Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Afghan opposition challenger Abdullah welcomes run-off

KABUL, OCT 21 (REUTERS)- Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s main election rival, welcomed a decision by Afghan election authorities to hold a second-round run-off in the country’s disputed presidential election on Nov. 7. The prospect of having to vote in another election amid a growing Taliban insurgency has disillusioned many voters in Afghanistan and some Afghan analysts have criticised the move as part of a Western plan to impose its own strategy on the country.

NATO generals visit Afghanistan, behind a wall of security


                                                      By David Brunnstrom

k1U.S. General Stanley McChrystal says that if NATO forces hope ever to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, they must shake off their garrison mentality, get closer to the people and share the risks they face.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan, Pakistan and … all the other countries involved


Regular readers of this blog will know that I have questioned before the value of the "AfPak" label, which implies that an incredibly complicated situation involving many different countries can be reduced to a five-letter word.

Having spent the last couple of days trying to make sense of the suicide bomb attack in Iran which Tehran blamed on Jundollah, an ethnic Baluchi, Sunni insurgent group it says has bases in Pakistan,  I'm more inclined than ever to believe the "AfPak" label blinds us to the broader regional context. Analysts argue that Jundollah has been heavily influenced by hardline Sunni sectarian Islamist thinking within Pakistan which is itself the product of 30 years of proxy wars in the region dating back to the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan towards the end of the same year.

President Hamid Karzai agrees to an election run-off

Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed on Tuesday to a run-off in the country’s disputed presidential poll and face his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah in a second round on Nov. 7 after a U.N.-backed fraud investigation tossed out tens of thousands of invalid votes from the Aug. 20 election.

Whither Afghanistan’s election?


a1The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), made up mainly of Westerners, has published its findings into Afghanistan’s disputed, fraud-beset presidential poll.

Now Afghans must determine their political future using the bureaucratic legacy of lists and numbers the ECC has left behind. 

United Nations reacts to Afghan election probe

KABUL, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, comments on a U.N.-backed investigation into Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election, which has left the country in political limbo since August.

Pomegranates, dust, rose gardens and war


s1On a hilltop in central Kabul, the relics of Soviet armoured vehicles sit in the shadow of an incongruously vast and empty swimming pool. A tower of diving boards looks down into the concrete carcass built by the Russians. Boys play football there and on Fridays the basin is used for dog fights; combat is the only option for the canine gladiators, as they cannot climb up the sheer, steep sides. From the vantage point you can see the city’s graveyards, its bright new mosques, the narco-palaces of drug-funded business potentates and the spread of modest brick homes where most Kabulis live. It’s a favourite spot for reporters when they need to escape the press of urgent events and get cleaner air in their lungs. 

For years journalists have sought to tell stories that go beyond the conflict in Afghanistan. We’ve tried to portray this country – the crossroads of central Asia, the summer home of Moghul emperors, the cockpit of clashing empires – as more than a place of blood, deprivation and extremism. Amid the dust and the heat it has its oases of tranquility, its laughter and its charms. From the market stalls of sweet pomengranates that line the road in autumn to the rose gardens newly planted in central Kabul, Afghanistan is a place of thorny history, cultural complexity and spartan beauty.

Afghanistan : the fallout of operation Waziristan


m3Pakistan has opened an offensive against members of the Pakistan Taliban in the mountains of south Waziristan near the Afghan border. Quite apart from what it means for the Pakistani state as it engages in its toughest battle yet with the militants, the obvious question to ask is what impact will the Pakistani thrust into the rugged region have on the war next door in Afghanistan ?

One assessment is that the Waziristan operation may have a limited impact immediately. The Pakistani army hasn’t given any details of mission objectives, but most people reckon that it is for now targeting Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who has declared war on the state, and a band of Uzbek fighters who have set up base there. There are no indications so far that it intends to take on other powerful militant leaders such as Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Mullah Nazir or the Haqqani network who are focused on Afghanistan as the Long War Journal and others note. And therefore this one is more about Pakistan itself, of seizing the initiative back from the militants in an “increasingly bloody domestic struggle against Islamic extremism,” as the Washington Post put it.

Afghanistan: A Marine company marches on its MREs


m1On a recent embed in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province a Reuters team, comprising myself, a still photographer and a TV cameraman, spent almost two weeks living in what can conservatively be described as novel conditions for civilians. These included sleeping outdoors on the ground, living in a dusty, bat-infested room on a  fold-up cot, not showering for longer than I care to admit here and pooing in plastic bags.

But this was all actually ok and very tolerable. I was surrounded by reminders of how, for me, this was a tiny glimpse into the lives of Marines who have been living like this for the past six months.