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Context of 'October 17, 2007: Former UN Official Warns Failure of International Forces in Afghanistan Likely to Ignite Much Larger Conflict'

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Munir Alibabic.Munir Alibabic. [Source: Dani]By 2002, the Muslim Bosnian government is controlled by the Social Democrats, now that Alija Izetbegovic has retired and his SDA party is out of power. To deal with the issues of corruption and terrorism, in July 2002 the new government brings Munir Alibabic out of retirement to run Bosnia’s intelligence agency. Alibabic had been fired in 1994 as head of the secret police in Sarajevo for opposing government corruption and the support of the mujaheddin, and he is widely respected for his integrity. He vows to stop the cover-up of Bosnian Muslim ties to terrorism, stating, “A crime is a crime, regardless which side commits it.” He works aggressively with other intelligence agencies to uncover the al-Qaeda network in Bosnia. He soon completes a report detailing ties between the SDA party and organized crime. The report names Elfatih Hassanein, Hasan Cengic, Irfan Ljevakovic, Bakir Alispahic, and Alija Delimustafic as key co-consiprators. The first three were central figures in the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), a bin Laden-linked charity front active in the early 1990s (see Mid-1991-1996). But in October 2002 elections, the SDA returns to power. Paddy Ashdown, a British politician serving as the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, publicly supported the SDA over secularists and reformers in the election and shortly after they win he fires Alibabic. Author John Schindler will later write that “By the end of 2002, it was evident that the post-9/11 drive to run al-Qaeda out of Bosnia and force its local supporters to heel had run out of steam.” [Schindler, 2007, pp. 289-291] The Telegraph will later report that Ashdown fired Alibabic on the advice of the British intelligence agency MI6, but it isn’t clear why. [Daily Telegraph, 9/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Hasan Cengic, Alija Delimustafic, Elfatih Hassanein, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Paddy Ashdown, Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Munir Alibabic, Irfan Ljevakovic, Bakir Alispahic, Third World Relief Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Lord Paddy Ashdown, the former United Nations high representative and European Union special representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, says that international forces are unlikely to win the war in Afghanistan, risking to set off a regional conflict that could match the scale and magnitude of World Wars I and II. “I think we are losing in Afghanistan now, we have lost I think and success is now unlikely,” Ashdown says in an interview with Reuters. “Some people refer to the First and Second World Wars as European civil wars and I think a similar regional civil war could be initiated by this (failure) to match this magnitude,” he says. Ashdown warns that failure of international forces in Afghanistan would have wider repercussions than any loss in Iraq. “I believe losing in Afghanistan is worse than losing in Iraq. It will mean that Pakistan will fall and it will have serious implications internally for the security of our own countries and will instigate a wider Shiite, Sunni regional war on a grand scale.” Ashdown then ties impending catastrophe in Afghanistan with the lack of a powerful, high-level coordinator to lead the foreign mission there. “Unless somebody has the power genuinely to coordinate and unify the international approach, we will lose and I think that is happening,” he says. Ashdown, who currently heads the EU-Russia Centre think tank in Brussels, has been tipped and promoted for such a role by some US and UK officials, but says he has ruled himself out of the job. [Reuters, 10/17/2007] Ashdown will later interview for the position of United Nations “super envoy” to Afghanistan. However, Afghan president Hamid Karzai will oppose Ashdown’s candidacy, forcing him to withdraw his name from consideration, something he will say he did “reluctantly.” [UN Elections.org, 1/30/2008]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Hamid Karzai, United Nations, Paddy Ashdown

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Angry Afghani citizens march in protest against the US air strike at Azizabad.Angry Afghani citizens march in protest against the US air strike at Azizabad. [Source: Reuters]A series of US airstrikes kills over 90 civilians, mostly women and children, in the western Afghani province of Herat, according to an Afghan government investigation. Most of the deaths take place in and around the village of Azizabad. Nematullah Shahrani, the Afghan Religious Affairs Minister, says the strikes, carried out by US, NATO, and Afghan forces, were planned to strike at a Taliban commander, but were not coordinated and did not kill any Taliban fighters. The US-led coalition claims 30 militants and no civilians died, a claim repudiated by Afghan officials and the United Nations. “We went to the area and found out that the bombardment was very heavy, lots of houses have been destroyed and more than 90 non-combatants including women, children, and elders have died,” says Shahrani. “Most are women and children.” President Hamid Karzai fires two senior Afghan army commanders in the area over the strikes, and sharply criticizes American and NATO military commanders for the errant air strikes. Shahrani says he intends to meet with US Special Forces commanders who were involved in the operation. “They have claimed that Taliban were there. They must prove it,” he says. “So far it is not clear for us why the coalition conducted the air strikes.” Local residents engage in angry, grief-stricken demonstrations outside the blast zones. Such incidents, Shahrani says, have a “very bad impact” on the local populace. “It causes the people to distance themselves from the government.” The UN special representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, agrees, saying that such operations undermine the “trust and confidence of the Afghan people.” Karzai has ordered Shahrani’s team to pay 100,000 afghanis ($2,000) for each person killed. [Agence France-Presse, 8/24/2008; Financial Times, 8/26/2008] Karzai later says that the raid did not kill “a single Taliban” but caused serious harm to US-Afghan relations. A government spokesman will say that the US acted on false information provided by a rival tribe. A UN investigation later finds that 92 civilians died in the strikes. [Associated Press, 9/16/2008] Karzai says he will launch a “full review” of the agreements allowing US and NATO forces to operate in his country. “The government of Afghanistan has repeatedly discussed the issue of civilian casualties with the international forces and asked for all air raids on civilian targets, especially in Afghan villages, to be stopped,” the government says in a statement. “The issues of uncoordinated house searches and harassing civilians have also been of concern to the government of Afghanistan which has been shared with the commanders of international forces in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, to date, our demands have not been addressed, rather, more civilians, including women and children, are losing their lives as a result of air raids.” [Financial Times, 8/26/2008]

Entity Tags: Hamid Karzai, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Nematullah Shahrani, Taliban, US Department of Defense, United Nations

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

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