Thursday, September 27, 2007

a post ideological afghanistan



I went to General Staff College the other day, senior army officers and generals go to GSC for specialized training and in service skill building. GSC is the most prestigious military academy in Afghanistan.  Around twenty brigade and regiment commanders came to kabul from around the country to participate in two week seminar, telling them what is happening in the country and how things are developing. I thought it would be useful to talk with them and get them on our side.


I am happy I went there to talk with them, so I could give them a different perspective into issues. most of Afghan Armed Forces (AAF) general and senior officer undergo extensive training by Americans, security contractors such as Dycorps and other NATO mentors. AAF, especially police force is the public face of the government and the most important pillar of law enforcement. But AAF has been accused of corruption and low discipline. The government, Nato and international community haven’t thoroughly looked at the decision making process and judgment of commanders, and it’s connection with the kind of training they acquire as well as it’s significance in AAF performance.


The trainers in GSC and other AAF academies decent in the compound without much knowledge of where they are, an official in GSC who wanted to remain anonymous told me, a visiting American trainer after a few days in GSC found out that he was in Afghanistan. Foreign AAF trainers might have the best skill and knowledge but they are detached from Afghanistan and lack communication and language ability to pass optimal skills to Afghans and to learn about Afghanistan. Even if foreign trainers were willing to communicate more effectively and in a trust building manner they wouldn’t be able  to do it because they rotate every three months and that wouldn’t give them a chance to learn much. 


The time of communication in GSC is very persuasive and designed to reform social attitude of the Afghan officers, persistent seminars comprises social influences capable of producing substantial behavior and attitude change through the use of persuasion tactics, via interpersonal and group-based influences. this could be considered.


I am sitting there and waiting for my turn to tell them about Afghan media. Before me Colonel O’Brian from US army is telling them about the importance of media in covering the success of army. But he could not outline a single story afghan or international media on afghan army and it’s potential influence on public perception.

All the examples he give was either about WW II or Vietnam or Balkans or Cold war. O’Brian also mentioned the name of broadcasters and agencies, it was either CBS, BBC, NPR or some other western agency. I do think O’Brian was sincere in telling them media is important and the army should help media cover the war but the way he was telling has proved to be counterproductive. The commanders of Afghan army get to hear about western journalism and they start to respect western journalism. We have seen western journalist have been provided with information by the army that they would never offer to afghan media, western media has been extended especial courtesies while Afghan media has been restricted by the army. When a discussion started on the latest military stories in media, Afghan generals were of course talking what they have seen on Afghan broadcasters but O’Brian was saying “I can’t comment on that, but there was a story on BBC…..” since he was leading the discussion he went on to analyze the story. I think this is a great way to undermine Afghan media. If the significance of Afghan media is not stressed by O’Brian, an Afghan commander would less value it. O’Brian tells all sort of anecdotes about some little town paper and how they mobilized the town community, these sorts of anecdotes glorifies American way of living and indirectly misrepresent afghan media. Glorifying American way of reporting and journalism would negatively represent Afghan media in the eyes of army generals.  


Colonel O’Brian continues his speech on media, the discussion comes to Aljazeera and the officers condemn the station for having links with Taliban and Alqaida. O’Brain says; Aljazeera is not the example of a good media, what kind of journalism is propagating the message of hatred. It’s bad media. They are showing footage of Taliban crimes. Medley a civilian media advisor to NATO adds; media professionals deny any link between media and violence, but there is, media has exacerbated a conflict to genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Taliban had a radio station, Radio Sharia, propagating their version of Islam.


Clearly, O’Brian and Medley, two senior Nato representative (one military and the other civilian) don’t understand that Aljazeera has a broader agenda which extends behind reporting. If Aljazeera gets exclusive footage from Alqaida and Taliban it shows they are doing a good job. Alqaida and Taliban are the hot topic and Aljazeera is a new channel which came up with format to get access to the hot topic and audience survey shows Aljazeera is growing. This is what media business is about. O’Brian and Medley also forgets that their media promotes violence to and it’s more graphically than Aljazeera. When I was studying in Poland I was attending physical exercise and i was asked, as one does, where I came from. When I said Afghanistan, the girl promptly responded; Oh, Rambo 3, this tells a lot. Since the 1980s and especially since 2002 Hollywood's depiction of Afghans has gradually shown signs of vilifying Afghans.


Western media and especially Hollywood not only portraits a violent picture of Afghanistan but it also slanders and humiliate Afghans too. A new Hollywood movie is, called Domino, about four gangsters, one of whom is an Afghan. The Afghan guy betrays his friends and steals their money and sends it to Afghanistan for the war against American, at the end of the movie the Afghan guy blows up a business tower in a suicide attack. In this movie Hollywood shows all sorts of stereotypes that are attributed to Afghans. Domino might be considered as one of the most subversive films released by a major studio since Fight Club.


Hollywood network productions such as 24, escape from Afghanistan, the Beast, September 8 shows Afghan villains. Hollywood misrepresents Afghans and their collective identity.   Hollywood pictures showing Afghans holding hostage and bombing buildings and civilians only reinforces western stereotypes of Afghans being untrustworthy, irrational, cruel, and barbaric


The 2004 film Alexander by American director Oliver Stone, portraits a negative and inaccurate picture of Hindu Kush people. the movie portrayed Afghans as poor, gay, barbaric farmers that lives in caves and spends their time killing innocent neighbors. Alexander marries Rukhshana in Afghanistan; the movie shows that Afghans are so gay that Alexander and his army arrive to save their women.


A new Hollywood movie called "300" which shows a battle between Spartans and Persians. The movie portrays Persians as "deranged, ghastly, ruthless monsters."

The 2007 film 300 was widely criticized for its "racist” portrayal of Persian combatants at the battle of Thermopylae. 300 depicts the east and specifically Persians decadents sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks and the west in general. If 300 had been made in Germany in mid 1940s or earlier it would be studied today alongside ‘The Eternal Jew’, a movie with the central thesis that characterize the Jew as a wandering cultural parasiteas, a textbook example of how racist fantasy and myth can serve as an incitement to total war. 


We are living in a post ideological era; neither Hollywood nor Aljazeera is considered inflaming. But I believe the American Colonel and the Afghan Colonels still lives in the cold war era and think in ideological terms. 

Saturday, September 08, 2007

afghanistan's media against Narcotics

CETENAGROUP has been paid millions of dollars to implement a counter narcotics strategy.  The team of the strategy is "Afghanistan’s Media Against Narcotics".

CETENA attempts to harmonize counter narcotic media strategy. They have taken over 34 independent radio station around the country to broadcast their counter narcotic spots.

CETENA pays US$1000 per month for radio stations in exchange for exclusive CETENA advertisement. “Growing poppy is a crime. Government will prosecutor poppy cultivators, if you grow poppy you don’t deserve to live in our society” is a message aired several times in a small radio station in Helmand or Kandahar or Nangarahr “If you are living on poppy money, you are rescuing your life and your family. Afghan government will arrest you and you will spend your life behind bars” government has no control what so ever where this advert is aired and almost everybody grows poppy there. This puts the radio station against the community, especially when it’s not branded. The spot doesn’t say who brings it to the audience. It sounds like it’s a message from the radio station. Opium, like terror, is a dead end for the Afghan people. At an August 9 special narcotic briefing at the State Department, John Walters, director of the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy said that more than 90 percent of the world’s opium is grown in Afghanistan.

its estimated that the total export value of Afghanistan’s opium was $3.1 billion, representing approximately 32 percent of the country’s total ( licit and illicit ) gross domestic product.
“The big money made off of opium in Afghanistan is made by the upper levels of the chain – the warlords, the traffickers, the corrupt individuals who are involved in this,” Walters said. This is why the radio station this campaigns the radio station. The upper levels of the chain are the sort of people that has a lot of influence in the politics and economy, Karzai is scared of them. That is why none has been prosecuted. A police commander in Kabul city told me that he has several times rang officials in the ministry of interior to tell them that he has intercepted tilted window cars with no number plates, transporting opium. The police commander who asked to remain anonymous was advised by senior ministry official to stay off the matter and not to create headache for them. If the government is scared to confront the upper level traffickers why is American putting the local radio in danger.  “suppressing media is the new American policy. the traditional American way of stabbing on the back, they are misleading media to fight the drug problem. A fight which Americans failed and clearly they are not sincere and committed about fighting narcotics, the objective is not eradicating the poppy but eradicating the media by poppy” said an afghan drug analyst, Asarullahaq Hakimi. 

“There is no miracle crop,” Schweich a US official “There’s nothing that really will equal the income you can get from poppy.”  The chief benefit of not growing the opium poppy, which is a highly labor-intensive crop, is the security of not having to deal with corrupt and violent organizations, he said.

Successful and sustainable agricultural endeavors require electricity, roads and market access.  “It’s important,” Schweich added, “to remember there’s a pathway to go from being a subsistence farmer to having a future for your children and your family that’s better off.”

In explaining the U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy for Afghanistan, released August 9, the officials said the United States plans to focus on high-yield crops such as fruits and nuts that come closer than other crops to replacing the income from the poppy.

The 2007 alternative development campaign, for example, with annual expenditures of $120 million to $150 million, includes short-term cash-for-work projects and comprehensive agricultural and business development projects.


korean ransom

South Korea's intelligence chief has refused to deny that his government paid a ransom to the Taleban to release 19 hostages last week.
Kim Man-bok admitted to a parliamentary committee that there were undisclosed terms involved in the deal with the Afghan rebels.
there have been persistent media reports alleging that a multi-million dollar ransom was paid.
A Taleban representative in Ghazni province, where the hostages were held, told the BBC the South Korean government paid $20m but two other Taleban sources told the BBC no ransom was paid.
Afghan officials have said a sum slightly under $1m was handed over.


hundreds of schools remain closed in the south

September 9th is the international literacy day, in Afghanistan's insurgency-hit southern provinces; there are concerns that hundreds of schools will remain closed due to insecurity.
"At least 300 schools in Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces will not open because of insecurity," Siddiq Patman, deputy minister of education, in addition to this another 180 schools has been torched down by the rebels.

Over six million students, 38 percent of them female, have been registered at schools throughout the country, up to 40 percent of them in the warmer south, the Ministry of Education (MoE) said. In spite of high enrollment rate in the south, there are less students in the upper classes due to high drop out rate. Only a quarter of children make it to the 9th grade in the south. More than half of school age girls in the south are not enrolled in schools.
Owing to insurgency-related violence and other problems, over 350 schools were closed down in the southern provinces in 2006.

In the southern province of Helmand, where Taliban insurgents control several districts, the education system has been disintegrating over the past four years.
"In 2003 there were 224 functioning schools in Helmand. Now only 90 schools are likely to open on Monday [10 September]," said Taj Mohammad Popal, head of the provincial education department. Since 2005, 36 schools have been burned down and 17 teachers killed in Helmand province

Afghan officials say they cannot operate schools in areas under Taliban control, where girls have been denied the right to education and boys can only attend Islamic study classes at mosques.

Afghanistan's progress in education over the past five years has been praised in some quarters, but over half of all Afghan children (about 3.5 million people) are out of school, the UK-based charity, Oxfam, said in October 2006.

The MoE said 14 schools were torched by insurgents in several provinces between April and May 2007.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

radio torched down

Radio sadaiHaqiqat, Salam Watandar partner station in samangan was torched down last night. The radio station was set up by the local youth, mostly consisted home made gears.

They joined SW in 2005.


The perpetrator or the cause of the attack is unknown. The station was off air this morning. However it’s said that the station was partly damaged.  


The station had had received some threats, mostly from local information and culture authority.

During Zahar Shah’s mourning days SW had some critical programs of his reign which the local authorities didn’t like and ordered the station to stop it.

Will keep you posted


Sunday, September 02, 2007

UN celebrating peace day

I just saw some correspondence from UN office in Afghanistan, they are trying to encourage Afghan media to celebrate peace day. The UN’s motto is “what are you doing for peace” in a few posts I will try to see how much UN has done for peace in Afghanistan. I believe the UN has been the biggest threat to Afghan peace and it hasn’t done enough to ensure peace or even when it has intervened, UN middling has been total political and resulted in worsening the situation.


UN and Geneva peace Accord:


Still, as the Cold War drew to a close, Afghanistan seemed close to solving its internal strife. In accordance with the 1988 Geneva Accords, the Soviet Union withdrew all of its troops as of February 15 1989. Further, the United Nations appeared to have achieved the beginnings of a legitimate regime. But instead of experiencing a transition to a stable government and despite Najibullah.s resignation, Afghanistan plummeted into civil war. The Mujahideen had splintered, regional powers supported different actors and both Russia and the USA retreated from Afghanistan’s internal strife, both powers instead focusing on after effects of the Soviet Union’s disintegration as well as other more strategically relevant crises. So, Afghanistan degenerated into political anarchy and rampant violence, the United Nations would seem a likely actor to return order and stability. Indeed, it is written into the Charter of the United Nations for the member countries .to unite [their] strength to maintain international peace and security. Along a spectrum of possibilities, there are two general methods for the UN to address such crises: mediation and peace enforcement. But each possesses deficiencies, and the events in Afghanistan demonstrate these flaws. According to Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, Afghan finance minister, the four major influences on chances of success through mediation are the nature of dispute, the disputant’s characteristics, the attributes of mediator and the strategy of mediation. Ahady continues, arguing that since 1982, the UN had used this technique to address the conflict in Afghanistan, but when attempting to negotiate a transition regime, the UN faced insurmountable obstacles in each of these categories. First, regarding the nature of the dispute, there is generally a smaller probability of success when the mediation concerns a sovereignty transfer. This is due to the complications in convincing an armed group to relinquish its hold on power. After achieving the Soviet withdrawal, the United Nations had begun to work towards the creation of a legitimate government formed by a coalition of the rebel warlords, with the intention of replacing the Najibullah government. Beyond the inherent difficulties in convincing Najibullah to resign, the Mujahideen also refused to view the regime as legitimate. Thus, they denounced any negotiations or power sharing schemes that involved Najibullah remaining in power, arguing that the Soviet client regime was so obviously illegitimate that they would not even acknowledge it by engaging in dialogue. For the second aspect, the characteristics of the belligerents, Ahady argues that when power is not balanced, or even perceived not to be imbalanced, mediation will likely be resisted. This affected the Afghanistan situation because with the assistance provided by regional actors, and the USA prior to 1991, the Mujahideen had the upper hand in an unequal of distribution of power. Therefore, in addition to their argument that the illegitimate government deserved no recognition, the Mujahideen likewise had no motivating factor to consent to a UN arrangement. This, however, might have been overcome with foreign pressure, but since American intelligence predicted that Pakistan would continue to support the resistance and that any drop in support for the rebels would result in the triumph of the Soviet puppet regime, the USA decided against pressuring. The Najibullah regime eventually did collapse in 1991, and with the widespread availability of small arms, the state fragmented as power shifted to various Mujahideen warlords across the country. In fact, it is estimated that that by 1992, 2 million weapons were in circulation, acting as a kind of currency and working to sustain the stalemate between the rival factors. Despite this movement towards an actual balance of power, with the military support from international actors, each warlord believed he was stronger than the other rebels. As such, the downfall of the regime .frustrated a UN plan for a peaceful transfer of power from the communist regime to a transitional government, led to an intense power struggle among the Mujahideen groups who had taken over different parts of the country and seized or looted weapons and heavy equipment. The third aspect describes the strategy of the mediator and as Ahady maintains, it can take one of three forms, facilitation, formulation, and manipulation. Of the three, not only does manipulation have the best chance at success, but it is also necessary in instances of high tensions and conflict. For a facilitating strategy, the mediator would simply provide the forum for discussion. Formulation would then involve suggestions by the mediator for the consideration of the disputants. Manipulation though, would occur when the mediator compels the two sides to accept an agreement. The two former options are quite passive; they will function best in situations where all sides are eager to reach an agreement. The latter strategy is required when the disputants are verbally or physically hostile towards one another, and so with the extremely high levels of tensions in Afghanistan, the United Nations would have to use manipulation

as a strategy.


This in fact leads to the fourth aspect of mediation, the characteristics of the mediator because for a successful manipulation strategy, the mediator must possess enough leverage to change the cost-benefit calculation of the disputants. Afghanistan had achieved true anarchy with warring Mujahideen forces in control of billions of dollars worth of modern weapons and access to millions of dollars in cash from the drug trade. So for the United Nations mediation efforts to succeed, a strategy of manipulation would have to be backed by credible leverage. However, the UN was forced to confront more than just a country filled with military arms and warring clan factions. Following the disengagement of the superpowers, the other interested states entered the political vacuum left behind. These states possessed conflicting views and goals for Afghanistan, and because each actor had a different objective, it became increasingly difficult for them to work together. Moreover, these states no longer had pressure from the USA to cooperate in achieving a settlement, and consequently, "driven by competing interests in Afghanistan and the region, neighboring countries and other foreign states and non-state players supported rival factions in the Afghan civil war, further reducing the UN’s chances for a negotiated settlement. Had the USA instead chosen to put pressure on one or more of its allies, the UN might have possessed the leverage necessary to manipulate negotiations into a political settlement. But the Soviet withdrawal represented, according to Undersecretary of State Michael Armacost, restoration of the strategic balance of the region.. And while it has been argued that even as late as 1992, the USA could have successfully used its position to compel the Mujahideen and regional states to follow the United Nations, the American fundamental goal of defeating the Soviet Union had been achieved, and instead the USA probably wanted to avoid contrasts with Pakistan. Thus, because the USA did not use its position to influence the regional powers or warlords within Afghanistan, the United Nations had little leverage because it could not reward or punish for compliance or non-compliance. And as the military arms and finances continued to flow into the country arming the warring factions, it should not be surprising that anarchy developed. In fact, because of the above problems posed by mediation, Ahady contends that it is weak and ineffective, especially compared with direct intervention.


UN is celebrating peace day:

I just saw some correspondence from UN office in Afghanistan, they are trying to encourage Afghan media to celebrate peace day. The UN’s motto is “what are you doing for peace” in a few posts I will try to see how much UN has done for peace in Afghanistan. I believe the UN has been the biggest threat to Afghan peace and it hasn’t done enough to ensure peace or even when it has intervened, UN middling has been total political and resulted in worsening the situation.


UN and the Soviet Invasion:


In 1979 Soviet troops intervened to assist the Afghani leaders and his faltering dictatorship in the regime’s struggle against rebel forces, which was comprised of the Mujahideen, a rebel force consisting of domestic and foreign Islamic extremists. The USA, motivated by the desire to prevent the expansion of the Soviet Union, became

involved with other regional states, particularly Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to support the resistance. Pakistan possessed the strategic position and intelligence capabilities to channel military resources; Saudi Arabia was willing to provide a large source of funding for the rebellion. As a result, the Mujahideen forces, which were essentially a group of diverse warlords lacking any cohesive element beyond a common enemy, became a substantial force, armed by foreign countries. While each of the USA.s regional allies argued for supporting a different Mujahideen warlord, or group of warlords, the USA preferred a strategy that spread the military resources between several groups to ensure a wider distribution of military aid and therefore more opposition. The Americans then used their influence to enforce this strategy, and so instead of arming a smaller group of cohesive warlords to form the main opposition, a larger, more varied group of warlords each received a smaller amount of military aid. This caused three results that would have a future impact on Afghanistan. First, the simultaneous, rapid, and large-scale arming of opposing forces brought a major portion of the population under arms in the 1980s. A second result was that while enough weapons were being shipped into the country to arm the majority of individuals, monetary finances were spread between too many factions. then, the warlords developed alternative methods of financing their campaign, such as drug trafficking and predatory tactics on civilians. Third, because the arms were being shipped to all of the warlords equally, no one group possessed the capabilities to overthrow the government. This prolonged of the conflict since when the Mujahideen coalition began to falter, no one element was strong enough to defeat the government, even though the general war continued due to the overall strength of the Mujahideen.


can terrorists join the war on terror

The United Nations drew a list of international terrorist in 1999, the list included high ranking Taliban official, from top leadership to deputy minister level, as well as their international collaborators of alqaida group. The list included slightly under 500 Afghan Taliban. The Afghan government and international community is looking for a large number of people on the list but at least 19 Taliban officials have reconciled with Karzai's government and some holds government offices. The list is attached. The UN Security Council has been slow to adjust to the changing political realities in Afghanistan.


Abdul Hakim Monib, the governor of Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, has drawn praise from U.S. military commanders as a partner in the battle against global terrorism, lending crucial political support for international relief and reconstruction projects in territory contested by Taliban insurgents. But Monib, who served as deputy minister of frontier affairs in the prior Taliban government, is also on a U.N. list of suspected international terrorists, and Russia has repeatedly blocked U.S. and NATO efforts to take him off it. Monib's case underscores how U.S.-sponsored sanctions in the United Nations can backfire, placing American and NATO commanders in Afghanistan in the awkward position of potentially violating U.N. resolutions by funding programs that benefit Monib. "We try to engage almost all the governors and elected officials, even if they have somewhat undesirable backgrounds," said Col. John Thomas, a U.S. spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. There are some "reformed Taliban in the government that are quite helpful."

The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on the Taliban in October 1999 for providing a safe haven to Osama bin Laden and for refusing to surrender him to face trial in New York for masterminding the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Monib and more than 100 other Taliban leaders were placed on a sanctions list in January 2001, a year before he broke ranks with the Islamic movement and joined forces with Hamid Karzai, the Washington-backed president of Afghanistan. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States ushered through resolutions that expanded the list of sanctioned people to suspected al-Qaeda members. The measures included a travel ban, an arms embargo and a prohibition on the direct or indirect provision of funds or economic resources to Monib and 489 other people and groups.

Richard Barrett, chairman of the U.N. Security Council's Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions panel, which monitors compliance with the resolution, said that the ban on financial assets and economic resources raises troubling legal questions. "Does giving him a ride in an armored car or an airplane or giving aid through him to some sort of program within Uruzgan province constitute a breach of the sanctions?" Barrett asked. "Some of the legal advice that states have been getting suggest that it may."

In March 2006, the United Nations instructed its staff in Afghanistan to steer clear of Monib over concerns that they might breach the sanctions. But the prohibition was partially lifted after U.S. and European officials objected. U.N. staff members are now allowed to interact with Monib but not to engage in activities that could be construed as violating sanctions, such as flying him in a U.N. aircraft. However, one U.N. official in Afghanistan said the mission has been privately urging donor countries to increase aid to Uruzgan. Monib is "seen as being a relatively capable governor," but his designation on the list "does present difficulties," said Adrian Edwards, a U.N. spokesman in Afghanistan. "We have to abide by" U.N. resolutions, he said.

The Netherlands and Australia -- which also has troops in Uruzgan -- insist that they have not breached U.N. sanctions because they have channeled aid through the government, not through Monib's private accounts. "We do talk to Monib, which is not prohibited," said a Dutch official who tracks the issue. But "we do business with the province of Uruzgan." An Australian spokeswoman insisted that "Australia has strictly complied with the sanctions." She added that "Australian personnel in Afghanistan will ensure they do not engage in any dealings with Monib which would be contrary to Australian law" or Security Council resolutions.

Monib's dilemma underscores a broader failing of the U.N. role in the battle against terrorism, said Eric A. Rosand, who oversaw U.N. counterterrorism efforts for the United States until 2005. He said that the council has not responded to evolving terrorist threats and that many countries have stopped cooperating with it. For instance, the council has not added a new Taliban figure to the list since 2001. That included the movement's military commander, Mullah Dadullah, who was killed by allied forces in May. "The whole thing is broken," said Rosand, who now tracks the council's terrorism efforts for the Center on Global Counter-Terrorism Cooperation. "Everyone knows that most countries are not even implementing the sanctions."

The council, meanwhile, is also facing a political backlash from European governments, courts and human rights advocates, who say it offers inadequate legal protection for people on the list. The council has introduced new measures to strengthen due process, including the establishment of a U.N. office to hear complaints. But the new office lacks the authority to recommend that the council remove a person from the list, and a single member of the council can still block the delisting process. "This is a perfect case where time has passed, things have changed, but the committee hasn't and the list hasn't," Rosand said. "The list is so poorly managed that no one has confidence in it anymore, and nobody puts forward names."