Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Current Event Cat of the Day: Not So Friendly Fire

Not so Friendly Fire

Five Americans troops were accidentally killed by an airstrike in southern Afghanistan in one of the worst friendly fire cases involving United States and coalition troops since the start of the nearly 14-year war.

The not so friendly fire incident took place on Monday night in Zabul province, where Afghan troops were conducting security operations. When the group was attacked by enemy forces, they called for air support. Instead they got ambushed by a different kind of enemy – Nato forces. The Nato aircraft accidentally struck the location of the U.S. soldiers, killing five of them and at least one Afghan soldier.

“Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation,” a statement from international forces in Kabul said.

While friendly fire incidents are not as few and far between as they should be, Monday’s case is among the most serious in Afghanistan, where Nato-led troops have been battling Taliban and other various insurgents since 2001.

Since the war began, there have been more than a dozen instances of airstrikes or friendly fires on allies and fellow coalition troops.  One of the worst friendly fire incidents came in April 2002 when four Canadian soldiers were killed by an American F-16 jet fighter which decided to drop a bomb on a group of troops during a night firing exercise in Kandahar. But the Americans have had their fair share of casualties too – perhaps the most famous resulting in the death of NFL player Pat Tillman in 2004.

Still, five in one strike is quite a lot – the U.S. must be pretty upset.

“Five American troops were killed yesterday during a security operation in southern Afghanistan. Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

As for the Afghan casualty? Meh.

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Not One, But Two Afghan Landslides… And Other News

Afghan Landslides

Afghanistan can’t seem to catch a break. First the Soviets, then the Taliban, then some other stuff… and now a monster landslide.

After a landslide swallowed hundreds of homes in the Argo district of Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan, rescuers struggled to help dig out the buried residents, using shovels and bare hands to recover the missing. Then tragedy struck again. A second landslide hit, consuming the hundreds of rescuers from nearby villages. The governor’s office said at least 2,000 people died in the slides. As for those missing, they are presumed dead. “That will be their cemetery,” said Mohammed Karim Kahlili, one of Afghanistan’s two vice presidents. “It is not possible to bring out any bodies.” President Hamid Karzai declared a national day of mourning, saying there was “no hope” for most of those buried and declaring the landslide a “human tragedy.” CNN

brett-hulseyRepublicans decided to stop hogging all the bad ideas for once and let Democrat Rep. Brett Hulsey have his day in the spotlight. The Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate announced Thursday that he will hand out Ku Klux Klan hoods – or what he calls “Republican Party hats” – at the state GOP convention on the weekend. The long-shot candidate (and even longer shot now) showed off his homemade white hoods that he stitched together using $1 curtain material and his daughter’s sewing machine inside the press room at the state Capitol. Hulsey’s crazy antics were quickly denounced by both sides of the spectrum as “completely unacceptable and totally inappropriate.” But Husley says he was simply trying to call attention to what he says are “racist” policies by Republicans, such as ending record-keeping on racial profiling by police, cutting back on income eligibility limits for Medicaid, and voting changes. He has a point, but this is also the guy who he threatened to have someone dress up in a chicken suit and show up at one of the Democratic frontrunner’s events because, according to him, she’s afraid of facing him in a debate… so he’s a little out there. MSNBC

Camels MERSThanks a lot camels! After a new study suggested that camels may be behind the recent deadly surge in cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the virus has officially arrived in the United States. A man from Indiana was hospitalized last week with the first U.S. case of the mysterious camel virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East. The man is said to be doing well and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it’s closely monitoring the case. MERS has infected at least 400 people and killed over 100 in the two years since it first surfaced – but the camels remain unharmed. While humans fall victim to SARS-like symptoms, camels do not appear to be damaged by the virus. So far no one has figured out how humans are contracting it, but I’m pretty not at all sure it’s from camel spit. CBC News

South Korea FerryThe death toll in the South Korean ferry disaster has jumped to 260, with 42 people still missing – and that’s not even including the vice principal who was so racked with guilt he hung himself or South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won’s career after he resigned in response to the ferry crash. “When I saw the people’s sadness and fury, I thought it was natural for me to step down with an apology,” Chung said in a nationally televised conference. Also, South Korean President Park Geun-hye certainly didn’t want to step down, so someone had to be fired over the tragedy. But if anyone should be fired, it’s probably the ship’s crew who told the students to stay in their cabins below deck while the ferry was sinking even though they themselves had already begun to evacuate. Instead of being fired, three crew members, including the 69-year-old captain, were arrested and charged with crimes relating to negligence – which is kind of worse than getting fired. CNN

Gene Robinson DivorceFirst they wanted gay marriage, now they want gay divorce! The world’s first openly gay bishop announced that he and his partner of over 25 years are getting divorced. Gene Robinson’s openly gay life ignited a controversy back in 2003 when he was elected as a bishop, prompting conservative Episcopalians in the US to break away and causing intense debate in the worldwide Anglican church. Now, after four years of legalized marriage and 21 years of fake marriage, the couple has called it quits. But they at least comforted by the fact that they can get divorced just like any old straight couple. “It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples.” Robinson said. And now Gene’s struggle with the church was all for nothing… except he’s still openly gay, just divorced… which might be worse?  USA Today

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Elections, Elections, Elections!

Elections Cats

Spring is finally here – the time when a young man’s fancy turns to … elections.

Burqa-clad women show ID cards as they wait to vote in Afghanistan's 2009 presidential electionsOver in Afghanistan voters are bidding goodbye to Hamid Karzai and hello to… well no one yet because apparently it will take a whole week to count the ballots. Votes from Afghanistan’s first democratic election are still being tallied after millions of voters braved threats of Taliban violence to cast their votes on Saturday. Some polling places ran out of ballots and some people stayed inside fearing death by Taliban, but about seven million out of 12 million eligible voters made it out, so not bad. Both President Obama and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen praised Afghan officials and voters for the relatively smooth elections (by Afghan standards), but mostly Obama is just happy he won’t have to deal with President Hamid Karzai anymore, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term.

Indian voters hold up their voter ID cardMeanwhile, in India, the nine-phase ballot process began on Monday and the country’s marathon election/logistical nightmare makes the Afghan democratic process look like child’s play. More than 800 million Indians will begin trudging to polling booths on Monday, in an election that will last until May 12 (since the voting days are slowly rolled out state-by-state). Over the course of the month, the Hindu nationalist BJP will take on the incumbent Congress Party in an Indian electoral showdown over the country’s two biggest issues: the economy and corruption.

Quebec CharterAnd then there’s Quebec. Practice France began their provincial elections on Monday, two years after the Parti Quebecois somehow won a minority government in 2012. After a revived debate over Quebec’s independence from Canada, a controversial push for Quebec’s Charter of “Values” (which would ban public employees from wearing religious articles) and a boost in language law policing, the PQ may not be so lucky this time around.  PQ Leader Pauline Marois called this election because she believed she could win a majority government but now most pollsters are saying that the Liberals are poised to reclaim the National Assembly. Where did they go wrong? Well, if she had to do it all over again, the PQ Leader says she wouldn’t have spent a full week of the 2014 election campaign talking about separating from the rest of Canada. And the whole Charter of Values/portraying Quebec as a racist backwater probably didn’t help either…

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Freed Afghan Detainees

Current Event Cat - Afghan Detainees

The Afghan government has released 65 detainees that the U.S. military believes are dangerous insurgents who were directly involved in attacks on American and allied troops.

The sixty-five detainees were released from Afghanistan’s high-security Bagram detention centre on Thursday morning and were taken away in vehicles belonging to the Afghan National Army’s military police. The police vehicles then took the prisoners to a small bazaar on a main road, where they were transferred to taxis – presumably on route to some kind of Taliban training camp

The prisoners’ newfound freedom comes after months of failed negotiations by U.S. officials to stop their release. The U.S. pleaded with Afghan President Hamid Karzai not to go through with it, arguing that those freed are likely to rejoin Taliban ranks.

The American military expressed “strong concern about the potential threats these detainees pose to coalition forces and Afghan security forces and civilians”.

“We believe some of the individuals previously released have already returned to the fight,” an American statement said. “Additional released detainees may continue to fill the ranks of the insurgency.”

But Karzai, a strong proponent of biting the hand that feeds you, said the releases were of “no concern to the U.S.” and insists there is not enough evidence against the detainees. Despite having referred to the prison as a “Taliban-making factory”, Karzai asserted that “Afghanistan is a sovereign country” and “the Afghan government bears responsibility for the results of its decision.”

Now America can only hope that the released detainees will wind up at the training camps where instructors use live explosives to demonstrate how to be a suicide bomber. Or that they were innocent in the first place and will just return to their civilian lives.

Meanwhile President Karzai continues to refuse to sign a security deal with Washington that would allow roughly 10,000 U.S. troops remain in the country past 2014. If he doesn’t sign the deal, the US-led international military force in Afghanistan will be forced to pull out their troops and hand over all security duties to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. Fine, but can we at least have that dog back?

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai Doesn’t Trust The U.S. And The Feeling Might Be Mutual…

Hamid Karzai

As the U.S and Afghanistan try to hammer out a new post-2014 security deal, President Hamid Karzai tells tribal leaders that he does not trust the United States.

Afghan elders, also known as the Loya Jirga, are currently debating the new security pact, which outlines a broad, long term relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan. If the deal is passed, it would commit the U.S. to training Afghan security forces, allowing 10,000 – 15,000 foreign troops – mostly U.S. – to remain in the country post 2014. Under the proposed pact the remaining US troops would not operate in combat missions and would no longer be allowed to enter the homes of Afghans – with some exceptions.

Hamid Karzai urged the delegates to approve the new security deal, which he believes would provide the security Afghanistan needs. But Karzai also told the elders that there was a lack of trust between him and the Americans.

My trust with America is not good,” Hamid Karzai said at a meeting of tribal elders and political leaders in Kabul. “I don’t trust them and they don’t trust me. During the past 10 years, I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me.”

Despite his lack of trust, Karzai also stressed the importance of strategic ties with Washington.

We need a good friend in the U.S. You cannot live in this global village without a friend – but you need to have a strong, faithful friend.”

Enough with the mixed messages Karzai!

Karzai said the pact would not be signed until after 2014 elections but the United States wants Afghanistan to hurry it up.

State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “We believe that signing sooner rather than later is essential to give Afghans certainty about their future before the upcoming elections, and enable the United States and other partners to plan for US presence after 2014.

“It is neither practical nor possible for us to further delay because of the uncertainty it would create.”

If the Loya Jirga delegates does accept the pact, it still needs to be approved by both the U.S. and Afghan administrations. But given the weak job Karzai is doing trying to sell this thing, speed might be the least of America’s problems.

Via: NBC News

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The Rob Ford Reality Show, Ford Nation, is Cancelled… And Other News

Rob Ford Nation

Times are tough for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his Ford Nation.

Just one day after having his mayoral powers stripped by the Toronto City Council, Sun News Network cancelled his reality show Ford Nation after just one episode. Ford Nation’s debut episode (and I guess the series finale) aired on Monday night and featured the crack-smoking mayor and his brother Doug, who sits on the city council. The hour long show was basically just the Fords going back and forth about the media’s obsession with the mayor and his crack-smoking, p*ssy eating, drunk-driving ways. But even that was not enough to draw more than 155,000 viewers and Ford Nation was quickly sacked. Hollywood Reporter

Burger King IndiaIndians are about to get a little fatter and a little more American. Burger King has just announced that it will be expanding its franchises into India. Ever since the first McDonald’s opened in 1996, fast food places have been popping up all over the country – and Burger King wants a piece of the action. “India is a market with huge potential for Burger King restaurants and we have the chance to offer the unique Burger King brand proposition to its consumers with our own local twist to the menu,” said Elias Diaz Sese, president of BK AsiaPac Pte. Ltd. No word yet on whether the fast food giant will sell its signature Whopper or other beef burgers. When McDonalds broke into the market they dropped beef and pork from menus, in keeping with the religious practices of Hindus and Muslims, and added such India specific items: the McVeggie sandwich and the Spicy Paneer Wrap. Authentic Indian food – yum! Wall Street Journal

Afghan DealIs the war in Afghanistan coming to an end? No, it’s the war that never ends, it just goes on and on my friend, some people started fighting it not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue fighting it forever just because…no one is pulling out the troops – not even after 2014. The US and Afghanistan have reached a security agreement about life after 2014. Well, they haven’t so much as reached an agreement as they’ve agreed to the text of a security agreement – the real thing still needs to be drafted up and officially accepted by Afghan leaders and the Afghan parliament.  The approval of the security agreement would pave the way for a small number of Americans troops to remain on the ground in Afghanistan beyond 2014 – as long as they are given immunity from Afghan courts. Otherwise, they are out of there! But according to White House spokesman Jay Carney, these remaining soldiers would have a very limited mission. “The war in Afghanistan will end next year, as the president has promised,” Carney said. “The combat mission will be over.” CNN

Texas Abortion LawThe Texas abortion law is here to stay… for now. The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to stop a restrictive abortion law in Texas, meaning the law, which opponents say have led more than a third of the state’s clinics to stop providing abortions, will remain in effect until a planned appeal hearing in January. “This is good news for the unborn and for women,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry said after the decision. Minus the women with unwanted pregnancies… The restrictive law, which will effectively close abortion clinics in much of the state, has sparked a fierce debate – mainly between Gov. Rick Perry and State Senator Wendy Davis who filibustered the bill for 11 hours in June. USA Today

SmartiesSmarties are the new gateway drug – or Rockets if you’re from Canada. A third grader was suspended after he crushed up some Smarties/Rockets into powder and snorted them. Nine-year-old Demitri Santiago got the idea from watching another classmate sniffing candy powder. The third grader’s mom chalked up the incident to childhood curiosity but also wants to warn other parents about the dangerous new trend. “Anything going up the nose and especially candy – anything is terribly dangerous,” she said. Kids today… 11Alive News

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Taliban Gives the U.S. a Herat Attack

Herat Attack

Taliban assailants gave U.S consulate staff a “herat attack” when they stormed the compound early Friday morning in the western Afghan city of Herat.

The attack started off in the usual way – a car bomb. The bomb was set off near the main entrance of the compound, which killed several guards and allowed the group of assailants, including suicide bombers, to enter the perimeter of the compound. The insurgents then sped towards the U.S consulate with their guns blazing, prompting a fierce gun battle between the attackers and Afghan security forces.

Heart, which sits close to the Iranian border, is a usually peaceful city (by Afghan standards…) compared to the more Taliban-infested regions in the East and the South, so the assault was a bit of surprise (by Afghan standards…).

Two Afghan police and one security guard were killed and seventeen civilians, including women and children, were injured in the Herat attack. But enough about that – what about the Americans!?! The State Department confirmed that no Americans were slain and all the U.S consulate staff are safe and accounted for. Phew!

The attackers, however, were not so fortunate. Of the seven attackers who took part in the assault, seven of them were killed. Cause of death? Herat Attack.

Via: The Washington Post

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Presidential Palace Attack

Current Event Cat - Afghan Presidential Palace

Taliban militants stormed Afghanistan’s presidential palace in Kabul early Tuesday while reporters were present for a press event with President Hamid Karzai.

A gun battle quickly broke out in the presidential palace that left eight attackers and three guards dead, and sent the journalists scrambling for cover. Explosions and gunfire reportedly shook the city center and debris could be seen flying everywhere. The gun battle began near the east gate leading to the palace next to the Afghan Ministry of Defence and the former Ariana Hotel, which houses a CIA center.

The presidential palace is one of the most-heavily guarded areas in Kabul and thought to be the most secure. The palace is in a large fortified area of downtown Kabul that also includes the U.S. Embassy and the headquarters for the NATO-led coalition forces. Hamid Karzai was in the palace at the time of the attack but remained unharmed.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility, saying “eight of our suicide bombers were able to reach the most secure area of Kabul.”

“The brave mujahedeen, with special tactics and help from inside, were able to reach their target with their weapons and cars.”

The attack ended after a two-hour showdown. The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said Afghan National Security Forces had led the response efforts. Last week, Afghan forces assumed security responsibility for the whole of the country for the first time since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. So far they’re not off to a great start… but they’ve certainly come a long way since 2007:

Via: CBC News & Current Event Cats

Hamid Karzai is Feeling Left Out of the Taliban Talks

Karzai Gets Left Out of Taliban Talks

The United States recently announced that they would officially meet with the Taliban for the first time in Qatar, where the militants have a new overseas office.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai felt left out of the U.S.’s big plan to orchestrate peace talks with Afghanistan and the Taliban. So now, less than 24 hours after the plan was announced, Karzai has angrily decided to boycott the talks with the Taliban unless the process is “Afghan-led”.

Not only is Karzai mad about being left out of the peace process, he’s pretty pissed that the Taliban have a new office is Qatar. Originally he thought the office would be only an “address” for the Taliban in a neutral place but the Taliban are thinking it’s more along the lines of an embassy for a shadow government. He also didn’t approve of the Taliban’s use of its formal name “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” when opening the Doha office. Add in the fact that the U.S is bypassing him and meeting with the Taliban directly and that makes for one angry Karzai.

Initially Karzai called off the talks in a fit of rage but then cooled off a bit and said the Afghan government may participate in the talks but only if the Taliban lowered the office’s profile and the peace process was led by Afghan officials.

“The way the Taliban office was opened in Qatar and the messages which were sent from it was in absolute contrast with all the guarantees that the United States of America had pledged,” said the statement from President Karzai’s office.

“Recent developments showed that there are foreign hands behind the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar. Unless the peace process is led by Afghans, the High Peace Council will not participate in the Qatar negotiations.”

On their end, the Taliban probably don’t really care if Karzai is involved. For years the Taliban have refused to speak to the Afghan government because they consider them to be American “puppets.” They are much more interested in direct talks with American and other Western officials.

But don’t think the U.S and the Taliban are buddy-buddy just yet. Hours after the Taliban talks were announced, four U.S soldiers were killed in an insurgent attack at Bagram air base – courtesy of the Taliban. The U.S. and Taliban announced they will begin the preliminary peace talks in Qatar without the Afghan government but from the looks of it, it’s going to be pretty messy…

Via: The New York Times

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Bad News for the Kabul Airport Attackers… And Other News

Kabul Airport

Bad news for the Kabul airport attackers: they’re dead. Unless they were on some kind of suicide mission – then I guess it’s good news. Success!

After several hours of fighting, Afghan security forces killed the five insurgents who shelled NATO headquarters at Kabul airport overnight with rockets and gunfire. At least seven gunmen, including two wearing suicide vests, had taken refuge in a five-story building under construction near the Kabul airport, forcing officials to halt flight operations. The Afghan police sprung into action, sealing off the building while U.S Black Hawk helicopters circled overhead. Kabul’s police chief, Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, said his forces managed to kill the assailants before they could inflict casualties or serious damage to the NATO base. And unlike the child beheading incident, the Taliban quickly admitted to this attack. Washington Post

Santa Monica ShootingA fifth victim of the Friday afternoon rampage in Santa Monica died on Sunday from gunshot wounds. The suspect, John Zawahri, began his rampage by killing his father and brother. He then moved on to randoms, firing off a stream of bullets at his former college, killing three others within 13 minutes. The 5th victim, Marcela Franco, 26, was taken off life support on Sunday. Franco had just enrolled in summer classes at the school and was on campus with her father to buy textbooks. Her father, Carlos Navarro Franco, 68, a groundskeeper at the college, was also killed in the rampage. Zawahri was shot and killed by police officers on the scene. CNN

Nelson MandelaFormer President Nelson Mandela of South Africa is in intensive case with a lung infection. Mandela is into the third day of his latest hospitalization for a recurring lung infection and is said to be in “stable, but serious” condition. Mandela, 94, has been hospitalized three other times this year. The ongoing hospital visits combined with his frail appearance have led many to speculate that the end in near for Mandela. However, Mandela’s daughter, Zindzi, said Sunday that her father is a “fighter” and is “well.” Despite contracting tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment for fighting apartheid, suffering from chronic lung problems, and battling pneumonia last year, Mandela still has two years on Prince Philip, who just celebrated his 92nd birthday. I guess Mandela is a fighter. New York Times

killer stilettoDeath by shoe: A 44-year-old Texas woman faces murder charges for allegedly stabbing a man to death with a stiletto-heel shoe at the victim’s luxury condominium. Ana Lilia Trujillo stabbed a 59-year-old man, described as her “boyfriend”, multiple times with a stiletto, leaving puncture wounds all over his head. A neighbour at the condo complex had called police around 4 a.m. Sunday saying someone was being assaulted. Houston police say that “upon our arrival, [she] began to refuse to cooperate.” No word yet on whether or not the man had a shoe fetish and if the stiletto had been inserted anally. NBC News

German FloodZee Germans are fleeing: More than 20,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Germany and Hungary on Monday after a dam burst on the River Elbe in Magdeburg this weekend. The swollen Elbe River breached another levee early Monday, forcing the evacuation of 10 villages. Weeks of heavy rain this spring have sent the Elbe, the Danube and other rivers such as the Vltava and the Saale overflowing their banks, causing extensive damage in central and southern Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. And just when you think “it’s only water, what harm could it do?”, there have been at least 22 flood-related deaths reported. CBC News

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