Afghanistan Sacks Its Security Chiefs: How Will That Affect U.S. Forces?

The parliamentary denoucement of the ministers of defense and the interior may be a sign of Afghan democracy at work but it makes the security situation much more volatile for U.S. forces preparing to withdraw

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Omar Sobhani / Reuters

An Afghan man collects parts of a damaged civilian passenger bus, which was hit by a remote-controlled bomb, in the Paghman district of Kabul on Aug. 7, 2012. The device hit the bus on Tuesday, killing nine civilians and wounding three others, according to the district police chief

The death notices that NATO e-mails to the press when a soldier is killed in action in Afghanistan are disturbing in their brevity and vary only in their basic details. One of the two issued on Tuesday read, “KABUL, Afghanistan (Aug. 7) — An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service member died following an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in southern Afghanistan today.” It is a common type: soldiers are mostly killed by roadside bombs and small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s south and east.

Over July, NATO issued 22 of those e-mails, accounting for 30 soldiers killed in action — meaning an average of almost one soldier killed every day of the month. And 11 NATO soldiers have been killed since Aug. 1. These are the statistics facing NATO command — numbers that point to an unweakened insurgency that has expanded to encircle Kabul — as it prepares to withdraw and hand over primary security duties to an Afghan army and national police that many fear are unprepared.

(PHOTOS: Afghanistan Now: Photos by Yuri Kozyrev)

This fragile security mix became more volatile over the weekend when Afghanistan’s fractious parliament returned a vote of no confidence against Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, key security chiefs widely accepted by Western officials. On Tuesday, Aug. 7, Wardak announced he would step down rather than continue to hold his post as an acting Minister until President Hamid Karzai finds a replacement.

The vote of no confidence came after allegations of corruption and perceived feebleness on the parts of Wardak and Mohammadi in their response to weeks of rocket and artillery barrages over Afghanistan’s mountainous border with Pakistan. The attacks, which reportedly include some 400 shells that fell in one July day in Kunar province, have displaced hundreds of civilians and killed at least four people. NATO press releases have pointed a finger at insurgents and shied away from accusing the Pakistani military of the attacks, even though insurgents do not have the necessary heavy artillery or skill to carry out such assaults. TIME’s query to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters on this question was never answered, though observers have noted that NATO has to tread carefully with Islamabad now that Pakistan has reopened the border to the alliance’s resupply lines — a fact highlighted by the Aug. 2 visit to Pakistan by General John Allen, the U.S. and NATO’s chief military officer in Afghanistan.

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Though Lieut. General James Terry, the new leader of NATO’s international joint command, has tried to downplay the significance of the sacking of the two Ministers, longtime observers are worried about the future of the transition process. “This move is significant. [Wardak and Mohammadi] are heavily involved in the security forces of Afghanistan, in the making of the security forces and in the transition process. Any new Minister will need some time to familiarize himself, especially if he comes from the outside — if he hasn’t been involved in the Ministry of Defense and the Interior Ministry, in the army and police force,” says Mahmoud Saikal, a former Deputy Foreign Minister and a key member of the political opposition. He adds that this was “unfortunate because [Wardak and Mohammadi] are not too incompetent. They are O.K. They have seen the battlefield.”

At the same time, while the move has sent waves through the security and transition authorities, Saikal sees a positive side to the development: that the sacking is a positive indication of democracy working in Afghanistan. “The good news is that what parliament did was legal. It was orderly and went according to procedure. This was an exercise of democracy. Karzai did his best to tarnish the reputation of the Lower House and make them ineffective. Now we are seeing the re-emergence of the Lower House,” Saikal tells TIME.

As to who will replace the Ministers, the Afghan systems of patronage and plot and counterplot have already started rumors of conspiracy churning. “Zarar Ahmad Muqbel Osmani, the Minister of Counter Narcotics, was rumored to want the Ministry of Interior post last year, but in Afghanistan it’s difficult to tell which rumors are true,” says an Afghanistan expert who has worked in the country for 16 years and who, like others sources — including members of parliament — interviewed for this story point to how the departments are the gateways for lucrative contracts. “It will be difficult to replace either of them in a short space of time,” he continues, adding that other candidates would be perceived as equally corrupt, “weak and pointless.”

For the Defense Ministry, Fabrizio Foschini of the Afghanistan Analysts Network says it is “realistic” that Army Chief of Staff General Sher Muhammad Karimi will be considered, since “he is from Paktia [a province that shares a frontier with Pakistan] and has taken a very tough stance on the border issue, spicing it up with nationalist declarations about Afghanistan’s borders.” Foschini adds, though, that Karimi’s political history as a member of the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan is problematic.

A poster plastered all over the hallways of the U.S. embassy in Kabul reads, “Keep Calm, and Transition.” With the date of the transition from fighting to mentoring to withdrawal creeping closer — and with no Afghan captains at the helm and no obvious candidates on the horizon — the posters may be harder and harder to heed.

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9 comments
Andy Wisniewski
Andy Wisniewski

"assualt" is a poor word choice to describe an artilery barrage, by definition artillery cannot assualt anything "assualt" implies physicaly attaking at close quarters.

john
john

as Ralph implied I am in shock that people able to earn $7586 in four weeks on the computer. have you read this link

http://LazyCash49.com

Heterotic
Heterotic

None of this is a surprise. Afghanistan is not a real country.

Fidel Infante
Fidel Infante

Why Is No One Talking About The War in Afghanistan And The Mounting Casualties?

There is no topic that raises my blood pressure more than the one pictured above.

It is the War in Afghanistan and the question is: “Why in this election year is no one talking about the war and our mounting casualties?” Nothing, I repeat, nothing makes me angrier.  So if this piece suddenly stops in mid-sentence kindly call 911 because it means I finally blew a gasket and here is why.

On Sunday morning we recorded ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Near the end of the show, George typically posts on screen a list of our best and bravest military service members who have given their all during the past week in Afghanistan.

Yesterday’s segment included about 12 names of the deceased. Now predictably, every week it is at that point in the show when I spring off the couch, flee the room and yell: “I can not watch this, I can not look at their ages. Why are they dying? What are they dying for? Why are we still there? Why is no one talking about this?” 

Will someone in Washington PLEASE try to answer these questions?

How about you folks in the mainstream media taking a short break from asking Mitt Romney to release this old tax returns and focus instead on asking our leaders about this drip drip drip of needless deaths? (For example, there were 36 in May, 42 in June, 29 in July and so far in August there have been at least 6.)

Now, as predicted, I am about to blow a gasket and must stop writing, but quickly before I do, here is a link to the official list of casualties.

Look at their names, look at their ages.  Why is no one talking about trying to end this endless, useless war where these brave, young volunteer patriots are dying in vain?

No one seems to know why we are still there. Perhaps that is why Obama and Romney, as well as officials in both parties running for reelection, are neglecting to mention the war in their campaign ads and speeches.

But every month it is drip drip drip, with more deaths and countless broken bodies and even more with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is a ticking time bomb from within.

Truthfully, if our nation had a draft, there would be protest marches in the streets (instead of Occupy Wall Street) and our elected leaders would be held more accountable for the monthly casualties.

Furthermore, with a draft in place, Americans would force their leaders to take action by either offering up realistic explanations as to why our mission in Afghanistan is vital to our national security interests or voters would demand their leaders take the necessary steps to end this war now.

Could it be the war drags on because these brave solders are volunteers and generally tend to be from the nation’s lower socio-economic strata? It is my bet that if the monthly casualties were more representative of the sons and daughters of the upper classes who rule this nation, then the War in Afghanistan would be more of a hot button issue this election cycle.

Instead, the war is ignored by our leaders, the media — and especially by our Commander in Chief — who is too busy commanding his reelection campaign and his Organizing for America troops to answer the questions I ask every Sunday when I flee the room in anger.

Now more than ever, since Afghanistan is being completely ignored this election cycle, my heart goes out to the families of the fallen who are left asking those questions for the rest of their lives.

This piece is dedicated to them. (Reprint)

 But really why are we borrowing $40 billion(+) daily from the Chinese to repair a country that will revert back to the Taliban as soon as we pull the bulk of our troops out of afghanistan, while our country (USA) if falling apart. 

A fraction of what the USA has spent in afghaninstan over the last ten years is all it would have taken to repair our own country!!!!

Demote
Demote

People shouldn't use the name of a place and the word

country in one sentence because it does not make sense. The place has a map, a

name and history. Afghanistan did not ask for any of what's happening there at

the moment. Afghanistan is screaming and crying for it to be over and left

alone as it was because it was better off that way and used to it. The volume

of violence has increased ever since Afghanistan got the UN welcomed guests of

power. It's not Afghanistan that's asking them to stay and continue ruining the

rest of what’s left, its Afghanistan that can't get them to leave.  The

leaders of the UN welcomed keep making statements of withdrawals but never

fulfil it and in return deploy more of what Afghanistan is trying to get rid

of. Afghanistan did not wish to share with the world its problems; it's the

world that went digging into Afghanistan. Does it make sense to beat up a bum

on the street for money or food? Knowing that person is a bum, no shoe, ripped

and dirty clothes. Does it make sense to jail a bum for being a bum on the

street? Would it make sense for a person with a family/job and education to

quit their job and go live with a bum on the street, give them their earning,

their clothes and their food instead of looking after their family? Would you

blame the bum for the actions of this other person? It's no surprise. People

speak before they think; they judged a book by its cover and by a review from

someone that skipped through the book. People should think before they

speak, speak what they know, not what they are told. Believe what they see, not

what they are shown.

Demote
Demote

People shouldn't use the name of a place and the word

country in one sentence because it does not make sense. The place has a map, a

name and history. Afghanistan did not ask for any of what's happening there at

the moment. Afghanistan is screaming and crying for it to be over and left

alone as it was because it was better off that way and used to it. The volume

of violence has increased ever since Afghanistan got the UN welcomed guests of

power. It's not Afghanistan that's asking them to stay and continue ruining the

rest of what’s left, its Afghanistan that can't get them to leave.  The

leaders of the UN welcomed keep making statements of withdrawals but never

fulfil it and in return deploy more of what Afghanistan is trying to get rid

of. Afghanistan did not wish to share with the world its problems; it's the

world that went digging into Afghanistan. Does it make sense to beat up a bum

on the street for money or food? Knowing that person is a bum, no shoe, ripped

and dirty clothes. Does it make sense to jail a bum for being a bum on the

street? Would it make sense for a person with a family/job and education to

quit their job and go live with a bum on the street, give them their earning,

their clothes and their food instead of looking after their family? Would you

blame the bum for the actions of this other person? It's no surprise. People

speak before they think; they judged a book by its cover and by a review from

someone that skipped through the book. People should think before they

speak, speak what they know, not what they are told. Believe what they see, not

what they are shown.

James Harris
James Harris

The easy answer to that is - how's that hopey changy thing working for ya, you elected him and you're about to do it again....

Aaron Race
Aaron Race

Afghanistan has been talked about and people are tired Of it. Every question you asked has been asked many times and answered many times, it always goes back and forth that way. Right now people are focused on the economy,here at home, just like you should be . so calm down and transition, 2014.