Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan News Agency » Exclusives http://www.khaama.com The largest news and information source in Afghanistan Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Op-Ed: Enemies of Election Results in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/op-ed-enemies-of-election-results-in-afghanistan-3548 http://www.khaama.com/op-ed-enemies-of-election-results-in-afghanistan-3548#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 07:07:37 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=33425 Op-Ed: Enemies of Election Results in Afghanistan
We are not very new to democracy and elections anymore. The process has been exercised in the country since last one decade. The Afghan people have learned lessons from their history and past. The Afghan politicians have to understand that neither Afghanistan and nor the Afghans are the same. Many things have changed during the Read the full article...]]>
Op-Ed: Enemies of Election Results in Afghanistan

We are not very new to democracy and elections anymore. The process has been exercised in the country since last one decade. The Afghan people have learned lessons from their history and past. The Afghan politicians have to understand that neither Afghanistan and nor the Afghans are the same. Many things have changed during the last 12 years in this country, even the way of living and thinking. The last elections can easily reflect those changes.

The 5th April elections were a historic day. Millions of Afghan citizens across the country came and cast their votes for their favorite candidates. Of course in a country like Afghanistan, taking part in the election either as a voter or as a candidate is not risk free. Many voters jeopardized their life and took a huge risk to cast their votes. The courage, professionalism and dedication of the Afghan National Security Forces, who enabled people to vote, are highly appreciated and it has to be recognized.

Voting is only one part of the electoral process and it went very well. The turnout of the Afghan people in the elections has amazed the world community and such a huge turnout was even unexpected by many Afghans. The massive turnout of the Afghan voters showed their interest in democracy and it is also a sign that the Afghan people don’t want to go back to the era of the Taliban. It showed that the security transition is not only about the security, but it’s also about ownership, responsibility and pride.

The politicians have also realized that the Afghan people have learned from the past and they are supporting peaceful and democratic ways of transferring powers. While throughout the history of Afghanistan, this will be the first time that an elected president will transfer power to another elected president, but still there are some serious obstacles, which can interrupt the process of political transition or at least it can delay the process. When we talk about the political transition, it does not end with holding elections. But the process is lengthy and elections are only one part of this process.

 Of course the leadership of the country and the government senior officials has repeatedly promised to transfer the power peacefully to the next president. But the latest irresponsible remarks and claims by some presidential hopeful for winning the elections, before any official announcement of the results, have concerned the public. Any pre-mature judgment and decision about the election results are against the core value of the elections. Election bodies are the only legitimate institutions to deal with the election issues. So the candidates have to equally understand their rights and responsibilities and they must avoid any comments and remarks, which can harm the transparency and legitimacy of the election process.

There is an increase concern among the public that before any kind of announcement of the election results, some people within and outside of the government would like to interfere and sabotage the process. The election was not a perfect one. The violations and concerns have to be addressed, but only through legitimate means and electoral laws and bodies. Any dispute between the candidates about the election results will enable the current government to continue illegitimately. So this is the time for the candidates to stay patience and united with their nation against all those, who tries to create chaos.

In every presidential election, only one candidate can win and this is a fact of democracy that has to be accepted by all candidates. The candidates have to prefer the national interest and respect the votes of Afghan people. The only way to obey the Afghan constitution and appreciate votes of the Afghan citizens, it is to respect the announcement and the decisions of the Independent Election Commission. And both; the candidates and the Afghan government have to understand, that they will pay a huge cost of any mistake they commit and the people are closely watching them.

There are some active internal and external groups in Afghanistan, who works so hard to provoke some of the candidates to don’t accept the election results. And some comments by some of the candidates are worrying. It shows that they have been influenced by these specific groups, who has only one intention and that is destruction and destabilization of Afghanistan. So in this very vital era of the history Afghan politicians must consider the high interest of the country and they have to address any concern and issue through the existing laws and responsible institutions.

Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam is the Founder and Chairman of the Afghan Anti-Corruption Network. The Afghan Anti-Corruption Network is the leading and the largest network of civil society organizations fighting corruption in Afghanistan. He is a fellow of the  Asia Society’s Afghanistan Young Leaders Initiativeand a political analyst.

He can be reached via twitter@shafiqhamdam

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The choice you make today affects your tomorrow, Afghan election 5 April 2014 http://www.khaama.com/the-choice-you-make-today-reflects-your-tomorrow-afghan-election-5-april-2014-3525 http://www.khaama.com/the-choice-you-make-today-reflects-your-tomorrow-afghan-election-5-april-2014-3525#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 04:08:46 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=33174 The choice you make today affects your tomorrow, Afghan election 5 April 2014
By Huma Naseri In political Science the term election means a formal process of selecting an individual to hold public office and run state affairs. Although election in literal sense is a transparent process but due to the nature of society it very much differs from country to country. In conflict ridden fragile democracies Elections Read the full article...]]>
The choice you make today affects your tomorrow, Afghan election 5 April 2014

By Huma Naseri

In political Science the term election means a formal process of selecting an individual to hold public office and run state affairs. Although election in literal sense is a transparent process but due to the nature of society it very much differs from country to country. In conflict ridden fragile democracies Elections are more likely to push the countries back or even into more troubles than strengthening their institutions. Afghanistan is in the list of emerging democracies but due to continues wars and violent conflicts one can reasonably argue, democracy in Afghanistan will take some time to flourish. Despite all the difficulties and problems that Afghanistan is facing, there is still no reason to not support the elections and not give democracy a chance to take its roots in Afghanistan.

On April 5th 2014 Afghanistan will have its third ever presidential elections in the history of that country, without a doubt giving these elections a chance to succeed in this rising democracy, along with numerous chaoses and deep rooted corruption is a huge challenge. I understand lack of pan-ethnic democratic and enough of homogenously ethnic divided groups, could be one of the cause that has great potential to plunge the democratic process into difficulties and undermine the voting process, But these challenges are not supposed to be the reason of being pessimistic about the upcoming elections. I support my claim, by describing the nature of afghan society as a pro-tribal society, and these tribes are in a way similar to political parties and have their own norms and codes. According to a CNN report in countries like Afghanistan “Support of tribes means everything.”

The two months campaign process despite a lot of security challenge successfully came to an end. During this entire period Afghans showed a strong support and motivation about the elections and the candidates in different parts of the country. Despite the terrible security conditions, one of the leading candidates made almost 140 trips to the provinces in order to reach everyone. This passion and enthusiasm among Afghans in itself is a sign that Afghans believe in democracy it’s just the condition which never allowed democracy to thrive.

However, now that the campaign period has almost ended with only 3 more days to go, the nation will have the opportunity to choose an individual to run the state affairs for the coming five years and make policies which will directly affect their lives.  This decision would mean establishing connections between citizens and policymakers to pay attention to their needs and Interest. What can help the Afghans make a better choice is to take a few minutes prior to make a choice about a particular candidate. They should consider the below questions which will eventually lead them to make a better choice and help democracy grow. Remember the choice you make today reflects your tomorrow.

About yourself:  Vote as a responsible citizen 

About Candidate: Who is who? Study them on based on below factors.

Background assurance:

Who is the person running for Presidency? What is his educational background? What are his achievements on National and International Level?  Does he have the capacity to represent Afghanistan around the world in the best way possible? Does he reflect the values and principles you follow?

On Political Level:

What are his policies about ending conflict, promoting good governance, democracy, strengthening state institutions, reducing poverty? How can He implement them and what are the indicators and outcome?

On Economical Level:

What remedies does He have for the terrible financial difficulties, fragile economy and increasing unemployment?

On Gender level:

Does he believe in equal rights for men and women? Does He/she understand that the role of the half of the population, women, of the country ‘is necessary in building the country? Will he permit his wife to appear in public as a first lady and to work with the rest of the people of this country?

If we fail to consider all these points our miseries will continue and the consequences will be devastating for our upcoming generations. 

Huma Naseri is an Afghan analyst and writes on regular basis for her blog, online news portals and BBC Pashto covering issues related to Afghanistan. She holds Masters in International Relation and Political Science from Germany

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Islamic Jihad A Growing Concern For Hamas http://www.khaama.com/islamic-jihad-a-growing-concern-for-hamas-2895 http://www.khaama.com/islamic-jihad-a-growing-concern-for-hamas-2895#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:56:06 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32750 Islamic Jihad A Growing Concern For Hamas
By Manish Rai Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah popularly known as Hamas, the longtime front runner in the internal jockeying of organizations fighting Israel is in its struggling days, while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is gaining strength day by day. In recent years Hamas had a calming effect on the populace, but as the Gaza economy fails Read the full article...]]>
Islamic Jihad A Growing Concern For Hamas

By Manish Rai

Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah popularly known as Hamas, the longtime front runner in the internal jockeying of organizations fighting Israel is in its struggling days, while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is gaining strength day by day. In recent years Hamas had a calming effect on the populace, but as the Gaza economy fails and Hamas struggles to find funding more radical elements are gaining support. The PIJ is receiving financial support from Iran and has adopted a militant stance towards peace and disarmament. The United Nation is facing a $65 million dollar deficit in its food relief mission in Palestine, making cuts to food relief imminent. With UN food shipments drying up, the PIJ can offer food for loved ones in exchange for military service and bolster its number of active combatants. The poor and the hungry are ripe for recruitment in Palestine, and the economic situation is expected to worsen. People who are relying on international assistance for food items will easily convert their desperation for food into hatred of Israel with a slight push from PIJ recruiters who will be more than happy to discuss politics with their starving neighbours over a hearty meal.

Islamic Jihad is behaving more militantly with each passing day which is of course creating problem for Gaza controller Hamas. One day after the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) attacked a squad of Islamic Jihad militants, killing three Palestinian militants while they were firing a mortar right next to the border fence. Islamic Jihad fired some 60 rockets at Israel, which responded by attacking dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip.  The PIJ has “succeeded” in dragging Hamas into an adventure that it hardly wants, and at the worst possible time it is interesting that Hamas has been unable to prevent Islamic Jihad militants from operating along the border with Israel in an area that is supposed to be off limits to them. This, despite having recently stationed its Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the area to ensure that no rockets are fired from it. But what is actually stopping Hamas, a group that even Israel recognizes as the sovereign authority in the Gaza Strip, from disarming the Al-Quds Brigades military wing of PIJ? Who or what is preventing fighters from the al-Qassam Brigades, whose military strength is several orders of magnitude greater than Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, to enforce their authority? And what made the Hamas slogan of “concentrating military power in one hand” so hollow and meaningless?

Its increased support of Iran for PIJ which is making them more flamboyant. Shortly after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in July 2007 and expelled the Fatah leadership, the al-Qassam Brigades launched an extensive military operation to disarm the other organizations operating there. Only two groups were entitled to extensive “relief” from this campaign the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad. Both of them benefited and continue to benefit from generous aid from Iran, both financial and military. But of these two groups, Tehran’s favourite child is Islamic Jihad. Iran commended the PIJ on the rocket attacks that struck deep into Israel in recent days which is unsurprising because the rockets were most likely from a shipment supplied by Iran. Israel intercepted an Iranian shipment of rockets earlier this month bound for Gaza. According to Israel, the weapons seized from shipment were intended for Islamic Jihad and not for Hamas. It’s not that Hamas has not ever enjoyed Iranian patronage even once with Iranian aid it was able to defeat Fatah, exile it from Gaza and take over all the centres of power and authority. But that generous aid and strong backing, which provided Hamas’s leaders with a considerable (and sometimes exaggerated) sense of security, was suddenly cut off when Hamas decided to side with the rebels in the Syrian civil war. The deterioration of the relationship between Iran and Hamas happened very quickly and the romance ended with a bitter feud.

In just a short time, Hamas lost all of its supporters, including Iran and Syria, and became an enemy of the new Egyptian regime. Now Hamas would rather not exacerbate the rift with Iran. On the other hand, attacking Islamic Jihad could put an end to the some little relationship between Hamas and Iran which they still have and ensure that the movement continues its drawn-out demise without any future prospects and without hope. The relationship between Hamas and Islamic Jihad changes a lot depending on the developments on the ground and their relations with outside entities, which might affect their decisions. From time to time armed clashes erupts between members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, and the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, in various areas of the Gaza Strip. This leaves the leaders of Hamas caught between a rock and a hard place. On one side they have Israel, which threatens them with a large scale military attack if the rocket fire doesn’t stop. On the other side is Iran, which will not stand silently by if Hamas causes any harm to the members of Islamic Jihad or to Iranian interests in Gaza. Right now, the leaders of Hamas are looking at Islamic Jihad and coming to the conclusion that the Al-Quds Brigades are capable of doing to them exactly what Hamas did to Fatah seven years earlier. They can achieve military superiority obviously with Iranian support thereby posing a threat to them and especially to its position of seniority in the Gaza Strip. So keeping all this in mind Hamas gamble to allow Islamic Jihad to fire rockets on Israel instead Hamas opted to absorb a single Israeli military assault in Gaza, which will be over in a few days rather than confronting PIJ or its sponsor Iran.

(Author is freelance columnist based in New Delhi and Editor of a geo-political website www.viewsaround.com can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com)

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3rd March 1924 – The Forgotten Day! http://www.khaama.com/3rd-march-1924-the-forgotten-day-2850 http://www.khaama.com/3rd-march-1924-the-forgotten-day-2850#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 13:10:59 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32429 3rd March 1924 – The Forgotten Day!
By Dr. Tariq Momand Today 3rd March, 90 years ago, the then British Foreign Minister Lord Curzon warned, “We must put an end to anything which brings about any Islamic unity between the sons of the Muslims. The situation now is that Turkey is dead and will never rise again, because we have destroyed its moral strength, Read the full article...]]>
3rd March 1924 – The Forgotten Day!

By Dr. Tariq Momand

Today 3rd March, 90 years ago, the then British Foreign Minister Lord Curzon warned, “We must put an end to anything which brings about any Islamic unity between the sons of the Muslims. The situation now is that Turkey is dead and will never rise again, because we have destroyed its moral strength, the Caliphate and Islam”.

The 3rd of March is a date that is etched into the history of the Muslim Ummah as one of its darkest days ever. It was on this date in the fateful year of 1924 CE that the last vestige of legitimate Islamic rule was ended. The office of Caliphate was abolished by Mustafa Kamal and the Muslim Ummah has since then been plunged in to darkness and humiliation.

This was the beginning of the humiliation that the Muslim world has suffered to this very day. The Ummah was set to be subjected to numerous tragedies that would involve against it murderous wars, foreign occupation, economic strangulation, political manipulation as well as a cultural colonialism that sought to distance the Muslim world from the concept of Islamic ruling and the obligation of living under the Caliphate.

With the removal of the sole legitimate leadership of the Muslims, the Caliphate, the lands of Islam were divided in to numerous statelets and disputed territories. These new entities were established along the lines of ethnicity, sectarianism and racism by the colonialist powers of the day in an attempt to ensure that Muslim Ummah would never rise again. Nationalism that was nurtured by the colonialists in the run up to the destruction of the Caliphate helped to ensure that these new entities would remain at loggerheads, never to think of uniting again. Any attempts to replicate the power of a unitary leadership of the Muslim world were replaced by pathetic and impotent bodies such as Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). These organizations were designed to perpetuate disunity and division as they preserved the borders and barriers between Muslims that the colonialists had established. These states have never had the interests of Islam and the Muslims at heart.

Western colonialism put in place a motley crew of dictators, monarchs, autocrats that have served them in a manner more loyal than their own populations. The Muslim world has indeed seen destruction, devastation and calamity for the past 90 years, despite the fact that the Muslim ummah is the richest in natural resources, manpower, army, land, technological capability, wealth and most importantly iman in Allah (swt).

Looking at the devastating performance of capitalism, the world is looking forward to an ideological change that could fill the vacuum created by Capitalism. Islam by having a track record of ruling the world successfully not for decades but for centuries could replace and fill this vacuum expediently.

To know that Khilafah had been a great state for centuries and that it was a superpower on the world stage, the statement given by the father of modern economy is a great testimony.

Adam Smith, the 18th Century founder of modern economics whose picture is printed on the current UK £20 note, was exceedingly inspired by the Islamic method of governing. He proclaimed that:

“…the empire of the Caliphs seems to have been the first state under which the world enjoyed that degree of tranquility which the cultivation of the sciences requires. It was under the protection of those generous and magnificent princes, that the ancient philosophy and astronomy of the Greeks were restored and established in the East; that tranquility, which their mild, just and religious government diffused over their vast empire, revived the curiosity of mankind, to inquire into the connecting principles of nature.” *

(* Adam Smith, ‘History of Astronomy’, The Essays of Adam Smith (London, 1869), p. 353)

Hence it was a leading state in economy, science, technology, commerce, architecture and jurisprudence. The Khilafah provided peace and security for its citizens, allowing them to live in harmony together as a single state. The Khilafah even provided sanctuary for those who were persecuted because of their beliefs.

3rd March is therefore an extremely significant day to remember because of its prominence and implications upon the world, specifically the Muslim world. 

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First case of Polio in Kabul since 2001 http://www.khaama.com/first-case-of-polio-in-kabul-since-2001-2830 http://www.khaama.com/first-case-of-polio-in-kabul-since-2001-2830#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 14:29:34 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32350 First case of Polio in Kabul since 2001
A three year old Afghan girl has been diagnosed with polio in east Kabul, significantly marking the first case in the capital since 2001. The girl, named Sakhina, was diagnosed in Pakistan, where she was brought by her family after falling ill. She is a member of the nomadic Kuchi; a tribe which roams across Read the full article...]]>
First case of Polio in Kabul since 2001

A three year old Afghan girl has been diagnosed with polio in east Kabul, significantly marking the first case in the capital since 2001. The girl, named Sakhina, was diagnosed in Pakistan, where she was brought by her family after falling ill. She is a member of the nomadic Kuchi; a tribe which roams across the Pakistani border.The health ministry have been quick to respond; ordering a vaccination drive for the entire capital after being notified of the three year old’s polio diagnosis.

Although polio has been eradicated from many countries, the disease remains rife in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern Nigeria. The polio strain in Afghanistan and Pakistani is identical. Unfortunately with over 1.5 million children crossing the frontier every year, cross-border transmission is an inevitable eventuality.Currently Afghan health workers are positionedat the border crossings in an attempt to monitor all children who cross, vaccinating any who are at risk of contracting the disease. However, many people do not cross the border at formal customs posts, choosing instead to use tracks across the mountains and deserts. This makes it increasingly difficult for health workers to identify any potential health risks.

Furthermore, the Islamist Taliban within Pakistan continue to hinder vaccination campaigns against polio. The Pakistani Taliban are a far more ideological group than the Taliban in Afghanistan. Whereas the Afghan Taliban remain a nationalist movement, who have been persuaded of the values of modern medicine, the Pakistani Taliban are focused on global jihad and are therefore unwilling to believe the modern medicinal practices of the west. Althoughwestern Spinal Care Clinics have highlighted the crippling and potentially fatal ramifications of contracting polio and implore that vaccines are effective in preventing the disease from progressing, the Islamist Taliban still vehemently view vaccination campaigns as a covert plot sterilize all Muslims and have even resorted to killing health workers. Subsequently, Pakistan is the only country in the world which has recorded an increase in polio cases in 2013 according to the World Health Organisation. Moreover, it is estimated that there are over 300,000 Pakistani children who remain unvaccinated.

Afghan Health Minister SorayaDalilhas stated that the continuing opposition of the Pakistani Taliban was a threat; “undermining efforts” to eradicate polio in Afghanistan. However, Dalil remains devoted to the eradication of the disease;promising that routine vaccinationcampaigns will continue to take place in order to ensure this case is an isolated incident and does not progress into a new polio outbreak. Dalil has further stated;

“This new case in Kabul tells us that the effort on polio eradication is not over yet, and we have to accelerate the effort to make sure that every child, no matter where they are, receive polio drops.”

This optimistic message is supported by recent statistics which show that polio cases in Afghanistan have declined from 80 in 2011 to 14 last year.Hopefully this diligent campaign against the disease means that this case will be an isolated incident, and that definitive steps are being taken towards eradicating polio in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan’s mobile phone sector boosts the economy http://www.khaama.com/afghanistans-mobile-phone-sector-boosts-the-economy-2829 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistans-mobile-phone-sector-boosts-the-economy-2829#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 13:32:27 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32345 Afghanistan’s mobile phone sector boosts the economy
By Bradley Taylor Since 2001 Afghanistan has made significant economical progress within its mobile phone sector. Its mobile phone sector has experienced exponential growth, as shown by the 12 million mobile phone users across Afghanistan. Approximately 60% of the population has a mobile phone connection and Afghanistan even has access to high-speed 3G connections. This new Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan’s mobile phone sector boosts the economy

By Bradley Taylor

Since 2001 Afghanistan has made significant economical progress within its mobile phone sector. Its mobile phone sector has experienced exponential growth, as shown by the 12 million mobile phone users across Afghanistan. Approximately 60% of the population has a mobile phone connection and Afghanistan even has access to high-speed 3G connections. This new telecommunications network possesses great potential for rejuvenating Afghanistan’s economy and providing a wealth of technological luxuries for the Afghan public.

The existence of four private mobile companies and one state-owned company has resulted in private investments in Afghan telecommunications exceeding US$1.6 billion. This injection of wealth has helped Afghanistan boost its economy whilst simultaneously helping the country to develop a credible reputation within worldwide technological markets.

The Government’s involvement in expanding the mobile phone sector has had a substantially beneficial impact on Afghanistan’s economy. The Government has executed a series of initiatives to expand network service delivery and support good governance. As a result private firms have been quick to adopt these advanced mobile phone technologies. In 2011, these initiatives resulted in the GSMA presenting the Afghan Minister of Communications and IT with the mobile industry’s prestigious annual Government Leadership award; recognizing the monumental achievements made by the government in promoting and expanding mobile communications. Thegovernment’s committed investmentwithin the mobile sector creates a myriad of lucrative opportunities for the Afghan economy. These include the creation of new jobs, increased foreign investment in Afghan companies and also an increased amount of government revenue.

Furthermore, the meteoric rise of Afghanistan’s mobile phone sector is beginning to facilitate a thriving mobile app market which in itself is beneficial for the Afghan economy. Mobile phone users can gain access to local, national and international news as well as discovering vast social network communities. There are even apps to help improve literacy and numeracy skills, as well as learning other languages. In turn, other Afghanbusinesses and industries can capitalize upon the vast advertising potential of these mobile phone apps, thereby facilitating a network within which both individuals and businesses can thrive.

Several leaders of industry have enthused about the growth of Afghanistan’s mobile phone market and its ability to improve the everyday amenities to which Afghans have access. JesKaliebe Petersen Director of Development for Paywast stated;

 “We are excited to launch Paywast News, because it has the potential to have a direct impact on how modern Afghans get their information, and provides a steady stream of relevant updates and current affairs… There are currently more than 800,000 Android and iPhone devices in Afghanistan, and 3G consumption is growing quickly”.

Ultimately, Afghan’s mobile phone sector has a vast potential to boost other sectors of the economy. Western companies such as PremierPatient Line currently provide telecommunications services to medical practices and the Afghan government have expressed similar plans to use their flourishing mobile phone sector to improve other industries within society. Despite years of war and adversity, the Afghan economy is showing signs of revival. The exponential growth of its mobile phone sector demonstrates great economic potential for the future. Hopefully, much like the mobile phone sector has thrived in recent years, so too will the rest of the Afghan economy.

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Afghanistan: A Challenging Environment for Aid Workers http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-a-challenging-environment-for-aid-workers-2825 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-a-challenging-environment-for-aid-workers-2825#comments Sun, 23 Feb 2014 05:52:23 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32322 Afghanistan: A Challenging Environment for Aid Workers
By Ahmad Masoud In 2013, Afghanistan was again a very challenging country for aid workers — but this year could be even tougher. Just last month, 21 civilians were killed when Taliban suicide bombers targeted a popular Lebanese restaurant in a very secure part of Kabul. The dead included eight Afghans and 13 foreigners, among Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan: A Challenging Environment for Aid Workers

By Ahmad Masoud

In 2013, Afghanistan was again a very challenging country for aid workers — but this year could be even tougher.

Just last month, 21 civilians were killed when Taliban suicide bombers targeted a popular Lebanese restaurant in a very secure part of Kabul. The dead included eight Afghans and 13 foreigners, among them four United Nations staff, a tragedy that confirms humanitarians are definitely considered an enemy by the insurgents.

“Such targeted attacks against civilians are completely unacceptable and are in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law. They must stop immediately,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commanding general for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, added he expects more “suicide-type, high-profile, spectacular attacks” to follow.

Insecurity has taken its toll on the humanitarian aid workers in the country. On 24 January, unknown gunmen shot dead a polio vaccinator in Helmand province, and so far this year the Aid Worker Security Database, a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project, has recorded four attacks on humanitarians.

In 2013, the United Nations reported a total of 237 incidents against aid workers, facilities and assets in Afghanistan, which resulted in 36 deaths, 24 arrests, 46 injuries and 72 kidnappings in a sector which encompasses over 2,300 organizations employing about 90,000 people in the country.

Sayed Hashim Basirat, head of the NGO Registration Directorate at the Afghan Ministry of Economy, in December told The New York Times that the vast majority of those are Afghans, — only 3,337 foreigners are in their records — and added that there has been a remarkable decrease in the number of local organizations that get funds from donors because the latter are worried about insecurity.

While the government is still struggling to deal with myriad development challenges, the most important of which is the widespread violence and insecurity across the whole country, the upcoming presidential and provincial elections, coupled with the drawdown of foreign troops at the end of the year and the conclusion of the bilateral security agreement with the United States, could all worsen the situation even further. In the run-up to the vote, Taliban insurgents will like orchestrate a campaign of fear and terror with attacks against government officials, local politicians and security forces, foreign soldiers and aid workers in the coming weeks.

To minimize bloodshed, humanitarians deployed to Afghanistan should adapt certain precautionary security measures, like staying well abreast of social, political and security developments, operate with extra cautions and vigilance, avoid taking any unnecessary risks and limit their exposure.

“I have always felt relatively secure. It has been the view amongst the international community that if you follow the advice of your security advisors and do not take risks all will be well,” an international development consultant that has been working in Kabul since 2009 said on condition of anonymity. “In the past five years there had been few attacks intentionally focused on the international aid workers, and if the Taliban had wanted to kill foreigners in Kabul it would have been very easy.”

This aid worker added: “The assumption was that we weren’t a target. As a result, Kabul had quite a vibrant social scene with around twenty different restaurants that the internationals enjoyed going to and felt safe there.”

“However, that all changed on 11 January with the bombing of the Lebanese restaurant, one of those ‘safe’ venues enjoyed by the foreigners,” admitted the consultant. “Most of the donors and international companies have now put all such venues on the ‘out of bounds’ list and it is likely to stay that way for some time.”

Note: This article was first published by Devex International

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The rickshaw LPG fuel revolution in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/the-rickshaw-lpg-fuel-revolution-2812 http://www.khaama.com/the-rickshaw-lpg-fuel-revolution-2812#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 03:52:42 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32246 The rickshaw LPG fuel revolution in Afghanistan
Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) conversion on vehicles, after an initial outlay, can bring huge cost saving benefits to motorists and drastically reduce emissions and particulates being pushed into the air. Especially popular in Jalalabad, where a huge number of three-wheeled motorbike taxis or “tuk tuks” have undergone conversion, specialist outlets providing LPG to motorists have Read the full article...]]>
The rickshaw LPG fuel revolution in Afghanistan

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) conversion on vehicles, after an initial outlay, can bring huge cost saving benefits to motorists and drastically reduce emissions and particulates being pushed into the air.

Especially popular in Jalalabad, where a huge number of three-wheeled motorbike taxis or “tuk tuks” have undergone conversion, specialist outlets providing LPG to motorists have sprung up across the province.

Whilst the cost of running a tuk tuk has always made it an attractive option for taxi drivers, there has been a recent explosion in the popularity of a new fuel which promises savings of up to fifty per cent  petrol.

Any vehicle running on petrol can be converted to run on LPG, or liquid petroleum gas, with a few simple modifications.

Driver Esah says, “LPG is not expensive for us. My motor was previously using a lot of fuel, but using gas I use much less.”

There is however another side to this story. Whilst the procedure for conversion is fairly straightforward, drivers have been using unlicensed, backstreet mechanics in droves, leading to a spate of incidents where tuk tuks have caught fire, killing all on board.

In a poverty-stricken country such as Afghanistan, it has proven difficult to convince people to opt for the safer, more-expensive option of a licenced conversion.

Another driver, Asmatullah, says, ”Until now we haven’t seen any accidents. They use this system in Pakistan a lot without any trouble.”

A local businessman, Ishaq Sadat, is keen to get the message across to drivers that conversions must take place by qualified mechanics.

Ishaq Sadat, CEO, Aman Auto Gas, said,

“These people use normal commercial cylinder from the street and they put it in their rickshaw, which is not safe. There was too many cases –  as we have discussed with these rickshaw drivers – . they have too many cases of fire as the result of unsafe use of gas cylinder. We design a cylinder in Turkey to provide for them a safe system, saving money and also it will be good for the environment.”

The gas to fill these cylinders is currently imported from neighbouring countries. In the future, it’s hoped Afghanistan’s natural gas resources can be used, which could bring the price down further and benefit even more drivers.

Besides the obvious financial savings, LPG gives off far fewer emissions than petrol, a benefit that can be experienced by every resident of a crowded city such as Jalalabad.

This is the script of a NATOChannel story. The international version (WITHOUT VOICEOVER) contains the same visuals and sound bites as the edited story, but without voiceover and/or graphics. 

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Untrained doctors, low quality medicines a greater risk for Afghan lives http://www.khaama.com/untrained-doctors-low-quality-medicines-a-greater-risk-for-afghan-lives-2811 http://www.khaama.com/untrained-doctors-low-quality-medicines-a-greater-risk-for-afghan-lives-2811#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 17:14:43 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32242 Untrained doctors, low quality medicines a greater risk for Afghan lives
By Ahmad Shoaib Safi –  Kabul Concerns are various regarding identification of the greatest risk for this country. Some consider insecurity others rank other factors among those fatal enough for Afghans but as I think, unprofessional and untrained doctors , low-quality medicines can be supposed as the greatest risk enough for claiming many Afghan lives. This Read the full article...]]>
Untrained doctors, low quality medicines a greater risk for Afghan lives

By Ahmad Shoaib Safi –  Kabul

Concerns are various regarding identification of the greatest risk for this country. Some consider insecurity others rank other factors among those fatal enough for Afghans but as I think, unprofessional and untrained doctors , low-quality medicines can be supposed as the greatest risk enough for claiming many Afghan lives.

This can be said regretfully that during plenty flow of foreign donations in past decade, the passive Afghans both government and well-off civilian Afghans failed to address the important most issue. Everyone tried to surpass others by building splendid houses, markets and plazas but they left poor Afghans at the mercy of unprofessional commercial-minded doctors.

Unfortunately, we are living in the poorest circumstances when it comes to medical facilities. Of course, there are some private hospitals with well decorated buildings but one will wonder when he sees it’s almost zero performance.

Disappointing from these so-called hospitals, our patients have no choice other than travelling to neighbor countries where mostly they are harassed, especially by Pakistani police and doctors by looting a lot of money from them.

It is a sad and a bitter reality that most doctors of this country are incapable of diagnosing the disease properly and this, as I think is firstly because of non-availability of quality medicines, no quality medical education and because of countless non-professional doctors found on each street.

Both doctors and patients are found to be complaining that the medicine generally available in Afghanistan are very low-standard and it is the reason why, they never give the desired results.

We lack any standard pharmaceutical manufacturer in the country and very recently, a couple of them had started functioning but it would take years to manufacture quality products same to the international standards. Secondly, our medicine distributors are trying to import cheap medicines in order to earn a good profit at the cost of Afghan lives.

So, eyeing on good profit, medicines from very low-standard factories of Pakistan and India are imported which mostly fail to give positive results. The medicines banned in these countries can be found easily in this country.

On the other hand, majority of our illiterate people don’t know about the expiry date and other issues of medicine and thus our country is the most active market for these expired medicine. Similarly, there is no control and check on the importers and distributors of medicine in the country and thus they do whatever suits their objective of making more and more profit.

In short, the public has been left at the mercy of these illegal importers and distributors and the authorities responsible for check and control of medicines import either sleep round the clock or take huge bribes from these groups, the only reason of not acting against them.

The condition may not be much disturbing to the rich who can easily go abroad for medical purposes but the poor and common public is suffering a lot and it is hoped that top government officials should check the situation immediately and take necessary corrective measures.

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Election Live: covering Afghanistan’s elections http://www.khaama.com/election-live-covering-afghanistans-elections-2806 http://www.khaama.com/election-live-covering-afghanistans-elections-2806#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 16:33:33 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32221 Election Live: covering Afghanistan’s elections
By Joe Sheffer With less than two months to go until the Afghan presidential election, the country is gripped by an unprecedented level of election coverage from Afghanistan’s own media. At the heart of this will be the first election in Afghanistan, where all of the key candidates take part in live debates. NATO Channel Read the full article...]]>
Election Live: covering Afghanistan’s elections

By Joe Sheffer

With less than two months to go until the Afghan presidential election, the country is gripped by an unprecedented level of election coverage from Afghanistan’s own media. At the heart of this will be the first election in Afghanistan, where all of the key candidates take part in live debates.

NATO Channel is given exclusive access behind the scenes of 1TV’s first live presidential debate, to see how political journalism and the country’s media landscape has developed and changed in the last thirteen years. The elections may well be fought on the issues of security, the economy and radicalism, but it is members of the young, educated local press which are driving the most hotly contested Afghan elections in modern times.

Lights, camera and action as campaigning for the Afghan presidential election is well under way, but these candidates are facing something exceptional in an Afghan election: an unprecedented level of scrutiny from the country’s own media.

NATO Channel video journalist Joe Sheffer visited the studio just before the start of the presidential debate, to give the inside picture from Afghanistan’s second televised presidential debate.

At the head of this charge are scores of young, tech-savvy journalists who are fronting modern, open, unbiased and even confrontational debates for the first time, being beamed live into millions of Afghan homes.

Abdullah Khenjanee, Election Debate Presenter, 1TV, said, “This is totally a new experience for the Afghan media, especially for the new generation who are leading all over the media in Afghanistan, yes. It is very, very important and I can claim that presidential debates are the biggest challenge and the biggest experience for the media in Afghanistan, to pave the ground, to pave the way for the voters to find and to judge in a better way.”

Concerns remain about the country’s security during the campaigning and polling periods and, while Afghanistan is still rated 128th in the world for press freedom, outlets like 1TV have made the country one of the region’s leaders both in terms of press freedom and access to independent reporting. And this will be the first election in Afghanistan, where all the key candidates take part in live debates and question and answer sessions. The coverage is set to be decisive.

Fahim Hashimi, President and Owner, 1TV, said, “We have free media, we have free journalists, people can criticise the politicians. We’ve had the most critical current affairs and news programmes in the last three or four years which have been established and it again very, very key for the future of Afghanistan.”

It’s behind the gloss and lights of the main studio that much of the media interest in the elections is being generated. Investment in Afghanistan’s mobile phone network over the last thirteen years has meant that, even in rural areas, phone ownership is above fifty per cent. And it’s this combination of 3G access and social media which online journalists like Mukhtar Saad are driving

Mukhtar Saad, Online Journalist, 1TV, said, “Based on rates, weekly I think we have five million or something around five million in traction in our social media, so based on that we can judge that it’s going to reach the same level that  the TV station would have.”

The economy, security and radicalism will continue to dominate the agenda of this election, and the coverage of local media is reflecting this. But when Afghans go to the polls this April, one thing will be sure: this is the most modern, media-intensive and informed election Afghanistan has ever seen.

This is the script of a NATO Channel story. The international version (WITHOUT VOICEOVER) contains the same visuals and sound bites as the edited story, but without voiceover and/or graphics. 

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Refugee to riches: the Sadat construction story http://www.khaama.com/refugee-to-riches-the-sadat-construction-story-2784 http://www.khaama.com/refugee-to-riches-the-sadat-construction-story-2784#comments Thu, 13 Feb 2014 16:36:42 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32074 Refugee to riches: the Sadat construction story
By Laurence NATOChannel A profile of the CEO and founder of one of the biggest construction companies in Afghanistan, Ishaq Sadat. Insights into the Afghan construction industry, in particular his company’s work on fire stations and ANA/ANP bases. His thoughts on the future of the Afghan economy. An Afghan refugee who drove taxis to support Read the full article...]]>
Refugee to riches: the Sadat construction story

By Laurence
NATOChannel

A profile of the CEO and founder of one of the biggest construction companies in Afghanistan, Ishaq Sadat. Insights into the Afghan construction industry, in particular his company’s work on fire stations and ANA/ANP bases. His thoughts on the future of the Afghan economy.

An Afghan refugee who drove taxis to support his family, Ishaq Sadat returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban to establish a highly successful construction business, creating jobs for hundreds in his home town of Jalalabad.

Ishaq Sadat, CEO and founder, Sadat Construction, says, “I was born in this city and I grew up in this city and I studied in this city and I know many people. All our relatives is here.”

Sadat said, “I was here up to Taliban time, from Pakistan, and then during Taliban time I finally emigrate to Australia. Worked in different field of work like ordinary driving taxi or working as a driver.”

“Well I came in 2005 here in Afghanistan back, I was starting a construction business,” Sadat said, adding that, “After 2-3 years I was able, after hard working, working day and night on proposals, I got a few projects at the same time.”

He said, “I create jobs for more than 200 people in this city, which is mostly needy people and I try to train them. This is a good feeling for me, I create jobs for Jalalabad people.”

According to Sadat, in Afghan construction industry, the people, the workers, even the skilled people were not familiar with the safety rules and standards. They don’t know why you wear cap or safety shoes.

“Slowly we try to convince the worker, we show them some videos that some workers fell down when they haven’t got safety shoes,” Sadat said.

Sadat insisted, “Our business, our work, our product have no value if we do not follow the international codes and standards.”

Sadat also concluded that Construction business right now in Afghanistan in the private sector is not in the right direction. “It’s not with the international standard as mostly in Kabul city you can see many high rise buildings, they are under construction. They built many buildings, but they didn’t think about used water, about sanitation,” Sadat said.

He said, “Of course we are in business to have profit but in the same time we have to bring some changes.”

Sadat said, “My father was the first police officer. He created fire department in Jalalabad and he was head of fire department. I was child at that time. I visited my father’s office many time and saw the fire engines and the trucks.”

Almost 40 years after his father established the first fire station in Jalalabad, Ishaq was awarded the contract top rebuild it.

“Fortunately I got this contract. I am proud to build this facility for Jalalabad people. For me it’s proud that I follow my father’s steps. He worked especially for Nangarhar people, for their betterment, and now it’s our turn to do something for these needy people,” Sadat said.

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The Afghan Hand – Advisers bridging the cultural divide http://www.khaama.com/the-afghan-hand-advisers-bridging-the-cultural-divide-3428 http://www.khaama.com/the-afghan-hand-advisers-bridging-the-cultural-divide-3428#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 10:00:53 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=32020 The Afghan Hand – Advisers bridging the cultural divide
By MEL PREEN NATO Channel A feature on Lieutenant Colonel Heffington who has just finished his deployment in Afghanistan. During his deployment, Lt Col Heffington was referred to as an ‘Afghan Hand’. He was part of a program designed to integrate American military and civilian personnel within the Afghan government and society. Not many people Read the full article...]]>
The Afghan Hand – Advisers bridging the cultural divide

By MEL PREEN
NATO Channel

A feature on Lieutenant Colonel Heffington who has just finished his deployment in Afghanistan. During his deployment, Lt Col Heffington was referred to as an ‘Afghan Hand’. He was part of a program designed to integrate American military and civilian personnel within the Afghan government and society.

Not many people have got so close to Kabul’s former Police Chief General Salangi. Colonel Steve Heffington, however, spent the past year working alongside General Salangi, helping to advise him on ways to modernise his police force. The relationship they built up extended far beyond work.

Colonel Steve Heffington’s pre-deployment training was a little different to others. He spent four months learning the Afghan language of Dari.

He is what is known as an Afghan Hand. There are over 200 Afghan Hands in the country. All are American, military and civilians, selected specifically to work with the Afghan government.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve R. Heffington, Police Advisor, said, “When you look at somebody and say ‘you are going to be the one who needs to advise your entire organisation about what works or doesn’t work. You are going to need to be the cultural expert. You are going to need to be the organisational expert. You need to understand the Afghan government. You need to understand the Afghan society and you need to be able to talk it.’ That’s quite a load.”

Colonel Heffington spent most of his deployment working alongside the former Kabul police chief General Mohammad Ayoub Salangi. Their relationship extended far beyond a working one.

“I took him out to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference and he met my family, came over to my house, played with my dogs and after two weeks together like that, we came back and now, I would say, the relationship is both the professional relationship and a friendship,” Colonel Heffington said.

During his time as a police chief, General Salangi was credited for tackling police corruption. He grew to be widely respected by the people of Kabul, who are often forced to pay bribes.

“It’s amazing to watch him. People will come off the street and this person will be a very low-level individual, somebody who’s not wealthy, somebody who doesn’t have a lot of power and they’re coming to him and asking for help, they’re asking for support, they’re asking him for something because there’s nobody else to ask because he’s the one. I look back at my time in command and I realise that I could have been more gracious, I could have been a better leader taking pieces of what he did, from him,” Colonel Heffington added.

General Salangi knows how to run a police force, he doesn’t need advice on that. He would turn to Colonel Heffington to help his force modernise .

Colonel Heffington said, “He’s been a provincial chief of police five times. He’s got it. But what he doesn’t sometimes have access to is some of the more advanced western techniques. You know, what is it that’s been developed in the last couple of years, in the United States or in Europe? What new policing techniques are out there? What new technology is out there? So those are the things, on a regular basis, we would advise or mentor him.”

The Afghan police often attract negative press. Many articles cite corruption problems and habitual drug-taking among members. Yet Colonel Heffington saw a different side of the police, he thinks they get a raw deal.

“The police right now are on the frontlines. They are the ones that are the main effort in the COIN environment. They are the ones that are taking the highest losses. They are the ones who are being engaged most. It’s the police out there at these individual little checkpoints, one or two people, it’s spread all over with not a whole lot of support,” Colonel Heffington said.

General Salangi is now second-in-command at the Ministry of Interior. While he has moved on, so has Colonel Heffington, who has just finished his last tour of Afghanistan. He says he will be sure not to forget their time together.

Colonel Heffington said, “We talked about the future fairly regularly and I think his perspective and his view of it is much like mine, it’s grey. There’s danger out there, there’s opportunity out there and the route to get there is not going to be easy and it’s not going to be short. You know, there’s a lot of work to do and nothing’s guaranteed.”

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A Conversation with Afghan Artist Meena Saifi http://www.khaama.com/a-conversation-with-afghan-artist-meena-saifi-7865 http://www.khaama.com/a-conversation-with-afghan-artist-meena-saifi-7865#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 17:59:52 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31988 A Conversation with Afghan Artist Meena Saifi
By Fahim Masoud What is art? It depends whom you ask. Tolstoy wrote that the activity and aim of art was to “evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, having evoked it in oneself, then by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that Read the full article...]]>
A Conversation with Afghan Artist Meena Saifi

By Fahim Masoud

What is art? It depends whom you ask. Tolstoy wrote that the activity and aim of art was to “evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, having evoked it in oneself, then by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling.” An artist’s task is not only to communicate his/her own feelings to a wider world, but also the sufferings and pains of those in society. John Galsworthy in his essay on “Art” defined it as “that imaginative expression of human energy, which through technical concretion of feeling and perception, tends to reconcile the individual with the universal, by exciting in him impersonal emotion.” Above all, it is this quality (linking the individual’s experience with the universal) that has rendered art perpetual in our cultural and social existence. Like poetry, there are many definitions of art. While there may be differences in what it means to different people, its power, its ability to move people, and its capacity for igniting feelings of freedom, love, and hope remain firm in us.

Like a great thinker, an artist possesses the ability to unleash uproar in society. Quoting the man who inspired him to pursue philosophy, Nietzsche wrote, “Beware, ‘says [Ralph Waldo] Emerson, ‘when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk. It is as when a conflagration has broken out in a great city, and no man knows what is safe, or where it will end.’” Artists too exercise such authority in society. Perhaps this has to do with their desire to question calcified traditions. Through their artwork, they raise questions that society considers taboo, radical, and detrimental to social conventions.

Not surprisingly, fascist groups, authoritarian regimes, and dictatorships fear the disruptive liberality of writers and artists. As they ascend to power, their first priority is to harness such “subversive groups” or entirely remove them from society. Remember the Taliban. Upon their capture of Kabul in 1996, they began to attack artists, musicians, and intellectuals. This campaign turned tens of thousands of Afghans’ lives into a nightmare. Music and art have an important impact on people in a society. By seeking to extinguish artists’ desire to create, musicians’ yearning to make music, and intellectuals’ power to produce knowledge, the Taliban were trying to control people’s passions, their inner feelings, and ways of expressing their personal and political views.

Given the Taliban’s vicious attacks on all things civilized, many Afghans left the country for any place they could find refuge.

Meena Saifi, a prominent Afghan artist and a rising star in the international art community, moved with her family and the families of many other Afghans and took refuge in Pakistan. Born into a cultured family, Meena soon developed an interest in drawing and painting. Despite many ups and downs ab initio, she forged forward and continued her training under the famous Afghan artist QaisNawabi – whom she considers her Ustaad (master). “Dream,” an oil painting and Meena’s first work was an instant success. It wasn’t long before the international world of art became aware of and took interest in Meena’s artwork. While her painting “Dream” established her as an artist, “Baba Panjshiri” (Panjshiri grandfather) propelled her into international fame and recognition.

Since her first painting at the age of sixteen, Meena has held many exhibitions of her work throughout the world. Her first show was in Pakistan in 2007, and her first international art exhibition followed in Phoenix, Arizona in 2009. Many art collectors and connoisseurs participated in this event, and Meena’s reputation as a serious artist was recognized. Meena is no longer an obscure name in the world of art. She is an international phenomenon who continues to create and inspire . . . since 2009, her work has appeared in art exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, France, and Afghanistan.

Born with a fire for creation and beauty, Meena continues her involvement with art projects around the world, including the Pool Art Fair, Art Warning the World, The Kabul Art Project.

Below is an interview I conducted with her recently.

FM: Your artwork has begun its march toward international fame. How did you begin as an artist?

MS: I feel like I was born an artist, as I inherited this gift from my father. My father AsadullahSaifi was a creative calligraphic artist. After our settlement in Pakistan, he established a school under the name of “Ashqari” in Rawalpindi, Pakistan in 1995. As a way to encourage me and pique my curiosity in the world of intellect and art, he involved me in helping him with the school’s programs. One day, I was in my Persian class, and instead of taking notes, I started drawing a portrait of my teacher, UstadMohsin Khan. Mr. Khan had an explosive temper. He would not tolerate any student who wasn’t listening to his lectures. I recall as he was walking up and down in class one day, with hands clenched behind his back and reciting the famous Persian poet Hafiz’s poetry, when suddenly I found him at my desk. “O bad bakhtwanalaeq”; “oh you unfortunate creature, how dare you engage in drawing during my lecture?” I was scared and taken aback as he continued to yell at me.

My action bothered him so much so that he took me to the principal’s office, who was my father. When my father looked at the piece of paper on which I had been drawing, a big smile broke across his face. As my teacher went on recounting my “wrong actions” in class, my father was just absorbed in and completely overtaken by what I had drawn. Finally, after listening to my teacher’s complaints, my father raised his voice saying, “Oh Ustad [Professor], for once you should stop complaining and just look at the drawing!” Once my teacher looked at my drawing, he too smiled. That was a defining moment in my life. From that moment on, I knew that my true passion was art. I was only nine years old at the time, but my father was extremely supportive of my interest in art. He continued to support and encourage me in all sorts of ways until he passed away. Needless to say, without him, I would not have travelled this far in life.

FM: Art means something different to each person. What is art to you? How do you define it?

MS: That is a great question. Art is to bring out that voice that exists within us, to create and to paint a clear picture of our thoughts and feelings so that every one can see that inner beauty existing in us. Ultimately, the purpose of art is to convert our imaginations into reality and share it with the world.

FM: Do you have a favorite piece of work? If yes, what makes it so special to you? What’s the story behind it?

MS: That is almost an impossible question to answer. I love every thing that I’ve created so far. I mean I work hard on every piece. There is of course a story and a narrative behind most of what I create. I paint portraits of people closest to me. By doing so, I’m expressing the feelings I have for them. It’s my way of communicating to them that even though I may be physically afar from them, I’m still thinking of them . . .

FM: Federico Fellini – the esteemed Italian film director – once said, “All art is biographical.” How much of your work draws from your background? How much of your personal life do you bring into your work?

MS: I previously mentioned that most of my work is about my family and friends. However, I’m most passionate about creating portraits of women and birds. It is a strange feeling but I’m most myself when I’m creating anything involving women and birds. Women, because I’m a woman and I feel like I’m emotionally connected to them, and can relate to their world, their experiences, their sufferings, etc. Birds, because I see them as a symbol of freedom, hope, and peace. There is something special about them. Their ability to soar high and roam around freely fascinates me.

FM: What are some of your personal idiosyncrasies. When do you usually work best? And is there any daily activity that motivates you to work harder?

MS: I love the rain; I often find myself outside when it is raining. No matter what time it is or how cold it is, I still go outside and just try to feel lost in it. I’m a nocturnal person, so I usually do my best work at night. I draw inspiration from the fact that I’m probably the only one working when everyone else is asleep.

FM: Are there any international artists whose work you admire and follow?

MS: There are many international artists whose works I admire. In a vast universe replete with remarkable artists, it’s hard to have one favorite. I draw inspiration from anyone who is in the business of creating beauty and behind whose work there’s a healing story.

FM: How do you come up with ideas about creating a work of art?

MS: An artist’s creative process is deeply personal and sacred.

FM: Is there a way for people to follow your work and stay up to date on your new creations?

MS: Yes, they can check out my website at www.meenasaifi.com or join my Facebook fan page,

FM: Do you have a favorite quote that you’d like to share today?

Sure. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Rumi:

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.”

Fahim Masoud is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where he studied history and politics. He is now a member of the United States Army. 

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Caliphate VS Democracy: Myth or Reality! http://www.khaama.com/caliphate-vs-democracy-myth-or-reality-2761 http://www.khaama.com/caliphate-vs-democracy-myth-or-reality-2761#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 07:07:30 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31897 Caliphate VS Democracy: Myth or Reality!
By Dr. Tariq Naeem Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent demise of U.S.S.R most western commentators could not hide their delight in savoring her victory over their bitter foe, the Soviet Union. Some however were not just content with claiming a victory over communism, they wanted to declare victory for Read the full article...]]>
Caliphate VS Democracy: Myth or Reality!

By Dr. Tariq Naeem

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent demise of U.S.S.R most western commentators could not hide their delight in savoring her victory over their bitter foe, the Soviet Union. Some however were not just content with claiming a victory over communism, they wanted to declare victory for all times announcing in the immortal words of Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay, that we had now reached the end of history with a conclusive triumph of liberal capitalist democracies over all its adversaries. Ignoring the painful lessons of history, which has shown time after time that victorious civilizations (especially those seeped in arrogance) can soon be brought down to earth by new emerging powers.

In the Muslim world, the specter of the transnational Islamic Khilafah haunts western policymakers. With the Muslim world comprising a quarter of the world’s population and having combined military forces of nearly 5 million, it is a political and military superpower. Home to 74% of the oil reserves, 55% of natural gas reserves and vast fertile lands makes it an energy and agricultural superpower. The Gulf countries alone have 2 trillion dollars in assets (double the amount China has) which makes the Muslim world a financial and economic superpower. However it is Islam’s distinct ideas on politics, economy and foreign policy that have made western policymakers worried.

Immediately after the demise of the Soviet Union, the American establishment wanted a new rival to continue its ideological gripe over the world affairs through its military might and fire power. What else could fit better in this frame than Islam? Books like the Clash of Civilizations were written to give the impression that in the presence of two distinct civilizations, clash is inevitable, and America must do whatever it can to preserve its ideology and make sure the world is liberated from dictatorship and autocratic rules.

Over the past decade and especially after 9/11 the U.S administration and its allies have appears to be very anxious about the emergence of a different global order in the form of a caliphate. This grave concern of theirs could be judged from their statements and policy documents, as well as think tank reports.

For instance very recently the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after the Geneva 2 Conference, with regards to Syria, said in an interview with the TV-channel “NTV” said, “It is important that the political process is accompanied by combining the healthy forces, who are thinking about their homeland, and not about the establishment of the Khilafah in the Middle East and North Africa. To unite them and help them in many different ways to combat a terrorist threat. This is a goal for the whole region and for the world”.

On 14 December 2013, in an interview to Vesti 24 Sergey Lavrov said that “there are conditions when all the Syrian patriots must understand what is more important: to fight on the side of those who want Syria to become the Khilafah or to unite and return their homeland the image that it was famous for centuries – namely, a multi-confessional, multi-ethnic, secular state in which all the people live comfortably”. In the end the minister noted that “this issue will definitely be one of the principal at the Geneva Conference”.

On the 14th May 2010, the recently retired head of the British army, General Richard Dannatt speaking on the BBC’s Today program confirmed that the war in Afghanistan is a war on Islam. When asked about Britain’s continued occupation of Afghanistan, he said there is an “Islamist agenda which if we don’t oppose it and face it off in Southern Afghanistan, or Afghanistan, or in South Asia, then frankly that influence will grow. It could well grow, and this is an important point, we could see it moving from South Asia to the Middle East to North Africa, and to the high water mark of the Islamic caliphate in the 14th, 15th century.”

George W. Bush President of the United States 2001-9 “This caliphate would be a totalitarian Islamic empire encompassing all current and former Muslim lands, stretching from Europe to North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia,”

Tony Blair the British Prime Minister said quite openly that “Islam is in fundamental battle with the west that has to be confronted, taken on, defeated and eliminated.”

Charles Clark British Home Secretary 2004-6 “There can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate; there can be no negotiation about the imposition of Sharia law”

Llen West U.S. Representative for Florida’s 22nd congressional district 2011- “This so-called ‘Arab Spring’ is less about a democratic movement, than it is about the early phase of the restoration of an Islamic caliphate, the last being the Ottoman Empire.

Franco Frattini Italian Foreign Minister 2002-11 “Can you imagine having an Islamic Arab emirate on the borders of Europe? This would be a really serious threat” (2011)

A US government intelligence study by the National Intelligence Council in 2004 called “Mapping the Global Future” presented as one future scenario the rise of a new pan-national Caliphate. Thomas Ricks the Washington Post’s senior Pentagon correspondent in his book “Fiasco” says there is precedent for the emergence of a unifying figure in the Muslim world a modern day Saladin someone who can revive the region through combining popular support with huge oil revenues.

All these statements given by the prominent leaders of the western world indicate that a global shift in power and politics is felt. However, only time will tell how real this threat is, which needs to be dealt seriously. Is khilafah really going to be a threat to western secular democracy, especially in the Muslim world, is a question whose answer lies only in the future, and we have to wait and see what really the future holds for us.

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Encounters With the American Military in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/encounters-with-the-american-military-in-afghanistan-3396 http://www.khaama.com/encounters-with-the-american-military-in-afghanistan-3396#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 09:05:14 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31824 Encounters With the American Military in Afghanistan
Encounters With the American Military in Afghanistan Photo Credit: Careercast.com The American Military was summoned to Afghanistan to better the conditions of the country and find any terrorists who might be striking attacks in different parts of the world seen every other day. These military soldiers are responsible for organizing and planning executions in order Read the full article...]]>
Encounters With the American Military in Afghanistan

Encounters With the American Military in Afghanistan

Photo Credit: Careercast.com

The American Military was summoned to Afghanistan to better the conditions of the country and find any terrorists who might be striking attacks in different parts of the world seen every other day. These military soldiers are responsible for organizing and planning executions in order to save the lives of civilians living in dangerous areas of the country. This state of affair has become a worldwide agenda since there have been many killed and injured during the process including the military soldiers who gave up their lives in order to save others.

Various journalists have traveled to the country on safe grounds and have encountered real-time damage caused to the soldiers and the civilians in Afghanistan. These encounters have been reported in order to bring information to the world’s attention of what is going on in the country and how the American Military is trying its best to resolve issues for the locales.

Publications have provided that the American military has gone through a number of processes in Afghanistan to fight those are causing trouble not only in their own country but in the countries of others as well. Reports have suggested that these people have been the cause of various worldwide attacks and responsible for creating chaos for the general population. Many books have been written to highlight the important of the American Military based in Afghanistan. Without their help, the local civilians are exposed to extreme danger and terrorism which haunts them on a daily basis.

Photo credit: military

In order to understand the plan of action for the military troops in Afghanistan, we need to determine the basis of military functionality and their attack process handed over to them by their superiors. Below is a threefold procedure followed by the American Military troops to execute their plan of action against terrorists established in Afghanistan.

Establish the vicinity and locality of the attack

By establishing the area of attack and hiding, the military soldiers are able to plan their way of entrance and their plan of action to capture terrorists with the least amount of damage caused. Once they know the exact location of the person in hiding, they can determine the surroundings and the vicinity in which they need to function. This also gives them an idea about what their mode and method of attack is going to be.

Many journalists who have had personal experience in encountering American military in action have provided that their method is skillfully executed which proves that they have covered a vast amount of research before entering the fields.

Photo credit: military

Establish the perceived damage

One of the most important aspects for the American Military is to establish the post-damaged scenario. This information provides how many civilians are situated in the targeted location and what possible damage could be caused to them. Moreover, they also have to consider the residents and property of the civilians as well. In order to execute a successful plan, the military soldiers have to prioritize the foreseen damage so that there is no harm caused to the innocent.

Journalists have provided that the American military is well-trained to carry out such a task and hence civilian life and civilian property comes first for them.

Strategies and execute the attack

The essence of the entire operation lies in the strategy used and the execution of the strategy. For this purpose, the military personnel ensure that they have done a thorough research on what possible solutions they could have to find and capture terrorists even in some of the most remote locations of Afghanistan.

Journalists who have carried out personal research on the American military ways of capturing and seizing targeted individuals have provided that they do whatever they can to save civilian life and on top of that ensure that the terrorist does not flea in any way possible. This also meant that the military personnel also faced with tremendous amounts of damage in terms of losing life and being injured.

In conclusion, reports have confirmed that the American Military is trying its best to capture and bring targeted individuals to justice. After the establishment of the military soldiers in Afghanistan, the civilians have been able to send their children to school safely and continue to live a healthy life amongst their loved ones. This ensures that the American Military is a well-trained group of personnel who accept being away from their homes in order to save the lives of other human beings especially the ones in need.

Author’s Bio:

Jenny Cort is a retired military service member who had served his country well by helping others. He has provided various accounts on how the American military is doing its best to save the lives of others in different parts of the world. He loves reading books and has enough free time to work on his gardening skills.

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Exclusive: Afghanistan’s presidential campaign begins http://www.khaama.com/exclusive-afghanistans-presidential-campaign-begins-3393 http://www.khaama.com/exclusive-afghanistans-presidential-campaign-begins-3393#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 06:38:39 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31804 Exclusive: Afghanistan’s presidential campaign begins
By Mel Preen NATOChannel in Kabul In Afghanistan eleven candidates are vying to win the next Presidency. Campaigning is now officially underway with posters and billboards up all around the country. The candidates have two months to win over the voters. Six thousand eight hundred polling booths are expected to open. Election day is April Read the full article...]]>
Exclusive: Afghanistan’s presidential campaign begins

By Mel Preen NATOChannel in Kabul

In Afghanistan eleven candidates are vying to win the next Presidency. Campaigning is now officially underway with posters and billboards up all around the country. The candidates have two months to win over the voters. Six thousand eight hundred polling booths are expected to open. Election day is April 5.

Afghan presidential candidates have been holding rallies all over Kabul as campaigning officially gets underway. Voters have eleven candidates to choose from on election day, which takes place on April 5 April.  

It may have been raining but that didn’t dampen the election fever as thousands took to the streets to mark the start of the Afghan presidential campaign.

Afghans have 11 candidates to choose from when they head to the polls in two months time.

“I will vote in the 2014 elections for a candidate who I think will do better work for the future of Afghanistan,” says an Afghan youth who is expected to participate in the upcoming elections.

“We have to vote because we are the youth and the future of this country also belongs to us,” says another Afghan youth.

“It’s a responsibility for me to go and vote for a president who can improve the current situation of Afghanistan,” said an expected voter.

For the first time, Afghan security forces will be providing all security for the elections. Out of the 6,800 polling stations across the country, the vast majority are expected to be open. Those in areas deemed too risky, will be closed.

The Taliban have threatened to disrupt the elections, the Deputy Minister of Interior believes that’s more of a reason for people

Lt Gen Mohammad Ayub Salangi, Deputy Minister for Security, Ministry of Interior, said, “A vast participation of people in the election will be a big slap in the face of insurgents. I hope our people will participate during the election in a huge number and go cast their vote.”

At the Independent Election Commission, hundreds of workers are sealing, packing, and stacking thousands of boxes – each containing packs of ballot papers ready to be distributed to Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Getting people to the polls in the capital Kabul will be a lot easier than some of the more remote and hostile provinces. Security will be one factor that will influence numbers but also, in some rural areas, many people won’t know that an election is taking place. The IEC has recently hired 1,400 men and women who will be deployed to all provinces to talk with local mullahs, hold public meetings and bang on doors.

Ahmadullah Archiwal, Director of Public Outreach, Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan, said, “Our aim is to reach each and every person in Afghanistan. So our target is the whole population of Afghanistan, particularly those who are eligible to vote and we inform them about the role of their votes in the future of Afghanistan and the sustainability of democracy in Afghanistan.”

The presidential hopefuls were invited to a conference at a Kabul hotel this weekend, only a few showed up.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah was the runner-up last time round with more than 30 per cent of the vote. Also standing, Abdul Rahim Wardak, the former Minister of Defence.

“The people of Afghanistan want to have a peaceful and secure country and a president with a kind heart who will work for the people,” says another Afghan youth who is expected to participate in the upcoming elections. 

“The President should be a good person. His first step should be to provide better security for the people, which is most important for us,” said a Kabul resident.

Young and old, men and women. Many may wear traditional dress but in Kabul at least, the people are gearing up to support a very modern democracy.

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Afghans close to first democratic political transition as elections looms http://www.khaama.com/afghans-close-to-first-democratic-political-transition-as-elections-looms-2750 http://www.khaama.com/afghans-close-to-first-democratic-political-transition-as-elections-looms-2750#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 16:58:32 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31795 Afghans close to first democratic political transition as elections looms
By Huma Naseri As the Afghan conflict enters another bloody and complex phase in 2014, the upcoming presidential election if conducted free and fair it will increase the likelihood of a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in the history of Afghanistan. Elections provide people the opportunities of voice and participation in governance Read the full article...]]>
Afghans close to first democratic political transition as elections looms

By Huma Naseri

As the Afghan conflict enters another bloody and complex phase in 2014, the upcoming presidential election if conducted free and fair it will increase the likelihood of a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in the history of Afghanistan.

Elections provide people the opportunities of voice and participation in governance and are apparently to manage political competition through non-violent rule-bound procedures and institutions, the campaign, voting and proclamation phases.

Policymakers, academics, researchers and politicians, seem to think that every country experiencing a period of instability or bothered by certain governance problems and elections wherever in the world they are conducted, pose a challenge; however, the challenge of elections depends on the nature of society. In developed countries where state institutions are effectively built and are efficiently functional and where challenges may not pose a serious threat but elections in conflict-prone divided societies take place in context of uncertainty, fear and mistrust. It’s arguable, that conducting fair and free elections requires strong administrative skills and resources to overcome the challenges, but due to the nature of society ‘if’ it is war-porn or war-torn, the challenge is often compounded because many technicalities are highly politicized or corrupt.

Elections Dilemma:

When the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, Afghans were able to see a bright light at the end of a dark and cold tunnel; renewed hopes of peace and stability fuelled their spirits, and hardened their determination. 2004 elections followed by 2009 elections, the government of President Hamid Karzai came to power with ballots rather than bullets unlike many other regimes in the past. In many ways it was a big step for a country in which coming to power was with overthrowing governments. But due to the fact, that Afghanistan is a war driven heterogeneous country where the her crisis-ridden government faces major hurdles to consolidation, in a volatile setting of the system, insecurity, ethnic solidarity, institution, challenges and economic crisis; elections many not  be as they are literally defined.

Even though it’s believed if upcoming 2014 presidential election take place according to the scheduled-date, it will mark country’s troubled political history as a first democratic transition. Since independence no civilian government has successfully completed a peaceful passage from one administration to another. This may be a good sign of promotion of democracy in this country but bearing in mind the last two terms of elections subsequently that carries worrisome echoes of previous failures towards the elections of 2014.

Campaigns for the first ‘transitional’ post-independence election has just begun but in the absence of strong democratic tradition and democratic institutions which proves the above worrisome to be accurate, in addition there is not ideal framework for elections as how they should be conducted or how free it will be. The main factors that are hampering elections are security problems, lack of democratic tradition, institutional capability as well as literacy rate. It’s worth mentioning that despite huge presences of International Community and military in Afghanistan there are many factors that do not contribute to a stable Afghanistan but actually make the country more conflict prone.

Without a doubt in war torn diverse societies, elections carry the risk of fraud, fear and mistrust but avoiding elections is not a constructive alternative for an emerging democracy; rather, the challenge should be to design elections in a way that minimizes the risks of violence.

Following recommendations to some extents will assist in conducting fair and free elections and minimizing the risk of violence.

 1.     Independent Election Commission:

Elections can be administrated by the government but under supervision of an independent authority like ‘The Independent Elections Commission’ the members of the ‘Independent Elections Commission’ should be independent, impartial, authoritative, with no political affiliation, competent and perceived as such, with adequate resources. In Addition the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) should assist Independent Election Commission (IEC) in conducting credible and transparent elections with least outside interference

2.     International observers:

Monitoring is important because monitoring can assist and enhance the credibility and legitimacy of elections and help to reduce electoral violence. Therefore to ensure free and transparent elections in April 2014, international community should support and assistance the Afghan government by sending their election support teams to Afghanistan ahead of the polls. In addition the International Community should assist the local election monitoring agencies in ensuring peaceful, free and transparent elections.

 3.     Peaceful Environment:

The conditions must be right for holding election; meaning elections should be conducted in areas that are secure, safe and allows a proper nomination process, unrestricted media coverage and participation of citizens without intimidation. In those areas where it’s not promising to conduct elections or have logistical problems more security forces should be deployed.

The 2014 is a very challenging time for Afghanistan form the one hand, the country will be experiencing new term of Administration and from the other hand the Taliban insurgency is rapidly gaining ground.  Taliban are increasingly extending their influence into Afghanistan’s urban centers.

To put it in a nut-shell, security situation across the country does not seem very promising but if these measurements are taken carefully there are possibilities of conducting an election that is judged fair and free by all parties in the country and by the international community. The success of the elections however is considered very important since they are detrimental to strengthen the peace building process post-1393 (post-2014).

Huma Naseri, holds a M.A in International Relations from Germany and writes on regular basis for her blog, online news portals and sometimes BBC Pashtu covering issues related to Afghanistan.

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Newly built trauma centre saving Afghan soldiers’ lives http://www.khaama.com/newly-built-trauma-centre-saving-afghan-soldiers-lives-2735 http://www.khaama.com/newly-built-trauma-centre-saving-afghan-soldiers-lives-2735#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 12:01:08 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31677 Newly built trauma centre saving Afghan soldiers’ lives
By Joe Sheffer NATO Channel Afghan medics are now treating their injured soldiers and police in a newly built trauma centre, a first for the country, based in Helmand in the country’s south. In the past, any Afghan security forces wounded on the battlefield were taken to ISAF’s hospital at Camp Bastion but now, local Read the full article...]]>
Newly built trauma centre saving Afghan soldiers’ lives

By Joe Sheffer

NATO Channel

Afghan medics are now treating their injured soldiers and police in a newly built trauma centre, a first for the country, based in Helmand in the country’s south.

In the past, any Afghan security forces wounded on the battlefield were taken to ISAF’s hospital at Camp Bastion but now, local medics at the field hospital for the 215 Corps, are treating their own.

The field hospital for the 215 Corps is based in Helmand in the south of the country, one of the more volatile areas. In the past, any injured Afghan security forces were flown to the ISAF hospital near by.

Drifting in and out of consciousness, and with life changing injuries, this Afghan soldier is being treated in the country’s first-ever trauma centre for Afghan security forces.

Severe burns like these are the kind of battlefield injuries that used to be transferred directly to ISAF’s main hospital in Helmand at Camp Bastion, but today they are being treated at the 215 Corps field hospital by Afghan doctors and surgeons.

ISAF’s mentors are still here, but this is an Afghan hospital serving Afghanistan’s own security forces.

Moreover, the majority of these casualties no longer arrive here by ISAF helicopter.

“In the past our injured soldiers from Sangin, Delaram and Garmsir districts were being transferred for medical treatment by NATO’s forces. But now the majority of our soldiers are being transferred over ground by our own ambulances,” said Dr. Mohammad.

The ANA’s field medics and ambulance drivers, like Ahmad Zaki, bear the brunt of this new responsibility.

The Afghan Air Force aren’t yet ready to rescue injured personnel from the battlefield, so they have to rely on alternative methods of transport.

Command Sergeant Major Ahmad Zaki, Senior Field Medic, 215 Corps Afghan National Army, said, “It would be much faster if we transferred our injured soldiers by air. Casualties from our 4th Battalion are not a big problem. They are hurt far away, but the road is asphalted and we can move them safely by road. On the other hand the 2nd Battalion is in Sangin, where the road isn’t asphalted.  This is slow and can cause deaths. “

The wards at Camp Shorabak are full of casualties from across Helmand, a province prone to hostility. This young lieutenant arrived in the night, to be checked after a lucky escape from an IED blast. Doctors are worried he might have hidden spine and head injuries.

For Sergeant Mohammed Khan, it’s his fifth gunshot wound. This time it’s his hand. It’s been hit after his checkpoint was ambushed. A former Mujahedeen fighter, he joined the ANA two years ago.

Sergeant Shir Mohammad Khan, 2nd Kandak, 215 Corps Afghan National Army, said, “I don’t know if they were Taliban or not, they were definitely the enemies of this country. I was injured fighting them. The doctors asked me to go to the military hospital in Kabul, but I told them that if I can get better here, I would be happier to go back to my duty.”

Casualties arrive here at the hospital every day in Helmand Province. This Afghan National Policeman has a gunshot wound and is rushed to the trauma centre for treatment.

The team of doctors, surgeons and nurses scrub up and get to work. Though they’ve got their own hospital, they’re not quite ready to handle all medical cases.

Complications with this patient’s anaesthetic arise during surgery – the centre is forced to evacuate the patient to the British hospital at Bastion.

The hospital staff are aware of the challenges ahead. And while they have concerns about their country’s future, they’ll continue to treat those who come through their doors.

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Robert Gates new memoir unveils Karzai’s policy towards insider friends http://www.khaama.com/robert-gates-new-memoir-unveils-karzais-policy-toward-insider-friends-3373 http://www.khaama.com/robert-gates-new-memoir-unveils-karzais-policy-toward-insider-friends-3373#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 05:13:47 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31682 Robert Gates new memoir unveils Karzai’s policy towards insider friends
By Fahim Khairy  Former speaker of Lower House M. Yunos Qaanoni responds to Robert Gates book quoting Karzai, calling Northern Alliance (National Front) Putin’s alliance: ”When he (President Karzai) sat with Americans, he claimed we are allied with Iran. When he sat with Iran, he told them we are allied with America. When he traveled Read the full article...]]>
Robert Gates new memoir unveils Karzai’s policy towards insider friends

By Fahim Khairy 

Former speaker of Lower House M. Yunos Qaanoni responds to Robert Gates book quoting Karzai, calling Northern Alliance (National Front) Putin’s alliance:

”When he (President Karzai) sat with Americans, he claimed we are allied with Iran. When he sat with Iran, he told them we are allied with America. When he traveled to Russia, he told them we are Pro-West. When he went to Saudi, he called us Shias. Then he said to Iranians that we are Wahhabis. This immoral and ill style of propaganda which continues till this moment, is part of a weak and unprincipled policy,” said Qanooni.

Former US Defense Minister Robert Gate wrote in his book that President Karzai complained to him in a private meeting about Northern Alliance (NF) leaders, and blamed the anti Taliban party for suicide bombing in the country and for being an alliance to Russian President Vladimir Putin. ”These guys (Putin’s allies) Karzai told Robert Gates referring to Northern Alliance leaders —now killing parliamentarians and even children. “This is not done by the Taliban or Al Qaeda but by our own bad people”

Karzai made this claim while the majority of National Front aka Northern Alliance leading figures became victims of suicide bombing. The first time this kind of attack carried out in Afghanistan, was the one that took the life of Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud the major source in the resistance against Taliban. Later, former president and chief /leader of National Front Prof. Rabbani also targeted. The operation continued to kill many NF famous and key figures including Gen. Daud Daud, Gen. Saidkhili, Gen. Noori. Mustafa Kazemi, Gen. Khan Mohammad, Gen. Khakrzwal, Dr. Abdullah Laghmani, Lawmaker Motalib Beeg and many more who were all belonged to the same party that Karzai called the ones behind suicide bombing not the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

Mr. Yunos Qanooni stated at the end of his speech that he has been in touch with all the victim families to organize a nationwide discussion and will return anytime soon with a final response to President Karzai.

Fahim Khairy is a freelance journalist   and he can be reach at fahim.khairy(at)yahoo.com

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The Impact of Afghan-US security deal on fragile Afghan economy http://www.khaama.com/the-impact-of-afghan-us-security-deal-on-fragile-afghan-economy-3358 http://www.khaama.com/the-impact-of-afghan-us-security-deal-on-fragile-afghan-economy-3358#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 05:21:55 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31622 The Impact of Afghan-US security deal on fragile Afghan economy
By Mohammad Alokozay Washington is pressuring Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the so-called lingering bilateral security agreement that would extend or provide legal framework for the American presence in Afghanistan to 2024 for which President Hamid Karzai has put his own conditions, which include “Complete stop of operations and raids of foreign forces on Afghan Read the full article...]]>
The Impact of Afghan-US security deal on fragile Afghan economy

By Mohammad Alokozay

Washington is pressuring Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the so-called lingering bilateral security agreement that would extend or provide legal framework for the American presence in Afghanistan to 2024 for which President Hamid Karzai has put his own conditions, which include “Complete stop of operations and raids of foreign forces on Afghan homes and clear and practical start of peace process”. President Karzai called a Loya Jirga, or a grand council, to discuss the draft bilateral security agreement composed of 2,500 of Afghanistan’s influential delegates from throughout the country. After three days of debate, the Loya Jirga overwhelmingly endorsed the BSA as written and urged President Karzai to sign it before the end of the year.

After President Karzai refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which would provide the legal framework for a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, relations between Afghanistan and US have been through major setbacks. The US Congress has reduced the development aid to Afghanistan to half the amount it had last year. This would have major negative impacts on the country overall situation and particularly its fragile economy, as stated by presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, “The aid reduction will have negative impacts on Afghanistan’s economic growth, on administrative affairs, security, and people’s lives, unfortunately, these are the outcomes of the personal decisions and policies of the President”.

On the other hand, According to the minister of finance of Afghanistan Mr. Dr Omar Zakhilwal with an interview to BBC Pashto said “that 50% cut in the development aid to Afghanistan by the US congress will have no impact the economy of Afghanistan”. But

without BSA and the help of international donors Afghanistan will face economic problems, As we know that Afghanistan economy is still reliant on foreign aid to major extent and it cannot meet its own expenses by itself, through the past 10 years USA and other international donors helped Afghanistan by providing billions of aid to it but still, Afghanistan is an underdeveloped country, is facing major challenges from economic perspective. After 9/11, the United States went into Afghanistan and successfully pushed Taliban out of Afghanistan. But with the passage of time the Pakistani backed Taliban again reorganized itself and is fighting till today after more than a decade US and coalition forces presence in Afghanistan.

Compared to the past, the economy of Afghanistan has improved significantly since 2002 due to the infusion of billions of dollars in international assistance and investment, the government of Afghanistan claims that the country hold up to 3 trillion dollars in proven untapped mineral deposits which could make it one of the richest mining region on earth, this untapped mining cannot be extracted without the help of the international investors. The development of the mining sector has clear benefits to the economy of Afghanistan and provides first-mover advantages to investors. Significant progress has been achieved during the past decade in the economic sector. Agriculture in Afghanistan generates 50% of the country’s GDP and supporting 85% of its people. The nation’s Gross Domestic product has increased from 2.5 billion dollars to 34 billion dollars; the GDP Per capita is now 1150 dollar, it is believed that the percentage of unemployment has decreased to 35% and poverty has decreased to 36%.

The Karzai administration along with the international donor are helping people of Afghanistan by improving their access to basic necessities by prioritizing infrastructure development, Education, Housing , jobs programs, medical care and economic development.

During the Taliban regime Afghanistan only had a good relationship with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and it used to export and import products with only these two countries but after the withdrawal of Taliban in 2001 by USA, Afghanistan gained its international fame again and now the major Afghanistan export partners are India, US, Tajikistan, Netherlands and Pakistan and its main import partners are Germany, US, India and Pakistan.

Prior to 2001 there were no business or trading company in the country because of the insecurity and civil war, but after the withdrawal of the Taliban once again Afghanistan became an open market for business, According to the World Bank, Afghanistan has the potential to maintain a high growth rate of around 9.1%, which it has maintained since 2003. International development funds have played a major role since 2001 in shaping the conditions of economic activity, with a great deal of money having been directed into reconstruction and developmental projects, through a mixture of International and Local aid agencies, and construction companies who have vied for international and government reconstruction projects many foreign companies and organizations entered to Afghanistan to open business. This all was made possible due to the capabilities of afghan national army and NATO.

Though significant improvement could be observed in the Afghan army both in terms of quality and quantity but Afghanistan’s military still needs the help and aid of the US and other international donors. Currently there are 350000 afghan forces, which lack sophisticated weapons and logistics that could meet the conditions on the ground. After the withdrawal of the soviet troops in 1980s and later on then soviet stopped its aid to Afghanistan, the country was pushed in a quagmire of insecurity and civil war, paving the way for Taliban to control the country, imposing draconian laws on Afghan people without a employment, stable economy, education and security etc. In 2001 with US invasion the country was given rid of Taliban with new fledgling democracy and somehow short term improvement in the standard of lives of the Afghan people. But all these gains made on huge sacrifices today hinges on inking of the BSA which unfortunately is facing plethora of problems from both sides.

Mohammad Alokozay is currently working as a Visa Officer at the embassy of Afghanistan in Washington DC. He received his bachelor degree in economic from India. 

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A New Great Game in Central Asia http://www.khaama.com/a-new-great-game-in-central-asia-3351 http://www.khaama.com/a-new-great-game-in-central-asia-3351#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 04:30:48 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31597 A New Great Game in Central Asia
By Fahim Masoud Is there a new “Great Game” springing into existence in Central Asia? Many pundits and journalists who write on the region and its global importance argue that there is. In fact, after the Cold War and the birth of the five republics of Central Asia, this debate has dominated much of the Read the full article...]]>
A New Great Game in Central Asia

By Fahim Masoud

Is there a new “Great Game” springing into existence in Central Asia? Many pundits and journalists who write on the region and its global importance argue that there is. In fact, after the Cold War and the birth of the five republics of Central Asia, this debate has dominated much of the analysis of the region.

Captain Arthur Conolly, a British officer of the Sixth Bengal Native Light Cavalry, coined the concept of the ‘Great Game’ in the 1830’s. Later, the English writer Rudyard Kipling immortalized the concept in his 1901 novel Kim. In basic terms, the Great Game was simply a struggle for power, territorial control, and political dominance between the Russian and British Empires in Central Asia in the nineteenth century. This competition of maneuvering and intrigue between the two empires came to an end in 1907, when both nations were forced to focus their resources on more serious threats. The British had to gear up and contain the rise of an assertive Germany in Europe, and the Russians were locked in a fierce struggle with the Japanese in Manchuria.

Today, the US invasion of Afghanistan and opening of military bases in Central Asia and the economic expansion of China into the region have convinced experts that a new Great Game is afoot. German journalist Lutz Kleveman writes that a new Great Game “rages in the region.” Quoting Bill Richardson, former Secretary of Energy and US ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton years, Kleveman writes that the US is involved in Central Asia not only to defeat al Qaeda but also to “diversify [its] sources of oil and gas [and to] prevent strategic inroads by those who don’t share [its] values.” Niklas Swanstrom, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, reaches the same conclusion, and in China and Central Asia: a new Great Game or traditional vassal relations? , heargues that the U.S. and China are enmeshed in a geo-economic competition over Central Asia’s natural resources. He says, “[t]he situation in Central Asia seems to be developing into a new version of the Great Game.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom, China’s objective in Central Asia is not to engage in a game with other regional powers but to secure “regional states’ support in suppressing anti-Beijing Uighur nationalists,” and to pave the way for Chinese firms to invest in Central Asian energy resources. Central Asian states are endowed with oil and natural gas supplies, and China, as a rising economic power and the second largest consumer of energy, has a clear interest in increasing its presence in the region. China’s efforts to build roads and improve infrastructure and railways indicate the country’s growing involvement in Central Asia. As China’s relationship with Central Asian republics grow, “its relationship with major powers, namely the US and Russia, might suffer,” argues Kevin Sheives, a scholar on the region.

It is premature for China to go about implementing such a strategy. At present, China is faced with many domestic challenges. For example, it has to deal with Tibet, Xinjiang, and other semi-autonomous regions, all with separatist inclinations and ambitions for independence. China’s top priorities in Central Asia should be establishing security, maintaining regional stability, suppressing Uighur separatists in Xinjiang, and strengthening economic ties in region.

In order to satisfy the needs of its 1.4 billion people, China must search continuously for resources throughout the world. Chinese corporations and government-owned companies are involved in the economic affairs of the five republics of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, which possess abundant supplies of natural gas and oil. Given China’s security concerns and energy needs, its engagement with Central Asian states will dramatically expand over the long term. Central Asian states are also welcoming China’s increasing expansion as they try to break Russia’s monopoly over transport routes. Ever since the foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2001, China has been working to construct a new Silk Road to integrate Central Asia and the rest of the world with Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northwest China. The Middle Kingdom’s return to Central Asia is likely to reconfigure the geopolitics of the region—hopefully for the better.

Fahim Masoud is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where he studied history and politics. He is now a member of the United States Army. 

This article was originally published in the Washington University Political Review. 

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Afghanistan parliament votes to ban smoking in public http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-parliament-votes-to-ban-smoking-in-public-2718 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-parliament-votes-to-ban-smoking-in-public-2718#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:21:03 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31531 Afghanistan parliament votes to ban smoking in public
On Monday 6th January 2014, Afghan parliament passed a series of anti-smoking measures in a concerted effort to try to eradicate the widespread health hazard of smoking, as well as alleviating non-smokers from this public nuisance. The introduction of new legislature will ban smoking and the use of tobacco in public buildings such as hospitals, Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan parliament votes to ban smoking in public

On Monday 6th January 2014, Afghan parliament passed a series of anti-smoking measures in a concerted effort to try to eradicate the widespread health hazard of smoking, as well as alleviating non-smokers from this public nuisance. The introduction of new legislature will ban smoking and the use of tobacco in public buildings such as hospitals, schools and restaurants.

These measures have been put into effect immediately. As such anyone who is now seen in public smoking or chewing tobacco will be fined upwards of AFN300. Furthermore, any perpetrators caught selling tobacco in public areas will be fined between 5-25 thousand AFN.Moreover, the import duty on tobacco will also be increased by fifty percent and the sale of cigarettes to children will now be regarded as a criminal offence.

The legislation will also seek to tackle smoking advertisements. Lawmakers have consulted with the media regarding the implementation of widespread anti-smoking campaigns across their national advertisements.Mujib Rahman Samkanai, a member of Health Commission, emphasised to the need for cigarette and tobacco advertisements to be banned and for free advertisements against smoking and other intoxicants to be widely publicised on national television channels.

The passing of this legislation suggests an evolution of previous Afghan attitudes towards smoking. In a previous assembly with the same anti-smoking ambitions, parliament were unable to pass the draft due to a lack of support from members. Significantly, this time round, the draft succeeded with a staggering majority; out of the 125 total members, 99 voted for the draft whilst 24 still opposed it. This radical change in opinion shows that the country is gradually aligning itself with the legislation of other anti-smoking nations, as it re-evaluates its attitudes toward smoking and the role of tobacco within Afghan life. Speaking on the matter, certain lawmakers stated; “According to the Islamic laws using tobacco is Haram prohibited and its use should be banned even in areas not termed as public”.

Tobacco is beginning to be regarded in the same category as intoxicants and narcotics. This view is reinforced by the fact that the legislation passed contains twenty articles in five chapters, all of which are in accordance with current constitutional laws which ask the government to prevent narcotics and intoxicants.

Although there are no official figures categorising how many Afghans smoke, unscientific observations suggest approximately 50% of Afghan men have smoked tobacco at some stage during their lives. Therefore this legislation is bound to affect a large proportion of the population andcause them to re-evaluate their views on smoking.

However, the issue of smoking still remains a contentious issue amongst lawmakers, who have disagreed regarding what future measures need to be taken.Obaidullah Ramin, a lawmaker from Baghlan province, stated that tomore effectively discourage the consumption of cigarette and tobacco, tax should be raised by 100 percent. In stark contrast, Gulalai Noor Safi, a lawmaker representing Balkh province, stressedthat any further increase in tax will be detrimental, and will only strengthen drug smuggling operations from Pakistan and Iran.

Nevertheless, this new legislation historically marks a growing change in attitudes towards the public use of tobacco in Afghanistan. In the next few months, the extent to which these measures are effectivewill become evident. Public reaction to these new laws will illustrate whether more extensive legislation needs to be passed to alleviate any remaining public issues regarding tobacco.

Author This article was produced by Bradley Taylor, a freelance writer from Derby, England, UK. Bradley is a motoring enthusiast who loves writing about cars and anything automotive but he is versatile and he also writes across a variety of other topics. You can stay connected with him on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

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An open letter to Afghan President, Hamid Karzai http://www.khaama.com/an-open-letter-to-afghan-president-31498 http://www.khaama.com/an-open-letter-to-afghan-president-31498#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 17:53:37 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31498 An open letter to Afghan President, Hamid Karzai
By: Gulabuddin Sukhanwar As you approach the end of your time in the presidential palace, I wanted to talk to you a bit about your time in office. First, as an official observer at the last two presidential elections, I want to reflect on the election process and its many failings. If only you had Read the full article...]]>
An open letter to Afghan President, Hamid Karzai

By: Gulabuddin Sukhanwar

As you approach the end of your time in the presidential palace, I wanted to talk to you a bit about your time in office.

First, as an official observer at the last two presidential elections, I want to reflect on the election process and its many failings.

If only you had remembered me, and your promises to the younger generation in Afghanistan, when you became President. As member of a political coalition, I spoke to more than 50,000 Afghans at the Ghazi Stadium in support of your presidential campaign in 2009.

As Head of the Cultural Committee for Youths Association of the National Unity Party, I appealed to you and the next government in my 2009 speech, to meet our conditions in exchange for our support.

We called for equal and balanced development for ALL of Afghanistan, as well as the inclusion of all ethnic groups at government level. You showed great insincerity by promising certain reforms aimed at young people, but never actually implementing them.

Neither did you keep your promise to ensure the representation of young people in the Government, especially in terms of improving access to education in remote areas.

Almost five years have passed, and while I don´t regret making a speech in support of your presidential campaign, I am deeply disappointed that you turned your back on us.

Dear Mr. President,  Let´s talk about what happened at the 2009 election.

To our dismay, fraud and irregularities in the way that votes were collected and counted are sadly what we most remember about that crucial point in our history.

If someone – just a man on the street like me – was aware of this fraud, which acted in your favor, then of course you were too. Yet you did nothing to ensure a fair and open democratic voting system.

The so-called Independent’ Election Commission, which you controlled, initially declared you to have received 54% of the vote. Due to irregularities, a recount was made, and your vote was reduced to less than 50%.

Despite this, US Secretary of State John Kerry, announced that you would still be the next President – well, someone had to be!

Of course, we don´t deny that some limited improvements have been made in different sectors. However, a consequence of you not implementing the changes you promised is that most people even don’t trust the election process.

With billions of dollars invested by the international community, you could have achieved so much more. Your inability to do so will hold us back for years to come.

Nothing has fundamentally changed over the 12 years of your presidency. You did not use your power to strengthen the country in terms of democracy, the rule of law, to create more jobs, improve access to education, or ensure rural and economic development. You even allowed warlords and unscrupulous power-brokers to retain in the power.

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Moving Afghan Investment Policy from Paper to Practice http://www.khaama.com/moving-afghan-investment-policy-from-paper-to-practice-3324 http://www.khaama.com/moving-afghan-investment-policy-from-paper-to-practice-3324#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 04:58:58 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31479 Moving Afghan Investment Policy from Paper to Practice
Authors: Suleman Fatimie & Omar Qargha In July of 2013 the Government of Afghanistan revealed new incentives to attract domestic and foreign investment called Investment Promotion Policy during the Transitional Period. The incentives included providing land at almost no cost to industrialists, up to a seven-year tax break for factory owners, 10-year low-interest loans for Read the full article...]]>
Moving Afghan Investment Policy from Paper to Practice

Authors: Suleman Fatimie & Omar Qargha

In July of 2013 the Government of Afghanistan revealed new incentives to attract domestic and foreign investment called Investment Promotion Policy during the Transitional Period. The incentives included providing land at almost no cost to industrialists, up to a seven-year tax break for factory owners, 10-year low-interest loans for farmers, as well as one-year multiple entry visas for foreign investors. According to the policy brief investors would have had a window of 2 years to benefit from these incentives. The main objectives behind the incentives were to ensure economic stability during the transitional period and increase much needed inflow of capital to address the decline in aid money during the so-called ‘transformational decade’.

This was a very promising attempt by the government, signaling that they understood both the need for attracting capital and that they were thinking strategically about sustainable growth. However, this encouraging attempt to provide incentives through a time bound investment policy, like many other good initiatives, seems buried under government bureaucracy. Since the original announcement, there has been no further communication from the Government regarding this policy. Leaving everyone to wonder whether this initiative, like many of its predecessors, will remain a proposed policy on paper and nothing more.

While local and international media are abound with news of capital flight from Afghanistan due to uncertainty attached to the signing of the BSA, potential deterioration of security, and predictions of a ‘Boom to Bust’ with the turning back of recent economic advances, the Afghan Government has once again failed to implement a much needed investor friendly policy to lure investment and prioritize economic stability and development during the transitional period and transformational decade for the country.  The reason for the inaction of the Government is not clear, but it is likely that it is a combination of inefficient bureaucratic procedures, lack of political will, and simple lack of capacity to follow through with enactment of proposed policies. Regardless of the reason, the inaction signals to the private sector that economic development is yet to be considered a vital priority by the Government.

It is clear that encouraging and attracting domestic/Afghan-diaspora investment should be a top priority for the coming years in order to develop sustainable economic alternatives to the currently donor heavy economic environment of Afghanistan.  Creating a business friendly enabling environment along side enacting, and operationalizing, sound policies remain at the core of any investment and export promotion and development initiatives.  The question remains, how do we make sure policies are enacted when time and again, we see that good policies like the Investment Promotion Policy during the Transitional Period gain some public attention and then are retired to desk drawers collecting dust.

If it is not possible for the Government to overcome the list of problems outlined above to redefine the legal and regulatory system itself in an effective and timely manner, well-managed semi-autonomous institutions serving as a bridge between the Government and the business community might solve many of the problems for entrepreneurs and can begin fostering a more enabling environment.

One example of such a semi-autonomous institution is the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). SEZs are designated areas that possess special economic regulations.  SEZs utilize an economic management system that is more conducive to doing business than in the rest of the country.  These regulations tend to contain measures that are conducive to investment and promote exports.  India, Bangladesh, China, Jordan, UAE, Pakistan, and many other countries, have successfully implemented the SEZ model and Afghanistan can do the same.  The Afghan government could identify and declare specific zones around the country to become Special Economic Zones, enact a special policy for SEZs similar to the one announced in July of 2013.  This will instill confidence in investors and signal the Government’s commitment to economic development and growth.

Another example is to establish a properly structured, lean, proactive and sustainable Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) to be managed by professional experts to inject the needed capital to invest in sectors and industries with import substitution and export development potential.  The seed funding can come from institutions such as AISA and the international donor community in order to create the fund. Investment funds provide a broader selection of investment opportunities, greater management expertise and lower investment fees than investors might be able to obtain on their own.

What we have proposed are examples of possible solutions to overcome the gridlock of the Government in order to move good policies from paper to practice. There are many other options and solutions that this short article cannot address; and many creative options that others will likely come up with that we have not even thought about.  The point is that clearly articulated, and well thought out models of Public Private Partnership (PPP) like the examples we articulated can serve as a mechanism to overcome the detrimental cycle of good policies not materializing because of inefficient bureaucratic procedures and lack of capacity and political will that seems to be a chronic problem within the Government.

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Making Sense of the Recent Suicide Attack in Kabul http://www.khaama.com/making-sense-of-the-recent-suicide-attack-in-kabul-3323 http://www.khaama.com/making-sense-of-the-recent-suicide-attack-in-kabul-3323#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 04:16:33 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31481 Making Sense of the Recent Suicide Attack in Kabul
By Fahim Masoud To say that Afghanistan is chaotic and is falling into a complete state of confusion and insecurity is something already too familiar to most of Afghanistan’s peoples. Three decades of war and destruction has destroyed every fabric of Afghan society, but one quality – something that has characterized Afghans throughout their tumultuous Read the full article...]]>
Making Sense of the Recent Suicide Attack in Kabul

By Fahim Masoud

To say that Afghanistan is chaotic and is falling into a complete state of confusion and insecurity is something already too familiar to most of Afghanistan’s peoples. Three decades of war and destruction has destroyed every fabric of Afghan society, but one quality – something that has characterized Afghans throughout their tumultuous history — is their resilience, or their ability to develop ongoing strategies for survival. Recently, I wrote a couple of articles on the security situation of Afghanistan in which, one could argue, I painted a very bleak future for the country. I concluded with the belief that if the US discontinues its engagement with Afghanistan, the country could easily devolve into a brutal civil war.

Currently, there is an aura of unprecedented uncertainty and confusion pervading the country, which is why so many groups and factions, inside and outside of Afghanistan, are gearing up for what is to come. The truth is that no one knows what will happen in an Afghanistan where there is no United States, no NATO troops, no international aid. I asked a friend of mine whose brother is President Karzai’s national security adviser about what his brother thought would happen after the exodus of American troops. His response was startling: “He is more flabbergasted about the future than the ordinary people.” This is a scary situation given that Afghanistan’s economy is in shambles and desperately needs all the help it can receive to develop in multiple spheres of life in the decades to come.

The recent suicide attack on the Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, which claimed the lives of 21 people, including the head of the International Monetary Fund in Afghanistan, illustrated how fragile the security climate in Afghanistan is. However, this barbaric and tragic event has been gravely misinterpreted, particularly by Nemat Sadat, a former instructor at the American University in Kabul. Mr. Sadat claims that the Taliban targeted these individuals because they were “the leading figures calling for reform and ready to take measures to dismantle the institutionalized corruption and system of kleptocracy in Afghanistan.” He talks as if these four UN workers were the sine quo non for the elimination of corruption in Afghanistan. The truth is that like every other major malpractice in Afghanistan, corruption is well-established; its removal will take decades of effort and consistent oversight. Think about India. It’s the largest democracy in the world. It is also endowed with one of the oldest bureaucracies in the modern world. Yet corruption is very much a reality; had it not been for India’s thriving private economy, the country would not have made the kind of progress we see today. Two thirds of Indian politicians are under some kind of criminal indictment. Some of these charges are as serious and heinous as rape and murder. The point I am trying to convey here is that the excision of corruption is much harder than the limited attempts of four UN workers. And the Taliban, contrary to what Mr. Sadat suggests, didn’t target them because of that. In fact, the Taliban enjoy seeing the government corrupt. It’s in a corrupt government and unstable political environment in which they see their comeback inevitable.

Before I make an analysis of this particular suicide attack, allow me to say that the number of suicides around the country has gone down in the last few months. This is not because the Taliban have grown more sympathetic toward the Afghan security forces or Afghan people. It is rather because they, like other major political groups and warlords around the country, are planning to make themselves more appealing by showing that they are more capable of governance and providing security than the corrupt Afghan leadership.

The recent attack at the heart of Kabul’s most guarded and cosmopolitan space was a well-planned and sophisticated operation. It was designed not so much to weaken the Karzai administration but rather to expose its incompetence and vulnerabilities. This is a political move and a strategic calculation with which the Taliban are too familiar. Let’s travel back in time and recall the circumstances leading up to the Taliban’s rise in the early 1990s, during another time when Afghanistan was very unstable. Kabul — the capital of the country — was a violent place. Constant fights would break out throughout the city of Kabul during day light among various Jihadi commanders. I remember these times vividly because on most of these days the reason I couldn’t attend school was either because one of my teachers  had been killed or because the school had been taken over and made a beachhead against another rival group. On the peripheries, there was complete injustice and chaos. Dark, oppressive, and merciless forces were in charge. A sense of security and protection from those who wished to inflict harm on you and your family was non-existent.

Then a ragtag army came onto the scene: it was the Taliban, whose principle, to borrow a phrase from Edward Gibbon, was savage fanaticism. They didn’t promise anything grand. In fact, they took away most of the relative liberties that existed. Life under the Taliban was hell but they provided one thing: security. No one denies the barbarity of the Taliban’s regime; that is well known to anyone who has spent even one day under their rule. During my recent travels throughout the country, people often talked about the lack of safety and how the Taliban could at least offer them security. The Taliban, once again, are trying to gain popularity among Afghans by showing them the one thing they need most and their government is incapable of providing them. Attacks like these are solely designed to achieve one thing: to get people to intensely disapprove of the government.

Nemat also offered a solution: “Remove all pro-ISI double agents from the Afghan government and destroy and dismantle Karzai’s kleptocracy.” This is a dangerous approach to the problem for several reasons. 1) Pakistani spies embedded in the Afghan government do not have the word “ISI Spy” tattooed on their foreheads. Finding them is a lot more problematic than Mr. Sadat understands and cares to admit. 2) Yes, ISI is heavily involved in Afghan politics and there’s enough evidence to prove that. However, ISI is not the only player who sees its interests served in an unstable Afghanistan. There is also Iran, and it has been equally guilty of fomenting violence in Kabul, Herat and other major provinces. 3) Even if it is found out that ISI agents were behind this attack, which I’m not ruling out, Afghanistan’s government is not in a position to fight back. After all, its economic survival almost depends on Islamabad. Afghanistan is a land-locked country and with no access to water or a port; therefore, most commodities entering Kabul arrive via Pakistan. Given Kabul’s limited choices, it must play nicely with Islamabad.

What ought to be done? Afghanistan’s calamities are not here to stay forever. However, to speed up the process of removing major challenges standing in the way of development, Kabul must undertake a series of changes in both political and economic spheres. Zhou Enlai once wrote: “The helmsman must ride with the waves or he will be submerged with the tide.” The choice belongs to the next generation of Afghan leadership. What it decides to do will determine the fate of Afghanistan and its peoples.

Fahim Masoud is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where he studied history and politics. He’s now a member of the US Army.

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Why Taliban stormed the Lebanese restaurant in capital Kabul http://www.khaama.com/why-taliban-stormed-the-lebanese-restaurant-in-capital-kabul-3315 http://www.khaama.com/why-taliban-stormed-the-lebanese-restaurant-in-capital-kabul-3315#comments Sun, 19 Jan 2014 08:50:21 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31443 Why Taliban stormed the Lebanese restaurant in capital Kabul
By Nemat Sadat News Analysis: Friday’s targeted assassinations in Kabul, Afghanistan is the deadliest Taliban attack targeting foreign civilians in the last twelve years inside the capital’s highly guarded Ring-of-Steel. Behind the disheartening tragedy that claimed the lives of 21 people (including the IMF head and four UN officials), there is a deeper story everyone Read the full article...]]>
Why Taliban stormed the Lebanese restaurant in capital Kabul

By Nemat Sadat

News Analysis: Friday’s targeted assassinations in Kabul, Afghanistan is the deadliest Taliban attack targeting foreign civilians in the last twelve years inside the capital’s highly guarded Ring-of-Steel. Behind the disheartening tragedy that claimed the lives of 21 people (including the IMF head and four UN officials), there is a deeper story everyone must know. I was a frequent visitor of Taverna du Liban during the one year I lived in Afghanistan. These locales catering to affluent Afghans and expats have never been under the radar of the Taliban. Why? Because the owners of these establishments pay a monthly “bribe” fee to Afghan police who then indirectly purchase a security guarantee from the Taliban to put these locations off of the target “hit” list. (Here is a NYT story about Afghan police not being paid since last November: ). In 2010, the western media reported about how USAID indirectly paid the Taliban billions not to attack incoming logistical convoys traveling from Pakistan to Afghanistan. (Here is a link: )

So what’s happening now? Pro-ISI (the Inter-Services Intelligence or the intelligence service of Pakistan) Afghan informants embedded in the Afghan government have infiltrated the NDS (National Director of Security) and since last summer’s transfer of responsibility for securing Afghanistan from NATO to Afghan forces, the double agent crooks have hijacked the domestic intelligence agency of Afghanistan. While the US and international forces are running for the exits, the double agents are desperately trying to secure their future in a post 2014 Afghanistan. Pro-ISI Afghans appear on the surface to be pro-western but they have robbed American taxpayers and Afghans and simultaneously work with the enemy. Why? They are buying an insurance policy to make sure they remain in power if and when the Taliban retake Afghanistan. This is a deadly strategy. How ironic that yesterday’s Taliban executions were more precise than a surgical drone attack by the Americans? It wasn’t just a random coincidence. The identity and itinerary of the victims were relayed and the killings were well orchestrated with point precision.

Why do the Taliban attack? The Taliban have committed gross injustices against Afghans and they are tools to advance the goals of Pakistan’s ISI. But the Taliban have also been deceived by the Afghan mafia. I’m talking about the pro-Afghan ISI who have received the lion’s share of USAID and other foreign aid earmarked for development projects intended for the people of Afghanistan.

The Afghan ISI have a policy of divide and conquer; they have engineered a system to demoralize the Afghan masses and impose barriers to prevent everyday Afghans from starting businesses since they are insecure about their future and perceive a growing Afghan civil society as a threat to their hegemony. They are the recipients of multi-million dollar contracts, they manipulate the minds through the mass media, and they subvert all the intelligence agencies. They have managed to control the three interlocking spheres of Afghanistan’s war economy with their tight-knit clique. They block anyone who wants to serve the public good and they broadcast mixed messages to confuse the masses. They want to keep the Afghans deprived and illiterate so know one can challenge their rule. The tens of billions they have been awarded have been spent on phantom projects that don’t exist and the money running into the billions have been siphoned into offshore private banking accounts.

The Afghan mafia knows their days are numbered if the Americans and NATO leave so they have a three-pronged objective: to drive away the international aid donors and replace them with their own clique; curry favor with the Taliban; and demonstrate their loyalty to Pakistan. To achieve this master plan they must collaborate with the enemies of Afghanistan while publicly pretending to be good Muslims and acting like they are loyal to the US and the international community.

There is more to this story you don’t know. The danger is more explosive than you think. Even President Karzai is worried. Earlier this week Karzai demanded immunity (a US greencard) as a condition to sign the bilateral security agreement.

I have also heard from high-ranking officials that post 2014 Afghanistan could become a genocide of a magnitude where “dogs won’t be able to find their owners” and “that the scale of death and destruction can dwarf the calamity and carnage of the past 35 years.”

Something must be done now. The thought of this worst-case scenario frightens me. I will do everything in my power to stave of another round of wars in Afghanistan.

My solution: Remove all pro-ISI double agents from the Afghan government and destroy and dismantle Karzai’s kleptocracy. We must extinguish the fire and neutralize the overt and covert enemies of Afghanistan. To do that requires profound leadership and the moral courage by those who are in a position to do something before all hell breaks loose. No Afghan can remain passive. In the meantime, don’t just be angry at the Taliban but also the shadow Afghan group feeding intelligence to the enemy behind-the-scenes.

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Regional cooperation key to Afghan stability after NATO pullout: Naderi http://www.khaama.com/regional-cooperation-key-to-afghan-stability-after-nato-pullout-naderi-2701 http://www.khaama.com/regional-cooperation-key-to-afghan-stability-after-nato-pullout-naderi-2701#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 16:16:07 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31374 Regional cooperation key to Afghan stability after NATO pullout: Naderi
Afghan lawmaker Farukhunda Zahra Naderi calls on broader regional cooperation in a bid to maintain long term peace stability in Afghanistan and the region following NATO pullout. While speaking during an interview with the India’s ViewsAround, Ms Naderi insisted that the regional countries should play an active role in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when majority of Read the full article...]]>
Regional cooperation key to Afghan stability after NATO pullout: Naderi

Afghan lawmaker Farukhunda Zahra Naderi calls on broader regional cooperation in a bid to maintain long term peace stability in Afghanistan and the region following NATO pullout.

While speaking during an interview with the India’s ViewsAround, Ms Naderi insisted that the regional countries should play an active role in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when majority of the NATO forces leave the country.

Naderi also suggested that a regional military alliance should be formed between the regional countries which should help maintain peace stability in the region.

In the meantime, Ms Naderi emphasized on the role and presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

“Definitely its is required as Afghanistan has faced three decades of civil war and people are fed up with war now. People want stability and peace for which presence of international forces is required but it does not mean that Afghan forces are not capable enough to defend their country but help is always welcome,” Ms Naderi said while responding to a question regarding NATO forces need for stability in Afghanistan.

In response to a question regarding the regional countries role in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Ms Naderi said, “Our regional countries like –Pakistan, Iran, and India and we have they more or less similar kind of culture. So we understand each other well as compared to other countries which are very far from us. That’s why I advocate for more civil society relationship between our relegion, more trade and commerce activities. Even I will suggest that we should have a regional security alliance which can safeguard the security of every one of us. We should understand that if Afghanistan is not stable and is struck with terrorism then it would have an effect of whole of the region.”

Naderi also insisted on the importance of Afghan peace process with the militant groups in Afghanistan and said that talks with Taliban group should continue. “Any individual, group, Organization which believes in the Afghan constitution, culture, values should be included in the reconstruction of the country. Let me tell you that Afghanistan government was never reluctant to talk to anyone for peace and stability of the country.”

Meanwhile she emphasized on the role of Afghan women in the reconstruction process of Afghanistan. “Afghanistan reconstruction will be incomplete without the participation of Afghan women. As they bring different viewpoint which complement the existing views. Moreover women understand some problems much better. So, women should contribute to every walks of life like- Politics, Culture, Science, Arts etc,” Ms Naderi added.

In response to a question regarding expectation for more participation of Afghan women in the national and provincial assemblies, Ms Naderi said, “Our constitution gives a Quota of 25% to the women in the national and provincial assemblies and if we look at current statistics women representation in assemblies is around 28%. So numbers speak for themselves that trend of women representation in assemblies is rising and it will definitely grow in coming time.”

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Youth empowerment key for poverty eradication in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/youth-empowerment-key-for-poverty-eradication-in-afghanistan-2699 http://www.khaama.com/youth-empowerment-key-for-poverty-eradication-in-afghanistan-2699#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 09:06:23 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31359 Youth empowerment key for poverty eradication in Afghanistan
By: Ahmad Masoud The unemployment and poverty levels have remained significantly high in Afghanistan where USD641.7 billion has been spent in military, reconstruction and civilian aid in the past 10 years. The results of a survey by the Asia Foundation, in late 2013, indicated that 25 percent of Afghans at a national and 27 percent Read the full article...]]>
Youth empowerment key for poverty eradication in Afghanistan

By: Ahmad Masoud

The unemployment and poverty levels have remained significantly high in Afghanistan where USD641.7 billion has been spent in military, reconstruction and civilian aid in the past 10 years. The results of a survey by the Asia Foundation, in late 2013, indicated that 25 percent of Afghans at a national and 27 percent at a local level identified unemployment as one of the biggest problems in Afghanistan.

The unemployment problem has been exacerbated by the entrance of 400,000 young people, every year, to the Afghan labour market. The Afghan labour market does not have the capacity to absorb the unemployed young workers and it forces the young Afghans either to leave the country in search of work in neighbouring countries or to the streets where they often get involved in crimes.

The living standard of people in Afghanistan has also been affected by rampant unemployment. According to the World Bank, the Afghans with jobs, whether part-time or full-time, earn on average USD410 per year or about USD one per day. Available government figures indicate that 60 percent of children are malnourished and 27 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water.

Recently, the World Bank and the Afghan Ministry of Finance signed, according to media reports, a USD50 million grant to support the Afghan government’s efforts to improve access to credit for micro, small and medium enterprises through the Afghanistan Access to Finance Project.

Out of the USD50 million grant, USD32 million will be provided to support the microfinance sector and scale up the “Targeting the Ultra Poor” programme that provides technical and financial support to poorest households to help them graduate out of extreme poverty. The remaining USD18 million will support the expansion of the Afghanistan Credit Guarantee Facility that provides partial risk guarantees to loans issued by commercial banks and microfinance institutions to small and medium enterprises.

The World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, Robert Saum, said: “We believe the Access to Finance Project will pay a critical role in the coming years in supporting households as well as small and medium enterprises to gain an increased access to financial services, notably credit.”

The government of Afghanistan along with a number of national and international organizations has taken some major steps to address the prevalent unemployment and poverty problems in the country. The Afghanistan Enterprise Development Programme (AREDP) by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) is a vital move aimed at creating job opportunities and eliminating poverty. The main purpose of this new initiative is to harness the potential of the private sector for inclusive economic growth and sustainable job creation in rural Afghanistan over a period of 10 years.

In another move, the Ministry of Information and Culture, with the technical and financial support of UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, ILO and Counterpart International, in June 2013, prepared the draft of Afghanistan’s first National Youth Policy.

The Director, Policy and Programme, Deputy Ministry of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. Sayed Saiedy said: “Once President Karzai sings the National Youth Policy, it will serve as a guiding document for all new programmes. The policy will serve to guide the development of a 5-year National Youth Strategy.”

“Youth empowerment, development, ASHR and youth reproductive rights are at the core of UNFPA’s mandate and we will continue to work closely with the government, youth and reach out to provide opportunities to the most vulnerable and marginalized youth, in particular girls,” said Dr. Laurent Zessler, UNFPA Country Representative in congratulating the Government of Afghanistan for this critical milestone.

The Afghanistan National Youth Policy, under the key intervention policy, has emphasised the need for the promotion of sustainable youth entrepreneurship through increasing young people’s access to sustainable finances, increased financial literacy and business skills, work experience opportunities for youth including through formal and informal apprenticeship and public and private internship programmes. The policy document has also recognised the need for the expansion of youth specific employment services and career education, including through the establishment of youth job centres.

Free and universal access to quality education and training to build the capacity of young people and a strong human resource base, the promotion of decent employment opportunities for young women and men, in particular for young women and person with disabilities and in rural areas and the design and implementation of programs to build self-confidence, leadership skills, life skills and resilience of young women and men need to be addressed according to the policy.

All these efforts are significant for creating job opportunities, eradicating poverty and developing a healthy business environment for better economic growth and development in the long run in Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan needs to lead and coordinate all these interventions to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency and a smooth flow of technical information and exchange of experience among the stakeholders.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs, who are the real force behind the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and play a crucially important role in creating employment opportunities and economic growth, need to be fully equipped with the required business knowledge and skills. They must be familiar with national and international standards as well as consumers’ rights, fair competition principles and environmental impacts assessment and management. Furthermore, large and small Afghan entrepreneurs should be connected to national, regional and international markets.

Fahima, who like most Afghan women holds only one name, said recently at an exhibition in Kabul that there was no demand for her products and she did not have the required marketing skills. “I work days and nights to make dresses,” she explained, “… and I want people to use the dresses which we make domestically.”

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Is Karzai using BSA as Leverage in the Forthcoming Presidential Elections? http://www.khaama.com/is-karzai-using-bsa-as-leverage-in-the-forthcoming-presidential-elections-87654 http://www.khaama.com/is-karzai-using-bsa-as-leverage-in-the-forthcoming-presidential-elections-87654#comments Tue, 14 Jan 2014 04:31:49 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31295
By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai This year-2014- is hailed as a momentous year for the Afghan people, where three major developments are supposed to take place, including security transition resuming full responsibility of the country’s security, signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement, which is expected to be signed in the near future, and political transition which Read the full article...]]>

By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai

This year-2014- is hailed as a momentous year for the Afghan people, where three major developments are supposed to take place, including security transition resuming full responsibility of the country’s security, signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement, which is expected to be signed in the near future, and political transition which will begin with April presidential and provincial elections.

Security transition is already underway where much progress has been observed while the BSA text has been finalized and endorsed by the Loya Jirga, which will be hopefully signed in the near future.

One of the most critical, important and meanwhile challenging issue is the next presidential and provincial elections. With President Karzai constitutionally barred from running for a third term, these elections will mark the first peaceful transfer of political power and will in fact determine the future course of legitimacy and stability in a war devastated country where the fledgling democracy is taking its new roots.

Although much progress has been made regarding the structure of the electoral commissions, campaign, registration and dissemination of the electoral gadgets, however insecurity and bad weather are the most challenging and important issues, which could also be a pretext for delaying or pushing back the election date.

Insecurity is the foremost challenge at a time when Afghan forces will be responsible for it, without international military support.

Despite efforts of disrupting security, media propaganda and the uncertainty that exists on the ground significant progress has been made in this connection and the Afghan troops continue to make progress with the support of International mentors in enhancing stability in the country, while Afghan security officials have shown confidence that the country’s own forces will be able to provide security in the upcoming presidential elections. However still this is an existential threat, which needs to be, focused more in the coming months.

In the forthcoming elections so far, among the 11 candidates Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, an eminent scholar and technocrat, Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, Jihadi leader, Abdullah Abdullah, former Foreign Minister and Abdul Qayyum Karzai, President Karzai brother are the front-runners.

It is widely considered that whoever among the candidates is favored by Karzai is supposed to win the coming election. Off course being in power for more than twelve years, with unique character, better attuned to the harsh realities on the ground and behind the curtains in direct communication with various figures from World Leaders till Taliban, possessing much influence and the person who feels the pulse of his people, having administration and state machinery in his control, he will be having much influence and sway over elections, in case he chooses to do so.

The critics point out that Karzai did delayed the signing of BSA in order to make sure that he has leverage and control over the election process.

But so far he has been denying any kind of support to favor a candidate or to interfere in the election process, in his statements. Also in practice the president has proved it, as he hasn’t interfered in the affairs of the election commission so far and a robust electoral structure has been established under his supervision, for the first time a legislation was adopted by the parliament that governs the polls, moreover the legislature and judiciary through a consultative process appointed the new commissioners for both the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission, while in the past the President used to make such appointments.

On the other hand the presence of about 300,000 expected, national and international observers that will monitor the forthcoming April election would hopefully be a better source for hampering election rigging on wider scale.

From Afghanistan’s 27 million population around 12 million are estimated to be eligible voters. Estimates show that most of the votes will come from the young bulge and especially the educated so called Facebook generation, where around 70 percent of the population is made up of the youths aged twenty-five or below. Thanks to social media and freedom of media in Afghanistan on wide scale, which has helped a lot in raising awareness and serve as a good source of campaign especially among the young generation.

If this Facebook generation is given the chance, they can bring positive change to the economic, social and political situation in the country. These young people unlike the past now don’t talk about where to get Kalashnikovs and arms but are interested how to see their country progressing and how to get jobs and education.

They are well familiar which politicians have popular support and can do something for their future, but how the elections are hold transparently without interference on major scale, remains to be seen.

I think for Afghan government and people education is the main concern which needs much attention and focus, even more than Taliban threat education needs to be concentrated more, because when you spread knowledge, people in general and educated people in particular will deny the existence of Taliban and extremism. Obviously in the forthcoming election in addition to the government and electoral structure, major part of responsibility also lies on the shoulder of youth bulge which makes major segment of the society and especially the educated people to come out and vote for a candidate whose commitment is to bring an establishment which has transparency and accountability as hallmark and fundamental principles.  Through such government then we can expect peace, change and betterment.

Through which way we can achieve? That is citizenship participation, a seductive promise from everyone for a transparent, successful and widespread voting for a future legitimate and successful establishment that has the majority support with which prospects for security and peace will improve rather largely.

The forthcoming elections if flawed on major scale could severely damage the legitimacy of the next government; meanwhile it would terribly undermine the attempts of its allies and US to foster democracy in this critical phase of transition. This perhaps could unleash a new wave of lethal and non-lethal support to different factions inside the country from neighbor countries, which could result in wide scale interference in the country in negative way like in the past. In such case consequences could be terrible, where the neighbor countries will pour in money and arms to use their proxies for influencing the country.

These elections if hold successfully, transparently and most importantly acceptable to most Afghans, will ensure economic prosperity, political harmony and social unity inside, garnering international support and long term commitment from outside. Meanwhile prospects for security will improve if the next President and his team receive majority support.

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Iraq a bloody lesson for Zero Option in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/iraq-a-bloody-lesson-for-zero-option-in-afghanistan-67543 http://www.khaama.com/iraq-a-bloody-lesson-for-zero-option-in-afghanistan-67543#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 02:15:38 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31092 Iraq a bloody lesson for Zero Option in Afghanistan
By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai It has been more than a week that the Iraqi army is shelling the Anbar city of Falluja in an effort to clear out Al-Qaeda linked fighters. The strife has been spinning from city to city and violence has flared up in recent days because of ethnic and government differences between the Read the full article...]]>
Iraq a bloody lesson for Zero Option in Afghanistan

By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai

It has been more than a week that the Iraqi army is shelling the Anbar city of Falluja in an effort to clear out Al-Qaeda linked fighters. The strife has been spinning from city to city and violence has flared up in recent days because of ethnic and government differences between the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni groups.

The Militants according to reports have seized Fallujah, one of the key cities in western Iraq, depicting a brazen challenge to Iraq’s government.

Since the US troops have left the country, sectarian violence has replaced it, where thousands have been killed so far, this violence has nearly tore the country apart. Violence in Iraq last year (2013) was the worst ever since last five years, while these days it has reached to its peak.

Once on the verge of collapse when the US troops were present in Iraq, Al-Qaeda has returned back, regrouped into a growing force after the US forces departed from there in December 2011.

With failure to have inked pact between Iraq and America, todays Iraq is posing a transnational threat, which could spill over to other neighbor countries as well.

Like in Iraq, such dangers are felt in Afghanistan as well, which has currently a very fragile situation.  With sudden withdrawal of International troops the country could face lot of problems from the insurgent’s side that could probably pose terrible security threats regionally and globally.

In 2001 when American forces began its operations to oust the Taliban regime, they were welcomed on a large scale. Despite many problems and disenchantment towards US and anti-American sentiments fueled by neighbor countries still majority of Afghans welcomes the presence of US troops in Afghanistan. This is well depicted by the Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) decision, where representatives of the people were gathered to decide whether to endorse the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States or not, which at the end will provide US presence with a legal framework in the country.

Fortunately text of the bilateral security agreement with United states and American presence in Afghanistan was endorsed by the 2,500 delegates to the Traditional Loya Jirga (grand Assembly) of tribal elders and notables who met in November last year in Capital Kabul.

The US presence is largely welcomed by the majority of Afghans as it’s the only way through which the country can prosper economically and with the presence of Americans both Pakistan and Iran’s meddling in the country affairs could be kept at arm’s length to certain extent.

Afghan people understand the importance of BSA which hopefully will be signed in the near future as negotiations are going on and during last week US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham visit to Kabul, highlighting the importance of BSA pressed President Karzai to sign the agreement.

According to the aforementioned senators the differences regarding BSA have been narrowed down and there are strong prospects of its signing in the near future.

In case the US decides to withdraw all its forces from the country, the prospects of which are very less, it will be a major setback and a big blow to US as well as NATO prestige. The gains made so far since 2001 at the cost of so much blood and treasure are much fragile and could falter away without consistent international support as Afghanistan still faces monumental challenges, which can’t be tackled without the help and presence of International Community. The people who have died in this path, their sacrifices need to be honored by not allowing the terrorists and insurgents to overtake the country once again. In fact it will be a mission failure for the international community, particularly NATO and US.

The country economy and security still hinges on foreign aid and security assistance to major extent.

With complete departure of US troops from Afghanistan, Central Asian Jihadists and Al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents that are currently having safe havens in neighbor countries would be encouraged and will once again use the country as a training ground for terrorism (a global security challenge).

The insurgent and Taliban are still vowing to continue fight. With the departure of US troops there is possibility of widespread conflict, as the Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba and other extremist groups will be backing the movement to gain control of the country like in the past.

Afghan security forces although have much improved but they still need support and training of the International Forces. They lack air support, the need of which is much felt in a geo-strategically important country like Afghanistan.

Afghanistan having an important geo-strategic location which is considered crucial to U.S. and Central Asia security by most of western technocrats and politicians, zero option by US or no troop’s presence is an unwise idea, which could result in horrible consequences for regional and global security.

At times when the Afghan people (represented by Loya Jirga) have indorsed and desired for US presence, there remain no reasons for the US to threaten to pull the plug on all it has invested in Afghanistan.

So far it seems that the International Community especially the United States won’t commit a mistake that unfortunately happened in Iraq but in case this happens, this will be one of a major historical blunder that will result in major setbacks and deterioration of security of the whole region.

Afghan reformers and stakeholders who have invested a lot and are interested in building a progressive Afghanistan will suffer a major psychological blow.

Pakistan intelligence services and military still consider Taliban as their backup plan, which are encouraged to increase their insurgent attacks and ultimately with the US troops departure this could be another 1990’s battlefield or at least the present day Falluja (Iraq).

After eight years of fighting, nearly 4,500 deaths and billions of dollars spent with the withdrawal of US troops about more than two years ago, today the militants have retaken Fallujah (Iraq). The repeat of which should be avoided in Afghanistan which around neighbor’s nuclear powers (including Pakistan and Iran a potential nuclear power), where the scope of terrorists and insurgents threat to global security is far larger than Iraq.

Mr. Ahmad Shah Katawazai is Diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and permanent member of the Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan.

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Al Qaida Still A Potent Threat http://www.khaama.com/al-qaida-still-a-potent-threat-90987 http://www.khaama.com/al-qaida-still-a-potent-threat-90987#comments Sun, 05 Jan 2014 06:25:27 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=31055
By Manish Rai As we begin 2014, it’s worth reflecting on where we stand in our fight against al-Qaida and global terrorism. Throughout 2012 and much of 2013, the Obama administration has toed the line that al-Qaida is on the path to defeat and with it, the terrorism is no longer the threat it once was. Nothing Read the full article...]]>

By Manish Rai

As we begin 2014, it’s worth reflecting on where we stand in our fight against al-Qaida and global terrorism. Throughout 2012 and much of 2013, the Obama administration has toed the line that al-Qaida is on the path to defeat and with it, the terrorism is no longer the threat it once was. Nothing could be further from the truth. During his landmark counterterrorism speech in May 2013, President Barack Obama all but declared an end to the global war on terror. He said that al-Qaida was “on the path to defeat” the White House touted the death of Osama bin Laden as the death knell to al-Qaida. Pre-9/11, al-Qaida maintained large-scale operations in South Asia, complete with training camps and operational capabilities. Surely that capability of Al-Qaida is dented but it is far from over. Today, al-Qaida is a complex, adaptive, and resilient organization. The administration’s successes against high-value targets have fostered a false sense of security.

Right now, al-Qaida controls or operates in more territory around the globe that it did than at any point of time since its creation in 1988. Al-Qaida and its affiliates are resurgent in Iraq, a major player in Syria, a force in Yemen and Somalia, still active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, operational in the Caucasus, and in pockets throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This isn’t what I’d call success. Over the past several years, al-Qaida has developed a new strategy to foster affiliate groups that still maintain strong connections to the core. Take Syria for instance. A terrorist named Abu Khalid al Suri is fighting for a hardcore jihadist organization named Ahrar al-Sham. Ahrar al -Sham does not self-identify as al-Qaida. Yet Suri is a leading figure in the movement and serves as al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s main representative in the Levant, according to the Long War Journal. So although al-Qaida may not have its name plastered all over the Middle East or publicly announce its affiliations and locations, it is always lurking beneath the surface. This doesn’t mean al-Qaida is weakened or on the verge of defeat, it means it has altered the way it conducts its terror campaign and spreads its roots. Burying our heads into the sand and pretending it isn’t so only increases al-Qaida’s likelihood of controlling territory or launching successful attacks.

Moreover, specialized training for a jihadist is no longer limited to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In Syria, legions of al-Qaida acolytes from all over the world, including Europe and the United States, are joining its cause on the battlefield. Eventually, they will return home and continue their fight against freedom. But as this year ends, the jihadist group’s regional affiliates have dramatically reasserted themselves in multiple countries, carrying out spectacular attacks and inflicting increasing levels of carnage. Though it’s hard to come by reliable estimates of the deaths they caused, the number is certainly in the thousands, and more than half a dozen countries now view these affiliates, or foreigners who have joined their ranks, as their top national security concern. The affiliates’ regeneration became so apparent over the course of this year that President Barack Obama was forced to clarify that his administration’s various claims of al Qaeda’s decimation were limited to the core leadership in Pakistan alone. Let’s take a look at the activities of al-Qaida in various countries:-

Mali-The year began with France spearheading a military intervention to push back jihadist groups that had seized territory in northern Mali, an impoverished country in the bone-dry Sahel region of Africa. France’s operation achieved some success, but a brigade led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar who has pledged his loyalty directly to al Qaeda’s senior leaders seized more than 800 hostages in a retaliatory operation at Algeria’s In Amenas gas complex. At least 39 foreign hostages were killed during the operation. France’s war in Mali also showed how deteriorating conditions in Libya.

Libya – Where the new government has never been able to assert its authority, help the jihadist cause. Some of the In Amenas attackers reportly trained in southern Libya (where camps prepare militants for suicide missions among other things, and used the country as a staging ground for the hostage-taking operation. And as France advanced on the battlefield in Mali many jihadist fighters fled to southwest Libya, where they evaded pursuit by “blending with local militant groups,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Iraq- Iraq’s death toll mounted throughout the year, driven by al Qaeda’s blossoming capabilities. By the end of 2013, more than 6,000 Iraqis had died in violence, the highest level of fatalities since 2007, the peak year of Iraq’s bloody civil war. As U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq two years ago, American and Iraqi officials expressed concerned that al Qaeda was “poised for a deadly resurgence.” Rather than proving alarmist, these warnings likely understated the speed and magnitude of the organization’s rebound in Iraq.

Somalia- Another al Qaeda franchise surged this year that is the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which once controlled more territory in southern Somalia than did the country’s U.N.-recognized government, had lost its last major urban stronghold of Kismayo to advancing African Union forces in October 2012. But Shabaab remained lethal. On Sept. 21, terrorists associated with the group launched a spectacular assault on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall. The attack dragged on for four days, killing 67 and injuring at least 175. But even before that, there were signs that a complex operation like Westgate was possible, as Shabaab carried out increasingly sophisticated attacks throughout the year. These included an attack on a Mogadishu courthouse that killed 29, and a twin suicide bombing at Mogadishu’s U.N. compound that claimed 22 lives.

Syria- In Syria, jihadists built on the gains they had made in 2012. Extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) affiliates of al-Qaida have proven to be some of the country’s most effective rebel factions. As 2013 ends, jihadists have been able to gain full control over such cities and towns as Raqqa and Shadadi in the north. ISIS has become adept at the targeted use of violence against Raqqa’s citizens, for the purposes of dominating and intimidating them as it implements a harsh version of Islamic law. Further compounding concerns stemming from the Syria conflict, a recent study published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization found that up to 11,000 foreign fighters have flocked to the battlefield to fight Bashar Assad’s government, of whom around 2,000 are from Western Europe. This has sparked fears in their countries of origin that the fighters could pose a security threat if they return both radicalized and battle-hardened.

The motivating factors for Al-Qaida’s aspirants and supporters are still very much in place which is ensuring steady supply of cadres. There is a pervasive belief among extremists that a caliphate an Islamic state governed strictly by Sharia, or Islamic, law is possible and should be fought for. There is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist community. And that is that the west is responsible for everything that goes wrong we can expect to see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. Cruickshank points to the disappointment many young men felt over what they perceive as a failed arab spring. So, if we want global peace and stability to be safeguarded then we should take al-qaida and its affiliates more seriously than ever and dealt them with more determination.

(Author is freelance columnist based in New Delhi and Editor of www.viewsaround.com can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com)

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Rise of bodybuilding in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/rise-of-bodybuilding-in-afghanistan-98765 http://www.khaama.com/rise-of-bodybuilding-in-afghanistan-98765#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 05:21:38 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30966 Rise of bodybuilding in Afghanistan
Bodybuilding is a rapidly advancing sport in Afghanistan. The country is achieving increased acclaim in the sport as highlighted most recently by the Afghan Bodybuilding Team winning 6 gold medals in the 43rd Asian bodybuilding championships this year. Mohammad Yousuf Sakhi, Mohammad Haroun Azimi and Mohammad Asif Sakhi each won two gold medals in the Read the full article...]]>
Rise of bodybuilding in Afghanistan

Bodybuilding is a rapidly advancing sport in Afghanistan. The country is achieving increased acclaim in the sport as highlighted most recently by the Afghan Bodybuilding Team winning 6 gold medals in the 43rd Asian bodybuilding championships this year. Mohammad Yousuf Sakhi, Mohammad Haroun Azimi and Mohammad Asif Sakhi each won two gold medals in the competitions held in Kazakhstan and have gone down in history as the first three Afghan bodybuilders to win gold medals in the Asian competitions.

Afghan bodybuilders have achieved landmark success. Shukerullah Helmandi, a 28 year old bodybuilder from Helmand Province, who twice won the Mr Afghanistan title in 2009 and 2011, went on to win the first ever gold medal for Afghanistan at the 8th South Asian Bodybuilding Championship in Bhutan in 2011.

The Championships were a prominent success for the Afghan team as fellow Afghan bodybuilder Zemerai Popal also won a gold medal and overall the Afghan team achieved first in the championship. The Afghan team took home two gold medals, three silver and one bronze.

These successes highlight not only personal victories for the competitors but are pivotal in highlighting a significant increase in Afghans pursuing bodybuilding. They also draw attention to the daily struggles of these bodybuilders to pursue victory in the sport without having access to the facilities and sponsorships enjoyed by American and European bodybuilders.

Zubairullah Mohsin, the secretary general of the South Asian Bodybuilding Federation and head of the Afghanistan National Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation highlighted this issue;

 “There is no doubt that we have in Afghanistan young sportsmen and athletes who are of top class material with the potential to become champions and secure victory in international competitions. However, in a country that is struggling to find its feet after decades of war and crippling poverty, much work and funding are needed to achieve this.” 

The victories of the Afghan teams highlight the lack of sponsorship deals for athletes and stress the importance of state assistance to enable Afghan athletes to advance into the big leagues. Athletes such as Helmandi have publicly stated that with more government support, they could achieve further victories for Afghanistan in bodybuilding:

 “If I am supplied with [the facilities of] a good club and good food, I will be able to compete globally, and serve up more of the same results as the Asian competitions”

Despite their struggles, the successes of individual bodybuilders such as Helmandi demonstrate to Afghanistan that it is possible to become a champion despite humble roots, inspiring a young generation to pursue bodybuilding. Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal reinstated this aim, stating, “We do whatever we can to persuade youths in the province to take part in sports”.

Moreover, the success of these individual bodybuilders seems to have sparked an increased interest in bodybuilding in the country as a whole. According to recent figures, in Kabul more than 200 gyms have been established and more than 1000 gyms have opened nationwide with more to follow.

The 6 gold medals won by the Afghan Bodybuilding Team in the 43rd Asian bodybuilding championships this year can only increase enthusiasm for the sport. It provides an opportunity to demonstrate to the people of Afghanistan, as well as the bodybuilding community worldwide, how far Afghan bodybuilders have progressed in recent years.

Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, the chairman of the Afghan National Olympic Committee has publicly stressed the Afghan team’s potential for strengthening national unity;

“Becoming a hero is hard and maintaining championship is harder than I ask from you [medal winners] to gain moral medal for the country as well as gold medal in strengthening national unity”

Consistent victories, as well as increased media awareness of the need for financial support for Afghan bodybuilders suggests that Afghanistan can only continue to progress in the sport. A significant increase in the number of gyms available enables more young people to discover bodybuilding and pursue it as a career. As more people enter the sport and Afghan teams continue to achieve landmark victories in major competitions, the future of bodybuilding in Afghanistan looks extremely promising.

Emma Wortley is a freelance writer and actress from Kent, England. She enjoys writing across a variety of topics. You can connect with Emma on Google+ or email her at emma.wortley92@gmail.com

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Afghanistan’s new model army http://www.khaama.com/afghanistans-new-model-army-3216 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistans-new-model-army-3216#comments Sat, 28 Dec 2013 05:43:46 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30821 Afghanistan’s new model army
By Lalage Snow, NATOChanel After three decades of conflict, many young Afghans have only ever known war. But for the first time since its inception, The Afghan National Army has recruited a new breed of soldiers for a year of rigorous training at the new Afghan National Army Officer Academy – modelled on the British Royal Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan’s new model army

By Lalage Snow, NATOChanel

After three decades of conflict, many young Afghans have only ever known war. But for the first time since its inception, The Afghan National Army has recruited a new breed of soldiers for a year of rigorous training at the new Afghan National Army Officer Academy – modelled on the British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Officer Cadet Faizel Manaman from Kunduz left his job as a radio broadcaster to fight against the insurgency. “I came here because my father was also serving as a soldier until recently so it was one of my dreams to work like my father and serve my country with honour,” Manaman said.

His brother in arms, Officer Cadet Nazar Mohammed was already a foot soldier in Uruzgan. His motivations were also personal.

“Two of my friends were killed in action in a roadside bomb in Uruzgan four years ago. It really saddened me. We must fight whether it is with old weapons or limited ammunition. We must fight,” Officer Cadet Nazar Mohammed said.

Meanwhile, Officer Cadet Hajji Mohammed’s patriotism propelled him forward. “My dream was to always to serve my people, and defend the borders of this country. That’s why I decided to become an officer and become a good leader,” said Haji Mohammad.

The new officer academy on the outskirts of Kabul opened its doors in October this year attracting over 10,000 applicants. 920 were put through their paces in a series of mental and physical tests. Only 270 made it.

Officer Cadet Manaman said, “The exams were really hard especially the physical test. I didn’t think I would make it but tried really hard. With the help of God I passed, and here I am today.”

Major Arabuddein Officer in Command, 3 Tolay 1st Kandak said, “In the beginning they were just civilians, they didn’t know anything or have any discipline or know how to march but I see a lot of changes now. Today I can see that they are wearing their helmets and carrying their rifles in the correct military manner and this makes me very proud.”

The year-long course will certainly push the cadets’ mental and physical boundaries. But Officer Cadet Nazar can see the benefit of tough training.

“Training is really hard but it is for our benefit. We are being taught desert tactics which is a real challenge and really difficult but our instructors keep saying that the more you sweat in the training ground, the less you will bleed in the battle,” said Officer Cadet Nazar.

And at five weeks into their training, this first exercise is a real test of their ability.

Captain Reg Dunthorne, 3rd Tolay 1st Kandak mentor said, “We’re extremely happy from day one. All their equipment was issued, they came out quite early. They’ve worked extremely well and have adapted to the environment quite well.”

But the academy is not only creating the future military leaders, it is also uniting the usually divided ethnicities of Afghanistan through real nationalism and pride.

“There are people in this academy from all over Afghanistan. From north, south, east and west and this touches my heart. They all have the national spirit and the same uniform and the national unity which makes me really happy,” said Officer Cadet Hajii Mohammed.

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Afghan men now see women as a challenge, says Farkhunda Zahra Naderi http://www.khaama.com/women-are-seen-as-a-challenge-in-afghanistan-farkhunda-zahra-naderi-2631 http://www.khaama.com/women-are-seen-as-a-challenge-in-afghanistan-farkhunda-zahra-naderi-2631#comments Sun, 22 Dec 2013 07:09:15 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30707
Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, member of the National Assembly of Afghanistan, has unveiled a few myths abou the oppressed Afghan women. While speaking during a round table organized by Asia Society, Farkhunda Zahra Naderi said that women were venturing out of the houses despite being war in the country. Ms. Naderi said, in fact, the focus Read the full article...]]>

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, member of the National Assembly of Afghanistan, has unveiled a few myths abou the oppressed Afghan women.

While speaking during a round table organized by Asia Society, Farkhunda Zahra Naderi said that women were venturing out of the houses despite being war in the country.

Ms. Naderi said, in fact, the focus on women’s rights had changed the Afghan women to the extent that men, used to decades of superiority, were seeing them as a challenge.

She said, men wouldn’t take women seriously. Now, they feared women’s empowerment so much that they got together in July to decrease the 25 per cent quota for women in Parliament, guaranteed by the 2004 Constitution.

“We forgot that the struggle for empowerment has to be done with men. Otherwise there won’t be any common language in families between men and women. Creating borders between the sexes results in more violence in the family and in the community. We have to get more men in our fight. In Parliament too, we have to get them to raise women’s issues,” Naderi quoted by Mumbai Mirror said.

She also insisted for the need to have school students learn about women’s rights, so that boys wouldn’t grow up to feel superior, to keep a watch on their sisters and then to kill them for ‘honour’.

In the meantime, she recommended that a woman should be appointed to the Supremem Court, in a bid to grant a real power for the women. “If a woman got in – and there are qualified and experienced women – she could interpret every law from her perspective. Currently, male jurists can deem any law on women’s rights unIslamic,” she said.

Naderi also emphasized on the importance of elections that would allow the presence of girls in school and of women in politics. “There is no substitute for an election. Only an election will give hope and power to our people. There is fear, but if we make security an excuse, it only helps those who have wielded power so far,” she said.

In the meantime, she warned that fear and a lack of interest may prevent people from voting. “Our democracy is very fresh and fragile and people are critical of it. But I tell them, you have the power to change the status quo. If you don’t, you will be giving power to those who will take you 12 years back. I especially tell the women they must come out and vote so that their children don’t suffer like they did.”

Naderi also pointed towards the euphoria which was achieved following the victory of the Afghan football team in South Asian Football Federation Championship back in September and said, “People had never felt as much joy. Looking at the crowds, I felt we as politicians had failed. This young football team had done what we could not. You could see women on the street celebrating. It was like Independence Day.

“That day, all boundaries were destroyed. Normally in a crowd, you fear the inevitable suicide bomber. But that day even women became part of the crowd without fear, they were so happy. That’s how it should be on an election day,” Naderi said.

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Afpak: the ‘Strategic Depth’ http://www.khaama.com/afpak-the-strategic-depth-9876 http://www.khaama.com/afpak-the-strategic-depth-9876#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 03:34:01 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30676 Afpak: the ‘Strategic Depth’
By Gharanai Khwakhuzhi The term ‘Strategic Depth’ has been word of mouth of recent, after it was brought up during a recent visit of an Afghan delegation to Pakistan attending Pakistan-Afghanistan Bilateral Conference hosted by South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA). The concept of Strategic Depth emerges from the realm of military operations which denotes Read the full article...]]>
Afpak: the ‘Strategic Depth’

By Gharanai Khwakhuzhi

The term ‘Strategic Depth’ has been word of mouth of recent, after it was brought up during a recent visit of an Afghan delegation to Pakistan attending Pakistan-Afghanistan Bilateral Conference hosted by South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA).

The concept of Strategic Depth emerges from the realm of military operations which denotes the distance between enemy forces and the main center of gravity of a country (anything from a military base to economic and commercial hubs). For a military strategist the greater the distance to be traversed by enemy forces to reach these bases, the better are the chances of successful defense line and stance as the enemy in such situations end up in a war of attrition.

One of the best examples of such strategy emerges from German invasion of Soviet Union, where the Soviets traded space for time.

Another example of such policy is the Pakistani Strategic Depth.

As a professor at National Defense University of Pakistan and a military strategist, Gen. (ret) Mirza Aslam Beg, who would go on and become the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan replacing Gen. Zia ul Haq; in early 1980s while the Soviet involvement and engagement in Afghanistan was at its height and Indians had close ties and cooperation with the Soviets, decided to come up with a policy that will prevent an encirclement of Pakistan by its archival India in the East and a Soviet supported Afghanistan in the West.

The policy was to define the Strategic Depth of Pakistan in case of an India invasion. For this Pakistan would assist the Afghan opposition and install a Pakistan friendly government in Kabul and if India invades Pakistan, the Pakistani Army will fall back to Afghanistan so to inflict a War of Attrition on the Indians, thus making Afghanistan Pakistan’s Strategic Depth [de facto].

Mostly this Strategic Depth policy has been rejected by Pakistani establishment and even ridiculed at times by international military strategists, yet this has been the hot topic of recent days.

Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser, brought up the topic at a Senate briefing few days ago where he made it clear that Strategic Depth meant nothing for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Adding Afghanistan was free to make decisions about its political future on its own, that peaceful neighborhood was the top priority of the incumbent government, and that Pakistan was following the policy of non-interference in Afghanistan and not fighting proxy wars.

This made it clear that the idea of Strategic Depth still is on the minds of Pakistani strategists and politicians even though they are trying to overcome it and establish a new, cooperative and peaceful strategy towards Afghanistan.

Now to assess what could be best for both countries in a new strategy towards each other we should consider the recent developments in the region and the ever-growing economic dependency of the regional countries on each other. With this we can come up with a long-term solution and strategy that will counter the problems facing both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In order to accomplish this solution we could start with revers-engineering the 19th and 20th century policy of “Divide and Rule” with a pluralistic and integrative policy. A policy of integration and contexture of interests of different entities, in this case nations.

One of these interests not only for Afghanistan and Pakistan but also India is the urgent and ever-growing need of energy which has hindered the economic growth of the mentioned countries to great extents.

Projects such as CASA-1000 (Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project) where electricity would be transmitted from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India Pipeline) where the pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan into Pakistan and India, and the Kunar River Hydroelectric Dam which is a joint management of common rivers project between Afghanistan and Pakistan providing 1500MW of electricity once constructed; could be some steps toward countering the problem.

Beside the common interests of energy, APTTA (Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement) is another project of mutual interest for both countries which opens doors for the traders of both countries as well as connecting Central Asia with South Asia. With Afghanistan recently becoming a member of International Union of Railways and with the growing railways infrastructure in Afghanistan, APTTA could play a key role in bringing the two regions (Central Asia and South Asia) closer.

The proposed idea of extending Pakistani Motorway to Afghanistan and the Asian Highway Network are some other ideas that could benefit not only the two nations but the region.

These are some of the projects that could make the two countries economically interdependent and with common and mutual interests I don’t see a reason why the two countries cannot walk on the same path parallel to each other in peace.

Now going back to the Strategic Depth policy, India is also developing and growing at a fast pace and would prefer a peaceful neighborhood for its future growth. And with economic dependency of it over Central Asian energy giants, it becomes an obvious urge for it to have cordial and close relations with Pakistan.

Pakistan not having India scratching its back, means Afghanistan would be no more the Strategic Depth of Pakistan military policy, resulting in a common and transparent desire of the two nations to fight terrorism that has been imported and installed in this region.

In conclusion I think adopting each others’ interests as your own will result in interdependency of nations, making a cooperative environment in the region.

We should also remember that the main and core reason behind the success of European integration as an union was the desire of the once conflicting nations to cooperate in sectors of trade and economy so to recover from the aftermaths of World War II.

If the Europeans can manage to live side by side in peace and prosperity after centuries of conflicts between the members of today’s European Union, then the regional countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and India can definitely do it, especially while considering the close history, culture and customs that the nations share with each other.

Gharanai Khwakhuzhi is an Afghan Foreign Service Officer and blogs on topics concerning International Relations, Politics, History and Regional Affairs.

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Migration outside Afghanistan rises by 5 percent http://www.khaama.com/migration-outside-afghanistan-rises-by-5-percent-2626 http://www.khaama.com/migration-outside-afghanistan-rises-by-5-percent-2626#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 16:55:40 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30646 Migration outside Afghanistan rises by 5 percent
The migration of Afghans outside the country has dramatically increased amid uncertainty, poverty and lack of security in the country. The United Nations International Labour Organization in its latest report has revealed that 5 percent of 5.7 million Afghans who had repatriated to Afghanistan since 2002, have migrated outside Afghanistan. UN-ILO in its report described Read the full article...]]>
Migration outside Afghanistan rises by 5 percent

The migration of Afghans outside the country has dramatically increased amid uncertainty, poverty and lack of security in the country.

The United Nations International Labour Organization in its latest report has revealed that 5 percent of 5.7 million Afghans who had repatriated to Afghanistan since 2002, have migrated outside Afghanistan.

UN-ILO in its report described the main motive behind the migration of Afghans outside the country, as lack of employment opportunities.

Deputy minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs & Disabled, Dr. Hasanuddin Hamrah told reporters in capital Kabul on Tuesday that poverty was one of the main factors which has a direct impact on the security and economy of the country.

Dr. Hamrah insisted that migration of Afghans outside the country could be prevented by providing employment opportunities.

In the meantime, Hideki Takahashi, head of the United Nations International Labour Organization (UN-ILO) in Afghanistan said, only 26 percent of the Afghans who have repatriated to Afghanistan, have access to labour market.

Takashi said that the labour situation peaceful provinces were satisfactory, since they have access to labour market and can be employed on daily wage, however the situation is different in restive provinces.

In the meantime, head of the labours association, Maruf Qaderi said the report of UN-ILO is based on interviews conducted in peaceful provinces; therefore the report does not represent the situation labour situation across the country.

Mr. Qaderi suggested that an overall survey should be conducted in various provinces of Afghanistan, in a bid to prepare a proper report regarding the labours across the country.

Qaderi also criticized the concerned government institutions for their activities to provide shelter for the refugees who are repatriating to Afghanistan, and said that the repatriated refugees have not been provided with proper shelter despite millions have been spent on such programs.

However, Omar Kalim Marufi, head of coordination committee in the ministry of refugees and repatriations of Afghanistan said that the government of Afghanistan is able to construct shelters for the Afghans who repatriating to Afghanistan, and they are working closely with the other ministries in this regard.

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Building bridges for cooperation in AfPak http://www.khaama.com/building-bridges-for-cooperation-in-afpak-8976 http://www.khaama.com/building-bridges-for-cooperation-in-afpak-8976#comments Sat, 14 Dec 2013 04:13:40 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30536 Building bridges for cooperation in AfPak
By: Huma Naseri Afghanistan and Pakistan share a lot in common such as religion, cultural and traditional values yet due to the absence of a clear defined foreign policy towards each other, resulting in distrust amongst the tow fragile nations. Looking into the frugality, one can argue, that there is greater demand for building mutual Read the full article...]]>
Building bridges for cooperation in AfPak

By: Huma Naseri

Afghanistan and Pakistan share a lot in common such as religion, cultural and traditional values yet due to the absence of a clear defined foreign policy towards each other, resulting in distrust amongst the tow fragile nations. Looking into the frugality, one can argue, that there is greater demand for building mutual trust between the two countries. When it comes to trust in international politics, realists argue, that because of the complex nature of international system trust is rare among the states. Structure of states is formed in ways that regard to each other they live with suspicion and worry therefore this fear forces them to put their own interests ahead of the interests of others. So in such a scenario what can be done in order to overcome the challenges confronting AfPak Today? It is obvious the challenge cannot be resolved through unilateral approaches because it is no more a wish but an increasing prerequisite to develop comprehensive collaborative approaches to overcome the challenges that they are facing.

During my recent visit to Pakistan, meeting with journalists, politicians, government officials and stake holders, I realized the main issues which have cause misperception and distrust between the two nations are primary the below two: .

  • Terrorism and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan
  • Growing uneasiness in Pakistan over India’s presence in Afghanistan

Terrorism and Taliban safe havens in Pakistan:

Since 9/11 Pakistan and Afghanistan have become a center of political instability, terrorism, economical and social weaknesses. Al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens have undermined Pakistan’s national security and coasted the Pakistani economy billions in collateral damage. Likewise, support for Taliban sanctuaries resulted in thousands of causalities, peace and stability and democracy in Afghanistan. Against this background, there is a dire need for a strong bilateral cooperation between the two countries to mutually deal with terrorism and extremism in the region. If Afghanistan continues to suffer from cross-border terrorism and extremism, there remains no chance and hope for peace and stability in Pakistan and vice-versa.

Growing uneasiness in Pakistan over India’s presence in Afghanistan:

This scenario could be further divided into two parts:

1: Pakistan seems to be using one of the dimensions of framework of ‘Trust theory’ by finding attribution bias. Social psychologist argues that sometime people use their beliefs and prejudice to explain the behavior of others. To put it an illustration, during a recently organized conference a Pakistani fellow asked a question why India has 27 consulates in Afghanistan now the reality is that India has five consulates, three were old ones and two newly established. This example proofs the argument of social-psychologist and illustrates the importance of distinguishing trust from the illusion.

2: Afghanistan is a sovereign nation and committed to the principles of Territorial Integrity under the ‘Good Neighborly Relations’, Afghanistan and its six neighbors signed in Kabul in 2002. Based on International Law, Afghanistan as a sovereign state has also its legal right to maintain relations with any country to pursue its strategic interests. Afghanistan never showed any concern about Pakistan relations with world since it fully respects Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

To sum up, both of the countries are well aware of the ground realties and strategic depth of each other since they are suffering from the same unrest and state security and internal stability still seems too far away. Given the fact that, the conflict and mistrust between these two countries is deep rooted in history but let’s also not forget the very obvious fact, that in context of regional stability building trust is essential to create the environment of cooperation between the two nations. The “blame game” will neither help nor guide them to a peaceful future. Thus the status-quo in both countries suggests to focus substantially on realization of common aspects that has the potential and promises for peace, security and economic growth on both sides.

Recommendation:

In institutionalism, the existence of institutional incentives explains trust. The trust can be built when parties involved are protected from misuse by structures that provide incentives and assurances for cooperation, for instance  the ‘ Transit Trade Agreement’ it’s important that the two countries ratify and sign it which will allow Afghans to transit goods through Pakistan to markets in India and open up Central Asia to Pakistan. It has been said if the agreement gets ratified it would increase trade between the countries to $5 billion a year, from $1.5 billion. This will eventually lead toward trust in relationship, increase economic growth, put an end to many problems and contribute to the prosperity in the region.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are confronting almost the same menaces and stands in similar state of affairs. Pakistan had its elections and Afghanistan’s presidential elections are scheduled in April next year. Both the new administrations should bring changes in their policies towards each other and use more cohesive approaches. Second and third track diplomacies should be enhanced between these two countries as people to people linkages are the core to build the relations. Only cooperation without assurances, can be evidence of trust among the actors.

I certainly hope both countries to learn lesson from their past and make every single move to open the way for taking a step for trust-building.

Huma Naseri, holds a M.A in International Relations from Germany and writes on regular bases for her blog and sometimes BBC Pashtu covering issues related to Afghanistan.

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Women prepare for historic elections in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/women-prepare-for-historic-elections-in-afghanistan-2611 http://www.khaama.com/women-prepare-for-historic-elections-in-afghanistan-2611#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 06:22:17 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30516 Women prepare for historic elections in Afghanistan
By Lally and Samim, NATO Channel In the last presidential elections, women voters and MPs faced persecution, death threats and violence. With 2014’s elections drawing near, NATO Channel speaks to female MPs who discuss the real issues facing female voters. Women’s rights have come a long way in the last 12 years in Afghanistan yet the Read the full article...]]>
Women prepare for historic elections in Afghanistan

By Lally and Samim, NATO Channel

In the last presidential elections, women voters and MPs faced persecution, death threats and violence. With 2014’s elections drawing near, NATO Channel speaks to female MPs who discuss the real issues facing female voters.

Women’s rights have come a long way in the last 12 years in Afghanistan yet the struggle for emancipation is still in its infancy.

And with the presidential elections looming ever closer, the pressure is on to ensure that the gains made for women in Afghanistan are not lost and that they can participate freely and fairly in the country’s new democracy.

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, Female MP said, “2014 is very important for Afghan women. We try our best that we can mobilise women to come and participate in the election. Their vote is their strength. Of course, this is the only means that women can show their power.”

“The participation of women is very important so if women do not vote it undermines the legitimacy of the elections. Women make up half of Afghanistan’s society and so their vote is very crucial,” Zahara Sapher (human rights campaigner) said.

However, in the last presidential elections, female voters themselves faced huge problems when it came to having their voices heard and voting.

“In the last elections I saw a woman going to register for her voting card. When she came out of the office, she was killed,” said Fatima Azizi, MP representing Kunduz province.

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi said, “One of the main challenges, the physical security that we are hoping, with the support of the international community, our army that so far showed their success, they maintain that success.”

The Independent Election Commission has also committed to providing a secure environment for women to vote freely.

Noor Mohammad Noor, Spokesman, Independent Election Commission said, “We had lots of discussions with the Ministry of Interior who are in charge of security for the polling centres. We have given the same rights to both men and women.”

Indeed with a new generation of voters now registering for the first time, this security is imperative.

“This new generation that is coming – they will see themselves in a big gap, so the only means that they can narrow that gap and they can be part of the power, is to come in to vote. Otherwise no-one can understand them, no- one can feel them and they will always be isolated and their talent, the beauty of their energy, they all can get wasted,” said Farkhunda Zahra Naderi.

“I am really happy that I have registered to vote. In the last election I was too young, but now I can vote for whoever I think would be the best president,” said Nahid Bikaraan, first-time voter.

But although young women like Nahid are keen to have their voices heard, there is a deeper issue in hand.

Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, Female MP said, “One of the main problems for women at this stage is the uncertainty. It means that they are uncertain in their mind. Not only women, but youth, all Afghan nation – they are confused. They don’t know how this time is moving towards 2014 and election. So it is very essential to give to the general public the mental security to say that life doesn’t end in 2014. It’s just one phase is finished and a new phase is coming.”

However with a 25 per cent increase of violence against women this year alone, reported by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the fate of women in Afghanistan hangs very much in the balance.

“It is very tough. But I believe in hard work. I believe in determination. And I believe that if we get together and if we realise the time that we are right now and our small movement can bring the biggest changes in this country,” said Farkhunda Zahra Naderi.

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Why Karzai chose to play hard ball with US? http://www.khaama.com/why-karzai-chose-to-play-hard-ball-with-us-76543 http://www.khaama.com/why-karzai-chose-to-play-hard-ball-with-us-76543#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 06:10:26 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30512 Why Karzai chose to play hard ball with US?
By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai During his rule from more than a decade in the country President Karzai perhaps seems a more unpredictable, egoistic smart president rather than a reliable ally of the United States. Adding to the frustration of the most favored ally during the past decade with which he once enjoyed a special relationship and Read the full article...]]>
Why Karzai chose to play hard ball with US?

By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai

During his rule from more than a decade in the country President Karzai perhaps seems a more unpredictable, egoistic smart president rather than a reliable ally of the United States.

Adding to the frustration of the most favored ally during the past decade with which he once enjoyed a special relationship and marriage of connivance particularly during Bush era, once again he pushed for his conditions and denied any agreement before his demands are met.

His demands include setting free the Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo and further assurances from the United States that its forces will not raid Afghan homes and its sincere commitment to help start stalled peace talks with Taliban.

Following US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins, the US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (who didn’t meet Karzai during his recent visit) was the latest among US authorities who visited Afghanistan recently persuading Afghan administration to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) before the next presidential elections.

In a rare political maneuvering the president, who is constitutionally barred from running in the forthcoming elections, refused to back away from his recalcitrant stance, this time with a stricter stance in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Karzai said “what I’ve been hearing in recent days and heard in the past is classic colonial exploitation.”

Three core reasons underpin around Karzai recalcitrant stance:

President Karzai perhaps wants to be remembered as a patriot Afghan leader rather than a foreign puppet. His egoistic nature compels him to leave a name in the history of a figure that thought and worked for the greater interest of his people, by standing against and not allowing a major power like the United States to raid their houses or reach an agreement with them without the condition of bringing peace.

Secondly his major concern probably is regarding political settlement with Taliban for which he has been pushing from 2007. His fear perhaps is that after the April poll when a new president come in power and in case he is not assured of this lukewarm political settlement, which experienced plethora of problems and major setbacks during the past few years, there will be another chaos in the country, where the fire and fight will continue for unpredictable time in the future.

According to him, if he signs the BSA and peace is not brought to the country, who will be blamed by history; off course he will be blamed for it. He stated that “we want the security agreement with the condition of peace, it must bring peace to the country, i know that America can bring peace to Afghanistan if they truly want.”

Thirdly he doesn’t want any foreign interference or any hijacking of the forthcoming April 2014 polls in Afghanistan like in the past. He want make sure that the elections are held in a more transparent way.

These conditions are perhaps understandable and pragmatic. Still there is time the NATO and US military could work on the post 2014 peaceful Afghanistan.

Though the relationship between the two countries seems worse than they have been and almost on the knife’s edge but there are many reasons which proves that the Bilateral Security Agreement will be signed as it is inevitable for both Afghanistan and the United States.

Hopes are there among Afghans that the BSA will be signed between the two countries as on one hand the Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) and Afghan people have shown their agreement regarding signing of the BSA while on the other hand from both Afghan and US authorities statements it seems that there is absolute possibility of the signing of the agreement. As Chuck Hagel following a meeting with the Afghan Defense Minister said that he has been assured that the BSA would be signed in a timely manner, also the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford said recently that he will continue planning for a post 2014 forces in Afghanistan. In the meantime, a top US senator in a letter to President Barack Obama, suggested that the Washington should wait until a new Afghan leader is elected to sign the agreement.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins in his latest remarks to U.S. Foreign Relations Committee mentioned that he has no doubt that the BSA with Afghanistan will be concluded.

 Its only matter of few months where both countries could reach an agreement that is of vital interest to both countries.

In case there is complete withdrawal of troops, this will be a catastrophic scenario, not only for Afghanistan but also for the whole region.

Currently Afghanistan is in the grip of many challenges emerging from inside the country and extending its tentacles from the neighbor countries, hence it is hoped that unlike the past the international community will not leave Afghanistan in isolation and its people in the lurch.

Mr. Ahmad Shah Katawazai is Diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and permanent member of the Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan.

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The fight against explosive devices in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/the-fight-against-explosive-devices-in-afghanistan-3172 http://www.khaama.com/the-fight-against-explosive-devices-in-afghanistan-3172#comments Tue, 10 Dec 2013 05:58:47 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30456 The fight against explosive devices in Afghanistan
The fight against explosive devices in Afghanistan Jake Tupman – NATO Channel In Afghanistan, bags of ammonium nitrate are smuggled over the border with Pakistan to use as homemade explosives while insurgents turn innocuous household items into improvised explosive devices. While stepping on one almost certainly means serious injury or death, disposing of them can Read the full article...]]>
The fight against explosive devices in Afghanistan

The fight against explosive devices in Afghanistan

Jake Tupman – NATO Channel

In Afghanistan, bags of ammonium nitrate are smuggled over the border with Pakistan to use as homemade explosives while insurgents turn innocuous household items into improvised explosive devices. While stepping on one almost certainly means serious injury or death, disposing of them can be just as dangerous.

“These numbers are saved here. Whenever you are dialing these numbers on the cell phones, then there is caps, electric caps, and automatically those caps are activated and the IED goes off,” Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR), Conventional Weapons Destruction, Project Manager Hukum Khan Rasooly said.

And while stepping on one almost certainly means serious injury or death, disposing of them can be just as dangerous.

Just outside Kabul local elders discover what they believe to be old Soviet explosives. A specialist team from the Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation or OMAR, led by Hukum Khan Rasooly is called out to investigate.

Rasuly said, “They look like a toy for the children. When they come across them, they do not have that knowledge to recognise that these are UXOs or sub-ammunition. They start playing with them, and that causes them to blow off. And most of the casualties now in Afghanistan are from these items.”

The first thing that strikes you about these unexploded devices is just how inconspicuous they are. They really do look like any other rock. And you can just imagine a child from the local village, which is about 100 metres in that direction walking over and picking one up. And that is how thousands of people die in Afghanistan every year.

After the explosives have been found, many are destroyed in place, work that requires a deft hand and nerves of steel. One wrong move could see an explosive ordnance disposer blown to pieces.

But not all explosives are detonated in location. Explosive ordnance disposal teams from the Afghan security forces collect weapons caches from all over the country and bring them to police stations like this one where they are prepared for disposal.

“The bags you see contain 300kg of ammonium paste. We found it in a 2007 model Toyota Corolla ready to use in a suicide attack. It was discovered at Pul-e-Charkhi Gate in Kabul and diffused.”

“The danger is the threats to the roads, villages and people. Children cannot go to school. It has threatened agriculture. Farmers cannot work freely,” Afghan security forces Deputy Commander of weapons collection, Colonel Aqa Gul Mushtaq said.

After the explosives are diffused, they’re taken to controlled disposal sites such as this one in Jalalabad. Today, conventional weapons destruction teams or CWDs funded by the US Department of State prepare to remotely detonate 2.5 tonnes of explosive materials.

“Around 100,000 tonnes of UXO are separated around Afghanistan. Just imagine, by the collecting and destroying of those items, how many innocent lives have been saved,” Hukum Khan Rasooly said.

Organisations such as OMAR, HALO and Sterling (two other organisations which , like OMAR deal with mine clearance and explosive ordinance disposal) focus efforts on training diffusers, clearing ordnance and running programmes to educate local people on the risks of unexploded ordnance. And with counter-IED now an integral part of the NATO Training Mission Organisations such as OMAR, HALO and Sterling (two other organisations which, like OMAR deal with mine clearance and explosive ordinance disposal) focus efforts on training diffusers, clearing ordnance and running programmes to educate local people on the risks of unexploded ordnance.

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Why the Toyota Corolla is Afghanistan’s favourite car http://www.khaama.com/why-the-toyota-corolla-is-afghanistans-favourite-car-8765 http://www.khaama.com/why-the-toyota-corolla-is-afghanistans-favourite-car-8765#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 05:32:18 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=30195 Why the Toyota Corolla is Afghanistan’s favourite car
By: Bradley Taylor The Toyota Corolla has been manufactured by the Japanese automaker since the 1960s, and by 1974, had been declared the world’s best-selling car. Synonymous with reliability and practicality, this small family car is sold all over the world. But one country in particular has developed something of a love affair with this Read the full article...]]>
Why the Toyota Corolla is Afghanistan’s favourite car

By: Bradley Taylor

The Toyota Corolla has been manufactured by the Japanese automaker since the 1960s, and by 1974, had been declared the world’s best-selling car. Synonymous with reliability and practicality, this small family car is sold all over the world.

But one country in particular has developed something of a love affair with this particular model – and that country is Afghanistan!

Why is the Toyota Corolla such a popular car in Afghanistan?

Just as the Ford Mustang is a popular car in the United States, Afghanistan’s popular car of choice is the Toyota Corolla. There are many reasons why this car is much-loved:

  • Price – despite the high import taxes levied against foreign cars, the Toyota Corolla is actually quite affordable by many Afghan drivers. The most sought-after models tend to be ones that are a few years old, although brand new models are also purchased by people in Afghanistan.
  • Practicality – there are obviously all sorts of cars in the world which range in a number of different shapes and sizes. The Toyota Corolla is the perfect small to medium-sized family car, as it offers good cabin and boot space, comfort and must-have features such as air conditioning.
  • Reliability – Japanese cars are pretty well-known for their reliability, especially if they are built by companies such as Toyota, who often go to extreme lengths to ensure that their vehicles are built to the highest quality standards.
  • Availability of spare parts – because a vast proportion of the cars on Afghan roads are Toyota Corollas, it is extremely easy to get spare parts. Many people tend to recycle parts from wrecked models, but there is also good availability of brand new parts too.
  • Good on gas – another reason why this car is so popular is because it offers a good mix of fuel economy and engine performance, which is essential when you are living and working in a country such as Afghanistan.

If you ever take a trip out to Afghanistan and wander around the city streets of Kabul, for example, you will notice that even the vast majority of the city’s yellow taxi cabs are Toyota Corollas! Up to 80% of the cars on Kabul’s busy and often congested streets are Toyota Corollas, according to Kabul’s traffic police chief, General Asadullah Khan.

Author biography – Bradley Taylor is a freelance writer who writes across a variety of subjects and particularly loves writing about everything automotive. He loves travelling and learning anything about everything. You can find him on Twitter and Google+.

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Hakimullah Death Will Cost Pakistan http://www.khaama.com/hakimullah-death-will-cost-pakistan-8765 http://www.khaama.com/hakimullah-death-will-cost-pakistan-8765#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 17:31:05 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=29744
By Manish Rai The Killing of Pakistani Taliban aka Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud along with his four associates by the drone strike in the lawless North Waziristan agency has jeopardize the proposed peace talks between the Pakistani Government and Taliban. The drone strike came at a time when the government was all set Read the full article...]]>

By Manish Rai

The Killing of Pakistani Taliban aka Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud along with his four associates by the drone strike in the lawless North Waziristan agency has jeopardize the proposed peace talks between the Pakistani Government and Taliban. The drone strike came at a time when the government was all set to initiate peace talks with the Taliban to end the bloody cycle of violence in the country that has killed at least 7,000 security personnel and nearly 40,000 people. This drone strike came at the worst time for the government. The environment for this proposed peace process was being built by the Nawaz Sharif government brick by brick since it came to the power moreover it was very much serious to deliver on its election promise to bring peace by talking to Taliban. But now all these efforts for peace have been washed away because of this wrong timing US Drone Strike everything again has to be started from scratch now. Some people are seeing this killing as the deliberate attempt by the United States to derail the peace process even the Pakistani state establishment acknowledging that. Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, described the drone strike as “an attempt to sabotage the talks”.

He said the strike had come a day before a three-member delegation of government negotiators was to head to the north-west to start peace talks with the TTP. Pakistani officials had been expecting the drone strikes to stop ahead of the negotiations so that the right environment for the talks can be made but this strike raises a “Question Mark” on the intentions of the US over the issue of peace in Pakistan. This time peace talks had the backing from the top TTP leadership including Hakimullah but now after being killed Mehsud will not be remembered for the blood he has shed, but as a ‘man who wanted to talk but wasn’t given the chance’ or a man who was betrayed. Pakistan must understand that America is not here to stay forever. By 2014, they intend to pull out and they don’t have much to lose with regards to how Hakimullah Mehsud was killed but for Pakistan, however, it’s a different story. Now, and for years to come, many children in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will be told stories of the “great warrior” who fought against the American “devils” and in the end he ‘died a holy death’. Any other narrative of the story will not be accepted by most. Moreover direct fallout of this killing will be the vengeance by the Taliban which will claim the lives of many innocent people. Taliban commander from North Waziristan Abu Omar has already issued a statement in which he said our revenge will be unprecedented and they considered the Pakistani government was also “fully complicit” in the drone strike.

Loosely in command of some 30 militant groups in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud was responsible for some of the Taliban’s most damaging strikes against Western interests in the region, organising repeated attacks against Nato convoys heading through the Khyber Pass region to neighbouring Afghanistan. So by killing him United States has only safeguarded its interest and sidelined the Pakistani interest. It seemed that US thinks that decapitation or the strategy of killing top commanders of terrorist groups is quite important from the counter-terrorism standpoint. But considering the loose structure, vague ideology and motivation of the TTP, this strategy may not work. Organizations like the TTP are never short on leadership hence killing of Hakimullah may not affect the TTP’s continuity in carrying out attacks. A close aide of Hakimullah Khan Said alias Sajnaa is likely to take over as the Ameer (Chief) of TTP. There could be a violent backlash in the form of reprisal attacks in various parts of the country. If the group stages large-scale attacks, it would be an indicator of its strength and viability and the death of Hakimullah will result in more upsurge of right wing forces.

One of the immediate negative effects of this present incident is that it has united the right and extreme right wing political forces of Pakistan. Imran khan and Choudry Nisar are using same language and share explanation of Hakimullah death as conspiracy to derail peace talk. The killing of Hakimullah Mehsud is a serious blow to the TTP, which just months ago lost deputy commander Wali Rehman Mehsud under similar circumstances for the group there is a serious leadership crisis now. Indeed the assassination of a top leader can sometimes be a blessing in disguise because it can bring a stronger and more cunning leader forward. Hassan Nasrallah, for example, has been a devilishly effective leader for Hezbollah, helping the Iranian-backed terror organization to all but take over Lebanon and now spread its influence into Syria. He might never have gotten the chance to lead, however, if Israel hadn’t eliminated his predecessor, Abbas al-Musawi, in 1992. This might happen with TTP as well the new leader Sajna, as he is called, is confirmed as the replacement leader, and his track record is a bloodthirsty one. He is believed to be behind the freeing of almost 400 prisoners from a jail in northwest Pakistan in 2012, and also that year, a co-ordinated attack on an air base in Pakistan. His reputation is of a hardliner and his vowing that suicide bombings will now occur does not bode well for any peace talks.

Earlier on also, a number of leading figures of TTP have been eliminated through drone attacks, these include: Nek Muhammad, Baitullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain, Ilyas Kashmiri, Maulvi Nazir, Waliur Rehman Mehsud etc. Most of these commanders were killed when they showed inclination to enter into negotiations with Pakistan. Hakimullah also met a similar fate. In fact, every time Pakistan is close to find out a negotiated settlement of the militancy issue, and attempts to tame the disgruntled Taliban through parleys, the process is sabotaged by the drone strikes. It’s a high time for Pakistan to safeguard its interest, peace, and stability otherwise it will be dragged again into a violent insurgency for years to come. Pakistani state should understand that it has to come out of the US shadow to have its own strategy for peace work.

(Author is freelance columnist based in New Delhi and Editor of www[dot]viewsaround[dot]com can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com)

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Afghanistan is not alone http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-is-not-alone-by-shafiq-hamdam-29612 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-is-not-alone-by-shafiq-hamdam-29612#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 08:35:43 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=29612 Afghanistan is not alone
A decade ago Afghanistan was under serious sanctions of the US and the international community. It was a safe haven for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. But today it is a strong ally of the world community against terrorism and Al-Qaeda. It’s not any more under sanctions, but a strategic partner of the US and major western Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan is not alone

A decade ago Afghanistan was under serious sanctions of the US and the international community. It was a safe haven for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. But today it is a strong ally of the world community against terrorism and Al-Qaeda. It’s not any more under sanctions, but a strategic partner of the US and major western states. Afghanistan is not yet perfect. But it’s come a long way and it’s not Afghanistan of 1990s.

It was October 2001, when the US and its allies engaged in a military campaign in Afghanistan. 12 years ago in the same month. I have witnessed that the US-led and Afghan-backed mission succeeded in removing the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their foreign allies within six weeks from their strongest base, know as Tora Bora. It was located only 35 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Jalalabad city, where I was living among thousands of other Afghan citizens, who were suffering under the Taliban regime.

Many citizens were worried that after overthrowing the Taliban regime the coalition forces will go back to their countries. And I personally never thought of their long-term support and contributions to Afghanistan. So their contribution for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan was surprising for many Afghans. The mission has evolved from counterterrorism to counter insurgency and reconstruction of Afghanistan. As results over a decade, more than 4,500 school buildings have constructed, nearly 8,000 kilometers of national highways and roads have been built and thousands of reconstruction projects have been implemented across the country.

Of course we cannot depend on the US and the international aids forever. Like every other country we have to be self-sustaining and take responsibility as the owners of our future. So in order to be self-sustaining we have to work hard. But still it will require years for Afghanistan and we will not be able to do it, without the support of the US and the international community.

We are living in the era of globalization, so we have to establish a solid relationship with the neighboring countries and with the region and countries outside the region. Besides the trade passageways, Afghanistan offers unique opportunities for investment. It has enormous explored and unexploited natural resources including minerals, gas, oil, hydrocarbons and other materials that worth trillions of USD. These resources are crucially needed within the region and across the world. So in order to explore, extract and use these treasures, we need to maintain our relationship and cooperation with the developing countries.

There are still many challenges; corruption, unemployment and insecurity are major issues of concerns for the Afghan people. But they are optimistic about their future and they understand that state building and reform is a long-term process. Appreciating the commitments and contributions of the US government and its people, Afghans are gradually taking more responsibilities in every aspect. Successful security transition is a perfect example.

12 years presence of the US military and civilians in Afghanistan has built an unprecedented relationship between the US and the Afghan government. In this period citizens of both counties has also built a close relationship. The joint sacrifice and efforts of the Afghans and Americans has enabled Afghanistan to regain its sovereignty and international recognition. In last one decade we have created sufficient political, economic and social forces. Many Afghans believe that a swift political transition will safeguard this country against the return of Afghanistan to the miseries of the past. And they also believe that a bilateral security agreement with the US will secure mutual interests of the both countries.

There are diverse views about the Afghan-US relationship. But the majority of the Afghan people is strongly supporting continuity of this relationship. Endorsement of Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US by over 2500 representatives of the Afghan people from across the country at the Consultative Loya Jirga in 2011 and its approval by the mass majority of the Afghan parliamentarians, are clear examples.

During the last one decade the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States has grown stronger. It is not only between the governments, but also between the citizens of these two countries. A recently established bipartisan collation of the Afghan and the US civil society leaders, senior former officials and diplomats, The Alliance in Support of the Afghan People (ASAP), is another strong step in protecting the progress made by the Afghan people over the last 12 years.

Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam is the Founder and Chairman of the Afghan Anti-Corruption Network. The Afghan Anti-Corruption Network is the leading and the largest network of civil society organizations fighting corruption in Afghanistan. He is a fellow of the Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative and also a signatory to the Alliance in Support of the Afghan People, a bipartisan coalition dedicated to preserving and protecting the progress made by the Afghan people since 2001.

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Peace Music festival brings Afghanistan and region together http://www.khaama.com/peace-music-festival-brings-afghanistan-and-region-together-1998 http://www.khaama.com/peace-music-festival-brings-afghanistan-and-region-together-1998#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 05:49:41 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=29450 Peace Music festival brings Afghanistan and region together
In a week when another suicide attack rocked Kabul, the city came together in a show of solidarity and rocked to music rather than shockwaves. The Peace Music Festival took place in Kabul, as musicians from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Tajikistan came to the famous Babur Gardens to play for a large crowd, while many Read the full article...]]>
Peace Music festival brings Afghanistan and region together

In a week when another suicide attack rocked Kabul, the city came together in a show of solidarity and rocked to music rather than shockwaves.

The Peace Music Festival took place in Kabul, as musicians from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Tajikistan came to the famous Babur Gardens to play for a large crowd, while many more watched on television across the country. In a week that also saw another suicide attack on Kabul, the concert’s message was clear: Afghans want peace.

The Peace music festival, hosted by Afghan radio station Youth FM, saw a large crowd turn up to the famous Barbur Gardens in Kabul to watch hip-hop, reggae, rock and pop artists from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Tajikistan.. In a week when another suicide attack rocked Kabul, the festival with the slogan, shana ba shana, or shoulder to shoulder in English, encouraged Afghanistan’s youth to unite for peace in the country and the region, and to rock Kabul in a different way.

Festival organiser Arif Ahmadi said, “People are tired of war. And every night they are turning on their TV and there is breaking news about war. I hope that through this concert we bring a little smile on the face of the people and this is the idea behind it. So we want to send another message, another image from Afghanistan that ok, we have problems but there is happiness happening in this country too.”

The first day of the two-day festival was for females only, but on day two, as it aired on television to millions across the nation, the gates were opened to everyone.

An Afghan who attended the festival said, “Today we have gathered here to show we are united and we want peace andalso, to deliver a message that we are united against our enemies.”

An Afghan man said, “During the Taliban era, girls were not even allowed to come out of the home. Now they are attending concerts with the boys, in the same arena.”

“In the past 12 years, we could do nothing. We could not even come out from our houses freely. We could not even go out with our mothers, our sisters. But right now we have really the rights that a human must have,” said an Afghan student who attended the festival.

Afghan superstar singer Aryana Sayeed said, “Art and music is a big part of our culture. You know, no matter what, people love listening to music, and people love singers, and they always listen to singers. And I think the best way to bring across a message is to do it through music.”

The festival celebrated a multi-cultural, modern, inclusive Afghanistan, and while the young, affluent crowd wasn’t representative of the whole country, the concert’s message was clear – that Afghan people want peace, and that there is more to this country than war.

Report by Jake Tupman – NATO Channel

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US-Afghanistan Close to Ink Bilateral Security Agreement http://www.khaama.com/us-afghanistan-close-to-ink-bilateral-security-agreement-8765 http://www.khaama.com/us-afghanistan-close-to-ink-bilateral-security-agreement-8765#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 02:44:00 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=29276 US-Afghanistan Close to Ink Bilateral Security Agreement
After three rounds of extensive negotiations, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and United States Secretary of State John Kerry reached a deal on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Within the next few weeks, the agreement will go through several governmental institutions in Afghanistan, including Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) for procedural rules before it is ready to Read the full article...]]>
US-Afghanistan Close to Ink Bilateral Security Agreement

After three rounds of extensive negotiations, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and United States Secretary of State John Kerry reached a deal on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). Within the next few weeks, the agreement will go through several governmental institutions in Afghanistan, including Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) for procedural rules before it is ready to be signed.

Distinct from the Bilateral Strategic Partnership formalized during President Barack Obama’s visit to Kabul on May 02, 2012, this security agreement will allow the United States to own as many as nine military bases in Afghanistan and grant immunity to U.S military personnel from persecution under the Afghan law.

Two considerations have carried special value in casing the impasse. The first one beckons the assurance of stability of Afghanistan against foreign aggression. The other one revolves around securing guarantees for Afghanistan’s national sovereignty.

In the field of assuring Afghanistan’s stability against foreign invasion, Karzai finds it a cause of deep concerns, that despite its solid commitment to Afghanistan’s security in the Strategic Partnership, the United States has not delivered on its promises. “In the Strategic Partnership Agreement, America committed to support Afghanistan in case of attack on Afghanistan. But we realized that, after signing the Strategic Partnership, one of our neighboring countries [Pakistan] shot missiles, rockets, and bullets on Afghan soil, but America did not even recognize that such violation occurred.” Karzai said in his address.

Pakistan’s military establishments have long been accused of shelling Afghan villages in the east and having links with notorious militant organizations that kill U.S-Afghan troops. “It is a problem that terrorist can cross the border, conduct terrorist acts in Afghanistan and then seek sanctuaries, safe havens in Pakistan.” said NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen to reporters after NATO members met to discuss Afghanistan on April 23, 2013 in Brussels.

In the area of national sovereignty, Karzai also finds it troubling that unilateral counter-terrorism operations and air strikes carried out by international forces in Afghanistan are not coordinated with Kabul. Interestingly, the Afghan President seemed to have resolved both matters by stating “After a long and serious discussion, we reached agreement on a range of issues. In these agreements, the United States will no longer conduct operations by themselves.”

For his part, Secretary Kerry identified America’s crucial need in the BSA: immunity for American men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan. Kerry stressed upon the importance of immunity by saying “If the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, then, unfortunately, there cannot be a bilateral security agreement.” In historical retrospect with respect to Iraq, failure to reach a similar deal with Baghdad prompted the United States to pull out completely.

Once inked, the Bilateral Security Agreement will orchestrate the U.S mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014 – mainly assuming a supportive role in training Afghan security forces and conducting joint counter-terrorism operations.

In a late Saturday night press conference, officials and reports appeared satisfied that, despite their long and serious discussions over issues of Afghanistan’s sovereignty and America’s immunity, the two leaders were in substantial agreement over a wide range of critical issues.

People in Afghanistan cannot view with satisfaction the prospect of a continuation of the division of authority between the United States and Afghanistan, which has prevailed in Kabul for the past year. With his personal warmth and understanding of the Afghan government and society, Secretary Kerry has been able to bridge that division.

Sami Jabarkhail is a Fulbright Scholar at Texas A&M University. Email him at sjabark@gmail.com.

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Afghanistan – The Evolving Election Scenario http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-the-evolving-election-scenario-90987 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-the-evolving-election-scenario-90987#comments Fri, 20 Sep 2013 12:20:59 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=28614 Afghanistan – The Evolving Election Scenario
By Dr. Hussain Yasa Nominations for the Afghani presidency opened on the 16th September and with this milestone the country formally entered the pre-election period. Over the next seven months Afghanistan will be turned into one great reality TV show, watched by the world, while the candidates practice our unique brand of politics. In the Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan – The Evolving Election Scenario

By Dr. Hussain Yasa

Nominations for the Afghani presidency opened on the 16th September and with this milestone the country formally entered the pre-election period. Over the next seven months Afghanistan will be turned into one great reality TV show, watched by the world, while the candidates practice our unique brand of politics. In the run up to nominations, the alternating announcements of electoral coalitions and rumors that the election will not happen, have given a taste of the intricate tactics involved in Afghan politics. However the 2014 poll is different from the elections in 2004 and 2009. In both of those elections the incumbent was widely expected to win. That is the one outcome which is ruled out in the 2014 election because of the bar on the President standing for a third time. This time the election scenario involves three contests rolled into one. The first contest is between those prepared to participate in the Kabul-based political system and those trying to overthrow it by force, which boils down to the Taliban versus the rest. If any candidate is elected legitimately in April 2014 it will mark a victory for those who support democratic politics. The second contest is over the nature of the elections, between those who try to ensure that there is a popular mandate and those trying to grab control of the electoral machinery to rig the elections. The third contest is the one which has been shaping up between the emerging coalitions. It boils down to the contest between palace and opposition over how different the new team in the presidency should be from that which has struggled to rule Afghanistan over the past decade. This analysis of the evolving scenario takes a look at the current state of the three contests.

The first contest – violent extremism versus Kabul-based politics

The latest generation of jihadists is fighting to overthrow the Kabul-based political system and reject the idea of trusting elections to choose Afghanistan’s leader. The most famous group in the armed opposition is the Taliban. However, as the war has continued, various Afghan factions have come to operate under the Taliban flag, with backing from jihadist circles in Pakistan and what remains of Al Qaeda’s international militant alliance. Although apparently marginalized less influential than before, Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbadin Hekmatyar still operates alongside those who have preferred fighting over peaceful politics. The Taliban have a clear vision of eliminating their opponents by force. The Taliban have unambiguous faith in their ideology, life style and peculiar interpretation of religion. They do not believe in democracy and still follow their distant dream to implement a “Khilafat” headed by their Amir-ul-Mominin (The leader of faithful), the notorious Mullah Omar. They are committed to toppling the fragile system and hope to dominate Afghanistan as the victorious force after the withdrawal of the US-led ISAF.

The second contest – palace politics and popular mandate versus rigging

Karzai led regime (L’ETAT C’EST MOOI)

THE RUSE OF CONSENSUS CANDIDATE – ZULMAY MEDVEDEV – MOST PLAUSIBLE MAIN STRATEGY – BUT HE HAS FALL BACK STRATEGIES ASO

President Hamed has been ruling over Afghanistan since the fall of Taliban in late 2001. With the wholehearted support of US and its international partners, he managed to lead Afghanistan over the last decade with many positive and undesirable developments.

Following the same line of his predecessors, Karzai is deeply reluctant to step down. He is busy conceiving plans about how to remain in power indirectly through his loyalists in the palace. His body language suggests that he has not really accepted that he was elected president twice for a specific time period. Instead he seems to believe that ruling over this war torn country is his God given right.

His last two elections were flawed and in 2009 his bid to win in one round was declared fraudulent. Interestingly the world never really punished their Afghan client for his ballot stuffing and engineering of electoral results. Apparently they thought that Afghan democracy needs more time to mature. But on the contrary, in our dealing with election-rigging the whole democratization process and achievements of the twelve year international mission in Afghanistan are at stake.

The palace team of experienced election riggers has a lot of opportunities, including the flawed electoral system, the absence of an authentic census and voter list, millions of fake voter cards, unlimited resources with the partial administration and local governments, insecurity, a weak election commission. These are all aspects of the election they may seek to exploit so as to obtain the result they desire. There are hopes that the palace will be less willing or able to conduct as large scale centralized rigging as in 2009. Wisely, the donor community has already warned that any effort to alter the poll results will jeopardize Afghanistan’s future aid prospects. The government would do well to take note. We now have a new election law and election stakeholders are working their way through a list of anti-fraud measures.

The second, tactic of Karzai is to divide and rule the opposition. Most of them have gathered in the “Electoral Alliance”. He is trying to pick them off by offering them political bribes.

At the same time Karzai has held off clearly endorsing any serious candidate to become his successor. He has multiple standby candidates who engage the various opposition strongmen in fake negotiation but are not serious about pursuing any real power sharing formula. Some see the lack of an anointed palace candidate as evidence of Karzai’s clever game. It is just as plausible that Karzai and the palace have simply failed to get their inner team to agree on the so-called consensus figure.

Ultimately, if he could get away with it, Karzai would be open to alternatives to an election, like a Loya Jirga (Grand National Assembly with delegates hand-picked by the palace) or an announcement of a state of emergency by magnifying the security issues and declaring that the overall situation doesn’t support elections. He could try to buy the support of parliament for such a move through mass horse trading.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has already issued press release warning that that some circles are pushing for postponement of the polls.

The third contest – coalitions versus the palace 

Electoral Coalition (EC)

The newly formed Electoral Coalition is mainly composed of two previous strong opposition alliances, the Afghanistan National Front (ANF) led by Ahmad Zia Massoud and the National Coalition of Afghanistan (NCA) led by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. The Electoral Alliance also includes other power brokers such as Atta Mohammad Noor, the strongman of the Northern Balkh Province.

The leaders around EC are mostly old members of the Northern Alliance who resisted Taliban occupation and helped the US led coalition oust the Taliban from power. The alliance includes a few Pashtuns. But the king-makers of the EC all belong to the non Pashtun communities, the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.

The Electoral Coalition draws its popular support through parties with significant mass base. These include Jamiat-e Islami led by Salahuddin Rabbani, the son of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, the founder of the Party killed by the Taliban in September 2011. The other mass-based parties include the People’s Unity Party of Afghanistan led by Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the strongman of Hazaras and the Junbesh Party led by Gen, Abdur Rashid Dostum the leading  strongman from the Northern Uzbek community.

Even though Dr. Abdullah Abdullah had announced his candidacy for the upcoming Presidential Elections much before the formation of the EC, now he says that he will follow the decision of the alliance on the issue of his candidacy. No one else from this alliance has yet stepped forward as the candidate to challenge the palace.

Many believe that the EC still lacks the faith, courage and enthusiasm to win the upcoming Presidential Elections. But the members of the EC have had their minds focused by the prospect of the post election situation, with the withdrawal of ISAF, the threat of takeover of Taliban by force, the
growing sense of insecurity among the communities involved in the resistance against the Taliban and economic challenges. The contest is a survival issue.

The king-makers of the EC have conflicting interests on various issues. But their common minimum approach is the same. None of them trusts Karzai and all of them are afraid of Taliban.

Another fact cannot be ignored. Two important figures in today’s EC were the main vote-getters for Karzai in the 2009 elections. And still he could not manage to get 51%. A palace endorsed candidate this time cannot draw on the same vote bank which Karzai used to scrape home last time.

Some critics suspect that the coalition may not survive the upcoming hectic days of the nomination process where the power-brokers face the all important question of who should be their joint candidate. This means that the electoral process is working towards a contest between Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and whoever the palace finally endorses as their preferred candidate.

Doctors without Borders

This is the name given to the team led by Dr. Zulmai Khalilzad, the former US ambassador to Kabul and Iraq, Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai former Cabinet Minister. Ali Ahmad Jalali, the former Interior Minister (also an American citizen) and Qayoum Karzai, the elder brother of President Karzai. All of them wished to become the next president but none of them has any mass support to pose a reasonable challenge to the EC.

They have been busy in trying to win the support of strongmen from non Pashtun communities. But at the end of the day it seems that they are not successful to do so.

Right and Justice Party

The Party is led by Hanif Atmar, the former Cabinet Minister. At its formation two years back the party which mainly consisted of the defectors from other parties. It has grown up to the level where it should be taken seriously. But still many believe that it lacks the mass support to have a chance in the presidential elections. Although, Atmar has been in the opposition, he has refrained from joining any non-Pashtun led opposition alliance – neither the ANF nor the NCA.

His reluctance to join those main opposition alliances could be due to his ambition to lead the opposition or a probable fear of provocation Pashtuns by shaking hands with the anti Taliban figures or parties. Nevertheless he was an active member of the Consultative Council of 23 opposition Political parties, most of them now in the EC. Atmar is a resilient politician and a talented technocrat who has tried desperately to gain the support of the same king-makers of the non Pashtun communities but has so far been unsuccessful. He has another problem which is not usually discussed on the open forums. He belongs to the Eastern province of Laghman. The elders of Southern Pashtun tribes seem to be reluctant to shift power from South to East although both are Pashtuns.

Afghanistan Social Democratic Party (Afghan Millat)

It is led by Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, the current Minister of Commerce. Afghan Millat has a long history in Afghan Politics. The Party is famous for its ultra Pashtun ethnocentrism but it denies the perception and claims that the party has a comprehensive national agenda.

Afghan Millat has good support among the Pashtun liberals and educated class. But Dr. Ahady’s misfortune is that the class does not have any decisive role for the time being in shaping Pashtun politics. He has also announced he is a candidate. On the other hand president Karzai is blamed for the fragmentation of the party into various factions. In brief the Party is not in a position to emerge as a significant player of this process

There are few more alliances and parties wish to play role in the process but for the time being most of the analysts don’t believe any significant role from smaller groups.

Conclusion

We can draw six main conclusions from this review of the election scenario.

Firstly, the political system operating in Kabul is a hybrid one in which both political parties and regional power-brokers play a key role in mobilizing electoral support. Despite ten years of effort by the Afghan government to restrict the growth of political parties and to malign them as responsible for the conflict, Afghan parties have survived. The government’s attempt to establish a non-party system has failed.

Secondly, President Karzai seems set to become Afghanistan’s Musharraf. The presidential palace has failed to come up with a credible succession strategy. Neither have they found a way of keeping Karzai in power nor have they found a viable candidate who can keep together the hotchpotch of interests which have gathered in the palace in recent years. Like Musharraf, Karzai has a strong sense of self-importance and seems determined to scheme until the end. But the President and the world are on course to discover that, just like Musharraf, Karzai is dispensable.

Thirdly, the main focus for Karzai’s political scheming has now become his effort to break up the Electoral Alliance. So far all efforts to seduce its members have failed and this is starting to look like Karzai’s toughest political challenge.

Fourthly postponing the election, long favored by some palace players as a way of staying on in power a bit longer, seems no longer a serious option. Courtiers periodically raise alarms about security in the Pashtun south, argue that elections are impossible or float ideas of a transitional government. But the momentum in the country towards elections has built up and Afghanistan’s international donors have signaled that they will not tolerate messing with the timetable. Elections are never pretty, but they are better than any available alternative.

Fifthly, the electoral arithmetic is such that Afghanistan now has a real prospect of electing a non-Pashtun president. This of course would go directly against the oft-stated assumption that only a Pashtun is fit to run the country. Karzai’s legacy may well end up be a mixture of blame and credit as the Pashtun who handed power to someone from the north. If a non-Pashtun is elected, it will be as a result of the palace’s botched attempts at divide and rule.

Sixthly, precisely because palace scheming has not yet delivered a convincing political strategy to assure continuity there is still a risk of Karzai reverting to his spoiling behavior with gross interference in the electoral process. Friends of Afghanistan would be well-advised to be ready to deal with this eventuality. Afghanistan’s lawful opposition faces the same dilemma – their political strategy must include contingency planning for dealing with presidential sabotage of the process. Naivety does not pay in Afghanistan.

Dr. Hussain Yasa is the Chief Editor of the daily Outlook Afghanistan and the Coordinator of the Munich Process

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The Kuchi & Hazara Land Dispute Conflicts – An Endless Struggle for Land Ownership http://www.khaama.com/the-kuchi-hazara-land-dispute-conflict-9870 http://www.khaama.com/the-kuchi-hazara-land-dispute-conflict-9870#comments Sat, 07 Sep 2013 07:37:11 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=28395 The Kuchi & Hazara Land Dispute Conflicts – An Endless Struggle for Land Ownership
By: Nastrat Esmaty Afghan author, Nasrat Esmaty, explores the different dimensions of the land dispute and conflict between the Hazaras, a minority ethnic group, and Pashtun Kuchis, nomadic pastoralists, in Afghanistan. The land dispute between the two groups has erupted sporadically for almost a century and caused bloodshed and several conflicts amongst the two groups. Read the full article...]]>
The Kuchi & Hazara Land Dispute Conflicts – An Endless Struggle for Land Ownership

By: Nastrat Esmaty

Afghan author, Nasrat Esmaty, explores the different dimensions of the land dispute and conflict between the Hazaras, a minority ethnic group, and Pashtun Kuchis, nomadic pastoralists, in Afghanistan. The land dispute between the two groups has erupted sporadically for almost a century and caused bloodshed and several conflicts amongst the two groups. Unlike the existing literature, which suggests that both the dispute and conflict have roots mostly due to resources, the author analyses it from the perspective of identity or ethnic conflict, and has tried to present a fresh perspective at not only understanding but also resolving the conflict.

Different regimes have dealt with the grievances and issues of both groups temporarily with questionable fairness (Rassul, 2010). However, more importantly, the main causes of the dispute and conflict have remained unaddressed (Wily, 2004). Both the Hazaras and Kuchis are of importance politically, socially and economically in Afghanistan, which will be discussed thoroughly in the next section. Informed research on the nature of the dispute and conflict that delivers long-term solutions is critically required to permanently address the concerns of the two groups, the Afghan government and the International Community (ibid). As such, looking at the Hazara-Kuchi conflict in such depth is beyond the scope of this paper. However, this paper will pinpoint the key causes of the dispute and conflict.

A brief history of the conflict will put the causes and associated factors of the dispute and conflict into historical perspective. In an effort to expand his realm, Afghan monarch Amir Abdul Rahman Khan (1880 – 1901) sent an army of 30,000 to 40,000 into the Hazarajat (Wardak, Bamyan, Ghazni and Ghor provinces) to subjugate the Hazaras (Wily, 2009). Khan had cited the “irreligiousness” of the Hazaras based on their Shiite beliefs as the reason (ibid). Upon victory, Khan snatched Hazara lands and gifted them to Kuchis, who had partaken prominently in Khan’s Jihad (ibid). With the passage of time, the Kuchis also purchased some Hazara land (Rassul, 2010). The Kuchis’ domination of Hazarajat continued until 1919 when Khan’s grandson, Amanullah Khan, was enthroned. Amanullah Khan reinstated the Hazaras’ land and only recognized the Kuchis’ user-rights of the pastureland (Wily, 2009).  The subsequent monarchs and regimes that came into power acknowledged Amanullah Khan’s decision and their oversight minimized conflicts until the communist regime took over in 1978 (ibid). From the rule of the communist regime in 1979 to the ensuing Islamic regime of the Mujahideen until the Taliban came into power in 1996, the Hazaras enjoyed unprecedented power by forming pro-Mujahideen ethnic political parties and arming themselves against the Soviet regime (Ibrahimi, 2012).  As a result, the Hazara warlords would not allow Kuchis to access the latter’s land or pastureland in the Hazarajat for the following 20 years (1979 – 1998) (ibid). The Hazaras even distributed the Kuchis’ purchased land among their kin or followers (Rassul, 2010).  When the Taliban occupied Bamyan in 1998, Naim Koochi, a Kuchi and a Taliban fighter, retaliated by ransacking Hazara homes and lands (Wily, 2004).

After the establishment of the Karzai-led regime, the Hazaras achieved great political clout while the Kuchis’ political representation also increased (Katzman, 2013).  When the Kuchis ventured into the pasturelands in Behsud I, Behsud II and Daimirdad districts of Wardak province, a violent conflict erupted twice between the two groups in 2008 and 2009 ((Rassul, 2010 and Land Info, 2012). President Hamid Karzai assigned two separate commissions to resolve and report on the conflict on both occasions (ibid). The commissions, however, only made perfunctory attempts at solving the conflict and prescribed temporary and kneejerk measures to end the conflict (Rassul, 2010). Based on evaluation of a Kuchi’s testimony recorded by Rassul, the commissions sought ambiguous and short-lived measures that only temporarily ended the conflict (ibid). It may be fair to conclude that the government has failed to commit to a mechanism to thoroughly understand the problems of each group and end violence.

As a result, this paper is aiming at answering the following question: What are the causes, and associated factors to the Hazara-Kuchi dispute and conflict?  The current literature suggests that it is a battle for resources – land and pastureland to be precise. However, based on the analysis of the aforementioned history and the ethnic exploitation by political elites from both sides, which will be discussed in the identity subsection, this paper argues that it is a struggle for the survival of identity and then resource domination. The author also sees poor land tenure and the government’s contemplation of Kuchi settlement as peripheral issues to the dispute and conflict that hinder the prospect of any long-term resolution.

Identity for Afghans is an amalgamation of religious beliefs (Sunni or Shiite) and ethnicity (Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek…) (Monsutti, 2012). Since Afghanistan has been at war for more than four decades, ethnic groups have formed both intra- and inter-ethnic identities. In other words, every ethnic group has an understanding of who they are amongst themselves and other ethnic groups whom they either share good or bad rapport with based on their affable or antagonistic history (Simonsen, 2004). In the Hazara-Kuchi dispute and conflict, the antagonistic history between them spanning from the late 19th century till the present day revolves around how they see themselves as a group against one another (ibid). One of the backlashes of not addressing identity factors is that the Hazaras always associate the Kuchis with the Taliban because of their Pashtun connections while Kuchis still doubt the religious correctness of Hazaras (Wily, 2009). The recent political achievements have turned Hazaras from a minority group to the third ethnic “majority group” in the country (Simonsen, 2004). On the other hand, Kuchis have solidified their identity and claims after the Afghan government’s Kuchi recognition and allotment of ten seats in the National Assembly (Tapper, 2008).The Hazaras and Kuchis see fighting against one other as the struggle for survival of self and ethnic identity (Monsutti, 2012). The Afghan government is subconsciously playing a major role in the conflict and ‘ethnicization of Afghanistan’ as it is distributing the cabinet ministries, governorships (provincial and district), municipalities, police commanderships and other political appointees based on ethnic population (ibid). Such political treatment has resulted in dividing the ethnic groups into voting blocs and the birth of ethnic elites, who use ethnicity to further their political agenda, in Afghanistan (ibid). Moreover, it has incentivized identification and relation to ethnic groups and fighting for ethnic causes more than national causes (ibid).

As stated before, land or resource is the second source of dispute and conflict. Both the Hazaras and Kuchis need land for survival as land is a valuable commodity. Kuchis need to access the pasturelands of Wardak province and Hazarajat, in general, so that their livestock of mostly sheep and goats can survive, nurture and grow in numbers (Ferdinand, 2006). On the other hand, the Hazaras believe that the Kuchis should not use their pastureland (freely) as the latter were awarded their lands unfairly (Wily, 2009). The other problem that indirectly affects the dispute and prolongs both the dispute and conflict is poor land tenure (ibid). The Afghanistan government has never registered all of its land (ibid). As a result, the powerful warlords and civil servants have usurped (or tried to usurp) public land, especially pastureland, and appropriated it for cultivation and/or other personal use (ibid). The indetermination of pastureland boundaries and its public or communal use is amongst other ambiguities that has been caused by poor land tenure (ibid). Lastly, the Afghan government’s stance to settling Kuchis as an option indicates the lack of appreciation and understanding of Kuchi lifestyle and their economic contribution to the nascent Afghan economy (Wily, 2009 and Barfield, 2004).

In conclusion, the dispute and conflict have roots in identity and resource while land tenure ambiguities and treating the notion of settling and sedentarising Kuchis as a solution serve as peripheral issues.  The base of the dispute and conflict was laid when the Hazaras’ ethnicity and religious beliefs were targeted to occupy Hazarajat. Today, the same identity is used as a tool to turn down the possibility of a peaceful resolution, which if carried out from bottom-up may produce favourable results (de Weijer, 2005b). The only difference is that in the 1880’s a Pashtun leader used it as an instrument for his expansionist ambitions while today the Hazara political elites have embraced the Pashtun leader’s instrument as “innocent victims” and are using it against the Kuchis to further their own political ambitions and survival. Using identity as an instrument, the Hazara political elites create a bubble of myths and fears that causes Hazaras to fear committing to put an end to the dispute and conflict. On the other hand, the Kuchi elites treat Hazarajat as the booty their forefathers were awarded for fighting a “holy war” against the Hazaras. They consider the use of Hazarajat lands as their God-given right and can instigate conflicts for as long as there is no peaceful and permanent settlement. In a nutshell, at the core of it, the dispute and conflict is armed and fought with faith, which has shaped into an integral part of both the Hazara and Kuchi identities.

When a Kuchi political elite makes 2 million USD from a conflict he loses nothing in, he has little to gain from the permanent resolution of the dispute and conflict and risks the loss of the future opportunities of pocketing 2 million USD. Also, the Hazara political elites maintain their heroic status by standing against the Kuchis. In such circumstances, there is little hope and room for any peaceful settlement between the two group from a top-down approach (Land Info, 2012 and Foschini, 2011).  Based on how the political elites take advantage of the dispute and conflict, one conclusion can be drawn that it is them who spread the intangible factors of myths, fears and threats more than they exist. The tangible (or resource) factor of the conflict is genuine. Land is a rare and expensive commodity for both groups because of their high poverty rates and needs. The average Hazaras and Kuchis are the ones who are in the receiving end of suffering in the dispute and conflict. Since the conflicts are staged in Hazarajat, the Hazaras lose their property, assets and family members while the Kuchis lose family members and denied access to their pastureland and purchased land, which is part of their lifestyle and identity. Both groups have realized that their political elites are taking advantage of their plight. This realization can, therefore, be worked on for a bottom-up dispute and conflict resolution.

On the other hand, the ambiguities in definition of land titles, use and boundaries create a legal vacuum that hinders the prospects of a dispute resolution even if both parties put their identity issues aside. The existence of different and multiple documents and accounts of ownership make the resolution even more challenging. Moreover, when the government assigns itself the ownership status of the pastureland, it makes the government an interested party in the dispute and conflict when ideally the government should be playing the role of a trustee. The ownership status can lead the way for commercialization, usurpation and agricultural use of the pastureland, which Afghanistan has experienced.

Afghanistan is not alone in not comprehending the nomadic/Kuchi lifestyle. However, if Afghanistan, which has a large Kuchi population, decides to sedentarise Kuchis, it will be acting on its ignorance and changing the three century-old lifestyle, is unconstitutional as it violates their civil liberties and freedom promised in the constitution. Moreover, it labels them as a liability that needs to be taken care of when they are actually an asset and have the potential of contributing productively to the economy (Barfield, 2004). While sedentarising Kuchis may settle the worries of Hazaras, it will be unacceptable to the Kuchis and will result in Kuchi resentment and lack of support for the government.

More importantly, if the dispute, the conflict, issues and grievances of both sides are not studied thoroughly and responded to accordingly and justly, the Government of Afghanistan may witness the eruption of recurrent violence (Wily, 2009). Afghanistan has already seen the aftermath of neglecting minority groups in the destructive inter-ethnic conflict that destroyed Kabul (Goodson, 2001). Since two major events, namely the presidential and parliamentary elections and the withdrawal of NATO and other international forces, are taking place in 2014, the dispute and conflict between the Hazaras and Kuchis is very fragile, disorderly and costly to remain unresolved. Lastly, the author would like to suggest an in-depth study on Kuchi identity and a further and in-depth field research on the issues that this paper has touched upon.

Please click here to download full PDF version of the paper.

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Afghan Peace Stuck in Clashing Interests http://www.khaama.com/afghan-peace-stuck-in-clashing-interests-7875 http://www.khaama.com/afghan-peace-stuck-in-clashing-interests-7875#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 08:57:16 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=28370 Afghan Peace Stuck in Clashing Interests
By: Sami Jabarkhail Monday 26 August, 2013 has marked President Hamid Karzai’s twentieth attempt in person to persuade leadership in neighboring Pakistan to adopt a peaceful policy towards Afghanistan. It was Karzai’s first visit to capital Islamabad since the newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In his address, Sharif stressed upon endorsing peace and reconciliation Read the full article...]]>
Afghan Peace Stuck in Clashing Interests

By: Sami Jabarkhail
Monday 26 August, 2013 has marked President Hamid Karzai’s twentieth attempt in person to persuade leadership in neighboring Pakistan to adopt a peaceful policy towards Afghanistan. It was Karzai’s first visit to capital Islamabad since the newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In his address, Sharif stressed upon endorsing peace and reconciliation with Taliban. While Islamabad’s official policy positions have often condemned Taliban attacks, the military establishments have been accused of supporting terror groups such as the Haqqani network, Quetta Shura, and other militant organizations who kill US-Afghan troops.

Pakistan’s army has appeared hesitant to combat Taliban militants despite appeals from the U.S and NATO allies. “It is a problem that terrorist can cross the border, conduct terrorist acts in Afghanistan and then seek sanctuaries, safe havens in Pakistan.” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to reporter after NATO members met to discuss Afghanistan on April 23, 2013 in Brussels.

Consequently, the people of Afghanistan have plenty of reasons to be cynical about the outcome of their President’s visit to Islamabad. However, the more critical consideration is that, because peace and security are the most prominent needs of the Afghans and interest of the international community in the region, any efforts to end the conflict deserve a chance.

The main source of Pak-Afghan tension has been Pakistan’s so called strategic depth in Afghanistan – that is installing a pro-Islamabad regime in Kabul and asserting Pakistan’s interest, especially vis-à-vis India. Seeking strategic depth in Afghan land was sanctioned in Pakistan’s foreign policy by military dictator Zia-Ul-Haq in 1978. Since Zia, Pakistan has begun militating people in Afghanistan against unification and national development.

For Prime Minster Sharif, making a decision that indicates a split with his position on Afghanistan in the past is not easy. At that time, when militancy was being promulgated as a tool of foreign policy to achieve strategic depth in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Sharif’s party was part of a power. Instead of cracking down on militants, members of the ruling party in Islamabad have repeatedly linked militancy to drone strikes and occupation of Afghanistan.

There is an intimate relation between Pakistan’s security establishments and the Taliban. “Taliban members who went to Qatar for the inauguration of their office, possessed Pakistani passports,” confirmed National Security Advisor, Rangin Dadfar Spanta in an interview on 18 July, 2013 in Herat province. Peace and reconciliation with the Taliban no matter where and how it takes place must pass the test of being accepted by Islamabad.

There are two options available to the Afghan government to alter Pakistan’s unconventional policy – domestic and international. The first option will require Kabul to address Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns and fears by limiting Indian activities along the Duran line. Downgrading Indian diplomatic representations in Afghanistan will change Islamabad’s political calculation and encourage public discourse for Afghan peace within Pakistani society.

Second, seeking pressure of the international community on Islamabad is equally important. To do so, the Afghan government should explore new ways of engagement with global partners, especially the United States. Pointing fingers at international allies that have committed wealth and blood to bring Peace in Afghanistan will do no more than to jeopardize relations between the two sides. Future engagement policies must include linking interests of Afghanistan to that of the interests of long-term partners and to lobby for promoting those interests.

The twentieth visit of President Karzai did not inspire confidence for peace, and the next one may not succeed either. Peace efforts will succeed only if both Pakistan and Afghanistan are prepared to compromise on differences and accept the results. If relations with Islamabad continue to be based on fear and mistrust, Afghans will not have a chance to live in peace and economic prosperity in the near future. For this reason, it is important that both countries, including the international community, find a way forward towards peace.

Sami Jabarkhail is a Fulbright Scholar at Texas A&M University. Email him at sjabark@gmail.com
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Discover Afghanistan: The Minaret of Jam http://www.khaama.com/discover-afghanistan-the-minaret-of-jam-1777 http://www.khaama.com/discover-afghanistan-the-minaret-of-jam-1777#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 11:43:26 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=28087 Discover Afghanistan: The Minaret of Jam
By Jake Tupman, NATO Channel Standing tall for over 800 years, the Minaret of Jam is one of Afghanistan’s most ancient archaeological treasures. Hidden among the mountains of Ghor Province in central Afghanistan, it is virtually inaccessible. The NATO Channel braves 100 kilometres of dusty, dangerous, desert highway to reach this iconic monument. Ghor Province in Read the full article...]]>
Discover Afghanistan: The Minaret of Jam

By Jake Tupman, NATO Channel

Standing tall for over 800 years, the Minaret of Jam is one of Afghanistan’s most ancient archaeological treasures. Hidden among the mountains of Ghor Province in central Afghanistan, it is virtually inaccessible. The NATO Channel braves 100 kilometres of dusty, dangerous, desert highway to reach this iconic monument.

Ghor Province in central Afghanistan is one of the country’s more secure regions and also one of its most remote. Hidden away among the region’s shimmering turquoise/red mountains is one of Afghanistan’s greatest archaeological treasures, The Minaret of Jam.

Ghor Province in central Afghanistan – one of the country’s more secure regions and also one of it’s most remote. Tucked away among these shimmering turquoise/red mountains, hides one of Afghanistan’s most ancient treasures: The Minaret of Jam.

In the sleepy Ghor capital of Chagcharan, the local people are proud of their iconic monument – they’ve even built a replica in the town centre. But the Minaret’s position at the centre of an ancient Islamic civilisation means it has far-reaching, symbolic significance.

The Minaret of Jam is part of Ghor’s historical heritage. However it is part of a heritage that belongs not just to Ghor, but to people all over Afghanistan.

The 100 kilometre route between Chagcharan and the site of the Minaret is in poor condition. According to the NATO Channel journalist, allowing ten hours to reach it still wasn’t enough. At the city limits, road turns to dust, dust to jagged ravine, and ravine on occasion, to river.

Looming 65 metres out of the gorge, the Minaret of Jam. The second tallest ancient Minaret in the world and an eight-hundred-year-old testament to the architectural prowess of a bygone empire.

“Just to give you an idea of the treacherous road conditions here, we have five Humvee vehicles and we’ve just experienced our third puncture, this time to our vehicle so we’re going to stop now and take a look,” Jake Tupman said.

According to Jake Tupman, in spite of the road conditions, the drive offered a unique window into rural Afghanistan. The Ghor countryside with its rolling hills, green valleys and pocketed communities is as stunningly picturesque as it is remote. The people here live a quiet existence more concerned with farming their livestock than the war that embroils other parts of the country.

He said, “After a gruelling ten or eleven hour journey, we’ve made it to where we’re going to set up camp for the evening. We’re still ten or fifteen kilometres away from the Minaret of Jam but we’ll continue on tomorrow morning.”

“It’s been an epic trip. We’ve finally made it here. We’re at the Jam Gorge where the Jam River and the Hari River meet, and the Minaret is right at the crossroads of those two rivers. Which should be just around this corner.”

And there it was. Looming 65 metres out of the gorge, the Minaret of Jam. The second tallest ancient Minaret in the world and an eight-hundred-year-old testament to the architectural prowess of a bygone empire.

The Minaret was built in the late twelfth century by the Sultan Siryath Al Din, who was head of the Ghurid Empire which stretched from the border with Iran, through Afghanistan, into parts of Pakistan and up to Bengal in India. It is thought that the Minaret marks the city of Firuzkuh, the Ghurid summer capital; known nowadays as the lost city of the Turquoise Mountain.

Looting and river erosion have laid waste to many of the architectural relics that would give more insight into this ancient city. However this artist’s impression gives some idea as to how Firuzkuh may have looked. The Mongols sacked the city in the thirteenth century. The reason they left the Minaret standing, is a mystery.

About half way up the Minaret is this incredible turquoise tiling, and all down the sides is Kufic script, which is an ancient form of Islamic Calligraphy. It’s incredibly beautiful.

Inside the Minaret, two staircases, in the form of a double helix lead from bottom to top. Some eight hundred years ago, Mullahs would have climbed these steps and delivered the call to prayer to the city below.

“It’s amazing that this Minaret has been standing for the last eight hundred years. In spite of the fact the Mongols ransacked this place, in spite of everything, in spite of erosion by flooding, earthquakes, pillaging and everything. Truly amazing site.”

The NATO Channel reporter says, “It had been a remarkable journey, and those of us on it were privileged to witness an ancient wonder that has survived through eight turbulent centuries. The Minaret however, is under serious threat. Emergency floodwalls have been constructed to combat river erosion, but without further preservation funding and archaeological investigation, future generations may not have the chance to witness this intricate vestige of Afghan heritage.”

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Instability remains a major challenge for the upcoming presidential elections http://www.khaama.com/instability-remains-a-major-challenge-for-the-upcoming-presidential-elections-1762 http://www.khaama.com/instability-remains-a-major-challenge-for-the-upcoming-presidential-elections-1762#comments Sat, 17 Aug 2013 06:26:04 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=28007 Instability remains a major challenge for the upcoming presidential elections
BY: AHMAD SHAH KATAWAZAI  These days Kabul is rife with politicking particularly regarding the forthcoming elections. The coming months are especially important for the country where the first peaceful transfer of power is expected to take place in the new western backed fledgling modern democracy. This is also very important in the country history because Read the full article...]]>
Instability remains a major challenge for the upcoming presidential elections

BY: AHMAD SHAH KATAWAZAI 

These days Kabul is rife with politicking particularly regarding the forthcoming elections. The coming months are especially important for the country where the first peaceful transfer of power is expected to take place in the new western backed fledgling modern democracy. This is also very important in the country history because (a) most of the international troops will be withdrawn by then in April 2014 when elections are expected to take place (b) pivotal Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is expected to be signed in the near future (c) Talks with Taliban have potentially resumed after it had stalled with the opening of Taliban Office in Qatar.

Building coalition are under way, conspiracy theories and prediction regarding expected presidential election candidates are on the rise which are hotly debated around. Also the terror campaign from the insurgent’s side has taken its worse shape, insecurity, fight, terror and intimidation has further increased these days. To add fuel to fire the western media propaganda especially in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the international forces in the name of so called 2014 that with their withdrawal doomsday will hover over Afghans is spreading an umbrella of mistrust and suspicion over the masses.

However despite of major significant challenges the Afghan government has shown its firm commitment to hold election on its scheduled time.

Afghan president took an important step toward Peaceful transfer of power next year. The election slated for April would mark the first democratic transfer of power in the country. The election will be the most important Afghanistan political development and significant achievement in the year 2014 in addition to taking full security responsibility in the current year.

About month ago the country’s new Election Law on the Duties and Structures of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) was ratified by the Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The enactment of these laws laid to rest much of the criticism and objections on government and hope is there that democracy will take systematic roots in the country.  Candidates are now allowed to openly run for next year’s presidential election and embark on a full-fledged election campaign.

Significant number of independent observers is expected in the forthcoming election which will monitor the electoral process and ensure transparency and fairness of the process.

Number of political parties is gathering from months in order to avoid overcrowded field of candidates like in the past and agree on nominating a single candidate for the upcoming presidential election thereby avoiding rift and dissemination of ballots among different groups.

No official candidate has emerged yet, but different politicians and parties are deeply involved in consultation and hobnobbing.

But the so called single coalition and political parties gathering apparently seems, has failed to reach an agreement and a consensus is not expected to emerge, as evident from their failed meetings to agree on a single candidate. The major political parties’ leaders have shown mistrust and doubts on reaching to any agreement.

However this will get clear in the near future as filing date for nomination for the presidential and provincial council elections has been schedules by the Independent Election Commission (IEC)to begin on September 16th.

After long time ambiguities and negative propagandas, at the moment its seems that major suspicions have been laid to rest and the elections are going to be held. The clock is ticking towards positive so far. Common people are optimistic that the elections will take place on time, as the international community especially U.S. are now mainly focused on Afghanistan’s upcoming political transition, they are putting pressure on the Afghan government to hold election on its scheduled time and bluffing that cut of funds could result on a major scale if there is any delay in it. Cut in funds could plunge the country in a chaos when major part of the country economy is supported by the donor countries.

However enormous challenges and problems still exist in front of the forthcoming election which needs serious consideration both nationally and internationally.

a)      Security is the foremost challenge which could endanger and affect the election to major extent. According to Mr. Nooristani, the Independent Election Commission chairman, his major concern is the lack of security which could bring election under question.

This is a fact that security and election are interlinked and It is a challenging task for the Afghan security forces to spread out across the whole country in the far flung areas and secure the polling centers where in some areas still Taliban have a major sway.

The Insurgents have stepped up their attacks in remote areas as the election date is approaching.

b)      In the past presidential elections (in some areas e.g. Mazar-e- Sharif) some segments of the population (mainly Pashtuns constituencies) in the pretext of insecurity were excluded  from election, this if repeated could invalidate and delegitimize the next government having bitter consequences, aiding on one hand ethnic rift while on the other hand divert people support to the insurgents.

c)      Transfer of ballot boxes to insecure areas is also challenging task for the government.

d)      Weather will be severely cold when the elections are held. In some cold areas it will be difficult for the people to cast their ballots. Around half of the provinces will be snow bound by then when the elections are held, it will be enormously challenging for the people to cast their ballots due to severe cold and blockade of ways due to snow.

e)      Neighbor countries mainly Iran and Pakistan meddling in the election process and their financial support to some specific groups are a major challenge. Weak and porous borders with neighbor countries are also a source of their interference in the country political affairs.

f)       Rigging of election is also an expected challenge, concerns are raised by the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) accusing that during the last two months in about 25 provinces around 10,000 under-age people who don’t have valid ID cards, have been issued election cards. According to FEFA report released this Wednesday insecurity, fraud and registration violation has marred the country voter registration drive from the very beginning.

g)      Though it’s very late and yet the election complaint commission hasn’t been established.

h)      Exact and precise numeric of population doesn’t exist; same applies to the issuance of cards to the masses.

i)        Lack of strong political parties, increasing influence of warlords in the election process

j)        Ethnic rifts, undemocratic negative competition among politicians and different group,

k)      Lack of better monitoring system

l)        Existence of Illegal armed groups and individuals

m)   Insurgent, Mafia and foreign intelligence apparatus which is active in the country will try to disrupt or have sway over the election process

n)       People lack of confidence and mistrust is also a challenge which needs  an effort to recover back

Fundamental question in front of the aforementioned challenges is, if the Election Commission fails to announce the result at the end, what will be the consequence of that and what solution will be sorted out at that time?

Indeed these elections are very important and historic; this will be a peaceful transfer of power which could be observed very rare in the history of Afghanistan.

Definitely the aforementioned challenges could be addressed if steps are taken on proper time from now.

For example In the areas where security peril exists it could be addressed, like in accordance to the election law if in a constituency there is a security problem the independent election commission may suspend the election from the specified area until the removal and improvement of the security condition.

Indeed the insurgents would try to disrupt the voting process, they will intimidate the people causing insecurity in some areas and it is an open secret that the insurgents have influence and control over some areas in the country where no ballots could be casted.

The elections are not faced only with security challenges; there is plethora of challenges facing this nascent fledgling democracy where both internal and external pressures exist. However if from now bold and audacious steps are taken by the government and civil society, these existing and expected problems and challenges could be overcome.

Security, inclusivity, transparency and credibility of the election are the most significant determining factors for the legitimacy of the next government. The elections are needed to be fair and transparent to greater extent which could result as accepted nationwide.

The Afghan nation expects a lot from the newly appointed commissioners to meet their hopes which are expected to defy all pressures from inside and outside the country in front of the forthcoming elections.

Though significant encouraging steps have been taken by the government particularly the enactment of electoral laws, but still there is a long way to go and it remains to be seen whether the government will be able to address the myriad challenges ahead which still remains unaddressed.

Any manipulation or failure to conduct nationwide inclusive and credible election could endanger the whole process and could descent in chaos the already fragile country in more problems.

Mr. Katawazai is a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan.

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ISAF Mistake Ruins an Afghan Driver’s Life http://www.khaama.com/man-life-ruined-by-isaf-mistake-9876 http://www.khaama.com/man-life-ruined-by-isaf-mistake-9876#comments Mon, 05 Aug 2013 05:54:12 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=27725 ISAF Mistake Ruins an Afghan Driver’s Life
By: Fahim Khairy Sad and miserable, Amir Mohammad a 39 year old Afghan man stands in a long line of people with walking sticks under his arms, waiting behind the gate of a local court in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Amir looks exuding, tired and angered. ”It takes me hours to meet the judge and hand over Read the full article...]]>
ISAF Mistake Ruins an Afghan Driver’s Life

By: Fahim Khairy

Sad and miserable, Amir Mohammad a 39 year old Afghan man stands in a long line of people with walking sticks under his arms, waiting behind the gate of a local court in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Amir looks exuding, tired and angered. ”It takes me hours to meet the judge and hand over my complaint letter”, he disappointingly said.

Amir Mohmmad was a happy man. He had two good part time jobs. One as a security guard with a UN office in his native town of Mazar-i-Sharif and another one as a taxi driver. But one bad day in the middle of April 2008, Amir’s life suddenly changed and his challenging journey begun. He was driving his taxi cab when ISAF soldiers mistaken him as a suicide bomber and shot him in the leg.

Amir sat down in his spot and wanted to tell his story.

I was driving down to the city from Selo street when I heard a loud bang and I immediately felt something hot ran into my blood and I went half unconscious. My eyes and my mouth started to dry up. There was an annoying noise in my ears. I watched my passengers, a woman and a kid ran out of the car. I wondered why I was not able to move. At first I didn’t know what happened. I thought it was a Taliban attack or something. Then I saw blood running under of foot and it was the time I understood I was shot.

Amir was left bleeding inside his cap for 15 minutes. Since people saw the soldiers opened fire on his car, they did not want to get close, thinking there might be something in the car. The ISAF convoy drove fast and left the area but minutes later they realized that they shot a civilian, they returned to pick up Amir. Amir Mohammad was taken to ISAF base near Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport. They removed the bullet from his leg and dropped him off at his home and never visited him again till today.

Since then Amir uses a walker to get around. Due to the physical injury he faced, he was fired from the UN. He later sold his taxi cab to pay off his house payment. Amir had three surgeries by local doctors, but still feels pain and can’t use his leg. The doctors told him if he keeps ignoring his diet, he might end up having his leg amputated.

”The UN office fired me because I was not able to do my job walking around the big compound at night time. I was a guard and my job totally required physical ability. I lost my car to save my house then I lost both. I couldn’t continue to pay my house payment so they stopped the contract. Now I rent the same house that I used to think it as my only home that my kids were dependent to their future on it”, Amir continued to tell his story.

Amir Mohammad’s four children aged 11, 9, 7 and 5; all got kicked out of school for not paying tuition anymore. The public school is a one and half mile walk from Amir place. They registered in the public school but soon got bullied and beat up by bigger kids on their way to school. Amir decided to keep his kids home until he could figure out a way to send them back to private school.

I am so worried about my kids. It was not just a single bullet that hit my leg. It was a storm that destroyed my life and ruined my children’s future. If I delay one more payment on my house rent, the landlord is going to kick me out. Soon my family is going to be homeless and will sleep in the street.

Before going homeless, Amir Mohammad decided to complain to Mazar-i-Sharif’s local court, hoping he might receive help and justice from there.

Fahim Khairy is a freelance reporter and he can be reached at fahim.khairy(at)yahoo.com

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Afghanistan-US Bilateral Security Agreement Talks to Resume Soon http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-us-bilateral-security-agreement-talks-to-resume-soon-678 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-us-bilateral-security-agreement-talks-to-resume-soon-678#comments Sat, 03 Aug 2013 04:51:37 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=27671 Afghanistan-US Bilateral Security Agreement Talks to Resume Soon
By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai After the visit of two high levels US Officials Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chief of staff to Kabul and Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan hopes arose that the negotiations will begin soon regarding the Afghan-US Bilateral Security agreement, indeed both visits yielded positive and encouraging results Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan-US Bilateral Security Agreement Talks to Resume Soon

By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai

After the visit of two high levels US Officials Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chief of staff to Kabul and Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan hopes arose that the negotiations will begin soon regarding the Afghan-US Bilateral Security agreement, indeed both visits yielded positive and encouraging results for resuming talks on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the two countries.

The long awaited Afghan-US bilateral security agreement which will spell out the presence and number of American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 has almost reached to final stages.  Authorities in the US have exuded confidence that they will be able to conclude the Bilateral Security Agreement with Afghanistan soon after the resumption of negotiations.

Secretary of State of the United States John Kerry during his visit to Pakistan this Thursday said that he was confident Kabul and Washington will reach to an agreement to sign the bilateral security agreement. Kerry said, “We are feeling relaxed regarding the current situation, and I expect that the agreement will be finalized in an appropriate moment.”

The talks were suspended over the agreement by the Afghan government following the opening of the Talban Office in Qatar, which according to Karzai was a step to set up a government in exile. With this the peace talks got suspended indefinitely and the bilateral security dialogue held hostage by the talks, much frustration and suspension was observed regarding the future of the country.

The presence and quantity of U.S. troops is depended and directly linked to the bilateral security agreement between the two countries, which will pave the way for residual troops in the country thereby to train Afghan security forces and carry out counter-insurgency operations against militants.

Signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is in the mutual interest and need of both Afghanistan and the United States. For Afghans it will be a disaster and devastating when in the present conditions where they are faced with plethora of problems from all sides especially security, economic sector they are failed in signing agreement with a major power like the United States which is helping and involved significantly in the reconstruction and rebuilding of the country.

For the United States, in case of failure to reach an agreement, its international credibility will be undoubtedly damaged; and also it won’t like to give up a country which is very important for its strategic, political and economic interests.

From the statements of US authorities it seems that the Afghan side have now agreed to allow the U.S. to “maintain legal jurisdiction over its troops in Afghanistan” which was a controversial point between the two countries.

Afghanistan hopes that the signing of the bilateral security agreement will help in strengthening the country’s military, political and economic institutions. In addition to that the main concern of Afghans is external aggression and support of insurgents from neighbor countries, which needs to be addressed in the agreement.

Interference from neighbor countries especially Pakistan and ill-equipment of the Afghan security forces are the major concerns of Afghanistan which was stressed much in the negotiations of the BSA. Also the Afghans have asked for assurances of financial support included in the agreement as evident from the statement by the Afghan authorities.

Peace and security is the wish and desire of every Afghan which they demand to be incorporated in the Bilateral Security Agreement.

Indeed the current transition process of security responsibilities to the Afghan security forces, growing insurgency and internal crisis have concerned much Afghan people and think that without the long term cooperation of NATO and the US, getting rid of the present crisis and challenges will be impossible. Afghan government considers the bilateral security agreement significant step in the history of Afghanistan which they expect to reflect with the core and vital interests of the country.

The agreement will need final approval from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Also the draft agreement is needed to pass through the Afghanistan House of Representatives once both sides reached to an agreement regarding the content.

strengthening and equipping Afghan security forces, prevention of neighbors meddling in the internal affairs of the country, economic assistance and the presence of foreign forces in the country are all issues which needs to be addressed in the agreement.

In a nutshell, Afghan people would like to know that how their government and its possible long-term strategic partner will continue to address the aforementioned problems including strengthening of the security and economic sector, equipping of the Afghan Security Forces with sophisticated weapons, financial help and how to reach an agreement with Taliban and prevent neighbor countries from meddling in the internal affairs of the country, from which they are suffering from years.

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US-Afghan Security Agreement Challenges http://www.khaama.com/us-afghan-security-agreement-challenges-700 http://www.khaama.com/us-afghan-security-agreement-challenges-700#comments Tue, 30 Jul 2013 04:51:59 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=27553 US-Afghan Security Agreement Challenges
By: Sami Jabarkail The visit of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chief of staff to Kabul ostensibly appears to have yield positive and encouraging results for reviving negotiation on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the U.S and Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan suspended the security talks in protest at the ceremonial opening Read the full article...]]>
US-Afghan Security Agreement Challenges

By: Sami Jabarkail

The visit of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chief of staff to Kabul ostensibly appears to have yield positive and encouraging results for reviving negotiation on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the U.S and Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan suspended the security talks in protest at the ceremonial opening of the Taliban office in Qatar which was fabricated as an embassy for a quasi-government in exile.

Distinct from the Bilateral Strategic Partnership formalized during President Barack Obama’s visit to Kabul on May 2, 2012, this security agreement with Afghanistan would allow the United States to own as many as 9 military bases in the country and grant immunity for US military personnel from persecution under the Afghan law.

In a statement issued by the Afghan President’s office on July 22, 2013, President Karzai has said “Afghans are ready to sign a security pact with the United States on condition that it leads to peace and stability in the country, the strengthening of the Afghan forces, and a united and sovereign Afghanistan.”

Whether or not President Karzai’s conditions are legitimate could be addressed in two basic questions: How do you bring peace to a country that has been raged by war for decades? Is it worthwhile to negotiate peace with Taliban at their new headquarters in Doha, Qatar; or should the international community concentrate on Islamabad where new Taliban members are recruited and trained? For those keen to find out, a twofold approach could be the answer.

First, Kabul explores every possibility to maximize its gains from bilateral security agreement with United States by renewing its wish-list from time to time. The Afghan government expects the United States to modernize its security institutions by committing to long-term financial and material support. Leaving a skillfully trained and well equipped afghan army is crucial for both sides after the end of combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

Second, President Karzai’s conditions are aimed at drawing international attention to the most prominent needs of the Afghan people which are peace and security. To achieve this difficult yet possible task, the international community, especially the United States, has to increase their pressure on Pakistan until Islamabad can demonstrate it’s cutting ties with Taliban insurgents. Since the killing of Osama Bin Laden in a military cantonment town of Pakistan by an elite US special operations unit, Islamabad left  no room to doubt its support for terror groups such as Al-Qaida, the Haqqani network, and other militant organizations who fight US-Afghan troops.

Given the changes in regional dynamics, Pakistan is likely to continue exercising militancy as a tool of foreign policy. Like other States, Pakistan has made policies both bad and good to achieve its interests in the region. Part of Islamabad’s strategic interest is in conflict with that of Afghanistan. For example, the Afghan-Indian relationship is a legitimate security concern for Islamabad which ought to be accommodated through meaningful political and economic diplomacy in order for peace to prevail.

Kabul has been limited in its ability to constructively address Pakistan’s regional concerns and fears while the International community has done less or nothing to build that much needed trust between the two neighbors. Instead of negotiating peace with Taliban officials in Qatar, the focus should be on Islamabad where the key to Afghan peace remains locked.

To ensure long term peace and security, the Afghan army needs to be equipped with sophisticated weapons so that they can thwart any militant attacks. The international partners should therefore be more realistic in delivering on their commitments underlined in strategic partnerships they have signed with the Afghan people. Otherwise, it indicates a dire lack of international partnership to see Afghanistan seeking military assistance from India while NATO allies continue to remove their resources from the war-torn country and implode their military bases.

Sami Jabarkail, a Fulbright Scholar at Texas A&M University. Email: sjabark@gmail.com

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Talking to Taliban – A Road Ahead http://www.khaama.com/talking-to-taliban-a-road-ahead-27505 http://www.khaama.com/talking-to-taliban-a-road-ahead-27505#comments Sun, 28 Jul 2013 16:28:54 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=27505 Talking to Taliban – A Road Ahead
By Manish Rai Efforts to end longest American war in the history have been accelerated now. America’s war in Afghanistan marks the longest in the country’s history and risk continuing beyond 2014 when United States wants to pullout but for that they require a graceful exit strategy and a stable Afghanistan. But this is near Read the full article...]]>
Talking to Taliban – A Road Ahead

By Manish Rai

Efforts to end longest American war in the history have been accelerated now. America’s war in Afghanistan marks the longest in the country’s history and risk continuing beyond 2014 when United States wants to pullout but for that they require a graceful exit strategy and a stable Afghanistan. But this is near to impossible without talking to Taliban after fighting for 12 long years United States and Taliban are now on negotiations table as both sides are realising the importance of dialogue.

The basic cause of the US-Taliban conflict is structural miscommunication i.e. fundamental difference exit in each other perception, understanding, and culture. Both the sides never understood each other but feared each other which reflected in their dangerous behavior for each other. U.S feared attack and hosting of its enemy’s by the Taliban and retaliated with its sophisticated military technology on the other hand Taliban see US as invaders and threat for its cultural values and reacted by incriminate violent campaign against the NATO and Afghan forces across the country by its dedicated and motivated cadre base which has the good know how of the region.

Both sides now are realising that the long lasting solution of this conflict can be through talks only. For instance America realise that Taliban have good influence on Pasthun tribe which consists of 46 million people and is the world largest tribe and Taliban ideology have deep roots in Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan where Pasthun tribe resides. On the other side Taliban also know that they cannot beat the military might of world largest military alliance of 28 countries NATO. Taliban know that at most they can destabilise the country by their guerrilla attacks but they can’t overrun it as they did it in 1994-96 unless NATO have a strong military presence in Afghanistan. So, indulging in a dialogue is a viable option for both the parties now.

Some bottlenecks still exists in the path of this proposed peace process one of them is the position of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who feels his authority is undermined and he is being side lined in these talks. But peace must be the primary concern which for sure Mr. Karzai alone can’t deliver. Other such issue is the conservative and orthodox nature of the Taliban movement whose adamant attitude over some issues like-Women education, strict implementation of Sharia, and unacceptance of democracy can hinder the talks.

Both United States and Taliban at least for this time looks serious for talks like-When Taliban opened their political office in Qatar’s capital city of Doha it was the first time in a dozen years that the world had gotten to see the insurgent’s inner circle and they seemed different. Urban and educated, they conducted interviews in foreign languages like-English, Arabic, French, and German with easy fluency and look more willing to negotiate. One of member of Quetta Shura (Highest Decision making body of Afghan Taliban)  while talking to the media said all the representatives that are selected and send to Qatar for talks belong to the political wing and none have a military background and are selected by the top leadership.  He added we don’t need to send commanders as we are not going to fight in Doha. On the other hand US is also taking these proposed talks seriously as it appointed senior diplomats for the process and trying to persuade all the stakeholder’s to participate. The US delegation to the Taliban talks will be led by Douglas Lute, Obama’s Chief advisor on Afghanistan and James Dobbins the State Department’s new special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan which clearly shows that this time Whitehouse closely wants to monitor the talks.

Back home in Afghanistan though some contradictions exists like- Fierce fighting still going on, Taliban fighters waging suicide attacks, attacking government establishments, ambushing the NATO conveys. These contradictions offer a picture of top Taliban leadership taking advantage of two different tracks-orchestrating the fighting elements even while setting up a new international diplomatic foothold in Doha. Taliban’s are simultaneously following a political and military option which may raises the relevancy of peace talks but it just seems like a tactic to exert pressure for getting a good deal during negotiations. When the previous effort to open a Taliban office in Qatar collapsed in March 2012 many analysts saw that as a result of a split between Taliban officials in the political leadership and their military commanders but some Western officials also note that when Mullah Omar and his closest aides makes a decision it does seems to get carried out and they think this time decision has come from the top leadership.

If both the parties United States and Taliban negotiate with open mind and without any pre-notions for each other this time and Afghanistan neighbors especially Pakistan played a positive role in this reconciliation process then this time definitely some concrete peace formulation will emerge which will help the millions of Afghans who have been crushed and devastated because of this bloody long war and moreover it will add to the stability and security of the region as a stable Afghanistan is very much required not only for security of its neighboring countries but for whole world. But if this time also this peace process turned out to be a just a futile exercise then nobody knows that after how many more years stage for talks will be built again as there will be a trust deficit for both the sides which will take a long time to fulfill.

(Author is freelance columnist based in New Delhi and can be reached at manishraiva@gmail.com)

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US needs to clear its vision on Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/us-needs-to-clear-its-vision-on-afghanistan-9090 http://www.khaama.com/us-needs-to-clear-its-vision-on-afghanistan-9090#comments Sun, 28 Jul 2013 14:24:48 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=27490 US needs to clear its vision on Afghanistan
By Arian Sharifi One of the most perplexing issues I encountered time and again in my travels between Afghanistan and the United States is the sense of disconnect between America’s Afghan policies and Afghans’ perceptions of those policies. During my recent trip to Kabul last month, almost every person I spoke to – everyone from Read the full article...]]>
US needs to clear its vision on Afghanistan

By Arian Sharifi

One of the most perplexing issues I encountered time and again in my travels between Afghanistan and the United States is the sense of disconnect between America’s Afghan policies and Afghans’ perceptions of those policies. During my recent trip to Kabul last month, almost every person I spoke to – everyone from taxi drivers and shopkeepers to politicians and government officials – expressed extreme suspicion about America’s objectives in Afghanistan. Most of them delved into conspiracy theories, believing that the US has some “hidden” agenda, seeking to expand its military reach into Iran, China, and the oil-rich Central Asia, using Afghanistan as a jumping board. A natural conclusion, therefore, was that America deliberately keeps Afghanistan unstable as an excuse to maintain its military presence in the region.

Such flawed way of thinking is a direct result of the Obama administration’s failure to project a clear vision and sustained course of action in Afghanistan, contributing to the increasing rift between the two governments.

President Obama’s administration began somewhat promisingly, with the long awaited unveiling of “A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan,” released in February 2009.At the time, President Obama correctly concluded that Afghanistan had been denied adequate resources due to the war in Iraq, and committed his administration to giving the country the needed attention.

However, the administration did not stay on course with this clarity of policy. The calls of “troop surge” and “civilian surge” were followed by the announcement of the withdrawal deadline of 2014. Then came the “Strategic Partnership” agreement discussion, as a means to ensure America’s support of Afghanistan beyond 2014. Once finalized, however, the document contained little beyond broad statements about US-Afghan relations with virtually no binding arrangement. President Obama’s reluctance to give any concrete future commitments to Afghanistan through the yet-to-be inked “Bilateral Security Agreement”, and his most recent hint son considering a “zero option” of pulling all troops out of the country further indicate a lack of clear focus in his vision on Afghanistan.

This vacillation has strengthened the enemy, weakened allies, and created mistrust in Afghans toward US intentions. Looking at America’s indecision, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have become determined to stay their course, and wait the US out. They have not only become emboldened on the military front, but have also assumed evermore demanding postures in their negotiations with US and Afghan officials.

The Afghan allies of the United States are also weakened with the lack of clear focus. Most notably, women’s rights activists continue to suffer a sustained attack. Conservative elements within Afghanistan are further emboldened in advance of what they see as the impending return of the Taliban by attempting to repeal the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women; edicts restricting women’s clothing and make-up use; and the refusal to uphold women’s basic rights in the courts.

Uncertainty about what the future may hold has significantly hampered Afghans’ confidence in their country. The business community is planning their own exit, already shifting substantial amounts of badly needed capital to other countries in the region. The number of Afghans seeking asylum abroad has reached the highest in a decade – over 480,000 sought asylum in industrialized countries last year, according to the UN. Many diplomats, journalists, athletes and students have not returned to Afghanistan after visits abroad, creating a massive brain drain in a country in dire need of human capital. A lack of confidence in Afghanistan’s future has also exacerbated the cycle of corruption, as many government officials view their positions as their last chance to power. Choor-e-Aakher, meaning the “final grab” is a term used in jokes among government staffers, referring to a last opportunity to make themselves rich.

The Obama administration, therefore, needs to seriously evaluate its options, get its act together, and communicate a clear vision of what it intends to do in Afghanistan. It may be leaving a residual combat force, maintaining only advisory staff, completely pulling out of Afghanistan, or any other course of action. Whatever it may be, President Obama and his team must clearly communicate it to the Afghan people so they understand what their future may hold. Continuing to send mixed signals could create a domino effect, leading to irreversible and disastrous outcomes.

About Author:

Arian Sharifi is a PhD student at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a Partner at Afghanistan Holding Group. He holds a Master in Public Affairs (MPA) from Princeton University, and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science from Wesleyan University. He can be reached through email at arian.sharifi@tufts.edu or via phone +1 404 610 2918.

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Freedom In Afghanistan Under Serious Risk http://www.khaama.com/freedom-in-afghanistan-under-serious-risk-6543 http://www.khaama.com/freedom-in-afghanistan-under-serious-risk-6543#comments Sat, 27 Jul 2013 09:21:43 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=27436 Freedom In Afghanistan Under Serious Risk
By: Shafiq Hamdam During the last one decade freedom of expression and freedom of media is one of the major joined achievements of the Afghan government and its international partners. The gain, which everyone appreciates and talk loudly about it. Afghan government and its international partners talk about securing the joint achievements, which called reversible and fragile. Lately freedom of expression and media has been seriously Read the full article...]]>
Freedom In Afghanistan Under Serious Risk

By: Shafiq Hamdam

During the last one decade freedom of expression and freedom of media is one of the major joined achievements of the Afghan government and its international partners. The gain, which everyone appreciates and talk loudly about it. Afghan government and its international partners talk about securing the joint achievements, which called reversible and fragile. Lately freedom of expression and media has been seriously under attack and risk, and this issue has to be addressed strategically.

Afghan journalists and social activists are under extreme risk and there is no guarantee of their safety and protection. Serving for democracy and freedom during last one decade tens of Afghan journalists, writers and social activists either killed during the war or killed by pro-government elements and insurgents. Yet there is not any solid statistic of the social activists’ fatalities and it is because that this issue has not been taken seriously. But according to NAI, an independent Afghan media watchdog, pro-government elements are involved in majority of violations against media and journalists in Afghanistan.

Lately the numbers of journalists and social activists have been either arrested or threatened to stop their actives. Life is not easy for a journalist and social activist anymore. In absence of access to information law and the presence of a very inequitable media law Afghan media and social activist can be threatened, questioned and impeached at any moment by the Afghan authorities. On regular bases here are ongoing cases against media in the media commission, which is established by the government. So far majority of Afghan media outlets have been impeached by the commission and questioned.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) an institution, which plays an absolutely crucial role in protecting the rights of all Afghans were also targeted by Afghan government and their activities have been blocked by senior politicians.  In December 2011 including Ahmad Nader Nadery an outspoken human rights activist, President Hamed Karzai removed three commissioners of the commission. Mr. Nadery was removed formally because of his mandates had expired. But his removal was linked to his outspokenness about electoral fraud in the 2009 presidential elections and his involvement in preparing the, yet to be released, AIHRC conflict-mapping report documenting war crimes in Afghanistan from 1978 to 2001. In June 2013 despite broad disagreement of the Afghan civil society organization, United Nations Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and other organizations the Afghan president renewed mandate of four commissioners and appointed five new commissioners of the AIHRC. But Mr. Nadery’s mandate was not renewed. There are serious concerns about some individuals appointed in the AIHRC, but the government has ignored all international commitment and demands and replaced some of very active commoners with some contradictory figures.

The ICG report titled “Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition” was released on 6 October 2012. It discusses the weaknesses of Afghanistan’s political and electoral system and calls for urgent attention and reforms. The report was rejected by the Afghan government and the organization was threatened for prosecution. Early this year the government also condemned and rejected a UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) report on corruption in Afghanistan and called the act a political pressure on the Afghan government.

In June 2013 head of Integrity Watch Organization, a non governmental organization over sighting transparency, was summoned by the Supreme Court about their survey on corruption in the judiciary system. Early July 2013 the Supreme Court of Afghanistan denied the latest report by Transparency International which called the judiciary institutions of Afghanistan, one of the most corrupt organizations in the Afghan government and the court accused the organization for working under a political agenda and the organization is summoned by the Supreme Court. But every Afghan citizen can confirm the report of widespread corruption in the judiciary system of Afghanistan.

While tens of corrupt officials, who has been accused of millions of USD corruption are living free. On July 5th Afghan Attorney General Office arrested Mr. Abdurahman Sakhizada, an Afghan writer and anti-corruption activist in accusation of writing a disclosure article, where he discovered corruption in the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOO), a presidential decree based institution over sighting Afghan government. Mr. Sakhizada was released after nearly two weeks, his father who is a police officer, said that his son has been tortured in the custody.

However the issue of brain drain has been widely debated in Afghan media and on December 31st BBC Farsi investigative report shows that nearly 40% of Afghan diplomats have not returned home after completion of their assignments abroad. But on 14th July Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan issued a statement rejecting The New York Times Report titled “As Uncertainty Reigns Back Home, Many Afghan Envoys Decline to Return” dated 12 July 2013. The harsh statement called the report “irresponsible act and unprofessional journalism” and asked from Kabul based NYT correspondence for clarifications. Such pressures continue on a daily basis at all levels and the example I have brought here were a few of those.

Afghans have not fought with the Taliban and terrorists to secure western countries, but they fought for the word of freedom and the freedom of expression and women come at the top of the reason of our fight and sacrifice. Now democracy and freedom become a mutual interest and benefit of Afghanistan and the international community.  But there are increased concerns pressures will increase. The corrupt officials, drug smugglers, the warlord and mafia will continue to threat journalists and social activist to keep them shut. And some government officials will continue the misuse of their power. But the question is what the international community does to secure their biggest achievements? This is freedom of expression and freedom of the media. This fact should not be ignored by the world community and they should closely work with the Afghan people to secure theses gains. Otherwise the tremendous joint gains have made by Afghanistan and its intentional partners will be forfeited

Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam is a social activist for promoting peace, justice and human rights. He is founder and volunteer Chairman of Afghan Anti-Corruption Network, a leading network of civil society organizations fighting corruption.

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The Forgotten War: Peace Talks with the Taliban and Afghanistan 2014 http://www.khaama.com/the-forgotten-war-peace-talks-with-the-taliban-and-afghanistan-2014 http://www.khaama.com/the-forgotten-war-peace-talks-with-the-taliban-and-afghanistan-2014#comments Tue, 09 Jul 2013 05:56:31 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=27037 The Forgotten War: Peace Talks with the Taliban and Afghanistan 2014
In recent months, there is a lot of talk in the media about Afghanistan’s political, and economic situation after the scheduled 2014 NATO combat troop withdrawal. Some people are concerned that the country will dive into chaos, and a civil war will erupt, as witnessed after the Soviet’s withdrawal in 1989. Others are optimistic by Read the full article...]]>
The Forgotten War: Peace Talks with the Taliban and Afghanistan 2014

In recent months, there is a lot of talk in the media about Afghanistan’s political, and economic situation after the scheduled 2014 NATO combat troop withdrawal. Some people are concerned that the country will dive into chaos, and a civil war will erupt, as witnessed after the Soviet’s withdrawal in 1989. Others are optimistic by saying that Afghanistan will endure the foreign troop pullout and grow out to be a strong and self-sufficient nation. Both arguments are legitimate and grounded in fact. The purpose of this article is to highlight the recent most important political and economic activities in Afghanistan that could either help or hurt with the direction that Afghanistan is taking after 2014.

The most important news of the year for both Afghanistan and for the world for that matter was the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar. This was a bold move by all parties involved. By doing so, President Karzai proved to the people of Afghanistan and the international community that his decade long efforts to bringing peace in Afghanistan are bearing fruit and that in his final days in office, he is able to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. The United States and its allies are financially burdened by the high cost of this war, and are seeking for a way to end it responsibly. Perhaps, end their combat role, but remain in the country in a smaller footprint which will cost less. The greatest beneficiary of this deal is the Taliban. They are given legitimacy as an autonomous political entity by allowing them to raise their white flag on the opening day of the office – even though it has been brought down after President Karzai objected to it. It remains to be seen as to what this office would mean for peace in Afghanistan. However, on a general note, opening of the office could not be a bad thing. As Ambassador Dobbins rightly put it -”You don’t negotiate with your friends; you negotiate with your enemies.” Also, he said “peace talks don’t take place after a war; they take place during the war.” I can’t agree more. Opening of this office is a good first step towards building a peaceful, strong and independent Afghanistan beyond 2014.

On the other hand, last month President Karzai suspended final round of Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) talks with the United States that were supposed to take place that week when the Taliban opened their office in Qatar. On several occasions, President Karzai has used the BSA talks as a leverage to get what he wants from the United States. Often he is successful. For example, in case of ordering the U.S. Special Forces to leave Wardak Province, and handing over of Bagram prison from Americans to Afghan authorities. The negotiations have taken too long. It is concerning. While signing the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement on May 2012, Presidents Karzai and Obama agreed to conclude BSA negotiations within one year. However, it has been more than a year and there is no sign of final Bilateral Security Agreement. As an Afghan living in the United States, let me be very clear. If the mentality in Afghanistan is that the United States would never leaver this country, let me assure you that they will – like they did from Iraq. Any political miscalculation by any of the two parties (Afghan and US) in these negotiations could have devastating effects on long term post 2014 security in Afghanistan. Therefore, President Karzai, please seal the deal and sign the Bilateral Security Agreement.

Finally, it is important to note that the Afghan economy has been slowing down at an alarming rate in the last year or so. This speculation over gradual withdrawal of foreign troops by the end of 2014 is scaring away investor. Last Friday, Anwar ul Haq Ahadi, the Minister of Commerce and Industries warned in a press conference that unemployment, poverty, low investment rates, and declining property values are major challenges in the years to come. The economic growth in the last decade has not been organic. It has been mostly due to high amount of foreign aid pouring into the country. As a result, the economy is heavily dependent on aid. According to a World Bank report, the decrease in foreign assistance post-2014 is likely to cause the economic bubble to burst, plunging the country into an economic recession.

All in all, the picture of post-2014 Afghanistan looks gloomy.  It is important for the Afghan government to reconcile with the Taliban and offer them some sort of power-sharing deal. It is understandable that some people are hesitant of having them back in power. However, we cannot have peace without any sort of arrangement with them. Also, the Bilateral Security Agreement is crucial to the peace process. Signing the agreement will allow the Afghan government to have an upper hand at the negotiating table with the Taliban. This idea of waiting the foreign troops out will no longer exist with the Taliban. President Karzai may not like some of the provisions in the agreement, but overall it is a good deal for Afghanistan. Finally, investors are frightened. Giving them some kind of certainty by signing the BSA and initiating talks with the Taliban are good few steps to boost investment in the country. People need jobs. Lack of foreign aid and weak manufacturing sector make it difficult for people to earn a living. This journey to the year 2014 is a momentous and a historic one for Afghanistan. It can make or break the country. Let’s not return back to post-soviet withdrawal time. Make the right calls now and help the country grow out of this trajectory to be a strong and self-sufficient country.

__ Short Author bio

Abid Amiri is an Afghan citizen currently working toward an M.A. in International Development at The Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. His work on unemployment in Afghanistan is published in the first issue of Global Journal. In addition, his research papers about Muslim-Americans’ representation in the media, and Road Reconstruction in Post-Conflict Afghanistan are published in Islam and Muslim Societies Journal, and International Affairs Review. He is fluent in Pashto, Dari, and Urdu.

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Keep moving forward Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/keep-moving-forward-afghanistan-1528 http://www.khaama.com/keep-moving-forward-afghanistan-1528#comments Sat, 08 Jun 2013 05:26:11 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=26448 Keep moving forward Afghanistan
By Dominic Medley After three years as the Spokesman for the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan my time has come to move on from my current position. I have worked in Kabul for more than 11 years, since February 2002, but I am sure I will return. I first came to Kabul, just three Read the full article...]]>
Keep moving forward Afghanistan

By Dominic Medley

After three years as the Spokesman for the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan my time has come to move on from my current position. I have worked in Kabul for more than 11 years, since February 2002, but I am sure I will return.

I first came to Kabul, just three months after the fall of the Taliban regime. The city was so different then, so run down, so destroyed in many areas. Today I see repaired streets (even though we all complain about the road repairs), solar powered lighting, more shops and businesses, and yes a far larger population that is putting a strain on Afghanistan’s historic capital city.

Everyone is using a mobile phone, or two or three, watching television and far more people are rushing about their daily lives trying to make a living. One of the best sights is always seeing young children, especially girls, on their way to school or university students lounging around the campus grounds. The thirst of Afghans for education, the respect Afghans have for their teachers, can only bode well for the future for the new young generation. And the new generation must include more women; a country cannot thrive without including more than 50% of its population.

The youth of Afghanistan are doing so much for their country. I remember the first athletes who attended the Athens Olympics in 2004 and then in China and then last year in London. The Afghan cricket team has been a rising phoenix around the world competing in major international matches. Music and film has taken off in Afghanistan like never before. The flag of Afghanistan flies around the world. Even now I always search out an Afghan restaurant or embassy when I travel. Afghanistan’s historic treasures have been touring the world’s museums and the Kabul Museum has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences in Kabul along with Babur Gardens.

The occasional high profile attacks in the city are still a concern. I don’t feel there are as many as there used to be a few years ago. Even in September 2002 I remember a bad bombing outside the Ministry of Information and Culture and in 2004 the horrendous car bomb near Ansari Square. What’s different now is the quick response of the Afghan Security Forces. They won’t able to stop every attack, you never can, but they will be able to contain the attacks and stop them killing even more civilians.

It’s important to mention the sacrifices of so many who have given their lives to help and protect Afghanistan. In Britain the famous Help for Heroes organisation has inspired my country and helped wounded troops and their families for the last six years. I know Afghanistan remembers its martyrs. I also recall journalists who have been killed, like Zakia Zaki of Radio Solh and Ajmal Naqshbandi, and I pray for the many foreign friends I know who have died in Afghanistan. The tragic loss of life must never be forgotten.

And so on a professional level representing NATO for three years, I can say that NATO has stated many times that the Afghan National Security Forces are capable and growing in experience. Afghans can be proud in how far their forces have come in the last few years. At the same time the NATO commitment to Afghanistan will be enduring with the new mission, Resolute Support. NATO will remain committed to Afghanistan. NATO will not abandon Afghanistan and NATO will have a long term friendship with Afghanistan.

Personally, I also know from my long time here and from Afghan friends, that there is no going back to the dark days Afghanistan experienced. We may all be impatient for change, bemoaning why some things take longer than we want, efforts will always be challenged and sometimes thwarted. But the only way, the only course and option, is to keep moving forward; to strengthen the partnership and to build on the achievements and progress made together since 2002. It is ultimately up to all Afghans to seize on the opportunities that have been created in the last decade and lead the country forward. With the support of friends, Afghanistan can craft a better and brighter future.

Dominic Medley has just completed three years as the Spokesman for the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.

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Rasmussen brief Afghan journalists on NATO mission in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/rasmussen-brief-afghan-journalists-on-nato-mission-in-afghanistan-26404 http://www.khaama.com/rasmussen-brief-afghan-journalists-on-nato-mission-in-afghanistan-26404#comments Tue, 04 Jun 2013 14:23:15 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=26404 Rasmussen brief Afghan journalists on NATO mission in Afghanistan
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with the Afghan journalists ahead of the start NATO Defence Ministerial to provide answers regarding NATO’s operations in Afghanistan. The NATO Defense Ministerial two-day summit kicked off in Brussels on Tuesday 4 June 2013, and is dedicated to cyber defence. The mission in Afghanistan, capabilities and a meeting Read the full article...]]>
Rasmussen brief Afghan journalists on NATO mission in Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with the Afghan journalists ahead of the start NATO Defence Ministerial to provide answers regarding NATO’s operations in Afghanistan.

The NATO Defense Ministerial two-day summit kicked off in Brussels on Tuesday 4 June 2013, and is dedicated to cyber defence. The mission in Afghanistan, capabilities and a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission also feature on the ministerial agenda.

All the 50 members of the ISAF coalition, and the Afghan defense minister will meet on Wednesday to discuss discuss progress in Afghanistan, and the preparation of a new and different NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after 2014.

Q) The NATO-led post-2014 mission will be to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces. What do you mean by assistance? Also, will this new mission require a new mandate from the UN Security Council?

A) At Chicago we agreed on very clear status for the post-2014 mission. We agreed that we would seek a sound legal basis, such as a United Nations Security Council Resolution. This is thus our preferred option. But let me also stress that from an international legal point of view it would be sufficient to have an invitation from the Afghan government. So an invitation would be sufficient. But if this is complemented with a UN Security Council Resolution that would be even better.
It is too early to speak about the details of the Resolute Support mission. The Train/Advise/Assist mission will take place at the institutional level and at the corps level. And it will be aimed at developing the capacities of Afghan security structures.

Q) Will the term assistance entail that the Afghan security forces would receive air support, if needed?

A) As a clear point of departure, this will not be a combat mission. We will be able to protect our trainers, so that they can operate in a secure environment. If in what we call in extremis situations the Afghan security forces need help, it will be up to our military commanders on the ground to make a decision on the provision of that military help. But, again, as a point of departure our post-2014 mission will not be a combat mission.

Q) What assistance can NATO provide to the Afghan security forces for managing military equipment?

A) It will be for our commanders on the ground to develop a proper training system. That is why developing Afghan capacities and educating new Afghan military leaders on how to coordinate security operations and ensure that individual units can operate together effectively is so important.
As a matter of fact, individual allies provide equipment and training to the Afghan security forces already. And within the NATO Russia Council framework we have established a Trust Fund to finance training activities for helicopter maintenance crews. The Trust Fund is also used to finance the provision and maintenance of spare parts for helicopters. So, all these support activities are taking place and will continue to take place so that the Afghan security forces are well equipped by the end of 2014.

Q) NATO’s mandate is within Afghanistan. Yet if we don’t deal with those territories that host terror groups the Afghan people will continue to suffer. How can we deal with this issue?

A) It is a good question. But as you just said, our UN mandate is clearly limited to Afghanistan. This is also the reason why a positive engagement with Pakistan is of utmost importance. We have urged and continue to urge the Pakistanis to step up their efforts within the tribal regions.

Q) The last tranche of the transition process will take place in areas where there is neither ISAF nor Afghan security presence. What will transition actually entail in this areas?

A) We will expect President Karzai to announce the so called Tranche 5 of the transition process. This will entail that Afghan security forces will be in the lead for providing security in those areas. And it will mean, also, that by that time the Afghan security forces will assume lead security all over Afghanistan. But we as ISAF will still be there with a combat mission. We will thus be ready to engage in combat, if needed. So, in troublesome areas you will still see a significant level of ISAF engagement. Already now, however, Afghan security forces lead more than 90% of the security operations.

Q) PRTs will close down. This will inevitably create gaps, as the Afghan government is unable to complete some projects that had been started by the PRTs. Who will fill those gaps?

A) I have discussed this issue several times with President Karzai. There is a strong wish by the Afghan authorities to see activities by PRTs transferred to Afghan national responsibilities. So, we are following up on a strong Afghan interest expressed by the Afghan government. Also, the closure of PRTs is fully in line with the overall process of transition of responsibilities to Afghans.

Q) What’s your sense of Pakistan’s role, especially after the re-election of Nawaz Sharif as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

A) I expect Pakistan to continue playing its part in the fight against terror. There are no indication that this will not be the case with the new administration.

Q) can you comment on the recent Drones attacks in Waziristan?

A) Out UN mandate only concerns Afghanistan. I can thus only speak about our activities within Afghanistan.

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Pakistani workers block labor market for Afghans in Khost http://www.khaama.com/pakistani-workers-block-labor-market-for-afghans-in-khost-1527 http://www.khaama.com/pakistani-workers-block-labor-market-for-afghans-in-khost-1527#comments Sat, 01 Jun 2013 12:08:26 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=26360 Pakistani workers block labor market for Afghans in Khost
The Afghan labors expressed concerns regarding unemployment issues and complain that the Pakistani workers are attracted in various projects instead of them in Khost Province. The Afghan labors also urged the government to provide working opportunities for them on the different posts in this province. According to reports around three to four thousand Pakistani people Read the full article...]]>
Pakistani workers block labor market for Afghans in Khost

The Afghan labors expressed concerns regarding unemployment issues and complain that the Pakistani workers are attracted in various projects instead of them in Khost Province.

The Afghan labors also urged the government to provide working opportunities for them on the different posts in this province.

According to reports around three to four thousand Pakistani people are working in Khost, Afghanistan. They belong to the Pakistani tribal areas, Khyber Pashtoonkhwa and even Pakistani nationals from Punjab and some other areas are seeking work in this province.

Some of these Pakistani are teaching in Private University and schools, but the majority of them are working in various parts of the city, metal shops, hotels, mechanization and some others.

Noor Tabaz is the resident of Bannu area of Pakistan who has been living with his family in Khost province for the past two years, and has the car repairing garage in Khost city. Noor Tabaz told that he is doing better business in Khost province as compared to Pakistan.

“I am grateful of my God due to the well occupation. I have cars repairing garage. The neighbors of my home and shop are satisfied from me. They say I work well for them”, Noor Tabaz said.

Osman is also the resident of Pakistan and has a mechanic workshop in the mentioned city. He says that he has been living in Khost since three years and work in his shop in this period. Osman told us his shop is very crowded and most people are applying to resolve their mechanical issues.

“I have worked in my shop since three years. It is very profitable occupation. There are a lot of Pakistani in Khost and they are doing well”.

Some of the Khost residents who were waiting in Sargardan Chawk in the middle of the city and looking for work somewhere complained regarding the lack of job in this province. They told Khaama, “The Pakistanis’ have blocked all the way for them to get jobs”.

Abdullah is one of the Khost city residents and said he is unemployed for the past three months and said no Pakistani in Khost is facing unemployment issue.  “The government is supposed to provide us  jobs because the people prefer Pakistani workers instead of us. I am unemployed since three months”, Abdullah added.

Provincial work and social affairs administrator, Mohammad Kamal Zadran says these Pakistani workers haven’t taken working permits in Khost yet. They are planning to give them the license.

“According to the assignments at first they should comprehend to work according the assignments. But if they do not accept, they would face to legal action” Mohammad Kamal Zadran said.

He also added that although the Pakistani workers blocked the way for the Afghans, however, the Pakistani workers providing professional services.

The Pakistani workers are enjoying a good working environment in Afghanistan and do not face any barriers from the Afghan government despite Afghan nationals are facing various issues in Pakistan.

The analysts believe if the government takes necessary action to limit working opportunities for Pakistani citizens, it will create more work opportunities for the Afghans besides which will also increase government’s revenue through taxation.

The analysts also insisted the Afghan government for immediate actions in this regard since more Afghans working NATO troops are other related projects are losing jobs, as the alliance is winding down its operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

By Ibraheem Rahimi, Khost

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Youth addiction grows parallel with drug production in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/youth-addiction-grows-parallel-with-drug-production-in-afghanistan-26283 http://www.khaama.com/youth-addiction-grows-parallel-with-drug-production-in-afghanistan-26283#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 06:41:37 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=26283 Youth addiction grows parallel with drug production in Afghanistan
By: Noor Gul Shafaq “I am happy to die rather than to be alive. If you wish bad-luck to your enemy wish him to become addicted to opium or heroin, as there is no other greater punishment rather than being addicted.” This is what Noor Mohammad said from Kapisa Province Afghanistan . Noor has been Read the full article...]]>
Youth addiction grows parallel with drug production in Afghanistan

By: Noor Gul Shafaq

“I am happy to die rather than to be alive. If you wish bad-luck to your enemy wish him to become addicted to opium or heroin, as there is no other greater punishment rather than being addicted.”

This is what Noor Mohammad said from Kapisa Province Afghanistan . Noor has been using opium since 12 years. He is the oldest among his brothers, and is beaten and shackled several time to quit using drugs by his Youngers bother, who are now taking care of their family.

“Quitting drugs is something out my hands now.” Says Noor.

As Noor, nearly one million youth in Afghanistan have lit fire to their lives being addicted to Heroin, Opium and to others drugs. They go to Pakistan and particularly Iran for work, and return addicted to drugs. This young man, wearing reddish jean look clean than the others. He has gone to Iran for job, but instead addicted to opium by his friends. He is now smoking heroin, and says. “His family doesn’t know about him smoking heroin.”

“I leaves home every day pretends I am going to find a paid job but when I come here I use drugs.”

Mohammad Gul, from Kapisa Province , who once was not even smoking cigarettes but become addicted to Heroin at Iran by his roommates. He says. “A friends offered me a cigarette without letting me know it was Heroin not tobacco in the cigarettes. Since then I am addicted to drugs. I fell pain all over my body if I don’t use drugs now. In Iran suing Drugs is a tradition.”

The known reasons behind youth addiction to drug in Afghanistan are unemployment, wars, and family’s problems. Baba Jan has also left Afghanistan to Iran in hope of a good job. During work hours friends were proposing him poppy for extra energy to work extra hours and would be able to earn more money. He did so as his friends’ proposed. After returning to Afghanistan his wife noticed that her husband is addicted to drugs. She divorced and left here two children to him as well.

A big number of youth have also become addicted to drugs inside Afghanistan . Sarfaraz and Rahmatullah from Helmand province. They call Helmand as drugs’ capital and producing Factory. They have also become addicted in Helmand, and for drugs’ introduction to youth in Helmand blaming those who have been returned from Iran to Helmand

Base on a research the Deputy Chief of UNODC in Kabul Ashita Mittal says: “Afghanistan is producing 80% – 90% of the world’s opium and it’s per sure what ever country cultivate drug the residents of that country will be using it as well.”

She adds: “Even though 4.6 Million refugees have been returned to Afghanistan but it doesn’t mean whoever have been to other country they return addicted.”

According to the addicted youths’ information they are paying AFN 150 for one packet of Opium.

Where are those money coming from?

Most people believes drugs users are thieves.

One of the addicted, Baba Jan says: “Today I stole AFN 100 to buy opium or heroin, I just smoked it and have diminish my body pain with, and before I was stilling a blanket everyday valued AFN 1,200 from my home and was selling it for AFN 300 – 400.”

 “I borrow money from a friend and I also work.” Said Gul Mohammad.

Another one who did not want to be identified said. “No one give us a job, so we have no others option, but to rob. I use, sell and buy heroin now, this is what I am doing as my business now”.

At Kabul Drugs dealers and users are based at Bagh-E-Ali Mardan, Pul-E-Sukhta and at some others locations. They have also built their own living spaces at the desiccated parts of Kabul ’s river. That is where they cover their faces with scarfs, using drugs and sleeping on top of garbage.

Murad Khani Bridge is just about a Kilometer away from the presidential palace, last year few addicted were flood-died here.

One of the drug user’s brother Zabiullah says: “He has treated his brother several time but he is reusing, while he sees others using it and it’s also very easy to find.” He was criticizing the government for not being so active to prevent drugs’ deals in the city.

Dr. Tawfiq Mashal, Director of Drug Prevention Ministry of Public Health says: “They have 105 drug users’ treatment centers countrywide and 28 out of those are located in Kabul . All those centers have the capacity of treating 20,800 persons per year.

Will 105 drugs users’ treatment centers have the capacity to treat one million drug users?

This might be the case people like Gul Mohammad who wants to be treated, don’t even know if the centers are exists or it might not be his turn yet.

“Where are the drugs users’ centers located, I want to be treated there?” Asked Gul Mohammad

Ashita Mittal, the Deputy Head of UNODC Kabul Office Said. “We have conducted an assessment together with two others Organizations, UNHCR and IOM at Kabul , Parwan, Jowz Jan, Baghlan and Hearat Provinces and here is the basic result of the assessment.

First 30,000 of the returnees are addicted to Heroin. Second 8,000 are using injections and out of the eight thousands 2,000 share injections witch is the key reason for HIV transmitting.”

She says: “7% of those drugs users who are using and sharing injections are affected by HIV at Kabul , Heart and Mazar-E-Shrif provinces.”

She further adds: “Base on a research 10% out of around one millions addicted have access to drugs users’ treatment centers and 2.3% of under age 15 are addicted to opium.”

During a ribbon cutting ceremony held a while ago at Jangalak area of Kabul for a 300 beds refurbished drug addicted treatment Center . Kareem Khalili the voice president of the country called youths’ addication a silent tsunami.

Numbers of drugs’ addicted are now under treatment in this center and Sarfarz from Helmand is one of them who had no other option but to come to the treatment center.

He adds: “being under treatment in the center has given him a new life.”

I left Jangalak to a privet addicted treatment center (Nejat). When I moved in to the building, I heard noise coming out of a room, and noticed that someone is singing and others are clapping for. When I moved closer the singer was singing (oh youth, oh youth, stop using drugs, if there are no youths who will be building this country) some of them ware clapping and the others were dancing.

Talking to one of them who was pretty happy with the center’s services, Doctors’ and trainers’ behaviors.

“Now if I became sad, I am not heading to back drugs I am staying here for entertaining and learning some skills.” Said Peer Dil.

 The Doctor incharge of the center Tariq Sulaiman says. “We are not only treating the addicted but teaching them some vocational skills as well, and then sending them back to their families.”

Dr. Tariq added. “We have even recruited some of the addicted after curing in the center but the most important thing before the treatment is good behaviors to win their hearts.”

The Ministry of Labors, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) authorities say: “The Ministry has brought together 943 drugs users since last year by 9 drugs users collecting campaigns. They either have been send back to their families or have been introduced to vocational institutes for training”.

According to Dr. Inayatullah Mayel the Executive Director of National Skills Development Program (NSDP), there are lots of requests and expectations with limited availabilities.

Eng. Zabi ullah, an Advisor to the Ministry of Counter Narcotics say: “For civic Education purposes about drugs’ drawbacks, we have added a subject to the Ministry of Education curriculum.”

He also adds: “90% of opium have been producing at Helmand, Kandahar, Farah and Urzgan Provinces while others 10% are coming from Dai Konde, Badghis, Nimroz and some others provinces of the country.”

“Yearly investment range on drugs trafficking is in between USD 65 – 70 Billion worldwide.” Said Zabi Ullah

Lieutenant general Abdul Khalil Bakhtyar, the General Director of Counter Narcotics Ministry of Interior Affairs said. “Around 3 million people are involved in drug trafficking across the country and meanwhile opium cultivation has been eradicated in 17 provinces and 8 out of 10 top drugs’ traffickers have been arrested last year.”

He further added: “Currently, 3,000 drugs traffickers are detained at Pul-E-Charkhi prison.”

In the Afghan society addicted have not been respected very well. People have been beating them, throwing stone at them and insulting them.

Gul Mohammad is complaining from his family and Says: “Before being addicted I was well respected at home, whenever I would have not liked the food already prepared at home I reject eating it and was asking my mom for a different kinds of food and she was serving it me.”

“Since I’ve been using drugs no one from my family is treating me as a human being” Said Gul Mohammad.

Professor Sharafuddin Azimi, lecturer of Psychology Faculty at Kabul University says. “Drug Users are sick, the need to be well treated by their family and if we want them to stop using drugs we should treat them with love.”

Mohammad Hotak, had used heroin for 10 years and now he is not using it anymore and requesting the others addicted to quit using drugs because drugs disrespects peoples’ personalities among friends, families and in the society. According to Hotak, they should just come up with a strong plan and must go to the treatment center to stop using drugs.

A UNODC research indicates 154000 hectares arable land estimated in 2012 for poppy cultivation and it has increased to 18% compared to the last year. 95% of poppies cultivation took place at insecure southern 9 provinces of the country.  The research also shows that 64% of the world’s poppy cultivation in 2012 has took place in Afghanistan .

Note: addicted people interviewed are between ages 20 – 35 years.

Tandi Sangi by Noor Gul Shafaq-Kabul for RFE/RL

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Why U.S. is losing support among Afghans? http://www.khaama.com/why-u-s-is-losing-support-among-afghans-365498 http://www.khaama.com/why-u-s-is-losing-support-among-afghans-365498#comments Sun, 12 May 2013 13:39:32 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=25845 Why U.S. is losing support among Afghans?
By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai Anti-American sentiments are perhaps looming on high level ever among Afghans. It is on a very critical juncture when the US troop’s withdrawal is already planned till the end of 2014, Pivotal Security agreement with the US is to be signed in the near future and the expected botched presidential elections Read the full article...]]>
Why U.S. is losing support among Afghans?

By: Ahmad Shah Katawazai

Anti-American sentiments are perhaps looming on high level ever among Afghans. It is on a very critical juncture when the US troop’s withdrawal is already planned till the end of 2014, Pivotal Security agreement with the US is to be signed in the near future and the expected botched presidential elections will be held next April.

While the ongoing turf between Karzai and the US Administration is turning public opinion in Afghanistan even further against the United States.

After 9/11 in late 2001, with the US invasion of Afghanistan hopes were there among ordinary Afghans that the US presence will help in getting rid of the neighbor’s meddling in Afghanistan, it will be an end from the warlords and Taliban oppression and that their economy will improve with US aid. That was a welcome relief and a sort of positive feeling existed which is unfortunately on downward spiral now.

Why America lost its image as a champion of Democracy and proponent of peace in Afghanistan? Various factors both on regional and country level exists which needs to be concentrated for future cooperation between the two countries.

  • Unfortunately the US failed to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans because of its

Policies towards Afghanistan itself and its neighbor countries especially Pakistan and Iran.

One after the other Afghan, ISAF and NATO officials have stated about Pakistan providing sanctuaries and support to Taliban but no rational strategy has been devised in order to prevent Pakistan from supporting Taliban.

Pakistan is a country which is playing the most pernicious role in the region by harboring and training terrorists which not only endangers the region but is threatening the globe. Pakistan is posing the greater existential threat to the national security of Afghanistan by supporting and providing sanctuaries to the Taliban. This is definitely against the interests of Afghanistan and the West as well. The competing major countries and neighbors have defined their objective in Afghanistan only vaguely.

Despite providing support to terrorists still Pakistan is beneficiary of the huge sum of aid from the U.S. and the U.S. has always caved into its demands. But little has been done against it.

Pakistan, an unstable country with a nuclear arsenal and supporter of terrorism and violent extremism instead of bringing pressure on it, is appeased by the U.S. Why the United States is appeasing Pakistan? Is a question raised by majority of Afghans?

  • Afghans were much frustrated when the Kunar province witnessed shelling from Pakistani side.  Despite the presence of more than forty countries troops in the country and signing of the strategic agreement with the United States, the shelling was not prevented and the International Community announced that it is the internal matter of Afghanistan.

The shelling regained last month with rocket fires from Pakistani side. This is a major question for Afghan that despite the physical presence of International Community and signing of various strategic agreement with various major countries there is rocket shelling on Afghan soil (Kunar province), but nothing has been done against that.

Disenchantment from the West rose further  when the NATO built facilities inside the Afghan land (in Goshta district, Jalalabad) were occupied or apparently provided by NATO to Pakistani troops, which resulted in fight between Afghan and Pakistani soldiers.

  • When the US and western countries announced that they are withdrawing their forces, this created fear and anxiety among Afghans that they will be left again like in the 1990’s. With this the neighbor countries especially Iran and Pakistan were mainly encouraged that after the withdrawal of the US forces they will be having tabs in the country where they provided more support to Taliban in order to have more influence and sway over the country.  The withdrawal announcement actually boosted the Taliban and neighbor countries strategic position.

The ongoing turf between the Afghan and US administration and the withdrawal announcement has only strengthened the Taliban. Without a long term plan withdrawal of the U.S. forces could repeat the 1990’s once again, paving way for the warlords and Taliban to take over. Afghans sees it as a new great game where they only sacrifice and are victim of the policies of the major powers.

With the departure of the US combat troops there is fear that an internecine violence could erupt among the warlords like it was followed with the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989.

 This fear of being lonely once again is turning the public opinion against the United States and its western allies.

  • The Afghans were of the view that with U.S. arrival there will be democracy and the criminals will be bring to justice, but unfortunately with their arrival they filled the pockets of the warlords which had criminal background and were once involved in plundering the country. With the economic power provided in millions by the U.S. in the later stage these warlords came into political power.  The US is seen as supporters of the warlords and criminals by the majority now.

The unpopular ex-criminals during the civil war were bring back in the mainstream economy and politics instead of sidelining them. They were re-empowered with cash and weapons at the hands of the west mainly the United States which is the foremost concern of Afghan population.

Largely it was seen as to replace one unacceptable terror group with another one, as long as the latest one pledged its loyalty to the United States.

The US never tried to understand Afghan culture and tradition. The anti-terrorism efforts and tactics are still widely unpopular.

  • Civilian casualties are the major source of the anti-American sentiments and disenchantment among the Afghans, which is often raised from the government administration. The local people from different areas have time and again complained against the civilian casualties committed by the International troops which are consistently ignored.

Blind bombing in different parts of the country especially the southern areas and relentless airstrikes which still continues is feeding widespread anti American sentiments.

  • Secret private and secret CIA militias in different parts of the country especially in south and eastern parts have raised major concerns among Afghans which further blackened America’s image. The latest were the Maidan Wardak tragic incidents where villagers and students according to reports were seized in their homes at night, disappeared and were tragically killed by secret forces.

This is what generated fear and violence among Afghans fueling anti-Americanism while on the other hand aiding Taliban recruitment.

Secret arrests, private prisons, torture and killing, warlords, criminals support, inappropriate behavior with the prisoners, private prisons, are all the factors which aid to the Taliban recruitment and disenchantment among Afghans.

  • The most significant factor which raised major concerns from the very beginning is the inappropriate behavior of the ground forces with the population.

The Der Spiegel, a German Magazine when published photos allegedly depicting American soldiers posing with the bloodied and naked corpse of an Afghan civilian added more fuel to the fire, likewise videos that purportedly showed troops urinating on the corpses of suspected Taliban fighters, the burning of Korans created much anger and frustration among Afghans.

Night raids, searching Afghan houses by foreigners where xenophobia is on rise, is something unacceptable and irrational.

  • Burning of Quran provoked anti American sentiments throughout the Islamic World and especially in Afghanistan.  Demonstrations were there several times and with this the neighbor countries propagated against the west and U.S. unleashing a new wave of conspiracy theories.

Protests unleashed in different parts of World over a film insulting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), including Afghanistan.

In countries like Afghanistan which has passed through three decade of wars and where the power struggle between radical and moderate Islamic groups still continues on a large scale such tendencies of violence are even on higher scale.

  • With the conspiracy theories in a traditional country which is deeply suspicious of the west, anti-American feelings are running high.

The so called Islamic Political groups once having support of the west and east equally during the cold war to undermine communism now are in effort to have control over the politics and country internally and internationally with an emphasis on the extremis version and interpretation of Islamic Sharia.

Statement like US and Taliban collusion for the purpose of the retainment of presence of the US in the country, the past and present assistance of the U.S. with local warlords having criminal background and the Taliban once supported by the U.S. and western countries during the Soviet invasion are all the conspiracy or factual theories which contribute in fueling anti-Americanism among Afghans.

  • Neighbor countries media propaganda has fostered more anti American and anti-western feelings. Most of the reports and programs aired on media outlets from the neighbor countries reflect and add more to anti-western sentiments and the fundamentalist ideologies in the country and region.

Iran the region’s most persistent irritant of the United States, has compiled considerable resources in order to propagate against the US and West and create anti-American feeling among the masses.

  • Though more than a decade has passed since the International Community is working on training and equipping of the Afghan forces but still from equipment side the Afghan forces are faced with major problems.

Due to their ill-equipment and having strong and unfortunately dangerous neighbors the government security apparatus seems unprepared at this time to take the lead responsibility against the insurgence. The failure of the Afghan forces on major scale is due to the lack of resources and their ill-equipment. The poorly equipped and short on air power Afghan Security Forces can’t defend their country until and unless they are not provided with sophisticated weapons in order to defend their country.

Unwillingness on the part of the US for bringing regional balance of power and providing needed resources to the Afghan forces have raised major doubts in the minds of Afghan people.

Vast majority in 2001 were willing and ready to support US in its war against terrorism. But with the passage of time the U.S. lost its support that once it was enjoying among Afghan, it was all due to their ill-conceived policies.

  • One of the blunder which was committed in the very beginning and which added much to the Taliban recruitment was the disenchantment of the Pashtun population, Vast majority of the population was alienated in Bonn Conference back in 2001. Most of the ministries were given to the Northern Alliance and the Pashtun population was not given their due share in the newly established governmental structure which infuriated the Pashtun population.
  • The people of Afghanistan had much higher expectations than the reality. In 2001 after attack on its soil by Al-Qaeda with the US arrival in Afghanistan hopes were there among many Afghans that it could pave the way for stability, justice, progress and prosperity and emancipation from warlords. They had come with the slogan of dismantling Al-Qaeda and promising to bring democracy in the country. They were seen by the vast majority as a beacon of stability and economic prosperity. But unfortunately after more than a decade still Afghanistan is facing plethora of problems in various fields, which infuriated them on a wide scale.

Afghans had high hopes for rebuilding its infrastructure, improving the life standard; there was much optimism that the country will see drastic changes. But unfortunately the process saw major setbacks and frustration.

  • Historical factors and the past legacy of leaving Afghans to its fate when the U.S. national interests were served after the disintegration of the Soviet Union is a factor which raises doubts among Afghans.

 The Afghans are now given the feeling of the past dissertation. Afghans felt deserted by the US in the early 1990’s following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. As soon as the Soviet troops departed from Afghanistan the US officials lost interest in Afghanistan, they backed away from helping the Afghans in standing on their feet instead the country was left for its fate which erupted in civil war paving way for the Taliban to rule on the country with their extremist ideology till 2001.Instead of helping it, Afghanistan was left alone after the Soviet withdrawal.

The above mentioned factors are deepening the sense of disappointment, hopelessness, loss, defeat and anger among Afghans and especially on the part of the youth of the country. Almost 65 percent of the population is aged 25 or younger. This constituency of the population is driven by the past three decade war, ongoing violence, insurgency and cruelty taking place in the region. With no concentration to the problems and demands despite the fact that International community is present in their country, there will be an overwhelming pool of new recruits to the Taliban groups which already with collaboration with neighbor countries is working against the western interests. The consequences could result much more subtle, perhaps more dangerous in the long run where the level of mistrust of the United States and west will grow deeper. This threat looming deeper and perhaps more dangerous may pose even greater risk in the years to come.

Public opinion among Afghans especially youths, towards the United States has not improved instead it is on downward pace and has actually worsened in Afghanistan.

Instead of peace, prosperity and justice the Afghans still see extremism, insecurity, wide-scale corruption, impoverishment and violence throughout the country which brings anxiety and frustration among the people.

The reality of the past more than a decade has unleashed new concerns and embittered the Afghans. Instead of bringing real democracy the west after providing warlords and criminals with millions of dollars is now leaving once again the country to its fate. Such sort of announcements could stir more anti-Americanism among Afghans instead of bridging the existing gaps in their policies.

The reality is that no system, no matter what form it has, can survive without a minimal threshold of popular support. While the popular support could be garnered only through policies that could touch the hearts and minds of people which could be felt in the society from the very gross roots.

Bridging the  existing gaps and flaws which aid to doubt and suspicion among population is in the long term national interest of both countries (Afghanistan and the United States) expected to set the trends of future developments with signing of the Security Agreement after they signed Strategic Agreement in back 2011.

I think the Afghans with the help of International community can puncture the hysteria about the West and especially the United States that has been manufactured by those who want to advertise anti-western sentiments for their own malignant reasons, only through transparent economic aid, robust support to the Afghan National Security Forces, rooting out the ongoing corruption and bringing a system based on justice and transparency.

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Iran Hegemonic Ambition – The Neo-Islamic Revolutionary Movement http://www.khaama.com/iran-hegemonic-ambition-the-neo-islamic-revolutionary-movement-6541 http://www.khaama.com/iran-hegemonic-ambition-the-neo-islamic-revolutionary-movement-6541#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 06:02:06 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=25699 Iran Hegemonic Ambition – The Neo-Islamic Revolutionary Movement
By: Hatef Mukhtar As Tunisia’s revolt against the autocratic rule of now deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali enlighten the region with a revolutionary fire which no western or Arab powers could have foreseen, Iran immediately understood that the wind of history could play in its favor, bringing about the opportunities Iran Ayatollahs had Read the full article...]]>
Iran Hegemonic Ambition – The Neo-Islamic Revolutionary Movement

By: Hatef Mukhtar

As Tunisia’s revolt against the autocratic rule of now deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali enlighten the region with a revolutionary fire which no western or Arab powers could have foreseen, Iran immediately understood that the wind of history could play in its favor, bringing about the opportunities Iran Ayatollahs had long awaited.

As Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen all rose against their respective dictators, clamoring for their right to self-determination; religiously-driven factions rose through the trenches, given budding revolutionary movements the structure they were lacking.

While the Arab Spring Movement was born of an organic cry-out for freedom and social justice, it was groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – Sunni political faction – or al-Wefaq in Bahrain – Shia political faction – which gave the people a sense of direction and for the most part purpose.

From Tehran, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei predicted in 2011 that the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa – would come to remember the Arab Spring Movement as the cornerstone of the region’s Islamic Revolution.

Rising to the challenge, Iran saw in widespread calls for democracy its window of opportunity. Tehran decided it would shine forth its influence, confident it would appear the natural political winner of this regional power chasm. No longer in control, Saudi Arabia was bound to lose its hold over the region, hence the inception of Tehran as the Arab world’s new super-power; such was Tehran’s view-point in 2011.

However, Iran’s ability to project power in the region has been challenged significantly by several factors — Saudi rivalry, unrest in Syria, domestic political discord, international ostracism –

An antagonistic friendship

A long-standing ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a man Tehran knew it could trust in maintaining Iran’s hold over the Levant, through his sponsoring of factions and militias which cause and goals were in line with its own — the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Hamas in the Palestinian Territories –  Iran lacked oversight when it decided to publicly throw its weight behind Assad’s regime, shouldering the crimes of his brutal dictatorship, therefore tarnishing its image as a benevolent force and regional power-broker.

It is important to note that while Iran political stance is symbiotic with its religious beliefs – Shia Islam – it does not based its friendships and alliances along a sectarian line as often assume, Tehran has a very clear understanding of the MENA region’s power dynamic and the role which Islam plays in it.

On the wake of Iran 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran set out to organize the next stage of its political agenda – spreading its ideology through the creation of sister-cells across the region, starting with countries with a strong Shia community such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq -

Iran’s hegemonic claims on the MENA region stretch back decades and are at the core of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s governance vision – as stated in his book: “Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist” -

With Iran clearly militarily engaged in Syria as it seeks to consolidate its positions in the Levant region and create a buffer zone against Israel and to some extent Turkey’s growing influence, Tehran is being dragged into a lengthy and bloody conflict; forced to support President Assad, as the alternative would mean to surrender Syria to its nemesis, the United States of America and by association, Israel.

Tactical Alliances and Foreign Policy

Iran Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi asserted in Februrary 2011 Iran’s desire that: “Egyptians’ high aims, national demands, and resurrection of glory could be achieved in the very near future.” Lest all this is dismissed as Persian gloating, Iran reemphasized its foreign policy includes: “Supporting the ‘Resistance’ in the Middle East.”

The remark perfectly synthesized Tehran’s political stand in terms of its foreign policy and governance ambitions – Iran’s leaders hope events in Arab countries will converge as to create a unified Muslim Middle East, beyond the Shia-Sunni divide, that looks to Tehran for guidance against the West -

Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran poured millions of dollars into Egypt Muslim Brotherhood’s coffers, almost singlehandedly bank-rolling the Sunni organization’s political and social endeavors. It was Iran funds which enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to grow its political base among poor and middle class Egypt and promote the somewhat political radicalization of an entire segment of the population.

“You can call this an Islamic revolution,” predicted Essam el-Erian, a prominent Brotherhood leader.

The scheme has been emulated throughout the region.

From Lebanon to Bahrain and Yemen, Iran’s footprints are ever increasingly visible.

The U.S. government and private sources engaged in aid distribution have witnessed Iran’s financial and ideological reach into the Arab world. One senior official in Washington with experience in many of the countries undergoing political flux commented, “By the time American and Saudi aid reached those areas, the Iranians’ cash and presence had gained local people’s empathy and loyalty.”

In Yemen, Iran found an expected friend and ally in the Southern Secessionist Movement – al-Harak – stifled for almost two decades under the autocratic rule of deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Harak leaders used Yemen 2011 popular uprising to reinstate their calls for independence and self-governance.

As Saudi Arabia backed up Sana’a central government, Iran offered al-Harak its unwavering support.

With an ally in Yemen southern provinces and the Houthis – Shia rebel group which originally sought to return to the ancestral rule of the Imams – in the north, Iran literally pulled the carpet from under Saudi Arabia’s feet.

With the Houthis growing ever bolder as their influence is spreading to more northern provinces in Yemen – Hajjah, al-Jawf, Sa’ada and parts of Amran – al-Saud are nervously looking at their southern borders, foreboding a Shia-led insurrection which could ignite old border disputes.

Despite an intensive anti-Tehran campaign led by the Yemeni coalition government – under the careful guidance of Washington and the Gulf Cooperation Council – Iran’s hold over the impoverished nation is exponentially increasing both in the north and the south, with countless officials having already pledged their alliance to Tehran.

Islamic Renaissance or Neo-Islamic Revolutionary Movement

As surely as Washington has been warning against the rise of Islamic fundamentalists to power, Iran has been sponsoring religious-political figures such as Rashid Ghannouchi in Tunisia.

After two decades in exile Ghannouchi returned a hero to Tunisia, very much the Sunni parallel of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Having established ties with Ghannouchi during his years in London, Iran’s mullahs anticipated he could propel Harakat al-Nahda al-Islamiya or Islamic Renaissance Movement to the forefront of Tunisia political landscape. Essentially, Tehran sought to turn Ghannouchi into the emblem of Tunisia’s  revolution, a man who embodied political Islam.

Kingmaker in Lebanon, Iran wants to become a regional political and religious beacon.

The transformation of Hezbollah from an anti-Israeli militia into an Iranian-guided, street-savvy, Shiite political party, becoming the kingmaker in Lebanese politics has been a major triumph for the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, which success it now seeks to replicate throughout a clever network of regional alliances against Saudi Arabia, its main contender in the region.

Mullahs trumpet the Iran-Hezbollah alliance as a fundamentalist, Islamist counterthrust against moderate Sunni Arabs.

In Yemen, Iran did not hesitate to support al-Qaeda – a Sunni fundamentalist group which aims to re-create Islam Caliphates ruling system -

Although Tehran is wary of the terror group, knowing it religious stance is not compatible with its own, it nevertheless utilizes its political reach to further its regional vision – Iran, it appears, wants to reign over the Arabian Peninsula on both ideological and political fronts.

Thirty-three years ago, when Iranians came together for freedom, hoping that the ouster of their monarch – the self-proclaimed Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi – would herald the birth of democracy, Ayatollah Khomeini and his cohorts seized control, imposing an internally tyrannical, externally anti-Western, Islamic state.

Khomeini outsmarted Iranian politicians seeking plurality; first by claiming he would fulfill their expectations and then, once  his supreme leadership was uncontested, by brutally removing all  political contenders from the scene. His governmental heirs are now following the same political maneuvering.

Even as the U.S. and the EU remain transfixed by demonstrations in Tunis, Cairo, Amman, Manama and Sana‘a, and by the inception of a new order in Beirut, always reacting never preempting; Iran has been on what it holds to be its “sacro-saint” mission – bringing theocracy to the Muslim world.

The evidences of Iran’s reshaping of the region are accumulating:

Interferences in Bahrain have intensified. An increasing number of Bahrainis are of Iranian origin, and Shiite religious authorities are strengthening links to the Jaafari jurisprudence schools in Qom, Mash’had and Tehran.

In Kuwait, Iran efforts have been focused on reviving the Husseiniyahs – places used by Shiites to commemorate the assassination of Imam Hussein – and supporting relevant Kuwaiti figures. Kuwaiti Shiites have been also assisted in forming political and popular movements to stand guard against any official anti-Iranian decisions taken by the government.

In Yemen, Iran’s involvement in providing political and material support to the rebellious Houthis in the North and al-Harak in the south is now common knowledge.

In Syria, Iran continues to support Assad’s regime, putting in jeopardy the very social fabric of the Sham region — Lebanon, Palestine and Syria –

In Lebanon, Tehran continues to hold the country’s ability to self-govern hostage through its support of the Hezbollah and sponsorship of prominent political figures. Very much the meddling relative, Iran has been Lebanon kingmaker through Syria.

An examination of the Shia and Kurdish efforts to build legislative and political pillars in a post-Saddam Iraq indicates a major Iranian role. All plans undertaken by the American administration in Iraq were carried out in tandem with the Iranians, or at least through Tehran-affiliated forces.

In the Arab Maghreb, Iran is relentless in its efforts to spread its sectarian ideals through continued diplomatic presence and its privileged relationship with Algeria. It is also spreading its Shia doctrine in the Moroccan society, especially among university students. It has done so by building on the sympathy the Hezbollah is generating among Arab citizens in that it stands against Israel and for the Palestinian people.

These movements and their undisclosed objectives – such as exporting the Islamic revolution to Arab and Muslim countries – have stirred fears in the rest of Arab Maghreb.

In  reaction to Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in North Africa,  the Kingdom of Morocco decided to sever all diplomatic ties with Iran in March 6, 2009, after the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat was charged with meddling with Moroccan identity, essential religious values and the unity of its royal Sunni doctrine.

Between Theocracy and Democracy

As the Arab Spring is evolving and morphing, it is increasingly clear that Iran has much to overcome before it can claim to rule the Middle East and an extent the Arab World as a whole.

Even Iran’s natural ally in Bahrain – al-Wefaq – is not as keen on living under Tehran over-bearing shadow as western powers are making out. Instead political factions and civil societies across the region are more inclined to follow the democratic route.

Having lived under dictatorship or monarchies for decades, Arabs are now talking and breathing political renaissance and democracy.

And indeed if Iran cannot become the single spiritual and political beacon to the Arab Shia community, it stands little chance of leading the Sunni Arab majority.

The Arab awakening against authoritarian pro-Western governments marks the beginning of a new struggle between secular democracy and Iranian theocracy.

It is yet difficult to foretell which influences, that of the West or Ian’s will ultimately prevail as anti-American sentiments and the Europe imperialistic policies are challenged by a new class of politicians, one which legitimacy is rooted in demagogy.

About Author

Hatef Mokhtar (born 11 May 1962) is an Afghan author currently living in Norway and is a Norwegian citizen. He is the founder and chief editor of The Oslo Times and a human-rights activist. He writes for several newspapers and magazines such as KL-Today, Daily Sun, Malaysia Today, Haama Daily, groruddalen.no, Malaysia Today, and Burma Digest. He works towards the freedom of press and speech, and for the promotion of peace. He is a public speaker and a political analyst. Although a political analyst on Afghanistan, he also specializes in global human rights issues and the freedom of expression in particular. Mokhtar belongs to the Durrani clan of the Pashtun. He is the founder and chairman of Armed for the Quill (AFTQ) and the organization Global Peace. Read more about him at: 

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Do we have the Potential to raise Afghanistan’s GDP? http://www.khaama.com/do-we-have-the-potential-to-raise-afghanistans-gdp-21654 http://www.khaama.com/do-we-have-the-potential-to-raise-afghanistans-gdp-21654#comments Mon, 06 May 2013 06:35:47 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=25680 Do we have the Potential to raise Afghanistan’s GDP?
By: Faazel Ahmad Oria  The Afghan economy has been consistently in a low state from a historical perspective since 1960s. Afghanistan has had a traditional economic system until the invasion of the former Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the country experienced a socialist economic system “a centralized system” in late 1970s. Afghanistan Read the full article...]]>
Do we have the Potential to raise Afghanistan’s GDP?

By: Faazel Ahmad Oria 

The Afghan economy has been consistently in a low state from a historical perspective since 1960s. Afghanistan has had a traditional economic system until the invasion of the former Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the country experienced a socialist economic system “a centralized system” in late 1970s. Afghanistan experienced an Islamic system of economy during the Taliban regime. Eventually, Afghanistan has adopted a free market economy since the presence of the international community in 2001 which was coupled with the introduction of a democratic system of government for Afghanistan.

In the above mentioned periods Afghanistan has had a poor economy with a low GDP “gross domestic products”. But unlikely, in recent decades according to CSOA’s “Central Statistics Organization of Afghanistan” report, the GDP in our country expanded 9.50 percent in the fiscal year 2011-12 from previous years. In another report by the World Bank, Afghanistan’s GDP in 2011 was worth 20.34 billion US dollars. This indicates that due to the foreign aid and investments, Afghanistan’s economy is growing rapidly.

Beside the foreign aid and investments, Afghanistan’s domestic income sectors are also growing, and playing a key role in increasing the GDP of Afghanistan. Agriculture is a significant sector in Afghanistan’s economy that constitutes 35 percent of GDP. The exploration of natural resources such as; mine explorations has started to play a key role in the increasing revenue.

 The third sector that forms the Afghan economy is the Tax Revenue Department, working under the supervision of Ministry of Finance. This sector has major influences in increasing the GDP of Afghanistan. The income of the revenue department raised to 1.64 billion US dollars in 2012 fiscal year, a 14-fold increase on 10 years ago (Reuters, 2013). And this seems a major increment in national income.  However, the revenue department of ministry of finance faces major impediments in collecting the taxes.

We “Afghans” do not often agree to pay taxes to our government, and we sometimes even scoff to pay the required taxes, so that the government can spend them on welfare projects in society. On the other hand, we have some powerful and rich people, which hold huge investments and properties and are often not paying their taxes to the tax revenue department. The government authorities have admitted that taxing the powerful and rich businessmen is not easy, because most of them are key government officials, tribal and ethnic leaders, and often commands militias. These rich and powerful people have huge influence on government policies and institutions are responsible to collect taxes. This seems hard to collect the taxes starting from an ordinary citizen to those who hold big enterprises. “We have to promote the culture of tax paying in our country”. The government needs to develop policies and increase its influence on these rich and powerful people and make them pay the taxes.

Besides tackling the obstacles, the revenue department in the ministry of finance has played a significant role in raising the national incomes. According to a Reuters report under the previous head of the revenue department Ahmad Shah Zamanzai, the tax department jailed more than 20 tax evaders, froze bank accounts, slapped on travel bans and shuttered the premises of businesses that refused to pay tax. Currently, Afghanistan’s tax incomes to GDP stand above 11 percent, higher than the neighboring country Pakistan (Reuters, 2013).

Despite the above mentioned achievements of the revenue department in ministry of finance, I acknowledge the massive corruption in the ministry of finance and all other governmental institutions. I do not notice a serious motivation against corruption in any ministry or government institutions. Now we have the new head of the revenue department  Abdul Rahman Mujahhid stating that “corruption is a part of public life in Afghanistan” and in the meantime he tends to make the revenue department corruption-free (Reuters, 2013). I can see the contradiction in Mujahid’s statements very well, and I do not consider his statement a strong commitment against corruption. We need some serious and dedicated managers to work hard against corruption and tackle the obstacles on of taxing collection.

Now coming to the main question “Do we have the Potential to raise our GDP “Gross Domestic Products?  To answer this main question, we have to rely on strong management and dedicated managers in agriculture, mining, tax revenue department, and all other key economic sectors. We need serious heads and managers like Ahmad Shah Zamanzai, the previous head of the revenue department, who does not hesitate to confront powerful tax evaders; and so on we need such management in every key economic sectors. Government and the international community needs to focus on major investment projects in housing, mining, and agriculture setting and it will greatly contribute in increasing GDP of Afghanistan.

Economy shapes a country’s future and a stable economy is the backbone of development and prosperity in any nation. Afghanistan had a great opportunity to utilize from the presence of the United States and the international community. To some extent, developmental projects in economic, educational, health, and agriculture have been implemented.  however, the government administration failed to tackle corruption, secondly, the presence of war- lords, lack of rule of law, lack of experts, and the influences of rich and powerful people on government were the major sources of problems. I believe that we have the capacity of growing our economy, only if we decide to seriously work for it.

Works Cited

  • Reuters, (2013).
  • Wikipedia, CSOA “Central Statistics Organization of Afghanistan”
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In reply to “Afghanistan the Unknown” http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-the-unknown-2654 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-the-unknown-2654#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 07:18:25 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=25321 In reply to “Afghanistan the Unknown”
By: Gharanai Khwakhuzhi Today I came across an article titled “Afghanistan the Unknown”* written by Mr. Bing West (A former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine, who has written five books about combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is working on his sixth book, about an embattled Marine platoon in Afghanistan and the role of Read the full article...]]>
In reply to “Afghanistan the Unknown”

By: Gharanai Khwakhuzhi

Today I came across an article titled “Afghanistan the Unknown”* written by Mr. Bing West (A former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine, who has written five books about combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is working on his sixth book, about an embattled Marine platoon in Afghanistan and the role of courage) on National Reviews website.

First up after reading the title I thought it could be an interesting article and straight away jumped to the bottom of the article to read about the writer (whom I didn’t know prior to this article), reading that he was the assistant secretary of defense, gave me further reasons to read it out.

But then sadly the moment I started reading the first paragraph where he labeled Afghanistan a “Medieval” country with “30 million illiterate, fractious tribesmen” (I never read anything that the “triumvirate” that he talks about ever mentioned such lines); I knew that it would be another ignorant article about Afghanistan by a writer who has no real idea of what’s the real history of his “Subject” and the current ground realities about his “Subject“.

It became more horrifying when I reminded myself that the writer was once an assistance secretary of defense, but at least now I know how the policies of the United States go wrong from time to time.

First up Mr. West should know that Afghanistan lived on the world map before 1979 as well, so imaging Afghanistan for its past 3 decades of history itself shows how ignorant the writer is about what he is writing.

I wonder if he has ever heard of the names like Avicenna, Rumi, Abdul Had Mohmand and Ishaq Shahryar to name a few?

If not it would be better he learns/Google about them before writing his next article or should I say ‘Book’.

Now as far as his overall article is concerned I would say he is doing the same mistake that most of Afghans do [sadly], that’s blaming others for your own mistakes.

Whenever a suicide bomb goes off in Afghanistan it’s blamed on neighbors, I know the neighbors play a key role in the instability and stability of the country, but one should not deny the fact that the person carrying out or helping with the attack is one of your own (an Afghan) either distracted or brainwashed.

The same applies to the analysis of Mr. West; he is totally denying the fact that it was people like himself advising the Military and the President when it came to policy and decision makings.

The fact that the US failed to come up with a strong policy to fight against “Terrorism” is a major obstacle in development of Afghanistan and the war against Terrorism.
As mentioned by Mr. West, the US was fighting the Taliban in 2006 (now I wonder if Mr. West would agree with me or just call it a conspiracy theory that Taliban were also one of those “Extensive Networks” that he discusses about, sat up back in 80s under the name of “Mujaheedin” or “Freedom Fighters” fighting the “Ugly” Soviets) while President Karzai was screaming out that Taliban were different from AQ and that he wanted to negotiate with them and bring them in to the political system of Afghanistan, but who would listen because it gave the US a reason to stay in Afghanistan and fight.

Today the same US is roaming around the world propagating about how beneficial it is for Afghanistan to get into talks with the Taliban and saying that “They were not after Taliban”.

The thousands of innocent civilian lives that were taken during US’ war against Taliban meant nothing? And they were “Not after Taliban”? That must be some political joke that the world has seen in recent times.

Yet I agree with Mr. West saying that it should be up to Afghans to decide for their future, but he should not forget that the US also has a responsibility towards Afghanistan; specially after it destroyed more than half of the country’s infrastructure and military might (including Artillery, Tanks  and Air Force) whether it was by its “Extensive Networks” back in 80s and 90s or by itself in the past 11+ years.

Again I am sure that Mr. West will label it a conspiracy theory that the US is not in Afghanistan solely to destroy “Terrorism” and “Save Afghans” from the hardliners; but it also sees its long term benefits and strategic advantage holding military bases in Afghanistan.

Now if my words are not just conspiracy theory, then I suggest that it would be best for both Afghanistan and the US to establish a relationship beyond theories and suggestions of the likes of Mr. West.

Today Afghanistan as much requires the help of the US as the US requires of Afghanistan, so understanding each other’s interests and negotiating on a common ground where both nations have a mutual interest to be respected and agreeable to both sides, is the best way to work on for both nations.

I think Afghanistan’s security forces would be more than ready to secure the country once the Allied Forces leave, granted that they are supplied and economically backed by International Community.

A point to remember from short ago history of Afghanistan is the fact that Dr. Najibullah’s army did not fall apart due to its capability to fight insurgents then “Mujaheedin”, but solely due to lack of finance, once you are not able to finance a large army then surely you are in big trouble.

The amount spent by the US and Allied Force in the last 11+ years could have not only totally destroyed AQ operations in Afghanistan but would have also created a very professional and self-reliant Afghan Army today, but what’s gone is gone.

We should now be talking about future not about past 11 years and try to not make the same mistakes that were made in the past 11 years.

To conclude I would say both Afghanistan and the US should work on the much talked about “Security Agreement” on grounds that both nations could secure their national interests.

And both nations should be very selective when it comes to taking advice, because there could be people who are not only ignorant but also has limited knowledge of topics they are discussing about.

*

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The socio economic effects of American withdrawal http://www.khaama.com/the-socio-economic-effects-of-american-withdrawal-3265 http://www.khaama.com/the-socio-economic-effects-of-american-withdrawal-3265#comments Wed, 10 Apr 2013 05:01:45 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=25039 The socio economic effects of American withdrawal
Visit any government office in Kabul and you will see young employees in their twenties or early thirties, flashing expensive cloths, smart phones and the latest computer gadgets. They are the so called National Technical Assistants; receiving their salaries in dollar values averaging thirty thousands in annual salary, forty times more than the per capita Read the full article...]]>
The socio economic effects of American withdrawal

Visit any government office in Kabul and you will see young employees in their twenties or early thirties, flashing expensive cloths, smart phones and the latest computer gadgets. They are the so called National Technical Assistants; receiving their salaries in dollar values averaging thirty thousands in annual salary, forty times more than the per capita income in the country. Contrary to that, the regular government employees receive much lower wages, who on average receive $ 4,000 in annual salary. The same is true with the private sector the large number of NGOs operating in Afghanistan, who are willing to pay high salary mainly because someone is good with English and able to use basic computer applications.

Though forming only a small percentage of the total population of the cities, this group has developed their unique subculture. Fancy restaurants, shopping malls, luxury fitness gyms, indoor swimming pools and Kabul’s only bowling club have all sprouted to serves the needs of this unique class of citizens. Though the sudden flood of aid money and investments in Afghanistan has created many millionaires but such millionaires are usually less educated thus having a rather different lifestyle.

Things like family planning, dieting, and having hobbies, the hall marks of modern societies, are mainly limited to this unique sub-middle class. At the same time volunteering and doing social work are slowly making its way into Afghan society through the same group of people.

But more importantly, since such people have benefited immensely from their education, they place great value on it. They spend a good amount of their income on their own and the education of their family members. This has created a market for private schools and universities, something that never existed before the arrival of western troops into the country. Ten years ago knowing English would guarantee high paid job, whereas nowadays master degree is a minimum requirement for most jobs. The demand for good education is such that the American University of Afghanistan accepts only 25 percents of its applicants to its masters program which costs $17,500 in tuition fees for the two years program.

In the last 10 years billions of dollars are spent to stabilize Afghanistan and transform and modernize the Afghan society. Part of the aid was channeled to transform local communities, improve woman rights, establish democracy, improve living standards and health, etc. But the amount of money spent in this regard never brought about the expected results. There might be many reasons for this failure, but three of the main causes can the lack of capacity on behalf the local staff implementing these projects, lack of education of the masses, and lack of role models. And I believe that this special class of people can both be good roles models and the backbone of Afghanistan’s working capacity.

Serving as the early adopters for any new idea, it is very important for the international community to maintain this special group in order to channel new ideas into the highly traditional Afghan society. Whether it is democracy, woman rights, environmental protection, modernized business, quality education, etc, they all should make way into Afghan society through this specific group of people.

But as with the planned exit of Foreign forces in 2014, and hence the lack of interest in Afghanistan, it is expected that the foreign aid to Afghanistan will substantially be reduced. The Afghan government is working hard towards preparing itself for post 2014 Afghanistan. Part of the preparation is to cut down on its developmental budget and hence the salaries of these high paid employees, resulting in a ten percent cut for the coming year alone. The plan is to gradually reduce such salaries to half the current amounts in short term and eliminate them altogether in long term.

This may save some funds for the donor community in the short term and enable the Afghan government to pay for its employees. But in the long run such a decision may result in the collapse of this class by many of these employees migrating to foreign countries. Even if that does not happen, the urge to get quality education among such people in order to compete for high paid jobs will definitely cease to continue. Thus instead of channeling money directly towards security, social changes, and education, it is better to allocate part of the money to encourage those who have sit good examples and attract our best talent towards education and have a reason for them to stay in the country. Such people should be supported to continue in the same manner so we can get highly educated class in future who may come up with Afghan solutions for the Afghan problems.

By: Mohammad Khan, Program Manager at Ministry of Education, Afghanistan

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Afghanistan joins Democracy and Human Rights Committee at IPU http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-joins-the-inter-parliamentary-union-ipu-1654 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-joins-the-inter-parliamentary-union-ipu-1654#comments Mon, 01 Apr 2013 11:35:27 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=24721 Afghanistan joins Democracy and Human Rights Committee at IPU
Afghanistan obtained membership of the Third Standing Committee (Democracy and Human Rights) of the Inter–Parliamentary Union (IPU) on the Union’s 128th Assembly held in Ecuador. The candidates for the membership to the Committee were Farkhunda Zahra Naderi from Afghanistan, a female Parliamentarian from Australia and a male Parliamentarian from Iran. Receiving 28 votes from the 52 Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan joins Democracy and Human Rights Committee at IPU

Afghanistan obtained membership of the Third Standing Committee (Democracy and Human Rights) of the Inter–Parliamentary Union (IPU) on the Union’s 128th Assembly held in Ecuador.

The candidates for the membership to the Committee were Farkhunda Zahra Naderi from Afghanistan, a female Parliamentarian from Australia and a male Parliamentarian from Iran.

Receiving 28 votes from the 52 members of the Committee, Farkhunda Zahra Naderi won the seat on behalf of Afghanistan.

The Australian Parliamentarian and the Iranian Parliamentarian received 20 and 3 votes respectively.

“After this Afghanistan must be given a chance to take part in the international affairs and have a role in the global decision making process and providing solutions to international crisis,” said Ms. Naderi.

In an exclusive interview with Khaama Press, Ms. Naderi said regarded the membership a valuable achievement for Afghanistan.

“It was not easy for Afghanistan to succeed in winning the membership status of the Third Standing Committee (Democracy and Human Rights), as Australia and Iran had worked hard and had advance preparations to obtain membership in this committee. Afghanistan won the seat in a serious election, although the chances of winning for the Australian lady was very high, as she was a popular face and was one of the ex-members of the IPU. This is a great achievement for Afghanistan,” said Miss Naderi.

Afghanistan previously participated in the annual assemblies of the IPU and was not a member of any of the committees. This is the first time that Afghanistan has reserved a seat in one of the important committees of IPU.

Established in 1889, the IPU is the international organization of Parliaments.

The Union is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy.

IPU assembly is held each year in one of the member countries. The 2014 assembly will be in Azerbaijan.

On its 128th Assembly, the IPU focused on intensifying efforts to protect civilians in conflict.

Adopting resolutions on the Syrian refugee crisis and on the role of parliaments in safeguarding civilian lives, the IPU Assembly urged parliaments to ensure governments protected their people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity through legislation, the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and by overseeing government action to combat terrorism.

The 128th IPU Assembly also adopted resolutions on the promotion of fair trade and innovative mechanisms for sustainable development and on the use of social media to enhance citizen engagement and democracy.

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Why Fiscal Cliff Deal Fails To Neutralize Debt Ceiling Hostage http://www.khaama.com/why-fiscal-cliff-deal-fails-to-neutralize-debt-ceiling-hostage-12365 http://www.khaama.com/why-fiscal-cliff-deal-fails-to-neutralize-debt-ceiling-hostage-12365#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 04:32:21 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=24551 Why Fiscal Cliff Deal Fails To Neutralize Debt Ceiling Hostage
What is Fiscal Cliff Deal? The term fiscal cliff has been used at various occasions in the past to refer to fiscal issues. It is already known to the public that Congress created the fiscal mess that it is currently squabbling over. Furthermore, it is quite surprising to see it wrangling over the issue like hapless teens fighting on prom night. There is actually a Read the full article...]]>
Why Fiscal Cliff Deal Fails To Neutralize Debt Ceiling Hostage

What is Fiscal Cliff Deal?

The term fiscal cliff has been used at various occasions in the past to refer to fiscal issues. It is already known to the public that Congress created the fiscal mess that it is currently squabbling over. Furthermore, it is quite surprising to see it wrangling over the issue like hapless teens fighting on prom night. There is actually a lot of action as a result of both political force and resistance; however, that does not seem to excite or satisfy the audience anyways.

Regarding the selection between the winner and the loser, it is suggested to give out credit to the Democrats for their incredible public relations triumph which they however, cannot exploit in the form of policy gains in the future. The fact today is that a deal has been forged quite intelligently, even though every other person has responded with hints of dissension that is quite obvious and distinguished.

Molly Ball has neglected how the major stakeholders are entirely discontented about the whole issue, whereas Dave Jamieson also is a distinguished case of forgotten stakeholders. Although, there is a lot of calamity, tension and disappointment looming over, there is another huge blow that is here to stay – the future of debt ceiling. More likely the whole issue is expected to come up in full bloom in March which has already begun. Experts and critics strongly opine that it would be a series of repetition of what happened in the last round when the Republican legislators took over the debate and openly threatened to cause damage to the international economy. It is believed that they are planning to do all that again.

At the same time, Senator Lindsey Graham said that it would be the best thing that could be done. He further remarked that whatever was about happen is not all what he wanted, however, in the true sense of the word it is called American Democracy, hence the debtceiling. There is no further debate on this issue by the Senator as of yet which clearly tells us that neither his viewpoint has changed nor he has been taken aback by the hurdles.

Effects of Debt Ceiling

The debt ceiling is more or less akin to the fiscal cliff in one significant way at least. It is an image that cannot explain the reality that prevails whereas at the same time simple and quick to instigate as a source to erupt chaos and coerce a state of alarm.  In the more admired perception, the entire idea of raining the debt ceiling has boiled down to the point that it is an act that allows Congress to increase its spending.

People see this standard procedure as one that establishes a whole new space for whole new spending altogether. However, this is certainly not perfectly true since the decision to the take the debt ceiling to a whole new level is in fact a tradition during which the Congress recognizes the expenses of its shared past actions and reiterate its assurance to do good as per its commitment.

At a certain time, it was also rumored that the White House has refused to accept the fiscalcliff deal that was exclusive of immediate disarmament of the debt ceiling. This is considered to be one of the most significant demands put forth during the negotiations by the White House. However, as the debate made its way to the unexpected lash out on New Year’s, this disarmament issue raised its head again as a matter of demand and was substituted with a coherent symbolic perseverance from the president that there was nothing that he could do over the issue of debt ceiling and that his days of doing anything were now over.

However, the fact is that no one person in the country believes the statement given by Obama regarding his stance about what he could do for the debt ceiling issue has now translated into a tough agreement that is expected to stay on for long. On the other hand, staying on the line in a negotiating session is something president Obama is not fond of. The president even said that the issue of debt ceiling was not technical, but political.

Conclusion

The issue of debt ceiling has taken a new shape surrounded by rumors, debates, misstatements and political wrong doings. Some believe that it has become more a matter of egotistical perseverance for those in power; however, many are also expecting a favorable and well-improvised decision as the month of March advances.

Author Bio

Angelina is an expert writer on American politics and has been writing columns for over 30 years. She also has keen interest in history and spends her spare time reading books, blogging and writing for community websites like www.ConsolidatedCredit.org.

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Iran behind water resources destruction in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/iran-behind-water-resources-destruction-in-afghanistan-1254 http://www.khaama.com/iran-behind-water-resources-destruction-in-afghanistan-1254#comments Sun, 24 Mar 2013 07:13:08 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=24522 Iran behind water resources destruction in Afghanistan
The neighboring countries of Afghanistan, specifically Iran and Pakistan with the inspiration of MI6 are responsible for the current crisis in Afghanistan and thoroughly involved in creating barriers for the creation of a strong political leadership in the country. Iran has made major investments between 1370s and 1380s in a bid to achieve its strategic Read the full article...]]>
Iran behind water resources destruction in Afghanistan

The neighboring countries of Afghanistan, specifically Iran and Pakistan with the inspiration of MI6 are responsible for the current crisis in Afghanistan and thoroughly involved in creating barriers for the creation of a strong political leadership in the country.

Iran has made major investments between 1370s and 1380s in a bid to achieve its strategic goals by creating divisions, boosting war and funding internal elements in Afghanistan.

Through its political tactics implemented between 1371 to 1380, Iran managed to successfully complete the construction of water resources infrastructures in its own national interest and block water routes to Afghanistan on permanent basis.

According to reports around 500 billion cubic meter of water which is equivalent to $500 billion flows to neighboring countries of Afghanistan, specifically to Iran.

During the past ten years the Iranian government breaching the earlier agreements has turned Helmand waters towards Iran by drilling at least 12 water canals. Iran has also created a water dam on Hamon to prevent flow of water back to Afghanistan. Previously water was flowing back to Gudzard area in case of increase in Helmand waters.

Two major water storages were also built by Iran on Sarkhas area located between the bordering regions of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. The storages built under an old agreement with the Turkmenistan was aimed at turning the flow of water which comes from Bala Morghab area to Turkmenistan.

The flow of water automatically goes towards the Srakhas water storage in Iran after the water storage built by Iran in Turkmenistan is filled, which shows the main motive of the Iranian government for spending millions of money for constructing water dam in Sarkhas area of Turkmenistan.

This will incur a major loss to the water resources of Afghanistan as the flow of water is blocked from Sarkhas water storage to flow back inside the Afghan soil.

Iran also creates barriers for the construction of two major water dams including Kamal Khan dam and Salma dam in western Afghanistan through its cheating diplomacy and by funding and using internal factors in Afghanistan in a bid to prevent the Afghan government from using the current opportunities which is available with the presence of international community.

According to reports a number of Iranian spies working as engineers in Salma dam project are struggling to prevent the development work of the dam.

On the other hand the government of Iran and MI6 prevented the construction of 3,400 kilometers of gas pipeline from Sarkhas bordering region towards the Turkmenistan border in a bid to main the current war in Afghanistan. The gas pipeline has been constructed inside the Iranian soil on the bordering region between the countries which continues until Baluchistan bordering region. The bordering cities of Iran are connected with the Karachi port which makes the transportation of Iran and Turkmenistan energy easier to India.

The tactics of Iran paved the way for sabotaging the TAPI gas pipeline project which was coming from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and this helped Iran to construct its own gas pipeline from Sarkhas to Pakistan.

The government of Afghanistan during the past 12 years has been helpless to construct water dams in the country despite the presence of international community that pledged billions in aid to Afghanistan. The issues pose a major threat towards the water resources of Afghanistan as main waters of Afghanistan are flowing out of the country despite Afghanistan.

Unfortunately the political figures of Afghanistan are busy with their own political set ups that helps the implementation of new missions by MI6, CIA and Iran in Afghanistan and the region.

By: Alhaj Ghulam Jilani “Wahaj”

This is a translated version of the article which was originally written in Persian by the author. Click here to read this article in Persian.

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The Role of MI6, ISI, CIA and Iran in Afghanistan and region crisis http://www.khaama.com/the-role-of-mi6-isi-cia-and-iran-in-afghanistan-and-region-crisis-2365 http://www.khaama.com/the-role-of-mi6-isi-cia-and-iran-in-afghanistan-and-region-crisis-2365#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 12:33:25 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=24380 The Role of MI6, ISI, CIA and Iran in Afghanistan and region crisis
By: Alhaj Ghulam Jilani Wahaj Afghanistan is considered to have a highly strategic value during the 21st century in southern and central Asian regions, owed to its geopolitical situation and untapped mineral resources. The country has proven to be a key inhibitor for the newly formed republics in central Asia besides having a high influence Read the full article...]]>
The Role of MI6, ISI, CIA and Iran in Afghanistan and region crisis

By: Alhaj Ghulam Jilani Wahaj

Afghanistan is considered to have a highly strategic value during the 21st century in southern and central Asian regions, owed to its geopolitical situation and untapped mineral resources. The country has proven to be a key inhibitor for the newly formed republics in central Asia besides having a high influence and pressure on China, Russia and Iran.

Geographical and geopolitical situation of a nation has a direct impact over the internal, external and economical policies of a nation. However,  policies implemented by ISI, CIA and MI6 in Afghanistan and the region during the past five decades have had different motives The main targets have sometimes been silent and the focus has been on secondary objectives which eventually pave the way for the implementation of the original objective in the region.

Pakistan’s military Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) together with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence under the cover of MI6 gathered over 30,000 Islamist militants from 42 nations in ISI’s sanctuaries, with the preliminary motive to fight against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

However, the same militants are currently used to weaken the financial and moral values of the United States in the world, which is considered to be a successful approach by MI6 to damage the credit of foreign policies of the United States in the Islamic world by attributing the enormous defense budget of the U.S. in their fight against the terrorism and implementation of democracy in the world.

Today, the United States lack a proper communication channel with the Muslims and the Muslim world, which has been one of the main objectives of MI6 during the past years.

The United States along with other western nations have become the hostage of war against terrorism under the framework of NATO, which is considered to be an approach of MI6 in coordination with the ISI and Iran’s intelligence. The defeat of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan will significantly harm the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which will possibly lead to liquidation of the alliance.

MI6 also created barriers for the United States of America, United Nations, NATO and the European Union to the coordination of their strategy and foreign aid to the Afghan government. MI6 also put efforts to drag Germany in war at southern Afghanistan by assassination attempts of German civil workers in Mazar-Samangan and Kabul-Salang highways, and by coordinating an attack on German base in Baghlan province of Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of several German troops.

Through such attempts MI6 prevented the proper implementation of German development projects in Afghanistan besides transporting and evacuating Al-Qaeda and militants through helicopters to northern provinces of Afghanistan in a bid to put pressure on German troops mission in the North.

President Hamid Karzai during press conferences also confirmed that unrecognized military helicopters are transporting and evacuating militants and Al-Qaeda fighters from the southern provinces of the country to northern and north-eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Washington presumed its formal bilateral ties with Afghanistan in coordination with the MI6, where the first ambassador of United States to Afghanistan started its duty under the consultation and agreement of British ambassador to Afghanistan in a bid to satisfy the demands of MI6 and Pakistan’s ISI, and the same approach will continue for several more decades and will remain the top priority of the Washington’s policy.

Afghanistan has been used as troops brigade by the United States during the past ten years to continue Tom and Jerry’s game, however, Pakistan has been considered to be a key alliance of Washington to implement peace in the country.

In addition, the British have formed Kashmir and Pashtunistan on the Pakistan and Afghanistan bordering regions as the main base and route in an attempt to implement their long term plans in the region. Pakistan since its very formation has become a part of the MI6 that has enabled them to enter into the political, military and intelligence mater of the region, specifically of Afghanistan.

The mechanism and leadership of Pakistan in relation to the geographic positions of the newly formed republics in central Asia, China, Iran and Afghanistan have dragged the United States and the United Kingdom to their joint interest for fuel and energy in the region. In order to achieve this strategic goal, . Islam has been used as an appropriate and best tool (fight against terrorism).

As one of the elders had stated, Pakistan is British in its politics, Hindu by culture and Muslim by name. The recent remarks by Pakistan’s Ulema Council Chief Allama Tahir Ashrafi, who endorsed suicide bombings in Afghanistan, is not a new issue and is being preached in Pakistani Madrasas on daily basis.

Islamic Madrasas, political parties and Ulema council are all branches of the ISI, which have been formed by MI6. Through these branches, the objectives of the United Kingdom are being implemented in the region. The holy religion of Islam is not a target for the Pakistani politicians but it is rather a tool for achieving the strategic goal of MI6, CIA and ISI in Afghanistan and the region—the goal of winning over the fuel and energy in the region, which is masked by war on terrorism Any religious scholar or Ulema preaching at Pakistani Madrasa is originally an MI6 employee working within the framework of ISI.

The question is that, “Are human beings not Caliphs of God on Earth?”. Enormous funding by CIA has made Pakistani politicians and Ulemas blind. It is yet not clear how long the Pakistani nation will bear the situation will depend on their self-realization and their support for Islam and Muslims rather than support for the strategic interest of MI6 and ISI in the region. However, the way MI6 has spread its germs in the region through Pakistan and ISI, one can tell that the situation will last for eternity.

The defeat and withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, overthrow of Egypt and Libya’s leaders, political uprising in Syria along with the decade old war in Afghanistan reflect the involvement of the United States and the United Kingdom behind the crisis, terror, suicide bombings and assassinations for their self-interest in the regions.

According to the military and political observers’ research, United States invasion of Afghanistan in the name of fight against terrorism and Al-Qaeda was plotted back in 1997. The plan of collecting and purchasing of stinger rockets from commanders was meant to ease down the dangers that the British and American forces could have faced during their air strikes on Afghanistan. The assassination of Afghan warlord Ahmadshah Massoud was plotted by MI6

According to reports, military drills in Arab nations and movement of the NATO troops towards the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean all started three years before the 9/11 attacks.

The MI6 dragged the former Soviet forces into Afghanistan where they suffered a crushing defeat. The MI6 is now paving the way for the same fate to be faced by the United States, who is working its way towards becoming the super power after the Cold War, and the European Union by creating a similar trap under the name of Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Wasn’t it MI6 after all who provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden for 7 years inside the houses of ISI officers in Pakistan?

The need for the presence of US troops in Afghanistan is indebted with potential crisis being faced by the United States. Terrorism has not only stopped but also gained considerable growth in Afghanistan during the past ten years, and it is strange that the US policy and lawmakers are still not wondering how their victory has been compromised.

If narrowly observed, the American policymakers have been trapped in MI6’s policies and are under the instructions of the Pakistani policymakers who are being directed by the English policies. Therefore, the United States has been conquered by the United Kingdom and the international community has been conquered by the United States.

The United States plans have been put in trouble by MI6 during the past ten years in Afghanistan and created confusion among the Afghan officials who has not been able to pick between Iran and the international community (mainly the U.S.). Such perplexity resulted in mistrust towards the policies of the U.S. and towards putting Pakistan in a better position than before. Pakistan is in a key situation that has enabled them to convince Washington that the withdrawal from Afghanistan can only take place through Pakistan’s route.

MI6 in cooperation with the ISI and Iran are striving to prevent the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan. Why is the reconstruction of Salma Dam not completed since the past decade?

Iran managed to finalize the technical and infrastructural construction of Afghanistan’s water resources for its own interest between 1993 and 2003, and block the return of water to Afghanistan on a permanent basis. Iran has also played a major role behind the instability in Afghanistan since 1990s in a bid to meet its water needs and on the other hand sabotage the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan for its own self-interest.

In their secret war against the U.S., Iran is sending huge sums of money to high Afghan officials to win their support, as a result putting the Afghan government on a limbo.

All the parties involved in war in the region are now aware of the western tactics and can easily use terrorism for their survival and create tension in the region; however the issue has now created concerns among the western officials fearing that anti-western nations including China, Iran and Russia will use terrorism against the allied nations. The issue of terrorism in Afghanistan has now become a tool for Pakistan and Iran to use it for their strategic target.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai failed to properly use from the opportunity for the development of the country and the Afghan nation and also maintain a good relation and satisfactory relation with its key allies, United States of America due to the lack of proper knowledge of Washington’s policies leaving Afghanistan in situation being threatened by its neighbors specifically Iran which is apparently an Islamic nation but is a part of the MI6 organization in the region.

President Karzai failed to properly use the opportunity of the international community’s presence in Afghanistan and create a national strategy inside the country and outside of Afghanistan in order to empower the strategic infrastructure of Afghanistan. His approach to keep both Iran and America happy brought only failure. The Afghan leaders concentrated on their personal benefits by creating coalitions rather than paying attention to maintaining a stable Afghanistan. The Afghan government let go of the Afghan ship to the Iranian river not knowing that Iran, a Muslim country in name, is merely a part of MI6.

All the Afghans are aware that the political situation of Afghanistan is controlled by MI6, ISI, CIA and the intelligence of Iran which can be noticed during the recent decade where no internal or external incident or affair takes place unless it has not been approved by MI6, ISI, CIA, KGB or the intelligence of Iran. It is a continuous process which is happening and will apparently continue for several other years or decades.

On the other hand the recent coalitions formed by various individuals who have had a major role during the crisis of the past three decades, have already lost the game and their identity are not hidden from the international community. These faces are now ready to form any kind of coalition in an attempt to maintain their livelihood.  Jihad (holy war) and Islam do not have any value for them, similar as it is valueless for the Pakistani religious clerics.

Leaders of various coalitions which are active now are those faces that made fun of Burhanuddin Rabbani’s government in Bonn conference. The decisions during the Bonn conference, which were supposed to take place for the interest of the Afghan government, were instead made on the basis of the coalition members’ personal deals. The sons of these coalition members are enjoying a luxurious life in Dubai, where they spend USD 5,000 buying whiskey and scotch in a single party.

Are these coalition forces able to resolve the issues of Afghanistan? Clearly NO.  MI6 and Iran are looking to implement their new strategies by using such political coalitions for the decomposition of Afghanistan. Such a strategy was once implemented by Iran but was countered by Ahmadshah Massoud and Abdul Samad Khaksar.

The social formation of Afghanistan is complex and has been formed in a way which cannot be decomposed by any external power and such an approach will mean to spread another civil war that will end in each street of Afghanistan, and that will not be acceptable by any true Afghan.

The major game which is currently going on in the region is divided into two divisions that is A and B, where the first phase of the game has already been completed after the assassination of Al-Qaedaa leader Osama bin Laden, while the second phase of the game, which is due to be witnessed after 2014, is getting closer to its implementation stage.

The new mission, post 2014, mission has also been divided in two sectors where the first phase will be implemented by MI6 and Iran that focuses on decomposition of Afghanistan and creation of federal Afghanistan. The second phase of the mission will be implemented by ISI and CIA that focuses on the policy for the return of Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami party of Afghanistan led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The success of Pakistan’s soft diplomacy approach with the current hard approach, comprising of teams fighting against Afghanistan along with Afghanistan, will automatically pave the way for the return of Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Party back to power.

Washington is currently convinced to consider bringing changes to the current regime with the help of Pakistan and Taliban militants along with Hezb-e-Islami party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and/or bringing such a change in the regime to create a strong disciplinary government that is based on the plans of Pakistan and interest of United States. Pakistan and United States have already reached to an agreement for the formation of future government and Afghanistan’s role in the region.

The high peace council of Afghanistan is operating without any motive and has only been formed to spend operative money of the intelligence agencies in order to free Taliban leaders and concentrate on dragging world’s attention by acting under the reconciliation project in Afghanistan where the main part of the game is under the control of the United States and Pakistan.

Afghan officials and political coalition members during their operations are revealing to move forward based on the plans of United States and Pakistan. In the outset, Taliban militants were freed from Pakistan jails and blacklisted Taliban group members were removed from the UN sanctions list.

Foreign troops are not leaving the country but are paving the way for the return of Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar back to main cities specifically in capital Kabul.

Karzai’s remarks accusing United States for creating barriers on Afghan peace talks with the Taliban group are yet another approach by him to maintain a coalition power and move towards MI6 and Iran’s policy. But, the section “B” of the political game has already been started and president Karzai is already late and has been left with the two options i.e. to support Washington or Iran in the region.

Ppresident Karzai’s recent anti-US remarks raise questions whether he is being used as a tool to speed up and implement the new mission of MI6 in the region, or he is himself a key player of the new mission to return Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami party back to power.

The Afghan nation which has been suffering for the national interest of others during the past 12 years must consider in specifying the internal and external players behind today’s crisis in Afghanistan. The first approach should focus on unveiling those involved behind the crisis and the second approach must focus on national negotiations and agreement to find ways for resolving the issues and build a stable and strong Afghanistan.

Such steps will apparently face many barriers by internal and external enemies that will include individuals and agencies creating internal ethnic and religious issues for the implementation of their long term strategy in Afghanistan and the region.

The current crisis in Afghanistan will continue unless the Afghan nation does not show a reaction towards strategies of MI6, CIA and other agencies.

This is a summarized and translated version of the article which was originally written in Persian. Please click here to view the article in Persian.

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Afghan Media; Hopes and Challenges http://www.khaama.com/afghan-media-hopes-and-challenges-1452 http://www.khaama.com/afghan-media-hopes-and-challenges-1452#comments Fri, 08 Mar 2013 11:37:53 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23990 Afghan Media; Hopes and Challenges
By Mohammad Rasouli Afghanistan is one of the deadliest countries for journalists in the world. An estimate shows that between 2001 up to present, 29 Afghan and foreign journalists were killed and nearly 800 cases of violation against journalists recorded. According to an Afghan media watchdog (NAI), in 2012, 69 violation cases reported, which included Read the full article...]]>
Afghan Media; Hopes and Challenges

By Mohammad Rasouli

Afghanistan is one of the deadliest countries for journalists in the world. An estimate shows that between 2001 up to present, 29 Afghan and foreign journalists were killed and nearly 800 cases of violation against journalists recorded.

According to an Afghan media watchdog (NAI), in 2012, 69 violation cases reported, which included two murders of journalists. The data show 14 percent decrease from 2011, in which 80 cases were reported. It is estimated that 45 cases out of the 69 cases were committed by the government officials.

In the most recent violation against journalists, two journalists were insulted and beaten by National Directorate Security (NDS) officers while they were reporting from a suicide attack in Nangarhar province on February 24th.

According to sources, Afghan journalism is more based in urban areas and access to information in rural areas is difficult, due to lack of electricity and other facilities. Also, the tribal warlords are active and their influence, in these areas, makes many difficulties for journalists to access there.

However, Journalism is a respected profession among Afghans but it is treated differently when compared to many other democratic countries. In Afghanistan, the lack of law enforcement and government support can get reporters killed for doing their jobs.

Since 2001, Afghan media have witnessed a fast growing in quantity and quality. There are around 50 TV channels registered, which more than 20 of them are active. There are also 150 radio channels, and hundreds of print publications in Afghanistan.

The most trusted sources of information are Radio and TV for Afghans. Mostly, audiences look at the media as a source of new ideas and entertainment. They believe that Radio and TV have a crucial impact on their opinions. The electronic media are the primary communication channel across the country especially in urban areas. Also, social media is playing a key role in the urban areas in the last few years.

There are different types of ownership, content, activity, and business model. As this variety of ownership, political parties and warlords have their own Media in Afghanistan. The independence of media in Afghanistan is doubted because most of the media are established or sponsored by foreign countries, Afghan political parties, or warlords. But there are also a few independent media.

According to media experts, the Independent media is still reflecting the opinions of the public. It is also an important source of legitimacy that is influencing public opinions by agenda-setting. Therefore the media plays a dual role as both a reflector of general opinions and a mediator of legitimacy for organizations.

The Afghan government is unable to protect journalists and the impunity of violators still makes serious concerns for Afghan journalists. However, Afghan journalists are facing lack of experiences, security, and access to information, low wages, and being threatened by local warlords and the government officials, insurgence groups, and even sometimes by foreign forces. There is little hope that the situation gets better for journalists, while they turn more and more to self-censorship to protect themselves and their families.

The current government always says it promises to protect freedom of speech and access to information, so the government should take practical steps to improve freedom of speech. To enhance democracy in Afghanistan, the government should reduce the restrictions against journalists and help them to get more reliable sources. It also should investigate and act responsibly about those cases of violation against journalists.

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Afghan Peace Process and Minorities’ Concerns http://www.khaama.com/afghan-peace-process-and-minorities-concerns http://www.khaama.com/afghan-peace-process-and-minorities-concerns#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 04:41:43 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23866 Afghan Peace Process and Minorities’ Concerns
By Mohammad Rasouli Afghanistan, a country with a weak central government, rampant corruption, deep ethnic divisions within its society, has been trying to break the peace stalemate since the start of the second term presidency of president Karzai in 2009. Since its beginning, it has been a challenging process and all parties involved are getting Read the full article...]]>
Afghan Peace Process and Minorities’ Concerns

By Mohammad Rasouli

Afghanistan, a country with a weak central government, rampant corruption, deep ethnic divisions within its society, has been trying to break the peace stalemate since the start of the second term presidency of president Karzai in 2009. Since its beginning, it has been a challenging process and all parties involved are getting more and more concerned about the future, especially minorities (Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, and the other groups of minorities) who are kept in the dark by both the government and the international community.

Since the last decade, the minorities have gained some of their denied rights, which would have been impossible without support of the international community. For example, in 2004, the constitution recognized both Shia and Sunni sects as equal. The constitution grants “the Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law”. Also, Dari and Uzbeki languages are now considered as national languages in the constitution. Minorities sacrificed a lot to meet this. But the withdrawal of coalition forces, in 2014, has brought fears of losing these achievements.

However, according to the ministry of defense of the United States “NATO Allies are discussing keeping a training force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops in Afghanistan after most foreign soldiers leave in 2014”. But the minorities are concerning the government and the international community will sacrifice their Rights just to make a peace settlement. If we look back to the background of the insurgence groups, particularly the Taliban, we’ll see that their policies have completely been against Minorities Rights and Women Rights.

Since the Taliban and the other insurgence groups haven’t mentioned anything about their past policies and their future polices if they join the government. This concerns the minorities and particularly women, who have experienced decades of suppression.

One of the key factors that make the peace process very difficult is the insurgence groups’ unwillingness to accept the current constitution. They insist that the constitution is against Islam and their beliefs. They say it is unacceptable for them but they don’t say specifically which part of the constitution is against their beliefs. Experts believe the insurgence groups are against Minorities Rights in the constitution.

There is very little transparency around the status of the peace process with neither parts talking honestly about their stance on the issues. The government and the international community are being lenient towards the insurgence groups in order to convince them to join the current government, while insurgence groups don’t show any interest in this process even after the opening of a political office in Qatar which gave them more legitimacy. It seems like they are just passing time.

Some experts claim the Taliban with the support of Pakistan and its other supporters in Arab countries are waiting for the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014. At this time they expect to have more bargaining power.

After more than 10 years, there is a little hope that minorities’ demands are falling on receptive ears ever since the Paris Conference held by the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). The Paris conference was the first Intra-Afghan meeting held with presence of Hazara, Uzbek, Tajik, and Women Rights representatives also with representatives from the Islamic party and the Taliban. However, the meeting was just an introductory meeting rather than a negotiation, and no joint statement was issued. It was only the beginning of a long process.

In a government that has only recently been diversified by the presence of some minorities in positions of power, there is concerning that if the insurgence groups join the incurrent government, in 2014, they will take revenge against minorities, because the minorities are supporting a government that is fighting with them.

In closing, the Afghan government and the international community should consider the minorities’ concerns and approach involvement in the peace process with greater caution. This otherwise makes losing the achievements that came at the cost of money and the blood of both Afghans and members of the international community.

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Pakistan: The Manipulator of Religion http://www.khaama.com/pakistan-the-manipulator-of-religion-145325 http://www.khaama.com/pakistan-the-manipulator-of-religion-145325#comments Sun, 03 Mar 2013 07:54:48 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23771 Pakistan: The Manipulator of Religion
By Gharanai Khwakhuzhi                                                                          It’s almost 4 decades or more that Afghans have been crying out loud to the world that Pakistan is interfering in its affairs by different means, whether it’s extremism or fundamentalism, promotion ethnical confrontations or sectarian differences; Pakistan has long interfered and worked to destabilize Afghanistan so to not have a two-front Read the full article...]]>
Pakistan: The Manipulator of Religion

By Gharanai Khwakhuzhi                                                                         

It’s almost 4 decades or more that Afghans have been crying out loud to the world that Pakistan is interfering in its affairs by different means, whether it’s extremism or fundamentalism, promotion ethnical confrontations or sectarian differences; Pakistan has long interfered and worked to destabilize Afghanistan so to not have a two-front hostility where one is its permanent front with its archival India.

One of the most prominent weapons that Pakistan has used against Afghans is the usage of religion – Islam, specially while majority of the people in Afghanistan are devoted Muslims and may go to any extend to safeguard the one thing that they love more than their own lives.

On the other hand Pakistan – a country or should I say one of the two countries in the world that has been established in the name religion (the other being the state of Israel) – has always tried to manipulate religion for its own benefits and to be honest it has achieved wonders with it.

From dividing Kashmir by manipulating the pure and innocent sentiments of the Muslims in Kashmir to banking millions of dollars and military equipment in the name of Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Invasion, from establishing the networks of the international terrorism on its soil to back stabbing its own ally and friend China in Xinjiang province; it has manipulated the name of religion in any possible way available.

Fast forwarding from past to present, yesterday March 1st 2013 Maulana Fazlur Rehman – Chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F) – was quoted by Pakistani news agency The News International saying that; “any decision about the future of Afghanistan could not be taken by sidelining Pakistan, because such a decision would not be acceptable to the people of both the countries.

This statement comes at a time when the Pakistan Ulema (Clerics) Council Chief Alama Tahir Ashrafi just stated that “if they [non-Muslims] have Atom Bombs, we [Muslims] are ready to sacrifice our lives against them; thus it is fair and permitted to sacrifice your lives in any way possible in countries occupied by non-Muslims, like Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The two statements clearly show the influence of Pakistan on the affairs of Afghanistan and how badly they are involved in the insurgency going on in the country, by propagating false Islamic declarations.

Interestingly the statement of Alama Ashrafi which clearly validates and gives away permission to suicide attacks and jihad in the mentioned countries; comes at a time when just last year at Hajj Sermon the Grand Mufti of Saudi Shiekh Arabia Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah condemned Suicide Attacks and declared the action as “Unforgivable” by Almighty Allah.

Still I would have agreed with what Alama Ashrafi has to say, but then questions come to my mind that:

  • Where was “Respected” Alama at the time when the Government of Taliban was bombarded from Shamsi and Jacobabad bases located in Pakistan and vacated only recently at the end of 2011?
  • Wasn’t it Farz (obligatory) for those “Muslims” (Pakistanis) to fight and declare a Jihad against the “non-Muslims” (the Americans) who had occupied their nation and was using it against another brother Muslim country (Afghanistan)?
  • Wasn’t it obligatory or worthy enough to fight against a government that was selling out Muslim brothers (Taliban leaders) handcuffed and blindfolded to the so called infidels and non-Muslims?
  • Or let’s just leave the past away, isn’t it obligatory for our “Respected” Alama, his followers and the “Great Muslim Nation of Pakistan” to fight and declare a Jihad on the non-Muslims (Chinese Corps) who are based in Gwadar Port (people with the same ideology – Communism – against which we Afghans were propagated to fight and declare Jihad against because they were the infidels who were after our religion and wanted to destroy our religious believes)?
  • Afghanistan is not the only Muslim country in the world which has the US forces helping her in the fight against terrorism and instability, we do have countries like Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Libya etc etc how come it’s only Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine where Jihad and Suicide Bombing is obligatory?
  • Mali is getting bombarded by French forces where the religious extremist groups are trying to take the power and the French forces are helping the residing president of the country; is it that those fighting in Mali are not “Muslim” enough or is it that the knowledge scope of “Respected” Alama is limited to the borders of the country (Kashmir and Afghanistan) plus Palestine (the hottest topic for any religious (Muslim or Jew) fanatic)?
  • These questions remind me of an answer to a question by former Chief of Afghan Intelligence, Mr. Amrullah Saleh where he said; “Nowhere in the Quran or any Hadith it says that the gate to the heaven is in Afghanistan, then why every Muslim tries to get to heaven via Afghanistan? There are lots of other places which requires martyrdom, yet everyone chooses Afghanistan.”

It’s also worthy to mention that on 5th October 2013 reports came through Pakistani media that Alama Ashrafi had been kidnapped and within hours he was recovered and the kidnappers were arrested, it was never said why and for what reason.

The next day Pakistan News Channel Waqt reported that Alama Ashrafi actually was not kidnapped instead he was caught drunk on Grand Trunk (GT) road. 1

The Ulema Council of Pakistan also blamed the Afghan Ulema Council of being influenced by the government of Afghanistan and having close relations with it yet Alama Ashrafi himself is most of the times seen with high ranking military officers and the activates of Pakistani intelligence the ISI.

At the end I would conclude that it’s up to the devoted Muslims of Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine and around the world to decide whether they want to follow what the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has to say at a Hajj Sermon, or what the Chief of Ulema Pakistan (the only Muslim country in the world that has legally licensed a Red Light District aka Heera Mandi in Lahore just behind the historic Badshahi Masjid2) has to say?

1

2 The book TABOO! by Fouzia Saeed (p. 155)

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Pakistan: Haven of Terror or Hub of Peace http://www.khaama.com/pakistan-haven-of-terror-or-hub-of-peace-987465 http://www.khaama.com/pakistan-haven-of-terror-or-hub-of-peace-987465#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 11:06:55 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23616 Pakistan: Haven of Terror or Hub of Peace
By: Gharanai Khwakhuzhi                                                                                                              Haven of Terror Recent attacks in Quetta and Karachi cities of Pakistan have taken hundreds of innocent lives and Pakistan is finding it difficult to catch up with the tunes that were set by it 3-4 decades ago, that of defending itself by establishing terror organizations. The symbolic move came when Read the full article...]]>
Pakistan: Haven of Terror or Hub of Peace

By: Gharanai Khwakhuzhi                                                                                                             

Haven of Terror

Recent attacks in Quetta and Karachi cities of Pakistan have taken hundreds of innocent lives and Pakistan is finding it difficult to catch up with the tunes that were set by it 3-4 decades ago, that of defending itself by establishing terror organizations.

The symbolic move came when Pakistani police were able to easily capture Malik Ishaq the head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) from Rahim Yar Khan, at their will.

This move not only demonstrated how easy it was for the Pakistani officials to capture a renowned outlaw who is the head of a terror organization that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, but also showed that if the Pakistani officials want to capture such threats they know exactly where to look for.

It’s organizations and syndicates like this that is causing trouble across the region, not only Afghanistan and India but also Uzbekistan, Xingjian of China, Chechnya and across Middle East; yet most of these organizations are state sponsored and supported by the elite intelligence organization of Pakistan, the ISI.

From training the Mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, establishing Lashkar-e-Taiba to fight Pakistan’s dirty war with India, harboring world’s most wanted man Osama Bin Laden to supporting the Taliban and Haqqani group engaged in Afghanistan; ISI has played a pivotal role.

Hub of Peace

After the trilateral meeting in London between heads of states David Cameron, Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari, it was decided that peace initiatives should be prioritized and steps should be taken towards it by dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan Ulema (Clerics) Councils which should decide on how to get in dialogue with the Taliban and bring them to the peace and negotiation tables and issue a Fatwa which would denounce the killings of innocents civilians and put an end to the insurgency; to which Asif Ali Zardari gave his word and a gathering of the two councils was supposed to be held in Kabul early March.

This initiative was a clear sign by Pakistani leader that Pakistan is interested in becoming a Hub of Peace for Afghanistan and will support the country’s fight against insurgency and steps towards peace.

Truth

But the double face of Pakistan once again appeared when a letter signed by Mufti Abu Huraira Mohiuddin – a member of Pakistan Ulema Council – addressed to Afghan Ulema Council, arrived.

In the letter Mufti Mohiuddin said that “the Ulema of Pakistan did not want to criticize any of the Afghan Taliban’s past actions nor were they ready to issue a Fatwa against their actions or them”.

Later on chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, Alama Tahir Ashrafi went on record saying that Pakistani Ulema will boycott the Kabul Conference. The Conference that was decided upon by Asif Ali Zardari and was planned to form a united stance against violent extremism and suicide attacks that kill civilians.

The reason that was given by Alama Ashrafi was that the Afghan government had a lot of influence over the Afghanistan Ulema Council and that this conference would be used against Taliban and they didn’t want to condemn Taliban.

In general, this action of Alama Ashrafi once again portrays how weak the “Spokesman” of the ISI is – Spokesman referred to the Civilian Government of Pakistan who does nothing but being a good spokesman of the ISI and Military; and how crucial a role does the Intelligence Organization plays.

In the course of these developments, sometime back when the Afghan Government requested Pakistan to hand over the Taliban Political Prisoners held in Pakistan, the answer was that the two countries didn’t have a Treaty of Prisoners’ Exchange aka an Expedition Treaty.

Within months on 18th Feb 2013 the Afghan Intelligence Officials were able to capture Maulavi Faqir Mohammad deputy chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and straight away Pakistan asked for handover of Maulavi Faqir to be prosecuted under Pakistani Law; in reply of which the Afghan Government rightly so reminded Pakistan that they didn’t have an Expedition Treaty.

After the arrest of Maulavi Faqir, Pakistani Ulema Council now want to start a Peace Talk of its own with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud so to secure a ceasefire inside Pakistan.

This again shows how unpredicted and uncommitted Pakistan is when it comes to peace in the region specially Afghanistan, even with all its claims of working for peace in the region; yet one could not blame the civilian government of Pakistan who has limited power when it comes to decision making process and policy plans.

The government of Afghanistan too should understand how unfruitful it is to talk to Pakistan Government when it comes to peace in Afghanistan while the Taliban should also realize how Pakistan is again trying to manipulate them.

Pakistan; the same country who sold Mullah Abdul Salam Zaif – then Taliban’s Ambassador to Islamabad – and hundreds like him in return to few millions of dollars while Musharaf bluntly stated “Sab Se Pehlee Pakistan or Pakistan Before Everything Else”; yet if Taliban think that Pakistan is wishing them good and prosperity then one could only pity for them.

The Afghan Government looking for alternatives of Islamabad towards Riyadh and Cairo for Peace Talks is a step that should have been taken years ago, yet it’s still not late and the step should be applauded and be implemented as soon as possible.

Taliban should also take the initiative and get to the negotiation tables so to stop bloodshed of Afghans on both sides of the fronts.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, it should decide whether it really wants to be the Haven of Terror or not? Because what they sowed years ago has already started biting them back.

Also the people of the country should decide how they want to survive in the neighborhood where they have very few friends and are making enemy day after another.

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Ethnicity issues resolved in new Afghan electronic ID cards http://www.khaama.com/ethnicity-issues-resolved-in-new-afghan-electronic-id-cards-23569 http://www.khaama.com/ethnicity-issues-resolved-in-new-afghan-electronic-id-cards-23569#comments Mon, 25 Feb 2013 06:18:43 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23569 Ethnicity issues resolved in new Afghan electronic ID cards
According to Afghan telecommunication and information technology ministry officials around 14 million Afghan citizens will receive electronic identity cards during the upcoming Afghan fiscal year. The issue of electronic identity cards was under discussion between the Afghan government and international community during the past two years, with the Afghan independent election commission being the main Read the full article...]]>
Ethnicity issues resolved in new Afghan electronic ID cards

According to Afghan telecommunication and information technology ministry officials around 14 million Afghan citizens will receive electronic identity cards during the upcoming Afghan fiscal year.

The issue of electronic identity cards was under discussion between the Afghan government and international community during the past two years, with the Afghan independent election commission being the main focus of the discussions as election officials believe that fraudulent acts will be prevented through electronic identity cards.

However Afghan interior ministry officials said only 50% of the Afghan population elgibible for the voting will receive electronic identity cards until the upcoming prsidential election due to the lack of time.

One of the major concern regarding the ethnicity of the identity card holders was also resolved after Afghan president Hamid Karzai ordered to mention the native language and ethnicity of the citizens in the electronic identity card.

This comes as the issue of the electronic ID card language to be written only in Pashtu language was raised several times during the political events
and Afghan lawmakers also raised concerns regarding the ID language which on other could create problem to clearly specify the statistics of the Afghan population.

Currently Afghan identity cards are issued with nationality titled as “Afghan” which is believed to be unsatisfactory for the Pashtun and has created tensions among the Afghan people despite no satisfactory reason has been given by the Afghan government in this regard.

Afghan population is comprised various ethnic groups and according to observers recommendation by the Afghan government to title all the nationalities as “Afghan” has a political scenario.

Observers also believe that political and social crisis of Afghanistan including the civil war has direct links with giving more credit to one ethnic group.

On the other hand there are concerns regarding the distribution of electronic ID cards in volatile regions of the country despite Afghan interior ministry officials announced to arrange proper security for the employees who are working in unsafe regions specifically in southern Afghanistan.

According to interior ministry officals around 2,400 people have already been hired and they are looking to increase the number of workers to 3,000 for the distribution of electronic ID cards across the country.

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Karzai government blamed for inefficient political movements http://www.khaama.com/karzai-government-blamed-for-inefficient-political-movements-23558 http://www.khaama.com/karzai-government-blamed-for-inefficient-political-movements-23558#comments Sun, 24 Feb 2013 15:45:45 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23558 Karzai government blamed for inefficient political movements
Leader of the National Front — main political opposition coalition of the Afghan government Ahmad Zia Massoud criticized Afghan president Hamid Karzai for creating barriers to form strong political parties in the country. Afghan president Hamid Karzai was also accused that such steps by him prevents implementation of proper democracy in Afghanistan. However political analysts and Read the full article...]]>
Karzai government blamed for inefficient political movements

Leader of the National Front — main political opposition coalition of the Afghan government Ahmad Zia Massoud criticized Afghan president Hamid Karzai for creating barriers to form strong political parties in the country.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai was also accused that such steps by him prevents implementation of proper democracy in Afghanistan.

However political analysts and international observers believe that growing corruption in Afghanistan during the recent years was due to lack of strong political parties with proper working agendas.

The observers also believe that majority of the political parties have been formed by specific ethnic groups and do not working agendas that suites the national benefits of Afghanistan.

In the meantime National Front leader Ahmad Zia Massoud blamed president Karzai for supporting conservative and ethnic political parties or organizations and does not believe in modern political institutions that have been formed by the Afghan people.

Despite the Afghan government is blamed for being reckless towards the political parties formation and activities however majority of the Afghan people doubtful regarding the operations of the political parties during the past ten years and have lost their confidence regarding the honesty towards the political leaders and parties due to the lack of specific programs which can create benefits for the national interest of Afghanistan.

On the other majority of the Afghan people are doubtful regarding the formation of political parties and coalitions by former Muajhideen leaders despite these political parties have been formed with a motive of national interest since Afghans have experienced former Mujahideen leaders activities during the civil war.

In the meantime leader of the National Front Ahmad Zia Massoud said democracy can be implemented in Afghanistan by supporting political parties and movement otherwise Afghans can not expect this from the central government.

He said, “The government of Karzai seeks political and economic benefits in conservative institutions which are not welcomed by Afghan people and therefore Afghan officials including president Karzai do not want that a strong party is formed by civil society and Afghan people in a bid to implement democracy in the country.”

The formation of political coalition by various political parties is not something new in Afghanistan specifically during the election period however it has been witnessed that the coalitions formed earlier were disintegrated as president Karzai was getting close to win the presidential election.

Political observers the National Front led by Ahmad Zia Massoud is likely to face the same fate as it has happened in the past.

According to reports over 100 political parties were registered with the justice ministry of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 but majority of the parties do not have members and were formed by a single leader.

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Afghanistan: The worst place in the world to be a child or a mother http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-the-worst-place-in-the-world-to-be-a-child-or-a-mother-2456 http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-the-worst-place-in-the-world-to-be-a-child-or-a-mother-2456#comments Sun, 17 Feb 2013 09:56:44 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23395 Afghanistan: The worst place in the world to be a child or a mother
 By: Ahmad Masoud Afghanistan has received US$58 billion in aid in the past 10 years, but the country has still remained as one of the poorest countries with the highest children and maternal mortality rates in the world. According to Save the Children report 2011 http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/docs/STC_AFGHANISTAN_REPORT_FINAL_WEB.PDF, one out of every nine children dies before his Read the full article...]]>
Afghanistan: The worst place in the world to be a child or a mother

 By: Ahmad Masoud

Afghanistan has received US$58 billion in aid in the past 10 years, but the country has still remained as one of the poorest countries with the highest children and maternal mortality rates in the world. According to Save the Children report 2011 , one out of every nine children dies before his or her first birthday and one out of every five dies before the age of five.

“Every day 550 children die of preventable diseases, primarily pneumonia and diarrhoea,” the report says. It should be mentioned that 133 children die a day in Afghanistan only because of diarrhoeal diseases.        `

The mortality rate of children in Afghanistan will significantly go up, if the number of those children is counted, who die because of other preventable diseases such as measles, malaria, typhoid and whooping cough or because of harsh winter, unexploded ordinance, landmines, aerial bombardments, and roadside bomb incidents in the country.

In a single incident, according to media reports, 12 children died of whooping cough and another 350 children were in critical condition in the north eastern Afghan province of Badakhshan in December 2012.

According to the report, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places in the world to be a child and a mother. Maternal mortality ratio in Afghanistan remains unacceptably high, the tally has dropped from 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births in the year 2000 to 1,400 live births per 100,000 today, showing that genuine progress can be made.

“For mothers, Afghanistan’s maternal mortality statistics are at the bottom of global measurements. The lifetime risk of maternal death is one in 11, a figure directly related to the fact that only 14 percent of births occur in the presence of a skilled health worker,” the report emphasises.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world with 36 percent of people unable to obtain the means to satisfy their basic subsistence needs and an estimated nine million Afghans are poor, suggests Afghanistan Human Development Report 2012.

The United Nations Development Program provides a more nuanced perspective on poverty that is based on deprivation in three main areas such as health, education and standard of living. The report says that 84 percent of Afghan households are multi-dimensionally poor.

“About 54 percent of children aged six to nine are stunted (low weight for age) and 67 percent are underweight,” the report says.

Even Worse

According to the results of a World Bank supported study, the prevalence of anaemia is 38 percent in children under five and 50 percent in children six to 24 months old. Both iron and iodine deficiency affect 72 percent of children under five.

The report suggests that no data for zinc are available, but estimates (between 60.5 and 72 percent) can be made from combining the stunting estimate and that of iron deficiency because zinc deficiency typically manifests with these conditions.

According to the report, 20.9 percent of non-pregnant women of productive age had chronic energy deficiency (body mass index less than 18.5). Therefore, chronic energy deficiency is considered a problem of high prevalence according to the World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

The report further highlights that the prevalence of iodine deficiency in pregnant and non-pregnant women was at least 75 percent and iron deficiency was 48.4 percent and anaemia 25 percent among non-pregnant women.

Experts believe that lack of an effective coordination and cooperation mechanism among the relevant government ministries and the main UN agencies, national and international organizations and communities, weak governance, widespread corruption and insecurity are the main factors behind the current crisis in Afghanistan.

The government of Afghanistan has reaffirmed its commitment to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), including increasing accessing to safe drinking water from 27 to 50 percent and to proper sanitation from five to 50 percent by 2014, but experts believe that Afghanistan has remained far behind reaching any of the eight MDG goals by 2015.

Consumer Rights and Services Organization (CRSO), which is an independent non-governmental organization and promotes consumers rights protection in Afghanistan, calls on the government of Afghanistan and international organisations to seriously work for the development and implementation of an integrated health policy, intersectoral collaboration and communities’ inclusion to effectively address and overcome health problems, including diarrhoeal diseases, and ensure access to clean drinking water, enough sanitation and sufficient food.

Access to food, medical facilities, clean drinking water, enough sanitation and education is the basic right of every Afghan citizen; therefore, the government of Afghanistan should take the lead in ensuring that the rights of its citizens are met.

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The Ugly Truth behind the Opium Policy http://www.khaama.com/the-ugly-truth-behind-the-opium-policy-125463 http://www.khaama.com/the-ugly-truth-behind-the-opium-policy-125463#comments Sun, 17 Feb 2013 02:30:08 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23369 The Ugly Truth behind the Opium Policy
By Mohammad Rasouli Afghanistan is an impoverished and war-torn country that due to the usual challenges of rebuilding, (continuation of the riots, existence of severe and widespread corruption, lack of modern institutions, and deficiency of rule of law) is witnessing the most complicated situations. For more than two thousand years, this country was at the Read the full article...]]>
The Ugly Truth behind the Opium Policy

By Mohammad Rasouli

Afghanistan is an impoverished and war-torn country that due to the usual challenges of rebuilding, (continuation of the riots, existence of severe and widespread corruption, lack of modern institutions, and deficiency of rule of law) is witnessing the most complicated situations. For more than two thousand years, this country was at the crossroads of civilizations and a major contributor to the global culture. But, in the last twenty five years, it has become a major center for international terrorism and violence, and one of the key producers of narcotic drugs in the world.

At the present, Afghanistan faces a historical challenge. The war on terrorism still has not reached its vital outcomes. In addition to this hardship, the country has been faced with an enemy even more dangerous than international terrorism- narcotic drugs.

Despite the establishment of democracy in Afghanistan and the steps that the Government and international community have taken to solve the problems of narcotic drugs, its production and trade needs adequate and effective actions that have not yet been taken. According to statistics obtained from combat against narcotics, the country experienced one of the highest rates of drug fabrication in the past year.

Not surprisingly, the nagging questions raised by the public have increased both at home and abroad. Questions such as: Why, with the presence of more than 100 thousand international forces in Afghanistan, are we still unable to take this issue under our control? Or why is the central government in Kabul unable to ban the cultivation of opium, like what the Taliban regime did before (between 2000 to 2001)?

Answers to these questions are not simply possible to answer. The opium economy in Afghanistan has become a very complex phenomenon. After numerous years of civil war, this singularity has deeply influenced the political and economic structure of the country. And different groups in Afghanistan, including governments and military officials, the rural poor communities, large and small businesses, as well as local warlords and international criminal syndicates are among the main beneficiaries. Elimination of the opium economy will be a long and complex process that is not as simple as military or authoritarian measures. The procedure would require the instruments of democracy, rule of law and economic development all together.

In the past two decades, Afghanistan had provided more than 90 percent of the world’s opium and was a key producer in this field. According to statistics, the total illicit narcotic drug trade is equal to one third of the country’s GDP, benefiting millions of Afghan citizens directly or indirectly.

Some of the main reasons for production of opium include the combination of anti-government unrest, nationwide insecurity, armed rebellion and widespread corruption in the state itself.

The Counter Narcotics experts believe that due to the corruption in the government and bribery of the authorities to exempt some fields from the elimination of the opium program, farmers prefer to ask Taliban forces to protect their opium crops.

On the other side of the moon, according to UN estimates, only about 10 percent of total opium profits go into the pockets of farmers and 20 percent is the share of insurgents. The rest of this magical income is for traffickers, police forces, local strongmen and those government officials who are complicit in the trade or facilitating in the transport of drugs.

The strategy of the central government, which has benefited from the backing of the international community, is to fight against narcotic drug trafficking and opium production. According to these strategies, wherever farmers have better situations and the cultivating of alternative crops are available, the ban of farming of poppy should be declared, such as the cases in Bamyan and Parwan provinces. However, in terms of insecurity in provinces or corrupt financial situations of farmers, the cultivation of the alternative crops cannot be feasible. This means that the ban of farming of poppy should be declared over a practical time period.

The challenge is that due to the inefficiencies in this strategy, many farmers in insecure areas continue to grow opium.  Even some of the farmers who lived in relatively safe zones also took advantage of the gaps in this strategy to grow the plant.

Because making a living under the rule of law can only be possible under the competent government and security, the results of the legislation will allow market development and economic growth to be dominant. Therefore, the government should do their best to ensure security, fight against corruption in its structures, and try to boost mutual respect and trust between local citizens and central government as well.

In recent  years, the biggest problems are the lack of law enforcement against drug traffickers, local powerful people, police officers, and politicians who are involved in the narcotic drug trade. These people abuse their position in government to support the arrest and prosecution of the main traffickers and smugglers.

For example, in one case, a significant amount of opium was found in a governor’s office in Helmand.  Shir Mohammad Akhund Zadeh is a prominent ally of the President Hamid Karzai. He was dismissed by a push of the British forces, but interestingly later he was designated as a senator by President Karzai.

Another example of the lack of law enforcement against narcotic drug trafficking can be found in a 2006 case. I this case, Afghan – U.S. forces found a substantial amount of heroin in a car owned by the Haji Zaher Qadir (first Deputy of WJ), who was supposed to be appointed as the commander of the border police forces at the time. Unfortunately, like the other cases, he was not accused of drug trafficking nor we can see any pursuit of judicial charges.

The latest example of involvement of high-ranking members of governments in the narcotic drug trade goes back to 2010. At that time, several Afghan Air Force personnel claimed that some of the Army Air Force staffs took advantage of aircrafts at night and by the assistance of the Department of Defense they were committing narcotic drug and weapon trading. However, this investigation was confronted with the disruptions of senior officials of the Ministry of Defense and the Presidency.

The enormous benefits of narcotic drug production go into the pockets of its manufacturers, drug dealers, government officials and Taliban commanders, making a very strong network that has infiltrated all levels of the administration and its opponents. These linkages play an active role in making the country unsafe and risky. The seriousness of this concern can be seen in the opinions of Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. special representative in Afghanistan.  Holbrooke stressed that the Afghan government is similar to the narcotic drug administration, and stated that the prerequisite to victory over terrorism is to reform the government first.

At the moment, on the eve of the departure of thousands of international troops there are very serious concerns about the future of this issue. Although most of Afghanistan’s leaders have asserted the need to combat against narcotic drugs, most of them know perfectly that there is little chance of success until the end of the NATO mission in 2014.

It should not be forgotten that the decline of western donor contracts to the illegal economy (human trafficking, precious stones, arms and drugs) will account for a larger share of the economy itself.

Even though the figures represent a reduction of drug production in 2012, this decrease is not due to the government’s narcotic drug eradication or the effectiveness of the state strategies.   It is in fact due to the bad weather conditions. The statistics show that the risk of widespread drug cultivation will be high in the coming years. As the farmers suffered substantial losses this year, they feel the need to compensate the fatalities in the coming years.

But hopefully experience has taught us that reductions in opium cultivation are within our reach. For example, in parts of the provinces that farmers have proper access to city centers and human labor, and local governments are implementing effective strategies to combat narcotic drugs, the issue has decreased dramatically.

In fact, valuable horticultural, agricultural and industrial crops in many parts of the country could potentially be exported to foreign markets.  This is especially true for agricultural products such as cotton, oil seeds, fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, which can contribute on a fundamental level to the emerging economy of Afghanistan. Granting these opportunities directly related to the modernization of agriculture and the impact of large investments in this sector,  we should remember that investment in this division creates the opportunity of employment for impoverished people ( especially in the production and processing stages), and will also help us to provide security for our country.

The golden key to developments in agriculture lies in the packaging, processing and marketing industry in the country. Replacement with products that are popular in the global marketplace, such as saffron, is another way of reducing the cultivation of poppy and curbing the dependence on the narcotic drug economy.

Afghanistan, to build a healthy economy based on private enterprise and away from the influence of illegal businesses, needs comprehensive and long-term plans. The major challenges facing the healthy economy include the non-stabilized currency (Afghani), wide currency sent out of the country, the problem of access to land, lack of energy sources, the price of land, corruption and high transaction costs, disorder in the industrial and service infrastructure and human resources, and above all massive and indiscriminate imports to the country. Generally, the Afghan economy is liberal and market-oriented with no specific long-term strategy.

While most Afghan traders aim to establish import and export companies, in fact the activity of these companies is importing non-quality products from China and Iran (goods such as oil, eggs, dairy products, wool, food, soap, shoes, etc.).   In a nutshell, we can summarize that this evidence shows the shape of the consumer economy of Afghanistan.  It should not be forgotten that this kind of business only consists of exporting the raw materials, including fresh fruit, dried herbs, precious stones and carpets.

With a focus on investment in rural businesses we can see its direct influences on the reduction of the impacts of the opium economy. Investment in this sector requires a sharp change in policies for landlords and financial services. The government must give away the state lands and long-term loans to farmers and motivate them to kick the narcotic drug habit. Due to the financial weakness of the central government, they can only give incentives to private banks and make them enthusiastic to give loans to the farmers.

It should be noted that Afghanistan is unable to solve this global problem alone. The international community and countries on the drug transit route should join hands together to solve this problem that is greater than the threat of terrorism.

The Ugly truth is that the Afghan opium boom and a flood of cheap heroin to Europe and other rich countries reveals that powerful states prefer to allow some farmers to cultivate opium and only support them against international terrorism. Countries with poor policy implementation and who underestimate this ominous trade choose to marry these two dangerous phenomena. Every day that goes by, the two are becoming more intertwined and dangerous.

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The Private Security Companies; Fire under the Ashes http://www.khaama.com/the-private-security-companies-fire-under-the-ashes-25648 http://www.khaama.com/the-private-security-companies-fire-under-the-ashes-25648#comments Wed, 13 Feb 2013 17:45:32 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23263 The Private Security Companies; Fire under the Ashes
 By Mohmmad Rasouli It’s been more than a decade that the Afghan people have been panicking about the risk of terrorist attacks in their cities, and the latest statistics of security resources show an 11 percent increase in insurgent attacks. But recently it’s been observed that kidnapping and gun conflicts between the irresponsible armed forces Read the full article...]]>
The Private Security Companies; Fire under the Ashes

 By Mohmmad Rasouli

It’s been more than a decade that the Afghan people have been panicking about the risk of terrorist attacks in their cities, and the latest statistics of security resources show an 11 percent increase in insurgent attacks. But recently it’s been observed that kidnapping and gun conflicts between the irresponsible armed forces in the heart of the capital, Kabul, are increasing; and these groups continue their violations without any fear of prosecution by security forces.

In the latest incident, the police in Kabul 12th district arrested some irresponsible armed forces, while they were abducting a businessman. These people are thought to be close to Mullah Tarakhel, a parliament member. They were released by pressure of high level officials immediately.

Though many years ago the government of Afghanistan was concerned about a possible overthrow of the administration by the Taliban forces, at the present the activities of irresponsible armed forces and private security companies are also snowballing this fear. The actions of these private companies undermine the authority of the government, and so Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, is demanding an end to the activities of these companies.

Despite the fact that it has been more than two years since President Hamid Karzai’s decree banning private security companies and the integration of them into the state security forces, the Interior Ministry has only been successful in integrating less than half of these companies into the state security forces. This is while the president has repeatedly stressed that private security companies have become parallel public security branches in the government, and this situation has led to corruption and slow progress of the public security branches.

However, Afghan people generally welcome the limiting of operations of these companies that employ around 40,000 individuals. This is because some of the companies are accused of highway robbery, shooting at innocent people, and the trafficking of drugs, weapons and even people.

Private security firms are mostly working for U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan. These private forces also protect the agencies of the UN, the Afghan media, foreign aid organizations and foreign embassies working in the country.

Evidence suggests that these forces do not consider the applicable laws and lifestyle of the people and they routinely have very harsh and rude behavior. Their power is unlimited and they benefit from substantial support from foreign governments and some state officials. Whenever they have crossed or violated the common law, they have not been convicted.

Most of the time these companies do not pay customs tax for their imported equipment, which is a sign of their disrespect for the rule of law. However, these companies have been complaining for years that it is practically impossible to import their required armored vehicles and weapons into Afghanistan without paying bribes.

With all these matters, international aid agencies, the NGOs and foreign missions say that the nonexistence of these forces is a threat to implement relief and development projects in the country, as they rely heavily on private security forces for their security. These organizations have claimed that from the beginning of the dissolution of private security companies, many projects worth millions of dollars and aid to the states have been suspended.

Even though the issue of dissolving private security firms has become an all-on conflict between the Afghan governments and its Western allies (especially the United States) the more intensified struggle is between the president and the government officials.  Most of the government officials are business owners too, and their friends and relatives benefit from the profits of these private security companies either directly or indirectly.

It seems that the intensity of the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country has increased concerns about how the dissolution of the security companies and the integration of them into the country’s main security force will be.

While many of the nation’s armed forces and police are busy fighting insurgents and terrorists, the Interior Ministry is trying to furnish the special branch of the police called Protecting the Public.  This branch is responsible for the integration of private security companies. However, most of the force’s education officials announced that these forces are still unprepared to assume responsibility for security assistance projects.

The force consists of 18 to 20 thousand people that could help to prevent violations of private security companies. The government can assume responsibility for security, this profitable industry, to meet its budget deficit.

But it must be remembered that there is much concern about the possible influence of the rebel forces infiltrating the ranks of these new public forces. The Interior Ministry and other security agencies must apply for special arrangements to take care of the employment of these forces.

It must be noted that Afghanistan has vast mineral deposits worth billions of dollars. These mineral resources may attract considerable attention of foreign investors, and the investment of them in this sector can lead to hope for the country’s economy. It should also be considered that there is a need to invest in the security of the country too.  If the Interior Ministry can prepare an integrated security force and properly equip and train them to be able to work independently, one can be hopeful about the future and finally attracting foreign investors to Afghanistan.

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Iran threatening peace prospects for war-ravaged Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/iran-threatening-peace-prospects-for-war-ravaged-afghanistan-1548457 http://www.khaama.com/iran-threatening-peace-prospects-for-war-ravaged-afghanistan-1548457#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2013 13:15:05 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=23192 Iran threatening peace prospects for war-ravaged Afghanistan
By: Hatef Mokhtar Iran’s interests overlap with America’s, but cooperation remains a distant dream. After making a visit to Kabul, one can hardly deny the extent of Iranian influence in Afghanistan. As a major player in the region, Iran has a vital stake in how its Afghan neighbors are governed. Iran’s influence since 2001—when it Read the full article...]]>
Iran threatening peace prospects for war-ravaged Afghanistan

By: Hatef Mokhtar

Iran’s interests overlap with America’s, but cooperation remains a distant dream. After making a visit to Kabul, one can hardly deny the extent of Iranian influence in Afghanistan. As a major player in the region, Iran has a vital stake in how its Afghan neighbors are governed.

Iran’s influence since 2001—when it supported the NATO-backed effort to topple the Taliban and establish a new political order—has gone through different phases. It used mainly soft power to strengthen its foothold in Afghanistan through investment, trade and cultural linkages. Over the years, Iranian security and intelligence institutions have become increasingly active in prodding a Western withdrawal and shaping Afghan politics.

Iran has been accused of meddling in Afghanistan. But what influence does Tehran have, really, over Afghanistan’s affairs?

A recent open-source research report prepared by Human Terrain System researchers in the United States and obtained by Danger Room probes the history of Iranian activities in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province, from humanitarian assistance to direct military aid. The report warns that Hazaras may look to Iran if the West fails to deliver on promises of aid.

As neighbors with similar dialects and much in common historically, the cultural ties between Iran and Afghanistan run deep. Afghanistan’s third largest city, Herat, situated just 80 miles from the Iranian border, was the capital of the Persian Empire in the 15th century. More recently, Iran has extended its electricity grid to the city, funded cooperative highway projects with India, and is even partnering with NATO members on construction of an Iran-Afghanistan railway.

These modern ties are validated by Iran’s support for ethnic Shia minorities such as Hazaras and Tajiks. Since 2001, Tehran has contributed more than half a billion dollars in humanitarian assistance to displaced Afghan minorities.

In fact, Iran is home to approximately two million Afghan refugees, a major problem magnified by UN-imposed sanctions and inflationary stresses. In spite of internal domestic pressure to deport Afghan illegal immigrants, Tehran has agreed to slow the process until their Afghan neighbors see some semblance of political stabilization.

Yet the socioeconomic problems of Afghanistan confronts revolve not so much around the flow of refugees as they do around the flow of illicit drugs. As opium production has risen in Afghanistan, so too has usage in Iran.

The Iranian government is faced with a population of nearly four million opium addicts – a number that continues to rise. A recent world drug report estimated that Iran accounts for nearly 40 percent of global opium usage. Aside from fueling this addiction problem, profits from the opium trade provides funds for Taliban insurgents.

Iran has waged what former CIA officer Bob Baer calls a war by proxy, supplying and training scattered units of Taliban to remain hostile against the nation and as well as the American presence.

Iran has pursued a strategy of supporting Afghan minorities, both Shia and Sunni. Although the majority of Afghans is Pashtun Sunnis, Iran commands significant influence over the Shia population, which accounts for 19 percent of the country’s population.

Furthermore, the Iranians have established a network of support among Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Tajiks – together, the three ethnic groups make up 30 percent of the population. This network played a central role in the overthrow of the Taliban following 9/11.

Although no foreign or domestic player commands the loyalty of a majority in the country, Iran is a long-term player in Afghanistan with influence at least equal to, and arguably greater than, that of Pakistan or the United States.

Over the past 30 years, Iran has craftily managed its relationship with its eastern neighbor. It has a policy of, first, minimizing the cost of conflict and, second, maximizing the chances for success – known as the minimum-maximum strategy. This strategy is exemplified by its arming and training of guerrilla forces, even as it avoids conventional military engagement.

And not all of Iran’s aggressive engagement is purely by proxy. Last year in Kabul, Ambassador Fada Hossein Maleki walked from the Iranian Embassy to the Indian Embassy to demand a halt in the construction of the Salma Dam, a $150 million Indian-funded construction project 112 miles from Herat. In the Iranian view, the dam would reduce the flow of river water into its territory. In October, an Afghan police commander tasked with protecting the dam testified before the country’s Parliament on Iranian intentions to sabotage the project if it is not halted.

Besides, the facilitating role Tehran may have played in providing arms from sources as varied as North Korea and Algeria is another indication.

Afghan officials have for years received reports of Iran smuggling arms to the Taliban. The WikiLeaks documents, however, appear to give new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

The apparent links are striking because Iran has historically been a foe of the Taliban, who generally view the followers of Shiite Islam—Iran’s predominant faith—as heretics.

In recent years, the Taliban toned down their sectarian rhetoric and reached out to Iran, pledging friendly relations with all of Afghanistan’s neighbors should they return to power.

An April 2007 memo notes that the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to “keep the issue of the Iranian-made weapons recently found in Kandahar under the radar screen in the lead up to the June visit of the Iranian President to Afghanistan.”

Several reports provide new details of the extent of Iran’s reach, including apparent payments to kill some Afghan officials and attempts to buy others off.

A report from 2005 describes Iran offering compensation of between $1,700 and $3,400 to a group of former Afghan government officials and Taliban members residing in Iran to kill Afghan soldiers and government officials.

Another report two years later shows growing US concern about Iran meddling, including reports from Afghan officials that Iran paid a total of $4 million to as many as 90 members of the Afghan parliament.

The US Embassy in Kabul said, however, it found members of parliament were more motivated to support Iran because of local issues, such as the Afghan government’s “poor performance on the issue of Afghans deported from Iran.”

Taliban fighters are using Iranian-made rocket-propelled grenades to successfully shoot down helicopters belonging to coalition forces. In a document dated March 2009, US military intelligence said a group of more than 100 Afghan and foreign Taliban had traveled from Iran to Afghanistan to launch suicide attacks.

A statement sourced to “human intelligence” in June 2006 said Iranian officials were training members of the Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin in Birjand, Iran. Bombs and vehicles for suicide bombers were sent into Afghanistan from there. One report dated February 2007 said Helmand residents believed Iran had supplied the Taliban with a poison to be slipped into the tea or food of government officials. At least one document referred to the Afghan government’s reluctance to publicize Iran’s alleged involvement with its enemies, stressing that Mr Karzai wanted “to avoid additional friction with Afghanistan’s neighbors.”

Iran is waging a covert campaign against US-led forces in the country by providing money, arms, training and safe haven to Taliban insurgents, according to leaked US military intelligence. Reports from Afghan spies and paid informants, described in papers published on the whistleblower website Wikileaks, accuse the Iranian government of directly supporting the insurgents.

“Iran has taken a series of steps to expand and deepen its influence in Afghanistan,” reads a summary of a secret cable sourced to the US embassy in Kabul and written by a deputy general. The cable relayed claims from within the Afghan foreign ministry that Iran was bribing Afghan MPs with millions of US dollars and working to oust reformist ministers.

Tehran, which initially supported the US drive to unseat Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, denies the allegation that it is working against President Hamid Karzai’s western-backed government—an allegation that has been made evident when Karzai acknowledged that his chief of staff had received “bags of money” from Iran.

Officials in NAI, which supports free media in Afghanistan, are saying that the two neighboring countries, Pakistan and Iran, are struggling to increase their presence and influence in Afghanistan media as 2014 is getting closer, since they are looking to use media in a bid to spark tribal and religious issues.

“The Iranians are looking to create their influence inside the Afghanistan media through journalism training programs,” said Sediqullah Tawhidi, head of the media watch in NAI agency. Mr. Tawhidi urged the Afghan foreign ministry and Afghan information and culture ministry to take immediate actions against the issue.

Afghan intelligence officials earlier also said that a number of the media agencies are being supported by Iran in capital Kabul but the comments by Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman, widely broadcasted by local and foreign media agencies, was harshly criticized.

The issue of Iran’s support towards the local media in Afghanistan was widely criticized in political sessions and by media analysts who say the pro-Iranian media agencies are broadcasting news and views against the NATO troops and in a number of cases, the local media have followed Iranian media to broadcast anti-US articles and analysis.

In the meantime, there are reports that the Iranian clerics who are attending religious sessions in Herat province are instigating the local clerics and residents against the foreign troops. They are also reportedly providing negative speech against the foreign non-governmental organizations and accusing them of preaching other religions in this province. In other cases, the clerics have reportedly said that the foreign troops have “occupied” Afghanistan; such comments are normally found in the Iranian media and predominantly in the speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

So the major concern remains the growing influence of the Iranians in every matter of national importance. In the eyes of Ahmad Saeedi, a political analyst and former diplomat, Tehran’s influence is becoming pronounced. “Afghanistan is under the siege of Iranian influence.”

“We have now six pro-Iranian TV channels, 21 radio stations, and a large number of publications that appear in Kabul,” he said, adding, “The cultural war is more important than war led by guns.”

Iran’s strategy is aimed at both bolstering its support among Afghanistan’s minority Shi’ites and countering US and Western influence in Afghanistan. Iran’s long-term agenda is “to have some people who support the Iranian regime and culture in the society, and can somehow disrupt political stability by inciting ethnical/communal tensions after the withdrawal of foreign forces from the Afghan heartlands in 2014.”

Davood Moradian, former chief adviser to President Hamid Karzai’s foreign minister, says there are three facets to Iran’s objectives in Afghanistan. There is the “Iran which has legitimate interests, Iran which has an ideological preference, and Iran which has regional ambition. And two of the three are causing problems in Afghanistan.”

There are also concerns that Iran’s ideological ambitions will create friction between Afghanistan’s majority Sunni and minority Shia, already sparkling a tussle for influence from Iran’s ideological rival, Saudi Arabia.

In western Kabul, one physical example of Iran’s influence is the Khatam al-Nabeyeen Islamic University. The complex, which also includes a madrasah and student housing, is funded with the help of Iran and teaches Iran’s version of Islam.

On the economic front, Iran has destabilized Afghan markets by purchasing large amounts of foreign currency, a counter-measure against international sanctions on its nuclear program, while on other side, Afghanistan consumer base too has been targeted by the regular dumping of inferior-quality goods supplied by the bordering countries specifically Iran.

By these available indications, Iran does not appear to be in favor of a democratic, affluent Afghanistan. It portrays itself as the future leader of the Islamic world but in reality practicing policies that are against the interests of the Islamic countries and also promoting its own ideology that is anti-Islamic at best.

About the author:

Hatef Mokhtar (born 11 May 1962) is an Afghan author currently living in Norway and is a Norwegian citizen. He is the founder and chief editor of The Oslo Times and a human-rights activist. He writes for several newspapers and magazines such as KL-Today, Daily Sun, Malaysia Today, Haama Daily, groruddalen.no, Malaysia Today, and Burma Digest. He works towards the freedom of press and speech, and for the promotion of peace. He is a public speaker and a political analyst. Although a political analyst on Afghanistan, he also specializes in global human rights issues and the freedom of expression in particular. Mokhtar belongs to the Durrani clan of the Pashtun. He is the founder and chairman of Armed for the Quill (AFTQ) and the organization Global Peace. Read more about him at: 

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Afghan Actor Plays Key Role in Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish 3 http://www.khaama.com/afghan-actor-plays-key-role-in-hrithik-roshans-krrish-3-1452365 http://www.khaama.com/afghan-actor-plays-key-role-in-hrithik-roshans-krrish-3-1452365#comments Sat, 02 Feb 2013 11:47:04 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=22803 Afghan Actor Plays Key Role in Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish 3
For the first time an Afghan actor, Sameer Ali Khan is going to play a key role in Hrithik Roshan’s forthcoming film Krrish 3 which is apparently all about special effects. It is said that director Rakesh Roshan has given complete eight month’s time only to VFX, just to give their viewers a never seen Read the full article...]]>
Afghan Actor Plays Key Role in Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish 3

For the first time an Afghan actor, Sameer Ali Khan is going to play a key role in Hrithik Roshan’s forthcoming film Krrish 3 which is apparently all about special effects.

It is said that director Rakesh Roshan has given complete eight month’s time only to VFX, just to give their viewers a never seen before experience.

Afghan actor Sameer Ali Khan has been selected as an important character in Krrish 3 which is considered to be one of the most expensive movies of Bollywood after Hrithik Roshan and his father who is the director of the movie Rakesh Roshan paid a hefty price to get the work done and interestingly, the visual effects are being done by close buddy Shahrukh Khan’s company.

Sameer Ali Khan traveled to India in 2007 with an aim to find an opportunity to participate in Bollywood films. He graduated from Pune University as a political science student in 2010 and is an active athlete of Martial arts.

In an exclusive interview with Khaama Press (KP), Sameer Ali Khan explained the barriers and challenges he faced while struggling to have a vital role in Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish 3 film.

Khan said, “After continuous efforts and meeting with various Bollywood directors and by the grace of almighty Allah I got a big chance to play a villain role which is important and one of the important role of the movie.”

He also added, “I am very thankful to Rakesh Roshan, the team and especially to Hrithik Roshan who has been a good friend and encouraged me in my role. It was a great experience doing my first movie under the direction of Rakesh Roshan.”

Krrish 3 is an upcoming superhero science fiction Indian film that will be produced and directed by Rakesh Roshan. The story of the film is based on Koi… Mil Gaya and Krrish 2 that will continue the story of Rohit Mehra and his superhero son Krrish.

This will be the third movie of Krrish film series while the two earlier films have already received blockbuster status at the box office. Krrish 3 is expected to be released during Diwali 2013 along with its 3D format.

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Transitional government, supporting Taliban ideology http://www.khaama.com/transitional-government-supporting-taliban-ideology-145 http://www.khaama.com/transitional-government-supporting-taliban-ideology-145#comments Sun, 13 Jan 2013 07:07:21 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=22184 Transitional government, supporting Taliban ideology
The national front – one of the main political opposition party of the Afghan government has proposed a transitional government as an alternative to end government’s interference in upcoming presidential election. A similar suggestion was also put forward by the Taliban group representatives during the Paris conference in a bid to bring peace and stability Read the full article...]]>
Transitional government, supporting Taliban ideology

The national front – one of the main political opposition party of the Afghan government has proposed a transitional government as an alternative to end government’s interference in upcoming presidential election.

A similar suggestion was also put forward by the Taliban group representatives during the Paris conference in a bid to bring peace and stability in the country.

But the suggestion by the main political opposition party of the Afghan government seems to be an attempt to end the current political system in Afghanistan however the comments by opposition parties in such a sensitive situation seems to be interesting and ridiculous as the observers believe that the political parties do not have a specific national strategy, similar to the Afghan government which has been criticized during the past one decade by political analysts and various media agencies.

On the other dozens of political parties and movements have formed during the past years however their influence on the situation of Afghanistan and government has been considerably low since majority of the political parties did not have specific strategies which could at least help the current weak administration.

On the other analysts are saying that the main motive behind the government’s failure for proper administration was the lack and formation of a strong political movement or party following the Taliban regime which was toppled in 2001.

Decades of long war in Afghanistan paved the way for various ethnic and religious figures who formed parties and movements based on their preferred ethnicities who are acting the government considering their personal benefits more than the national benefits of the country.

Therefore the observers also believe that the political parties and movements in Afghanistan do not have strategies that guarantee the national benefits of the country and the comments by National Front for a free and fair election and transitional government is similar to the Taliban group’s suggestion in Paris conference.

On the other analysts criticize the formation of a transitional government and are saying that the National Front is looking to end the current political system which has been formed by Afghan peoples’ votes.

During a decade long age of the current political system which was formed following public voting, the Afghan constitution and other laws have been passed besides the Afghan parliament and Afghan senate which are actively operating which reflects a legitimate and public supported political system in the country.

The question according to analyst who believe is not logical is that how a transitional government can be formed to prevent government’s interference and organization of a free and fair election.

The current debut can be well demonstrated following an example of a gardener who was cutting the fruit trees and was using the branches of the cut trees to grow other trees. The gardener was asked in this regard and he said the trees were affected by insects and therefore he was cutting the trees so that the insects do not harm the fruits. But the gardener was advised to find a solution to remove insects rather than cutting the trees.

The suggestion by National Front according to the observers is similar to the above story of the gardener.

In the meantime there are possibilities of the current government’s interference in upcoming presidential election which has been witnessed by Afghans in the past but a free and fair election is not impossible and there are other alternatives which can be implemented to guarantee the election and current political system.

Political stability of a nation has direct links with the prominent and powerful political parties who are assuring the proper implementation of democracy in their respective societies. The political parties are vital organizations with specific strategies that obliges the government for better governance.

But unfortunately the political parties have been reflecting only theories in Afghanistan during the past decades and according to the Afghans the political leaders are acting against the principles of political movements and parties in the country. The Afghan citizens also believe that political leaders are responsible for majority of destructions of the country and are directly involved for paving the way for interference of regional spy agencies in Afghanistan since their personal benefits are more valuable for them than the national benefits of Afghanistan.

The formation of political parties and movements in Afghanistan during the past ten years has been sectional and has formed in specific events with rare contribution and affect on the situation of the country and in some cases the political movements have been ridiculous, according to the observers who are saying that the political opposition parties have been aggressive but the members of the parties are slowly going close to president Karzai in a bid to create their influence for their future political compromises.

However the main question considering the current situation is the impact of the political parties on the upcoming presidential election where Afghans and the international community are keen to witness the consequences.

The suggestions by the National Front – the main political opposition of the Afghan government seems to support the Taliban ideology which can have a very negative impact on the situation of the country.

On the other hand observes believe that the National Front is struggling to gain power through the upcoming presidential election and which has been supported by the Afghan people.

On the other hand concerns among the Afghans remains at high level as they believe that the National Front is not keen on ending Afghanistan crisis and graft in the current government led by president Karzai but the situation could go worse if the National Front or any other political figure becomes successful in the presidential election.

Meanwhile a number of the political figures who criticize the government of Afghanistan for growing corruption are directly involved in the graft themselves as they are having high positions in the government. The issue of corruption and bad governance led by president Hamid Karzai is not a new issue and according to the reports and findings the transitional government first formed after the Taliban fall had good governance but the corruption and graft dramatically increased after the first term and second term presidential elections.

According to reports majority of the political figures who are not with the central government are acting undemocratic, violating law and help grow corruption in the country.

Political illness, social turmoil and other comments by political figures involved in Afghanistan politics are creating distance between the Afghan people and political parties and movements in the country.

Observers believe that majority of the political parties are Ethnicity-based and Afghans fear that these parties once again will create ethnic issues if become successful in presidential election.

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Civil War threatens Afghanistan as NATO prepares to leave http://www.khaama.com/civil-war-threatens-afghanistan-as-nato-prepares-to-leave-22143 http://www.khaama.com/civil-war-threatens-afghanistan-as-nato-prepares-to-leave-22143#comments Fri, 11 Jan 2013 07:59:24 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=22143 Civil War threatens Afghanistan as NATO prepares to leave
Majority of the Afghan lawmakers during recent sessions expressed concerns regarding complete withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan despite a number of them were criticizing the NATO troops presence in Afghanistan and were accusing them of on-going war in the country and against the Afghan government. However the lawmakers are now saying that the security Read the full article...]]>
Civil War threatens Afghanistan as NATO prepares to leave

Majority of the Afghan lawmakers during recent sessions expressed concerns regarding complete withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan despite a number of them were criticizing the NATO troops presence in Afghanistan and were accusing them of on-going war in the country and against the Afghan government.

However the lawmakers are now saying that the security situation will become tense if NATO troops completely leave Afghanistan.

A number of the lawmakers also warned that the Afghan government’s weakness towards security will not be fulfilled within the next one year and the Afghan security forces will not be able to take full security lead after NATO troops leave the country.

However there are also tense concerns by a number of Afghan lawmakers who are saying that Afghanistan will become a ground for
civil war which will pave the way for the return of terrorism backed by regional spy agencies.

Analysts also also believe that the withdrawal of the NATO troops from Afghanistan will have negative impacts both for Afghanistan and International community.

Zero Option, assessment of US troops pullout:

The United States of America recently said Washington is considering to review zero option or complete withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan despite the US general in Afghanistan proposed to leave a portion of the troops in Afghanistan to train Afghan army and police.

Sensible Issues:

In the meantime Afghan defense ministry recently also pointed towards specific issues of the Afghan security forces. Afghan defense minister Bismillah Mohammadi recently said that the Afghan army faces problems in four phases including lack of air force, lack of proper intelligence, lack of heavy military equipment and also Afghan security forces face problems towards
training.

Afghan defense minister said the international community had its cooperation towards the equipment and training of the Afghan army however they have not received modern air force equipments so far and Afghan security forces needs a long term commitment from the international community towards professional training.

Corruption preventing capabilities growth:

Recently a delegation of eight officials including three Afghan senators prepared a report which showed over 2,500 weapons and 50 vehicles were lost by Afghan police in eastern Nuristan province.

Hafiz Abdul Qayoum head of the lawmaking and anti-graft commission in Afghan senate who visited Nuristan province said they have received reports regarding the disappearance of 2,500 to 2,700 weapons and around 50 vehicles from Nuristan.

There are concerns that the weapons and vehicles have been given to Taliban militants since a number of the Afghan senators are concerned regarding growing corruption in Afghan security institutions which will prevent Afghan security forces to be independent and fully capable of taking security lead by 2014.

US troops pullout not a wise decision:

In the meantime a former German general who served in Afghanistan under the NATO-led international security assistance force denied the complete pullout of US troops from Afghanistan considering the situation and the security agreement which will be signed between Kabul and Washington in the near future that will allow US military bases and troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

He said it will not be a wise decision to take all US troops out of Afghanistan since there is a critical need of foreign troops presence.

Green on Blue attacks, lack of confidence reasons behind NATO pullout:

There are also reports that the growing insider attacks by Afghan troops on their international counterpart is one of the main reasons which forces NATO troops to leave Afghanistan.

Dozens of NATO troops have been killed following green on blue attacks during the past two years. An Afghan woman police office recently also opened fire on a US advisor in Afghan interior ministry but the German general insists that NATO should leave Afghanistan until the mission was not completed. He warned that the consequences of immediate withdrawal of NATO troops will claim more sacrfices in the future.

He also insisted that the international community had considerable achievements during the past ten years and the international community must not leave Afghanistan leaving their mission incomplete due to Afghan security forces mistakes or infiltration by insurgents which leads to insider attacks on NATO troops.

The German general also emphasized that the Afghan and NATO officials should work closely to prevent infiltration of the militants among the Afghan security forces to reduce or stop insider attacks.

Less achievements, high expenditure:

Despite the western troops casualties in Afghanistan during the past ten years is relatively smaller than the former Soviet Union forces casualties however NATO troops mission in Afghanistan is considered to be less successful where no considerable achievements have been noted despite the Afghan war is said to be one of the most costly war for US and its allies.

According to the German general NATO has committed a number of mistakes in Afghanistan during the past ten years since they were cooperating with the wrong individuals in Afghanistan.

He pointed towards international communities cooperation with the warlords as an example and insisted that the foreigners should support the civil society of Afghanistan which is not having a negative background.

The German general also emphasized that the repeated mistakes by international community during the past ten years resulted in more expenses and efforts but the outcome was not satisfactory as was expected.

He said it is still not too late and it is important the presidential election in 2014 should be appropriately organized and more work should be done to support the civil society.

Polls and Survey, Public views:

In the meantime several surveys and polls have been conducted through social media networks such as Facebook regarding strategic agreement between Afghanistan and United States to find out if the pact was in favor of Afghanistan or not, but the poll results show more positive views.

Similar polls were also conducted by media networks and other social activists asking regarding the presence of NATO troops beyond 2014 and result shows that more participants have given positive votes.

An Afghan journalist in his Facebook page conducted a poll regarding the security agreement between Kabul and Washington which showed that 20% of the voters were thinking that the presence of NATO troops was not in favor of Afghanistan while 80% of the participants voted for the presence of NATO troops.

Presence of NATO troops is a need:

In the meantime Afghan officials are continuously assuring that the international community will not abandon Afghanistan but concerns among the Afghans specifically the Afghan parliament once again raised after Washington announced of possible complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and it seems that the Afghan lawmakers are sensitive regarding the consequences and risks which threatens Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the NATO troops.

On the other economical issues and reduction in foreign aid, lack of employment and growing unemployment rate, Afghan refugees being forced to return by neighboring countries, graft, lack of capabilities of the Afghan security forces are the facts which threatens Afghanistan beyond 2014.

But the major concern is interference of neighboring countries of Afghanistan specifically Pakistan and Iran who are trying to destabilize the country once NATO troops leave since the Afghan people will face major economic crisis despite Afghan security forces will continue to their efforts to fight terrorism and insurgency with low wages but the continued interference of the neighboring countries will finally force Afghans to end up giving sacrifices for the supporters of terrorism and puppets of the regional spy agencies.

Therefore the Afghan government officials, political parties, civil society organizations and political observers should jointly work considering the current situation to protect the national benefits and ensure a fair and free presidential election in a bid to guarantee the future political system of Afghanistan, and must discuss the issue of NATO troops presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to ensure that the regional spy agencies and terror groups have no other options for turning Afghanistan into militants safe havens.

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Concerns over Iran’s influence in Afghan media agencies http://www.khaama.com/concerns-over-irans-influence-in-afghan-media-agencies-1225 http://www.khaama.com/concerns-over-irans-influence-in-afghan-media-agencies-1225#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2013 05:08:05 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=22100 Concerns over Iran’s influence in Afghan media agencies
According to local authorities in western Herat province of Afghanistan, a number of the Iranian journalism faculty teachers have started directed contacts with the local media agencies in this province without coordinating with the local government. Officials in NAI, which supports free media in Afghanistan are saying that the two neighboring countries, Pakistan and Iran are struggling Read the full article...]]>
Concerns over Iran’s influence in Afghan media agencies

According to local authorities in western Herat province of Afghanistan, a number of the Iranian journalism faculty teachers have started directed contacts with the local media agencies in this province without coordinating with the local government.

Officials in NAI, which supports free media in Afghanistan are saying that the two neighboring countries, Pakistan and Iran are struggling to increase their presence and influence in Afghanistan media as 2014 is getting closer since they are looking to use media in a bid to spark tribal and religious issues.

Sediqullah Tawhidi head of the media watch in NAI agency told Khaama Press, “All the activities from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan specifically the Islamic Republic of Iran without coordination with the government and non-government organizations is a major concern since there is no free media in Iran and the Iranians are looking to create their influence inside the Afghanistan media through such training programs. They want to implement their strategies using the Afghan medias and are struggling to spark anti-western and foreign troops movements in Afghanistan.”

Mr. Tawhidi urged the Afghan foreign ministry and Afghan information and culture ministry to take immediate actions against the issue.

The issue is not something new as the Afghanistan media has been supported from the unknown countries in the past as well which created tensions among the media officials in the country.

Afghan intelligence officials earlier also said that a number of the media agencies are being supported by Iran in capital Kabul but the comments by Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman, which was widely broadcasted by local and foreign media agencies was harshly criticized.

The issue of Iran’s support towards the local medias in Afghanistan was widely criticized in political sessions and by media analysts who were saying that the pro-Iranian media agencies are broadcasting anti-NATO troops campaigns and in a number of cases the local medias have followed Iranian medias to broadcast anti-US articles and analysis.

In the meantime media activists and a number of the media agencies in western Herat province are concerned regarding the meeting of the chief of the Mashad journalism university with the local medias in this province and are saying that they are not confident regarding honest cooperation of Iran to improve media in Afghanistan.

One of the major issue in western Herat province of Afghanistan is the religious issue and Islamic Republic of Iran has reportedly been involved behind the issues in the past.

There also reports that the Iranian clerics who are attending religious sessions in Herat province are encouraging the local clerics and residents of Herat province against the foreign troops and are also providing negative speech against the foreign non-governmental organizations and are accusing them of preaching other religions in this province.

Also the Iranian Akhunds — clerics have reportedly organized shor seminars for the local clerics in Herat province which sparked concerns by civil society activists who are were saying that the religious clerics who attended the seminars were providing anti-foreign troops speechs during Friday prayers. In a number of cases the clerics have reportedly said that the foreign troops have occupied Afghanistan, such comments which are normally seen in Iranian medias and the Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadi Nezhad is continuously use the same phrases during his speeches.

But the major concern is regarding the negative impact of Iran’s support towards the local medias in western Herat province of Afghanistan.

Mr. Jahan Shahi who has reportedly met with the local media officials in Herat province has said that the media agencies lacks professionalism and professional expertise. He has also said that the Afghan medias has been involved in projects during the past 10 years and therefore Afghan medias need professional trainings and he vowed Iran’s commitment in this regard.

In the meantime Mr. Tawhidi criticize the information and culture ministry officials for being reckless in this regard and also accuse certain individuals inside the government who are supporting the national benefits of the neighboring countries in Afghanistan.

Khalil Amiree director of the local Faryad Radio and member of the NAI — supporting the local media has also said that the officials of Mashad jounalism university during their meeting with the local medias and have also vowed financial support the local medias in Afghanistan.

A number of the reporters and media agencies in Herat province are concerned regarding the media agencies who are having economic issues and will become united with Iran that will have a dangerous outcome for the local medias in this province.

Economical issues and lack of the government and international community support towards the local medias in Afghanistan is said to be the main reason which has prevented growth of the media in the country.

There are also concerns that the local medias will join Iran due to economic problems as the international aid to Afghanistan is due to dramatically reduce by 2014.

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Sediq Sediq recalled from India for his comments on Pakistan http://www.khaama.com/sediq-sediq-recalled-from-india-for-his-comments-on-pakistan-2095 http://www.khaama.com/sediq-sediq-recalled-from-india-for-his-comments-on-pakistan-2095#comments Sun, 06 Jan 2013 15:19:04 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=22048 Sediq Sediq recalled from India for his comments on Pakistan
Afghan interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi was summoned by interior minister Mojtaba Patang while he was attending a 7 days seminar in India. He returned to Kabul after the attending the seminar only for two days and was reportedly called back by interior minister following his comments regarding Pakistan. A source in interior ministry speaking Read the full article...]]>
Sediq Sediq recalled from India for his comments on Pakistan

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi was summoned by interior minister Mojtaba Patang while he was attending a 7 days seminar in India.

He returned to Kabul after the attending the seminar only for two days and was reportedly called back by interior minister following his comments regarding Pakistan.

A source in interior ministry speaking on condition of anonymity told Khaama Press, “Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi, a day before leaving for India and during his interview with a foreign news agency informed of continued interference by Pakistan in Afghanistan affairs and accused the Pakistani government for supporting the Taliban militants.”

The source further added, “Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omer Daudzai was summoned by Pakistan foreign ministry a day after Mr. Sediqi’s comments and asked him to clarify the comments of interior ministry spokesman sediq Sediqi.”

The official also added, “Afghan ambassador in Islamabad informed Afghan presidential palace regarding his impeachment by Pakistan foreign ministry which led to instructions by president office to Mojtaba Patang in order to query Mr. Sediqi regarding his interview and attempt to break agreement between the two nations.”

This comes as the two nations recently agreed to prevent conspiracies by the government spokesmen however Pakistani officials are saying that Mr. sediqi has breached the agreement.

In the meantime political observers believe that Mr. Sediqi was recalled from India by presidential palace officials since Pakistan has a considerable influence inside the president office. They are also saying that individuals working inside the presidential palace are under the influence of neighboring Pakistan and Iran who are not prepared to tolerate comments against the two neighboring countries of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile it is yet not clear if Mr. Sediqi will be able to continue as interior ministry spokesman or not, since the observers believe that he might become victim of the influential individuals working for the neighboring countries of Afghanistan.

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Freedom of Taliban to boost insurgency in Afghanistan http://www.khaama.com/freedom-of-taliban-to-boost-insurgency-in-afghanistan-2092 http://www.khaama.com/freedom-of-taliban-to-boost-insurgency-in-afghanistan-2092#comments Sat, 05 Jan 2013 16:12:37 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=21997 Freedom of Taliban to boost insurgency in Afghanistan
There have been mixed reactions towards the freedom of the Taliban militants from the Bagram prison and other jails in Afghanistan however observers believe that the freedom of the insurgents will not have any positive impact on peace process unless the demands of the Taliban group and their supporters in Pakistan have not been fulfilled. Read the full article...]]>
Freedom of Taliban to boost insurgency in Afghanistan

There have been mixed reactions towards the freedom of the Taliban militants from the Bagram prison and other jails in Afghanistan however observers believe that the freedom of the insurgents will not have any positive impact on peace process unless the demands of the Taliban group and their supporters in Pakistan have not been fulfilled.

The freedom of the Taliban militants have also been criticized since their freedom will not only help the Afghan peace negotiations but on the other hand will compromise with the sacrifices of the innocent Afghans who become victim of terrorism in the country on daily basis.

In the meantime there are also optimisms regarding the freedom of the Taliban militants from Bagram prison, Pul-e-Charkhi prison, Uruzgan and Zabul province jails, and the officials are kee that their freedom will encourage militants to sit-in for peace talks with the Afghan government.

Around 400 Taliban prisoners who were arrested in connection to insurgency activities were freed from the jails after their cases were reviewed.

However there are concerns that the revision of the Taliban militants cases was not formally broadcasted or presented to Afghan people which sparks worries that the prisoners have been freed following a political agreement.

This comes as a number of the Taliban militants and suicide bombers arrested by Afghan security forces and intelligence were freed by the Afghan government in the past which led to Afghan security forces being discouraged from their duties.

According to reports majority of the prisoners who were freed from the Bagram prison were arrested in battlefield who were fighting coalition and Afghan security forces, and the detained prisoners were supposed to be tried for their crimes other than being freed from the jails.

The freedom of the militants by the government with the revision of their legal cases not being broadcasted by any media or government agency creates question regarding the cooperation and compromise of the government with militants groups.

In the meantime Bagram and Pul-e-Charkhi prison officials are saying that the freedom process of the militants will continue and those suspected militants will be freed unless a satisfactory evidence regarding their insurgency activities have not been presented.

Militants freedom from the Afghan jails is followed by recent prisons transfer to Afghan security forces from the NATO-led coalition forces, and according to reports over 3500 militants are being kept in these prisons.

Concerns are also growing regarding the unconditional freedom of the detained militants from the jails and observers believe that their freedom will soon boost the operational activity of the Taliban group and will increase their attacks on Afghan security forces across the country.

Freedom of the militants from the jails according to the observers does not only help Afghan peace talks but also reflects the weakness of the government since Taliban group has so far not only shown a positive sign towards peace talks but has repeatedly emphasized on not recognizing the Afghan government.

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Zalmai Khalilzad stands in Afghan presidential election http://www.khaama.com/zalmai-khalilzad-stands-in-afghan-presidential-election-2091 http://www.khaama.com/zalmai-khalilzad-stands-in-afghan-presidential-election-2091#comments Sat, 05 Jan 2013 15:22:26 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=21994 Zalmai Khalilzad stands in Afghan presidential election
Zalmai Khalilzad former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq and one of the members of the Republican party is due to nominate himself in the upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan. A source close to Mr. Khalilzad speaking on the condition of anonymity told Khaama Press, “Afghanistan will need serious cooperation from the western nations specifically Read the full article...]]>
Zalmai Khalilzad stands in Afghan presidential election

Zalmai Khalilzad former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq and one of the members of the Republican party is due to nominate himself in the upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan.

A source close to Mr. Khalilzad speaking on the condition of anonymity told Khaama Press, “Afghanistan will need serious cooperation from the western nations specifically United States of America in the future and Mr. Khalilzad will be one of the reliable individual for Afghanistan beyond 2014, and therefore he will nominate himself in the upcoming presidential election.”

He said, “Mr. Khalilzad has full support of the Republicans who are having major seats in the US congress and this will definitely be one of the main opportunity for Afghanistan’s future since Khalilzad will also be supported inside the country. He will have major programs for the presidential election and currently he is holding talks with the political parties but he will announce his nomination in the near future.”

The source also added, “Mr. Khalilzad is currently negotiating with various political parties in Afghanistan and he has met with Gul Agha Sherzoi and Mahmood Karzai and has discussed the upcoming presidential election.”

He said Mr. Khalilzad has also met with a number of the former Mujahideen leaders and has indirectly negotiated his nomination for the upcoming election.

This comes as Wall Street Journal earlier also published a report which informed of Mr. Khalizad’s meeting with various political parties in Afghanistan to discuss the upcoming presidential election.

According to reports the electoral office of Zalmai Khalilzad is informally operating in capital Kabul where thousands are visiting his office on daily basis. The individuals who are coming from various provinces of Afghanistan are reportedly meeting with the head of the Khalilzad’s electoral office in Kabul city.

In the meantime reports also suggest that the electoral office of Zalmai Khalilzad has created a number of committees and has indirectly contacted with a number of the private media agencies to broadcast reports regarding his nomination.

Ehsanullah Bayat a member of the Afghan senate house and owner of the Ariana Television is said to be one of the individuals who is assisting Zalmai Khalilzad with his indirect presidential election campaign.

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Afghan peace process and the transitional justice http://www.khaama.com/afghan-peace-process-and-the-transitional-justice-1194 http://www.khaama.com/afghan-peace-process-and-the-transitional-justice-1194#comments Thu, 03 Jan 2013 04:57:41 +0000 http://www.khaama.com/?p=21926 Afghan peace process and the transitional justice
The freedom of the Taliban group members by Pakistan following efforts by Afghan government and high peace council has became one of the most controversial issue discussed in Mass Medias and political events. The freed Taliban group members are believed to be among the most senior leaders during the Taliban regime which has sparked tensions Read the full article...]]>
Afghan peace process and the transitional justice

The freedom of the Taliban group members by Pakistan following efforts by Afghan government and high peace council has became one of the most controversial issue discussed in Mass Medias and political events.

The freed Taliban group members are believed to be among the most senior leaders during the Taliban regime which has sparked tensions among the Afghans that may rejoin the militants group that will further boost the insurgency activities of the militants across the country.

In the meantime a number of the civil society and human rights officials criticize the government for the freedom of Taliban group members without considering specific conditions for their freedom and accuse the government for supporting the war criminals and human rights violators.

The Afghan senators also expressed concerns regarding the freedom of the Taliban group members and are saying that there is no guarantee the freed Taliban members will not join not join the militants groups since their destiny has not been specified.

Several Taliban militants who have been freed in the past have joined the militants groups to fight against the government and Afghan intelligence officials are saying they have arrested Taliban suicide bombers who were once arrested and were later freed.

There are also concerns that the freedom of the Taliban group members under the national peace strategy does not have a specified plan since the Islamic Party of Afghanistan led by Gulbuddi Hekmatyar and the Taliban group conveyed a clear message during the Paris conference on Afghanistan, which insisted on changing the current Afghan constitution.

However the question regarding the freedom of eight Taliban group members from Pakistan recently remains unanswered as neither the Afghan government nor the Afghan peace council have briefed the strategy behind their freedom.

Afghan high peace council called the freedom of the Taliban group members a major achievement towards peace talks with the militants in Afghanistan.  The move by Pakistan was also welcomed by Afghan president Hamid Karzai and he urged for the freedom of the remaining Taliban group members.

But the Afghan civil society, human rights and political analysts are saying that the questions regarding the future of the freed Taliban group members and their war criminal records remains unanswered and also it is not clear if they will not join the militants to fight against the government.

There are also concerns that the Afghan government will pave the way for the Taliban group members to become part of the government in a bid to encourage other militants join peace process however observers are saying that such peace process will have no meaning which will compromise with the transitional justice.

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