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Afghanistan

Senior al-Qaeda leader Farouq al-Qahtani has been killed in a US drone strike in north eastern Afghanistan last month, the Pentagon confirms.

Farouq al-Qahtani, al-Qaeda’s leader in the area, was killed two weeks ago in what the Pentagon described as a precision strike.

Image source Wikimedia

Image source Wikimedia

The Saudi-born was placed on a US list of most wanted terrorists in February.

Farouq al-Qahtani was said to be one of al-Qaeda’s senior plotters against the US.

A Qatari national, Farouq al-Qahtani was also accused of involvement in plots targeting Europe.

Afghan government spokesman Abdul Ghani Mosamem said that 15 insurgents were killed in the operation on October 23 in the province of Kunar.

Those killed included two Arabs and a number of Pakistani Taliban fighters.

Veteran US photojournalist David Gilkey and his Afghan translator Zabihullah Tamanna have been killed in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

David Gilkey of National Public Radio (NPR) and Zabihullah Tamanna were travelling with the Afghan army when they came under fire and their vehicle was hit by a shell, NPR said.

The attack also killed the driver of the vehicle, an Afghan soldier.

Two other NPR employees travelling with David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna were unharmed, the radio network said in a statement.

The vehicle David Gilkey, 50, and Zabihullah Tamanna, 38, were travelling in was struck by shellfire near the town of Marjah, NPR said.

Photo Facebook

Photo Facebook

Zabihullah Tamanna was a photographer and journalist in Afghanistan, as well as a translator.

Michael Oreskes, senior vice president at NPR, paid tribute to the photographer.

He said: “David has been covering war and conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. He was devoted to helping the public see these wars and the people caught up in them. He died pursuing that commitment.

“As a man and as a photojournalist, David brought out the humanity of all those around him. He let us see the world and each other through his eyes.”

David Gilkey is the first US journalist outside the military to be killed in the conflict in Afghanistan.

He received a series of awards during his career, including a 2007 national Emmy for a video series about US Marines from Michigan serving in Iraq.

In 2011, David Gilkey was named still photographer of the year by the White House Photographers’ Association, one of nine first-place awards he received from the body.

His work on an investigation into veteran medical care and his coverage of the Ebola crisis helped secure awards for NPR.

In 2015, David Gilkey received the Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of international breaking news, military conflicts and natural disasters.


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Sgt Bowe Bergdahl will face a general court-martial for desertion and other charges.

The US soldier was held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

General Robert Abrams overruled a previous recommendation that the case be moved to a lower court with a maximum penalty of 12 months of prison.

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl now could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.

He was released in exchange for five Taliban officials held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2014.Bowe Bergdahl court martial

The 29-year-old gave the first public account of his story last week to the podcast Serial.

The podcast ran excerpts of an interview, in which Bowe Bergdahl claims that he left his base without permission in order to create a crisis and highlight poor leadership within his unit.

Bowe Bergdahl’s release, initially cheered by President Barack Obama and other officials, quickly became controversial when critics said it ran contrary to policy against negotiating with terrorists.

With news that the recommendation had been disregarded, his lawyer Eugene Fidell sent an email to reporters on behalf of the defense team saying he “had hoped the case would not go in this direction”.

In the same email, Eugene Fidell called upon leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to “cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client”. Donald Trump has in the past accused Bowe Bergdahl of treason.

Eugene Fidell also asked members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to “avoid any further statements or actions that prejudice our client’s right to a fair trial”.

Five Guantanamo detainees were swapped for the soldier, when Bowe Bergdahl was freed in May 2014. He had spent almost five years in Taliban captivity, after he walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009.

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee accused President Barack Obama of misleading them over the prisoner swap.

The charges were filed against Bowe Bergdahl in March, and his case was recommended for the lower court in October.

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Afghan Taliban fighters have reportedly attacked Kandahar airport.

It is not clear whether the clashes have resulted in casualties.

A spokesman for the provincial governor said the attackers had managed to breach the first gate of the complex.

A pro-Taliban website said the group had launched an attack “against domestic and foreign forces”.

Photo US Army

Photo US Army

Militant violence has increased across Afghanistan since the departure of most US and NATO forces in 2014.

“Several insurgents” had carried out the attack, the provincial governor’s spokesman Samim Khopalwaq told AFP.

Local authorities have reportedly deployed commandos to the area.

In recent months the Taliban have enjoyed a series of battlefield victories, including briefly capturing the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

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The US has launched a “full investigation” into airstrikes that killed 19 people at a Medecins Sans Frontieres-run Afghan hospital on October 3, President Barack Obama.

According to the US military, a strike targeting Taliban in the northern city of Kunduz may have caused “collateral damage”.

Offering his “deepest condolences”, President Barack Obama said he expected a “full accounting of the facts” and would then make a definitive judgement.

At least 12 MSF staff members and seven patients were killed in the incident.

The UN called the strikes “inexcusable and possibly even criminal”, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for a thorough and impartial investigation.

“International and Afghan military planners have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection,” said UN High Commissioner Ra’ad Al Hussein Zeid.

The hospital, run by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), was severely damaged by a series of strikes lasting more than an hour from 02:00 local time on October 3. Dozens were also injured in the attack.

Photo AP

Photo AP

MSF president Meinie Nicolai described the incident as “abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law”.

“All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces,” MSF said.

A spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, said on October 3 that US forces had conducted an air strike in Kunduz “against individuals threatening the force” at the same time.

He added: “The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

President Barack Obama expressed his “deepest condolences” for the deaths in a White House statement.

He added: “The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy.”

MSF nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs was sleeping at the facility when it was hit.

“It was absolutely terrifying,” he said.

He saw a fellow nurse “covered in blood, with wounds all over his body”, a statement issued by MSF said.

Lajos Zoltan Jecs and other staff went outside when the bombing stopped.

“What we saw was the hospital destroyed. We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the intensive care unit six patients were burning in their beds.”

The Afghan interior ministry said a group of 10 to 15 militants had been hiding in the hospital.

The Taliban denied that any of its fighters were there.

A Taliban statement described the air strikes which hit the hospital as “deliberate”, and carried out by “the barbaric American forces”.

There has been intense fighting in Kunduz since Taliban fighters swept into the northern city on September 28.

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Afghan militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani died at least a year ago, the BBC reported.

It appears the founder of the Haqqani network died after a long illness and was buried in Afghanistan.

Rumors about Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death have circulated for some years and can still not be independently confirmed.

The latest report comes a day after the Taliban acknowledged that its leader, Mullah Omar, was dead.

Reports of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death, quoting Taliban sources, also appeared in Pakistani media on July 31. One senior Afghan official said he had died six years ago.

The network has never confirmed the death of its founder.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

However, a man linked to the family denied reports, telling the BBC that Jalaluddin Haqqani was still alive but ill.

The Haqqani network – based in the tribal regions of Pakistan with links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban – has been behind many of the co-ordinated attacks on Afghan and NATO forces in recent years.

Jalaluddin Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, has long been thought to be in de facto control of the group and has just been announced as a deputy leader of the Taliban.

Jalaluddin Haqqani was an Afghan guerrilla leader who fought Soviet troops that occupied Afghanistan in 1980s.

US officials have admitted that at the time Jalaluddin Haqqani was a prized asset of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

However, Jalaluddin Haqqani later allied himself to the Taliban after they took power in Afghanistan in 1996.

Jalaluddin Haqqani served as a cabinet minister under the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Omar.

The Haqqani network was one of several militant groups that operated from the tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border following the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan, which began in 2001.

As the Haqqanis grew in strength, Pakistan’s security establishment was accused of secretly supporting the group, although it has strongly denied this.

Analysts say the Haqqani network has always been part of the Taliban and its members accepted Mullah Omar as their leader.

On July 30, the Taliban said they had appointed their deputy leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, as successor to Mullah Omar.

Correspondents say the move is likely to divide the group and that many senior figures opposed the appointment.

The death of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar – reported by the Afghan government on July 29 – was confirmed by the Taliban on July 30.

Meanwhile, the group has appointed a successor to Mullah Omar, who led the movement for some 20 years.

Mullah Omar’s deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, will replace him, sources close to the Taliban leadership said.

Correspondents say the move is likely to divide the militants, and that many senior figures opposed the appointment.

Pakistan says peace talks it was due to hold between the Afghan government and the Taliban on July 31 have been postponed.

The Foreign Ministry said this was at the Taliban’s request due to uncertainty over Mullah Omar’s death.Mullah Omar death confirmed by Taliban

The Taliban leader died two years ago in a Karachi hospital according to Afghanistan, but Pakistan has always denied that he was in the country.

A Taliban statement said Mullah Omar’s family had confirmed his death, but it did not say where or when it had happened. It said he had died of a “sickness”.

The group appointed Siraj Haqqani, a key leader in another major Afghan military group, the Haqqani network, as Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s deputy, sources said.

Mullah Akhtar Mansour becomes only the second person to lead the Taliban after Mullah Omar, who founded the group during Afghanistan’s civil war in the early 1990s.

His alliance with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Mullah Omar had been in hiding ever since, and although was not thought to have significant day-to-day involvement in the group remained a key figurehead.

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On July 29, Afghanistan’s secret services have confirmed that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been dead for two or three years in a Pakistani hospital, although this has not been confirmed by the Taliban.

Mullah Omar was a reclusive figure even before his Taliban government was driven from power in late 2001 and he was forced into hiding – very few images of him exist.

There have been several reports in the past that Mullah Omar had died.

A statement purporting to be from Mullah Omar was released in July backing peace talks with the Afghan government. The last audio message thought to be from him appeared in 2006 but even this was leaked and not meant for public consumption.

In April 2015, the Taliban published a biography of Mullah Omar, saying he was alive and still supreme leader of the movement, as he had been since 1996.

Taliban say Mullah Omar was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in Kandahar province.

He fought in resistance against Soviet occupation in 1980s, suffering a shrapnel injury to his right eye.Mullah Omar biography

He also forged close ties to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Mullah Omar became “supreme leader” of Taliban movement in 1996.

US-led forces overthrew his government in 2001; US state department has a $10 million bounty on him.

The biography says he does not own a home and has no foreign bank account, and saying he “has a special sense of humor”

The Afghan Taliban have published a surprise biography of the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar, to mark his 19th year as their supreme leader.

The 5,000-word biography on their main website clarifies disputed facts about his birth and upbringing.

It lists his favorite weapon – the RPG 7 – and says he leads a simple life and has a “special” sense of humor.

It says Mullah Omar, whose whereabouts were unknown, “remains in touch” with day-to-day Afghan and world events.

The US state department has a $10 million bounty on Mullah Omar, who has not been seen since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

It was Mullah Omar’s backing for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden that sparked the campaign.

It is unclear why the Taliban have chosen the 19th anniversary of his supreme leadership to publish the biography but some analysts say it may be an attempt to counter the growing influence of Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Commentators and Taliban watchers have been unable to agree on many facts about Mullah Omar, including his birth and heritage.

The biography says he was born in 1960 in the village of Chah-i-Himmat, in the Khakrez district of Kandahar province, in the south of the country.

It refers to the supreme leader as Mullah Mohammad Umar “Mujahid” and says he is from the Tomzi clan of the Hotak tribe.

It says his father was Moulavi Ghulam Nabi, a “respected erudite and social figure” who died five years after Mohammed Omar’s birth. The family moved to Uruzgan province.

The biography says Mullah Omar abandoned his studies in a madrassa school after the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and became a jihadist “to discharge his religious obligation”.

It lists his military feats fighting the Russians between 1983 and 1991, saying he was wounded four times and lost his right eye.

In 1994, Mullah Omar took over leading the Islamic mujahideen to tackle the “factional fighting” among warlords that followed the collapse of the communist regime in 1992.

Then in 1996 he was conferred the title “ameer-ul-momineen” (head of the pious believers), the biography says, becoming supreme leader.

After taking Kabul and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the biography tells of the “arrogant infidel powers of the world” who “could not tolerate Sharia law” and launched a joint military invasion.

In a section on his “charismatic personality”, the biography says Mullah Omar is tranquil and does not lose either temper or courage, does not own a home and has no foreign bank account and is affable, has a special sense of humor and never considers himself superior to his colleagues.

In a section entitled His daily activities in the present circumstances, the biography says: “In the present crucial conditions and regularly being tracked by the enemy, no major change and disruption has been observed in the routine works of [Mullah Omar].”

It says he “keenly follows and inspects the jihadi activities against the brutal infidel foreign invaders” adding: “He remains in touch with the day-to-day happenings of his country as well as the outside world.”

According to Afghanistan’s security services, Taliban supreme commander and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid died two years ago in Pakistan.

It appears Mullah Omar had died of health problems at a hospital in Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s government says information on his death is “credible”.

The latest reports of Mullah Omar’s death are being taken more seriously than previous such reports. The Taliban is expected to issue a statement soon.

A statement from the office of Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said that it believed, “based on credible information”, that Mullah Omar died in April 2013 in Pakistan.

The Afghan government, elected last year, has embarked on a peace process with the Taliban.Mullah Omar dead in Pakistan

In its statement, the government called on “all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process”.

A security official in Pakistan, the country hosting the talks, told AP that the claims of Mullah Mohammed Omar’s death were mere “speculation”, designed to destabilize the negotiations.

Pakistan’s government and security services have not formally commented on the claims so far. They have always denied that Mullah Omar was in their country.

Mullah Omar led the Taliban to victory over rival Afghan militias in the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

His alliance with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Mullah Omar has since been in hiding, with a $10 million US state department bounty on his head.

Over the years, the Taliban have released several messages purported to be from the fugitive leader.

The latest of these statements, from mid-July, expressed support for the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

However, the message was in the form of a text published on a Taliban website, rather than an audio or video recording – fuelling rumors that the leader was dead or incapacitated.

The failure to prove that Mullah Omar was alive was a major factor behind the defection of several senior Taliban commanders to the so-called Islamic State group.

At least 45 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack at a volleyball tournament in Paktika province, eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

Local reports say a suicide bomber walked into the large gathering before detonating the explosives.

About 60 people were also wounded in the bombing in Yahyakhail district.

It came after Afghan lawmakers approved security deals allowing NATO and US soldiers to remain after the withdrawal of most foreign troops next month.

The total number of soldiers in the new NATO force will be about 12,000. Their mission has been defined as training, advising and assisting the Afghan security forces.

There will also be a separate US-led force dealing with the remnants of al-Qaeda.

Sunday’s bombing occurred when a crowd of people were preparing to watch the final of a regional volleyball tournament.

The crowd was made up mostly of young people and all of the casualties were civilians.

The dead and injured have been taken to a local hospital. Several people had died on the journey to the hospital.

President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, described the incident as a “heinous attack”, according to his spokesman.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks on both Western and Afghan targets across the country this year.

The agreements with NATO and the US still need to be ratified by the Afghan upper house.

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Afghanistan’s presidential contenders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have signed a deal to form a government of national unity at a ceremony in Kabul.

The signing – broadcast live on national TV – comes after months of wrangling following presidential elections in April and June.

Under the deal, Ashraf Ghani becomes president while runner-up Abdullah Abdullah nominates a CEO with powers similar to those of prime minister.

Both sides had accused the other of fraud following the election.

The final result of the bitterly contested poll is due to be announced later.

Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed the agreement at a ceremony inside the presidential palace in the capital, Kabul. They then stood and embraced each other.

The power-sharing deal was finally reached after a comprehensive audit of all eight million votes which began in July.

The agreement says the new CEO will be answerable to Ashraf Ghani, although he has lost a battle to be sworn in after the announcement of the election result.

Instead, the two men have signed the national unity agreement before the election result is announced.

The new chief executive – nominated by Abdullah Abdullah – will be side-by-side with the president when he is inaugurated.

Presidential contenders Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have signed a deal to form a government of national unity in Afghanistan

Presidential contenders Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have signed a deal to form a government of national unity in Afghanistan (photo Reuters)

Abdullah Abdullah will be able to appoint senior positions on terms of “parity” with Ashraf Ghani. The agreement says “the two teams will be equally represented at the leadership level”.

However, there will not be a one-for-one handout of jobs further down and that could lead to arguments.

The agreement calls for a spirit of partnership. But after a bitter election campaign and months of wrangling, the stability of this government cannot be guaranteed, he adds.

A spokesman for Ashraf Ghani said that there was no longer any dispute between the two sides.

“Both camps have agreed 100% on everything and we’ll sign the deal tomorrow,” Faizullah Zaki told Reuters on Saturday, September 20.

The audit of ballots was part of a deal brokered in July by Secretary of State John Kerry to try to avert a descent into violence.

Both candidates pledged to accept the audit results and form a unity government.

One of the new president’s first tasks is widely expected to be signing a bilateral security agreement with the US.

The deal will allow a small force of soldiers to remain beyond 2014 to train Afghan security forces.

Incumbent President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the security agreement, which is linked to the continuation of aid needed to pay Afghan civil servants, teachers and soldiers.

Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have both promised to sign the agreement.

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The US military has paid tribute to Major General Harold Greene, shot dead by an Afghan soldier in an insider attack on Tuesday.

Gen. Harold Greene, the most senior US soldier killed in action overseas since Vietnam, was shot dead as he visited a UK-run military training facility.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the shooting was a “cowardly attack”.

Officials said the Afghan soldier who opened fire in the insider attack had been shot dead.

Insider attacks have become one of the defining features of the later phase of the conflict in Afghanistan.

They have hampered efforts to train the country’s 350,000-strong security force as they prepare to take on the Taliban once most US and NATO forces depart.

Gen. Harold Greene is the most senior US soldier killed in action overseas since Vietnam

Gen. Harold Greene is the most senior US soldier killed in action overseas since Vietnam

Tuesday’s attack is the most high profile.

Along with Gen. Harold Greene, at least 15 other soldiers were injured.

Two British, several Americans and generals from Germany and Afghanistan were among the wounded.

US Army spokesman Juanita Chang described Gen. Harold Greene as a “true hero”.

She said he was working “to better advance the Afghans and the cause in Afghanistan”.

“He really believed what he was doing over there,” she said.

Gen. Harold Greene was a technology expert described by the New York Times as playing a key role in integrating smartphones, video conferences “and even virtual worlds into military culture”.

The newspaper said that his last promotion of his 30-year army career came earlier this year when he was deployed to Afghanistan to oversee the military handover from American to Afghan control as US forces begin withdrawing from the country.

Correspondents say that the attack raises new doubts about NATO’s ability to train Afghan forces as Western countries gradually withdraw.

The Pentagon described “insider attacks” as a “pernicious threat”.

From the end of this year just under 10,000 American troops will remain, with all withdrawing by the end of 2016.

The Pentagon described it as an isolated attack and insisted that there has been no breakdown of trust between coalition soldiers and their Afghan counterparts.

The Afghan soldier who opened fire was recruited three years ago.

He carried out the shootings from a guard post at a large group of senior Afghan and international troops.

By the time he had emptied the magazine of his US-issue M16 rifle, more than a dozen people had been shot, our correspondent says.

The Afghan commander of the British-led officers’ academy, Gen, Gulam Sakhi, was among those wounded.

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A US general has been killed in an attack by a man in Afghan military uniform at British-run Camp Qargha near Kabul, US officials say.

Fifteen others have been injured. Half of them are thought to be Americans and they also include a German general.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense said the Afghan soldier was shot dead after he opened fire.

The major-general is the most senior international soldier killed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

The attacker was a soldier who was recruited three years ago.

The US general has been killed in an attack by an Afghan soldier at Camp Qargha near Kabul

The US general has been killed in an attack by an Afghan soldier at Camp Qargha near Kabul

The incident is said to have occurred late morning or lunchtime after a dispute between Afghans and an armed Afghan soldier.

The Afghan soldier opened fire from a guard post at a large group of senior Afghan and international troops.

By the time he had emptied the magazine of his US-issue M16 rifle, more than a dozen people had been shot, our correspondent says.

The Afghan commander of the British-led officers’ academy, General Gulam Sakhi, was among those wounded, and German military sources said a German general was also hit. At least one British soldier was also wounded.

The training academy is modeled on UK military academy Sandhurst and will be the only British military presence in Afghanistan when operations end this year.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement: “We can confirm that an incident occurred involving local Afghan and ISAF troops at Camp Qargha.

“The camp, also known as the Kabul ANA Officer Academy, is an Afghan National Security Forces facility. We are in the process of assessing the situation.”

The academy is set in a long, low ridge of hills close to Kabul.

Its military history syllabus includes the analysis of Afghan tactics in past wars against the British, as well as during the mujahedeen wars against the Soviet army.

There were 10,000 applicants who applied ahead of its first intake.

Shortly after the academy opened there was a shooting incident when an Afghan soldier in a neighboring barracks opened fire, injuring Australian and New Zealand troops providing security.

There are also troops from other nations at the site, including a large contingent of US soldiers.

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to submit to questioning next week by the US Army general probing the circumstances that led to the his 2009 capture by the Taliban, his attorney said on Tuesday.

Freed prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl was introduced to the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, and is expected to be questioned by him next week in Texas in an informal setting, said the soldier’s lawyer, Eugene Fidell.

“They’ve said hello to one another. It was literally a meeting to introduce themselves to one another,” said Eugene Fidell, a military law expert who lectures at Yale University.

Bowe Bergdahl was released in May in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who were transferred to Qatar from the Guantanamo Bay US prison in Cuba.

 Bowe Bergdahl was introduced to the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, and is expected to be questioned by him next week in Texas in an informal setting

Bowe Bergdahl was introduced to the investigating officer, Major General Kenneth R. Dahl, and is expected to be questioned by him next week in Texas in an informal setting

Critics have questioned whether the Obama administration paid too high a price and whether Bowe Bergdahl had deserted his combat outpost in Afghanistan before his capture.

Bowe Bergdahl, 28, has completed counseling and a reintegration program and been assigned a desk job at a Texas military base as the Army investigates events that led to five years of imprisonment by captors whom Eugene Fidell has described as ruthless killers.

Eugene Fidell is to advise Bowe Bergdahl during the session with the Army general probing the case, and Kenneth R. Dahl is expected to have his own legal counsel present as well, he said.

The investigation was to be completed 60 days from the time of Kenneth R. Dahl’s appointment on June 16 but an extended deadline may be needed, Eugene Fidell said.

“There may be an extension in this case. It’s a complicated matter with a lot of witnesses,” he said.

A senior Army officer has said the purpose of the probe was to determine facts and circumstances surrounding Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance up to the point of capture.

Kenneth R. Dahl’s finding and recommendations will be presented to the director of Army staff, who is not bound by the conclusions and who could issue his own determinations and recommendations.

Eugene Fidell said Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, is to remain under the Army’s authority pending the outcome of the inquiry.

A car bomb attack at a busy market in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province has killed at least 89 people and injured dozens others, local officials say.

Officials say the attacker drove a 4×4 vehicle into the market in Orgun district and detonated the explosives.

The market was full of people doing their shopping for the Muslim festival Ramadan at the time of the attack.

No group has claimed the attack, but Taliban insurgents said they had not carried it out.

“We clearly announce that it was not done by the Mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Eyewitnesses and medical staff said local hospitals were overrun with casualties after one of the deadliest attacks in months in Afghanistan.

The eastern province of Paktika shares a border with Pakistan’s restive and volatile tribal areas.

At least 89 people have been killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack at a busy market in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province

At least 89 people have been killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack at a busy market in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province (photo Reuters)

Orgun is one of Paktika’s safest areas, though members of the Haqqani militant network are thought to have a presence there.

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry said that most of the 89 bodies recovered from the rubble were women and children.

Some 42 injured people have been taken to hospital.

Most of those killed were shopkeepers and people doing their Ramadan shopping.

One man who witnessed the attack said the blast was huge and destroyed dozens of cars and shops.

Eyewitnesses say police and security forces pursued the attacker before he entered the market.

One doctor at Orgun hospital, said it had become overcrowded with casualties.

“We have got children, men and women injured and dead,” he said.

The attack occurred hours after two men working for the media team of outgoing President Hamid Karzai were killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul.

The Taliban said it had carried out the attack, which targeted a vehicle carrying employees of the presidential palace to work.

It comes days after Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates reached a deal to resolve a dispute over the results of last month’s presidential election.

The contenders, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, agreed to accept the outcome of a vote audit after earlier allegations of voter fraud.

The dispute had revived fears for Afghanistan’s stability after the withdrawal of US-led forces later this year.

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl will return to active military duty at the end of his reintegration process, the US Army has said.

Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive for five years by the Taliban, will take a headquarters job on a Texas base.

The soldier was released in May in a swap for five Taliban commanders, a move some US politicians decried.

The army is investigating the circumstances of his capture, including whether he intended to desert.

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl will return to active military duty at the end of his reintegration process

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl will return to active military duty at the end of his reintegration process

Two soldiers will reportedly be assigned to assist Bowe Bergdahl, and he will live in military barracks, US media reported.

He will take a job with US Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, the army said.

Bowe Bergdahl has yet to speak publicly regarding his ordeal since his release on 31 May.

The move to release five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay after Sgt Bowe Bergdahl was transferred to US special forces sparked a heated political row in the US.

The US opened an investigation into his disappearance in 2009 but said investigators would not interview him until he finished the reintegration process.

The US military has concluded Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his base without authorization before his capture but has stopped short of accusing him of desertion.

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A picture of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl appearing to pose with a Taliban leader during his captivity in Afghanistan has been dismissed as “propaganda” by the US.

After being held for five years, Bowe Bergdahl was released in May in a swap for five Guantanamo detainees.

A Pentagon spokesman said the US had no reason to believe the photo, which appeared on social media and has not been verified, was not authentic.

Bowe Bergdahl is shown with Badruddin Haqqani, a militant commander killed in 2012.

He has been undergoing what the US military calls a “reintegration process” in Texas since his return.

Bowe Bergdahl is shown with Badruddin Haqqani, Taliban commander killed in 2012

Bowe Bergdahl is shown with Badruddin Haqqani, Taliban commander killed in 2012

The photo appeared on a Taliban-supporting Facebook page and Twitter account, but was undated.

Bowe Bergdahl was held captive, reportedly by both the Taliban and the affiliated Haqqani network, since 2009.

Defense department spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters on Thursday any photos released by the Taliban or Badruddin Haqqani network “are 100% propaganda and should be viewed that way”.

Bowe Bergdahl has not spoken about his ordeal publicly since his release on May 31.

The move to release five Guantanamo detainees after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was transferred to US special forces sparked a heated political row in the US.

Fellow soldiers have also argued Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl knowingly wandered away from his unit while deployed in Afghanistan in June 2009.

The US has opened an investigation into his disappearance, but has said they will not interview Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl until he is finished with the reintegration process.

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According to the UN refugee agency, the number of people forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, the first time since World War Two.

The overall figure of 51.2 million is six million higher than the year before, a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says.

Conflicts in Syria, central Africa and South Sudan fuelled the sharp increase.

Of particular concern are the estimated 6.3 million people who have been refugees for years, sometimes even decades.

People living in what the UN terms “protracted” refugee situations include more than 2.5 million Afghans. Afghanistan still accounts for the world’s largest number of refugees, and neighboring Pakistan is host to more refugees than any other country, with an estimated 1.6 million.

The number of people forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, the first time since World War Two

The number of people forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, the first time since World War Two (photo UNHCR)

Around the world, thousands of refugees from almost forgotten crises have spent the best part of their lives in camps. Along Thailand’s border with Burma, 120,000 people from Burma’s Karen minority have lived in refugee camps for more than 20 years.

Refugees should not be forcibly returned, the UN says, and should not go back unless it is safe to do so, and they have homes to return to. For many – among them the more than 300,000 mainly Somali refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab camp – that is a very distant prospect.

Some camps, the UN refugee agency admits, have become virtually permanent, with their own schools, hospitals, and businesses. But they are not, and can never be, home.

The world’s refugees are far outnumbered by the internally displaced (IDP) – people who have been forced to flee their homes, but remain inside their own countries.

In Syria alone there are thought to be 6.5 million displaced people. The conflict has uprooted many families not once but several times. Their access to food, water, shelter and medical care is often extremely limited, and because they remain inside a conflict zone, it is hard for aid agencies to reach them.

Worldwide, the UN estimates there are now 33.3 million internally displaced people.

Large numbers of refugees and IDPs fleeing to new areas inevitably put a strain on resources, and can even destabilize a host country.

Throughout the Syrian crisis, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have kept their borders open. Lebanon now hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, meaning a quarter of its total population is Syrian. The pressure on housing, education and health is causing tensions in a country which itself has a recent history of conflict.

The UN is concerned that the burden of caring for refugees is increasingly falling on the countries with the least resources. Developing countries are host to 86% of the world’s refugees, with wealthy countries caring for just 14%.

Despite the fears in Europe about growing numbers of asylum seekers and immigrants, that gap is growing. Ten years ago wealthy countries hosted 30% of refugees, and developing countries 70%.

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The US army has opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance from an Afghan outpost.

Major General Kenneth Dahl, who served in combat in Afghanistan, has been appointed to lead the investigation.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, returned to the US after five years in captivity on Friday.

Shortly after his release, several commentators and soldiers came forward to brand him a deserter and call for him to be punished.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned to the US after five years in captivity

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned to the US after five years in captivity

The Pentagon has previously concluded Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked off base in Paktika province without authorization, but officials have not determined whether he intended to desert.

Bowe Bergdahl was flown from a military hospital in Germany to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas on Friday, where he will complete the final phase of the reintegration process.

He was released by the Taliban in late May in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, a move that has been criticized by some lawmakers.

In a statement, the defense department said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl would have access to evidence gathered in 2009 shortly after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured.

But officials will not be able to interview him until a team working on his “reintegration” will allow it.

“We ask that everyone respect the time and privacy necessary to accomplish the objectives of the last phase of reintegration,” the department said in a statement, adding there is no timeline for wrapping up the investigation.

On Friday, Maj. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo said Bowe Bergdahl “looked good” as he returned to Texas and was in uniform and saluted.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had not yet been in contact with his family, which officials described as his own choice.

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed last month after five years in Taliban captivity, is in a stable condition in hospital in Texas, officials have said.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, arrived in the US from Germany early on Friday and was taken to a military medical center for the next part of his reintegration.

He “looked good”, was in uniform, and saluted, Maj. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo said.

Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been in contact with his family, which officials described as his own choice.

“He appeared just like any sergeant would when they see a two-star general – a little bit nervous,” Gen. Josepg DiSalvo said.

“But he looked good, saluted, and had good deportment.”

Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been in contact with his family, which officials described as his own choice

Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been in contact with his family, which officials described as his own choice

Bowe Bergdahl arrived at about 01:40 local time and was subsequently driven in a three-vehicle convoy to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.

Army officers also said Bowe Bergdahl had not yet been in contact with his parents, Robert and Jani Bergdahl, who are not in Texas.

“Family support is a critical part of the reintegration process,” Army psychologist Col. Bradley Poppen said.

“Overall, though it is a returnee’s choice to determine when, where and who they want to re-engage with socially, and I believe the family understands that process at this point in time.”

In the near future, Bowe Bergdahl will work with medical staff on reintegration, the progress of which will be driven by the soldier himself.

“There is no set timeline,” Joseph DiSalvo said.

The focus of reintegration will be on re-equipping the soldier, who is staying in a hospital room, with an “appropriate level of mental and physical stability to effectively resume normal activities with minimal physical and emotional complications”, he said.

Col. Bradley Poppen said: “What we are trying to do is get him to recognize that the coping skills he used to survive this long, five-year ordeal may not be healthy and functional now.”

Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been made aware of the media coverage of the circumstances of his disappearance from a military base in Afghanistan in 2009 nor of the controversy over the deal that saw him exchanged for five senior Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Anything surrounding the controversy of his disappearance is not part of his reintegration,” Gen. Joseph DiSalvo said.

Shortly after Bowe Bergdahl’s release, several commentators and soldiers came forward to brand him a deserter and call for him to be punished.

Critics of the prisoner swap, which include some Democrats, have objected to the fact Congress was not given notice of the deal. They say the Taliban detainees are too dangerous to free.

The Pentagon has concluded he left his post in Paktika province without authorization but it is unclear if he intended to desert. The Army has said it will investigate the circumstances of his capture, leaving open the possibility he could be prosecuted for misconduct.

An Army review of the matter will take place after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s treatment has finished, officials said.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will return to the US on Friday, officials have said.

Bowe Bergdahl, 28, will fly to a military medical centre in Texas for the next part of what the military calls a “reintegration mission”.

Officials previously said he would be reunited with his family there.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo bay, a deal criticized by the Republicans.

He has been recuperating at a military hospital in Germany since his release.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will return to the US on Friday

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will return to the US on Friday

Critics of the prisoner swap, which include some Democrats, have objected to the fact Congress was not given notice of the deal, and they say the detainees are too dangerous to free.

Shortly after his release, several commentators and soldiers came forward to brand him a deserter and call for him to be punished.

The Pentagon has concluded he left his post in Paktika Province without authorisation but it is unclear if he intended to desert from the Army. The Army has said it will investigate the circumstances of his capture, leaving open the possibility he could be prosecuted for misconduct.

His family has received death threats and a welcoming party in his hometown in the state of Utah was cancelled amid safety concerns.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has not made any public comment since his release, but on Thursday, the Daily Beast website published a letter it said was one of two the soldier sent to his parents during his captivity through the International Red Cross.

In the letter, Bowe Bergdahl says he left because conditions were deteriorating at the base.

Excerpts of Bowe Bergdahl’s journals sent to a friend before he went missing, published by the Washington Post, suggest a young soldier struggling to handle the mental stress of war.

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US army officials are investigating the reported friendly-fire incident in southern Afghanistan that killed five American soldiers and two Afghans.

Rear Admiral John Kirby said the US had “reason to suspect that friendly fire is the cause here, specifically friendly fire from the air”.

He said the Pentagon “would let investigators do their work”.

Afghan officials say coalition forces had called for air support to fend off a Taliban attack in Zabul province.

An Afghan soldier and an interpreter were killed in the incident.

US army officials are investigating the reported friendly-fire incident in southern Afghanistan that killed five American soldiers and two Afghans

US army officials are investigating the reported friendly-fire incident in southern Afghanistan that killed five American soldiers and two Afghans

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama had been informed of the deaths and that his thoughts and prayers were with the families of those killed.

The incident is among the most serious cases of so-called “friendly fire” in Afghanistan, US military sources confirmed on Tuesday.

NATO-led troops have been battling Taliban and other insurgents in the country since 2001. Militants have stepped up attacks as foreign combat troops leave this year.

US defense officials told the Associated Press news agency the Americans killed were special operations forces.

Those elite troops are responsible for calling in air support. Under constraints imposed by President Hamid Karzai, they may only do so when they fear they are about to be killed, after concerns over civilian deaths.

The ISAF force currently has soldiers from 50 contributing nations in Afghanistan. Most troops stationed in the south are American.

The incident happened in Arghandab district, a place hotly contested between the Taliban and international forces for some years.

There have been more than 30 NATO forces killed this year in Afghanistan – the latest incident is the deadliest so far in 2014.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the decision to strike a deal with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was unanimous in the White House.

Barack Obama’s administration had to act quickly and without first consulting Congress, he added.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the decision to strike a deal with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was unanimous in the White House

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the decision to strike a deal with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was unanimous in the White House

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed after five years in captivity, in exchange for five Taliban figures from Guantanamo Bay.

The White House is required to notify Congress 30 days before transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay but thought waiting was too risky.

Chuck Hagel was speaking the day after a welcoming party in Sgt Bergdahl’s home town of Hailey, Idaho, was cancelled, and amid suspicions that he deserted his post.

Organizers said the event was called off because of a large increase in the number of expected attendees.

Several commentators and soldiers have branded Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a deserter and called for him to be punished.

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A video showing the moment Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to US forces after five years in captivity in Afghanistan has been released by the Taliban.

The footage shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sitting in a pick-up truck, before being walked to a helicopter in Khost province.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed on Saturday in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The deal has caused controversy in the US, with Republicans warning it could put American lives at risk.

The Taliban video shows the moment Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to US forces

The Taliban video shows the moment Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to US forces

The US army has said it would review the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s capture in 2009.

General Martin Dempsey, also raised the possibility that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted if he had abandoned his post before his seizure.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, from Hailey, Idaho, is in a stable condition in a military hospital in Germany.

The video, released on Wednesday, shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl dressed in traditional Afghan clothing as he sits waiting in the truck.

Several armed men with covered faces are seen standing next to the vehicle and on the hillside.

A Black Hawk helicopter then lands and the Taliban fighters – one of whom carries a stick with a white flag – lead Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to a meeting point where he is being taken away by US forces.

The exchange took place in Ali Sher district of Khost province near the Pakistan border.

The circumstances of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s capture remain unclear, with speculation he may have walked away from his base out of disillusionment with the US campaign.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s parents – who have relentlessly campaigned for his release – earlier confirmed they still had not spoken to their son.

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted if he abandoned his post before his capture, a top-ranking military has said.

General Martin Dempsey wrote Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 28, “is innocent until proven guilty”.

But he said the Army would not dismiss “misconduct if it occurred”.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama defended his decision to free five senior Taliban leaders to secure Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release on Saturday after five years in Taliban captivity.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted if he abandoned his post before his capture

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be prosecuted if he abandoned his post before his capture (photo Wikipedia)

In Warsaw, Barack Obama said the US had a “pretty sacred rule” not to leave soldiers behind, arguing that the most important consideration was to bring home a young American held captive for five years.

“We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind and that dates back to the earliest days,” Barack Obama said at a news conference.

“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.”

Since Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release on Saturday, a growing chorus of opposition Republicans have criticized the president’s decision to order the prisoner swap.

They have attacked the president for undertaking what they describe as negotiations with terrorists, and say the transfer of five Taliban senior prisoners from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar, puts Americans at risk.

And some have accused the president of contravening a law requiring the White House to notify Congress 30 days in advance of any transfers of prisoners from Guantanamo.

In Poland, Barack Obama said his administration had consulted Congress “for some time” about the possibility of a prisoner exchange, though he acknowledged Congress was not briefed ahead of time on the operation.

“We saw an opportunity, we were concerned about Sgt Bergdahl’s health… and we seized that opportunity,” he said.

On his Facebook page, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, wrote the operation was “likely the last, best opportunity to free him”.

“As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts,” he wrote.

“Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.”

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho is in stable condition in a military hospital in Germany.

He went missing from a remote base in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, in June 2009. After mounting an intensive effort to locate and rescue him, the Pentagon concluded Bowe Bergdahl had intentionally abandoned his post before his capture, US media have reported. Efforts to win his release moved from the field to the negotiating table.

Since Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s rescue, the reaction from Republicans has grown increasingly hostile.

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