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Center Column Archives
Sat Aug 26 2006 Afghanistan Updates
In July, a British and Canadian-led NATO force officially took control of the south of Afghanistan. The US-trained Afghan army is supposed to take over security responsibilities from NATO, but according to the US general in charge of training the army, this will not be able to happen for at least three more years.
Fri May 26 2006 US military massacres 80 villagers in Afghanistan
opened fire on thousands of Afghans protesting a fatal traffic incident involving a US convoy. The incident sent hundreds of men rampaging through the streets of Kabul, hurling stones at the US convoy and smashing vehicle windows. Afghan police also opened fire when they came to the assistance of the US troops. Altogether 14 people died and over 100 were wounded.
May 25th, 2006: As many as 350 people have been killed this past week in Afghanistan in an explosion of violence, the most severe since the US invasion in October 2001. On Monday, U.S. A-10 fighter jets and Apache helicopter gunships bombed homes in the village of Azizi, west of Kandahar. The air strikes, which lasted for hours, killed about 100 people including as many as 30 civilians. More than 3,000 civilians have fled their homes in southern Afghanistan over US assaults and Taliban attacks. The increase in fighting comes just two months before the United States is scheduled to hand over command of southern Afghanistan to NATO forces. Fighting has greatly increased in southern Afghanistan as the Taliban have moved out of the mountains and seized large areas of the region.
US air strike on Taliban kills Afghan civilians | US-led attack kills 76 in Afghanistan | Afghanistan gripped by worst fighting since 2001 | Afghanistan sees violence upsurge | Fighting on Afghan Time: The Other War Heats Up | Taleban Call the Shots in Ghazni | More than 40 die in Afghan clash | Eric Margolis: Myths About Afghanistan | Another War Bush Can't Win: The Fifth Afghan War
A law and order vacuum has allowed an increasingly well-organised drugs cartel, a corrupt local government and resurgent Taliban to structure the poppy cultivation of the province as never before. Country-wide it is now clear the poppy harvest will be close to record levels again. Warlordism and a revived poppy trade are intertwined with the problems in the south. The small Taliban revival is being funded by opium and heroin. Half of Afghanistan's GDP is probably from the drug trade and some of the recent clashes may be in reaction to poppy eradication campaigns, which are deeply unpopular with farmers, who are seldom properly compensated.
Afghan poppy farmers expect record opium crop and the Taliban will reap the rewards | Opium wars | Between Opium and Taliban
While the US celeberated last years Parliamentary Elections as a success, the new government consists largely of factions tied to warlords from Afghan's previous civil wars.
The official Afghan Army is headed by Abdul Rashid Dostum and much of the recent fighting in the south of the country has been between forces loyal to him and groups he claims to be the Taliban. Dostum fought alongside the Soviet-backed government in the 1980 and later allied himself at various times with Ahmed Shah Massoud, Hekmatyar, and even the Taleban. Dostum has been accused of numerous human rights abuses and human rights groups have demanded that he and others be brought to trial for their actions during the civil war years.
The most radical and powerful of Afghanistan’s Islamic movements, Hezb-e-Islam, is now an officially recognised political party which claims to be one of the largest blocs in parliament. Party leaders say they are poised to sweep to power in future elections now that they are able to campaign openly. Hezb-e-Islam was founded by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In early May 2006, Hekmatyar appeared on Al Jazeera, pledging his allegiance to Bin Laden. Back in the 1980s, Hekmatyar was supported strongly by the Reagan administration and received on the order of a billion dollars from the CIA to fight the Soviets. In the 1990s, he became "prime minister" but fell out with "President" Burhan al-Din Rabbani, and the two of them fought a war over Kabul that killed thousands and destroyed much of the city. Hezb-e-Islam now claims to have broken ties with Hekmatyar, but connections may still exist.
The “Miracle” or a Mockery of Afghanistan? | Afghanistan's new militant alliances | Hekmatyar goes Al-Qaeda | Have Hekmatyar’s Radicals Reformed? | The General and the Taleban
Read more | Photos: 1 | 2 | 3 | Audio | More about these protests
May 5th, or Cinco de Mayo, is the date on which the Mexican people celebrate the Battle of Puebla, in which the military and local people fought off the French.
Tue Sep 20 2005 Elections
Afghans voted in national assembly and provincial elections Sunday, September 18. The ballot resulted in the election of powerful warlords -- several of whom joined President Hamid Karzai's government. Many of these warlords have been condemned for their abuse of power and human rights violations.
Mehmooda Shekiba from RAWA writes:
Different kinds of rigging were so blatant that even pro-government and pro-fundamentalist papers couldn’t help but to hint at them. In many districts no women could participate in the elections due to security problems. Nevertheless thousands of votes of the women were somehow managed to be cast into the ballot boxes.... In Kunduz province, 260,000 votes were cast, but 6,000 of them were excluded in favor of a pro-fundamentalist candidate.
It is not difficult to predict what will be the result of the “miracle” election about which you take comfort. A parliament filled with the most cruel, misogynist, anti-democracy, and reactionary fundamentalists headed by such disgusting drug traders as Sayyaf, Qanoni, Rabbani, Mohaqqiq, Pairam Qul, Hazrat Ali, and their likes. These U.S. backed religious fascists will never “spread democracy”, but rather try to “legitimate” and perpetuate their bloody domination on our people by sitting in the legislature as “lawmakers”.
Fragmented Parliament | As Afghans count votes, Karzai queries US tactics | A Mockery Of Democracy | Entrenching Warlord Rule? | Puzzle Of The Stay-Away Voters | Afghanistan's Elections: Much Ado About Nothing
Tue Aug 9 2005 Afghan Elections
fraud and threats to women running for office. With warlords controlling most parts of the country and little centralized control, international monitoring is likely to focus solely on Kabul with almost no real of chance of free and fair voting in the rest of the country. NATO is planning on boosting troop levels ahead of the polls as is the US military.
While largely forgotten by the world's media as the US went into Iraq, the war in Afghanistan has been getting more violent. Even with fewer US troops in the country than in previous years, US casualties in the first six months of 2005 were greater than the total during any previous year of the war. Tactics such as Roadside bombs and even sectarian suicide attacks against mosques show that Afghan fighters are learning from the conflict in Iraq.
Hundreds of soldiers have deserted the Afghan National Army complaining of poor conditions and fierce resistance. There are signs that the Taleban is again gaining strength and violence against women is on the rise. On June 18th, the main government building in Mian Nishin was taken by the Taliban after a night-time attack; during the attack 18 police were taken hostage. On June 28th, the Taleban have shot down a US Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan's eastern province of Konar killing 16 US soliders. On July 16th, Malik Agha, a supporter of President Hamid Karzai, was abducted by the Taleban and found hanged shortly later.
Manufacturing Afghan nationalism | Many killed in Afghan fighting
Mon May 16 2005 Shooting The Messenger
Protests over US abuses at Guantanamo have spread to Egypt, Sudan, the West Bank and Pakistan and the governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim countries filed formal protests with Washington.
Even though there have been many reports of the use of Islam during interrogations at Guantanamo and several reports of the desecration of the Koran, Newsweek's "report" has taken most of the flak for the recent violence. Strangely Newsweek never had an article or report and what is at issue is a several word mention in a box to the side of a story merely stating that a government offical told them he saw a mention of the desecration incident in an unreleased document investigating conditions at the US prison camp. The reason for the focus on Newsweek was probably because Pakistani cricket legend turned politician Imran Khan displayed a copy of Newsweek when talking about the incident during a press conference last week. A more likely spark for the protests than an English language magazine was an interview on the BBC Urdu service earlier this month where former Guantanamo inmates reported that some Arab prisoners had still not spoken to their interrogators after three years to protest at the desecration of the Koran by guards at the camp.
Responding to pressure from the White House and Pentagon, Newsweek claims it checked with its source - a senior US official - who confirmed that he had come across references to the mistreatment of the Koran in the results of an US investigation into the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, but he was no longer certain that they had come from the specific report he had originally named. When Newsweek offered its sympathies "to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst", the White House and much of the corporate media took this as an admission that the "story" was false and have forced Newsweek to retract its "story".
The head of Pakistan's conservative six-party Islamic alliance, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, told the BBC that Newsweek's clarification held no weight. "There have been reports by the prisoners who have been released from Guantanamo Bay of desecration of the holy Koran, and different atrocities perpetrated on them. Therefore, the clarification of Newsweek has no meaning."
The Newsweek Backtrack: Did the Right Win a Game of Chicken? | Reporting the truth | Newsweek Got Gitmo Right | Cageprisoners Publishes Quran Desecration Report
Wed May 11 2005 Attacks Against US Backed Government Increase
Four US soldiers were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.
8/18/2005: Two U.S. soldiers were killed when a homemade bomb hit an American convoy supporting crews improving a road from the main southern city of Kandahar to outlying mountains. A U.S. Marine was killed during battles with militants in eastern Afghanistan. Read More
7/26/2005: Nearly 2,000 Afghans protested Tuesday outside the US air base in Bagram, north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Chanting “Die America!” the crowd threw stones and tried to break down an outer gate to the base, demanding the release of eight detained villagers. Read More
5/13/2005: At least nine more people - five civilians and four policemen - have been killed in a fourth day of anti-US protests in Afghanistan, officials say. The protests and violence appear to be spreading with reports of disturbances coming from across the country. Read More
5/12/2005: Three protesters will killed as police fired on hundreds of anti-U.S. demonstrators in the town of Khogyani to prevent them from departing toward Jalalabad. In Kabul, more than 200 young men marched from a dormitory block near Kabul University chanting "Death to America!" and carrying banners. Read More
On May 10th 2005 anti-American riots broke out across Afghanistan in response to reports of US use of religion in the humiliation of Afghan prisoners. More than 5000 people took to the streets of Jalalabad. Four Afghan protesters were killed when police opened fire on the crowd and the crowd responded by burning down a governor's office and attacking several UN buildings. There were also protests in the south-eastern city of Khost, and in Laghman province.
The immediate cause of the riots was an article in Newsweek magazine that said investigators probing abuses at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba had discovered that interrogators "had placed Korans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet". Over the past few months reports have revealed a pattern of sexual humiliation and torture of Afghan prisoners. In his new book "Inside the Wire", Army Sergeant Erik Saar (NPR interview) reveals details of what he saw while he was working at the Guantanamo camp. "One of the most disturbing interrogations Sgt Saar says he saw in his six months at the prison concerned a female interrogator ... He tells how she began peeling off her clothes, taunting the man sexually in an attempt to shame him and stop him relying on his faith for support ... When the interrogator wiped what he thought was menstrual blood on his face, the prisoner raged, almost breaking free from his handcuffs. [the interrogator] taunted him further ... asking whether Allah would be pleased with him and telling him to have fun trying to pray. Finally the detainee was returned to his cell without water, leaving him unable to cleanse himself."
Anger at the US and government of Hamid Karzai has been on the rise for several months. On March 26th four US soldiers were killed in a mine blast southwest of Kabul. On March 29th, a powerful blast ripped through a car near the provincial governor's office in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. On April 2nd, suspected Taliban fighters ambushed a convoy of civilian trucks carrying vehicles to the US military in southern Afghanistan, killing eight of the drivers. On April 6th, a US helicopter crashed in south-eastern Afghanistan killing 16 people, at least four of them American crew. On April 8th Taleban fighters killed five policemen on a main road in the Nawarak area of Zabul province. On April 26th, suspected Taliban fighters ambushed a police convoy in southern Afghanistan, killing four officers and abducting two others. On May 4th nine Afghan soldiers were killed in an ambush by militants in the southern province of Kandahar, as 50 died in 3 days of fighting. On May 7th two people were killed and five wounded when a hand grenade exploded in an internet cafe in central Kabul. On May 9th, two US marines were killed in a battle in eastern Afghanistan in which up to 23 militants are also thought to have died.
Anger at the US over treatment of prisoners and conflicts over Afghanistans huge opium trade, have been compounded by the recently announced push for permanent US bases in the country.
Democracy Now: Afghanistan 3 1/2 Years After the U.S. Invasion | UN Human Rights Investigator in Afghanistan Ousted Under U.S. Pressure | Afghanistan: When Cops Become Robbers