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Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Feb 5 15:49:31 MST 2003


[From "The Independent" (London) 5 February 2003]
Don't mention the war in Afghanistan
BY ROBERT FISK

There's one sure bet about the statement to be made to the UN
Security Council today by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell -
or by General Colin Powell as he has now been mysteriously reassigned
by the American press: he won't be talking about Afghanistan. For
since the Afghan war is the "successful" role model for America's
forthcoming imperial adventure across the Middle East, the near-
collapse of peace in this savage land and the steady erosion of US
forces in Afghanistan - the nightly attacks on American and other
international troops, the anarchy in the cities outside Kabul, the
warlordism and drug trafficking and steadily increasing toll of
murders - are unmentionables, a narrative constantly erased from the
consciousness of Americans who are now sending their young men and
women by the tens of thousands to stage another "success" story.

This article is written in President George Bush's home state of
Texas, where the flags fly at half-staff for the Columbia crew, where
the dispatch to the Middle East of further troops of the 108th Air
Defence Artillery Brigade from Fort Bliss and the imminent deployment
from Holloman Air Force Base in neighbouring New Mexico of
undisclosed numbers of F-117 Nighthawk stealth bombers earned a mere
78-word down-page inside "nib" report in the local Austin newspaper.
Only in New York and Washington do the neo-conservative pundits
suggest - obscenely - that the death of the Columbia crew may well
have heightened America's resolve and "unity" to support the Bush
adventure in Iraq. A few months ago, we would still have been asked
to believe that the post- war "success" in Afghanistan augured well
for the post-war success in Iraq.

So let's break through the curtain for a while and peer into the
fastness of the land that both President Bush and Prime Minister
Blair promised not to forget. Hands up those who know that al-Qa'ida
has a radio station operating inside Afghanistan which calls for a
holy war against America? It's true. Hands up again anyone who can
guess how many of the daily weapons caches discovered by US troops in
the country have been brought into Afghanistan since
America's "successful" war? Answer: up to 25 per cent. Have any US
troops retreated from their positions along the Afghan-Pakistan
border? None, you may say. And you would be wrong. At least five
positions, according to Pakistani sources on the other side of the
frontier, only one of which has been admitted by US forces. On 11
December, US troops abandoned their military outpost at Lwara after
nightly rocket attacks which destroyed several American military
vehicles. Their Afghan allies were driven out only days later and al-
Qa'ida fighters then stormed the US compound and burnt it to the
ground.

It's a sign of just how seriously America's mission in Afghanistan is
collapsing that the majestically conservative Wall Street Journal -
normally a beacon of imperial and Israeli policy in the Middle East
and South-west Asia - has devoted a long and intriguing article to
the American retreat, though of course that's not what the paper
calls it. "Soldiers still confront an invisible enemy,'' is the title
of Marc Kaufman's first-class investigation, a headline almost
identical to one which appeared over a Fisk story a year or so after
Russia's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979-80. The soldiers in my
dispatch, of course, were Russian. Indeed, just as I recall the
Soviet officer who told us all at Bagram air base that the "mujahedin
terrorism remnants" were all that was left of the West's conspiracy
against peace-loving (and Communist) Afghans, so I observed the
American spokesmen - yes, at the very same Bagram air base - who
today cheerfully assert that al-Qa'ida "remnants" are all that are
left of Bin Laden's legions.

Training camps have been set up inside Afghanistan again, not - as
the Americans think - by the recalcitrant forces of Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar's anti-American Afghans, but by Arabs. The latest battle
between US forces and enemy "remnants" near Spin Boldak in Kandahar
province involved further Arab fighters, as my colleague Phil Reeves
reported. Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces have been "forging ties"
with al-Qa'ida and the Taliban; which is exactly what the
mujahedin "terrorist remnants" did among themselves in the winter of
1980, a year after the Soviet invasion. An American killed by a newly
placed landmine in Khost; 16 civilians blown up by another newly
placed mine outside Kandahar; grenades tossed at Americans or
international troops in Kabul; further reports of rape and female
classroom burnings in the north of Afghanistan - all these events are
now acquiring the stale status of yesterday's war.

So be sure that Colin Powell will not be boasting to the Security
Council today of America's success in the intelligence war in
Afghanistan. It's one thing to claim that satellite pictures show
chemicals being transported around Iraq, or that telephone intercepts
prove Iraqi scientists are still at their dirty work; quite another
to explain how all the "communications chatter" intercepts which the
US supposedly picked up in Afghanistan proved nothing. As far as
Afghanistan is concerned, you can quote Basil Fawlty: "Whatever you
do, don't mention the war.''

.....................................................................

[From "Daily Times" (Lahore) 5 February 2003]

Afghan forces hunt for Taliban and Qaeda in refugee camps
Staff Report

QUETTA: Afghan forces on Tuesday started searching for Taliban and Al
Qaeda members in Spin Boldak's refugee camps whereas authorities
increased security in areas alongside the Pak-Afghan border.
Meanwhile, US forces were still searching in Adey Ghar area for
Taliban fighters hiding in caves. Spin Boldak's administration set up
five more check posts in the area where about 200 fresh Afghan forces
were deployed to watch for Taliban and Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami
fighters. Spin Boldak Administrator Haji Fazlud Din Agha said a total
12 check posts would be established in the area and presently, about
200 Afghan forces were present at the five check posts. He confirmed
that the Afghan forces had searched four refugee camps but had found
nothing except five assault rifles and a pistol and warned refugees
not to keep weapons in the camps. The forces occupied the Awami
camp's dispensary for about three hours, where they interviewed many
people. The authorities in Spin Boldak had been tipped off about a
few Taliban fighters hiding in these camps, Mr Agha added. Mr Agha
also confirmed the presence of US forces in the area and said they
were searching for Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami fighters who fought in
Spin Boldak's outskirts against American and Afghan forces. The
Americans had found nothing but were making efforts to break the
Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami network.

Afghan forces Spin Boldak chief Obaidullah Mama, when contacted, said
all those who fought with US and Afghan forces were robbers and had
been creating problems in the area. He dispelled the impression of a
large number of Afghan and US forces killed. He said security had
been increased in the area and the arrested Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami
fighters were being interrogated. He said a huge cache of weapons had
been recovered from the Taliban and now interrogations were going on
as to where they had got the weapons. Two rockets fired at US base:
Two rockets were fired at an American base in the eastern Afghan
province of Khost, but they caused no casualties or damage, the US
military told AFP on Tuesday. The rockets, fired at about 9:30pm on
Monday, landed on the perimeter of the Salerno base, the military
said in a statement. "No injuries to personnel or damage to equipment
were reported," it said.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_5-2-2003_pg7_5

.....................................................................

Afghan troops clash with suspected Taliban rebels

KABUL, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Afghan government forces clashed with
suspected Taliban fighters on Tuesday northwest of the town of
Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, an Afghan official said. The
fighting broke out around noon (0730 GMT) in a mountainous area in
the northern part of Shawali Kot district about 15 km (10 miles)
northeast of Kandahar, said a senior official of the regional
government, who asked not to be named. He told Reuters both sides had
used heavy weapons in the clashes, but he had no details of
casualties or the number of fighters involved. "According to our
intelligence reports, there were Taliban in the area," the official
said. "So we sent out our troops to look for them and the fighting
began." He said the government had since sent reinforcements into the
area and the fighting was continuing. The officials said it was
unclear if U.S. or other foreign forces were involved.

The clash was in the same province as that in which U.S.-led coalition
forces launched major attacks last week on a cave complex near the
Pakistan border used as a base by fighters believed to be loyal to
renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The U.S. military has estimated
that it killed at least 18 rebels after pounding the complex in the
Adi Ghar mountains north of the border town of Spin Boldak with
bombs, rockets and other heavy munitions. It reported continued
activity in the area on Monday, saying U.S. troops had fired anti-
tank rockets into a cave after spotting a man moving into it armed
with an AK-47 rifle. Colonel Roger King, a spokesman at the U.S.
military headquarters at Bagram north of Kabul, said U.S. troops had
had so far identified 75 caves in the complex, cleared 49 and
destroyed 12 with explosives. U.S. troops are heading a coalition in
Afghanistan in pursuit of Taliban remnants and the al Qaeda network
of Osama Bin Laden, which is blamed for the September 11 attacks on
the United States in 2001. The United States considers its former
ally Hekmatyar an enemy after he declared holy war against foreign
troops in the country.

.....................................................................

Rockets fired at US base in Afghanistan

AFP - February 4, 2003  -  Kabul: Two rockets were fired at a US base
in the eastern Afghan province of Khost but they caused no casualties
or damage, the US military said today. The rockets, fired at about
1700 GMT, landed on the perimeter of the Salerno base, the military
said in a statement. "No injuries to personnel or damage to equipment
were reported," it said. The statement did not say who could have
fired the rockets. It added that a US and Afghan operation to comb a
high mountain cave complex near the southeastern border town of Spin
Boldak for extremists had resulted in the destruction of 12
caves. "Thus far (US) 82nd troopers have identified 75 caves, cleared
49 and destroyed 12," the statement said.

The offensive, dubbed "Operation Mongoose", began last week in the Adi
Ghar mountains, 100 km from the southern city of Kandahar. Extremists
holed up in the mountains took on US forces on January 27 in their
largest fight in almost a year, resulting in the deaths of up to 18
rebels after bombing by Norwegian F-16s and US B1 and B-52.  The
military statement added that in the central province of Bamyan, US
special forces backed by Afghan soldiers had located weapons caches
in and around the village of Madr. The troops recovered 88 rocket-
propelled grenades, more than 600 mortar rounds and 200 107 mm rockets

.....................................................................

U.S. troops fired upon on Afghan mountain
By MARK KENNEDY, Associated Press
Tuesday, February 4, 2003

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) - A week after U.S. forces battled a group of
armed men on a mountainside in southern Afghanistan, enemy fighters
are still firing at U.S. troops searching the steep terrain, a U.S.
military spokesman said Tuesday. Troops with the 82nd Airborne
Division saw a man duck into a cave Monday as they were clearing more
than 75 caves in the Adi Ghar mountain. They destroyed the cave with
anti-tank rockets, but the man had vanished. The report of the gunman
came a day after the U.S. military said its troops on the mountain
saw smoke rising from one of the caves. On Friday, U.S. troops were
fired upon by an assailant who also disappeared. There were no
injuries. "There are still people up there in the area," said Col.
Roger King. He speculated that whatever enemy forces remain on the
mountain might have had their escape routes cut off or may just be
dedicated to their cause.

The mountain, some 15 miles northeast of Spinboldak, was the site of a
firefight Jan. 27 that killed at least 18 militants. The mountain was
pummeled by mortars, helicopter fire and bombs. Two men were captured.
Forty-nine caves have been cleared and 12 have been destroyed since
then. King said evidence that hostile forces remain on the mountain
indicates that U.S. troops going cave-to-cave may face a final shoot-
out with any stragglers. "That's the crux of their profession. Our
soldiers train to fight. Their goal in life as an infantry soldier is
to close with and destroy the enemy," King said. "Close combat is the
final thing they prepare for. So in some instances they expect it to
come down to that."

King said the firefight and cave-clearing process, dubbed Operation
Mongoose, has shown that whoever is on the mountain hasn't employed
the usual tactics of hit-and-run assaults with small arms or the use
of remote controlled rockets. "It's been a little strange in this
campaign in that we haven't found very many of the enemy who were
willing to go into that final 20 meters of the battlefield," King
said. "We haven't had a lot of displays of that type of commitment."

King also said the U.S. military was aware that leaflets were
appearing along the Pakistan and Afghanistan border calling for a
holy war against the coalition. The leaflets claimed two Islamic
groups had killed numerous U.S. soldiers and that the American
military had committed atrocities. King dismissed the claims
as "patently false." "I have heard that there are leaflets being
passed out in bazaars in the vicinity of the border. I had heard that
they were calling for a new jihad, but this happens about once every
two months. There hasn't been a lot of results from it," he said.

....................................................................

Gunman Eludes Soldiers on Afghan Mtn.
Tuesday February 4, 2003

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) - A militant carrying an AK-47 rifle atop a
mountainside cave-complex in southern Afghanistan managed to elude
U.S. forces more than a week after the area was heavily bombed by
coalition forces, a U.S. military spokesman said Tuesday. Troops with
the 82nd Airborne saw the man duck into a cave Monday as they were
clearing more than 75 caves in the Adi Ghar mountain. Anti-tank AT-4
rockets destroyed the cave believed to have been the one he had
entered, but the man had vanished.  The report of the gunman comes a
day after the U.S. military said its troops on the mountain saw smoke
rising from one of the caves. On Friday, U.S. troops were fired upon
by an assailant who also disappeared. There were no injuries. ``There
are still people up there in the area,'' said Col. Roger King. He
speculated that whatever enemy forces remain on the mountain might
have had their escape routes cut off or they might be dedicated to
their cause.

The mountain, some 15 miles northeast of Spinboldak, was the site of a
deadly firefight Jan. 27 that killed at least 18 militants. The
cave-encrusted mountain was pummeled by mortars, helicopter fire and
bombs. Two men were captured. Forty-nine caves have been cleared and
12 have been destroyed. King said continued evidence that hostile
forces remain on the mountain indicates that U.S. troops going cave-
to-cave may face a final shoot-out with any stragglers. ``That's the
crux of their profession. Our soldiers train to fight. Their goal in
life as an infantry soldier is to close with and destroy the enemy,''
King said. ``Close combat is the final thing they prepare for. So in
some instances they expect it to come down to that.''

King said the firefight and cave-clearing process - dubbed Operation
Mongoose - has shown that whoever is on the mountain hasn't employed
the usual tactics of hit-and-run assaults with small arms or the use
of remote controlled rockets. ``It's been a little strange in this
campaign in that we haven't found very many of the enemy who were
willing to go into that final 20 meters of the battlefield,'' King
said. ``We haven't had a lot of displays of that type of commitment''

King also said the U.S. military was aware that leaflets had begun to
appear along the Pakistan and Afghanistan border calling for a holy
war against the coalition. The leaflets claimed two Islamic groups had
killed numerous U.S. troops and that the American military had
committed atrocities. King dismissed the claims as ``patently
false.'' ``I have heard that there are leaflets being passed out in
bazaars in the vicinity of the border. I had heard that they were
calling for a new jihad, but this happens about once every two
months. There hasn't been a lot of results from it,'' King said.




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