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Analysis:Why Afghanistan matters
Rasul Bakhsh Rais
Read complete Editorial of Pakistan Daily Times
Afghan leaders and neighbouring states will have to show greater wisdom, assume more responsibility and resolve imagined and real problems before a frustrated world community turns its back on the country
Three cycles of war, experienced over the past thirty years, wiped out the accumulated institutional and political heritage of Afghanistan, disrupting its natural evolution as a historical entity. Among other motives and interests, the Afghan groups and foreign actors involved in the conflict wanted to define and shape the future of Afghanistan according to their own respective power, security and strategic interests. The wars over such a lengthy period of time suggest the importance and complexity of, and difficulty in, re-ordering a state and society that has lost its historical flow and social capacities to balance competing interests.
The quest for re-ordering Afghanistan has involved two interventions by the two superpowers of modern times, and several bouts of internal struggles and civil wars among various Afghan factions that had a stake in the future of the country.
Afghanistan’s tribal complexity
Sensitivity to Afghanistan’s tribal complexity has become all the rage. A crude ethnic breakdown—about 40% of Afghans are Pushtun, 30% Tajiks, and the rest Hazaras, Turkmen, Uzbeks and others—masks baffling complexity. One veteran says that to fight in Afghanistan “you must approach every village as its own campaign.”
And that means understanding Pushtun tribal culture. There are some 60 Pushtun tribes and 400 sub-tribes, many at odds with each other. Since the 18th century, supremacy has been held almost continuously by the Durrani tribal federation. The NATO invasion of 2001, toppling the Taliban, enabled the three main Durrani tribes, the Popolzai (the tribe of President Karzai), the Barakzai and the Alikozai (Dad Mohammad’s group), to reclaim their dominance. That angered both non-Durranis and some smaller Durrani tribes.
For their part, the Taliban have always held themselves above tribal politics. Indeed, they regard tribal custom as a deviation from sharia law. But where individual tribes feel badly treated, the Taliban are willing allies. Intriguingly, provinces where tribal structures are strongest, such as Paktia, Paktika and Khost, have proved most resistant to Taliban encroachment.

March 28
New UN Afghan envoy starts post in Kabul
Kai Eide has arrived in Kabul to begin his work as the United Nations’ new special envoy to Afghanistan. The veteran Norwegian diplomat said one of his priorities is to improve the coordination of international efforts in the struggling country. Next week, he will attend a NATO summit in Bucharest where Afghanistan will top the agenda. BBC
March 20
(CBC) Security Council expands Afghan political mission
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to extend the UN’s mission in Afghanistan for one year and to strengthen the mandate so it can better help the struggling government in Kabul promote peace and development. The UN noted that 2007 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since the Taliban was toppled in 2001.
March 13
The House of Commons has voted in favour of a motion presented by the Conservative Party government to extend the current Canadian mission in Afghanistan to 2011. The extension is conditional on the deployment of 1,000 NATO reinforcements in Kandahar province, and the procurement of drones and battle helicopters for the Canadian contingent. The vote was 198-77, the Liberal voting with the government and the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois opposed. If the motion had been defeated, a national election would have ensued.

February 28
(NYT op-ed) The Long Haul in Afghanistan
Roger Cohen
A whole post-cold-war European generation has grown up in peace, give or take “some Balkan horror on television,” which makes it hard to explain that “it’s a political and moral imperative to fight for our core values in the Hindu Kush.”
NATO has failed to prove its relevance to a post-modern European generation. NATO needs re-branding. It needs to be more hip in getting across where a precious peace came from.
I’d start with an ad campaign in which Poles or Slovaks enthuse about locking in security and freedom through NATO membership. Ask the Macedonians, Albanians and Croats why they’re banging on NATO’s door. Ukraine and Georgia should also be welcomed one day: Let the Russians, who once subjugated them, bleat.
Kabul is an unlikely Berlin, but as pivotal.
February 21
(CBC) Harper unveils new Afghan motion with 2011 end date
In a speech late Thursday morning at the Conference of Defence Associations meeting in Ottawa, Harper revealed details of the motion that will be tabled sometime after the House resumes sitting next week. Harper said the motion will incorporate “large elements” of last week’s Liberal amendment of the Conservative party’s original motion.
February 13
(The Guardian) … Afghanistan, by common consent, needs more troops on the ground to fight a resurgent Taliban, which has tripled its attacks in the past four months. Washington is trying to persuade its Nato allies to fulfil their pledges of troops to the Afghan mission, so far unsuccessfully. A British foreign secretary praising the virtues of intervention could be courting disaster. Guardian Leader
February 12
(IHT) SYDNEY: Australia wants a major reconsideration of Western strategy in Afghanistan and will not increase troop levels in the country until “underperforming” NATO countries shoulder their fair share of the burden, the Australian defense minister said Tuesday. More
PM open to compromise with Liberals on Afghan mission
Harper calls Liberal amendment to government motion “positive development”
The Conservative government will consider tabling a new motion to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan until the end of 2011 that could include elements from the Opposition Liberals’ proposed amendment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday.
February 8
Canada’s Conservative Party government introduced a confidence motion in Parliament on Friday to extend Canada’s combat mission in southern Afghanistan. The mission is scheduled to end in a year’s time. The motion proposes extending it until 2011 but only on condition that Canadian forces receive more equipment and NATO provide 1,000 more soldiers in southern Afghanistan. The opposition Liberal Party is expected to reject the motion when it comes to a vote next month. If the motion is defeated, the minority government would fall and an election be held. But the government could fall earlier if the opposition defeats two other confidence votes on the federal budget and on the government’s anti-crime bill.
Diplomat with ‘encyclopedic knowledge’ to lead civilian efforts in Kandahar
OTTAWA — Ottawa is putting a new face at the top of its team in Kandahar, nominating diplomat Elissa Golberg to oversee Canada’s mission in a province that needs aid and development to emerge from decades of war.
Ms. Golberg was named this week to the new position of representative of Canada in Kandahar, after having served as executive director of the Manley panel on the country’s future role in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s President has promised justice for Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, raising hopes that the condemned student journalist will be freed.
Conservative clerics and tribal elders urged the government yesterday not to overturn the death penalty. More than 100 religious and tribal leaders attended a rally in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province, in support of the verdict. Khaliq Daad, head of the Islamic council of Paktia, said Mr Kambaksh had “humiliated” Islam. More from the Independent
February 7
(The Economist) Afghanistan and NATO
MIGHT Afghanistan’s “forgotten war” yet defeat the most successful military alliance in history? Last year saw NATO-led troops engage in their deadliest fighting yet in support of the government of Hamid Karzai. The winter snows that blanket Afghanistan’s mountains have for now quietened the frontlines. But roadside bombings and suicide attacks—tactics the Taliban have picked up with increasingly lethal effect from al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq—still take their toll among Western forces and ordinary Afghans.
Yet it is not the spectre of military defeat that haunts NATO. It is a failure of political will. This week, as alliance defence ministers gathered in Vilnius, and Condoleezza Rice, America’s secretary of state, and David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary, dropped by unannounced in Afghanistan, all could agree that the job of stabilising the country needs more troops and a better co-ordinated reconstruction effort. But the political sniping over who should be doing what has reached an intensity that only the Taliban can celebrate.
Harper and Dion both have to bend
Globe and Mail Editorial
John Manley and his panel produced a report last month that sought to bridge political differences in Ottawa over the future of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. Had the Conservative government and Liberal opposition taken the panel’s advice, they could have moved the debate beyond the corrosive effects of partisanship.
They could have improved the mission’s chances for success in Kandahar and lessened the burden shouldered by Canadian troops, while acknowledging that Canada’s continuing combat role is vital to the future of Afghanistan’s fledgling democracy and is in the national-security interests of Canada and its allies.
Instead, it is politics as usual in Ottawa. True, Stephen Harper has made conciliatory noises to the Opposition, and has begun to follow through on the Manley commission’s call for more aggressive lobbying of Canada’s partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, encouraging them to shoulder the burden in Kandahar. But he has returned to previous form by indicating that his government will table a motion this week on the Manley report and warning Stéphane Dion that it is a matter of confidence in the government. Instead of reaching out to the Liberals, the Prime Minister has effectively told Mr. Dion to do it his way or get off the bridge. On Wednesday, Mr. Dion accepted the invitation and jumped, declaring that his party will not compromise on its demand that Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan end by 2009.
The people of Canada, and Afghanistan, deserved better from the two leaders. They deserved a serious bipartisan effort to find a way ahead for a mission that is important to the security of both countries. Mr. Harper’s conduct is especially confounding. The defeat of the government on this issue would make lame ducks of Canada’s soldiers while they are still on the field of battle, and would have the Conservatives fighting an election over a mission for which support remains soft. It is a dangerous and unwise strategy.
For their part, the Liberals, by pulling the rug out from under the troops, not only risk all that has been accomplished by Canadian soldiers, but stand to be seen as the ones responsible for the mission’s failure. Make no mistake. A withdrawal of Canadian soldiers after a defeat of this kind in Parliament would be seen internationally as an admission of defeat by Canada. Is that really how Mr. Dion’s Liberals want to be known — as quitters? More than that, as hypocrites? They are, after all, the party that sent troops to fight in the south in the first place.
Mr. Harper and Mr. Dion need to try harder.
World effort in Afghanistan under strain
Those Nato countries whose armies are taking growing casualties on the front line are very publicly accusing other member countries, deployed in quieter provinces, of not fully sharing the burden.
Afghans who welcomed their country’s return to the international fold after the fall of the Taleban, are asking where the billions of dollars have gone and why the rebels’ reach is growing. The Taleban now control swathes of land across south-west Afghanistan and mounted about 140 suicide attacks last year, including some in the capital Kabul
Nato crisis grows over Afghan troops
US presses Europe to strengthen fighting force; Alliance could split as credibility is threatened
Nato dismisses Afghanistan crisis
Nato defence ministers have dismissed talk of a crisis over its operation in Afghanistan, saying the alliance was making good progress in the country.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he was encouraged by what he had heard from European states about upping their contributions at talks in Lithuania.
But despite the show of solidarity none of the members promised more troops.

February 6
Afghan government official says that student will not be executed
The condemned student journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh will not face execution, a senior government official in Afghanistan indicated yesterday.
A ministerial aide, Najib Manalai, insisted: “I am not worried for his life. I’m sure Afghanistan’s justice system will find the best way to avoid this sentence.”
February 5
UN human rights supremo joins campaign to save Pervez
The UN’s most senior human rights official has added her clout to the international campaign being waged to save the life of the jailed Afghan student journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, it emerged yesterday.
It is understood that Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, wrote to senior Afghan officials last weekend, including President Hamid Karzai, concerning the fate of Mr Kambaksh, who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy after distributing a document from the internet that commented on Koranic verses about women’s rights. Her Geneva-based staff did not provide details on her letter, apparently seeking to avoid publicity for fear that the mounting public pressure on the Afghan president to pardon Mr Kambaksh might prove counter-productive.
Canada considers Afghanistan withdrawal
CANADIAN Prime Minister Stephen Harper told French President Nicolas Sarkozy today that Canada will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan unless NATO sends reinforcements, his spokeswoman said.Speaking by telephone, Mr Harper first thanked Mr Sarkozy “for the assistance France has provided to Canadians seeking to leave Chad in the wake of the violence there”, spokeswoman Sandra Buckler said in an email.
They then discussed a new report by a committee led by former deputy prime minister John Manley that urged Canada to keep its 2500 troops in Afghanistan only if its NATO allies send at least 1000 additional troops and equipment, including helicopters and drones, to bolster the Canadian force.
Afghanistan Spins Out of Control, U.S. Fiddles
Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) — NATO is winning most battles in Afghanistan, but the international community is losing the war.
That has consequences far beyond Afghanistan if the U.S., Europe and its friends don’t change course fast. The dangers include deepening of regional instability that engulfs nuclear- tipped Pakistan, spreading global terrorism and the declining relevance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the most- effective security alliance we have.
The war that can bring neither peace nor freedom
The crisis of the Afghan occupation is a reminder of its fraudulent claims, growing cost in blood, and certainty of failure
Seumas Milne, The Guardian
The Afghan war, you will remember, was supposed to be the “good war”. Unlike the catastrophe of Iraq, from which most former cheerleaders still prefer to avert their eyes, Afghanistan was thought to be different. Senior British military figures might wince in private over their Basra humiliation, but would earnestly insist that they were fighting the good fight in Helmand “at the request of the elected Afghan government”. Gordon Brown felt able to tell parliament only six weeks ago that “we are winning the battle in Afghanistan”.
But in the wake of a string of reports that the country is fast becoming a failed state and a humanitarian disaster, as armed attacks on western troops and Afghan forces multiply and Nato splits down the middle over sending reinforcements, that looks ever more other-worldly. The US coordinator on Iraq, David Satterfield, even suggested last month that Iraq would turn out to be America’s “good war”, while Afghanistan was going “bad”. After a conflict that has already lasted longer than the second world war, Paddy Ashdown, rejected at the last minute as UN proconsul in Kabul, was clearly closer to the mark than Brown when he declared: “We are losing in Afghanistan.”
Tomorrow, the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, arrives in London to discuss Nato’s Afghan crisis, triggered by Canada’s threat to withdraw its 2,500 troops from Kandahar unless other states bolster the western occupation in the bloodiest areas of the south. But there seems little prospect of anything more than token gestures, after both Germany and France rejected US demands to extend their commitments – despite taunts from the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, about their inability to fight insurgencies. In most Nato states, public opposition to the Afghan war is strong and growing stronger. That includes Britain, where 62% want all 7,800 UK troops withdrawn within a year, a view unshaken by attempts to boost support with military parades and gung-ho Beau Geste-style media reporting from the frontline.
January 31, 2008
Canada marks second anniversary of the Afghanistan Compact
This landmark five-year agreement between the United Nations, the international community and the Government of Afghanistan maps Afghanistan’s road to recovery in three key areas: security, governance and development.
“Rebuilding the country after decades of war is a long-term undertaking that requires patience and commitment. Challenges remain in Afghanistan, particularly with respect to maintaining stability. Yet real progress has occurred in recent years to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans who have suffered from decades of violence and oppression.
“Now, more than six million children are enrolled in school, infant mortality rates are significantly reduced, thousands of Afghan National Police officers and army personnel have been trained, per capita income has doubled since 2004, and millions of refugees have successfully been reintegrated into Afghan society. More
NATO failing to stabilize Afghanistan, reports warn
The Atlantic Council and the Afghanistan Study Group, two groups headed by the former head of NATO, said Wednesday the allied forces are not winning in Afghanistan as Taliban insurgents are expanding their influence. Retired Gen. James L. Jones said several steps are necessary to regain momentum, including appointing a United Nations high commissioner who can improve international coordination efforts. Meanwhile, U.K. charity Oxfam warned of Afghanistan’s worsening humanitarian conditions. The Washington Post (1/31) , BBC (1/31)
Sentenced to death: Afghan who dared to read about women’s rights
A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country’s rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after “liberation” and under the democratic rule of the West’s ally Hamid Karzai.

One Comment on "Afghanistan"

  1. richard dows May 5, 2008 at 11:45 am ·

    And to make it even more complicated, the police and army are now implicated in an assassination plot against Karzai.

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