Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

The exaggerated role of violent groups in Pakistan’s relief effort



Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has once again spoken of the danger of hardline Islamists exploiting the misery of the flood-affected to promote their cause,  which must be cause for worry for security forces in not just Pakistan but over the border in Afghanistan as well, fed by the same  militant fervour. Zardari called it the ” ideal hope of the radical” that the floods would discredit Pakistan’s government and warned that some of these extremist groups aimed to scoop up orphaned children and  “create them into robots.”

Such fears, though,  didn’t stop Zardari from proceeding on a heavily criticised foreign tour just as the flooding was getting worse, even though that was exactly the sort of thing that would  fuel public anger and hand the initiative to the Islamist groups.

But quite apart from Zardari’s fulminations, the question, nearly a month into the disaster is whether the Islamists charities linked to  militant groups have really made a difference to the lives of the millions hit by the floods.  Setting up a tent here, offering food and medicines at another place are all good, but they would seem like a drop in the ocean, literally, given the scale of the devastation Pakistan is confronted with.

If Pakistan’s army, one of the few institutions in the country seen as effective, is struggling to reach aid to the people despite the assets at its command, it’s difficult to see how the Jamaat-ud Dawa, a front  of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, can supplant the state in providing assistance in a sustained manner and over such a vast stretch of territory.

from Tales from the Trail:

Karzai appeals to U.S. taxpayers

karzai1Afghan President Hamid Karzai is taking a page from the playbook of American politicians campaigning for public office: talk to the taxpayers.

Karzai is on a campaign to give the boot to tens of thousands of foreign private security guards working in Afghanistan. He's already put the U.S. government on notice that the private security firms operating in his country will be disbanded within four months.

from FaithWorld:

VIDEO: Roundup of Ramadan starting in Turkey, Asia, Afghanistan

Below is a Reuters video roundup of the start of Ramadan in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Afghanistan:

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

Resurgent Taliban target women and children



Civilian casualties in the worsening war in Afghanistan are up just over 30 percent in the current year,  the United Nations said in a mid-year report this week, holding the Taliban responsible for three-quarters of the deaths or injuries.

More worrying, women and children seem to be taking the brunt of the violence directed by a resurgent Taliban, which will only stoke more concern about the wisdom of seeking reconciliation with the hardline Islamist group.

No place for women in the Great Afghan endgame


A Time magazine cover showing the face of an 18-year-old Afghan woman mutilated by the Taliban has set off a furious debate about how far to go in search of a political settlement with the resurgent Islamist group to end nine years of fighting.

On the one side are those who point to the latest atrocity as a reminder of the brutality of the Taliban, and that nothing really had changed. Women will pay the heaviest price if the hardline Islamist group returned to power, they warn. On the other hand are those who argue that America cannot indefinitely remain in Afghanistan to defend women’s rights which in any case remains an elusive goal. Indeed the latest abuse took place while troops are on the ground which goes to show the limits of military power.

from Tales from the Trail:

Backlash over WikiLeaks release of Afghan war documents

There may be more shoes to drop from WikiLeaks if it releases another 15,000 documents on the Afghanistan war that the whistleblower website is reviewing. It is already seeing some backlash after releasing 75,000-plus documents on the Internet.

The Times of London reported Wednesday that the leaked documents expose informers helping U.S. forces and have put hundreds of Afghan lives at risk.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra

wikileakIn many ways the documents released by WikiLeaks last night merely underscored the bleak assessment of the Afghan war which General Stanley McChrystal issued last August.

At the time McChrystal warned the overall situation was “deteriorating”, complained of “under-resourcing” and called for not just more resources but a “fundamentally new approach” from NATO forces if failure were to be avoided.

U.S. troops walk a dangerous line in Arghandab

- A member of the U.S. Army's explosive ordinance disposal unit scans the area around a burning M-ATV armored vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Combat Outpost Nolen. Pic by Bob Strong, Reuters

A member of the U.S. Army's explosive ordinance disposal unit scans the area around a burning M-ATV armored vehicle after it struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Combat Outpost Nolen. Pic by Bob Strong, Reuters

The walk to besieged U.S. Combat Outpost Nolen is only 700 metres in a straight line, but for the soldiers who walk it every day it is an extraordinary feat of fitness and defeating their own fear in one of Afghanistan’s riskiest front lines.

Burying the India-Pakistan dialogue for now



The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan have returned home, licking their wounds from their latest failed engagement.  Both sides are blaming each other for not only failing to make any progress, but also souring ties further, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M.Krishna openly sparring at a news conference following the talks in Islamabad.  Qureshi suggested Krishna did not seem to have the full mandate to conduct negotiations because directions were being given from New Delhi throughout the day-long talks, drawing rebuke from India which said the foreign minister had been insulted on Pakistani soil.

Some people are asking why bother  going through this painful exercise  at this time  when the chances of  of the two sides making even the slightest concession are next to zero?  India and Pakistan may actually be doing each other more damage by holding these high-profile, high-pressure meetings where the domestic media and the  opposition  in both the countries  is watching for the slightest sign of capitulation by either government.

Corruption’s tentacles reaching across Afghanistan


(Mullah Abdul Salaam ... all levels of Afghan society hit by graft. Pic by Omar Subhani, Reuters)

By Sayed Salahuddin

Petty corruption has more than doubled in Afghanistan since 2007, a new survey shows, and nine years after the fall of the Taliban graft drains at least $1 billion a year from the $11 billion economy.