Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Seventeen internet cafes have been shutdown in the Afghan capital Kabul, for allowing their clients to surf porn websites and access other unspecified “un-Islamic websites”, the local Pajhwok news agency reported.
The move comes a few months after a crackdown on sale of alcohol, banned for Muslims and only sold to non-Muslims in a handful of bars and restaurants — though there is still a thriving black market selling bottles at a price.
Some friends in Kabul have suggested the tightening could be part of government efforts to placate the Taliban and hold talks with them, by cutting back on some aspects of modern society that the hardline movement is likely to object to.
But Afghanistan is still a conservative country, and there are plenty of people with no desire to see the insurgents back in power, who would still welcome tighter controls on the internet, alcohol and other potential vices.
Several years ago President Hamid Karzai likened balancing Afghanistan’s various internal pressures and the demands of external allies and foes with walking while holding a fragile dish. With no end in sight to the U.S.-led war now in its 10th year, he must feel as if he is juggling the entire dinner service.
For years Karzai has said that peace talks with the insurgents was key to the solution of the Afghan conflict and termed them as a priority since last year, but he also has to take on board the frequently conflicting interests of all the players.
It’s not just Pakistan where the United States has stepped up air raids against members of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Last month, U.S-led NATO planes in Afghanistan conducted 700 missions, more than twice the number for the same month the previous year. It was also one of the highest single-month totals of the nine-year Afghan War, the military-focused Danger Room blog said, citing U.S. Air Force statistics.
September was also the month when missile strikes by unmanned U.S. drone planes in northwest Pakistan hit the highest level of 20 since America launched its secret war inside Pakistan, widely seen as the main battleground of the Afghan war because of the sanctuary provided to top al Qaeda and Taliban. And as if that was not enough, NATO helicopters from Afghanistan crossed the border on at least three occasions, triggering a firestorm of criticism in Pakistan which closed off the supply lines to the foreign troops in Afghanistan.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
In Obama's Wars, Rob Woodward attributes the following thoughts to U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on the prospects for a peaceful settlement to the Afghan war:
"He saw reconciliation and reintegration as distinct. Reconciliation was esoteric, an iffy high-level treaty with Taliban leaders. Reintegration occurred down at the local level in villages and towns..."
U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have often called the Taliban cowards for planting crude roadside bombs, the biggest killer of troops and civilians. They should come out and fight like men, instead of planting these improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and then slipping away into the countryside. If you are out on a patrol with the forces, that’s the kind of thing you often hear.
But some people are questioning this kind of labelling, asking if it is right to dismiss your enemies as cowards, especially one in this case that has fought the world’s most powerful military to a draw, if not a possible retreat.
from Russell Boyce:
This week has seen a dramatic increase in violence and tension throughout much of the Asia region, and the pictures on the wire reflect this mood. It seems that actions by not only nations, armed groups but individuals have all had a dramatic impact on the mood of the region. The weight of the news feels almost claustrophobic as I try to keep on top of what is happening.
U.S. Army soldiers from Delta Company, a part of Task Force 1-66 carry a wounded 7-year-old Afghan boy, a victim of a road side explosion, at their base near the village of Gul Kalacheh, Arghandab River valley, Kandahar province, September 18, 2010. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
A furious debate has raged for several months now whether it makes sense for the United States to throw tens of thousands of soldiers at a handful of al Qaeda that remain in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, nine years after launching the global war on terrorism.
CIA director Leon Panetta told ABC News in June thatal-Qaeda’s presencein Afghanistan was now “relatively small … I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100.” And in nextdoor Pakistan, arguably the more dangerous long-term threat, there were about 300 al Qaeda leaders and fighters, officials separately estimated.
from Russell Boyce:
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.
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.
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.