Karzai passes the buck on US troop immunity

(By Deutsche Welle) Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called for the Loya Jirga to decide whether US forces should receive immunity from local prosecution. Washington has threatened to pull out all of its troops if immunity is not granted.

For almost a year now, Washington and Kabul have butted heads over the details of a bilateral security agreement, which will govern a potential US troop presence in Afghanistan after NATO withdraws its combat forces in December, 2014.

The Obama administration reportedly wants to maintain between 5,000 – 10,000 troops and nine bases in Afghanistan to advise and train security forces and conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda.

In early October, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with President Karzai in Kabul, where the two men said they’d hammered out a basic draft agreement. But the issue of US troop immunity remained unresolved.

Despite Washington’s call for an agreement to be concluded as quickly as possible, Karzai has opted to convene a Loya Jirga, or grand council, to vote on the draft in November and decide whether or not US troops should enjoy legal immunity from the Afghan judicial system.

“The Afghan constitution says that in questions of immense national important a Loya Jirga can be called and that’s what Karzai is doing,” Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, told DW. “The Loya Jirga usually is doing what the current rulers want from them – that’s the experience from history.”

“The thing is there’s always a margin of error, of uncertainty in it,” Ruttig said. “So it can of course happen that – particularly if there’s an incident briefly before – the mood swings and the agreement falls through.”

Continue reading

Insider attacks threaten NATO mission in Afghanistan

(By Deutsche Welle) A spike in insider attacks on NATO troops by Afghan soldiers and police has threatened to undermine trust between the comrades-in-arms. NATO has begun to resume work with Afghan units after suspending joint patrols.

After a decade of war and just two years before NATO’s 2014 withdrawal deadline, the US-led military coalition and Afghan forces are struggling to maintain confidence in each other amid a rise in insider attacks. NATO has begun to slowly lift a week-long suspension of joint patrols with Afghan security forces, which had been imposed as a consequence of the “green-on-blue” attacks.

The Long War Journal, a website devoted to tracking the so-called “global war on terrorism,” has reported that 51 coalition troops have been killed at the hands of rogue members of the Afghan military and police in 2012. That represents 15 percent of the total casualties suffered by the international coalition this year and a 35 percent increase over the number of green-on-blue attacks in 2011. Green refers to Afghan forces and blue to coalition troops.

“We’re all seized with (the) problem,” General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the American Forces Press Service. “You can’t whitewash it. We can’t convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change.”

“But we’ve got to make sure our Afghan counterparts are as seized about it as we are,” said America’s top military officer. “We have to get on top of this. It is a very serious threat to the campaign.”

Although NATO claims that most of the attacks are the consequence of cultural differences and personal disputes, the Afghan government has said that the insider attacks are largely due to infiltration by Taliban insurgents, supported by the Iranian and Pakistani intelligence services.

“The National Security Council has enough evidence to prove that Afghans are being used and brainwashed by these foreign agencies,” Aymal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told the Washington Post. “They see this as a way of attacking the buildup of the Afghan National Security Forces‚Ķproving that they are weak and unable to protect the country.”

Continue reading

Germany acknowledges ‘warlike situation’ in Afghanistan

(By Deutsche Welle)¬†Burdened by its Nazi legacy, Germany swore never again to wage war. In the last of a three-part series, DW examines the country’s decision to deploy its military in Afghanistan, and the ‘warlike conditions’ there.

A political shockwave reverberated across the Atlantic Ocean after Islamic terrorists razed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In keeping with Germany’s responsibility as a NATO member, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder declared unlimited solidarity with a wounded America.

Schroeder’s declaration carried sweeping military consequences for Germany. Only three years after his left-of-center coalition had participated in NATO’s air war against Serbia, he deployed soldiers for an ambitious stabilization mission in war-torn Afghanistan.

Germany’s stabilization mission looked increasingly like a counterinsurgency as its soldiers faced a resurgent Taliban. And in September 2009, tensions came to a head when a German colonel ordered an airstrike against two Taliban-hijacked fuel tankers. The strike killed 142 people, laying bare the realities of the Afghan conflict for the German public.

After years of whitewashing the conflict in Afghanistan, Berlin has been forced to acknowledge that its soldiers are fighting and dying under “warlike conditions.” Germany can never again claim that it will never wage war.

Continue reading