Monday, July 9, 2007

Military activity in Afghanistan: updated to 7th July

The post about military activity in Afghanistan (and the maps) has been updated, now it covers until 7th July (lacks some days).

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Civilian deaths on NATO-ISAF operation (Haidarabad, Afghanistan)

NATO-ISAF airstrikes in Haidarabad village (Haydarabad, Ḩeydarābād, Hyderabad, Heydarabad, Khaidarabad) left at least 30 civilians killed or wounded on Friday June-29.

Haidarabad is at Gereshk district (Helmand province). Follow this link to see the map of Haidarabad.

Taliban forces tried to ambush an US-Afghan military convoy in
Gereshk district, and then they ran to the nearby village for cover. Then, NATO-ISAF attacked the village with airstrikes, said Dur Ali Shah, the mayor of Gereshk.

NATO-ISAF spokesman stated that a dozen of Taliban were killed in two engagements, but they weren't aware of civilian casualties.

Local sources stated that there have been intense fighting in the area, and there would be about 100 people killed.

This incident is one more in a long list. Last week, president Karzai criticized the ISAF "extreme" use of force.

Read more here:
- About the incident at Haidarabad: [Afgha News] [Yahoo News] [] [BBC News] [El Mundo] [New York Times] .
- A local investigation reported that
62 insurgents and 45 civilians were killed in the operations [Yahoo News, Sunday 1st July].
- NATO-ISAF operations with civilian deaths : Civilian deaths and friendly fire on ISAF operations (Afghanistan) [updated] , Civilians killed by NATO at Afghanistan : the case of Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat) .

Friday, June 22, 2007

Afghanistan: military activity on June 20 2007

The latest news about military activity in Afghanistan state that:

  • There have been fierce fighting in Chora district (Uruzgan). NATO and Afghan forces recovered the district after 3 days battle, leaving about 100 people dead including civilians. [Aljazeera] [BBC].
  • Afghan police recovered the Myanesin (or Myanishen or Mian Nisheen) district (Kandahar) on Tuesday 19-June, after the Taliban took it on Monday 18-June [Rferl] [Bassirat] [BBC] [Bassirat].
  • Taliban took the Ghorak district (Kandahar) on Monday 18-June, and it is still in their control [BBC] [Bassirat].
The following map show the position of the places:

Afghan authorities said that Ghorak district is not strategic, we must see that is neighbor to the strategic Kajaki dam and to the conflictive Sangin valley. The mountains at Ghorak dominate these places.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Civilian deaths and friendly fire on ISAF operations (Afghanistan) [updated]

NEW: 23-June. President Karzai strongly criticized ISAF tactics that lead to civilian deaths.
Karzai criticized the ISAF "extreme" use of force and stated that
"Innocent people are becoming victims of reckless operations". This statement comes after several incidents at Uruzgan and Helmand (see below) [BBC News 23-June] [Le Monde 23-June] [AfghaNews 23-June].

Karzai also said that "Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as such" and "Several times in the last year, the Afghan government tried to prevent civilian casualties, but our innocent people are becoming victims of careless operations of NATO and international forces,".
"We want to cooperate with the international community. We are thankful for their help to Afghanistan," Karzai said. "But that does not mean that Afghan lives have no value." [Yahoo News] [Afgha News 23-June] .

ISAF spokesman Nick Lunt responded that: "President Karzai has a right to be disappointed and angry over the scale of civilian casualties in the last few days," "We need to do better than we have been doing so far." [Yahoo News].


NATO-ISAF military operations have lead to repetitive incidents of civilian deaths and friendly fire casualties. This situation is undermining the support of afghan population to the government and the NATO-ISAF.

In the last months there have been several serious incidents of different nature: NATO soldiers shooting to civilians after explosive device attacks, NATO aircraft attacks to civilian areas, and NATO forces attacked afghan police.

The main incidents have been the following:

- March 4 2007: US Marine Special Forces opened fire on civilians while fleeing an ambush in the busy Jalalabad-Pakistan highway. This lead to 16 people killed and 34 wounded. At the beginning the Afghan and U.S. reports on firefight differed. Afghan authorities confirmed the incident [AfghaNews 4-March]. And, finally, the US command recognized the incident and a US colonel 'deeply ashamed' over Afghan civilian deaths.

- April 29 2007: Air strikes and attacks at Zerkoh valley (Herat Province), in clashes between US forces and local population. This lead to about 50 people dead and important damages. The case is detailed in Civilians killed by NATO at Afghanistan : the case of Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat).

- May 8 2007: Air strikes at Sangin (Helmand Province) killed at least 21 civilians including women and children [AfghaNews 9-May] [AfghaNews 10-May] [AfghaNews 11-May] .

- June 11 2007: US forces killed afghan 7 policeman at a checkpoint in Nangarhar Province. It seems that the police checkpoint thought that the US forces were the enemy, so police opened fire, and then the coalition thought that the enemies were firing on them, so they returned fire back [AfghaNews 12-June]. The afghan police didn't know about the US forces operation.

- June 16 2007: Shooting at Kabul after the suicide bombing. A US soldier opened fire afterward, and killed one civilian [AfghaNews 16-June].

- June 17 2007: Air strike to a madrassa at Zarghon Shah District (Paktika Province) killed 7 children [AfghaNews 18-June] [GlobalSecurity 18-June].

- June 18 2007: Combats at Uruzgan province may have lead to about 30-60 civilians dead [Bassirat 19-June] [Aljazeera 19-June] . According to [Yahoo News], 52 civilians died when artillery was fired to the town of Chora. Concerning this case, President Karzai said that "You do not fight terrorists by firing a field gun 20 miles into a target,". "That is definitely surely bound to cause civilian casualties.

- June 22 2007: Air strike to the village of Adam Khan at Gershk district (Helmand province) killed 25 civils (including 9 women and 3 childs). The strike was confirmed by ISAF. [Bassirat 22-June]

The reasons or the incidents seem to be a mix of: inaccurate intelligence information, prevent own (NATO) casualties, lack of confidence on afghan partners, and lack of concern about afghan civilian lives.

These incidents have generated multiple reactions.

President Karzai strongly criticized ISAF tactics, and claimed for respecting afghan civilian lives (see above).

On NATO side, there are concerns about the political consequences as well as it image. [IHT] . In addition, goodwill toward foreign forces is eroding across Afghanistan because airstrikes, an umbrella group for aid agencies said Tuesday. [AfghaNews 19-June].
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that "concrete measures" must be taken by NATO to reduce civilian casualties [NATO Focuses On Reducing Civilian Casualties].

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also criticized NATO because of killing dozens of civilians with air strikes against insurgents carried out without enough precaution for nearby civilians.

In [Analysis: Hearts, Minds, and Afghan Body Counts], Lionel Beehner (Council on Foreign Relations), the Western "battle for Afghans’ hearts and minds may be suffering from large-scale collateral damage". The scores of civilians killed by coalition forces ( in recent months, is resulting in growing anti-Americanism among Afghans.

Ahmed Rashid, in an interview, stated that if OTAN proceeds on with the politics of air strikes during all 2007, it will loose the war against the Talibans [Bassirat 31-May].

RAWA publishes a "
Summary of Civilian Deaths Resulting from US/NATO Military Actions in Afghanistan".

Monday, June 18, 2007

Kajaki Dam: is still a fighting area

Kajaki dam, a key facility at southern Afghanistan, is still a fighting place between ISAF and Taliban.

Kajaki dam is is one of the major hydroelectric power dams of Helmand province, and also serves to irrigate 1800 km² of land. The dam is 100m high and 270m long, and has a capacity of 1.2 km2 of water. Then, this dam is a key facility for the development plans of the Afghan government and its allies.

The pictures [Wikipedia] show the dam and the powerhouse.

The dam was built in 1953. In 1975, USAID supported the installation of two generators of 16.5 MW. In October 2001, the powerhouse was bombed by US Air Force.

Now, one generating unit is working and produces 16.5 MW. A second one is scheduled to return to service in 2007. And a third one (18.5 MW) is has been contacted China Machine Building International Corporation, and it is planned to be completed in 2007.

Kajaki dam has been a fighting place between ISAF and insurgents. In December 2006, Britan's commander stated that the area were fully controlled by ISAF. But the claim showed to be premature in February, when Taliban seized several towns. During February 2007, ISAF forces executed Operations Kryptonite and Volcano. These operations focused on some villages at the north-west of the dam, which were occupied by Talibans. The main battles occurred at Barikju, Chinah and Shomali Ghulbah.

The map below shows the main places in the area.

After the operations of February, the situation seemed to be under ISAF control. But recent military actions show that the area is still in middle of fighting.
In the last two weeks there have been several air strikes or similar operations.

  • 31-May. A-10 dropped a general-purpose 500-pound bomb on a compound near the Kajaki dam area.
  • 4-June. B-1B Lancer performed a show of presence over a coalition route in Kajaki Dam.
  • 5-June. RAF GR-9 Harrier monitored coalition forces in direct contact with insurgents in Kajaki Dam. Also, F-15Es dropped munitions on buildings within an insurgent compound. The aircrew also strafed the areas around the compound with cannon rounds.
  • 10-June. RAF GR-9 Harrier dropped 500- and 540-pound bombs on buildings in Kajaki Dam. After this, ISAF forces still received fire from the buildings. This finished after a second drop. F-15Es dropped GBU-38s on a compound in Kajaki Sofla.
  • 11-June. RAF GR-7 Harriers fired rockets at insurgents in Kajaki Sofla after coalition forces received heavy fire from the area.
This military activity shows that the area is still not fully controlled by ISAF.

Moreover, an article of Ron Synovitz [RFE/RL, Global Security] states that the area is not still safe enough to complete the repairs on the hydroelectric facility.

US and British military officers told district elders that construction projects will not proceed as long as locals continue to support Talibans. Each offensive of ISAF has forced the Taliban out of the area. But the main problem is to avoid the Taliban to came back.

The situation around Kajaki dam involves several aspects, from purely military, to the relationship between local Pashtun population, and also the relationship with the drug local economy.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Military activity in Afghanistan: (29th May - 7th July 2007).

This post presents the military events in Afghanistan in the period 29th May to 7th July, and places them in the map.

The US Central Command Air Forces (CENTAF), reports the following air activity:

The geographic distribution shows a concentration of activity in the South West (Helmand, Kandahar, Farah Provinces), but also activities in the East and North. The places were occurred more air strikes are Garmsir, Sangin, Tarin Kowt, and Kandahar. Clashes have been concentrated on north Helmand, north Kandahar and south Oruzgan.

It is important to note that there is still fighting at Kajaki Dam. This is a strategic point, and the ISAF forces couldn't completely control since some months ago. Although the Operation Kryptonite (February 2007) cleared the area from Talibans, they have been carrying out a permanent guerrilla which destabilizes the area.

Other new fact is the clash at Kalāt-i-Nazar Khān, a remote Afghan-Iranian border post (the 17th June). In the fighting were killed 8 Taliban and 2 policemen.

Suicide bombers attacked the 16th June in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. Both attacks were centered in military-civilian convoys.

The involved planes were: B-1B Lancer, F-15E Strike Eagle, A-10 Thunderbolt II, Royal Air Force GR-9 Harrier, and MIRAGE 2000. The bombs were: GBU-31 and GBU-38.

Other news sources are [Bassirat] and [AfghanNews].

Friday, May 25, 2007

Military Air Bases at Central Asia

Here is a map with military air bases at Central Asia (Afghanistan, China, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan). Use the right frame to find the bases.

Central Asia has always been a strategic region, due to different factors in different history periods. The main current factors are related with the routes for oil pipelines (from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), narcotics production which is currently one of the main economic activities (mainly in Afghanistan), the neighboring of emerging and existing powers (China, India, Russia) which join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), regional conflicts (Kashmir, Afghan civil war), and the presence of highly militarized and unstable countries and societies.

In this context, the main actors have been installing military bases, where two of the main actors (USA and Russia) use the bases of other countries (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Civilians killed by NATO at Afghanistan : the case of Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat)

In the last months, there have been several cases of civilians killed by NATO forces. The incident at the Zerkoh Valley (Shindand, Herat) maybe different from the others.

The Zerkoh Valley is at the Shindand district of Herat, in a strategic route between Herat and Kandahar. Also, in Shindand there is one of the main airbases [Shindand AB]. The valley is populated by Pashtuns, and has been usually peaceful. Follow this link to have the map of the valley.

On April 27 and 29, the US military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches. They called for airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters. The reports focus the fighting in Parmakan and Bakhtabad villages. [BBC News] [Global Security][Global Security][Bassirat].

But, after large local protests, it appeared that American airstrikes left 57 villagers dead, nearly half of them women and children. This was later accepted by several sources [Global Security] [Afghan News] [Bassirat] and generated claims from Karzai [Afghan News].

What happened seems to more complex than a mistake. The report of New York Times explains this. According to NYT (in blue):

"The United States military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches and called in airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters."
"But the villagers denied that any Taliban were in the area. Instead, they said, they rose up and fought the Americans themselves, after the soldiers raided several houses, arrested two men and shot dead two old men on a village road."

"After burying the dead, the tribe’s elders met with their chief, Hajji Arbab Daulat Khan, and resolved to fight American forces if they returned. “If they come again, we will stand against them, and we will raise the whole area against them,” he warned. Or in the words of one foreign official in Afghanistan, the Americans went after one guerrilla commander and created a hundred more. "

The relationships between NATO forces and valley people were peaceful, even friendly. In Parmakan, some days before, was inaugurated a school with the support of ISAF, led by Italian forces [ISAF] [Frontline] , which was later damaged by the bombings.

"Villagers said the first fighting broke out on April 27, as they had gathered at the bazaar in the central village of Parmakan. Two old men, Adel Shah, 80, who was walking home with some meat and sugar for his family, and Sarwar, 80, who was harvesting poppies, were shot dead by the Americans, said Abdul Zaher, Mr. Shah’s son."
"That night, the first airstrikes were carried out, mainly on Bakhtabad, the village at the entrance to the valley, residents said. On April 29, the Americans returned, positioning their armored vehicles outside Parmakan."

"The bombing of the village so outraged people that they continued fighting the Americans even after the airstrikes. American and Afghan military officials admitted that they had been surprised at the ferocity of the response, and said that at one point American soldiers had been forced to call in the Afghan Army."

"The airstrikes damaged about 100 homes and a new school built by Italian troops."

The incidents lead to concerned analysis in NATO [Global Security]. It may be the first time (at least known) in which non militants clash with NATO and afghan forces.

Fighting at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (Lebanon)

Lebanese troops and militants of Fatah Islam have been fighting for a second day at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (North Lebanon). Follow this link to place the Nahr al-Bared camp in google maps, or read this google earth community message.

According to Yahoo news:
- "Lebanese troops pounded a Palestinian refugee camp with artillery and tank fire for a second day Monday, raising huge columns of smoke as they battled a militant group suspected of ties to al-Qaida in the worst violence since the end of the 1975-90 civil war."
- "Nearly 50 combatants were killed in the first day of fighting Sunday, but it was not known how many civilians have been killed inside the Nahr el-Bared camp on the outskirts of the northern port city of Tripoli."

According to Aljazeera,
- "Fighting between the Lebanese army and an armed Palestinian group at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon is escalating, despite appeals for a truce to allow humanitarian missions into the camp."
- Abu Salim, a spokesman for Fatah al-Islam, issued an ultimatum to the military on Monday, saying the group would take its battle "outside" the camp if the military did not back down.

According to,
- "In what observers say is the worst fighting to hit Tripoli in two decades, army tanks opened fire on positions inside Nahr al-Bared camp held by militants from Fatah Islam, a Sunni al-Qaeda-styled group. ".
- "Sunday's violence began shortly after dawn when police raided a militant-occupied apartment on a major thoroughfare in Tripoli. Authorities said police were looking for suspects of a bank robbery a day earlier in Amyoun, a town southeast of Tripoli. Local media reported the gunmen to be members of Fatah Islam. The armed militants resisted arrest and a gun battle ensued. It spread to surrounding streets and continued through the afternoon."
- "After suffering its heaviest losses in many years, security analysts predict the Lebanese army may increase its military presence around all Palestinian refugee camps, home to over half of Lebanon's more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees, further limiting public access and damaging an already fragile economic and social environment."
- "Abu Saleem Taha, spokesman for Fatah Islam, told IRIN from inside the camp that militants from the group had attacked the army in retaliation for an incident the previous day in which he claimed Lebanese soldiers had opened fire on Fatah Islam members as they entered the camp. The army was not immediately available for comment on the allegation. "God is testing us and we will serve his cause," said Taha. "We are ready to continue our fight against the Lebanese army and we know that our brothers in the other camps will not stand still if the situation continues."

Read more here:
- Yahoo news. Lebanese army shells refugee camp.
- GlobalSecurity. LEBANON: Palestinians face siege after 11 Lebanese soldiers killed.
- BBC News. Fighting rages in Lebanese camp.
- Fresh clashes in northern Lebanon. BBC News.
- Clashes intensify at Lebanon camp. Aljazeera.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Welcome ! to Events, people & geopolitics in conflicting places

I finally decided to publish this blog. It is not as tidy as I wanted, but I hope it will be useful to share information about these topics.

The blog intends to summarize geopolitics information (rather than stating or supporting specific opinions). Then, you will find here very heterogeneous reports and sources. I also plan to geo-reference the information, and to provide a “who is who” section.

I am beginning with posts related with Afghanistan and Central Asia. This will be one of the main topics.

Clashes between Afghan and Pakistani armies

In the last weeks there have been clashes between Afghan and Pakistani armed forces at the Durand Line, an important segment of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Clashes began the 19th April when Afghan troops tore down a new anti-Taliban fence erected by Pakistani soldiers on the border between the two countries. The fight place is at the border: at Shkin (Afghanistan, Paktika Province) and Angoor Adda (Pakistan’s FATA). The position is stated in this google earth community post : Pakistani-Afghan troops clash (20Apr07) , or follow this link to google maps.

The conflict is analyzed in this article: "South Asia: Border Clashes Reveal Rifts Between Pakistan, Afghanistan", May 14, 2007 (RFE/RL). The correspondent Ron Synovitz spokes about the conflict with Rahul Bedi.

Some references to the recent clashes are:

Some articles related with the April clashes are:
The image shows a Pakistani soldier installing the fence (from BBC News).