Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

 

Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

Top clerics and religious scholars also declare country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law

Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders.
Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders. PHOTO: OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS

KABUL, Afghanistan—A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber struck a meeting of Afghanistan’s top clerics and religious scholars in the capital on Monday, killing 14 people shortly after the large gathering declared such suicide attacks a sin and the country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law.

The Afghan branch of Islamic State said through its Amaq news agency that it carried out the attack, which occurred as the meeting of the Afghan Ulema Council was adjourning and attendees were departing the assembly grounds. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest insurgency, denied any involvement in the bombing.

Islamic State’s affiliate here, which has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks in Kabul in recent months, is under intense military pressure from U.S. Special Forces and from stepped-up U.S. airstrikes in eastern Nangarhar province, its Afghan stronghold.

One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin.
One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin. PHOTO: REUTERS

A senior Afghan security official said 17 people were also injured in the bombing at one of the exits from the meeting grounds, near Kabul Polytechnic University in western Kabul.

Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, spokesman for the government’s High Peace Council, said the meeting was attended by some 3,000 religious figures from across the Central Asian nation. He said he escaped the blast by a matter of seconds. “God has given me another life,” he said.

Shortly before the attack, the convocation had issued an Islamic ruling, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden.

“Suicide attacks, explosions for killing people, division, insurgency, different types of corruption, robbery, kidnapping and any type of violence are counted as big sins in Islam and are against the order of the Almighty Allah,” they said.

Suicide bombings are a relatively recent phenomenon in Afghanistan, having been rejected as a form of combat during the uprising against the occupation of Soviet forces in the 1980s and the takeover by Taliban forces in the mid-1990s.

Rather, they became a feature of the Afghan war in the mid-2000s, as the tactics used by Islamist militants against U.S. forces in Iraq rebounded here.

The clerical gathering also denounced the 17-year war in Afghanistan as illegal under Islamic law, calling it nothing but “shedding the blood of Muslims,” and urged the Taliban to take up the Kabul government’s offer of unconditional peace talks.

In perhaps the most public peace overture since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban from power, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in late February offered political recognition to the Taliban in exchange for a stop to the fighting.

The Taliban hasn’t replied formally to the bid. It has said it will only negotiate with the U.S. since, it says, America is the main engine of the war and the Kabul government is illegitimate.

Write to Craig Nelson at [email protected]

Appeared in the June 5, 2018, print edition as ‘Afghan Clerics Targeted in Deadly Bombing.’

Uzbekistan: Current Day, And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Uzbekistan

Introduction Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1924. During the Soviet era, intensive production of “white gold” (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves. Current concerns include terrorism by Islamic militants, economic stagnation, and the curtailment of human rights and democratization.
History The territory of Uzbekistan was already populated in the second millennium BC. Early human tools and monuments have been found in the Ferghana, Tashkent, Bukhara, Khorezm (Khwarezm, Chorasmia) and Samarkand regions.

Alexander the Great conquered Sogdiana and Bactria in 327 BC, marrying Roxana, daughter of a local Bactrian chieftain. The conquest was supposedly of little help to Alexander as popular resistance was fierce, causing Alexander’s army to be bogged down in the region. For many centuries the region of Uzbekistan was ruled by Iranian Empires, including the Parthian and Sassanid Empires.

In the fourteenth century AD, Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, overpowered the Mongols and built an empire. In his military campaigns, Tamerlane reached as far as the Middle East. He defeated Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, who was captured, and died in captivity. Tamerlane sought to build a capital for his empire in Samarkand. Today Tamerlane is considered to be one of the greatest heroes in Uzbekistan. He plays a significant role in its national identity and history. Following the fall of the Timurid Empire, Uzbek nomads conquered the region.

In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire began to expand and spread into Central Asia. The “Great Game” period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a second, less intensive phase followed. At the start of the nineteenth century, there were some 2,000 miles (3,200 km) separating British India and the outlying regions of Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Asia was firmly in the hands of Russia, and despite some early resistance to Bolsheviks, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union. On 27 October 1924 the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created. On August 31, 1991, Uzbekistan declared independence, marking September 1 as a national holiday.

The country is now the world’s second-largest exporter of cotton, and it is developing its mineral and petroleum reserves.

Geography Location: Central Asia, north of Afghanistan
Geographic coordinates: 41 00 N, 64 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 447,400 sq km
land: 425,400 sq km
water: 22,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than California
Land boundaries: total: 6,221 km
border countries: Afghanistan 137 km, Kazakhstan 2,203 km, Kyrgyzstan 1,099 km, Tajikistan 1,161 km, Turkmenistan 1,621 km
Coastline: 0 km (doubly landlocked); note – Uzbekistan includes the southern portion of the Aral Sea with a 420 km shoreline
Maritime claims: none (doubly landlocked)
Climate: mostly midlatitude desert, long, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid grassland in east
Terrain: mostly flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes; broad, flat intensely irrigated river valleys along course of Amu Darya, Syr Darya (Sirdaryo), and Zarafshon; Fergana Valley in east surrounded by mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan; shrinking Aral Sea in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sariqarnish Kuli -12 m
highest point: Adelunga Toghi 4,301 m
Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead and zinc, tungsten, molybdenum
Land use: arable land: 10.51%
permanent crops: 0.76%
other: 88.73% (2005)
Irrigated land: 42,810 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 72.2 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 58.34 cu km/yr (5%/2%/93%)
per capita: 2,194 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: shrinkage of the Aral Sea is resulting in growing concentrations of chemical pesticides and natural salts; these substances are then blown from the increasingly exposed lake bed and contribute to desertification; water pollution from industrial wastes and the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides is the cause of many human health disorders; increasing soil salination; soil contamination from buried nuclear processing and agricultural chemicals, including DDT
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: along with Liechtenstein, one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world
Politics Constitutionally, the Government of Uzbekistan provides for democracy. The executive holds a great deal of power, and the legislature and judiciary have little power to shape laws. Under terms of a December 27, 1995 referendum, Islam Karimov’s first term was extended. Another national referendum was held January 27, 2002 to extend the Constitutional Presidential term from 5 years to 7 years. The referendum passed, and Karimov’s term was extended by act of the parliament to December 2007. Most international observers refused to participate in the process and did not recognize the results, dismissing them as not meeting basic standards. The 2002 referendum also included a plan to create a bicameral parliament, consisting of a lower house (the Oliy Majlis) and an upper house (Senate). Members of the lower house are to be “full time” legislators. Elections for the new bicameral parliament took place on December 26, but no truly independent opposition candidates or parties were able to take part. The OSCE limited observation mission concluded that the elections fell significantly short of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Several political parties have been formed with government approval. Similarly, although multiple media outlets (radio, TV, newspaper) have been established, these either remain under government control or rarely broach political topics. Independent political parties were allowed to organize, recruit members and hold conventions and press conferences, but they have been denied registration under restrictive registration procedures. Terrorist bombings were carried out March 28, 2004 – April 1, 2004 in Tashkent and Bukhara.
People Population: 27,345,026 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29% (male 4,047,918/female 3,870,346)
15-64 years: 66% (male 8,971,017/female 9,079,170)
65 years and over: 5% (male 588,498/female 788,077) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 24.3 years
male: 23.8 years
female: 24.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.965% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.99 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.3 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 24.23 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 28.61 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.69 years
male: 68.69 years
female: 74.87 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.01 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 11,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Uzbekistani
adjective: Uzbekistani
Ethnic groups: Uzbek 80%, Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5% (1996 est.)
Religions: Muslim 88% (mostly Sunnis), Eastern Orthodox 9%, other 3%
Languages: Uzbek 74.3%, Russian 14.2%, Tajik 4.4%, other 7.1%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.3%
male: 99.6%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 11 years
male: 12 years
female: 11 years (2007)
Education expenditures: 9.4% of GDP (1991)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Uzbekistan
conventional short form: Uzbekistan
local long form: Ozbekiston Respublikasi
local short form: Ozbekiston
former: Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
Capital: name: Tashkent (Toshkent)
geographic coordinates: 41 20 N, 69 18 E
time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 12 provinces (viloyatlar, singular – viloyat), 1 autonomous republic* (respublika), and 1 city** (shahar); Andijon Viloyati, Buxoro Viloyati, Farg’ona Viloyati, Jizzax Viloyati, Namangan Viloyati, Navoiy Viloyati, Qashqadaryo Viloyati (Qarshi), Qoraqalpog’iston Respublikasi [Karakalpakstan]* (Nukus), Samarqand Viloyati, Sirdaryo Viloyati (Guliston), Surxondaryo Viloyati (Termiz), Toshkent Shahri**, Toshkent Viloyati, Xorazm Viloyati (Urganch)
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
Independence: 1 September 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 1 September (1991)
Constitution: adopted 8 December 1992
Legal system: based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Islom KARIMOV (since 24 March 1990, when he was elected president by the then Supreme Soviet)
head of government: Prime Minister Shavkat MIRZIYOYEV (since 11 December 2003); First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam AZIMOV (since 2 January 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president with approval of the Supreme Assembly
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term; previously was a five-year term, extended by constitutional amendment in 2002); election last held 23 December 2007 (next to be held in 2014); prime minister, ministers, and deputy ministers appointed by the president
election results: Islom KARIMOV reelected president; percent of vote – Islom KARIMOV 88.1%, Asliddin RUSTAMOV 3.2%, Dilorom T0SHMUHAMEDOVA 2.9%, Akmal SAIDOV 2.6%
Legislative branch: bicameral Supreme Assembly or Oliy Majlis consists of an upper house or Senate (100 seats; 84 members are elected by regional governing councils and 16 appointed by the president; to serve five-year terms) and a lower house or Legislative Chamber (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 26 December 2004 and 9 January 2005 (next to be held December 2009)
election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – NA; Legislative Chamber – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – LDPU 41, NDP 32, Fidokorlar 17, MTP 11, Adolat 9, unaffiliated 10
note: all parties in the Supreme Assembly support President KARIMOV
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Supreme Assembly)
Political parties and leaders: Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party [Dilorom TOSHMUHAMEDOVA]; Democratic National Rebirth Party (Milliy Tiklanish) or MTP [Hurshid DOSMUHAMMEDOV]; Fidokorlar National Democratic Party (Self-Sacrificers) [Ahtam TURSUNOV]; Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan or LDPU [Adham SHADMANOV; People’s Democratic Party or NDP (formerly Communist Party) [Asliddin RUSTAMOV]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Agrarian and Entrepreneurs’ Party [Marat ZAHIDOV]; Birlik (Unity) Movement [Abdurahim POLAT, chairman]; Committee for the Protection of Human Rights [Marat ZAHIDOV]; Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party [Muhammad SOLIH, chairman] (was banned 9 December 1992); Ezgulik Human Rights Society [Vasila INOYATOVA]; Free Farmers’ Party or Ozod Dehqonlar [Nigora HIDOYATOVA]; Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan [Talib YAKUBOV, chairman]; Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan [Mikhail ARDZINOV, chairman]; Mazlum; Sunshine Coalition [Sanjar UMAROV, chairman]
International organization participation: ADB, CIS, CSTO, EAEC, EAPC, EBRD, ECO, FAO, GCTU, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, SCO, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Abdulaziz KAMILOV
chancery: 1746 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 887-5300
FAX: [1] (202) 293-6804
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Richard B. NORLAND
embassy: 3 Moyqo’rq’on, 5th Block, Yunusobod District, Tashkent 100093
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [998] (71) 120-5450
FAX: [998] (71) 120-6335
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and green separated by red fimbriations with a white crescent moon and 12 white stars in the upper hoist-side quadrant
Culture Uzbekistan has a wide mix of ethnic groups and cultures, with the Uzbek being the majority group. In 1995 about 71% of Uzbekistan’s population was Uzbek. The chief minority groups were Russians (8%), Tajiks (5%), Kazaks (4%), Tatars (2.5%) and Karakalpaks (2%). It is said, however, that the number of non-Uzbek people living in Uzbekistan is decreasing as Russians and other minority groups slowly leave and Uzbeks return from other parts of the former Soviet Union.

When Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, there was concern that Muslim fundamentalism would spread across the region. The expectation was that a country long denied freedom of religious practice would undergo a very rapid increase in the expression of its dominant faith. As of 1994, well over half of Uzbekistan’s population was said to be Muslim, though in an official survey few of that number had any real knowledge of the religion or knew how to practice it. However, Islamic observance is increasing in the region.

Uzbekistan has a high literacy rate, with about 99.3% of adults above the age of 15 being able to read and write. However with only 88% of the under-15 population currently enrolled in education, this figure may drop in the future. Uzbekistan has encountered severe budgeting shortfalls in its education program. The education law of 1992 began the process of theoretical reform, but the physical base has deteriorated and curriculum revision has been slow.

Uzbekistan’s universities churn out almost 600,000 graduates annually.

Economy Economy – overview: Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country of which 11% consists of intensely cultivated, irrigated river valleys. More than 60% of its population lives in densely populated rural communities. Uzbekistan is now the world’s second-largest cotton exporter and fifth largest producer; it relies heavily on cotton production as the major source of export earnings and has come under increasing international criticism for the use of child labor in its annual cotton harvest. Other major export earners include gold, natural gas, and oil. Following independence in September 1991, the government sought to prop up its Soviet-style command economy with subsidies and tight controls on production and prices. While aware of the need to improve the investment climate, the government still sponsors measures that often increase, not decrease, its control over business decisions. A sharp increase in the inequality of income distribution has hurt the lower ranks of society since independence. In 2003, the government accepted Article VIII obligations under the IMF, providing for full currency convertibility. However, strict currency controls and tightening of borders have lessened the effects of convertibility and have also led to some shortages that have further stifled economic activity. The Central Bank often delays or restricts convertibility, especially for consumer goods. Potential investment by Russia and China in Uzbekistan’s gas and oil industry, as well as increased cooperation with South Korea in the realm of civil aviation, may boost growth prospects. In November 2005, Russian President Vladimir PUTIN and Uzbekistan President KARIMOV signed an “alliance,” which included provisions for economic and business cooperation. Russian businesses have shown increased interest in Uzbekistan, especially in mining, telecom, and oil and gas. In 2006, Uzbekistan took steps to rejoin the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurASEC), which it subsequently left in 2008, both organizations dominated by Russia. Uzbek authorities have accused US and other foreign companies operating in Uzbekistan of violating Uzbek tax laws and have frozen their assets.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $72.76 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $26.62 billion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 8.3% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $2,700 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 28.2%
industry: 33.9%
services: 37.9% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 15.28 million (2008 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 44%
industry: 20%
services: 36% (1995)
Unemployment rate: 0.9% officially by the Ministry of Labor, plus another 20% underemployed (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line: 33% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 29.6% (2003)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 36.8 (2003)
Budget: revenues: $8.005 billion
expenditures: $8.127 billion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Public debt: 13.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 13.5% officially, but 38% based on analysis of consumer prices (2008 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $36.89 million (2005)
Agriculture – products: cotton, vegetables, fruits, grain; livestock
Industries: textiles, food processing, machine building, metallurgy, gold, petroleum, natural gas, chemicals
Electricity – production: 48.79 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 42.23 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 11.52 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – imports: 11.44 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 88.2%
hydro: 11.8%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 99,260 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 157,100 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 11,940 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 31,440 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 594 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 65.19 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 51.18 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 14.01 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 1.841 trillion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: $5.726 billion (2008 est.)
Exports: $9.96 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: cotton, gold, energy products, mineral fertilizers, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, textiles, food products, machinery, automobiles
Exports – partners: Russia 22.4%, Poland 10.4%, Turkey 9.4%, Kazakhstan 6.1%, Hungary 6%, China 5.6%, Ukraine 4.8%, Bangladesh 4.3% (2007)
Imports: $6.5 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, ferrous and non-ferrous metals
Imports – partners: Russia 30.1%, China 13.3%, South Korea 13%, Germany 6.3%, Kazakhstan 6.2%, Ukraine 4% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $172.3 million from the US (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $10.15 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt – external: $4.052 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $NA
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $NA
Currency (code): soum (UZS)
Currency code: UZS
Exchange rates: Uzbekistani soum (UZS) per US dollar – 1,317 (2008 est.), 1,263.8 (2007), 1,219.8 (2006), 1,020 (2005), 971.265 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 1.821 million (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 10.4 million (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: antiquated and inadequate; in serious need of modernization
domestic: the main line telecommunications system is dilapidated and telephone density is low; the state-owned telecommunications company, Uzbektelecom, is using loans from the Japanese government and the China Development Bank to improve mainline services; completion of conversion to digital exchanges planned for 2010; mobile services are growing rapidly, with the subscriber base reaching 10.4 million in 2008
international: country code – 998; linked by fiber-optic cable or microwave radio relay with CIS member states and to other countries by leased connection via the Moscow international gateway switch; after the completion of the Uzbek link to the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic cable, Uzbekistan plans to establish a fiber-optic connection to Afghanistan (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 12, shortwave 3 (2008)
Radios: 10.8 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 28 (includes 1 cable rebroadcaster in Tashkent and approximately 20 stations in regional capitals) (2006)
Televisions: 6.4 million (1997)
Internet country code: .uz
Internet hosts: 38,183 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 42 (2000)
Internet users: 2.1 million (2008)
Transportation Airports: 54 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 33
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 13
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 4 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 21
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
under 914 m: 19 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 9,725 km; oil 868 km (2007)
Railways: total: 3,950 km
broad gauge: 3,950 km 1.520-m gauge (620 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 86,496 km
paved: 75,511 km
unpaved: 10,985 km (2000)
Waterways: 1,100 km (2008)
Ports and terminals: Termiz (Amu Darya)
Military Military branches: Army, Air and Air Defense Forces, National Guard
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for compulsory military service; 1-year conscript service obligation; moving toward a professional military, but conscription will continue; the military cannot accommodate everyone who wishes to enlist, and competition for entrance into the military is similar to the competition for admission to universities (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 7,480,484
females age 16-49: 7,542,017 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 5,684,540
females age 16-49: 6,432,976 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 324,094
female: 323,923 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 2% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: prolonged drought and cotton monoculture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan creates water-sharing difficulties for Amu Darya river states; field demarcation of the boundaries with Kazakhstan commenced in 2004; border delimitation of 130 km of border with Kyrgyzstan is hampered by serious disputes around enclaves and other areas
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 39,202 (Tajikistan); 1,060 (Afghanistan)
IDPs: 3,400 (forced population transfers by government from villages near Tajikistan border) (2007)
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Uzbekistan is a source country for women and girls trafficked to Kazakhstan, Russia, Middle East, and Asia for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; men are trafficked to Kazakhstan and Russia for purposes of forced labor in the construction, cotton, and tobacco industries; men and women are also trafficked internally for the purposes of domestic servitude, forced labor in the agricultural and construction industries, and for commercial sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Uzbekistan is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in 2007; the government did not amend its criminal code to increase penalties for convicted traffickers; in March 2008, Uzbekistan adopted ILO Conventions on minimum age of employment and on the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and is working with the ILO on implementation; the government also demonstrated its increasing commitment to combat trafficking in March 2008 by adopting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law; Uzbekistan has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2008)
Illicit drugs: transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and, to a lesser extent, Western European markets; limited illicit cultivation of cannabis and small amounts of opium poppy for domestic consumption; poppy cultivation almost wiped out by government crop eradication program; transit point for heroin precursor chemicals bound for Afghanistan

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

Through Ignorance World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

 

Yes I did say our, as in (you and I) who are part of this world conversation we call our lives. There is a section of the world’s population who have no faith system of any kind, what percent, I don’t know that answer but it probably varies from nation to nation wouldn’t you think? What I am going to get at is this, you don’t have to believe in something, for that something to kill you. Here in the States there are a lot of Atheist type folks who through their lack of knowledge degrade Christianity and Judaism every chance they get. Unfortunately we find many of these people in seats of power throughout many nations.

I want to ask you what you thought when your nation (if yours did) put blood and money into these Islamic nations, putting our soldiers in direct open conflict with various Islamic faith factions. I totally agree that after 911 when the experts figured out that Osama was behind it and they learned that he was in Afghanistan being protected by the Taliban whom would not give him up, we should have removed them from the face of the earth. The bigger problem after running those Satanic embers out of power was in how to rebuild this broken nation both physically via helping them build a national infrastructure and a solid national pride in getting all of it’s people a quality education both boys and girls. But, big but, how do you cure the inside of a person when their moral fiber is evil and they refuse to change their beliefs or culture within their own brains?

Our nations leaders should all have known that there is no way to help create a puppet government that can only stand for as long as we prop it up with a lot of our blood and money and honestly expect the nations of fundamental Islam to not retake everything once we leave? O, but isn’t that the same lesson our leaders didn’t learn in Iraq either? There is a fundamental reality about the Islamic faith at it’s core, they do not believe in democracies as the rule of law.

The whole world is in a position to have it’s ground stained with the blood of their own children. There are many major brewing and open conflict areas on the globe, all are dangerous, but no conflict can ever be as dangerous as one that is about what a group’s Faith teaches, especially if  that Faith teaches global enslavement by force. I would like to say to the world, please wake up, but I have no faith that we will. Folks the world of Islam is very much at war with you and they will kill you whether you believe in them or not, they would prefer we all be foolish, it makes us all easier to kill.

 

Israel Is Not The occupier

                                           Israel is not the occupier-First Published On 9-23-2013

 

The Hebrew/Jewish people are not the occupier of the Holy lands, saying they are is an ignorant statement in itself. That statement is about as intelligent as saying the Navajo people are the occupiers of the white man’s lands in New Mexico. The Jewish/Hebrew people had lived in the Holy Lands for about 2,200 years before the creation of the Islamic religion. If people would check the history books you would find that Islam began in/about 632 A.D.. You might also be surprised to find out that Christian and Jewish Peoples dominated the whole Middle-East at the time of Islam’s inception. Israel is today only on a small sliver of the land that actually belongs to Her. If you look at the map of Israel that God Himself gave to the Hebrew people then you would see that it is not the Israelis who are living on Palestinian land.  By God’s orders all the land that the media is saying Israel is the ‘occupier’ of is totally a lie and they know it. In fact every inch of the ground that is currently Israel as well as all of Gaza and the West-Bank belongs totally 100% to Israel not the ‘Palestinians’. The only thing that doesn’t allow all the people of Palestine, Islamic, Jews and Christians to live in peace in the land of Israel is the teachings of the Islamic Faith. All people should be able to live in peace in the Holy Land together with no fear of any violence.

When Mohammed came back to Mecca from Media he came as a conquering general, not as a Holy man. Soon thousands of uneducated violent men were ridding rampant across all of the Middle-East and then up into France and Spain until they were finally turned back by force, back across the sea into North Africa. Holy man, really? Their MO was the same then as it is now, murder everyone who refuses to bow to their God, then take all of their possessions as spoils of war.

The Quran is not the primary Holy book of Islam; it is the secondary book of their faith. The Quran is the “sayings of the Prophet”. There is a book called the Hadith which is the book of “the works/actions” of the Prophet. All “good” Muslims are required to “do as the prophet did, to imitate his works”. This is the book that Islam tries to hide from the rest of the world because it shows their “action plan for Jihad on the rest of all the nations”.  It is no secret to the 20% or so of their faithful male population that can read, nor to the 50% or so of their preachers who can read, that Islam is at war with the rest of the world, and that war will never stop until Gabriel sounds God’s trumpet.

The Western countries and America are to lazy and to ignorant of religious realities to understand that a billion people are at war with them. There is an old reality, when only one side of something is at war, that is the side that will win. If you know Scripture, you would know these things and you would be able to see this blueprint being followed.

About 98-99% of all of the earth’s people who follow the God of love/kindness/ and caring are going to be murdered for their faith and for their possessions. Those that conform to the evils that are now upon all the earth in the effort to just get along, and to survive for now, will be crushed like the grapes in the wine-press at the sounding of God’s trumpet. All I can do is to feel sorry for those shallow scared people, that and pray for them to wake up before they are also murdered by this “God” of hate. God is love, God is not hate. If you are a person who is following a God of hate, you will forever live in the fire with him.

When you begin to realize that in the Middle-East that with Islam and with Judaism their religion is their politics and their politics is their religion, maybe you will begin to understand reality a little more. Just like Hamas took over Gaza and next they will root out Fatah (because they consider them to be more liberal), in the West Bank. Fundamental Islam will not share any power longer that they feel is necessary to do so. ISIS is a Sunni group, among the things they are trying to eradicate is everyone who is not a faithful follower of Sunni Islam, that does include all Shiite Islamist believing people. Iran is Shiite as is the Government of Syria and Iraq. For now this is where ISIS is concentrating most of it military power, for now. People the Middle-East is a total tender box, when it goes up the world economies are going to have the proverbial cow. This hell will soon be on our shores. Most folks in the world are totally unaware of it but many of the first shots have been fired in WWIII. If President Putin would wake up and realize where his and his country’s real enemies are and stop trying to act like a WWII thug it would be very helpful for world and Russian economies and their safety. We the people must have each others backs or we will all die.

Do you see how much good all the blood and money we poured into Iraq has done? Now we will have civil war there until one sect rules the others, then we get another cancer for their “Supreme” leader. Next, the president of Afghanistan is in talks with the Taliban to work out a government sharing plan “with American guidance”. Why did we “the west and the US” put all the blood and money into this country, to get this result? It will not be long until their president is dead or living in exile, and the Taliban will again rule that country. The only way to put an end to terrorism is to completely eradicate the cancer that is trying/going to kill you. America and the West are of to weak of a stomach for that. This is why one of the three Demons/anti-Christ will be from the Americas’, and all who will not “submit” to them will die. Friends/people/brothers, the world IS at war, everyone, everywhere has a decision to make (doing nothing is in itself a decision), are we going to die like free God-loving human beings, hoping and waiting on Gods’ trumpet, or we will die like animals on our knees before the ultimate tyrant.      

 

The people of Israel are well aware of all of these truths about their neighbors on all sides. The people of Israel know that they are hated by almost all of their neighbors people and their Governments. These people know that everyday they and their families are on the front lines of this war that all of the west seems to turn a blind eye to, as much as they feel they can get away with. If you pretend something isn’t there, it isn’t is it? The American Government doesn’t seem to understand the region. Our Governments Leaders all need to wake up, Israel is the best friend the United States has ever had. 

                                            

In Afghanistan, Governors Don’t Just Step Down Because the President Asks Them To

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

In Afghanistan, Governors Don’t Just Step Down Because the President Asks Them To

Atta Mohammad Noor, former governor of Balkh Province, right, pays respect to Afghan flag in Balkh province. Creative Commons. U.S. Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Jeff Nevison.

As Mohammad Daud begins his fiftieth day in office as governor of Afghanistan’s Balkh region, he may wonder whether he will ever receive the keys from his predecessor.

President Ashraf Ghani officially announced Daud as a replacement for long-serving Ata Mohammad Noor on December 18, 2017, but the popular Noor did not feel like a job change.

For the past month, Balkh’s had 2 governors (3 if u count the Taliban shadow gov). One’s ruled the province like a king, now refusing to leave, trying to emerge larger in defying Ghani. His successor – ready in a 3-piece suit & dyed beard – cant get it inhttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/world/asia/afghanistan-atta-muhammad-noor-president.html 

Atta Muhammad Noor talking to an aide at the governor’s compound in Mazar-i-Sharif. Since being fired by the Afghan president, he has been at work every day.

The President, the Strongman, and the Next U.S. Headache in Afghanistan

Atta Muhammad Noor, who has ruled his resource-rich province like a king, is refusing to leave despite being fired by country’s president last month.

nytimes.com

In addition to refusing to step down from a position he has held for over 13 years, Noor ordered Daud’s arrest on murder charges. Local authorities in Balkh seem more inclined to cooperate with the old governor than the new one, making it virtually impossible for Daud — presently working out of Kabul — to step foot in Balkh.

Pre-election power struggle

Noor has said the decision to sack him is “without legitimate basis” and attributes the move to Kabul’s preparations for elections in 2019. Speaking to Reuters, he said:

This is about the 2019 presidential election. [Allies of Ghani] have no grassroots support among the people and they are afraid of public figures who do.

He also said he offered his resignation to Ghani months ago, but on several conditions — the appointment of key allies to top posts in government — which have not been met.

At the heart of the standoff is a rivalry between leaders of the two ethnic groups that dominate Afghan politics — Pashtuns and Tajiks.

Noor is a senior leader of the Tajik-dominated Jamiat Party, whose candidate Abdullah Abdullah lost a bitterly contested presidential election to Ghani, a Pashtun, in 2014.

Ever since this victory, Ghani and his allies have seemed on a mission to exploit the divisions in the Jamiat Party in order to break it up.

Noor, for instance, is no longer on speaking terms with the party’s former nominee, Abdullah, who accepted the consolation prize of Chief Executive Officer after initially contesting the result of the 2014 vote.

Daoud, Balkh’s de jure governor, is also an ethnic Tajik and a member of Jamiat, but one who owes his new position to Ghani, rather than the party.

Officially the Jamiat Party has spoken out against Noor’s dismissal and accused Ghani of centralizing power. They also claim authorities are out to destabilize Balkh region, which has traditionally been one of Afghanistan’s most politically stable, emerging as a northern economic hub during Noor’s time in charge.

Divide and rule

Nevertheless, the fact that so many Jamiat members are in the government has compromised its stance on the issue and weakened it as a potential opposition force.

Jamiat is 50% of the current govt, which means they are also 50% responsible towards everything. If they criticize the govt, they criticize their authority as well… Get this simple formula! Don’t spit in the wind…

For the past month, Balkh’s had 2 governors (3 if u count the Taliban shadow gov). One’s ruled the province like a king, now refusing to leave, trying to emerge larger in defying Ghani. His successor – ready in a 3-piece suit & dyed beard – cant get it inhttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/world/asia/afghanistan-atta-muhammad-noor-president.html 

Party interests aside Jamiat should also disdain from parallel power hubs, if they are visionary they should seek centralization of power otherwise tomorrow if a Jamiat member is elected as the president the same will repeat but in different parts of Afg.

These demands of Jamiat-I-Islami shows that talks will fail eventually and the president will be left with no option but to remove Atta Noor through the use of power.http://www.1tvnews.af/fa/news/afghanistan/32994 

تلویزیون ۱ به بسته‌ی خواست‌های جمعیت اسلامی از ارگ، دست یافت

تلویزیون ۱ دریافته که هیات مذاکره‌ کننده‌ی جمعیت اسلامی در جریان گفتگوها یک بسته‌ی ۱۱ ماده‌ای از خواست‌هایش را به نمایندگان ریاست جمهوری پیشنهاد کرده است.

1tvnews.af

It is believed that the Jamiat will agree to Noor’s dismissal only if the party itself, rather than Ghani, is able to name his successor.The party also wishes to reform the constitution of Afghanistan, by holding traditional grand council (Loya Jirga).

Face-to-face talks between Jamiat and Ghani’s office have yet to result in any breakthrough, however.

Washington wades in

Afghanistan is heavily dependent on American civilian and military aid and Washington has intervened in a number of domestic political standoffs.

On January 16, the White House produced a readout of US Vice-President Mike Pence’s phone conversation with Ghani, touching on the situation with Noor:

Vice President Pence and President Ghani discussed the political leadership in the Balkh province. The Vice President emphasized his support for the Afghan government to engage with Balkh Governor Atta and conduct a peacefully negotiated transition of leadership.

Afghan security analyst Bashir Bezhen pointed out that Pence’s legitimising reference to Noor as governor made it unlikely that Kabul would resort to force to dislodge him.

There was fear before the phone call that the government will resort to a military move to oust Atta, and his supporters would respond with force…Now that fear is gone.

Iraq And Afghanistan-Our Blood And Gold Wasted

Iraq And Afghanistan In Ignorance The World Leaders Wasted Our Blood And Gold

 

Yes I did say (our) as in (you and I) who are part of this world conversation we call our lives. There is a section of the world’s population who have no faith system of any kind, what percent, I don’t know that answer but it probably varies from nation to nation wouldn’t you think? What I am going to get at is this, you don’t have to believe in something, for that something to kill you. Here in the States there are a lot of Atheistic type folks who through their lack of knowledge degrade Christianity and Judaism every chance they get. Unfortunately we find many of these people in seats of power throughout many nations. Unfortunately there are lots of people in powerful political and military positions who call themselves Christians who never walk that talk either. It is hollow and worthless to speak of kindness, love and mercy to a person as you stick a gun in their mouth. This is true no matter what the religion you say you are, a Christian bullet will kill you just the same as an Islamic bullet or a Hindu bullet will.

 

I want to ask you what you thought when your nation (if yours did) put blood and money into these Islamic Nations putting our soldiers in direct open conflict with various Islamic faith factions? I totally agree that after 911 when the experts figured out that Osama was behind it and that he was in Afghanistan being protected by the Taliban and since they would not give him up, we should have removed them from the face of the earth. The bigger problem after running those Satanic embers out of power was in how to rebuild this broken Nation. Afghanistan was/is broken physically as a viable Nation. Their people needed the world to help them build a national infrastructure and a solid national pride via getting all of its people a quality education both boys and girls. Folks, the U.S. has spent over two trillion American taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan yet 90% of it citizens don’t even have one extra change of clothing. A reality is that it is hard to win people’s hearts when they are cold, hungry and scared. But, big but, how do you cure the inside of a person when their moral fiber is evil and they refuse to change their beliefs or culture within their own brains?

 

Our nation’s leaders should all have known that there is no way to help create a puppet government that can only stand for as long as we prop it up with a lot of our blood and money and to honestly expect the nations of fundamental Islam to not retake everything once we leave? O, but isn’t that the same lesson our leaders didn’t learn in Iraq either or that we are replaying once again in Syria? There is a fundamental reality about the Islamic faith at its core, they do not believe in democracies as the rule of law.

 

The whole world is in a position to have its ground stained with the blood of their own children. There are many major brewing and open conflict areas on the globe, all are dangerous, but no conflict can ever be as dangerous as one that is about what a group’s Faith teaches, especially if that Faith teaches global totality by force. I would like to say to the world, please wake up, but I have no faith that we will.

 

Only Believers Of Islam Can Stop Islamic Terrorism: Nothing Else Can

TODAY THE SOUL CRIES 

 

The news today out of Kabul Afghanistan is both sad and sickening. The Islamic murder group who calls themselves the Taliban had one of their members drive an ambulance into a highly populated facility that was loaded with explosives and blew himself up. The saddest part is that this child of Satan has killed at least 95 innocent people along with himself. Just in this past week in Afghanistan there was an attack on a hotel that left 22 people dead, this attack was claimed by another Islamic murder group that call themselves ISIS. There was even an attack on an NGO group called Save The Children, I am not sure of the death toll in that attack nor which Demonic group took ‘credit’ for it.

 

According to the CIA Fact Book the U.S. government has spent over 2 Trillion American tax payer dollars in Afghanistan since 2001, my question is, for what? Have the American soldiers along with other Allied soldiers killed thousands of Taliban fighters plus some from other groups fighters, yes. Have many hundreds of ‘Western’ soldiers been killed and wounded, yes. Have at least a few thousand innocent civilians been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, yes. Yet for many years, including right up till now, the government of Afghanistan and the U.S. Government has been trying to have talks with the Taliban to create a ‘shared government’. A government where leaders of the Taliban will join with the civilian Government to mesh into one and form as one. The U.S. Government has been trying to broker this deal for at least ten years now, folks, the whole concept is insane. These attempts are no more than an attempt at ‘saving face’ for the U.S. Government via giving them a ‘way out’ of this quagmire. The Taliban, if they really had an interest in ‘sharing’ governance of Afghanistan they could have done this years ago. The current Leaders of the Civilian government know very well that if the Taliban is welcomed in they will quickly turn on the civilians and murder them all. Another question I have to bring up is about that 2 trillion dollars, where did it all go? Two trillion dollars could have totally and completely rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the U.S., so, where has all of that money gone? To me it seems that the majority has gone toward military actions, planes, tanks, bombs, soldiers and the such. I have heard reports several times that about 90% of the civilians in Afghanistan don’t even have one change of clothes, why folks? If we wanted to win the hearts of the civilians of the country we should have invested a whole lot of that money in their infrastructure, making sure they all had electricity, clean water, sanitation, a reliable food chain and jobs.

 

Whether the location is Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya or the Gaza Strip it is my belief that there is only one way that the world will ever be rid of ‘Islamic Terrorism’ and that is if the believers of Islam shut it down themselves. I know it has been the case for about 1,400 years that the Islamic faith has had a lot of infighting between their two main factions, the Sunni’s and the Shiite’s and that during this 1,400 years there have probably been as many or more Muslim and Persian people killed as there have been of Westerners killed. One would think that at some point this madness would stop but there appears to be no end of the innocent bloodshed being stopped. It is my belief that there is only one way that there can ever be an end to this madness and that is if the believers of Islam themselves decide that they have had enough. The ‘innocent’ family members, if they are indeed innocent must turn in their own family members and their own Iman if they are preaching hate and violence. Groups like President Abbas of the PLO and the leaders of Hamas must stop giving prize money to the families of ‘Martyr’s’ who kill other people. This theology is morally sick, the people of Islam themselves must shut it down because the Western World can not do it on their own. Until the rest of the world sees that the extreme mass majority of the Islamic believers are doing exactly this, how can the rest of the world believe that the extreme mass majority of Islamic believers are not complicit in this evil?

 

 

 

Kabul Afghanistan: Bomb In Ambulance Kills At Least 95

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)An attacker driving an ambulance packed with explosives detonated them Saturday in the Afghan capital of Kabul, leaving 95 people dead and 158 others injured, Afghan officials said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes a week after militants stormed a Kabul hotel.
The blast occurred around 12:45 p.m. local time after the vehicle passed through a security checkpoint, Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told CNN.
Police identified the attacker at a second checkpoint but couldn’t stop him before he detonated the explosives near the old Ministry of the Interior building, Rahimi said.
The injured have been taken to hospitals across the Afghan capital, said spokesman Wahid Majrooh of the Ministry of Public Health, who confirmed the casualties. He said the toll was likely to rise.
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A wounded man is helped near the blast scene Saturday in Kabul.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, condemned the attack, describing it as “insane, inhuman, heinous and a warcrime,” via his official Twitter account.
He also called on the international community to “take further action” against “state-sponsored terrorism.”
“Our priority and focus right now is to help those in need and provide the best treatment for those wounded,” he wrote. “This is the moment when we all need to stand together and punch our enemy hard. This is enough!”
The blast comes a week after gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 22 people during a 12-hour standoff with security forces.
Of those killed, 14 were foreign nationals — including four Americans — and eight were Afghans, according to the Ministry of Interior. Six gunmen were killed by Afghan security forces. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for the assault.
ISIS militants on Wednesday attacked the offices of British aid agency Save the Children in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, killing at least four people and injuring dozens.

 Marines Take Out Taliban Kingpin Responsible for Killing, Maiming Troops

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE)

 

Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, board a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162, prior to conducting a night raid operation during Realistic Urban Training at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, August 25, 2017.

NEWS
 Marines Take Out Taliban Kingpin Responsible for Killing, Maiming Troops

By

HOPE HODGE SECK, MILITARY.COM

on 

T&P ON FACEBOOK

 

This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — A Taliban shadow governor who had planned and executed improvised explosive device attacks on Marines and Afghan soldiers for well over a decade was killed in a precision airstrike just days before Christmas, Marines here told Military.com.

Task Force Southwest, the 300-Marine element that deployed to Helmand province as an advisory force for the Afghan National Defense Forces in April, does most of its work from inside the wire, supporting the local troops who patrol and launch ground attacks. But this recent strike on local Taliban mastermind Qari Fida Mohammad illustrates the impact Marines continue to have on the active fight.

Mohammad, longtime shadow governor of the restive Helmand district of Marjah, was killed Dec. 20, task force spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz said.

Standing inside the unit’s operations center, where 11 large flat screens featured detailed live drone footage from around Helmand province, Capt. Brian Hubert explained how the strike happened.

“Through the work of the intelligence sections as well as the operations in here, and coordination with the Afghans as well, we were able to conduct a strike on him a few days ago,” said Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest. “Basically, we’re very familiar with the battlespace now. So when we see the leaders we know are important there, we can kind of do a bead on them.”

The unit started tracking Mohammad with its eyes in the sky. When he was well positioned as a target, the Marines called in two Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons to execute the strike.

“He was in a vehicle traveling with deputies, bodyguards, and a cousin of his, who was also a sub-commander,” Hubert said. “We took the shot successfully, and [he was] dead on the spot, which was huge.”

Mohammad, who was based in the Taliban hotbed of Marjah, but operated throughout Helmand province, had been well-known to the Marines for years.

Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, told Military.com he had known about Mohammad in 2010, when he deployed to Helmand for active combat operations.

“We’re still not really fully aware of the exact ramifications of taking him out,” Reid said. “It was a pretty big takedown, so we’re pretty happy about it. He was behind a lot of attacks against Marines back in the day — really high profile attacks.”

Hubert said the task force was now tracking the impact of Mohammad’s elimination. Ahead of the strike, he said, Marines had watched via drone footage as local civilians took to their homes, fearful of being blamed and facing violent reprisal if any attack were launched on the shadow governor. Now, he said, newly leaderless Taliban fighters in southern Marjah are acting disorganized and confused, without orders to carry out.

“Supposedly, [Mohammad] also had a lot of intimidation where he killed full families; he was absolutely just a Mafia-style Taliban leader in that area,” Hubert said, adding that he regularly demanded ‘taxes’ from local civilians by force. “Taking him out … hopefully provides the residents of Marjah and the southern end a little bit of a ‘hey, maybe it’s a turn.’”

For the Marines, Marjah is a region full of history. It’s the site of some of the service’s most hard-fought battles in Helmand. Some 50 American troops died in the 2010 joint siege on Marjah, known as Operation Moshtarak. When Marines departed Afghanistan in 2014, Marjah was considered relatively stable; but by 2016 it had fallen back under Taliban control.

Marines are now working to empower Afghan troops from the local 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army to hold the line. When the small task force arrived, the provincial capital city of Lashkar Gah was on the verge of being overtaken by the Taliban, Marines said. Now, with support from the Task Force, the soldiers have restored stability to the town and are beginning to move offensively against the Taliban.

In a shura with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on Dec. 23, Helmand provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat said Afghan troops continue to take daily casualties in the fight.

But task force personnel continue to exact a daily toll against the Taliban as well. On a December visit to the operations center, a dark plume of smoke rose from a road on one of the screens — evidence of a precision strike carried out only minutes before.

From the screens, Hubert said, Marines had watched a pair of Taliban fighters carrying weapons dig a hole in a road south of the Marjah district center, intending to emplace IEDs ahead of a trip Afghan National Security Forces intended to make to the center.

Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos were in the air at the time, and Marines reached out and shared what they were seeing, offering them the opportunity to take out the fighters.

“They couldn’t quite get it, so we stepped in,” Hubert said. “We took the shot with F-16s and killed the two enemy. So now, they’re free to move toward the Marjah district center unimpeded by any kind of enemy contact right now.”

The process of identifying targets and executing strikes is a collaborative one, Hubert explained. Often the Marines will share what they’re seeing and make recommendations to the Afghan troops about how to respond, but leave the decision-making to them. The Afghan troops also play a significant role in the intelligence-gathering: in addition to ground reports, they maintain their own ScanEagle drone, its footage featured on one of the screens at the operations center.

As one target smoldered on the screen, Marines were tracking another: two men traveling up a road, south of friendly forces, one carrying a weapon on his back, concealed by clothing.

“We can see [the weapon] by the shape and size of what it looks like, then we’ll see him take it out,” Hubert explained.

In the course of several hours that morning, the Marines would coordinate the elimination of a half-dozen Taliban fighters.

The recent strike against Mohammad, and the daily strikes on Taliban targets, illustrate the intensity of the fight the Marines are still waging, albeit from a greater distance than they were during active combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom four years ago.

“I know we want to bring in governance, and I know we want institutional fixes. But right now, this is a fight,” said Reid, the task force deputy commander. “And as Marines, when we’re fighting, we’re going to kill the enemy, and we’re going to kill as many as we can.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com.

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Sikhs In Pakistan Complain Of Pressure To Convert (To Islam)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Sikhs in Pakistan complain of pressure to convert

A complaint by a Sikh leader in Hangu district alleged an assistant commissioner had told members of the minority community to convert to Islam.

WORLD Updated: Dec 16, 2017 23:34 IST

Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
File photo of Sikhs walking through the narrow streets of Peshawar with Gorvindar Singh (centre), one of three Sikhs who was kidnapped for ransom, after his return home on March 1, 2010.
File photo of Sikhs walking through the narrow streets of Peshawar with Gorvindar Singh (centre), one of three Sikhs who was kidnapped for ransom, after his return home on March 1, 2010.(Reuters)

A representative of a Sikh body in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province has complained that members of the minority are being asked to convert to Islam by officials in the local administration.

A complaint filed by Farid Chand Singh, who represents the Sikh community in Hangu district, alleged that the assistant commissioner of Tall tehsil, Yaqoob Khan, had told members of the Sikh community, who had paid him a visit, to convert to Islam if they wanted their problems solved.

An incensed Singh filed the official complaint against Khan with the district commissioner. Singh told The Express Tribune newspaper that he had expressed serious concern as some Sikhs were “being forced to convert to Islam” by the government official.

Singh also said in his complaint that the Pashto-speaking Sikh community had been living in Hangu since 1901 and had never offended by anyone, specifically for religious reasons. He said they had always lived peacefully with Muslims.

Despite Hangu having been a hotbed for sectarian conflict, residents of the district had never harmed Sikhs, who were never approached by anyone to convert to Islam, he said. Sikhs have friendly relations with Muslims, who have always stood up for the community in times of need, he added.

“Had it been from someone ordinary, it would have never felt so offending but when you hear such things from a government official, it becomes something really serious,” Singh told the newspaper.

“We the residents of Doaba area are being tortured religiously,” the complaint said.

“The Constitution empowers us to defend our religious beliefs against anyone and we want you to call (the assistant commissioner of) Tall, Yaqoob Khan, and inquire (about) the issue,” it said, adding the issue “should be investigated so that the community could live in Pakistan with love, peace and harmony”.

The district commissioner, Shahid Mehood, said members of the Sikh community were offended during their meeting with the assistant commissioner but had never meant to insult them.

“There was no such issue of converting someone forcefully to Islam. Rather, the district administration ensures religious freedom,” Mehmood said.

Earlier this year,a public prosecutor told a group of Christians facing trial that he would get them acquitted if they converted to Islam. Nearly 60 Christians were on trial for the mob killing of two men mistaken for militants shortly after two suicide bombers blew themselves up near St John’s Catholic Church and Christ ‎Church of the Church of Pakistan,‎ at Youhanabad in Lahore, on March 15, 2015.

There is a sizeable Sikh population in parts of northwest Pakistan, including the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Many of the Sikhs are petty traders and there have been instances of members of the community being kidnapped for ransom in recent years.

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