Issues & Analysis
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Flash floods kill 26 at Afghan wedding

Agence France-Presse, 05/07/2012 13:07 GMT

Kabul, May 7, 2012 (AFP) – At least 26 people were killed and more than 100 missing after flash floods hit a wedding party and three villages in northern Afghanistan, an official said Monday.

Most of the victims were women and children as the floods, caused by heavy rains, swept through areas of Deh Mardan district in Sari Pul province, said Fazlullah Sadat, head of the provincial disaster management authority.

“We have found 26 bodies mostly women and children — and more than 100 others are still missing,” he told AFP.

Wedding parties are traditionally large and joyous occasions in rural Afghanistan, but 21 people from one gathering were among the victims, he said.

“This is a human tragedy. We have a lot of human losses,” said Sadat.

Rescue teams had been dispatched to search for the missing, he added, and the floods also swept away livestock and swamped agricultural lands.

The defence ministry had dispatched two helicopters to flood-hit areas, he said, and disaster management teams assisted by the UN’s World Food Programme were at the scene, distributing food, blankets and tents.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls, and experts predicted melting snow was likely to cause floods in the mountainous north in the spring.

In March, the UN humanitarian office for Afghanistan said at least 145 people were missing and “presumed dead” after an avalanche hit a remote village in northeastern Badakhshan province.

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BTKW – Educational Curriculum about the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, provided by Primary Source

Primary Source About Us

Primary Source, an organization that connects educators with history and humanities resources from around the world, has developed an educational curriculum using Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War.  BTKW’s trailer is used as a springboard to analyze post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan, drawing comparisons between the top-down approach of the Provincial Reconstruction Team and the bottom-up approach of the National Solidarity Program.

Please share this curriculum with any contacts you may have who work in education. The curriculum is most appropriate for high school students.

Modern Afghanistan: Making Meaning in the Aftermath of Conflict

Background

In conflict-laden regions, improving the region’s infrastructure is often seen as a key to restoring stability and security. In Afghanistan, a nation that has witnessed more than 30 years of war, a number of different reconstruction efforts have occurred since the U.S.-led military intervention, with varying degrees of success. Using what has been termed a “hearts and minds” approach to military policy, the United States and its allies have focused on rebuilding infrastructure as a way to foster support among the Afghan people. The different reconstruction models in Afghanistan illustrate the various tensions involved when outside nations work to rebuild war torn regions. This activity draws upon a documentary film to consider those issues and asks the following questions: What is the optimal relationship between external aid providers and local participation? What factors are important to consider?

Numerous government and nongovernmental organizations have been involved in rebuilding Afghanistan. The documentary film featured here focuses on two of these programs. The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), was established in late 2002 as a collaboration between the military (U.S.-led Coalition and NATO forces) and the civilian population for the purpose of improving security, government, and facilitating reconstruction. PRTs operated in various regions and were designed to create programs that reached local needs and focused on activities such as building or improving power grids, communication, schools, literacy, vaccinations, and creating jobs. Evidence of the program’s impact is limited, however, some critics of the program claim that these teams often built facilities that the nation of Afghanistan could not afford or sustain long-term and that the programs subverted the Afghan central government.

Similarly, the National Solidarity Program (NSP), the largest development program in Afghanistan, was established in 2003 under the Afghan government (with donor partners that included the World Bank, USAID, the United Kingdom, Japan and other members of the international community) to aid in reconstruction. NSP efforts centered on locally-controlled “Community Development Councils” throughout Afghanistan that allowed local villagers to decide what reconstruction projects to pursue. This greater degree of input from and empowerment of the local community bolstered the success of the NSP, and proponents have hailed the program as a model for other nations.

In this activity, students will watch a pre-production reel of the film Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War to examine how the PRT and NSP programs operated in Afghanistan and consider how reconstruction efforts are negotiated in the aftermath of conflict. Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War, produced by Community Supported Film and filmed by Afghans, provides a local Afghan perspective on rebuilding efforts. The film’s trailer provides an overview of some of these reconstruction programs and allows students to consider how foreigners and locals have worked together to make changes that can last.

For the complete curriculum visit Primary Source.

Curriculum by Ann Marie Gleeson

Primary Source

 

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UN says NATO should ensure that protections for women and girls are a central component of transition

Inclusion of protections for women and girls central to transition security sector framework for Afghanistan – UN

The Government of Afghanistan and NATO should ensure that protections for women and girls are a central component of transition and post-transition security frameworks for Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund said today. As heads of state and NATO prepare for the NATO Summit in Chicago on 20-21 May, UNAMA, UNFPA and UN Women called on NATO and the Afghan government to fulfill UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which requires all parties to take special measures to protect women and girls in armed conflict and stresses the critical role of women in all efforts to promote peace and security.

“Now is the time to deal with the longer-term security and protection needs of Afghan women who have long borne the brunt of the war in Afghanistan,” said Ján Kubiš, United Nations Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Afghanistan. “Women’s specific protection needs should be central to plans being made as the Afghan national army and police prepare to take an increasing lead in security operations and the NATO–ISAF mission evolves from combat operations to training and assistance to Afghan forces.”

At the NATO Chicago Summit, heads of states and governments will consider how to provide continued support to the Afghan National Security Forces after transition is completed in 2014. This will include an agreement on how the Afghan government, ISAF nations and the international community together can fund professional, capable and self-sustaining Afghan National Security Forces in the future in line with the target set at the NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010. The Chicago Summit will also consider how funding commitments can be linked to fulfilling the Afghan Government’s obligations to realize human rights in compliance with the Constitution of Afghanistan and human rights treaties ratified by Afghanistan.

Women’s rights groups and Afghan civil society have stressed that gains made in the past decade for millions of Afghan women in securing equal constitutional rights, political participation, and access to health and education must not be compromised in any transition agreements between NATO and other international partners and the Afghan government, and in any peace negotiations.

“Protection of women during transition and in post-transition is critical as women are more vulnerable to insecurity and any breakdown in local rule of law,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA. “Transition should prioritize an increasing civilian policing role for the Afghan National Police over its paramilitary functions, including expansion of human rights protection with a particular focus on women’s rights and rule of law.”

UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA stated that protection for women during and after the transition requires the Afghan National Police to be fully resourced, trained, equipped and sensitized to address effectively cases of violence against women and girls under the Afghan Constitution and other legal frameworks, more specifically through the application of the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“It is important that the international and national community puts every effort into breaking the silence and ensuring that the voices of women and girls are heard and that the necessary services are put in place to support those women and girls. The role of field police officers is crucial as they are often the first entry point for those victims.” said Dr. Laurent Zessler, UNFPA Representative in Afghanistan. “Capacity building programs, as part of a long term commitment to develop field police officers’ skills to prevent and respond to cases of violence against women and girls should contribute to creating an enabling environment for women and girls to live in dignity and in freedom from violence.”

Stressing the important correlation between the consolidation of lasting security in Afghanistan and the promotion of women’s rights, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, Country Director, UN Women Afghanistan said, “Security is paramount for improving girls and women’s freedom of movement and access to education and health services. Women understand the drivers of insecurity in their communities and it is crucial to include Afghan women’s groups in decisions impacting on their security during and after the transition of security from NATO-ISAF to Afghan forces. The summit in Chicago needs to make space for women’s concerns and ensure an inclusive response to the security challenges that Afghan society is facing.”

The international community should provide increased support to the Gender Units of the Afghan Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence and the Afghan National Police to make these institutions more responsive to the needs of the women and girls. UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA noted that peace is not only about political agreements on power sharing; it is about consultation, inclusion and ensuring that women and men at the community level experience peace and security in their daily lives and that women’s voices are included in all peace negotiations.

Referring to developing the Afghan National Security Forces as a responsible and accountable institution in protecting the civilian population, Georgette Gagnon said “The transition frameworks should allocate sufficient financial resources and build capacity within the Afghan National Security Forces for effective institutional structures to protect and mitigate civilian casualties in all counter-insurgency operations, in particular women and children casualties.”

UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA stated that accountability mechanisms within the Afghan National Security Forces should include the establishment of a civilian casualty mitigation unit that is accessible to women and fully resourced to provide proper monitoring, investigation and compensation for civilian deaths, injuries and property loss. UNAMA, UN Women and UNFPA highlighted that compensation is of tremendous importance for women, who after losing their husbands or male relatives are often further exposed to violence and violations of their basic human rights in the highly traditional and patriarchal context of Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Police should also ensure attainment of its target to induct and train more women into the police force to improve its outreach and service to women and girls in communities while assisting victims of gender-based violence in a humane and ethical way.

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Socio-Economic Reintegration and Livelihoods

During the last decade, the Afghan government and international community worked to promote peace, governance, security and development in Afghanistan. However, as discussed in a report entitled “Talking about Talks: Toward a Political Settlement in Afghanistan” from the International Crisis Group, the current situation is still fragile and volatile. A recent article in The Independent adds that insurgency hampers service delivery, accessibility, development initiatives and employment opportunities and, in doing so, may foster grievances which further fuel violence. In order to address this situation, the Afghan National Security Council passed the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) in July 2010. The APRP, which is introduced in the first piece in the CFC’s introductory report on “Peace and Reintegration”, “provides means for anti-government elements to renounce violence and reintegrate and become a productive part of Afghan society”. As highlighted in the following pages, such processes can draw upon international experience and frameworks regarding the reintegration of armed groups and fighters. This piece introduces the main challenges encountered in many international reintegration programmes and discusses how Afghanistan and other countries have utilised infrastructure-related activities to help combatants transition to civilian life.  Download PDF (586.6 KB)

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World Bank Commits to Sustained Engagement in Afghanistan

 World Bank, Press Release No:2012/415/SAR

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2012 — The World Bank’s Board of Directors today discussed its Interim Strategy Note (ISN) for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan which provides a sustained commitment and vision to the country’s development through the period of transition and beyond.

The ISN builds upon a solid track record of results, despite the high risk environment. “Over the past decade, the World Bank, together with the international community, has helped the government make steady progress in many areas, including provision of basic services,” says Isabel M. Guerrero, World Bank Vice President for South Asia. “These visible gains include the development and roll-out of national programs in health, education and village level governance and service delivery, and a functioning and credible public financial management system.”

Going forward, the Bank’s support to Afghanistan over 2012-14 will be based on supporting the delivery of some of the most important national priorities. It is also grounded in helping the Government to manage the critical transition from security and development dominated by the international community to one led by the Government of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Bank group support will be provided around three themes:

  1. Building the Legitimacy and Capacity of Institutions.
  2. Equitable Service Delivery.
  3. Inclusive Growth and Jobs.

Specifically the Bank will continue to expand its support to institutions and processes associated with transparent economic and financial management and community level governance especially through the National Solidarity Program (NSP). Equally important will be to sustain and expand, as possible, World Bank support for important national programs in areas such as healthcare, education, rural connectivity and irrigation.  Read Full Press Release

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Is US-Afghan Agreement a Prelude to Afghan Civil War?

Thursday, 26 April 2012 10:14, By Matt Southworth, Truthout | Op-Ed

As we come up on the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration is poised to sign a US-Afghan strategic partnership agreement that could be a prelude to Afghan civil war. Unless drastic policy changes are started immediately, reorienting US policy toward legitimate political negotiations between Afghan and regional entities, dark days lie ahead. It’s time to end the US war, but the United States cannot afford to abandon Afghans. Read full OP-Ed

Matt Southworth is the legislative associate for foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislationand an Iraq War veteran.

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An Exit Strategy for Afghanistan

April 23,2012, By Jim Cason, Associate Executive Secretary for Campaigns at Friends Committee on National Legislation

Here in Washington, it’s easy to find boosters for the current U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan. Outside of Washington, it’s harder. A CNN poll late last month found that three-quarters of Americans now oppose the war and more than half would like U.S. combat troops leave Afghanistan sooner than 2014, their scheduled withdrawal date. France, Spain, and Australia are all planning to accelerate the withdrawal of their soldiers from Afghanistan.

It’s easy to see why so many coalition countries are bolting. More than 10 years after the U.S. invasion, the goals of the continuing U.S. occupation are unclear, the insurgency is powerful, and the violence continues. Almost every month, Afghan soldiers and police turn their guns on the U.S. troops and military contractors training them. In mid-April, anti-government insurgents staged a coordinated series of attacks in four provinces in one day. This set of violent actions suggests a very well organized military force that’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.

The late May summit of NATO leaders in Chicago could mark a turning point. But to what? It’s time for the debate to move away from simplistic discussions of “winning” or leaving. That may be difficult in an election year when Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to score political points. But it’s what our country needs to do.

The U.S. can’t abandon Afghanistan, but our troops must leave.

The manner in which the U.S. military withdraws matters. A responsible withdrawal means acknowledging that military force isn’t contributing to a political solution in Afghanistan. The U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan has cost tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, yet the country is less stable now than at any time since September 2001. Rather than quelling the violence, the presence of foreign forces is uniting extremist groups and feeding recruits to the Taliban, criminal gangs, and al-Qaeda.

U.S. commentators often say Americans are “tired” of the Afghanistan war. I doubt that anyone is more tired and frustrated by this war than the people of Afghanistan.

The U.S. troop withdrawal should be coupled with a willingness of U.S. officials to take political risks by supporting talks among all Afghan groups. “This war is going to end in a negotiated solution that involves the Taliban and the government in some way,” James Shinn, an assistant secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, told Charlie Rose.

And it isn’t just the Taliban. Warlords, regional leaders, and Afghanistan’s neighbors also have a stake in what happens. Yet every news report of U.S. efforts to support negotiations brings attacks from Congress and politicians that the United States is accepting “defeat” in Afghanistan.

Washington needs to begin talking to Pakistan as well as the rest of Afghanistan’s neighbors, who are often left out of the picture. Did you know that millions of people in Iran rely on water that flows from Afghanistan, that China also shares a border, and that India and Russia are close enough to be concerned?

With the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s assassination and the NATO summit coming up in May, you’ll be hearing a lot more talk about Afghanistan. In this election year, too many politicians will be reluctant at best to take the risks for peace, such as talking to the Taliban and Iran, that may be necessary to support efforts to build a lasting peace.

But after a decade of fighting, the United States needs to do just that. Negotiations need to be coupled with a timetable for the responsible withdrawal of U.S. and other international troops from Afghanistan, a unilateral end to U.S. offensive military operations, and financial support for rebuilding the Afghan economy.

We should all watch carefully to see if our political leaders have the courage to follow this approach.

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Jim Cason is the associate executive secretary for campaigns at Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby in the public interest. www.fcnl.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

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Don’t Leave Afghanistan a Mess

Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewee: Daniel Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia  
Interviewer: Toni Johnson, Senior Editor/Senior Staff Writer

April 18, 2012

The April 15 attacks by Taliban forces in Afghanistan raised new questions about NATO, U.S. exit strategies, and whether the Afghan government is ready to handle security responsibilities. CFR’s Daniel Markey says the attacks indicate “that there are gaps in the NATO and Afghan ability to defend most anywhere in the country, but not huge gaps.” Markey says the war will not be resolved without addressing the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which was linked to the latest spate of attacks. He also says that rather than leaving as soon as possible, U.S. priorities should be focused on ensuring Afghanistan is not left “a mess,” which could have deeply troubling consequences for Pakistan.  Read Full Interview

 

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CSFilm to screen and present at Consequence Magazine issue launch event – Friday, May 4

Consequences MagazineCONSEQUENCE Magazine, an international literary journal addressing the culture and consequences of war, will feature CSFilm Director Michael Sheridan for a screening and presentation of The Fruit of Our Labor films for the launch of their next issue – Friday May 4, in Cambridge.

Friday May 4, 2012 – 7 PM
Harvard-Epworth Church
1555 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

As the international community reflects on the impact of more than ten years of war in Afghanistan, Community Supported Film provides an opportunity to also reflect on the situation from an Afghan perspective through Afghan-made documentaries, The Fruit of Our Labor.  Each short documentary offers a personal and firsthand Afghan point of view rarely seen or heard in the US, even after a decade of intense media coverage.  These films bring to life Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions—providing an insider’s perspective beyond the battlefront coverage that dominates western media.  Locals trained by Community Supported Film in documentary filmmaking tell stories from their perspective that can influence local and international views on sustainable paths to a more peaceful and equitable world.

Issue 4 of CONSEQUENCE features fiction by Bob Shacochis, Jenna Wallace, and V. Jo Hsu; poetry by Peter Dale Scott, Afaa Weaver, and Fred Marchant; non-fiction by Laura Harrington, Adriana Paramo, and Nikola Tutek; translations by Mario Susko, Martha Cooley, Antonio Romani, Aria Fani, and Adeeba Talukder; and reviews by Eve Sorum and Michael Shenkman.

CONSEQUENCE Magazine is an international literary journal addressing the culture and consequences of war.  The magazine annually publishes short fiction, poetry, non-fiction, interviews, visual art and reviews.  CONSEQUENCE is an independent, non-profit  magazine, and a 501(c)(3) organization.  Submit, subscribe and donate to the magazine here.

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Afghan refugees return to absolutely nothing

Danish Refugee Council, April 13, 2012

Returning Afghan refugees and internally displaced people are living in muddy slum areas of the cities in Afghanistan. They have no possessions and no opportunities. The International Society is not aware of the dire living conditions of this vulnerable group, says Ann Mary Olsen, head of the International Department of the Danish Refugee Council.

Between 400.000 and 800.000 Afghan refugees are expected to return to Afghanistan from the neighbouring countries during 2012-13 according to the UNHCR. Often because of lack of permissions in hosting countries, they have to return despite the fact that there is currently nothing to return to and not enough resources in the Afghan society to make sure they reintegrate.

Most of the returning refugees settle in urban or semi-urban areas due to a more secure environment and perceived better livelihood opportunities. Most of the returnees end up in one of the rapidly growing tent- and mud house settlements, alongside a quarter million internally displaced (IDPs) Afghans, who are also trying to make a living in the urban slum areas.

“The returning Afghans have nothing to return to. There are no schools, no access to medical aid, no water. They live in mud houses and sleep directly on the ground. Children are freezing to death as a consequence of their miserable living conditions,” says Ann Mary Olsen, head of the International Department of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) after visiting the settlements in Kabul.

DRC has been expanding its assistance in the urban areas of Afghanistan as the challenges of the rising number of returnees and IDPs has grown. Among other things DRC has been providing access to water and livelihood support. This winter, DRC has further been handing out lifesaving aid as food, firewood, stoves, waterproof sheets and warm clothes.

“The living conditions are very severe in the informal camps as there is no infrastructure and no one to make sure things are improving. The Afghan government does not have the capacity to change things – and they further have no wish to keep people in the urban areas,” says Ann Mary Olsen, who is wondering why the International Society isn’t acting to change the inhuman living conditions of the returnees and the IDPs.

To improve the situation UNHCR and the Afghan government have selected 40 sites in five Afghan provinceswhere consorted efforts will take place to todevelop better return and integration conditions for returnees and IDPs. The Danish Refugee Council will take a lead in developing two of these sites.

“Our assignment is to make sure that the returnees have something to return to. We are to give them the environment and the tools to make a future for themselves and their families. We are not talking of a simple intervention – to make this work, we need to focus on a decent infrastructure, protection and livelihood programs at the same time,” says Ann Mary Olsen.

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A Medieval Nightmare Finds a Home in the American Way of Making War

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould,  posted on APRIL 10, 2012

Ten years ago this fall we sat in the walled garden of a bullet-pocked Kabul villa on a brilliant sunlit afternoon, interviewing American reporters about what they thought the prospects were for a U.S. success in Afghanistan now that the “war” was over.

At that particular moment Afghans were open to American solutions and for the first time in decades, hopeful. Kabul was ruined but peaceful, but just below the surface was the unshakeable feeling that something was wrong. The young, thoughtful and concerned photo journalist Chris Hondros of Getty Images spoke of the fractured nature of Afghan society and doubted that the West could help the country overcome the deep divisions caused by twenty five years of war. He complained that his job had been made much tougher because an entire generation of Americans had never been informed of what they needed to know in order to comprehend why Afghanistan was so important. USA Today’s Berlin bureau chief Steve Komarow, who’d rotated back into Kabul after taking part in the brief American invasion, echoed the American confusion about what to do about a mission and a country no one seemed to really understand. “Nobody wants Afghanistan to revert to what it was, but on the other hand there’s a tension between that and being seen as a colonial power,” Komarow said. “The United States doesn’t want to own Afghanistan. It really wants the Afghans to work it out, however they want to work it out.”

Tension might still be the best of a slew of inadequate words to describe Washington’s schizophrenic relationship to Afghanistan. Tension between the Obama administration and a Republican Congress over the longest running war in American history and how to end it, tension between Washington and the government of Hamid Karzai, tension between President Obama and the wisdom of his own military commanders and tension over Pakistan’s perennial role as an alleged U.S. ally while continuing to use the Taliban as an advance guard for its military’s strategic ambitions in Central Asia. And tension between the reality of people’s lives and the invented reality of a war machine that has long lost any relevance to the real nature of American security.

U.S. objectives in Afghanistan from day one were never clear and in fact were mostly irreconcilable with the ground reality…  Read full article

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Choose to Invest in Development and Humanitarian Relief

Apr 6, 2012

InterAction’s latest publication, Choose to Invest in Development and Humanitarian Relief FY2013, outlines key funding recommendations for the U.S. government to support accounts in the federal budget. This strong investment will make great strides to reduce global poverty, tackle environmental challenges and increase peacekeeping efforts to support stability and security.

Choose to Invest also highlights success stories from some InterAction members working in developing countries that have used U.S. government foreign assistance to help communities access resources and improve their quality of life.

110 InterAction members are urging Congress to fund these efforts as stated in a letter sent to members of Congress on March 30.:

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Defending Afghanistan: are Afghan forces ready?

…….As Shahgul Rezayee, one of the 69 female members of parliament, says, “We all prefer a strong Afghanistan standing on its own feet, but unfortunately we are not at that moment. And until then, yes, we will need some foreign presence.”

Temp Headline Image
A policeman keeps watch in a Kabul neighborhood. The city still needs help rebuilding its infrastructure after almost 10 years of US occupation.
(Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff)

An extended occupation and ever-shifting objectives could leave Afghanistan shakier in 2014 than when US-led forces arrived.

By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer

posted April 8, 2012 at 11:28 am EDT

Kabul, AfghanistanThe dirt roads through Balaqala in the Charhasya Valley south of Kabul are oozy with mud after recent rains, and the fruit trees just beyond low earthen walls are about to blossom and demand tending. Still, many of the village’s 1,000 inhabitants have come out to hear what Brig. Gen. Said Abdul Karim, commander of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command, has to say about the 15 Afghan elite troops who have set up camp in a nearby empty farmhouse.Karim says his men will help provide security for their families, while acting as liaisons to government agencies on education, health, and farming issues. But Karim also offers a broader vision of his forces’ role.”Through the work of these brave soldiers of Afghanistan,” he says, “we want the people to understand who is standing with them, and who the enemy of the country really is.”

Already, Afghanistan is demanding and taking more responsibility for itself. Today in Kabul, US forces granted the government of President Hamid Karzai oversight of controversial night raids that have been a favorite tactic of US forces. NATO is ending its combat role here at the end of 2014, which will leave the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) largely on their own.

Perhaps if more of the ANSF – expected to consist of 195,000 Army soldiers and 157,000 National Police by this fall – were like Karim’s men, there would be fewer doubts about the future.

But his maroon-bereted Spe­cial Ops troops are only a sliver of Afghan­is­tan’s growing but still formative security forces. In the Army, and more glaringly in the National Police, problems range from insufficient vetting of recruits to widespread illiteracy, from low morale to ethnic ties overriding national identity. Corruption is especially rampant among the National Police, the corps in closest contact with the people.

All these issues, which have shown little improvement as the United States has poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan, place question marks over the ability of the security forces to hold off a weakened but still active Taliban post-2014. Perhaps even more grave is the threat of Afghanistan returning to civil war after international forces leave – a prospect that preoccupies many Afghans.

It may have been mission impossible all along for outside forces to expect to build in a matter of a few years a modern and united national security force in a country as poor, illiterate, and ethnically and geographically divided as Afghanistan. The countries of the international coalition didn’t help by persistently failing to provide the number of needed trainers.

But for some experts, the extended foreign occupation and its shifting objectives – counterterrorism here, counterinsurgency there, creating national security forces, then turning to developing militias – will leave Afghanistan shakier than when the NATO-commanded, US-led forces arrived.

“I don’t think there’s any way to come out of this that Afghanistan is going to be more stable than when we went in,” says Christine Fair, a South Asia security expert at Georgetown University in Washington. “A lot of people, including me, expect another civil war.”  Read Rest of Story

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Myths and Misconceptions in the Afghan Transition

Peace Brief by Shahmahmood Miakhel and Noah Coburn

Summary

  • The coming period of transition to Afghan control of national security will require greater cooperation and understanding between all parties.
  • Cooperation between the international community, the Afghan government and local communities is currently being undermined by a series of myths and assumptions which stem from the unstable conditions, a perceived lack of shared interests and a handful of highly publicized incidents.
  • The international community often underestimates local capacity for governance in Afghanistan and ignores the success that Afghanistan did have with self-rule for much of the 20th century.
  • Local Afghan communities are skeptical of the aims of both counterinsurgency and statebuilding measures, as projects, such as internationally sponsored elections, have failed to yield anticipated results despite the continued presence of international troops.
  • There is an urgent need to rethink some of the assumptions on both sides of the table which threaten to undermine the long-term prospects for peace in Afghanistan.

About this Brief

The authors have worked for many years in the Kabul office of the United States Institute of Peace in Afghanistan on local governance and rule of law projects. Shahmahmood Miakhel is USIP’s Country Director in Afghanistan. From 2003-2005 he was deputy minister of the Interior. Noah Coburn is a political anthropologist focusing on informal justice in Afghanistan and is currently teaching at Skidmore College. He has been conducting research in Afghanistan since 2005 and is the author of “Bazaar Politics: Pottery and Power in an Afghan Market Town.” This report is based upon observations by the two authors, field visits to the south, east, southeast, west and center of the country, discussions with government officials, local leaders and members of the international community.   Download PDF (294.35 KB)

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New mandate will strengthen engagement in Afghanistan – UN Envoy Report

28 March 2012 – The United Nations envoy in Afghanistan said today that the recently renewed mandate of the world body’s mission in the country lends itself to stronger engagement with the Government and society at large to advance peace, development and a host of other goals.

Last week, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another one year so it can continue supporting the country as it goes through the process of assuming full responsibility for its security, governance and development efforts.

“We see a strong requirement towards the United Nations to work not as a sort of detached party but in support of the Afghan Government and society,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš, which has been in place now for 10 years.

He told a news conference in Kabul that the new mandate recognises “very clearly that Afghanistan is assuming more and more sovereignty and ownership of all the processes that are happening here in the country, that indeed the transition process goes on, that indeed all of us… are facing new realities on the ground and also in the region.”

Highlighting the key priorities for the UN, Mr. Kubiš stressed that the Organization will continue to promote peace and reconciliation, coordinate international civilian efforts and provide more coherent support to the Government.

The Mission will also place emphasis on enabling and strengthening the role of Afghan institutions.

“The majority of the Afghan people want to see peace, less killings and more stability. We as the UN must support the peace process and I promise engagement,” said Mr. Kubiš. “That means talking to the people fighting. Without talking to them there can be no inclusive peace process.”

In a briefing to the Council last week, Mr. Kubiš said that Afghanistan’s transition process remains on track despite recent tragic incidents, adding that efforts continue to strengthen the capacity of national institutions to maintain rule of law and provide services to the population.

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Emergencies Taking a Deadly Toll in Badakhshan

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years leaves families struggling to survive. A series of recent avalanches have killed more than 90 people in Badakhshan province, an extremely isolated mountain region in northeast Afghanistan.

While relief efforts continue to assist avalanche survivors, snowbound villages throughout the province also desperately need health care and nutrition as their food supplies run low and as increased cases of pneumonia and other illnesses ravage the population.

In Darang, a village of 400 families situated near the Tajikistan border, 29 children under the age of five have reportedly died in the past month. Medair staff travelled three hours by horseback to reach Darang and found children suffering from acute malnutrition, pneumonia, and other health complications.

Families are running dangerously low on food. In 2011, severe drought led to a poor harvest in the region and with the heavy snowfall and the avalanches this winter, many people have been unable to reach markets or health care facilities.

Darang’s residents have also run out of fodder to feed their livestock, leaving their animals too emaciated to be eaten or sold. Furthermore, Darang, like many other villages in Badakhshan, will soon be at serious risk of landslides and flooding when the heavy snow melts in the spring thaw.

“These recent avalanches have highlighted just how vulnerable village families in Badakhshan are,” said Claire Skinner, Medair Country Director for Afghanistan. “Far too many children are malnourished and families are living on the brink of survival. This harsh winter has pushed many of them beyond their means to cope.”

 

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Official Selection at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival 2012

Sayed Quasem Husseini’s short film Death to the Camera from The Fruit of Our Labor collection was selected to be screened at the 2012 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival!

Hot Docs is North America’s largest documentary film festival and conference, featuring over 150 films from around the world.

In Death to the Camera a camera moves among women working on a job site.  As they joke and fight with each other, the mood repeatedly shifts between belly laughs and rage.  While they wait for their pay, they consider how to cover their basic expenses, what happens to international aid and whether Karzai is a crook or a servant of the people.  Is the camera revealing anything truthful, or simply inciting these women to present what they think ‘the other’ wants to hear?

Direction and Camera: Qasem Husseini
Editing: Hamed Alizadeh
Sound: Mona Haidari

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To the Chinese and the Indians go … the spoils of war

The New Zealand Herald, by Jonathan Owen and David Randall, Monday Mar 19, 2011

The money and blood pit that is Afghanistan – where the United States and Britain have spent more than 2100 lives and £302 billion ($580 billion) – is about to pay a dividend.

But it won’t be going to the countries which have made this considerable sacrifice. The contracts to open up Afghanistan’s mineral and fossil-fuel wealth, and to build the railways that will transport it out of the country, are being won or pursued by China, India, Iran, and Russia.

The potentially lucrative task of exploiting Afghanistan’s immense mineral wealth – estimated to be worth around £2 trillion, according to the Kabul Government – is only in the early stages. But already China and India in particular are doing deals and beginning work.

Facilities already established are being protected by local army and police, part of whose funding, and most of whose training, has been a US/British responsibility.

The anomaly of two Afghanistans – one of massacres, roadside bombs, and battles with the Taleban, the other of commercial deals in the hundreds of millions – is not lost on observers.

British Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, a member of the foreign affairs select committee, said: “The Chinese are self-interested. I don’t blame them for that. But it is on the backs of the sacrifice made by British and Americans and others, the sacrifices we have made which we hope after 2014 will lead to a more stable and secure Afghanistan, and for the Chinese to capitalise on that doesn’t go down well.”

Dr Richard Weitz, senior fellow of the Centre for Political-Military Analysis said: “From our perspective, China should have done more in terms of security. From their perspective, they didn’t need to; they could free-ride, we were going to do it anyway. They didn’t see any point because all they would do is incur a lot of sacrifice and antagonise the Taleban and the global terrorist movement, and they’d rather let us incur that.”

But others think any involvement in Afghanistan’s development, especially by regional powers, is beneficial.

Peter Galbraith, former deputy head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, said: “Western companies are exceptionally timid when it comes to operating in places where there is even the remotest hint that it might be a little risky, and the Chinese are not and are willing to go to these places. And the Chinese have business practices that Western countries … let’s just say that Chinese generosity towards local officials exceeds that of what Western companies are capable.”

Dr Leif Rosenberger, chief economist at US Central Command, said: “I see China, on balance, playing a positive role. On the security front, nobody wanted to see a rising Chinese military power intervening in Afghanistan. On the economic front, China bought a huge chunk of US government debt, which in turn financed US military intervention in Afghanistan. China is also an inspiring, market-friendly role model for developing countries in the region.”

Afghanistan’s mineral wealth extends over a huge range of valuable resources: iron, gold, copper, niobium (used in hardening steel), uranium, marble, cobalt, mercury, caesium, molybdenum (a metal which can withstand high temperatures and is used to make various alloys), and other rare earth minerals. The country has especially valuable deposits of lithium, the metal used in batteries. Indeed, a Pentagon official is on record suggesting that Afghanistan could be “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”.

As far back as 2008, China agreed to a deal to develop the Aynak copper mine in Logar province. This is said to be the world’s second-largest deposit of high-grade copper. The Afghan National Police have deployed 1500 officers to guard the mine, while 2000 US soldiers provide general security in the province. An Indian consortium has secured the rights to two blocks in the huge Hajigak iron ore field, the other block going to a Canadian firm. India will also contribute to the establishment of an Institute of Mines in Kabul, and last October signed a strategic partnership with Afghanistan.

The deals are not confined to minerals. In late December, China’s state-owned National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won a contract for three oil fields in Zamarudsay, Kashkari, and Bazarkhami in the northern provinces of Sari Pul and Faryab, which will make it the first foreign company to exploit Afghanistan’s oil and natural gas reserves. The intention is that CNPC will build a refinery within three years, and this will be guarded by units of Afghan police and army.

Chinese state firms have also been involved with seven infrastructure projects, including roads in Kondoz and Jalalabad. They have also won contracts for telecommunications systems in Kandahar and Kabul. And last year, the Asian Development Bank announced it had allocated more than US$200 million for the development of the gas wells of Sheberghan, and an attendant pipeline. Italy, Turkey and Germany are also pursuing deals.

American and British involvement is low-key at present. PricewaterhouseCoopers is advising the Ministry of Mines in Kabul, and the US bank JPMorgan is active, having put together a consortium that won rights to the Qara Zaghan gold deposits.

Many point out that security, especially after US forces cease active operations in 2014, will be crucial, and could yet scupper major exploitation. But Afghanistan has just opened its first major railway and is planning half a dozen more. China, Iran, Pakistan and India all have government or corporate plans for separate rail projects across Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is completing its own plans for another line, and Uzbekistan built the first major rail link, a 75km line from the border town of Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of Afghanistan.

The plan is to build a series of short, cross-border tracks to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Iran. The tracks would connect to each other inside the country’s north by railways built by Iran from the west and China from the east.

“We would be able to import and export to Russia, Turkey, and even European countries,” says Noor Gul Mangal, Afghanistan’s deputy public works minister. Opening new transport gateways would also reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on neighbouring Pakistan as its only link to sea ports.

– Independent

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UN says 145 ‘presumed dead’ in Afghan avalanche and warns of severe flooding

KABUL, March 10, 2012 (AFP) – At least 145 people are missing and “presumed dead” after an avalanche hit a village in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province last week, the United Nations said Saturday.

Afghan officials had earlier Saturday put the death toll from the March 4 series of avalanches in Badakhshan’s Shekay district at 56.

The UN said an avalanche in the area claimed 50 lives and warned of severe flooding over coming weeks due to melting snow.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years has claimed scores of lives, with the avalanches taking the toll to more than 90 in Badakhshan alone, according to officials.

“Access to Dispay village is possible only by road from neighbouring Tajikistan but has been severely hampered by snow-blocked roads”, said UN’s Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan in a statement.

“Helicopter access is not possible as there is a high risk of triggering further avalanches.”

The Geneva-based Agha Khan Foundation, the UN Food Programme and the US embassy have donated food and medicines to the affected families.

“This tragedy is likely to be one of many in the near future. Heavy snows will result not just in avalanches but also, in a few weeks’ time, severe flooding in many parts of the country”, said Humanitarian Coordinator, Michael Keating.

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This Saturday 3-24, TFOL Screening at Rubia’s 10th Anniversary Celebration


Event: 1-4:00pm, Film Screening: 1-2:30pm
Red River Theatre, 11 S. Main St, Concord, NH
Community Supported Film is thrilled to be celebrating Rubia’s 10th Aniversary with the inclusion of a screening of The Fruit of Our Labor. Rubia’s mission is to develop economic opportunities in Afghanistan through craft heritage, to support education and to promote health and well being for Afghan women and their families.
Buy/donate: $15 dollar ticket and More Info

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