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UK  MP: Is Afghanistan on course to implode?
 
Life for the average Afghan seems no more prosperous, no more optimistic in outlook and no less dangerous than five years ago.
 
The reluctance of Kabul to relinquish power and the scale of corruption is fuelling growing resentment by former warlords who bought into the original peace plan.
 
Unemployment is rife, refugee camps and ghettos are starting to appear around the major cities and warlords
 
Establishing Afghan security forces has been painfully slow.
The typical Afghan Army has 40% AWOL at any one time.
            Police corruption at all levels is rife which prevents even a basic level of law and order from being maintained.
 
Pivotal to Afghanistan’s future is agriculture.
            Improving irrigation must be prioritised if Afghanistan’s status as a leading agricultural producer is to be revived.
            Following Soviet destruction of the irrigation system, 92% of Afghanistan’s natural water now flows out of the country un-harnessed.
 
Transportation and market infrastructure to ensure there is demand is critical – but six years after our arrivel, they are not even on the drawing board.
 
Misdirection of international funds, lack of co-ordination of development and re-construction, the absence of a single leader to unite the works and the separate agendas of the agencies - mean that few initiatives last longer than six months.
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Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East and a formerly of the Royal Green Jackets, offers a critical assessment of progress in Afghanistan.
 
Six years after the US-led invasion, Afghanistan has reached a tipping point. Optimism is being replaced with frustration and dissatisfaction with the lack of progress on key fronts,
the Afghan Government is seen as inept and corrupt,
NATO forces are unable to reduce the Taliban threat and
poor co-ordination between international development organisations is hampering the progress of long term reconstruction and development.
 
Although there are many individual success stories, life for the average Afghan seems no more prosperous, no more optimistic in outlook and no less dangerous than five years ago.
 
Unless the West urgently reviews and modifies its entire strategy there is every chance that the fragile truce which holds the five ethnic groups together will break down and the country will once again spiral into civil war.   The genesis of Afghanistan’s proposed new order can be traced back to the Bonn Agreement.  
Six years after its signing it is clear that the centralised model of Government that was created represses any tribal, ethnic, or cultural differences, rather than celebrating them. The reluctance to relinquish power from Kabul to the regions and the sheer scale of corruption in Government at all levels is fuelling growing resentment by former warlords who bought into the original peace plan.
The pace of change is too slow for the local Afghan who is increasingly distanced from the Kabul-based class of (mostly Pashtun) political elite.
Unemployment is rife, refugee camps and ghettos are starting to appear around the major cities and warlords, who united with Karsai in 2001, are getting impatient. There are signs that a number are starting to raise funds, collect arms and train militias in preparation for the worst.   
 
Attempting to improve security in Afghanistan has exposed fundamental weaknesses in NATO’s first venture into operations outside Europe.
ISAF forces have divided into those whose governments are willing to fight and those that are not. For example, 3,100 German forces are not allowed to patrol at night and 1200 Turkish forces are not even allowed leave their barracks.
This has placed an unfair burden on countries such as the US, Britain, the Netherlands and Canada who have consequently borne the brunt of the casualties. After suffering heavy casualties the Netherlands and Canada are now reviewing their entire military commitment to Afghanistan.
 
Establishing Afghan security forces has been painfully slow.
The Afghan Army has yet to reach half its target size of 70,000. Units are now starting to take on more responsibilities, though 40% of a typical battalion is AWOL at any one time.
The same cannot be said of the police. Poor salaries and loyalties to former warlords mean that unofficial checkpoints are increasingly commonplace, allowing patrols to supplement their incomes for rights of passage. Police corruption at all levels is rife which prevents even a basic level of law and order from being maintained.
Kidnapping of rich Afghans in exchange for large sums of money is not uncommon.
Even if improvements were made the legal infrastructure to support the police is in its infancy and in many rural areas the old girga system of reprisals against wrong-doers remains in place.
 
Pivotal to Afghanistan’s future is agriculture.
Prior to the Russian invasion in 1979, it was one of the greenest countries in the region and a world leader in exporting a range of produce. Thanks to the Soviet destruction of the irrigation system, 92% of Afghanistan’s natural water now flows out of the country un-harnessed.
Improving irrigation must be prioritised if Afghanistan’s status as a leading agricultural producer is to be revived. Every province can point to half a dozen small scale dam constructions ($5m-$50m) which would open up potential farm land for produce other than poppies (which are mainly grown because the crop needs little water and there is a market, albeit illegal, to sell to).
Linked to irrigation improvements must also be advances in a market infrastructure to ensure there is demand for goods. Until reliable transport links via road and railway connect Afghanistan to the Trans-Siberian network as well as to ports in the Indian Ocean the country will never be able to transport the scale of goods required to sustain a viable economy. The principal arterial land route into the country is in the east.
Every second vehicle travelling on the Islamabad road to Kabul is an 18-wheeled truck crawling its way through the Khyber Pass. The British built a railway in Pakistan (then India) towards the border. This now needs to be extended to the capital, Kabul, if trade links to international markets are to be fully explored.
            Long term projects such as these could take as much as a decade to complete but six years from the end of the conflict, they are not even on the drawing board.
 
Misdirection of international funds, lack of co-ordination of development and re-construction, the absence of a single leader to unite the works and the separate agendas of the ISAF, UN, EU, UsAid and Dfid (not to mention the myriad of NGOs) mean that few initiatives last longer than six months. This allows the project leader, whose tour of duty is also six months, to leave declaring his particular project a success.
A $800,000 ‘park for women’ built in Lash Ka Ga is just one such example. Hardly a priority in the current climate, but ideal for the British support unit to hail as a ‘successful project’.
 
Time is running out.
News that Paddy Ashdown, who successfully co-ordinated a similar challenge in Bosnia, has been asked to take up the role of senior representative for the UN, NATO and EU, comes late in the day but should be welcomed.
His refusal to accept this critical post in July this year was due to a lack of support from the entire international community who must now bury their differences (and separate agendas) and unite around a new mission.
This mission should include a long term economic plan for the country and a revision of the centralist model of government so as to recognise the ethnic and cultural differences that have prevented the country from truly uniting for centuries - and which could easily do so again. Achieving this mission may include talking to the Taliban.
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See Also:  
Questions posed:  
“Why has the Trans-Afghan project not been realized yet?”
“Why has Afghanistan’s security and stabiliy not been achieved?”
“How long this situation will last?”
 
Success in Afghanistan (from a Russian perspective) means an important blow to the US’s Central Asia adventure and a competitive advantage in the energy wars.   Russia with the support of General Dostum, Fahim and groups once related to Northern Alliance, may try to regain previously lost opportunities.  
 
The US is aware if this and is leading the region in to new instabilities. 
 
Foremost sources of instability are the disputes between Afghanistan-Pakistan, Pakistan-Iran.   Consequently by stirring up “controlled crises”, US is continuing its existence in the region and showing her intention of taking initiatives in the regional sense.
 
Within this framework, and under US initiative, the realisation of a Trans-Afghan Project is less probable, with some experts claiming that the whole project is “dead”.
 
It is almost apparent that the US has been trying to freeze the project for some time.   So to achieve this goal, the US is acting in a manner that is helping to inflate of problems between Pakistan and its neighbours Afghanistan, Iran and India.
 
Some of the possible reasons for US’s wish to suspend the project (through instability) are as follows:
 
1- governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan are risky countries for US energy security
2- instability is the “justification” of US existence in the region
3- instability impedes regional cooperation projects
4- instability will continue regional “energy security” problems and maintain Indian and regional dependence on US
5- instability will sustain the high energy costs and so, slow development in the region
6- the Iran problem has not been solved yet
 
Until US achieves success in its own plans for the political and geographical framework of the region - , the future of the “Afghan problem” and Trans-Afghan Pipeline Project will not improve in the foreseeable future.  
 
The countries participating in both the pipeline project and those dealing with “the Afghan problem” are well aware of this situation.  
Shining a Light on Afghanistan’s Shadows
 
In Shadows, Mary Ayubi tells the stories of female construction workers in Kabul, a policewoman in Kandahar and women enjoying a rare opportunity to socialize outside their homes in the shrines of Mazar-e-Sharif.
            After leaving medical school at Kabul University, Ayubi joined a training program for journalists and filmmakers in 2002.   She since has dedicated herself to documenting the lives of Afghan women – work she has pursued at a personal cost.
            After receiving death threats, Ayubi left Afghanistan. She also recounted the stories of several of her friends and colleagues – also women filmmakers and journalists – who were killed after expressing their views.
           
According to Ayubi, Shadows was controversial because it exposed improprieties at the Kabul University medical school. The film includes footage of Cheragh Ali, the dean of medical faculty, attacking Ayubi’s cameraman.
            “While I was there,” Ayubi said, “350 students were failed out of school because of sexual harassment, corruption and bribery.”
 
In addition, she said, many people did not like the film’s critical account of the rural practice of badd, in which families trade women to settle disputes. Shadows reveals an intimate view of the custom through discussions with two women who were given away after their brother killed members of another family.
Afghanistan's Defense Ministry says a joint operation with NATO forces aimed at retaking a Taliban-controlled town in southern Afghanistan has killed at least 12 Taliban fighters.
Officials say two children were also killed.
Canada In Afghanistan – A Pointless Accident
 
Canada has been, and remains, in Afghanistan as a way of not being in Iraq.  
 
All through the book, governments and especially the military worried incessantly about how the Americans would react to this or that decision.   Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier drove the Kandahar mission. 
 
Canada cannot leave without inviting defeat; Canada cannot stay with any reasonable assurance of success.
 
Canada is fighting a counterinsurgency war – against almost all the rules of that kind of combat.
- there are too few soldiers there, as there are too few NATO forces for the entire country.
- the Taliban has easy access to escape, money and to time.
- many in the Afghan government are corrupt
- we are trying to win the “hearts and minds” of a people we barely know
- we are aliens to their culture. - we have brought them some security, but not enough
- we have delivered some assistance, but not enough
 
The top civilian policy-maker in the Department of Defence, in 2003 said “We don't know anything about this country.”
 
The goal of commitment has never been clear, 
- in 2002, a short-term combat mission
- in 2003-04, to a stabilization mission,
- later a lead role in Kandahar
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How we put our foot in it, in Afghanistan
Canada involved itself in that volatile Afghan province based on almost entirely false premises. Now there is no easy way out.
            No NATO country wants to replace us, but Canada cannot leave Kandahar unoccupied, for it would soon be overrun by the Taliban and its disparate allies. Canada cannot leave without inviting defeat; Canada cannot stay with any reasonable assurance of success.
“It is almost always far easier to get in than it is to get out,” write Janice Gross Stein and Eugene Lang in their must-read book about how Canada wound up in Kandahar.
 
Canada is fighting a counterinsurgency war – against almost all the rules of that kind of combat.
            Our soldiers are undoubtedly brave and skilled, but there are too few of them, as there are too few NATO forces for the entire country. The ratio of troops to insurgents needed to “win” such a conflict is too low; the ratio of military to development deployment is too large.
            The enemy has easy recourse to escape (into the hills, over the border to Pakistan), to money (from the drug trade, extortion and sympathizers elsewhere) and to time.
            Some of our allies in the Afghan government are corrupt; some of our allies in NATO are craven.
            We are trying to win the “hearts and minds” of a people we barely know.   We are all Westerners to them and, therefore, aliens to their culture.
            We have brought them some security, but not as much as they would like;
we have delivered some assistance, but not as much as they need.
 
We are a kind of thin red line separating them from the Taliban, whom the majority, if polls and other indications are broadly right, would prefer not to see return.
 
Co-authors Stein and Lang cite Ken Calder, the top civilian policy-maker in the Department of National Defence, saying of Afghanistan in 2003, “We don't know anything about this country.”
 
Time is our adversaries' ally, but it is our foe.  
Anyone who looks dispassionately at poor, battered, tribal and post-medieval Afghanistan understands that realizing the twin goals of stabilization and economic development will take many years, perhaps decades.
            The country is already the leading recipient of Canadian aid and, of course, military assistance. Are we prepared to remain there – in Kandahar? elsewhere in Afghanistan? – for “as long as it takes” to “get the job done,” to use the defence lobby's favourite clichés? If we are, then the commitment will extend far, far beyond the expiration of our current mandate in February, 2009.
 
And what is the goal of commitment? It has never been clear, as Ms. Stein and Mr. Lang compellingly recount in The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar. The rationale for the Canadian (and NATO) mission has been shifting from the beginning.
            In 2002, the government committed to a short-term combat mission, then,
in 2003-04, to a stabilization mission,
then to a lead role in Kandahar that was not supposed to lead to as many casualties as have been suffered.
 
Among the fascinating vignettes of official Ottawa the two authors offer are two that reflect the prime ministers of the time.
            In one, prime minister Paul Martin rambles on (and on) about Darfur and Haiti as more important missions than anything in Afghanistan, seeking assurances from the military brass that Canada could do Kandahar and also lead, or at least participate in, an international mission in Darfur and help Haiti too. The lack of focus was mind-boggling.
            In another, Prime Minister Stephen Harper (and a few senior advisers and civil servants) decides to extend the Afghan mission without consulting cabinet (until after the fact), a template for how decisions get made in this government, and by whom.
 
Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier, more than anyone else, drove the Kandahar mission. He got the top military job for many reasons, but one was his vision for the military as a fighting force, centred on the army, to be used in failed states that he believed posed the greatest future threat to world order. Afghanistan would be the testing ground for the vision.
            Gen. Hillier has apparently asked for an extension of his three-year term, a time frame of convention rather than law. The Harper government is now considering his request. Obviously, the Conservatives don't like his outspokenness in a government obsessed by control of message, but can they let the principal architect of this Canadian commitment depart while the going is tough?
 
All through the piece, governments and especially the military worried incessantly about how the Americans would react to this or that decision. In fact, the Americans didn't much care, just as long as Canada decided something.
            Canada has been, and remains, in Afghanistan as a way of not being in Iraq. The two situations are vastly different in every way but one: The Americans in Iraq, like NATO and Canada in Afghanistan, got in easily but do not know how to get out.
 
Senlis Council warns of de facto Taliban state
 
“The Taliban and Al Qaeda have established firm roots across the border in Pakistan. Failure to quell this growing threat would strengthen extremism in the region, giving the Taliban and Al Qaeda a geo-political base once again.”
 
Withdrawal from Afghanistan based on a specific calendar date is not an option, Canada must stay until there is peace and prosperity in Kandahar.   You only have to look at what happened when forces left Rwanda and when NATO pulled out of Srebrenica.
 
“The humanitarian situation in Kandahar is increasingly desperate, with no visible signs of food aid being delivered in the deeply impoverished rural communities,”
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The Senlis Council testified to the Canadian Senate Committee that a de facto Taliban/Al Qaeda state is on the verge of emerging in southern Afghanistan, straddling the Afghan border into Pakistan.
 
“The Taliban and Al Qaeda have established firm roots across the border in Pakistan. Failure to quell this growing threat would strengthen extremism in the region, giving the Taliban and Al Qaeda a geo-political base once again.”
 
“Withdrawal from Afghanistan based on a specific calendar date is not an option, Canada must stay until there is peace and prosperity in Kandahar.   You only have to look at what happened when UN Peacekeeping forces left Rwanda and when NATO pulled out of Srebrenica. Leaving the Afghan people in the south under the control of Taliban/Al Qaeda would be a tragedy for both Afghanistan and Canada.
 
Canada should establish clear objectives and corresponding measures of success for its humanitarian, stabilisation and reconstruction work in Kandahar.
 
The Senlis Council urged Canada to develop an Aid & Security Action Plan (“ASAP”) for Kandahar, focusing on targeted humanitarian aid and enhanced medical treatment.
“Food aid and medical aid would directly improve the relationships with the Afghan people in Kandahar, which would immediately benefit Canada’s security mission in the province,” said MacDonald.
 
 “The humanitarian situation in Kandahar is increasingly desperate, with no visible signs of food aid being delivered in the deeply impoverished rural communities,” she added. “As long as local and international aid organisations are unable to ensure the delivery of food and medical aid, the Canadian military should be empowered to deliver aid to stricken areas in southern Afghanistan.”
 
The Senlis Council also launched a new counter-narcotics initiative to complement its Poppy for Medicine proposal, which was officially endorsed by The European Parliament in October.
 
 
NATO to begin measuring “success”
 
U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock:  "I would submit to you that, to date, most of the assessments of progress have been against anecdotal information,"
 
Craddock did not say whether the information would be made public.
 
CSIS:   "Most of the official reporting on Afghanistan -- whether US, NATO, or allied country -- is little more than public relations material"
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U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock said:
"I would submit to you that, to date, most of the assessments of progress have been against anecdotal information," or measured in terms of outputs such as schools built or roads paved.
"All good thing, but the question in my mind is: What's the effect it's produced?" Were the roads blocked? Were the classrooms empty?
"These metrics may not be right and we will probably have to adjust them, but we want to start out now,"
 
"Most of the official reporting on Afghanistan -- whether US, NATO, or allied country -- is little more than public relations material," Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, wrote in a report released this week.
 
When asked why such an effort to measure progress was taking place only now, after six years - Craddock did not answer directly.
5th-Dec-2007 04:10 pm - UN Talking with Insurgents
UN Talking with Insurgents
 
The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today it intends to continue reaching out to a number of groups previously involved in the insurgency that are now seeking to end the violence and participate in rebuilding the fledgling democracy.
 
Conditions for dialogue with these groups are set by Afghans themselves - the Government, the Parliament and civil society - but clearly, "Those Afghans who show good will, who are willing to live under the current Afghan Constitution, to participate in Afghanistan's legitimate institutions, and to end their participation in violence - are welcome in this process," he said.
Italy, Spain agree on need to review Afghanistan strategy
 
Italy, Spain agree on need to review Afghanistan strategy
Italy and Spain agreed that the international community's political strategy in Afghanistan needs to be rethought from scratch
            The required change of strategy will involve the organizing of an international conference and the nomination of a United Nations envoy in the central Asian country, according to D'Alema.
            The minister said in an interview published in southern Italian daily Il Mattino on Wednesday he believed the envoy should be a prominent political figure who would be the "tangible sign of the international community's commitment."
            D'Alema spoke of Italy's call for a new strategy in Afghanistan in his interview with Il Mattino but insisted he was not talking about a withdrawal of Italian soldiers.
Evidence Of Innocence Rejected at Guantanamo
 
The commanding general of the Criminal Investigation Task Force, a Pentagon intelligence unit wrote that  the "CITF is not aware of evidence that Kurnaz was or is a member of al-Qaeda. CITF is not aware of any evidence that Kurnaz may have aided or abetted, or conspired to commit acts of terrorism."
 
U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green said the panel ignored "conflicting exculpatory evidence in at least three separate documents," thereby raising questions about its impartiality.
 
Green's ruling reveals that the tribunal members relied heavily on a memo written by a U.S. brigadier general who noted that Kurnaz had prayed while the U.S. national anthem was sung in the prison and that he expressed an unusual interest in detainee transfers and the guard schedule.
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CONDENSED
Washington Post
Just months after U.S. Army troops whisked a German man from Pakistan to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay , Cuba , in 2002, his American captors concluded that he was not a terrorist.
In a memo dated May 19, 2003, the commanding general of the Criminal Investigation Task Force, a Pentagon intelligence unit that interrogates detainees and collects evidence about them, wrote that "CITF is not aware of evidence that Kurnaz was or is a member of al-Qaeda. CITF is not aware of any evidence that Kurnaz may have aided or abetted, or conspired to commit acts of terrorism."
            But the 19-year-old student was not freed. Instead, over the next four years, two U.S. military tribunals that were responsible for determining whether Guantanamo Bay detainees were enemy fighters declared him a dangerous al-Qaeda ally who should remain in prison.
            The disparity between the tribunal's judgments and the intelligence community's consensus view that Kurnaz is innocent is detailed in newly released military and court documents that track his fate.
            U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green, who was privy to the classified record of the tribunal's decision-making about Kurnaz in 2004, concluded in January 2005 that his treatment provided powerful evidence of bias against prisoners, and she deemed the proceedings illegal under U.S. and international law.
Green said the panel ignored "conflicting exculpatory evidence in at least three separate documents," thereby raising questions about its impartiality. The only solid information in Kurnaz's file showed that the CIA, U.S. military intelligence and German intelligence found nothing linking him to terrorist groups, she said.
"However the record in Kurnaz is interpreted, it definitively establishes that the detainee was not provided with a fair opportunity to contest the material allegations against him," Green wrote.
            Green's ruling reveals that the tribunal members relied heavily on a memo written by a U.S. brigadier general who noted that Kurnaz had prayed while the U.S. national anthem was sung in the prison and that he expressed an unusual interest in detainee transfers and the guard schedule. Other documents make clear that U.S. intelligence officials had earlier concluded that Kurnaz, who went to Pakistan shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to visit religious sites, had simply chosen a bad time to travel.
In January 2006, another military review panel decided once again that Kurnaz was still "a danger" and should remain at Guantanamo Bay . Internal Defense Department e-mails show that this administrative review board, roughly comparable to a parole board, did not look at the material that Kurnaz's lawyer had submitted to make its decision.
            The FBI's counterterrorism division, new records show, wrote in a memo dated May 31, 2006, for that board that "the FBI has no investigative interest in this detainee" and that "there is no information that Kurnaz received any military training or is associated with the Taliban or al-Qa'ida."
5th-Dec-2007 03:29 pm - Facing starvation in Afghanistan
Facing starvation in Afghanistan
 
Winter approaches, and as many as 400,000 Afghans face starvation.
 
Due to attacks on aid workers and the hijacking of food convoys
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Winter approaches, and as many as 400,000 Afghans face starvation. The trouble is not an insufficient supply of food. There is no way to get food to those who need it.
            Attacks on aid workers and the hijacking of food convoys -- the United Nations' main feeding program says it has lost about 100,000 tons of food to attacks by insurgents and criminals so far this year -- have made it all but impossible to transport supplies along the main road connecting vast stretches of the country between Kandahar in the south and Herat in the west.
            Nothing exposes a hollow promise like the prospect of mass starvation. By now, six years after the Taliban, humanitarian workers should not be forced to give up on feeding the desperate.
But this is only one measure of our catastrophic failure.
 
We are failing in Afghanistan -- the very country where failure was not supposed to be an option. Besides the military's inability to pacify the country and subdue the Taliban, Western development and reconstruction money has been scarce. The opium poppy crop is again a mainstay of the Afghan economy, and there is deep disagreement among allies over what to do about it.
 
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Canada is winning the war in Afghanistan and is making significant progress in rebuilding that South Asian country, says the general who commands the Canadian Forces mission in Kandahar.
            "I'm satisfied with the progress we're making," the general said. "Rebuilding Afghanistan, given its history, is not easy."
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