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Thread: The Afghan War (2001-2021)

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    The Afghan War (2001-2021)

    This story is getting a lot of buzz here in the states. I remember when this man went into the army hoping to be a ranger. I never knew that he made it. Never knew that he was in combat. No matter what your political views are he has to be recognized as a real deal American patriot. Gave up the chance for millions of dollars and never did interviews about his decision. He just felt called to serve. This story will now be used to help increase the number of new recruits.

    Ex-NFL Star Pat Tillman Dies in Afghanistan

    Saturday, April 24, 2004

    WASHINGTON — Pat Tillman, a former pro-football player who left the gridiron to become an Army Ranger, died during a combat operation in Afghanistan, military officials said Friday.

    The 27-year-old decided to stop playing for the Arizona Cardinals (search) and join the Armed Forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He passed up a $3.6 million contract with the NFL team to be a Ranger.

    "Pat Tillman was an inspiration both on and off the football field. As with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror, his family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush," the White House said in a statement.

    Tillman was shot and killed Thursday during a Special Operations mission southest of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan, military officials told Fox News.

    Serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment (search), Tillman was killed during a search and destroy mission where intelligence indicated a large presence of Al Qaeda fighters. Two other soldiers were wounded when in an exchange of small-arms fire.

    Stationed at Fort Lewis (search), Wash., Tillman was deployed overseas in 2003. His brother, Kevin, is also an Army Ranger serving in Afghanistan and also was a professional athlete — he played baseball for the Cleveland Indians' organization.

    He was married shortly before he joined the Army. His wife, Marie Tillman, supported his decision.

    Tillman is not the first NFL player to be killed in combat. Buffalo offensive lineman Bob Kalsu was killed by mortar fire during the Vietnam War in 1970.

    'Viewed Life Through a Different Prism'

    Tillman's former teammates and the Arizona Cardinals organization expressed dismay over his death as they praised him for his dedication.

    "We are all weaker today following this loss," said Michael Bidwell, Cardinals' vice president. "he was a guy committed not just to his family ... but to his country, to freedom."

    The Arizona State University (search) graduate spent four seasons with the Cardinals, from 1998 to 2002, before joining the Army. While at ASU, he had a 3.84 grade point average and graduated in 3-and-a-half years with a degree in marketing.

    The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tillman was distinguished by an appetite for rugged play and intelligence. As an undersized linebacker at ASU, he was the Pac-10's Defensive Player of the Year in 1997.

    Tillman's best season was in 2000 when he started all 16 games and had 224 tackles.

    "Pat was the kind of guy who would rather have played football in a parking lot than in a stadium with 100,000 people watching," Tim Layden, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, told Fox News.

    Layden said that Tillman was exceptionally loyal. Before making the decision to join the Army, he turned down a more lucrative contract with the St. Louis Rams because he wanted to continue playing for the team that gave him his NFL start — the Cardinals.

    "He just viewed life through a different prism than a lot of other people do," Layden said.

    A Personal Decision

    After making the decision to join the Army, then-Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said Tillman was "very serious" about his intent.

    "It's very personal, and I honor that. I honor the integrity of that. It was not a snap decision he woke up and made yesterday. This has been an ongoing process, and he feels very strongly about it."

    On Friday, after hearing about Tillman's death, McGinnis said: "I don't know if I have ever met a more dedicated person in my lifetime."

    His agent, Frank Bauer, called the decision consistent with his client's contemplative, nonmaterialistic nature.

    "This is very consistent with how he conducts his life," Bauer said in a 2002 interview. "Patty is the type of guy who is very smart and very loyal. I remember when the Rams made their offer, he said, 'No, I want to stay with the Cardinals. If I have to play for the minimum, I don't care.' He axed the offer sheet and played another year. But he's always had a blueprint for what he wants to do."

    Tillman hoped to resume his NFL career when his enlistment was up, Bauer said in the 2002 interview.

    "There is in Pat Tillman's example, in his unexpected choice of duty to his country over the riches and other comforts of celebrity, and in his humility, such an inspiration to all of us to reclaim the essential public-spiritedness of Americans that many of us, in low moments, had worried was no longer our common distinguishing trait," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.

    Fans Leave Messages at Memorial for No. 40

    A memorial was set up outside Cardinals' headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., with Tillman's No. 40 uniform in a glass frame alongside two teddy bears and two bouquets. A pen was left for people to write messages to Tillman's family.

    Gov. Janet Napolitano ordered flags at Arizona State University, Tillman's alma mater, flown at half-staff.

    "Pat Tillman personified all the best values of his country and the NFL," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement. "He was an achiever and leader on many levels who always put his team, his community, and his country ahead of his personal interests."

    Former teammate Pete Kendall, the Cardinals' starting center, said Tillman's death was a jolt of the reality regarding the nation's fight in the Middle East.

    "The loss of Pat brings it home," Kendall said. "Everyday there are countless families having to get the same news."

    Kendall remembered going out with Tillman and his future wife, Marie.

    "We had a meal and a couple of beers," Kendall said. "It was a nice night. I really looked forward to buying him another beer sometime down the road."

    http://www.foxnews.com/printer_frien...118055,00.html

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    Post Re: Ex-NFL Star Pat Tillman Dies in Afghanistan

    I have to admire what Tillman did for his country. He made the ultimate sacrifice.
    Just enlisting in the military alone was admirable.
    Last edited by Newgrange; Saturday, April 24th, 2004 at 10:07 PM. Reason: stat may be wrong,want to check before re-posting

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    Post Re: Ex-NFL Star Pat Tillman Dies in Afghanistan

    "Once, in America, the news of an athlete dying in some distant place was both sad and all too common. There were 5800 professional baseball players in this country on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. By January 1st, 1945, of those 5,800, 5,400 were serving in the United States military." By Keith Olbermann
    on 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann'

    A face to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan

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    Opium production in Afghanistan likely to reach new high this year

    Opium production in Afghanistan likely to reach new high this year

    21.09.2004, 16.45


    DUSHANBE, September 21 (Itar-Tass) - Heroin production in Afghanistan is likely to reach a new high of 400 metric tons, according to Avaz Yuldashev, who spoke for the Tajik president’s Drugs Control Agency.

    Yuldashev said the Tajik law enforcers jointly with the Russian border troops are making every possible effort to counteract drug trafficking across the Afghan-Tajik border.

    Interaction of the Tajik law enforcement bodies and the Russian border troops stationed in Tajikistan has enabled them to seize one-third of the 4,000 kilos of illicit drugs confiscated this year, Yuldashev said.

    All in all, more than 43,000 kilos of illicit drugs have been confiscated on the Tajik-Afghan border since 1996. Heroin accounts for more than a half of the seized narcotics.
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    Are the Germans Stationed in Afghanistan Cowards?

    Are the Germans Stationed in Afghanistan Cowards?

    Der Spiegel
    November 24,, 2006


    Southern Afghanistan is far from having been pacified -- a bloody war with the Taliban has erupted there. German troops have picked a relatively comfortable spot for themselves in the north of the country. Because they have avoided deadly fighting, they have been labeled "cowards" by the Americans and Brits. But are they?

    David Byers peers forth cautiously at the world from behind his narrow, steel-rimmed glasses. He's combed his short brown hair so it fits neatly under his beret. His mouth is fixed in a serious expression, and Byers looks as if he has a lot of questions on his mind. His visage is part of a photo of his batallion, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

    Private Byers was 22 years old when he was first sent into the field -- in southern Afghanistan, more than 16,000 kilometers (9,942 miles) from his hometown of Espanola in southern Canada. His mission was to help bring democracy and political stability to the land of the Hindu Kush mountains -- a land where war has raged since before his birth.

    Now he lies in a zinc coffin on the United States military base in Kandahar, draped with a Canadian flag.

    Byers died on Sept. 18, while on patrol in the village of Kafir Band. A man approached the private and his group on a bicycle. When the man detonated a set of explosives strapped to his body, Byers and three other Canadians were killed and roughly a dozen soldiers seriously injured.

    Now eight men are carrying Byers's coffin across the airfield on their shoulders. They're holding the zinc coffin with one hand and leaning on the soldier to their side with the other. The coffin carriers don't look like grown men -- more like big boys. The bare mountains of Kandahar rise against the horizon, and the dust of the desert lingers in the air.

    The eight men place Byers's corpse inside the dark hold of the Hercules airplane that will take him back to Canada, back to Espanola. Three more coffins have been placed inside the plane. So far, 42 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan, most of them during the past three months in the southern part of the country.

    How many lives should peace in Afghanistan be allowed to cost? The total number of Western soldiers who have died there is 504, including 18 Germans. The last German to die was 44-year-old Armin Franz, a lieutenant colonel from the reserve army of Redwitz near Rodach. He was killed in a suicide attack on Nov. 14, 2005.

    Master Sergeant Carsten Kühlmorgen was one of the first Germans to die in an attack in Afghanistan. He defended Germany with his life, by the Hindu Kush mountains, said Peter Struck, who was Germany's defense minister at the time. Kühlmorgen died on June 7, 2003 at 07:58 a.m., as he was traveling to the airport by bus from Camp Warehouse, the German headquarters in the Afghan capital.

    Kühlmorgen was scheduled to fly home after six months of service -- back to the eastern German city of Chemnitz. A suicide bomber in a yellow Lada taxi rammed the bus on Jalalabad Road, transforming it into a fireball. Four people died and 29 suffered serious burns. One lost a leg, another his eyesight. Most of the survivors are deeply traumatized: They're suffering from so-called post-traumatic stress syndrome or the "war shakes," as it used to be called. It's a symptom of war that has ruined marriages and destroyed men's lives.

    Was it necessary? For Germany? A group of relatives made its way to this foreign world in Kabul a few months later. They wanted to know what their brothers, sons and fathers had died or been permanently mutilated for. The German military psychotherapist Karl-Heinz Biesold spoke to them following their return. "What happened became more understandable," he says, "but in the end there's always something inexplicable that remains."

    The relatives visited the camp were the soldiers had been stationed. They drove to the place where the bomb had exploded. Then they went to the Shar-i-Nau neighborhood in Kabul, and stood between geranium flowers and roses, on a Christian cemetery where the German embassy had organized a memorial service.

    The notable guests included Amin Farhang, an Afghan who lived in German exile for many years and is now minister of trade and industry in the administration of President Hamid Karzai. He did his best to alleviate the sadness and perplexity of the relatives: "The Afghan people will never forget the names of the great men who sacrificed themselves and died heroically to preserve the security of Afghanistan."

    The problem is that Afghanistan hasn't become a secure place since the death of Kühlmorgen and his fellow soldiers -- to the contrary. Suicide bombers carried out two attacks in 2003 -- but by 2006, the number had risen to 80. More than 3,700 people died during the past 10 months: The terrorists shot schoolteachers because they were instructing girls. Civilians were killed by explosives detonated on market squares and streets. Policemen and soldiers lost their lives because they were defending their democratically elected government. Others were killed by US bombs that missed their target. In addition, 179 Western soldiers were killed.

    Back then, after the December 2001 conference in Petersberg near Bonn on the rebuilding of Afghanistan, the Germans were among the first to go to Kabul. They dared to expand their mission beyond the capital and into the north of Afghanistan before others did -- the German military took responsibility for nine provinces in northern Afghanistan this summer. The risk seemed manageable: Most of the inhabitants in those provinces are of Tajik and Uzbek ancestry, making them traditional opponents of the Pashtun Taliban.

    In making this move, the Germans won the respect of other NATO countries. But then, three months later, the NATO alliance expanded its operations into the Afghan south, to the heartland of Afghan drug cultivation and the hinterland of the Taliban, where skirmishes take place everyday and where NATO soldiers die almost daily in what US President George W. Bush has christened the "War on Terror."

    The heaviest losses have been suffered by the British and the Canadians: Each of the countries has lost more than 40 soldiers during military operations so far. Of the 18 Germans who have died in Afghanistan, 5 died in enemy attacks and one was killed by a mine -- the others died in accidents. On March 6, 2002, the two master sergeants Thomas Kochert and Mike Rubel were killed when they tried to defuse an anti-aircraft missile near Kabul. Seven other German soldiers were killed when a CH-53 military helicopter crashed on Dec. 21, 2002.

    The division of labor between the various NATO countries is now the source of bad blood between the partners. Canadian Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor would like the German, French, Italian and Spanish troops currently stationed in the relatively safe western and northern Afghanistan to be involved in operations all over the country. He wants to create pressure at the NATO conference scheduled for late November in Riga, Latvia. Re-distributing NATO troops across Afghanistan will be the "number one" issue, he has announced.

    The Germans at NATO headquarters in Kabul now face open hostility: They're mocked as cowards and cop-outs. Some Europeans "obviously resist the idea that you have an army in order to fight. And I have very little patience for that," says the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann. Neumann wants the Germans to join in the fighting -- and the dying, if necessary -- in southern Afghanistan.

    Neumann sits on the roof terrace of his residence at the end of Great Massoud Road in Kabul. To his left lies the dusty and overpopulated inner city, where hotels and new homes are being built. To his right are the bare and inhospitable peaks of the Kuh-i-Baba mountains. The Virginian knows this part of the world: His father served as ambassador to Afghanistan between 1966 and 1973.

    Before he came to Kabul, 61-year-old Neumann was in Baghdad, where it seems there's little left to save -- yet another reason why the mission in Afghanistan mustn't fail as well. The conflict has cost 350 US soldiers their lives so far. The ambassador speaks quietly, but more clearly than diplomats usually do: If Afghanistan falls back into the hands of the Taliban, he warns, there will be no peace for people in the West -- including Germans.

    The US diplomat is by no means the only person to hold this opinion. Many experts expect terrorists to return to Afghanistan in the case of a renewed seizure of power by the Taliban, and they expect these terrorists to plan and carry out attacks in the US, Europe and Asia. The terrorists could largely finance their own activities by the drug trade. So why are the USA's allies so hesitant, when their security is at risk? Neumann can't help but wonder.

    So are the Germans cowards -- or are they just smart?

    The man in the coffee shop of the new five-star Serena Hotel in Kabul is wearing the traditional Perahan wa Tonban -- a long shirt with harem pants made of soft, elegant-looking wool, and a tailor-made jacket. He's a member of parliament, from the south of Afghanistan and well informed about the situation there; he often makes appearances on television. But this time he prefers to remain anonymous: "The Taliban are a fact, and the West won't stop them," he says. "And only those who share power with them will be able to achieve security in Afghanistan."

    Similarly sombre predictions can often be heard in political circles of the Afghan capital these days. Anything seems possible now that the Taliban have suddenly and surprisingly returned: An agreement could be made with the self-styled holy warriors, perhaps even with militia leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a wanted terrorist who is also a reputed veteran of the Afghan civil war. Hekmatyar has often switched sides and he's capricious.

    So now there's talk of possible non-aggression pacts and about new elections because many claim that President Hamid Karzai is no longer sufficiently convincing as a political authority. Some whisper about the country breaking apart into a northern and a southern half. At this juncture, nothing seems impossible.

    The speculation will have little basis in reality so long as the US continues to maintain its official position: namely that the Afghanistan mission is difficult, but can still be won as long as NATO provides the troops necessary for a decisive victory over the Taliban in the coming months.

    The handsomely dressed member of parliament knows about guerrilla tactics and how to exhaust traditional armies. He once fought the Soviets as a mujahedeen or holy warrior. "How long will the Americans and the Europeans be able to take this?" he wonders, ordering a Black Forest Cake from the coffee shop's glass vitrine.

    This too is part of the peculiarities characteristic of these wild days in Afghanistan: As war is once more being conducted, almost everything else continues as always -- life, everyday affairs and reconstruction too. Afghanistan is signing multi-million agreements with neighboring countries to ensure its electricity and gas supply. A high-security prison for terrorists is being built. Parliament is debating tax decisions and trade laws. An academy for generals is inaugurated festively -- and Black Forest Cake is for sale in the Serena Hotel, whose elegance makes it seem like a UFO in the center of Kabul.

    So can Afghanistan be saved after all?

    It's hard here to find a statement that will still hold true tomorrow. The analyses provided by experts change daily -- often according to the geographical location of the expert.

    Take Colonel Stephen Williams, for example. He's stationed in the Panjvai district, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Kabul. His command post is located inside a tent in Pashmul, a town in a fertile valley near Kandahar, famous for its tasty grapes and melons. Canadian and US NATO soldiers have leveled a field and dubbed the camp "Camp Rugby."

    Operation Medusa took place here in September -- a massive battle that also involved the British, the Dutch and Afghanis. Five Canadians died. The Taliban lost at least 500 fighters. The holy warriors almost succeeded in taking Kandahar, the country's second-largest city, and occupying the main road to Kabul and Herat. Williams, 46, led the allied troops to Pashmul and won the battle. The Taliban were defeated -- for the moment.

    The colonel brimmed with optimism. He was convinced the holy warriors wouldn't attempt to return anytime too soon in the same classic formation. "They've got to be desperate," he said. Williams led people across the battlefield, showed them the shot-up school building that had served as a headquarters for the Taliban fighters, the irrigation canals for the fields, the hemp plants as tall as grown men and the clay bunkers behind which the Taliban had taken shelter. "If they try again, we will finish them."

    But the colonel also understood that this war can't be won by bullets or rockets alone.

    The international community ignored the strategically important Pashtun province in the south for five years. With the exception of some combative US soldiers who occasionally stormed the homes of suspicious people or dropped bombs from the sky, the inhabitants didn't get to see too much of the new democracy. The promised hospitals and streets were never built. No one created jobs for people to feed their families with. In the spring, international teams arrived to destroy the opium harvest. They threatened to rid the impoverished farmers of their livelihood. But the Taliban presented themselves as protectors of the Pashtuns, prompting many to switch sides out of sheer desperation.

    Ever since ancient times, foreigners only ever came to Afghanistan as conquerors -- from Alexander the Great to the Mongols and the British right up to the Soviets. So it's no wonder that the Americans are now seen as enemies too. Now the Taliban are taking over one village after the other -- wherever the government is weak, wherever there is neither a police nor a judiciary or an administration. The Taliban are once again guarding the territory at night.

    Colonel Williams says it's now a question of convincing the Afghans that NATO is serious about reconstruction and that it's strong enough to fight the Taliban. That's why NATO is now issuing statements every day in Afghanistan -- not just about its own losses and the enemies killed, but also about good deeds: NATO gives farmers tractors, NATO provides compensation to families whose homes have been accidentally bombed, NATO builds streets, NATO treats patients and distributes rice and beans before the onset of winter. Good NATO.

    Traditionally, the Taliban are impoverished young men trained for jihad in Koran schools, where they arrived as refugees or village youths. True, the Taliban who died in Panjvai included farmers and day laborers who let themselves be hired for the war for $5 a day -- cannon fodder. But the others were "true believers," as the Americans call them. They were Islamic fundamentalists convinced of the righteousness of their own actions, ready to fight to the death.

    This new war in Afghanistan has only been going on for a few months, but it's already clear that it will be an unusually cruel war. A British soldier describing a bloody incident in an e-mail to the British paper Sunday Mail offers a hint of just how cruel the conflict is: He compared his unit's failed effort to save French special troops to a "The scene was like a human abattoir."

    The British had tried to save their hard-pressed allies by helicopter, but it was already too late: The French had been tied to the ground, and "gutted alive" by the Taliban. "That's the worst place I've ever been," British Lance Corporal Trevor Coult from the Royal Irish Regiment says about the little city of Sangin in Helmand, where he defended NATO positions for weeks.

    Coult was in Iraq before he came to Afghanistan. He was awarded the prestigious Military Cross for his bravery. In Afghanistan this September, ever new waves of Taliban tried to storm his post -- by day and by night. It makes Baghdad look like "a walk in the park compared to here," Coult says after several sleepless nights.

    The Afghans are now surrounded by battle fronts, and thousands of them are fleeing from the fighting. As they now return to their villages before the onset of winter, they often find their clay huts have been destroyed and their fields strewn with mines.

    Kandahar, once the spiritual and operative center of the Taliban, has once more become a city of fear. Mohammed Jamaludin, a slim man with an embroidered red cap who sells cookies, shoelaces and batteries by the side of the road, fears an attack may be imminent every time an international military convoy passes his stand near Shahidan Chowk, the city's main roundabout.

    Sure, he's angry at the Taliban, but he's just as angry at the Western allies. "No one is safe anymore," he says.

    A mid-level Taliban leader in the Maruf district, just a few kilometers east of Kandahar, is about 40 years old. He's one of the organization's middle echelons and wears a black turban, the scarf of which hangs almost all the way down to his knees. His beard is very long. He carries his Kalashnikov rifle slung over his shoulder as if it were a part of his clothing. "We go easy on those on our side, but the others have a hard time," he says. Half a dozen more armed men stand around him. No one here has the courage to take a stand against them.

    So if the country's fate is being decided in the south, what are the Germans doing in the north?

    "We're doing what we signed up to do," a high official in the new German headquarters in the provincial capital of Mazar-e-Sharif says somewhat defiantly. Up here, eight hours from Kabul by car, the soldiers are quite aggravated by the new debate over cowardice that's occuring inside NATO. In their view, they're carrying out their mission as planned. Nor has there been any official request for a military operation in the south so far.

    Camp Marmal is located 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) east of the busy commercial city of Mazar-e-Sharif, famous for its gorgeous blue mosque, where Muhammad's son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi Talib is said to be buried. The camp is named after the Marmal mountains, which rise bluishly from the desert on the horizon. The giant military facility looks like a high-walled fortress, two kilometers by one kilometer (1.2 miles by 0.6 miles). It could provide an entire German town with water and electricity. It includes a hospital and a tree nursery where local vegetation is being cultivated for future planting in the barrack yard. Mazar-e-Sharif is the German military's largest construction site outside of Germany -- one expected to cost about €50 million ($65 million).

    It's like a building designed to last an eternity.

    It's from here that a German general commands five of NATO's reconstruction teams, including two German teams charged with protecting humanitarian organizations and coordinating German projects such as setting up a supply of clean water. The region between the northwesterly province of Faryab and the northeasterly Badakshan has an area of about 160,000 square kilometers (61,776 square miles) and borders on five countries: China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

    The Taliban positions are located far away from here. The holy warriors weren't able to fully conquer the north of Afghanistan even during their five-year rule. The Northern Alliance, a league of Tajik and Uzbek militias, fought bitterly against Mullah Omar's forces under its legendary commander Ahmed Shah Massud. And the Pashtun majority the Taliban has traditionally relied on doesn't play an important role in this region of the country.

    The region is rightfully considered peaceful by comparison to the south. Still it's not unperilous, as the death of two employees of the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle in early October cruelly demonstrated. The two were shot at night while camping by a river in Baghlan province.

    There's a degree of liberalness here thanks to the proximity of the former Soviet Union. Women can leave the house alone, and girls go to school. It has a slight semblance to normality, but more than this little bit isn't available here at the moment. Blackmail and kidnappings are everyday phenomena here. Ten-year-old girls are forced to marry in order for the family to get a good dowry or to settle an old blood feud between families. The police are corrupt and usually don't take action until they've been bribed to do so. Detainees seldom get a fair trial and have to be bought out of prison.

    Important drug smuggling routes to Asia and Europe lead through the north of Afghanistan. The city of Kunduz, where the Germans have built a barracks facility almost as impressive as the one in Mazar-e-Sharif, is considered an important station in the international opium trade. The smaller German outpost in Faizabad is located in one of the world's poorest regions -- and in one of Afghanistan's major cultivation areas for opium poppy.

    "It's probable that virtually all public offices with the exception of Governor Abdul Majid are integrated in the drug trade," states an internal report of the German Foreign Ministry on the struggle against the drug trade in Badakhshan. The shipments are "safeguarded" by top-level connections in Kabul. Whoever interferes with business must expect resistance. The German military vehicles patroling up here are shot at regularly. Home-made bombs explode in the streets, and rockets hit their camps.

    Since August, soldiers from Germany's elite military force, the KSK (Kommando Spezialkräfte), have extended their support for headquarters in Kabul to also include the German military's three northern camps. The KSK troops are sometimes called "Woolcaps" in Camp Marmal because of their highly secretive manner and because they only appear wearing balaclavas back home in Germany.

    The elite unit from the Black Forest has set up its command post in a separate location from that of the other German troops, in front of the tree nursery. The white tent surrounded by walls made from sandbags looks like a camp set up during a desert expedition. Inside the camp, the elite fighters buzz about on little four-wheeled motorcycles that resemble miniature tractors. Their job is to track down enemy forces and sites where bomb traps are built. They're also here to "bolster the morale" of the remaining troops -- especially since attacks and suicide bombings have recently been occuring in the north of Afghanistan as well. Despite their lack of a solid popular base here, the holy warriors are still working to destabilize the region.

    At first glance, the activities of the German soldiers in Mazar-e-Sharif seems a little odd. Hardly any of the 1,380 German soldiers who have come to Camp Marmal so far have left the giant barracks to date. They keep the cafeteria running, take care of vehicles and logistics and stand guard -- not to forget cultivation of the nursery.

    Soldiers patrol in vehicles outside -- mainly to secure the camp. They distribute schoolbooks and pens to children in the city, chat with merchants and passersby, smile and wave a lot. When the largest hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif burned down in September, they were there to help out with doctors, medication and tents.

    The Germans are popular -- the macabre photos of German soldiers posing with skulls haven't changed that. They radiate a sense of security and won't hurt anyone -- not even the bad guys. Old warlords like Burhanuddin Rabbani, an influential Tajik leader in the drug province of Badakhshan, and the bloodthirsty Rashid Dostam, the powerful puppetmaster in the background, seem to have been tamed a bit thanks to international observers. The city is recovering economically.

    Mazar-e-Sharif is booming. Construction and repair work is going on everywhere. Cars and horse-drawn carts make their way through the bazaar, where farmers sell fresh apples and tangerines. There's cheap make-up from China, men's suits from Tajikistan and colorful enamel houseware from Uzbekistan. Everything seems relatively peaceful.

    The tasks within NATO -- a military allliance comprising 26 nations -- haven't been distributed fairly. But that's not the only thing that matters. The decisive question is what will become of Afghanistan. And there are good reasons for the Germans to insist on staying in the north of the country. Behind closed doors, during a secret meeting of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, the German ambassador to Kabul, Hans-Ulrich Seidt, warned of a war in the south that "could not be won" militarily. The diplomat knows the region well and believes NATO is facing the prospect of a "war of attrition."

    Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Ailing people still die on their way to the next hospital, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from their village. Drug barons, warlords and feudal lords continue to oppress the farmers like serfs, and another winter of hunger is imminent. But "democracy" is a curse word these days -- synonymous with corruption, prostitution and anarchy. The level of disappointment with the Western liberators is enormous.

    The plan to wage war and then reconstruct was "fast and cheap," says Joanna Nathan, an expert from the International Crisis Group with reference to the West's strategy for Afghanistan. Since then everything has become slow, difficult and expensive. The Germans are just one cog in a larger machine. They don't want to be made to pay for the failures of others.

    The Pashtun member of parliament in the Serena Hotel's coffee shop gathers up the last crumbs of his Black Forest Cake from his porcelain plate. He just recently returned from the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Islamic fundamentalists make their way from there into the country from safe hideouts. Could a greater number of NATO soldiers in the south really beat back the Taliban -- at least until the Afghan military is strong enough to defend itself, as US ambassador Neumann would like? And are there really no more than 4,000 militant enemy combatants, as NATO's allied commander for Europe, James Jones, estimates?

    The gray-haired Pashtun is about 60 -- a sign of wealth in this country, where average life expectancy is 43. He's already witnessing his fourth war. In 1973 he witnessed the coup against the liberal King Zahir Shah. As a young man, he fought the Soviets in the mountains. Then came the civil war, the Taliban -- and now the Americans.

    "So who are these Taliban?" he asks. They're a poor people's movement, he says, held together by Islam, which promises them paradise in death since it can't offer them a good life. This army of holy warriors -- whose size he estimates is closer to 40,000 than to 4,000 -- is the most powerful weapon wielded by the regional powers, the member of parliament believes. Religious faith is the least important thing involved, he says, pointing out that interpretations of the Koran are constantly adapted to suit the political circumstances -- as when it's a question of using drug money to finance weapons acquisitions. Islamic law normally classifies drugs as haram, or sinful.

    So what is really at stake? The tribal leaders are fighting for hegemony in strategically important areas, just as they did decades and even centuries ago -- but they're also fighting over incredibly large profits from smuggling and the drug trade. And the people are trying to find out who has more to offer -- the international community or the Taliban.

    Afghanistan is still what it always was: an instrument wielded by moderately powerful neighboring countries like Pakistan, but also by India and Iran. Now old and new superpowers like the US, Russia and China have joined the game.

    President Hamid Karzai wants to organize a jirga or assembly before the end of the year, inviting all major tribal representatives and people of honor in the country. Karzai, who comes from the Popalzai, a Pashtun tribe, will then try to end the war and negotiate peace -- with the tribal elders, but also Hekmatyar, the militia leader, and the Taliban. There's simply no alternative.

    What part will the foreigners play then, besides the usual one of being financial donors and advisors? In the end the Afghans themselves will have to sort out how their country is ruled.

    And the Germans in the north? It may be a little cowardly to stay up there and radiate a feeling of security, dig a few waterholes, calm down a few of the warlords and cultivate trees.

    But it may also just be smart.

    [source]
    Magna Europa est patria nostra
    STOP GATS! STOP LIBERALISM!

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    Re: Are the Germans Stationed in Afghanistan Cowards?

    I think the German soldiers could fight and bleed just as well as the Americans and Brits and Canadians are doing right now. But to send German troops into harm's way is not something which will be popular among the Germans once the death toll increases and they'll start having monthly casualties like their fellow brothers in arms.

    It's the same thing with the Swedish soldiers down there, they are few and they are not used in any combat missions, instead their mission is to guard a safe region so that the Americans and Brits and Candadians can use their troops in the southern regions.

    Our troops are being used as baby sitters so that the others can take on the real work load. It is a matter of political cowardice if anything.

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    Re: Are the Germans Stationed in Afghanistan Cowards?

    The withdrawal of Iraq and Afghanistan is each time more necessary, and of course Lebanon. We aren´t for solving the others problem.

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    German Elite Troops in Afghanistan Marred by Reports of Misconduct

    Beer, Brats Aand Bad Behaviour

    German Elite Troops in Afghanistan Marred by Reports of Misconduct

    As members of the German Bundestag prepare to decide whether to extend the German military's mission in Afghanistan, reports of alcoholism and irresponsible behavior by commanders of Germany's "Kommando Spezialkräfte" elite unit are coming to light.


    The KSK in training: The behavior of this elite unit in Afghanistan has been far from exemplary.

    They're athletic, in top physical condition and usually between 28 and 35 years old. While on a mission they often paint their faces black or disguise themselves with sunglasses and balaclavas. The soldiers call themselves "snipers." When they use their laser sights to take aim at the enemy with G-36 assault rifles, they call it "direct action." Their tough selection process lasts more than three months, an endless series of physical and psychological tests described by one commander as the most strenuous "you can ask of people in a democracy."
    The Bundeswehr, or German military, Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) is the country's most secretive military operations unit -- Germany's special forces. Intense self-discipline and team spirit are expected. Their home base is in Calw, a peaceful town in the Black Forest. Their barracks lie behind a well-secured double- fence topped with barbed wire. The KSK is the vanguard of the German military, which has been deployed on an increasing number of missions throughout the world in recent years. The military itself refers to the KSK as "the elite unit."
    Members of the KSK have been deployed in Afghanistan repeatedly since December 2001, but their behavior there has not always been what one would expect of an elite unit.

    Drunken superiors, life-threatening vehicle training on mined territory and a vigorous trading of beer for United States military intelligence -- these are part of a long list of accusations contained in eyewitness accounts and documents that have just surfaced. One colonel in Kandahar is said to have been so fond of alcohol that American officers were forced to complain about his presence at mission briefings, during which he was clearly intoxicated.

    Veil of Secrecy
    The politically backed veil of secrecy that has long covered the KSK has begun to be lifted somewhat since the end of last year. Several KSK soldiers are suspected of having abused Bremen-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz in Kandahar before he was sent to Guantanomo Bay. He has since been released, but as of January a parliamentary commission has been investigating whether these allegations are true -- and what else the KSK has been doing in Afghanistan.
    The German Defense Ministry is not making the investigation any easier. It was forced to admit that a large number of files on KSK missions during the period in question have been "accidentally" destroyed, and it has been very slow to hand over the remaining files. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) only informs the chairmen of the Committees for Defense and Foreign Policy about KSK missions -- and what he tells them is, of course, classified. The vast majority of parliament is left out of the loop.



    Graphic: German Troops in Afghanistan

    The Defense Ministry was similarly secretive last week. Questions about the current allegations posed by SPIEGEL remained unanswered. Some of the questions touch on "a thematic complex that continues to be the object of a parliamentary commission of inquiry," explained Jung's press spokesman, Thomas Raabe. Respect for parliament requires "only speaking before the appropriate parliamentary committees," he added.
    That makes the new eyewitness accounts from sources close to the KSK and from US soldiers who spoke to SPIEGEL about the deployment of the KSK's 1st Contingent all the more illuminating. Security policy expert Winfried Nachtwei of the Green Party already said last spring that "current information indicates grave shortcomings in the planning and execution of the entire mission." Rainer Arnold, a military expert with Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), also believes that "reports that something was out of kilter on this mission were not looked into seriously enough" by the leadership at various levels.

    Several KSK soldiers serving with the contingent spoke to SPIEGEL about their mission. A number of them quit the military because of their experiences with it in Afghanistan, where the Bundeswehr engaged in its first true ground deployment since the end of World War II. In at least one instance, a KSK soldier later contacted the Bundeswehr Operations Command back in Potsdam near Berlin and recommended informing the Defense Minister about "problem cases" in the unit. But this warning apparently never reached then Defense Minister, Peter Struck.
    The information coming to light in a bug-proof conference room in Berlin's Reichstag building, where parliament meets, raises a series of questions: Were the goings-on in the KSK contingent just an ugly one-off? Is the Defense Ministry's sometimes bizarre secretiveness vis-à-vis parliament really only designed to ensure the safety of KSK soldiers, or is it also a way of covering up embarrassing behavior? And why are the members of parliament not allowed to learn exactly what went wrong even years after the end of an operation?
    After all, the German parliament or Bundestag will soon vote on whether not Germany will extend its missions with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan.

    Unlimited Solidarity?
    The KSK's first deployment in Afghanistan began during the closing days of 2001. The ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoking when US President George W. Bush announced the beginning of the "war on terror" -- and urged all US allies to participate. Then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder promised "unlimited solidarity" and the Bundestag voted in favor -- by a small majority -- of sending German troops to participate in the OEF anti-terror mission just 10 weeks after the terrorist attacks. It was the first time German ground troops had been deployed since 1945.
    For most KSK soldiers, the Afghanistan mission began in a camp next to the US military base on Masira, a small island off the coast of Oman. From mid-December to early January 2002, group after group of German soldiers in desert fatigues climbed aboard US transporter planes and took off for Afghanistan.
    The planes carrying the German elite forces landed on a dusty runway in Afghanistan's hard-fought southwest. It was bitterly cold that winter -- in December alone 177 local residents froze to death. The KSK soldiers saw rotting Soviet weapons, car and airplane wrecks and all sorts of garbage on the fields along the runway. They had arrived at Forward Operating Base (FOB) -- their first base during the war on terror, right by the airport in Kandahar, or "Q-Town," as the soldiers had named it.
    Even experienced KSK soldiers were pushed to their limits by what awaited them there. The camp the US military had allotted the small KSK advance guard was about half the size of a soccer field. Aided by 150 Afghans, the KSK soldiers set up their "military camp" under the open sky. It mainly consisted of two-man tents. Even those soldiers who found shelter indoors were not much better off. The rooms were damp and there was no reliable electricity supply or heat.

    It was a "life on the garbage dump," one member of the KSK 1st Contingent noted in his mission diary in early January 2002: "The mood in the camp is very tense."
    The poor accommodations and provisions quickly took their toll. Many KSK soldiers fell ill. "Two mission soldiers collapsed today during roll call," one soldier wrote. Other sources spoke of "vitamin deficiency with scurvy-like symptoms."
    During this initial period the KSK troops were fighting less against terror and more for their own survival. Moreover, they lacked their own helicopters and airplanes, or even vehicles suitable for the desert. The Germans didn't exactly get the impression that the US troops in Kandahar had been waiting desperately for them to arrive.
    The US troops, who were charged with giving the KSK soldiers their assignments, were guarding a strongly secured prison camp on the FOB and initially kept their distance from the Germans. The KSK troops "often had to beg to be given assignments," and even then were given only "low-level targets," one KSK soldier recalls. The German troops were really "just a burden" on the US forces, he adds.
    Ed H., a US soldier stationed in Kandahar from December 2001 onward, confirms this impression. "Basically, the Germans were not allowed to do anything," he recalls. "They looked around for things to do. They were incredibly bored." He remembers one frustrated German soldier killing time by explaining to him all the finer details of the German pension system.
    But then the Germans' reputation abruptly changed. A rumor spread among US troops that at least one thing was worthwhile in the German unit -- its supply of alcohol.

    Part 2: "Beer Was Like a Currency"

    For the US troops, Kandahar -- located in the midst of Muslim Afghanistan -- was a so-called "dry camp." Beer and wine were strictly prohibited. But in the German zone, an e-mail with the subject line "BEER DAY" had already been sent around as early as Jan. 12, 2002. The e-mail explained that the commanding officer had approved "the following beer days: Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday."
    The commanding officer allowed every soldier a maximum of two cans of beer on these days and added that he expected "modesty in times when the forces must renounce beer consumption due to preparations for deployment." Moreover, a stock of 120 cans was to be held back for the troops.
    According to a "shipment expectation" dated Jan. 5, 2002, the soldiers could expect the arrival of 2,000 cans of beer, 48 bottles of red wine and 24 bottles of white wine -- in addition to 150 bottles of Desperados, a tequila-flavored beer.
    Word about the arrival of the German beer spread quickly in Q-Town. And soon enough a veritable beer bazaar developed, with KSK soldiers trading their lager for warm socks, long underwear, T-shirts and US army paraphernalia.

    "Beer was like a currency," says one US soldier, who stocked up on the beverages provided by the KSK troops. "To us, the German beer supplies were Big Rock Candy." And the German and US troops also bonded over their beers. The KSK troops were especially interested in socializing with US reconnaissance troops. By drinking with them, they obtained access to confidential situation reports, and even satellite photographs and intelligence reports. Sometimes they were able to make phone calls using US satellite facilities. Even helicopter flights and other transportation services were traded for beer. One source says the KSK used the alcohol trade to "creatively compensate for the material deficits of the German forces."
    And so the frugal lifestyle of the German troops gradually improved. There were even parties. And the "expectations" of the Americans were high, one commander noted in his daily report, number 42/02, urging the Germans to help "materially with the allocation and provision of German specialties (beer, canned sausages, Black Forest ham, etc.)."
    Sometimes the "coalition forces" partied together, and at others the KSK contingent's chaplain would organize barbeques and free beers after the Sunday sermon. By Tuesday, the alcohol was flowing again - in one instance prompting a soldier to note the following day that, "Following alcoholic excesses by the troops last night, highly restrictive rules for alcohol consumption were issued today." By that same evening, however, soldiers popped out the booze again for an "Intel party" to celebrate a change in intelligence personnel.
    Indeed, the soldiers openly mocked the alcohol directive. As well, it was an open secret among the troops on location that the contingent commander himself was fond of drinking. "He was inebriated for long periods of time," one soldier recalls.

    Chain of Command
    A number of participants went even further in their description of the colonel, calling him an "alcoholic" whose drinking habits had already attracted attention even before he joined the KSK. The officer "often drank until he fell over," another soldier told SPIEGEL.
    The company commander also had a "known alcohol problem," one KSK soldier recalls, although "it was not as acute and not as obvious as that of the contingent commander." According to eyewitness accounts, the company commander unintentionally fired his gun once -- apparently after hitting the bottle. "Normally you would be relieved of your command for something like that," one member of the unit alleges, "but nothing happened."
    It's a serious charge, to be sure: Were the German military's elite forces being led by a man with a known alcohol problem?
    The suspicion is all the more grave considering that it was during those days in early January 2002 that incidents occurred that are still being probed today by two state prosecutors and as many parliamentary investigative committees. Following his return from Guantanamo, Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen raised in Germany, went on the record saying he had been maltreated by two KSK soldiers stationed in Afghanistan -- an accusation that those questioned have vehemently denied. Some members of parliament are now questioning whether the alleged abuse might have been carried out by drunken soldiers.

    Back in Germany, Operations Command in Potsdam reportedly also knew about the problems of the 1st Contingent in Kandahar. KSK Commander Reinhard Günzel traveled to Afghanistan to visit the troops in his supervisory role. Upon his return and in light of the incidents, the commander responsible for special operations, Manfred Gerhardus, asked him to take action. Günzel replied that he had not observed any alcohol problem that would necessitate action.
    The inactivity of the responsible officers angered and frustrated some of the soldiers who had been deployed to Afghanistan, who by now were being given assignments by the American troops -- primarily reconnaissance tasks.
    "The situation in Kandahar was very unpleasant on the whole," one soldier lamented, looking back on the experience. "I have never seen conditions like those in this unit anywhere in the German military," he says. "There were disagreements on all levels. The leadership failed."

    In the Dark
    Of course, it could be that the leadership never found out about what was happening. Then-Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping emphasized last week he was not familiar with the accounts of alcohol abuse in Kandahar "from reports (he received) at the time." Former Bundeswehr General Inspector Harald Kujat also stresses that, by his recollection, alcohol consumption within the KSK unit "was not an issue at the mission briefings I participated in."
    For many KSK members though -- and the accounts provided by several sources to SPIEGEL were consistent -- the experiences in Kandahar were reason enough to look around for a new job following their return. "These experiences led me and and other members to leave the KSK as soon as possible," one soldier says.
    Even those who remained faithful to the unit apparently haven't forgotten what happened, either. Years later, some were still worried the events could be made public -- causing further damage to the KSK's reputation. The elite force's image had already taken a major hit with Günzel's dismissal in 2003 and the allegations that emerged in the Kurnaz case.

    When media reports about the unit's internal fears of being deployed in eastern Afghanistan were published in the summer of 2005, one member of the 1st Contingent apparently panicked, fearing that another "betrayal" could possibly yield more explosive details. The soldier sat down in front of his computer and wrote an urgent e-mail to Gerhardus at the Operations Command Potsdam on July 14.


    KSK forces were first deployed in Afghanistan in late 2001 and early 2002.

    The e-mail's first item mentions the company commander's "alcohol abuse" and "all problems associated with it." It also states the commander's full name. The second item refers to the "constellation" made up by the contingent commander and the company commander and the "failure of everyone familiar with the problem to act." The third item is no less explosive: It alleges that the company commander ordered soldiers to participate in "vehicle training" in "mine-infested Afghanistan." The author of the e-mail also proved far-sighted in his remark about the "surveillance of detainees of the US forces," specifying that this would become a problem "when the 'Bremen Taliban' is set free, at the very latest."
    The soldier was well aware of the explosive nature of his remarks, and he ended his missive with the words: "It may be advisable to make the DM aware of these developments" - "DM" being short for the Defense Minister. That office was held at the time by Peter Struck, who it seems was left in the dark about the incidents, too.

    Inconsequential Action
    The way their company commander was greeted when the 1st Contingent returned home to Germany, struck many of the unit's soldiers as downright farcical. The contingent commander received the honorary pin of the German military's Special Operations Division (DSO) and a time piece from the Bundeswehr's Chief of Army Staff -- the highest honorary award available from that office.
    Chief of Army Staff Hans-Otto Budde, who at the time was also still the commander of the DSO and therefore the immediate superior of the KSK at the time, has refused to comment on allegations about the elite unit's drinking habits in Kandahar.
    But he will not stand for criticism of the unit's activities either. "I am convinced the KSK soldiers did a good job and are still accomplishing their tasks superbly today," he says.
    In fact, the unit did uncover a so-called safe house -- a site that served as a refuge for potential suicide bombers -- in Kabul in autumn 2006. And even Green Party politician Nachtwei praises the KSK's "valuable contributions" to the protection of the German ISAF troops in northern Afghanistan.

    But the new allegations raise the question of whether the KSK needs to be supervised more closely by parliament -- a practice that has long been customary for Germany's intelligence agencies. So far, the government has resisted calls to establish a supervisory body analagous to that for the intelligence agencies, which meets regularly, for the KSK.

    Rainer Arnold, a Social Democrat, is also part of the chorus in parliament that is reacting to the incidents by demanding more information about the activities of the secretive elite unit. Arnold says that the voluntary reports the Defense Ministry gives parliament about the KSK's activities should be made mandatory.
    Still, drinking excesses within the KSK have at least become an issue within the Bundestag's Defense Committee. But only a few dozen of the 613 members of the Bundestag soon to decide on the possible extension of the German military's ISAF and OEF mandates -- and, by implication, on the KSK's future Afghanistan missions -- are getting much information about what happened inside the unit.
    They will be forced to make their decision in parliament based on considerable faith but very little knowledge. In that sense, the current situation isn't much different than it was in November 2001, when the Bundestag voted to give the 1st Contingent its first mandate for a deployment in Afghanistan.
    Beer, Brats and Bad Behavior: German Elite Troops in Afghanistan Marred by Reports of Misconduct - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News
    When men cease to fight — they cease to be — Men.
    “Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.” Brendan Behan

  10. #10
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    I guess the time that German soldiers were the most disciplined of all has definitely ended. Damn American "liberators"


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