Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

UPDATE- A glimmer of hope in Afghanistan

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(Amending the article with the correct name of the organisation which conducted the research as also with more details on the survey itself}

The Asia Foundation has released its annual survey of Afghanistan and a key finding is that the Afghan people are a bit more optimistic about their country than the rest of the world is, at this point of time.  The survey found that 42 percent of the people felt Afghanistan was heading in the right direction, up from 38 percent in 2008, and mainly because of better security conditions.

In fact each year the number of respondents who think security has improved has gone up, even though the Taliban insurgency is at its worst in 2009.  Some 44 percent of those surveyed this year said they felt safer, up from 31 percent in 2006. More respondents in 2009 also mentioned reconstruction and rebuilding (36%) and opening of schools for girls (21%) as reasons for optimism than in previous years.

An Afghan mission that went wrong

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Reuters Kabul correspondent Jonathon Burch is currently on an embed with the U.S. Army’s Stryker brigade in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. On October 27,  seven soldiers from a platoon of the Strykers, named after an eight-wheel armoured combat vehicle, and an interpreter were killed in a bomb attack on the outskirts of Kandahar city.

Jonathon was accompanying them at the time and here’s his story :

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The mission was simple. Some 20 U.S. soldiers were to patrol a riverbed in the dead of night, camp until morning, and provide backup to Afghan troops and their Canadian mentors in a clearing operation in Chahar Bagh village, an insurgent hotbed on the outskirts of Kandahar City.

Has the “Kabul bubble” burst?

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Wednesday’s attacks on foreign U.N. workers at a guest-house in a normally secure area of Kabul shook the nerves of everyone in the city. Rightly or wrongly, the community of Western journalists, aid workers and security contractors often make the crude comparison between working in Baghdad and working in Kabul. All seem to agree that they prefer living in the latter, where they can travel around with relative ease, visit bars and restaurants and go to parties across town.

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Kabul is, despite the concrete barriers and armoured vehicles, a beautiful city, nestled among towering mountains. None of the many restaurants and coffee shops frequented by foreigners have been attacked so far. Only the luxury Serena hotel has been hit by Taliban attackers before, the latest also on Wednesday when it was hit with rockets intended for the presidential palace.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s slow path to salvation in Waziristan

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Pakistan's militants have unleashed a guerrilla war in cities across the country in retaliation for a military offensive against them in their South Waziristan stronghold. But while they have seized all the attention with their massive bomb and gun attacks, what about the offensive itself  in their mountain redoubt ?

Nearly two weeks into Operation Rah-e-Nijat, or Path of Salvation,  it is hard to make a firm assessment of which way the war is going, given that information is hard to come by and this may yet be still the opening stages of a long and difficult campaign.

from Tales from the Trail:

Is Afghan war one of necessity for U.S.?

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Disengaging from Afghanistan is the option President Barack Obama is the least likely to adopt as he closes in on a new strategy in the eight-year war he calls one of "necessity."

AFGHANISTANBut on Thursday, at one of the countless policy conferences in Washington to discuss the president's choices, some experts suggested withdrawal was the best route -- and they said it would not necessarily impact efforts to fight al Qaeda.

Choppers, the Achilles’ heel in the Afghan war

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Back in 2002 during a reporting assignment in Afghanistan, a U.S. helicopter pilot told me that it was important to send a message early on that “we own the skies, night or day”.  So at any given point of time if you were at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul, you could see aircraft, mostly choppers taking off, landing or simply idling  in the skies above in what became the region’s busiest airfield.

Seven years on, the U.S. military is holding on to the skies ever more tightly as the ground below slips away to a Taliban insurgency at its fiercest level. And because they fly more and because the terrain and weather are difficult, the chances of things going wrong increase, as happened earlier this week when 14 Americans, including 11 soldiers, were killed in two separate chopper crashes.

Six U.N. foreign workers killed in Kabul attacks

Taliban militants in Afghanistan killed six U.N foreign staff in an assault on an international guest-house in Kabul on Wednesday (Oct 28) deepening concerns about security for a Presidntial election run-off due in 10 days.

A resurgent Taliban have vowed to disrupt the Nov 7. run off as U.S president Barack Obama weighs whether to send more troops to Afghanistan to fight an insugency that has reached its fiercest level since the islamist were outsted in 2001.

from Tales from the Trail:

Protest resignation over Afghan plans puts Obama team on edge

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On Monday, the State Department sent out its no. 2 official to tout how it was managing to get U.S. civilians out into the field in Afghanistan, with nearly 1,000 expected to be in place by year-end.

A day later, it was in damage control mode after the resignation of one of its star employees was plastered on the front page of The Washington Post and on the Internet.

from Tales from the Trail:

Time to get tough on Afghan fraud, start with the message

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What message does it send when the U.N. representative to Afghanistan says it will be impossible to eliminate fraud in the run-off election? AFGHANISTAN-ELECTION/

That's what Kai Eide admitted last week, adding, "what we will try to do, is to reduce the level of fraud."

To send or not to send…

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Here’s a transcript of an interview with Senator John Kerry on US policy in Afghanistan from the PBS news show The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  Margaret Warner conducted the interview on October 26 with the influential Democrat after he had delivered a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.

Some pundits have suggested that Kerry, who chairs the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, is ‘running cover’ for President Barack Obama in case the President decides not to meet General Stanley McChrystal’s demand to send more troops to Afghanistan.  

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