Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Voice of America News & & Edith M. Lederer / Associated Press & ABC News – 2016-11-05 00:50:55
Afghan villagers gather around victims’ bodies killed during clashes between Taliban and Afghan security forces in a Taliban-controlled village north of Kabul, Afghanistan. Nov. 4, 2016.
Angry Mourners Bury Civilian Victims of US Airstrike in North Afghanistan
Afghan Officials Say Taliban Used Locals as ‘Human Shields’
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 4, 2016) — Hundreds of angry mourners gathered today in the north Afghan village of Bouz Kandahari to bury an estimated 30 civilian victims of a US airstrike the previous day. The locals noted that many of the civilians being buried were infants and small children.
Two US soldiers and four Afghan soldiers were killed in fighting with the Taliban near the village Thursday morning, and the airstrikes were called in, supposedly in an attempt to break the Taliban siege against the village. Instead, the airstrikes hit the village, destroying several homes and killing those within.
NATO promised an investigation into the details of the matter, but Afghan officials appeared to be shrugging the matter off, insisting the Taliban were using the locals as “human shields” by virtue of their operating somewhat near their homes.
US statements on the fighting and airstrikes have more or less ignored the civilian toll entirely, insisting only that they take such reports “seriously,” and then going into details about the condolences they offer for the US soldiers killed in the fighting.
Bouz Kandahari is near the city of Kunduz, which was taken over briefly last year by the Taliban. The Taliban has been advancing in the area in recent weeks, along with offensives against the capitals of two other provinces, Helmand and Uruzgan.
Angry Mourners Bury Victims of Airstrike in Afghanistan
Voice of America News
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — Hundreds of mourners gathered on Friday to bury more than 30 civilians killed in an airstrike called in to protect Afghan and US forces during a raid on suspected Taliban militants outside the northern city of Kunduz.
There was an angry mood in Buz Kandahari, the village outside Kunduz where the raid took place in the early hours of Thursday, as white-shrouded bodies, many of small children, were laid out for burial.
“My brother and three of his children were killed. My brother had no connection to any group, he was a laborer,” said Mawlawi Haji Allahdad, a resident of the village.
“Did you see which of those infants and children who were killed by the Americans were terrorists? We will avenge our dead against the Americans and the government,” he said.
Two Americans and four members of the Afghan special forces were killed during the initial raid, a month after Taliban fighters managed to enter Kunduz, threatening a repeat of their success a year earlier when they briefly captured the city.
The fighting underlined how precarious the security situation around Kunduz remains. Although the city center was eventually secured last month, the Taliban control much of the surrounding district, including the area of Buz Kandahari.
Officials from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul have said it takes all reports of civilian deaths seriously and would investigate.
Human rights group Amnesty International called for an inquiry into the incident, saying those killed in the airstrike deserved justice. “This cannot be another example of inaction in the face of such loss of life,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a trenchant critic of the use of American air power in Afghanistan, condemned the strikes, but otherwise reaction from Afghan political leaders was relatively muted.
Speaking at an event in Kabul, Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah expressed his condolences to the victims and said there would be an investigation into the incident. He said the Taliban used Kunduz residents as human shields.
The use of airstrikes in civilian areas came under heavy criticism last year after 42 people were killed in a strike against a hospital operated by aid group Medecins sans Frontieres in Kunduz.
According to figures from the United Nations, there was a 72 percent increase in civilian casualties caused by airstrikes in the period from January to September, with 133 deaths and 159 injured. One third were caused by international forces.
However, Afghan military officials see US air power as a vital support in the fight against the Taliban while the country’s own nascent air force is still being built, and the number of airstrikes has spiked sharply this year.
UN Experts: 45,000 Opposition Fighters in Afghanistan
Edith M. Lederer / Associated Press & ABC News
UNITED NATIONS (November 4, 2016) — Fighters loyal to al-Qaida have taken on a more active supporting role for the Taliban during the current offensive in Afghanistan while the position of the Islamic State extremist group in the country “has distinctly weakened,” UN experts said in a report circulated Friday.
The experts said the Afghan government and several other countries estimate that there are about 45,000 opposition fighters in Afghanistan and between 20 percent and 25 percent are foreigners.
These “bad actors . . . mutually reinforced each other and presented a significant and rising terrorist challenge not only for the country but also for the international community,” the experts quoted several unnamed senior officials as saying.
The Taliban have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government since their own regime was ousted in a US invasion in 2001. In recent months, they have stepped up attacks across Afghanistan. The Islamic State group is a more recent addition to Afghanistan’s security woes.
The experts said several countries highlighted that relations between the Taliban and al-Qaida strengthened during the time Akhtar Mansour led the Taliban and the improved ties have continued under his successor, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
Several countries told the experts that al-Qaida fighters “acted as specialized instructors for Taliban groups, in particular as far as the design of improvised explosive devices was concerned,” the report said.
The experts, who monitor sanctions against the Taliban, said in the report to the UN Security Council that the Islamic State group has lost territory and fighters. “However, it remains a serious challenge,” they said.
At the high point of its influence in 2015, IS fighters controlled nine districts in Nangarhar Province but currently their influence has been reduced, at most, to 3 1/2 districts, the experts said. They said the number of fighters fell as a result of Afghan military action and international air strikes.
“The group’s ability to take and hold territory was also affected by clashes with Taliban fighters competing for local influence and particularly for resources, funding and manpower,” they said.
The experts said several countries reported to the team that the number of Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan had dropped from an estimate of fewer than 3,500 to about 1,600, of whom 700 are foreigners.
Nonetheless, it said, the Islamic State group has maintained “an active propaganda campaign inside Afghanistan,” with its key tool a mobile radio station that remains in operation despite Afghan and international efforts to target it.
As for foreign fighters, the report said the largest proportion — approximately 7,500 to 7,600 — fled Pakistan as a result of military operations and were fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban.
A second group reportedly comprises fighters from China, Russia and Central Asia from Islamic groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, while the third group comprises Islamic State fighters and the fourth al-Qaida and its affiliates, the report said.
Afghan officials and others told the experts that most Taliban income comes from narcotics followed by mining, kidnap for ransom, and external donations.
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