U.S. Drug War Turns to Transnational Combat

U.S. Drug War Turns to Transnational Combat

TransBorder Project Policy Report

U.S. Drug War Turns to Transnational Combat

·         No Strategic Planning in Obama’s New Security/Crime Strategy

·         Policies Driving Transnational Crime Remain Unquestioned

·         Combating TOC Latest Phase in U.S. Drug War

·         Prioritizing American Power

The Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, released in late July by the White House, offers the strategic context for the increasing rhetorical focus of the Obama administration on “transnational crime,” “transnational threats,” and “transnational criminal organizations.” Over the past two years, administration and military officials have increasingly referred to the security threat of transnational organized crime – at home, along the border, and in Mexico and Central America.

The transnational rhetoric is a bit of a throwback to the mid-1990s.  In the wake of the Cold War and at the onset of the era of economic globalization, the Clinton administration, the U.S. military, and the nongovernmental policy community joined a new chorus in Washington warning about the rise of nontraditional security threats.

Not since 1995 has the U.S. government undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the threat of transnational organized crime.

Transition from War to Transnational Combat

The Obama administration, in its National Security Strategy (2010), began reframing security to include such nontraditional transnational threats and challenges as climate change, pandemics, and organized crime. Its new Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime expands this policy thinking about transnational threats.

As was the practice of the Clinton administration, the Obama administration repeatedly emphasizes the need “international cooperation” – a marked change from the aggressive unilateralism of the George W. Bush administration. In a letter introducing the strategy, President Obama commits the U.S. government to “building a new framework for international cooperation” to combat transnational organized crime.

Also notable have been the attempts of the two Democratic administrations to define national security challenges outside the context of war – the end of the Cold War in Clinton’s case, and the rejection of Bush’s “global war on terrorism” in the case of Obama.

Liberal critics of conservative nationalism and proponents of liberal internationalism have welcomed these rhetorical transitions from military-based concepts of national security to more a more holistic framing of security challenges.

Questionable Factual and Historical Foundations

A review of the White House’s new strategy to combat transnational organized crime (TOC) raises questions about its factual and conceptual foundations.

Questions also need to be asked about the implications of the strategy for domestic and foreign security operations.

In the course of the last couple of years, when discussing the border and Mexico, officials from the U.S. military, Homeland Security, and Justice Department have been warning about  “transnational criminal organizations,” “ transnational crime,”  and “transnational threats” without defining them.

The new strategy statement helpfully addresses this failure to define terms by introducing the concept of transnational organized crime and defining it as:

Transnational organized crime refers to those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure and the exploitation of transnational commerce or communication mechanisms. There is no single structure under which transnational organized criminals operate; they vary from hierarchies to clans, networks, and cells, and may evolve to other structures.

In a statement accompanying the release of the new TOC strategy, President Obama links the purported rise of the transnational crime threat since the mid-1990s to the onset of “technological innovation and globalization.”

According to the president:

Transnational criminal organizations have taken advantage of our increasingly interconnected world to expand their illicit enterprises. Criminal networks are not only expanding their operations, but they are also diversifying their activities, resulting in a convergence of transnational threats that has evolved to become more complex, volatile, and destabilizing.

In the strategy statement, the White House asserts that since 1995 transnational organized crime “has expanded dramatically in size, scope, and influence and that it poses a significant threat to national and international security.”

But how do we know this to be true?

The White House doesn’t bother in this strategy statement or anywhere else to back this assertion about the causal link between globalization and transnational crime with statistics or other supporting documentation.

Intuitively, one can easily accept the assertion that transnational crime (and what scholars refer to as “illicit globalization”) leverages the new instruments of the global economy – communications technology, rapid financial exchange, and free trade agreements – to expand its size, scope, and influence.

But any assessment about the rise of transnational organized crime in the age of globalization must also consider the steady decline in the national protections in the form of tariffs and quotas that historically have formed the breeding ground of international smuggling. As trade barriers fade, the province of transnational crime is more proscribed.

The TOC strategy statement regards the alleged rise in transnational crime as a function largely of globalization. Left completely unexamined is the role of government itself in the breeding of transnational crime and illicit globalization.

Today, probably more than ever in history, transnational crime is directly linked to national and international policies that prohibit or severely restrict commerce in certain goods and services — mainly drugs, migrant labor, sexual services, and weapons.

Increased global trade and communications can and does facilitate illicit globalization. But illicit global trade is hardly a new phenomenon; it has long held a central place in international relations.

In the era of mercantilism and colonialism, the trade in goods from competing colonial power suffused the global economy in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Traffickers in illegal goods were known as “free traders.”

Globalization has certainly limited the scope of national sovereignty. But rarely in history have international borders and commerce been effectively controlled by national governments.

In “Illicit Globalization: Myths, Misconceptions, and Historical Lessons,” a forthcoming essay in the fall issue of Political Science Quarterly, border scholar Peter Andreas reminds us that during the 18th century “Britain eventually built up a sizeable coast guard force in response to rampant smuggling, but the most-important factor curtailing smuggling was the emergence of free trade in the nineteenth century, undermining much of the incentive to smuggle.”

Strategy without Strategic Planning

In its much-heralded new strategy to combat TOC, the White House offers 56 “priority actions.”  Yet all the promised actions are either replicas or echoes of existing policy.

Nowhere in the TOC strategy is there any reflection about the policy environment in which transnational crime breeds. Instead of any evaluation of policy reforms that might staunch transnational crime, the TOC strategy resorts to the traditional hard line — stressing the need for more and better coordinated law enforcement, border security, and intelligence operations.

It’s a strategy that is a synthesis of existing law enforcement imperatives rather than a serious initiative. It’s a strategy formulated, apparently, without strategic planning.

Drugs

The Obama administration states that drug trafficking and transnational crime are closely intertwined. It notes, for example, that the “demand for illegal drugs within the United States fuels a significant share of the global drug trade, which is a primary funding source for TOC networks and a key source of revenue for some terrorist and insurgent networks.”

Yet there is no evaluation or defense of the drug prohibition policies that drive this illegal trafficking and associated crime.

Immigration and Border Security

Similarly, the White House expresses its determination to crack down on human smuggling but without any assessment of the policies – such as increasingly strict immigration policies and the border-security operations – that have dramatically increased the role of criminal networks in illegal immigration and illegal border crossings.

Arms

As part of its new professions of “shared responsibility,” the Obama administration vows to crack down on illegal arms flows to Mexico and other countries. Yet this commitment remains disconnected from other U.S. government policies that encourage U.S. arms production and export and that make weapons readily available.

Sex

The White House is rightly concerned with the international trafficking of women who are forced to labor as sex slaves. This traffic is the life blood of many organized crime organizations, both domestic and international. Yet the legalization and regulation of consensual sex services would go a long way to erode criminal networks that profit from the sale of sex, allowing the government to focus its crime fighting on sex slavery and concentrate its regulatory powers on improving associated public health and labor standards.

Strategic Fallacies

Aside from the core failure to address the policy origins of transnational crime, the White House’s new TOC strategy suffers from three fundamental strategic fallacies, particularly as the strategy relates to the border and Latin America.

1. Exercise of Power, Absence of Reason

President Obama vows to “integrate the tools of American power to combat transnational organized crime and related threats to our national security – and to urge our partners to do the same.” In essence, it’s a showdown where American power faces the emerging power of transnational crime.

The White House intends to win this contest, stating that it will deploy “all elements of national power to protect citizens and U.S. national security interests from the convergence of 21st century transnational criminal threats.”

The strategy isn’t exactly a declaration of war, yet President Obama describes the strategy as fundamental to U.S. national security. The White House states that it will “identify those TOC networks that present a sufficiently high national security risk and will ensure the coordination of all elements of national power to combat them.”

Construed as a power contest, the U.S. and its unnamed partners are certain to lose this match-up — just as it continues losing the four-decade long war on drugs despite its massive expenditures and routine exercises of the raw power of the U.S. military and law enforcement apparatus.

Without the profits from the illegal drug trade, the “economic power” of TOC would soon fade.

No matter how power America mobilizes to combat transnational crime, the power of the market and human desire will prevail.

A strategy directed by common sense rather power would likely be more successful in undermining transnational criminal networks and draining their economic power. A more reasonable strategy would not only acknowledge the centrality of drug trafficking in TOC but also take steps to break the cycle of illegality and criminality that besets the illegal drug trade.

Reason also dictates that the Obama administration start exposing the myths propagated by the drug war, including the myth that all illegal drug use leads to addiction; that all illegal drugs damage mind and body; that drugs now categorized as illegal are more dangerous than legal drugs; and that the despite the large variety of illegal drugs, they are more alike than different in their immediate effects and long-term consequences.

By addressing international drug trafficking and related transnational crime primarily with instruments of American power rather than with eminently reasonable policy reforms, the Obama administration is empowering not dismantling TOC.

2. Combating TOC with a Drug Free America

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 led to the creation of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy and created the institutional and legislative foundation for the U.S. to wage a multi-front drug war whose declared goal was a “Drug Free America.” Although the U.S. counternarcotics strategy no longer frames its mission in such ambitious (and delusionary) terms, there remains the conviction that illegal drug consumption can be successively reduced and even eliminated if we muster the needed collective and individual resolve.

When launched, the U.S. drug war during the Nixon administration was framed mostly a moral crusade to purify the country of the deleterious consumption habits of the counterculture and ethnic minorities. Since then a national security imperative has been coupled with the moral imperative against drugs — as first articulated in a national security directive issued by the Reagan administration in 1986.

The Obama administration, while distancing itself from the “drug war” rhetoric, has left unquestioned the basic tenets of the drug war, including the following: that drug flows constitute a threat to U.S. national security; that the proper combination of law enforcement, education, and treatment can significantly reduce demand; and that illegal drugs are equally pernicious and dangerous.

There’s no doubt that U.S. drug demand energizes the global drug market. But the corollary of this thesis — as articulated by the Obama administration in the TOC strategy and elsewhere — that holds that the U.S. has a “shared responsibility” in drug-related violence outside its borders is fundamentally flawed.

U.S. responsibility lies not primarily, as the strategy asserts, in the U.S. demand for illegal drugs. The consumption of marijuana (the most profitable part of the transnational drug trade) and other illegal drugs is not an inherently an illegal or harmful practice. Rather than blaming drug consumers, the Obama administration would do better to attribute the responsibility for drug-related crime and violence to the U.S. government’s senseless drug prohibition policies.

America will never be drug free no matter how many drug wars are waged and no matter how many drug education campaigns are launched.

3. Transnational Security

The power and violence of drug trafficking organizations do have serious implications for governance and national security. Clearly, this is the case in Central America, where Mexican DTOs have increased operations during the past few years, and also in Mexico itself, where various regions are controlled by DTOs and related gangs, making governance impossible.

In the face of TOC, the National Security Strategy commits the U.S. government and military to “devise and execute a collective strategy with other nations facing the same threats.”

Echoing that collective vision of security, the White House’s Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime outlines a series of priority actions aimed to downgrade the security threat from TOC to a public safety threat. The White House says it seeks an “end-state” in which TOC is reduced “from a national security threat to a manageable public safety problem in the United States and in strategic regions around the world.”

The concept of collective security sketched out in the Obama administration’s national security strategy and its TOC strategy represents a transition away from a U.S.-centric view of national security. At first glance, it appears to constitute a clear advance in security thinking in the 21st century. After all, in an increasingly interconnected world, a threat to the security of one country or region can quickly become a more generalized security threat.

But there are dangers lurking behind this embrace of collective transnational security.

The lack of distinction between the perceived threats to U.S. national security and other nations leads to blurred policy and strategy.  The first obligation of a U.S. security strategy is to address real security threats to the United States. Neither in the overall national security strategy nor in the TOC strategy does the Obama administration make a convincing case that drug trafficking organizations constitute a threat to U.S. security. By stipulating TOC – which is overwhelming drug trafficking – as a U.S. security threat, the Obama White House recklessly creates a foundation for an array of military and other national security operations to combat this alleged threat.

Clearly, DTOs are more than just a public safety concern in Mexico and Central America. The countries of the region do have legitimate concerns that their very security is threatened by the economic power and the fire power of the DTOs. But this is not case in the United States, where in no substantial way does the drug trade threaten governance and security.

A more credible, less alarmist strategy to address drug trafficking and other transnational crime take more care in articulating how and under what conditions crime rises to the level of a security threat.

Bureaucratic Shuffle

The Obama administration is blessedly free of the alarmism and fear-mongering that led the country into the two major wars and military occupations during the Bush administration. However, the Obama administration’s newly expressed determination to combat the rise of transnational crime suffers from the same type of exaggerations, moral imperatives, factual deficits, and ahistorical threat assessments that fueled Bush’s misbegotten global war on terrorism.

Dressing up the drug war in the framework of transnational threats and international cooperation represents a failure of vision. The Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime is simply another bureaucratic shuffle and makes a mockery of the administration’s declared commitment to “shared responsibility” for the drug-related crime and violence roiling Mexico and Central America.

 

Tom Barry directs the TransBorder Project of the Center for International Policy and is the author of Border Wars, forthcoming in October from MIT Press.

CIS Experts Meet In Minsk To Coordinate Emergency Response Measures

CIS experts to discuss a draft agreement on cooperation in emergency response

Victoria Naumova

Expert Group Meeting to finalize and agree to a draft agreement on cooperation of CIS member states in carrying out joint activities on liquidation of emergency situations and their consequences will be held in Minsk on February 28-29.

As the press service of the CIS Executive Committee, the impetus for the emergence of this agreement was the situation with regard to wildfires in the territory of the Russian Federation in the summer of 2010 when a fire ravaged an area exceeding 500 hectares. Fires were completely or partially destroyed 127 settlements, killing more than 50 people. These losses could be much higher if the aid of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations have not reached their counterparts from other countries, including from the CIS states. For instance, offered its assistance to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

“Fires in Russia have shown inadequate legal framework for cooperation in emergency situations, primarily on the organization of movement and employment of forces and means on the territory of the injured party. To fill this gap and developed a draft agreement on cooperation in joint measures on liquidation of emergency situations and their consequences, “- said the press service.

According to the press service of the CIS Executive Committee, the document identifies the main forms of interaction, organization, conduct and completion of such activities, the legal status of their participants. It is planned that after the finalization of the draft agreement will be experts in the prescribed manner introduced by the Council of CIS Heads of State.

The source said that the strengthening of cooperation in the environmental field, the prevention of emergencies and natural disasters, strengthening joint efforts to prevent and combat natural and man-made disasters included the CIS Development Concept and Plan for its implementation.

“It is obvious that the security environment – one of those global problems that can not be solved by one state, as it requires concerted action by several countries on both the local and regional and global levels – said the press office. - According to world statistics, the number of natural hazard emergencies is increasing annually by an average of 4%, and the economic losses caused by them – by 10.4%. However, when a timely warning and taking the necessary measures in the loss of economy can be reduced to 40%, and in some cases prevent loss of life. “

Pakistan Bans Interviews with Baloch Sardar Troublemakers, Calling Them Sedition

‘Press Advice’: PEMRA warns ‘seditious’ media

PEMRA warns 7 major news networks against airing of ‘disgruntled Baloch sardars’ without editorial control.

LAHORE: On one hand, the government is announcing amnesty offers to Baloch dissident leaders – while, on the other, it is warning the media not to air the sentiments of those very leaders.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has warned seven major news networks against airing interviews of “disgruntled Baloch sardars” without editorial control, which, according to the authority, amounts to sedition.

A press advice issued by the authority on Saturday stated that the channels’ licenses could be revoked if “programmes detrimental to Pakistan’s existence or may incite hatred and violence against country” continued to air.

The advice was issued in the backdrop of recent TV talk shows in which exiled Baloch leaders, such as Brahmdagh Bugti and Hyrbyiar Marri, expressed their views on the Balochistan issue.

The advice stated: “In the garb of highlighting Balochistan issue, the interviews of disgruntled Baloch sardars are being aired by all major news channels without any profanity delay or editorial control.”

“The discussions not only amount to sedition but are also against explicit provisions of Rule 15 (1) of Pemra Rules 2009,” it added.

Pemra spokesman and general manager Fakhruddin Mughal denied that the advice was reminiscent of the dictatorships of General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf. “These programmes look like they were recorded in Washington or Delhi and the anchor persons are some foreign agents,” said the Pemra spokesman.

“The views of people like Brahmdagh Bugti and Hyrbyiar Marri were not opinions rather they were abuses for our state and this behaviour of TV channels could not be tolerated,” he added.

He went on to warn that the license of the channels could be revoked or they could be slapped with a heavy fine.

“The owners of these TV channels just shrugged off our advice. But we are going to issue another notice to a TV channel that is propagating against Pemra on this issue,” said the Pemra spokesman.

‘Pemra not sole custodian of national interest’

However, the TV networks’ operational staff was defiant in the face of the fresh warnings. “This is not the first time Pemra is using arm-twisting tactics and trying to bully the media; but they must realise that people must know all shades of opinion,” a news executive of one of the private TV channels said on condition of anonymity.

“This is not the time of press advices and regulatory bodies having their will imposed on the private media. Pemra is not the sole custodian of national interest. Let the people watch and decide what is in favour of the country and what is not.”

He further added, “In the presence of huge government PR machinery in the form of the ministry of information and the PID, a regulatory body armed with a revoking clause is just too much”.

No harm in ‘request’, says Awan

Meanwhile, despite the warning, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan played down the Pemra warning, saying that there was no harm if the media is requested to ensure balance.

According to a statement, Awan said that the government does not “intend to curb media freedom, as democracy and media independence go hand in hand”.

Democracy without media freedom cannot flourish, she added.

The minister further said that the Pakistan Peoples Party strongly believes in freedom of expression and media but the freedom must be coupled with responsibility and in conformity with societal norms.

The credit of lifting curbs on media imposed by the previous dictatorial regime goes to the present government, she said. Awan further said that Pemra has always framed laws to facilitate media, not put curbs on media freedom.  She further said that there is no harm if the request is made to media to preserve the sanctity of religions, any sect, ethical values, morality and decency. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP)

Published in The Express Tribune

Balochistan–“The killings will stop when one side or the other is weakened.”

“The killings will stop when one side or the other is weakened. Either the state or the insurgents will have to be weakened.”

Balochistan, the unattributable story

THE more insightful snippets on Balochistan tend to be unattributable.

“If the Baloch got independence, on the first day we’d pick up a bottle of whisky and drink ourselves silly. Then on the second day we’d nurse our hangovers. And on the third day, we’d put the bottle aside, pick up our guns and start killing
one another.”

“There are only two great martial races in this part of the world: the Pakhtuns and the Rajputs. These Baloch think they are great fighters; in my village, a thousand better fighters are born every year. We know how to deal with them.”

“After a return from a stint in exile, he turned to one of his tribesmen and said, ‘So looks like you’ve been enjoying yourself since I’ve been away.’ The man had married twice in his leader’s absence. Ashamed, the man went home and shot both his wives.

That’s the mindset. Can anyone really talk about what ‘the Baloch population’ wants?”

So much has been written and said about Balochistan in recent weeks. Genocide. The break up of Pakistan. A pig-headed establishment. Baloch separatists pursuing self-interest in the name of the Baloch people.

Few, though, have shed light on what the folks who are guiding the state’s policy on Balochistan are thinking. So here goes, a Q&A with the unattributable, who either are doing or know those who are doing.

Is the spate of publicity causing a rethink of the Balochistan policy?

“Over the weekend, they released six or eight people. One of the released was of particular value to them. Maybe this is a nod to the pressure from the media and the political chatter. But probably nothing will change. It could just be a way of showing that they aren’t driving this, that [insurgent] violence will continue and then in a few weeks they can go back to their same tactics.”

So nothing will change?

“Nothing will change. People keep saying that the policy [kill and dump] isn’t working but that opinion isn’t shared by everyone.

There haven’t been any settler killings in 11 months in and around Quetta. Even in the so-called non-tribal belt, the insurgents have been pushed out of the cities and into the hills.”

Dozens of FC personnel have been killed in the last couple of months and insurgent attacks are up. Kill-and-dump isn’t working, is it?

“They’ve gone through about 300 names. They think there are 1,300 more. It may take another couple of years, but they’ll probably get them all.”

“It’s not because the strategy isn’t working but because it isn’t being implemented. The areas in which the violence is up are under the control of the FC. But when they [the insurgents] run into the hills, the FC doesn’t pursue them. The FC thinks that if they go into the hills, search for the hideouts, it will be called a military operation and they want to avoid that label.”

The killing of Pakhtuns by the Baloch insurgents is a new trend that is emerging. What’s behind that?

“They kill the poor labourers working on road and development projects because they say they don’t want any development in their areas, that they will develop the areas themselves after they’ve gained independence.”

“The FC in Balochistan is predominantly drawn from the Pakhtuns, so they’ve started to kill them as a way of lashing out against the FC. It’s a dangerous move, though. The ethnic map of Balochistan has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. The Pakhtuns already talk of joining Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

The Baloch moderates’ boycott of the last election created a leadership vacuum in the province, analysts suggest. At the next general election, will the moderates be able to come to power?

“If the sarkar allows it, there should be a sizeable presence in the Balochistan Assembly.”

Why would the sarkar, aka the establishment, want to keep moderates out of power when the establishment itself bemoans the absence of a credible Baloch political leadership?“They prefer people who are amenable to their demands. They bring them
from the most obscure imaginable backgrounds and install them in power because then they can control them.”

What does the security establishment think of the publicity that the insurgents are getting?

“Nowhere in the world does anyone advocating for the forcible secession of a part of a country get the kind of airtime these sardars are getting. It’s ridiculous and the media really ought to think about what they’re doing. A case for sedition could be
made out.”

“Actually, it’s helped expose these guys [the insurgents]. They’re openly talking about wanting to break away from Pakistan and unintentionally the media has exposed them for what they are: people who are against Pakistan. Maybe some of the sympathy
for them will drain away when people hear what they really stand for.”

Is there anything that can be done to try and convince, non-violently, the Baloch separatists to end their insurgency?

“There is one thing: apologise for the killing of Akbar Bugti and say that it wasn’t the action of the Pakistan Army at large but of an individual. But they won’t do that.”

Hasn’t the state itself created many of the problems it is fighting today?

“The sardars have been lured in and out of power for decades. Everyone knows those games.”

“Allah Nazar [the most well-known of the ‘non-tribal’ insurgents] probably turned during his last spell in prison. The things they probably did to him … it hardened him.”

One last time, is there an end to the violence in sight?

“The killings will stop when one side or the other is weakened. Either the state or the insurgents will have to be weakened.”

No points for guessing which side the state thinks will be weakened first.

If all of this sounds rather grim, that’s Balochistan, the land where the intellectually barren fight in the name of ideas on the backs of a wretched people.

Nato pulls out of Afghan ministries after Kabul attack

Nato pulls out of Afghan ministries after Kabul attack

Scene close to Afghan interior ministry, 25 Feb 2012
Any attacker would have had the highest clearance

Nato has withdrawn all its personnel from Afghan ministries after two senior US officers were shot dead in the interior ministry building in Kabul.

Nato said an “individual” had turned his gun on the officers, believed to be a colonel and major, and had not yet been identified or caught.

Nato commander Gen John Allen condemned the attack as “cowardly”.

The shootings come amid five days of deadly protests over the burning of copies of the Koran by US soldiers.

Taliban statement

The interior ministry was put in lock-down after the shootings, officials said.

The BBC’s Orla Guerin in Kabul says eight shots were reported inside the building, which should be one of the safest in the capital, and that any Afghan who carried out the attack would have had the highest clearance.

Local media reports said the gunman was an Afghan policeman but this has not been confirmed.

The reports suggest the incident followed a “verbal clash”.

Gen Allen said he condemned the attack, adding: “We will pursue all leads to find the person responsible. The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered.”

He said: “For obvious force protection reasons, I have also taken immediate measures to recall all other Isaf personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul.”

But Gen Allen added: “We are committed to our partnership with the government of Afghanistan to reach our common goal of a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan in the near future.”

The UK Foreign Office confirmed it had “withdrawn civilian mentors and advisers from institutions in the city as a temporary measure”.

Isaf spokesman Brig Gen Carsten Jacobson said that Nato could not yet reveal the identity of those killed.

He also said: “We cannot confirm where the killer came from, what his nationality was, whether he was in uniform or not, all these questions are not known.”

Early reports suggest the two officers were shot in the ministry’s command and control centre.

The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says this is where representatives of 34 provinces meet to plan security.

He quotes sources as saying that Interior Minister Bismullah Khan was having a meeting with senior Western officials elsewhere in the building when the shooting took place.

The Taliban said in a website statement that it carried out the attack in response to the Koran burnings.

But Gen Jacobson would not be drawn on any link to the protests.

He said: “We have seen an emotional week, we have seen a busy week – but it would be too early to say this incident was linked.”

He added: “It is very regretful to see the loss of life again on this day, and that includes the loss of life that we have seen around demonstrations.”

Obama apology

Angry protests over the burning of the Korans continued on Saturday, with a UN compound in the city of Kunduz set alight.

BBC’s Orla Guerin: “People demand tough action against US troops”

Four people were killed and dozens injured in clashes in the city, according to local doctors. Three more people were killed in the southern province of Logar.

The governor’s house in Laghman province also came under attack on Saturday and there were demonstrations in Paktia, Nangarhar and Sari Pul provinces.

Nearly 30 people have died since the protests began on Tuesday.

US personnel apparently inadvertently put the books into a rubbish incinerator at Bagram air base, near Kabul.

US President Barack Obama has apologised for the Koran-burning incident.

In a letter to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, Mr Obama said the books had been “unintentionally mishandled”.

Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.