entire western region would have been laid open for the insurgents.

    Iran’s meddling has now grown to the extent that it puts the whole country at risk of a Taliban takeover, not just his province, he said.

    But it could have been prevented, in the view of Mr. Sharan.

    “The fact is that America created this void,” he said. “This vacuum encouraged countries to get involved. The Syria issue gave confidence to Iran and Russia, and now that confidence is playing out in Afghanistan.”


  15. Lion of Rajputana

    Lion of Rajputana Captain FULL MEMBER

    Oct 25, 2016
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    Shit, this is a serious problem. Russia and Iran both supporting the Taliban. Even back when Russia, Iran and India were on the same page regarding Afghanistan and the Taliban, the best case scenario was that they would cooperate to help stabilize Afghanistan and keep the Taliban from taking over.

    But if Russia and Iran are actively supporting the Taliban, even if India were to step up its role in Afghanistan, it'd be tough for India to do much single handedly to shape Afghanistan's future in a more favorable direction (one that preferably includes a stable, democratic country friendly to India and doesn't include the Taliban).
    Hellfire likes this.

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