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Sunday, May 29

Suicide attack kills top Afghan police official Gen. Mohammed Daoud Daoud and seriously wounds German NATO general

Different press reports cite varying eyewitness claims about the attire of the suicide bomber -- some recount he was in police uniform, another account is that he was dressed in army garb -- but for now I'm going with the New York Times report, which provides the most detail about the question.

I'm also quoting Long War Journal's account of the so-called Taliban's 'Spring Offensive' because it provides background, even though it's not certain that this particular attack was planned as part of the offensive. It's possible the attack was a revenge killing meant to target the German commander and German troops along with the Afghan police commander, Gen. Daoud, for his part in protecting German troops during recent rioting in response to claims that an ISAF night raid had killed civilians.

According to a report on the suicide attack filed yesterday by Hashim Shukoor for McClatchy Newspapers:
On May 19, a dozen protesters were killed in the provincial capital, Taloqan, during a demonstration to protest the killing earlier in the day by ISAF forces of four people, including two women, that Afghan officials said were civilians. ISAF said the four people killed in the raid were members of an Uzbekistan terrorist group that often fights with the Taliban. The demonstrators were shot when German troops opened fire after protesters tried to storm the local Provincial Reconstruction Team offices where ISAF advisers organize assistance to local authorities.
The New York Times report I cite below in full has a slightly different version:
Taliqan, a normally calm city of 200,000, has been rocked by unrest in recent weeks. On May 18, thousands of protesters assaulted the police headquarters and a nearby NATO base. And 12 people were killed during the first of two days of rioting that broke out in reaction to a coalition night raid that killed four people, including two women.
In any event, the death of the police commander is a great tragedy for the Afghans who do not want to live under Pakistani/so-called Taliban rule, and a great setback for the ISAF effort in Afghanistan:
Taliban Bomber Infiltrates Afghan-NATO Meeting, Killing Police Official and Others
By Ray Rivera
Published: May 28, 2011, The New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban suicide bomber on Saturday infiltrated a heavily guarded governor’s compound in northern Afghanistan where top NATO and Afghan officials from the region were meeting, killing several people there, including the highly regarded police commander Gen. Daoud Daoud, Afghan officials said

Two NATO soldiers and the provincial police chief, Shah Jahan Noori, were also killed, NATO officials said. Two senior officials were among the many wounded: the German commander of NATO’s force in the north, Maj. Gen. Markus Kneip, and the governor of Takhar Province, Abdul Jabar Taqwa.

The attack occurred about 4:30 p.m. when a man wearing a police uniform blew himself up during the security meeting inside the governor’s offices in Taliqan, the Takhar capital, Afghan officials said.

Maryam Kofi, a member of Parliament from Takhar, said the bomber entered the meeting as a security guard for one of the guests.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. “This was a very important security meeting and our goal was to target the meeting and we succeeded,” Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said by cellphone.

A former warlord in his native province of Takhar, General Daoud was admired for his role as a fighter against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s and the Taliban the following decade. As a young man he became a close confidant to the legendary Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, who died after being attacked by suicide bombers with Al Qaeda two days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

He was named head of the northern zone police, covering nine northern provinces, about a year ago at a time when security in northern Afghanistan was steadily deteriorating. Now, his death raises concerns about stability in the region as NATO begins turning over security to Afghan forces in July.

Abdullah Abdullah, a former presidential candidate, credited General Daoud with helping to shift the momentum in the region. He inspired trust and confidence among his subordinates, “but also among the people,” Mr. Abdullah said, “because you cannot win it with police; you can only win it with your people.”

“He was my best friend for 26 years now,” Mr. Abdullah added. “He cannot be replaced.”

President Hamid Karzai, who was in Turkmenistan, said in a statement that he was “deeply grieved” by the deaths. “The martyrs of this wild attack were the true sons of this country who have been working tirelessly for the prosperity and honor of this country,” he said.

The Afghan president also offered condolences to the German government for the death of its soldiers, and he included General Kneip in his message, apparently in the belief that he had been killed.

“This general was a real friend of the Afghan people who lost his life to help the security of the Afghanistan people,” Mr. Karzai said.

The attack was the latest in which infiltrators in the Afghan security forces were able to penetrate heavily guarded government compounds and carry out attacks inside.

In one example this month, an Afghan Army soldier helped secure a uniform and fake identification for a bomber, who then blew himself up inside the national military hospital in Kabul, killing six people, according to Afghan intelligence officials.

In April, a police officer who had recently joined the force entered the tightly secured police headquarters in Kandahar city, killing the police chief, another figure who was widely admired.

Dr. Fatima Aziz, a Parliament member from Kunduz Province, which borders Takhar, called Sunday’s attack “a big failure on the part of the government and intelligence” for failing to provide adequate security for the meeting.

“It shows their inability in safeguarding the lives of high value targets for the Taliban insurgents,” she said.

Taliqan, a normally calm city of 200,000, has been rocked by unrest in recent weeks. On May 18, thousands of protesters assaulted the police headquarters and a nearby NATO base. And 12 people were killed during the first of two days of rioting that broke out in reaction to a coalition night raid that killed four people, including two women.

Among the officials who criticized the raid was the provincial police chief, Mr. Noori, who was killed in the attack on Saturday. “These kinds of operations are increasing the gap between the people and the government,” he said at the time.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai ordered his Defense Ministry to take charge of the nighttime raids from the coalition forces. It was his most aggressive attempt yet to stem the use of such operations, which have outraged Afghans but which NATO says are critical in its fight against the Taliban.

In a statement, Mr. Karzai said that in an effort “to avoid arbitrary and uncoordinated operations by foreign forces in Afghanistan,” he had instructed his defense minister to bring the night raids under Afghan control.

What effect the order will have on NATO operations was not immediately clear. Coalition officials say Afghans already plan and lead many nighttime missions, and are always present in NATO-led operations.

NATO defended the operations in a statement on Saturday. “We know we would not have seen the gains and progress made to date without the conduct of targeted, intelligence-driven night operations,” Lt. Cmdr. Kathleen D. Sweetser said.

But she added that NATO “fully supports President Karzai’s intent to have Afghan forces increasingly in the lead for operations.”

Sharifullah Sahak and Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul, and an Afghan employee of The New York Times from Taliqan, Afghanistan.
From Long War Journal's report, Taliban suicide bomber strikes at high-level meeting in Afghan north filed May 28 by Bill Roggio:
Background on the Taliban's spring offensive

The Taliban are seeking to roll back Afghan and Coalition gains made in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar over the past year, as well as to reinforce the perception that Taliban forces can strike in all areas of Afghanistan. The Taliban are also trying to break the will of the Afghan security forces as well as intimidate local Afghans.

In their announcement of the Badar offensive, the Taliban said the primary targets would be "foreign invading forces, members of their spy networks and (other) spies, high-ranking officials of the Kabul Puppet Administration, both military and civilian, members of the cabinet, members of the parliament, Heads of foreign and local companies working for the enemy and contractors." The Afghan High Peace Council was also singled out.

The Taliban said Badar would focus on "military centers, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country." Their tactics would include "group and martyrdom seeking attacks," or suicide attacks and assaults; "group offensives," or massed assaults; "city attacks," ambushes, and IED attacks.

The Taliban also said that "strict attention must be paid to the protection and safety of civilians during the spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan."

The Taliban maintain they have no shortage of suicide bombers to carry out attacks. In April, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban claimed that more than 1,000 suicide bombers train at camps in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.

The Pakistani government refuses to strike the terror groups in North Waziristan despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations in North Waziristan, as well as requests by the US that action be taken against these groups. The Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan, or the Haqqani Network, which is also based there. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered "good Taliban" by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Yet Bahadar, the Haqqanis, and other Taliban groups openly shelter groups that carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Pundita - the following, which you left some time ago at SWJ, has always haunted me:

I also think it's playing ostrich at this to argue the questions of whether the U.S. can achieve victory in Afghanistan and what victory might look like. That's because it's obvious by now that until the Pakistan military's modus operandi in Afghanistan is halted NATO is trying to empty the ocean with a sieve and making it impossible for Afghan self-governance.

Just to review: the MO is to use proxies to assassinate or intimidate every Afghan they neutralize who shows intelligence and skill as an administrator, and who's not corrupt.

That's the same MO the Pak military used in East Pakistan and in Kashmir. It's the same MO they used in Baluchistan. It's the same MO they used in Afghanistan after the Russian pullout.

In fact it's the same MO they use against their 'own' people in the Punjab and Sindh who would seriously challenge the power of the country's largest landholders.

So I don't want to hear at this point about paths to victory in Afghanistan and nation building. First replace a sieve with a bucket.

And for added spice, look at this eye-roller at CNAS:

Some security analysts make the case that a half-hearted Pakistani partner is better than none.

"Despite this affront (bin Laden's presence in Pakistan), the United States should recognize the importance of maintaining Pakistan as an unpalatable friend rather than an implacable adversary or, worse, seeing it tumble toward becoming a failed state," the Washington-based Center for a New American Security think-tank said in an analysis this month.

Among other things, the United States wants Pakistan to help promote reconciliation in Afghanistan so as to help the United States begin to withdraw U.S. troops in July and completely hand off security responsibility to Afghans in 2014.

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