Author Topic: The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2014  (Read 2642 times)

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Offline George Wallace

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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2014
« on: June 04, 2014, 20:31:55 »
The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2014              
 
News only - commentary elsewhere, please.
Thanks for helping this "news only" thread system work!
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Offline George Wallace

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Re: The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2014
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2014, 20:42:58 »
We still have 'civilians' who for whatever reason are still going to Afghanistan:

Reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act.

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Quote
CTV NEWS


Canadian-American couple held in Afghanistan appear in videos pleading for help


Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, June 4, 2014 2:04PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 4, 2014 6:37PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- The family of a pregnant American woman who went missing in Afghanistan in late 2012 with her Canadian husband received two videos last year in which the couple asked the U.S. government to help free them from Taliban captors, The Associated Press has learned.

The videos offer the first and only clues about what happened to Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle after they lost touch with their families 20 months ago while travelling in a mountainous region near the capital, Kabul. U.S. law enforcement officials investigating the couple's disappearance consider the videos authentic but say they hold limited investigative value since it's not clear when or where they were made.

The video files, which were provided to the AP, were emailed to Coleman's father last July and September by an Afghan man who identified himself as having ties to the Taliban but who has been out of contact for several months. In one, a subdued Coleman -- dressed in a conservative black garment that covers all but her face-- appeals to "my president, Barack Obama" for help.

"I would ask that my family and my government do everything that they can to bring my husband, child and I to safety and freedom," the 28-year-old says in the other recording, talking into a wobbly camera while seated beside her husband, whose beard is long and untrimmed.

The families decided to make the videos public now, in light of the publicity surrounding the weekend rescue of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from Taliban custody in exchange for the release of five high-level Taliban suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The families say they are disappointed that their children and grandchild were not freed as part of the same deal but are still holding out hope for the U.S. and Canadian governments to secure their release on humanitarian grounds.

"It would be no more appropriate to have our government turn their backs on their citizens than to turn their backs on those who serve," Patrick Boyle, the father of Joshua Boyle, said in a telephone interview.

Republicans in Congress have criticized the Bergdahl agreement and complained about not being consulted, though Obama has defended it, citing a "sacred" obligation to not leave men and women in uniform behind. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California asked Obama in a letter this week why other Americans still in the custody of Afghan militants were not included in the negotiation. The families say their children, though without political or military ties to the government, are prisoners just as Bergdahl was and should be recognized as "innocent tourists" and not penalized further for venturing into dangerous territory.

"They really and truly believed that if people were loved and treated with respect that that would be given back to them in kind," said Linda Boyle, Boyle's mother. "So as odd it as it may seem to us that they were there, they truly believed with all their heart that if they treated people properly, they would be treated properly."
Relatives describe the couple, who wed in 2011 after meeting online, as well-intentioned but naive adventure seekers.

They once spent months travelling through Latin America, where they lived among indigenous Guatemalans and where Boyle grew a long beard that led some children to call him "Santa Claus." The couple set off again in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then finally to Afghanistan. With plans to return home in December ahead of Coleman's due date, they checked in regularly via email during their travels -- expressing in their writings an awareness of the perils they faced -- and toured the region, staying in hostels and their tent.

The communication abruptly ended on Oct. 8, 2012, after Boyle emailed from an Internet cafe in what he called an "unsafe" part of Afghanistan. The last withdrawals from the couple's bank account were made Oct. 8 and 9 in Kabul. Two months later, an Afghan official told the AP that the two had been abducted in Wardak Providence, a rugged, mountainous Taliban haven.
New hope emerged last year when an Afghan man who said he had Taliban connections contacted James Coleman, offering first audio recordings and, later, the two email video files. Though the man said the recordings had been provided by the Taliban, he did not reveal what, if anything, the captors wanted and has not been in touch with the Colemans for months. Meanwhile, the Boyles and Colemans regularly send letters in an effort to reach their children through a non-governmental organization, but haven't received a response.

The families have not received any ransom demands and there are no clear signs of motive for their being held, but officials say the mere fact they were Westerners in hostile territory may have been reason enough.

Two U.S. law enforcement officials described the investigation, speaking only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly by name about the probe which is still underway.

The videos, each under two minutes long and featuring the couple seated in spare settings before cloth-draped backgrounds, contain no apparent clues -- such as distinctive ethnic music -- that might help investigators identify captors or locale. The videos do contain time stamps -- one says May 20, 2013, the other Aug. 20, 2013 -- but officials say those notations can easily be manipulated.

U.S. officials say the videos, in their low quality and lack of detail, bear some similarities to those the Taliban released about Bergdahl. They caution that while the videos establish beyond doubt that the couple were captured, they do not qualify as proof of life since there's no mention of current events that could help establish the time.

In addition to calling for government help, the couple in the videos recite names of their family members and certain contact information.

"Just seeing her and seeing her face and hearing her, while it was very difficult, it was also something that relieved a lot of ambiguous anxieties and the fears," said Coleman's mother, Lyn.
Caitlan Coleman refers to her child in the videos, but no child is shown -- a fact one U.S. official said was concerning. The grandparents say they don't know the name or gender of the child, who would be about 18 months old.

Even as he holds out hope, James Coleman frets about his daughter's health and a grandchild born into captivity in a foreign country.
"It's an event that just stands out. I think it cries to out to the world, 'This can't be. These people must be let go immediately," said James Coleman.



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Offline MCG

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Re: The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2014
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2014, 14:42:53 »
Quote
Five U.S. soldiers killed by friendly fire amid ambush
RAHIM FAIEZ & PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press
The Globe and Mail
11 June 2014

Five Americans with a special operations unit were killed by a U.S. airstrike called in to help them after they were ambushed by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, in one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents in nearly 14 years of war, officials said Tuesday.
 
The deaths were a fresh reminder that the conflict is nowhere near over for some U.S. troops, who will keep fighting for at least two more years.
 
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the five soldiers were killed Monday "during a security operation in southern Afghanistan."  "Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen," Rear Adm. Kirby said in a statement.
 
In Washington, U.S. defence officials said the five Americans were with a special-operations unit that they did not identify.
 
Earlier, officials said all five were special operations-qualified troops, but later an official said their exact affiliation was unclear and one or more may have been a conventional soldier working with the special-operations unit.
 
The deaths occurred during a joint operation of Afghan and NATO forces in the Arghandab district of southern Zabul province ahead of Saturday's presidential runoff election, said provincial police chief General Ghulam Sakhi Rooghlawanay. After the operation was over, the troops came under attack from the Taliban and called in air support, he said.
 
"Unfortunately five NATO soldiers and one Afghan army officer were killed mistakenly by NATO airstrike," Mr. Rooghlawanay said.
 
There was no way to independently confirm the general's comments.

The coalition would not comment and NATO headquarters in Brussels also declined to comment.
 
However, special-operations forces often come under fire on joint operations and are responsible for calling in air support when needed.
 
Because of constraints placed by President Hamid Karzai, such airstrikes are usually called only when troops fear they are about to be killed.
 
Airstrikes have long caused tensions between the Afghan government and coalition forces, especially when they cause civilian casualties.
 
Airstrikes that kill coalition soldiers are far less common. One of the worst such incidents came in April of 2002, when four Canadiansoldiers were killed in a strike by a U.S. F-16 jet fighter that dropped a bomb on a group of troops during a night firing exercise in southern Kandahar.
 
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Monday's ambush in Zabul.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a battle took place between foreign troops and Taliban fighters in the Arghandab district, and a "huge number" of NATO soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims.
 
The insurgents have intensified attacks on Afghan and foreign forces ahead of Saturday's presidential runoff, and officials are concerned there could be more violence around the time of the vote, although the first round in April passed relatively peacefully.
 
Of the 30,000 or so U.S. troops left in Afghanistan, special-operations forces are among the only ones that are active on the battlefield, mentoring and advising Afghan commandos during raids.

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Re: The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2014
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2014, 08:29:51 »
Articles found June 15, 2014

Roadside bombing kills 11 in northern Afghanistan after presidential runoff
Published June 15, 2014 Associated Press
  Article Link
 
KABUL, Afghanistan –  A roadside bomb killed 11 people in Afghanistan, including four election monitors, and the Taliban cut off the fingers of 11 people to punish them for voting in this weekend's presidential runoff, officials said Sunday.

The Taliban had warned people not to participate in Saturday's vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai. The two candidates, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have vowed to improve ties with the West and sign a long-delayed security pact allowing nearly 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country for two more years.

Sediq Azizi, spokesman for the provincial governor in the northern Samangan province, said a minibus hit an improvised explosive device Saturday night, with the blast killing six women, one child and four men in the provincial capital Aybak.

Azizi said four of the victims were employees of the country's election commission, which organized Saturday's vote. It was not immediately clear if they were the target of the explosion.

In a separate incident, the Taliban cut off the fingers of 11 civilians on Saturday in western Herat province to punish them for voting, police spokesman Raoud Ahamdi said.

Afghans braved threats of violence and searing heat Saturday to vote in the presidential runoff, which likely will mark the country's first peaceful transfer of authority, an important step toward democracy as foreign combat troops leave.
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Afghans brave Taliban threats to choose new leader
Published June 15, 2014 FoxNews.com
 Article Link
 
Millions of Afghans braved the threat of violence Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff that will mark the country's first peaceful transfer of power as it prepares for the departure of foreign combat troops by the end of this year.

Abdullah Abdullah, who emerged as the front-runner with 45 percent of the vote in the first round, faced Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, an ex-World Bank official and finance minister. Neither garnered the majority needed to win outright, but previous candidates and their supporters have since offered endorsements to each, making the final outcome unpredictable.

The new leader will be challenged with trying to improve ties with the West and combating corruption while facing a powerful Taliban insurgency and declining international aid.

Despite a series of rocket barrages and other scattered attacks that Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said killed 47 people, including 20 civilians and an election commission worker, the voting was largely peaceful. Daudzai also said 60 militants were killed. However, the government also reported voting was not significantly disrupted by the time polls closed at 4 p.m. local time.

Independent Election Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, speaking at a joint press conference after polls closed, said initial estimates show that more than 7 million Afghans voted, which would be equivalent to the first round on April 5. That would be a turnout of about 60 percent of Afghanistan's 12 million eligible voters.

Official preliminary results were to be announced on July 2, with final results released on July 22. Nouristani said his commission would release partial results in the coming weeks.
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Airstrikes kill as many as 100 militants in Pakistan
Published June 15, 2014 Associated Press
 Article Link
 
ISLAMABAD –  Pakistani military jets pounded militant hideouts in the northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan early Sunday morning, officials said, killing as many as 100 militants in the second strike on the region since a deadly attack on the Karachi airport a week ago.

The Pakistani government has been under pressure to combat the resilient insurgency that has plagued the country for years after the shocking attack on the country's busiest airport that left 36 people dead, including 10 assailants. Government efforts that started months ago to negotiate with the militants appeared to be going nowhere and the airport violence has made negotiations even less likely to succeed.

Pakistani air force jets targeted eight militant hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal area, two intelligence officials said. Many of the dead were believed to be Uzbeks and other foreign fighters, they said.

One of those killed was Abu Abdul Rehman al-Maani, who is believed to have helped orchestrate the five-hour airport siege last Sunday, said two other officials. Uzbek fighters and the Pakistani Taliban both claimed responsibility for the attack on Jinnah International Airport, and the Pakistani Taliban said the two had worked together to carry it out, marking a disturbing increase of militant groups working together.

When the jets struck, the militants had been gathered to discuss a deadline given by authorities for militants to leave the area, said two of the Pakistani officials.
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