Showing posts with label taliban. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taliban. Show all posts

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Lesson From Afghanistan

Western military presence in Afghanistan was dominated by an ideological paradigm with the mission to establish democracy and spread freedom. The insurgency was labelled as terrorism and to be militarily defeated, until the very end of the military mission little effort was made to understand the nature and context of the war in Afghanistan. The development industry, media, the Afghan state and western political and military institutions broadly subscribed to some version of such mission, not necessarily following the same narrative but the same general framework. The failure of the west in stabilising Afghanistan is not an Afghan specific issue but points to a general shortcoming of Western conduct in international relations.

The shortcoming of the Western governments that has contributed to global instability and violence is the fragility of its international discourse, while Western institutions are robust for national governance the foreign policy is not conducted in accordance with the same scrutiny, accountability, oversight and rule based approach. Instead the media and elites have created a myth about the role of the Western democracy in the world that they have now fallen for it themselves. Western diplomacy is spearheaded strongly by a subjective moral approach at the cost of consistency in international law, which has contributed to problems from tension with Russia, spread of violent religious extremism and instability in the Middle East, Africa, south and east Europe. 

Many Westerners, particularly the elites, are convinced that Western democracy is moral and superior and should actively be spread around the world; all who oppose it are evil. A narrative reinforced by retrospective view after collapse of Soviet Block as well as massive economic developments of the last few decades. Western diplomacy is conducted from the position that the future belonged to them as a result those who resist are not (and were not) just rivals, but reactionary forces resisting progress and freedom, even evil. Working from this position of righteousness Western governments shape international relationship in whatever way they deem fit because by virtue of their nature it is only going to be moral and just. As a result we have seen a spate of military interventions in the last few decades that in most cases overruled national sovereignty and/or international law.  

There is a good reason for the international democracy mission that could be explained by understanding the current state of modern Western nations. Nation states are cultural and political entities that have successfully unified the population for progress, unconstrained by their class, race or religion. When governments are unable to exploit all human resources it will result in social fragmentation and reduced social solidarity the symptoms of which are the strengthening of regional identity and anti-political far right or far left movements. This is obvious in the debate around immigration where natives and the government respond to them are anxious about the allegiance of new comers. The crisis of the Nation State in the post-industrial information age is the diversification of culture, the total liberation of individual from traditional bonds, globalisation and market powers resulting in the erosion of the role of the nation state and its legitimacy. The leaders of nation states have been reduced to mere Managers of public life jiggling regulations and clauses that are laid out in the big rulebook, which is scientifically proven to work.

The only area of real decision-making is the international arena where western leaders are effectively members of a club. The short term and direct outcome of aggressive international military intervention is to demonstrate leadership toughness to the voters which incidental is very important. Secondly and more importantly it gives the nation a sense of purpose and solidarity by emphasising a cultural framework that is distinct and superior.

Lets take France for an example where polls show it’s becoming ever more socially fragmented, pessimistic, xenophobic and economically under pressure and experiencing a rise in far-right politics where Marine Le Pen has emerged as a key figure for the 2017 presidential election race. In 2013 France launched Operation Serval in Northern Mali to uproot Islamists threatening the region. President Hollande’s approval ratings doubled, which had plummeted for several reasons since he was elected to office in May 2012. A poll in January 2013 showed that 75 percent of people questioned in France supported the intervention in Mali, there is not a single other issue that can command that kind of public support hence legitimacy.

Western leadership is nurturing a religiously belief in the gods of liberty and democracy, worshipped in flag rituals, national days and a godly mission to save the less fortunate by bombing them to civilisation. The soldiers of the nation are for the sacred duty, but unlike the religious duty of dying for God they are to kill for the nation, what Benedict Anderson called the “imagined community”, inadvertently nevertheless very well depicted in the Hollywood movie American Sniper. The problem with such an ideological approach to international problem in the modern day is that it exacerbates the situation for which it purports to be the cure.  A qualified argument can be made that western military action in Afghanistan intensified extremism, the same is true for Iraq, Libya and Syria.

The ideology of international democracy mission produces a perverse solidary that gives the nation its purpose at the cost of capacity to reason and apply rational solutions to international relations. The NATO military mission had little respect for Afghan life or decision-making, most key decisions were made by Westerners; some of this can be attributed to lack of sound Afghan leadership. The argument still holds by studying the dysfunctional relation of NATO members who were preoccupied by pity squabbles and showed little appetite for collaboration and coordination.

In the course of Afghan war we came to witness Westerners committing torture, illegal detentions, killing civilians and in some cases targeting civilians, large scale corruption, propping up warlords and drug lords and general abuse of power. This does not reconcile with the high moral stance the West take and only comes to show not only that the assessment and solution applied to Afghanistan was ill-suited but also the moral principles that the west pride to is conditional and only applies to some people. This is while the conflict was of low intensity in comparison to other wars fought in the last three decades that means the destruction and distress caused by the war should have been manageable especially given the tremendous military and economic capacity of the west. Afghanistan and any other country have its own context and challenges that are unique to it.  The structural injustice of agrarian state and the impediments to intellectual and political liberty created by poverty will not allow the creation of an environment in Afghanistan that is free and democratic but as experience showed it can neither be created by the military and economic power of the west unless structural issues are addressed. This includes promoting international law, funding for education, promoting regional collaboration and facilitation of free trade.   

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."

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.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

education means earning more money

Education and more education mean more earning power. In Afghanistan, those extra earnings are often just pocket change but a new drift is emerging which translates to more than pocket change.
Abraham started a new career. He sells phone top up cards in his new shop. He has some other products but finds it hard to compete with his neighbour shops. The only thing he can sell is phone top up card; even that doesn’t pay off well but the shop is better than his old job in Iran which had no pay. Abraham is back in the neighbourhood where he is known as Powderi. Don’t get it wrong; he is not an addict contrary to the impression one would get from his nickname. Nevertheless the word ‘powder’ is used around the shop rows to refer to Heroin, something sold next to him. in the shop which only opens for a few certain hours after customer agreed to meet at a certain time. Abraham is a fostered child; he was brought up on formula which is a form of powder. Abraham has six or seven of each Roshan, Itesalat, NTM and AWCC top up cards at various denominations keeping it in his pocket as he sunwarms outside his shop. ‘200 units of MTN’ said a boy while holding a 500 note in his hand. Abraham started to fumble through the collection to find the 200. ‘what are you doing? Do you have MTN ’ said the boy. Abraham give the boy a 500 unit but the boy told him it was more than what he needs. Then the boy pointed to the 200 unit and asked Abraham to give it to him. ‘hang on! It is not 200 units. Are you sure it is 200?’. Abraham can’t read, he relies on customer to choose one but also makes a quarrel to ensure the customer is not taking more. it took him about 10 minutes to choose the right denomination and count the correct amount of change.
The next day when I came to hang out with Abraham he was sad and had bad news he had lost 400 Afgs; after which had had given up on selling top up cards. A customer got a 500 worth credit for 100Afgs. Abraham was not sure; he had got to know the colours and design; ‘the pink one is 500 units, you need a green’. But there was no way he could be certain.
Education and basic literacy seem to pay off better than ever. Better education is the way for many Afghans seeking better life through greater income. not everybody can be a minister, religious politician, judge and police chief or a relative of these which are the shortcuts to being rich. It is interesting to note that this relationship between education and earnings potential has been realised in the last five years. Education for the older generation meant a modest life, quite often worst than illiterate entrepreneurs, but it ensured no hard labour. In fact the difference in income level with education has grown significantly after the educated managed to set up businesses or found lucrative jobs in the reconstruction efforts after international intervention.
We are four years to the end of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) yet in Afghanistan the general literacy rate is only 29%. Today some of this 29% have the opportunity today to reap the benefits they grew with their pens. For many youths literacy is central to developing the many skills that they require to survive and make money. This is all truer when a country and its populace have been decimated. After decades of war, 43% of the Afghan population is under 15 years of age.
Many girls enjoy good income working for international organisation and businesses; yet there the common public is dubious of it being a social trend. It is rather seen as ephemeral; reaffirmed by the perception of the government reflected in their girls empowerment policy. despite 85% of women and girls being illiterate in Afghanistan, the state allocated budget fund in this regard constitute a few million dollar a fragment of President Karzai’s business profit.
In Afghanistan, the number of girls going to school is less than half the number of school boys, and even in some regions like Zabul, this ratio is 3% / 97%; though the number of male and female populations aging between 6-18 year old dont have a considerable difference.

I was relaxing on a stone in the corner of a street in a residential part of west Kabul. Young boys and girls carrying a bag or books attracted my attention as they walk about their business. My first instinct was they probably go to school; I shortly found out Abuzar Ghafari School was close by. I decided to go and check out the school. At first I had mistaken the place for a prison or military post until I noticed the children hustling by the entrance gate. They were not allowed in; I waded my way through the crowd to reach the gate. I found the school empty. There were not many teachers around, the few present were keeping warm in a sunny corner. I asked the teacher if they were going to teach today but apparently they are off and students are not supposed to be here. I did not get answer when I asked ‘then what are you doing here?’. Students shouting aloud were neither interested in studying. On the part of teachers, not everybody wants to work. Employees rather goof around until the pay day; it takes a bit of professionalism, feeling responsible and organisational procedures to get teacher into classes. Students general rather dodge studying, it is up to adults to get them interested and get them into the habit of studying. Students tend to escape school, fences and barbwire were set up to keep the children inside the compound. When students are not educated in the school but confined to the compound it inevitable culminates in dire consequences including school seen as a waste of time and abridged interest by parents to send children to school. Imprisoned students develop an attitude to commit vandalism, bullying and fatal accidents. Abuzar Ghafari school was recently built by Turks, the construction work is not yet finished while buildings, chairs, tables and windows have been damaged or destroyed. Students daily smash windows and doors in order to gain access to places where they are not supposed to go or steal books or other school property.
Bullying is very common on school compounds. Educators have a duty to ensure that students have a safe learning environment. But they are part of bullying; educators from headmaster to school watchman in turn beat students. Often teachers get a group of bullies to beat another student. Bullying can be a sign of other serious antisocial and/or violent behavior. Children who frequently bully their peers are more likely than others to:
• Get into frequent fights;
• Be injured in a fight;
• Vandalize or steal property;
• Drop out of school; and
Children as young as age of 9 have realised they need to learn to have a better income; many turn to private training centres for education. In a small residential suburb in west of Kabul there are around 10 private centres teaching English, Computer, Math and Science. I went to visit one which was pack with students aging from 30 to 8.
In Jowzjan province girls are unable to go to school because there is no school for girls. Private literacy and training centres are mushrooming including two in Gharghin district. Family poverty is the formidable factor for inability of children to go to schools. Average income per capita is less than $US 200 in Afghanistan. Meanwhile only 13.5% of families have access to sustainable income sources and economic vulnerability of families has direct impact on lack ofeducation.
Virtually all Afghan girls are children workers but they are not paid and regarded as working children. Girls as young as six years old are doing household work; this is full day work plus looking after children.
The economics of politics in Afghanistan will sustain current market oligopoly. The influence of political forces on the economy combines market and employment performance elements to exclude many from taking part and enjoying the benefits of participation. Some aspects which could result in exclusion are social and economic structures, gender relations, ethnic identities and spatial patterns of production. In the present condition this pattern of market performance is reinforced. The theory of dripping from rich to the poor has a wide application, even to the condition of Afghanistan.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Talks with Taliban

Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, attended the Saudi meeting and said there was no discussion of peace talks. Taliban has not yet admitted of talks with the government. Zaeef said Karzai's government missed an opportunity when it failed to engage the Taliban in talks three years ago. Since then, he said, the Taliban has grown stronger. He added, the Taliban had no hope that the American rule would collapse in Afghanistan but now they do. While Taliban forces appear to have gained the upper hand across large swaths of Afghanistan, they are not yet a unified force and by no mean they want to talk with Kabul. Dissension and dissatisfaction on both sides and among western countries could provide an impetus for talks.
Karzai's government held secret talks with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former mujahedin leader now labelled a terrorist by American and Britain, through members of his family who regularly visit Kabul.
As a mujahedin commander against the Russians, Hekmatyar was supported by the CIA and Pakistan. In the civil war which followed the Soviet withdrawal, he continued to be backed by the Americans and Pakistanis despite being blamed for atrocities. The warlord later fell out with the Americans and based himself in Iran, from where he directed attacks on Afghans and Nato.
Pakistan has a central role in Taliban talks, the session in Saudi Arabia included several Pakistani officials, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif, who now leads the largest opposition bloc in Pakistan’s Parliament, has been a vocal advocate of negotiating with Taliban commanders in his country. he is not alone many other Pakistani fictions has urged Afghan government and western allies to enter dialogue with Taliban. Pakistan see Taliban as an instrument to insert influence over Kabul.
Britain is stepping up pressure for a political and diplomatic settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, a move set in sharp relief by the commander of UK troops who warned that the war against the Taliban was not going to be won.
The message is being delivered with increasing urgency by British military commanders, diplomats and intelligence officers, to Nato allies and governments in the region.
The deepening concerns reflect what British defence chiefs are saying privately. The conflict with the Taliban has reached "stalemate", they say. They also express increasing frustration with the weakness and corruption of President Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul.
British officials are exasperated with the Karzai administration, the slowness in building up a national army and corruption in the Afghan police force.Violence in Afghanistan has risen to its worst level since 2001, when US-led forces overthrew the Taliban.
Aid agencies say the Taliban and associated groups are controlling more territory and it is increasingly difficult to provide the population with their humanitarian needs, let alone physical security.
The US has also changed its position on talking to the Taliban. Soon after Mullah Omar's regime was overthrown in 2001, the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, declared that it would never again be allowed to seize power in Afghanistan. "Those who have been defeated would like to come back but they will not have that opportunity" he said. Since then, with the Taliban resurgent as the US-led "war on terror" shifted to Iraq, American officials have been much more receptive to the idea of talking to the Taliban. David Petraeus, the US general credited with reducing violence in Iraq by winning over insurgents, is now overseeing the multi-national mission in Afghanistan. He is expected to introduce some of his Iraqi tactics into the conflict.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Taliban: a social force or vacuum filler

I don’t believe Taliban are a social force with an agenda and connected with locality, instead I think Taliban are the harshest form of a resistance movement which is created when the country is in a political vacuum. Their arbitrary and cruel methods of compelling order is imposed when the society fails to find any workable agenda. Taliban are not a unique creation, political history is full of movements which emerged after the ascribed socio-political systems constantly failed, these movements such as Wahabis in early twenty century Arabia are cruel and despotic. Taliban emerged in 1994 after Mujahideen tyranny and failure of half a dozen governments before them. Taliban offered no better life than Mujaheeden, but they were more arbitrary and cruel while Mujahideen were simply corrupt and this is why I think Taliban managed to rule. Taliban are returning again; this time people know what they are expecting, there is no dream and no hope, nobody expect Taliban to be anything else than Taliban.

Lutz Rzehak, a professor from Humboldt University in Berlin, gathered data about Taliban in Nimroz Province, a southwestern region, much of it desert, that borders both Iran and Pakistan. Instead of security, the Taliban brought Nimroz a grotesque parody of government. Nimroz is interesting to read because this is not a pashtoon province where Taliban support rests most.

when Taliban first captured Nimroz, in first half of the 1990s, they sent in a governor who had family roots in Nimroz but couldn't speak the local language. Like many Taliban, he had been brought up speaking Urdu in Pakistan. For his own convenience, he made Urdu the language of administration. Those who couldn't speak Urdu, which meant most of the residents, were turned away when they applied for government help. There were three more governors between the years 1995-2001. Two of them, both the products of Afghan enclaves in Pakistan, are remembered as barbarous and, when it came to local customs, woefully ignorant.

One carried a stick and struck people with it. He also burned down the library, with its 15,000 books. Next came a mullah who concentrated on amassing a personal fortune by running drugs across the border and confiscating property. He fled when the American bombs began falling in November, 2001. Taliban made villagers pay 25% of their harvest to support Taliban war or give a girl to be wedded to a Talib soldier as a prize. Taliban did not organise the community in anyway to implement a public project, nothing was done for the province.
Nimroz public know the Taliban very well and they have suffered at their hands, yet they are seeing the return of the Taliban with the same old face.

In 2008, sad to say, the revived Taliban are again active in Nimroz. They encourage opium growers and then seize part of their profits. They also deploy human bombs. In recent weeks, Taliban has captured some district centres, kidnapped aid workers; two Taliban suicide bombers attacked in Nimroz, one killed an Afghan soldier and a baby; the other wounded a Canadian soldier.

The return of the Taliban in Nimroz is the direct consequence of the failure of current government. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out the government is a failure; it was just last weak that a humanitarian assistance group warned over the worsen situation that would hamper their assistance in parts of the country which has been considered safe. On 24th of June, international crisis group published a report warning that Taliban are also winning the propaganda war. A quick skim of the news in the last few months will show you that the situation has actually got worst; month by month and also over the last few years. Difficult
The return of the Taliban sadly means that there is no political force to prevent their infiltration, the collapse of the power structure in the community means the return of the Taliban. Taliban seem to be the default option of the community. Taliban are not raising from within communities like Nimroz but rather extending themselves to it. Nimroz is not a Pashtoon province like Helmand, Kandahar, Khost or many other Taliban sympathetic provinces. Nimroz is neither attractive nor attracting Taliban, the province is at the bottom of poppy production list, a strong tendency among the community or a strong Narcotic business support for Taliban versus government doesn’t exist. Support for Taliban exists in poppy provinces, the community and Business need Taliban to protect them against government poppy eradication attempts. The taxation paid from poppy money helps to foster local Taliban group.

The international intervention since 2001 seems to not have affected the social infrastructure nor do the way people live in Nimroz. The moment the government is weakened, doors open for Taliban. It’s a return to ten years ago and what has allegedly achieved by international community made no change to ordinary life or at least the way of living and thinking. All this in a province which is not considered Taliban province, the return to pre international intervention is taking place not because the community prefer Taliban but rather they are understood better than modern form of governments. This could be applied broadly to the country when trying to visualise a post international intervention scenario. Once the international community leave Afghanistan for Afghans, which will clearly happen one day, then the volatile government legacy might not last long. Some will oppose the government because they are not politically represented and they are the Pashtoon Taliban sympathisers; the second half of the country will be run over by Taliban, places like Nimroz, because Taliban can impose themselves on the community than any government system.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

view from a grain of sand

Women in Afghanistan were not suddenly plunged into brutal un-freedom when the Taliban came to power in 1996. Nor have they always been subject to repressive rule. In a documentary that is both intimate and broadly political, Meena Nanji offers a view of the past thirty years of Afghanistan's history through the lives of three women.

Wajeeha is a literacy instructor and activist with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA); her husband died fighting against the Soviets in the 1980s. Roeena is a defiantly unmarried doctor who works in refugee camps populated mostly by people who fled Afghanistan when competing warlords reigned in the mid-1990s. Shapire, along with her husband and children, fled Afghanistan after the Taliban assumed power. She now teaches girls in a refugee camp.

Via interviews, narration, and vrit and archival footage, Nanji compellingly argues that the loss of women's rights in Afghanistan is not a simple story that revolves around the Taliban. It is a much larger-and continuing-story of a nation that has suffered through near-constant war and mass displacement over several decades.

in 1989, the foreign powers withdrew, leaving Afghanistan with a power vacuum and an organized, well-armed movement of religious fundamentalists. From 1992 to 1996, competing warlords ruled. Another wave of people fled. In 1996, the Taliban came to power. U.S. readers should be well aware of what happened in Afghanistan in 2001.

The women in View from a Grain of Sand have lived through all of this. The film was shot in refugee camps and within Afghanistan over three visits-in fall 2000 (while the Taliban reigned and the world mostly ignored it); in fall 2001 (just after 9/11); and in 2003 (after the U.S. attacks, the fall of the Taliban, and the creation of a parliament dominated by the very same warlords who had reigned during the chaotic years of 1992 to 1996). Meena Nanji has documented her subjects' stories as they moved from obscurity to a focus of global attention. She has also documented the constancy of their struggles. These women's lives reflect continuous repression, lack of resources, and active work for change through a series of power shifts, all of which have been marked by violence and instability.