Thursday, October 05, 2006

Afghanistan seems ever more bleak

The news from Afghanistan seems ever more bleak as the Taliban are resurgent. Pakistan’s fingerprints are all over this situation. Syed Saleem Shahzad tells us that Pakistan has crafted the Taliban to fit their own purposes. In fact, many who call themselves “Taliban” are distrusted by the leadership of the original Taliban movement. It is, of course, money that makes it work: Pakistan money has to be involved. With no more evidence than my own biases I would bet there is plenty of Saudi money involved [from private sources]. And we are told by other sources that drug money is supporting it.
This is one war the Western world needs desperately to win. Pakistan needs only to wait: eventually the West will withdraw while Pakistan cannot withdraw; it has too much at stake in Afghanistan. But the Afghanistan peoples, Taliban or not, will quickly get out of Pakistan’s control. As Louie Dupree used to say, “You can rent an Afghan but you can’t buy him.” I don’t know the answer but if there is no effective control of Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, from which much of the Taliban insurgency comes, there will be no solution. Baluchistan is no better, but for other reasons: the Baluch are insurgent against the Pakistan government.
There is another issue that worries me: Given Pakistan’s commitment to supporting the Taliban and dissimulating about it, what risks are reporters like Syed Saleem Shahzad taking by exposing it? A number of journalists have been killed this year: that there are honest journalists in Pakistan at all – and there are many – is a wonder. And I think they should get high praise for telling the truth.


Pakistan reaches into Afghanistan
Published: October 3, 2006 (Asia Times)

[...done to help craft an insurgency that best suits Pakistan's national interests.]
[...Qari Mohammed Yousuf is a purported spokesman of the Taliban. He roams around the Chaman and Quetta regions in Pakistan's Balochistan province]
[Yet prominent Taliban commanders and affiliates who pledge their allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar noticeably keep their distance from Qari Yousuf.]
["Why are his [Qari Yousuf's] calls not traced and why is he not arrested? If I tried to cross the border and go to Quetta I would be immediately arrested," Raza Bacha, a newly famed Taliban commander active in Helmand province in Afghanistan, told Asia Times Online.]
[Obaidullah appears to have a relatively small command, with most of his forces made up of young men from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. They are each paid about Rs10,000 (US$167) to take part in operations running for a maximum of one month. Yet, as with Qari Yousuf, the Taliban openly distance themselves from Mullah Obaidullah.]
[The Taliban leadership is known to be wary about the mushroom growth of such "independent" commanders all over Afghanistan, and is taking rapid steps to reorganize its cadre. Taliban circles are convinced that the Pakistani establishment is again actively pushing its agenda.]
[…they receive their instructions [and money] from the Pakistani establishment," commented Raza Bacha on the various commanders active in southwestern Afghanistan.]
[a direct bid by Islamabad to establish its influence in the Pashtun heartlands of Afghanistan - but this time not through the Taliban but through a new force that will be 100% under Pakistan's control.]
[accused his spies of "supporting terrorism and extremism".]
[the West had turned a blind eye toward "the indirect protection of al-Qaeda and promotion of terrorism" by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.]
[The ISI gathered them into a group called the Jamiatul Khudamul Koran and they all rejected Mullah Omar's policy of harboring Osama bin Laden and his jihadist training camps. They received training in Parachanar, a town near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in North-West Frontier Province, from where they launched operations into Afghanistan against foreign forces. They were pure ISI proxies, and never a part of the Taliban.]
[Similarly, Jaishul Muslim was launched by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the ISI to break Mullah Omar's iron grip over the Taliban. Jaishul Muslim established a network in Afghanistan. However, many of those who had been given a lot of money and training then broke ranks and melted into the Taliban.]
[the Senlis Council, which has covered Afghanistan extensively, asserted that the Taliban regained control of the southern half of the country largely because of misguided international counter-narcotics and military policies that are losing hearts and minds.]
[night messages posted on walls and in mosques asking people to stand up against foreign forces. The addressees in all the messages were the "mujahideen".]
["They command their small groups and their activities are sporadic [and] isolated and do not have any coordination with any bigger command structure, like the Taliban or the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. They are stand-alone - they carry out actions and then go back to their places. This is in fact a mass mutiny against foreign forces."]
[Nearly two centuries ago, they were sufficiently organized to drive out the Soviets. [decades?]]
[they could evolve into a separate movement fueled by Iran or Pakistan, or both, or turn into an independent movement. Alternatively, as in the recent past, they could melt into the Taliban.]

Here is more reason to worry about the future of Afghanistan. Safia Amajan was clearly a brave woman. That she was “working for the government” was reason to kill her, the Taliban said. But another reasons seems to be that she was Shia, a sect they are committed to stamping out.

The woman who defied the Taliban, and paid with her life
Published: September 26, 2006 (The Independent)

[Safia Amajan promoted women's education and work - a fairly ordinary job in most places - but in the Afghanistan of a resurgent Taliban it was a dangerous path to follow.]
[Yet this support was signally lacking while she lived.]
[Ms Amajan had asked for, and been refused, a protective vehicle, or bodyguards, despite repeated death threats.]
["We have told people again and again that anyone working for the government, and that includes women, will be killed."]
[With the return of the Taliban, as the "war on terror" moved on to Iraq, aid workers - foreign and Afghan, men and women - were intimidated into leaving the region.]
[Ms Amajan was one of the few who refused to flee.]
[ In Kandahar alone she had opened six schools where a thousand women had learnt how to make and then sell their goods at the market. She was also instrumental in setting up tailoring schools for women, with some of the products making their way to markets in the West.]
[female social workers and teachers have been maimed and killed, girls' schools shut down and female workers forced to give up their jobs. The few women out in the streets in Kandahar and other places in the south are covered in burqas]
[Statistics paint a bleak picture of women's lives with 35 female suicides in Kandahar alone and nearly 200 attempted suicides in the Herat region - one third of which were successful. Rights groups estimate that between 60 and 80 per cent of marriages in the country are forced. And the majority of those marriages involve girls under the age of 16.]
[ Ms Amajan's funeral yesterday, in a Shia ceremony]
[There are now entire provinces where there is no girls' education; of the 300 schools shut or burnt down, the majority were for girls. The death rate at childbirth is the second highest in the world, and the number of women who have committed suicide, mainly through self-immolation, has risen by 30 per cent in two years.]
[50 per cent of Afghan women say they have been beaten]
[57 per cent of girls are married before the legal age of 16.]
[ 300 schools were set on fire across the country this year]
[Death rate of mothers in labour is 60 in 1000 - (60 per cent higher than developed world).]
[ 41 per cent of the 10.5 million registered voters are women. Women's registration rates in southern provinces were much lower than the national average: Zabul (9 per cent), Uruzgan (10 per cent) Helmand (16 per cent), and Kandahar (27 per cent)]

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