Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Walking into a mess hall at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan can be confusing.
Soldiers from NATO countries, walking in all directions, have plenty to choose from. Asian workers load heaps of food on plates as long rows of soldiers wait patiently. There is the salad bar. The fruit bar. The bread toasting area. In the centre of mess halls are short order cooks who make stir fry meals, for instance. The drinks section offers everything from apple to multi-vitamin juices to chilled milk.
If soldiers are still thirsty and need a quick sugar boost they can always turn to refrigerators packed with soft drinks. For the greedy – a sign says only two cans per person.
After a dizzying look at all that is on offer, I remembered, for some reason, someone telling me long ago how the Vietnamese lived on tiny amounts of rice fighting the Americans. Did that make them even harder fighters? Probably.
I was with Western forces the other day as they tried to persuade a group of Afghan farmers to come to them for help if they saw Taliban militants plant an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or intimidated them.
A team of U.S. geologists and Pentagon officials have concluded that Afghanistan is sitting on untapped mineral deposits worth more than $1 trillion, officials said. The deposits of iron, copper, cobalt and critical industrial elements such as lithium are enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the war itself, the officials said.
Lithium is a key raw material for the manufacture of batteries for laptops and mobile phones, and the potential reserves of the metal are so huge that the country may well become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium”, a Pentagon memo said.
Shopping on Flower Street — pic by UNAMA
Only fresh flowers will do for Mother’s Day gifts in Afghanistan.
For the vendors of Kabul’s Flower Street, that meant a rare departure on Monday from selling the elaborate plastic bouquets favoured by many Afghan businesses, banquet halls and home parlours.
“On this day, my sales increase 30 percent,” beamed Mohammad Rafi of Mursal florists. His competitor next door, Sunbal, had a much rosier prediction that by day’s end profits would be up as much as 500 percent.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
According to a new report published by the London School of Economics, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency not only funds and trains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially represented on the movement's leadership council, giving it significant influence over operations.
The ISI has long been accused of backing the Taliban - an accusation Pakistan denies, saying this would make no sense when it is already fighting a bloody campaign against Islamist militants at home. But the report is worth reading for its wealth of detail on the perceptions held by Taliban commanders interviewed in the field. You can see the Reuters story on the report here and the full document (pdf) here.
If you still thought things hadn’t dramatically changed on the Afghan chessboard ever since U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to begin pulling out from mid-2011, you only need to look at President Hamid Karzai’s recent utterances, or more accurately the lack of it, on the Taliban and Pakistan, the other heavyweights on the stage.
For months Karzai has gone noticeably quiet on Pakistan, refusing to excoriate the neighbour for aiding the Taliban as he routinely did in the past, The Guardian quoted a source close to the country’s former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh as saying.
from India Insight:
With initial euphoria over last week's U.S.-India talks on the wane, it may be time to take a long, hard look at what New Delhi actually gained from the first official "strategic dialogue" between the two sides.
The timing was just right as Washington implements its AfPak plan, the correct gestures were made and U.S. officials went out of their way to convince the Indian media all was fine between the world's two biggest democracies.
Reuters photographer Asmaa Waguih was embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. for two months. Here’s her account of a close shave with an IED blast.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that a large part of my time with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan would be marked out by the Marines’ order : “hurry up and wait”. I would wait for hours for flights to remote places, for a foot patrol to start but above all wait for action to happen so I could shoot live combat.
Reuters correspondent Michael Georgy is on an embed in Kandahar airfield where U.S.-led NATO troops are preparing an operation against the Taliban in their southern Afghan stronghold. Here’s a glimpse of life on the base.
By Michael Georgy
I walked by TGI Friday’s and a Canadian brand coffee shop as men and women playing volleyball looked like they were enjoying
the beach in California. People were drinking milkshakes along a lovely boardwalk. There was a French-style patisserie for those seeking a bit of European culture.