Showing posts with label afghan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label afghan. Show all posts

Monday, March 04, 2013

Planning is difficult enough, planning for Afghanistan is a nightmare


My admiration for Western technology predates my first encounter; nevertheless the first encounter remains to be very impressive. When I was 19 I witnessed a grand banger display of western military might. The US military started bombing Taliban positions in Kabul in October 2011.  The first round of the bombing campaign targeted command and control centres, communication centres and long range surface to air batteries. one fine afternoon I was cycling in Karti Parwan area of Kabul when a Taliban command centre was hit by an incendiary bomb. The target was housed in a prominent private building which was seized by Taliban. It was one of the things about the Taliban, they were quite keen on claiming others property. The smoke was visible from any part of the city. As I was cycling by this huge house on fire, I had to wade my way through rubbles, body parts, pieces of Taliban light weaponry all scattered meters away on the main street by the power of the blast. This building was well known to everyone in Kabul for housing senior Arab and Pakistani Taliban commanders. In this phase long range bombers such as B52 and Cruise missiles were used to destroy the targets. The second tier of bombing targeted military installation, logistic and supply centres and mobile short range anti-aircraft guns. Then came the last round of bombing that targeted infantry unites. It was around 4pm that I saw for the first time an A10 Thunderbolt flying very low and slow. The aircraft slowed down and fired a round from its heavy rotary cannon while banking sharp left. The shell hit a car with half a dozen women and children on board. This was the first unfortunate incident I learned to know about. But it started to occur more often and more frequently; a week later a stray rocket from a gunship hit house of a friend of mine. One day I was chatting with my friends toward the end of Taliban days and one said; “the early days of bombing by B52s was very accurate but ever since these slow and low aircrafts has entered, the Americans are starting to miss targets”. I realised that something was going wrong. A10 Thunderbolt and Apache Gunship are exactly designed to penetrate into enemy controlled territory to seek, accurately identify and destroy enemy targets. So what was going wrong? Was this a tactical error, sort of an operational level bug occurring in the beta version and bound to be fixed once Westerners gain firm and more ground. Or was it a shortcoming that western technology was suffering?

Allied forces had superb and real-time information gathered by forward air control, high flying surveillance aircrafts and stratospheric satellites. This information dominance enabled allies to destroy enemy units with minimal collateral damage and loss of friendlies, their gain was compounded by the ignorance of Taliban. They could have never imagined that the Allies knew about their commanders and command centres. Oblivious to their predicament they had gathered in a command centre to sip on some green tea.  Not only that, but the information would be offered to a supercomputer (not the internet, I mean literally) which would make it available to other computers that are run by middle management. The middle management then distil the data into usable form while perceiving local situation. The computer would also tell the man on the top about the second and third order knock on effect. This is called Effect Based Operation in military it is shortened for EBO. EBO is offering the leadership a precise outcome of a tactical decision, therefore enabling them to guide troops on the ground. The rise of hierarchical organisation owes much to the invention of this concept. In the business world this concept is known as ‘the big picture’, the leader at the top of the organisation has an intrinsic claim on information in order to build the big picture. Resources, tools and a level of staff time are dedicated to supplying information for the leader. The leader then studies the market and competition before embarking on the most suitable course of action.

There are a few reasons that could possibly explain why the US led bombing campaign had become more inaccurate. The arrival of close air support and ground attack aircrafts to combat theatre did not contribute to inaccurate targeting. The reason was that the bombing campaign had become more extensive and from few targets a day had expanded to hundreds a day. This was bound to contain tragic loss of civilian life, contributed by the magnification of marginal error. Moreover, operations that grow in scope and scale within a short period of time tend to contain errors.  At this stage, the ‘big picture’ strategy advocates introduction of standard operating procedures (SOPs). it is feasible to eliminate operator level errors; by gathering accurate information the organisation can reduce the number of accidents and mitigate its impact. This sounds like conventional wisdom but why is it not working?

Boris Gromov was the commander of the 40th army, the core force of Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. Gromov served three tours of two years in Afghanistan. He undertook one of the most daunting duties in the history. He wanted to create institutions with apparatus that would be capable to connect with communities across Afghanistan and collect information that would enable him to curb the resistance and win over the support of the population. This was the first attempt in Afghanistan, individual only interacted with the tribe not with the state and no institution has ever had the power of collective enforcement. Gromov created branches for the government to engage with the tribes, the ministry was financed and tasked to liaise with the tribes. In November 1987 when a Mujahidin force of up to 20,000 strong laid siege to Khost, Gromov got the minister for tribes and ethnic affairs Suleiman Huskien to organise a Loya Jirga under the auspices of the president to encourage Zadran tribe to allow the supply convoy to pass through tribal controlled territory. The same concept of  tribal council was later used by the Coalition forces, the Allied forces arranged for a series of Loya Jirga to endorse what would normally be the task of constitutional tribunal and parliament, such as drafting constitution and appointing an interim president. Gromov modernised radio and television broadcasting and created sophisticated media campaigns that was tailored to address audience illiteracy and reach rural masses. These mobile multimedia propaganda units were sent out during Khost siege to villages around the road leading to Khost in order to tip loyalty in his favour.

Gromov had put together an army of thousands of bean counters and field agents to provide him the information for making calculated strike. The establishment of this sophisticated system of data management enabled Gromov to calculate the impact of his action and estimate likely movement and reaction of the enemy. He was able to make some strategic manoeuvres that would seem as unnecessary and risky by an onlooker at first glance, while his intention was to lure in the enemy into calculated situation. For Gromov to have an illustrative idea of what is happening where, he needed detailed maps. In 1985 he started a massive task to map Afghanistan and created a range of topographic, geological and agriculturl maps. It is the most detailed mapping of the country with 500 meter in 1 cm. The map has been an invaluable resource to NATO forces and was used to support USGS projects in Afghanistan.  Contours and English tags were generated in computerised terrain modelling processes which then added cartographic rendering for all branches of NATO forces. 

Big picture management strategy came about with the rise and increasing influence of institutions in our modern life.  Institution utilises the sum of knowledge to provide efficient mechanism and reduce costs. However, sustaining institution is very expensive and gathering the correct information is difficult. In order to obtain the desired information a large workforce is needed. Assembling such force and then enabling them to collect the relevant information is time consuming. Running any analysis on the information would also take weeks if not months, so by the time the data is produced, it will not be applicable to the situation. It makes it very easy to conclude that organisations would become much more efficient in gathering and analysing data only if they had superior computing power. Only if Gromov had satellite surveillance and advanced aerial imaging, only if the massive maps were available in digital format, only if his massive bank of data and ground resources were computerised; then he would have known that the resistance was not interested in negotiating. They had created a network of bunkers with the funding of CIA and expertise of Osama bin Laden and his associates. The enemy was provided by CIA supplied advanced stinger SAM (surface to air missile), multi launcher rocket batteries, self-propelled guns and artillery. The enemy was well dug in and the road approaching Khost that passed through Sotikandaw valley was mined for several miles. Most importantly the Mujahidin believed that they could not be dislodged from fortified mountain positions, and peace talk would only buy them more time. 

Fast forward twenty years and the same man, Jalaluddin Haqqani, who tormented the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan supported by USSR is giving Islamic Republic of Afghanistan supported by USA a very hard time. They are tagged “Haqqani Network” by NATO and has conducted some of the most daring attacks. This time USA is after compiling the most comprehensive military planning based on superfast processers that the soviets lacked. Fusion cell is US principle strategy to integrate and coordinate Afghan counter insurgency activities and capabilities across the US Army and joint services. The strategy has a small core “cell” that includes the Director, and has a large “in-house” staff accounts for building ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) capacity, stability operations and the integration of unconventional warfare and counterterrorism. They are also in charge of revising COIN doctrine; COIN (counter insurgency) is the tactic used by NATO to fight Taliban.   NATO has embedded hundreds of mentors in ANSF to Train Afghans in research, compilation, and analysis methods to map incident and crime trends and patterns. Billions was spent on equipment and resources to enable ANSF to conduct hourly mapping updates. The program is heavy on training ANSF in the use of computer software to prepare intelligence briefings and use the maps in PowerPoint slides as visual references.

There is nothing inherently wrong with PowerPoint or GPS mapping but they do impact the way we conduct ourselves. In a centrally planned institution our critical faculties disengage. Bigger and faster computer are introduced, complicated and burdensome processes are created to ensure the flow of information to the “big picture” and await instructions. All to contribute to an elusion of control. As Sydney Haris put it half a century ago “The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.” The trainer embedded with ANSF is primarily tasked to “transfer knowledge” through daily mentoring, workshops and seminars. If I hazard a guess on other activities of the mentor, I am pretty sure after the end of the day he or she takes a ride in an Armoured Vehicle that is leased to NATO at US$8,000 a month from a company owned by a cousin of some senior Afghan minister. The trainer then arrives in a heavily fortified compound where he has access to a good stash of cold beer and latest episode of Homeland after some threadmail in shorts. The trainer does not speak Farsi or Pashto, integrate with Afghans, understands about Afghan culture and way of life, and does not maintain a healthy curiosity about Afghan condition and aspiration. Then comes the insider attacks, ANSF members turning their guns against their mentors in anger and frustration. The principle NATO strategy, train and equip ANSF to take over the mission, is in disarray. Training programs have been suspended and the isolation gap is spiralling.
There are many dedicated and smart service men and women who have come to realise the need for change at many level. When Petraeus took over NATO command he issued a 24-point under COIN strategy. It reads as a list of pieces of advice, including: live among the people; walk, don’t ride, on patrols; take off your sunglasses when talking with locals. And drink lots of tea. But before drinking tea NATO has to revise the chain of command and the people running the show as part of institutional transformation. 
  
The National Health Service (NHS) provides free healthcare for all UK residents. The service is undergoing a major revamp since budget cuts. Hospitals and branches are shutting down around the country and the institution is putting to experience any idea that seem half decent. One of the key strategies of NHS for the future of healthcare is community based health care. The recent analysis of National Audit Office (NAO) of the NHS's quest to make £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015 said: "There is broad consensus that changing how health services are provided is key to a financially sustainable NHS. Such changes will include integrating care and expanding community-based care." NAO is working with Healthcare leaders and has suggested “service transformation”. Experts believe that we will see a transformation of Healthcare in the UK and developed countries in general toward community based if the service is to cope with the double burden of ageing and long-term conditions. For this brave new dawn lobby groups such as Kings Trust is pushing NHS to reduce investment on Hospitals and state of the art machinery and focus on health awareness as well as preventative and rehabilitative treatment. Central London Community Healthcare Trust is already in Swing and has no fancy building, PowerPoint presentation or cutting edge machinery. Instead it is run by community-based healthcare staff such as district nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. It works in four London boroughs – Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Barnet. Last year they responded to some quarter of a million patients, most of whom were visited in their homes and the Trust only has 3200 staff.
We live in a world where knowledge is localised and not obvious to the outsiders. Sustainable institutions are not only dealing with the problems of the present but addressing the future. Sustainable institutions focus on locally integrated service delivery and investment in the community. The intelligence gathering and central planning efforts boosted by NATO is not useless; it is just incapable of capturing tacit knowledge. NATO just like NHS has the plan and the state of the art hardware but it is weakness is community integration to harness the implicit knowledge. 

The silver lining is that NHS has been fairly successful in adapting and providing reasonable service quality. It is very tempting to conclude that institutionalised planning will allocate the resources necessary to undertake creative projects. The proponents of planning would argue that institutions are the best entities for nurturing creativity and rightly point out that most of the key and sustainable initiatives have come out of institutional investment.

We are now in the twelfth year of NATO military presence in Afghanistan. It is fairly safe to conclude that changes in planning the conduct of war and building the Afghan state had occurred and those changes are generally in the positive direction. However, This does not explain why a US operated CH-47 Chinook was brought down in a meticulously planned operation by Taliban using inaccurate and simple weapons. The Taliban lured US forces into the trap by transmitting false intelligence. The US military is hacking Taliban phones to gather information and location data. A Taliban commander, Qari Tahir, aware of the US hacking capability fed the hackers with false information that a Taliban meeting was taking place in the area. The incident happened in August 2011 in Tangi Valley of Wardak province. Afghan and US forces attacked a compound which turned out to be an ambush. This is a populated village and NATO could not issue advance warning for civilians to evacuate as that would tip of the Taliban. The scope of air strike was limited so NATO called for reinforcement. This is exactly what the Taliban planned to happen. The only way the reinforcement could respond quickly was with helicopter insertion. The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take. It is the only route, so they took position on the either side of the valley on mountains and as the helicopter approached, they attacked it with small arms and RPG. It was brought down by multiple shots. All 38 on board Chinook were killed, 30 of the dead were elite US commandos.
There is no doubt that experience is crucial to purify the information. Therefore, long-term engagement in a well planned institution is bound to meet success. This also suggests the process of data gathering is as important as the final outcome. In order to obtain the information that closely correspond to reality the actor need to revise the data, filter the sources, close loopholes and address inconsistencies. In reality big picture planner will face a number of challenges to prevent them from refining the data. The most important of the challenges is corruption. It hinders the ability of institution to implement the process. NATO has been planning to tackle the wide spread corruption in the entire apparatus of Afghan government. This has been unsuccessful as the planner fundamentally misunderstands the nature of it.

Idiosyncratic jazz pianist Thelonious Monk said “don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by … what you don’t play can be more important than what you do.” Planners always face the dilemma of choose. Their priorities are always the subject of contention but I would like to point to the importance of information deemed trivial. The action priority hierarchy created by information classification should be implementable, this require highlighting the key while omitting the trivial. But trivial could turn into trend and go unnoticed. After the fall of Taliban government in 2001 it was generally believed that Taliban were gone for good. On May 1, 2003, Hamid Karzai told BBC's David Frost during an interview on June 8, 2003: “I don't see a resurgence of the Taliban." He continued by saying: "As far as the defeat of the Taliban is concerned, they are defeated, they are gone-as a movement, as a government, as a structure, a political structure, a religious structure-they are not there." Donald Rumsfield and George W. Bush had voiced the same opinion on a number of occasions, they were so confident that the administration felt comfortable to pick another war.

Right about this time thousands of Taliban fighters were regrouping without being noticed by recon planes or security forces. Hundreds of Taliban fighters infiltrate to Dai Chopan district of Zabul province. Setting up camps launching attacks on government buildings and military installation killing aid workers, government employees, US and Afghan forces.  Offering rewards for Dai Chopan residents who fight against the US and issuing death warrants for US soldiers, aid workers, Afghan police, and all journalists. They had realised that it is not only the overhead technology that assists the allies but people like aid workers and journalists who gather ground information that could be used by the coalition. on June 8, 2004 the 22nd Expeditionary Unit of US marines were ambushed by hundreds of Taliban fighters. Calling in AV-8 Harriers, A-10 Thunderbolts and Apache helicopters to suppress the insurgents. This wasn’t a tactical challenge that a large force of Taliban could regroup without advance detection it was a fundamental failure of the planned system. In late 2003 a group of local elders from Zabul province met with President Karzai and warned him about Taliban activities in Shajoy and Dai Chopan districts, but he paid no heed as far as the president was concerned the major trend was that Taliban were gone for good.
The best theoretical frame to use for understanding the resurgence of Taliban is the Circular cumulative causation theory of non-equilibrium systems developed by Swedish Nobel prize winning economist Gunnar Myrandal.  He studied underdeveloped societies and noted that events are multi-causal and a change in one part of the society will lead to successive changes in other institutions. These changes are circular, cyclical, perpetual and cumulative in that they persist in each round. Changes are coming about in small portion, change doesn’t occur all at once because that would lead to chaos. Taliban were never going to have a massive come back but by nature of grassroots change it would be slow and as explained by Myrandal in stages. This resurgence would have impact on the building of Afghan State. These impacts and the slow crawl of Taliban were not detected by the planners. 

Knowledge is spread locally, this seem very intuitive but you have to imagine that organisations are not set up to reach wide locally, especially when they run a foreign country where the gap of living standards create two races of local and foreigners, segregated and often hostile toward one another. The allied forces aware of their predicament earmarked billions of dollars to contract US firms to deliver projects that would interact with Afghans at district and community level, SIKA, AMDEP, ASI, ASOP, Harakat and ASMED are projects that are designed to implement small scale projects that addresses issues particular to a community. The underpinning principle is that lack of improvement in community livelihood is fuelling disillusionment, resulting in sympathy toward Taliban and communities would support the government if they see the government is capable of delivering public services to them.
I am a self-proclaimed expert in this area and was contracted together with my wife over two dozens of these small projects to be implemented across Afghanistan at a total value of US$ 1Mil. These projects only delivered limited success and the fundamental problem is that they serve the big picture strategy. The US government branch funding the program plans all the stages of the project. The community is not in charge of success or failure and does not deal with the consequences of failure while not taking the ownership of success. The system only succeeds in bringing issues that the local manager wants to bring to the attention of funder. They can conceal anything that they don’t want them to know. The selection is not limited to good news vs bad news by local manager but far worst. The manager receives financial support as an incentive for collaborating with the project. He would like to see the revenue to continue and only provides distorted information that he believes would prolong the flow of cash, rendering central planner incapable of building an accurate picture of what is happening on the ground. The system suffers the phenomena economist pretentiously call Market Failure. The exact type of Market Failure is a misplacement of incentive. Incentive in economics is very important and the market economy system is the best way of regulating incentives (with a few exceptions). The local manager has no incentive of providing the desired information until the market principle of competition, customer service and financial accountability is introduced.

I have executed over half a dozen project to make local entities financially sustainable. It often starts with collecting financial information, without any exception such information is contradictory and paradoxical and I seek to verify them. I then create a verification tool which is time consuming to implement and develop. The verification assessment often comes back negative which means the community manager deliberately provides us with the wrong information. However, the funder will insist that a workable solution should be found without demanding antagonising the local manager. The project will receive millions more to deal with the problem seeking alternative and creative problem solving while avoiding to address incentives. The money will be earmarked under the disguise of capacity building.  

The nature of knowledge is to be localised and fleeting. The local agent will use the information he possesses for his own benefit. The computerised math “modelling” that explains local forces and illuminates causation is not what is truly significant (given that it was achievable). It is entrepreneurial learning in the context of changing local conditions. The theory of entrepreneurial learning offered by Fredrick Hayed and Ludwig Mises illuminates the significance of non-permanent knowledge and localised learning by entrepreneurs that form the bedrock of western capitalism.

Success depends on having sensible people on the ground that can make sound judgements on the spot and a little bit of luck helps too.  Central planning has been a failure for managing complex system, especially when we have little data about the system. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Afghan armed forces trustable?

the security in some cities were handed over to afghan security forces and it is to be completed until 2014. i was just wondering how capable they are of fulfilling their duty and whether we could trust them.

  1. April 27 - an Afghan pilot had an argument with his american mentors, left the meeting and then returned and forced 9 Americans to remove their weapons before shooting them with a U.S. provided M9 semi-automatic weapon. he then shot himself.
  2. 25 April - Taliban jailbreak from the Sarposa prison of kandahar, something out of a bad gangster movie. some 500 Taliban got away including prominent commanders and they police and afghan official said to be involved in facilitating it
  3. April 18 - An insurgent kills two Afghan soldiers and an officer at the Afghan Defense Ministry.
  4. April 16 - Six American troops, four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter are killed when an Afghan soldier detonates an explosive vest at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in Laghman.
  5. April 15 - A suicide bomber impersonating a policeman blows himself up inside the Kandahar police headquarters complex, killing the top law enforcement official in the southern province.
  6. April 4 - Two American military personnel are shot and killed by a man wearing an Afghan border police uniform.
  7. February - An Afghan solider shoots nine German soldiers, killing three and injuring six.
  8. January - One Italian soldier is killed and another is wounded after an Afghan soldier opens fire on them.

the afghan national security forces (ANSF) has been growing in numbers but continues to be greatly lacking in quality. Still plagued by widespread corruption, it continues to be deeply resented by the population for its abusiveness. It is still trained mainly as a light paramilitary force to hold off insurgents until the ISAF can arrive on the scene and has little ability to deal with ordinary crime, the daily scourge for Afghans. The lack of order on the street creates important inroads for the Taliban.

The stampede to create militia forces in Afghanistan further complicates the reliability of Afghan security forces. The local police set up by ISAF may have robust vetting and safeguard mechanisms, but the myriad of other militias created by ethnic politicians and local strongmen often don’t have any vetting at all. Their growth reveals the level of ethnic tensions and uncertainty in Afghanistan. Nor does the Ministry of Interior have any clear ability to control any such forces that go rogue.

Karzai, distrustful of and confused by Washington, operates an increasingly narrow patronage network and easily overrides the local officials whom he perceives as threatening, regardless of their performance. Many Afghans, not the least of whom are the Northerners and minorities, are deeply worried about negotiations with the Taliban. Even with quarter of a million Afghan security forces and 160 billion dollars spent in the last ten years, the current political situation in Afghanistan is unstable.

Monday, April 04, 2011

politicians, liars or idiots?

further to my previous post and exactly my concern about telling Afghans that murder in the name of God is unjustifiable because you felt offended. today i noticed in the news that everybody rushes to blame Pastor Jones, he might be insane and extreme but he is not responsible for the murders. the murderers are responsible for the murders, I wonder if US senators, UN Afghan chief, US chief commander in Afghanistan truly believes in what they are saying in which case they are idiots or they clearly see that Taliban are benefiting from this in which case they are lying hypocrites.

The UN Chief's envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan De Mistura, strongly criticised the Florida pastor for burning a copy of the Koran. Staffan De Mistura blamed the violence on the Florida pastor, describing the burning of the holy Koran as "insane and totally desprecable gesture by one person".

I don't think we should be blaming any Afghans, we should blame the one who burnt the Koran, he said addressing a news conference in Kabul on Saturday. Freedom of speech does not mean to offend culture, religion and traditions, he added.

then I tuned to US politicians and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and other lawmakers on Sunday joined Gen. David Petraeus in condemning the Quran burning staged by a Florida pastor and the resulting violence in Afghanistan.

one clear beneficiary has emerged from the wave of deadly riots that swept Afghanistan after members of a Florida evangelical church burned a copy of the Quran: the Taliban.

it is not rocket science to realise that the concern of western politicians and Aid workers in kabul is not the truth but the politics of the riots. i followed the news again and noticed that according to Afghan and Western officials, taliban have exploited the ongoing tumult, using the riots as cover for attacks against Western and government targets and reaping propaganda benefits by allying themselves with popular fury over the desecration of the Muslim holy book.
Lindsey Graham, (R., S.C.), US senator said on “Face the Nation” that “free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During World War II, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy"
Lindsey's comment sums it up for me. western diplomats perceive each Afghan as Fascist fanatic who they can not reason with but rather to trick. I have to admit that this would bother me less than the naivety some aid workers show in kabul by truly believing that the murders were not members of the riot. it just show how misguided they are which is fine but it bothers me because they introduce themselves as experts.

from: anonymous

Saturday, April 02, 2011

it's "racist" to expect Muslims to abide by the concept of personal responsibility.

Why do Afghans believe that it is their moral obligation to commit murder, even to annihilate innocent people in God's name? What aspects of their scriptures and traditions tend to support such violence? What ethical principles--religious and non-religious--can we affirm in response to those ideas and the atrocities that they engender?

in Afghanistan violence happens on daily basis and at least a dozen people die in political unrest, tribal conflict, petty crimes and domestic violence everyday. however religious violence can take on a particularly intense and ruthless character, if the objects of that violence are seen as blaspheming or insulting God, as the enemies of God or God's way narrowly conceived. The problem of indiscriminate religious violence is particularly difficult to eliminate from within because it's deeply rooted in the scriptures and traditions. The same religious traditions that affirm God to be compassionate, merciful, and just, also include more disturbing claims that promote religious hatred and intolerance, and sadly have provided a rationale for aggression. We need to face these things head-on. Questioning the moral justification of mazar sharif killings leads, moreover, to troubling questions about traditions, culture, morality and ethics of Afghans.

i am very saddened by the murders that took place in mazar yet not surprised at the action of my fellow Afghans. however, the question above is not for my fellow Afghans as expecting them to question deep rooted traditions and culture would be similar to ask moon to find another orbiting space instead of earth. i am absolutely appalled by the actions of Mazar murders but i am also disgusted at the reaction of the world. people who value freedom and understand that no religious principle or any other rational can justify murder need to speak against this despicable action. instead westeners and their institutions tend to blame Paster Jones. all day today i am hearing from westeners that Afghans went nuts because afghans are deeply traditionally and conservative. i take an insult to that, it means that we, as afghans, are not treated like human beings by not being held accountable to our actions. free people of the world, stop appeasing the fanatics and stand for what you beleive in.


from: anonymous

murder in mazar sharif

as a human being I'm deeply ashamed, as an Afghan I am not surprised. Generations of people being fed utter non sense and fused within their "moral" fiber to lash out with extreme violence and disregard the consequences against any who dare to speak ill would naturally lead to to this unfortunate conclusion. The psychopathic inversion of truth for falsehood where these actions are not only the expected norm but are also praise worthy from the people around them resembles a parasitic cancer. In a lot of ways these people wish the world to accept them and at the same time to gain said acceptance they will pursue these actions, because when what you preach is vile in nature acceptance will not and cannot come through hearts and minds, but might come through fear, brutality, and violence. This is the hand they must play because the only other option is to opt out and choose the enlightenment. This sort of behavior is a fractal example of the larger mentality. Deeply held beliefs even by the 'moderates' would not condemn this. It is my opinion based on sitting and conversing with many from a wide spectrum of Islamic believers that the moderates feel although these actions are not great they are also not the worse thing that could happen. The worse that could happen is that no one cares deeply enough anymore to react in any way. Sort of like a person who sadistically loves another who is wired poorly enough to fly into deadly rage because of jealousy. It is ironic and amazing that these groups would sit on a high horse, criticize without mercy let alone insightful well reasoned reflection on all the flaws that other systems represent but would immediately resort to violence when the shoe is on the other foot. They have three positions (a double pull double throw switch), criticize others and preach to join a clearly flawed cause, fly into rage, or sit silently and accept both the previous options. On behalf of the rational, the reasonable, the descent, the nobel, the kind, and the respectful community of Afghan and global free thinkers, I offer my condolences to the families of the slain as well as to humanity for what has happened.
from anonymous

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Legal Plundering

The late economist, historian and libertarian philosopher, Murray Rothbard, was right on the mark when he wrote:

"The great German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer pointed out that there are two mutually exclusive ways of acquiring wealth; one...production and exchange, he called the 'economic means.' The other way is simpler in that it does not require productivity; it is the way of seizure of another's goods or services by the use of force and violence. This is the method of one-sided confiscation, of theft of the property of others.

"This is the method which Oppenheimer termed 'the political means' to wealth. It should be clear that the peaceful use of reason and energy in production is the 'natural' path for man: the means for his survival and prosperity on this earth. It should be equally clear that the coercive, exploitative means is contrary to natural law; it is parasitic, for instead of adding to production, it subtracts from it.

"The 'political means' siphons production off to a parasitic and destructive individual or group; and this siphoning not only subtracts from the number producing, but also lowers the producer's incentive to produce beyond his own subsistence. In the long run, the robber destroys his own subsistence by dwindling or eliminating the source of his own supply."

The sooner the people "overthrow" the political means and reestablish the economic means of acquiring wealth, the sooner we will be rid of political corruption, high taxes, runaway government spending and onerous regulations. Until that day arrives, expect more bribes, shakedowns, and "waste, fraud and abuse."

the international community is struggling to find a way to stifle corruption in Afghanistan but too high stakes to take an objective look into the issue and the answer is very clear. less money for government and humanitarian organisations who are not answerable to redistribute through corrupt entities they have established. solution number one for the situation is; limiting government to a few well defined functions would liberate Afghans from self-serving, incompetent, and dishonest public officials. solution number two is making developmental organisations answerable. none of the Aid organisations such as IRD, UN agencies, ARD, Chomonics, and dozens others which receives more than 200 million dollar each every year to spend on developing afghanistan could be held accountable. the most transparent of all is UNDP which has over half a century experience in development and governance in over 160 countries. in theory they have a transparency and audit office http://www.undp.org/about/transparencydocs/OAI_Investigation_Guidelines_ENG. i know of a series of corruption cases in the UNDP and it was brought to their attention yet they have done little to look into it. all these developmental organisations are dealing with sums of money that they never want to give up and any serious look into their conduct might compromise the flow of money.

We need to end "legal plunder," as Frederic Bastiat called for more than 150 years ago. He wrote: See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

the institutions of the state and the structures of large international development organisations are plundering tool for a few Afghans to benefit at the expense of others in the society.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Afghan Radio Wars

At dusk last Friday, four Taliban mortars crashed to the ground near the district center in Miri, a small town in eastern Ghazni province where a U.S. Army company is based. Shrapnel from one of the blasts injured two children in a residential area, a 12-year-old girl and one-year-old boy, who later died of his injuries. It was the second time in as many months that militants had killed local civilians, and U.S. forces were not going to let it be forgotten.

Within two hours of the attack, a message was drafted by the battalion's "information operations" team to be broadcast by its new on-base radio station. In the cramped confines of a steel shipping container-turned-studio, Karimullah, the Afghan announcer, broke the news that both children were taken to an area hospital by American soldiers "for the best possible care, but the little boy was too badly hurt. The insurgents," he lamented, "continue to harm their fellow Afghans and kill your children needlessly."

Words are now weapons in the fight for Afghan hearts and minds — but they must be deployed faster than ever to be effective. In recent years, the Taliban-led insurgency has evolved a vast propaganda machine with a full range of tools to spread their message. The once anti-media movement now operates websites featuring updated battlefield reports; it also mass-produces DVDs with raw video of attacks against coalition forces. Meanwhile, the Taliban's regional spokesmen communicate with domestic and foreign press in real time via cell phone.

But no medium is as powerful as radio in this poor, largely illiterate country with limited access to TV and the internet. On both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, Taliban-sponsored FM stations drive home the insurgents' messaging campaign, with the threat of physical punishment or worse reserved for those who don't tune in. Mobile clandestine radio stations and portable transmitters enable militants to tap and commandeer local airwaves almost at will.

Recognizing the Taliban's head-start on this critical front, NATO military officials have ramped up the spin cycle in the Afghan backcountry. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, recently issued operational guidelines stressing that the "information war" must be fought aggressively to ensure insurgent propaganda is not just promptly challenged but also beaten to the punch. "Turn our enemies' extremist ideologies, oppressive practices and indiscriminate violence against them. Hang their barbaric actions like millstones around their necks," the guidelines say. "Be first with the truth."

U.S. forces in Ghazni have tapped into alternative funding streams to support the wider radio effort. Ever-popular hand-cranked radios are being distributed in larger numbers at the village-level to expand the audience.

The push has struck a chord. In some districts the Taliban has responded by collecting hundreds of radios and destroying them. Elsewhere, they've targeted radio towers. The Americans, in turn, have started jamming Taliban radio frequencies and going door-to-door with "reverse night information papers," their own version of the Taliban's notorious "night letters", turning an intimidation tactic on its head. The battalion commander, Lieut. Col. David Fivecoat, calls it a necessary measure to stay a step ahead of the militants, and the Afghan news cycle. "We are working hard to make sure the insurgents don't have the opportunity to blame us," he says. Indeed, as the fighting season winds down, the information war is still in overdrive.

Yet given the insurgency's long-standing chokehold over areas like Ghazni, old fears are proving difficult to shake. A day after the errant Taliban mortars claimed two innocent casualties, soldiers stationed in Miri went to assess the damage in a nearby neighborhood. According to Lieut. Philip Divinski, most people had already heard the Taliban was responsible from word-of-mouth or the radio. They could also assume as much, based on the previous militant mortar attack in October that killed two people and injured at least 10 more in the bazaar. Despite the deadly reprise, he was struck at how indifference exceeded anger among the victims' families and friends. "Sadly, it seems people have gotten used to this kind of thing," says the officer. "They understand who's at fault, but they're just too afraid to turn against them."

Friday, June 18, 2010

good luck dying

I grew up at a time when most people had to confine themselves to closed spaces or there was serious risk of getting shot. This give people a good chance to make an income from by doing labour extensive handcrafts. People would spend ten hours a day working on a piece of embroidery or weaving carpet. The amount of money they were making was closer to nothing. Most women would severely lose eye sight in their mid thirties and the job general deteriorate worker health condition. this is the story of my uncle http://sanjar.blogspot.com/2006/05/i-am-terrorist.html. I had turned out to be against handcraft labour as a mean of income.

I was particularly pissed off by the international community and all other fancy people who would stand around and say how pretty certain carpet or embroidery was. If you google for Afghan handcraft, carpet, embroidery or etc you will see millions of dollars had been spent to revive or build such a niche where vulnerable people such as children and women labour so some fancy guy could show off. I always thought the way out is not through creating menial labour extensive camps but economic prosperity. My argument had a logic that is common sense - unless sweatshop workers are literally slaves, they are presumably working long hours in horrible conditions for low pay only because the alternative ways of making a living are worse or none existent.

When you take away iconic handcraft labour from a woman or child the obvious risk is that they lose whatever financial power they have, they will be out on the street begging or resorting to worst activities often with criminal inclination. This is surely not the aim. The only alternative is economic growth: while it may be frustratingly slow, it finishes off Afghan handcraft by producing far more attractive jobs. There is also a psychological element to the persistence of “afghan handcraft”. Many labours, traders and international buyers and sponsors see this work as the only way some afghan can make a living. In the head of the labourer it has resonated that he or she is not good for anything else but this repetitive task. This kills imagination and a will to life. The traders and international sponsors reinforces the belief by supporting the interprise.
While the economic logic is straightforward enough, it is not watertight. But I am starting to believe that economic development is not alleviating this particular problem. Economic growth itself can increase the demand for child labour as well as reducing the supply. While luxury customers are willing to pay a dime more for well established carpet brand, increasing the chances of handcraft labouror income. So I was intrigued to discover two new pieces of research addressing these questions. One is an article in March’s American Economic Review, written by Ann Harrison of the University of California, Berkeley, and Jason Scorse of the Monterey Institute. Harrison and Scorse study data from Indonesia. Harrison and Scorse look at the footwear, textile and clothing sectors with brand names for handmade products. After US boycott of such products profits did fall, and so does investment. Some small plants closed. But few, if any, jobs seem to have been lost. The minimum wage in Indonesia more than doubled between 1989 and 1996, after inflation, and this did depress employment. But there seemed to be no additional effect in the districts with lots of high street handcraft suppliers, despite the fact that wages in those regions outpaced wage increases elsewhere by almost a third.

The second paper was presented in draft form at the Royal Economic Society meeting in Guildford in 2010. This research, by Nigar Hashimzade and Uma Kambhampati of the University of Reading, shows that economic growth – at least in the short-term – is not enough to reduce child labour. Complementary policies to strengthen schools and the incentive to attend them seem to be necessary.

Neither piece of research is the last word, and neither discounts the long-term effectiveness of economic growth in improving working conditions. But I am thinking about women and children who work 15 hours to waving carpet and inhale the dust from the wool. There is no quick solution for them and it seems like they have to keep doing it for another few decades.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Explosion on darullaman road at 8:10

I just heard a big explosion near our house; it is around 8:10am. The explosion happened on darullaman road toward the ministry of rural development. The smoke is mushrooming in the sky and i can hear sirens. Trucks are rushing toward the scene. This part of town was quiet recently and not many explosion had happened in the last few years.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Fired for suggesting lunch improvments

I used to work as a media and communication consultant for IRD, SPR project, a major USAID contractor building 400 million dollars worth of roads in southern and eastern Afghanistan. My contract was terminated on the 23rd June by the Chief of Party, Frederick Chace, for allegedly ‘accusing IRD of separation of classes’. here you can see the termination letter http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=F.e11fd414-7ef6-4b8c-807d-12e47233de91. The termination letter is a false accusation and I was wrongly terminated. I did not protest against the treatment of Afghans or the privileges of expatriate staff. The day before my termination (June22) I complained about the poor quality of office lunch but what I then thought important was some suggestions about improving lunch environment and space. My suggestion was in response to an email which offered special food only for expatriates. This is the email.
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From: Leonard Fexton Chitekwe

Sent: 22 June 2009 07:45

To: International; National Staff

Subject: July 4th


All,
July 4th is America’s Independence Day holiday. This is a public holiday for ALL staff. SPR offices in Kabul and Kandahar will be closed for business on this day.
A special meal for expats is being arranged and if you have ideas contact Johan Venter. Details will follow later.
Leonard


Leonard Chitekwe-Mwale
Senior Director of Finance and Administration
SPR_SEA Program
International Relief and Development, Inc (IRD)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Ph: +93 (0) 796 110 003
E-mail:
lchitekwe@ird-spr.org
----------------------------
I found this email quite disturbing. We are celebrating American national holiday in Afghanistan, but Afghans are not welcomed to fully celebrate the occasion. Special meal is only offered for expatriates. This resembles very much the colonial ages; rules and regulations are placed to compel locals to observe the dominant nation’s culture but they are not fully welcomed.
I am a fan of American culture and I think many IRD Afghan employees would enjoy American cultural occasions. Both Afghan and expatriates celebrating Afghan and American cultural occasions together could bridge the current distrust. Afghans generally are hospitable and welcoming to share happy occasion; although, I can not ask Leonard or IRD in general to invite me and Afghans to 4th of July special meal; but I think the email was ungenerous at best and rude, especially when it was addressed to both Afghans and expatriates.

I thought an invitation to a single occasion, particularly when it could be more special to expatriates than Afghans, could not make a difference in perceptions. I wanted to make a suggestion with longer term effect on attitudes. I suggested that Afghans and expatriates eating lunch together would be effective in improving relationships.
in response to leonard I sent this:
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From: Sanjar Qiam

Sent: 22 June 2009 09:07

To: Leonard Fexton Chitekwe; Johan Venter

Subject: lunch
Dear both,
It is great that you are celebrating 4th of July; it is a great cultural exchange for Afghans and third country nationals.
I had a suggestion on a separate issue – lunch. I have been in IRD but I have rarely been to lunch; the quality of food, service and environment is poor and in some ways degrading. The food is served in basement packed with hundreds of IRD staff, white plastic chairs and tables and flies. The food is poorly cooked; most often super greasy. It is only one course and one item.
Segregation of Afghans is unpleasant. Working for Afghans and segregation – a system based on phobia - doesn’t go hand in hand; this raises questions about motives of IRD management.
My suggestion is to mix Afghans and foreigners lunch. Obviously, that would mean foreigners would lose some privileges but that is for a good cause – improvement of afghans lunch. It won’t be possible to have lunch in one location so staff has to be divided between several buildings and food should be cooked in each building with different menu so people can have a choice.
Looking forward to changes,
Best,
Sanjar

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Frederick Chace IRD-SPR chief of party asked me to see him in his office at once. Nadir Abdullah, HR manager, and an IT officer were present too. Frederick Chace was very aggressive and rude; every other sentence contained the ‘F***’ word.
- ‘There is no difference between Afghans and expatriates in IRD. It is only in the narrow minds of people like you who make bigotry statements.’ Said Frederick.
- ‘what do you mean there is no difference? When I came to the gate of your building they wanted me to show my ID and they searched me thoroughly; when an expatiate is coming s/he is being escorted by a bodyguard and the door opens prior to his or her arrival. There is even special expatriate desk and there is afghan desk and it goes to many other little things. The system is through to segregate. This whole system of privileges places expatriate psychologically above equally qualified Afghan counterpart’ I said.
- ‘I was shot in my head by Taliban … but I came back… Expatriates leave everything they have and come to work in Afghanistan. They have a better life at home and they come to a very poor situation, this is not a privilege’ said chace. Frederick’s wife is the reporting manager while my departments’ manager appointed his wife as my direct supervisor. So they are not exactly leaving everything at home. Expatriates like Frederick are running IRD like their home.
- ‘Expatriates are paid several times more than equally qualified Afghans. In the last four months since I work in IRD I had no time off; my expatriate colleagues were paid at least two to three times for their holidays’ I said. here is IRD benefit package for expatriates http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=F.ab2b4c9a-5d29-4928-93ef-04886da60d2b . There are some 26 benefit packages; expatriates only receive 70% of their base salary in post differential and danger pay. The only thing I received as an Afghan was a salary and no paid leave let alone paying for holidays.
- ‘Expatriates have high expenses and they used to be paid better at home. Afghans are making 1000 – 1500 dollars a month. Nobody used to make this kind of money in this country… They don’t need that kind of money…’ said chace.
- ‘This is sick – Afghans don’t need money – this is the same thing told about the slaves – why do they need wages when they can have food and shelter. Everybody needs money but a sound social system allocates this scarce resource not based on our nationality and creed but by our excellence and hard work. Everybody should be paid based on their contribution and merits, not their nationality.’ I said.
- ‘expatriates are putting their lives at risk … and they are going to what is now home for some quite time and food… something narrow mind people don’t understand’
- ‘IRD only value the lives of expatriates, not Afghans. Foreigners are given half a dozen body guards and two armoured vehicles when travelling inside Kabul city and even more security when going to provinces. Afghans are constantly at risk. An Afghan colleague was made to resign because he had a family emergency and couldn’t travel to a province where he was provided no security. He was very concern about his safety and informed so his expatriate manager who asked him to resign if he is not prepared to go. When Afghans travel they take public transport. Yet, statistics shows Afghans are the victims than expatriates.’ I said. There have been at least three cases since I had worked in IRD where IRD staff or contractors were killed and they were all Afghans. In a couple of instances IRD-SPR concealed it from its funder USAID.
- ‘what statistics! I was shot in the head by Taliban… The person who you are talking about is an isolated case which I do not now about… IRD-SPR puts its staff, especially Afghans, safety at most importance.’ Said Frederick.

This conversation went on for an hour and then he told me he categorically can not accept such remarks and he has fired four employees before me for making such comments and he has to do the same with me. ‘I have to treat everybody the same’ he said. When I left his office with the IT and HR persons, both Afghans, were strangely quiet. Nadir walked around with his head hanging and said ‘I am sorry’. I said ‘don’t be. I don’t need this job; it is excruciating’. He said ‘not for that but for what he said and his attitude.’ But what can he do except being sorry along with thousands of other Afghans. They need their jobs and have to put up with people like Frederick.


I wonder if zero tolerance policy to suggestions about office lunch that challenges well trenched segregation policies could be considered discrimination.