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Taliban Terrorist Group Attack Kills 16 Police Personnel in Afghanistan

Kandahar is known as the birthplace of the Taliban

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FILE - An Afghan policeman walks past a bloodstained wall after Taliban fighters stormed a government compound in Kandahar province, July 9, 2014. At least 16 police personnel were killed overnight in a Taliban attack in the province's Maiwand district. VOA

The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan has staged a major overnight battlefield assault in a southern province, killing at least 16 police personnel and capturing two outposts.

A local security official told VOA on Friday the fighting erupted in the district of Maiwand in Kandahar, saying Afghan forces also inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban in ensuing clashes.

He said the assailants also seized three U.S.-made military vehicles, commonly known as Humvees. The official requested anonymity.

A provincial police spokesman, Zia Durrani, told VOA 27 Taliban fighters, including four key commanders, were killed.

A provincial government spokesman, Samim Khpolwak, confirmed the fighting but declined to discuss further details.

Kandahar is known as the birthplace of the Taliban. It was the de-facto capital of Afghanistan when the insurgent group was ruling most of the country before its ouster from power in late 2001 by a U.S.-led military coalition.

Most of the districts in neighboring Helmand, the largest of all the 34 Afghan provinces, are under the control of the Taliban and fighting also is underway in the nearby Uruzgan province.

Afghan security forces suffered unprecedented casualties in the 2016 fighting season and U.S. military commanders anticipate more insurgent violence this year.
“The insidious combination of corruption and poor leadership is the root cause of this problem,” said John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

He made the remarks last week while announcing his list of key security challenges facing the new U.S. administration as it inherits America’s second-longest war after Vietnam.

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No winter lull

Since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces more than two years ago, there has been no lull in the Afghan fighting. Harsh winter and heavy snowfall in previous years would force Taliban fighters to retreat to their traditional sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan to rest and regroup before returning to the battlefield for the summer fighting.

“The spring offensive/winter lull is an outdated concept now, the main reason being that the Taliban hold large swaths of territory year-round and so the fighting continues,” said Ted Callahan, a Western security expert based in northeastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban have captured about 10 percent of Afghan territory since with the withdrawal of most international forces two years ago, the Afghan government controls two-thirds of the population while the rest is strongly contested, according to latest U.S. military assessments.

The territorial control offers the insurgents more of a revenue base they can use to sustain themselves through the winter, mainly in terms of food and shelter, but also in terms of munitions captured from Afghan forces, Callahan told VOA.

“They [the Taliban] can easily keep their momentum going throughout the winter, and so you no longer see Taliban commanders go back to Pakistan for the winter, as they often did in the past, and then they’d come back in the spring to kick off the spring offensive,” he observed.

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‘Compromised system’

In his detailed report that Sopko released last week, he cited leadership and corruption as among the biggest challenges facing the Afghan National Defense and Security Force, or ANDSF.

“Afghan commanders often pocket the paychecks of ghost soldiers for whom the U.S. is paying the salary. The number of ghost soldiers is not insignificant, it likely reaches into the tens of thousands of soldiers and police,” he noted.

Citing “credible information,” Sopko said some Afghan commanders are not going on patrols or are not coming to the assistance of other units when they are in trouble because they want to preserve fuel that they later sell in open markets.

“Multiple credible sources have told SIGAR staff in Afghanistan that a significant portion, perhaps as much as 50 percent, of U.S.-purchased fuel is siphoned off at various stages of this compromised system,” he said.

In his report, Sopko agreed with the U.S. military assessment that the Afghan government controls roughly 64 percent of the country’s territory.

Afghan Defense Ministry officials strongly disputed most of SIGAR’s findings, however, saying the government, with the help of foreign partners, has made progress in addressing corruption and issues related to ANDSF leadership.

They insist that ANDSF’s improved capacity and sacrifices prevented the Taliban from capturing any major population center in Afghanistan in 2016, and they assert they now are better prepared to battle the insurgency this year. (VOA)

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Facebook Shares Data on Child Nudity, Terrorism, Drug Sales on Instagram

On spread of hate speech on its platforms, Facebook said it can detect such harmful content before people report it and, sometimes, before anyone sees it

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Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

Facebook has shared for the first time data on how it takes action against child nudity and child sexual exploitation, terrorist propaganda, illicit firearm and drug sales and suicide and self-injury on its photo-sharing app Instagram.

In Q2 2019, Facebook removed about 512,000 pieces of content related to child nudity and child sexual exploitation on Instagram.

“In Q3 (July-September period), we saw greater progress and removed 754,000 pieces of content, of which 94.6 per cent we detected proactively,” Guy Rosen, VP Integrity, said in a statement on Wednesday.

It is ironic that Instagram has also become a platform, like Facebook, for such acts.

“For child nudity and sexual exploitation of children, we made improvements to our processes for adding violations to our internal database in order to detect and remove additional instances of the same content shared on both Facebook and Instagram,” Rosen explained.

In its “Community Standards Enforcement Report, November 2019,” the social networking platform said it has been detecting and removing content associated with Al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates on Facebook above 99 per cent.

“The rate at which we proactively detect content affiliated with any terrorist organisation on Facebook is 98.5 per cent and on Instagram is 92.2 per cent,” informed the company.

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FILE – The Instagram icon is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles. VOA

In the area of suicide and self-injury, Facebook took action on about 2 million pieces of content in Q2 2019.

“We saw further progress in Q3 when we removed 2.5 million pieces of content, of which 97.3 per cent we detected proactively.

“On Instagram, we saw similar progress and removed about 835,000 pieces of content in Q2 2019, of which 77.8 per cent we detected proactively, and we removed about 845,000 pieces of content in Q3 2019, of which 79.1 per cent we detected proactively,” said Rosen.

In Q3 2019, Gacebook removed about 4.4 million pieces of drug sale content. It removed about 2.3 million pieces of firearm sales content in the same period.

Also Read: Tech Giant Apple Launches its All-new 16-inch MacBook Pro

On Instagram, the company removed about 1.5 million pieces of drug sale content and 58,600 pieces of firearm sales content.

On spread of hate speech on its platforms, Facebook said it can detect such harmful content before people report it and, sometimes, before anyone sees it.

“With these evolutions in our detection systems, our proactive rate has climbed to 80 per cent, from 68 per cent in our last report, and we’ve increased the volume of content we find and remove for violating our hate speech policy,” said Rosen. (IANS)