Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures July 10, 2011

I am not a gamer at all but while looking at the file this week was reminded of a facility on electronic gaming my son showed me that allows you to see a different view point of the action. You can have wide, close and closer still. Two pictures of police beating protesters with batons have been shot as close as you can possibly get to the action but for sure this is no game.  Philippines based Romeo (Bobby) Ranoco picture is actually so close that it has been shot over the shoulder of the soldier, who, judging by the blood on the head of the unarmed protester, seems to have scored at least one direct hit . In India  and shot just slightly wider is Jayanta Dey's picture. The fact that it is shot slightly wider makes sure we are aware that it is actually three soldiers beating a protester and not one. The line of composition created by the baton and the flexed arm creating a perfect compositional triangle - Although I am not sure the protester would actually care about that. 

An anti-riot policeman hits a protester with a baton at a rally against what protesters claim to be U.S. intervention outside the U.S. embassy in Manila July 4, 2011. Filipino and U.S. troops are holding exercises in the Sulu Sea off the western Philippine province of Palawan, which lies near the disputed Spratly Islands. Conflicting territorial claims by several countries over the Spratlys and Paracels are raising tensions in Asia. Besides the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei are claiming the islands as theirs. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

A policeman wields a baton against an activist of India's Congress party during a protest in Agartala, located in northeastern Indian state of Tripura July 10. 2011. Police used batons to disperse activists on Sunday protesting against the state's alleged discriminatory policies towards reservation of seats in local medical colleges, local media reported. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

Continuing on the theme of public disobedience and violent confrontation with authority thousands of people massed on the Streets of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to demonstrate for electrial reform.  Malaysia chief photographer Bazuki Muhammad, his colleague Samsul Said and Thailand based chief Photographer Damir Sagolj were on the streeets all day as police fired repeated rounds of tear gas and detained over 1,400 people. Both their pictures make me feeling like gagging with the amount of tear gas that is in the air. An unexpected piece of drama to unfold from the demonstration was the fact that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was slightly injured in the clashes and that Bazuki managed to get access as Anwar's daughter administered some tender care. Lastly with this week's Asian civil disobedience I have to include Nepal based Navesh Chitraker's picture of a Tibetan woman striding purposely towards a line of riot police as she tries to enter a school. The tension in the picture created by the shape of the stride and the tyre mark lines in the mud all pointing to the open gate. but you already know she is just not going to get past the line of soldiers.

Ahead of Lisbon, soul-searching in Pakistan

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For all of former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf’s faults, the one thing you would have to give him credit for is the emergence of a free press. It’s every bit as fearless, and questioning as its counterpart across the border in India, sometimes even stepping over the line, as some complain.

Indeed east of the Suez, and perhaps all the way to Japan, it would be hard to find a media that is as unrestrained as in India and Pakistan, which is even more remarkable in the case of Pakistan given the threat posed by a deadly militancy.

The Afghan media surge — highlighting unpaid salaries

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US and NATO forces in Afghanistan recently sent out a news release apparently highlighting that teachers in a school supported by international troops were going unpaid for weeks, or even months.That wasn’t the headline of course — we were told “Uruzgan teachers to begin receiving salaries” but just three paragraphs in was the news that the school reopened on September 23.And the six teachers shouldn’t expect their modest 5,000 Afghanis (just over $100) salary for at least another few weeks it added — mentioning only that pay would arrive “in the coming weeks”.

The military are sending out far more news releases than just a few months ago, with even relatively small operations highlighted, more frequent updates on major operations, and more reports on aid projects and ventures like a children’s day in Bamiyan province. Recent headlines include: “Coalition and Afghan Border Police living on the edge” ,  “Female engagement team builds bridges into Afghan society” , “Afghan National Army honoured at concert” and “Afghan masons ‘build’ sustainability through concrete training”.

America takes the war deeper into Pakistan

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One of the most interesting things in Bob Woodward’s re-telling of the Afghan war strategy in his book “Obama’s Wars” is the approach toward Pakistan. It seems the Obama administration figured out pretty early on in its review that Pakistan was going to be the central batttleground, for this is where the main threat to America came from.

Indeed, the mission in Afghanistan was doomed so long as al Qaeda and the Taliban were sheltered in the mountains of northwest Pakistan straddling the Afghan border. The question was how do you deal with Pakistan?

A view from the machine gun

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- (2nd Lt Matthew Bennet with U.S. C Troop 1-71 CAV chats with villagers during a night patrol in the village of Gorgan on June 25, 2010. Pic by Denis Sinyakov, Reuters)

(2nd Lt Matthew Bennet with U.S. C Troop 1-71 CAV chats with villagers during a night patrol in Gorgan on June 25, 2010. Pic by Denis Sinyakov, Reuters)

By Michael Georgy

An American Lieutenant was doing his best to reassure villagers in the Afghan heartland Taliban Province that U.S. soldiers would protect them from the Taliban, after a roadside bomb killed a father and son who were driving home on a motorcycle. On patrol he asked several people whether they felt safe, and said they should not hesitate to contact the Americans, located a few hundred metres away in their camp.

Can NATO troops ever get their message across to Afghans?

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- A Canadian soldier chats with children in southern Afghanistan.Reuters/Denis Sinyakov

A Canadian soldier chats with children in southern Afghanistan.Reuters/Denis Sinyakov

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.

Is the surge failing in Afghanistan?

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- (Afghan women in a car in Kandahar province.Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

(Afghan women in a car in Kandahar province. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)

Six months into the surge in Afghanistan, Americans and Afghans alike are asking the question whether it has worked and the ugly reality is that it has failed to make a difference, writes Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post.

To be sure, as U.S. President Barack Obama said last week only half the reinforcements he ordered in December have arrived and there is still more than a year to go before the troop withdrawals begin.

Kandahar:It’s not an operation; it’s a process, stupid!

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(A U.S. soldier searches an Afghan man in Kandahar. Reuters/Jonathon Burch)

If you believe the official line from U.S. and NATO commanders in Afghanistan, the upcoming offensive in Kandahar involving no less than 23,000 foreign and Afghan troops  will involve a lot of polite words, meeting with tribal elders and “talking” the Taliban out of their spiritual home.

The soft rhetoric over the biggest ground operation of the nine-year war  has even drawn similarities to the infamous comments made by the then British Defence Secretary John Reid, when Britain expanded its mission into Helmand in early 2006. Reid said he hoped Britain’s “peacekeeping” mission, expected to last three years, would be completed without a shot being fired.

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?”

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.

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