Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Afghanistan’s cricketers rise to the world stage

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(Afghanistan's cricketers after they qualified for the World Cup. Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro

(Afghanistan's cricketers after they qualified for the World Cup. Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro)

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.

Can India, Pakistan possibly back off in Afghanistan?

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INDIA-PAKISTAN

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.

Killing more efficiently: America’s violin-sized missiles

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A unmanned Predator being rolled out of a hangar.REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

(An unmanned Predator being rolled out of a hangar. REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

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.

Afghanistan’s grisly new museum

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(A scene from war depicted in a new museum in Herat. Reuters/Mohammad Shoaib

(A scene from war depicted in a new museum in Herat. Reuters/Mohammad Shoaib

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.   

Reporting on the Afghan war: Lies and Truths

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An U.S. Army soldier takes photos of the eyes of an Afghan man at a checkpoint near of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Tillman November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

A U.S. soldier takes photos of the eyes of an Afghan man at a checkpoint near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Tillman, Afghanistan, November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

“How can you live with your conscience reporting Taliban propaganda?”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On tipping points and Taliban talks

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british soldierOne 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):

The Taliban, an enigma wrapped in a riddle ?

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(Taliban in Kunduz- REUTERS/Wahdat )

(Taliban in Kunduz- REUTERS/Wahdat )

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.

Kandahar trusts Taliban more than govt – US army poll

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A poppy field in Arghandab River Valley in Kandahar province REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)

(A poppy field in Arghandab River Valley in Kandahar province. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)

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:

New poll shows boost for Afghan war strategy

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A new national poll by Quinnipiac University shows that the Obama administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan is gaining some favor among voters.

AFGHANISTANConducted 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.

Challenging the myths of Pakistan’s turbulent northwest

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PAKISTAN/

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.

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