The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

War in Afghanistan 2008 Week 19

The Taliban have suffered another "major defeat."

And, as usual, you're not hearing a word of it in the mainstream media.

Don't take out word for it. We're simply repeating what the Taliban's biggest cheerleaders in Pakistan are saying. Here's how Asia Times Online reported it (May 3, 2008 ,Taliban claim victory from a defeat, By Syed Saleem Shahzad):

KARACHI - The Taliban have suffered their first major loss in this year's offensive, but they are putting on a brave face, even spinning the setback as a triumph in their broader battle against foreign forces in Afghanistan.


On Wednesday, several thousand US Marines captured the town of Garmsir in the southern Afghan province of Helmand in their first large operation since arriving to reinforce North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops last month.

The Taliban-controlled Garmsir had served as a main supply route for their insurgency in the area.

The Taliban, however, claim the loss of one base is not critical, and anyway, for NATO to hold on to its gain it will have to commit thousands of troops to the outpost, which is located in the inhospitable desert, if it is to effectively guard the lawless and porous border through which the Taliban funnel men, arms and supplies.

200 British troops from 5th and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 Scots) battle group have joined the 1200 U.S. Marines in the Garmsir offensive to stop the infiltration of insurgents from Pakistan.

American Forces Press reported more than a dozen insurgents killed in gunfights and with air strikes when troops searched compounds for a Taliban arms dealer.

"Troops found PK machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, fuses, small-arms ammunition and ammunition vests on the compound, and destroyed them to prevent future use."

The NATO and U.S. alliance has been delivering strong blows to the insurgency all week.

The only success the Taliban can claim is the deaths of five NATO soldiers.

· Canadian trooper Corporal Michael Starker of 15 Field Ambulance was killed May 6 in an ambush in the Zhari district of Kandahar. But we can't help think there's more to the story that's not being told. He was a medic and part of CIMIC, the civilian-military co-operation program designed to interact with local elders and villagers in a non-military way.


Were he and his partner attacked because a medic is an easy target? Or because they were so engaged in being non-threatening that they weren't prepared to actively defend themselves? Was he killed because he was involved in the "talking to the Taliban" initiative, and now the military authorities don't want to admit it?

· Two American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb May 7 in Khost province. Spc. Jeremy Gullett of Greenup, Ky., and Staff Sgt. Kevin Roberts of Farmington, N.M., were both assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's Fourth Brigade Combat Team

· One U.S. soldier was killed Friday May 9 in Paktia province when his patrol was attacked. Ara Tyler Deysie, 18, of Parker, Ariz. teen and a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribe, became the fourth soldier from the 101st Airborne to be killed in Afghanistan in a week. He was a member of the 101st Airborne Division's Fourth Brigade Combat Team, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Squadron.

· Another U.S. soldier Sgt. Isaac Palomarez, 26, was killed the same day by a roadside bomb in Kapia province.

Roadside bombs continue to be the biggest threat to coalition forces. And to civilians.

Kandahar

In Kandahar, two civilian cars hit roadside bombs Wednesday, May 7, leaving eight civilians dead and six wounded. Another roadside bomb killed two policemen.

Kandahar remains a dangerous place, although intelligence operations are starting to blunt the Taliban's terror campaign.

Insurgents tried to blow up a minivan taking Afghan poice trainers to work by using a remotely detonated bomb affixed to a bicycle. Three policemen in the vehicle were wounded along with two passersby.

But Afghan security foiled a bombing campaign when they seized two bomb-packed cars and arrested three people on Saturday. Police had been tipped off to the arrival of the vehicles from Pakistan. When they stopped the cars, one a taxicab, west of Kandahar City, they found one of them filled with artillery shells and mines to be used in IED's and suicide bombs against Canadian troops.

One of the drivers confessed he had been paid $150 to bring the explosives from Pakistan to the Taliban. Of the three suspects in custody two are Pakistani and one is an Afghan from the Panjwaii district.

One of the men warned police about a pair of IED's that had already been planted. One was found outside the school in Kandahar city and the other in the village of Spin Boldak on the border.

(Nearly 25 schools have been attacked this year, according to UN figures. In the latest incident, militants blew up a school in the eastern province Paktika but no one was hurt.)

The Taliban's terror campaign was further disrupted by the discovery of a three-tonne cache of weapons in the western province of Heart on the border with Iran. The cache consisted mainly of landmines which one government spokesman described as "brand-new." They carried labels as coming from China and Iran.

The heat on Taliban insurgents is chasing them out of Helmand and Kandahar in search of easier targets. But that's not working out as well as they expected.

A group of fighters from Helmand province crossed into the neighbouring province of Ghor, a western province so quiet we can't say we've even heard of it before. They attacked a unit of Afghan police, which they no doubt thought were easy pickin's. But the police fought back.


When the shooting stopped a few hours later, six Taliban were dead and two others wounded and in custody. The dead terrorists included Mullah Jalil, who the Taliban had appointed as their "governor" of the province, and Mullah Abdul Saraj, his self-styled police chief.

It wasn't a good week for insurgent big wigs.

As predicted, the Taliban have focussed their fighting in the east in provinces closer to their camps in Pakistan's tribal region. But they're having just as little success.

A statement posted on an Islamist website Sunday reported the death of a prominent member of Al Qaeda in eastern Paktia province. It said Abu Suleiman al-Otaibi was one of two Al Qaeda leaders killed in "a fierce battle with the worshippers of the cross." Al-Otaibi was an Al Qaeda leader in Iraq before coming to Afghanistan six months ago.

The BBC reported that the bodies of nine Taliban fighters were brought to the village of Wana in tribal Pakistan. About 30 fighters, including the now-dead men and boys, crossed the border into Afghanistan almost 3 weeks ago to fight U.S. forces. They attacked a U.S. convoy in Paktika province, and paid the price. As they were trying to escape back to Pakistan, coalition fighter aircraft caught them and killed 12, including Maulana Muhammed Iqbal, the deputy commander of the Mulla Nazir group that operates in South Waziristan. Some of the others were captured.

The Taliban was able to take 9 bodies with them, leaving 3 behind. Seven of the dead were from Wana, and two were from Punjab, according to Pakistani news sources. News stories said Wana residents had difficulty identifying the bodies because they were so badly burned. Local tribesmen said three of the dead ranged in age between 15 to 20 years.

We managed to locate the contemporary accounts of the battle where they died:

Air strikes leave 15 suspected insurgents dead in Afghanistan

www.chinaview.cn
KABUL, April 26 (Xinhua) -- Air raids carried out by international troops on Taliban militants in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province have left over a dozen suspected insurgents dead, spokesman of provincial administration said Saturday. "The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in efforts to eliminate insurgents carried out air raids on their hideout in Charbaran district yesterday evening (Friday evening) ,killing 15 armed enemies," Ghani Khan Mohammad Yar told Xinhua. A number of arms and munitions have also been seized from the rebels, he further added. Taliban insurgents have yet to comment.


The daily airpower summary for April 25 described the blow that wiped out the fighters.

"In Orgune, an A-10 dropped a 500-pound bomb to destroy enemy combatants. The JTAC reported that the mission was successful."

Easy Targets

The Taliban has had to concentrate on the easiest of targets now that even police are fighting back and winning.

On Friday they killed two private security guards on the ring road linking Kabul with Kandahar. A Taliban spokesman said one of his group's men also died.

And in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, the eastern province the Taliban has declared will be the key target for their spring offensive, gunmen stormed the house of a member of Afghanistan's parliament. His father was killed and the gunmen kidnapped three women and four children.

Suicide bombing Update

Two suicide bombings were attempted last week.

On Thursday, a suicide car bomber blew himself up on the western outskirts of Kabul, and injured three civilians. Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said the target of the bomber was not clear since there were no Afghan or international forces or officials in the area at the time of the attack. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack and said that one of their fighters, a citizen from southern Kandahar province, carried out the attack.

And in Helmand a suicide bomber blew himself up and injured a British officer. No further details can be found.

The number of civilians being killed in Taliban attacks this year has increased dramatically according of military sources. NATO officials say the Taliban killed about 240 Afghan civilians in the first three-and-a-half months of this year, six times as many as during the same period last year. Most of these deaths were from Taliban suicide bomb attacks aimed at international forces.

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