Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Comments of an Afghan

What follows is a letter to me by an Afghan living in North America who does not want himself identified but who is concerned about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. He has some ideas about what should be done and would like them posted on the blog for discussion. He prefers not to be identified by name.

<>Dear Prof. Bob:

The current situation in Afghanistan encourages me to write a brief suggestion to save Afghanistan from extremism, terrorism, warlords, criminals and those who did crime against humanity.

President Hamid is a good friend of mine. He is a very nice, educated, well English spoken but he is not a good president. The opportunities is given by the world, he has not done much to have s stable, democratic, central and provincial governments.

<>With the support of super power and number 1 army of the world along with NATO troops and billions of dollars he did not do much for Afghanistan, nether for his own government. Taliban is still strong, suicide bombs still blasting, Afghanistan is producing eighty five percent hereon of the worlds, the Afghan nation enemies, looters, rapists, killers and bloody hands warlords and Northern Alliance and bloody Punjsheries are still in power which make Hamid so call democracy regime unpopular. Hamid is very weak and afraid of Northern Alliance. He can not make decisions because he does not have a power and free hands, even his dress code is northern style but he is Pushton and does not have the carriage to wear his own traditional clothe. It shows how covered and powerless he is. If he is the only choice, I am sorry he is not a good choice. He use American money, American army, American support but he is doing nothing in return. As you know it is not my personal opinion it is the opinion of the majority of Afghans. He does not have control over his presidency how he can control the strong Afghan nation? I believe he is just a symbol; all power is the hand of Northern Alliance with negative and bloody history. To get result, have a friendly and stable Afghanistan with popular government that can get the trust of Afghan people and make Afghanistan free of Taliban and violence I have some suggestion to the Afghan policy makers in US government. I like to point them out very briefly as follow:

1-Afgan-American research small group<>
Most likely the majority of information get by CIA come from Northern Alliance people, there sympathizers or there friends. Those information are supportive of them and against the people, region or those that the do not like them. I believe it will be a good idea to have a small group of American-Afghans to go to Afghanistan and talk direct to Afghan impartial people, intellectuals, tribal elders and those who really want peaceful, s
<>ecure, and free of Taliban and terrorism Afghanistan. The group should also travel to Pakistan, Iran, England, and Canada, US and Germany and talk to displace Afghans to find out the truth about Afghanistan. The group should have at least six months.


2-Afghan traditional Jerga

<>Afghanistan is a tribal nation for thousand of years. The tribal tradition has significant role in the lives of Afghans. One of the most popular techniques to solve tribal, regional and national problem is Afghan Jerga and tribal rules, for example twenty million people in Pushtonistan and in Blochistan are living under the tribal and jerga’s rules. These territories are the world safest places that have fewer crimes, less robberies, less theft and 0 rapes. There is no government. Only tribal rules and Jerga solves their problems. Another good example is King Zaher Shah’s forty years rule in Afghanistan, without fighting. Peace and harmony were everywhere, because the king knew how to deal with tribes. I think establishing provincial and district Jergas will bring a lot of peace and security. And will be a public resistance against the insurgences. <>3-Establishing 50000 tribal loyal forces to government

Supporting and stabilizing the central government need Afghan tribal independent force to replace the Northern Alliance bloody armed men which destabilized central government. The forces should make of impartial civilians including Pushton tribes, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. The force should increase gradually up to 100000. When the force established the Northern Alliance should be disarmed totally eighty percent Afghan population dislike Northern Alliance. To get the trust of the majority of Afghans the leader of warlords should face justice because they did crime against humanity.

<>4-Strong interior ministry

The ministry of interior should organize and rules the combine forces to clear the street and territories from criminals, warlords, Taliban suicide bomb and bring safety and security to Afghanistan. American troops and NATO troops should support the force and work together. 2000 to 3000 from the force should protect the president and be under the command of the president that the president feels strong without fear of others that he can work freely. Interior ministry should cooperate with the ministry of defence with the support of US army and NATO troops and make the notional defence ministry stronger to defend the country.

5-Internal immigration

Some area in the south is very poor. People do not have anything to do. The territories are small there is not enough land for them to do farming. The youth join the Taliban to fight American and NATO army Northern Afghanistan is very wide and full of farming and enough land that need little work to be ready for farming. It would be a good i<>dea to bring them to the north and keep them busy. They also can help the government to stabilize north of the country.


.6- Reconstruction procedure should speed up, especially, in agriculture sector, because eighty to eighty five percent of the population feed by farming, new farming land should be provided for farmer to do their regular farming, instead of opium. It will reduce the growing of opium. I am sure many countries in the world will provide support for such a project. The reconstruction projects will create a friendly atmosphere between the government and public.

<>7-Get the support of Pashtons

Pashtons are the majority of Afghanistan. They have significant role in the Afghan society along the history. Without their support it is very difficult to stabilize the country. In recent days they were the main resistance that driven the former Soviet from Afghanistan and they pay the most price for freedom. Pashtons fought against the Soviet and their alleys (Northern Alliance.), Including Shah Mosood a local Punjsheries commander and chief of Shori-e-Nazar who had signed peace accord with KGB to fight with former Mujahideen, especially against the Pushtons fighters back by United States and Pakistan.( look up Bruce Richardson book, Afghanistan Ending the Reign Of Soviet Terror). Afghan nation scarified two millions people to get their freedom but today Shah Mosood is the hero of freedom and Northern Alliance is in power. It is psychologically warfare with the Majority of Afghan nation, especially with the Pashtons. It hurts their feelings. How the Pashtons can support the Northern Alliance government which killed hundred thousand of their people? Pashtons are upset and also they are ignored. They do not have a leadership. Only Taliban claim they are the leader of Pashtons, which is not true because the majority of Pashtons are not with Taliban. There should be created Pashton leadership and work with them to get their support. Without their support and strong or equal participation in the government, peace and security will be very difficult to return to Afghanistan. They are living along the border with Pakistan; their territories are used by Taliban. Fighting is in their territories. If they are organized and give hand to the government there is strong hope for stability, safety and security. Get the sport of Pashtons and bring stability and safety to the country

There are many other ideas to save Afghanistan, however, I believe the above ideas with a little more work will be the most popular idea for safety, security, stable and popular Afghanistan., if there is time for American and NATO troops to leave, Afghanistan should have a type of government that can survive.

If you have further consideration, feel free to contact me.. I hope my thought will be helpful. Many thanks.

<>Best regards


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Uzbek refugees return home amid concern that they are being coerced

One wonders what brings these refugees back to their country. Are they simply so lonely, so homesick for their country, that they are unable to visualize what the country is actually like? Lets hope they are not imprisoned, beaten, killed -- at least this is the kind of image of the country controlled by Karimov that I have. Could I be that wrong?

Uzbek refugees return home, amid concern that they are being coerced
International Herald Tribune

"Less than two years after they fled Uzbekistan in the wake of the government's bloody crackdown on protests in an eastern city, scores of Uzbeks have returned home — to an uncertain welcome from an authoritarian regime."
"Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch said she distrusts the Uzbek government's promises that no returnee will be harmed ... 'There is nothing in Uzbekistan's contemporary history that shows that this government sticks to its promises.' "
"President Islam Karimov is accused by human rights groups and the U.S. State Department of arbitrary arrests, political persecution and torture."

US looks at plan to oust Musharraf

If it is true that the Americans are signalling that Musharraf might be removed, then his status is indeed precarious. It is strange that this is published in Australia but not in the United States.

US looks at plan to oust Musharraf
By Bruce Loudon
The Australian

"The US has indicated for the first time that it might be willing to back plans by elite echelons of the military in Islamabad to oust Pervez Musharraf from power, as the Pakistani President was beset by major new difficulties over his attempts to sack the country's chief justice."
"Reports yesterday quoting highly placed US diplomatic and intelligence officials - previously rusted on to the view that General Musharraf was an indispensable Western ally in the battle against terrorism - outlined a succession plan to replace him."
"Thousands of lawyers clashed with baton-wielding riot police yesterday during a nationwide day of action against the sacking of the top judge."
"motives for the sacking emerged when it was disclosed that last month Justice Iftikhar said in a speech that General Musharraf could not continue as army chief beyond the expiry of his term as President later this year."
"General Musharraf has a highly controversial plan that would have him elected to another five-year term as President ... But he also wants to continue as Army Chief of Staff"
"The bitter wrangling lends weight to those in the US diplomatic and intelligence community who believe it is time to consider the post-Musharraf era."
"The US report suggests ... the view that the alternative to his regime would be chaos and a takeover by extremist Islamic mullahs is no longer ascendant."
"The report ... might ... indicate the President's allies in Washington are about to pull the rug from under him."

Bolton admits Lebanon truce block

Bolton's admission that the United States deliberately resisted calls for an immediate ceasefire in order to weaken Hizbullah simply reveals how insensitive this administration has been to the various situations on the ground in the Middle East. Their insistence that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization represents their refusal to admit that Hizbullah has many functions, many of them social and thus many of them vital to the continuing welfare of many people, not only Shi'a, in Lebanon.

Bolton admits Lebanon truce block
BBC News

"A former top American diplomat says the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006."
"Former ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the BBC that before any ceasefire Washington wanted Israel to eliminate Hezbollah's military capability"
"He said the US decided to join efforts to end the conflict only when it was clear Israel's campaign wasn't working."
"Britain joined the US in refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire."
"...several key players claim that, privately,there were Arab leaders who also wanted Israel to destroy Hezbollah."
" 'There were many not ... resistant to the thought that the Israelis should thoroughly defeat Hezbollah, who... increasingly by Arab states were seen as an Iranian proxy," said UN special envoy Terje Roed Larsen.' "
"More than 1,000 Lebanese civilians and an unknown number of Hezbollah fighters were killed in the conflict. Israel lost 116 soldiers in the fighting, while 43 of its civilians were killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks."

Turkey/Israel pipeline could shift Middle East power balance

The development of the infrastructure will surely affect the course of affairs in the Middle East. This news suggests how strong the ties between Turkey and Israel can become, and how crucial the deal actually is for both sides at this time. Yes, this could be a "seismic economic shift."

Turkey/Israel pipeline could shift Middle East power balance
By Morris R. Beschloss
The Desert Sun

"...the prospective agreement between Turkey and Israel to construct such a strategic connection may accomplish a seismic economic shift."
"With Russia in the process of exerting an energy stranglehold over much of the trans-Caucasian and Eastern European areas, a new pipeline could become a counterweight to Moscow's increasing expansionism."
"This pipeline now is being considered for extension from oil center Azerbaijan's Baku on the Caspian Sea through Georgia to Turkey's Mediterranean seaport of Ceyhan, all of which avoid impinging on any Russian territory."
"Turkey and Israel have reached a memo of understanding calling for a $4 billion pipeline linking the Turkish port of Ceyhan and Israel's Ashkelon seaport..."
"...this giant project represents a realignment of geopolitical power as well as a circumvention of Russian hegemony."
"Emanating from the oil-rich Caspian Sea, this contemplated multinational pipeline avoids encroaching on Russian territory, thereby eliminating any attempted Moscow interference with its free flow."
"With energy drawn from the Caspian Sea's Azerbaijan-controlled sector, Russia's influence and interference effectively is withheld."

Friday, March 23, 2007

An expert's predictions

In early 2003 Fred Donner predicted correctly the consequences of Bush's pre-emptive attack on Iraq. Virtually everything he predicted is coming true. Virtually everything the Bush administration predicted did not. Have a look:

Pakistani al-Qaeda camps destroyed

If this report is accurate something important is taking place in Pakistan. And this is not the only thing: the demonstrations against Musharraf are also significant. We need to watch ...

Pakistani al-Qaeda camps destroyed
Financial Times By Farhan Bokhari

"...fighting between al-Qaeda loyalists and tribal militants in ... Pakistani border region has almost completely destroyed camps used by a leading terrorist from Uzbekistan, Pakistani intelligence officials claimed on Thursday."
"The claim ... could mark ... a success in Pakistan's war against militants hiding on its soil ... also vindicate Pakistan ... on two controversial agreements signed by the government with tribal elders in the region..."
"General Pervez Musharraf ... last year ordered his troops home from the ... border region after deals that would see local tribal elders policing the region themselves. The move has been widely criticised as giving freer rein for militants..."
"Pakistani intelligence officials, however, claimed ... after a week of fighting ... the infrastructure used by loyalists of Tahir Yuldashev, the pro al-Qaeda militant, had been wiped out. More than half the people killed so far were said to be Uzbek Islamists who took refuge on the Pakistani side of the border after US-led forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001."
"Western diplomats warned that there was no way of independently confirming the claim. 'Since the Pakistanis do not let anyone from the outside to freely venture around the tribal areas...' "

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rival militants clash in Pakistan

The fighting between Pushtun tribesmen and some of their visitors in the Northwest Frontier Province is very significant. It may signal that the militant Islamists have over-stayed their welcome. And it may indeed be a practical outcome of the deal the local tribes made with the Pakistan army: to take the responsibility of policing their own area, as they have always done in the past. The tribesmen may feel they have good reason to drive them out, or at least to subdue them, given the number of tribal leaders who have been bumped off by the local insurgents. The tribes have had trouble with the radical militants just as the Afghanistan government has on its side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
We would do well to avoid jumping to conclusions on what this means for the Taliban. That the Taliban are joining with the tribesmen against the Uzbeks, even though reputedly they have been trained to think like a Wahhabi, which is to discount non-Muslim grounds of loyalty in favor of the umma, indicates that the differences among them have become difficult to resolve. Here, in any case, tribal loyalties are being asserted against at least some of the militant insurgents who claim to be zealous for Islam.
Could this be a turning point?


"Nearly 50 people have been killed after rising tension between local and foreign militants in north-west Pakistan erupted into fierce fighting ... a stronghold of the Taleban"
"...Most of those killed were militants from Uzbekistan suspected of links with al-Qaeda"
"...militants in the mountainous region want Western troops out of Afghanistan, but divisions and power struggles between them have reportedly grown in recent months."
"...Uzbek militants had largely kept themselves to themselves and were not linked to al-Qaeda's anti-Western agenda, but in recent months they are reported to have become more involved in local disputes."
"...Reports suggested that Taleban and local tribesmen had demanded the Uzbeks leave, or disarm, and that fighting broke out when they refused"
"...Each side has blamed the other for the outbreak of fighting."

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency

Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor Government and professor of anthropology at Columbia University. Anything he has to say about the situation in Africa, especially Rwanda, Uganda or South Africa, should be taken very seriously. Few people are well informed on Darfur and he is among those better informed. His reading of the situation in Darfur generates questions about what is "real" and what is simply labelling. The problem we all have in trying to track the course of affairs in the world is how to evaluate the "information" that comes to us, most of it being constructed by interested parties. The naming of events and situations is a most important feature of the situations. So far, the Bush administration and other western powers have succeeded in using language to talk about Iraq that have stuck, and so have set the terms for how to conceive of the proper response. Are the terms we use for the situation in Darfur the most fitting?

The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency
Mahmood Mamdani
London Review of Books

"The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable."
"...estimate of ... civilians killed ... is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently. In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide."
"What would happen if we thought of Darfur as we do of Iraq, as a place with a history and politics – a messy politics of insurgency and counter-insurgency?"
"Why should an intervention in Darfur not turn out to be a trigger that escalates rather than reduces the level of violence as intervention in Iraq has done?"
"Morally, there is no doubt about the horrific nature of the violence against civilians in Darfur. The ambiguity lies in the politics of the violence, whose sources include both a state-connected counter-insurgency and an organised insurgency, very much like the violence in Iraq."
"The worst thing in Darfur would be an Iraq-style intervention. That would almost certainly spread the civil war to other parts of Sudan, unravelling the peace process in the east and south and dragging the whole country into the global War on Terror."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Targetting Tehran: the case of the missing Iranian general

The sense that the United States government as well as other governments will do anything to achieve its aims -- torture, kidnapping, assassination -- has so poisoned the public image of what governments do that we can think of many reasons why a high Iranian official might disappear. There was a day when most of us would have immediately supposed that this Iranian official had defected to "The West" to escape the repressive regime in his home country, but now we wonder about other possibilities ... because there are so many other possibilities, most of them unseemly. So far, no clues -- which allows the imagination to run rampant.

Targetting Tehran: the case of the missing Iranian general
World Socialist Website
By Peter Symonds

"...disappearance of a top Iranian general, Brigadier General AliReza Asgari ... all the accounts point to the involvement of the US, Israeli and/or other Western intelligence agencies in the defection or abduction of Asgari, a former deputy defense minister..."
"Senior Bush administration officials have repeatedly declared that the US has no plans for war against Iran. The most obvious purpose in interrogating a figure like Asgari, however, is to extract information about Iran's military..."
"Most of the facts surrounding Asgari's disappearance are contested."
"The *Washington Post* last Thursday published one version of events. Its source—"a senior US official" told the newspaper that Asgari had defected and was "willingly cooperating" with "Western intelligence agencies" at an undisclosed location."
"Iranian authorities raised the alarm about a possible kidnapping by the CIA or Mossad and notified Interpol."
"What conclusions can be drawn amid all this deception and counter-deception?"

Pakistan judiciary at sea over axing

The uprising of lawyers around Pakistan is embarrassing the government. Normally the government can find lots of sources to blame for its problems: India is a good source of trouble, always a safe source to blame. Bush and American policy is another source of "pressure" that the government has to deal with. But it is hard to blame India or the United States for such widespread demonstrations by lawyers in the country. The claims made by the one legal source mentioned in this article can hardly be considered representative in view of the broadly based reaction of the lawyers. Something serious is taking place in Pakistan and the judiciary seems to be at the heart of it, at least for now. What else can go wrong?

Pakistan judiciary at sea over axing
The Australian
By Bruce Loudon

"...angry lawyers at courts across the country took to the streets to protest against the summary sacking of the country's chief justice..."
"Chief Justice Iftikhar ... ratcheted up the stakes in his standoff with General Musharraf by refusing to resign and telling the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association that he would contest charges of misconduct brought against him by the government..."
"Most analysts see General Musharraf's firing of the Chief Justice as a possible forerunner to putting off elections due later this year ..."

Afghanistan today "a mockery of the war on terror"

A member of the Afghan parliament speaks out on the state of her country.

Afghanistan today "a mockery of the war on terror"
On Line opinion
By Judy Cannon

"Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya, who will be 28 in April, is a slight woman who maybe reaches 5ft but against whom four assassination attempts have already been made. This does not prevent her from speaking out, as she sees it, the ... sometimes brutal, truth about ... the "terrible crisis" now faced by Afghanistan."
" 'They should know that bringing the Northern Alliance to power was the key to all the disasters we are experiencing today,' she said ... who she claimed are, 'as brutal and undemocratic as the Taliban and even worse,' "
"The US government keeps promising not to repeat its past mistakes ... but the US is making the same mistake, ... demanding the trial of the war lords and former Moscow puppets but they had not been brought to justice. Instead, shamelessly they were offered higher positions and found their way into the parliament with the support of the US"
" Some 20 per cent of those in parliament had been accused of things such as war crimes, drug-dealing and killing."
"criminals, some of them parliamentarians, had been scared by the hanging of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and, as a result, a parliamentary Bill had been brought into parliament providing immunity to all criminals over the past 25 years. A UN report had expressed disapproval of the Bill"
" 'Today we have a drugs mafia in Afghanistan and the so-called government is deeply implicated in drugs and the war lords,' she claimed."
"Women's rights were as catastrophic as they had been under the Taliban and the number of suicides had never been as high as they were today. She listed examples of recent violence against women and girls, including the case of an 11-year-old who was abducted, raped and then exchanged for a dog. The position of women would never change as long as the war lords were not removed from the political scene"
" 'No country can deliver liberation to another country,' she said. It had to be done by the people themselves."


The State Department has released a frightening report on human rights practices in Afghanistan. Routine Torture, Women in Detention Becoming Slaves, Detained Children Used for Sex, and Trial Procedures Violating Basic Justice are only some of the horrendous issues touched upon in this report.

"The practice of courts ordering the defendant to provide compensation in the form of young girls in marriage to a victims' family continued. Human rights organizations reported that local authorities continued to routinely torture and abuse detainees - consisting of pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, beatings,sexual humiliation, and sodomy."

US Sends Spies into Pakistan to Kill Bin Laden

The more intense focus on Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Zawahri reflects the new realism of this administration. That the American forces would have been redirected elsewhere in 2002 without apprehending Bin Laden and those who attacked the United States has to have been one of the great blunders of this administration -- perhaps the most notable among so many. Is it possible to get the leaders of Al Qaeda now? They would not have been able to escape detection for so long without help: who might have helped them? And where? It is worth noting that President Bush, after once declaring that he wanted them "dead or alive" has for a long period been able to avoid even mentioning Bin Laden's name. Now that name not only stands for a brutal attack, indeed several destructive and mortal attacks, but also successful escape from the most powerful force on earth.
No wonder he is popular among anti-American militants.

US sends spies into Pakistan to kill bin Laden
The Telegraph (UK)
By Toby Harnden and Thomas Coghlan

"America is stepping up its hunt for Osama bin Laden by dispatching additional CIA operatives and paramilitary officers to Pakistan to kill or capture the al-Qa'eda leader."
"...evidence of al-Qa'eda building its strength on Pakistani soil."
"Adml McConnell [the new US Director of National Intelligence] said of the Pakistani tribal area that "to the best of our knowledge the senior leadership, Number One and Number Two, are there, and they are attempting to re-establish and rebuild and to establish training camps"
"Intelligence officials have indicated that bin Laden has previously chosen March to switch locations, moving to hiding places in the mountains once the snow cover begins to melt. He is likely to be at his most vulnerable when on the move."

Afghan President Sends Back "Amnesty Bill"

How to put a country together after a civil war has to be one of the great dilemmas of any administration. Of course, in many cases no attempt is made to reconcile former opponents, assuage deep wounds, and resolve intense grudges. And in Afghanistan there has been no real attempt so far; the preoccupation has been essentially to bring about order. The solution in South Africa -- in which victims were allowed to confront those who had brutalized them and their loved ones -- was both painful (because it exposed much that had been hidden) and exemplary (because it allowed the brutalizers to confess and the victims, if so inclined, to forgive). We cannot envision such a process working in Afghanistan, nor can we picture the "warlords", many of whom have much innocent blood on their hands, giving up power. We pray that the Afghanistan peoples will be able to find a way to deal with the heart-wrenching issues they are faced with. That they even are addressing it in this superficial way can be considered -- in the Afghanistan context-- a reason for hope.

Afghan president sends back "amnesty bill"

"President Hamid Karzai has sent back to parliament a bill that would give amnesty for war crimes in Afghanistan's decades of brutal conflict..."
"Karzai has now returned the bill with proposed amendments, chiefly the addition of an article that 'safeguards the rights of individuals,' "
"Karzai consulted with a range of groups about the legislation, which raised concern among rights and civil protection groups who warned against allowing impunity."
"The country is still scarred by a brutal 1992 to 1996 civil war among factions led by commanders who are in parliament today. Up to 80,000people were killed in Kabul alone and there are allegations of widespread torture and rape.The draft bill passed by parliament says there should be no legal action against parties to the country's past conflicts, a move supporters argue will promote reconciliation."

A Big Push for Pakistan's Afghan Agenda

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has shifted sides so many times that he may be called a bellweather of things to come. That he has declared his intention to deal with the Karzai government suggests, as Shahzad says, that Pakistan has pressed him to make this move. Hekmatyar has very little popular base inside Afghanistan and never has had much. His power and influence lay in his ability to connect well with elements in Pakistan, who have long wanted Pakistan to have a major influence on Afghanistan. He has been, at one time, Pakistan's man. That he is moving to Karzai's side suggests that the Pakistani government sees him, again, as a vehicle of Pakistani influence in Afghanistan affairs. He is as bloody a "warlord" as there is. It is worth saying, contrary to what is being claimed, that the Taliban are not authentic "Afghans". They are a product of the Wahhabi and Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan. True, they are the sons of Afghans but they have virtually no tribal commitment and no sense of belonging to a country that has always claimed an ancient heritage. The Taliban are nationalists with a vision of the past that essentially links to the Islamic movement, not to the regional and local history of the country of Afghanistan.

A big push for Pakistan's Afghan agenda
Asia Times
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

"Warlord, mujahideen leader and former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's announcement that he is severing ties with the Taliban and starting negotiations with the administration of President Hamid Karzai..."
"The announcement by Hekmatyar caught many people by surprise. Yet it is to be expected from the mercurial mujahid with political ambitions who has always had his own agenda, even while his [Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan] HIA fought alongside the Taliban..."
"The US considers Hekmatyar a terrorist, although it backed him against the Soviets in the 1980s."
"...Western policymakers began talking of possible power-sharing arrangements involving the Taliban..."
"As Washington is not comfortable with the Taliban, Hekmatyar is being touted as a suitable candidate to help restore peace to Afghanistan."
"Pakistan saw its opportunity to regain lost ground in Afghanistan and pounced. It was convinced that whether Hekmatyar or the Taliban come to power, as Islamist Pashtuns they would gravitate toward Pakistan rather than India."

How the Chinese Regime Forced Me to Spy

Falung Gong appears to be a uniquely Chinese movement, and to be suffering under the repressive measures of the Chinese Communist Government.Torture in China -- or in the United States -- and by the Chinese government -- or by the United States Government -- is inhuman, debasing of all sides, and should be exposed. For this reason we are happy to link this site to the story of how Dr Wang has been abused by the Chinese government.

The Epoch Times
Macau Professor: How the Chinese Regime Forced Me to Spy
Dr. Wang Lian

"Editorial Note: Dr. Wang Lian was kidnapped in Zhu Hai City in Canton (Guangdong)Province on Sept. 12, 2006 by special agents of the Chinese regime's notorious Public Security Bureau (PSB). After intense brainwashing Dr. Wang was forced into spying for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the Hong Kong Epoch Times.He was given the mission to bring down the Hong Kong Epoch Times as soon as possible.In the eyes of the CCP, The Epoch Times is an outspoken news agency that does not bow submissively to Chinese censorship and has significant influence on social and human rights issues in mainland China. The CCP sees it as a serious 'thorn in the side' and has continuously harassed the normal operations of the Epoch Times in Hong Kong since its inception."

Kidnapping of women on the rise in Takhar, Afghanistan

The following is a translation from the Pushtu. Troubling news.

Kidnapping of women on the rise in Takhar

Abdul Matin Sarfaraz
Pajhwok Afghan News

Gangs of women traffickers were operative in the northern province of Takhar, officials said on Wednesday.

Members of the gang, mostly women, first kidnap women and then use them in drug trafficking, said Razm Ara Hawash, head of the women affairs department in the province.

Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, she said members of the network dupe simple women through false promises of handsome earnings and then forced them into drug trafficking.

She said they had received reports about abduction of many women in this way. The drug mafia use them for trafficking of narcotics to the neighboring Tajikistan, she informed.

A mother of seven was recently kidnapped by two female members of the gang from her house, said Hawosh. She said husband of the beguiled woman Ghulam Hassan had reported the incident to the women affairs department.

After coming to know about the incident, Hawosh said they had informed the local police to search and arrest the gang, but nothing had been done so far. She demanded of the law-enforcement agencies to recover the kidnapped women and arrest the people involved in the crime.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Further signs that social order is fraying in Pakistan

According to the BBC []
there are worrisome signs that the social order in Pakistan is breaking down:

• The military has been unable to “assert the government's writ over large areas of the country”.

• Extremists openly declare their unwillingness to “recognize the legitimacy of the state” until an Islamic revolution takes place.

• Many people -- judges, soldiers, policemen, lawyers and ordinary women and children – have been victims of a dozen suicide bombings in the last few weeks.

• In Islamabad, some “3,000 Kalashnikov-wielding militant women” successfully protected “a religious school that had been set for demolition because it had been built illegally.”

• “Up to 200 crimes and robberies are being committed every a day in major cities - in Karachi the figures are double that” – many of them by unemployed youth formed in to gangs.

And as we have already noted, the demonstrations by lawyers in the streets of the cities around the country over the detainment of the Chief Justice reveal that even the more comfortable middle class are losing patience with the government.

What next?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pakistan judiciary at sea over axing

The uprising of lawyers around Pakistan is embarrassing the government. Normally the government can find lots of sources to blame for its problems: India is a good source of trouble, always a safe source to blame. Bush and American policy is another source of "pressure" that the government has to deal with. But it is hard to blame India or the United States for such widespread demonstrations by lawyers in the country. The claims made by the one legal source mentioned in this article can hardly be considered representative in view of the broadly based reaction of the lawyers. Something serious is taking place in Pakistan and the judiciary seems to be at the heart of it, at least for now. What else can go wrong?

The Australian
Bruce Loudon
"Pakistan's judicial system was in turmoil last night as angry lawyers at courts across the country took to the streets to protest against the summary sacking of the country's chief justice and burn effigies of President Pervez Musharraf, accusing him of having staged 'a judicial coup' "

Musharraf in trouble?

The crisis in Pakistan seems increasingly ominous. BBC reports that the Chief Justice, who is being pressured to resign for as yet unstated reasons, "refused to take the official car sent to take him to the hearing at the Supreme Court but started walking there. He was stopped by police and taken to another official building before being forced into a car and taken to the court buildings."
Evidence of the seriousness of the procedings is the scale of the demonstrations against the government by lawyers all over the country: The BBC says that "Some 200 lawyers supporting Mr Chaudhry managed to reach the Supreme Court despite tight security, chanting slogans against the president such as 'Go Musharraf, go.'"
For middle class lawyers to be demonstrating in the streets and challenging Musharraf's hold on power is a serious development. It looks like extreme measures could be the only way for the government to respond, and that could lead to such a large-scale reaction that Musharraf would have to be replaced. There is no doubt that the army will retain control of the country, whether by elections or coup d'etat. It is conceivable that already there are elements within the army ready to take over. But which elements? Those who support the Islamists? Capitalist interests? Whoever comes forward, we can be sure they will disassociate themselves from the Bush administration. So, could that mean that the Bush policy in Pakistan is likewise in trouble?

Monday, March 12, 2007

An emerging crisis in Pakistan?

The boycott of the courts by lawyers in Pakistan, a topic poorly covered in American news outlets, could reveal a significant turn of affairs for the country. Musharraf has placed the Chief Justice under house arrest for reasons that are unstated so far but are presumed to be the Justice’s willingness to hear cases of “disappearance” that apparently the government doesn’t want heard. Is there something it doesn't want revealed? Whoever these “disappeared” persons are, they are a significant number. As in Iran in the 1970s the scale of "disappearances" can indicate a growing discontent with the government that it somehow thinks it must quash to stay in control. It has been said to me that the people now have few places to turn for redress: the President holds office with unconvincing credentials; the Parliament appears to be toothless, unable to stray ouside of Musharraf's wishes. The one place where middle class folks (the poor have no leverage at all) may hope to get some redress is the courts. Musharaf’s Chief Justice has been willing to hear cases of abuse of power by the government. And now, even though under house arrest, he is unwilling to resign. This is the setting of the boycott by hundreds of lawyers. They are demonstrating all over the country. These men represent the middle class, not the downtrodden poor: that they are willing to face police beatings suggests that Pakistan could be facing a serious crisis. The American administration regards Musharraf as their "friend" in Pakistan but he could be on the way out -- or couldn't he?

The BBC says that “In Lahore, more than 20 lawyers were injured in clashes with police. Hundreds of lawyers wearing black suits rallied in other cities.” . . . The judge is a controversial figure noted for his firm line on government misdeeds and human rights abuses. … Rallies attended by hundreds of black-suited lawyers were also held in the capital, Islamabad, and in other cities including Karachi and Quetta. The Bar Association says the court shutdown is total. "It's a complete boycott of the superior and lower courts by all lawyers," Court Bar Association president Munir Malik told the AFP news agency.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Can we abolish suicide bombing?

This comment and the two previous ones come from The Friday Times, a weekly in Pakistan that often has useful and helpful articles on Afghanistan and Pakistan. These that we have briefly digested here seem especially relevant right now. To get on the sight you have to pay a modest annual subscription ($25), eminently worth it. RLC

The Friday Times
By Khaled Ahmed

"But if you thought any man with religious stature will ever think afresh and actually recommend banning suicide-bombing, you are mistaken. All of them still think that it is all right if you are suicide-bombing non-Muslims."
"No one is really bothered about the negation of the state. Rather they seem to tell the state that it should allow suicide-bombing if it is not against Muslims."
"... what if the suicide-bomber has determined that the Muslims he is killing are not Muslims? It is easy to kill the Shias because Sunni fatwas exist that apostatise them."
"No Islamic scholar today accepts the validity of the state. Why should anyone decide killing anyone without reference to the law of the state? Why should there be jihad when it is not waged by the state? Suicide is banned by Islam. Why should the ban be waived after a cleric somewhere decides that his followers should go out and kill innocent non-Muslims to satisfy his sense of justice?"
" The state is diminished because it is Islamic. The clerics like it that way because they feel empowered by this diminishment."

NWFP [Pakistant] faces wave of suicide terror

The Friday Times
By Imtiaz Gul

"Ever since suicide bombers struck in downtown Peshawar and took out several people including the senior-most police official in January this year, the city finds itself continually in the grip of fear and rumours. Even the ISI, IB, Special Branch and FIA officials openly and privately talk of the spiralling of 'Talibanisation and suicide-bombings' from the tribal areas into the settled areas of the province."
" 'the militant threat is growing and fast overtaking cities like Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu and Kohat'."
"The general law and order situation too is deteriorating."
"... one wonders whether they can counter the ideology and control its advocates."
"...women suicide bombers were ready to strike wherever 'un-Islamic practices were observed or girls found without veil'."
" many as 37 acts of terrorism took place in various parts of the country in January 2007. Balochistan topped the list with 26 terrorist incidents, followed by the NWFP with eight attacks and one incident each in the Punjab and the Islamabad Capital Territory."
"...terrorists hit Quetta five times, Dera Bugti seven times, Kohlu and Naseerabad twice each, Bolan thrice, and Noshki, Mastung, Zhob, Lasbela, Khuzdar, Awaran once each."

“Al-Qaeda’s last laugh?”

The Friday Times
by Najam Sethi

"President Bush is a deeply worried man. His Iraq strategy is in tatters and Afghanistan is unraveling the same way. Britain and his other NATO partners have got cold feet. And the American people want him to “bring the boys home, asap”. Therefore everyone knows that the Bush administration’s bluster of sending more troops into the two theatres of war is running on empty, that it is only a matter of time. Under the circumstances, all the old and new players are already conscious of making adjustments to protect their national interests. And these include Pakistan."
"The straw that broke Pakistan’s back was US dependence for state building in Kabul on Tajik and Uzbek elements of the Northern Alliance (NA) that had been in bed with India throughout the 1990s. Tensions between Kabul and Islamabad exacerbated in 2005 when Islamabad began to suspect that India and Afghan intelligence might be involved in fueling the insurgency in Balochistan. That is the time when Pakistan’s military establishment began to have second thoughts about how to deal with Kabul. That is when the strategy of confronting and eliminating rebellious Pakhtun-Taliban elements in FATA was changed into one of trying to making peace “deals” with them and limiting Pakistani casualties. Unfortunately, this “reprieve” has enabled the Taliban to regroup and stage a comeback, and in the process threaten both Kabul and Islamabad."
"If this democratization isn’t accomplished in Pakistan while the moderate and mainstream parties still have roots in the masses, extremist religious groups will fill the vacuum of opposition politics. Should that happen, Pakistan will degenerate like much of the Muslim world, ruled by military-monarchial oligarchies in which the fundamentalists are constantly trying to break down the gates of the failing state. In the event, Al-Qaeda will have the last laugh."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nuclear Hypocrisy and Iran

By Frida Berrigan
Foreign Policy in Focus

The Bush administration is very focused these days on Iran’s nuclear program. This focus has only sharpened in the aftermath of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s recent report that Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of a UN Security Council demand. According to Vice President Dick Cheney, Washington is pursuing diplomacy with Iran but is also keeping all options on the table. In the White House, “options on the table” is code for military action. There have been many media reports of U.S. preparations to attack Iran. But the primary rationale for such an attack – to prevent Iran from going nuclear – is deeply problematic. Not only is the United States beefing up its military in general, it is even planning a modernization of its nuclear arsenal. The nuclear hypocrisy of the Bush administration makes any resolution of the conflict with Iran all the more difficult.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

How far we are from establishing western values

Rory Stewart's guest op-ed in the New York times [3/3/07] is exactly on target: "Afghans, like Americans, do not want to be abducted and tortured. They want a say in who governs them, and they want to feed their families. But reducing their needs to broad concepts like “human rights,” “democracy” and “development” is unhelpful.
For many Afghans, sharia law is central. Others welcome freedom from torture, but not free media or freedom of religion; majority rule, but not minority rights; full employment, but not free-market reforms. “Warlords” retain considerable power. Millions believe that alcohol should be forbidden and apostates killed, that women should be allowed in public only in burqas. Many Pusthu clearly prefer the Taliban to foreign troops."

What Stewart is saying in fact applies to many of the other societies in which our government claims to have grand agendas. The talk about democracy and human right sells at home but in Afghanistan, and in most parts of the Middle East and Central Asia the number of people in those countries who can grasp the significance of such terms, much less embrace them, is minuscule.

American has a fundamental problem: historically this country has been so isolated from the rest of the world that it scarcely grasps what life is like for people elsewhere. The blunders of the last few years are surely to be reduplicated again and again if genuine interest in the rest of the world remains minimal in this country.

I keep wondering if this country will not have to go through the long slow decline of the Ottoman empire before it begins to focus on what the rest of the world is really like. The Ottomans at one time were so confident of themselves that they had little interest in the outside world, and insisted that all communications coming to them be in Ottoman Turkish. But as their fortunes began to wane they began to wonder why. As they lost in wars they began to want to know more. The little "translation office" that had once served the court grew into a powerful and prominent institution where many young Turks wanted to work. (Findley, Carter Vaughn. Ottoman Civil Officialdom: ASocialHistory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.)

When will this country begin to care about understanding peoples elsewhere in their own terms? What kind of price will it be forced to pay before its cultural isolation is overcome?

I fear we have many more fiascoes ahead of us like the one in Iraq and the one beginning to take form in Afghanistan.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Islamic Group's Wrath Stokes Fears in Gaza

The rising influence, and threat, of radical militants claiming to represent Islam in the Gaza strip looks so much like the attitude and activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that it is worth noting the similarity. And in each case it is fair to ask where the funding for these activities comes from. Could it not be from a similar source?
Loretta Napoleoni, Terror Incorporated, says that Saudi Arabia has been bankrolling Wahhabist groups in several places. In particular she cites [p. 123] Pakistan, Chechnya, and Egypt, but she implies that "the Saudis" have been funding many such groups elsewhere. Could Saudi money be the main source of the rise of militant, destructive groups claiming to represent Islam in so many places across the Middle East and Central Asia today? If so, it is probably not government money, but private Saudi money. In any case, the world's appetite for oil may be the ultimate source[!].

Islamic Group's Wrath Stokes Fears in Gaza
by Eric Westervelt
"Islamic fundamentalists are suspected of murdering three women thought to be prostitutes in the Gaza Strip. The deaths follow the bombing and torching of businesses and public places that radicals believe to be un-Islamic."
"...according to investigator Abu al Abed ... he's never seen three women murdered in one night, let alone three assassinated gangland style."
"The attacks started in October 2006 ... hitting a wide range of businesses ... [m]odern music stores, DVD outlets, restaurants and cultural centers ..."
"A statement from ... 'The Swords of Islamic Righteousness,' claimed responsibility..."
"Gaza security officials are investigating the possibility that these vigilante moralists have the ... backing of Hamas."
" [Investigator] Abed said analysis of explosive residue links Hamas' underground paramilitary wing — the Izzadine al Qassam brigades — and its more official police force to the wave of attacks."
" Some in Hamas, investigators say, are working by proxy to do what they can't do openly now that they're leading the government: trying to impose an Islamist social agenda across Gaza."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"In Afghanistan, clothes and beards do maketh the man"

The following is a summary of an article entitled In Afghanistan, clothes and beards do maketh the man of the On Target Chronicle Herald written by Scott Taylor, details mistakes made by the U.S. in training the Afghan National Army.

"the U. S. had ordered all facial hair removed from the Afghan soldiers. Presumably, this was to make the troops appear more westernized... "
"For four years, the U. S.- led coalition and NATO's International Security Assistance Force have been hurriedly trying to establish the Afghan National Army as a self- sufficient military."
"The standard of training can best be described as NATO- lite in that recruits receive just 17 weeks of instruction before being deployed on active operations."
"By contrast, a Canadian combat soldier undergoes 12 weeks of basic training, a further 16 weeks of battle school and at least a six-month predeployment preparatory work- up period with his or her unit before an actual operational tour."
"The [Kabul Military Training Centre] has a no- fail policy with no minimum standards. That ensures that only cadets who pose a danger to themselves or to coalition forces will be weeded out during training."
"... the [Afghan National Army] troops I saw seemed singularly dispirited."
"In a country where the men pride themselves on their turbans and beards, we issue them berets and razors."
"Instead of trying to westernize these recruits, why don't we celebrate their Afghan nationalism and encourage their historical fighting spirit?"