(Afghanistan 9) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Afghanistan HungaryHungarian ISAF medics treat a wounded Afghan policeman at the Hungarian military base in Pul-e-Khumri, Baghlan province of Afghanistan, Saturday, July 11, 2009. Afghan police clashed with pro-Taliban fighters in the near by Baghlan Jalid Friday night. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)







AfghanistanA U.S. soldier stands guard as a snuffer dog checks following a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009.  A suicide car bomb attack on a heavily guarded road between the German Embassy and a U.S. military base. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

AfghanistanAn injured U.S. soldier is helped getting out following a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009. A suicide car bomb attack Saturday on a heavily guarded road between the German Embassy and a U.S. military base. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

AfghanistanA U.S. soldier stands guard following a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009.  A suicide car bomb attack on a heavily guarded road between the German Embassy and a U.S. military base . (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)


AFGHAN-VIOLENCE/EMBASSYVictims of a blast at the German embassy are driven to a hospital in the back of a truck in Kabul January 17, 2009. A suicide car bomb exploded outside the embassy and a U.S. base in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing three civilians, witnesses said. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

AfghanistanA wounded U.S. soldier is carried following a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009.  A suicide car bomb attack on a heavily guarded road between the German Embassy and a U.S. military base set the embassy on fire Saturday, killing an Afghan child and wounding 21 people, including five U.S. troops. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

AFGHAN-VIOLENCE/BLASTPeople carry a wounded U.S. soldier after a blast outside the German embassy in Kabul January 17, 2009. A suicide car bomb exploded outside the embassy and a U.S. base in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Saturday, killing three civilians, witnesses said.    REUTERS/Omar Sobhani


AfghanistanAn Afghan officer walks towards a damaged U.S. Humvee armored vehicle after a car bomb suicide attack in Basoud district of Ningarhar province east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. The blast left no causalities, said Afghan police officials. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Armed Forces, Police

(Afghanistan 8 ) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 7) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 6) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words


(Afghanistan 5) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 4) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 3) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 2) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 1) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 3:23 am  Comments Off on (Afghanistan 9) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words  
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(Afghanistan 6) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

84577858_PB0013BLAST.JPGKABUL, AFGHANISTAN -February 01:  Afghan and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops examine the scene after a suicide car bomber hit a convoy of foreign troops on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, wounding two Afghan civilians and a French soldier, according to Afghan officials, February 1, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Independent Election Commission has postponed the country’s presidential election until August 20th, from late April, for security reasons.  (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

AfghanistanThe wrapped body parts of a lawmaker Dad Mohammad Khan and others who were with him are seen in a blanket on the back of a police vehicle following a roadside bomb in Helmand province south of Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, March 19, 2009. The lawmaker who was a vocal Taliban critic in Afghanistan’s insurgency-plagued south was killed Thursday by a roadside bomb, family and officials said. (AP Photo)

AFGHANISTAN ISAF Canadian soldiers of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) inspect the wreckage of a vehicle used in a suicide car bomb attack targeting a Canadian military convoy in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, 12 March 2008. A suicide attacker detonated his explosives-filled vehicle targeted at a Canadian military convoy killing an Afghan civilian and wounding four others, including a Canadian soldier, officials said. Around 2, 500 Canadian forces are stationed in the southern province of Kandahar, a strong-hold for Taliban militants, whose government was toppled in late 2001.  EPA/HUMAYOUN SHIAB


U.S. soldiers inspect near the wrecker of a car used by a suicide bomber in Chaparhar district of eastern Nangarhar province east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, March 21, 2009. A suicide bomber in a car blew himself up at a police checkpoint in Chaparhar district of eastern Nangarhar province where officers were searching cars, killing six people, including five civilians and one policeman, said police spokesman Gafor Khan. The blast also wounded four civilians and a policeman, he said. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)









Rows of destroyed Humvees and military trucks are seen at the Portward Logistic Terminal in Peshawar, Pakistan, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008. Militants blasted their way into two transport terminals in Pakistan on Sunday and torched more than 160 vehicles destined for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan, in the biggest assault yet on a vital military supply line. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

Armed Forces, Police

(Afghanistan 9) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 8 ) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 7) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words


(Afghanistan 5) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 4) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 3) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 2) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

(Afghanistan 1) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 5:58 pm  Comments Off on (Afghanistan 6) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words  
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900 people killed in Philippines by ‘mysterious death squads’

Peasant leaders, environmental campaigners and student activists in the Philippines are being murdered by mysterious death squads who appear to have close links to the army.

By Thomas Bell, South East Asia Correspondent
January 19 2009

Since President Gloria Arroyo came to power in 2001, campaigners say over 900 people have been extra-judicially executed and 200 more have “disappeared”.

A United Nations report in 2007 blamed the army for most of the killings, but no action has been taken and the unexplained murders continue.

One of the most dangerous areas is the Compostela Valley, on the southern island of Mindanao. It is a place of great natural beauty as well as rural poverty which is home to several foreign owned gold mines and a long-standing communist insurgency. In the final few weeks of 2008, five apparently peaceful, law-abiding men were mysteriously shot dead in the area.

The first victim was Danilo Qualbar, a 48-year-old activist for the Left-wing People First party, who was shot on November 6. Human rights researchers said there was no autopsy and no investigation – the police did not even interview the victim’s family.

According to Mr Qualbar’s widow, a group of soldiers called out “that one” as her husband passed through a military checkpoint a week before his murder.

The next victim was 4 days later when Rolando Antolihao, 39 – a banana plantation worker and People First party member – was shot dead in front of his wife and 2-year-old daughter. There was a small army post 50 metres away but according to reports the soldiers on duty did respond to the shooting.

In the following weeks two more activists were shot.

Finally, two days before Christmas Fernando Sarmiento, a 39-year-old environmentalist who argued that a local gold mine was damaging the interests of local people, was killed by assassins fitting the same description.

Mr Sarmiento’s friends said he was arrested by the army in July and accused of being a communist guerrilla.

Witnesses noted that the killers in the Compostela Valley usually arrived on a red Honda motorcycle and used a .45 pistol. At the top of the list of suspects are soldiers from local army camps, but there has been no official investigation into the shootings, or whether the deaths are even in any way connected.

Human rights campaigners claim that the killings are part of an offensive launched by President Arroyo in an attempt to defeat Maoist guerrillas called the New People’s Army (NPA) by 2010.

Although they deny the murders, senior army officers claim that legal parties such People First and other activist groups which most of the victims belong to are fronts for the communists.

Instead, the army frequently claims, the deaths are a result of feuds and purges within the communist party.

According to Lt Col Ernesto Torres, an army spokesman the “security forces are convenient scapegoats” for the killings and he claims allegations against the army are made by “groups who want to bring down the government and replace it with their own brand of government”.

Yet, according to Alan Davies, director of the Philippine Human Rights Project, “No agency, either international or local, is trying to properly investigate and map these killings to see how they are linked”.

One woman who knows the pain this official silence causes is Erlinda Cadapan. Her daughter Sherlyn was a 29-year-old university student campaigning for peasant rights when she was abducted along with a friend by suspected soldiers in 2006.

A witness, who claims he met the two women in army custody, has testified that he saw them raped and tortured by soldiers and that soldiers told him they were later killed.

Mrs Cadapan has written to President Arroyo but received no response.

In September a court ruled that, if they were still alive, the women must be released.

“That makes me really angry because in spite of the ruling no one from the government is willing to help me. They are trying to protect the armed forces,” said Mrs Cadapan.

“There is some rumour that my daughter is still alive so we are hoping and praying fro that,” she said. “But still they deny everything.”

President Arroyo has remained mostly silent on the 900 killings and 200 “disappearances” on her watch, the army denies any role and no-one has ever been prosecuted.


Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 9:10 am  Comments Off on 900 people killed in Philippines by ‘mysterious death squads’  
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On this Remembrance Sunday In Britain

White crosses bearing poppies and personal messages to the fallen fill the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey, London, yesterday


White crosses bearing poppies and personal messages to the fallen fill the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey, London, yesterday

So, what are we fighting for today?
By Cole Moreton

November 9 2008

On this Remembrance Sunday, British soldiers standing in dusty battle fatigues in Afghanistan will remember a friend whose death was so recent that the feelings are still raw.

Yubraj Rai was shot during an ambush by the Taliban. Medics tried to save him, but they couldn’t. The 28-year-old died in a land where the poppy does not mean remembrance. It means opium, money and power. And death.

His mates have spoken about a man with a ready smile that hid how “brave, strong and hard” he was. Yubraj used his pay from the Royal Gurkha Rifles to support a mother, sister and three brothers back home in Nepal. “We are proud of you,” said one of his closest comrades, “and what you did for us, your family and for the Queen.”

His death in a skirmish south of the town of Musa Qala may well have passed you by. It wasn’t much of a news event. A kind of media battle weariness has set in, as the number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan has continued to rise. Rifleman Rai was the 228th British Army soldier to die in those countries since 2001. It happened on Tuesday, as the world watched America vote for a new president.

Barack Obama has already said that Afghanistan will be his number one foreign policy priority, and it needs to be. As Americans prepared to vote, their missiles were killing 40 people at a wedding party in southern Kandahar. Seven years after the attack on New York, the US is fighting an indefatigable enemy in Afghanistan. But why? That is the question Barack Obama needs to answer, and that British leaders also face today.

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in London this morning, in the company of the Queen and more than 8,000 veterans. It is 90 years since the end of the First World War. But as the casualties are remembered, and the folly of Iraq seems to be coming to an end with talk of withdrawals by the US and Britain, there is mounting anxiety within the military about the potentially deadly lack of focus in Afghanistan.

The operation is seen as “half-cocked”, “overstretched” and “confused”. Senior military figures and soldiers recently returned from the field speak of a “failure of leadership” that amounts to “a betrayal”. The strongest words come today from a major who lost men in some of the fiercest fighting of modern times, and who uses an exclusive interview with the IoS to launch a scathing attack on the command structure he describes as “farcical” and political decision-makers he sees as “irresponsible”. Major Will Pike says soldiers need to be given a much clearer sense of who is in charge and what they are supposed to be trying to achieve – as well as the resources to do the job, instead of just fighting for their own survival.

Major Pike led a company of the Parachute Regiment’s third battalion during the vicious battle of Sangin in 2006, but resigned from the army altogether last year after a spell in Whitehall. Rare as it is for a commander to criticise his masters on the record so soon after leaving the battlefield, distinguished military figures have lined up behind his attack. “There has been a failure of leadership in Afghanistan,” agreed Colonel Bob Stewart, former UN commander of British troops in Bosnia. “We’ve forgotten the lessons of British military history. When we were in Malaya we created safe areas and held them. We are not doing that in Afghanistan. We go into a town but we don’t have the resources to hold it so the Taliban come back.”

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, writing in the IoS today, also agrees. He describes the lack of a clear strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan as “a betrayal” of the soldiers there.

British casualties have slowed in Iraq, with only two this year, but there have been 36 deaths in Afghanistan. Barack Obama has spoken of winding down the US presence in Iraq and sending 7,000 more troops to Afghanistan instead. He must also decide whether or not to negotiate with the Taliban. Yesterday Douglas Alexander, the Secretary for International Development, said Britain also intended a “significant drawdown” of its 4,000 troops in Iraq. Military experts hope that will at last give the overtaxed military a chance to finish what it started in Afghanistan, if command structures can be put right.

Major-General Patrick Cordingley, leader of the Desert Rats in the first Gulf War, said: “At the low level, the Army is doing well and fighting bravely in a difficult war. What we’re not getting right is co-ordinating the Foreign Office, NGOs and the military in a way that can create a sense of security – and that’s to do with so few troops on the ground.” Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP and former commander of the Sherwood Foresters, said a very senior serving officer had “expressed grave doubts” to him about progress, for the same reasons: a lack of resources, co-ordination and planning. “There is no point in building a school and then pulling out so the Taliban come and burn the school down.”

Major Will Pike said the command structure during his action in southern Afghanistan in 2006 was “farcical”, with the military and British government agencies following “rival agendas” that left troops isolated and overstretched. Resources were “pathetic”, with not nearly enough troops, helicopters or radio training and Land-Rovers that were “disgraceful”.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said the Armed Forces were working “incredibly hard in difficult and challenging circumstances but we are making progress. UK Commanders in Afghanistan have said that deployed brigades are now the best equipped they have ever been”.

However, an SAS commander quit last week over kit issues. And Major Pike said the biggest continuing problem was a command failure at the top. “Who is in charge of the campaign? Is it the Secretary of State for Defence? Is it the Foreign Secretary? Is it the Minister for International Development? Who is it? That’s not clear.”

Nor was the mission. Soldiers had been told they were preparing the way for the country to be rebuilt, but NGOs were reluctant to work with them. “We go into these things half-cocked, relying on the military to do it all. That is never going to work.”

Afghanistan’s nightmare: Taliban resurgent, opium booming and famine stalking the land

Civilian casualties At least 1,000 non-combatant Afghans have been killed this year.

Kabul in chaos Suicide bombers and assassins are increasingly active, spreading terror among government and aid workers.

Taliban on the march Large parts of the south and east again under control of those “defeated” seven years ago.

Soldiers dying 70,000 troops from 40 nations have now poured in, but the risks rise as resistance stiffens.

Conflict spreading Over the border, more than 100 people have been killed by US drones, stretching relations with Pakistan to breaking point.

Bumper opium crops UK-occupied Helmand has become world’s heroin hub.

Spectre of famine More than eight million Afghans face severe hunger this winter.

Civil liberties Things seem to be slipping backwards in tribal areas.


The Road to Peace is needed.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Published in: on November 9, 2008 at 11:02 am  Comments Off on On this Remembrance Sunday In Britain  
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