Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pakistan closes Afghan supply route

Pakistan has suspended supplies to US and Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan as security forces launch a major offensive against suspected pro-Taliban fighters.

The Khyber Pass supply route in the troubled northwest tribal belt was closed on Tuesday, as Pakistan sent tanks, helicopter gunships and artillery units into the region.

Tariq Hayat, the Khyber region's top administrator, said a curfew had been imposed in the region and the main road leading to the Afghan border had been sealed.

"Supplies to Nato forces will remain suspended until we clear the area of militants and outlaws who have gone out of control," he said.

Hayat confirmed Pakistani security forces had launched "an operation against militants and armed groups in Jamrud" - the gateway to the Khyber Pass.

'Giant operation'

Pro-Taliban fighters have carried out a string of attacks in recent months aimed at choking off supplies transported to foreign forces in landlocked Afghanistan through northwest Pakistan.

Hundreds of Nato and US-led coalition vehicles were destroyed in a series of raids earlier this month.

"This is a giant operation. It will continue until we achieve our objective," Hayat said, adding that the operation could be extended beyond the Jamrud region if deemed necessary.

Alongside putting a stop to attacks on Nato and US supply vehicles, Hayat said the operation had been launched to tackle a spate of kidnappings for ransom in the tribal belt that straddles the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Hayat said: "We have 26 targets, we will eliminate their [pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters] hideouts."

Two weeks ago, several haulage companies in Pakistan refused to undertake journeys along the 50km route, saying the security of their drivers could not be guaranteed.

Via Al Jazeera.


The pass being closed will pose a very large problem, as most of our supplies go through it. It is, however, nice to see Pakistan going on the offensive after losing three districts the way they have.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Taliban ‘enforce sharia’ in lower Orakzai Agency

HANGU: The Taliban have announced the enforcement of sharia in the lower parts of Orakzai Agency, Taliban sources said. The Taliban announcement follows the ‘enforcement of sharia’ in the upper parts of the agency seven days ago. Sources said the Taliban were using loudspeakers in mosques to announce the decree and were asking the people to bring their issues to ‘Taliban Islamic courts’, which have been set up in Mashti Meela and Feroze Khel, for their resolution according to Islamic law. The Taliban have banned women from visiting bazaars and have imposed a complete ban on TV and CDs and video centres in the agency. They have, however, allowed women to visit bazaars for medical treatment, but that too if they are accompanied by a male elder of the family. There are 21 tribes in Orakzai and the Taliban have imposed Islamic law on 16 tribes. The other five tribes reside in areas where the Taliban have not announced sharia enforcement as yet. The tribal traditions earlier did not require women to veil their faces, but the Taliban decree has asked them to cover their bodies at all times. The Taliban have also established complaint cells in Ghiljo and Kandi Mishti (Upper Orakzai), and Mamoozai and Feroze Khel (Lower Orakzai).

Via the Daily Times.


This conflict with India could not be happening at a worse time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ethiopia set for Somalia pull out

Ethiopia has refused to reverse its decision to withdraw its forces from Somalia by the end of the year, despite a plea from the African Union (AU) to delay the move which it fears may result in a security vacuum inside the country.

The government in Addis Ababa said last month that it would pull its troops out by the scheduled time amid fears the war-torn country could descend into further anarchy unless more peacekeepers are sent.

"We appeal to Ethiopia to consider phasing out withdrawal, until such time [when] more troops from Nigeria, Uganda and Burundi are deployed in Somalia," the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU said in a statement at a meeting in the Ethiopian capital on Monday.

"The security situation in Somalia is alarming ... piracy is escalating against the background of weakening leadership and insurgents control nearly all the country with the exception of Mogadishu and Baidoa."

There are currently some 3,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia supporting the embattled Transitional Federal Government [TFG], which is based in the southern town of Baidoa.

A further 3,400 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi make up the AU mission in the country.

That number is well below the 8,000 troops pledged by the AU two years ago.

But despite the shortfall Ethiopian officials said the pullout of their forces would go ahead.

"The decision to withdraw troops from Somalia was a commitment made by the country's authorities to parliament and will not be changed," said Tekeda Alemu, Ethiopia's minister of state.

About 850 Nigerian troops are expected to join the AU peacekeepers already stationed in the country.


Adding to the fragility of Somalia's TFG government is a growing rift between Abdullahi Yusuf, the president, and Nur Hassan Hussein, the man he sacked as prime minister.

The AU and the US government have backed Hussein and have so far refused to recognise Mohamud Mohamed Guled, the new Somali prime minister, who was selected by the president.

The TFG is also facing an escalation in attacks from opposition fighters, that threatens to reach Mogadishu, the capital.

Fighters from al-Shabab, a group which split from the armed Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), have control of several town and cities across Somalia.

The opposition controls the south of Somalia and has launched a series of raids on Ethiopian forces which have tried to defend the government.

At least 10,000 civilians have been killed in two years of fighting, while a million people have been forced to flee their homes.

Via Al Jazeera.


Ever since the Ethiopian invasion (and indeed beginning prior to it), the remnants of the Islamic Courts Union have been becoming increasingly radicalized; this is particularly true of the successor/splinter group Al-Shabaab. Although I used to be very well informed on the situation in Somalia, I more or less gave up on it in disgust two years ago when Ethiopia invaded, and am therefore unsure how (or if) this will affect the War on Terror. I'm going to see if I can contact James Dahl, the online community's foremost expert on the matter, to see what his take on it is.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

US to bolster force in Afghanistan

The US is planning to send between 20,000 and 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by next summer, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, has said.

The planned deployment follows a request of the US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, for more than 20,000 extra US soldiers.

US troops are battling rising violence in Afghanistan, seven years after they first invaded the country to oust the Taliban from power.

"The troops that were asked for in joint discussions with General McKiernan is what we're going to need for the foreseeable future. So I don't see an increase any higher at this point than 20 to 30,000," Mullen said.

Mullen said he hoped the extra troops - including four combat brigades, an aviation brigade and other support forces - could be deployed by mid-2009.

"We're looking to get them here in the spring, but certainly by the beginning of summer at the latest," he said.

The build-up could nearly double the US military presence in Afghanistan, which currently stands at 31,000 soldiers.

Cautionary note

Mullen said he could not give the "exact number" of troops that would be sent, but said 20,000-30,000 represented "the window of the overall increase where we are right now".

But he cautioned against thinking that a massive influx of US forces would automatically bring peace to Afghanistan.

"It isn't going to make a difference after those troops get here, if we haven't made progress on the development side and on the government side," Mullen said.

Some 70,000 foreign troops are already in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban with little success.

Bloodiest year

This year has been the bloodiest for international forces in Afghanistan since the Taliban fell, with nearly 290 soldiers killed.

About 1,000 Afghan troops and police, as well as more than 2,000 civilians, have also been killed in 2008.

George Bush, the outgoing US president, who made a surprise farewell visit to Afghanistan on Monday, acknowledged the difficulty of restoring peace to the country, warning that it would take time.

"This is going to be a long struggle. Ideological struggles take time," he said in Kabul.

Via Al Jazeera.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Explosives discovered in Paris shop

Explosives have been found in a central Paris department store following a bomb warning apparently from a group demanding the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan, French officials have said.

Sticks of dynamite tied together but with no detonators were found in the Printemps department store on Tuesday following a warning from the group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, speaking in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, urged caution but said France would "not negotiate with terrorists".

"At this point in time I would call on everyone to be very prudent and very moderate," he said.

Warning letter

The five sticks of explosives did not have detonators attached and French anti-terrorist police believe the devices had been placed as a warning.

The warning, sent to a French news agency by letter, said the explosives were in the men's restrooms on the third floor of the Printemps store in the city centre.

"If you do not send someone to intervene before Wednesday December 17, they will explode," said the letter, which was taken by police investigating the explosives.

"Send the message to your president that he must withdraw his troops from our country before the end of February 2009 or else we will take action in your capitalist department stores and this time, without warning," the letter said.

Explosives 'old'

The area where Printemps is located is crowded with large department stores which are normally packed with Christmas shoppers at this time of year.

Michele Alliot-Marie, the French interior minister, said the explosives were "relatively old" and had been hidden in the cistern of one of the lavatories.

"The explosives had not been primed which indicates there was no risk of explosion," she said outside the store on Boulevard Haussmann.

France has some 2,600 troops stationed in Afghanistan and has received threats of terrorist attacks in mainland France unless it removes the soldiers.

Via Al Jazeera.


Probably the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades.

In other news, I'm about to take my last final.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Look on my works ye mighty and despair!

TFW 8 December 2008

(Click for full size image.)

At long last, Tʜᴇ Mᴀᴘ is complete.

Due to the narrow width of Blogger's columns, I'm almost certainly going to have to migrate to WordPress.

Monday, December 8, 2008

9/11 suspects ask to 'plead guilty'

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged planner of the September 11 attacks, and four other suspects have asked to plead guilty to the charges they face at a Guantanamo Bay tribunal.

"We all five have reached an agreement to request from the commission an immediate hearing session in order to announce our confessions," said a note said to be from the five read out by the judge, Army Colonel Steven Henley, at a hearing on Monday.

The note said the confessions were being made "without being under any kind of pressure, threat, intimidations or promise from any party," Henley said.

Mohammed, a Pakistani, and four others - Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi, Walid bin Attash and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali - were charged earlier this year with conspiring with al-Qaeda to kill civilians.

The judge also allowed defendants Walid bin Attash and Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali to withdraw all their motions and go to pleas, but he refused to allow the same for two other defendants saying he had concerns over their mental competence, AFP reported.

All five face the death penalty if convicted.



I have been unable to determine why the mental competence of bin al-Shibh and Hawsawi is in question.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crunch time

Sorry for the extreme dearth of posts; this is end of the semester crunch time. I'm working pretty much full time on my cartography final project, which is to be the first of the long awaited Afghanistan maps for this site.