Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ category

Poppy Don’t Preach

April 6, 2007

“Large areas of Uruzgan remain Taliban havens. The local government, plagued by corruption, remains so weak that it does not yet have a significant program against soaring poppy production, which helps underwrite the insurgency.”

-from the New York Times, emphasis mine.

Groan. If you think you can fight the war on the Taliban and the war on drugs at the same time, or that the latter is somehow essential to the former, lay off the counter-insurgency crack pipe. This is really simple, kids: if the Taliban is willing to pay Afghan peasants cash-money for the country’s one major cash crop, those Afghan peasants are going to grow and sell those opium-producing poppies. It would be one thing to bomb their best customers if you were willing to step in and buy the product yourself, or at least pay them off not to grow poppies. But if, instead, you bomb their best customers and you spray their poppy crops with pesticides you’re going to get some pissed-off, Taliban-supporting peasants. Even a brain on drugs can understand that simple logic.


Troubles in Quetta

March 2, 2007

There is news out of Islamabad that the former Taliban defense minister has been arrested by Pakistani forces. According to The New York Times account, he is the most important Taliban member to be captured since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The arrest comes on the heels of a visit to Pakistan by Dick Cheney, the purpose of which was to twist President (Dictator?) Pervez Musharraf’s arm into adopting a more pro-active policy when it comes to combating a resurgent Taliban that has apparently taken root along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistani perfidy has been a topic of conversation in certain circles since last year when the Pakistani government signed a peace deal with militants and tribal leaders in the unruly western provinces.

Ostensibly, news of Mullah Obaidullah’s arrest is good news, but it has the effect of validating all the criticism that has been lobbed in Musharraf’s direction. It is more than too cute for such a high profile arrest to occur on the very day (or at least be announced on the very day) that Big Bad Dick Cheney was paying a visit. If anything, the real significance of Obaidullah’s arrest is that it lends fresh urgency to the dilemma of Musharraf, and just what kind of ally he is.

A Reminder

December 11, 2006

Making my way through the Sunday papers I was floored by a small article buried on page A33 of The Washington Post.  The article is an Associated Press dispatch from Kabul that reports that 20 teachers that have been murdered by the resurgent Taliban this year. (198 schools have been burned down as well). Apparently the targeting of teachers is outlined in a 30-point strategy document that was drafted in September by the Taliban leadership – including Mullah Mohammad Omar – to coordinate their stepped-up campaign to reclaim their tyrannical perch atop the beleaguered Afghani nation.

Rule No. 24 of the document forbids anyone to work as a teacher under the current Karzai-led regime because, “this strengthens the system of the infidels.” The document stipulates that Taliban henchman should first warn the teachers, then beat the teachers, and if they continue to insist on educating the young minds of Afghanistan, slaughter the teachers.

As I mentioned above, I was staggered by this article. And I think my shock is telling. The headlines are so dominated with news out of Iraq – horrible, grim news – that I have lost sight of the barbarity in Afghanistan. But not just that, I had become numb to the inexplicably evil nature of the Taliban movement. One of the most compelling critiques of the War on Iraq is that it took our focus of Afghanistan, where we really had (and I hope “have”) a chance to build something decent. (I thought the Bush Administration could walk and chew gum. I thought wrong.) The debate over the next few months will be about what to do in Iraq – and rightfully so – but Afghanistan should not stray too far off our radar screens. In addition, it is worth mentioning Barack Obama’s idea that as we draw down troop levels in Iraq (which he is in favor of on some sort of timetable) we should redeploy those troops to Afghanistan to bolster the faltering NATO-led effort. Food for thought.

Gunned Down in Kandahar

September 25, 2006

Safia Ama Jan, the southern provincial head of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, was gunned down at the front gate of her Kandahar home today by two assassins riding on a motorbike. The Taliban has claimed responsibility. Ama Jan was a forceful proponent for women’s rights in what was once a Taliban stronghold, establishing vocational schools for local women to help them start bakeries and textile businesses. Apparently it was this transgression of Islamic fundamentalist code for which she was murdered.

During the Taliban’s rule, women were forbidden education and employment and could not leave their homes without a male escort. Before the American-led invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban in 2001, Ama Jan ran an underground school for girls from her home. She joins the growing number of victims of a revitalized Taliban insurgency and of the Bush administration’s disastrously short attention span.