Friday, September 30, 2011

CIA Drone Strike Kills Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen

U.S. officials have confirmed that Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, was killed by a CIA drone strike today. The targeted assassination is being claimed as a success for Washington and its partners in the fight against Islamic militancy.

"The United States has stepped up drone strikes in Yemen to try and keep al Qaeda off balance and prevent it from capitalizing on the strife and chaos gripping the nation.

Awlaki was the first U.S. citizen who the White House authorized the CIA or other U.S. agencies to kill because of his alleged operational role in militant attacks directed against the United States.

This authorization was issued after intelligence was collected linking him to a botched attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December 2009. He was also accused of helping to oversee a failed plot in October 2010 to blow up U.S. cargo aircraft, the Obama administration official said."

More Drone Strikes in Pakistan

The Voice of America reports that earlier today targeted CIA drone strikes in Pakistan killed three people. "U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge the use of drone strikes inside Pakistan, but privately have confirmed their existence to various news outlets. Pakistani leaders condemn the strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty."

The Long War Journal reports that "today's strike is the fourth in Pakistan's tribal areas this month, and the third since September 23. In the last two strikes, which took place in North Waziristan on September 23 and South Waziristan on September 27, no senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were reported killed. The previous strike, on Sept. 11, killed killed Abu Hafs al Shahri, whom U.S. intelligence officials have described as al Qaeda's operations chief for Pakistan."

The attacks in Pakistan come as tensions are increasing between the two countries. Several U.S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, have accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, of directly supporting Haqqani Network attacks inside Afghanistan.

Additional Resource: How the CIA Became a Killing Machine

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bringing Refugees Home | The Challenge Ahead

In 1990 the U.N. estimated there were 6.3 million Afghans in exile. 3.3 million in Pakistan and 3 million in Iran.

By 2001 it was estimated that perhaps one-third of Afghanistan’s 26 million people had been forced to flee their homes, temporarily or permanently.

By 2009, a survey by the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent Society found that 76% of Afghans had been displaced by violence.

Addressing the needs of Afghans displaced by violence is going to be a huge challenge to all future governments.

As has been the case from the beginning, until there is a measure of security, accountability and opportunity for Afghans, facilitating their return will be difficult.

Here is evidence of a start.
"Afghan officials say an ambitious program is being planned to try and bring back millions of Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

The program, which will be discussed at an international conference on Afghanistan to be held in Tokyo next year, envisions the repatriation of more than 3 million Afghan refugees living mainly in the border regions of neighboring Iran and Pakistan.

Afghan Minister for Refugees and Returnees Jamohir Anuri told RFE/RL on September 27 that the government needs international assistance to successfully implement the program.

"Millions of Afghan refugees around the world live in difficulty, with many denied basic rights and access to health care, food, and shelter," he said. "We believe they have a better chance of receiving these things in Afghanistan."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Violence Up 39% From 2010 | UN Report

Afghanistan has become more insecure in 2011 from a year ago, with a sharp rise in security incidents and higher numbers of civilian casualties, displaced people and complex suicide attacks. These are the findings of the U.N. quarterly report to the Security Council released today.

The total number of security incidents recorded during the first eight months of the year represented a nearly 40 percent rise from the same period of 2010.

This has been a trend since 2005.

Disputing the U.N. findings, the U.S.-led coalition said it plans to hold a news conference tomorrow to release its own statistics related to overall violence trends in Afghanistan.

Coalition officials say insurgent attacks fell 20% in July from July 2010. By the end of August, according to the coalition, violence had fallen during 12 of the previous 16 weeks when compared to the same weeks of last year.

CNN is reporting that “Earlier, an ISAF spokesman noted that there are "differences in reporting of security incidents."

"ISAF only counts attacks initiated by insurgents, while the United Nations includes all incidents, ISAF spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings said in a statement.

"[The] United Nations includes weapons cache finds, arrests, assassinations, intimidation, and some other events as "security incidents," which ISAF does not, Cummings said.”

The UN report notes the political and emotional impact from four high-level assassinations in July:

Ahmad Wali Karzai, Head of Kandahar Provincial Council
Hikmatullah Hikmat, Head of Kandahar Ulema Shura
Jan Muhammad Khan, Senior Adviser to the President
and Ghulam Haydar Hamidi, Mayor of Kandahar

The report notes a 50 per cent increase in car bombings compared with the same period in 2010.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Intercross | New Blog by ICRC

A minibus returning from a wedding in the western province of Herat hit a roadside bomb Tuesday, triggering an explosion that killed 16 people from the same family. 11 were children and four were women.

The escalating violence in the country compelled the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent societies (ICRC) to open a seventh orthopaedic centre in Helmand province last October.

Afghanistan is the ICRC’s largest operation worldwide.

Alberto Cairo who has been head of the orthopaedic program in Afghanistan since 1992 selected pictures from the organizations photo archive for this report, covering 30 years of service in the country. The scale is stunning.

Also, check out the new blog by the ICRC.
“The ICRC mandate, in a nutshell is: to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance; to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles; to coordinate the relief activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in situations of conflict.”

Brief History

The ICRC has been present in Afghanistan since 1979, working initially out of Pakistan, and since 1987 from its delegation in Kabul. The institution has over 130 expatriates and more than 1,400 national staff based in Kabul and in fourteen other locations throughout the country.

The ICRC regularly visits places of detention run by nations contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), by the US forces, and by the Afghan authorities. The aim is to monitor conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees. In 2010, it also began visiting people detained by the armed opposition. Moreover, it helps families who are separated by the conflict to stay in touch with one another through Red Cross messages and telephone calls, and endeavours to trace those family members who have gone missing.

Our Man in Kandahar | Matthieu Aikins

Matthies Aikins has a long expose in The Atlantic magazine about Afghan General Abdul Raziq. It will haunt you.

The 5,000-word investigation is the result of multiple trips to the country over two years. It tells the story of an ongoing series of serious human rights abuses--including a cold-blooded massacre and the torture of prisoners--by General Abdul Raziq, a powerful warlord in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan.

More than an anatomy of a massacre, the article is a condemnation of the US policy to support Afghan warlords as a shortcut to security. It’s a big-picture-policy debate that put the US at odds with NATO allies during the early years of the war. It continues to be a difference in strategy.

Fundamentally it is a policy the majority of Afghans abhor.

You see it through their rejection of the Afghan Local Police scheme – where local communities (militias) are armed and funded by the United States and you see it with continuing calls from civil society groups in Afghanistan for more accountability and transparency from the Government.

The terms Afghans use are impunity and immunity.

Disturbingly, the US government has been aware of these abuses for at least five years, but has continued to support him and his force with funding and training. In violation of the Leahy Amendment of 1997.

The law prohibits State Department or Defense Department assistance or training to a foreign military unit where there is ‘credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.’

It remains the case that in the eyes of Afghans, it does not matter if the people abusing them are Taliban, Warlords, Government or Foreign forces; human rights violations and human rights violations.

People should be held accountable.


There is a back story. The story of how a young man rose from working in a shop in Pakistan pre-2001 to become a critical US ally and acting police chief in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Windows and Mirrors | Bay Area | 6 – 30 October

Last week Windows and Mirrors finished an amazing run in Atlanta. Here is a slideshow with highlights.

Next stop will be the Bay area with events and activities taking us through the 10 year milestone of the US invasion of Afghanistan.

In Oakland | Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (1433 Madison Street) | October 6 - 30

In San Francisco | University of San Francisco (K-Hall) | October 6 - 30

To see the schedule of events. Click here and here

Mural Image: The ‘Peace’ Operations of the US Airstrikes on Weddings
Artists: Art Hazelwood and Juan Fuentes, San Francisco.

Juan Fuentes has been an artist, activist and teacher for over thirty years. His early poster art is part of the history of the Chicano Poster Movement. In 2009 he received the Art is a Hammer award from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics.

Art Hazelwood has long worked with homeless rights groups creating artwork on economic justice. He has organized and curated many exhibitions including retrospectives and touring group shows. His poster calling for the impeachment of George Bush is in the Whitney Museum of American Art.

"This mural is based on a poster created during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) to protest the aerial bombardment by the Fascists of civilian populations. The original poster showed a dead child and said, “MADRID The ‘Military’ Practice of the Rebels.” The sky in the poster was similarly filled with a web of bombers. In our mural we contrasted the bombers (in this case drones) with a traditional Afghan wedding celebration. The text at the bottom details six documented airstrikes on wedding parties in the course of the war, total civilian deaths are at least 367 at wedding parties alone. It goes without saying that an aerial attack on wedding parties represents only a tiny fraction of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Hazelwood and Fuentes collaborated on this mural."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Letter to Obama | Honor the Pledge

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to urge you to honor our nation’s commitments and bring all of our troops home from Iraq by December 31, 2011.

In 2008 the U.S. and Iraqi governments entered into a Status of Forces Agreement requiring the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of this year. As President you reaffirmed your commitment to this agreement in your speech at Camp Lejeune on February 27, 2009 declaring: “I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.” Americans and Iraqis overwhelmingly support this plan.

We are deeply troubled by recent reports that indicate your Administration is making plans to leave thousands of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq indefinitely. We are also troubled by the extraordinary buildup of private military contractors and untold numbers of intelligence operatives in Iraq. This level of continued U.S. operations in Iraq is unsustainable and unwise particularly in light of the challenges facing our nation. Mr. President the future of Iraq depends upon the Iraqi people, not the U.S. military.

Mr. President, we have lost too many American lives and wasted too many American resources in Iraq. Now is the time to bring all of our brave men and women in uniform home, as promised.


American Friends Service Committee
Center for International Policy
Council for a Livable World
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Just Foreign Policy
Military Families Speak Out
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Peace Action
Peace Action West
The Shalom Center
United for Peace and Justice
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
U.S. Labor Against the War
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions

Donor Dependence | A Little Respect

In government circles, the higher you are in the food-chain, the further removed you become from the impact of decisions on countries and people.

This slideshow of facts and figures on US assistance to Afghanistan is a case in point. The briefing was delivered to staff of the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Relations and House Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs.

It was an initiative of the Comptroller General and does not include conclusions or recommendations.

Like previous reports on Iraq, you could wonder who is really paying the price?

You will not find details about the use of night-raids, helicopter gunships or drones. You will not find details on the expansion of the prison system or the use of military contractors.

What you will find are figures that reveal how our country is fighting its longest war in one of the world’s poorest countries. You also find authoritative figures on the extraordinary challenges facing Afghans to create a representative government that can meet the needs of the people.

What about the Afghan security forces?

It is noted in the report that there are no figures for “cost-effective and requirement-based estimates for future Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) sustainment costs.” According to the Department of Defense, they are currently working with the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior on that.

Dependency, as seen through the US underwriting of a huge Afghan security force, distorts priorities. It will dictate the terms of the US-Afghan strategic partnership being discussed. Recent news reports indicate the partnership – once revealed - would keep US forces in the country until 2024.

The arguments of economic dependency are also policy. Affirming the principle that a nation, or a leader, does not accept aid without ideology or dependence.

My first namaz | A Poem by Meena

During the monsoons in Pakistan,
the news of my grandmother’s death
made our lives rainier, showing me
my father’s tears for the first time.
I wanted to take his pain away
But didn’t know how.

After the long day of the funeral,
he slept on a mattress.
sitting close to him,
I crossed my legs
My hands touched his forehead;
I put my head on his.
He woke up nervous
as if he did not know where he was.
How is my love doing?
he asked and went to pray
for his mother’s soul.
I decided, at age six,
I was old enough to pray with him
I said,
God will listen to me more.

He spread out two green prayer rugs
We stood facing the qiblah
he took my small hands in his large ones
and put the right on the left,
close to my chest.
Repeat after me, he said.

Now we both sat in Sajda,
placing our foreheads on the rug.
His head was still on the rug
when I stole a glance at him.
He looked back, reminding me
that I was not supposed to do that.
Looking at the peace on his face,
Was probably worth the sin.

~ Meena was born in Kabul but spent much of her early childhood as a refugee living in Peshawar. She says her goal, once she finishes her education, is to work to help Afghan women gain financial independence, education and political freedom.

Qiblah: a niche which indicates the direction Muslims should face during prayer
Sajda: prostration in worship

From the Afghan Women’s Writing Project
“To tell one’s story is a human right.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Real peace is more than the absence of war | Move the Money

When people struggle daily
to find jobs and resources,
peace will not last.

When discrimination
and hatred persist,
peace is an illusion.

When the public doesn’t
recognize the enormous human
and economic costs of war,
peace is not valued.*

New Activist Toolkit: Move the Money (Wage Peace Newsletter)

The decade since 9/11 has seen the largest expansion of the US national-security budget since the Cold War. Over $7 trillion has been spent on the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the establishment of a new Director of National Intelligence was the largest reorganization of the federal government since World War II.

When you couple all that spending with massive tax cuts it’s no wonder there’s a budget deficit.

Move the Money Web Page with Action Toolkits

What we are calling for:

Deep cuts in the Pentagon budget
Raising revenues through taxes on the wealthy and corporations
Continuing protection for programs that aid the most vulnerable
Short-run investments to stimulate job creation

These toolkit links can help support the call and help keep these resources in your community.

Focus on the ‘Super-Committee’

Move the Money Fact Sheet

How to Talk to Congress

How to Alert the Media

Bird Dogging 101

Community Based Resolution Campaigns

*Mural Image: What’s Left of Kabul, Guilford College community mural with Hannah Swenson, Courtney Mandeville and Layth Awartani, Greensboro, North Carolina. From the traveling exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan.

Young Women for Change | Afghanistan

A snapshot of creative organizing taking place in Afghanistan.

Anita Haidary from Mount Holyoke College and Noor Jahan Akbar, a student at Dickinson College, founded Young Women for Change this past spring. Their mission is to help increase the political, social, economic and cultural participation of women across the country.

On July 14, 50 courageous men and women marched from Kabul University to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. They held signs and passed out fliers to help raise awareness about the problem of street harassment. Some bystanders were shocked by what was happening while others were supportive and took fliers and started walking with the marchers.

Next week they are hosting a lecture on gender and development. They also have an active facebook page you may find interesting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani

Burhanuddin Rabbani was a founder and leading activist in the Afghan Islamist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, one of the seven leaders of the (Sunni) mujahedin parties in the 1980s and – at least formally – president for almost a decade.

More recently, he has been an MP and chairman of the High Peace Council, charged with seeking to make peace with the Taleban.

Rabbani was killed in his Kabul home Tuesday evening by a suicide attacker.

Kate Clark, a senior analyst for the Afghan Analyst Network assesses Rabbani’s life and what his death may mean for the prospects of peace.

“Although many of the media reports referred to him as the lead peace negotiator, Rabbani’s record hardly merited the description of a ‘peace-maker’. Indeed, in relation to his most recent incarnation, many Afghans and observers remained sceptical of the High Peace Council and Rabbani’s role in it, questioning whether it was really set up as a serious body or something more cosmetic – designed to give the appearance that the government was seeking peace. Such scepticism, however, seems irrelevant this evening. Whether or not Rabbani and the High Peace Council were serious about making peace, if the Taleban claim this killing, it sends a powerful message that they are not interested in talking. This would make Rabbani’s assassination highly significant and dangerous for the prospects of an end to the war in Afghanistan.

The killing is poisonous in other ways, laying open again the fracture lines of the last real bout of civil war (1996-2001) when the ‘northerners’ – the old Northern Alliance, who were mainly non-Pashtuns - were fighting the largely Pashtun Taleban. Putting Rabbani in charge of the High Peace Council had been a way for President Karzai to try to reassure this constituency, who are on the whole not keen on a deal with the Taleban, that their interests would not be sold out in any negotiations.

For these northern jihadi leaders, already reeling from the killings of Generals Daud and Seyidkheili earlier this year, Rabbani’s assassination is a further blow to any confidence they might still have had that their interests would be protected. His killing will further harden sentiments against any deal making. Already one of the other major northern leaders, the governor of Balkh and Jamiat stalwart, Nur Muhammad Atta, has asked (on Tolo television), ‘How are we supposed to negotiate with these wild devils?’ Rabbani may not have been a peace-maker, but his killing may well harm the prospects for a negotiated end to the bloodshed.

The attack also ends the life of one of the major Afghan political figures of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Rabbani’s beliefs eventually – and only through various historic accidents – helped shape the nation’s politics. Perhaps the most significant influence on his beliefs came when he travelled to Cairo in the late 1960s to study at the prestigious al-Azhar University. He returned a convert to the ideas of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan ul-Muslimin), determined to spread their ideology at home.* During the 1970s, he was an Islamist activist at that cauldron of ‘modern’ Afghan politics, Kabul University, where he taught Islamic law. He hooked up with more senior ‘Brotherhood’ figures whose names are now not so well known,** as well as with students who would, like him, become giants of the Afghan political stage in the following decade, particularly Ahmad Shah Massud and Gulbadin Hekmatyar."

Read the full article.
See this post for a listing of recent attacks in Kabul.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Global Day of Listening | 21 September

Global Day of Listening
21 September 2011

Talk with ordinary people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries. 24 hour project

Begins 4:30 am Afghanistan time
September 20 at 8 pm Eastern | 5 pm Pacific (US)
From 12:00 am to 11:59 pm Greenwich Time


Some highlights for Tuesday 21 September

Noam Chomsky (10:30 am Eastern US 9/21)
Kabul-based Afghan Peace Volunteers (9:30 am Eastern US 9/21)

Global Nonviolent Direct Action Database

George Lakey and a group of Swarthmore College students have created the new Global Nonviolent Action Database.

This unique database has hundreds of cases cataloging nonviolent campaigns on a wide range of issues from human rights, economic justice, democracy, national and ethnic identity, environmental sustainability, to peace.

It is a free and well researched resource.

Prepare to be inspired….

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Sewing Machine | Aman Mirzai (Poem)

Aman Mirzai was born in Mashhad, Iran, in 1985, to a family of refugees from Mazar-e Sharif in Afghanistan. He has been writing poetry for seven years, and has won awards in many nationwide poetry competitions in Iran. He has published one collection of poetry, Giah-e Sukhte [The Burnt Plant].

He is currently a student of public relations in Mashhad, and an active member of the Dorr-e Dari Cultural Center, the foremost literary organization among Afghan refugees in Mashhad.

The Sewing Machine

The sewing machine’s quiet hum
was my mother’s sad song.
At my father’s stall
it was her peasant trousers
that could send me to school
answer the landlord
and buy medicine.
My sister Marzieh, whose illness nobody understands,
and cannot be cured even in the shrine,
coughs continuously
like the sewing machine’s needle
and the softness of her bones
only feeds the earth’s lust.
Mother is the needle’s thread:
with Marzieh’s every cough,
with every breath her heartstrings rend.
Father doesn’t close his stall even in the rain
and I, in a place where nobody goes,
talk to myself.
The clever people in the newspapers
write articles about us,
while my countrymen
have forgotten the pleasures of the spring festival of Mazar.
Mother is the sewing machine’s foot at night:
she trembles.
Father is the doorframe
closed into himself.
A pot of bitter tea;
in the photo album Marzieh gently laughs
and I think about everything.

To read more click here.
Click here for new writing from Afghanistan: Writing from Afghanistan

America’s Costly War Machine | Stiglitz & Bilmes

The article below was in the Los Angeles Times yesterday. I have linked it to the graphic above that appeared in yesterdays New York Times in a piece entitled The Impoverished States of America.

America’s Costly War Machine | Stiglitz & Bilmes

Ten years into the war on terror, the U.S. has largely succeeded in its attempts to destabilize Al Qaeda and eliminate its leaders. But the cost has been enormous, and our decisions about how to finance it have profoundly damaged the U.S. economy.

Many of these costs were unnecessary. We chose to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with a small, all-volunteer force, and we supplemented the military presence with a heavy reliance on civilian contractors. These decisions not only placed enormous strain on the troops but dramatically pushed up costs. Recent congressional investigations have shown that roughly 1 of every 4 dollars spent on wartime contracting was wasted or misspent.

To date, the United States has spent more than $2.5 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon spending spree that accompanied it and a battery of new homeland security measures instituted after Sept. 11.

How have we paid for this? Entirely through borrowing. Spending on the wars and on added security at home has accounted for more than one-quarter of the total increase in U.S. government debt since 2001. And not only did we fail to pay as we went for the wars, the George W. Bush administration also successfully pushed to cut taxes in 2001 and again in 2003, which added further to the debt. This toxic combination of lower revenues and higher spending has brought the country to its current political stalemate.

There is only one other time in U.S. history that a war was financed entirely through borrowing, without raising taxes: when the Colonies borrowed from France during the Revolutionary War.

Even if we were to leave Afghanistan and Iraq tomorrow, our war debt would continue to rise for decades. Future bills will include such things as caring for military veterans, replacing military equipment, rebuilding the armed forces and paying interest on all the money we have borrowed. And these costs won't be insignificant.

History has shown that the cost of caring for military veterans peaks decades after a conflict. Already, half of the returning troops have been treated in Veterans Administration medical centers, and more than 600,000 have qualified to receive disability compensation. At this point, the bill for future medical and disability benefits is estimated at $600 billion to $900 billion, but the number will almost surely grow as hundreds of thousands of troops still deployed abroad return home.

And it isn't just in some theoretical future that the wars will affect the nation's economy: They already have. The conditions that precipitated the financial crisis in 2008 were shaped in part by the war on terror. The invasion of Iraq and the resulting instability in the Persian Gulf were among the factors that pushed oil prices up from about $30 a barrel in 2003 to historic highs five years later, peaking at $140 a barrel in current dollars in 2008. Higher oil prices threatened to depress U.S. economic activity, prompting the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates and loosen regulations. These policies were major contributors to the housing bubble and the financial collapse that followed.

Now, the war's huge deficits are shaping the economic debate, and they could keep Congress from enacting another round of needed stimulus spending to help the country climb out of its economic malaise. Many of these war debts are likely to continue to compromise America's investments in its future for decades.

For years, the public failed to adequately question how it was possible that we could spend and borrow so freely, with so few consequences. But now the painful legacy of these decisions has become clear. Throughout the past decade, Congress routinely approved huge "emergency" appropriations to pay for the wars. This process preempted the usual scrutiny and debate that accompanies large spending bills. In part, this is because the U.S. lacks the basic accounting tools necessary for informed debate. Our future debts from the war are not listed anywhere in the federal government's budget. We don't even know for certain where the money has been spent. The Pentagon hasn't produced a clean financial audit in the 20 years since government auditing began, nor has it developed an accounting framework that would allow an assessment of the future costs of current decisions. This has almost certainly increased the overall cost of the war.

Our response to Sept. 11 has weakened both the current economy and our future economic prospects. And that legacy of economic weakness — combined with the erosion of the credibility of our military power and of our "soft power" — has undermined, rather than strengthened, our national security.

Nearly 10 years into the Afghanistan war, the violence in that country shows little sign of abating. August was the deadliest month of the war yet for U.S. troops, and there were also multiple attacks on Afghan security forces, government officials and civilians. The surge in violence comes as NATO is drawing down and handing over security control to national forces. But tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel are scheduled to remain in Afghanistan through the end of 2014.

The costs of fighting the war on terror have already been far higher than they needed to be. The U.S. should not take on even greater war debt without understanding the true costs of continuing down that path.

Linda J. Bilmes is a faculty member at Harvard University. Joseph E. Stiglitz is a professor at Columbia University and the recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics. They are coauthors of "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Afghan Video Shorts | Fakhria Ibrahimi

From the inside of a community-based bakery, an unusual view of the daily lives of Afghan women is revealed – unveiled and uninhibited. It is a rare opportunity to see the collective action that is so key to Afghan life. Full version 11 minutes.


Treasure Trove - Full Version.

Direction, Camera and Sound by Fakhria Ibrahimi
Editing by Rahmatullah Jafari

Fakhria Ibrahimi lives in Kabul and is from Wardack province. She has worked on community-based documentary photography projects in Sari Pul province. Fakhria is also a Kabul-based representative for the Funder’s Network for Afghan Women.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The View from Within | Writing From Afghanistan

Guest Editor: Anders Widmark

In a discussion at the House of Culture in Stockholm just over a week ago, the Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi, having summarized the last three decades of Afghan history, concluded laconically that the present state was: “un chaos total”—a total chaos. Rahimi is far from alone in his assessment, but he is unusual in that he speaks to the situation as an Afghan, rather than an outside observer. It is the “chaos” this issue has tried to put in words—this time voiced from within.

From within I say, and this is important. Much of what is said and written about Afghanistan in the West today is still tainted by an outside perspective on the situation—a narrative that keeps repeating and reformulating earlier misconceptions and generalizations. With regard to the ongoing conflict, it is completely incomprehensible to me, even as a layman in the field, that policy-makers on Afghanistan have failed so utterly in understanding this country after a decade of interference. No one seems to listen to the people. No one seems to hear what they are saying or read what they are writing.

Contemporary Afghan literature rests upon a rich heritage of both oral and written traditions. The two major languages of Afghanistan, Pashto and Dari, with approximately sixty million speakers altogether (including those outside Afghanistan), possess a wealth of literature, unfortunately mostly unstudied, marginalized, and known to few. Hopefully, this issue on Afghan writing will help to introduce its treasures to a broader public.

Talking about Afghan literature, you are often forced into a discussion on politics. In a “poeticized community” such as Afghanistan, much of what is written, especially poetry, is in one way or another related to politics; not necessarily being political or ideological, but politicized to various degrees. This will be seen clearly in the texts selected for this issue. Much of the country’s history is channeled through literature; in both written and oral literature, in the canonical as well as in the noncanonical, in the past and in the present. When one considering the nature of poetry and fiction produced over the last three decades of war and conflict this becomes clear. What is also interesting and can be said to epitomize Afghan literature of today, is its high degree of responsiveness and immediacy—in many other literatures a national trauma often demands some sort of “incubation period” before the topic can be processed; in Afghanistan, traumas are attacked by the pen simultaneously as they occur. “The Idol’s Dust” by Zalmay Babakohi, as an example, was written only a month after the destruction of the Bamiyan statues in March 2001.

To finish the introduction click here.

Full Issue: Writing from Afghanistan

Friday, September 16, 2011

Attacks on US Embassy in Kabul | Fear and Panic

An Afghan military helicopter fires on a building occupied by 'insurgents' during a coordinated assault in Kabul. Insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters while suicide bombers struck police buildings. (AP/Musadeq Sadeq)

Jack Healy and Alissa J. Rubin had a couple of articles this week on the coordinated attacks in Kabul. In addition to following the US governments position on those responsible, I noticed they used these quotes a couple of times. Highlighting the different ways Afghans and foreigners see the violence.

To summarize.

The residents of Kabul are mad and afraid, the US Ambassador down-played the violence saying it is a sign of weakness and the new US NATO commander revealed who was responsible and their motives.

We are mad at both,” said Farid Hotak. “At the Taliban for doing these types of attacks, and at the government for failing to prevent them.” Mr. Hotak, who lives in an apartment across the street, seethed at the memory of girls crying and running for cover. “Fear and panic rules,” he said. - Afghan Resident of Kabul

Ryan C. Crocker, played down the attack as “harassment” that had made for a hard day at the embassy but was not a game-changer. “This really is not a very big deal,” Mr. Crocker said. “If that’s the best they can do, you know, I think it’s actually a statement of their weakness.” - US Ambassador

The Haqqanis have been attacking Kabul for a long time because Kabul for so much of this country represents not just the spiritual heartland of this country, it represents the future,” General Allen said at a briefing. - US and NATO Commander

A more detailed account of the day is provided by Fabrizio Foschini, focusing more on the Afghan targets that were hit and the impact it had on the residents. The timeline from Associated Press affirms increasing levels of violence in the city.

Another Longest Day in Kabul

Starting close after 1pm, at least three major attacks rocked a beautiful late summer day in Kabul.

“The objective of the attacks seems clear. The two explosions in West Kabul targeted the Afghan Border Police (ABP) headquarters in Deh Mazang and Afghan National Police (ANP) 202 Shamshad corps headquarters on Darulaman road, near Lycee Habibia. Some police casualties were reported for both attacks, which were apparently suicide bombings (one ANP and two ABP respectively, plus an unknown number of injured civilians and servicemen). As for the complex attack that lasted for most of the afternoon and into the evening, its real dynamics and details are still all but clear. The ultimate target of the commando could have been any (or all) of the locations mentioned in the Taleban statement, that said its fighters ‘attacked the NATO’s ISAF HQ, US embassy and local and foreign intelligence agencies’. At least three rockets are said to have hit close to the US embassy compound, while at least one (unconfirmed) report points at insurgent attempts to breach the embassy's outer security perimeter from different points (this matches other equally unconfirmed reports of more insurgents moving in the area, apart from those barricaded in the building under construction).

Be as it is, a Taleban attack inside Kabul in itself did not come as a big surprise, although its intensity and scope was unexpected. According to a generally accepted interpretation, the pattern of insurgent attacks inside Kabul has reached a frequency of around one attack in every three weeks. Special occasions or events can further add to this number. The present situation, with the anniversaries of last week, accounted for both eventualities, and many were waiting in trepidation for something to happen.”

Timeline| Recent Attacks in Kabul


—Sept. 13: Taliban insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and other buildings.

—Aug. 19: Taliban suicide bombers storm the British Council, an international charity, killing eight people during an eight-hour firefight as two English language teachers and their bodyguard hid in a locked panic room.

—July 17: Gunmen strapped with explosives kill a close adviser to President Hamid Karzai and a member of parliament. Jan Mohammed Khan was an adviser to Karzai on tribal issues and was close to the president, a fellow Pashtun.

—June 29 — Nine insurgents armed with bomb vests, rifles and rocket launchers storm the Inter-Continental Hotel, killing at least 12 people and holding off NATO and Afghan forces for five hours.

—June 18: Insurgents wearing Afghan army uniforms storm a police station near the presidential palace and open fire on officers, killing nine.

—May 21: A suicide bomber wearing an Afghan soldier uniform slips inside the main military hospital in Kabul and kills six Afghan medical students.

—April 27: A veteran Afghan military pilot opens fire at the Kabul airport, killing eight U.S. troops and an American civilian contractor.

—April 18: A suicide attacker sneaks past security at the Afghan Defense Ministry, killing two Afghan soldiers and fatally wounding an Afghan army officer.

—Feb. 14: A suicide bomber attacks Kabul's first Western-style shopping mall, killing two security guards at the entrance.

—Jan. 28: A suicide bomber attacks inside a Western-style supermarket, killing eight.

—Jan. 12: A suicide bomber on a motorbike targets a minibus carrying Afghan intelligence employees, killing at least two and wounding more than 30.


—Dec. 19: Two insurgents strapped with explosives ambush a bus carrying Afghan army officers to work, killing five and wounding nine.

—Nov. 12: A suicide attacker strikes an American convoy, killing one civilian.

—Aug. 10: Two suicide bombers attack a private security company building, killing two company drivers.

—June 2: Insurgents fire rockets at the site of a national peace conference, where Taliban fighters wearing suicide vests battle security forces. Two militants are killed.

—May 18: A Taliban suicide bomber attacks a NATO convoy, killing 18 people including five American troops and a Canadian soldier.

—April 19: An explosion at an Afghan National Army facility just outside the capital kills an American soldier.

—Feb. 26: Suicide attackers strike two residential hotels, killing 20 people, including seven Indians.

—Jan. 26: A suicide car bomber strikes a barrier outside a U.S. base in Kabul, wounding six Afghans and eight American troops.

—Jan. 18: A team of suicide bombers and gunmen target government buildings, leaving 12 dead, including seven attackers.

The True Cost of War | Tony Benn & Brian Eno

An inspiring graphic-driven call to action from our friends in the UK.

Substitute dollars for pounds and this is our story too. However, to realize the cost in the US, the figure should be increased ten-fold.

For every British soldier in Afghanistan there are ten US soldiers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Five Paradoxes of Peace Operations | Richard Gowan

In February 2011, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told an audience at Oxford University that, with 120,000 uniformed and civilian peacekeepers worldwide, “we are now considering what the optimal size of UN peacekeeping should be.” But peace operations are rarely shaped by objective considerations. UN and non-UN missions are plagued by contradictory pressures. From Haiti to Sudan, there are compelling arguments for maintaining large peacekeeping forces for the long term. But there are equally powerful financial and political reasons to cut them back.

There is no shortage of policy papers offering technical recommendations about how to reform peacekeeping. This paper takes a different approach, setting out five paradoxes that currently trouble officials dealing with peacekeeping at the UN, in governments and in organizations such as NATO, the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU). The evolution of peacekeeping will depend on how policy-makers respond to these dilemmas.

Full article

The Paradoxes

Military peacekeeping has grown in scale … yet lost operational impact.

Peacekeeping is cheap … but it is also still too expensive.

All peace operations are political … but not all are guided by credible political strategies and few peacekeepers are good at politics.

Peacekeepers promote democracy and justice … but democracy and justice don’t always promote peace.

Emerging non-Western powers play a major role in peacekeeping … but may not want it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

LA Youth Art Exhibit | My Voice

High school students from CALS Early College High School in Downtown Los Angeles hosted an art exhibit to raise awareness of the cost of war. More than 500 visitors viewed the exhibit on one night, Thursday, Sept. 8, during Downtown ArtWalk night.

The exhibit will have an extended opening through November. Students used the evening as a special occasion to raise money for much needed art supplies for next year’s Peace Exhibit at AFSC’s Friends Gallery.

Students were on hand to discuss their work, and how our country could have addressed a number of national and local issues instead of war. $60 was raised, and the students were proud of it!

Check out the great pictures here.

The "My Voice" exhibit was also a part Ten Years and Counting.

Click here for a calendar listing of additional art-driven events through 7 October.

Impunity, Militias and the Afghan Local Police | HRW Report

Human Rights Watch issued a report today looking at the proliferation of militia forces in Afghanistan. The report finds the U.S.-backed initiative to create the Afghan Local Police (ALP) "a high-risk strategy to achieve short-term goals in which local groups are again being armed without adequate oversight or accountability."

Refugees International and Oxfam International have also recently issued reports condemning the arming, financing and training of the Afghan Local Police.

Just Don’t Call It a Militia: Impunity, Militias and the Afghan Local Police
(Kabul) – Militias and some units of the new US-backed Afghan Local Police are committing serious human rights abuses, but the government is not providing proper oversight or holding them accountable, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Afghan government and the US should sever ties with irregular armed groups and take immediate steps to create properly trained and vetted security forces that are held accountable for their actions.

The 102-page report, “‘Just Don’t Call It a Militia:’ Impunity, Militias and the ‘Afghan Local Police,’” documents serious abuses, such as killings, rape, arbitrary detention, abductions, forcible land grabs, and illegal raids by irregular armed groups in northern Kunduz province and the Afghan Local Police (ALP) force in Baghlan, Herat, and Uruzgan provinces. The Afghan government has failed to hold these forces to account, fostering future abuses and generating support for the Taliban and other opposition forces, Human Rights Watch found.

“The Afghan government has responded to the insurgency by reactivating militias that threaten the lives of ordinary Afghans” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Kabul and Washington need to make a clean break from supporting abusive and destabilizing militias to have any hope of a viable, long-term security strategy."

Click here for the full report.

Afghan Video Shorts | Sayed Qasem Hossaini

A camera moves among woman working their last day on a job site. As they joke and fight – accusing each other of being prostitutes, liars, and racists – the mood repeatedly shifts between belly laughs and rage. The women are left waiting for hours for their pay by the charity that administers the cash-for-work program. As they wait, they consider what debts they’ll pay off, what food they’ll buy, and how they’ll stay warm during the approaching winter. There is lively discussion about what happens to all the aid that never reaches them, and whether Karzai is a crook or a servant of the people.

A Question:

Is the camera revealing anything truthful, or simply inciting these women to present what they think ‘the other’ wants to hear – or what might get them something from the world on the other side of the camera? Who is on the other side of that camera anyway? 20 min.

Death to the Camera.

Direction and Camera by Sayed Qasem Hossaini
Editing by Hamed Alizada
Sound by Mona Haidari

Sayed Qasem Hossaini, after growing up in Sari Pul and Balk provinces, now studies in the Cinema and Fine Arts department at Kabul University. He has previously produced a short video report on carpet making, served as a sports reporter for a community newspaper, and works as a freelance production assistant.

Click here for a page with all the films.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Afghan Video Shorts | Baqir Tawakoli

In most corners of the world, a woman’s work is never done. In Beyond Fatigue an Afghan woman walks miles to help her sick mother-in-law and is responsible for the next generation of young minds as she teaches them the language and lessons of the Quran.

In between she works at the vocational training center where she hopes to get a loan to buy her own sewing machine. 9 min.

Beyond Fatigue - Full Version

Direction, Camera and Sound by Baqir Tawakoli
Editing by Hamid Arshia
Production Assistance and Additional Sound by Reza Sahel

Baqir Tawakoli lives and works in Bamyan province. He is a poet and short story writer, and has previous training in photography. Baqir works and volunteers with economic and social development agencies, and was head of his village’s Community Development Council.

Afghan Voices Reflect on 9/11 | Mohamed Naim

Writing for Al Jazeera, Mujib Mashal profiles a number of Afghan political and civil society leaders. The responses are frank, insightful, and often self-critical. You see the divisions that exist and the inspiring work being done to create a better future.

Mohamed Naim, Taxi Driver

"At the time of 9/11, I was living in a refugee camp in Pakistan. I lived there for 20 years. I first lived in Parachinar, but I lost a son in the sectarian tensions, so I moved out to a camp.

I remember watching the flames in the New York buildings on TV. I also remember the threats that were given to the Taliban by the American government to pressure them to give up Osama.

The US invaded because of its own goals. This country has vast minerals, that's what they want. If they did not have their eye on that, they would have figured out a deal with the Taliban to get Osama. You have to remember that Taliban were their people as well.

When the Karzai government came to power, I brought my family back into the country and have been living in Kabul ever since.

Life has gotten much better in the past few years, we have definitely seen positive economic change. We were refugees for so many years, and we could come back to our homes and make a living here. Yes, there is a lot of corruption, but at least there is a government and a system. In some areas, security is really bad. But in general, life has gotten better."

* Today (9 September) is also significant. Marking ten years since the assassination of Mujahedeen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud by al-Qaida suicide bombers posing as journalists. He fought Soviet troops and their allies in the 1980s and led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in the 1990s.

Afghan Voices Reflect on 9/11 | Wazhma Frogh

Writing for Al Jazeera, Mujib Mashal profiles a number of Afghan political and civil society leaders. The responses are frank, insightful, and often self-critical. You see the divisions that exist and the inspiring work being done to create a better future.

Wazhma Frogh, Activist

"At the time, I was working with an international humanitarian aid organisation in Peshawar, Pakistan, that was supporting Afghan refugees. The organisation also carried out emergency support projects for Afghans inside the country. Occasionally, I came to Kabul and visited some provinces, but of course I had to show it as a completely private visit and I had to be accompanied by male family members.

On September 11, 2001 which was a work day, I was at the Zakhail camp in Peshawar. I had a focus-group discussion with women and girls on some of hygiene issues and they were asking for literacy courses, though some of the Jihadi commanders at the camp prevented it.

Myself and another colleague decided to speak with one of those former commanders and try to convince him to allow classes. As we were debating the issue with him, his son came running in and said there was a messenger for him from Jalalabad.

Later on, from the others in the camp, we learned attacks had happened in New York and that he was called to the frontlines as the Afghan opposition fighters against the Taliban wanted to make use of the opportunity.

When we saw and heard about the attacks through international media in Peshawar, my first impression was that it was done by the same people that the US had supported during the Jihad against the Soviets. US dollars and ammunition of the Arab countries during the Soviet war turned our national resistance movement against the Soviets into a proxy war for the advantage of capitalism. Our war commanders won and the Afghan nation lost in a perpetual factional war.

But I also realise that the September 11 attacks opened a new-page in the modern history. Afghanistan never received this much international attention before.

Today, at least the visible activism I do for Afghanistan nationally and internationally can be attributed to the new political regime that came after September 11 in Afghanistan.

Also on the positive side, I think some of the Afghans were able to use the opportunities and create a space for civil society development. The freedom of media (somehow), women's organisations, activism, and of course private sector development can also be attributed to the aftermath of September 11, 2001 in Afghanistan. Though very fragile, some foundation has been laid out.

But we still need to find more legitimacy in Afghan society because since our projects are supported internationally, our activism is also seen as a 'foreign project' even though we're putting our lives and risking our lives.

However, the bombing of Afghan villages within the Operation Enduring Freedom was for the purpose of Osama Bin Laden and his supporters. As a result of the US bombing, the Taliban regime fell and a new power structure enabled women's political and social participation. But women's progress can only be indirectly accredited to the aftermath of September 11.

I believe the biggest mistake of the aftermath of 9/11 was that Afghanistan was that they did not have a long term vision for the country. The US and its allies did not even bother to correct their past mistakes of supporting individual warlords and tribal leaders for their own purposes. Today Afghanistan is suffering in the hands of the same warlords that actively destroyed the country during 1990s factional war. The reason that people have lost faith in the government and going towards the Taliban are these warlords, now in suit and tie, holding very important positions."

* Today (9 September) is also significant. Marking ten years since the assassination of Mujahedeen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud by al-Qaida suicide bombers posing as journalists. He fought Soviet troops and their allies in the 1980s and led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in the 1990s.

Afghan Voices Reflect on 9/11 | Janan Mosazai

Writing for Al Jazeera, Mujib Mashal profiles a number of Afghan political and civil society leaders. The responses are frank, insightful, and often self-critical. You see the divisions that exist and the inspiring work being done to create a better future.

Janan Mosazai, Spokesman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"In late August 2001, I had to flee Afghanistan because I happened to be working for an international organistation that was shut down by the Taliban. They also, somehow, decided to arrest its Afghan staff. So I decided to leave Afghanistan for a few days and go to Pakistan.

I was in Peshawar when 9/11 happened.

I was staying at a hotel and I used to take up the papers every morning. There were front page, large pictures of the twin-towers in flames. And, of course, 9/11 happened two days after al-Qaeda operatives assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud. So that was still the main news on people's minds, certainly Afghans' minds. 9/11 just heightened people's anxieties and sense about impending change.

For Afghans at the time, after the assassination of Massoud, the feeling was that it was a matter of time before the Taliban ran over the remaining resistance. But once the US blamed Bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, the picture changed. I certainly didn't think, during the first week, that the United States would use 9/11 to launch a full-fledged military campaign in the region. But with time, that became obvious.

Then I started working for the BBC, and we did some reports on what the refugee community thought about the war. We, for example, went to the refugee camp in Abbotabad, where Bin Laden was finally found ten years later. There were mixed views about the military campaign. There was widespread concern about possible damage to civilian life and property and there had been reports of a few stray bombs hitting civilians. Al Jazeera was one of the only media channels allowed to broadcast out of Afghanistan at the time, I remember. But there was also a sense of jubilation among the people, that they could return home-after being forced to take refuge two or three times in the previous decades. Some were refugees three times over. That they could return to a more peaceful Afghanistan because the United States, the most powerful country in the world, had finally decided to intervene.

People drew the connection to the military campaign launched in Afghanistan- they did not know all the details of the 9/11 attacks, but they knew that a big attack had happened in the united States that had connection to folks in Afghanistan who were not afghans but Arabs.

I think in the opinion of the vast majority in this country, the removal of the Taliban and the intervention of the international community- under a UN mandate, let's be clear about that- provided a lot of us a golden opportunity to the turn the page on more than 20 years of tragic conflict. The buzz words back then were: a new Afghanistan, a new beginning, a better future. That was because people saw the possibilities.

I think, on balance, we probably could do better. But because we are where we are today, Afghanistan is a better country than it was in 2001. It is a transformed country in so many different ways. In terms of infrastructure development, healthcare, education, emergence of a national economy, political and human rights.

The fact that today, compared to ten years ago, when you talk about human rights and elections, they are not alien concepts to the people of the country but embedded in the consciousness of the people speaks to the transformation from ten years ago.

But we still have major obstacles and challenges to overcome. And change takes time.

In the regional question for example, change in how a country views its interests and its approach to its neighbours takes much longer. That doesn't mean for us to give up and accept the status quo. We have been trying for the past ten years to convince our neighbors and the region that a stable Afghanistan is essential for the stability and security in the region. I think we have made some progress on that front. We are engaged in a substantially different conversation with Pakistan, where there is no denial of the facts on the ground. We talk frankly about all issues on the table-about where the Taliban are, for example. We are also discussing several economic projects. These developments I think are important to building trust and moving forward."

* Today (9 September) is also significant. Marking ten years since the assassination of Mujahedeen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud by al-Qaida suicide bombers posing as journalists. He fought Soviet troops and their allies in the 1980s and led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in the 1990s.

Afghan Voices Reflect on 9/11 | Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil

Writing for Al Jazeera, Mujib Mashal profiles a number of Afghan political and civil society leaders. The responses are frank, insightful, and often self-critical. You see the divisions that exist and the inspiring work being done to create a better future.

Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, former Taliban Foreign Minister

"The attacks that happened in New York were of deep concern to us. At the time, when I heard the news, I was at the ministry of foreign affairs in Kabul. Then I spoke to our leader, Mullah Saheb Omer.

Afghanistan was one of the first few governments that condemned the attacks. Both for the US and Afghanistan-and the Afghan people-the attacks were not a good thing. Because subsequent to those attacks, many more people have died here in Afghanistan.
That attack was a disaster on civilians, and on the pretext of that attack, disasters have been afflicted on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is no doubt that the stance of the Emirate [Taliban government] and the views of some of the Arab activists here differed. We condemned the attacks because the people targeted were defenceless civilians, women, children, Muslim and non-muslim. But al-Qaeda praised it. We had our own reasons and they theirs. Al Qaeda, at the time, did not claim direct responsibility, but rather praised the attack. Those are two different things.

Al Qaeda were people from the time of Jihad against the Soviets, and Ustad Rabbani [who came to power after Soviet withdrawal] brought them back into the country from Sudan. The Taliban simply inherited them.

After the attacks, the Emirate gathered over 1500 religious scholars from all over Afghanistan at the continental hotel to discuss the Bin Laden issue. They concluded that the Islamic Emirate should ask him that he voluntarily leave Afghanistan and go somewhere else. This proposal, too, could not bring about any change in the attitude of the Americans. They kept demanding him dead or alive.

They began an unequal war on the Islamic Emirate. Our government collapsed, and in the presence of some Afghans—not all—they decided on a new government in Bonn.

This war has continued in such a way that they have refused to accept the Taliban as a government or a movement. The only option left was to die or to be arrested. Nobody wants to be imprisoned by someone, or killed. So the Taliban defended, and as a result they have gotten stronger.

Yes, it would have been difficult for the Taliban to join the new government and become part of the new process. But the historical mistake made by the Americans and those who considered themselves representatives of the Afghans was that they refused to extend an invitation to the Taliban at Bonn or to leave them a reserved seat.

And in the subsequent years, during the interim and transitional governments, the same mistake was made. Even today, as they prepare for a second Bonn conference ten years on, they say Taliban should not be coming to it.

When they speak of a peace process today they are giving wrong advice. In the past, they said finish the Taliban as a movement. Now the advice is that you should weaken the Taliban first, and then speak to them from a position of strength. The reality is that as they push with more force, the Taliban reaction is also a show of more force.

I don't agree with those who say life has gotten better in the past ten years. If there is no security in the country and the war continues, you cant enjoy the benefits of life. Security is the mother of all things.

Yes, progress is true in certain areas—but that is because embargos have been broken. In the past, there was no foreign aid, but there was always foreign criticism. Now there is a lot of international aid, but they have made a parallel government to the Afghan one through which they distribute this aid.

We have also seen a difference in the quantity of education as well as in the growth of one-sided media. They call it free media, but I can't call it that because the other side neither has the right to picture nor voice. The freedom of the press is one-sided, but it is a relative achievement. Highways have been built, which are crucial for military purposes, but Afghan people benefit as well.

But in return for all this, we have many negatives. During the Emirate, there was security, and there was no corruption then because we had punishments for it."

* Today (9 September) is also significant. Marking ten years since the assassination of Mujahedeen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud by al-Qaida suicide bombers posing as journalists. He fought Soviet troops and their allies in the 1980s and led the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in the 1990s.
Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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