Monday, April 30, 2012

Afghan Youth Protest Against Warlords

Afghans have lived with the violence of failed ‘peace processes’ for decades.

This inspiring clip shows people seeking accountability - in visible ways - from the cycles of violence. Beginning with foreign financial support to groups that fought the Soviets to the same groups fighting themselves and then fighting the Taliban.

As partners in the US attack after 9/11 they again became allies, given amnesty, and allowed into the government. Here is an excerpt from an earlier article.

Afghan Youth Target Former Warlords Ahead Of Contentious Holiday

A new Afghan youth group is making waves in Kabul with an unprecedented campaign against the country's former warlords.

Members of the Afghan Freedom-Loving Youth Group swept through the streets of Kabul this week, putting up hundreds of posters and spraying graffiti messages critical of the strongmen, many of whom still wield significant influence on the country's political affairs.

While Afghan security forces swiftly removed the derogatory placards and signs, the campaign adds fuel to rising public scrutiny of regional despots who once waged war against the ruling Taliban as leaders of the mujahedin.
Years later, they are viewed as enemies by some and even as war criminals by Human Rights Watch and Afghanistan's own Independent Human Rights Commission. But to their supporters, they have risen to hero status, with some carving out legitimate -- and often high-ranking -- roles within the government.”

To read the article click here.

Additional Resources: Transitional Justice, AREU, 30-Years of Conflict.

A Commitment to Poetry | Afghan Women

A nice profile in the New York Times.
“Like many of the rural members of Mirman Baheer, a women’s literary society based in Kabul, the girl calls whenever she can, typically in secret. She reads her poems aloud to Amail, who transcribes them line by line. To conceal her poetry writing from her family, the girl relies on a pen name, Meena Muska. (Meena means “love” in the Pashto language; muska means “smile.”)

Meena lost her fiancĂ© last year, when a land mine exploded. According to Pashtun tradition, she must marry one of his brothers, which she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t dare protest directly, but reciting poetry to Amail allows her to speak out against her lot. When I asked how old she was, Meena responded in a proverb: “I am like a tulip in the desert. I die before I open, and the waves of desert breeze blow my petals away.” She wasn’t sure of her age but thought she was 17. “Because I am a girl, no one knows my birthday,” she said.”
Read the full article here.

Click here for more poems on Afghanistan 101.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Talks Resume on Transit of War Supplies through Pakistan

Photo by Anjum Naveed (AP) Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani (2nd Right) meeting with U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman (2nd left) in Islamabad on Thursday 26 April.

Marc Grossman is in Pakistan for the first time since US forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross border attack last November. The US has been unwilling to suspend drone attacks into Pakistan, one of the key demands before ground transit of NATO and US war supplies to Afghanistan can resume.

AP reports on the meeting yesterday.
“He said he didn't expect to get an immediate commitment that the routes would reopen but that "the task now is to begin a conversation about how to move forward." Grossman also repeated earlier U.S. statements of regret but didn't apologize.

Washington wants the supply routes open before a May 20-21 summit of NATO leaders in Chicago.”
Here is a review of the Pakistani demands.
"After weeks of debate, the Parliament of Pakistan has unanimously endorsed a list of demands to guide discussions with the United States.

The paper, drafted by the national security service, is the latest step in redefining ground rules after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by US airstrikes in a November cross border attack.

The result is a series of comprehensive demands, including an official apology for the killing of the Pakistani soldiers, an end to CIA drone strikes, and a ban on the transport of US/NATO weapons and ammunition thru Pakistan to the war in Afghanistan.

There is a prohibition on overt or covert military operations in the country, a ban on private contractors and a call on the government to pursue a natural gas pipeline with Iran.

This level of engagement by Parliament is really a demand for transparency. Claiming oversight responsibilities with the demand that no verbal agreements regarding national security be entered by the government.

If these demands are met, the US/NATO supply lines – for food and fuel – would be opened. The demands are non-binding and must be approved by senior US and Pakistani officials.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Few Good Men For Afghan Women

A nice profile of Afghan feminists by Lianne Gutcher.

A Few Good Men For Afghan Women
“Zafar Salehi knows his fellow students at university make fun of him and Tayeb Khan won't tell his family about his involvement — but as often as their schedules permit, the two young Afghan men make their way to a small office in the west of Kabul to volunteer at Young Women for Change (YWC), an Afghan non-profit organisation. The dirty little secret they keep from their families and many of their friends is that they are women's rights activists in Kabul.

On a March day, Salehi sits in the office surrounded by flyers advocating for girls' education and the elimination of violence against women, working out what still needs to be done to get the first women-only internet cafe ready for opening in a few days time. Stacked in the corner are 15 laptops, ready for installation at the site, once it has been painted.

Khan, smart in a business suit, arrives from his job as an administration coordinator at a local mobile phone company to help out before he rushes off to his evening class at the American University of Afghanistan, where he is studying business administration.

Salehi, 24, says he gets a "weird reaction" when he does tell people he works for free for a women's rights organisation.”

Read full article here.

Troops and Contractors in Afghanistan | March 2012

On Sunday it was announced that the United States and Afghanistan had agreed to the framework of a Strategic Partnership Agreement. The document has not been made public but we know it commits the United States to a lasting presence in Afghanistan through at least 2024.

In the U.S., it will by-pass congressional oversight and simply needs the signature of President Obama. In Afghanistan, Parliamentary hearings began on Monday but it is unclear whether or not they need to 'approve' the treaty or if it moves forward with the signature of President Karzai.

"What I understand is what it's like to be in a war zone and I understand the behavior in a war zone. And I would say that, first of all, that war is really an institution made up of criminal behavior. When we as civilians want to solve our problems, we're not allowed to murder people and burn their houses down. I don't see why war is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. And furthermore, the majority of people that die are innocent civilians." - Scott Camil, US Vietnam Veteran

According to the Brooking’s Afghanistan Index at the end of March there were 89,000 US troops in Afghanistan. The Department of Defense lists an addition 143,839 contractors.

89,000 – Troops Deployed (March 2012)
117,227 – Department of Defense (DoD) Contractors (March 2012)
26,612 – DoD Private Security – not USAID and State (March 2012)

Total – 232,839

Contractor numbers from CENTCOM Quarterly Contractor Census Report (DoD)
Number of US Troops from Afghanistan Index (Brookings Institution)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Aid Effectiveness in Fragile States | Intl. Peace Institute

The International Peace Institute takes a critical look at what's worked and what's failed as international institutions explore better ways to help resolve the aftermath of conflict peacefully.

The findings focus on strengthening international peace and security institutions, including recommendations for the UN. It does not focus as much on disarmament.

The report finds that ‘compacts’ will be more effective if the following recommendations are met:

• Compacts should be considered only when a peace accord is agreed upon and where basic security is in place.
Civil society should be given the opportunity to participate in both compact creation and implementation.
• Compact commitments should be specific, balanced, and focused on short timelines.
• Compacts should reinforce and coordinate with ongoing international and national processes.
• Compacts should include specific mechanisms for implementation, oversight, and enforcement, with host governments in the lead.

Aid Effectiveness in Fragile States: Lessons from the First Generation of Transition Compacts

“Amid growing recognition that international efforts to support fragile and conflict-affected states are falling short of expectations, donors and partner governments continue to seek new approaches. Attention has recently focused on the notion of “compacts”—instruments that allow national and international partners to agree on the most urgent priorities requiring a collective effort in support of postconflict peacebuilding in a particular country, and identify how, and from which sources and instruments, implementation will be financed.”
There is a section on Afghanistan that looks at 2006 and the immediate post-Bonn realities. Here is the conclusion.
“The Afghanistan Compact was a good idea that fell short in implementation. At first, the intensity of the negotiations and personal commitment of its drafters fostered a true sense of trust among Afghan and international partners. In that sense, the document was effective as a high-level political statement of common purpose.

However, the lack of specificity, priority, and sequencing in its benchmarks and the unwieldy membership and weak authority of the JCMB made the compact difficult to manage and implement. In the words of one of its critics, “it was dead before it had a chance to live.”

Finally, the compact came too late to influence donor behavior or practices, as it was enacted long after donor policies had been set. Since 2002, aid had been focused in the east and the south, and other areas of strategic and military priority and deployment; and such policies continued despite evidence that they were undermining overall progress on reconstruction and development. Rather than refocusing donor investment, the compact and the JCMB became beholden to the existing priorities of individual nations.”
Here is the summary chart (click to enlarge).

The Soviet Withdrawal | Kabul Transit

A segment from the film Kabul Transit that looks at art and culture in the context of the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989.

“Afghanistan taught us an invaluable lesson . . . It has been and always will be impossible to solve political problems using force. We should have helped the people of Afghanistan in improving their life, but it was a gross mistake to send troops into the country.”

Retired Red Army General Boris Gromov.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control | Medea Benjamin

From the introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich

"In many ways, drones present the same moral issues as any other action-at-a-distance weapon: They allow warriors to kill at a minimal risk to themselves, thus lowering the human cost of aggression. Thus the ancient contempt for archers, as recounted in The Iliad, where the Greek chieftains deride the Trojan prince Paris for his reliance on the bow and arrow. Real men are not afraid of hand-to-hand combat; only cowards attack from a distance, often hiding behind trees or rocks.

Drones are of course the ultimate action-at-a-distance weapon, allowing the aggressor to destroy targets in Pakistan or Afghanistan while “hiding” thousands of miles away in Nevada. But this alone does not make them uniquely pernicious: Missiles and aerial bombardment can also be launched from great distances, by individuals who need not see the extent of the violence they inflict. If we are to end war, we need to take aim at all the weaponry that makes it possible and even inviting – guns, artillery, fighter planes and bombs—and at the industries that manufacture them.

But in this remarkably cogent and carefully researched book, Medea Benjamin makes it clear that drones are not just another high-tech military trinket. In fact, it is hard to even claim that their primary use is “military” in any traditional sense. Drones have made possible a program of targeted assassinations that are justified by the U.S. “war on terror,” but otherwise in defiance of both international and U.S. law. As Benjamin documents, it is the CIA, not the Pentagon, that operates most drone strikes in Western Asia, with no accountability whatsoever. Designated targets, including American citizens, have been condemned without evidence or trial-- at the will, apparently, of the White House. And those who target the drones do so with complete impunity for the deaths of any civilians who end up as collateral damage.

One of Benjamin’s most disturbing revelations has to do with the explosive expansion of the drone industry in just the last few years, to the point where 50 nations now possess the devices. Drone Warfare sketches out the nightmare possibilities posed by this insane proliferation. We cannot only expect drones to fall into the hands of “rogue” nations or terrorist groups; we should brace ourselves, too, for the domestic use of surveillance drones and even armed drones at the Mexican border and possibly against American civilian protestors.

In anyone else’s hands, this could be a deeply depressing book. Fortunately though, Medea Benjamin is not just an ace reporter; she’s one of the world’s leading anti-war activists. Drone Warfare ends with the story of the global anti-drone movement, in which she has played a central role. At the end of this book, you’ll be inspired – and you’ll know exactly how to get involved!"

Order the book here.

David Swanson Review Robots Kills, But Blood is on Our Hands

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pulitzer Profile | Afghan photographer Massoud Hossaini

A nice profile of Massoud Hossaini by Abubakar Siddique. Massoud was award the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for breaking-news photography on Monday. You can find a slideshow of his others images at the bottom of the page.

He recalls the day he took the award-winning image vividly. It was December 6, 2011, on the occasion of the Shi'ite festival of Ashura.

Pulitzer-Winning Image Source Of Pride, Nightmares For Afghan Photographer

Tarana stands erect amid the dead and injured at her feet, her blood-stained hands opened as if asking, "Why?" Tears and blood stream down her face, her mouth agape.

It is a heartbreaking image, one that captures the ubiquitous violence that has befallen Afghanistan, and for that it has been awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for breaking-news photography.

But for the man who took the picture, the photo that has earned him international recognition leaves him conflicted, a reminder of the traumatic experiences he encounters as a news photographer in one of the world's most violent places.

Afghan photographer Massoud Hossaini recalls the day he took the award-winning image vividly. It was December 6, 2011, on the occasion of the Shi'ite festival of Ashura.

As participants of a festival procession gathered outside the Abul Fazel Shrine in Kabul, a powerful blast went off. Standing just 15 meters away from the blast, Hossaini was spared major injury by the hundreds of mourners between him and the suicide bomber.

Hossaini rushed toward the center of the blast, which killed more than 70 people and injured scores more. There, as the smoke cleared, he saw the 10-year-old Tarana, dressed in green, screaming amid the chaos.

"In the blink of an eye, Tarana's surrounding's were filled with blood. The dead and injured bodies of her relatives surrounded her," Hossaini says. "Among them were her brother and playmates. This caused her to go into shock, which led her to stand in the mayhem and cry in pain."

Showing Afghans' Pain To The World

Despite his own shock and shrapnel injuries to his arm, Hossaini continued to shoot pictures. When he was done, he rushed back to his office at Agence France-Presse to upload the images for the world to see.

"The procession was drenched in blood, but I was still responsible for covering it. This sense of responsibility motivated me to continue taking pictures," he says. "So I covered that tragedy from many angles so that people around the world could see what pain I saw that day and what pain we observe almost every day in similar incidents."

Afterward, Hossaini sought treatment for his wounds and retreated home to his family. He soon began receiving telephone calls -- his photograph of Tarana had appeared on the front pages of major U.S. newspapers, including "The New York Times", "The Washington Post," and the "Los Angeles Times."

"To me the picture showed to the people of the world what had happened in Kabul that day. What had struck Tarana and what had I witnessed," he says.

Proud, Despite The Suffering

It was a point of pride for the 30-year-old photographer, who after fleeing to Iran to escape the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan had worked as a tailor to raise money to buy his first camera.

He documented subjects close to him -- the reformist movement in Tehran and fellow refugees living along Iran's border with Afghanistan.

Hossaini returned to his native Kabul after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. There he took various photojournalism courses and joined Agence France-Presse in 2007.

This year, his hard work was awarded, multiple times. He is currently in Holland to receive second prize in the Spot News category for the 2012 World Press Photo contest, which was awarded for his photo of Tarana. Next, he will head to New York to pick up his Pulitzer, and a $10,000 prize.

While Hossaini expresses satisfaction with his awards, they have also left him with conflicting emotions.

"I am happy that, as an Afghan, I am able to reflect the suffering of Afghans. But I am unhappy over what happened and that I witnessed it," Hossaini says.

"I saw Tarana in that condition and I am even in contact with her now. I know that she has nightmares about it just as I do."

Afghanistan | A Film by Augustin Pictures

A beautiful portrait of a people and a country.

Filmed in Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif this is moving testimony to what Afghanistan looks like without war.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Durable solutions far from reach with conflict | IDMC

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center has just released new research on the growing number of internally displaced in Afghanistan.

“Armed conflict and violence continue to disrupt the lives of Afghans today; an average of 400 Afghans a day have fled their homes since 2006, bringing the current number of IDPs to well over 500,000.

“New displacements have recently outnumbered the number of IDPs displaced prior to 2003. An average of 400 new internal displacements a day were recorded between 2006 and 2010 (UN and ICRC), and 186,000 people were newly displaced by conflict and insecurity during 2011, almost double the figure for 2010 (UNHCR IDP data 2012).”

Durable solutions far from reach amid escalating conflict
"More than ten years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan´s transition towards peace and stability remains far from complete. Decades of armed conflict, natural disasters and extreme weather have had a devastating effect on Afghan society, causing significant civilian casualties, widespread destruction of property and infrastructure and numerous waves of displacement. Some 75 per cent of Afghans are thought to have experienced some form of displacement at least once during their lives, and the escalation and spread of armed conflict in recent years has led to a renewed rise in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs). Armed conflict and violence continue to disrupt the lives of Afghans today; an average of 400 Afghans a day have fled their homes since 2006, bringing the current number of IDPs to well over 500,000."

Read the full report here.

The Destiny of a Leaf | A Poem by Qanbar Ali Tabesh

Qanbar Ali Tabesh was born in 1969 in Sangshanda village near Ghazni in Afghanistan. He fled from the war in Afghanistan to Iran, where he settled in the city of Qom. He has a B.A. in Persian Literature from Payam-e Nur University and a B.A. in Political Science from the Human Sciences Institute of Qom. He is currently writing his master's thesis in political science at Baqer ol-Olum University in Qom. He is a member of the editorial committee of Khatt-e Sevvom, the leading cultural and literary magazine of Afghan refugees in Iran. He has published three collections of poetry and one of literary criticism.

The Destiny of a Leaf

A man is not a bird
that he might make his home on any shore he flies to.
A man has the destiny of a leaf.
A leaf, when separated from the heights of its branch,
is trampled underfoot by passersby in the streets.

Qanbar Ali Tabesh

Qom, Iran, 28 June 1999
Link here

For more on the refugee experience, click here, and here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

We Want Peace | Portraits from Afghanistan

Featuring another of Grace Chung's beautiful portraits from Afghanistan.

Dear World is an on-line project to unite people through pictures. Regardless of race, religion or language. It began as a simple idea. Photograph the love notes to New Orleans after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. It has become so much more.

If I Had a Trillion Dollars | Artist Activists in DC

Young people from more than a dozen cities across the country have arrived in Washington DC for the second annual “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” film festival.

Their thoughtful and creative visions – shown in 3-minute videos - will be shown on Capitol Hill this afternoon, Monday 16 April.

Here they are getting ready to meet their representatives.

The Film Festival asks young people to think about our countries priorities as reflected in the federal budget. Asking them to consider:

The $1 trillion spent yearly on the U.S. military
The $1 trillion spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
The $1 trillion plus in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans

Go here to check out their work .

KnowDrones National Tour | Philadelphia 25-27 April

Philadelphia will be the final stop before the International Drone Summit being held the following weekend (28/28 April) in Washington DC. There will be a Thursday evening event at Friends Center.

Following the DC summit, the tour will resume. Check out the calendar to see if they are coming to your town.

Additional Resource: Attorney General Eric Holder Defends Targeted Killings.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What Security Looks Like | Pakistan and the War

After weeks of debate, the Parliament of Pakistan has unanimously endorsed a list of demands to guide discussions with the United States.

The paper, drafted by the national security service, is the latest step in redefining ground rules after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by US airstrikes in a November cross border attack.

The result is a series of comprehensive demands, including an official apology for the killing of the Pakistani soldiers, an end to CIA drone strikes, and a ban on the transport of US/NATO weapons and ammunition thru Pakistan to the war in Afghanistan.

There is a prohibition on overt or covert military operations in the country, a ban on private contractors and a call on the government to pursue a natural gas pipeline with Iran.

This level of engagement by Parliament is really a demand for transparency. Claiming oversight responsibilities with the demand that no verbal agreements regarding national security be entered by the government.

If these demands are met, the US/NATO supply lines – for food and fuel – would be opened. The demands are non-binding and must be approved by senior US and Pakistani officials.

It is a positive sign. If only the US were as committed to diplomacy and dialogue as we are to supply lines. That map below illustrates the lengths the US and NATO have gone through to continue the war fighting.

Before the November attack, one-third of American war supplies moved through Pakistan, costing about $17 million a month. Since then, coalition forces have relied on the Northern Distribution Network, a system of supply lines in countries such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, inflating supply costs by $87 million more per month, according to the Associated Press.

More links on Pakistan here.

What regional security looks like here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Right to Protest | Graphic Images From the NYT’s

As we get ready for the NATO summit next month in Chicago and the conventions this summer these images are reminders of the challenges we face. Click on the image to expand.

Riot Gear’s Evolution | 3 December 2011

"Just as the styles of protest have changed from one generation to the next, so have the styles of protest policing. Technological advances, training innovations and changing attitudes toward the right to assemble have all shaped the way the police handle the challenges of large demonstrations. During the 1960s and ’70s, police officers treated many protests as a threat to the social order and responded with brute force. In the 1980s and ’90s, demonstrations tended to be less confrontational and the police responded with more accommodating tactics."

- Chi Birmingham and Alex S. Vitale

Protecting face-to-face protest | 9 April 2012

"EVERY four years, we witness the spectacle of the presidential nominating conventions. And every four years, host cities, party leaders and police officials devise ever more creative ways of distancing protesters from the politicians, delegates and journalists attending these stage-managed affairs."

- Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr.

Additional Resource: When Police go military

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

International Drone Summit | 28/29 April, Washington DC

Human rights activists, civil liberties groups, lawyers, and robotics experts will gather in Washington DC to look at the expanding use of lethal and surveillance drones.

Hosted by CODEPINK, Reprieve, and the Center for Constitutional Rights the summit will have Sunday strategy sessions to explore ways to resist this expansion.


US drone strikes have killed an estimated 3,000 people around the world, including hundreds of civilians, without any judicial process or meaningful oversight, and without any transparency or accountability. The summit’s dual objectives are to better inform the public about the reality and significance of the US government’s expanding use of both killer and surveillance drones, and to facilitate networks and strategies to resist this expansion. Click here for the program.


Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
900 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC, 20001

Additional Resource: How the CIA Became a Killing Machine,

Tag: Drones

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Does the New Agreement on Night Raids Mean?

The new agreement signed over the weekend between the US and Afghanistan establishes guidelines for the continuation of night raids by Special Forces. Follow the link for the full text.

The agreement sets out a new chain of command for ordering and conducting special operations. They must first be approved by a new all-Afghan body called the Afghan Operational Coordination Group (OCG), and then conducted by Afghan Forces, with support from US Forces in accordance with Afghan laws.

The US will continue to play a vital role.

Kate Clark with Afghanistan Analysts Network has the details. She focuses on the Afghan gains in control over night raids noting that it will put the government more at the forefront of the anti-Taliban struggle politically and militarily.

The embrace of this controversial program – and the associated targeted killings - is no victory for those calling for alternatives to violence. It does however offer hope that Afghans can hold their government responsible and accountable for future actions. It has proven impossible in the past to hold the international forces accountable for actions they see as part of war.

At the same time, she cautions that the agreement allows Afghan Special Forces to arrest people who can then be held without trial. The text of the agreement is included.
“The Afghan government is delighted with the MoU, rightly seeing it as a huge gain for Afghan sovereignty. President Karzai is now, at least nominally, in charge of one of the most politically and militarily significant and controversial aspects of the war and will probably continue to insist that US forces take a back seat. How far the Afghan government actually achieves sovereignty however remains to be seen: one can imagine ‘US support’, for example, meaning US forces and advisors remaining in de facto command, with Afghan colleagues being deferential to their wishes and expertise. However, the MoU does give Afghans the means to actually take some sort of command and control.

Along with security prisoners (which was the subject of an MoU which was signed last month), the contentious issue of night raids has been a major stumbling block to getting a strategic partnership deal between the two countries. To secure this MoU, the US has conceded a great deal, while Karzai has gained ground.

At the same time, from the international side, the agreement may help address the enduring complaint of the US and its allies that the president does not sufficiently ‘own’ the war: that he criticises his allies and international forces while occasionally speaking sympathetically about the Taleban, as if he sat above and outside the conflict. In the future, if civilians are killed in raids, or there is alleged theft of valuables or if homeowners feel dishonoured by fellow Afghans or their invited US allies, barging into their houses, it will now be his responsibility. He will no longer be able to behave as if this is a conflict he has no part in.”

Click here for the article link.

Tags: Night Raids

Friday, April 6, 2012

If I Had A Trillion Dollars | Youth Film Festival

More than 50 young activist/artists are going to Washington DC next week.

Click on the poster for a link to the films

Among the activities planned, they will have.

A public screening April 14 at Busboys and Poets, 6pm (14th Street & V Street NW) (Note: A panel of judges including hip hop artists Rebel Diaz, actress Susan Sarandon, and Brave New Films' Derrick Crowe have selected the films.)

A Congressional film screening April 16 with Congressman Jim McGovern, featuring the testimonies of eight youth filmmakers (1:30pm, Cannon House Office Building, Room 122)

Here is the facebook page.

Iran, Afghanistan and the Deadly Impact of Sanctions

Bloomberg reported this week that Afghanistan’s commerce minister “hopes the U.S. will give it leeway from economic sanctions intended to curb imports of oil from Iran.
“Afghanistan’s trade with Iran has grown to more than $1 billion annually, placing Iran second after Pakistan’s $3 billion when transit trade via the Pakistani port of Karachi is included. The next-largest trade partners are China and India, Ahady said.

“Iran is becoming a very large trade partner,” Ahady said during a briefing yesterday for reporters in Washington. The estimated $1 billion in commerce with Iran is dominated by oil and fuel, as well as some consumer and industrial goods, he said.

Trade with Pakistan continues to be hampered by border delays and regulatory disagreements that too often require high- level intervention and cost Afghan business owners in the meantime, Ahady said.”

The U.S. announced at the end of March that if third countries do not reduce or stop their oil purchases and commercial dealings with the Central Bank of Iran, those countries would not be allowed to do any business with the United States.

What does this mean for regional security?

The summary recommendations from this conference held in 2008 remain central and fundamental to a path forward that embraces the basic needs of Afghans and the region.

The 15 page summary is a great background resource. This is the key point.

"...policymakers who redesigned post-war Western Europe rejected a country-by-country planning approach in favor of a regional approach that integrated the region’s economy and laid the groundwork for what became the European Union"

Among the key Recommendations

“Future efforts by the United States and NATO to build stability in Afghanistan should be addressed in a regional context. Giving all the states in the region common and mutually beneficial economic ties will pay large security and political dividends that the current bilateral agreements alone cannot provide.

Iran and the United States should begin a bilateral discussion on how best to bring stability to Afghanistan. Because stabilizing Afghanistan is one of the few areas where Iran and the United States have a common interest, a diplomatic dialogue has considerable promise and need not be linked to the issues that still divide the two countries.”


Conclusions about Iran

It is important not to over-generalize the intentions of Iran in Afghanistan (or indeed any of the other regional or international actors) or to limit them simply to governments. There are important Iranian actors, including some Afghan refugees, who can play a critical role independent of the policies of the Iranian government.

Participants drew the following conclusions about how Iran and Afghanistan currently view their relationship:

1. Although Iran plays a much larger role in Afghanistan today than it has at any time since the mid-19th century, its policy toward the country is superseded by other international priorities, particularly its relationship with the United States. This makes it difficult or impossible for the Afghan government to establish independent bilateral relations with Iran.

2. The large Afghan refugee presence in Iran has given the two countries a closer network of ties than ever before, and refugees’ remittances to Afghanistan are a vital part of the Afghan economy. The refugees’ continued presence in Iran, however, is a source of tension because the majority are undocumented aliens subject to deportation. Iranians also see them as unwelcome immigrants who increase the competition for jobs.

3. There is a prejudice toward Afghan refugees returning from Iran, where they were better integrated into society than were refugees in Pakistan. Afghans educated in Iran have been denied positions in the government and NGOs, resulting in a “brain drain” that Afghanistan can ill afford.

4. Afghanistan sees itself as the victim of a U.S.-Iranian rivalry that is an uncomfortable reminder of its earlier history as a buffer state where its interests were sacrificed to the priorities of others. Although the Afghan government would like to see better cooperation between these two powers, it fears the consequences of any arrangements made without its participation.



“Because U.S. and NATO policy for managing relations between Afghanistan and its neighbors is limited to specific issues and projects, there has been no attempt to integrate them into a regional framework.

Participants noted that the policymakers who redesigned post-war Western Europe rejected a country-by-country planning approach in favor of a regional approach that integrated the region’s economy and laid the groundwork for what became the European Union. Although no one was optimistic about achieving such an ambitious goal in Central and South Asia, it was agreed that there should be much more emphasis on projects that go beyond merely linking countries to their neighbors and instead focus on economic integration. The key to achieving stability in the region is by ensuring that the success of each is a vital concern of all.”

Tag: Regional Security Summit in Tajikistan

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Near Agreement on Night Raids | Kill Capture Policy

AP is reporting that the U.S. is close to reaching its goals in advance of the NATO summit in Chicago.
“The United States and Afghanistan are close to an agreement over how to handle the hotly contested issue of night raids but still are at odds over how long coalition forces can detain prisoners, such as those captured during the operations, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

The agreement would call for the Afghans to take the lead in night operations and set up a timely, warrant-like judicial process for the raids. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.”

The agreement on prisoners last month and an imminent agreement on guidelines for night raids are seen as the cornerstones of a future US-Afghan strategic partnership. That agreement would spell out the legal basis of a long-term US military presence in Afghanistan beyond the 2014.

In May, more than 50 heads of state will meet at the NATO summit to discuss progress on ending the war, future strategy and support for a US-Afghan Strategic partnership. US Special Forces, bases, arms transfers, training and the funding of an Afghan security force are expected to form the basis of the partnership.

A bi-lateral agreement between occupier and occupied undercuts the critical need for a comprehensive regional solution, and the role of international law in providing the framework of a peace process.

The NYT focuses on the anger and distrust that the night raids have created among Afghan’s. Pointing out that the killing of 17 unarmed and sleeping people by a US soldiers is seen by many as a ‘night raid’.
"Finding a way to continue the raids is also considered essential for the post-2014 plan that is shaping up. The plan, in essence, envisions the United States’ leaving behind a small force that would focus on counterterrorism. For that kind of mission to work, the force would probably need to be able to carry out night raids."


On March 22 at hearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee, General Allen confirmed that in 2011 there had been 2,200 night raids. He states that of the total 9,200 night raids 27 people were killed or wounded.

“… This last year we had about 2,200 night operations. Of those 2,200 or so night operations, on 90 percent of them we didn't fire a shot. On more than 50 percent of them we got the targeted individual and 30 percent more we got the next associate of that individual as well. So 83 percent, roughly, of the night operations we got either the primary target or an associate."

"...But after 9,200 night operations, 27 -- 27 people were killed or wounded in night operations. That would argue for the power of night operations preserving life and reducing civilian casualties in all other kinds of operations, than necessarily being a risk of creating additional civilian casualties. That's in my mind, sir, as we go through the process of negotiating an outcome for the Afghanization, if you will, of night operations.

It’s an astonishing claim.

One that has been challenged by researchers with the Afghanistan Analysts Network who documented the impact of kill/capture campaigns using NATO own press releases. This is what they found.

The number of ‘leaders’ and ‘facilitators’ killed equals approximately 5% of the total deaths.

The number of ‘leaders’ and ‘facilitators’ detained equals approximately 13% of the total detentions.

Additional Resources:

Key Issues for Loya Jirga

Night Raids and Militia Forces

Summit for Peace and Economic Justice

Art Mob Commemorates War | Indianapolis

Using images from the Windows and Mirrors exhibit, this art mob action commemorated the anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Partners: American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace, Central Indiana Jobs with Justice.

We will be at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, the week of September 3, 2012. We are also planning to be at the Republic National Convention in Tampa Bay, Florida from August 27 - 30, 2012.

Tags: Windows and Mirrors
Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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