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

Friday, October 05, 2018

War taught me several lessons on tolerance


I find “Christ and the Soldier” by Siegfried Sassoon a gripping tale of war and carnage. The poem was written after the Battle of the Somme and is a conversation between a soldier and Christ which ends:

"Lord Jesus, ain't you got no more to say?"

Bowed hung that head below the crown of thorns. The soldier shifted, and picked up his pack, and slung his gun, and stumbled on his way.

"O God," he groaned, “why ever was I born?”


I was born in Afghanistan in 1981 and lived my early childhood in Kabul under Soviet occupation; I survived the brutal guerrilla war against the Soviets, I lost friends and family to Mujaheedin War of Kabul, I kept my spirit through the Taliban reign of tyranny and I braved journeys to escape to Europe. I know what it is like to be on the other side of the European border, the large governments united to keep the little man at bay. I believe there are lessons to be learned from wars to strengthen tolerance and foster shared values.

I am now a British Citizen and live in Brighton. I watch in astonishment racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments taking root in most of Europe. In some countries they are translated in to legislation and far right parties are part of governing coalitions. Even if they aren’t in power, the far right influences political and social policies in the EU; recent examples are Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. For years the EU manipulated social policies under the guise of “European Values” to remodel nationalism. In this climate, identitarian and ethnic agendas were strengthened to bolster “self-pride”. We live in a society of intolerance and darkness and fail to understand the complexities of past wars and contemporary challenges, doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and blunder our way in to modern conflicts.

I have learned a few things about conflict and intolerance from personal encounters and its history in Europe, which I will attempt to summarise here. First is the fallibility and weakness of humans: people despair when faced with tough choices and under threat, and when we despair we commit depraved acts. In order to engage with people, we ought to see behind their shortcomings so we understand their point of view. The second is the false belief in the superiority of European culture or nations: other people are not malign or evil and what we recognise as a nation or group is often an artificial construct. Third is the power of lies.  Anyone with some political awareness must have seen how misinformation has shaped our societies recently. Finally, and most importantly, is the fragility of our peaceful existence. My world has crumbled on several occasions and no one saw it coming. We lost our home and lives the third time in a flash, and as unexpectedly as the first time; we were astounded by the power and speed of the storm that swept comforts from under our feet and blew our dreams away. We are all responsible for sustaining peace and tolerance by creating positive stories about our collective identity and confronting false myths. I will be exploring each of the points in subsequent 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.