News Highlights – 27 Feb 11

  • Operation GTFO Libya The good news:  Canadians are being flown out of Libya in a Canadian military plane.  The not-so-good news:  it’s Canada’s embassy staff, including the Ambassador. More on that here, here, here and here.
  • More on managing expectations of a military incursion (involving Canadians, anyway) into Libya“…. Defence Minister Peter MacKay told a group of defence experts Friday not to expect Canadian troops — or even United Nations peacekeepers — to intervene in Libya anytime soon. When asked about the UN’s Responsibility to Protect resolution, which allows for quick action by the Security Council to intervene militarily in cases where innocent civilians are being brutalized, MacKay said the resolution is a “very important concept,” but it isn’t applied evenly. “As we’ve seen in places like Darfur, it (the resolution) has lost its lost lustre,” MacKay said. “I think the corollary to the Responsibility to Protect is not to overextend, and not to raise expectations that can’t be met.” ….”
  • Here’s what Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian Attorney General, says Canada should be doing about Libya.
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • The Taliban is claiming to have “captured” a “Canadian national” in Ghazni, Afghanistan – no mainstream media confirmation as of this posting.
  • An editorial voice saying Canada should stay to finish the job in Afghanistan“This summer, as Kandahar bakes in the relentless heat, Canada will formally end its combat role in Afghanistan. After nearly a decade of fighting, Canadians will transition to a training role — behind the wire — teaching the Afghan National Security Forces.  Canada must maintain a presence in Afghanistan, but it is difficult for Canadians to walk away from combat operations in Kandahar before the job is done, given the heroic efforts and sacrifices of our soldiers …. Soldiers go where they are told to and do as the government orders because that’s their job. They are loyal to the core.  Quietly though, many wonder what it was all for. There is a feeling of unfinished business, of being taken off the field in the last moments of the championship game when the critical moves are being made, when the score is so close.  …. Now, as the surge is in full swing, Canadian troops have to walk away without being allowed to finish what they started.  This is all the more grating because combat has not affected Canada’s ability to fight — it has affected our will to fight.  Ultimately the decision to leave combat had nothing to do with tactical success or failure on the ground and everything to do with political debates at home …. Much of the reputation the Canadian Forces have earned us in Afghanistan will be left in the dust of Kandahar.  Asked what could be done for his troops, one veteran officer answered, “Let them win, if you really want their efforts to have not been in vain.” “
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchMore on the Taliban’s view of those nasty, nasty people who say they’re talking with NATO, Afghanistan, the Americans, whoever.
  • A top Canadian general wants to cut the fat at national defence headquarters in Ottawa, a move he says will help create a leaner, meaner fighting machine. Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie was heavily critical of a system that favours headquarters staff members over soldiers in the field. “Before you want to talk, and none of you should be, about cutting one ship, one reserve or regular unit, or one capability that can contribute to operational outputs, let’s talk about HQ staffs,” Leslie told a conference of defence analysts and military officers. His heaviest opposition is coming from the bureaucrats he is facing off against. “Nothing will defend itself so vigorously, much akin to a wounded badger, as a HQ that is threatened with being shut down.” ….” Some interesting discussion and suggestions on this topic here at
  • F-35 Tug o’ War This from the Parliamentary Budget Officer in his latest report (PDF): “…. the federal government still hasn’t given him, or the committee, the information they say they need to hold the Conservatives fiscally accountable on crime bill costs, the F-35 fighter jet purchase and costs to the federal treasury of corporate tax cuts ….” This, specifically on the F-35, from the report itself:  “The GC’s (Government of Canada’s) response to FINA (House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance) on October 28 2010 confirms some of the relevant cost drivers associated with the GC’s planned purchase of 65 F-35s. These include the importance of specifications such as weight and materials, deflator rates to account for changes in prices, and a specific delivery schedule in order to determine the average unit cost of the aircraft. That said, there are two insufficiencies in the data. First, the data provided does not cover all the cost drivers. Second, the response does not provide the necessary degree of detail with respect to both the underlying assumptions upon which the GC’s figures are based and cost drivers themselves …. The PBO (Parliamentary Budget Office) will be providing parliamentarians with an independent estimate of the costs of the F-35 aircraft in the upcoming weeks ….”
  • A Quebec museum has bought itself a submarine for the princely sum of $4, plus tax.  The submarine is the former HMCS Onondaga, one of Canada’s Oberon-class submarines that was decommissioned in 2000 when the navy picked up its new Victoria-class subs from the British navy.  Annemarie Bourassa, assistant director of the Musee de la Mer de Pointe-au-Pere, told the Canadian Press that the sub will be a big draw for her museum.   “Rimouski is not a big city and there’s not a lot of big tourist attractions, so there’s a lot of people who are convinced that this will be good for everyone,” Bourassa said.  The submarine was headed to the Canada War Museum as an exhibit for children to climb through, but that museum bailed out when it worked out the cost of transporting the submarine to its new building in Ottawa ….”

Who’s (Still) Killing the Majority of Civilians in AFG?

This from the Associated Press:

Civilian war deaths in the first seven months of 2010 rose by 6 percent over the same period last year, Afghanistan’s human rights commission said Sunday. The modest increase suggested that U.S. and NATO efforts to hold down civilian casualties were having some success …. The Taliban and their allies were responsible for 68 percent of the at least 1,325 civilian deaths recorded by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the organization said in a report. Twenty-three percent were ascribed to NATO or Afghan government forces.  Responsibility for the remaining 9 percent could not be determined because they occurred in areas that were too dangerous for a thorough investigation, the commission said ….

The Taliban continues to be responsible for about 70 per cent of the problem of civilian casualties.

Previous reminders:

UN Official Says Some Taliban Should Be Pulled from Sanctions List

Remember this tidbit (and this one) from a former Taliban ambassador to the United Nations about one way to open the doors to talking?

The first important thing is to lift the sanctions on the leaders of the armed opposition. They are blacklisted and multimillion-dollar rewards are offered for some leaders of the opposition. They have not been recognized as a legitimate part of the political process. But no such step has been taken place so far.  So it is not logical to invite a person who has a bounty of millions of dollars [on him for his capture and] ask him to give up his sanctuary and attend this Loya Jirga.

Well, it appears at least one senior U.N. official may be buying it – this, via the New York Times:

The leader of the United Nations mission here called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the United Nations’ list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the insurgent group.

In an interview, Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative, also implored the American military to speed its review of the roughly 750 detainees in its military prisons here — another principal grievance of Taliban leaders. Until recently, the Americans were holding those prisoners at a makeshift detention center at Bagram Air Base and refusing to release their names.

Together, Mr. Eide said he hoped that the two steps would eventually open the way to face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders, many of whom are hiding in Pakistan. The two sides have been at an impasse for years over almost every fundamental issue, including the issue of talking itself ….

We hear echos of the former ambassador’s rationale later in the NYT story:

“This would allow the Taliban to appear in public,” said Arsalan Rahmani, a former deputy minister with the Taliban who now lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul. “It would allow the possibility of starting negotiations in a third country.”

You might remember Rahmani as someone else who’s been talking like a “moderate Taliban”.

Who could be pulled from the list?

Mr. Eide said he did not believe that senior Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar should be removed from the list. It was Mullah Omar, after all, who provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which launched the Sept. 11 attacks.

But some second-tier Taliban should be taken from the list, he said. Those leaders are not necessarily associated with terrorist acts but might be able to speak for the movement, he said, and might be willing to reciprocate a good-will gesture.

The Taliban willing to “reciprocate a good-will gesture”?  Here’s an excerpt from the Taliban’s latest editorial on their Voice of Jihad English-language web page (links available here):

The aim is to pave the way for uneducated, ignorant and unaware stooges to remain at the helms of power thanks to multi-faceted support of imperialism. Then the Western powers bind their surrogates by various agreements at the expense of national, cultural and religious values and vital interests of the nation. They take hold of all strategic assets of a country including telecommunication, dams, transportation, mines etc. After that, colonialism tends to plunder the wealth and natural resources with both hands. Similarly, the invading powers distribute national wealth among members of society unfairly and unequally, giving a lion share to their flunkeys and hirelings.

Yeah, this is messaging coming from a group willing to work with the Karzai government and ISAF – NOT!


NOTE: This material is from web pages and forums carrying statements attributed to the Taliban, Taliban spokespersons or supporters of the Taliban, or analysis thereof. Posting of this material neither confirms nor endorses any of its content – it is shared for information only. When material translated into English is not available, Google Translate is used to translate the original  – this is only a machine translation, NOT an official one.

Response of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to Banki Moon Assertions About Civilian Casualties PDF at non-terrorist site

…. (UN Secretary General) Bank Moon (sic) should once sneak a look at the Pentagon to see that two departments under the name of Psychological Warfare and Lies Fabrication Department are now part and parcel of the official organizational set-up of the ministry. The Psychological Warfare Department teaches troops to kill civilians in order to create shock and awe in their hearts so they submit to the troops without demur. Whereas the Department of Lies Fabrication instructs the soldiers to spread lies against the enemy in media and among the people so that they distance themselves from the enemy and nurture hatred against them. There is the secret of victory in doing so, it maintains. It is a matter of pondering whether Mr. Banki Moon is acting intentionally or unintentionally in favor of the above-mentioned departments. This is because he, sometimes, gives expression to words which does not suit his position and neutral status ….

More casualties inflicted on British forces

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 18:44 By Qari Yusuf Ahmadi
HELMAND, Jan. 06 – The British and American forces have suffered heavy losses and casualties at the hands of the Mujahideen’s attacks and bombings throughout Wednesday and Tuesday in Helmand’s Nad Ali, Nawa and Sangeen districts. According to the Jihadic officials, Mujahideen targeted two British military tanks through RPGs on Wednesday, ending up hour-long confrontation with the British soldiers without causing any losses to the Muajhideen, however, the struck tanks were lying at the site till evening hours in “Welding Charahi” (cossroads) of Nad Ali district. In another news, a Mini Spy Plane of the U.S troops was shot down by Mujhideen that fell onto the ground immediately during a face-to-face fighting between the Mujahideen and the NATO forces breaking out following the Mujahideen’s throwing hand grenades at NATO foot patrol as a result of which a British soldier had been killed the latter wounded. The incident took place in the early noon hours of Wednesday in “Haji Abdullah village” located in No’wi area of Sangeen district.

3 NATO tanks damaged in Gerishk district

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 09:10 By Qari Yusuf Ahmadi
HELMAND, Jan. 06 – Three NATO tanks were destroyed in Helmand’s Gerishk district on Monday. According to the details, there were fighting between the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate and NATO forces continuing throughout Monday at the “Shoor” area of Gerishk district. Two NATO tanks were blown apart by roadside bombs during the engagement, the former was hit by IED in the morning hours of Monday, while the latter got struck in the afternoon hours, killing the enemy inside both tanks. However, two Mujahids were hurt during the face-to-face fighting. In another news, one of the NATO tanks, while en route to the center of Gerishk, encountered a land mine on Sunday ,in the same area that destroyed the tank completely.

5 NATO and Afghan soldiers killed in Nad Ali

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 14:33 By Qari Yusuf Ahmadi
HELMAD (sic), Jan. 06 – Five Afghan and NATO soldiers were killed on Tuesday evening during separate attacks in Helmand’s Nad Ali district. As per details, 3 soldiers were killed 2 wounded when a joint Afghan-NATO patrol encountered a land mine followed by an armed attack from Mujahideen, causing the enemy further losses. Likewise, at the same time on Tuesday, two Afghan soldiers were killed and 3 wounded in an ambush in Noorzo district of this province. No Mujahids were, however, harmed during these operations. likewise, one of the armored tanks of the NATO military convoy, en route to Garm Sir district’s center “Hazaar Juft” got struck by a roadside bomb on Tuesday, in Shamlan area of the Nawa district,destroying the tank with its soldiers killed. In a recent news, the Jihadic officials of this province say the U.S. inhuman invaders, at the late night of Jan. 06, raided a civilian,Noor Ali Aka’s house in Sistani area of Marjah district, killing an innocent youth as well as taking Noor Ali along with other 8 captive.

U.S. armored tank blown up in Garm Sir

Thursday, 07 January 2010 06:38 By Qari Yusuf Ahmadi
HELMAND, Jan. 07 – At least a dozen U.S. soldiers were killed when a U.S. armored tank got exploded by an IED blast on Wednesday afternoon, in Helmand Garm Sir district. According to the report, the explosion took place as a military tank of recently-deployed 30000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan was hit by a land mine in Koshtah area of this district. As a result, the tank was destroyed, killing the recently-arrived U.S. soldiers on the spot.

Yet More on Who’s Killing Civilians in Afghanistan

While President Karzai speaks to his domestic audience – this, from Al Jazeera English ….

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, has lashed out at Nato and US forces for failing to adequately protect civilians in the battle against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in the country.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Karzai said growing civilian anger may soon be the barrier to success in the country.

“The international community will not achieve in Afghanistan their objectives unless the Afghan people support them,” he said.

Karzai admitted that he had also failed to do enough to ensure security, but he laid the blame for rising anger over civilian deaths with the foreign forces.

“The foundation of success is in the co-operation of the Afghan people in their own government and in the international community’s good intentions,” he said….

…. we see this from the UN Secretary-General’s latest quarterly report (Q3 2009) – page 6 of PDF here :

…. UNAMA recorded 784 conflict-related civilian casualties between August and October 2009, up 12 per cent from the same period in 2008. Anti-Government elements remain responsible for the largest proportion of civilian casualties (78 per cent of the total), of whom 54 per cent were victims of suicide and improvised explosive device attacks. The increased reliance of anti-Government elements on improvised explosive device attacks has demonstrated an apparent disregard for the loss of civilian life. However, it is encouraging to see that certain positive steps have continued to be taken by the Government and its international military partners to reduce the impact of military operations on the civilian population ….

Another variation on the killing of non-combatants, from the UN News Centre’s story on the 2009 Q3 report:

(Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon) notes the insurgents’ intimidation and threats against civilians to discourage them from participating in the elections, targeting community leaders and clerics in particular, as well as slightly increased attacks against the aid community, a nearly daily occurrence. On average nine people were assassinated per week in the third quarter, one of whom on average was a community leader.

More previous grist for the civilian casualties discussion mill:

Who’s Killing the Civvies in Afghanistan?

Update: Who’s Killing the Civvies in Afghanistan?

Another Source of “Civilian Casualties”

More Calls for “All Civvy, No Military” Afghan Mission

The appeasers folks at are drawing attention to an article calling for the civilianization of the mission in Afghanistan under United Nations auspices.

Interesting how the authors of the source article view the U.N. – on the one hand:

The lack of impartiality that has hampered the effectiveness and legitimacy of the international presence in Afghanistan must be redressed. UNAMA and Isaf were created in 2002 to assist the new Afghan government, and thus neither can be considered neutral by design. The direct involvement of troops from some Security Council member-states in war-fighting further complicates the issue.

and then on the other:

The UN alone can be perceived as an impartial actor able to act as a legitimate third party, broker negotiations within Afghanistan and lead a political strategy for the region.

Well, which is it?

First off, the U.N. Security Council has repeatedly endorsed the mission, so it’s already a U.N. sanctioned mission.  Or are the authors buying into the Taliban’s “well, we don’t like ALL of the Permanent Members of the Security Council” storyline?

As for the UN being perceived as “impartial actor,” the authors may think so, but the Taliban certainly think differently – from some recent statements:

…the oppressed people of the world do not trust the United Nations any more because of its partial and unlawful resolutions. They consider this World Body as an extended instrument of America and Europe for the execution of their colonialist policies. Now many impartial personalities of the world say that the World Body has assumed the shape of the secretariat office of the USA from where they get passed resolution palatable to them. (12 Oct 09 statement)

Not happy with words?  How about the Taliban’s deeds?

According to reports, three heroic Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan carried out a martyrdom-seeking attack inside the guest house of UNAMA, killing a great number of workers of the runoff campaign. In the heart of the Kabul city, Share Naw, Mujahideen killed 50 foreigners in UNAMA guest house no. II as a result of martyrdom seeking attack. (Statement claiming responsiblity for 28 Oct 09 attack on U.N. staff in Kabul)

If the Taliban is willing to shoot up suicide bomb mosques. shoot at medical transport protected by international conventions, threaten and kill aid workers, what makes one think they’d stop when the foreign soldiers are all gone?

Bottom line:  if the bad guys are already threatening and killing foreigners trying to help Afghans, even with all the Afghan and NATO troops deployed trying to stop the violence, the Taliban will continue to threaten and kill foreigners trying to help Afghans once the troops leave.

More on The Taliban, The UN and al-Qaida

Regarding how the Taliban have been bashing the U.N. lately (more here and here), after posting a comment to a post, AQ expert Anne Stenersen (links to bio; a research fellow with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, and author of a book on AQ’s quest for weapons of mass destruction) was kind enough to respond to my questions re: why the recent bashing.

Main points:

1)  U.N. bashing is far from new for the Taliban (I obviously pointing to how much more reading I need to do).

The Taliban’s leaders have criticized the UN on a number of occasions, in addition to the one you mention. In 2006 Mullah Omar accused the UN of being nothing but a “tool for America” and Mullah Baradir echoed this in 2008, saying that “we regard all the decisions of the United Nations towards Afghanistan, as American orders.” I do not think their 12 Oct 09 statement was issued as a direct response to forum criticism, since it is pretty consistent with the Taliban’s past propaganda statements on the UN.

2)  And how about hating the U.N. vs. wanting to get along well with the neighbours?  Stenersen says you can have both:

In the 1990s there was a huge debate within the Taliban regime on whether to join the UN or not – the main argument against it was that joining the UN would mean that the Islamic Emirate would have to subordinate itself to “infidel” laws (the UN Charter, etc). Having strategic alliances with other countries is another matter, which may also be easier to defend from a religious point of view …. But clearly, there are many within the wider jihadi community who do not agree to this distinction.

3)  The ideological differences suggested in the recent statements, according to Stenersen, won’t affect the current fight (as long as the Taliban see themselves as winning).

AQ central are probably not too happy about the Taliban-IEA’s recent propaganda statements, although I do not think it will have any practical implications for the insurgency – there is simply not enough incentive for neither the Quetta Shura or AQ central to “turn on” the other as long as there is a common enemy to fight and the Quetta Shura see themselves in a position of strength (i.e. there is no need for them to enter into negotiations with the Afghan regime, in which they would probably have to renounce their relationship with al-Qaida)

Special thanks to Anne Stenersen for the information.

More Proof of Taliban Unhappiness with U.N.

We read in the Taliban’s propaganda that it is underwhelmed with the United Nations, both for the U.N.’s latest endorsement of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and for siding with who it considers the bad guys.

More evidence of this in Afghanistan today:

“Six foreign UN employees have been killed and nine wounded in an attack in Kabul, the deadliest on the UN in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s fall.” (BBC Online)

More on this latest “propaganda of the deed” from Agence France-Presse and the New York Times.

And a United Nations rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has the balls to say this about the United States?

First, the Government has failed to track and make public the number of civilian casualties, or the conditions under which deaths occurred. Second, the military justice system fails to provide ordinary people, including U.S. citizens and the families of Iraqi or Afghan victims, basic information on the status of investigations into civilian casualties or prosecutions resulting therefrom. Third, the government has refused to disclose the legal basis for targeted killings conducted through drone attacks on the territory of other States, or to identify any safeguards in place to reduce collateral civilian casualties and ensure that the Government has targeted the correct person.

Translation (courtesy of the Associated Press):

A U.N. human rights investigator warned the United States Tuesday that its use of unmanned warplanes to carry out targeted executions may violate international law.

>>insert eyeroll here<<

Since the Taliban likes to make it look like they have a government in place in Afghanistan**, I eagerly await the Taliban’s “legal basis” for targetted killings assassinations incidents like this one or this one, to mention only a couple.

** – Link to Voice of Jihad English-language site  – PDF of statement also at non-terrorist site here.

UPDATE (1): The Times Online (UK) reads the tea leaves this way:

The attack, which killed 12 people including six UN staff, appears to be designed to force the UN to pull out of Afghanistan altogether – just as it did from Iraq after a truck bomb at its headquarters there killed 22 people in 2003. A complete UN withdrawal from Afghanistan would almost certainly force the cancellation, or postponement, of the November 7 vote, which the UN is funding and has hundreds of staff helping to organize.

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: Taliban Still Unhappy with U.N.

A statement posted to the Taliban’s English-language Voice of Jihad site (PDF at non-terrorist site here) is another example of how the Taliban seems underwhelmed by the United Nations these days.

On 12 Oct 09, the Taliban issued a statement dissing the Security Council for its latest endorsement of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.  This week, the Talibs posted their latest attack on the world institution as the U.N. marked its 64th anniversary on 24 Oct 09.

According to the latest statement, who’s to blame for the U.N. no longer looking out for what the Talibs consider the good guys?

This Organization has remained in the grips of a few countries who arrogantly have kept it under their belly. The right of a veto by the 5 member countries of the Security Council is a wicked instrument which they use it time and again against the remaining members of the United Nations. Thus they have deprived other nations of their rights; hurled stumbling blocks in the way of development and prosperity of people and have denied them participation in the process of decision making.

Wait a second, now.  Earlier this month, in a statement to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Taliban had this to say:

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as per its peaceful policy wants to have constructive interactions with Shanghai forum member countries for a permanent stability and economic development in the region.

Who are the members of the SCO?

  • China
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Russia
  • Tajikistan
  • Uzbekistan

Who are the permanent members of the Security Council?

  • China
  • France
  • Russian Federation
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

So, IF we believe the Taliban is sincere in its SCO statement (which IS signed by the Taliban itself, unlike the latest unattributed statement – keeping in mind that nothing is likely to end up on the Taliban’s web page without the Taliban’s OK), which permanent members of the Security Council are left for the Taliban to loathe?

  • China
  • France
  • Russian Federation
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

No big surprise there.

In addition to dissing the U.N.’s record in Afghanistan, Iraq (as well as George W. Bush’s 12 Sept 02 speech – pages 5-9 at PDF here) comes in for a mention as well:

They destroyed Iraqi institutions, infrastructures and damaged economic and social values ironically under the very eyes of the UNO but this World Body instead of taking proper steps to prevent the destruction of the basic social and economic institutions, have only limited itself to issuing statistics of the  destroyed facilities.

Why the bashing of the U.N.?

One theory hinted at by Vahid Brown at is that this could be part of the back-and-forth between the Taliban and AQ in their “so, how connected are we?” dance (More on the various theories of how linked AQ and the Taliban are here).  This tidbit from Brown’s exploration of some jihadi online forums:

Mullah Omar’s messages imply some level of recognition of the United Nations, an organization which al-Qa’ida has unequivocally labelled as “infidel,” and that these opposing moves seem to him to signal “the beginning of the end of relations between al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.”

So, is this more proof proving that AQ and the Taliban are thinking along the same lines?  Or throwing AQ a bit of a rhetorical bone while the Taliban continue their alleged “nationalist, we won’t bother our neighbours” approach?

Stay tuned.