Showing posts with label wardak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wardak. Show all posts

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chak Valley, Wardak: Contested Area

Chak Valley in Wardak province is a highly contested area. 6th Battalion, 4th ANA Brigade is charged with securing the valley and the district - but it is a tough fight. Over the past several years the best the battalion has done is securing the district center, several small outposts in the immediate vicinity of the district center, and from time to time the road that leads east to Highway One. In 2014 the ANA stepped up the fight but progress has been costly - and could be fleeting. Chak Valley, located to the west of Highway One, is a refuge and support zone for the Taliban who seem able to interdict the highway running from Kabul to Kandahar at will with ambushes and IEDs. This year the fighting season has lasted longer than usual with indications that Taliban forces - who usually return to Pakistan or to their families in Afghanistan - will fight throughout much of the winter. Read "In a strategic valley, a glimpse of Afghan troops' future after most U.S. forces leave", The Washington Post, Dec 21, 2014.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tangi Valley - Taliban Stronghold

The Tangi Valley in eastern Wardak province and western Logar province has always been an area controlled by the Taliban. Sure, the U.S. Army or the Afghan National Security Forces may go into the valley for 3 or 4 days each year but the remainder of the year the Taliban rule this mountainous area.The valley has its own Taliban governor, judicial system, and school system (funded by the Kabul government with international aid). A reporter from BBC news recently spent some time there and provides us with his observations in "Afghanistan conflict: Life inside a Taliban stronghold", BBC News Asia, October 20, 2014.

Friday, March 22, 2013

ISAF Manages (and spins) Wardak Situation Successfully

It would appear that ISAF has successfully managed its way out of the Wardak mess. Karzai had ordered all Special Forces out of the province as a result of claims by Afghans living in Wardak that the Special Forces teams and/or their advised units were abusing the local population. It seems that the alleged transgressions (ISAF denies any wrongdoing on the part of the SF teams) are narrowed to the Nerkh district (see similar reports under the Wardak label). As a result of weeks long negotiations the SF team in Nerkh district will soon depart that location and be replaced by an ANSF unit (hopefully an Afghan Special Forces detachment). The other SF teams in Wardak will slowly transition out in accordance with an agreed upon security transition plan with ANSF officials.

To be sure, there has been lots of behind the scenes maneuvering. Many tie this Wardak situation to Karzai wanting the Bagram detention center situation resolved in his favor (so he attacks on one front to gain ground on another). Other considerations include Karzai positioning himself as an Afghan nationalist standing up to the occupying western forces, the political parties that are gaining strength in Wardak and looking towards parliamentary and presidential elections, and the inroads that the Taliban have made in Wardak through its information operations campaign (and terror tactics).

Despite all of this the messaging coming out of ISAF seems to be coherent and upbeat - according to LTG Nick Carter of USAF the situation in Wardak will be an interesting look ahead to how transition takes place in other troubled provinces of Afghanistan in the future (smooth!). See "Wardak Could Be Early Test of Transition Success", Official Says", American Forces Press Service, March 20, 2013.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ISAF and Afghans Reach Agreement on Wardak

ISAF has released a news bulletin on the results of a meeting between General Dunford and President Karzai on March 20th. Essentially it says that security in Wardak will transition to the Afghans, that Special Forces teams will be withdrawn (starting with the one at Nerhk), and that ANSF will move into Nerhk district to assume security. You can read the entire text at the link below:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Agreement Reached with Karzai - Special Forces to Depart Nerkh District, Wardak Province

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Karzi government have completed negotiations over the ordered departure by Karzai of Special Forces from Wardak Province, Afghanistan. It seems there will be a phased withdrawal of Special Forces from the province. According to recent news reports the first SF team to depart will be the one stationed in Nerkh district. The SF operational detachment or SFODA has been working in a Village Stability Operations (VSO) mission; part of which is training and working with the Afghan Local Police (ALP). Some members of the Nerkh ALP were once members of the now defunct Afghan Public Protection Program or APPP (read more on APPP).

Nerkh district, Wardak province

Other Special Forces detachments will remain in Wardak according to some news sources. It is likely that the U.S. SFODA in Nerkh district will be replaced with an Afghan National Army Special Forces (ANASF) detachment. The ANASF detachments mirror the mission of the U.S. SFODA's - with less capability and training. The ANASF does have the advantage of language and cultural expertise. To read more about the Special Forces team departure from Nerkh district read "U.S., Afghans make deal on Wardak troop pullout", Army Times, March 20, 2013.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Concerns Mount about Special Forces Withdrawal From Wardak

Concerns are mounting among Afghan members of Parliament and military leaders about Karzai's recent order for the removal of U.S. Special Forces from Wardak province. Many feel that the SF teams departure will leave a vacuum that the Taliban can exploit. There are senior officers in the ANA who feel that their forces are not quite ready yet to take on the Taliban in the province without the capabilities that the Special Forces advisers and their respective Afghan special operations forces (ALP, commandos, PRC, and ANASF) provide. Wardak province is adjacent to Kabul - the capital of Afghanistan. Read more in "Analysis: Afghan security vacuum feared along "gateway to Kabul", Reuters, March 13, 2013.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jalrez District Wardak Province Insider Attack Attack Update - Fatalities Identified

More details have emerged on the recent insider attack by a suspected member of the Afghan Local Police that killed two U.S. servicemen and several members of the Afghan National Security Force in Jalrez district, Wardak province, Afghanistan. The Department of Defense has released names of the two U.S. fatalities in the attack - CPT Andrew Pedersen-Keel and SSG Rex Schad. See "DoD Identifies Army Casualties", DoD News, March 13, 2013. USASOC has also released a press release on the death of CPT Pedersen-Keel - a Special Forces detachment commander. In a separate press release the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) stated that Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) dispatched elements of the 6th Special Operations Kandak (SOK) to the Jalrez district immediately after the incident to help secure the district.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Instability in Maidan Wardak

The status of the Special Forces teams deployed in Wardak Province is still up in the air. The deadline that Karzai ordered for the teams removal (Monday, 11 March) has passed and they are still there. ISAF is hoping to reverse Karzai's inane decision with a revised "security transition plan" for Wardak province which will allow the SF teams to stay a little longer. The situation is further complicated by the recent insider attack in Jalrez district (in Wardak province) where two U.S. Soldiers were killed by a member of the Afghan Local Police (apparently).

Karzai is responding to reports that U.S. Special Forces and the Afghan units they are advising are conducting atrocities and harassing the local population. Subsequent investigations by the Afghan police, military, and ISAF have found no evidence of this happening. What is probably more to the truth is that a very effective information operations campaign by the Taliban have prompted the local population to mobilize against the ISAF special operations forces units. See "Fear and loathing in Afghanistan", The Independent, March 12, 2013 for more on unrest in the province.

Karzai has reacted to this unrest in the province, probably not because the allegations are true, but most likely in a political move to position himself as challenging ISAF and the western nations that have kept him in power for the last ten years in an effort to be seen as independent of the west. See "Karzai Bets on Vilifying U.S. to Shed His Image as a Lackey", The New York Times, March 12, 2013.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Insider Attack at Special Forces Camp in Jalrez District Wardak Province

Two U.S. Soldiers were killed and a number of other U.S. Soldiers wounded during a green-on-blue attack by a member of the Afghan Local Police at a Special Forces camp located in Jalrez district, Wardak province, Afghanistan. The camp held a Special Forces operational detachment and additional U.S. Soldiers augmenting the SF team. Their mission was to conduct a Village Stability Operations (VSO) mission. The primary aim of VSO is the establishment of governance, development and security at the district level. Part of the security line of operations is the formation and training of a contingent of the Afghan Local Police or ALP. Apparently, it was a member of the ALP who turned on his U.S. counterparts. Also killed in the exchange of fire were some Afghan policemen with several more Afghan police wounded as well.

The attack follows several inflamatory actions and statements by Afghan President Karzai. In the past week he has accused Special Forces units of conducting atrocities in Wardak province. Both the Afghan police and military as well as ISAF have conducted investigations into these allegations and found Karzai to be incorrect. In addition, Karzai stated just a few days ago that the United States and the Taliban were conspiring together to de-stabilize Afghanistan. These perplexing statements by Karzai has confused many observers and angered leading military and political leaders of the United States. One becomes less confused when you factor in that Karzai is playing to the moderate elements of the Taliban in the realization that he will be dealing with them at the negotiating table in the next few years. So he is positioning himself as one who took a hard line against the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

Karzai: Afghanistan's Erratic and Irrational Leader

Many of President Karzai's statements about the United States and ISAF have been highly questioned. The most recent bombshell was his charge that the United States and the Taliban were colluding to keep Afghanistan in a state of de-stabilization. This would provide an excuse for ISAF to remain in the country beyond 2014 as occupiers. Some of his more recent actions include ordering the removal of special operations Soldiers from Wardak province, forbidding his Army and police to call in ISAF close air support (CAS), and demanding the turnover of the Bagram detention center. All of these recent demands are counterproductive to helping the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) take over the lead in security operations. The ANSF continues to need ISAF air support (although their artillery is becoming more proficient), it's specialized units and the ALP need their SOF advisers, and the Afghan prison system is notorious for instances of abuse, torture, and the release of hardened Taliban fighters through corruption.

The new ISAF commander is in a difficult position. He needs to navigate the political minefield strewn about by Karzai very carefully. On one hand he needs to recognize the sovereignty of Afghanistan and on the other provide the military advise and assistance and conduct the military operations to keep the Taliban at bay until the ANSF is ready to take over 100% of the lead in security operations.

General Dunford has provided some insight into the perplexing Karzai problem in a recent news release by the U.S. Department of Defense. He cites the ongoing negotiations with the Afghans about the turnover of the detention facility in Parwan and the transition of security operations in Wardak to the Afghans that are taking place at the ministerial level. He states that ISAF relations are good with the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) and Ministry of Defense (MoD).

Dunford has concerns about the Taliban information operations campaign - and indicates that ISAF has not done well in fighting the perception that the Western nations are occupiers in Afghanistan for the long-term and that ISAF is abandoning Afghanistan with it's withdrawal (two conflicting views but widely held). Dunford believes that there is a psychological aspect to the transition that has affected some of the Afghan leadership. You can read more of his comments on this topic in "Dunford: Uncertainty Poses Greatest Risk to Transition", American Forces Press Service, March 11, 2013.

It may be that the "uncertainty" cited by General Dunford is causing a "messaging problem" with the Afghan leader. However, a more likely story is that the irrational and erratic Karzai is conducting "appeasement operations" in hopes that the Taliban who do come to the negotiation table in the next few years will look favorably upon his hostile pronouncements against the Western allies. Other Afghan leaders have swung at the end of a rope from a Kabul lamp post after their foreign backers left and Karzai may not want that same fate.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Two More U.S. Soldiers Killed in Insider Attack at Special Forces Base in Jalrayz district, Wardak Province

Map showing location of Wardak
Two Soldiers were reported killed in an apparent insider attack by members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) at a Special Forces base in Jalrayz district, Wardak province, Afghanistan. ISAF has released a very short official statement on the attack. Initial reports indicate that a number of other U.S. Soldiers were wounded. There were Afghan police killed and wounded in the attack. The attack comes just a few days after President Karzai has demanded the removal of U.S. Special Forces from Wardak province because of alleged atrocities committed by the SF teams and the Afghans they work with. The allegations by Karzai are unfounded and have been refuted by ISAF based on Afghan and ISAF investigations that have turned up no evidence that the alleged actions took place. The attackers were killed by other U.S. Soldiers who responded to the attack. Very little additional details on the green-on-blue attack are known at this time.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hagel Comments on Special Forces Removal from Wardak Province

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says that there is hope the U.S. and Afghanistan (that would be Karzai) will come to an agreement to keep U.S. Special Forces teams in Wardak province. A few weeks back President Karzai accused the SF teams of atrocities and ordered them out of Wardak province by Monday, March 11, 2013. Naturally there was no proof or evidence presented by the Afghans to prove this and subsequent ISAF investigations found there to be no such acts committed by the Special Forces Soldiers. This is just Karzai being Karzai, showing who is boss to the new COMISAF, playing domestic politics, and appeasing the moderate insurgents who will soon be at the negotiating table in the months to come. The U.S. and ISAF have worked at the highest levels (COMISAF and others) to get the order rescinded or revised. Read more in "Hagel optimistic on Afghan commando agreement", Army Times, March 9, 2013.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

No Evidence of Abuse by SF Teams in Wardak

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times there is no evidence of abuse by Special Forces teams working in Wardak province, Afghanistan. The U.S. has completed its investigations - as have the Afghans. No heads were cut off, five of the nine people reported "disappeared" are actually in an Afghan prison for insurgent activities, the one student who was killed by "someone" had ties to the Taliban and was killed in an inter-insurgent dispute, and the citizen complaints can be traced back to a Taliban information operations (IO) campaign. So the allegations are unfounded.

However, the real problem still remains. That problem is an incompetent President Karzai reacting to an very effective Taliban IO campaign to get Special Forces removed from one of the key provinces defending the roads into Kabul. The SF teams are doing great work with the Afghan forces there to include the ALP, ANASF, Commandos, and PRC.

The order to remove SF from Wardak has not been lifted. It remains to be seen if Karzai can be brought to his senses by his advisers or if ISAF folds under this latest attempt by Karzai to appease moderate Taliban forces that he will be negotiating with in the near future.

Read the LA Times article here: "Afghan dynamics altering U.S. efforts to wind down war", Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2013.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

White House and Karzai in Talks about Special Forces Operating in Wardak

According to Marine General James Mattis, CENTCOM commander, the White House is now in talks with President Karzai on his irrational and devastating order to remove U.S. Special Forces from their advisory and training mission in Wardak province. This order by Karzai is yet again one more example of how winning of the war in Afghanistan has not been easy; the U.S. and NATO forces have been dealing with an incompetent President leading Afghanistan for quite a while . . . since we helped put him in power in 2002 over ten years ago!

Friday, March 1, 2013

NATO Confused by Karzai over Expulsion of SF from Wardak Province

News reports continue to come out on the drama behind President Karzai's order to kick out Special Forces from Wardak province. ISAF is still trying to sort out the facts (if they know the facts they are not saying!) and the Afghan government is not releasing much information either. Read more background on this event in:

"Yankee beards go home", The Economist, March 1, 2013.

"Did U.S. Special Forces Commit Atrocities in a Key Afghan Province?",, Feb 28, 2013.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

SF and Wardak Province News Update

Not a lot of news, unsurprisingly, has come out in the last day or so in reference to President Karzai ordering out all Special Forces from Wardak province. He ordered the SF teams removal based on allegations that the SF teams (or Afghan military and police units they were working with) are abusing the local population. Most certainly Karzai is attributing acts the Taliban or other nefarious groups are doing to the SF teams and their Afghan partners.

Karzai's true reasons for demanding the removal of the SF teams most likely involve his political posturing for 2014 - his probable intent is to get political groups in Wardak (to include moderate insurgents) aligned with him in a bid to further consolidate his political power. By diminishing the ability of coalition (and Afghan security forces) to weed out and neutralize segments of the insurgency - Karzai can build support with these moderate forces in a future power-sharing arrangement. A likely side effect of this latest attack on NATO by Karzai is to set conditions for the relationship with the new ISAF commander.

ISAF has been very quiet so far on this affair - no doubt recoiling from another unwarranted, unanticipated, and unfathomable attack from Karzai. Naturally ISAF will jump through hoops to keep Karzai happy with meetings (see "General Dunford and President Karzai meet to discuss security in Wardak", DVIDs, February 27, 2013); it will establish a joint commission with the Afghans to review the allegations and conduct an investigation (see "Joint Commission Reviews Wardak Province Allegations", American Forces Press Conference, February 26, 2013); and it will reject the accusations of abuse as false (see a video where "NATO Rejects Misconduct Claims", DVIDS, February 25, 2013).

While ISAF's news releases provide sparse statements with little info others are speculating on the Wardak situation. One report provides some background information on the happenings in the province - see "Did U.S. Special Forces Commit Atrocities in a Key Afghan Province?", Time, February 28, 2013.

There is certainly a lot of uncertainty as to how this latest drama with Karzai will resolve. A lot is at stake here - ISAF's relationship with Karzai, the outcome of the COIN fight in Wardak, and post-2014 involvement of SOF in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Special Forces Kicked Out of Wardak by Karzai

Not a lot of news has developed in the past 24 hours about President Karzai accusing U.S. Special Forces of abuse and directing them to leave Wardak province within a couple of weeks. In fact, ISAF has been very quiet about the development. See "The Pentagon Remains Deadly Silent About Karzai Booting US Special Forces From Afghanistan", Business Insider, Feb 26, 2013.

Wardak province is one of the most kinetic provinces within RC East if not the entire country. As U.S. conventional forces (in Wardak that means the 173rd Airborne Brigade) have been closing down battalion and company sized combat outposts (COPs) the lead for security has been turned over to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Assisting the ANSF in taking the security lead are small detachments of U.S. Special Forces who are working the Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) programs and conducting operations with the Afghan National Army Special Forces (ANASF), Afghan National Army Commandos, and the Provincial Response Companies or PRCs. In addition to the Special Forces ODAs there are a number of Security Force Assistance Advisory Teams or SFAATs aligned with ANA and ANP units with the aim to advise and assist the ANSF as they take the security lead.

Many observers familiar with the current situation in Wardak believe that the directed departure of Special Forces in Wardak province is not related at all to beheadings and kidnappings by forces under the control or direction of SF. Any abuses that are taking place are most likely that of the Taliban and its shadow government. The Taliban have a powerful Information Operations capability that overmatches ISAF's futile attempts at "influence operations". No doubt this insurgent IO campaign is on the verge of winning another victory if it manages to oust Special Forces from Wardak. In addition, Karzai is doing a lot of political maneuvering to position himself for the inevitable - negotiating with the Taliban for a post-2014 government in Afghanistan. There are "moderate" insurgents in Wardak that Karzai may be playing to who are currently suffering from attacks by ANSF advised by Special Forces.

The big question here is will ISAF fold and pull the SF teams out of Wardak or will they stand up to Karzai and keep one of the most productive units in the war fully engaged in one of the most important and at risk provinces in RC East?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Special Forces in Wardak Told to Leave by Karzai

The story about Karzai telling the MoD to order U.S. Special Forces out of Wardak province continues to evolve. There are now reports that the eviction also includes the adjacent Logar province. Both provinces have experienced an uptick in fighting and an increased insurgent presence. Reports of abuses by special operations forces continue to be cited as the reason for the eviction (see "Afghan officials say NATO ignored complaints of abuses by U.S. Special Operations forces", The Washington Post, February 25, 2013). Coalition spokesmen have adopted their very predictable "conciliatory tone" (New York Times, 26 Feb 13) with Karzai and say that they will cooperate in an investigation. Karzai continues to assert his authority and power but in ways that diminish the coalitions ability to shape events to ensure a successful transition of Afghan security forces taking the lead for security within the entire country.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Official Karzai Statement on Ordered Departure of Special Forces from Wardak Province

The text below in quotes is from the website of the "Office of the President". It was posted on February 24, 2013 and is primarily about the order of Karzai for U.S. Special Forces to depart Wardak province.

"February 24, 2013 - The meeting of the National Security Council chaired by President Hamid Karzai on Sunday discussed as per agenda the security situation in the provinces of Logar and Maidan Wardak, the presence of the international forces beyond 2014 and the issue of land seizures in Afghanistan.

The meeting began by hearing briefings by the Minister of Interior, Director General for the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), chairman of the Transition Commission, Chief of Army Staff and the respective governors on the security situation as well as on the findings by a delegation that had been assigned to investigate the causes of insecurity in the two provinces.

After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special force stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people. A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge. However, Americans reject having conducted any such operation and any involvement of their special force.

The meeting strongly noted that such actions have caused local public resentment and hatred.

In view of the above situation, the meeting made the following decisions:

1. The Ministry of Defense was assigned to make sure all US special forces are out of the province within two weeks;

2. All the Afghan national security forces are duty bound to protect the life and property of people in Maidan Wardak province by effectively stopping and bringing to justice any groups that enter peoples’ homes in the name of special force and who engage in annoying, harassing and murdering innocent people; and

3. Effective from February 24, 2013 onward, the ISAF has to stop all its special force operations in Maidan Wardak province;

The Meeting also called on the local people to cooperate with the governor and security forces in identifying such groups and inform local authorities. The Wardak governor was also tasked to form community councils to engage people in preventing such destructive actions by irresponsible armed groups.

The meeting then heard and endorsed a security operational plan presented by Logar governor for the province.

Also on agenda for the meeting was the issue of land seizure in various provinces in Afghanistan. The meeting directed the Ministry of Interior, the Attorney General Office as well as the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) to develop an orderly plan to handle the issue of the land seizure and restitute the lands illegally grabbed by powerful individuals by misuse of authority and official position.

The meeting also held an in-depth discussion on the military presence some countries are seeking beyond 2014 in Afghanistan. The meeting decided that any military presence any country may be seeking to retain under the international coalition after 2014 may be allowed only after Afghan government’s formal agreement and discretion, to be achieved bilaterally.

The meeting underlined that the number, location, scope and the nature of operations of such troops, if agreed, would be determined through direct negotiations with Afghan government."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Afghan President Karzai Orders U.S. Special Forces out of Wardak Province

ALP training in Kajran district, Daykundi
province. (photo PO Matthew Leistikow)
The Long War Journal is reporting that President Karzai has given the order to the Ministry of Defense to order all U.S. Special Forces out of Wardak province, Afghanistan. The SF teams (sometimes referred to as Green Berets) are currently deployed in several areas of Wardak working with the Afghan Local Police (ALP) as part of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program. If this development is true then it is very bad news. As the conventional forces of the United States and other troop contributing nations pull out of Afghanistan SOF will remain to work with ANA, ANP, and especially with the ALP. SOF will be one of the few organizations left in the country to influence the ANSF toward a more professional and competent force once we hit the December 2014 mark.

Karzai has always been reluctant to give the ALP his full support because they are usually less corrupt than other ANSF entities due to the oversight and influence of the SOF teams that live and train with the ALP; thus he cannot include them in his nefarious activities as much as he can other ANSF elements. With the departure of General Allen and the arrival of a new ISAF commander Karzai may be feeling his oats - first he orders his ANSF not to call in ISAF air strikes to support their operations and now he is seeking the removal of SF teams from one of the most successful programs in the country. One could think that he is setting the framework for his relationship with the new ISAF commander and prepping for when he has to sit down with the Taliban for a power-sharing arrangement post-2014. The Taliban have a great fear of the ALP and are pressing hard to have them neutralized. Read more in "Afghan president orders US Special Forces to leave Wardak province", The Long War Journal, February 24, 2013.