New US commander takes the helm in Afghanistan

Updated 11 February 2013
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New US commander takes the helm in Afghanistan

KABUL: Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford took yesterday as the new and probably last commander of all US and international forces in Afghanistan.
The American-led NATO coalition is entering the final stretch of its participation in a war that will have lasted more than 13 years when most foreign combat troops pull out at the end of 2014.
Dunford took over leadership of the International Security Assistance Force, and a smaller but separate detachment of American troops, from Marine Gen. John Allen, who had led them for the past 19 months.
“Today is not about change, it’s about continuity,” Dunford told a gathering of coalition military leaders and Afghan officials. “What’s not changed is the growing capability of our Afghan partners, the Afghan national security forces. What’s not changed is our commitment, more importantly, what’s not changed is the inevitability of our success.” He takes charge at a critical time for President Barack Obama and the military. NATO decided at its 2010 summit in Lisbon to withdraw major combat units, but to continue training and funding Afghan troops and leave a residual force to hunt down Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “much work lies ahead” for Dunford as he tries to meet those objectives while at the same time withdrawing about 100,000 foreign troops, including 66,000 from the United States.
Dunford, from Boston, Massachusetts, will face serious challenges as he tries to accommodate an accelerated timetable for handing over the lead for security responsibility to Afghan forces this spring — instead of late summer as originally planned.
“I told him our victory here will never be marked by a parade or a point in time on a calendar when victory is declared. This insurgency will be defeated over time by the legitimate and well-trained Afghan forces that are emerging today and who are taking the field in full force this spring,” Allen said.
He added that success would be described as an “Afghan force defending Afghan people, and enabling an Afghan government to serve its citizens. This is victory; this is what winning looks like.” Although the Afghan security forces are almost at their full strength of 352,000, it is unclear if they are yet ready to take on the fight by themselves.
Before departing, Allen admitted that the Afghans still need much work to become an effective and self-sufficient fighting machine, but he said a vast improvement in their abilities was behind a decision to accelerate the timetable for putting them in the lead nationwide this spring when the traditional fighting season begins.

Obama said last month that the Afghans would take over this spring instead of late summer — a decision that could allow the speedier withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
It is also unclear when the remaining 66,000 US troops would return home, or how many American soldiers will remain after the end of 2014.
Obama may use his State of the Union address on Tuesday to announce the next steps for concluding the war and a timetable for withdrawal along with plans for a residual force post-2014.
Much of that depends on the US negotiating a bilateral security agreement with the government that includes the contentious issue of immunity from Afghan prosecution for any US forces that would remain here after 2014. President Hamid Karzai has said he will put any such decision in the hands of a council of Afghan elders, known as a Loya Jirga.
Although Dempsey said earlier in the week that the United States had plans to leave a residual force, a failure to strike a deal on immunity would torpedo any security agreement and lead to a complete pullout of US forces after 2014 — as it did in post-war Iraq. It is widely believed that no NATO-member nation would allow its troops to remain after 2014 to train, or engage in counterterrorism activities, without a similar deal.
The head of NATO joint command in Europe, German Gen. Hans-Lothar Domrose, said the alliance was already making plans for a post-2014 presence, plans he said that were “all well advanced.” Allen, 59, of Warrenton, Virginia, was the longest serving ISAF commander so far. Nearly two dozen generals have commanded troops from the United States and ISAF since the American invasion in late 2001 — with six US generals including Dunford running both commands in the past five years alone.
Also attending the ceremony were US Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, Commander, US Central Command, and Gen. James Amos, head of the Marine Corps. Karzai did not attend.


Bangladesh declares zero tolerance against drug dealers

Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) soldiers during a raid on suspected drug dealers at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp in Dhaka Saturday. (AP)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Bangladesh declares zero tolerance against drug dealers

  • Law enforcers have so far arrested 3,000 drug dealers, while 23 drug peddlers were killed during “gunfights” while they were being captured.
  • Human rights activists and the country’s largest opposition party the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have criticized the “gunfight” incidents as a “violation of human rights.”

DHAKA: Bangladesh has declared a war on drugs throughout the country. In the past 12 days around 84 alleged drug dealers were killed during gunfights with the law-enforcing agencies.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched the anti-narcotic drive in early May.

Human rights activists and the country’s largest opposition party the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have criticized the “gunfight” incidents as a “violation of human rights.”

On early Sunday, 11 drug dealers were killed in separate gunfight incidents throughout the country. Among the dead was a ruling party leader who was a city councilor in Cox’s Bazar City.

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a paramilitary law-enforcing agency, started its anti-narcotic movement on May 4. And it has so far arrested 3,000 drug dealers, while 23 drug peddlers were killed during “gunfights” while they were being captured.

Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, spokesperson of the RAB, told Arab News: “There is no question of violation of human rights in our ongoing war against drugs.”

He said that when the RAB captured any armed person or group generally some shootout incidents took place. And, he claimed, it also happens in the US and other developed countries. “We arrest the drug dealers based on intel information and later on they are produced to the court.”

Bangladesh Police started its all-out operation against drugs on May 15, and police headquarters has directed all its units to start countrywide operations against dealers.

Mohammad Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said: “Our anti-narcotic operations will continue till the situations come down to a tolerant level.” He said the only objective of this operation was to bring down the usage level of narcotics in society.

Justifying the anti-drug movement, Masudur added: “We only arrest the persons with whom we get drugs. And we will continue this movement for an indefinite period.”

Obaidul Quader, general secretary of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League, said: “Any drug trader, irrespective of party, won’t be spared if accusations become true.

“The countrymen have amicably welcomed the law enforcement agencies’ drives against narcotics. Only those with evil political intentions are criticizing the crackdown,” Quader told local media on Saturday.

But Advocate Asadujjaman, human rights secretary of the BNP, claimed that in many areas of the country their supporters and leaders were arrested in the name of the anti-drug movement.

He added: “Any kind of extrajudicial killing is unconstitutional, illegal, inhuman and a violation of human rights of international standard. It shows that the government is not showing any respect to protect the basic rights of the people as stated in the Constitution.”

The country’s human rights group is also criticizing the killings. Nur Khan, renowned human rights activist and adviser of the Human Rights Support Society, demanded an investigation into every extrajudicial killing through a neutral and credible Investigation Commission.

Nur said: “This type of extrajudicial killing will establish the culture of absence of justice in the society. People will get frightened due to this situation.”