Tag Archives: Afghan

Taliban claims capturing key Afghan border crossing with Pakistan

Group says it has captured the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak along the frontier with Pakistan, continuing its sweeping gains.

The Taliban says it has captured the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak along the frontier with Pakistan, continuing sweeping gains made since foreign forces stepped up their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Afghan interior ministry on Wednesday, however, insisted the armed group’s attack had been repelled and government forces had control.

But Pakistani authorities confirmed to Al Jazeera that they have sealed their side of the country’s border crossing with Afghanistan at the Chaman-Spin Boldak frontier.

“The Taliban presence can be seen at Afghan border along with Pakistan in Chaman and no Afghan [government] forces are there at the Afghan border side,” local administration official Arif Kakar told Al Jazeera.

Taliban claims capturing key Afghan borderPeople cross the Pakistan-Afghan border in Chaman, Pakistan [File: Akhter Gulfam/EPA]

Kakar confirmed that Pakistan was not currently allowing any goods or people to cross the border at Chaman-Spin Boldak, which is one of the two main border crossings between the South Asian countries.

A video shot by a local witness and seen by Al Jazeera showed the Afghan government flag on the Spin Boldak side of the crossing had been replaced by the white flag of the Taliban, which refers to Afghanistan as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The social media was also abuzz with pictures of Taliban fighters looking relaxed in what appeared to be the frontier town.

The taking of Spin Boldak would be the latest in a string of border crossings and dry ports seized by the Taliban in recent weeks, with the group looking to choke off much-needed revenue from the government in Kabul while also filling their own coffers.

Its seizure follows days of heavy fighting across Kandahar province, where the government was forced to deploy commandos to prevent the fall of the provincial capital even as the group inched closer to taking the frontier crossing.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid assured traders and residents there that their “security is guaranteed”.

But Afghan officials insisted they still had control.

“The terrorist Taliban had some movements near the border area … The security forces have repelled the attack,” interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian told the AFP news agency.

Residents disputed the government’s claims.

“I went to my shop this morning and saw that the Taliban are everywhere. They are in the bazaar, in police headquarters and custom areas. I can also hear the sound of fighting nearby,” said Raz Mohammad, a shopkeeper who works near the border.

Trucks carrying goods destined to Afghanistan wait for clearance at the Pakistani side of the Pakistan-Afghan border in Chaman, Pakistan [File: Akhter Gulfam/EPA]

With the United States just weeks away from wrapping up its final withdrawal from Afghanistan, the group has swept through much of the country, and the government now holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must largely be resupplied by air.

The Spin Boldak border crossing is one of the most strategically valuable for the Taliban. It provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where the group’s top leadership has been based for decades, along with an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to help bolster their ranks.

Hours after the crossing fell, an AFP reporter on the Pakistani side saw about 150 Taliban fighters riding on motorcycles, waving their flags, as they demanded to be allowed to cross into Afghanistan.

Balochistan is a favoured destination for fighters regularly heading for medical treatment and hosts many of their families.

An important highway leading from the border connects to Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi and its sprawling port on the Arabian Sea.

Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta, Pakistan

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This post originally posted here Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

Taliban horror: 22 Afghan commandos gunned down in cold blood after surrendering

The recently surfaced video, taken on June 16, appears to follow a major battle between the Taliban and Afghan forces. The US-trained commandos were sent to the town of Dawlat Abad, in northern Faryab province, to recapture it from jihadist control.

However, after a two hour firefight, the commandos became surrounded.

With no air support or reinforcements, the soldiers were forced to surrender.

In the video shared with veterans network Funker530 last week, armed men can be seen herding the Afghan soldiers into a public square.

According to a translation from CNN, by-standers plead for the men not to be harmed.

“Don’t shoot them, don’t shoot them, I beg you don’t shoot them,” someone says in the local Pashto language.

The captors can then be heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” before unleashing dozens of rounds into the soldiers.

A second piece of footage shows the bodies of the men strewn across the ground.

After the massacre, a Taliban ground commander can be heard telling his men to strip the soldiers of their gear.

A witness who reportedly saw the incident told CNN: “The commandos were surrounded by the Taliban.

“Then they brought them into the middle of the street and shot them all.”

READ MORE: Biden struggles to remember why the US invaded Afghanistan in blunder

Last week, US president Joe Biden, defended the withdrawal of troops from the country, claiming the US objectives had already been completed.

He said: “We went for two reasons,” he said.

“One, to bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, as I said at the time.

“The second reason was to eliminate Al Qaida’s capacity to deal with more attacks on the United States from that territory.

“We accomplished both of those objectives. Period.”

Almost 2,500 American personnel have been killed and 20,722 have been wounded in the war.

He added: “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”

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This post originally posted here Daily Express :: World Feed

Unlikely Coalition of Veterans Backs Biden on Ending Afghan War

A politically diverse set of veterans’ groups critical of the conflicts abroad have found ways to gain access to the White House to lobby for withdrawals.

WASHINGTON — Soon after President Biden announced that the United States military would withdraw from Afghanistan, hawks in Congress accused him of accepting defeat. But a diverse group of war veterans — many of whom had clashed bitterly with one another over the years — stepped in to provide him political cover.

Closely coordinating with the White House’s National Security Council, a coalition that included Concerned Veterans for America, an advocacy group funded by the Koch network; Common Defense, a longtime antagonist of former President Donald J. Trump; and the Secure Families Initiative, a nonpartisan group of military spouses, wrote opinion columns, began social media campaigns and released a stream of statements pushing for an end to America’s longest war. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veteran service organization, also came out in support of the new policy, to the surprise of many.

Over 20 years of war, American veterans have been venerated by Republicans and Democrats but lacked cohesive political influence. Democrats and the operatives around them often assumed that most veterans were conservative and failed to court them, and for years, leaders in both parties believed most veterans supported the conflicts abroad.

But as the conflicts dragged on, veterans and military families increasingly united around public positions critical of the wars, and found ways to gain access to the White House to lobby for withdrawal from them.

Similar efforts by lawmakers have also brought together unlikely allies, like Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California and once a lone voice against the wars, and Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona.

“Veterans acted as a liaison between the administration and the general public in terms of explaining what the impact of two decades of war were on American lives,” said Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a research organization that has become increasingly influential among anti-interventionists in Washington. Mr. Weinstein served as a Marine and deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

The movement against the “forever war” began in the last half of the Bush administration, with large protests around the country focused as much on the president as on the war on his watch. It is now fueled by a politically diverse group that was energized by Mr. Trump’s chin-out defiance of American adventures abroad, and by the election of Mr. Biden, who had been a critic of operations in Afghanistan as vice president.

President Biden attending a Memorial Day service in Delaware in May. Mr. Biden’s position on Afghanistan most likely helped him make inroads with veteran households in 2020.
Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Veterans have often made the case that the mission in the region had outlasted its original intent, and that an all-volunteer force should not be tasked with nation-building. But their forceful support of the withdrawal could be tested if the violence in the country continues to worsen as the last American troops leave.

“Veterans are credible messengers on issues of war and peace,” said William Ruger, the vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute and Mr. Trump’s last nominee as ambassador to Afghanistan.

“They are important cue givers to the public and policymakers,” said Mr. Ruger, a veteran of the war who remains an officer in the Navy Reserve. “This isn’t going to be a one-act story.”

The election of President Barack Obama largely quelled the antiwar movement as opponents of the conflicts assumed he would move quickly to end them.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, distinguished himself from Senator Hillary Clinton on war matters. More notably, Mr. Trump openly criticized the conflicts, setting him apart from other Republicans in the field and Mrs. Clinton.

“We saw the way that Donald Trump was tapping into the frustration with the wars,” said Alexander McCoy, a Marine Corps veteran and the political director for Common Defense. “This was a huge danger to Democrats because veterans were not excited about her.” At the same time, he said, “there was an inaccurate perception among Democratic operatives that veterans are conservative. We knew we needed to fix that to beat him.”

Mr. Trump ultimately did not deliver on his promise to get remaining troops out of Afghanistan, thwarted in part by conflicts among his closest advisers over the policy. But as even Mr. Biden has conceded, Mr. Trump set the table.

“President Trump helped propel the movement,” Mr. Ruger said. “That created the conditions in which the Biden administration came to office.”

Near the end of Mr. Trump’s term, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban to end the conflict in Afghanistan, giving the movement among veterans more fuel.

VoteVets, a group that works to elect Democratic veterans and to bring veterans out to vote, also furiously lobbied Mr. Biden and other Democratic primary contenders on withdrawal.

It joined forces with Concerned Veterans for America, a group with which it had sparred on veterans’ policy issues and that did not support Mr. Biden, to work on members of Congress to support withdrawal.

Mr. Biden, whose son Beau Biden served in the Army National Guard, signaled early on he was open to the message. “The first thing I would do as president of the United States of America is to make sure that we brought all combat troops home and enter into a negotiation with the Taliban,” he said during a debate.

Ralph Lauer/EPA, via Shutterstock

Mr. Biden’s position on the war most likely helped him make inroads with veteran households in 2020, a group Mr. Trump won 55 to 43 percent, down 14 points from 2016.

The Taliban agreement, Mr. Biden’s election and exhaustion with a war that had killed thousands provided a window for the groups.

“We saw this last half a year as a once-in-20-year opportunity,” said Sarah Streyder, the executive director of Secure Families Initiative. “You had a new administration with a record of supporting this kind of direction, and the inheritance of agreement. Many of our peers in this space agreed that if we really wanted this policy to happen, now is the time to ramp up the efforts. We began yelling loudly, having meetings on the Hill and the White House.”

White House officials acknowledged that advocates for veterans have met regularly with officials at the National Security Council and other agencies since Mr. Biden’s election. “We had the signal that now is a good time to push,” Ms. Streyder said.

When Mr. Biden finally announced his plans, some veterans were more cautious. “I support the Biden administration’s decision to finally bring our longest war to an end,” said Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado and a former Army Ranger. “But we must do so in a way that keeps our promises to our allies, protects the women and children of Afghanistan, and ensures a safer and more secure world.”

But a large contingent celebrated publicly, and the administration was quick to blast out those remarks. “It’s like we say in the Marines, ‘No better friend, no worse enemy,’ ” said Mr. McCoy, adding that his group would continue to defend Mr. Biden’s decision and criticize any further military conflicts. “They always pick up the phone when we call.”

Author: Jennifer Steinhauer
Read more here >>> NYT > Top Stories

US left Bagram Airfield without notice, Afghan officials say

The United States left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said.

The US announced on Friday it had completely vacated its biggest airfield in the country in advance of a final withdrawal by the end of August of all but a few hundred US troops from Afghanistan.

“We [heard] some rumour that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by 7:00 in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” General Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander, told The Associated Press.

Afghanistan’s army showed off the sprawling airbase on Monday, allowing journalists to visit the heavily fortified compound.

“They (Americans) are completely out now and everything is under our control, including watchtowers, air traffic and the hospital,” a senior Afghan government official told the Reuters news agency.

Bagram had long been a symbol of Western forces deployed to shore up the Afghan government now facing a Taliban offensive as most US and NATO forces withdraw.

The Taliban captured districts in Badakhshan and Kandahar provinces over the weekend, sending Afghan government forces fleeing across the border with Tajikistan. Taliban fighters last week launched an attack on the central Afghan city of Ghazni, on the highway linking the capital Kabul with the southern province of Kandahar.

An Afghan soldier plays a guitar left behind by US troops at Bagram airbase on July 5 [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

On Monday at Bagram, dozens of vehicles left behind by the US stood on the premises while others zipped around with Afghan officials and personnel. Radars oscillated as soldiers stood on guard, and hundreds of Afghan security personnel moved into barracks that once housed US soldiers.

Afghan soldiers who wandered throughout the base that had once seen as many as 100,000 US troops were deeply critical of how the US left Bagram.

“In one night they lost all the goodwill of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area,” said Afghan soldier Naematullah, who asked that only his one name be used.

Before the Afghan army could take control of the airfield, about an hour’s drive from the Afghan capital Kabul, a small group of looters ransacked barrack after barrack and rummaged through giant storage tents before being evicted, Afghan military officials said.

“At first, we thought maybe they were Taliban,” Abdul Raouf, a soldier of 10 years, told the AP. He said the US called from the Kabul airport and said “we are here at the airport in Kabul.”

Parked vehicles at Bagram after US troops vacated the airfield, on July 5 [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

US Colonel Sonny Leggett, the official spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, did not address the specific complaints of many Afghan soldiers, instead referring to a US statement issued last week.

The statement said the handover had been in the process soon after President Joe Biden’s mid-April announcement that the US would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. Leggett said in the statement that they had coordinated their departures with Afghanistan’s leaders.

The US announced on July 2 it had completely vacated its biggest airfield in the country in advance of a final withdrawal the Pentagon said will be completed by the end of August.

Kohistani, the new commander of the airfield, insisted the Afghan National Security and Defense Force could hold on to the heavily fortified base despite a string of Taliban wins on the battlefield. The airfield also includes a prison with about 5,000 prisoners, many of them allegedly members of the Taliban.

Meanwhile, neighbourhoods and markets in the shadow of the base were bracing for what comes next.

“It is not a problem for us if there are foreign forces [here] or they leave, but the fact that the Taliban are taking over districts at any moment affects our work,” Wasim Shirzad, a shopkeeper, told Reuters.

Another shopkeeper, Nematullah Ferdaws, agreed: “Most shopkeepers do not invest … because they are hesitant about the country’s future.”

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U.S. Leaves Largest Afghan Base as Full Withdrawal Nears

With little fanfare, Bagram Air Base was handed over to the Afghan government, ending nearly two decades in which the Americans waged war from there.

KABUL, Afghanistan—American troops and their Western allies have departed Bagram, Afghanistan’s largest air base, officials said on Friday, turning over to the Afghan government the sprawling outpost from which the United States waged war for nearly two decades.

With little fanfare and no public ceremony, American troops left the base on Thursday night, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

The Afghan military “will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism,” said Fawad Aman, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense.

The closure of Bagram, a symbol of America’s costly operations in Afghanistan, comes just weeks before the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops, who entered the country in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The U.S. will leave a contingent of 650 troops to protect the United States Embassy in Kabul, the capital.

The departure comes at a perilous time for Afghanistan.

Some U.S. intelligence estimates predict that the Afghan government could fall to its rivals, the Taliban, in as little as six months after the Americans complete their withdrawal. The Taliban are inching closer to Kabul after having taken about a quarter of the country’s districts in the last two months.

Hundreds if not thousands of members of the Afghan security forces have surrendered in recent weeks, while their counterattacks have taken back little territory from the Taliban. And as the Afghan forces fracture, regional militias have appeared with renewed prominence, in an echo of the 1990s civil war.

“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized,” the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, told reporters on Tuesday. Though the last 40 years of conflict in Afghanistan could be seen as civil war, a return to the fractious era of warlords and armed fiefdoms has long been feared.

With a line of snow-capped mountains as its backdrop, the Bagram airfield was built in the 1950s by the Soviet Union. It became a vital military hub during the Soviets’ 10-year occupation of Afghanistan. After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, the Taliban and what was known as the Northern Alliance fought for the base, sometimes with their trenches at either end.

By 2001, the United States had inherited rubble at the Bagram site. In January 2002, when the first American service member killed by enemy fire, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, was sent home, there were no American flags to drape on his casket, so a flag patch from someone’s uniform had to suffice.

By 2011, at the height of the American war, the base had ballooned into a small city, with two runaways, tens of thousands of occupants, shops and a U.S. military prison that became notorious for its use as a C.I.A. black site.

Author: Thomas Gibbons-Neff
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

Afghan carnage as Taliban storm two cities after Biden withdrew troops- ‘Panic everywhere’

Joe Biden wants all American forces out by September, with most expected to leave this month. However, in the past few weeks, the Taliban have seized 50 local districts across Afghanistan.

Their forces have also entered the cities of Kunduz and Maimana, both provincial capitals.

Speaking to the New York Times Amruddin Wali, who sits on Kunduz’s provincial council, said fighting is ongoing.

He commented: “Right now, I hear the sound of bullets.

“The Taliban have appeared in the alleys and back alleys of Kunduz, and there is panic all over the city.”

Taliban fighters captured entrance points to Kunduz before dispersing into the city.

They briefly took the city in 2015 and 2016, before being forced back with the help of US airstrikes.

Fighting has been intensifying across Afghanistan, raising fears of a Taliban return when US troops leave.

At least 20 elite Afghan special forces were killed in one attack.

READ MORE: ‘I think there is a possibility’ Taliban might take control of Afghan

ISIS also have a presence in Afghanistan, with its fighters clashing with both the Taliban and the Afghan army in bloody battles.

Following president Biden’s announcement America’s NATO allies, including the UK, announced they would withdraw their troops as well.

Ben Wallace, the British defence secretary, said it is “a regret for most of the NATO allies” that Mr Biden didn’t make the US withdrawal conditional on the Taliban committing to peace.

Speaking in Parliament he added: “We will explore all options that we can to make sure that not only Britain’s interests and her citizens are protected, but also allies.

“We are also protected by international law to do what we need to do to defend ourselves.

“The one thing I would say to the Taliban, is they remember what happened last time they played host to Al-Qaeda.”

More than 400 British soldiers have been killed by hostile action in Afghanistan since their deployment began in 2001.

Defence Select Committee chair Tobias Ellwood MP has called for a “full inquiry”.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph he said: “This cannot be the exit strategy that we ever envisaged. We must understand what went wrong.”

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed