Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 11:26 am
do the ordinary afghans have better lives now ?
the western nations made promises of large amounts of money going to be spent for re-construction.
unfortunately , the promises were much larger than the actual money ever sent to afghanistan , and out of the money reaching afghanistan , much seems to be sticking to government officials and warlords .
we sure knoow how to show afghans what "democracy" is all about .

Unfulfilled promises haunt Afghanistan

By Bilal Sarwary
BBC News, Kabul

Gone are the days when the Afghan summer was the season of plenty.

Where are the roads, clinics and reconstruction that were promised to us?
Haji Baz Mohammad

Haji Baz Mohammad

Now, as the snow melts off the Afghan peaks, a sense of foreboding hangs in the air. The summer in Afghanistan is fighting season.

Over a traditional Afghan dinner of rice, lamb and delicious Afghan bread, a senior Afghan official in his Kabul mansion admits he expects Taleban attacks to rise, but insists that they will not win.

"They can't take over any place," he says, as he struggles with a bony piece of meat.

After a few seconds he forgets the food and repeats in a serious tone the Afghan government line that continuing Taleban suicide bombings shows their "weakness".

But he says the fighting is at stalemate and blames alleged outside support.

"We are fighting a war whose very source is based outside of Afghanistan, inside of Pakistan. As long as the Taleban has a base, we won't be able to win this war."


While the doubts about the fight against the Taleban continue, so too do the doubts among ordinary Afghans about life since the Taleban were toppled in 2001.

One morning I took an early tour of Kabul.

At 0700 there was already a chaotic traffic jam at Charahi Malak Azghar in the heart of the city.

Land cruisers belonging to the United Nations, warlords and government officials sit alongside taxis and vehicles belonging to common Afghans.

All of these vehicles are competing for space. There are no traffic lights, and no traffic rules. Street children and beggars were gathered along the main road.

Saqib Baghlani, 43, a high school teacher, sits on his old Chinese bicycle.

He welcomes the demise of the Taleban. "Afghanistan has made remarkable progress compared to its pre-war and Taleban days," declares the tall, confident, blue-eyed teacher.

But he says the failures of his government are unacceptable.

He insists that President Hamed Karzai should fire corrupt officials and provide people with basic services, such as health care and clean drinking water, as this could bring peace.

"Go and see who owns these expensive houses in (the suburb of) Wazir Akbar Khan and who is driving land cruisers," he says. "Karzai should ask these officials how they got so rich overnight, instead of making empty promises again and again."

He castigates government ministers. "We are not asking for skyscrapers. The demands of our people are simple. Millions of dollars are going towards land cruisers and salaries. Everyone is corrupt."

What puzzles poorer Afghans is why so many basic problems haven't been solved, despite the billions of dollars of international aid.

A short walk from the affluent neighbourhoods of Wazir Akbar Khan and Shari Naw, in the streets of downtown Kabul, Afghanistan's unemployed are gathered in their hundreds.

Most say they have to wait for days, hoping to find one day's work to feed their entire family.

Kabul is considered the safest spot in the country, but basic services such as clean drinking water, electricity, and sewage systems remain unavailable to most people.

Waiting outside one of Kabul's main government hospitals is Haji Baz Mohammad. He has accompanied a patient from his home province in northern Afghanistan. He is busy praying and is visibly sad.

''We are not politicians or people who have the aid money," he says. "Where are the roads, clinics and reconstruction that were promised to us?''

Climate of mistrust

Driving through west Kabul, you can still see the destruction wrought during the factional infighting between warring Mujahideen factions in 1992, which left at least 70,000 Kabulis dead and the Afghan capital destroyed.

One of the most pervasive problems in post-Taleban Afghanistan is corruption.

Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians vow to fight it at every level. President Hamid Karzai has established several anti-corruption offices.

But, for Afghans like Ajmal Haidary, 42, a shopkeeper in West Kabul, this is another empty promise. "Every night, I hear ministers and MPs talk about corruption; this is all talk."

One aide to President Karzai admits the government has failed and that it needs to attend to the plight of the people.

But he says you have to remember the strains on Kabul, a city originally built for 400,000 that is now home to almost four million people.

"From traffic jams to corruption to a lack of electricity, it's a failure that needs to be fixed before it is too late," he says. "However, don't forget the improvements we have achieved."

One judicial official warns that there is a culture of impunity in Afghanistan now that creates a climate of mistrust among common Afghans.

Seven years after the Taleban were removed from power, the worry is that for many Afghans the promises of a better future seem to be becoming a distant dream.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/06/13 16:05:01 GMT

source :
0 Replies
Reply Sat 5 Jul, 2008 08:10 pm
not much seems to have changed ... ....


UN to urge revamp of Afghan aid ( AGAIN ? )
By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Kabul

The UN's envoy to Afghanistan is set to outline a new plan on spending foreign aid, amid concerns that millions of dollars have been wasted.

The envoy, Kai Eide, wants international aid money to be spent through the Afghan government, in return for a crackdown on corruption.

Mr Eide says that too much aid money is spent on salaries and goods in the countries that provide it.

Last month, 80 countries pledged a further $22bn (£11bn) for Afghanistan.

Now the donors and the Afghan government are being told to deliver - to get schools, clinics, agriculture and electricity to the people who need it.

'Weak institutions'

Millions in development money has notoriously gone to waste in the seven years since the fall of the Taleban.

Many countries spend a chunk of their aid through the government, or on a trust fund set aside to fund National Solidarity Programmes in more than 22,000 districts in Afghanistan.

But Mr Eide, the UN special representative to Afghanistan, believes more should be spent this way.

In Kabul on Sunday, he will outline to the government and donors that they have got to be more co-ordinated and to deliver development more effectively and efficiently.

"I think first of all that we spend too much of our money in our home countries instead of spending it in Afghanistan," he said.

"We also have to see how we can spend our money in a way that builds Afghan capacity. We see how weak the institutions are - that we have to make sure we correct."

Corruption is a major issue and the words auditing and accountability will be buzzing around the room at the first monitoring board meeting since the Paris conference.

if we were to re-visit this topic in another 2 - 5 - 10 years , will anything have changed for the better of the afghan people ?[/[/color]

The promises have been made and the UN head here is now trying to take control of an aid effort that many think has been missing the mark, when winning people over to the government, and keeping the Taleban at bay, is so vital for the future.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/07/06 01:36:57 GMT


source :
0 Replies
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2008 05:34 pm
more news from afghanistan - but are they good news ?
i don't think so - but judge for yourself .

Alarm over Afghan civilian deaths

At least 250 Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded in insurgent attacks or military action in the past six days, the Red Cross says.

It has called on all parties to the conflict to avoid civilian casualties.

Nato said separately that more than 900 people including civilians had died in Afghanistan since the start of 2008.

On Monday a suicide bombing in Kabul killed more than 40 people, while officials say two coalition air strikes killed dozens at the weekend.

The issue of civilian casualties is hugely sensitive in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly urged foreign forces to exercise more care.

'Constant care'

The statement released by the International Committee of the Red Cross say that civilians "must never be the target of an attack, unless they take a direct part in the fighting".

The organisation's chief representative in Kabul, Franz Rauchenstein, made his findings public following Monday's suicide car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul and reports that a US-led coalition air strike had killed members of a wedding party in the east of the country.

"We call on all parties to the conflict, in the conduct of their military operations, to distinguish at all times between civilians and fighters and to take constant care to spare civilians," Mr Rauchenstein said.

His report said that parties to the conflict "must take all necessary precautions to verify that targets are indeed military objectives and that attacks will not cause excessive civilian casualties and damage".

The statement also expressed concern "about the reportedly high number of civilian casualties resulting from the recent [coalition] air strikes in the east of the country".

The Taleban has denied involvement in Monday's bombing, which killed 41 people, while the US-led coalition has disputed claims that its recent airstrikes killed civilians.

Mr Karzai has ordered an investigation into one of the bombings, in eastern Nangarhar province. Locals there said at least 20 people had been killed on Sunday at a wedding party.

US forces rejected the claims, saying those killed were militants involved in previous mortar attacks on a Nato base.

The UN said recently that the number of civilians killed in fighting in Afghanistan had jumped by nearly two thirds compared to last year.

source :
0 Replies
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2008 06:22 pm
half of the british soldiers and officers serving in afghanistan , iraq and other places are unhappy with army life and are thinking of quitting .
certainly does not not look like they are "happy" soldiers - and who can blame them

from the times of london :


Half of all British servicemen say they want to quit

Bearing brunt of two wars is hurting family life

The research involved more than 24,000 military personnel

Michael Evans, Defence Editor

Britain's ability to sustain campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan was called into question last night as it emerged that almost half of all military personnel are ready to quit.

The first survey to assess attitudes across the Armed Forces reveals unprecedented levels of concern over equipment, morale and pay.

The research was conducted by the Ministry of Defence and involved more than 24,000 military personnel.

It found that the sense of overcommitment means that 47 per cent of soldiers and army officers think regularly of handing in their resignations.

Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP for Newark and a former commanding officer, said that the findings reflected the duress under which military personnel were operating. "I think the tempo of operations has produced such a level of stress on the families that it is no wonder so many are thinking of leaving," he said.

The report highlights the pressures on the Armed Forces of enduring two medium-scale military campaigns simultaneously. Returning for second and third tours, particularly in Afghanistan where the Taleban are in resurgent mood, has had a significant impact on families.

The same sense of overstretch is reflected across all three Forces, and 45 per cent of those questioned admitted they were not happy with the level of separation from family and friends.

Asked whether they regularly considered leaving, 47 per cent of soldiers and officers in the Army said that they did. The same percentage of Royal Navy personnel agreed, along with 37 per cent in the Royal Marines and 44 per cent in the RAF.

The Regular Army is already 5,000 soldiers short and experienced young officers are leaving at an increasing rate.

source :
0 Replies
Reply Sun 13 Jul, 2008 11:36 am
canada's defence department has (partially) released a study that concludes that it is not possible to win a convential war in afghanistan !!! Shocked

as the newspaper report states , all of this has been said for years by canadian soldiers and others returning from afghanistan !

i doubt , however , that any notice will be taken of this report .
more and more afghans and soldiers of all nations will be killed and maimed in a war that can not be won primarily with weapons .
hbg Crying or Very sad

Canada takes notes from failed Soviet warMany of the research findings are lessons that, by 2008, the Canadian Forces, NATO soldiers and Western governments had already gleaned through experience in Afghanistan and other foreign missions.

Researchers said the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is a major hindrance. The mujahedeen used the porous frontier to smuggle arms and resources into Afghanistan in the 1980s and are offering Taliban supporters the same supply route for insurgents and weapons today.

"The movement of insurgents and materiel across the Afghan-Pakistan border is a paramount strategic problem," says a 2007 memorandum by Anton Minkov and Gregory Smolynec titled 3-D Soviet Style: A Presentation on Lessons Learned from the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan.

In a separate memo that year, the same authors warn that NATO forces will never be able to stabilize Afghanistan until the country's economy is sufficiently stable and growing to allow the fledging Afghan government to cover a substantial amount of its own security and welfare bills.

"The main reasons behind the fall of the pro-Moscow regime in Kabul were not defeat on the battlefield nor military superiority of the resistance but the regime's failure to achieve economic sustainability and its overreliance on foreign aid," says a document called Economic Development in Afghanistan during the Soviet Period 1979-1989: Lessons Learned from the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan.

In fact, it says, the Soviets focused too much on security.

"The emphasis on the security situation in Afghanistan compromised sound economic development during the period 1979-1989 … The Afghan economy continued to be overly dependent on foreign aid. The study argues that without breaking this dependency, no long-term solution to stabilize Afghanistan is possible."

The authors say Afghanistan should redevelop its petroleum wealth as part of the solution. "Revenues from the sale of natural gas were a substantial part of Afghan state income until 1986. The development of oil and natural gas industries has great potential to benefit the Afghan economy."

Other lessons Defence researchers gleaned from the Soviet period include:

- "Successive battlefield victories do not guarantee strategic success."

- "Engaging and enfranchising local populations and power centres is of critical importance."

- "Building Afghan security forces is vital."

The research was conducted by the Department of National Defence's Centre for Operational Research & Analysis.

The DND said it was unable to make the researchers available for comment yesterday.

Canada has been sending soldiers to Afghanistan continually since 2001, and so far, 880 NATO troops have died in the fight against the Taliban, including 87 Canadians.

The U.S. has recently signalled that it is "deeply troubled" by the Taliban's continued power with a recent Pentagon report saying militias have "coalesced into a resilient insurgency."

Douglas Bland, chair of Defence Management Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, said a key lesson from the 1980s is not to leave in a hurried manner as the Soviets did.

"One of the big lessons for us is, don't beat a hasty uncontrolled retreat because the place then really goes nuts," Prof. Bland said. "The exit strategy has to be some very carefully considered process and based on a strong local security situation."

He said he thinks Canadian soldiers will still be responsible for safeguarding the peace well after 2011, when Canada's troops are supposed to withdraw from combat operations in the country's southern province of Kandahar under a motion passed in Parliament.

"Canadians should be prepared for the fact that Canadian soldiers and policemen and others will be employed in security duties in Afghanistan for a very long time."

He said he thinks the Forces have done other studies of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, but said these may not be publicly available.

source :

Invaders of Afghanistan - THEY ALL WERE BEATEN !

Many foreign forces have attempted to conquer Afghanistan and its predecessor states. Few have succeeded. Here are some examples of those who tried.

Darius the Great: In the late sixth century BC, much of the country was absorbed into the Persian empire of Darius the Great. However, plagued by constant uprisings, the Persians never established effective control.

Alexander the Great: In the third century BC, Alexander the Great invaded. The harsh, mountainous terrain and brutal weather were only part of the challenge. The Afghans themselves were no less formidable. Constant revolts undermined whatever glory he could claim.

Genghis Khan: In 1220, the Islamic lands of Central Asia were overrun by the armies of this Mongol invader. But even Genghis Khan failed to destroy the strength of Islam there. By the end of the 13th century, his descendants were themselves Muslims.

Britain: There were three major interventions by the British Army between 1838 and 1919. Each one ultimately failed.

Soviet Union: In 1979, the Soviets rolled in about 115,000 troops. The Afghans responded with an extended guerrilla war, and in 1989 the Soviets withdrew.
0 Replies
Reply Sat 26 Jul, 2008 08:09 pm
seems like afghan president karzai is caught betwen a rock and a hard place ... he is expected by the U.S. to crack down on the opium trade but he would also like to hang on to power in afghanistan .
any suggestons as to what he should do ? Rolling Eyes

Karzai 'impeding Afghan drug war'

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is obstructing efforts to tackle his country's drugs problem, a former US counter-narcotics official has said.

Thomas Schweich said Mr Karzai had protected drug lords for political reasons and tolerated "a certain level of corruption" rather than lose power.

He said the former attorney general had told him the president had prevented the prosecution of some 20 officials.

Mr Karzai has denied the claims, saying his government had cut drug production.

"Nobody has done as well as us in the last seven years in the field of counter-narcotics," he told reporters.

The president said his government had eradicated or greatly reduced drug production in more than half of the country's provinces.

But Mr Schweich, who until June was the US state department's co-ordinator for counter-narcotics and justice reform in Afghanistan, said such claims "ignore reality".

"The poppy cultivation right now is up and around 200,000 hectares - that's the biggest narco-crop in history," he told the BBC.

"The fact that it's become concentrated in five or six provinces doesn't change the fact that you have a massive, massive opium problem."

He added: "The attorney general, who was just fired, told me he had a list of 20 corrupt officials who he was not allowed to prosecute."


Mr Schweich also echoed claims that Nato and US commanders had been reluctant to get involved in fighting drugs, fearing that destroying farmers' crops would alienate tribesmen in the south and increase support for the insurgents.

(imo mr. schweig doesn't seem to have any idea how the "so called" war on drugs should be fought . he seems to think it's the poor farmers in afghanistan should be the victims - smart thinking Rolling Eyes

"[Mr Karzai] perceives that there are certain people he cannot crack down on and that it is better to tolerate a certain level of corruption than to take an aggressive stand and lose power," he added.

But Mr Karzai denied his supporters were involved in smuggling.

"I don't blame Afghans for drugs smuggling. They may do it due to helplessness and there may be only a few of them," he said.

In an article in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, Mr Schweich also accused the US defence department and military commanders from its Nato ally Britain of obstructing attempts to eradicate the opium crop.

"Some of our Nato allies have resisted the anti-opium offensive, as has our own Defense Department, which tends to see counter-narcotics as other people's business to be settled once the war-fighting is over," he wrote.

Facing voters

Mr Schweich claimed Britain had urged Mr Karzai to reject a US state department plan to stamp out poppy cultivation.

"Although Britain's foreign office strongly backed anti-narcotics efforts (with the exception of aerial eradication), the British military were even more hostile to the anti-drug mission than the US military," he wrote. The claims come as Mr Karzai prepares to run for another term in office in next year's Afghan presidential elections.

Mr Schweich wrote: "Karzai was playing us like a fiddle. The US would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure development; the US and its allies would fight the Taleban; Karzai's friends could get richer off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009 he would be elected to a new term."

The United Nations says that enough opium was produced last year in Afghanistan to make more than 880 tonnes of heroin with a street value of $4bn (£2bn).

A British Foreign Office spokesman said: "Drugs pose a threat to the future of Afghanistan, and the UK is one of the leaders in international efforts to combat the narcotics trade.

"We are committed for the long haul in this challenging endeavour, through a two-pronged approach, to tackle both supply and demand."

A US state department spokesman defended the country's support of President Karzai, saying he was working to help improve the plight of Afghanistan.

source :
0 Replies
Reply Fri 1 Aug, 2008 10:14 am
i think this from Canada deserves a read

Published on Sunday, July 13, 2008 by The Ottawa Citizen
War? What War? Bland Words Feed Our Indifference
0 Replies
Reply Fri 1 Aug, 2008 10:19 am
"Bleeding Afghanistan"

Interview with Sonali Kolhatkar (see BIO below)

By Mike Whitney

31/07/08 "ICH" -- - 1--Mike Whitney: On a recent stopover in France, Barack Obama said, "We must win in Afghanistan. There is no other option." Recent polls, however, show that public support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen off sharply. In fact, many American's don't even know why we are still there. Is there a big difference between what "winning" means to the Bush administration and what it means to the people of Afghanistan? Also, have you seen any indication that the Bush administration intends to keep its promises and establish security, rebuild the country's infrastructure, spread democracy, remove the warlords, liberate women, and "modernize" Afghanistan or was that all just a public relations smokescreen to promote the invasion?

Sonali Kolhatkar: I'm really not sure what Bush, Obama, and McCain mean when they say they want to win in Afghanistan. And, I'm not sure they know either. It's probably just a public-relations gimmick to sound "tough on terror." But, judging from what we've seen, they seem to think that "winning" means killing every last "terrorist" in Afghanistan. That sort of thinking is based on false assumptions and it's an unattainable goal. As far as the Afghans are concerned; I think they would like to see an end to the fighting and a safe Afghanistan where human rights are respected. They also want justice for past crimes. For the US to achieve this, they will have to denounce their proxy soldiers, the Northern Alliance, and support a "justice and accountability" process led by the Afghan people.

The US will also have to address the widespread poverty and provide long-term economic solutions that give Afghans hope for the future. The US will also have to create viable alternatives to the production of heroin, so that poor farmers don't have to depend on the sale of illicit narcotics to survive. That means Bush will have to support multi-lateral peacekeepers to protect the Afghan people from the Northern Alliance and Taliban. Most importantly, the US will have to end the occupation and withdraw its troops. But of course, that probably won't happen any time soon. After all, the real goal of the invasion was vengeance for 9/11. All the promises of liberation and democracy were a just "PR-ploy" to make Americans feel better about seeking revenge.

2--MW: Critics of the invasion say that it had nothing to do with Al Qaida or "liberating" the Afghan people from the Taliban, but with establishing military outposts in a geopolitically strategic part of Central Asia in order to surround China, intimidate Russia, and open up pipeline corridors to the resource-rich Caspian Basin. So, what is Obama up to? Why is he calling for more troops and greater commitment from the other NATO members? Is he serious about spreading democracy and fighting Islamic extremism or is the war on terror just a smokescreen so he can carry out an imperial agenda?

Sonali Kolhatkar: I think the primary goal of the war was always vengeance, but the neocons also wanted to pave the way for an attack on Iraq. Bush wanted to go to Iraq even before 9/11. Unfortunately for him, Al Qaeda was holed up in Afghanistan so he had to invade there first and build support for attacking Iraq. It's true that the long term goals could be military bases (John McCain said last year that he wanted permanent military bases in Afghanistan), and pipeline corridors (Clinton was most closely linked to supporting pipeline contracts between US corporations like UNOCAL and the Taliban before 2000). But I'm not sure how much Bush cared about those long-term objectives even though future presidents will surely capitalize on them.

As far as Obama's motives, I think he just wants to get elected. But he knows that he cannot be against all wars, only an unpopular one. He knows that a candidate that is against all wars will not win in November.

He's talked about withdrawing from Iraq, but that's because it's a popular position with the public. But he's also planning to increase troop levels in Afghanistan because he is not being pressured by the American people. Americans may be unclear about why our troops are there, but they are not organized or speaking out against the Afghanistan war. Obama needs a war like Afghanistan, because it was a haven for Al Qaida and that makes him look "tough on terror." That will help him win more votes from anti-Iraq war conservatives and independents.

3--MW: The United States has occupied Afghanistan for seven years now. Has life gotten better for the people or worse? Is there any security beyond the capital of Kabul or are the US and NATO troops stretched too thin? Do the people generally support the ongoing occupation or are they getting frustrated by the lack of progress and want to see the US go?

Sonali Kolhatkar: Initially, life got better for many Afghans, particularly in Kabul. That's because the Taliban had been routed and the people felt somewhat safe as well as relieved. But as the warlords took over positions of power, attitudes changed. It has gotten much worse, now that the Taliban have returned and the occupation forces are killing more civilians than the Taliban.

Kabul is a bit more secure than the rest of the country. But Kabul is also the warlords' seat of power. Most of them are even members of Parliament, so people are frequently abused and live in fear.

Beyond Kabul, things vary dramatically depending on where you go. In the parts of the country with the heaviest concentrations of US/NATO troops; Afghans are frequently rounded-up, detained, tortured, bombed, or shot by foreign troops just as in Iraq.

In other parts of the country, where the Taliban are strong; girls schools are blown up, civilians are killed in suicide bombings, and journalists, teachers, and elected officials are harassed or murdered.

Those areas controlled by warlords are ruled with an iron hand, where extreme interpretations of sharia law rule the day, and women suffer rape and degradation.

No matter where you go in Afghanistan, there is utter, grinding poverty. The US occupation has not changed that at all. People are very frustrated, particularly with the US puppet Hamid Karzai. They blame Karzai for the high number of civilian casualties. They also dislike the way he has pardoned some of the warlords and Taliban leaders.

As far as the occupation goes, people were somewhat supportive of it originally, but as conditions have deteriorated, they have begun to see the presence of foreign troops as a big part of the problem. I would say that a majority of Afghans now want the US and NATO to leave as soon as possible.

4--MW: Is the US military mainly fighting the Taliban or is the the armed-resistance more complex than that? I read recently that the so-called Taliban is actually a confederation of about a dozen disparate groups and tribes that have bonded together with the common goal of ending foreign occupation and that the main reason their ranks are swelling is because of the US military's indiscriminate killing of civilians? Could you clarify this point?

Sonali Kolhatkar: It's hard to understand the nature of the anti-US resistance, but it's a very important issue. Unfortunately,the media coverage only makes it more confusing. The fighters that are called the "Taliban" are actually a mix of "former" Taliban and newly enlisted Pashtun fighters trained in Pakistan. Many of them are just disgruntled Afghan civilians whose families and loved ones have been killed and/or tortured by US/NATO forces. Recruiting is always easy when you can show that foreign soldiers are killing more civilians that the "so-called" enemy. But we should be careful to not glorify the resistance. It is strictly fundamentalist and would not be a good option for Afghans in terms of future leadership. The vast majority of Afghans are moderate Muslims who strongly disagree with the Taliban's extremist ideology, but they have joined the struggle to bring an end to the occupation. But, of course, their troubles won't disappear just because the American forces leave. They'll still be stuck with the Taliban and the warlords. When the Soviet occupation ended in the late 1980s, the US-backed warlords began their reign of terror on the people between 1992 to 1996. That could happen again. These same warlords (or Taliban) could once again spread misery and death across Afghanistan. War is an entropic force that cannot be undone by simply hitting a rewind button.

5--MW: What will happen if the US military leaves Afghanistan? Is withdrawal the best solution or do you see another, perhaps, less bloody, alternative?

Sonali Kolhatkar: There are always less bloody alternatives, but withdrawal is the first step in a long and complex process. As I've said before, Afghanistan's solutions do not fit neatly on a placard. Perhaps that's why anti-war activists don't take a clear stand against this war. The withdrawal of US/NATO forces must be accompanied by other developments, like disempowering the warlords in parliament who have a long history of US-supported impunity. This disempowering must include an "Afghan-led" disarmament of their private militias; removing them from political power, and holding them accountable for their past crimes through criminal prosecution of some sort.

There must also be a "transitional" UN peacekeeping force that maintains security and protects ordinary people the fundamentalists (Taliban and Northern Alliance) But they must make sure that they don't target civilians.

There must also be economic justice in the form of reparations (matching the money that has been spent on weapons since 1979, dollar-for-dollar) and a plan to build up local industries, create jobs, and provide alternatives to poppy farming.

There must be political justice so that dissidents can come out of the shadows and run for office or participate in the rebuilding their national institutions. When the Afghan people decide that it's time for the peacekeepers to leave; they should go.

Can such a solution work?

Perhaps. But for this, or any other idea to work, the US occupation must end. That's the first big step to recovery.

6--MW: There is a very brave and outspoken woman in the Afghan parliament, named Malalai Joya. She has repeatedly put her own life at risk by denouncing the warlords and calling for an end to the US occupation. She has consistently called out for human rights and real democracy. Has the Bush administration done anything at all to promote or protect courageous women who embody "liberal values" like Malalai Joya?

Sonali Kolhatkar: Women like Malalai Joya are "inconvenient" for the Bush administration. That's because Joya echoes the will of her people in calling for an end to warlords, AND an end to the US occupation. Bush and his cohorts like to promote the type of women who quietly accept the US narrative and show gratitude for being "saved by the Americans." In fact, there are very few such women like that in Afghanistan. Joya speaks for millions of Afghan women when she denounces the warlords. And she has repeatedly put herself in danger. She has nearly been killed at least four times! What this means is that women's rights are available only to women who do not exercise their rights. And it not just Malalai Joya who is putting herself at risk due to her political activism. I have personally worked very closely with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), and they have been saying the same things for years. Still, RAWA cannot operate openly without putting themselves in danger of physical harm; so they must carry out their work underground.

RAWA has NEVER received any offer of help from the US government (although they would refuse it if it anyway to remain politically independent) Like Joya, the women of RAWA are inconvenient - they do not need to be "saved" by America. But they do need a safe Afghanistan and they deserve international solidarity for their brave human rights work.

7--MW: The invasion of Afghanistan was promoted as a humanitarian intervention to save the Afghans from the brutal Taliban regime. How would you advise people who now think we should take similar action in Darfur to stop the killing there? Is military invasion an acceptable way to address injustice or spread democracy?

Sonali Kolhatkar: I'm not sure I have a definitive answer to that question, but I do think it is one that progressives need to grapple with. Too often, we in the West are very selective when it comes to the causes we support. Only when the US is directly involved do activists choose to oppose a regime. Before the US war in Afghanistan, when the country was being destroyed by the warlords and then the Taliban, it was not seen as a cause worth taking on by American activists. But if the people are being oppressed by someone else, we ignore it. The sad truth is that until progressives come up strategies for dealing with repressive regimes, we'll always just be reacting to unjust interventions by our government.

Military options are always the worst. Even so, diplomacy can be nearly as corrupt if it means compromising with criminals and warlords and giving them whatever they want in exchange for peace. Peace without justice is meaningless. We could have peace now in Afghanistan if we were willing to give the warlords and Taliban ultimate power. In fact, there was a kind of "peace" under the Taliban. But is that what we want?

If we want real justice we need to figure out a reasonable way to deal with injustice. We need to create alternatives that involve people-to-people solidarity and democracy that can transform society. For example, one way we could have dealt with the Taliban without invading would have been for individual Americans (not our government) to financially and morally support the subversive (and non-violent) work of groups like RAWA. That way, Afghans would have been able to change their country by themselves without foreign intervention and massive destruction. Indeed, RAWA supports change from within and have called on their people to rise up. But their effectiveness has limited by a lack of resources to help them get the word out while organizing underground. Solidarity with groups like RAWA (and there may be similar ones in Darfur) is one long-term, progressive alternative to foreign intervention.

BIO: Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and producer of Uprising, a popular radio program through Pacifica Network, that airs on stations around the country. She is also the Co-Director of Afghan Women's Mission, a US-based non-profit organization that works in solidarity with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). She is the co-author, with James Ingalls, of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (Seven Stories 2006). More information at www.afghanwomensmission.org , www.rawa.org .
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Reply Fri 1 Aug, 2008 11:32 am
hi , endymion :
glad to see your posts . i was ready to stop posting since there seemed very little interest in the afghanistan thread . it seeemed to me that hardly anyone knew or cared where afghanistan is located - let alone what's going on over there .
i feel a bit encouaged not to let go - yet .

endymion quoted in part :


it's probably true that "For most Canadians, Afghanistan is yesterday's news " .
since we have an army garrison in our city from which troops are regularly send to afghanistan , there is a little more local interest in afghanistan than in canada in general .
we also are close to the trenton airforce base from where the troops leave to and return from afghanistan .
it's also where the caskets with dead soldiers from afghanistan arrive - so it all hits home to many locals .

until about a year ago , returning soldiers and officers spoke quite openly about the afghan situation to the press - and not always glowingly .

(you can find some of the soldiers comments in my earlier posts .)

it seeems that this year the returning soldiers have been muzzled since personal and critical reports don't seem to make it into the news any more !
now the news are all managed by the prime minister's P.R. people - by order of the P.M. !
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Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2008 10:04 pm
Hi hbg

i hope you continue here

Because it's a real cock up in Afghanistan.
It is fierce. Our lot (British) are under fire day and night and there is exhaustion.

"Efforts in Afghanistan were being hampered by the lack of a unified command structure, insufficient investment in the Afghans' own security capabilities and an inability to master the complexities of the regional situation and the tribal and social structures on the ground."

The above statement is by Lt Colonel Stuart Tootal, who led 3rd battalion of the Parachute regiment in Afghanistan in 2006 - where he won the Distinguished Service Order
He is a A highly decorated commander who resigned after 20 years
He said he was deeply shocked by how our wounded soldiers are being treated.

In June of this year another senior soldier who served in Afghanistan, Brigadier Ed Butler, a former SAS commander, left the army amid reports of frustration with equipment shortages.

Apparently there is also a shortage of Officers coming through and as usual the politicians are without a clue - so it's left to the soldier on the ground to try to hold the whole fu cking structure together, while back home - not a word about their predicament.

We have no earthly right or sensible reason to be in Iraq or Afghanistan
and defence of one's country should not be forfeited in the quest for Empire

As for the Afghans - their life expectancy is 44 and many are traumatised after years of war

Do politicians read ANY history, do you think?

If the 'War on Terror' is a slippery slope - Afghanistan is the drop at the bottom. An endless chasm.

They have destroyed two Empires there already - its in the nature of the land.

Who knows what happens next?

Have you seen this photograph? (Exhausted US soldier/ Afghanistan winner of the World Press Photo prize 2007 - i posted it up with details of winter soldier here

Hey hbg- i know it can be lonely in the watch tower, friend
but hell - someone has to do it! :wink:

I'll post up more when i can
hope to see the light still on

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Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2008 05:36 pm
hi , endymion !

thanks for keeping me company !

have you heard of RORY STEWART ?
i have read two of his books (the prince of marshes and the places in-between -borrowed from our city library) and also seen some interviews that he gave on CBC -TV .

while he is only 35 years old , he has seen quite a bit of iraq and afghanistan . he is a really low key kind of guy but seems to know what he is talking about .

if you can get hold of his books , i'm quite sure you will find them fascinating (well , at least interesting) .

he doesn't write and talk so much about himself but of the people of iraq and afghanistan that he has met over the years .

(i have referred to him in some of my earlier post , so won't repeat here) .


let's keep the lights burning !
take care !
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Reply Mon 4 Aug, 2008 06:38 pm
I think, instead of moving all our soldiers over there from Iraq, it is time to find a breaking off point. I only reluctantly approved of going in in the first place. We achieved what we needed to, and should have gotten out, instead of digging in.
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Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2008 05:22 pm
part of a lengthy interview by the BBC :

Journalist Ahmed Rashid's new book Descent Into Chaos is an investigation into what he describes as the "failure of nation building" in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia and the threat from radical Islam.

'Militancy will not run out of steam'

BBC : Do you see any signs of a developing Afghan nationalism of sorts, where traditionally hostile ethnic groups are ready to bury the hatchet and share power together? After a quarter of century of war, and seven years after the fall of the Taleban this should have happened, don't you think?

Ahmed Rashid : The key to this happening is reconstruction of the country. We have seen that the most successful programmes in Afghanistan have been national programmes, such as the rebuilding of schools and education, health clinics and the national solidarity programme that reaches into villages. Unfortunately, there have not been enough of these programmes and more importantly reconstruction of the infrastructure - that would help kick start the national economy - has been neglected. How can Afghans prosper or unite when only six to 10% have electricity and when you cannot create industry? The Afghan people have had enough of war and are looking for the opportunity to live in peace but that cannot happen without some degree of economic security.

BBC : Do you believe that Afghanistan's experiment with democracy is fundamentally flawed because of lack of political parties?

Ahmed Rashid : It is the lack of political parties and the refusal of President Karzai to allow elections to be run by political parties that is one of the main causes why democracy and parliament are not becoming more effective. I hope the government will see sense and hold the next elections under a political party system because without that we only continue political warlordism, the concentration of politics around individuals and the failure to build state institutions.

read full report :

if there is supposed to be "progress in afghanistan" - as we are constantly being told by our own governments , i wonder where they found PROGRESS ?
Reply Mon 18 Aug, 2008 07:57 pm
do you realize that the soviet troops left afghanistan 20 years ago ?
one has to wonder when the NATO troops will decide it's time to go home ?

the latest news sure don't look good !

see BBC link : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7555996.stm

Taleban at Kabul's doorstep

By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Wardak

It is just an hour's drive south-west of Kabul on Afghanistan's main highway before you start to see dramatic evidence of how the insurgency is closing in on the capital.

The first thing to notice are the holes in the road - the tarmac ripped up by bombs - which the traffic has to carefully veer around.

Then it is the burned-out skeletons of trucks left by the side of the road, or some still standing where they were ambushed and burned - an obvious reminder of how security so close to Kabul has been steadily deteriorating.

Highway One was a triumph for Afghanistan's new found freedom from the Taleban.

Built at record speed with international money, it was an example of what was to follow in the rebuilding and redevelopment of a country at war for almost three decades.

Now it is almost impassable in places as buses loaded high with goods and people, or convoys of containers with supplies for international forces have to negotiate the damage and the debris.

'Valid target'

An hour before we were escorted along the road by a heavily armed police convoy, an Afghan National Army patrol had fought with insurgents after being ambushed.

Every seven or eight kilometres (four to five miles) there is a crater in the road where a hidden explosive device had been detonated as whatever the insurgents decreed a "valid target" had gone past.

Wardak is the neighbouring province to Kabul and in just one month 51 trucks were burned. But the new governor, in place less than a month, thinks he can get a grip on security.

"The government has 100% control in Wardak, and the Taleban are in a very poor condition in this province - they do not have the support of the people," said Mohammad Halim Fidai, the eloquent and well-educated new arrival.

"Some of the incidents that took place on the highways are because we did not have enough Afghan National Police and there is misinformation against us," he said, explaining there were now checkpoints in the areas Taleban fighters "from other provinces" were most likely to strike.

But the men in the hills, just 2km from the road, told a different story of who held power and influence.

A local BBC reporter visited districts close to the main road and to the more remote villages up in the mountains.

Brazen display

He met a Taleban commander who took him to film perhaps two dozen men, all heavily armed and parading on motorbikes, in daylight, within view of Highway One.

"I have 6,000 fighters," the commander said, "and control three quarters of Wardak province."

It was a massive exaggeration, but their brazen display by day was a strong sign of how much influence the insurgents have by night.

That presence and the "misinformation" they spread will help them appear stronger than they are in reality - and fighting an insurgency, that is what counts.

The terror tactics, attacking convoys and leaving bombs, splits the people from a government which does not have a strong enough presence to win the people's backing.

Our reporter spoke to many local people - a lot supported the Taleban, but they would perhaps be afraid to speak out otherwise, given their presence on the ground. Others were critical.

"All the Taleban did was provide security," one young man said with a couched compliment. "Now the Karzai government is building roads and bringing development. Unfortunately they cannot bring security."

Another villager was more upbeat: "In my view this government is better than the Taleban as there was no education, economy or development.

"Now the economy is good and children are going to school - even girls - the Taleban were brutal and took power by force, not democracy."

And it is not just the local people who are suffering - those aid workers trying to rebuild and redevelop Afghanistan are now increasingly unable to work in parts of the country.

'Extremely risky'

A recent statement by 100 aid agencies described the worsening security close to Kabul, and in neighbouring Logar province six landmine clearers were recently abducted - as if it wasn't a risky enough job to begin with.

The UN produces internal "accessibility" maps which colour code areas by level of risk.

A comparison between 2005 and June 2008 shows the dramatic deterioration of security in such a short space of time.

Almost half the country is now "extremely risky" for UN staff - a classification that did not even appear on the map legend three years earlier.

Kabul is ringed by areas classified as a "high risk/volatile environment", previously reserved for only the worst insurgent areas in the east and south.

"Security in itself is a challenge. There are places where our de-miners cannot go because of the security risk," said Dr Mohammad Haider Reza, the head of the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan.

"It's as close to Kabul as Logar and that's of a concern to us," he added, saying the six abducted men had been released but their vehicles and equipment had been taken.

The Taleban's tactics are all part of the war - sowing fear in the minds of the people to turn them against a government that cannot protect them.

But the threat is real and the attacks are getting closer to the capital.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/08/13 16:03:21 GMT

Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2008 06:11 pm

i have to wonder want those soldiers died for ?
certainly not for the glory of france or the preservation of western society !
don't politicians and generals study history ?
another sad day !

Afghan militants kill 10 French, strike at US base

SUROBI, Afghanistan (AP) " Insurgents mounted two of the biggest attacks in years on Western forces in Afghanistan, killing 10 French soldiers in a mountain ambush and then sending a squad of suicide bombers in a failed assault early Tuesday on a U.S. base near the Pakistan border.

The audacious strikes suggested a bolder insurgency is now willing to launch frontal assaults on U.S. and NATO troops.

Only months ago, militants shied away from large-scale attacks because of the heavy losses they could incur when jet fighters appeared overhead, NATO and U.S. officials said.

But the Taliban and other militant groups appear increasingly willing to commit large numbers of foot soldiers to onslaughts that attempt to overwhelm small groups of U.S. and NATO troops. Just last month, some 200 militants attacked a small U.S. outpost in Afghanistan's eastern mountains, penetrating its perimeter and killing nine American soldiers.

full story : http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5i8dGftYb0s4XWdUMRdIVs3vh1CKAD92LKFR80
Reply Sun 24 Aug, 2008 08:40 am

only a few days ago the french president was showing HIS determination to tough it out in afghanistan - i guess he doesn't have to worry about dying there , does he ?
the french public doesn't seem to be siding with him though .
they are seriously questioning france' s involvement . they probably remember indochina and algeria ???
imo the french are a lot smarter than what they are being given credit for -
perhaps they'll have a retirement party for President Nicolas Sarkozy in the near future .

France to take long look at Afghan mission

By JAMEY KEATEN " 17 hours ago

PARIS (AP) " The death of 10 French soldiers in an ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan has stoked a cry at home for France to rethink its commitment to the seven-year mission led by the United States.

Most French voters want out, and the opposition is ratcheting up the pressure on President Nicolas Sarkozy's government " though analysts say France and other allies will dig in for the fight even as they insist upon a new look at NATO's strategy against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The word "quagmire" has popped up repeatedly when Afghanistan is discussed in Paris political circles " even in Sarkozy's own party " since Monday's well-planned ambush of a French-led patrol in the Uzbin Valley east of Kabul. It was the deadliest attack on international troops in Afghanistan in more than three years, and the latest sign that the insurgency is growing stronger.

"The pressure is going to be: How do we get this war right?" said Francois Heisbourg, who heads the state-funded Foundation for Strategic Research think-tank in Paris.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has ordered a parliamentary debate and vote on France's role in Afghanistan, part of a new law requiring a lawmaker vote on foreign military missions lasting more than four months. They are expected to take place between Sept. 22 and Sept. 30.

Analysts say there is little chance that parliament " where Sarkozy's conservatives have a large majority " will vote to end France's participation in the Afghan mission.

But Afghanistan is likely to grow in the French public eye.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the defense and foreign ministers will separately face questions from parliamentary panels about the ambush " such as the intelligence failings that led to such casualties in a well-trained French patrol. Aside from the 10 soldiers killed, another 21 were injured.

France has been at the side of the United States in Afghanistan ever since the allied invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban's regime. In April, Sarkozy agreed to raise the French commitment by 700 troops " to 3,300 in the Afghan theater.

The evolution of the war in Iraq " while in many ways very different from the one in Afghanistan " looms large in French minds when it comes to considering their country's future role.

"In the case of Iraq, the Americans had a big strategic rethink about how they were handling it," said Heisbourg. "That kind of rethink is what's going to have to take place with Afghanistan."

Sarkozy's top adviser, Claude Gueant, said the French public has "poorly understood" the "faraway" war in Afghanistan. He said one of the troubles the allies now face in Afghanistan is the return of jihadi fighters from Iraq.

"Now that the situation is changing in Iraq, they are heading to a new front, which is the one in Afghanistan," Gueant told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview set for publication on Sunday.

Sarkozy insists France's commitment to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan "remains intact" " but he is staking at least part of his political capital in the effort to quash a resurgent Taliban.

"They're testing French public opinion," said Douglas Bland, a former colonel and the chair of defense management studies at Queen's University in Canada.

The French debate resonates in Canada,

(canada's military involvement is VERY unpopular with the quebec people , even though many of the canadian soldiers are from quebec . hbg)

which has lost 93 soldiers in Afghanistan since the war began. Canada agreed to keep its 2,500 troops in southern Kandahar province only on the condition " partially met by France's new commitment " that NATO deploy reinforcements. Three Canadians were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Thursday.

The risk for Sarkozy remains that the mission in Afghanistan could erode his popularity over time " much like former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain faced political damage over his commitment to the Iraq war.

"We're not in the Blair kind of situation, but it may come," said political analyst Dominique Moisi.

Sarkozy repeatedly dodged or scoffed at questions this week about a poll in Le Parisien indicating that a majority of French want their country to withdraw from Afghanistan.

He countered that it was time to mourn for those who were killed. Gueant said Sarkozy was "affected" by the deaths " the biggest French troop casualties he has had to cope with since taking office in May last year.

"In military terms, I think we, the French, are pretty tough," said Heisbourg. "Our normal reaction to losing people is not to sit down and cry, and then rush to the exits. That is not the French way."

(the link to AP refuses to release the article - this was picked up from google)
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2008 01:12 pm
i'm starting to see Afghanistan as the same as Iraq now -
too many civilian deaths
for what?

for a disgraced reputation?
Reply Thu 28 Aug, 2008 02:15 pm
Here is a piece none of the American corporate media will pick up to expose the contangerous Lieberator(s).
Surging in Afghanistan: Too Much, Too Late?

Despite George W. Bush's claim that he's "truly not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden, the administration is erecting 10 "Wanted" billboards in Afghanistan, offering rewards of $25 million for bin Laden, $10 million for Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and $1 million for Adam Gadahn, an American member of Al Qaeda, now listed as a "top terrorist." That's 10 nice, big, literal signs that the administration is waking up, only seven years after 9/11 and the American "victory" that followed, to its "forgotten war."

When I wrote this piece for TomDispatch in February 2007, I'd been working intermittently since 2002 with women in Afghanistan -- women the Bush administration claimed to have "liberated" by that victory. In all those years, despite some dramatic changes on paper, the real lives of most Afghan women didn't change a bit, and many actually worsened thanks to the residual widespread infection of men's minds by germs of Taliban "thought." Today, Afghanistan is the only country in the world where women outdo men when it comes to suicide.

To transfer those changes from paper to the people, "victory" in Afghanistan should have been followed by the deployment of troops in sufficient numbers to ensure security. Securing the countryside might have enabled the Karzai government installed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to extend its authority while international humanitarian organizations helped Afghans rebuild their country. As everyone knows, of course, that's hardly what happened.

Now, a promised new American surge in Afghanistan threatens to be too much, too late. Bent on victory again, Americans are easily manipulated by false information to call in air strikes and wipe out whole villages -- men, women, and children -- even with no enemy in sight. (In 2007 alone, the U.S. dropped about a million pounds of bombs on the Afghan countryside.) Just the other day, masses of men took to the streets to protest the death of 95 civilians, including 19 women and 60 children. Masses of men once grateful to the U.S. for overthrowing the Taliban, and hopeful of American help in rebuilding the country, are now turning against the Bush administration's ever more lethal occupation.

You don't see women among the protesters because they are at home behind closed doors, confined, just as they were before the American "liberation."

The war against the Taliban took a brief intermission after that American "victory," but the war against women went on without interruption. Earlier this year Womankind Worldwide, a British nongovernmental organization, issued a report entitled "Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On." The news? Violence against women is "epidemic." Eighty-seven percent of women complain of domestic violence. Half of those cases involve sexual violence. Sixty percent of marriages are still forced. Fifty-seven percent of brides are still under the legal age of 16. What would you call this massive use of force, complete with torture, if not "war" -- an ongoing war against women.

The current state of Afghanistan's female parliamentarians reveals a lot about the real conditions of women in that country. Many of them have proven to be merely the servants of the warlords who paid for their election campaigns. On the other hand, a few, the independent outspoken ones working for change, come under relentless attack.

Malalai Joya, who famously (and rightly) denounced some of her colleagues as war criminals, was expelled and threatened with death. Shukria Barakzai, injured in a suicide bombing last November that killed six other parliamentarians, has now earned a suicide bomber of her own. She complained recently that while Parliament has sent her letters for the past three months informing her that she is the potential target of a suicide bomber, it hasn't offered to protect her. When her complaint reached the internet, an Afghan man (apparently safe in Canada) responded that she should stay home and raise sons who could "do something" for Afghanistan. He called her a "cowhead." That may be one step up from "cow," but it's still a long way from human being. Ann Jones, August 2008

The above link will shed more light on the plight of Afgan women after this liberation.
Reply Sat 30 Aug, 2008 02:00 pm
Afganisthan is a country is like USA.
Full of intellectuals always accepting the -------------------- fill up the blanks.
Oh what i read under politics!!!!
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Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 05:22 pm
i'm not quite ready to let go of the AFGHANISTAN topic .
it seems to me that there is little - if any - progress ( HOPE ) for the people of afghanistan and the NATO troops .
why this disastrous adventure is still being kept alive , escapes me !
with an election in canada coming up in october , i was glad to see that most canadians want to see canada's soldiers to be peacekeepers - rather than chasing around in afghanistan without really achieving anything .
the posted article is about a month old - i'll try to get something more recent - if there is any interest left for this topic .

from the NYT :


August 14, 2008
Insurgency’s Scars Line Afghanistan’s Main Road
SAYDEBAD, Afghanistan " Not far from here, just off the highway that was once the showpiece of the United States reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, three American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were ambushed and killed seven weeks ago.

The soldiers " two of them members of the National Guard from New York " died as their vehicles were hit by mines and rocket-propelled grenades. At least one was dragged off and chopped to pieces, according to Afghan and Western officials. The body was so badly mutilated that at first the military announced that it had found the remains of two men, not one, in a nearby field.

The attack, on June 26, was notable not only for its brutality, but also because it came amid a series of spectacular insurgent attacks along the road that have highlighted the precariousness of the international effort to secure Afghanistan six years after the United States intervened to drive off the Taliban government.

Security in the provinces ringing the capital, Kabul, has deteriorated rapidly in recent months. Today it is as bad as at any time since the beginning of the war, as militants have surged into new areas and taken advantage of an increasingly paralyzed local government and police force and the thinly stretched international military presence here.

This district is just 50 miles or so south of Kabul. Farther south, beyond the town of Salar, the road " also known as Highway 1 " is even more dangerous, and to drive beyond that point is to risk ambush, explosions and possible slaughter.

When it was refurbished several years ago, the Kabul-Kandahar highway was a demonstration of America’s commitment to building a new, democratic Afghanistan. A critical artery, the highway quite literally holds this country together.

A Precarious Thread

For the shaky Afghan state, it binds the country’s center to the insurgent-ridden south, and provides a tenuous thread to unite Afghanistan’s increasingly divided ethnic halves: the insurgent-ridden, Pashtun dominated south with the more stable, mainly Tajik, Hazara and Turkic populated north.

For the United States and the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, it is an important supply route for the war effort, linking the two largest foreign military bases in the country, at Bagram and Kandahar, and a number of smaller bases along the way.

But today the highway is a dangerous gantlet of mines and attacks from insurgents and criminals, pocked with bomb craters and blown-up bridges. The governor of Ghazni Province came under fire driving through Salar on Tuesday and two of his guards were wounded, officials said.

The insurgents have made the route a main target, with the apparent aim of undercutting Afghanistan’s economy and infrastructure, said Gen. Zaher Azimi, the Afghan military spokesman.

The road has become the site of extreme carnage in the last six weeks, disrupting supply lines for American and NATO forces and tying down Afghan Army forces. One of the worst attacks occurred in Salar on June 24 when some 50 fuel tankers and food trucks carrying supplies for the United States military were ambushed.

The convoy was set on fire. Seven of its drivers were dragged out and beheaded, said Abdul Ghayur, the commander of the private security force that supplied the drivers. “Those ones who were driving the refrigerated trucks,” which presumably looked more foreign, were singled out, he said.

That attack was followed two days later by the ambush that killed the three Americans and their Afghan interpreter, farther north, near a village called Tangi.

Calling In the Army

The ferocity of their killing, coming amid a sudden spiral of insurgent violence along the road and in the surrounding provinces, forced the Afghan government to send several battalions of the Afghan National Army in July here to Wardak Province, which lies just south of Kabul, to try to secure the road.

Soldiers of Afghanistan’s 201st Corps are now posted in old hilltop positions that the Soviet army used in the 1980s, surveying the road and the green side valleys that provide easy cover for the insurgents.

Since their arrival three weeks ago, the Afghan soldiers say they have been engaged in repeated firefights with insurgents and have surprised several groups trying to lay roadside bombs.

Soldiers from one Afghan unit, which had recently set up camp in a school building in Salar, said they were called out Aug. 1 to reinforce the local police, who were besieged in their own station less than three miles down the road.

The Afghan soldiers ran into an ambush almost immediately and had to battle for three hours before they could relieve the police station, said the commander, Capt. Gul Jan, 42.

Their adversaries include a mix of criminals, insurgents from the mujahedeen group Hesb-e-Islami, and members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and their main aim was to attack government forces and convoys, and kidnap officials and others for ransom, said Maj. Muhammad Gul, a battalion commander charged with guarding the road as far as Salar.

“The Taliban are trying to bring more people in from other provinces because Wardak is closer to Kabul, and definitely, what happens here will affect Kabul, too,” he said.

The deployment of the Afghan Army, which is now equipped with artillery and heavy machine guns, came just in time, residents said.

Haji Muhammad Musa Hotak, a legislator from Wardak Province, says that public confidence in the government has virtually collapsed along with the security situation.

Insurgents and other armed groups in the province have swelled from barely 100 last year to an estimated 500, as villagers have joined the insurgents, either for money or their own protection, he said.

“Dissatisfaction of the people is growing, anger is growing, people are joining the opposition groups,” he said in an interview in his Kabul office.

He has not been able to visit his home district for a month since the kidnapping of a Chinese road construction worker there by the Taliban, not even for the funeral of his grandson, he said. “How can we say the situation will gradually get better?”

In one of the most brazen attacks, on July 6, at Durrani, a large verdant village flanked by craggy mountains, the Taliban seized positions just above the road and fired on a convoy of seven tankers. The explosion set fire to the roadside shops and civilian cars, killing 22 civilians, Mr. Hotak said.

Army Capt. Muhammad Zaman, 41, was sent in with his platoon to set up base in Durrani just after the attack, as other units pursued the insurgents into villages behind the mountains.

The local police were woefully outmanned and outgunned, he said. “If there was no Afghan Army here, it would be too difficult to secure the road for one hour,” he said.

Tense Relations

But camping in the open, he had minimal defenses, and no protection against mortar fire, he said. His battalion has served alongside American troops all over Afghanistan, but on this operation the Afghan soldiers are on their own, save for some French troops who were mentoring them. Only one small French team appeared to be present among several hundred Afghan troops.

Coordination with American forces in the area was so poor that a passing American military convoy had fired on his positions just five days before and wounded one of his soldiers, Muhammad Baqer, in both legs.

“I could easily have fired back at them,” he said angrily. Villagers, too, complained that the American troops were firing recklessly.

“The Americans are not looking at us like human beings, but we are also human beings,” said a 20-year-old mechanic, Homayun, who uses one name and works in the bazaar down the road at the town of Saydebad.

“We don’t like either of them,” Homayun said of the Taliban and United States forces. “If they are fighting each other, innocent people get hurt.”

Nevertheless the Afghan Army units here seemed confident they could handle the insurgent threat in Wardak, and said the people were on their side.

“We can beat the Taliban conclusively when we build up our manpower,” said First Lt. Rahmatullah Minallah, who commands a post overlooking the Tangi valley, where the Americans died.

“I have 50 men here now. When I have 100 men, I can leave 50 here and go and clear out the village,” he said.

Some men from the unit were sent in to assist the ambushed Americans soldiers at Tangi, and gave their account of what had happened.

A Deadly Attack

The American soldiers had been traveling in three Humvees, heading east toward the neighboring province of Logar, they said. The United States military later said they were on a combat patrol and died from their wounds when their convoy was attacked by improvised explosive devices, small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

The three were identified as Sgt. First Class Matthew L. Hilton, 37, of Livonia, Mich., of the Michigan Army National Guard; and Sgt. First Class Joseph A. McKay, 51, of Brooklyn; and Specialist Mark C. Palmateer, 38, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., both of them part of a reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition unit of the New York Army National Guard, according to a Pentagon news release.

Their Afghan interpreter was 21-year-old Muhammad Fahim from Kabul, who had been working with the Americans for the last three years. His body was burned beyond recognition, his family said.

One vehicle struck a mine, but the convoy of three Humvees apparently kept moving, until a second vehicle hit a mine, said Capt. Haji Rahim, who visited the scene afterward. The Humvee caught fire, and the blaze was so strong the trees around it burned too, he said.

Captain Rahim did not see the bodies but learned from an American officer that one or more had been butchered. “Their bodies had no heads, legs or arms,” he said. A Western official in Kabul confirmed that at least one of the bodies had been cut up. “Organs were removed,” the official said.

Those behind the attack were swiftly identified as a group led by a local man, a former Hesb-e-Islami commander named Mullah Najibullah. Two weeks later United States and Afghan forces tracked him down at his home and killed him and his followers in a siege of the compound, Afghan officials said.


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