June 07, 2010

One less blog

Canada's own "milblog", The Torch (aka, toyoufromfailinghands.blogspot.com) has shut its doors, suddenly and apparently permanently. Correspondence with the authors confirms it's over. I'd give a link, but obviously there's no point now. They'll be missed. Best of luck to the contributors in their future endeavours.

Posted by BruceR at 08:04 PM

Inside the wire

On the Question Period TV show this weekend, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said the Liberals supported the deployment of Canadian soldiers as trainers "inside the wire" in Afghanistan.

That sounds easier than it is. Afghan police and soldiers are trained on their own bases, obviously, but those are not "inside" coalition military facilities in any real sense. Afghans of any kind aren't normally allowed free run of ISAF military facilities, so the two have to remain physically distinct. So really what you're talking about is "inside the Afghan wire," at least part of the time: in other words, either cohabiting with Afghans, or failing that, "commuting" from a nearby ISAF base.

Which can be fine, of course, given some sensible precautions: I always felt quite safe in those sorts of situations. But in this context it might be worth noting today's news from Afghanistan.

...an American contractor died in a suicide attack against the police training center in Kandahar city, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said... The American contractor, who was not identified, and another person were killed when a team of three suicide bombers attacked the gates of the police training center. Afghan officials said one bomber blew a hole in the outer wall, enabling the other two to rush inside. But they were killed in the gunbattle that followed. Afghan officials said three police were wounded.

Posted by BruceR at 07:14 PM

On the Saleh-Atmar firings

National Directorate of Security head Amrulleh Saleh has been sacked by Afghan president Hamid Karzai, allegedly for failing to secure his "peace jirga" adequately, but probably because Saleh opposed Karzai's plan to release some Taliban prisoners, according to the NYT.

It might be worthwhile recalling Carl Forsberg's assessment of Saleh from April:

Hanif Atmar, head of the Ministry of the Interior, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, and NDS head Amrullah Saleh are all figures who are judged competent and effective leaders and who do not have deep historic ties to the Karzai family. But these men also understand the Karzai family’s ascendancy, and desire to work within this system. As such, they do not challenge the Karzai’s inner circle’s use of appointments, especially in areas like southern Afghanistan, nor do they challenge the tendency of some political actors, including the Karzai inner circle, to build spheres of influence within their ministries...

The NDS in Kabul is directed by Amrullah Saleh, a Tajik and former deputy to Massoud. But Saleh has limited influence over his organization and is kept in power mostly because of American backing. His influence over the organization does not extend to Kandahar...

Saleh has been replaced by a Karzai confidant. The interior minister, Atmar, with authority over the Afghan police and NDS, was forced to resign, as well.* It's hard to see these developments improving anything about the Afghan security or detainee treatment issues any time soon.

*This will undoubtedly be a relief to, among other people, Matiullah Khan, head of the powerful KAU (Kandak-e Amniant-e Uruzgan) militia in North Kandahar-Uruzgan (and a close associate of the president's brother), who had been refusing to acknowledge Atmar's authority over his fighters. For those following along at home, Matiullah, like the Karzais, is Popalzai Pashtun from the Kandahar area; Atmar was also Pashtun, but from Laghman Province in the east. I always enjoyed picking out the Eastern and Southern Pashto speakers I met... the accent is really so different so as to be noticeable even by a beginners-Pashto guy like me.

UPDATE: Matiullah is just one of many, btw: see also Dexter Filkins today on the close links between many prominent Afghans including the Karzais, the many private Afghan security companies convoying ISAF's supplies, and the insurgents. “There are thousands of people that have been paid by both civilian and military organizations to escort their convoys, and they all pose a problem,” said Hanif Atmar, the Afghan interior minister... “The Afghan people are not ready to accept the private companies’ providing public security.” Possibly someone wasn't ready to accept Atmar's opinion of what the people weren't ready to accept?

Posted by BruceR at 04:51 PM