Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

“Orientalism” in Afghanistan and Pakistan

dust storm twoIn his must-read essay on the debate about the state of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, Amil Khan has one of the best opening lines I've seen for a while: "Much is said about Pakistan, but I'm constantly saddened that so many innocent pixels are lost without good cause."

Much the same can be said about the recent flurry of stories on the war in Afghanistan, from upbeat assessments of the U.S.-led military offensive in Kandahar to renewed interest in the prospects for a peace deal with Afghan insurgents.

There is a shade of "Orientalism" in all this, a modern-day equivalent of Edward Said's 1978 argument that the collective understanding of the Middle East, South Asia and Islam was skewed by the vested interests of European colonial powers.

Scroll forward to the 21st century and we have the United States keen to end a war that is increasingly unpopular at home, with a president who has committed to starting to bring home troops by July 2011.   That framework would be best suited by military success in Afghanistan, peace talks which would begin to show fruit by - let's choose a random date, July 2011 - and a willingness by Pakistan to stick to the U.S. timetable when it comes to tackling militants on its own territory.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan – a list too long

childPakistani journalist Mosharraf Zaidi had a good post up last week attempting to frame the many different challenges Pakistan faces in trying to deal with terrorism.  Definitely worth a read as a counter-balance to the vague "do more" mantra, and as a reminder of how little serious public debate there is out there about the exact nature of the threat posed to a nuclear-armed country of some 180 million people, whose collapse would destabilise the entire region and beyond.

Zaidi has divided the challenges into counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.

from The Great Debate:

America’s trouble with Islam

Of the many posters held aloft in angry demonstrations about plans for an Islamic cultural centre and mosque in New York, one in particular is worth noting: "All I ever need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11."

As an example of wilful ignorance, it's in a class by itself. It passes judgment, in just 12 words, about a sprawling universe of 1.3 billion adherents of Islam (in 57 countries around the world) who come from different cultures, speak a wide variety of languages, follow different customs, hold different nationalities and believe in different interpretations of their faith, just like Christians or Jews. Suicidal murderers are a destructive but tiny minority.

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:

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