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In recent months, the escalating violence in Afghanistan has begun creeping back into the headlines. Most of the stories have focused on the resurgence of the Taliban and the accompanying suicide bombings, assassinations of Afghan politicians, and deaths of US and NATO soldiers. Much of the blame has been placed on insufficient coalition troop levels, the under-paid and under-trained Afghan National Army, and anger in the Muslim world regarding Iraq. Unfortunately, the gross mismanagement, epidemic corruption, and massive failures of the US-led reconstruction of Afghanistan have been mostly ignored.
Sat Aug 26 2006 Afghanistan Updates
July 2006 was officially the bloodiest month in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of the country in November 2001. It is estimated that between January and August at least 1,700 people were killed in fighting across the country. The death toll was a result of operations by foreign troops—involving heavy air bombardment of villages mainly in the south—and attacks by insurgent guerrillas, armed drug barons and Taliban fighters.

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.
May 29th, 2006: US forces 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
According to Illegal Immigrant Protest dot com, May 5th and 6th were a "National Illegal Immigrant Protest Rally Days." Destroy the Border Coalition called for people to go out and counter the racist message of the rallies, saying , "The people who do the work in a community are entitled to live with dignity and without fear of violence and deportation. Undocumented workers are economic refugees from the countries that the U.S. has been exploiting for hundreds of years."

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
Parliamentary election in Afghanistan are scheduled to take place on September 18th, 2005. There are many concerns about 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
5/16/2005: 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

Afghanistan:   2