Yesterday, I noted that the more moderate faction of the Taliban in Afghanistan was beginning to gain more visibility in the wake of moves to decrease inflammatory aspects of the Taliban office opened in Qatar ahead of planned peace negotiations. Early this morning, the militant faction of the Taliban launched a sophisticated attack in Kabul that targeted the CIA’s Kabul headquarters in the Ariana Hotel.
As the attack unfolded, it was late Monday night in the US. Gary Owen, who Tweets as @ElSnarkistani, accurately deduced from the early reports that false papers were used to get past initial checkpoints into the more heavily fortified district surrounding Afghanistan’s Presidential Palace and ISAF headquarters. See this Twitter conversation and this subsequent one for the details he was able to provide on the location where the attack took place and what it would take for insurgents to gain access.
Using tactics that the Washington Post compared to the successful attack last September on Camp Bastion that destroyed six fighter jets, the attackers wore ISAF uniforms and had coalition markings on their vehicles. From today’s Washington Post:
Gen. Abdul Zaher Cid of the Kabul police, citing security forces who witnessed the attack, said the insurgents wore uniforms that resembled those of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force and the two armored vehicles bore ISAF emblems.
One of the vehicles was able to get past a security barrier using fake documents, while the second was stopped, deputy police chief Mohammed Daud Amin said, quoting security officials present at the scene.
That bit about armored vehicles with ISAF emblems on them gave me quite a start at first, because I recalled that the US is in the process of destroying about 2000 of the heavily armored MRAP vehicles that it is not massing in other places for shipment to alternate US military sites. However, the New York Times identified the vehicle (or did two make it through?) that made it through the initial checkpoint as a Land Cruiser:
“Three suicide bombers were driving a land cruiser packed with explosives with a fake vehicle pass and they wanted to enter the presidential palace area but they were stopped at the gate,” the police chief, Gen. Ayoub Salangi, said in a brief telephone call. “We don’t know their main target.”
Once the guards realized that the pass was fake, the suicide bombers got out of the explosive-laden car and one of them detonated it, killing one of the attackers. The others got into a firefight with the guards, General Salangi said. However, people in the Afghan security forces who asked not to be identified said that there were two vehicles that got through a heavily guarded gate used only by ministerial-level officials.
Considering that this was a ministerial-level gate, the Land Cruiser makes more sense as the vehicle less likely to raise suspicions. In fact, armored Land Cruisers are even pitched to diplomats as available for rent in Afghanistan, so obtaining one of these and slapping an ISAF logo on it would seem to be a relatively easy task. However, with so many MRAPS being demobilized, we can only wonder when or if one will fall into Taliban hands and what damage they can do with it.
For a final exercise, it is very entertaining to read the coverage of this attack while looking at how each media outlet handles the question of whether to identify the Ariana Hotel as the location of CIA headquarters in Kabul. Both Reuters and Khaama Press come out and definitively say it is. The New York Times and Washington Post dance around the issue much more carefully, as does ToloNews.
The reporting at this time is uniform in saying only the insurgents (numbering from three to seven, depending on the source) and three Afghan troops were killed. Considering how long it took for the news of how damaging the attack at Camp Bastion was, it seems likely that we may never know how much damage was done to CIA headquarters in this attack, despite uniform reporting of a number of fairly large explosions in the area.
As the New York Times notes, the Taliban took steps over the weekend to remove some of the more provocative aspects of its office in Qatar from which representatives may enter into negotiations on the end of the war in Afghanistan. Specifically, they took down both the version of the Afghan flag which they used while they ruled the country and they removed the sign that could have been interpreted as a claim that they were still the legitimate government of the country:
In a possible easing of tensions that have held up an opening for peace talks by American, Afghan and Taliban officials in Qatar, the Afghan government confirmed the complete removal of an objectionable sign, flag and flagpole that had led the Afghan delegation to boycott negotiations.
“According to the timely and appropriate and precise position of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Taliban flag has been brought down from the office, the Islamic Emirate sign has been removed and the Qatari police removed the flagpole from the Taliban office,” said a statement released Sunday by the presidential palace, quoting Masoom Stanekzai, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council.
The statement referred to the signs and flag unveiled when the Taliban open their Doha office last week — their first public re-entry on to the international stage in almost 13 years. At the official opening of the office the Taliban had put up signs saying “Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” which is the name they used for their government when they ran Afghanistan, and they raised their white flag with black writing.
Both gestures, along with their description of the office’s mandate of speaking to foreign governments, suggested that the Taliban were trying to present themselves as an alternative to the Afghan government.
It is possible that these symbolic moves came about through an ascendance of a more moderate wing within the Afghan Taliban. Significant support for such a view comes from a remarkable interview TOLOnews correspondent Mujahid Kakar conducted with Mutasim Agha Jan, who was Finance Minister of Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled. The interview can be seen in the two-hour-plus video embedded below (with English subtitles) or the English translation can be read as a 31 page pdf file here.
There are a couple of caveats that should be kept in mind when reviewing Jan’s statements. First, the interview took place in Turkey, where Jan has resided since about 2011, when he was injured in an attack in Karachi after falling out with Taliban leaders in 2010, so the fact that he is not in either Qatar or Afghanistan suggests that he and the moderate faction for which he appears to speak still don’t feel safe in either of those locations. Second, I of course have no idea whether the translations in the video or transcript are accurate.
With those caveats in mind, however, Jan makes a number of striking statements. Early in the interview, we get a description of the moderate and extremist groups within the Afghan Taliban: Continue reading
Although the formal casting of ballots by the National Assembly was delayed for an hour by the presence of three times as many observers as the capacity of the parliament house, Nawaz Sharif breezed to an easy victory today and was elected Prime Minister for the third time in his career. Once he is sworn in later this evening by President Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan will have completed its first-ever transition from one government serving out its entire elected term to another elected government. Sharif wasted no time in making headlines, as he called once again for an end to US drone strikes in Pakistan in his acceptance speech.
Dawn brings us the final tally on the voting in the National Assembly:
Nawaz Sharif of the PML-N was elected the country’s 18th prime minister in a race which also featured Pakistan Peoples Party’s Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf’s Javed Hashmi. The PML-N chief is scheduled to take oath from President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday evening.
Sharif won the office by bagging 244 votes with his rivals Fahim and Hashmi securing 42 and 31 votes respectively.
The Express Tribune describes the overcrowding and its resultant delay:
The session was delayed by an hour due to overcrowding in the parliament house as more than 2000 guests turned up to see the historic transition.
Guests, most of whom had legitimate passes to enter the parliament house, were shifted to the media gallery which frustrated reporters present at the venue. The house is meant to seat nearly 700 observers, thus the surplus of 1300 individuals added last minute chaos.
Speaker Ayaz Sadiq personally went to the media gallery to speak to disgruntled reporters and guests and urged for cooperation.
The New York Times brings us an account of Sharif’s speech:
Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, called for an end to American drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt on Wednesday, shortly after he won a parliamentary vote to lead the country for an unparalleled third time.
“The chapter of daily drone attacks should stop,” Mr. Sharif told the packed lower house of Parliament, where he won a comfortable majority of votes. “We respect sovereignty of other countries but others should also respect our sovereignty.”
As the new government continues to form, it will be very interesting to see if Sharif carries through on his pledge to open negotiations with the Taliban, especially with the Taliban saying that they have withdrawn their willingness to negotiate peace after a drone strike killed their number two in command (who may well have been leading the efforts on peace negotiation).
Pakistan’s successful transfer of power from one government to another is to be commended, Perhaps the stage is now set for addressing a number of the issues the country faces beyond drones, such as the huge number of internally displaced people, stopping disappearances in Balochistan and generating enough electricity to end the load-shedding that only provides electricity to many customers for just a brief period each day.
There was a deadly blast in Kabul yesterday, shattering what had been several months of relative peace in the capitol. The suicide blast targeted a convoy of US vehicles. From the New York Times:
Hezb-i-Islami, a relatively small insurgent faction that often competes with the Taliban for influence, claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded more than three dozen Afghans. Haroon Zarghon, the group’s spokesman, reached by telephone in Pakistan, said the bombing was carried out by a 24-year-old man who had grown up south of Kabul.
More attacks against Americans will come soon, Mr. Zarghon added, saying that Hezb-i-Islami was dismayed by the current talks between Afghanistan and the United States about a long-term security deal under which thousands of American soldiers could be based in Afghanistan for years to come.
Hezb-i-Islami has a complex history and has been around Afghanistan for a long time. Even Kimberly Kagan’s Instutite for the Study of War admits that the CIA funneled significant support to this group in fighting the Soviets:
Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is an insurgent group active in Afghanistan. It is a splinter group of one of the prominent , and the most radical of the seven mujahedeen factions fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. Hekmatyar , a favorite of the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, received the greatest portion of foreign assistance to the mujahedeen. Hekmatyar trained Afghan and foreign guerilla fighters in the refugee camps of Shamshatoo and Jalozai in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and also ran numerous schools and hospitals in NWFP. His organization also received funds from Saudi charity organizations, Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, and other wealthy Arabs.
The political side of the group, however, is active in the current government and is contemplating fielding a candidate for the upcoming Presidential elections:
The party’s deputy chief Ghairat Bahir said that a delegation of four senior party figures are in Kabul meeting local members to discuss the election and possible presidential candidates.
“We have sent a delegation to Kabul. The delegation is led by Mohammad Rassoul. Its purpose is to visit and discuses [sic] with Hezb-e-Islami members in Kabul, not to talk with [Afghan] government officials,” he told TOLOnews via telephone from Pakistan.
“The delegation has talked with the party members about the election and the party decided to introduce a candidate or support a competent candidate. We will soon make a final decision on this. I cannot name the candidate but our party’s nomination will be a prominent person in the country,” Bahir said.
The presence of US troops in Afghanistan is the primary concern for the group: Continue reading
While much attention is appropriately focused on the horrific and brutal attacks by Pakistan’s Taliban on secular political parties as the country approaches elections in its first-ever transition from one civilian government to another, we have news today of a sad triumph by the Taliban as a child in North Waziristan has been diagnosed with polio after the Taliban successfully shut down polio immunizations there last summer.
Health workers are on the cusp of making polio the second disease after smallpox to be completely eradicated from the planet. The latest plan forecasts eradication by 2018, but a huge barrier is that conservative Islamic groups view Western vaccination programs as attempts to sterilize Muslims. In addition, the participation by Dr. Shakeel Afridi in a bogus vaccination program set up by the CIA to obtain DNA samples from Osama bin Laden’s compound added fresh fuel to the belief that vaccination programs also are used to spy on Muslims. Just under a month ago, a policeman protecting workers administering polio vaccine was shot and killed:
The latest attack took place in the afternoon in the Par Hoti neighborhood of the Mardan district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. The policemen, Raj Wali and Mohammad Ishfaq, were accompanying two female workers on the second day of a three-day anti-polio drive, said Wajid Ali, a local police official.
The policemen were standing guard in the street as the health workers administered drops inside a house when an unidentified gunman, who appeared to be in his early 20s, walked up to them and opened fire. Mr. Wali was killed and Mr. Ishfaq was wounded, Mr. Ali said in a telephone interview. The gunman escaped.
That killing followed the deaths of eight vaccine workers last December and the violence has led to a significant interruption in the distribution of the vaccine:
In December, at least eight people engaged in polio vaccinations were shot dead in Karachi and the north-west, and in January and February two police officers were killed in similar attacks.
The UN said last month that some 240,000 children have missed vaccinations since July in parts of Pakistan’s tribal region, the main sanctuary for Islamic militants, because of security concerns.
And it is from the tribal area of Waziristan where we have today’s sad news of a child being diagnosed with polio:
A child has contracted polio for the first time in Pakistan’s militant-infested tribal belt since the Taliban banned vaccinations a year ago, a UN official said Monday.
“The new case has been detected in North Waziristan where we had been denied access in June last year,” the World Health Organization’s (WHO) senior coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan, Elias Durry, told AFP.
Durry fears that this case is not likely to be isolated:
“We are worried because this new case comes as an example of a bigger impending outbreak of disease in the region,” the WHO official said.
In addition to making vaccination drives shorter and lower profile while working closely with security, the executive summary (pdf) for the new polio eradication plan has a key step of outreach to religious groups:
4. Religious leaders’ advocacy: markedly step up advocacy by international, national and local Islamic leaders to build ownership and solidarity for polio eradication across the Islamic world, including for the protection ofchildren against polio, the sanctity of health workers and the neutrality of health services.
Unfortunately, I don’t see an open call in the plan for bringing about an end to intelligence agencies undertaking new vaccination ruses, although “the neutrality of health services” would seem to touch on it. Meanwhile, Afridi has started a hunger strike in a desperate attempt to keep his name in the headlines.
The central point argued in Vali Nasr’s book “The Dispensable Nation” is that for the Obama administration, diplomacy took a back seat to the military as the administration took control of the war in Afghanistan from the Bush administration. In fact, the second part of the book’s title is “American Foreign Policy in Retreat”. As the chief aide to Richard Holbrooke, whom Obama chose as his special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nasr puts Holbrooke on quite a pedestal in the book, and others have built a bit of a cottage industry around attacking Nasr’s version of events, but I want to concentrate just on the missed opportunity for diplomacy.
Setting aside the arguing over Holbrooke and Nasr, it is clear that Nasr has identified a fatal flaw in Obama’s handling of Afghanistan. Nasr describes a very early opening for negotiations with the Taliban that was squandered:
Around that time, in fall 2009, Holbrooke and I had a meeting with Egypt’s foreign minister. Egypt’s intelligence chief, General Abu Suleiman (who later became vice president when Mubarak fell), was also in the room. At one point he turned to Holbrooke and said, “The Taliban visited us in Cairo.” Holbrooke said, “Really, who came? Do you remember?” Abu Suleiman reached into his bag, pulled out a piece of paper, held it before his face, and read three names. The last one made us all pause. It was Tayed Agha, a relative the Taliban chief, Mulla Omar, as well as his secretary and spokesman, whom we knew to be actively probing talks with the United States on Taliban’s behalf. We knew Tayed Agha to be a player, but we did not know then that he would become America’s main Taliban interlocutor in first secret and later formal talks that began in 2011 (and were made public in February 2012).
Although Holbrooke jumped at the opportunity and presented the case to the Obama administration, they were dismissive of the idea during the critical time that they were developing and then implementing McChrystal’s vaunted surge of troops in Afghanistan. From the Foreign Policy excerpt of the book:
FROM THE OUTSET, Holbrooke argued for political reconciliation as the path out of Afghanistan. But the military thought talk of reconciliation undermined America’s commitment to fully resourced COIN. On his last trip to Afghanistan, in October 2010, Holbrooke pulled aside Petraeus, who by then had replaced McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan, and said, “David, I want to talk to you about reconciliation.” “That’s a 15-second conversation,” Petraeus replied. “No, not now.”
The commanders’ standard response was that they needed two more fighting seasons to soften up the Taliban. They were hoping to change the president’s mind on his July deadline and after that convince him to accept a “slow and shallow” (long and gradual) departure schedule. Their line was that we should fight first and talk later. Holbrooke thought we could talk and fight. Reconciliation should be the ultimate goal, and fighting the means to facilitate it.
The Obama administration did its utmost to undermine Holbrooke’s efforts on the diplomatic front during this time: Continue reading
Khaama Press reports today that a group of investigators appointed by the Afghan government has confirmed that eleven children were killed on Saturday in a NATO air strike in Kunar Province. Although several press reports indicate that NATO has said that it is investigating the strike, I can find no word on the Defense Department or ISAF websites mentioning this strike. The absence of any report from NATO is puzzling, since their site provides near-daily accounts of actions under the heading of “Joint Command Operational Update”.
Here is how Khaama Press relates the confirmation of the deaths:
Head of the Afghan delegation appointed by Afghan president Hamid Karzai to probe NATO airstrike in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan confirmed at least 11 children and 4 women were killed during raid.
The delegation also added that at least 25 people had suffered casualties during the air raid in this province.
The airstrike was carried out during a joint military operation conducted by Afghan and coalition security forces in Shegal district of eastern Kunar province three days.
The delegation met with the families of the victims after being appointed by president Hamid Karzai.
Two very important details about the strike come in the final paragraph:
At least 7 Taliban militants were also killed during the airstrike, the delegation confirmed adding that 4 residential houses were damaged during the airstrike.
The details that Taliban militants were killed and that more than one house was damaged are important because of the other information that has come out regarding the incident.
The day after the strike, the Washington Post carried an AP article about it. Near the end of the article, AP relayed information that came from a local official:
Afghan officials said the airstrike occurred after a joint U.S.-Afghan force faced hours of heavy gunfire from militants. The joint force was conducting an operation targeting a senior Taliban leader that began around midnight Friday in the Shultan area of Kunar’s Shigal district, according to tribal elder Gul Pasha, who also is the chief of the local council.
The remote area is one of the main points of entry for Taliban and other insurgents trying to move across the mountainous border from neighboring Pakistan, where they enjoy refuge in the lawless northwestern area.
“In the morning after sunrise, planes appeared in the sky and airstrikes started,” Pasha said in a telephone interview, adding that the fighting didn’t end until the evening.
“I don’t think that they knew that all these children and women were in the house because they were under attack from the house and they were shooting at the house,” he said.
There were slightly differing accounts of the death toll.
Pasha said the main Taliban suspect was in the house that was hit and was killed along with a woman and the children, ages 1 to 12, who were members of the suspect’s family.
So Pasha is claiming that the children all belonged to the main Taliban suspect and were in the same house where he was located. That is very interesting considering that in an article published April 8 that also mentioned this attack, Khaama Press featured a government condemnation of the use of civilians as human shields: Continue reading
At the height of the green on blue killing outbreak, one aspect that stood out was that the attackers often had access to Afghan military and police uniforms whether they were actual members of these groups or not. As the Taliban shift their targets this year to attacking the Afghan military and government, it appears that the tactic of attackers disguising themselves in official uniforms is continuing. Today, there was a major attack on a court complex (and a nearby bank office) where Taliban attackers were wearing Afghan National Army Uniforms.
From the New York Times:
A group of eight Taliban insurgents dressed in Afghan Army uniforms staged a complex assault on a provincial government compound in Western Afghanistan on Wednesday morning, killing at least six officials and civilians and seizing several hostages in one of the buildings, officials and witnesses said.
Officials said that the violence in Farah began after insurgents detonated a Ford Ranger laden with explosives near the entrance of the government compound. Government officials said the Taliban seized the second floor of the provincial court building, which is near the offices of the mayor, prosecutor and the governor, among other officials.
In addition to the at least six people killed in the attack, roughly 75 others were wounded, including women and children, according to hospital officials. Shah Mohammad Noor, head of the regional Court for western Afghanistan, said four of the attackers had been killed so far.
“The firefight is still ongoing,” said Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, the governor of Farah province. “The terrorists are still resisting.”
We learn from Reuters that the timing of the attack was not random, as the court proceedings going on at the time were specifically targeted:
Five militants stormed a court in Afghanistan on Wednesday where Taliban insurgents were standing trial, killing seven people and wounding 75, officials said.
At least one of the attackers blew himself up and a gun battle between Afghan security forces and an insurgent holed up inside the court was going on in the capital of the western province of Farah, near the Iranian border, said provincial deputy governor Mohammad Younis Rasouli.
“They stormed the court as a trial was being held to convict 10 Taliban fighters,” he told Reuters, adding that four civilians and three members of the security forces were killed.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to media, spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said, adding that the insurgents standing trial had been freed in the attack.
I suppose there could be a language or translation issue here, but the matter of fact statement that the “trial was being held to convict 10 Taliban fighters” kind of stands out here as not quite in line with the usual concept of a criminal court proceeding. The willingness of a Taliban spokesman to attach his name to a text claiming credit for the attack while it was still onging is also pretty stunning in its own right.
ToloNews adds that a bank was targeted along with the courthouse:
Several gunmen have launched a coordinated attack on a court building and a private bank branch in western Farah province, killing at least six people and wounding more than 70 others on Wednesday morning, officials said.
Two gunmen, wearing Afghan National Army’s uniform, entered the primary court building and two others managed their way into the provincial branch of New Kabul Bank.
Extra forces have been deployed to gun-down the insurgents.
And AFP (via Dawn) informs us that the Taliban were so open in taking credit for the attack that they even posted it on their website:
Taliban militants fighting the US-backed central government immediately claimed they were behind the attack.
“Our fighters attacked several government buildings in Farah according to their planned tactic. They conducted the attack with small arms and grenades,” the group said on its website.
The battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan public now appears to be between the Afghan government and the Taliban with the US (and NATO) in the process of becoming more spectators than participants.
Foreign Policy has published an excerpt from Vali Nasr’s book The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, in which Nasr relates his experiences as a key deputy to Richard Holbrooke, who served as Barack Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The title for the piece tells virtually the entire story: “The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan”. The piece should be read in full (as should the book, I presume), but I want to highlight a couple of passages that fit well with points I have tried to make over the years regarding US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
First, we see an Obama tactic that has not been limited to his foreign policy actions, but is characteristic of him on the whole, where he makes a public move such as appointing Holbrooke, where the move has the appearance of a very positive step, but Obama then undercuts the move entirely by providing no further support (such as when he nominated Dawn Johnsen to head OLC and then abandoned her entirely, even when he could have forced a confirmation vote that would have been affirmative under bmaz’s whip count). Here is how Nasr described Holbrooke’s fate once he established his office:
Still, Holbrooke knew that Afghanistan was not going to be easy. There were too many players and too many unknowns, and Obama had not given him enough authority (and would give him almost no support) to get the job done. After he took office, the president never met with Holbrooke outside large meetings and never gave him time and heard him out. The president’s White House advisors were dead set against Holbrooke. Some, like Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, were holdovers from George W. Bush’s administration and thought they knew Afghanistan better and did not want to relinquish control to Holbrooke. Others (those closest to the president) wanted to settle scores for Holbrooke’s tenacious campaign support of Clinton (who was herself eyed with suspicion by the Obama insiders); still others begrudged Holbrooke’s storied past and wanted to end his run of success then and there. At times it appeared the White House was more interested in bringing Holbrooke down than getting the policy right.
What drives Obama’s craven manipulation of people in this way? Nasr nails that particularly well:
Not only did that not happen, but the president had a truly disturbing habit of funneling major foreign-policy decisions through a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisors whose turf was strictly politics. Their primary concern was how any action in Afghanistan or the Middle East would play on the nightly news, or which talking point it would give the Republicans. The Obama administration’s reputation for competence on foreign policy has less to do with its accomplishments in Afghanistan or the Middle East than with how U.S. actions in that region have been reshaped to accommodate partisan political concerns.
And this reliance on managing to the day’s news cycle ended just as badly as one would expect. Obama should pay heed to Nasr’s dire warning in his epitaph of the Afghan “adventure”, but we can rest assured that the band of political trolls surrounding him will put their fingers in their ears and shout “I can’t hear you” as Nasr warns of failure for the “exit plan” (emphasis added): Continue reading
The Afghan Local Police program was a centerpiece of David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency (COIN) program in Afghanistan when he took over command after Stanley McChyrstal was fired. The program came under extreme scrutiny this week when Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for the expulsion of US Special Operations forces from the province of Maidan Wardak after repeated reports of atrocities carried out by forces claiming to be allied with ALP forces trained by SOF. Today, there is further bad news for the ALP program, as seventeen people have been killed at an ALP post in what appears to be an insider attack. Since the attack occurred early this morning, it should be kept in mind that information is still coming in regarding the details of what took place. Today’s attack was in Ghazni province, which is adjacent to Wardak, as seen in the map here.
Back in September, training of ALP was the first program suspended due to insider attacks. The (delayed by the elections from October) December 2012 “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” (pdf) informed us that the re-screening of ALP was already moving quickly by then:
To mitigate the risk of insider threats, SOJTF-A has taken active measures to re-validate all 16,474 ALP personnel. This revalidation process is currently 52 percent complete, with less than one percent removed due to nefarious activities or counter-intelligence concerns. This process, which is currently ongoing, is very similar in design to our initial screening/validation methodology. It begins at the local level by conducting shuras and intimately involving local elders, who must vouch for each ALP member, ensuring he remains in good standing. Each member’s application paperwork is re-reviewed by various personnel from the Coalition, MoI, NDS, and the DCOPs. If any ALP member “flags” as suspicious, additional counter-intelligence (both Afghan and Coalition) measures are taken. If it is determined that an ALP member is unfit, he is removed from the program. These processes are non-negotiable. In addition, NDS plans to embed three agents per 100 ALP to identify possible infiltration by the enemy. The prevention/elimination of Insider Threats will remain COMISAF’s top force protection priorities.
So Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan claimed in December that they had already revalidated just over half the ALP force and that less than one percent of the force had been removed due to potential nefarious connections. And yet, almost two months later, we now have a major attack on ALP that has the hallmarks of an insider attack. From the New York Times:
A group of 17 Afghan policemen were drugged by their comrades while on duty and then shot to death in their sleep in what appears to be the single worst incident in a string of similar attacks, according to Afghan officials.
The attack took place at a remote Afghan Local Police post in Ghazni Province, south of the capital, early Wednesday morning, according to General Zrawar Zahid, the Ghazni police chief.
Other Afghan officials said authorities had already arrested two policemen who they said were Taliban infiltrators who had carried out the attack.
The AP report carried by the Washington Post suggests that not all the dead were ALP:
The dead included 10 members of the government-backed Afghan local police, and seven of their civilian friends, said Provincial Gov. Musa Khan Akbarzada. He says there was a conspiracy of some sort but declined to confirm if poison was involved.
The previously mentioned December report from DoD has a remarkable level of detail on the status of the ALP, with a snapshot as of September 26, 2012: Continue reading