MIssed Opportunities in Kandahar

November 9th, 2010

The following is excerpted  from Anand Gopal’s paper released by the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative, “The Battle for Afghanistan: Militancy and Conflict in Kandahar.” The paper is available here.
The Victor’s Hubris and the Failure of Reconciliation
Just as Kandahar was falling, fissures appeared in the Taliban movement. As most of the [...]

Private Security Companies Undermine Afghan Security

October 28th, 2010

Pul-i-Charkhi, Afghanistan — In a wood-paneled office here in the dusty fringes of Kabul, Hajji Shirin Dil feverishly works the phones. He shouts orders into one receiver as he dials another phone, while aides wait patiently to speak to him.

He could be Wall Street day trader, if not for the sleepy gunmen [...]

Talking to the Taliban: Who’s Under Pressure Now?

October 22nd, 2010

On an evening this past spring, near midnight, a land cruiser pulled up to the house of a government official in Kandahar city. The vehicles carried a senior Taleban figure, sent by Mullah Omar, and some tribal elders. That night the group met secretly with a leading Afghan official and discussed [...]

The Spine-Chilling Emptiness of Afghanistan’s Voting Booths

October 1st, 2010

On election day, a pack of bone-thin, restless dogs wandered into the main polling center in Sheikhabad, a town in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province. A pair of Afghan policemen tried to chase them away, but the determined bunch kept returning, looking for a shady redoubt from the morning sun. Eventually the police [...]

Ballot Stuffing Witnessed Amidst Troubled Afghan Vote

September 18th, 2010

Saydabad, Afghanistan–When campaign aide Qais showed up at a polling center in the troubled province of Wardak Saturday morning, he found that guards would not allow him to enter. When he tried to peer through the windows, he found that workers had erected huge cardboard sheets to block the view.
Inside, election workers were busy stuffing [...]

Afghan Election: Taliban Not the Only Culprits of Campagin Violence

September 17th, 2010

Kabul, Afghanistan —Daud Niazi, a candidate in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, was returning from a campaign event in his native Laghman Province when a group of gunmen suddenly appeared by the roadside. They forced his campaign caravan to a halt, robbed the passengers, and then ordered the vehicles to get moving.
As the convoy pulled [...]

Tensions Rise Between Hizb-i-Islami and Taliban in Afghanistan

August 26th, 2010

By Matthew DuPee and Anand Gopal
In March 2010, clashes erupted between two of Afghanistan’s most important insurgent groups in northern Baghlan Province. A days-long battle between Hizb-i-Islami and the Taliban left nearly 60 militants and 20 civilians dead. Hostilities between the two sides flared again in Wardak Province in July, where ongoing clashes killed 28 [...]

The Paradox of Boots on the Ground

June 29th, 2010

On a balmy summer’s day in the village of Hiratian in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, locals found the body of eight-year-old Dilawar hanging from a tree of a small fruit farm. Taliban fighters had accused the boy of spying for the American forces and had kidnapped him, strung him up and left his body to sway [...]

Interview with Afghan Insurgent Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: Can Peace Talks Succeed?

June 9th, 2010

Kabul, Afghanistan–Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a veteran Afghan warlord, heads the only one of three main insurgent groups that is holding direct negotiations with the government. His group, Hizb-e-Islami, controls large swaths of the north and east, and in March it delivered to Kabul a 15-point peace proposal. But any deal with Hizb-e-Islami remains far off, due [...]

New Counterinsurgency Strategy, Same Results

June 5th, 2010

Wardak province, a rustic region of verdant dales and twisting streams that borders Kabul, is home to one of the untold stories of the Afghan war: over the last nine months, U.S. forces have quietly decapitated the Taliban’s leadership in the area. Through dozens of nighttime raids, U.S. Special Operations Forces have succeeded in killing [...]