Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Afghanistan’s cricketers are playing heavyweights India in their opening match in the 20-over World Cup on Saturday, capping an extraordinary journey from refugee camps to the game’s top table.
It couldn’t be a more unlikely pair walking out to the green in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia than captains Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India and Nowroze Mangal of Afghanistan to toss the coin at the start of the match.
Dhoni is just coming off the Indian Premier League, having made millions of dollars playing cricket’s richest tournament and the endorsements that come with it, even though some of the sheen is off because of allegations of corruption clouding the tournament.
Now that India and Pakistan have agreed to hold further talks following a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries, are they going to step back from a bruising confrontation in Afghanistan?
It’s a war fought in the shadows with spies and proxies, and lots of money. Once in a while it gets really nasty as in deadly attacks on Indian interests for which New Delhi has pointed the finger at Pakistan.
The CIA is using smaller, advanced missiles – some of them no longer than a violin-case – to target militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt, according to the Washington Post.
The idea is to limit civilian casualties, the newspaper said quoting defence officials, after months of deadly missile strikes by unmanned Predator aircraft that has so burned Pakistan both in terms of the actual collateral damage and its sense of loss of sovereignty.
A new museum has opened in the western Afghan city of Herat honouring the exploits of the mujahideen who pushed back the mighty Soviet army following the invasion in 1979. Many consider it to be Afghanistan’s finest hour when a coalition of guerrillas variously commanded by regional warlords and, of course, heavily subsidised by the United States, fought the Soviet and Afghan government forces.
Reuters correspondent Golnar Motevalli takes a walk through the museum showing gory scenes of the corpses of Red Army soldiers slumped over tanks or burqa-clad women cheering the downing of a helicopter from the famously deadly Stinger missiles shoulder-fired by the mujahideen.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
One of the issues that seems to arouse the strongest emotions in the Afghan debate is the question of when the United States and its allies should engage in talks with the Taliban. Some argued that the moment was ripe a few months ago, when both sides were finely balanced against each other and therefore both more likely to make the kind of concessions that would make negotiations possible. It was an argument that surfaced forcefully at the London conference on Afghanistan in January. Others insisted that U.S.-led forces had to secure more gains on the battlefield first.
If you go by this survey carried out in December by Human Terrain Systems (pdf) (published this month by Danger Room) the people of Kandahar province were convinced at the end of last year of the need for negotiations: (as usual health warnings apply to any survey conducted in a conflict zone):
Anne Stenersen of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment has published by far one of the most detailed studies of the Taliban, their structure, leadership and just how they view the world. Its interesting because even after all these years they remain a bit of an enigma beginning with the reclusive founder and supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
As Stenersen notes, a lot of the attention within NATO has been on defeating the insurgency or how best to manage it. Less attention has been given to trying to understand who the insurgents are, and what they are fighting for. Even the way we describe them is not very defined. The insurgents are often lumped together as “al Qaeda and the Talban” , even though in many fundamental ways they could be vastly dissimilar, or described as OMF (Other military Forces) as NATO tends to do in militaryspeak, perhaps in the belief that denying them a proper name diminishes them.
The people of Kandahar province have greater trust in the Taliban than in the local government and an overwhelming majority consider them to be our “Afghan brothers” according to a poll commissioned by the U.S. army ahead of an impending offensive in the Taliban’s spiritual capital.
from Tales from the Trail:
A new national poll by Quinnipiac University shows that the Obama administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan is gaining some favor among voters.
Conducted April 14-19, the poll of American voters found that 49 percent of the respondents approved of the way President Barack Obama is handling the situation in Afghanistan versus 39 percent who disagreed.
Reuters’ journalist Myra Macdonald travelled to Pakistan’s northwest on the border with Afghanistan to find that some of the Kiplingesque images of xenophobic Pasthuns and ungovernable lands may be a bit off the mark especially now when the Pakistani army has taken the battle to the Islamist militants. Here’s her account :
By Myra MacDonald
KHAR, Pakistan – I had not expected Pakistan’s tribal areas to be so neat and so prosperous.