Saturday, December 27, 2008

As Taliban Nears Kabul, Shadow Goverment Takes Hold

Taliban Nears Kabul, Shadow Goverment Takes Hold
(NSI News Source Info) WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan— December 27, 2008: Two months ago, Mohammad Anwar recalls, the Taliban paraded accused thieves through his village, tarred their faces with oil and threw them in jail. The public punishment was a clear sign to villagers that the Taliban are now in charge. And the province they took over lies just 30 miles from the Afghan capital of Kabul, right on the main highway. The Taliban has long operated its own shadow government in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, but its power is now spreading north to the doorstep of Kabul, according to Associated Press interviews with a dozen government officials, analysts, Taliban commanders and Afghan villagers. More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, the Islamic militia is attempting -- at least in name -- to reconstitute the government by which it ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s. This June 26, 2008 file frame grab from television footage reportedly shows Afghan militants holding weapons next to the burning wreckage of a vehicle in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Over the past year in Wardak province alone, Taliban fighters have taken over district centers, set up checkpoints on rural highways and captured Afghan soldiers. The Taliban in Wardak has its own governor and military chief, its own pseudo court system and its own religious leaders who act as judges. Bands of armed militants in beat-up trucks cruise the countryside, dispensing their own justice against accused spies and thieves Over the past year in Wardak province alone, Taliban fighters have taken over district centers, set up checkpoints on rural highways and captured Afghan soldiers. The Taliban in Wardak has its own governor and military chief, its own pseudo-court system and its own religious leaders who act as judges. Bands of armed militants in beat-up trucks cruise the countryside, dispensing their own justice against accused spies and thieves. "After night falls, no police drive through here," the 20-year-old Anwar said, urging an AP journalist to return to Kabul before the militants drove into view. Two miles down the road, a policeman named Fawad manned a checkpoint, wearing the traditional shalwar kameez robe so he could pretend to be a simple villager in case of a Taliban attack. "There are more and more Taliban this year," said Fawad, who like many Afghans goes by only one name. "The people of the villages are not going to the government courts. The Taliban are warning them that no one can go there." In a growing number of regions, insurgents have put in place: -- Militant commanders who serve as self-described governors and police or military chiefs of provinces. -- A 10 percent "tax" -- a forced payment at gunpoint, Western officials say -- on rich families, or donations by poorer families of food and shelter for fighters. -- A military draft that forces fighting-age males to join the Taliban for months-long rotations. -- A parallel judicial system run by religious scholars who impose such punishments as tarring, public humiliation and the chopping off hands. -- The closing of Afghan schools or the forcing of schools to replace science with more religious study. -- Manned Taliban or militant checkpoints to demand highway taxes and search vehicles for government employees or foreigners. The increasing "Talibanization" is taking place in wide areas of countryside where the U.S., NATO and government of Hamid Karzai don't have enough troops for a permanent presence. Recognizing this, the U.S. plans to send its newest influx of troops in January into Wardak and Logar, right next to Kabul. Between 20,000 and 30,000 new American forces are scheduled to arrive by the summer.
Some Western officials argue that the rise of a shadow government is nothing more than the return of different emboldened warlords. They suspect militants simply stepped in where they saw a void in areas not reached by the Karzai's government, and it is still not clear if they have a coherent strategy. U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has noted deep fault lines between Afghan insurgent groups. McKiernan said the Taliban is trying not to govern but to intimidate. In some cases they do try to have shadow governors or court systems, McKiernan said, "but they certainly do not bring with them any incentives to a community, any socio-economic programs, any perks, if you will..." It's not clear just how far the shadow government goes. Taliban officials and analysts boast that there are now Taliban shadow governors in almost every Afghan province. "Three years ago the Taliban had no control in Afghanistan. They were spread too thin. Now they have power. They have soldiers. They have governors, district chiefs and judges. It is a very big difference from what you saw in 2003 or even 2005," said Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which provides safety information to aid organizations operating in the country, said that by a conservative estimate, anti-government militants operate in more than 35 percent of the country, and that the number is growing. In 2007 militants attacked foreign troops only in small formations, worried that bombing runs by fighter aircraft would result in huge battlefield losses. But over the last year, that has changed. Recently, some 300 militants massed for an attack in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province. About 250 insurgents took part in an attack on a government center in Paktika province in late November. And earlier this year some 200 militants attacked a small U.S. outpost in the east and killed nine soldiers. An hour's drive south of Kabul in Logar, the Taliban took over the district of Baraki Barak just before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in September. They rented shops and armed men wandered the streets, residents say. They ordered barbers with TV sets to throw them away and kicked the satellite dishes on some houses to the ground. After Friday prayers on the 25th day of Ramadan, Taliban fighters announced they were going to implement sharia law by their conservative and punitive reading of Islam. They warned that anyone working for the government would be considered a spy and killed. "Everyone with links to the government fled the area," said a shopkeeper in Baraki Barak who spoke only on condition he wasn't identified for fear of the Taliban. "The people are very afraid of the Taliban, but if anyone shows any kind of reaction, the Taliban will mark that man and say, 'You are a spy of the foreigners and infidels.'" In Helmand province, perhaps Afghanistan's most militant-infested region, Mullah Mohammad Qassim was appointed as the Taliban police chief last spring. Qassim said each of Helmand's 14 districts has a Taliban government leader and police chief, and courts across the province implement strict Islamic or sharia law. The Taliban in Helmand have no relations with Karzai's government, he said. "We are more powerful than them. Even most of the capital of Helmand is under our control." Every week Taliban judges hold court after Friday prayers, said tribal elder Mohammad Aslam from the district of Sangin. In the Kajaki area of Helmand, the site of a large U.S.-funded dam project, militants tax houses with electricity, he said. Trucks using the highways are also taxed. Aslam estimates that 90 percent of people in Helmand side with the Taliban. Echoing a common complaint of Afghans across the country, Mohammad Aslam labeled the Afghan government "corrupt." "No one can trust them," he said of government officials. "Whenever we have a problem, we go to the Taliban and the Taliban court."

Israeli Air Force Bombs Terrorist Targets In Gaza

Israeli Air Force Bombs Terrorist Targets In Gaza
(NSI News Source Info) TEL AVIV, Israel— December 27, 2008: The Israeli Air Force began its attack Hamas targets and infrastructure in the Gaza strip, 11am local time, Dec. 27, in an operation called “cast lead.” Over 40 targets from the Hamas terrorist organization, currently in control of Gaza, were bombed, including headquarter buildings, ammunition storage houses, and training facilities.
A combination photo shows a missile fired from an Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter plane falling and exploding in the northern Gaza Strip December 27, 2008. Israeli warplanes and helicopters pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 205 people in the bloodiest one-day death toll in 60 years of conflict with the Palestinians
The intense attack comes following weeks of Hamas firing rockets into Israeli towns located in the area around Gaza, which started before the cease-fire agreed upon in July had officially ended. It is reported that there have been over 150 dead and 200 injured in Gaza following the attacks, including potentially senior Hamas leaders.
Following the attack in the morning, Hamas began firing more intensively, and towns and cities that have been outside the range of previous attacks during the past 7-8 years have been hit. Uncensored videos of the dead in Gaza are being broadcast all over the Arab world, while commentators in Israel say this is part of a propaganda move by Hamas to stir up outrage. Hamas is known to intentionally place its facilities and rocket firing in densely populated civilian areas.
An Israeli military spokesperson said in a statement that the operation against terrorist targets may continue, and be expanded according to ongoing evaluation of the situation.

Russia Has 12 Firm Export Orders For Mi-28N Helicopter Gunships

Russia Has 12 Firm Export Orders For Mi-28N Helicopter Gunships (NSI News Source Info) CHKALOVSKY - December 27, 2008: Russia has received 12 orders from abroad for Mi-28N Night Hunter attack helicopters and is ready to fulfill any contracts, the head of manufacturer Russian Helicopters said on Friday. Andrei Shibitov added that some of the orders received were from Venezuela. "We have 12 export orders for Mi-28N helicopters, including from Venezuela, and are ready to fulfill any contracts," he said. He also said the Turkish government had also shown an interest in the helicopters, although no formal contracts had been signed yet. A national Turkish daily reported on Monday that Ankara was planning to buy 32 used Mi-28 (Havoc) helicopters from Russia in a deal worth a total of $1 billion. Vatan said the decision to buy helicopters from Russia was made after talks for purchases of Cobra and Super Cobra helicopter gunships failed with the United States. The Russian helicopters will tide Turkey over until Agusta A-129 Mangusta helicopters, co-produced with Italy's Agusta Westland, have been delivered to the Turkish Armed Forces. The Italian company won a tender for the production of 52 helicopters in 2007. The Turkish Defense Ministry has yet to officially confirm the report by Vatan. The Mi-28 is an all-weather day-night attack helicopter manufactured by the Rostvertol plant in southern Russia. The Russian Air Force said earlier on Friday it had started modernization of the Mi-28N helicopter and the development of a new helicopter, the Mi-28NM. The Air Force is designing a fifth-generation helicopter, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin told journalists. "We are working on the design of a fifth-generation helicopter. Russia's military-industrial complex has solved the task of bringing into service the Mi-28H and Ka-52 helicopters. Now we're working on a fifth-generation helicopter," the Air Force commander said.

Russia Testing New Missile For S-400 Air Defense System

Russia Testing New Missile For S-400 Air Defense System (NSI N ews Source Info) CHKALOVSKY - December 27, 2008: The Russian Air Force is testing a new missile for the S-400 Triumf air defense system, the Air Force commander said on Friday. The S-400 (SA-21 Growler) is designed to intercept and destroy airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles), twice the range of the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot, and 2.5 times that of the S-300PMU-2. The system is expected to form the cornerstone of Russia's theater air and missile defenses up to 2020 or even 2025. "The S-400 system is being successfully deployed with air defense units. At present, we are testing a new missile for this system," Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said. Russia successfully conducted last year live firing tests of the S-400 air defense complex at the Kapustin Yar firing range in south Russia's Astrakhan Region, and deployed a battalion of the first missile regiment equipped with the new system to protect the airspace surrounding Moscow. The system is believed to be able to destroy stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, with an effective range of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and a speed of up to 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) per second. A regular S-400 battalion comprises at least eight launchers with 32 missiles and a mobile command post, according to various sources. The new state arms procurement program until 2015 stipulates the purchase of enough S-400 air defense systems to arm 18 battalions during this period.

Russia To Start Production Of Ka-52 Combat Helicopters

Russia To Start Production Of Ka-52 Combat Helicopters (NSI News Source Info) CHKALOVSKY (Moscow Region) - December 27, 2008: The Russian government has approved the production of Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters at a plant in the Far East, the Air Force chief said on Friday. A new-generation Ka-52 Alligator combat helicopter making a demonstration flight over the airfield at the Progress Aviation Plant in Arsenyev. The multi-role Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter is an improved derivative of the two-seat mass-produced Ka-50 Black Shark attack helicopter The Ka-52 is a twin-seat derivative of the Ka-50 Hokum-A attack helicopter, and is designed primarily for reconnaissance and target designation purposes. It is similar to the U.S. AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. "The Russian government has decided to approve the production of the first batch of Ka-52 helicopters at the Arsenyevsk plant," Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin. Deliveries of the first 12 Ka-52 Hokum-Bs to the Russian Air Force will start in 2009. According to Zelin, the Russian Air Force will receive more than 100 new helicopters, including the Ka-52 and the Mi-28N Night Hunter, over the next four years.