Posts tagged kabul

We were treated to a “spectacular” coordinated, complex attack yesterday in Kabul and a number of other places in Afghanistan. Seemingly a Taliban/Haqqani joint effort, it was the start of their “Spring Offensive” that had been expected for a while by many of us thinking it was just too quiet around here these days.

At HQ ISAF, in the heart of Kabul’s diplomatic zone, my first indication something was up was the number of US force protection and infantry soldiers (unlike the mixed-up forces of Macedonian, US army and Marines I saw having fun last September) who rushed to the sentry posts.

Then we were treated to a series of explosions in the distance, which was the precursor to hours of RPG fire around the city, incoming and outgoing small arms fire and a few more suicide bombs going off.

One RPG came inside the base, about 25m from my office, where I was filming from the window (in full pro-gear, obv). Luckily, it landed in a concrete-lined cesspit, so no-one was injured from the impact or the fallout.

Around town, we heard reports of a location near us being used as a base for attack- opposite the Iranian embassy and near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Presidential Palace, German embassy, UK embassy, basically as many targets as you can shake a rocket at.

Also, the Afghan parliament in the west of Kabul came under attack. We heard reports of one Afghan MP (from bad-ass Kandahar province, naturally) getting on the roof and fighting the attackers alongside his bodyguards and Afghan Security Forces. The attackers took 35 hostages from a nearby bank.

Additionally, there were attacks in Paktia, Logar and Jalalabad (on an ISAF airbase).

My Afghan and western journo friends were around town filming their hearts out - you’ll see a lot of their footage on the TV. The above photos are from Jake Simkin and David Gilly from the excellent Kabul At Work. Check their facebook page and the full album.

The attacks in Kabul took 18 hours to put down fully, as commandos carefully took the buildings where the insurgents were holed up floor-by-floor. It’s being trumped as a triumph for Afghan forces, as their didn’t officially request ISAF help. If we’re going to be accurate, though, ISAF Special Forces from Norway and New Zealand were there with the Afghan Commandos mentoring (you can see these in David Gilly’s album). And anyone who was up after midnight will have heard the black hawk helicopters strafing the building in Wazir Akbar Khan. So not completely a solely Afghan operation, although, as my friend Paddy Smith observed from a location only 100m away, the first man up the ladder into the building was Afghan,

     “He knew there were live bad guys in there and after 3 or 4 people refused, he climbed the ladder, pistol in hand and made the entry.”

Our footage wasn’t as sexy as last year, but my interview with ISAF spokesperson, B-G Carsten Jacobson did make BBC and Al-J.

Edit: casualty figures still unclear. Chief of Police, Gen Salangi made the following statement on Twitter:

"ANSF killed 16 attackers in 3 locations. Sadly 5 civilians injured&6 police killed. Proud to say Kabul police rescued 35 civilians hostage"

I heard yesterday, though, on the Afghan grapevine, that 12 students were killed near to the Kabul Star hotel, where the W-A-K attackers were based. This remains unconfirmed for now.

My friend Sam French’s Buzkashi Boys is one of the first fiction films to be filmed entirely on location in Afghanistan. Support its completion here.

Larking about with Afghan Police at White City video shoot. They were clearly having the best day.

Larking about with Afghan Police at White City video shoot. They were clearly having the best day.

My band shooting our first video at the old Russian Cultural Centre in Karte Se in Kabul, Afghanistan. 
Full Flickr set here
Edit: this photo is like this photo

My band shooting our first video at the old Russian Cultural Centre in Karte Se in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Full Flickr set here

Edit: this photo is like this photo

Interesting. The Guardian take my video of Najebullah Sadiq, the star of hit Afghan cop show, Eagle Four and use his interview as the main peg for this story.

Afghanistan’s ‘Jack Bauer’ says he is under pressure to give up TV cop show

The interview was actually filmed a few months ago, though.

Afghan Outlook reports, as many do, on the recent UN report  - ‘A Long Way To Go’ - on the implementation of the EVAW (Elimination of Violence Against Women) law in Afghanistan.
This is a law - only two years old - that criminalises violence against women and children, forced marriage and marriage to settle disputes as well as forced self-immolation. Before this law, there was no specific legal basis for police to bring cases against these crimes. 
So how well has the law been used? At the UN press conference I attended yesterday, the spokespeople plus Afghan womens rights tried to put a positive spin on the fact that, at least in some cases, the law was being used to prosecute cases. But, the facts are pretty grim. Of 2,229 cases of violence against women (and that’s only the cases that were reported), only 4% eventually came to court under the law.
Folks, that includes murder, rape (of children as well), forced prostitution and self-immolation through family pressure.
A recent case that has found much publicity is one of an Afghan women forced to marry her rapist or face 12 years in prison. This CNN piece takes a look at the story, while Jerome Starkey from The Times has brought to light that a documentary about her has been ‘censored’ by the EU, apparently for the safety of the woman in question.
Steffan de Mistura, the senior UN representative in Afghanistan said that women’s rights would be the legacy of the international effort in Afghanistan, but apart from in the most urban centres (and often not even here), women find it hard to exercise even basic rights like leaving the house or sending their daughters to school. Sure, more girls are in school now than ever, but that’s because it was outright banned during the Taliban times and now a lot of money and effort is going into making sure girls are in school.
Women’s issues are always tricky in Afghanistan, because you’re treading on the toes of deeply held cultural pride. Women are property to many and you’re not going to change that attitude in a few years.
There are some very brave, very clever Afghan women leading advocacy groups like Women for Afghan Women or Young Women for Change. The latter led the widely publicised march through Kabul against street harassment that I blogged about last July and, recently, one of the founders has blogged about at the New York Times.
But they face great problems, even from the government, who recently tried to shut down all privately run women’s shelters, calling them ‘brothels’. In fact, the government run shelters are little more than prisons, where women running away from abuse can often expect to be charged with ‘moral crimes’ (including rape being considered adultery) or, even worse, being handed back to their abusers.
It’s the tendency in Afghan culture to mediate. Afghans are great negotiators and diplomats and keeping the peace in a community often takes priority. It’s understandable in a country where discord has led to tragedy, war and genocide.
But often the sacrificial lamb at the centre of mediation are women and children - bought and sold to resolve these disputes. A two-year-old law passed by a weak and distant government and implemented by nobody in distant rural areas is unlikely to change this.
Read the report here (downloads PDF file).

Afghan Outlook reports, as many do, on the recent UN report  - ‘A Long Way To Go’ - on the implementation of the EVAW (Elimination of Violence Against Women) law in Afghanistan.

This is a law - only two years old - that criminalises violence against women and children, forced marriage and marriage to settle disputes as well as forced self-immolation. Before this law, there was no specific legal basis for police to bring cases against these crimes.

So how well has the law been used? At the UN press conference I attended yesterday, the spokespeople plus Afghan womens rights tried to put a positive spin on the fact that, at least in some cases, the law was being used to prosecute cases. But, the facts are pretty grim. Of 2,229 cases of violence against women (and that’s only the cases that were reported), only 4% eventually came to court under the law.

Folks, that includes murder, rape (of children as well), forced prostitution and self-immolation through family pressure.

A recent case that has found much publicity is one of an Afghan women forced to marry her rapist or face 12 years in prison. This CNN piece takes a look at the story, while Jerome Starkey from The Times has brought to light that a documentary about her has been ‘censored’ by the EU, apparently for the safety of the woman in question.

Steffan de Mistura, the senior UN representative in Afghanistan said that women’s rights would be the legacy of the international effort in Afghanistan, but apart from in the most urban centres (and often not even here), women find it hard to exercise even basic rights like leaving the house or sending their daughters to school. Sure, more girls are in school now than ever, but that’s because it was outright banned during the Taliban times and now a lot of money and effort is going into making sure girls are in school.

Women’s issues are always tricky in Afghanistan, because you’re treading on the toes of deeply held cultural pride. Women are property to many and you’re not going to change that attitude in a few years.

There are some very brave, very clever Afghan women leading advocacy groups like Women for Afghan Women or Young Women for Change. The latter led the widely publicised march through Kabul against street harassment that I blogged about last July and, recently, one of the founders has blogged about at the New York Times.

But they face great problems, even from the government, who recently tried to shut down all privately run women’s shelters, calling them ‘brothels’. In fact, the government run shelters are little more than prisons, where women running away from abuse can often expect to be charged with ‘moral crimes’ (including rape being considered adultery) or, even worse, being handed back to their abusers.

It’s the tendency in Afghan culture to mediate. Afghans are great negotiators and diplomats and keeping the peace in a community often takes priority. It’s understandable in a country where discord has led to tragedy, war and genocide.

But often the sacrificial lamb at the centre of mediation are women and children - bought and sold to resolve these disputes. A two-year-old law passed by a weak and distant government and implemented by nobody in distant rural areas is unlikely to change this.

Read the report here (downloads PDF file).

I received a complaint today that I’m not blogging enough. To be honest, it’s incredibly dull in Kabul at the moment, even with the Loya Jirga (a big meeting of Afghan leaders, officials and diplomats to talk about peace, Americans and the future, but with no legal imperative).
You can tell how boring the Loya Jirga has been from the media coverage.* Story 1: ANP shot a suicide bomber targeting the Loya Jirga site. We’ll never know whether the dead man was actually a suicide bomber or a policeman got jumpy, shot him and then claimed he was wearing a vest afterward.
*Story 2: two rockets were launched at Loya Jirga site, but missed. Now, rockets are launched at Kabul regularly and never get reported on. In most cases insurgents, disgruntled folks and even wayward teenagers set them up on one of the hills and leave them to fire without checking, so they rarely hit their target and no-one really cares anyway. However, at March’s peace-themed Loya Jirga, rockets did land near the site (with no casualties), so this does have some newsworthiness.
*Story 3: Karzai demands that international forces stop night raids and cease arresting Afghans and keeping prisons on Afghan soil. PK does this every so often to appease the Afghan public, to whom invading a home at night is the ultimate insult and violation of their culture. However, international forces claim that most night raids are, if not accompanied by Afghan special forces, are signed off by Afghan commanders. So either PK is completely divorced from his military leaders or he’s not exactly making things clear. As regards prisons, no matter what your view on the moral/legal right for an invading force to operate detention centres, Afghan facilities are woefully inadequate and, as recently shown from reports like these, regularly use torture.
*Story 4: committee number ‘39’ (of 40) at the Loya Jirga has been pulled because Afghans believe 39 is a 'bad number' associated with piimps. This is true. Men who are 39 years old tell people they’re ‘40 minus one’. Still, it shows how little of substance or interest is coming out of the jirga.
The only hope for news is that tomorrow at the closing ceremony, President Karzai will announce the second round of cities to be transitioned to Afghan control of security. At least, that vain hope is why I’m getting up at 5am tomorrow to drag myself to the media tent, which is at least a kilometre away from the actual jirga.
So, in the meantime, here’s a picture of Murphy in the rubbish (above).

I received a complaint today that I’m not blogging enough. To be honest, it’s incredibly dull in Kabul at the moment, even with the Loya Jirga (a big meeting of Afghan leaders, officials and diplomats to talk about peace, Americans and the future, but with no legal imperative).

You can tell how boring the Loya Jirga has been from the media coverage.
* Story 1: ANP shot a suicide bomber targeting the Loya Jirga site. We’ll never know whether the dead man was actually a suicide bomber or a policeman got jumpy, shot him and then claimed he was wearing a vest afterward.

*Story 2: two rockets were launched at Loya Jirga site, but missed. Now, rockets are launched at Kabul regularly and never get reported on. In most cases insurgents, disgruntled folks and even wayward teenagers set them up on one of the hills and leave them to fire without checking, so they rarely hit their target and no-one really cares anyway. However, at March’s peace-themed Loya Jirga, rockets did land near the site (with no casualties), so this does have some newsworthiness.

*Story 3: Karzai demands that international forces stop night raids and cease arresting Afghans and keeping prisons on Afghan soil. PK does this every so often to appease the Afghan public, to whom invading a home at night is the ultimate insult and violation of their culture. However, international forces claim that most night raids are, if not accompanied by Afghan special forces, are signed off by Afghan commanders. So either PK is completely divorced from his military leaders or he’s not exactly making things clear. As regards prisons, no matter what your view on the moral/legal right for an invading force to operate detention centres, Afghan facilities are woefully inadequate and, as recently shown from reports like these, regularly use torture.

*Story 4: committee number ‘39’ (of 40) at the Loya Jirga has been pulled because Afghans believe 39 is a 'bad number' associated with piimps. This is true. Men who are 39 years old tell people they’re ‘40 minus one’. Still, it shows how little of substance or interest is coming out of the jirga.

The only hope for news is that tomorrow at the closing ceremony, President Karzai will announce the second round of cities to be transitioned to Afghan control of security. At least, that vain hope is why I’m getting up at 5am tomorrow to drag myself to the media tent, which is at least a kilometre away from the actual jirga.

So, in the meantime, here’s a picture of Murphy in the rubbish (above).

Yo, yo, yo - I’m a motherfucking LION! I’m in the JUNGLE, motherfucker and you better represent my LIONS. Cause we all is LIONS
That is a short summary of President Karzai’s speech at Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga today.
Spotted on HQ ISAF, it reads:
The glowing eyes are a dead giveaway that this cat has rabies and WILL ATTACK! This sinister cat attacked an ISAF citizen in March 2011. It has not yet been brought to justice. 
The first installment here in this ongoing, underground, anti-cat movement.

Spotted on HQ ISAF, it reads:

The glowing eyes are a dead giveaway that this cat has rabies and WILL ATTACK! This sinister cat attacked an ISAF citizen in March 2011. It has not yet been brought to justice.

The first installment here in this ongoing, underground, anti-cat movement.

The dust settles

So a day after the attacks ends this is what’s come out so far:

11 civilians dead, at least 3 of which were children. General John Allen, Commander of ISAF forces said in a press conference that over half of the civilians were children, but that still seems sketchy.

19 civilians were wounded. This seems to be from rockets landing over or short of the US Embassy. As I saw, rockets fell very close to ISAF’s perimeter. I don’t know how close they got to the US embassy.

6 ISAF soldiers were wounded outside ISAF bases somewhere in the city. That’s pretty much what I got verbatim from the ISAF spokesperson. That means, they’re probably special forces (I heard British special forces), who were involved helping Afghan SF clear the building.

5 Afghan National Police were killed trying to take the building.

There’s no more word on the other explosions around the city as yet.

I edited our footage all of Tuesday night. We weren’t allowed to leave our building, so I slept an hour on my desk before waking up after a dream about renewed fighting. It wasn’t a dream. At 5am, I grabbed a camera and went back on the roof. Jeff and I had morning tea and filmed black hawks helicopters hovering by the building as their gunners engaged the two remaining fighters inside, now occupying the 9th or 10th floor.

The fight went on until 10am, when they finally killed the last fighter. There were officially 7 fighters, 4 of them suicide bombers, who had come over from Pakistan. They’d brought nuts and energy drinks over from Pakistan. The journalists who visited the site, said the police took great pains to emphasise the providence of these snacks, although the attackers seem to be originally from provinces around Afghanistan.

At a press conference, there seemed to be an impasse of understanding between ISAF and journalists. NATO and ISAF look at the big picture: the attacks the Afghan forces have stopped recently (but we haven’t heard about) and the capability of the forces they see as a positive.

The journalists countered with individual stories of frightened Afghans in their homes cradling crying children as bombs shook their windows.

How can Afghans have any faith in a secure country when attackers can close down their city for 20 hours?

NATO, ISAF and now US Ambassador Ryan Crocker countered with viewpoints that said, basically, if that’s the best they could do, then, militarily speaking, it was a failure.

But the emotional and the military reaction are having trouble seeing eye to eye.

The streets are back to normal, having been eerily empty when I finally went home yesterday.