Posted by: Christian | June 29, 2009

Kandahar Police Chief Killed and…

[Note: I’m following a breaking story over a one-day news cycle, to see how it breaks, and how good/bad a job is done doing so. I won’t edit incorrect info as news comes in, as that is sort of the point: to see how incorrect the info is. I’ll do an analysis later this week.]

6:00-8:00am- EST:

…the only source reporting on it that I can find is Alex Strick van Linschoten’s twitter feed. Sounds super, super shady. Either US or Afghan SF messed up badly or the Kandahar Police Chief and associates were doing something really dirty. [update: not even close on my part.]

Of course, later today the mainstream news outlets will be all over it, and by “it” I mean Reuters and Alertnet reports. The ugly details will slowly come out.

Alex is on the ground in Kandahar, he’s not embedded and his reporting is usually the best. This is why I follow Alex on twitter. And he also started Afghan Wire, which recently started publishing again.

Update: That was predictable. Alertnet is the first news agency/source reporting on the incident (note: Alertnet regularly updates breaking stories at the same link, so check this link multiple times):

The police chief for Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold, and eight other officers were killed in a clash with U.S.-trained Afghan special forces on Monday, senior provincial officials said. The clash erupted after the soldiers entered the prosector’s office in Kandahar city and forcibly removed an unidentified prisoner, said Ahmad Wali Karzai, head of the Kandahar provincial council and a brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A gunfight erupted with police when the soldiers left the prosecutor’s office, he said. “The police chief for Kandahar, the head of the city’s criminal department and seven other police were killed in the clash,” Wali Karzai told Reuters by telephone from Kandahar.

No word on if the prisoner is a suspected insurgent or a drug guy. I wonder if this is the first we are seeing of the new counter-narcotics strategy of going after the traffickers? If so, reports indicate the guy they were fighting over was already on his way to court. Strange. And why are the ANP and the ANA fighting? I recall they fought once over a truckload of opium, a few years back.

And nice to see that Ahmed Wali Karzai can now talk to a reporter without threatening him/her. And always good to see his name pop up in a news story.

Update 2: My RSS feed was a little slow, as Quqnoos had an earlier news item out:

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Zemaray Bashari in a phone call confirmed the causalities of the gun-fire that erupted after the guards – employed by US special forces – opened fire on the police.

The fighting happened as troops attempted to take away a prisoner from the provincial attorney’s office, Bashari further said.

And Karzai is demanding the Afghans involved in the shooting be handed over. I assume they scurried back to the safety of US troops after their shootout with the ANP.

How about US Army spokesman Greg Julian? He in Kandahar and he’s now on tweeter as part of the US forces news internets friendly policies and communication strategy. What is he saying, besides what he said in the article above, which was redundant info?:

I’m back from leave, and busy working on setting up a Media Operations Center in Kandahar and plans to merge ISAF and USFOR Public Affairs.

That was three hours ago. Yawn. Back to Alex.

Update 3: RFE/RL has a brief report. Nothing new. But here are the names, as I didn’t identify them before:

[Amhed Wali] Karzai said provincial police chief General Matiullah Qahteh and eight other police officers were killed. Karzai is the younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

A senior Kandahar security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that Qateh, along with the head of the city police department and four other police officers, were killed in the gun battle.

Update 4: Complain and ye shall receive, via Greg Julian, US Army spokesman:

US and International forces were not involved in the incident in Kandahar today, it was an Afghan on Afghan event.

Update 5: Al Jazeera reports from Kabul with a new detail that has nothing to do with a prisoner:

Al Jazeera’s David Chater, reporting from the capital Kabul, said: “The head of the provincial council in Kandahar, President Karzai’s brother, said the Afghan security forces  –  we believe it was the special forces under the control of the Americans in Kandahar  – were stopped by the police and their vehicle taken.

“We do not know why that happened but they demanded their vehicle to be returned by the police.

“The police chief himself came down, the CID head came down, and there was a huge argument at the scene, insults were swapped and bullets started to fly.

“We don’t yet know how many injured but [these were] extraordinary scenes. Afghan fighting Afghan on the streets of Kandahar, which of course had been under attack by the Taliban in recent weeks,” he said.

Update 5:

Alertnet updates: So the suspected bad guys in this incident are [private] guards:

Kandahar governor Tooryalai Weesa said the prisoner was a relative of an employee of the company for which the guards worked. Authorities had arrested all 41 of the guards involved and the men were being sent to Kabul, he told reporters in Kandahar.

Update 6: From the NY Times:

President Hamid Karzai immediately blamed gunmen from “a private security company employed by coalition forces” for the official’s killing and the deaths of four other Afghan police officers in the incident. He demanded that American and NATO forces turn the security guards over to Afghan authorities.

10:00am EST (during Tajik-mandated break):

Update 7: Via Alex, the Globe and Mail reports the Canadians cleaned things up. But some confusion regarding gunmen’s ID:

Blaming the violence on Afghan guards working for U.S. forces, President Hamid Karzai demanded that the gunmen be handed over to Afghan authorities.

“President Hamid Karzai has asked for the immediate handover by the coalition forces to the Afghan government of the private security guards involved in the killing of Kandahar province security officials,” a terse statement released by his office said.

It added that “President Karzai said that such incidents negatively impact the state building process in Afghanistan and called upon coalition forces to avoid actions that weaken the government.”

Following the shootout, Canadians Forces soldiers cordoned off the scene and arrested the alleged gunmen. Contradicting Mr. Karzai’s characterizations of events, the Canadians said the gunmen were Afghan National Army soldiers, not private guards.

1:00-2:00pm EST:

Update 8: Four hours in intensive language class done, lunch eaten, back to the issue at hand…

Put this in context? Why, that is beyond the power of the billion dollar media! How about an unpaid blogger providing some great context. Go read Josh’s analysis at Registan. I agree with Josh and Alex’s analysis in the blog entry: perceptions are what counts. What actually happened is something else…

Nothing new on Greg Julian’s twitter account. I guess he is busy with the “big guys”m for whatever that is worth.

Update 9: Unlike Alertnet, Al Jazeera does not indicate that it has updated or changed its article, which it has. The first article was way off. In fact it was the least accurate of any news I came across today. But they swept the article under a rug and posted a new one. The old article is off their site, but the link still works.

Update 10: Forgot to mention it, but the G&M article cites Greg  Julian’s twitter account. So at least one other person is following it.

Update 11: According to CNN, Michael Jackson is still dead. Stay tuned to CNN for further updates. Losers. CNN: Neither speed, nor quality.

Update 12: BBC bides its time, and then posts an article that won’t embarrass them later in the day. Good for quality, bad for speed. They did clear up one question I had:

The BBC’s Martin Patience in Kabul says that Afghan guards are often employed at coalition military bases across the country. They are paid and trained by the US. While the guards are recognised by the Afghan government, they do not come under their command. Locals often refer to these guards as Afghan special forces as they are well-trained and well-armed, our correspondent says.

And it seems that the BBC does not read Greg Julian’s twitter feed.

Update 12: The CBC followed a similar strategy of waiting for as many details as it could before rushing out an article. And, of gosh, they have a video report, featuring some embedded guy who looks like he just got cut from a Junior B hockey team in Moose Jaw. In which, Greg Julian denies that the gunmen are private security guards employed by Americans. Now that reporter needs to get back to his KAF work-out regimen and his collection of too small black t-shirts.

Update 13: The Guardian reports:

Later, the governor, Thoryalai Wesa, said 41 private guards had been disarmed and arrested and would be sent to Kabul for a military trial.

The article is decent. I’m sure they’ll compensate for this later with an incoherent quasi-ludicrous opinion article by some crack-pot guest writer. When it comes to guest editorials, they’re like the Wall Street Journal of the left in terms of quality and mental imbalance.

5:00pm EST (1:30am in Kandahar)

Update 14: I ask that journalists come up with a description of Kandahar other than “Spiritual Birthplace of the Taliban.” There are other descriptions.

Update 15: Oh, thank God! The Taliban spokesman is here to clear everything up. Apparently it was their brilliant plan to make the munafiqeen and kafirs fight amongst each other. Via AFP:

A Taliban spokesman, [Qari] Yousuf Ahmadi, claimed men from his militia had deliberately sparked the clash between the Afghan forces but this was not confirmed.

The Taliban have in the past falsely claimed involvement in incidents or exaggerated clashes.

Google him for a hilarious list of claims about the dozens of tanks they regularly destroy, in addition to the large number of invader crusaders they slaughter. The National Post has an article about him that’s worth a read, wherein it’s noted that despite the obvious exaggeration and fabrication:

…Taliban media strategies are becoming more sophisticated. They work hard at getting out messages to local populations, and at shaping public opinion, here and abroad.

Even their most outrageous claims can become conventional wisdom. Once accepted by Afghan civilians, Taliban propaganda often filters into Western media stories where it can be interpreted as fact.

It’s a problem for the coalition. Indeed, many observers agree that insurgents are winning the information war in Afghanistan.

7:00pm EST:

Update 15: Iran’s Press TV weighs in with a copy and paste article. Neutral, mostly. It does still have that earlier reference to the gunmen as guards on the US payroll. I wonder if we are going to get into a debate on definitions on the “guards or soldiers” issue. I’m sure they do “guard,” and the ultimate source of their pay is probably the US (or Canada, or…etc.).

9:00pm EST:

Update 16: The story is actually 3 hours old, but CNN did find time in between diet tips and Michael Jackson to run a story. And they have the same story as the Iranians. But I’m still confused:

A U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN that his understanding at the moment was that the security forces accused of the attack included 40 Afghan nationals hired to do counterterrorism work with U.S. special forces. Without the assistance of any U.S. or NATO troops, the official said, the nationals tried to get a friend out of a Kandahar jail.

Well, CNN is  a sloth, but they do seem to have access. I just wish someone would name the “program” these Afghans are in. Or does it even have a name? Meh. I’m going to bed.

One day later:

Some morning after commentary by Spencer, BruceR (who was there recently) and a report from McClatchy.

I will return to this incident next week, mostly to analyze the responses and the reporting.


  1. Alex now says the Canadians have arrested the gunmen, and repeat Julian’s assertion that they are not related to the Coalition, but are ANA.

    Then again, if they’re OGA Julian wouldn’t know, and any OGA groups wouldn’t admit to it. It would be like the KPF getting into a gunfight with the ANP in Khost… yeah, it’s Afghan-on-Afghan, but there would be a black-ops connection of some sort.

    So yeah, let the finger pointing begin!

  2. Its the usual. A driver named Asadullah was pulled over by a cop, he had a fake license plate and was arrested. His friends (afghans trained by SF but working out of Mullah Omar’s old house with no clear line of report) came to get him and then the interesting part began. Normally police do not give up their lives to retain a low level prisoner.

    So at this point its important to review facts not the speculation injected into the various Roshomon versions.

    The fact that Wali Karzai was instantly on the phone with Reuters explaining ‘what happened” is a good starting point for speculation as to why such violence was returned and the fact his younger brother was quick to repeat the misinformation that the “U.S. must hand over the suspect” adds another level of shading worth noting for the future.

    The journos will figure this out in time but the need to grab the media by the ears with disinformation is the interesting part

  3. No westerners involved at all? Then its good.

  4. COL Julian needs to get on top of this quickly and become well-versed. The varied stories on the associations of the gunmen who killed a Provincial Police Chief need to be put to bed credibly.

    It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out.

  5. Having NOT followed it, if i were a betting person – ASG… no need for any black ops angle.

  6. The comment by the Canadian PR officer that the “regional deputy” of the rogue group has been replaced is interesting. Suggests a regional off-the-books paramilitary, probably engaged in low-level security tasks for OEF (Khost Protection Force, etc). There’s lots of them.

    Of course the West will be found to be paying them, if only through some circuitous route. Who else? The only way this story has legs beyond that is if the payment route passed through someone important, like RYP suggests above. Otherwise it’s just another Monday in another lawless place. The world has lots of those.

    The trouble for us, of course is this is OUR lawless place now, and police mentoring in KC just got set back another six months at least because of another pointless but unpreventable killing spree.

  7. Why are those arrested not turned over to Afghan authorities rather than facing a military trial if they are not part of the military?

  8. I’m afraid the “military trial” in Kabul is just a story: they just needed to spirit them out of the local area quickly. They’re unlikely to ever have any “trial” as we’d understand it, civil or military. Their boss has been fired and now they’ve the target of a new blood feud: that appears to be the normal way these things peter out when the West isn’t involved.

  9. Of course the West is involved in that this unit was hired by the US for anti-terrorism work. If they shoot police chiefs in the day time what do they do as an anti-terrorist squad at night.
    Notice there are no more stories that I can find after June 29th on this event. Western press coverage just filters out newsworthy events without the need for military censorship. Main news from Afghanistan is about a new US offensive. Of course with Michael Jackson dying there is no time available for anything else!

  10. Christian: How did this one turn out? Any conclusion to what actually happened and who was involved?

  11. My guess is Ken may have it.

    This smells like J-10. McKiernan was directed to call a halt to their activities in late December because of the UN inquiry that tallied 30 dead around a JSOC mission.

    It did not dawn on me that they would be contracting out to Afghan hit squads, but that was integral to the El Salvador advisory program back in the 1980s, and seems to have been widely used in Iraq.

    It could have been a botched takedown if it went down so badly and in broad daylight. But that also could also have been the cover story if the targets were too sensitive to be dispatched on the sly. Greg Julian worked closely with McKiernan, so of course he’ll say this was an Afghan-on-Afghan operation … errr … “incident.”

    Just a theory.

  12. As I expected there seems to be no more news, no explanation, no followup, nothing. Who needs censorship with a press core that concentrates upon ratings and entertainment.

  13. Has the KAU vendetta commenced yet? Badal is a Mike Foxtrot.


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