Afghan terror escalates —with media invisibility

While highly dubious supposed terror plots in the US and UK continue to dominate the headlines, the Real McCoy in Afghanistan generates barely a flick of interest these days. This was buried in the inner pages of the New York Times, Aug. 29:

Suicide Bomber Kills 17 Afghans; Attacks Persist in the South
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 28 — A suicide bomber blew himself up on Monday in the middle of a busy bazaar in Helmand Province, in the south, killing 17 civilians. In one of the bloodiest attacks this year in Afghanistan, the bomber walked into a crowd of shoppers at midday in the center of the capital, Lashkar Gah, said the province’s governor, Mohammed Daud.

Governor Daud said 47 people were wounded in the explosion, including 15 children. The governor said the identity of the suicide bomber was not known. “Taliban attacks are rising these days,” he said, adding that there had been five suicide attacks this year in his province.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press and said the target was a former police chief who had served in the province during the Communist era of the 1980’s. The former chief, who no longer holds any official post and was a businessman, was killed along with a relative, police officials said.

“He was an ordinary man like other civilians who were killed and had no official job,” said Hajji Muhaiuddin, a spokesman for the governor. “There was no single official worker among the casualties.”

Among the wounded was a 2-year-old boy who had to have a leg amputated, he said.

The explosion was the second deadliest suicide bombing in southern Afghanistan this year; on Aug. 3, a bomber blew up his car in the bazaar at Panjwai, outside Kandahar, killing 21 people.

British and Dutch troops, part of the newly deployed NATO force in southern Afghanistan, have been battling insurgents for weeks in Helmand, a lawless province and the largest producer of opium poppies in the country.

In a statement released in Kabul, the British commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Richards, described the bombing on Monday as a “horrifying waste of human life,” and said the Taliban were no more than “vicious criminals.”

“Launching a suicide bomber into a crowded area is guaranteed to harm innocent civilians and shows no concern whatsoever for ordinary citizens,” he said.

Governor Daud said that the government was in control of all but one district of the province, but that it still did not have enough police and army personnel to do the job.

NATO has deployed 4,000 troops in Helmand; the previous United States-led coalition had only a few hundred soldiers in the province. In addition, the government has for the first time sent Afghan Army troops to the province.

Forget about a detailed picture of the Afghan insurgency from the mainstream media, which just uses th shorthand “Taliban” (or “al-Qaeda”) for what seems to be a loose and decentralized alliance of various guerilla factions. Ironically, the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—who was the CIA’s favorite back in the ’80s—continues to be a prominent guerilla leader, and is independent of the Taliban leadership. He also seems to be gaining a growing following. From RFE/RL (which, more concerned with accuracy than most outlets, hedges its bets with the term “neo-Taliban”), Aug. 30:

Obscure Neo-Taliban Group Claims to Join Afghan Insurgency
A statement in the name of the Council of the Secret Army says it has joined forces with Hizb-e Islami, which is led by renegade former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on August 28.

“Until now we have carried out our activities using the name Secret Army…[but taking] into account the current situation in our country, we deemed it beneficial to join Hizb-e Islami,” the statement noted. “We expect others to follow our example and join Hizb-e Islami to prevent division in the ranks of the mujahedin,” the statement added, without naming the “others.”

From the issuance of the statement which is not dated, the group will “announce” its “activities under the name of Hizb-e Islami.” In 2004, Hekmatyar reportedly drafted a new plan that included recruitment of militants in the name of the Secret Army of Mujahedin to step up attacks against foreign forces in Afghanistan.

In 2005, the Secret Army of Mujahedin threatened to kill candidates for the parliamentary and provincial-council elections. Most recently, the Secret Army of the Taliban claimed responsibility for a minor explosion in northern Afghanistan targeting the office of a Bangladeshi nongovernmental organization.

The Council of the Secret Army seems to be one of a number of groups of neo-Taliban who increasingly are adopting the term “mujahedin” to identify themselves.

See our last post on Afghanistan.