Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is Pakistan to Blame?

A prominent Afghan official blames Pakistan for the resurgence of Taliban militants in Afghanistan according to the article Afghanistan official visits Waterloo, from The Record.

"The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan would be dead overnight if Pakistan were forced to stop supporting them, says a senior Afghanistan government official [Jawed Ludi]."
" 'The root and the sources of terrorist indoctrination, terrorist support... happens to be based in Pakistan,' Ludin said... 'The whole world is here to fight terrorism, why is it they (Taliban fighters) can come in great numbers from across the border and attack us, and Pakistan gets away with impunity?' "
"...now Pakistani intelligence uses Islamic extremism to undermine any nationalist tendencies in the provinces that border Afghanistan ... The Muslim radicals running the Madrassas, the Taliban and Pakistani intelligence agency ... form what Ludin calls an evil triangle."
" 'This triangle is the evil triangle that has to be dismantled if the world is ever going to be safe from terrorism' Ludin said."

CSIS Releases Report on Progress in Afghanistan

"The Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies recently released its final report on Afghanistan, entitled 'Breaking Point: Measuring Progress in Afghanistan.' "

"The report found that:
• Afghans are losing trust in their government because of an escalation in violence
• Public expectations are neither being met nor managed;
• Conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated in all key areas targeted for development, except for the economy and women's rights."

"Afghans are more insecure today than they were in 2005 ... due largely to the violence surrounding the insurgency and counter-insurgency campaigns..."
"The central government’s institutional and human capacity has improved, but its legitimacy has deteriorated. Sub-national government structures still lack capacity. In their place, militia commanders and local mafias have filled the void..."
"Traditional, informal judicial structures continue to fill the gap in justice for many Afghans..."
"High economic growth [has] improved the general ... Afghan economy, yet these benefits have not translated into sufficient employment and income generating activities for the ordinary
"Although reconstruction investments by the international community have enhanced social services and infrastructure, deteriorating security conditions ... has limited ... its benefits for many Afghans."

The Development of the Pakistan Taliban

The following is excerpted from an article that details the evolution and development of the now infamous "Pakistan Taliban." The article The Pakistan Taliban, was written by Graham Usher for the Middle East Report.

"Today the Pakistan Taliban is the 'de facto political leadership' in North and South Waziristan ... The Waziristans are the most populous of seven tribal agencies that ... share a ragged mountain border with ... Afghanistan. They are collectively known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA."
"This 370 mile-long frontier -- and the Talibanized rule emerging there -- represents Pakistan's gravest internal threat, says Gen. Pervez Musharraf"
"...the Pakistan Taliban, allied with al-Qaeda and Islamists from Central Asia and Chechnya, have carved out an indispensable sanctuary for insurgents fighting in Afghanistan"
"For the first 50 years of Pakistan's existence, the government's policy toward the FATA was ...
Tribal leaders, or maliks, were granted semi-autonomous powers in exchange for fealty to the ... the regime."
"until recently, no foreign (meaning, non-Pashtun) troops were allowed in the tribal areas."
"For the last 30 years, FATA's isolation has served another purpose:
The state has used the region as the launching pad for Pakistan-inspired insurgencies in Afghanistan ... a war economy [grew] driven by opium, guns and God, while jihad was first taught, then waged, by generations of young men..."
"the younger tribesmen [ask] `Why was it jihad to resist the Russians, but now it is terrorism to resist the Americans?' "
"In March 2004 -- for the first time in the history of the state -- a reluctant Musharraf [pressured by Washington] dispatched 80,000 Pakistani soldiers to the tribal areas ... outraged [the] maliks, who saw the invasion as a betrayal of their basic pact with Pakistan's rulers..."
"The campaign was a disaster ... The political impact was profound, says Ismail Khan. 'It empowered the [Taliban] militants on the one hand and weakened the government...' "
"Over the next two years, the army mounted eight more incursions ... With every raid the Taliban grew stronger."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Leadership unsuited by intellect and temperament: the consequences

"Six years ago a man unsuited both by intellect and by temperament for high office somehow ended up running the country." [Paul Krugman, NYTimes 2/26/07]
Yes, but with him came a host of other people focused on what they could do with him as the front. Whatever we might want to say about them and their agendas, they have done a lot in a very short time. They have shown that indeed a small cabal can run this country -- with consequences for the world that are terrifying and devastating.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Iraq Effect

In the article The Iraq Effect: War Has Increased Terrorism Sevenfold Worldwide of MotherJones, Peter Berger and Paul Cruickshank answer the highly controversial question of how has the Iraq War affected international terrorism.

"Our study shows that the Iraq War has generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks ... even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third ... our study shows that the Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of the Al Qaeda ideological virus...
Also undermining the argument that Al Qaeda ... [is] being distracted from plotting against Western targets are the dangerous, anti-American plots that have arisen since the start of the Iraq War. There have been six jihadist attacks on the home soil of the United States’ NATO allies ... in the period after the invasion of Iraq, whereas there were none in the 18 months following 9/11...
...the pool of Muslims who dislike the United States has grown by hundreds of millions since the Iraq War began...
The rate of attacks in Arab countries jumped by 445 percent since the Iraq invasion, while the rate of killings rose by 783 percent....
While Iraqis make up the great bulk of the insurgents, several studies have shown that the suicide attackers in Iraq are generally foreigners...
Our study shows just how counterproductive the Iraq War has been to the war on terrorism."

The Wrong Model

I have only recently become aware that the international drug trade, even that from Afghanistan and elsewhere in Asia, is managed largely by the Colombian mafia. It turns out that the Columbian mafia have a much wider grip on the system than I had imagined. And, as I am coming to know, the whole contraband enterprise -- or enteprises of many sorts -- has grown to such proportions that at some point one wonders where contraband simply becomes "business" -- the two being linked in many ways. The problem for the social scientist in trying to understand a world spinning ever faster out of control is that reliable information on sub rosa activities is so scanty and fragmentary. I post this article because it draws our attention to how broadly and deeply the contraband industry has reached into world affairs.

The wrong model
The Boston Globe
By Dan Restrepo

"...Bush administration ... appears to have selected [Columbia] as a model for the path forward in Afghanistan.
Although Colombia's decades- long struggles against narco-trafficking and insurgencies certainly offer lessons for Afghanistan, they are not the road map to success...
The erstwhile public secret of the deep connections between Colombia's political and governing class and narco-terrorist paramilitary organizations has begun to unravel. Formal charges have been brought against numerous members of Congress...
Colombia's long struggle with powerful drug lords underscores the threat these individuals and organizations pose to democratic institutions. If Colombia, a country with a long tradition of democracy, has been compromised, the challenge for the fledgling Afghani democracy is even greater...
The Colombianization of U.S.-Afghanistan policy is rife with peril,not the least because it is unclear that U.S. policy in Colombia has been a success or that Colombia is the shining example the administration would like to believe..."

Former Iranian President Rallies Opposition to Ahmadinejad

As many are aware, Ahmadinejad is beginning to lose popular support in Iran. The following article Iran: Rafsanjani Presses Political Offensive Against President, Stressing Moderation of EurasiaNet comments on how former president Rafsanjani taken this opportunity to go on the attack.

"...emboldened by the ... support of a ... number of senior clerics, Iran’s political maverick, Aliakbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is pressing a campaign to diminish President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s influence...
In the span of five days in early February, Rafsanjani gave two provocative television speeches and made a highly publicized visit to Qom ... unleashing a rhetorical offensive...
...opposition to Ahmadinejad’s policies had been rising...
Rafsanjani ... indicated that Ahmadinejad’s recklessly confrontational tactics had backfired..."

Anti-American feelings soar among Muslims, study finds

Anti-American feelings soar among Muslims, study finds
from The Times

"The War on Terror has radicalised Muslims around the world to unprecedented levels of anti-American feeling, according to the largest survey of Muslims ever to be conducted...
A large number of Muslims supported the Western ideal of democratic government. Fifty per cent of radicals supported democracy, compared with 35 per cent of moderates...
Religion was found to have little to do with radicalisation or antipathy towards Western culture. Muslims were condemnatory of promiscuity and a sense of moral decay. What they admired most was liberty, its democratic system, technology and freedom of speech.
'There is no significant difference in religiosity between moderates and radicals. In fact, radicals are no more likely to attend religious services regularly than are moderates.' "

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Threat to the Troops Over Eradication Operation

An article entitled Taliban warlord's threat to troops, by Tom Coghlan of The Telegraph (UK) discusses a threat made by an Afghan warlord regarding the upcoming poppy eradication operation.

"A Taliban commander has told The Daily Telegraph of his plans to sabotage a British-backed operation to eradicate the poppy crop in southern Afghanistan ... he intends to defend the poppy fields of Helmand province to exploit dissatisfaction among locals ... Afghan police will start to plough poppy fields on Saturday ... Nato sources said attacks on the eradication police would force British troops to intervene. Tribal elders have threatened a violent backlash if eradication takes place"

The Evolving Drug Trade in Afghanistan

This is an interesting article from The Telegraph entitled The Profits are Vast But Only the Big Fish Can Swim, about how the drug trade in Afghanistan has developed from only 3 or 4 years ago.

"several shipments of ... opium each month [are brought] to the Iranian border ... to Iranian middlemen operating on behalf of European syndicates who refine it into heroin and speed. From there it goes onwards via Turkey to the back streets of London and other European cities...
'There are fewer smugglers than there used to be — and only the bigger fish can swim' said Nabi [a drug smuggler]...
The Helmand poppy trade, and Afghanistan's £1.5 billion-a-year drugs pyramid, is streamlining itself...
The trade has been forced underground thanks to the international counter-narcotics effort...
[However in recent developments] Afghan police recently stumbled on half a ton [500kg] of opium ... When Western drugs officials heard of the incident and approached [them] 15kg of the drugs were handed back."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Taking the Battle to the Airwaves

This article reveals another aspect of Afghanistan affairs. Mohsini is a Shi'ite cleric from Kandahar and may in fact provide an alternative to disaffected Pushtuns in that region.

Afghan cleric takes Islamic battle to the airwaves
By Sayed Salahuddin

"Mohseni is launching a semi-Islamic television channel which does not focus exclusively on Islamic teachings.
'The general beliefs of people are being ignored, people are betrayed, our history and culture is played with. We will talk about these to people in order to enable them to find their identity.'
'Our television is the tongue of the silent majority ... These people want bread, water, clothes; these people want knowledge, they do not want Indian culture to govern them,' he added.
Every day, people come in droves to seek his advice on religious matters, disputes and for guidance."

A New Moderated Islamic Movement in Afghanistan

Joshua Kucera of Eurasia.net writes about a new "moderate" Muslim project in Afghanistan in his article NEW MOVEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN STRIVES TO OFFER IDEOLOGICAL ALTERNATIVE TO THE TALIBAN

"A new political movement is taking shape in Afghanistan that is pro-Western in orientation and seeks to present Afghans with a clear ... alternative to the vision offered by the resurgent Taliban movement.
The movement, Fedayeen-e-Sul, or Sacrificers for Peace, is led by Hamed Wardak...
The movement aims to be pan-ethnic, reformist and democratic...
Wardak said he often refers to the important role that women played in the life of Mohammed...
There are about 30 members of parliament who are ready to affiliate themselves to Fedayeen-e-Sul, but at present not all of them want to be publicly identified...
The United States is interested in fostering moderate Islam in countries that are majority Muslim...
Wardak spoke critically of the current Afghan president, Hamid Karzai... 'It's also distressing to our movement that many Americans and Western observers believe that only President Karzai is a bulwark against the Taliban. To us, this is an insult to our country, our long history and our new democracy.' "

From Friend to Foe

The New York Times has published an article that describes an Afghan's interesting relationship with the U.S. government over the years. According to the article An Afghan's Path from Ally of U.S. to Drug Suspect, by JAMES RISEN, the U.S. government used this individual for years as an informant against the Taliban and al-Qaeda but when the relationship fizzled, he was arrested on drug charges.

"In April 2005, federal law enforcement officials ... announce[d] the capture of ... Haji Bashir Noorzai ... [but] the officials left out some puzzling details...
Soon after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Mr. Noorzai agreed to cooperate with American officials ... in late January 2002 he handed over 15 truckloads of weapons, including about 400 antiaircraft missiles, that had been hidden by the Taliban in his tribe's territory, Mr. Fisher said[Noorzai's lawyer] ... Mr. Noorzai also persuaded a local tribal figure, Haji Birqet, to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan, the lawyer said. But he said the Americans, falsely warned that Mr. Birqet and Mr. Noorzai were plotting to attack United States forces, killed Mr. Birqet ... angered by the attack on Mr. Birqet, Mr.Noorzai broke off contact with the Americans and fled to his home in Pakistan, according to Mr. Fisher.
...Mr. Noorzai had secretly been indicted by a federal grand jury in New York on drug smuggling charges in January 2005. [FBI] contractors ... persuade[d] Mr. Noorzai to come to the United States ... where he was arrested..."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Are the Taliban Winning?

Here is a report on the situation in Afghanistan that is ominous because of the despair that is setting in. Note also the realization among the Afghans that they have been abandoned by the Americans. The one war the Bush administration need to fight and win was this one, and they abandoned it in order to go after a foolish thug -- who happened to be sitting at a strategic location in the oil-rich Middle East. Pray that the administration will wake up to their folly.

Current History
Letter from Afghanistan: Are the Taliban Winning?
by Ahmed Rashid

"In Kabul today, most Afghans, from illiterate cooks to well-educated civil servants, take it for granted that the Taliban are coming back to power.
Afghans speak of yet another American betrayal...
Public morale has been most affected by the revived Taliban insurgency ... and by the gradual withdrawal of US troops from the insurgency-hit areas and their replacement by less well-equipped or less motivated NATO forces.
The Taliban have been able to launch attacks involving battalion-size units of over 1,000 men...
Afghans ... believe that ... the US administration never had the intention to stabilize or rebuild Afghanistan
While Iraq has bathed in US funding for infrastructure projects ... there is less electricity in Kabul now than there was under Soviet occupation...
A major problem for the West is its inability or refusal to acknowledge past failures in Afghanistan, or the country's present predicament, and to offer serious future commitments of both money and troops.
Until that happens, Afghans will continue to believe that they are losing the war against the Taliban."

Afghanistan's Situation From the View of the Afghan Press

We are posting the following article in its entirely. It was originally written in Dari [Afghan Farsi]. Note the way the Afghanistan press is expressing concern about what is going on in the country.

Daily Afghanwire Newsletter

During the past three decades, and especially during the past five years, murders, thefts and other cases and problems occurred in different forms. The phenomenon of suicide attacks, which were previously not present in Afghanistan, and remote controlled explosions in crowded areas such highways, schools, streets lead to tens of deaths. Now, we see that the features of such awful events have changed and the circumstances of one case differ from the circumstances of another event.

Recently the terror and murder waves have increased resulting in some people being killed. One of those killed in recent terrorist events was Mohammad Islam Mohammadi, an elected MP from Samangan, who was killed in the light of day in the distance between his house and the mosque where we went to pray. After that, the groom of Ustad Rabbani Wahidullah was killed when he wanted to enter his home by unidentified gunmen. Following that, the daughter of a female MP, Shakiba Hashimi, was killed at her house and the day before yesterday a suicide attack took place in Herat.

The recent criminal cases have astonished people and created an atmosphere of terror among the people and we can say that the all these take place as the result of insecurity. If we study the events, they all occurred in places where - beside the internal security forces - the peace-keeping forces of 37 countries also are present.

We can mention that all these events took place at a time when the security organs are calling for better security measures and openly that they can ensure the people of a completely secure situation. Such events, if they result in terror among the people, this increases the distance and atmosphere of distrust among the people and the government and it shows the weakness of the security forces and it reveals that the police and security forces are not fulfilling their tasks and responsibilities well, because people are being killed during the bright day and the murders are escaping.

It is now necessary that their full attention should be given to the security sector and that the foreign forces should also assist the Afghan security organs in maintaining security and that our security system should be equipped with modern technologies. We are fortunate money and finances should be taken out of people's pockets and should be spent for security means and the prosperity of the people.

Hundreds of Critics of the Pakistani Government are Disappearing

Concerns over Pakistan's missing
"The disappearance of hundreds of government opponents is Pakistan's most critical human rights issue...
...the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it had reports of at least 400 people believed abducted by security agencies...
In the past the government has denied abusing human rights in making arrests...
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's report ... said the rise in enforced disappearances over the past year was the most pressing problem.
Mr Haider [the commission's secretary general] said that the country's security agencies, military and police were involved in the disappearance of Pakistani civilians, many of whom had 'suffered an extreme degree of torture'.
...the disappearances problem was likely to be even worse than reported.
The government has been facing a recent wave of militant and sectarian violence amid protests about alleged bias in general elections that were due to be held in late January."

More Acts of Terrorism

Double Car Bombing in Baghdad
"A double car bombing in a mainly Shia district of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has killed at least 60 people and injured more than 130...
The two blasts tore through a busy open-air market in the New Baghdad area in quick succession, witnesses said...
Large plumes of smoke rose above the city...
They came a day after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Baghdad and said the [recent] security operation had begun well..."

Train Blast in India
"India and Pakistan have condemned a train bombing that killed at least 66 people as an act of terrorism aimed at disrupting their peace process.
The train, running from Delhi to Lahore in Pakistan, was hit by two blasts at about midnight...
The ensuing fire swept through two carriages of the 'Friendship Express'...
Many train windows in India have bars on them for security reasons...
'We couldn't save anyone. They were screaming inside, but no-one could get out' Rajinder Prasad, [a] rescuer...
The reaction from both governments suggests the prime suspects might be groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - the main Islamic militant groups who have been blamed for many high-profile bombings, says the BBC's Jill McGivering."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Second Terrorist Strike in Iran

The Jondollah terrorist group has struck again in the Iranian city Zehedan. Ali Akbar Dareini reports on this incident in the article 2nd blast in 3 days hits Iranian city.

"A bomb went off Friday night at a girls school in the southeastern Iranian border city of Zahedan..."
"No one was hurt..."
"Zahedan is near where Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet."
"According to FARS, the leader of the Jondollah group, Abdolmalek Rigy, claimed responsibility for the bombing ... The group also claimed responsibility for a car bomb in the same area Wednesday."

Friday, February 16, 2007

More on the Severe Implications of Zawahiri's Recent Statements

Here is another site that has noticed the shift in Zawahiri's loyalty. And in this case, the author has some history with the idea. He tells us that there was even an earlier time when Z. made such a statement but it was at that time understandable in the Afghanistan context only. Now we are seeing an appeal to Muslims everywhere to follow Mullah Muhammad Omar.

The following is excerpted from the article, Mulla Omar to Lead Jihadi Intifada--What Happened to Bin Laden?, written by B. Raman in the South Asia Analysis Group:

"After pledging his personal allegiance to Mulla Omar, Zawahiri calls upon the Muslims of the world to unite under his leadership."
"This theme of Al Qaeda fighting under the leadership of Mulla Omar had earlier figured in Zawahiri's year-end review of the state of the global jihad..."
"Whereas in his year-end review [Jan. 22, 2007] he was talking specifically in the context of the jihad in Afghanistan in which all jihadi elements ... will fight under the command of Mulla Omar, in his latest message of February 12, 2007, Zawahiri has been talking of the global jihad and not specifically the jihad in Afghanistan. It tries to project Mulla Omar as the commander of the global Jihadi Intifada. If that is so, what about Osama bin Laden? What happened to his leadership? Zawahiri's message is silent on this point."

Resentment Toward Taliban Recruiters

This article is a little dated but it describes an issue of great importance for the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The whole project of recruiting fighters and suicide bombers requires a careful look. For the social scientist this process is especially interesting because it entails the attempt of folks with an agenda to enlist others in their cause who will be asked to take serious personal risks and even, possibly, make the extreme sacrifice. So the process crucially depends on the conscious deployment of moral and idealistic terms to justify such commitment: here is ideology in as pure a form as it gets. In this case the particular moral terms for an imagined community of profound significance are Islamic; in our society they are likewise "religious" ideals but, to retain the appearance of a secular society, we phrase our appeals in terms of patriotism. Men and women are asked to die for the country. That a different appeal works in Pakistan -- the particular way the appeal is phrased there, that is, for Islam -- reveals how deeply salient such ideals are among young men in search of a cause to work for, even to die for.

Taliban recruiters look to Pakistan
The Associated Press

" ...the recruiters ... have turned to this cluster of about 25 ethnic Pashtun villages in search of volunteers."
"People here are religious, and recruiters play on that sentiment..."
"...a local office of Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, an outlawed Pakistani militant group ... had circulated jihadist literature and CDs and recruited mostly jobless young men to go to Afghanistan -- like their fathers who fought the Soviet occupation of that country two decades ago. "
"...over the past year there have been increasing reports of funerals in Pakistani border villages of militants killed in fighting in Afghanistan, then repatriated for burial..."
"According to Shabqadar residents [in Pakistan], dozens of fighters came to offer prayers for Bahar Ali, 25, an unemployed man who had vanished seven months before mounting a suicide bombing in southern Afghanistan in mid-October. 'Most of the people of the village feel honored with the act of Bahar Ali as one of bravery and a service to Islam,' said neighbor Arshad Khan. 'Others are worried about the future of their young and jobless sons.' "

Baluch Rebel Group Takes Credit for Attack on Iran

Events in Baluchistan don't interest western audiences, but they are important for Pakistan -- and eventually for much of the world -- because it is supposed to become the transit region for the gas pipelines Pakistan hopes will be built from Turkmenistan, connecting its huge gas reserves to the Indian Ocean port being built at Gwadar. But as long as Baluchistan is restive that hope is problematic. In fact, there is little prospect that the Baluch will allow the pipeline to come through without substantial concessions from the government. Stay tuned.

This following is excerped from the article Iran: Separatists Claim Responsibility for Baluchistan Attack, of Adnkronos International:

"Jondallah, the main armed separatist group of Iranian Baluchistan, has claimed responsibility Friday for an attack the previous night in Zahedan, the capital of Iranian Baluchistan..."
"...Since the Jondallah militant group led by Abdol Malek Righi was set up two years ago, at least 34 people have died in attacks carried out by its members against officials of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the Pasdaran, and Iranian police. Tehran claims Righi and his militants are "terrorists hired by foreign powers."

Afghan Villages Protect Their Schools Against the Taliban

The Taliban are famous for their opposition to schools -- by which they mean schools that teach a curriculum of subjects commonly taught in the West, geography, history, science. They themselves are, presumably, graduates of schools that teach, essentially, the memorization of the Quran. So the Taliban are not actually opposed to schools as such. It is the curriculum that is at stake -- a familiar topic of dispute among Muslims in the modern world, especially since the nineteenth century. The Afghanistan peoples have generally been open to all the learning they could get; only a small segment of the population have opposed a curriculum that went beyond Quranic learning. Some folks, especially Pushtuns, have been sensitive about co-education. It is unclear what the Taliban hope to accomplish, other than to disrupt the ordinary course of affairs in Afghanistan; and of course they want all "foreigners" -- meaning Western expatriates -- to leave. The complicating factor now is the presence of Islamists from the Arab world whose agendas are much more intensely anti-western. So far, those foreigners have found a sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal territories and elsewhere.

The following is excerpted from the article, Afghan schools take on the Taliban, written by Laura King of the Los Angeles Times:

"...suspected Taliban militants set fire to all five "classrooms," housed in canvas tents donated by a humanitarian agency."

"...nearly 200 schools across the country [were] burned in the last year by Islamic insurgents.Four hundred more schools were closed by threats and intimidation, driving more than 130,000 students from their classrooms..."
"Over the last three months, however, the rate of attacks has fallen dramatically..."
"...officials attribute the decrease at least in part to a nationwide drive to create local 'defense committees' for schools, enlisting the help of tribal elders, Islamic clerics and, in some cases, homegrown militias."
"There are no reliable figures, but the ministry believes more than half the country's 9,000 schools are under some form of locally organized protection..."
"The mullah on the committee has been using mosque sermons to emphasize that nothing in the Koran forbids girls from receiving an education..."
" 'People hated it during the time of the Taliban, when their daughters could not study and when nothing was taught in the schools but theology,' said Mohammed... [a] headmaster."

An Aid Worker's Account of Helmand Province in Afghanistan

Somewhere I read [or heard?] that among Europeans Americans are regarded as good-intentioned but naive and blunderous in their attempts to fix the world. Here is a real live report -- only I think it could be the testimony of people from many parts of the world who have tried to do good in Afghanistan [and elsewhere!].

The following is taken from the article The Road to Helmand which was written by Holly Barnes Higgins for the the Washington Post.

"[Helmand]'s home to the highly conservative Pashtun people. Poppy production was nearly unheard of here before the Soviet invasion in 1979. But today, most farmers grow poppy, ... It's simple economics: A farmer can earn ... almost 10 times what he would get for ... wheat.
"Today, much of the pavement is ruined, and the sagging former USAID homes look much older than they are. Meanwhile, massive, gaudy structures built with drug money rise around them."
"The people of Helmand fall into two categories. The great majority believe that poppy is the only reliable source of income. The small minority believe that with help, alternative livelihoods are possible. They don't know how to make progress, but they're hungry for it, so they're willing to trust us"
"...women are planting poppy openly in front of their homes, trying to attract buyers. ... some are widows who can't imagine another way to provide for their children. Others are virtual widows, their husbands lost to the haze of opium addiction."
" ... the West can do little if anything to quell the opium poppy trade ... This will be true as long as Helmand's residents refuse to recognize and respect the central government; as long as streets and schools, markets, mosques and government buildings are targeted by suicide bombers; as long as elders strike deals with the Taliban and government officials themselves profit from poppy production."

Afghan Murdered After Being Denied Political Asylum

This is a sad story about an Afghan, Abdullah Tokhi, who was denied political asylum in Britain because the authorities claimed "that the rule of law prevails in Afghanistan." He was murdered shortly after his return to Afghanistan. Kim Sengupt of The Independent (UK) reports on this story in her article Another true story of our asylum policy.

"Abdullah Tokhi fled Afghanistan in fear of his life. He asked for sanctuary in Britain. We sent him back. Within a year he was dead"
"They shot Abdullah Tokhi dead at midday, in a crowded street in a bazaar. It was a very public 'execution', a message to show that his killers knew they would never be brought to account for their crime."
"...this was one death that could have been prevented if the officials in London who turned down his plea for refuge had acknowledged what is really going on, instead of sticking rigidly to the official position that the rule of law prevails in Afghanistan."
"...the English authorities would not believe him. They told him Afghanistan was safe, and he should go back..."
"...A week after his father's death, 10-year-old Nasratullah was on his way to school when he was shot from a car."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Zawahiri's Latest Statement Reveals Surprising Developments in Al-Qaeda's Current State

Finally, I have found a site that has noticed what is significant about Zawahiri's recent public statement. I am surprised that Zawahiri, an Egyptian whose original and I think continuing vision is for a revolution in Egypt, has in this recent statement not only omitted any mention of Osama Bin Laden, for whom he is said to be the deputy, but has specifically called for Muslims everywhere to join the holy war under the leadership of Mullah Muhammad Omar, whom he recognizes as "Amir" of the believers. Muhammad Omar is a rural Pushtun mullah with limited education who has, at least until now, represented the Taliban agenda of winning back Afghanistan for the Taliban. For him, it has always been a nationalist cause, an Afghanistan issue; the issues in the Arab world are for him distant and insignificant. What is Zawahiri doing, an educated Arab doctor, offering his allegiance to this Pushtun mullah? Something clearly has taken place. That was the first surprise: the second has been that scarcely anyone seems to have noticed. The following article is the only one I have found that grasped the significance of the Zawahiri tape; the others have focused on the insulting psychoanalysis of Bush and missed what was significant.

The following is a summary of the article Al Qaeda: Al-Zawahiri's New Tape Indicates Shifts from Stratfor:

"...Ayman al-Zawahiri ... suggest[s] the jihadists are having a hard time dealing with the rise of Iran and the Shia ... al-Zawahiri refers to Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar as the leader of the global jihadists -- an indication that al Qaeda on its own cannot sustain its position as the jihadist vanguard."
"Al-Zawahiri's latest message bears several indicators that al Qaeda is going through a difficult time. The lack of fresh video footage in this message indicates that the jihadists are facing some operational constraints. This is not surprising, given the recent counter-jihadist operations in Pakistan's northwestern Pashtun areas ... "
"Furthermore, al Qaeda's ... statements are usually preceded by an announcement ... on jihadist Web sites a few days before their release; this message was announced only a few hours prior ... This could indicate ... that production was hindered by operational security concerns."
" ... al-Zawahiri refers to Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar as the leader of the global jihadist movement ... It would appear that, given the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, al Qaeda is willing to accept Mullah Omar as its supreme leader. This could be an indication that al Qaeda's apex leadership has weakened to the point where it is heavily dependent on the Pashtun jihadists."
" ... al-Zawahiri acknowledges a weakness on the part of jihadists when he says they "are in need of men, money, materiel ..."
" ... Al-Zawahiri's communique lacks any direct criticism of Iran or the Shia."
" ... al Qaeda has probably come to terms with the fact that Iran and the Shia ... are seen as the vanguard of the Muslim world against the United States and Israel."
" ... While al-Zawahiri is likely trying to avoid a conflict with Iran and the Shia, many jihadists want to press ahead with their anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian campaign -- a situation that could lead to an intra-jihadist conflict. Additionally, the deference to the Pashtun jihadist movement will create problems because the Arab jihadists would not want to subordinate themselves to non-Arabs and to those who do not necessarily adhere to the Arabs' radical Wahhabi ideology."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Zawahiri's oath of loyalty to Mullah Muhammad Omar

Laura Mansfield has so far provided the only translation of Zawahiri’s most recent tape. [http://www.lauramansfield.com/j/default.asp] She says, “He reiterates his statement of loyalty to Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, and calls for Muslims to disregard nationalistic loyalties and instead assign their loyalties to Islam:

And we – by the grace of Allah and His guidance – have pledged allegiance to the Commander of the Believers, Mulla Muhammad Umar, who is an Afghan.

That's why I ask my Muslim brothers in general and the callers and Mujahideen and their media organizations in particular to highlight the concept of Islamic brotherhood and disown all partisanship, loyalties and animosities based on nationalism, and I ask them not to allow the wrongdoing of a faction or entity motivate them to speak evil of that party's entire people or race.”

Mansfield implies that Zawahiri has previously claimed “loyalty” to Mullah Muhammad Omar, but this is the first I have seen of this. In the translated segment he “pledges allegiance” [bay`at] to “the Commander of the Believers” – a title Mullah Muhammad Omar was given by the religious establishment at a notorious moment when he personally lifted the cloak of Muhammad from its place in the shrine built for it – the first time it was officially moved in 60 years -- and wrapped himself in it. The specific mention of Mullah Muhammad Omar and the absence of any reference to Osama Bin Laden is significant.

Car Bomb Attack on Iran's Revolutionary Guard

In an "unprecedented" occurrence, 18 people were killed by a car bomb in an attack on the elite Iranian unit, the Revolutionary Guard. The Aljazeera article Bomb attack on Iran’s elite force kills 18, reports the following:

"A car ripped through a bus carrying members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard in a south-eastern border city [Zahedan], killing at least 18 people..."
"Witnesses said the attackers shot at the bus from their car to force it to stop. They then stopped the explosives-laden car in the path of the bus, and were picked up by motorcycles and taken away before the bomb exploded."
"... an attack of this scale and nature – a bomb attack on an elite force in broad daylight in an open street – is unprecedented in Iran."
"Zahedan lies in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders both Afghanistan. It has recently witnessed several attacks, with many security force members being killed in the past two months. Iranian officials have accused Britain and the United States of supporting ethnic minority rebels operating in Iran’s sensitive border areas."

The Zawahiri surprise.

I find it bizarre that there is no buzz about Zawahiri’s call for Muslims to unite around Mullah Muhammad Omar. The Chicago Tribune focuses on his rail against Bush’s personality.

In the mean time First Post is asking whether Osama is dead.

In any case, the new tape by Zawahiri seems to signal something significant has happened to the upper echelons of Al Qaeda.

"Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb" Takes Responsibility for Attack in Algeria

In a recent terrorist attack in Algeria, six car bombs went off targeting several police stations in the cities of Tizi Ouazu and Boumerdas, according to the article GSPC hits hard in Algeria of the Counterterrorism Blog.
The author, Olivier Guitta, states that "This just confirms what I have been saying for months that the national reconciliation plan of the Algerian government was doomed to failure."

Al-Zawahiri with a New Message: Join Taliban, not Al Qaeda [?]

According to the article Al-Zawahiri Blasts Bush, Calls For Muslim Unity in New Tape by Andrew Cochran on the Counterterrorism Blog, Al-Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri has released a new tape in which "He claims that Bush is an alcoholic and addicted to drinking, lying, and gambling."

A translation of the statement: "Bush suffers from an addictive personality, and was an alcoholic ... As regards lying, his record is well known, and he has gone down in history as one of its most notorious liars... "

But the most interesting feature of this note is that he calls on Muslims to unite under the leader of the Taliban, not Osama Bin Laden. Taliban, not Al Qaeda?
"Zawahiri calls on Muslims to unite under Taliban leader Mullah Omar, stop trying to form secular governments and instead follow strict Islamic Sharia law."
"Zawahiri urges followers in Lebanon to not give up any land, and he does so without differentiating between Sunni or Shiite there."
"By talking out of both sides of his mouth ... he's trying to provide leadership but avoid entanglement in the Sunni-Shiite split which is now a key issue facing the Muslim world..."

This seems like a major shift in focus. The Taliban have been essentially a Pushtun movement with nationalistic intentions in Afghanistan. Like all movements their members are animated by various concerns, but the most common and general concern is to restablish Pushtun dominance in Afghanistan, as well as to re-instate a Salaf-type social order. For Zawahiri, an Egyptian, to make an appeal for a general following of Mullah Muhammad Omar, leader of the Taliban, is a major re-orientation. Has Osama passed from the scene?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Turkmen Leader Appears to be More of the Same

The votes have been cast for the next leader of Turkmenistan and with an absurdly large voter turnout reported by government officials it appears that the future may hold more of the same for the people of Turkmenistan.
Below is a summary of the article Turkmenistan: Special Presidential Election "Stage-Managed" of Eurasianet.org.

"The conduct of Turkmenistan’s special presidential election offered no hint of the reform intentions..."
"Election officials announced that almost 99 percent of eligible voters cast ballots..."
"Opposition leaders derided the vote as thoroughly 'stage-managed'..."
"Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the country’s interim leader and the vote’s likely winner ... spoke [before the election] repeatedly about the need to implement changes ... The vote, however, was conducted in the best Soviet tradition..."
"Given the government’s performance in the vote, there are growing doubts that Berdymukhammedov’s reform effort will meet even the minimal expectations of Western observers."
"The implausible reported turn-out [along with] the absence of free media or alternative candidates signal that the election itself is not a fresh start. It is history repeating itself."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Nearly 60 Nations — But Not U.S. — Sign Treaty to Ban Forced Disappearances

The United States has refused to join 57 other countries in signing a treaty that opposes the use of secret detentions by governments according to a Washington Post article by Molly Moore entitled U.S. Declines to Join Accord on Secret Detentions.

"The Associated Press reported that McCormack [State Department spokesman] declined comment on whether the U.S. stance was influenced by the Bush administration's policy of sending terrorism suspects to CIA-run prisons overseas, which President Bush acknowledged in September."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Faulty Reporting of the "Najaf Massacre" Continues to Come to Light

It is becoming increasingly apparant that the "Najaf Massacre" was falsely reported by the media, Conn Hallinan of Foreign Policy In Focus, comments in his article The Najaf Massacre: Annotated, that The New York Times "highlighted a story about a Jan. 28 'battle' near the holy city of Najaf that is filled with the same sloppy reporting, inadequate research, and just plain disinformation that characterized the Times's pre-war coverage of Iraq."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Pakistani View of Recent Bombings

The recent string of suicide bombings in Pakistan, which are reminiscent of Al-Qaeda yet somewhat distinctive, suggest that there may be a new militant group in Pakistan carrying out Al-Qaeda style attacks. An editorial from the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times, entitled Making sense of suicide attacks in Pakistan, comments further on these recent developments.

Militant Attacks in Pakistan Continue

According to the article, Militants put squeeze on Musharraf, written by M Ilyas Khan in the BBC, the recent events brought on by a new breed of militants in Pakistan not only highlight the extent to which the country's problem with militants has reached, but also reiterates the question of whether the peace agreement made in September between the government and tribes in Waziristan still exists at all.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Suspected Spy Murdered in Pakistan

An Afghan refugee, suspected of spying for the U.S., was murdered in North Waziristan by militants according to an article, Pakistani Taliban Cut "U.S. spy's" Throat, from Reuters. Unfortunately, such actions are becoming more common in this region.

Preparing For the Wrong Kind of War

For a several years now the U.S. military has been fighting a conflict in Iraq that it is ill-suited for. This is not a conflict where a standing army masses on an open battlefield and strives for a technological edge, yet that is exactly the kind of conflict that the U.S. military is developing and buying weapons systems for. Col. Daniel Smith, U.S. Army (Ret.) of Foreign Policy in Focus comments on this situation in The Self-Destructive Logic of War.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Musharraf Finally Admits to Pakistan's Well-Known Border Issues

According to a recent BBC article titled Musharraf Admits Border Problems, "Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has conceded that some border security forces have been letting Taleban fighters cross into Afghanistan." This article gives an in-depth analysis of the situation and related issues.

The existence of Pakistan's border problem has been a well-known and documented issue for some time now, so there is little to be learned from Musharraf's comments. However, Musharraf's admission of this problem's existence is, in and of itself, a significant indicator for how much the situation has deteriorated.

Losing Hearts and Minds in South Waziristan

The United States appears to be losing hearts and minds in the South Waziristan border province of Pakistan according to Iqbal Khattak, of The Friday Times,who comments on the situation in his article "Among the Taliban in South Waziristan."

"Militant leader Baitullah Mehsud is not worried over military air strikes ... he argues that the harder the army hits, the easier it becomes for him to win more public support..."
"... Baitullah ... told TFT, 'Blind strikes such as the JAnuary 16 hit in Zamazola only discredit the army, A single such strike helps the Taliban's cause much more than a hundred days' campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people.' "
"The attack left eight people dead and ten wounded."
"Muhammad Sharif, 24-year-old medical technician from the area, said there was no development in the area, no real schools, and no prospects for life ... 'I ask you: does such a situation not benefits the militants? It does, believe me!' "
"No villager ... conceded that foreigners were hiding in their areas at the time of the air strike."
"A day after the strike ... Batullah had vowed to 'avenge' it and within days ... [there] was a suicide attack."
"...militant groups in Pakistan had copied the strategy from the insurgents in Iraq..."
"A militant who has returned 'safe' from several missions across the border... [commented] that air strikes were proving a setback to the Taliban but felt confident that the militants being 'fast learners' had learnt to cope with them."

The Afghan Side of the New Bush Strategy

"President Bush plans to increase U.S. spending and troop levels in Afghanistan. Despite widespread resistance to Bush’s Iraq 'surge,' most policymakers seem to think an Afghan boost makes sense." In his article, Afghanistan, the Other 'Surge' Eben Kaplan of the Council on Foreign Relations comments on the current situation in Afghanistan and the dramatic surge in attacks on NATO troops.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Tensions Rise Over Afghan-Pakistan Lawless Border Region

The lawless border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan continues to be, as described by Carin Zissis, of the Council on Foreign Relations, in her article Pakistan's Broken Border, "the flash point for tensions between the two countries as Kabul grows increasingly critical of Islamabad's seeming inability to control cross-border raids by Islamic militants."

"Afghanistan continues to demand that Pakistan purge terrorist cells. Can Pakistan's controversial proposal to mine the frontier halt cross-border raids into Afghanistan?"

Philippine Forces Kill Abu Sayyaf Leader

The leader of Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines, has been killed by Philippine soldiers. In the article, Death of a Bandit in The Economist, the author comments what consequences this could have the country.

"[T]he Philippines armed forces announced on January 20th that they had proof that Khaddafy Janjalani, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf, was dead."
"The Abu Sayyaf is a bunch of vicious armed Muslims whom America regards as Islamic terrorists."
"The 300 or so gunmen that make up the Abu Sayyaf ... have carried out numerous murders, kidnappings, robberies and bomb attacks since the early 1990s, including the firebombing of a ferry in 2004 that killed more than 110 people."
"The group, which is already splintered, may now split further into gangs of simple bandits."
"But even as bandits, the Abu Sayyaf would be a political threat."
"The government does not wish to see lawless parts of the southern Philippines become a refuge for such groups, not least because they could encourage further militancy among Philippine Muslims."
"So the fight against the Abu Sayyaf will drag on to the bitter end, however far off that may be."

Why Europe Will Be Watching Turkmenistan's Election

With the recent death of Turkmenistan's longtime dictator, the gas-rich Central Asian country is drawing an uncommonly large amount of attention from the surrounding regions with regards to where it will send its energy exports when a new leader takes over. In her article, Which Way Will Turkmen Gas Flow, Carin Zissis of the Council on Foreign Relations explains that particular attention to the election this month will be paid in Europe where it is hoped that Turkmenistan can undermine Russia's growing monopoly on energy supplies. Europe's growing reliance on Russian energy is becoming dangerous thanks to the Russian government's eagerness to shut down energy exports in order to solve disputes with its neighbors, resulting in energy shortages throughout Europe.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Firefight in Najaf, a Massacre?

The article below, from the Independent makes the most sense of the firefight in Najaf when so many people lost their lives the other day.

US 'victory' against cult leader was 'massacre'
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
Published: 31 January 2007

"There are growing suspicions that the official story of the battle outside Najaf is a fabrication."
"A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect."
"The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf."
"Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi..."
"When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi ..."
"The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief."
"Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da..."
"Reinforcements poured in..."
"This account cannot be substantiated ... [But] it would explain the disparity between the government casualties ... and the great number of their opponents killed and wounded."
"The Iraqi authorities have sealed the site and are not letting reporters talk to the wounded."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Reconstituted Al-Qaeda Threat in the Maghreb

The statement below comes from the Jamestown Foundation web site. It's worth noting who they are. Although the Jamestown Foundation does not explicitly state its foreign policy agenda, I have been informed that its forums and publications often align with the neoconservatives' agenda on certain issues such as Taiwan-China, counterterrorism in the Middle East, and Russia. The Foundation regards all totalitarianism regimes as threats to United States security. It has a reputation of being less strident than some right-leaning policy institutes, and it has been careful with the facts. The foundation posted a full and reliable transcript of Osama bin Laden’s November, 2004, speech before the U.S. elections. Recently their reporting on "terrorism" in the Middle East and Central Asia has been well researched. This is a report on affairs in the Maghreb.
- - - -

The militant Islamic threat in the Maghreb (the North-Western region of Africa) which seemed to have been diminishing in recent years, especially in light of the Moroccan crack-down on Islamic extremism in the aftermath of the 2003 Casablanca bombing and the destruction and/or surrender of many of Algeria's main rebel groups between 2000 and 2002, has re-emerged with two disturbing mergers of terrorist organizations. In the Jamestown Foundation's Global Terrorism Analysis, Andrew Black reports in his article, The Reconstituted Al-Qaeda Threat in the Maghreb, that there have been two mergers in this region, "...one among the various Maghrebi groups and the other between the GSPC [the Salafist Group for Call and Combat] and al-Qaeda, the terrorist threat to the region has become an increasingly unified system that provides substantial support to the Iraqi jihad and which will increasingly challenge local security services as mujahideen return from Iraq."
"On September 11, 2006, as the world's thoughts were on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a statement announcing the merger of his group and the GSPC."
"Demonstrating the significance of this merger to the Algerian jihad, local security services have already remarked that al-Qaeda's support appears to have bolstered the GSPC's morale, and the December 10, 2006 roadside bomb attack on Halliburton subsidiary Brown & Root-Condor in Algeria carried many al-Qaeda hallmarks."
"In the first week of January 2007, the Moroccan government announced the dismantling of an alleged 62-person terrorist cell (Gulf Times, January 5). According to statements made by the government, this cell had 'ideological links with and financial and logistical support for international terrorist groups' including al-Qaeda and the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC). "
"Prior to the September merger, however, reports surfaced that al-Qaeda had made inroads in forming a pan-Maghreb group ... Reportedly, this new group would bring together jihadi groups from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. In support of this, a Spanish intelligence report, quoted by local media in late November 2006, claimed the group would also include the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. ... al-Wadoud officially declared that the new name for his organization would be 'The al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb,' a name which is strikingly reminiscent of al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq [The Al-Qaeda Organization of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers](al-Jazeera, January 26)."
"it has become apparent that al-Qaeda has a number of strategic intentions for its North African network ... [including] the formation of an extensive training cycle ... by which al-Qaeda can move fighters between Iraq and the Maghreb. This training cycle, which first came to light from sources in Morocco, begins with regional fighters participating in training provided by the GSPC, ... Following completion of ... training, fighters will move on to fight alongside the GSPC against the Algerian government. In this phase, jihadis gain operational experience, which will serve them well in the next stage of the cycle: the Iraq jihad. Once they have been smuggled in through one of Iraq's neighboring countries (likely Syria), fighters will participate in terrorist and insurgent activities ... For those select few who complete this stage and survive, they are to return to the Maghreb to await operational orders from al-Qaeda (Asharq al-Awsat, December 8, 2005)."
"Considering the Maghreb's proximity to Europe and also bearing in mind Spain's African enclaves, the reconstituted Maghrebi threat has direct implications for Europe."
"in terms of raising operational proficiency and in facilitating the flow of fighters between the Maghreb and the Iraqi jihad—this organizational restructuring provides al-Qaeda and its constituents with the means to perpetuate the jihad against North African governments and the West."
"By consolidating the Maghrebi groups, al-Qaeda has, in effect, created the conduit through which jihadis can migrate among Iraq, North Africa and potentially Europe, while also establishing the organizational structure in the Maghreb to pursue the global jihad."

The anti-American trend in Turkey

The news of what’s going on in Turkey is unsettling. Brian Glyn Williams reports in Jametown Foundations Global Terrorism Analysis [“Turks Join the Jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan” [http://jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2370229] ] that anti-Americanism has become “vogue” in Turkey:
“Some Turks believe that Jews blew up the World Trade Center and that the United States has secret plans to invade Turkey in order to create a Kurdistan on its territory. Such sentiments are not strictly limited to an extremist fringe; this is best demonstrated by the fact that Hitler's Kavgam (Mein Kampf) and Metal Firtna (a Tom Clancy-esque book depicting the "inevitable" U.S. invasion of Turkey) recently became bestsellers in Turkey.” . . . Americans are now starring in the role of kafir (infidel) targets for Iraqi and Taliban mujahideen on Turkish websites.”
If we have learned anything from the course of events in the last six years it is that what engages the public imagination matters. The public imagination matters in Pakistan; it matters in Saudi Arabia; it matters in Egypt. Whatever governments claim, however they pose themselves in the international world, their publics can have different sentiments. The instruments that shape the imagination of their publics -- film , fiction, the imaginative world created by the news media (which are now as much entertainment as they are news) – these instruments of communication exert such a power on public imaginations that they cannot be ignored. Eventually they will have their influence. The question in the case of Turkey is how strong, how widespread, this anti-American sentiment is. The best clues we have are the “best sellers”, the popular films, and, if we are to believe the Jamestown Foundation reports, they are not promising.

The risks of trying to "spin" the properties of the world

Human beings have come to dominate the earth through their distinctive gift, articulate speech. It is through articulate speech that we engage with the world and each other. But when we use speech in order to conceal the properties of the world we live in, we court disaster because the world is less tractable than the conceptions we have of it. Ships can run aground. Empires can fail.

Here is how people have used articulate speech to describe Iraq in the last few days:
Dick Chaney: We have had "enormous successes" in Iraq.
Gen. William Casey: We are making "slow progress". . . . "Today Iraqis are poised to assume responsiblity for their own security by the end of 2007, still with some level of support from us." [Wasn't it only a few days ago that he said it would be this summer?]
Robert Gates: There are essentially four wars going on in Iraq. One is Shia on Shia, principally in the south. The second is sectarian conflict, principally in Baghdad but not solely. Third is the insurgency, and fourth is Al Qaeda."
2007 National Intelligence Estimate: "the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensvie Shia-on-Sunni violence, Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent attacks on coalition forcdes, and widespread criminally motivated violence."

Of these, which is engaging with the world?