Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Size, and lipstick, matter in Afghan election


(photo gallery)


By Sayed Salahuddin   

It seems size does matter when it comes to Afghanistan’s parliamentary election.

And if that is true, then Malalai Ishaqzai stands a very good
chance of winning a seat in Saturday’s election.

One imposing billboard of Ishaqzai sits on a rooftop in the
centre of Kabul, almost as high as a three-storey building.

A current lawmaker and one of almost 2,500 candidates running
for 249 seats in the wolesi jirga, or lower house of parliament,
Ishaqzai is proud of her massive billboards.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures September 12, 2010

As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest  to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia.  Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in   Afghanistan and a U. S. -led  military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar -  photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.

Raheb's picture of relief and joy caught in the harsh light of a direct flash seems to explode in a release of tension as news spreads that Pastor Jones had cancelled his plans to burn the Koran. It has to be said that ironically earlier in the day in Pakistan US flags were burned in protest against the planned protest.

While Pakistan deals with floods, U.S. turns up the heat in northwest



While Pakistan’s devastating floods may have set back the army’s campaign against militants, the US drone war in the northwest is unabated. Indeed America may have just stepped up the deadly attacks, if the first 12 days of this month are any indication. At least nine attacks have already been carried out in what may well turn out to the most active month since the U.S. military began drone strikes against members of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan in 2004. On Sunday there was a fresh air strike in North Waziristan in which five suspected militants were killed, intelligence officials said.

The most active month recorded so far was January 2010, with the US launching 11 strikes in Pakistan in the aftermath of the suicide attack on a US combat outpost in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer, according to the Long War Journal which tracks the drone campaign.

Ahmad Shah Masood’s brother wants probe into “Lion” killing


By Sayed Salahuddin

With attention focusing on Saturday’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a brother of Afghanistan’s revered anti-Taliban resistance fighter Ahmad Shah Masood has called for an investigation into his assassination.The slaying of “the Lion of the Panjshir” on Sept. 9, 2001, was the signal for the hijacked airliner attacks on the United States two days later that stunned the world, brought about the fall of the Taliban and drew the United States into an Afghan quagmire it is still struggling to get out of nine years later.

There is scepticism among his fans that al Qaeda was the only culprit, with some even saying Washington also had a hand in it to facilitate Afghanistan’s occupation. “Some people are saying al Qaeda, Taliban, Pakistan, this country, that country (played a role in slaying Masood),” said his brother, Ahmad Wali Masood.

from Tales from the Trail:

State Dept: church Koran burning plan”un-American”

There have been lots of angry words over plans by an obscure Florida pastor to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley pulled out the biggest gun of all on Tuesday in his effort to distance the government from the pastor's incendiary proposal -- he called it "un-American."

Afghan customers lose confidence in Kabulbank


karzaiThe man outside the Kabulbank branch in the capital seemed believable, his voice full of doubt when he spoke about the Afghan government’s repeated assurances that his savings, held by the country’s largest private bank, were safe.

The government, after all, said that it vouched for “every penny”, even though the bank’s top two directors had stepped down amid media allegations of corruption last week.

A drop in Afghanistan’s drug ocean











                                     By Andrew Hammond

U.S. private security guards mingled in the crowd, while Afghan security forces stood on guard on surrounding hilltops and
access roads. Afghans in dirty robes ran back and forward with paraffin canisters, two of them with the unfortunate task of climbing over
the pile of wood, and seized sacks of drugs to pour on the fuel.

from Photographers' Blog:

Life and death on a medevac helicopter

An Afghan man suffering from multiple stab wounds is loaded onto a medevac helicopter near the town of Marjah in Helmand Province, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Taking pictures of people who are suffering and in pain is never an easy experience. From the jump seat in the back of a Blackhawk medevac helicopter, a constant stream of injured, dead and dying men and women passed in front of me during a recent week-long embed. The wounds were as varied as the patients; an Afghan soldier with kidney stones to a Marine whose legs had been nearly severed by an IED blast.

An Afghan man holds his daughter onboard a medevac helicopter after she was shot in the ear during a gun battle between Marines and insurgents near the town of Marjah, in Helmand Province, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong The medevac helicopter crews were part of the 101st Airborne Division based at Camp Dwyer, a dusty Marine base in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.  During my one week embed with Charlie Company, I would generally work from 6am until it got dark around 7:30pm. The busiest times of day seemed to be in the morning and then again in the afternoon, but calls were received 24 hours a day. About 50% of our patients were Afghan nationals, both military and civilians; with injuries ranging from amputated limbs blown off by IED’s to stab wounds from domestic disputes. The military medical facilities offer the same level of care to locals and soldiers alike, in no small part to gain a bit of good will in this hostile and volatile province.

The contours of an Afghan settlement



For all the talk of  seeking a political settlement of the Afghan war  with the involvement of the Taliban, it has not been clear even broadly what a final deal will look like.   Will the Taliban, who control or exercise influence over large parts of the country, take charge in Kabul ? Will the United States simply and fully withdraw all its forces from the country?  What happens to President Hamid Karzai who has been actively seeking reconciliation with the hardline Islamists ? What about the regional powers, not just Pakistan which obviously will play a central role because of its ties to the Taliban, but also Iran and India, both with rising stakes there along with the Russians and the Chinese to a lesser extent  ?

Selig Harrison, director of the Asia programme at the Center for International Policy, explores some of these questions in a must-read piece in Foreign Policy headlined “How to leave Afghanistan without Losing.”

Afghan election: Industrial-scale corruption, or real hope?




What is a worse prospect for an Afghanistan election – election fraud on an industrial scale or a quiet campaign of intimidation that keeps voters away from the polls, or forces them to vote for the most powerful candidate?
That seems to be the choice facing many Afghan voters ahead of the Sept. 18 parliamentary election, particularly those in the Pashtun tribal belt in the south and east where so much of the fraud that marred last year’s presidential ballot was committed.

Afghan voters can be excused for feeling ballot fatigue. The September vote will be their fourth in six years.
There have been some improvements but the key questions of poor governance, corruption and security remain unanswered despite the number of ballots they have cast. To turn out again will be a real test of their commitment to democracy, a right taken for granted by many in the West and grumbled about when they are asked to exercise it. It would hardly be surprising, given the risks, if many decided not to vote.