Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where Fiction and Reality Meet | A Decade of Afghan Cinema

Martin Gerner offers a stirring overview of contemporary film in Afghanistan. It should be no surprise that young Afghans are seeking to understand and explain their society both to themselves and the world.

‘Most of the people in the West think about Afghanistan as a country where people kill each other in the name of Islam,’ says Ali Husseini, who is part of a collective of young Kabul filmmakers, explaining how foreign films can motivate the indigenous film-maker. ‘You just need to watch any of the Hollywood movies. We as Afghans are usually portrayed as terrorists with long beards in them. But we come from the middle of this society, and we want to show that we as well have a global perspective on things, just like in Germany or in the United States. What we want to show are stories where we speak about our lives, stories about earning money and trying to make a living, with parents raising their children and trying to give them a better future.’

Click here to see video shorts featured on Afghanistan 101.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What the Taliban Want | Ahmed Rashid

Ahmed Rashid has a fascinating blog in the New York Review of Books page. Here it is in full.

An important message by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, has been released on the occasion of Eid—the end of Ramadan. It is the longest and by far the most forward-looking political message he has ever sent, offering the Taliban’s latest views on several central issues that are uppermost in the minds of US and NATO leaders, Afghans, and governments around the region as the US begins a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Mullah Omar does not rule out negotiations with the Americans or sharing power with the present Afghan government and he emphatically says that the Taliban have no interest in monopolizing power. For the first time he admits that the Taliban have been negotiating with the Americans, but he insists these talks have been about the release of prisoners and are not a political dialogue:

IE [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] considers [the] establishment of an independent Islamic regime as a conducive mechanism for sustainability of religious and worldly interests of the country and the countrymen. For this purpose, every legitimate option can be considered in order to reach this goal. The contacts which have been made with some parties for the release of prisoners can’t be called as a comprehensive negotiation for the solution of the current imbroglio of the country. However, the Islamic Emirate, as an efficient political and military entity, has a specific and independent agenda in this regard which has been elucidated time and again.

An AP Report on August 29 that quoted some US and Afghan officials as saying the talks have stalled is completely wrong according to my well-informed sources, who insist that they are continuing despite leaks to the press, as well as threats to the security of the participants and other problems. The talks have dealt with prisoner releases as part of confidence building measures to create the right atmosphere for a wider and more sustained political dialogue.

By acknowledging that there have been contacts with the Americans, Mullah Omar is sending a clear message to his fighters that future political talks are a possibility, while signaling to the Americans that he may eventually be prepared to broaden the scope of the dialogue and those already participating in it.

He categorically accepts that “all” ethnic groups “will have participation” in governing Afghanistan in the future and tries to play down the position taken by some non-Pashtuns in the former Northern Alliance that they will never negotiate with the Taliban. He opposes long-term US bases in Afghanistan and does not accept a limited withdrawal of US-NATO troops; he wants the US and NATO to “immediately” withdraw all their forces. He hopes to be at peace with his neighbors and the world, he writes, and he will do nothing to aggravate tensions. But the Taliban will not accept an imposed regime and they demand complete independence for Afghanistan. (This is as much a message to Pakistan as it is to the US.)

Significantly, no abuse is heaped on the government of President Hamid Karzai as has been done in past messages. Mullah Omar urges government officials only to end their cooperation with the “invaders.” He places great importance in his message to his fighters to respect the Layha or Taliban code of conduct toward civilians, women, and children. The Taliban have been stung by repeated criticism from the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and others that much of their violence is directed toward Afghan civilians. Coming at a time when violence is at its worst and bloodshed in Afghanistan being committed both by US forces and the Taliban, this message seems a hopeful sign that talks and a negotiated settlement to end the war are a possibility.

Additional Resource:

The Layha: Calling the Taliban to Account

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Herati Man | A Profile by Nasim Fekrat

I met this young man in downtown Herat, the oldest part of the city where the Citadel of Herat or Qal’a-ye Ikhtiyar al-Din is located. I took his photo from a distance so I could zoom in on his face to capture the bitter smile. I can’t forget his strong hand shook my hand while seeing cracks on his back hand and fingers because of tough winter weather. I invited him to a cup of tea, he shared with me his stories from the prison in Iran and showed me the scars and cuts left by beating by prison guards.

- Nasim Fekrat

You can click on the image to enlarge.

Nasim Fekrat is a two time winner of the Freedom of Expression Awards, in 2005 from RSF (Reporters without Borders), and 2008 from ISF (Information Safety and Freedom) in Siena, Italy.

To see more of his images and profiles visit his web page called Afghanistan Through My Eyes.

Real and Shadow Armies | Afghanistan and Iraq

Click on charts to expand.

In addition to increased reliance on drones and other mechanical weapons systems, the US military has increasingly turned to private contractors to help fight their wars.

Based on open sources from the department of defense - which certainly do not include special forces - there are currently 384,926 personnel actively engaged in supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


111,700 – Troops Deployed in and around Afghanistan (June 2011)
93,118 – Department of Defense (DoD) Contractors (July 2011)
15,305 – DoD Private Security – does not include USAID and State(July 2011)

Total - 220,123


91,700 – Troops deployed in and around Iraq (June 2011)
62,689 – DoD Contractor Personnel
10,414 - DoD Private Security – does not include USAID and State(July 2011)

Total - 164,803

Chart Sources:

Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR
DoD Personnel Statistics (30 June 2011)

Two articles on the implications for Afghanistan and Iraq.

IRAQ: Of "Instructors" and Interests in Iraq

“The Obama administration repeatedly declares that it is “on track” to withdraw all US military forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, in keeping with candidate Barack Obama’s signature promise to “end the war in Iraq.” But, even as the White House avows this intention, policymakers in Washington repeatedly express their hope that the Iraqi government will ask some US troops to stay, perhaps 10,000 or more, past December. In an ideal world, US strategists would like the Iraqis to decide to extend the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in late 2008, which provides legal cover for the US military presence in post-invasion Iraq. A series of summertime developments in Iraq have now made it clear that no such straightforward extension is forthcoming.”

Full article by Reider Visser: Click here.

AFGHANISTAN: America in Afghanistan Until 2024?

"The Daily Telegraph reports that the status of forces agreement that the United States and Afghanistan are negotiating may allow a U.S. military presence in the country until 2024 . That’s a full 10 years beyond the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops and handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.

The negotiations are being conducted under a veil of security, and we have no way of knowing, at this point at least, if the two sides are really talking about U.S. troops in the country for that long. (The very fact that a decade after U.S. troops entered the country there is no formal agreement spelling out the terms of their deployment is in itself remarkable)"

Full article by Sanjeen Miglani: Click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Investigative Reports on US Spying

Last summer the Washington Post released the results of a two-year investigation into government surveillance. What they found was chilling.

“The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

To give you an idea of scale.
Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on Top Secret programs related to counter-terrorism, homeland security, and intelligence at over 10,000 locations across the country. Over 850,000 Americans have Top Secret clearances.

Today the Associated Press has released the findings of an investigation into the NYPD.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD has become one of the country’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying.

Full article: With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim Communities (AP)

The transformation of the NYPD - and the individuals involved – confirm broader systemic changes taking place around the country. They are seen most clearly in the creation of fusion centers with their unprecedented mix of federal, state, local and private contractor spying. Here is how they are defined by the ACLU.

Trevor Aaronson, writing in Mother Jones magazine, explores the massive spy network created by the FBI to prevent another domestic attack. Asking “[A]re they busting terrorist plots – or leading them?”.

He focuses on several high-profile case of entrapment.

The article includes a searchable terror trial database, where 508 post-9/11 domestic terrorism cases are analyzed. He builds on a list compiled by the US Department of Justice and including additional cases that meet DOJ's criteria. In their review of the 508 terrorism-related cases, Mother Jones found that 53% did NOT involve terrorism charges.

Database: Terror Trials By the Numbers

Full Article: The Informants
By Trevor Aaronson | Mother Jones Magazine | September/October issue

Additional Resource: Targeted and Entrapped

Windows and Mirrors | Atlanta Opening

Check out the amazing events being organized in Atlanta.

American Friends Service Committee
Georgia Peace Center/60 Walton Street, NW
Atlanta, Georgia

August 25-September 21, 2011
Monday – Friday Noon until 5PM

American Friends Service Committee’s Atlanta Windows and Mirrors partners include Alternate ROOTS, American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, Arab Spring Committee, Atlanta Friends Meeting, Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, Clarkston Community Center, Emory Muslim Students Association (MSA), Emory University Center for Ethics, Friends School of Atlanta, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta, Georgia WAND, The King Center, Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialist of America, Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament, UUCA Peace Network, WonderRoot, and Women Watch Afrika.

Parts of the exhibit can be viewed at Satellite Sites:

• August 25-September 21: The Friends School of Atlanta
• August 25-September 21: Emory University Center for Ethics @ 1531 Dickey Drive
• September 1-24: WonderRoot @ 982 Memorial Dr.
• September 12-21: The King Center’s Freedom Hall @ 449 Auburn Ave NE •
• September 14: Clarkston Community Center @ 3701 College Ave E


Friday 8/26, Noon, 9th Anniversary STAND FOR PEACE at Colony Square on the sidewalk at 14th Street and Peachtree, everyone is welcome! Song, poetry & dance. This event repeats on September 2, 9 and 16.

Saturday 8/27, 7pm-9pm Opening Reception at AFSC’s Georgia Peace Center

Saturday 8/27, 9pm until Midnight, Reflections on War and Peace: A Performance Museum. The performance evening will feature artists from multiple disciplines and connects to themes in the Windows and Mirrors exhibit. We challenge artists to consider and construct work around the social and cultural ways we conceive of war and peace. Our nation has so many conflicting sayings and ideas around war and peace, such as “prepare for peace, but arm for war” this is an evening that will unpack these idioms. To be held at AFSC Georgia Peace Center

Featured Performers Include:
Gateway Performance Productions—The MASK Center-- Paula Larke and Kim Nimoy and the Ex-PAND Band -- Artists as Agents for Change --Tom Ferguson w/ drummers -- Phyllis Free Association Choir (Elise Witt, Joyce and Jacque, Phyllis Free) -- Neil Fried, Priscilla Smith and Guest -- Karen Garrabrant -- Theresa Davis --Louis Runyon -- Daryl Funn -- Dancing Flowers for Peace -- Ursula Kendall -- Darnell Fine -- Alice Lovelace

Thursday 9/1, 7pm, Tapestry of Faith: How Diverse Faith Traditions Inform Nonviolence. An interfaith panel of religious leaders will address the topic of peace and nonviolence from their faith tradition. How does faith inform our perspectives on war and violence? What does faith have to say about peace and peacemakers? Do all faith traditions teach a similar message? What are the differences? How can we be authentically grounded in particular faith identities without turning towards dangerous and exclusive ways of relating? How can faith communities encourage engagements with the world and its institutions in order to achieve a more just, peaceful and sustainable world? To be held at AFSC Georgia Peace Center.

Panelists Include:
o Rev. Timothy McDonald, Senior Pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church
o Rev. Michael Ellison, Abbot of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center
o Rev. Marti Keller, minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta
o Dr. Rashid Naim, of the Islamic Speakers Bureau and professor at Georgia State University
o Moderated by Christina Repoley, Atlanta Friends Meeting

Thursday 9/1, 7‐10pm, opening reception at WonderRoot featuring a panel discussion of the work with youth artists and social activists.

Wednesday 9/7, 7-9pm, Islamophobia: Voices from the Front Line moderated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia at AFSC Georgia Peace Center

Sunday 9/11, 6pm-9pm, Screening of the film Concrete, Steel & Paint at Clarkston Community Center. Mural Art as a Catalyst for Social Change Tony Heriza (AFSC director Educational Outreach) will show his documentary Concrete, Steel and Paint, which explores the way that mural painting provided a space for prisoners and victims of violence to come together for healing in a Philadelphia prison. Says a participant in the process, "There's something about creating beauty that reaches people and that in the end gives us hope that things can change..." Winner of the Best Short Documentary award at the Peace on Earth Film Festival. Conversation will focus on “restorative justice vs. retributive justice" and "forgiveness and healing vs. vengeance."

Monday 9/12, 7pm-9pm, GA Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta: The Costs of Wars & Afghanistan Anniversary Action Plan at AFSC’s Georgia Peace Center

Tuesday 9/13, 6‐8pm, Islamophobia: The Impact on American Life at Emory University Center for Ethics. A Panel of scholars and activists will explore the connections between the political demonization of Islam as a religion and media promoted fear of Arabs Muslims and ways both distort how the United States’ pursues its foreign policy.

Wednesday 9/14, 5:30 – 8:30, Viewing of Replica Exhibit and Reception at Clarkston Community Center

Saturday 9/17, 2pm-5pm, Arab Spring from Atlanta to the Middle East. A three hour gathering with an introduction by a moderator then 2 or three experts will share analysis and do a Q&A on the local and global implications of Arab Spring. We will Skype in several folks who have witnessed and participated in non-violent revolutionary actions in the Middle East. We will have a panel of local folks from different Arab American Communities in Atlanta speak. There will delicious food, and more. To be held at AFSC Georgia Peace Center

Wednesday 9/21, 6pm, Closing Reception at The King Center

Wednesday 9/21, 7PM, War and the Rise of Violence among Youth. A panel and community discussion meant to emphasize the rise of violence among youth in countries where war is prevalent---those who wage war, and those whose environments suffer from war—and draw attention to global and domestic forms of youth violence (i.e. child soldiers, local gang violence). The moderated panel discuss will be among participating groups and individuals who have witnessed, suffered at the hands of, or are/were affected by violence, especially war. To be held at the King Center.

For more information:
Windows and Mirrors or 404.586.0460 ext.17

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

10 Years + Counting

10 Years + Counting invites artists and others to take this historic moment as inspiration and use the power of creativity to illustrate the costs of war and imagine a more peaceful world.

Paint it, dance it, sculpt it, write it, sing it! Imagine peace and create connections. Concerts, public art projects, garden parties, bake-offs, gallery exhibitions, street art, flash mobs, walks and runs: the possibilities are endless.

Turn the weeks of this anniversary of devastation into an unstoppable, irrepressible explosion of imagining the possible, a new beginning.

Event Calendar
Artist Gallery

Earlier this summer I had the privilege of taking part in a retreat at the Blue Mountain Center in New York to help think through aspects of this effort.

The gathering featured a wonderful community of artists, journalists, academics, veterans, educators, and organizations from around the US, committed to exposing the true costs of war and working towards a more peaceful world.

It was very inspiring.

Take a minute to check out the fantastic site.

And keep checking it...

Afghan Civil Society: A Look From Within

This paper explores the depth and variety of Afghan civil society. Arguing that the international community has relied too much on a western models of Non-Governmental Organizations instead of strengthening traditional Afghan civil society.

The report has ten thematic chapters looking at the many ways community organizers are doing peace work. He explores militarization of humanitarian aid, relations with the Afghan Government and the International Community, the role of the media and culture.

The pages are absolutely packed with quotes from Afghan workers illustrating this largely hidden and under-appreciated aspect of Afghanistan.


The agenda of the international community and western countries is dictated by safety. The problem is that it is a question of their safety, not that of the Afghans. And it is Afghanistan as a whole that suffers, as the agenda of safety has ended up replacing that of the reconstruction and development of the country”, Aziz Rafiee, ACSF, Kabul. (page 18)

There is no lack of reasons for joining the anti-government movements: people have seen no reconstruction; farmers are accused of supporting the Talibans and are often arrested, their fields destroyed by the bombing and innocents killed. The people here do not understand the reason behind so much suffering: they see themselves being bombed, without understanding what fault they have. For them, foreigners do not bring peace, but rather are those that kill the innocent, demolish homes. A far cry from reconstruction and aid to civil society”, Ghulam Muhammad Masoomi, journalist, Kandahar. (page 18)

We have explained on many an occasion to the representatives of the PRT that it is wrong to mix humanitarian work with military. In recent times, it would appear that they have finally understood that it is counterproductive both for us and for them”, Mohammed Anwar Imtiyaz, ADA, Kandahar. (page 18)

We are working on the legal sector, because we believe that trust in the institutions, in the government can only return when access to justice is guaranteed to all. And that a functional legal system is a fundamental condition for a strong civil society. Unfortunately things are still a long way behind”, Abdul Subhan Misbah, LAOA, Kabul. (page 22)

We organise conferences, peace processions, round tables with various players of the society, politicians, students, ulema, the younger generation, women. We are, in fact, convinced that it takes coordination to obtain good results. And that the media are an extremely useful peacebuilding tool”, Alhaj Ghani Hashimi, Mediothek Afghanistan, Jalalabad. (page 30)

“Three decades of war have destroyed almost everything in Afghanistan. Before the war, there were different expressions of civil society, even if they did not go by this name, there were ‘traditional’ forms. We need to focus on forms of civil society that are purely Afghan, such as the cultural forms, the most important. They played an essential role even in periods of conflict: at times of war, journalists, poets and writers worked to provide the population with information and make the conflict less harsh. Despite the destruction of war, there are still a great many very important cultural resources that should be valued. And we need to work on education, on literature and schoolbooks for children, who tomorrow will be governing our country. Education and culture are essential, because they shape the way the younger generations think. There are still schoolbooks around that speak of weapons and fighting. It is time to propose other values”, Sohrab Samanian, Writers’ Association of Balkh. (page 38)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Farzana Wahidy | A Profile

Sometimes the only way to get a true Afghan story is to have an Afghan woman take the photos. - FARZANA WAHIDY

Click here to see her slideshow.

When asked why photojournalism is important to Afghans her reply was wise.

“Over 90% of Afghans are illiterate, so they can’t read to get information about their country and the world. I find photojournalism more useful because such a large percentage of my country’s population gets their news from looking at photos.”

While illiteracy is less of a problem in the United States, the amount of information available, and the length of the war has elevated photojournalism to a new height.

It shows us the answer to this simple question.

“What has been the impact of the war for Afghans?”

Click here to read the full interview from warshooter. You will learn more about one of the many woman-activist-role-models that are helping to build a brighter future for the country.


Farzana Wahidy was born in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1984 and moved to Kabul at the age of six. She attended school during the years of the Afghan civil war. After the Taliban came to power and prohibited the education of women, she secretly attended an underground school located in an apartment with 300 other girls. When the Taliban were defeated Farzana continued her education, completing high school then enrolling in a two-year program sponsored by AINA Photojournalism Institute.

In 2004 Farzana began working part-time as a photojournalist for Agence-France Presse, becoming the first female Afghan photojournalist to work for an international wire service. Farzana also freelanced for a variety of international clients and her pictures were published in the Sunday Times, Le Monde 2 and Gent magazines and in a book entitled Collective Number 5 – Photographie et Compagnie. Later she joined the Associated Press news agency.

In 2007 Farzana received a scholarship to attend the two-year Photojournalism Program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, and she graduated in June 2009.

In 2008 Farzana was one of four recipients of a Merit Award from the All Roads Film Project and Photography Program sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

In 2008 Farzana received a gold award in the Portrait category in the College Photographer of the Year competition at the University of Missouri.

Zeitoun | Dave Eggers

"The true story of one family, caught between America’s two biggest policy disasters; the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina."

I just finished the book. It’s a terrific story.

It not only reveals Syria through the experience of an immigrant and the family he left behind, but shines a light on the often unknown impact the wars of 9/11 have had on the Muslim community. It is to be made into an animated film.

Click here to learn more.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Young Leaders Conference | Afghanistan

Participants from the Young Leaders Conference of Afghanistan held at Kabul University. The gatherings are a platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential. Invited speakers include journalists, politicians, academics, civil society leaders as well as foreign NGO workers and UN staff.

Click on the link above for more picture of the event by Fardin Waez at thruafghaneyes. The forum took place on Wednesday 22 June 2011.

One of the most poignant stories from my visit to Afghanistan in the winter of 2008 was from a talented young woman who grew-up working for an organization her mother had established. The goal of the work was to offer prenatal care and assistance to poor women in their neighborhood. It has become a thriving and essential organization offering critical services.

At 20 she was starting to take over operations for her aging mother.

When I asked what she was most excited about outside of her work without hesitation she replied the Young Leaders Conference.

Afghan Youth Voices Festival | Graffiti Art

The Afghan Youth Voices Festival explores the arts. Writing, painting and video projects are used to help people tell their stories, but more importantly to have some fun.

They have a blog, a section with profiles and an active YouTube channel.

Special projects are also being developed on

Women’s Blogging Project
Afghan Memory Project
National Poetry Competition
Treasures of Afghanistan

Take a minute to look at the most recent video collaboration.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NATO Strikes Retaliate for Helicopter Attack

This morning it was announced that those responsible for the shooting down of a US Chinook helicopter on Saturday 6 August have been killed by NATO-led airstrikes.

The helicopter was shot down while conducting a night-raid in Wardak province. Thirty US troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, an interpreter, and seven Afghan special operations soldiers were killed. It was the largest loss of life for foreign forces in a single incident since US forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

The commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan was more blunt saying "that the Taliban insurgents who shot down [the] U.S. military helicopter... [had] been hunted down and killed by allied forces.

Abubakar Siddique has some lessons learned in Radio Free Europe.

As the U.S. military and civilian leadership come to grips with the loss and await the results of an investigation into its contributing factors, there is a short list of potential lessons already emerging:

1) Taliban Stingers?

Although outside observers and Afghan military experts speculate that the insurgents might now have access to sophisticated antiaircraft weapons, a U.S. administration source described the Chinook downing as a "last lucky shot." But the Taliban subsequently claimed to have shot at and struck another Chinook in the mountainous Zurmat region of the southeastern Paktia Province on August 8. NATO acknowledged that one of its helicopters made a "hard landing" but denied Taliban claims that militants had killed 33 foreign troops in the attack.

Afghan military specialist Amrullah Aman says the insurgents constantly change their tactics. "In Afghanistan's neighboring region, Taliban are helped with weapons and logistics," he claims. "Eight years ago, they were not in a position to fight pitched battles."

The fear is that insurgent access to sophisticated antiaircraft weapons risks a recast version of what's been dubbed Charlie Wilson's War, when U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles rendered the Soviet air force ineffective. In the current conflict, NATO relies on its superior air force to counter insurgents' use of their native terrain and control over parts of the population.

2) Night-Raids Backlash

Helicopters are the primary means of transportation for the many night raids U.S. troops routinely conduct across Afghanistan. In what is considered a repeat of the Iraqi model of dismantling insurgent networks, U.S. Navy SEALs frequently descend on remote mountain villages to kill or capture insurgency leaders. Successive U.S. military commanders consider such raids a weapon of choice against battle-hardened enemies and have increased their frequency.

But the killings have inadvertently promoted a younger generation of insurgents into leadership positions. These Taliban leaders espouse a harder line and sympathize with Al-Qaeda's global jihad. And they have spread panic among Afghanistan's ruling elite -- following the assassination of a number of senior Afghan officials this year, many Afghan government officials are now preoccupied with ducking would-be Taliban assassins.

3) Taliban Encircling Kabul

The downing of a U.S. helicopter so close to Kabul suggests the Taliban are inching closer to the Afghan capital -- the biggest prize in any Afghan war. In the past few years, Taliban fighters have systematically infiltrated rural communities in Wardak, Logar, Kapisa, Nanagarhar, and Laghman provinces, which nearly ring Kabul. The situations in Wardak and Logar, abutting the Afghan capital in the southwest and southeast, are particularly dire because the Taliban now dominates all aspects of life. A presence in these provinces is considered crucial to eventually taking over Kabul -- something the Taliban appear to have their sights set on.

4) The Costs Of War

Arguably the most significant thing to take away from the Chinook downing, though, is that war is still the order of the day in Afghanistan. The Taliban, with the help of its backers and allies, is trying to bleed Americans sufficiently to force them out of the country. Washington, on the other hand, believes that killing a large number of Taliban militants, leaders in particular, will force the Taliban to negotiate on favorable terms. Afghan civilians, already dying in significant numbers, will continue to suffer the price.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Prophets of War | William Hartung

Enthralling and explosive, Prophets of War is an exposé of America's largest military contractor, Lockheed Martin. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his famous warning about the dangers of the military industrial complex, he never would have dreamed that a company could accumulate the kind of power and influence now wielded by this behemoth company.

As a full-service weapons maker, Lockheed Martin receives over $29 billion per year in Pentagon contracts. The company has produced spy satellites; helped the Pentagon collect personal data on U.S. citizens; provided interrogators for employment at Guantanamo Bay; manufactured our highest-tech aircraft; and more. Lockheed Martin’s reach into all areas of US defense and American life is staggering. William Hartung's meticulously researched history follows the company's meteoric growth and explains how this arms industry giant has shaped US foreign policy for decades.

William Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. He is the author of "How Much are You Making on the War Daddy?" and "And Weapons for All." He's written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Nation magazine.


“The author explores how deeply Lockheed's tentacles have penetrated American economic and political life, pulling the curtain back on decades of unsavory dealings… and echoes President Eisenhower's argument that the only way to ensure against 'military-industrial' abuses is to have 'an alert and engaged citizenry.' This book is a fine step in that direction.”

—Publishers Weekly

Excerpt from Democracy Now interview.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this massive weapons manufacturer in the United States and why you chose to write a book on it?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think they’re the largest, they’re the most corrupt, and they have the most political influence. So, for example, they make cluster bombs, which are used in the Middle East. They design nuclear weapons. They make fighter planes. They make combat ships. So they have the full gamut of weapons. But they also have branched out. They work for the CIA, the FBI. They work for the IRS, the Census Bureau. So they’ve become this full-service government contractor, which really is involved in every aspect of our lives. Every time we interact with the government, Lockheed Martin is likely to be there.

Nagasaki Nightmare

The U.S. bombing of Nagasaki 66 years ago today killed some 80,000 people. Three days earlier, the U.S. had dropped another atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing up to 140,000. This year is the first time a representative has attended the annual memorial service in Nagasaki.

Art of the Hibakusha (Atom Bomb Survivors)
Essay by artist, Mark Vallen
On August 6th. 1945, at precisely 8:15 in the morning, the U.S. detonated an Atomic Bomb over the city of Hiroshima. Three days later on August 9th, at precisely 11:02 in the morning - a second Bomb was exploded over the city of Nagasaki. The Japanese called it pikadon (flash-boom). There was a blinding flash of light brighter than the sun, followed by a tremendous shock wave and a searing blast of heat. Huge poisonous mushroom clouds ascended into the sky and a deadly radioactive black rain fell. Those at the center of the blasts were incinerated, leaving only their shadows behind. Others were crushed flat by the concussion of the blasts. Those within a mile and a half of the explosions died from unimaginable burns and intense radiation.

For the full article click here.

About the picture.

On the 11th of August, photographer Yosuke Yamahata took this picture of what used to be the Ichino-torii (shrine-gate), at the entrance of Sanno-jinja Shinto shrine. The city is dead - not a single living thing can be seen. The rubble smolders and heat penetrates the soles of the photographer's shoes. The torii did not collapse because it stood parallel to the enormous blast, but the rest of the shrine was completely obliterated.

Yamahata's pictures are compiled into an astounding book, titled Nagasaki Journey. They not only provide a first-hand look at the terrible destruction of Nagasaki... they warn against future atomic wars.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Writing on Kabul's Walls

Kabul graffiti artist Dy, aka Dysprosium, tags a wall in the Afghan capital. "You need to speak the truth and accept risks," says the gangly twenty-something year old. (David Gill / For The Times / August 1, 2011)

A group of nascent graffiti artists work in the shadows as they take spray can to wall to make political statements; corrupt politicians, drug traffickers and warlords are a favorite target.

Mark Magnier reporting from Kabul for the LA Times.

Dy, a.k.a. "Dysprosium," a name taken from a rare chemical element and meant to suggest his elusive nature, glides across the underbelly of the edgy city. It's after midnight in Kabul, approaching a favored hour for would-be suicide bombers to enter the city while security forces sleep, so they can strike during the morning rush.

Dy, however, is armed only with cans of spray paint, and his intentions are peaceful: to alter the drab contours of this embattled city.

Identifying a wall, Dy pulls the paint cans out of his bag and works quickly, writing slogans and crafting images that rail against corruption, repression and the malign influence of drug money.

Click here for the full article.

Post-War on Terror? Implications from a regional perspective

This paper examines three possible impacts of the death of Osama bin Laden on the war on terror from the perspective of countries surrounding Afghanistan.

A first scenario sees America abandoning the global war on terror on the territory of Afghanistan and moving its attention to new fronts, such as containing the uprisings in the Middle East or countering the economic rise of China, which will not suit the countries surrounding Afghanistan where terrorism remains a problem.

The second trajectory may see a deeper entrenchment of the American presence in the region through the enactment of a strategic agreement between America and Afghanistan.

The third possible implication of the Bin Laden killing is the possibility of a political settlement through reconciliation with the Taliban and their integration into the Afghan political process.

The paper suggests that any alternative to regional diplomacy for regional reconciliation would be the fragmentation and partition of Afghanistan along ethnic fault lines, which is undesirable for the region and for Afghanistan itself.

Security guarantees need to come from within the region through a resumption of political dialogue and the intensification of economic relations among the region’s countries, a process that can be facilitated by regional and international organisations.

Post-War on Terror?
Implications from a regional perspective

By: Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh
Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Center | August 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Windows and Mirrors | Chicago Artists

AFSC interns Sadaf Ferdowski and Aleia Malculum interviewed artists Andrea Gallagher, John Pitman Weber, Granit Amit, Jessica Munguia, and Lillian Moats at the closing event for Windows and Mirrors in Chicago. Editing help from Aidan Tharp.

The exhibit is now on its way to Atlanta.

It opens Thursday 25 August at the AFSC Georgia Peace Center, 60 Walton Street, NW.

A full list of supporting programming can be found on the calendar and includes an opening reception Saturday, August 27 at AFSC followed by Reflections on War and Peace: a performance museum; and a closing reception at The King Center on Wednesday, September 21 followed by War and the Rise in Violence among Youth, a panel discussion lead by youth.

The primary exhibit featuring twenty-five of the mural like panels will run August 25-September 21 at AFSC's GA Peace Center, Monday - Friday from 12Noon until 5PM and weekends/evenings by appointment. In order to provide access to the exhibit for diverse communities in the metropolitan Atlanta area, AFSC's GA Peace Center exhibit will be supported with smaller exhibits at five community locations listed below.

• August 25-September 21, ten panels will be on exhibit at Emory University Center for Ethics.

• August 25 through September 21, the twenty-five piece replica exhibit will show at the Clarkston Community Center.

• August 25-September 21, three panels will be on display at The Friends School of Atlanta in the anteroom to the gym and in the main building.

• September 1-24, the 15 drawings by Afghan youth images about living with war collected from Afghan schoolchildren will show at WonderRoot alongside art works in multiple mediums created by refugee children living in the metropolitan Atlanta area.

• September 12-21, seven of the panels will be on exhibit in the atrium at The King Center in Freedom Hall.

AFSC’s Atlanta partners include Alternate ROOTS, Arab Spring Committee, Atlanta Friends Meeting, Atlanta Grandmothers for Peace, Clarkston Community Center, Emory University Center for Ethics, Friends School of Atlanta, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta, Georgia WAND, The King Center, Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialist of America, Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament, WonderRoot, and Women Watch Afrika.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Aid and Conflict in Afghanistan | ICG Report

The International Crisis Group has issued a new report on Aid and Conflict in Afghanistan. It is a comprehensive survey with the two top recommendations focused on the need to stop linking development/assistance to the US military strategy and finding ways to strengthen a representative government.

To the International Community, especially the U.S. and other NATO allies and the European Union:

1. Delink non-military assistance from counter-insurgency targets, including by devising mandates and assessing requirements of civilian assistance independently of troop deployment levels.

2. Increase and broaden engagement with the Afghan state beyond Kabul and the Karzai administration to include elected provincial councils and provincial development committees in identifying funding needs, determining funding priorities and monitoring implementation.

Click here for the Executive Summary

Click here for the full report

The report finds very little to be hopeful about…

"After a decade of major security, development and humanitarian assistance, the international community has failed to achieve a politically stable and economically viable Afghanistan. Despite billions of dollars in aid, state institutions remain fragile and unable to provide good governance, deliver basic services to the majority of the population or guarantee human security. As the insurgency spreads to areas regarded as relatively safe till now, and policymakers in Washington and other Western capitals seek a way out of an unpopular war, the international community still lacks a coherent policy to strengthen the state ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign forces by December 2014. The impact of international assistance will remain limited unless donors, particularly the largest, the U.S., stop subordinating programming to counter-insurgency objectives, devise better mechanisms to monitor implementation, adequately address corruption and wastage of aid funds, and ensure that recipient communities identify needs and shape assistance policies.”

Going back to the 1980’s the report makes the point that foreign intervention has always focused on military assistance and military power.

During the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, the Western and Eastern blocs sought to advance their political agendas through not only military but also humanitarian and development assistance. The Soviet intervention in 1979 and subsequent assistance from Moscow and other Warsaw Pact countries were aimed at saving a faltering Marxist government that faced popular discontent and an armed opposition operating out of safe havens in neighbouring Pakistan and backed by countries as diverse as the U.S., Saudi Arabia, China and Iran. To regain control over territory lost to the insurgency, significant Soviet funding went to the security apparatus – army, police and intelligence services – and to the formation of pro-government militias.

The state was, however, unable to stem desertions in the military, compelling Soviet forces to increase their presence on the ground. By 1983, 105,000 Soviet soldiers were in the country, while the entire Afghan army consisted of just 50,000 men, with Moscow considering the financing of its own troops part of its official assistance.


After 2005, U.S. assistance focused increasingly on building Afghanistan’s security forces, particularly after the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) was established that year. Of the $29.35 billion allocated thus far to developing the Afghan National Security Forces, $27.8 billion was appropriated after the ASFF was set up. This accounts for more than half of all U.S. reconstruction funding.

President Obama has requested an additional $11.6 billion for the ASFF in FY 201158 and $13 billion for FY 2012, which would bring the total investment in the Afghan security forces since 2005 to more than $52.4 billion.

Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

Firedoglake Book Salon
By: Gareth Porter | 7 August 2010

Washington Rules
America’s Path to Permanent War

By Andrew J. Bacevich

An analysis of recent events, including the December 2009 troop escalation in Afghanistan are explored in this interview.

Bill Moyers Journal – 9 April 2010.

It's a good companion to the book review.

"Andrew J. Bacevich has emerged in the early years of this century as the country’s most widely read and widely respected critic of U.S. militarism and empire. He has addressed this issue with unprecedented intensity for an academic. With the appearance of Washington Rules, he has produced six books addressing illuminating these themes in the span of a single decade, writing three major books American Empire (2002), The New American Militarism (2005), and The Limits of Power (2008), and editing two other volumes, The Imperial Tense (2003) and The Long War (2006).

In attracting a broad readership to his critique of American militarism, Bacevich has transcended both the arid tone of virtually all academic writing on the history of foreign and military policy and the right-left divide over social and political values. As a former army officer, a Catholic and a social conservative from the mid-West, he has appealed to both conservatives and radicals unhappy with both the militarized pursuit of power abroad and the encouragement of unlimited individual self-gratification at home. He has argued that the all-volunteer army is the nexus between these twinned developments in American society and global policy.

In Washington Rules, Bacevich offers a series of ruminations on how and why the United States has come to what he calls “a condition approximating perpetual war….” He begins by positing a consensus held firmly by the U.S. political, business, foreign policy and media elite ever since the end of World War II consisting of what he calls “the sacred trinity” of principles: global U.S. military presence, global power projection and global interventionism.

Bacevich argues that the “socialization” of the political and intellectual elite into this catechism of global U.S. has been so complete that American citizens “have essentially forfeited any capacity to ask first-order questions about the fundamentals of national security policy”. He cites the dismissive treatment of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul because of their refusal to endorse the catechism during the 2008 presidential primaries.

Because of the absence of any serious challenge to this catechism of global exertion of U.S. power over the decades, Bacevich argues, Americans had come by the turn of this century to “accept the use of force as routine”. The result was that the Bush administration to capitalize on the 9/11 terrorist attacks to take the United States into the present situation of “permanent war”

In The New American Militarism, Bacevich had sought explanations for the militarism of the post Vietnam period in the right-wing reaction to Vietnam-era radicalism, the rise of the Christian right, and the “cultural and intellectual currents emblematic of the postindustrial or postmodern mood” (“the end of history”, globalization, virtual reality, the CNN effect, etc.). In Washington Rules, however, he probes more deeply the nature of the national security state itself in search of causation.

Bacevich cites as a “partial explanation” for the Kennedy administration obsession over Cuba the way in which domestic U.S. politics provide incentives for presidents to rely on force merely to inoculate themselves from criticism by the opposition (either from the opposing party or within the Republic party itself) for being “weak”. That same factor obviously applies to a wide range of presidential decisions on military and foreign policy.

But Bacevich gives even more attention to the personal and institutional interests of the military and civilian national security elites in creating their own “empires”. In sketches of the roles played by CIA director Alan Dulles and commander of the Strategic Air Command Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay during the Cold War, Bacevich observes that both those pivotal figures lobbied the White House for policies (covert operations and investments in massive numbers of bombers and nuclear weapons) that benefited their institutions and conferred prestige and power on them personally. Of LeMay, Bacevich writes that his “concern for the well-being of the United States blended seamlessly with his devotion to the well being of the institution he led.”

In discussing Vietnam, Bacevich eschews single-factor explanation, referring to a litany of personal, political, perceptual and cultural factors. Nevertheless, he also invokes a structural factor with broader explanatory power: the determination of the Cold War policymakers and their respective institutions to maintain “Washington rules” rather than allow them let them to be supplanted by alternative approaches to national security. “To those whose interests were served by preserving that strategy, this was an intolerable prospect,” writes Bacevich.

In his concluding chapter, Bacevich returns to this pivotal concept of personal and institutional self-interest as a driving force in the militarization of U.S. policy but broadens it even further. “Who benefits from the perpetuation of the Washington rules?” he asks. In answering that question, he describes a socio-political-bureaucratic system that encompasses goes beyond the “military-industrial complex”. Washington rules, he argues, “deliver profit, power and privilege to a long list of beneficiaries: elected and appointed officials, corporate executives and corporate lobbyists, admirals and generals, functionaries staffing the national security apparatus, media personalities and policy intellectuals from universities and research organizations.”

Although Bacevich does not develop this explanatory approach in detail in Washington Rules, this emphatic statement of the thesis that a powerful and broadly-defined self-interested elite blocks the way to dismantling the system of “permanent war” raises an intriguing possibility. A central weakness of the anti-war movement in the United States has long been the absence of a common analysis of the problem of U.S. militarism that could be translated into a strategy for organizing and communicating to a mass movement. Could this Bacevich thesis provide an energizing key for the now scattered and ineffective anti-militarist forces in this country?"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Arbaki | Private Militias

From today’s New York Times.

Government officials seeking to break up hundreds of small independent militias in the volatile northern province of Kunduz have ordered more than 4,000 members to surrender their weapons within 20 days or face a military crackdown, threatening more violence in a region where security has steadily eroded over the last two years.

The militias in many cases piggybacked on an officially sanctioned American-financed program to recruit local men for police patrols to fight off the Taliban, an effort that has been tried in other parts of the country with varying degrees of success.”

The American financed program called the Afghan Local Police (ALP) is modeled on the Sons of Iraq initiative that armed and supported 100,000 Iraqi militia forces.
“This is an important program because no one protects their home like a homeowner and this really mobilizes a community. When community representatives, shura council members, nominate their sons to defend their village, their valleys, this is them defending their community and showing their commitment to fight the Taliban." General David Petraeus – July 2011

"Where we have them trained and fully employed, the Taliban is not re-emerging," said Army Brig. Gen. Jefforey Smith, an assistant commanding general at the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.

Afghan and coalition officials recently approved a plan that would allow the local forces to grow as large as 30,000, Smith said. The original plan authorized a force of 10,000.

In the report No Time to Lose released in May Oxfam had two recommendations to the United States and the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.

1) Suspend further expansion of the ALP program until appropriate vetting, training and oversight can be assured, previous initiatives have been evaluated, and credible, independent monitoring of the program has been established. The planned expansion of the ALP risks further stretching the ability of both USFORA and the MoI to ensure the program’s integrity and to mitigate the risk of the program being subverted in the interests of local commanders. Crucially, the ALP must not be established in the absence of a credible, tribally balanced shura comprised of respected elders with genuine capacity to provide oversight; and recruits must be subject to the same disciplinary regulations and oversight mechanisms that apply to the main pillars of the ANP. The findings (and methodology) of independent monitoring of the program should be made available to the public.

2) Terminate community defence initiatives falling outside the formal structure of the ANP, and suspend all government funding for such initiatives. This requires greater coordination between the national and district governments regarding the roll-out of the ALP program. In areas where non-ALP community defence initiatives exist, the MoI should – in consultation with communities and civil society groups – ensure that the members of such groups are disciplined/prosecuted as appropriate, or where requested by communities (and subject to the above recommendation), transitioned to ALP. USFOR-A/MoI should also step up efforts to promote community understanding of the ALP program, with a view to making it more difficult for groups not sanctioned by the MoI to operate under the banner of ALP.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Layha: Calling the Taliban to Account

In June, the UN issued its first bi-annual report for 2011 on the protection of civilians, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office also release their second quarter data report. Both studies identify dramatic and sustained increases in civilian deaths.

What is clear from both reports is that targeted assassinations are increasing being used on all sides. Foreign forces have accelerated the use of drone strikes, assault helicopters and night raids while anti-government forces have increased suicide strikes, roadside bombings and killing of government officials.

This is made clear in Erin Cunninghams article on Kandahar in yesterday's GlobalPost.
“People in Kandahar are stuck between two governments: one is the government of [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, and the other is the Taliban government,” says Hajji Naik Mohammed, an elder from the Noorzai tribe in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district, 12 miles from Kandahar city."

In this report Kate Clark, a senior analyst with Afghanistan Analysts Network (ANA) looks at the Taliban Code of Conduct or Layha. She finds opportunity in the evolving document as a way to help reduce suffering in the conflict.

She looks at four major themes. " to deal with those who surrender; how to deal with crime, punishment and prisoners; how to deal with the local population, and; how to deal with the Taleban’s own organizational structure and hierarchies."

The Layha: Calling the Taliban to Account

The latest Layha was issued a year ago, and the two previous in 2006 and 2009. Each new version of the Code has been longer, more detailed and more polished. The Layha is a rule book for the Taleban, but it is also an aspirational document, projecting an image of an Islamic and rule-bound jihad and a quasi-state.

In her report, Kate Clark analyses the four main themes of all three codes. That is, how to deal with those who surrender; how to deal with crime, punishment and prisoners; how to deal with the local population, and; how to deal with the Taleban’s own organizational structure and hierarchies. In her analysis, Clark uses the Layha as a means of analyzing the Taleban itself and the movements changing concerns, but she also asks whether the Layha could be approached in much more practical terms, as a rulebook which if applied could help reduce suffering in the conflict.

Some articles in the Layha amount to orders to violate both international and Afghan law. However, there are also a number of articles that if applied could reduce civilian suffering. For example, the Code threatens punishment against fighters and officials who do not ‘with all their power’ take care of the ‘lives and belongings of the common people’ and it includes attempts at judicial safeguards, such as bans on torture and forced confessions. There are also numerous attempts to stamp out what could be called ‘jihadi entrepreneurship’, using the fight as cover to exploit people and make money.

Obviously, large gaps exist between rules and action and the articles that call for the protection of civilian lives and property are often not heeded or are intentionally violated: attacks leave dozens of civilians dead, suspected spies are assassinated and local people are forced to pay taxes. However, the fact that winning the support of the local population is crucial appears also to have led to some changes since 2006. For example, orders in the 2006 Code to beat and (eventually) kill recalcitrant teachers, burn schools and have nothing to do with NGOs – which were described as ‘tools of the infidels’ – have been quietly dropped in 2009 and 2010.

Through examples, Clark shows how pro-active use of the Layha has resulted in reactions from the Taleban. For example, when UNAMA reported in mid-2010 that most civilian casualties were due to insurgent attacks and criticised the Taleban for violating their own Code, it hit a raw nerve. The Taleban reacted strongly, with denial, indignation and a call for the setting up of a joint commission on civilian casualties. A small scrap of common ground was opened up in the stated desire by all parties to protect Afghan civilians.

Click here for the full report.

Click here for the executive summary.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Drone Strikes Kill 3 | Gaming in Waziristan

This Voice of America report shows just how routine US drone strikes in Pakistan have become.

Pakistan intelligence officials say U.S. drone-fired missiles have killed three suspected militants near the Afghan border.

They say the missiles hit a vehicle Monday in the South Waziristan tribal region, known to be the home of al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents.

The U.S. routinely stages drone attacks into Pakistan, but does not publicly acknowledge the program.

The attacks are a source of tension between the U.S. and Pakistan. Islamabad says the missile strikes fuel militancy in the region.


If you really want to know the human cost of unmanned weapons read this exhibition review published in the Independent. The exhibit, 'Gaming in Waziristan', includes images of the aftermath of drone strikes in north Waziristan.

Under fire from afar:
Harrowing exhibition reveals damage done by drones in Pakistan

If you want to understand the impact of the "war on terror" on America's ally, Pakistan, look no further than Noor Behram's photographs which show, he says, collateral damage as a result of US drone strikes in the tribal area. Behram, who is from Waziristan, has spent the past four years interviewing survivors of drone attacks, shooting video footage and close-up stills of the damage. The photographs – part of a new London exhibition – are gruesome.

Bugsplat | Anti-Drone Campaign

Clive Stafford Smith, founder of legal action charity Reprieve, who together with Pakistani lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, has launched lawsuits on behalf of victims' families, believes that 95 per cent of those killed by drones are not legitimate targets. He says: "We need transparent figures. We know that the US is lying as they say no civilians are being killed by drones and we've seen pictures of dead women and children." He believes that Behram's photographs provide evidence.

There are other questions which the images raise. How can people surrender to a drone? Why is the US regularly bombing its ally Pakistan in the first place?

Since President Obama came to office, the use of unmanned aircraft has drastically increased. Bush used unmanned predator drones 45 times in his eight years in office, while Obama unleashed 118 drones on Pakistan last year alone.

It's not just America however that is reducing its military's dependence on human beings – within 20 years nearly one third of the RAF could be made up of remotely controlled drones.

Reprieve has called its anti-drone campaign Bugsplat – the official term used by US authorities when human beings are successfully killed with drone missiles. Who needs satire?

Noor Behram

Noor Behram was born in 1972 in North Waziristan Agency (NWA). He has been working as a journalist in print media since 2000 in NWA. He started working in electronic media covering conflict zone of Waziristan and FATA for Al-Jazeera in 2007. He speaks Urdu, Pashto and Arabic. For last 3 years apart from his assignment with AJ, he has been taking pictures and footages of civilian drone victims with emphasis on women and children being killed and injured in drone strikes. He has been able to cover over 60 strikes since 2007.

Noor is married with 6 children with eldest daughter aged 14 called Aqsa who just finished her school in Miranshah and is going to college. His youngest is 6 months old and is named Mohammed Ali.

Afghan Civil Society and a Comprehensive Peace Process

Afghan Civil Society and a Comprehensive Peace Process
Lisa Schirch | United States Institute of Peace | 21 July 2011

This brief is based on research undertaken during five trips to Kabul, Afghanistan and one trip to Pakistan between 2009 and 2011. The peace brief summarizes key findings of the field research that will be discussed in detail in a forthcoming USIP special report. The author’s conclusions and recommendations are her own.

Author Dr. Lisa Schirch is the founding director of 3P Human Security: Partners for Peacebuilding Policy, a university-based nongovernmental organization, and a research professor at Eastern Mennonite University’s graduate Center for Justice & Peacebuilding.


A successful, legitimate and sustainable approach to peace in Afghanistan requires the inclusion of Afghan civil society and their interests. For the most part, Afghan peace negotiations exclude representatives of civil society and center on a narrow agenda featuring concerns of armed groups. Attempts at a quick fix settlement could compromise the foundations of durable peace, resulting in more costs to the international community, and more death and destruction on the ground.

• Half of all peace agreements fail. One of the reasons why they fail is that too few people support them. Building a national consensus requires participation by and support from civil society.

• Afghanistan requires a peace process that is both wide and deep, with structured mechanisms for participatory deliberation and decision-making involving diverse stakeholders from the top, middle and community levels of society.

• Based on examination of successful peace processes, there are four broad models of public participation in peace processes relevant for Afghanistan. These include direct participation in local peace processes, a national civil society assembly, representation at the central negotiation table and a public referendum to vote on a final agreement.

• The international community, the Afghan government and Afghan civil society can each take steps to ensure a comprehensive, successful and sustainable peace process.
Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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