Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Nils Horner RIP

March 11, 2014

I tend to listen a great deal to radio – mainly Swedish Radio and the BBC. One of the high points every morning was listening to Nils Horner’s reports on Swedish radio from South Asia. Just yesterday I listened to his report on Fukushima 3 years after the great earthquake and Tsunami. Swedish Radio cannot afford too many overseas correspondents and Nils Horner covered all of South Asia. And this he did with great insight while still maintaining an admirable objectivity. He never found the need or gave in to the temptation to sensationalise his reports  – and in this day and age that was quite remarkable.

Nils Georg Anthony Horner was of dual British and Swedish nationality and had been Swedish Radio’s Middle East and later South Asia correspondent since 2001. He was a radio journalist and reporter of the old school and while he did not have the reach that they had through the BBC, I would put him in the same league as Alistair Cooke and Mark Tully. Like them he had the uncanny ability to evoke the mood and colour and smell of his locations. I always felt I was learning something new when listening to his reports. He was a sympathetic interviewer with a wonderful knack of drawing out his subjects without having to interrupt or harangue or talk down to them. He tried always to get the story and not just to score cheap brownie points.

He was shot and killed in Afghanistan today. He was working on a report on the upcoming Afghan election and especially the views of women.He was talking to his translator outside a restaurant in an affluent and well guarded area of Kabul when approached by 2 men. He was shot in the head with a silenced weapon.

Nils Horner  1962 - 2014

Nils Horner 1962 – 2014 photo AP

He was just 51 and I shall miss his reports.


Comments by limerick (2)

December 23, 2013

A family function led to some “scandalous” limericks being written about other family members (who were not present of course). It soon became obvious that putting together the rhymes – even with very free rhyming – and keeping the overall theme intact was not as easy as it seemed.

Finishing a limerick is eminently satisfying and these are written entirely for myself with no particular audience in mind.


Vladimir Putin the Tsar of all Russia,

Fancied himself the Peacemaker of Syria,

But he had not anticipated,

That European policy was constipated,

And the winner of all Syria is now Al Qaida


Marks and Spencer, the epitomy of Britishness,

Decided to cow down to political correctness,

“Sensitive” muslims employed to work,

Need no longer serve customers with alcohol and pork,

Leading to ridicule for the iconic M’en’ess.


George Walker Bush, he of Iraq in-fame,

In 2003 claimed the end of the game,

But as has now become bloody obvious,

He achieved nothing to any purpose,

And then in Afghanistan, Cameron did the same


Barack Obama – he of questionable birth,

Pushed insurance for all, for all he was worth,

But incompetence and foolishness were rife,

As his web site caused confusion and strife

And his poster policy became an object of mirth.


Francois Hollande, a rabid die-hard socialist,

Was chosen by the French to replace Sarkozy the chauvinist,

But he had no money for the war,

He waged in Mali and now in CAR.

And is now begging for a fund from capitalists.

Afghan opium harvest reaches record high and Western troops prepare to withdraw – after a job well done?

November 13, 2013

This Afghan war started on 7th October 2001. Ostensibly the US, NATO and Western allies invaded to dismantle the Al Qaida infrastructure, remove the Taliban from power and to eradicate their support base by winning hearts and minds.

Twelve years on, about 10,000 Afghan security forces and about 5,000 allied forces (including contractors) have been killed. The numbers of Taliban and other Islamic fighters killed is believed to be many more than the 15,000 allied losses – perhaps as many as 30,000. Around 18,000 civilians have also lost their lives. The Taliban are still around and apparently gaining strength. I am not sure whether the intention was to destroy the drug trade or whether it was secretly to secure drug supplies. In any event the opium harvest has never been as high before.

History will have to tell us if this was a job well done or something else.

Reuters: Afghan opium crop hits record high ahead of Western withdrawal

Afghan opium cultivation has hit a record high as international forces prepare to leave the country, the United Nations said on Wednesday, with concern that profits will go to warlords jockeying for power ahead of a presidential election next year. The expansion of poppy to 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres), will embarrass Afghanistan’s aid donors after more than 10 years of efforts to wean farmers off the crop, fight corruption and cut links between drugs and the Taliban insurgency. …..

The area under poppy is 36 percent higher than in 2012, and eclipses the previous record set in 2007, when 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) were cultivated, the U.N. anti-drugs agency said in a report. Total output is estimated at 5,500 tonnes of opium, up 49 percent from 3,700 tonnes in 2012. Farm-gate profits are expected to approach $1 billion, or 4 percent of gross domestic product. Some of those profits will be funneled off by the Taliban to fuel their insurgency. …… 

A kg of opium costs some $200 at the farm-gate. This produces about 100 g of pure heroin. The street price of heroin is about $170 per gram (2012 prices) for typically 40% pure heroin (75% is considered high). The $200 dollars for the 1 kg of opium is thus marked-up to about $40,000 as street-heroin. If the profits at the farm-gates are $1 billion, it can be expected that the profits on the streets from the processed drugs must be of the order of 50 – 100 times greater.

A steady profit stream of $50 – 100 billion per year clearly will – and does –  cause many to salivate.

The Spoils of War:

Each kg. of opium produces 100 grams of pure heroin. The US retail prices for heroin (with a low level of purity) is, according to UNODC of the order of $172 a gram. The price per gram of pure heroin is substantially higher.

The profits are largely reaped at the level of the international wholesale and retail markets of heroin as well as in the process of money laundering in Western banking institutions. 

The revenues derived from the global trade in heroin constitute a multibillion dollar bonanza for financial institutions and organized crime.

Nine civilians including children killed by NATO – but it’s OK, it wasn’t by gas

September 8, 2013

An acceptable form of killing since it was not by gas. No red lines crossed here.

The Guardian:

Afghan officials have said an apparent Nato air strike has killed 15 people – nine of them civilians, including women and children – in an eastern province where the Taliban remain strong. Nato said 10 militants had died in the strike, and that it had no reports of any civilian deaths.

Civilian deaths in Nato operations have long been a sore point between the Afghan government and the US-led troops in the country, and they have been a major factor in the animosity many Afghans feel towards foreign forces. Conflicting accounts of who or how many died also are common, especially when remote, dangerous regions are involved and access by independent observers is restricted. …

… The Kunar province police chief Abdul Habib Sayed Khaili said the air strike had hit a pickup truck carrying the women and children in Qoro village soon after three Arab and three Afghan militants boarded it on Saturday evening. He said some reports had called it a drone strike, but that Afghan officials had been unable to confirm that. Of the 15 dead, four were women, four were children and one was the driver, the police official said.

The Watapur district chief Zalmai Yousefi confirmed the air strike. He also said 15 people had been killed, including women and children.

The Nato spokeswoman 1st Lieutenant AnnMarie Annicelli confirmed that the military alliance had carried out a “precision strike” that killed 10 “enemy forces”, but that it had received no reports of any civilians dying in the air strike. Annicelli had no immediate details on who exactly the dead were or what prompted the strike.

10 young schoolgirls killed by landmine

December 17, 2012

This was today.

AFP – Ten young girls were killed when a landmine exploded Monday while they were collecting firewood in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, officials said. 

The girls, aged between nine and 11, died when one of them accidentally struck the old mine with an axe, Chaparhar district governor Mohammad Sediq Dawlatzai told AFP.

Nangarhar, Afghanistan or Newtown, Connecticut — No difference really for the children and their parents and families and communities.

But what should I make of  the “lavish” media coverage in the one case and the non-coverage in the other? or when  private grief is intruded upon while an outpouring of public grief seems stage-managed for TV cameras?

A “regrettable incident”

March 11, 2012

When can “ends” no longer justify the “means”?

At what level does “collateral damage” become unacceptable?

And even after all the blood-letting in Iraq and Afghanistan there are still those who would like to see the US and Israel launch attacks on Iran. Iran dossiers are no doubt being “sexed-up” by those who are worried that not being at war with someone is not sustainable for business.

BBC News:  

‘Rogue’ US soldier kills Afghan civilians

A US soldier in Afghanistan has killed at least 16 civilians and wounded five after entering their homes in Kandahar province, senior local officials say. He left his military base in the early hours of the morning and opened fire in at least two homes; women and children were among the dead.

Nato said it was investigating the “deeply regrettable incident”.

The New York Times does cover this as its top story, but Fox News only reports – as its third story – that a US soldier has been detained for the alleged killing of civilians! It is Sunday and Huff Post  and the Drudge Report – as of 1300 CET – have not even managed to report this “regrettable incident”.

UPDATE! And now Reuters reports that it wasn’t one, lone, disturbed, “rogue” soldier but “a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk”.

Swedish officers were killed by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan

March 2, 2011

From Svenska Dagbladet: On 7th February last year two Swedish officers Gunnar Andersson and John Palmlöv and their Afghan interpreter Mohammad Shahab Ayoulay were killed in an exchange of fire in the village of Gurgi Tappeh, about 35 kilometers from the Swedish Afghanistan headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif. An Afghan man dressed in police uniform opened fire against the Swedes and the two officers, their interpreter and the attacker were all killed.

Kapten Johan Palmlöv, 28 år och löjtnant Gunnar Andersson, 31 år stupade i februari förra året vid en attack i Afghanistan.
 Flaggor på halvstång på Camp Northern Lights efter attacken.

Capt.John Palmlöv, Lt. Gunnar Andersson, and flags at half mast at Camp Northern Lights. FOTO: FÖRSVARSMAKTEN OCH SCANPIX

On 25 March last year, the Swedish Military said that it could not be ruled out that the Swedish officers and the interpreter had been hit by  stray Swedish bullets but that the three were killed in the initial hail of bullets. Despite promises of transparency the military investigation and that of the Stockholm Prosecutors Office have been stamped “Secret”.

But yesterday a TV4 News broadcast showed that their  review of the autopsy report and of the military’s confidential report proves beyond all reasonable doubt that it was Swedish ammunition that killed the officers and their interpreter. The autopsy report from the medical centre in Solna and the Armed Forces’ own secret investigation show that there is no evidence that it was the Afghan man’s Russian ammunition which hit the Swedes. From the wounds in the bodies, the shot trajectories show that they must have been fired from a height of 4 metres and could only have come from the Swedish armoured car on the side of the road according to TV 4 News.

A clear case of “friendly fire” and most likely a tragic mistake. But it is not very clear as to why the military and the government and the prosecutor’s office will not reveal or even comment on the results of their investigations. If it was a tragic mistake and caused by panic and some incompetence by one (or more) of the dead officers’ comrades then perhaps the secrecy is just to protect the identity of these soldiers for what has been judged to be a mistake.

But perhaps not. The terms “collateral damage” and “friendly fire” are synonymous – always – with a certain lack of competence. I do not imply that they are unavoidable but just their occurrence is proof of some lack of competence. Sometimes these terms are used to cover-up a level of incompetence which is much higher than it should be. It is quite conceivable that the fault is institutional either in the Swedish Rules of Engagement or in the training of the soldiers or in their management and leadership. The use of confidentiality in this case suggests that the investigations did find some level of institutional incompetence.

There is also the unlikely scenario that the fire was from “friendly guns” but that the shooting was “unfriendly”. Very unlikely of course, but cases of unpopular officers being killed by the “friendly fire” of their soldiers are not unknown. And such cases are usually surrounded by intense secrecy.

U.S. discovers $1 trillion Afghan mineral deposits

June 14, 2010


Could it be that war is promoted primarily for religion, oil, defence equipment and minerals??

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